It’s easy to believe that as time goes by and the older that we get that we have fewer opportunities to pursue our dreams. A grandmother from Michigan is setting out to prove us all wrong.
Dorothy Pollack is a 103-year-old grandmother who has been spending her time in the pandemic crossing off her bucket list.
The grandmother, who recently celebrated her birthday in June, has been spending the past few months in isolation at a nursing home in Muskegon, Michigan. Just like the rest of us, for Pollack, it’s been a struggle.
“Covid-19 had her in prison for months,” Teresa Zavitz-Jones, Pollack’s granddaughter told CNN. “The nurse in the home said she was horribly depressed and we needed to get her out. We couldn’t see her so we had no idea how she really was. She’s extremely hard of hearing so phone calls were not helpful.”
Weeks after being discharged from her nursing home Pollack decided that she was going to get a tattoo.
“It was pretty exciting because years ago my grandson wanted me to get one and I wouldn’t do it,” Pollack told CNN. “All of a sudden, I decided I would like to have one. And if I could, a frog. Because I like frogs.”
Last Friday, Pollack sat down for a session with a local tattoo artist and got her frog. “She took it like a champ. I didn’t even see her wince. Maybe she had half a wince once,” Ray Reasoner Jr, the artist behind her tattoo told CNN. “She was just so excited. It was an amazing experience. If someone over a century old tells you to do something for them you just gotta do it.” Reasoner, who works at A.W.O.L. Custom Tattooing in Muskegon, noted that Pollack is the oldest person that he has ever tattooed.
Pollack told CNN that she “absolutely loved” loved her tattoo and has been further inspired to cross more items off of her bucket list.
If you were lucky enough to have a loving, doting abuela who looked after you while your parents worked overtime, you may have faint memories of her doing strange things around the house. She may have placed a cup of water behind the door, propped a broom upside down in a corner, or shooed everyone out the house so she could clean. No ordinary cleaning, it could be that on those Sunday mornings full of loud music and earthy aromas, your abuela was cleansing the house of negative energy. Feelings of unending exhaustion, illness, frustration, stress, or worry are signs that your home could use a limpieza too.
When I was a child, I would accompany my gold-toothed grandmother to Newark Avenue on Saturday afternoons. She would put curtains on layaway at Woolworth’s, and stop by the meat market and the fish market. Some Saturdays, our last stop before heading home was at la botanica. More than a magic shop, this was a place to procure spiritual elements from statues of Catholic saints to potions guaranteeing love and money. My grandmother would move nimbly about the shop selecting Indian Spirit money spray, incense, frankincense, and myrrh. Pretty biblical, right? I recall watching Sunday morning cartoons as she cleaned the apartment from back to front, windows open, a ritual concluding with her swinging her tiny cast iron cauldron, resin smoldering inside, while wearing an iconic bata. You know the one!
If you asked Abuela, she wouldn’t say this was Santería or Brujería of any sort.
Credit: Karim MANJRA / Unsplash
Latinidad is abstract in the way it allows a constellation of diaspora to take cultural practices from here and there, creating our own interpretations according to our needs and resources.
While energy-cleansing rituals can be extremely complicated; like the one where you buy a coconut, bathe it in Florida Water, and gently kick it around your entire home while smudging sage then kicking the coconut of your house, picking it up with your left hand, walking far away from your house and throwing the coconut over your head, making sure it splits, otherwise you will need to start the ritual again with a new coconut.
If you’re short on coconuts and time, but would like to try simple ways of cleansing your home of negative energy, here are a few simple suggestions inspired by Abuela.
It all begins by cleaning your home.
Credit: JESHOOTS.COM / Unsplash
De-clutter, organize, and arrange items neatly. The science behind cleaning shows your space is a reflection of your mind. Marie Kondo your situation to clear away bad energy, calling forth peace of mind and calming spirit. A real-deal abuela would advise you to clean your floors with La Bomba, a spiritual floor cleaner. Mop from the back of your home to the front door, and throw away the mop head. You probably won’t find La Bomba in Target. Check online botanica retailers, and look for all-purpose La Bomba solutions that can be used to clean your car and other spaces where you may have experienced a bout of bad luck.
Channel the elements: earth, air, fire, and water in your energy cleansing enterprise, like Earth.
Credit: elementsofsage / Instagram
Boasting benefits like curing insomnia, boosting your mood, and neutralizing ions, smudging sage has been widely attributed to Native American tradition. Sage sticks, and smudge kits are widely available, but if you are into drying your own sage, consider adding dried roses, lavender, palo santo, and rosemary. If nothing else, it looks pretty and your home will smell lovely.
Credit: JOHN TOWNER / Unsplash
Open the window. It’s as simple as that. Release stale air to remove negative energy, and in the spirit of my own abuela, take down your curtains, give them a wash while you put up beautiful new curtains. Maybe you don’t believe in negative energy, but you can’t deny the uplifting effect of getting some fresh air.
Credit: Theresa Vargas / Unsplash
Burn bay leaves. Also known as laurel, the practice of burning bay leaves dates back to Ancient Greece. Write down all the things you want to release directly on the leaves, burn the leaves in a fireproof bowl, and safely discard the ashes.
Lighting candles is a large part of the cleansing process for abuelas too. Light candles of your favorite saint, or cruise your botanica for some highly specific candles promising to banish the evil eye—if that’s your thing.
Credit: Anita Austvika / Unsplash
Like my abuela, place a glass of water behind a door, or place a glass of water under your bed, which is said to absorb negative energy.
Bathing, a literal cleansing, can also serve to clear bad energy. Abuela would advise you to bathe in your favorite flowers, perfume, milk, and honey, an ancient tradition found around the world. Light a candle, turn the lights down and ask for the things you want to receive as you luxuriate in your bath.
Last, but not least—Florida Water! Wipe some across your forehead when you have a headache. Add it to your La Bomba floor cleaner. Pour some in your bath. Use it to wipe down your altars, doorways, and wash your hands with it after meeting with people who harbor negative energy. Or, quite simply, dab it on mosquito bites.
Finding peace in your home is imperative to your wellbeing.
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash
Experimenting with energy cleansing practices can take you down a winding cultural, and traditional path that can prove to be effective in your life. It can also bring a sense of closeness with an abuela who is no longer with you. Even if energy cleansing is not your thing, actively taking steps toward peace of mind is great thing, and I’m sure your abuela would love nothing more than to see you at peace.
This one is for all the single ladies out there. For those who have an aversion to f*ckboys, f*ckgirls, and f*ckpeople, and for all the little homies out there that prefer the company of their own damned selves to anyone else, you’ll love this abuela-in-age-only. It turns out the secret to a long life isn’t some fad diet, magic pill, or even exercise, apparently. A woman who is older than a century — that means she’s lived long enough to see Jim Crow, the moon landing, World War II, AOL, Y2K, and every Pitbull music video ever made (including features) — revealed her secret to a long life.
Hint: trust no man!
So what are you doing for your big 1-0-7?
Louise Signore, a resident of the Bronx, New York (editor’s note: yerrr), celebrated her 107th birthday on Wednesday. She had a lit party at the JASA Bartow Community Center in Co-Op city with over 100 of her closest friends and loved ones.
OK to be fair, Signore does maintain a healthy diet and does in fact exercise on the regular. But lots of people lead healthy lifestyles and they kick the bucket a lot younger than Signore.
“If they have exercise, I do the exercise. If they have dancing, I dance. I still do a little dancing. After my lunch, I will play bingo, so I had a full day,” Signore, who is Italian American, told WCBS. “Italian food. Italian food is very good for you. I was brought up with very good food. No soda, no cake.”
The secret of the century…
Signore believes the key to her youthful glow and longevity is never marrying. Do you hear that? The key to a long life is staying single and living your best life. As the saying goes: the most important relationship of your life is the one with yourself.
“I think the secret of 107: I never got married. I think that’s the secret. My sister says, ‘I wish I never got married,” she said.
Perhaps, Signore feels she got a little more out of life than other people who had to prioritize their children and partners over other experiences. With duties more equally split amongst partners nowadays, things might be different for women who choose to marry in 2019 and beyond.
Signore’s sister is 102 years old. It sounds like she was once married, but she is also over a century old like Signore. I am starting to think Signore’s theory might fall apart under greater scientific scrutiny. You hate to see it! But we love to see a woman who is proud of her life choices either way. (It’s also possible Signore just wanted to drag her sister’s marriage a little bit. Don’t make it hot, abuela.)
Laughing at all those memes might grant you a long life too.
“I said I’ve had enough parties,” Signore joked. In Signore’s community, she’s known for her dry sense of humor and being agile as ever. Fun fact: Destiny’s Child wrote a song about Signore it’s called “Independent Women.”
“She’s got no walking cane, no wheelchair. She does all her shopping. She’s awesome,” said her friend Deborah Whitaker.
While her sister doesn’t take any prescription medicine, Signore admits she takes one high blood pressure pill.
Things were really popping off in 1912.
Born in Harlem, New York in 1912, Signore moved to the Bronx when she was 14 and has called it home ever since. The year she was born Woodrow Wilson took office, the Titanic hit an iceberg, and Mexico was embroiled in a revolution that would last another eight years; women still wore pantaloons under their dresses, the Dominican Republic was ending its bloody civil war, and people would have to wait another 92 years to hear Pitbull’s M.I.A.M.I.
Abuelita is a survivor.
While Signore believes she has been lucky in life, her time on this earth has not been without challenges. She is legally blind, recently had a close call with pneumonia, and survived an assault and robbery at 103 years old.
Life is the longest thing any of us will ever do no matter when it ends. Some of us like to be cuffed up, others prefer to go it by themselves. Just remember, being single doesn’t mean you are ever alone. Signore has a community of over 100 people to celebrate her life with. However way you choose to go through it, Signore shows that it’s the relationships we form — platonic or romantic — that matter most.