I’ve got so much love; Got so much patience

I’ve learned from the pain; I turned out amazing

I’ve loved and I’ve lost; But that’s not what I see

‘Cause look what I’ve found; Ain’t no need for searching

And for that, I’ll say:

Thank you, next.- Ariana Grande, Thank you, next


Did you miss me? I can’t promise I’ll write regularly but I’m back for a minute to post my 2018 Most Fascinating of Howard County List. Also, I co-host a podcast now with Tom, so if you haven’t heard of it (WHAT?!), check out Elevate Maryland. Lots of opinions and great interviews with fascinating people from around the state.

This year was pretty darn good. Not perfect (life never is) but as Big Sean says, “…way up I feel blessed”. 2018 = new job and career focus/opportunities, 16/1 (if you have to ask go view my FB posts from March 16th and 17th), a November reconnection, a #1 slot in the primary, big election wins (so proud of many people!), the end of Lyme meds (pray for a lady that this is forever), true support for my “hobby”, some special family time, new friendships, old friendships, lost friendships (necessary), a vacation for the first time without the kid, and one super kid who made her transition to college with grace, class, and hard work. (There’s probably more but those are pretty darn good.)

There were also some challenges. The biggest one was in my professional life but I grew (still growing) and learned a lot about grace under pressure.   

Here’s the list! And as I say every year, this is NOT an endorsement piece. So don’t @ me.  

The History Makers

2018 was a history-making year in Howard County. I am not a public crier but on November 6th, in the back of Kahler Hall at the celebration party, I grabbed my good friend and former boss, Ken Ulman, and wept. Openly. Some may remember that just four years earlier in 2014, I was in that same hall as my heart broke when I watched the results and saw that many of the candidates I supported lost. It felt like someone had died. It hurt. And not only was it a loss of several elections but it meant that I also lost my job. I was a political appointee but worked hard for the people of Howard County. So no matter how many times folks say “people over politics”, that’s not the case most of the time. I could write a novel about that time of my life…but nah. Because look what happened in 2018. History. And so I choose to move “forward” (get it? Forward.).  

County Executive Calvin Ball- So, Calvin has been on this list before. In fact, this is the third time. The first time, I said this about him (courtesy of one of my commenters): ”He was out there rallying votes for candidates when they were running for office and he’s worked tirelessly to get the revitalization of Long Reach going (in addition to having a full time job and being a family man).”  The second time I added him to the list because he stood up for what is right after he announced his legislation to support our undocumented community members. This time, he’s included on this particular list for being our first African American County Executive but there’s so much more to this.  In the first few weeks, our new County Executive has shown what it means to be inclusive. To truly embrace what it means to invite all voices to the table. Look at his team. Look at the initiatives he has introduced and championed already (EC!). Look at his transition committee team members. Hell, even look at his social media posts.

This probably comes as no surprise but I believe that if you want to be a top leader in your field and truly change a community, culture, business or the world, you MUST embrace diversity and truly support inclusion. Calvin is doing this. And I can’t wait to see what’s next.

State’s Attorney Elect Rich Gibson- Rich was also on this list before. Maybe we’re good at picking winners, friends! Rich came out of nowhere in 2014 when he first ran for State’s Attorney. I thought he had great ideas on how to reshape the office and I knew then that he was a top prosecutor. He lost that race but went back to the toolbox and really reworked his strategy and approach. So when he told me he was running again, I knew he was ready. And he went out there and did the damn thing with a big win and became the first African American State’s Attorney in Howard County.  

Oh, have you heard about his approach and what his history-making win means to him? If not, please listen to this. Inspiring.

 Sheriff Marcus Harris- Ok, so I have to be honest here. I was not sure that Marcus would be our next sheriff. Don’t get me wrong, Marcus is certainly qualified, worked hard during the election, has an excellent vision for the office of the sheriff, and is valued by the community. He was even recruited by some members of the sheriff’s team. I like him. But he was running against the super popular, former police chief Bill McMahon. A police chief who guided the community through some very public, hard times.

Well, my uncertainty was unfounded. And, as my daughter said, “Mama, we have a black sheriff”. #thefirst #rolemodel

Alicia Altamirano- Immigration lawyer and fierce advocate by day. And making history as the first Latina elected to the Democratic Central Committee in her spare time. Alicia and I met casually through a friend during the primary and I should have taken more time to get to know her. Because from the limited knowledge I now have, I really admire Alicia’s commitment to our shared values. 2019 goal- coffee with Alicia.  

Tonya Kennon-  ICYMI somehow, Tonya is the new president of the Howard County Library System and is the first African American to hold the position. Tom and I interviewed Tonya on Elevate and she was just refreshing and on point. Her chat about libraries being community assets and “bumping places” made me think a little differently. Plus she said the movie she was recommending to friends and family members? Black Panther. #wakandaforever

Ainy Haider Shah- You may remember Ainy as the lady who rocked the mic as the MC at the County Executive/County Council Installation. What you may not have known is that Ainy was elected as the first woman president of the Howard County Muslim Council. The first. Not only is Ainy a smart, talented, well connected leader in our community but she is also funny as hell. Ask her to tell you a joke. It will be witty.

Ainy was just accepted into the Emerge Maryland program. I can’t wait to see what she runs for. She has my vote.   

Sabina Taj- No teacher’s endorsement? Darn but ok. No newspaper endorsement? Well, darn but ok. No People’s Voice endorsement? Well, ok. I’ll just work hard as heck, continue to challenge the status quo and stay advocating for ALL children. That was Sabina’s winning playbook. Take note future Board of Education candidates. You can stand up for what is right and win. Oh, and talk about history? In addition to being ridiculously qualified for the position, Sabina made history by becoming the first Asian American woman member of the Board of Education. Yep.  

Gabriel Moreno- I don’t know Gabe that well. Gabe ran and won a seat on the Howard County Democratic Central Committee after grinding hard for values, equity and other candidates. He was positive and worked really hard and a lot of folks took notice. He seemingly came out of nowhere but his paid gig as an immigration attorney should have had him on someone’s radar. He and his wife also have super cute kids. In 2019, I will make an effort to get to know Gabe better.

Oh yeah, Gabe is the first Latino man to be elected to the Central Committee.

Christine Uhlhorn- Ok, so a secret. For some reason, I have always wanted a fire helmet with my name on it. I was not on board the Ulman team yet when senior staff participated in some exercises with the Fire Dept and got their personalized helmet so I never got one. And I’m bitter about it.

I have great respect for firefighters. And I was beyond excited to see that Christine was named the first woman Fire Chief in Howard County history. I don’t know Christine but I love what my friend and former Chief, John Butler said about her in the Baltimore Sun: “Christine was a role model and held her own at the table,” Butler said. “She has and had a voice and often spoke for those who were apprehensive to speak out loud.” She happens to also be a single mom. So, yep, badass.

I still want my helmet. Help me out, Christine.  

Mavis Ellis– Back in 2015, now retired teacher Karen Randall called me and said, “I have someone who you need to meet. She needs to run for the Board of Education.”  About a month later I hosted a meeting at my house and met, Ms. Mavis Ellis. I’ve written about Mavis before. I admire her as a strong, behind the scenes leader who stands up for what’s right. Her level of experience as an educator and advocate is unparalleled. What I learned back in 2015, after licking envelopes at my dining room table, is that she’s not the political type. She just wants to do what is best for kids. And I’m so proud that she’s the first African American woman chair of the Board of Education.

HoCo Forward Team– Whole team. That has to be history.   

Jenny Park- I don’t Jenny but I do know that she was elected as the first Korean American elected official when elected to the Republican Central Committee so she belongs on this list. I tried to find more information about Ms. Park online but I didn’t see anything else. But I’m curious. Coffee!

The New County Council- Liz Walsh. Opel Jones. Christiana Rigby. Deb Jung. David Yungmann. What can I say about this Council. This impressive bunch are all brand new and none of them have ever been elected to public office. But for some reason, I feel really good about what they can do. We have some real challenges in the County: APFO, crowded schools, homelessness, the opportunity gap, poverty, de facto segregation, hate crimes, etc but our newly elected Council members are super smart and know our community (three of them are from Howard County. That has to be a first, right?!). I think they’re going to be innovative in their approach.

I won’t (again) mention my one concern. I’ve said it enough. And I’m going to trust that it gets addressed by this talented group of leaders.   

Special nod to the OGs- Vernon Gray- first African American elected to the County Council, Frank Turner- the first African American male elected to a state delegate position, Vanessa Atterbeary and Terri Hill- the first African American women elected to state delegate positions, Clarence Lam- the first Asian American male elected to a state delegate position, and Sydney Cousin- the first African American Superintendent. I may have forgotten someone…please remind me in the comments.

The Musicians

I am a huge music fan. Picky and a little stuck in my ways but music soothes my soul and makes me happy. And live music? The best. Here are a few local musicians who rock.

Richard McCready– I don’t know Richard well though his wife and I run in some of the same circles. I’ve met him once or twice in my previous role with Howard County Government. But I do know this…Richard is known in Howard County for being a music teacher extraordinaire. Every time I turn around, he is being nominated for Music Teacher of the Century! Or best Music Teacher in the Galaxy! Or Music Man Extraordinaire! You can’t help but notice.

On a serious note, his students seem to love him, co-workers seem to admire him, other musicians want to jam with him, and he really does win some dope awards. Keep rockin’, Richard. I see you.   

Gallant- Did you know that a kid from Howard County was nominated for a Grammy award in the category of “Best Urban Contemporary Album” in 2017? You may not have heard of Gallant but he is killing it.  His full name is Chris Gallant and he is the insanely talented son of Chris and Lillie Gallant. His debut (DEBUT!!) album, “Ology” was up for the award. I featured him on this list a few years ago and I was bummed I didn’t have the opportunity to see him when he was supposed to open for John Legend at Merriweather (the concert was rescheduled because John wasn’t using the lozenges I sent him) but I really like his music.

Lindsey Jordan- I admit I knew nothing about the ultra talented Ms. Jordan before her mom and I became friends on Facebook. That was in February. And then, all of a sudden, I started reading about Jordan and her band, Snail Mail, everywhere! She’s #3 on Esquire Magazine’s Best Album of 2018 list. The Ellicott City kid is performing at the Met in Philly and the 9:30 Club in DC. She’s in the Wall Street Journal in an article featuring “The Best New Music of 2018”. And she’s 19!

I’m no music critic but here’s what the experts are saying: “A half-generation behind Car Seat Headrest is rock phenom Lindsey Jordan’s Snail Mail. Her clean guitar lines and idiosyncratic vocal phrasing have drawn comparisons to Liz Phair, and her band’s debut album, “Lush” (Matador), touches on confusion and self-doubt with an underlying toughness and preternatural wisdom.” Rock on, kid. You make us all proud in Howard County.

The Women Who Rock

Full disclosure: this list started off with about 75 women and I just don’t have time to write something thoughtful about everyone. I want to but I can’t. Self care folks. Truly the list could have about 5765 women on it and still be incomplete. So, please don’t come for me. Trust me when I say that I know there are so many more women who rock…but here are my six for 2018. (Also, look at some of my lists from previous years. Your favs are there too…)

Laura Johnson– Laura just flies under the radar and gets things done. As the chair of the NAACP Education Committee, Laura has quietly worked to form real partnerships with the HCPSS and has hosted events to help spread the word about the NAACP’s education advocates. During the day, Laura is a Vice President at National Summer Learning Association so she clearly knows her stuff. I look forward to seeing what additional activities and initiatives are introduced to our community due to Laura’s leadership. Remember when I talked about working on our real challenges? Well the opportunity gap is a real one. Thank goodness for people like Laura.  

Jennifer Jones– Jen is the GOAT. I don’t think Jen sleeps. Ever. Jennifer has this quiet yet powerful way about her. She has an MBA and a Law degree but unless you read her resume, you’d never know. She is the new Deputy Chief of Staff for Howard County Government and I know she will do great things because in addition to being incredibly smart (did you see what I wrote above?) she is thoughtful and in the position for the right reason. It’s never about accolades or credit with Jennifer. It’s about doing what’s right. And that’s rare in this day. Thank you for all you do, Jen.

Lena Kennedy- I’ve known Lena for awhile. She’s married to my good friend, Ian. (Ian and I got to do some good stuff together when we worked together in the Ulman Administration.) Lena had her coming our party this year, though. In a big way. Recently she was accepted into the highly competitive Emerge Maryland program, but before that she used her voice to speak up against inequities, whether online (I may have clapped out loud sometimes after reading her words) or in person by testifying in front of the school board or the County Council and Executive. She advocates for what is right and by doing so has ruffled some feathers. But you know what happens when people ruffle feathers? Things change. Thank you, Lena. Continue to use your voice and fingers for good.

Oh, and let us know when you’re ready to set up YOUR BOE campaign team.  

Akbi Syeda Khan Yusufzai– I don’t even know where to start with Akbi but I’ll start with our first meeting. We had a wonderful conversation about the LGBTQ community in Howard County. She encouraged me to try to become a better ally (I’m still a work in progress) and I hopefully gave her a bit of history about the politics of Howard County.

Akbi jumped into the 2018 election cycle like a beast (If you don’t believe me, ask her to see one of her 18338 campaign shirts…) and worked hard to get strong candidates elected. She also writes a fascinating blog that you should check out. You can find it: here.

Jessica Feldmark I feel like Jessica’s contributions to Howard County (and now state) politics completely fly under the radar. Jessica was the special assistant to Councilman Ulman, the Chief of Staff to County Executive Ulman, the current administrator for the County Council, and MD state delegate elect for District 12. Oh and she served on County Executive Calvin Ball’s Administration transition Team. Seriously? If you need to know anything about what’s going on in Howard, you may want to give Jess a buzz. Chances are she’s touched it, advised on it, or developed it herself. Seriously.     

Moms Demand Action- Need something done about gun control? Call the mamas. They advocate on a different level. I look forward to seeing what they have in store for 2019.

Courtney Watson- “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years…” Actually, let’s call this one a comeback. For real. Last time I wrote about Courtney, it was after the 2014 election and I included her in a post with Allan Kittleman. That wasn’t fair. She deserved her own post and so here it is. It takes something special for someone to come back and run again for elected office after a devastating loss. Courtney did that. And won big. I think Courtney will be a fantastic delegate and will champion issues related to girls and women. We need her voice in Annapolis and I’m happy for her.

Oh, and extra bonus points for sticking through difficult conversations with me. That’s between us (and maybe J. Baker) but I do appreciate you for that, C-dub.    

The Youngins

These babies are trying to run things. Actually, they are already running things. And so they deserve a nod.

Milan Reed- My girl. Successfully transitioned to college. Resilient. Thoughtful. Loves all things related to the brain. Threw me for a loop when she chose a college I had never visited, a major that required her to take 18 credit hours as a first semester freshman, and left track behind but she’s ALWAYS done things her way. I’m biased but she’ll change the world. Love you, kid.

Alex Horn– Known in Howard County as Spawn. Super smart wizkid who volunteered to get some good folks elected and then turned right around after the election to testify on school start times. Can’t wait to hear about what he’s going to do next. Run for President or something, Spawn.

Collin Sullivan– Brains behind the HoCo Forward campaign while running his own campaign to be SGA President at UMBC. Tech smarty (although he still owes me a lesson on my giant Ipad). Love his sarcastic personality and I look forward to yelling loudly for him as he crosses the stage in May. We’ve been through some things this past year and Collin’s leadership skills have grown tremendously. I’ve enjoyed watching his growth.

Aidan Hennessy– I don’t know Aidan but I read an interesting article about him in the Flier. The Clarksville Middle student raised over $1000 for Small Miracles, a no-kill animal shelter in Ellicott City. I worked with folks who supported the shelter when I worked for Howard County Government and they have a special place in my “I don’t really do animals” heart. Well done, Aidan.

Felix Facchine– Worked hard and smart as a member of Christiana Rigby’s winning campaign and then hopped on board the #TajTrain and helped with her victory for BOE. Just appointed as Rigby’s district assistant and I think he has a strong future in politics. Plus he graduated from UMBC. #onlythebest

Safa Hira– Pretty sure I could have listed Safa in the history makers category because I believe she made history as the youngest person ever elected to the Central Committee. Amirite? But I’m ok leaving her in this category with the youngins. Safa made her mark in Howard County this year. She worked hard for Team Ball, really helped folks with outreach efforts and educated our community on diversity and inclusion matters. Good work, Safa. Nope. Great work.   

Najee Bailey– Najee is my “son”. Ask his mom, we both claim him. Great district assistant to former Councilman Ball. Check. Current district assistant for Councilman Jones. Check. Elected to the Central Committee with the highest number of votes for a male. Check. NAACP Young intern program graduate. Check. President of Young Democrats. Check. The community loves Najee. And I’m so proud of him.

Honorable mention– Two babies named Whit.

The Mix

Just some random favorites that don’t work in the other categories…

Elevate Maryland and Tom Coale- Gave me my voice back. So had to make the list. Thanks for having my back, partna.  

Cathy Bedolla and Eric Pakulla– Taught me so much about love, grace, resilience, and strength. Love you both.  

Andrew Kanicki- My kid loves Andrew. And I love who/what she loves. Most recently, Andrew helped me out big time when I was sick and was a guest co-host on Elevate Maryland. Before that, though, I was introduced to him when former CE Ulman said, “Meet with this guy about all things Long Reach. He’s good.” And I agree. Andrew speaks truth about challenges and offers solutions. Plus he’s part of a fun group of fellas who I like a lot. I’m not going to tell you what they call themselves. Ask him, though.

Brian Gaylor – I didn’t know anything about this gentleman (I’m allergic to beer…) but a friend of mine brought this to my attention. Brian is the owner of Black Flag Brewing Company and is hosting a Go Fund Me campaign to reduce the debt of HCPSS students who were unable to pay their school lunch debt. To date, he has raised $6464. His goal is to raise $15,000 to make a dent in the $47,000 debt. I know it’s the holiday season and I know many of you are like me and paying tuition for your babies (I know. Super specific. But the struggle is real.) but please donate if you can. And kudos to you, Brian. Thank you for caring. (And thanks Alan for bringing this to my attention.)

Special love to: my family, the Hrabowski’s, the Gladiators, Dylan Goldberg, my supportive UMBC team, and a random new thing.

“Spend more time with my friends; I ain’t worried ’bout nothin’…”

“…we gon’ be alright; we gon’ be alright. We gon’ be alright; Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright…”- Kendrick Lamar 

I had no intention of blogging again this week. Nonewhatsoever. I’m tired. A good tired but tired. And as of right this second, I have 32 minutes until my kid calls me to watch Jeopardy. So this will be brief.

I was looking for something this week.  I was looking for something that could help me say: you know what, we gon’ be alright. Because, recently, I’ve truly been going back and forth on that. Some days I’m wondering what’s going on in my county, state, country. (Y’all did see that white supremacists marched down the street some days ago, right? And the redistricting debate going on in Howard County? Wow. #dontreadthecomments)

But this week. 

This week some solid things happened, y’all. FOUR. SOLID. THINGS. Four things that made my heart smile. That made me smile. And so I just had to share in case someone else needs to know that we gon’ be alright. (I think.) 

On Monday, a group of thoughtful people and a few elected officials (and candidates for office- pay attention!!) publicly protested the presence of a Confederate monument at the County courthouse. On Tuesday, the monument was gone. Edit: And I almost forgot this piece!! On Sunday, someone covered the thing up. With duck tape. Like all stealth like.  (That’s one.) 

On Wednesday, I proudly presented our new (not live yet but you know I’ll share when it is) diversity and inclusion website to my colleagues at our retreat. And it was well received. That same day, at that same retreat, an incredible panel of campus leaders (professors, a staff member, and students) talked about what diversity and inclusion means at our university. And even challenged us to be better! I’ll blog more about this later (or maybe even talk about it on Elevate Maryland with Tom) but I’ll just drop these concepts for now: critical diversity and diversity mindfulness. Google this stuff, y’all. Read it. Learn it. I haven’t absorbed it all yet but after that panel, I’m thhiiisss close to applying for the Language, Literacy, and Culture PhD program at UMBC. This close. #iwanttolearnmorefromsmartpeople (That’s two.)

Today. Today. Today. Four brave students who I’ve been working with brought the house down at our annual fall meeting. Like standing ovations and everything. (I can’t clearly articulate how great they are so I’ll briefly describe who they are. Also, I have 14 minutes until Jeopardy.) 

Student 1- A young, quiet, beautiful, soulful man who will major in dance (and biology). Dance. A young man. And in his words to me: “I love ballet and have been dancing that style since I was three but I like the way I can express myself with modern dance. I plan to study that and fall back on the biology thing.” #word

Student 2- A homeschooled young lady from Howard County who wants to be an engineer and a role model as a woman in STEM. Her greatest accomplishment thus far? She is a world champion in robotics. World champion. #beast

Student 3- A DACA student from Mexico who decided she didn’t want to “hide in the shadows” anymore. She’s the recipient of our Presidential scholarship and will do great things. I cried real tears when she told me about her journey. And I cried again when she spoke today. I wasn’t alone. She represented all that is right in the world. #inspiration 

Student 4- An African American PhD student who used poetry to explain that he’s more than his MIT and Duke degrees and will be studying health disparities so he can give back. He dropped knowledge today about his experience as a black man. Serious knowledge. #woke (That’s three.)

And then. I returned to my office after the meeting and happened to check my mailbox (I’m bad at this.). There was a card in the box. I can’t reveal what the person wrote because it wasn’t signed (and they may want to remain anonymous) but just know that it’s in the top 5 as one of the nicest things anyone has ever written about me/to me. About leadership and strength and having my back/hearing my voice as we navigate the world’s challenges. Whoever you are, you brought me to tears. I appreciate what you did/said more than you’ll ever know. And when/if you want to reveal yourself, I’m ready to talk…and listen. Thank you so much. (That’s 4.)

Jeopardy started. I’m out. But we gon’ be alright.

“…we gon’ be alright; we gon’ be alright. We gon’ be alright; Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright…”

Pardon any grammatical or spelling errors. I had minutes folks. 

“One day when the glory comes; It will be ours, it will be ours; Oh one day when the war is won; We will be sure, we will be sure; Oh glory”- John Legend and Common

Heeeyy… it’s been awhile. Busy….Kid. Family. Work. Volunteer stuff. Friends. Dating. Plus I am co-hosting a new podcast called Elevate Maryland with my friend, Tom Coale. And I’m having a lot of fun with that. We get to talk about important issues in our county, state, country and we interview some interesting people from around our state. Check it out.  

But this past week was a tough one for me so I’m banging this out on my phone. 

Folks, what happened in Charlottesville and on the campus of UVA last week was horrifying. Frightening. Terrifying. I mean, armed white supremacists walked through the streets and on the campus of a higher education institution. And they chanted hateful words meant to intimate and strike fear in the hearts of people who don’t look like them, worship like them, love like them. It’s hard for me to even type that. It’s just a lot to process.

And just like when other horrific national events occur, it seems that good people try to figure out what action they can take so that said incident doesn’t happen in their state, city, town, county.  Or they think their state, city, town, county is special so “it couldn’t happen in <insert name of special town here>”. Well, it can and it will if good people don’t stand up and speak out. I’m sure the good folks of Charlottesville couldn’t imagine making national news in the way they did this week. 

So what are you going to do? 

Let’s start local. 

Speak up when you hear your neighbor say something about “that family” or “those kids”.

If you’re in the majority, listen when minorities talk about racism. Just please listen. 

Visit a mosque, synagogue, church. And take a friend. 

Don’t sit silent when your friends, relatives, moms group members say racist, hateful things on social media (or in person!) about certain schools and certain communities and certain people. 

Donate to the local NAACP or PFLAG or a Jewish organization or find an anti hate group and send them a few bucks. 

Invite someone who doesn’t look like you/worship like you/love like you to dinner. And just get to know them.

Push for equity in education, housing, entrepreneurship opportunities, healthcare, politics, etc.  

If you’re in a leadership role, look around the table in the boardroom. Look at the diversity (or lack thereof) of your team or the executive leadership. If it’s not inclusive, ask why not? 

Look at your board…is it reflective of the diversity of your community? If not, make the effort to change it. Now.

Ask your elected officials to remove monuments that celebrate Confederate leaders.

Research candidates for elected office. VOTE.

This isn’t rocket science and I’m not claiming to be an expert…but I do have a voice. And while I’ve not said anything super profound or written some publish-worthy extended essay, I hope this can serve as a reminder that fighting back against hate will require folks to have difficult conversations and some serious self awareness. It may require folks to challenge their current organizational structure. It may mean that you lose some friends (I promise you’ll also gain some) and that some family members won’t speak to you again until Thanksgiving. It will mean you need to reach out of your comfort zone. 

But doing nothing just isn’t acceptable. Silence is not an option. 

“Now the war is not over, victory isn’t won; And we’ll fight on to the finish, then when it’s all done;We’ll cry glory, oh glory; Oh (Glory, glory); We’ll cry glory, oh glory…”

“Baby, this is what you came for, Lightning strikes every time she moves. And everybody’s watching her, But she’s looking at you, oh, oh, You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh, You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh, You, oh, oh, oh, oh”- Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna (and Taylor Swift apparently)

Heeeyyyy…I am a bad blogger. There, I’ve confessed. Junior year of high school has me running. As does everything else. That’s my story (this time).  It’s hard out there for a …. (wink).

Anyways… I had to pull out the laptop and hop all over my famous (lol) list. This is a shorter one this year but I had to shotout my Most Fascinating People in Howard County for the third year.

Five things before I get to the list. 1- Fascinating doesn’t necessarily mean popular. Or loved. 2- It’s my list. 3- If your favorite person or thing isn’t on this list, please read my previous blog posts. They may be on one of those. Or not. 🙂 4- I’m just writing what’s on my mind. It may not be gramattically correct. Please don’t be my editor. 5- The song choice is usually one of the top songs for the year.  This year I went with the number 5 pick. A gem by Calvin Harris. Because I just couldn’t go with a Bieber song. And I gave Taylor the shotout for my friend, Sam O’Neil. Taylor is her fav. Ask her about that.

So here we go:

Main Street, Elliott City

If you don’t know why I’ve listed Main Street, allow me to explain. One summer day in July, 6.5 inches of rain fell in the span of two hours and caused a freakish flash flood that washed away businesses, homes, cars, and, sadly, people. The footage from the storm is actually painful to watch. Painful. Like, you’ll cry.  But, if you’re like me, after you wipe away the tears and check out how the community came together and rallied to support Main Street, you’ll feel good. Real good.  I’ll admit that I’m not expert on all things Main Street but everyone, including me, who followed this story felt #ECStrong. Now head down there and buy some post holiday presents or grab a meal. My favorite place? Pure Wine Cafe (Sidebar- Pure Wine Cafe was founded by PJ Strain, who went to my alma mater, Trinity School. So I’m winning all around when I go there…).

Bonnie Bricker

I met Bonnie a few years ago to talk about her work with children and her book, Zoom Out Parenting: The Big Picture Approach to Raising Children.  We had a great meeting and made some mutual connections but nothing came of it then.

Since that meeting, Bonnie launched a FB page called HOCO School Interest.  And it took off like crazy. Go join the conversation. Seriously.

Her words about the page:

“Our goal is the best education for our students here in Howard County. That takes knowledge. Persistence. Courage. And-Listening to each other. Members are free to post high-quality articles about education policy as well as programs. Information and articles about HCPSS can be shared here. Our members are parents, students, teachers, administrators and Central Office staff as well as Board of Education members and other local politicians. We will treat each other with respect. NO personal attacks and we’ll try to subdue our snark a bit, too. If those restrictions don’t work for you, then this is not your group.”

My words about the page:

HOCO Interest has helped shape the conversation about K-12 education in Howard County.

Need to learn more about the diversity coordinator (wink)? Post there.  Have an opinion about school start times? Speak your mind.  Pissed about the amount of homework your 5th grader has? Type away.

I don’t always agree with the opinions on there, in fact, many times I disagree, but I can’t deny using that page as a resource, guide, and testing ground for ideas.  Even if folks can get a little harsh sometimes.

Howard County voters

You think I’m going to talk about the Presidential Election, don’t you? Nope. Except to say, we did our part. (smirk)

What I’m talking about is the local stuff. The Board of Education election.  Soon after the election, I tweeted something like…If you don’t think constituent services matter, you are sadly mistaken (or something like that). Anyways, my point was (and is) to highlight the importance of listening to constituents. Because if you don’t, they will vote you out office. After frustrations related to transparency, community relations, and accountability, the Howard County voters spoke loud and clear in the 2016 Board of Ed election.

Last year, I wrote this about the (then) four challengers- Coombs, Ellis, Ponnuri, Miller-

“These four individuals are running for the board of education…and I’m not positive but I would guess that they made this huge decision to run for elected office after witnessing the current, very public education challenges in Howard County. I’ve either read about or talked with each of them re: their priorities for our school system and I think they are right on point.  Now can they beat any of the incumbents?  Only time will tell. #payattentionhoco #thisisasimportantasthepresidentialelection #yesseriously”

Hmmm. #listenandact

Councilpersons Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa

This may seem lazy but I’ve just got two words (and then ask you to read the link for more information): SANCTUARY COUNTY.

https://apps.howardcountymd.gov/olis/PrefiledLegislation.aspx (CB9-2017)

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Local folks have a love/hate thing with Merriweather. People who love it appreciate the fact that we have an award winning arts concert venue in downtown Columbia.  And those who hate it complain about noise. And “those” concert goers. Which is funny because 1- Merriweather predates a lot of stuff. And people. And organizations. And 2- No diss but you moved next to a concert venue.

Well, in 2016, those who love it…well, won. At the end of November, the Merriweather advocates (including my fierce, bearded friend, Ian Kennedy) got an early holiday present when ownership of the venue was transferred from the Howard Hughes Corporation to the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission. The transfer, which was approved by the Howard County Council, supports additional community programming, a parking garage!, additional development in downtown, and so much more.  All good.

(Sidebar- Can you figure out how I feel about Merriweather? #gem)


Now all they need to do to get my official stamp of approval is to bring John Legend back. (And yes, I know I talk about his music all of the time. #haters)

Opel Jones

I met Opel back in 2014 when he was president of Alpha Phi Alpha and I was president of the African American Community Roundtable. I was impressed by his commitment to our community (that’s always huge in my book) and his dedication to his family and friends (also huge in my book. Bonus- his wife is awesome.).  Soon after meeting, he was appointed to be a member of the Howard County Democratic Central Committee and his commitment to Howard County became even more clear as he began to advocate and fight for things we hold dear in this county- inclusion, equity, education-our values. And he’s done that as both a Central Committee member and a Human Rights Commissioner.

Can’t wait to see what Opel does next in Howard County (wink, wink).


Deeba Jafri and Tina Sheets Horn

I love rabble rousers. Especially when they’re women.

I love people who speak up and say something. Those who don’t remain silent in the face of injustice and hate.

I love people who look at an issue or challenge and say- the status quo is not good enough.

I love Deeba and Tina. Well…love is a strong word and I don’t say it lightly..especially about people I barely know so…I really like these ladies.

Deeba. I admire Deeba for standing up and refusing to be silent about the effect that racist rhetoric and hate speech has on our children and our community.  It’s not easy to stand up in front of hundreds of people and speak (extemporaneously!) with raw emotion. And it’s even harder to do when someone is attempting to silence your voice.  And Deeba did. Twice.

Tina. Tina is one of the fiercest Black Lives Matter advocates out there.  You know those monthly vigils that take place on the corner of Governor Warfield and Windstream? That’s Tina. You know the Black Lives Matter- Columbia, MD advocacy group? That’s Tina. Follow her on Twitter if you don’t believe me. Tina stands up for those who have been marginalized and for those who need an ally. And pretty much everyone else in between.

Thank you Deeba and Tina. There are no words to articulate how much your advocacy means to me. #morevoices

Sheriff McMahon

A couple of years ago, the Chief…err Sheriff.. was on this list for his leadership after the Columbia Mall shooting.  I try not to repeat on this list but this is noteworthy.  If anyone can help change the negative image and horrible reputation of the Howard County Sheriff’s office, Chief McMahon can. He is simply one of the best.


Did you know that a kid from Howard County has been nominated for a Grammy award in the category of “Best Urban Contemporary Album”? Yeah, me neither. Well, until recently.

You may not have heard of Gallant but he is killing it.  His full name is Chris Gallant and he is the insanely talented son of Chris and Lillie Gallant.  His debut (DEBUT!!) album, “Ology” is up for the award.  He also is touring in Europe and performed at the Library of Congress’ tribute to Smokey Robinson.

The fella can sinnnnggg.  Check out the Grammys on February 12th. And root for the hometown guy for the W.

“Baby, this is what you came for…Lightning strikes every time she moves…And everybody’s watching her…But she’s looking at you…”


























“It is such a shame…You let this good love go to waste…I always keep the top tier, 5 star…”  Hold Up- Beyonce

Those lyrics right there, though. YESSSSSS. (Smirk.)

Beyonce, with the release of Lemonade, has me coming out of blog hiding.  I write a lot for my new gig now (Did I tell you I love it? Lol) and my kid sprints all over the place. So…time. And energy.  And whatever. I’m preaching to the choir, I’m sure.

But I had to write about this.  This new, fiercer (Is that a word?), Beyonce.  This unapologetically Black woman, Beyonce.  The smash up stuff because I’m pissed, Beyonce. LOVING IT.

I get it.

And not because some dude cheated on me recently (That I know of…).  This Lemonade thing is about way more than Jay Z potentially cheating on Beyonce.  It’s about so much more than whether or not we ever find out who “Becky with that good hair” is (THAT line is so good though…And yeah, call her. Humpf.). It’s about more than her “daddy issues”…

It’s about love. And vulnerability (YIKES!). And the struggle of being an unapologetically Black WOMAN.

(And by the way. In some circles, the unapologetically Black woman is mislabeled as the loudmouth. Or the angry bitch. Or the bitter, scorned lover.  I’m so tired of that.)


Just listen to the lyrics on Hold Up.  “What’s worse, lookin’ jealous or crazy?…Jealous and crazy…Or like being walked all over lately, walked all over lately…I’d rather be crazy…”

That one line is so deep.  It has to have you searching and thinking about something in your past (or present!).  We have all been there with that deep love. That love that he may (or may not) deserve.  And then something happens. And you question yourself.  Am I crazy? Am I jealous?  Is this my fault?  If only I had….!

And let’s take it a step further.  That love may be for your kid.  Or your friend. Or your community.  And when that love goes bad. Or crooked. Or is disrespected. Or not reciprocated.  Or dies in the street (You did see Trayvon’s mama and the other moms, right?) because someone else doesn’t share that love,  we are expected to pick up the pieces and keep it moving.  Seriously.  Don’t believe me? Take some time to think about the Black woman’s story in history. You can disagree with me. But if you do, I think you should talk with me over some Chai tea.  And then go watch The Help again.

Per Jay Z’s grandmama…”I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up.  I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”


Let’s start with Jay.  I know Jay Z may take a hit in this but when have you ever seen a rapper/man show such public vulnerability?  Being sensitive? Check.  Caressing her leg? Check.  That face to face, forehead to forehead thing? (You know what I’m talking about. You don’t even have to speak when that moment happens…)  So yes, he may be in trouble and perhaps he thinks he may lose his marriage but still.  There are men out there who would never be vulnerable in such situations (or any situation) and their stuff isn’t even shown on local TV.  This is on HBO!

And then, Bey.  It’s not easy for anyone to talk about their flaws.  To open up and tell the world (or your three girlfriends…wink) about how confusing your stuff is?  Scary.

I’ve talked before about Brene Brown and her work on vulnerability and daring greatly. She says, “Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think.”  Uh, yeah.  Read this: http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2013/04/21/brene-brown-how-vulnerability-can-make-our-lives-better/#58643d0960ba.

And so Beyonce puts.it.out.there.  For all of us to see.  She became real.  She’s tired of the BS. And I don’t know about you, but somehow, it became ok for me to be a little more vulnerable. And a tiny bit more open.  And a tad more of an unapologetically Black woman.

Note- Fine, she may not really be going through a struggle with Jay. Maybe this is her art. She sure as hell becomes relatable with this, though.


It started with Formation.  And folks were pissed.  How dare Beyonce tell Black women to get into any kind of “formation” and march proudly!  Yikes, here come the strong Black women.  And she’s smashing stuff and cursing!

“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman.  The most unprotected person in America is the black woman.  The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”

And so strong unapologetically Black women appear in her short film.

Serena should never have to apologize for her body.  Or make less endorsement money because she’s not “mainstream”.

Quvenzhané should not have to explain her name or her hair.

Zendaya should not have to apologize for this: When asked about what she considers cultural appropriation, Zendaya says, “Well, first of all, braids are not new. Black women have been wearing braids for a very long time, and that’s another part of the frustration… Another problem is it became new and fresh and fun, because it was on someone else other than a black woman.”

No more I’m sorry for saying the right thing about who I am, Black ladies.  No more. Because while I don’t have hot sauce in my purse, I darn sure have it in my pantry.  And probably in the fridge.  And I ask for it (almost) every time I have chicken (There was that one time at the country club when I didn’t…). And yeah, Red Lobster and such.

Did Jay really cheat on Bey?  I don’t know.  But look at the Lemonade story in a different way and you’ll realize that it probably doesn’t matter.    Unless you’re a member of the Beyhive.  Because they are pissed.

Sidenote- Notable quotes.  I had to share a few of my favs.

“I tried to change. Closed my mouth more. Tried to be softer, prettier, less awake.” (PREACH.)

“Why do you deny yourself heaven?  Why do you consider yourself undeserving?  Why are you afraid of live?  You think it’s not possible for someone like you?  But you are the love of my life…”

“Show me your scars and I won’t walk away…every promise don’t work out that way.”

“My grandma said nothing real can be threatened. True love brought salvation back into me. With every tear came redemption. And my torture became my remedy.”

“When you hurt me, you hurt yourself…Try not to hurt yourself; When you play me, you play yourself…Don’t play yourself; When you lie to me, you lie to yourself…You only lying to yourself; When you love me, you love yourself…”



“Can you help me remember how to smile?…Make it somehow all seem worthwhile…How on earth did I get so jaded?.. Life’s mysteries seem so faded…I can go where no one else can go…I know what no one else knows…Here I am just drownin’ in the rain…with a ticket for a runaway train…”  Runaway Train- Soul Asylum

After a (now deleted..perhaps to protect the child?) post by the Howard County Police Department about a missing thirteen year old child from Wilde Lake Middle School, many in our community sprung into action to try to do what they could to help find the young lady.  There were reposts, prayers, questions, lookouts, etc.  Authentic concern for a child in our own backyard!

According to the police, the young lady returned home.  I don’t know the circumstances but it seems as if it could have been a runaway situation.  Someone even commented on one of the posts that “she has done this before…”

I don’t know if it’s because it is so close to home (my mom taught there for many years, my daughter’s cheer couch was the principal for three years, and I have several friends who have kids who attend the school) or what but this situation really bothered me.   This truly could have been anyone’s kid. Seriously.

On one of the posts, some friends and I asked why an Amber Alert wasn’t issued for this young lady.  Someone in law enforcement advised us that Amber Alerts are only used when a child has been abducted or is endangered.  We pushed a little more… Why wouldn’t we want to issue a broad alert for ANY child who is missing?  Aren’t they all in danger?  (That’s just how Amber Alerts work…)  One of my friends even said, in this particular case, the child is on medication, doesn’t that warrant an alert?  (No.)

So, because this makes no sense to me… (DISCLAIMER- This is NOT a bash on law enforcement at all.  Many of you know I worked very closely with the Howard County Police for many years and I have great respect for many police officers.  Sad that I have to give that disclaimer but you know how folks are….)…I needed to have a better understanding of Amber Alerts.

Sidenote- Google, I love you.

“An AMBER Alert or a Child Abduction Emergency is a child abduction alert system. It originated in the United States in 1996. AMBER is officially a backronym [that’s a new one] for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, but was named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas, in 1996.”

“In the United States, AMBER Alerts are distributed via commercial radio stations, Internet radio, satellite radio, television stations, and cable TV by the Emergency Alert System and NOAA Weather Radio (where they are termed “Child Abduction Emergency” or “Amber Alerts”). The alerts are also issued via e-mail, electronic traffic-condition signs, commercial electronic billboards, or through wireless device SMS text messages. AMBER Alert has also teamed up with Google ]Bing, and Facebook  to relay information regarding an AMBER Alert to an ever growing demographic…”

“To avoid both false alarms and having alerts ignored as a “wolf cry”, the criteria for issuing an alert are rather strict. Each state’s or province’s AMBER alert plan sets its own criteria for activation, meaning that there are differences between alerting agencies as to which incidents are considered to justify the use of the system. However, the U.S. Department of Justice issues the following “guidance”, which most states are said to “adhere closely to” (in the U.S.):

  1. Law enforcement must confirm that an abduction has taken place.
  2. The child must be at risk of serious injury or death.
  3. There must be sufficient descriptive information of child, captor, or captor’s vehicle to issue an alert.
  4. The child must be under 18 years of age.”                                                                     Source- Wikipedia (I know..but it’s quick.)

Ok.. Got it.  So we certainly can’t have an Amber Alert for suspected runaways or if the above criteria isn’t met.  We would be getting  alerts all day! Doesn’t make sense.

BUT.  Why can’t we have some sort of local alert when a child is missing. If the situation makes the Howard County Police Facebook page, then I’m assuming it’s a big enough deal to alert the community in a broader way. (Note- My friends who have kids in school at WLMS told me that the school didn’t alert parents or students.  I’m not trying to be funny but kids can find other kids in about ten minutes.)

Let’s utilize NotifyMe Howard.  Certainly alerts about missing children are just as important as weather updates and water main breaks, right?  Let’s utilize the text/email system through HCPSS.  Certainly alerts about missing children are just as important as school closings, right?  These two things are just a start.

This is Howard County folks.  We can be a model community on this.  Because any missing child is a priority, in my opinion.  We are a community of action oriented people.  Let’s work together to bring kids home safely…runaways or not.

I will be sending this to the county council, chief of police, superintendent, board of education, and board of education candidates.  If you support this idea, please repost this and send it to those folks as well.

And please invite me to the press conference when this gets changed. (smile)

Oh…A friend said let’s call it the CDR Alert.  Thanks but I think we should call it the Jaylen Alert.  And let’s tell that young lady (who this post is referencing) that she sparked a HUGE change in her community.

“And everything seems cut and dry…
day and night…
earth and sky…
somehow i just don’t believe it…”

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday… Happy Birthday- Stevie Wonder

I know you were singing that tune along with me.

Sooo…KID, you are 16.  How did that happen? HOW DO I HAVE A 16 YEAR OLD!

I’ll try not to embarrass you too much with this post but I get to do this once per year.  It’s called mother’s rights.  Last year was your first one on the blog.

Before I start with a list (I’m big on lists right now) of things you love/dislike, I’ll say this (and try not to cry while I type).  This has been an interesting and challenging year for us but I know we can overcome anything.   You are only 16 and one of the strongest and wisest people I know (fact).

It’s been you and me for 14 years now (wow) and I truly love watching you grow into a mature young lady.  Remain true to your values and work ethic.  Trust me, it will carry you far.

Last month I posted something on FB from Humans of New York.  It read: “People always ask me if it’s hard being a single mother. I say: ‘Yes. But not as hard as it would be if I didn’t have her.’”

Sums it up for me.

I love you, kid.

And now the list. And no, this isn’t everything.

Some likes

Justin Bieber (just kidding… I know you only like that one song, “Sorry”.  (wink))


TV shows about science, medicine, or crime

Athletes/ football players (insert mom scary face emoticon)

Good books

Leggings and sweaters

Leggings and hoodies

Leggings and tall boots


Music (that you blast out of your bedroom) and dancing (you’re a great dancer)

Anything by PINK

Singing in the chorus (or maybe just the field trips?)


Fairness and justice

Fancy, expensive makeup

Twitter and Snapchat (sigh)

True friends

Kind souls

The newfound old school songs (I was dancing to “At Night I Think of You” years ago!)




Your beloved iPhone


Sleeping (but not past 6am)

Some Dislikes

PICC lines


Mr. D’s English class

Running in the rain


Losing your beloved IPhone

“That there ought to be a time
That we can set aside
To show you just how much we love you
And I’m sure you would agree
It couldn’t fit more perfectly
Than to have a world party on the day you came to be…”


“Ooh watch me, watch me…Ooh watch me, watch me…Ooh watch me, watch me…Ooh ooh ooh ooh”- Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)- Silento

Two posts in one week.  Whatttt!

This is just a quick one.  My thoughts on what we can leave in 2015 and some things we need in 2016.  What would you add or delete?

Happy New Year everyone!  Here’s to a transformational 2016.

In 2016, can we do away with:

  • senseless murders of black men/women/children!
  • labeling people because of what they look like or who they love or their religion or what they wear
  • Jason Garrett
  • politicians who are more concerned with optics rather than solutions
  • assault rifles (Baby steps.  No, you don’t need them Joe and Jane Homeowner..)
  • the stigma related to mental health
  • the stigma related to hiring ex-offenders who have been rehabilitated
  • weird shortened phrases- I mean ROTFLMAO.  Really folks?
  • mold in schools
  • people’s misunderstanding of Lyme Disease or any other “invisible” health challenge
  • the attack on women and our bodies
  • the use of the phrase “but we tried that and it didn’t work before”
  • the use of the phrase “we can’t do that”
  • bad….relationships, health, manners, eating/drinking habits
  • homelessness (I know, I know)
  • the achievement gap in Howard County
  • being just a “yes” person
  • whatever jinxed the Ravens this year
  • whatever made the Redskins win the division (I kid, I kid.)
  • poor leadership in politics, education, business, nonprofits, sports
  • terrorism
  • man buns
  • women bashing other women
  • the belief that Mark Zuckerberg is going to give you anything because of your FB post
  • nasty gluten free treats
  • the crazy debt that college kids accumulate (please figure this out by 2018. Thank you.)
  • not supporting local owned or minority owned or women owned businesses
  • criticizing football players for celebrating after they score (Come on. Feel free to criticize for poor behavior/off field antics/domestic violence/etc.  But for a touchdown dance? I’m thinking about hitting the dab or quan the next time I do something good at work!)
  • my inability to sleep 8 good hours
  • not following what you’re passionate about
  • teenage bullying…and adult bullying…and  kid bullying
  • the whip and the nae-nae
And can we get more:
  • Faith
  • Love
  • Conversation
  • Respect
  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Listening
  • Money? (smile)
  • Background checks
  • Wins for the Philadelphia 76ers for my bro!  Go Sixers!

“Now watch me whip (Kill it!)…Now watch me nae nae (Okay!)…Now watch me whip whip…Watch me nae nae (Want me do it?)”

“I know when that hotline bling, That can only mean one thing, I know when that hotline bling, That can only mean one thing”- Hotline Bling, Drake

This song doesn’t work with this post.  But, as I write this, it is the number 2 song on the Billboard Top 100 list (Hello, by Adele, is number one and I’ve already used that tune) and so Drake it is!  Plus, who doesn’t like this song?  And we’ve all laughed out loud at the video and subsequent memes.  (My favorite is the tennis one. So, so comical. And you know, the Serena thing. And I played tennis.  So yeah…)

Anyways.  Here we go!  My (with a little help from my friends) Most Fascinating People of Howard County-2015!

Oh..and as I said last year, this is not an endorsement announcement.  And this is in (kind of) alphabetical order. So keep it chill, Howard County.

Baltimore-  Of course I know that Baltimore is not in Howard County but I had to add the city to this list.  Most of you know that I started working in the city in April.  A few weeks before April 27th.  The unrest.  So I added Baltimore because it’s just so damn complicated…which makes it fascinating to me.  Such a beautiful place (with beautiful people!) scarred by a history of complex social issues.  As TS said, “bandaids won’t fix bullet holes” so let’s all pray for the next leader of B-more.  Oh..and thank God for all of the do-gooders who are working on those complex social issues..And special shoutout to the good police officers who work hard at making Baltimore safe.  I see you (wink).

Kathy Barnett- I have been friends with Kathy for a minute.  I have greatly appreciated her unselfish support of me through the years and I probably should tell her that more often.  (Sidebar- It’s amazing what women can do when they know other strong women support them!)  But she’s not on this list for just that.  She is here because, as one blog reader put it, she “…is out there improving STEM education opportunities for kids in interesting ways.”  If you haven’t seen her work with the Young Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County or with Girls Who Code, you’re missing out.  Get with it.  And go check her out.  #beyouhowardcounty

Towanda Brown- You may or may not know who Towanda is.  Well, if you don’t, let me tell you (If you do, you can still read this.).  Towanda is a member of The Council of Elders in Howard County and she runs the African American Community Roundtable Parent Academy.  But she made this list because of her relentless pursuit of information (suspension data, arrest statistics, GT/AP info, etc.) that she believes will help improve life for African American students in Howard County.  Towanda works hard on equity issues and is a tremendous advocate for children.

Kirsten Coombs, Mavis Ellis, Pravin Ponnuri, Robert Miller- Talk about stepping up to the plate! These four individuals are running for the board of education…and I’m not positive but I would guess that they made this huge decision to run for elected office after witnessing the current, very public education challenges in Howard County (correct me if I’m wrong).   It’s not easy to run for elected office (especially county wide elected office) but these brave souls decided to take the challenge.  I’ve either read about or talked with each of them re: their priorities for our school system and I think they are right on point.  Now can they beat any of the incumbents?  Only time will tell. #payattentionhoco #thisisasimportantasthepresidentialelection #yesseriously

Vicky Comer Cutroneo– I know a thing or two about community organizing.  Yes, sure, usually communities rally around some injustice or issue or concern.  And this was the case with the parents in the western part of Howard County who were concerned about mold in their schools.  I have never, however, seen a community organizer put together an effort quite like this.  It’s totally organized, has a great following, has engaged and educated the broader community, has encouraged folks to testify at public meetings (THIS IS HUGE), and has attracted the media.  And the leader of this effort, Vicky, deserves much kudos.  Now, will the folks who need to listen to the message, pay attention? #weshallsee

Scott Ewart- It’s not easy to leave the comfort of a full time job to venture out and start your own business but Scott did.  And his business is a cool one.  Yes, he’s a technology consultant but he also started a super cool social media scorecard for elected officials.  It’s kind of like a “one stop shop” with ratings for the social media pages of elected officials.  So..let’s say you want to know more about a board of education candidate?  You can go to ScottE Software’s blog and find the social media pages for all of the candidates who have one.  Super helpful.  (And see what I did there? #strategic. Lol.)

Stephanie Geddie– This fantastic Laurel Woods Elementary School teacher was a finalist for Maryland’s teacher of the year award.  She is well known as someone who builds relationships with her students, their families and the broader community.  And we all know that those are key ingredients for success in education.  I had the opportunity to listen to her speak at the AACR Education Forum back in September and she is the real deal.  But WHERE is her sign on Route 108??

Judy George- My relationship with Judy started some years ago (maybe 2008?) because she was by far my most difficult (in a good way) constituent  when I worked for HoCo Government.  Anyways, Judy became “my eyes” in the southern part of the county and we became friends.  Judy has great awareness of county challenges and opportunities and is not afraid to tell you her thoughts.  And if you need her to show up, she does.  Thanks, Judy, for helping me cultivate my constituent service skills.  Hope you’re working closely with the current administration.

Lyme Disease– Period.

Mickey Gomez- Mickey’s storytelling is elegant and beautiful.  I mean, we all feel like we knew Gram.  And we definitely know Shiloh and Sophie.  She also has a kindness about her that you just can’t put into words.  And she’s hilarious.  Just don’t let her near you in the kitchen.  Or a hotel room.  Well, or anywhere there are sharp knives. Or brushes. #theresastorythere

Elizabeth Kromm- Babies. So many babies.  That sums up 2014/15 for my friend, Elizabeth.  So her story goes like this:  After many tough years of trying to have a baby, Elizabeth, and hubby Jon, happily announced that their wonderful surrogate was pregnant and due in November, 2014.  Shortly after that announcement, she found out she was pregnant! Yay and wow!  But here’s the kicker:  Baby one (Linny) was born on Nov 1st and baby two (super baby Millie) was born eleven days later at 27 weeks.  ELEVEN DAYS LATER.  On the real, thus far, I have never been more happy about anyone else’s pregnancy.  Talk about a blessing!

PS- Both babies are doing exceptionally well!

Vivian Lawyer and Tracey Williams-  Service.  These two ladies are the definition of the word…service.  They are currently the presidents of the two largest black sororities in the county, Delta Sigma Theta and Alpha Kappa Alpha, but their commitment to service in our community goes much further than those positions.  On any given weekend, you can find them leading efforts to collect clothing or gifts for those who are less fortunate or helping folks with minor criminal offenses correct their records.  And that’s just two examples.  They are often bouncing around to support several service projects or programs.  They show up and get it done.  And they deserve recognition on lists that are far more reputable than this one.

Leonardo McClarty-  I’ll admit it.  I was really happy when I saw that the Chamber chose this gentleman as it’s leader this past year.  Not to be too critical but the Chamber’s record on diversity is a bit challenging. And we all know the importance of having different voices at the table (Well, some of us know…).  Well, Leonardo is fantastic.  He’s an engaging, committed, community minded, smart, talented family man with business acumen. And he’s a cheerleader for business in Howard County (check his Twitter page out if you don’t believe me…).  Oh..and, by the way, he’s working on that diversity challenge at the Chamber.  Looking forward to 2016!

Christine McComas-  Christine’s current story has a sad beginning.   In 2012, she lost her beautiful daughter, Grace, after “…an uninvestigated drug-assisted sexual assault by an older student, was followed by months of sexual harassment, bullying and cyber bullying…”.  Since then, she has fought to keep her daughter’s story in the hearts and minds of our community and has worked hard to have Grace’s Law passed in Maryland (http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/ellicott-city/ph-ho-graces-law-passes-20130410-story.html) in 2013.

The reason Christine makes this list this year is for her passionate plea to access her daughter’s school records.  A plea that has gone unanswered thus far.

As a parent, I admire Christine’s fight.  As a community member, I support her request for her daughter’s school records.  Let’s hope that the people who can make this right choose to do so.  God bless you, Christine.

Todd Olsen and Mary Kay Sigaty-  A couple of months ago, Todd (as executive director) and Mary Kay (as a board member) came to an AACR board meeting to discuss the Columbia Festival of the Arts and it’s “rebirth” (as one of my blog readers called it…).  The presentation was great and we learned that the rebirth embodies a lot of cool things including a year round festival and a key focus on diversity.  Diversity like…soliciting input from minority arts lovers in our community.  Like partnering with African American organizations to offer diverse shows and plays.  Like listening to people who may not look like them.  YAS. #staytunedfolks

Wendy Royalty- I’m a Wendy fan.  Straight up.  Last year she bravely ran for Howard County Council (There’s a good story there too…) and then, in support of her family, packed up her bags and moved across the country to Seattle.  Brave.

The things I love most about Wendy?  Her ability to make anyone feel welcome, the way she sticks up for things/people/issues she believes in, and the fact that she turned me into a (sort of, kind of, maybe but not really) dog lover (RIP- cute Bailey).  #muah

Jurgis Ruckus and Ms. Frizz– I mean, who are you?  You anonymously tweet and blog with great awareness of our wonderful county.  And you’re both clever and funny.  So give it up in the ’16!  Let us know.  Or just let me know.  I won’t tell a soul. #shhh

Lisa Schlossnagle-  I don’t know Lisa very well.  I don’t even think I’ve ever met her.  But I read her blog and we are FB friends so I kinda know her, right?

And I don’t know the full story behind her packing up her family and leaving her comfort zone in Maple Lawn to travel the world but I love it!

I am not a big traveller.  Mostly because every extra penny (I laughed when I type the word extra…) I have goes to something extra related to MJR.  And that’s not a whole lot of pennies.  But I find myself “living” through Lisa’s posts as she crisscrosses Europe and Asia.  So, thank you, Lisa B, Mrs. S.

Buffy Beaudoin Schwartz-  I first met Buffy when I worked for the Columbia Foundation (now the Community Foundation of Howard County) in 2006 and I learned quickly that Buffy gets community.  Whether it be through philanthropic efforts that support women and girls or consistent support of the institutions that drive progress (for everyone) in Howard County, Buffy just gets it.  For her continued support of our community and her kind, inclusive spirit, I nominated her for the Women’s Hall of Fame.  Come on Howard County Commission for Women, let’s get her in there! Please.

Frank Turner, Sr.– One of my favorite elected officials because he quietly handles his business while others shine in the limelight.  He has (almost) single handily advocated to get the Tubman School turned over to the community and this year, it happened. He (and Ken Ulman) told folks four years ago that we should examine the process by which people are elected to the board of education.  And now… well, you know.  He organized a bipartisan town hall meeting on education issues after hearing the many concerns of constituents in our community.  And he supports those who are less fortunate, all while co-chairing one of the most powerful committees in Annapolis.  But bet you don’t know all of that.  If you did, you’ve been paying attention because Frank probably would not tell you this.  You go, Frank.

Reverend Dr. Robert Turner-  First off, Rev. Turner is the best hugger in town.  You can be having a horrible day but then you get one of those hugs (and a blessing) and your day turns right around.  No, seriously.

Not only is Rev. Turner the dynamic pastor at St. John Baptist, but he is also a community activist extraordinaire.  He’s a member of PATH, the AACR, the AA Coalition, and probably some other groups that I’m forgetting.  He stands up for what is right and demands that others do the same.  We are lucky to have him in Howard County.

PS- With him, you also get his awesome wife, Kim, who I’m sure delivered some reader’s baby!  #powercouple

Victoria Gastro Pub/Manor Hill Brewing/Food Plenty–  So they already had me with Victoria’s.  Those damn fries, super cobb salad (sans the meat) and the good wine list.  Then the Marriner family started brewing beer on their farm in Ellicott City.  Now, I’m not a beer person but it’s local beer folks! And I’ve heard the stuff is good.  And now they are on track to open a restaurant in Clarksville in 2016!  A restaurant featuring farm and comfort food.  Uh..yum.  Can’t wait to eat there…and maybe I’ll get hooked on something besides those damn, addictive fries.

Jon Weinstein-  It’s no secret about who I supported in the D1 primary race in 2014.  But a couple of months ago, I sent Jon a note thanking him for his excellent work in the district that I live (and mostly play) in.  Someone wrote me and said, “Jon deserves a slot on your Most Fascinating list. Look at all the good work he’s doing on the Council!”  And I agree.  Whether it be co-signing Vanessa Atterbeary’s bill re: board of education elections, advocating for Elkridge folks who are downright pissed about noise from BWI-TM airport, or creating a fund to support after school activities, Jon has been on it.  And on it is what you want from your councilperson.

Special note:  

This is a little lazy but I think these two bills are important to mention again.  The following is from something I posted in November about two bills that have been filled to address some major community concerns related to education.

Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary’s bill would ensure geographic diversity on the Howard County Board of Education by electing five board of education members by district (the 5 council districts) and two at-large.  Currently only council districts 1,4,5 are represented on the school board and all seats are elected at large.  Shouldn’t all districts be represented?  Shouldn’t BoE members be accountable to the constituents in their general area while making decisions for the entire county?  Shouldn’t it be a bit easier to run a BoE campaign?  Yes.  Glad you agree (smile).

In a separate bill, Delegate Warren Miller is concerned about public access to information from the Howard County Public School System.  Warren and I generally are not lock step on things but this is good.  As someone who dealt with constituent concerns for seven years, timely access to information is important to the public.  Essentially, his bill places additional requirements on the school system to ensure that information is released timely and it requires the school system to consult with a court before choosing not to release interagency docs (this apparently is a huge issue).

Special shoutout to: my daughter, parents, brother and sister in law, nephew, nieces, Julie, Audra, Rebecca, Regina, Cynthia, Luzi, Sharon, Lindiwe, Kim, Lenaye, Cherisse, Angie, Larry, Rev. Turner, Calvin.  Hearts.  You keep a sister well.

So there you have it!  Let me know your thoughts.  Who did I miss?

“You used to call me on my cellphone…”

Hello, it’s me, I was wondering, If after all these years you’d like to meet to go over everything, They say that time’s supposed to heal, yeah, But I ain’t done much healing…”– Hello, Adele

This song SPEAKS to me.  It sings to me.  I hear it in my dreams.  All that.  Her voice is sick.  Plus I’m kind of like Adele, right?  I’ve been gone for a little while and boom, I’m back. With a haircut and seventeen less pounds (Is that grammatically correct?).  Minus the voice, though.  Unless you count how I sound in the shower.

So I’m here. For now.  I was feeling all kinds of pressure to get posts done more regularly.  And I’m just not going to do that to myself.  So I’m here now and I’m not sure when I’ll post again. But hopefully soon.


Let’s start with national stuff and work our way down to the local fun.

The red (IT”S ONLY RED?!) Starbucks Christmas cup- So…I’m not even sure where to start with this.  In case you don’t know what I’m talking about: http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2015/11/10/starbucks-faces-backlash-over-plain-red-holiday-cup. (One day I’ll figure out the “click here” feature. Until then, feel free to laugh out loud.).

Bottom line is that some evangelist with a following said that Starbucks hates Jesus because the cups don’t have Christmas trees, snowflakes and ornaments this year.  Then Trump, ever the opportunist, hops on the bandwagon and calls for a boycott.

I’m definitely a very spiritual person and I believe in the real reason behind Christmas.  And it has nothing to do with ornaments and trees. Right?  And, in my opinion, if you measure faith by what symbols are printed (or not printed) on a cup, something is wrong.   Am I missing something here?  If I am, I’ll listen.

A Jewish friend of mine posted this on FB, “You don’t see me complaining about the lack of blue Starbucks cups for Hanukkah.”

So, yeah.  Stop the madness, drink your coffee in the red cup, and then go do something nice for someone who is less fortunate than you.  Tis the season.

I hesitated to go here but….Greg Hardy.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if the Dallas Cowboys team took a play out of the University of Missouri playbook and decided not to play until Hardy was fired?   I know.  Don’t wake me, I’m dreaming…. (Bonus points if you know what song that is…).  It will never happen.  And that’s very sad.

We shouldn’t need photos (or videos) to be outraged about domestic violence and, at the same time, those photos paint a picture of something that many of us are fortunate enough never to see.  Or maybe choose not to see.  I’ve said this time and time again (about many things), silence is not an option.  Even if it makes you a bit uncomfortable, speak up.

Now, let’s get local.  And we should really pay attention to this stuff.

Two members of the Maryland House of Delegates have filed interesting bills to address some community concerns.

Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary’s bill would ensure geographic diversity on the Howard County Board of Education by electing five board of education members by district (the 5 council districts) and two at-large.  Currently only council districts 1,4,5 are represented on the school board and all seats are elected at large.  Shouldn’t all districts be represented?  Shouldn’t BoE members be accountable to the constituents in their general area while making decisions for the entire county?  Shouldn’t it be a bit easier to run a BoE campaign?  Yes.  Glad you agree (smile).

Friends in Oakland Mills, Long Reach, Kings Contrivance, Jessup, Laurel, Savage and others in districts 2 and 3 may want to pay close attention to this one!  You can read more here: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/ellicott-city/ph-ho-cf-school-board-restructure-1022-20151016-story.html

Oh.. and I like it! Well…  I love it!  But I’m sure you already knew that (wink): http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-09-29/news/bs-ho-ulman-board-20110929_1_dyer-and-other-members-board-members-county-executive-ken-ulman

In a separate bill, Delegate Warren Miller is concerned about public access to information from the Howard County Public School System.  Warren and I generally are not lock step on things but this is good.  As someone who dealt with constituent concerns for seven years, timely access to information is important to the public.  Essentially, his bill places additional requirements on the school system to ensure that information is released timely and it requires the school system to consult with a court before choosing not to release interagency docs (this apparently is a huge issue).  You can read some more on this too:


So…What to do? What to do?  You can lend you voice to the conversation (or even just listen) as there is a public hearing on these bills (and a few more) on December 1, 2015 at 7:00pm at the Banneker Room in the George Howard Building (3430 Courthouse Drive for the navigation system).

Get your popcorn out, folks as all of this stuff surely will make for an interesting Board of Education race in 2016!  I’ve already met a few candidates and I hope they will be at this meeting on the 1st.

Hello, how are you?, It’s so typical of me to talk about myself, I’m sorry, I hope that you’re well…”

RIP Nana.

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