A Long Retail Line Yields Reflection

So, I thought my Christmas shopping was done, and then I realized that I had forgotten to buy a present for our dog, Nutmeg. Wanting to stick close to home, I decided to take a “quick” trip to our local K-mart, whose parking lot has been woefully empty since the Giant Eagle moved out a few months ago. I pictured a sparsely-filled parking lot and one lonely cashier with a line of ten people. Not wanting yet another business to flee our town, I decided to do my part and give K-mart some business. I didn’t know if they would have what I needed, and as I backed out of my driveway, I considered going to Walmart instead.

I was surprised to find a healthy number of cars in the K-mart parking lot. It was interesting that there was no bell-ringer from Salvation Army out front, but when I walked through the doors, I saw long lines, and only about half of the registers were in use. I knew I’d be in for a wait. But I had some time to kill, so I went about my shopping.

In the pet aisle, I met a woman who has a 105 lb. Labrador retriever, and we were soon chatting about our dogs and the available toys for our disparate-sized dogs. See, people. This is what I like about Christmas. No other time of year would inspire me to speak to a complete stranger about dog toys, or anything else for that matter.

When I had completed my selections, I headed to the front of the store where I found five lines of approximately 20 shoppers each, most encroaching into the women’s clothing section. I picked the one that just grazed that section and curved toward the customer service counter, which had been pressed into a checkout line. Lord help the person who actually wanted to return something.

Straight away, I found myself explaining to confused customer how the lines were working. They were so long it was unclear which line was headed to what cashier. After explaining what was happening three times to the unhappy woman, I gave up, and she wheeled her cart in a direction opposite from checkout. The woman in line in front of me seemed amused.

“It’s Christmas. “What does she expect?” she said with an accent that I couldn’t identify right away.

She was holding a half gallon of milk and a couple of other items in her hands. I offered the bottom of my cart for her use, telling her I knew how unpleasant an extended period of holding a cold container could be. This gesture sparked a conversation.

I don’t know her name, but let’s call her Pilar. That’s a pretty name. I considered calling her Maria, after the Sesame Street character, but you’ll soon see why I decided not to.

“I just spent a month in Puerto Rico helping my mother,” said Pilar. “I’m not going to get upset about this line.”

Pilar said she works at a large retail store and took FMLA leave after Hurricane Maria to help her parents recover from the devastation in their small Puerto Rican town. Her mother has Alzheimer’s disease and had fallen ill. She was in the hospital, which was running on generators, and the precious electricity was being used for patients in intensive care, rather than the elevators. So, every day, Pilar and her father climbed five flights of stairs to visit the sick woman.

When Pilar arrived at the airport in San Juan, she was struck by how empty the usually bustling place was. The only people there were seemed to be from the military and FEMA.

The Army gave Pilar MRE (meals ready to eat), because she doesn’t live there anymore, and they feared she would get sick if she ate the local food. Pilar said the meals were very tasty. She really liked the lasagna. “It’s just a bit salty,” she said. “But that’s why the meals are good for 20 years.”

She said that there is no beef to be had in Puerto Rico, only chicken. She pointed to all of the merchandise surrounding us. The stores back there have one or two items on the shelf. “And if you want to buy five of something, you can’t. You can only buy two.”

I asked her how the recovery is going in Puerto Rico. She said it is still very bad. They had expected to restore power to the entire island by December 15, but that hasn’t happened.

Pilar said that the cities are faring much better than the small towns and villages. Many roads are wiped out and there is still no electricity or water in the town where her parents live. She said the lack of lights is not as bad as not having any water. They can get water from local wells for bathing and household tasks, but they cannot drink it. Every few days the Army comes around and drops off jugs of water like the milkman used to drop off milk.

I was surprised that there are five families from Puerto Rico who are staying at a local hotel in our town, hosted by FEMA. The difficult thing for these people is that extended families have been distributed to different locations around the country. I asked her if anyone in our town is helping them feel more at home and easing their stress through the holiday season. She said that her daughter has done some volunteering with them, and some churches are helping as well.

Pilar said that 250,000 people have left Puerto Rico since the hurricane and she doubts that all of them will go back. The devastation is too great. She said the noise is deafening there, because of all the reconstruction. I know in my own neighborhood that I don’t care for the sound of construction. I’m sure I wouldn’t like the level of noise in Puerto Rico.

Many of us have too much noise in our lives, not just in the audible sense, but noise in the form of information, obligations, and our own internal, chaotic thought processes. We try to find the quickest route to where we have to be, we fume if we are placed on hold, and we seethe when we are forced to stand in a line. When I saw the lines at K-mart today, something told me to just surrender to the time. I did, and I feel richer because of it.

“You never know when everything is going to be taken away,” said Pilar. “No one expected that the storm would destroy the whole island. When I was there, I learned that I couldn’t worry about next week or next month. I had to take care of problems as they came, and I really learned to just take each day one at a time.”

She took her items from the bottom of my cart and placed them on the conveyor belt.  I don’t even know how much time passed as we spoke. It doesn’t matter.

She finished her transaction and as she was walking away, she turned to me and wished me a Merry Christmas. I did the same.

Maybe my little story enriches your day a little bit. Perhaps the next time you’re faced with a situation which slows you down, you might think of Pilar and how life can change so quickly, and how lucky you really are at this moment. I know I will.

Merry Christmas. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, be merry.




Ann Silverthorn


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Dimorier Brought Newspapers to Erie Classrooms

Monroe News Star (Monroe, LA) Friday, May 22, 1914

Monroe News Star
(Monroe, LA)
Friday, May 22, 1914

In 1914, William Dimorier, a high school teacher from Erie, PA, received national recognition for a project he had initiated at Erie High called “Newspaper Week.” While Dimorier was not the originator of such a concept, his project was the seed for Erie’s long-running NIE (Newspapers in Education) program. The Monroe News-Star, in Monroe, Louisiana, ran the following story on William’s project in 1914.

Erie, Pa., May 21. The idea of a “newspaper week,” proposed by Prof. Fred Newton Scott of the University of Michigan at a convention of teachers of English last November, has been carried out with success by Professor Dimorier in his English classes in the Erie High School. The object of “Newspaper week” was to make a kind of laboratory study of the newspaper, its history, essential features, purpose, influence and ideals, combined with practical work by the students in reporting and review writing.

Besides talks to the school by newspaper men, addresses were made in class by students. Among the topics dealt with were the following: ‘The History of Printing,’ ‘History of a Newspaper,’ ‘What is News?’ ‘Associated Press,’ ‘The Mission of a Newspaper’ and ‘The Career of a Number of Prominent Journalists.’ Five copies of each day’s issue of 10 of the best newspapers were ordered for the week, and a room was fitted up as a reading room. Through the whole week the purpose was to give the students as clear an idea as possible of what a good newspaper should be. Each student was required to write a news article, review a newspaper and review an article.

Professor Dimorier in summing up the results of this experiment, for the details of which he had no precedent, says: ‘I have never attempted anything that aroused so much enthusiasm or that was more enjoyed by the students. I shall repeat it next fall and am gathering material already. We are planning also to have a week with periodicals.”[i]

Newspaper Week Resembles NIE

William’s project resembles the contemporary Newspaper in Education (NIE) programs, in which K-12 students study newspapers and publishing, much like William’s students did. In the early 20th century, however, the idea was novel, and although William is not the person with whom the idea originated, he was certainly one of its pioneers. In fact, even the University of Michigan professor mentioned in the Monroe News-Star, was not the first to come up with the idea.

Five years earlier before the Star article, in December 1909, the Afton Enterprise, from William’s New York State hometown, reported that a course had been established in New York high schools, designed to teach students how to read newspapers, and that this was modeled after a program in Chicago. An educator stated, “The boys would open at the sporting page and then read only headlines forward and back. The girls never read the papers at all. They never knew the most common events of daily happenings. Now one of our exercises is for the classes to decide each day what was the most important piece of news in the paper.”[ii]

PA State Education Association Learns of Newspapers in Classroom

In December of 1915, a Miss Turner, of Altoona, PA, read William’s essay about newspaper week to the assembly in the English section of the Round Table Conference at the Pennsylvania State Education Association meeting in Scranton, PA. The proceedings stated that Miss Turner read the essay in William’s absence, but William was in Afton around that time, and Scranton is only about 75 miles from there.

William’s “Newspaper Week” essay, while full of serious content, contained a fair amount of wit and humor. It recounted the students’ solicitations for newspapers from a variety of publishers, including in a few in different languages. He referred to “fifty-seven varieties,” a nod to Heinz 57 branding, and, “Before the week was over there were about as many varieties of papers as there were kinds of rodents in Browning’s famous poem,” a reference to Robert Browning’s “Pied Piper of Hamelin.”

The paper recounted the students’ tour of a “modern” pressroom to observe the printing process. “The almost human machines which worked with such lightning-like speed and with such accuracy were a revelation to some who no doubt thought, if they ever thought, that papers just appeared on the front porches of their homes.”

Students Give Testimonials on Newspapers in the Classroom

“Newspaper Week” quoted several student participants, including one, by that time attending Yale, who stated, “To my mind it was completely successful, and that is especially remarkable in view of the fact that it was the first time anything of its kind had ever been tried.” The student identified the most-important lesson learned as, “how to discriminate between the good and the bad papers, between the true and the false, between the constructive and destructive.” Obviously, this skill was not only relevant in the early 20th century, but continues to be an invaluable one with so much news coming from so many different places in so many different forms today.

Another student, attending the University of Pennsylvania wrote, “I was brought to see, for the first time, how the politics of a partizan [sic] paper are likely to distort its views. . . . I came to understand how a newspaper in the hands of a particular power could influence many minds for good or evil.”

William concluded his essay with the following evaluation of the week’s activities:

It is good as far as it goes; however, it is a kind of intellectual spasm. I believe that students should be given, during the entire high school course, systematic training in the reading of good newspapers and in the writing of news articles. Probably two or three lessons a month would be sufficient. In my judgment the main results to be sought are the ability to discern good news from bad news, and the habit of reading regularly one or more of the best newspapers.[iii]

Newspaper Week Essay in English Journal

In March 1917, William’s article “Newspaper Week,” which recounted the week during which, his classes studied real-world newspapers, was published in the English Journal.[iv] It is nearly identical to the version read to the attendees at the 1915 Pennsylvania State Educators Meeting, except for an introductory paragraph. It’s possible that this paragraph was there all along and just didn’t make it into the 1915 book of proceedings. The newer version credits Fred N. Scott, with planting the seed for the project. Scott was the Michigan professor mentioned in the May 1914 Louisiana newspaper article about William’s newspaper-week project.

In the opening paragraph of “Newspaper Week,” included in the English Journal, William stated that planning the project without a previous model to follow was like, “giving to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.” He said he had no “poets eye” nor the imagination of Professor Scott, but rather “determined frenzy rolling.” Using quotes, such as these from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet, William wrote that he couldn’t have cast his eyes toward heaven for guidance, because heaven has no use for the subjects that newspapers deal with.

William wrote that he had wracked his own brain, and those of his friends, and interrogated local newspapermen to develop a curriculum that would help students discern between credible and incredible news sources. As for “yellow sheets,” the scandalous, trashy newspapers of the time, he stated there was a place in hell for them, but that the “climatic conditions make the use of paper impossible.”

Educator Cites Newspaper Week Program in 1920 Book

William’s “Newspaper Week” journal article was cited in a Washington, DC, educator’s book about English instruction. William’s paper, which had appeared in a 1917 issue of The English Journal, was cited in a 1920 book entitled English Problem in the Solving: for the Junior and Senior High Schools. The book was written by Sarah Emma Simons, M.A., head of the department of English for high schools in the District of Columbia. In the “Some Special Problems” section of her book, Simons discussed the use of periodicals in the classroom and listed among her items “for further thought,” a discussion of “the use of the newspaper in the English class.”[v]

Although William Dimorier was not the first to suggest newspaper week, nor was he the first to run such a project, he was the first person to bring this type of curriculum to Erie, PA, and newspapers are still studied in classrooms there today.


[i] “Newspaper Study in Schools.”  Monroe News-Star, May 22, 1914, 1.

[ii] “Newspaper as School Book.” Afton Enterprise, December 23, 1909, 1.

[iii] “Newspaper Week,” Journal of Proceedings, Pennsylvania State Education Association, 302-304 http://books.google.com/books?id=LAI3AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA302&lpg=PA302&dq=%22W.E.+Dimorier%22+poetry&source=bl&ots=whCUG2YkHH&sig=9xFwAmtzZH3-Hz0WTwMvwdwvTWs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=uBONUo77ELGr4AP6mYCwAg&ved=0CC0Q6AEwATgK#v=onepage&q=%22W.E.%20Dimorier%22%20poetry&f=false, accessed 11/20/2013.

[iv] W.E. Dimorier, “Newspaper Week,” English Journal 6 (1917) 170-174.

[v] Simons, Sarah Emma, English Problems in the Solving, for the Junior and Senior High Schools, Chicago: Scott, Foresman, 1920, 173.


Ann Silverthorn



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7 Science-Backed Ways to Cheer Someone Up

Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 12.38.41 PMRecently I was contacted by Julissa Arangure, community-outreach professional at Shari’s Berries. She had seen that I completed the 100 Happy Days challenge. Julissa wanted to share a blog post on that ran on their site called, “50 Ways to Cheer Someone Up When They Need a Smile.” She thought I might like to share the post with my readers. Just reading the list lifted my own spirits.

Please keep in mind. This is not an advertorial. I’m sharing useful content with you. Plus, I’m always looking for interesting content, and I was grateful to be contacted by Julissa.

You may already know that one of the best ways to boost your own happiness is to do something for someone else, and this article gives you 50 of ways to do that, backed by science. These actions trigger the following hormones: serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphin. The end of the article lists sources from the Mayo Clinic, the NIH, Harvard, and more.

Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 12.38.28 PMI’ve selected seven of my favorites from the list and encourage you to explore the rest on your own. Here are the tips (verbatim) that appeal to me most:

  1. Cheer them up with word associations. Say words like “amused” or “joy” and have them say five more words that come to mind. Studies show that this use of “priming” will eventually cause the person to feel the words and emotions they are naming (serotonin).
  2. Challenge them to some riddles and crossword puzzles. Our brains love solving problems. Critical thinking also boosts cognitive function and helps remove that hazy feeling that comes with sadness (dopamine).
  3. Help them create a “gratitude sandwich.” Ask them to sandwich one thing that is going wrong between two things that they are grateful for. Saying it out loud helps them realize that there is always something positive to focus on (dopamine).
  4. Take them to the dog park or, even better, lend them your pup for a day. Studies show that petting animals releases oxytocin, serotonin and prolactin, which is like a happiness cocktail for your brain.
  5. Turn off the TV and host a reading day. Studies show that happy people were 21% more likely to read a newspaper or book than watch TV.
  6. Fake a laugh. Seriously! Just the idea of it seems silly, but many PTSD programs and therapists recommend daily laughing as ‘homework’ to feel better. We bet as soon as you ask your loved one to fake laugh, they’ll end up laughing for real!
  7. Spend the day seeing who can do more random acts of kindness. Helping others is a great feeling, plus it can boost your mood as well.Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 12.38.54 PM

So, there you go. Seven ways to cheer someone else up and by doing so, probably make yourself happier. Can you think of more ways to lift others’ spirits? Let me know in the comments below.

Ann Silverthorn


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NaNoWriMo Final Update — I’m a Winner!

11/28/2017 – Two Days Early – I’m a Winner (Word Count 54,130)

Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 10.46.34 AMYes, it’s true. I’m officially a NaNoWriMo winner. My official word count is 54,130. I felt the need to exceed 50,000 words, because I started with 3,874. What do I win? Bragging rights and a good feeling, mostly.

Best Intentions is a story of a woman who tries to improve the lives of others at the expense of her relationships with her own family members. She takes the servant leadership concept to a dysfunctional level and learns something by the end of the book.

The next step will be to finish the detailed outline and write a preliminary synopsis to post on the NaNoWriMo site. Then, the next challenge will be to revise. I anticipate when I do so, I’ll end up with at least 10,000 more words, because I can see where some more back story would help the plot. Even as it is though, I’m very satisfied with what I wrote this month.

This experience opened the floodgates of words for me. I can see how it is important to get them out, even if they aren’t perfect. I don’t have to agonize over each sentence and come up with a multitude of literary devices as I write. I need to tell the story as best I can. The rest can come in future revisions.

For those who were cheering me on and sending me good thoughts, please know that I sincerely appreciate you.

I really like my story and my characters. I think you will, too.

Stay tuned!

Previous NaNoWriMo Posts

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Day One!

NaNoWriMo 2107 – Day Two!

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Day Three!

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Periodic Updates!


Ann Silverthorn




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NaNoWriMo 2017 – Periodic Updates!

NaNoWriMoI’ve decided that one post with periodic updates makes more sense from here forward in this NaNoWriMo adventure.  It seems as though I might actually complete this thing!

11/25/2017 – After Thanksgiving Break, Back on Track

(Word Count 45,322)

I’m not gonna lie, it was nice taking a two-day break from this project for Thanksgiving, but I was getting a little too comfortable not writing and was finding it hard to get back in the zone. I’m happy to report that I’m back in the zone with only about 5,000 more words to go.

We have a day trip tomorrow, so I don’t think I’ll get any word in, but then there are four more writing days before the end of the month. I think I have this!

Only 4,678 words to go. Wish me luck!

11/21/2017 – Am I Really Going to Do This? (Word Count 40,298)

It looks like I might finish NaNoWriMo! I’ve heard that some people try to complete challenge by November 20. When I learned that, I didn’t feel like such a smarty pants. But, I’m still excited that I have a good chance of being one of the 30,000 (out of 400,000) who are “winners.”

I’m very pleased with the story I’m writing. The characters are changing. They will learn something by the end. The topic is timely, and I believe I’m treating it in a manner that is real and fair.

That being said, I started to get bogged down yesterday. I had been so concerned in the beginning about having too much to say, hitting 50,000 words, and then being only half way through the story. Yesterday, I realized that I’m just about at the end of the novel and wasn’t even at 40,000 words yet. After freaking out, I realized I could write the end of the story and then fill in with details that I had omitted earlier on. Then this morning, I came up with a scene that is going to make my main character have a breakthrough. Ah, yes, a moment of truth. Then, I’ll finish the story and complete the challenge.

People ask me, “Then what? Do people read your story?” I do know that I have to copy and paste the entire novel into a box on the NaNoWriMo site, but I don’t think anything happens with it from there. It’s up to me to revise the first draft, and if I think it’s good enough, try to get an agent to take me on as a client.

I do think it’s good enough.

Only 9,702 words to go! Wish me luck!

11/14/2017 – Getting there! (Word Count 28,163)

Last week was rough. Our poor pup was gravely ill, and I spent three nights sleeping on the floor with her. I managed to write a little most days, but it wasn’t easy. Now that she has passed, I wish I hadn’t taken the time to write at all. Or, maybe the writing actually helped me get through that tough time. There were plenty of words mixed in with tears. I definitely wrote a lot in the past two days. It was very therapeutic.

Tomorrow will be the halfway point of NaNoWriMo, and this would mean that to be on track, a participant should have written 25,000 words. I’ve written 28,163, but Thanksgiving is coming up, and I have several important meetings scheduled. This means I have to stay ahead of the game in order to make sure I have 50,000 words at midnight on November 30.

Wish me luck!

11/8/2017 – I’m Still Here! (Word Count 18,167)

I must admit I became a little bit worried over the weekend, even though I had written more than the target over the first three days, anticipating planned activities. I wrote nothing on Saturday (day 4), but I managed to write a healthy amount in the car on the way to our daughter’s house on Sunday (day 5). This gave me about an hour in the backseat while my husband played the role of Uber driver in the front.

On Monday (day 6), I revised in the car on the way home. And by yesterday, Tuesday (day 7), I was back on schedule. Today is Wednesday (day 8), and my word count is 18,167. The target for day 8, according to NaNoWriMo, is 13,333, so I’m still ahead of the game.

So far, I’ve found that NaNoWriMo keeps me from spending hours researching a minute detail that probably wouldn’t make that much of a difference to the overall plot. It doesn’t give me an excuse to write slop though. Wish me luck!

Ann Silverthorn


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Nora At Rest

IMG_2248On Thursday, November 9, 2017, we said a final goodbye to Nora. She was almost nine years old and died of kidney failure after living with Cushing’s Disease and blindness for more than two years. Even with these health challenges, her quality of life was quite good until she became sick a few weeks ago and declined like a roller-coaster car. We had hoped to let her pass at home, but when it became clear that she was suffering, we took her to the vet and stayed with her while he and the staff helped her peacefully along her way.

It was just over six years ago that Nutmeg and Nora came to live with us. They had been adopted by a husband and wife, and when the wife died, the husband could no longer care for them. He asked their veterinarian to euthanize them, but the vet refused, and a friend suggested that he place them with a rescue organization. We discovered them on Petfinder.com. They had been living in a kennel for two months and had forgotten any training they may have had. Our first few months with them were certainly a challenge.

Nutmeg and Nora (r) Photo Credit: Eric Smyklo

Nutmeg and Nora (r)
Photo Credit: Eric Smyklo

Nutmeg and Nora never stopped being a challenge, but we loved them instantly and will love them forever. We had fallen into a nice rhythm when in the spring of 2015, Nora started acting differently. She was having accidents in the house, was panting, her belly was bloated, and she was restless. It turned out that she had a serious bladder infection, but worse than that, she had Cushing’s Disease.

Cushing’s Disease is caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland or an adrenal gland. The net result is that too many hormones being produced and this makes the dog anxious, while creating many other symptoms. Cushing’s can be managed with medication and requires periodic bloodwork to determine if the medication needs to be adjusted. Dogs can live out their normal lifespan with the disease. That’s what we hoped for our pup.

Then, just a couple of months after her diagnosis, Nora went blind. After doing lots of research, I discovered that blind dogs can manage very well, and that sight is not their most-important sense. They can “see” with their ears and noses.

In the more than two years after Nora lost her sight, she adapted very well. It was amazing how she could zig zag her way through the house, traveling inside and outside, with just a few mishaps here and there. We would direct her with our voices when she headed toward a wall or a piece of furniture. This would usually occur when she had just awoken or was tired.

A month or so ago, Nora’s legs seemed weak. It was subtle. After observing her and trying to determine which leg was giving her trouble, I took her to the vet. It didn’t seem that there was a problem with the legs themselves, so we did some bloodwork and found that many of her values were off. Another batch of blood was analyzed to see if something was going on with her kidneys. We also did an ACTH stim test, to see if her Cushing’s medicine needed to be adjusted.


The word came back that the Cushing’s wasn’t the issue. Nora was in end-stage kidney failure. Even with a dire prognosis, we had no idea we’d lose her within two weeks’ time. She started getting sick to her stomach and was given something for nausea. She was prescribed something for her kidneys, which wouldn’t cure her disease, but would make her feel better. Unfortunately, that medicine made her more nauseous and had to be stopped. She then started with lower GI symptoms, and we talked with the veterinarian and staff about signs that a decision might need to be made instead of letting her pass at home.

When Nora started with lower GI issues, the poor thing would have to go out every two hours or so. She’d squat over and over with not much happening except the evidence of bleeding. She’d hop back in the door, hesitate a moment, and then go back outside for more. It must have been exhausting for her to repeat this so many times a day. It was heartbreaking for us to watch.

On Monday, November 6, we took her back to the vet. She wasn’t eating or drinking very much. She was given meds for nausea again and an antibiotic for the lower GI symptoms. She had already started refusing her Cushing’s meds, so it was hard to get her to take the nausea medicine. I never did get her to take the antibiotic.

Over the next three days, we were sometimes able to get her to drink water, but she was not hungry. She tried to eat the hamburger/rice mixture the vet recommended, but after one small meal, she refused that, too. She became uncomfortable because she wasn’t taking her Cushing’s meds, and one time, I dissolved one pill in water and squirted it into her mouth with an eye dropper.

I slept on the floor in the living room with her three nights in a row, thinking/hoping each would be her last, so that we could be spared the ultimate decision. I asked Happy, Scout, Tina, and Easy to meet her, but they didn’t come. I asked her previous owner to meet her, but she didn’t come, either. I wanted to let her pass at home, the way my cat had done in my arms when I was a child.

Nora became so weak that it was difficult for her to walk anymore. Her body was tense and she had started to shiver. She refused water as if it were an insult.

On Thursday, November 9, finally called the vet’s office and told them I thought it might be time to let her go. I gave her a warm bath, which I think gave her comfort. She laid on the bathroom floor while I ran the warm blow dryer over her soft fur.

A few hours later at the animal hospital, her veterinarian reviewed Nora’s symptoms and prognosis with my husband and me, and we all agreed that helping her along her way was the best thing to do for her.

I’ve been present for three other pets’ euthanasia. One was a hamster with a huge tumor whom I couldn’t watch suffer anymore. One was a dog who went peacefully, and one dog not so peacefully. I was afraid for Nora, and I had wanted her to die in the night. The vet said everyone hopes that, but it rarely happens.

Nora slipped away so gracefully. Our vet’s procedure involves starting an IV and administering a strong sedative first. This is like when you go under for surgery. All awareness stops. When he was certain that she was completely sedated, he administered the second drug through the IV. Her passing was so subtle that I didn’t even realize it was over until he told us she was gone.

It was so hard letting her go, but to keep her with us would have caused her more suffering.

When we got home, Nutmeg was restless and barking. She and Nora had never been the best of friends and had some pretty nasty conflicts over the years, but they went through a lot together before we got them, and they expected each other to be near. That first night, Nutmeg’s attitude seemed to be one of resentment and she isolated herself from us. I think she realized this wasn’t one of Nora’s absences due to her Cushing’s, and that she was not coming back.

It’s easy to say that we should remember the good times. I’ve said that myself. I think it’s easier to do as time passes. I still have heartache over the previous pets we’ve lost, but I’m better able to remember the good times and not dwell so much on the end.

So, when I see one set of food bowls instead of two, when only four paws follow me down the hall instead of eight, when only one voice howls, I’ll try to remember the good times. Maybe I’ll think of how she loved to play in the snow or how she hiked with us on every one of the trails in the Let’s Move Outside project. I will remember that we still have Nutmeg and she is healthy.

We miss Nora so much, and our hearts are breaking. Jim and I are so honored to have known and cared for her, and we know that we will cross the rainbow bridge together someday.

Summer 2016 Photo Credit: Misty O'Connor

Summer 2016
Photo Credit: Misty O’Connor

“For one hour of keen joy out-does pain.” W.E. Dimorier

Ann Silverthorn


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NaNoWriMo 2017 – Day Three!

NaNoWriMoI decided it would probably be better to do these NaNoWriMo updates at the end of the day, rather than the beginning. It’s too easy to get sidetracked before the writing has started.

While these updates may be helpful for someone who’s thinking about doing NaNoWriMo, or informative for anyone who is kind enough to keep good thoughts for me during the month, I hope they will also hold me accountable.

I might not update every day, because there will be some days when nothing happens. For instance, this weekend is busy, hence my furor in word count for the past three days.

On day two, I logged a word count of 2,577, bringing me to 9,306. Today, I logged 2,460 words for a grand total of 11,766. This means I’ve reached more than 20 percent of my 30-day goal in just three days. How do you like that for fancy math from a person who majored in English?

I really like using the NaNoWriMo site, because I can log my words there and it keeps track of the number of words written each day. The dashboard displays how many more words remain until my goal is reached, too.

I also like the word-sprint feature. You enter a period of time, (I chose 60 minutes) and then you see how many words you can add before the timer goes off. It’s encouraging because it counts down the minutes, too. This really keeps me focused.

So far, so good. Everything seems to be making sense in the story, and the characters are filling out.

Thanks for reading this. Comments welcome below!

Word Count: 11,766

Ann Silverthorn





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Posted in Writing

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Day Two!

NaNoWriMoYesterday marked a great start to NaNoWriMo. I started with 3,874 words and ended with 6,549. That’s a word count for the day of 2,675. My goal was 2,000. It was amazing how easily the words were dripping from my fingers.

This exercise is good for an English major who constantly feels the need to measure up to the great writers she studied. It takes away the constant editing and doubt.

While I don’t want the finished product to be a series of “asdfjkl;” expressions, I don’t feel the need for it to be a masterpiece, or even great. It simply needs to be the best I can do in a 30-day period.

What am I writing? All I can say right now is that the story springboards from a chance encounter in an airport and my fictionalizing what happened afterward! The amazing coincidence of striking up a conversation with a person on the same connecting flight to Philadelphia, with both of us going in different directions afterward, and then reuniting with that person on the return trip is truly stranger than fiction.

Well, I’m off to start day two. Wish me luck!

Word Count: 6,549

Ann Silverthorn


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NaNoWriMo 2017 – Day One!

NaNoWriMoAfter many years of having a profile on the NaNoWriMo site, conditions are finally right for me to participate in the 50,000-word novel challenge during the month of November. NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organization that sponsors the challenge in which almost 400,000 people participate and only around 34,000 complete.

I hope that posting this will make me more accountable and help me become one of the “winners.”

Around the world, municipal liaisons coordinate in-person writing events and social activities. There’s a group in my area, and there is already a dinner planned–and many in-person writing events, too. I still haven’t wrapped my head around getting together with a group of people at a library or coffee shop and writing, and I think I’d do better on my own. But, I might be wrong.

I’m unlike many people participating in that I don’t work outside the home, and I don’t have any major projects going on right now, so I will have more time to write than most. I’m not sure how people with full-time jobs do it, but I understand there are many words being written by them when they’re supposed to be sleeping.

I have my plot, my characters, a rough outline, and the first chapter written. This means I have a jumpstart of 3,874 words, so to make it fair, I guess I should try to have 53,874 words, right? I’ll be happy if I make it to 50,000.

Wish me luck!

Word Count: 3,874

Ann Silverthorn


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An Evening in Fredonia With Guitarist Pat Donohue

From Pat Donohue's press page.

I stood in the lobby of the 1891 Fredonia Opera House, in upstate New York, passing the time by looking at my phone while my husband sought out our will-call tickets. We were there to see Pat Donohue, Grammy-winning guitarist.

From Pat Donohue's press page.

From Pat Donohue’s press page.

Pat Donohue is well known for the almost-two decades he spent as a guitarist for the Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band on Minnesota Public Radio’s A Prairie Home Companion. Now he tours the country giving guitar workshops and concerts.

I looked up from my phone to see a man with tousled white hair approach the table I was near. He arranged stacks of Pat Donohue CDs on the tablecloth, and when he finished, he said hello and walked back into the theater. Why did that man look so familiar?

Most people who know me have heard me say that I never forget a face. For instance, I’m convinced my husband and I had a chance meeting on a street corner when we were pre-adolescents.

It turns out that the reason the CD man looked so familiar was because, well, you guessed it already, I’m sure. Yes, it was Pat Donohue himself, and the last time I had seen him was 13 years prior, the last time he played at the Fredonia Opera House.

Immediately, I wished I had been friendlier to him. Said something witty. Made conversation. Asked for an autograph.

Donohue’s time on stage went by much too quickly for my husband and me. It was a show with just one man and his guitar. My husband is a talented guitarist, himself, so we sat in the front row to appreciate Donohue’s fast-flying fingers up and down the fretboard and across the body of his instrument. He had no set list and played whatever came to mind. The effect was as if he had pulled out his guitar at a family gathering. In between the musical numbers, he told witty and amusing stories.

In addition to being an expert fingerpicker, Donohue’s an accomplished song writer and has even written some parodies. Most amusing is Would You Like to Play the Guitar?, which is set to the tune of “Would You Like to Swing on a Star?” It provides a true view of a musician’s less-than-glamorous life.

In the program insert, I read that Donohue also appeared in the 2006 movie version of A Prairie Home Companion, so on the way home, I added the title to the top of my Netflix DVD.com queue. Within a few days, we were watching the movie in our living room. This is what I like about the DVD service. There are many more titles to choose from than you’ll find in streaming Netflix. Whenever I want to check out a movie, I consult the streaming first (instant gratification), and if it’s not there, I’ll usually find it on the DVD service.

The A Prairie Home Companion screenplay was written by Garrison Keillor, and the plot takes us inside the workings of the fictional last broadcast of the famous radio show. It stars Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, and many, many other big names, including a young and sweet Lindsay Lohan, before her “career interruption,” as Wikipedia puts it.

As we were watching the film, we frequently spotted Pat Donohue among the musicians on stage. We saw much more of him in the musical extras that are included on the DVD. In fact, the extra content is quite extensive on this rental, even for one produced before such content became restricted. It features many actor interviews and creative insights.

Pat Donohue’s performance at the 1891 Fredonia Opera House was part of the Folk in Fredonia Music Series, which has been sponsored by the Gilman Family for nearly two decades. We hope to see him again soon.

Ann Silverthorn


Disclaimer: I partner with Netflix DVD.com, which gives me free access to movies. If you sign up with my referral link, I may receive a referral reward.

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Posted in Culture, Entertainment, Music, Reviews