Thursday, January 10, 2019

Less and More (Ann)

I noticed something very interesting in the first few weeks of 2019. In addition to running The Best Day of My Life So Far at the Philadelphia Senior Center I also attend two playwriting workshops, and both Best Day and the workshops were much fuller than expected. First Thursdays tend to have fewer people, but last week’s had a good amount of older buds. I think the New Year is encouraging people to join new groups and get back into ones they used to attend.

On the other hand, there are a lot of people who won’t be able to come to Best Day for a while. Ann and Frances have health issues, José couldn’t come last week due to a personal issue, Joe lives too far away, Mike’s art classes conflict with Best Day, and I haven’t heard from Eugene and Mo in a while. My hope is that all of the people who did come to Best Day before will be back in full force once the craziness of the New Year is over. In the meantime, all the extra people joining all these clubs in Philly has already got me feeling hopeful for this year.


Ann Von Dehsen
10.11.2018
To My 21 Year Old Self

I recently saw a TV show in which older people were asked, “What would you tell  your 21 year old self about the life they will lead?”
I would begin by telling my 21-year old self, “You have a voice, use it!”
And here is why:
You will realize that you often let others choose your path in life. At 21, you are 
getting married, although you had always planned to stay single in Boston a while longer, but you didn’t use that voice to say, “Um, not yet” and instead thought “well all my friends are getting married and OK, I’m sure I’ll be happy.” You will like the house you and your husband will eventually buy, but you will love and always remember the little bungalow with arched doorways, squeaky floors, and built-in bookshelves. He will say, “No, it’s impractical and needs work” and you are still not ready to use that voice to say, “So what? I love it.”
You will have several relatively happy years of marriage, but slowly, you will become that song, “White bird in a golden cage” until you will use that voice to say, “Enough. I am unhappy and have to leave!” So white bird will fly allowing you to be free to discover who you really are. And you will meet so many different people that you would not have met when you were coupled and only befriended people who looked like you and thought like you and acted like you.
Of course, there will be times of loneliness and fear and brief thoughts of, “Oh God, what have I done?” But you will realize how strong you are and actually learn how to put air in the tires and change the oil, to flip a circuit breaker and install a new float in the toilet. 
More importantly, you will allow yourself to be happy and love again. You will no longer be afraid to take chances resulting in new experiences, new places, and new understanding and appreciation of a world you too often took for granted. 
You will hold so many people in your heart that at times you will feel it might overflow, but don’t worry, there will always be room for more.
And during gray days of sadness, anger, sickness, and self-doubt, remember that you are strong, especially since you have found that voice and know how to use it.
Most of all, relax and your life will be filled with happiness and laughs; “La Vie en Rose.”

And if you want to make a New Year’s resolution of your own, then why not resolve to end senior isolation. Talk to a senior in your life, and if you like what you hear, then share it here: http://bestdayofmylifesofar.org/joystartshere/
Our goal’s to get 1,000 stories from all over the country by November, and you know Philly is full of stories. Introduce us to some cool new people this year!

My “Joy Starts Here” Story Count: 4
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Joy Starts Here

Happy New Year, everyone!
The Best Day of My Life (So Far) has launched a brand new campaign in honor of our tenth anniversary! We're calling it Joy Starts Here, and our campaign is for twelve different sites to collect 1,000 stories together, throughout the course of the year. And we're talking 1,000 brand new stories too, from seniors all over the United States. You can find the details here, and I will be participating as well. Each week, I will post the amount of stories that I have submitted to Joy Starts Here, as well as any stories I receive from the loyal readers of this blog. If you want to know who to talk to and what kinds of stories we're looking for, it can be from anyone about anything. As long as the story's from a senior's own life, we want it!

But if you want a little inspiration, then you can check out some of our most popular posts in the past ten years:


Once you've submitted a story, please let us know what city you and the storyteller are from so I can post the count on here. You can let us know at info@bestdayofmylifesofar.org, or you can tag us on Twitter at @bestdaysofar, on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/bestdayofmylifesofar/, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bestdayofmylifesofar/. We can't wait to see and hear the hundreds of stories this country's older buds have to offer. Good luck, and Happy New Year.

Current Story Count: 0 (We all have to start somewhere)

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Christmas Concert (Ledice)

The Philadelphia Senior Center typically has their Christmas concert about a week before Christmas, typically on a Thursday. When this happens, most of the older buds of Best Day attend the concert, and the rest of us play hooky and follow them.







Joan’s usually singing in the choir, but this year Rochelle had a solo too. Unfortunately, her heater broke the night before so she had to stay until the repairman installed a new heater. But she made it in time for our senior selfie. Delores didn’t, but she—along with every older bud that came that day—got a homemade bon bon cookie.


 

We don't always arrive at the same time, but we always come together in the end.
And with that, I leave you all with a holiday treat to ring in the new year.

Ledice McKnight
10.04.2018
The Posada - Christmas traditions

When I was a kid in my house, we celebrated Christmas with a Posada. The Posada’s participants has to dress like Sheppard’s and carry an animal a chicken, a rooster, small goat, a sheep, a dog or a cat. The holy family Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus where the main people of the posada.
We went to the neighbor’s house and ask if they allowed us in. We sing
Villancicos (Christmas carols) with the all the family members. We continue to the next house until we have visited the majority of the houses in our neighborhood. The parade will end in our house, where we celebrated the birth of the baby Jesus. We all drink punch and nonalcoholic brewage made out egg, milk and nutmeg and cake called rosca the navidad and some other kind of food. In my family started the preparation for the Posada three month before December 24 (the Posada day). The preparations consist of the clothes for the Sheppard’s, the animals needed for the Posada, rehearsal of the Villancicos, chaperones for the kids participating in the Posada. It was an event that require a lot preparation, but at the end all of us was a wonderful time and beautiful way to celebrate Christmas.

Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year.


 

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Musical Interlude (Eleanor)

The Philadelphia Senior Center closed early last week, and that meant no Best Day. So to make up for that, I thought I'd do something different for this blog post. After writing a story about her musical experience, Eleanor was good enough to bring in her guitar and play a little something for us all.

 

I'm also delighted to announce that I caught up with our fearless leader Benita Cooper that very same week, and she's got some amazing plans for our 10th Anniversary, including collecting 1000 new Best Day stories from across the United States.


And without further ado, here's the story that inspired our impromptu jam session.
Eleanor Kazden 
11.29.2018 
Finding My Voice 

 I was a musical child. When I was 5, I started taking piano lessons. I sang in the school choir. I didn’t know I had a particularly nice voice until people started asking me to sing for them, especially my Uncle Matthew, who was an opera buff. My parents decided I should take singing lessons so off I went for my weekly session with a bleached blonde teacher whose name I forget. When I was 14, I auditioned for the high school musical and got the starring role. I became a bit famous . I was a soprano. Within a few years, my voice got lower and I was an alto. I played Mrs. Ham in Noah’s Ark. 

My voice got even lower over time. When I was 21, my singing teachers suggested I audition for the Festival Singers of Canada, a professional choir. I was accepted as a second alto. My career continued with the choir, church, and synagogue solos and teaching. My voice was so dependable and people said it was beautiful. 

To my shock, about 15 years ago, suddenly, I couldn’t sing those high notes any more. And a roughness set in. I joined a choir in Philadelphia, hoping weekly singing would help. IT did, just a little. Why did I think that aging would pass me by? Around the same time I took up playing the cello, something I had always wanted to do. I supposed this has become my new voice. 

Still low and lovely!


We hope you enjoyed the video, and Happy Holidays.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Norman Got Published! (Norman)

Remember last week’s post where I said that Norman Cain got published? Last Friday, I got the book, and I bumped into Norman! When he’s not at Best Day, he spends most of his time writing and editing alongside the good people of Drexel University's Writers Room. One of their goals is to connect Drexel’s Students with the rest of Philadelphia. In took a few minutes to visit Norman's favorite writing space:
 



No wonder he spends all his time there! And this place had the coolest people there too. With any luck well have some joint events. More older buds coming to the Writers room and more Drexel People visiting and volunteering at Best Day.

As for Norman’s book, it’s called “Debates, Defenses, and Dreams.” Want to know how to get it? Go to the Drexel Bookstore at 3250 Chestnut Street, and walk straight back until you see a set of glass double doors. Go through them, turn right, and keep walking until you see the vending machine full of books. And make sure you have a few dollar bills on hand ;)


One of Norman’s stories from Best Day was actually published in the book, so we thought we’d celebrate with a brand new story from our own Norman Cain.
Norman Cain
11.30.2018
Divine Intervention

On at least three occasions, I have written articles about divine intervention for the Best Day Of My Life So Far Storytelling and Writing Club. This morning, Divine Intervention crossed my path twice while traveling on the northbound subway en route to my poetry class at the Center in the Park Senior Center.
The first appearance of Divine Intervention occurred when I was in a deep thought about the friends of my youth, most of whom have made the transition. During that period of contemplation, one of the few living friends of mine gave me a call. TO me, it was as if the living friend and those friends deceased were in my space. The ancestor and the living as a unit. 
The second appearance of Divine Intervention happened when after descending from the subway and boarding the bus for Germantown and Chelten Avenue, I happened upon a book that had evidently been forgotten by a passenger. The book was a biography entitled “The Worlds of Chippy Patterson” which was published in 1960 and which is now out of print. It is the story of a Philadelphia lawyer, the son of a University of Pennsylvania law professor, and main line socialist family who left his world of privilege to represent the common man without sometimes being paid. 
Chippy Patterson was a character, he lived on the bowery, was unkempt in dress, and was known by members of all segments of society. He was an excellent lawyer. 
At least 40 years ago, I had the opportunity to have the book in my possession, but lost it. Ten years ago, I discovered the book at the Norristown, Pennsylvania library, in it’s rare book section. Old age had me forget the subject’s name, but the story remained in my mind.
Divine Intervention, I believe in it. It had me this morning find a long lost book and reunite with deceased and living friends.
If you bought and read Norman’s book, then tag us on Facebook and Twitter. And make sure you tag The Head & The Hand too, since they published his book!
 
 Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Site Visit (Eleanor)

Last Thursday was a special day for us because we got a visit from Fred, a representative of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund. The funny thing was, we knew each other before from Philly Young Playwrights, and he remembered seeing one of the plays I wrote for it. As soon as he mentioned that, the older buds told him how my theatre career was going now.
While we were writing, I told Fred about the other activities in the Senior Center, including the Coffee Cup and its mahjong games. Then Eleanor and Fred reminisced about playing mahjong, or “mahj” as Eleanor called it, with all the other Jewish families back in the day. And Norman announced that The Head and the Hand is publishing his work! The best part of Fred’s visit was that he said he would have to leave at 1:45, but he stayed until 2 and listened to all our stories. He slipped out before we could include him in our senior selfie, but I’m glad he enjoyed his visit.



Eleanor Kazdan
10.25.2018
The Seder Plate

When my grandparents died, my mother asked me if I would like a memento. I looked through the few faded old things she showed me before choosing a chipped and well-used metal Seder plate, dark turquoise and faded gold. This Seder plate brought me back to my childhood and memories of my grandparents. The were Polish Jewish Yiddish-speaking immigrants who settled in Montreal in the 1920s after escaping anti-Semitism and pogroms in eastern Europe.


My earliest childhood memories are of a dusty, small apartment, filled with the smells of Jewish cooking – brisket with prunes and apricots, potato latkes, homemade applesauce, honey cake. My grandparents, Moses and Anna, had thick Yiddish accents.

Back to the Seder plate – The most exciting event of the year was the large family gathering that my grandparents had on Passover. My mother, her four brothers and their families would all descend on the small apartment. A long folding table took up the entire living and dining room with room for me and my three brothers and myriad aunts, uncles and cousins.

The Seder seemed to last for hours as my grandfather read the story of Passover. The Seder plate held the symbols of the Jews’ oppression and hardships in their 40-year exile in Egypt. Bitter herbs and unleavened bread. Even the children drank sweet red wine.

My Seder plate conjures up these sweet memories as I do my own, much shorter version of a Seder every year.

You can check out Norman's publisher, Head and Hand, by clicking here. For more information about the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, click here. And wish us luck!
Curated by Caitlin Cieri