The last, yet certainly not the least, in our examination of true life Oscar nominated stories is Philomena. Philomena is a young innocent girl when she has an encounter with a young man at a fair in 1951. Pregnant, she is sent to the Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Ireland, where she gives birth to a son she names Anthony. At some point during the four years that follow in which Philomena works to pay off the debt of her stay at the abbey, her son is adopted out suddenly and without warning. Philomena is greatly distressed.

Antique cradle. ©iStockphoto/Anastazzo

Antique cradle. ©iStockphoto/Anastazzo

Confession. Philomena might be Catholic and well aware of the practice of confession to God through a priest and the forgiveness it promises. Confession leads her no closer to the son she was forced by Sean Ross Abbey nuns to give up for adoption until she confesses her secret years later to her grown daughter. Is there a mystery in your life that might be finally broken open by confidential confession to another?

Contact. Philomena’s daughter approaches a newly unemployed journalist, Martin Sixsmith, at a party suggesting he write about her mother. Sixsmith has no interest in writing a human interest story until he meets with Philomena and hears her scandalous tale. Who has the skill set that could help you on your personal story quest – a journalist, an investigator, another individual who was there?

Investigation. Yet another trip by Philomena to the Abbey, this time with Sixsmith, yields no new information. Fortunately, the local pub holds clues. Locals says the fire that destroyed adoption records was a purposeful bonfire. They also indicate that many of the children had been sold to Americans. The tip leads Sixsmith and Philomena to America where Sixsmith’s contacts help him discover Anthony’s adoptive parents and his new name, Michael A. Hess. Hess was a lawyer who had served high up in Republican Ranks. In a devastating story twist Sixsmith discovers Hess died nine years earlier in 1995 of AIDS. Is there a “death of a vision” for your story?

Pressing on. Philomena and Sixsmith try to gather more information on Michael through a colleague of Hess, his sister Mary, and his love. It’s shocking when they learn from the latter that Michael had visited the abbey where he was told his mother abandoned him and that they had no information on her. Are there ways you can press on after hitting a dead end to discover more information?

Coming full circle. The most shocking news Philomena and Sixsmith hear is that her son is buried in the abbey’s cemetery. Sixsmith is angry at the sisters for withholding information that could have connected Philomena with her son. Philomena chooses to forgive. She also tells Sixsmith to tell the story because “people should know…” Martin Sixsmith writes The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, the book on which Philomena is based. Is there a story you should tell because “people should know” what happened? Are you aware you can both forgive and tell?

The fourth Storydame Methuselism Award

A friend shared Heart’s Stairway to Heaven tribute to Led Zeppelin at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2012. I saw this when it aired in 2012. By spring 2014 I have progressed in my guitar lessons so I decided to learn it. I am practicing, practicing, practicing…

Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. ©iStockphoto/BeeCoolPhoto

Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. ©iStockphoto/BeeCoolPhoto

As I practiced Stairway to Heaven, I realized how many greats of my era have been honored by the Kennedy Center for lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts. Names who came to mind include musicians and actors, directors and comics. Since they all seem to be 50+, the fourth StoryDame Methuselism award goes to The Kennedy Center Opera House, Washington, D.C., for the Kennedy Center Honors.


I love TV shows about hoarding. Representatives show up at the home of an individual who is a hoarder. Hoarding can mean that stuff covers almost every inch of every surface – floors, counters, furniture. Often stuff is stacked floor to ceiling.

My Scrabbled life. ©D.L. Ewbank

My Scrabbled life. ©D.L. Ewbank

Initially an expert comes through and identifies that, yes, as suspected, reported, claimed by others from family to neighbors to law enforcement, there is a problem. Duh! Then the professional has a serious talk with the hoarder. The pro tries to isolate a reason the hoarder should agree to let go of a portion of their hoard. They need to do this because a) they are about to be evicted or b) someone’s health/life/ability to keep their children is at risk.

While the hoarder seems to initially agree to let go, when the pro returns with the cleaning experts and around 10-12 people who have agreed to assist in the process, all hell is about to break loose. After watching countless episodes, I have come to expect nothing less because hoarders see value in everything including what most folks view as trash.

How do the experts on hoarding shows think they can help individuals who have hoarded their homes into a neat freak’s worst nightmare restore cleanliness in two days? The answer seems to be “shovels.”

This is where this post gets confessional. I, too, have a tendency to collect. I don’t mean I have a problem getting rid of trash. I mean I have more than can fit “neatly” in my small historic cottage. My home has closets built for folks with 1950s wardrobes and not twenty-first century abundance.

I have done much already. I have emptied an offsite storage area. I have emptied my clothes from my closet at my childhood home. Papers that stacked up in multiple boxes during my stint in graduate school are gone. The improvement is huge. I am close to finished, but I am not there yet. Most scary, this journey has taken me four years. I’m now down to letting go of good stuff I will probably never use (based on past experience.) I watch hoarding shows to help push myself to higher heights.

So, the other night as I am making choices, I turn on a hoarding show. As I watch I am able to let go of yarn magazines with projects I will never knit and yarn I bought because I thought was pretty, but matches no project. I’m feeling pretty good about myself as the show ends. I watch as the camera scans the home and I spot an adorable Scrabble board bearing the name of the family. Immediately, I rush to the donate bag and pull out my Scrabble game.

Well, I never said watching hoarding shows was without risk!