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Life Story Club Contributor

The piece that you see now is called “GRATEFUL.” The simple everyday things in life are what I am most grateful for. And this was in response to a prompt: What are you grateful for? And what are the simple things in life that you are thankful for? I used the word GRATEFUL. 

The Ground beneath my feet, grass and gravel that comfort and discomfort. 

Rustling leaves gentle when sprinkling rain downpour and warm sunshine. 

Another day, hour, minute, moment, opportunity that I’ll never see again. 

Tangible things that I can still see, smell, taste, touch, hear, and discern. 

Ethereal things like the air we breathe, eternal hope, whispering memories. 

Family, neighbors, funders, colleagues, facilitators, penpals, friends, and foes. 

Unity, community, disunity, conflict, all those things that challenge love. 

Lifelong learning, technology, tech knowledge, and you.

And that “you” is: all 19 people who are zoomed into this call, or who have called into this session, and those who are sitting in the community room. “You”  are the yous in this piece because it takes all of us to come together through these hard, challenging, uncertain times, and to just see that we’re not in this alone; we’re all in this together. And together, we can make wonderful things happen. We can create wonderful stories, and we can share those stories. There is someone out there to listen to us. And our stories touch so many people in so many different ways. And for this, I am thankful. I’m thankful for the opportunity to share with you, and to also have you share your stories with me and with us. 

Wanda Shares at the Recipes from Brooklyn & Beyond 2021 Showcase Event

Life Story Club Contributor

August 19, 2021

So now that we’ve heard all the wonderful recipes, I’m going to share some gravy to just add on top of all of it. It’s called Southern thick brown family gathering gravy, and it requires no prep, it’s no mess, it’s no stress, and it’s a very organic process that serves multiple generations. What you’re looking at on the screen is a page from a scrapbook that’s just about family, you know, who family are. And that stems from years of family reunions and family and friends, and just family gatherings from around the age of 10 most of them taking place in the summer right on up to the summer pre-COVID. So here we go.

And ingredients for a delightful all-inclusive family friends meet and greet. One or more farm-raised traditionalist, that’s the greatest and the silent generations born 1901 to 1946. One or more mildly seasoned baby boomers, 1946 to 1964. One or more spicy saute Generation X, 1965 to 1979. One or more robust caramelized millenniums Generation Y, 1980 to 1995. One or more gigabytes of sharp refreshing zoomers, Generation Z, 1996 to 2009, and one barrel of tender alphas, 2010 to 2025.

You can adjust the ingredients according to the existing crops for your existing generations. Additional ingredients, generous portions of peppery greetings, ripened with some pungent prayer, mouthwatering gratitude, and other delicious virtues. And here are the instructions and you can substitute as needed with any tasty free-flowing ingredients. Add bunches of sliced watermelon smiles, warm squashy hugs, lip-smacking honey kisses, mouthfuls of, “Howdy, hi, hello, hey.” Well done handshakes, gentle pats, smothered group hugs, and even pinches of bittersweet tears, while concocting mix and mingle boil, savor to flavor, simmer, cool, and settle naturally. Infuse with the servant of age, wisdom, and fruitful, matriarch prayer. Lay a generous portion of generational gratitude and drench with some good old hot greasy fried laughter. Sprinkle crystals of encouragement, inspiration, and kindness throughout the mixture and blend until thick and smooth, then glaze with a heartful of love. Pour gravy generously over all meals and activities, including travel. Now, this can be served with appetizer, entree, breakfast, lunch, dinner, buffets, sit down, whatever, and you can refrigerate the crumbs or the leftovers, but do not freeze. The ingredients are best when thawed. And note that the generation years used above are not universal and they vary slightly dependent on source of research. Now just go out and enjoy a tasty meal and just don’t forget this gravy.


Life Story Club Contributor

April 29, 2021

Proud as peacocks. Yes, I know, pride comes before the fall, heard this from Christians most of my adulthood. And that’s been almost five decades now. But you know what? This is no boast, no brag, and no conceit. It’s just a great personal achievement. One that shines in tiny corners of Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, and East New York low-income communities, not through me, but through others. Then expectant mothers and parents with infants and toddlers that have now reached adolescence, my last 12 years before retiring from full-time work, parent-child home and early childhood school readiness programs, a challenging journey, bittersweet, unsafe neighborhoods, stressful situations, families deemed at risk, physically and mentally exhausting, and poorly paid.

Yet those years hold my most rewarding work experiences. Most of the children don’t really remember it was me when they see me now. But they remember the stories their parents shared with them. And they relish hearing them again when we meet on the street. “Mom, look, hurry up, it’s the lady you said used to come and play with us.” And I love when they say “us,” because then I know that I succeeded in strengthening the parent-child bond.

Another child says, “Oh, you used to come to the house and play with us when I was little? What did I do again?” Well, we pass, and mom says, “Remember Miss Wanda?” You do know that as unwritten stories get retold, and as storytellers get older, the stories change a bit, don’t you? But you know what? That’s why they’re called stories.

A mom also excitedly shared how well her son did in a second-grade bilingual class, where he began learning a second language. And for show and tell of all the things one child could have taken to school on Fridays, she chose books, proudly stood before her classmates, and picture-read it first. As time passed, she read full-length children’s books. A favorite then, Caps for Sale. Caps, caps, caps for sale, 50 cents a cap. She now reads it to her younger sibling. Those were the days of fun filled learning through play. Although not all with peaches and cream.

A 17-year-old mom with a two-year-old son nicknamed, Fiddy, for the rap artist, 50 Cent, dropped out of program on her 18th birthday. Fiddy always greeted me, “Yo, what up?” Now at age 14, he and his mom tell me he receives Special Ed services but still struggles with literacy. I’m pleased that he is still in school and encourage him to just do his best.

When families showed up looking proud as peacocks at moving on ceremonies, I was often asked how I kept them in the two and four-year programs through completion. My response? Well, I show up twice a week, same days, same times. I ring bells, knock on doors. They answer, greet me, welcome me, and we begin. And we make it happen until their time ends. Such pleasant memories. But most rewarding is to see and hear from moms and dads that their families are still intact. No ACS removals, no juvenile delinquencies, only a few grade promotions delayed. The parents better understand their role and responsibilities. They embrace those skills developed through partnership with our programs, and they remain empowered to advocate for themselves and for their families.

Then there are the heartfelt three by three square yellow Post-It notes like the one that I received from a summer high school intern, 10 years ago. It reads, “Even though I was not here for a while, you made me feel right at home with such a good heart and being a good person. I bet you can make a homeless man feel rich. It was a blessing to meet you and everyone else. Just stay the same and don’t ever change.” And it’s sighed, “Shana.” She cried. I cried, they cried, we all cried. So you see, touching lives in meaningful ways is what I have strived for, and what speak for itself.

In tiny corners of Bed-Stuy, Brownsville and East New York, where many of us who share the home-based experiences still live, work, play, laugh, and even cry, while holding on and moving on to the next chapters of our lives, creating legacies that we build upon through sharing stories like these.

But this story doesn’t end there. Since retirement and pre-COVID, I’ve carried the same commitment and spirit of “let’s make it happen” into senior sites and nursing homes, and engaged seniors, young, old, and elderly, and sharing memorable life experiences. And we too, have laughed and cried together. Since COVID, we continue sharing stories virtually, Zooming in or phoning in once a month, same week, same day, same time, same link, same dial-in. I connect, they connect, we connect, we begin, and we make it happen until their time ends. And some seniors too, oftentimes, proud as peacocks as they share their stories. Thank you.

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