Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Suzanne (Seniority Rules)

“If you're like me and never had a strong grandmother or grandfather figure in your life, this is a first glance into an older generation's perspective.”

Readers, have I ever told you we love your feedback? Yup, we love it all, whether it’s via Facebook, Twitter, email… or your own blogs!

Thanks, Suzanne, for reaching out to me via email earlier this month and for your recent reflections about us on your blog! A Pennsylvania social worker, Suzanne Nelson’s passion is to use using her writing and social media skills to create awareness about nonprofit agencies led by professional women. Read on or click Here to see what she just posted about us on her blog, Freshly Hashed.

So Readers, keep reading… and writing! Like Us on FB to post a quick comment, or email me directly at if you'd like to talk more!

Suzanne Nelson
Seniority Rules

As a culture, Americans dread the concept of aging. I'll be honest: I truly dislike this perspective. It suggests that our "real lives" are over with after just a few decades. What if our misconceptions could be corrected by connecting generations through swapping stories and memories?

Benita Cooper, architect and blogger, was interested by her grandmother's tales of her childhood. Hearing these stories made her closer to her grandmother and she realized how much she valued knowing this history.

Soon after, she began a project called, The Best Day of My Life (So Far). She runs workshops and writing classes for seniors to share and record their memories into prose, poetry or anything. Family members and folks from all generations are welcome to join in. The finished writing is posted on the group's blog.

And you know what? It's fun to read. Most of the writing is narratives with vivid descriptions. It's writing that obviously flows straight from the experience of living. Some pieces might swell up your emotions a bit too. If you're like me and never had a strong grandmother or grandfather figure in your life, this is a first glance into an older generation's perspective.

Benita is slowly taking this project towards her long-term vision:

“Imagine a world where storytelling classes like ours sprout up in countless senior centers, and one by one seniors become stronger and happier and begin opening up about their lives and feelings.

“Imagine a world where family members spread across cities and continents can get online and search for all the stories that a senior has written about his childhood, to find out things about him and their ancestry that they had never known.

“Imagine this family starting to talk – to the senior, and to one another. Imagine family relationships rekindling with each conversation.

“Imagine a high school teacher sharing these seniors’ stories with a group of teenagers on a projection screen, and a teenager going home to her laptop to read on. Imagine this teenager listening, really listening, to the life lessons embedded in these stories. Imagine her posting a comment for the senior on the other side of the world who wrote her favorite story, telling the senior that he has inspired her to be a better person.

“Imagine people like you and me, no matter our age, ethnicity, occupation, mood of the day, frustrations, inhibitions, popping open an easy-to-use website with all these stories whenever we just need a little more sunshine in our lives.”

Now, that's a world that I'd like to be more of a part of.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Joe and Vikas (Last Train to City Hall)

“This is gonna help me get over my fears.”

That’s what Vikas, one of our dedicated Wharton Business School students said on Youtube about Joe’s story. Joe can’t see so Vikas sat and handwrote with him and as he told this story verbally.

A few months ago, we introduced you to our Wharton team who has been working (HARD!) with us to clarify our project vision and refine our (MAJOR!) expansion plans. Click Here and Here to meet them again, and join our mailing list (see blog sidebar) to get the inside scoop on the really, really exciting stuff that we are up to behind the scenes.

And guess what? After class, Vikas came up to me and volunteered to go home and type up Joe’s story as a special copy-editor-for-the-week. For me, that is so above and beyond what he had originally signed up for, well beyond what he is getting graded on for his grad school semester project. It shows me that there are no bystanders in this project. By observing – whether it’s through our class, our events, or this very blog post – everyone is taking part. The Best Day of My Life (So Far) is not just about seniors. The Best Day is my wish every day for all of us.

Joe Garrison
Last Train to City Hall

There is a time when I used to travel a lot by subway.   I don’t do it anymore because of my fear of falling on the tracks.

One day, I was on the way to buy a gift for Debra and I was supposed to get off at the City Hall stop.  But, I misjudged and got off at the Vine Street stop.  Vine Street is the loneliest stop on the subway.  As soon as I realized this I followed the train but it left before I got to the bottom of the stairs.  I was in the middle of the platform with only tracks on both sides.  There was no one around me.  I could hear voices in the distance but I didn’t dare to move an inch.  I found a pillar and held on to it with my dear life.   I was frozen in fear.  I waited for the next train and got on it quickly.

To this day, I don’t ride trains anymore.

Lesson: The lesson is fear is a hard thing to lose.  The fear never leaves you whatever you do to fight it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mo (Playgrounds)

I am sitting here at my laptop, with the window wide open and the springtime breeze coming in, imagining myself at the playground with Mo and all the shorter kids…. At 5’-4”, I am not quite dunk-ready but always ready to play!

Mo McCooper

Until at least 7th grade we younger and smaller kids had to get to the basketball at the town playground after breakfast because the older kids and some men would take over by lunchtime and stay until late afternoon. Four ½ court games would be going on. Losing teams sat for at least one game. Winners advanced to the number one or could “HOLD” the winners court more than a few games.

After we were KICKED OFF all the courts as the older guys arrived we headed for the elementary school playground to play two ½ court games and if kicked off there we knew several driveways with a basket where we could play most of the time.

My cousin Joey was 3 years older than me and I was one of the shortest players so I hardly got to watch him play. It was tough not watching my idol but I had to play to get better.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Hazel and Beatrice (The Hold)

Writing and listening… keeps the doctor away!! Yay, to Hazel and Beatrice coming to class, rain or shine. Or wind!

Hazel Nurse
The Hold

This writing and storytelling group must have a hold on me!

After deciding not to venture out today, I suddenly opted to disobey the doctor and take a chance on letting the wind affect my health.  Oddly enough daffodils are blooming in the lot next door this early in March. 
So today, I’ll just sit back and enjoy listening to you.

Beatrice Newkirk
Our Special Class

Our special class is our writing class. We have so many things to be thankful for: just being able to be here, waking up this morning, being able to come to this class again. I can’t wait to hear our members’ stories. We have so much fun. Everyone is special.  We love getting together here and hearing every one’s story.  I can’t wait until next Thursday at one o’clock.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Oh yeah we are Youtube-crazy!

Ever since I (finally) got an iphone over the holidays, my senior buds and I have been taking silly videos on it. So yes, our group has officially become Youtube fanatics! Whenever I ask if they want to do a class photo or video, they scream, "Video!"

So, for a good laugh and a big smile,

Check out our Youtube channel: bestdaysofar

And better yet, Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter so you can receive feeds of new videos (and good old-fashioned photos) right as they are posted. BTW, you guys all know stories on this blog get streamed right to Facebook and Twitter, too, right? So yes, if you read this blog regularly, please do connect with us via Facebook and Twitter for all these reasons!!

One more reason! Our seniors check out all our class' pages - Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and they love seeing all your profile pics ;) It lets them know you guys are reading their stories and cheering for them, and it really does mean everything to them. Where else did you think they get all their energy from? It's all 'cause of you guys. Thanks for making my buds so happy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Little Mo (Changed Minds)

“You made me think, thank you.” What if Miss Mo wasn’t sitting on her front steps that day? What would have happened to this young man and the lives he was about to destroy? From Little Miss Mo, one of the funniest and littlest people under the sun, a story that changed more lives that we would ever know.

Missouri Grier
Change Minds

One day I was sitting on my front steps.  This man was coming down the street, talking loud to himself, he stopped when he got to me.  “Hello Miss”, he said.  “Have you ever been so mad as to want to kill somebody?”  I looked at him about 3 minutes then said if I did that you would not be talking to me.  First stop and think, if I killed him or her, would I be destroying myself.  He or she would not be worth me giving up my freedom for anybody.  He thanked me and said, “You made me think, thank you.”

Monday, March 12, 2012

Gloria and Aileen (Whispers and Hues of Spring)

Time to say hello to spring! To get us in the mood, here are our Mommy and Daughter. For those of you who are new to the blog, Gloria has always come to class with her mom, Aileen, every week, and written her own stories too. Oh no, my silly senior buds and I don’t call them by name, we all call them Mommy and Daughter!  This pair of "spring" stories was the first time they wrote together on the same topic as a collaborative project at home, so these stories will always be special for me. Along with springtime colors and fragrances, the love between mommies and daughters is most definitely in the air.

Gloria Washington
Whispers of Spring

The beckoning memory of a sleeveless silk garment. The freedom to eschew winter’s rough-hewn woolen layers…

The twinkle of manicured toes in violet-hued espadrilles. The breath released at the warming sun. Frivolity and capriciousness caused and inspired by long daylight hours. Nature’s buds of beauty awakened and unfurled…street musicians staccato beat. Crisp salads and ruby-kissed fruits flowing from harvest’s horn of plenty.

Romance and laughter and sunshine and freedom. Right around the corner, the season beckons. It will be spring. Hope and magic flourishing unbridled.

Aileen Jefferson
Colorful Hues of Spring

Lovely skirts, bright blouses, colorful shirts giving spring its best display of our clothing. An aura of fancy fashions on the most lovely models alive. Youth displaying clothes by our most clever designers. Gorgeous pinks, warm lavenders among our most brilliant shades of peach. All being worn the following spring days of May. Silks shimmering among the shades of cornflower yellow not to be overshadowed by hues of red and magenta all to be heralded by the summer sun. The palettes of our most brilliant artists out shining themselves. Natural cottons announcing their display of summer.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Isadora (The Best Day of My Life So Far)

Back in October, we mourned the passing of Isadora’s daughter from cancer. I thought I should check in and let you all know that Isadora has been so resilient and strong and doing very well.

She still starts every story with, “The sun is shining.” Sometimes, she even dials the sunshine up another notch: “The best day of my life so far is today. The sun is shining today – very brightly.”

Click Here to see Isadora’s final note to her daughter, (or as she calls it, “the song I sang to my daughter”) and Here to find out the impact it had on a family all the way in Montreal.

Read on for a couple of Isadora’s recent stories, including her response to the inspired Montreal reader. Knowing that she was able to inspire someone even in her loss gave Isadora so much comfort – you can just hear it in her voice.

And then, read on some more, to see a beautiful note from Tanya, our team’s Copy Editing Coordinator, back to Isadora. The sunshine of Isadora’s daughter lives on.

Isadora Fields
The Best Day of My Life So Far

The best day of my life so far is today. The sun is shining today very brightly. I am looking for an apartment. I have heard of several apartments. I hope I can find one close to Center City. I have lived in Center City all my life. I used to walk home from school every day. Except when the weather was bad I would be with my girlfriends. We would be laughing and talking all the way home. All of my friends are now dead. I keep in contact with their children now. I don’t have any biological grandchildren. There are several children who call me grandmom. I keep in contact with them.

Isadora Fields
The Sun is Shining

The sun is shining. 

Benita said someone said the song I sang to my daughter, “You are my sunshine” inspires them.  I think about my daughter all the time.  She was the sunshine of my life.  She was my only child.  We did so many things together.  I remember when we went to Colorado for the graduation of LeToya Kinard.  It was a beautiful day. 

I will be moving soon into a new apartment in Germantown.  It has two bedrooms.  I probably will be there by myself or with my grandson David.

Volunteer’s Response

Hi Isadora,
Yes, I forwarded your poem on to a friend of mine who lost her daughter last year, as well.  She said it was beautiful and made her cry.  I know there is nothing one can say to ease the sadness in your heart.   Look back on the good times and hold dear what she has left in your care – a grandson to cherish.

Tanya, Copy Editing Coordinator
The Best Day of My Life (So Far)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Brenda (Rushing To)

I literally run everywhere every day. I have trouble sitting still. I told my senior buds on Thursday, after dashing into the room, that my time with them is my favorite hour of the week. And it’s true. I would be a wreck if I don’t have them to keep me sane. It’s like my life could be crazy (haha, and it generally is, with my dreams and plans to grow this project which I will reveal to you all in detail very soon, my love for my “other day job” as an architect, my I’ll-do-absolutely-anything-for-my-senior-buds commitment to our class, my appetite for having fun in life and playing soccer, drums, boxing, my determination to make sure I always make time for my husband, and my perpetual guilt for living far away from family and wishing I have more time with them…) but when I open the classroom door every Thursday and see my buddies’ faces, the busyness (and business) of life would slow down, and a calmness would come over me, and I tell myself, this isn’t just The Best Day of My Life So Far writing class. This is definitely the best day of my life so far.

Brenda Bailey
Rushing To

In this life we find ourselves rushing from one thing to another.

Rushing to-
To – learn how to walk, talk, and use the potty
To – Start school, write our names and numbers
To-  Middle School (1st bras, and other body developments)
To – High School (cute boys, prom, graduation)
To – Find a job or college, 1st car
To-  Marry, house babies – success
To -  Retirement ( S.S. Office for check and Human Resources Office for Pensions )

And then we realize we don’t have to rush anymore.  No more rushing to clock in, no children to rush to the school bus, nor rushing to the supermarket, we now have TIME – Time to realize how blessed we are with health, family, and friends.  I have been blessed with a group of people who genuinely care about me – my BDMLSF Family.  Since my absence from this class they have never failed to acknowledge me and show love.  Mr. Gordon, my BFF, has called me and prayed for my son here at the center and over the phone.  Ms. Helen, Bea, Hattie and others have inquired about his progress.  Thank you!  I have also met new friends in my travels to hospitals and nursing homes, we have shared our similar stories about our loved ones illnesses.  Strangers who took the time to stop and ask if I need anything.   We have cried, laughed, and drank pots of coffee in waiting room lobbies, and patient rooms.  So, take the time to stop, look and listen to this beautiful world we live in and to caring people.  I have felt that these experiences have been a reflection of God’s love for me.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Doris (The Best Block in South Philly)

Who says hard work is no fun…? Well, maybe Doris’ poor neck! Talk about hard-earned pennies!!

Doris Lang
10.13. 2011
The Best Block in South Philly

I grew up on a street that lived 7 girls and 2 boys.  The girls were all born the same year.  The boys were a year older. Every year, we would have a show.  The only talent I had was standing on my head.  We charged a penny.  One day we had another friend his name was Eddie Fisher.  The boy that wrote the show was Freddy Gable.  The other boy was Joey Forman.  Joey and Eddie was crossing the street and a man by the name of Skipper Daus was going to the school.  Eddy said he could sing and Joey said he was an announcer.  The rest is history.  When Eddie was on stage Joey was his announcer and comedian. Freddy was assistant dean of pharmacy at Temple University and every year he wrote a play and sent us tickets.  The last show we had when we were kids Fred said “The smoke will disappear and Doris will be standing on her head.”  For some reason I started to cry and that was our last show.  Eddie came to my house to see me.  I always said if he married me he would not have missed Liz Taylor.  I have two herniated disks in my neck.  I guess I stood on my head too much.