Wednesday, January 21, 2015

...2014, 2015, 2016...


...was a really good year filled with so many new experiences. I worked with and learned from some great people doing great work in our community. I traveled to new places where I saw stars I've never seen before, walked along a landscape that seemed more alien than Earthly, and fell in love with a new city. I also got to drive a fast car and gradually push my limits.

Yellowstone National Park

....began with exciting progress for HowGirlsCode, which began as a casual thing in my home a few years ago. The local opportunities for girls to learn computer science are expanding, which is a very good thing for us all. (Like our Facebook page to learn more about our after school programs.)

...holds big plans for my family. I'm talking super-huge, amazing, life-changing plans. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it. I'm also up to my eyeballs in research about it and unsure of how to write more about these plans. So, stay tuned. the year I become mother to a teenager. Wait, what?


...will mark my 20th high school reunion. I don't even know how this time thing works anymore.

...will be another important year for my family, if all goes as planned. It will be a year of exploring, persisting, growing, and transitioning.

One step at a time.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Tao of Zoom

In The Tao of Pooh, author Benjamin Hoff uses Winnie and his Hundred-Acre Wood friends to explain Taoist principles. Winnie demonstrates "effortless doing" and an openness to experiences while Eeyore, Owl, and Rabbit exemplify various knowledge-mindsets that lead to overthinking, boasting, and fault-finding.

I recently had an opportunity to see just how "open to experiences" I could be when I attended the two-day M School at the BMW Performance Driving Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

It was a gift from The Man of the House that brought me to Spartanburg, not any burning desire to drive 150-mph then braking hard before entering a turn. I mean, I get car sick driving myself around suburbia, so I was sure I'd get sick on the track. Still, I love the idea of performance driving and I wanted some lessons. The Man of the House, who often knows me better than I know myself, took the "go big or stay home" approach to setting me up with those lessons.

I'm so glad he did.

We began with some classroom instruction about turn navigation, tire grip, and where to put our hands on the steering wheel (hint: it's not 10-and-2). Then we went out to the track to apply our new knowledge.

I got car sick on the first exercise of the day, which is why attending M School is one of the more improbable things I've ever done. I've been prone to motion sickness since early childhood. I have 30-some years of practice at it, and I've learned that if it moves, I will get sick on it. I also have learned tricks for nipping it in the bud (fresh air) and for preventing it altogether (don't move). I took a lot of breaks during the two days of driving, which seemed to cause the instructors some worry that I wasn't having a good time. But I was. I was having a great time.

The best times behind the wheel were when I was in a state of effortless doing. Daniel Pink would call it flow. It was an experience of instinctual action, not thought-based action. The key to that in driving is looking ahead to where you want to be, and constantly adjusting that gaze as you approach that place. If you are rounding a curve, you ought to be looking toward the exit of the turn, not the guardrail on the left. The car follows the eyes.

The worst times (which weren't bad, just not really effective) were when I was caught up in extra thinking. Obviously, you do have to think and focus as you drive fast on a slick round of polished concrete, as you approach a 90-degree turn at 100-mph, but to overthink it slows you down, at a minimum, and can confuse you into a dangerous situation. In my case, those confused and adrenaline-fueled fearful moments made me sicker than spinning out on the skid pad.

I am an improbable M School student. I am neither a daredevil nor a racing-enthusiast. I like my comfort zone considerably, thank you very much. I am not competitive. I like to race my own race.

Racing my own race is what I did, and I was happy to do it. My pace is my pace; I do warm up to things, but in my time. Some of my classmates came out hard and fast, made mistakes, then slowed to avoid repeating those mistakes. That's one way to go. Some others, myself included, gradually worked toward the limits (of grip, of speed, etc.). We all had fun. We all learned.

Slightly car sick and loving it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Time, Talent, Treasure, Thanks

Today is Giving Tuesday, a day dedicated to philanthropy. For me, it's also a time of giving thanks.

Thank you to A-OK Mentoring-Tutoring and the Howard County Conservancy for the opportunity to use my time to teach children. There is nothing more fulfilling to me than helping children learn and thrive.

Thank you to Leadership Howard County for the opportunity to hone my talents and use them in support of the cause most dear to my heart - improving the lives of children.

Thank you to the Children's Alopecia Project and the National Alopecia Areata Foundation for serving me and my family so well. I need you in my life and am so grateful you are there.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Howard County Math Festival - November 18

 Math isn't about solving for "x", but rather about searching for "why." 
STEMulating Minds, the local nonprofit led by science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals that brings us the annual Howard County STEM Festival will host their second Howard County Math Festival next week, on Tuesday, November 18th from 6:30-9:00 pm at Centennial High School. (Details here:

The quoted link (linked quote?) above comes from Sara Toth's Howard County Times article about last year's event. It sums up co-founder David Gertler's view on mathematics and why it's exciting for kids and families.

There are presenters and activities geared to all grade levels. One particular favorite of mine is the How Girls Code group. This computer club is in two elementary schools now and plans to grow. Check them out in the elementary school section.

The schedule includes activities led by the Peabody Institute, the Mall in Columbia, and the Maryland State Police. They all use math in fun and probably unexpected ways. Go find out how on Tuesday night!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Getting It Done: HoCo Non-Profits

One of the things I love about living in Howard County is how many people and institutions embody the spirit of The West Wing's President Bartlet asking, "What's next?" The non-profit community here particularly has the spirit of "let's do this" in spades.

That's what makes an event this Wednesday night so exciting. The Columbia Democratic Club is hosting an open-to-all panel discussion on The State of Nonprofits in Howard County. The panelists include:

Bita Dayhoff, President of the Community Action Council of Howard County

Beverly White-Seals, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Howard County

Joan Driessen, Executive Director of the Association of Community Services of Howard County

Mickey Gomez, Executive Director of the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County

I've heard three of the four of these leaders speak, and you are in for a treat if you go. I'm disappointed I can't go myself.

The meeting is this Wednesday, November 12th at 7:30 p.m. at the Jeffers Hill Neighborhood Center, 6030 Tamar Drive, Columbia.

Find out how things are getting done, then ask, "What's next?"


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Let's Get It Done

I woke up on the day after Election Day with a deep feeling of blindsided loss.

This is not the country I know. This is not the state I know. This is not the county I know.

Well, that just goes to show you I don't know some things.

I may be a bleeding heart liberal and a lifelong Democrat, but I am not a partisan. I mean, I've never been into the team sport aspects of political parties. I give serious considerations to serious candidates, regardless of party. Still, I took my county's and my state's big-D bona fides for granted.

Thinking about that as I drank my coffee, I felt a bit of clarity. None of the politics behind the election results matter. None of the polls or the think pieces about what Dems did wrong or what the GOP did right matters to me. Not right now.

I know what I stand for. I know what problems concern me most, and all I want is to see them solved. I don't care about credit. I don't care who does it. I just want it done. I want people to have food and shelter and recreation. I want people to earn wages on which they can live and thrive. I want people to have health care. I want excellent schools for all children.

I don't care who does it. I just want it done.

How can I help?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Connect Four: Howard County Board of Education Edition

Connect Four

Remember the game Connect Four? Each player takes a turn dropping a token in a column. The goal is to get four of your tokens in a row, either vertically or horizontally or diagonally. There are six slots in each column, seven in each row. Three in a row is nice, but not enough to win the game.

The polls are open, so it's time to "connect four" candidates with seats on the Howard County Board of Education. There are seven adult members of the Board, so most Board votes require four to pass. (There is a student member of the Board who has limited voting privileges, and only high school students can vote to elect that member.)

Many people don't know much about how the Board of Education works, let alone who sits on the Board. Unless you have a strong interest in education policy, it's hard to get excited about watching Board meetings or chatting with members at a Coffee and Conversation event.

I do, however, have a strong interest. I am an educator and a parent and I care a whole lot about public education. I am fortunate to have the time to watch the Board meetings and read the policy proposals and write to Board members and serve on committees. Their jobs are not easy. They must set the vision for the school system, incorporate the needs of various stakeholders into their decisions, and above all look out for the best interests of students and teachers.

At the League of Women Voters of Howard County forum, the candidates were asked tough and important questions. Some candidates just seemed to piggy-back off what others said. Some have served on the Board before and have neither the temperament nor the voting record I'm looking for this year. Some gave responses that made me wonder if they even understand the basic issues at play in public education today. I can't recommend those folks for this office.

We have eight candidates. We get to choose four on our ballots. Here are my recommendations, in alphabetical order:

You can click on their names to read about their experience and vision for serving on the Board. Cynthia Vaillancourt is the only one of these four candidates whom I know from before this election season. She has served the students, families and teachers of HCPSS very well in her first term and we deserve to have her serve us again for another four years.

I am judging Bess Altwerger, Zaneb Beams, and Dan Furman by their statements in a few candidate forums. At the forums, these three candidates stood out to me, along with Cindy Vaillancourt, as people who "get it". They get that there are areas ripe for a big improvement for our students (for example, school start times). They get that standards are important for high quality education, but that testing programs and the ways the test scores are used have more of an influence on a student's education than the standards. They get that these tests can actually damage instruction as is the case with reading. They get that for the majority of students and families, their experiences with HCPSS are good, if not great, but that the environment of working through challenges with families also needs to be good. In short, they get what it means to be respectful and empathetic to those having the hardest time. They see how policies will impact all, and they will speak up to protect those whose needs ought to be accounted for.

That's why the Howard County Education Association endorsed these four candidates, too.

They are smart, caring, and will truly serve our students well. Join me in voting for Altwerger, Beams, Furman, and Vaillancourt for Board of Education.