Friday, May 31, 2024

F ³: Know the Signs

There are so many takes swirling around out there this morning. I’m hesitant to offer one. How could I possibly have anything to say that has not already been said? Yeah, well. It’s Friday and the theme is Free Form. Here we go. - - jam


Let’s talk about abuse.

Anyone who has been the victim of abuse becomes painfully sensitive to what an abuser looks like, sounds like, acts like. It doesn’t matter if their abuse was experienced as a child, in an intimate partner relationship, or in the workplace. The abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual. There are certain qualities that carry across all kinds of abuse. If you have experienced it, you know. 

You forever have what is colloquially known as “spidey senses” when an abuser comes on the scene. It is not a good feeling. It is often compounded by others who refuse to believe you when you express your misgivings. 

Living through abuse is hell. Could anything be worse than hell?  Possibly not being believed. Not having anyone to turn to who will stand up for you. Having your pain and suffering mocked, denied, glossed over as unimportant.  

People who would rather keep quiet or look the other way are not, as they may think, being neutral. They are apologists for abuse.

Yesterday the defendant in the trial that concluded in New York State was convicted on 34 counts.The story of a trial is about the law: presentation of evidence and the judgement of a jury. 

An equally true story, though not within the scope of the trial, is that this man is an abuser. Here’s a basic list from a basic article about abusers in intimate partner relationships. See any similarities?

A Victim
Disconnects victims from others 
Vicious and cruel
Insincerely repentant* 

The defendant was not on trial for any of these traits and yet they couldn’t have been more visible during the court proceedings. 

No one can tell you, dear reader, about how you should feel upon the conviction of a criminal. As for me, I felt a kind of momentary relief that one feels when it seems that the abuse will stop. That relief has two parts:

The abuse will stop!
Now people will finally understand!

But that relief is often short-lived. The abuse may stop. But the people who were so invested in covering for the abuser or pretending there was no abuse won’t necessarily “understand.” 

That’s why yesterday’s verdict won’t mean anything to them. 

Does America have an abuser problem? Insofar as any abuse is too much: yes. But America’s overwhelming crisis is that we produce thousands and thousands of people who tolerate abuse. Minimize it. Enable it. People who consider themselves perfectly ordinary in every way for whom abuse is not a dealbreaker.

I can’t be more blunt: abuse is always a dealbreaker. 

A free, peaceful, democratic society cannot function or thrive if we can’t find a way to break this cycle. It’s so much bigger than one trial and 34 counts. It is a poison within our culture.

Nonetheless, yesterday’s verdict is a moment to take a breath and feel that not all is lost. Everyone needs respite during hard times like these. Those of us who have seen our concerns mocked, denied, and glossed over recognize the value in seeking accountability for the criminal actions from a perpetrator who has long escaped accountability. 

I don’t know what comes next. Perhaps we can do a better job at helping people understand the signs of an abuser and how to break the cycle of abuse. 

Village Green/Town² Comments 

*Okay, possibly not that one. 

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Congratulations, Teachers of 2024


It’s graduation week in Howard County. What a joyous time for students and families. Think of all the inspirational messages and good wishes we see and hear as each school ceremony approaches:

You did it!

You’ll go far!

The sky’s the limit!

Dream big!

Believe in your dreams!

Your hard work paid off!

You can be whoever you want to be!

We’re so proud of you!

Graduation ceremonies have speeches, and music, and time-honored rituals. Students, families, and public officials gather with teachers and school administrators to “make it official.” Thanks and kudos are given to the many teachers who guided and challenged the graduating students along the way. 

Yet, as we gather as a seemingly united body, those teachers have been receiving very different messages. 

You’ll have larger class sizes!

Reduced materials for teaching!

Stalled negotiations for fair pay and a livable contract!

Your position may be eliminated where you love to work and you’ll be arbitrarily assigned someplace else!

Congratulations, teachers of 2024. Your students have crossed the threshold and a world of possibilities awaits them. As for you, well…

Friends, we can’t keep taking the best from the professionals who open up doors for our kids while repaying that dedication by treating them like widgets or cogs in a factory. Every year that we allow this to continue means another year that we are taking more out than we are putting back in. Think strip mining. Or fields that have been planted and planted until there are no nutrients left in the soil. 

Think about what it would mean if the well runs dry. 

We can’t possibly have all those lovely graduation ceremonies with students so full of potential if we drive away the very people who have brought them to this point. The promise of public education is inextricably linked to the labor of educated, highly trained, experienced and continually learning educators.

When we invest in teachers we are investing not just in today’s students but also in all the ones who will come after them. Our kids see how we treat teachers. When they graduate from high school, glowing with all the future holds for them - - why would they choose to be treated like that?

The logical consequence of shortchanging teachers today reaches into tomorrow. And the future of public education is damaged and diminished.

This afternoon at four o’clock at the George Howard Building there’s going to be a Rally for our Educators:

Join the Howard Progressive Project, Columbia Democratic Club, Young Democrats of Howard County, HCEA, Living Wage Howard County, and other partners as we rally in support of our teachers and school staff, who face next school year with no contract, shrinking wages, and rising class sizes. Send a message to our elected officials that we must work together to fund our schools and ensure the teaching corps that our students deserve.

It’s a difficult time of year to get people to come out. Why is it so late in the school year? Because teachers haven’t been offered a fair contract. This could have been settled much earlier in the year. How?  By valuing teachers at the negotiating table the same way they are lauded at graduation ceremonies.

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Local, Seasonal, Delicious


There’s a new market in town. The Savage Mill Farmers Market kicks off today at 3:30 pm.

If you’ve lost count of how many markets we’ve got going at this point, I don’t blame you. The Howard County Economic Development Authority has made a handy-dandy listing.

Or if you want to consider it by days of the week: 

On Sundays: Oakland Mills Farmers Market, 9am - 1 pm

Wednesdays: Ellicott City Farmers Market Miller Branch Library, 2 pm - 6 pm and Savage Farmers Market, 3:30pm - 7 pm

Saturdays: Clarksville Commons Farmers Market, 10 am - 2 pm, Maple Lawn Farmers Market, 9 am - 1 pm

At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur, it seems to me that all of the local markets used to be operated under the umbrella of  the Howard County Farmers Market - - Producer Only. In recent years that dynamic has changed. Oakland Mills and Miller Branch are markets in the “traditional” sense but the other three are managed by people in the locations where the markets are held. 

Two things: my apologies for frequently forgetting to include the Maple Lawn market in my Saturday listings. For some reason I can’t seem to make it stick in my brain. Also, when did Maple Lawn become one word? (See image above.)

Way back in 2012 I did a post asking folks what would make them more likely to come to a Farmers’ Market.

Market Research, Village Green/Town², May 31, 2012

Some of the responses were silly, some serious. In rereading it this week I noticed that many of them have been incorporated in the newer markets, such as: live music, a wider variety of items on offer, a sense that the event is a “happening.” Back then I thought the suggestion of selling alcohol was silly but I have certainly been proven wrong.

Images from Howard County Farmers Market Facebook page 

Other seasonal markets have come and gone. There was one at HCC for a while, and the one at the East Columbia Branch has grown smaller and has continued largely under the auspices of the library itself. (It may now be gone altogether. Will check.) Wasn’t there one in Old Ellicott City for a while?

What do you think? Are the seasonal markets a part of your regular routine? Do you choose your market destination by day and time or by location? I’m a big fan of the one in Oakland Mills but I have been known to venture out to Clarksville Commons now and then.

Here’s the set up for today’s market in Savage

If you go, perhaps you can take some pictures. Or write a guest blog post! Or…maybe you can just let us all know how it went. No pressure. 

Village Green/Town² Comments 


Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The Anniversary


Yesterday was the anniversary of the 2018 flood in Ellicott City. I was reminded of this by posts on social media. I’m sure that our community harbors plenty of folks who needed no external reminders: people who were there, who lived through it, who worked through loss and recovery.

County Executive Ball marked the anniversary on social media with a statement and a brief video which details the efforts of Howard County Government to make Ellicott City safer when experiencing heavy rains/severe weather events:

Today, May 27th, marks the sixth anniversary of the devastating 2018 Ellicott City flood. As we remember and reflect on all that we lost during the 2011, 2016, and 2018 floods, we will continue our work to protect our historic city and its residents, businesses, and visitors.

Over the last six years, we have worked diligently to establish key flood safety measures in Historic Ellicott City, as well as implement our transformational Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan. To date, we have completed two major flood mitigation projects under the Plan, and two more will be breaking ground this summer. Together, we will continue our work to ensure that Ellicott City’s best days are ahead.

As the day wore on, increasingly ominous announcements from the National Weather Service about a possible flash flood event turned a day of somber recollection into several hours of amplified fears and heightened vigilance. Established protocols were set in motion. The alarm was sounded on Main Street. Businesses closed. 

In the end the rain, though heavy, did not trigger the kind of catastrophic flooding seen in 2016 and 2018. The storm passed. Many people breathed easier, but - - it was a reminder of the day they could have lived without.

This morning I went looking for information about yesterday’s storm and I bumped into this post. It must have been written when the rain was at its heaviest.

Monsoon here in Ellicott City. Everyone good?

I scanned the responses. This one spoke to me.

Let us know if you need the guest room.

Yesterday must have been a very hard day for anyone who has first-hand memories of devastating flooding in Ellicot City. It is both helpful and reassuring to know how local government has worked (and is still working) to make that community safer. On a personal level, though, there is something priceless about an offer of a place to stay if you need one.

I’m thankful for both. We need both. It’s a timely reminder that even though we cannot move mountains alone we can always offer what we have.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Monday, May 27, 2024

How We Remember


I’ve been wandering around the internet looking for something local to write about in reference to Memorial Day. It’s easy enough to find listings of events.

Where you can honor our fallen heroes this Memorial weekend, WMAR ABC2

What I can’t find is a quote I read a few days ago that turned my thoughts about Memorial Day upside down. It said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that all who serve are ultimately fallen heroes: some die on the battlefield, the rest die in big and little ways after they come home, for the rest of their lives.

The severity of physical disabilities as a result of combat mean that those who come home wounded may forever be fighting the trauma of their injury. The percentage of veterans who suffer with PTSD, alcohol, and substance misuse as a result of their service is staggering. Yes, they are still living. They came home. But how much do most us really know about the battles they are still fighting?

This is not to belittle or dishonor the memory of those who have served and lost their lives in battle. We remember them. We think of the lost potential of lives unfinished. We mourn with their families and those they loved. We may know many military families or perhaps not even one, but we are connected somehow by knowing the gravity of the gift of service. 

For some Memorial Day is deeply personal. For others it is a symbolic expression of honor and gratitude. 

It shouldn’t, in my opinion, be a glorification of war or a chance to spout simplistic speeches about patriotism. If we are to honor the fallen the very least we can do is honor the truth about countries sending people to fight and die: it’s far from simple. The reality is deeply complicated and slapping jingoistic phrases and red, white, and blue clipart on it or draping it in flags can never sanctify the loss. I am deeply distrustful of those for whom the vocabulary of Memorial Day flows easily off the tongue yet has somehow never managed to touch their hearts or change their lives.

I’ve read hundreds of Memorial Day quotes this morning and this is the only one that resonates with me.

Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well.

— Jennifer M. Granholm

Village Green/Town² Comments

Sunday, May 26, 2024

A Delicious Summer Confection?

From the crazy, mixed up files of Village Green/Town² comes this screenshot from the Howard County Times:

I no longer have a subscription but the information I saw intrigued me:

  • Elkridge author
  • Ellicott City background (Backwater Books)
  • Eat Dessert First
Elkridge author encourages readers to “Eat Dessert First. Hmm…a self-help book? “Must check this out,” I said to myself as I took a screenshot.

The phrase “Eat Dessert First” brought to mind one of my favorite childhood books, The Pink Motel by Carol Ryrie Brink. 

Nothing exciting ever happens to Kirby or Bitsy Mellen--that is, until their mother inherits a motel in Florida from her great-granduncle Hiram, complete with a roster of eccentric guests.  - - Goodreads 

One of those eccentric guests was a nice lady who invited the children on picnic lunches where all the food was made from scratch and their hostess insisted they eat dessert first. Every single time. As a child that seemed like the most revolutionary, counterculture thing I had ever come across and I loved it. Just imagine! A world where you didn’t have to suffer through strange-smelling lamb shanks or the long, woody stems of broccoli to be rewarded a taste of something which brought you joy.

That’s probably why I found myself going back this morning to learn more about Elkridge author Michelle Paris. 

It turns about that Eat Dessert First is not a self-help book. It’s a romance novel. 

Can a big-hearted plus-sized baker discover the recipe for happiness? 

Baker Abbey Reilly has heard you have such a pretty face enough times to know it’s code for and an ugly body. Her lack of luck in the romance department does little to increase her feelings of self-worth. Her boss, Caroline, a sassy seventy-something encourages Abbey to accept her curves. Like a good cream filled cupcake—what’s inside matters the most.

This is Paris’s second novel. Her first, “New Normal,” centers around the story of a middle-aged widow figuring out her new life after loss. “New Normal” was honored at BookFest 2023 in the Humor Relationship Category. Ms. Paris is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Maryland Writers’ Association.

And she’s from Elkridge. I learned from her Instagram that she’s been out in the community promoting “Eat Dessert First”. Also: she’s a graduate of Laurel High School.

True confession: I’m not a big reader of romance novels but, since I’m now related to someone who wrote one, I’m trying to be more open-minded. I must admit I’m more hesitant about the subject matter - - can anyone love you if you’re fat? - - especially in light of the recent fat phobic Spectator piece about Bridgerton. If Paris’s story is truly body-positive, that would be thrilling. 

I’ll let you know. Or, you can let me know. I bet you can pick up a copy at Backwater Books.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Here We Go!

Is Memorial Day Weeknd the official beginning of summer? Or is it when school lets out? Locally, it might be when outdoor pools open. At any rate, Memorial Day has come to be the big three-day kick off to warmer weather activities.

Right on cue, here comes Saturday.

Farmers Market, Clarksville Commons, 10-2

Plant Sale, Freetown Farm, 9-1

Fiber Garden Demonstration, Community Ecology Institute, 10 am

Yards Alive, Oakland Mills, 2-5

At the Lakefront: 

Memorial Day Kickoff at the Pavillion, The Collective Offshore, 2-6 

At the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center:

HoCo HaHa’s Circus/Magic Variety Show, Harriet Tubman Cultural Center, 6-8 pm (You must purchase tickets for this.)

In Old Ellicott City:

Patrick R. Smith plays at Little Market CafĂ©, 12-2 

Summer Movie Nights: Barbie, The Wine Bin, 9 pm

I’ve saved the next one for the very last as it’s an all-weekend activity:

DoodleHATCH Festival 2024: Music, Marmaids, Magic, and More, Long Reach Village Center, Saturday, Sunday, Monday (You must purchase tickets for this event.)

Here’s what the ticket page looks like. You will choose a morning or afternoon visit to the festival.

Here’s what will be happening on each day of the Festival.

Readers of this blog know I’m a big fan of the quirky creativity on offer at DoodleHATCH. This looks like a lot of fun for kids (and overgrown kids like me.)

Bonus cool points to the staff at Freetown Farm for their “hard sell” Tomatopalooza Instagram reel. Reels are ephemeral, so, this one won’t last long! 

Oops, it’s actually a Tomatothon. Here’s a still photo from the video. Do I sense a budding drama troupe over there?

Go see them this morning. Tomatoes are standing by…

Village Green/Town² Comments

Friday, May 24, 2024

F ³: The Least Expensive

 A question making its way around Twitter right now:

What’s the least expensive thing you own that’s made the most positive impact in your quality of life?

If you want to take a look at some answers, here’s a decent thread. 

Replies range from truly inexpensive items to more expensive ones which produced a remarkable impact in relationship to their monetary cost. Some respondents waxed eloquent about things they found or got for free. Then there are the priceless items, like pets. Or library cards. 

I was intrigued by the answers that spoke most directly to the question, to my mind: low cost, big impact.  Some examples:
  • Blackout film for bedroom windows 
  • Better Than Boullion
  • Microplane 
  • Library step stool
  • A grabber device
  • Ear plugs
  • White noise machine
  • WD40
  • Reading glasses
  • Long metal shoe horn
Several years ago my mother-in-law gave me some wooden tongs for removing hot items from the toaster oven. I actually didn’t know what they were for, at first. Since then I’ve discovered how useful they can be. Life changing? Well, probably not. But they make you realize that you just don’t have to burn yourself 
over and over again. Life is hard, but not everything has to be a struggle.

What about you? What’s the least expensive thing you own that’s made the most positive impact in your quality of life?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Inclusion in Action

Today at ten am, the HoCo graduation season officially begins with the graduation ceremony for students at Cedar Lane. The school serves students aged three through twenty one who experience multiple disabilities, as well as students with autism. Today’s post was inspired by their special day.


Got a minute? Enjoy a trip to Laura’s Place playground in Blandair Park.

Autism in the Park, April 2024 (1 min 48 seconds)

If you watch the full video you’ll see more than kids playing on a playground. You’ll also see a variety of special activities and experiences from great big bubbles to investigating fire trucks. In addition, you’ll notice resources for families, as well. Autism in the Park is presented through the collaboration of the Autism Society of Maryland and the Howard County Recreation and Parks Department.

It’s a joyful minute or so if you have the time. It reminded me how great that playground is and made me grateful for all the imagination and hard work that go into that event for autistic children and their families.

The Columbia Association announced this week that their aquatics department has earned Certified Autism Center™ designation. You can learn more about what that means at the CA website.  The basics:

After a years-long effort, the Columbia Association Aquatics Department (CA) has achieved Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) designation. This certification is awarded by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), which ensures that autistic individuals and their families receive high-quality care and support. All 23 of CA’s outdoor pools are certified.

This recognition signifies CA’s commitment to building inclusive spaces and programs for autistic and sensory-sensitive individuals and their families. The team completed a comprehensive training and certification process to better understand and welcome these community members. Additionally, IBCCES conducted an onsite review to provide the department with valuable insights on further enhancing their facilities and implementing detailed sensory guides as part of the certification process.

I was happy to see that CA saw this as a need and has spent the time and money to do something about it. I hope this will contribute to better experiences at the pool for neurodivergent community members. 

The Howard County Library system has added some new programming at Miller and East Columbia branches in response to community need. It’s called Beyond Words.

Beyond Words is a vibrant and inclusive monthly class designed to spark joy and ignite the imagination of participants with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Learn more at the HCLS blog: Beyond Words

Here’s what caught my eye in the article by Peg Prentice, Teen Instructor & Research Specialist at HCLS Miller Branch:

In order to do this right, I knew that I needed to get some input from the community as to what they would like to see in terms of monthly classes, so I reached out to a few of our “regular” customers and caregivers for ideas. Together, we came up with the idea to have five stations that participants could rotate through – Motor Skills, Arts & Crafts, Movement, Cognitive Skills, and a Sensory station. 

The activities would change each month according to a theme and would be differentiated and/or have appropriate accommodations based on varying skill level or needs. For instance, arts and crafts supplies include markers, acrylic paint pens, crayons, egg-shaped palm crayons, a variety of different brush handle sizes, etc., not only to accommodate creative choice but also to ensure that folks with limited motor ability can still participate.

I loved to see how Ms. Prentice responded to a need and worked collaboratively with community members to create meaningful programming. Caregivers may often hear “we don’t have programs like that” when searching for positive experiences for those with developmental and intellectual disabilities. I hope this program will thrive and perhaps inspire other local institutions to offer similar accessible programming in the community.

The motto of the Cedar Lane School is LIFE: Learning Is For Everyone. That got me thinking. 

It truly makes a difference if we keep learning about folks who are not like we are and experience the world far differently than we do. Our culture doesn’t foster that kind of ongoing learning. We are sorted into different classes, different schools, different life paths. I wonder what our community would be like if we placed high value on teaching everyone what inclusion in action really looks like? 

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

A Postscript and a Plunge

I confess to having made a rather appalling omission yesterday in describing Yards Alive and Kill Your Lawn without including CEI’s Nourishing Gardens initiative. My apologies. This is what happens when you routinely skim a lot of printed material without truly delving into it.

Until yesterday, my perception of Nourishing Gardens was that it taught people how to grow their own food near where they lived and/or went to school. And that’s not entirely wrong. But it isn’t the whole story. The transforming lawns part had gone completely over my head.

Grow Food. Cultivate Community. Protect the Planet. 

Nourishing Gardens transforms lawns in and around Howard County into ecologically beneficial growing spaces. What does that mean? We take lawns of homes, businesses, community organizations, and schools and transform them into gardens that nourish people, our community, and nature. - - Community Ecology Institute website

You can learn more about Nourishing Gardens at the CEI website.


Going off the deep end here. Have you heard about the upcoming Harbor Splash event in Baltimore?

Want to swim in the Inner Harbor? ‘Harbor Splash’ event set for late June, Penelope Blackwell, Baltimore Banner

The Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore on Monday said the first public swim event in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in decades will be held on June 23 in Fells Point. Registration for “Harbor Splash” begins May 29 and there are a limited number of swim spots, the nonprofit said in a release.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Maryland Comptroller Brooke Lierman will start the event, with a ceremonial jump at 9:20 a.m. from a floating dock at the Bond Street Wharf.

The Waterfront Partnership said the event is the result of a more than a decadelong effort to make Baltimore’s harbor, notorious for raw sewage and trash, more “swimmable, fishable.”

Has anyone ever tried swimming in Lake Kittamaqundi? We hardly have the long term complex issue of pollution that Baltimore contends with, so declaring it “swimmable” wouldn’t have the same impact, I suppose. Still, we have a new President and CEO of The Columbia Association…

You can probably guess where I’m headed with this. 

I know there have been paddle boats at the lake, and for a while there was a cardboard Boat Float event hosted by the Rotary. Some folks fish at Lake Kittamaqundi, as well. I can imagine that swimming is discouraged because it’s a safety hazard. Not because of raw sewage or environmental pollution (I don’t think) but because the Columbia Association would like to keep swimming activities in places that are staffed with trained lifeguards. The liability involved would be enough to keep the CA financial folks awake at night.

The Waterfront Partnership in Baltimore has made the Harbor Splash event a very public goal because it’s a way to focus attention on their Healthy Harbor initiative. Remember Mr. Trash Wheel? As much fun as it sounds to me, doing it in Columbia would probably just be silly since we don’t really have any good reason. 

This has never stopped me from imagining such antics, such as the time my daughter and I attending the groundbreaking for Haven on the Lake and wondered if then County Executive Ken Ulman would come back and take a ceremonial leap into the Cold Plunge Pool. It’s all too easy to encourage such shenanigans if one doesn’t have to be the one doing them.

Thoughts? Let me know.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Life and Death, and the Suburban Lawn


I’m coming out of the first significant asthma flare I’ve had in well over a year and I want to give special thanks to those of you who generated Maryland ideas over the last several days. I hope to organize those into a reader-friendly format in the near future. Thanks for being there while I was treading water.


Today I have a bit of a face-off for you. In Oakland Mills, we have Yards Alive

Yards Alive: Saturday, May 25, 2-5 pm

Join us for an in-person, self guided yard tour in Oakland Mills. Stop by each yard to see how these homeowners are replacing their turf grass for sustainable gardens. Homeowners/tour guides will be present to answer questions.

Map to be shared closer to the date.

Meanwhile, over in Ellicott City, It’s Kill Your Lawn!*

Kill Your Lawn: Friday, May 17th, 7:30 pm

What is Kill Your Lawn? Kill Your Lawn is a series created by Joey Santore, Al Scorch, and Empty Quarter Studios where they comically search for lawns to kill and replace with native gardens that benefit the environment. In October 2023, the duo visited Maryland and chose Howard EcoWorks and St. Peter's Episcopal to feature in one of their episodes, with St Peter's hosting the new garden that would be installed, and EcoWorks staff and crew implementing the project.

This was a massive undertaking replacing 1,700 square-foot of turf grass into a conservation landscape featuring native plants that will benefit the local ecosystem! To celebrate the release of the episode airing in May 2024, the collaborative journey between EcoWorks & St. Peters, and the new garden, come celebrate with us. It will be a fun way to learn about local environmental initiatives and to enjoy the community.

Now we get to the heart of the matter. It seems to me that both events are centered around the same concept: turf lawns are bad for the environment and we can be more eco-friendly by planting native plants instead. But the names couldn’t be more different.

Yards Alive!

Kill Your Lawn!

See what I mean?

So here’s my question for the day: do the names make a difference to you? They do to me and they probably shouldn’t, I guess. I just have an aversion to anything with “Kill!” in the title. On the other hand, one might conceivably visualize “Yards Alive!” as the title of a horror film. 

How can local environmental groups capture our attention and influence our behavior? Are differing approaches possibly targeted to different age groups? 

Will yards filled with native plants make me sicker than turf lawns? (We’re talking pollen, here.)

What do you think?

Village Green/Town² Comments

*Event has already taken place but you can check out the event page for additional information.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Maryland Again? How About a Top Ten!


It’s Monday. You may not be feeling too cheery about that. Why don’t we keep going with yesterday’s “all things Maryland theme” today? That was a lot of fun! So, in response to a reader request:

We need a top 10 places to visit in MD blog now after this one.

My top ten would be pretty simple. I’m not, as you know, a Maryland expert but I can tell you my favorite Maryland locations I’ve visited since moving here in 1985. Many of these are tied up with memories and experiences. So my list won’t help you pack you bags for a vacation, alas.

I’m a blogger, not a travel agent. Think of this more as a top ten Maryland memories list.

  1. The Walters Art Gallery,  Baltimore Museum of Industry,  Art Museum sculpture garden
  2. Summer concerts in the Towson Courthouse plaza (come for the jazz, stay for the wild bunnies)
  3. The Meyerhoff Symphony Hall
  4. Sykesville, The Inn at Norwood, shops and restaurants in the main street 
  5. Oregon Ridge (concerts, fireworks, the honey festival, quiet walks in the woods)
  6. A quiet Thanksgiving in St. Michaels
  7. Ella’s Treehouse hotel in Western Maryland 
  8. The Inn at Mitchell House near Chestertown (honeymoon stay)
  9. Noodling around in Annapolis, looking at shops, lunching, etc.
  10. Chrysalis, Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods (a little bit of hometown love.)

To keep your mind off of your Monday, send me your suggestions for Top 10 Places to Visit in Maryland.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Maryland, My Maryland


I was thinking yesterday about how I’m not so interested in the Preakness. Or Wine in the Woods. I don’t consider myself superior to them in any way; they just don’t speak to me. That got me thinking about how I’m a transplant to Maryland and whether any of the typical Maryland things have found their way into my heart after all these years.

First off, how about some fairs? I don’t have anything against the Howard County Fair or the Maryland State Fair except the HEAT. I have been to both. Will I go again? Probably not. I’m not anticipating that summers will get any cooler.

Artscape is a fun and fascinating Baltimore event but the heat renders it impossible for me.

Howard County Pride is high on my list because it takes place in the Fall. Not too hot! The Flower Mart in Baltimore is an old favorite. I’m glad it’s still a happening thing, and: it’s in the Spring.

How about some Maryland-centric food items?

  • Berger cookies? Nope, too sweet.
  • Otterbein cookies? Yes! Those thin, crispy cut-out coookies are habit-forming.
  • Lemon sticks? Nope. Not a mint fan.
  • Snowballs? Absolutely! I was born for those things. My first child is probably made of snowballs.
  • Maryland crab soup? Tasty!
  • Picking crabs? Nah. Give me a whole lobster with drawn butter and lemon.
  • Old Bay? WHY??? Too salty.
  • Crab cakes. Not for me: too rich, and often too salty.
  • Scrapple? Uhhhh…undecided.
Please don’t run me out of town. I didn’t grow up here and my food tastes were developed elsewhere.

See also: I have no particular fondness for the Maryland state flag, at least, not in the way true locals seem to be enamored of it. I grew up with the state flag of Ohio, which is weird in its own quirky way, but, I don’t think people put it on clothing or assorted merch. At least they didn’t when I lived there.

I’ve been to Ocean City, prefer Rehoboth or Lewes. Ocean City is too peopley for me.

Wow, I’m a complete Maryland failure, aren’t I?

Wait. I love the Orioles and OPACY. That must count for something. I support local journalism and I stay informed about local government and community events. 

I love where I live and I’d stick up for Maryland in a heartbeat. I love being close enough to water that I can easily get to a beach or lake or Harbor views. I visited Western Maryland for the first time last summer and I really enjoyed it. 

Honestly, I love hearing the rest of you go on about how you love all things Maryland. It’s kind of like feeling that everyone in your family loves one another and that most things will eventually turn out all right. It’s a homey feeling.

Go ahead and enjoy Wine in the Woods or the Preakness if you want. Need a sober driver to pick you up? That might be a Maryland thing I could get into.

What’s your favorite Maryland thing?

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Wine, Weird, and Woops!


It’s Saturday. 

It’s that Saturday. 

In Columbia, it’s Wine in the Woods. In Baltimore, it’s the Preakness.

The Banner ran a listing of HoCoLocal things to do this week:

7 Things to Do in Howard County, Jess Nocera, Baltimore Banner

Still looking? Try old reliable Facebook events.

You’ll find a Pickle Ball tournament, a beginner bungee workshop, and a theatrical fundraiser, among other things.

You know I won’t forget to mention the plant sale at Freetown Farm and the market at Clarksville Commons.

UPDATE: today’s rain has prompted the cancellation of today’s Market in Clarksville. 

Many thanks to a long time friend of the blog for suggesting the Gaithersburg Book Festival:

If I’m going to reach outside of HoCo for the Preakness I certainly can include this event in MoCo.

In other local news, Ranazul is getting close to opening at the Hickory Ridge Village Center.

The week in typos: supporters of former Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby are hosting a cookout in “Clarkville, Maryland” and an entity which calls itself the Bitcoin Transformation Community paid a visit to the Howard County Detention Center “in Jesus, Maryland.” (Yes, I have proof.)

In other news, a fascinating conversation ensued on Baltimore Twitter in response the following question: 

Is Columbia, MD a strange place to anyone else or am I weird?

I was surprised to see anyone sticking up for the New American City, but, there definitely were some Columbia-fans in the mix. It seems to me that we’ve missed the boat on local bumper stickers. Surely we need something like this: 

Have a great Saturday. Stay hydrated. Don’t drink and drive. Always choose a designated sober driver.

Stay weird.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Friday, May 17, 2024

F ³: The Graduation Speech

The following is a graduation speech that was not given, that will not be given, that would probably not be acceptable at most Christian institutions. As you probably know, it is a response to a commencement address given by a football player in Kansas. (I have framed it within an assumption of religious beliefs in order to more closely align with the original.)

This is the speech I’d love to see someone brave enough to give. Although, addressing just the men does seem sexist. - - jam


For the young men present today, congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. You should be proud of all that you have achieved to this point in your young lives. I want to speak directly to you briefly because I think it is you, the men, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you. How many of you are sitting here now about to cross this stage and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get in your career? Some of you may be excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world, but I would venture to guess that your heads are filled with dreams of leading successful careers in the world.

All of this is a diabolical lie. All of these dreams are false dreams. God asks of you but one thing, for which you will receive no extra comfort, compensation, nor praise.

We must make the world safer for women who are walking in the woods

If women fear us and do not trust us we must look within ourselves to find the reason. Not only must we prove ourselves trustworthy but we must also dedicate ourselves to bringing along the other men in our lives to live that higher calling. We cannot look the other way. We must reach out and be the way that others can see and hear clearly.

Above all we must listen. For, no matter what path we wish our lives to take, it will be but dust and ashes if we do not choose to listen to women whose presence on Earth is every bit as precious and powerful as our own. 

We must listen and we must allow ourselves to be changed and be willing to experience that transformation because God calls us to the task. It is simple and yet so few choose it. But our broken world cries out for workers to respond to the call.

I see a light dawning in your eyes that you know this may not be enough. You are right.

We must make the world safer for our LGBTQ friends and neighbors as they walk in places that ought to feel familiar and yet feel strange and they do not know who to trust.

We must make the world safer for Black men, women, children and elders who seek justice in a nation that claims to be founded on justice but provides it so rarely to them.

Brothers, it is humbling to realize that the most basic thing we can do to make the world safer is to not do. To not be the cause of harm. Or fear. Or injustice. We must, in the end, lay down our glittering dreams of being at the center of great things.

The diabolical lie is that we are meant to be heroes. The truth is that we, like everyone sitting around you today, and everyone you will ever meet in your life, were made for love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous,

it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.*

Love listens, love liberates, love lifts up. Love does not put us in first place but rather beckons us to find our true place, sharing our gifts, and learning from others. I hope that your college years have given you a glimpse of that. If they have, you have learned the greatest lesson of all.

My fellow men, the time has come to put away childish dreams. Take up the mantle of adulthood. Accept with joy the mission that God has given us.


Heard any good graduation speeches lately?

Village Green/Town² Comments

*I Corinthians, 13:4-8

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Throwback Thursday: Lost Sounds


This is the time of year when I really notice its absence. - - jam


Lost Sounds, Village Green/Town², May 7th, 2013

NPR has been doing a series on sounds we miss from the past. These are sounds that don't exist anymore, but that some of us still remember. Yesterday they did a story of the sound of the needle dropping on a phonograph record. One of the contributors focused on the sound as a moment of anticipation to the delights to come. His recollections were like a hymn to the world that record albums opened up to us “back in the day.”

It is amazing to me to hear that sound today because, before the advent of compact discs and digital downloads, we didn't realize how loud it actually was. The hiss, crackles and pops jump out at us now. Then they were a normal part of the listening experience. We tuned them out, I suppose.

This piece brought to mind other sounds which are no more. The over excited static of a transistor radio. The reassuring, repetitive voices at the end of the line when you called the time or the weather. Real school bells that really and truly rang. The sound as you twisted the wind-up key for a special toy. The sound of old metal roller skates on the sidewalk. The grumbling and clanking of an old furnace on a Winter's morning, steam radiators.

Like the sound of the needle on a vinyl record, one sound I never thought about much was the sound of children playing.  It was, more often than not, the steady accompaniment to most of my childhood. But not today.  Although there are children in my neighborhood, I rarely see them outdoors. And the sound of children playing is so rare that we usually stop what we are doing and look outside to see if everything is okay.

Today our lives are filled with the results of product innovation and technological improvements. Life goes on without the hisses, crackles, ticks, thumps and bangs of years gone by.  But what of the children playing? The absence of that sound is as dangerous to the health of the human condition as the loss of bees or the contamination of groundwater.

I can't bring back Chatty Cathy, Vroom Motors, playing 45's on my record player. I don't want or need to relive my own childhood. But I think I want to do what I can to make the world more welcoming for children to play in their own neighborhoods.  I can start right here where I live.


I wrote this post over ten years ago. I’m still thinking about about it. How can we make the world more welcoming for children to play in their own neighborhoods.?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Changing Hands

Let’s see now…I’ve got a whole pile of business and restaurant stuff here somewhere…

I’m going to lead off with this one because I just saw it this morning. 

The Dish: You Won’t Believe Which Ellicott City Dive Bar Has Opened a Rooftop Speakeasy, Matti Gelman, Baltimore Banner

This one caught me by surprise because I did not know that Ellicott City harbored any dive bars. I have been to the Judge’s Bench exactly once; should I have instinctively known it was a dive bar? My only previous dive bar experience was the Mount Royal Tavern in Baltimore, so, I’m no expert.

Also, my brain read that as “rooftop” meaning open air and an open-air rooftop speakeasy seems counterintuitive. It’s not open to the air but, really, don’t speakeasy establishments need to be downstairs somewhere? Hidden in a basement, even?

By now you probably know that both TGI Fridays and Red Lobster have closed their Columbia locations. The Fridays in the Lark Brown restaurant park was closed in January along with 35 other underperforming locations. The Red Lobster on Snowden River Parkway was a part of a larger system-wide string of closures which - - a Google search tells me - - impacted:

  • More than a dozen
  • Nearly fifty 
  • At least ninety-nine
This story is ongoing, I guess. Actual numbers may vary. Columbia’s location closed over this past weekend.

In business news, the Clark family is getting out of the hardware business and has sold their two Ace Hardware locations to Westlake Ace Hardware who have 160 stores in 12 states. Both stores, in Ellicott City and Columbia, are slated to remain open. The official changeover will take place on June 24th. To my knowledge, that will leave Kendall’s in Clarksville as our last Mom and Pop hardware establishment.

The owners of Mother Natures, Columbia’s only indie bird store, are retiring.  Their store, in Snowden Center, will become a Wild Birds Unlimited franchise. Mother Natures earned a place at the very top of Columbia’s most beloved Mom and Pop stores. I hope the new owners will earn similar high esteem from the local avian aficionados.

Lastly, a long overdue apology. When I wrote about what I thought was to be the demise of the Inn at Peralynna, I was wildly incorrect. It was not the end. It clearly was sold and became the Columbia Inn at Peralynna. 

The Inn is Out, Village Green/Town² December 22, 2020

The auction announcement suggests suitability for assisted living. I’m imagining any chunk of land in this town that has not heretofore been available is going to stir up a variety of potential uses, but, of course it does matter what it is zoned for, so, we shall see. After reading the Lifestyle piece the idea of spending my golden years immersed in a setting of guilty indulgences seems all too tempting.

It appears to be just as fancy as ever with plenty of add-on “extras” but a pop-up notice on their website says that they are not serving breakfast at this time. Certainly I am not in their target audience as I am far more interested in my morning coffee and some nourishment than in a romantic display of silk rose petals on the bed. (Cost: 40 dollars)

The Columbia Inn at Peralynna looks to be located in Ellicott City. At least, I think it is. The Iron Bridge Wine Company, located not too far away on Route 108, has an Ellicott City address. So why affix “Columbia” to Peralynna Manor? I’m curious.

A question for your Wednesday: do you think we will ever see nostalgic “pop-up restaurant experiences” paying homage to TGI Fridays and Red Lobster? If so, my fantasies of reliving the Howard Johnson’s of my childhood don’t feel so out-of-reach.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Be Kind to Poll Workers

A worthy sentiment:

Be kind to Maryland’s primary election workers today - - Staff Commentary, Baltimore Sun

I can’t tell you if the piece itself is any good, because it is behind a paywall and I’m no longer a subscriber. I’ve been a strong advocate for subscribing to local journalism and I understand why newspapers are asking us to pay for it. Still it’s a choice to put this particular piece behind a paywall. If I wanted to encourage people to exercise their right to vote, I’d make a piece like this easily accessible.

UPDATE: I have since found some election coverage by the Sun available without a paywall today. The piece above is not one of them. 

That’s the thing about voting. In our country there’s a huge divide between the party who believes that The People’s participation in the democratic process is so important that we have a responsibility to remove as many obstacles to participation as we possibly can. Then there’s the party that believes that The Vote is so important that not just everyone should get one.

To summarize, we have two schools of thought:

  • We, the people
  • The vetted, the approved, the worthy
Here in Howard County, it is very easy to vote in today’s primary election. You can vote by mail/use any of ten drop boxes. You can vote during Early Voting at five different locations. You can vote in Election Day at your designated polling place. (I don’t know how many of those there are. Help me out.)

If you want to know why voting is so easy and convenient in Howard County, you need only look at my statements above. 

Of course there’s another reason. Howard County is just white enough and just affluent enough (and just small enough) that there’s an over-arching sentiment that voting should be easy and convenient. I know this sounds cynical, but, hear me out.

The white and affluent want voting to be easy and convenient for them because “of course it should” and they have never experienced anything else.

Voting policies and procedures put in place and maintained by Democrats protect not only them, but everyone else, too.

We are never going to have to take time off from work, lose pay, and risk losing a job to vote here in HoCo. We won’t have to stand in line eight hours or more to vote. We’re not going to wake up and discover that our polling place has been closed and the new one is inaccessible to us. Or that we have been mysteriously purged from the voter rolls. Well, at least right now we won’t.

Never say never. 

In some ways, every single election is an election for the freedom to vote. And in every single election you will see people actively trying to take that right away from people they don’t like. There’s a variety of ways that can be done, and they’re all happening across the United States right now. One of the tactics is threatening and harassing poll workers so that fewer will come forward to participate in a free and fair election process.

So, be kind to Maryland’s Primary election workers today. Think about volunteering, if you are able, in the next election. Teach and show your children how vital voting is to our democracy and that it should be easily accessible to all who may legally vote. 

You can vote in U.S. federal, state, and local elections if you:

Are a U.S. citizen (some areas allow non-citizens to vote in local elections only)
Meet your state’s residency requirements
  You can be experiencing homelessness and still meet these requirements.
Are 18 years old on or before Election Day
  In almost every state, you can register to vote before you turn 18 if you will be 18 by Election Day. 
  Some states allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 by Election Day to vote in primaries.
Are registered to vote by your state's voter registration deadline. North Dakota does not require voter registration. - -

I think we sometimes forget how fortunate we are in Howard County when it comes to voting. In Baltimore, people who’d like to control who votes and who gets elected aren’t making the laws just yet. But they do own a television station and they just bought the newspaper

There’s a lot to be angry and disappointed and disheartened about right now in local and national politics. Do not let that keep you from voting. Please, please, please take your angry and disappointed and disheartened self to the polls and use your vote to support the kind of government you believe in and want to see more of.