weekend free-for-all – February 27-28, 2016

Eve is a bat.

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school. If you have a work question, you can email it to me or post it in the work-related open thread on Fridays.)

Book recommendation of the week: The Martian, by Andy Weir. I loved the movie and wasn’t sure if the book would be too sci-fi for me, but it’s not. I’m mid-way through and it’s making me want to watch the movie nightly.

{ 911 comments… read them below }

  1. silvertech

    Short backstory which is work-related, but the question is not: I was laid off 6 months ago, and for mental and physical health-related reasons I decided not to look for a new job right away, but focus on my recovery instead. My last job had been a huge stressor and I desperately needed a break (I could pull this off financially and, most importantly, it’s working!).

    As I’m getting better, I’m spending more and more time thinking about how to improve my life in every possible way, and I’m considering moving/working abroad. It’s something I never considered before, as one of my health problems is an anxiety disorder and just thinking about leaving used to be enough to make me panicky. I’d be interested in hearing from people who successfully moved to a different country and stayed for good. What did you do, or didn’t do, that made the whole thing successful? What were the biggest challenges you faced? Bonus points if you have tips on doing this as a person with anxiety/depression issues (past or current).

    For context, I’m in Europe, and I’m thinking about moving to Switzerland: I have friends who live there and I speak the language (French) fairly well.

    Also, I’m mostly a lurker on AAM, I commented maybe twice so far, but I want to thank Alison and the commenters: even if I rarely interact, reading AAM and the comments has been incredibly useful, informative and a privilege overall. It has helped me so much, especially during this tough time :)

    1. Treena

      Yay for taking care of yourself and for considering a move abroad! I’m sure you know that the best treatment for anxiety is to expose yourself to the things that make you anxious, and this is a great way to do it!

      First, I highly recommend reading some blogs about this topic. This one is the personal story of Lauren from Never Ending Footsteps. She had really, really bad anxiety and now travels full-time. This is her personal story http://www.neverendingfootsteps.com/2014/01/17/on-anxiety-and-travel/

      And this is her travel anxiety advice published on Nomadic Matt (the biggest travel blogger in the world and he has anxiety too!) http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/how-to-overcome-anxiety/

      Of course, it’s a little different because they travel as a profession and you want to make a long-term move, but I hope you can find some parallels in there. My husband and I move frequently and he has mild, undiagnosed anxiety (although I think if he wanted to go to the dr, it would be diagnosed). He gets anxious about everything different big and small. So when we’re planning a move, I tell him things in frequent, short spurts. Sometimes even the good stuff induces anxiety because even if it sounds good, what if it’s not really? So he gets a little bit of info, sits with it, and then gets more, etc. If I tried to dump a weeks worth of research on him, he would freak out unnecessarily. So maybe when doing research for your move, limit yourself to 1 hour, and after that 1 hour check in with how you’re feeling. Depending on what you find out, it could be calming or inducing a panic attack. Feel free to dive into the calming topics/times and cut short the anxiety riddled ones.
      I posted recently about how I plan a move, but it’s a little different from how most people plan, so take it with a grain of salt.
      http://www.askamanager.org/2016/02/weekend-free-for-all-february-20-21-2016.html#comment-1002009

      Good luck!

    2. Schmitt

      I moved, but to marry someone, which comes with at least one person you already know in the country!

      The language barrier, making friends in a second language, and how poor we were the first few years were the major hurdles. Fourteen years in, I wouldn’t move back.

      Since you already speak the language and friends there, I guess you’ve got a good shot… just make sure you like Käsespätzle!

      1. Cordelia Longfellow

        Sorry, I accidentally hit Post early. My situation’s a little different – I moved from Canada to London to go to grad school for eighteen months, and I just moved back to Canada. I have an anxiety disorder and depression (the latter’s been in remission for seven years with medication and therapy) as well as physical disabilities.

        Things that made the move easier:
        – I was familiar with the city after several month-long holidays there over the last decade (it’s my favourite place in the world).
        – There was no language barrier.
        – I lived with friends.
        – School provided structure and I met some wonderful friends in my classes
        – My therapist in Canada was willing to have sessions over Skype, which was incredibly helpful. If you can maintain contact with your Professional Team You in your current location after you move, even if it’s just until you can find new docs/therapists/etc., it can be invaluable for your mental health.
        – If you can afford to visit your prospective city for a few weeks, perhaps staying with friend(s), that can give you an idea if it’s a place you want to live. Explore transit options and accessibility, get an idea of housing options and neighbourhoods you might like, and opportunities for any favouite hobbies (gyms, theatres, clubs, etc).
        – If you do move, Skype calls to friends and family back home are a godsend.

        Also, with anxiety, it may help to remind yourself that this move doesn’t have to be permanent. My brain weasels like to plan for every contingency and catastrophize, and it help me to remember that I’m allowed to change my mind, and that’s not a failure. If you move and don’t like it six months or a year down the road, your are not actually stuck FOREVER. You can move back home or somewhere else (hurrah for the EU!), and you will have learned a lot about yourself and what you want during your time in Switzerland, whether it was good or bad.

        I hope some of this helps, and best of luck if you decide to move!

    3. Tau

      I moved to the UK for university from Germany, and have lived there ever since. I had difficulties with depression at the time and also have Asperger’s, which makes a lot of things pretty difficult.

      I’m not sure I can really pin down what made the whole thing successful. However, things that undoubtedly helped:

      – not being *too* far away from family. I could go back for Christmas, Easter and the summer holidays, and in the other direction I usually got long-weekend visits from one of my parents around twice a year. This meant I did have a safety net when I was struggling due to disability, even if it wasn’t as firm as it would have been if I’d stayed in Germany.
      – no language barrier!!! (My family lived in the US for six years when I was young, so I’m effectively bilingual.)
      – occasions for structured socialising. One of the difficult things about moving abroad is that you don’t know *anyone* and have to build your support systems up from scratch. If you have difficulty forming relationships due to depression, anxiety, Asperger’s, etc. that makes things even worse. University is pretty good for letting you meet new people; outside university, I’d probably look into meet-up groups and that sort of thing.
      – being around other Germans specifically, and other foreigners generally. I think the latter was actually more important than the former – other foreigners are people who’ve been in your boat, who won’t expect you to know UK(/Switzerland)-specific cultural references, who can help you with figuring out how things work in the new country, etc. There’s a shared bond there. I basically went from an environment with lots of foreigners including fellow Germans to an environment with lots of foreigners but almost no Germans to an environment where I was the only non-Brit, and that last step has been the hardest. So if your everyday life/job ends up dominated by Swiss, I’d recommend looking into expat groups or other social environments that have a lot of foreigners.
      – a lot of structure via the university when I first moved over – I didn’t have to find and rent a flat, figure out how to get and pay for electricity, etc.

      Good luck! Moving can be hard, but really rewarding. I am vaguely planning to return to Germany one day, but I wouldn’t trade the last ten years and the experiences I’ve had and friends I’ve made for the world.

  2. The Other Dawn

    I seriously can’t take the cuteness that is Eve. Love her!!

    Anyone got any good ideas for using quinoa, wheat berries, etc.? Snack ideas would be great, also. Preferably without bread or crackers. I’m looking for some inspiration, as I’m trying to refocus and lose the last of the weight. One key to that, for me, is having variety; I’m in a total rut at the moment. Next weekend I plan on cooking up a storm, shopping for everything I need to stay on track, prepping food for the freezer, etc. This weekend I’m cooking up a bunch of quinoa for a quinoa fried “rice” recipe I found, which I plan to make either during the week or next weekend.

    1. Yetanotherjennifer

      I don’t have a recipe but I’ve had some delicious tabouleh made with quinoa. It could be good side for chicken.

      1. hermit crab

        I ate some quinoa tabouleh this week! (my coworker made it) It was great!!!!

        p.s. spellcheck wants me to change quinoa to Joaquin, ha!

    2. katamia

      I haven’t had time to try this yet, but I’ve been thinking of trying to make some sort of quinoa granola bar sometime soon. That might be a good snack if you can find a recipe you like.

      1. LaraW

        I put quinoa in my granola sometimes. A little goes a long way; probably 1/4 to 1/2 C per 4 cups of oatmeal.

    3. Lizketeer

      I love just throwing random things together with quinoa – various vegetables, some form of protein (beans, tofu, veggie crumbles, etc), different seasonings. And then pair it with whatever sauce fits.

      Asian style vegetables, tofu, and teriyaki. Italian vegetables and balsamic vinaigrette. Sun dried tomatoes and feta cheese.

    4. Kyrielle

      Quinoa crusted chicken nuggets (baked in the oven) are amazing. I found the recipe somewhere on the internet….

      Quinoa with a little bit of fruit or a drizzle of maple syrup makes a passable breakfast item.

      Quinoa, spinach, and tuna fish goes pretty well together too.

      (Sorry, I can’t speak to wheat berries, so this is sort of a one-grain wonder of recommendations.)

      Do you cook with brussels sprouts at all, and if so do they count for your diet? I love them with (a little bit of!) olive oil, salt, pepper, maybe a little garlic-infused olive oil instead of standard, and baked at 350-400 until the edges crisp.

      1. The Other Dawn

        I found a recipe for cinnamon raisin breakfast quinoa, which I might try next weekend.

        I’m not excited about brussels sprouts, but maybe I haven’t found the cooking method that makes them taste good to me.

        1. Kyrielle

          What I like about the one I described is that they end up crispy, not slimy. I was surprise how much I liked them that way. They do have to be cut in half, which is kind of tedious. I…have to admit I kind of buy Albertson’s pre-cut ones sometimes. Heh. (On the other hand, my husband still doesn’t much like them, even done that way.)

          1. TootsNYC

            I shredded them once, and they were really good! Like a warm salad.

            I did it by hand, which was incredibly tedious. The next time I do it, I’m going to slice them in the food processor.

        2. Honeybee

          Brussels sprouts are delicious, but the way I like them probably negates at least some of the nutritional value: sauteed with bacon and garlic. However, they also taste good with just garlic and lemon juice.

          1. Vulcan social worker

            I will always be eight years old when it comes to Brussels sprouts, no matter how you cook them. But now no one can make me sit at the table all night if I refuse to eat them.

            I eat the rest of my vegetables.

        3. Alston

          Brussel sprout potato hash is AMAZING. It’s sort of crispy and delightful and not dissimilar to homefries.

        1. Alston

          I love roasted veggies. My parents pretty universally steamed stuff when I was a kid, and roasting them was a revelation when I grew up and started cooking for myself. Crunch, flavor, the seasoning possibilities!

    5. nep

      I like cooking the hell out of garbanzo beans, mashing them, then mixing in quinoa. I add dulse flakes and sometimes a bit of olive oil. Anyway any kind of mashed peas or beans with quinoa can be great.

    6. StudentPilot

      I’ve fot two : I carried the Olympic Torch for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and I summited Kilimanjaro in 2012.

      1. fposte

        Okay, this one is amazing and it ended up in the wrong subthread, so I’m commenting to give it greater visibility.

    7. Mallory Janis Ian

      I found that quinoa cooks just like rice in my rice cooker (same proportion of grain to water, same cook time), so I’ve been using quinoa in place of rice to make curried chickpea cakes. I fry them in a little sesame oil and serve them wrapped in butter lettuce with mango salsa.

    8. The Other Dawn

      All of these ideas sound great. Thanks!

      I just got back from the store and stocked up on wheat berries. I also bought some bulgar wheat. Not sure why. I’m thinking I once saw a recipe online and thought it looked good. I do that a lot.

      1. traveller

        My favorite recipe is a salad:
        quinoa, chopped baby kale, diced red and orange peppers and chopped peanuts. Dressing is tahini, honey, chili/garlic sauce and some water to thin it out.

        So tasty!

      2. AFT123

        Check out thekitchn.com for good wheat berry recipes – I’d assume you can also use wheat berries as a substitute in Farro recipes as well. My favorite farro recipe – Golden raisins or craisins, feta or goat cheese, slivers of carrot, cubes of roasted sweet potato or squash or something orange and sweet, green herb of choice (parsley is nice and neutral), and dress with a dressing of OJ, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Add herbs and spices you like. Also good with red onion if you’re into that. I made it with roasted onions once and I loved it. you could really do any veggie, but I don’t think you can leave out the raisins/craisins or the feta or goat cheese – those two elements add a ton of flavor. You could eat on it’s own, in a wrap, or over lettuce for a heartier meal.

        Also, Salad Girl makes some great salad dressings that taste really good with grains.

        I feel like you could maybe also “breakfast” it – maybe saute with some onion, meat of choice, and savory spices or herbs and fry an egg on top?

    9. Trixie

      Barefoot Contessa has an amazing tabbouleh recipe with roasted chicken and bulgur. This plus hummis from America’s Test Kitchen is the best lunch ever. I also plugged in “whole grains” to Food Network recipe search. See some immediate good options to try with salsads, or Fig/walnut energy bars from Ellie Krieger.

    10. Nye

      I usually use quinoa and other grains in place of rice or mashed potatoes under saucy foods, or in sort-of-salads with a cooked grain, roasted veggies (winter squash is really good), a dressing, a crunchy thing (eg nuts), and lots of fresh herbs. 101 Cookbooks, run by Heidi Swanson, is a great food blog for using unusual grains in healthy and tasty recipes. She has a few cookbooks out, too. (She has a very nouveau hippie SF aesthetic, but her recipes are solid even if they sound precious.)

      Also, try red quinoa if you haven’t already! I like it better than regular (nuttier and better-textured), and you can substitute it for regular, just give it a few more minutes to cook. You can get it at health food stores and now at Trader Joe’s, possibly even at well-stocked regular grocery stores.

      1. ID10T Detector

        Those buffalo chicken quinoa bites are amazing- I made them for Super Bowl Sunday and didn’t want to share!

  3. Anonymous Educator

    Has anyone else seen Advantageous on Netflix?

    It was so creepy and good. And I found it super refreshing to have not just one but several not-faking-accents Asian American protagonists.

    1. Vulcan social worker

      I did, when it first came to Netflix and got a write-up one some website. A year ago? Two? It was both creepy and good. Am I remembering correctly that it had a cast that was entirely people of color?

      1. Anonymous Educator

        No, the cast wasn’t entirely people of color, but the main characters are Asian American, and there’s significant ethnic diversity in the cast. Jennifer Ehle (of BBC Pride and Prejudice fame) is in the film as a supporting character.

  4. The Cosmic Avenger

    The post on forced singing had a few commenters saying they performed professionally, and I mentioned that I was a bass soloist in a choir. That actually was an item I used in one of the fun team-building exercises we did, which was to write down something no one else at work knew about you. They were all read anonymously, and we had fun guessing whose was whose.

    So, anyone want to share something random about yourself with the AAM community? What one thing do you think would surprise the other commenters the most?

    I’ll start: in addition to the singing, I did tech work off-Broadway back in the 90s, including production stage manager, lighting operator, and sound operator.

    1. QualityControlFreak

      I think this is a great question. It took me a bit to think of something about me that might be surprising. ;) For a number of years I worked with a jousting/fighting/performance group doing ren fairs, private shows and such. That was fun.

    2. Myrin

      I’ve worked part-time in a gym for several years and used to be really fit but I’m just not the type who looks like it at all (I have big thighs, my face still has some weird baby-fat [or maybe it’s just fat? I don’t know] and basically no cheekbones, and neither my arms nor legs develop any visible muscles ever) so I’d guess it would be a surprise for most people who meet me. I also used to rock a pretty cool sixpack (the exception to the no-muscles rule the rest of my body seems to have going on) but I stopped working on that two years or so ago and now it’s just a normal belly.

    3. Doriana Gray

      I used to be a burlesque historian. I ran a pretty popular blog about the topic that is a favorite in the community, and still gets a ton of traffic, even though I haven’t touched it since 2010 or 11.

    4. fposte

      I was really fast, both in informal kid running and in track. It was a great equalizer, because I was faster than almost all of the boys as well as the girls. A bad knee put paid to all that, but I’ve never really lost that sense of myself, which is odd given I really couldn’t run more than a few steps now. But I’ll never forget the joy of powering into high speed and whipping past people.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        I know what you mean about keeping that sense of yourself even now that you can’t really run anymore. I used to be able to walk on my hands for longer than any of the other kids could do it. Hell, I was one of the few kids who even could do it. But I could go around and around the yard on my hands for as long as I wanted to. And I’d stop and tap myself on the back of the head with my toes just to show off. I certainly can’t do that anymore, but I still have that sense of myself as being able to do it.

    5. alice

      I used to be a professional Disney princess. I did a lot of birthday parties as well as volunteer gigs at hospitals and such when I was a teen.

    6. Windchime

      I have had both of my pinky toes broken (at different times) by having them stepped on by a horse. I also got a compression fracture in my back one time from helping the vet turn over a horse who was thrashing on the ground while having colic.

    7. Trill

      I have ridden an ostrich.

      I slept in a hammock at an open camp in Venezuela with a view of Angel falls.

      I have removed a human brain at an autopsy.

    8. The Cosmic Avenger

      Wow, these are really cool! I am grinning like an idiot here, because these are so interesting!

    9. Elizabeth West

      A lot of people don’t know this, but I like miniatures. I have seven dollhouses I haven’t put together or finished yet (and I just bought a vintage Greenleaf kit at the flea market, oof!). I have a ton of things to put in them, and about 40 books and magazines on the subject. I have one planned based on a favorite musical, with a box full of stuff for it, but I need better materials to make it (or a better kit than the one I started with because it is just not. working). For that one, I might attempt dolls because I can see them in my head, but generally, I don’t like them. I prefer settings that look like someone just left the room. There aren’t many doll artists whose work looks realistic, and they spoil an otherwise realistic vignette, IMO. I like the kind of miniatures that you do NOT play with.

      Most expensive one I own: this mini gramophone that plays music http://www.harlequins.uk.com/bodo-hennig-miniature-gramophone.html. I think it cost me about $80 USD.

      Smallest: A very very tiny pair of working barber’s scissors for the musical one (have you guessed which musical it is yet? :) ). I hope they’re in the box; I have no idea where they are at the moment.

      Most collectible: a Petite Princess piano! https://www.rubylane.com/item/1218810-285/Ideal-Petite-Princess-Fantasy-Furniture-Piano It’s a weird scale, though, so I’ll have to build a room box around it.

      One of the most fun things about it is using found/other objects as mini stuff. Cheerios as doughnuts, tiny jewelry findings as chandeliers, etc. Also, wiring is a pain in the patootie. What I really need is one more room in this damn house I can use as a craft room, with more storage and more room. I suppose I could convert the garage, but I really don’t want to stay here.

    10. nep

      I was in Maiduguri, Nigeria, when Nigeria won the 1996 Olympic gold medal in football.

      While living in DC ages ago, some of my best moments were spent volunteering at Whitman-Walker.

    11. ginger ale for all

      I can swim backwards. Feet first going forward. You just need strong abs to lift your feet above the water and keep your legs straight. Then work your arms madly paddling about to go.

    12. katamia

      In high school, I fenced and took horseback riding and did competitive dancing for years. I was never even close to good enough to go pro, but I did go to competitions and everything.

      As a kid, I got to see Dominique Dawes practice one time. My PE teacher in elementary school was an ex-gymnast, and somehow he knew her.

      1. Doriana Gray

        As a kid, I got to see Dominique Dawes practice one time. My PE teacher in elementary school was an ex-gymnast, and somehow he knew her.

        I’m so jealous – I loved her as a kid.

      2. Jo

        I was a horseback rider as a kid/teenager, also!

        The most interesting thing about me at the moment is that I live in Afghanistan — which is actually pretty boring most of the time but can on occasion be very interesting (although sometimes in the worst possible way).

        1. katamia

          I have a high school FB friend who used to have to go to Afghanistan a lot for his job (nonprofit; we were never close so I’m not sure exactly what he did). He really liked it there, though. I think he mainly spent time in Kabul when he went. I’d love to visit someday, but I don’t know if I have the emotional/psychological constitution to visit it right now. Maybe if things settle down a bit I can try to make my way there eventually.

      3. manybellsdown

        I was a college fencer! I was pretty decent at it by virtue of a) somehow being the only left-handed fencer at the whole school, and b) being skinny enough at the time to practically hide behind my foil.

        I also took theatrical fencing, so I got to make use of the “I am not really left-handed” joke plenty.

    13. Cath in Canada

      The fact about me that trips people up every single time I play “two truths and one lie”: I once won a poker tournament in Vegas.

      It was the cheapest tournament we could find ($20 buy-in – IMO the best value on the Strip in terms of fun had per dollar spent – and a $300 prize), so it didn’t really attract the locals who like to take tourists’ money in more expensive tourneys. And not many women play, so my mostly loud, mostly drunk, mostly young, mostly male competitors all completely underestimated the quiet, mostly sober, 30-something Canadian woman at their table. In particular, they didn’t seem to think I’d ever bluff, and folded every time I showed a single shred of aggressive play. I slowly and quietly built my stack over many small hands, then annihilated everyone (including my husband, who came in third) at the final table. It was awesome :D

    14. Kyrielle

      I grew up in the country and people would dump animals. So I grew up taming feral kittens. I can still do a passable ‘mama cat’ noise, and I once was able to tuck a very young kitten who wasn’t eating from the bottle/rags under my chin and chirp/”purr” at it until it let me feed it. (Which is when I learned, be careful what you take responsibility for…it took a bit to transfer that to any other person!)

    15. AvonLady Barksdale

      I’m also a choral singer, but I’ve mentioned that here before– not that people would remember it, necessarily, but I gotta come up with something else. :) Although, I’ve learned since moving away from NYC that some of my choral experiences are pretty special, including performing during two of Lorin Maazel’s last concerts as music director of the NY Philharmonic.

      I worked at Disney World for a summer, as part of the WDW College Program. It was AMAZING. I tend to come across as really cynical and sarcastic and pragmatic (maybe not here, but in general), so it always surprises people when I get that Disney glow on my face, talking about all the kids and the joy of just being in the park.

    16. Aussie Teacher

      I sing with a Sweet Adeline’s barbershop chorus (really high level a cappella) and we’re 12 weeks out from nationals/regionals (our region is the whole of Australia because it’s an American organization). I also sing in a barbershop quartet and we’re aiming for a top-5 medal finish (out of around 35 quarters who compete nationally).

      I also once had dinner with Sean William Scott (Stifler from American Pie) when I was in Sydney doing modelling!

    17. hermit crab

      I used to volunteer at the invertebrate exhibit at the National Zoo until it closed a couple of years ago, and now I volunteer at the reptile house. As a result, I know a LOT of cool facts about the creepy-crawlies.

    18. LizB

      A piece of poetry I wrote is engraved on a public building in my hometown.

      While on a teen trip to Israel, I did a five-day educational program with the IDF where we basically pretended we were in basic training, including learning how to shoot an M16.

    19. ThursdaysGeek

      I can sing harmony, even for songs I don’t know and haven’t heard before. Give me the words, and I can sing harmony with the person singing. But my voice quality is mediocre, so I haven’t done much with that.

    20. Dynamic Beige

      I helped a veterans’ organisation get a memorial installed at Dieppe for their unit that was at D-day by making a 3D model of it based on the stuff they gave me. The guy who I worked with told me that after they started using my art, they found it much easier to get donations because people could see what it would really look like once it was installed. In a bizarre coincidence, I found out while I was in Paris that it was being installed but there wasn’t enough time to figure out how to get out to the coast and back. One day!

    21. Lizzie

      I am a kind-of-well-known online gaming personality. In fact, if you are into watching gamers online at all, there is a very reasonable chance you already know me (or my show).

      1. Saucy Minx

        1. I picked cotton when we lived in Tennessee in the 1960s. School started in August, & then in October we had two weeks for cotton-pickin’ vacation. I know very few people who have picked cotton.

        2. When I lived in Germany I could take the bus into town on market day & buy plenty of fruit & veg straight from the farmers. One day as I stood at the bus stop, waiting to go back to the village w/ my string bags of produce, some fellow pulled up in his car & wished to open negotiations, having mistaken me for a street walker. Pretty sure none of the professional ladies stood around at bus stops, luring customers w/ their shopping skills.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          My grandparents used to pick cotton with their three boys, including my dad, helping. By the time my siblings and I came along, the cotton picking was done with combines. They still chopped cotton by hand (with a hoe), though, and my mom and siblings used to spend a few weeks in the summer chopping. I got out of it because the lady who managed the branch of the state revenue office in our town would hire me as office help in the summer. So I spent my summers pranking her by stringing all her paperclips together end-to-end; that used to exasperate her to no end.

    22. danr

      Former French horn player here, and the marching equivalent. Marching band was fun. I’m a good audience these days.

    23. Sandy

      I used to be a fairly skilled trumpet player. I would play the Last Post at Remembrance Day ceremonies all over Ontario/Quebec.

      (But my favourite piece was King of the Road. Great trumpet piece!)

    24. New Math

      You’d think prescriptions would be the one thing you’d never forget, but it does happen. I now always carry 2 days worth in my wallet to buy time for finding a helpful pharmacy in my destination city.

    25. Dot Warner

      Not nearly as cool as most of the one here, but:

      I was my high school’s mascot for a year.

      I’m generally an early bird, but I love working the night shift.

    26. Gary

      I’m one of the “faces in the crowd” on the back cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Live In New York City album.

    27. Carrie in Scotland

      These are all so cool and fun! Great question Cosmic Avenger!

      As for me I am a collector of a particular girls boarding school series (The Chalet School) which used to be very difficult to get a hold of but a small publishing company now re-print them. It took me 15 years to complete my series (over 50 books) and then I found out that the paperback versions were mainly abridged so now I’m collecting all the unabridged versions (which the small publishing place prints).

    28. Blue Anne

      I am a literal metalhead.

      My party trick is asking people (in a slightly suggestive way) “Would you like to touch my screw?” and then guiding their finger to the head of a bolt/screw that’s just to the side of my left eye socket. You can’t see it, but it’s right under the skin and very, very prominent when you touch it.

      It freaks some people out, but others think it’s the coolest thing ever. Definitely gets conversation going. :)

      1. phyllisB

        Wow!! I love all these “hidden talents.” Mine are not as impressive, but… I found out I could organize a wedding reception in less than four hours (I detailed this on here a couple of years ago) and the one my family appreciates; I am really good at finding lost items. (Only for other people, alas. I’m like the psychic that can’t make predictions for herself.) I lost my phone three years ago, and it’s STILL MIA. :-)

      2. fposte

        Have you ever seen the delightful 1990s kids’ series The Adventures of Pete and Pete? Mom has a metal plate in her head that, among other things, picks up radio broadcasts.

        1. Blue Anne

          I was going to say no, but I definitely remember the mom with the metal plate getting radio! I had friends ask me if I could do the same thing. Or if I set off metal detectors at airports. (Neither, sadly!)

    29. Nye

      I’ve made four wedding cakes for friends. (Three-tiered, decorative fondant, the whole shebang.)

      I walked alone from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail a few summers ago.

      I had open-heart surgery when I was 5.

        1. Nye

          Oooh, enjoy the AT! My little brother soboed it years ago and had a blast, though I hear it can get crowded in season northbound.

          I hiked just after finishing my PhD, so my training consisted of sitting in front of a computer for 12+ hours a day and surviving on Thai take-out, gin, and despair. However, a year prior I had been hiking regularly and would really recommend that for training if you can. I had an “everyday” hike I’d do mid-week (5 miles, 1800 ft climb), plus I’d go for a longer day hike on weekends. I think hiking, especially if you can get good elevation gain, is probably the best training.

          That said, if you can’t train as much as you like, there are things you can do to make it easier. 1) get your gear as light as possible (gram weenies are obnoxious but they’re not wrong); my base weight was around 12 lb which was a good compromise between light and not so spartan that I was miserable. 2) Factor in shorter days at the beginning of your hike – don’t try for big miles up front. 3) If you start to feel an injury coming on, take it easy and don’t push through it.

          I’m sure you know all this, but if you have PCT questions you can ping me at prezmyra at hotmail dot com. (It’s a throwaway account but I’ll reply from my real one.)

          Good luck with the planning and enjoy the AT!!!

          1. First Initial dot Last Name

            Thanks for your suggestions, sounds like my training is on track! Gin and despair, got it! I’ve been in school for the last six years and have been fantasizing a solo hike to have a minute to myself before striking out into the world.

    30. LD

      I was a recording artist for the Yellow Pages advertising in one of the southern states…recording announcements for advertisers, school schedules, lunch menus, etc.
      One of the advertisers from the northeast decided they didn’t want a southern accent for their “fortune teller” advertisement and replaced me. Their call volume dropped so much in only a week that they asked the studio to see if they could bring me back ASAP to re-record their opening. Haha!

    31. Overeducated and underemployed

      I’ve spent time in Siberia, Greenland, Iceland, Newfoundland, and the northernmost town in Alaska (for school and work, but I don’t live there now). I like the Arctic and subarctic and dream of taking the Inside Passage ferries in southern Alaska and working or visiting the Orkneys, Faroe Islands, or Kamchatka.

      My favorite genres of music are folk and death metal. The second one tends to stop people I know in person in their tracks because I do not fit the stereotype at all.

    32. Andraste

      I sing in a choir as well (first alto, typically) but I don’t solo. I like being in a choir because I LOVE to sing but hate being the center of attention. So I prefer to just blend in. ;)

      I also worked at a zoo in high school–that’s my usual go-to for an odd fact about myself. :)

      1. No Longer Just a Lurker

        I was a junior zookeeper in my early teens and sang at Carnegie Hall in NY my senior year in HS.

    33. CoffeeLover

      Let’s see… I was chased by orangutans in Sumatra. I have a pretty epic story of riding a motorbike at full speed across half of Vietnam in a downpour. I went caving in the Philippines and then skinny dipped in the lagoon that was deep in the cave. I’ve been to most of Europe and Southeast Asia. I love to drastically change my hair; Im always chopping it off and dying it. I’m a serial class taker (I’ll learn something for months or even years and then lose interest). Classes I’ve taken: guitar, Zumba, yoga, belly dancing, equestrian horseriding.

  5. Dating Is Hard

    Has anyone else met up with someone they were chatting with online, only to be disappointed?

    I had been talking to this guy, on and off, for several months. Yesterday we had an actual date and wow, he wasn’t the same as he appeared through texts and Facebook.

    Has this happened to anyone else? You talk to someone online, think you really like them, and then meet them in real life only to be disappointed?

    1. Audiophile

      Been there, done that, several times.

      I had this happen a few months ago – I want to say July – he was quirky, more so than I expected and we just didn’t hit it off. Which was a shame because we’d had a good bunch of chats on OKC, and via text.

      I’ve been texting with 2 guys off and on for a few months now, I’m thinking it’s time we both just fade because at this point we haven’t met and haven’t even exchanged pictures.

    2. anonanonanon

      Yes! Both friends and dating. Not going to lie, I’m always a bit more disappointed when friends I’ve made online don’t mesh with me when we finally meet.

      With dating, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re nervous because it’s much easier to be witty and outgoing via text and chats than it is in person. Honestly, for dates, I prefer to meet in person as soon as possible because it lowers the bar for disappointment.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        I had it happen with a friend I’d chatted with online for awhile. We hit it off for several weeks of chatting, and then we decided we’d start meeting in person to walk together twice a week. She wasn’t quite what I expected when I met her in person, but I was going to just go with it, since she was still the same person I’d already been getting to know. I guess I wasn’t what she expected either, though, because she ghosted me after three in-person meetings. I was disappointed, but I got over it before too long. It just felt crappy to have someone that I’d liked online be like, “Nope.” upon meeting me in person.

    3. Sherm

      Yeah, happened to me. The conversation flowed while we were chatting online, she seemed so charming…but the date was a dud. Best not to get too emotionally invested until the real life meeting happens.

    4. Natalie

      All the time. I would definitely suggest not chatting for extended periods of time before meeting – it just makes it so much more disappointing when you don’t click in person.

    5. Myrin

      Oh. My. God. Yes.

      I don’t date but it happened on a platonic level. Through a social network of my country, I became really close with five other young women who also either already knew each other or got to know each other the same time as I did, so we became this group who constantly hung out with each other online, learned a lot about each other’s offline persona, sent super long emails etc., so I felt like we really knew each other quite well.

      And then, after almost two years, we decided to meet up and spend a week with each other and oh my god, it basically made our friend group implode. I think it was a mix of being that close to each other, being that close to each other for so long, and finding out stuff which, despite seemingly having known each other very well before, just hadn’t come up and was quite crucial.

      It’s been five years and I’m still in very good email contact with one of them. Used to be two, but the other one kind of faded from my life and I was glad for it and thought we had a mutual unspoken understanding, only for her to come back after a year and send me a really clingy letter about how she wanted to know everything about me and how I should only tell her stuff and I noped the heck out of there.

      But yeah, I always feel so horrible when I read these tumblr posts about how much people who’d known each other on there for years would love to meet and how great it would be and how’d they become even better friends and I always feel like commenting (I never do, though!) Debbie Downer-like about how maybe they shouldn’t wish for that so hard because it can be a total disaster (doesn’t have to, of course, and I know many a story which goes in the complete opposite direction of my own).

      1. anonanonanon

        Yes! Some of my best friendships have come from online friends I’ve known for years before meeting, but there have been other cases where I’ve met someone and they’re not someone I would ever want to know in real life.

      2. themmases

        This sounds very familiar! I was once in a group that got very close online but the more comfortable they got the more I realized I didn’t like the whole group. The in jokes were constant and not funny, and I didn’t like the stuff they got comfortable enough to share or the things they assumed the group would all agree with. And I was starting to feel weird about reading such personal stuff when the people sharing assumed everyone there was a friend.

        I ghosted around the time they were planning a meetup in my city. I sometimes wonder if it worked out like your group– it almost seemed too dysfunctional and intense to end well– but I wouldn’t feel right checking back in.

    6. Former Diet Coke Addict

      Oh Lord, yes. In my dating days I exchanged emails on and off with a guy for a couple of weeks, until we had a mutually-convenient time for a date. Long emails, we really seemed to click, he told me he loved sushi and so we made plans to go for sushi.

      On the actual date, I was so outrageously bored by his thirty-minute discussion of the specifics of his forestry program (I like trees and everything, but really did not care about the classification of different coniferous whatever whatevers) that I almost didn’t notice that he kept picking at his food. I asked what was wrong, he said “Oh, I’ve never had sushi before.” I said he had told me he loved it, and he said “I thought that’s what you wanted to hear!”

      On paper we were perfectly suited and got along great. In person…nope.

    7. Sunflower

      I have met 3 people from online- only 1 turned out to be the guy I expected. The others seemed very witty and chatty and when we met, it was just silence on their end.

      Second the other comments- talking for extended periods before meeting is setting yourself up for disappointment. The site is only supposed to be used to find the people- you shouldn’t be getting to know them through it. I give it 5 days for them to ask me out.

      1. Dan

        How many exchanges have you had? After 3-4 back and forth exchanges, I make a move. Timewise, I try to keep it within two weeks. I need to make sure there’s enough there to sustain a conversation on things I/we want to talk about.

        1. Sunflower

          Hmm I guesse around 5-10. I only have Tinder and most of the time I’m talking to the people everyday. If I only take to them every few days then obviously I give longer time.

    8. katamia

      Most of the time. :( I think my problem is I don’t factor in personal attractiveness enough. Not that they have to be drop-dead gorgeous or anything, but I have a couple physical attractiveness dealbreakers that feel really stupid to me (Viking-esque beards is one), so I keep going “Ugh, this can’t possibly be a dealbreaker because it’s so stupid” and find someone who seems compatible but who has one of those physical attractiveness dealbreakers. Then we go out, I re-realize that it actually is a dealbreaker, and then I’m disappointed and even though our personalities might be compatible, I’m just not in the mood to spend time with them.

      A lot of people also seem to be more eloquent online than in person, which is frustating for me because I’m the opposite–I’m much funnier and more comfortable in person than I am online, so what happens is that when we’re talking online, our joke levels and everything seem to match, but when we go out in person, I’m more chatty and generally friendlier and funnier than I was online, but it feels like talking to a brick wall to me even though most of the time they seem to enjoy my company.

      Ugh, dating.

      1. Dan

        Physical attractiveness is a weird thing to me. The way I explain it, there’s the 10% that are downright hot, 10% that are downright not, and a huge middle ground where the personality goes a long way. (Please ignore the semantics about the top 10%, my point here is about the broad middle ground.)

        So, with that 80%, the pictures only do so much. And if we click well, I’m going to be more attracted to you. The thing that sucks is that there are people who I dated that I *wanted* to be attracted to, but had to admit that I wasn’t. Sometimes it takes awhile for me to figure it out. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m dating people who I know aren’t “my type” and hoping otherwise, it’s just that I’m seriously trying to figure it out.

        1. katamia

          I often find that unless you’re drop-dead gorgeous (and sometimes not even then) or have one of my looks dealbreakers, I honestly can’t tell whether I’m going to be attracted to you until I actually meet you in person. And while I wouldn’t say my standards are excessively high, unfortunately I seem to be really picky.

    9. Windchime

      Oh yeah. A couple of times. Apparently “recently divorced” really means “stepping out on my wife who doesn’t know I’m catting around.”

    10. Regina Phalange

      This has happened to me SO many times. I can think of two times where the meeting exceeded expectations. One showed his true colors around date three, the other straight up ghosted me. Dating is the worst.

    11. The Cosmic Avenger

      Huh. I’ve mostly been very pleased meeting my online friends IRL, but we’re talking about “I’m in your city, can we meet for lunch?”, not dating or spending a lot of time with them.

    12. nep

      Not exactly that situation, but along those lines — I’ve been in contact via snail mail and email with someone from my undergrad university. We’ve not seen one another in 20+ years, but have kept regular contact. Recently we let ourselves get a bit carried away with the idea (fantasy) of meeting up. The fantasy gave way to reality and we backed away from the idea. We’ll always have only our thoughts of how it might have been.

    13. Mando Diao

      I’ve had lots of experiences that were just kinda bummers, but once I went on a Tinder date with a guy who started in with, “I want to tell you that I’ve done three years in prison, but I can tell that you’re going to be judgmental about it.”

      Oh really? You know who else judged you? A FREAKING JUDGE!!!

    14. The Other Dawn

      Not in terms of dating, but with friends, yes.

      Probably 10 years ago or so I met several women online through a dieting forum. (I think it was Weight Watchers or Atkins, can’t remember.) We all got to be really friendly and I found out that one of them lived in my state, only about 45 minutes away. We decided to meet. Well, all the chemistry we had online pretty much fizzled. I found her to be…fussy. I guess that’s the right word. We ate at a diner and she had complaints about the oil and vinegar they brought out for the salad. I mean, c’mon. It’s a diner. It’s not five-star food. The place was very clean, the food was fresh and the service was great. We didn’t have any awkward silences, which was good. But I came away with the impression that she felt she was above most people. It really wasn’t anything in particular. Just something in the way she talked, maybe. She was a teacher, and was very intellectual. I can be in the right setting, but not during casual lunch conversation with friends. So, yeah, after that we lost touch. Not only because of the absence of the warm and fuzzies, but because about a month later she contacted me about “a great opportunity” and wanted to meet up so she could share it with me. I could smell a MLM scheme so I told her sorry, not interested. And that was it. I never heard from her again. I know she met one of the other women, and it seemed to work out, but I eventually lost touch with them all.

      My friend, on the other hand, has been doing a lot of online dating lately, as she’s in the process of getting divorced. She’s convinced that the men are all divorced and haven’t had sex in so long, that when they meet someone, that’s all they can think about because they’re so desperate. She said every single one of them was after sex within 15 minutes of meeting in person. And all the others sent dick pics to her (she didn’t meet them) or tried to engage in sexting. She told me not to ever get divorced. LOL

    15. Irishgal

      Oh yes… and then spent 3 years on and off trying to force it to be right as I told myself that the person i’d been talking to online and by skype for 6 months was the real person when the reality was the person in front of me was of course the real person… how he dealt with stress was real, how he interacted with other people was real, how he interacted with life in the real world was real …. the person sat in his sitting room with a glass of wine giving in a 15 inch laptop screen (or the voice on the end of the phone) wasn’t real…. or at least was only a small part of him and the rest was made up of much much more.

      It can’t be helped… when you talk online you automatically fill in the blanks in your head with imagination … it’s human nature .. but it’s imagination. Now my rule is I meet within ASAP (ideally 1 week) for a face to face coffee.

      On the other hand I’ve met a few great friends via a professional forum I am part of and have become great IRL friends with them too; not sure if this is because I am less inclined to “fill in the blanks” with imagination with these people as I am not so invested in the idea of a connection from the outset.

      1. Lulubell

        I’ll add to this say that it doesn’t actually happen much anymore because my expectations now are so low, there is little room to be shockingly disappointed. I’ve learned to meet people soon after connecting with them and go in expecting that they will only be half as great in person as they seem on paper. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised.

    16. Mimmy

      I’ve been burned several times, actually. Never with dating, but I used to be very active on the fan board of a particular pop artist, and I would chat with other fans and even meet up with them at concerts. But just about every time, their true character shows. One girl I was friends with for a about 3 and a half years, but my husband and I never fully trusted her. She ended up getting in hot water, so that was the end of that!

      Another time, I went with a bunch of other women to a show in Pennsylvania. The woman who invited me sat next to me (I was the “seat buddy”, lol), and the others were spread out within the first few rows. During intermission, though, she left me behind to hang out with other fans. I didn’t really know where anyone was, so I just stayed put. I’m not good at finding people in crowds. I felt so, so out of place at this show :( Thank goodness for an older woman in my group who, after the show, stayed with me while everyone else chatted well into the night. We walked back to the car together and really bonded. We have remained friends since.

      So yeah, meeting people online is hit or miss. It’s interesting how impressions change when you meet in person.

    17. QA Lady

      I’ve definitely had it go both ways! The ones that didn’t work were just awkward for some reason or other, both friends I’d “known” for a while and potential dates. But I also met my husband online so sometimes it does work out :). And I have a few long term friends I met that way too–not super close friends, but still good friends and long term.

    18. Anonymous Educator

      Sadly, I was on the receiving end of this. Way back in the days of Internet but before high-speed connections were common and before Skype/Google Hangouts, etc., I had a relationship with a woman who was a time zone away. We had for months exchanged photos, chatted online, written letters, and had extensive phone conversations, but we’d never met in person, and we couldn’t really afford to make weekend flights.

      When we finally did meet, she was a bit disappointed and ultimately ghosted me. I wasn’t disappointed per se, but it was definitely weird meeting her in person. I think when you extensively write letters or chat/text without meeting, you start building a version of that person inside your head that’s very different from the real person. It’s a bit like reading a novel and re-reading it and re-reading it… then you see the movie version, and you’re like “They cast so-and-so in that role? I wasn’t picturing that at all!”

    19. Waddles the Penguin

      Yes! Well when I used to date before I met the husband. I would say that meeting sooner is still better. Then you don’t have the disappointment if they don’t live up to expectations plus of course less expectations to live up to.

      But I met my husband online. Well sort of. We both belonged to the same niche interest forum and attended the same event and hit it off. And we’ve been together 8 years so I’d say keep trying.

  6. anonanonanon

    I’m trying to plan a vacation with some friends and it’s becoming more hassle than it’s worth. Friend A does not understand that I have a three blackout weeks at work (which I’m fine with because I was told those weeks were off limits to vacations when I started and they’re great about vacations during any other time). She keeps sending me dates for trips during days I said I could not do.

    Meanwhile, Friend B does not understand that me and Friend C have single income households, not double incomes due to partners or spouses so a $400+ plane ticket really is a lot of money for us. It’s been a contentious issue for awhile and as much as I love Friend B, she’s never really had to live on her own means and has gone from her parents paying everything to her boyfriends paying everything to her husband paying everything and she can use her paychecks for whatever she wants. Which, hey, nothing wrong with that and I wish I was that lucky, but while she’s a great friend, when it comes to money she’s kind of oblivious that other people have different budgets than she does and that not everyone can afford to go on a $800 weekend trip or eat at a $50/plate restaurant each week.

    Planning vacations with friends is a lot harder than I thought it would be.

    1. Treena

      From what it sounds like, you’re having these discussions about dates, tickets, budget as they come up. But that’s not how I or anyone I know plans a trip. You start off with a rough budget and possible dates. I know it’s exciting to plan a trip with friends, but group trips absolutely need everyone to come up with their max budgets first and then talk from there.

      I’m realizing that we might not all be on the same page about this trip’s budget. My budget for this trip is $X/day. Friends B + C, what’s your daily budget? Can we make a trip of (lowest amount)/day work?

      I’m definitely Friend A and I know I come off like this sometimes. But I look at things that are out of my own price range, or for dates that don’t work for me to get ideas, so I could see if someone interprets those kind of suggestions/behaviors as “Let’s absolutely do this!” when all I really mean is “Hey, this is cool, inspiration?”

      1. anonanonanon

        That’s what we’ve been doing. We’e trying to plan a trip for three to four months from now and everyone has already specified budgets and dates, which is why planning has become extra frustrating.

        1. Treena

          Try using one of those meeting schedulers, where everyone puts in their preferred dates and possible dates, and then it shows you when everyone is available.

          Be a little assertive about saying, “It sounds like you want to spend $75/day, C wants to spend $60 and I want to spend $50. Can we plan a trip for $50?” Assuming everyone agrees, you can remind them that whatever they’re suggesting is out of the agreed upon budget. You’ll figure out if she’s an ass or just forgetful/privileged.

    2. Miki

      My friend wants to tag along with me on my vacation this year, so she knows my dates and has to adapt. Also this is a friend whom I share rock climbing interest and we already booked a AirB’n’B in a neighboring country for the dates we agreed upon (10 days on Croatian coast climbing, relaxing on amazing beach, deep water soloing) . My ticket is bought, she is still dragging her heels when it comes to that. I’ll give her until July to get ticket (which will cost her a lot) but she earns more than me and she’ll figure it out.
      I can completely understand your frustration with planning trips with more than one friend, I honestly would not be able to figure it out with two or more people, mainly because of schedules.

      1. anonanonanon

        Yeah, more than two people is frustrating. I think part of the problem is that we all went on a great vacation five years ago and have been meaning to go on another one, but so much has changed in those five years and it’s not as easy to plan because we’re all busier or have different monetary commitments now than we did then.

    3. Mando Diao

      My friendship with my teenage best friend ended after we tried to travel together (traveling and being roommates can be similar in that regard). Is it possible for you to pick out an all-inclusive package and just tell them, “This is what I can afford, and it requires no extra planning, so if it’s not this, I can’t go.”

      It also sounds like your friends are kind of doing that thing where they’re acting like it’s a group trip but really they have other plans in mind.

      1. TootsNYC

        I had a roommate who was a friend for a while (and then wasn’t), and when I said, “I want to go to California for vacation,” she said, “Oooh, great, we can do to Hollywood, and Universal Studios…:

        And I said, “I’m not vacationing with you again. We have very different ideas of what the days should be, and we’ll fight all the time.”

        We’d gone away for a long weekend, and she didn’t wan to get up until 1pm, and then she wanted to spend 1.5 hours eating breakfast. We had an argument about it, and I said, “If I’m going to just sleep, I’ll stay home in my own bed, where the pillow is familiar and it doesn’t cost money!”

        It’s hard to get someone compatible! One of the best things about my marriage is that we like to do the same sorts of things.

    4. Dan

      I think this is a bit in the minutiae, but “single income” is not analogous to broke, nor is “married” analogous for “my husband is loaded and I can do what I want.”

    5. stressfulfriends

      At one point we were planning this trip (BFF+me+spouses+possible other friends), and the planning alone was frustrating me. Then I realized how I always feel exhausted after spending time (in a good way, but still), as hanging out usually results in a hyper giggle-fest. Our friendship took a bit of a hit when I backed out of the whole holiday, but I really needed to relax in my vacation time, and it didn’t look like there was much relaxation for a planner-personality like me on a chaotic vacation.

    6. Honeybee

      Story of my life. I have 4 friends (and a spouse) with whom I try to go on vacation once a year, but the planning takes nearly half the year. We all make wildly different incomes and have different situations and some folks in the group are not as cognizant of that as others. Norma and Sean are married and live in the same apartment; I’m not sure whether it’s because on their combined income they could afford a more expensive vacation than the rest of us or whether they have unrealistic expectations, but they always propose an expensive vacation (think something that would end up costing around $2,000 per person). They will also propose this expensive vacation < 4 months away from when they want to go, as if everyone just had $500 hanging around every month they didn't need. Emily, however, is the opposite – she has unrealistically low expectations about how much a vacation would cost (although that is in part driven by her financial situation: she makes the least out of all of us). My husband and I have a good combined income but we have two households until May, so that changes the amount we can spend.

      Sean also has the attention span of a goldfish and changes his mind about where he wants to go every month. Molly is an avid traveler and doesn't want to go anywhere she's already been. But she's been to a lot of places, and the number grows every year. And my own husband's apathy and misanthropic attitude has threatened to derail the entire trip; he will pull things like decide he's not going a week before the trip (only to change his mind later) and complain the entire planning period about how vacations are not important, even though he has an excellent time every time we go and always says he wants to go on vacation. I'm sure I also have my annoying habits as well.

      Last year we went from going to a Caribbean resort for a week to going to Atlanta for 5 days to going to a small college town for a weekend. The problem is, we had SO MUCH FUN.

      We're in the middle of summer vacation planning right now it's giving me a headache. I actually set up a Doodle poll to select dates (done) and a Google form to select places, but we're in the place war right now. Norma and Sean didn't actually complete the poll, but they're complaining about the clear first choice that has emerged from the poll – which happens to be the city I currently live in. I don't have a problem with that (there's also another city 2.5 hours away we could take a 2-day trip to as part of their vacation out here, and I'd still take the time off). But Norma and Sean are coming out here for another engagement two months earlier than the trip and understandably want to vacation somewhere else, and I am fairly certain Molly and Emily only voted for this place because they wouldn't have to pay for lodging.

      Add to all of this the fact that EVERYONE is unresponsive on text message and email…and I'm about to give up.

      And every time that I suggest that we start planning a trip a year out – so that we have more time to save money and can go somewhere more expensive or popular, if we want to –

      1. anonanonanon

        This is almost exactly what drove me here to rant about vacation planning! My group of friends has tried to plan a vacation every year since the last one we went on together, but they almost always fall through because people have different expectations or financial situations or they’re so unresponsive to emails.

  7. Meg Murry

    I’m traveling this week (for work, but I’ve got that part covered).

    Any key items you always forget when traveling that I need to add to my packing or errand list? Anything atypical you’ve found helpful when traveling?

    It’s a cross country flight with a layover, so I need to keep myself entertained for 6+ hours. I’ve loaded up my Kindle and downloaded an audio book, any other suggestions besides just napping?

    1. Tara R.

      Sudoku and crosswords along with a good podcast! I find I usually spend a few hours Readinf, a few hours listening to music and semi-napping, and a few hours with sudoku and Dan Savage.

        1. Vulcan social worker

          I wasn’t ambitious enough to search but for just a second I wondered if I was missing out.

    2. katamia

      Bring an extra pair of headphones in case yours break. That happened to me just before I was flying back to the US from Asia. Thank goodness there were headphones on the plane, or else I would have gone out of my mind. I can’t read on planes, so it would have been 14/15 hours of nothing.

      1. Honeybee

        That happened to me, too, and I ended spending more than I should have on some Bose headphones at an airport kiosk. Worth it, though – they sound really good!

    3. Sunflower

      Get an external portable battery if you don’t have one. You’re traveling for work so you can probably expense it but I always bring an empty water bottle and refill at a water fountain so I don’t have to pay for water. Get a travel thing of q-tips and reuse it for every trip. Bring a sweater for the plane it’s always freezing.

      Bring a few diff things to do. After a few hours, the earbuds hurt so I take them out- sometimes I bring 2 different pairs that fit my ears differently. I like to load up my tablet with TV shows. Whenever I travel for work, I pack my most comfy tee shirt and shorts. It just makes me feel better when I sleep in a hotel bed.

      Weirdly I always forget my hairbrush and the hotel combs are terrible.

      1. Grumpy

        I got a three plug outlet travel surge protector, with two usb outlets for my birthday. It’s my new favourite travel thing because there are never enough outlets in hotel rooms. It’s from Walmart I think.

    4. Ismis

      Oh! Thanks for the reminder! I am now downloading some books.

      I like having a small tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush, gum, wet wipes/moisturiser, a bar of chocolate and a spare pair of socks/underwear (just in case) in my carry on. Depending on the length of the flight, one of those neck pillow things. Double check you have all phone chargers etc.

      1. Vulcan social worker

        Earplugs in case there is a crying baby or an adult with no indoor voice too close to you.

    5. Windchime

      I usually make sure I’ve got a couple of good podcasts on my phone so I can close my eyes and listen to them. I also take along a knitting project. And the last time I took a 6+ hour flight (Seattle to Boston, ugh), I broke down and rented one of those little digital movie player things that the airline offers. It made the time go by a lot faster to watch a movie, and I could pause it when I wanted to.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger

      I’ve been (legally) downloading and watching movies for ages. Plex and Vudu are essential for that, the former for ripped DVDs and Blu-rays I own and the latter for digital media I’ve paid for. (Yes, I pay for my media, including music.)

      I also keep a travel power strip, travel surge suppressor, a bunch of extra chargers (so they stay in my laptop bag), and each cable in its own snack- or sandwich-sized ziplock bag. That last part is crucial to keeping them from getting tangled, and makes it much easier to find and pull out the one I want.

      And, considering my last paragraph, you won’t find it surprising that I second Sunflower’s suggestion of a portable battery, and katamia’s suggestion of multiple earbuds. (I have 3, one for each family member, a headphone splitter (“Y”) jack, and a computer headset with boom mic that also works on my cell phone. (That last one came in handy when I had to do work calls via Skype.)

      1. Alma

        This – I have 2 of each of my chargers, one of each is always in a zipper bag in my carry-on. I also have a heavy-duty orange extension cord that is short (maybe 3′ long) that has a fan shaped end with 3 female plugs. In a motel it helps with limited power outlets, and the bright orange is easy to see. The fan shape accommodates large converters on chargers.

        Remember to carry medications enough for several days in your carry on. I pack a small non-aerosol spray bottle of fabric refresher in my carry on, in case my suitcase gets delayed, or I have to stay in a hotel because the flight is delayed – and wear the same clothes the next day. With the extra underwear, I’ll roll up a polished cotton knit top in a different color than the one I’m wearing. Changing out at least the knit top makes me feel so much more fresh (and I can sleep in the one I’m wearing – the airline tee shirt in the “complimentary overnight supplies” bag was thinner than a wet wipe. Ick.

    7. ginger ale for all

      I once went on vacation and completely forgot to pack underwear. My uncle gave me a tip years later and that is to go on a trip and just pack your oldest and rattiest underwear and instead of repacking it, throw it away as you go along. That backfired on him one time though. A hotel in Japan thought he threw them away by mistake and laundered and ironed them for him and mailed them to his home in the states. My aunt and uncle were so excited to get an unexpected package from overseas until they opened it. Now we always offer to mail ours to him.

      1. Dynamic Beige

        I was on a business trip last month and forgot to pack underwear. I needed just one pair, it was only for 2 nights but in the small touristy town I was in, I spent an hour going up and down into all the chi-chi boutiques and no. one. sold. underwear. I finally went into one place and got a pair of Tilley travel underwear that were on sale — for more than I normally pay for pair of gitch. They are completely ridiculous, a bit too large but supposedly they dry really fast and are recommended for backpacking etc. when you need to be able to dry things fast.

        So my advice is: don’t allow yourself to get distracted while you pack. Check and double check that you’ve got the stuff you need.

        Also, those Contigo traveling beverage things are da bomb. Like Sunflower, I bring along an empty one and fill it up at a water fountain once I’m on the other side. The bonus is that they really do a good job of keeping hot liquids hot for quite a while without burning your hands.

        I would also suggest that if you’ve got a 6-hour layover, take a trip around the terminal at some point (which I’m sure you’ll do anyway). Times like that, I like to browse in shops, it breaks up the monotony and you get the kinks out of your legs.

        1. Vulcan social worker

          I make a list on the computer of everything I want to bring so that I can’t get distracted when I pack. I start a long way out and add to it whenever I think of things. I have a standard list for each kind of trip (different lists for different work trips back when I had work travel, camping, visiting overseas family, etc.) and when I know I’m going, I save it as a new document for that trip and start revising. When I start the actual packing, I make it a check-off list so that I don’t forget. Everything has to either have been deleted because I’ve decided I’m not bringing it, or it has to have a check that it has been packed. Then I take a copy so that coming home I also have everything I brought (assuming I’m not throwing out my old underwear like ginger ale’s uncle). When I get back, I might update the master list if I’ve decided something was more or less useful.

          Guess what it’s like working on a team with me.

    8. super anon

      the last time i travelled for work i forgot makeup remover. i wear a full face of makeup every day, so that was a bit of a disaster.

      1. Isabel

        Read a great tip for this recently: order a side of olive oil from room service. Almost any kind of plain, unscented oil works wonderfully as makeup remover – just remove with a damp washcloth.

    9. Mando Diao

      Make sure you have enough contact solution. It’s easy to grab the opaque plastic bottle without feeling whether it’s full enough. Also, sunglasses even if you think you won’t need them.

    10. Irishgal

      I’ve started packing a short extension lead because I’m finding a lot of hotels are removing their bedside plug sockets which is a pain in the proverbial when i’m reading/watching tablet in bed and want to charge at same time. I also like having my phone charging on bedside locker not across room on counter.

      I’m treating myself to couple of extra long charging cables and a multi-usb plug socket as they are more compact for regular travel

    11. anon709

      I recently went on a short two day work trip. I’m a compulsive last-minute packer, and I knew I would forget things but knew I could get them if I needed, and the flight was only one hour so it wasn’t a big deal. I made a list of the things I wish I had brought:

      Scarf for flight
      Snacks (like almonds)
      Lysol wipes (for flight and hotel)
      Sandals
      Slippers
      Extra shoes/boots
      Extra outfit (I only brought exactly 3 outfits for 3 days and would have liked some choice)
      hair elastics
      printed parking permits
      printed itineraries (flights, hotel, room bookings, contact info)
      Make food bookings at least 1 week ahead of time
      tweezers
      nail file
      nail clippers

      Obviously I had some nail issues, haha. Hope this might be helpful!

  8. Tara R.

    My dad wants to start giving me money every month. This… is not exactly the nice gesture it sounds like. First of all, he doesn’t actually have enough money for himself to live off of– he constantly ends up borrowing money from my mom at the end of the month, and he used to borrow from me too… Until I sort of lied and claimed I didn’t have any money every time he asked (which was true if I was talking about my spending account, I just sort of pretended my relatively large savings that I try to leave alone didn’t exist). So he thinks that I’m really poor, because I’ve been telling him I have no money every month… And he wants to help, now that he’s clean and getting his life together a bit. But I don’t want his money! I don’t want to take cash he needs, and I don’t want him to be mingled with my finances at all– he’ll know I have money again, I won’t be able to turn him down when he asks to borrow without sounding selfish since he’s helping me out, and I just generally don’t want him to have a say in any aspect of my life. There’s a reason I moved away!

    My mom says I should just take the money and consider it a payment for him making my life hell for so long, but I’m really uncomfortable with that. Ideas for turning him down? I’m considering saying I’m picking up more hours at work and I’m fine financially, but I don’t really want to lie more than I already have.

    1. Myrin

      I’ve always found it easist and being met with the most success if I just don’t give any reason at all. Say “I don’t want to/won’t take your money”. I know it’s really hard to not sweeten the deal with some apology or explanation, especially if you’re met with “BUT WHYYYYYY”s, but stay a strong broken record and just don’t give in, he will have to give up eventually. If he gives it to you anyway, give it back. If he pushes some cash into your hands, give it back. If he transfers it to you, transfer it right back. Just don’t give him anything that allows him to sneakily try and get you to bow to his whims anyway.

      (Also, I’d recommend trying to internalising either that being selfish isn’t always a bad thing, so you’re allowed to be selfish without it making you a bad person, or that you’re not being selfish at all if you decline to give him money, especially given the history you and he seem to have. Best of luck to you!)

      1. Tara R.

        Thank you. This sounds really, really scary to me right now– but I think I need to get more comfortable with just flat out saying no. The nice thing about where I am in my life now is that if he throws a tantrum, it doesn’t really matter! But it’s hard to keep that in mind sometimes. My therapist has said exactly the same thing about selfishness, and I’m trying to get more comfortable with putting myself first.

        It sucks not loaning him money, especially now that he needs it for legitimate purchases. But in my grade 12 year I ended up giving him more a grand– all of which he swore was for groceries, and all of which he spent on drugs– and even now that he’s paid me back, I’ve kind of sworn to myself I’m not loaning to him again. He got some from me while I was home over reading break by taking me to the grocery store and then “realizing” in line-up that he didn’t have any money to pay, but that was the last time. (Plus, he mismanages his money terribly, so I’m hard-pressed to feel too sorry for him. Yeah, sure, take my little brother to see movies every week and smoke 2 packs of cigarettes a day and buy headphones and spiritual crystals and then ask me for money when you can’t buy groceries halfway through the month! No thanks.)

        1. Irishgal

          Stop thinking of it being selfish as that’s the wrong word. Selfish is not sharing sweets out of a bag of sweets, keeping yourself out of a situation where you could get hurt and your boundaries stomped on in the future is called caring for yourself.

          1. Irishgal

            You mention he is getting clean .. . which I presume refers to addiction? In that case you might find it helpful to attend a few al-anon meetings and reading up on the concept of Adult Children of Alcoholics (applies to all addictions and hx of family dysfunction) as we are trained from a young age to suppress our needs and it can kind of become our default setting especially around the Adults in question.

            1. anon709

              I wish there was a ‘like’ button! Learning about Adult Children of Alcoholics has been so revelatory for me.

              1. Irishgal

                Me too! I remember when I read the book (a therapist advised it) and I had so many lightbulb moments. I really liked the case studies; I remember reading one in particular and thinking “this! Yes!!! This is what I have been feeling/doing and never had the words/language to identify”

      2. TootsNYC

        Switch immediately from “why won’t you take my money” to “why won’t you respect my ‘no,’ Dad?”

    2. North

      Is the situation/relationship such where you could feel like asking him to spend time with you – maybe helping on a project, or something like that – in lieu of giving money? Say you are doing fine financially, it’s just that you don’t have any extra to spare, and what you’d appreciate spending the time. (Though you do say that he made your life hell, so this may not be an option you want to pursue!)

      1. Tara R.

        This is a really nice idea– probably not perfect for our situation, since my goal is sort of to spend as little time with him as possible, but I’ll keep it in mind for future situations! I might adapt it a little to say that keeping a roof over his head and taking care of himself is the best thing he can do for me right now, which has the benefit of being true and also reminding him that he really doesn’t have money to give me.

    3. QualityControlFreak

      Tara, could you open a separate account, designated specifically for any money he gives you? Then, if he asks you for money later, and it’s in the account, you give it back to him. Though it would also be completely understandable if you want nothing to do with this money – just suggesting options here.

      1. Tara R.

        This is definitely something I thought of. If he gets to be in a more financially stable position and keeps insisting on this, I might go this route. I’m a bit worried that if it’s in my bank account, I’m going to end up spending it– especially next year when my exaggerated money woes are probably going to be all too real between tuition and food and rent– but I have faith in myself to have a bit more self-control than that, I think.

      2. Alma

        Yes, encourage him to set up an account for emergencies. “Then it is there if he needs it, or if you or someone else needs it.”

        I agree that you don’t want to be on an account with him. This is to protect your financial information, and to protect yourself if his assets are seized for legal reasons.

        There are assistance organizations in many communities that are able to offer “life coaching” – making a budget, staying employed, and putting away emergency funds – so clients don’t have to come for help and can break the cycle. This type of program requires accountability (and you are not the one who he has to be accountable to).

      3. Dynamic Beige

        I was going to suggest this.

        He’s trying to make amends. Weirdly, inappropriately, but he is. I know he’s broken your heart so many times you wouldn’t trust him as far as you could throw him. He’s newly sober, so he’s trying to stick to the program and do better. This may only be a short-lived phase he’s going through, and that’s what you’re worried about (with good reason). If you take his money, put it in a savings account at a bank you don’t usually go to, then it can grow and if he does start “borrowing” money from you again, he’s just getting his own back, he never needs to know. Some people need a little help in learning how to save and perhaps your father is one of those people. If your relationship ever did get to a point where you had regained trust in him, you could always turn the account over to him if/when he hit a rough patch, or use it to help pay for your wedding/house downpayment/whatever as his “gift” — you could tell him then that you’ve been saving that money he gave you for just that kind of thing because you knew that that was what he would want you to have it for. Then he gets to be a “hero”, YMMV whether or not that would be a good idea.

    4. specialist

      I second the idea of a separate account. My parents did this years ago with my grandparents. No addiction issues there, just really generous people. They saved the money for my grandparents should they ever need it. My grandfather would keep some money in a drawer for his daughters when they were young adults. If they needed money they could borrow that money. However, if they didn’t put it back it wouldn’t be there for them in the future. He is clean and getting his life together. This is really laudable. I hope you can work something out to protect yourself and to allow some sort of relationship to the level you desire. You can also just tell him that you don’t need the money, but there is the risk that he then buys you little gifts. It sounds like he is trying to make up for past behavior.

    5. Glod Glodsson

      Personally, I wouldn’t go for the second account. My experience with a parent giving/loaning you money is that they feel that they have something to say about how your run your household. When you accept his money, you’re giving him an extra way into your life, even if you put it all on a separate account. And you’d also be managing his bad money habits for him. I think in a different situation this would be a great idea but if you’re trying to minimize contact with your dad, this doesn’t seem like the best way to me.

      I, too, would just try to go with ‘no thank you.’ There’s no way he can force you to accept his money, that’s something to keep in mind. But I get how hard that is! I was in a similar situation with my grandparents who insisted on giving me money while they were doing poorly financially. Once or twice I took their money and bought groceries for them which my mom would secretly hand back, but in the end I just told them that I’m an adult now and that I’m really proud of being independent and making my own way, even if some months are a struggle. So I said I didn’t want to take their money because it was important to me to make it on my own, which really resonated with them. I also told them that since I’m an adult they no longer had to reward me with cash, that that was a thing you do with kids….which isn’t true at all, I just didn’t want THEIR money. I think it’s important to ensure you don’t make it about them (you’re too poor/old/evil) but about you so that they don’t get defensive or can argue with you.

      1. TootsNYC

        I agree with this.

        Plus, you already know that you might feel you could spend that money.

        It doesn’t do good things for your sense of initiative and independence to have money coming in like that, even if it is going to a second account.

        Tell him, “Dad, I don’t have money to loan, but I’m not going to need that money. The best thing for me is to know that you are taking care of yourself, so please put that money in a bank account. Then, if a disaster DOES happen, you’ll have it available to loan to me, or to use for yourself.”

        1. Not So NewReader

          This taps a story in my life where one person said “I’d rather you had this asset, than you try to help me. If I need help in the future, I know that I can ask you because you put the asset away for us.”

          What I like about this, Tara, is it puts your father in charge. Something that would be good for him. Tell him he is in charge of putting money in the bank so if either of you need something, the money is there.

    6. Honeybee

      I wouldn’t take his money.

      But, if you do end up taking it to keep peace, one suggestion is to take it and put it all in a separate bank account, possibly at a separate bank. Then when he inevitably asks you for money, you can just give him his own money back.

      Also, don’t feel bad…I always tell my mom I don’t have any money, even if I do. She never repays what she owes and she asks for large amounts of money at once (several hundred dollars and, occasionally, a thousand or so). It’s nearly always because she has made some poor financial decision and it never leaves her on the precipice of starving or being homeless (my dad pays the mortgage and buys the groceries). So I have no money to lend her, even when I do.

    7. Kristen

      Why not take the money and put it into a separate account? Then you can use that money if/when he needs to “borrow” money again.

  9. Windchime

    I figured out a great way to give pills to a cat. The last cat I had to pill was 19 years old, so he didn’t put up much of a fight. My current cat is a feisty, strong 3 year old so I was a little worried about getting pills down him, especially the one that the vet said would make him foam at the mouth if he tasted it because it’s so horrible.

    He’s on a restricted diet so he can’t have cheese or Pill Pockets. So I just put a tiny bit of his special canned cat food on the outside of the pill, and drop it right down his throat. Immediately after, we go and play with his favorite toy. It has only taken a couple of days and I think he is already starting to connect the pills with the toy because as soon as we are done, he runs over to where the toy is kept.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I had to give Sam medicine twice a day for six weeks recently, and about half the time he would throw up a minute or two later. It wasn’t a physical reaction to the pill; it was emotional distress because he hated the process so much. I discovered that if I showed him kitten videos immediately afterwards, it would distract him, calm him down, and he wouldn’t throw up. He loves kitten videos.

      1. Windchime

        That is so cute. I’ve never showed my cat kitten videos, but now I’m going to try!

        My kitty is really pretty submissive and relents (unwillingly, but he does it) to things like nail clipping and pills. I thought that if I gave him something that he LOVES right afterward, then maybe he wouldn’t mind the pill so much. And it seems to be working!

        1. Windchime

          Ha! I’m back to report on the kitten video. He LOVED it, especially the ones where the kitten is meowing. I had the laptop on the ottoman, and at one point he jumped up on the ottoman to look behind the laptop for the kitten. So cute!

      2. Schmitt

        That’s wonderful! Go Sam!

        I, too, have trained my cat to connect unpleasant things with playing; as soon as I finish clipping her nails, brushing her, putting stuff on her gums, or even just holding her when she’s not into it, she starts digging on the floor looking for her laser pointer. Smart little booger.

    2. newreader

      It’s been years since I had a cat, but when she needed pills we put it in her food. She ate Tender Vittles (not sure if that’s still available) which was a soft-ish food. I could press the pill into one of the pieces of food, feed her a small handful of food that included that piece, and she never even realized the pill was in there. No stress and no hassles.

    3. Trixie

      Smart cat! The other option is getting the medicine as topical ointment to rub in their ears, or as chews. The chews can be hit or miss but usually the vet as plain samples you can take home and see if kitty likes them first. (But even then, their tastes may change.)

    4. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.

      Look up deactivating a cat. I do something similar with mine, works like a charm.

    5. Jascha

      Ingenious! My cat is too clever for whole pills; she’ll figure it out straight away and either eat around the pill if she can (for instance, with those “pill pockets” or if I cover it in something she likes) or simply refuse the food containing the pill altogether.

      I’ve found I have to crush her pill, then hide it in something she REALLY loves, like tuna sandwich filler. (The other day I ran out and tried plain yoghurt, as she loves dairy – but she figured it out and refused the yoghurt. For the record, I do know dairy is bad for cats; this was a miniscule amount and I was hoping it would get the pill she needed into her. Now I know tuna’s the only option.)

    6. Perse's Mom

      I forego the pills for liquid, currently.
      The Squish is back on phenobarbital (epilepsy). I had to mix it with tuna juice at the start and work it into regular wet food, but now she’s fine with it. Which is great, because now she’s also on another med to prevent a recurrence of last week’s trip to the emergency vet, and that’s in powder form, so it mixes right in with the rest.

      When her mom was on prednisone, I actually got that in a cream that gets rubbed into the ears, which worked out well.

  10. Bye Academia

    How does everyone feel about the new Starbucks Rewards program? I definitely do not spend enough per visit to make this new program worthwhile, so I’m kind of annoyed. It’s going to take me longer to get a free drink now.

    1. periwinkle

      I’m actually happier with the new program because it always annoyed me that each purchase currently earns a single star regardless of what I bought. Buying a black iced tea and buying two pounds of Veranda Blend beans each earns just one star even though the beans cost more than 10x the iced tea. (FYI, even though Starbucks screws up their dark roasts, they did a much better job with the light roast on their Veranda and Willow blends.)

      Besides, it’s a loyalty program and they’re giving me free stuff on occasion. I appreciate free stuff, especially if it’s a grande Earl Grey tea latte with sugar-free vanilla syrup, which is my traditional way to use a reward credit.

      1. BRR

        I’m with you here, annoyed that I would earn one star no matter what I bought even though I usually only got one thing. At the end of the day I understand rewarding by dollar spent so I don’t really have a big problem with it.

      2. Honeybee

        OK, I thought I was the only one who feels that way about the roasts. I like their Veranda blend and the Pike Place blend is pretty decent, but at work they serve the dark roast and it has a bitter aftertaste. I always wondered why they chose a dark roast coffee rather than the more happy medium roast coffee in the machines. (But it’s free, so I don’t complain much.)

    2. katamia

      I think the new star count to get a free reward is too high. I share an account with my mom (I don’t drink coffee and don’t go there often enough to really want my own account), and she usually just gets a simple coffee that’s maybe $2.50, while I only go maybe once a month unless she has a free reward she doesn’t want to use (in which case I’ll use it). It’s not a huge deal to me because I don’t go there very often, though. They’re clearly doing this to encourage people to spend more each time they come, but that’s not going to happen in our case. I would have preferred a lower star count needed to get a free reward or if they’d switched to giving a star per item (so you get a latte and a pastry and that’s two stars).

      1. Bye Academia

        Yes, this is what I don’t like about it. I agree with periwinkle and BRR that it makes sense to tie the rewards to spending, but the limit is pretty high. I usually get a tall cold brew for $3, so it’ll take me almost twice as long to get a reward now.

        I get where Starbucks is coming from because if they lower the limit, people who get a latte and food every visit would get a reward every few visits. But it still sucks as someone one the losing end of the change.

        Oh well, I guess a free drink is still a free drink.

    3. super anon

      i hate it. i only ever get americanos, so it will take me twice as long to earn rewards as before, unless i start buying food there (which i generally don’t because i try not to eat too much sugar). i thought the rewards program couldn’t get worse after they took away free soy and extra shots of syrup for gold members, but i was wrong.

    4. sugared out

      This is so weird for me to say because I’ve been a starbux drinker since college but I’ve completely fallen out of love with them as of late. I don’t know if it’s because my taste buds have changed in a lot in the past year but none of their drinks taste good to me anymore, particularly their specialty drinks.

    5. asteramella

      I only ever get Starbucks when I’m also getting a drink for my spouse so it actually works out well for me since I’ll get more than 1 star without having to ask the barista to let me pay for both drinks separately… I hate doing that. I recognize that my purchasing habits are unusual though. I wish they had free soy milk still :/

    6. Honeybee

      I didn’t know about it because despite liking Starbucks, I get my latte fix at the non-Starbucks coffee location inside my building at work. Their rewards program is very simple: buy 9 drinks and get the 10th one free.

      I generally get one of their specialty latte drinks (white mocha, cinnamon dolce, etc.) when I go to Starbucks, which are $3.65 for a tall if I recall correctly. So under the old system, if it took me 42 visits I’d get a free drink after spending around $154. Under the new system, I’d have to buy 42 lattes just to get Gold status, and then an additional 17 lattes in order for me to get the free drink. That’s a little over $215. A person who got a venti ($495) would only need 42 total visits but they would still be spending a bit over $212.

      So for people who only buy a coffee drink – even an expensive large coffee drink – the new rewards program is going to be more expensive. If you buy anything less than a large specialty latte it’s also going to take you more time.

      I think when people were asking for a spend-based rewards program they were simply asking to get more stars for more expensive items, not for the requirement to be increased by a factor of 10. I think Starbucks knows that, too, and is being disingenuous when they say they are just giving the customers what they asked for.

    7. Ekaterin

      If my math is right, it’s going to take me slightly longer to get a free drink now (16 visits vs. 12), but since I moved to a town without a Starbucks (yes, they exist!) my buying habits have changed enough that I don’t think I’ll really notice. I used to go 2-3 times per week, now I only go once per week at most, so I accumulate stars pretty slowly.

    8. Tsalmoth

      I’m not a fan, as I usually buy a grande coffee each morning, so the freebies (which I admit are usually expensive sandwiches) are a good deal. They’ll come at about 1/4 the speed for me now.

    9. Dear Liza dear liza

      I’m annoyed. My standard drink is just under $2, so I’m guessing I will only one star for it. That means A LOT of purchases before I get my freebie.

    10. AFT123

      I love it. My usual order is about $6 and I visit a few times a week – it always used to miff me that I’d buy two items, but only get one star. Same for when I’d order a few drinks for myself and friends. I’m not going to ask the barista to ring everything separately. This change works out well for me, although I think they maybe could have tweaked it to be a little better. For example – they could have allowed a star for each item instead of each visit.

  11. Natalie

    Man, dog-cat socialization is a pain in the butt. They don’t hate each other, which is awesome, but the dog gets excited and wants to play, which the cat doesn’t understand. She disappears upstairs (there’s a baby gate so he can’t follow) so the next time he sees her he’s crazy excited. Kind of a vicious cycle, sigh.

    1. North

      It gets better! We had the same thing with our two, but eventually the dog learned to calm down and the cat learned that he could swat her in the face to tell her to.

      Does your dog crate at all? What worked well for us was short limited sessions with the dog in the crate and the cat roaming loose. Give the dog a REALLY good bone, and coax the cat out with some treats, praise them both for being chill, keep it up for short then longer periods, then let the cat go hide.

      1. Natalie

        He’s learning! We actually just had our first dog-crated-cat-free session yesterday. He was good while he was distracted with a Kong, but once he got focused on the kitty not so good. I think the cat appreciated it, though, because she could roam some of her old spots without the interloper.

        Hopefully soon we can crate him for bed in our room, and let her go back to her night stalking.

      2. Windchime

        It does get better. I don’t own a dog, but my sister brings her little dog over when she comes. We like to joke and say that they speak different love languages. The dog would get excited and bark and want to play, which just freaked the cat out and sent him up the stairs (over the baby gate).

        Now that the dog is a little older, she is calmer and they play together better. My cat will stalk the dog and chase her, then the dog will chase the cat. I don’t think they’ll ever lay in front of the fireplace together, but there isn’t any hissing or spitting anymore either.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      OMG, this is so funny….we have taken in a new (to us) cat, and we joke that he was raised by dogs! He does the EXACT SAME THING to our princess, and she is NOT HAVING IT. He REALLY wants to smell her and play with her in a dog-like fashion, and she gets very upset with that.

      We’re slowly getting them used to each other, but it’s been close to a year now, and he still tries to jump on her. We’d like for them to tolerate each other at least a little better before we let them out together unsupervised.

  12. F.

    Working on my federal income taxes today, since the last of the 1099s rolled in this week. I won’t go into details except to say that we have to do the long form 1040 and a number of supporting schedules. What a cluster cluck!! I would so love to just go to a flat rate across the board, or better yet, a national sales tax in lieu of income tax. Oh well, since I’m not in charge of the country, it’s nose back to the grindstone. End of rant!

      1. Elsajeni

        Definitely read that as “TaxCat” (and thought “Wow, that’s really perfectly on-brand for AAM”).

    1. danr

      TurboTax… run on the computer, not online. You might need one of the higher level versions, but it makes doing taxes a breeze, rather than a hated chore. I’ve used it for years.

      1. Windchime

        Me too. I can usually do my taxes in under an hour. You just gather up all of your papers and it walks you through a bunch of questions. At the end, I e-file and print up the paperwork. It costs about $40 but it’s worth every penny.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger

        I like the online version, it pulls in our 1099s from a couple of banks, and I keep our charitable donations in ItsDeductible.com, and it pulls that in, too. Very quick. (Although I went through the full list of questions, and it turns out that our new high-efficiency air conditioner qualified us for an additional $300 credit!)

        1. Natalie

          I think the software version will do that to, actually. It was a live saver with my 1099-DIVs this year since I sold some investments.

          1. F.

            Selling investments is my big issue this year, too. My husband had a number of small investments that he transferred to a broker. In order for the broker to accept them, the partial shares had to be sold off. Once they were under the broker, he then sold some of them outright. Add to that the different categories of short term/long term, basis reported/not reported, etc., in addition to all of the dividends received both outside the broker and under the broker, foreign taxes withheld, capital gain distributions….well, I decided I needed to set up spreadsheets to make sure I didn’t miss anything. So I spent eight hours on Saturday understanding the instructions and completing spreadsheets.
            I had used IRS Fillable Forms to file in the past, but it is not compatible with Windows 10 or the Windows Edge or Firefox browsers. (Way to go, IRS!) So I reluctantly decided to use TurboTax online. Spent eight hours on Sunday entering everything into TurboTax. Other than my W-2 and his 1099-Rs, I was able to pull nothing in electronically because my husband does not have electronic accounts set up. (He is 84 years old, and I gave him his first computer for Christmas this past year. He is still learning how to use it.) I still have to tell the state of Pennsylvania which investments were his/mine/ours (WHY, we’re filing jointly?) and review everything before actually filing.
            My biggest complaint about TurboTax is all the irrelevant questions. I already know that we cannot itemize deductions (not enough expenses), but I had to waste a lot of time answering all the questions for the program to tell me that. By the way, TurboTax’s prices increase the closer it gets to April 15. I’m paying $55.99 for the federal plus $34.99 for the state (IIRC). Not exactly cheap, but still better than an accountant.
            The only good thing about tax day in our house is that I don’t have to cook. I make a salad, husband orders pizza, and we’re good to go. (still had to cook yesterday, though)

      3. Honeybee

        Another vote for TurboTax, although I use the online version. I started using them when the IRS implemented FreeFile, and now that I’m not eligible for the program anymore I still pay them to do my taxes. Makes it so easy.

        I’ve also used H&R Block’s online service and they are pretty good, too.

    2. Elizabeth West

      I use FreeTaxUSA. It worked pretty well, even one time when I had a 1099. It seems to cover a bunch of stuff I don’t have, so I can only assume it handles complicated stuff well; I don’t really know. It’s free for federal and your state costs about $12. I did mine and got my refund back already via direct deposit.

      1. chilled coyote

        I’m a tax accountant and I use freetaxusa.com and have for almost 10 years. So cheap, so easy. Better than using my firm’s software.

    3. Clever Name

      I hire a accountant. I know not everyone can do this, but for me it’s worth the several hundy to have zero stress at tax time.

  13. Tiffany

    I just wanted to thank everyone who gave me advice about my Minneapolis trip a few weeks ago. I got back Tuesday night and it was pretty great. I survived the snow, rain, and cold and while I mostly just stayed in my room and slept/Netflixed (tax season is my busiest time of year and I was just so exhausted, so sleeping was really great), I did get out and see the History Museum, MOA, and ate a Juicy Lucy burger! Thanks again for all the info!

    1. Clever Name

      Yay! Minneapolis is a neat city, and I’m glad you didn’t freeze. (I remember going to a graduation in IA in May when I was living in Texas. I ended up buying a sweater. :/)

    2. AFT123

      Awesome! It’s too bad you weren’t here when we got the lovely weather on Saturday – it was 58 degrees!

  14. straordinaria

    Very broad question, but… what do you do in the evenings, AAM readers?

    I uprooted everything last summer and moved from teaching abroad back to my home city to do a graduate degree, and I feel like I don’t know who I am anymore! My friends have mostly moved away, I work weekends and study during the week so I’m exhausted, commuting is draining my soul, and I had some chronic pain issues over winter which have (finally!) started to go away. I’ve come to realise that I have no social life beyond my dog and napping and the internet. I need a hobby.

    1. Shell

      I also have next-to-zero social life, so I may not be the most helpful if you want to improve your social life.

      Eat dinner/clean up/shower is the usual. I read a book, noodle around on the internet/AAM, watch Starcraft vids. I sometimes go for a swim. It’s restful, but a little lonely. I have some online friends I correspond with, but not that frequently.

    2. nep

      I get to bed as early as I can. My body and brain thank me for it. So after dinner — some reading, sometimes playing an instrument, sometimes laundry. Then to bed early. Fantastically interesting night-life I’ve got.

    3. Lizketeer

      Mines a little odd because of where I work, but I spend a lot of time at theme parks. I only live 5-15 minutes from them and I can get in for free, so I do that a lot (fireworks every night is my favorite thing ever)

      For the nights I do stay home, my main hobby is crochet. I also do a little sewing, and a random assortment of other crafts. I pop in a movie or turn on netflix, spend a few hours crafting, and then go to bed.

      I moved to a new state directly after college and don’t know anyone to hang out with on a regular basis, so everything I do is solitary. Living in a tourist city helps because there’s always something to do if I choose to go find it and no one really cares if you are alone while doing it.

    4. Windchime

      I knit, mostly. I also have a bunch of grown-up coloring books and some fancy colored pencils so sometimes I will color. I’m also taking an online class to teach myself a new programming language. I usually go to bed around 10 or so and read on my kindle until I fall asleep. In other words, I am a crazy party girl.

    5. Elizabeth West

      Lately I’ve been lazy AF. After workout (when not being a slug) and food, I like to do some crafts or sewing if I have some (I hate sewing but need to get it over with). I read a little, watch TV on Netflix or Amazon if one of my shows is on, and play on the internet. But when I’m not being lazy, I’m writing. It may seem like I don’t ever do this, but I often write during downtime at work. I need to get back to a specific daily word count. Plus, I have a blogging challenge coming up again. Blergh. If I have a nerd meetup, I go to that for a couple of hours.

      I have no social life to speak of. Something has to give soon or I will.

    6. AnotherTeacher

      I always advocate volunteering and have made a lot of very good friends this way.

      If your pain issues can be helped with exercise (e.g., moderate weight training, yoga, walking) that’s a good option. Our city has fantastic recreations centers that are very economical. I’ve not built outside-the-gym relationships with the people I see, there, but we’re friendly with each other, and it still feels like a community. On the occasions I go to private yoga studios, the other practitioners are always friendly, too.

    7. LizB

      I’ve been reading a lot (my local library is great, so I’m not even spending any money on books!). I have a couple of TV shows I keep up with, and I’ve been getting back into cross-stitching. I also sing in a very casual community choir, and I often have board game nights or go to pub trivia with friends.

    8. wildfirefly12

      I’m lame and just watch Netflix/Hulu/YouTube or read blogs, cook dinner, and go to bed early. Sometimes I record some let’s play videos and sometimes I go to the local bar and study (the only coffee shop closes at 4 p.m. where I live). Oh… and every few months I take an improv class that is one night a week for a few weeks in the town an hour from where I live and when the weather is good I go play with my horse. Okay… maybe I’m not that boring. lol

      It sounds like you might be looking for something that doesn’t require a lot of mental engagement? When I feel like that are the nights I just relax with Netflix/Hulu or YouTube.

    9. ginger ale for all

      I have two part time jobs. Once or twice a week, depending on the time of year it is, I have a dance class. I also get in around three or four books a week. Now that I have been dumped, I have a lot more free time that I should be sensible about and start cleaning my home.

    10. Sibley

      I’m not so great either. However, I just got my local library’s newsletter, and they have events! Many events! I’m signed up for a few, nothing unmanageable, but it’s a start. And it’s free.

    11. Trixie

      I think I’m caught somewhere in between. Since starting full-time work this year, I’ve been doing that plus all my yoga/pilates teaching. During the week, I have three nights I’m teaching and the other two I try really hard to take a class. Then on weekend I’m teaching both days. I do meet a lot of folks but it’s delicate moving it over to friends outside class.
      I’ve known for a while I need to do something different to actually socialize and meet folks. Before it was lack of funds but now it’s finding the time. The obvious answer is cutting back on teaching but this time of year if I don’t teach, I often don’t work out so that’s not a great option.

      Maybe a book club, or meet-up, or arts/crafts thing. The good news is I met with friend who is as busy as I am and we both commented how we have to simply make time to hang out.

    12. Panda Bandit

      I do a lot of art – mostly drawing and painting. I love to make things so that can range from all kinds of crafts to desserts and even a little bit of wood-working. I also read or watch movies. Sometimes video games.

    13. Sunflower

      I’m also looking to pick up some hobbies. I’ve started doing some craft projects- painting furniture, taking old things and trying to make them new.

      I like to read, watch tv. Trying to start dating more so trying to spend time on my dating apps and get dates. My friends have met some people since they are started doing regular yoga classes.

    14. CharlieCakes

      I go to the gym after work (workout for 1 hr and shower/lotion/change 15-30 mins) and when my spouse is at school I watch a lot of bad TV. I’m talking KUWTK/E! and Bravo. F me up with the bad TV, fam!

      I know you are recovering from some pain issues and you have a bad commute (I do 3 1/2 hours a day, so I feel you), but if you are able to work out would you consider CrossFit? You don’t have to be super intense about it (I used to do CF light), but my friends that do do CF really love it and their gym friends have become like family. I ultimately didn’t stick with it because I wanted to try other things, but everyone was very friendly and welcoming for the few months I did go.

      Other ideas: painting, yoga (YouTube or low cost online so you can do it in your living room if you want), podcasts (modern love, Serial of course, This American Life, etc.), learn a new language (duolingo or similar), online gaming (I think my brother plays Destiny and Witcher), scrap-booking, trying new recipes, start planning a cool vacation for 1 year in the future…. I also think there is an app that helps you find new friends (although I think it’s for women who want to find other women friends, assuming you are female).

    15. Mallory Janis Ian

      Not much social life here, either. I typically spend evenings watching Netflix with the family. I go out for dinner and drinks with friends from my old job about once a month, and if there’s and evening event at the UU fellowship or one of my friends is having a local exhibit opening, I’ll go to that. I recently was voluntold by the pastor that the UU youth group needs an advisor who works on campus so that they can start an official, registered student organization. That wasn’t the direction I was planning on going with my “time and talents” donation, but I let myself get roped in. So now I need to start going to their Thursday night anime meetings.

    16. Honeybee

      First of all, social life and hobbies during graduate school are just hard in general. Don’t beat yourself up. Looking back on graduate school after I finished, I realized that I felt like a zombie through so much of it.

      I do a lot of things in my evenings – I play video games a lot, read books, listen to music and dance, write fiction, bake. Some evenings I play board games with friends, or go to local breweries and cideries with them, or hit up networking events. If you’re looking for a longer-term hobby, you might look up a social sports club, join a knitting circle (yarn and fabric stores are a good place to find them and they will enthusiastically teach you! IME, knitters love teaching other people how to knit), volunteer at an animal shelter, take a dance or fitness class. Or you can join a Meetup group in your city, a lot of times groups will have recurring weekday evening events you can attend.

    17. Anonymous Educator

      Introvert here, as is my spouse, so we mainly stay home and watch streaming video while cuddling cats. Sometimes we’ll go for an evening walk.

    18. Violetta

      One thing I learned when I moved to a new city where I knew no one is you have to work at having a social life.

      For the first year or so, I hardly made friends and I hardly went out, I made a lot of excuses for basically being a hermit. I was super lonely. Then I started putting in the work to actually seek out activities, get to know new places, and meet new people.

      Some of my favorite stuff to do during the evenings: Go to shows/concerts, hang out at a bar and watch a game, work out at my company gym or go to these Pilates courses I found on Meetup, go to the movies, meet up with some special interest group I got involved in (for instance there’s a group of people of my specific nationality living in my city), go to dinner or a café, go to a free comedy night, go on dates, etc. On the weekends I like to go to museums, take long walks around the city and parks, more sports classes, go out at night, have coffee/go shopping with friends, go to brunch, …

      I still really enjoy my occasional night of Netflix and nothing, but it was so so bad for me to do that every night.

  15. Cristina in England

    I am realising that I am a bit stuck in my self improvement lately. I get defensive really easily and am unnecessarily adversarial (don’t know if I would have ever thought to frame it as unnecessarily adversarial without this blog!). I just automatically get defensive and adversarial when other people would not. What do I do? Anyone else make strides with this?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m going to take this deeper than you’re probably asking for, but: A lot of times when people default to adversarialness, it’s rooted in something big and early — like something in your family dynamics that taught you that you’d be unfairly accused of things, or that you’d be treated badly when you did something wrong, or that you had strike back in order not to be trampled on, or in just never having any good, healthy models of how to take criticism or handle differences. Or if it feels like even mild criticism is a fundamental attack on who you are (like that it’s saying you’re a bad person), it could be rooted in an early history that didn’t build up a fundamental sense of worth and/or safety in the world. Lots of times, that stuff gets programmed into us early and then we carry it into adulthood without realizing that it’s not warranted by our circumstances anymore.

      Does any of that resonate with you and what you know of your family? If so, that can point you toward the right path to fixing it. For example, if it’s that in your family you were always treated badly when you did something even a little wrong, you could focus on working through what habits of thought that gave you and why, and how you’ve carried that into adulthood, and why it doesn’t make sense for you anymore today. (You could do that on your own or with a therapist.)

      (I say this as someone who spent a lot of time in my 20s working through a bunch of this — not adversarialness, but other “thanks, family of origin” issues — and this was the basic path I used.)

      1. QualityControlFreak

        This is really insightful. My spouse had an extremely critical parent. I’ve spent decades convincing them they don’t have to defend their position with me, because I’m not criticizing them; just giving them information.

      2. Cristina in England

        Wow, thank you so much for such a thoughtful, in-depth answer. Yes that totally resonates. I’ve been doing a lot of work lately about how not to repeat my mother’s critical tone of voice and manner with my own daughter, but I am not sure I connected it with my own defensiveness and adversarialness with others. My mother used to withdraw her affection and give the silent treatment for an unpredictable amount of time (days, sometimes) when I did something wrong. We never had discussions about anything.
        She also never has anything nice to say about my father, to whom she is still (happily?) married and lives with, so I have a pretty messed up idea of what good boundaries look like in healthy relationships, and also what is lighthearted teasing versus veiled insults.

        She is loving in her own way and she is an extraordinarily wonderful grandmother and I feel bad having so much anger and so many issues about her since I know she did the best she could. I now see that, regardless of guilt, I do need to keep opening it up and going through it in order to do the best I can for my own daughter.

        Thanks again for the insight. This type of clarity might actually make me finally go to therapy since I can now say what I’m so bothered about!

        1. Tara R.

          The guilt over being angry at your parents is totally, totally normal. It’s okay to have anger and disappointment about the way that you were raised, while still knowing in your heart that your parent did the best they could in their circumstances. In one of my first visits, my therapist asked me how I felt about my dad, and I remember saying something along the lines of “I love him so much and I hate him so much and I hate that life was so hard for him that the best parenting he could do was kind of not great” and I think that’s a pretty normal place to come from. I think it’s incredible that you’re so self-aware and determined to be the best person and mother you can be.

          1. Elizabeth West

            Yeah, this was something I had to let go of a while ago. I’m glad I did; when I had a chance to talk to a relative about a parent’s upbringing, I understood a LOT more, but it (would have) made me angry all over again because how it went for me could have been avoided.

            1. Dynamic Beige

              Yeah… what you said. I have so many times just gone “why would they have had kids if they didn’t want to do things differently than how their parents treated them?” Because there just wasn’t any logic to that. If your childhood was crap and you knew it and were disappointed by it, wouldn’t you try to do better? Apparently not. They did the best they could with what they had at the time, which is all anyone can do.

              This whole dynamic was part of the reason I was afraid to have kids. I was afraid I would somehow wind up treating my kid(s) the way I had been treated and I couldn’t deal with the idea of that.

              1. Mallory Janis Ian

                When I had kids I was terrified that I would be like my mom. She wasn’t intentionally unkind; she just lacked any adult sense of responsibility and so just did whatever she wanted to do. She would leave us at the babysitters and not pick us up because she was out partying. The sitter would have to call my grandparents late in the evening to come get us. If she met a man, she’d leave us with any relative who’d keep us for awhile so she could carry on with the man. We ended up adopted by my grandparents by the time I, the oldest, was in second grade.

              2. Not So NewReader

                In some cases, the parents did not repeat their parents. They did their own new stupid things instead.

                My father grew up in the 20s. Back then psychologists thought kids were inherently bad so beating them was fine and that is what people were told. So every Xday was beat the kids day in my father’s childhood. It did not matter if the parents did not know why they were beating the kid. Kids were bad and needed beating, period.

                So this is what my father saw/learned. I am here to tell you he never once hit me. never.
                Of the cases I have read about abusers many grew up in verry bad conditions. So while they were abusers also, they did not repeat some of the stuff their parents did.
                My father did drink. Apparently there is a high correlation between childhood abuse and drinking/smoking and these people are more likely to develop heart issues, which is how my father died.

                Looking at mother/daughter relationships, women can go out of their way to avoid repeating their mothers’ mistakes and in end, make the very same mistake anyway. I read example after example of this, so the pattern is there. And it is all very strange how it unfolds. These women honestly try not to make the mistakes and yet they do. I see where counseling now can break the patterns. It does entail learning new skills/tools, which makes sense, you can’t implement something you don’t know exists.

                1. Dynamic Beige

                  What you say about a high correlation between childhood abuse and drinking makes a lot of sense. He never spoke about it directly, but I have a feeling that my father’s mother was physically abusive. He told me at one point they went to live with an uncle for a year. Oh really, why? Mumblings of “I dunno.” My grandfather was a doctor, I don’t think money was an issue. But, having 4 children in 6 years could be for a woman left all on her own to deal with. No actual proof, but my guess is my grandmother had a breakdown of some sort and was hospitalised/the kids were sent away, could have been a Ya-Ya Sisterhood kind of thing, I wouldn’t be surprised.

                  My father only ever hit me once that I can remember, and that is a doozy of a memory. He drank his dinner every night and once when I was visiting him, he was bragging about how he never hit any of “us kids.” First of all, who is proud of something like that? Someone who was beaten as a child. I didn’t realise that at the time because I told him that it wasn’t true and relayed the story of how he came home late one time and I had done something bad that day and he spanked me for it (I had done something bad, my mother had already punished me so I was feeling it wasn’t fair to be punished twice). I did not tell him how he completely frightened me to the point of terror, it was like he was a monster, someone I didn’t recognise as my father. Looking back, he had obviously had a bad day that day, things were not going well in general and when he came home, it was just one more thing and he snapped. After I told him that he had indeed spanked me that one time, he just looked at me with this offended “how dare you challenge anything I say?” look and said “So?” “So, you did hit me once.” “And what about it?” “Nothing, it’s just that you said you never hit any of your kids and you hit me that one time.” “So what?” “So nothing, it just happened is all.” It could have gone on like that all night, so I changed the subject. I didn’t mean to, but I obviously burst his bubble on that one. The trouble with emotional landmines is that you never know if you’re going to step on one until you do. However, he was drunk at the time that conversation happened and I’m sure by the next morning he had completely forgotten about it. I sadly probably never will.

                  I had a friend who dropped out of college, worked a few dead-end jobs and wound up pregnant. She was the first person my age that I knew and had had a baby. I remember her telling me one time that it was scary how sometimes she just heard her parents’ voices — the things they used to say — coming out of her mouth. I’m sure they were times when she was stressed and her kids were acting up/out/just being kids full of energy and she just knee-jerk reacted without thinking. Still scared the crap right out of me, just the thought of it.

                2. Not So NewReader

                  @DB It sounds like you are on the right track piecing together what happened with your father’s mother. My elders were from the 1920s. That group of people, part of the “greatest generation”, had a majority of women who RESENTED their lot in life. They HATED being wives and mothers because society said they had to and they had no other options.
                  It’s my theory that these are the women that laid the ground work for the next generation of women’s rights advocates. BUT, in the meantime, these women could be very abusive because their resentment ate them right up. I agree, but I am only going by what I see, this isn’t scientific research or anything. I had a few of my elders say to me, “my choices were 1) stay home and raise my parents’ kids or 2) marry and raise my own kids.” These were very angry women as they would add, “All my mother was going to do is keep making babies that I had to raise.”
                  The women that I know from the 20s and 30s were tough-tough-tough women. Mostly because their anger ran very deep.

                  I am sorry your dad was not a dad. The worst part is he had no plan/intention of learning how to be a dad. And that is so very tough to have to deal with.
                  Your friend: Yep, we go to what we know. If we have not built a different plan we use our defaults. And many of our default plans are what we learn as children.
                  Unfortunately, the stresses of life can trigger outbursts of frustration. I was talking to a friend. Longer story made short, he yelled at his kids. He was upset with himself for losing his temper. I said to him, “Temper, many times, is a way of saying I lack of skills to deal with this particular situation.” That is all it is. Build a plan for the next time you hit this particular situation. He thought about it and agreed.
                  I grew up where tempers ran fast and thick. The more I was out in the world, I realized I admired people who kept their tongue in check. I tried to keep my temper under control but it was hard. I am not sure at what point it kicked in, but I realized the reason for my upsets usually had to do with not knowing how to handle the problem any other way. Once I set my temper to one side, I realized that I was a fearful person. I guess anger covered my fears? So I started dealing with fears.
                  What is funny, is I use this with my dogs, too. Fearful dogs sometimes bite (display of anger/fear). When my dog shows fear we approach the situation together and confront his fear. My last dog was about 55 pounds. Nothing like seeing a good sized dog peering around my knee while standing behind me, crying in fear, watching me show him everything is okay. It’s something else…[chuckling].

          2. Cristina in England

            Thank you Tara. I love how you phrased it, in saying “I hate that life was so hard for him that the best parenting he could do was kind of not great”. My mother had a terrible early life and I am so impressed with what she has accomplished for herself and how she has been able to make a better life for all of us. I guess I will have to get used to letting big conflicting feelings lie uncomfortably next to each other as part of my emotional work.

            1. Irishgal

              You can be impressed by her survival skills but also acknowledge that she was a crappy parent to you and that that has had an impact on how you are as an adult. What often happens when we have crappy parents is that survival skills we developed to survive as kids under their care start failing us as adults as deep down we are still that little kid inside. This is not about blaming your mum – she only had the tools she had at the time and awareness of mental health etc was different back then -instead it’s about acknowledging the impact and working on that.

              As you are already a parent I’d say get you to a psychotherapist (as you are in UK find one on BACP) as a lot of how and why you react is deeply in your subconscious and is in accessible to you without a “map reader” (aka therapist) to show you the way; otherwise despite your best intentions you are at risk of inadvertently repeating patterns. It may actually also be because you have your own daughter that you are finding it harder .. because there is a little girl inside you identifying with your daughter and wondering how your mother could have treated you that way.

      3. Cristina in England

        I also love the idea of the path as you describe it: the source problem, the habits of mind it gave and why, how I have carried that into adulthood, and why it doesn’t make sense for me anymore. If you or anyone has any book recommendations that might fit into this type of process I would be delighted, although even these steps on their own seem like a great framework for a therapeutic journal.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I don’t have any book recommendations on it, but I will add that one thing that can help is to recognize that the behavior or habits of thought might have been really smart for you at one point! As a child, it might have been the best thing you could do to protect yourself in a situation that a kid isn’t equipped to handle. The problem comes in when you’re still using that defense mechanism as an adult, when it’s no longer needed to protect you (and in fact is probably harming you now). But it can be helpful to recognize, “This was the best I could do at the time because I was a kid in a hard situation. It served a function then, but I have better ways of protecting myself now and I can let behavior X go.”

      4. Confused Publisher

        Alison, this has been incredibly incredibly useful for me. I actually screenshotted and printed your comment so I could go back to it whenever I needed to. (I’m fantastic at ‘coping’: until recently I mistook it for being the same thing as ‘caring for your emotional wellbeing’.)

    2. Not So NewReader

      One thing I did with my quick defensiveness was to tell myself, “Wait. Listen to the exact words of this person.” I grew up with things have double or triple meanings, I had to do a lot of guessing.
      One tough thing for me to do was to decide to take people’s words at face value. I had to quit reading extra stuff into their words. Annnd listen to their exact words, do not assume they are saying X, find out if they are actually saying X.

      If you grow up being defensive or guessing what is meant, it can take a deliberate and constant effort to retrain your brain, “This is not how the world works. I need to assume people have the best intentions.” Which leads to other discoveries such as how distorted family’s world view is. But that part you handle separately, get yourself on track first.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        I was lucky in elementary school to be befriended by a couple of kids who had really healthy, functional families and outlooks. I stayed friends with them through high school, and I noticed along the way that they had different outlooks about things than my parents and extended family did. I owe a lot of my successes in dropping my defense mechanisms to the fact that I intentionally adopted some of their outlooks and modeled some of their behaviors, even though it didn’t always feel natural to do so. My family always had a big, intergenerational chip on their shoulders about educated people thinking they’re so much better than everyone else, so no one pursued education. My friends both came from locally prominent families, and they never acted like they thought they were better than me, so that helped me not to develop the family chip.

        1. Not So NewReader

          This is why it is so important to watch who you hang out with. Even when we don’t realize we are copying what our peers do.

  16. Fantasma

    I’m going to put my house on the market next week and I chose to go with a realtor other than the one who sold my previous house and helped me buy the one I’m selling. My previous agent “Karen” is a friend of the family and honestly I did not consider her because of the bad experience another family friend “Leah” had last fall. Basically Karen did not act in Leah’s best interest — she allowed the buyers and agents unfettered access to the vacant home and it got flood damage when some fool left the windows open during a heavy storm. That was just part of it but enough that I had to put my interests first.

    How should I handle the awkward conversation, should she ask me why I didn’t go with her? The agent I chose knows the area well and has a solid marketing plan. Honestly I didn’t even consider Karen because my home is also vacant (relocated to another state for work) and I can’t risk damage to my home. Karen is a very nice person and a good friend to my parents, and I’d like to stay on good terms.

    1. Camellia

      I make it a policy never to do business with family or friends. Too much chance of something going bad/wrong that it is not worth the risk to our relationship.

      I’ve made that clear when necessary and once they get over the initial surprise they accept it.

    2. Buggy Crispino

      You could just say that you’re VERY aggressive about getting this house sold; that you have some specific ideas of what you will and won’t allow a realtor to do and that you intend to stand firm on those ideas. You can say that you felt that you would be more able to be in control and be the boss of a realtor that you had no personal relationship with. Allowing a family friend or even a former realtor might weaken your resolve because you’d be concerned about damaging a friendship or relationship so you chose a total stranger.

    3. Yetanotherjennifer

      If she’s professional, she won’t bring it up. If not…”You’re such a good family friend I didn’t want to damage the relationship by bringing business into it.” ‘But you did before.’ “I know, but since then I’ve seen how it can go wrong and I don’t want to risk that happening with you.” Then change the subject to something completely different.

    4. Persehone Mulberry

      I think you could go two routes:

      1. Softpedal it: “actually, I decided to go with someone who specializes in vacant properties.” Vacant properties are special cases, and are more work than an occupied house, if the job is done right. IMO you want to work with someone who will keep an eye on things for you – picking up junk mail/doorstep flyers, making sure the driveway is plowed/front walk shoveled and salted (or lawn mowed/curb appeal kept up), and – hello – making sure everything was shut down and locked up properly after a showing. The “unfettered access” doesn’t alarm me so much (it’s pretty standard in my area for the listing agent not to be present for showings), but she seriously dropped the ball by not checking on the house after. (P.S. Even if the Realtor you chose isn’t a “specialist,” you may want to discuss these points with her.)

      2. Be honest. “Actually, I heard some alarming things about how you handled someone else’s vacant listing, and I didn’t feel comfortable calling you after that. I felt I needed to go with someone I could count on to look out for my house since I can’t be here.”

      1. Kimberlee, Esq

        While honesty in this situation is extremely difficult and I wouldn’t blame OP one bit for not being honest, it would really be a favor to Karen to be honest. She has a referral out there that is actively causing her to not get clients she otherwise might have. Realtors are sales people and (at least the good ones) are used to hearing criticism of either themselves or their product. They’re in a competitive field. They get over it. Again, totally would not blame anyone not wanting to be honest here, but it would be the best thing long-term.

  17. Raia

    What’s the best tech/equipment/business pro clothes/general items you use, at work or home, that makes life easier to organize, complete, or enjoy?

    I want to adopt a moderately minimalist lifestyle, purchasing a few timeless multifunctional items that are durable, easy to use and clean, etc. With my new job out of school, I am overjoyed to have a little leftover cash and would like to spend it on those kinds of things. I’m also trying to purchase/fund companies that value good craftsmanship, as opposed to those that capitalize on producing cheap stuff that becomes unusable after a short time.. You know, being responsible for earning money, paying my bills AND spending the leftover on both items and companies that do the right thing. If I could capitalize on everyone’s research and experience on their favorite items, that would be awesome!

    1. Camellia

      I used to see the dentist every six months for cleaning and still had cavities and gum issues. Finally bought a Sonicare toothbrush and no more problems! Replace the brush every three months to maintain.

      “Purity Made Simple” cleanser is gentle on my sensitive skin and, when combined with my Clarisonic, removes even the most stubborn makeup, and a little goes a long way. Replace Clarisonic brush heads every three months also, and if you buy one, get it from QVC for the best price.

      1. Camellia

        Also a classic style leather purse. It should last you a minimum of three years and will instantly elevate any outfit. And I no longer buy any purse that doesn’t zip completely closed (as opposed to snapping shut). Too many times of spilling out when purse is dropped or tipped over or falling to the floorboards when I’ve had to slam on my brakes.

    2. danr

      Look to buy the big items that are mid-range in price. You don’t want the cheapest since it won’t work as well as you want it to, and you don’t want the most expensive, since you’ll never use all the extra features. The problem is that with some things, it’s hit or miss on what will last. Get a subscription to Consumer Reports and get both online and the magazine. Reading it will show you what’s out there and how much you can expect to pay outside of sales. Learn to wait for sales. Find your local library and get a library card. Buy the books that you reread many times. Then buy an e-reader so you don’t have to keep buying more bookshelves. Have fun.

    3. Treena

      Check out the site, I think it’s called “only buy once” it’s an aggregate site for things that will last and last. For instance, the t-shirts they list are $50 and the jeans are $300, but they have a 10 year-life warranty.

      1. fposte

        Oh, that is a brilliant idea. It looks like that’s a movement–Google gets me articles about it, and there are several websites on the theme.

    4. Jen

      Thermoworks thermometer (we are big cookers and a lot of it is meat), LL bran slippers (lifetime warranty.)

    5. curious

      What a strange question. I can understand wanting to buy something only once and respect that, but it should be based on need not just because something lasts a long time. But my panasonic toughbook computer has lasted me quite a while through a number of drops. Unfortunately, I didn’t get one with enough memory. That’s kind of the problem with tech-it can quickly get obsolete, even if your specific product lasts.

      I believe Costco offers a lifetime return policy on clothing , but Pendleton and St. John’s have very good reputations for business professional attire.

      Le Creseut is well-known for fantastic dutch ovens. Cast irons pans are also known for being something that can be passed down generations. Pyrex pans used to have a fantastic reputation for longevity, but in recent years the material has gotten cheaper and they are more likely to break and crack. Perhaps those made in Europe are better, but if you’re looking in America, Pyrex found at estate sales/from your grandmother might be a better value.

      1. Jen

        Oh, yes. We have a few Staub pots which are similar to Le Cruset (different look, same quality). I am looking to build my collection over time.

        We also have a really good set of Wusthof knives- good knives are critical and I literally had no idea what I was missing all my life.

        We have expensive stainless steel pots and I would say skip those. I use my $19.99 skillet from target more than my $150 all clad one.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq

          Second on nice knives. We got some Ginsu ones and have been very happy with them.

          Also, we just bought a bunch of flour-sack towels, for pretty cheap, and it was a great decision. I’ve been angry with these black micro-fiber towels since my partner and I bought when we were first building a household, because they just don’t absorb liquid. What is the point of a towel that doesn’t absorb liquid? Then I realized I’d been feeling the same frustration every time I used them for like 7 YEARS. The solution all along had been a $25 set of not-even-that-fancy towels, but I’d been somehow unwilling to make the investment. I felt absurd! And now I feel great about my towels. :)

        2. AFT123

          I agree re: stainless steel pot sets. After getting an induction range, I bought a nice set of all clad pans and I find I miss the lighter weight pans I used to have, and that I’d prefer ceramic for more heavy duty cooking. I’ve had them for about 6 months now and was hoping they’d grow on me, but they haven’t.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger

      My decluttering has involved the cloud; I now scan in anything I feel like I need to file away, then shred it. Or keep organized online folders of statements. Most of the information I can find online anyway in my various accounts, like when my solar installer wanted to see 12 months of electric bills. Even my tax documents are mostly electronic, and the few that were mailed to me I scanned in (but I’m probably not shredding for at least a year or two).

      I trust Google Drive with financial documents because I use two-factor authentication, and I also have a backup on my network accessible storage server in my home, in case something happens to my account.

    7. Aardvark

      Cuisinart Pro Classic food processor. Stainless steel pots rather than non-stick. (mine are relatively-cheap farberware, but they’ve held up for five years or so with no issues.) Victorinox makes good knives at a reasonable price point. Also, silicone spoon spatulas. Get a good cheese grater if you eat cheese–it will make your life so much easier.

    8. Kyrielle

      My Finex cast iron pans! I have all three sizes, acquired over time, but if I could just have one, the 10″ would be it, with the lid. They are not cheap. They are made well, made in the USA, machined smooth, and while the bottom is round the top is octagonal so you have ‘pour spouts’ where the angles come together. So so so handy…and seasoned well enough that it could handle scrambled eggs basically as soon as I received it. Really good cast iron.

    9. Alma

      A KitchenAid lift-head stand mixer. When bread machines first came out, I noticed that hmmmm, I could buy one of the bread machines, or I could get the KitchenAid that does so much more besides knead bread.

      I have recipes where I have written in the margin (2 min 20 secs) where it says “whip egg whites until stiff” and every single time it is the right amount of time.

    10. First Initial dot Last Name

      In regards to clothes, I used to have a ridiculous wardrobe and had a lot of fun building it but I have gained a lot of weight while in school, so I’m down to basics and I have found that I really enjoy having a very limited wardrobe. I have exactly one load of laundry a week, and I don’t have to fret over what I’m wearing. It’s a lot like wearing a uniform, (which I did in the Navy).

      I have four button down shirts in the same exact style in four colors, (three plaids and one white), and two pairs of pants, again same style in two colors, (black and blue), and a lot of different tank tops and camisoles that I wear as undershirts; a few cover-up sweater things, a couple of “occasion” dresses, workout clothes, and I have a few paris of really great shoes, flats, boots, sneakers, pumps and black danskos, and that’s it. Even my hair is easy, braids pinned around my head, easy peasy.

      Absolutely nobody has ever noticed that I have four shirts. I accessorize with different eyeglasses, if my cohort notices anything about my wardrobe, it’s my glasses.

      1. Tea Pot Dome

        Sounds like a great capsule wardrobe! I’m looking to do the same, once I knock off the weight I gained after an injury that put me out of commission as well as the gym.

  18. North

    HAMILTON! (As in, the current Broadway sensation.) Has this conversation come up in the free for all threads before? I am completely and utterly obsessed. I’m a history person (master’s degree, work in a museum, geek out in my spare time) and it’s so clever in the way it approaches history, the music is great, all of it, just, LOVE.

    I also take a special joy in knowing that there are people who are losing their minds because it interprets/portrays several of the founding fathers as POC – and Thomas Jefferson as kind of a jerk.

    Anyone else on the Hamilton train? Signed, listening to “Satisfied” at work while doing drudge work in Photoshop.

    1. Lillie Lane

      I went to Hamilton Grange last year and have wanted to go to the musical ever since it debuted. Glad to see the popularity but I wish I had been able to see it before the Hamilton mania exploded.

    2. steeped in anonymtea

      Yes. The Thomas Jefferson thing. We went to Monticello as tourists. It was very beautiful and interesting, and other tourists were remarking how wonderful he was. My husband and I both had the same reaction—this entire beautiful place was built on the enslavement of human beings. I could not enjoy any of it, and would never go back.

      1. Honeybee

        I had a similar experience when I visited the Jefferson Memorial in DC. I read the excerpt from the Declaration of Independence on one of the panels and this excerpt on another:

        God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than these people are to be free. Establish the law for educating the common people. This it is the business of the state to effect and on a general plan.

        And then I thought of what a holy hypocrite he was and it made me so angry I had to walk out.

    3. Claire (Scotland)

      Yeah, I’m slightly obsessed with the cast recording and am reblogging ALL THE THINGS on Tumblr. I just wish it was remotely feasible for me to see it on Broadway!

      1. Cordelia Longfellow

        I feel you! But it should be heading to the West End in 2017, which may be a bit more feasible. Some of the Broadway cast members have talked about wanting to join the London company, too.

    4. Menacia

      Yup, planning on seeing Hamilton come spring/summer, every song I have heard on the Broadway channel on Sirius radio is phenomenal and I’ve seen bits and pieces of scenes when they had a special of the musical on PBS. Glad to live in CT and be so close to the amazing culture that is in NYC. :)

    5. Tris Prior

      I love Hamilton so much! I am surprised, honestly, because I hate rap and hip hop music. HATE it. But this somehow works for me.

      It is not coming to my city until September… :(

    6. Cordelia Longfellow

      Such a big fan! I’m actually going to NYC for the first time next week to see it, and I cannot wait. \o/ I’m Canadian, and I never would have thought I’d geek out over American revolutionary history, but I’ve been working my way through Ron Chernow’s catalogue (halfway through Washington now and really enjoying it). The play and the cast and crew just blow my mind, and I’ve also been getting more into hip-hop music – so many wonderful discoveries! I’m currently working on my second master’s degree in a science/statistics-heavy field, so I have been procrastinating by learning about American history because I am a dork. My first two degrees were in English/History and Shakespeare, so Hamilton is right up my alley!

      I’ll make a post after my trip. It’s great to know there are AAM Hamilfans. :-)

    7. Blue_eyes

      Love love love Hamilton! We saw it in January and we have tickets to go again NEXT January. We actually had friends staying with us this weekend who had tickets for last night. So yesterday we visited the Hamilton Grange (“it’s quiet uptown..”) and took the tour.

  19. Lillie Lane

    Does anyone have tips on maintaining eye contact when you speak to someone?

    I never used to make eye contact with people (no one ever mentioned it to me), but it’s something I have been working on for the past few years.

    I can keep contact very well when the other party is speaking, but when it’s my turn to talk, I have a big problem concentrating on keeping eye contact and formulating what I want to say at the same time. I know I just need to get into an eye contact habit subconsciously, but I’m having trouble. Any tips?

    1. Myrin

      Oh god, I basically have the same thing. I know that for many people, not making eye contact is related to their anxiety or how they want to make themselves smaller or things like that but for me, like you, I really, really can’t concentrate at all on what I’m saying when I have to look into someone’s eyes (I have no idea why that is; I can look at basically everything and have no trouble talking but as soon as it’s human-shaped, I’m out.). I try to do the “look at their nose/forehead/other part of their face” thing but it really seems to be related to the whole human for me, now that I’m thinking about it. I also do it subconsciously, so I will just automatically look around the room while talking and then kind of catch myself “oh snap”-like in the middle of a sentence. What I do then is consciously look into their eyes for a few seconds and then kinda have my sight flicker all over their face before I automatically look away again but I don’t know if maybe that’s distracting or weird to them? That being said, no one’s ever mentioned it to me, either (even people I’m close to, both personally and professionally, and whom I trust to be unpromptedly honest with me), so maybe I’m making this into a bigger thing in my head? I don’t know.

    2. fposte

      In addition to Elkay’s suggestion, would it work to alternate? Look to the side and speak thoughtfully, and then go back to eye contact as you finish? Most people don’t look other people constantly in the eye, especially when they’re the speaker–if you just thread it in there, that’s generally enough to carry you.

      1. Myrin

        Yeah, that’s what I was trying to say is what I normally do. As usual, I was just rambling on and fposte swept in and put everything into one neat sentence. ;D

      2. Lillie Lane

        Ok, that’s generally what happens — I end up looking away longer than I’d like to, but come back around to the eye contact as I finish my thought. Normally it seems most people can keep eye contact a little better than me when speaking, but I think I do it frequently enough that it doesn’t seem like I’m weird or disengaged.

      3. Honeybee

        This is what I do, too, and it works for me. I actually think it’d be a little weird to stare someone in the eye intently as you talk.

    3. Pokebunny

      Don’t try to *stare* at that person’s eyes. The natural thing to do is to look at the person’s eyes for a few seconds, then turn away looking at something else for a second, then go back. Alternate and vary the timing, but you don’t want to be so focused on eye contact that you become creepy.

      1. Lillie Lane

        The problem for me is getting back to eye contact after the initial break. When I’m talking, I am concentrating on what I’m saying and end up looking into the corner of the ceiling. I can’t get my focus back to the person in speaking to.

        1. Honeybee

          Sometimes when I do that I make little thinking noises – “hmm,” “mm-hmm,” “huh” – to convey to the person that I am listening to them even though I am not looking directly at them. This transforms me look at the ceiling from “she’s not paying attention to me” to “she’s thinking such deep thoughts right now!”

    4. Allison Mary

      I have this exact same problem for the exact same reason you described – I can’t focus on what I’m trying to formulate if I’m looking directly at someone, because then I’m distracted by whatever I see them doing/whatever movements or facial expressions or gestures they engage in.

      Here’s one other tip that I got from an instructor in school – start by practicing the eye contact with cashiers in the grocery checkout lane, or baristas making your coffee, or something similar. Those people are less likely to get enough eye contact in general (which, to quote my instructor, is “not good for the human spirit”), and I also think that they’re less likely to be treated as actual human beings (which, when I worked in retail, I always found extremely demoralizing). So it’s a good thing to do anyway, and the interaction is usually fairly brief, which for me made it easier to practice consistently.

  20. PNWAnon

    Re: The Martian. I had no interest in the book or movie until my book club decided to read it. I thought it was hilarious and wonderful and then really enjoyed the movie.

    1. Windchime

      I liked the book better than the movie. The book really went into the details and even though it was a little tedious at times, it still really illustrated the gravity of his situation. The movie kind of glossed over it, in my opinion. But I’m still glad I went to the movie.

    2. Schmitt

      Ditto! I was really pleased with the book-to-movie conversion (and I am notoriously hard to please).

      Then my partner mentioned that it was nominated in the “Best Musical Comedy” section of the Golden Globes… and I thought in puzzlement, “Well, I guess it did have a lot of disco” before learning that the category is “Best Musical / Comedy”. Derp.

    3. wildfirefly12

      I was disappointed with the ending of the movie, but loved the book. *sigh* I need to find another good book to get into.

    4. Honeybee

      I started the book after watching the movie (normally I like to read the book first but I didn’t realize this one was a book until after I had already seen the movie). I put it down, but I might pick it back up now based on these recommendations.

      1. Kyrielle

        There are some very good things in the book that didn’t make the movie for time; a joke that happened in the movie but didn’t really make sense because a key problem that set it up *never happened* in the movie; and, um, I think the ending in the book is handled better. (You won’t be sitting there wondering how they got from book to movie or anything, but…my suspension of disbelief survived the book’s version of the ending better than the movie’s.)

    5. AdAgencyChick

      Am I the only weirdo who liked the movie better than the book? I think Andy Weir came up with a hell of a great story, but I wasn’t that into his *writing*.

      1. JaneB

        Yeah, I wasn’t impressed with him as a writer – I finished the book to see how the puzzles worked out (my Dad’s an engineer, I have a science background and my parents are very keen grow-your-own allotmenters so I had enough background to genuinely follow along) but I certainly didn’t get the urge to read everything else he’s ever written which I associate with a great book…

        Haven’t seen the movie yet…

  21. Doriana Gray

    I posted last week about having a panic attack for the first time in years triggered by the appearance of someone at work that I’ve had a two years long “thing” for. I’m still looking for a therapist, but I’m very nervous because we’re both attending a work-related seminar in two weeks – I wish I had a doctor I could talk to, like, yesterday. Thankfully, I got a lot of great advice in last week’s open thread, including the link to Mood Gym. I’ll probably be reading that site religiously in the days leading up to this seminar so as not have a very public meltdown.

    Other than my nerves, I’m doing much better though. And it helps that I have the next week off so I can relax and get my head together.

    1. Clever Name

      Make a plan of how you’ll react and what you’ll say if you run into him. Maybe just a nod and a “morning, Bob” or some brief greeting. I think it’s okay to make a quick exit if it seems he wants to chat. “Sorry! Gotta run! Don’t want to miss the next speaker!”

  22. Myrin

    Native English speakers, I need your help regarding a simple translation thingy I just can’t seem to get to the root of. I’m a passionate cook and have some sites I check out all the time, and one of them has this burger recipe I’m interested in.

    Now my problem is with the “pimento” part. Simply put: What is it? I know pimento is a kind of spice, it’s named almost the same in my language. However, the recipe mentioned “diced pimentos” which doesn’t make it sound like a spice at all? On the other hand, it’s measured in tablespoons? And then I googled it and it showed me bell peppers? And then there’s also pimento cheese? Help me, guys, I’m so confused!

    1. danr

      A pimento is a small red pepper also known as cherry peppers. Some are hot and some are sweet. Look at the wikipedia entry. I’ll give the link in a reply.

    2. Anonyby

      It’s a type of chile pepper! The ground spice is the pepper dried and ground, but it’s also available canned (sometimes pickled, sometimes not). That recipe has a link to the pimento cheese they used, which is a homemade recipe that mixes cheese and diced pimentos and some other stuff.

    3. Menacia

      You can find pimentos stuffed into green olives (the pimentos are red), they come in small cans as well. They are relatively mild in taste. Have fun cooking!

    4. AvonLady Barksdale

      Pimento cheese is so, so delicious. And I never had it until just before I moved to the South! When I made it in New York, couldn’t find a jar of pimentos anywhere, now I’m in a place where they abound. (Also: pimento cheese is shredded cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos, and various spices that depend on who’s making the pimento cheese.)

      If you can’t find pimentos where you are, you can use jarred or canned roasted red peppers. I would add a bit of paprika or chili powder to that, but the texture is similar.

    5. Alma

      Native Southerner here, to speak about pimento (pimiento, originally) .

      Small glass jars of the pimentos we know from green olives are found in the vegetable section, on the top shelf.

      Yes, roasted red peppers can also be used in place of the pimentos. These are with the pickles, relishes, etc. Now they also come in “hot” and “garlic” varieties too. Slice them into thin strips, then into small pieces. An egg slicer works well – slice one way, turn the pepper pieces a quarter turn, and slice again.

      1. Alma

        Oh now I see they didn’t give you a recipe for pimento cheese. Are you able to find it locally? You’ll want to read ingredients to be sure it is as close to homemade as possible. You might go to the deli and ask what the local favorite is.

  23. Pokebunny

    Semi work-related, but sometimes I hate online people. lol. Today I got downvoted to oblivion because someone asked whether they should accept an offer, then bail out because they got a better offer, and I said please don’t do that. The high rated responses were all “yeah, do that, people rescind offers all the time, no big deal.”

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      That sucks. That’s why I’m very choosy about posting on Reddit…pretty much just /r/raisedbynarcissists, and that under this pseudonym, a local board that gets a few posts a year under my own name, and stuff friends link to.

  24. Cruciatus

    Well, Safelite is here replacing my 2nd windshield in 2 years. My deductible is $500 so I’m paying out-of-pocket (this is $300). Just because a stupid rock flew up and hit my windshield in just the wrong way. They came to my work on Monday to fix the crack for free but the technician took one look and said “there’s nothing I can do for you” since the crack extended to the edge. So the whole thing needed replaced. Argh! No one in my family ever had windshield issues until my sister needed 3 replaced in 2 years a few years ago. Now it’s my turn I guess! I suppose I should be glad it’s not been anything worse. I thought about waiting until snow season is slightly more over but I kept watching the crack grow and grow. Last time this happened, it was a tiny nick and as I was driving (on the highway) and I heard a tremendous “CRACK!” and it extended the entire windshield in just one second. That was really scary! Didn’t want to go through that again. But if anyone needs theirs replaced I do recommend them (though there is actually a fee for them to come to your house–something the commercial doesn’t really say).

      1. Cruciatus

        The first time this happened I called the insurance company and in the end the basic premise was that I would be out the money anyway. I think they will waive the deductible for people who have comprehensive auto insurance. Maybe I should look into that!

    1. Nicole

      Ooo that stinks. Hubby and I both had our windshields replaced a couple of years ago and wouldn’t you know it, not two weeks later he was on the expressway and a rock flew up and created a deep nick right in his field of view! At least the nick he had before was on the passenger side! He hasn’t had it replaced yet because it hasn’t turned into a crack.

      1. Cruciatus

        Get the nick filled! It’s normally free. That’s what was supposed to be done on Monday, but there was the problem with the crack going to the edge that made that impossible. But definitely get the nick filled. On the first windshield it was just a a little bitty thing…until it wasn’t.

    2. Elizabeth West

      I’ve used them. My old car had to have the windscreen replaced TWICE because of stupid rocks both times. They came to my work and replaced it while I was inside, then came in to get a check. It’s so frustrating to replace that whole piece because of a dumb crack. My insurance wouldn’t cover, because I only had liability.

    3. Sunflower

      FWIW- not that it’s helpful now- but sometimes there is not much of a price difference between a $0 and $500 comprehensive deductible. I have a $0 deductible and I think it only costs like me $6 more every 6 months than the $500.

    4. super anon

      a rock hit my boyfriend’s windshield on the highway the other day, but the rock is still stuck in his windshield! the crack is actually a perfect circle extending out from the rock – it almost looks like a bullet hole. he isn’t worried about it, but i’ve never heard of them happening and i want him to go get it fixed asap, especially because he drives a lot for work.

      1. Honeybee

        He should get it fixed…what if the rock dislodges and comes into the car while he’s driving? I don’t know if that’s physically possible but i’d be worried about that.

      2. Kyrielle

        He should get it fixed because any stress could cause the crack to spread, and if it’s filled (with the appropriate repair stuff, not a rock), then that’s not a worry any more.

    5. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.

      You know I’ve had Safelite fix small chips twice and I wasn’t thrilled either time. I can still see the chip. Which all of them say is a possibility, but structurally it’s fine, but I’ve had it done several times over the years and only with Safelite have I seen the chip still.

    6. Not So NewReader

      I have full glass coverage on my insurance and it’s not expensive, I think it’s $50. I guess not every company offers that?

    7. Noah

      I feel your pain. I have never replaced a windshield since I started driving in 2000. Now I’ve replaced two in the last year, both were from rocks bouncing up on the freeway and hitting my windshield. Thankfully my insurance (Geico) took care of it both times. Apparently glass coverage is separate from the normal deductible.

      I used Safelite both time. Super easy to schedule online and they had no issues dealing with the insurance company directly.

  25. sugared out

    How do you make yourself cook/eat at home more?

    For context, I’m engaged but live alone. I’ve been working on improving my diet for the past year now (yes, I’m a slow learner, haha). I want to make this a real lifestyle change. Don’t even get me started on the lack of motivation I have to cook for just me.

    Another reason I want to eat out less is to save money. I will do good for awhile and then I go on a dining out spree. I work at home full-time too and part of me wonders if I do this simply to get out of the house more.

    Any ideas???

    1. Nicole

      I try to buy stuff I really look forward to eating even if it’s more expensive than usual. It’s been a struggle for me since I’ll look at pre-cut fruit and balk at the price. But I came to a realization – it’s worth the added expense if I end up eating healthier. Plus it’s still cheaper than going out to eat. I don’t have any other tips but I wish you luck and plan on checking in to see what others recommend.

      1. katamia

        Yeah, I can’t eat a whole honeydew or anything by myself, so I buy a lot of pre-cut fruit too when I’m living alone.

      2. Natalie

        This helps so much! For some reason I hate grating cheese and I’ve finally accepted that buying pre-shredded is worth the extra cost.

    2. Trill

      I like to cook up big meals on the weekend and then have leftovers on hand for during the week, either for a couple days in the fridge or frozen in individual servings for later weeks. It’s really easy to do dinners on weeknights if all I have to do is heat it up.

      1. Trixie

        This! I love this on Sunday afternoons. A little prep time here makes a huge difference during the week when I have healthy, filling, satisfying items to use for lunch and dinner. I still eat out but significantly less often. Not only does this save $$$ but less salt and sugar.

    3. katamia

      Cook for multiple meals at once. I really hate cooking and how long it takes me, and it feels more worthwhile when I know that this time and effort is going to last me for 3-5 meals than when it’s just for 1 meal and I’ll have to do it all over again tomorrow.

      I also cook a lot of soup because I really like soup and because I can basically just toss a bunch of stuff in the pot and ignore it.

    4. Grumpy

      Honestly, I realized I could make my own mediocre food at home for far less money than I was paying for mediocre food at restaurants and take-out spots. That was sort of a shift for me.

      1. Sunflower

        Ha- This is my mindset too. There are a couple places that I like to treat myself to bc their food is good and I can’t replicate it at home but it’s kind of crazy how often I eat somewhere and think ‘ehh that wasn’t worth it”.

        If you get take out from chains, often times there are tons of copycat recipes all over the internet too so you enjoy your favorite stuff more than you thought.

      2. Blue_eyes

        Totally agree. As I’ve gotten better at cooking, I’ve gotten much more picky about what I order when eating out, especially if I’m paying for it. There’s no way I’m paying $14 for a plate of pasta with red sauce because I can make 5 servings of that for under $5 at home. I try to make my meals out really “count” by getting things I can’t or won’t make at home: sushi, deep fried foods, foods that need special equipment or a lot of time to make.

    5. Sunflower

      I try to stick to a schedule of I can only get takeout for each meal once a week.

      Cooking several meals at once helps. There is a ton of stuff on food prep stuff online. Do you have a farmers market of sorts close by? One of my favorite things is going there every Saturday and loading up on veggies and fruits. When you have food that can go bad quickly, that might encourage you.

      You’re right that you might be eating out to get out of your house. Is eating lunch at a park an option?

      1. Sandy

        Building on this tip: I make my takeout night a work night, not a weekend night.

        Work nights are when I am most likely to be tired and overwhelmed and weekends usually have more room for running out to get a missing lemon or something.

    6. Mando Diao

      I agree with Nicole – buy foods that you know you’ll eat, even if they’re more expensive or not as super-healthy. It’s tempting to think that we’ll have the time and energy to prep and season some fresh, raw chicken cutlets, but sometimes it’s more realistic to get pre-seasoned pieces that you can just throw in the oven. Bagged salad kits are good too. Better to get your greens that way than to buy a whole head of romaine that you never get around to shredding for a salad. I’m a huge fan of heating up canned soups and then adding my own seasonings. Couscous cooks up super quickly.

    7. newreader

      I agree with the suggestion to buy foods that are pre-cut or prepared and to cook more than you’ll eat at one meal and use the leftovers with another meal. Another suggestion is to use a crock-pot. I’ll sometimes make a crock-pot full of stew or a large roast with vegetables. Plenty of leftovers for later and some can even be frozen and easily thawed and reheated.

    8. LizB

      I actually asked about this on the open thread a few weeks ago! I’ve made a few changes since then that have been really helpful:

      – As some people have already suggested, just suck it up and buy things you know you’re going to eat. Yes, it costs more to buy a bowl of cut-up cantaloupe than a whole cantaloupe, but I’m much more likely to actually eat the cut-up stuff.

      – If you do buy things that require prep, prepare the whole thing at once and divide into servings; if I buy a pound of strawberries, I’ll wash them all as soon as I get home from the store and fill a few little tupperware containers with them that I can just grab out of the fridge. If I buy a quart of yogurt, I’ll divide it into cup-sized tupperwares so I don’t have to do the work of dishing it up every morning. It sounds totally stupid — like, how hard is it to spoon some yogurt into a bowl?! — but it really helps me actually eat what I have.

      – Figure out which meals you really enjoy cooking, and make sure you put those into your rotation more often.

      – Cook for the freezer; find recipes that freeze well, make a huge batch for dinner one night, and freeze the rest in single-serving portions. Makes it waaaaay easier to do lunches (and breakfasts — I love my batch-cooked frozen breakfast burritos!). (If you’re interested, I can suggest my favorite freezer-friendly recipes.)

      – Make rules for yourself about when you can eat out. I try to limit myself to eating out only when I’m going with friends; I also use Habitica to track various To-Dos and habits, and I’ve made buying lunch at a restaurant one of the “rewards” I can earn by doing what I need to do. Or, find restaurants you really want to try and make eating there a reward for cooking at home; if you eat dinner at home all week, you can go try that cool new Thai place on Saturday, but if you slip up and get takeout you have to wait another week. The rules you create will have to be tailored to you and your habits/motivation to really work.

      – Have friends over for dinner — make a main dish, have them bring a salad/dessert/bottle of wine, and hang out and chat over dinner, play cards/watch a movie/etc. afterwards. Dinner parties don’t have to be a big production, they can be a casual weeknight thing too!

      Also, I think your idea that you may be eating out as a way to get out of the house sounds very plausible. Can you work from the library sometimes for a change of scenery? Find other activities that get you into another environment but don’t involve eating? When it’s nice out, I like to go read in the park or ride my bike around my city’s bike trails.

      1. anon709

        Great tips! I’m interested if you’d like to share your freezer-friendly recipes. Breakfast is my weakest point, typically.

        1. LizB

          Breakfast is my most limited point too, actually, but I’ll share what I have! I do both english muffin eggs sandwiches and breakfast burritos, based off of this post: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-freezerfriendly-breakfast-sandwiches-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-215888 I tend to use Canadian bacon for the meat, since it’s pre-cooked. Assemble each sandwich/burrito, wrap individually in foil, and put all of them in a big ziploc in the freezer; microwave to eat.

          I have yet to try this freezer oatmeal method, but it’s on my to-try list: http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-frozen-singleserve-oatmeal-recipes-from-the-kitchn-193961

          For lunch and dinner, my freezer go-tos:
          Calzones (any filling you like; I usually do italian sausage and mushroom): http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/easy-calzones/ I use Trader Joe’s pizza dough (two packs = 16 calzones) because I can’t find the same bread dough she uses. I freeze the calzones on a baking sheet, then fill quart-sized ziplocs with either one or two calzones depending on how big they are.

          Twice-Baked Potatoes: here’s an example recipe to get you started (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/twice-baked-potatoes-recipe.html) but basically, bake russet potatoes in the oven, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out insides (leaving a thin layer so skins keep their shape), mash insides with butter/cream/sour cream and any fillings you like (I often do broccoli, cheddar, and crumbled bacon); refill potato skins with filling, piling it up, and top with cheese. Bake 10-15 min more, then let cool, freeze on a baking sheet and transfer to a big ziploc when frozen. One half-potato is usually a good serving for me, with some side dishes.

          Black Bean & Corn Quesadillas: vegetarian and delicious! I let them cool, then pop them into quart ziplocs and freeze; you can choose whether 1 or 2 is the right serving size for you. http://www.budgetbytes.com/2012/02/hearty-black-bean-quesadillas/

          All these can be easily heated up in the microwave or oven. You can also heat the quesadillas in a skillet if you want to keep the tortillas more crispy.

          1. Alma

            Oh!! Oatmeal!! I’m a fan of the steel cut oatmeal. It is especially good savory – with bacon, or bacon and cheese, or bacon…. one track mind…

            It is so easy this way: I use a cast iron Dutch oven. Toast the oatmeal first, stirring frequently – don’t wander away because burnt oatmeal is ick.

            Toasted steel cut oatmeal cooks faster. You may add a pat of butter or oil if you like. When the toasting is complete add the water (I use 2 cups of oatmeal to 5 cuts of water – usually it is 6 cups of water, but I like mine thick so I can add milk when reheated). Bring to the boil, boil about 2 to 3 minutes, cover, turn off heat, and walk away for four hours.

            YES!!

            Then stir well to smooth out the oatmeal, and put in one serving containers (3/4 cup). This should make 6 portions.

            I have discovered that if I scatter frozen blueberries on top, then microwave (4 min depending on power of your machine) ,the blueberries burst and cover the top of the oatmeal like pie filling.

            And this is something I can prepare for the microwave while my dog is eating his breakfast, and when I walk him, it is perfectly “just right” for eating.

      2. Emily

        I would be interested in hearing about freezer-friendly recipes! Especially breakfast – I hardly ever want to cook in the mornings.

    9. The Other Dawn

      Something I’m actually doing this week: Cook up a double or triple batch of rice, wheat berries, quinoa, or some other grain. Then portion it out and freeze it. They freeze really well. All these things take 15 to 45 minutes to cook, so having them all ready to go will help you prepare a quick meal. Just add some protein and/or veggies when you’re ready to eat.

    10. Yetanotherjennifer

      I would embrace the convenience foods. Always add vs subtract to change. So instead of subtracting the meals out, add the meals in. And since you’re adding, you can afford the convenience of cut fruit and bagged salad mix. Then someday you will add a more complex and homemade recipe to your routine, and another until you’re eating mostly home cooked meals. A rotisserie chicken is cheaper than a meal out and you can turn the leftovers into so many things. Even easy things like chicken salad or soup. You can also roast a pork loin or beef roast and eat it through the week and switch out the veggies and starch for variety. Buy a bag of baby carrots every week, eat from the bag until Friday and then roast whatever is left with some salt and olive oil. Same for grape tomatoes, green beans, precut broccoli… All can be roasted…together even. The secret is good olive oil. And there’s no shame in using frozen veggies either. they can be fresher than fresh due to when they’re processed.

      1. Alma

        I cook a full sized recipe (or double it if it is something I really like) and put the extra in portion sized containers. I am less likely to eat something from the drive thru, or a box of cookies, if I know that I have choices in the freezer that I can have ready by the time I walk the dog and put on something comfy.

        Tonight I had turkey and stuffing with gravy. I always poach chicken or turkey breast. (And I have a zipper bag in the freezer for trimmings from carrots, celery, the ends of onions that go into the stock pot with the water and meat.) Bring to the boil, cover and simmer until juices run clear when poked with the tip of a knife – it will continue to cook when you remove it from the hot broth, so by temp undercook by 10*F. I put lots of veggies in everything – instead of two stalks of celery, I’ll use 8. I’ll use a pound of fresh mushrooms. If the onions are sweet, I’ll add a little more. And I cut back on butter, adding a beaten egg to bind the stuffing. Use your broth instead of water. That goes in the oven, and I use a can or two of cream of celery soup, one half can of broth and one half can of dry sherry. Yum. When the poultry is cooled, put it on the bottom of your container. Add enough broth to cover the bottom of the container – it makes a difference in how moist it is when you heat it up. Then stuffing, then gravy. Strain the remaining broth to use for chicken noodle soup, or to cook quinoa in, or to use as liquid in white chili (white beans and ground turkey or diced chicken).

        If you want to put aside some of the poultry for quick fajitas, chicken salad, turkey sandwich, put it in a zipper bag, add a generous tablespoon of broth, and freeze it.

        I also get sweet potatoes on sale, and bake 8 at a time. I love the syrupy caramelization, and that doesn’t happen when they are just microwaved. When they cool, I put each potato in a zipper bag and freeze them. When I want one I put it in a bowl, and microwave it for 5 min. I’ll slice through it to be sure it is all thawed. The microwaving softens the skin so you can enjoy it too – very nutritious. I add one teaspoon or less of butter, either a pinch of cinnamon, or a pinch of Ancho chile powder, and a little bit of salt. It does not need sugar, I promise. (look for really red sweet potatoes) Great for any meal.

        And it does make a difference to follow the microwave instructions for heating up a dinner plate – you won’t cook it too long or at too high a power so it’s rubbery. Yesterday I took a container of 15 bean soup and the turkey and stuffing out of the freezer, and put them in the fridge. The soup is much more forgiving, so I had that last night for dinner with cornbread, and the turkey was ready to be heated up tonight.

    11. Future EdTech

      I ended up buying buying some cookbooks that geared toward healthy or something that can be made for two people or less, since I’m iffy on leftovers. I really like the America’s Test Kitchen: Cooking for Two. Looking up recipes in that book really makes it appealing to cook for me.

      My go-to from that book is the oatmeal recipe that has it so you’re boil water, dump oatmeal, leave it overnight then cook it. Made me actually like oatmeal!

      1. Not So NewReader

        This, decide that this is part of your plan for success.

        You can also change where you routinely go out to eat. Go to places with a little healthier choices or just go to a new place so you do not order the same foods all the time.

        I think you provided another clue when you said you work at home and want to get out of the house. Find ways to get out of the house that do not involve eating. You can alternate this solution with your actual meals out.

    12. Anonymous Educator

      I work at home full-time too and part of me wonders if I do this simply to get out of the house more.

      There could be something to that idea. My spouse and I used to eat out a lot (too much, actually). Since she got a job as a teacher (with a very large teaching load), she’s been just way too exhausted to go out to eat, so we eat at home. I’m not recommending you get a stressful teaching job—just saying if you think it may be you needing to get out of the house more, there may be something there…

    13. Honeybee

      Buy prep for meals that are easy to make, at least 2-3 meals out of the week. What makes it easier for me is if one or two of the meal parts is really quick – like frozen or canned vegetables or one of those sides-in-a-box you can get in the grocery aisle. Then you spend the majority of your energy making the entree. If you can afford a slow cooker that might help – you can prepare some stuff in the morning or the night before, throw it into the cooker in the morning, and have food in the evening. This is appealing to me because I have way more energy in the morning than the evening.

      I have the same problem – I’m married but live alone while my husband finishes school. It’s so hard to get motivated to cook for myself.

    14. LawCat

      We’ve been using s service called Cook Smarts for over a year. There is a new menu every week for 4 dinners (though you can add more in or substitute from the archives. We make double each recipe so each meal is dinner one night and lunch the next.

      On the Cook Smarts site, you can generate a shopping list and they include a list of prep activities that can be done in advance (like on the weekend), which can save time. It’s really upped our cooking game and saved us a lot of money. There’s also a thriving Facebook community where people share photos, ask questions, anf come up with ideas.

    15. Come On Eileen

      Another tip I haven’t seen mentioned yet — try budgeting for your monthly food and withdraw cash for it at the beginning of the month. There’s something about shelling out cash every time you eat out that makes you more cognizant of how much you are spending. Plus, any $ from that budget spent on eating out is less $ for groceries, and as you’ll find, money spent on groceries goes a lot farther than money spent eating out.

      I just started using Dave Ramsey’s envelop system and I’m hoping, like you, to better understand and control how much I spend on things like food. Its really eye-opening!

  26. AliCat

    My fiancé and I are thinking of eloping somewhere in Europe. He’s British and I’m American. We’re looking particularly at Copenhagen or Prague. Anyone have any experience with this, even in the broadest of senses?

    Also does anyone have advice on how to deal with the intense parental reactions that we are likely going to be encountering?

    1. AnotherTeacher

      The marriage is more important than the wedding. A wedding is a single occasion, often overly laden with unfair and unrealistic expectations. This could be the first big decision you make together that’s about *you* as a couple, a team. Make yourselves happy.

    2. Treena

      No experience with this but I would do a LOT of research making sure you can get married in the country and also if the location of your marriage will change how visas will work. For instance, if you plan on moving to the US, greencards come much quicker to those who wed in the good ol’ US of A. It’s also actually really difficult if not impossible to marry in France for example if neither of you are French.

      1. mander

        I second this. You really want to make sure that you can legally get married there, and that your marriage will be recognized by your respective countries for immigration purposes. Also, if you’re planning to live in the UK, please do some research on immigration rules, especially the newer policies that have come into effect — they can be quite restrictive for non-EU spouses (for instance, the British person must earn at least £18,500 in salary — no other income, family aid, etc. counts). I have heard stories of people being deported back to the US after their marriage because they didn’t follow all the rules.

    3. Anonny

      We eloped in Istanbul last year and it was absolutely fantastic, can’t recommend it highly enough! It was a magical day that we got to spend together without any pressure, worries or family dramas. We did tell our parents beforehand so they (particularly my Mum) were able to be involved with things like buying the dress, and they watched the actual ceremony by phone/Skype – this helped a lot with the feelings that they were missing out on such an important day. If you can do anything to involve your parents beforehand, it might help them feel less left out, although it depends if you want to keep it secret from absolutely everyone.

    4. Mando Diao

      Can you split the difference by having a small, casual reception when you get home? People will want to celebrate your marriage, and as more of your friends get married, you might regret that you went to everyone else’s party but never got to throw your own version of a fun party.

    5. Student

      Suggestion:

      If you’re eloping anyway – maybe consider just going down to a local courthouse to get the marriage bit dealt with, then have a big fun honeymoon in whatever exotic local you’re interested in.

      Then you don’t have to deal with local marriage laws, waiting periods, fees, in whatever country you go to, but you still get to go have fun and throw a party if you want. At least for someone like me, I know I’d find the trip more fun if I wasn’t also juggling wedding planning at the same time.

      1. Blue Anne

        My sister did this by having the legal marriage done in Vegas! Five minutes and fifty bucks. Then they came home and had a beach “wedding” presided over by a Buddhist friend.

    6. The Expendable Redshirt

      Nope. No real advice. I plan on signing papers at the court house, with an all you can eat sushi dinner later. The parents will not be thrilled. My expression will be that of an unimpressed cat. Unless you have tuna, your opinions have no relevance in my life.

      1. Blue Anne

        I’m so happy to read this. That was the original plan for my now-ex husband and I, but we then caved to pressure from our parents, and it got the whole thing off to a really bad start. Good for you for doing what makes you happy. Papers at the courthouse and sushi later sounds ideal.

        1. The Expendable Redshirt

          Thanks guys! My first marriage was a more traditional ceremony with 100 people. Now I’m with Mr. Expendable Redshirt, and neither of us wants a typical wedding. My parents want something traditional and religious. Sometimes we just have to make life choices that fit our situation, but not the ideals of someone else.

  27. Trill

    I’m moving into my new place this week. It’s an international long distance move so all food from my old place was consumed/given away/thrown out and I will need to start from scratch filling my fridge, pantry and freezer. I will try to stock up somewhat gradually because groceries are expensive, but what things would you try to buy in the first week if you were starting from scratch. Help me make my list!

    I mainly cook meals from scratch so I like to have most of the basics on hand. Probably wouldn’t buy things like frozen pizzas or flavoured rice packets.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      I have done this a few times, and it’s a giant pain in the butt because you will ALWAYS forget something! Here’s my basic list:

      – Olive oil
      – A box of kosher salt
      – Pepper
      – Crushed red peppers
      – Rice (and other grains)
      – Pasta
      – Coffee/tea (if you drink either, and don’t forget the sweeteners if you like them!)
      – A few cans of stuff that’s easy, like beans and diced tomatoes
      – Some soup and frozen meals

    2. Graciosa

      These are the recommendations for the “Desperation” pantry according to “Desperation Dinners” by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. The subtitle is “Home-cooked meals for frantic families in 20 minutes flat.” Their list has recommended brands and more detail (yes, I do recommend the book), but I cut it down to something more like thought starters.

      Canned vegetables – Stewed tomatoes; diced, herb-flavored tomatoes
      Ethnic foods – Canned chopped green chilies; salsa
      Bread – Bread crumbs (plain and italian); focaccia bread or pizza crust (not if you make the dough from scratch, of course)
      Dried herbs – Dried Italian seasoning blend
      Soup – Bouillon cubes or crystals (low-sodium chicken, fish, and vegetable)
      Frozen – Concentrated lemon juice (store in refrigerator); chopped onions; filled pastas (tortellini, ravioli); stir-fry mix of peppers; meatballs; peeled shrimp; chicken breast halves
      Dairy and Refrigerated – Shredded cheese (cheddar, monterey jack, mexican blend, parmesan); pesto; refrigerated biscuit and breadstick dough; prepared potatoes (or move to produce in your case?)
      Produce – Peeled carrots; shredded cabbage coleslaw mix; broccoli slaw mix; salad greens; sliced fresh mushrooms; bottled minced garlic; bottled chopped ginger; refrigerated fresh fruit in jars

      You can see that it’s oriented toward Italian, so if your preferences are for a different cuisine, this is just a thought starter. Also, there are a lot of prepared foods (which contradicts both your preference and the money-saving goal because you pay for not doing it yourself) so you may want to change these as well, but again – thought starters.

      You’ll see that this does *not* include an entire spice rack, or baking supplies, or even eggs or milk! The authors looked at what was the minimum that was needed to put dinner on the table (quickly). Everyone’s minimum pantries will be a bit different, but the key is that the basic stock of items will work in multiple meals.

      My personal minimums include cereal, eggs, and milk, and I find I can do a lot with an english muffin. I don’t always have bacon around, but I can’t go too long without it! I know others for whom rice is a major staple – and if you think about it, just adding rice to the list above could add in a fair amount of variety – but this very much depends upon your taste. Canned cream of [anything] soup is very useful (although again, maybe you would actually make this!).

      My major advice is think about what you both like to eat and are willing to cook regularly and repeatedly, and don’t assume you need things not on your list just because other people swear by them. The worst thing you can do at the beginning is waste your limited resources on food you’re not going to use for multiple meals every week.

      You might give yourself a mental challenge before you go shopping – say you’re only going to buy ten things (not individual items, but ten foods) and figure out what those would be. That’s actually more of a variety than you would think (there was a Top Chef challenge limited to ten items, and there was a *huge* range of dishes that resulted from the same ten ingredients), but it will force you to focus on real staples for your personal diet.

      Once you get it down to ten, adding one more protein, one more spice, or one more vegetable to the list will give you *much* more variety, and you’ll appreciate it more.

      Enjoy the adventure of your move – it sounds exciting.

      1. Graciosa

        I just went to Wikipedia to check on what the Top Chef contestants chose for their ten ingredients (each chose one), and the ten ingredients were:

        Steak, chicken,
        Mushrooms, tomatoes, celery,
        Garlic, jalapeños,
        Salt, vinegar, and olive oil.

        An amazing variety of dishes from just those ten!

      2. Trill

        Thanks! Thats a lot of great ideas.
        Although like you noted, theres a lot of things I’d go for the more basic version. I always buy regular carrots, and I do make my pizza dough from scratch. I’ve even been know to make my own filled pastas from scratch. But frozen diced onions? I had no clue such a thing existed. I sometimes buy them in bulk, chop them and freeze them myself, but I didn’t know you could buy them pre-chopped and frozen. Thats something I might actually go for ’cause even with all of the various chopping onions tricks, my eyes still burn.

        1. JaneB

          I buy the frozen chopped onions, and frozen crushed garlic cubes (1 clove per cube), and it makes cooking for myself a lot pleasanter – both the avoidance of eye-itch and because I don’t end up with a smell in my fingers which I can’t get out… it isn’t that dear, because you avoid a lot of waste, epscially cooking for one.

          1. Cruciatus

            If you have a stainless steel sink, after handling things like onions and garlic, try rubbing your fingers against it before washing them. It’ll cut the odor. If you don’t have stainless steel, you can buy stainless steel “soap” bars.

        2. Kimberlee, Esq

          Yes! Chopped frozen veggies are wonderful. At Giant, where I get my groceries, they have a diced onion + diced green bell pepper mix that we use a lot. I also love frozen steamable veggie bags, it’s how I get most of my vegetables.

    3. super anon

      budget bytes has a really excellent pantry staples post – it’s what i used to restock my kitchen when i moved back from korea, with some additions for asian cooking and baking that she doesn’t have. i’ll post the link in the next comment.

  28. Carmen Sandiego JD

    I had earlier meltdown this week from sheer stress/govt interview for job paying less yet what I desperately needed.

    Also, the nmom expected me to move home while saving for a condo since gov job’s closer to their house. I tell her I plan not to intrude. She said it’d be her pleasure. Me: “…….. nothing’s set in stone yet” while thinking h*ck no/when h*ll freezes over.

    Then I tell bf when he comes over and I told him 1) help me find a creative solution to property, and 2) if I lean toward nmom’s solution by default, knock sense into me before its too late (so to speak). He promised to on both counts.

    Then, bf treated me to dinner, gifted me with tea, then the next day, we went to a petting area for cuddly creatures. Which I especially needed since my pet died recently X/ Plus staying up till near-midnight to meet deadlines so my head wouldn’t be on a platter at work. I really wish bf had the funds to move in with me, but he’s applying for a promoted job at present, supporting his mom who has mild medical condition, and is in night masters school.

    I still worry about whether bf will ever move and be on his own. I mean, he pays bills–his own and mom’s but he’s literally the only one keeping his family afloat–him and his mom. How will he be able to save for a future if this is the case? (super worried but….what can you do).

    Also, I have enough to get a condo but only in several months from now. Better *knock on wood* than prior projections? Bf and I found an amazing condo just now, so I could move in, and when he buys a house for us after we get married, we can use my condo as investment/keep it in the family somehow.

    Tl;dr: bf promises to creatively re: keep nmom at safe distance far far away, and cuddly animals are awesome.

  29. sparkle

    I’m a single female in my late 20s and trying to find ways to make single friends in a new(ish) city. (I’ve been here 3 years, but it still feels new). I’ve tried everything from Meetup to young professionals groups, but haven’t had much luck building a solid social group.

    I’m agnostic and was thinking about attending a Unitarian Universalist church or Sunday Assembly service. Does anyone have experience with these groups? Any guidance on what kinds of people attend (i.e. families, young professionals, couples, etc.).

    Any other ideas?

    1. New Math

      Can’t answer the church question, though that wouldn’t be my choice for meeting people as an agnostic.
      Other suggestions:
      > the library. Most public libraries (US anyway) have loads of programs and groups.
      > volunteer at something you are interested in to meet people with similar interests.
      > trivia night at a pub if you enjoy that sort of thing. Often teams can use an extra.
      > public events, like gallery exhibit openings or museum events, that draw reasonable-sized crowds so that you might run into the same people more than once.
      > find a cafe you like to hang out in. Might take a few tries to find your fit, but these places have regulars and if you become a regular, you have a crew.
      > do something nice for your neighbors… offer to cat sit or pick up their mail while they are on vacation, bring them some veggies from your garden, bring their trash bin in for them, ask if they need help trimming that tree…

      Every time I move, it takes a few years for it to start feeling like home.

    2. Elsajeni

      I grew up attending a UU church. In my experience, you’re not likely to meet a lot of other single people your age there — UU churches generally have a strong religious education program, so there are a lot of families with kids, but partly because the youth programs are so strong, they tend to struggle with transitioning young people from “youth group member” to “member of church”; a lot of UU youth stop going to church after high school and don’t show back up until they’re ready to enroll their own kids in the Sunday school. On the other hand, this means that some churches aggressively try to recruit young-adult members, so you might find some cool programs specifically for young professionals or singles, and there’s not much risk other than that you’d waste a couple hours of your time; I’d say it’s worth a shot.

      What kind of Meetup groups did you do? I found that I had better luck with activities that put you into a smaller group and give you something to do (so you have a built-in conversation topic) — mah-jongg club and tabletop gaming worked for me, “let’s meet for happy hour!”-type groups didn’t. I’ve also made some great friends at meetups for online communities I’m part of — are there ever AAM meetups? Do you read the Toast, or Captain Awkward, or another blog/community that sometimes has meetups?

      1. sparkle

        That’s interesting! Yes, most of the ones I attend are generic. I’ll look for ones with more of a specific focus.

      2. salad fingers

        I also grew up UU and can confirm that what Elsajeni says above was true of our congregation. I will say that from what I’ve heard, the more urban the church, the more likely there will be that middle demographic attending. Worth a shot :-)

    3. Alma

      Volunteer with your local CSA program or co-op grocery (where everyone gives a set number of hours as part of their membership) .

      Take a class at your local yarn shop and learn to knit or crochet.

      Go to the YMCA before work (rather than the Moms on the way home from work group), or take a group class like Zumba.

      Volunteer at the local theater – ushers get to see the production for free (just get there early to hand out programs, and dress in black to be unobtrusive).

    4. The Other Dawn

      I don’t have any advice, but wanted to ask about Unitarian Universalist church. My former boss once mentioned it, and made some snide comment about it. Something about it being the place to go for people who don’t know what they believe, but want to say they attend church.

      What is it, exactly? Because I think of myself as agnostic–it’s what I’m most comfortable calling myself. But I’m often wondering lately if I “should” be going to church because it’s what grownups do.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        We tried joining one because we wanted a sense of community with other socially-minded people, but my atheism made the whole get-together-on-Sunday thing feel…like an obligation, even though I really liked the church and the people. But it might work if you are more agnostic.

        Your former boss wasn’t quite wrong. Unitarians make jokes like that about Unitarians, too, but without the snark. :)

        From Wikipedia, which confirms my take on the UU Church: Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion characterized by a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning”. Unitarian Universalists do not share a creed but are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth. As such, the Unitarian Universalist Church (UU) includes many agnostics, theists, and atheists among its membership.

        1. katamia

          Yeah, most of the people I know who go to UU churches don’t even identify as Christian. They’re pagan or agnostic or atheist but want that ritual of going to church and having the possibility of social activities that stem from it.

          I didn’t grow up going to any kind of religious services (wasn’t raised Christian, so I certainly didn’t go to church, haha), so the idea seems a little weird to me, but I can see how someone who had that ritual growing up and enjoyed it would want to keep that tradition going even if they were no longer Christian.

      2. Elsajeni

        That’s… basically correct for the American UU church, yep. (In other parts of the world Unitarianism is still a Christian denomination.) It’s a non-creedal church — there’s a list of principles that members “covenant to affirm and promote,” which are statements of morality and values, but there’s no specific religious belief that you have to have to call yourself a UU, and you’ll find a fairly diverse range of religious beliefs at a typical church; UUs are more likely to be united by their political beliefs than by their faith. But you get a lot of the benefits of a “normal” church, in terms of being a member of a community of like-minded people, and if you’re interested in spirituality at all, it’s not a bad place to develop that interest. (And they do have great religious education programs, although if you don’t have kids obviously that’s not much of a pitch.)

        1. Honeybee

          Unitarianism is still a Christian denomination in the U.S., too. There’s a conference for Christian Unitarian churches in the U.S., and I’ve seen several Christian Unitarian churches (as opposed to UU congregations).

          1. Amtelope

            Yes, some UU churches are specifically Christian, but most aren’t, so I think calling it a “Christian denomination” is really inaccurate.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian

            I think some congregations tend to grow torward identifying more strongly with one or more of the six sources of faith* than with the remaining sources. One of the sources is Jewish and Christian teachings, but I can say that most congregations lean culturally toward the Christian on that one, at least according to which holidays get secularly celebrated.

            Our congregation is not strongly Christian. Our most dominant sources are humanism and earth-based religions. There is a small group of people who use Buddhism as their source.

            *The sources:

            1. Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;

            2. Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;

            3. Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;

            4. Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;

            5. Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;

            6. Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian

              Oh, number two is a very strong source. We’re very active in social justice; mainly with LGBTQ issues, reproductive rights, and economic parity.

      3. Not Karen

        I like to call UU churches “church without God.” It is a good place to go if you are looking for a spiritual community that is not religious. It is humanist, emphatic about being a good person but not because God or whoever told you so, but simply because people should be good to each other, to support each other, and to build community.

        By all means don’t feel obligated to go to church if you don’t want to. Personally I think the cornerstone of being an adult is NOT doing things just because you’re supposed to!

        My current UU church has ~zippo young adults, but my last one had a good YA community. Maybe because it was easier to get to?

      4. Treena

        It’s not actually a church, they’re very clear about that. It’s a congregation (which by definition is simply a group of people) that doesn’t require you to believe in God, or really anything to become/stay a member. Lots and lots of agnostics are UU. It’s basically Christianity for progressives. Lots of pro-LGBT rights, pro-choice, etc. although those beliefs aren’t required either, that’s just what most members will be like.

        Although your former boss was a jerk, he was right. UU is SUPER welcoming of people who don’t know what they believe. Although I’ll point out that literally all churches are like that, it’s just that most churches basically welcome you and then try to convince you that what they believe is the truth. UU will welcome you, encourage you to explore and get lots of perspectives, and you can decide on a belief. Or you can forever be unsure, but they don’t care either way. It’s about a group of people coming together and being kind, helping the community, and all that other non-religious stuff that churches do.

        As far as you whether or not you “should” be going to church because you’re a grown-up, I would go and check it out, get a feel if you’re curious. But don’t feel like you have to go to church to be an adult. Churches are just social clubs + belief in something + charity work (sometimes). If you don’t need a place to fulfill your spirituality, and you get social interaction and charity contributions elsewhere, then there’s not need for it. But, if you’re interested in any of those components, a UU will give them to you without requiring a lot of changes from you on the belief end.

      5. Mallory Janis Ian

        My UU fellowship (our congregation had a long-standing controversy over whether we are a ‘church’) is in a university town, so there are a lot of retired professors. The youth group is strong, and there are a few young adults. One of the strongest sub-groups in our congregation is the Covenant of UU Pagans. They are part of the fellowship and many members of our church belong to it; it is also open to people from the community who never attend our services. They have regular meetings and also occasionally do a program for Sunday services at the church (for example, they’ll repeat the solstice ritual for those who didn’t attend on the actual solstice).

        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          I left out a major demographic group. Our congregation also has a lot of lesbian women. Not a lot of gay men, though. I am neither a lesbian nor a pagan, but most of my favorite people and closest friends at the church are both. There are a lot of families with young children, as well.

    5. Irishgal

      Is The Ladies Circle ( the women’s version of the The Round Table) in your city? If so they are great. I’ve used them to meet people in new areas.

    6. asteramella

      Generally other commenters’ descriptions are accurate, but some UU churches are more Christian in tone and belief, especially Congregationalist-affiliated ones that are more common in the northeast. But most UU churches are sort of like Quakerism had a baby with every single new-age trend of the past 20 years, IME.

    7. Artemesia

      I’m at the other end of life and had to make friends in a new city and am married — so different challenges. But for me the key to acquiring a circle of new friends — women to do things with and couples for us to do things with was to take the initiative to follow up on an initial meeting. e.g. at a meetup neighborhood walks event getting to chat with someone, then getting their phone number and calling a few days later to plan a dinner out with them. Met someone at a bookstore bookclub ( one of the few older women — most people were youngish) and then got her number and called a few days later to plan a get together for lunch. Met a couple at another person’s party (that person I had met at a meetup neighborhood walking tour) got her number, called a few days later to set up a dinner out. The key was getting a number and following up. Not every lunch or dinner led to future events together but we managed to create a handful of couples we socialize with and I managed to create a circle of girlfriends I do things with. When you tried meet ups and such did you take the step of actually trying to set up lunch or drinks or whatever?

    8. Persehone Mulberry

      Thank you, above commenters, for the insightful commentary on Unitarianism. I’d heard of it before (thank you,The Simpons) but assumed it was just another Christian denomination. Turns out, it aligns strongly with my own thoughts on spirituality; will need to explore further.

  30. Gene

    All around crappy week. One of three of us doing this job transferred to another work group, anniversary of the guy who died last year (we still haven’t filled that position), 20th anniversary of first wife’s death, sick with the upper respiratory virus that is running wild around here (pretty much in bed since Thursday), and since I’m sick, I’m not able to go play Ingress with 10,000 of my closest friends in Seattle today for the Anomaly. Went to walk-in clinic this morning since my fever spiked last evening. No bronchitis or pneumonia (OK, that’s good), but when I got back home there was a voice mail from the clinic; the Rx was a narcotic, so I had to drive back down there and pick it up.

    1. fposte

      Ugh. Bad inside and out. I withstand sad anniversaries okay, but missing out on a fun group thing makes me bleed. Does the Rx mean you can just take to your bed and sleep until life improves a bit? Sometimes unconsciousness has much to recommend it.

      Anyway, I hope things improve for you either way.

    2. Not So NewReader

      I hope you feel better quickly. Sad anniversaries and sickness are never a good combo. I hope when you feel better you are able to do something pleasant to counter-balance all this stuff here.

  31. ThursdaysGeek

    Please, Republicans AND Democrats — give the 40% of us in the middle a choice of someone to bring us together rather than pulling us further apart.

    1. fposte

      For me it’s not even the candidates particularly–it’s the indifference to the collateral damage of campaigning. They just leave the whole country battered and stung.

      I would definitely join you in a Anti-Division election day party.

      1. fposte

        I love the intimation that Boris Johnson is opposing David Cameron as a result of a feud that started back at Eton.

          1. Merry and Bright

            Nor me! I don’t know if the stories of The Bullingdon Club have reached the US but they are not very edifying. Think some stuff probably comes from that.

    2. Mimmy

      I don’t think I’ve ever been so dismayed with a Presidential election season than I have so far this go around. The name-calling and mudslinging is getting out of control. I saw on the news this evening a gentleman was talking about not wanting his young children to watch the debates because he doesn’t want them to think that this is the way to behave. Everything we learned in kindergarten has gone out the window :(

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        What really terrifies me is the number of Americans who are attracted to certain candidates because of the extremist vitriol that they spew. I see before me, on my television screen, a person screaming hateful, racist, sexist things, and there are huge numbers of people who are rushing to cosign that!

        1. Vulcan social worker

          Orwell predicted the Two Minute Hate on your TV that can listen to everything you say. He just guessed had the year as a few decades too early.

      2. MsChandandlerBong

        That’s a great way to put it. We saw a news clip of Marco Rubio talking about Trump’s spray tan last night, and I was appalled. Hillary and Bernie may not be perfect, but when I see news clips of their debates, they are at least talking about the issues. On the GOP side, we have Rubio talking about Trump’s orange tan, and Trump talking about how much Rubio sweats.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger

      What has disturbed me the most is the polarization of Democratic voters. So many otherwise sensible people are posting about BERNIE BERNIE BERNIE IF HILLARY WINS I WILL NOT VOTE FOR HER when that kind of thinking could hand Trump the election. And when I try to talk about it, I get lambasted as a stooge for Clinton, even though I’ll probably vote for Sanders in the primary.

      I mean, part of me gets it. I voted for Nader in 2000 (before he went off the rails) because I felt Gore had gone way mainstream and betrayed his leftist Democratic base. But I live in a solidly blue state, and even then it was a difficult decision. This year, I am a lot more worried about pretty much all of the Republican candidates than I am about the shortcomings of any of the Democrats.

      (And look, I’m not trying to make this about how all R’s are horrible, I’m just conveying the dismay of a progressive independent who usually supports Democrats. )

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        I will vote for Bernie in the primary, but in the election I’ll vote for whichever one, Hillary or Bernie, is the democratic candidate. I was all ready to vote for Hillary until Bernie came along, and I want to support someone who strongly backs the need for extensive social support in this country. Hillary and Bernie aren’t so far apart that there needs to be a schism between their supporters. Bernie is just closer to expressing all my ideals for how I think the country should be run.

      2. Emily

        Yes, I also find this disconcerting. I personally like both Hillary and Bernie more than I like any of the current Republican candidates, and hope that some of the more ardent Bernie supporters will consider voting for Hillary in the general election if she wins the nomination.

          1. Vulcan social worker

            I’m sure some exist as you can always find people who are doing just about anything, but I’m not seeing Hillary supporters saying they won’t vote for Bernie. I’m seeing Hillary supporters say they like Bernie too but prefer Hillary for various reasons, and will vote for Bernie in November if he gets the nomination. If you read different websites, maybe your experience is different. My friends are split about 50/50 and none have said they won’t vote for the Democratic nominee, though. It’s only what I’m seeing online.

    4. Random Citizen

      It honestly concerns me that the three top candidates (both parties) are around 70, some with health issues. Especially after repeatedly seeing candidates in their 40s and 50s take office and come out 4-8 years later with grey hair and looking vastly older. It worries me.

        1. The Expendable Redshirt

          Hears that Trump is running for office.
          Reacts: ahahah! This can only be an absurd joke.”
          Later: this is a Greek tragedy that could consume the world.
          Cape Breton Island offers to take on Americans feeling political insanity

          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            Same reaction here:

            First: Ahahaha! What a joke!

            Then: OMG, we’re going down in spectacular fashion if this happens.

            1. Random Citizen

              If he tries to negotiate with world leaders the way he talked to Cruz in that last debate, we’re doomed. Mocking and belittling politicians is one thing (I hate it, but the damage is relatively small), but doing that to the leader of another country? *shudders*

              1. Mallory Janis Ian

                Do you think Trump realizes that he can’t do that and his current political persona is an act, our do you think he’ll really talk to other world leaders that way? I can’t tell about him. I want to believe that he can’t really be unsavvy enough to act like that when it really counts?

                1. Random Citizen

                  I don’t know! He keeps talking about his negotiating savvy, and has decades of business deals to back up his claims, but his actions on the stage scream that he just tries to bully people around. Maybe that’s because they’re his opponents right now and he’d be more diplomatic and persuasive in an actual conversation with world leaders, but he’s yelling “I’m a negotiator!” while being remarkably undiplomatic on stage. Given that a Trump presidency is far from impossible right now, I certainly hope he would be more savvy when it counts, but I don’t know.

        2. Random Citizen

          Oh, absolutely, but he was also in remarkably good health and went to far as to release medical records to alleviate concerns. Not unprecedented, to be sure, and not automatically a strike against any of them, but it concerns me sometimes.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Remember, that’s when grey hair usually starts to show up in earnest. So yes, it is a very stressful job, but on the whole, I’d rather have older, more seasoned candidates than someone younger and less experienced.

      1. Carrie in Scotland

        @ dot – that’s the problem though. If too many people write in Mickey Mouse then whoever you get as President is sort of there by default.

        What happened in the UK is that the Conservatives won our last election but only with 30-something % of the vote – most people didn’t even vote! And now we’re being targeted with cuts in every way imaginable. I’m fortunate to live in Scotland as some of the cuts have not been passed on here (since our people in power have taken on the burden).

        1. ThursdaysGeek

          But that’s my problem: I can’t in good conscience vote for Trump or Cruz – they are too casual about our first amendment rights, and that’s just a start. Nor can I vote for Sanders, who is so far to the left that at best our government would just be at a stalemate for at least 4 years. I really, really, really don’t want to vote for Clinton. And there is so much dislike and hate for the other side, on both sides, that whoever gets it is never going to get anywhere near even a 50% approval rating. So what does someone like me, someone who is in the middle, who do we vote for?

          I’ve never thrown away a vote before. I’ve usually voted for the one I disliked the least. But now they are so far away from the middle, on both sides, that I don’t know what I’ll do. Vote for Vermin Supreme?

          I know I’ll have to vote for the least bad, but I’m afraid that all the options will be a disaster for this country. The choices have never been this bad.

        2. Elizabeth West

          So THAT’S what it was! I asked my friend in Lincolnshire how the UK ended up with them this time. Seriously, that was just baffling. He said, “I don’t know–no one I know will admit voting for them!”

          Massive incentive to exercise your voting rights!

      2. Florida

        After each election, our Supervisor of Elections always publishes a list of the write-ins. Mickey Mouse always always always gets votes down here. It actually funny to see the list of write-ins.

    5. Artemesia

      Democrats are pretty much in the middle. Hillary is fairly far to the right — heck Obama is more conservative than I was as a Rockefeller Republican back in the day. The Democratic party hasn’t been ‘left for a long time.’ I think that is too bad, but anyone who considers themselves ‘middle of the road’ could hardly find anyone more middle of the road than Hillary.

    6. Kyrielle

      I am so upset at the whole mess that despite having a strong candidate preference, I flatly refuse to discuss it most of the time *even with* people who agree with me. Seriously, I don’t have the time to do _useful_ campaigning, and I see no point in being another data point of shouting noise about these things.

      On the other hand, at the same time it’s wildly divisive, it does seem to be unifying a fairly large subset of voters. On their dislike of all this crap. *sigh*

    1. fposte

      Different people have different approaches, and it may depend on where you’re getting your sugar–are you a soda drinker, foofy coffee lover, cookie binger, what?

      Mine was probably one of the milder changes compared to some people who really divest themselves–I like sugar a lot, but I had some SIBO going on and cut it way down. The two main pieces of information I’d give are that 1) cutting out sweet beverages, and that includes juices as well as sugar added stuff, is huge. You can drink sugar a lot faster than you can eat it. 2) my tastebuds really did reset–I used to be a sugar-on-berries person, and now they taste perfectly sweet to me without it.

      I still like sweet stuff and eat it sometimes. But I’m really strict on portion control and follow the Brian Wansink guidelines to keep me out of stuff–plastic-wrap containers once they’re opened, keep them in a cabinet where I can’t see them, that kind of thing.

      1. nep

        Just my two cents — it really is true that you crave something less the less you consume it. Rough in the early days, perhaps, but for most people it does become less of a big deal. You’ll experiences foods differently.
        Where are you currently getting most of your sugar?

        1. sugared out

          Baked goods, particularly cakes and cookies, mostly from restaurants and bakeries.

          One positive thing though is that I just moved to a small town with one bakery and I’m not a fan of the bakery.

      2. sugared out

        I don’t drink that much soda or sugary coffer or tea drinks. My problem is with baked goods, particularly cake or cookies. These days, I’m eating them daily. :(

        1. nep

          Are you the ‘all-or-nothing’, cold-turkey type? Or would it be more useful to you to focus on going from daily to a couple/few times a week? In either case, sugar will loosen its grip.
          (Indeed nice that you’re not a big fan of the town bakery.)
          All the best. Keep us posted.

        2. Florida

          Don’t depend on willpower alone. Change your environment as well. For example, if you visit a bakery everyday and look at the pastries, it’s silly to expect yourself to never give in and buy a pastry. Instead, quit visiting the bakery.
          I used be addicted to this specific type of cookie. I would buy them and say that I would only eat one or two a day. When I bought them, I ended up eating a dozen a day almost every time. Until I quit buying them.
          So I would say the main thing is to quit giving yourself access to baked goods, as opposed to giving yourself access and using sheer willpower to overcome it.

    2. SAHM

      I did it through Trim Healthy Mama, it’s a different approach to sugar and eating in general. You can find it on FB. I love their sweet blend which is a Stevia/Ethritol (?) blend.

    3. Not Karen

      You don’t. Instead you come to terms with the fact that in moderation sugar is a perfectly reasonable thing to eat and can be part of a healthy diet.

      If you are looking to decrease the amount of sugar you use in your e.g. tea, cut back gradually but don’t feel the need to cut it out completely. Eventually you will get used to the new amount of sweetness, and in fact will like it that way better. I use 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in my tea nowadays and definitely notice if I add too much!

      1. Florida

        I think a good way to “eliminate” sugar from your diet is to quit eating things where sugar is the primary ingredient (cookies, candy, soda, sugary cereal, etc.) Don’t try to get rid of all sugar and flour.
        You can still have food that has sugar in it, but not stuff that is primarily sugar.

    4. Trixie

      I aim to cut back my sugar intake which is often processed foods. Cut those out and I’m well on my way. I enjoy dark, bitter chocolate so that plus some nuts and dried berries are a great treat. I’ll also mix no sugar added fruit compote with greek yogurt. Not as convenient as prepackaged containers but less packaging and less sweetener/sugar. I also like the tart flavor of cranberries which I think helps nip my sweet tooth. I keep bags in the freezer and then nuke a small portion at a time for oatmeal, minimal sweetness required.

    5. Yetanotherjennifer

      I said the same thing above, it’s easier to push something out of the way with something new vs stopping and try to fill the void. If you’re trying to cut down on dessert then substitute fruit or cheese. Or pick a dessert day and only have it then and really pay attention to what you’re eating. If you’re having sugary snacks then substitute a snack that has fat, protein and carbs. This bit is important, a snack with all three will better carry you through to the next meal, and it’s easier to talk yourself out of a treat if you aren’t hungry. And a breakfast with good protein, fat and carbs will give you a strong start to the day. I find my worst sugar-filled days are the ones with the worst breakfast. And I have weaknesses that if I have one I must have more: if I drink a Dr Pepper today I’ll want one tomorrow too, and the next day and maybe two. For those things I set-up obstacle filled rules so I’m not exactly saying no but I’m making the yesses extremely rare.

    6. Dynamic Beige

      I went for six weeks without sugar. I had to read labels on everything to make sure that there wasn’t any sugar/cane syrup/corn syrup/insert about a 100 other things that are sugar without being called sugar in it. I think the problem is that I just like it, so I may never be able to just not have it because: chocolate. But I have had to learn how to have it in moderation/lower amounts.

      Take a good look at what you eat now. Read the labels on those things. Sometimes, it’s easy to start cutting back, if you drink 6 cans of Coke a day, substitute one for water for one week. Next week, substitute two and so on until you don’t drink Coke at all (except on special occasions). If you need something with “flavour” in it, make your own ice tea where you can control the type and quantity of sugar that goes in it. Your taste buds will adjust. If you quit it cold turkey, especially things like Coke, you may experience headaches and other physical side effects that are unpleasant and will either scare you into wanting to never touch sugar again or make you hop back on that sweet, sweet train just to make them stop.

      I’m not going to say that the cravings ever go away. The other day, I was craving some Coke. I was never a really big pop drinker, but I went through this phase where I kind of got hooked on it (OK, store knock-off brand that was cheaper). So I grabbed a glass of water instead and the craving went away. But, I was in the grocery store today and they had an end cap with that stuff right there… and it was so cheap. I had to turn away and head for the cash. Because I knew if I bought that case of 12, I would drink them all in a shorter time period than I would like to think about. Remember, if you don’t buy it, it doesn’t come into your house to be consumed.

    7. Future EdTech

      Techincally, you can’t! Milk, fruit, veggies… they all have it.

      But I’m sure you mean added sugar. For this I suggest looking up and reading labels on foods. If you cook, time to find something that adds sweetness without the sugar or trying lowering sugar but adding flavor. A lot of it is really training your tongue to think things are sweet with only a little bit of it. I suggest avoiding a lot of pre-made products cause they tend to have A LOT more sugar than it really should have (I’m looking at pre-package oatmeal here….). So cooking will help out a lot in cutting sugar.

      You can probably say that American eat a lot of sugar and this is try, but to me it’s because we never really were “trained” out of tastes as children since sugar is in a lot of products.

      1. fposte

        I think I’ve mentioned here hearing a mother in the supermarket explain to her little son that strawberries aren’t sweet themselves; they’re just sweet when you put sugar on them.

        And, as you suggest, milk was very sweet indeed once my tastebuds recalibrated.

    8. Not So NewReader

      I went cold turkey and crashed. Big time. Don’t do this. Walk down, take a couple months to do it.

      What saved me was watermelon. Watermelon is sweet but it also cleans stuff out of you which helps to move the process along. So while it was a fruit sugar, it was not a refined sugar which I wanted to get out of my life.

    9. New Math

      My version of quitting sugar was to quit obvious sugars… soft drinks, desserts, candy, etc. I do not worry if there is a little sugar in my salad dressing or barbecue sauce because the portion I eat is so small. I also allow myself 1 to 2 fruits a day. I lost 15 pounds and have seen much improvement in arthritis. Improving arthritis was my main objective.

      I did go on a vacation where I allowed myself sweets, and it is harder now to get past the cravings than the first time. Lesson learned.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        I didn’t cut out any one thing in particular when I lost a lot of weight, but your comment reminds me of one coping strategy of mine that might apply here. I still allow myself a measured piece of a good stilton or triple cream brie, or a few ounces of a good scotch, or an ounce or two of smoked almonds. (Or desserts I like, but that is probably where this wouldn’t work for people trying to cut out sugar.)

        tl;dr version: small bits of things I really like make me feel less deprived and more satisfied.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          Ooooh, Come On Eileen has a great point below, this works for me because I’m a moderator. I also drank a little too much every night for a while (only in the evenings, not to the point of most people noticing a difference in my behavior), and now I’ve cut back a bit on the amount, and only 4-5 nights a week. A lot of people can’t do that, though. Those are the people who should abstain from alcohol completely, especially if they also act very differently when they drink. Most people can’t tell when I’m what I consider moderately drunk.

    10. Diluted_TortoiseShel

      Treat it like quitting any other addictive substance.

      I built a support groups of friends and family. I made sure they knew what I needed to do. I don’t know your situation, but I simply can not enjoy sugary foods in moderation. I’m like an alcoholic. Once I have one cookie I have trouble stopping and end up eating a half dozen. 300lbs later, something has to give. I quit sugar and successfully lost 21lbs. I thought maybe then I could start enjoying treats in moderation – but I regained 10lbs so clearly I can not.

      Now I am back to quitting cold turkey. It’s a cycle, but I figure I have not failed until I give up. : )

      Things that I have done which may or may not help you:
      When someone asks if I want a treat I say – “no thanks, I don’t eat sugar” I find this typically avoids the “oh treat yourself!” “Just one bite!” “Live a little!” comments.

      I kept strong, sugar free mint/spearmint/wintermint gums. If got a craving, I popped a piece of the strong gum. I also chew after every meal, as I tend to want to enjoy sweets then as well.

      After a month of this, I found my cravings died substantially. But once the holidays rolled around and I let myself have some treats, I fell off the band wagon and am back to fighting the addiction. But like I said above, I don’t feel like I failed because I am still keeping tabs on the problem and making strives to improve.

    11. Come On Eileen

      I think one of the biggest pieces to the puzzle is figuring out if you are more of a Moderator or an Abstainer. (Gretchen Rubin, who wrote The Happiness Project and several other books, talks a lot about this on her website.) Neither tendency is inherently right or wrong, it’s just what works for you.

      Moderators are people who do better moderating things – if they have a troubling issue with sugar, for example, its much easier for them to have a bite of chocolate or one cookie than to completely abstain. Abstaining would be too mentally taxing and feel like deprivation.

      Abstainers, on the other hand, find it much easier to give up the item (whatever it is) altogether than to attempt to moderate. To them, moderating is extremely mentally taxing, because they’re always thinking “is this the day I get to have a cookie? Will I be able to stop at just one?” Instead, its easier and freeing to give up the item altogether and be rid of it.

      So part of the process is figuring out which of those tendencies speaks to you, and go from there. For me personally, I’m a moderator. You tell me I can’t have something and I’ll pitch a fit. I do much better when I’m allowed anything I want, and I get to decide how much to consume.

    12. Kara Zor-El

      If you want to go cold turkey, check out the Whole 30. It’s a lot of work but I felt amazing after completing it. The key to success is pre-planning, cooking up big batches of food on the weekend, plus having some easy go-to meals (mine were sugar-free sausages and pre-chopped peppers/onions).

    13. LD

      I don’t have any tips for how, but when you do commit, be prepared for the “sugar detox” cravings, at least that’s what I experienced for about two weeks before I felt like it passed and I wasn’t constantly thinking, “I’m giving up sugar! I don’t know if I can do this!” Once it passed I was amazed at how freeing it was to be able to grocery shop and not feel compelled to buy some sort of sugary treat. And once you’ve gotten beyond the cravings, notice how some things you liked before no longer taste as good. My tastes have changed considerably. I think some of the earlier comments regarding Starbucks new rewards program mentioned their drinks; I can’t drink their sugary drinks anymore, they are disgustingly sweet. I still do get the occasional vanilla latte, but only one pump of the sugar free vanilla and that’s plenty for a grande or a even a venti sized cup. I still read labels. Sugar is added to a lot more products than you’d think and in a lot higher quantity than is healthy or necesssary. I wish you success. I feel better since I stopped eating so much sugar and I don’t miss it as much as I expected to.

  32. AnotherAlison

    Anyone watch Fuller House? My 11 yo and I watched the first 2 episodes last night. (His idea.) It was delightfully awful, imo. I was a fan of the original show for the first several years (I am the same age as DJ), but not so much the later years. Even so, the nostalgia factor of the new show is kind of awesome. . .although the plot, characters, etc are much less awesome and it’s a lot like watching a Disney channel sitcom.

    1. Cruciatus

      I’ve watched only the first episode so far. It’s not great, but I found myself enjoying it anyway. Once Michelle started talking in the original episodes, my enjoyment of the show quickly lessened. But this is pure nostalgia and I actually smiled at the split screens snowing then and now. I hate myself a little for it but I will most likely watch this whole thing! And I’m Stephanie’s age. I kind of like knowing these people all genuinely like each other and saw each other often after the show originally ended. Much like I was sad to know that The Golden Girls didn’t really get along like on the show!

    2. Hummingbird

      OMG! I have been binge-watching it all day today! I actually like it and have thus far found it to be better than other spin-off series. This is much better than the “Boy Meets World” spinoff “Girl Meets World” and that was really done by the Disney Channel.

      I like it. I don’t like how they’re treating Aunt Becky though. But otherwise it’s pretty good. I’d be interested to see if they’ll bring in another season. Oh, and did you see the digs toward the Olsen twins? They say they aren’t digs, but I think they are.

    3. katamia

      Not yet. I’m hoping to watch it next week. Not expecting it to really be great, but I want the nostalgia hit, kinda.

    4. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.

      I’ve watched it. I had low expectations, so it’s been enjoyable for me. :)

      1. Noah

        Yeah, that was my feeling too. I’m sure the old show was just as bad, but I was a kid then and didn’t mind. Now it just seems like a waste of time to watch.

    5. Lizketeer

      I made it through the whole season on Friday. It was okay – it would not have survived as its own show rather than a reboot – but I think that’s the point.

      Everything is very tongue-in-cheek with blatant references to the original, and I think it’s fine for what it is. My biggest thing is that there’s no real explanation for what happened in the 29 years between shows.

      I’m very interested to see how the Gilmore Girls reboot works though. That show had its own style of humor than can easily be taken too far if they attempt to make it similar to this one rather than a simple continuation of the original. There is also only a 10ish year difference which should help since it won’t necessarily be exploring a completely different generation

  33. Jen

    I am sick. I am pregnant. I have a grumpy toddler. I have been with said grumpy toddler 24/7 for the past few weeks because I’ve been laid off and between jobs. Husband has been pulling long hours.

    The weekend is here! I am so sick. Husband is apparently totally incapable of parenting solo with me in the house. Before these past few weeks, we both worked major FT jobs and it never occurred to me what a default parent I was, even though we were both working.

    Every time I crawl under a blanket somewhere, within 15 minutes the toddler is up in my business. She loves me. I get it. But I had to get her dressed and force her and dad outside just to get out of my hair. He just cannot keep her occupied today. I have been out of patience for at least an hour. They are currently in a battle over bath time and I am hiding two floors away under a blanket. UGH.

    1. Diluted_TortoiseShel

      My husband is stay at home. One of the things we worked out during our various bouts of unemployment (silver lining to this economy I guess) was that the stay at home spouse gets one weekend off every 3rd weekend. It’s not fair to not get time off just because your job is not bringing in income.

    2. Jen

      Update: still sick but weather is better. They went on a bike ride (him pulling the trailer) and I packed them snacks and lunch. I think they went to the playground. They have been gone for 2+ hours and it had been glorious.

  34. Sunflower

    Luxurious bed question since I know Alison is the queen of luxurious bed design!

    Can someone recommend a good pillow top mattress pad/topper/whatever that isn’t too pricey and doesn’t require constant fluffing? Also how long are these things supposed to last and how often should I be fluffing it?

    FWIW I can’t buy a new bed right now- I have a full (not sure anything bigger will fit in my apt) and it doesn’t seem worth it to invest in a really nice one of this size. Right now I’m working with a Ralph Lauren mattress pad and a Laura Ashley super fluffy topper. However, I find myself needing to fluff the topper every 2 days and ain’t nobody got time for that. I’d rather shell out for a higher quality one that lasts longer.

    1. The Other Dawn

      Oh, I’d love to hear some ideas! Hubby and I recently stayed at a historic inn that had a fantastic canopy bed. The pillows were perfect, the bed was perfect, the linens, etc. And I loved the crocheted canopy. The only thing I didn’t love was that it was a queen sized bed. Tough to go back once you’ve had a king sized bed. And I like my space….

      Anyway, I have a 280-year-old house and very much want a four-poster canopy bed. But it has to look old. Not sure where to get one without breaking the bank.

      1. Windchime

        I got a 4″ memory foam (Serta, I think) topper from Overstock and it has been great. It’s about 4 years old and I think it’s ready to be replaced, but it turned my rock-hard Costco mattress into a soft, supportive bed. No fluffing required.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale

      I got a down-filled mattress pad at The Company Store years ago and I looooooove it. Apparently it’s now $180, but I don’t remember paying that much (granted, it was a LONG time ago and I may have asked for it as a gift!). Anyway, it’s lasted about 7 years, not too much fluffing (baffling keeps the down in separate compartments, basically), machine washable. Unfortunately for me, it doesn’t fit the queen mattress we bought when we moved, and my bf always thought the mattress pad made the bed too soft… but every once in a while I sleep on our guest bed (my old bed) and it’s so damn comfy. They make mattress pads and toppers with Primaloft too, in case down isn’t your thing.

      I love The Company Store. I get most of my bedding there. It can be pricy, but the stuff is great and they often have sales.

      1. periwinkle

        The Company Store owes AvonLady a commission because I’ve just ordered a mattress pad! (BlackLabel Primaloft) I’d bought from them in the distant past and loved the quality, couldn’t afford them for a while, and then forgot all about them.

        This will make it just that much harder to get out of bed at 5am but oh well…

        1. AvonLady Barksdale

          They can send me an awesome new comforter if they want to! I slept on the guest bed last night and luxuriated in my awesomely soft bed. No wonder the doggy loves sleeping there so much.

      2. Windchime

        How on earth did I not know about The Company Store!?? I love their stuff and I’m in the process of filling up a shopping cart because I need new bedding.

    3. Dynamic Beige

      This is somewhat embarrassing, but I have both a feather bed like AvonLady and a memory foam one like BRR that I got at Costco (it was around $150, I think). At the time, I was avoiding trying to buy a new mattress/bed so I was trying to make my old one still work. In the end, I did wind up buying a Tempur-pedic mattress. Anyway, between the two of them, I would go for the memory foam one. More hypoallergenic, doesn’t need to be fluffed/moved around. The feather bed — and maybe this is my fault and I didn’t get a “good” one — just seemed kind of meh to me, and very thick. I still have the foam pad on my old bed, which is now in the guest bedroom and whenever people stay over, they always comment on how comfortable it is. I used the feather bed during IceStormpocalypse a few years ago when I was without power for 4 days because it was the only thing I could lug into the living room on my own. Folded over in half, it made a serviceable bed, but I found the whole thing just too thick to use on my mattress, most of my sheets also didn’t fit over it.

    4. Noah

      Amazon’s Pinzon brand has a feather bed/mattress topper combo that made my mattress comfortable again for a few years. It does require a fluffing every few days though. I generally change my sheets twice a week and that was often enough for me.

      I also have a memory foam topper on the guest bed, and people always mention how comfortable that is. I bought it at Kohl’s. It is a 3 inch one with the gel infused stuff.

  35. SAHM

    I just spent the last 8+ hours in my backyard weeding, digging, mowing, watering and I am just full to bursting with sappy garden love. I ❤️ My yard soooo much.

      1. SAHM

        Thanks! I wish I could post pics, I have 3 buds on one of my rose bushes and all of my fruit trees are blossoming. Although, the peach is the prettiest, it is literally covered in pink blossoms. ❤️

    1. Dot Warner

      Soooo jealous! I love gardening but moved cross-country last year and stuck in an apartment currently. Can’t wait to get a house and a yard again!

      1. SAHM

        I feel for you! This is my second spring in new home, our prior house for 5 years was a condo with no backyard. Sooo much better with a yard now!

    2. Tris Prior

      Yay gardening! I am envious. Even though we’re getting a tease of spring weather here this weekend, by next week it’ll be snowing again and I am itching to get back into the garden. (which doesn’t even open until late April – I’m in a community garden since I live in an apartment and have no land.)

      1. SAHM

        Sorry! I’ve only ever experienced snow three times, twice in Tahoe and once last year we flew to Boston during that snow storm (I have family there and hubby had a week long class and free hotel so it worked great!). I gotta say, after a week in that snow I’m pleased to be a Cali girl! ☺️

  36. Dan

    Following up on yesterday’s Talia discussion…

    Many people suggested that Talia just “get a roommate.” While I certainly understand the sentiment, I was once a broke college kid with a job in Southern California. California housing can be extremely difficult, and shared rental situations are very rarely a “first come first serve” arrangement. I applied to many many shared housing arrangements and would get turned down by pretty much all of them. It’s frustrating.

    It’s actually quite a relief to rent on your own from places where they rent to the first person who can write a check. One may suggest being the primary renter and having roommates rent from you, but that’s easier said than done. In the major California metros, Talia does not make enough to qualify to rent a two-bedroom apartment (or buy a house) on her own, and then sublet the rest out. TPTB will want more income than she has to qualify.

    1. hermit crab

      Ugh, isn’t it weird how applying to be someone’s roommate can be so competitive? It’s like this bizarre mashup of job-hunting, dating, and being on a reality show.

    2. Anonymous Educator

      I don’t think getting a roommate is easy, but if you’re making minimum wage in San Francisco, it’s really the only viable financial option. It does sound (now that I’ve read the follow-up interview with her) as if she thought she had a roommate, but that fell through.

      1. Alston

        The thing about SF though is that sharing a room (not even a room in an apartment apartment, literally a bunkbed in a tiny ass room) costs at least 900. For a room to herself in the city she’s looking at paying at least what she does for that one bedroom 30 miles away. So yeah, maybe she could have shared an apartment out there, but money wise it doesn’t seem as stupid of a decision. Basically wherever she was/whoever she lived with she was probably going to be paying a pretty similar portion of her income in rent.

        1. Anonymous Educator

          I disagree. $900/month vs. $1200/month? That’s quite a huge difference for someone barely able to get groceries. That extra $300 is considerable, not to mention the money she’d have saved using MUNI instead of BART.

            1. Alston

              And I guess I should say yeah, she probably should have split a room with someone so she could actually afford to live, but I’ve little sympathy for companies that don’t pay enough for someone to afford a room of their own (not even an apartment), just not sharing a bunk bed as an adult.

              1. Anonymous Educator

                Oh, she’s definitely underpaid, but I don’t view it as an either/or situation. It’s not either we tell companies to pay more or we tell people to make sensible financial decisions based on their pay. It’s both. If you’re getting underpaid, it’s sh*tty, but you have to make do with what you have… and then complain. You don’t live as if you’re being paid more and then run out of money… and then complain.

            2. Anonymous Educator

              If you can share a room (not a bunk) even for $1200 (instead of on your own for $1200 thirty miles away), it’s still worth it to save the cost of BART over MUNI. She was spending around $248 per month on BART tickets alone. The MUNI monthly pass (unlimited within the city) is $70. That’s about $170 in savings and with a shorter commute.

    3. SAHM

      I guess I just don’t understand why she didn’t find a second job over the weekends or evenings. Yes, ultimately finding a roommate would be the best solution, but in the meantime it wouldn’t hurt to get a job as a waitress or barista. I get the Ca housing is difficult (I used to live fairly close to SF but hubby and I chose to move farther out to get a bigger house and a backyard, the commute sucks 2hrs each way), and why she hasn’t been able to get a roomie yet, but why wasn’t she able to get a second job? I had a friend crash with us for a few months after his divorce and he couldn’t afford his own place either (worked full time at a grocery store, which paid surprisingly well, he made as much as I did working as an Admin), so he needed to get a second job to get his own place as well.

  37. AMD

    I caused an accident today. I caused someone to rear end me by making a mistake and not looking, and though my junker car just lost some plastic a stranger’s nice-looking car was totalled. No one was hurt, but I am having trouble thinking about leaving the house anymore. I don’t have depression or anxiety issues generally, but I don’t know how to deal right now. How do you get on from this kind of thing? From the guilt, and the fear that I might cause another crash?

    1. fposte

      If somebody rear-ended you, it’s almost certainly their fault. What’s making you think it’s yours?

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        That’s what I was always taught. And it’s not just my feeling, in most states the liability is always on the person who rear ends someone else. The person behind can always leave enough stopping distance, and the person in front might have a completely legitimate need to stomp on their brakes (a child running into the road, for example).

        But even if you had caused an accident, there’s no need to beat yourself up. Stuff happens. Often that stuff causes ripple effects, but we can’t go through life trying to never cause problems for other people, because we wouldn’t get any good done that way either. People make mistakes, all you can do is make the best choices you can, and if you regret a choice, vow to learn from it and move on.

        I know it’s so much harder to do than to say, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

        1. fposte

          I did back up into somebody’s front once :-). But yeah, whether it was your fault or not way, nobody was hurt, a car is just a thing, this stuff happens all the time.

          1. AMD

            Yeah, it was my fault – I fully changed lanes with my turn signal on to turn, then cut back into my original lane without looking. The other driver tried to swerve to avoid me but it was too close. I got a ticket for it, so at least the state police agree that it’s my fault.

            1. fposte

              Ah, okay, cutting somebody off is definitely an exception. But, again, nobody was hurt, which is the important thing. And I bet you’ll remember to check in future, and people have learned that lesson at a lot higher price.

            2. LCL

              Tell yourself it could have been worse. My friend caused an accident just as you described at highway speeds; the other driver rolled his car and died.
              Forgive yourself, we all make mistakes.

    2. Sibley

      Ok, you didn’t look, but neither did they. No one is perfect, so stop beating yourself up. Rear ending someone is generally considered to be the fault of the person in back.

      This happened today. You’re upset, in shock, etc. Relax. Practice good self care. Eat a healthy meal. Take a relaxing bath. Get a good night’s sleep. You’ll feel better tomorrow, and will gain some perspective.

    3. Lulubell

      Car accidents are tough on the confidence. I know every time I’ve been in one, it’s been hard getting back in the driver’s seat, but ultimately I have no choice and I am fine. I have been rear-ended three times. It happens. A lot. Not the greatest thing, but not unusual or caused by terrible people either. (Well, the first guy was terrible. He caused it but tried to blame it on me. Found out later it’s because he was uninsured! Double terrible. The other two were very lovely people.) You didn’t hurt anyone, the car will be fixed or replaced through insurance, and at the end of the day, they call them accidents for a reason. Try not to beat yourself up too much and let yourself have a mellow night and a good cry if you need it. Car accidents are jarring and can stir up all sorts of emotions, so don’t worry too much just yet about leaving the house/driving again. You have presumably driven safely for many years, so reason stand that you will continue to do so. If you feel like you need to take some action to dissuade the guilt, maybe write a gratitude list for the things that did go right – no one was hurt, you were both insured, the AAA guy was kind, etc. I also might meditate on the other driver – wish them kind thoughts as they recover from the shock, an easy journey to a new car, etc. Send them good karma, if you are open to that.

      1. AMD

        Thanks. I will let myself get through tonight and see what tomorrow brings, and pray for the family that just lost their car.

    4. Yetanotherjennifer

      Generally, one is supposed to assume that the driver in front could stop at any moment; like to avoid hitting a dog or something. Most drivers don’t suddenly stop, but they still could, and that’s why you’re considered at fault if you rear end someone. Your own reason for stopping or swerving or whatever may not have been as noble as avoiding an animal but that doesn’t mean you caused the accident. These things happen.

      Also, the stranger’s car did what it was supposed to do: it sacrificed itself for its driver. The front of a car is designed to crumple to absorb the impact. And your beater probably has more metal than the pretty car. And physics plays a role too. Their car was going faster than yours and even if the impact pushes your car forward, there’s a lot of energy from the collision that has to go somewhere. All this to say the damage to their car may be deceptive.

      Don’t push the thoughts away and don’t try to talk yourself out of them. The truth is that driving is dangerous and you can’t predict accidents. The fear of uncertainty is very common. All you can do is acknowledge the risk, name your feelings, and get back on the road.

    5. LAMM

      I was told after my first accident (by the person in the passenger seat of the car I hit, no less!) that that’s why they’re called accidents. You didn’t mean to hit them or cause the accident. It was an accident. Hence the name. That made me feel a lot better about the situation. (The screaming husband who was driving on the other hand, did NOT help the situation).

      After my accident (I clipped the rear driver’s side of a truck making a left U-turn because I didn’t see them…) I avoided left turns like no other. I would literally drive past the street by a block and make 3 right turns instead of the one left. After a couple of weeks I realized how ridiculous I was being and started making left turns again. But even to this day, and the accident was 5-6 years ago, I’m that annoying person who waits for the world’s biggest gap before I’ll make a left turn.

      It’ll get better with time. For me I faked confidence while driving until I actually felt confident again driving

    6. Not So NewReader

      Go out with someone and get in your car and drive it. Seriously. The longer you wait to get in the car the bigger this problem can grow.

      Next step. Sign up for a driver’s safety course.

      I have been in four accidents- I was the driver in two of those accidents. My confidence was never strong. My wise friend said, “Decide not to have any more accidents.”
      REEAALLY? Just like that? Just decide?
      So I thought I would test drive this idea. (pun, sorry) I decided not to have any more accidents. As part of processing this decision, I decided to take the driver safety courses every three years. It’s been over 20 years and no accidents, knock wood.
      Another thing I have added to my ideas, is I make more of an effort to read articles that have driving tips. I used to skip those entirely. Not any more.

      1. AMD

        Was a driver safety course helpful? I would never have thought of taking one voluntarily! What do they teach?

        1. Not So NewReader

          I did not think that just going once was that helpful, but they do have a cumulative effect. After you have done a couple, you start to realize you feel differently about driving. Frankly, over all I thought the courses were kind of boring. I pump myself up by making a game out of it- I try to find several things I did not know. This helps me to pay attention better, or I would nod off.

          Instructors also vary. Some are flat and boring and others will answer questions, similar to what you see here on AAM. They answer basic questions with the same respect they use toward more complex questions. It’s those discussions that are insightful for me. Once in a while discussions cover things that terrify me, like what do you do if your car goes off a bridge into deep water. But it is good to confront our fears. For the most part the topics are more mundane, every day type stuff.

          One other side effect I have found from these courses is that I learn about new developments in traffic control. When I learned to drive there was no such thing as reflective paint. So I have seen a lot of changes and there are more in the works. Sometimes people talk about these new changes. One time I saw a picture of a traffic sign that I had no idea what it meant. It’s used in big cities. We discussed what to do when you see that sign. Sometimes the discussion leads to talking about new features on cars and how to use them. When cruise control became a big deal, I learned at one of the classes do not use your cruise in the rain. I don’t know where else I would have learned that.

          I see you can do these courses online, I think I prefer in person because I will probably get more out of talking with people. I try to go with a friend so we can fight the boredom together. You get 10% off a part of your insurance for three years. The first year’s reduction pays for my course. So I get my money back immediately. Then I am good for two more years before I have to take the course again. They give you a certificate and you give that to your insurance company to get the reduction.

          TBH the first time I went my stomach was in knots. Three years later when it was time to go again, I was no where near that uptight. There are all kinds of people at these things, some are there because of court order, some are there for the insurance discount and some are there because they want to learn. And it’s all kinds of people- young, old, rich, poor, every group you can think of, so you won’t feel odd or out of place.

          1. AMD

            Thanks – those sound like great reasons to take it, and more constructive than just beating myself up and not wanting to drive anymore. I will probably talk to my insurance folks when I call them about the accident and see if they can reccommend something. Thank you for sharing your experience there!

    7. Lizketeer

      Get out and drive again – even if its just around the block

      I flipped and totaled a friends car one day when we were driving back to school together (10 hour drive across multiple states). The only injury that either of us got was a small cut on my face where my head hit the window as we hit the ground. Thankfully we were close enough that another friend could come pick us up and her mom drove out the next day, but I was terrified to drive for a while. Even today 3+ years later I still take curves extremely carefully and freeze as a passenger if the driver is going too fast for my liking.

      More than anything I felt completely guilty for totaling her car knowing how far away from home we were. Thankfully this was Thanksgiving break and we only had 2 weeks to Christmas. Her mom ended up leaving the car for 2 weeks and she got a new one over Christmas. She had to keep reminding me (since losing the car bothered me more than her) that its just a thing, and things can be replaced. We were able to open the doors and walk away relatively unharmed and that’s all that really matters.

      From now on you will probably be more conscious about lane changes, but you have to allow yourself to drive again without fear and know that things happen

      1. Not So NewReader

        My husband used to say, “They have more cars at the car store.” Right, it’s just a thing. We make adjustments in how we had Thing and we just keep going.

  38. Librarian Ish

    Hello! Has anyone here used Varage Sale, and could you tell me about your experience with it? I’m hoping to sell some of the leftovers from our moving sale, so I just joined in. Any tips?

    Also, isn’t moving just the pits? Seriously.

    1. Florida

      I’ve never used varage sale, but I just wanted to say that there are few things worse than moving. It’s fun to have a new place, but the process of getting there is terrible.

    2. Thinking out loud

      I’ve used it. I don’t sell very often, but I’ve had good luck buying. I like it because it’s like Craigslist but less creepy because your account is associated with Facebook. The group in my town is less popular than the next town over.

  39. Audiophile

    I’m at Dave & Busters with my friends/meetup group and they’ve played no less than 4 commercials/infomercials for Operation Smile. Thankfully the music is so loud and I’m sandwiched between two chatty Cathie’s, that I can’t hear a thing.

  40. Sunflower

    Where do you guys buy home decor? I am a major thrifer/craigslist buyer so buying retail is not something I’m used to. I don’t want my entire place to look like it came from Ikea/Target so I’ve been trolling Homegoods like a crazy person since their stuff is varied and mostly well priced.

    Thanks to everyone for the decorating tips last week! I went shopping today and had to resist the urge to buy anything and semi matched my space. I am definitely trying to live by the ‘have nothing that is not beautiful or makes you happy’. I ended up buying a $40 throw pillow that I think was a little pricey but I looked at it and thought ‘I will wake up every day so happy to be sleeping with this’ so I figured it worth it! I bought some grey and white bins from Target to keep my clutter contained.

    The more I’ve been looking at places on Apartment Therapy and such all I can wonder is ‘where the hell are all of these people’s belongings? Where is the TV?’. I found one apartment on there and thought ‘this is adorable, I want my apt to give off this vibe’ and someone actually commented on it ‘how could this be getting so many upvotes? It’s scattered and styles are mixed’. Like I want to actually LIVE in my home thanks.

    1. Coffee Ninja

      About 75% of my house is from HomeGoods :) A bunch is from Overstock.com too. Do you have outdoor space? I’ve gotten great stuff from Lowe’s (planters, deck chairs & table, outdoor throw pillows). If you need furniture, I got my living room set from Macy’s Furniture and a bedroom dresser from The Dump and they are all excellent pieces that didn’t break my budget.

      You are so right that it’s better to spend a little bit more money for something you LOVE – I learned that the hard way!

    2. SAHM

      I love shopping at Kirklands. I never heard of it until I moved to this little bedroom community, but they have really nice stuff, and you can get it decently priced on sale / with coupons. Plus they have the point system so I sometimes get a few bucks off.

    3. Mando Diao

      Browse the home/gifts sections on ModCloth and Urban Outfitters. Those sites are good for getting a feel for “what’s out there” even if you don’t buy anything from them. I got a cute little cafe table, a small framed “vintage” picture of a ship, and a seaglass-toned votive set from ModCloth. Gilt is great for finding artwork. In fact, a lot of the art at Home Goods is from Gilt. Home Goods is cheaper, but their canvases are unwrapped and a little beat up. Oliver Gal is one of the more prolific artists sold at stores like that. Maybe do a search for his work and see which rabbit hole you go down. I ended up falling in love with Parvez Taj’s work. I have his “Night Sight” over my couch.

    4. Natalie

      I like cb2, so I get a lot of decor from them. Usually their clearance because they are expensive IMO.

      1. Sunflower

        I’ve seen some stuff at cb2. I have my eye on a mirror that is $150. I saw it in a blogger’s apt and she’s had it for years so I’m thinking it’s not going on clearance ever. I think the piece might be worth it though.

    5. Doriana Gray

      Hobby Lobby and TJ Maxx have a lot of cute stuff I used to decorate my apartment three years ago. I’m thinking of redecorating soon and will start shopping local antique stores at the suggestion of a colleague who just recently purchased a gorgeous antique French chaise for $120 and tall marble pillar holders for her bathroom for $20 a piece.

      1. SAHM

        Hobby Lobby is dangerous. I went in there for one chocolate mold and came out with fabrics, stamping paper, Christmas stuff, and a whole cartful of stuff (including the molds I originally went in for). Seriously. Be careful! I love their framed sayings and other artwork, and their picture frames are usually 50% off…..

    6. Noah

      Marshall’s/TJ Maxx/Ross and those types of stores have some cool stuff sometimes. You just have to go in without wanting something in particular.

      If I find something I love I will generally spend the money on it. When I first moved out on my own I bought all the cheap Ikea and Walmart furniture because that’s what I could afford. The majority of it fell apart quickly and didn’t move well, but I’ve acquired nicer things over time that I love and enjoy.

    7. Windchime

      I had zero furniture when I moved to this house, so I had to buy stuff. I have several things from Pottery Barn (ottoman, drapes, cabinet, a couple of lamps). A lot from Pier 1. I’m currently redoing my bedroom and I splurged on a dresser and sleigh bed from Macy’s (on sale, of course) and am currently refinishing a cute Bombay chest that I found in the scratch and dent room of a furniture store called Bramble. It has a lovely shape, but was covered in horrible crackle paint and has a crack on the top. I filled the crack with wood putty and sanded it, and now I’m painting it over with chalk paint and Rub and Buff (Silver Leaf color).

      I kind of like an comfortable, eclectic look. I like the DIY home decor blogs, but after awhile everyone’s homes start to look the same. Gray paint and yellow “pop of color” with tiny green topiary trees. Chevron rugs. Dressers painted hot pink or teal and repurposed as a TV stand. Drapes made from drop cloths. It’s all very samey-samey, so now I just kind of do my own thing.

    8. Lindsay J

      I know this is a late comment, but I’ve found there are places online that I have to avoid going to because they either make me feel bad or they stoked materialistic tendencies to unreasonable levels.

      I can’t read /r/personal finance over on Reddit because although they have a lot of information over there they tend to be kind of harsh on people who spend money on anything they don’t really perceive as necessities, or who have made mistakes on their finances. There are also posts from people younger than me who “only” have $40k in their retirement account and are freaking out about it when my retirements savings will take years to reach that amount. It’s not healthy for me.

      /r/makeupaddiction is one I have to be careful with because it makes me want to spend money on things that I would never have thought to want if I didn’t see it there.

      ApartmentTherapy can be a little bit of both for me sometimes. My home will never look like most of those places do, and it makes me want to buy things I see on there that I see and like I’m other people’s places. (Also criticism of places that are 1000 times nicer than mine).

  41. katamia

    I feel like this is a really stupid question, but how do you decide where you want to go when you take a vacation? I’m turning 30 this year, and to make me feel less sad about it (not really sad about the aging part, just sad about how much my life has sucked and how little I’ve accomplished between graduating from college and now) I want to go somewhere around my birthday since traveling is the only real life goal I have anyway.

    But I don’t know how to pick where to go. When I was a kid, the only vacations we took were to visit family or family friends, and as an adult, I haven’t had the money to take a vacation. (I have family willing to help me finance the trip, so please no “How can you afford it now?” questions.) I’ve been coming up with a mental list, but the place I most want to go is too long a flight away to really be worth it for the time I’m thinking of going, and beyond that one place, I’m having a hard time ranking the other countries I’m considering and actually settling on a place. I don’t have to decide right away because my birthday’s not for several months, but I don’t want to wait until the last minute, either.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      The first time I traveled on my own steam and not to visit someone, I picked my spot by looking at JetBlue’s travel deals. This was mostly because I wanted to go away for just a couple of days and I wasn’t too picky, though I did want somewhere relatively warm. If nothing else, it gave me ideas. I ended up going to Bermuda, which isn’t the worst place to go by yourself but certainly not the best when you go in late February. But I got a FANTASTIC deal and I went somewhere that required a passport, which made it feel like I was really getting away.

      So start with airline websites. Find destinations you can get to with a non-stop flight, maybe. See if they run any deals from your home airport. You might at least find some inspiration.

      And here’s a question: how long are you thinking of going and where do you live now? We may have some ideas for you!

      1. Ekaterin

        I like this idea. If my household ever stops spending all its collective money on graduate school, some domestic travel that takes advantage of airline deals would be fun!

      2. katamia

        Thanks!

        I’m in the DC area but thinking of going for a couple weeks (I freelance from home, so I don’t have to worry about getting time off or anything). I’m thinking maybe somewhere in Europe or South America–I’ve traveled a lot around the US, and there isn’t really anywhere in the US I’m dying to see. I do have three airports to choose from, which is a plus for trying to find deals.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale

          JetBlue flies to Cartagena (not sure if it’s non-stop from DC, but definitely from JFK) and from what I hear, it’s a gorgeous city. So there’s my unsolicited idea for you!

    2. Lulubell

      I usually pick vacation spots by how much I can do in the geographical region in the short time I’m there, preferably with minimal additional travel. Are places easy to get to, or spread out? Would I have to rent a car, or are trains/taxis/tours a viable option? Personally, I like a bit of variety in my vacations, so say, stay in the city for a couple days, go to the mountains for a couple days, finish by the beach, etc. My last two int’l trips were Italy and Peru because they both offered vastly different experiences within a relatively small area. If you are going by yourself, you might also consider what language you are comfortable speaking (I was able to use my high school Spanish in both Italy and Peru!) and how far your dollar will go abroad. Part of the reason I chose Peru when we did was because the Euro was insane – I’m not sure how exchange rates are now.

    3. Dynamic Beige

      The first time I ever went to Europe, it was on a job. My 30th birthday was going to happen after that job, so I extended my ticket and stayed. I decided that I wanted to drink Champagne on the Eiffel Tower for my birthday. And I did! I had no set idea about how it was going to happen, but the way it did was very funny and it’s a great memory. Yes, it did make turning 30 suck not so hard.

      So, I think you should look at the places you want to go and see if there’s something specific you would want to do on your birthday that you can only do there. I told the story above and someone I met online wound up doing their 40th birthday also in Paris by going to the Opera there and having a fancy dress up night out. As an example, if you’ve always wanted to see a Broadway show, find out what you can get tickets for on your birthday and then work your trip around that. If there’s a band you like and they’re going to be playing in X city/country on your birthday, can you get a ticket to that? If you’ve ever wanted to learn to scuba dive, is there a reputable place that you could do that in X country you’ve always wanted to go to? I find that traveling as a single person, if I have a “reason” to go, it makes getting out of my clam shell that much easier. I have taken courses in other places and then just extended my stay afterwards to see the sights. I have a hard time justifying travel just for the sake of travel because all that money! I’ll be all by myself all the time! I can do that at home and it’s free!

      1. katamia

        Oh, interesting, re that one special thing. I think I’ll definitely do some thinking about that to see what I can come up with.

    4. Treena

      I travel a lot and have dozens of places in my to-go list, but sometimes I’m looking for a trip that for whatever reason, doesn’t work in those places. So what I do is a use Skyscanner! If you type in your home airport, it’ll bring up the cheapest flights broken out by country, then city. If anything, you’ll get an idea of fares or you can narrow down the possibilities based on fare price. I get inspired scrolling through all the possibilities =)

      If your rough dates are solid, then you can try typing into google “best places to vacation in June” and see what listicle-type articles pop up. They’ll usually give you a paragraph’s worth of description, and you can narrow down your possibilities from there.

      Another option is to decide what you want to do on the trip. It sounds like you don’t know what you already like on vacation, but what do you like to for fun at home? Are you into nature, hiking/biking, food, shopping, museums? Do you want to try some extreme adventures or lay out on a beach and read? Is there something you’d love to try that you can’t do at home?

      Finally, you’re really smart in recognizing that where you want to go isn’t feasible for the time you have. It’s much better to pick a place suited for your time constraints than to come home exhausted from a vacation. How long are you planning on?

      1. katamia

        Oh, I wasn’t familiar with Skyscanner. Thanks, I’ll definitely check it out!

        I know some of what I like (we have family and family friends in a variety of places, including some major tourist spots in the US)–I wouldn’t mind doing a couple of nature-y things, but I’m much more interested in museums and restaurants and historic buildings and such. One of our family trips as a kid was to visit Arizona, and while my dad spent basically the whole time amazed by the beautiful scenery, I was kind of over it after half an hour. But I don’t have a whole lot of really specific things I want to do.

        I’m planning on maybe a couple of weeks (I freelance from home, so I have a lot of flexibility there and don’t have to worry about okaying vacation time with anyone), but the number one place I’d like to visit is India, and the flight length plus extreme time difference would just be too much for this, I think. I’m leaning toward someplace in Europe or South America because those would be a relatively reasonable plane flight away (and South America would have the benefit of little or no time difference), but there are still a lot of possibilities.

        1. Dynamic Beige

          I forgot to post this earlier, but when I was in London, I bought a London Pass and it was great! They are having a sale on their passes that ends on Feb29th. I didn’t know that they did other cities but I would definitely look into getting one again if I was traveling. The Omnia & Rome pass alone would be worth the money to avoid the lineup to get into St Peter’s.

          http://leisurepassgroupupdates.com/p/9OZ-LO/sightseeing-passes?utm_source=The%20Leisure%20Pass%20Group&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=6819812_Feb%20Global%20Sale%20-%20With%20Movable%20Ink%20-%20%281%29&dm_i=9OZ%2C42678%2C4UDZMY%2CEP8DJ%2C1

          1. katamia

            Ooh, thanks! I’ll definitely bookmark that in case I decide to go to a place that has one of those.

        2. Treena

          Ah okay, so I see why you’re sticking to Europe/SA. My first instinct is that summer is very expensive to be in and fly to Europe, but the Euro isn’t too bad (about $1.10 will get you 1 euro). But I want to recommend an oft-ignored part of Europe–Iceland! In your shoes, I would do Reykjavik + day trips for about 10 days and Akureyri for another 4 days. They are both seriously beautiful cities with loads of history.

          But in general, I think you’re better off going to South America. You’re right about the lack of a time difference being a huge advantage, and I’m sure you’ll get much better deals than you could in Europe.

          1. katamia

            Iceland is actually pretty high on my list, but from what other people I know have said about it, there might be too much nature/”look at the pretty natural wonders” stuff to do there for me rather than the more person-oriented stuff I usually go for. Or maybe the people I know who have gone are just more into natural wonders than I am. I don’t know, lol.

            I don’t know as much about South America because I don’t know many people who have gone (which is actually kinda weird now that I think about it, since I know a lot of people who love to travel), so Europe feels a little easier to me just because I have more people I can get advice from, but I’m definitely going to spend some time researching places in South America before choosing.

            1. LawCat

              It was years ago so I don’t know if they still do stuff like this, but it would be worth investigating: Iceland Air used to have a deal where you could have s stopover in Iceland for a couple days before going on to another European destination. It was at no or little extra cost added to the ticket.

              1. Treena

                Yes! They still do this and 3 days in Iceland is perfect if you don’t care for nature. Reykjavik is a huge city and you could easily spend a week there with plenty to do! Most people go for the nature, sure, but there are so many fascinating museums. We went to one in Vik that had historic cottages from the era of no electricity (1950’s!!) and a truly amazing transportation exhibit. We also went to a witchcraft museum and a penis museum! Reykjavik has super unique architecture and really cosmopolitan food!

                1. katamia

                  Okay, those museums sound like exactly the kind of thing I’d be interested in. Iceland is starting to sound better and better.

    5. Nurse-To-Be

      Have you thought about doing a group trip to Europe or South America? A couple of companies do really great trips… G Adventures (from Canada) and Explore (from the UK). They both do some really interesting trips and have different styles of trips, depending on your interests/budget/travel style…side note, I used to work for Explore, but having done one of their group trips I can attest to just how good a group trip can really be, especially if you think one isn’t your style. Even if a group trip isn’t for you, their itineraries may give you some ideas of different places and sights to see.

      1. katamia

        I haven’t really considered them because I don’t know if I’d want to travel/sightsee at someone else’s pace, but I like the idea of looking at their itineraries. Thanks!

    6. Dan

      How do *I* decide where to go on vacation?

      Over the years, I picked up close to 2 million frequent flyer miles, so I pick my destinations based on 1) places really far away that I wouldn’t want to fly coach to, but can fly Business or First with my miles, and 2) places I haven’t been before.

      Both of my jobs over the last several years have given me at least a month of paid vacation that I can take all at once, so it’s made really far away places (such as Asia) doable. The irony (for lack of a better word) is that from the US, the far away places are generally some of the cheapest on earth, whereas the “closer” places (such as Western Europe) tend to be more expensive. Since my plane tickets are free, a month in Asia is quite doable, as I’m spending less than $3,000 for that time.

      1. Noah

        The last paragraph is so true. I’ve often received questions about how I can afford to travel. Well, first I get to non-rev (nearly free flights) and second I pick far away places where my dollar is worth a lot. Generally I take at least one vacation a year where I actually purchase an airline ticket because non-reving is standby and can be annoying if you don’t get on the flights you want. I buy everything I can on a credit card that earns miles, even things like my electric bill and rent.

      2. katamia

        Yeah, Asia’s much cheaper, and I’d love to go back. I just don’t want to deal with the flight length/time difference this time around.

        Also, WOW on all those frequent flyer miles. I’m impressed and kinda jealous.

    7. Cam

      I would highly recommend Peru! There are tons of awesome cultural stuff to see, all of Cusco, Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley. I went with a school group, so I don’t know how easy it is to navigate solo.

      I’ve heard great things about Chile and Ecuador is my new dream South American destination. It’s a small country so very easy to Tracey from beach to mountains to jungle in a short period of time. They recently repaved all of the highways, so they are fast and smooth. And I’m dying to go to the Galapagos islands.

      1. katamia

        Thanks! Yeah, everyone I know who’s been to Chile has really liked it, and I’ve always wanted to see Machu Picchu, so Peru’s definitely on the list.

    8. Trill

      For my 30th birthday I hiked the inca trail in Peru. It was something I’d always wanted to do and I arranged it so the actual day of my birthday was the end of the hike and touring Machu Picchu.

      I usually plan my vacations around an activity I want to do. Whether its a specific hike, visiting a world wonder like Petra or Chichen itza, a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey, or shark diving in Capetown.

      1. katamia

        Wow, I didn’t know about the Inca trail. I think that might be too much for me, but it sounds really interesting.

    9. The Cosmic Avenger

      I tend to have a list of places I’d like to see and things I’d like to do in my head, but I’ve traveled a bit now. But more importantly, I’ve spend a lot of time reading and talking to people about traveling. That’s usually where I get interested in something, and then start researching it a lot more. Sometimes a place falls off my list after I read more about it, sometimes it rises to the top.

      My in-laws traveled a LOT; my FIL was in the Navy, then traveled for work with the State Dept., and he and my MIL loved to travel. My wife and I got a lot of our ideas by picking their brains. It does help to have someone close who you can grill like that (and who has a ton of travel books, but that’s what Amazon and libraries are for), but it’s not necessary.

      I suggest burying yourself in travel columns and online chats, and seeing what piques your interest.

      1. katamia

        Thanks!

        I’ve always wanted to travel and enjoyed it when I’ve been able to, but unfortunately I don’t come from a travel-loving family. Think I’ll have to go through some friends’ old social media posts to figure out who to ask about where, hehe.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          Oh! If you have a lot of well-traveled friends, start a group chat, post, or email asking them where would be a good place for you to go for a short time as an inexperienced traveler. The UK is great, you can go from one end to the other in less than a day via train, if you want to see a lot of the country. BritRail is really nice…or, at least, it was in the 90s. Now you can even get over to Ireland or France for a day.

          1. katamia

            Yeah, I plan on asking some friends when I have my locations narrowed down more. Unfortunately, most of my friends are more nature-y/outdoorsy than I am, so their recommendations will be a bit skewed there.

            The UK is actually not on my list because I’ve been before. There’s tons I haven’t seen there, obviously, but I’ve also seen a lot of the biggies, and I want to go somewhere I haven’t been before. But I like the idea of a smaller country where I can go all over.

    10. LolaK

      I understand where you are coming from (I’m 31) and have definitely used travel to make me feel better.

      I just came back from a week solo trip to Dubai and Singapore (both amazing cities; I highly recommend). I desperately needed a trip and it was stressing me out! I ended up getting a deal on Emirates airline so that helped me decide. As someone else mentioned G Adventures is good-even if you don’t take one of their trips it helps to browse their trips for inspiration.

      I typically keep a list of trips I will need to take and depending how much time I have/what deals I can get I take the opportunity when I get it. The last few trips I have been on in the past year (Dubai/Singapore, Croatia/Montenegro/Albania, and Galapagos) have been a combination of timing and group trips that I find.

      1. katamia

        Oh, Dubai and Singapore are both on my list (of trips in general; I think they’re too far away for this one). Funny how being elsewhere can help you recharge even if you’re doing the same amount (or sometimes even more) than you would be at home.

    11. Overeducated and underemployed

      When my spouse and I were deciding where to go on our delayed honeymoon/pre-baby trip, we went to the public library and just spent a while flipping through guide books to narrow things down. It was fun to fantasize and get excited about the trip before the details of reservations, and it helped me to focus and get a feel for possible routes more than browsing online did. So i recommend spending a lazy afternoon in a cozy chair, just looking at books and seeing what excites you!

  42. Mindset

    Having some trouble here adjusting to my mindset…

    I’d been planning to move overseas for a while, and my original planned departure date was end of March. It was a bit of a rush to wrap up loose ends (I’d been planning for a while but only really finalised dates etc in January), but I’d learnt to deal with the anxiety and bouts of pre-emptive homesickness etc…

    Then just yesterday I found out that due to certain circumstances, I won’t be able to leave until end of June. Now I realise a three-month delay isn’t huge in the grand scheme of things, but it’s like I suddenly have all this time that I’d have to ‘wait out’…if that makes any sense? Like I’ve done all the stuff I need to do before I leave, so now it’s sort of a weird state of being in stasis.

    There are advantages of delaying my move – I’m still working so I’ll be able to build my savings, plus more time to catch up with friends/family before leaving. But it’s like I’ve psyched myself up for this and now I’m trying to adjust my time horizon, like I’ve gotten used to a certain idea but then have to change it. I know in the long run this is the better option, but…yeah…mindsets are tricky sometimes.

    1. Ekaterin

      I was in a very similar situation when I was getting ready to leave for Peace Corps a few years ago – my assignments kept getting pushed back (or changed completely) because of coups d’etat. I completely agree about the pros and cons, and it can be frustrating when it feels like the logistics are out of your control.

              1. Ekaterin

                Definitely the toughest job I’ve ever loved. Completely changed the trajectory of my life – I wouldn’t be doing what I do now (and wouldn’t be able to do it half as well) were it not for the experience I had there. It was hard sometimes, but I stayed three years and would do it again in a heartbeat.

    2. Irishgal

      oooh … can understand how disconcerting this is…. they’ve moved the goalposts on you .. literally. Bit of a mindf**k alright.

    3. Elizabeth West

      I wish I had this problem!

      Seriously, though, enjoy this time you have where you are. Don’t look at it like waiting–look at it like a farewell. Eat some things you won’t get where you’re going. Maybe do something you haven’t done in a while. Wander around and say goodbye to your city. Know you can come visit again, but you’re having one last fling with it. :)

    4. Pipette

      I’m in a similar boat at the moment. In November, my flatmate said she was planning to move out sometime January-February, so I would need to find somewhere else to live. Started pondering moving to another town, started looking into options etc. Then one thing after another happened, and at the moment it’s maybe April. So stressful!

  43. Mimmy

    TMI Warning!

    Has anyone here ever had a transvaginal ultrasound? I’m having one done on March 9. My cycles have been irregular; chances are it’s just early perimenopause (I’m 42), but my gyno just wants to make sure everything is okay since I have a little bit of spotting sometimes for several days after the main period ends.

    Just want to know what to expect. Thanks!

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict

      It’s awkward. It’s like an awkward dildo on a wire. (Really.) A lot of doctors will let you insert it yourself if you’re more comfortable that way, but you can opt not to if you’d rather take the tack of “just going to keep my hands and head up here and pretend nothing at all awkward is going on here, la la la” either. It’s not uncomfortable, really, just…awkward is the right way to describe it. Usually they’ll use about a gallon of lube so afterwards you can feel like you want a shower, but it’s far more weird than painful or anything like that.

      1. acmx

        The insertion question might be the most awkward part. Do I want to insert a ‘wired dildo’ in front of someone (who’s not watching, of course) or do I want a stranger insert it?

        Agree with nep and FDCA, it’s not painful just awkward.

      2. Ann Furthermore

        I had one a few months ago. The tech made me insert it myself and didn’t really give me a choice. I was a bit taken aback, thinking, “Really? DIY ultrasounds? That’s a thing now?”

        1. Mimmy

          Ewww, I hope they don’t make me do that! I can’t even do a tampon! Yet, I’m okay with the doctor doing the PAP (even though it’s uncomfortable).

    2. Christy

      I had one for a similar reason. I had to drink a TON of water beforehand and had to pee the whole time. Just make sure you relax your muscles down there (clenching will make it worse) and it’s not bad.

      1. Mimmy

        YES! They told me to drink 16-24 oz. of water 30 minutes before the test. I’m looking forward to that LESS than the test itself, lol.

        I will keep y’all posted. I think my doctor said that at this place, they’ll tell me the results right then. I see the doctor a week later to see what’s next, if anything. She may recommend an in-office biopsy or, if there’s any polyps, a D&C. Hope it doesn’t come to that.

        1. Christy

          Oh and I will also say it’s way better than a pap. Way better. It was like on par with a standard gyn exam

      2. CharlieCakes

        I had one about 2 years ago. Totally not painful, but I over did it on the water. I swear I was going to pee my pants. I’ve never had to pee so bad in my life! The tech laughed and said my bladder was VERY full, but she said that it helped give her better images. The whole process took less than 3 minutes and then I peed for about 5 minutes. I hope yours is equally as short!

        1. Mimmy

          Yeah I was wondering why you have to drink so much water! What’s weird, though, is that when I looked it up online. it says it’s usually done with an empty or partially full bladder. I guess every place is different.

      3. Tau

        Huh – I thought the water was just for the abdominal ultrasound, since the bladder is in front of the uterus and you can’t get a good picture if it isn’t full. I’ve had a bunch of abdominal ones as I can’t manage transvaginal, and the bladder thing… yeah.

    3. Ohsoanon

      If you can experience a pap exam without pain then you’ll be fine. I don’t remember much but it’s like they’ve repurposed a joystick. Definitely a weird but not painful experience. A good time to clinically observe the situation from a distance and look for the humor like Alison often recommends.

    4. Irishgal

      Yup… it’s like an internal dildo but not too wide with a bulbous tip on end. I find it much more comfortable than a smear as they don’t need to crank you open like with a smear. Bring your phone and ask to be able to watch youtube videos or something if you want distraction but it will be over before you know it.

    5. Treena

      Agreeing with what everyone else has said. It’s not a huge device, there’s lots of lube, and no scraping of the cervix, so I found it more comfortable than a pap. I like to bring baby wipes because there is a LOT of lube.

    6. asteramella

      It’s awkward, but not painful. Better techs will try to take your mind off it by talking to you and keeping the ultrasound wand out of your line of sight.

    7. Anonsie

      Oh high five, I also get to do that in the same week to look for fibroids. Super not looking forward to it.

      They told me they can/often use a lidocaine gel or spray or something on the probe so it doesn’t hurt, since it’s not tiny and they have to use it for *a while*. If you’ve ever had an ultrasound of anywhere else then you’ll know they’ll be looking for 5+ minutes. Then again I’m getting mine because of pain so they might not offer it upfront to everyone (in fact some of my friends told me they had to ask) so that’s an option.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        I’ve had a couple of them because of fibroids. I didn’t find it painful, just uncomfortable and kind of odd-feeling, but I didn’t go in with pain to start with. Good to know about the spray, though!

        The first time I got one done, I had the nicest tech who chatted with me and understood my fascination with the screen and answered all of my questions. The last time I had it done, my new gyn did the probe himself and he was a bit quicker.

        Fun fact: the first time I saw a fibroid on the ultrasound, no one had any idea that I had a fibroid, and I thought for a second that I was pregnant. Nearly passed out.

    8. De

      I had one every year since turning 18. Not because anything’s wrong, but because they are standard for OB/GYN checkups in Germany. So I don’t tend to think of it as a big deal – bit uncomfortable, but nothing painful.

      I have never heard of being required to drink a lot of water beforehand, though. Isn’t that for abdominal ultrasounds?

    9. Tau

      It turns out I can’t manage them, which I found out the hard way. The probe really is pretty big and, well, it didn’t fit. :( So not easy and painless for everyone.

      That said, I’m probably a bit of an outlier in this instance. If you can use ordinary tampons, or have PIV sex, it’ll probably be fine.

    10. Diluted_TortoiseShel

      This comment reminds me of my first pap. The doctor stuck that cold dildo like flashlight wall opener in and I yelled “Oh my f***ng god that’s COLD!”

      And that was the worst of it. ;)

    11. Sawcebox

      I’ve had several and like others are saying, it’s a little awkward but not painful. Probably being relaxed helps, though.

      One thing that surprised me was sometimes they put a protective wrapper on the wand. Basically a condom (it might even have been a condom). It didn’t bother me at all but it bothered a friend of mine when she had one, and she wished she’d known about it beforehand so she could mentally prepare for it.

    12. Come On Eileen

      Can I ask how many irregular cycles you had before talking to your doctor? I’m in the same age range and have noticed the same thing for a few months now. I’m tracking my cycle so I’ll have info to share with my doctor — and am also assuming it could be perimenopause since my pattern fits — but still plan to go talk to my doc if the pattern continues.

      1. Mimmy

        I’ve been tracking my periods for about a year or so now. The irregularity has been off-and-on. Sometimes it’ll be more normal, being every 4 to 5 weeks for awhile and occasionally going 6 or 7 weeks between cycles. But the last few were way out of whack – 3 weeks, 7 weeks, and 13 weeks (approximate). Plus, I sometimes have spotting/discharge for a few days after my normal flow. That’s what prompted the testing. I was also getting some mild hot flashes last fall but at first owed them to having the heat on or too heavily dressed.

    13. Florida

      Whenever I hear transvaginal ultrasound, I’m reminded of a crazy situation here in Florida. We have a community college that required the sonography tech students to perform transvaginal ultrasounds on each other. I guess they had to practice on someone, so why not each other? And everyone needs to learn, so why don’t we do this with the whole class watching? The school was sued and it made national news, so they banned the practice (although the lawsuit was dismissed).

      I can’t hear transvaginal ultrasound without thinking of the TransVag Queen, which was the nickname of one student mentioned in the lawsuit.

    14. Caro

      I had one recently and it was totally fine. There was some pressure when she moved the wand around, but not painful. Paps are very painful for me, so I was pleasantly surprised by the ultrasound experience.

      I didn’t have to drink water for mine and they actually had me empty my bladder for it, so that part may depend on what they’re looking at.

    15. Mimmy

      Wow, thank you so much everyone!!! I figured it wasn’t any worse than a Pap. For some reason, I was picturing them sticking the probe WAY up there, but I looked it up online, and it doesn’t seem to be that far up.

      What I’m not clear on is whether it just looks inside the uterus or looks also at other structures?

      I’m not too worried and neither is my doctor. In fact, this was all during my annual exam because I felt okay about waiting to bring it up till then. I think she just wants to dot her i’s and cross her t’s since I mentioned also having some bloody discharge for a few days after the normal period.

      1. De

        At the very least, they also look at the ovaries. I had a few long ones when checking whether I was having an ectopic pregnancy.

    16. Thinking out loud

      I have had about a thousand of them lately (exaggeration, but maybe six in the last six months), plus maybe four abdominal ultrasounds. You should not need to drink water beforehand – they make me drink water for the abdominal ultrasounds and then make me empty my bladder before the transvaginal ultrasounds. They usually have me undress from the waist down and put a paper cover over my lap, similar to a pap. Some places have used stirrups and others have not. There is always a cover and some lube on the stick. It’s generally not too bad, although the last one I had used a ton of lube. I’ve only had one tech ask me to insert it myself – I found that very weird, personally. It has never been painful for me and only mildly uncomfortable a few times. If there is a polyp or fibroid, you most likely will see it yourself. They will spend some time measuring various things and then will go away. The radiologist will review your results and then come discuss with you.

    17. StillHealing

      I’ve had several. I had a scare a year ago and it turned out ok. The best tech was a female and she asked me to insert it myself. I was much more relaxed and comfortable with her than the male techs. They actually hurt me and it was incredible uncomfortable. The female was known as their “expert”. She did both types of ultrasounds and used tons of lube. I was still cleaning it off of me a few hours later. But she didn’t hurt me and got more accurate and readable results than the two who did the procedure previously.

      I’m not ever going to a male gynecologist who has a male ultrasound tech – again.

  44. nep

    I had one a few years back. It wasn’t bad at all — I don’t recall any unpleasantness beyond the general unease of a pelvic exam and pap.

    1. nep

      That was of course in response to Mimmy. I’ll add — for me the pap smear is more uncomfortable than this was. As FDCA says, not painful…just an inherently awkward procedure. As with any such procedure — helps to have a technician who’s kind (and very competent). Mine was.

    1. wildfirefly12

      Best: Made Italian stuffed chicken breast, from scratch, without a recipe for dinner this week and they turned out amazing.

      Worst: Have a group project for my online graduate class in which we have to write a paper on our discussion and not a single person in my group has contributed to the actual discussion. The paper is due in two days.

    2. Mimmy

      BEST: Got a nifty accessory for my hearing aids: A system that allows me to stream television DIRECTLY TO the hearing aids! It’s all done through bluetooth – no clunky wires or anything.

      WORST: Eh, nothing too major. Just the usual annoyances.

    3. Elizabeth West

      BEST: I went blonde last Saturday, and this week I went back to work. The first person to notice was a guy from the other department (he’s sort of a jock type but nice). He said he liked it. A few people noticed and were all, “It looks good! I like the red!” It’s strawberry blonde, but it’s definitely a huge difference from the dark auburn I had before. Most people ignored it; they don’t care, but whatever. Overall, though, the response was good. :) I will get a better picture to post on my blog, etc. and change my avatar (which is old).

      WORST: Not really bad, but I had no idea how different it would be taking care of this hair! Also, my natural frizz is way more noticeable with the light color. My stylist talked me into some very expensive Kevin Murphy smoothing cream and it worked pretty well (and smells yummy). But I think I’ll look for a more economical alternative, LOL.

      Everyone keeps asking me if I’m having more fun. I certainly hope that will be the case!

      1. Trixie

        If you can at all afford it, I think the pricier hair hair products are good investment. Will help keep your in good shape especially if color treated. I’m looking Living Proof products for my mom to try. Between hair dryer, at home coloring, and minoxidil for hair growth, her hair frizzes easily.

        1. Elizabeth West

          Yes, but $30 for a little bottle of smoothing treatment? That’s insane. Of course, a little does go a long way, so we’ll see how long it lasts. And of course, I don’t need to use it on weekends because I never go anywhere. If I can get a few months out of it, then great, but monthly is not going to be possible at those prices.

        1. Elizabeth West

          Thanks! I like it, but I’m still getting used to it. I’m trying to remind myself that colors that looked good on me before probably still will–I don’t need to automatically change my entire wardrobe to Barbie pink and Elsa blue.

          1. Newlywed

            new lipstick colors are a great way to coordinate on the cheap. My bf just died her hair red (she’s a natural blonde) and she can make it work with her regular clothes if she wears a good warm lipstick.

    4. Doriana Gray

      Best: Finding out former horrible boss is being essentially demoted by having more than half her work and all but two of her direct reports taken away from her (and the two who will still report to her are remote workers who don’t have to deal with her on a regular basis anyway, and one is only part-time). People in my former division are giddy – finding out this woman is not well liked outside of only a handful of higher ups gives me a twisted sort of validation.

      2nd Best: My new division cut out of work early Wednesday and went to a gaming center for some team building challenges. I didn’t partake in the challenges, but I did use my free drink tickets and had a ball sipping cocktails and watching the others play.

      Worst: My apartment still has not magically cleaned itself, and I’m getting concerned. I think woodland creatures may be inhabiting the spaces beneath my furniture – or it’s just excessive lint buildup.

      1. Artemesia

        consider getting a refurbished roomba. They do considerable cleaning on thier own. We have a small condo and turn it on when we leave (they are a bit noisy) and when we come home, it has cleaned all the floors including under the sideboard and couch and docked itself back at home base where it is re-charging itself. It is pretty swell. It is surprising how swept floors make a place seem clean.

          1. Artemesia

            WE got a refurbished one on Amazon. We had a more expensive and elaborate one years ago that finally gave out after several years. We found we didn’t need features like programming. The one we have now is fine. It has two ‘fences’ i.e. little beacons that prevent it from going where you don’t want e.g. at Christmas we put them in front of the Christmas tree and in my bedroom I put it in front of the side table where I have a power strip and lots of cords. It runs its circuit and usually returns to its charger. I rarely gets hung up and if we forget to close bathroom doors it will go into the bathroom and close the door and trap itself. We run it 3 or 4 times a week in the living room area and it gets up tons of dust and dirt and we only actually hand vacuum and mop the hardwood every few months. We have to do the kitchen floor about once a week but the roomba keeps the crumbs and such picked up.

            1. Not So NewReader

              The floors in my house have been replaced at different times. This means there is a small step up to get into the room. I have four rooms out of seven rooms that have no step, so it could do those rooms. Do you think this is a worthwhile investment in a setting like mine or is it too much effort if you have to vacuum anyway?

          2. Alston

            We got ours as a deal on Groupon. But I’ve seen new ones at Costco for $350, which is pretty close to what we paid for the refurbeshed one.

    5. Mallory Janis Ian

      Best: One of the professors in my department gave me two tickets to see a play this afternoon at our local theater. I invited a woman from my Women’s Wisdom Circle who I’ve been wanting to spend more time with, and we had a good time.

      Worst: I found out that my son’s wisdom teeth are coming in early, and the dentist wants us to get them removed this summer. I wish I’d put more money into my health savings account for this year. We just had my daughter’s wisdom teeth out during the winter school break. Hers only cost $200 because insurance covers the removal of impacted wisdom teeth, and only one of hers was not impacted. The $200 was for removing the non-impacted tooth. I’ll have to take my son to a consulting visit with the oral surgeon and see what they say about his teeth. I hope they’re all impacted so the surgery will be free!

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        Update: the real worst — I just pulled back the shower curtain in preparation for taking a bath, and there is a hideous, horrible June bug in the tub. And my husband is at work so he can’t get it out for me.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            I went to bed without a shower, and when my husband came home from the night shift, I got up and looked in the tub. Sure enough, he had dispensed with the bug when he took a shower, so I took a bug-free shower this morning.

            1. Elizabeth West

              June bugs don’t bother me, but it’s ant season already again. They like the tub for some weird reason.
              I think I’m just going to have to nuke my house from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

              1. Mallory Janis Ian

                We always get a stream of incoming ants in the tub during the spring when it rains. Basically, any warm rainy weather results in a stream of ants marching from outside through my bathroom.

    6. nep

      Usually I can think only of Bests. This week can’t think of any Bests, only Worsts. I need to examine things and make some changes, that’s for sure.

      1. QualityControlFreak

        Sounds like a tough time, and tough choices. I’ve appreciated your comments here, and I’m wishing you some bests!

      2. nep

        Thanks, all. For the most part that’s up to me.
        Things already looking up as I was under the weather for a good 36 hours. Had this low-grade headache that just wouldn’t let up. It finally eased today mid-morning.
        Wishing you all a great week.

    7. Glod Glodsson

      Best: I had a lot of friends come through for me this week. It’s a nice reminder that I’m not alone.

      Worst: Death in the in-law family. My partner has a really complex relationship with them and this death brought everything to the forefront. I did a lot of practical stuff to give partner time to recuperate but this was hard because I think this entire family is crazy.

    8. Diluted_TortoiseShel

      BEST: Just paid off a credit card! Down to $13K in credit card debt in 2013!

      WORST: Hubby and I have been trying to have a kid for the last 4 months to no avail. Each period feels worse than usual to me. I’ve always had regular, mostly OK periods. But the last 4 have hurt! Tons of cramping. Not out of the realm of normal for me, but it is unusual to have so many back to back. I usually have 1 or 2 bad crampers a year. :<

      1. Kate R. Pillar

        I did not see your post before I hit submit – now it kinda reads like gloating to have posted directly below you. Sorry!

        Keeping my fingers crossed for you! It took us nine months, and as soon as we’d started trying, my periods went from regular to all over the map…
        Bodys are weird.

      2. Former Diet Coke Addict

        Eh, I feel you. My husband and I have been trying (this is month 9 right now), but it’s tricky since with his schedule (military) he’s been away on and off, which is…not conducive, let’s say. It’s weird, who knows what’s going on.

      3. Dynamic Beige

        Try taking a good quality magnesium supplement. I did some soft tissue damage that made walking hard last year and by some chance I saw something somewhere on the internet about magnesium and its role in repairing muscle tissue. I figured what the heck? It can’t kill me and if it helps, great! Rest and gentle stretching wasn’t helping all that much. Magnesium had the “side effect” of removing most of the cramping feelings/pains from my period. The first time it happened, I thought I was just imagining it. But it’s been a half year now and I wish I had known about this 20 years ago. There’s someone I know who swears up and down that drinking a glass of milk helps her when she’s got cramps. What’s in milk? Calcium and magnesium. If you can drink milk, try that. If you can’t because you’re lactose intolerant or don’t like the taste or counting calories or $OtherReason, maybe you’re deficient in Magnesium so a supplement would help you, too.

        So the usual things apply, please seek medical advice if you know or suspect you might have issues with supplements. I am not a doctor or a llama, this is just my personal experience.

    9. Kate R. Pillar

      Best: Still pregnant! Made it to week 6.

      Worst: First gyno visit is still more than two weeks away and I am anxious for some reassurance that everything is OK, as I am not feeling all that different. Even morning sickness would be sort of nice, I think (which is a statement I’ll probably deeply regret should it really set in).

    10. Lizketeer

      Best: Officially moved into my new apartment across the country, finished all my onboarding paperwork, and heard from several team members that they have all my information and are ready for me to start back on the 7th! I absolutely love this job and company, so I’m very excited to be back full time.

      Worst: I have literally nothing in my apartment except an air mattress. I don’t get paid until the 17th, so I am holding off on buying furniture until my tax refund/paycheck comes in. So my days involve a lot of crafts with the supplies I already have and walking around different areas to pass the time

    11. Elkay

      Best: A group I’m involved with is fundraising this year by encouraging members to undertake a challenge of their own choosing. I picked my challenge this weekend which I think others might not think is a big challenge but it’s a challenge for me, it involves three days walking and hills.

      Worst: Car break in, items that were stolen can’t be replaced :(

    12. Anonyby

      Best: Got some productive stuff done this week, including making soap (which I haven’t made since July last year, I was due!).

      Worst: Work is kicking my butt. And being productive on my one day off meant I didn’t get a lot of rest on it. I feel like my brain is imploding and I still have several more days to go before I get another day off. :(

    13. Carmen Sandiego JD

      Best:
      Bf being extra nice to me this weekend, and us petting cuddly creatures for relaxation (ie. baby farm animal type petting farm type stuff)

      Making tuna casserole. I put tuna, tomatoes, cheese, broccoli, and bake it all…NOM…

      Worst:
      Crappy apt internet. Just. apt.
      Also: having enough money as savings, but not quite enough for life’s milestones. Like, not quite enough for a down payment. Enough for a wedding OR kid (age 1-4)) and emergencies. But not all of the above. Rrr.
      And: interviewing for a govt job where to get the job means making lots less when what I do now, and means nmom pressuring me to move in with her while I stay sane and covertly buy a condo when she’s not looking.
      And: bf can’t afford to move away from his mom b/c she’s unemployed.
      Silver lining: bf is checking out property sites for me to move in the event govthing happens.

      But I really wish he had more money and could move in with me and that his mom could get a job and I could save up for a down payment and kids/pets/rainy day and live happily ever after…instead of panic crying about it like I did this weekend which was partially triggered by the death of a pet :/

    14. Perse's Mom

      Worst:
      1 – emergency vets are not fun OR cheap
      2 – so much overtime at work for a major project that’s been bungled basically since day 1
      =3 – sleep deprived and anxious all week long
      Best(ish):
      The office closed early Sat, so I went to see a movie (where I had some terrible fries that left an awful taste in my mouth for the rest of the day), then got delicious ice cream… and then went home to work a few more hours only to find yet another thing has been bungled on the project.

  45. Trixie

    I have a few old silver fillings that need replacing. Will split into two appts between upper and lower. I’m hoping to schedule over lunch and head back to work but not sure this realistic. I don’t think dentist is expecting complications.

    1. Elizabeth West

      I had a few replaced–it’s not as big a deal as I thought it would be. They use that composite stuff and a light to cure it and boom! you’re done. My dentist’s office also numbs you with this goop on a Q-tip before they put a needle in, if it’s necessary.

      Good luck–I’m sure it will be fine. :)

    2. Noah

      I had one filling done recently over lunch. My mouth was still a bit numb when I went back to work, but that was it.

      I’ve never had silver fillings before, only the composite ones, so I can’t compare what it is like. It is really fast though once they get you all numbed up.

  46. Not So NewReader

    Two things.
    A while ago I had posted asking about cells in our bodies storing the memories of our ancestors. I got as far as figuring out this was an idea of Carl Jung’s. Now to find time to read more.

    Next thing. What is your opinion of retailers who make you use your cell phone to get the sale price, when you are right there in the store? I saw items at Target this week that I would have liked. But since I was in the middle of swapping my defective cell for a good one, I had no cell. They waived my need for a cell and said I could get the sale price by mentioning someone’s name and telling the cashier to override it. (wth) Apparently this is a new and exciting way to shop. Please explain why this is not as annoying as hell and I need to rethink this. Thoughts?

    1. katamia

      Wait, how does the cell phone thing even work? Do you show it at the register? I’ve never experienced this. I don’t understand it. But even though I don’t totally understand it, I can’t think of a way this would work that wouldn’t annoy me.

        1. Tris Prior

          Cartwheel drives me insane. The cell signal in my local Target is awful, and their wifi is also spotty. The one time I actually got the app to work, the cashier told me that I had to scan each of items separately with my phone (in addition to adding the coupons to my account or whatever) before I checked out, which I did not know. He proceeds to berate me, with a line of customers behind me, because my phone wasn’t scanning them properly. I told him never mind because the lady behind me in line was fuming at me.

          Then I got home, looked at the receipt, and I did get the discounts after all. So I’ve no idea what happened there, and I’ve given up trying to get the damn thing to work in the store.

        2. katamia

          Oh, I don’t use any apps like that. That explains why I’ve never heard of any of it. Around here Target often has the cheapest prices even for stuff that’s not on sale, so I haven’t looked too carefully for sale prices/coupons except these $5 off when you buy $X coupons we somehow keep winding up with. Still not sure where those keep coming from.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        I avoid stores that do this, but many people have said that they were told at Sears that the price they wanted was online only, not the store price, so to get it they had to take out their phone, place an online order for in-store pickup, then wait for it to be pulled from the shelf and placed in the online order pickup area.

        TO PURCHASE AN ITEM THAT WAS RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Yes, I felt ridiculous, the darn thing is in front of me. How come I can not get that price? As one person said below, I felt discriminated against. Cells do not work well where I live. Getting a cell up and running here is a bfd. Compounding matters, I bought a defective cell. My frame of mind was not good before I saw this ridiculous situation.

        2. Shell

          Ugh, yeah. I really hate stores that have separate online vs in-store prices even though I do understand that the stores require a lot more overhead costs.

          One of our bookstore chains have the different online vs in-store pricing, but all online orders must be fulfilled through their warehouse on the east coast–even if the exact same item is available in-store right in front of me. I can’t decide if that’s worse or better than your story.

    2. Kate

      One of my best friends is actually a researcher on the first one. Her work is specifically on the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors though.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Can you tell me more about this? I am fascinated. Now I have heard of tangent stories from people who had organ transplants. The recipient was able to describe how the person was murdered and describe the murderer. The memory was lodged in the cells of the organ they received.

        How did your friend get into this field? (I am trying to hold back and not ask you a thousand questions. Please only reply with what you are comfy talking about.)

        1. fposte

          As you know I’m on the skeptical side, and I think those organ stories tend to be lore rather than demonstrable truth.

          What does have some evidence for it, however, is the notion of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. (Cath in Canada, are you the poster here who works in a relevant field? Somebody here does.) One of the most famous studies is of a small Swedish group, and the study indicates that having grandparents who suffered through a 19th century famine, usually as kids, leads to discernible effects, but in interesting patterns; it mattered whether it was your grandmother or grandfather, and whether you were male or female. And the effect wasn’t necessarily bad. It’s the Överkalix study, so you can have a dig around if you like–I just found a Gizmodo article that I’ll link in a followup. There’s another study about the Dutch famine of 1944, but some of the theorized effects there have been questioned.

          The results tend not to be “You’re always hungry because your grandmother starved” kind of direct; they’re more rates of cardiovascular disease, early death, etc. But they’re outside of Mendelian genetics, so people are pretty interested.

          1. Cath in Canada

            Yup, that’s me!

            Human studies of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance are super hard to interpret. I think there’s definitely something there, but it’s hard to tease out cause and effect, given how complex human lives and environments are. Inheritance down the maternal line is complicated further because it can be difficult to distinguish genuine inheritance (DNA) from the effects of the environment of the developing foetus in the womb. A female foetus already contains the egg cells that will go on to form the pregnant woman’s grandchildren, and the development of the foetus AND the eggs can be affected by things like diet and stress. There are some studies of paternal inheritance though, and of maternal inheritance of exposures before pregnancy. The effects do seem to be pretty subtle – things like a slightly higher body fat percentage or marginally increased risk of heart disease, not a specific memory of specific events, although the field does attract a lot of woo merchants who like to claim the latter. Oh, and you can’t turn specific genes on and off at will by using the power of thought to manipulate your epigenetics either. Sorry!

            There’s been some really nice work done in animal studies though, where you can carefully control diet and other environmental factors, and you can use surrogate pregnancies and foster mothers to separate biological effects from intrauterine environments and parenting styles. For instance, in rats, parental neglect messes with the pups’ stress responses when they’re adults; pre-reproduction marijuana exposure in parents makes their offspring more likely to put in physical effort to obtain heroin.

            This is all pretty new, and still somewhat controversial and fuzzy. As I said, I’m convinced that there is something there, but it’s important not to over-interpret the evidence.

              1. Not So NewReader

                Thank you for the links and the explanations, absolutely fascinating. What a great line of work to be in. I have thought for a long time that our DNA can change, it’s not set in stone, so this is very interesting to read. I also have seen how vitamins given in correct dosages for a particular person, can do some incredible things. Reading about what vitamin B does makes me happy that someone is following this.

                I also believe that our emotions can cause damage at the cellular level. I think we are at the tip of the iceberg in understanding things like PTSD. I hope there is more investigation to childhood abuse and heart damage. As a lay person, I have been drawn to how heartbroken people die of… broken hearts. Some how our little sayings come back around. Humorously, I decided to stop saying I don’t give a crap because I don’t want bowel problems later in life. (I know what you said about the power of thought, but by the time they figure this stuff out, it will be too late for me. I have got one trick so I am using that one trick! haha.)

                Anyway, thanks for the fascinating reply. I am passing the links on to friends who are also interested.

                1. Mallory Janis Ian

                  “I also believe that our emotions can cause damage at the cellular level.”

                  My MIL was visiting from Colorado this week, and we were talking one morning about how we’d slept the night before. Backstory: years ago, she lost her four-year-old daughter to complications of a congenital heart defect. She said that four months immediately following her daughter’s death, she was understandably unable to sleep. But she said she had never been able to sleep like she used to before that happened. Something physical permanently changed for her following that traumatic experience.

                2. Not So NewReader

                  @MJI, yes, I have seen this myself. I started in on screwy heart beats when my husband passed. In order to get out of it, I had to work with a practitioner on taking Vitamins B and E, plus some calcium. Some of the doses I took were very high, but it was what my body needed. Other people may need something else. The stress of profound grief depletes vitamins and minerals out our bodies at a very fast clip. If your MIL is interested, she probably could get some benefit from looking into these things. From what I have seen, as long as the person is alive it’s not to late to try to help themselves.
                  So, yeah, I believe your MIL too. Things did change inside her body, no doubt in my mind. Such a tragic loss, that is very sad.

    3. Gary

      Yeah, I saw that. It’s like, “25% off when you show the coupon by using the Target app” or something like that. I don’t have a smartphone, so that leaves me out. And worse, it makes me feel like a second-class citizen BECAUSE I’m not able to take advantage of the sale.

    4. Noah

      I really dislike the cell phone coupon thing. I also really dislike the store card thing and I avoid the grocery stores in this area that want you to sign up for one. Aldi and Trader Joes for me.

      The place I get my hair cut at always wants you to check in on FaceBook and you’ll receive 10% off. It is annoying and I politely tell them “no thanks” every single time I’m there.

    5. Not So NewReader

      Thanks, all, for validating my concerns on this whole thing. I do feel better. I really like Target but they made so many stupid decisions in Canada and now it looks like they are going to do the same thing here. I see the empty shelves here so I know things are not going as smooth as they should be. This guess-what-price-this -item-is thing really sucks.

      I wanted to make a decent sized purchase of over $100. I ended up walking out empty handed.

      1. Dynamic Beige

        I’m sure there’s some sort of information capture that they take from the phone when you use it. This is probably along the lines of being asked at the cash if you want to provide an e-mail address/postal code. Except digital, so you have no idea what information they are taking. Why yes, I saw a documentary The Human Face of Big Data this week, why do you ask?

        Also, what Target in Canada took over and destroyed — Zellers — used to have these price scanner stations at points in the store. Wasn’t clear what the price was? Take it over to the scanner and find out. Maybe not the best system in the world, but it worked.

        1. Observer

          Target definitely made a mess in Canada. But, they didn’t destroy Zellers – Zellers wanted to get out and needed someone to buy out their leases.

          Interestingly enough, the Target I sometimes shop in DOES have the price scanners, and they have worked every time I tried them.

      2. Persehone Mulberry

        Before Christmas I was at Target and found this awesome throw blanket; it appeared to be the last one in that style and I couldn’t match it up with any of the shelf tags, so I flagged down an employee and asked him to price check it for me. He scanned the barcode and said, “sorry, we don’t carry this.” ???

    6. Not So NewReader

      Update. I emailed Target and the AG, because I am still thinking about this. I asked the AGs office to investigate. I don’t understand how they can advertise a price IN THE STORE and then not give you that price when you are IN THE STORE. And I mentioned in my email that the required use of smart phones excludes whole groups of people.
      We will see what happens.

      1. Observer

        Highly unlikely that the AG is going to respond on the required use of smart phones. A store can require to you to high 5 a dozen people to qualify for a discount, and it’s too bad if that makes you uncomfortable. The only way that it is something for the AG to investigate is to make an argument that the smart phone requirement is a proxy for a protected class of people (eg women are significantly less likely to have smart phones.) Or even that it inadvertently acts as a proxy. (If I recall correctly, there was a pizza chain that ran into trouble for its requirement that delivery people are clean shaven as it apparently inadvertently disadvantages blacks.)

        Of course, if the store does not make the requirement clear, there is the issue of deceptive advertising. But, if they make it clear, it may be a stupid policy – it’s certainly annoying and I can see the ethical issue with it as well – but none of these things makes it illegal.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Yeah, I thought my talking points were weak, too. However, our state AG does answer us. I have been pretty impressed by their responsiveness. Barest minimum at least I drew someone’s attention to the matter. It could be that the next person is actually effective in getting a change made here.

      2. Gary

        Let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute. How is the required use of cell phones different from requiring the use of a paper coupon to qualify for a discount? What if you don’t read the newspapers they advertise in? What if you don’t receive the pennysavers or whatever that they advertise in?

        Again – I posted earlier that I agree with you. And I do. But this is something I wanted to point out.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Differences in prices of a newspaper vs cell phone. Rampant poverty here, some people will never afford a cell.

          Accessibility- cells do not work where I live. It’s almost a waste of money to have one. One poster here pointed out that her cell did not even work in Target.

          Possible inherit discrimination- certain groups will have smart phones and certain groups will not.

          Possible privacy issues by tracking. Do you want your purchases of Depends, condoms, laxatives and so on, collected on a computer some where?

          This part is more subjective and might not be of significance.
          Inconvenience. I want to buy ten things. I have to look for each one on my cell phone? Why? The item is right in front of me, why can’t I put it in my cart and just pay for it. If I were at home shopping online I would expect to have fish around on the website to do what I need to do. But if I am at the store why do I have to still mess around online to get pricing? I want to walk in grab what I need and leave. It’s a bad plan for retailers to discourage people from walking into their store.

          Misunderstanding. Some people may not understand that they have to use their cells to get the price. They could be duped into paying more than they wanted to pay.

          Past history. Target sunk a lot of labor into bad situations in Canada, they lost big time revenues and eventually lost the Canadian chain. The system to use your cell phone in the store to get sale prices comes with a bill for human labor. That increased cost will be passed on to me, the consumer, or the company will lose money as it gets the system up and tries to fix all the glitches. The company already lost money because of the time I tied up employees while discussing this, PLUS the company lost my purchases. This means they went into negative numbers, when I walked in the store.

          In short, I want to walk into a store, spend a few minutes picking out what I want and then leave. Studies back this up, that many women shop in this manner. Most grocery shoppers are women and they spend on average of 20 minutes in the store per visit, that’s all. If my shopping experience is time consuming and unnecessarily encumbered I will go to a different store to purchase what I need.

          1. Observer

            With the exceptions of disparate impact and possibly misleading tactics, nothing you mention has any legal significance. There is no legal requirement for businesses to be smart or effectively run.

            Now, if you were to say to them “Don’t be a bunch of idiots. If you keep this up, you are going to drive shoppers away”, I am totally with you. Making people jump through hoops is generally not a good way to get people to shop by you.

  47. Sail On, Sailor

    This might be too far down in the comments to get replies, but I will ask anyway. I would love to hear from people who have comingled finances with a spouse or partner, but have different attitudes about money (saver vs. spender, wait until you’ve saved the money before you make a major purchase vs. put it on credit and buy it now). My husband and I have an ongoing argument along these lines about our finances, and it seems like we can’t find any common ground. I have read that it might be better to separate our finances. But as his wife, I would still be responsible for any debts he runs up, right? And the house and cars are in both our names. So would it really be the solution?

    I am just so tired of the arguing and trying to get him to understand that there is a difference between wants and needs. Any ideas?

    1. Glod Glodsson

      As to the debts, that depends on where you live. Where I’m from it depends on under which conditions you married but the standard is indeed sharing most assets, which includes debt.
      Maybe you could talk to a financial adviser together for a plan? They often differentiate between three different goals to spend money on: needs (food, housing), wants (working less, retiring sooner) and wishes (a cool new car). However, people often approach finances very emotionally, so a thing that is not a need at all in technical terms is seen as a need because of societal pressure/personal investment. You see that with buying a house, for example. This isn’t strictly a need but a lot of people feel they really need to buy a house instead of renting one to be ‘true adults’. Sorting through that mess is super hard, especially if you feel fundamentally different about this, which I think you do. Your example of saving vs buying on credit is indicative of that: it means one of you puts flexibility and instant availability over being completely in control over your finances and paying less (buying on credit is always more expensive). You can’t really say one is better than the other – it depends on the object and your financial situation.
      Keeping finances completely separate might not solve things since these household items would still be used by you both. How would that work for holidays or when one of you feels like you need (say) a new car? Would one person buy the car and the other person not be allowed to use it? Even if you’d share the costs, how would you agree about how/when to buy things? You’d need to be really clear on that.
      To me, it’d make sense to talk to a financial adviser. He could probably make a financial plan for you that lays out what your long term goals are and how you can reach them, and what you can do to reach shorter term goals. Because wanting to save is great, but just saving to accumulate money is a waste! So it would help to map out what it is you’re saving for. You could, for example, save X amount each month in one account, and Y amount in another account. Everything that’s in Y can be spent spontaneously .
      Good luck! Figuring out finances together is really hard.

    2. Diluted_TortoiseShel

      I highly recommend a financial advisor. Check with your employer to see if the company that offers your 401K offers any free or reduced cost services. Just meeting once with an advisor can be really useful.

      My husband and I sometimes disagree about the best approach financially. I’m a saver who feels empowered/happy when I pay down debt – he feels empowered/happy when we buy a new video game! The ticket I have found is to not let hubby put his head in the sand when we discuss debt. I found that him being aware of the amount of debt we have, the various pay down plans, etc, has really helped. I make sure he is involved in all of our financial decisions, even though I’m an accountant and he is a house husband.

      Other things I have found userful:
      Color coded budget : green = fluff that can be cut at any time to go to other items. Netflix, entertainment, eating out is all in this category. If hubby wants/needs something that costs $500 he has to trade $500 from this category to get it which helps give it real weight. Yellow = nice t have but not mandatory. Savings and cell phone go here. You only cut to the yellow in an emergency, like a blown car engine. Red = bills that must be paid to survive. If you are cutting here regularly, it’s a sign your house/car is too much for you.

    3. Diluted_TortoiseShel

      I’ve also found it useful to not over budget. If I were by myself I would have every dollar budgeted for. I’ve realized that living together makes that unfeasible and is a recipe for malcontent.

      I had to let go and give a little too. Our new budget has generous entertainment, eating out, misc, funds built in and we also leave a standing balance of about 10% of monthly income “un-budgeted” that money may accumulate, or you may find that you splurged and went over that.

    4. Not So NewReader

      It’s all compromises.

      Most financial advisers know that if a couple is sitting in front of the adviser then in all likelihood they have been arguing. To save their relationship, they have agreed to find a third party to show them solutions to chose from. (Another group of people who know this are people who clean houses. They know they are saving marriages.)

      First thing, put the relationship as the top priority.
      Second thing, do seek advice of someone you both respect.

      In my marriage, I thought my husband was the saver. About ten years into the marriage, I was horrified to find out that he was not a saver. One of us had to keep an eagle eye on the savings, by default it became ME. I did not like having that pushed on me, because I am not a good saver. So what I did was put any inheritances to one side and those inheritances became our nest egg in case of emergency. And we did use those emergency monies. Unexpectedly, my husband let me know that he was proud of how we did this. (Let’s say you inherit, 15K from your great grandmother. Put it to one side, do not touch it. In one action you now have a safety net. Done.)

      I was more willing to carry debt than my husband. He said flat out NO debt. Since this was not a major issue in my mind, I just went with what he preferred to do regarding debt. And his decision on debt saved our butts as much as my decision on putting inheritances away saved our butts.
      It’s good to look at each other’s strengths. Maybe your hubby is not a good saver but he is a darn good bargain hunter. Then let him be in charge of the bargains and you be in charge of the savings. Both of you should weave your natural strengths into your solutions.

      My husband was a super geeky guy. He could fix anything. His ability to fix things became a part of our budget control. I could alter clothes with modest success. This allowed us to pick up bargains on clothes that I would tailor to fit us. My super geek had a black thumb, I grew our veggies for us. We had plenty of veggies. Meanwhile, we never hired a plumber or electrician because hubs handled all that. We found that we dove-tailed well. And we learned to defer to the other’s judgement when the issue was under the other one’s umbrella of natural abilities.

      The whole process involved each of us letting go of one thing and taking charge of another thing.

    5. Florida

      You will never persuade him that something he thinks is a need is actually a want. Never. So don’t try to do that.
      Instead come up with a budget and stick to it. If cable TV is in the budget, then you don’t even have to discuss whether it’s a want or need. The only thing to discuss is whether it’s in the budget or not. It will take a lot of discussion to get the budget set, but that is once a year. Throughout the year, all you have to discuss is whether or not it’s in the budget.

    6. Dan

      You are responsible for his debts if you cosigned any of the loans or you live in a common law marriage state. There are seven common law marriage states, so it’s not a common thing.

      As others have pointed out, budgets and communication are key. Also, make a budget that fits your lifestyle, it’ll be easier to stick to. For example, if you eat out all of the time, and you’re both lousy cooks, a budget that completely cuts out dining out is unrealistic and likely to fail.

      If you can’t communicate or either of you doesn’t make a real effort to stick to it, that’s a sign of very serious problems.

    7. Treena

      No specific advice, but while my husband and I are both probably right in between on the saver/spender spectrum, we have different ideas on how to spend on our fun stuff. I rarely want anything costing more than a few hundred dollars, but my husband only wants things that cost $500-5000. But I probably spend more than him in total (a lot of my “wants” are home goods/kitchen stuff that he also benefits from), and after years of telling him to just buy whatever he wants and that not working, we decided on setting up “Joe fund” we put $200 into every single month and it just sits there waiting for him to spend it. I think right now he has about $2k in there and he’s bought 2 things in the past 2 years. We could do the same for me, but I dont’t really spend money on myself-no beauty stuff at all, no clothes/shoes unless absolutely needed, etc. all of “my” purchases end up being for both of us.

      1. DaBlonde

        My husband and I do a variation of this. When we set our household budget together we included a Spending Money category for each of us. This was a small amount when times were lean and increased when the situation got better. This money was ours every month to do with as we wished: buy overpriced coffee or new video games, or save up for something bigger that we wanted.
        It allowed that sense of freedom to buy without scrutiny without breaking the budget.

    8. Observer

      I’m going to agree that getting some outside perspective is going to be very helpful. I’m also going to agree with the advice to step back a little and recognize that it’s not so black and white. If you are willing to respect his point of view and give it serious consideration, you will get much more accomplished. Want vs need is a huge gray area. By the same token, save first vs pay off is not always so clear cut.

      For instance, we needed to replace our washing machine. That alone was a good discussion of want vs need, since the machine did work, but had some significant problems. Then we had to decide whether to fix or replace. Fixing was going to be less money up front, but we decided that in the long term it probably was going to cost us more to do it that way, and we also were worried that the repairs would cost us more than expected (given the nature of the problem, this was a very likely scenario.) Last decision was to save up first vs buying and paying off. My husband is very into save up first, and I mostly go along with that. But, in this case, we I wanted to short circuit it a bit, because I wanted to take advantage of the sales season. We saved more on the sale than the cost of carrying the interest on the credit card balance for a month, which is what it took to come up with the difference between what we had saved and the actual cost.

      The point here is not that there is ONE right way (yours or his), but that you need to be willing to listen and be flexible. You also need to recognize that just as there is a difference between wants and needs, there is a difference between unwise and “makes me uncomfortable”. Also, that perhaps your version of “need” is not the only legitimate one. Lets face it, once you get past adequate nutrition, shelter, clothing (including that which you need to maintain your job) and adequate transportation, little else is TRULY an objective need.

      Separating your finances might be a good idea for you, and it’s something I would discuss with a someone who is familiar with the laws in your state. But, you will still need to come to a common ground on shared expenses, so you do need to find some way to address that.

    9. Sail On, Sailor

      Thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful comments! I will think them over and figure out the best way to proceed.

    10. Student

      If you’re at the point where you’re afraid of your liability for his debts, then it’s time to get out. There’s a point where reasonable compromises are in order, and then there’s a point where one person is harming the other and giving no regard to the other. Reasonable compromise time is when you are deeply annoyed by his Starbuck’s habit because it cuts into how many DVDs you by or how often you go on vacations. It’s time to run when his car debts are making it hard to pay rent on time, or his gambling debts make it hard to buy food regularly.

  48. Glod Glodsson

    Okay, stupid question probably, but how do you get an avatar like some commenters have here? :D

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      It’s not obvious, but it’s associated with the email address field here. You don’t need to fill out the website field here unless you want your name to link to that website. But no one (except maybe Alison) will see the email address you use, that’s associated with your Gravatar.

  49. ActualName

    Ugh. Food. I’m a college student with a super small pantry and my partner is coming to visit me this week. The food hall is closed for Spring Break so I have to make all our meals myself.

    Does anyone know what can be done with pasta, olive & vegetable oil, canned tomatoes, beans, and soup? I have some other odds and ends. Bannans & dried cranberries, for one thing.

    We’ll also travel to my parents house later on in the week so I’ll have time to show off my cooking powers then but in the mean to I need to be able to throw together something edible and not to bland.

    1. Diluted_TortoiseShel

      I have had good luck googling my ingredients to find some interesting recipies. Right off the bat though it seems you have good ingredients for pastas or soups.

    2. Mags

      Do you have red pepper flakes (like pizza places give out) and garlic? look up spaghetti aglio oglio e pepperoncini.
      Are they canned whole tomatoes? Heat oven to 375′, Drain the juices (and save), cut in half and Pop them single layer in a pan drizzle with oil, salt and pepper and any spices you have, then roast for 40-55 minutes or a lovely deep red. Can eat plain, purée with juice to make sauce, toss with pasta etc.
      For a quick dessert, freeze the bananas and purée for makeshift ice cream, or take a chocolate bar and melt in ten second bursts in the microwave, mix with a drop or two of the vegetable oil, and dip banana in for a chocolate shell.
      If you have peanut butter, sugar and eggs- one cup pb, one cup sugar, one egg, mix together and using a spoon make small balls and squish them down then bake in a 375 oven for 10 ish minutes (or till golden brown and cooked)
      What sort of beans and soup? Do you have any frozen veggies or such.

      1. ActualName

        This is an awesome couple of recipes! I’ve never heard of making ice cream out of bananas. Does it still work okay for brown-ish bananas? It’s not time for banana bread yet, but it’s getting there.
        No frozen veggies, as my freeze has only been fixed recently.

        1. Mags

          Absolutely! Actually that’ll make it sweeter. You could also try adding a tablespoon or two of peanut butter, or cocoa to it to change the flavor.
          Add pasta or the roasted tomatoes or beans to the soups to alter the flavors.
          If you have any spices, lightly toasting them in a pan quickly to kick the flavor up a bit can help- especially if they’ve been in the cupboard for a while.
          If you have onions, slicing them and letting them slowly caramelize in a pan at a low temp, can be a great flavour boost. Mix it in pasta, or purée some and add to soup for rich flavor.
          Basically if you have any vegetables roasting or slowly cooking them intensifies the flavor a lot, which lets you use smaller amounts if your trying to stretch it out and season a lot of food.

  50. The Other Dawn

    I’m looking for an app or website where I can input all the ingredients I have on hand and it will give me recipes containing only those ingredients. Does something like that exist?

    I’ve tried websites where you input what you have and it suggests recipes; however, I find that many of those recipes require other ingredients I don’t have. Often many. It’s frustrating.

  51. Carmen Sandiego JD

    As a follow-up from previous post….some thoughts

    I worry about bf–he pays bills–his own and mom’s but he’s literally the only one keeping his family afloat–him and his mom. How will he be able to save for a future/move/save for a house/family? Has anyone dealt with this?

    He keeps hugging me and telling me he’s worked since graduating undergrad, and though he has a bit of loans (barely any) to repay and is working and trying for a promotion, he said there’s nothing for me to worry about and that everything will be ok. He hasn’t told me the exact amt he has and I guess I get scared.

    How do you quell anxiety about the future re: finances? I spent 72 hrs last week crying myself to sleep just from anxiety. I guess its intense fear of the unknown+ugly hormones from biological clock starting to kick in.

    Sidenote: also–bf and I found an amazing condo just now, so I could move in, and when he buys a house for us after we get married, we can use my condo as investment/keep it in the family somehow. Siiigh.

    Tl;dr: intense anxiety about future finances meets romance and promises and bio clock :/

    1. Not So NewReader

      If you are looking for certainty you will never find it. There are no certainties when it comes to the future, your finances etc. Even if you have a family, home, good jobs there are no certainties that you will keep all that.

      One step is to stop looking for certainties. doing so will drive a person into panic/anxiety/depression and so on. Instead, commit to the future. “I will do the things necessary to accomplish these goals and sustain the accomplishments.” Sustaining is harder than reaching the goals sometimes.
      In addition to committing to the future, promise yourself that you will learn what you need to learn as you go along. Lack of knowledge can make us feel powerless. Vow to keep growing and keep learning more “life tools”.

      As to your bf, he sounds like he is a very reassuring calming person. But it sounds like you need a tangible plan. Have you tried writing a budget together? Do you have any goals that you are currently working on together? Do you guys talk about where you want to be at in a few years? Do you talk about the actual steps to get there? These are all things that married couples have to do, so it’s good practice for the future as well as practical right now.

    2. Former Diet Coke Addict

      From what you’ve said over the past several open threads….have you considered seeing a counselor or therapist? It sounds like you could use some help. It doesn’t mean you’re broken, it just means having another listener who’s not entangled with everything who can help you sort through your thoughts.

      It sounds like you have a lot of free-floating anxiety about the future, especially as it regards to finances, real estate purchasing, potential future plans, and so on. It sounds like you’re looking for a concrete plan and to be honest, very few of us in life ever get a solid plan that we follow without deviation, so it would be beneficial to you to start learning some coping skills to deal with uncertainty in life. Everyone–every single person–is going to face that sort of uncertainty about the future, about finances, and if you’re spending 72 hours a week in terrible anxiety, you need some better coping mechanisms. (This is where some counseling can be terrifically beneficial.)

      Counseling may also help you with someone to listen to you talk about your family situation. You’ve had a lot of dramatic changes in your situation over the past few months, and while I’m sure oyur boyfriend is supportive, he’s very emotionally invested in this (which is normal–it’s your family and his potential future in-laws), it may help to have an unbiased listener. Your boyfriend also sounds like he has a lot of responsibility on his plate with regards to his own family, so there’s stress from both sides.

      Couples counseling may be an option in the future for you as well. It doesn’t mean anything is necessarily wrong with your relationship, but it’s like having someone who can walk you through tactics for better communication skills especially surrounding finances. If you do get married, commingling finances is going to be a major part of your life together, and it’s one of the absolute most common stressors in a partnership. It will not hurt to have a neutral third party to discuss things with.

      In short, everything you’ve said makes it sound like you are looking for concrete answers where there are none and may never be. I think you would do well with looking for some coping mechanisms, since no one should be spending that much of their time crippled with anxiety about an uncertain future.

      Good luck.

      1. YouAreHere

        This. I’m starting to feel like AAM readers are being overly relied-upon for psychological/emotional support by OP every week.

        OP- you really need to speak with your therapist about this stuff.

    3. Come On Eileen

      Anxiety is normal when there are lots of unknowns, but the two of you can tackle that by starting to talk about money openly & with specific figures in mind. It sounds like this is someone you envision a future with, so it’s normal to share things like what your salary is, how much debt you have, how much you have in savings, etc. My former fiancee and I were never on the same page where money was concerned — he didn’t know the meaning of a retirement account, he kind of just assumed he’d keep working forever, and he didn’t save for emergencies or a rainy day. I on the other hand, have a 401K and a Roth and a 6-month emergency fund, and I thank my lucky stars we never married and I didn’t have to split either of those with him :-)

      1. Carmen Sandiego JD

        Good to know. He and I both have IRAs. He has very little student loan debt (I have virtually none), and he’s working while studying which is good.

        However, he’s trying to support his mom and himself on just his salary, and his salary is ok for someone in the suburbs but definitely would strain while supporting more than one person.

        He’s frugal and only spends money on very special occasions. He only travels to visit friends once a year, if that, and spends most of his time at work or buried in books…

        Tl;dr: bf is frugal with the tight(ish) amount he has, kind of. I guess…

    4. LawCat

      We use a software program called “You Need a Budget” (aka YNAB) to resolve uncertainty about finances. We use “YNAB 4” aka “YNAB Classic”, the desktop version of the software though there is a new version that is web-based. We use it to track money we are setting aside from specific goals like saving for a vacation or down payment. I don’t wonder or worry about that money because I know exactly where I am with those goals even with my other obligations. There is a whole methodology behind YNAB and they have free classes to help people understand and get a handle on their finances.

      I also recommend the book “All Your Worth” by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi, which is about having a plan for your money and a balanced approach toward what you do with it.

      YNAB and that book have done more to help me make a plan for my money and keep on track (and “rolling with the punches” as they arise). I used to worry because I didn’t have a plan and didn’t have a grip on what I was doing. It was like a cloud of uncertainty that has gone away.

      If you and your bf are in it for the long haul, you definitely need to be on the same page financially. I recommend “1001 Questions to Ask Before You Get Married” (I think this is beneficially for any long term relationship regardless of the legal status as married or not). It covers finances among many other important topics! It can really help both people communicate.

      1. Jen

        We calculate out net worth on a monthly basis, in excel.

        I started this because I was very anxious that we made 2 good incomes and modest spending habits but we didn’t know where the money went- not piling up as we’d imagined in savings.

        As it turns out, by inputting the balances on our cars, mortgages, loans, and bank accounts (inc retirement), we can watch out net worth dramatically increase month over month. Our salaries were going toward substantially lowering out student loan payments, paying off our cars, the kids 529s, and into our retirement funds, so the savings wasn’t as apparent in our regular savings account (which of course grows, just more modestly).

        It may not work for everyone but it sure helped me!

        This way of tracking showed me that we increased our net worth by over $250k in the past 2 years, even though our savings account/emergency fund balance has only increased by 15k or so.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger

      You might want to look for couples counseling to talk about money. Or you could try it yourselves, if you can both talk about why you are doing what you do without getting defensive (both about yourselves, and about why you feel what the other person is doing isn’t working or isn’t going to work). Some problems can be dealt with simply by realizing that the motivation behind them is something old that is holding you back. Sometimes you may have good reasons, but the other person might not understand them.

      For example (just pulling this out of thin air), say he doesn’t want to give you the details because when his mom had details, she wrecked herself financially, and the only way he can make sure that things are taken care of is to be this firewall between her and her finances. He doesn’t need to do that with you, but that’s how he grew up and formed his relationships and how he learned to handle money, so it will be hard to unlearn that habit. It’s not even a bad habit, it just has to be applied judiciously.

      Anyway, good luck. If you can promise to listen without expressing judgement or fears at first, maybe something like that would get him to open up and then you could come back to him a day later with your concerns about his approach.

      1. fposte

        Yeah, I think the bf has a caretaking tendency that he developed with his family, but is a double-edged sword in a partner. It’s lovely to be taken care of, but it’s best when it doesn’t completely replace being able to take care of yourself.

    6. Dan

      Well, depending on what you’re looking for in financial security, getting involved with someone who is taking care of aging family members works against that goal.

      To manage the stress, it helps to know where you’re money is going and what your cash flow looks like.

      The most depressed I’ve ever been in my life was when my ex was spending money we didn’t have, and I spent several months just paying credit card bills and not saving anything.

      That was not sustainable.

      1. Carmen Sandiego JD

        Thanks for the input.

        I agree re: cash flow, knowing where it all goes.

        In our convo this past weekend, bf stated (when I asked) that he would always check before any major purchases with me because he knows how important it is to us both–ie) a pet, a vehicle, property ownership, so we’re on the same page with that. He is very frugal but needs to spend money to support himself and his mom.

        Re: aging parent, it’s pretty much a package deal. However, it may eventually pay off later on because he’s stated she could live in an in-suit attached to the property and we’d be set for (hypothetical) childcare and puppy care if need be (and childcare costs as much as a mortgage these days so we’d really need it).

        But yup, contemplating/thinking things through…

        1. Not So NewReader

          My husband and I had a rule of checking with each other before buying anything over $100. That cut off fit our budget needs, I have heard of couples using a higher figure or a lower figure as their cut off point.
          What was important here, was not that we would overrule each other, it was that we would tell each other so the other one did not go out and spend bucks on something also. We would pace out the purchases. This came about because we agreed to pay off our credit cards each month and we would help each other meet that goal. If I knew he spent $150 on something, I would postpone my big purchase until next month. And he would do the same for me. This way we never missed on paying the cards in full each month.

  52. AliCat

    So I have this small problem where I’m addicted to getting degrees. I work at a college and I get to take college classes for free, so obviously thats a problem because I can’t stop. Like…will have 5 or 6 by the end of next year level of crazy. Anyone else experience this? A lot of people (particularly my family) have been giving me hell about it lately and I think my fiancé thinks I’m insane, but I have no idea how to explain it, because the whole “I’ll be more marketable” thing just isn’t cutting it anymore, especially because I’ve been taking more and more classes and now don’t have time for much because I’m so busy between full time work and full time school (luckily this isn’t a problem for fiancé because he currently lives on the other side of the world). But…they’re free and I love learning! So is anyone else a perpetual learner and how did you know when to stop?

    I would include this in the work section, but since this is something I’m doing for fun I don’t really count it as entirely related – but please delete if you think otherwise.

    1. Not So NewReader

      I probably could have been a perpetual student, I used to joke about it.

      Watch excesses of anything. When we do something to the exclusion of doing other major life things, that can be avoidance. Is there something you are afraid of and therefore avoiding it?

      What would you do with your free time if you did not take classes? How would you feel about having that free time, is it scary to you? How are your relationships with those around you? What are your long term goals? Don’t answer if you don’t want to, but do mull these things over.

      1. Not So NewReader

        I should say, I was talking earlier about growing up pretty naive. Looking back on it, I may have thought that constant classes would make me less naive. I do know that we latch on to the nearest life preserver. It was easy to think schooling was a magic bullet. I did find that all those classes did not fill my void.

      2. Dynamic Beige

        What she said. It doesn’t have to be “bad” to be an addiction. This is only my personal opinion but I think most addiction is about avoiding something. Food, TV, alcohol, video games, none of those are bad in general but you can do all of them to excess. You get something out of taking all these classes beyond the degrees. You may get to feel superior to the rest of your family because of all your education. You may get to avoid your family because you’re always “busy”. You may get to avoid having a social life for the same reason. School and learning is something you can control, to a degree. It can be a way to avoid growing up and leave that world behind. You’re lucky that you get to take these courses for free, most people don’t have that option. But it sounds like you’ve overdone it if people are complaining that you always choose school over them.

    2. Elizabeth West

      I am not an expert on anything, but I would say it’s time to stop whatever you are doing when it starts to interfere with living other parts of your life. If you have a long-distance fiance, eventually you will be in the same place as this person, correct? Or if he’s traveling, he’ll come back at some point? I think maybe you should start to ease off before that happens. You didn’t say, but I imagine your family is concerned because it is interfering somewhat. Addiction is addiction–it doesn’t matter what the addictive substance is. The patterns are the same.

      You may need to talk to someone about it to help you figure out the reasons for this and break the pattern. Does your work have an EAP, or are you allowed to make use of the counseling services there?

      1. AliCat

        I think I like taking classes because I’m still trying to find out what I want to do. Originally when I went to school I went into archaeology because its what I thought I wanted to do and I loved it – that and I got sold the idea that I was special and that I would be able to rise above the crummy job forecast in that field and less than stellar phd funding. So I found out the hard way – three degrees later – that that wasn’t the case and that I didn’t want to be a professor. So I started from scratch taking an admin job in the only thing I knew, higher ed. So the classes are for me to explore everything I didn’t get a chance to explore during my undergrad because I didn’t think I was smart enough to do it (computer science, business, etc). So I think eventually I’ll get to a point where I’ll have a better idea of where I want to go from here, all I know is that I hate being an admin (love higher education though) and having no input into things. So I’m trying to figure it all out and it seems like the more and more I look into things I keep seeing that I need a degree in X or Y and so I guess I’ve just starting collecting them with the hope that when I do figure out what clicks with me, I’ll already have the degree there ready for me to pounce.
        That and, you’re totally right, I’m avoiding having a social life because I hate the city I live in and I don’t plan on staying longer than I have to so I figure that I should make the most of my time here. I hope to move to be with my fiancé but there are a lot of things that need to fall into place before that happens and of course all of these things are out of my control. So I think I thought that I’m doing what I can to make me feel like I have control over something and working towards that goal by giving me more options when I get there.

        I appreciate the thought about EAP – before I started classes again I actually had severe anxiety – likely because I felt like I didn’t have much control over my life and spoke to a therapist about it at length. But now that I’m working towards something the anxiety is pretty much gone so in this case I think classes (to a certain extent) are actually helping me.

        1. Allison Mary

          When I read your initial post, my first thought was, “Why the hell do any of these people care? If you’re doing what brings you happiness and you’re not hurting yourself or anyone else, it’s none of their damn business whether you get a million degrees or not.” I mean, if you were going deeper and deeper into debt, it could be argued that you’re hurting yourself financially – but these are free classes!

          Then I read your other post (directly above the one I’m writing), and now I can kinda see how it COULD be viewed as an avoidance strategy. You said you’re an admin and you hate it, and you want to do something else, but you don’t really know what. And it seems like the subtext of what you’re saying is that you’re hoping taking a million different kinds of classes will help you figure that out. And I don’t necessarily believe that that’s true. My experience has been that subject matter in a classroom is VERY DIFFERENT from the same subject matter in the real work world. Things that are awful in the classroom might be really fun in the real work world (my own example: my accounting classes mostly suck, but I found in my first real office job that I loved spreadsheets, analyzing data, presenting it in usable formats so that managers can make decisions off of it – so I’m fairly confident that the real world of accounting will be much more enjoyable for me).

          So maybe it’s time to start figuring out some other means of making a decision as to what career path you want to pursue? Maybe this could be done through a series of informational interviews and ideally getting to job-shadow someone for a day? Or volunteer work, even? Whatever it is that would get you closest to the “real world” experience of that job would probably be ideal. Maybe you could even stay in higher education, if having the opportunity to take free classes is an important benefit to you – there have got to be higher-up positions you could pursue within the academia world (university systems) that wouldn’t necessarily involve being on the educational side of academia.

        2. Dynamic Beige

          Have you ever done any skills or interest testing? Maybe going through What Color Is Your Parachute will give you a better idea of what to do. I mean, it sounds like you’re shooting darts in the dark, hoping you get a bull’s eye. The university you work at might offer some sort of skills testing service.

          Where does your fiancé live? What kinds of things are available there? I met someone recently who just up and decided to move halfway around the world, thinking that when they got there, of course the doors would open for them because they were a robotics engineer. Wound up teaching English for 7 years.

          1. AliCat

            Oh thanks for that suggestion, I’ll definitely look into that. He lives in the UK so while I’m still worried about moving, I’m not overly concerned that I won’t eventually be able to find something.

        3. Elizabeth West

          Ah, okay, that makes more sense. I guess you’re very lucky that the classes are free! If mine were, I might still be taking some myself. I’ve tried to audit some, but even though my alma mater says, “Oh alumni can totally audit classes!” they make it such an ordeal to get into them that it’s not worth it.

          At some point soon, however, you’re going to have to decide on something. A whole bunch of disparate degrees aren’t going to help you as much as focusing on something, and you will want to gain some work experience before you move.

    3. themmases

      Honestly I do think this can be a problem even if it’s free. This is a really common pattern I see mostly with my friends who have stayed in education or academia or else just gone on to grad school. (And I am a grad student so you can take this with a grain of salt if you want.)

      A degree program, especially a grad degree or certificate, is for when you do know what you want, not when you’re still deciding. They are really not necessary in every job and can even hold you back from changing fields or make you seem overqualified. Get too many and you can just seem unfocused or like you weren’t ready to leave school. Ideally a degree should be the smartest choice for your plan A and at least not a millstone around your neck for your plan B and C. Even as someone who is in grad school myself, I worry about my friends I see repeating this pattern with multiple masters degrees, professional degrees in fields where they’ve never worked, or degrees they’re taking to find out what they like. Even if they luck out and pick one, they will someday have to explain the others and will be years behind other people their age at actually working. I think if they got out of education even briefly, and stopped thinking of jobs as boiling down to teacher or student, they would see good work being done and fascinating roles to fill everywhere.

      While there are some things, especially totally new topics or activities that need a lot of resources, where taking classes makes sense, it’s a mistake to think that loving learning means you need to take classes. For an educated and disciplined adult, many fascinating topics can be explored on your own. Every educational journey that goes beyond just dabbling will eventually require research and work too specialized for any class. Other than maybe specific hard skills, degrees that don’t push you there aren’t truly getting you to learn much. There is probably a lot you could learn about a good future path for yourself through observing, researching, and really thinking about what you do and don’t get from your role–but classes and the idea that you can just credential your way there are taking the energy and focus you would need to do that.

    4. Student

      Maybe the question to ask is, “What am I getting out of this?”

      Are you really doing this because you enjoy learning? Have you looked into other ways to learn things? Are you taking classes that challenge you, or ones you easily pass? Is this a way to make yourself feel smart? Is this your social outlet? Is this a way to make yourself feel younger? Is this a way to avoid dealing with your spouse’s absence, or a way to cope with it?

  53. Canadian University Reader

    I hope I’m not too late. I was recently accepted into a study abroad program at university in England and I’m having a hard time making a decision about whether or not I’m going to go. The university is a good school, but it’s not a great school. It’s located about an hour and half from London.

    I guess, my problem is it’s not my top choice school and it’s not exactly where I wanted it to be. But, it feels like this is the opportunity of a lifetime and I shouldn’t be worried about those two things. Does anyone have advice for making a decision about whether or not you’re going to study abroad.

    1. Jascha

      An hour and a half from London is probably a good thing! That’s close enough to get there without too much difficulty if you want to spend a weekend (or even a day) there, but far enough that you won’t be paying London prices for everything. If you want to say where the school would be located, perhaps one of us will be able to tell you more about it.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        I completely agree with this. I studied abroad at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. My first choice? Nope. But it ended up being a great one, and I still have friends in Norwich. A couple of times, I hopped on the train, went to a matinee in the West End, went back to Norwich. Things were cheap, and university towns generally have plenty to do. Norwich is now where BBC East is headquartered, and though it wasn’t the case 20 years ago, it was a lovely place to get to know England.

        That’s another argument for outside-of-London. I love London, it’s a great city, but in my opinion, it’s more an international center (centre!) than a great example of England. Get out of town and see more of that wonderful island.

        1. Anonymous Educator

          I’m so glad you had that experience. I studied abroad at UEA and wasn’t a fan. I made a few great friends there (yay!), but I really went to London every chance I got.

    2. fposte

      Are you willing to say what school it is? People may have more information if you do.

      In the U.S., there’s not a ton of attention paid to the academic credentials of where you study abroad in undergraduate–it’s usually a short interval of a semester or a year. And there’s so much to the experience that isn’t academic that I wouldn’t overfocus on that.

      It sounds like you had a clear picture of what study abroad would be, and now that it’s not going to be that, you’re having a hard time bonding with the notion. But, you know, it wasn’t going to be like that clear picture anyway, and that’s why it’s valuable. I’m not saying you have to do it–it’s a lot of trouble to go through if it’s not going to be worth it to you–but I do think this might be a setback of expectations rather than of reality.

      1. Canadian University Reader

        It’s the University of Birmingham. You’re right, I did have a very clear picture about what it was going to be like and now I am less sure.

        1. Elkay

          Try not to think of Birmingham as an hour and a half outside of London and think of it as a city in it’s own right. It’s the second largest city in the UK. I’ve never been there but it’s an incredibly popular city that’s undergone a lot of regeneration and is very popular with students. My old boss was from Birmingham and hated London, always preferred Birmingham for a night out.

        2. mander

          A friend of mine is a lecturer in history at Birmingham, so perhaps I’m a bit biased (actually she’s part Canadian, too!), but it’s still a great city and a good university. As others have mentioned it’s the second biggest city in the UK and it has tons of amenities. It suffered a lot from WWII as well as later ill-conceived development projects, so it is perhaps not as pretty as London, but then again London has some really awful dumps of neighborhoods, too.

          It’s also likely to be a bit less expensive than London, so you might be able to afford to do more traveling around the country, going out to events, etc.

        3. Jascha

          Birmingham may not be the pictureque rose garden of England, but it’s one of the largest cities in the country and an up-and-coming tech hub. There are plenty of cool things to do there, it’s not far to London if you want to get there (or Manchester! Manchester is great!), and it’s large enough to be a good location if you want to go farther afield (airport connections, trains, and so on). Look into the city before you write it off.

          It’s also #3 on this list:
          http://www.theguardian.com/careers/gallery/2016/feb/02/the-10-happiest-cities-to-work-in-the-uk-in-pictures

    3. hermit crab

      I had the opportunity to do a semester abroad and decided not to. I went to a very rigorous school for undergrad and ultimately decided that it was more important to me to get the most out of my academic experience there, rather than the cultural/language experience of studying abroad (so I stayed home and got a double major instead). And I felt really guilty about it at the time — it felt like such a selfish decision to turn down an opportunity that other people would jump at. But, honestly, it’s all about what’s important to you.

      Also, you will (hopefully) have a long life and a long career and lots of other opportunities to travel! You may not have this exact opportunity again, but you can still go to cool places and experience them and learn things –without needing to worry about studying for exams and plus you won’t be surrounded by a lot of bratty undergrads on school breaks. :)

      That said, at least in my experience, not one single person will ever, ever care about the reputation of the school where you studied abroad. Try not to let that get in the way of figuring out what’s right for you.

    4. super anon

      I did study abroad at a not so desirable school in Korea (it’s not a popular school for study abroad and it isn’t globally ranked) and it was the best experience of my entire undergrad. My home university is a top 40 school known for being incredibly academically rigorous with notoriously difficult grading. The school I went to in comparison was super easy – but I am so glad for it. Because I wasn’t spending 24/7 focusing on my studies I had more time to explore Seoul and to make friends, and speak Korean with native speakers. I highly recommend anyone who can go on exchange to do so – it was such an amazing experience and I wish I could go do it all over again.

    5. AnotherTeacher

      Is this experience solely about academics? If so, and if participating in this program will negatively impact your academic career, then don’t. Otherwise…

      (1) It’s easy to travel around Britain. You can visit London, the gorgeous countryside, small villages, etc.
      (2) It’s easy to travel around Europe. When will you have the chance again to take a weekend jaunt to Italy? Maybe you are someone who will be able to do this, but for many people, a semester abroad is the the only time for these possibilities.
      (3) You might have a more authentic experience outside of London. I can’t speak to Birmingham, but I did study abroad and later worked in London. Depending on where you live, it can be hard to get to know people outside of your classes/workplace.

    6. misspiggy

      I think it’s time to be really honest with yourself about why you applied, and what you want out of the next year or whatever it is. If you wanted a gold-plated CV or reputation boost, maybe this isn’t the answer. But if you want a decent academic experience and the chance to explore the landscape, culture and food of Britain and Europe, Birmingham is an ideal choice. It’s big, friendly, cheaper than London and right in the middle of all the transport connections anyone could want.

  54. Jascha

    I know this is a bit late to be asking, and perhaps I should be waiting until next week to ask, but I’ve been agonizing about this lately: when you hit the point in your career when you are actually capable of saving money (or spending more than the absolute minimum to survive), how do you decide what to do?

    To use myself as an example: I know we need to pay off my partner’s American student loans, but I also know that we could be doing that for the next couple of decades non-stop even if we don’t spend on anything else. I know we need to save for retirement (and as we’re not having children, I’m terrified that if we don’t save enough, we’ll end up screwed when the time actually comes), but I also know that there’s no way of knowing how much is enough. I know we need to have some fun with our money, rather than just paying off student loans and stashing money in a savings account to be used in 40 years’ time, but I don’t know how to justify doing that – and even if I did, I’ve been poor for so long that I don’t dare do nice things like travel, because as much as I want to, I’m acutely conscious that those cost more than, say, treating ourselves to a takeaway.

    How do you decide what to do with your money… or how much (or how often) you’re allowed to allocate to Thing X or Thing Y?

    1. fposte

      Budget time! First, go over 2015; how much did you spend on food, on dining out, on transportation, etc.? I mean really go over it and add up the credit card entries on the annual summary.

      Figure out the loans. Are you currently making payments or are they in deferral? What are the interest rates on those loans? If you’re currently making payments, what’s the expected life of the loan on those? Are they income based? Do you have any credit card debt, car loans, etc.? How much, what interest rate, and what’s the expected life? It sounds like you’re not in the U.S.

      What retirement funding is available where you are? How much are you two eligible for? Is your partner’s income taxable in the U.S.? If it’s not excluded income, your partner can fund a Roth IRA even when living abroad, and that may be a good priority, though countries such as Canada have good options of their own.

      Then there are various templates you can explore–50/30/20 is a popular one, for instance, where 50% of your pay goes to fixed costs, 20% goes to debt repayment and savings, and 30% to variable spending. Plug in your budget information from last year and see how it maps on such a template and where there’s room.

      In general, in the U.S., you prioritize payments on high interest debt (maybe 5% and higher–the line isn’t an objective one) over savings, beyond a basic emergency fund. But low-interest loans, like a mortgage or some student loans, are supportable longterm as long as you steadily keep on payment track, and your priority is savings over paying them off more speedily. That’s hard for people in countries with less debt traditions to get used to sometimes–my Canadian friends are weirded out by a 30-year mortgage, which is standard in the U.S.–and how right it is for you will depend on a lot of other factors. But I really wouldn’t put the fun stuff completely on hold to pay off the partner’s loan ahead of schedule unless it was ruinously high interest.

      1. Jascha

        Thank you! This is great advice. For information’s sake, we are in the UK and have no ties to the USA other than my partner’s student loans.

        We budget quite strictly at the moment (or at least, we know where every penny goes). We pay into workplace pensions directly out of our paycheques, so we don’t need to include that in our budgeting – but it’s a very small amount, so we’re both conscious of the need to do more by ourselves.

        All but one of the student loans is between 3 and 7% interest, and it sounds like the thing to do is desperately pay off that one ruinously high one before doing much else. Other than that, I like this 50/30/20 plan – although we might have to slightly modify it; cost of living is high enough here that our fixed costs exceed 50% of our total pay…

    2. Gene

      The best advice I’ve heard, and that I wish I’d heard 25 years ago, is pay everything you possibly can when young, then at age 40 start putting 10% into long-term retirement. Every year increase that by 1%. By 65, you not only have a great retirement fund, but you’re also used to living on 65% of your income.

      1. Jascha

        I really like the clear-cut simplicity of this approach. Does that really result in enough savings, though? Or have I just been indoctrinated with paranoia by all of the articles out there that say, “If you’re not saving from age 25, you won’t have enough to live on EVER.”

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          It’s not that bad, but you should start with at least 3-5% as soon as you start working.

          If you save $5K/year from 25 to 35, then stop (total amount saved: $50,000), projections show you should have $602,070 at age 65.

          If you save $5K/year from age 35