Day 120: Cooper’s 66 Eatery & Coffee


I love the firsts that seek me out, rather than the other way around. These experiences amaze me and also teach me about how life unfolds and about following the path. When cool rainy weather postponed my planned first, I decided, at almost 3:00, to eat a late lunch, and since I was eating anyway, to find a restaurant I hadn’t eaten at yet. Greg was with me and had not eaten lunch yet either. We headed downtown to try out a fairly new pizza place.

Except the pizza establishment was closed, in spite of posted hours saying it should be open. What to do? We were still hungry, even more so! Next door was the corner café, Cooper’s 66 Eatery & Coffee. Thinking it was about to close, we almost walked back to the car. Thankfully, the cook happened to be standing outside and informed us the café was open. In through the door we went. I’m so glad we did!

The owner, Fran, greeted us warmly as we seated ourselves at a high top table near the large front windows. Looking around, I fell in love with Cooper’s 66 Eatery & Coffee before a menu was placed in my hands. With an exposed brick wall and high ceilings capped with tin, the interior was charming, with many interesting items and pieces of art to check out. As Fran handed us menus and took our drink order, she asked if this was our first time in, which allowed me to share about my year of firsts. When I told her I’d be writing a blog about Cooper’s and would share it on her Facebook wall, she graciously told me about her café.


Cooper’s 66 Eatery & Coffee is located at 122 S. Main Street, Joplin, and is open Mon – Fri 11:00 – 7:00 and Sat 11:30 – 3:00. Named after her maternal grandmother, Cooper’s offers a wonderful assortment of salads, sandwiches, deep pan and personal flat bread pizzas, and homemade pies and cheesecake. Fran grew up in this area, and after being away working for a major retail company for 37 years, has returned home. Cooper’s has been open for almost two years. Fran uses fresh, high quality ingredients and relies on family recipes to create such delights as chicken salad and peanut butter pie.

Greg and I both ordered the 7” personal flat bread pizzas. In the spirit of trying new things, I had a “Bugs on the Windshield” pizza, featuring chunks of all white meat chicken, bacon, cheese and alfredo sauce. Slightly off my diet, but oh so good! The freshly brewed unsweetened tea was delicious as well. Fran kept our glasses full and was delightful to visit with each time she passed by to check on us. We sampled the peanut butter pie and found it wonderful…not too sweet and topped with chopped peanuts.


One of the things I’ve loved the most about this year of firsts is meeting new people and learning a bit of their stories and hearing about their dreams. I learned that Fran takes part in Downtown Joplin’s Third Thursday each month, exhibiting a different artist’s work on her brick wall, and hosting an evening of live music. She also sponsors concerts for a cause, such as for the arts and autism, grilling burgers in the large parking lot out back while bands perform on an outdoor stage.

We had a very special lunch at Cooper’s 66 Eatery & Coffee. I am extremely grateful that events led me through that door today, as surely as if I’d followed a trail of bread crumbs. Fran was friendly and offered amazing service, the food was delicious and the atmosphere casual and fun. While there, Greg gifted me with one of the beautiful pieces of artwork displayed on the wall.  I’m looking forward to my next visit to Cooper’s, and sampling Fran’s famous chicken salad!


Day 119: Mind Reader: Eric Dittelman


My first today marked the end of the wonderful entertainers and performers brought to Joplin by Missouri Southern State University’s Campus Activities Board. At least for this semester. I’ve really enjoyed the quality and variety of the shows and you can’t beat the free admission. These events have been wonderful opportunities for firsts for me, but beyond that, they are fun, entertaining productions. I’m so glad I got to see each one.

Tonight my mom and I enjoyed watching Eric Dittelman, Mind Reader. I attended this program with the same open mind that accompanied me to the hypnotist’s show. I decided to observe carefully, suspend skepticism, and have fun. As with the previous entertainers, Eric possessed a quirky, playful sense of humor that enhanced his mind reader performance. He was very serious, however, about his craft.

Eric Dittelman has been entertaining audiences around the US at colleges, comedy clubs and private events with his unique blend of mind reading, stand-up and improv comedy. In 2012 he was a semi-finalist on Season 7 of “America’s Got Talent”. Last year he appeared as a headline guest on the Ellen Degeneres Show.

Growing up in central Massachusetts, Eric began his entertainment career with stand-up comedy, which he continued to develop during his college years. After graduation Eric became more and more interested in combining his comedic abilities with his lifelong passion for mystery performance. Traveling to Las Vegas, Eric studied with some of the top mind readers in the world and has performed at the Palazzo and the Tropicana there.

I was impressed with this guy. He’s not flashy or over the top with his humor. He begins right away with random audience involvement and proceeds to not only read minds, but blow them! He admitted to being an excellent reader of character, body language and subtle clues given off by the one being read. He told us frankly that he’s influencing the decisions his participants make, but I can’t tell you how he does it. From revealing what costume a young man wore for Halloween when he was in second grade, to writing down the correct name of another guy’s first crush, Eric amazed. He wasn’t vague, nor did he use guesses to narrow down to the correct answer, he was very, very specific, and always correct.

My favorite routine was his version of Pictionary. After picking three members of the audience to draw pictures, Eric had two helpers come up on stage to tape half dollars over his eyes and then wrap his head with duct tape, covering his eyes completely. He then affixed a blindfold over his taped eyes and had the assistants check his ears for any type of hearing device. None were detected. The drawings were collected and one by one, held above Eric’s head. Each impromptu artist stood, saying his or her name, as Eric then began to accurately describe what each one had drawn. He was absolutely correct, down to the smallest details. On the last drawing, which was of a doghouse, the man had even written his dog’s name across the front. While the audience applauded Eric’s description of the doghouse, Eric shushed everyone and said “Wait, he has a name written on the house and he wants me to say the name.” The man laughed and answered that yes, he did. Without any hesitation, Eric called out, “Rover….the dog’s name is Rover.” The applause was wild after that!

I really enjoyed this show. With his rather low key sense of humor and uncanny ability to perceive exactly what people were thinking, he made a believer and a fan out of me. I can’t wait to see what MSSU’s Campus Activities Board has lined up for the fall semester! I’ll be there.


Day 118: Mizumoto Japanese Strolling Garden


Today’s first was a “seize the day” type opportunity. It was the only day I had available this week to visit the Japanese Garden in Springfield, MO. With the promise ahead of a beautiful, sunny, breezy day, I did indeed seize the chance. So did Greg, who traveled to Springfield with me.

Last week, the gates were closed and locked, preventing entry into the garden. Today, the gates stood open, inviting visitors to enter and stroll. Well, enter and stroll after paying $3.00 for admission. The leisurely walk through that enchanted place was well worth the nominal fee.

The 7.5 acre Mizumoto Japanese Strolling Garden is the oldest attraction at the Springfield Botanical Gardens, opening in 1985. Enclosed by a fence, the garden offers serenity and beauty and an opportunity to disconnect from busyness. We didn’t get far down the path before we stopped in appreciation to snap pictures. The white and pink Dogwood trees near the front gate were in gorgeous full bloom. We followed the path and explored the meditation garden, which in a few weeks will be hidden behind a curtain of bamboo, and stopped to sit for a while on a stone bench near the first large koi pond.


A pair of Canadian Geese immediately approached, their two fuzzy goslings gliding along between them. They came right to the edge of the pond, near our feet, looking at us expectantly. When we failed to produce any food for them, they put on a little show for us any way. We laughed at the antics of the goslings. They would dive beneath the water’s surface, disappearing completely, and then pop up in an unexpected place, shake the water out of their downy feathers and then dive again. I’ve never been so close to baby geese before! After entertaining us for several minutes, they glided away.


The path wound through the traditional Japanese landscaping. I was there to enjoy the beauty of the gardens and there to gather ideas for my own garden, which will feature a small Japanese meditation area. And I found so much to inspire me! We explored bridges and islands, seating areas with stone or wooden benches, bamboo screens and fences and a traditional Japanese tea house. A waterfall sent water cascading into a pond in front of the tea house, which in turn flowed beneath the Moon Bridge and pooled into another body of water before culminating in the pond where the goslings played. Water is an important feature of a Japanese garden, as are stones, trees, and wooden bridges and structures. There were at least a dozen stone Japanese garden lanterns scattered throughout the grounds as well, varying in size from small to very large.


I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Japanese garden today. I left feeling refreshed and full of peace and joy. I also gathered many great ideas for transforming my own little corner into a space of similar beauty and tranquility. I won’t have the playful goslings or the geese gliding by on still water. But I also won’t have to watch where I step as I roam about my garden with bare feet!


Greg took this pic, accidently switching to black & white mode. I like it though!

Day 117: The Wolf of Wall Street


I had good intentions, moving Best Picture Nominated Movie night to Sunday, thinking I’d be able to watch the movies earlier in the day and get the blog post out in a timely manner. That hasn’t exactly worked out like I’d planned! Severe weather moving into the Joplin area, with tornadoes touching down, moved movie watching this evening to a later time. I’d just come out of a restaurant with family as the tornado sirens sounded. My weather spotting class served me well as I identified the wall cloud to the west and we watched as a small tornado spun out from that low hanging cloud and dropped to the ground. We sought shelter with a neighbor who has a storm shelter, although truth be told, we all gathered instead outside the garage to see what happened. The tornado stayed to the west and moved off toward the north. Heart pumping event, indeed!

And for tonight, I had The Wolf of Wall Street, with a run time of almost three hours! I have to say, this movie held the least interest for me, out of the nine nominated films. Once committed, there is no turning back for me, so after the weather scare and then meeting clients to sign a contract, I settled down to watch this movie.

The Wolf of Wall Street stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler and Rob Reiner and was directed by Martin Scorsese. It was nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Actor for DiCaprio, Best Supporting Actor for Hill, Best Director for Scorsese, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. It did not win in any categories. The film is rated R and has a run time of 2 hours and 59 minutes.

This was a challenging movie for me to watch. And while I really can’t recommend it, due to its well deserved R rating for strong profanity, nudity, sexual situations and heavy portrayal of drug use, it is a film that doesn’t hold back in showing what a life lived in excess looks like. It’s not pretty, or glamorous. It literally made me feel ill, and deeply uncomfortable, watching a brilliant, charismatic man take himself down a path of destruction.

Based on actual events, this film follows the life of Jordon Belfort, a young Wall Street stockbroker desperate for glory, fame and wealth. Lots of wealth. He admits, as his character narrates the movie, that he is an addicted man. Yes, he has addictions to drugs, alcohol, women and an over the top lifestyle. But he reveals his deepest addiction as he pulls a $100 bill from his pocket and unfolds it. He couldn’t get enough of the green stuff. The sad thing is, Jordon Belfort was a gifted speaker and salesman, with the confidence and drive to succeed on Wall Street. He chose to amass his wealth by taking shortcuts that defrauded his investors. He had amazing leadership qualities and a compassionate heart that was revealed in the way he treated his employees. But his addiction drove him to acquiring more and more money and that compassionate heart was never extended toward his clients. All addictions lead to ruin, and Jordon was eventually arrested for fraud. He received leniency and a short prison term in exchange for supplying information about his colleagues. After prison, sober and clean, Belfort now makes a living hosting financial seminars, writing books, and speaking.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hall give fine, albeit dark and gritty, performances. And interestingly, the real life Jordan Belfort has a brief cameo near the end of the film. There are nuggets of deeper truths distributed throughout this film, if one can bear to witness the destruction of lives because of Jordon’s cardinal rule: you deal with your problems by becoming rich.  There is not enough money in the world to buy the solutions or the kind of happiness that Jordon sought. I can only hope the real life Mr. Belfort truly has learned that lesson.

Day 116: World Tai Chi Day


Tai chi is called meditation in motion. I love moving through the beautiful forms. Being intentional about the movements slows the stream of thought racing through my mind while increasing the energy flow throughout my body. I’ve had the privilege of taking tai chi lessons from instructor Becky Browne. Joining the class twice weekly, in the evenings, I learned the Yang 16 form, the Yang 24 form and attended another class that I think we called, simply, The Scoops. Tai chi is not only beautiful and centering, it also improves my flexibility, core strength and balance.

My very busy schedule this year has prevented me from taking part in tai chi classes this spring. However, I was thrilled to be invited to take part in World Tai Chi Day, held locally at the Center Creek Park in Carl Junction, MO. Officially called World Tai Chi and Qigong Day, this is an annual event held toward the end of April. The special day began in 1999 and is held in 80 countries and hundreds of cities around the world, commencing in each location at 10:00 am. The goal of World Tai Chi Day is to bring people across racial, economic, religious and geo-political boundaries to join together for the purpose of health and healing, providing an example to the world. Last year, millions of people around the globe joined together in demonstrations of tai chi.

This year, I got to be one of those people. Becky began the day with meditation at 9:15. In spite of rain and the rumble of thunder, a small group of us gathered under a pavilion in the park to practice a standing meditation. I have to say, that 30 minute meditation was the most powerful one I have ever experienced! As we breathed and centered ourselves, focusing inward, mother nature provided the background music, at first with a soothing, gentle rain, and birdsong, and then a full blown thunderstorm, with lightning, thunder, torrential rain and hail. What an amazing and startling contrast, the quiet and peace pooling within as a tempest raged without. We all completed the meditation and marveled at the experience.


Becky Browne, amazing  tai chi instructor

More and more people gathered as 10:00 approached and the rain ceased. We all moved out onto a grassy area in the park. Becky led us through warm up exercises and Qigong to loosen muscles and joints. After a few photos by a local photographer, we moved slowly and in unison through the Yang 16 form. This is the power and beauty of tai chi, individuals shifting together, focusing on each movement, stepping, dipping, arms and hands flowing, the group moving as one. We then moved through the Yang 24 and The Scoops. Most of us watched as Becky and an advanced group moved through the kung fu form called the Chung-I-Chaun and a beautiful Wu form. I sat entranced, watching. Tai chi truly is meditation in motion and grace in motion as well.

I so enjoyed a morning of meditation and tai chi.  What a wonderful first, really two firsts, for the day: participating in World Tai Chi Day and practicing tai chi outside in the park. I feel centered and energized. And I think I could count another first for the day as well. I’ll never forget doing a standing meditation outdoors during a thunderstorm!


Day 115: Purchase New Varieties of Herbs


With the beautiful, warm weather today, I returned to the first I had scheduled yesterday….the purchase of a couple of new varieties of herbs. Last year, I bought a baker’s rack at a yard sale. It was a dark green in color and was the perfect size for my front deck. I visualized an assortment of clay pots and metal containers, each containing an herbal plant, clustered on the baker’s rack.

A couple of coats of bright yellow spray paint transformed the baker’s rack into a fun plant holder. And I found a great selection of pots and planters that I filled with herbs. I so enjoyed this herbal collection on my front deck last summer. Sitting on the porch swing, every gentle breeze wafting through the plants carried to me the amazing scents of peppermint, sage, thyme, lavender and rosemary. Every time I watered the herbs, using a bright yellow watering can, the plants released their scents to me again. Sometimes I’d go outside and brush the herbs lightly with my hands, just so I could deeply inhale their fragrances.

I loved the plants and used dried leaves primarily in herbal teas and potpourri that I made myself. Occasionally I’d pick a sprig to use in cooking. When cold weather approached, I moved the whole rack, herbs and all, into my office where the plants could bask in the wintery sunshine that filtered in through the windows. It was a joy to sit in my office and catch those tantalizing aromas while I worked.

With the return of warmer weather, it was time to relocate the rack to the front deck. A few of the herbs didn’t winter well, becoming scraggly. Most went into a dormant state and began to put out new growth a couple of weeks ago. Today I picked up a few favorites to freshen my collection and for my first, I found a couple of herbs I’d not heard of before: pineapple sage and cinnamon basil. Both plants smell wonderful! The pineapple sage has just a hint of pineapple combined with the pungent sage. And the cinnamon basil, smelling spicy and sweet, is going to be a favorite! Tomorrow I’ll enjoy potting the new herbs and arranging the baker’s rack.

As the back yard garden takes shape, there will be an herbal garden there as well. I intend to create an herbal knot garden, starting with a small Celtic knot design that can be added to over the years. I look forward to strolling through my garden and catching the delicate fragrances as I pass by. That will be bliss!


Day 114: April Exhibit at Post Memorial Art Reference Library


Today’s intermittent thunderstorms brought rain, wind, cooler temps and a change in plans for my first today. I’ll save purchasing new varieties of herbs for a sunny day! After waiting for a break in the weather most of the day, I finally dashed to the library to view the April art exhibit.

This month the exhibit features the work of Fred and Amber Mintert. Both are art educators in area schools and active artists, locally. Amber’s work focuses on watercolors. The paintings on display showed her talent and her whimsy. She had paintings of birds, a lazy cat, and enigmatic interior scenes that featured treas. Because my symbol for this year is the bird, free from its cage, I was interested in seeing her watercolors. These are really what I would call bird portraits, showing only the upper portion of the bird, and two of the paintings captured the whimsical aspect. “Florence” held a blue and white handkerchief delicately in her beak, while “Claude” stoically puffed on a pipe. I couldn’t help but smile. There are several other bird paintings on Amber’s website that I am very interested in and a lovely, playful print that I adore called “Moonlit Dance”.


In the next room I enjoyed the cat watercolor. Because of my rescue efforts recently of an abandoned mama cat and her TWO litters of kittens, my family teases me about becoming the crazy cat lady. That’s NOT going to happen. The mother cat and her two baby boys will be going to new forever homes soon, I hope. So I could appreciate this painting…a cat I don’t have to feed or care for! Her coloring and face reminded more of my daughter Adriel’s cat, Beaker, who sadly passed away last year at an old age.

And lastly, I smiled as I examined Amber’s more intriguing works, interior scenes with trees. These were not potted Ficus Trees, but a fruit tree growing out of the floor and a bare branch overshadowing a bed. Wonderfully interesting! I love trees and have an affinity for them, no matter where they take root. I’d like to know the story behind these paintings!


Fred draws on his Mexican ancestry to create woodcut prints. His “Day of the Dead” images are considered autobiographical, capturing different moments in his life. On display were prints representing him as a father, a gardener and in other roles. I loved the earthy colors. What a unique and creative combination of art and heritage!

I enjoyed viewing the paintings and woodcut prints. And I appreciate this oft overlooked section of the library, which exhibits local artists’ work each month. I look forward to May’s exhibit!

You can view more of Amber and Fred’s work here:




Day 113: Captain America: Winter Soldier


Today’s first was about pure entertainment, as my sister, Linda, and I watched the second movie in the Captain America storyline, which is, in turn, a part of the Avengers series. I have watched and enjoyed all the films in this Marvel saga and whenever a new movie launches, I’m there.

I grew up reading Marvel and DC comics. Once a week or so, I’d pick up a new comic and spend a lazy Saturday afternoon reading about the latest adventures of Batman, the Incredible Hulk, Spiderman and all the rest of the super heroes. Superman was my favorite and I followed him for years. As a young girl growing up in a big city, dealing, like we all did, with the challenges that can confront and confuse a child, I savored those solitary afternoons, caught up in a life bigger and more heroic than my own. I not only enjoyed the exploits of the heroes as they defeated the villains, I longed for super powers myself. As a child with a lively and powerful imagination, I spent many an hour contemplating what power I’d choose, if I could. Invisibility? Super human strength? The ability to fly?

As an avid movie watcher from childhood, some of my favorite films as a kid were those that depicted these characters I’d come to love so much. I’ve seen them all. As technology has improved, so have special effects and the quality of the movies. It has been fun to watch the latest movies about the individual Avenger characters. The Ironman films are not only high adventure but hilarious as well. Thor on the big screen is pure enjoyment to behold and his adopted brother Loki threatens to steal his glory.

The first Captain America movie was an important element of the future Avenger film, so I watched it and found it okay. I enjoyed his character more in the Avenger movie and in this sequel, he is fully developed in his role and capable of holding his own! I think I smiled from the opening scene until the credits rolled. I won’t include any spoilers here. I’ll just say, this was an action packed movie with many interesting twists and layers of deceit. Discovering who, exactly, were the bad guys and who were the good was part of the intrigue.

And the film touches on some important questions concerning humanity. Is it better to control chaos and people in order to have a safe society? Can the human spirit be controlled without eliminating that vital spark that moves us forward and causes us to grow? It is always dangerous, as history has proven, when one person, or a small group of people, take it upon themselves to decide the course of that growth, and who shall live and who shall die.

Super heroes appeal to me, and I suspect to others, because they live such large lives. They know who they are and what they can do. They often have an area of weakness in their lives that they must overcome and struggle to do so, making them very human in spite of their abilities. They are willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of many, or even for the sake of one. And good always prevails. If I could choose one super power now, after years of mulling it over, I think I’d be fully, magnificently myself, and live a large life. I’d be really good at understanding others and know, intuitively, how to assist them in their journeys. Oh, and I’d fly, lifting easily into the air because I willed myself to do so, soaring under my own power, far above the earth, unfettered and free.

Day 112: Springfield Botanical Gardens


Today was a gorgeous spring day. After sales meeting this morning, and taking care of a contract, it felt like the perfect day to be outdoors. I had heard there was a Redbud Tree Garden and a Japanese Garden in Springfield, MO. For my first today, Greg and I drove to that nearby city to check out the gardens. It was only after I was underway that I remembered today was Earth Day! What an ideal way to appreciate the beauty of my world.

The botanical gardens were easy to find. I appreciated that Greg googled the location before we left Joplin. My first surprise was how large and varied the gardens are! There are 114 acres of gardens and grounds that include the Botanical Center, a Butterfly House, a Farmstead, a small lake surrounded by a walking trail, and many different types of gardens to stroll through. We started in the Center to pick up a map and info about the grounds and then headed to the Japanese Garden. As my backyard is being transformed, I want a meditation garden in one corner, with strong Japanese influences. I was excited to see this garden so I could get ideas. Sadly, that was my next surprise…the Japanese Gardens are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays! We peeked over the fence. It looks like a lovely, serene place to stroll and reflect. I will definitely go back to check out this space.

There were so many other gardens to explore that I was not disappointed about the locked gate at the entrance to the Japanese Garden. We strolled instead through the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden. This space includes a perennial border, themed herb beds, and a kitchen garden. The winding pathways made of mulch inspired me to create similar paths in my own garden.

Next we walked along a trail that meandered past the Redbud Garden, which was established in 2011, and the Dr. Bill Roston Native Butterfly House. The Butterfly House opens in May. I have always wanted to go into such a place! I will be visiting this enclosed structure, where a variety of native butterflies move through their life cycles before being released in September. The path then wound through individual gardens housing lilies, irises, roses, peonies, and wildflowers. The plants are just pushing up through the ground. It will be interesting to return several times this year to see how the gardens change with the seasons. I am especially intrigued by the ornamental grasses garden, as I want to include a variety of grasses in my backyard sanctuary.


The path joined the walking trail that surrounds the lake. We found a bench near the water to rest on and watched the Canadian Geese float by. The water was like glass, disturbed only by the passing geese. It was such a peaceful and beautiful spot to be still in and enjoy nature. There are many other gardens to explore that we saved for another visit. I want to check out the White Garden, the Hosta Garden and the English and Summer Gardens. A new sensory garden is being developed that sounds promising as well, and of course, I can’t wait to stroll through the Japanese Garden which covers 7.5 acres.

This was a delightful first and gave me wonderful ideas for smaller scale projects for my own garden. As we were leaving, we met Frank, a volunteer at the Center, who chatted with us and shared his amazing gardening website. Meeting and connecting with new people has been an unexpected and wonderful perk that has accompanied many of my firsts. I assured Frank, and promised myself, that I would return soon. And I will!


Day 111: Philomena


Best Picture nominated movie night moved back to Monday this week, due to the holiday yesterday and being out of town. I visited the DVD store with the intention of picking up The Wolf of Wall Street. Then I saw that Philomena had released last week and there it was on the shelf. I shifted…and walked out of the store with Philomena.

This was a movie I wanted to see at the theater. Unfortunately, it didn’t play long at the Joplin theater and I missed it. The previews I had seen drew me, while at the same time, caused me concern as I always felt a deep sadness when I saw Judi Dench’s character, Philomena. However, this year I am not shying away from sad movies. I am discovering these stories have much to offer and that sadness is allowed and tears are not a sign of weakness.

Philomena stars Judi Dench and Steve Coogan and was directed by Stephen Frears. It was nominated for 4 Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screen Play, Best Original Score, Best Actress for Judi Dench and Best Picture. It did not win an Oscar in any category. The movie is rated PG-13 and has a run time of 1 hour and 38 minutes.

I love that four of the films I’ve watched so far are based on true stories, including this one. Truth can be so much more incredible and interesting than fiction! Give me a story based on real life experiences and touch my heart, making me care, making me laugh and weep, and that story will stay with me for a very long time. Philomena is such a story.

In Ireland, in 1952, Philomena Lee gave birth to a baby boy out of wedlock. Sent in disgrace to an abbey in Roscrea, Philomena is forced into menial labor for years, in exchange for a place to live for her and her son, Anthony. At the age of three, however, Anthony is placed into adoption, without his mother’s consent. For the next 47 years, Philomena thinks of her son daily, missing him, mourning his loss. And she’s searched for him, returning again and again to the abbey seeking information. She carries the secret of his existence until she can’t contain it any longer, revealing at last to her grown daughter that she had a son while still in her teens. Her daughter connects her with journalist Martin Sixsmith, formerly with the BBC, who is out of work and looking for a story.

The two embark on a journey to find Philomena’s lost son. Their search takes them from the abbey in Ireland, where no help is offered, to Washington DC in the US. Martin’s investigation uncovers a dark scheme. The abbey sold babies and children to wealthy Americans seeking to adopt. Anthony was adopted by a doctor and his wife, from St. Louis, MO, and his name changed to Michael. Philomena does locate her son. Not in the way she had hoped to, but find him she does, and the shadowy pieces of his life become clear. Martin and Philomena come full circle, back to the abbey in Roscrea, where Martin’s anger at the lies and the mistreatment of young, vulnerable women is sharply contrasted by Philomena’s grace and forgiveness.

This was an emotional movie. Yes, it made tears fill my eyes. Judi Dench did a remarkable job portraying this wise and yet charmingly naïve woman who loved her son so much, she couldn’t forget him. Her blunt comments, kindness toward others and love of romance novels made me laugh, just when the tears threatened to spill. And Steve Coogan, who I discovered also wrote the screenplay, was amazing, portraying Martin Sixsmith as a man searching for something beyond himself to believe in.

As a mother, my heart hurt for Philomena’s pain and loss and her desperation to find her son. She didn’t want to take him back. She only wanted to know that he was okay, that he had lived well, and that he knew she loved him. As parents, we all hope the same is true for our children.