Thursday, December 12, 2019

Time Crunch (Frances and Loretta)

As a facilitator of The Best Day of My Life (So Far), I always keep my ears open for new stories and older buds to meet. The workshop itself, however, is in a very fixed timeframe. We meet once a week from 1PM to 2PM, with the Constitution Class meeting in the same room at 2:15PM. Our sessions are split halfway with equal time for writing and reading, but many older buds need more time or want to take the time to rewrite their stories without any errors or crossed-out words. Some of the writers bring their stories with them, but many don’t know what they want to write until the day of.

As you can see, time is precious, especially when you want your story to be well-written and to look clean and sharp. Often I’ll have an author ask to take their story home so they can re-write it, but they don’t always bring the stories back. A lot can happen in a week, after all.

It can be difficult, but it’s important for me to not only make the most of the time we have in Best Day, but also to make sure the writers always have that time. Especially during the crazed holiday season.
Frances Bryce 
1.18.2018 
Decluttering 

My goal is to give those things that I no longer need, and that someone else may find useful. 

I am no longer working outside the house, so my wardrobe is still filled with clothes I seldom wear, the closet in my house is filled with career wardrobe now that my life is in another phase. 

Volunteering and doing more things for pleasure which now allows me to wear jeans and casual clothes. 

My first task was cleaning out a closet that contained things that I had not seen since I moved in my home, so it stands to reason I have and had no reason to hang on to these things, once they are in a bag or box, nothing cannot be removed or recovered by me. Progress will be slow.
Loretta Dotson 
9.14.2017 
Left Behind 

What a blessing to welcome a newborn baby into the world. When a child is received with love and blessings, it’s a loving sign of happy beginnings. We love each other, we care for each other, we protect each other, we anticipate long happy prosperous lives. We age, some gracefully, some not. But still, we anticipate good living. We create bonds with friends, acquaintances and relatives. Life rolls along, then you realize your list of friends, acquaintances, and relatives is getting shorter. You want to talk about a situation that occurred with a family member and oops, you remember they’re gone. Remember the party when the electric went out? How about when the Preacher fell when leaning on the pulpit? Or when the candy store on the corner got robbed? Well how about when you came to church with shoes the same style but different colors, one black, one navy blue? So many incidents, some funny, some sad, and the folks you shared these special moments are all gone. And how you are left behind to sit and enjoy those precious memories. We are making memories for others also and I pray yours will be as pleasant and rewarding and hope mine will be to others. So lets live – pray – love. 
I want to give a huge Thank You to everyone who donated to our 10th Anniversary celebration over the past year. You really made our anniversary one to remember. And the party may be over, but we never stop sharing stories. If you or an older bud have a story to share, send them our way right here. Thanks again for everything you've done for us so far, and Happy Holidays.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Moth vs. Frost (Eleanor, José, Ann)

Hi everyone. Like I said in last week's post, some of the older buds and I went to The Moth this past Monday. Usually, the line goes up two flights of stairs and sometimes extends outside of the building; way before the doors open at 6PM. This time, the line only consisted of five people until about 5:45, and even when the doors opened the initial line-up of people only filled half of the World Cafe. Many people either got delayed or stayed home due to the inclement weather. So that left only the die-hard Moth fans: Ann (and her friend), Eleanor (her husband and their two friends), José, and myself. José, surprisingly, didn't have a story planned for that show's "Family" theme. Then again, family can be a very complicated subject, and the "write as if everyone's dead" adage won't necessarily protect you from living, breathing, angry relatives. Nonetheless, everyone had a good time, and I got to make friends with even more older buds.


Even though the older buds didn't take the stage on Monday, you can still read their stories below:

Eleanor Kazdan
05.23.2019
The Goat

Over the years, my husband and I have spent a lot of time sitting in Rittenhouse Square looking at the adorable and iconic statue of a goat. One of the benches right in front of it has a plaque saying, “Eleanor’s Bench,” so even better. This goat attracts children like a magnet. They like to play in the dirt around it, get hoisted up to sit on it, and make new friends on the surrounding benches. Early morning with coffee in hand is a great time to goat and kid watch.
After a few years, we began to think of grandchildren and wonder if we would ever have them. Goat watching took on a new significance. We were elated one day with the news that our daughter was pregnant. Those hopes were dashed with an early miscarriage. Then came a terrible few years with difficulty getting pregnant and 2 more miscarriages. The goat became a place of sadness.
Julia finally did have a baby, and my son and his wife had 2 children. All are boys. It sure was exciting the first time we were the grandparents hoisting our own grandchild up on the goat.
Now they’ve outgrown it.
The goat disappeared for a while for renovation. I guess too many little hands and feet wore it down.
It’s back now and we still sit on Eleanor’s Bench looking at the goat and counting our blessings!
José Dominguez
07.18.2019
My Entrance to the Graduate School at The University of Texas

After I had finished my Bachelor’s Degree, I always dreamed to study for a Masters of Psychology, but in those moments being in Mexico, I could not figure how to plan it until a friend of mine was hired at the University of Texas as a Political Science teacher. He helped me take at least 3 courses at the University of Texas without the assistance of a counselor, so I was looking for a plan.
My last course put me in touch with the education department and I was uncovered from my incognito and low profile studies by a very strict graduate professor, Dr. Bonnie Brook. She called me and told me that I needed four conditions to continue at the University. First, to take the standardized test, secondly, to find a way to support myself as a full-time student in the USA, thirdly, to take an advanced writing course and finally, to be accepted by the graduate school as a formal student of a master’s degree.
In this [story], I will describe something about my advanced English course. My professor was Dr. Johnson, a super-intelligent, sardonic and ironic guy. His superb control of the English language made him a treat for all of us whose English level was not acceptable. At the end of the course, Dr. Bonnie Brooks called him to ask about my performance as a student. For me, that information was critical since I was under conditions (or under parole). But if Mr. Johnson reported something negative about my grades, I [would] have to struggle to find another way to study my masters. So Dr. Johnson answered to Bonnie Brooks: Jose’s performance in my course? Well, he is ok for being “a turkey.” And that was it. I was accepted. I don’t know if it was an insult to my intelligence but I was accepted as a full-time student at the Graduate School. About being or not being called a turkey, I believe it is a matter of circumstances, opinion, and luck perhaps in a turkey but I don’t mind.
Ann Von Dehsen
05.23.2015 
Island Wisdom
 
On my trip to St. Maarten last month, my friend and I visited an elementary school in one of the small villages. It had sustained damaged during Hurricane Maria and had only reopened in February, a year and a half later. To celebrate the reopening, parents had designed and painted a 4-panel mural depicting various families. The principal allowed us to visit a 3rd-grade classroom of 25 kids. Right away, we were impressed by the brightly decorated room as well as the brightly-dressed, attentive students wearing the school’s uniform of bright yellow button-down shirts and plaid shorts or skirts. The teachers told them we were from Philadelphia and immediately one little boy politely raised his hand and asked, “Do you like the Eagles?” (Yes). Then another asked, “Did you go to the Super Bowl?” We said no, but we went to the parade which seemed to equally impress them.
The primary language spoken at the school is English, but students also learn Dutch and French, the two native languages of the split island. As we walked around the room, they were proud to show us their written work, some of which was written in all 3 languages. It was their recess, but some chose to stay in and talk to us informally. One boy proudly said, “I’ve been to Philadelphia!” So I asked what he remembered to which he replied, “Not much, I was only a month old, but I have a sweatshirt with a broken bell on it.” Then a very quiet little girl came up to me and softly asked, “Have you met the Trump?” I said “No,” then paused and said, “I don’t really want to meet him.” To which she wisely replied, “Good, he is a very mean man who does not care about people!” So much for diplomacy… I met a 10-year-old girl on a distant, small island who speaks the truth about the Trump.
I want to give a huge Thank You to everyone who donated to our 10th Anniversary celebration over the past year. You really made our anniversary one to remember. And the party may be over, but we never stop sharing stories. If you or an older bud have a story to share, send them our way right here. Thanks again for everything you've done for us so far, and Happy Holidays.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Turkey Reigns (Hazel and Fances)

Best Day has a lot to be Thankful for this year, especially our Tenth Anniversary. But more than the party and the fundraiser, I'm thankful for ten continued years of amazing storytelling. I'm thankful for bringing families together, introducing total strangers to amazing stories, starting and continuing my friendships with lots of cool older buds, spreading Best Day to other states, and even bringing a couple Best Day authors to The Moth. We'll be going to another Moth show on December 2nd, so look out for stories and photos from that event. And look out for Best Day on ABC, NBC, and CBS news as well! We'll update the blog with more information about our news appearances as quickly as possible.

And don't forget to pack these stories in your Best Day Tupperware on your way back from Thanksgiving Dinner:
Hazel Nurse 
11.30.2018 
Turkey Reigns! 

Since a few members of my family joined me at Thanksgiving, I’ve been trying to remember a certain item of food that I haven’t heard of for decades. 

In this metropolis, one of the largest cities in our nation, every November it is easy to order chicken in most restaurants along with burgers and other beef products. At dinnertime, many types of roasts like lamb, pork, and beef steals also are available. 

However, perhaps you can help me to remember something else since, “Captain Turkey” still seems to reign on most tables. One commercial even advertised a complete Thanksgiving dinner for twelve at a cost of $129.00 featuring turkey. 

Years ago, our family enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with goose and sometimes duck. At this time, those meats seem to be something of the past. How about you?? 

In fact, our family took train rides to Virginia to greet many other family members too!


Frances H. Bryce 
11.29.2018 
Thanksgiving Trip 

I had planned to stay in Philadelphia for Thanksgiving. I decided that being home instead of queuing up at the airport and being zapped by radiation to see if there was a concealed article hidden out of sight, or that my lotion was 3.2 ounces instead of 3.0 even if the contents had been used a few times, thus a lot less than 3.0 oz., but a trip was in the making after I talked to my sister in South Carolina who said that she now was having a family dinner on Thanksgiving. We had discussed early in the month that she was not doing anything either. Things changed and now I was invited to come on down. I said if the tickets are priced beyond what I am willing to pay, I would not attend. I agreed to check the Internet when I returned from my errands that day. When I looked at my phone, she had found a flight on southwest less than $500.00, my max, leaving on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. 

Monday evening I arranged a pick-up for Tuesday at 4.30 a.m. As faith would have it, Monday night, my phone took an unforgiving swim in the H2O, leaving me out of touch with everyone I knew. No problem, I thought I will get a new phone when I get to South Carolina.  

4:30 a.m., I am dressed and ready for my ride. No one came, now I am concerned. At 4:45, I noticed the gym show signs of light as the staff was arriving. I went to call the cab company from the gym and was informed that they had tried to get in touch earlier, but to no avail. I said that my phone was not working, the person answering the call said I should get a new phone and hung up. A staff member walked over to get my bags and stayed with me as I was prepared to walk up to the corner to try and hail a cab. The staff person stayed by my side and a cab was hailed almost immediately. I arrived at the airport on time. My flight was on time. I had a great Thanksgiving, got a new phone, and had a tale to share.


 
The festivities are over, but you can still contribute to our 10th Anniversary by donating here, or sending us stories here. We’re taking donations until the end of November, and we’ll take stories for as long as Best Day is around. Thanks for your continued support, and have a Happy Thanksgiving.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Close Up (José and Frances)

We’re not quite done talking about our 10th Anniversary yet. Last week, ABC news came to Best Day, along with fearless leader Benita, to get some shots of our workshop and interviews with our older buds. They were especially interested in older buds Frances and Elliot, so don’t be surprised if you see them on TV. Also, older bud Ann was a bit nervous to be filmed, but once the workshop started it was like they weren’t even there. 




They even got footage of our Senior Selfie! And we got a picture of them getting video of us taking the senior selfie. Photo-ception!


 
If you’re reading this in Philadelphia or its suburbs, we’ll be on Channel 6 ABC News. We’ll update you with the airtime when we get it. And for everyone else, we’ll post a link when the story appears online.

And here’s a couple of stories from a couple of older buds to hype you up for our on-screen appearance:

José Dominguez
05.23.2019
Everybody Has Different Tastes, I’m Correct?
I met Maria one December and [by] the next March, she was my girlfriend. I took her to meet my father – it was like a formal visit. It was a Sunday afternoon and my father was very gentle with her. He was not too expressive. After a few minutes, we departed from my father’s house.
The next day, when I had the opportunity to speak with my father, I asked his opinion about Maria. Very so solemnly, but cautiously, he responded, “My son, please do not be offended, it’s not my purpose, but in regard to your girlfriend, the only thing I can say is that I have a very different taste of woman, very different.” I thought that he didn’t like Maria as my girlfriend, but I did not mind. Years later, my son introduced me to his girlfriend. I thought, “I have a different taste of women,” when my daughter introduced her boyfriend. I thought Maria, my wife, has a very different taste of men, and finally I concluded my father was right, our dates in regard to selection of sexual partner are very different, for sure. I will not select a girl like my mother as a girlfriend, [and] my mother was my father’s choice and taste … my son and daughter did not select parters as me in the case of my daughter or as Maria in the case of my son. It is simply a taste difference and a personal choice, no big deal.


Frances Bryce
05.23.2019
Do You Have A Story To Tell?
I believe it’s safe to say that more of us experience a change of unrelated events that you do not have in your control, are very annoying, and have a tendency to last at length and could ruin our day if we give in to them.
I cite an incident of a friend who as arrived at our dance class we attended on time, but was very upset because she was left at a previous center that day when her driver came and left without her. Then to make matters worse for her, he was not coming back to pick [her up] and take her to the second center. Her choice was to take a bus to the dance class or wherever she was going on the last leg of her trip (the dance class). I listened and said, “I understand how annoyed you must feel, but not give power to this event which can’t be changed or reversed. So in the future, you may be able to prevent another time from happening.” I encouraged her to use this event as having a story to tell that you now have the inconvenience of having to take a bus, how much you think this driver should have made sure you were on the bus, etc. etc. [I said], “Now you have a story to tell. So let’s move forward, start dancing as you have been doing and enjoying for years,” which she did.
I told her about a planned trip my friend and I looked to visit some New England states. Her sister arranged our travel schedule since this was her business. When I arrived ay my first leg of the trip, I did not have a ticket for my final destination. I called my friend who was to meet me and informed that I was missing my last ticket. I figured the worst [thing] would be to buy another ticket and be reimbursed later.
The travel arranger (my friend’s sister) went right into action [and] arrangements were made with only a short delay. I went on my way. I arrived at my destination and my friend and I had a great time after she apologized for her sister’s error. Now, I too have a story to tell. The trip was wonderful and she, my dance friend, heard the story because of the snag in my travel. I chose to remember an unexpected incident that could not be reversed. She knew that after an unplanned detour did not ruin my trip. Enjoy a story to tell when it presents itself.


The festivities are over, but you can still contribute to our 10th Anniversary by donating here, or sending us stories here. We’re taking donations until the end of November, and we’ll take stories for as long as Best Day is around. Thanks for your continued support, and have a Happy Thanksgiving.


Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Tenth Anniversary (Elliot)

Well, we did it. Ten years of running blogs, websites and storytelling workshops all over the United States of America. And we just celebrated our tenth anniversary last week. And what a celebration it was! We had at least a dozen volunteers running around gathering stories from all sorts of older buds...most of whom weren’t even from Best Day! I have some pictures of our story wall from earlier, but I was so busy I couldn’t get pictures of it at the end of the day.



But of course, Best Day’s regular writers were more than happy to contribute stories too. Norman even shared a full length story during the open mic portion.


And as promised, he brought older buds from Center in the Park:




We also had a watch party in the auditorium, complete with popcorn, for a movie all about our older buds and volunteers. I even got a picture of Elliot watching his part in the movie.



And of course, our event wouldn’t be complete without the volunteers, guests (including former volunteer Kara and my mom), the vendors, the press (You can read The Philadelphia Inquirer’s article here), and fearless leader Benita Cooper herself!



The festivities are over, but you can still contribute to our 10th Anniversary by donating here, or sending us stories here. We’re taking donations until the end of November, and we’ll take stories for as long as Best Day is around. If you want a feel for what to send us, check out this story from older bud Elliot:

Elliot Doomes
05.23.2019 
Generations
I was thinking about tracing my genetic history and I’m not exactly sure how to do that or what the price would be to pursue that. I already know more than a lot of people about the history of my generation. My grandmother’s mother was named Annie Burke. How do you spell Burke? I never knew, but I guess it’s BURKE. And her and my grandmother used to work for a man called Mr. Jack Sutton. His name was probably John. To my knowledge, Annie and her brother were both in slavery because I was told by my mother that her bother’s brother ran away promising to come back, but he was never heard from again.
My grandmother, Buelah, had two older sisters. I can’t image their ages. I met one of my grandmother’s nephews. His name was John. When I met him, he was 70 years old and my grandmother was 70. Her any sister, Clara, who was over 68 when I met her, and that was over fifty years ago.
This is why I call this, “Generations.” From Buelah came Clara, from Clara came William and Elliot (and I got some nephews too, but I’m not going to mention them. I’m going to mention me). From Elliot came Cynthia, from Cynthia came Angie, Donte, Asia, and Amber, and now from Donte came Colin and from Asia came Omari. That is the history of my direct generations, but I ave no idea where the originals like Annie and her siblings came from. This is what I would like to know.
I almost forgot my Aunt’s nephew, John Fred and there was this big buy calling this woman who was younger than him Aunt Buelah. I never got the chance to get to know him. I only met him once. He came from Virginia to visit his aunt, but I never knew about his mother because I never got the chance to ask him or anybody. I was still trying to figure out how he could be older than his aunt. I only knew about his sister and grandmother, Buelah. I know she has two older sisters but I only met one. I only knew the other through mention. They were all born in the 1800s. I don’t have the exact date. I got a sense when Buelah said her brother ran away from some plantation and vowed to come back for his family and they never heard from him again. I don’t know if he got freedom or was killed. I never learned any more than that when we were coming up and I wit wasn’t talked about then and we never learned it in history class.
All we got was the music by Steven Foster, about how the slaves were singing, dancing and happy. I didn’t learn anything different until I started going to the library and started reading books and I started jumping into history and Carl Amstoct … The Mandigo and Drums and those kinds of books. They were fictional, but I was always told, “You can’t sit around lying all day without telling the truth.”

Thank you all for your love and support, and for making our tenth anniversary truly memorable.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, November 7, 2019

One Day More (Hazel, Norman, Ann, and José)

Only one more day until Best Day’s 10th Anniversary Celebration! You and the older buds in your life still have a chance to contribute to our story wall, so send us stories through this form. And click here to participate directly in our celebration at the Philadelphia Senior Center, 509 South Broad Street, Friday November 8th, 10AM-4PM. You’ll have the golden opportunity to hear your favorite storytellers live and in person, and meet the volunteers who spread their stories all over. And here’s a story sampler to whet your appetite:




Hazel Nurse
10.10.18
Voters

As a girl growing up in a seashore town, every election day was a day of high activity in my neighborhood.

My dad, president of the Fourth Ward Republican Club, had eligible voters meeting after work in the evenings at the corner store to inspire good results week before Election Day.

Politicians often attended these gatherings along with many business people. Often job promises and even tasty foods were evident.

Today, law notices have been circulated to ask residents to attend meetings to hear about new voting machines. Will this new technology advance or hinder our election day results??

Norman Cain
09.19.19
Change

When I become comfortable with a situation, I dread the prospect of change...which would mean, perhaps becoming emersked in a situation that would be uncomfortable.

This month, two changes in my life happened. The first one death with commitments to activities at several Senior Centers and a communal writing program at Drexel University, that program that consist of numerous workshops and individual assignments. My Senior Center commitments consist of a bi-weekly Afro-American session, two monthly book clubs, two weeks of Best Day of My Life sessions (Center-in-the-Park and Phila Senior Center), a poetry session and four line dancing classes. There months prior to September, all of the aforementioned activities with the exception of my line dancing classes were on summer recess, a situation that permitted me to slow down and do a lot of sleeping in. The summer classes have begun. The fact that I again have to maneuver at a rapid pace will be accentuated by the second change I mentioned. On the 30th of this month, I have to move; thirty, leaving my place of residence for the last six years. While my new location is only a block and a half a way, dreaded change has still slapped me in the face. I will miss a few nice neighbors, but the new location, while nice, does not have a washer and dryer. Then there is the question of transportation; whereas my present location is close to transportation, my new location will require me to travel several blocks to catch SEPTA. To make matters worse, one of my life dancing classes has relocated to from 20th and Christian to 21st and Snyder. That class is held from 10:45 to 12:00At 12:00, I could take the 17 bus that runs beside the center and make several other connections and make my Center-in-the-Park Best Day 1:00 pm class on time, or no later than 15 minutes. The new location at 21st and Snyder will present a problem. I feel that life is a series of changes, I guess I will have to do it now.

Ann Von Dehsen
09.19.19
Life at Jefferson

Over the past several weeks, I have been supporting a friend as he undergoes chemo in a formerly unfamiliar place that I now call Jeffland. I never realized how many buildings and blocks make up Jefferson Hospital. So far, we have spent time in the neuroscience building, Cribbons building, and the oncology center. Strangely, we took a 1 minute ambulance ride from neuroscience to Cribbons. There was neither urgency nor time to use the siren, but the driver let me push the button anyway, much to my inner child's delight.

We quickly learned the hospital routine - morning rounds by various attending physicians leading every growing groups of residents who look more like high school students than med students. We make up nick names (Dr. Tweed jacket, Dr. Baldy, and Dr. I don't-understand-a-word-you-say).

Lunch time, pill time, walk time down to the hospital bridge of Sansom Street and check on the food trucks' lunch time business. Then, there are the volunteer clowns who roam the hallways. They mean well and they volunteer their time, but somehow, we just didn't enjoy their visits with their corny usual jokes and sound effects. So whenever I saw their huge polka dot shoes luring down the hall, I'd run in the room and say, "Quick! Pretend you're asleep" and wait for them to pass by.

But its truly the nurses who are the stars and directors of the daily show. I really cannot praise them enough. Beyond their impressive medical knowledge, they come armed everyday with smiles, gentle humor, compassion, and encouragement. They consistently made us feel as if he was the only patient on the floor.

Slowly, a camaraderie develops between the patients and their families as we pass each other on the floor, noticing who has graduated from cane to assisted walking to walking only with an IV pole. "You look great today - your colors so much better." We share homemade cookies and banana bread and wish them well upon discharge. In this atmosphere, their politics, social status, religion and ethnic background make no difference. We are simply human beings just rooting for each others survival and happiness. And somehow this gives me a sense of hope and peace. 

On quiet afternoons as the patient slept and the chemo dripped, I often gazed out the window at the old, but once elegant, white stucco building across the street. It housed a tacky perfume store on street level, but on each of the eight stories above, there are 3 floor to ceiling windows encased in architectural sculptures of rosettes scrolls and 2 lions holding shields that said 1854. They appeared to be mostly unoccupied apartments being renovated, but I enjoyed imagining them as the apartments of starving young artists back in the early 1900s throwing paint on their canvases and screaming at their models who would later become their lovers, oo la la, until the being IV brought me back to reality.

José Dominguez
09.19.19
One Rule For Each Couple

My son-in-law is a kind of macho man and last February when I was visiting him and my daughter, Bealdy at their home in Houston, Texas, I had a chance to prune it. 

I was praising my son's home dealing, because he cooks, cleans the house and does everything necessary because his wife Sasha is a hard-working woman. Then Alex told me: Suego (father-in-law) Pondro does things that he is not supposed to do. I was mad about having hearing that, that I said, "Just wait a minute, every couple has a very particular arrangement that arrangement never applies to other couples because it is so intimate. For example, "I said, "My wife Maria and I used to have a very very unique marital arrangement. I guess many people thought that we were strange people, because she was so strong and appreciative and I was so easy going, but we were happy and our arrangement never applied to other couples in the same way Pondro and Sasha. They have their personal way to live and they are happy and perhaps some people believe he is doing house keeping so other state proper of the wife but they don't mind, they are happy and the some with you and Bealdy perhaps some people believe you are a strong couple because they away you live, but I suppose one happy and your arrangement doesn't apply to any other couple" and I stopped my comment.

Alex was annoyed about my speech and told me Suego, " I was not criticizing Poncho, I was just realizing his hard work in a positive way." And I close the little discussion saying you want to praise a person please use the proper words.

See you tomorrow and wish us a Happy Tenth Anniversary.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri