Sunday free-for-all – July 6, 2014

IMG_0219It’s the Sunday free-for-all.

Since we limited Friday’s open thread to work-related discussions, this comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. Have at it.

{ 772 comments… read them below }

  1. Harley*

    I hope someone can help me with my secret shame. I’m a grown woman who can’t swallow pills unless they’re very small. Anything else I have to chew up- even capsules. I’ve tried so many times, but I can’t take that big swallow that will let the pill go down. Any advice?
    On what I’m sure is a related matter, I can’t get throat cultures. I’m not afraid of needles, the dentist, or most medical procedures, but just the thought of a stick going down my throat… It’s gotten so bad over the years that now just a tongue depresser makes me gag- the doctor or nurse can only look down my throat using their eyes- no wooden sticks of any kind! Is there any help for me?

    1. Jessa*

      First talk to your doctor, you would be surprised at how many medicines can be had in liquid form (husband can’t swallow either,) also talk to your pharmacist. Pills that can be crushed can be done in applesauce to kill the taste. I mean everything from vitamins to pain medications can be had. You may have to take more of it, but look also at the children’s section. Lots of liquids (just check the adult dosage on an adult bottle, and multiply out for yourself.) If it’s an odd rx, you can talk to the pharmacist about getting it in for you if you give them notice, but again, pediatric meds. Metric tonnes of liquids, just have to dose adjust.

      Also, talk to your doctor about either a speech therapist or a physical therapist that can look at your swallow and see if there’s actually something wrong in there that they can fix. If you’re gagging due to an actual issue you can be taught not to after they fix the problem. It takes training but you can get over the phobia caused by the swallowing issues.

      Also husband’s doctor will prescribe more pills IE instead of a giant 40mg pill he’d prescribe 4-10s. You have to swallow MORE of them but they go down easier.

      As for cultures, they can spray a numbing agent down your throat and you close your eyes and you don’t end up feeling it (I have the gag reflex from hell and have to have scopes due to vocal damage.) If you need a scope kind of test you can also have them give you something like ativan or xanax pre-procedure to relax you, so you don’t panic.

      The other issue vis “shame” is you can frame this as a physical thing. For my husband it IS one. For me it is one. You don’t have to be ashamed that you have swallowing problems at all. Me I can’t even EAT without having water or something to push the food down.

      1. Jessa*

        ETA- this is nothing to be ashamed of, if I didn’t make that clear enough. Loads and loads of people for tonnes of reasons (small throat opening, strokes, age, whatever) have trouble swallowing.

        1. Harley*

          Wow, thanks for all the great advice! Those are all good ideas- I have a friend who is a speech therapist and it never occurred to me to discuss this with her. Thanks also for the “there’s no shame in this” part. I have felt this shame since I was a little girl-your words were very comforting, thank you.

          1. Weasel007*

            I don’t have this problem but I know a lot of people who do. No need to be ashamed.

          2. Jazzy Red*

            They’re right, Harley. Loads of people have this problem (one of my sisters does).

            Listen, everyone has something that they can’t do or have trouble with, and thinks everyone else in the world can do whatever-it-is with absolutely no problem. Every person in the world has something that’s difficult for them. Honestly.

      2. HM in Atlanta*

        Re – shame. My granddad couldn’t take pills either. This is a man who was shot serving in WWII and bound his own wound, accidentally cut part of his right foot off with a lawnmover and drove himself to the hospital, and once drilled through his thumbnail to relieve pressure after he dropped a heavy tool on it.

        It’s a medical thing, not a toughen up/tough-through-it situation.

    2. Celeste*

      My MIL developed dysphagia, difficulty swallowing, from intubation injury. We had to crush her pills and put them in something thick, like applesauce. Melty ice cream might work, too. She could easily aspirate un thickened liquid like water.

      I wonder if you could desensitize your throat with ice water beforehand. I had a terrible gag reaction to some large and dusty pills once; only a pill splitter helped. I’ve seen some daily multi vitamin that now comes in a smaller size and you take two of them a day; vitamins are the worst offenders as horse pills go.

      I’ve never liked taking pills but what helps me is to hold the water in my mouth first and toss the pill in on top and swallow it. Maybe some of your meds can be had in liquid suspension? That might be worth a chat with a pharmacist. Another idea is the fast melt tabs they sell for kids. You can just increase the dose until you reach an adult level. I’ve bought antihistamine and Tylenol for my daughter this way, for example. I honestly wish more drugs were available by patch and other devices, just to cut down on remembering doses in the first place.

      For the throat culture, one idea is to try a spray on anesthetic like Chloraseptic, if the doctor doesn’t think it would interfere. My dentist has something like it they use to help people who have a sensitive gag reflex.

      I’m so sorry you are dealing with this.

      1. Jessa*

        Also you can get multi vitamins in liquid form.

        Talk to your pharmacist as well. They have neutral tasting thickeners that can be put in any liquid you want to drink.

    3. KCS*

      Not to get all hygienic, but do you brush your tongue when you brush your teeth? Including the back of your tongue? I gag a little when I do it, but maybe that will desensitize you to the gag reflex.

      I take those huge calcium-fortified multivitamins, and they literally make me gag if I just take them with water.

      What helps me is if I take the pill with a flavored and/or thicker liquid (e.g., milkshake). Or I eat a bite of food, chew it a bit, and pop in the pill last second, and swallow it all together so I trick myself into thinking I’m just swallowing a bite of food. I make sure the food envelopes the pill so no part of it touches my tongue. (Weird, I know.)

      Hope things work out for you!

      1. L McD*

        This is true, you can desensitize your gag reflex like anything else. It’s unpleasant, but certainly can be done.

        That said, swallowing pills is another issue and the gag thing might or might not help. I find my throat seems to “close up” if I’m psyched out at the thought of swallowing something big. Then I will gag because the pill is actually stuck in my throat, probably because of a muscle spasm that I can’t consciously control. The anxiety makes it worse.

        Take as many chewables and gummies as you can. All of my “real meds” are tiny little pills that don’t bother me, and the only thing I struggle to swallow nowadays is a supplement that’s in capsule form. The trick with capsules is to tilt your head FORWARD as you are swallowing. This seems incredibly wrong, but it causes the capsule to float to the back of your throat and slide down without any struggle. Note this won’t work for gel caps or anything weird, just standard issue capsules that are pretty light/floaty. And don’t tilt immediately, get the swallow going first and then tilt. It really works.

        That said, almost anything except for very specific/proprietary stuff is probably going to be available as a chewable, gummy, or liquid. Unless it’s a prescription pharmaceutical, which tend to be quite small.

        1. Jessa*

          And even with proprietary stuff, a compounding pharmacist can do wonders. There are people who can swallow ZERO, those on tubes, etc. and they still have to have meds. If it gets that bad, you get it in a shot. Maintenance meds through an IV if need be. The point is mostly that people who have swallow issues are fairly common and a good doc/pharmacist team can work miracles on just the FORM of medication.

      2. Chris80*

        I’m going to second the flavored liquid thing. I didn’t learn to swallow pills until my late teen years, and what did it for me is swallowing the pill with a sweet tasting liquid – orange juice, grape juice…even soda! If you’ve only tried taking them with water so far, this might be worth a try.

    4. Stephanie*

      Oh man, I went to the dentist a couple of weeks ago and they used a dental dam and clamp. I spit it out twice. I feel your pain.

    5. Luxe in Canada*

      As others have said, you are not alone in this, and there is absolutely nothing shameful in not being able to swallow pills. My dad still doesn’t do pills, and he likely never will. I think there are two ways to go from here, to build up your tolerance if that is something you want to do, and to get medication into your body without pills in the meantime.

      If you want to build up your tolerance, it’s pretty simple. You’d take a popsicle stick or something and put it as far along your tongue as you feel like you can hold it for five seconds, and then try to, y’know, actually keep it there. Do this often, and you’ll be able to get it further back. It will make medical and dental visits easier, and when you’re 75% along the way you could try swallowing a small pill like vitamin D in yogurt or applesauce. No shame in spitting it out. It’s your body, you control it, and even trying is a big step.

      As for getting meds into you, the greatest place for this would be to find a compounding pharmacy. They cost a bit more than a drugstore (at least, here in Canada), but it would be worth checking out. The compounding pharmacies I’ve been to have been able to make an astonishing number of meds in liquid form, including for children and pets. There might be a sublingual version (under the tongue), or a topical form might work, since some meds can be mixed into an ointment and spread on your skin. Talk to them and see what options there are for the meds you need. Crushed pills can be mixed into applesauce or yogurt, and if the taste is an issue then a spoonful of chocolate syrup covers a lot of evil.

      Finally, a story. When I was a teen, I had some pretty drastic jaw surgery and I had a big ol’ mess of elastics holding my jaws together. I couldn’t open my mouth far enough to swallow pills, so I stopped taking pain meds but I couldn’t stop taking antibiotics. We crushed up penicillin and mixed it with undiluted cream of mushroom soup. It was exactly as awful as it sounds. So when you are crushing meds and sighing that it would be so much simpler if you could just swallow the pills instead, just be happy that cream of shroom soup plays no part in your day! :)

    6. CCT*

      I don’t know if this would work for you if it’s a psychological thing, but with a particularly nasty, decent-sized pill I have to take without it touching the inside of my mouth, I take a medium-sized sip of water, and tilt my head back so far I can literally drop it down my throat (in one fluid motion with the water going down-not even a real swallow, just gravity) without feeling it at all. Good luck, and I second Jessa’s advice for talking to your doctor-he or she should have lots of ways to help. :)

      1. CCT*

        PS-I have a horrible gag reflex with tongue depressors/throat cultures too! They’re terrible.

    7. Prickly Pear*

      There’s a product called Pill Glide that you can get at your pharmacy, or have them order it for you. The tablet gets coated in a slippery substance that, well, glides down your throat.

    8. kas*

      I was the same way regardless of the size. I had to either chew or drink liquid medicine which was terrible. Honestly, I got over it by just sucking it up. I knew I didn’t want to take liquid medicine and hated the taste when I chewed it so I just put the pill in my mouth with water and without thinking about it, swallowed it. If I think about it, it takes a while for me to calm myself down to try again.

    9. KrisL*

      Don’t be ashamed. I also have a hard time swallowing pills, but I finally learned something that works for me.

      If I start chewing on a piece of cheese (or basically anything reasonably chewy nothing like chips with sort of sharp edges) and then pop the pill into my mouth, I can usually swallow the pill along with the cheese I’ve been eating.

    10. De (Germany)*

      The most valuable tip I ever got for swallowing pills was to never do it like they do on TV – don’t tilt your head backward, tilt it forward. That creates more space in your throat. If I recall correctly, it took me lots of practice with small bits of food before I could finally do it, but in the end, I learned it.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        That’s very interesting. I never heard that before. I’m glad you found something that works for you.

    11. The Other Dawn*

      I’m a bariatric patient and have to have everything in liquid or chewable form at the moment. I’m not allowed to swallow anything bigger than a Tic Tac. So when it comes to pain relief, I use the children’s chewable Tylenol. I have to take more of it, but it dissolves fast. For more serious pain I use liquid Lortab. Almost any medication can be had in chewable, crushable, or liquid form. You just need to ask.

      When it comes to vitamins, you can buy adult chewables. I buy my chewable vitamins at celebratevitamins.com. Because of the makeup of the vitamins, I’m not sure if they would be best for you, but you can check them out. They taste great and chew up really well.

      In terms of the gag reflex, mine was awful prior to my weight loss surgery. I couldn’t even brush my teeth without gagging. And forget trying to use Chloraseptic spray. I gagged just holding my mouth open for them to spray it. But now that I’ve lost weight, my gag reflex is gone. Apparently we lose weight everywhere, not just the body core. I won’t ask, but if you have a bad gag reflex, weight could be part of it.

      In terms of swallowing pills, it might not be physical. Maybe it’s just something in your subconscious that prevents you from doing it. I had an issue swallowing large pills, and smaller pills, even tiny ones, I had to swallow one at a time. When my mom died, I suddenly had no issue swallowing them. I would take three Tylenol capsules at one time without issue. It sounds bizarre, but I always had the child mindset when it came to pills. But when my mom died, I made the switch in my mind from child to adult in that respect. Not sure why and I know it sounds weird.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      As always, very impressive advice here. I would like to add one more idea- check with a chiropractor. Make sure your neck, etc, is in alignment. Check with friends/family for recommendations and then when you call, ask if the doctor has had experience in helping with swallowing problems. IF no, then move to your next choice on your list. Oddly, also investigate for stomach issues.
      Don’t be surprised if there is more than one reason this is happening- in other words there are several minor problems but together these problems work into a major hassle for swallowing.
      And yes, skip the embarrassment part- that only slows you down on your road to finding helps and solutions. Your body has something going on and it is telling you about it.

    13. Windchime*

      There might actually be something physical happening, too. One of my kids had a hair-trigger gag reflex when he was very young, but then a doctor discovered that his adenoids were HUGE and there was just a tiny opening at the back of his throat for swallowing. Once he had his adenoids (and tonsils, since they were in there anyway) removed, his gagging and choking stopped.

      1. Meesh*

        OP here, I never dreamed I would get so many comments with really good suggestions- not to mention kindness and compassion. Thank you all!

        1. Mimco*

          I work in a nursing home and as you can guess, lots of people have trouble with pills. I do as well, so I feel your gag…Take a drink of water, put the pill in a spoon full of pudding or applesauce and swallow, follow with water. Be careful about crushing pills or taking capsules apart without checking with a pharmacist first. That can actually be dangerous with a variety of medications. There are a lot of liquid medications, as previously mentioned, just ask your pharmacist. Your problem might also be mild dehydration, if you aren’t staying hydrated and drinking enough through the day, pills are more likely to stick. Good-luck!

    14. BuildMeUp*

      Have you tried the trick where you tuck your thumb against your palm, make a fist around it, and squeeze as you’re swallowing? (Google “gag reflex thumb trick” if that doesn’t make sense!) I’ve always had difficulty swallowing pills, and this has helped me a lot.

    15. LD*

      Please don’t feel badly about this. And do follow the advice about checking with your doctor. I have a close friend who has had to have her throat stretched…yes, it’s a real procedure, and she’s been having it done every few years. She doesn’t like it but it’s necessary because her throat begins to tighten and make it harder for her to swallow even small bites. Your doctor should be able to direct you to help…not saying you have the same ailment, but it might be worth looking into, along with all the other great suggestions to get your medicines in a form that is more comfortable for you to take. Good luck!

    16. Astor*

      Another food that’s good for mixing with pills is jam. I take a small spoonful of jam, slip a pill into the middle, and then I can slurp it down.

      For tongue depressors, I like the idea of practicing at home with a toothbrush, except I’d definitely suggest getting a tongue scraper instead so that the bristles aren’t making it harder. Or even just practicing on your own with a flat plastic something. Also, I’ve noticed that some tongue depressors are dryer than others, which makes me gag more quickly, so that might be something you can particularly pay attention to. And I bet if you explain your problem to your doctor/nurse and that you’re trying to make it better, that they’d give you a handful of tongue depressors so that you can get used to them on your own time.

  2. Anna Moose*

    After years of renting, we’re thinking of buying a house. We have some emergency savings but nowhere near the magical 20% for a down payment. If you own a house, how did you pay for your down payment? A rich uncle? Leprechauns? Lottery winnings? Or just plain old tightening of the financial belts? I have no idea how we’re going to afford the down payment or where to even get started.

    1. Jessa*

      Just be aware if you get it from a rich uncle the bank is going to be all over making sure the source is not another LOAN.

      Honestly the only house I ever owned was bought out of my mother’s estate, so I got no clue except to say Google is your friend, belt tighten, possibly some very low risk investments (money you’re saving should be working for you even for a couple of percentage points.) Also look into government mortgages (is anyone a veteran in the household, there’s help for that,) also a lot of vet groups do financial planning with you.

      Honestly talk to your banker too. If you trust your bank and are thinking of ultimately taking your mortgage with them, ask them, the may be able to steer you to some very good advice.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        If your down payment is a gift, there’s only one additional form to fill out called a gift affidavit. In the grand scheme of mortgage paperwork, it was the easiest form I filled out.

    2. KJ*

      I don’t own a house yet, but I’ve been successfully working on saving up the down payment. I have mostly done this by automating my savings first, and then learning to live off of what’s left after I’ve saved for emergencies, down payment, retirement, etc. To do this, I calculated the amount a mortgage payment would be, and used that to estimate the amount I needed to be able to save. My formula: monthly savings toward downpayment = estimated mortage – current rent. That way I am getting used to allocating that chunk of my budget toward housing before I actually commit to a mortage. I figure if I have trouble doing that now, I have no business buying a house. It’s also good, when estimating your potential future mortgage payment, to build things like higher utilities, property taxes, PMI fees, etc., into that amount.

      I also save separately toward an emergency fund since I know I will still need a separate fund for that even after I get a house. After all, houses are great, but they can be money pits!

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        This is so smart. I did this for a year or 2 before I bought my first house, so that the mortgage payment wouldn’t be too much of a shock. I’d been living with a friend, and he owned the house and was renting the basement to me for practically nothing. I knew if I didn’t prepare for a mortgage before moving that it would end very badly.

      2. Jazzy Red*

        I’m living in my second money pit, and I recently retired. I want to get a much smaller place and go back to renting after my dogs die. Yes, I call my house “My Money Pit”. (My dogs are in second place on that list, but I love them much more than I do my house.)

        Having a 20% down payment, and knowing that you are able to pay the mortgage, taxes, insurance, maintenance and upkeep are essential when buying a house. I bought mine 7 years ago, with a 20% down payment and a good job. Several people in my subdivision bought homes with no down payment and what I consider really risky mortgage contracts, and all of them have lost their homes. Wait until you get your down payment to jump into home ownership.

        Be safe – not sorry.

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      Since you’re talking about the 20%, I’m assuming you’re in the US. Interest rates are still pretty low I think. The most important thing is your credit score. Also, make sure your credit cards are either all paid off or at very low balances. If they’re all maxed out, it makes you look like you live beyond your means.

      Do either of you have a 401(k)? Most plans (or maybe all, if it’s based on IRS regulations) will let you borrow money to make a down payment on a house. That might be one option, but then of course you do have to pay it back, and if you leave your job you’d have to reimburse it immediately or face a penalty. But it’s an option.

      I would suggest trying your bank first for a loan, if you’ve been doing business with them for any amount of time. That’s what we did when we bought our last place. Even then, though, they made us jump through A LOT of hoops with providing proof of employment and all kinds of other stuff, even though our credit scores are both about 800 and we’ve both been in our jobs for many years. It might be worth talking to your bank, laying out your financial situation, and see what you could pre-qualify for. This is great to have when you start looking because if you find a house you want, you can tell the seller that your financing is already approved and set a closing date right away. And also, a good realtor is invaluable, and a bad one can potentially blow it for you. Ask around and get a recommendation from a friend.

      In our area, the market is pretty hot right now. We bought our house 2 years ago and the value has already significantly increased. If you can find a motivated seller and be in the right place at the right time, you might be able to buy a place, pay the PMI for a year or 2, and if the value of your home increases, your equity might be at 20%, which would let you get rid of that.

      And of course — save every penny you can.

      1. fposte*

        You can also draw on IRAs–you can take up to 10k out of a traditional IRA for first-time homebuying expenses, and you can always take your contributions (not the growth) out of a Roth IRA without penalty.

        (But don’t. Just saying that you *could.*)

    4. A Teacher*

      Look for grant programs depending on where you are hoping to live as well. I was able to buy a home with a 10% “down payment” that was a grant based on my income and calls for me to live here for a set number of years. A friend of mine just got a grant called “building blocks” where she had to buy a home that was deemed vacant (empty at least 2 weeks) and it paid the magical 20%.

    5. Noah*

      I just started saving money and cutting things out. For instance, when I paid off my car I didn’t run out an buy a new one, instead I put the payment into savings. I also started putting everything into Quicken and really tracking where I was spending money. It was really the result of lots of small things. I didn’t and don’t live like a pauper but I did learn to prioritize things a bit.

    6. Journalist Katie*

      Don’t forget to look into first time home buyer’s loans. They sometimes require less of a down payment (at least the ones we looked into). I want to say the ones we looked at required 5 percent down?

      I can’t remember the details (because it’s late – we’ve been in the house for less than a month), but we bought a foreclosed home and put a whopping $100 down. We did have to pay for closing costs, though, which I think were were about 5 percent.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        A foreclosure or a short sale can be great options, although the deals are often shaky and fall through at the last minute. At least that’s what I’ve heard about short sales. There were a few out there that were soooo tempting when we were looking, but our realtor slapped our hands and told us to stay away.

        He said they’re great if you don’t have a timetable, and if you’re OK with having the deal go to hell in a handbasket and having to start over again. But if you need to be in a home by X date to get your kids registered in school, or to coincide with the closing on the sale of your old house, it’s too risky. So it was not something we could pursue, but Anna Moose I would look into this option too, if it’s feasible.

        1. Journalist Katie*

          All good points – we stumbled upon the house right after it was listed. We also don’t have kids and there wasn’t really an urgency for us to buy. Buying a foreclosure was definitely a headache, but we ended up getting a great deal.

          All that said, we’re aware we got really, really lucky with it – the timing, the process, everything.

          1. Jazzy Red*

            What condition was your house in? Around here, people really trash their homes when they lose them, and there’s a lot of work to do on them.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        We took out a first time home buyer’s loan. The rates were very high. I did a refi at the 15 year mark and got a much more reasonable rate(less than half of what we were paying). But the first time home buyer’s loan was the only way we could get a house.

    7. Clever Name*

      We’re on our 3rd house now. First house, we saved up by living in crappy rentals and driving old cars for years still had to pay Private mortgage insurance, since we didn’t have 20% down. This was in like 2003. Second house, moved to another state. Still had to pay PMI. Our new house, finally able to put 20% down due to the proceeds of the sale of our 2nd house. Not sure of any other advice other than live below your means.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Which is great advice, because houses are black holes into which one throws money. So, once you get into a house, it’s still a great idea to live below your means.

    8. Evilduck*

      Buying a home was one of the best things I ever did! I can’t tell you how nice it is to come home from a long trip to a place that’s MINE. So kudos!

      As a first-time home-buyer, you (and your spouse) can take up to $10k each (for a total of $20k) out of an IRA without having to pay any early distribution penalty fees (you do still have to pay any applicable taxes). This was one of the ways I saved money.

      I also only put down 10% for the down payment. Sure, I’m paying PMI now, but that goes away once you hit the magic 20% number. Just make sure your credit is impeccable!

      1. LD*

        FYI, in my experience, you have to ask (or even demand) that your PMI be cancelled once you reach that 20% equity. It’s important that you track that and make the request once you are there.

    9. Stephanie*

      I haven’t bought a house, but I’ve been privy to my parents’ last few purchases (yeah…we’ve moved a lot).

      Current house was bought with the proceeds from a short sale (yeah…they bought in Arizona in the mid-2000s…). My folks moved around the corner, literally, and bought this house for half what they paid for the prior house. I can see the old house from the backyard of the new house. The prior house, my dad took a loan from his 401(k) for the mortgage.

      My friend just bought a condo in an expensive coastal city (NYC/SF/LA). He does make six figures, but he said he did something where he’s co-owner with his parents (and they may have gifted him part of the down payment).

      DC (and other counties and municipalities in the area) had grants for first-time homebuyers when I was still there.

    10. KrisL*

      I could only afford about 17% the first time I bought a house. Was so glad to pay off the PMI!

      I grew up kind of lower middle class (didn’t worry about not having food, but were very much into the reduce, reuse because we couldn’t afford not to reduce and reuse stuff) and then spent my college years kind of broke, so that made it easier to tighten my belt – I was already used to that.

    11. The Other Dawn*

      You really don’t need 20% down. We’re buying a house now (closing this week!) and doing 5% down on a conventional mortgage. But what that means is I’ll have to pay PMI (private mortgage insurance) monthly until we pay off a total of 20% of the original purchase price of the house. The rate is about .89% of the purchase price per month. So for us that’s an additional 140.00 on top of the mortgage payment. Yes, it sucks to pay that, but now is the time for us to buy. We aren’t willing to wait until we have 20%. You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons. If you go for an FHA loan, you can do as little as 3.5% down.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Oh and either a 401k loan or hardship withdrawal are options, too. But again, you have to weigh the pros and cons of that. We’re using some of the 401k for the closing costs.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      Going back to square one, I have a reeeally basic question: 20% of what? Please don’t answer me here. But make sure that the loan amount you are thinking of is right for you.

      I am a big fan of using a mortgage calculator backwards. I had put in the amount we could pay each month, estimated the loan % rate and put in 30 years for the payment period. I said “solve for loan amount”. I was SHOCKED. The number that came up was 33% LESS than what the loan company said I could afford. Thank goodness we used my numbers NOT what the loan company said. We took out a smaller loan on a modest house.

      Please, double check your figures. Make sure that the amount you want to spend on a house is a number that is reasonable for you, not a number that someone told you was reasonable. In my case, making this adjustment meant a difference of $8000 in my down payment.

      1. AKB*

        +1

        Really good advice above. Generally you shouldn’t spend more than 35% of your take home pay on housing, so if you calculate this number and put it into the calculator the way Not So New Reader describes above, you can find the top end of your price range for a house. It might be lower than you expect or want, but this will give you much lower odds of ever having an issue with making payments.

        1. Colette*

          And the 35% includes taxes, utilities, and maintenance, which can be a lot. Keep on mind you’ll need to pay foe a new roof, windows, plumbing, appliances…

          Also, if you put down 5% and have to sell, your downpayment will jus cover the commission.

          I love my house, but it’s expensive.

          1. SherryD*

            “And the 35% includes taxes, utilities, and maintenance, which can be a lot. Keep on mind you’ll need to pay foe a new roof, windows, plumbing, appliances…”

            Yup! Owning a house is EXPENSIVE, and you shouldn’t look at renting as “paying someone else’s mortgage.” Everybody needs a roof over their head and money for retirement. I rent a roof, and own money (my retirement savings). My friend owns a roof, and rents money (her mortgage from the bank). When you add up mortgage payments, property tax, utilities, home insurance and home maintenance, being a renter (while stashing some extra $$$ in the retirement fund,) starts to sound like a bargain!

            But it all depends on the lifestyle you want to lead. For some, owning a home is a dream come true. But don’t believe the myth that it’s the only path to financial security.

            1. fposte*

              Loudly seconding this. I actually am a homeowner and I love my house, but if I moved to a different area I’d almost certainly rent at this point. A house is not an investment. An investment is an investment. (And talking about taking money *out* of a 401k makes my heart hurt, people. That’s your retirement you’re sluicing away there, and you can’t borrow against anything for that.)

              1. Stephanie*

                +1

                I also groan when I hear about people getting into property for rental income or trying to flip houses for profit. There are easier ways to make money, people!

              2. KJ*

                This. My rent is currently half of what a mortgage payment would be, and my career situation is one where I prefer not to be tied down by property. In the meantime, I can save for some future date when the home buying timing might be right, and I can keep my retirement accounts well-funded and intact. I am in my mid-thirties and contribute to a public pension, but who knows what Social Security and public pensions will look like in 204X when I retire? I could build my down payment much more quickly if I cut back on retirement contributions, but I’d just rather be safe than sorry in that respect.

              3. Puddin*

                Oh thank you for saying this. I am not, and most likely will never be, a homeowner. I just do not view a house as an investment. I have to hear how I am throwing my money away on rent from friends. Yet, when I point out my savings plan and see the difference in quality of life as well as standard of living, I am more than satisfied with renting.

            2. Colette*

              Absolutely! My property taxes alone are >$300 a month. I just added up what I’ve paid on renovations and maintenance, and it’s $420 a month. That is a lot to pay, and doesn’t include the actual house itself. It is far cheaper to rent, much of the time.

      2. abby*

        Excellent advice. Banks use things called front end ratios (income and proposed house payment) and back end ratios (income and all debt) to pre-qualify you. I think the cut-offs they use are ridiculously high and don’t allow much left over for savings or emergencies. Please figure out what you can afford in terms of a monthly payment and go from there. I’ve never seen it end well when someone takes out the full loan amount for which they are pre-qualified.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Right. Using their calculations, a person will end up forking over 50% or more of their monthly pay for their mortgage payment. This is a train derailment in slow motion.

          1. Banker*

            This is not entirely accurate thought the practice of over-burdening people is what got the country into this financial crisis in the first place. In order to qualify for a Freddie or Fannie mortgage – your front end ratiosn (mortgage, homeowners ins, r/e taxes) can be no more than 36%, your back end ratios which includes all installment and revolving min monthly payments can be no more that 45% which should leave any qualifying applicant with over 50% of their income for lifestyle/savings/variable expenses. But Fred/Fran also require 20% down…so it is possible, if you are going through a lender offering you a better deal then that, they their in-house policies are not in line with conforming mortgages.

            1. abby*

              Yes, but aren’t these ratios calculated on gross income? By the time you factor in taxes, money left for lifestyle/savings/variable ends up being a lot less than 50%, especially if you’re in a state with a high income tax. That’s why, in my opinion, the ratios are too high.

      3. Liz*

        I had a lender tell me I ” could afford a lot more” then the mortgage amount I was willing to borrow. This, despite putting down almost 40 percent on this house by using sale proceeds from my previous home. They get commission, and I knew what I was comfortable with. Good thing I did not listen, because I knew better. Within a year and a half of buying this house, my car died, and it had to be replaced. I am not going to let someone else profit off me, while they go on their merry way. You are the one that has to make the payments, and still be able to sleep at night.

    13. Kay*

      The 20% isn’t “required” to get a loan. 20% is the magic number in order to not pay PMI. Basically PMI is insurance for the mortgage company in case you default on your loan. Banks have found through statistics that people who own 20% equity or more in their homes are much less likely to default.

      We bought a house last year and put down 3.5% (the absolute lowest you can put down) with an FHA loan. Yes, that means that ~$150 of our mortgage payment is going to pay insurance for the mortgage company, and I know Suze Orman would have a fit, but you have to live somewhere. If I can start building equity in something, even if I’m throwing away $150/month, at least I’m not throwing away my entire rent payment until I can scrape together the 20%.

      There are also classes for first time home buyers and grant programs throughout the country to help with the down payment. Go talk to someone at your bank. They are very knowledgeable about what’s available and what you might qualify for.

    14. Lisa*

      Keep in mind that once you go into escrow the real check-writing begins, a process that only accelerates once you close, so you should really plan to have more than 20% stashed away before you buy. Even if you purchase a new house and/or a house warranty, there are lots of upkeep/emergency maintenance expenses you will need to budget for, plus you’ll need to buy appliances/window treatments, etc, even if you’re not doing a major restoration or remodel. If I remember correctly, the bank is going to want to see that you’ve got a cushion of savings in addition to the 20% down, so you will want to plan for that…

    15. Artemesia*

      If you can’t save up the money then you probably are not in a position to buy a house. A house can be a real albatross around your neck if you don’t have the income to support one. There are so many unexpected expenses if you are used to renting. Not being able to save the down payment is a clue that it is too soon to become a homeowner.

    16. Windchime*

      For my first house, I used part of my divorce settlement money for a down payment. I lost money on that house because I sold it 5 years later (scary neighborhood, so I was willing to take the loss just to get out of there).

      I kept my next house for 10 years, and paid PMI for probably 5 of those years. Yes, it sucked to pay it but I didn’t have the 20% to put down on it. As soon as I had 20% equity in the house, the PMI payments stopped. When I sold that house, I made a nice little profit and was able to pay 20% down on my current house.

      If paying PMI for awhile is what it takes to get into your house and it makes good financial sense for you to buy a house, I would say pay the PMI for awhile. Also, as others have mentioned, be sure to look into first-time home buyers’ programs. Also, I believe that FHA loans will let you pay a lot less of a down payment than a traditional loan.

      Good luck! I love owning a home. I can paint when I want, change carpet when I want, pull out trees (or plant them!) when I want. I don’t have to ask anyone if I can have a cat. Love it.

    17. Anon*

      If someone does not yet have 20% for the down payment, what is the financial benefit to buying instead of renting? (I promise this is not a snarky question; I’m curious and don’t know the answer.) The whole process of buying homes is fascinating to me.

      1. Stephanie*

        Hmm, others can chime in to the financial benefits.

        When I was still in DC (and thinking of staying there long term), a big reason I looked into buying (and doing a first-time homebuyers program) was for housing cost stability. DC proper is gentrifying rapidly and it wasn’t uncommon for rent to go up a $200-300/year once a neighborhood got more desirable (or just less gritty) because of property tax increases or landlords realizing they could get more rent. DC does have rent control, but the rent control policies have pretty broad exemptions. I found myself moving to try and keep my rent around the same rate. So a big draw to buying was being able to lock in a uniform monthly payment.

      2. KJ*

        I think it depends on your local real estate conditions. In some markets, it doesn’t take long for buying to be the better deal, since you are theoretically building equity while rents may be going up. In other markets, even if rents go up, they will still be cheaper than buying.

        Of course, there are lots of non-financial lifestyle reasons to rent or to buy. I would like to buy eventually when I reach a point in my life where I want to put down roots, be able to do my own thing, etc. Right now, I’m at a point of my career where I’m busy and advancing, and I hardly have enough time to manage my one-bedroom apartment, let alone a house. (Seriously, I hired a house cleaning service for a one-off cleaning in May, and it was the Best Thing Ever.) I may want to move cities if I want to advance in my career in the next five years. And I have a great rental situation–no increases in four years, nice neighbors, excellent neighborhood. So I’m pretty content to keep renting, to keep saving, and to recognize there’s really no rush for me.

      3. Anna Moose*

        I’m interested in the future benefit of owning a home. When my husband and I retire we won’t have to worry about the rent each month. We’d only have to worry about upkeep and property taxes for a house.

        Right now, we’re renting a 3 bedroom apartment at the higher end of what rent costs in our city. Every year our rent goes up slightly. We need more space for my kids and his stuff. I know we could down-size our stuff and the kids will one day (finally) move back out, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happpen anytime soon.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        A minor reason but you have some control over your expenses such as heat. I had a landlord who was the king of electric heat. Every where he had apartments he put in electric heat. The heat bill was as much as the rent. In my own home, I can chose my method of heating and I can have tighter control over costs such as I can put in new windows, etc.

        If a person has a pet, they pay and pay and pay to keep that pet in an apartment. That is IF they can find an apartment that will accept pets.

        One apartment my husband and I looked at, I absolutely adored. It was THE apartment. Yeah. Parking space for one car. If we wanted to park our second car we would have to park a block away and pay for that space. (In rural areas this is very rare, no need to incur this additional expense.)

        I guess the short story is you have a bit more say in what is happening to the place you live in and a bit more control over your expenses.

      5. Sabrina*

        We rent ATM, but from what I’ve seen, the benefits in some markets are that rent keeps going up and in some cases may be more than a mortgage payment. For us it’s more about wanting a dog not wanting to share walls. There have been A LOT of apartment fires in our city in the last couple of years. Scares the crap out of me!

      6. Kay*

        I really think there are many benefits of buying that you don’t get from renting (even with PMI)

        1) You’re building equity in something. Granted home prices can go down, but when you sell your home, you will get *some* money for it. When you move out of a rental, you get nothing (other than your deposit back).
        2) You have a lot more freedom to do what you choose as far as painting, renovations, changing things to suit yourself.
        3) Provided you pay your mortgage and don’t default on your loan, it can help build your credit. (I know renting does this too, but I’m not sure how the two compare to one another).
        4) Psychologically, taking ownership feels good (at least to me). Being able to say “This is mine and I’m responsible for it”.

        That’s not to say there aren’t sucky parts of home ownership… emergency bills if the water heater breaks or if there’s bugs having to hire an exterminator and/or learn to get rid of them yourself, etc, but in my mind the pros outweigh the cons easily. That doesn’t mean they will for everyone, but that is my opinion.

        Also, since you were more specifically asking about the financial aspect, here is a calculator about the financial benefits:
        http://michaelbluejay.com/house/rentvsbuy.html

    18. Gene*

      In my case it was an insurance payout after a motorcycle collision. It was a shame to lose a perfectly good bike (and almost my left foot), but after we moved from the Bay Area to North of Seattle, the payout was a decent down payment.

      Not a method I recommend.

    19. Technical Editor*

      I got my first house with 3% down, and I don’t have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). 20% isn’t always the magical number. I strongly suggest talking to an independent mortgage broker because they can get you deals that aren’t advertised by banks.

      1. CEMgr*

        This helps with the numbers side of it: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/upshot/buy-rent-calculator.html?_r=0

        However….some things can’t easily be predicted and quantified. None of us knows for sure what the future holds with respect to interest rates, rents, mortgage rates. You just have to take your best guess, and also look at worst case scenarios to see which would be most painful.

        My mother bought a house jointly with a friend 4 years ago. It is located at 5000 ft elevation, but her primary care physician told her that wouldn’t be an issue re her COPD. So the two of them put their money down on a house, and quickly found out the elevation affected her greatly. They have finally moved out and secured a purchase deal on a house at a much lower elevation. However, the mountain house can’t be sold even if they were willing to take a 40% haircut….which of course they’re not….but the losses will keep mounting due to dual mortgage payments regardless. :-(

  3. Ann Furthermore*

    I really liked last week’s book talk. I just finished The Headmaster’s Wife, which was good, but I’m still trying to decide if I liked the ending or not. It reminded me a little bit of Gone Girl — not the actual story, because it’s completely different — but because it does the same thing: starts as one thing and turns into something else.

    How was everyone’s (at least in the US) 4th of July? I am going to be exhausted by tomorrow night. We had a party yesterday afternoon, and then got invited to another impromptu neighborhood get-together last night. Then we hiked up to the top of the hill behind out house to watch a fireworks show. Then when we got home some the neighbors were shooting off more fireworks, so we hung out with them for another hour or 2. It was the first time my 5 year old had ever seen fireworks. They were banned the last 2 years because of drought conditions/fire danger, but we’ve had quite a bit of rain this year so the restrictions were lifted.

    Today we had 2 birthday parties to attend, and when we got home I had to get the laundry started, and bake some cookie bars for tomorrow. My brother passed away in January, and we are having a service to bury his ashes tomorrow. My mom is having a reception at her house afterwords and asked me to make dessert.

    I’ll be glad to get back to work on Monday so I can get some rest.

    1. Ali*

      I had to work a few hours on the 4th, so it was pretty low key aside from going to a park for concert and fireworks. No wild parties here. I’m kind of happy my mom doesn’t entertain family or anything like that and only cooks for us, so we had a big lunch. I’m just happy the weather was nice and we didn’t have to deal with humidity.

      I’m sorry about the loss of your brother, albeit belated good wishes to your family.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Thanks for your kind words. It has been humid here all weekend. Now bear in mind, “humid” is a relative term, since I’m in Colorado and it’s normally quite dry here. That means when the humidity gets above about 50% we all feel like we’re melting.

        At one of the birthday parties today I was laughing with some of the other moms about it. We were all whining about how “humid” it was and I said, “Now you do realize that anyone from anywhere else would just laugh out to the street, right?”

        It’s rained on and off the last couple of weeks, and I’m actually glad that it did, since it made it much safer for fireworks. Since we’ve had bans the last 2 years people really did kind of go crazy.

        1. Stephanie*

          Sorry to hear about your brother.

          It has been humid here all weekend. Now bear in mind, “humid” is a relative term, since I’m in Colorado and it’s normally quite dry here. That means when the humidity gets above about 50% we all feel like we’re melting.

          Ha, it might have hit 25% humidity here in Phoenix this weekend and people are convinced this is what Florida’s like.

        2. The Other Dawn*

          Colorado has some beautiful weather. And I loved the dryness when I was there.

          Here in CT we pay attention more to the dew point. When the dew point hits 60 degrees we start to feel sticky. Right now it’s 68 degrees with 70% humidity, but the dew point is 57.9 degrees so it feels really nice.

    2. KJ*

      My holiday was fine and restful, but I felt sorry for my cats. One of them (ironically, the one who is generally less skittish) was pretty traumatized by all the noise, and spent most of the evening under the blankets.

      1. LAMM*

        My cat spent the whole night under the bed (her safe spot). My boyfriend’s cat spent half the night trying to be brave and tough it out… but she ended up clawing her way into the bottom drawer of the dresser after a few hours.

        The fireworks that were set off earlier tonight didn’t help at all.

        1. abby*

          I gave my cats “calming chews” and for the first time ever, they did not spend the entire evening under the bed. The female was a little more skittish than the male, who was almost too mellow, but I’d consider these treats a success.

          1. LAMM*

            Hmmm… I’ll have to look into those! I think my cat has some sort of anxiety disorder… like if you blink too loudly she’s running in fear. Those might work for the days she is especially anxious though. Thanks!

    3. A Teacher*

      My foster dog is getting adopted this weekend so it was good! My dogs hated the fireworks, and a dog from a few blocks away got loose when a bottle rocket was set off, she happened into my neighbors yard and I was in the right place so I was able to get her back to her family. That was a good feeling.

    4. Stephanie*

      Not the best. I had bad menstrual cramps, so I spent most of the day curled up on the couch with a heating pad and gnawing on any high-potassium food I could find in the house.

      Dog hated the neighbor kids shooting off firecrackers. He spent most of the evening shivering in the laundry room.

      1. Vancouver Reader*

        I feel your pain! Are you low on iron? I found that I used to get the most horrible cramps (to the point of nausea) and I’d sleep most of the day with a heating pad as well. After my doctor got me on iron pills, I can now make it through a day (although I still love my heating pad to relieve the pain) but I’m not laid up for the entire day.

        1. Stephanie*

          Hmm, perhaps. I’ve been anemic before, so I’ll mention the bad cramps during my next checkup. I’ve been cooking everything in cast iron to try and get some more iron in my meals.

    5. Jen RO*

      My non-American 4th of July was a moderately fun team building… with the side effect of a major sunburn because I was ‘brave’ and didn’t use sunscreen. I had no idea your muscles could hurt after a sunburn! I also have to pick another dress for the wedding I’m attending next weekend, because I have a lovely t-shirt pattern on my cleavage and shoulders… and I was planning for a strapless dress.

      1. Chris80*

        Sorry about the sunburn! I have one too, though mine is more from being forgetful than brave.

      2. IT Squirrel*

        Do you totally love the strapless one? Apply loads of moisturiser, preferably with rose water in it (this will help your poor sunburnt skin anyway!) and talk to a spray-tan person, they might well be able to even your tan marks out once your skin has calmed down :)

        1. Jen RO*

          Nah, and I barely know the groom anyway, so I’ll be bored to tears. I’ll probably put a jacket on and hope it’s not too hot.

    6. Mimmy*

      Very sorry to hear about your brother ((hugs)).

      We’re in Hilton Head this week for our annual family gathering. The craziness has already begun…as the adults were chatting on the patio, the 9 grandkids were SHRIEKING as they were playing a card game. Oyyyy!! We’ll need a vacation from the vacation!

      As for 4th of July, we stayed at a hotel near Richmond Friday night, and had a PERFECT view of the fireworks from our room.

    7. Windchime*

      July 4th is awful around here. We live very close to a couple of reservations, where illegal fireworks are cheap and plentiful. Therefore, it sounds like a war zone for several days around the 4th of July with huge, bomb-like explosions. The actual night of the 4th is terrible, with loud, explosive ariel fireworks going off literally all around; there were two families setting them off on the street in front of my house, and the street behind me had them going off for hours as well. They’re beautiful, but they are dangerous and they terrify pets. Plus, the mess–I had a whole garbage bag full of paper and crap to pick up out of my yard.

      Bahhh, humbug!

      1. Stephanie*

        Do you live next to me by any chance? Fireworks are legal year-round in the neighboring county (which is the next major street over) and loosely regulated in our county.

        Our neighbor is a combat veteran with PTSD. Fourth of July is rough for him. :(

      2. stellanor*

        My parents live in an unincorporated area. Basically every city in the county has individually banned fireworks, but the county hasn’t. And as a bonus there’s a big trail behind their house.

        So yeah the 4th of July at their place sounds like the blitz. Which terrifies their very large, very fearful dog. This year they got a Xanax prescription for the dog, because last year he was so traumatized he wouldn’t go outside unaccompanied for a week.

        I stayed home with my new dog because I wasn’t sure how he’d be with the fireworks and did not want to take him to the war zone that is my parents’ house. He didn’t love the fireworks, but dealt with the issue by sitting on my foot all evening, which was acceptable.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      I had nothing to do, so I did nothing all day. Absolutely nothing. I didn’t even take a shower until 3 pm, and then I just had tea and pretended I was British and didn’t care.

      Speaking of which, it’s time for tea now. I have a migraine, so am again doing nothing.

  4. Ali*

    (I thought taking out the link to my blog would result in my comments not being moderated. It didn’t work. Ah well.)

    So who else blogs here? I’m trying to get going on a regular basis, but with my crazy work schedule plus an internship, it’s been hard to get on a publishing schedule. My blog isn’t connected to my work; it’s just a side thing/hobby I guess you could say. I’m just enjoying the writing for now since I know I can’t be famous or make money from a blog overnight, and with a job, that’s not really my main objective. However, I do want to post more regularly at some point and gain even just a small following. I post on WordPress and sadly, a lot of my followers were spammers. :(

    What works for you guys as far as planning posts, blog marketing, etc.? Do you stay on a set schedule or just get posts going whenever the inspiration strikes? I think I may need an editorial calendar of some sort because I have ideas. Just haven’t gotten them all to computer yet to write.

    1. Noah*

      I’m a YouTuber, so somewhat similar issues. I set a goal awhile back to release four videos a week. Like you mentioned, lots of ideas but actually turning those ideas into content on a schedule can be the difficult part. I try to plan a week at a time, looking over my running list of video ideas. Sometimes I will make two videos at once and just release them out over a few days.

      I think the important part is consistency. Followers seem to appreciate new content regularly.

      1. In progress*

        Consistency, and give it a while. I follow a few blogs and YouTube channels and it takes them months to get popular. But that’s good in a way, because their older material is less polished. So they find their niche, build a brand, get consistent, and soon people start coming around and staying.

      2. anon*

        Any chance you’ll share your channel with us, or do you like to keep separate worlds?

        1. Noah*

          At the moment I would rather keep thing separate. I started a new job recently and am still settling in. I know my boss and at least one coworker read AAM, and my YouTube channel is not something I want to discuss at work yet.

          I’m not even sure how it has gotten as popular as it has. It is really just my comments on life as a 30 year old, single guy. Sometimes I talk about being bisexual and how that means you don’t really fit into either the straight or gay world. Nothing really earth shattering.

          It has been interesting to see the growth though. My first few videos had no comments and then it started to slowly build some interaction. I don’t really make much in the way of revenue, about $150 a month right now. It’s enough to pay my cable/internet bill.

    2. HarryV*

      Just need to make sure you have a niche. Don’t start blogging about something that EVERYONE is blogging about. You will be sure to not get any traffic. One of my friend started a toy themed blog based on a cartoon character. He blogged for maybe 3 years until he started generating real / regular traffic. He now makes roughly $800 just from Adsense.

    3. kas*

      I used to blog and I have been trying to start again. My problem is that I can’t think of a blog name (everything is taken) and like HarryV mentioned above, I’m trying to find a niche.

      I used WordPress and gained a decent sized following by following other blogs I liked, commenting on their posts and tagging my posts. I was getting emails almost everyday letting me know I had new followers. Aside from the few money making blogs that follow everyone, my followers were pretty much legit. I often had ideas for posts so I made sure to write them down or if I was already on WordPress, I’d type them all out and then set a schedule for WordPress to release them. I tried not to go more than 2 or 3 days without posting because I didn’t want to lose my following.

      I miss blogging and hope to start again soon. Good luck with your blog!

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Thinking of a blog name was actually the hardest part for me. And finally I just threw it out to my Facebook friends to let them decide. I ended up using a play on my name. So original. LOL

    4. The Other Dawn*

      I use Blogger and I blog about my post-weight loss surgery life, recipes I’ve tried, and other random things. And I have a page for all my kitties (I have 12!). You can click on my name and go to my blog.

      I tend to blog when inspiration strikes. Generally, that means I write up three to four posts and schedule them over the course of as many days. That covers me on the days when I have nothing to say or I just don’t feel like writing. Sometimes I’ll post a few cat pics just to get something posted.

      It’s just a personal blog. I don’t market or generate money or anything. I’m happy just to write and do it consistently. The fact that I’ve kept it up since January is a feat in itself.

      Yes, it would be nice to get a small following. Although I have a consistent number of hits on each post, it’s discouraging when I write posts that specifically ask a question or solicit suggestions and no one comments. Although I haven’t done it very often so maybe that’s part of the problem.

    5. the gold digger*

      I have been blogging for years. I have two blogs – one that my mom knows about and then the one linked to here. I post on a regular schedule and each blog has its own theme. The main theme of the Golddigger blog is my crazy in-laws, but I have expanded to write about my husband’s run for Congress and the stupid dating things I did before I was married. Maybe I don’t have a theme – that sounds a little random.

      I have never made any money from my blogs, but that’s not why I do them. I do it because I like writing for an audience. With the Golddigger blog, I started writing because I wanted to write a novel about my in-laws but couldn’t face the idea of sitting down to 200 empty pages. I decided I would write blog posts about the various episodes with the in-laws and then aggregate them all as the outline for the book, which is what I did.

    6. Vancouver Reader*

      I blog once a week and sometimes even that is a struggle. Because mine is about soaping (and I’ve put in the link) most of my followers are fellow soapers, and we are there to support each other.

    7. class factotum*

      I have been blogging since 2004. I used to blog about work and politics, but decided that blogging about work was not safe and that blogging about politics was exhausting. I don’t like arguing about politics and nobody ever changes their mind anyhow, so there is no point.

      Now I just write about marriage with a hoarder engineer who changes the toilet paper at other people’s houses if the paper is coming out from underneath instead of on top, my cats, and life in Wisconsin.

      1. Jen RO*

        I do that too… except your husband is totally wrong and TP should come out the bottom!

    8. Sara*

      Personally I want to start a second account on Instagram, for my food pictures. I’m no pro nor do I intend to be……nor am I a health nut….I just like food, I like to cook, and I’ve had friends tell me I should. I’m not interested in making money off of it though.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      I should blog more often–once a year, I do the April Blogging from A-Z Challenge and post every day, but then I lapse. Two or three times a week is the most I can usually deal with. My blog is about writing mostly, though sometimes other things creep in. I’ve linked it to Facebook and Twitter so my posts go there when I put them up. Since I’m unpublished as of yet (except for three stories), I sometimes struggle with having anything to say.

      I’m planning to do a mini NaNoWriMo as I write the book I’m about to write. That will at least get some writing-related stuff up there. And I’ll be blogging on vacation as well.

    10. Gene*

      As the saying goes,

      Dance as no one is watching.
      Song as if no one is listening.
      Blog as if no one is reading.

      Do it for you.

    11. Trixie*

      I find the concept of blogging interesting these days because my mom is looking into a science blog for her research findings. I’m not entirely clear on the details but to submit to larger publications it costs more money. Because she wants to publish her findings (stem cell research) as soon as possible, its about finding a more affordable way to go about this. So online blogging, as well as online scientific journals. As she pointed out, just another example where the field is narrowed by financial means and access.

  5. S*

    Anyone ever “break up” with a friend? Not because of something cataclysmic but a gradual realization that you no longer want this person in your life?

    How did you do it? How did it turn out?

    I used to be very close friends with someone, and only later realized I could only tolerate so much negativity and self-absorption. The person was and is seeing a counselor to resolve their toxic state of unhappiness; but honestly how do you tell someone who is seeing a therapist for their negativity that the reason for ending the friendship is because of their negativity? Anyhow, I just distanced myself over the last few years and am at a comfortable distance where we are mere acquaintances.

    As a result, I am a much happier person. Anyone else go through this?

    1. Celeste*

      Sure. Times change, and so do people. There’s a cool inspirational piece you can read about how people can be our friend for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. It could just be that the season for that friendship ended, and it was time to move on.

    2. Harley*

      Oh, yes. Recently broke up with a friend I’ve known for over 20 years. It finally hit me- I don’t like her anymore. I don’t feel good after seeing her or being with her, I dread even a phone conversation with her, so why keep doing this? I distanced myself until things gradually ended and we just stopped keeping in touch. No way could I have told her I was breaking up with her, I’m too much of a coward and I honestly didn’t want to be so cruel and hurt her feelings. Plenty of friendships die out, and that’s what I let happen- and am much happier for it.

    3. Shell*

      I’ve done the slow-fade on people for various reasons, but I’ve never done a permanent cut-off that didn’t have a specific incident that prompted it. I have, however, been the one abruptly cut-off. And it was painful and I grieved for the friendship, but in retrospect I think we’re all better off for it. People grow apart, it happens.

      I resented the way it was done, though–that person resented me for various and sundry issues (most of which were my own personal business, not things that affected her), and after avoiding me for a while, came over to my house at like 00:30 (as in, 12:30 am) on a weekday night to do a dramatic friend-dump. Don’t do that.

      1. Ruffingit*

        It’s weird to me that she’d come over to do a dramatic friend dump at O dark thirty. What the hell? Seriously, if I want to get rid of a friend from my life, I am not investing the time and energy to go over to their home and dump them. That seems weird.

    4. Weasel007*

      Yes, been there! Toxic friendships are the worst. If you can’t do the fade away you owe yourself and the other person an explanation as to why and set boundaries. I did this about 15 years ago. My friend had become so cynical and abusive. I wished her well. But told her under the current dynamics the relationship was dead. She and I did do meet back up years later, after she went to a doctor and got some treatment. A severe depression for her was at the root of it. We are not as close as way back when but the toxicity is gone.

    5. LAMM*

      I did this a couple of years ago with someone I’d been friends with since elementary school… she was the first friend I had had after transferring schools in the middle of the year.

      I realised that (1) I got tired of always being the one to contact her when she was in town from college, (2) I got really upset when she was annoyed that I couldn’t meet her whenever/wherever due to working full time and (3) we didn’t have anything in common any more.

      The last one was a big one. She grew up very sheltered and went on to go to a private (very expensive!) college 2 hours away that her parents paid for while she worked maybe 5-10 hours a week for work study (and would complain about it) while I grew up not at all sheltered, went to a commuter university and worked full time. I drove 20 miles a day to school while she walked across the street. She would complain about not having time for this or that while I had 15+ hour days between work and school sometimes… It drove me crazy.

      When I realized that I was friends with her because I felt obligated to be friends with her (since we’ve known each other for ever!) it made me really understand that I have a choice in the matter. I don’t have to be friends with this person. And it’s ok if I don’t want to be.

      So I just stopped calling/texting her and she never contacted me. It’s been years and it honestly hasn’t had any real impact on my life.

      1. Stephanie*

        #1 sucks. It took me a long time to realize that friendship should be a two-way street.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Yup. If you stop making the effort to call/text/keep in touch and you never hear from them again, then you pretty much know the friendship isn’t all that valuable to them. Sad, but worth knowing so you can move on to people who do care enough to do some of the work to keep the friendship going.

      2. KrisL*

        I think your experiences with school and growing up will probably be a real advantage for you in the long run, and her sheltered upbringing will probably be detrimental for her.

        1. Onymouse*

          I don’t think it’s fair that we should judge what other people has. The sheltered woman could have things going on in life that we don’t know about, and it’s not our place to make fun of her.

          1. KrisL*

            I wasn’t making fun of her. I was just trying to say that starting out early needing to work and budget carefully is usually a helpful thing for adults.

            1. LAMM*

              I think the bigger challenge she (and other’s I’ve known who were raised in a similar manner) has faced is the shock of leaving school.

              Going from a 4.0 student to not being able to find a job would be shocking and disheartening (I think that’s the word I’m looking for). We’ve seen people in this situation seeking advice before.

              And even the simple things – like having to call and set up your own appointments, buying and maintaining a car, having to purchase real food (and survive off what you buy until next paycheck), etc. I know, for some people at least, their parents take care of this kind of thing until after graduation.

              Whereas working through school (full time or part time) you typically have to deal with this kind of thing on your own.

      3. Kay*

        Sometimes that’s how it goes. My mother always said when I was younger, “Don’t make someone a priority if they’re only going to make you an option”. It really says something about a friendship if she never called you after you stopped calling. Sometimes you just have to let go.

    6. Stephanie*

      I haven’t had a clear break-up, but I’ve done the slow fade out. It was hard the first couple of times I realized it happened (mostly in early college), but I’ve now accepted it as a natural thing that happens to some friendships.

      I did have two friends (let’s call them Diana and Mabel) go through a friend break-up. I’m still friends with both. Diana, admittedly, sounds like your friend and can be difficult (self-absorbed and very dramatic). Diana does have other great qualities, but Mabel got too tired of dealing with the negative stuff and finally told Diana she couldn’t take her histrionics anymore. I never saw the break-up email in question and got Diana being like “I don’t know why Mabel isn’t responding to me!” I try my best to stay out of it.

      1. Audiophile*

        Haha, the slow fade out.

        I’ve done and had the friendship break up done to me.

        In the first case, I did what Stephanie did. I got a couple of random texts messages, which looking back, I took forever to answer. I finally came to realization that this person was using me, very self absorbed – “can you help me with this? can you tell me how to do this? can you do this for me?” And I was kind of like a project for them. It was hard to break it off because I’d known them since freshman year of college and I realized over all that time, that I was constantly making all the effort. That was a good reason to walk away, I don’t mind making some of the effort but all of it, that’s too much.

        When I was the one being broken up with, the person was very blunt, “I don’t want to talk to you right now.” I just never heard from them again and I eventually got over it, deleted them from my phone and that was that. They were similar to the person I ended the friendship with – I made all the effort.

        Friendship is a two way street and the friends I have no, there’s give and take.

    7. Prickly Pear*

      I have broken up with a good amount of friends (earning the name, I suppose) and with some of them, I’m so glad to not be exposed to their whatevers- drama, toxicity, etc- that I know I made the right choice. What really helped was realizing that I couldn’t be everyone’s BFF forever- relationships ebb and flow and trying to be first in everyone’s lives was killing me.
      I had a goal of repairing some of the friendships I let go by the wayside while I was traveling in another circuit. (That set of friends pretty much demanded exclusive devotion- but that’s another story.) There were a few people that I was okay with flexing down to acquaintances- and like you, I feel so much better for it.

    8. Anon for this!*

      I found an article called “23 signs you’re secretly a narcissist masquerading as a sensitive introvert,” and it changed my life. Recognizing that narcissism can be exhibited several ways was an abrupt realization: as the article notes, “covert” narcissists were more prone to feelings of neglect or belittlement, hypersensitivity, anxiety, and delusions of persecution.

      I’m presently being treated for an anxiety disorder, but I was only able to start the process once I realized how a specific person’s selfish behaviour was permeating into my life, and overriding my own needs and desires. Once I stopped engaging with her behaviors in the ways she was used to, we mutually faded apart. I’m sad about it- she could be a good friend, sometimes, but sometimes isn’t good enough for full emotional commitment.

    9. Anon Right Now*

      I’ve had many a slow breakup/fade-out, where we just grew apart and it was natural. I’ve had a few where I (and, probably, they) consciously didn’t return calls and was the person who faded out or just disappeared. In one instance, this was a natural break with someone who was bullying me but wanted to hang on to me as a friend. This was in middle school–she was “my best friend” and would defend me against people who would pick on me, but would then hit me if I so much as asked her to do something slightly different (like use her own brush instead of mine). She got increasingly violent and possessive of me as those years went on and I just cut off all contact as we went into high school. It was a natural break that summer and I was really happy to have the new start! Recently (for our 15th anniversary reunion!) she’s been wanting to get back in touch. She’s a hairdresser now, and REALLY wants to do my highlights. There is no way I’d ever let her touch my hair.

      Conversely in the other two directions–I just rekindled one friendship that I had let lapse. Some people may remember my writing in to an open thread about a friend who was constantly complaining to me about ONLY making $75k when I was making $20k and barely surviving. I took a break from the friendship and we both met recently–she was doing a little better with getting a raise and I was doing better with getting hired on a temp basis. I realized how amazingly good we were as friends when we weren’t both concurrently going through crises and am really happy to be friends with her again.

      On the complete opposite end of the spectrum (and I realize how long this is going, but I’ve been contemplating this friend stuff a lot lately!), I just 100% broke off ties with a friend of 10+ years. He and I had been online-only friends for the most part, but had grown apart in core beliefs and communication styles. We both reached a point where we realized that we couldn’t be what we had been to one another before. (Which, if I’m being truly honest, was pseudo-therapists. I know that I’ve talked him down from suicide in the past and I’m worried about his mental state now. But he’s got a real therapist now and we are so different that nothing good can come of this anymore.)

      So there you have it. I’m sorry for the length, but as I’ve said, I’ve been taking a hard look at friendships lately. Here are a few different ways that they’ve worked out for me!

      TL;DR: Friends come and go. Some do the slow fade. Some, you slowly and deliberately fade from; some you take a break from and realize they’re stronger for it in the end; some, you realize that they’re bad for you both and you let them go entirely. Ultimately, you’re better in the end if you can recognize which is which (and be willing to forgive both yourself and the other person if you make a mistake).

    10. Lora*

      Yep. A few times. Although almost always something specific precipitated it: a friend who had gotten very…let’s just say she listened to WAY too much late night talk radio, especially Art Bell. We couldn’t have a reasonable conversation about the weather anymore for crying out loud. So when I moved out of state I just emailed her less and less. This was in the olden days where calling on a cellphone or land line constituted Long Distance and was really expensive, so I had an excuse for never calling.

      Another I lost when I got divorced–turned out she had a crush on my husband. Another I lost when she made a huge career change and was very condescending towards me that I didn’t, that I stayed in the field despite its difficulties. It turned out she had some pretty severe depression but refused to get treatment for it. One day she blew up at me for declining an invitation to a guided meditation class she wanted to check out, and that was that. Said I wished her well and hoped she found what she was looking for in life.

      1. Ellen*

        “One day she blew up at me for declining an invitation to a guided meditation class ”
        I’m laughing just picturing how ridiculous that must have looked. “What do you mean you’re not going? I need peace and serenity, Dammit!”

        1. Lora*

          LOL, you’re not far off. The conversation went like this:
          ExFriend: I’m gonna try a new meditation class Weds., do you want to come with?
          Me: Naaah, I think I’ll stick with tequila, haha.
          EF: You should try it. It’s like guided meditation which is really good for your brain and there’s all these health benefits.
          Me: Eh, it’s not my jam, but you have fun with it–sounds like you’re pretty excited to go.
          EF: You could use a little self-improvement you know! You’re always stressed out and miserable!
          (At the time I was still working through my divorce, having serious money problems as a result, and dealing with a family crisis, on top of the usual work stress.)
          Me: Um. I guess I’ll ask my doc to adjust my meds then. Thanks for the feedback I guess?
          EF: YOU DON’T WANT TO IMPROVE YOURSELF! YOU THINK EVERYTHING I DO IS STUPID! I’M TRYING TO MAKE SOMETHING OF MYSELF! WHY CAN’T YOU SUPPORT ME WHILE I TRY TO FIND MY PATH??? GOD, YOU PROBABLY THINK I’M A TOTAL BITCH, ARE YOU GOING TO GO WHINE TO YOUR EX ABOUT IT??? AT LEAST I’M TRYING TO GET BETTER!
          Me: Uh. I don’t think you’re a total bitch, I think you have some communication issues maybe. But hey, best of luck with this meditation thing, I hope you get what you want out of it.

          Sometimes I get alerts that she’s been looking at my LinkedIn page an awful lot. I’m all set with that nonsense though.

    11. The Other Dawn*

      I did it 15 years a go. I’m sorry to say that I wrote a letter, rather than calling or talking in person. But I’m someone who struggles with the right words verbally; writing was much easier to say what I had to say.

      A high school friend and I grew apart, mostly on my end. She was seeing a therapist for many years, since childhood I believe, and never seemed to learn anything from it at all. She had depression, parents divorced, etc. I could deal with that. What I couldn’t deal with was two-hour long, one-sided phone conversations in which I had to listen to endless man-bashing, blame shifting, and general negativity. And it was all about her. I would hang up the phone feeling physically and mentally exhausted. Also, she never wanted to go anywhere or do anything together. She never did anything to help herself, loved to blame everyone else for her problems, and she still lived at home with mom and was content to live off the system. I could go on, but I’ll stop there.

      The last straw was when I took a vacation with my husband and parents to Las Vegas. When I came back I wanted to talk about the trip (in other words, talk about ME for once) and show her pictures. Her response was to tell me she didn’t want to hear about it, because it just made her more depressed. Wow. So yeah, I wrote the letter very shortly afterwards. I never got a response so that told me she must not have cared much about the friendship.

      There are days when I miss the idea of her, not her specifically. We used to have some good conversations and she was good at giving advice, once upon a time. But I can’t handle the negativity that will eventually resurface so I stay away.

      She sent me an email through Classmates several years ago. I admit I didn’t act very nice and I had a bit of an outburst, but once we smoothed that out I realized she’s the same old person and I don’t want that in my life again. She is convinced that I broke it off because of her materialistic ways, even though I took the time to explain my point of view several times. She just kept going back to saying she’s not materialistic anymore. She didn’t get it. At all.

      TLDR; Yes, I’ve done and I don’t regret it. No one needs that negativity dragging them down.

      1. Ruffingit*

        You know, the thing is that sometimes even if a person rectifies the issue that caused the ending, that still doesn’t mean the friendship can come back together. I had a friend do that as well. I got a letter from her with something along the lines of she was doing the things I’d told her to do, which was seek therapy for her major issues, why wouldn’t I be her friend again????!!!!

        I add the many question marks and exclamations to emphasize the amount of drama that was always involved in the things she said, even in written form. For me, I was glad she was seeking help and even if she turned into an amazing person who left the major issues behind her, I still wouldn’t want to be friends because there was just too much water under the bridge. I needed to move on regardless. I wish her well, but I just can’t see opening that door again. Some people don’t understand the concept that you can’t fix everything. Sometimes you just have to let go.

    12. Mimmy*

      Yup, I actually did “break up” with a friend after years of off-and-on contact with much toxicity. She was a real sweetheart, but just so dramatic and emotional at times. Sometimes, when I thought I was finally clear, she’d hunt me down again. I finally told her I couldn’t take the negativity. She’s only tried to contact me once (through my parents) but my mom didn’t have the number on hand and I didn’t ask hehe.

    13. Windchime*

      I have done the slow fade a couple of times. That seems kinder than an official break-up.

      I had a realization about one friend that we didn’t really have much in common anymore and it was becoming a chore to get together. She was ratcheting up contact, becoming more and more demanding, until one day she blew up and wrote a nasty long text and then dropped me from Facebook (because apparently we are twelve years old). I was actually relieved that it was over and I was polite but not overly friendly when she tried to renew contact over the next several months.

    14. Eudora Wealthy*

      Is it possible that sometimes a person who seems toxic is really only toxic around you (as a reaction to you specifically)? In other words, it can be mutual. There are bad relationships in this world. Some are worth ending and some are worth working on to try to improve them. I wish I had the wisdom to know exactly which were which. I’ve found that it can take years or even decades to really get to know someone. People are complicated.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        That could be… maybe.
        I have seen people not on their best around me. I have noticed myself not being on my best around others.

        It’s still a choice, matter of fact a couple choices. Choosing to hang out with me and choosing to be toxic around me.

        I don’t know why. Some argue it is past-life stuff. Some argue it is psychological stuff. I just don’t know.
        Best to move away from that person that acts poorly or causes us to act poorly.

      2. Anony*

        Sort of like birds of the same feather, flock together.
        It could be group dynamics, group think?? I notice I have a friend, who likes to make snarky comments when we are out in public about people –their hair, their clothes..
        .In the past, I didn’t voice my concern about this behavior but now it’s becoming annoying.
        So sometimes when she makes snarks about something, I counter back with a snark/complimenting the person. So if she says something about their hair, I’d say, “omg did you see her shoes–loved them!”

      3. Ruffingit*

        It’s possible people can be toxic in reaction to others, but IME that person is usually generally toxic just perhaps in varying degrees depending on the person they’re dealing with. Because some people will only withstand a low level of toxicity before telling you to hit the curb while others will take Chernobyl level doses before shutting down the reactor. Regardless though, if someone is reacting in a toxic way to another person, whatever the cause it’s obvious those two people shouldn’t be near each other. Oil and water.

    15. Befuddled Squirrel*

      Oh yes! In fact, I just did a friend housecleaning. It’s not as bad as it sounds. I got a wake-up call that I had too many toxic people in my life and decided to distance myself from them in as drama-free a way as possible.

      I tried to only cut ties with a few problematic people, but social media and the fact that we’re in the same industry made that impossible. So I stopped using social media and am just keeping a low profile for a little while.

      Fortunately, the people I want to keep in touch with aren’t big social media users, so it works out. We text and make plans to hang out.

    16. Sara*

      Yes….I did it slowly…I really did try to reconnect after she went through a thing, but I found that I just couldn’t. I felt bad at times, but for my own sake, I completely stopped. We do have mutual friends so I can never completely cut her out, but I think I have am uch better group of friends now and I”m glad she’s not in my life anymore.

    17. Elizabeth West*

      It sounds like you’ve already done it. Hopefully the therapy will help your former friend, and you’ll be able to either have a better relationship now or she’ll get the hint and move on.

    18. Kay*

      I’ve been on both ends of friendship breakups. I think the “slow fade-out” so many describe is the easiest, but if you’re going to be abrupt about it, I think it’s nice to at least tell them and tell them why.

      I had a friend I had known since 6th grade. We stayed friends all the way through high school and college even though she moved several hours away. We used to talk pretty frequently and then about 4 years ago, she just stopped responding to any form of communication. I have no idea what I said or did that prompted it. I eventually removed her from my facebook because it was too painful seeing her updates when she would not engage me in any way. :-/ Friend break-ups suck.

    19. Anony*

      I truly believe people sometimes come in your life for a reason or season. I’ve had to cut some people out while others gradually faded out. My first “best” friend-our friendship lasted from preschool all through high school and it ended there because honestly I couldn’t wait to rid myself of the friendship without hurting her. I felt like she only clinged to me because I was the only one who accepted her as she was–the fat girl. I was the skinny brace face nerd–she was a nerd too. She had a plan to loose weight and become homecoming queen all of which she did and I was very proud of her but I couldn’t stand to see her not feeling confident in herself and dying to fit a mold. Now I’m an Aquarius, and I don’t like fitting into molds nor do I like to deal with other people ish. The other day I thought about creating a t-shirt that says “We might not really like you, but we won’t fault you for that–it’s just your sign” lol… Seriously I hate that I can really sense stuff in other people.
      Anywho00– I had a seasonal friendship, we both shared the same name and we worked the overnight shift. We never really bonded except on work related stuff and celebrity gossip. Even years after I left the place and moved 8 hours away, we still would call each other at night (as we had done when we would work alone at times) and just chit chat for hours. Her friendship kept me sane during a trying time for me.

    20. DTMFA*

      Yes. I had a very close friend for several years and I finally had to cut ties when I could no longer handle her negativity and drama. She suffered from anxiety and after I’d told her many times to please seek therapy because it was clear she needed it, she finally did after I severed ties. I told her I needed a break from her and for almost a year after that, she pursued my friendship through long emails, letters through the postal mail and texts. I ignored it all. Finally, it stopped although it took almost a year and I fully expect to hear from her again at some point. She was just that type of person.

      I highly recommend just fading away completely now that you’ve moved into acquaintance zone. Given that you’re not close friends, I see no reason for a declaration, I think you can just stop contacting her and move on. It’s very freeing, I highly recommend it. After I dumped my friend, I felt the weight lift and my own life became so much better because I realized how much time I had given to her issues. Finally, I was able to put all that energy into my own life. Things changed drastically for the better for me.

    21. E.R*

      I once broke up with a friend, in my mid-twenties, only to come back 2 years later and renew the friendship. I’m glad I did the breakup, I’m glad we “got back together”. She’s one of my best friends now. The reason for the break up (lying to me) still exists in some forms, but I just shrug it off and enjoy all her good qualities. It’s too much to write about her, but she has real psychological issues that I couldnt handle when I was younger, that I can handle now.

  6. Celeste*

    On Monday I never made it into work! I took a spill on the sidewalk and caught myself on my hands. Nothing is broken, and I didn’t need stitches for the cuts. Still. My fingers work but my hands hurt and I can not do the simplest tasks because it hurts too much to grip. It’s closer to a sprain, I guess, and can take a while to resolve. I hate this so much! But at least I can type and tap on a screen. It’s just really hard to believe a stupid stumble could do all of this.

    1. Weasel007*

      Been there!! Your body is injured. Give it time to heal. This has happened to me more as I got older. Our bodies don’t bounce back as quickly.

    2. Mimmy*

      Definitely been there…I took a nasty fall a few years ago. Totally ripped my pants, horrible knee abrasion, and was so sore the first night or so. Just know you’re not the only one!!

    3. Vancouver Reader*

      Hope you’re okay! I have had a few falls; once I fell down some stairs at work, I should’ve taken that as a sign to leave that job a lot sooner! Main thing is to take care of yourself.

    4. Sara*

      ouch. About 6 weeks ago I fell on the ground as I was running for the bus, my knee was bruised and bloody…it took at least 10 days for the bruise/scab to go away but there’s a bruise now and sometimes it aches when I kneel on it..and i’m only 29 :(

    5. Jazzy Red*

      I have arthritis in my hands, and I found two pain relieving rubs that really help me – Aspercream and Arnicare. You might want to try one of those until your hands are back to normal.

      And don’t forget to warm up your fingers, hands and wrists before you start doing anything. It really does make a difference.

  7. Shell*

    I want to say thanks to Ellie from a few open threads back (two weeks ago, I think?) who mentioned kefir as one of the things she uses to keep her digestive troubles under control.

    My own situation is still under investigation; I’ve had too many doctor and lab visits as of late. Jury is still out on exactly what’s wrong with me, but in the meanwhile the doc suggested I try a probiotic (yow, those are expensive). I remembered Ellie mentioning kefir, bought some at the store (hard to find, and got serious sticker shock at the price), and after some research and purchases, my first batch of kefir grains are fermenting in my basement. :) I doubt this will be a magic bullet for whatever ails me, but cheap healthy probiotics are a plus in my book. So…thanks! (I’m ridiculously excited to try coconut milk kefir, I’m not gonna lie.)

    Thanks to everyone else who offered commiseration and advice too, y’all rock.

    1. Luxe in Canada*

      Ooh, I’ve been too lazy to try making my own kefir, so please let us know next Sunday how it turned out! My own forays into probiotic foods have been with making yogurt and kimchee, but I’d love to add kefir into the mix because, well, sticker price on the storebought stuff.

      Hope it turns out okay, and even more so hope it makes your systems happy.

    2. Stephanie*

      Can you do wheat? If so, you could do your own sourdough starter. I started one a couple of months ago.

      I’ve been on a pickling kick myself, lately. Last thing I did were preserved lemons–our neighbor left us with a few dozen lemons (his trees went nuts).

      1. fposte*

        I’ve seen preserved lemons, but I’m never sure what you can do with them. “Like lemons, only sourer!” So what do you do?

        1. Luxe in Canada*

          You make Moroccan food with them! Try this: fry up an onion and garlic, add some chicken, add a bunch of cinnamon, cumin, and paprika, add some dried fruit (raisins, chopped dates, chopped figs, chopped apricots, etc… Whatever you have), and add a rinsed and chopped preserved lemon. Maybe add a splash of nice broth or white wine or apple juice. Let the whole thing hang out covered on low for a while. Other add-ins could include chickpeas, carrot, tomatoes in with the other simmering stuff, and/or parsley at the last minute.

          Or toss a tablespoon of rinsed and diced preserved lemon plus a tablespoon of butter in your pot of rice. Just pop it inat the same stage as the water.

          Or rinse and chop it fine, and put it in a salad with a bunch of other savory things (so it’s not just bland lettuce and suddenly a bite of sour/salty). Try a salad with preserved lemon, tomato, red pepper, and cucumber, with a sprinkling of salt, pepper, cumin, and a dollop of good olive oil.

          1. fposte*

            Okay, so more like capers or pickles than suddenly a fruit you’d eat. Amy March’s pickled limes have me very confused.

            1. Rana*

              Not all pickles are sour, though. Some are more sweet than tart (like sweet pickles, for example). So I could imagine limes being given a sweet pickling treatment, and coming out as tart but not inedibly sour.

              1. fposte*

                Yeah, Stephanie is saying the flavor mellows. But I’m still thinking there might be a reason pickled limes never really caught on in any lasting way as a snack here.

                Oh, hey! There’s even a scanty little Wikipedia page talking about their 19th century importation into Boston. Apparently Amy March was riding a trend.

                1. Lora*

                  Note to folks who like to re-create recipes: The kind of pickled limes Amy March had were tossed in seawater in India and then pickled in a barrel for a month or two as the ship sailed to Boston. If you try to make this, it comes out unspeakably vile. Weirdly soapy, too, if you had a grandma who washed your mouth out with soap when you mouthed off. It was supposed to be a vitamin C supplement. Stick with rose hip tea.

                  There is a Nigella Lawson recipe for pickled limes that involves covering them in olive oil. If you eat them within a couple of months, with say one slice chopped and mixed into cottage cheese or refried beans, they are OK. *OK*, not fabulous. If you leave them more than six months, I do not recommend eating them at all as the texture gets weirdly mushy. But for that first few months, I like em chopped up kind of like relish and put in a bean burrito with mild cheese and/or sour cream. They have a nice aftertaste, too.

                  Pickled watermelon rind is freakin’ awesome though. I have ice cream (vanilla, coconut, strawberry are all good) with rhubarb-ginger topping and chunks of pickled watermelon rind for a summer dessert. It’s wonderful. For the rhubarb-ginger topping, just find a rhubarb jam recipe and don’t cook it quite so long.

        2. Stephanie*

          The sour taste actually mellows out a bit! It’s super easy–you just almost quarter the lemons and squeeze all the juice out so that the juice covers all the lemons. Add a bunch of kosher salt and let them sit for a month (I leave them out, away from sunlight for a couple of days, then move them to the fridge). The pulp

          Preserved lemons are used a lot in Mediterranean cooking.

      2. abby*

        I hope this works for you! One of my cats had pretty severe digestive problems, which I improved with probiotics, a small amount of fermentable fiber to feed the beneficial bacteria, and bone broth. We’ve not resolved his problems entirely, but we’re seeing a significant improvement. Digestive issues can be very difficult to treat, and doctors often don’t know what to do; it’s often trial and error to find a solution that works for the individual.

        1. Windchime*

          My cat was also on probiotics recently and it seemed to make a big difference in his gut problems.

      3. Shell*

        Much as that sounds appealing (I do love bread, and I like sourdough bread the few times I’ve tried it), I don’t have the time to bake. Baking is one of those things I do about twice a year because it’s just way too much effort. I allowed myself to try kefir only because it’s literally as easy as dumping milk into a jar :)

        I’ve actually been trying the FODMAP diet that fposte mentioned with…very mixed results. I haven’t been brave enough to try and add wheat back into my diet (which sucks hardcore, I love my carbs).

        I’m also super curious about pickled lemons! How do you eat those?

        1. fposte*

          I found FODMAP took a while, and when I went back to it recently I got a lot faster results when I started throwing the microorganisms at the situation at the same time.

          But there are a lot of different things that can be going on with a gut, so it may be that it didn’t help you much because that wasn’t your problem. Sorry–I know how frustrating this is. Good luck, and enjoy the kefir!

        2. Stephanie*

          See my and Luxe’s replies above! They’re used a ton in Mediterranean cooking.

          Apparently you can preserve other citrus fruits as well. I want to try this now. (We get lots of citrus in the winter.)

          1. class factotum*

            I found the most amazing chocolate-covered preserved oranges at a chocolate store here. The oranges are (I think) boiled in sugar until they are candied, then dipped in dark chocolate.

            1. Luxe in Canada*

              As delightful as candied orange (and lemon) is, the preserved lemon we’re talking about is salted and pickled. Quite a different taste!

              Also, I’m so jealous of you right now for having access to candied orange. So, so jealous.

    3. fposte*

      Oh, I missed this, and it is Relevant to My Interests following a prolonged course of antifungals that apparently threw my microbiome out of whack. I found the low FODMAP diet (Stanford Medical has a good tip sheet for this–it’s basically weeding out certain short-chain sugars that some people don’t absorb well) helpful as a defensive measure–dull as dishwater if you’re really going off everything in it, but soon you can put stuff back if you’re okay. It looks like the polyols might be my particular weak spot, which is annoying as I usually eat tons of peaches in the summer.

      I’m also currently going for a strong offense as well. There’s some evidence that most probiotics don’t actually survive past the stomach, unfortunately, so I’m doing those largely out of fond hope (L. plantarum seems to survive better than most, so I’m using one that includes that) and adding those that have some evidence of efficacy (Saccharomyces boulardii, sold as Florastor, definitely has some effect on me, anyway), and I’ve also been chowing down on anything with good microorganism action–washed rind cheeses, Brie (obviously have to eat the rind on both of those), olives, pickles, salami, etc.

      1. abby*

        Yes, I have also heard there is some evidence that stomach acid kills off many probiotics, particularly in cats because their intestinal environments are so acidic (my interest is with my possible IBS/IBD cat). But something in his probiotic blend is helping, so I continue. I’ve heard very good things about the Saccharomyces boulardii strain for certain problems; it’s also available from Jarrow and Now brands, and part of the multi-strain Nexabiotic.

        I wonder if “killed” probiotics would still provide some benefit, but as enzymes? Don’t know enough about the science to do more than wonder.

    4. Sarah*

      I love kefir! If you have access to a Trader Joe’s, they sell 32oz bottles of it for $2.99, which is the cheapest I have seen. I love the pomegranate flavor but mix it with the plain to reduce sugar.

    5. Maggie Pie*

      Probiotics can be expensive but if you shop around you can usually find them for not too much. I buy Phillips at Sam’s club which works out to $10 a month (1 a day) which is much less than i would spend on enough yogurt r kefir to help.
      i do take more if I’m feeling especially bad. Target’s generic is good too. Sometimes different brands have different effects.
      It has made a huge difference for my gut, and I get bacterial infections much less often.

  8. anonyone*

    I’m going to be a mom in a little over a month (my first) and I’m terrified. I was just offered a new job that I want to take, but I have no idea how to coordinate leaving one job to go to the next while also figuring out my maternity leave situation. The new job seems flexible with start dates, but it also feels unfair to take maternity leave with the old job, and come back only to leave. Any insight?

    Also, I’m so so nervous about becoming a first time mom. I mean, the closer I get the more scared I get. Too many new things coming at me at once!

    1. Clever Name*

      Wow! That’s a lot of changes. Being a mom is scary and really, really hard. But honestly? It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. My son is amazing, even if I feel like strangling him sometimes (he’s 7 going on 17 ;)

      As for the work stuff, we’ll talk to your partner and decide what your priorities are. Is it a flexible job, or reduced hours, or the health insurance, or being the breadwinner? Knowing what is most important to your family is really helpful for making career decisions. Sometimes they’re different than what your mom or what society tells us they should be.

      1. anonyone*

        Great advice, thank you. My husband is in school so I’m the breadwinner, and we’ve saved enough for me to do a 6 mos maternity leave, but that doesn’t include healthcare costs if my employer isn’t paying part of my insurance, so I’m basically going to have to weigh taking a shorter maternity leave vs. using the credit cards to pay for insurance for a few months. I will probably take the shorter leave. I’m still not sure what to do, I have to get out a pad and pen and start doing plusses and minuses with the hubby!

    2. Celeste*

      Regarding the baby, everything will work itself out. Babies keep it real; their needs are pretty simple. You can solve most of them just by picking the baby up! Between attention and taking care of both ends, BAM. You’ve got this.

      Can you manage without a paid maternity leave? The ethical thing to do is not make them hold your job if you won’t come back. I really can’t think of any other way to handle it with Old Job. The timing is really hard, because it would be nice to head back to a job you already know when you’re adjusting to the demands of being a mother.

      Best wishes for a great birth!!

      1. anonyone*

        I think you are right, about leaving the first job if I decide to take the second job being the ethical thing. We can manage with unpaid leave, but it would cut my leave short by a considerable amount because we would have to pay the full amount for insurance since my husband is in school and doesn’t have insurance.

        1. Celeste*

          Hmmm. If the new job gives a big pay raise, will it be offset by the cost of the hospital bill? Run the numbers and see. There is a chance that this might not be a good time to make the move. Obv there are other factors, like would the new job just move you seriously forward. I hope if you decide to quit, you can still manage to take the amount of time needed to heal, especially since you are the breadwinner for the time being.

          I really do sympathize with your dilemma!

        2. Rose*

          I’m a cynic about work relationships, but I would think your company wouldn’t not lay you off just because you’re pregnant if they needed to do it financially, so why not take your leave? Unless it would really damage your reputation?

          Also, this raises a bigger question in my mind: is maternity leave given because you’ve earned it by putting in time at a company (like vacation time), or is it just a place holder for your job while you’re gone? Allison, care to weight in?

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      Congrats on becoming a mom! I remember the feelings you’re having so well. I also remember thinking, when I met my daughter for the first time, “She’s here! Now what the hell am I supposed to do?” But believe me, you’ll get the hang of it in no time at all. If I was able to do it, I guarantee that you’ll be able to as well. My daughter was a complete surprise, since I got pregnant for the first time when I was 40, but motherhood has been the most rewarding experience of my life.

      If your mom asks if you’d like her to stay for a few days after you come home, take her up on it. My mom stayed with us for a week or so, and it was so reassuring to have her there with me. Then my in-laws stayed for a few days, which was also nice. My mom and mother-in-law had a combined total of 9 children between the 2 of them, so it was comforting to have them there holding my hand for the first week or 2. When I was finally on my own, and home all day with the baby alone, I was nervous but not completely terrified.

      As far as your job situation goes, make a list if pros and cons and go from there. The new job does sound encouraging — they’re willing to hire you knowing that you’ll need to go out soon on maternity leave. That must mean they really like you!

    4. hildi*

      Congrats! My daughters are 4 and 1. They are THE hardest things I’ve ever done. The complete change in schedule, lifestyle, everything was such a shock, I wasn’t expecting it. Without a doubt some of those early days I wondered how I was going to survive. But you do. I learned to live minute by minute and not really think too far in advance (which was hard for me). Those early weeks are hard because the baby is all take and very little give. I had no idea all newborns did was sleep and eat. Honestly, I was expecting more interaction/playing. But then you get the first smile. And then after that it’s more and more giving and interacting and you can see the fruits of your labor.

      Some things that I learned that was SO much easier with my second because I already embraced it having learned with my first:

      1 – You cannot trust your instincts enough. I went in for the first month check with my first daughter and kept asking the dr questions, saying, “the books says to do this…” He looked at me and said, “Write your own book,” meaning, you can’t go exactly on what the books say. You have to do what works for you and your baby. So take the advice the advice you like and want to try – chuck the rest and screw anyone that makes you feel badly. They’re not up with you in the middle of the night trying to make it work. Plus, I’m convinced the people that are far removed from newborn days TOTALLY forget what it’s like and it’s harder for them to relate. Plus, they have the luxury of having gone through it to have all those lofty opinions. Forget them. You’ll remain saner.

      2 – “They days are long, but the years are short.” I heard that early on and it was SO TRUE. Some days I wasn’t sure if they’d ever end, but then all of a sudden I had an 8 month old on my hands. How did that happen? So…hard as it might be sometimes, take a few moments to breath in the smell of your precious bundle, feel her weight in your arms, and try to remember that. You won’t get that moment back.

      3 – If you are so inclined to preserve memories, I suggest a baby’s first year calendar rather than a baby book. Baby books are way too overwhelming when you are having a hard time fitting in a shower. Someone gave me a 1st year calendar and I’m so thankful because I captured the little snips of things she did and then I used that later to compile a First Year Photo Book. But it’s those little moments you forget that are fun to reminisce about. I loved it so much I did it for a second year because there are so many changes still happening.

      4 – I never slept when the baby slept. I HATED the feeling of my days and nights being all mixed up so I did what I could to maintain the normalcy of a day.I always heard that advice but it didn’t work for me and I can’t be the only one who feels that way so wanted to mention it (see #1).

      Congrats – truly, they are the best and hardest thing I have ever done. You’ll be great :)

  9. en pointe*

    Okay, so apologies that is long, but I’d appreciate anyone’s thoughts on a situation I’m a little unsure of.

    I have an elderly neighbour, ‘Jane’, who lives alone, and whom I know pretty well. She has two chronic health conditions, the medication for which I help her to manage, mainly because she sometimes has minor problems with confusion. I also help with basics like meals when she’s poorly, but staying at home.

    My issue pertains to a trip Jane wants to take next year for her grandson’s wedding. She needs to fly from Sydney to Brussels and back, and the trip would be for two weeks. She does not want to fly on her own, so she has asked me to accompany her. Her doctor looked into nursing services for her, but they would fly with her, get off the plane and come straight back home, and she would rather take someone who will enjoy it. We would be staying with her family, and she is proposing to pay for flights and all other expenses.

    I really want to go. I’ve never been overseas before because we’ve never had money for stuff like that, and it sounds like it would be a great experience. I would also enjoy spending more time with Jane and getting to meet her family. (I don’t get along with my own mum, and am closer to Jane.) My only hesitation is with having her pay for everything. The whole trip would be free, which I’m not sure I’m comfortable with. I feel like I should be offering to pay for at least my expenses over there, if not my flights, as I ultimately will have very few responsibilities and it’s more like a free vacation. I would do this except I just turned 20, and am a student so I don’t exactly have the money. (I do technically have enough saved, but that’s supposed to be going toward a car.)

    So, what is the etiquette here? Do I accept her generous offer? Try and offer her whatever money I could? Decline? Thanks for any thoughts/advice!

    1. Celeste*

      I would totally accept her generous offer, as it seems tailor-made to fit you. She is comfortable with you, and you would have responsibility for making sure she gets everywhere she needs to be and takes her medication. You would make the trip feasible.

      I hope we get a wonderful update from you! Bon voyage!

    2. Noah*

      I would accept the offer if you are sure it is not putting Jane into financial hardship. I would make sure I understood exactly what was expected of me first though. I would hate for there to be any misunderstanding about your “duties”.

      1. Schmitt*

        Do it. Take her out for a wonderful meal or buy her a spectacular souvenir as a thank you for the opportunity!

      2. en pointe*

        I’m pretty confident it wouldn’t be a financial hardship. Before the last few years she travelled back to Belgium and elsewhere around the world a lot – her health has now started slowing her down.

        Thanks for the advice regarding clarifying duties. So far, she’s presented it as accompanying her because she no longer wants to fly and navigate airports and flight times alone (the trip involves a stop-over). I assume it would also be just what I usually do in terms of helping with meds, etc., but there would also be her family there, and she is almost completely self-sufficient.

        But gaining a proper understanding of expectations, duties, etc. beforehand is excellent advice, thank you.

    3. A Teacher*

      I also say do it! What a great opportunity and a chance for you to experience a different culture. You could always offer to take the Jane out for dinner one or two of the nights while you are traveling. I hope you go!

      1. en pointe*

        Thanks, I am glad I brought my query here. I know you guys to be sensible, and so your perspectives are making me feel better about this offer, as I just have uneasiness about letting her spend this money on me.

        A Teacher, I appreciate the suggestion of taking Jane out to dinner as a thank you, that’s lovely.

      1. Jessa*

        Also it’s so much nicer to travel with a caregiver who she likes and she knows will help her no matter what. I would definitely let her pay for this.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It sounds like she can afford it and would be more comfortable with this plan than the alternatives. As a fan of throwing money at problems to fix them, I say let her! It sounds like she would consider it a favor to her and be grateful for you to go. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get something out of it too (a trip you’d be excited to take). Also, you’re 20. People who are older and have the money that (often, not always) comes with being older remember what it’s like to be younger and have no money and often take great pleasure in doing things like this if they can.

    5. Ann Furthermore*

      I would totally do it, if you’re sure she can afford it. Are you aware at all of her financial situation? Since you said she does have some minor confusion issues, she might be overextending herself without realizing it. But if she can afford it I think you should accept. It’s hugely generous, of course, but you’d be helping her out too, because surely she’d be more comfortable and have a much better time traveling with a friend.

      Have you met any of her children or other family? I’m thinking it might be good for you to meet them (if you haven’t already), and/or let them know that you’ll be accompanying Jane on the trip. If she shows up with a stranger that no one is expecting, they might wonder who you are, what your motives are, and so on.

      1. en pointe*

        As I mentioned above, I’m confident she can afford it. With regard to her family, I’ve met one son and his wife, who came to stay with her in 2011, and they were nice people, so I wouldn’t be a complete unknown. I know she Skypes her family, so that could be a great avenue for us all to have a chat, tee up meeting on the other end, etc. beforehand. Thanks for your thoughts.

    6. Sarahnova*

      With the caveats others have mentioned (can she afford it? Do you understand how much time you’ll need to spend with her/what your duties are?) – DO IT. I have no doubt she will consider it a huge kindness; there are plenty of people your age who wouldn’t consider taking care of an older person as you have been doing even for a free trip.

      As far as I can see, this is win:win, and to me, also a genuinely good thing you’ll be doing by helping her travel to her grandson’s wedding safely and worry-free. If I ran into you, I’d be less judging you for letting her pay and more buying you a damned drink. Enjoy!

      1. en pointe*

        Thank you for your kind words. To be clear, she looks out for me also. My mum and I have never been close, but the relationship got infinitely worse after my dad died four years ago, and Jane has always been happy to lend an ear and a kind word.

        1. Rose*

          The fact that you are so looking forward to meeting her family, not just the free trip, is so sweet and proof that you 1) are wonderful and 2) should deff go!

          This situation is how my family got my 3rd brother. You’re being slowly brought into a warm, welcoming family! It seems like they really want you there. Enjoy yourself!

    7. Fish Microwaver*

      I’m with the others who say go and enjoy. Of course, have the conversation with Jane before you go to ensure you are both on the same page regarding duties and obligations.

    8. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

      It’s completely appropriate for her to pay for everything . It would be appropriate for her to pay you and also pay for everything.

      If you wanted to treat to a dinner when you were over there, that would be nice but not necessary (and if I were she, I wouldn’t let you do that.)

      Good for you being so generous of spirit.

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        +1. This sounds to me like what would, a hundred years ago, have been a gig as a lady’s travelling companion, and since the older lady in question is not a stranger but someone you know and like, I think you go and enjoy and everybody’s a winner.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Maybe this is wrong of me, but I think that you will be “on the clock” 24/7 for two weeks. Yes, light duty, for the most part. But consider the times that she will need you- such as at the airport. You will be the one in charge, figuring out what is the best for the two of you to do. And there will be other unforeseens that come up where you will have to be on your toes and thinking sharp.
      Heck, even at night, if she has a problem in the middle of the night you are THE person who will jump up out of a sound sleep to help her. Your “on switch” will have to be in the “on” position for two weeks. That is worth compensation. So your compensation is to have your expenses paid.

      I say go. It sounds like the two of you enjoy each other and will have a delightful time. You can pay back in non-monetary ways. Something as simple as taking interest in the scenery, or finding small interesting activities for the two of you to do. And when you come back you can make her an album with all the pictures that you took. She will treasure that for sure.

      1. en pointe*

        I don’t necessarily think so. Definitely with the flights and airports – that’s the reason she wants me to accompany her. But she is mostly self-sufficient (she lives alone now, after all), and the reason she’s going is for the wedding and to spend time with her family, so I don’t know about me being responsible for activity planning.

        A few people have suggested making sure everybody’s on the same page in terms of duties, expectations etc. beforehand, which I would be sure to do.

    10. Tomato Frog*

      Another point: her family might very well want to meet the neighbor who’s been looking after her, both to reassure themselves and to thank you. I feel guilty not being able to look out for my elderly relatives, and if I knew they had someone like you, I’d be thrilled, and I’d want to meet you, and I’d be very happy to know you were getting an awesome trip in return for your kindness.

    11. Vancouver Reader*

      Everyone here has already given you great advice, the only thing I’d add is that by going with her and allowing her to pay, you’d be giving her the opportunity to thank you for being there for her.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      She wants you to come; if she didn’t, she wouldn’t have made the offer. She may actually see you as family, since you help care for her (and that’s really nice of you). I’d go for it.

    13. Rose*

      Do it!! It sounds like you would be helping her too, by giving her the sense of independence and not making her lean on either family or people she hardly knows. I think in return for giving you a free vacation, she’s getting the priceless feeling of knowing she’s not annoying or dragging down a family member by needing a lot of attention and help, which can be the WORST feeling.

      I would say, talk to her about your concerns. Tell her how you feel, and that you can’t afford the trip on your own. I have a feeling she’ll be very comforting and tell you how helpful it is to have you there! Or maybe she has an easy chore that you could do as payment.

  10. Bea W*

    I’m in Jerusalem my way to the western wall. My plane to Tel Aviv took out a bird then.proceeded to circle off the coast of south Jersey for 5 hours while we burned off enough fuel to return to Philly at 3:30 am where our flight was cancelled and they booted us off the plane and handed us cards with an 800 number. It was fun times. Not. I was double thankful i splurged on business class. I was able to extend my trip an extra day to make up for arriving a day late.

    1. Meesh*

      Why did they have to burn fuel to land? Couldn’t they land with a full tank? Enjoy you trip!

      1. Noah*

        They can if they absolutely have to, but they would be over landing weight and the aircraft would have to go through some intense inspections before returning to service. Unless there is an emergency that means getting on the ground now they will usually burn or dump fuel first.

        It seems crazy to lots of people that they can fly around burning fuel for a few hours but can’t just fly to their destination. However, flying over an ocean means there has to be lots of redundancy in place for the flight to continue. It is called ETOPS (extended-range twin-engine operational performance standards), jokingly referred to as “engines turn or passengers swim”.

        1. Stephanie*

          I’ve had the fuel burn-off happen once or twice on cross-country domestic flights.

          Only time I got recompense for a flight, a crew member was really late. United gave us $50 credits.

        2. ExceptionToTheRule*

          Plus, if something goes wrong on the overweight landing and there’s a crash, all that extra jet fuel will burn.

        3. fposte*

          A net friend who was a pilot for United said that he considered twins to be safer than planes with more engines transoceanically because of ETOPS, which I thought was interesting. (He said it in response to people arguing for the benefit of engine redundancy on long flights.)

          1. Daisy*

            Not sure how your friend was arguing that? ETOPS is number of minutes an aircraft can fly with one inoperative engine to the nearest diversion airport: 60+ min for twin, 180+min for 2+ engines. So it’s flying with 1 engine vs 3 engines until you can land.

            1. fposte*

              His point was that 3/4 engine planes don’t fly ETOPS routes so have a lot farther to limp. But mostly he flew 777s from the cockpit and I sat in the back, so I’m going to consider him more knowledgeable than me.

      2. Bea W*

        If the plane is over a certain weight with fuel, they consider it an “emergency landing” and have to call out the emergency equipment. I don’t know all the particulars of what makes landing heavy unsafe, but you imagine, if anything went wrong with that much fuel on board, it wouldn’t be pretty. We had enough fuel on board for 11+ hours of flying. So we were loaded and extremely heavy with fuel. When they were able to turn us back towards PHL (air traffic issues meant we continued the flight up the east coast US and Canada) they had us in a holding pattern off the coast of Jersey so that we could burn off the fuel, but if something should go awry, we were within range of a runway long enough to accomodate a loaded 767. There was no way in heck they were going to clear a plane with potential engine damage to continue an 11 hour trans-atlantic flight. As annoying and maddening as it was, the safest thing for eveyone was to get rid of enough fuel to make landing weight and return to PHL. We circled low with the flaps up to create drag in order to burn through fuel more quickly. “Quick” was relative of course. The flight lasted 6 hours. Maybe it would have been okay, maybe not, but who wants to take chances over the ocean like that. No one could predict how it would play out. The best course of action was to not leave the coast, and have us hang out near a suitable runway just in case.

        I got an email a couple days later with a $600 voucher. Not everyone in my group received an email, and those who did only got $75, which hardly seems fair although I know they base the compensation on things like how much you paid for the ticket, but still $75 isn’t half of $600.

        I flew British Airways First on the London to Tel Aviv leg of my replacement flight – very ultra posh. I got to read a super helpful magazine article on how to protect my family from the papparazzi while on vacation before passing out with a belly fully of pancakes. They offered me pajamas, but it was only 4 hours during the day, and that seemed like overkill.

        1. fposte*

          Well, don’t leave us hanging–how *do* you protect your family from the paparazzi?

  11. Sophia*

    Anyone know of any good apartments in Orange County, CA?

    I’m moving down in September and have been looking high and low for something good and well priced in Costa Mesa, Irvine, Newport Beach or Tustin.

    Thought I’d post here in case there are any Californias!!

    1. HarryV*

      Hard to say. Even in Orange County there are good and bad parts. Best thing to do is to search and get a gist of rental prices using Craigslist then go to a reputable agency or rental listing company to find your rental. If you use the Craigslist route, do NOT offer your full details (name, address, phone, and ssn) over any form or via e-mail. The scam usually goes like this. You find a really great deal on Craigslist and when you make the inquiry, they demand you provide your information to run a credit check so you can secure it. SCAM!

    2. Lisa*

      Look at Seal Beach/Huntington Beach and maybe even up in Long Beach – there are some great neighborhoods in Long Beach especially, and I would imagine they’re less expensive than Newport/Irvine will be.

  12. Sloop*

    How do you know when it’s acceptable to reach out to an ex? Not for me, but for my sister – he’s been contacting her intermittently in the year they’ve been broken up and I can’t give he good advice.

    1. Celeste*

      An ex is an ex for a reason.

      She needs to be crystal clear on what it is that SHE wants. It’s possible that his reasons for the contacts are simply not to feel so alone in between relationships…and not because he wants to come back and be a better partner to her. She should decide if she even wants the contact. She does not have to go along with it just because he does. The past is past, and she does not owe him anything. It can be a real mind game if she is not looking out for herself.

    2. Jamie*

      Tell her to be careful. Last time I got back in touch with an ex I ended up married – he’s in the kitchen making coffee right now.

    3. Rana*

      I’d say it’s acceptable whenever one wants to do it. Whether it’s a good idea to do it is a different question, and so much depends on the people involved, why they broke up, how they handled the break-up, etc.

    4. StudentA*

      I’ve known of people reaching out to exes to apologize for their behavior. Or for closure. Is it possible his intention is harmless?

    5. Rose*

      Tell us more! Does she want to reach out to him now? Or she’s not sure if she should answer?

      I know some people who are very gung ho about staying friends with exs. I’ve never gotten it.

    1. Tomato Frog*

      I believe it was just Alison’s default stand-in company name when she would answer questions. There’s not a specific story or anything, as far as I know.

      And in case some people are unfamiliar: it is a phrase that means something useless, not an invention of Alison’s.

    2. Jamie*

      A user named Chocolate Teapot started it and it became a thing – it’s a lot cuter than the usual widgets and wumpets.

    3. Office Worker*

      I love the expression – I heard it used a lot in the UK when referring to something useless “that has as much use as a chocolate teapot” another saying was “that’s as much good as t##i##t##s on a fish” ;o)

  13. Stephanie*

    I discovered Boardwalk Empire this weekend while sick. It’s really good! Crazy to think that all that was over…whiskey. Hard not to see parallels to today’s war on drugs. Any other fans?

    1. Celeste*

      I love it, too! It’s hard to watch what the world was like for women then, but I always feel the same with Game of Thrones and Mad Men, too.

      1. Stephanie*

        Ugh, yeah. I have that same reaction to any period drama.

        I’ve made it through the first two seasons. The Jimmy-Gillian backstory? No, no, no, no, no, no. I thought it was a little uneven the first season while it was trying to find the right pace and characterization (like Nelson and the whipping thing…), but it was fantastic the second season. Richard’s my favorite character so far.

    2. Audiophile*

      I’ve been meaning to check it out. Oooh and it’s available for free on Prime!

      Since I gave House of Cards a shot after your recommendation, I guess I could check out Boardwalk Empire.

      1. Audrey*

        I have started watching House of Cards (the BBC one) and it’s so good! And I have the US series to watch next! So thanks for the recommendation. I will add it to my list :)

        1. Audiophile*

          I’ve only seen the US one and it was good. I got Netflix instant because I wanted to watch Arrested Deveelopment and then wound up finding other things to check out.

          I’d like to see the BBC version, I hear they’re quite different. I’m curious to see if the US version will end after this third season.

          1. en pointe*

            I love the US House of Cards. Kevin Spacey is someone who I feel like I shouldn’t find attractive, but I kind of really do.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  I don’t think it was an Ellen Page-type situation, where he made a bit announcement or anything; I remember just reading something about it in passing like yeah, he has a partner, etc.

                2. en pointe*

                  I believe he’s never confirmed one way or the other. He’s known for being very private.

  14. Anon this thread*

    My husband is currently in the last 2 months of his PhD. He works mostly from home and about 10 hours a day, including weekends, and sometimes also in the evenings. Because of this, I have temporarily taken over pretty much everything else. Before this, he was responsible for grocery shopping, cooking, maintaining the kitchen and some other stuff, which pretty much worked out to half and half. Now I do all of that as best as I can (we now pretty much live on frozen meals, which is fine with me). But I can also only do so much, so some things are just not getting done, like deep cleaning(and with that I mean stuff like sweeping the floors…) or getting rid of old furniture. I work a little more than 40 hours a week, but have taken next week off just because I need that to relax a bit.

    Does anyone who has been through a time like this have advice for me? Any coping mechanisms? On bad days I alternate between being resentful and thinking I am a bad person for feeling like that, which is really not good for my mental health…

      1. Anon this thread*

        Actually, no, I don’t think this is true in this case. He works sixty to seventy hours a week. I work 40. We don’t both work hard. I, for example, can spend all weekend lazing around if I want to.

        1. Colette*

          If he were single, he woul still have to do house things, and70 hours still leaves time to sweep the floor.

          Maybe equal isn’t appropriate, but you doing everything isn’t either (unless this is very short term – less than a month).

          1. Anon this thread*

            And if I were single, I’d have to do everything, too. I don’t get why this arrangement is an issue?

            And no, if he were single right now, he would not be sweeping floors.

            1. Colette*

              My point is that I don’t think you’re obligated to do it all if you don’t want to. If you’re happy with the way things are, then keep doing what you’re doing.

                1. Colette*

                  Is it possible you’re looking at it as “he does half” or “he does nothing”? Is there something in between that would work better for you right now?

              1. Anon this thread*

                Replying to you here : it’s not actually nothing, I tend to fall into hyperbole quickly (which is not good, I know). Like, yesterday I got breakfast in bed and he unloaded the dishwasher. The day before he called my doctor for me to make an appointment. It’s not vacuuming the whole flat, or driving to the store, but it’s not nothing.

                So yeah, falling into “equal or nothing” is definitely an issue here and one that’s skewing my perspective.

                1. Colette*

                  Are there things you hate to do that would make sense for him to do? They might seem higher value, even if they’re nor much effort. For example, I hate bringing the garbage can in after pickup, even though it takes 30 seconds.

                  If not, maybe focusing on what he does do will help your perspective.

          2. Rose*

            Most of the single guys I know in PhD programs are eating pizza off of paper plates five nights a week and NOT sweeping their floors ;)

            I think that’s actually a problem with a lot of couples. One cleans less, because they care about it being clean less. How do you deal when one person has a way higher threshold for what is “too messy?” I think finishing up the PhD is likly temporarily heightening his threshold.

      2. Anon this thread*

        To add to this – he’s my husband. If I can help him with his PhD by doing a few more hours of housework then I am fine with that. It’s not like he’s out partying while I am sweeping the kitchen floor, and I want him to be able to relax when he is done for the day. When I had a car accident, for example, he drove me to work and picked me up afterwards for a few weeks, which was 2 hours extra driving for him each day. And I am pretty sure that I was doing less than half of the housework when I was finishing my Master’s thesis.

        1. Gene*

          This is the perfect time to hire a a maid service for a one time visit. Look on Groupon for a deal and don’t feel guilty. And fer gawds’ sake, DON’T clean up “So the maids don’t think I’m a slob”! Trust me, they’ve seen a alt worse – unless you’re some kind of hoarder.

    1. Perpetua*

      :hugs over the internet or sends positive thoughts if you’re not a hugger: :)

      First of all, I’d try to work on accepting whatever thoughts come your way and just letting them go (you can even try some guided meditations, there are short and free ones on YouTube). You are not a bad person and it is normal to feel overwhelmed with a lot on your plate.

      I would also talk to him about what he CAN do to help. He might not be able to do many things he did before, but maybe he could take over something else? It is highly unlikely (if not impossible) for him to be productive 10 hours a day, so can he, for example, think of sweeping the floors as a short mindless break?

      How did you come to this current setup? Has he asked you to do everything, has he just stopped doing it or have you just sort of “subtly” taken over it out of desire to help him?

      Also, if it fits with your budget/options, I’d look into getting some short-term help with the cleaning. Having someone come in for a couple of hours even once in a couple of weeks might do wonders for you, taking at least one thing off your mind (e.g. deep cleaning).

      1. Anon this thread*

        We have talked about this, and I am usually okay with this. It will end in two months,after that he will be back to the same amount of “work work” as I do (and a bigger paycheck than me) . He also never complains about the state of the house and does small things, like unloading the dish washer, doing the laundry, etc. whenever he can and remembers.

        Mostly, I think, I just have some mental problems with lazing around while someone else is working. I feel like I either should be doing something productive as well (which can only be housework, as I can not work from home), or at least be quiet and not interrupt the person working. While he tells me that he really has no problem with me listening to music or watching TV while he works. Maybe I’ll try and go outside more in these situations.

        Hiring a cleaner is something I am always planning and then I never do it. I’ll put it on my list of things to do for next week. That’s definitely something that would help, thanks!

        It seems to help to just write about it :-)

        1. en pointe*

          It sounds like you deserve your down time. You’re working 40 hours and doing all the housework too. But if you have mental problems with not being productive, why not a a ‘productive’ hobby? Are you interested in art or gardening, or do you want to start working out more or something like that?

        2. fposte*

          I wasn’t clear whose expectation isn’t being met, and it sounds like you’ve answered here that it’s yours, not his. So I vote for lowering your expectations :-). You can be a fine and loyal spouse without hitting the dustbunnies, and getting rid of old furniture can wait for ages. (Speaking as another person who lived alone while finishing her dissertation here.)

          You’ve mentioned both that he’s working harder and will be making more money than you–do you feel like you need to match your contributions to the household one way or another to even it out? Because I think it’s important to find an “enough” that isn’t just “same value/labor as partner.” What would you do, after all, if he found a job that asked 60-hour workweeks from him long-term? If it’s something different than this, is there a reason why you can’t adopt that “different” now?

          1. Anon this thread*

            *nods* that makes a lot of sense, yes, about being my expectations. I am the kind of person, who, when stressed, starts to focus on everything being neat and clean, like it’s the one thing I can control. And then I turn into my parents, who vacuumed the whole house two to three times a week. Which is just not doable here right now.

            I don’t think the income is really mich of an issue in our relationship, we will likely end up earning nearly the same long term. There isn’t much of a difference now and it will just be in the other direction at the end of the year. I suppose I would definitely start feeling guilty if I made significantly less and we shared the housework evenly. Which is not a good way to view a relationship. I should think this through some more. Thanks for mentioning this.

            1. ADE*

              +1 for lowering expectations on house cleanliness

              (Understanding full well that house cleanliness/tolerance for mess is one of those things that varies from person to person)

        3. KrisL*

          Remember you need free time too to take it easy – keeps you from burning out.

          Your husband might be one of those people who can work better when there’s “noise” around the house. I’m one of those people, and it’s oddly easier for me to study or focus when there’s music or something going on.

        4. KJ*

          One more vote for hiring a cleaner! I felt weirdly guilty about doing it the first time I did it, because apparently I thought I should be able to work 50+ hour weeks, hold down a freelance gig, be heavily involved in a volunteer gig, and keep my apartment impeccably clean to some weird 50s housewife standard. My house growing up wasn’t even that clean. I don’t know where I internalized this ridiculous standard.

          Plus, I hired a local, woman-owned business, and they are just so much better at the actual cleaning. I could really tell the difference between their professional work and my slapdash amateur work.

    2. EE*

      Do you think you can just ignore the non-essential stuff for the next two months? Having dust build up, or toothpaste stains on the bathroom mirror or whatever, isn’t a huge deal.

      Or maybe I’m just lazy. If you feel that stuff is essential, then yes, talk to him.

      1. Anon this thread*

        Nah, it’s just me turning into my parents and thinking “OMG, this floor! What would people think? We’re filthy!” When we’re not actually having people over at all and there’s clean dishes and clothes and no bugs crawling around.

        Lowering expectations, definitely something I should work on.

        1. Rana*

          It’s good practice, especially for women, to come to terms with that internalized expectation that everything the house must be perfect or people will judge you. In my experience (as a cluttered, messy person who sometimes has those bouts of shame) unless we’re talking giant globs of hair rolling across the floor, or gross chunks of food stuck to things, the average guest won’t notice a thing. You might notice, but that’s a different issue.

          Having been both a doctoral student (and married to one) and pregnant, I can say that the experience of living with the preoccupied person is rather similar. And what kept both of us sane during the various stages is the knowledge that (a) in the long run, it’s the big things that matter, not the little details, and (b) eventually things will swing around and you’ll find yourself in the needing-help position. So think of this as helping set a precedent – do you want your husband to feel guilty if he’s not killing himself taking care of the house at a time when you aren’t able to step up as an equal partner (due to ill-health, pregnancy, new job expectations, elderly parents, whatever)? I’m betting no, so give yourself that same kindness.

          :)

    3. azvlr*

      In the overall scheme of things, two more months isn’t that long to deal with the extra stress this is causing. Not saying this to make you feel as though your problems aren’t real, but I know that the end of the semester is always waaaaaay more stressful to me than the rest of the school year. I go through this at the end of every semester, thinking that if one more thing was put on my plate, I was going to lose it. I’m guessing that the tempo of his work has picked up considerably, and if he has to defend his dissertation, he may be more stressed recently as well.

      So, stressing about being stressed is counter-productive at this point. Just ride it out for the last couple of months, don’t take on any additional obligations (don’t start a major house-cleaning project right now, for example), and plan some time after he is done to regroup both with the housework and for you as a couple.

      A few days before the end of the semester, I always promised myself I would sleep for a week when it was through. But the moment it was over and my brain was able to let go of it, I was filled with new motivation and my brain was so flooded with ideas that I couldn’t sleep.

      Also, you are not a bad person, and not alone in thinking that way. Give him what support you can and hang on for a rocky ride. You CAN do it!

      1. Anon this thread*

        Thank you! We are planning a holiday for after his dissertation. I think we’ll both need it. I am, right now, so glad I decided against a PhD…

    4. Lisa*

      Get a housecleaning service in for the next couple of months! Check Groupon – there may be deals in your area. With the old furniture, you can also hire day help – maybe a couple of undergrads or underpaid grad students? Consider it an investment in your marriage – I’ve been on that resentment track, and it can be fatal if it doesn’t get solved somehow.

      1. Anon this thread*

        Throwing money at the problem sounds good. It’s not like we’re spending a lot right now, so that might work. Didn’t even think of hiring someone for the furniture, but that makes total sense now. Great idea!

    5. ClaireS*

      I can relate. I remmebered the 2 months at the end of my partner’s masters while he was heavy in thesis writing were awful. My only advice is to know that it will pass. It’s going to suck a lot but you’ll look back on it and think “we got through that hell, we can do anything!” (I recognize there are much more trying times in a couples life but give yourself credit for managing this one.

      Also, try to be ok with a bit of a mess. It’s hard but an unswept floor won’t ruin your life for ever.

      Finally, I don’t agree with the commenters pushing you to force him to help more. I’m a huge proponent of equal housework and canning crappy gender norms but fair doesn’t always mean equal. At some point, he’ll have to repay the favour for you.

      Good luck, it will be over soon.

      1. Anon this thread*

        I think gender norms are definitely not helping here – because right now, when I vacuum the floor while he works I feel like failing as a feminist. When really, I think he’d do the same for me.

    6. KrisL*

      Can you do less for a while and still get by? Would it be possible to have a cleaning service come in? Can you juggle the tasks a bit so that he does stuff he doesn’t mind doing but that you dislike doing?

  15. Audrey*

    I remember reading about an author who submitted the first chapter of her (I think it was a woman) first book to a publisher, and the editor responded by sending her a page of full stops (periods) – the implication being that her sentences were too long but the work was good and she should continue.

    I have no idea who it was and I would love to know. Does this ring any bells with anybody?

    1. Betsy*

      I read that story in the context of a newspaper editor who pounded out a page of periods to give a junior reporter, with the comment, “Let me know when you run out and I’ll get you more.”

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Well, as long as we are looking for people… we had a poster in Russia that was hoping to get a new job somewhere else.
      Poster, how are you doing?

  16. maybes*

    Elderly friends think their apartment may be infested with bedbugs. Any advice on getting action out of the management company? Any other words of wisdom about the situation? I visit them often to help them around the house, any advice on avoiding bringing the problem home with me?

    1. nep*

      Have your friends already contacted the management company and not gotten any action? Has the management company got a history of being non-responsive or negligent? Some are conscientious enough to want to jump on a problem like that once informed — for the sake of their tenants but also their image.
      Best wishes for a good outcome. Good on ya for being there to help these people out.

    2. Riki*

      This helped me when I lived in a building with bed bug issues:
      http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vector/bed-bug-guide.pdf

      If the management company is smart, they will address this issue immediately. If not, they can probably file a complaint with the city.

      As for you, try not to worry too much. Believe me, once you start worrying about bed bugs, you think you can feel them all over you! Check your clothing when you leave your friends’ home and strip down as soon as you get to your home. Place your clothing in one of those large Zip Loc bags until they can be laundered. That way, any hitchhikers contained will be contained.

    3. BRR*

      Well first let the management company know. If they are not moving quickly to fix it I would keep contacting them and not letting up (I have no issue with “annoying” people when they’re not doing their job). If they say oh we’ll look into it. I would respond with, that’s not good enough. Check your local laws. From a quick google search it seems to vary but in some places it looks like it is one of the conditions that if they do not fix you can withhold that money from rent to pay for an exterminator.

    4. ExceptionToTheRule*

      If the management company has been notified and they aren’t doing anything, I’d contact the local media. Most have some kind of consumer assistance unit. I can’t tell you how many stories we’ve done on local low rent housing units for the elderly being infested with bed bugs. It usually gets things moving because the local government gets involved and if there are bed bugs, usually other things are up to code either. Last thing the management company wants is the City or County inspector poking around.

    5. Riki*

      I wrote a reply but it seems to have disappeared. Apologies in advance if this ends up being a double!

      Anyway, agree with the others–contact the management company first. If they care at all, they will send someone over to inspect and treat as soon as possible. Definitely check your city’s government site to check on laws regarding landlord duty in regard to pest control and complaint procedures.

      As for you, check your clothes after you leave your friends’ apartment. When you get home, strip down and place the clothes you were wearing in one of those big ZipLoc bags until they can be laundered. This is will keep an hitchhikers contained and away from the rest of your home.

      This is the bed bug prevention guide published by the NYC DOH and it has a a lot of useful tips:
      http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vector/bed-bug-guide.pdf

    6. Lisa*

      Can you get an exterminator out to document the problem & estimate fixing it? The estimate will convince management there’s a problem, and having the truck parked in front of the building may prove motivational.

      As far as avoiding bring any critters home, don’t bring anything like a purse or backpack with you! And if you do, don’t set it down on the floor – hang it from a doorknob. When people bring bedbugs home from hotels, it’s generally because they set their suitcases down on infested carpets & the bugs crawled into the suitcases… Good luck. Bedbug eradication can be challenging.

    7. Nina*

      I had a bedbug situation a few months ago, my neighbors brought them in. It’s an unpleasant situation, to say the least. I had over 30 bites in the course of a week.

      Inform management that getting this under control now is in their best interests as well as the tenants, because bedbugs spread like wildfire. Eventually, they will go from apartment to apartment and the building will have to be evacuated. If they do nothing, I agree about contacting the media and your local government, because the bad press would be worse for the management than the bedbugs.

      As for you and your neighbors, bag your clothes until they can be laundered in high heat, including the ones you wear when you visit them. Definitely wash the bedding. Check the bed frame, not just the box spring and mattress; the ones that bit me were hiding in the frame. Try to move any furniture away from the wall, and don’t let anything drape on the floor so the bugs can hitch a ride to the bed. They’ve very small, but you’ll recognize them once you see them. Vacuum the floors and get rid of the dust the same day.

      It’s really sweet that you want to help your neighbors. Hopefully, management will step up and help nip this problem in the bud.

    8. Befuddled Squirrel*

      Ugh, bedbugs are awful! I hope your friends don’t have them.

      If they don’t want to alarm the management yet, they could start by using a bug sniffing dog or a bedbug trap to see if they have them. Apartment managers tend to be more responsive when there’s hard evidence.

      If they do have bedbugs, they should make sure the management follows an appropriate extermination protocol. Some of the more cost-effective methods, like the “bombs” you can buy at the drug store, actually make the problem worse.

      1. maybes*

        Thanks everyone! Management had the exterminator out today to inspect. And yes, it is bed bugs. Luckily, it is early and there isn’t a major infestation in their unit yet. Next step is inspection of all units sharing a wall/floor/ceiling with theirs. If they find anything, then inspections continue to the next “layer” of adjacent units. They keep going until all perimeter units are clear. Then infested units get the full treatment and the clear units get preventative treatment. With weekly follow-up visits for a month.

  17. Anon Right Now*

    Anyone with depression, anxiety, and drinking problems out there? I have been dealing with un/underemployment for a really long time. I’m in a city where I’m still getting my bearings and don’t have a ton of friends–but generally, I like it here more than any other place I’ve lived. I’ve been doing OK with temping this year but have been continually job searching for the Right Job for a little over a year now.

    I get into a Sneaky Hate Spiral where I think that I’m a terrible person and everyone must hate me and then I need to get better and start to do so and clean up my act, but then have to try to impress people (by applying for jobs or wanting to start dating) and things go out the window because I’m never successful. I got a book about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and have been trying to apply some of the methods, but it’s still pretty new. I’ve also been looking into SMART meetings for alcoholism (because I’m not really into faith-based programs)…a big thing, though, is that my current employer won’t really let people off for meetings during the day without a ton of questions. They’re also really nosy in my workplace, so making up some excuse about “professional development” and “life coaching” wasn’t good enough for me being able to take a full lunch break.

    I just barely got started with having medical benefits which include mental health benefits and I don’t know where to start. I know that I need therapy, but obviously can’t take doctor’s appointments while at work. I feel trapped no matter what I do, and everything just feels so far beyond my reach sometimes.

    God, this is hard to type, even though I know it’s anonymous to a group of nice people. I welcome any strategies you might have.

    1. SaraD*

      It sounds as if you’ve had a tough time, so try to go easy on yourself! You don’t have to fix everything at once. People who have never had depression don’t realise how hard it can be just to get out of bed in the morning, so give yourself credit every day for achieving what some would find impossible.

      I’m sure others will chip in with better or more thought out advice.

    2. EE*

      Are you sure you can’t take doctor’s appointments when at work? A thing I like about temping is that, so long as you let your manager know in advance, it’s not a problem if you take a chunk out of your day. Either they’re happy with paying you a little less or they’re happy with you coming into work early the next day.

    3. Annie*

      Hi – sounds difficult for you – I reckon you could do with learning to meditate / practice mindfulness. It is not necessarily spiritual so it’s not faith based but it has roots in religion such as Buddhism. In the the UK it is possible to attend courses but there are lots of self help books and audio CDs etc out there. My favourite is Mark Williams and Danny Penman’s book: Mindulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Looking on amazon.com as I assume you’re in the US I can see this version:
      http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-Eight-Week-Finding-Peace-Frantic/dp/1609618955/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404645454&sr=8-1&keywords=Danny+Penman
      Jon Kabat-Zinn has a lot of You Tube videos that you may find useful. It doesn’t work straightaway but with practice can change the way you feel about yourself and your perceptions. I’ve joined with a group of friends who meet every month and it has made a great difference.

    4. BRR*

      My psychiatrist’s practice offers some after hours appointments. They’re pretty competitive to get but pull up a list through your insurer of people who are covered and see if any are open late or perhaps do one saturday a month.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Maybe call SMART and ask them how people are handling this. There has to be others in the same tight spot with their jobs.

    6. fposte*

      I also do know atheists in AA–they basically interpret “higher power” to suit themselves and lean toward meetings that don’t get as granular on the faith aspects. So if you can’t make SMART work during the day, it might still be worth checking an evening AA meeting out.

    7. Sabrina*

      You could take time off under FMLA assuming you’re in the US and eligible. You don’t have to take it all at once, you can take a day or partial day here and there, but you’d have to talk to HR.

    8. littlemoose*

      If your employer has an EAP (Employee Assistance Program), that might be a good place to start. Hopefully they can suggest some providers that are covered by your benefits.

      Best wishes to you. I think it is awesome that you are recognizing a problem and are willing to do something about it, instead of burying your head in the sand. I am impressed and wish you well through this tough time.

    9. anonforthis*

      I just want to say I could have typed this post word for word. I appreciate your bravery and I’m sending good thoughts your way. One thing people have been telling me is even if everything IS overwhelming, the depression makes it seem even more insurmountable. So it’s good just to start doing something. Hang in there.

    10. SherryD*

      On your concern about the appointments, on the May 31 2014 AaM post, there’s something about having a recurring therapist appointment during work hours. That may help you talk to your boss.

    11. Befuddled Squirrel*

      Some ideas:

      1) Tell your manager that you need weekly treatments for an embarrassing medical problem that you’d rather not have to talk about. Ask them to be an ally in protecting your privacy.

      2) Look for a therapist who sees people after hours or on weekends.

      3) See if you can adjust your work schedule. For example, working 7-3 instead of 9-5 at least one day a week. If people ask why, say you want some extra time to take care of things that are normally done during business hours.

      I would be a little cautious about using FML or EAP, though. Some employers do discriminate even though it’s illegal. For the sake of your job security, I would be very vague about what type of problem it is and only use company resources or extra time off if you think the culture would be supportive of that (sadly, most aren’t).

      1. Anon Right Now*

        I know that most people won’t look at this thread again, being many days later. I was embarrassed about having posted this at a really vulnerable moment, and too embarrassed to look at the responses until now.

        Thank you for your support! A big thing for me is that my current (long-term temp) employer is difficult–we have major deadlines at noon and 3pm every day, so everyone eats only at their desks or not at all. Because of this, it’s a BIG EVENT if someone takes a 15-minute lunch break, much less takes an hour for a mysterious meeting. It’s an extremely weird climate for a temp job, but the people are good people and they’ve been supportive of me in my job search.

        I’ve been working with this for a while now, and knowing that things need to change. It’s getting a little better, and I think that my intolerance of how bad things are (instead of apathy) is actually a good sign. Thank you all again!

  18. Rayner*

    I moved.

    *collapses in a heap*

    God, that was hard work – I had 1.5 hours sleep on Sunday night into Monday morning, and I’d cleaned and cleared all the time between 9am on Sunday to 7pm on Monday.

    Did miss my flight but there we go – rebooked it for Tuesday, and almost missed the connecting flight at Amsterdam as well. Because I was trying to print on a stupid sodding photocopier.

    Urgh.

    And now, I am returned to England.

    *life update that nobody wants to hear*

    1. Jen RO*

      Well, what’s important is that you made it – congratulations!

      (And if you have any suggestions of things to see in/around Helsinki, I’m all ears! Well, eyes. The boyfriend and I are visiting in August for 6 days, seeing some friends, but we don’t have any plans beyond getting a – very expensive compared to home, probably – beer.)

      1. EE*

        Ooh, consider a daytrip to Tallinn! Stunning brightly coloured buildings in a very small, walkable city centre. I haven’t been there since the switchover to the euro which will make it an even simpler daytrip from Helsinki. You’ll be accompanied on the boat by a lot of Finns on their way to buy cheaper booze, or so I hear…

        One tiny bit of advice if navigating Helsinki with the help of a map: it may give both the Swedish and Finnish name for every street. I got terribly lost by assuming there were actually twice as many streets as there were.

        1. EE*

          And the money museum! I forget what it’s actually called but it was great. Sounds strange, I know, but it was.

        2. Jen RO*

          Thanks! I think the Baltics will be a future holiday – I really want to see Vilnius, since a good friend is from there, and if I’m there, I’ll definitely go to Riga and Tallinn too.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Congrats on the move! I’ll be moving in a few weeks and I’m starting to feel the pressure. Just don’t know how it’s all going to get done. And I’m only moving 45 minutes away. Sounds like you had an international move, so kudos to you!

      1. Rayner*

        It was an international move – Finland to UK, and by God, it was hard. I do not recommend doing it alone if you have the opportunity ever again.

        I suggest starting now, doing two or three boxes per day, and scanning/trashing unwanted paperwork in the evenings. Empty your fridge of food you know you won’t eat, dispose of almost everything in your freezer (you will not eat it. Period), and do the little jobs like cleaning hair drains and storage areas now as well.

        Walk around the rooms, choosing furniture you love versus stuff you can leave behind – I left a chair, two tables, and all the dining stuff because the landlord paid me a hundred euros for the lot and I couldn’t mail them home. Pictures and posters were binned because I could replace them for far less money than I could send them home for.

        You’ll be amazed at what you don’t like enough to take with you/what you really value in your home.

        The single most difficult part of moving for me were those two days of flat out cleaning, and clearing. I threw away thirty bags of trash, mailed nine boxes of stuff home, and spent hours scrubbing on hands and knees to clean the floors because of the strict rules of the apartment complex re: cleaning

        I lived in a three bedroom apartment – but it had no communal area, no porch, no storage areas, and the other two rooms belong to roommates who had already left (leaving behind a mountain of trash, though).

        But it still took forever.

        Don’t leave it to the very end point, or you’ll be crying at five am, begging the Gods to rewind a few months.

        Good luck!

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Thanks for all the advice!

          I’ve been packing several boxes, several times a week for the last month or so. We didn’t want to pack too much in the event the deal feel through (we’re buying a house). Now that’s it’s definite, I’m freaking out a little.

          The one thing we have going for us is that we are going to rent out our current house. The new people won’t be moving in until August 1 so we’ll have a few weeks between the closing and when we truly have to be out of this house. We plan to make several car trips with boxes during that time so we can fit everything else into a moving container that’s coming tomorrow.

          Another good thing is that we did a lot of throwing out when we did some renovations a few years ago. Not a lot of junk left over. On the other side of the coin, we’re buying a BIGGER house and don’t have enough stuff to fill it. I guess that’s not a bad problem, though.

          And we’re not doing any more food shopping until we move. As a result, my cabinets, fridge, and freezer are slowly emptying.

          1. Rayner*

            Oh, it’s always more fun to have to buy furniture to go in a new place than taking your own. It makes it feel like you’re buying a home, not just filling a space again.

            And it’s also awesome that you have flexible time to finish moving – it doesn’t have to be all done in one day. Always fun!

            I’m looking forward to doing the same – since I moved into my mother’s place again (sigh, can’t move until my grandfather’s estate passes to me in a few months), I’ve learned that she disposed of my wardrobes, dressing table, desk, and shelves.

            I don’t even have a floor yet.

            About the only thing I have left is bookcases from my first bedroom.

            Fun times.

            I’m sorry – I didn’t meant to be preachy – I just see the word ‘moving’ and I’m like “MUST GIVE ADVICE,” lol.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          UGH. Moving is terrible. But I’m glad you got it done. :)

          I’m trying to declutter on general principles–the best way I’ve found to get rid of stuff is either to pretend that I’m moving overseas and I can’t take it with me, or that someone I really want to impress is coming to visit and I don’t want to explain why I have all this junk sitting around. I actually threw away stuff I had been hanging onto for years. The garage is looking pretty amazing.

  19. Sophia*

    Best/Worst of week

    Best: gave birth to my beautiful baby girl
    Worst: her having to immediately go to NICU bc I got an infection and fever in labor and they discover she has pneumonia. Seeing and hearing about her turning blue, not being able to breathe, and being hooked to to machines brings me to tears (understatement). Luckily treatment seems to be working and if it continues, she could be home on Tuesday *knock on wood*!

    1. nep*

      I’ve almost got tears in my eyes reading that. Can’t even imagine what that was like for you. Wishing you and baby the best of health. Wonderful that treatment seems to be working. May she recover fully and be able to join you at home soon.

      1. Sophia*

        Thank you so much! It’s been so scary but luckily she’s a very brave little girl and is a fighter!

    2. Manda*

      Congratulations on the birth of your daughter – she’s had the best care possible. It must have been such a shock for you – rest up as much as you can – be kind to yourself and I hope she’s home very soon.

      1. Sophia*

        Thank you – it was a huge shock! And good advice re being kind to myself (and my husband) bc it’s been easy to take the blame for what’s wrong since she caught it during labor and delivery

        1. Nancypie*

          For me, in the weeks after giving birth, all emotions were magnified. Try to keep that in mind, as it helps stabilize any feelings of guilt/fault you may have (One of my children was readmitted to the hospital a few days after coming home and the other child was in NICU for a week before coming home). Things happen. I’m grateful for modern medical science.

    3. Nancypie*

      Congratulations on the birth of your daughter. It’s good news when they start targeting when she’ll be able to come home.

    4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

      Oh both congratulations and hugs!

      I had the fever/NICU thing with my first. Although he bounced back quickly, that’s not the picture perfect mother/baby moments after you were expecting.

      Hugs and good thoughts.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      This brought a tear to my eyes, too. Warm thoughts flowing your way. Please keep us posted on your little one. May Tuesday get here very fast.

    6. Rana*

      Congrats, and here’s hoping she gets to come home soon!

      How are you doing, new mama? Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too!

    7. KrisL*

      So scary! Thank goodness they have NICU and that she’s getting better.

      My nephew was a preemie and had to have a tube down his throat for a while, but he got better, and is now a very healthy kid.

    8. Ruffingit*

      CONGRATULATIONS!!! So sorry about the pneumonia, but grateful for modern medicine that can treat her. Hope you can take her home on Tuesday.

  20. Rebecca*

    I just want to put a bug in everyone’s ear about volunteering – please do it if you have time. I’m involved in a non profit car club – we hold an annual car show to raise money for charity in our county, and go on cruise ins, all very informal. Our annual event is today, and I really hope the other club members show up to help. If not, there’s going to be a ton of work done just by a few of us.

    We were looking forward to going to a chicken BBQ at a local fire company yesterday after we did all the initial setup work, but it was canceled due to lack of help.

    So please, look around, and if you possibly can, volunteer or help with fundraising for charities in your area. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to help someone else!!

    1. Sophia*

      So sorry the BBQ event had to be cancelled! And agree that volunteering, in whatever capacity people are able, is important

    2. Colette*

      I agree that volunteering can be very rewarding, but I also think organizations that rely on volunteers need to be realistic about what they can do, and plan based on that. Sometimes they get stuck in”but we always do X” mode and then get upset that they don’t have enough volunteers and try to guilt people or overload the volunteers they do have – which results in fewer volunteers the next time.

      1. Felicia*

        That’s been my experience volunteering at a certain organization. They put too much on the volunteers and it was overwhelming to everyone, and they tried to guilt everyone into doing more than t hey had originally intended. So it ended up being a horrible experience for everyone meaning several people dropped out at the last minute and didn’t want to come back next year

      2. Ali*

        I was in a community service group in college and it was a great learning experience. I had fun with the friends I made too and I wish I could volunteer again. But right now my work schedule fluctuates so much that I really don’t have time or energy to squeeze in an activity. Volunteering is important, but sometimes it’s not possible.

      3. Diet Coke Addict*

        There are some groups I would love to volunteer for–but they ask for outrageous commitments. 20+ hours per week, guaranteed, for six months or more? Some weeks I don’t get to spend 20+ hours with my husband, and I love him more than any volunteer opportunity I’m ever going to have, you know?

        When I have found good volunteer opportunities I’ve loved them and had great, rewarding experiences there. But it can be a challenge to find one that fits you and you fit them.

        1. anonintheUK*

          I left one because they really genuinely did not seem to understand that I work (I think they must have had a lot of young retireds or stay-at-home wives). So no, asking me to do something at 3pm midweek simply does not work.

          1. anonintheUK*

            They were then complaining about the difficulty they had in attracting volunteers under sixty. Yes, that would be because anyone under sixty who does not have a job most probably either is looking for one, or has responsibilities for small kids or elderly parents.

          2. Felicia*

            I have had a place like that – they’d request me to do something t 3 pm midweek and then they’d be so mad when I couldn’t do it

    3. C Average*

      My sister has to deal with a lot of volunteers in her work (she’s a state archivist), and I’ve learned a lot from her about what makes good volunteers good and bad volunteers bad. It’s interesting to me how much good career advice is also good volunteer advice.

      –Keep your commitments.
      –Show up on time.
      –Be friendly, but not TOO friendly.
      –Don’t be possessive about your part of the workflow; be willing to cross-train others and also take on roles outside your own.
      –If you find you can’t keep your commitments, don’t try to fade out. Give advance notice and try to delegate your tasks if you can rather than just walking away.

    4. KrisL*

      That’s a good idea, but like others have posted, when I do look into volunteering, they seem to have pretty strict guidelines – I don’t always have enough time/energy to feel like I can live up to what they want.

  21. Chris*

    Free for all:

    – got stood up by a recruiter. I’m certain there’s a Latin phrase out there that means “one event that summarizes a long term experience.” Regarding my 2+ year “official” job hunt, this event fits the epitomization perfectly.

    – Pearl Islands is a legitimately good season of Survivor. More people need to show up wasted at Tribal Council. People had this at #1: will need a new fixation.

    – I might need a new career that isn’t engineering. It’s been 2+ years, and I’ve basically had to deal with:

    – people giving bad / naive advice about job hunting

    – making promises to email me / help me / give resume advice. Then not follow up, nor respond back when I send an email / voice mail 3 weeks later when I suspect they reneged on their word.

    – being unable to land an internship since I’ve graduated from college already. (Why didn’t you pursue them in college? Answer: I did. “Come back when you’re in the Aerospace Department. Come back when you’ve studied electric propulsion.” Jury duty that one Summer didn’t help either.) Even with all my awards / projects (in college & post-college) / funsies, it doesn’t seem like it’s a solvable problem (“a large number of adult internship seekers are not like you. Not individuals with advanced degrees from top universities–many are career changers, or people who have been in the job market for a long time…”). I can’t wiggle my way around a restriction that is often in bold lettering on many internship applications.

    So, I need a new career. The issue: engineering and programming and math and aircraft and spacecraft and STEM stuff are the only skills I have. And I don’t like teaching (The first reason I’ll keep to myself. The second is that I don’t like having to convince people who do not care to care. ).

    Suggestions welcome for how to change careers without having a main career to change from.

    1. AKB*

      Have you been job searching nationally? Depending on whee you currently are and if you’ve restricted your search, this might help you find something.

      Would you be willing to take something tangentially related? I saw you mentioned programming – maybe doing a wider search in that (and related data analysis) might help you find something. In the DC metro area, there are lots of entry-level data analyst type positions.

      1. C Average*

        This is a good question. How far afield are you willing to go geographically and career-wise?

    2. Befuddled Squirrel*

      Volunteer or take up a hobby in your target field. In other words, do the kind of work you want to do without pay until you have something to show for yourself and can get hired. Your engineering skills might make a good segue. Lots of non-profits would appreciate a volunteer with a technical background.

    3. Lora*

      It depends on what exactly you are looking to engineer. Things go in and out of phases in engineering and sometimes they just don’t need a specialty right then. Or nobody can afford it. A lot of civil engineers had a hard time finding work 2008 – 2013, though I think it’s picking up. Around Boston anyways. I have various mechanical engineering friends whose job it was to transfer manufacturing processes and equipment overseas. Now that that is done…not much for them to do in the US.

      The internship thing is a stumbling block. I know many of the universities around here have placements rather than you having to seek out internships per se.

      Spacecraft/aircraft is a pretty narrow field and there aren’t a ton of employers for it. I mean, NASA lost a substantial amount of funding a few years back, and it hasn’t returned. There’s airplane manufacturers (be willing to move to Colorado or Washington) and, um…various Defense Dept. organizations. The crummy thing is that everyone wants to work for NASA or JPL and therefore they are constantly inundated with applicants willing to work for peanuts. Many of those applicants will be from CalTech/MIT and their advisor was personal friends with some hiring manager there, sort of thing.

      Best suggestion I can think of from an engineering point of view: I would pursue the programming and MechEng aspects of your degree, and think about applying to an engineering contractor firm (e.g. Fluor, Foster-Wheeler, Jacobs, URS). They’ll make you move around all over the place, but it’s a job and they pay decent.

      1. Chris*

        @AKB:

        Have you been job searching nationally? Depending on whee you currently are and if you’ve restricted your search, this might help you find something.

        Yes, I’ve been searching nationally. My only hard rule is not to work and live permanently in another country (i.e. I don’t want to get a job in Australia).

        Would you be willing to take something tangentially related? I saw you mentioned programming – maybe doing a wider search in that (and related data analysis) might help you find something. In the DC metro area, there are lots of entry-level data analyst type positions.

        Maybe. Here’s the thing: I can program in Java and MATLAB currently w/o looking at sample code since I’ve been using them for random applications and Android app development (currently learning). C / C++ I’d have to look up some syntax since I rarely use them.

        I’m not there yet in terms of being a true software developer (i.e. just learned Github was a thing a month ago). Other than MATLAB, most of my coding skills are self-taught.

        @C Average:

        This is a good question. How far afield are you willing to go geographically and career-wise?

        Fine with living anywhere inside the country. I’m disappointed that becoming an engineer (intern / entry level) is incredibly difficult. Really don’t want to change fields, but it’s been 2+ years of “official” job hunting; I can’t keep applying for engineering internships and entry level positions anymore.

        @Befuddled Squirrel

        Volunteer or take up a hobby in your target field.

        A lot of volunteering is STEM outreach. I did this at a Museum awhile back, and, tl;dr, I wasn’t really thrilled with it. Part of it goes back to dealing with people who do not care. As for hobbies, I’ve worked on some CAD (until Solidworks expired), software, and designed an experiment in my spare time. I build stuff in my spare time. Well, not right now: depression has hit me hard and solving Survivor became my hobby: a lot of the same rules for winning Survivor are similar for networking with people at conferences and career fairs and at individual locations. Keep close people who will work with you. Figure out who won’t. Keep it light and funny & don’t antagonize if you don’t have to. If you’re at a conference: figure out what other people / job hunters value. If they can talk your ear off about composites, but can’t hold a conversation otherwise (and doesn’t have a friendly demeanor), stay far away from the subject of composites when the engineer sits at your table. Be very careful about the conversation going in the other job hunter’s frame if the other job hunter won’t work with you: he’ll steal the interest of the engie and it becomes much more likely the engie won’t respond to follow up networking emails. Yes, I had this happen at an engineering conference, and after it ended, I was pissed.

        It’s a harsh game, but if you can’t play it well, your torch will get snuffed before anything serious starts.

        In other words, do the kind of work you want to do without pay until you have something to show for yourself and can get hired. Your engineering skills might make a good segue. Lots of non-profits would appreciate a volunteer with a technical background.

        I’ve been building stuff in my spare time for the last 2 years and have taken additional classes in a field I wish to study in Grad school if I ever go. I’ve considered volunteering. However, the paycheck is important: I’d like to build a wind tunnel to confirm if my tunnel flow analyzer runs a valid model (and for kicks) and would like to one day launch a rocket with a camera that takes photos at high altitudes (after reading a story about a kid doing it for a senior project in high school), and I need money to do hardware related stuff.

        I’m not ruling out volunteering (I do e-book proofreading online), but a lot of it isn’t in line with what I enjoy. IMO, volunteering cannot be done haphazardly or else it’s an insult to the others there who are passionately dedicating their time and energy to a cause they believe. It’s similar to why I’m opposed to joining the military: Reason (2) would be that I’m a patriotic individual who believes in the USA. Reason (1) is “I need a job.” Going in with Reason (1) is understandable, but an insult to those who have Reason (1) as my Reason(2), which is more-or-less what joining the military should be about.

        @Lora:

        I actually live in Washington, so I find your response rather humorous. What I’ve found is a lot of those manufacturers want peeps with mechanic and shop type backgrounds as opposed to people with 4 year engineering college degrees. Which… is the way it is, and I confess that one major blindside was thinking that some math classes like structural vibrations were more important than classes where I could build a part on a rocket to fly in space. Then again, structural vibrations was a required class, and the part building class was optional and difficult to get into due to a lot of required classes being at the same time as that class. So, eh. In other words, if I went to community college and spent 2 years doing welding / shop / autobody / mechanics, I’d have a much easier time getting work than I do now.

        I’ll look into the contractor firms. Thanks.

        1. IT Squirrel*

          I’ll tell you a secret (okay, maybe not so secret) about having to look stuff up; we all use Google – no really, we legitimately use Google at our place every day!

          And being self taught is no bad thing either; you’ve shown the drive to learn for yourself, and so long as you can get the thing done, no-one cares how you know. Don’t write yourself off totally without looking into it as a field if it interests you.

    4. Stephanie*

      I feel your pain. I graduated with an ME degree and worked in a non-engineering field (needed the degree for it, but I wasn’t engineering anything) and I haven’t really had a ton of luck hopping back into engineering. There aren’t a whole lot job leads between college hire with recent degree (i.e., last 12 months) and specified experienced (e.g., 15 years’ experience in saltwater subsea robotic drilling systems).

      I’ll second Lora in that aerospace is kind of bananas at the moment. My buddy just finished her PhD from a top program (think MIT/Stanford/Georgia Tech) and she’s having problems landing interviews. Her old roommate (who was in the same program) had a really long job search. They just are in a particularly flush lab and have an advisor who will try and find students lab jobs as research engineers at the lab until they can land full-time employment (although my friend said even that was starting to go away as the lab lost some federal funding).

      Aerospace is a pretty big component of the local economy here (and it’s all over the place, outlook-wise). Out here, it’s mostly defense contractors. Problem is, it’s all dependent on government funding (because who else is buying a $15 million helicopter?). And with a sort of dove president in office and troop withdrawals (maybe?), there’s less demand for ground radar, missiles, etc. Some acquaintances work at General Dynamics, and they’ve all told me GD’s been laying off every quarter without fail because a lot of its business (here, at least) is doing on-the-ground support for troops.

      Plus, I’ll second Lora about NASA/JPL. People fight to get into those jobs to work for peanuts.

      Anyway, the above is probably preaching to the choir. So what can you do?

      If you haven’t already, I’d broaden your search to less-obvious leads. For example, the car companies will sometimes hire aerospace engineers because some of the principles are the same (vehicle moving through fluid, in situ testing, etc). I’d look at companies/jobs that might not engineer things specifically, but want the background. So, for example, I interviewed at Petsmart/Petco Corporate because they wanted someone with an engineering background to do logistics and distribution strategy.

      Unfortunately, I think if you want to do more traditional engineering work, you might be stuck going back to school (I’m in the same boat at the moment) just to qualify for internships or college hire openings.

      I can commiserate about recruiters. I know good ones do exist, but I’ve never had luck with them. Too much overpromising and underdelivering.

    5. Rose*

      wait, are they telling you you’re too experienced to intern? I’m confused.

      I didn’t know this was a problem engineers had, too. Makes me feel better abut my 2 year job hunt. :-/ It ended and I have a great job in my field now. I hope that gives you some home. I thought it would literally never happen at one point.

      1. Stephanie*

        Engineering internships usually have the restriction that you have to be a current student. Engineering entry-level jobs (especially at large, established companies) sometimes have the restriction that you have to be within 12 months of graduating, so I’m guessing this is what Chris is running up against.

        1. Rose*

          That much makes sense (well.. kind of?). But why then would they take adult career changers or people who have been in the industry a long time?

          1. Stephanie*

            Hmm, adult career changers I don’t imagine are as common. Or seems like they’d be enrolled in some sort of schooling? The few people I know who did change careers into engineering usually do so after a degree program (like a masters or second bachelors).

            The 12 months’ thing…I have no clue. That just seems to be the way it’s done. Doesn’t entirely make sense to me for some fields, as some engineering fields don’t change that rapidly (at least for an entry-level opening), but that’s just always the way it’s been done.

  22. Anon embarassed*

    I’m female in my 40’s. My hair is thinning on top. A Prominent part is becoming more prominent. Has anyone else experienced this? Are there any treatments that work? I’m thinking of making an appointment with a dermatologist.

    1. nep*

      I’ve heard/read that coconut oil stimulates hair growth. No idea whether this is the case but might be worth looking into. (I use coconut oil for a few other things to great benefit.)

      1. Trixie*

        My mother has had luck with Kirkland generic brands of Rogaine. She gets topical liquid form for her scalp, and the foam to help fill in the eyebrows. Both “men’s” version, the women’s option is pure marketing gimmick. It does take time and regular use. The topical application can be drying since it has alcohol but a couple drops of oil or leave-in conditioner will help with that. I think I read the viewer comments on Amazon pretty closely to see what others recommend. I found Amazon to be cheapest source with the six-month supply, or you can order directly from Costco.

        1. Prickly Pear*

          Pedantic note-the men’s version is actually stronger (5% vs 2%) so maybe start with the lower strength to see if that works for you.

      1. fposte*

        Seconded. That’s a very common cause of hair-thinning. Fortunately, mine grew back when my thyroid came out of a bottle instead.

        1. Rayner*

          I would also third this – OP, check your eyebrows. If the outer third is missing or very pale as opposed to the rest of your brows, it’s another sign of your thyroid failing.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Yes, kind of like burning out. One extreme morphs into the other extreme- hyper to hypo.

              1. fposte*

                Hashimoto’s can be like that, but Graves’–what I have–is straight out hyperthyroidism. It won’t be hypo unless you get your thyroid treated.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Hypo can also cause premature graying–I found my first gray at 28. I’ve been coloring it auburn ever since, so I have no idea what color my hair is now.

        2. Befuddled Squirrel*

          Yes, there are all kinds of medical conditions that can cause hair loss. I would check with your doctor and also make sure it isn’t related to stress or diet. Who knows, it could be easy to fix.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I’ve heard Biotin works well for hair regrowth. Lots of post-weight loss surgery patients use it, as the surgery causes some hair loss at a certain point. They’ve had success with it.

    3. Stephanie*

      The hair threader I go to always recommends Vitamin E oil or castor oil to stimulate hair growth. But I’d go to a doctor to make sure there’s not an underlying cause.

    4. Rayner*

      Not treatment advice, but if your hair is thinning, talk to your hairdresser and ask for advice on either cutting your hair into a new style (shorter, going lighter on the colour etc which can help make it appear thicker and healthier) or on wigs/hair pieces. They can help conceal some of the damage, or recommend treatments that are not medical (as in, they don’t require a script).

      It can definitely help boost your confidence while you’re going through this period of ill hair health.

    5. Tex*

      Try Phyto vitamins. They worked for me once when i was under a lot of stress but kinda expensive (50$ for a bottle). Also, it takes awhile for the hair to re-grow/thicken so results aren’t immediate.

    6. Traveler*

      There are also dry shampoos that have a tint to them (bumble and bumble comes to mind though it’s very expensive and I think there are cheaper alternatives) that will add thickness to your hair and color to your scalp to help disguise it.

      Seconding the hair pieces as well – you can get temporary clip-in extensions that cost a lot less than the real deal and are still made of real hair that you can style and wash like your regular hair.

    7. HannahS*

      I’m sorry to hear it! I had my hair thinning out when I was 18. It felt SO embarrassing. No joke, I lost between a 1/2 and 2/3 of my hair. The truth is, though, that no one could tell except for myself, my mom, and my doctor. Obviously I can’t see your head and how prominent it is, but other people probably don’t notice as much as you do. For me, it was due to low iron. I think I trip to a dermatologist is a good idea :)

      1. LeafFall*

        I had hair thinning starting in high school, too. I got my thyroid checked first, but ended up at a dermatologist/hair specialist. For me, the issue ended up being androgenic alopecia, which I manage with a couple medications and minoxidil. It has definitely improved, so I agree that getting yourself checked out is worthwhile.

    8. LAMM*

      It sounds really weird but have you considered getting head massages?

      My boyfriend had alopecia when we started dating. When I started rubbing his scalp several times a week the bald and thinning spots disappeared within a few months. Even his hairdresser commented on the difference.

    1. fposte*

      Banana Island where? I hadn’t heard of this and am finding one off Nigeria and a chain off of Sierra Leone.

      So, no, but tell more!

      1. nep*

        Right — there are actual places called Banana Island. I’m referring to spending an extended period (one day, two days, a week…) consuming only water and (super ripe) bananas, with some greens in the evenings. Bananas in all forms — simply peeling and eating, freezing for smoothies or banana ice cream. Used as a sort of ‘reset’ button for the digestive system, overall health, eating habits.

        1. fposte*

          Is this a medically recommended procedure? I’m not familiar with that, and it sounds like something that isn’t likely to do much but get you lots of banana skins for the garden :-).

          1. narnas for this*

            It did me a lot of good (I’m pretty blown away by how good I felt/feel) and I’m always interested in hearing others’ experiences with it — hence my original post. (One really has to like bananas, of course. But it’s done with other fruits too — mangoes, grapes…) It was not a huge leap for me as I’m vegan, still the impact was impressive.

          2. nep*

            It’s done me quite a bit of good. I’m rather blown away by how great I felt and still feel. It was not a huge leap for me as I don’t eat animal products or processed food; still the impact has been impressive. Interested in others’ experiences with it in the AAM community (though there are a lot of other places on line folks go on and on about it), hence the original post.

        2. nep*

          (Got ahead of myself and didn’t adjust the name for replying — no biggie anyway. nep it is.)

        3. C Average*

          OK, I am going to go ahead and ask something I have always wondered about: How does one do one of these diets or cleanses while holding a job?

          I have numerous colleagues who do various diets and cleanses, and I always wonder how they remain productive during the energy lulls and mood swings, and (above all) how they deal with the bathroom-related side effects.

          Maybe I have a more sensitive digestive system than others, or maybe I’m more shy about using the work restroom than others, but I would never ever attempt something designed to “reset the digestive system” when I have to work in the same place as other people. Just the idea of it freaks me out.

          1. nep*

            Good question — I’m off to work and will be glad to share some thoughts later. Cheers.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            The times I have done cleanses were on Fridays. I took the day off from work. I had to have a week day so I could touch base with my practitioner though the day.

            But you are totally correct. You need to be able to use the bathroom AND you need to watch how much energy you are expending. Activity level should match the food intake. If you are doing something like this or a fast, you should be just hanging at home, reading calm things, and napping.

            1. fposte*

              So I’ve never really gotten the “cleanse” thing. What specific toxins are theoretically being removed here?

              (I know there’s some interesting benefits proven for periodic fasting, but those benefits aren’t making anything cleaner.)

              1. Not So NewReader*

                The theory is that we load up with chemicals as we travel through life. So it could be anything- drugs/dyes in our beef; chemicals coming off of various products such as carpeting/furniture/paint.
                The accumulation of scripts we have taken over time is another thing. (My cousin lived with damage from steroids for over a decade after she stopped taken them.) The pesticides around us. (An area north of me has huge cancer rates because of the aerial DDT spraying.)
                We also can carry chemicals our mothers had. I could go on and on.
                I cannot say that I have proof that these cleanses are just the thing to be doing. But I have seen enough that I am willing to do it.
                One guy that I heard about passed a crayon he had eaten when he was five. He was middle-aged at the time of his first cleanse. I thought about that. Something like that could cause a dam in the digestive track and lead to other problems later on.

                Some people are more “free-spirited” than me. I would not do this without the advice of a practitioner. Nor would I do this when the practitioner was not in the office/available. A lot of these off-the-beaten path treatments have an emotion component as well as the physical. A good practitioner is aware of the emotional aspects and able to talk to you about that. For example: “Yes, you can expect to feel tired or a little weepy” etc. As long as I know it’s to be expected, I am all set.

                1. fposte*

                  The emotional component is a good point, and that makes a lot of sense to me; I think the term “cleanse” sounds kind of religious, like “clean eating,” and I’m thinking that that kind of focus resonates more with me. I’m afraid I’m joining medical science in being skeptical of the crayon thing, but I can get on board with a brief period of deliberate change and mindfulness.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  I can see what you are saying about it having a religious/spiritual connotation. But with what I did the idea was to scrub out the colon. The explanation went that things get caught up in there or get stuck to the sides, making passageways smaller or harder to use. Things like corn, that just don’t break down and so on. But, anyway, get the colon to clean itself out and the organs up stream can work better, that is the thought. Right,though, not something you do often.

                3. fposte*

                  @NSNR–Yeah, I think this is just a different views thing. I like the spiritual notion because I can’t really get on board the idea medically, as there doesn’t seem to be much indication that consumed material really does stick to the side of people’s colons. But for a day or so, a certain amount of focused intake that breaks a regular habit sounds like it could be a reinvigoration of mindfulness.

                4. Annon for this*

                  @NSNR I have a problem with constipation, and I asked my GI nurse about cleanses. He told me this is absolutely in no way how the stomach works, and things don’t stick to the sides that way, and that’s a diet add myth. But I know so many people who have been helped by colonics etc. so I secretly hope he’s wrong. Where did you get your info?

                5. Not So NewReader*

                  @ Annon For This. I got my info from my practitioner. Yeah, traditional med people will say one thing and alternative med people will say another. Personally, I say go cautiously and try stuff. I prefer non-invasive stuff and I approach it by “is this making sense to me?”
                  Then I try and watch, how is this or that going?

                  Check the basics before you spend bucks. How is your water intake? Then how are the fresh fruits and veggies doing? Exercise? Even if it’s a 15 minute walk at lunch. Look at the easy stuff first.
                  I was allergic to milk and did not even realize. Yeah, that did a number on the bowels.
                  But, yeah, constipation can lead to a bunch of other things if it goes on for too long a time. Once I got the lower digestive track working better I stopped having headaches and pimples. My hair stopped trying to copy the Albert Einstein look. The frequency and severity of my ear infections lessened. (The ear thing was huge to me.) Although none of this is earth-shattering stuff, I never realized how much it encumbered my life.

          3. anonintheUK*

            A colleague of mine was doing the 5:2 diet. Very briefly, because he became such a miserable snappy so-and-so that his staff basically told him he could stop on his own or they’d go and see HR

      2. nep*

        P.S. Not intended for weight loss, as one is to consume normal calorie intake in bananas. And not recommended for long periods — banana is indeed a nutritional powerhouse but of course lacks some essential elements our bodies need.

        1. Lucy*

          Sounds like yet another fad to me I’m afraid.

          Is there any actual scientific evidence to this concept of a “reset button for the digestive system”?

          1. fposte*

            From what I can see, the banana thing started in Japan. I’ve spent a lot of time reading scientific research on the digestive system lately, and the closest thing to a reset I’m seeing is a fecal transplant. Not rushing into that one…

            I currently am reading Denise Minger’s Death By Food Pyramid (I ran into her via her blog, where she does an amazing critique of Forks Over Knives). It’s a pretty interesting exploration of what forces have been driving our various and sequential views on nutrition.

          2. lollerfarm*

            I have to agree; I eat food, I digest it, I poop out what’s left. What needs to be reset, exactly? My colon isn’t blinking 12:00.

            1. nep*

              A bit all over the place here — touching on a few of the comments —
              Indeed, and thanks. Using that ‘reset’ term a bit too lightly on the digestive system aspect. I can go only by how I felt; I’m not offering any science on that. There has been what feels like a ‘reset’ in terms of overall health /sense of well-being and eating habits (taste buds). For example I can’t imagine consuming the amount of sodium as I used to — and it wasn’t a lot to begin with at all.
              For what it’s worth, during the five days I had more energy and mental clarity at work and in other activities than ever.
              About stopping you up — in my experience unripe bananas will do that indeed, but not super ripe bananas — we’re talking spotted.
              I don’t really see it as a cleanse (though many people call it that…But the reality is our bodies are detoxing all the time; it’s part of how they function), and certainly not a diet.
              Of course there is no reason for someone to try such a thing just to follow a fad…That would just be stupid.
              Bottom line here, of course, every body is different and thrives on different things. I don’t put all this out there as an advocate; I’m dismayed by food evangelists and far be it from me to preach on the subject. It’s simply that I am interested in hearing about the experiences of others who’ve done it, as I was so amazed at the effects I saw.

          3. esra*

            Yikes, really. Not to mention, that much potassium would be dangerous for some people.

  23. MaLea*

    Does anyone have any experience dealing with a deceased parent’s possessions? My mother passed away almost ten years ago (I was nineteen) and I still have 99% of her belongings. I’m the only child so I have extra attachment to her stuff than if I had siblings, if that makes sense.

    Lately though I’ve been thinking about decluttering the house and just today, just a couple of hours ago, I decided to take a look at her chest of drawers. I realized that I hadn’t looked in there for years and years and had completely forgotten what was in it.

    I took the top drawer out and sat on the floor with it. I was paralyzed by what I saw. There were a few bottles of water she drank from – and one even had a straw in it. I guess my dad never had the heart to throw them away. I unscrewed the cap, smelled the water (I guess I was curious if 10-year-old water would smell of anything; it doesn’t), and debated touching the straw.

    I didn’t in the end. I didn’t want to sully my mother’s DNA with mine. (How long does DNA survive anyway?) I put it back in the drawer, returned the drawer to the chest, and walked away. Maybe someday. But certainly not today.

    Is that crazy? Am I crazy for being this sentimental about 10-year-old DNA? If I’m this sentimental about DNA, you can imagine how I feel about throwing away her clothes and her shoes (all dried and crackly). But how could I ever dispose of any of her stuff? How would it ever be okay?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I had one heck of a time getting rid of my father’s stuff. (My mother died first.) I am an only child, too.

      Go for grief counseling, please. If you are not interested in a professional counselor, churches do grief programs that might appeal to you. There are also a lot of good books on the grieving process.

      I know that seems like a disconnected thing to say but there is connection there between how we hold on to people’s stuff and how we have processed our grief.

      I still have lots of my parents stuff but it is only the stuff that gives me positive happy feelings. Anything that made me feel sad, I donated or sold. The money from the stuff I sold got rolled over into repairs on the stuff I decided to keep.

      I feel much lighter/happier for having done this.I landed in a good place. Yeah. It was really friggin’ hard.

    2. fposte*

      Oh, yeah. I’ve got hoarding tendencies, and grief magnifies all that. Fortunately for me, my father had stripped down ruthlessly in his later years and I’d started working on decluttering mindsets before he died.

      I agree with NSNR, though, about grief counseling. Right now this is a way of holding onto your mother, but you can hold onto her without crumbling old water bottles and shoes. They’re not her–which is very sad on the one hand, because it means she’s not there, but it’s also liberating, because you’re not responsible for keeping her via keeping them.

      It also sounds like it’s not taking up a ton of space and you have the room right now, so you don’t have to push yourself on this.
      I’ve found that it’s easier for me to do a little at a time and build up my rational “muscles,” rather than doing a purge-everything binge in a day. Maybe one of those pairs of shoes doesn’t trip your grief alarm in the same way and could go without turning this into an agony. Maybe it would be okay to have two water bottles instead of three.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        MaLea, fposte has lots of important stuff here everything from the shoes not being your mom to talking about binge days. All this is oh-so-true.
        Grief is an emotion. Don’t count on grief to be logical because it won’t be logical 99% of the time. I walked into Target and started blatting. Now, how logical is THAT?

        The number one thing I can say is respect your feelings. That means if you need to stand in Target and cry then let the tears roll. Another way to respect your emotions is to do the parts you CAN do. You decide that you can’t read a grief book but you can go talk to your kind neighbor that you have known for decades- get there. Make that happen. You decide that you can’t part with the shoes and the drink cups BUT you can get rid of the stinky socks in the hamper. Then do it.

        Don’t focus on the long list of what you cannot do. All that does is exhaust you. Try to find something that you are willing to do. Fposte is right about building muscles. You will find yours. Be kind to yourself, it will happen.

    3. Rayner*

      I’m currently going through this with my grandfather’s possessions – he passed away in the beginning of the year (March time), and I’m currently having to deal with a massive influx of 60 years of a three bedroom house’s worth of stuff into a three bedroom one floor bungalow.

      I second Not So New Reader’s suggestion. Grief counseling can help you process the emotional issues that we link to possessions (“Oh, this bottle was hers – it has her DNA on it! This sweater she wore on X Day that was important to her!”) They’ll help you to process the issue of your parent’s passing, and then to help you move forward in a way that’s constructive and at the pace that’s right for you.

      What I found was helpful was to approach the clutter little bit at a time – one bag/box/drawer – hold it in my hand, and ask myself “what does this bring me in terms of financial value, and sentimental value” and to answer it honestly. Was it worth money, or did I have happy memories attached to the sweater, the plate, the bag of left over cornflakes?

      Once I had a bag of stuff that I didn’t want – it was too old, too old fashioned, it didn’t appeal to me, I didn’t need it – I bagged it up and put it in the car to go to the charity/thrift shop/auction house straight away so it didn’t sit in the corner and scare me some more. Giving it to a new home rather than discarding it is therapeutic because you’re not breaking it or making it unusable, you’re giving it a new lease of life with someone who needs/wants it more. Donating to a place that you value – a church group or a cause close to your heart/your mother’s heart – can help you to find a bit of peace inside too.

      Like, I kept a lot of the useable stuff like fans because it’s summer, picture frames and mirrors I want to revamp, and some other stuff, but the rest of it, I’m working my way through disposing of it. It means the stuff left behind is important to me and I love it. It’s an ongoing process – there’s still a living room full of furniture and three units of possessions in storage, but it’s happening consistently.

      It’s important to remember not to hang on to everything – and to constantly keep that process going even if it’s just a box or bag a week. You do not want to end up buried in her life, drowning in the detritus of her possessions so you stop living your life.

      You want to remember your mother well in a positive light with the parts of her property that makes you happy and feel good.

      Not feeling stressed and hating having it all around you.
      Good luck.

      1. Colette*

        One of the things we did with some of my grandmother’s clothes was make them into a quilt. I did something similar for my niece when my dad died. (Not everyone makes quilts, of course, but maybe there’s a similar way to save the memories without the objects, when you’re ready.)

        1. MaLea*

          NSNR, fposte, Rayner, Colette –

          I am sitting here totally bawling my eyes out. But I thank you for your lovely comments and sound advice.

          There’s a book by Hope Edelman called Motherless Daughters. It’s a compilation of letters written by women who lost their mothers at various ages and it was my bible for the longest time after my mom died. I don’t remember it being overly counsel-y. Rather it made me feel less alone in knowing that there were many others out there just like me.

          But I did think that it was all the counseling I needed, if I thought I needed counseling. I’ve always held the belief that I would deal with it as I go. And I’m not even the type to shut down my grief. I’ve always let myself feel whatever I wanted to feel, so I’m quite surprised that I’m still finding this so very difficult. I think I’m only now realizing that I haven’t dealt with it as well as I thought I was…

          I’m going to give grief counseling a think. But I am definitely going to cut myself some slack and do this one step at a time. Thank you, all.

          1. Rayner*

            I have to say, I tried the whole ‘think I can cope on my own’ thing, and it really didn’t work so well. It ended up jeopardizing my entire university career with a depressive funk that refused to lift, even with meds, and, this year when my grandfather died, it put me in a very difficult position with my job because I got depressed and hid from the world again.

            Grief and emotional pain sticks to us in weird ways, attaching itself to us until we stop noticing it except during periods of stress or anxiety or find certain objects. Songs, music, places, smells of food cooking, all that can completely rip up memories and feelings from years ago. Dealing with things as they go often doesn’t mean what it says on the tin: it’s usually about putting it in a ‘deal with it later’ box that never gets opened up again until something forces us to.

            I found that with my father – just one note of ‘Faithfully’ by Journey, and boom, I was back to grieving again because I hadn’t let myself do it in a controlled way – I wasn’t allowing myself to feel and process so it came out aggressively and painfully. Like you with your mother’s water bottles, the song became loaded with memories and questions, and I didn’t get why until someone walked me through it, helped me to work out the difference between rational and irrational grief.

            You don’t have to jump on grief counselling immediately if it’s tough for you. Try speaking to old friends of your mother, perhaps, writing in diaries, internet forums – stuff that perhaps isn’t as scary as a professional might be.

            Small steps. And maybe you’ll find some things of your mother’s in her stuff and the memories that you want to keep and cherish, that remind you of positive things that you can share with others.

            1. MaLea*

              Thank you for sharing your experience, Rayner. You’re absolutely right about everything. How long after realizing you weren’t coping well at all did you decide to go for counseling? I’m feeling a little weird about going for counseling ten years later. Ten years feels a bit long to just be starting it.

              1. Colette*

                You can’t start it in the past, though. If you need help now (or next month/year), there is nothing wrong about seeking it out now.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                Counselors have seen dozens and dozens of people who have waited a decade or even several decades before coming in. So actually, the counselor will think you are like millions of other people. See, they know that grief lingers and lingers and lingers….

          2. Not So NewReader*

            “so I’m quite surprised that I’m still finding this so very difficult.”

            Yes. This EXACTLY. I am a firm believer that we never stop grieving. Our grief changes form/shape but we carry it for our lives.

            Traditional medicine doctors tend to agree that in our parents’ deaths we begin our own dying process. Yes, I am saying our parents deaths have huuuuuge impact on our lives and on our health. You sound pretty normal to me. If we could stop loving them/wanting them in our lives then we would be able to stop grieving.

            Just as a reference point: Statistics show that the probability of the surviving spouse dying within two years of the other spouse is very high. And that cuts across any demographic you can think of- income, race, location, age, etc. This is how powerful grief is.

            Knowledge is power. I was a train wreck when my father died. Once I got back on my feet, I started reading about grief. Even now, I won’t go past an article on grief on the internet. I don’t agree with everything I read but I do mull it over.

            If you had a poor relationship with your mother in some ways that makes it harder. I have read one of Edelman’s books (not the one you read) and I found it very interesting and very helpful.

            Last thought: The thing that kicked me over to facing all this tough-tough stuff was I decided I absolutely could not keep doing what I had been doing. I had to learn about the grieving process and gain ideas on how I wanted to handle my own grief. I was at a place in my head where it was less scary to confront and more scary to keep doing what I was doing.

            1. MaLea*

              NSNR, the grieving certainly never stops. And I don’t want it to, either. I’ve become quite fond of it. It makes me, me.

              If you can remember the book you read that helped you (Edelman’s and the rest), please let me know. I’ve been looking at books on Amazon and even though loads of em have good reviews, I’m afraid they would just annoy me. :)

              Thanks again for your input.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Am grinning softly- yep. It is through our own grief and love that we learn about other people. We learn how to talk with them, how to appreciate their concerns and lots of other stuff. And it grows us in ways that we never anticipated, we have added insights to life and to ourselves. That learning never, ever stops. I lost my last parent 20 years ago. I still learn every day. I can recall something my father said decades ago and see it in a whole new light today.

                I read the other book titled “Motherless Daughters” (the one that was not the letters)

                I also read “When You and Your Mother Can’t Be Friends: Resolving the Most Complicated Relationship of Your Life” by Victoria Secunda

                I have found this stuff at the library- you might too.
                The grief books were more a religious theme which may or may not appeal to everyone.
                The one I really remember was “Good Grief” by Granger Westburg. I did not want to read it. The title put me off- this isn’t funny, I said. The book is only 64 pages because, well, people in grief have no attention span. Every sentence was informative. Stages of grief, physical symptoms of grief, the odd things that come up. And that is when I started getting down to the nuts and bolts of what was going on with me and the “chaos” around me started making sense. It did not scare me to read it. That was remarkable.

                I have others but cannot find them quickly. No one book covers every thing. I had to read a couple to get an idea of what all this is.

                Uh. Thank you. See, one of the most sure-fire ways to reknit/reweave is to turn and help someone else with their grief. So yeah. Caught me. Am a tad selfish here, making sense out of my own life experiences.

          3. Prickly Pear*

            Plus one on your book selection. My maternal grandmother died my senior year of high school, and while I couldn’t get my mom to read the book, I could empathize with her because of it. It really is a great resource.

            1. MaLea*

              That book is amazing. I’m so glad you could be there for your mother. I’m sure she was/is grateful. :)

          4. H. Rawr*

            I would just add that you could look for a peer support group, too. They’re typically facilitated by counselors and low-no cost. It’s very much the same concept that you mentioned with the book making you feel less alone, but they’re great for hearing how others deal with similar issues (Like how did everyone else deal with all the belongings? Better yet, if you hear that someone else is having the same issue, what advice do you give them? It’s amazing how much that can help break through some mental/emotional barriers). It’s a great alternative/supplement to traditional grief counseling that provides a support network.

            1. MaLea*

              I just did a google search and found a grief Meetup group in my area. I’m going to poke my head in. Thank you for your suggestion, H. Rawr and thank you all of you for the overwhelming support and compassion.

    4. Student*

      I have a friend with the same problem. His father (who is still alive) left him a bunch of stuff in a house. He keeps the stuff for sentimental reasons – 1980s lunch trays, broken toys, the vacuum his mother used decades ago before she died. He had an attic full of this stuff. When he moved, he bought a barn to store it in.

      As an outsider – it’s junk. It is a drag on his life. It is a big, red warning sign to any potential girlfriends. It is a financial anchor around his neck – it prevents him from exploring alternative living arrangements where he couldn’t bring along the junk. It prevents him from looking for jobs in other geographic regions. And for what? Stuff he nearly never actually looks at or interacts with.

      Please, hire a cleaning service. Enlist friends. I can understand that this stuff is too painful for you to deal with directly. Really, that’s okay. But ask someone who can interact with it to get rid of it for you – sell it, donate it, throw it away. Pick out 2-3 small items of special sentimental value to keep, and get rid of the rest of it. Your mother wanted you to live your own life, not get stuck in the end of hers.

      1. Rayner*

        I like this advice in principal, but I don’t think for the OP, it will work. Throwing away that volume of stuff so fast can be extremely stressful for some people, and expensive (even if you get friends, you should pay for food, fuel, etc for them to help you), and it can lead to the OP becoming very upset at the process and people.

        If opening a drawer and finding water bottles was enough to throw the OP (which is an absolutely legitimate response), I feel like ripping stuff out of cupboards, disposing of it en masse might derail any recovery towards grief she might have made.

        1. fposte*

          I’m inclined to agree. The problem is that if you’re somebody who invests deeply in these physical objects you don’t automatically feel better for getting rid of them, so the reward that comes to more rational folks like you, Student, would for me get overwhelmed by anxiety and regret (which is often indistinguishable from actual regret). With only a handful of items at a time, I can still feel the reward and wait the regret out. And since MaLea’s mother’s stuff is successfully contained in one piece of furniture, it’s not interfering with her daily life.

          Student, your friend sounds like a genuine hoarder, so merely getting rid of his stuff wouldn’t fix him anyway. Might be better for anybody interested in him to have that information–it would have helped a friend of mine who’s now living with a hoarding spouse and that spouse’s hoarding parent.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I agree. With even mild hoarding (if there is such a thing), people have to deal with the underlying issues that cause them to hang onto stuff. Tossing it won’t make you feel better. If you’re dealing with a loved one’s possessions, you absolutely must deal with the grief. It’s hard, but it’s necessary. Counseling will help.

          **hugs** for MaLea.

          1. De Minimis*

            My wife and I have definitely been there…my father-in-law has been gone just over 3 years now and we still have a lot of his possessions. He was a severe hoarder, and my wife and I both have the same tendencies. We’ve gotten rid of a lot, but I think we’re probably keeping everything else. It’s hard because we’ve done a lot of cross country moves and the stuff is just kind of divided between our home and a storage unit located in our former state of residence. We’re hoping at some time in the future we might have a home big enough to have most of it.

            I think some people have an easier time getting rid of things than others…my mom I think gave away a lot of my grandmother’s clothing almost immediately.

            1. MaLea*

              I see you know what I mean, De Minimis. :) I think if there’s one set of items of my mother’s I could never and would never want to throw away, it would be her clothes. She was a seamstress and sewed most of her own clothes. How could I ever throw away something she lovingly and painstakingly sewed? Like you I will make sure to find proper storage for it in the future.

          2. MaLea*

            Thank you Student, Rayner, fposte and Elizabeth West.

            I appreciate the suggestion, Student, but Rayner is right. I couldn’t bear to see so many of it go at the same time. My mother’s stuff is all hidden away – you wouldn’t know it was there until you start opening doors. :) I will take baby steps.

            Actually I wanted to share that I threw away one pair of her sandals today. I remember it being the last pair she ever bought. I can still see how her feet looked in them. To be honest if they were not in the condition they were, I probably wouldn’t have thrown them away. But they were actually broken down. I admit that I hesitated for a minute, but eventually decided I didn’t want a pair of broken down sandals lying around. They’re gone now. In my mind’s eye they will always be in mint condition like the day she bought them.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Good for you. Baby steps are the way to go.

              I remember reading a story years ago (Reader’s Digest, I think) about a guy who was lost in the wilderness and hurt; he had to get to civilization but it was so far away. He kept himself going by saying, “Ten steps…now ten steps more…” over and over until he reached safety. If he only thought about the ten steps and not the many miles between him and his goal, he could do it. It would have been easier just to lie down and die, but what good would that have done? He made it by taking baby steps.

              Grief can be like that. You feel as though you’re lost forever in a blinding wilderness, but if you just keep moving forward, you WILL find your way out. And if you falter, help is available. It always is–you just have to reach out for it.

    5. Befuddled Squirrel*

      I’m in the opposite situation. My grandmother recently died and my family liquidated all of her possessions. I don’t even have a photo to remember her by.

        1. Carrie in Scotland*

          When my mum died – 5 years ago – my dad went through all her stuff and chucked a whole heap of things out – all her clothes and shoes, etc were just gone. I understand that for him, he had to do it (I guess) but I wished I had at least seen them one last time. I do have other things – jewellery and some photos and some ornamental items.

          I had some CBT counselling 2 years ago and it really helped. I think it is difficult because sometimes it’s almost okay but other times it really isn’t. I always struggle from Feb-May each year because there are lots of memories there.

          ((hugs))

          1. MaLea*

            My dad is the complete opposite. Sometimes I wish he had taken charge and thrown away some of it because now I gotta do it and I can’t.

            “…sometimes it’s almost okay but other times it really isn’t”
            That really took my breath away. You captured the feeling perfectly. For me it’s May-Sep. *hugs* for you too. I promise I will look into counseling.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Two years is not very long. I would not expect anyone to be “adjusted” (if that is even possible) at two years.

            For your Feb-May time frame- deliberately plan supportive things for yourself. (This varies by person and by budget.)
            Start planning for that time, now, while it is “easier” to do the planning. Don’t make it complicated, don’t make it expensive. Keep it easy, keep it doable.
            When we know that a certain time is difficult we need a plan to help ease ourselves through it.

      1. MaLea*

        I’m sorry to hear that. Not even a photo is brutal. The way people deal is so diverse, it’s crazy.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          True. An ex of mine lost his mom while we were together and his sister busted her butt to get over to their parents’ house and TAKE stuff that their mom had designated would go to other people. She was a greedy-guts idiot and I thought she should be flogged. With a cat-o-nine-tails. That was on fire.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Grief brings out greed, anger, all kinds of crappy stuff. Some relationships end when a third party passes away. Yet another example of how powerful grief is.

  24. Ali*

    Do any of you other women here find that you just don’t care about beauty and fashion?

    To clarify, I am not a tomboy and wouldn’t call myself dirty. I shower everyday, make sure I have clean clothes on and I do like some feminine clothes such as boots over skinny jeans, ballet flats and colors like purple and pink. But overall, I’m not that interested in being a “girly girl” or looking glamorous no matter how hard I try to be. My mom will constantly comment that I need pedicures and should have facials, but I couldn’t care less about going to a spa or anything. I also don’t really like waxing my eyebrows, but I do it anyway bc I know how unattractive it can be otherwise. I do it at home, though, and again don’t care to go to a salon for it. I have haircuts when time and budget allows, but I don’t have any desire to go every six weeks or anything. I also don’t wear a ton of makeup.

    Yes, I realize this will hurt me in some areas of life, as certain fields an companies where women are very into looks will mean I won’t fit in there. I also know it could keep me from finding a boyfriend. The only guys that approach me now are the creepy or way older types on the street, or when I online dated, guys who looked sloppy in pictures. I know I won’t find a male model but it sucks that I can’t even attract a guy who at least tries and doesn’t just leer on women.

    I am almost 30 and realized that by now, fashion and beauty will never be priorities. Does anyone else think this way?

    1. Audiophile*

      *waves*

      I’d consider myself a tomboy, I much prefer jeans and shirts to dresses. I almost never wear a skirt. I have makeup, that usually only gets trotted out for interviews.

      I don’t wax my eyebrows, I got talked into it once by a former friend (not the reason we’re not friends anymore), it’s just not my thing.

      I do enjoy wearing dresses but it’s not the main part of my wardrobe.

      I’m fine with this for the most part, the only time it really bothers me is if someone goes out of their way to pick at that sore point. I’ve had people do it and it’s not fun. If makeup, dresses are your thing, fine.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I have never been into that “girl” stuff- manicures and so on. I have just never put a high value on it. And I am a frugal person to begin with.

      I think as long as you have the basics in place, you’re fine.

      It’s pretty normal for daughters to go in the opposite direction from their mothers, too. So don’t let that bug you. TBH, I have never seen a guy say “no, I won’t date her. She doesn’t get manicures. ugh. no way, can’t deal.” Likewise, I have never seen a boss say “What. No eyebrow work done? Nope, not hiring her.” I think these things become a mythical magic bullet that will supposedly cure all problems. And reality is that is simply not true.

      1. Ali*

        I am so self-conscious about the bf thing! Last week my friend and I were discussing a guy I know who is very charismatic and attractive. My friend said oh does he have a girlfriend? I caught myself saying yes and she’s better looking than me anyway…just without really putting much thought into it. I feel like the guys who are single and decently put together would never go for a girl like me and that they’d want someone who is really into beauty. Like I said, it’s frustrating only to attract the attention of creepy types or guys who will just randomly message any girl on an online dating site.

        My family is just the worst about it. They’re not super hung up on appearances or anything, but the women definitely have pedicures, enjoy going to the spa, etc. And when I worked in offices, my mom would look at how other women dressed and say I should look like that, or my grandmother will make comments that I need more jewelry and makeup. My cousin’s girlfriend is often called “gorgeous” and “beautiful” when she posts photos. I don’t get the same compliments. It can be hard not to let it get you down.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Guys like women that are confident with the way they look and act. You can’t buy that, confidence comes from inside.

          The one thing I have spent “crazy money” on is massage therapy. (My shoulders were curling. It looked terrible.) Of course, the massage therapy fixed other things, too.

          If you are surrounded by people who put a high value on looks, yeah it’s going to be a huge downer. I dunno. Start with grandma, “This is me, Grandma. This is who I am. Do you love me for who I am?”

        2. James M*

          There’s really no consistency to what guys find attractive. Plenty of guys like a confident partner, some prefer demure, others secretly want domineering.

          I guess the point is that there is guy (somewhere) who will value you for who you are as a person. I have no idea how you’d find him though.

        3. Me*

          I ‘m a decently feminine woman same age – wear a lot of dresses and makeup and do my hair, etc. – and I don’t get pedicures or go to the spa. Just to say: please remember that going to the spa or getting a manicure does not have a relationship with femininity. :) For example, my hands look lovely and I cut and file my own nails as necessary (same as pluck own eyebrows). I really object to the idea that these types of things are “necessary” to “caring” about looking “good,” or, for that matter, feminine. (Consumerist mania, indeed.)

          I think all the things you mentioned hinge on how you feel on the inside. Being at peace with yourself and confident in who you are are the most surefire ways to deal with family members’ comments and other things you mentioned. It takes time, inevitably, but it’s possible and absolutely worth it.

    3. Shell*

      Hell yes. Except that I don’t even bother with boots and stuff most of the time. (My excuse: I have a bad knee and don’t wear any sort of heels, period, full stop, no arguments…and it’s hard to find boots that are flat. Not impossible, but hard. And sneakers just feel so much better…) I put on sunscreen in the morning and wash my face–that is the extent of my self-care. Oh, and slather on some lotion if my skin is too dry, which happens once every couple of months. My weekend clothing is generally jeans/shorts (depending on season), sneakers/sandals, and t-shirts/oversized hoodies.

      My mom used to tell me I’d never find a boyfriend when I dress like a slob; now I have a boyfriend who honestly couldn’t care if I show up in a burlap sack. His stance is the same as mine when it comes to makeup/dressing up (looks nice sometimes, but takes too much work/is unpractical, and you look great as is!), so yay for me.

      I even lucked out at my workplace–despite being client facing, we’re on the very-very-very-casual end of business-casual. :)

      1. Anon*

        These boots (linked in my name) are flat and super comfortable – I wore them nearly every day last winter in New England! Mine are brown, though.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Oh, I like those. I can’t find calf-length boots that fit me or that don’t have sky-high heels, though (I don’t like those because they hurt my back).

    4. Schmitt*

      Good lord yes. When I realize how much time people can spend worrying about appearance and clothes and weight, and how much energy goes into being self-conscious about it, it seems so foreign to me.

      (I do appreciate that I don’t have some of the cultural baggage that goes with all that, due to being a lesbian. But my mom’s the same, straight, and she got on fine!)

    5. nep*

      I could have written this. Don’t have the slightest inclination to do the spa, salon, dressy thing.
      You say ‘I’m not that interested in being a “girly girl” or looking glamorous no matter how hard I try to be’. I hope that doesn’t mean you really spend any time or energy ‘trying to be’.
      As for the boyfriend thing — the one who will dig you for exactly who you are, as you are, is the right one…Not someone who would like you only if you got all ‘girly girl’ for the wrong reasons.
      Embrace it all, embrace you.

    6. Sabrina*

      Yep except I don’t do any girly things like whatever you said about boots. I don’t even get it. I own one purse and very few shoes. The last time I wore a dress/skirt was when I was in a wedding. I’m sort of like Melissa McCarthy in Heat. I do like to get my nails done, but I don’t do it often. As for the boyfriend thing, hell I found a husband ,so don’t give up hope.

    7. Mimmy*

      OMG yes!! Don’t get me wrong…I do like to look nice at special events, holidays, etc, but I am very simple when it comes to all of that. I never had any inkling to look at women’s magazines, though unfortunately, it’s made me a bit clueless when I DO want to look presentable.

      The ironic part is that my mom was a runway model until a few years ago (she’ll be 70 in October!!) and always harped on me about my appearance. One sister also seems to be fashion-conscious.

    8. littlemoose*

      Same. (I’m 31.) It certainly sounds like you’re presentable, can break out the fancier clothes and makeup when special occasions arise – I say good enough. My boyfriend bemoans that I prefer jeans to skirts, but he’s stuck around for 3+ years anyway. Be comfortable and just be you.

    9. C Average*

      I’m kind of a hybrid.

      I don’t wear makeup and never have, and I rarely do anything with my hair that takes more than 5 minutes. (I’m blessed with long, thick, curly hair that looks crazy but interesting with minimal effort on my part. When it gets too long, I put it in a braid and cut off the end.)

      In terms of beauty products, I’m pretty close to zero maintenance. I do have to admit that as I’ve moved into my 40s, I’ve been way more diligent about using moisturizer and sunscreen, but that’s about the extent of my beauty regime.

      But wow do I love me my dresses! When I’m not wearing workout clothes, I rarely wear anything other than dresses. I love interesting fabrics and cuts, and I love how easy dresses are to wear–nothing to match up, just throw it on and go. I find them comfortable and fun and flattering, and I feel much more like myself in them than I do in separates of any kind.

      I also love simple but beautiful jewelry.

      I think I give the immediate impression of a girly girl, but scratch the surface and you’ll find a beauty slacker.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yes, I love the ease of dresses as well! I even have a sweatskirt. I’m like you and do the bare minimum of beauty maintenance to look put together. But once you scratch the surface, I couldn’t tell you the difference between BB/CC/AA/DD/ZZ cream or the point of primer.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Question, if you’re still around:

        I haven’t worn dresses in years, but since I’ve lost some weight, I’m kind of getting interested in them again. But I don’t like the look of bare legs with them if I’m going out and especially if I’m wearing shoes other than sandals (plus blisters!).

        Can I even wear hose? Or stockings? Or is that too old-lady now? I’d wear thigh-highs, now that my legs will fit in them, LOL.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            So what do women do when their legs are a mess- scars etc?

            I never dress up- I have no clue anymore. I know one thing- these legs are not going out in public, period.
            So what do I do if I have to wear a dress or a suit?

            (I don’t shop much – I guess it shows now.)

            1. Prickly Pear*

              Thanks to a childhood well spent, and a lifetime of clumsy, my legs are scarred and visably pored and all of those things that we’re not supposed to show. The only thing I do is shave, slap lotion on and go. I’m vain about some things, but my skin is my skin.
              On another note- have you tried maxi dresses? They’re my go-to when I’m too lazy to both shave and match a top and bottom. And I do still wear hose, but never, ever with a sandal or any kind of shoe that doesn’t cover the whole bottom of the foot.

              1. LAMM*

                Yup… My skin is so fair that if I scratch an itch weird it’ll scar. You just have to own it. I wear dresses and skirts all the time (partially because if I wear a dress I can sleep in another 20 minutes since I’m not trying to coordinate an outfit) and never had anyone mention the scars.

            2. Parcae*

              For anxiety-inducing legs: opaque tights plus skirt/dress. Not dated at all! All you need is an accommodating climate.

              For hot climates: maxi skirts.

              For suit situations: pants.

            3. Rose*

              Sally Hansen makes a great leg makeup if you’re really self conscious. I’ve used it for weddings during soccer season when people would think I was being abused based on the number of bruises I always have.

              Scars though… who cares! Unless YOU care. Then… Slaly Hansen I guess haha

            4. Stephanie*

              From a distance, my legs look great and like I have flawless skin. Close up, they are a mess of ancient mosquito bite scars and stubble. I have pretty serious strawberry legs as well (i.e., large visible pores). I just stopped caring after a while.

              If I’m just feeling lazy, I put on a maxi skirt or pants.

            5. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              I really don’t want to invalidate your feelings at all, and I can understand the self-consciousness at least generally, but I say just go for it and show off your legs by wearing what is comfortable for you and appropriate for the weather. most people are thinking more about their own flaws than yours. But don’t wear nude pantyhose. I’m with Allison on that. And I realize that I’m sort of arguing with myself here :-)

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Thanks, Ashley, you are being kind.
                Truth be told, I am sick of the remarks I over hear from other women in public. Nurses offer me a wheelchair. Tired of it. Cover the legs, problem solved. (Yeah, I do stuff to take care of my legs and the rest of me, but strangers who offer snide remarks do not get to learn that about me.)

            6. Not So NewReader*

              Thanks, all. Am going to try to use a couple of these suggestions to see what I can fix up for myself!

          2. C Average*

            I am a Woman of a Certain Age (ahem, forty), and I wear whatever I feel like wearing. Sometimes that includes nylons. When I walk to work early in the morning and it’s chilly, or when I know the AC is going to be aggressive in the office, I’ll put on a pair. I make sure the color resembles the color of my actual legs and there aren’t any runs, and I don’t get anything shiny or weird. I’ve never had anyone express shock, horror, or concern about my lack of style and/or approaching senility.

            Wear what you want to wear. Nylons are still commercially available in a lot of different retail outlets, which suggests to me that someone’s buying and wearing them. It can’t be ALL ancient, dated women attending church.

            1. Vancouver Reader*

              Ive seen lots of younger women wear patterned nylons so it’s more of an accessory to the entire outfit. I have acouple pairs of small fishnets which I really like.

          3. ItsMe*

            I beg to differ. Women can still wear hosiery if they choose. The pantyhose companies are still in business a they are still making money.

            I have a job interview today and I’ll be wearing pantyhose.

            OP, if you want to wear hose, go for it. Look for something sheer and flesh tone if you like. In the cooler months, you can get fun and funky with tights.

          4. Turanga Leela*

            I am extremely late to this conversation, but let me throw in a dissenting opinion. I am in my 20s and wear a lot of dresses and skirt suits, and I almost always wear pantyhose to work and formal events. Granted, I work in a conservative profession (law), but mostly I do it because of what other commenters describe–my legs show marks and bruises easily, and I feel more confident in stockings. I would NOT wear stockings either with casual/beachy dresses or with open-toed shoes.

        1. LAMM*

          Tights are what you are looking for. If you have a solid dress you can do a pattern tight – and you can find some that aren’t crazy looking and look nice with a mid-thigh to knee length dress and some boots. For any pattern to the dress or a different type of shoe I would stick to either a solid opaque or a semi-sheer tight.

    10. Stephanie*

      Honestly, I am hot and cold on it. Save for HS color guard where they made us wear makeup, I didn’t wear makeup until I was 22. And even then, I only wear it for job interviews or other special occasions. The vast majority of the time, I just don’t care. (I used to think everyone could see my hyperpigmentation, but most people don’t notice it until I point it out.)

      Hair, I care about, but I find it fun to play around with.

      Fashion, I’m eh on. I felt a lot better about my body once I figured out the best ways to dress it, but I don’t follow trends too much (although trends do trickle down to the stores). I’ll look at magazines or what celebrities wear sometimes just to get an eye for what works on different people. A lot of the current trends aren’t particularly flattering on me (sailor stripes, skinny jeans, and teensy floral prints in particular).

      I do actually prefer skirts and dresses to jeans, but that’s more of a functional thing–I find them easier to shop for (since I’ve got large, muscle legs) and cooler in the summer.

    11. Windchime*

      My son is around your age (close to 30), and when he was dating around, he was always with a “girly-girl”. Makeup, long hair, the works. Nice girls, and very girly. But the girl he is engaged to? She is perfect for him as far as personality and temperament. She also carries a wallet instead of a purse. Short, no-nonsense hair. Natural eyebrows. She rarely wears makeup or dresses (if ever). She carries her own kayak and loves to go target-shooting.

      She has a natural, healthy beauty and she is perfect for him. So please don’t worry about fitting into a box; it’s much better to be yourself and be comfortable in your own skin than to make yourself unhappy by forcing yourself to pluck your brows or to wear makeup you don’t want to wear.

    12. Lore*

      Yup. I’m in my mid forties, and I like dressing up, live in sundresses in the summer, and will enjoy an occasional pedicure. But I only blow dry my hair when it’s in danger of freezing, get it cut when I can’t stand it anymore, and wear makeup if I need to get pictures taken. My SO dresses way better than I do (has in fact bought me 75 percent of the new clothes I’ve had since we’ve been dating and he’s dragged me shopping for most of the rest of them). He teases me about my fashion profile but also respects the fact that it takes me less time to get ready in the morning than it takes him, I can pack for a weekend away in a small backpack, etc.

    13. Befuddled Squirrel*

      I’m the same way. I find that it’s an issue with women, but not with men. Men are amazingly oblivious about the more subtle details of a woman’s appearance. There a plenty of men who don’t notice or care if a woman is wearing makeup. They do notice when you don’t take a long time to get ready, don’t expect lots of expensive gifts, and instead can enjoy the same activities as them, make them laugh, get along with their friends, and so on. Really, you’d be surprised how many men prefer tomboys to girly girls.

      I don’t have any advice about how to win over other women, except to say that the fields where it’s important to have a girly appearance are ones you probably wouldn’t want to work in.

      1. fposte*

        True, though I think that risks heading toward a different ravine, the “Cool Girl” ravine where guys like you because you never ask anything of them. And people get to ask things of one another. So it’s fine if you’re genuinely enjoying the same stuff and each other’s company, but if people really like each other, they’ll actually wait until the other one’s ready anyway.

      2. Rose*

        UGH men SAY they don’t notice or care, and then site brilliant examples like Kate Upton and Mila Kunis. It totally depresses AND dumbfounds me. They like makeup they don’t notice, which is often anything not sparkly or neon. Clear skin, perfect brows, and shiny hair looks effortless to them.

        Sadly, it’s the same for jobs. Even if a company won’t consciously pass you over based on your eyebrows, people who are perceived as well put together are always favored.

        I’ve also heard it perceived as an effort thing. Someone once asked me “would you really want to hire someone who didn’t go through the effort to put on makeup?” In my head I was just thinking “HUH???”

    14. Sara*

      No offense, I always thought you wer ea guy based on your name.

      You sound pretty normal, not overly girly but not a tomboy either, as long as you have hte basics of aesthetics and hygeine, it shouldn’t be a problem I think?

    15. Lora*

      For me it changed as I got older. In my 20s-30s I was very practical (and in many ways still am) when it came to things like shoes, clothing. I wore makeup about once a year, on special occasions, and then it was pretty minimal.

      Now I like to dress up girly in heels and skirts and wear more noticeable makeup. Not a ton unless I’m going out dancing or something, but I bought one of those big palette things from Sephora and went to town playing with it one weekend, YouTube instructions and all. For client presentations and whatnot I tend to play it up a bit.

      I still don’t do fashion per se–my girly skirts are neutral-colored pencil skirts and my girly shoes are Frye boots (circa 1977). Stuff that never really goes out of fashion. Makeup is usually BB, a bit of eyeliner and mascara and Burt’s Bees tinted chapstick. I couldn’t tell you what the predictions are for this fall’s couture collection or anything. But it’s definitely noticeably feminine.

    16. Elizabeth West*

      A man who thinks you’re awesome won’t care if you wear makeup or not. If you find one who wants to change you, run.

      When I was younger, I would dress up more. I didn’t think much about appearances for a long time because I gained enough weight to where I didn’t feel comfortable with how I looked (not morbidly obese or anything, just kind of fat). Now that I’m losing weight, I’m becoming more conscious of my clothes, but I’ll never be a fashionista like my sister. I do like to mess around with eye makeup, though. :)

      My big thing now is just getting to where I look nice for my vacation and that’s about it. I’d really rather spend money on books and music rather than clothes.

    17. ThursdaysGeek*

      I’m a geek, and it sounds like you are much more girly than me. I don’t bother with makeup at all, always wear pants or shorts, have long hair, and have never had a pedicure, manicure, hair styling, or any sort of waxing. I’m clean and neat, and that’s about it. I found a guy who liked me the way I came, and he thinks I’m beautiful. I don’t care if anyone else cares. And, since I’m a geek, I can use that as my excuse.

    18. Vancouver Reader*

      I like to look nice, but as I get older, I care less about how others see me (as a girly girl or not) and more how I perceive myself. So I wear dresses when I feel like it and the only reason I wear makeup is because I look like death warmed over if I don’t. But I definitely can’t be bothered with manis/pedis because I can’t sit still for long periods of time.

    19. IT Squirrel*

      So much yes!
      I pretty much live in jeans, t-shirt, hoody and skate trainers(although I do have smart trousers and suit jackets for work where they make me feel like I know what I’m doing…suit jackets are my multipurpose confidence-making clothes) – and makeup…what’s makeup, mascara is about all I manage.
      Plus I ride a motorbike, so the kit for that isn’t exactly girly, and woah, do I get serious helmet-hair – think wild eletro-static hair and you’re halfway there!

      Don’t let yourself think that it’ll hold you back from finding someone – they are out there and they don’t care that you’re not a ‘typical’ girly-girl. In fact there are many that will love that your not (my OH thinks I look best in jeans and t-shirt…yay!). It sucks if those around you aren’t supportive and base most things on looks, but try and remember it’s not really the case everywhere :)

    20. Prickly Pear*

      My only goal in life is to not look homeless. I can put it on at times and am even happy doing so, but on the daily, if the hair is combed and my clothes clean, we’re good.

    21. Rye-Ann*

      I can relate to this, although I am only 22. I don’t wax my eyebrows, and I never wear makeup. (When I took dance classes, I wore it for recitals and pictures because it was required. I also wore it to prom. That is literally it as far as my make-up wearing experience goes.) As a future scientist, this is probably all right, since it’s possible that I’ll get a job where I’m required to NOT wear makeup.

      I don’t really care about fashion trends, but I do care about looking at least a little bit put-together. I love colors including “girly” ones, but I rarely wear dresses (though sometimes I will see a dress I like, but I force myself to remember that I’ll probably only wear it once or twice). Eventually I do hope my wardrobe will go together a little bit better than it does currently, but it’s far from a top priority and that’s unlikely to change.

    22. smilingswan*

      I’m a little bit different from you. I would like to be a girly-girl, but I can’t seem to pull it off!

  25. AnonForThis*

    How do people decide to have children?

    I have always been ambivalent about having children, as has my husband. We’ve talked about it over and over again and can’t seem to find a way forward. We’ve thought about how our lives would change, listed pros and cons, reflected on the vision we have for our futures and family, and considered what kind of people we want to be. Aaaaand we’re still stuck.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Disclosure piece: Childless person here.

      You may not be stuck. You might have your answer already. There are many aspects to life- marriage and children are just two aspects. If you feel that you are living full, satisfying lives, then that may very well be your answer.

    2. MJ*

      A lot of people come to adulthood with an undeniable impulse to be parents, and for them the decision is easy. But there are plenty of people without that impulse who become parents, excel at it, and fall in love with it – or, more accurately, fall in love with their kids and so take on the necessary job of parenting them, which is constant, expensive, and takes precedence over pretty much everything else.

      Are there children in your life you can spend time with? Niece or nephew you could have for the weekend? It might give you a taste of what it’s like.

      I have a number of friends who opted not to have children, and later in life they have regretted it because a family of two is quite small when you are older.

      1. AnonForThis*

        Part of what we’re thinking about is that there aren’t any kids in our close circles. None of our siblings have kids (and probably won’t).

        Is it stupid to think about our old age? If we don’t have kids, what will Christmas look like in 20 years? That sort of thing.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You decide to make Christmas look like something that is meaningful to you.

          I feel that you would have to plan for your old age anyway. Just because people have kids does not automatically mean the kids will help them when they are old.

        2. MJ*

          It’s not Christmas in 20 years that’s likely to be problematic, it’s Christmas when you are 80 and in a nursing home alone because your husband died 8 years before you. It’s figuring out how to do probate on your own when that husband dies and you are grieving all alone. When making a decision about children, people often weigh the pros and cons of raising children now, but they fail to project forward into old age when they might really want that family around and it’s too late. Having children is a ton of work, it does change your life, but in having children you are investing in the creation of a family that stands up for each other and helps each other through all stages of life.

          I don’t mean to imply that having children is for everyone or that old age in itself is the reason for having children – only suggesting that the decision to have children should take in a long view. Maybe you are indifferent now, but if you picture yourself at 80, maybe your future you is not so indifferent. Maybe your future you wants children and grandchildren visiting you in your old age.

          1. fposte*

            Though you can have people you love visit you and help you with finances in your old age whether you have kids or not, too. From what I could see at my father’s retirement community, visits and support had no particular correlation with child-rearing.

          2. Evil Evaluations*

            The whole “take care of you in old age” is a gamble. There are kids who take care of their parents and there are children who do not. Or children who don’t put in as much time as a parent would wish.

          3. Not So NewReader*

            My friends are childless and in their 70s. She broke her leg. There has been non-stop people at their house for weeks. She is missing her naps because of all. the. people.

            This is something than can go any number of ways. So many variables.

            The child in me wants to blurt out one message: For couples considering whether or not to have children, make sure if you do that the child knows s/he is wanted. And not just for their ability to take care of you when you are old. Probably a pretty obvious thing to say but kids know how you feel deep inside. They figure it out at a fairly early age.

            Either way, children or no children, aim to keep yourself strong enough so that you do not need a nursing home. Aim to remain independent or as they say “age in place”.

            My 100 year old neighbor painted the outside of her house. It was three stories high.
            Yeah, watching this I was humbled and inspired all in the same stroke.

    3. Anonymous for this*

      I don’t have kids, but I do have stepkids.

      I love them, but if I had to do it over, I don’t know if I would.

      They’re terrific kids and I think I’ve made positive contributions to their lives and they’re better off for having me around, so it’s hard to have any regrets there.

      But wow, do I ever miss my clean white living and my ability to just be myself when I come home at the end of the day!

      At work all day, I’m getting paid to be a better, more responsible, more productive version of myself than I am by nature. At home, because I need to take care of people and set the right kind of example, I still have to be a better, more productive version of myself than I am by nature.

      Sometimes I wish I could just sit around in my own house in my underwear watching dumb TV and eating cereal for dinner like the bachelor girl I used to be.

      Having kids reduced your capacity to aimlessly screw around to pretty much nothing. And I consider aimlessly screwing around one of the higher pleasures of human existence.

      It sounds shallow–it IS shallow!–but I speak the truth here.

      1. AnonForThis*

        This is truly one of my big concerns! It sounds like we’re pretty similar, and I would miss that sort of ease in my life too.

    4. Tomato Frog*

      I’ve done all the reasoning, too, and come out none the wiser. This is something that worked for me: Imagine if your husband definitely didn’t want kids, and then imagine if he definitely did, and think how it makes you feel. See if either prospect makes you feel cut off from your future.

      I always thought of myself as ambivalent about having kids, but I’m in a relationship with a man who definitely wants kids. I thought it was nice that he had an opinion, because then I could just go with it. Then one time I imagined the opposite — how would I feel if he knew for sure he didn’t want kids? And I realized the thought made me sad. So even though I’m not gung-ho about children, and I can imagine a happy life without them, I realize what it comes down to is that I do want kids.

      But who knows, maybe you’re TRULY ambivalent. In which case — flip a coin?

    5. Evil Evaluations*

      How old are you? Maybe the maternal feelings will kick in once you get older and people around you start having kids.

      Or maybe it won’t.

      I’ve been pretty certain that I don’t want kids and I’ve known this about myself since I was eighteen. I have friends who have know they want them since they were young.

      I can’t imagine what it’d be like to be in the middle. I guess try to find kids to be around to see if you like them? Write out the pros and cons that having kids would have on your finances, your time and your family. Personally, I’d take a more conservative “no kids until I know I want them” approach but that’s coming from someone who has no children. There are others who have decided to have them even when they weren’t a hundred percent convinced (usually for a spouse) and are glad they made that decision. Those who have regretted it, however, are much less likely to speak up because having kids you wish you hadn’t had and acknowledging it is still pretty taboo to this day.

      1. AnonForThis*

        I’m old! If we’re going to have kids, it needs to be soon.

        Although we don’t have many friends with kids. Our crowd has tended to marry late and, mostly forgo kids.

    6. Pepper Pot*

      For my husband and I, we always generally knew we’d like to have kids, but not right away (we were married 8 years by the time our daughter was born last year), so there was a definite decision point when we were ready to commit and start trying. For us, things like possible lack of sleep/changes in our free time/toys all over the house weren’t really factors. We figured those were part of the deal but also somewhat temporary in the scheme of life. What did make the decision was coming to the realization that we wanted to be part of something much bigger than just the two of us, and for us, that was a child. We carefully pictured the future without one, and while we knew there would be much to enjoy, travel, etc., it left us feeling like something would have been missing. I think everyone eventually comes to that sort of decision, and they may well fall on the side of “kids aren’t for us”, and that’s perfectly valid.

    7. Sara*

      I have no idea. TBH I come from a culture where it’s expected of every.single.woman to have a child,…..I know it exists in most cultures but it seems like in western culture it’s becoming more and more common to be childfree by choice. For us it’s like….the second you get married people start wonderingw hen you’ll have kids, and people can become incredibly intrusive and even hurtful at assuming you have issues or that your husband should marry elsewhere.

      I got married at 21. I wanted to have children eventually but not at the moment. I got pregnant a few years later and had a miscarriage…for the next 5 years we were trying but nothing was happening, and I had given up on thinking it’d ever happen to us……I really started questioning whether I even wanted kids or not. I wasn’t interested in adoption either. And…..as soon as I gave up I found out I was pregnant again! And even though I was shocked I was so thrilled and so happy…..and I had another miscarriage..it was devastating. It’s been a few days now and I honestly can’t tell you whether I still want them or not. part of me is ready to try again eventually (not right now of course) but another part of me doesn’t want to ever go through that pain for a potential 3rd or 4th or 5th time.

    8. Anon4this2*

      If you’re ambivalent… I think that’s your answer. I feel like the default in our society is to have some kids, regardless of what is right for you as a family. If you don’t really want to be a parent, they just seem like a hell of a lot of work.

      Re: later in life. If you’re worried about growing old, get involved in a church or your town or a benevolent motorbike gang. My family has an elderly man we go to brunch with (never married, no kids) and we fight over him with two other families on the holidays. Children aren’t the only people in life who will love you.

      To be fair, I have no children, do not want children, and do not call my mother because so many of the things she did when I was a young adult infuriated me.

      Despite all this, I think whatever you pick will be right for you.

  26. VintageLydia USA*

    So did anyone else watch the Sailor Moon reboot yesterday? What are your thoughts?

      1. Calla*

        Yes! They are rebooting it to be more similar to the manga plotlines. It’s simulcast with subtitles 2x a month. You can watch on Hulu, Crunchyroll (where I watched), or NicoNico.

    1. Calla*

      I am so so excited and happy — actually got up at 6am to watch it, and re-watched it later once my girlfriend woke up — and fair warning to everyone I do not tolerate any complaints about it!

      1. VintageLydia USA*

        I have a few small critiques but their all overridden by “EFF YEAH SAILOR MOON!!!”

    2. Algae*

      Not only did I watch it, but I made my 8-year old son watch it with me. And then I put on the Dubbed Sailor Moon R movie (I know!) while he pointedly put his headphones on and played DS (but then I saw him watching it about halfway through). And then I ended up searching out Sailor Moon fanfiction and being upset all over again that “Empire of the Sun” was never finished.

      I apparently turned into a 16 year old girl over the weekend.

      1. Calla*

        OMG, I am now mourning all the SM memorabilia I threw out, including subbed versions of all three movies. I don’t know WHY I did since even when I became “too cool” for anime I still would admit a love for Sailor Moon. Gr!!!

        It would be wonderful if the new anime revives the fandom, especially now that imo there are so many amazing creative fans in different fandoms now. (IME anything prior to around 2003 was like finding a needle in a haystack for good works… shuddering at the memory of some Xena fanfiction I read.)

    3. Kat*

      Yes! I love it. I was too young to actually understand/remember it the first time around. I only remember it being on for a few months at 6am when I was 7ish. I do prefer Luna’s old English matriarch voice though lol.

  27. Stephanie*

    Ok, exasperating start to the morning. Woke up early unintentionally.

    1. My dad put a koi pond in the backyard. (Yeah, I know. As someone put it to me, the fish are probably cooking sous vide in this climate.) Filter media were clogged yesterday, so I hosed them off. However I reloaded the media screwed up the drainage/pumping system. I woke up to an almost completely empty pond. Fish still look like they’re alive, although it was hard to see them writhing around in 2″ of water (and I don’t even like fish!). My dad’s out of town until late this week, so I’m dreading the two-hour long conference call where I’ll have to fix this over the phone. He has a habit of rigging things in ways only he understands.

    2. Sallie Mae bill was due yesterday. I forgot to log on and pay before I went to sleep. I log on this morning and I now have twice due in a month (but it’s marked past due). Granted, it went from a tiny amount to twice a tiny amount (which is still pretty reasonable and why I’m paying it in the first place).

    3. I think I had a slight allergic reaction to a “new” leave-in conditioner. I am itchy (and I remember a little bit of itching when I applied it) I’ve used it before, but had stopped for a while (the online store stopped taking orders temporarily for whatever reason and I couldn’t find it locally). The website said it was a new formula, so I’m guessing my immune system did not like the new formula. I am going to see if I can swap it out for their other leave-in.

      1. Stephanie*

        Fixed the pond with no casualties, so yay. I think Sallie Mae is all resolved. Hair product…we’ll see. They don’t do returns/exchanges. :(

  28. Anonymous for this*

    This is the first-est of first world problems, but here it is.

    I married into the one percent and it is weird here.

    I grew up very middle class in a very red state. My dad worked for the government, my mother ran a small business from home. We had enough, but never anything fancy. I went to college on scholarship and worked the whole time. I chose a liberal arts major and I’ve had a winding and difficult career path. About six years ago I got a raise that brought me up to $50k per year when you factored in my bonus, and I was starting to feel like I was really, actually making it. (I’d had some seriously broke periods on the way there and had wondered if I’d ever actually make it, so this was a big deal.)

    Five years ago I met and fell in love with a man who grew up on the east coast, went to Harvard, followed up with a degree in electrical engineering, and went straight to work at his first-choice employer, where he still works now. He makes about five times what I make. We live in a beautiful house in a desirable part of town. If he wants something, he gets it.

    He takes it for granted that his two daughters will follow a path like his. He puts more energy into choosing the right middle school for them than my parents put into helping me choose a college! The kids know their college will be paid for, no matter where they go. They know they can study abroad if they want to, or go to specialized camps, or pick up expensive hobbies. They have so many givens that were impossibles for me. I don’t ever want them to feel guilty about this, but I do want them to understand that they have so many things other people would love to have but don’t.

    This is all so strange to me sometimes. It’s strange to me that we have so much and other people have so little. It’s strange to me that life is so not fair in my favor. It’s strange to me that my stepkids will likely never have to worry about whether they’re actually going to make it or not; they’ll take it for granted that they just will, because they’ve never had personal experience with anyone who hasn’t.

    I try to pay it forward, to find ways to be generous with all that I have. But it’s uncomfortable and weird sometimes. I am not to the manor born!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Because you see both sides, that means you have insight that you are supposed to use in some manner to help others.

      We get these insights because the insight is supposed to impact us and our choices.

      Be patient. You will start to see the why’s in a while.

    2. Onymouse*

      (Preface: Of course you are in a very fortunate situation right now) Just be mindful that private schooling will take up a good chunk of your income, and that colleges cost more than they did when the two of you went to school, so even in the “1%” (and not, say, 0.1%), it’s still really important to save.

      1. Anonymous for this*

        Yep, we’re definitely putting plenty aside for their education. We’re planning for the most expensive scenario (Ivy League, no financial aid).

        It’s funny: My husband and I agree that one of the best things that happened to each of us was that we graduated from college debt-free. We took very different routes there. His parents paid every penny and I went on scholarship and worked. We want the same outcome (degree, no debt) for the kids.

        They’re bright, hard-working kids who do well in school, and I anticipate they’ll have attractive but expensive options.

    3. Noah*

      People don’t often realize that everyone struggles, even those who are wealthy. I know my dad came from a very humble background and was able to build a very comfortable life for my family. Both of my parents often felt a bit guilty about their lifestyle and like you said having so much when others have so little.

      My parents tried really hard to instill in us a good work ethic and the knowledge that we rise or fall on our own. One big thing was that they will not pay for 100% of our college and never bought us a car while we were in high school. I worked a retail job in high school to buy a car and I worked through college. My parents helped but they were pretty blunt in that I had to pull own weight too.

      I remember being jealous of friends when their parents bought them a car at 16, knowing that my parents could afford it but were just being stubborn. However, when I saved up all summer and bought a car with my own cash it was my baby. I loved that little 1993 Saturn 2 door so much and I took great care of it. My parents did buy me a car when I graduated college, to replace the Saturn, but by then I guess they’d made their point.

      I’m not saying you have to do the same thing, but I do think it is important for kids to struggle a bit and learn to appreciate what they have. I always knew my parents would support whatever I wanted to do, but that it wouldn’t just be given to me either.

      1. fposte*

        Agreeing with Noah. I was just reading The Millionaire Next Door, and there’s an interesting chapter about how the next generation often has real difficulty with making it on their own when they’ve never had to.

        I also think that kids with privilege often don’t realize it’s not universal; I can pretty much guarantee you that whether they know it or not, even some of their classmates are from families in financial trouble, and they can avoid assuming that their rare good fortune is the norm even for their friends. So you’re quite likely a real horizon-broadener for them.

      2. Anonymous for this*

        Thank you for this point of view. I really appreciate hearing that although you didn’t love your parents’ decision not to buy you a car at 16, you understood and were grateful to them later in life. It’s stories like this that help strengthen my resolve to not just give them everything even though for the most part we can.

        Your parents sound like good parents.

    4. BeBe*

      I hope your stepkids are good kids, even if they do know they don’t have to worry about money. Don’t let them be spoiled and entitled! Even if they do have money, it can’t replace things like studying and good grades and a good work ethic. Try to involve them in community service and teach them to be giving of their time.

      1. Anonymous for this*

        They are good kids, fortunately. They’re not greedy or demanding, they have good manners, and they work hard in school. They and their dad are Jewish and belong to a synagogue that really emphasizes community service and does regular volunteer work at homeless shelters and food banks locally. On every Costco run, we pick up extra non-perishables for the food bank, and they enjoy picking out things they think people will like. We discuss which charities we’ll give to and make these decisions as a family.

        It’s funny: I think the charitable instinct is very much a noblesse oblige sort of thing from their dad, while it’s very much a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I impulse on my side. I’m glad we can arrive at common ground from such very different backgrounds.

    5. Jean*

      Money doesn’t cure all problems but having enough of it definitely eases the logistics of life and frees up time and energy for other activities. It’s wonderful that your husband’s income enables his daughters/your stepdaughters, and you, and him, to transcend a lot of the hassles that many folks face when trying to meet basic needs such as shelter, food, clothing, transportation, medical care, and education.

      There’s one other basic need which can be easy to overlook: personal strength and community connections, aka inner resilience and external support from people with whom one shares common values. (The mutual connection doesn’t have to be rigidly ideological or strictly based on shared religious or political beliefs! It can be as simple as “we hang out with and help each other because we like each other and are friends or family, even though we met by chance when Wakeen married Suzette or the Smiths moved next door to the Goldbergs or whatever.”)

      It sounds to me–based on your comment about “pay[ing] it foward… [and being] generous with all that [you] have” like you’re already meeting this less-immediately-obvious need for your stepdaughters. All I want to do is encourage you to keep going on this path.

      If my thoughts sound a bit disjointed, it’s due to:
      1) the LOUD background music from an ice cream vendor whose van is a frequent visitor in my neighborhood
      2) the equally LOUD background grumbling from my conscience, which reminds me that I really, truly, honestly, come-h*ll-or-high-water MUST accomplish some housework and laundry in the next two hours (or else live in filth and chaos for the entire work week).

      Anybody else have trouble finding the willpower to make her/himself face and finish home-based chores?

      1. Anonymous for this*

        The community connections piece is tough, I’m realizing. You’ve put your finger on something I’ve struggled to define, and I’m wondering now if it’s socioeconomic.

        I’m often pretty uncomfortable among my husband’s friends and peers, and I’m wondering if it’s just because it’s not my milieu at all. I gravitate to other middle-class creative types, often fellow Pacific northwest natives; his friends all tend to be well-heeled tech types, often with an east coast background. They talk college funds and TAG camps and European vacations and sabbaticals. I feel out of my depth in this crowd. I fall back on talk of distance running and books, because they’re the only things I have in common with some of these folks.

        We don’t really have couple friends, something he’s commented on often. (I’ve never really particularly wanted couple friends, so it doesn’t feel like a lack to me.) Maybe it’s because, in terms of socioeconomic background, we’re a little unusually configured.

        1. Stephanie*

          I’m often pretty uncomfortable among my husband’s friends and peers, and I’m wondering if it’s just because it’s not my milieu at all. I gravitate to other middle-class creative types, often fellow Pacific northwest natives; his friends all tend to be well-heeled tech types, often with an east coast background. They talk college funds and TAG camps and European vacations and sabbaticals. I feel out of my depth in this crowd. I fall back on talk of distance running and books, because they’re the only things I have in common with some of these folks.

          Oof, I know this feeling. I felt it pretty frequently among peers in DC. My little sister’s autistic so it was really hard for us to go on family vacations that involved flying (she flies without incident now). So we drove everywhere. I didn’t even get a passport until I was 21 and that was to go on a cruise in Latin America. Didn’t study abroad in college since I switched majors and still wanted to graduate on time. Not counting border towns in Mexico, I’ve been out the country twice (once on a trip to Paris, another on a trip to Madrid/Barcelona).

          DC, I felt incredibly provincial after hearing people talk about development work in Africa or traveling to Morocco or that time they were in Chile backpacking and got lost, but had the really nice villager help them out. I felt out of place because I couldn’t really comment on my thoughts on Berlin. I definitely had to go seek out other social circles.

    6. LisaD*

      Give them books by Malcolm X, Audre Lorde, and Toni Morrison. Introduce them to the poems of Ha Jin. Literary fiction is proven in a controlled, scientific environment to encourage the development of empathy. Teach them that philanthropy alone does not do good, if by your actions you fail to address the structural inequities that create a need for philanthropy.

      Don’t teach them to just be generous, teach them to listen to people and hear them describe their own needs. I heard a story recently from a friend about stopping to ask a homeless woman in winter what she needed, and she said “I have so many blankets and winter coats, and I don’t have a single tank top for the warm days.” Often we think we know better than others how to give to them — we are usually incorrect. For instance, the story by the young woman who volunteered “to build schools in Africa” and learned later that all her work was undone every night and painstakingly redone by local craftsmen who *actually* knew how to lay brick walls. The only thing she’d done of use to the community was pay for the volunteer experience — her work was a burden they accepted in exchange for the money, not actually helpful.

      And of course, expect that they will fulfill all your worst fears for them temporarily because they are adolescents and that’s what they do. They will be spoiled rich prigs now and then BECAUSE you are afraid they will be. Try not to give that behavior too much attention of any kind. Pursed lips and a serene “I’m disappointed to hear that from you” do more than shouting.

        1. Jean*

          LisaD, I like your book suggestions & will do my best to make sure that some of them cross paths w/ my teenager.
          Coming back to add: create a community that makes you happy, whether it’s based on mutual friends w/ DH or compatible relatives or neighbors or a common interest that can be shared by kids & adults alike (crafts, music, chess, community arts performances, historical reenactment, sports, volunteering, gardening, animal rescue, training service dogs…?) A congregation is one possibility but by _no means_ the only way to find community.

    7. Lora*

      Do you ever take the kids to spend time with your family? Is that even feasible?

      I ask because one of my colleagues, who was definitely born with a silver spoon in his mouth, used to say all kinds of awful things about, basically, poor backwards white trash rednecks. Except…my family are, on dad’s side, poor white trash backwards rednecks. He had a very hard time getting it through his head that that was ME he was making fun of and wishing would just go drink ourselves to death on moonshine. He had a hard time with the idea that real people are not all like him; and he took for granted that anyone liberal and educated had all the opportunities he had all his life. The concept of “why don’t those people just…” having actual, real, hard answers, was difficult for him to hear.

      The other thing is that the way people interpret conversations if they are not-wealthy vs. wealthy gets kind of weird. I don’t even know what to do about that. Example: As part of a team-building exercise, the new department at ExJob was asked what we would be if we weren’t in STEM. The three non-wealthy people in the group interpreted the question to mean, “where would you be if you’d never gone to college/followed the same path as your siblings and high school friends?” and we replied, “working on the assembly line where my dad worked all his life,” “farming,” and “nursing”. The rest of the (large) group interpreted this to mean, “what other dreams do you have and enjoy in life?” and answered, “photographer,” “teaching people to sail,” “musician” etc. Jobs that would have been considered by us three working-class stiffs as “starving on the street” jobs. The notion that you went to work to make money so you could eat and have a roof over your head, because your other option was starving to death, was very mysterious and crass and depressing.

      1. smilingswan*

        What a great point about how a person’s background effects how they interpret things. It seems really obvious once you mention it, but I never would have thought of it. Really thought provoking.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve lived hard and I’ve lived well (though not as well as you are right now). You’ve got the best of both worlds–you have a nice life, and you’ve been where it’s not like that, so you can appreciate it.

      It’s like anything else. You’ll get used to it in time. The other posters have some great suggestions for broadening your stepkids’ horizons. One thing I always liked about Princess Diana was that she wanted her kids to see what it was like for people who weren’t born into privilege the way they were. I think she did a great job and you will too. :)

    9. BRR*

      Something else to consider is an expectation of lifestyle. I came from a comfortable background however now being out of school into the working world for a year is tough due to my expectations from growing up. I didn’t realize how much it cost to go on a vacation along with many other things. My parents still help me out with things like trips home and cover some of my student loans payments. Even with a semi decent salary it leaves me mad at times I can’t do what I was able to do growing up. I don’t know how but I would try and prepare for that. They might not be able to achieve the success your husband has or might chose careers that won’t compensate them as much. They could try and make up the difference with poor financial choices.

    10. MM*

      You sound so interesting! I want to write a novel about you.

      My father grew up very poor with very little. My mother grew up in a huge house, went to great schools, nanny, lots of money. My father is the bread winner in our family (full scholarship to a great school, engineer), but we live a very comfortable upper middle class life. (Not the 1%, but over 160k from my dad alone. My mom is a very underpaid public school teacher and makes about 20k.)

      My parents never gave my brother and I what many of our friends had (cars, huge clothing budgets, etc.). I babysat through high school and college for spending money. My father spent whatever we wanted on books and athletic equipment. Anything else we had to pay for ourselves. My younger brother and I are hard workers and great savers. My older brother is entitled and whiny. We’re all very close in age, and were raised with the same rules. I don’t know why we turned out so differently.

      Only recently (around age 22) when my father was on a rant about everything he had to do to feed himself growing up did it occur to me that he was raising children who he could hardly relate to. He was a poor kid. We were rich kids. It broke my heart. I love him more than anything. Whenever I feel proud of myself for something (like graduating with highest honors form college) I think about how it was really his work that got me into a great school district then paid for a great college. I feel weird for being so spoiled and having things so easy when he had them so hard. Do you ever feel like your kids are so different that you just can’t relate to them… no matter how sweet and giving they might be?

      I hope you keep up what you’re doing. You should like a great parent. Take them to poor neighborhoods so they know that kids who don’t do as well aren’t dumb or lazy.

    11. Befuddled Squirrel*

      I have cousins who were born into wealth, although you’d never know it. They were raised to believe that everyone is equally important regardless of their role in society. And they were never given much materially. They didn’t have anything most people wouldn’t be able to afford. Their family dresses simply and eats simply. They use their money for education, vacations, savings and philanthropy.

  29. Jamie*

    Doing a Come Dine with Me marathon whilst I clean – I find it so interesting to see the inside of people’s houses – and Dave Lamb cracks me up.

    In watching this I’ve noticed there seems to be a lot less difference in homes depending on income group. I mean there are exceptions but I am struck but how similar everyone’s living space is. I’d almost think they were using sets, but they aren’t.

    1. Windchime*

      I’ve not heard of “Come Dine with Me”. I have noticed the generic-ness of homes, though. I follow several DIY/Home Decorating blogs and there is a lot of samey-samey. Right now, it’s chevrons and gray-and-yellow color schemes.

      1. Jamie*

        The show is a hoot. Two versions – I like the one with four contestants not five, but four people each has a dinner party for the others each night and they score each other – winner gets 1000 pounds.

        I like watching people cook and seeing inside other people’s houses – but without leaving mine (hence my love of TV) and they have wacky people, sarcasm, cattiness, kindness…it’s just fun.

        I wish I had BBC here – their TV is so much better than ours.

        1. Felicia*

          I like Come Dine with Me Canada :) Especially the ones set in the parts of Canada I’m unfamiliar with like the episode in Newfoundland. Obviously the prize money is in Canadian dollars, but it’s otherwise the same. I’ve never notice similarities in peoples’ living spaces on the Canadian show….they all have very different kitchens for one thing

            1. Felicia*

              The Canada version is pretty much the same, though in certain regions of Canada, they’ll often add a local flavour to their menus. My favourite part is when people choose to serve really unique or weird dishes. I’m not sure if the version you watch has “entertainment” for each dinner party, but in the Canadian version what they choose to offer as entertainment is sometimes hilarious

        2. Elizabeth West*

          There’s some wonky way to watch BBC online, but I’m not sure how it works. But I agree–I’ve been OD’ing on UK shows on Netflix. Haven’t seen that one, though.

          1. Carrie in Scotland*

            They are doing a series with a “twist” stating this week over here – instead of 4 or 5 single individuals they are now having 3 (I think) couples do it instead. It’s only starting later today so I haven’t seen it yet.

  30. Windchime*

    I got a scary letter from the IRS yesterday! At first, I thought it was going to be notification that I was being audited. Great. But no, it was worse. Someone else has used my SSN to get a job, and the IRS caught it when income taxes were paid against my number.

    So now I have to do a bunch of identity-fraud protection stuff. Arrrgggh. I haven’t noticed anything else weird (credit card transactions, etc) but now I’m on the lookout. What a pain.

    1. Stephanie*

      Oh man. Sorry to hear that. And it’s not like a credit card where the bank can just issue a new one.

      I had a similar thing happen with my Texas drivers license number. Someone stole the number and used it to make a fake ID and forge checks using my DL info. The checks weren’t tied to my bank account, but I found out this was happening when I got several collection notices for bad checks “I” passed at Walmart.

      It was a nightmare. For one thing, you can’t just “change” your drivers license number. I tried petitioning Texas DPS but they wouldn’t let me change it even with even police reports. And I learned the hard way that DL numbers between states are linked. When I moved to the DC area, Wachovia screwed up didn’t mail me a debit card for a month, so I had to rely on checks and ATM withdrawals. I tried to write a check (with my Virginia DL) and it was declined. I probably still couldn’t write a check now for anywhere that uses TeleCheck.

    2. Lore*

      It’s good that it was caught, though! My brother was accidentally using the wrong SSN for years (when he got his first driver’s license, the state was using SSN as license # and he memorized it off the license–unfortunately they’d transposed two digits and the mistake wasn’t caught for a seriously long time). It has messed up his credit something fierce and I’m sure the person at the other end is having the same situation. Anyway–point being, this could be accident not intentional fraud, and it will be better to have it resolved either way.

      1. Windchime*

        Yeah, my son works for a place where he sees stuff like this all the time. He says most of the time, it’s people who don’t have their own SSN who just make one up, and it happens to belong to somebody else. They’re just using it because they need one to get a job. I just don’t want someone also using it to get a loan or a credit card or something.

    1. Lisa*

      Yes! Although the friend I passed the books on to years ago (and who is – still – completely obsessed with Jamie and Claire – swears she won’t watch it in case the show gets it wrong…

      1. Sabrina*

        I’m sure they’ll have to change things since the first book is entirely from Claire’s POV. I hope they stay *mostly* faithful though.

  31. littlemoose*

    Any tips for keeping a cat and a dog occupied while working from home? I’ll be working from home more soon, and both pets like to pester me. Cat really wants to lay on my laptop, which is Not Allowed, and frequently tries to get in between me and the computer, impeding work. Dog wants to sit on my lap (not happening, he’s 40 pounds), play fetch, and go in and out of the backyard a hundred times. Sometimes I give the dog a bone to chew, which does keep him busy for a little while, but once he’s done with it he wants my attention again, plus I don’t want to be giving him snacks all the time. Any suggestions?
    And yes, I realize this is a pretty good problem to have. I know many of you would like to be home with your critters all day. Mine are just driving me a little bonkers as of late.

    1. BRR*

      I’m not too familiar with cats so I am not of much help there. Where do you put your dog when you’re away? I keep mine in my guest room so if I was working from home I could tuck him away in there. Is doggie daycare an option every once in a while?

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Make sure they each have their own beds.

      I used empty coffee cans on top of the important stuff. Once one or two fell both the cat and dog left the coffee can and the pile under it alone.

      The dog sounds like he could use some daily walks. I know, I don’t always have time to walk mine, but it helps to remember my own failure when he is failing (bouncing around, crying, running- nonsense stuff).

      If you can trust the dog not to eat toys you can leave him with toys.

      You could try some soothing music softly on a radio, too.

      1. BRR*

        A tired dog = a well behaved dog

        I heard about a doggie lullaby cd however I have no idea if it works.

    3. Windchime*

      I don’t have a dog, but I do have a cat who wants to be with me all the time, including while I’m trying to work. I solved it by putting a little bed for him on the desk, right next to the monitor and keyboard. That way, he can lay right next to me while I work.

      He sometimes still wants to get between me and the monitor; I just gently move him and he eventually gives up.

      1. Sabrina*

        Agreed. This is what I did with mine, works pretty well until it gets close to lunch time.

    4. Student*

      Close the office door. Do not relent when they start whining and pawing at the door. It’ll take a while for them to realize that whining won’t make you pay attention to them, but they will get over it.

      Come out to interact with them at set intervals – your 15-minute break, your lunch, whatever is appropriate for your work. Play with them then if you want – outside of your office. Keep a strict separation – office is a no-pets area, rest of the house is a pets-area where you’ll play with them. They won’t understand anything short of a very clear, physical, enforced boundary.