Saturday, December 31, 2022


I’ve just spent the last hour telling myself I was not going to write a year-in-review piece. 

Well…not exactly. How about some wishes for the New Year, instead? Here are some things I’d like to see in 2023:

Merriweather Lakehouse - - I’d like to see this business redeem itself after an ugly beginning where it essentially broke a union and circumvented new county labor legislation. It could be a local showplace, a destination for large events and for taking guests from out of town. I’d like to see it succeed. But not by crushing the very workers who are essential for making it run. 

Howard County School System - - The move to more humane school start times is long overdue. The research is clear that teens desperately need later start times. Please don’t let this decision crash and burn at the last minute, or get watered down in a way that renders it useless.

Also at HCPSS: Please continue to keep an eye on the wave of angry folks who are hell-bent on making LGBTQ+ students less safe at school. Don’t let down your guard in 2023. Support libraries and media specialists as they choose and defend appropriate materials for students. Be vocal in support of CARY and of the work of Danielle Dupuis, the HCPSS LGBTQ+ Initiatives Specialist. Turn out when related issues come before the board. 

Elkridge - - as the County Executive begins a second term it’s the ideal time to take another look at what the residents of Elkridge would like for their community. A good friend of mine (and an Elkridge resident) has suggested to me that Elkridge needs the kind of investment that would make it possible to affirm a “sense of place.” After taking several driving tours over the last year, I completely agree. 

Columbia - - this is a hard one. The recent controversies over disputes between the CA President and the Board have used up most of my wishes. Can I wish that they will resolve their differences? Sure. Do I see how that’s going to happen? Okay, no. But I’m asking 2023 to surprise me in a good way. 

Howard County Lynching Truth & Reconciliation - - these folks are doing amazing work that no one else is doing about Pre-Civil War Black history in Howard County. My wish is that more people will catch on to this in 2023 and become active supporters. Did you know they have a book coming out? You should preorder it now.

Local journalism coverage - - we need it. We barely have it. Hope springs eternal. 

Local government  - - there are some strong disagreements within our local Democratic Party and I’d like to see more respectful hashing it out in 2023. I was seriously turned off by comments posted online after the recent swearing-in ceremony which revealed how quick people in various camps were to insult people on “the other side” and demonize them. I’m not suggesting some namby-pamby “why don’t we all get along?” I’m saying we have conflicts that need to be resolved by going through to the heart of the matter rather than by strategic battles to “win” at the others’ expense. 

COVID-19 - -  Big wish is that it just magically disappears. Realistic wish is that people realize how much their own personal behavior makes people around them more or less safe and that they will choose to care for others.

Ooh…that last sentence. It covers more than COVID. 

In 2023, I wish that residents of Columbia/HoCo realize how much their own personal behavior makes people around them more or less: 

  • safe
  • valued
  • empowered
  • welcomed
  • free
…and that they (we) will choose to do something about it. 

What are your local 2023 wishes?

Friday, December 30, 2022

F ³: Presents


How do you remember the things you want to remember? Do you have a system? Does it work?

For years I wrote things on the backs of envelopes or on scraps of paper that happened to be in my purse. Then I lost them. When I got an iPad I discovered I could save things in the Notes section. This worked pretty well until I had hundreds of items in the Notes section. 

Over the last year I’ve started taking screenshots of things I want to remember. This has been working better for me. (So far.)  I tend to go through my photographs regularly, deciding what I want to keep and thinning out things that are less relevant. And, every time I do that, it jogs my memory as to why I put a particular image there to save.

Here’s one:

Image from PBS Facebook page

Why did I save it? Not for the question, but for the way the question is set into a pattern of colors and shapes. It’s simple and also clever. It indicates winter and celebration with so few visual elements. 

I started keeping an art journal at the beginning of the pandemic. I discovered that I’m drawn to images that combine shapes, colors, and patterns in interesting and creative ways. 

At the outset I had very little confidence in my artistic ability. So I started by attempting to recreate images I liked - - just to see if I could do it - - and moved on to exploring and experimenting using what I had learned in that attempt. My goal was to enjoy the process. No judging, no worrying, no comparing myself to others. 

Giving myself permission to enjoy something I’d always felt bad at has turned out to be one of the greatest gifts I have ever given myself. There’s so much self-discovery that is possible if you allow yourself to do something purely for your own enjoyment. I’ve made my art journal a judgement-free zone. I affirm my choices instead of second-guessing them. 

I treasure the moments when I am so immersed in the process that my brain is completely occupied and I am completely present. It’s restorative. The end product is important only in that every picture is there because I liked it and I enjoyed creating it. They don’t all turn out exactly as I had planned, of course. But in a judgement-free zone that means that I can choose to take what I’ve learned and use it next time.

On every page there is something that makes me smile. 

My daughter and her partner gave me a new art journal and a huge box of markers for Christmas. I’m almost at the end of the one I’m working on now. I think it’s my fourth since the pandemic began.

What was the best gift you’ve ever received?

Did it come in a box wrapped with ribbons and pretty paper? 

Was it a life experience shared by someone who cares for you? 

Or was it something you gave yourself?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Thursday, December 29, 2022

A Vote for Nature


This is an amazing photograph, certainly one to catch your eye as you scroll on social media. A rainbow arched over a snowy landscape?  Is that even possible? Clearly it is.

Image from Howard County Nature Conservancy

If you’ve come upon this photo in the last twenty-four hours then you know it isn’t heralding glad tidings. Beneath the photo you’ll find bad news from the Howard County Nature Conservancy.

During the bitter cold spell this week, all three floors of our environmental education center were flooded. Our loss is great, but we are grateful to our community and dedicated to our mission.

In addition to floors and ceilings on all levels of the building, we lost many furnishings, equipment and educational supplies. This flood was a devastating loss for our organization, yet we are grateful for our community that has already come together in our time of need. Among the most selfless were the volunteers who worked late into the night on Christmas Eve with buckets and mops in hand.

The high winds on the days preceding Christmas knocked out power for a substantial chunk of Howard County residents. Loss of power means loss of heat. Loss of heat during a cold snap can mean burst pipes. I wonder if that’s what happened here? 

The Conservancy has been an educational partner of the Howard County Public Schools since 2003. Over 20,000 students benefit yearly from their science/environmental literacy programs. They also host weekend events which are open to members of the community. Some are specifically targeted to families, others are of more general interest.

Have you ever been to the environmental education center? Opened in 2005, it’s a beautiful facility. 

Here’s an artist’s rendering that was shared in a Baltimore Sun article by Libby Solomon about the building’s opening after renovation and expansion in 2017.

This rendering shows the planned additions to the Howard County Conservancy’s Gudelsky Environmental Education Center, in Woodstock, which include an upper-level deck, a new visitor’s entrance to the nature center, an enclosed classroom in the adjoining native plants garden and more administrative and volunteer space. (Courtesy photo/Howard County Conservancy)

It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the thought that this building was brand new in 2005, expanded in 2017, and has now suffered such serious damage in 2022. Most nonprofits have to be careful with every penny and spend a big chunk of each year finding creative ways to bring in both small change and major funding. Damage like this is surely a setback, not only a financial one, but in the way it will negatively impact educational programming in the immediate future.

A generous donor has pledged to match donations (up to $20,000) until Dec. 31. We hope you will consider a gift to sustain our work, fund our recovery from this devastating loss and help connect more than 41,000 people to nature. 

I hope you will consider making a donation in these next few days if you are able. Whether large or small, each donation has a value that is more than monetary. Each individual donor is, essentially, casting a vote of confidence in the Conservancy and its programming. Right now when the immediate outlook is bleak, those ‘votes’ have got to feel reassuring to Executive Director Meg Boyd and all of the Conservancy team. 

These words in the appeal for donations touched my heart.

Our buildings will likely remain closed for months, but nature is still open.

The 232 acres of Mt. Pleasant, given by Ruth and Frances Brown in 1993 to establish the Conservancy, is still the star of the show, the reason they are there. 

Our grounds, where biodiversity thrives and people flourish, will remain open daily dawn to dusk.
Families, hikers, birders and school groups love to visit our hawk watch area during migrations when hundreds of warblers, raptors and vireos can be spotted. In our meadows you can find caterpillars and feasting birds. A rare Western Kingbird was sighted this year–a first in the county. Down at the stream, beavers are busy building their dam, where visitors can marvel at felled trees.

Nature is still open. 

Send a donation if you can, spread the word to boost their signal. And, in the next few days while the weather is relatively mild - - why not pay them a visit?

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The News


This year’s community celebration of Kwanzaa in Howard County will be held at the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center. There’s something so satisfying about being able to write those words. Even though physical buildings don’t have life, the thought of those rooms and hallways being filled with celebration feels like an opportunity for new life for the beloved old school. 

The event itself was booked up quite quickly, but you can watch online. In reading the information from the eventbrite page I found there was a lot there to learn from. For instance: 

Habari Gani? ("What's the news?" in Swahili, the official Kwanzaa greeting)

True confession: the first time I heard the words “Habari Gani” was in a Barney music video when my daughter was little. Until this year I never realized they were asking a question and I am mortified that I never took the time to find out. 

Through most of my years of teaching young children I followed the philosophy that it made sense to explore holidays if children in my class celebrated them. The reasoning was that children learn better if there is a personal connection involved, something that touches their real life experience. Every year I’d ask if any if my families celebrated Kwanzaa. I don’t think I ever had a yes.

Here’s where I dropped the ball. I never used my own initiative and in-born curiousity to dig in and learn for myself. I absolutely could have, and I didn’t. Perhaps I did have families who observed Kwanzaa but they didn’t want to be the ones who had to come in to school and teach everyone. They didn’t want to be the exotic “Kwanzaa” example for everyone to look at.

In retrospect I understand that doing it that way is placing a burden on Black families and it takes a toll. It’s tiring and it can be demeaning, even if schools and teachers think it is welcoming. Essentially it conveys this message:

We teach things that are important to everyone. If you want us to learn about your culture, you have to come in and do it.

So much everyday, ordinary racism is embedded in having the opportunity to learn about race, culture, life  experiences, ideas, and history and just walking on by, thinking, “that’s not really relevant to me.”

Oof. Hindsight can be excruciating. 

Have you heard people say, “It’s not enough to say you are not racist, you need to be actively anti-racist”?This is one of those occasions where the truth of that is driven home for me. It’s not that Kwanzaa itself is a make or break holiday that will define who is racist and who is not. It’s that we as white people have so many opportunities to center people other than ourselves and often we just…miss them.

If you don’t know much about Kwanzaa this page from the National Museum of African American History give you a good start.

Kwanzaa: First Fruits

One more thing. Look at the list of organizations who are partnering with the County Executive’s Office to put on this event.

  • Howard County Office of Human Rights & Equity
  • Howard County's Parks & Recreation
  • Harriet Tubman Cultural Center
  • Howard County Chapter of NAACP
  • Howard County Center of African American Culture
  • The Council of Elders (TCOE)
  • The Links, Inc. Columbia (MD) Chapter
  • African American Community Roundtable of Howard County
  • Maryland Commission on Civil Rights
How many of these groups are you really and truly familiar with? That’s another blogpost unto itself. If I don’t get to it soon, remind me.

Back to tonight’s event. Whether in person or watching online, you can:

Celebrate African American culture and the seven principles of Kwanzaa. With inspirational presentations and musical performances we will explore creativity, self-determination, and faith of the Black community.

Today is day three of Kwanzaa. The theme is Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)

To build and maintain our community together and make our community’s problems our problems and to solve them together. (from the Kwanzaa: First Fruits page, National Museum of African American History)

The online program begins at 6:00 pm on the Facebook page of the Howard County Office of Human Rights and Equity. If you watch (or attend in person) let me know what you liked and what you learned.

Today is day three of Kwanzaa. The theme is Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)

To build and maintain our community together and make our community’s problems our problems and to solve them together. (from the Kwanzaa: First Fruits page, National Museum of African American History)

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The Big Day

I only get one chance to do this, so I want to get it right.


Today is a very special day.

December 27th is the official release date for my daughter’s first novel.

You could think of it as a belated Christmas present.

All the Way Happy will be available starting today. It is published by Carina Press (a division of Harlequin) under her pen name: Kit Coltrane.

You may know her as HoCoHouseHon.

She wrote about life in Columbia/HoCo from 2011 to 2021, albeit rather intermittently in recent years. HoCoHouseHon treated local issues with a different perspective than the rest of us. When you were done reading one of her pieces, it stayed with you. It was practically imprinted onto your psyche. HoCoHouseHon’s posts were ruthlessly honest and breathtakingly poetic at the same time. She was equally as honest about issues like choosing sobriety, living with mental health challenges, or coming to terms with a healthy body image in a culture that wants to diminish women in every way. She even called out the Baltimore Sun over their condescending treatment of Columbia during the Julia Louis-Dreyfus Veep brouhaha. (Remember #morethanGateway ?) 

In 136 posts over ten years HoCoHouseHon established herself as a local voice unlike any other. Sometimes her honesty made me uncomfortable. I always suspected that was a good thing. 

These days HoCoHouseHon is, essentially, no more. Its writer has followed her dreams to the city of her childhood and looks at life from a high rise apartment in Harbor East. In the last few years she has started a whole new life, entered into an entirely new career, and written and sold her first novel.

All the Way Happy is, unashamedly, a romance novel. It tells the story of Theo and Jack, whose wildly different Baltimore childhoods should have determined that they never meet one another. 

From the moment Jack Gardner first laid eyes on Theodore Beaumont, he hated everything about him. Emanating wealth and icy perfection, Theo was everything Jack was not. Their time together at the elite Gwynns Academy changed them both, but it wasn't until a chance encounter the summer after graduation that the tension between them became palpable—unbearable

Yes. It’s a romance novel whose protagonists are men. It contains what I used to euphemistically refer to with my kids as “stuff” or “content”. Romance publishers used to like to describe those scenes in novels as “steamy.” Yes, I am a mother struggling to explain this book has sex in it. I’m just giving you a content warning in case you’re thinking of reading it. 

You’re all adults out there. You can make up your own minds.

All the Way Happy is the culmination of many years of searching and struggling by a writer who wasn’t always sure what her voice would be. But it’s only the beginning for characters Jack and Theo. The author has a long story line for these two which encompasses multiple novels. The hope is that readers will like this first one enough to clamor for more. 

You can follow Kit Coltrane on Twitter and Instagram. You can purchase All The Way Happy as an ebook or a real, hold in your hands, printed-and-bound physical book. If you like the book, leave feedback at Amazon. It makes a huge difference.

Kit Coltrane is a Baltimore Hon with an Irish heart. 

But for ten years she gave us life in Owen Brown and Oakland Mills. She yearned for Columbia to have more arts, more night life, more sidewalks and walkability. She urged us to be less provincial and to look at things in new ways. HoCoHouseHon put issues like mental health, substance misuse, body dysmorphia, right in there along with trips to Wegman’s, new original recipes, and essays on racism, education, and health care. 

I want to give her the best Village Green/Town² send-off ever. Not simply because she is my daughter, but because she gave Columbia/HoCo ten years of her life and I love telling local stories. This story is a good one. 

Amazon tells me that my copy is arriving Thursday, which just happens to be the birthday of the author. Perhaps I’ll bring it to her birthday dinner and have her autobiograph it. 

Monday, December 26, 2022

Out of the Box


December 26th is known in the UK as Boxing Day. There are multiple explanations for this and none of them is a clear winner. It’s interesting to read about, though. In the US some folks observe the day after Christmas by returning presents they didn’t like or by shopping the after Christmas sales.

Today I’d like to talk about a different kind of box.

Boxes like this one appear at my house twice per month, holding injectable medication. It must be refrigerated, so it is shipped is a cooler with ice packs.

The medication has been life-changing in addressing my severe asthma. Every time a box arrives I’m grateful all over again: for good health care, for adequate health insurance, for the people who researched and developed this treatment.

They’re used for more than shipping medication, of course. The combination of the coolers and ice packs make it possible to ship perishable food products, as well. It’s now possible to ship pork pies, steaks, seafood, and items that were previously known solely as regional delicacies. My nephew sent us a “fill your own cannoli” kit all the way from Chicago. 

These shrink-wrapped white boxes often herald culinary adventures - - they’re almost the Wells Fargo Wagon equivalent of the present day.

But: the box. Or, should I say: the boxes? For me it has meant two per month, for well over a year. And there’s no end in sight. Styrofoam is not recyclable. I find it painful to keep putting them in the trash.

Is Styrofoam recyclable?   The short answer is no.  At least not in the recycling we put out on our curb or take to the City's recycling sites.  Styrofoam (or polystyrene foam) can include take-away coffee cups, takeaway food containers, meat trays, and shipping packing. It contains a type of plastic called expanded polystyrene.  

Why can't it be recycled?  This material is made of tiny individual pieces that burst apart when put through the sorting process.  Putting Styrofoam into the recycling bin will contaminate the whole bin, so all Styrofoam must go into the landfill bin. 

Did you know? Styrofoam takes more than 500 years to break down and it's estimated that 2.3 million tons of styrofoam end up in the landfill every year!

What can you do?  The best thing is to avoid styrofoam when possible.  There are programs around the US that have special processes that allow for the recycling of expanded polystyrene like Plastilite Corporation in Omaha.

If you do find yourself with Styrofoam that you need to throw out make sure it goes into the garbage. - - Can you recycle styrofoam? by Melissa Mercier

These foam coolers appear in my Buy Nothing group fairly regularly. We all know they’re not recyclable and we desperately want to keep them out of the landfill where they will sit, as unchanging reminders if a single-use trip, for five hundred years.

I’ve been on a quest to find a local connection for recycling these things. Surely there’s an Upcycled but for styrofoam coolers? So far I haven’t had any luck. I find it both amusing and pathetic that a company like Omaha Steaks, whose entire business model depends on these things, tries to push off their corporate responsibility onto consumers. “It’s cooler to use and re-use,” they say.

I went down a bit of a rabbit hole on the internet one day trying to find a local (or relatively local) styrofoam recycler.

After several hours I gave up. If you know of one, please tell me. I’m striking out. I know that there’s little likelihood of a successful recycling process for these if they don’t provide a viable revenue stream post-recycling. No company recycles for recycling’s sake alone There has to be enough money in it to pay the bills, if not turn a respectable profit.

What products could be made from recycled styrofoam coolers?  Is there a way to spin straw into gold here? Can we make houses out of them? Bus stops? Shelter for animals in cold weather? Playground equipment? Or should the companies using them be required to have a stake in recycling and/or reusing? 

Should we be inventing something else to do the same job that doesn’t harm the planet?

Image from the Surfrider Foundation 

If I could return anything on this Boxing Day, it would be this. But I don’t know where to take it.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Unexpected Possibilities


‘Twas the light before Christmas:

(The lamp by the chair)

That wobbled and flickered, 

 resisted repair.

The parents were restless in their empty nest

And rushed to rehome it ere the holiday fest.

But mama and papa, though trying all day 

Could find no new owner to take it away.

So off to the corner the lamp was removed. 

With hopes that a radical change would improve.

It lurked by the back door, it drooped and it moped.

‘Til mama told papa, “It’s not what we hoped.”

Then, sparkling with mischief she jumped up and said,

“Let’s not try to hide it. Let’s light it instead!”

So quickly they trimmed it, their fingers - - they flew!

Then basked in the twinkling of red, green, and blue.

The broken down lamp that had nowhere to go

Now lit up the room with a holiday glow.

And when College Kid came home and looked at the sight

They slowly acknowledged it might be “alright.” 

But maybe some ornaments? ‘Twas soon was begun,

And the light before Christmas was in for some fun.

It towered in glory! It twinkled and shone.

No longer a cast-off. It seemed to have grown.

So, that’s how it happened. It’s easy to see 

How the light before Christmas turned into…

a tree.

Whether today is for you a day for celebration, contemplation, togetherness or solitude - - I wish you joy, peace, and a year of unexpected possibilities. - - jam

Saturday, December 24, 2022

The People We Don’t Know

It is dark and cold. The year is coming to an end. Each year at this time we have a tendency to look back. We try to make sense of the last twelve months before moving on. Perhaps we just want to recount what has been important to us so we don’t forget. 

This post is dedicated to all the good people we don’t know. 

Columbia/HoCo is filled with so many organizations and initiatives that do good things. I write about them a lot here. If I attempted to list them all I’d be sure to forget some, so I won’t. Today I want to dedicate this space to all in our community who perform unknown acts of kindness, both large and small. I may not know them but I know that our year has been leavened by their gifts.

They are the completely unorganized and probably unaffiliated league of do-gooders. Honestly, life is not worth living without them. They are the light that shines against the darkness. They are the one small thing that happens in your day that keeps it from being an utter disaster.

Who are they? 

  • The person who brings in all the bins from the road when the wind blows them over after trash collection day. 
  • …says something supportive in an unkind discussion on social media.
  • …leaves a small gift outside the house of a homebound neighbor.
  • …makes their home a safe space for teens to hang out.
  • …buys beautiful children’s books for the Little Free Library.
  • …listens in a meeting, truly listens and doesn’t hasten to pass judgement.
  • …moves over so your family can sit together at the school concert.
  • …opens the door when you are over-burdened with packages.
  • …picks up trash in their neighborhood or in the park.
  • …lets your car in when you are trying to merge.
I think you know what I mean. Right now in Columbia/HoCo these people are opening their homes to neighbors without power, or offering extra blankets. They are the ones who bought an extra box of stuffing mix “just in case” and, of course you may have one. They engage in friendly conversation in long, pre-holiday lines at the store. If your child is struggling to get a glimpse of Santa, they move out of the way. They are wearing masks to protect the health of those around them. 

They smile, even behind their masks, and you know it. Because their eyes are smiling.

Leaders and elected officials do much to make our community a good place to live. Nonprofits that provide necessary supports and/or enhance quality of life do incredibly valuable work. But none of this would hold together were it it not for the inclination to do good that moves in so many people we don’t know.

They won’t make the newspaper or television news. They won’t have a building named after them or win a prestigious award. They are the people who take from their lives an extra moment, or resource, or skill, and put it out into the world. Sometimes they are us.

Now, none of us is “that person” all the time. But the fact that enough of us keep making those choices, even in very difficult times, is a beautiful and miraculous affirmation of community life.

There are eight days left in 2022. Be on the lookout. Allow yourself to enjoy the simple, unexpected gifts of human kindness. Throw a few of your own into the universe as you say farewell to this year and look towards the new one.

Friday, December 23, 2022

F ³: The Circles of Life


Image from Poorly Drawn Lines, Reza Farazmand*

Today’s post comes to you from the adhd files. Life post-diagnosis hasn’t been quite the steady march of progress that I had envisioned. Medication makes a huge difference but it’s not a magic wand. It opens doors but only if I am willing to do the work to walk through them. I get into the zone and things go extremely well, and then gradually the focus and forward motion slips away and I feel like I’m stuck.

Hence, today’s comic from Poorly Drawn Lines. I’ve come to realize that the way I’m learning to cope with my adhd brain is cyclical. I can either accept that and be kind to myself about it, or I can beat myself up for not simply getting better and better in a linear fashion. Honestly? I’ve done some of each.

A  helpful technique I’ve learned about in the past year is called Body Doubling. No, not that. The simplest explanation might be that Body Doubling is having someone “keep you company” while you complete a task that is boring or you find difficult to begin or to complete. How to ADHD (Jessica McCabe) has a great explanation but I should warn you: she talks very quickly.

What is a body double and why does it help? (Two minutes, thirty-four seconds)

Body doubling is a practice that many people use without knowing it. You don’t have to be neurodivergent to benefit from it. If you’ve ever asked someone to keep you company while you do a task you don’t particularly feel like doing, you’ve experienced it. If you have been the person who shows up to keep that person company, you’re a treasure. It’s amazing how helpful that can be.

This article in The Washington Post describes how body doubling went virtual at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Body doubling,’ an ADHD productivity tool, is flourishing online, Kelsey Ables

René Brooks, a 37-year-old blogger based in Gettysburg, Pa., known as Black Girl, Lost Keys, started a virtual support group for Black women with ADHD on Monday nights, because that’s when she does laundry. The session isn’t specifically for body doubling, but Brooks has found that having other people “around” — even on video — makes tedious tasks feel more doable. By the end of the three-hour session, “I’ve meal prepped. I’ve done laundry. I’ve cleaned my whole house,” she said.

I’m a huge fan of René Brooks. I’ve learned a lot from her social media accounts and her website. I haven’t ever participated in a virtual Body Doubling session quite like the ones she describes, but I’ve recently stumbled on one that’s extremely effective for me. It’s a podcast.

Circle Round is a story-telling podcast from WBUR Boston. It’s creator and host is Rebecca Sheir. You may remember her from her days hosting Metro Connection on WAMU. Circle Round crafts folk tales from cultures all around the world and presents them as “sound- and music-rich radio plays for kids ages 3 to 103.” Episodes run from between 13 minutes to 19 minutes. There’s always a break or “cliffhanger” in the middle.

I have found that if my brain is engaged in the story I am able to getting working on a task and keep working steadily until it is over. 13-19 minutes may not seem like a long time. But, to an adhd brain that can spend hours fighting with you about how a task is impossible or insisting you must find the perfect way to perform a task before you begin, that chunk of time can be precious.

As you may know from personal experience, many of the tasks we put off - -  or even dread - - don’t really take all that much time once we finally get around to them. Now imagine you struggle daily with task paralysis. Your life is full of relatively small tasks that take up massive amounts of time in your brain. Anything that can shift that lopsided ratio is thrilling.

I found this article about Body Doubling from Medical News Today to be hilarious and annoying at the same time.

What is ‘Body Doubling’ for ADHD? Medically reviewed by Nicole Washington, DO, MPH — By Zawn Villines on October 25, 2021

Essentially the article presents a medical assessment that looks like this:

  • We don’t really know what it is.
  • We don’t know how it works.
  • We haven’t done any studies.
  • People with adhd say it soothes them.
Gee, thanks. This article is an example of why people with adhd go searching for others like themselves as they look for solutions and supports. It feels like it was written by people on safari looking through binoculars while hiding in the brush.


With all of that aside, I want to make a big pitch for Circle Round for anyone with kids and anyone who enjoys good storytelling. There are 284 episodes so far. Many of them include well-known actors, and the musical scores, composed by Eric Shimelonis, are rich and lovely. Not too much, not too cute: just right.

It’s going to be cold and icky today. You may have kids home from school, presents to wrap, or even laundry to sort. Or you might be on your own and need a little company. 

The newest episode of Circle Round features Broadway stars Lorna Courtney (& Juliet) and Shoba Narayan (Aladdin) …in this Indian legend about a tiny bird who opens up a farmer’s eyes in a big way. 

Take a listen.

*Poorly Drawn Lines is a webcomic created by cartoonist Reza Farazmand. It features mostly standalone comic strips that range from just one frame to many, most of which are satirical or absurdist in tone. - - Wikipedia (Date launched: 2008)

Thursday, December 22, 2022

At the Very Last Minute

I wonder who goes to the Mall on the night before Christmas? Are you a Christmas Eve shopper? 

I have been known to be out during the day on 12/24 picking up stocking presents at the Walgreens or perhaps even Target. But Christmas Eve at the Mall? Nope. Not me.

In my childhood, Christmas Eve was when my father would be dragging one of his three daughters with him to find something for my mother at the very last minute. We all took turns on these Godforsaken forays into holiday desperation. Perhaps that’s why I don’t go to the Mall on Christmas Eve now.

It’s possible, though, that the frenzy of last minute shopping - - that I abhor - - is a part of someone else’s regular Christmas tradition. They may find it thrilling, for all I know. The thrill of the hunt. The burst of adrenaline, or dopamine, or the rush of a sugar-infused caffeine drink that spurs them on to complete the epic quest.

Now our Mall, the Mall in Columbia, isn’t open past 6 pm on Christmas Eve and I think that’s a good thing for employees who’d like a bit of respite after the holiday rush. You can still shop from nine am to six pm, though. And I can tell you who’s hoping you will be at the Mall on December 24th. Business owners, naturally.

 And one in particular is offering some last-minute party atmosphere for your shopping pleasure.

DJFix/Spinner Circle will be at Macy’s on Christmas Eve. (Day)

I'm back one more time!! Get your Christmas Eve shopping going as I provide some holidays tunes. #macys #mallincolumbia #columbiamd #djfxspinnercircl #haveturntableswilltravel

It looks like holiday tunes are the order of the day. I don’t know if he’ll be taking requests.

I did not find any mention of this on the Mall website, but I did discover that you can enjoy the Lime Kiln Middle School Chamber Strings ensemble tonight by the Poinsettia Tree at 7 pm. The link at the local Macy’s website provided no clues about the DJ either.

It’s a holiday mystery. 

I have vague memories of enjoying live piano performances at Nordstrom. I wonder if they still do that?

I know that I lack the enthusiasm for our local mall that many folks who grew up here seem to have in abundance. So I’m putting the call out for your happy Mall memories. They don’t even have to be holiday-themed. Fun job? Perfect purchase? Mall romance? Family adventure? I’m interested. I’ve share mine before. Holiday themed, as it so happens.

One last question. Does the thought of a DJ make you more or less likely to shop at the Mall this Saturday?

If you’ve been finished with your shopping for weeks now and everything is beautifully wrapped, please don’t tell me. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

News from The Barn

One of the idiosyncratic wonders of the Oakland Mills universe is the fact that we have barns. Two barns, right smack in the middle of the Village Center. Even better, they have names.

The Barn, and The Other Barn.

This is kind of hilarious when you think about how much energy was spent in naming streets in Columbia. In a place where you can find Broken Lute, Rustling Leaf, and Liquid Laughter, how did these two barns escape similarly literary/artistic renaming? 

Of course, the barns predate the New American City, having been a part of the Owings Dorsey Dairy Farm. At least, The Other Barn does. I’m having trouble finding info specific to the ‘The Barn’ itself.

The Other Barn houses the Oakland Mills Community Association offices and is the location where community meetings are held. It’s also an event venue. I’ve attended board meetings there, birthday parties, concerts, festivals, art shows, dances, and children’s performances. I’ve even interviewed Girl Scouts in the lobby.  In Oakland Mills, it’s our home base.

But what about The Barn? Many residents haven’t been inside the building which is right next door. That’s a shame, because it’s a very cool facility. The Barn houses the Columbia Association Youth and Teen Center.  It’s an amazing community resource for young people in Columbia. But a lot of people have never heard about it. 

The Youth and Teen Center at The Barn is a multi-purpose, two-story facility where teens can access a computer lab, watch movies, play Wii or XBOX on a large flat screen TV, or enjoy billiard tables, air hockey, ping pong and various board games in the recreation room. Our upstairs area features a mini-gym for basketball, volleyball and other games and activities, as well as a snack bar run by the entrepreneurial program.

Yesterday I got some exciting news about the Youth and Teen Center.

CA, Columbia Community Care add new programs at Youth & Teen Center

You may already know that Columbia Community Care runs one of their cold-weather food distribution programs out of The Barn. Now CCC Director Erika Strauss Chavarria is collaborating with the Youth and Teen Center’s Manager Rene Buckmon to offer programming created just for young people in our community.

One of the programs CCC plans to bring to CA’s space is the P.U.S.H. program, which stands for Perseverance Until Success Happens. P.U.S.H. is a pilot violence prevention program designed to follow the lead of the young people it serves by providing a space where young people can gather, have access to resources that meet them where they are and guide the pathways to overall well-being. P.U.S.H. is currently being run out of the Bain Center in Harpers Choice, but P.U.S.H creator and Wilde Lake High School alum Saquan Maxwell sees the potential the new location at the Youth & Teen Center offers.

This new partnership gives both the Columbia Association and Columbia Community Care an opportunity to focus on the kind of Restorative Justice practices that have been successful in bring positive change to schools throughout the country. Giving young people a voice and valuing their concerns is central in establishing working relationships where teens feel safe to learn and grow. Strauss Chavarria, who spent years teaching young people in the Howard County School System, brings that real-world experience to her work. 

Ms. Buckmon, who has a degree in Recreation from the University of Maryland, has been the Director of the Youth and Teen Center since 1992.  (Even before that, she was their Supervisor of Programming.) Buckmon brings years of experience in the Youth and Teen Center Community, including her knowledge of what kinds of programming appeals to young people, and how to create successful partnerships with groups like 4-H, NAMI,  The Howard County Library System, and others. In the press release provided by the Columbia Association, Ms. Buckmon speaks to the value of such partnerships.

“Partnerships are an integral part of how we show up for our community,” Youth & Teen Center Manager Rene Buckmon said. “Some students and families aren’t even aware that we exist, but for the kids who do come, we are making a real difference. I know the addition of CCC programming will expand our ability to meet Columbia’s youth where they are and help them in meaningful ways.”

They’ll be teaming up with Wilde Lake High School grad Saquan Maxwell as they pilot his program called P.U.S.H. - - Perseverance Until Sucess Happens. If that title sounds rather serious and even rigorous to you, watch this brief video for an opportunity to see Maxwell’s enthusiasm and joy as he talk about the project.

Video courtesy of the Columbia Association 

I wrote back in October about how the concept of ‘community care’ involves more than food pantries. 

The Restaurant Week That Gives Back, Village Green/Town², October 24, 2022

Community care differs from most charitable giving in that it’s based on the understanding that we are all a part of the process of caring for our community. It’s not: one person gives, the other receives. It’s about human interaction.

This is not Columbia Association playing Lady Bountiful and bestowing experiences and opportunities like so many bags of groceries. This is an active collaboration which will require CA to extend some trust and goodwill to another organization - - one that is fully committed to centering not the adults “in charge” but the young people themselves.

There’s some risk for CA in this. I think it’s the best kind of risk. I hope to see this venture succeed and bear fruit. 

The P.U.S.H. program is scheduled to start at the Youth & Teen Center in early January. All Howard County teens and preteens are welcome to attend.

For more information on the programs CCC is offering at CA’s Youth & Teen Center, visit CCC’s website. For a full calendar of offerings at the Youth & Teen Center, visit CA’s website


Tuesday, December 20, 2022

The Hole of Hindsight


Torn from the headlines!


Seen on the pages of NextDoor!

It doesn’t sound as impressive, somehow. The truth is, I’m hijacking this story for my own purposes.

Someone stole our entire mailbox. Has anyone heard of this happening or know of recent mailbox thefts in the area? I really have never heard of this happening before. - - E.E., Worthington 

Image is a screenshot from NextDoor 

While it won’t make the nightly news, the mystery of a disappearing mailbox tugged at something in my memory. 

Oh, yes. That. The dreaded teenaged years in Stamford, Connecticut where there was absolutely nothing for teenagers to do but our Sunday night youth group at the Congregational Church. Yes, there were occasional school dances, plays, and concerts. But most of the time there was nothing. Especially if you were a teenager with limited resources.

It became a “craze” for a while for teenagers to go out and steal street signs under cover of darkness. You know, for fun. Sometimes the signs were taken home as trophies of their daring. Sometimes they were moved around town to different locations. Along with this fad came the sport of Mailbox Polo. It’s pretty much what it sounds like. While along a road, where mailboxes are located at the curb, one of the passengers wields a baseball bat and levels them.

Boom. You know, for fun.

I never actually participated in these activities although I will admit to driving around town the night before Easter one year with the intent of getting up to mischief. We never actually committed any. I think we may have talked ourselves out of it. Honestly, Stamford was such a boring town that sometimes there wasn’t even any mischief to get up to.

I still feel faintly guilty about that night, even though we didn’t do anything.

Back to Worthington and our friends at NextDoor. I don’t know why that mailbox was stolen. Perhaps it wasn’t a teenaged prank. I’m having a hard time imagining what else it could be, though. 

I needed a mailbox so badly and I couldn’t afford one. So I stole it.

I disliked my neighbor so much I took my revenge by stealing their mailbox.

Perhaps it’s my guilty conscience speaking, but the thought of adolescents - - full of the nonsensical urges to do something reckless - - seems the most likely.

One of the thrills of being a teenager is those moments when you are sure you know absolutely everything. Adolescent brains are wired for both pleasure-seeking and risk taking. Those giddy thrills are exactly what parents fear. They are what lead to those unpleasant moments of reckoning when that same teen is faced with the knowledge that perhaps they did not know everything. And the parent, gobsmacked by the stupidity of it all, saying those time-worn words:

What were you thinking?

For those of us who are white, those experiences become part of our coming-of-age narratives, stories we look back on and smile, or wince. Not so for Black teens who may be going through the same experiences.  So often they are judged as devious, destructive, even criminal. These are teens for whom a stop by the police could be life changing or even fatal.

My mind goes back to that spring evening where the bunch of us, maybe five or six, piled into a friend’s beat-up car that was always on the verge of breaking down and drove around with mischief on our minds. We were all, for the most part, good kids. We came from middle to upper middle class families. 

More significantly, we were white. 

We talked about what we would say if the police pulled us over. We joked about it, although in retrospect it’s clear we were worried about it. What was the likelihood of our being pulled over for just looking suspicious? Six relatively respectable-looking white kids?

We really had no idea. 

Did the issue of race come up in the discussion on NextDoor? No. The issue came up for me because I see on social media how frequently those assumptions are made. And I see the disparities in treatment between white teens and Black teens in our community and around the country. 

Who gets to learn and grow from their mistakes? Who doesn’t? If you find yourself judging teen behavior or attitudes, I wonder how you would react of it were your own child or someone in your family. Would it be different? Would you be inclined the give them the benefit of the doubt?

I never thought I’d write a blog post about what is, essentially, a hole in the ground. But you’d be amazed at how much you can find in a hole that size. Memory, for example. Perspective. And some powerfully strong hindsight.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Drive-by Curiousity

The story I have for you today was born a long time ago and nurtured over many rides to and fro on Route 108 in Columbia. It’s a story about a building.

If you take a right turn from Thunder Hill Road on Route 108, you will soon pass a building that looks like this.

Image is a screenshot from

This building, now called Columbia Station, is located at 9123 Old Annapolis Road. It did not always look like this. 

It used to be a rather odd thing, neither fish nor fowl, with a sign in the window (for a tv repair shop, maybe?) and annual posters for Dick Gelfman’s Ride Across Maryland event. At one end, in what felt like a tiny outbuilding, was a seamstress who did excellent and speedy work hemming my daughter’s concert skirt for the Peabody Children's Chorus. 

I wish I had taken a photograph of it then. I’d love to compare it with what is there today. 

At some point the entire site was taken over with renovation. Again, I wish I had photographs of this to help tell the story. I remember being surprised that anyone felt that this unassuming property was worth all of that investment. I wondered where the seamstress would go.

The piece of information that made this story more interesting to me was learning that the building belonged to Richard and Lenore Gelfman. (That explained the signs.) You may already know that Lenore Gelfman is a retired Maryland Circuit Court Judge. 

Ms. Gelfman was one of the chief advocates, I believe, for investing in a new county courthouse.

Former administrative Circuit Court Judge Lenore Gelfman had pestered state and county officials for years to replace the cramped stone building, as Maryland’s Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera reminded the crowd of about 150.

Gelfman herself described the drawn-out search for an appropriate site. It wound just north of Route 108 and east of Route 29 on the southern edge of Ellicott City in what was once a huge Bendix Field Engineering building later bought by the county. - - Len Lazarick, Maryland Reporter

The new courthouse is about a five minute drive from 9123 Old Annapolis Road. That made me wonder. Did the choice of the site for the new county courthouse have anything to do with the Gelfmans’ decision to renovate their building? I’m curious.

Date-wise: the article by David Greisman in the Baltimore Sun about Judge Gelfman calling for a new courthouse is from May, 2012. The paperwork filed by the Gelfmans to request a zoning change for their property at 9123 Old Annapolis Road is dated December, 2012. They (obviously) were granted the zoning change although I feel compelled to relate that the Oakland Mills Village Board was strongly opposed, mostly due to traffic safety on Route 108. 

But the approval for the new courthouse didn’t come until 2018. That would seem like more than an ordinary amount of planning ahead, no matter how strategic you are. Deciding to renovate in 2012 with an eye to a courthouse was almost ten years away? I don’t know how commercial real estate works but it feels like you’d be taking a loooooong view if you were hoping for a good return on your investment.

I had just about forgotten about all this when I saw an announcement on Facebook.

Image by Oscar Ramos, from Facebook

That tiny little structure on the left where the seamstress was? It’s now a Subway Restaurant.

The original request for a zoning change was to enable the structure to become an office building. I obviously stopped paying attention for the part where it was going to contain commercial food service. (I wonder what the Oakland Mills Village Board thought of that?) Looking at this from the standpoint of traffic safety, I would recommend that you patronize this business if you can turn right going in and turn right going out. Just trust me on this.

I checked out the list of tenants in the building. It’s an office building, all right. Well, now it’s an office building with a Subway. That’s handy if your office is there and you don’t want to navigate Route 108 at lunchtime. But is there anything about Columbia Station that appears strategically connected to the new courthouse?

Hmm. That’s more complicated. At least one lawyer has an office there. And I suppose it’s a quick place to grab food that’s close to the courthouse.  But so are the Pizza Hut and the new Baskin Robbins/Dunkin, not to mention any food places at Long Gate Shopping Center, which is close by in the other direction.

What does all of this mean? Am I suggesting that something was done wrong or that there is some kind of conspiracy at work here? Not at all. Like most people I have a healthy curiosity about my community. Unlike most people, I have way too much time on my hands now that I am retired. When I see things that seem to me to hold threads of a good local story, I want to know more. 

I’m still curious. I’m wondering if any of my readers have pieces of this puzzle? And, while we are at it, do you know anything about the complete building renovation at the corner of 108 and Bendix Road? That’s where the new Baskin-Robbins/Dunkin is located. That project took forever. At several points I despaired of it ever reaching completion.

It, too, is beautifully completed and conveniently located near the new courthouse.

Have a great Monday. Got any good local stories? Fill me in.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Love and Solidarity

On the Sabbath, two days before Hanukkah, someone sprayed words of hate about Jewish people on a school sign in Montgomery County. No, it’s not Howard County. But, when it comes to hate speech and antisemitism, it’s close enough to be worrisome, even frightening. There have been enough examples of violent acts against worshippers in synagogues around the country in recent years to take every ugly act of desecration seriously.

School officials said they found antisemitic graffiti in front of a Bethesda, Maryland, high school just after 8 a.m. Saturday.

Walt Whitman High School Principal Dr. Robert Dodd said in a letter to the community that the hateful words were seen on the Montgomery County school’s sign.

I don’t know what it is to feel the fear that incidents like this can cause for their targets. I do have a strong sense that those of us who are not targets must not remain silent. Our Jewish friends, neighbors, and coworkers should not have to wonder how we feel. We should make it clear that we support them against mockery, derision, and hate. 

But what does that mean, exactly? At the very least it is verbalizing care and concern. That’s a beginning. Something else we can do is learn more about the religion of Judaism and how its peoples are living throughout the world, also their history. I think many people think “they know” without having made more than a cursory effort to learn more. 

It’s an act of love and respect to make the time to learn something new, possibly out of one’s comfort zone. Thats when we discover that what was different is no longer “other”.

My response to yesterday’s awful news from Montgomery County was to set everything aside this morning and go looking for Hanukkah. This is how I did it. I went to Twitter and searched Hanukkah. I clicked the option that allows you to search “near you”. Most of the examples that came up were from Baltimore. Close enough.

A mouthwatering food photograph was shared by a non-Jewish husband who hopes please his Jewish in-laws with a coffee-braised brisket for tonight’s Hanukkah dinner. 

Someone else wishes her friends happy holidays with a photo of her feet in Hanukkah-themed socks, covered in a festive dreidel print. 

An article from Baltimore Magazine about a new addition to Baltimore’s 34th street lights display.

Image credit Grace Hebron, Baltimore Magazine

Baltimore woodwind musician Seth Kibel  promotes his recent appearance on Sirius XM Radio:

I got to be a guest DJ on SiriusXM!  Catch my special Hanukkah show, where I spin vintage and modern klezmer tunes, along with insightful commentary, and more than a few bad jokes!  Premiering this Sunday evening on The Bridge, Ch. 17.  Rerunning a whole lot after that.

Downtown Diane offer Hanukkah recipes the whole family will love. The Jewish Museum reminds you that Hanukkah is right around the corner and you can purchase all your supplies at their gift shop. Menorahs and dreidels 35 per cent off!

Also from the Jewish Museum of Maryland, a reminder of this event by Repair the World Baltimore:

Come find us at the 8th Annual Hanukkah BrewHaHa on December 20th from 6-9 pm at Union Craft Brewing! Celebrate the third night of Hanukkah with us by Burning Bright and Sharing Your Light!

Jewish Community Services encourages you to make a donation so that families are able to buy Hanukkah gifts for their children.

A reminder from two Baltimore synagogues that you must reigister in advance for their annual Hanukkah event.

Hanukkah Lights Up the Sky

Only one week left until the annual Beth El and Chizuk Amuno Congregations joint Hanukkah Lights Up the Sky event on December 19th. The evening will include a special live concert by the incredible acappella group, @Six13Sings.

I loved the description of the evening’s festivities included on the registration page , particularly their forethought in considering attendees who may be disabled or neurodivergent.

We'd like to offer a sensory friendly space for families who could use a quiet spot during the big Hanukkah event. You can find this area at Beth El in the Kolker Room.  

Are there any accommodations that would benefit you or your family to feel successful engaging in this program?  If so, please email  us.

Finally, here’s one from Columbia/HoCo: a menorah lighting on December 19th at the Harriet Tubman Center.

I wanted to peel away all the layers: Christmas, Holiday, Santa, Trees, Decorations, Shopping. I wanted to sit, for just a moment, in a place that centered Judaism. On social media that takes a bit of extra effort. But it’s doable. Looking, listening, and learning can begin as simply as this. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center offers some excellent information on their website:

 Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Resource Guide.

Here are the ten ways. Read the article to learn what they mean. 

1. Act

2. Join Forces

3. Support the Victims

4. Speak Up

5. Educate Yourself

6. Create An Alternative

7. Pressure Leaders

8. Stay Engaged

9. Teach Acceptance

10. Dig Deeper

Congressman Jamie Raskin responded to yesterday’s news with these words.

Sickened and horrified about another episode of antisemitic vandalism in our community, at Walt Whitman High School—on Shabbat and just before Hanukkah. Sending love and solidarity to Whitman students, families, faculty and staff. Hate won’t win in MoCo.

How will we show love and solidarity? How will we make sure that hate won’t win in HoCo?