Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Helen (February)

Ooh, can’t let February – special leap day and all – go by without posting Helen’s story about her wonderful and very precious gift ;) I remember that the very first story Helen ever wrote in this class, back in 2009, was about that very gift too. I remember that the beauty of her story took my breath away. Click Here to read it.

Helen H. Lahr

It’s February! It’s February! Why am I stressing on putting so much emphasis on the second month of the year? Well, because to me it is one of the most important months in my life. I will tell you why.

My first baby (a wonderful and very precious gift) was born on the 6th of February. He has grown up to be a loving and devoted son and father and he has made us extremely proud of him.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hazel (Senior Show Day)

Alright, who is ready to rock out with Hazel?

Hazel Nurse
Senior Show Day

Come seniors at our age,
Let’s all take the center stage.

We’ll roll the years back
And, give our youth a big whack!

No more babies to kick and scream,
Often interrupting a truly good dream.

Mo more paying for a ride
We hop on Septa with a stride!

Mo more losing of teens because we are old,
We’ll find their good works and let them be told.

No more job to guide our life,
We’ll all sleep late minus the strife.

Twenty-four hours all made for us –
To live and love without any fuss!

Writing is fun since we know how!
It’s time to go!  Let’s take a bow!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Aileen (Clothes and Their Importance to the Ego)

The Oscars were last night, and the stars looked rightfully glam. This post goes out to all you Oscar fashion fans!

I wish you guys could all squeeze around our table sometimes, because besides their awesome voices, I get to take in our seniors’ awesome outfits every week. We have so many snazzy dressers. Helen is one, reinventing color combinations that rival the cover of any fashion magazine. Then there is sassy Beatrice, who always has something funky going on with her sideways bun. And representing our gentlemen – Michael, who always wears a pressed shirt with a tie, and sports a perfectly combed do. And I’ve got to tell you guys what Bobby (Robert L.) told me – it is so funny. He told me that his brother who checks on the blog (hi, Bobby’s Brother!!) from Hong Kong, used to point out to Bobby that he was wearing the same shirt every week, so Bobby got himself a whole new wardrobe to look snazzy for our blog. Is that not the coolest?

Here now is Aileen, a true lover of fashion with a designer's eye, giddy over her trip to Manhattan and explaining why!

Aileen Jefferson
So This is Manhattan

The expectancy I enjoyed: a trip to New York. Bergdorf-Goodman, Henri Bendel, Neiman Marcus and then I thought – expense.  Who would be the easiest prey?  Mother? Daddy?  Neither?  Isn't there a distant relative I could cajole?  My head was swimming with thoughts of Bergdorf-Goodman and the other high end fashion.  How do I get to these fashionable houses?  Where are they? Where in New York?  And I am so knowledgeable of fashion houses I said with a smirk. The excitement of the purchase pleases me, the price confounds me.  For the first time in my life I am where I belong. My Children, all three of them, are amazed at my savvy familiarity with the city.

Aileen Jefferson
Clothes and Their Importance to the Ego

Think of the effect of new clothes to the ego.

From a psychological point of view, clothes play a vital part in our self worth.

Consider the advantages of new clothes:
“I feel pretty, o so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and gay…” from the Broadway play “West Side Story”, lyrics Stephen Sondheim; music L.B. and I am going to give him all the credit.

Now because of this I am going to wear my special outfit which is also pretty, witty, and gay.

Therefore, you mothers remember the importance of your offsprings’ clothing as you dress them for morning class.

And as they say, “clothes make the man”.

You ladies can take care of yourselves.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mr. Robert (Mentors)

I remember that when Mr. Robert read this story out loud in class, with each mentor’s name he read, his voice grew another notch stronger. We were sitting at a table, but we could have been at an award ceremony. Robert is on stage, honoring the people who changed his life. His story is our imaginary auditorium. I am watching and smiling from the audience because even though I have never met these people, I am so grateful for the grateful man whom they have helped to shape. I can’t wait to tell Robert when I see him that this story is up on the blog, so that he can show some of his mentors. I can’t wait for them to realize how much they mean to him.

Robert Mitchell

Mr. Williams -   Growing up as a teenager in the mean streets of Philadelphia, in the 60’s during the gang war and street fights era, I learned how to be accountable for your growing up.  P.S. Mr. Williams is the father of the  D.A. for the city of Philadelphia (Seth Williams)

My 8th Grade Reading Teacher – Who taught me how to read and spell words as you hear them.

My Mother – Who raised me to be respectful around adults and people in general, right from wrong, love for family and how to adapt when you go into the work force.

The Military – which taught me how to take care of myself, go to work, gave me 3 meals a day, how to keep my area tidy, wash my clothes, and how to be all you can be.

Ms. Bryant, Ms. Young, Ms. Sampson - These are women in my life who gave me the initiative to better myself in the work force.  Ms. Sampson was also my financial consultant.

My Wife, aka home girl, - was there for me when I was in the “Lost and Found” until she claimed me, and taught me how to balance a check book. 

These are the mentors in my life from who I learned and fed from their energy. 


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Norman (Foots)

I love it when our senior buds tell stories about how they went against tradition in their youth and instead went with their heart. And decades later, through stories, they are here to tell us that they are still sticking to their decisions. I really love that. Below is Norman’s memory of how everyone gave him a tough time for choosing to attend a certain high school.

Norman Cain

1954. When I decided to attend high school, I broke a neighborhood tradition by not choosing West Philadelphia High School or Overbrook High School. Instead I chose John Bartram High School. The neighborhood youth were not impressed with my decision. To them it was as if I was abandoning the crew and had become a traitor.

Two peers, a girl and a boy, let me know how they and others felt about my decision to attend Bartram. First Vivian, a senior at Overbrook High, who was four years older than I and who was a play-big-sister and former babysitter voiced her displeasure with me. Her main argument was Bartram’s low rating in the high school athlete system; because, after all, Wilt Chamberlin was a product of Overbrook.

The next person to question my decision was my next-door neighbor, Jimmy, who was a freshman at Overbrook. His message did not contain anything about sports, but rather, safety. He said that I would have to cross 49th and Woodland on route to Bartram. He went on to say how this corner was dangerous, mentioning names of some of its most notorious members, among them, Foots. I still opted to attend Bartram. Once there, I did run into Foots, he was a senior and was not a terror. He became my mentor, best friend, daughter’s Godfather, etc.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Little Mo (Without Permission)

Let’s keep cheering for the lil’ guys… and girls!! Watch out, here comes Little Miss Mo! Our joke in class is that Miss Mo’s stories can ALL be titled “Without Permission” because she was constantly getting into trouble with her parents ;)

Missouri Grier
Without Permission

My mother told me to go up to her room and get her purse.  On the table also were my father’s car keys.  So I took the keys also.  On the way to the store, there was the garage, so I went to the store, came out with my purse and went into the garage to see if I could start the car.  It did and I went through the door.  Slowly.  A man saw me, jumped on the running board, reached in and pulled the key out.  He backed the car back and told me, “Tell your father to fix the door.”

Monday, February 20, 2012

Big Mo (The Locker)

To start out our week with an oomph… proof from Big Mo that good friends are stronger than mean bullies!

Mo McCooper
The Locker

Freshman lockers for books and clothes were located under the stands in the gym. We each had a combination lock but some of us needed a match or lighter to see the numbers on the lock. There was no light under there. Ninth graders were warned that bullies would probably try to borrow money from us under the stands. Being under five feet tall and under 100 pounds made me a target. My dad had taught me a little about boxing but some of the other students were almost full grown.

One morning I felt a strong hand on my shoulder and a strange voice asking me for a quarter. Before I could tell him I only had enough for my soda another voice said: “Whatever you’re asking him, ask me first.” It was my best friend Louie Spinelli who was five-foot-eleven and around 150 pounds.  The other guy left and never came back.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Beatrice (Writing from the Heart and Talking)

As my team and I work hard to take this project to the next level (please click Here to see how you can help!) I find it more important than ever for myself to sit back and set aside quiet time to reread our growing collection of seniors’ stories. I want to really understand what this project means to them, to really let their voices show us where this project should go. I remember when Beatrice read this story out loud in class, I remember jumping up and cheering with the rest of my senior buds. And now in the context of the project’s growth, it means even more. Sometimes you need someone to talk with, and it’s good to talk to people your age.  But then it’s also good to talk to the younger generations.  It’s good to connect. 

Beatrice Newkirk
Writing from the Heart and Talking

Writing from the heart.

When you write down things, you are getting a load off your chest.  Sometimes people keep things to themselves.  They carry it for years. 

If only people would just talk to someone.  They let important things go so long.  People can help each other by listening to other people’s stories.  Sometimes people want to talk to someone, but they are afraid to trust other people.  That is the main thing I am talking about.

Some people don’t want to let go.  Like when you lose someone or lots of family members.

No one gets over losing a loved one or a special friend.  Sometimes it’s hard losing a neighbor.  When you grow up with a real friend, and when they are taken from you, you feel so bad.

I had a special friend.  He was always worrying about me.

Sometimes you need someone to talk with, and it’s good to talk to people your age.  But then it’s also good to talk to the younger generation.  It’s good to connect. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Loretta (Long Lost Love)

And now, a love story which paused for 30 years… but may just be starting up again.

Loretta Gaither
Long Lost Love

When I was younger (around 25 years of age) I was raising my 5 kids and he was working at the gas company.  He was a friend of mine.  He asked me out to go to the dance clubs.  I had an abusive boyfriend before I met him, and he talked to me and helped me end the relationship with the abusive boyfriend.  Sunny Bell is the name of my true love.  I saw him this morning at the Independent Living Home where I live now.  He is living there too.  I was so surprised and so was he.  He wanted to hug me and I said no because I didn’t want to get in trouble with the staff.  I don’t know what will happen next but I am glad to see him again.  I hadn’t seen him for 30 years. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Joe (Honey Girl, Part 2)

Love is forever. Joe is living proof ;)
Joe Garrison
Honey Girl, Part 2

(I left off last time by writing about how I told her I loved her . . .)

When I left her that day, I felt like I was walking on air. I still can’t find the words to convey the happiness I was feeling at the time. The holiday season felt more joyful and meaningful. I waited for Christmas morning as though I was a child waiting for Santa. I was just waiting to make a telephone call to her to tell her Merry Christmas, but that was enough to make the entire day mean more to me than any other year.

When I dialed her number she answered right away. She told me how much she enjoyed the Christmas present I had given her (a heart-shaped pendant and a bottle of red wine). She had given me an ornament on a gold chain with a design that represented faith, hope and love.  We talked for about 20 minutes.

I went to visit my cousin Sherry that day and told her all about it. Sherry was a big part of this because she helped me pick out Debra’s gift. (Pardon me for being a little nervous telling this story because there is so much I want to express and I am trying to figure out how.)

There is so much I want to say, let me end with this: I will always keep the memory of that Christmas and Debra’s sweetness for as long as I live.

Click Here for part 1 of Joe’s story about his Honey Girl.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Arthur (Broken Hearts)

Hugs and kisses are in the air today, and I like it! But I was thinking it would be nice to take a moment from the giddiness of Valentine’s Day and remember a story about real relationships. Here is some timeless advice from our deceased and well-missed writing class member, Arthur, written after our Seniors’ Storytelling Day event in response to some of our audience members’ comments. (Click Here to see some more comments from the day.) Have a lovely day everyone!

Arthur Murray
Broken Hearts

Outside of being nervous Sunday November 14 everyone was so nice and the people that came were very nice. I don’t know where to begin. I was excited and nervous. Also the event staff and volunteers were so nice.

Well, two audience members asked about what to do or how to react on a broken heart. I myself believe when or if your heart gets broken, first you must pray and ask your Lord and Savior to help you, guide you and he will answer your prayers. Keep faith in him, you can’t let the joneses get you down. It may be good to have an ace in the hole, (smile) to have more than one friend to relate to. Sometime we think we’re doing alright until we drop our guards down. In life you never, you never know, what tomorrow brings. I would love to know more about the situations that brought you the broken hearts.

As for myself, I have experienced it five times, on and off. 1973 was the last time we broke up. Every time I had my heart broken, I started singing more. So, I'd say, fall on the next thing you love to do in life. Get off a bus; get on another. I changed my surroundings by meeting new people in life, new love, new people, new energy. Mainly keep God in your life no matter who tells you not to. I don’t have to worry or regret anything now. I feel good whenever I do something good in life to help someone.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hattie (Loves of My Life)

Hattie knows whom we can count on to power up our silly Valentine’s Day spirit… our littlest sweethearts!

Hattie Lee Ellerbe
Loves of My Life

I am thinking of two little people who think that I have just as much energy as they do and have answers to all of their questions.

Aaron is my great-grandson. He is almost four. He is always happy to see me and gives me big hugs. I don’t even have to ask for them.

Ari Yanna is my great-great-granddaughter and has to be coaxed to give hugs or kisses but when she feels like it, she is all over me. Ari Yanna is going on 3 yrs. and loves to write with a pen and make pictures. She calls my “Triple G”. Yesterday, I gave her bubble packing material and told her to jump on it. Pop-Pop-Pop!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mo (A Sailor Boy's Sweetheart)

Hey look, it's almost Valentine's Day!! I guarantee you guys will all LOVE Mo's sweetheart story. In fact, let's have a little fun and do a mini series of romantically themed stories - we'll read some that were freshly written in recent weeks, and some written in previous years that are just as relevant now. Whether you are celebrating with a significant other, family, or friends, kicking back at home, dealing with a recent heartbreak, or waiting for love, our seniors have got something for everyone!

Mo McCooper
A Sailor Boy’s Sweetheart

During World War II, my dad’s little brother John served in combat with the U.S. Army. The family had a party in a large back room of a restaurant somewhere in Philadelphia. Dad’s 4 brothers and 4 sisters were there. About 6 other grandchildren were there. All the aunts and unvles sany songs and most danced. Suddenly into the room came this big broad-shouldered lady who must have weighed over 200 pounds, singing “I’m only a Sailor Boy’s sweetheart but I’m proud of my sailor boy.”

It was Uncle John with pillows stuffed in his coat and a wig borrowed from a mop.  To me he was hilarious.  Best of all he came home safe and sound from the War!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

From Wharton, with Love

A lot of times, I get emotional talking about how much I love this project, and my senior buds, but when Thelma and I met with the five graduate students who make up our Wharton team, it was the students’ personal stories that made my eyes water. I was so moved by what Roger, Toral, Martha, Leslie and Vikas said, that I’ve asked them to write it down here, for you all to read.

It’s not easy to show your feelings when you are going to an Ivy League university and the top business school in the world. But when these students introduced themselves to Thelma and me, not only did they tell us about their academic and professional experiences, they shared stories about what The Best Day of My Life (So Far) means to them, personally. What they shared meant a lot to me, because ultimately our project’s mission is to use seniors’ stories to create an inclusive, intergenerational conversation – and through the process build up both seniors and younger generations simultaneously. Well, looks like this conversation now includes five very cool, very smart graduate students with very big hearts.

Check out our last blog post if you haven’t yet to read Thelma’s introduction of our Wharton initiative, and why this marks a significant moment in The Best Day of My Life (So Far)’s growth.

Thank you, guys, for sharing your stories and for coming on board. Really, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Roger:  During the summers of my youth, I would spend time working at my parents’ business, which was located in a retirement community.  It was there I listened to seniors tell me stories ranging from grand experiences of fighting in wars and growing up during the great depression to simple life in rural Texas.  Those stories brought history to life for me, made me appreciate things, and gave me a much broader perspective on life.  For me, their stories and other seniors’ stories are so enriching and need to be communicated in a way that lasts forever, hence, TBDOMLSF and my fondness for being involved.

Toral:  I felt that The Best Day of My Life So Far resonated with me on a deeply personal level. Growing up, I spent countless phone calls and visits with my grandmother listening to stories from her life.  From those, I learned invaluable lessons and built memories with my grandmother that defines our relationship to this day.  I believe in the impact that storytelling can have on the storyteller and their audience, and I love that TBDOMLSF is building a community around sharing stories.

Martha:  I belong to a family of very good story tellers and have always appreciated and enjoyed the time spent in their company. So The Best Day of My Life (So Far) appealed to this or my sense of building relationships and knowing people better. As we live in a sometimes very disconnected world, it seems what TBDOMLSF is trying to do is be surrounded by people who can share life experiences and know each other at a deeper level.

Leslie:  The neighborhood I grew up in wasn’t rich, but it was very closely-knit.  People’s grandparents lived with them, or at most a few streets over.  I’d go over to friends’ houses and their grandparents would be there in the kitchen.  Seniors were part of everyone’s family, everyone’s household.  We could talk whenever we wanted, and they enriched us.  The best stories come from those who’ve seen a lot of life. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long since those days, but now I don’t know many households that include grandparents.  I think we’ve lost something important.  So how do we get it back?

Vikas:  In the past I've worked to support childhood and adult education, so TBDOMLSF is a wonderful opportunity for me to continue working towards education and enrichment for people at every stage of life.  I look forward to meeting the rest of the TBDOMLSF team and working to deepen our impact within the community.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Meet Thelma and Our Wharton Team!

In the last blog post, I unveiled our project vision. Here now, is our wonderful research officer Thelma Reese – who btw is proudly and beautifully 78 years old – unveiling our first step of action. I met Thelma when she sat in on our class a few months ago (yup, that's her with the cool denim shirt!), after which she immediately joined our team. Her enthusiasm is contagious, her experience is impressive, and I am so honored to have her leading our Wharton initiative. Thank you Thelma for being you and for everything you do.

Yesterday was an important day in the development of The Best Day of My Life (So Far).  Five exceptionally intelligent, experienced, and caring University of Pennsylvania graduate students have chosen our program to work with in their spring semester. Roger Huang, Toral Kothari, Leslie Tullis, and Vikas Sekhri, all students at Wharton Business School, and Martha Heuser, at the School of Social and Public Policy, met with their instructor, Katie Krimmel, Benita, and me to begin their plan of action.

Before starting their graduate studies, these students all had successful experience in professional world, including private equity banking, investment banking, historical preservation, and volunteer work. Their objective is to develop the kind of materials that will help us all (including you, blogreaders!) spread the word about TBDOMLSF, and attract the donations required for our planned expansion.

The students will be visiting the writing group at the senior center and speaking with many experts, supporters, and admirers of TBDOMLSF.  I am personally very excited to be working with them and with Katie Krimmel on their project. If you are interested in speaking with our students, please contact our PR Manager Emily Antoszyk ( to set up a conversation.

BTW How did I get here?  After many years of working in and for educational institutions, government, consulting for businesses and non-profits, and now having a blog ( and writing a book, TBDOMLSF is simply the most exciting program on the horizon.  It’s bringing together everything I care about as it brings people of very different ages together and expands all horizons within a truly inspired vision.

Stay tuned for a moving blog post by the students about why each of them has chosen to participate in this project.

Thelma Reese, Ed. D.
Research Officer
The Best Day of My Life (So Far)