Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hannah (A Volunteer's Reflections)

The entire Best Day of My Life So Far program, I am convinced, is a magnet for the kindest hearts on earth – from our seniors, donors, volunteers, to our readers near and far like you. As we enter the holiday season, I want to shine the spotlight on our volunteers. We have become a nationwide team of about sixty people but what keeps it real is the kindness that radiates from each and every single one of their hearts, and the week-to-week work that they do on the local level.

I have my own good days and bad days, but when a volunteer writes me a personal email to tell me what inspired her to join our team or how Best Day has changed his life, it means so much to me. I am revived and reminded of what Best Day is all about… and it turns any day into a personal Best Day for me all over again.

Today, I introduce you to the awesome Hannah Pigeon, a 23-year-old college student who shows up with dedication and passion every week to help run our original group, and who behind the scenes also organizes the local team’s shared schedule. In her reflections below, she shares about her inspiration for volunteering – her beautiful grandmother. In the next blog post, you will get to meet Jen McGhee, another one of the kindest people on this planet. To Hannah, Jen and every single person on my nationwide team, thank you for being the awesome you!!

Hannah Pigeon

My grandmother passed away almost two years ago. She was the only grandparent I had that I really had some opportunity to get to know as I grew up. She was the strongest person I ever met. She had twelve kids. I am one of seven, and I have more cousins than I care to count. She was always quick to ask us questions about how our lives were progressing. She wanted to know what jobs we would get, whether or not our current boyfriends/girlfriends were good enough for us, what schools we would go to, what grades we had, what our current hobbies were, how they would impact our future. She was always travelling. She always had a project going on. She would knit potholders at red lights. She would drive across the country and sleep at truck stops. She was part of a bowling league well into her old age. She returned to college when she was in her fifties, and shortly after receiving her degree, she went into real estate. She was someone to be easily intimidated by. It’s not every day that you meet someone who is constantly, down to the minute, working to make a better world. She was that person.

She always knew all the family and neighborhood gossip. She loved seeing people, and she loved knowing their stories. She would always say, “Never be afraid to ask anyone anything about themselves.” I know that she is a big part of the reason why I’ve grown to love meeting people and learning their stories so much. When she was alive, going to visit her and tell her my whole life story seemed intimidating. She was not someone who was easy to impress. Now that she’s passed, I sincerely miss having someone to talk to who instills so much drive in me every day.

Spending time with the Best Day of My Life So Far seniors every week really does help to bring that back into my life. Their stories are incredible, and I only hope that I can live to accomplish a fraction of what they have (so far).
I started coming to Best Day of My Life So Far sessions in September. I graduated from Tyler School of Art of Temple University in May 2015. Since then, I have been working as an assistant manager at Capogiro Gelato Artisans and doing some volunteer work with nonprofits on the side. I have always been an avid reader, and writing creates a soft spot in my heart. However, between school and work, I haven’t had the chance to do it as much as I would have hoped.

This is why when I learned about The Best Day of My Life So Far, I was anxious to join the group. All of the seniors I have met are remarkable people with stories that are so interesting. They are so worth knowing. They inspire me to write more, and to be a more caring, compassionate person. That is what learning someone’s story is all about. Coming to our group each week is truly something I always look forward to. There is always a smile on my face when I tell people about how I’ve been welcomed by all the volunteers and seniors that participate.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Joe (Why I Like Autumn)

Summer has always been my favorite season but Joe is definitely persuading me to consider autumn as a close second. Stop and smell the burning leaves, through Joe’s story I mean ;) Happy autumn!

PS – I have some surprises for you guys coming up in the next blog posts. Hint: mini videos… tell you more soon!!

Joe Garrison
Why I Like Autumn

I was about 5 when I started recognizing the seasons.  What I miss about autumn was the smell of burning leaves – you used to be able to.  Autumn was a sign that winter was coming.  It was a reminder that school was about to start and winter was approaching.  The new experiences coming – the new school year, the new teachers.  My birthday is also in autumn.  Believe it or not, it was also a sign that Christmas was coming.  It was fall when I started falling in love with Debra.  It was the autumn of 2006 that I started falling in love.   That particular autumn is very special to me.  Just the idea of walking through the leaves and hearing the crunch of the leaves when you walk through them reminds me of autumn.  And it’s the start of the football season and end of baseball season.  It’s time to break out the winter clothes and its proof that the hot weather was on its way out.   Even though I had no sight, my friends and I would go down to the car dealership to see the next models coming out.  The other kids who came had some sight and would describe the cars to me.  Fall is the time for new adventures, like a new beginning.  I really believe if our calendar was like life really is, we would celebrate New Year’s in September.  Because it just seems like it’s a turning of the page, a new beginning.  It’s more of an honest depiction of the New Year than January is.  It’s time to turn a new leaf.  Even though I’ve been out of school for years, I still feel the same way about September.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

In Memory of Bernice and Helen

Grieving is the last thing I want to be familiar with, but I have come to accept that I have to be. Facing death is a reality of having a beautiful circle of senior friends in my life.

It was only one blog post ago when I shared with you about the passing of Gogo; I recently found out that two more of the seniors I have held the closest to my heart have passed away, Beatrice and Helen. They started telling me their stories in 2009, back when I started this group as a little six-week workshop during my lunch hour. Beatrice was there on the first day. Helen joined soon after and was the person who looked me in the eye and asked if we could keep the group ongoing because all of us loved it so much and couldn't imagine it ever ending.

There are many lessons that I have learned from the content of my senior buds' stories, but there are also lessons I have learned from simply being in the room with them and soaking in their presence. Beatrice was one of the funniest people I know I will ever meet; Helen was one of the most graceful people I know I will ever meet. I will never be half as funny as Beatrice or half as graceful as Helen. To me, in very different ways, they were rockstars. It made me feel cool just being around them.

There are many stories I have loved of theirs and many moments I have loved sharing with them. Here are some that will always keep their presence alive for me.

Bernice, I miss you.

Meeting Bernice

Black and White Grits

Different Like Flowers

My Aunt Massengill

On the Bus

Helen, I miss you.

Meeting Helen

One of the Happiest Moments of My Life

My Lovely Parents

I Have Happiness

Letter to Our Readers

Monday, October 19, 2015

Joan (Foolish Superstitions)

Halloween is just around the corner, and yes, we have a fun little black cat (among other fun things) story to get you in the mood! Oh, and don’t forget to answer Joan’s question! Tell us what superstitions you remember or believe in at: Can’t wait to hear from you!

Joan Bunting
Foolish Superstitions

Yesterday the Skip-Bo players were playing Skip-Bo (a card game) and while we were talking, the subject of superstitions that people believed in came up.
Do you remember some of these, and do you still believe in them?
  1. If you spill salt you throw some over your left shoulder.
  2. If you step on a crack in the pavement, you’ll break your mother’s back.
  3. A female is not allowed to whistle in the house.
  4. If someone is sweeping and the broom accidentally touches you, you will end up in jail. (When I would accidentally touch my husband with the broom, he would spit on it. That was what you were supposed to do. So one day the broom touched him and he spit on my broom. Of course I was furious. When I fussed with him he said he didn’t want to go to jail, so I told him that if he were to go to jail he would have been locked up long ago because that was about the fourth or fifth time I had touched him with the broom. I had no more trouble with him spitting on my broom.)
  5. Do not let a black cat go past you from your left side or you will have bad luck. (Well, one day when I was a pre-teen this black cat tried to pass by me and I chased that cat for about a whole five or six minutes. I can’t remember exactly what happened but I think that cat got tired of me chasing and ran another way.)
  6. If two people are waiting together do not walk between them, especially if they are married or dating because it will break up their relationship.

After I chased that cat is when I realized how foolish superstitions are. If you need to believe in something, believe what the Bible tells you. In other words, believe in God and you can’t go wrong.

Monday, October 5, 2015

In Memory of Gogo – A Life of Mirth and Joy

Gogo means “Grandmother” in Swahili and it’s what Jenny Williams always wanted to world to know her as. Gogo had been in and out of the hospital for a while now and I am sad to share that we said goodbye to her last week.

It means a lot to me that her granddaughter, Amber Llewellyn, reached out to me right away, and co-wrote this blog post with me. We had never met or talked before, but my senior buds’ families are truly my extended families, and despite the sad reason that brought us together, it is a blessing to be connected with a young woman who loves her grandmother so much.

It makes me so sad to see one more of my closest senior buds pass away. But with every death I have experienced, I have grown stronger and more determined to give the seniors I still can spend time with the absolute best time of their lives. With every passing, I find peace in knowing that one more senior's voice will live on forever through the stories shared in our group, that one more family will have these stories to hold on to as the senior's legacy.

Every single time I saw Gogo, she always greeted me with a laugh, a hug and a sparkle in the eye. It’s true what she wrote, that she’s been given a gift – a life of mirth and joy. Sparkle on, Gogo. I love you and miss you.

Amber Llewellyn
Tribute to My Grandmother
My grandmother Jenny Williams (Gogo)  honestly meant the world to me. I always knew she had a gift for writing and I received confirmation through reading her writings. I can still hear her saying, “Amber get on that site and look at my stories!” This was truly her passion, writing and storytelling. One of the pieces that stood out to me the most was “ Let Go and Love”. I was overwhelmed with tears as I read that beautiful piece. Gogo and I almost always debated on forgiveness. Despite how people may judge, treat, abandon you…you must FORGIVE! You don't have a lot of time to hold bitterness in your heart but instead let go and allow the love to flow as she said in her writing. It means so much knowing that Gogo lived by her own words. I was truly blessed by her wonderful spirit each and everyday. I have spent the last two years caring for her and one of her biggest goals was to get back to the senior center. She loved being there every Thursday with friends making memories. Seeing her happiness through the pictures made me smile.  Miss Jenny Williams did not go in vain. She loved and cared for all of you! I want to personally thank all the people she has touched for accepting her bright, beautiful spirit.

Gogo Jenny Williams
Let Go and Love

Advice and wisdom from someone who has lived several decades:

No… I don’t reside up in the attic among used relics and such… you will not find me in my bed under a blanket scared and afraid of vampires and witches.

I love children and find myself more patient with yours than the ones I raised.

So what of this great wisdom? I do so want to impart the key word is “live”.

Time, especially in this modern age comes in running. When you are young, time is a deceiver and waits for no one.

Oh yes, advice and wisdom. You must stop and take assessment of what is going on around you…don’t take people too seriously…let go of things that weigh you down. Forgive parents, siblings, friends, and foes. Let go and allow love to flow from your heart…

Gogo Jenny Williams
Out of the Mouths of Babes

Every day when I wake up—first I’m so thankful to see a new day, as I’m growing older my expectations are growing.

If you see me there is not much to see, a short grey-haired lady.  Kind of round for lack of a nicer word than my hospital charts say.  This self-assessment does not bother me.

I’ve been given a special gift, along with thankfulness, expectation, there is mirth and joy or, to sum these last two, laughter.  Even when trouble and sadness pay me a visit, something deep down inside that tinkles and bubbles and escapes in spite of me. 

Today at my senior center, someone shared a story about one of her grandchildren—she said, “Grandma went to daycare today.”  After the laughter died down, we decided, yes, we get to hang out with people our own age, we go way back.

We are well taken care of, a safe environment, good food to eat, even when we complain.

Gogo Jenny Williams

The exciting thing about getting older is adjusting to changes. After hitting the legitimate age of adulthood (21), there are many changes. Becoming a wife and mother was an unexpected change that, for me, was unlike the books and movies I’d seen. There were no scripts, there was no one to map out scenes and prepare me for the next scene. No longer answering to what my parents expected of me, now my life and daily experiences molded and shaped me into a person I did not recognize. How strange: when did it happen? The extrovert who grew up as she guided and loved her children; the woman who burst from a cocoon of traditions and taking charge to one who embraces life, who is not afraid of change. 

Gogo Jenny Williams
My Best Days Are Now

I meet people daily who are overwhelmed with the complexities of life in the 21st century. People are rushing around like a colony of ants without the intent and purpose of ants. Ants know where they are going. What’s wrong with me? I sometimes wonder. Aha, that’s my predicament, wonderment, the excitement of the moment. Each day is a new day, when I wake up it does not yet appear where it will go.

Gogo Jenny Williams
The Best Thing I Have Learned in My Life

It took many years and it seemed that I kept butting my head against hardened walls. I learned that you can begin again; you can forgive, turn around, pick up the pieces, and learn from your mistakes.

Bad decisions – I’ve made a few. Missed opportunities – yes, I’ve missed a few. Trusted the untrustworthy – yes I did. Experiencing encounters the 3rd and 4th kind made me a better human being – the so-called failures became stepping stones to my success, the backbone that enabled me to stand up and face life, not hide in a corner when it seemed that my world crumbled.

What a chain breaker. What a feeling of empowerment.

The process may be quite fragile. It might be missing people and components that were so very important to your life. But if you are still breathing, you can begin again.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Greta and Amber (The Best Day of My Life So Far)

The best day of my life so far is every time a senior or a visitor shares that our time together is the best day, or a highlight, of their lives. Cheers, everyone! Let the good vibes go on and on! Want to read more about my inspiration for calling our storytelling groups “The Best Day of My Life So Far?” Check it out here: and drop me a note at to share how our time together here, virtually, feels to you. I hope you are enjoying it here because I really do love hanging out with you ;)

Greta Adams
The Best Day of My Life So Far

The Best Day of My Life so Far is any Thursday that I can attend the writing class and can remember something worthy of sharing with the class. I also enjoy seeing the other members of the class and hearing their stories and sometimes getting to see the son of our teacher, who was born during the time I have been in the writing class. He acts like he is a member of the class, he blends right in with us at such a young age.

During the summer, I am away a lot. I will be attending a relative's 100th birthday celebration, August 22, 2015. I am looking forward to that. It should be quite exciting – an out-of-town family reunion.

Amber Nelson, Visitor
Thank You

Thank you all for allowing me to sit in and write with you. Visiting this storytelling class weekly has been one of the highlights of my summer. Your stories have inspired me to write more and to encourage others (my second grade students, my family members, etc.) to write as well. You've made me laugh and made me think and most of all showed me that everyone has an important story to share. Oh, and special thanks to Ms. Frances for donating books to my classroom. I'm excited to see how the young readers grow as a result of your generosity.

With school starting, I'm not sure when I'll be able to hang out with you all again, but I'm truly grateful for this experience.