Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Norman (Things My Mother Said to Me)

Norman wrote a story about his mom recently. It’s so moving, because you really see what a great mom she was in every single phase of his life. There’s probably no higher honor a mom can ask for than a story like this from a son. When I read it, I was reminded of another equally moving but different story he wrote a while ago. I had to dig it up. When I put the two stories together, I felt like the original story instantly became a hundred times more precious. Talk to a senior in your life and hear what they’d like to share about their mom! Tell us about it here: https://bestdaysofar.wufoo.com/forms/my-best-day-story/
Norman Cain
I Feel Good

I am far away from being egotistical but there are times when compliments make me feel good. 

I felt good when my father said, “You are a man.”

I felt good when my mother told me that I did an excellent job as the emcee for a family reunion.

I felt good when my uncle (a South Carolina Farmer) who I worked with told me that I was dedicated.

I feel good when the neighborhood guys in their forties call me Coach.  I had them as a champion basketball team when they were 15.

Norman Cain
Things My Mother Said To Me

My mother was a short giant of an "absolutely no nonsense" women whose self proclaimed position of boss was never challenged. She would tell anyone (no matter the time and place) to do something, and what she demanded was done without resistance. For instance, I've seen her break up many corner crap games; likewise, I can recall several instances when she actually went into the streets' gambling den and told the hardened card players to curtail the vile noise that the entire street could hear. And they complied.

She did not waste words on idle gossip, trivial matters or to hear herself talk; to the contrary, when she spoke it was for a relevant reason, and those who were within hearing range definitely listened. Including myself. I listened to her – partly, because I did not want to encounter her anger, but mainly because of my respect for her and her information, advise guidance, dictates, etc. that she dispensed.

Over the years, in her discussions that she has conducted with me, she has issued mandatory mandates, rendered perceptions, engaged in serious discussions and has given me tons of well needed counseling. I will never forget those sessions. She could be quite the disciplinarian. I can remember coming into the house after a pleasant day of playing and immediately being the recipient of the whipping that I was promised earlier, a whipping that I had escaped my mind.

Between the painful licks from the belt and my pronouncements of I-ain't-gonna-do-it-no-more, my mother would say didn't I tell you not to? Those whippings hurt, but there was something called a "Good Talking To" that would have me sobbing from the soul, boo-hooing with pain. The "Good Talking To" would consist of phrases like "I'm ashamed of you" and "You know better."

I remember my mother religiously lining each of my four siblings up and staying in a stern voice "What do you say when you speak to a grown person?" We would chime "Yes Sir" "Yes Ma'am." And during the holidays when children were required to say poems (which were called pieces) in church, she would line us up (my four siblings) and urge us to use our hands, eyes, hesitation, pronunciation and enunciation for the best presentation effect.

My mother also had a humorous side. When I received the award for being the top student in my sixth grade special education class, she said "If Norman is the smartest kid in the class, God help the rest." Before breaking out into a prolongued uncontrollable laugh. Whenever she had to inform me about something she knew would be disappointing news for me, she used a love filled gently voice. "Sissy's house caught fire last night. Sissy is dead." Sissy was the first girl that I had ever been romantically interested in. I have never forgotten her untimely death; however, there were more romantic interests.

Once, when I was a teenager, she looked me in the eyes and said, "I know what your problem is – girls." And she was correct. A few years later, when a serious heart break had me in a state of depression, she said to me, "There will be other girls." She was right. When I became older and seemingly a veteran of heartbreaks and homeless separations, my mother adamantly said "Get your own place." She was right.

When I left my parents' home on the morning of July 5, 1965 to report to the army, she urged me to hold my head up and a year and a half later when I came home on leave, she touched me and said with a tone of relief in her voice, "You came home." During what I surmise was my mid-life crisis era, my mom constantly told me to not throw away my gifts.

And when I told her about a dream I had about her father, mother, and uncle, she said that they were urging me to keep the faith. During a period in my life when nothing was going right and I was making wrong decisions, my mother would constantly tell me to not discard my gifts. When I told her that I had had a dream about her parents and her father's brother, she said "They are telling you that you can do it." If one did a wonderful deed, my mother would not necessarily congratulate them, as she felt that they were doing what was expected of them.

So whenever she told me "You did a good job," it meant a lot to me and encourages me to strive as hard as I possibly could. There are of course many other things that my mother said to me, and everything she said to me was in love, and if the tone of her delivers were sometimes harsh, it was merely to display "Tough Love" and to leave an everlasting message.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Helping the Elderly

It's hot beyond belief here in Philly – hope it's cooler where you are! If you've been with us here on the blog for some time, you know about the elementary school essay that I go back to once in a while – it completely predicted my passion for working with seniors almost two decades before I knew it, and I first shared about that essay on this blog back in January 2011. Today, hanging out at home (in fully pumping AC), I got thinking about how significant that essay is. Check out my reflections here and tell your Best Day story here if here you agree that a world with "really, very happy" seniors is worth fighting for!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Hattie (Watching My Family Grow)


POW!, as Hattie says, life moves fast. How did I suddenly grow up? And how are my kids growing up so fast? Today is my husband’s and my 10th wedding anniversary (woohoo!) and tomorrow is my 35th birthday (yay!). Can’t call myself “young” after this week ;) which is perfectly fine because you all know I am a senior-wannabe. I think age is an awesome thing – the bigger your number, the more awesome you are. Got your own story or one that a senior in your life has told you about how “growing up” feels like? Share it here: https://bestdaysofar.wufoo.com/forms/my-best-day-story/

Hattie Lee Ellerbe
Watching my Family Grow

It’s amazing how I remember just being a little girl, minding my own business, playing kiddie games and learning the facts of life. Then “POW!” I grew up. This was in spite of the fact that I wanted to stay a child and play-play-play. Needless to say it has been wonderful watching my three children grow up. They have given me:
•    8 grandchildren
•    8 great-grandchildren
•    3 great-great-grandchildren
Boy what a life. In all my 82 years they have brought me much joy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ordinary Moments, Extraordinary Lessons

From a debate over paper towel placement (you know what I am talking about… we’ve all had those with our roommates or spouses!), a short Shakespeare poem, a bible verse, a conversation with a neighbor, our seniors’ stories remind me that life has a way of handing us extraordinary lessons through ordinary moments. If a senior in your life has shared an extraordinary life lesson with you, tell us about it here! https://bestdaysofar.wufoo.com/forms/my-best-day-story/
Frances Bryce
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

During the Christmas Holidays I usually visit our home in California where my son, daughter and her husband live.  I have shortened my time which was usually from the months of November to March; now it is when the school is out for the holiday because I am a Reading Buddy for students in one of the third grades at Greenfield which I enjoy. 

A conversation arose one day during the holiday about the placement of a roll of paper towels.  My daughter noticed that the roll was placed from front to back after her husband had put the roll on.  She thought it was on the wrong way.  He asked me about the paper placement.  I replied that the direction of the roll was an option.  When they left, I replaced it the way she usually has it, so as not to make an issue of such an unimportant thing.  Her husband had stated that he didn’t know there was a right or wrong way.  I reversed the towels later as we talked she said that she had replaced the order of the towel as her husband had placed it. We had a good laugh about pleasing the other person and not getting bogged down in insignificant things.

Norman Cain
Be True to Yourself

To thine own self be true,
and this must [follow], as the day the night
thence thou cannot be false to any man

It took me a while to adhere to the message in the preceding poem by William Shakespeare. I was victimized by peer pressure; therefore I was not being true to myself. I was allowing others to dictate my lifestyle. I constantly worried about what they would say about me – in and outside of their presence. After many hard-learned lessons I abandoned denial about how many members of my clique were self-centered and manipulative. At that point I began to follow the path I laid out for myself, which made me feel at ease. While I did not abandon my peers, I certainly did not allow their opinions to dictate my life. To thine own self be true.

Brenda Scantlebury
Live Each Day to the Fullest

The Bible describes one’s life here on earth as a vapor! A Vapor can be a substance made of moisture, of steam, or smoke. None of these substances last very long. So with this in mind…

There’s a scripture that declares: “Work while it’s a day, for when night cometh, no man can work!”

So . . . live each day to the fullest! Make the very best of it! If life gives you lemons – make lemonade. If it brings honey – do like the bees who make it. Thank the Lord God and keep on living, keep on working. Amen.

Joan Bunting
Think Before You Act

As a young girl, I’ve always enjoyed listening to older people. Even when I was in my thirties and forties I had neighbors that I would visit and they would tell me stories about their lives. Listening to older people has taught me a lot.

I used to hear some of them say how salt can cause your blood pressure to rise, even to the point where you might have to be on medication for the rest of your life. When I got older I stopped using so much salt and am now trying to use hardly any at all.

There was one lady probably in her eighties about how she came home from work one day. One of her sons had welts on his body. He had gotten a whipping from his father. She said, she was so angry, she went to her husband’s job to kill him.

When she arrived she asked to see her husband. She said it took so long for him to come that by that time her anger had ceased. She just looked at him and walked away. He never knew that she had come to kill him. The son nor the father never mentioned why the son was whipped.

She ended her story by saying, “When you’re angry take the time to cool off before you react.”

To me that’s a great lesson to learn. There are lots of people, I believe, are in jail

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Jana, Loretta, Rochelle and Dolores (Stories of Love and Laughter)

Following her personal story in the previous blog post, Jana handpicked a few recent stories by our seniors to put a smile on our faces - thanks Jana!

I chose these stories because I felt like they shared a similar theme of love and laughter. Stories that you most definitely could tell to your children or grandchildren years down the line.  They are precious memories we take with us. Hope you readers enjoy! – Jana

Loretta Dotson
The Traveler

I love to travel. I visit so many paces almost daily. In London Big Ben was as amazing as huge. The Great Wall of China was astounding. It is extremely cold in Alaska but the fishing was great. The volcanoes in Hawaii are exciting and potentially deadly. Jamaica, Jamaica so beautiful the people pleasant and colorful and so accommodating. They love the American dollar, don’t we all?

Haiti is still struggling but still hanging in there. There are so very many places to visit and enjoy. The White House, the oval office, a spectacular room of course. Ah, Italy, great pasta, pizzelle and wine. In Germany and Switzerland beautiful chalets and mountains. But, for me, the clocks, the watches and the wrist and pendants variety are unique.

These places mentioned, you may enjoy also – just pick up a book! You can visit any place, stay as long as you like and revisit, no parking, no reservations. I’m revisiting New Orleans, the French Quarter. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

Rochelle Tynes
AKA 20/20

I drew a blank and couldn’t think of anything to write about.  In fact I really started not to come but I had said in the beginning of the year that I was going to try and come every week.  So I basically gave my word, I didn’t want to go back on it so I came.

I guess I’ll just sit here and enjoy the stories that other tell today.  The stories are always so very interesting and bring to mind things that occurred during out young years.  They are often pleasant memories of people and times that have long passed but should be returned so the younger generation can have a better outlook on life to appreciate what they have and not be so anxious to have everything immediately and move on the next needed “right now thing” and to know that an education is a thing to be honored to achieve instead of taking it so lightly and leaving school.  And taking care of oneself is a goal and not someone else’s responsibility.  Anyway, I was just gonna listen.

Dolores Malone
The Day I Stopped Eating Watermelon

When I was seven years old, I hardly minded where infants came from. I just cared that they were here to be played with like dolls, to be coddled and kissed. I also worried little about the origin of the adults in my world. In fact, I worried little about how people – babies, teens, adults – come to be because I had developed my own theory about their genesis.

My seven-year-old imagination, combined with Bible stories, determined that God put each fully-formed person on earth at a specific age. And those people matured from that point forward. God, for example, made mom 30-ish; Cathy, two weeks old; Uncle Jay, 40-something; my oldest sister 4; and most of my friends between 3 and 7. Adults, already old at birth, bypassed infancy, childhood and other early maturation milestones. I figured that I was actually a little over two when God made me for my parents – no matter that folks told stories about my existence before then. To put it succinctly, I theorized that God crafter humans as completely developed babies, children, or adults.

So it was that I was surprised at seven to learn that my theory of birth was flawed. I was sitting on my front steps with my sisters, a few teenagers and young adults, when I noticed a stranger, a lady walking toward my steps. I looked her up and down. I was captivated by her shiny, black hair, presumably oiled with Royal Crown Pomade before being pressed straight with a hot comb and then curled into a page-boy, with evenly-spaced finger waves complimenting her hairdo. I was also mesmerized by her bright red lipstick – the color of which “is only worn by Jezebels,” according to my Mom.

But what shocked me more than anything else about the lady with the fancy hair and painted lips was her bulging belly. I had never seen anything like it. Her stomach stuck out so far that I thought that somehow she might have been concealing something enormous like a basketball beneath her loose-fitting dress.

As the lady, who looked no more than 20, wobbled toward the group, she greeted a teenager sitting on the top step. (Neighborhood protocol dictated that the youngest children sit on the bottom steps, the oldest people on the upper ones) The lady groaned as she climbed to where her friend sat. All the while, I couldn’t take my eyes off her huge stomach. I was speechless.

Finally, when the lady was seated, I whispered to my sister, “What’s wrong with her? Why is her stomach so fat?”

“I don’t know,” my sister replied, “ask her.”

So I did. And what a shock I got. “I swallowed a watermelon seed, and now I’m gonna have a baby. It’s growing in my stomach,” the lady said.

I could hardly believe what I heard. I asked, “You mean a baby comes from a watermelon seed?”

“Yep, so don’t ever swallow one.”

Hence, on that day and for the next few years I refused to eat watermelon. I feared germinating a baby inside my wee, wee belly.    

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Jana (A Volunteer's Reflections)

Jana and her Granny
Jana listening to our seniors' stories
We all know the seniors of Best Day are inspiring, but no less inspiring are the voices of volunteers who work so hard to help our seniors find their voices. Today, I have invited volunteer and my friend Jana to tell her heartwarming Best Day story!

Greetings Readers,

Let me start off by introducing myself. My name is Jana Henry. I am a group facilitator here at Best Day of My Life So Far. By day I work for an awesome church in Philadelphia and by night or any other free time I have I write. Being a writer at heart is one of the things that drew me to Best Day. Currently I and a few other facilitators have been helping with our weekly classes while Benita spends time loving on her new baby boy who is the cutest little thing ever.

I started with Best Day back in 2013. I was actually taking a stroll through social media as we often do in this day and age and I saw a peer of mine hanging out with a group of seniors. So I asked him what Best Day was all about. I had recently lost my grandmother and was yearning for a relationship like the one we had shared. What I had found is that it’s hard to replace those bonds but doors always open to make new ones. Long story short I was connected to Benita and I just jumped right in.

Best Day for me has been many things. It was a break from the hustle and bustle of school as I finished my undergraduate degree. The seniors were my cheering section when I finally finished school and a great encouragement as I searched for a full time job and thankfully found one later that year. I have enjoyed a walk through nostalgia every week as the seniors share what they write. I admire the wisdom that I have been blessed to be in a room with. I sometimes feel bad that the world doesn’t know just how awesome this program is and I make it a point to talk about our class everywhere I go.

In the recent weeks class has been a helpful reminder to slow down and live in the moment. I am grateful that Benita and the seniors have entrusted me to join in on their weekly storytelling. I feel blessed. Check out some of our blog posts and it is my hope that you may find joy to take with you throughout your day today!