“When you brag about yourself, make it a doozy.” And 99 other pearls of wisdom you’ll absolutely love.
Annabelle Black, centenarian, has lived through the Spanish flu, Roaring Twenties, The Great Depression, The Second World War, and the great changes ushered in during the ’60s and ’70s. Hers was the first family in the neighborhood to own a car and she has watched the evolution of technology from the radio to the smart phone. Annabelle was one of ten children and raised six children in a house out of a storybook, decorated with beauty and whimsy. She delights in 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Along with raising a faith-filled and happy family, she had a thriving career. She was a workforce innovator in the 1960s when she became the first ever assistant to the Huntington, New York, town attorney, a position created for her, due to her brilliance and tenacity.
She is an active parishioner at her church, where she has served in roles such as president of the Rosary Society and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. She continues to serve as a lector there and is known and loved for her singular blend of grace and gumption and her unflinching spirit of hope and good humor. She is also a role model of class and kindness. As a sidebar, her sense of style is bold and impeccable. Before there was What Not To Wear or Fixer Upper, there was Annabelle Black.
Annabelle Black is my grandmother. I was named after her and I am proud to say that she (along with my mother who also bears the name) is my role model of womanhood. I think of her every day. Her example inspires me whether I am shopping for an outfit, struggling with pregnancy pains and aches, decorating my home, teaching a class, making a meal, or deciding how I want to raise my children. I have turned to her during the storms of my life growing up, and she was always an umbrella of strength and wisdom.
I spent countless nights at her house, sleeping over and watching “Mr. Bean” and ballroom dancing competitions with frozen yogurt and candy. I spent countless days at her side, watching her cook dinner for more than just herself, in case someone was hungry and stopped by (and someone always did). And when my father died and I was only 11, I told her the week after his funeral that I didn’t want to go to church because I was mad at God. She was quiet for a moment, then said “I am, too. Why don’t we go to church together and tell Him?” She’ll never know how much that one act deepened my faith for a lifetime, or how that one moment of spiritual honesty was for me the authentic outcry of a psalm.
And since we are now at the crest of her 100th year, with her mind and eyes as bright as ever, I felt it was a good time to interview her, and to share the amazing wisdom I’ve been privileged to have learned from her over the course of my lifetime with the rest of the world. As an outgrowth of that recent conversation and the many conversations we’ve had together over the years (I’ve admired her philosophy and approach to life since I was old enough to chat) here are: 100 Ways to Live Fully to 100.
1. Rediscover your inner child — have an ice cream cone or hotdog from the greasy truck
2. Like your own company
3. Have a sense of humor
4. Realize that humor can be developed and built up over a lifetime, like a muscle
5. A little mischief now and then is good.
6. Cultivate your own hobbies and interests
7. Know what your favorite things are
8. Have your own favorite word … like “hope” or any word that speaks to your soul
9. Find what makes you feel beautiful (earrings? a bit of blush?) and make it a part of your daily ritual
10. Be more interested in loving than in being loved
11. Have teatime as a daily ritual … teapot required!
12. Music should be an active part of your life, even better if you make it yourself
13. Do something daily to keep your mind sharp. Crosswords, anyone?
14. Memorize poetry. Annabelle’s favorite is “A Psalm of Life” by Longfellow.
15. Walk for exercise, and when possible, climb the stairs
16. Seek comedy and drama as a balance in entertainment
17. An occasional extravagance can replace a year of therapy
18. Fashion is not frivolous … it’s a form of self-expression
19. Don’t be afraid to pursue your own style
20. Sparkle and shine. Wear beautiful pins and earrings, especially “jewelry that has a lot of life.”
21. Don’t be afraid to wear bold colors
22. When you brag about yourself, make it a doozy
Annabelle likes to say, “I’ve never needed to shave my legs.” And she’s right.
23. Be careful of compliments … give them freely but don’t take them too seriously when they are lavished on or withheld from you
24. Go antiquing, to a flea market, garage sale, or estate sale now and then … and find a rarity for your home that isn’t “cookie cutter”
25. Send birthday cards by snail mail
26. Appreciate every age group .. all have something to celebrate and something to teach
27. Be grateful … say grace before meals
28. Be charitable … Help the needy. Teach the young. Protect the innocent.
29. Moderation in all things is a youth elixir
30. Look for the simple joys
31. God gave you a mouth … learn to speak up for yourself
32. Women should exercise their power more … Speak up when the boss doesn’t notice the good work you did
33. Have the courage to be counter-cultural … buck the trends when they violate your values
34. Don’t put money first or you’ll lose your soul
35. But do have a rainy day account
36. Be well-groomed
37. Think out-of-the-box professionally … Forge your own path in the workplace!
38. If you are a boss, be the kind of boss you wish you had
39. A woman is entitled to maintain a healthy aura of mystery; a man should be an open book
40. Don’t tell anyone your age. It’s no one’s business. Until you are over 80 … then unabashedly brag!
41. Go out dancing with your husband, even if he can’t dance
42. Have fortitude. Do your best to hang in there when times get tough.
43. Laugh every day
44. Love your country
45. Find some way to add whimsy into your life and into your home decor
46. Houses should have nooks and crannies. Open concept is nice but have little places to enjoy womb-like serenity.
47. Every bedroom should have a quilt
48. Every home should have a piece of lace somewhere, a touch of blue and chinoiserie
49. Your home should display your faith
50. Housecleaning is an opportunity for physical and emotional exercise and a chance to be proud and humble at the same time
51. Your house is your palette … It is a way to express yourself
52. Set a nice table, even if you are alone
53. Make not-so-pleasant tasks pleasant … look at the stars as you take out the trash
54. Devote an entire area of your home to spoiling your grandkids
55. Having a family is a beautiful and heroic act, so go for it! Don’t be afraid to have children.
56. You are closest to God when you are in labor
57. Women should always have the final say in choosing their baby’s first name
58. When you come home with a new baby, the older siblings should get lots of attention
59. Your children can be your teachers
60. Sometimes you need to give one child in the family extra attention
61. Families should experience humor, prayer and music daily
62. Discourage competition between siblings
63. Dress your kids nicely … Show them and the world they are worth it
64. Involve the kids in keeping order in your home
65. Everyone in the family should pitch in
66. Don’t just hope for your children to be happy … Raise them to be people of good character and integrity and faith and the rest will fall into place
67. Teach your children manners
68. Don’t be individualistic
69. Don’t be afraid to tell your grown kids what to do sometimes
70. Take the time to talk with your children … Discuss their joys and concerns and share your stories.
71. Don’t overly brag about your kids
72. Discuss things at the table
73. Get involved in outreach or charity work
74. Have your own favorite go-to prayers
75. Try to get to church most Sundays
76. The best gift to give your children is to ensure they know God
77. Husbands/fathers should come to church with their kids
78. Have an heirloom related to meaningful events in the life of the family
79. All good parents should make sacrifices when it is in their children’s best interests
80. Have family traditions
Annabelle’s family always played cards — euchre — at her Aunt Mamie’s house while her dad and uncle performed music.
81. Designate technology-free time each day
82. Welcome visitors
83. Always have extra food ready; you never know when someone will be hungry
Annabelle vividly recalls the Great Depression. When a man came to the house looking for work, rather than turn him away empty-handed, her mother gave him a plate of meat loaf, stewed tomatoes, and veggies.
84. Learn a recipe native to your nationality
85. Comfort food really can comfort
86. Keep making friends
87. Don’t suffer alone
88. Don’t envy
89. Shakespeare was right … Especially when it comes to sleep: “Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care.”
Annabelle puts a lot of store in sleep: naps for babies and elderly, and proper amount of rest for adults.
90. Travel is overrated … Making a house worth coming home to is more valuable.
91. Examine your conscience
92. Rise and shine
93. Have informed opinions and beliefs
94. There are things to really look forward to about getting older … Here’s one: don’t be afraid to embody the best qualities of a matriarch or patriarch: setting a strong, wise and loving example for the whole family.
95. Cultivate curiosity and wonder
96. Wherever you go in life, bloom where you are planted! … When you are old and your living arrangement changes, remember to seek new friends (it’s never too late) and find a way to be of help to people.
97. Remember always that we are a part of a “Communion of Saints”
98. Be authentic
99. Remember to keep loving yourself, with all your imperfections
100. Never forget that God loves you
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