Saturday, March 25, 2023

Falling In


The Mall in Columbia made an official announcement this week that they will be instituting new entry restrictions for teens at the 52 year old property. 

The Mall in Columbia announced Thursday that youth must be chaperoned by adults after reports of unruly behavior at the shopping center. The "parental guidance required" rule will take effect on March 31. Any visitors under 18 will need to be accompanied by a parent or supervising adult who is at least 21 years old after 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, the mall said. During those hours, officers will be present to check the IDs of young visitors. 

If I were the kind of person who had the patience to identify, document, and sort social media responses to this news I think there would be some interesting things to learn. I can tell you a significant chunk of them lean racist. I worry that the implementation of this new policy will lean the same way.

Then we have an interesting divergence of opinion among adults who grew up hanging out at the mall themselves. There are some who remember those years fondly and don’t think that experience should be taken away from current teens. Then there are those who remember how incredibly well-behaved they and their friends were at the mall and look at today’s young people and say, “Throw ‘em out!”

As for me, I keep thinking about this quote from the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in. - - Desmond Tutu

If teens are getting into trouble at the Mall, or any place locally, for that matter, simply reacting to a crisis is not enough. I’m thrilled with the summer programs for young people announced by country government. I’m not thrilled with the new policy at the Mall. But both are reactions. 

I am inclined to agree with those who are advocating for more local teen centers where kids can gather and hang out and be who they are. There has to be a careful balance between safe places and fun activities with the need for kids of this age to exercise independence and make their own choices. And it has to be easy for kids to get there, and affordable.

Developmentally they are going to be doing inexplicably goofball sorts of things. That’s a given. Ask teachers who teach this age level. They could tell you some stories. (But they won’t, because that would be unprofessional.)

How do we go upstream and find out where teens are falling in the river? If we don’t do that we will always be in a position of reacting. 

What’s happening at the mall seems to me to have a lot to do with boundaries. There are certain behavioral lines that have been crossed which made patrons, business owners, and mall management feel unsafe. 

How are we teaching boundaries? If some kids just don’t “get it” how can we do a better job? Also, are those the same kids who are likely to be at risk for other self-harming behavior? It’s easy to say “let’s just get rid of the problem.” But just because you are less likely to see it at the Mall doesn’t mean it will go away. It will just go somewhere else. 

If what we see at the Mall is a symptom of a larger problem, then the solution has to be deeper than symptomatic treatment. And it certainly makes no sense to ban all people of a certain age group as a way of addressing it. It flies in the face of everything we know about using logical consequences to respond to behavior.

If we want to make a lasting difference with our kids, it will take some long term investment in their lives and support for them as they develop. 

How to fix the folks making racist assumptions on Facebook? That’s another story altogether.

Post Script: I can’t get over the feeling that the behaviors deemed as unacceptable would be not be described as dangerous if the kids were white. 

Friday, March 24, 2023

F ³: Listening and Telling

Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday…

Some of the children’s books I read growing up began as bedtime stories for children. American culture is not as focused on the art of oral storytelling as many other, older cultures. Bedtime stories are the place where many of us have our first (and sometimes only) experience with it.

I remember telling my older daughter stories about going on adventures to a magical kingdom on the back of her magical pink pony. 

And they went trot-trot, trot-trot, trot-trot and - - whoosh! into the sky…

Did you know that March 20th is World Storytelling Day?

Image from The Maryland State Library on Twitter 

World Storytelling Day is a global celebration of the art of oral storytelling. It is celebrated every year on the March equinox, on March 20. #MDLibraries carry on oral storytelling tradition through programs and events, including story time for young children.

This was news to me, so I did a bit of digging around. This explanation is from the World Storytelling Day Facebook Group:


World Story Day has been celebrated around the world with great success since 2003.

Throughout that one day oral storytellers around the world are busy inspiring audiences, and creating community, by telling classical tales, local stories, glorious, horrendous, happy, challenging, spooky, romantic and dramatic epic stories. Some wrapped in music, some staged and others intimate - but every story is told in a unique and compelling way, by a storyteller whose heart is full of great tales to bridge our divides and remind us what it is to be human.

We tend to think of storytelling as something reserved for children. Maybe it’s because modern culture has strayed so far from honoring the authenticity of the oral tradition. Why sit and listen to someone talk when you could watch a movie or see a show or stream animated digital content? Children still possess the inborn ability to suspend disbelief and be carried beyond their immediate surroundings by a story.

All to soon it is educated and entertained out of them. Out of us.

Yet I was fascinated by the storytelling event I went to as a part of Columbia’s 50th birthday celebration. These were the stories of personal experience, not folktales or fairytales with magical characters. If you’ve ever listened to The Moth on Public Radio you have experienced that kind of storytelling. It’s an art. As the explanation above suggests, it takes “a storyteller whose heart is full of great takes to bridge our divides and remind us what it is to be human.”

Some of us may not feel we are up to that level of storytelling. Or perhaps we don’t like being the center of attention. But storytelling need not be a formal event. Sometimes it is as small as the things you share with your family at the end of your day, or the funny family stories about life events that get better and better with each retelling. Or the moments snuggled up to a sleepy child.

In the last ten years or so there has been a good deal of scientific study on how storytelling affects the brain. A good story can connect with the parts of our brain that react to real, active experiences rather than passive ones. Our brains can produce cortisol and oxytocin just from hearing a vivid narrative. That’s right: listening to stories can change brain chemistry and sometimes our subsequent behavior as well.

Do you enjoy telling stories? Do you like to listen? Can you remember a story that has really stayed with you over time, or influenced you in some way?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Thursday, March 23, 2023



I am not raising funds for a cause for my birthday. I have a pretty good feeling that everyone I know on Facebook and even everyone who reads the blog is the sort of person who donates and volunteers and gives of their time already. Thank you for that. 

Do I have any birthday wishes? Maybe. 

The big ones are continuing to have a capacity for enjoyment and the ongoing desire to still be open to learning something new. 

Oh, and for goodness sakes, let this be the year I finally fall in love with walking. Not a sexy wish, mind you, but one that would make a big difference in my life.

Today I have reached what I jokingly said to my husband is the Lennon and McCartney birthday. (If you know, you know.) At this juncture I still feel very strongly that voices other than my own are important in Columbia/HoCo. They aren’t necessarily going to be setting up a blog or even a podcast so you can find them easily. You have to look and listen.

Whether it’s at Columbia Association meetings or the Board of Ed or the County Council - - whose are the voices you rarely hear? What does that mean? All too often it means that those are the people who it becomes normal to ignore. 

I have reached an age where one often becomes focused on making sure that things are comfortable for “people like me.” Please don’t let me be that person. Don’t let me be the person that stands in front of other people’s dreams so they can’t blossom or take flight.

That’s a lot of heavy talk for a birthday. I’ll add one extravagant wish to close out this post. I’d like to win the lottery and spend the rest of my life as a professional philanthropist. Yes, a really big lottery jackpot so I could be extravagant in my giving.

Oh, and I’d like to spend the night in a treehouse, 

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

All Roads Lead To

 Three things. One place. 

Howard Community College.

Today from 11 - 4 on the Quad at HCC: the second annual Althea’s Almost Famous Roy Peart Memorial Scholarship Fundraiser

The delicious culinary creations of Althea Hanson will be back on campus today to support the scholarship fund she established in memory of her father, Roy Peart, who worked at HCC for 28 years. The scholarship supports students pursuing careers in music, theatre, and dance education. On hand today for the fundraiser:

  • Althea's Almost Famous food truck
  • Queen's Temple Handmade
  • DMV Taqueria
  • AppleCore's Bake Shop

On Friday, March 24th, HCC President Dr. Daria Willis is back on The Couch (remember The Couch?) for a discussion of Women’s History Month with Tonya Aikens, President and CEO of the Howard County Library System. This live event will take place on Instagram beginning at 2:30 pm. They’ll be discussing women's history and issues facing women in leadership positions.

You can even submit a question in advance via their Instagram account. I can sure think of a few timely ones. 

Also this week, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced that one of the recipients of funding in this year’s YEP! summer youth initiative will be a youth esports program at HCC.

Today, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced the launch of Howard County’s empowering Summer Youth Program and a new, innovative esports Initiative in partnership with Howard Community College. Through the partnership, youth in Howard County will learn key skills and positively engage with their peers and the community.

“The Howard Community College Dragons esports team competes against some of the most formidable colleges and universities in the country and has multiple conference wins and one national championship to our name,” said Howard Community College Director of Athletics Mike Smelkinson. “With all the success we’ve had with esports, Howard Community College is excited to partner with County Executive Ball and offer new opportunities for Howard County middle school and high school students to learn about gaming as an option to support their college education or their future career.”

HCC’s esports team is developing a series of fun events for Howard County middle school and high school students to inform them of the opportunities available in esports.

HCC Overwatch esports team wins national championship, May, 2022

Confession time: back in September of 2021 I wrote: 

I should mention here that Howard Community College has an e-sports team, although I have to admit I don’t understand why this qualifies as a sport. Perhaps my personal definition is too narrow. 

Guess what? I still don’t know enough about esports. I guess it’s time for me to do my homework.

You can keep up with what’s happening at HCC here:

Facebook: Howard Community College

Twitter: @HowardCC

Instagram: howardcommcollege

TikTok: howardcommcollege

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

An Alarming Deficit

I could give you quite the list of local happenings worthy of a blog post this morning. It’s not as though there’s nothing to write about. But there’s an image sticking in my head and it won’t move out of the way. It’s from the Instagram account for UMBC.

Speed Friending: Join us for snacks, games, and new friends!

One of the sponsors of this event is the UMBC Office of Off-Campus Services, so I’m guessing it’s targeting commuter students who aren’t in residence at UMBC. Still, it may have been open to anyone. I’ll check. But certainly it can be harder to forge social connections if you don’t live on campus.

 Why is this on my mind?

Over the last four years I’ve seen frequent posts on the Facebook parent page for UMBC about the difficulty of students connecting and making friends. I’ve been wondering if there’s something about how we are educating our kids that is somehow shortchanging them in the crucial social emotional skills that foster human connection and friendship.

Certainly the pandemic took a big chunk of normal adolescent development away from this generation. They are still playing catch up. All of our kids are, no matter what their age group.I wonder if that makes it harder to make friends?

Cell phones and the dominance of social media in teens’ lives is another factor - - and a big one, I suspect. There was a time when I was hopeful that this “new technology” could be used as a springboard for research and all kinds of learning experiences in the classroom. I am less optimistic today. I can’t say unequivocally that they are a work of the Devil and should be banned but I do think kids are harmed and we could be doing a better job supporting them.

As an aside, I find it interesting how attitudes have changed in the years since cell phones were allowed in schools. At the beginning I saw more teachers trying to maintain an open mind and explore ways to use technology in the classroom, whereas parents were flat-out objecting. Now I see teachers practically begging to get the devices out of the classroom and it is parents demanding that they remain.

What if I need to communicate with them? What if there’s a school shooting?

For a long time the mantra of the schools was “college and career ready.”  But what happens if you get to college - - or your first job - - and you don’t know how to make friends? How “successful” a human being will you be without human connection? Positive interactions and the ability to forge bonds with other people are what make life worth living. 

What happens if we as parents push our kids to focus on the kind of academic success that looks good on a college application but neglect to model for them the social skills and human kindness that support happiness in adulthood? We can’t blame this all on schools or cellphones. What have we valued? What have we ignored?

And one more thing: are we too involved? Do we want to be able to intervene and fix things even once they are away at college? Does our continued assertion of that parental control weaken our kids and hinder their ability to make their own choices, take their own risks, and even make their own friends?

Right now in Howard County high school seniors are nearing the end of the K-12 experience. Parents are anxious to know graduation dates. There will be college decisions and awards assemblies. Come September, how many will be lonely, disconnected, unsure of how to navigate life after high school?

Is there something we can do?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Monday, March 20, 2023

Monday Memories: March, 2020


As we move through anniversaries of those early days of the COVID-19 shutdown I’ve been seeing quite a bit of online reminiscing about events from three years ago There’s something so human about going over and over “where we were when” a major event changed our lives forever. It reminds me of how I used to unconsciously feel the place on my finger where my wedding ring wasn’t anymore after the dissolution of my first marriage.

Oh, that’s right. It’s gone.

I was looking over old blog posts from that time period and came across the one that talks about my last restaurant meal in The Before Times. It was at Cured.

Tuesday Night Treat, Village Green/Town², 3/11/2020

What strikes me about it is it’s ordinariness. Although we knew at the time that COVID was spreading around the world and would soon impact us, that fact doesn’t make it into my write-up at all. We knew cognitively, but we couldn’t have known how deeply it was going to change our lives. 

It took a long time for that to sink in.

As it turned out, I wouldn’t eat inside a restaurant again for over a year and a half. I made sure that first meal was at Cured, too.

Full Circle, Village Green/Town², 12/8/2021

I don’t think I’ve eaten inside a restaurant more than five times since March of 2020. Being in a high-risk category has made me choose my risks carefully, even strategically. I’m not asking for sympathy. It has simply become a part of my life. 

As I look back on the sweet, unfettered ordinariness of that meal in 2020 I almost get a stab of that Emily from Our Town feeling:

Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it -- every, every minute? - - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

This Thursday my family will gather to celebrate my birthday at one of our favorite local places, Flavors of India, in Gateway. It will be my first birthday meal inside a restaurant since 2019. There are so many factors that go into this: the low transmission rate in Howard County, the fact that everyone in my family is vaccinated and boosted, the great blessing that medication and treatment have stabilized my asthma. 

It is all worth celebrating. 

Are there any memories of these days in 2020 that have been on your mind? 

Village Green/Town² Comments

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Window Dressing


Compare and contrast. You remember those high school essays, don’t you? Some memories stick with you. I find that juxtaposition informs a lot of my work here. Images, especially.

Today I have two images for you from the Howard County Republican Party. The first was taken by Maryland Reporter’s Len Lazarick at a fundraising event. photo by Len Lazarick

The second was posted on the Facebook page of the Howard County Republican Party.

Image from Facebook: Howard County Republican Party

The first photo accompanies a piece on Maryland Reporter entitled “Ex-Gov Ehrlich tells Howard County Republicans they still have a chance.” (Len Lazarick, Maryland Reporter, 3/12/2023.) The caption for the photo reads:

Former Republican Gov. Bob Ehlrich on the stairs speaks to a crowd of Howard County Republicans during a Feb. 25 fundraiser at the home of Marleen Eck, far right, in Glenelg. Next to her is the county's GOP Chair Beth Lawson. 

The second image was posted on the Facebook page of the Howard County Republican Party on March 12th. If you scroll further down you can see that the Lazarick photo was taken at February 25th event called Ballots and Brunch. 

One wonders if the public outreach for Board of Education candidates came about as a result of the February 25th event or if it was already in the works. 

Much has been made of this call for BOE candidates - - and rightly so - - because of the ongoing outcry of local Republicans in past election cycles to anything in the BOE race that hinted of what they called partisanship. I guess that, in the desire to elect Republicans locally in any way that they can, they have decided to drop that pretense. And it was a pretense. HoCo Republicans have been recruiting, organizing, and supporting Republican candidates for BOE for quite some time: privately. 

Now we have a very public and carefully crafted solicitation intended to stir interest and excitement for the 2024 BOE race. I will probably write an entirely separate post about this:

We need candidates who can ensure accountability and trust in our education systems. The issues are plenty: parents rights in education, accountability & transparency, School Resource Officers (SROs), redistricting & neighborhood schools, prioritizing education over politics and ideology. Are you ready to step up and lead? (Text from Howard County Republican Party campaign flier)

But right now let’s look at the images.

One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong. Can you see it?

The creator of the flier chose a nice assortment of diverse-looking children from some collection of stock photos. They know our schools have a diverse student body. They’re indicating that their message will be what’s best for those kids. 

But who is “they”? When I look at the photo of Ehrlich and his admirers I see sameness. And not just because everyone in that particular photo is white and well-to-do, although that’s a big tell. I see ideological sameness. 

Ehrlich’s speech underscores this view as he describes Democrats in years past in the State legislature:

The State House leadership and particularly committee chairs were to “the right of center.” They were “businesspeople, owning bars and restaurants, signing the front of checks, hiring people, people who were entrepreneurs, who do capitalism. And as a result, the legislature and the state were fairly well in balance.”

Yes, they were Democrats but they were the right kind of Democrats: ownership, management, people who reap the juiciest benefits of capitalism. Those are the people who ought to be in charge. That is the lens through which decisions for everyone in Maryland should be made.

And those are the people who ought to be in control of our schools. People like us.

It’s interesting to note that nowhere in Ehrlich’s speech is there any mention of putting one’s self in other people’s shoes or of the diverse needs of the county’s residents. It’s a one-size-fits-all message. You can put a lovely multicultural bouquet of children on a flier but it means nothing if your essential message is diametrically opposed to that. 

It’s window dressing. It’s every bit as false and staged* as a fundraiser photo of a former governor on a stair case surrounded by affluent donors. 

Here is the mission statement for the Howard County Schools:


HCPSS ensures academic success and social-emotional well-being for each student in an inclusive and nurturing environment that closes opportunity gaps.

In my opinion, candidates for the Board of Education should be committed to that mission. That alone should be a given.

Does the campaign flier make you think that they will be?

*I don’t know if that photo was staged or a candid. It just rings false to me.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Bazaars and Belonging


Today, from 4 to 9 pm, Dar Al Taqwa Islamic Center is hosting a Pre-Ramadan Bazaar.

Ramadan begins the evening of March 22nd. If you don’t know much about Ramadan, here’s an article that will give you the basics.

10 Things non-Muslims should know about Ramadan, Jennifer Preyss, Victoria Advocate 

I do not know the significance of a pre-Ramadan Bazaar event but I can tell you they are held all over the world, so this is not simply a Howard County thing. It’s a part of a much larger tradition.

This is Dar Al Taqwa.

In 2019 I attended a vigil here in memory of Muslims killed in mass shootings in their mosques in New Zealand. Over the years it has been the target of hate and community criticism

This week County Executive Calvin Ball marked International Day to Combat Islamophobia with statements on his social media accounts.

Last year, the United Nations adopted a resolution which designated March 15 as International Day to Combat Islamophobia. Today, on this inaugural observation, we re-commit to not only ending anti-Muslim bigotry, but all religious discrimination in our community and beyond. 

Hate has no home in Howard County, Maryland, our nation, or our world. We stand with our Muslim community against any acts of hate, and encourage us all to spread love to one another.

In response, a local anonymous troll (who presents in blackface) asked:

Do you have a job? Or just activism on the tax payers dollar?

What a bitter, small-minded response to a statement of inclusion and respect.

I noticed this week that one of the local elementary schools was celebrating “Belonging Night.” As I looked at the photos it became apparent that this was what my child’s elementary school had called “International Night.” I’ve been pondering that ever since.

As well intentioned as having an International Night may have been, whenever they started having them, there’s also something vaguely othering about it. America is the norm. Everything else is “International.” It’s a rather binary view. “Belonging Night” touches on the different ways that everyone “belongs”: to family, family heritage, school community, and more. It’s about both the joy of who you are and the interconnectedness of all of us.

Honoring that makes for better schools. It also makes for better communities. When people feel a sense of belonging they are more likely to participate in community events, civic initiatives, even run for public office. A sense of belonging fosters the connection and trust that promotes people to become informed about local and to vote.

It’s not just about having one’s own culture or family traditions validated. Equally important is experiencing other people’s cultures and traditions being given that same treatment. So, to put it in a rather simplistic way:

It’s not merely that “they” feel important. It’s also that we experience how people who are different from us are important. Valuable. 

It’s a learning experience for us if we are paying attention.

Ramadan begins at sundown in March 22nd. Our community has many members who will be observing.

It can be a learning experience for us if we are paying attention. Not interrogating our Muslims friends or coworkers, mind you. Observing, learning, thinking. Maybe even doing some self-directed research.

If any of my readers are interested in enlightening me about Pre-Ramadan Bazaars, I’d love to know more.

Friday, March 17, 2023

F ³: Two Stories, One Lesson


As I was out driving this week I heard a bit of news on the radio that intrigued me.  Here’s a piece from Inside NoVa that explains.

‘My drivers have become my trainers’: Superintendent to become part-time bus driver amid shortages

Superintendent Dr. Shannon Grimsley is occasionally stepping away from her desk to transport students to and from school. Photo by Holly Jenkins

Shortage of school bus drivers is pretty much a national thing these days. We’re certainly struggling with it here in Columbia/HoCo. So the thought of a school system superintent getting behind the wheel caught my attention. Was it just a publicity stunt? Or was there more to it?

Grimsley’s mission is to try and see what limitations or challenges currently exist within the hiring process for bus drivers, and if that could be contributing to the ongoing shortage. Grimsley has so far completed about several hours of classroom instruction. 

“It seems really overwhelming at first, and I think that leads to why a lot of people won't step through the door to try it,” Grimsley said. 

I can’t find a link to the radio piece I heard, alas, but it contained additional insight into Superintendent Grimsley’s purpose. She’s not there simply to gather more information about the hiring process, but also to experience first-hand what the job is like. What are the challenges? 

It’s more than learning to drive a bus and pass the numerous written exams. For instance:
  • Pay
  • Hours
  • Supervising students on the bus 
  • Handling adverse weather conditions 
  • Interacting with parents
  • Responding to student health emergencies 
That’s why the quote “my drivers have become my trainers”  is so significant to me. How often are people in positions of leadership open to learning from those considered to be “lower” than they are in their organization?

On the other hand, here’s a piece from NBC news about a state legislator in Minnesota who looks like he’s occupying the entire region on the other side of the coin from Superintendent Grimsley in Virginia. 

Screenshot from with Twitter account of Peter Sagal

Yes, you read that correctly. Minnesota state senator Steve Drazkowski doesn’t think there are hungry kids in schools because he’s personally never seen any hungry people in his state.

A Republican state senator in Minnesota said Tuesday he was voting against a bill to provide free breakfast and lunch for school students in part because he'd never encountered anyone in the state who was hungry.

This makes me wonder: has he ever put any energy into investigating hunger in Minnesota? More importantly, does he care?

Drazkowski called the bill "pure socialism," adding, "This is about the government dictating to kids what they're going to eat and how much they’re going to eat."

Now imagine if Drazkowski had taken a similar course of action to that of the Rappahannock County Public Schools Superintendent. What if he had made it his job to learn what the needs are, how students are impacted by hunger, and put himself in the position of having the people who know the most about this issue be his instructors.

Not for a photo op. Not for a sound bite. Not for a ‘show horse’ moment on the floor of the Minnesota State Legislature. But because the citizens of the state are his constituents and true leadership means learning, and empathy, and respect for those you serve.

In case you are wondering, the bill to fund school meals passed and is likely to be signed into law by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz. 

The juxtaposition of these two stories feels almost like a parable to me. In the big picture, both involve schools. Both show how differences in leadership can have wildly differing outcomes. I want to know what happened in the formative years of these two individuals that led to what we are seeing today. How did they get here? What experiences shaped them? 

What do you think?

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Time Travel with The Baltimore Sun

Oops. They did it again.

 Recognize that building? It’s not the Columbia Association headquarters. This is.

It is now 2023. CA moved from its old HQ at the Lakefront to its new location on Hillside Court in 2015. And the Baltimore Sun/Howard County Times still hasn’t caught up yet.

This really gets my goat. They’ve made this mistake at least twice before since 2015 and I see I’ve written about it in dismay both times.

Small Story, 2016

Local News, Local Lives, 2020

Apparently our local newspaper got stuck in 2015 and cannot be budged. Therefore, Allan Kittleman is the County Executive, Renee Foose is Superintendent of Schools, Milton Matthews is the President of the Columbia Association.

This is the Howard County Courthouse. 

Photo from Howard County Government website 

Things that don’t exist in 2015:

  • The new Elkridge Library
  • The new Wilde Lake Middle School
  • The Merriweather District 
  • The Chrysalis 
  • Clarksville Commons and The Common Kitchen
  • The new Wilde Lake Village Center? (I haven’t yet nailed down a date on that.)
  • Bridge Columbia (transformed pedestrian bridge over Route 29)
I’m sure there’s more. 

In all this time, throughout all these changes, the Baltimore Sun has not seen fit to change their file photo of the Columbia Association Headquarters. They appear to know who the current County Executive is, and the location of the new courthouse. So their insistence on time travel seems to be selective. 

It’s just this one building. I guess they don’t like it?

I get it. The old headquarters at the Lakefront is just so picturesque.

Honestly, the folks at the Sun know that CA has moved. Luke Lavoie wrote about the decision in 2014. Guess which photo they used, by the way? It was accompanied by the caption “ CA Headquarters located on the Columbia lakefront. (File)”

It’s an appealing springtime view, taken at an eye-catching angle to get both the building and the lovely seasonal blooms. I wonder who took this photo? I’d love to credit them. I wonder if they get a payment every time it’s used?

I doubt it.

Why is it important? Well…

This picture accompanies an article which is meant to inform residents about the upcoming Columbia elections. There are plenty of good reasons this year to try to reach more people and encourage more participation. But if you moved to Columbia any time after 2015, this building means nothing to you. We’re trying to inform people here, not confuse them. I’m tempted to write a letter to the Editor but I don’t think that’s even an option anymore. 

Anyway, since we’re throwing it back to 2015, here’s a photo of me with someone whose presence on the local scene I am far more sentimental about than the building at the Lakefront.

Julia Jackson McCready, a local blogger, accepts an "Esteemed Use of the Twitters Award" from Colonel Gateway. (Staff photo by Jon Sham, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Same Old Song


So. The Ides of March. In all likelihood the most we have to beware is whatever blew into our yards during the night or whatever blew over. We haven’t put up the patio umbrella yet so I think we’re safe.

There are plenty of perfectly respectable things to write about this morning but for some reason my brain is stuck on skateboards.

On January 23rd, the Columbia Association posted this conversation started on their Instagram account:

Columbia is for all of us. What gives you a sense of belonging here in Columbia?

They received one response.

Columbia doesnt seem like it's for skateboarders anymore. It used to be the skatepark that gave us a sense of that, but Y'all haven't listened to us for over a decade and now your park is severely outdated, in disrepair, and can commonly be seen empty on perfect summer days. Columbia used to have a thriving skateboarding scene, and not having a modern, up-to-date skatepark is one of the reasons why we don't anymore. People would rather drive to Laurel or Shrimptown* to skate then use this old crusty park. Let's fix this.

My first thought: are kids still into skateboarding? Is that still a thing? It occurred to me that when skateboarding was at its peak adults had plenty of complaints about it. 

Why are so many adults angry about skateboarders? Daryl Nelson, Consumer Affairs, July, 2013

I loved this bit:

"By understanding the culture of skateboarding, today's leaders are in a better position to understand tomorrow's leaders and develop communication styles to improve interaction between generations," writes [Linda] Moore.

Plus, it's important to remember there are worse things kids could be doing other than skateboarding, and with so many people complaining about kids playing video games and not getting outside enough, adults should really relax a bit.

And, from The Skateboarding Problem: (Public Skatepark Development Guide, Tony Hawk Foundation)

When a community treats its skateboarders as pariahs, outcasts, and nuisances, they are telling skateboarding youth that they are not welcome there. They become someone else’s problem. “You are welcome to skate, just not here.” Skaters are routinely confronted and ticketed by police. Skaters see this as an unwinnable situation; they are passionate about skating but every attempt to find a place to skate inevitably leads to a confrontation with authority. After decades of this treatment, “illicit” street-skating has become an indelible part of the skateboarder’s experience. This is NOT because skateboarding culture has an anti-authoritarian tone, but because so many communities have systematically confined skateboarding that skaters treat each place to skate as a temporary situation until they are kicked out. For many, it is a daily ritual. Every experienced skateboarder can share a story of being treated like a criminal. What other sport can claim that?

Advocates have been claiming for years that if your city doesn’t have a skatepark, your city IS a skatepark.

This disgruntled skateboarder’s lament has stayed in my mind because it underscored for me the consistent theme that whatever teens are doing at any given time, adults think they should be doing something else. If they’re at home on their phones, they should be out of the house doing something. If they’re at the mall, they should be banned or chaperoned. If they’re skakeboarding, they’re unsafe, insolent, in the way.

…pariahs, outcasts, nuisances.

It seems to me that the recent issues at the Mall in Columbia are merely a different branch on the same old tree. When they’re inside, we want them to go outside. When they’re outside, we don’t like that either. When they’re alone, we want them to go connect with friends. When they gather, we report them as a potential danger.

Are you seeing a pattern here? 

On Thursday, March 9th, County Executive Calvin Ball announced YEP! - - a county initiative to fund community youth programming.

Howard County’s Youth Engagement Programming (YEP!) Grants promote youth activities and engagement in Howard County through free, accessible, and supportive programming developed by nonprofit and community organizations. The goal of these grants is to provide community organizations with the resources to develop programs for young people in Howard County that are offered outside of traditional school hours. Grant applications should focus on social-emotional learning, mental health and wellness, and activities for young people. Additionally, proposals that leverage partnerships with other community organizations are encouraged.

There are a variety of reasons why today’s young people are struggling while facing challenges the previous generations did not. But one of the biggest problems may be one of the oldest in the book: disgruntled, judgmental adults. People who don’t understand the developmental needs of adolescents and who would rather post inflammatory rants on social media than engage with actual young people.

Does the Columbia Association need to upgrade their skatepark? Will they? I don’t know. 

Do we as a community need to upgrade our knowledge of teens in today’s world and work together to support them?


Area skateparks:

Columbia Association Skatepark, Harpers Farm Road

North Laurel Skatepark, Whiskey Bottom Road

South Ranch Skatepark (Shrimptown) Sykesville 

*I had never heard of Shrimptown. It turns out that it’s in Sykesville. I found a review video on YouTube.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Sharing the Light


According to Google, sunset on March 31st will be at 7:30 pm. (Thanks, DST.) You can spend the close of your day and experience all the colors of a spring sunset with a bunch of very cool people who care about Suicide Prevention. 

2nd Annual? I don’t remember the first so I did some digging around. 

Howard County Hosts Inaugural Light the Night 5K for Suicide Prevention

The Light the Night 5K was spearheaded by Chloe McGeehan who served as student member for the past year for the Howard County Recreation and Parks Park Board. Over 150 participants raised more than $2,100 combined. 

Chloe McGeehan was featured in a Baltimore Magazine article highlighting the work of young people making a difference in their communities. 

Suicide has been the leading cause of death for youth in Howard County since 2014. Chloe McGeehan has personally felt the effects of this sad statistic, having lost a running teammate to suicide. Last April, she created Light the Night 5K for Suicide Prevention.

In the press release for last year’s event, Ms. McGeehan stated:

I created Light the Night 5k for Suicide Prevention to provide resources and support for youth who, like myself, have personally experienced the serious suicide statistics plaguing our county and larger Maryland community. Running has helped me heal from loss, develop physical and mental strength, and connect with new people. I thought a 5k fundraiser would translate well to raising both funds and much needed mental health awareness, especially because the CDC reports, 'some benefits of physical activity on brain health happen right after a single session of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.' Ultimately, I want this 5k to serve as a county-wide acknowledgment that we, the residents of Howard County, believe mental health is not only important, but an essential part of our collective community success.

The Light the Night 5K for Suicide Prevention returns to Oakland Mills High School this year on March 31st from 6 to 8:30 pm. This year’s event coordinator is RHHS student Aubrey Heiges.

The Light the Night 5k brings Howard County residents together to promote emotional well-being as an essential part of our collective community success. We hope to demonstrate the link between physical activity and mental health, while highlighting our amazing Howard County parks and outdoor spaces available to the public for physical activity. Finally, our goal is to raise funds for and awareness of community resources provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center.

  • Bringing people together 
  • Link between physical and mental health
  • Focus on Howard County parks and outdoor spaces
  • Raising funds prevention 
  • Promoting awareness of available resources 
These are some powerful goals. I have to admit that I’ve never thought specifically about Howard County’s outdoor spaces as resources that can support residents who are experiencing depression and suicidal ideation. As someone who has always leaned arts rather than sports, the idea of running to make you feel better feels counterintuitive to me. To be honest, even getting myself to make walking a habit has been a struggle.

Meme of unknown origin 

And yet it’s absolutely true that physical activity and getting outside can be powerfully healing - - not necessarily all at once, but, little by little. Like most meaningful changes, it takes time. Sometimes you need a friend to help you through or the support of a like minded group to energize you.

This year’s Light Up the Night 5K is for you whether you’re a runner or a walker or just want to donate and/or lend moral support.

Register and learn more about the event: 2nd Annual Light the Night 5K. (I noticed that race packet and T-shirt pickup will be at Feet First in the Wilde Lake Village Center. Remember them?) 

There will be activities for non-runners, suicide prevention resource packets, and fun take-home items such as bracelets and keychains. Cash donations will be accepted at the event.

Join in, and spread the word. 



Additional resources for support or if you have thoughts about suicide: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741, and the Trevor Project for LGBTQ+ communities at 1-866-488-7386.

Grassroots operates a 24-hour crisis intervention and supportive counseling hotline; individuals may call 410-531-6677 for a variety of reasons including suicide, family and relationship problems, shelter needs, violent or threatening domestic situations, and more. To learn more, visit 

Monday, March 13, 2023

Friday the 17th


March brings the painful Spring Forward time change followed rather quickly by Saint Patrick’s Day. Long-time readers of the blog know that I have had plenty to say about that over the years. Last year’s offering:

The Greening of America, HoCo Style , Village Green/Town², March 14, 2022

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

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

Here are three examples of Saint Patrick’s Day-themed social media posts that have made me laugh over the past few days.

The first is here by virtue of a typo.

It's that time! Our first batch of Irish Sofa bread is out of the oven.

Mmm…Irish Sofa Bread. Perfect for couch potatoes like me. 

This is not in any way a critique of Decadent Dessert Bar in Maple Lawn. A typo like that could happen to anyone and I’ve heard nothing but good things about their business. Still, it made me smile.

Next, a promotional email that I undoubtedly read wrong:

Get Lucky” bagels? What on earth do they put in those things? Is there a time limit on their efficacy? Can you buy a bunch and freeze some for later? 

A second read-through revealed that THB is encouraging you to get “Lucky Bagels”. Oh. Well, that’s different, I guess, but putting food coloring in an otherwise non-authentically Irish food product isn’t…


Last, an upcoming event in Old Ellicott City:

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at La Palapa Grill & Cantina! All day food and drink specials. DJ and dancing.

Their Google entry describes them as follows:

This Mexican standby offers a menu of traditional fare & a full bar with mariachi music on weekends.

I can only guess that what will make it a Saint Patrick’s Day event at a Mexican restaurant will be themed party decorations and alcohol. Lots of it.

Could an establishment that entices patrons with authentic Mariachi music on weekends invest in authentic Irish trad musicians for their Saint Patrick’s Day festivities? They could. But are they?


Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day however you wish. All I ask is that you don’t drink and drive. 

Village Green/Town² Comments

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Home Improvement


There’s a street in my village that is the home of some creatively renovated original Columbia houses. Every time my errands take me that way I have to fight the urge to slow down and drink it all in. This street is far enough off the beaten path that you might say it’s “a place that time forgot”, but, unlike Lake Woebegon, the decades have definitely improved it. 

I thought about this street when I saw a recent announcement from Howard County Government’s Housing and Community Development Department.

Reinvest * Renovate * Restore

Housing Repair Program

Who is eligible?

• You must be a Howard County homeowner

• Own and occupy the home as your principal residence

• Can be single family, townhouse or condo

• All mortgage, property taxes, HOA/condo fees, and hazard insurance payments must be current

Loan Terms

• Maximum loan amount is $40,000

• Interest rate shall not exceed 2%

• Maximum term is 30 years

Department of Housing & Community Development - To apply visit and complete the Pre- Application.

Full program guidelines and income eligibility requirements can also be found on our website.


Funding availability based on annual budget allocation.

These loans are available for homes throughout Howard County. But at the moment I’m thinking about older housing stock in Columbia that could really use a boost. To be clear, these loans are not intended to turn an ordinary house into a McMansion or anything of the sort. 

The housing repair loan program can help income eligible Howard County homeowners make necessary repairs to their homes. The housing repairs can be done to meet local housing codes for health and safety conditions. Repairs may include, but are not limited to: heating and air systems, electrical wiring, plumbing, roofs, windows, doors, painting and landscaping. Cosmetic upgrade items may also be eligible.  This program can help homeowners stay in their homes, address outstanding maintenance and repair items and improve overall neighborhood appearance.

It also can help residents make their homes safer for aging in place.

This housing repair loan program can also assist homeowners with repairs or improvements to assist with mobility, hearing, or vision issues. These repairs can help make it easier to get in or around the home. Ramps, chair lifts, or grab bars are just some of the modifications that can be made through the program for eligible households.

When I served on the Oakland Mills Village Board part of our job was to assess cases where a residence was in violation of the residential architecture guidelines. It often seemed to me that many of these cases were rooted in the homeowner not being able to afford to make the required repairs to bring their home into compliance. We were tasked with overseeing a system of consequences to be imposed on residents for noncompliance but we didn’t have any tools to assist residents and enable them to comply.

It felt punitive when I wished it could be more of a partnership. But, that’s just the way it was.

This loan program won’t be able to help everyone. And honestly, some folks need grants more than loans. But I think it could do a lot of good (and not just in Columbia.) That’s why I wanted to boost their signal and help to get the information out. 

You may have a neighbor for whom this program could be a godsend. Or, it could be you or someone you work with. Spread the word. 

RRR: Reinvest * Renovate * Restore

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Saturday, March 11, 2023

That Racy Underground Life

 Lapsus est vita!

It’s not common for a modern business to have a Latin motto these days. Can you guess what business it’s for?

I’ll give you a hint. It translates as “Laps are life!”  Give up? Maybe this will help.

Image from RC Underground website

Yes, those kind of laps.

“Lapsus est vita” is the motto of RC Underground Arena of Columbia, Maryland. 

Our goal is to provide an open and inviting atmosphere for RC racers of all ages and skill levels. Come on in and get some laps in! We love helping the new racer get the right equipment and setup! 

Today RC Underground Arena (yes, the RC stands for “remote control”) is hosting a Race of Champions beginning at 2 pm.

Race of Champions is a 1/28th scale rc car race taking place at the recently opened RCUnderground Arena. RCUA is located at 8775 Cloud Leap Court Columbia MD 21045. We will have games, RC car demo's, door prizes, giveaway's and more. This is an event for the whole family young and old alike!!! For any information or question please feel free to check us out on Facebook @RCUndergroundarena.

Friends, I did not know that remote control racing was “a thing”. Clearly it is, and you can even find instructional videos on YouTube teaching you how to get into to the sport/hobby. RC Underground offers a tiered membership fee system depending on how much you want to race. Some folks must really race a lot because fees range from $100 to $300 monthly.

I get the feeling that this is a hobby where you need to own your own equipment. This is not like a bowling alley where you come and rent shoes, etc. It looks like it just might be an expensive hobby, too.RC Underground Arena offers mini-z and 1/28th scale racing, indoor carpet racing, drift, drone and whoop racing, plus STEM programs for kids.

It’s hard for me to tell whether today’s event is free or not. It looks like they are encouraging folks to come along and watch all those hard-core RC competitors, but your best bet would be to reach out for more info.

You can check out RC Underground on Facebook, too.

If you haven’t already figured it out, this business is in Long Reach. It’s yet another small business getting its start in this Columbia Village Center. Even though I know absolute nothing about the hobby, I still think it looks cool and I hope they are successful in that location.

There’s a lot going on in the Long Reach Village Center.

If you head over for the Race of Champions today, take a walk around the center and see what else is there. 

One lap should probably do it.