Thursday, February 14, 2019

Talking Shop (Norman)

The great thing about Best Day is that not only have we published our older buds stories in our own book, some of our older buds had gone on to write and publish books elsewhere. In fact, we’ll often get visits from published authors who are interested in a little help with their next stories. One of our newest members, Princess, had recently published her autobiography and came in during one of our First Thursday sessions. I asked her to read a short passage from her book, and she talked a bit about her experiences with the genre. This led to a discussion between the rest of the older buds, including Norman who had published his stories before. It just goes to show how much we can learn from each other.

Norman Cain 
Poverty Pimps 

In 1974, I was involved in an organization entitled Living for the City, whose purpose was to create and implement recreation, counseling and job readiness training for North Philadelphia impoverished youth. A couple who had come into some money, purchased a two-story building at 22nd and Lehigh Avenue that they planned to convert into a center for the areas youth. The couple was in need of a staff. They heard about our organization, conducted an interview with us and hired us. At the time of our hiring, we only had three members in the organization: me and Douglas, who were both young counselors at a state operated reformatory, and Alex, a music teacher at Friends Select School. We would spend our evening at the center. I was the activity director and was coordinating with a restaurant executive who envisioned creating a chain of youth maintained restaurants throughout the Delaware Valley. 

After several weeks had transpired, the city of Philadelphia became interested in funding the program. They send two representatives to the center to speak to us. During the meeting, they said that we would need a financial person to oversee the monetary segment of the center. I thought that the city’s representatives were supposed to monitor our program, not become a part of it. It seemed to me that my partners were fine with the situation. 

I told them that I was capable of handling the finances of the center, because as a caseworker with the Philadelphia Welfare, I was responsible for auditing the finances of over three hundred families associated with the clients housed at Uptown Jewish Nursing Home. I was not about to allow the finances of our organization be manipulated by those I consider to be outsiders, and who I believed to be Poverty Pimps. Also, the executive director of the center was a minister who did not have the welfare of the areas youth a priority. Like the City Hall representatives, he was looking for money and fame.  

During another meeting with the representatives, I vehemently disagreed with one of their proposals. My partners agreed with them. My partners believed were in cahoots with the representatives. But I decided to vie my time. We definitely had the respect of the youth in the city, as we, as counselors at the Youth Development center, we developed favorably reputations with the clients. Once we were able to prevent a gang fight that was getting ready to erupt in front of the center. Eventually, a misunderstanding between members of our organization and the center erupted. We left. 

After our departure, we connected with a center at 22nd and Ridge Avenue that had created and sponsored the first Pregnant Girl School in the city. Our new organization seemed to also be in the business of Poverty Pimping. They asked us to write a proposal. When we requested help from two Board of Education lawyers who were affiliated with the group, we were denied. When we showed them the proposal we had written, they were amazed at the professionalism it represented. They asked us where we had gotten help and we let them know that the proposal was our product.  

I found out, several days after presenting our proposal, that they had given us certain financial information (that was presented in the proposal), that could lead to a fraud investigation. They did not want to give the proposal, so I had to physically retrieve it. Undeterred, we decided to finance our organization by holding weekly discoes in a loft where we had space for a boutique. My questionable partners recruited a lawyer, industrial arts teacher, banker, and parole agent. We now had eight folks in our group. The majority opted for high salaries and downtown offices, I felt that if we were going to help ghetto kids, we should be where they were. 

It was apparent to me that I had spent six months in the company of Poverty Pimps who had no concern for youngsters in need of help. I left the group.

If you your older bud to get published, submit their story here: 
And if you need a refresher on how to submit stories to “Joy Starts Here,” check out this handy-dandy link:
Happy reading, and stay warm!
My “Joy Starts Here” Story Count: 11
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Moth, Redux (Delores, Rochelle, Ann)

I mentioned last week that I’m bringing Best Day buds to The Moth, and a few of them went to a Moth Story Slam on Monday. The thing about Moth shows is that they’re so popular that their online tickets will sell out in an hour. I knew that I couldn’t expect the older buds to camp out in front of their computers until 12PM and beat everyone else to ticket sales. I can’t even expect myself to do that. But I also knew that the Moth always had extra tickets for sale the day of...if you come early enough.

I went to the Moth and found Delores there, first in line. She even bought an extra ticket for her friend Gwen. Ann and Rochelle got caught in traffic, so they had to put their names on a wait list. That was because I remembered to save them seats, but completely forgot to save them tickets.

In the end, everybody got in and everybody got to see the story slam. None of the older buds got picked to see the show, but they all loved the other storytellers, and were eager to go again...when the weather’s warmer and the days are longer that is.

Even though Delores, Rochelle and Ann didn’t go onstage, you can still enjoy their stories on our blog below:

Delores Wilson 
The Back Story 

A friend of mine made a remark about grandchildren calling their grandparents by their first name. Even when the honor of grand was initiated before saying their first name. I was not offended by her remark. It actually reinforced my practice of not comparing myself to others and not being judgmental before time. I realized I didn’t don’t know the back-story. I have a set of grandchildren that are twin boys. When they were toddlers, me and their mother’s mother would take them on outings. I learned and observed them. I could when they were addressing me or the other grandmother. She would answer when they were actually speaking to me. I could see the frustration on their faces when they would politely say, “I’m talking to my other grand-mom.” I didn’t want to start confusion between my son the twin’s mother. I made the decision that the boys could call me “Grand-Mom Delores.” I didn’t like that personally at the time, but it seems to be the solution.

Rochelle Tynes 
Young People 

So very often anymore, we hear unfavorable things about and in regards to our youth, both girls and boys. 

We hear how they are loud, disrespectful to all around them, including their peers, how they dress, the girls look like hoochy mamas, the boys have to show everyone their underwear and cuss as well as smoke some God awful smelling substances that lingers in the air for quite a while after they pass by.  

We also hear about them talking loudly on cell phones as well as not being careful of where they are walking when they are on these phones. But every once in a while, one of them will amaze me and do something thoughtful and kind. Tuesday night, when I put my trash out, I dropped my recycle can. A young boy was passing by, he picked my recycle trash up and set my container on the curb. I said “Thank you.” He said, “No problem” and walked away. Today, as I was riding the El train, on my way to the senior center, a homeless man began to tell us he had no monies and was homeless. Everyone ignored him BUT this young boy who went into his wallet and gave the man $1.00. When I got ready to leave the El, I told the young boy that I was very proud of him and that he confirmed my believe that not all of our youth were going down the wrong path and I knew that he was going to have a good day because of his kindness. I wish that more people could see some of the good things that our youth do and keep praying for them that are on a bad path to change their ways.  

*I say young boys and girls because these people being talked about appear to be between 10 to 18 years of age. A thought just occurred to me – maybe they all just need to be encouraged sometime and be taken to a church sometimes.  

Ann Von Dehsen 
My Amazing Brother-in-Law 

My brother-in-law, Don, is truly one of the few men I know who are genuinely kind, gentle, and caring. An emotional man, he is not afraid to shed tears over both sad and happy events. Nor, does he think twice about embracing a fellow human who is obviously suffering. Don is an artist, a photographer, and carpenter, with a MacGyver-like inventive ability. For example, when I had to use a walker temporarily, and was literally crying over spilt milk, not to mention many other stronger drinks, Don, went down to the basement of my apartment, found discarded materials and in a short time, fashioned a tray complete with cup holder and attached it to my handle bars. To put it mildly, he is always there for me and anyone else who needs him. 

Don and my sister, also an artist, live on top of a mountain in southwest Virginia. There, they are very attuned and appreciative of the nature and wildlife that surrounds them. This past summer, they went on a month long trip out west, in a van, celebrating the fact that as aging hippies, they could still do so!  

When they returned, Don immediately noticed a dramatically increased population of squirrels who spent their days climbing up the bird feeder poles and disrupting the rightful inhabitants. In his analytical way, Don began remediation by using or making typical squirrel deflectors for birdfeeders. The squirrels were a little too smart for these contraptions, so Don then began his squirrel relocation program. This involved catching the squirrels in humane no-kill traps. Don would then put the cages in his car and drive a minimum of 2 miles, then sent them free in a beautiful wooded area. To date, he has caught and released 45 squirrels in a matter of weeks. You would think this would end the problem, but no, the squirrels kept coming. Along with continuing his deportation program, Don also made an apron-like metal structure that went around the base of the feeder and flared out almost to the ground. This worked for a short time, but the squirrels eventually used a tree limb to jump to the feeder. So Don cut down the limb only to have the squirrels devise a longer, more intricate path to the feeder. 

When I spoke to him on the phone last weekend, my non-violent peaceful brother-in-law was considering breaking out the pitchfork and going after the rodents. I assured him he had tried to be reasonable and kind to the rodents, to no avail. I told him I would even support him if he decided to build a wall, but knew he would never want to stop anyone or any animal from enjoying his property as long as they did so peacefully. And that is why I love my brother-in-law.

Enjoy your weekend, and as they say on The Moth's podcast, We hope you have a story-worthy week.

My “Joy Starts Here” Story Count: 11
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, January 31, 2019

In The Public Eye (Rochelle)

Ever since I’ve taken over as Lead Facilitator for the Philadelphia Senior Center’s Best Day group, I’ve made it my mission to get both Best Day and its older buds the exposure they deserve. One of the ways I’ve done this through The Moth, and older bud José got to tell a story onstage in a Moth event at the World Cafe. Another way is through The Wilma Theatre. For the past few months, The Wilma took a group of older buds at PSC to see James Ijames’ “Kill Move Paradise,” then helped them create a devised theatre production based on that show and their experiences as seniors.

The older buds The Wilma selected...were not from Best Day, but they are interested in collaborating with us on a future show. Last week, I took the storytellers of Best Day to see the Wilma’s performance—“Our Stories: Do You See Me?”—and they loved it! There was comedy, nostalgia, tragedy, and a whole bunch of older buds who were comfortable onstage. Pretty much all of Best Day’s older buds wanted to do a show of their own after that, including the ones with stage fright! 

One more way, as you all know by now, is through our “Joy Starts Here” initiative. But did you know that the stories you send through “Joy Starts Here” get posted on Best Day’s website itself? Our own Rochelle Tynes had her story posted on the site, and she appeared as the first hit when Googling The Best Day of My Life So Far. How's that for exposure?

Rochelle R. Tynes
I Have Become a Latchkey Senior
In past years, my sons and other neighbors and relatives children were told to come right home from school. [They were told to] come in alone, don’t talk to anyone, and never ever take the key out from under your shirt. This key around their necks were caused by us parents having to work, not having anyone to take care of our children and not wanting them to be outside in hot or cold elements or in a harmful situation.
The placing of the keys caused the children to be called “latchkey” children. Usually, these keys were placed on the children’s necks with the warning that if they were lost, then they would have to sit outside and wait until the parents came home.
Several keys were lost and the warnings came to pass.
I, however, am a senior and in the last two months have locked myself out. What I’ve done is left my keys in the house when I’ve had to go out. When I’ve done this, I’ve called my grandson that lives around the corner from me. If he is at home, he will come around. If he is at work, I have to wait until he gets off to open the door.
I told myself that I can’t keep forgetting my key and if I leave keys at a neighbors, it has to be someone who is home most of the time, also someone I trust. Another solution is to be a latchkey senior, put my keys in a pouch to wear under my shirt so that I won’t be locked out and just assume my new role as a latchkey senior.
If you have an older bud who deserves to be the first hit on Google, submit their story here: 
And if you need a refresher on how to submit stories to “Joy Starts Here,” check out this handy-dandy link:
Happy reading, and stay warm!
My “Joy Starts Here” Story Count: 11
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Cold (Elliot and Frances)

I don’t believe it’s coincidence that The Women’s March is so close to Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s the perfect opportunity to capture the righteous fury of the marchers and turn it towards helping our community. But between the snow warnings and bitter weather these past few days, it’s made going out more dangerous. So, what do you do if you missed out on the March, MLK Day, or both? You talk to some seniors and send us their stories! You can read all about our Joy Starts Here challenge at this page:
And when you’re ready to submit an older bud’s story, fill out this page here:
It’s so easy, you can do it on a cell phone, anywhere you like!

And here’s a few stories from us to warm your heart, if not your body.

Elliott Doomes
After School Safe Havens
My holidays is good. I didn't travel and I just stayed home, but I had communications with my whole family. My great grandson was on the phone and he went "Ah-bah-bah!" He can't talk but he'll let you know he's there. My family keeps me going, because otherwise, it's too easy to do the same thing over and over again. It gets lackadaisical. On the other hand, I really don't want to go walking around in the cold, especially not at night and especially not in this neighborhood. Every kid on the street wants to be a gangster rapper and shoot people in the streets because those rappers have all the gold and jewels and cash, But that's not real.
Kids today don't have the same opportunities that we had. We used to have playgrounds every two blocks and during the winter they could go inside and play basketball and table tennis. Nowadays, they don't keep those places open anymore. Now we just have open fields.
The other day, at 18th and Lombard, I was thinking about sitting in the park and relaxing. During my childhood, we went there all the time. But i can't sit there for two long. Nobody there looks like me anymore. So, if I sat there for long enough watching the kids playing, somebody would come over and wonder what the hell I was doing there. Nobody from my childhood lives there anymore. I might be paranoid, but that's the way it was when I was a kid and that's the way it is now. If a white man came over and asked me what I was doing there, I could never give him an answer he'd think was believable. I didn't think it'd be safe to be there.
There also used to be a Marton Anderson Center named after the first and foremost African American contralto opera singer. And she lived there, even after going to Europe and Carnegie Hall. I did know a lot of her history back then, but I forgot most of it. Most people today don't know who Marton Anderson is. Star Garden, Syggis Playground, all those places were after school havens. You actually felt protected there and you respected the people in charge. Nobody wanted to be banned, but they wouldn't ban you forever. I could say a lot about the things I've seen change, and not for the better.

Frances Bryce
How I Got My Wish While Singing A Song 
All I want for Christmas is a live Christmas tree. A live Christmas tree. Noble fir or pine will do. Hear my sorrow, we plea.  
Where do you put the presents when there's no tree? Golly, gee, please tell me.  
Put them on the table, someone said to me. Where will we eat? How can that be? Please do not kid me.  
Put them on a chair, an answer came to me. Then we must stand, no seats for sitting. How will that be?
Put them in front of the fireplace. Unsafe as can be. Fire put the presents in dances, I'm sure you will agree.
I can hardly believe there will be a Christmas with no tree. Oh how sad. Poor, poor me. 
The next morning down the stairs I came. What do I see? My daughter standing there with Christmas lights in her hand. "What are you doing with lights," I demand.
"Why have lights and no tree?" Her reply, "I have a plan, you'll see."  
Finally, I seated myself and then looked around to my right. There stood a tree, what a beautiful sight!
A glorious Christmas tree, did my eyes deceive me?  No! No! A live Christmas tree that my eyes had failed to see.
A song I had made in jest had resulted in a wonderful surprise thanks to the Robnett. 
 I laughed, hooted and shouted with glee. Now a home for the presents under the Christmas tree.  
I hurried and got the ornaments to dress the tree. Happy that I made the song, happy as could be!

And speaking of Dr. King, check out our collection of MLK themed stories, here and here.

My “Joy Starts Here” Story Count: 11
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Miracle (Elliott)

Last week at Best Day, I had been talking to Joan about religion, and she said that Jesus had saved her life multiple times. Then she told me a story about her husband's abuse, and how many times it got so bad that she'd almost died. I told her how incredible that story was, and how honored I'd be if she'd share it with the rest of Best Day. She wrote it down and read it, but as she read she worried that nobody wanted to hear it because of how violent it was. When she finished, other older buds came forward about their own abuse, and the things they did to fight back. It was surprising to see how many other people there lived with abuse, and you'd never know just by looking at them. It's a cliché, but it's true. You never know what a person went through until you listen to them. I've often said that the best day of your life can be when you're able to talk about the worst day of your life, and I feel like last week's workshop is proof of that.
Unfortunately, I can't post Joan's story this week. She couldn't think of a good way to end it, so she decided to work on it from home. Once she finishes it, I'll type and post it. In the meantime, here's another story about miracles:

Elliot Doomes
What Is A Miracle

At a very young age, I heard all the miracles in the Bible. Moses parting the Red Sea, the casting out of demons, and I always wanted to experience my own miracle. I never did, but I always managed to overcome my adversities and grow stronger. And it’s not because I’m smart! I can’t believe that. If I was smarter, I’d never make a mistake. It was all divine intervention. God, Yah veh, Allah, whatever you call it. I’m more spiritual than religious.
I grew into young manhood, I met a young lady, and married. She conceived and bore a beautiful daughter who is strong, healthy, and beautiful. She grew to young woomanhood and she had four beautiful healthy children – three girls and a boy. Angie, Donte, Asia, and Amber who were all born strong, healthy, and beautiful. My grandson, Donte, who produced a son who was also born strong, healthy, and beautiful, and Asia’s four months pregnant, so I’ll be a great grandfather two times. Am I still looking for a miracle? No, I’m too busy enjoying the ones I have!

You never know what a person went through until you listen to them. Talk to a senior in your life, and if you like what you hear, then share it here:
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 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
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:
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