Sunday, April 30, 2023

House for Sale


Meanwhile, over in the real estate section…

I spied the following houses on Twitter this week.* They all happen to be in Ellicott City. What follows is not a scholarly treatise on the state of real estate nor suburban architecture. It’s…well…commentary.

House number one:

House number one made the list because it is on Broken Lute Way, which is one of the notable Columbia Street names that people love to laugh about. (I have known actual lutenists who didn’t think it was so funny.) However, this home is said to be in Ellicott City. 

Not with that street name, it ain’t.

Of course what that means is that it’s in Dorsey which manages somehow to be in both Columbia and Ellicott City at the same time. This continues to bug me for no good reason, in addition to the fact that it’s  really none of my business. Still, if I broke down and bought a house on Broken Lute Way I would want everyone to know it was in Columbia. 

Your mileage may vary, as they say.

House Number Two looks to be the same house as House Number One, but squeezed (hard!) so that the garage popped way out in front of the house.

I’ve written before about the trend to put garages out in front. Apparently it has to do with fitting the most house plus garage on a small lot. While I now understand the reasoning, I still think it looks odd. If I had the money to buy this house I would turn the garage into a glamourous entrance (entrance hall/great room?)  to the house and just park in the driveway.

House Number Three has an interesting and engaging look about it. It’s a refreshing change from typical suburban architecture.

Until you look at the back.

For me, this was a letdown. It looks like every other suburban house and lot in the area. This house turns the mullet style around: it’s party in the front, business in the back. It may very well be a fabulous house inside but the back was disappointing.

And finally - - the piece de resistance: House Number Four:

2.9 million, in case you’re wondering. When I first looked at this home I made the assumption that its owner had it made to their personal specifications. I had some thoughts about that. Sure, you may want an enormous home in this particular style, but will anyone else feel that way after you? Is this house so specific to the original owners that no one else ever want to buy it?

Does that matter? If you have the money to build whatever you want, do you have the responsibility to think of how that house will continue on in the community long after you are gone?

Well, it turns out that my assumption may be incorrect. This house was built in 2008 as a part of a subdivision called Riverwood Estates. From what I can tell, Riverwood Estates describes itself as a varied assortment of estate-style homes, so that means they don’t all look like this one. But I’m not sure if they were all built by the same builder or if any were built at the direction of the potential home owner.

It may sound rather unyielding of me, but… I think that, if you are responsible for creating a house like this, then you and your descendants should commit to living here in perpetuity. It’s an homage to European wealth. Have plans to pass down your home through generations to come? This is the one!

I imagine you also have a coat of arms, and possibly even keep a few heraldic trumpeters on staff. It’s that kind of house.

What kind of house catches your eye?

Village Green/Town² Comments

*None of these photos belong to me. They are captured directly from real estate listings. - - jam

Saturday, April 29, 2023

An Unplanned Side Trip


Yesterday morning I was out running errands that would inevitably lead to my needing to get out of the car into the rain. Possibly motivated by this prospect, I took a detour over to Snowden River Parkway to see if they’ve finished work on the Starbucks. I’d heard they were adding a drive through to the location at Snowden and Deepage Drive. (What is Deepage? Is it like seepage, but deeper? Or is it meant to be Deep Age?)

I went through my photos this morning looking for the images I took on my adventure but of course they’re not there. I don’t take photographs while I drive! Sheesh. You’ll just have to make do with recollections from my mind’s eye. 

As I turned onto Snowden from Broken Land I began to notice signs along the road directing drivers to a Yard Sale. I recognized the logo of Animal Advocates of Howard County. This one:

I figured they were getting set up for a Saturday event. A yard sale on a Friday in the rain seemed unlikely. What piqued my interest was the location: a place called Sportsworld

Columbia has a place called “Sportsworld”? I followed the signs. I was imagining a place that sold sports equipment. I was wrong. This is Sportsworld. It’s an indoor facility for playing sports. It looks like they opened in 2021. The Patuxent Roller Derby team has used this facility for indoor practices.

Sportsworld is located on 9505 Berger Road Suite 200. I’d say, turn off Snowden as though you’re going to Daedalus, but that would date me. 

At any rate, while I don’t know if any of my readers are sporty, you might very well want to go to the yard sale today and support Animal Advocates. So, here’s the info:

Meanwhile, back to Starbucks. The construction on the new drive-through is nowhere near finished. As I sat in the parking lot I noted that the space once occupied by restaurants Three Brothers, and then Crave, is now Curaleaf, a cannabis dispensary. Something about the juxtaposition of caffeine and cannabis made me laugh. That’s an image I wish I had stopped to photograph. 

I’m going to be heading over to The Park today for Jazz in the Woods . The weather forecast says cloudy but not rainy and I’m determined to get my Chrysalis fix. 

Admission is free but you need to register so they’ll know how many people to expect. The Park concessions will be open and food trucks will be onsite providing refreshments for purchase. 

What are your weekend plans looking like?

Friday, April 28, 2023

F ³: Up Close and Personal


I was once sent to a workshop for educators and, other than a few engaging exercises led by the keynote speaker, I don’t remember anything other than being excited that I learned a new word:


Metacognition is a fancy word that means thinking about thinking. It also means learning about learning. Not to get too precious here, but, I’ve been doing some thinking about learning this week as I’ve been enjoying a birthday gift from my husband. It’s a camera-equipped bird feeder with artificial intelligence capabilities and wifi so it can film birds as they eat, identify them for you, and send the images to your smartphone.

Feeding the birds became my pandemic hobby and stayed with me when I unexpectedly retired. I’ve been supported in my new interest by my husband who has continued to buy and mount different kinds of feeders to stay ahead of the squirrels. My sister and her husband sent me a bird book to help me indentify the creatures I’ve been seeing and a diary to make note of their comings and goings.

Despite all this, my ability to identify birds remained pretty basic. I knew the most common: cardinal, blue jay, robin. The small brown things were probably sparrows. Over time I learned to identify redwing blackbirds and brown headed cowbirds and the occasional woodpecker.

Something rather dramatic occurred when the new bird feeder went online. I suddenly had the ability to view the birds at very close range without danger of startling them off. I could replay the video multiple times if I wished, and (most of the time) the AI was identifying them correctly. I could grab my trusty bird book to double check if their analysis seemed dubious. For example:

In a short amount of time I have found myself able to identify a much larger number of the birds coming to the feeders in our yard, including: mourning doves, Carolina wrens, house finches, white breasted nuthatches, black capped chickadees, the tufted titmouse, and yesterday’s new discovery: gray catbirds.

If I were taking a traditional school class on backyard bird identification I’d have a textbook to read, lectures to attend and take notes on, and I’d probably be encouraged to make flash cards and review daily. I might be required to write a report about one particular kind of bird or bird family and, with any luck, I’d really connect with that topic and that’s the part of the course I’d remember forever.

Running flash cards every day? Ugh.

And yet, in a sense, that’s exactly what I’m doing with the new birdfeeder. I’m having the opportunity to review recently acquired knowledge every day, and to incorporate new bits as they arise. But the process comes with video footage from my own yard, not flash cards and lectures and textbooks. It’s “up close and personal” and each vibration on my phone brings with it a little dopamine hit. 

Ooh! It’s a gray catbird! A redwing blackbird! A pair of mourning doves!

Of course if I were in school I’d be responsible for keeping up with multiple subjects daily and I’d be required to sit still in a classroom and take in information presented in a limited number of ways. How hard can it be to make progress when you only have one subject and you can pursue it whenever you want?

We call those things hobbies. They are still “learning”, nonetheless. The topics we choose to pursue tell us a lot about ourselves. But how we pursue them tells us a lot more about how we think, and how we learn. I came away from schooling feeling as though there was one way to “do school” and that I wasn’t very good at it. The teachers teach a particular way and the students are supposed to receive and achieve in a particular way.

No one ever asked me, “how do you think you learn best?”

That’s metacognition.

I kept thinking back to a quote I had read attributed to Michelangelo: “Ancora Imparo – I am still learning.” He had said it when he was 87 years old and working on St. Peter’s Basilica. I first heard it when I was in my thirties, and with each successive year, its significance has increased for me. It seemed to be saying “look at everyday as something new, learn something new, do something new.”  - - Pat Ginn, from the essay, “Ancora Imparo — I am still learning”

How do you learn best?

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

NextDoor Goes…Sideways?


Oh…NextDoor. You could’ve been so great. When I first heard about the concept years ago, I tried to create a NextDoor group just for the quadroplex community where I live. I couldn’t get anyone interested. It’s probably just as well. I’m sure it wouldn’t have turned out the way I imagined it would. 

Why am I so sure? Well, all you have to do is look at how our local NextDoor groups are functioning to get an idea as to how it has evolved. When I finally broke down and joined the NextDoor group for my area, I wrote about NextDoor’s growing reputation as a place where (largely) white people went to lodge complaints.

When Neighbors Start Talking, Village Green/Town², May 26, 2019

Sadly, there seems to be some sort of unwritten code that makes white people in groups think it is a good idea to share posts like, “There’s a suspicious male walking down the road,” when they see black and brown people. Not only is this a sign of deeply engrained racial prejudice (that they’d probably swear up and down that they don’t have) it makes life extremely dangerous for black and brown people.

Right now in my particular group there is an ongoing thread entitled, “Oh, how things have changed…and not for the better.” Yeah, there’s a bit of the “get off my lawn” attitude on NextDoor, too, in case you hadn’t noticed already.

Yesterday, though, I spotted something new to me. Something that completely creeped me out.

Hello. If there's a woman on here, who was at the Hobbits Glen Golf Course driving range today, and remembers a man commenting on your swing tempo, please message me.

This immediately brough to mind a comment frequently made on the Best of NextDoor account on Twitter:

THIS πŸ‘ IS πŸ‘ NOT πŸ‘ A πŸ‘ DATING πŸ‘ SITE πŸ‘

Dear men, 

A woman at the golf course is not there waiting for you to make unsolicited comments about her golf swing. It will not be the highlight of her day. Additionally, it will not put her in the mood to respond to a public shoutout on NextDoor. Really.


NextDoor was not intended to be a reincarnation of Craigslist’s Missed Connections. If you did not have a substantial conversation and did not come away with an enthusiastically provided telephone number then what makes you think it’s okay to creep around NextDoor looking for “the one that got away?”

I suppose there is a possible world in which this is completely innocent and the original poster does not realize how creepy this looks. In any case, I hope that someone who knows him will take him aside quietly and tell him what he needs to know.

And I sincerely hope that our Mystery Woman does not honor this message with a response. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023



Our washing machine has started talking to itself. Or maybe it is sending me Morse code messages via electronic beeps. Make it stop…

In my right ear: the washing machine. In my left ear: the neighborhood birds beginning their morning chorus. In my brain: the sincere desire for a few moments of silence.

There are a lot of loud voices at work in our community right now. It seems that there are some people who positively thrive on controversy. If there isn’t a controversy they will manufacture one. A day isn’t successful unless it contains a call to arms, revelations of “shocking facts”, or diatribes against “the other side.” I suppose it may always have been so, but social media amplifies it in a way that makes it both distorted and deafening.

Cartoon by Paul Noth, published in the New Yorker Magazine

What happens to the quiet voices? 

It seems to me that the quiet voices are important, too, and we aren’t hearing them. We may hear them in quiet moments when we connect with friends, neighbors, or coworkers in real life - - one on one, perhaps, or in a small group gathered to enjoy a shared activity. 

But quiet voices by their nature do not stand out or rise to the top: not on social media nor in public meetings. And, in fact, those are the kind of people who just may shrink from both. I am not suggesting that the views expressed by the quiet folks are necessarily correct or intrinsically better than the loud ones. I do think that we miss something if the way we share information as a community automatically sifts them out.

Our culture rewards “loud”. We often equate it with “strong”. It can be difficult to tell, especially on social media, whether that big voice is a sign of fully-fleshed ideas worthy of consideration or a small-minded person barking in a barrel. 

Social media turns everything into “us or them” and demands us to join a team. It will be Rabbit God vs Duck God to the death (see the above cartoon.) That is, if we buy into the premise. And it is very, very easy to buy in.  I do know some very good folks who don’t, or who take it with a grain of salt. 

To be honest, sometimes I wish they were more outspoken or took “my side” more fiercely. Often I learn from their conscious choice to be different. 

Many years ago, on Parents’ Weekend at Yale, Father Richard Russell preached a homily to assembled students and families at Thomas More Chapel. He spoke to the exceptional quality of the student body, the pride the parents had in their students, and the many blessings that a Yale education could offer them. He went on to talk about choices, and activities, and the relentless push for academic excellence that many of the students brought with them. Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he leaned forward a bit and imparted his homily’s greatest lesson.

“Remember,” he said, looking out at the sea of self-satisfied parents, “Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.”

You can imagine how that went over. Of course, as a priest his message was about the deeper calling of faith against “…the world outside tugging at one with all its golden hands…” but that didn’t go down so well. Even at Mass. From a priest.

Winning was everything. You just don’t joke about that. 

I think of his words right now because I am weary of the rat rage (sorry, rat race) of controversy after controversy, demanding that we live in a state of hypervigilance. Our adrenaline is used up. We are not always who we want to be. Or, we think we absolutely are and others would beg to differ.

There are, without question, issues that are worth fighting for with every fiber of our beings, most notably those in support of basic human dignity and civil rights. But when every local disagreement is cause for leaving blood on the battlefield, what energy will we have left to fight the good fight?

How do we allow ourself to learn from the quiet voices? How do we foster experiences where they can be heard? Would it make a difference in our community life?

Tell me. I’m listening.

Village Green/Town² Comments.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The Missing Piece


Remember Saturday? The twenty-second of April? You may recall there was the annual surge of attention on Columbia elections. Even CA got involved with their Columbia Votes campaign.

So, what happened?

We don’t have a local radio station, or television station, or even a daily newspaper. While CA promoted the elections, they haven’t reported the results. And they may not feel that it’s their place. I have seen a few statements from individual Village Associations but overall it feels like…nothing.

Nothing happened.

Where is the one central place that Columbia residents (or any interested parties, for that matter) could look to find out the outcome of Saturday’s elections? Am I missing something?

I do know that in my own village, Oakland Mills, the deadline for mail-in ballots means that we’ll be waiting a bit longer to know the final results. And that’s fine with me if it means we have included more voters. But, if you don’t live in Oakland Mills, and you’re not obsessive about knowing everyone else’s business, how would you know that?

Voting procedures and rules vary from village to village. I guess how they are reported varies, too. I don’t necessarily mean to suggest that everything be standardized, although it might be worth discussing. I am suggesting that there be one unified way that results are reported and that telling voters must be integrated into the process.

I would like a handy-dandy protocol for what happens after the election. It should not involve searching the internet and all your social media accounts as though you have lost a contact lens.

It should not be a mystery. It should not be a secret. It should be as easy to find as the daily weather or a school lunch menu. If there actually is such a thing and I am unaware then I have just publicized my ignorance. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Why should people engage in this election process when, after the voting is over - - pffft! - - the whole thing simply disappears? After all, if it were really important, wouldn’t reporting the results be a big deal?  No one should be in a position to say, “Well, I voted in that Columbia election but, I never really heard anything about it. What’s up with that?”

I don’t know why, but it appears to be a missing piece in the process. 

Monday, April 24, 2023

NLW to the Rescue

Just when I think I cannot stand the wholesale denigration of public libraries one more minute…

It’s National Library Week!

And not a moment too soon.

Columbia/HoCo has been roiling with the tempestuous waters of conflict ever since the announcement of the new Downtown Library. If online diatribes were enough, there’d be a tidal wave of negativity washing over the Lakefront right now. 

To be clear, there are different categories of “not liking” the proposal. I’m not here (today, at least) to, lay them all out with 8 X 10 color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one. Another day, perhaps.

What has been painfully disheartening to me are the comments from people who outright deny the value of libraries to the community. Period. 

Howard County may have reached the impressive number of 95 percent of the population having library cards. But the other five per cent are loud, loud, loud. And adamant in their ignorance.

My top two most outrageous statements would have to be:

1. Books are outmoded, so last-century. So why do we need new libraries?

2. All libraries need is more money for e-books. I shouldn’t have to wait when I want one.

Friends, I despair. 

Just in the nick of time…

…National Library Week comes along to say there’s more to the story. Curious? Here’s a brief article with more information:

 “There’s More to the Story:” ALA Celebrates Impact of Libraries, Book Trib, April 20, 2023

Libraries support communities by providing more than just books and access to information. Communities can take advantage of internet and technology access, literacy and skill-building tools, professional development courses, job training, and so much more. This year, the American Library Association (ALA) will celebrate National Library Week from April 23–29, with the theme, “There’s More to the Story.”

Libraries bring communities together through a plethora of programs and services, such as book clubs, story time, movie nights, games, museum passes, special classes and lectures, to name a few.

What does that mean right here in Howard County? Well, here’s a link to the most recent library newsletter. (A new one should be out today.) It arrives in my inbox each week, jam-packed with information about resources available at the library as well as classes and events. 

Our libraries offer far more than simply print media. They do more than provide ebooks, too. They provide access to tools, music technology and other specialized equipment, art collections, puzzles and toys for young children, as well as classes, events, and one-to-one assistance. 

I don’t mean “libraries in general” or “libraries out there, somewhere”. I mean right here, right now in Columbia. In all of Howard County. And I’m sad for these folks who are on social media belittling our libraries because it means they haven’t ever availed themselves of any of the benefits that are here just for them. 

For all of us.

If you’re not already, get connected. Here’s the library system website. Here’s the most recent issue of Source. Here’s how to sign up for HiLights, the weekly e-newsletter I mentioned earlier. You will also find them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. If you love libraries, don’t keep it to yourself.

Tell people! Oh, and on Tuesday be sure to thank someone at the library, too.

If you’re interested in National Library Week, here’s more from the Book Trib article:

Monday, April 24: Right to Read Day, an inaugural celebration to acknowledge and promote the right to read and mark the one-year anniversary of ALA’s Unite Against Book Bans campaign; the 2023 State of America’s Libraries Report and Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books of 2022 will also be released on this day.

Tuesday, April 25: National Library Workers Day, a day for library staff, users, administrators, and friend groups to recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers.

Wednesday, April 26: National Library Outreach Day (formerly National Bookmobile Day), a day to celebrate library outreach and the dedicated library professionals who are meeting their patrons where they are.

Thursday, April 27: Take Action for Libraries Day, a day to rally advocates to support libraries.

This song goes out to all the sad and lonely people who don’t know what they’re missing. There’s got to be some way we can share the love.

Sunday, April 23, 2023



It occurred to me last night that I am not really a homeowner. Oh yes, my name is on the deed but, let’s be honest. I’m only a homeowner by marriage. Never in a million years would someone like me have been able to afford a home on my own. I would have been renting apartments until the day I died.

There’s a never-ending stream of discourse in Columbia/HoCo that strongly opposes renters. “We don’t need more apartments!” “Renters aren’t invested in their communities!” One of the primary reasons that Kimco’s plan to redo the Hickory Ridge Village Center was rejected by residents was that it included apartments.

Friends, I need to be honest with you. At heart I am really a renter. I am a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I live among you, enjoy your local amenities and my child attended your schools. I vote in your elections. 

Who was I before this dubious life transformation? A early-childhood educator (you’d probably say “preschool teacher”) - - divorced. I carried from that marriage a mountain of debt and one child. I was never, ever, ever going to buy a house. I cared for young children, had a second job in a church choir, and still struggled to make ends meet. 

People who rent apartments are not by definition irresponsible or oblivious to their communities. Sometimes they are swamped by financial concerns and family responsibilities. Has that ever happened to you? Does that make you less worthy of living here?

As I drifted off to sleep last night I imagined what it would be like if we woke up one morning and absolutely no one who rented came to work. A Columbia/HoCo “Day Without a Renter,” as it were. 

What would that look like? Would you be able to buy gas, or food, or go out to dinner? Would your children be able to go to school, or childcare? I suspect it would be unlikely you’d be able to go to the gym, see a movie, or be treated at the hospital. Even in County Government or over at the Columbia Association they’d be hard pressed to keep their essential functions going. 

But, do go on about how renters are the wrong kind of people and how you think you ought to get a vote as to whether they live here. I don’t know what people see when they look at “those people” that makes them say there’s too many or they don’t belong. I know what I see. 

I see me. And my daughter. And I see all the potential we brought with us and all the things we have done since then - - not because we were “homeowners” but because we were who we were as human beings.

I married my way into home ownership. That was not at all why I got married, mind you. But one should not have to have benefited from such a serendipitous life change to be worthy of living here. I do feel very fortunate, in so many ways.

And I can walk down the street and no one can tell that I’m probably - - gasp! - -  really “a renter.”

Saturday, April 22, 2023

April Showers


April showers bring May flowers.

Of course, climate change is bringing those May flowers earlier every year. And, as much as we need showers, did they have to arrive on this year’s opening day at the Chrysalis?


Yes, I had tickets for the now-canceled Maryland Winds concert at the Chrysalis and I hope they will be able to reschedule it. They’re a wonderful performance ensemble and the thought of some Sousa in the park is appealing. Alas, today’s weather forecast is, as they say, nice weather for ducks.

I also have tickets for tomorrow’s Downtown Columbia Mini Maker Faire in the Park. The weather is far more promising plus the pervious pathways installed by the Inner Arbor Trust will mean an enjoyable outdoor event rather than a quagmire. 

It rained on the opening day of the Chrysalis, which was April 22, 2017:  Earth Day, just like today. The official program, which included both performers and audience on the stage, kept those in attendance out of the elements. Today’s concert would have been 100 percent lawn seating and there’s only so much rain tolerable to the general public, even for John Philip Sousa.

Earth Day is a good time to remind the public that the Inner Arbor Trust does more than manage programs at the Chysalis Amphitheater. They are responsible for the stewardship of the land which is now called Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods. (You may have heard people refer to it simply as “Symphony Woods.”)

This includes (but is not limited to)  installing the pervious pathways through the park which limit runoff, a partnership with Howard EcoWorks for a conservation landscaping project, and engaging professional arborists to see to the ongoing health needs of the trees in the park. In addition, all outside groups who book the space for events must adhere to clear guidelines  created to protect the integrity of the natural environment of the Park. 

In short, the Trust, along with IAT President and CEO Nina Basu, take better care of the Park than many people take care of their own families. 

There’s been a good deal of misinformation swirling about over the last year pertaining to the Inner Arbor Trust, attempting to confuse the general public and/or to paint what they do in a negative light. Let’s lay that to rest. This is what they do:

The Trust is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization incorporated in Maryland a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit Maryland corporation.  The Trust controls the Park pursuant to a perpetual easement granted by the Columbia Association, Inc. (“CA”) to the Trust in 2014 (the “Perpetual Easement”).  The Perpetual Easement required that the Trust develop Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods into a destination arts and culture park in accordance with the 2013 Inner Arbor Plan.  In addition to opening and operating the Chrysalis amphitheater, the Trust manages a substantial portion of the Park for recreational use. - - Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods website

That’s it. As a part of their arts and culture mission the Trust has made a commitment to making much of their programming free to the community.

We often get asked “why free?” Free performances are the most fundamental way in which we can meaningfully bring arts and culture to the entire community we serve. Our mission is “to promote and nurture a park in a unique natural setting for a variety of arts and culture experiences that enrich the entire community.” To embrace the entire community we need to make sure there are high quality, inviting performances for no charge. Both to make sure that we embrace everyone across the economic spectrum, but also so we can reduce the barrier to experiencing art, especially something new. Free is far more than an obligation created in our founding documents - free is a conscious choice we make to fulfill our mission. - - Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods website

Coming up in the Park:

April 23: Downtown Columbia Maker Faire  
April 29: HCPSS - -  Jazz in the Woods, headlined by the Navy Commodores 
April 30: A ticketed 1 mile color fun run/walk followed by a free celebration of the South Asian holiday of Holi and community performances.

April showers bring May flowers.

I wonder what May in the Park will bring? I can’t wait to find out.

Friday, April 21, 2023

F ³: The Village of Not So Far Away


Wednesday I got out of The Bubble. I had plans that involved a stop in Dickeyville and a visit to Village of Cross Keys. Neither are all that far from Columbia/HoCo, yet they feel like worlds away.

Dickeyville is an old mill town located on the Gwynns Falls river. The houses, as they say on the village website, have historic charm. Right now it’s the gardens taking center stage

I know there are plenty of fine gardeners (and gardens) in Howard County but there’s something about Dickeyville…rather like Lake Woebegon, “a place that time forgot and the decades cannot improve.” If you spend most of your time in Columbia, Maryland and you find yourself plopped down in Dickeyville, your brain definitely registers the difference. 

And yet…there are similarities.

They have architectural guidelines (shades of Columbia) plus the complications of the care and upkeep of historic properties. (Can you imagine the day that Columbia homes are defended as historic properties?) They have their own garden club and activity committee and official celebrations. They are an actual village, although purely residential, other than one church and a community hall. No businesses or schools.

They are an island of history rather near the edge of Baltimore City. Every time I go there I think about our kind of village compared to theirs. Both exist today because of real estate developers. The old and the new.

When our business was accomplished in Cross Keys, lunch followed at a relatively new restaurant called Easy Like Sunday Morning. They opened in March, and we were lucky enough to come along in April on one of the most beautiful Spring days of the year. We ate outside in the Cross Keys Courtyard. Judging from the number of people who joined us, the new restaurant is fast becoming the place to be.

Alas, I took no photos, because doing so would have involved compromising the privacy of folks around us.

Cross Keys is also a village, a Rousian village, at that.

Images from Village of Cross Keys Facebook page

As we enjoyed our lunch I felt that strong Rouse presence. We could have been in the courtyard at Kings Contrivance. Created in 1965 by Jim Rouse, Cross Keys is now under the ownership of Caves Valley Partners. Intended to have everything you’d need (except schools and churches) Cross Keys has had its ups and downs over the years, struggling for a while under out-of-town management. 

(Columbia’s Villages have struggled over the years as well, especially its aging village centers. Many of them have also languished under absentee landlords.)

Cross Keys has always seemed like a carefully curated, gated community for the well-to-do, in my opinion. It’s not all that far from Roland Park but its condos appeal to those who don’t want to bother with those big old houses. When I lived in Baltimore it always seemed rather precious to me, although they did have a cute little grocery store that made decent deli sandwiches. It’s long gone, alas.

It has never been my kind of place. But knowing that it was Rouse’s first mixed-use project - - predating Columbia - - does add to its interest. A place where you can live, work, and play - - if you can afford it. 

What is it about villages? Dickeyville, Cross Keys, and Columbia were all created and marketed under the banner of village life. Truly authentic village life died out in America quite a while ago. What is it about that concept that’s so appealing to people who have never experienced it? 

How odd it was to sit in a courtyard in Baltimore, eating lunch, and feel vaguely at home in a space that reminded me of Hickory Ridge or Kings Contrivance. Sometimes when you intend to get out of town you don’t really get out of The Bubble.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Saturday: The Big Come-Back!


This Saturday at Cradlerock Elementary brings the return of an annual event put on hold by the pandemic:

It’s the Children's Consignment Sale run by the local nonprofit group CAMOM. The name stands for Columbia Area Mothers of Multiples (meaning twins, triplets, and higher order multiples.) 

You don’t have to be the parent of multiples to come to the Consignment Sale,  however. Admission is free and the only stipulation is that you may not bring children in strollers because of space limitations at the event. (I am now having visions of tots and traffic jams and it’s not pretty.) So leave the strollers at home, but make sure to bring along cash, Visa or MasterCard  (minimum credit card charge is $25). I see on the flier that bags will be provided for shopping.

From current President of CAMOM Beth Napoda:

This is great way to buy good-quality clothes/items for multiple-aged children in a family, a one-stop shop. The club used to hold a children's consignment sale twice a year until the pandemic. We haven't been able to hold an indoor sale since Fall 2019; we're trying to make this our big come-back! 

If you’re interested in the history of CAMOM (I was!) it turns out that its roots go way back in Columbia’s history. I lifted the following from their website:


1971: The first historical mention of CAMOM was in a 1971 phone book where a group of mothers listed themselves as a “Columbia Mothers of Twins Club''. 

1986: Columbia Area Mothers of Twins Club organized and created bylaws, May 1986 the organizers appeared on the front cover of Columbia Magazine. 

2000: The group changed its name to reflect the group’s increase in higher-order multiples.

2011: The organization became incorporated as a non-profit organization.

2016: CAMOM’s name is inscribed on a lakefront brick below the People Tree at the Kittamaqundi lakefront in honor of Columbia’s 50th Birthday Celebration.

2017: CAMOM unveils new logo and color scheme with help from the family of member Meghan Weber.

2019: Permanent records of CAMOM's organizational history are stored at the Columbia Archives.

2021: CAMOM celebrates ten years as a non-profit and over fifty years in the Columbia, Maryland area!

A quick trip to Google suggests that twin births have almost doubled since the 1970’s and that birth of triplets started increasingly gradually at around the same time. (No, I’m not suggesting this group had anything to do with that.)  I think it was a great idea to start the group when they did and its continuance confirms its relevance. If you’re interested in the group’s other activities, take a look here

Back to the sale. Saturday, April 22nd from 8 - 11:30 am. Then, from 12 to 1 pm, all items are half price. For a $20 VIP fee, you may enter at 7:30 am to get first pick.

If you don’t have young children of your own, pass this information along to someone who does. Getting a good deal on clothing for kids can be something to celebrate, especially since they all insist on growing so quickly. 

Twenty-three years ago I was sitting in a waiting room with my 13 year old daughter, waiting for an ultrasound appointment. The nurse came and greeted us. “Oh, you’re the one with twins!” she said brightly.

My teen looked at her with a hard stare and announced, “We don’t need twins.”

I was stunned. And mortified. A few minutes later the nurse returned, all apologies. The charts had stuck together. No twins for us, after all.

And that is as close as I got to being the mom of multiples.

Have you ever been to the CAMOM Comsignment Sale? Chime in with your experiences and/or shopping advice in the comments.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

On the Map


Have you seen the map?

There’s a new map in town. It’s the Howard County Food Connections Map.

We’re used to local maps popping up these days, curated with a particular purpose such as where to see cherry blossoms close to home or the best holiday lights displays. This one is different. 

It was created to address ongoing food insecurity in our community. Here are some of the things you can find on the map:

Transit: Routes (blue line)

Transit: Bus Stops (blue bus)

Maryland Restaurants (Howard County Only): Yellow Pin

Summer Food Service Program Sites: Blue Pin

All Food Retailers (inlcuding non-SNAP): Red Pin

SNAP Food Retailers: Yellow Highlight

Food Assistance Programs: Green Marker

Nutrition Education Programs: Black Marker

WIC Vendors 2022: Blue Highlight

This map can be used not only by individuals trying to find food resources but also by community advocates/service providers who provide help to those in need. I’m still learning how the interactive map works so I can’t give you any expert descriptions of how to use it. But I did manage to locate a place I’m familiar with.

Here’s the map entry for Columbia Community Care food pantry location in Wilde Lake. I chose to look around in the 21045 zip code and there it was. The entry tells you when the food pantry is open, what they provide, and gives you a link to Columbia Community Care and a telephone number, as well. 

Columbia Community Care operates weekly food pantries in Wilde Lake, Oakland Mills, and Long Reach. They also provide home delivery throughout the country for residents who aren’t able to come to the food pantries. The entire process is driven by volunteers. Community members providing care for community members.

Image from Columbia Community Care website

Last night CCC Founder and Director Erika Strauss Chavarria put out an urgent request for donations to fund their food pantries. The need is ongoing. Cost of living expenses have been rising due to inflation. It’s possible for people to be working multiple jobs and still not be able to have enough funds to feed themselves and/or their families adequately. That produces what is now called “food insecurity.” 

Food insecurity is a term for what used to be described as “They didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.” Have you ever experienced that?

There have been a few times in my life when money was tight and food was…limited. Mostly, though, I have been able to get the food I needed for me and for my family. Daily living with access to food being an ongoing question mark is both frightening and exhausting. It impacts thinking, planning, interpersonal relationships, school performance, and more.

It feels a little ironic to me to be encouraging you to vote for your favorite restaurants on one day of the week and then asking you to donate to alleviate community hunger on another. But, here we are. If we have the resources to share - -  even in small amounts - - we become a part of a network of neighbors for neighbors. With neighbors. 

In a sense, we become an invisible part of The Map connecting families to food. 

No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted. - - Aesop

Donate here: Columbia Community Care

Village Green/Town² Comments

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

A Day of Remembrance


I save things. I take a screenshot and I tell myself, “I’m going to write about this.” Sometimes that works. Sometimes the moment slips away. This time I caught it as it almost got away.


Last night at sunset marked the beginning of Yom Hashoah  , Holocaust Remembrance Day. In Howard County it was observed with a service at Temple Isaiah in Fulton. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising.

County Executive Calvin Ball marked the occasion with a statement on his social media accounts.

Yom Hashoah is a somber time for us to remember and honor the six million Jews and millions of others who lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which marks the largest single revolt by the Jewish People during World War II. 

Today, we honor the memory, the bravery, and the heroism encompassed by our ancestors who fought for their rights. As time continues to put distance between the past and the present, it’s especially important that we remember the terrible mistakes of the past to ensure they are never again repeated. Every person of every faith and background is welcomed and valued in Howard County because we know that our diversity is our biggest strength.

As I read his words something jogged my memory. What was it? 

Oh. This:

Last night, hundreds of our Howard County community members from across local Jewish congregations and houses of worship of other faiths came out to hear from Secure Community Network about situational awareness and how to respond if there is an active attack occurring where you are. Thank you so much for the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center and Baltimore Jewish Council for cosponsoring this event with us to help keep our community safe. If you couldn't make it last night, there will be another presentation tonight at the Jewish Community Center (JCC Park Heights) at 6:30. - -  Jewish Federation of Howard County Facebook Page, March 20th

Images from Jewish Federation of Howard County Facebook Page

The event was written up in the Jewish Times.

Though Jews make up only slightly more than 2% of the U.S. population, nearly 60% of all religiously motivated hate crimes in the U.S. target the Jewish community,” Viegas said. “Jews face an extreme threat, but not an exclusive one. We know that the security measures that safeguard our community can also benefit others. Like the training tonight, we shared information about security with other faith-based organizations. Everyone should be afforded to live a life of faith. - - Stephanie Viegas, former FBI agent and current representative of Secure Community Network

Nearly sixty percent of all religiously motivated hate crimes in the U.S. target the Jewish community.

Google search of the words “attacks against Jewish communities in US”

What an incredible burden to live with. A past marred by genocide. A present fraught with danger. That is why the following post from the Community Ecology Institute stood out as I scrolled Facebook yesterday.

Thank you to the Jewish Federation of Howard County for spending part of their Good Deeds Day with us at Freetown Farm! Good Deeds Day is a global movement of people who are dedicated to doing good. How beautiful to think that millions of people around the world were collectively doing good in their communities today! Our team of families helped us plant native trees and bushes and remove plants that were taking over some of our garden areas. We teamed up to help in the @hopeworksofhc at the farm too! @jewishfedhoco #teamwork #gooddeedsday #gooddeeds

Image from Community Ecology Institute Facebook page

Here are some other projects that members of local Jewish communities were working on for Good Deeds Day:

Good Deeds Day is an international movement which began in Israel. With presentations about how to better survive anti-Jewish attacks on the one hand and the remembrance of the atrocities of the Holocaust on the other, many of our Columbia/HoCo Jewish friends and neighbors stopped everything on April 16th and gave of themselves to service and sharing.

It is all three of these things together that made this important for me to write about. Imagine holding all three things in your hands. It seems to me that this speaks to the Jewish experience in a way non-Jews probably can’t truly grasp, although we can try. 

Village Green/Town² Comments

Monday, April 17, 2023

Eat Drink Vote

The alarm went off while I was in REM sleep and I feel like I just washed my brain and I can’t do a thing with it. It’s a Monday. This can be forgiven.

Voting is open for Howard County Magazine’s “Howard County’s Best Restaurants 2023 contest.” You may vote daily through April 27th. You do not have to be a subscriber but you will have to give an email address. That email address will then be connected to a dedicated link which you will use each time you vote.

This is what I have called in the past a “click fest” - - it relies on the enthusiasm of voters to come back again and again for the duration of the voting period to click their favorites one more time. I exhorted you to submit nominations and it looks like you did. In fact, there are so many nominations in each category that I found it rather overwhelming to get through each one.

I’m wondering if in earlier years the staff at Howard Magazine received nominations and then winnowed them down to a certain number of ones that had been submitted the most. This feels different to me. On the other hand, maybe the restaurant scene in Columbia/HoCo is just exploding. 

I go to restaurants so seldom these days that most of my votes stem from long-time association rather than, say, just last week. And some categories I skipped over because I have no personal knowledge: best Happy Hour, for instance, or best sushi. And, of course: desserts. You are not obligated to vote in every category. 

Some personal favorites of mine, in no particular order:

Althea’s Almost Famous (Black-owned restaurant, Food Truck)

Applecore Bakes (Black-owned restaurant, Bakery)

CafΓ© Columbia (Breakfast)

Maiwand Kabab (Carry-out)

Pizzaman (Best Value)

Flavors of India (Indian Food)

I’m pretty sure you have favorites of your own. 

It means a lot to the businesses themselves to win and be able to share that honor in their promotional materials. Working in the food service industry is hard work with long hours. Have some favorites? Show them some click love.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Promises, Promises


Election Day for Columbia Village Boards and positions on the CA Board is April 22nd. That’s next Saturday. You don’t actually have to vote on the day itself. You may mail in your ballot (act soon!) and in many villages there is now electronic voting. Finally.

I have a question about a particular campaign promise that some of the candidates for CA Board are making. I’m throwing it out to you all for some feedback.

I see that some candidates are running on a promise “not to raise the cap on assessed properties.” The last time it was raised was in 2016 (for fiscal year 2017) to its current rate of 3.5 per cent. Why is this an important promise to make? And, more to the point, is it realistic and/or responsible?

CA’s main sources of revenue are from the sales of memberships for the use of various facilities, and the monies derived from what is called The Annual Charge. From the CA website:

Your annual charge allows CA to manage and maintain all of the programs and facilities we enjoy in Columbia, including nearly 3,600 acres of open space, 95 miles of pathways, lakes, ponds, tot lots and athletic courts, not to mention free entertainment, wellness programming and multicultural events throughout the year. This is all part of providing the high quality of life that has seen Columbia frequently ranked among the top places to live in America.

Looking at this from a very basic, kitchen-table point of view, I see that costs for everything around us are going up, up, up but some folks expect CA to provide the same amenities and services without any increases to them personally. How are they going to pay for all that? The Columbia Association can’t go out and get another job to make ends meet. 

If the cost to maintain facilities and services and care for open space goes up, but their revenue does not, what can they do? From where I’m sitting it looks like they have to reduce what is provided. (Or sell things off?)  Truthfully, they’ve been trying to find ways to cut costs for quite some time now. 

I’ve seen people complain that the Columbia Association doesn’t fund things the way they used to. Is that purely at the direction of the citizen board or is it a result of diminishing income in relation to costs? 

I’m not an accountant. I’m writing this with a bit of trepidation that I am going to be mowed down by responses from people who know a lot more about how the CA budget works than I do. On the other hand, maybe you all can help me learn something. Perhaps you all can teach each other something, too.

I’ve read through the candidate statements published in the Flier, as well as the survey responses at The Merriweather Post. I see a lot of familiar themes expressed - - some new ones, as well. But the one about the cap on assessments bugs me. Is is just a Columbia version of “read my lips: no new taxes”?

Does anyone want to pay more for anything if their own income stays the same? Probably not. Are people willing to pay more if they realize it is necessary to maintain something of high value to them and their community? 


It depends on how engaged they are, how it is framed, and how much wiggle room they have in their family budget. I’m wondering how much wiggle room the Columbia Association has in their family budget.

In a Columbia election what are the important promises to make? Is keeping the cap on assessments at the FY 2017 level one of them?

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Lightning Alert


What are the chances that you will consult your weather app at 5:55 am and it will inform you of a Lightning Alert beginning at 5:55 am?

You’re more likely to be…well…you know. 

Despite the timely warning, the overall weather outlook is promising. Just a chance of showers mid morning. There’s a lot going on today Columbia/HoCo.

These are not the only local events today but they are the biggest ones. 

You’ll be able to quench your thirst while enjoying the music festival in Ellicott City with mocktails from Sobar. On offer: Mocktail Beverages including a new Espresso Martini and 4 new flavors from Zen Hemp Infusions. It’s great to see Sobar invited to participate in so many area events. 

Greenfest features so many local initiatives and or businesses that it would be hard to list them all. Off the top of my head: Community Ecology Institute, Upcycle, Howard Ecoworks, LiveGreen Howard, The Howard County Conservancy, and yummy food from Althea’s Almost Famous. There’s a Slow Art Walk that looks interesting, too. 

Out at Clarksville Commons, confirmed vendors for the market include:

Chez Tania: Mediterranean savories

Hensing’s Hilltop Acres, LLC: local meats, eggs, and raw milk for pets

Metro Microgreens: microgreens

Great Harvest Bread Co.

Heka Saucery, LLC: Egyptian tomato sauce

Twin Valley Distillers & Brewery: assorted spirits

Dee-lightfully Soft: handmade skincare products

Tasty Empanadas: salsa

Kora Lee’s Cafe: savory entrees & vegan desserts

Sharrah Orchards: fruits & vegetables

Waredaca Brewing: assorted beers

Urban Winery: assorted wines

Here’s some related news from The Common Kitchen. GuiGui’s Haitian Cuisine will open in April with regular hours 11 am-8 pm, along with carry-out and delivery services. The Taco Joint is transitioning to new ownership from Columbia residents Fernando Arellano and Rudy Lara,  owners of F&R Catering.

The threat of lightning is now over (yay!) but now the prediction for rain seems more likely (boo!) I hope you have a wonderful Saturday no matter what the weather may bring.