Dressing Barbie by Nancy Mugele


Some of my fondest childhood memories include Barbie. I know that is not something you might expect to hear from a self-proclaimed feminist, but it is true. Barbie celebrated 60 years on March 9 and I recently read Dressing Barbie by Carol Spencer. The author designed thousands of outfits for Barbie over her 35 year career at Mattel. In a perfect coincidence, last week when I flew to Florida to meet with Kent School alumni over spring break, I read an article on the 86-year-old Spencer in People magazine (my favorite airplane reading material, but that is another story).

The iconic (and sometimes controversial) Barbie doll was invented by Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel with her husband Elliott, whose daughter was named Barbara. Barbie was introduced as a teenage fashion model in 1959 at the American Toy Fair in New York City. Barbie originally came as a blonde or brunette, and I had the brunette version as a young girl. I loved my Barbie doll collection, but, most importantly, I loved her clothes. Barbie always dressed in the most current and exciting fashions of the day, and because it took two years for a design to become available in stores, Carol Spencer always had to be forward-thinking. Girls would certainly know if Barbie’s clothes were dated and out of fashion.

I was most definitely inspired by the fashions Barbie was sold with, but I had a secret weapon. My Nana. She was a seamstress by trade who specialized in creating custom bridal dresses in the 1960s and 1970s. She had a huge basement workshop in her home in Boston which served as her sewing room, complete with a large cutting table that my grandfather made for her of knotty pine. She had several sewing machines that were operated by foot pedals, and spools and spools of vibrantly colored thread hanging neatly in rows. I loved her sewing room and spent long hours watching her meticulous work. I witnessed many bridal party fittings, and was so proud of my grandmother’s handiwork. She was a designer and a perfectionist.

When Nana began to outfit my Barbies I knew I was the luckiest girl around. She made dresses, coats, skirts and slacks for my Barbie in the latest fabrics and fashions. Sometimes she made me and my Barbie matching outfits! My friends may have had more Barbie accessories – like the car, boat and dreamhouse, but I had the most clothes by far! When I saw the title of Carol Spencer’s book, Dressing Barbie, I immediately thought of my Nana in her sewing room. She dressed Barbie for many years as well.

Barbie does get a bad rap sometimes, especially as it relates to body image, with her height and her busty, small-waisted build – not to mention her feet, pre-formed to fit into high heels. Spencer realized the times had changed by the 90s and she wrote: I don’t think she was so out of proportion – people don’t understand doll scale. And, she’s a doll!

Spencer helped create many different career Barbies over the years and is proud of her work. She wrote: During the women’s movement all of us designers belonged to the National Organization for Women, but we didn’t flaunt it. It was this quiet goal to start promoting women. I wanted more choices for Barbie. I wanted more choices for myself.

Today, an estimated 100 Barbies are sold per minute. My favorite, and Mattel’s best-selling Barbie, was the Totally Hair Barbie sold in the 1990s. She wore a Pucci-esque mini dress designed by Spencer. Hair drama and high fashion in one doll.

Happy 60th Birthday, Barbie. Thank you, Carol Spencer, for your vision and fashion sense. And thank you, Nana, for making my Barbies the best-dressed dolls anywhere!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Remembering Harry Hughes by Rob Etgen


Harry Roe Hughes, two term Maryland Governor from the Eastern Shore, foremost champion of saving the Chesapeake Bay, and long-time Chairman of Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC), passed away comfortably at home last week after a long and very full life. Harry was a true statesman who had an incredible impact on Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay, the Eastern Shore, and all of us here at ESLC.

Just after Harry left the State House and his leadership role in stimulating the multi-state Bay cleanup, he was recruited to ESLC by his high school physics teacher – Howard Wood – one of ESLC’s Founders. Once on our Board Harry jumped right in and quickly started presiding at meetings, raising funds and shepherding me around the halls of government in Annapolis. Harry stayed active with ESLC in various roles even through his later years. During 2005, Harry and John Frece used the ESLC offices for the drafting of his autobiography, My Unexpected Journey.

Harry often loosened up ESLC crowds with stories of baseball and growing up in Denton when you could ramble unhindered across field and forest throughout Caroline County. He also took pride in his mischievous streak often telling about pushing his parent’s car out of the driveway and down the road before starting it to conceal nighttime joy rides. Many of his stories were prefaced by Harry saying he was killing time to avoid leading everyone in the ESLC fight song – “Don’t Bring In Sprawl” – which he hated singing.

My favorite Harry memory was in 1995 when he recruited the USDA Secretary to speak at ESLC’s annual gala in celebration of our proposed Security Corridor of protected farmland on the Eastern Shore. The morning of the sold out event at the Tidewater Inn the USDA Secretary was called out of the Country, and when I called Harry with the terrifying news, he simply said, “Let me see what I can do.” By that evening Harry had choreographed a speech by Maryland Agriculture and Natural Resources Secretaries and with Governor Glendenning on speakerphone that announced a major new State effort to protect our Corridor – and our crowd cheered! Now known as Maryland’s “Rural Legacy Program,” this initiative that Harry started that evening has now protected 920,694 acres of beautiful farmland and habitat. A nice day’s work!

Harry would often tell a joke about how someone in an elevator once asked him, “Didn’t you used to be Harry Hughes?” And his punch line was “Still am!” Truthfully, that joke is not that good, but when Harry told it, people roared with laughter. That was just Harry’s way – low key, comfortable, and lighthearted. We could use more of that today in our leaders.

Rob Etgen is the president of the East Shore Land Conservancy

This is US by Angela Rieck


I believe that by winning the birth lottery I was given the gift of growing up in this country.  Because my great grandfather was the right color, the right religion and the right nationality, he was allowed to immigrate in the late 19th century. His fortune became mine, as I was given the opportunity to be what I wanted to be (sexual harassment aside) through education.

Todays undocumented workers have not received that same gift—to be born here.  Due to our quirky immigration strategy, many are not allowed to immigrate legally, but come here to find work, raise their children and contribute to our society.

If you have read my past columns you know that most of us form opinions and then corral the facts to support our beliefs.  This is one such instance, I believe in immigration, but I would like to present both sets of facts in hopes of demonstrating that this belief is justified.

Before I review the “good” and “inconvenient” facts, let me remind everyone that all immigrant data is speculative.  As statisticians, we know how to coax the data to support our beliefs.  For that reason, I have selected conservative sources (since I am liberal) with credentials for reporting accurate data.  I have avoided data from FAIRUS, Breitbart and other biased sources. I also excluded a report by the Heritage foundation, since its methodology has been sharply criticized by experts from both sides of the debate.

First, the inconvenient facts, immigration is not without cost. It is estimated that health care costs can be as high as $18.5B per year (Forbes), while most estimates put the cost at $11B per year. These costs include emergency room care for uninsured workers, births, and health care to US citizens born to undocumented workers.  

It is estimated that six percent of US births were to undocumented workers (Pew Research Center, 2016 estimates).  The 14th amendment, which guarantees citizenship to anyone born in America is a likely incentive, however, it is impossible to assess its impact.  I am not going to get into an argument on the merits of the 14th amendment, but if I were young and undocumented, I would want my children to be citizens of this amazing country.

Education is the largest cost for state and local governments.  Due to a Supreme Court ruling (Plyer v. Doe, 1982) all children, regardless of immigration status, must be provided with a public education.  Undocumented workers are also eligible for state Head Start programs. Education costs are estimated at $11-$30B annually (note the wide range, which shows how speculative the data are).

The “good” facts are compelling.  Economists agree that immigration (both documented and undocumented) is an overall net positive to our economy (George W Bush Institute, 2016). Their data estimates that immigration increases the productive capacity of the economy and raises the GDP. Called the “immigration surplus,” its value is estimated at $36 to $72 billion per year (which offsets the costs listed above). In addition to the immigration surplus, undocumented workers help the economy by working in industries and locations where there is a need for workers.  

The Congressional Budget Office concluded in 2007 that over the long term (but not in the short term), tax revenues collected from undocumented workers (including income tax, sales tax, property tax through rents, tolls, etc.) exceed the cost of services provided to them.

A national panel of economists concluded in 2016 that due to cheaper labor, the average consumer reaps the reward of undocumented workers through lower food costs, construction and services. Its value is estimated to be in the billions.

Undocumented workers are ineligible for most federal benefit programs, including social security, even though it is estimated that 50-75% of them pay taxes and contribute to social security (Congressional Budget Office, 2007).  Legal immigrants are entitled to programs after 5 years but use the benefits at a lower rate than native born American citizens (Fact Sheet: Immigrants and Public Benefits, National Immigration Forum, 2018).

Most importantly, two studies conducted separately by states with high immigration rates (Arizona and Florida) concluded there is a net gain for undocumented workers when comparing costs (such as education) to their tax payments.

While eyebrows may be raised about the costs of education, it is undeniably a benefit to our nation.

The education benefit came into focus for me about 7 years ago, as I sat next to my daughter’s former babysitter. She had illegally immigrated to escape poverty and violence in war-torn El Salvador and took advantage of the 1986 amnesty law to become a citizen. That evening, she was watching her granddaughter graduate from High School. Clutching mylar balloons and the best bouquet of flowers that she could afford, she blinked back tears of joy for the granddaughter for whom she had sacrificed so much.  

Immediately I was transported to a one room, dank, rustic, cold building, seated next to my great grandparents, as they watched my grandfather graduate from High School. Their weary, lined, hard faces remained stoic while mumbling “sehr gut”. I imagined my great grandparents believing in this moment that all of their sacrifice, prejudicial treatment, and struggles in a harsh farming life were for this moment.  Their son would go on to graduate from college, become a CPA and father 9 children, all of whom attended college. His 30 grandchildren would become benefactors, executives, Navy pilots, teachers, lawyers, PhDs, builders, computer scientists, accountants.

This babysitter’s granddaughter would go on to become the first member of her family to graduate from college. She became a teacher.

Ignoring our deplorable history of slavery, our history of immigration is the best of our history. This is US.

Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.


Learning to Lead by Nancy Mugele


“If we want people to fully show up, to bring their whole selves including their unarmored, whole hearts—so that we can innovate, solve problems, and serve people—we have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.” — Brené Brown, Dare to Lead

I am a huge Brené Brown fan. From the moment I first heard her speak two years ago at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) annual conference, I have been hooked. Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation Brené Brown Endowed Chair of the Graduate College of Social Work, is the author of five #1 New York Times Best Sellers, and I have internalized all five. She has studied courage, vulnerability, and empathy for two decades and she shares it with an easy comfort.

At NAIS, she described earning her worst evaluations from students after a hurricane devastated Houston and she felt the university reopened too soon. Brown “was her worst self,” as she put it, because of “how I was showing up.” It was a powerful reminder that, as leaders and educators, we cannot bring our own personal issues into our work. This takes courage. And courage’s foundation is vulnerability. “We’re not wired for vulnerability but it is the birthplace of love, belonging, and joy,” Brown said. She closed with gratitude for the educators in the room. “Ten years from now in an interview, they will bring you up,” she said. “They’ll say they didn’t believe in themselves, and you changed that.”

In September 2017 I devoured Brown’s Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. I wrote about it to parents of Kent School students and also in this column. “True belonging,” she wrote, “ is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

I love the book and quoted it a lot last academic year, as I constantly told students that I BELIEVEd in them and that they should BELIEVE in themselves. (My word for last academic year was BELIEVE, but that is another story.) Kelsy must have missed the column because she gave me the book as a Christmas gift two months ago. I was deeply touched. She selected the thoughtful gift because she knows I admire Brown and that I would really appreciate the topic. She does not know that now I have two copies – one at home and one in my office. Seems to be a pattern with books that inspire me!

When Brown’s latest, Dare to Lead, was published this past October, I did not immediately purchase it. I thought it might have a business bent because of its description: Daring Greatly and Rising Strong at Work. But, lately, I have been thinking a lot about leadership, developing emerging leaders in the Kent School employee group and developing leadership in students. Why are some people compelled to lead? Are leaders born? Or, are they taught?

During DEARS (Drop Everything And Read Silently) at Kent School I have just finished Dare to Lead, based on Brown’s twenty years of research, and the past three years specifically conducted with leaders, change makers and culture shifters. The book is a must-read for business leaders, and educators.

In her book she claims that true leaders are people who hold themselves accountable for recognising the potential in people and ideas, and developing that potential. The more I thought about this, the more I realized that this is exactly what teachers do each and every day. Teachers dare to lead their classrooms and their students with empathy, courage and love. Teachers create a safe classroom culture where each student is heard, valued and respected. Teachers teach students how to lead with kindness and offer many opportunities for students to grow and shine.

Next week I will have the privilege to connect with several Kent School alumni in NYC and in Florida. All are entrepreneurs and leaders in business. I am looking forward to asking them what Kent School means to them and how the School prepared them for life.

I firmly believe that if we educate the minds, and also the hearts, of our students we will prepare them to be daring leaders who will possess the courage and empathy needed to lead lives of purpose in the global community beyond Kent School. I have watched several of our Student Government Association representatives learning to lead this year, and I am in awe.

Leadership can, and should, be learned.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

One Hundred Kindnesses by Angela Rieck


After enduring almost 40 years of New Jersey winters, I find myself hiding from the cold in Key West, Florida.  Surprisingly, there are a number of St Michaels and Oxford residents doing the same thing, more than 2 dozen who winter here or have moved here permanently.  I wonder what it is about this small island that attracts them? Perhaps it is the mornings.

This morning was a typical morning for me.  I awoke at 5 a.m. Always an early riser, sleep is a persistent foe so any time after 4 a.m. is a win.  I left my house around 6 a.m. and headed toward the White Street Pier for the sunrise. I would not be alone. Tourists and residents alike congregate along the long concrete pier to watch the sunrise, nature’s kaleidoscope of pinks, yellows, aquamarine, power blue, teal and azure as the sky and sea exchange colors in the delicate dance of dawn.

I walked past a homeless man scrubbing the granite tiles of the Aids Memorial, I stopped to thank him.  He showed me names of his friends etched on the shiny black granite, his conversation meandered and eventually I thanked him again and continued down the pier.  

A tanned, bright yellow shirted city worker who cleans the beach called out hello, “It is going to be a beautiful day”.  We smiled and returned greetings. I lost count of the number of people who wished me a good morning, it was at least 20.  I removed my dogs’ leashes and watched them scamper along the pier in the predawn light using their noses to pick up familiar scents while running for the sheer delight of exercise. Along the pier were a group of sunrise watchers with their dogs, chatting while staring at the ocean.  A woman called my name and came over. She hadn’t seen me in a while and wanted to make sure I was okay. My dog jumped up on a tourist, he smiled and pet him.

My destination is always the end of the pier, where my husband’s ashes have now settled into the sediment.  Other onlookers seemed to sense my need for space and respectfully moved away.

A dog ran up to play with my dog Gus, they were fellow inmates at the SPCA while awaiting adoption.  They remembered each other and celebrated their new lives.

As I walked down, I saw someone cleaning up some other dog’s poop.  She smiled and I handed her a bag, in case she needed another.

As I left the pier, more “good mornings.” Another homeless man waved to me, my dog ran to his familiar friend and they exchanged happy greetings.

A couple of tourists looked lost, someone saw them studying a map and asked them if they needed directions.  They were looking for a good place for breakfast, a crowd of helpful residents descended around the map offering suggestions.

Returning home, I crossed the street at a crosswalk, an angry driver in a large pickup almost ran me over, while shouting out an obscenity.

I stop. How will I describe this morning?  Will it be the hundreds of kindnesses I experienced or this moment of anger?

I get to choose.

Angela Rieck was born and raised on a farm in Caroline County. After receiving her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland, she worked as a scientist at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. Throughout her career, she held management jobs at AT&T, HP and Medco, finally retiring as a corporate executive for a large financial services company. Angela is also a wife, mother and an active volunteer serving on the Morris County School Board for 13 years and fostering and rehabilitating over 200 dogs. After the death of her husband, Dr. Rieck returned to the Eastern Shore to be with her siblings. With a daughter living and working in New York City, she and her dogs now split their time between Talbot County and Key West, FL.  


Reflections on 24 Hours in the Life of a Presidency by Stephen Parks


When do we start the clock on this momentous day on separate fronts at opposite ends of the globe? About 6:30 p.m., Vietnam time, President Trump shook hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to a cacophony of clicking digital cameras before their long-shot denuclearization summit meeting. That’s 6:30 a.m. Washington time. Hours earlier, Michael Cohen and his attorneys put final touches on the opening statement he’d make to the House Oversight Committee. Cohen’s remarks characterizing his former boss as “a racist, conman and a cheat” were delivered about 10:30 a.m. in Washington, 10:30 p.m. in Hanoi as Trump wrapped up his first day of the summit. Trump tweeted in response: “Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately). . . . He was just disbarred . . . for lying & fraud. . . . He is lying in order to reduce his prison time. Using Crooked’s lawyer!” (“Crooked” refers to Hillary Clinton and her lawyer, now one of Cohen’s, Lanny Davis.)

It’s useless to argue about Cohen’s credibility. Trump supporters and detractors occupy different planets. I can tell, and so could you, by watching commentary on cable news networks of opposing political views. In Fox world, Cohen, once convicted of lying, is ineligible as a witness. (Tell that to any cop investigating a crime or prosecutor trying a defendant. May as well abandon jurisprudence.) On MSNBC, Trump is all but impeached or indicted—though a Justice Department memo says presidents are non indictable. The live feed of the hearings was more illuminative. Only one Republican bothered to ask a substantive question. Rep. Justin Amash asked Cohen if Trump ordered him to lie about contacts with Russia. Cohen responded that Trump never directed him to lie. But he got the message “in code.”

Other Republicans, notably Jim Jordan, ranking committee Republican—he’d be chairman if Democrats hadn’t won control of the House in the midterms—and Mark Meadows, concentrated on theatrical stunts such as “proving” Trump couldn’t be racist because he hired Lynne Patton to a Department of Housing and Urban Development post. With no chance to speak for herself—the majority would block her as a witness—Patton was trotted out as a “prop,” as newly elected Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib protested in her turn at questioning. Meadows cried foul as he presumed being labeled a racist. Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings intervened, avoiding a crisis that might have crashed the hearing. Both sides made nice. Jordan’s contribution was to post an optic declaiming Cohen as “Liar Liar Pants on Fire” hereafter disqualified from human discourse. Very mature.

Democrats also were guilty of speechifying political points in their “questions,” although rookie Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez kept on investigative point by asking if Trump had committed bank and insurance frauds and where the committee could find supporting evidence and witnesses.

Baltimorean Cummings, reminding me of a passionate disciple of the affable Sen. Sam Ervin of Watergate fame, closed the hearing with an emotional appeal on behalf of democracy: “We are better than this!”

Hopefully, we are.

On the other side of the world, the president walked away from negotiations with Kim, who reportedly demanded a full pullback on sanctions while offering to decommission one nuclear site. Listening to his intelligence experts for a change, Trump confronted Kim with evidence of more North Korean nuke sites. Bad deal rightly rejected.

In a weird twist, North Koreans called a press conference (they have no domestic press) 24 hours into Trump’s long strange day, claiming they only sought partial relief from sanctions. But Trump stepped on his rare display of presidential behavior. He, not Kim, banned American reporters from the summit dinner because an AP reporter asked a question about Cohen. Then, in his closing press conference, Trump gave murderous dictator Kim dispensation on the death of American student Otto Warmbier. Arrested for pilfering a poster, Warmbier was imprisoned and much later released, comatose and near inevitable death.

Trump claims he believes Kim’s assurance that he knew nothing of this atrocity. Just like he accepted Vladimir Putin’s word on Russian interference in the 2016 election and Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman’s claim of innocence in the savage murder of a Washington Post journalist.

One step forward, two steps back, Mr. President. For Trump, that’s 24-hour “progress.”

Stephen Parks, now living in Easton, is a retired journalist who worked for Newsday on Long Island and The Sun in Baltimore among other newspapers.

The Scientific Case for Eliminating the Electoral College by Angela Rieck


There have been five United States presidential elections where the “elected” President did not win the popular vote but was chosen by our electoral college system.

In my lifetime, this has occurred twice: the 2000 election of George W Bush and the recent 2016 election.  The former resulted in an expensive and ill-advised war that cost trillions of dollars, destabilized a significant part of the world and resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries on both sides.  The 2016 election has resulted in our current contentious environment.

The other instances have not been much better. The very first presidential election was “awarded” to John Quincy Adams by the House of Representatives, despite only winning 32% of the popular vote. (Andrew Jackson won 42% of the vote, but not enough for a majority and he lacked the connections of John Quincy Adams.)

The 1876 election had disastrous consequences.  Although the Democrat candidate, Tilden, won 52% of the vote, there were 4 states where the winner was contested.  Congress worked out a compromise that awarded the election to the Republican, Hayes, under the condition that he not run for re-election and remove the federal troops from the South.  The removal of these troops resulted in African-American voter suppression and the commencement of systematic repression of the Southern black population.

In 1988 the electoral college prevented Grover Cleveland from being reelected to a second term.  Aided by Tammany Hall in NYC, Harrison was able to win the electoral college despite having 92,000 votes fewer than Cleveland.

The election of 2000 was decided by a Supreme Court which ruled that while the constitution guarantees us the right to vote, it does not guarantee the right to have our vote counted. In 2016, despite winning by 3 million votes, Clinton did not win the electoral college.

Unfortunately, this quirk in our election process results in, at best, a contentious term of office.

But more importantly, there are two statistical axioms that show that the electoral college system flies against scientific knowledge. The first statistical property is the law of large numbers.  This law means that the larger the number of (in this case) votes, the more accurate the data. By not allowing all Americans’ votes to be counted, it becomes a poor assessment of the “will of the people.”

But even more important is the statistical phenomenon known as the “wisdom of the crowd.”  Sir Francis Galton, one of the early pioneers of statistics, identified this phenomenon after gathering estimates of an ox’s weight at a county fair.  While the guesses varied widely and few were accurate, he found that the average of all guesses was within 1% of the actual weight. The larger the sample, the more likely that the average answer is correct. He called this the “wisdom of the crowd.”  We have found that this phenomenon is pretty rigorous in large samples. For example, if you have a bowl of marbles and ask a large number of people to estimate how many marbles are in the bowl, the average estimate will be within 1-2% of the actual number.

So let’s apply these statistical principles to our popular election.  In the electoral college system, we reduce the number of actual votes from 137.5 million (in 2016) to 538 (called restriction in range).  With these 538 votes, we have effectively eliminated the votes for the losing candidate in that state (and in some cases electors are allowed to vote their conscience).  This small sample (538) ignores the importance of the law of large numbers and eliminates “the wisdom of the crowd” by significantly reducing the sample size.

Winston Churchill’s famous quote: “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter,” individually may be true, but our statistical laws demonstrate that he is wrong when it is applied to the entire population. If we leave the election up to an unbiased crowd, its wisdom will prevail.

Angela Rieck was born and raised on a farm in Caroline County. After receiving her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland, she worked as a scientist at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. Throughout her career, she held management jobs at AT&T, HP and Medco, finally retiring as a corporate executive for a large financial services company. Angela is also a wife, mother and an active volunteer serving on the Morris County School Board for 13 years and fostering and rehabilitating over 200 dogs. After the death of her husband, Dr. Rieck returned to the Eastern Shore to be with her siblings. With a daughter living and working in New York City, she and her dogs now split their time between Talbot County and Key West, FL.  


Op-Ed: Trump Leaves the Stove On before Going to Vietnam by Steve Parks


As President Donald Trump heads to Vietnam for denuclearization talks with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, he leaves a few loose ends on the table back home.

Never mind Wednesday’s public congressional hearing featuring Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, or special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report on possible conspiracy involving Russia, Trump’s 2016 campaign and his post-inaugural administration. Forget a virtual life sentence for his campaign manager Paul Manafort, or The Donald’s political sidekick Roger Stone’s struggle to comply with a new gag order while awaiting trial on charges of linking Wikileaks to Trump’s campaign. Put aside, for now, even federal court rulings on the president’s declaration of a national emergency because Congress declined to fund a border wall that he promised Mexico would pay for.

What concerns me right now are, other than giveaways Trump might surrender to Kim in quest of a Nobel Peace Prize nomination, are three startling issues the president has chosen to ignore or dismiss as he flies to Hanoi:

1). After Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson of Silver Spring was arrested for stockpiling weapons and drugs while displaying threats on his workplace computer to assassinate Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, four Democratic presidential candidates and journalists for MSNBC and CNN notably critical of Trump, the president’s near silence has been thunderous and entirely predictable.

But what about Republican congressional leaders? Where’s the collegial support Democrats showed GOP Rep. Steve Scalise when he was shot by a liberal-leaning gunman during softball practice? Can you imagine the Trump tweet storm had the native-born Coast Guard officer been an illegal Muslim or Latino immigrant? Or even a legal one? Trump has next to nothing to say about this arrest, not even a shout-out to law-enforcement officers who thwarted a potential domestic assault on democracy. Yet he’s found time to tweet about actor Jussie Smollett’s truly fake hate-crime accusation.

2). Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote “victory” over Trump, of course, was pyrrhic: The Electoral College rules. But it annoyed Trump enough that he claimed with no evidence that three to five million illegal aliens from south of the border voted for Hillary. He even appointed a commission to investigate widespread voter fraud, which fizzled because states refused to cooperate in what they deemed a charade. Now we have proof, not of voter fraud but election fraud, so patently illegal that North Carolina ordered a do-over in the Ninth Congressional District.

This hasn’t happened in four decades. Mishandling of absentee ballots exclusively on behalf of the Republican candidate was too blatant to survive scrutiny. The “winner” of the now-discredited November election likely won’t run for “re-election.” But Trump is tweet-less regarding Republican fraud. If you think he’d spare a Democratic cheater, then you’d believe Vladimir Putin’s assurance that North Korea has no missiles that could reach the U.S.

3). When Alex Acosta was nominated for Secretary of Labor his role in the sweetheart deal that let serial child-rapist/sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein get away with a sentence of 13 months in Palm Beach County jail was a matter of public record. Mostly Epstein just slept behind bars with his days spent in work release—maybe at bars. Cursory vetting would’ve revealed this travesty of justice. But #metoo and Miami Herald reporter Julie Brown (fake news, Mr. President?) caught up with the billionaire financier’s obscene perfidy. Epstein directed girls he’d raped to recruit other girls for his abuse and that of well-heeled rapist buddies. Epstein was caught in Palm Beach, but his sex-traffic map extended to New York, New Mexico, his private Virgin Islands isle and Europe. Why then-U.S. attorney Acosta apparently violated the law by not informing victims of his Epstein deal is one question.

But another is why Trump gave Acosta a pass and remains aloof regarding the rich sex trafficker his cabinet enabler protected. Or why the president is thumb-silent about longtime supporter Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, charged with solicitation in a sex-trafficking ring that imprisoned Chinese girls in a south Florida massage parlor. If sex-trafficking is such a national emergency, why not wall off Florida instead of the Rio Grande? Let’s guess Trump’s tweet: “Wall stops crime and sin but would block my view @Palm Beach.”

Meanwhile, good luck in Vietnam, Mr. President. You’ll need it. So will we. Does anybody take notes?

Steve Parks is a retired journalist living in Easton

Snow Days by Nancy Mugele



Earlier this month I faced an unexpected snow day, bookless. For a book lover, there is nothing worse. The books on my stack were all read, or as read as they were ever going to be, and I was anxiously awaiting Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls by Dr. Lisa Damour for my educational reading, which was on its way, along with a new work of fiction.

I was still a little under the weather myself after my dancing performance and combined with the messy wintry mix, a trip to The Bookplate was not in the cards. What was I going to do home alone all day? Jim had left early in the mess for a meeting in Baltimore, so I was left with lots of wood for a fire and lots of snacks, but sadly, no book to tackle.

Trust me, I can shop online with the best of them, especially from Thanksgiving until Christmas. I can interact with my iPhone checking all of my social media platforms all day, or binge watch Friends, Modern Family, or a Netflix series. On this day, however, something was just not right.

I realized what it was late in the morning when I looked outside. It was a rather snowless snow day – which, seriously, takes all the fun out of having the day off from school. Making a decision on weather-related delays or closings is one of the worst parts of being a Head of School. For starters, the decisions are made at around 5:00 in the morning. Everything looks ominous in the dark! I always feel bad waking Kent School employees who must communicate whatever the message needs to be, or check on the status of campus, all well before we have each had our morning coffee. And, regardless of the decision, someone is unhappy.

On a true snow day, with whiteness blanketing the landscape, I always retreat into the Robert Frost poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. My favorite line being: The only other sound’s the sweep of easy wind and downy flake. The calmness and simple beauty evidenced in that line always gives me pause. On the Eastern Shore, I appreciate the snow much more so, as it magically transforms the Chester River and nearby farmlands to breathtaking works of art.

Meteorologist Justin Berk is at Kent School today. It is a re-schedule of an assembly he was supposed to do in the fall on hurricanes, to coordinate with a Middle School earth science unit. But, now I am thrilled to welcome him during snow season. For those of you who follow Justin online, his Faith in the Flakes (FITF) is legendary. In his words, “I have a little obsession with snow, but my love of weather extends to all seasons.” Justin and his wife Shannon created a non-profit, Just In Power Kids, to empower children confronting cancer by partnering with holistic practitioners to provide free care. Proceeds from Snowstix, of which every Kent School classroom has one, or honorariums for school assemblies go to their incredible and personal cause. Kent School is pleased to support Just In Power Kids and Justin Berk. We learned everything we need to know about snow today, taught by a snow lover. His FITF is contagious.

Fingers crossed for one really snowy snow day with no ice (and a good book) before winter’s end.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.


My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.


He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.


The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

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