Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Good News from NextDoor


Today is a day I truly didn’t expect to happen. I learned something useful on NextDoor.

New park in 2025

WBAL News had a feature today on a new play ground, baseball fields, and basketball courts coming to the area next to East Columbia Library. Work starts spring 2024 and planned to take 1 year.

So of course I Googled it. And, here it is!

Howard County Announces Purchase of 16.5-Acre East Columbia Library Park Property, 10/30/2023

If you have ever been to the East Columbia Branch Library, you have seen the grassy fields at the back of the parking lot. And, if you haven’t visited the East Columbia Branch, what are you waiting for? It’s a very cool library branch, in my (somewhat biased) opinion.

At any rate, I’ve never thought much about those fields until now. From Google Maps, here’s the Library and its parking lot.


Now see how the library property is actually surrounded by playing fields. That’s East Columbia Library Park. 

I didn’t really understand the layout until I saw it on the map. In addition, my family not being a sporty one, I’ve never driven a kid to sports practice at this (or any) location.

So this is the land that the County has purchased.

The purchase of this property from the Howard Hughes Holdings, Inc. allows the County to move forward with plans to enhance and expand the existing park. Those plans include redeveloping the three existing multipurpose fields into two lighted artificial turf baseball fields, two lighted basketball courts, a playground and a pavilion. 

Additionally, the pathway will be renovated to fully connect to the Owen Brown Village Center. Finally, the project also includes landscaping work and the completion of stormwater management bio-retention facilities. Construction is expected to begin in spring 2024 and be completed the following year, weather permitting.

I’m a little confused as to why Howard Hughes owned this particular parcel but I am hoping that one of my well-informed readers will explain thus to me. Why wasn’t it a part of CA Open Space? Why has the county been maintaining it since 1992? Yes, I could just reach out to the media contacts listed in the press release but I am hoping for some lively audience participation.

The East Columbia Branch is a true community hub in the Village of Owen Brown. They’ve long hosted after-school programs for young people from the nearby schools. The Library sponsors a small Farmers Market each year. The parking lot has been the site of any number of family-friendly festivals. A new 50+ Center is going up adjacent to the Library to replace the small facilities they have occupied onsite. 

The County’s purchase of the parkland with the commitment to both care for and improve the site is, in my opinion, a great idea. Let’s face it: any decision that adds a playground is always a good idea to me. What I like most is how it connects all these adjacent entities more fully. A trip to the library could be connected to a playground visit. With the pathway renovated to connect to the Owen Brown Village Center, I foresee folks picking up components for a picnic lunch and heading to the park, or strolling over on the pathway to grab pizza after a game.

Connections. I like them.

To learn more about the announcement you can read the County’s press release.  To see firsthand what AI does with a press release, take a gander at this piece from a site called Newsbreak. Not terrible but it just feels wrong.

I’m excited about the County’s investment in Owen Brown, not just for that one village, but also because it enhances connections that will benefit anyone who visits. 

What did the people on NextDoor think of this announcement? So far, one is worried about parking and one is worried about trash.

What do you think?

Monday, October 30, 2023

Other People’s Tweets Still Telling It Like It Is

Howard Hughes Corporation runs adverts on social media about why Columbia is the up and coming place for “the best talent.”

Howard County Tourism and the Columbia Association entice you with beautiful vistas, appealing amenities, and engaging activities.

But those folks you don’t know on Twitter, well…they get straight to the heart of it.

All they build in PG County is Chick Fil A’s and Townhomes.

Move to Howard County or Caroll County. You get the country, farms, plenty of open land + townhouses and chick fil a within 2 minutes of each other.

I’m imagining a whole new slogan:

Howard County: sure we have Chick Fil A and townhomes, but there’s so much more!


Yes, I’m still going through Twitter first thing every morning looking for local stories. At best it’s a shadow of its former self. But I love coming across snippets like this because I enjoy seeing how other people think. It’s the homebody equivalent of DCist’s Overheard in DC.

The Howard Hughes Corporation warned us that, without the TIF, the Downtown Plan wouldn’t amount to much more than “Walmarts and garden apartments.” (Remember that?) To my knowledge, they haven’t built any Walmarts or garden apartments in Columbia since those words were spoken. Nor do I think they ever intended to. Those were just words that HHC thought might scare - - sorry, motivate - - people towards a resolution they felt would the most fruitful. 

Poor Prince George’s County. If only they had Howard Hughes perhaps they’d have more than town homes and Chick Fil A’s. 

No, this post is not entirely serious. I do think it’s interesting to look at things through other people’s eyes, though. If you asked people in River Hill/Clarksville about what keeps getting built it’s likely you’d hear about banks and nail salons. They seem to be congregating out there for some reason. Every time a new business begins construction you see people get their hopes up, only to have them dashed by another bank or nail salon. 

Someone, somewhere, must think those folks have plenty of money to bank and plenty of time to get their nails done.

So endeth yet another episode of Other People’s Tweets. Do you have any witty ideas for a Howard County slogan? Let me know.

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Sunday, October 29, 2023

The Other Side of Town, Pumpkin Edition


Yesterday I awoke with one thought on my mind. 

“Today is the day I will get apple cider donuts. If I wait any longer it will be too late.”

The most reliable choice was a trip to Frank’s. I got some there last year. Going to Frank’s in the fall makes you want to be back in preschool when all that mattered were stacks of colorful, assorted gourds and row upon row of shiny orange pumpkins. Yes, there are all sorts of edible items for purchase but, as a preschool teacher at heart, I yearned to buy an enormous assortment of The Fall Stuff.


Frank’s has made sure you don’t just drive on by with an impressive display along the road.

Have you ever wondered what a fifty dollar pumpkin looks like? Look no further.

Walking through the bins of different apples was a sensory experience. I inhaled the appley fragrance and looked at the variety in shape and coloring. I wondered if I should buy some to make applesauce. In the end I bought one perfect butternut squash. They’re labeled as “Winter squash” for some reason. 

And the donuts.

If you give a mom an apple cider donut, she’ll want some iced coffeee to go with it. Especially if it’s October 28th and a sunny 75-ish day. The closest Dunkin to Frank’s is on University Boulevard in that same shopping center as Tribos Peri Peri and Jam Eateries.

It’s a teeny-tiny place tucked in there. I hadn’t been to this location before and I was amazed at the effort they have put into guiding you to the drive-through entrance. It’s by far the most complicated and heavily-signed drive-through I have ever seen. Directions are painted onto the pavement to take you all the way around Robin Hood’s barn to place your order. 

It all worked but I found it kind of amazing. Have you ever been to that Dunkin? Any thoughts?

It struck me as I turned off of Waterloo Road onto Lark Brown and headed back to Frank’s how different that part of town is compared to where I live. It feels like a world apart, but that’s because I live in Columbia. I’m sure that the folks who live near Frank’s think there’s something strange about where I live.

And we’re honestly not so far apart, although my brain always tells me that it’s “all the way on the other side of town.”

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Halloween Scaries Return!

 It’s that time. The big day is Tuesday and the community is awash with Jack-o-lanterns and candy. Last year I had a little fun with some local “scary” stories using Halloween as my jumping off point.

Columbia/HoCo Halloween. And Horrorshow

Let’s look at this year’s top six:

The People Who Don’t Value Libraries.

Discussions around the planned Downtown Library at the Columbia Lakefront brought out quite a number of folks who have no use for libraries other than downloading novels. This one honestly keeps me up at night.

The Time They Suggested Cutting Down the Time for Resident Speakout at CA Meetings.

How could they? Sure, hearing from residents in a public meeting takes up time. Imagine how efficient they’d be if they could just toss that portion of the meeting in the bin.

The Dreaded Onslaught of Teen Customers at the Mall.

In which the Mall management adds multiple levels of policing to deter the only people who think being at the mall is actually fun.

Moms4Liberty Comes to HoCo.

By far the scariest story of the year, no jokes about it.

The Bus Company That Ruined Everything.

If you had a bone to pick with student transportation in years past, you could never have imagined how much worse it could get. As a recipe for catastrophe it even surpassed that time the Maryland State Comptroller wanted to control the school calendar.

The CA Board that Ate the CEO

Just as scary as it sounds, and - - don’t forget - - it’s a part of a long-running series of similar titles, including The CA Board that Ran the CEO Out of Town, among others.

So, that’s a sampling of the scariest stories in town. I must say that one of last year’s stories, The People Who Might Move Into Your Neighborhood, is still making the rounds in some circles.

What makes your list for the scariest local stories this year? Answers can be light-hearted or serious, just not mean-spirited.

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Friday, October 27, 2023

F ³: Popping the Question

This just in! From Howard Magazine, the question that’s on everyone’s mind:

Quick takes: What appliance could you not live without?, Allana Haynes, Howard Magazine

I don’t know why I found this so hilarious. I just did. I’m sure the idea for the piece came quite some time ago and no one imagined it would fall during a week of death and destruction. I mean, who knew?

The premise of these puff pieces is pretty simple: put a spotlight on local notables by asking a question that is mildly engaging but not in any way controversial. This provides an opportunity to put their picture in the article along with details about what they do. 

Does it matter how they answer the question? I’m not sure if that’s even the point. It’s not life or death. It’s pleasant and mildly informative.

Part of me is contemplating how much fun it would be to ask a completely ridiculous question, for instance:

  • Which sock do you put on first?
  • How do you eat pizza?
  • What’s the weirdest dream you ever had?

Of course they’ll never be asked truly serious questions, like:

  • Does Howard County have enough housing for low wage workers?
  • Is the original vision for Columbia holding up in 2023?
  • Has your life been touched by mental illness?
This issue of Howard Magazine comes out close to the end of October. Some people are beginning to think about holiday shopping. Advertising in this issue may reflect that, as well. Perhaps a question about appliances is a subtle form of suggestive selling. The loved ones in your lives might want an appliance they can’t live without, and here are three recommendations.

I can’t wait to see adverts for a new dishwasher with a big red bow on it. 

Since I have you here, what appliance could you not live without?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Real World and the Bubble

Death and destruction in Israel and Gaza.

Dysfunction and bad leadership choices in the US House of Representatives 

Another mass shooting, this time in Lewiston, Maine. 

It’s not a pretty world.

In our own little bubble people get up to live another day. If we remember, we are grateful for the beauty of nature around us, the food we eat, the schools that nurture our children, clean water to drink.

We reminisce over places that used to be here. We get excited about things that are to come. Sometimes, we worry about them.Will Columbia/HoCo still be the place we want to be? The place that we remember? A place we feel at home?

Every day inside our bubble we have reasons to be thankful and reasons to complain. No one claims this is paradise, except possibly realtors or the tourism folks. It isn’t paradise. Some folks struggle a lot.

But then I look at the world outside our bubble and shrink from the violence of it. The hatred and injustice. It is every small failure, disappointment, and imperfection we see in our own lives but blown up to an unimaginable size. 

This week it threatens to consume us. 

How much easier it is to cling to our tiny world. Post photographs of sunsets and autumn leaves. Complain about school buses or bike lanes or how things just aren’t like they used to be.

We know - - oh yes, we feel it to the bone - - that it is not a pretty world. But for God’s sake, let us our keep our bubble and a few illusions to cling to.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Making Choices and Honoring Voices in Maryland’s Senate Race

It is five twenty six and I’m driving someone to the airport in less than an hour. So, I’ll make this quick.

This summer I had an opportunity to attend a meet and greet event for Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who is running for the Senate seat which will open when Benjamin Cardin retires. I found her to be experienced, confident, capable, and more than ready to take on the responsibilities of the job. In addition, I’ve been pretty vocal on the blog that Maryland needs more women, especially Black women, in positions of elected leadership. 

Why? Because representation matters. Different perspectives matter. When voices are missing then all too often needs and aspirations are overlooked, or worse - - seen and yet still neglected. 

I left the event feeling that I’d be happy to support Ms. Alsobrooks. 

And yet.

I haven’t said much about this publicly, but I came to know one of the other candidates several years ago, when I taught one of Will Jawando’s children. You don’t evaluate someone as a political candidate if you know them as a school parent. That’s not what that relationship is about. 

You see parents mostly at morning drop off, conference days, special school events. The Jawandos are warm and loving. They are supportive parents and place a high value on education and social emotional development. They participated joyfully in the school lives of their children.

All of this is to say that over time I came to like and respect Will Jawando. I began to take an interest in his work on the County Council in Montgomery County. The issues he championed were important ones, and he sometimes took a lot of flak for speaking out. In my opinion, Mr. Jawando is one of the good guys.

His recent statement on the bloodbath in the Middle East was by far the most thoughtful and compassionate I have seen. It will stay will me for a long time.

Four days ago Jawando dropped out of the Senate race and, not long after, publicly endorsed Angela Alsobrooks. That can’t be an easy thing to do. It has got to be excruciating on any number of fronts. His grace in making the transition from a passionate and energized candidate to that endorsement stage in Baltimore speaks volumes about who he is.

Image from Will Jawando’s social media


I’m still happy to support Ms. Alsobrooks. I think she is, by far, the best choice and will do an excellent job representing Maryland in Washington. 

But don’t forget Will Jawando. I’m convinced there’s more to his story, more good work in his future, and I’ll be keeping an eye out to see what he does next.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

A Wilde Lake Farewell

Well, they gave it the old college try. David’s Natural Market, brought back from the brink a year or so ago, is really and truly shutting its doors. As much as their fan base wanted to see them survive, my guess is they didn’t shop there enough to help the business succeed. And, as obvious as it sounds, if David’s had been selling what the Wilde Lake area wanted and needed, they might have been able to make a go of it.

This is not meant as a criticism of the good folks at David’s but is rather an acknowledgment that the business model that many in town remember so fondly didn’t mesh with current consumer needs. Operating costs in the commercial sector have risen over time as well: food, rent, labor, heat and air conditioning…

Wanting to preserve David’s Natural Market was indeed a good-hearted mission. But do we sometimes want to preserve things without truly understanding whether they will function successfully in 2023?Maybe?

I read on Facebook (because: of course I did) that a replacement business for the David’s Natural Market spot has already been secured. It’s a part of a national chain called the Grocery Outlet, but it looks as though each store is locally owned and operated. There’s one in Catonsville which opened fairly recently if you want to check them out. 

Are there any lessons to be learned here? Is it not a good idea to come to the rescue of a beloved local business? It certainly feels heartless even to type that sentence. Perhaps we need to weigh reality along with our warm fuzzies and nostalgia. Saying that “a place like xxx business ought to be able to survive” because we have such good memories about it is understandable. But when we do that, do we understand the present conditions well enough?

Businesses and the communities they serve don’t stand still. We can’t make them. I remember reading a newspaper article in the late 1970’s about what the grocery stores of the future would be like. My mother and I laughed a bit over the improbability of the predictions. Many of them have since come true. 

David’s opened in 1986. Thirty seven years is a long run. We are lucky to have had them in our community all this time. I will miss their curried chicken salad and the big, chewy cookies and muffins that always caught my eye as I stood in line at the checkout.

Monday, October 23, 2023

A Box of Kindness and Other Local Treasures

In a completely unscientific poll on Twitter, sixty one per cent of the respondents had coffee tables. This is not even remotely useful information but more a sign that it is easy to make polls on Twitter and not on Facebook. 

Every once in a while I hit on a topic that people are eager to talk about. It turns out that coffee tables bring out good conversation. That was fun.

Last week a package was delivered to my house and it was actually for me! Even better, it was full of fun, gifty things from the SECU Kindness campaign. I guess some thoughtful soul told them about my blog post. Thank you, thoughtful soul. It came with a set of kindness cards and I am contemplating dispersing them around town to spread the message a bit further, rather like kindness rocks but less lumpy.

Howard Community College hosted a Fall for All Festival on Friday, opening the Quad to the community for some fun, kid-friendly activities while public schools were not in session. I must say that’s a great way to get people on campus who may never have been there before. Even better, the weather was in their favor, which meant good times on the enormous inflatable thing, or whatever you call this.

Image from Howard Community College social media

Tonight at Jailbreak Brewing Company: Ignite Howard County #8. Tickets are still available, use this link.

Presenting on a subject of their choice, 12+ speakers have exactly 5 minutes (and 20 slides auto-advancing every 15 seconds) to teach us something, enlighten us or simply inspire. The goal is to create collisions of conversations & collaborations between people in our artistic, entrepreneurial, creative, technical and innovative communities.

I went a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I found the format to be really engaging and Jailbreak is a great place for an event.

Tuesday night is the annual State of the County speech by County Executive Calvin Ball at the Horowitz Center at HCC. Tickets are free but you do need to register. I’m not able to go this year but I have been in the past. It’s a time for summing up accomplishments. A lot of people/departments are recognized for their work. You get a strong sense of what our priorities as a county are and where we are intending to go in the future. 

As someone who has difficulty sitting through long presentations, I found this to be a stretch, but doable. I wouldn’t want to do it once a week, but once a year is entirely acceptable and, I think, worthwhile. It is important to stop “doing, doing, doing” every so often and take stock of where we are.

If you go, let me know what you think.

Have a great Monday! 

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Rooting for the House


One of the most interesting houses in my neighborhood was built during the last year. Well, it isn’t exactly in my neighborhood, and it isn’t exactly in Columbia. It’s in an adjacent outparcel. I guess you’d call it “infill” housing?

I watched its progress as I drove down our main road. It became visible from behind the familiar row of houses I’ve passed since 1998. I was intrigued. It was clearly taller, and more interestingly shaped, than any of the other houses that have been put into that little patch. It looked like it was shaping up to be a weird and wonderful house.

Watching the house move towards completion became a sort of guilty pleasure. In Columbia/HoCo the prevailing opinion on a new house going up it that it’s A BIG PROBLEM. Aren’t we all supposed to wail and gnash our teeth at the site of new housing? “We don’t have room” “Schools are overcrowded” “Resources and amenities will collapse” “The traffic will overwhelm us.” 

You know the drill. 

As childlike as it may sound, I found myself rooting for this house against the world. So what if it doesn’t match anything else near it? Is that a crime? In some ways its architectural style leans more “Columbia” that the houses on either side. This house is doing its own thing. It’s making no effort to fit in.

As a person who has been doing my own thing for my entire life with little success at fitting in, I suppose I am projecting (just a bit) onto the new house. I just want to believe in it rather than deride it.

Once upon a time in Columbia it must have been exciting to see new houses going up. It was socially acceptable to be happy about them. 

Not anymore. It’s too complicated. The lines have been drawn. 

Recently I ventured into the little culdesac/lane to get a closer look at the New House. It really is weird and wonderful. I hope whoever lives there is very happy.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Looking for Barbie?


Barbie’s back! Or maybe she never left. This summer’s movie craze rolls into Columbia today in the form of a Barbie Truck, of all things. 

The Barbie Truck Tour will make an appearance Saturday in Howard County. The Barbie Dreamhouse Living Pop-Up ​Truck will be set up from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at The Mall in Columbia. - - Columbia Patch

And, here’s more from WJZ Baltimore.

Image from WJZ Baltimore social media

In my imagination this entire van would pop up, slide out, unfold and more to become the physical embodiment of a Barbie Dreamhouse. I don’t think it does. I think it is coming to sell Barbie merch: 

The newly-redesigned Barbie Dreamhouse Truck will offer an array of brand-new apparel, along with home goods and accessories inspired by a day in the life of Barbie in her Dreamhouse, including: Graphic T-Shirt; Hoodie; Denim Jacket; Baseball Cap; Throw Blanket; Corduroy Tote; Embroidered patch set; Necklace; Keychain; Pouch set; Coasters; Glass Tumbler; Glass Mug; Accessories Cup; Thermal Bottle. - - WJZ

If that’s not particularly your idea of living the dream perhaps you’ll want to save your energy for the Barbie Halloween Bash at Looney’s on October 28th.

Looney’s Pub South Fulton, Maryland

If you’d simply like to enjoy some engaging Barbie content without leaving your home, HoCoLocal crafter, collector, and content creator Rebecca Pacheco has been making some very cool stuff on TikTok. I particularly enjoyed her video highlighting Barbie’s trip to Howard County Pride at Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods last weekend. You can follow her on TikTok @barbiesandbabydolls and on Instagram at crabbychiccrochet.

I have to admit that I haven’t seen the movie but I certainly did play with Barbie dolls back in the day. My most vivid memory is of the time that one of my friends reported seeing people on a soap opera kissing and was shocked to see that they tilted their heads to kiss. This was news to us! We tried the move with Barbie and Ken and Barbie’s head promptly popped off. 

I don’t think they make Barbie dolls with removable heads anymore.

Are you “into” the current Barbie craze? Have you seen the movie? Do you still have any Barbie dolls from your childhood? I’m kind of bemused by it all. 

Friday, October 20, 2023

F ³: Coffee Tables


A piece of furniture that I grew up taking for granted was the coffee table. We always had one, suitably placed a careful distance in front of the couch. (Our family said couch, not sofa. My grandmother said davenport.) On the coffee table were the several magazines my parents subscribed to, a bowl of Japanese polished stones, and perhaps a small puzzle like Instant Insanity or a Soma Cube.

When visiting a friend’s house, I could tell a lot about their family by which magazines were laid out, what fancy books. Would there be a bowl of nuts or a candy dish? If there were coasters it meant that you were allowed to bring drinks out of the kitchen - - a rarity at my house.

There was never ever any coffee-serving going on at the coffee table at my house. The one exception was on Christmas morning when my father would’ve been completely unable to manage present-opening without it. He was not a morning person. In fact, as a young child I processed the two words as one word, “coffeetable” and didn’t realize it had anything to do with coffee it at all. 

Occasionally a Really Nice Book would be placed on the coffee table. My father’s hardback atlas that he had been given as a gift by coworkers. My photographic book of dogs which is as close as I got to a real dog for years - - I’m allergic. I don’t know if they were called “coffee table books” back then. Maybe.

Coffee table books are usually large-scale hardcover books intended for display and casual browsing. Their contents are primarily photos or illustrations, plus captions or small blocks of text. Together, they offer a visual journey or overview of a theme. 

The modern coffee table book concept is commonly attributed to the Sierra Club. In 1960, the organization published This Is the American Earth, featuring nature photography by Ansel Adams and words by Nancy Newhall. The volume is often called the first coffee table book.  - - Mixbook

I remember being so fascinated by turning the pages of beautiful coffee table books full of nature photography or works of art. There’s a certain sensory experience to holding a book, touching the pages, inhaling the unmistakable scent of paper, binding, and print. Coffee table books magnify that. And as a child I was smaller, so the books felt much bigger to me.

The house I live in now is just too small for a coffee table. We had one years ago and got rid of it when we had a rambunctious toddler who was apt to wipe out on hard pieces of furniture. It never returned.

I was looking at a description online of a beautiful art book yesterday and suddenly wondered, “Do people buy coffee table books anymore?” And, along with that, “Do people have coffee tables as much as they used to?” They really were de rigeur in my childhood. 

I’ve seen people put television remotes on coffee tables these days. They didn’t exist back then. And, even if they had, I’m not sure they would have earned a place on the coffee table, which seems to me to have been a display place for the artifacts which showed you were a Nice Family in a Nice Neighborhood. You subscribed to Time Magazine and House Beautiful. You had a collection of Normal Rockwell paintings or autumn scenes in New England, beautifully bound. One lovely paperweight of cut glass or an eye catching souvenir from your trip to Hawaii.

Coffee table books were also a sign of status because they were exceptionally expensive. My mother found a way around that by regularly checking them out from our local library’s bookmobile. Our coffee table content was regularly refreshed by her choice selections. 

Now we have smart phones and tablet devices and laptops that go everywhere with us. We can see all of Norman Rockwell’s paintings or autumn scenes in Vermont with just one click. We have the content of all the coffee table books in the world at our fingertips. Do we lose something without the sensory experience of holding it in our hands and turning the pages?

What about you? Do you have a coffee table? If so, what is on it? And, do you own any coffee table books? Do you think that the coffee table genre may be doomed by our easy access to online images?

Tell me. 

Village Green/Town² Comments

Thursday, October 19, 2023

They’re Still At It


Every so often I find myself taking a peek at THREW Mikes EyEz, a local blog by Mike Hartley.

This morning his words made my smile as he closed out a recent post with:

My mind has been elsewhere all day so I’m going to go wandering trying to find it. I think some of it flew off the tracks at some point. Be good all.

This is so often the case for me. It’s reassuring to see someone else describe that experience so succinctly. It’s also reassuring to see that he’s still writing. A lot of the local folks whose writing I enjoyed have stopped. 

I wrote about Hartley back in 2022 in a piece called Seven Days. 

I love his thoughtfulness, his self-deprecating humor. I don’t think you can come away from his posts without thinking a little bit about life and how you want to spend it. And there’s definitely an undercurrent of gratitude in there as well.

Hartley’s photographs are just so good. They are the work of someone with an excellent eye and the patience to keep working and keep getting better over time. He uses them to punctuate his writing in a way that feels like an exquisite chord harmonizing a simple tune and elevating it to something unforgettable.

Another local writer I find myself going back to again and again is Elizabeth T. Brunetti. The name of her blog has changed a bit over the years, but the writing is consistently pure Elizabeth. I love that she has four topics of focus: Food & Drink, Joy Fuel, Travel & Experiences, and Being Human.

Brunetti doesn’t write on any particular schedule but I’m always excited to see a new piece pop up in my Facebook feed. She truly has a way with words.

From “Taking Flight”, May, 2023

Suddenly, a fight breaks out. A bluejay has flown into the bottom branches of the tree, and is squawking at two smaller birds that are also in the tree. They jump about, they yell, they chase. The bluejay wins. A few moments later, I see it leave the tree and fly diagonally across the parking lot to a large oak tree. It has a small, worm-shaped something or other in its beak. Is it a worm? Do worms live in trees?

The bluejay comes back a few moments later. I watch it more closely. Ah. It’s picking twigs off of the tree. Ah. It’s taking the twigs over to the oak tree.

Ah! It’s building a nest!

There will be baby bluejays soon!

All of this life, beauty, simplicity …

Love. Pride. Excitement. Curiosity. Wonder. Expansion. Peace. Joy. It all swells and swirls and expands from my chest, deep in my center. I am so very happy. Right now.

What about you? Are there any local writers that you follow? Is there anyone out there blogging that you think I should know about? We’re a dying breed, I hear. Perhaps I should ask about best local Instagram and TikTok accounts.

Keep me posted.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Hyperlocal Micronews

In area micronews, I have seen the vehicle used for repainting stripes in area crosswalks and it is adorable. It looks rather like a ride-around mower. It was paying a visit to the Oakland Mills Village Center the other day so I expect our crosswalks there are now all spruced up and easy to see. For that matter, I finally caught a glimpse of the mini-vehicle used to clear debris from the bike lane on Oakland Mills Road. I wonder if they are the same vehicle with different attachments?

Two stories I cannot offer any in-depth coverage of: a clown parade at Lake Elkhorn and a chicken found in the Merriweather District. They are both the kind of stories that make my heart sing but I don’t have much more than that at the moment. If you do, let me know.

I stopped by the Columbia Association table at Howard County Pride to let them know I enjoy the weekly newsletter. I was introduced to Ashley, who is responsible for CA’s social media. I told her I wrote a community blog and she said, “Are you Julia?” which was unexpected and, honestly, kind of nice. If you’re interested in staying current with Columbia Association activities, scroll down to the bottom of this page and subscribe. 

There’s a high school marching band extravaganza tonight at Hammond High School beginning at 6:00 pm. Recommended donation is five dollars. Nine Columbia/HoCo schools are participating.

The Community Ecology Institute is holding their big annual fundraiser tonight at Freetown Farm. Tickets to the event are already sold out but you can support them by bidding on items in their Silent Auction. 

There’s a Housing Resources Fair today beginning with a Housing Rally at 4 pm at the Nonprofit Collaborative on Patuxent Woods Drive. Apparently there’s going to be a Big Announcement but I have no idea what that is and it would probably be cheating for me to ask to be told in advance of the event. 

Do you have any micronews to share? Did someone on your street repaint their house? New business in your Village Center? Kerfuffles in your cul-de-sac? Keep me posted.

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

HoCo APFO Leaves it All on the Field

I found the information I was looking for at the NBC News website. Take a look at the photograph.

Image from NBC News Website. Original photo in the Library of Congress.

Caption reads: This photograph of a scene in Antietam, Md., was taken by Alexander Gardner, who worked for a time as an assistant to Matthew Brady. Some felt that the bodies were possibly moved in order to keep the church in the background.  - - Library of Congress

Why was I looking? This:

Image taken from post by HoCo APFO Page on Facebook

Caption reads: The day after Howard County passes a general plan.Who won the battle over adequate public facilities? 

My first response to this post on the HoCo APFO Facebook page was one of revulsion. I commented, “This is a wildly inappropriate photograph.” That was four days ago. There has been no response. In the meantime, their most recent post shows a toddler stuck in a toilet. 

The image that HoCo APFO selected to communicate their message about the Howard County General Plan was a Civil War photograph taken after the battle of Antietam. 

The Battle of Antietam, or Battle of Sharpsburg particularly in the Southern United States, was a battle of the American Civil War fought on September 17, 1862, between Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and Union

Gen. George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and Antietam Creek. Part of the Maryland Campaign, it was the first field army-level engagement in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War to take place on Union soil.

It remains the bloodiest day in American history, with a combined tally of 22,727 dead, wounded, or missing. - - Wikipedia

The “bloodiest day in American history” and HoCo APFO thought it was an appropriate was to depict the work of Howard County Government - - in collaboration with the community - - to plan for the future. (One wonders which side of the Civil War these folks would have been on.)

The soldiers in this image were sons, brothers, husbands and they most certainly did not die so that HoCo APFO could use their lifeless bodies to mock people they don’t like in County government.

I wrote about the HoCo APFO Facebook account once before when they took aim at the Howard County Library System.

HoCo APFO has a website dedicated to “providing information on Howard County's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance.” There are candidate interviews posted there in addition to the sorts of information found on their Facebook page. What I haven’t been able to find is a list of names. Who researches and writes HoCo APFO? One person? A team? Does it receive contributions to forward its mission? If so, where is that information? This is an account that is more than willing to spread doubt and distrust and yet it’s not willing to have the basic transparency of identifying who is behind it. This has always bothered me. 

But, more than anything else, the steady chipping away of public trust is what concerns me the most. Our local democratic process and the way we engage in community issues is poisoned and weakened by this approach. I don’t think it makes for more empowered activism. It fosters dependence on one source of information: acceptance without questioning. - - “Unreasonable Doubt”, Village Green/Town², August, 2022

I still don’t know who writes HoCo APFO. I have a few ideas. But this post is a vivid example of why I don’t want what they are selling. 

Monday, October 16, 2023

Grassroots Is Moving!!!

In light of the fragmented way that we receive information, I was curious to see if my readers knew about the recent move of Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center. Most had not. From the press release:

Grassroots Crisis Intervention is excited to announce that we have moved in order to substantially expand our 24-hour crisis intervention, mental health, substance use disorder, housing support and suicide prevention services. This expansion will help Grassroots meet the increased demand for urgent and ongoing mental health and substance use disorder services in Howard County. Individuals can access enhanced free, 24-hour walk-in crisis stabilization and related services, counseling, homeless services, resources and more at 8990 Old Annapolis Road, Suite A in Columbia.

When most of us think of Grassroots, we think of the shelter on Freetown Road, and possibly the Route 1 Day Center. Those facilities aren’t moving.

While the Grassroots Emergency Shelter will remain at its current location at 6700 Freetown Road in Columbia, crisis walk-in services for people anticipating or experiencing homelessness will be conducted at the new facility on Old Annapolis Road to help determine housing options and access various resources. Grassroots remains open to the possible expansion of its much-needed emergency shelter services. 

Essentially what this means is that the new location on Old Annapolis Road is where everyone would go first for help with:

  • crisis intervention 
  • mental health
  • substance use disorder
  • housing support 
  • suicide prevention

Grassroots is the 24/7 single point access for behavioral health, crisis and homeless services for individuals and families. - - Grassroots website 

I highly recommend going to their website and reading about their history. 

History: Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center

Grassroots began in 1969 in response to a growing problem of drug misuse among young people in the community. The building most of us think of as “Grassroots” didn’t open until 2008. That means that in 2010 when my daughter and I met up with the late Bob Moon to donate a plant for the children’s playground, that facility hadn’t really been around all that long. 

It’s funny how I somehow thought they had been there forever.

What does this information mean to you? How can you use it? The most obvious use is that you will now know the right place to go if you or someone in your immediate circle needs help. Next up would be a situation where you come upon someone in crisis and you know they need help. If you are directing them to the services at Grassroots you want to send them to 8990 Old Annapolis Road, Suite A. You might be putting them in a taxi and paying the fare, so make sure you have the correct address.

What else do you need to do with this information? Share it. Your own personal reach on social media is different than mine. Someone you know doesn’t know this yet. Having this information could be lifesaving in a crisis. And you never know who that might be. It’s as import to know as the number for the fire department or paramedics. 

Grassroots maintains a 24 hour crisis hotline: 410-531-6677.

The national crisis line number is 988.

You can support Grassroots (which is an independent nonprofit) by sharing this information and by donating

Columbia, the New American City, was founded in 1967. Grassroots was created in 1969. All communities have challenges - - no matter how aspirational they may be. 

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Local Information and a Quick Quiz

Last week, when I wrote about the Hops and Harvest Festival, I received an interesting message from a reader.

Reader: Hey, I read your article this morning. Something I found really interesting is that I had not heard the Harvest and Hops festival was going on this weekend until THIS morning when I read this.  Just makes me think how fragmented the information we receive is, which in my mind is all sorts of problematic.  Just food for thought. 

Me: Wow! I have felt inundated by it. That’s really good to know. I assumed they were coming across to everyone this way. That is really food for thought, thank you.

Reader: Yep it really made me think especially since you and I would probably see similar things. What we see is really creating our reality.


Cognitively, I knew that our experience on the internet is carefully tailored according to all the choices we make - - carefully monitored by those “cookies” we are always hearing about. And yet I still thought that if I was seeing all those posts for the Hops and Harvest Festival, that everyone was. Well, everyone in the Columbia/HoCo market, I guess. 

Now that I think about it, those two concepts are dissonant. We aren’t all seeing the same things. We are creating our own realities. Or perhaps, we are being carefully led to do that. We all have our own anecdotes about odd things that the internet seems to think we want to purchase. Back in 2020 I was plagued for several weeks for adverts from a candy company.

I never dreamed that being married to a man from Belfast, Northern Ireland would lead to this sort of cheeky solicitation.

But, to be more serious, what does this mean for the dispersal of local information? We don’t have our own radio station or television station. We don’t truly have a local newspaper. Even if we did, not everyone would read it. And, through the magic of the internet, I could see an announcement for the Hops and Harvest festival eighty-seven times and you might not see it even once. 

Now, you could say, based on your personal experience, “I would have gone but I never saw anything about it.  It’s too bad they didn’t have more publicity.” Whereas I’d be saying, “Oh, man! They’re promoting this everywhere. Do they ever rest?” And we’d both be right.

If you figured this out long ago and have completely worked out all its implications then you are far ahead of me. I guess I knew but I just didn’t follow the facts to their logical conclusion.

So, in light of all that, I have a quick quiz for you today. One question: 

Do you know that Grassroots has moved?

List your responses here.

And there’s always room for your comments, too.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Friday, October 13, 2023

F ³: The Silence of Our Friends


It can be a paralyzing feeling to know that anything you say will probably be the wrong thing and no matter how you word it someone will be angry, hurt, or feel betrayed. In the face of that a lot of people won’t say anything at all. It’s too complicated. They don’t want to make a mistake.


On the day I learned of the Hamas attacks on Israel, I noticed yet again the big difference between Facebook and Twitter:

As per usual, Twitter is full of the news of the Hamas attack on Israel while Facebook is full of fall festivals and the O’s. 

I can’t be silent. The long standing turmoil in the Middle East is complex and I am no expert. But my heart aches at the violence, destruction, and loss.

It was a very general statement and it could have been a whole lot better. I was moved by this exchange on Twitter later in the week:

Dr. Mia Brett: 

I am desperately trying to hold a place of humanity for everyone right now but please Jews need some too. Our generational trauma is triggered af right now. Showing us empathy doesn't mean you support the Israeli government.

Sherrilyn Ifill:

You have it. Not sure how we go on without being able to pause in a space of empathy and compassion for civilians hurt, frightened, tortured, killed.

How do we pause in a space of empathy and compassion? How do we reach out to friends and neighbors who are mourning for “civilians hurt, frightened, tortured, killed”?

Yesterday I came across an essay written in 2020 by a Jewish friend. It was an eloquent statement of support for Black Americans in the face of systemic racism, violence, and murder. It was everything that my Jewish friends have probably been longing to hear from the community this week:

I see you, I hear you, I mourn with you, I see the injustice that you face daily, I see your fear for your mothers, your fathers, your husbands, your wives, your sons, your daughters, your aunts, uncles, cousins, your friends.

Why wasn’t it the easiest thing in the world for me to write something like this about the Hamas attack? What held me back? It was the knowledge that I also have Muslim friends and neighbors who are mourning the violence and loss of life in Gaza. Palestinian civilians are still civilians. Their suffering is still suffering. Yet if I write something that attempts to encompass all of the tragedy it will look lukewarm and meaningless.

If we lived in a less diverse community we might not even give this a thought. Our worldview would be limited by the losses that were more visible to us. But Howard County is home to people from so many different ethnicities and religions. If we are to “pause in a space of empathy” how can we draw a line and say some people deserve that and some do not? 

I paused. And I got stuck. And I didn’t want to say anything that wouldn’t be perfect.

More than anything I have done or left undone this week, it is that moment of paralysis that I regret the most. Our friends and neighbors don’t need us to be perfect. They just need us to care.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Jimmy, Jim, and the Nature of Legacy

I’ve been thinking about Jimmy Rouse’s letter to the Baltimore Sun, because: Rouse.

Jimmy Rouse: We need a new Harborplace vision in Baltimore, not destruction, of my father’s legacy , Readers Respond, Baltimore Sun

In my mind Jimmy Rouse will forever be associated with the late, great Louie’s Bookstore CafĂ© and that time I found his runaway turtle under my deck. Now he’s making a pitch to save the buildings at Harborplace that were put there by his dad. That’s only natural, I suppose.

It brings to mind the multiple occasions when we have planned for the future in Columbia - - sometimes growing, somethings changing, sometimes removing things that were put here at the beginning. Every time there has been at least a handful (if not more) of residents loudly clamoring for the preservation of Rouse’s legacy.

I find it odd that Jimmy Rouse blames the demise of Harborplace on out-of-town developers.

Harborplace fell into its present sorry condition largely because it fell into the hands of two out-of-town bottom line developers who had no feel for the city. 

His own father was an out-of-town developer. Jim Rouse grew up in Easton. He was an out-of-town developer when he created Columbia and when he re-created Boston’s Faneuil Hall into a Festival Marketplace. What is it about developers that we can praise them and revere them when it suits us and vilify them the rest of the time?

My husband and I had a talk over the dinner the other evening about what Harborplace was like when it first opened. It was truly a “happening.” It’s one of the first places I was taken when I moved to Baltimore.  Over the years, though, I came to feel that it was not truly a quintessential Baltimore place, but rather a place to lure in folks from the suburbs and draw spending from tourists and conventioneers. 

It felt “plastic” to me. It was not worth the hassle of driving and parking and walking only to be met with stores and restaurants that felt like they could be anywhere and with prices that made them prohibitively expensive for everyday folks.

If I could exert any influence over the redevelopment of Harborplace it would be that it serve the actual people of Baltimore. Under Armor’s Kevin Plank* raised some eyebrows and elicited some chuckles this week when he stated the following:

Kevin Plank on the future of Baltimore: We don’t have enough big ideas, Joseph Ilardi, Baltimore Business Journal

Well, here’s my big idea: listen to the people of Baltimore. They have ideas and nobody ever listens to them.

As to preserving the actual, physical buildings that formed the original Harborplace? I don’t know. I can imagine solutions either way. But I don’t think for one minute that Jim Rouse’s legacy would be diminished if those particular structures go. If the new Harborplace becomes something beautiful, useful, and fun his spirit will be in it. Without his original vision that piece of real estate would not have been developed for public use and enjoyment. His true legacy isn’t that puny.

Physical things don’t always last forever, even if we love them and have happy memories about them. Sometimes we outgrow things. Sometimes our needs change. Sometimes we see that there can be something better. 

Apparently even in Baltimore the spectre of “What would Rouse do?” will warrant an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun.

*In his own way, every bit an out-of-town developer.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Life, Liberty, and Coming Out Day


Today is National Coming Out Day. 

I’m bringing back a piece from 2014 when we were still reeling from the ridiculousness of “Condomgate” at the HCPSS Board of Education. In the intervening years the school system, in partnership with dedicated advocates, has made a lot of progress. 

Forces on the horizon propose to take us far, far backwards.

Backward, October 13, 2014

What made Howard County go backwards?

In the 1990's frank and open discussions about condoms with our high schoolers was essential because AIDS was out there, it was a death sentence, and the most important thing was to protect our kids. Now even saying the word condom in front of a high schooler is publicly condemned and all our sex education is abstinence-based.

This is just crazy.

I saw two films over the last week that I'd like to recommend to you and to the Howard County School System. One is Coming Out, from Nick News and Linda Ellerbee, and the other is Let's Talk About Sex, directed by James Houston. It is clear to me from recent events that we need to have a community conversation about healthy sexuality and how we as a community support that for our kids. Just saying "don't talk about it, don't do it"?

Doesn't work.

"Coming Out" addresses middle schoolers and their journeys as LGBTQ individuals. The movie is prefaced by Linda Ellerbee, who says, "This is not a movie about sex." And it isn't. It is about kids understanding who they truly are, and about how it can be a struggle for acceptance from family and friends.

Think middle school is too young to "know/decide" you are gay? When did you "know/decide" you were heterosexual? Kids like the ones in the film are in our schools and our middle school curriculum does nothing to support them or their classmates in developing better understanding and acceptance. Not addressing these issues leaves the playing field wide open to bullying and a higher risk of suicide. The Howard County schools don't even touch on this in middle school.

"Let's Talk About Sex" does exactly what it says. It looks at how we deal with the issue of sexuality education with our kids, and then compares it to another country--The Netherlands. In both countries, sexual activity begins at around the same age--between 16 and 18. But in the U.S., where abstinence-only programs have become the norm, rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases far surpass those in The Netherlands, where open and candid sex education begins earlier, talking about condoms is accepted at school and at home.

Research shows that, when kids get comprehensive sex education* early enough, and can really talk about it, they actually postpone sexual activity.

So how's that abstinence-only thing workin' for ya, Howard County? How's that "don't talk about it" thing working?

We must do better than this.

*A big shout-out, HoCo Holler, even, to the Unitarian-Universalist OWL program in Owen Brown. (UUCC)


Since this post was written, the Howard County Schools have created a Director of LGBTQ+ initiatives position. CARY (Community Allies of Rainbow Youth) has partnered with the school system to create Rainbow Representatives for each school combined with an initiative for schools to become Rainbow Ribbon Schools. Last year we had our first ever Pride Prom. This Sunday Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods will host Howard County Pride.

And here comes the newly-formed Howard County chapter of Moms 4 Liberty who would be more than happy to take it all away. They are undoubtedly recruiting candidates for Board of Education where many of the decisions affecting LGBTQ+ young people are made. The anti-LGBTQ+ views they hold are not the majority views in Columbia/HoCo. But the tactics of M4L in other jurisdictions show their relentless drive to foist minority rule on the majority. Their mission, quite simply, is to oppress those whose existence makes them uncomfortable.

National Coming Out Day celebrates the bravery it takes to be fully oneself in a world that can make that the hardest possible thing to do. M4L wants to make that harder, more painful, and more dangerous.

That’s not liberty, not by a long shot.