Saturday, November 28, 2015

Charleston - A Full Day

Three or four years ago, I could barely handle an hour of physical activity. My foot, coming off five surgeries, was a painful reminder at every step. I was scared of encouraging more bone spurs and neuromas. Every twinge of pain made me think I was bringing on my next surgery.

Today, I cleared the 10,000 step mark around 2 PM.

In all honesty, we did drive to Hominy Grill - they open at 9 and people start lining up at 8:30. Knowing it would be a long day, we were told to drive there and big shocker - parking was free.

Breakfast was delicious and Luke's shrimp and grits made him a happy camper. Me, less adventurous, well...I loved the jam and biscuits.

Our tour was at 11 and we had plenty of time to return to the hotel and walk around Tradd St. The homes are lovely and later we were told that many people hold these as trophy homes. I felt a sense of emptiness. (Trust me, when you've door-knocked, you have a sense for no one at home.)

At 11, we met up with our tour guide, Ed Macy. We'd heard great things and we were not disappointed. He interacted with Lil and balanced being funny with being serious. He told us about a time he'd heard a tour guide in the 1970s discuss how "slaves were part of the family." That has continued to bother him and I appreciated that he recognized his neighbors' myths at an early age.

After the tour, we walked several blocks to the ferry for Ft. Sumter. It was such a gorgeous day. I was wearing shorts and people were shedding their coats & scarves like they had dressed for a Maryland November day. 70s in Charleston. Barely a cloud in the sky.

Dinner was at Cru Cafe - we had gotten seats at the chef's table. Luke had a scallop appetizer with shrimp in a tomato-based broth. I had a pork tenderloin that was so tender. But more importantly, we struck up a conversation with a neighbor who was dining alone.

As we walked back, I saw a cab slowing down by us. Like we looked like tired tourists.

But we weren't. Instead, we were looking at the architecture, the single houses, the "doors" and the church steeples.  I was enjoying a walk that five years ago seemed impossible.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Our Curse on Epcot

It rains periodically in Central Florida. Specifically when we visit Epcot Center.

When I was a kid, I hated Epcot. The area around Spaceship Earth, AKA the giant golf ball, sent me into paralysis. I don't remember the World Showcase that much except it seemed blah to me.

Discovering the different countries as a twenty-something made an impact, however. Maybe it was me learning French, going to Maryland, working in a multinational firm...I just seemed to engage in a way I hadn't before.

Oddly, Lils liked Epcot early on...she liked the supposedly emblematic costumes in each country and the different accents. Finding the Kidcot spots in the back corners of the pavilions was a special game for her. Meeting the cast members who are doing a stint in the US to work on their English, begin their careers or have an adventure is a special thing for me. They work so hard and have to deal with many nationalities - in front and behind the scenes.

Lunch & dinner in the countries are an adventure sometimes. We tried the Restaurant Marrakesh for lunch today and were entertained by Moroccan musicians and a belly dancer. Tonight, I spoke French with an Italian server and searched for the word "entre."

As always, the rain. We got to the Italian restaurant early and had prosciutto & wine in the wine cellar. It was just a drizzle at that point. When we finished our dinner, the Illuminations fireworks show began. Lil went out to watch and when I followed her, I got drenched. She didn't care and I didn't either.

Then we walked out of Epcot in the rain & of course, we were in one of the farthest spots from the entrance. The rain became a downpour as we reached the car.

Now we are watching the Long Ranger in our room with the balcony door open as the clouds empty. Lil's favorite way to finish a night at Disney is watching a movie while it storms.

Stay safe in the rain!

Monday, November 16, 2015

High Maintenance

No, the title's not referring to me...

Today my sinuses are reminding me they're still operational. The 75 degree weather is probably partially to blame. But what I did yesterday is also, methinks.

My papa Bill manages the food booths at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in addition to his myriad other volunteer activities there and elsewhere. His favorite part of the year is when he answers the phones at the fair office when the fair is happening. The questions he hears are ridiculous.

Anyway, the Laytonsville Lions Club, of which he is a part, had volunteered to staff the food booth for, wait for it, the Capital Cat Fanciers. This is ironic, because Papa Bill despises cats, unless they are working in the barn. Otherwise, he thinks they are annoying as hell and makes that abundantly clear when he is at my house. "Get away, damn cat" is probably said five times in an hour of his presence here. (Although I think he has a begrudging non-dislike for Disney.)

What is also amazing is that my husband allowed me to go to a cat show. He made sure I was carrying a small purse so I could not smuggle any new friends home. Luke strongly believes in a one cat per person rule for our family. Introducing a new one means someone has to go. And yes, we would all three of us say Beckham. But he will probably outlive Disney (they're six years apart), because that's how annoying Beckham is.

Also amazing, Luke didn't have a sneezing fit or watery eyes. He doesn't take his Zyrtec regularly. I do, but I still think part of my congestion is all the kitties. We're both allergic, but I didn't encounter any Russian Blues, which really affect me.

We enjoyed the Maine Coon cat that was the size of a small collie. Same coloring too. There was a four-month-old kitten that I definitely wanted to take home. He was a little nervous as it was his first show. The judges at the show also impressed us as they explained the criteria for assessing the cats. It was hard to follow along sometimes or see why certain cats weren't winners. We spent a couple of hours running from ring to ring to see the long-hairs and the kittens as they went through the multiple rounds.

At dinner last night at Mom & Bill's favorite restaurant, Italian Pines, we were discussing the potential for any of our cats to qualify for a show. More than just the qualifying - but the serenity of these cats. They get introduced to the circuit at four months old, if they're better than pet quality. A woman with two fluffy six-month old Himalayans said their brother was "petted out." "You can just tell immediately if they're pets."  They weren't scared, one was very playful (not a perfect Himalayan) and just sprawled out. She said she has to wash them THREE times/week. They were absolutely gorgeous.

But my mom said Disney could be a show cat. So as I was brushing my teeth this morning, while Disney is halfway in the sink drinking water (it's Luke sink, not mine), I allowed myself to dream of taking my cat to a cat show. How I'd sit there brushing Disney. How he's too fat. How his tail has a crick at the end, probably from birth.

He may not be show quality, but he's high quality when it comes to love & low maintenance when it comes to grooming. He's sleeping on his back next to me, dreaming of chasing mice or birds with his front paws twitching and his back paws quivering.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When a plan doesn't come together

Today, this blog post was published by our superintendent. As of yesterday, my middle schooler has used her Ipod for the following: playing games when she's finished lunch, playing games during lunch and using an app over the Wi-fi to text me. (She doesn't have data yet.)

Over lunch with another mom of a middle-schooler, she told me how many syllabi this year required the use of a tablet. Wow, big difference from our middle school. Her husband bought an Asus tablet for their daughter. Who came home upset upon being directed to download a crucial app for a class that was only available for...Apple devices.

This article proclaims the miracle of Howard County middle schoolers bringing their devices to school, but middle school parents would dispute this. Instead, they’re sitting at lunch with their heads focused on their screens. During classes, kids aren’t using them. At one school, when asked, a teacher said “We’re not sure what we’re doing with them yet. Maybe we’d have them scan a QR code.”

So…there’s not a plan.

Children are allowed to bring any device they want: tablet, Ipod, smartphone or Kindle. My daughter has an Ipod Touch that requires wi-fi for usage. It’s also got a three inch screen. If they scan a QR code to go to a website, her experience will differ greatly from a kid who’s using a tablet. The fact that there's no standard requirement for a smart device indicates that there's no structured plan. And for the kid that does not have a device?

Contrast this to Montgomery County Public Schools. They have been rolling out Chrome Books to their school system on a MULTI-YEAR basis. They have a plan! Our schools already have laptops that they use on a periodic basis. They have a Frequently Asked Questions sections and information on training for teachers. Our system website has information on Digital Responsibility for teachers. Our schools don't even have consistent wi-fi.

I find this lack of plan even more concerning due to a report recently by Anderson Cooper on CNN called Being 13. Kids are spending a lot of their day checking social media to see if they're getting "dissed" or if their friends are hanging out with other friends. If there's no plan, what is the point of them taking their device to school? To continue bullying each other and feeling bad about themselves?

Maybe some teachers have some ideas and that's great. But it seems like there's inconsistency throughout our country as to their usage. Our kids have plenty of ways to waste their time outside of school with electronic devices to the chagrin of their parents. Why inside too?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Shh, the baby's sleeping

Last night, I started to shush Lil. It was 9:30 and we were reading our books on the couch in the living room.

Luke was watching something in the family room, but he has his headphones. It's been our little tradition that Lil & I read on the couch before bedtime. I enjoy it as Lil tells me snippets from her day or reads me something from her book.

Something caused her to laugh and I shushed her. An instinctual reaction of Well, it's dark and Lil is upstairs sleeping so keep your voices down. But she's not, because she's in middle school and has inherited my night owl genes. Luckily, she has not gotten my Olympic ability for sleeping and gets up easily in the morning.

It just felt surreal. Where have the past 11 years gone? What will it feel like when she isn't here?

Regardless of those answers, it doesn't matter. We just have to enjoy everyday we have with each other. Wishing for her cute little baby feet means I'm not focused on the present. Nostalgia is not always a productive place.

But please do be quiet, Baby Disney is sleeping on his back next to me and from the jerks of his paws, I think he's dreaming of chasing critters.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Back-to-school worries

This will be more of a purr, than a meow. A happy, contented purr. I write this as Disney falls down to sit down next to me.

Last night, Luke & I attended the Wilde Lake back-to-school night. As I left the building, I had tears in my eyes.

Lil had come home from her first day a couple of weeks ago, saying how awesome middle school is and how awesome her teachers are.

After last night, I agree. A bunch of us from the elementary school chatted after meeting the fifth teacher. "They have so much energy." "It's just as great as Running Brook." "They are all such characters!"

I had thought about not going...Tuesday had been a very long day and I couldn't fall asleep until after 2 so I was struggling after 4-5 hours of sleep. I really, really, really need seven. I figured it would be another weird schedule with BTS. But I thought about the PTSA meeting the night before and wanting to see the awesome teachers.

In all honesty, I did not meet her health and French teachers. But her chorus, geography, science, math and English teachers were AMAAAAZZZZING.

So my tears were mostly of happiness, but there was a twinkle of sadness. That some people in this county say mean things about this school. But it was the same way at Running Brook and I saw through that. It's all about parental involvement and I'm going to try to be and stay involved during our three years at Wilde Lake.

But I am taking tonight off from any community involvement. It's my birthday!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Escaping Reality

Becoming a mother changes one's outlook on life. There were times during the Iraq War that I saw pictures of children and felt immediately dizzy with grief at what was happening around them. And disgust at my relief that my daughter was not there.

In the days following 9/11, two co-workers of mine got into a disagreement. One, a middle-aged African-American woman, and the other, a Syrian refugee/immigrant married to a Palestinian woman with family still there. They disagreed on which was worse, the violence of our American cities that disproportionately affect the black community or living with the daily threat of religious extremists blowing up buses in Israel. I just sat back and listened to two persecuted people who have lived lives I cannot imagine.

I think they were both right. I dislike my reluctance to come down on either side because I can see both points. Nobody should live in fear of losing their life, wherever they live.

This morning's Washington Post had the second scene of a photo I saw yesterday. A Turkish police officer is shown approaching the surf. Where a little boy lies face down, arms at his side in the shallow waves. How often have I seen my daughter like this, fast asleep? But he is not going to wake when the officer touches him.

The photo they printed is less disturbing and I disagree with their editorial decision. Yes, there are people who read the paper over their morning coffee and they don't want their children to see something like that.They'll probably still get pushback over the "gentler" photo of the officer carrying the tiny child. The refugees living that life don't have a choice over hiding their reality.

Apart from Piers Morgan, who wrote a scathing column this morning, hardly anybody in my Twitter feed was talking about this crisis. Instead, the majority of my feed, even politicos that usually talk about Trump, are talking about Deflate-Gate and Tom Brady. For a while, the Post had Brady on the left and a picture of refugees being manhandled. That story is the third most read as of 1:40 PM today. The refugees? Didn't make the top five cut.

Listen, I like football. And football does bring Americans together in many ways. But talking about Tom Brady's footballs for hours on end and not just on ESPN makes me sad.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Summer camps of content

As usual, Lil has been enjoying a range of summer camps from the long-lived Columbia Association Nature Camp to a couple weeks doing Ballet Intensives at her dance studio, Ballet Mobile. I loved when she achieved the next level of canoe instruction, which means she doesn't need a counselor.  I love the music and history from ballet that she brings up in the car when hearing a piece of music on the radio.

But when we arrived at Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) last week for the ending open house, we received a book of essays as the final product for Big Questions. Since the kids were doing presentations on various philosophical elements, I didn't get a chance to read it until that night. This isn't perfect, but it's pretty awesome to see what's turning over in her mind. We had fun discussing time travel, but I didn't know she had picked it for her essay topic. It turns out her instructor, Andrew Fyfe, had also written about time travel in a collection about J. J. Abrams, discussing Lost and Star Trek.

As I did, Lil is enjoying her time at CTY each summer. Sandy Spring Friends School is a great venue for it and she can't wait to return next year for her final year as a "Young Student." Maybe she'll head overseas like I did when I was 15 for an amazing summer abroad - SANS parents!

You Can’t Change the Past
Lily Coombs

§1. Introduction

There is no scientific consensus on whether time travel into the past will be possible for us in the future. But in this paper I aim to resolve the following question: “If time travel into the past turns out to be possible one day, will that mean we can change the past?” After all, if I could travel back into the past, it seems like I could then affect and change the past.

Before I get started answering whether backwards time travel makes changing the past possible, I need to lay out the several ways time travel could work. Then I will discuss in Section §3 whether on any of these methods changing the past would be possible.

§2. Methods of Backwards Time Travel

Here is a list of the three ways in which backwards time travel might turn out to work:

Method 1. It might turn out to be true that there exist parallel universes. Parallel different universes that unfold all the ways ours didn’t. If this turns out to be true, there will be parallel universe that are only slightly different from our universe and others that differ radically. One form of what we might consider backwards time travel would be to travel to a similar one of these parallel universes but arrive in their past. For example, to leave our universe in 2020 in our time machine and arrive at a similar parallel universe in the year 1939.

Method 2. Time travel might involve alternate timeline rather than parallel universes. Suppose I leave 2050 in a time machine and travel back to the year 1939. In doing this, I may cause a new timeline to splinter off from my original history. Now there will be two ways out universe unfolded, the original way from which I departed in 2020 and the new way which includes me arriving in my time machine in 1939.

Method 3. Maybe there don’t exist parallel universes for every possible way the universe can unfold. Maybe it isn’t possible for there to be more timelines beyond and alternate to the one we already know about. There is just this one universe and just this one timeline. If that is the case and if time travel turns out to be possible, then time travel would involve traveling back into the past of our own universe and our original timeline.

These seem to be the three possible ways backwards time travel could logically work if it turns out to be scientifically possible. Now I will turn to my central question concerning whether it could ever come to be discovered possible to not just travel back into the past but change the past. I can now answer this question by examining whether changing the past would be possible on any of the three methods time travel might turn out to work if time travel turns out to be possible at all.

§3. You Can’t Change the Past

It is clearly the case that you wouldn’t be changing the past if time travel turns out to work either in the way described by Method 1 or Method 2. The problem with these two methods of backwards time travel is that you are not changing your own past. In Method 1 you are changing the present of the parallel universe you went to. In Method 2 you are creating a new timeline with that new difference. But in each case, your original universe or timeline would still exist exactly as it always was before you engaged in your “time travel” antics.

So the only chance for changing the past is Method 3. In Method 3, time travel would involve traveling back into the past of our universe and be contained in the one and singular timeline of our universe. If time travel of the sort described by Method 3 turns out to be possible, couldn’t I then travel back into the past of my universe and timeline and change how it originally went? Couldn’t I go back in time from 2020 and delete the Holocaust from the history of the universe by assassinating Hitler in 1939? Sadly, no. Even on Method 3, changing the past would still be impossible.

History has already happened, you can’t change it! After all, if you were successful in changing the past of this universe and our timeline and thereby eliminating the holocaust from the history of the universe then why did you come back from the future and kill Hitler in the first place? If you kill him there would be no Holocaust and so no reason to kill this random person! You came back from the future because the Holocaust did happen (in some universe or some timeline) and you wanted to stop it for some other universe or in some other timeline. But it makes no logical sense to eliminate it from your own universe and timeline. It must exist in your universe and timeline because that’s why you are time traveling in the first place!
So how would time travel work if it turns out to work in the way described by Method 3? Wouldn’t it have to be possible to change the past if I could travel back into the past of my own universe and timeline? So let’s imagine that backwards time travel turns out to exist and that time travel turns out to work as described by Method 3. Further imagine that you enter a time machine in 2050 on a mission to stop Wilkes from shooting Lincoln. You come into the Ford’s Theater booth with your period revolver in order to fit into the era. Wilkes is getting his pistol ready. Then Wilkes gets ready to shoot, but notices something wrong with his pistol. He cocks his head to the side just as you shoot. You miss. It turns out that you shot Lincoln this whole time. Historians got it all wrong because Wilkes fled the scene. Wilkes just didn’t want to be blamed for what happened.

As my example shows, you might be able to travel back into the past of your own universe and timeline to try and change the past by preventing the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, but whatever you do will inevitably end up being something you already did in history. If you go back to stop the assassination of Lincoln, we know you fail because we know how the history of our universe and timeline unfolded. But perhaps we have it a little wrong. Perhaps it was a time traveler with bad aim that killed Lincoln. But no time traveler can change the past even if a time traveler might already be a part of our past.

§4. Conclusion
In conclusion you can’t change the past when you time travel. You can only do what you were destined to do (or else you must be really changing the past of some other universe or timeline). In the Lincoln case you were destined to kill Lincoln instead of John Wilkes Booth killing him. Also even if there aren’t alternate timelines or parallel universes, time travel can still exist but any way time travel turns out to work then it will still turn out that changing the past is logically impossible.     

Friday, July 24, 2015

More Growl than Purr?

At last night's blog party, I was discussing what to write next with a woman who's trying to gear up her blogging. I said I didn't know what to write and said that last week's post was kind of depressing. She suggested writing about something happy.

But I spoke too quickly about my previous post being sad. Yes, it discussed the sadness of loss but I hoped it focused on the positivity of the community response to loss. And it made me feel happy to share that community.

Now I'm watching the coverage of the Louisiana shooting. The anchor just mentioned being sick of having these conversations but the bright spot is learning about the heroes that emerge. It's the only bright spot.

Sometimes I think we should bet on the next spot a mass shooting will happen. Because it will. Anti-gun control nuts will say "Guns don't kill people" or "Knives kill people too, should we ban those?"

So I'm feeling grumpy and distressed.

But remembering the good time I had with fellow bloggers last night - I'm still a newbie to the community, I think I started in 2010 or 2011? - having wide-ranging discussions from Mickey's dogs to ruminations on the 2018 elections and being sad about Claire returning to Blighty.

Because I really only have control over my participation in my community. And that participation has been really meaningful and uplifting over the past few years.

I'm childless tonight, which means you can probably find me where you usually find me most days of the week that end in "day."

And hug your kids and tell them you love them as often as you can.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Community Caring

Yesterday (Tuesday), was a difficult day for the Running Brook community. But let me rewind a few years first.

When our daughter was a preschooler and we were thinking about sending her to Running Brook, a terrible tragedy occurred very close to the school. It made me nervous. There were other things, lower test scores, high transience, that bothered us.

Very simply, we were wrong. And we knew that within minutes of setting foot into that school. Maybe the test scores aren't the highest in Howard County and Lil did have a couple friends that left. Yes, it has a high FARMS percentage. But statistics don't matter and way too many people use those numbers to make snap judgments without even opening the schoolhouse door.

The last six years have been wonderful. For many reasons. Mainly teachers who love their students and their colleagues and a great principal who loves his school and his students. I am very sad that Lil is moving onto middle school.

Back to yesterday...

One of Lil's best friends lost her daddy. Very unexpected. Very shocking. Heartbreaking and too soon. He loved his daughter so much. He was always at school, smiling his joyful smile. It is a mark of his character that the church was so full, it wasn't even standing room only. More like fire code violation crowded. The overflow parking lot overflowed.

After the service, I saw one of Lil's teachers, Melissa Peyton, who accompanied our guardian angel, Ms. Bailey, on her first field trip at age 97 and her subsequent White House visit. I gave her a hug and thanked her for all she does to make Running Brook a special community. She is such a joyful person and is such a cheerleader for the school. (To be clear, MANY of the faculty were in attendance.)

She smiled in a regretful, kinda sad way and recalled the call to action the pastor had just made during his eulogy. He had talked about the need to be good to each other and showing joy to others. Being family and keeping up relationships.

My goal is to continue being part of the Running Brook community in some way and not leaving it behind. Because it has been such a part of Lil's growth for the past six years and MY growth too. It's a special place.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Washington Style Politics

I figured out I might as well pile on with the Susan Garber nomination for Planning Board.

You can read all about it here in the Sun, here in Julia's analysis, and Tom's take.

County Executive Kittleman has accused the County Council of playing politics with the nomination. Call me naive, but I believe it IS politics.

His petition to call for a yes-or-no vote on Garber garnered 185 votes according to his campaign page. And yes, there were more supporters that showed up in person to testify in favor of her appointment.

However, not everyone feels that she is qualified and word on the street is that the County Council has received many emails against her. And it's not just the developers that everyone loves to blame. (Also worth noting, both candidates for County Executive in 2014 received developer contributions.)

At this point, doesn't the inaction of the Council make it apparent that if it does go to an up-or-down vote, they would vote 4-1 against her?

Reading the agendas and minutes of the past council meetings indicates they have appointed dozens of the Executive's nominees. While certain constituencies may have gotten him elected, they did not overthrow the Democratic majority on the Council that may oppose those constituencies. Listen, I would prefer they just vote on it, but who knows why these things happen? ...Oh, right, POLITICS.

It reminds me of the George W. Bush nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court in 2005.That process went horribly too, for many reasons, and this one seems as inevitable.

(Full Disclosure: I am writing this as an individual, not as a Town Center Village Board Member.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Scheduling Summer

Now that school's out, I'm having a toddler-like reaction to the craziness of summer.

Ah, summer - time to schedule all those appointments - no need to worry about school! Yay!

On the very first Monday, I slammed two into one day. Unintentionally. My calendar on my computer is not synced with my phone. Lil wanted to go to the pool with her Nature Camp friends, which conflicted with her original dental appointment. Quick call - Monday, 4:15? That's PERFECT. Whew. Crisis avoided there.

Until the following day when I received a reminder from her orthodontist about her appointment at 4:50 on Monday.

So I prayed to the traffic gods that play with our lives on Rt. 29 everyday starting at, um, when does morning rush hour end? 10:30 AM? Can we make it from Atholton to Ellicott City in less than 15 minutes?

Also, who wants a dental cleaning followed by wire tightening? Irrelevant question, ok?

Luckily I showed up at the dentist at 3:45 and there had been a cancellation, so my crazy plan was accommodated.

Luckily for Lil, no tightening - just a check to see they can be removed. But then when to schedule that appointment? Oh, the day of her show at CCTA? Uh, no. She's Peter Pan in one of the scenes (there are multiple Pans so they can learn lines quickly in six days).

I choose 10:30 - put it in the phone, cc my husband, who actually never looks at what I send him, just accepts as "Tentative" - and move on.

Oh, right, I have a doctor's appointment that day that I didn't see on my phone.

Did I mention Disney is due for his annual exam next week? Which the hubby refuses to attend because he's afraid of the vet scolding us for how portly our 15 month old cat is...

I'm thinking of going back to paper.

Friday, June 26, 2015


I cannot be blind to the momentous history happening today - the Supreme Court's ruling in favor of the recognition of gay marriage throughout the United States.

Watching the coverage of the celebration in DC, Jim Obergefell spoke with the President and mentioned that his husband was not with him. That's the whole point of the case, actually; his husband died 20 months ago and Obergefell wanted to be listed as the surviving spouse on the death certificate.

Many people have been told no at a government office before - getting a driver's license, applying for a housing permit or trying to get a license for a small business - for a host of reasons, which include controversial topics. That's not my point today, though.

Instead, it's the perseverance of the denied. Lots of people would try once or twice and give up, assuming continued failure. My husband reminded my daughter and me of that which separated the ordinary from the extraordinary - the invention of the lightbulb.

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
Thomas A. Edison

My small inspiration was this morning during spin class. The regular instructor was interviewing a prospective teacher by having her do the first half of the hour class. Every teacher has a different style, playlist and drills.

I liked this one - she played Paradise City by Guns'n'Roses for one of the drills. It was a set of quick in-and-out-of-the-saddle intervals that were incredibly tough for me. When it ended, I was huffing and puffing. Since it was her last song of the "interview," she got down and started the mid-class water refill.

When she got to me, she said "You were awesome." I demurred, "I'm terrible at this." "No, you were doing really well and I could see that I was connecting with you and inspiring you. And I needed that, so that I could go on."

The smallest acts of perseverance can mean a lot, not just for you. Believe me, I'm not equating me challenging myself during spin class to solving societal problems. I am trying to use my little success to overcome that voice in my head saying I'm too weak and I won't make it, though.

When you want to give up, try once more. Whether you make a difference for one, or for many, like Jim Obergefell, a grieving widower, try just a little harder. You could make somebody's day, their week, or their lifetime.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Type A- Traveler

That dash is a minus.

I am pretty laidback when it comes to traveling. Ask my stepfather. When I traveled for business, domestically, I'd arrive an hour before the parking lot. International, maybe an hour and a half?

I'd be lying if I said there'd never been a freakout moment of being late. The time we left our garment bag on the parking lot shuttle...I was standing in the security line while Luke chased it down. Lil was a toddler - maybe 3? I envisioned myself flying to Puerto Rico all alone with my daughter (BWI only had one flight per day) and getting on a seven day cruise, playing the slots with one hand and holding Lil's hand with the other. (Joking - kids, not allowed in casinos. Serious  - real problem on ships that depart Puerto Rico.) Alas, Luke jumped into the airplane as they were closing the door.

"You made it! Where's the garment bag?"

"Couldn't get it."


"K, you're looking at this the wrong way. When we get to Puerto Rico, we'll go shopping. I'll rent a tux on board the ship. This is an opportunity."

Hmm. We went to Macy's, I had coupons and I found cheap, but pretty new dresses. Score!

Three weeks ago, I was not that placid. For a few hours, I was in a plane flying to Seattle, Luke was in New York and Lil was at school. In the aftermath of the Amtrak tragedy, as we discussed plans for backup, he was very relaxed.

"If I'm late or there's a problem, I'll call your parents. We'll let them know it's a possibility."

"Great idea. Except that I'm going to be WITH my parents on the PLANE."

"Oh, right."

I relived this today when I ran into a friend at the gym and she asked how everything had went.

"Kinda badly, but he didn't tell me until we met for lunch in Vancouver before getting on the ship."

Their puddle jumper got pulled for maintenance AFTER going from Baltimore to Newark and they had seconds to spare at Toronto for the connection and went to the wrong hotel. I am SO glad I did not know any of this.

But they made it and we had an awesome Alaskan cruise...partly because of the odd weather they're having...but that's another discussion. :)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dear Columbia

Dear Columbia,

I love you. I love this weekend. Every 2nd weekend of May, Maryland celebrates Preakness and Wine in the Woods. I like the horses but I'm not that keen on the infield at Pimlico.

So I spend it at Wine in the Woods in my front yard. Sometimes, it rains, but even in the rain, the canopy of the woods is somewhat protective.

Today, Luke & Lil & I enjoyed sharing the plan for the Chrysalis groundbreaking this year. And so many people were excited to hear that this area would be an Arts Park.

Thank you Columbia for your excitement!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Shopping trip

I will admit, given the date of this blog, I have a tween.

She is a dancer. She likes wearing clothes that are not confining. For a performance, yes. She'll do what's necessary.

In real life, she prefers comfy clothes. Yoga pants, leggings, no buttons, easygoing arms...

Today, I went shopping for some summer clothes for Lil.

Do you know how hard that is? I'm not talking about Lil's requirements. I'm talking about the Howard County school system dress code. My friend Julia has discussed it over at as she's been dealing with the dress code for her daughter.

All of the stores are stocking tank tops for girls. It was hard to find t-shirts. Lil doesn't wear sweaters so how is she going to cover up her shoulders? Why the heck does she need to?

I had a discussion with an executive once at a firm I worked for regarding whether we were really in need of business casual dress versus business suits. I think I responded about the heat on my western window desk and that I didn't have any client interaction.

I cannot equate performance with clothing. I can equate perception with clothing. I've never been a big fan of Nikki Minaj, but this article completely changed my perception of her.

When you're in school, playing on the basketball court, running around, wearing sneakers and comfy clothes seems pretty reasonable. In a boardroom, wearing a suit seems reasonable.  But wearing a sleeveless dress is not offensive.

Wearing a three-piece suit in August in Washington, though, does seem questionable. A tank top in school for a 10 year old does not.

Friday, May 1, 2015

It's about the kids

Last week, I attended a panel discussion on women's issues hosted by the Howard County Commission on Women and the League of Women Voters. After the panel finished discussing their personal experiences and perspectives, we broke into smaller discussion groups. I participated in the Employment and the Government/Public Service groups.

Why am I thinking about that right now, you may ask.

Because my friend posted a picture of her son protesting in Baltimore City with her.

The two of us both have tweens that are only children. As such, they get dragged along to a lot of our community activities...Campaigning, political meetings, food banks and protests, etc.

On Saturday, we were talking about how we can increase female involvement in public service. One way, our group decided, is to say sometimes it's OK if kids attend these types of activities. I made Lil sit through a Planning Board meeting last fall about Inner Arbor because I needed to testify. Yes, she had some homework and electronics when she finished her book.

Civics is a very abstract thing for kids. But I try to demonstrate that I, an average citizen, have the right to speak, and that I, as a Stay-at-Home mom, have the ability to speak. Believe me, she gets bored sometimes, but in the car afterwards, she always has a takeaway. 

Today, she worked at a food bank in Sandtown with me and my friend. She saw a diverse group of people working for their city. Delegates, college kids, faith leaders, friends and strangers, just coming together to help a beleaguered community. My friend and I share the belief that kids can play a part in that.

Civic engagement can be learned at any age.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

War zone next door

I went to turn onto Riggs around 2 PM today. I couldn't because the National Guard was there with guns and armored vehicles.

On another street, the Baltimore Police had cordoned off vehicle and, it seemed, pedestrian traffic.

At the basketball court I went to for the food bank, the MD police helicopter was hovering above the area for a couple hours.

It seemed like war preparation. People were just walking home from school and sitting on their stoops. A friend commented on a post of mine about the baseless arrests in Baltimore that it seemed more like a Middle East dictatorship.

Nevertheless, the spirit and hard work of this community were in clear evidence today. They do not deserve this war zone. In the greatest country on earth, we should be making sure these conditions don't exist. We treat our animals better than this, why don't we treat people better?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Filling the bucket

Two things happened yesterday that spotlighted something I try to avoid in my life...being known as a negative complaining person. I do complain about lots, like the ants in the shower at the gym, people on their cellphones in the bathroom, slow drivers, etc. When I complain to the people at the gym at the ants, I try to be neutral - "Hey, there are ants." Not "Hey there are ants and this place is disgusting and what the hell are you doing about it because there are ants!"

But I was talking to a friend about a mutual acquaintance that we were with recently. Apropos of nothing, she said "Wow, she is SO negative. She just complained the entire time we were together." I said, "Yes, I found it very draining." My friend said, "That's exactly the right word."

My daughter's school awards ceremony reminded me of that later on as one of the awards she got was the class Bucket Filler award. Quick lesson: positive actions and words fill a bucket while negative ones deplete a bucket. Her classmates voted her as this quarter's bucket filler.

When I spoke to her later, I asked her which award did she think was the most surprising or which made me proud, etc. She said the Bucket Filler award and I said I liked that one the best too.

I'm not a natural bucket filler. I often say or do things that don't even occur to me as being negative because I see them through my Kirstycat filter rather than through the rest-of-the-world filter. I don't go out of my way to invite people to do things as I assume I'll be rejected - I'm rather shy/unconfident in that perspective. People are often surprised to find out that I'm barely an Extrovert on the Myers-Briggs test.

My daughter has been filling my bucket at home too. Helping make dinner, making me laugh when I'm down and cleaning up cat hairballs. (VERY useful!) She is so much better socially than I was at her age (actually probably at any age).

(You know who is not a Bucket Filler? Derby cat. Because he is making it very difficult to type this post. When I try to push him off me, he grunts/growls at me. And then returns.)

My fortune cookie today was completely wrong - I am NOT quiet and unobtrusive. But hopefully I'm not loud, obtrusive AND constantly negative.

You know how you could be a bucket filler tomorrow? VOTE in the Columbia elections. (Of course, only if you live in Columbia.)  Meeting quorum in our villages is not easy even if there isn't a contested elections.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Oakland Mills elections

Do you know what Saturday is? If you live in Columbia, I hope you do. Wilde Lake has already put up signs all over Twin Rivers promoting this weekend's elections and they don't even have a contested one this year! In fact, they need a fifth board member and info is at the above link.

Town Center didn't have a contested election either...Which means that I've been able to spend the past couple of months learning about my village board in preparation for my official term to begin next week.

My friends in Oakland Mills, however, have a VERY contested election. It's a stark contrast. People who make up lies about the other candidates and have been serving their current term with an unhealthy side of NIMBYism. Exhibit A: How do we get rid of the FARMS kids from the Oakland Mills schools?

Several good people - Bill Woodcock, Marcia White, Fred Eiland and Daniel Kirk-Davidoff - believe in an inclusive village. One that leverages existing spaces and works to build relationships not destroy them. Although I don't know Fred and Daniel personally, I do know Bill and Marcia.

I had the chance to walk three miles, I mean help out my friend Bill Woodcock and his slate as he canvassed the Stevens Forest area of Oakland Mills. I've known Bill for a few years now through the blogging community and he has great ideas for his village.

From the moment I met Marcia during last year's campaign season, I immediately liked her. Smart, generous and pragmatic. She also has a positive attitude toward the challenges facing the village. She builds relationships with people, she doesn't tear them down.

They both have been an avid supporter of small business in the Village Center. They have worked on Columbia Town Center issues, envisioning a more symbiotic relationship between our two villages. I appreciate their time and energy toward making Oakland Mills run more smoothly and without the rancor that have marked recent years' boards.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dinner is served

One of the reasons I hate making dinner is the coordination. When do you start the meat? When do you start the vegetables? Only 1 time has that actually occurred disastrously... But it was Thanksgiving. I put the thermometer in the wrong spot.

Most of the time, I get it right. More often, my daughter is helping me cook. Which I love.

Tonight, all 3 of us were cooking and working in the kitchen and it was lively and lovely.

Plus dinner tasted good and the kid asked for seconds of everything. In the busy life of ballet & community, I need to remember how much I love this, rather than opting for the easy restaurant meal.

Oh, and the senior cat was on the prowl for leftovers... Always a sign of approval!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Fresh starts

During my work on last year's campaign, I mainly used my voice for Tom and secondarily for other candidates on the Democratic ticket. I'm proud to say some of my friends won and sad to say some lost their elections in November. We've still got fall-out from some of those results, Exhibit A: Potentially unnecessary cuts to teaching staff from an odd budget that cuts people but adds technology. I would have looked for other sources or maybe added another $20 million in bonds. Investing in our schools has property and transfer tax returns, but anyway...

That is to say is that I had been representing others and not myself. Not anymore!

Although my term on the Board does not begin officially until May 1, 2015, the current Town Center Village Board has already welcomed me to its meetings and discussion - no voting, of course, but they have included me.

I look forward to working with this board over the next two years. Many issues - Inner Arbor, increasing awareness amongst residents, working with the county on Downtown Columbia development - have drawn me to want a seat at this table.

I have a lot to learn, but I should have more confidence in myself. As my daughter and husband often tell me, I have picked up a lot in the last few years about Columbia and Howard County. And I've made a lot of friends that are great resources to fill in my gaps!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Side benefits

As many of you may know, my husband has been working everyday since Christmas. More than 15 years and it's never been like this.

My girl has always loved her daddy. I could cue a country song or a dozen.

But the benefit of my husband being away has been the strengthening of us two girls. When necessary, I will not be her friend, but her mom. But the last couple months have been a lot of companionship. Her worrying about me. Me worrying about her.

This week, we've been shopping for pointe shoes. I vaguely know they are and how beautiful a ballerina looks when on pointe. But I know exactly negative 5% about what they involve. The sewing. The lambs' wool. The ribbons.

Ballet Mobile's director and prima ballerina have been so amazing in helping us. They directed us to Dance Supplies Etc. where they spend a lot of time fitting the shoe. I think we were there for an hour today. And Ms. Susan was inspecting Lil's form in each of the shoes and for that, I could cry. They want to make sure Lil is ready for this next big step.

And the side benefit is that when Lil got into the car, she couldn't stop talking about the box, her toes and her Russian pointe shoes.

I have that amazing moment when she went on pointe indelibly printed on my brain. And in the cloud. And most importantly, in my heart.