I was blessed with an angel of a grandma who I was lucky enough to get the chance to live with during a time when we were both really needed eachother. Our grandpa – Nani’s husband of 50+ years had recently passed away and I just moved home from Utah and was dealing with a heartbreak. We needed each other, I knew none of it was a coincidence.
Michaelene Rink, who we call Nani, is sharp as a tack at age 81 and is constantly giving me the best advice in all categories of life. I wanted to talk, reminisce, reflect, and get inside the mind of this woman who is loved by so many. So I interviewed her last week when I was home. I thought we could all use a little Nani wisdom in our lives!
You were 94 pounds when you got married and you’ve been petite your whole life. What’s your best advice for maintaining your figure?
Nani: My best advice (that has worked for me) is that I would decide on a number, and that was my weight number. If I went 2 pounds over that number I’d think ok..hold back for a couple of days..stay there. You can’t let it fluctuate too much and you have to monitor it constantly. Pick a figure, stick to it, and say “this is where I want to be!” Also, eating 3 meals a day is what I do – never skip a meal.
Over the years, what is one of your favorite fashion trends?
Nani: Trends? I don’t know… but my very favorite fashion accessory is scarves. I wear a scarf every single day. I just feel that I’ve completed my outfit with a scarf. I am not in favor of anything sleeveless. I wear sleeves almost exclusively. And with air conditioning – where can you go where you where you don’t freeze? To me, you look a little bit ridiculous being cold.
What decade stands out the most in your mind when it comes to fashion?
Nani: Jaclyn Kennedy in the 60s. It was lady-like, demure, and classic. I like that era. You wore classic clothes and nothing was trendy. Everything was basic, classy, and neutral colors – which I like, that’s who I am. I’m not much of a color person. I’ll occasionally wear something splashy, but for the most part I don’t like to grab attention.
Your secret to good health?
Nani: If you’re lucky enough to have good genes, you’re lucky enough! I seem to be lucky in that area. I have good genes, I’ve had a healthy life, and I don’t deprive myself of much. I have to admit that my one treat of the summer is a mudslide from Dairy Queen. I got it the other night, all alone – got in the car, drove to Dairy Queen and had my mudslide – probably 3,000 calories. But I enjoyed it! You can’t do this every day, but you can indulge occasionally.
Fads you wish you could undo from your past?
Nani: That would probably be the 70s – the vinyl boots and hot pants. Can you believe there was such a thing as hot pants and I wore them? They were short onepiece outfits – like a romper. I remember wearing one to a Notre Dame football game with boots. The 70s with the colors and the mesh clothes.. that was not a good time for clothing I don’t think. It was too extraordinary.
How many different hair colors have you had?
Nani: Well, I was a brunette.. and that was ok, but for some reason when the frosting and the highlighting started – as with all things – you go from one extreme to the other. Each color would last two or three years as I gradually went lighter. Then I finally went all blonde. I had many red highlights at one point but becoming a blonde was more ‘me’ I felt. When I started going lighter I’d think “I think I am a blonde!“. But see – when I was a brunette, that meant that I was a tougher person – and as a blonde I felt that it meant I could be more gentle.
In your opinion, what is the ideal age to have kids?
Nani: I would say between 25 or 30. Your energy levels are high, you know a little bit about life, your brain is truly formed after 25 – which is important. I had your dad when I turned 24 and I felt like I was ready and it was where I wanted to be. What people are forgetting is that being a grandmother is such a wonderful thing. You don’t want to be too old and too tired to be a grandmother. I was young enough to love every minute of it, I never tired, and that’s important.
You’ve told me before to always play hard to get. What’s your reasoning behind this?
Nani: I don’t want to recommend playing games with something as important as a relationship. But I just want to stress that you should keep a little bit of yourself, your true self. Don’t lose yourself in another person. You have to stay you and you have to know that the relationship could end at any time for any reason. So you have to be stable, solid, and know that you’re happy and content with yourself and able to accept anything. Don’t ever lose yourself in someone else, be who you are.
In your opinion, what’s the biggest difference between men and women?
Nani: Women tend to be heart centered, especially when it comes to their families and feel the need to be the basic home body. While men seem to be able to play both roles simultaneously. For me, I just knew where I wanted to be – at home all the time because that’s where I felt the happiest.
The key to a successful relationship?
Nani: Sometimes it’s your turn and sometimes it’s his turn. It’s give and take. Try not to make it a power struggle. Say “ok, I’m acting out of love and I’m going to do this for your sake because I know how much it means to you…but I do expect you to treat me the same the next time”. It’s a struggle, but it has to go both ways. It’s not one person giving up their life for the other, its both of you.
If you could have lunch with one woman, who would it be and why?
Nani:I have to say my mother. She’s gone, and I would just like to spend time with her and ask her all the questions I never thought to ask her before. She was a tiny little thing but she was so sound and so stable. I admired her so much and pray that I can be like her in many ways. She was my idol. A simple little idol.
What is something you learned from your mother?
Nani: She taught me was to serve others. To do for others what you can, and to try to make them comfortable. She did always talk to me about being patient because she felt I was not a patient person. She was not domineering in any sense whatsoever. She let me be me, she let me make all my mistakes, but I always felt that whatever I did was going to be forgiven and that I was loved.
What’s your opinion on gender roles?
Nani: Well, they are not as defined as they used to be – and for someone my age that’s a little hard to handle at times. I mean, we all knew our roles. The woman stayed home and the man worked. It’s so different now, but I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing at all. They should probably be less defined if anything and everyone treated as equals. Gender roles can’t really be defined – they have to be characterized by the individual. We all march to our own drum and that’s how we have to accept each other.
You started a multimillion dollar company on your own at a young age. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to start their own business?
Nani: Hang in there! That’s the best advice I could give, because it’s never easy. You just have to persevere. We needed some additional income, so I took over a small section of a business. Of all things, it was a marking device business – rubber stamps. I felt so responsible for my employees – their future, their livelihood. That’s a pretty big responsibility, it get’s you up in the morning and keeps you working. The other people.
In another life, what would your dream career have been?
Nani: I suppose something in the arts and fashion. A party planner, decorator – I never tire of fashion or decorating. That’s what I would like to do. At one point I thought “oh I’d like to be an acctress, I’d like to be on stage” but I realized no, I know what I truly love. I love art, in any form.
How are your social media skills? And what do you think of life on the internet?
Nani: They’re very limited and I struggle, but I never give up! I love the idea of getting that screen to come up and show someone that I haven’t seen in five years. Or seeing friends pop up that I’d love to be with, but who live hundreds of miles away. I was someone’s maid of honor and I didn’t even realize she had died until I found it on the computer. I do like it, I think it’s a good thing. It’s a wealth of knowledge and knowledge is important – and the computer offers that. You’re always learning and you’re connecting to the world. It’s good to be connected.
You always tell us we need to put my computers/phones away and just have quiet time to think and ponder life. What’s your reasoning behind this?
Nani: When I’m really feeling feeling stressed and I think “I don’t have any of the answers”, I’ll just go to my chair. I recommend this! Find yourself a favorite chair that faces a window – it must look outside. Look up at the sky and the trees and pray for inspiration with a quiet mind. No music – nothing else going on. Just sit there, think things through, and ask for guidance in solving the problem. And it usually comes. You just have to be quiet enough to hear the voice that’s telling you what to do. That’s my meditation.
What’s something you’ve recently learned from a book you read?
Nani: I spent all of my life never reading fiction. I was always reading self-help books, I’ve read them all. I was always trying to improve and learn, and learn, and learn. And then, just recently, I started to read fictional story books just for pleasure and learned that I’m actually pretty normal. And my family is pretty normal. That’s the funny part. All the things you keep to yourself and you think that no one else has never experienced – I see in the books, they have. In different ways. We make certain mistakes, have disappointments, trials, triumphs, and joys. That’s what I’m learning, and I like that. I think ok… it was a good life. Everything was the way it should be.
A quote you live by?
Nani: You can tell by the things I’ve been saying that one of mine is “moderation in all things” – that has been my life long motto. I live my life that way. Another one I love is “nothing is more meaningful than life within the family“. If you can’t accept your family how are you going to accept the rest of the world? Friends come and go but family is forever. And one more! “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch. Yard by yard, life is hard. It’s a good life. That’s our family song, “What A Wonderful World”.. and notice they only mention simple things?
What would be your advice to your younger self?
Nani: Some things are gone and will never be replaced, but live with hope in your heart for the future. There’s always tomorrow and the sun will come out tomorrow! The only constant in life is change. That’s hard to accept but there’s a lot of truth in that. Be prepared for change and be ready to accept it. Try to be the bigger you.
Who’s your favorite grandkid (this was a joke but her answer was so perfect 😭)?
Nani: The one that needs me, the one that’s away, the one that is sick. Always…that one. I don’t care if you have 25 grandchildren, you have a different relationship with each one. Which is good, it makes you accept the change and the difference in people and love everybody just for who they are.
What’s your favorite part about being a mom and a grandma?
Nani: Being needed. I need to be needed, it’s almost a fault! When my kids were younger and there was a storm I would think “oh my children need me, I must go get them and protect them!”. And that was such a good feeling. I loved it. I treasure babies because I always think they have to be pampered and loved. You know, “let them be little – let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle” – love that quote! I like to be needed, that’s what I’m missing in my life right now.
Why do you love birds so much?
Nani: I do love them. I love the morning dove, I love the cooing. I sometimes think they’re spirits. And I believe the old wives tale that when a cardinal appears it’s someone from the past coming to visit you. And every time I see one here at the bird feeder I think, “Hi Don! Everything’s ok!”.
And there you have it. Life according to my 81 year old Nani. We love learning from each other. We are 54 years apart, but it’s amazing how little age matters sometimes. My roommates and I all listened to this recording the other night and after it was done we felt so much more at peace, her voice is just so calming! Thanks for reading you guys 🙂 and I love you Nani!!!
My name is Olivia and I am 27 years old. I was born and raised in Indiana, attended the University of Kentucky, and now I’m living in Chicago! I use my blog as a place to write about the things I love while sharing bits and pieces of my every day life along the way. I aim to inspire others through my personal stories, daily outfits, decor and styling tips, and to be a positive role model for girls and young women everywhere.
You can read Olivia’s blog here.