Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Thank You – Jana, Rachel, Cassie, Allison!

If you’ve been following our group’s “family pics” on Facebook, you may have noticed that my belly is rapidly expanding… every time I catch myself in a mirror, it’s always bigger than the last time I looked! My second pregnancy is going by much faster than my first. My baby is breakdancing in my belly even more than I remember my firstborn doing (who is a VERY active toddler now) so basically my husband and I are getting ready and excited for our home to turn into crazytown.

I want to dedicate this blog post to four wonderful young women, without whom I wouldn’t be able to focus on my son’s arrival next month. Jana, Rachel, Cassie and I share the facilitating hat at our group – at least one of us is there every week to make sure our senior buds have the best time (so far!) of their lives. Jana wears another hat which is to pass our seniors’ handwritten stories onto Allison. Allison is our copy editing coordinator who works behind the scenes with copy editors around the country to make sure our seniors’ stories get typed up between our group’s weekly sessions, so they can be shared with readers like you, on this blog, our other social media, books and events. As you will see in the stories below, each of them has a heart of gold. With this blog post, I just want to say...

Jana, Rachel, Cassie and Allison: Thank you for the impact that you’ve made, not just on our seniors’ lives, but also mine ;) I appreciate you guys so, so much!

Jana Henry, Volunteer
Not Really A Loss

I’m not sure in this life if we have a time limit to grieving. If we do have time limits I myself think that it’s only a time limit that we place there ourselves. On December 19 almost 2 years ago I spoke my last words to my granny. Though she didn’t speak back I know she heard me. A few days later she passed. I remember the holiday season being a blur. In my heart I felt like I had lost my best friend. Though I know it was her time I selfishly wished her to stay 97 more years. I don’t cry sad tears anymore but I do shed thankful ones. You don’t get many relationships in life like the one her and I shared. I smile at the habits of hers I picked up. I laugh when my family says I sound just like her, and I fully accept it now when people say I act like an old lady because – young or old – she was one of the best people you could have ever known. A long winded woman who turned every conversation with a stranger into two old friends catching up.

Rachel Hampton, Volunteer
Finding Home

I made a new friend! Her name is Cat, and she is a friend of my boyfriend, Serge. I am always nervous to meet new people, because when I went to a different school I had a very hard time making friends – I was very lonely. That was a hard time in my life. I have more friends now, but then I worry about losing them. I worry, about the loss of friendship I see around me. People move around so much, they lose contact, with family even – it’s like we’re losing the talent to live in community with each other. I feel like – okay, I’m not very adventurous, but I just want to live in one place with a bunch of people I love and trust – I want to have a home. And the way society is set up now, that’s so hard to do. You leave to go to school, you follow whatever work you end up doing, you move and move again and you’re supposed to put all this energy into your work, it’s so hard to put energy into just paying attention to other people. A lot of the relationships I see around me are superficial as a result.

But I am determined not to live like that – I want the people in my life to be the most important part of my life. And I hope that if I focus on that, I’ll be able to find my own kind of happiness and love.

Cassie O'Leary, Volunteer
Sweet and Sour

I just wanted to share a little and say how happy I am to be here right now and see everyone's shining faces seated at these tables. Lately, life has handed me some lemons and I somehow forgot the old adage and recipe to always make lemonade with the lemons you're given. I'm reminded today that I am lucky to be here and alive and have the chance to share even just a small amount of words with you lovely people.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Dolores (I'm Not Getting Old You Are)

We’re so excited to officially announce the details of our next event. Check out our flyer and please try to come if you live in Philly – maybe even take the afternoon off of work and invite your grandparents out for a date?! If you can’t make it, we’ll miss you, but please still spread the word! We'll mix in stories about life, love, childhood with fresh, funny, deep perspectives about aging, like Dolores' take below -

“In reality, perpetually young seniors don’t and won’t fit the stereotype of old people… We drop such questions as, ‘What’s the latest Instagram news about Kim Kardashian?  Did you send a Snapchat text to me about Rihanna’s latest selfie?’  We also refuse to admit that we have a landline, a relic, signifying old age.”

Let’s just say our seniors will get us laughing and thinking and feeling. I can’t wait!

Dolores Malone
I’m Not Getting Old (Wink, Wink!) You Are!

Many of us mature women and men – seniors – think that our peers have grown old, but not us.  We lament when we especially see friends from long ago, “What happened to her, to her once pretty young face?  Why, he looks like a jumping jack – a slow one – the way he shakes when he walks.  Too bad she’s so stooped over that she looks as if she is permanently tending a garden.”  Yup, we gloat as we say to ourselves about them, “Thank goodness, I’m not getting old; they are.”

Even when we look in the mirror, we see our air-brushed or photo-shopped selves.  Few lines map our smooth faces; lush hair covers our scalps, and bags hardly appear under our eyes.  To be sure, we view ourselves through the prism of a 30 0r 40-something person.  Consequently, when we see our peers, we smugly tell ourselves, “So sad that they are getting old, but not me.”

And we seniors – those of us who are not getting old – hear very well – so what if everyone else around us mumbles or speaks too softly during conversations.  Pray tell, we should ask someone to speak louder during a conversation.  We pretend we are too preoccupied with other things to join the discussions.  At home, though, we blast the television, turning the volume up so much so that our grandchildren question our sanity when the visit.  They ask, “Are you crazy; you don’t think that’s loud?  What’s wrong with your hearing? “Doesn’t it hurt your ears?”  We deny, deny, deny that there’s anything wrong.  We tell ourselves, “We’re not getting old, other people are.”

In reality, perpetually young seniors don’t and won’t fit the stereotype of old people.  We tell ourselves that we are current, relevant, not stuck in our ways, willing to change.  We boast to our grandchildren, for instance, about knowing most of the words to the top ten pop songs, even as we hide the fact that we still listen to the oldies radio station.  When talking to young people, we let them know that we are computer savvy, aware of social media.  We drop such questions as, “What’s the latest Instagram news about Kim Kardashian?  Did you send a Snapchat text to me about Rihanna’s latest selfie?”  We also refuse to admit that we have a landline, a relic, signifying old age.  Indeed, to stay relevant in a youth- oriented society, many of us say to ourselves, especially as we look at an aging peer, “I’m not getting old, you are.”   

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Loretta (The Seniors Are Coming)

So guess what? Our seniors caught the event bug. We had so much fun at our Black History Month event last month that we are planning a followup event for Older Americans Month on Thursday May 7th. Details to come soon but we will be signing copies of our storybook (which you can preview here) too! One great question my senior buds brought up is, what stories are we going to focus on this time? It’s silly to just talk about being old; what we really want to show people is that being old is not one thing, but many, many diverse things, things from long, long way, and things from today, and diverse opinions on those things.  As I looked through their recent stories to draw some inspiration, I came across Loretta’s stories below, and I realized maybe the “theme” could be this: “Memories from the Past, Wisdom for the Present.” What do you guys think? This Thursday when I see my buds again, we will spending some time to plan out our event.  I will let you know what we come up with!

Loretta Dotson
Fruitful Labor

I learned at an early age you work for what you want and need. In order to help out I would after school scrub steps and earn 25 cents. There was a couple from Germany struggling to learn English. I would for three days after school spend time teaching and tutoring them for $1.00 an hour plus they would give me a banana sandwich on buttered rye bread.

Ground beef was not expensive about $1.50 a lb. Long grain rice was 10 cents a lb. I would buy dinner about two nights a week. My mom and dad were proud of me for helping out. My older sister married and my older brother were in the service. It was no problem helping younger sister and brother with homework and assigning chores.

There were 10 of us and we were very close. Because of the responsibility patterns we grew up and it was easily transferred to our adult life. Some of our younger relatives haven’t quite seen in our way yet, but we’re hoping. When you work for something needed or wanted there is a sense of joy and pride. It might be something you cherish and plan to keep or it could be a gift for someone special. When you earn is it’s a keepsake in your heart.

Loretta Dotson
The Listener

You would be surprised by how much you can learn by being a listener.

Try to keep an open mind as you listen. I find it exciting to hear the thoughts and ideas of others. To me, problems or dilemmas others have experienced, and they share with me how they worked it out and avoided a worse situation. It is up to the listener to accept or deny the information. I remember sitting with my great aunt and she told me many stories of incidents which occurred in her early life and how she coped and overcame. She exhibited amazing strength to me that was called survival. When folks want to confide in you or share a personal story or opinion try to be a good attentive listener. Sometimes, they will often sharing ask you “What do you think about that?”

Well, I hope you were listening.

Loretta Dotson
The Seniors Are Coming

There is so much offered for Seniors. We have better access to enjoy more activities. So, forget about us just sitting in a rocker or watching T.V. all day. We are very active. We have planes to go, things to do, people of all walks of life to see and meet. Or the Phila Senior Center the main branch; the staff are helpful and informative. There’s computer class, digital photography + more. There is always something going on. We have various levels of exercises. T’ai chi is smooth and improves balance. In Silver Sneakers classes we do things with hand weights, small balls and ropes that will tighten our biceps. Jewelry making is colorful and charming. There are multiple types of serious card games. Watching the domino players is very very interesting. The checkers and chess players are very intelligent; you may watch, but be quiet. There are boxes and boxes of jigsaw puzzles.

Want to learn another language? We can participate in French, Italian or Spanish. Trips to the Casino and other interesting places are so exciting. We have access to social services four our personal needs. They can and do answer medicine questions concerning prescriptions. Bible study, which is relaxing and informative. The meals have been planned to meet our nutritional needs.

There is so much to enjoy as we gather together and share our spirits and life styles. I have learned about the writing class “The Best Day of My Life So Far.” I am really enjoying the opportunity to write about life as I have lived and seen it. It is so nice to hear the thoughts and ideas and experiences of others. The volunteers here are friendly and always ask, “Are you alright?” The good ol’ days, some were then, some are occurring right now. So don’t count us out. We are very much active and in the running.

Well, got to run. Meet you in the gym.

B.Y.O.W. (Bring your own water)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mo (The Family Bar and the Parlor)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day – have loads of fun and be safe tonight! Here are a few stories from the proud Irish among us, our bud Mo! Don’t these make you feel like a kid again, at the most fun Irish family ever? Come on into the parlor, squeeze into a chair or pick a spot on the floor, and sing and dance the night away!

Mo McCooper
The Family Bar

When my parents and/or various Aunts, Uncles, and cousins would come to the bar or my grandparents’ parlor, they would, after a while, all start singing, “Oh!!! A day at the ocean’s a wondrous delight but I’d just as well be at MAWHINNEY’S tonight!” When the first folks were starting to leave we would all sing, “We hate to see you; we hate to see you go. What the hell were you waiting for? We hate to see you go!!!”

Mo McCooper
The Parlor

The Irish homes in my grandparents’ neighborhood, East Falls, were mostly row houses with two stone steps leading up to the porch. Behind the front door was a small hall which led to the stairs to the second floor. To the right were the entrances to the parlor with windows looking out onto the front porch and the steep street out front.

As many as a dozen grown-ups and big kids would squeeze into chairs and a couch in that little room. The little kids would sit or lie on the floor.

My grandparents called that room, “The Parlor.” Storytelling, singing, and a little dancing went on there. One of my favorite childhood songs was, “If You’re Irish, Come Into The Parlor.”

Mo McCooper
Only Child

The man who delivered beer to my father’s bar was down on one knee asking my Aunt Nancy to marry him.  She said yes and they became one of the happiest couples I have ever known.
Nancy was my mother Katie’s little sister who entertained me and taught me to read from my birth until I entered first grade at age six.

Other than dropping metal soldiers from our 2nd floor apartment railed porch to the street below at the age two, the rest of my pre-school fun was accompanying my cousin Joey on various adventures within a few miles of the bar apartment where I lived.  All that walking from about tree years old prepared me well to become a playground rat for the rest of my life.

Visits in my father’s pick-up truck to my grandparent’s cozy rowhouse in Philadelphia’s East Falls neighborhood enabled me to become closer with about twenty other cousins some of whom became more like brothers and sisters to me.  At the time, I didn’t realize they were the best cousins anyone ever had.

Thanks Grandmom and Grandpop!