Reading A Widow’s Story & Remembering 2008 JCO Talk

A spouse’s passing devastates.

A Widow’s Story, by Joyce Carol Oates, illustrates the first year after her husband, Raymond J. Smith, died on February 18, 2008. Oates was fortunate to have many devoted friends, but she still felt isolated and often overwhelmed by the weight of the estate and legacy of her beloved.

Just two weeks after Smith’s death, my daughter and I saw Ms. Oates speak in Cleveland, on March 4, 2008. Oates described the Ohio Theatre as, “a quaintly restored movie palace of the 1920s with a midnight-blue-felt sky twinkling with stars.” She said that 1,000 seats filled the theater and only half of those would be occupied because of the weather. IMG_3090

In A Widow’s Story, Oates writes that her friends and lecture agent advised her against an engagement so soon after her husband’s death. She felt that if she cancelled that talk, she’d also cancel the next one, and the one after that. And to travel by air in a snowstorm! Her hosts remarked that they were glad she made it through alive.

The talk was entitled, “The Writer’s (Secret) Life: Woundedness, Rejection, and Inspiration.” In the book, Oates writes that the theme of woundedness was especially present that evening. She listed many writers who had turned woundedness into art. They were not geniuses because they had been wounded. They, having been wounded, turned their experiences into something, “rich and strange and new and wonderful.”

Reading Oates’ account of the evening sent me to my small Moleskine notebook from that period to find my notes from the talk that Oates gave in March 2008. Here are seven points I jotted down.

  1. Learn to confront rejection.
  2. It’s not healthy to play the part of someone who is very strong.
  3. Childhood woundedness runs through many writers’ lives.
  4. Samuel Beckett, who wrote the play, Waiting for Godot, forgave no one. He had a strange writing style.
  5. Twain wrote comedies and was very funny, but he had a father who didn’t like him.
  6. Hemingway hated his mother. She dressed him as a girl. His own father committed suicide.
  7. John Updike’s mother wanted to be a writer and she wanted him to be one, too. He would probably rather have been an artist, so in addition to his writing, he became an art critic.Version 2

After the event, I felt very content that I had spent the evening with my daughter and my favorite author. I didn’t know that Oates was feeling quite the opposite, quite wounded, in fact.

In an email to her friend, Jeanne Halpern, she wrote:

I called you at about 10 p.m. from howling-snowstorm-bound Cleveland last night after my reading for the Cuyahoga County Library, which went well despite the terrible weather; in my hotel suite at the Ritz—a very grand suite, with flowers, I was overcome with loneliness and dread, that I couldn’t call Ray as I’d always done at these times. . .

Oates said in her talk that it is not healthy to play someone strong. In A Widow’s Story, she writes that she often told her friends how overwhelmed she felt being on her own. It is interesting that the ability to reveal oneself as vulnerable shows great strength.

When we encounter people we admire, we often don’t appreciate that they are mere mortals who live their own personal struggles. Many of us would have still been curled in a ball on the couch two weeks after our spouse’s death. What makes legends like Joyce Carol Oates different from most of us is that they have uncommon strength and endurance when faced with tragedy.

Ann Silverthorn


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7 Things Learned from a 3-Week Visit with a Toddler

Recently, I visited with my daughter, son-in-law, and two-year-old grandson for three weeks around the birth of my new granddaughter. Not 24-hours in, I remembered why I was so tired when my three kids were small in the 80’s. How did we survive? Well, we had youth on our side, I guess.

Many things have changed about child rearing over the years, but in my humble opinion, it hasn’t gotten any easier, even with all the apps and contraptions available today. Here are seven interesting observations from my experience in a modern toddler household.

Compliments Pixabay

Compliments Pixabay

  1. Cold food. You don’t eat your food hot. By the time you plate the child’s food and sit down with your own dinner, both are pretty much lukewarm. Next, you’ll be supervising the utensil use, cleaning up spills, and getting refills or substitutions, so before you’ve had a chance to clean your plate, your food will probably be cold.
  2. Unfinished Food. If you don’t finish your meal by the time your toddler does, you’re sunk. Cold or not, you better eat up, because once that kid is done, you’ll have to clean him up and then watch where he’s headed when he gets down from the table. If haven’t filled your belly by that time, you’re out of luck.
  3. Early Risers. Toddlers get up early. They go to bed early, and they get up early. I think even if they went to bed late, they’d still get up early.
  4. TV Deprivation. You can go ahead and put your favorite show on, but you will miss a lot, unless you have one of those kids who goes and plays quietly in a corner for an hour. I’d be worried about that kid.
  5. Haircuts. When my kids were little, I took them to a salon that was just for kids, but now they have actual franchises designed just for that demographic. Animated videos play on multiple screens, the styling chairs are kid-sized, and they have prizes at the end. And, oh, the colors! I wish my grown-up salon was a bit more like this.
  6. Car Seats. Back in my day, you propped your newborn upright in an untethered, forward-facing car seat, which had shoulder straps connected to a padded tray in front and one innovative strap between the legs. Now there are adjustable shoulder straps and chest guards and multiple buckles. They don’t make the buttons easy to push, either. I guess my fingers are almost as weak as a toddler’s.
  7. Discrete Processing. Sorry to lay technical language on you, but this is a great way to describe the way toddlers operate. Say it’s time to use the potty. You and I would say, “Hey, I’ll be right back.” For the toddler, getting to the bathroom is one event, getting on the potty another, etc., etc. Flushing the toilet is an event. Climbing the stepstool at the sink is an event. Turning on the faucet, pumping the soap, running the hands under the water while singing the song, and drying the hands are all individual events. The toddler appreciates each step in the process, while we see the entire process as a step. This is the best illustration of living in the moment I’ve ever seen.

Before I spent this extended visit with my daughter’s little family, I had vague recollections of what it had been like to have small children living in the house. I remembered dozing while in a standing position. I remembered feeling like there was actual lead in my bottom when I sat in a chair. But now, I have a new appreciation of what I did day-to-day in the early years. And I have a true appreciation for what young parents are going through now. Bless you all.

The Pay Off. Yes, toddlers keep you from eating your food and watching your favorite program. They get up early, and it takes 20 minutes to get them in and out of their car seat. But if you bend down to their height, it’s very possible that they will give you one of their magical hugs. There’s nothing better than that.

Ann Silverthorn


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Best-Ever Tofu Scramble

You’ll find a thousand tofu scramble recipes on the Web and in cookbooks, but none more easy and delicious than this one. I took my favorite recipes and combined them into a one-pan dish, ready in about 30 minutes.

Best-Ever Tofu Scramble

Total Time: ~30 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings

Per serving: ~250 calories (Protein 10g, Carbs 15g, Fiber 5g, Fat 15g, sodium 150g, potassium 120g)


  • 14-16 oz. package extra-firm tofu
  • 3-4 Tbsp. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos*
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ tsp. turmeric
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ cup shredded vegan cheddar
  • 2 Tbsp. Earth Balance buttery spread
  • 2 scallions chopped
  • ½ red pepper chopped
  • 16 oz. frozen hash browns


  1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together amino acids, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, sea salt, turmeric, and the olive oil.
  2. Drain tofu and crumble into small pieces. Add to the bowl and toss lightly. The tofu should turn light brown or yellow. Mix in shredded vegan cheddar. Set aside.
  3. In a large, non-stick fry pan, heat the buttery spread over medium-high heat. Brown onions and peppers, stirring occasionally until they soften. Add the tofu and fry until it starts to brown.
  4. Push tofu and vegetables to the center of the pan. Surround with frozen hash browns and add a few tablespoons of water, if necessary. Cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Uncover and stir together all ingredients. Cook over medium heat for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Enjoy your tofu scramble.

*Substitute with soy sauce or tamari, if necessary.

Photo essay below:

Chop your scallions and pepper.

Chop scallions and pepper.

Toss chopped scallions, peppers, spices, tofu, and vegan cheese together.

Toss chopped scallions, peppers, spices, tofu, oil, and vegan cheese together.

Melt 2 TBSP vegan butter over medium high heat

Melt vegan butter.

Cook veggies until soft.

Cook veggies until soft.

Push to center of fry pan.

Push to center of pan.

Surround with hash browns.

Surround with hash browns.

Stir together all ingredients.

Stir together all ingredients.




Ann Silverthorn is not a chef, nor is she a nutritionist, but she knows her way around a kitchen pretty well and can use knives without injury, most of the time. If you try this recipe, please tell us what you think in the comments. Comment with questions, too!



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The Post: Film About Katharine Graham, Unsure to Unstoppable

Recently, I saw The Post, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. The film centers on a damning Vietnam War study and Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham’s most-difficult decision in 1971.

An image of Katharine Graham's autobiography, part of my personal library.

An image of Katharine Graham’s autobiography, part of my personal library.

At the beginning of the film, I was confused by a Katharine Graham who was unsure of herself and reluctant to ruffle the feathers of her editors, advisors, and cronies in Washington’s high places. You see, the Katharine Graham I heard speak 25 years ago, while poised and refined, did not seem to be concerned about offending anyone.

Vineyard Gazette, August 10, 1993.  Newspaper reproduction appears courtesy of the Vineyard Gazette, a weekly newspaper published on Martha's Vineyard. Online at Copyright Vineyard Gazette, all rights reserved.

Vineyard Gazette, August 10, 1993.
Newspaper reproduction appears courtesy of the Vineyard Gazette, a weekly newspaper published on Martha’s Vineyard. Online at Copyright Vineyard Gazette, all rights reserved.

In August of 1993, my family and I spent our vacation in a cozy cottage overlooking Lagoon Pond. At the time, I was the mother of three small children, a non-traditional college student, and an aspiring writer. On the evening of August 11, I left my husband in charge of the kids and I drove to the Tisbury Senior Center to hear Katharine Graham, by that time chairman of the board at The Washington Post, talk about the future of news in the digital age.

Here is what I wrote in my journal that evening:

August 11, 1993 – Tonight, I went to the Tisbury Senior Center to hear Katharine Graham from The Washington Post speak about the future of news reporting in light of all of the technical developments happening. I saw CD-ROM news magazines and a prototype of PostCard, a newspaper for notebook PC’s of the future. PostCard can have moving pictures and sound. With the sound, you would be able to listen to your newspaper in your car during your commute to work. Ms. Graham also had some interesting predictions on the future of television shopping networks. She feels that they are the thing of the future and with interactive televisions, we will be able to order merchandise right from our television sets. It was very interesting and I am glad I went.

Looking back on this journal entry today, I find it amusing, but it was profound at the time. In 1993, there was no Internet to speak of. I owned a laptop that cost $2,500, weighed a ton, and stored very little data. All it was good for was word processing. To think that one could view moving pictures and sound on such a device was truly amazing for me. CDs were still relatively new at that time, and I’m sure I was still listening to James Taylor on cassette tapes.

By Mark Potts, CU Digital News Test Kitchen

By Mark Potts, CU Digital News Test Kitchen

PostCard, the digital newspaper that Katharine Graham told us about, was short-lived and was quickly replaced by iterations of interactive technology. A slideshow of the journey from PostCard to was about all I could find in a Google search about PostCard.

In 1993, we had no idea that we’d be holding our news in the palms of our hands to be read anywhere, anytime. We don’t need to have the news read to us in the car. We can listen to CNN or Fox News on our Sirius XM radio. We can stream podcasts through our Bluetooth-connected speakers. News is at our fingertips and is almost as good as a chip in the head.

Ms. Graham’s reference to television shopping networks is amusing, but the concept of being able to place orders quickly and conveniently was a vision. Most of us don’t sit and watch TV to shop, but the ability to purchase on demand is very much a part of our lives now. Smart TVs offer interaction, but the rapid rise of mobile technology has made it nearly unnecessary. Yes, we can navigate through our television to Amazon, but why bother, when we can tap through an app on our phone and have our purchase at our doorstep in two days? (Well, that’s how Amazon Prime is supposed to work anyhow.)

As I mentioned earlier, the Katharine Graham that Meryl Streep portrayed at the beginning of The Post film doesn’t seem anything like the one I saw in 1993. But you know what? The Katharine Graham at the end of the movie was very much like the one who made an impression upon me as a woman who hoped to enter the publishing world. Graham had the Pentagon Papers to thank for that. A classified report had been leaked to the New York Times, which after running three excerpts was issued an injunction to cease publication. Subsequently, the report was dropped off at The Washington Post, and Katharine Graham’s advisors were split on whether they should run excerpts or not. In the end, only Graham could make the final decision. She decided to print, even though she risked going to jail. In the end, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the New York Times and a sigh of relief could be heard from Times Square to L Street.

Deciding to report on the Pentagon Papers wouldn’t be the end of bold moves for The Washington Post publisher. Soon, Graham would support two Post reporters in their investigation of the Watergate break-in. The Post film ended with a scene of the break-in, hinting at a sequel. . .

Ann Silverthorn


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30 Years Later: 7 Things I Like About Beetlejuice

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Beetlejuice, the 1988 horror comedy starring Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton, and Winona Ryder. Because it seemed that I was the only person on earth who hadn’t see it, last month, I added the movie to my DVD Netflix queue and gave it a watch. Here are seven things I liked about Beetlejuice:

  1. A retrospective of favorite actors. Alec Baldwin (handsome and funny), Geena Davis (statuesque, and did you know she’s a member of Mensa?), Michael Keaton (the range of his roles: from villainous ghost to fast-food mogul), and Winona Ryder (playing a conflicted teen, as she did so well).
  1. The heartbreak of infertility. Barbara Maitland hasn’t been able to conceive. A neighbor implying that she doesn’t deserve to live in such a big house without a bunch of kids makes us sympathetic to her situation.
  1. A light look at death. The manner of Barbara and Adam Maitland’s passing takes place in a matter-of-fact scene, and when they find out they’re dead, they accept their plight, and so does the audience.
  1. Bureaucracy follows the dead into the beyond. Of course, you’ll need a caseworker when you die. Of course, there will be a manual. Read the manual.
  1. The misfit, troubled teen. No one can see the Maitlands, except Lydia, suffering through her father’s remarriage to a materialistic artsy type and feeling invisible herself.
  1. The treatment of suicide. The Maitlands find out that in the afterlife, people who committed suicide are doomed to work as civil servants, a negative consequence.
  1. Educational value. The movie takes the title character’s name, Betelgeuse, the name of a real star in the constellation, Orion, and turns it into an accessible name that kids love to say, Beetlejuice. My own kids were proud of the fact that they knew the difference between the two.

Have you seen Beetlejuice? Did you see it as a kid? Own BEETLEJUICE Today!

Disclaimer: I am a DVD Nation director, which earns me rewards from DVD Netflix. has thousands of movies to choose from, many that you won’t find on streaming services. #DVDNation #ad

Ann Silverthorn


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I, Tonya: Well-Deserved Nominations, Potential Triggers

Did young Tonya Harding ever imagine that a movie about her would earn multiple Oscar nominations? Perhaps—but during many periods of her life, this might have seemed like a laughable impossibility to her—and to many of us, for that matter.

Well, it happened. Feature film I, Tonya earned three Oscar nominations, which are well deserved. The nominees are:

Best Actress – Margot Robbie

This Aussie’s portrayal of an American girl from the wrong side of the tracks is commendable. Margot Robbie’s native accent in this movie is non-existent. Anyone who knows anything about Tonya Harding knows that domestic abuse is part of her story, and it is a big part of this movie. Tonya gets it often, and hard, from her mother, LaVona, and later from her husband, Jeff Gillooly. Robbie’s Tonya Harding never cowers, and she gives it out almost as much as she takes it. She’s much harsher than the real Tonya, and she doesn’t resemble her much, but until the scenes of Harding’s skating ran during the credits, I had almost forgotten what she looked like in real life. Speaking of the skating, Robbie does a fair amount of it in the movie.

Best Supporting Actress – Allison Janney

Allison Janney shows the breadth of her acting chops in this movie. She plays a woman with a terrible reputation in a believable way, but at the same time, in a manner that evokes sympathy. This is also a credit to the screenwriter and the director. She sat for hours, and perhaps days, with a bird on her shoulder during the mock interviews. She sat for hours, and probably weeks, in a makeup chair to transform her from an attractive woman to a haggard, worn wench who looks like she must be a hoarder. Janney plays a woman who says she sacrificed everything for her daughter, knowing that her daughter would someday hate her, and we believe her. The moment when Janney breaks the fourth wall to complain that the story line has shifted its focus from her to Jeff is a welcome break from the domestic violence intensity of the movie.

Best Achievement in Film Editing – Tatiana S. Riegel

Imagine filming numerous shots of multiple skaters, adding some fancy CGI, and editing everything into a smooth skating sequence. Margot Robbie performed more of the skating tricks than one would think, but she can’t do expert jumps. Never once would the audience suspect that editing sorcery was to thank for the skating scenes in this film. Another feat of editing involved a real and a taxidermy rabbit. Somehow with crafty directing, filming, and editing, we get a disturbing bullseye view of a rabbit being blown to smithereens.

Potential Triggers

If you’ve read this far, you can probably identify the two potential triggers in this film.

The first potential trigger is domestic violence. There is plenty of it in this film, probably too much. But, the violence does not seem gratuitous. It seems real until occasional breaks of the fourth wall provide some respite from the violence.

The second potential trigger involves the rabbit(s). Although the American Humane Association explains the hunting scene, in which the rabbit was not killed, it would disturb animal lovers (and remember friends, you can’t be a true animal lover if you eat animals, unless you qualify the statement by saying you love eating animals). Even though a taxidermy rabbit was used for the hunting scene, that animal lost its life at an earlier time. There is also a rabbit-skinning scene, which is graphic. The skinned pelts become a coat that Tonya wears. If no animals were used in the skinning scene, and if the coat was faux, kudos to the film makers, because you could have fooled me.


I, Tonya is worthy of its Oscar nominations, and you might just feel a little more sympathetic to Tonya Harding after you watch it. There is no part of this film in which Harding expects anyone to feel sorry for her, though. Instead, she seems to be a woman who wants the world, that hates her, to know her and to listen to her side of the story.

Ann Silverthorn


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Best Way to Watch the Insidious Movies

The other night, at our local Cinemark, we purchased the biggest tub of popcorn they had and scrambled up the steps past rows of stadium seating to our favorite spot in the center of the top row. The movie was Insidious: The Last Key, and due to my poorly controlled, disruptive reactions to scene after scene, the last row was a good place for us.

From Movie Website:

From Movie Website:

The Insidious franchise, starring Lin Shaye as psychic Elise Rainier, contains four films. We saw them in the order they were released since 2010. The first two told consecutive, related stories, but the next two episodes are prequels. This can be a little confusing, so now that they’ve all been released, a great way to watch them is in the story’s chronological order, rather than their release dates. Here’s a guide:

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

Elise Rainier, a magnet for bad spirits, wants out of the psychic business, but she soon realizes only she can help a young woman, Quinn Brenner, who is the victim of an evil entity from beyond. In this episode, Elise reluctantly teams up with two charlatan ghost hunters, Specs and Tucker.

Insidious: The Last Key (2018)

Psychic Elise receives a mysterious phone call from a man who has purchased the haunted home where she lived as a child. She must go back home and deal with unfinished family business, both in the real world and beyond. Specs and Tucker, gaining courage and credibility, go along for the ride.

Insidious (2010)

The first-ever release in the Insidious series tells the story of the Josh Lambert family, victims of a haunting that follows them from house to house. Psychic Elise Rainier is called onto the case, because she has a long history with this family. Specs and Tucker, as capable assistants and comic relief, assist.

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Picking up immediately after the previous episode, Specs and Tucker take the lead, and Elise provides first-hand knowledge of the spirit world to rid the Lambert family of its curse once and for all. But is this really possible?

Lin Shaye, who plays the heroine in all the Insidious episodes, lends an intriguing combination of vulnerability and steel to her role. Shaye has been dubbed the scream queen because of her many roles in scary movies over the past four decades.

Specs and Tucker, played by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson, respectively, provide humorous breaks from the many scenes that make the movie lover jump out of her seat. Incidentally, Whannell is the also the principal writer of the series.

Watching the Insidious franchise in story chronological order provides better clarity than doing so in the order of release, but if that’s not possible, don’t worry, each episode provides an ample amount of independent frightful moments.

Disclaimer: I am a DVD Nation director, which earns me rewards from DVD Netflix. has thousands of movies to choose from, many that you won’t find on streaming services. #DVDNation #ad

Ann Silverthorn


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I, Tonya Renews Inspiration

The 2018 Oscar nominations for I, Tonya sent me to my ancient clipping file to excavate a March 1994 essay I wrote about the controversial figure skater. The piece appeared in a reader-participation series featured in our local newspaper, called “My Inspiration.” Would my attitude toward the subject would be different today?

Getty Images

Getty Images

When I wrote the piece, Tonya Harding had not admitted any involvement in the attack against her skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan, but suspicions were high. Watching Harding’s performance at the Olympics, I saw her as an underdog who wouldn’t give up, even when many thought she should.

Years later, I still tend to root for the underdogs, those who are oftentimes the target for ridicule and spite. This statement needs qualifying, though. In truth, I’m inspired by the underdogs who show grit, persistence, and focus despite prejudice, unpopularity, and unproven accusations.

The 1994 essay appears in this blog, because I believe it still holds value. The words express the idea that a source of inspiration can spring from a most unlikely place, regardless of popular opinion. And in this case, Tonya Harding’s story still serves as my inspiration for the refusal to accept defeat.


My Inspiration


Erie Morning News, March 1994

My latest source of inspiration has been found in someone who is very unpopular and is the current source of jokes and scorn.

I don’t know if Tonya Harding is guilty or innocent of planning the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. It’s not my place to speculate.

What I see in Tonya is an example of determination. Where the attack has placed Kerrigan in the limelight and in a wave of success, Harding has had nothing but criticism and misfortune since the incident. Through it all, she has maintained an admirable amount of composure with the media.

I’m inspired because she has continued working toward her goal, even though a troubled past and recent obstacles.

It’s easy to work for success when, like Kerrigan, you’re supported by millions of people; it’s a lot tougher when many are against you.

I saw Tonya frantically try to solve her boot-lace troubles on the last night of competition, having to stop her program after only 45 seconds and then plead with the judges for a delay.

My 10-year-old daughter was watching with me and I realized what a good example Harding was of determination in the face of adversity.

It’s easy for us to love Nancy Kerrigan. She’s beautiful and the darling of Campbell’s, Reebok, and Disney.

But if you look closely, you can find gold in someone like Tonya Harding.


Erie Morning News Wednesday, March 16, 1994  Pg. A-1

Erie Morning News
Wednesday, March 16, 1994
Pg. A-1


Note: The byline reads Ann M. DeDad, because I had not yet taken back my maiden name.

Ann Silverthorn




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Posted in Culture, Entertainment, Health, People, Uncategorized, USA

Kate Winslet Owns Her Career

Kate Winslet became a household name in 1997, when she starred in Titanic. Over the next 20 years, she often gravitated to independent films, turning down roles in Shakespeare in Love and Anna and the King. At just over forty years old, Kate Winslet owns roles in more than forty movies to date.

Winslet’s name occupies several lists predicting best-actress nominations this year, but not for The Mountain Between Us, which lacked critical acclaim. She also starred in a film called Wonder Wheel, set in 1950s Coney Island.

Refusing to be typecast, the only thing predictable about Winslet is that she likes intriguing roles in movies that are not commerce driven. She’s played historic, futuristic, and contemporary characters. She often takes on raw roles and has appeared in more than a few nude scenes, but none of which gratuitous.

Regarding an extensive nude scene in the movie Little Children, In a 2006 interview for The Telegraph, “I was very, very nervous about it, but at the same time it’s such a huge part of the story that I was immersed in the characters,” she says. “I just thought to myself, ‘You know what? I am playing a woman who is a mother and therefore it doesn’t stand to reason that every part of my body would be perfect – which, by the way, it’s not.’ Who is perfect?”

Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet

Here’s a partial list of Kate Winslet movies, some of which you might not have heard of.

Titanic – 1997 (PG-13)

This blockbuster dramatization of a historic tragedy comes to mind when most people think of Kate Winslet. For her performance as Rose, she received an Oscar nomination for best actress, and the film itself won 11 Oscars.

Hideous Kinky – 1999 (R)

Set in the 1970s, Winslet plays a young mother who runs off to Morocco with her two young daughters and forms a relationship with a street performer. It is based on a novel by Esther Freud, great-granddaughter of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.

Holy Smoke – 2000 (R)

Winslet’s character, member of a cult in India, returns to Australia for deprogramming. Harvey Keitel’s character thinks the task will be a breeze, but he finds out it’s not so easy to accomplish.

Faeries – 1999 (G)

Winslet lends her voice to this animated film in which three children, who find themselves in Fairyland, must complete several tasks before they can return to the real world. Jeremy Irons co-stars.

Jude – 1996 (R)

Based on the 1895 Thomas Hardy novel, Jude the Obscure, in this movie Winslet plays the cousin of a man who wants to be more than a stonemason. He desires his cousin as well, even though they are both married to others. It is a tragic story to be sure.

Quills – 2000 (R)

Geoffrey Rush stars with Winslet in this tale about the Marquis de Sade, legendary writer of salacious stories. She plays an asylum worker who takes de Sade’s dictation after he is locked away to prevent him from writing.

Heavenly Creatures – 1994 (R)

This was Winslet’s first major motion picture. Based on a true story, she plays one of two troubled teenage girls who commit a terrible crime. It is set in 1950s New Zealand.

Hamlet – 1996 (PG-13)

Cast as Ophelia, Winslet is the object of Hamlet’s famous, “Get thee to a nunnery,” directive. Her role is minor in a cast that includes Julie Christie and Billy Crystal.

Iris – 2001 (R)

Winslet won a best-supporting actress nomination for a role in which she plays the younger version of the title character. Judi Dench plays her counterpart. This film is based on the true story of Iris Murdoch, a provocative writer and philosopher, who eventually succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease.

Enigma – 2001 (R)

Set in early World War II, a group of cryptographers must break the code that commands a fleet of U-boats. Added to that, the main character needs to find his love interest, played by Winslet, after she goes missing.

The Life of David Gale – (2003) (R)

What happens when a capital-punishment opponent ends up on death row himself? Winslet stars as a journalist who interviews the condemned man days before he’s scheduled to die in the electric chair. How far will he go for his cause?

A Kid in King Arthur’s Court – 1995 (PG)

In this animated Disney film, Winslet voices a princess from medieval Camelot where a California boy finds himself after an earthquake. It turns out that Merlin summoned the boy, who is needed to save the kingdom.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – 2004 (R)

Earning a best-actress nomination for this futuristic film, Winslet plays a young woman who undergoes a procedure to forget her former love interest, played by Jim Carey. His character decides to do this as well, but then changes his mind.

Other Kate Winslet movies worth seeing include, The Reader, a 2008 film for which Winslet won the Oscar for best-actress, The Dressmaker, all of the Divergent series, The Holiday, A Little Chaos, Labor Day, Revolutionary Road, Mildred Pierce, Little Children (best actress nomination), Contagion, and Carnage.


Ann Silverthorn is a writer who loves to see a good story come to life in film. She blogs at, and can also be found on Twitter @annsilverthorn, and Instagram: ann_silverthorn

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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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Posted in Daily Life, Health, Northwest PA, Nutmeg and Nora, People, Pets