I’ve been wearing a lot of leopard print lately. And my nails are painted red. And this isn’t by coincidence… it’s in my blood, y’all.
For those of you that know me, you know I come from a long line of women with big hair and bold lipstick. My mom and my grandma (and just about every woman before them) have always taken pride in their appearance. You’ll just about never see them without their hair fixed and their mascara applied, and so naturally, I’m about the same way.
But, surprisingly, my leopard print and red nails aren’t inspired by them. They’re inspired by another lady from my dad’s side of the family that I was so lucky to know.
And to know her was to love her.
That lady was my Nan, Audrey Jean Chaney. And let me tell ya, she was one of a kind. When the weather got cold, she was Florida bound. And if it was still chilly when it got back, she wore a fur coat to keep her warm. She was the only person who could stay up late enough to watch the ball drop with me on New Years Eve. Also, she and my little sister had the same bright red sparkly Keds. And although I was inspired by her “more is more” sense of fashion and her fun, free spirit, I admired her for much more than that.
My Nan was not afraid to tell anyone what she thought and why she thought it. She would make you walk the line, no questions asked. She worked down at my pap’s convenient store, and there wasn’t a time that I walked in that she didn’t sit me down to tell me how important it was to a) stay in school and b) not settle down with a loser that would keep me from staying in school. My Nan was unapologetically herself. She loved our family and was so protective of us, but she wasn’t afraid to let us know when we were in the wrong.
Everyone that knew her had a story about her. She had a quite colorful way of expressing her thoughts. I asked my family what some of their favorite Nan philosophies were.
I’m calling them Nan-nerisms.
No matter what color nail polish you try, there’s nothing like looking down and seeing red toenails!
This is a classic Nan quote. She told this to my Grammy years ago, who later shared it with me. Needless to say, my toenails have been painted red ever since. She was right.
Always take care of family.
Nan was big on family. She was the glue of the Chaney clan. If you didn’t like so and so, you sucked it up and acted like you did… or else Nan would make you. She was so proud of every person who carries the Chaney name. She always took care of her own and she defended us til death.
But, just because she defended us to others didn’t mean she approved of everything we did. Several of us have stories of her sitting us down to tell us about what we’re doing wrong. Nan would take care of our family by making sure we were on the right path.
Don’t let jealousy change you.
Nan believed every child and grandchild she had was special in their own way. She thought each of us brought unique cards to the table and hoped we’d never try to trade them to win. Sometimes, jealousy will cause you to lose sight of who you are — she hoped that would never happen to us.
Some people are snakes in the grass.
This was how she would say someone is sneaky, or not worth trusting. And believe me, if Nan thought they weren’t worth trusting, she’d tell ya.
If you lie down with dogs, you’ll rise up with fleas.
Essentially, this means that you become the company you keep. And if you’re keeping bad company, well…
If you run with 💩, you get the stink on you.
This is just the previous quote with funnier wording. It’s true though. It’s my mom’s favorite Nan quote.
When you get your leg hung in a bear trap, you don’t yank it out. You ease it out.
My dad has told me it’s important to respond instead of react. Reactions are quick and sloppy, but responses are thoroughly considered. When I’m stuck with a big decision or I know something bad is going to happen, he’ll always remind me of this Nan quote. Instead of trying to make quick decisions, give it awhile and consider all of your options. Sometimes things have a way of working themselves out, anyways.
You can do anything you set your mind to.
This one is most important to me. I’m sure that this is something every great-grandparent has told their grandkids at one point, but the way Nan would tell it had a special sense of assurance behind it. She didn’t just tell you that you could do anything you set your mind to, she expected you to. And nothing less.
My Nan passed away about a year and a half ago. I had just started my first week of the Governor’s Scholars Program seven hours from home and I was having a hard time adjusting. I had went to visit her the week before I left. I didn’t know it would be the last time. I got the call from my mom that Nan had left us, and I was devastated knowing that I couldn’t be at her funeral. I wanted to leave GSP, but I could feel that she would have been disappointed in me. She knows I’m not a quitter. So I stayed.
You were right, Nan. I can do anything I set my mind to. Thank you.