Thursday, January 18, 2018

Days of Service (Nouria and Elliot)

Martin Luther King Day has passed this week and the second Women's March will be happening this Saturday. It only makes sense to use today's post to encourage the feelings of empathy and dedication that define both days. Between the cries of "Me Too," "Black Lives Matter," and all the other groups rallying for justice, it's easy to forget how much of a problem ageism is in our country. It's easy for people to ignore the elderly or dismiss them as senile or curmudgeonly or old-fashioned. It's easy for people to lose touch with an older relative when they're in a retirement home. It's easy for people to treat their complaints as part and parcel of old age, even when their concerns turn out to be valid. A few of my older buds have to leave Best Day before it's barely begun, just to accommodate their shuttle service's schedule. I heard it used to be the other way around, but the older buds put up with it because "It's better than nothing." Every older bud deserves much better than "better than nothing."

For today's post, I wanted to pay tribute to both Martin Luther King Day and the Women's March by featuring a Black writer and a female writer. Of course, we have plenty more to choose from than just Nouria's and Elliot's writing, and we encourage you to read the writings of Joe, Norman, Eugene, Frances, Loretta D., Dolores, Joan, and Hazel in honor of both days.

Nouria Bennouna 
Two Weeks With An American Family 

Back in 1999, my oldest daughter (Ghada) graduated from highs school in Casablana, Morocco, and she wanted to come to the United States, Florida for the university. I came with my three other kids to prepare for her arrival. One time I was driving with my youngest daughter (Emma) by a church and I saw that they were giving classes. I stopped and began to write the schedule at this time a minister (Gary) came. He told us that they didn’t give English classes (what I thought) but bible classes. Then he asked where we ere from, what language we were speaking. When he knew we spoke French, he was excited because his daughter (Heather) who was the same age as my oldest daughter Ghada, just began a French class in high school. He then called her and asked her to come meet us. She came and after that, he invited us to have dinner in his house, he called his wife Tammy and told her to make dinner. "We have guests" he said. He came with me to the motel to tell my other daughter (Sanaa) and my son (Amine). We had a good time at dinner, he took us to visit every corner of his big and beautiful house. Downstairs, they had attached to the house, a little apartment where his mother-in-law used to live. 
After dinner, he asked me how long I’m going to stay in the US. I said two weeks. Then he said, what do you think about living with us these two weeks in the little apartment. I was very happy and accepted his suggestion. He gave me the keys of his house and we went the same night to the motel to take our stuff. We spent two weeks with them. 
After dinner the 2nd or 3rd day, I asked him, how did he know to trust me at this point, to give me his house keys the same day we met, even though he didn’t know anything about me or my family. He didn’t have any proof of my background. He said that he worked with a lot of people and could know the sincerity of someone after talking with him. 

Elliot Doomes 
Beulah May
My grandmother was strong too. Everybody called her Miss Beulah. That’s how strong she was. She weighed two hundred and forty-four pounds and she wasn’t fat neither. She was broad in the shoulders and powerful. She worked when she was eight and there wasn’t easy work for her back in the day. They wouldn’t even let you go to school until after the farm work was done. She could read and write and count. 
You couldn’t cheat her out of money, that’s for sure. They just didn’t let kids go to school much in the South. She was next to the youngest out of four daughters, but she was the leader of the family. All the ones who migrated to Philadelphia went straight to her, that’s how I knew them. I never would’ve met them otherwise; I didn’t know anything about the South.

If you want to keep our older buds visible and audible, especially older women and Black seniors, please take a moment to visit our front page and see all the different ways you can keep Best Day going. You can buy our book here, make a monetary contribution here, spend some time at one of our workshops, or even just share our stories with friends and family. Thank you, and good luck.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Winter Cleaning (Joe and Mo)

If you live in or near Philadelphia, then you know that we've had some nasty storms lately. Nasty enough to close down the PSC because the streets and sidewalks would be that unsafe. But while I don't have any new stories this week, I do have some older ones. Sometimes after an older bud finishes their story, they'll either go into more detail or a conversation will pop up around it. Either way, it'll be so interesting that I write it all down and save it for a rainy day. Here's a few of those stories to warm you up during the winter storms.
Fair warning, Joe's stories uses the word "Negro" to describe Black people. It's in the context for the 40's when that word was commonly used, but I figured I'd give a heads up just in case.

Joe Garrison


Black History Month: Jackie Robinson

Joe: And the reason why I chose Jackie Robinson is because, well number one I like sports. Number two, I used to like baseball, I used to follow baseball when I was younger. We call baseball America’s Pastime, and ever since I read that the game was invented in 1869, but the first organized baseball leagues were started, believe it or not, in 1883. And up until 1947 it was an all white sport. You didn’t have any, any people of color playing. Oh, they played but they weren’t accepted into the organized um baseball leagues that we know today; that is the National American League. Then in 1945, Branch Rickey, who was president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, had gone down to watch the players from the—what’d they call it—the Negro leagues back then. And there was some very, very famous Negro ball players that participated in that league. There’d be like Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige—In fact, Satchel Paige played baseball, believe it or not, all the way up into his mid-fifties.

Well, Branch Rickey discovered Jackie Robinson and he liked his style of play, and he came back that year and he told some of the other owners about this great find. And he would’ve liked Jackie to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1947, Jackie finally did break the color barrier, and he was the first Black American to play in the national leagues. But his first couple of years that he played, there was a lot of ill will against him, a lot of prejudice against him. In fact there was particular instance that I don’t remember but I heard about it, and I really believe that it actually happened. That somebody in the stands released a black cat onto the field and yelled out to Jackie Robinson, “Come get your brother.”

Elliot: That would be in Philly.

Joe: Oh, it was! Yeah, that’s right.

Elliot: That person was right here.

Joe: Yeah, because the Phillies were a very prejudiced team back then. However, one of the first baseball players to really accept Jackie Robinson as an equal was Peewee Reese, a White ball player. But he encouraged Jackie to keep the faith and keep on with his dream. And he did and in fact, everybody who knows baseball knows Jackie Robinson’s number, they know what he did on the baseball field, and he is revered by most baseball players. And again I say I decided to do a piece of Jackie Robinson because he really was a part of Black History.

Mo McCooper


Pick-Up Trucks

Mo: Thinking of having a young lady in there just was considered too dangerous. Even a tomboy like Joanie couldn’t have…Well, you know.

Anyway, you girls have gotten some short shift…shrift, I guess is the word. And um you’re still getting some in a sense. And it’s changed, but not enough.

Frances: Well, not all of us even had any desire to ride in the back of a truck.

Mo: Well, that’s because you hadn’t seen me and my cousin Johnny or Frankie! (laugh)

Frances: Well, they would deal with the…in the back of a pick-up truck maybe.

Mo: They had more fun! Every time we passed a car, we’d holler, “Get a horse!” We thought we were big shots. But there was a certain freedom being back there.

Frances: Out there.

Mo: Yeah.
Thanks again for reading, and I hope you're enjoying the snow when it's safe to do so, and warm and cozy indoors when it's not.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Good Luck in 2018 (Norman)

Usually there isn't much going on at the PSC on the week of New Years' Eve. Either the cold weather's keeping people in their homes, or the older buds are taking a holiday break. I came in regardless, and I got to spend the day with Eugene and Norman. Eugene's been hard at work selling his book Messenger Blues, which you can buy yourself right here. Norman's in several different classes and programs, including the Drexel's Side-By-Side Program and Writers' Room. He has just joined a year-long photography course, along with several younger buds, and will be doing a photography project before the end of the year. He's diligently reading up on all sorts of different photography techniques and tutorials, and he's even taking inspiration from his family's photos on Facebook.

I can't wait to see his final project! So let's wish Norman Cain, Eugene Carrington, and all of the older buds and volunteers of Best Day, good luck in 2018.
Norman Cain
Family Portrait Night

Tonight, September 21, 2017, I will be attending a writer’s workshop. It will feature two groups: The Mighty Writers, a Philadelphia based group of young wordsmiths and the group that I have been a member of for 3 years: Writers Workshop, a community based writing program hosted by Drexel University. The workshop will be held at 39 Lancaster Avenue.
The theme of the workshop is “Family Portrait Night.” We were encouraged to bring snap shots of our family members and will more than likely be required to write narratives about them.
In preparing for the workshop, I found several pictures:
  1. Genesis Wilson age 6 and the youngest of my 7 grandchildren.
  2. My Grandmother
  3. My Mother
  4. Two pictures of myself: (a) at age 17; (b) at age 71
  5. And several pictures I extracted from my high school and college year book via cell phone
I am looking forward to the workshop and must say that looking at the pictures that I had not seen in a while took me down a pleasant memory lane trip.
The photos used for this story can be found in this post. And finally, on January 25th, the PSC will be getting books and calendars from The Philadelphia Free Library for their One Book, One Philadelphia program. Their featured book for 2018 is Jacqueline Woodson's "Another Brooklyn." I'm looking forward to reading this book myself, but I'm especially looking forward to seeing how the older buds like it. It'll be like a Best Day book club! So, there's lots of exciting stuff coming up this year.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, December 28, 2017

'Tis The Season (Kaitlin, Benita, Cindy, Melissa, and Caitlin)

I hope all of you had and are having a good holiday season, and if you haven't celebrated any holidays, I hope you at least got a nice break from the daily grind. I've decided to end the year by showing off the fruits of our five-week holiday spotlight. You may have already seen these in our newsletter, but if you haven't subscribed yet, then consider this our Christmas gift to you.

As you can see below, we have pictures of Emily Wilt and her great-granddaughter Kaitlin Kortonick, Benita's son Jett and her grandmother Mei Chiu, Celene Jones and Blanche Bowers with their aid Cynthia "Cindy" SchoffstallMichael Tsuei and his daughter Melissa, and Frances Bryce and myself. Each of these photos has a watercolor frame hand-painted by our very own Alyssa Abel. Below each picture is a short blurb about about the importance of Best Day, along with a link to an older bud's story.
Kaitlin Kortonick
I grew very close with my great-grandmother in the last few years of her life. After she moved into the United Methodist Communities at Pitman, where I was volunteering at weekly Best Day meetings, I got to see her more. After a while, I started visiting her every week, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

One afternoon, while we were chatting away, I mentioned that I wished I'd visited her more before she moved. She just smiled, patted my hand, and said, "That's okay. You're here now."

To me, that's what Best Day is all about: just being there. It's about listening, and really getting to know one another on a human level, regardless of age. I miss my "kindred spirit" every day, but I am so grateful to have shared so many laughs and made so many wonderful memories with her. We even got to experience Best Day together, and I now have a collection of her stories to return to whenever I'm missing her most.

Click here to read the accompanying story by Emily Wilt.
Benita Cooper
11 years ago, I called my grandma for the first time in my life, just to talk. I was 25 and newly married at the time. Now my husband and I are parents of two amazing, energetic little boys. That phone call brought my grandma and me closer than I had ever felt, and opened up my heart and ears to the voices of older adults near and far. It also opened up my voice to speak up against older adult isolation and lit a fire in me to bring generations together through the sharing of moments and stories.
This photo means so much to me because it was a genuine moment shared by my younger son and my grandma -- my two angels. Seeing them connect so deeply, yet so simply, reminded me that no age is too old or too young to feel The Best Day of My Life So Far spirit.
It makes me so happy to know that my work here at Best Day will leave my children and their children a collection of life lessons they can't find anywhere else, and also show them the importance of cultivating deep relationships with older generations.
While my grandma's friendship continues to be my inspiration, my hope for my sons' futures adds fuel every day to my fire. Together with our phenomenal team of volunteers, and our partnering organizations around the country, I am more committed than ever to changing the lives of older adults and younger listeners - both nationwide and in my own family - one story at a time.

Click here to read the accompanying story by Mei Chiu.
Cynthia "Cindy" Schoffstall
Along with me, we have three aids that are in their 20's who are learning from and encouraging the participants to share their stories. Their willingness to listen and ask meaningful questions has helped the participants to feel valued and appreciated. They have often remarked that most young people don't want to listen to them.
Watching our group dynamics change during this process has been very rewarding. When we began, I was unsure about one individual who tends to be opinionated and often crude; however, as he has been telling his stories you can see that he is sitting taller, contributing and encouraging to others. We have a few participants that have difficulty staying on track; however, by asking meaningful questions and guiding them back they are able to share their stories.
Storytelling allows them to share more than their memory of time and space, they are able to share the emotions, and discover how those memories have shaped who they are today. They are also building deep relationships of trust as they have opened up and share. Their willingness to share their brokenness, at various points in their life, is a true testimony of how trust is built in this group and how sharing stories impact lives.
On an administrative level we are planning activities and hiring staff with The Best Day of My Life So Far's six metrics  
in mind. Giving voice to a person's life experience, not only values the person, but connects all those listening in a way that is forgotten in the fast pace of society as a whole.
Click to read the accompanying stories by Celene Jones and Blanche Bowers.
Melissa Tsuei
My father has always been a person who expresses himself creatively and he has long been a storyteller. Best Day has been a great outlet for this expression, allowing him a space to reflect on the fullness of his life and his past, as well as hone his English writing skills. I look forward to seeing more of his creations.
I believe the group has also fostered connections with people my father otherwise may not have come into contact with. We both enjoy seeing his stories in print and I love hearing him talk about sharing with the group, and "talking shop", as I am also a writer. I appreciate the opportunities Best Day has provided for my father to build new connections to other people and, likewise, to his own experiences.

Click to read the accompanying story by Michael M. Tsuei.
Caitlin Cieri
The Best Day of My Life So Far is an intergenerational community that's always meant a lot to me. I started as a visitor and volunteer in 2012, and now work as Lead Facilitator and Blogger at the Best Day group in the Philadelphia Senior Center. Not only am I devoted to sustaining the weekly sessions and blog posts, but I'm also devoted to our storytellers. In the past five years, I've gone from asking Benita how to run the group to telling her what I've planned in the weeks ahead. Also, I've made more friends than I can count with other volunteers and our older adult participants.

Today I would like to introduce one of my older friends, Frances Bryce. Even before class starts, she'll keep me company during lunch time and we'll talk about all sorts of amazing things. Just last week she told me how she used to teach ESL to Koreans and Egyptians and got invited to their houses! She's an enthusiastic regular of Best Day, and always has something to write about. Every day Frances comes in impeccably dressed in slacks and a nice ironed blouse. She takes Best Day so seriously, she'll outright tell people not to hog the floor so that everyone gets heard.

Frances' friendship and commitment to Best Day has taught me how to confidently work with any group. She taught me how to balance friendliness with professionalism, and leadership with empathy.

Click to read the accompanying story by Frances Bryce.
I hope that you keep following our blog and our older buds for many years to come. And if you like these stories, then please share them with a friend or a family member who you think would love them too. Have a safe, exciting and happy 2018, and thank you for making 2017 just a little bit better.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Little Time Together (Nouria)

This past week was the last week of Best Day before the new year. This week, the PSC is throwing a Holiday Party for all our older buds, and we wouldn't be Best Day if we got in the way of a good time. And the next week will be the holiday season when older and younger buds alike are spending time with their friends and family.
Last week's workshop was much more intimate, since Hannah, Kara and I were all hosting. Hannah took our senior selfie for this week and it came out great. We also got to see a sneak preview of Nouria's performance in the show I mentioned in this post. I felt especially lucky, since I knew I would not be able to see the performance myself. I'm looking around to see if anybody taped the performance, but in the meantime I've decided to post Nouria's story here. Fair warning, there's implied sexual assault in this story. It gets scary at points, but it has a happy ending, and considering all the stories that are coming out about sexual assault I felt like I needed to share it.

Nouria Bennouna
My Angel Who Always Saves Me

Hi, I'm from Morocco; long time ago, I was a student the first year at a medical university, and wanted to attend the army to be a doctor. I went to the base to ask about it, the soldier at the front door didn't let me in, but he showed me a fancy car and told that it belonged to the colonel in charge and that he is leaving soon. I can talk to him when he will be outside. A few minutes later, I saw the car leaving the door. I went to talk to him, he was helpful, said of course he can do this, and invites me to come with him right away to the office in charge. Once I was sitting in the car, he told that he had something to do in his house before. When he parked he invited me to wait for him in the house instead of staying alone in the car. I followed him with entire confidence.
A young man with two huge dogs opened the door for us. After we were inside, he locked the door and stayed there telling me to go inside where the colonel went, but I was like a statue stuck against the wall, trying to make myself as small as possible, so confused, not realizing what was happening. The house didn't look safe with the young man, his dogs, and behind doors in front of me, I heard a woman screaming too loud.
At this moment, someone (my angel) knocked at the door, and the young man opened it. It took me a little bit to take my feet outside and leave. Then the young man got out the house and called to me: Come back, come back.
What would you tell him = NO NO NO.

Thank you so much, Nouria, for sharing this story with the people of Best Day, the staff of the Wilma Theatre, and the PDC at large. I hope you have a Happy Holiday season with lots of miracles, and the same goes to the loyal readers of this blog.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hidden Gems (Elliot and Frances)

You might remember a few weeks ago I wrote about how sometimes our older buds will talk about something that would make a great Best Day story without even realizing it. Well, I'm happy to announce that I'll be posting two of them today. I wanted to wait a few weeks before posting them since they were recent stories. It takes time to transcribe and proofread our stories. Also, one of our stories is a little darker, and it seemed awkward to put it in the Thanksgiving post. But I'm sharing it now because, like I say, sometimes the best day of your life is when you can talk about the worst day of your life.
Elliot Doomes 
Gun Disease  
I have many intelligent people who say "Guns don't kill, people do." But I don't 
know one person who could kill 50 people at once by himself of herself without a gun in their hand. We can arrest the disease of cancer, tuberculosis, and many other diseases that kill people. But we have no remedy for the gun disease. A gun doesn't attack the body as other diseases do. It attacks the mind of those that purchase them. For gun disease, there is no remedy. It is not an individual disease, but a societal one. Anyone can purchase a gun. We have approximately 3500 police officers in the City of Philadelphia. There are more guns owned by private citizens then there are by police officers. There are more guns than people in this city. I do not see the solution to this problem in the near future. In other civil countries where guns are not owned by private citizens, gun have been forbidden by private citizens in those countries such as England, Canada, and Australia, which may have two deaths by guns in an entire year. We all recognize guns as a problem, but our representatives, our congressmen, our senators do nothing to curtail this disease which is the Disease of the Gun. How long will the average citizen wait to rise up and put an amendment in our Constitution to make guns less prevalent in this country. 
Why won't somebody listen? 
And I've been shot myself. I've had two spine operations for a gunshot wound and the bullet is still there. They didn't remove it because they didn't want me to become paralyzed. But I have to walk with this cane and take pain medication that don't work thanks to those bullets. Good think I was only shot once. And if I got shot with one of those steel bullets, I wouldn't be walking today. That's a story within itself. 
They had to find the right hospital with the right equipment. I never found out who shot me. I was just crossing the street when it happened. I didn't even see their face. I don't think my daughter knows and I don't think my grandchildren know. I don't want people insisting I sit down and take it easy. I don't want that anymore and this all happened a good six years before my daughter was born. She was born in '68 and this happened around '62.
Frances H. Bryce

In California I was fortunate enough to learn how to teach women from Korea, Egypt, and anyplace else who wanted to learn, how to communicate with each other in the U.S.A.'s English Language. Repetition and demonstration of words and sentences were the methods used. The class was very motivated to learn and use the language that was taught.
I learned about their culture and shared my culture with them. We had meals from each native land, and to no one surprise, we were more alike in what we valued as humans: Family, friends, morals, ethics, belief in a higher being, maybe with a different name, and to respect each as they respected others.
The Korean women kept their maiden name, different from most of the Americans who, after wedding, assume their husbands' last name 
If you're in the area, please stop in the Philadelphia Senior Center for all sorts of fun events tomorrow. At 12:30 in the auditorium, there will be a performance piece produced by The Wilma Theatre, starring the older buds of PSC, including our very own Nouria. And at 1:30 in the cafeteria, our own Eugene Charrington will be hosting a reading and book sale/signing alongside Ikru the Poet and Miss Odessa.

And finally, here's a senior selfie from none other than Frances Bryce herself!

Curated by Caitlin Cieri