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Local students are stepping up, speaking out and marching for a safe education

       Right here in Annapolis, students are assembling behind their colleagues in Parkland to speak up for their right to a safe education. 
      Mackenzie Boughey, a sophomore at the Severn School in Severna Park, watched with rising unease as the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, overwhelmed television and social media. First she felt horror. Then inspiration. 
       Seeing people her own age and younger standing up for the friends they lost, Boughey decided enough was enough. If a lone gunman could end and change so many lives in a small, safe town like Parkland, was any place safe?
      That was a question worth talking about. Every place. 
      The determined 17-year-old athlete, bagpipe player and leader stepped up to help organize the March for Our Lives rally in Annapolis March 24 to encourage gun control and a safe future for students. Boughey sought to create a space where students, teachers and parents could safely express their outrage, ask for change — and be taken seriously.
      Severn School students Maya Rogalski, Alexandra Szynal, Maddi Meyers and Lauren Carlson joined the first planning committee meeting on February 24, two weeks after the shooting.
 
Preparation or Prevention 
      All schools prepare for fires. Some schools practice for tornadoes or hurricanes. In the 1950s, students hid under their desks during bomb threat drills. In the early 2000s, sniper attacks had Chesapeake regional schools on high alert as students took shelter indoors.
      In 2018, students are practicing active shooter drills to be ready for a rogue gunman on campus. There is a history of preparing kids for danger in school. In this case, the danger could be preventable.
      Boughey’s Severn School is working hard on emergency preparedness and had an active shooter drill scheduled before the massacre in Parkland. She appreciates her school’s dedication to safety.
     “It’s nice to know the school was thinking about preparing us before, but it shouldn’t be necessary,” Boughey says. “Our main goal is to fix it now before anything else happens.” 
 
Something Else Happens
     To that goal Boughey and fellow organizers are in support of changes that are radical in term of political achievability: improving background checks, raising the purchasing age to 21, limiting semi-automatic weapons and banning assault rifles altogether.
      Representatives for the National Rifle Association have been outspoken about adding firearms to the equation instead of restricting them. From the County Council to the White House, many elected officials agree with that stand.
      On March 1, President Trump met with NRA Lobbyist Chris Cox. After their meeting, Cox tweeted: “POTUS supports the Second Amendment, supports strong due process and doesn’t want gun control.”
      Arming teachers makes guns the solution, not the problem, Boughey says. 
      “Teaching is a hard enough job without adding guns,” Boughey says, reflecting on her father’s work as a public school teacher. He is not interested in carrying a weapon in school, nor does he have the time for the training required.
       Opinions like these — all sorts of opinions — are what Boughey hopes will be shared at the Annapolis March from Lawyers Mall to Susan Campbell Park.     “This is about the students. We will be heard,” she says. 
       “The aim of the march,” she says, “is not about politics.” The conversation has turned political and angry on too many occasions. Organizers want to make sure the march does not go that way. Positive thinking and forward movement is their intention.
      Opinions like Boughey’s are not safely expressed in some places. Movements like this march open themselves to criticism and intimidation.
        On March 24, Boughey hopes Lawyers Mall will be a safe space for area students to think and wish and pray out loud. 
 
Turning the Tide
       The kids have their supporters. 
       Students left school by the thousands on Wednesday March 14, one month after the massacre in Parkland. Demonstrations lasted 17 minutes to honor each victim killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. As school administrators considered how to react, many principals, parents and teachers were supportive. 
       Parents are uniting behind their children to say enough is enough. On March 13, 7,000 shoes were laid on the lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to honor victims lost to gun violence. Calling on Congress to take action, protesting parents held signs that read #NotOneMore.
       “I’m so glad to see students standing up for what they believe. People are quick to dismiss them because they’re students and they’re young. But I think they’re underestimating them,” says Mackenzie’s mother. Heather Boughey. “I’m so impressed with the students from Parkland. They’re well spoken, well researched and are fighting for a change that is desperately needed.”
        There’s a long path ahead for any gun-control legislation to pass federally. But the steps already taken by the state of Florida show that on a smaller scale, changes can be made. The new Florida gun bill raises the minimum age for purchase to 21, bans bump stocks and creates a longer waiting period during the background check process.
      It doesn’t, however, ban assault rifles, and it allows the arming of school personnel.
       Legislation has a long way to go. But as far as it goes, change has come largely because of student activists like Boughey.
       In Maryland, Congressman Anthony Brown welcomed the planning committee, as well as representatives from Moms Demanding Action, for an open discussion about school safety and gun control. 
       On February 27, Brown and Pennsylvania colleague Brian Fitzpatrick introduced a bipartisan bill to tighten gun safety by raising the purchasing age for assault rifles.
      “This common-sense bipartisan bill is a critical first step that closes a dangerous loophole in our gun laws,” Brown said. 
      Both congressmen say they will do what they can to gather support for the bill from their colleagues. Their goal is to prevent Parkland from ever happening again.
 
The March
       On March 24, students will have their safe space. From 11am to 1pm, the March For Our Lives gathers in downtown Annapolis, beginning at Lawyers Mall.
        For the first hour, ideas will be in the air as speakers share their thoughts on gun control. 
      Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley will be there, saying a few words in support of the march.
      There’ll representatives from Moms Demanding Action, a powerful grassroots organization founded in response to the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012. Speakers from Moms Demanding Action will explain common-sense solutions, including legislative solutions, to gun violence. 
     The father of a Virginia Tech survivor has been invited. Students, teachers and school administrators will be there, and, organizers hope, elected officials who have the power of action.
      After the speeches, the marchers make their way down to Susan Campbell Park at City Dock to sign a banner petition for gun-blocking legislation. There’ll be voter registration for students who’ll be 18 by Maryland’s primary election in June and the general election in November. 
      In the midst of the nationwide debate, Boughey and her peers stand resolute: “Whether we fix this or not,” she says, “we’ll still be here fighting.”

Pysanky, the jewel-like Ukrainian eggs, keep the world in balance

     As an American of Ukrainian heritage, Coreen Weilminster cherishes the Easter traditions with which she was raised. Especially when it comes to the ancient art of pysanky, eggs decorated using a wax-resist method similar to batik. In design, in legend and in Christian tradition, these eggs have kept alive a gentle folk art reflecting the Ukrainian nation.
     “I grew up in the anthracite region of northeastern Pennsylvania, in a one-horse town called Nesquehoning,” explains Weilminster, 47, of her legacy. “Immigrants flocked to the area just before World War I to work the mines, among them my grandmother’s family.” With them came pysanky.
       The term pysanka (in its plural form, pysanky) is derived from the Ukrainian words pysaty, meaning to write, and kraska, meaning color. The process is delicate, the product dazzling. A special tool called a kitska — basically, a funnel attached to a stick — is first heated over a candle flame and then filled with beeswax, which quickly melts. Using the molten wax as ink, one writes (as Ukrainians say) a design on a raw egg, then dips the egg in dye. The dying can be repeated in darker colors, each round of wax sealing a different color on the shell. In the final stage, the wax is removed to reveal the finished pysanka.
      Weilminster’s grandmother came from a family of 13 children. During the Lenten weeks prior to Easter, three of her sisters (Weilminster’s great-aunts) spent evenings in the kitchen crafting jewel-like pysanky. It was a magical time. From watching these women, Weilminster learned the process. At the age of 16, she was ready. She picked up a kitska and created her first egg. 
      A pysanky artist was born.
 
The Power of the Egg
       Since pagan times, the tradition of decorating eggs with beeswax and dyes was widespread in Europe, especially among Slavic peoples. Archaeologists have unearthed ceramic decorated eggs in Ukraine dating back to 1,300bce. Many pysanky made today feature motifs adapted from the pottery designs of an ancient tribe of people, the Trypillians, who lived in Eastern Europe from roughly 5,200 to 3,500bce. References to pysanky abound in their art, poetry, music and folklore.
      Trypillians led peaceful lives as farmers and artisans. Like most early humans, they worshipped the sun as the source of all life. In the land that is now Ukraine, eggs decorated with symbols from nature became central to spring rituals and sun-worship ceremonies. The logic was simple. The yolk of an egg symbolized the sun and its white the moon. In winter, the landscape appears lifeless, as does an egg. As an egg hatches a living thing, so the sun awakens dormant fields in spring. Thus the egg was considered a benevolent talisman with magical powers, able to protect and bring good fortune. 
      Legend says the first pysanky came from the sky. A bitter winter had swept across the land before migrating birds were able to fly southward. They began to fall to the ground and were in danger of freezing. The peasants gathered the birds, brought them into their homes and nurtured them throughout the winter. Come spring, the peasants set the birds free. The birds returned bearing pysanky as gifts for the humans who saved their lives.
     In early Ukraine, a veil of superstition enshrouded pysanky. They protected from fire, lightning, illness and the evil eye. To ensure a good crop, a farmer coated an egg in green oats and buried it in his field. For a good harvest of honey, he placed eggs beneath his beehives. For a plentiful fruit harvest, he hung blown eggs in his orchards and in trees surrounding his home. When building a new home, he marked its corners with eggs, then buried them in the ground as a form of protection. 
     “An early legend said the fate of the world hinged upon pysanky,” Weilminster says. “Evil, in the guise of a monster was kept chained to a cliff. Each year in the spring, the foul creature sent his minions to encircle the globe and tally up the number of pysanky made. If the count was low, the creature’s bonds would be loosened, unleashing all manner of evils.”
 
Writing in Symbols
       At the root of all pysanky is symbolism. Every color, every symbol has meaning, many echoing pagan respect for nature and life. Late in the 10th century ce, however, their interpretation changed as Christianity gained acceptance in Ukraine. Ancient pagan motifs and Christian elements blended. Pysanky lost their connection to sun worship. Once tied to the sun god Dazhboh, motifs featuring the sun, star, cross and horse came to represent the Christian God. Grapes, a harvest motif, came to represent the growing Church and the wine of communion. The fish, formerly a mystical action figure, came to symbolize Christ. Triangles that signified the trinities of air, fire and water or the heavens, earth and air now honor the Holy Trinity. 
        Still, lurking behind the Christian symbolism are traces of magical thinking. Take, as an example, the 19th and 20th century burial customs observed in Christian families when a child died during the Easter season. For food to eat and a toy to play with, the child was buried with pysanky. Even today, lines written on pysanky should remain unbroken so as to not break the thread of life. 
 
Keeping the Tradition Alive
       As the most important religious holiday in Ukraine is Easter, pysanky has become linked with its observance. With the arrival of the Lenten season, the women in traditional Russian Orthodox families often get down to waxing. 
      As a wife, mother, professional and pysanky artist, Coreen Weilminster has come a distance from her Pennsylvania roots. Living in Arnold, she enjoys the Chesapeake life with husband Eric and their two teenage daughters, Brooke and Braelyn. On weekdays, she works in Annapolis, coordinating educational programs for the Chesapeake Bay National Research Reserve in Maryland. Somehow, though, on evenings and weekends, she finds time for pysanky. Now with 31 years of pysanky experience, she happily shares her love of the craft with others, teaching workshops in her home and at the Jug Bay Center Wetlands Sanctuary in Lothian.
       At this year’s Jug Bay workshop in late February, Weilminster spoke with nostalgia about her family’s mystical late-night egg decorating sessions.
     “In the weeks before Easter, my great-aunts Helen, Irene and Elizabeth began making pysanky by the dozen,” she said. 
     Attention was paid to color, rhythm, symbolism, harmony and the unwritten rules of technique. 
     By Ukrainian tradition, making pysanky is a holy ritual for the women of the family. No one else is supposed to peek. After the children are put to bed in the evening, the fun begins. 
     “In pagan days, the pysanka was considered a vessel. It held life,” said Weilminster. “Even today, the purpose of making pysanky is to transfer goodness from one’s household into the designs. You’re to put an intention into your eggs and then give them away as gifts. We gave them to celebrate births, weddings, funerals and religious holidays. Especially on Easter Sunday.” 
      As members of a Russian Orthodox congregation, Weilminster’s family observed all the old Easter traditions. 
      “On Easter morning, we brought the food for our Easter feast to the church for the Blessing of the Baskets,” Weilminster recalls. “We’d line a basket with hand-stitched towels. In went pysanky, ham, horseradish, butter molded into the shape of a lamb and a loaf of Paska bread, a yeast bread enriched with eggs and melted butter. Pussy willows might be tossed in for effect.” 
      Back stood the parishioners as the priest and altar boys made a joyous procession. The priest sprinkled holy water and blessed the baskets.
     “It was impressive. But all I wanted was the ham in that basket,” sighs Weilminster.
 
The Moment of Truth
     When the class got down to business, Weilminster instructed on waxing and using the aniline dyes she had mixed — all while reminding her students to be forgiving of themselves. 
      “Keep in mind that this takes time and practice. Your egg will look like it’s your first egg,” she said. “It is. Still, when the wax is removed, I promise you, you’ll love it.”
     At first, students worked in silent focus. Gradually, confidence grew. At the end of the waxing and dyeing process, Weilminster helped each student blow the egg out of its shell. Then came wax removal.
     “Traditionally, wax was removed by holding the egg over a candle flame,” Weilminster said. “Me, I believe in modern hacks. I use the microwave.”
     Loud squeals emanated from the kitchen as one anxious student after another wiped the softened wax off their pysanky. All he or she wanted to do was make one more, and another after that. 
     That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

A Bay Weekly conversation with writer, birder and ­educator Katie Fallon

       Ewww, vultures! How can you stand them?
      Katie Fallon, who finds lots to love about those bare-headed carrion-eaters that so many find fearsome and disgusting, has heard it all before. Fallon is a vulture advocate and in the business of changing minds. So she hopes her March 21 audience at Quiet Waters Park will leave with a new appreciation for the birds and the role these fabulous flyers play in our ecosystem.
       Writer, birder, educator and parent, Fallon gives the first John W. ‘Bud’ Taylor Wildlife Lecture, hosted by the Anne Arundel Bird Club to honor the beloved naturalist and artist, who died last year.
       Fallon’s love of vultures goes deep. She cofounded the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia, which annually treats more than 300 injured birds, including turkey vultures and black vultures. Now she’s written the definitive book — Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird — on vulture life, love and parenthood, with the latest science on these common but misunderstood creatures. 
       Here’s a preview of what to expect at her lecture.
 
Bay Weekly Your first book, Cerulean Blues, was about a tiny, beautiful, elusive and threatened bird, the cerulean warbler. Your new book is about a large, ubiquitous bird that few could find handsome. Your new book’s title calls them “unloved.” Why? 
Katie Fallon I, of course, love them, and a lot of people do. But if someone calls you a vulture, it’s not a compliment. Vultures in cartoons are always the bad guys, and if someone is greedy or underhanded, they’re often called a vulture. People find their eating habits disgusting, but that doesn’t make sense to me; it’s not as if humans eat live prey. I wanted to write something that showed their “disgusting” habits in a un-disgusting way. 
         Vultures do a really important job of cleaning up all of our dead stuff, and they’re super efficient. They can very quickly remove dangerous pathogens from our ecosystem. Between the acid in their stomachs — which has a pH approaching battery acid — and the powerful bacteria in their guts, their digestive systems destroy anthrax, botulism toxins and cholera. They completely neutralize anything dangerous in an animal carcass.
 
Bay Weekly Two species of vultures are common in the U.S. Why did your book focus on turkey vultures? 
Katie Fallon I like black vultures, but when I started writing about vultures around 15 years ago, I didn’t see many black vultures in West Virginia. Turkey vultures were all over the place and came into rehab much more often, so I was more familiar with them. Black vultures have been moving north and are now more common. A non-releasable black vulture named Maverick lives at the rehab center, and he’s very outgoing. My kids, 3 and 5, are able to feed him by hand. He never bites. He has a neat personality that’s totally different from the turkey vultures. Turkey vultures are, in general, more timid. 
 
Bay Weekly Why do black and turkey vultures hang out together? 
Katie Fallon They’re both social, and they both like to be where there’s a reliable source of carrion: near roads. They both seek good winds so they don’t have to spend valuable energy flapping. Black vultures will often follow turkey vultures to food because they don’t have the excellent sense of smell that turkey vultures use to find carrion. 
 
Bay Weekly Why have black vulture numbers increased? 
Katie Fallon I think climate change is definitely a reason. Both turkey and black vultures probably originated in the tropics. As the world gets warmer, it keeps road-killed animals from freezing. We have more cars and roads than we used to, so more animals are killed. Black vultures tend to roost in urban areas, where the pavement creates heat islands. Ranchers used to blame vultures for spreading diseases among cattle, and the birds were killed in huge numbers. Now we know that the opposite is true. And now vultures are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. 
 
Bay Weekly What are other misconceptions about vultures?
Katie Fallon Turkey vultures are often accused of killing pets and livestock. While black vultures occasionally kill weak and dying animals by pecking, turkey vultures do not. Both vultures have big, flat chicken feet incapable of grasping. People will say, I saw a turkey vulture carrying off my neighbor’s cat. That’s biologically impossible. But they get blamed for that kind of stuff a lot. 
 
Bay Weekly When people want to repel vultures — could you talk about that?
Katie Fallon Some people want to get rid of their vultures. I can’t understand why (laughs). Vultures like to roost on communication and water towers, and the droppings are pretty acidic and can damage equipment. To get them to move somewhere else, sometimes hanging balloons will work. A town in Virginia hung an inflatable killer whale on their water tower, which apparently deterred their vultures. Vultures don’t like sprinklers. Flare guns and fireworks sometimes work to make them relocate. But often if you scare away one group, another may come in to that same good spot. In the fall and winter, vultures roost together, but it’s not a permanent settlement. In the spring and summer they’re busy raising young. 
 
Bay Weekly You write that our turkey and black vultures are doing well, but vultures in other parts of the world are in trouble. 
Katie Fallon Yes. Asia and Africa have many vulture species adapted to eating the large animals there. In Africa, herdsmen will poison the carcasses of cattle, with the intention to kill predators that might threaten the living livestock. Vultures will die as unintended targets. Also, people who poach elephants or rhinos will often poison the carcass after they leave it, so that when vultures land and eat they die instead of congregating in the sky and alerting authorities to the poached animal. There are cases of 70 vultures dying on one poisoned carcass. 
 
Bay Weekly How can we help ­vultures?
Katie Fallon Don’t buy ivory. Notice vultures, learn about them and appreciate them. Don’t hate them! Vultures are a good introduction to birdwatching. They’re big, easy to identify and they group up in impressive numbers. Go to a vulture festival and spend money there. There are several vulture festivals across the country.
 
 
Wednesday, March 21, 7-9pm, Quiet Waters Park Blue Heron Center, Annapolis, refreshments served: 410-222-1777: $5 suggested donation w/books available for purchase and signing.
Forensic artist puts images to 200-year-old descriptions
       Lot Bell, who became a free woman in 1816, survived through two centuries of history in a few words written by the man who had claimed her ownership. Granting Lot her freedom in his last will and testament, ­Silbey Bell described her of “pretty dark complexion, long face and high cheek bones … a very remarkable scar on her head on the left side thereof which resembles a mulberry very much.” On the 30-year-old woman’s Certificate of Freedom, those words were the equivalent of her passport photo.
       Now, thanks to the Maryland State Archives’ Faces of Freedom, this forgotten figure in Maryland history — with thousands to follow — is faceless no more.
      “We want to recognize the humanity of all people gripped by the drama of slavery in Maryland,” explains Chris Haley, director of the Archives’ Study of the Legacy of Slavery. “We want to return their voices and faces to them.”
       Haley knows the history of slavery well. Nephew of Roots author Alex Haley, Chris Haley also descends from Kunta Kinte, a slave who arrived at Annapolis’ docks on the slave ship The Lord Ligonier and whose story became famous in the older Haley’s writing and 1977 television miniseries.
       “Our aim is to bring life to the identities of these unknown individuals by using Certificates of Freedom, Manumissions and runaway slave ads,” Haley explains. “We then take it to the next level by using a professional forensic artist, whose expertise is putting a face to words.
       Descriptions from Certificates of Freedom are more detailed than wording from the other documents. The certificate and the description on it were the only evidence formerly enslaved persons had to prove who they were and to vouch for their freedom. Without good descriptions of all of the prominent facial features, a free or freed man or woman was more likely to be arrested and enslaved again.
 
Breathing Life into Words
       Lt. Donald C. Stahl of the criminal investigations division of the Charles County Sheriff’s office was the forensic artist Haley chose to reconstruct the Faces of Freedom. 
        From a Certificate of Freedom, Stahl explains, “I first pull out all of the details.” Lot Bell’s description also noted that she was “rather straight and well made, narrow between her temples, rather flat nose, with a full mouth and thick lips.”
      It’s a process, Stahl explains.
      “Given the description, I first try to form a picture of the face in my mind.”
       As well as Lot Bell, Stahl has reconstructed Samuel Curtis, a 23-year-old freed in 1838. He depicted Curtis with an open mouth because “the certificate stated that ‘his lips are thick and when he laughs shows his upper teeth.’ So I felt that was a distinguishing characteristic.” 
       Then the forensic artist seeks a photographic reference “to provide finer details like lighting and shading.”
      The next step is “research on the era to include a period feel.” Stahl tries to get a feel of what life would have been like back then to avoid making people who lived two centuries ago appear in the image of today.
      There is, however, a degree of artistic license “When we started the project,” Stahl says, “Chris and I agreed there had to be. While a good amount of information is included in the certificate of freedom, every single feature is not described in detail, so I have to develop something to complete the face.”
       The images we now see of Lot Bell and Samuel Curtis are, Stahl says, each a “true composite image made up of several pieces. It’s what we do in law enforcement to take a description and come up with a semblance.”
       Stahl’s participation in the project is a labor of love. Because it’s completed in his spare time, a facial reproduction can take anywhere from a few days to several months.
      “This is a very worthwhile project to be involved in,” he says. “I’m so used to drawing bad guys that it’s refreshing to do it for something good.”
 
Chronicling the Trail of Freedom
       In 2001, the Maryland Archives began organized research on the unsung heroes who fought against enslavement and aided escapes to freedom. Beyond the familiar names Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass were thousands of other unknowns who risked imprisonment to help. Begun with three volunteers, that project, beneath the Underground Railway, gained funding from the National Park Service Network to Freedom Program. It has since spun off the Legacy of Slavery and Faces of Freedom projects.
      Haley spreads his arms in celebration as he walks to the display case holding the reproduction of Lot Bell and a copy of her original Certificate of Freedom. Having learned his ancestry through his uncle’s research and writing, he’s made it a mission to help others exploring family history.
      “Anyone can find their own roots if they dig deeply enough,” he says. “It’s all recorded just waiting to be discovered. All it takes is time and perseverance.”

Dr. Joan Gaither’s quilts document lives and history

      Mention quilts, and people often share memories of grandmothers or great aunts working with needle and thread, joining pieces of fabric with precise stitching.
      Dr. Joan Gaither, who documents history with cloth and thread, describes herself as “a quilter who breaks all the rules.” Her quilts are covered with images, words and objects: buttons, ribbons, pieces of jewelry, shells — anything that can be sewn to fabric and symbolizes an aspect of the story she tells.
       She stitched her first quilt after the death of an aunt whose story and family history she wanted to memorialize. As she added text and photos to represent the lives and careers of seven generations of her family, the quilt grew to an impressive 10-by-12 feet. It includes the colorful and imaginative embellishments that now characterize her work and features brilliant Maryland state flag colors representing her family’s ties to Baltimore.
       That experience 18 years ago launched the Maryland Institute College of Art professor into fiber arts and three-dimensional collage. Gaither has since made over 200 quilts, telling her stories and those of black Americans. Many have themes of identity, racism and social justice. Others honor the lives of individuals who have influenced national politics, education and the arts.
       Through this month, you can see her quilts in Baltimore in the exhibit Freedom: Emancipation Quilted & Stitched at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, which celebrates the contributions and legacies of people of color in Maryland.
       Each image, object, fabric and color, she explains, has symbolism. Most quilts are edged in African mud cloth. A strip of blue stands for the ocean passage. Red, white and blue fabric represents America. Pieces with railroad tracks are the Underground Railway and the flight to freedom. 
      “The strips are often held together by safety pins, some still open,” she explains, “to symbolize the pain of slavery, oppression and injustice.”
       The topics of the quilts on exhibit range from Gaither’s personal history to broad topics of national interest. Laid out in a pattern like the Maryland flag, her Sesquicentennial 1864 Slave Emancipation Quilt has blocks that represent all of the counties in the state, plus Baltimore City. Each block focuses on events and people associated with emancipation. More than 400 people across the state helped in creating this quilt, which will continue its travels throughout Maryland when the exhibit closes at month’s end.
        Collaboration is a hallmark of Gaither’s work. She brings together local communities, school children and church groups to create and construct quilts. One of her largest quilts (10 by 14 feet) depicts the entire Chesapeake Bay and celebrates the lives of its black watermen. That inspiration was, she says, “my discovery that there was very little record of the contributions of African Americans to Bay-oriented industries.” Individuals from towns all around the Bay contributed information, family photographs and objects to make the history come alive.
       No experience required is the message at Gaither’s quilt-making workshops. People come with words, photographs and mementos. She brings ink jet printers, scissors, markers, boxes of embellishments and inspires her quilters to capture memories and stories on fabric. Sewing is done with large needles and simple stitches.
        A group of young children who swarmed into her exhibit the day she and I visited were drawn to details on the quilts, calling out to one another as they noticed yet another fascinating or unusual embellishment: strings of beads, a political button, a plastic crab. She answered some questions, then encouraged the kids to talk with their families and elders: “Ask them questions about their lives,” she said, “about what they remember from when they were young.” 
        “Memory aids, instruction manuals and moral compasses” are our stories, author and journalist Aleks Krotoski says. Gaither’s quilts are just that, capturing history, documenting and honoring lives, describing their lessons about the past and their calls for justice and equality.
       Follow Gaither on Facebook: www.facebook.com/JoanMEGaither.

Love stories from Chesapeake Country

When Susan Met Anthony …
Susan and Anthony Nolan
 
Playing Cupid gave me opportunity to talk with him outside work
 
       Newly single in her late 30s, my friend Lisa lamented the absence of single men. “How does anyone find someone?”
      Then it happened. She had met someone, and he was kind, funny, smart and handsome.
      “How did you meet?” I wondered, after all her disappointment.
      “Penitentiary pen-pal program,” she answered.
      Stunned into silence, I did not want to know more.
      But the question stayed with me. 
      IF I were looking for love, where would I find it?
      My mother suggested church. “Single men do not go to church,” I told her — “unless they live with their mothers.”
       Another relative had a bold idea. “You go downtown to that Senate Office Building and introduce yourself to Lindsey Graham. He’s single and he’s a South Carolinian.” I rolled my eyes, remembering Gerald O’Hara telling Scarlett, “It matters not who you marry, daughter. Just as long as he is a southerner and thinks like you.”
        My friend Melissa pulled dating websites up on her computer. “See? See? Hundreds of thousands of available men looking for someone. You can’t tell me you wouldn’t be compatible with at least one of them.”
       I was asking, but I wasn’t looking. I enjoyed being single.
      Yet friends and co-workers kept trying to set me up. Happily married colleague Ed whispered, “Our new assistant division chief is single.” 
       “I am never, ever dating anyone I meet at work. That’s just so inappropriate,” I told him.
      “You have so many other appropriate ways to meet men?”
       I changed the subject. I was getting good at that.
       Cathy, my supervisor, also told me about our new division chief. She came back from a meeting singing his praises. “Anthony’s a good listener. Don’t you find that an unusual and appealing quality in a man?”
      Finally, to prove I would “never, ever date anyone I meet at work,” I plotted to find him another woman.
      Mary seemed a likely candidate. Like Anthony, she was in her 40s, never married, Roman Catholic, with a large extended family including many adored nieces and nephews. They both enjoyed travel and the outdoors. I could introduce them at the art gallery she managed. 
      He agreed. Mary agreed and offered the bonus of inviting a single guy for me to meet. “There’s less pressure in a larger group,” she said.
      It went off beautifully. Everybody liked everybody. But there wasn’t any chemistry.
      I continued my efforts to find a match for our assistant division chief. Playing Cupid gave me opportunity to talk with him outside work. Our friendship grew.    But no matter whom I introduced, Anthony was uninterested.
       Eventually, he explained why.
      One evening after a workshop together, I found the following message on my answering machine:
      “I want you to know I am an intelligent person. I’m well-educated. I’m well-read. I’m well-traveled. Yet when I am in your presence, I am speechless. Why is that?”
       I swooned, realizing I would never find a suitable match for this man because he was smitten with me. It could have been a scene from a Jane Austen novel — had Emma Woodhouse an answering machine.
      Our courtship was brief. We married a few months later. We’ve shared 11 action-packed years in which we have treated the traditional wedding vows of for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health like a to-do list, checking off each item a dozen times over. Our failures and successes have brought us closer together and more in love.
       Friends and family still rib me about how I swore I would “never, ever date someone I meet at work,” and I laugh at how close-minded I once was. Now, I say yes to love wherever you find it — be it at church, a bar, the Senate or an online dating app. 
       As for Lisa and the guy she found via the penitentiary pen-pal program, she was right. He is kind, funny, smart handsome and — fortunately — reformed.    They, too, will be celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary this year.
 

When Elisavietta Met Clyde …
Elisavietta Ritchie and Clyde Farnsworth
 
The wooing of a brilliant loner 
     Dissident Russian artists was my topic toward an M.A. at American University, so when Norton Dodge, professor of Russian economics and collector of Russian dissidents’ paintings, held a conference at his Cremona estate, where several émigré artists and their canvases would be present, I was delighted. 
      Guests included New York Times journalist Clyde Farnsworth, recently back from Paris. Guessing that Clyde had surely met the existentialist novelist Albert Camus, I settled next to him. Conversation revealed that Camus’ The Exile and the Kingdom reflected Clyde’s situation as a brilliant loner.
      He scribbled his phone number on a matchbook. A month later I called: On my own after 24 years of a mostly good marriage, I didn’t suffer for lack of diversion. Nor did Clyde. 
       I could bring an escort to dinner at my father’s friend Dr. George Mishtowt’s. An evening of brilliant conversation and Russian songs, and Clyde was a baritone. He also practiced his violin daily …
       Our respective children asked, “Why don’t you two get married?”
       My answer: “He hasn’t asked me.”
       Summer 1992, on the cusp of his transfer to Canada (I assumed another romance over), I drove him to a knee operation. Afterward I settled him in our guest bed while I slept on the couch, at midnight back to the ER, then home again to his bed of pain. 
       Suddenly at 2am he asked, “Why don’t we mosey down to the Prince Frederick courthouse tomorrow and pick up a license?”
       I phoned Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, my doctor daughter, then a captain at a military hospital in South Korea. Her answer zoomed across the Pacific: “Do so quickly before the anesthesia wears off!”
       Around the world and all these years later, we still have a cottage at Broomes Island and are settling in at Asbury Solomons.

When Amanda Met John …
Amanda Bowen and John Barnett
 
Which of the brothers would it be?
       It was a time in my life where I was in this phase of do I go to college? Do I stick with the job I have? 
      A friend talks me into going with him to hunter safety classes at Meyers Station Nature Park in Odenton.
      In class he leans over and says sorry that I don’t see any guys you would like here. I was a little confused because I didn’t know I was there to pick up a guy. Little did I know I would.
      Night two, in the middle of discussing safety precautions in hunting turkey, I scan the room. In the back are two younger guys, arms folded, sitting low in their chairs. 
      Day three, we are out practicing loading our firearms and shooting at targets. That was my chance to approach the men, who I figured were brothers. Instead, the taller brother introduces himself to me. I’m not going to lie; as we talked, my eyes are elsewhere. Especially because as we talked, he is steadily texting an ex, who, he says, won’t leave him be.
       Ummmmm thanks for the honesty ... moving on from Jeremiah.
       That evening, we’re invited to their house for a bonfire. The shorter brother, John Barnett, is off sitting by himself. I pull up a chair — and the rest is history. 
       Nine years and two beautiful babies later, at 27 we live in Galesville and are still having bonfires and enjoying the few chances we get to hunt together.

 
When Blair Met Jay …
Blair Dawson and Jay Weaver
 
The sandwich that stole my heart
 
       We have been together ever since he posted a picture of a sandwich on Facebook three years ago. 
       In 2014, I lost my parents and decided I was going to live for me for once. I had gastric sleeve surgery, lost a lot of weight, started to go to the gym and enjoy myself. Well, he posted the picture of that sandwich, and I just had to comment on it. We met three days later, and we’ve been together ever since.
      The sandwich is called a Wedgy, and it’s from a little place in Knox, Pennsylvania. We’ve gone and had it three times. It’s one of my favorite things. 
      I am 35, and Jay is 51 and we have been together three years and are now engaged. 
 

When Diana Met Gary …
Diana and Gary Dinsick
 
Sure that our romance was over, I wrote him a formal goodbye
 
      We met at a college dance at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Student Union. Our reasons for being there were as divergent as our personalities. He was an outgoing and focused sophomore preparing for an Army career. I was a starry-eyed 17-year-old, uncertain what I wanted in life but knowing I wanted to share it with someone. 
      At first glance upon meeting him, I saw only brownness. Jeans, sweater, shoes, eyes, hair — everything was brown. Framing his sun-bronzed face were the worst eyeglasses I’d ever seen. Later on, once we knew each other better, he told me he’d hated the pantsuit I was wearing that night.
      From the beginning, ours was a push-pull relationship. I was the student, the introvert; he thrived on running with the guys. Three years later, after his graduation, he was commissioned a lieutenant in the Army and left for a three-year assignment in Germany. Sure that our romance was over, I even wrote him a formal goodbye.
      It was a lonely time, my senior year without him. I got down. Even my sociology professor remarked on the change in me. When I confided my situation, my prof informed me that my soldier would find someone else.
       I know, I whispered back.
       His reply: “Why don’t you find a man and spend your life making him happy?”
       Still, my erstwhile beau kept writing. Nine months later, I married him in beautiful Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Forty-three years, three children and a long Army career later, we’re still together. He’s still my Valentine.
 

When Amy Met Michael …
Amy Stielper and Michael Malone
 
We met when I took his job
 
       During the early 1990s, Michael Malone clerked for a judge in Leonardtown. At the end of the one-year position, the judge hired me, and Michael spent the next few weeks training me. 
       The odds were against us, as he was returning home to Anne Arundel County to practice law, and we both were seeing other people.
      But after two weeks together, poring over law books and dissecting trials, Michael asked me out.
      “No, I’m going shopping with my mother,” I answered — but followed up that lame but true excuse with “I’m free the next night.”
      We married a year later. Now I joke that Michael learned early that his chocolate is mine, his bedcovers are mine and his job was mine.
      The irony? I now work for Michael in his law practice. He is also a delegate representing central Anne Arundel County.
 
 
 
 
 

 
When Esperison Met Gladys …
Marty and Gladys Martinez
 
He had pawned his watch so he could pay for a cab that night
 
       My grandparents, Esperison “Marty” Martinez and Gladys Bradley, met a few weeks before Valentine’s Day on a bitter January night in 1952. At 18 years old, he was a newly capped seaman duce sailor, stationed at Quonset Point Naval Air Station. She was a much more mature 20-year-old, living in a little house with her parents and two younger sisters and working a steady job for an insurance company. 
      Their meeting should have been highly unlikely given that his base was some 20 miles away, he was without a car, and he had very little cash. But that Saturday night brought them together at a Polish community dance hall, a popular spot for locals to dance the polka. 
       She was there with six other girls, sitting at a table having drinks, when he and his friend showed up. He got up the nerve to approach and ask one of the girls for a dance. She said no. Never the type to be easily defeated, he moved on to the next girl, my grandmother. She was also a hard sell; she looked him up and down and said, Well, okay.
      On the dance floor they swayed to Eddie Fisher’s Anytime, and ended up talking late into the night.
       When it was time to leave, he offered to take her home. Earlier he had pawned his watch for the evening’s cash so he had enough to pay for a cab. It must have impressed my grandmother, for they arranged for a second date, which evolved into many more slow dances and a dinner to meet her folks, all before a church wedding on October 11 of that same year.
       Some said their marriage would never last due to the mere nine months of dating, but two kids, four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and 65 years of marriage later, the Annapolitans have given up on the time clock and now do “Whatever it is that may move us to contentment.”
–Ariel Martinez-Brumbaugh
 

When Ariel Met Pat …
Ariel Martinez-Brumbaugh and Patrick Beall
 
At my recommendation, we got friendlier
 
      We were friends of friends first, then just friends and then friends who sometimes kissed under a starry sky when we got caught up in the moment.   Then, one June day in 2006, we made plans to go kayaking with friends, but only Pat and I showed up. We paddled across Herring Bay and then back into a marsh. Sensing that tension in the air that only comes with new romance, we opted for a bit of adventure and tied our boats to a tree in favor of marsh  mucking. We picked around submerged logs and sank up to our knees. We emerged on the shore muddy and laughing. I remember stretching out on a bed of marsh grasses and talking until the sun began to set. 
        A few weeks later, at my recommendation, we went on our first date. In the following years, we endured international separations, moved in and out of apartments together, traveled with friends and have since settled into a world of “I have to work late tonight” and “Whose turn is it to take out the trash?”
       Eleven years after that June day, at my recommendation, Pat proposed.
 

 
When Brad Met Linda …
Brad Wells and Linda Eversfield Wells
 
We shared a room before we fell in love
 
        We met in the Tampa airport in June of 2005. We were both going to a mutual friend’s wedding and the younger sibling Jane convinced us to all share the same room to save money for partying. Everything was PG, and we had a great time. 
       Leaving Tampa was pretty awkward because we both knew the situation was a long shot. The only thing I could think to do was mock her dimples by poking my inflated cheeks and twisting my fingers into them, saying “Bye, Dimples.” Game on point! 
        She claims that she fell for me because I’m a dork.
We remained friends for three years while talking long-distance every day.
Eventually I decided she was never leaving Maryland so decided to pull up my roots from Kentucky and replant on the Bay. Those roots have now grown into a six-year marriage and two beautiful children. 
 

 
When Michelle Met Leisha …
Michelle Farley and Leisha Suggs
 
Coffee with a hint
 
       When I moved to College Park in the fall of 2006 to start graduate school, I quickly fell into a habit of getting coffee at the student union coffee shop on my way to class. One of the baristas always remembered my drink, and we started chatting for a few minutes when it wasn’t too busy. 
      In early November, after I had been gone for a week for a conference, the barista handed me a folded piece of receipt tape with my drink. She had written her social media contact in the giant black crayon they used to mark the cups.
      The first time we hung out, I was swamped with coursework, and she offered to come with me to photograph my assigned site for a paper. That led to more hanging out.
      We’ve now been together for over 11 years, married for almost five. We married the day the law changed in Minnesota, where we moved after I graduated in 2008.
      Leisha was born and raised in Saint Mary’s County, where most of her Suggs family still lives. She taught me the importance of Old Bay seasoning, stuffed ham, and how to properly pick a blue crab. She now works as a therapist to homeless youth and receives a lot of compliments on her Maryland Terrapins lanyard.
 

 
When Jessica Met Steve …
Jessica and Steve Grzybowski 
 
At senior week, I fell for the ­person who drove me absolutely crazy in high school 
 
        Our story starts in first grade at Lothian Elementary, where we went to school together and had numerous classes with one another. Those classes continued through middle and high school. Though we went to the same school, we never really noticed each other. I was a spirited cheerleader, and Steve was an old country boy who couldn’t have cared less about school.
       Our senior year, our good mutual friend’s mom worked in the office, and I was her assistant for one of my classes. Her son and Steve came in to bother me every day, but there was no romance between us. I used to tell her I felt sorry for whatever girl married either one of them.
       After graduation I headed to Ocean City for a week with my girls, while Steve headed to Florida with a buddy. They arrived just before a hurricane, so turned around and drove to Ocean City. As we had mutual friends, Steve ended up at our condo for parties and sorts.
      Back home, I asked a mutual friend for his number because we had had a pretty good time at the beach. After two weeks of him blowing me off, we have been together ever since. We tied the knot on May 16, 2009, at the young ages of 21 and 20. 
      We have three beautiful children and will be married for nine years on our anniversary and together 12 years total in July. We both are South County-born and raised and now raising our own family in South County as well.
Never thought I would go to senior week and find a husband let alone one I’d known all my life.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

When Julia Met Robbo …

Julia and Robert Howes
 
I loved his truck
 
        I knew Robbo through our dads, who both were into classic cars. I had seen him a few times here and there, thought he was cute, but never really considered him like that. In 2012, my mom and I were at 7-Eleven in Deale when he pulled in. He was driving his lifted 1984 Chevy Scottsdale, and I loved the truck. I said hi to him, and we had small talk. I asked him about the two girls in his truck (who turned out to be his cousin and her friend), and he said if I went out with him, he would leave them there. I gave him my number but didn’t go with him.
      Less than a month later we were dating. He was 18, and I was 15. Everyone said we were too young, but we got married anyway and have been married for 121⁄2 years now. We have a beautiful seven-year-old daughter, bought the house he grew up in and his parents built, both work in South County and own a commercial crabbing business.
 
 

 
When Pam Met Billy …
Pamela and Bill Krug
 
A glimpse into the future
       We grew up seven houses apart and have been best friends since fourth grade. We became official when we were 19 years old. 
      When we were little, I was on a bike ride with my dad, and little Billy Krug came peddling up the street and said to my dad, “You know what, Mr. Gunnell? I love your daughter, and I’m going to marry her one day,” and then pedaled off. I was nine or 10 and remember being so embarrassed. 
      We are now 37 and have been married for 13 years but have been together forever. We have three children, ages 14, 11 and 8.
 

 
When Paula Met Ernest …
Paula Taylor Tillich and Ernest Willoughby
 
And vice versa
 
       “Professor Willoughby would swipe the breakfast sweet roll I’d put on the far side of my desk in the corridor of the building where he had his office,” Paula recalls. “I was a graduate student in biology at Syracuse University where he was a biology professor.” 
      Ernest’s retelling of that time at St. Mary’s College is a little different. “She ate a sweet roll every morning for breakfast and began leaving a fresh one on the edge of her desk, knowing I would pass every morning on my way to my office.”
       This mute communication continued until one day …
       Forty-five years later they are retired, having raised three children, living at Asbury Solomons.
 

 
When Jessica Met Michael …
Jessica and Michael Hickman
 
He rolled down the window and hollered … then Love Story
 
       We met at the stoplight in Edgewater on Solomons Island Road by Lee Airport.
       I was 17, and he was 22. I was in my truck, and he was in his. 
       I was sitting at the red light with my hair down and window down, looking all fabulous in my big truck and jamming out. He was turning in by Ledo’s to go to the gas station. 
        As he pulled up to the pump, I decided to show off and rolled down my other window as I pulled in after him. He ran up and asked for my number. Thank God I gave him the right one.
      That was September 2009. We’ve been married for over four years now and have two kiddos and a house in South County. 
 
 

 
When Heather Met Bobby …
Heather and Bobby Lamb
 
Some said we’d never last, and some may not have wanted us to
 
       I was good friends with his sister, and he would be at the house when I would hang out there. 
       One night the three of us were supposed to go to the movies, but she backed out. I wasn’t sure about it but we decided to still go. Glad we did. 
       Things moved kind of fast. He eventually moved in with me, and not long after I became pregnant with our son. There were some that said we’d never last, and some that may not have wanted us to. Now he is 47, I am 46, and we celebrated 21 years of marriage in November. We live in Galesville with our son Justin, 21, and daughter Emily, 19.
 
 
 
 

 
When Tricia Met James …
Tricia and James Huffman
 
Workplace romance works out
      My husband was one of our contractors at work. We’d had friendly conversation and joked around, but he was super shy. One day he insulted me by saying all I do is sit there and look pretty. It went from there.
I am 30, James is 35. We have been married four years and have four kids.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
When Leigh Met Nick …
Leigh Glenn and Nick Beschen
 
A decade of gentle nudges
 
       We met in January of 2008 through his older brother, a cheeky fellow, to whom I free-cycled a couple of gardening books and women’s overalls for his wife. 
       Older brother and younger drove together to a niece’s wedding in Florida in May 2008 and got to talking women. Nick had not been in a relationship for a while and his brother told him he knew “this woman” but wasn’t sure how to connect us. “You can just give me her number,” Nick said.
       We spoke by phone. I loved his voice (Bay Weekly readers who have frequented community theaters may know that voice, too, as Nick has been in many productions over the years). 
      Our first date, he drove to Tysons, and we walked to Clyde’s. The second date, a week later, I drove to Annapolis. We were fortunate that, despite a storm, the power came back on in time to prepare and enjoy scallops, rice and broccoli before heading to Rams Head to hear Last Train Home. After the concert, we talked. All. Night. (Not since college had I stayed up all night talking with anyone.)
      It’s nearly a decade later, and I love him more than ever.
 
 

 
 
When Tracy Met Chris …
Tracy and Chris Roy
 
We found each other on CB radio — twice
 
      We didn’t have internet back in the day. I stole my dad’s CB radio because it fascinated me (and to be in touch with a boyfriend). In my travels and meeting new people on the radio, I hit it off as friends with one guy who was then engaged.
       After his marriage didn’t work out, he came looking for me just as my CB radio fad was coming to a close. We met back up and started hanging out together, and one thing led to another.
      Thirty-two years later we are still friends, married for 25 years this ­September.
 
 
 

 
When Kim Met BJ …
Kim and BJ Welch
 
A match made in a music-lovers chat room
 
      We met in 2004 in a chat room on AOL. He was a musician looking for local support for his band. I was a newly graduated 18-year-old ready to leave my home in Baltimore.  
      We officially started dating on July 2, 2004, and quickly got pregnant (whoops!). We married October 22, 2005, and now have five children. Four boys: Corey, Josh, Billy and Austin. Then our miracle girl Dixie who was born April 2016, at just 27 weeks, weighing one pound. Almost 14 years later, this young marriage is still going strong.

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Is cursive an evolutionary dodo?
       Can you sign your name in cursive?
       For much of American history, handwriting was a hallmark of education and character, taught in classrooms as part of the triumvirate of reading, ’riting and ’rithmatic. Students who persevered through eight grades took as much pride in their penmanship as John Hancock, whose graceful cursive on the Declaration of Independence made his name a synonym for signature, as in sign your John Hancock on the dotted line.
      Into the 20th century, handwriting was so foundational a part of the public school curriculum that educators devoted themselves to perfecting a system good for one and all, just as modern educators have with Common Core. From letterforms and linkages standardized in the mid-1800s by bookseller and abolitionist Platt Rogers Spencer — and not so different from many Hancock used — the American cursive handwriting style evolved.
      Spencerian descendants — about whom we’ll have more to say — were so successful that by the mid-20th century, Americans from coast to coast could write — and read — one another’s handwriting, as well as John Hancock’s.
Yet just about then (does Sputnik ring a bell?) states began de-emphasizing handwriting to allow more classroom time for the curriculum we know today as STEM. 
       Does cursive have a future? That’s the question we ask in honor of National Handwriting Day, which falls on January 23, the birthday of the Massachusetts’ patriot John Hancock. No longer can every graduate of our public schools read Hancock’s signature — or, for that matter, the handwritten document itself.
      Can you?
 
A Pillar of Civilization
       Through the four- or five-thousand-year span of recorded history, handwriting has evolved, influenced and reflected every aspect of culture. This art of forming visible, readable characters has evolved in many styles, from cuneiform and hieroglyphics to unconnected block letters to flowing cursive.
      About the time the Egyptians were developing hieroglyphics, Sumerian merchants were codifying their transactions into cuneiform script. Ever since, handwritten documents have recorded births, marriages and deaths but also started and ended wars. They’ve bought and sold land and slaves, and guaranteed — or challenged — our voting rights.
      By about 1500 BCE, the Phoenicians had an alphabet of 22 phonetic symbols. This marvelous invention spread to Greece, Persia, India and Egypt.
      Like any new technology, handwriting brought on tidal waves of change. Socrates feared a written language would destroy memory, according to Anne Trubek, author of The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting. To a degree, he was right; the old oral tradition that gave rise to Homer is obsolete. On the other hand, as French philosopher Jacques Derrida noted, we only know what Socrates thought about anything because someone recorded his ideas.
        In the second century BCE, the Roman Empire conquered Greece, adopting its then 23-letter alphabet. The alphabet spread throughout the Roman empire. More letters were adopted over the centuries until, by the 15th century, the Roman alphabet consisted of 26 letters.
       By then, handwriting had become a specialized skill, practiced by the scribes and monks who saw their livelihood threatened when Gutenberg developed a printing press capable of assembly line-style production of books. Despite their worries, handwriting remained for many centuries the dominant medium for recording and sharing information.
         The Renaissance development of copperplate engraving brought the fanciful flourishes to script writing. This script evolved into the italics from which cursive and basic lowercase letters derive.
        In early America — as in so many cultures over the millennia — handwriting was a skill that could earn a craftsman a living. By the 1700s, master clerks were doing the actual penning of many of our historic documents. The United States Constitution was drafted by James Madison, penned by Jacob Shallus, assistant clerk of the Pennsylvania State Assembly and signed, more or less elegantly, by 56 colonial gentlemen, for whom fine handwriting was a mark of education and cultivation. 
       In 1786, George Fisher published The Instructor, or American Young Man’s Best Companion Containing Spelling, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetick.
         “The capitals must bear the same Proportion one to another,” wrote Fisher. He directed that upstrokes be fine, and downward strokes fuller and blacker. “And when you are in Joining,” he instructed, “take not off the Pen in writing, especially in running or mixed hands.” His words may ring familiar to 60- and 70-somethings who learned Palmer cursive in school. 
        In the mid-18th century Platt Rogers Spencer developed a utilitarian writing system uniting aspects of several popular writing systems. During the late 1880s, the Spencerian method evolved into the Palmer system, which emphasized writing with arm movements rather than with the fingers. With variants, Palmer remained the school standard of penmanship through the 1950s.
        Meanwhile, other technologies were changing the world. As early as 1947, when TIME magazine was already bemoaning the “day of typewriters, shorthand, telephones and Dictaphones,” educators and the media were complaining that schools were neglecting penmanship instruction. In 1955, the Saturday Evening Post pronounced us a “nation of scrawlers.” By the 1980s, some public school students were receiving little or no formal handwriting training.
 
Cursive Uncommon in ­Common Core 
        Since 2010, to many teens and young graduates of Maryland’s public schools, the swirls and twirls of cursive are as unreadable as ancient Sanskrit.
       Trace it back to Maryland’s adoption that year of Common Core State Standards in reading, English/Language Arts and mathematics, known 
as the Maryland College and Career-Ready Standards. Later, pre-K standards were added. 
       State education standards have been around since the early 1990s, varying from state to state. In 2009, most states, the District of Columbia and a couple of territories voted to develop Common Core State Standards. Maryland was among the first of many states to adopt the new, voluntary standards. 
       Common Core put our nation “one step closer,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation that bankrolled the initiative, “to supporting effective teaching in every classroom, charting a path to college and careers for all students.” 
       Often Common Core pushed cursive aside for keyboarding and computer skills, math and sciences.
 
How Important are ­Connected Letters?
        Does the loss of our common heritage of handwriting matter? Opinions are divided.
        Juli Folk, 37, is reading handwritten Calvert County Census documents for the Center for the Study of the Legacy of Slavery at the Maryland Archives while studying for her masters degree in Library Information Science at the University of Maryland ISchool. 
       Her volunteer project depends on her ability to read cursive in many hands over many decades. “I had fun learning it in elementary school,” she says.
      Yet for today’s students, she’d be happy to see it “offered as an art class. Or teachers could show students what cursive letters look like, then let them learn it on their own.”
      “What matters,” she says, “is that handwriting, whether printed or cursive, is legible.”
      The American Bar Association seems to agree. Printed signatures are just as legal as are cursive — or electronic ones,” according to University of Missouri law professor David English.
       Other benefits may make cursive fit enough to survive the keyboard era.
       Some researchers say learning cursive benefits brain development and fine motor skills in children, leading to improved writing skills and reading comprehension — skills critical across the Common Core. 
        Dr. William R. Klemm, senior professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M, says learning cursive helps train the brain to function more effectively, increasing hand-eye coordination and reading speed. Thus, he concludes that schools that drop cursive are depriving students of an important developmental tool.
        Whatever learning cursive may do for our hands, eyes and brains, losing it certainly cuts us off from our past. A generation illiterate in cursive will be unable to read historic documents, including Grandma’s letters. 
       “Sending a handwritten letter is becoming such an anomaly,” says actor Steve Carell. “My mom is the only one who still writes me letters. There’s something visceral about opening a letter. I see her in handwriting.”
       At the Maryland State Archives, Emily Oland Squires hears complaints from researchers, especially students, struggling to read with cursive. 
       Archives staff tries to bridge the gap by helping research teachers create lesson plans that include both primary source documents written in cursive and their transcriptions. Online transcriptions have been made of many documents pertaining to state and African American history.
        “Still, we ask teachers to let students try to work from the manuscripts before giving them transcriptions,” says Squires. “It helps them learn.”
 
Does Cursive Have a Future?
         Some states have legislated a future for cursive. In 2016, Alabama and Louisiana — not states earning top educational ratings — became the latest of 14 states that now require cursive in school.
        Maryland does not require cursive be taught. 
        “There are currently no standards for cursive,” says Walter Lee, of the office of the Curriculum Coordinator and Instruction at Anne Arundel County Public Schools. “But Maryland created a framework in which cursive does appear.” 
       Lee explains that Maryland decided to include cursive as part of the framework for interpreting the state standards for the Commonwealth of Maryland. “There are no policies governing cursive,” he says, “but there are practices. It is up to local education agencies.”
        In Anne Arundel County, he says “incorporating cursive into reading time during the school day is a school-based decision, meaning that it is up to the principal.”
      In the bigger picture, it may be, as Trubek says, that the decline in our use of handwriting in our daily lives is only the next stage in the evolution of communication. Where we’ll be next, who knows.
        While we wait to see what the next wave of change brings, we might all heed the advice of Benjamin Franklin: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” He did both.
       In honor of National Handwriting Day, pick up a pen or pencil and put it to use.
 
What is Cursive?
       Cursive derives from the Latin word currere, meaning to run. Cursive writing has a more comfortable flow than early Roman square block printing or the more rounded uncial writing of early Latin literature. In handwriting history, forerunners of cursive appear as far back as ancient Roman times. Due to its speed and efficiency, many languages since the ancients have cursive forms. 
       In America, cursive has subtypes such as ligature, in which letters within words are connected with lines. There’s also cursive italic penmanship, which combines joins and pen lifts within words. Looped cursive is the style taught in American schools since the late 1800s. If you learned cursive, it may well have been this style. 
 

 

 

Rich or poor, Owensville ­Primary Care turns no one away

Over $10,000. That’s what the average American spent for health care in 2016, and up is where that number is heading.
     “My wife’s health insurance jumped 38.9 percent,” laments a friend recently retired. “My pension is disappearing.”
     Across the age spectrum, you hear endless variationa of the same story.
Last year, 11.9 percent of Anne Arundel County residents couldn’t afford to see a doctor, according to the county’s Report Card of Community Health Indicators. Seventeen percent didn’t have a primary care physician.
     In a culture where health and wealth are inextricably linked, Owensville Primary Care is a haven. It welcomes all with these words: This Health Center serves all patients regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.
     It is an oddly placed haven.
     If you wanted to show off southern Anne Arundel County’s pastoral ideal, you couldn’t do better than take a drive down Owensville Road, the east-west link between Rt. 2 and Galesville. Amid imposing white homes set back on yards rolling into farm fields, the modernistic stucco building might, if noticed, raise a question. 
     Its placement tells a truer story of Southern Maryland life than the scenery. It’s a story in many ways little changed since Owensville Primary Care was founded in 1974 to, in CEO Sylvia Jennings’ words, “address the needs of a very low-income, rural, minority population that did not have access to health care.”
     Over four decades, Jennings has seen need persist and — for many of those years — overseen Owensville Primary Care’s ability to deliver care regardless of race, age or income.
      “We pledge to provide quality health care to our entire, diverse community at a responsible cost,” Jennings says. “That’s our mission.”
     Since the Affordable Care Act was passed, that pledge has included helping people, patients or not, find qualified health care programs. Nowadays, people losing their subsidies are welcome for advice and alternatives.
 
A Melting Pot
     In the utilitarian waiting room, you find yourself in a microcosm of the larger Southern Anne Arundel County community, where homes — and with them wealth — run the full range from mansions to shanties. Here, your neighbors — black and white, young and old, more and less affluent — visit as they wait. You might find — as I did on this day — a kid sucking a lollipop. Two elderly women, black and white. A tattooed hipster with an ear gauge in his lobe. A workingman in an Orioles cap. Yourself.

Owensville Primary Care outgoing CEO Sylvia Jennings, retiring after more than 20 years.

       Owensville Primary Care has become, over the years, an American melting pot. 
     “I came in one morning to find a Jaguar in the parking lot next to a jalopy,” says Jennings, the white-topped dynamo who for two decades has been CEO of this federally qualified Community Health Center, one of 16 in Maryland and some 1,400 nationwide.
      The numbers support the impression of diversity. Of October’s 1,156 patient visits, 38 percent were paid by commercial insurance, 32 percent by Medicare and 28 percent by Medicaid, with two percent self-paid.
 
Walking Into a Nightmare
       Jennings, 82 and days from retirement, works behind the scenes, in an office stocked with tall jars of Hershey’s Kisses. Jolly, direct and demanding, she does not want a visit to her sanctum to feel like “a walk down the hall to the principal.”
      For the office she is now dismantling has been the scene of many hard decisions.
      “I walked into a nightmare,” Jennings recalls.
      In 1981, the well-intentioned, six-year-old South County Family Health had descended into bankruptcy. With $1.5 million owed, court administrators threatened to “nail doors shut and walk away,” Jennings remembers. That’s when she joined the board, deputized by her boss, Virginia Clagett, then South County’s councilwoman.
      Paying off that debt took eight years.
      A second round of troubles in the mid 1990s brought Jennings back on the board to captain “a sinking ship.” First she laughed at entreaties; finally she accepted. That was 1997. She spent the next two years cleaning up the mess.
 
The Team
      Jennings has been the force that kept Owensville Primary Care on track.
      But hers is not the face you’re likely to know if you happen to be one of its 3,400 patients, from birth to geriatrics. 
      First you meet the reception crew, who, Jennings says and experience proves, are “welcoming and treat you not as a stranger but as a friend.” 

photo by Wayne Bierbaum

Back, doctors Thomas Sheesley, Jonathan Hennessee and Wayne Bierbaum. Front, nurse practitioner Nancy Bryan, behavioral health director Dr. Jana Raup and physicians assistant Ann Hendon.

photo by Wayne Bierbaum

Rebecca Woolwine, Judy Bracken, Amber Snay and Billie Aisquith in back row. Keri Mahan and Brittany Galloway, seated.

      Many, like office manager Billie Aisquith, have been here as long as Jennings. Increasingly, they are “cross-trained in multiple functions,” like Vickie Payne, who is also a fire department EMT just certified as a medical assistant through Anne Arundel Community College’s online program.
       “When they expand their skills, they expand their incomes,” Jennings says.
       Next, you enter into the hands of nurses — among them nurse supervisor Vanessa Greenwell, Owensville Primary’s longest serving staffer at over 30 years — who’ll take your weight and height, blood pressure, temperature and blood oxygen readings.
       They turn you over to health care providers, who range from doctors to nurse practitioner Nancy Bryan, retired from the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps, to physician assistant Ann Hendon.
       At 28 years in, chief medical officer Wayne Bierbaum calls his egalitarian work at Owensville Primary “what I’ve wanted to do since I decided to go into medicine: helping people manage in difficult circumstances.”
       Doctors Jonathan Hennessee and Thomas Sheesley are National Health Service Corps Scholars, who repay their medical education by working in communities with limited access to care, in their cases for a term of five years.
      Behavioral Health Director Jana Raup or Licensed Clinical Social Worker Jen Thornton offer counseling and therapy.
 
Right People for the Job
       From the bottom up and top down, salaries are a priority with Jennings, who brings her medical experience as a nurse along with administrative experience alongside a state legislator.
      “I really focused on getting people a decent wage,” she said. “Even then, $7 an hour for nurses was ridiculous.”
        “The money wasn’t there so it was a long process,” says Sharon Widemann, Jennings’ long-time colleague and now successor as CEO.
      Nowadays, Jennings calls “our salaries very competitive,” good enough to draw expertise from outside South County. 
       “Young physicians fresh out of school are paid a very good entry-level wage that appreciates the fact that family-care physicians are difficult to recruit,” she notes. 
      For five years, Jennings and Widemann, who came on in 1994 as an accountant, “got our hands dirty with work to make sure we had the right hiring.”
        Computerization brought the next challenge. 
      “When IT hit us all with electronic records, we were able to draw the best staff among community health centers, who are doing wonders for our record keeping,” Widemann says.
 
Finding Wherewithal
      Every step took money. 
      Community health centers are backed by tax dollars. Owensville Primary Care has a $4 million budget, with federal funding of about $1.5 million, supplemented by fees for service, donations from citizens and small government grants for targeted programs.
       Federal and private funding supported the construction of the building back in 1976, enabling Owensville Primary to move out of the old Owensville primary school. The building was county property until 2002, when it was surplussed to Owensville Primary. That same year, a state grant of $200,000 and a loan from the county paid for renovation. Later grants paid for better parking. This year, the behavioral health center moved into its own remodeled space, replacing the old post office that shared space with Owensville Primary.
      Grants enabled growth in services. In 2013 federal monies brought on behavioral health case managers, certified application counselors for Affordable Care and expanded Medicare, plus two more physicians. 
      A brand-new grant supports response to the opioid addiction crisis with mental health, public awareness and Narcan training.
      From Jennings’ years with Clagett as both councilwoman and delegate, she understood the levers of government. 
     “She has kept us in the minds of politicians who help our cause,” says chief medical officer Wayne Bierbaum.
      Jennings retires with Owensville Primary Care “in the black.” But not without a touch of uncertainty. Federal funding for community health centers expired September 30, and Congress has yet to reauthorize it.
 
‘A’ For Accountabiliity
     Recovery from a troubled past has made accountability part of each day’s work.
     “We hold ourselves accountable with committees for quality care, insurance and improvement,” Widemann says. “Once a month, a group of clinical and administrative staff review incidents and look at how our patients are doing. If one provider is doing a great job, we see how to share those best practices.”
     Patients have two ways to rate their satisfactions, and a sign on the reception desk invites complaints if you’ve waited more than 20 minutes to be seen. Quality measures are posted on the front door and the website.
      Accountability is one of the hallmarks of Jennings’ tenure, according to Bierbaum who has worked beside her the whole time.
     “Our goals have been continually strengthened through her vision of what we should become, so that everyone knows that we stand for service delivered with compassion, accountability and professionalism, always trying to do better in our mission,” he says.
     On January 2, Jennings passed on title and responsibility to Widemann. She leaves with satisfaction, relief and confidence, in a transition that, she promises, “will be seamless.” Preparing Widemann to continue the mission has been Jennings’ final achievement. 
     That, and revisiting 22 years of history, paper, electronic and human. 
     Amid the sorting, preserving and trashing, there was reflecting.
     Jennings already had reached retirement age when she was persuaded to come to the rescue of Owensville Primary Care.
     “I thought I’d do it a couple years and get it straightened out,” she recalls. 
      But day after day, year after year, she returned.
      “What I do every day of my life is so satisfying that it has allowed me to work till 82,” she says.
 

Outgoing CEO Sylvia Jennings, left, and her successor, Sharon Widemann.

      Now, 20 years in, she allows herself to be “very personally pleased with myself for the job I have done here. Some people will call me smug, but you have to have some personal reward. I’m not talking about money but about feeling I have contributed something to my neighbors and friends.”
      Widemann’s mission is continuing a success she helped create.
     “We have a very fully equipped and functioning federal community health center, a strong executive staff, strong providers and a growing behavioral health component,” the new CEO says.
      Her plan is to reach into the community to bring affordable health care to people still unserved. Growing the behavioral health unit is a particular goal.
      She steps comfortably into Jennings’ big shoes.
     “We’re not a one-woman show anymore,” Widemann says. “We’re a team effort. Plus, I know where Sylvia lives.”

Thanksgiving novels now in season

     In novels, everything happens for a reason. Thus the coexistence of Thanksgiving and National Novel Writing Month in November can be no coincidence.
     Our national holiday is a cornucopia of potential plots.
     Food, for example. Since Like Water for Chocolate, novels linking food and life stories have seized the popular imagination and risen to the top of the charts, spilling over into movie adaptations. Imitate Laura Esquivel and write a story tracing a life in food. You might even start at the Thanksgiving table. Perhaps your own.
     Speaking of the Thanksgiving table, what better place to look for the conflict that novels thrive on? Comedy, murder mystery, nostalgia, romance, redemption, young adult and children’s: ­Novels of all sorts can evolve out of that table setting. Take my word for it. Even Louisa May Alcott wrote an Old Fashioned Thanksgiving.
     The challenge of National Novel Writing Month is writing in 30 days 50,000 original words for the first draft of a novel. 
     Are you up for the challenge?
     Novelists typically work in solitude, but this month you have options.
     “Anne Arundel County Public Library has always been a great space for writers to work,” says library head Hampton ‘Skip’ Auld. For the challenge month, libraries throughout the county are offering workshops and tips to help writers create their own masterpieces. Events include:
     Thursday, Nov. 2: Tips From Author Meg Eden, 3:30pm, Severn Library.
     Thursday Nov. 2, 9 and 16: Weekly Write-in meet up, 5-9pm, Deale Library.
     Monday November 6, 13, 20 and 27: Weekly Write-in meet up, 6pm, Severna Park Library.
     Tuesday, Nov. 7: Tips from Author Mary K. Tilghman, 6:30pm, Linthicum Library and Write-in meet up, 6:30pm, Brooklyn Park Library.
     Wednesday, Nov. 8: Write-in meet up, 6:30pm, Riviera Beach Library.
     Thursday, Nov. 9: Teen Writers Workshop, 2:30pm, Broadneck Library.
     Sunday, Nov. 12: Murder on their Minds: Sisters in Crime, 2 pm, Crofton Library.
      More at https://nanowrimo.org.
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Calvert Marine Museum scientist helps solve the mystery of the ­plesiosaur’s teeth

       Saur, from the Greek, tells you it’s some kind of lizard, likely a dinosaur, as that’s this suffix’s common use. There’s little else familiar about this Plesiosaur — except its connection to Calvert Marine Museum.
     First, the introduction: Plesiosaurs are stout-bodied, long-necked lizards, from the age of dinosaurs that propelled themselves through their oceanic environment using four flippers.
     Then the connection: It’s not the ancient ocean that is now our Chesapeake. Rather it’s the Museum’s man on such ancient environments, paleontologist Dr. Stephen Godfrey. With an international team of paleontologists from Chile, Argentina and the United States, Godfrey found a plesiosaur from long ago Antarctica that was rather like a whale.
     Instead of a marine predator, like other plesiosaurs, this saur was a strainer feeder like baleen whales, creatures that did live in the Miocene Chesapeake.
     Teeth were the clue that tipped off the team led by F. Robin O’Keefe a globally recognized scientist specializing in Mesozoic marine reptiles. The tiny teeth in the fossil’s lower jaw pointed the wrong way. Nor did they meet tip to tip as in all other plesiosaurs, instead lying together in a battery that acted in straining food particles from the water. This feeding style is unknown in other marine reptiles.
     It may, the scientists concluded, be an evolution “linked to changes in ocean circulation brought on by the southward movement of Antarctica during the Late Cretaceous period.”
     Visitors to Calvert Marine Museum can see what this pivotal plesiosaur likely looked like.