Sunday, October 31, 2010

Luis (Growing Up Optional)

Luis is one of our newer members in the class. It's been really nice getting to know him. He'd always refill his parking meter after class and stay later to chat with me about how class has gone that day. Luis writes about big, bold stuff. In the past few months, he’s shared about encounters with political figures he’s had and high-powered jobs he’s held. Last week, he wrote the story below - and check this out - before he started reading to the group, he placed a brown lunch bag in the middle of our table, saying that he had a little something in there to show us. Not until the end of his reading, did he open the bag to pull out two weighty cases. Guess what were in them? It’s the last thing you’d ever expect in a lunch bag: two Senior Olympic gold medals!! Oh yeah, you know our rowdy style - instantly our whole group started gasping and squealing.
Luis Fuentes
Growing Up Optional
October 21, 2010

“Growing Old, Mandatory. Growing Up, Optional.”  I love it.  This was the theme of the 2004 Pennsylvania Senior Games.  Every year the senior games are held in every state, and every two years they represent the qualifying finals for the National Senior Olympic Games.  In Pennsylvania, the games are held at the campus of Shippensburg University, and in New York, at the State University in Courtland. 

In order to qualify for the Senior Olympic games, one must medal in the top three in his or her state in the respective sport.  Starting at age fifty, and in five year increments, the various sports include track and field events, swimming events, tennis, basketball, triathlon, and cycling, just to name a few. If you were to ask me what my claim to fame is, I would have to answer, racquetball’s my game.  And, Senior Olympics is my name.  Since 1995 I have met and competed against an elite group of Senior athletes both nationally and internationally.

Over time, the participants and the sponsors have increased.  States bid for the Senior Olympic torch to be passed on to them.  The games have been held every two years in cities like San Antonio, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; Howard Beach, Virginia; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Louisville, Kentucky.  In Orlando, Disney World was our major sponsor, and the park was opened exclusively to six thousand seniors until 2am.  All restaurants stayed open, all food was free, and all amusement rides were compliments of Mickey Mouse. Talk about turning the clock back.  We stopped counting seconds and were like children in a goodie shop.

In 2009, twelve thousand Senior athletes were welcomed by Stanford University in the city of Palo Alto, along with their sponsors and the Public Broadcasting System.  Six million dollars dropped into their economy.  Palo Alto opened its city and its heart and made our two week stay a memorable one.  My doubles partner, Joseph Famellette, and I placed fourth in the nation.

The Senior Olympic torch already has been passed on during the closing ceremony in California and will be in Houston, Texas for the 2011 games.  And, yes, after winning two gold medals, Joe and I already have qualified in the Olympic trials and will participate in racquetball.

Finally, as we speak, hundreds of Senior athletes are gathering at the Huntsmen World Games, held every October in Salt Lake City.  Last year, fifteen nations participated.  That’s a journey that I’ve got to make.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hazel (October Rewards)

Guess what I am training myself to do these days? Take a chill pill. I’m the kind of person who likes to give herself heart attacks every so often, and with our big 11/14 event coming up, those mini attacks are sneakin’ up on me! (Yeah, my friends laugh because I can’t even stay calm enough to last through one yoga session... embarrassing!) I really gotta learn a lesson or two from Hazel. I like this story not just for the beautiful colors that Hazel has painted, but also for her state of mind that it reveals. Peace. Maybe one day, I’ll get there ;)

Hazel Nurse
October Rewards

The month of October still retains its fascination for me. Take a tip from me and test it like I did on a train to the seashore recently. From a window seat, trees still loaded with green leaves were decorated with splashes of yellow, orange, red and purple. This colorful panorama was eye-catching to say the least. However, little did I know, that this scene would be superseded by another. Under a baby blue sky from my boardwalk perch, the Atlantic took first prize. Stretches of sand bordered this  brilliant blue ocean with waves gently breaking on the shore. Reflections of the sun upon it conformed the expertise of a master artist who had thrown generous handfuls of sparkling diamonds upon it all the way to the horizon.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

NOVEMBER 14 is almost here! Take 3 seconds to help us make this day extra special.

We hope you're just as excited as we are about 11/14... only three weeks until a storytelling event like no other! Oh yeah, we are ready to have a good time!

Our team has been working double-time to make this event a blast for our seniors and for you! And we'd love your help to fill every seat in the library with an excited and truly diverse crowd. We're asking all of our Best Day family and friends (that's you, too, readers!) to take three seconds to do three little things to help us rock the house on 11/14.

(1) "Like" our Facebook page by clicking Here

(2) "Attend" and "Share" our event with your Facebook friends by clicking Here (if you don't live in Philly, please still "share" since your friends may be here, or friends of their get the idea)

(3) Aren't on Facebook? Skip to item 3. Email the blurb below to all your friends (or call them up with the info!) and make sure they invite their friends too.

On Sunday November 14th, the multi-generational, multi-media organization, The Best Day of My Life (So Far) will host a large public event at Philadelphia's Central Library. Be ready to smile, laugh and even cry as our city’s seniors share personal stories on stage and on the big screen, and answer questions from the audience. Inspired by the friendship between a grandmother and a granddaughter, The Best Day of My Life (So Far) connects seniors with younger generations through diverse media, including writing classes, teen internships, leadership training programs, public events, videos and a popular blog. Support the project by following it via Facebook/ Twitter.

Check out the project website and view a short video at
For more event info, visit!/event.php?eid=130756660295408&index=1

This event is free and open to the public - and will be a blast, guaranteed!! Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Beatrice, Hattie and Arthur (Another Amazing Week)

Trying to wrap my mind around what I like about this project once in a while: an impossible feat. I love it too much from the inside out. It's impossible to see it in aerial view. But here's something I like about the project, just one of many things: we don't just record memories, together we are making new ones too.  

(Click Here read more about our trip to WHYY TV and Radio Station and Here for our Facebook photo album.)

Beatrice Newkirk
Our Trip to the TV and Radio Station

Our writing class went on a trip last week.  We had lots of fun.  We met and heard from lots of people.  We even had snacks.  They let us tour the station. We saw ourselves on TV.  We went on the mini bus.  Everyone talked and read their stories.  Some of the senior center staff, including Vicki and Jay, came with us.  We had a good time.  We liked seeing ourselves on the big screen.

Hattie Lee Ellerbe
Our Trip to the TV and Radio Station       

We were the guests of TV and Radio Station WHYY last Thursday, 10/7/10.
Our tour guide was Ms. Willo Carey, who is an executive at the station. We engaged in an open, round table discussion on whatever subjects or thoughts that came to our mind.  It was a great afternoon.
I would like to thank Willo and our other hosts at WHYY for such a good time and the warmth with which we were welcomed.

Arthur Murray
An Amazing Week       

When we toured WHYY TV and Radio station a week ago last Thursday, it was a great experience to be welcomed there.  Everyone was so exciting and pleasant. 

Also, I was so excited when Mrs. Benita Cooper and our volunteers Mr. Steve and Mr. Jonathan came to hear me sing karaoke at Fox and Hounds Sports Bar.  It was so uplifting to see them in support of me.  I felt so overwhelmed to see them there. 

It was a talent show.  Well, I did not win, but did the best I could.  I have two more weeks of tryouts before the grand finals.  Maybe by then I’ll have another chance to be in the finals.  I’m going to give it my best shot.

I need your prayers

P.S.  I love you

Friday, October 15, 2010

Helen (An Unforgettable Occasion)

Hey look, it’s Friday! Let’s kick things into weekend mode here! Hanging out with people we love – that’s what weekends are for, and here’s Helen  - a true pro at true livin’ - to show us all how it’s done. You know what I like about this story? It’s not just the what, it’s the how. It’s not just the fantastic activities that Helen and her family did together, it’s the little things her son Dwight said throughout the day that really stuck with Helen, and now really stick with me. That’s the real glue – of this story, and of their rock-solid family. What a good son. What a good mom.

Helen H. Lahr
An Unforgettable Occasion
September 30, 2010

The telephone rang and it was Dwight, my son.  A usual, when I hear him say, “Mommy?”, my heart sings.  For years, although he lives miles and miles away, he calls every Sunday and sometimes during the week to check on his sister and me.  Needless to say, we always have a lot to chat about.

This time he said, “We are coming down to spend a few days with you prior to the Labor Day Weekend.  Deidre and I were ecstatic.  She had just spent a lovely vacation with them in New England.

The day of their arrival came and, as usual, our first day together was spent just enjoying each other and sharing tidbits about their recent trip to Spain.  Later that evening, Dwight suddenly said, “All of us will be leaving the house at 11:00 am in the morning.”  He smiled as he said, “Don’t ask any questions.  I will tell you what it is all about tomorrow.”

No amount of prodding brought forth any revelations from my daughter-in-law or my two youngest grandsons who accompanied them.  The next morning we got into the car and headed for Center City, Chestnut Street in Philadelphia.

I insisted upon waiting on a bench while the rest of my family saw Independence Hall, The Liberty Bell, etc.  The children had never seen these attractions.  When they returned we went to the 300 block of Chestnut Street to a pricey and very elite restaurant.  At first, we had refreshments outside at tables with linen tablecloths and huge umbrellas.  Then, we were led by waiters to tables inside.  Food was served in courses and was it delicious.  My daughter-in-law did all of the ordering.  She would explain what each dish was before placing the order.  It was quite an experience.

We returned home and Dwight said we were going to the movies later that night – which we did.  My son explained later that he had wanted his mother and sister in Spain with them (Dwight had tried to get me on a plane, but these days I have a fear of doing so) but since we weren’t, he wanted us to experience what each of their days was like while they were there.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Henrietta (See If You Can Feel This)

You know how I know our seniors are happy? Maybe my thinking is counter-intuitive... but it's because of how much they are willing to share, even about sad things - the giant, unresolvable kind.

Thinking of what to post today, and Henrietta’s poem here really jumped out at me. Maybe it’s because of the changing weather, the slightly slower pace of the city streets, or the homeless man I passed by this morning in front of a handsome mansion. This poem is one that oh yes  - in answer to Henrietta’s question – I can most definitely feel.

Henrietta Faust
See If You Can Feel This

See if you can feel this?
Real as a cold wind and…
A cold wind that is out to blow.

As real as poverty,
But how real now is rich?

Is the wind in your face on a yacht in Monticello really different from
The icy, painful, stinging wind of a pissy New York alley
 In a cardboard box of the homeless?
Is anything as real as poverty?

In a nation of excess opulence and decadence,
The cold-blooded obsession of riches and power are toys.
And now the successful raises up a standard of double-dipping

But Nothing
But poverty is real.
Nothing is as real.
Look at how
The USA gave financial bail-outs.
Now how many still woke up in poverty?

They went to bed 10/14/2008 kings of the hill
And woke up 10/15/2008 broke and lost
Without new jobs and money to deal with $2,000-a-day spas!

One foot in poverty and the other in Hell.
And as real as poverty, but how real now is rich.
And a cold wind is a cold wind all over the world.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Loretta (Good Things in My Life)

Thinking back about Thursday’s field trip, one of my favorite moments is also one of the tiniest. It was when Loretta said to the 8000 square-foot room, “I like this writing class. I used to be sad, but now I’m not.”

Loretta Gaither
Good Things in My Life

  1. I like doing ceramics. I was doing a show out of cardboard with clouds on it. The clouds made me feel beautiful.
  2. This writing class is about what you feel inside.
  3. Beautiful things- going to Penn’s Landing to see the seagulls, calm water, birds made of clay
  4. I like stories about God’s creations.
  5. I like to think about people on the street. Some of them were doctors, lawyers, and people in the army, but now they are on the street. People forget about them.
  6. When you look at birds and animals, you see God.
  7. I like the reactions of children at Penn’s Landing. Talking to them. Sometimes people think I am a baby-sitter until I tell the kids to go back to their families.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Off to the TV & Radio Station!

I promised you an answer in the last blog post, and here it is! So where did our class go today? To the home of Philadelphia’s leading public TV and Radio Station, WHYY. It was a private event we called “Best Day Meets WHYY”, and everything went perfectly. Can I also just slip in here that Willo Carey, Executive Director of WHYY’s Wider Horizons Program, rocks? (Willo – it’s been so much fun working with you, and as we said, this is only the very beginning… I am so excited for more!)

I feel a bit spent because I am so happy. I sometimes feel like an overprotective parent to our seniors, worrying that they would get nervous speaking in public or that they would have difficulty getting on and off the senior center’s minibus. But no, everyone was their normal, radiant selves, with extra spunk of course.

It means so much to us that WHYY basically open their home to us for the day, because it shows us how much they support what we are doing and the fact that they want to get to know us better. We had class in their brand new, state-of-the-art Public Media Commons, where we watched our Youtube video on the big screen, chatted, read, laughed and dropped tears with a number of special guests from WHYY and affiliated organizations. To get a sense of how much fun we had, click Here to check out our photo album from today.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mo (Radio)

Now that you've seen us "in action" on Youtube, you know I'm not exaggerating: we're one rowdy bunch! So yeah, we're pretty excited for our second field trip ever, this Thursday. (Click Here to read about our special trip to Bill Cosby's private filming session last time.) Where to this time around, you ask? Well, read the story below for a big hint. The answer will be revealed in the next blog post!

Mo McCooper

Running home from the playground was necessary because the radio shows were coming on. As the door slammed behind me, my mother had the radio station set for “Superman,” “Jack Armstrong,” “Tennessee Jed,” “Terry and the Pirates” or whatever else was on that day.

After the dinner shows like “the Green Hornet,” “The Shadow,” “Mr. District Attorney,” and “Sherlock Holmes” were incredible. Adult shows like “The Inner Sanctum,” “The Fat Man,” and “Suspense” were great.

By sometime in high school, I’d go to Uncle Tony and Aunt Nancy’s to watch TV once or twice a week. Louie Spinell, other friends, and I would go to Rob Eisen Brey’s grandparent’s apartment to watch the all Thursday night TV shows by ourselves. Very few of the TV shows that were also radio shows were any good. No one actor could be “The Lone Ranger” let alone “The Shadow.”

“Gun Smoke” was an exception. Our ideas of the radio characters were too vivid for TV actors to portray. Different voices made it even more difficult.