Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween Treats (Norman and José)

Happy Halloween everyone! Last week, this week, and the week after was is and will be filled with lots of treats (and the occasional trick.) This week is obvious, because of Halloween, and next week will be because of our tenth anniversary celebration. But last week we had a treat we didn't expect. Paul Funaro, one of the heads of New Courtland Senior Services, stopped by one of our workshops to get a feel for what it was all about. He was treated to an offering of several Halloween stories, a Día de Muertos story from José and a few extra slice-of-life stories from some of our older buds. Paul will be working at our 10th Anniversary Celebration as well, so we were glad to give him a refresher of what Best Day was all about before our big day.

Only one more week until our Tenth Anniversary Celebration! We're looking to decorate the Philadelphia Senior Center with lots of stories form lots of older buds! Send us their stories through this form. And if you want to do more to end senior isolation, click here to participate in our celebration at the Philadelphia Senior Center, 509 South Broad Street, Friday November 8th, 10AM-4PM. Or if you’re looking to bring our storytelling experiences to your workplace, check out our lunch and learn.

And as an extra Halloween treat for you, please enjoy these stories from Norman and José.

Norman Cain 
Two Almost Missed Birthday Parties 

Several weeks ago, I received from two members of my west Phila Senior Center line-dancing club, separate birthday party invitations. Also, I purchased a ticket for a Halloween at St. Ignatius Catholic Church Rec Hall, which was to be given by the facilitator.  

The first event was to be held at the Upper Darby Recreational Center, where a lady would be holding her 85th birthday and the second event was scheduled to be held at the Clifton Heights Polish Club in it’s Champagne Room.  

I got to the 85th Birthday Party without mishap. I must say, it was a successful event. 

The Halloween and Clifton Heights events were a different story because of transportation mishaps. I had scheduled the Halloween event via CTT for a Saturday night, however, the van came on Friday instead of Saturday. Not my fault. Because CTT does not accept 1-day reservations, I accepted not being able to go to the event.  

Luckily, a lady in my neighborhood called to say that she was going to the party and I could ride with her. 

Now for the second party mishap: When I boarded the bus at 69th Street last Sunday to go to the Clifton Heights 70th Birthday Party, the bus drive assured me that he would make sure I reached my destination. Not true. He let me off blocks from the event.  Luckily, a kind man picked me up in his truck and took me to my destination.  

Two folks sent to me by fate had me enjoy two wonderful birthday parties.

Jose Dominguez 
Dia De Los Muertos 

No Halloween for me. No memories of candies, lollipops, or chocolates. For me, the celebration was Dia de Los Muertos. The celebration was covered in two days. The first, on November first was the celebration of all the Saints. In included of course saints, babies, who die baptized, etc. The second day was November 2nd and it was to commemorate all the rest of the souls of dead people. In this day, they have the permission to visit us so that’s why we prepare with good, ornaments, candles, just to please those souls in their day of whatever they are. My real memories are going to the cemetery to take flowers to our closest persons who happened to be buried there. Many, many people crowded the place – seniors, adults, babies coming and going, taking flowers to the graves or cleaning the areas, or serving food as a present.

Happy Halloween, and Happy 10th Anniversary of Best Day!

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Anniversary (Norman and Ann)

You've probably read me talking over and over and over on this blog about our 10th Anniversary Celebration; and I'm not going to stop now. Best Day has picked up a lot of storytellers throughout its ten-year run, and it's spread to seven different states, often with multiple locations in each state. We've been reaching out to local businesses to donate to our 10th Anniversary Celebration, gathering volunteers and writers, and stocking up on T-shirts. In fact, I'm proud to announce that our older bud Norman is bringing writers and volunteers from Center in the Park to the Philadelphia Senior Center, for double the stories and double the fun.

And we're still looking to decorate our Tenth Anniversary Celebration with lots of stories form lots of older buds! Send us their stories through this form. And if you want to do more to end senior isolation, click here to donate or participate in our celebration, Friday November 8th, 10AM-4PM. Or if you’re looking to bring our storytelling experiences to your workplace, check out our lunch and learn

Events prep comes naturally to our older buds, and we've got just the stories to prove it. Check out these remarkable entries from Norman and Ann:

Norman Cain
A Hot Summer Day Back in the Day

Back in the ’40s and ’50s when seasonable weather was predictable, the boys in our crew engaged in prescribed routines that would coincide with the various periods of the year.  During the brisk temperatures that accompanied the fall, we gathered on the street each day to play touch football. In the winter, we threw snow balls, built snowmen and cruised on sleds.  During the spring, we played stickball and skated. During summer, we engaged in an activity that was held dear.
It was as if each day during the summer months could be considered a heatwave, and to make matters worse, air conditioning was years away.  There were no area swimming pools. We could only envision going to the seashore. Hand and electric fans did not generate relief, but there was a way that neighborhood occupants managed to cool themselves off.  We drenched ourselves in water from the fire hydrant which we referred to as the water plug. We turned on the water plugs, it was illegal, but it was traditional. In order to turn on the fire hydrant, a certain procedure had to be implemented.
We would have a boy stationed at each end of the block to watch out for police.  Two boys would emerge from the alley with a double-handled hydrant wrench that was kept hidden in an abandoned building.  The wrench would be placed on the valve of the hydrant and the boys would strenuously and rapidly turn the wrench until the water began to pour from the hydrant opening.  The boys would then disappear into the alley, and replace the wrench in the abandoned building.
The neighborhood residents, both young and old alike, would then wade, douse, soak, splash and chill themselves from the refreshing water coming from the water plug.  Blankets of arching dense sprays of water, which was created by a boy’s posterior on the opening of the hydrant would rain down on all under the soothing waterfall. Cars would receive a free rinse.  Buckets of water would be thrown on fleeing victims. Females would have on bathing caps and little boys would race popsicle sticks and toy boats in the stream of water flowing beneath the sidewalk – making sure that their vessels did not go into the sewer.  Eventually, the police would come and turn off the water plug.
Pleasant memories.

Ann Von Dehsen
Jerry's Kids
Do you remember the Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethons for kids with Muscular Dystrophy? It was a tear-jerker that went on for many hours as Jerry pleaded for donations.
Another part of his mission was encouraging kids to put on carnivals in their backyards to raise more money. So one summer, the kids in my neighborhood and I decided to send away for one of his kits. There were about 8 of us, average age of 10-12 and we decided we would put on the best carnival ever.
First step, said the kit, was to decide the location, most likely someone’s backyard. All the moms (who thought this was such a cute, adorable undertaking) offered their respective back yards, but we had bigger and better plans. There was an empty lot in the middle of the block and one of the fathers knew the man who owned it. The father said he would talk to the owner but suggested we also write a letter. We proposed that if he said yes, we would clear the lot of branches, twigs, dead leaves, and weeds for free. So he said yes, of course.
Next step in the kit suggested doing something special such as face painting. Well sure, we would do that, but once again, we wanted something bigger and better, so off we went to Mr. Carmen’s house who had a nice wife, 2 lovely children, and a Shetland pony. He had often let us visit Sandy the pony and feed her carrots. We politely asked him if he would give pony rides at our carnival in exchange for weekly pony brushings from us. So he said yes, of course. But he sweetened the deal by telling us that he had a little pony cart in the garage with a straw hat with flowers for Sandy that he would use. Bingo!
Next item in the kit – refreshments. Strictly a mother-dependent area. We used the psychology of approaching our own moms and saying, “Mom, all the kids think you make the best brownies, or cupcakes, or cookies, etc. so would you please make them for our carnival?” So they said a very expressive, “Yes, of course, sweetie.”
The kit suggested making signs and posters to advertise the event. No problem … there was a couple on our block who had no kids, just 2 poodles and the man was a commercial artist and designer at an ad agency in the city. So in our visit with him, we proposed free dog walking for a month in exchange for signs and posters. So he said, yes, of course, and proceeded to make beautiful high-quality signs plus a banner for the carnival’s entranceway! In addition, his wife (who we all used to be afraid of) sweetly volunteered to make and donate homemade lemonade and quickly became our favorite non-mother on the block.
The toughest group to negotiate with was our respective older siblings who thought they were too cool for our silly carnival. After several closed-door mediation sessions, they finally said yes, of course — after we pretty much offered to be their personal slaves for a long period of time. So my budding artist sister became the face painter, her friend became the fortune teller (complete with magic 8 ball), someone else’s brother pitched a tent for that fortune teller and another brother became Leo the Magnificent, performing tricks from his recently purchased major kit.
After several weeks of hard labor, cleaning out the lot, and with help from our parents constructing frames for our ring toss, bowling, and fishing games, the big day arrived. At first, it was attended only by our neighbors, but they were very impressed and started calling nearby friends and relatives.
Someone called a friend who was a reported on our small weekly local newspaper. She arrived and interviewed us, took pictures of Sandy the pony pulling the car, and we were published in the next week’s paper. A cop came by and blocked off our street with cones so that Sandy could give better and longer rides. When we started to run out of food, our parents, still shocked by our success ran to the store and replenished the refreshments table. And so, when all was said and done, we raised about $100.00. In our innocence, we thought we’d get a thank you call from Jerry Lewis, but instead received a form thank you letter and one “Kids for Jerry” t-shirt which we took turns wearing, but it was a great experience and my only regret is losing that newspaper article over the years.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Red Day (Philip, José and Carolyn)

A funny thing happened at Best Day last week. I came in to the workshop at around 1PM wearing a burgundy shirt with stripes. I thought nothing of it, until I saw Frances, José, Delores, and Eleanor...all wearing red shirts. Even Hazel was wearing pink, which is really just light red. And the funniest thing is that I met with one of our former volunteers Kara for coffee that morning...and what was she wearing but a red hoodie! So I guess with the change in seasons came the changing colors...right in our workshop.

We're looking to decorate our Tenth Anniversary Celebration with lots of stories form lots of older buds! Send us their stories through this form. And if you want to do more to end senior isolation, click here to participate in our celebration, Friday November 8th, 10AM-4PM. Or if you’re looking to bring our storytelling experiences to your workplace, check out our lunch and learn.

And now I leave you with a leaf pile of stories to jump into and enjoy with a pumpkin-spiced treat of your choice:

Philip Pai
My Home Library

When I was young, I didn’t have books to read since my family was too poor, but I liked to study and I liked the books so much. Sometimes, I borrowed the books from the library that was nearby my house.
I remembered once I walked on the street, I saw a used book store on the corner. There was a lot of used books for sale and since the price was low, I was so glad that I found a place that I could buy cheap books so every day I got used books from the book store. When I found the used books that I liked, I would take it to my home and put it on the shelf. Doesn’t matter what kind of job I got. Anyways, I would buy the used books from the store. Right now, I have a small … library at my apartment. So if I have time, I did and go outside to borrow books from the library, I just stayed at home to enjoy my used books or review it there, for I am really liking my small library very much.

José Dominguez
Some of My Reading Frustrations

I have read some books in my life, many of them formative, amusing, enlightening, and practicable, but there were some impossible to understand by me. Even when I have read them several times or many times.
One of those was Derecho Administrativo (Administrative Law). It was the textbook for the course with the same name. My failure to understand marked my decision to only be a regular law student with [no other] purpose but [to] get rid of the pressure of grades. At the beginning, as a good nerd, I was looking for grades. After that book, I decided to be a regular, standard, normal student.
My second book problem was advanced statistics. When studying for a pad in education, I discovered that even when I was [an] analytical person, I was allergic to mathematics, probability, and all that paraphernalia. So I decided to be a humanist with superficial knowledge of statistics.
My third complication to understand a book was several weeks ago when being a participant of a reading group at a meditation center. I decided to read a book on Tibetan Buddhism. It was impossible for me. My study skills were insufficient, my logic system a failure, and my memory, as always, absent. So, I decided not to torture myself and left the reading group. Now I can use my neurons in things that I really like without damaging my self-esteem.

Carolyn Boston
Bucket List
Do you have a bucket list? What does it say? As we mature in life, we reflect on some of the things we never got to do during life’s journey. Some people decide they’d like to travel to foreign lands, others want to bungee jump out of a plane, but regardless of the desire, the idea is challenging.
I’ve seen the movie, Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and another actor whose name I can’t retrieve from my mind right now. The movie was hilarious and inspiring. Some people might say, “Why would you want to do that?” My goodness, why not? While we’re still living and fairly capable of moving around, we should set a goal that inspires and provides a sense of accomplishment and gives us something to look forward to. Plan it. Do it. And see how you feel. No matter how small the adventure or how big, make it something you’ll never forget. You can make your bucket list as small as a bucket or as big as a swimming pool. Along the way of fulfilling your bucket list adventure, you’ll find a greater and wiser and better you. You’ll learn more about yourself as well as others. The sky’s the limit and as Captain Kirk used to say on “Star Trek” – “Make it so!”
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Differing Opinions (Joyce and Eleanor)

Medicine is a reality of a lot of our lives. Some people only worry about it when they get a cold or a flu, but many of us take medicines much more regularly. Whether it’s for blood pressure, diabetes, chronic pain, moods, focusing, memory, supplements, digestion, or even allergies, a lot of us take something on a regular basis. Many of our older buds are taking medicine, or have had to take it, so they have some very strong opinions about Big Pharma and how they charge too much; except for Eleanor. She supports the prices because the extra money goes into research and development. She’s also married to someone who works in pharmaceuticals, so she has an insider’s perspective. And the company her husband works for isn’t GlaxoSmithKline, and I don’t think it’s one of the other major companies. Either way, it’s always interesting to see where the Best Day peeps fall on issues like these.

Sometimes, the best medicine is having people in your life who will talk to you. Write up a prescription for the older buds in your life, and send us their stories through this form. And if you want to do more to end senior isolation, click here to participate in our tenth anniversary celebration, Friday November 8th, 10AM-4PM. Or if you’re looking to bring our storytelling experiences to your workplace, check out our lunch and learn.
So take two of these stories and call me in the morning:
Joyce Woods
06.13. 2019
The Day Daddy Left Us

In the year 1956, I was upstairs in my parents’ bedroom watching my Daddy, he was released from the hospital after a very long stay. He was suffering from lung cancer and it was fatal.
My mother was in the basement doing laundry.
My father had been in a coma for seven days at this point, the exact [amount] of time the doctors sort of timed this horrible news.
I would stay so close to my father. We were very close. I thought if I prayed hard enough, God would come up with a cure and Daddy would be well again and everything would be just as our happy life once was.
I would stare at him, watching every breath. Suddenly, he opened his eyes looking directly at me. I was elated, I was afraid to leave the room to yell for Mommy due to this might change his breathing. [His breathing] began to change. I noticed a different pattern in it, then another change, it became very hard to detect. I called out to him shaking him, “Daddy, Daddy, look at me.” He took a deep breath then very shallow ones.
I ran downstairs and looked in the drawer of the China closet in the dining room to get the hand mirror. I ran quickly back upstairs to place the mirror in front of his mouth, but to my dismay, there were no signs of steam from his breath.
No one had to say a word. I was heartbroken.

Eleanor Kazdan
Finding a Husband for Coco

Coco and I became best friends at summer camp when we were 15. We stayed close for many changes including marriages and children, and moving to a new city. We eventually drifted apart in our 40’s and had no contact for more than 10 years. I never stopped thinking of Coco though.
One day my father sent me a newspaper article about Coco’s parents with a picture of her whole family. I was overwhelmed with nostalgia and decided to call Coco. She still had the same phone number in Toronto. I found out that she was divorced. In no time at all, we became besties again.
On my first day of a new job at a local hospital, while chatting with my supervisor, she stunned me by asking if I knew anyone she could “fix up” with a colleague and mentor of her husband. I suggested a few single friends in Philly, including my yoga teacher. She nixed them all. Over the next week, I thought of Coco. It seemed crazy, since I was in Philadelphia and she in Toronto, but I thought it might be fun to “double date” sometime when Coco was visiting. So Coco and Doug contacted each other by e-mail.
That whole summer, Coco was like a teenager, constantly calling me for advice. “What do you think this e-mail means? What should I write back?” Well, not only did they eventually fall in love, but they discovered that Doug had lived in Toronto in the 70’s and they had worked at the same hospital. And the most astounding thing was that their fathers had been colleagues in the ’40s and ’50s.
So, it was meant to be! A chance meeting (a great love story) culminated in a marriage. And it’s now been more than 10 years.

Thanks for reading. Stay happy and healthy.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, October 3, 2019

In the Spotlight (Norman)

Our 10th Anniversary Celebration is only one month away, and we’re trying to get as many guests, businesses, volunteers and older buds involved as possible. We’ve started passing out fliers at PSC last week to find older buds interested in volunteering at our story tables. That’s right! Anyone who comes to The Best Day of My Life So Far’s 10th Anniversary event (10AM-4PM at the Philadelphia Senior Center, 509 South Street in Philadelphia) gets the chance to hear some brand new stories from one of the stars of our blog. In fact, you can check out a few of them from our current group of writers here:

But I wouldn’t cheat you out of a new story. Here’s one from older bud Norman about migration, just in time for the birds to go south for the winter.

Norman Cain 
There is No Place Like Home
There are animal species who migrate and return to their points of departure yearly, among them, flocks of birds who migrate to warmer climates in the fall and return to their points of departure in the spring. Then there are some animal species that migrate to other areas – maybe because of food – and do not return to their initial areas of departure.
As for myself, I feel that I had time in my life, I could have embraced the two aforementioned migrating patterns; dual and singular. Duals being returning to point A+B during a regular basis and singular meaning to migrate and never returning to your initial point of departure. During my youth and teenage years, I would on an annual basis, leave Philadelphia each summer for South Carolina where I was parented by my maternal grandparents.
Between ages 17-18 and 19, I would migrate to a camp in the Poconos Mountains during the summer and College in West Virginia during the Academic years; only to return to Philadelphia upon graduating in 1964.
After Danny discharged from the Army during the summer of 1965, I resided in Philadelphia. 10 years before migrating between Atlanta, Georgia, and Philadelphia for 3 years – with one-year permanent residence in Atlanta. I was then stationary in Philadelphia for 10 years before living in Ocean City, Maryland for 17 years – until returned.
I have been living in Philly for 17 years. And plan to remain here. So, I have embraced both the singular and dual migrating patterns throughout my life. But of course, I take pro-life trips.
I will close by saying that I never intended to make Philadelphia my permanent residence but as the adage states, “There is no place like home sweet home.”
We’re trying to get as many older buds’ stories as possible before our 10th Anniversary Celebration. Send us their stories through this form. And if you want to do more to end senior isolation, click here to participate in our tenth anniversary celebration, Friday November 8th, 10AM-4PM. Or if you’re looking to bring our storytelling experiences to your workplace, check out our lunch and learn.
Unfortunately, no Senior Selfies this week. Some of the older buds were singing in Gospel Choir last week, so we went to see their concert. That’s the other reason I called this post “In the Spotlight.” So I leave you with these pictures from the concert.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri