J’s blog: Teaching my grandmother how to suck eggs

Hello, my friends. In this blog, I wanted to share with you, some musings as I continue my “journey” in healthy (ish) eating and fitness. Wisdom indeed, young grasshoppers, so read and learn and laugh at my attempts to impart things I have learned over the years and you already know and thus, I’m probably teaching my grandmother to suck eggs. (that’s a real phrase by the way.)

  1. Healthy cooking isn’t actually hard. When I first got married, at the ripe old age of 37, I told my husband that I wasn’t a good cook. I was so used to not cooking properly. I could make a boiled egg, and pasta casserole, and lived on a lot of Findus Crispy Pancakes, bacon sarnies and frozen oven fries and toast…but mostly I didn’t really cook for myself. My last apartment was above a hardware store and next door to a local Chinese/Chippy (fish and chips), so I may not have been a good cook, but I was an EXCELLENT customer of the shop next door. However, when I did get married, I had a year of unemployment and so started cooking, using recipe books and drawing on the creativity and experimentation I had used as a little kid. (Ask my mum about the cupcakes I made with lurid purple coloured and lemon essence icing and grated cheese on the top!) I discovered that I loved to cook, and was pretty good at it. I just hadn’t really tried properly before. American cookbooks are awesome, as they give measurements like “a cup of” and “a teaspoon of” rather than the British ones that are all, “4 grams of” and “6 ml of” – ain’t nobody got time for all that weighing out!

Anyway – to get to the point; Cooking really isn’t hard. Veggies and proteins and good fats are easy to cook. You don’t have to be complicated in cooking healthy food. The more you do it, the easier it is. As I keep saying, “spices and herbs are your friends”. Just having basic herbs and spices, lemons & limes and good fats and oils will help you to transform chicken, fish, beef and veggies into meals fit for a king, and extremely good for your well being. My favourite thing to do is to preheat the oven to 400F, put a piece of salmon in a baking tin, with a little olive oil, garlic and a squeeze of lemon. Lay asparagus in another baking tin, with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. Chuck both in the oven for about 10-15 minutes. As easy as that.

  1. You’re never too old to try something new. The saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is simply untrue. If it were true, we would never bother with trying anything.

At age 37, I packed all my worldly goods and got on a plane to new adventures: emigrating to the USA and getting married to a man I’d met online two years earlier. Both of us were talking this morning about how we had met, how he had been determined that he would never date, let alone marry an Englishwoman and how I had been vocal as a single 30-something that I would never EVER marry an American and that I would never want to live in the USA. 15 years later, married to our deal-breakers, we’re still going strong and enjoy our own ongoing adventures.

For Dan’s 50th birthday, back in 2008, we got up at an ungodly hour to drive to Queensbury on a freezing late October morning. My gift to him was a sunrise hot air balloon ride. As we ascended with just a wicker basket between us and the rapidly disappearing frost-ridden terra firma, my feelings zigzagged between excitement, wonder and genuine terror. However, the stillness of the morning, the sun rising, the sound of a distant train, the sight of another hot air balloon miles away, and of a herd of deer running through the trees below wiped away the fear. It was so beautiful up there. I was so glad we did it. Our landing was a different matter…the wind had got up, the basket bumped and capsized on the landing and I ended up face down in frosty grass with my husband tumbled on top of me, both of us laughing so much, we could barely get up.

Back in 2012, at age 47, I was fed up with treadmills and exercise machines at the local gym and wanted to try something different; something that didn’t make me feel like I was torturing or boring myself. I’d been to exercise classes and hated them. Doing the same exercises on gym machines was boring. I found Nancy and kettlebells. It was something completely new to me. And I loved it from the start. Who would have thought that I would be able to deadlift 265lb? To flip a 490lb tire? To pull a flippin’ airplane!?? To take part in Strong(wo)man challenges? To swing The Beast? And more importantly, 5 years later, still love doing this without any waning in interest? Nancy and the other trainers are always pushing, challenging, changing things up and keeping things interesting. We’ve learned all kinds of things and gained not only in strength, but in friendships and self esteem.

And now at age 52, I’m trying something else new to me – striking and conditioning classes have started at TKFC. I’m not the most coordinated when it comes to kicking and punching, but I am thoroughly enjoying it! With my heavy bag MMA gloves, I feel like a bad-ass. A slightly slow, and possibly quite ungainly bad-ass but one just the same!

I’ve learned that trying new things can bring up all kinds of emotions: fear, excitement, uncertainty, exhilaration – and it’s so worth it. So many of you reading this have done far more than I have; you know how it is. To those of you who let fear of the unknown, or worries about what people may think – go for it. You don’t want to look back on your life wishing “if only”. Even if it’s a small thing, go and try it. If it doesn’t work out, at least you tried. If it does work out – woohoo!! And that’s advice I have to continually give to myself.

  1. Don’t worry about what others think: I was an awkward teenager. At high school, I was always worried about what people thought of me. I was very fortunate in that I had friends who were loyal, but I tried hard not to rock the status quo. I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to fit in. I lived in dread of being one of the kids who had rumours circulated about them. I don’t know how kids get through school nowadays. I take my hat off to you. Even as a young adult out in the working world, I worried about whether people liked me for me, or if they were just putting up with me and too polite to say otherwise. I had fun with my friends, sure, but cared about what people thought of me. I didn’t want to put a foot wrong, or look stupid in front of others. I still remember going out with a group of friends one night and as I left a pub with them, I heard a guy say to another one, “Who let the fat people out tonight?” with a nod towards me. I was devastated. Now I look back, I realise I actually wasn’t fat, and what that guy’s comments said more about him than me,  but those words followed me around for years. I dressed in a way that didn’t show my body off. I wore loose blouses, long skirts, trousers. Things that didn’t accentuate my curves or everything that was wrong with my body.

Today, most of the time, I don’t give a rat’s furry backside what people think. Of course, you always want to show off your best side and at work be the best professional you can be. But seriously? Life’s too short to let others dictate how you feel about yourself. I have to say, that in my 50’s, I feel like I’ve come into my own as a strong woman (in all senses of that word). I know that I have friends who “get” me and like me for who I am. I know that I can be irritating, and annoying. But, I am also loyal. I love to sing out loud, I dance around the house to music that others would laugh at, I embarrass poor Dan in traffic by pretending to play the sax solo when George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” comes on the radio. (However, he can be just as silly as me.) I enjoy being ridiculous and having fun. I enjoy being strong. Maybe I’ll never be a size 6 but I don’t care as long as I’m healthy and strong. I don’t apologise so much for being me. Please don’t think that this came instantly to me once I hit 50. It’s still a work in progress, but so very freeing. Of course I have days when I feel like crap and don’t like myself much, but those days get fewer and fewer, the older I get. It’s pretty awesome that I actually like myself. I want to encourage you, especially as a woman, to embrace all the good things that make you, you in a world that tries to put you in a box and make you feel less than you are.

So there you go. These have been my thoughts over the past couple of weeks. I’m grateful to know people who aren’t afraid to try new things and who enjoy being themselves. You’ve taught me a whole lot and I’m thankful.
If you see me in traffic, playing a pretend sax solo to the sounds of George Michael, or trying to channel Adele, please join in….. In the meantime, stay strong – J x

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One Response to J’s blog: Teaching my grandmother how to suck eggs

  1. Elizabeth Pearson says:

    Jeannette, you, your thoughts and musings, are so very good for me. I try to use your thinking in my own life and know that, even as old as I am, there is still a lot you can teach me. So glad you are my daughter. Thank you.