What I learn from Wanda's wise words

October 14, 2015 • Posted in Blogroll, careers/jobs for people who are blind, memoir writing, Uncategorized by

It’s Wanda Bridgeforth’s 94th birthday, and without telling Wanda, I asked her fellow writers in the Wednesday “Me, Myself and I” to surprise her with essays on “What I Learn from Wanda’s Wise Words” and read them aloud to her this morning. Here’s mine.


This is what our street looked like on the night of the 2011 blizzard. (Photo courtesy Lora Delestowicz-Wierzbowski.)

Wanda Bridgeforth has taught me the meaning of beauty. More specifically, the meaning of the word “Bee-you-tee-full.”

Nearly five years ago the Chicago Cultural Center had to cancel our “Me, Myself and I” memoir- writing class due to a blizzard. I dialed Wanda’s number that day to see if she was weathering the storm. When she heard my voice on the phone, she excused herself to turn down the radio. “I’m tired of hearing all those people calling in anyway,” she said. “All they’re doing is complaining about their long waits for the bus or the train, or the way the city didn’t shovel their street.”

Wanda will be 94 years old this month, and she is not a complainer. She credits her own upbeat attitude to her hardworking mother and her beloved uncle, Hallie B. “Hallie B. always told me that people who sit and mope with their head in their hands, well, they never see the good things coming their way.”

On that phone call in 2011, I asked Wanda to describe the storm that everyone around me was complaining about. She started out by using her favorite four-syllable word. “Bee-you-tee-full.”

That's Wanda from way back on her 90th.

That’s Wanda from way back on her 90th. Photo courtesy Darlene Schweitzer.

Wanda has lived in more than 50 different apartments or houses in her lifetime. Her mother was a “domestic” and had to leave Wanda every Sunday to take off and live at the houses she took care of. Wanda lived with one relative one week, a friend the next, and sometimes, with complete strangers. “I tell you, Beth” she said to me once. “I could share stories with you about growing up that would make the hair curl on a bald man’s head.”

These days Wanda lives alone, perched in a small apartment in a South Side Chicago high-rise that overlooks Lake Michigan. She writes her essays for class while sipping on coffee, looking out her kitchen window and watching the birds and boats on the lake. “There was absolutely no horizon during the storm,” she told me during that blizzard in 2011. The sky was white, the ground was white, the lake was white. “Like someone had draped a fuzzy white blanket over my window.”

Wanda woke up at 3 a.m. the night of the storm and sat staring out of her window for hours. She’d never seen anything like it. It was stunning. “I drank coffee until I was drunk!” she laughed. “It was bee-you-tee-full!”

Happy 94th, my friend. Without you, I might be tempted to look at my own days as stormy, but having you in our memoir-writing class (and, more importantly, calling you a friend) makes my life bee-you-tee-full.

Wanda’s classmate Sharon Kramer compiles essays by writers in the “Me, Myself and I” class on the Beth’s Class blog. Look for essays by — and about –Wanda there.

Brad On October 14, 2015 at 10:33 am

Wanda is an inspiration! From now on, I’m going to complain less, – at least for a day or two.

bethfinke On October 14, 2015 at 10:39 am

And the next two days happen to be ones I’ll be out of town. Great.


Monna Ray On October 14, 2015 at 10:38 am

I think we’ve all gotten to think of Wanda as a friend. Monna

bethfinke On October 14, 2015 at 10:10 pm

She is a good friend to have!


Lois Baron On October 14, 2015 at 11:40 am


Janet On October 14, 2015 at 4:17 pm

I loved this post. Wanda’s positivity reminds me of Minke. “I can’t believe it!” Or “It was something!” Are some of her sayings that come to mind. I love that Wanda sees things that way, too.

bethfinke On October 14, 2015 at 10:10 pm

Wanda and Minke (Flo, to you blog readers!) were pen pals. Wanda wrote an essay about Flo that she is including in her next volume of memoirs…stay tuned!.


Paula On October 14, 2015 at 5:15 pm

What a lovely post! Positively bee-you-tee-full. Thanks for sharing!

Hank On October 14, 2015 at 6:28 pm

Beautiful! Happy Birthday, Wanda.

Linda Miller On October 15, 2015 at 7:27 am

I’m always inspired by YOUR upbeat attitude so Wanda’s must be truly amazing! Very nice post.

bethfinke On October 15, 2015 at 8:11 am

You are right, Linda: Wanda’s attitude truly is amazing. And contagious.


Sheila A. Donovan On October 15, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Wanda is our treasure. I love her to bits!

Caren On October 15, 2015 at 12:38 pm

I am happy to know a coworker with this outlook on life… It is a pleasure to be around everyday. I wish more people of the world could be this upbeat, including myself.

bethfinke On October 15, 2015 at 2:13 pm

I wonder — do you find it contagious, too?


Caren On October 15, 2015 at 2:46 pm


Jenny On October 26, 2015 at 10:08 am

What a great friend to have. Lucky you 🙂

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