Thursday, October 12, 2017

Our Other Workshops (Norman, Adele, Lorie)

If you've been following Best Day for a while, then you know my group isn't the only one writing stories. There are several other Best Days located in Pennsylvania, including the Free Library of Philadelphia and Center in the Park (which our older bud Norman also writes for.) Plus, we also have workshops in Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington. So here's a few stories that go off the beaten path.

Norman Cain
Center in the Park, PA

Each year, in June, I leave my premises with a folding chair and head towards South Street to engage in the atmosphere presented by the largest Afro-American Street Festival in the nation. Odunde means Yoruba New Year. The festival has been in existence for 42 years and annually attracts over a thousand spectators; who are entertained by break dancers, a spontaneous conglomerate of drummers on 22nd Street, other dancers keep alive a Brazilian martial arts form presented as a dance. The preceding is but a splattering of the street entertainment the Festival affords. There is also, between 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., continuous entertainment on the stage on Grays Ferry Avenue and 22nd Street and South Street. According to an article written in the Philadelphia Tribune newspaper,  the festival averages over 100 vendors who sell exotic art, t-shirts, books, and food Etc. The festival starts with a procession to the Schuylkill River. This is where sacrifices to Osun Aruba god of love.
Each year, I watched the drummer’s drum when they attend the procession. It is traditional for the drummers to perform throughout the day at 22nd and Bainbridge. That’s where I always spend the greatest portion of my Odunde time. I always enjoy this event. It is a culture. It is like a reunion. I always see folks from the previous year. This year I bought a complete set of poems by D. Maya Angelou, as well as well as her second autobiography “Gathered together in my name,” from a vendor who was from New York who’s cut-rate prices were phenomenal. His collection could take one into bankruptcy. Looking forward to the next Odunde festival.

Senior Housing Assistance Group Rainer Court, WA
I Know How To Cook Everything
I grew up on Ilocos Sur – that’s a province in the Philippines. It’s nice over there, but it’s hot – too hot. When I was 5 years old – already cleaning the house, riding bicycles, learning to cook. When I was 17, I know everything.  I went to Mindanao. I worked in a hospital. I learned to give medicine. I’m lazy to study, but I’m a quick learner. In school, I had to learn. When school stopped, I didn’t have to learn anymore. Now it’s like I forgot everything. Because I’m old.
I’m the youngest, I’m the one to take care of everyone I’m the mother, I’m the father. Early in the morning, I’m cooking rice. I know how to cook everything. I make sweet rice, puto, bibinka. I don’t use a recipe, I taught myself. Someone asked me to cook pancit. I didn’t know the recipe, I made up my own. People ask how come the color is like this? I don’t know!
Lorie Rosenblum
Services For Adults Staying In Their Homes, IL
What Book?
I kept returning to A Tangled Web by Louisa M. Montgomery, the author of the Anne of Green Gables series. I was brought up in Canada, in the years during and after World War II.  I was a solitary and bookish child, gluttonous for reading.  A Tangled Web was a novel for grownups, and it featured romance, of course.  All I remember is this:  In a small town the heroine, quite young, has a feisty relationship with an older man, jousts of verbal wit.  The man is an outsider in the community, someone of stature, though – perhaps a doctor – and a bachelor.  He is in love with the young woman, but never tells her.  She marries, some kind of lie is told – hence the “tangled web.” Years later the heroine and the older man are brought together and profess their mutual love.  I think they marry.  I’m struck now how this theme – thwarted or forbidden romance between a young woman and an older man – kept turning up in my reading.  The two novels that I also returned to again and again with fervor were Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, each of which focus on a romance between a kind of princess in disguise – the girl may be plain but is valued for her mind – and a stern, taskmaster older man.  A powerful fantasy for an adolescent female, growing up in the fifties, with a handsome father, and looking for a prince charming far different from the bumbling, scornful adolescent boys she feared and despised.

The Story Cure in Erie, PA came and went, but you can read Kaitlin Kortonick's (Best Day's Community Engagement Director) recap here. Also, you can read Story Cure's writing here since we're talking about all the different places we work with.
Don't forget, on October 29th Best Day's Benita Cooper will be giving a lecture at the Perkins Center for the Arts' "Before I Die" Event. It starts at 3:15 and the address is 30 Irvin Avenue, Collingswood, NJ 08108.
And on November 9th Best Day will be having its Center City Philadelphia Happy Hour at the City Tap House. That starts at 6PM and the address is 2 Logan Square, Philadelphia, PA 19103. City Tap House is actually very close to my job, so you can meet me in person. We can even do some Happy Hour Senior Selfies!

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Sort of Summer Vacation (Loretta D. and Joe)

Over the past few months, both Joe and Loreta D. decided to take a summer vacation from Best Day. They wanted to take advantage of the nice summer weather and enjoy the great outdoors, and they both used this time to start planning what to write. The good news, both of them wrote a story last week. The bad news, Loretta couldn't even come to class because her CCT bus picked her up just after class started. I always feel bad when our older buds are beholden to a transportation system the can't control. But I'm glad I can feature them both today.

Loretta G. Dotson
What If  
Such a small word, but quite significant, so meaningful, so powerful. If the sun wasn’t out it would be dark and cloudy. If I would have had bacon and would have made breakfast at home. If the bus wasn’t late I would have arrived on time. If this dress was in my size, I would have purchased it. If an apartment was available in that building, I would have applied for it. If they don’t have coffee I’ll have tea. So many "ifs" so important in every way. If I would not have written this for sure, I have another written view of my life experiences.
If you don’t mind, over and out. 
Joe Garrison
School Days  
I had been out of high school for a few years, and the idea of going back to a classroom was a little intimidating. I was a little nervous but I thought maybe I’ll give it a try.
I prepared myself for the first day. It was a new experience because I was the only sightless person. On the first day, I walked in and introduced myself. People asked, "How is he going to keep up? Take notes? Survive in the class?" One particular fellow who was sitting next to me had a really surly attitude. He said, "Do you expect us to take care of you? To help you, write your notes?" I said to him, "I never asked you to help me. I can hold my own and keep up." Another lady was the opposite of this man. We became friends. She helped me out, took some notes and we were friends outside of class.
People always pre-judge. All that man could see was that I was sightless and he judged me. I maintained an "A" average in my classes. I had my text books on tape. I hated Algebra though I took other math classes, but Algebra was the worst.
I found my way around the school. I knew where to go on campus. I took the bus and sometimes my friend would drive me home. I loved my music history class. I thoroughly enjoyed it. We learned about music from the medieval period to rock and roll! I imparted some of my knowledge to the instructor! She gave me an A+!
I enjoyed my experience at Philadelphia Community College. 

Don't forget, on October 29th Best Day's Benita Cooper will be giving a lecture at the Perkins Center for the Arts' "Before I Die" Event. It starts at 3:15 and the address is 30 Irvin Avenue, Collingswood, NJ 08108.
And on November 9th Best Day will be having its Center City Philadelphia Happy Hour at the City Tap House. That starts at 6PM and the address is 2 Logan Square, Philadelphia, PA 19103. City Tap House is actually very close to my job, so you can meet me in person. We can even do some Happy Hour Senior Selfies!

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Looking Back, Looking Forward (Ernestyne)

It's been eight years since the first Best Day workshop, where Benita met her first four older buds in the basement of the Philadelphia Senior center. Though it started as a 6-week personal project, The Best Day Of My Life (So Far) has blossomed into a national storytelling network and a staple program for the senior center in which it started. Recently, our founder and fearless leader Benita Cooper hosted a regional storytelling event in Erie, for the NW Pennsylvania region, sponsored by LIFE-NWPA. Not only did she get to share video footage of our original group and meet with Erie's storytellers, she was also interviewed for news stories in CBS and NBC.

It's only appropriate that last week's session involved a little reminiscing. Our older bud Norman brought in some photos for a prompt for his other storytelling workshop. He passed the photos around, which included one from a much earlier Best Day workshop, a few black and white ones of his grandmother and first cousin, and a modern one of his mother with lasers in the background. And of course there was one of Young Norman himself, dressed up in his best Sunday suit.

In honor of Best Day's 8th Anniversary, here's a story from one of our first ever older buds, Ernestyne.

Ernestyne Whiteside Bush
Good afternoon everyone: welcome to the inner chamber of my life.
My name is Ernestyne Whiteside Bush, and I am not related to our ex-President, George Bush.
(Benita: That is what she wrote. In paranthesis. She showed me. When she showed me, she wasn't smiling. She waited till I smiled, and then she beamed.)
However, I was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee near Lookout Mountain, which is noted for three mountains easily obtained from a short distance.
This area is my mother's area where her family lived. 

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Upcoming Events (Norman)

To all the loyal readers of this blog, take note! The Best Day of My Life So Far has lots of fun events coming up for the people of Philadelphia.

September 22nd, 2PM is our NW Pennsylvania Storytelling Day and Networking Event at Zem Zem Conference Hall in Erie, PA. (2525 W 38th St.)
October 29th, 3:15 PM is our South Jersey Storytelling Workshop at "Before I Die" in the Perkins Center for the Arts, Collingswood, NJ. Featuring a presentation from Best Day founder and president, Benita Cooper!
November 9th, 6PM is our Center City Philadelphia Happy Hour at City Tap House. (2 Logan Square.) I've been there for a Christmas party before and it was a great place to hang out and swap stories.

Here's hoping you readers can make all three events and see all of what our nation-wide non-profit has to offer. For now, here's a contribution from a local older bud.

Normain Cain  
Fantasies That Became Reality 
As a child, I was self-conscious, suffered from an acute case of low self-esteem, and had a learning disability. While I was not unkempt, I, nonetheless, had to wear hand-me-downs: pants that were outdated and either too large or small. My shoes were not in vogue and often had to have the hole in the soles covered by cardboard, a situation that caused problems when it rained. Since I was always the tallest student in the class, it meant that I was always the last in line, a situation that had me feeling isolated and different. Why was I so tall? Why were my clothes inferior to the other students in the class? I rarely spoke, was extremely shy, constantly harassed by bullies, and was withdrawn. While I excelled in reading and had a poem that I had written displayed on the bulletin board in the main hallway of the school and always received outstanding on my report card for reading, I failed all my other subjects. My teacher, on three occasions, tried to have me placed in a special education school. Each time my mother protested; as a result of her actions, I remained in her class for four years – the first through the fourth grade. One of the reasons why I enjoyed reading so much was because it gave me an outlet for my unhappiness and enabled me to find solace in fantasizing. The text that we read, Dick and Jane Time and Places was full of vivid images that provided fuel for the land of fantasy that occupied my inner existence. I immersed myself in the pictures of white picket fences, and the manicured lawn hosting brilliantly-hued daffodil images that were in contrast to the wall of cold concreted that bordered the steps that led to the scantily-furnished (well kept) row house, where I dwelled with my father, mother, two sisters and brother. Dick and Jane had ample room in their home, where they were able to move about effortlessly. They had separate bedrooms and meals that were fit for a king. They were always well dressed. They had a dog: Spot. My fantasies played themselves out in my art work which always contained pictures of modes of transportation: airplanes floating across baby blue skies, which always hosted a deep yellow, radiating sun; cruise ships occupied by stick figures smiling from its deck at the blue rollicking waves; automobiles, manned by smiling men in baseball caps driving down roadways bordered by magnificent houses set behind fully-leaved trees that a fluffy-eared, wide-eyed dog – that looked like Dick and Jane’s Spot – stared at. But in reflection, my fantasies manifested during the summers, when my sister and I left the swift-paced city for the tranquility that the South afforded. It was there that I was able – for a full 10-week period – to live in my grandparents’ home, which was undoubtedly the most magnificent house for miles. It was prettier than the homes of area white folk. While there was no white picket fence in front of the huge yard that lay in front of the house, there were two trees on either side of the yard. A lemon tree and a Chinaberry tree. It was there that at least six dogs resided: beagles, bulldogs and a little black and white dog – that looked like Dick and Jane’s Spot – which was a replica of the dog forever present in my drawings, who followed me everywhere I went on the farm. He followed me when I went to the well for water, to the barnyard when I poured buckets of slop into the trough for squealing-in-anticipation hogs. He followed me when I tossed handfuls of hardened corn kernels to clucking chickens, ever mindful of their position in the pecking order. He was with me stride-for-stride when I dashed down the red clay road in front of the house.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Share This With the World (Dolores)

September 11th rolled around a few days ago. It was one of those days that changed the course of American history. I don't just say that because of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers and the war that followed. I say that because of the immediate increases in airport security measures, the swelling Islamophobia, and all the people who lost friends and loved ones and are still recovering from that. We stopped taking our safety for granted: both terrorists and our own government could sneak in and destroy our lives. Sixteen years hasn't eased our fears; only gave us more reasons to be afraid.

I want Best Day to be a safe space, so I encourage our older buds to write about anything that's on their mind; especially the scary stuff. I want them to know that we are here, we are listening, and we want to help. So I want you, dear reader, to do something for me. If you found this on my Twitter or Facebook, please share this with one other friend in your network. If you went straight to our website, go to your social networking and share this link. I want the whole world to read these stories, but more importantly I want the world to say "These stories deserve to be read."
Dolores Wilson
Unseen Heroes

After watching the documentary "City of Ghosts" I reflected on the freedom of speech that we have in America. When Isis invaded Aleppo, Syria, and took over they killed anyone that was a threat to them. The journalist of that century was forced to leave and go into hiding. They left their friends that would keep them informed from the inside of the country. They provided them with films and pictures. The members of their family were persecuted and killed. In the film they show the journalists grieving for their loved ones. They felt compelled to continue to get the truth out there.
Now let not the people of America allow the power to be kill our freedom of speech here in America.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Open Hearts (Liz)

A few weeks ago, Liz had read a story about her time working at a children's hospital. She had mentioned that some of the children were some of the very first patients to receive open-heart surgery before it became a mainstream medical practice. I remembered learning in school during Black History Month about Daniel Hale Williams and how he was one of the first to perform a successful open-heart surgery. I've always been grateful to him because his work added nine years to my Gigi's (grandmother) life. This story's a bit sad, especially if you've had kids who had to be hospitalized, but we don't shy away from the heavy stuff at Best Day. Sometimes the best day of your life is when you can talk about one of the worst days of your life.

Liz Abrams
My First Job
After high school graduation - A Children's Hospital hired me as a ward clerk in 1959. Never had experience with small children, not even as a babysitter.
The hospital, small, halls dark, even during the day beds filled with children in critical + alarming situations.
My first shocking encounter with a boy of 5, walking the halls with a swagger in a bathrobe, loosely knotted, a mustache and a deep voice, coughing with a smoker's cough and approaching me for a cigar. Another beautiful little boy of 3 crying in his crib, crying for food, I couldn't help but go to him, and pick him up in my arms, rang for the nurse and ask her to feed him. She snapped at me and said - He had his meal.
Later, that evening, the child still crying for food, I went into the utility room + prepared cookies and P-nut butter. He inhaled, the food. The child's stomach was distended but his body was extremely thin, giving the experience of starvation - his brain never told him he had enough to eat, therefore he was always hungry.
On the ICU floor, there were child patients, with burned out stomachs from - drinking cleaning fluids, child physically abused.
Some patients appearing to be OK, they looked OK, but had bad severe heart problems.
Oh yes, I became very attached to the children - True I would depart, leaving my shift, returning the next day. Some had departed, learning that "open heart surgery," brand new procedure, that in 1959 had not been perfected. These angels who perished open the door to the saving of lives of future heart patients who survived.
My experience with the unsung heroes of the open heart surgery, perfected in 1965 with minimal fatalities.

Shortly after she finished reading this story, Liz had made sure to clarify that there children were not guinea pigs in medical experiments. These were kids and parents who had run out of other options and met doctors who would try anything to save a life. I'm grateful that these children were willing to give this new procedure a try, and their doctors cared enough about their patients to pay attention to what went wrong and turn open-heart surgery into the life-saver it is today.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri