Showing posts from April, 2018

Sheep and Goats

We seem to have reached a crossroads in consideration of Board of Education candidates. I continue to see people rejecting the premise that this is a non-partisan race. I understand where that comes from. National politics has penetrated the local sphere and we can’t ignore that. If we have values that are under attack from the current administration, we wonder how that might reach into our schools through potential board members.

And yet there’s a reason the BOE race is non-partisan. Consider this: our community contains people of all different political leanings. Yet, in participating in public education, we must acknowledge that citizens of diverse backgrounds and beliefs can learn and grow together. Parents must also learn to work together. If we highlight the BOE race as a partisan struggle, we add a new wedge between parents that makes it harder to work together on common goals after the election is over.

Yes, Virginia, there is life after the election and we will need one another…

No Filter

As I was scrolling through social media yesterday this photo from Mount Holyoke College caught my eye. (Yes, I’m a graduate.)

Something about that color...

I continue to see comments about the garish, even downright ugly color of the Chrysalis.

Can we just lay that to rest now? It’s not a “Disney Land” color nor a Dr. Seuss color. It’s a color which clearly comes from nature.

Yesterday the Chrysalis hosted the very first Jazz in the Woods featuring high school and middle  school musicians. Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods was filled with the sounds of jazz, on a beautiful Spring day, in very the center of Columbia.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Its hardest hue to hold. (Robert Frost)

That first green of Spring is bright, and sharp, and almost startling against the dull background on Winter’s sameness. It’s a vibrant green that tells us that good things are coming: flowers, vegetable gardens, outdoor parties and picnics.

Something’s alive in Symphony Woods. I think it’s great to have someth…


Every truly interesting life has a Columbia connection.

Well, probably not, but I can be forgiven for coming to this conclusion after reading yet another fascinating obituary in the Baltimore Sun. Take a moment to read about the late George Barrick.

Teacher, artist, actor, founder of community groups, active in his church, serving his country in the Navy, and more. Reading about Mr. Barrick makes me feel that I am just not doing enough to make this world a better place. His story is the story of someone who joins, creates, and fosters community. It must have been a joy to be in any of the circles he frequented during his life.

The Columbia connection, you ask?

He retired from the school system nearly 30 years ago. He then opened a commercial graphic arts business, Emphasis Enterprises in Columbia. ”You only have once to make a first impression” was his firm’s motto.

Long time BaltSun writer Jacques Kelly covers all the major themes and also manages to deftly weave in the lovely details tha…

Got a Minute?

Interesting post by blogger Jason Booms on Spartan Considerations about the Teach for Tomorrow debacle in the Howard County Public Schools. He’s shining a light on the actions of former BOE Chair Janet Siddiqui, now a candidate for County Council.

A little piece of information that I would like to call your attention to: it appears the former Superintendent created a corporation and drafted minutes to an organizing meeting that never occurred.

Wait, what?

“...drafted minutes to an organizing meeting that never occurred.”

Isn’t that...hmm...fraud?

I’ve heard some thoughtful people opining recently that perhaps some folks just didn’t like Dr. Foose because she was an innovator, and they weren’t comfortable with change. I’m pretty sure that being an innovator doesn’t require one to create secret corporations with fictional minutes. It shouldn’t involve co-opting a Board Chair to go against everything they have pledged to do in public service.

That’s not innovation. I have a few words I’d like …

Mother Knows Best

You’ve seen the ads:

This Mother’s Day, give her what she really wants!

Sound advice. For instance, don’t give her anything that will involve her waiting on and serving others. A fancy steam floor clearer is a no-no, in my opinion. But most of you know that.

This Mother’s Day, give her what she really wants!

I look at this and it stops me dead in my tracks. What do I really want? How are others supposed to know if I don’t know?

What do I want?

I want politicians and pundits to take women seriously. I want capable women to be included instead of ignored and called b**** behind their backs. I want the time to grocery shop and then the energy and inclination to cook. I want a self-cleaning car.

I want universal recognition of emotional labor and a decent attempt at spreading some of that work around. I want people in power to realize that menstrual support products should be provided everywhere free of charge like toilet paper, hand soap, and paper towels.

I want enough quarters at all times for…

Train Wreck

“Let summer be summer,” the gentlemen said.

Meanwhile, in Annapolis...

Yesterday, the State School Board rejected Howard County’s Request for a waiver and that means that, despite giving up their Spring Break, students and teachers will be going beyond the June 15th date decreed by the Governor. There’s eight million reasons why this is a bad idea and you probably already know them.

Let’s look at the players:

The Governor and the Comptroller, who thought it would be a simple thing to start school after Labor Day and end it June 15th to benefit Ocean City merchants The State Board of Ed, who intends to adhere religiously to 180 days of instructionLocal school systems throughout the state, each with their own particular calendar needs and requirementsParents, students, teachers, and staff

Oh, and let’s not forget Maryland weather, which looks at this entire scenario and says, “hold my beer.”

This just feels like a classic example of what happens when men come in saying, “I’m going to fix this…

Only a Drill

If you have a child in school they are participating in lockdown drills. It is now a part of our way of life. I sat on the floor, in a corner of our classroom, in the dark, with a class of three year olds yesterday. We had prepared them in a very gentle way to know what to expect. It was just another kind of a drill, like a fire drill, but different.

We sat together for over ten minutes in complete silence which is an unbelievably long time for three year olds. I don’t know what they were thinking but I am sure a lot of it was, “when will this be over so we can go play?”

I’m pretty sure you knew what I was thinking.

What if this were real?What would I do?How can anyone defend this as a normal?How can anyone send their child to school knowing that there’s no real defense against active shooters?

I have no patience for those who expound on the rights of citizens to freely bear arms. If that way of thinking produces three year olds sitting in the dark to prepare for nameless horrors, it’s no…

April Dilemma

As Farmer’s Market season approaches, here’s a post from someone who shops local year-round:

Safe to Eat? - - AnnieRie Unplugged

Every year I pledge to do more of this, and I try...I guess it’s a sort of Spring ritual. Rather like New Year’s Resolutions, I tell myself I’ll shop at the Farmer’s Market every Sunday and cook with fresh, local ingredients all season long.

And then after a few weeks, I burn out. Maybe it’s “too hot” to go to the Market one Sunday. Or maybe my family rejects the turnip fries or the kale chips or the roasted vegetable melange. I make big promises in April but, when July rolls around I’m thinking air conditioning and minimal kitchen time.

There’s got to be a better way.

Maybe I’ll try just one new item per week this year and see if I can make it through the season without getting overwhelmed, throwing my hands up, and quitting altogether. If you have any advice about sticking with the Farmer’s Market habit, send it my way.

A Parable

Yes, that’s an elephant on the roof. Today’s post is inspired by an advert I saw recently for a local roofing company. It’s not the roofing company itself that sparked my interest, but rather the idea of an elephant on the roof.

What if, I thought. What if? What if systemic racism in our schools is like an elephant on the roof? That elephant is holding people down. Those of us who aren’t being crushed under the weight of it don’t see that elephant.

We have good schools, we think. Everyone has a chance to do well. They just need to apply themselves.

We don’t recognize what an immense weight that elephant is on everyone. We don’t realize how much effort is invested all the time in trying to hold up our schools under the weight of that elephant. That elephant has been there so long that it is all but invisible to the privileged.

That elephant makes its presence known to those who feel rules applied unequally. It weighs down students who are less likely to be encouraged for academic challenge…

Out of the Comfort Zone

This morning I served as a very tiny speck in the large organism with many moving parts which is the River Hill High School Indoor Yard Sale. My word, it was amazing. Room after room, tables down hallways and even in the Media Center. Food and drink and bake sale items. (Not in the Media Center.)

My husband was with the students in the GSA who were having a bake sale. I was holding down the choir table. I had an unusual assortment of donated items which I decided pretty quickly were all going to go for a dollar each. Except for that big box of maracas from Mexico. They were two for a dollar, because, for Heaven’s sake, you can’t just have one.

I watched an enormous old school bouncy rocking horse in excellent condition get carried in to be sold. About ten minutes later I saw its new owner carry it out. A little girl who belonged to the table across the way bought my pink ukulele for a dollar. I went over to her dad to make sure he knew it was more of a decorative piece than the real thi…


I’m kicking off my day by working at the River Hill Music Departments Indoor Yard Sale and then dashing over to the Chrysalis for Milkshake. It’s a busy weekend in Howard County.

I’ll catch up with you for a blog post later in the day.

Meet Me at the Chrysalis

A year ago I was jumping for joy at the prospect of the opening of the Chrysalis. And this year is no different. The Inner Arbor Trust is working with the Columbia Association, HoCo Rec and Parks, and with assistance from the Columbia Festival of the Arts to present a season of amazing children’s programming. 

Wait. Let me say that again. An entire season of FREE children’s programming.

It starts tomorrow with Milkshake. I’ve seen them live and I use their music in my teaching with young children. If you have kids you’ll want to be there. Heck, I’m coming by myself. I might even wear a crazy tutu and bring a big bottle of sunshine.

Back when the story of the Inner Arbor Trust seemed like it was only a twinkle in Michael McCall’s eye, a lot of us in the community attended meeting after meeting to speak in support of the project. One of the things that mattered most to me was speaking up for the people who weren’t in the room: young adults, young parents, young children. What were we doing…

On Location

Live from my place of business, it’s Village Green/Town²! I rolled in to work at 5:07 after dropping my daughter off for the choir trip to Boston at 4:40 am. Actually, it was closer to 4:30. She’s a musician, she likes to be early. It made no sense for me to go back home.

Today seemed like a good day to try that gratitude thing (yawn!) so let’s have a little Thankful Thursday, shall we?

Today I’m thankful for:

The reliable alarm on my iPad that woke me up on time.The 7-11 in Ashton that is open 24/7 and had fresh coffee available.My digital edition of the Columbia Flyer that shows up in my inbox at five am.Coffee. Did I mention coffee?Nina Basu and the Inner Arbor Trust for putting together an amazing team for summer programming at the Chrysalis. (More on that tomorrow)All the hardworking members of my Village who are working on the Oakland Mills 50th Birthday celebration.The River Hill Guitar Ensemble and their Director Richard McCready for offering their annual free Guitarpalooza conce…

Own a Piece of the Tree

Image figure?

A Maryland company can make it happen. Take a look here.

The concept is aimed towards people. Who wouldn’t want a statue of themselves? But I’m thinking it would be fun to have one of Columbia’s People Tree. I’d buy one. Wouldn’t you? Everyone loves the iconic symbol for the New American City.

I’m not sure we all agree on what it means, but that’s another story altogether.

My imagination is running wild with the thought of commissioning the entire Lakefront collection: The Bell Tower, The Hug, The Rouse Brothers, that red thing over by Whole Foods...Am I forgetting anything? They’d make lovely local souvenirs or maybe a great educational playset.

Of course, the People Tree doesn’t belong to Columbia; it’s an advertising symbol owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation. But it seems to me they might be open to the idea if it bolstered their brand. Yet somehow I feel that corporate use of this idea would look more like honoring multimillion-dollar investments wi…

Half Full

I confess that I broke down and had groceries delivered by Amazon last night so that I’d be able to pack lunches today. It’s not a regular occurrence. Something about the exhaustion of a Monday evening combined with ferrying a teenager to rehearsals did me in. I just couldn’t face another trip out.

And so I found myself, as ten o’clock neared, wanting to go to bed but waiting for an Amazon delivery. Just after I got into my nightclothes, it arrived.

“This is silly,” I said to my husband as I climbed out of bed.

“What is?”

“I ordered from Amazon because I was too tired to go to the store, but now I’m just too tired to get out of bed.”

Rather pathetic. A world so small that getting out of bed and going downstairs to collect delivered foodstuffs feels like too much effort. Would I rather they appeared magically in my refrigerator?


Some days it feels as though I can work, or I can take care of all those home/life things like groceries, cooking, cleaning, laundry, doctor’s appointments cam…


While I am usually inclined to show basic courtesy to the Baltimore Sun papers, I will not be doing them the favor of linking to the recent article which made such an unholy mess of the personal health receords of Board of Education Chair Cynthia Vaillancourt and her lawsuit to restore the disability payments which she is owed. That piece is factually inaccurate, incomplete, and shows a journalistic sloppiness that simply floors me. If you would like to read it, you will need to go find it yourself.

The article completely ignores a basic truth. Before anyone can make the judgement that a) being disabled makes her automatically incompetent and she ran under false pretenses or b) she looks just fine so she must be a fraud, one must ask, “who is Cindy Vaillancourt?” The crux of the matter is simply whether or not Ms. Vaillancourt is who she says she is. Period.

I present to you today testimonials written by members of our community who have had plenty of opportunity to observe and interact…

Democrats and Dilemmas

There’s quite a bit of buzz around the upcoming election for Democratic Central Committee. There are 30 candidates for twenty seats. 16 are running as a slate called HoCo Forward. If you want to learn more about the slate, they are having a meet and greet event today at four pm at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. If I get my Sunday chores done and get my act together, I’ll be there.

What I want to talk about today is an issue which came up for me during the last election. It’s my understanding that the goal of the Democratic Central Committee is to get Democrats elected, and that they are honor-bound to support all local Democrats who are running. So what do you do if you have someone running who has demonstrated poor judgment, or dishonesty, or a lack of responsiveness to constituents, or questionable ethical practices?

Quite bluntly, what if there is a bad Democrat?

I think everyone knows that I’m a Democrat. No surprise there. And I admit that I am much more upset when I find the occasi…


Some time during the run-up to the presidential election, I made the acquaintance of reporter Kate Elizabeth Queram—on Twitter. I asked a question about a piece recounting one of Trump’s campaign rallies. She had also covered one, so she responded. She answered all my questions and I started following her, as one does. 
Over time I discovered that she had a wicked sense of humor, and could live-tweet a government  meeting like nothing you have ever seen before. I found myself deliberately going to twitter to follow along with her work for the Greensboro News and Record. I pleaded with her to move to Howard County and live-tweet County Council meetings.
I would even bring her snacks, I joked. We shared a twitter laugh at the prospect.
I almost had my wish. In an unexpected set of circumstances, she relocated with her spouse to Maryland and found herself job hunting. One morning I woke to discover her name in the Howard County Times. Oh, the glee I experienced contemplating the popcorn-wor…

Counting Down


It’s almost Spring—the kind of Spring we want, that is. Flowers are coming up and the forsythia is looking good but can’t we just have a warm day that comes back again the next day without the threat of flurries or a startling drop in temperature?

Today might just be that day. Wear your jacket this morning but you just might not need it by this afternoon.

Once we finally reach that magical turning point we’ll be looking for outdoor experiences. Restaurants where one can eat outside will be a popular destination, even if the views leave something to be desired. Outdoor concerts and festivals will start to fill our weekends. Wine in the Woods will return, Merriweather’s roof will be restored, and the Chrysalis will kick off a season of dynamic community programming. Columbia Festivsl of the Arts is gearing up for Lakefest. There will be opportunities to enjoy the outdoors at the Howard County Conservancy and the Robinson Nature Center, as well.

There will be concert dates, festival…

The Grass is Greener

I am having one of those days where I have lots of ideas for future posts, but none for today. Yes, my friends, today is a big fat zero, but those other, as-yet unwritten posts are brilliant!


Those orange signs and their repercussions The non-partisan nature of the BOE racePart II on Columbia’s community/neighborhood centersLooking back at a year of the Elevate Maryland podcast The upcoming family Building Families for Children 5K event Looks great, doesn’t it?
See you tomorrow.

In the meantime, here’s a fun pic from today’s Facebook memories of me hanging out with some old friends at a HoCo Blogs party at the Second Chance Saloon.

Hmm...might be time for another blog party in the HoCo...

Cutting Corners

Once upon a time there was a great disturbance in the force when the Columbia Association decreed that there would be no more free towels at the CA gym facilities. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Are we in such dire financial straits that we can’t provide this simple amenity?” said some. “How can we hope to compete with newer, fancier commercial health clubs appearing on the scene?” said others. It is possible that the name of Rouse was invoked. I can’t remember.

Then came the time that CA wanted a complete accounting of Tot Lots to decide which ones should be removed. They even toyed with the idea of turning some into a different kind of space for older folks. Members of the community wondered why we couldn’t support play spaces for young children. Were they such a drain on the overall finances that we could no longer afford them?

Surely you remember the Aquatics Master Plan, when we were encouraged to think big about innovative and exciting water park ideas, as long as …


Three things are on my mind this morning

A video about early childhood teachers (soundtrack is abysmal.)

Another about the value of recess.

This story.

Somehow I feel they all go together.

Of course, there’s way more to the story than that. But it does make me think about what we, as a society, want to invest in most: developing potential, or incarcerating failures.


My daughter and I visited UMBC yesterday for their Just for Juniors event. We were there with around two thousand other interested students and families. It was an excellent opportunity to see what a nearby institution has to offer in the areas my daughter wants to pursue.

One thing I did not know until yesterday is that the University of Maryland Baltimore County was founded in 1966. And Columbia Maryland was founded in 1967. Hmm. They’re chronological peers. As we toured the campus I saw examples of growth and change from the original plans. I’d love to learn more about the history of UMBC, especially with an eye to how it compares to our home town in the bubble.

First off, I have to say that those Retreivers are still pretty excited about basketball. And they have good reason to be. They led off their key note event with a promotional film about their Cinderella experience. But they quickly moved on to highlighting a variety of reasons to be excited about UMBC as an institution of hi…


In reviewing my posts over time, many seem to fall into the following categories:

Things I love
Things I’m angry about
Do something!
Stuff you need to know

So, I’m putting this one out there to you all today. I’m asking you to tell me your local Columbia/Howard County items. Specifically, I want to know:

Thing you love
Thing you’re angry about
Your top local action item
Something local you think I need to know

My list for today:

1. The Oakland Mills Village Center on a Friday evening
2. Why is Grace’s Law 2.0 still stuck in Committee with time running out in this session?
3. You can nominate Oakland Mills Middke School for a Verizon Innovative Learning Grant!
4. Local podcast Elevate Maryland is celebrating their one-year “pod-a-versary.”

Friday Highlights

I’m sending you over to BaltSun/HoCo Times today for this article which hits all the right Village Green/Town² notes:

Author’s Jamaican roots find fertile ground in Columbia by Janene Holzberg

It contains early Columbia history, Rouse’s vision, a mention of Oakland Mills, an upcoming event at the library, and nods to education and diversity.

As Rowe began making friends from all races and cultures at school — after never before interacting with anyone outside his race — “that’s when [the power of] diversity hit me,” he said.

Worth the read.

There’s a candidate forum tomorrow at St. John Baptist Church.

However, if the weather gets crazy there may be changes, so check the AACHC website for updates tomorrow.

Finally, my Facebook memories informed me that today is the anniversary of of the date in 2011 when I met both Tom Coale of HoCoRising and David Greisman of Columbia Patch at a HoCo Blogs party at the Stained Glass Pub in Elkridge. Neither one of these gentleman is doing the same thing the…

Creative ReUse

When I’m not teaching, or blogging, I have a soft spot in my heart for something called upcycling. I like to create new things out of old things. Maybe it comes from all my years as a preschool teacher, turning egg cartons into alligators and old lunch bags into puppets. I do know that I love to rescue old things as a way of reducing waste. Why go out and buy new junk when you have so much old junk to play with?

So I was deliriously happy to learn of  Scrap B-More, a store that is run completely on donations of craft materials and sells them at a huge discount. Their goal is to keep unwanted items out of landfills. I loved their sign:

2, 832 chihuahuas! That’s impressive!
I scored some burlap ribbon, a large quantity of white cording, and a book on 1950’s advertising wth gorgeous, glossy illustrations which will be perfect for collage and decoupage. It’s fun to poke around and see what they have. It also makes you realize that you have stuff you aren't using that you’d like to donate…

A Quick Request

My apologies, friends. I am tired beyond tired this morning.

I’ll see you tomorrow.

In the meantime, please write your representative in support of Grace’s Law 2.0. It’s still stuck in Committee and time is running out in this session. From Christine McComas:

Friends, SB726/Grace's Law 2.0 has not made it out of the House committee yet...and the session ends this weekend!
Please follow this link to call or send an email urging passage to your rep:

Also, a super polite nudge to HJC Chair Joseph Valarrio wouldnt hurt:


Thanks. —jam

An Unexpected Film Festivsl

File this under things you can learn from Twitter: Columbia is going to have a Film Festival.

Say what? Is this not our beloved Mr. B showing  movies at the Lakefront?

No, it appears there’s a new kid in town this summer. The Lakefront Film Festival has a Twitter account, (@LakefrontFest)  a website (not totally fleshed out) and it appears that they plan to:

...feature over 25 new independent multicultural narrative features, documentaries, animation, experimental, web-series, short films as well as studio sneak previews screening in several beautiful venues within the Town Center. Visiting filmmakers and celebrities will interact with appreciative audiences at screenings and special events.

Does anyone out there in readerland know anything about this? It doesn’t appear to be a part of the Columbia Festival of the Arts. I don’t think it’s part of the Movies at Merriweather, or the multicultural film fest at the Chrysalis. So who are these people who are throwing a Film Festival and want p…

The Denial Dance

Serious case of the I Don’t Wannas this morning. I’m back to work after a lovely Spring Break (yes, my school had one) and the weather is not too cheery.

A few thoughts on the Alec Ross debacle:

Truthfully, my biggest exposure to Ross has been his online ads. And I just don’t like them. They are negative and border on the arrogant. If you know him in real life or have had the opportunity to see him in person you may feel differently. But I haven’t. And, due to his ads, I don’t want to. He may be smart and have great ideas. But, to my mind, the world does not need one more white guy who thinks he knows everything.

And now we come to the situation where he is criticisizing a fellow Democrat with amazingly tone-deaf language.

The campaign of Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), a longtime lawmaker who is gay, says opponent Alec Ross, a tech entrepreneur and politcal newcomer, used dog whistle politics when he said that he will get things done as governor, unlike a state senator who “…


No April Fools this year.

How about some crazy wishes instead? How about a list of the local unlikelies that would just make you laugh if they were to come true? Yeah. I think I could get behind that.

Some suggestions:

CA Board votes to fund complete pathway system for Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods and name it in honor of Michael McCall.

Governor Hogan scraps plans for maglev in order to bring appealing, convenient, and affordable public transportation throughout Columbia and Howard County.

Allan Kittleman and Calvin Ball become accountability partners in a Whole 30 diet group.

A new form of redistricting stuns the County as real estate stays the same but the schools themselves are moved to different locations.

Politicians found to be in possession of campaign funds in excess of the legal limit will be required to donate the remainder to a Sick Building Health Fund to cover healthcare costs of victims.

Columbia Gateway named as 11th Columbia Village. Colonel Gateway immediately starts l…