Thursday, February 28, 2019

Coming Into March (Barry)

The weather’s getting warmer, the days are getting longer, and our usual group of older buds are back in business. José’s back from Houston, Frances and Ann are fully recovered, Eugene has a new house, and new people are coming in every day; and getting Valentines!

The warmer weather will bring in even more older buds, along with plenty of fun surprises from the Best Day facilitators of Philly. March’s newsletter will be all about PSC and Center in the Park, so we want to give our pages’ visitors more bang for their buck. And be sure to check out Stockton University, the star of February’s newsletter. They're getting a nice collection of stories from their students, and you can check them out here!

And we’d never leave you without a good story, so we’re posting this brand new one from a brand new older bud Barry.

Barry Vernick
Lemons Into Lemonade

I was married 41 years when my wife, a college professor was diagnosed with FTD. It's like Alzheimers. The brain dies a slow death. For 3 years, I was her full time caregiver, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was hard. She lost all functioning. A beautiful, brilliant woman had become a vegetable who needed her diaper changed. After she died, the grief I felt was unbearable. I wanted to die. For 2 years I drank and took sleeping pills. But slowly, ever so slowly, I began to heal. Today, I can look back on that experience and be grateful. IT was a life test. A test of my love and commitment. How many people are fortunate enough to be tested? The darker the tunnel, the brighter the sun when you emerge. Today, I attack life. I don't hold back. I leigh. I stay busy. I do things no one else my age would dare do.

Share your love for the older buds in your life by submitting their stories here: 
And if you need a refresher on how to submit stories to “Joy Starts Here,” check out this handy-dandy link:
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Benita’s Valentines (Elliott and Eleanor)

Valentine’s Day is a day to show your love for the people in your life, but it’s also a day to reach out to the underrepresented. St. Valentine himself was a champion of those persecuted by Ancient Rome. So it only made sense for our older buds to get lots and lots of Valentines last week.

Our fearless leader Benita has two school-age boys right now, and the youngest one, Kian, made Valentines along with the rest of his class. His teacher gave them to Benita to give to the older storytellers of PSC, and she surprised us with a visit last week. Our older buds were tickled pink (and every other color on those Valentines) to see her, and she even got to meet older bud Ann for the first time. We also made sure to take lots of pictures to send to the kids as a thank you.

The thing about Benita is that she doesn’t know how much she means to us at Best Day; especially at PSC. When she asked if she could come in, she worried that she’d be distracting us from our writing. But we assured her that it’s never a distraction to see her! After the workshop, she talked to older bud Elliot, who talked about how much she taught him. She said that she was no teacher, but that the older buds were the real teachers. But Best Day is a collaborative effort. Everyone is here for each other here, no matter what their age.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to you, Benita. Your love is what keeps Best Day strong! I hope you enjoy this week’s stories.

Elliot Doomes
Kids Can Be Funny

It was funny, kids are always funny. I don't care what they do or how they do it, kids are always funny. Kids will keep you laughing and the funniest part is that kids don't know they are funny. I remember one time I was talking to my granddaughter. She asked me, "Pop-pop, do mice like cheese?" And I said, "Yes." So she took out a bunch of cheese and started putting it behind the appliances for the mice. I caught her and I asked, "What are you doing?" It was the funniest thing. She thought mice were cute and wanted them to be happy. But when I asked her, "Why?" she looked up at me and said, "I don't know." And she looked so sad when she said it too. Those are moments that I will treasure forever. And when kids are quiet, you really got to look for them because you know they up to something. My daughter is a rambunctious, energetic kid so when she's quiet, I know she's up to no good. One day, she was quiet and I went into the kitchen. She went into the cabinet, opened the baking soda, and had it all over her hair and her face. I don't know how she got into the baking soda, but that's why you put things up on the shelf. Kid's will find things you can't. I'm just glad it wasn't anything toxic. I had to sneak out of the house if I wanted to do something on my own. As soon as she'd see me with my hat and coat, she'd go please and be right at the door waiting for me with her hat and coat. You know what I used to wake up to every morning? She'd be sitting on my bed singing the words to the theme song to "Captain Noah." I never thought she'd remember that but she knew all the words and what time it came on. Kids are so smart you know that? Any time you say, "Don't do this." Guess what they're going to do? Their curiosity level is very, very, high. 

Eleanor Kazdan

My mother had always been eccentric and difficult. You might say she marched to a different drummer. She started running at about age 47 and became a marathon runner, completing 37 marathons up to age 80. Around the time my mother was 80, she began to act even more strangely than normal. Once she picked me up at the subway station and didn't seem to know the payback to her house. It was a terrifying drive. Another time, while crossing the street, she didn't understand the walk signals. Then there was the day of her granddaughter's bat mitzvah. By that time we knew that my mother's mind was failing. I had reminded my father to make sure she had suitable clothes to wear that morning. When we came to pick her up, she came downstairs dressed in a jogging suit. Frantically, I went up to her bedroom to round up some party clothes. I hadn't set foot in that bedroom for years. To my shock, it was in complete disarray with pies of clothes, plastic bags, and old papers covering the floor. By the grace of God, I was able to find nice dress and a pair of shoes in the clutter under the bed. After much prodding, my parents moved to a seniors apartment complex. Six months later, my father suddenly died and my mother moved to an sister living facility. About 2 weeks after my father died, my mother called name and said, "Eleanor, do you remember this old boyfriend I used to have called Aaron Kazdan?" I felt a knife in my stomach, "Mom, Aaron was your husband for 60 years." Although my mother barely remembered my father, she thrived at the facility. She had a boyfriend. They sat in the lobby for hours holding hands and believed they were married. One day her boyfriend disappeared. He had gone to a nursing home. As terrible as my mother's decline was, it gave me a chance to like her a little more. Dementia had smoothed out her rough edges and made her a sweet person.

Share your love for the older buds in your life by submitting their stories here: 
And if you need a refresher on how to submit stories to “Joy Starts Here,” check out this handy-dandy link:
Happy reading, and stay warm!

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Talking Shop (Norman)

The great thing about Best Day is that not only have we published our older buds stories in our own book, some of our older buds had gone on to write and publish books elsewhere. In fact, we’ll often get visits from published authors who are interested in a little help with their next stories. One of our newest members, Princess, had recently published her autobiography and came in during one of our First Thursday sessions. I asked her to read a short passage from her book, and she talked a bit about her experiences with the genre. This led to a discussion between the rest of the older buds, including Norman who had published his stories before. It just goes to show how much we can learn from each other.
Norman Cain 
Poverty Pimps 

In 1974, I was involved in an organization entitled Living for the City, whose purpose was to create and implement recreation, counseling and job readiness training for North Philadelphia impoverished youth. A couple who had come into some money, purchased a two-story building at 22nd and Lehigh Avenue that they planned to convert into a center for the areas youth. The couple was in need of a staff. They heard about our organization, conducted an interview with us and hired us. At the time of our hiring, we only had three members in the organization: me and Douglas, who were both young counselors at a state operated reformatory, and Alex, a music teacher at Friends Select School. We would spend our evening at the center. I was the activity director and was coordinating with a restaurant executive who envisioned creating a chain of youth maintained restaurants throughout the Delaware Valley. 

After several weeks had transpired, the city of Philadelphia became interested in funding the program. They send two representatives to the center to speak to us. During the meeting, they said that we would need a financial person to oversee the monetary segment of the center. I thought that the city’s representatives were supposed to monitor our program, not become a part of it. It seemed to me that my partners were fine with the situation. 

I told them that I was capable of handling the finances of the center, because as a caseworker with the Philadelphia Welfare, I was responsible for auditing the finances of over three hundred families associated with the clients housed at Uptown Jewish Nursing Home. I was not about to allow the finances of our organization be manipulated by those I consider to be outsiders, and who I believed to be Poverty Pimps. Also, the executive director of the center was a minister who did not have the welfare of the areas youth a priority. Like the City Hall representatives, he was looking for money and fame.  

During another meeting with the representatives, I vehemently disagreed with one of their proposals. My partners agreed with them. My partners believed were in cahoots with the representatives. But I decided to vie my time. We definitely had the respect of the youth in the city, as we, as counselors at the Youth Development center, we developed favorably reputations with the clients. Once we were able to prevent a gang fight that was getting ready to erupt in front of the center. Eventually, a misunderstanding between members of our organization and the center erupted. We left. 

After our departure, we connected with a center at 22nd and Ridge Avenue that had created and sponsored the first Pregnant Girl School in the city. Our new organization seemed to also be in the business of Poverty Pimping. They asked us to write a proposal. When we requested help from two Board of Education lawyers who were affiliated with the group, we were denied. When we showed them the proposal we had written, they were amazed at the professionalism it represented. They asked us where we had gotten help and we let them know that the proposal was our product.  

I found out, several days after presenting our proposal, that they had given us certain financial information (that was presented in the proposal), that could lead to a fraud investigation. They did not want to give the proposal, so I had to physically retrieve it. Undeterred, we decided to finance our organization by holding weekly discoes in a loft where we had space for a boutique. My questionable partners recruited a lawyer, industrial arts teacher, banker, and parole agent. We now had eight folks in our group. The majority opted for high salaries and downtown offices, I felt that if we were going to help ghetto kids, we should be where they were. 

It was apparent to me that I had spent six months in the company of Poverty Pimps who had no concern for youngsters in need of help. I left the group.

If you your older bud to get published, submit their story here: 
And if you need a refresher on how to submit stories to “Joy Starts Here,” check out this handy-dandy link:
Happy reading, and stay warm!

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Moth, Redux (Delores, Rochelle, Ann)

I mentioned last week that I’m bringing Best Day buds to The Moth, and a few of them went to a Moth Story Slam on Monday. The thing about Moth shows is that they’re so popular that their online tickets will sell out in an hour. I knew that I couldn’t expect the older buds to camp out in front of their computers until 12PM and beat everyone else to ticket sales. I can’t even expect myself to do that. But I also knew that the Moth always had extra tickets for sale the day of...if you come early enough.

I went to the Moth and found Delores there, first in line. She even bought an extra ticket for her friend Gwen. Ann and Rochelle got caught in traffic, so they had to put their names on a wait list. That was because I remembered to save them seats, but completely forgot to save them tickets.

In the end, everybody got in and everybody got to see the story slam. None of the older buds got picked to see the show, but they all loved the other storytellers, and were eager to go again...when the weather’s warmer and the days are longer that is.

Even though Delores, Rochelle and Ann didn’t go onstage, you can still enjoy their stories on our blog below:

Delores Wilson 
The Back Story 

A friend of mine made a remark about grandchildren calling their grandparents by their first name. Even when the honor of grand was initiated before saying their first name. I was not offended by her remark. It actually reinforced my practice of not comparing myself to others and not being judgmental before time. I realized I didn’t don’t know the back-story. I have a set of grandchildren that are twin boys. When they were toddlers, me and their mother’s mother would take them on outings. I learned and observed them. I could when they were addressing me or the other grandmother. She would answer when they were actually speaking to me. I could see the frustration on their faces when they would politely say, “I’m talking to my other grand-mom.” I didn’t want to start confusion between my son the twin’s mother. I made the decision that the boys could call me “Grand-Mom Delores.” I didn’t like that personally at the time, but it seems to be the solution.

Rochelle Tynes 
Young People 

So very often anymore, we hear unfavorable things about and in regards to our youth, both girls and boys. 

We hear how they are loud, disrespectful to all around them, including their peers, how they dress, the girls look like hoochy mamas, the boys have to show everyone their underwear and cuss as well as smoke some God awful smelling substances that lingers in the air for quite a while after they pass by.  

We also hear about them talking loudly on cell phones as well as not being careful of where they are walking when they are on these phones. But every once in a while, one of them will amaze me and do something thoughtful and kind. Tuesday night, when I put my trash out, I dropped my recycle can. A young boy was passing by, he picked my recycle trash up and set my container on the curb. I said “Thank you.” He said, “No problem” and walked away. Today, as I was riding the El train, on my way to the senior center, a homeless man began to tell us he had no monies and was homeless. Everyone ignored him BUT this young boy who went into his wallet and gave the man $1.00. When I got ready to leave the El, I told the young boy that I was very proud of him and that he confirmed my believe that not all of our youth were going down the wrong path and I knew that he was going to have a good day because of his kindness. I wish that more people could see some of the good things that our youth do and keep praying for them that are on a bad path to change their ways.  

*I say young boys and girls because these people being talked about appear to be between 10 to 18 years of age. A thought just occurred to me – maybe they all just need to be encouraged sometime and be taken to a church sometimes.  

Ann Von Dehsen 
My Amazing Brother-in-Law 

My brother-in-law, Don, is truly one of the few men I know who are genuinely kind, gentle, and caring. An emotional man, he is not afraid to shed tears over both sad and happy events. Nor, does he think twice about embracing a fellow human who is obviously suffering. Don is an artist, a photographer, and carpenter, with a MacGyver-like inventive ability. For example, when I had to use a walker temporarily, and was literally crying over spilt milk, not to mention many other stronger drinks, Don, went down to the basement of my apartment, found discarded materials and in a short time, fashioned a tray complete with cup holder and attached it to my handle bars. To put it mildly, he is always there for me and anyone else who needs him. 

Don and my sister, also an artist, live on top of a mountain in southwest Virginia. There, they are very attuned and appreciative of the nature and wildlife that surrounds them. This past summer, they went on a month long trip out west, in a van, celebrating the fact that as aging hippies, they could still do so!  

When they returned, Don immediately noticed a dramatically increased population of squirrels who spent their days climbing up the bird feeder poles and disrupting the rightful inhabitants. In his analytical way, Don began remediation by using or making typical squirrel deflectors for birdfeeders. The squirrels were a little too smart for these contraptions, so Don then began his squirrel relocation program. This involved catching the squirrels in humane no-kill traps. Don would then put the cages in his car and drive a minimum of 2 miles, then sent them free in a beautiful wooded area. To date, he has caught and released 45 squirrels in a matter of weeks. You would think this would end the problem, but no, the squirrels kept coming. Along with continuing his deportation program, Don also made an apron-like metal structure that went around the base of the feeder and flared out almost to the ground. This worked for a short time, but the squirrels eventually used a tree limb to jump to the feeder. So Don cut down the limb only to have the squirrels devise a longer, more intricate path to the feeder. 

When I spoke to him on the phone last weekend, my non-violent peaceful brother-in-law was considering breaking out the pitchfork and going after the rodents. I assured him he had tried to be reasonable and kind to the rodents, to no avail. I told him I would even support him if he decided to build a wall, but knew he would never want to stop anyone or any animal from enjoying his property as long as they did so peacefully. And that is why I love my brother-in-law.

Enjoy your weekend, and as they say on The Moth's podcast, We hope you have a story-worthy week.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri