Tag Archives: friendship

Internet friends


“When one door closes, another opens” – Alexander Graeme Bell.

Is it weird that I have ‘internet friends’? As in, people I interact with and feel an attachment to, but have never met? I mean, I have an ‘internet husband’ I guess (in that we met online and I was attached to him before I ever met him… not that I still have not met him ūüėČ ), so are internet friends the next step? Maybe… And, while I realize this whole story my make me sound distinctly odd, today I ‘lost’ one friend but gained another.

Losing Caitlyn.

In 2010 when I took up running, I began following a blog called ‘Healthy Tipping Point‘ because it had lots of good running and exercise and healthy eating tips, without being too overly preachy or extreme. It was written by Caitlyn Boyle, the woman who started Operation Beautiful. ¬†Reading blogs is weird – they can contain so much personal information that you start to identify with someone, even though you have never met them. I remember in 2011 when Caitlyn announced she was pregnant, I was insanely jealous and I think reading her bump updates tipped me over the edge to want to try for Samuel instead of waiting for the year we originally planned. Then because we were pregnant ‘together’ (ahem) I would read Caitlyn’s blog as a ‘heads-up’ about what was coming… then she birthed her son and I followed all her posts on being a new parents and figuring that malarky out, while figuring it out myself.¬†And so on… then she had a daughter… she sent me her maternity swimsuit which I used a lot while pregnant with Caroline (it was about the only form of exercise I could stomach after the hyperemesis). Once, she even responded to one of my comments personally (fan girl moment!).

Anyway – if that didn’t make me sound weird and stalker-ish enough, this might: she recently decided to completely stop blogging and I actually felt very sad. How weird is that? I guess I can best liken it to when you finish a fiction book and are all sad that characters won’t be in your life anymore? Know what I mean? But yes, I was actually really sad. I wanted to call my husband and tell him of my great woe, but since he doesn’t even fully understand why I get sad when real live friends leave Houston, I decided to leave that one lest he have me committed…

But, on the same day, another door opened.

Gaining Las.

Las (you can find her here) is someone I have been interacting with for over a year – but never met. It started with reading her blog when a mutual friend shared a post once (so be warned if I read your blog… I may start to think of us as friends ūüėČ ). Then said friend shared¬†her FaceBook status update asking if anyone could help her find a baby cocoon for impending newborn, as the lady who was supposed to make her one had gone into early labor and wouldn’t be making it, and her newborn shoot was imminent. I love loom knitting, so I offered to do it (I made a cute hat to boot… I’ll ask Las if I can post a better picture, but as her son is in it, I need permission!).

image

I dropped off the cocoon at her house and added her on Facebook and never thought about it again. Then soon after her son was born, Las got sick (learned of this through FB) and so I dropped around a frozen mac n cheese, since I was making one for Wes. We ended up talking on Facebook often over parenting issues, anyway. I have offered to write a post for her blog (which I will do!), and donated money to a few causes that are close to her heart.¬†It got to the stage where I felt I knew her but we’d never met… until today.

All the lovlies

All the lovlies

I confessed to Las (on Facebook… always on FaceBook) that between having a newborn, being sick, having a sick toddler, having a sick newborn and trying to keep up with work, I was close to a letdown (OK, I may have had a meltdown…).¬†Around she came with the greatest gift of all: homemade food. I can’t tell you how much junk food we have been eating and how very, very sick of it I am (I pretty much stopped eating meals and loved off pretzels and cheese strings). OK, maybe the greatest gift of all was some adult company for a few hours, and a playmate for Sam… but a ginger cake, a date crumble, a tray of lasagne, a slow cooked chicken and a bag of pulled pork comes pretty close. Now I have fresh food to eat and someone has come over and not died at the sight of our house (which is in the worst state!) and life is looking a lot better indeed. It’s just a huge weight off my mind to have food, and healthy body healthy mind rings true for me – I feel much better after my lunch of a bagel and fresh chicken, than I usually do after a pile of chocolate and crisps.

So… internet friends. Is this weird? Or is this a ‘thing’ now? Either way, it’s pretty awesome, especially when you are traveling academic whose 2 kids doesn’t let her get out too much.

Internet friends. You win some, you lose some (sorry, I couldn’t resist)..

 

 

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A trio of thanksgivings, a triad of pies and a trillion things to be grateful for

Pies for Thanksgiving

The festive season is here, its advent marked by Thanksgiving. A full holiday in the US, and much more like a UK-Christmas than Christmas. I am feeling full, blessed and nostalgic, which I think is the point of this time of year and marks the end of a psychological evolution in me, which I  can illustrate through my three thanksgivings. It also marks the start of my love for pie (the psychological and pie developments may be interlinked), and I share 2 recipes and 1 drool-worthy picture below. Finally, I do as I am supposed to, and muse on what (or whom) I am grateful for in my life today.

So, 2 years and 2 months ago (give or take) I arrived in the US as somewhat of a mess. 6 months previously I had been all lined up to complete a postdoc with a wonderful woman at Oxford¬†University. Then I dated a Yank (actually, a Brit transplanted to Yank-dom some 25 years previously) and got a job offer at Yale. Then David Allison, in the space of a single phone-call, convinced me to chuck that in to come to UAB. What can I say? He was¬†charismatic. And I am extremely impulsive. Said boyfriend-of-questionable-Yankdom hit the roof and said: it’s him or me (it’s OK, he doesn’t read this blog). I now kind of understand his reasons, which I will not share out of respect. But back then – I didn’t, so I didn’t believe the Yank-wannabe, so I just blithely signed the documents for UAB and sported their sweatshirt for the remainder of my PhD. Which, strangely enough, I am wearing as ¬†I type now. But I digress from my digression. Mr Failed-Brit was deeply unimpressed. To the extent that he started cheating on me, fairly obviously, which I did not admit to anyone else, except myself. Occasionally. (But everyone knew anyway).

This lead to a rockstar FIT about 3 weeks before departure in which I announced there was NO WAY I was going to UAB, and this Allison-bloke (of whom I had¬†miraculously¬†never heard) and this nice Arnett-woman (who had offered to mentor me) could stick their data and their postdoc where the sun don’t shine (which is a difficult place to find, indeed, in Alabama). My ex-officemate ¬†heard the howls from literally across the office hallway and talked some sense into me, with a cunning mixture of humour, and gentle pressing on my academic ambition. So, I boarded the plane, bawled my eyes out within 20 minutes of being seated, explained the situation to the hostess and got a swanky upgrade to Business Class.

Nice upgrade not withstanding I arrived in AL not entirely sure I wanted to be here. Heck – I didn’t. By the time thanksgiving rolled around, said not-quite-a-Brit-not-quite-a-Yank had moved in with another woman, still come and visited me (I don’t think that woman knew), been dumped by me, got together with said woman officially while texting / emailing me how we were meant to be, and 1 day before told me that I had harmed his children’s mental health by dumping him, and I could make it better by taking him back (while he was with the woman? That bit I never figured out). Luckily my best friend of much ferocity and protectiveness, Clio, was out for thanksgiving¬†and banned¬† me from Skype and the telephone. She also set me up with an awesome thanksgiving and I will ALWAYS love her for picking me up and keeping me going.

Mess with my friend, and you'll feel the rough end of this Starbucks, alright?

But, thanksgiving number 1 was marked by a distinct decision to be as British as possible. To cook things in the British way, with another Brit, and experience thanksgiving as a transient piece of fun that wasn’t going to be part of my life anymore.

Thanksgiving no 1

I stayed another year. I got to have thanksgiving part 2. This was spent at the Chinese Buffet, with my boyfriend, and then driving to Tuscaloosa for a very messy night. It was great, but I call it ‘The Lost Thanksgiving’. I had no idea where my future was, and I was scared.

Thanksgiving no 2 did give rise to the best photo ever, however

This year, times have changed. I got married. I fell in love with UAB. I fell in love with the American academic system and how it pushes and challenges you. The opportunities that are here. While I will always love genetic psychiatry, and I hope it will have a place in my research future, I also love lipoproteins and insulin resistance and specifically gene-nutrient interactions (both with genes mediating dietary influences, and diets mediating gene expression). My postdoc mentors taught me about integrity and thus I learned to trust myself and my decisions. I prayed a lot. I didn’t so much accept that I might stay here, but actively pursued doing so, and looked forward to it. I embraced that America, and American traditions will be a big part of my life.

My previous opinion on pie. Note the inverse correlation between my disgust for pie, and my BMI

That is not to say that this has not happened without hardship. I have faced that so much of who I am, and my culture, and my heritage is recessing into the past. It is just not going to be a part of me. Yes, I can occasionally cook British food but it is just that: occasional. An event. I have lost the British way of celebrating Christmas… I don’t dress as I do in London (quite frankly, sick of the back handed comments, or of plotting my route to my desk to avoid them)… it has made it especially hard to lose my name upon getting married. Husband said he ‘didn’t mind at all’ what name I used, so I hyphenated. I was upset to find out he won’t take on the hyphenated name (as is fairly common in Europe) and sick to my stomach to find he expects the children to have his name. ¬†So, not only am I going to be removed from my heritage a lot, but removed from my children too! It never¬†occurred¬†to me it would be a problem – but he just says ‘you came here… you take on American ways’ (AL-ians do often conform to the stereotype of not exactly embracing women’s lib), but it is so hard to do it all the time and lose more and more of myself. I already knew that I would raise my children the US way (it’s not like I am going to make them stand out) – even though so many things just don’t seem right to me…

Anyway, I had a very American thanksgiving and it marked my joyful willingness to embrace many aspects of this culture as part of my own. And it was very wonderful. I spent time with very close friends / pseudo family and felt safe, loved and grateful. I am honored to have been part of such a happy occasion, and will always be grateful to my hosts for making me feel so included for one of the first times since I arrived here. Which is all anyone can ask for, right? That and pie.

The boy bakes a mean pie

This year, I embraced the quintessentially American PIE (not crumble… or tart…. or pastry but PIE). And not mince pies neither. With help (and ensuing hilarity) from the hubby, we made pear pie, and plum-frangipani pie (OK, the last one was not very American as every American I know (with the exception of Stella) shocked my multi-cultural foodie soul by saying ‘what is frangipani?’ over and over again).

Frangipani! Yum!

Here is where I got the recipe:

http://www.passionateaboutbaking.com/2011/07/baking-vanilla-almond-frangipane-plum-tart-the-last-of-the-plums-well-almost.html

Even if you don’t make the pie, check out this blog for some of the most gorgeous food-porn¬†photography. Passionate about baking: I am your slave. It was good – I would have sweetened the base slightly, with Demerara sugar, as that part was quite bland. But otherwise the tartish plums worked well with the sweet (but not overly so) ¬†frangipani. With the¬†addition¬†of some homemade leaves:

Leaves. Not 'eyes' (Wesley) or 'sausages' (Hemant) but autumnal leaves. Got it?

it also looked pretty stunning.

Imagine the leaves on this, and it glazed with melted apricot jam. Drool.

Then came the pear pie. This was easy peasy.

Ingredients

1 Pilsbury pastry case

6 firm slightly underripe pears

1.5 tsp cinnamon

.5 tsp all spice

1/2 cup white sugar

3 tbsp lemon juice

Basically: Line pie tin with crust

Get husband to peel and slice pears. Toss pears in other ingredients. Layer in pie crust and bake. Devour

Don't you just want to sink your teeth in?

And then, Stella brought over a pie for the college football! She made an Amish funeral pie, and it was my p0st-workout carb up with a large dollop of fat-free Greek Yogurt. And it was delicious. Think sweet raisins, with a tart filling, and then an addictive bite with the nuts.

Amish funeral pie

Amish funeral pie a la Stella

So what am I grateful for? I am grateful for many, many things. But, mostly for people. For Wes, who is kind and caring and good at teaching me what true selflessness is. Who is a steadfast and loyal husband, and full of many jokes. Who loves me, and professes his love, through my best and worst. Who counter balances my impulsive ‘let’s do it’ with a considered ‘let’s plan for it’. For Matthew who far more often than me, stands up for what he believes in, and remains true to his values. For Clio, who is going through the worst time, but displays awe-inspiring strength and is still the girl I have the most fun with (and is really my one-true love). For Stella, who not only bakes great pies, but has given me my drive and ambition back, and shown me that it is OK to stand up and go ‘no… I have thought about it, and decided to do it MY way. And if you don’t like that, that’s OK, but I respectfully disagree’. And who also taught me to set goals and strive for them, and be pleased when I reach them, but not lose my sense of self worth if I don’t smash every one. For Donna and David who have been supportive, kind and caring mentors through a tough transition. Who have helped me exceed any expectations I had for my postdoc, and who remain unbelievably dedicated to my future happiness. For David who challenges all my preconceptions of myself, and Donna who stands behind me while I smash them. To all of David’s family who genuinely treat me as one of their own, when the very worst thing to me is that mine are so far away. For my (old) family who are very brave and supportive about me being so far away and for my (new) family who are so welcoming (I got called Auntie Lekki – woo-hoo). And for Walter, Dinah and Bobby. Who keep me warm at night (occasionally because they have peed on the bedsheets, but mostly because they are snuggle bunnies). And that names just a few.

Right! That’s thanksgiving ¬†done. Onto Christmas (the VERY BEST holiday of all).

Check it out - a homemade advent calendar. More Christmas crafts to come.