Observing From My Porch by Nancy Mugele


In my youth I fashioned myself as the next Nancy Drew. We shared the same first name and I read every book in the series as fast as they were published. Nancy was clever, feisty, and independent, and her detective skills were first rate. She was a great role model for me – showing me what girls were capable of doing at a time when there were not many female protagonists for me to read about and connect with. With apologies to The Bookplate for not sharing, I still have every one of my Nancy Drew books. They survived our recent downsizing and will forever be lining my bookcases.

Later, I decided I was more suited for a career as a writer than a sleuth so I decided to hang up my fingerprinting kit and stop staring at people with mistrust. I picked up a notepad and pen and set my sights on becoming a journalist like investigative reporter Lois Lane of The Daily Planet.

As I grew older Anna Quindlen, author, journalist and opinion columnist, became my writer idol. She was just ten years older than I was yet I felt as though I was following her down a strangely similar path in life. Or better yet, she was paving the way for my journey. I connected with her words in a meaningful and powerful way. “That’s what’s so wonderful about reading,” she wrote in Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake: A Memoir of a Woman’s Life, “that books and poetry and essays makes us feel as though we’re connected, as though the thoughts and feelings we believe are singular and sometimes nutty are shared by others, that we are more alike than different.”

I read everything Anna writes and continue to do so today. Everything I learned about navigating New York City and personal relationships as a young career-oriented twenty-something was in the lines of her columns. I learned about motherhood and balancing a career and home through her words and experiences. I even learned a little bit about decorating a home and using the color red! Also in Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake – a look at life, friends, and family at 60 years old Anna writes: “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind, the second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind.” And for me, that is the best advice of all.

I have had the distinct pleasure to meet Anna Quindlen twice, and yes, she has even been in my car – I was star struck and almost had an accident exiting her hotel but that is another story! I was with her a year and a half ago on the eve of the birth of her first grandchild. I cannot wait to read about her life as a grandmother in her next chapter. I know I will gain much wisdom from her insights.

“I’m a novelist.” Anna wrote in A Short Guide to a Happy Life, “My work is human nature. Real life is really all I know.” Lucky for me her real life could shape and inspire mine.

Writing for the Chestertown Spy fulfills a lifelong goal to express myself through the written word. I am so grateful for this opportunity to share my thoughts every other week. My full time job is incredibly rewarding and brings great joy to my life but my “side hustle” (as my adult children refer to my column) is a really fun, creative outlet! To me, writing is simply about observing the world around you and sharing it.

Observing from my porch…

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s. 

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