Showing posts from August, 2018

All Things Great and Small

I’ve written before about how much I appreciate the regular newsletters from my county council representative, Calvin Ball. The combination of frequent communication from his office plus the high level of constituent service has served to keep me engaged with the important goings-on in my community.

Well, sitting in my email inbox right now is the pièce de resistance of newsletters. It is the annual, back to school edition.

The Calvin Ball Bulletin, Back to School Edition

All the schools. All the things you need to know in one place. And it even includes information about Howard Community College!

A few things you’ll find:
School suppliesPTA infoSchool closing links BOE cluster assignmentsKindergarten registration Redistricting updatesBut, as they say in the infomercials, that’s not all! Wait, there’s more! 
Take a look for yourself. These annual education-focused newsletters go back to 2013, lest you think this is an election-year gambit. If you want to be really impressed, take a look at …

Music to my Ears

Anyone who knows me well is aware that I’ve long been promoting a certain idea for a local playground: musical play equipment. The idea first came to me when the Columbia Association was looking at possible plans to revitalize Symphony Woods.

Facebook memories reminded me that on this date in 2011 I suggested this for the park that was being planned in Symphony Woods: a musical playground. I still want this!

My interest in musical play equipment was sparked when my sister used a company called Freenotes Harmony Park to provide a piece for a garden in memory of our mother at a new preschool started by her church. As a musician and an early childhood teacher I loved the idea of adding a musical component to outdoor play.

From that moment on I have been harping on adding pieces from Freenotes to anyone who would listen. Many’s the social media post or email from me that contained the link to Freenotes. 

Last week I read the article in the Howard County Times on groundbreaking for the latest …

It’s Broke, Part Two

Like many privileged white Americans, I started looking at police violence against people of color only very recently, probably during the summer of Ferguson. And then came the Baltimore uprising in response to the death of Freddie Gray. Once I saw it I couldn’t unsee it.

While I have never liked football, and it was easy for me to see beyond the hype, I had been raised to believe that police were good and fair and there to protect me. And to protect everyone, I thought. It has been more difficult for me to overcome that mindset and see beyond it.

The story of a football player dying because of heatstroke caused by a conditioning drill is the story of a system that failed to protect its most vulnerable. The story of a man viciously beaten by a police officer while his partner failed to intervene is the same. The abuse is not in the hands of one person, but rather is perpetuated by the system as a whole.

In the case of Baltimore, the locations where people live and how they are treated by…

Not Helping

From former police officer Larry Smith @kid_lawrence :
Arresting addicts doesn’t help address addiction. Arresting drug dealers doesn’t either. Sending an armed cop, or several, to deal with someone having a mental health crisis isn’t an answer to anything. The cops shouldn’t be involved.
Baltimore needs ACTUAL social services. It needs to address homelessness and unemployment. It needs to provide children with hope and opportunity. Or we could start small and heat and air condition the schools
All of these things cost money. HOW ARE WE GOING TO PAY FOR ALL THAT??  Oh.... look at this 500 million dollar police budget. 
We (the USA) incarcerate people for petty nonsense. Jails are full of people who are addicted to drugs, are too poor to pay some arbitrary fine, who committed non-violent drug offenses. Oh, not to mention the scores of people wrongfully convicted or talked into a plea.
People need to think outside of the box. Police departments in so many cities operate like an occupying for…

Judge Not

Apologies to my readers. I’m still working on Part Two of “It’s Broke”. Look for that tomorrow,

Something to think about today: this response from writer Melinda D. Anderson:

This data refutes a widespread (and ignorant) belief in schooling that Black families “don’t value education.” Instead, what most educators value (signing forms, checking homework, room parents, etc.) is not a valid measure of importance of education for Black parents & families.
Black parents are out here taking their children to plays, visiting museums, going to the zoo, and engaged in all kinds of education-related activities. Yet y’all will still say “They don’t care about education” because a Black parent missed teacher conf. held during the workday.
Here’s the data, a report released by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics.

Here’s more about Ms. Anderson:

Why am I sharing this? As we head into back to school mode, I think it’s important to make sure we examine our attit…

It’s Broke, Part One

Two separate stories are vying for attention in my brain. And it seems to me that they are the same story.

Story number one: the death of a college football player from the University of Maryland and the subsequent focus on the toxic culture of football in College Park. The coach has been placed on administrative leave. A member of the training staff has been fired.

Story number two: the video of a Baltimore Police Officer viciously beating a man on a Baltimore street while his partner does little to intervene. The officer was suspended with pay. (He has since resigned and been criminally charged.)

The world of football at UMD and that of policing in Baltimore are steeped in a culture of violence. The particulars are not exactly the same, but the sickness goes deep, to its core. I don’t believe, in either case, that it’s a few bad apples that ruin it for everyone else. Both are deeply and thoroughly infected by destructive attitudes. It’s not a bug in the system, as they say. It is the s…

Getting Lucky With Dinner

We couldn’t figure out what to do about dinner last night. So we fell back on our old standby: Lucky’s China Inn, located in the nearby Oakland Mills Village Center. It’s possible I was influenced in this choice by reading this comprehensive piece by The Unmanly Chef.

Inside Your Local Chinese Restaurant - Hunan Legend

It’s well worth the read.

Do you have a favorite local Chinese restaurant? Who are they, and why do you like them? Is it proximity to your home or a particular dish they do well? It seems that, at least in Columbia, the purpose of Village Centers was to give everyone their own Chinese take out place. How does that work beyond the Columbia bubble?

My apologies for over-sleeping this morning. I’ll set an alarm tomorrow!

The Weight of Womanhood

The other day I read a comment from a man who took issue with the qualifications of a local political candidate based on her physical appearance. Are you kidding me? The candidate, already a public servant with a documented record of service, clearly had a major thing going against her here: she’s a woman.

Women continue to be held to a ridiculous standard as regards physical appearance. In all cases it has nothing to do with their qualifications or ability for the task at hand. Yet time and again they are judged by how appealing they are to the male gaze, as if that is their primary reason for existing.

Then there are the perennial questions about “how will you balance your career with your role as a wife and mother?” that never seem to be asked of men. These questions shift the focus from women’s ideas and goals to being forced to go on the defensive as somehow derelict in their “womanly duties.”

Oh, wait! I almost forgot: “she should smile more” “she’s too directive” “difficult” “unpl…

Let’s All Go

The talk of the town yesterday was this photo shared by Black Flag Brewing Company. A tip of the hat to Elevate Maryland’s Tom Coale for bring it to my attention.

The caption reads:

 This sign was put up about the same time as we released a 13.1% beer... not saying its our fault but someone clearly didn’t share their bottle of Double Barrel Black Mage... #SharingIsCaring #LetsGoToTheMallumbia

Yes, I just had to know if this was real or photoshop, so my daughter and I went down there to check. And it is the real deal. Located in a cross street to the right of the Metropolitan, the sign proudly announces, The Mallumbia in Col”.

What the heck? Has it always been wrong or is this the result of a prank? It appears that the sign must be made up of three sections and they were assembled incorrectly. But why would this have escaped notice until now?

I am wondering if this sign will now draw eager locals hoping to take their pictures with it for a bit of fun. Will Mallumbia become a hashtag? A tren…

Fair Wanderings

Thursday night I went with my family to the Howard County Fair. I was extremely grateful that it wasn’t as hot as the first time I went several years ago. Maryland’s heat and humidity in August just does not agree with me. But Thursday night was manageable.

My husband and I spent time looking at animals, floral displays, awards for jams and jellies, and so on. We talked to a friend from church who comes with her needlework group every year. We observed families of all sorts out for an evening of fun. We stopped to listen to a visiting brass group playing a medley from “Jersey Boys.” We feasted on food from the St. Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church booth, as recommended by blogger Annierie.

I took a boatload of photos but, after much consideration, I’m going to share just one.

These two, in separate pens, snuggled as close as possible and nuzzling eachother through the bars. I wonder what the fair experience is like for them?

Down But Not Out

The last time we had WiFi at home was some time Thursday evening. Today Verizon is sending someone out and I suspect a new router is in our future. When we lost internet a few weeks ago I jumped to the conclusion that there had been a nefarious takeover of social media. This time I just felt irked. 

Things I have done since our internet went haywire: washed and sundried a large quantity of stuffed plush animals that I am hoping to rehome in the near future. (Need any? Contact me.) I’ve read more of my assigned summer reading from work, but it’s slow going. I watched Coco with my family. (My husband hadn’t seen it yet.) It’s highly unlikely that we would have done that if internet had been an option. 
My husband and daughter took a big bag of clothing I had decluttered from the bedroom over to Goodwill and came home with a few treasures of their own. Funny how that works. I’ve been sorting though the photos I took at the Howard County Fair Thursday night, trying to decide how to use them…

No Comment

Big news! I learned it in a tweet:

The Baltimore Sun has closed the comment section on its articles and my satisfaction with life has already significantly increased.
Yes, it’s true.

Certain local folks, especially a particular former BOE member, are going to have to get a new hobby.
I shut down the comments section directly attached to the blog a while back. I was no longer willing to tolerate trolls who could easily create false identities to say things they’d never dare say in daylight. I direct all my commenters to the blog’s page on Facebook. It may have cut down on the overall quantity of comments, but it has made a difference for the better. 
In order to comment here, you have to be willing to stand behind your words with your identity. I don’t think that, in the case of a small, local blog, that this is an overly burdensome hurdle to clear. 
The ability to post under pseudonyms can be extremely useful for protecting privacy. I get that. These days an employer can scan your social me…

Good Stuff

Congratulations to Tom and Cindy Quick, of Cindy’s Spirits, who have, at long last, received the license for the Loft. This is truly a testament to their persistence. I was also heartened by the folks who gave testimony on their behalf at the Liquor Board hearing. The Quicks have clearly earned a trusted place in their community and I feel good about the work they will do in Columbia in their new venture.

Congratulations, too, to Dan Medinger who has purchased the Baltimore Business Journal from owners Becky Magnus and Cathy Yost. I’m all in favor of anyone who believes in local newspapers these days.

I see that the Howard County Library is bring the Undesign the Redline exhibit to their Central Branch. I highly recommend it. Beginning August 16th you will be able to tour the interactive exhibit, which:

...explores the history of structural racism and classism, how these designs compounded each other from redlining maps until today, and how we can come together to undesign these systems …

Lighten Up

I can’t remember what the subject was, but one of my oldest, dearest friends recently responded to something I said by replying, “Lighten up.”

Boy, did that ever tick me off. For some reason I don’t appreciate being told to lighten up. Perhaps that is a sign that I take myself too seriously. Perhaps I have a good reason. Who knows?

At any rate, as an attempt to follow this sage advice, I am opening a completely unofficial search for new topics for the Howard Readers’ Poll. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Best local place to get out of the house with an infant if you are just losing your mind:


______ write-in vote

Best local place that doesn’t exist anymore that you are still mad about:

Welcome Center

______ write in vote

Best Columbia pool to go to if you hate kids:

_______ (not my wheelhouse)

_______write-in vote

Best Non-traditional place to watch Fourth of July Fireworks:

Talbott Springs Elementary School

______write-in vote

Best local Bouncy Castle:

Do they even have bouncy c…

Category 61

Ahhh...category 61. It sounds vaguely mysterious, like Area 51. It’s actually quite straightforward, though. Category 61 is the newest incarnation of my annual attempt to put this blog in the win column in the Howard Readers’ Poll sponsored by Howard Magazine.

This is the link to the poll.

This is category 61.

I can’t explain why I continue to pursue this particular accolade. It has become my yearly Charlie Brown/Lucy/Football experience. Perhaps that should have taught me that some things are not worth caring about, but, here we go again.

I care deeply about the work I put in on the blog. I value the opinion of my readers. It’s that simple.

You can vote once per device, so it won't be a major time commitment. While you are there you can vote in plenty of other local categories as well. At the end of the poll you have an opportunity to write in your ideas for a new category. I have a suggestion: how about best Howard County Podcast?

The Most Precious Thing

I have not led a perfect life. I didn’t do particularly well in school. My first marriage crumbled. I had extreme difficulty making ends meet during my years as a single parent. My house is not ready for visitors at all times, shall we say. I’m not the best at going out and socializing.

But I have my good name.

People who know me from blogging, or teaching, or my work in the community have heard generally positive things about what I stand for. I feel good about that. I have worked hard in my career and in the community to be helpful, honest, supportive, trustworthy. I’m constantly trying to improve, but at my core I feel good about what I do and why I do it.

What happens when someone steals your good name?

Imagine that you woke up to discover that you were falsely accused, those accusations were leaked to the press, and everyone in town was reading about them. Imagine that these accusations negated everything you had worked for years to stand for. Imagine that there was no way to refute …

The Neighborhood of Make Believe

I wrote a tongue in cheek piece a while back about what fun it would be to have action figures of the People Tree. It’s safe to say that not everyone thought that would be a good idea. I still think it would be cool to be able to collect one’s own Neighborhood of Make Believe play set which included the People Tree, a few other Lakefront Sculptures, The Chrysalis, Merriweather, the Rouse Building, and perhaps even the Mall. And a little Colum-bus as the Trolley? Exquisite.

Clearly my recent viewing of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, which is a documentary film about the legendary children’s program creator Fred Rogers, has influenced my view of Columbia as the Neighborhood of Make Believe. Sometimes it feels as though we are living in that sort of stylized Make Believe world and just moving the pieces around to see what will happen.  Although I’d say that most of the time we do this with far too much seriousness and no where near enough of a sense of play.

Mr. Rogers knew how important pla…

Trying Trifecto

I was headed home from a meeting at work and thought I might pop in the Dunkin Donuts in Clarksville for a large iced coffee when I remembered that there was a new place in town that I had wanted to try.


It’s a part of the new Common Kitchen concept going in at Clarksville Commons. One of the owners is a graduate of Howard County Schools, I hear. I knew I could get coffee there. I checked their website to see if I could perhaps get something to go along with it. Hmm...grilled cheese wasn’t really what I had in mind. Maybe some kind of pastry?

I decided to go and find out.

When I walked in it didn’t much look like anything was open. There’s construction going on in the space at the front, but I spied what looked like a shop in the background, so I kept going.

A friendly fellow greeted me and I was happy to see a case of scones on the counter. 

He directed me to a menu. They clearly intend to specialize in a few things and do them well.

I chose a mocha chocolate chip scone. It was ju…

It’s Not in the Article

We all love the the press until they write something we don’t like. I certainly read something that I don’t like this morning.

Howard County human rights investigator accuses some school board members of discrimination, homophobia by Tim Prudente

Here’s the thing. It’s not “Fake News”.  It’s not all of the news. It certainly appears that Mr. Prudente has had certain people driving the narrative as his work progressed. I’m sure he did the best he could. I’m trying to be charitable here.

The flaw in these accusations against board members Christina Delmont-Small and Cindy Vaillancourt is, quite frankly, the two witnesses themselves. I’m not going to name names because you can read the article for yourself and I don’t want anyone to sue me. These two individuals have proven themselves to be anything but credible witnesses. They have a body of work in the community that proves otherwise.

I know this, and a lot of other people close to the school system know this, but apparently the human righ…


CNN’s Jim Acosta posted a brief video clip of crowd reaction to media coverage at a recent Trump rally.

Just a sample of the sad scene we faced at the Trump rally in Tampa. I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt. We should not treat our fellow Americans this way. The press is not the enemy.
Closer to home a member of the Republican Central Committee has been wreaking havoc on the Howard County Facebook page, encouraging a confrontational social media “takedown” of a group member whose opinions differ with his own. The attitudes between the group Mr. Accosta shows us and that of the locals who consider it their mission to troll the Howard County Facebook page seem frighteningly similar.
But there’s a difference to me. And that difference is proximity. The fact that we have folks who are willing to go on the attack right here in Howard County is hor…