Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Field Trip to... the Computer Lab!

Hope you had a nice holiday weekend and are as ready for summer as we are!

As we gear up towards our 6/29 satellite launch event and our 7/13-8/31 satellite class sessions (click Here to see the flier - woohoo!), my senior buddies in our original class continue to kick things up a notch. By their popular demand, we've started a new tradition: special class sessions where we meet at the computer lab to read their stories out loud straight from this very blog! Below are some photos from our first session. Stay tuned for Beatrice's reflections of the day, and click Here to see the rest of our Facebook albums!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

6/29 is Our Best Day So Far and YOU are Invited

Please come and help us celebrate! To support our right to party ;) and stay updated on details, please like/follow us on Facebook/Twitter and repost our announcement. Find out more by visiting our exciting new satellite blog: www.OurBestDaySoFar.com

As usual, chat with us via Facebook. For a digital copy of the flier, email our PR Manager emily@thebestdayofmylifesofar.com. Thanks and hope to see you on JUNE 29!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Say Hi to... OurBestDaySoFar.com !!

And now, the news I’ve kept you waiting for, graciously announced by our Liason Officer and my super friend Ashley Humienny. We are SOOOO pumped about this and hope you are too! Check out our satellite blog OurBestDaySoFar.com and help us spread the word – we need you to cheer us on ;) WOOHOO!!

Ashley Humienny
Our Best Day So Far

One of the first things that I noticed about Benita was how easily the concept of friendship comes to her.  Some people are naturals at golf, some at physics or at cooking; Benita is a natural at friendship.  She has an innate, unaffected knack for bringing people together, and bringing you closer to her.

This was a quick lesson for me as I was introduced to The Best Day of My Life (So Far) and began my own friendship with both the project and with Benita.  In time I came to think of my work with Best Day as one of the most “natural” parts of my day, much like the class had become to its participants.  It soon became difficult to believe that the phenomenon that is our storytelling “program” wasn’t in every school, senior center, and rec club across the country.

There is no doubt that this project is aching to grow, expand, and take on new forms.  One of both Benita and my concerns was that this idea – this “baby” – would stay true to itself and its mission as we took off its training wheels.  Any offshoot of Best Day would need to feel totally organic.

It is with this in mind that I am tremendously proud to announce The Best Day of My Life (So Far)’s prototype satellite program, “Our Best Day So Far”, sponsored by AARP Pennsylvania in partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia.  This satellite class, beginning in July 2011 at the Central Parkway branch of the Free Library, aims to take the original and revolutionary programming from The Best Day of My Life (So Far) and create a more compact, customizable model that can be reproduced in various sites all over the world.  Along with "Our Best Day So Far"s two class co-leaders, the wonderful Amy and Brendan, we will have our very own teen intern Madi Garvin updating us via her satellite blog OurBestDaySoFar.com throughout the summer.

In terms of being a “natural” next step, our partnership with AARP Pennsylvania and the Free Library of Philadelphia fits the bill perfectly. Both AARP and FLP have consistently emphasized the need to create livable communities that give its members opportunities for growth and new experiences. We could not imagine a better way to introduce our new model than through two of the most influential institutions in Philadelphia.

So keep an eye out for announcements about “Our Best Day So Far” and the amazing events and parties that we’ll be rolling out this summer!  Please feel free to email our PR Manager Emily@thebestdayofmylifesofar.com if you have any ideas or want to get involved!

Thanks again for everything, and I will see you soon.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Note from Benita - BIG news on its way!

Hi readers!!

Want to hear something BIG? In partnership with AARP Pennsylvania and Free Library of Philadelphia, The Best Day of My Life (So Far) is excited to announce the launch of our official prototype satellite. This is something we've been developing behind the scenes for over half a year. We are so excited because this satellite marks a big step towards our vision and plans for long-term project sustainability.

To find out what this initiative is all about, stick around for a blog post later this week by our Liason Officer Ashley Humienny, who has been a sheer powerhouse in the conception and implementation of this satellite. Ashley will be unveiling a dedicated satellite blog that we've built... narrated by someone very special, whom I am personally very proud of.

Loads more coming soon! Time to buckle up - awesome ride ahead!

BIG Smiles, Benita

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hazel (Happy Tears)

Happy weekend, everyone! Let’s make summer get here faster with one more story. This one brings me right back to my teenage summer jobs too, does it for you? And hey, guess what? Speaking of summer breaks… we have GIANT news to announce ;) Stay tuned!

Hazel Nurse
Happy Tears

It was refreshing always to embrace the last day of school in June.  However, we college students hurried home to apply for summer waitress jobs freely available at the seashore.
We were carefully coached by a head waitress not to complain as we supported loaded trays on one arm before reaching our stands.

After exhausting work on one July evening, I trudged home planning to take my clean uniform off of the clothesline and iron it for the next day.

The house was dark as I unlocked the door but the sound of loud, screaming voices saying “Happy Birthday, Hazel!” traumatized me.  The tears flew as I shook uncontrollably in happiness.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mo (Chocolate Chip Cookies)

The sun is out in Philly! Who’s in the mood for fun, games and homemade snacks?

Mo McCooper
Chocolate Chip Cookies

Starting in the summer between 7th and 8th grade when I was still under 5 feet tall, I would hide in a big bunch of bushes next to the town playground and find tennis balls before the owners came to look for them.

If the balls were brand new we would get another kid to return them. The others we took to streets in the north end of town where usually an older kid, better with a knife than us would cut the ball in ½.  Usually teams of 3 would then play ½ ball with broom handles as bats.  I was awful at this game.  The worst pitchers could strike me out every time.

One of the reasons I put up with being the butt of the jokes and the last one chosen was the food which the neighbors would bring out to us on the sidewalks.  Lemonade, iced tea, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and other tasty treats.  But the finest food of all was Bobby Neely’s mother’s homemade chocolate chip cookies and homemade iced tea with real lemons and fresh mint.  FANTASTIC!!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Joe and Olivia (Vision)

There is nothing more inspiring to me than a senior's pure, honest voice…well, maybe just one thing. When that voice reaches the ears of a teen, and she starts to speak out loud, too.

Last week, 17-year-old Olivia and her 15-year-old friend Shi came to our class during their spring break. When Joe needed help handwriting his story, Olivia listened, wrote and read it loud for him. After class, the girls stuck around and took a million photos with the seniors. We all had so much fun. Then after going home, Olivia wrote and sent me her reflections below. Vision. That word has just taken on layer after layer of new meaning.

Joe Garrison

One afternoon I was getting on a bus, waiting for a seat when some well-meaning person offered to take me to a seat.  However, he sat me on someone’s lap.  I was embarrassed and the person I sat on was angry.  I in turn was angry at the person who supposedly was trying to help me.  I could smell alcohol on his breath.  He said to me, “What are you arguing with me about?  You can’t even see!”

Another incident was when someone asked me if I wished I could see.  The moral of the story is I don't have physical sight, but I believe I can see.  If I am in your presence or I experience being with you, then I see you.  If I understand what you are telling me, then I see.  To see means to understand.  Movies and television are just as enjoyable to me as they are to you.

Olivia S. Brown

I’m used to hearing stories about “a party last night”, the “latest school gossip”, or what’s “hot” and what’s “not”, but I rarely get to sit and hear stories as simple, but inspiring, as those shared with me during my recent visit to Philadelphia Senior Center.

One may get to hear stories similar to those I heard last week every now and then in a blog, article or documentary, but there was something special in hearing them first-hand—from people sitting right across from you set in a backdrop of so many unique personalities and characters.
I was most inspired by the stories told to me by the visually impaired in the room.  They appeared to look at things from ways no one else could see.  Although they were blind, I discovered that I was the one who couldn’t see after I was enlightened by their insight. 

Overall I left the meeting thinking I need more people like them in my life.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Jill’s Goodbye

We had an extra special class this past Thursday. The seniors planned and hosted a sendoff for our Public Education Coordinator, Jill, whom you have probably seen in many of our Facebook photos (how can you miss that fabulous red hair?!) While Jill will continue working on our project digitally, she is moving to Australia and we’re going to miss her so much!! The seniors and I have already made plans to Skype her into class, and give her (well…her face on the laptop screen) a seat, as we did for Wally the Walrus (check out that blog post from a couple weeks ago!)

For me, personally, one of the most special parts of this project is one that I never could have expected before starting it – the friendships I have gained with the magnificent individuals who make up my team. And Jill is someone I consider a truly great friend. Funny thing is, I would never have known her if she had not reached out to me offering to help with this project a little over a year ago. Not only has she given me invaluable professional social work advice, she has given me continual personal emotional support (oh yeah, you can ask her, she’s taken quite a few “please help” phone calls from me…)

And so, Jill: Best wishes for what’s to come. Thank you for everything you do for this project, and more importantly for being my friend. See you on Skype!

Jill Chonody
Jill’s Goodbye

Sing it again!

How many times in your life are you serenaded? Once. Maybe twice. I lost count today around 5.

How often do you get to hear how people really feel about you? Once a week? A month? A year?

How often does it happen that a group of friends gather together to wish you well?

My friends at the senior center did all of these things for me today, but over the course of the past year or so that I’ve known them, they’ve done so much more. They have welcomed me into their fold, laughed with me, shared their stories, and allowed me to be a small part in their lives.

So as I leave for my new journey to Australia, I keep each and every one of these special people in my heart and in my mind. I will remember the hugs and kisses, the experiences we’ve had together, and most of all your kindness. When I’m missing the group, I’ll watch our video and I’ll keep visiting the blog so I can keep up with all your adventures.

Be on the lookout for a koala! He’ll be coming your way soon!!

Hattie Lee Ellerbe
An Oxymoron:  A Happy Sad Farewell

To Jill . . . . “our Jill”.

It is with happiness and joy that we wish you farewell.

Although we feel a little sad, we are very happy for you.  Good luck . . . God bless you and keep in touch.  The tears are going to come . . . .

Love you so much Jill!!!

We hope to stay in touch.

Love, Hattie Lee Ellerbe