When I was a child, my book-loving grandfather used to always say, "If you need to know something, ask a librarian."
This article was originally published on February 18, 2015, which was my birthday and the eve of my grandmother’s birthday. I’m thrilled to say that the two of us blew out birthday candles together, again, this past February, and Nana is still going strong at 96-years-old. Prayers and cheers for many more birthday celebrations to come!
I always admire a vintage beauty. I curiously study a madame's elegance, style and posture. Such a woman clearly practices self-care. Her hair, makeup, figure and attitude are all in pristine condition. Her porcelain skin holds a lifetime of wisdom, and her smile lines are simply those - decades worth of love and joy.
Today I am home in Pittsburgh celebrating my and my grandmother's birthdays. Celebrating our joint birthdays (we're one day apart) is a blessing that I cherish every single year.
My grandmother, Francesca (Frances) Barack, is a classic dame, a lady who turns heads, evokes kindness and passes it forward.
In honor of Nana's 93rd birthday, I am elated to share with you her time-honored rituals for a long, happy and healthy life.
For An Elegant Figure
Breath clean air. Nana stayed away from cigarettes her entire life.
Be mindful of what you are eating. Decades before organic labeling existed, my grandmother insisted on peeling her fruit. The skin of produce has the highest concentration of pesticides. To this day, Nana refuses to eat the skin on a piece of non-organic produce. (Though she is sure to get fiber in other ways!)
Fuel your body with a well-balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables. Nana eats at least one salad per day and has vegetables and protein at every meal. She never deprives herself, but enjoys sweets in moderation.
Drink up. Eight glasses of water per day is non-negotiable. Nana is very strict with this. Although today's recommendation is closer to 96 oz. (12 glasses), most people drink nowhere near that amount and live in a constant state of dehydration. Nana drinks water religiously.
Stay active throughout the day. My grandmother loves to walk. When she was younger, she would walk several miles per day. Now she is always on her feet cooking, cleaning or shopping. In fact, sometimes we have to beg her to sit down!
Give attention to your appearance. Nana takes great pride in the way she looks. This is not an expression of vanity, but rather a demonstration of dignity and self-respect. She dyes her hair and religiously follows her skin-care routine. She uses her preferred beauty products every single day without fail. I have never seen her leave the house without make-up on, and sleeping in your party face on is huge no-no in her book. Take your makeup off before bed!
Along with that, Nana has a knack for putting together stylish outfits and accessories. She is a stickler for matching. (She genuinely has the best taste. Whenever my friends ask me where I get my cute clothes, the answer is often "from my grandmother!") A couple of years ago, my family came up to NYC for Thanksgiving. We splurged on dinner at a very swanky, boutique hotel and joked that my grandmother looked as if she "belonged" there - a Madison Avenue woman through and through. Nobody would ever have guessed that she is the ultimate bargain shopper!
Get your beauty rest. Seriously, Nana sleeps at least eight hours per night and often takes a long afternoon siesta. The ultimate energizer bunny, she recharges as necessary, and then is ready to go, go, go with her full presence (often with more energy than the rest of us!)
For a Sharp Mind
Keep up on current events. Nana likes to know what is going on in her world.
Believe in yourself. My grandma holds a well of self-esteem within her heart. In her greeting cards, she always tell me that I "deserve every happiness." Knowing your inherent value is so important, and I am grateful that my Nana constantly reminds me of this in word and deed.
Stay true to the best that is in you. Nana exemplifies strength and confidence in her ability to stand up for herself and speak her mind. Whether the temptation is politics, familial pressure, dashing lads of her youth or the latest gossip magazines, she always thinks for herself. She will go with tradition or against the grain as she sees fit.
Fill your days with meaningful connections. Nana loves to cook for her family and she regularly attends performing arts events and other social functions. By giving herself things to do, people to see and occasions to look forward to, she is a social butterfly who lives each day with purpose.
For a Spirit Full of Grace
Pick yourself up again and again. Nana is a resilient cookie. She lost her hearing while giving birth to my mother; she lost her husband of 50+ years; she lost her beloved brother; her mobility isn't what it used to be; she occasionally takes a serious tumble. No matter what happens in life, however, she always gets back up, ready to smile again and greet a new day.
Give often. When I am in Pittsburgh, not a day goes by that Nana doesn't bring me a new article of clothing, piece of jewelry or yummy dish that she's cooked up. Her generosity is extraordinary. She will do absolutely anything for someone she loves or for a person in need.
Think of others. Nana always wants the best for people. She is the most thoughtful person I know - always asking what she can do to help, and going above and beyond to make people feel welcome and loved. She has a genuinely kind heart.
Cultivate a practice of faith. Nana goes to church every week and says her prayers every night. She has a deep belief in something greater than herself. She appreciates her blessings and practices gratitude every day.
If I am able to follow my grandmother's example, I believe that I, too, may one day have the opportunity to blow out 93 birthday candles! Wouldn't that be amazing?! Thank you, Nana, for leading our family with your exquisite poise, sophistication and inner beauty. Happy Birthday to the best Nana in the world! I love you with all of my heart.
Are you living life for the long haul? Are there changes you would like to make in your daily routine to set you up for a lifetime of health and happiness? Is there a super senior whom you admire? What have you learned from him or her? Share your thoughts and help us all to live longer and better lives!