Sunday free-for-all – November 30, 2014

3 catsIt’s the weekend free-for-all.

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly non-work only; if you have a work question, you can email it to me or post it in the work-related open thread on Fridays.)

Have at it.

{ 683 comments… read them below }

  1. Dan*

    I took a “me-cation” for the first time, uh, ever, this holiday. Five straight days of not going to work, not traveling anywhere, and not having anybody over, man, it was bliss. I hung out with friends (at their place), did whatever the hell I wanted, just ’cause, for no good reason… I need to do this more often. Doing “not much” was so much fun that Monday is really, really, going to suck.

    Usually when I have a long block of time off from work, I go somewhere. Damn, this was relaxing.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Congrats! I’m looking forward to my first real stay-cation myself over the holidays. In the past, I’ve always had to use all my vacation time to visit family in other states, which we all know doesn’t really count as a vacation.

      1. Dan*

        Seeing family is a small minority usage of my vacation time. Heck, most of them, I actually like. My vacation time is generally spent travelling the world — which as fun as it is, isn’t relaxing.

        Sitting at home is a lot of fun. You should look forward to it :)

    2. Al Lo*

      I took yesterday as a work-from-home half-day, and had nothing on today. Both my husband and I basically spent all day curled up in bed — reading, dozing, checking Facebook, dozing, reading some more… It’s so cold here (-30 windchill), so it was the perfect weekend to do virtually nothing, go virtually nowhere, and just curl up and be cozy.

      Tomorrow, I have a work event, so it’s back to the busyness now until Christmas, but this was a great couple of days.

    3. Mister Pickle*

      Yeah, this past week went by so fast, though. I’ve got four more days of work next week, and then I’m off for the rest of the year. I should probably do something interesting with the time, but with the kids coming home, it’s not like the wife and I can just take a last-minute flight to Bora Bora. Maybe I’ll finish a couple of art projects, though.

    4. nep*

      How wonderful. That does sound like bliss.
      People are asking ‘how was your Thanksgiving?’ And I respond that I had some much-needed alone-time; it was quiet and perfect.

    5. MissM*

      In a few week, my husband and two teenage sons are going on a 3 day camping trip. I’m taking time off work and staying home. I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to having the house to myself for three whole days! It will definitely be a vacation for me.

      1. Artemesia*

        When my husband and I were working we had lots of other activities too. Many weeks I had the house to myself for several evenings because he was involved in singing groups with rehearsals e.g. symphony and opera choruses. Now we are retired and have a tiny condo where we spent most of our time in the same room. I can’t tell you how much I miss having the place to myself. I have joined two book groups that meets in the evenings once a month and am taking a weekly photo class — on different days than his current singing group rehearses so that each of us has some of that alone at the house time.

        Retirement is fabulous, but arranging some alone time makes it even more so.

    6. Rebecca*

      I am counting the days until Dec 24. Due to our holiday schedule, three vacation days will keep me out of the office until Jan 5!! I cannot wait!! It’s going to be awesome.

    7. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I used to take Christmas as my “day off from the world”. I would get fancy food treats or order in, get a great DVD (or four), and spend all day doing absolutely nothing. It was so lovely. I kind of miss those days sometimes. My boyfriend celebrates Christmas, so I haven’t had my “day off” in a few years, but man, they were so nice.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I should! I have the week off between Christmas and New Year, so maybe I’ll take the dog to daycare and kick my boyfriend out for the day and just… lounge.

      1. Snow Queen*

        I love that! My me time is so important, and I’d so love to have more around Christmas when things are crazy.

    8. MJ*

      My new thing as a bookation. I spend 2-3 days pretty much in pajamas reading… finish one book and pick up the next. I’ve just read three novels back-to-back. I really enjoyed A Man Called Ove; the other two novels were good, but not great. A real escape for me, though!

      1. Alma*

        A “bookcation”!! I do a great deal of work-related reading, and I gather books throughout the year. In the days of ” virtual” books, the stack would grow in size next to my reading chair. They were awfully difficult to pack and schlep through airports, though. The measure of a great vacation was to read all of my books and have to go out and find more!

    9. Ann Furthermore*

      My husband took both kids camping for 3 days last year, and I stayed home and had 3 uninterrupted days of complete solitude. It was heavenly. I keep hoping he’ll do it again!

    10. Windchime*

      Sounds great! I am on the last day of a four-day weekend. Two of those days, I had overnight company. I really enjoyed the company, but it’s sure nice to have a quiet house all to myself. I get to work at home tomorrow, so that’s always a nice way to ease back into the work week.

    11. Steve G*

      They can be a lot more relaxing than travelling..I am having pre-travel jitters before a flight tomorrow, nothing like dealing w/ big city airports and the TSA looking through your back and making you take off your shoes for absolutely no reason to buzzkill a flight….not to mention it is really early, so I can’t really add a cushion of time to leave early in case of an accident or something on the road unless I want to stay up all night.

      So I am so pro me-cation right-now:-/

  2. Dan*

    I don’t watch televised news, I just read the newspapers. So I’m going to say that I don’t quite understand the point of the latest round of the Ferguson protests.

    There was a grand jury hearing, I get that, and they no billed the cop. My understanding is that two things are true: 1) A prosecutor can get an indictment on a ham sandwich if he’s so inclined, and 2) The DA who presented the case did a shitty job. At the same time, a bunch of ordinary citizens decided that there was not enough evidence to send this case to a criminal trial. What’s to protest? That citizens who presumably have half a brain say there’s not enough evidence?

    All that aside, assume there’s a criminal trial of some sort. From everything I’ve read, I don’t see anything that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, which you have to do to get a conviction. If the prosecutor doesn’t think he can do that, I understand why charges wouldn’t be brought. The DA is not in the business of trying cases he doesn’t think he can win.

    1. CA Admin*

      The problem is that grand juries almost always indict because they’re just supposed to determine whether there’s probable cause to charge, which is a super low bar. After seeing the evidence presented, there was definitely probable cause (a totally separate issue from whether or not to convict) so people are confused and angry about why the cop got a free pass and didn’t have to go to trial.

      Basically people see the DA deliberately throwing the grand jury so he doesn’t have to prosecute the cop and that makes them angry. They see it as collusion and special treatment when members of that community are regularly dying. How are they supposed to get justice if the DA won’t bother to try?

      It’s an expression of rage at a system that they see as stacked against them.

      1. Dan*

        Assume that the grand jury wasn’t stupid. What I don’t get is that if “everybody else” would have concluded that there was enough evidence to pursue charges, then why didn’t they? It’s actually their community, and they live in the thick of it.

        It’s not clear to me that people are protesting (there were protesters in DC, for example, where I live) the notion that the DA didn’t try, vs the idea that they should have found a guilty verdict (or whatever it is they call it at the grand jury,) no matter what.

        IMHO, when I read “tussled with the cops,” reasonable doubt goes out the window. FTR, I’ve seen the inside of a cop car before, so saying that one shouldn’t argue with a cop isn’t coming purely from a point of privilege.

        It’s weird. On the one hand, there’s reasonable doubt, which equals no conviction. OTOH, there’s enough for a trial, which means the grand jury shouldn’t have no-billed him.

        1. CA Admin*

          Keep in mind, it’s also not just about this one case. It’s about the pattern of indifference and contempt that many POC are subject to at the hands of police.

          I’m not a member of that community, so I’m not going to try and speak for them.

          I will say, though, that it’s worthwhile to listen to the perspective of minority communities if you want to understand why they’re upset or what their priorities are. Don’t argue with them or try to convince them of your side, listen to their stories and lived experiences. It’s the closest you can get to walking a mile in their shoes.

          1. CA Admin*

            Here’s a great article explaining the legacy of Jim Crow in the perspectives of Black America with regard to Ferguson:

            Also, when I refer to the “community”, I don’t mean St. Louis or Ferguson, but rather the Black community at large.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, I would strongly recommend that.

            I’m a little uneasy about hosting this discussion here because I really don’t want to host some of the more offensive potential directions this conversation can take, but I also don’t want to police it … so maybe people interested in thinking more about it can read things like this instead of debating it here:

            1. nep*

              Thanks for putting up this link.
              Of course, whites can never live what blacks live and vice versa. We just never can walk in the shoes of someone of another race.
              But this columnist seems to really see things in pure black and white, so to speak. All division and differences. And makes quite a lot of assumptions about whites. Lumping every white friend or acquaintance in one ‘category’ doesn’t work, just as it wouldn’t the other way around. Quite a limited way to look at things, seems to me.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I don’t think it’s meant to be perfectly neutral or assumption-free. It’s an explanation of what this particular woman is experiencing, and as CA Admin above said, it’s worthwhile to listen to the perspective of minority communities if you want to better understand the situation.

                1. nep*

                  Sure — a column like that is not meant to be neutral. I get that.
                  And of course — more than worthwhile, essential in fact, to listen if we want to better understand.

          3. Dan*

            I understand that. I’ve had an encounter or two with law enforcement that hasn’t left me with the warm fuzzies, and I’m not a minority. I’ve got my own stories, happy to trade them over a beer of three. While I’ll still give the cops the benefit of the doubt, they ain’t god.

            One problem with protests out here (DC specifically) is lots of times they’re not very coordinated, so you have no idea what the message really is. Apparently, some of the Ferguson stuff gravitated toward protesting Walmart. Ok… Speaking of which, when you have a bunch of white kids protesting from Georgetown to Pentagon City, it’s kind of amusing, and you still have to wonder what the real message is.

            The other thing is, when looting and rioting happens, you’ve got to wonder if people are out to make trouble because they can probably get away with it. I guarantee the shop owners aren’t happy to be part of the “cause” and paying for all of that damage.

            1. CA Admin*

              I’m surprised that you’re not seeing consistent messaging around the Ferguson protests, I definitely have. Maybe it’s a result of where you’re getting your news from?

              I live in Oakland, not exactly close to Ferguson, but here have been a lot of protests near-ish where I live. They actually shut down the freeway I use to get home from work on Monday night.

              Here’s the thing: it may be inconvenient for me, but I’m not going to try and tell people that convenience and property rights are more important than their concerns over harassment or deathat the hands of the police.

              They’re the ones with skin in the game, not me. I don’t get to be the one to decide if their rage is reasonable.

              1. Dan*

                Part of it is the locality, not just the news source. Keep in mind that DC is sort of protest/march central. Something related to Ferguson in and of itself isn’t going to draw any more media attention than some other issue du juor. Not that far back, there was the “Occupy” movement, which had originated at Wall Street and made its way down here. Occupy fizzled because there was no consistent message. Again, somehow the Ferguson thing morphed into a “Walmart” protest too. (Walmart has only very recently had a presence within the city limits, and there have been “Walmart minimum wage” bills defeated in the city council.)

                So, in some senses, a Ferguson protest would have to have a very specific message. One certainly isn’t trying to “raise awareness” of what happened during the original incident… I think it’s safe to say that any functioning human being is aware of the basic issue. So the current protests are about… what, exactly? Live in DC long enough, and you learn to read the WaPo’s “no big deal” coverage the day after. For the WaPo to give a planned protest significant press in advance, the protesters would have to have some credible threat of shutting down all of the major freeways at once.

              2. Dan*

                “Here’s the thing: it may be inconvenient for me, but I’m not going to try and tell people that convenience and property rights are more important than their concerns over harassment or deathat the hands of the police.”

                Well destroying property that isn’t yours isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s a separate crime in and of itself. As for who has skin in the game, I’d venture out and say that we all do when it comes to fair and equitable policing. Otherwise, what’s the point of protesting in DC when the issue was a local one that happened several hundred miles away?

                I read a pretty good article in the WaPo not too far back that was discussing the origin of the Ferguson unrest. Apparently, there’s a shit-ton of small towns in Missouri that exist for whatever reason. No matter what the historical cause, the current issue is that the towns are so small that they don’t have the tax base to support them. So a a lot of their revenue is generated from law enforcement citations. To an extreme — an extreme that would piss me off as a member of the majority. Fixing that issue would require town boards to vote themselves out of a job. Which ain’t gonna happen.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Some people do like to make trouble because they can–a lot of the looting and damage happens when outside agitators come in. It happens in every protest. I’ve even seen it first hand, live and in person.

      2. littlemoose*

        Exactly. The information the prosecutor has released shows that the prosecutor emphasized Michael Briwn’s marijuana usage and heavily questioned some witnesses about inconsistencies but not others (including Officer Wilson). It is extremely unusual for a prosecutor to permit the potential defendant to testify, or to permit evidence of an affirmative defense, in grand jury proceedings. The more I hear about it, the more I’m convinced that there were legitimate issues for a true trier of fact – a criminal trial with a jury, not the grand jury. The grand jury process is secret, and it’s a misdemeanor for any of the witnesses or grand jurors to discuss the proceedings or the evidence presented. Apparently under Missouri law it’s not illegal for the prosecutor to release such information, which is why the public has seen some of the testimony transcripts, etc. Slate ran a good article about the right for open trials:

    2. Mister Pickle*

      I think Ferguson is sad. But with each passing day I am becoming more and more convinced that America needs to take guns away from the vast majority of police officers.

        1. CA Admin*

          That’s really interesting! It’s really surprising to me that as many police officers died from accidents as felonious acts. And I would’ve assumed more died in the course of duty than actually did.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        The UK has routinely refused to arm Patrol offices, yet time and time again the specialist firearms officers have shot dead suspects in dubious circumstances. During a protest at a G20 meeting a news paper vendor died after being assaulted with a batton.

    3. Ludo*

      One of the big causes for protest is the racial makeup of the grand jury. In an area where 68% of the residents are black, only 25% of the grand jury was not white. The DA was white. The cop was white. They will not disclose whether or not the grand jury was unanimous (unlike trial juries, grand juries do not need unanimous votes to send to trial).

      Essentially, the protesters believe there is no way this was ever going to trial and it was all a sham. And while I cannot abide by the rioters, I don’t blame people for being angry. The bar for a grand jury to send to trial is so incredibly low that they almost always indict because if there is even just the slightest, maybe, tiny possibility that someone could have maybe possibly broken a law – there is probable cause to indict.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        “The bar for a grand jury to send to trial is so incredibly low that they almost always indict because if there is even just the slightest, maybe, tiny possibility that someone could have maybe possibly broken a law – there is probable cause to indict.”

        That’s what frustrates me so much. They clearly had enough evidence to review it all for several months. You know, enough evidence for a TRIAL. It feels a lot like they tried the case in the grand jury instead of just determining if there was probably cause.

      2. Brett*

        Actually, 23% of the residents are black. The neighborhood where this happened is 68% black, but it is also only 2% of the county.

    4. Observer*

      I haven’t read all of the replies to this, so I may be repeating myself.

      On the one hand, it’s important to note that the general rule about prosecutors being able to indict a ham sandwich seems to break down when the person on trial is policeman.

      As for the protesters, there seems to be a wide variety. The smartest ones, in my opinion, are looking for broader changes – body cams on police, better training and more consistent procedures, some “sunshine” such as annual reports on use of violence for police departments. (Till about 2 years ago the Ferguson police department didn’t keep any records of use of violence by officers which is pretty mind boggling from a management point of view.)

    5. Melissa*

      I think people are just protesting because they are angry and upset and they wish things were different. I don’t know what they expect to happen from here on out; one protestor was interviewed by the news and said “We still want an indictment,” which was just…it’s over, okay? There’s really no back-channel way to get one.

      But I think it’s just like the protests after any irreversible decision is made – after George Zimmerman was acquitted; after the police officers from Rodney King were acquitted; etc.

      I knew from jump that he wasn’t going to get indicted. I know that the bar is lower, but I don’t think there was any way they would’ve won a case against him.

    6. soitgoes*

      The anti-Walmart swing of the protests was an offshoot of “Let’s support black-owned businesses instead of conglomerates that make it hard for the working class to eke out a living.” The message was totally muddled though, and the people who spearheaded that particular initiative only put it out there at the 11th hour; I didn’t hear about it until maybe 3 PM on Friday, after most people had already done the bulk of their Black Friday shopping.

      One thing that’s cropping up a lot among my right-leaning relatives and (facebook) friends is the fact that Michael Brown’s supporters are clinging to a narrative that paints Michael as a child. “That white cop murdered a child just because he could!” That’s the imagery that left-leaners have been propagating since the beginning. I’m fairly liberal, and I was very uncomfortable when I found out last week that Michael was actually 6’4″, 300 lbs, and old enough to be enrolled in college. None of that means that he deserved to be killed, but I’m suspicious of any movement that depends on such heavy propaganda. I don’t trust either side to be perfectly honest right now, and I think that’s an element of why the grand jury didn’t indict. I can’t be the only one who, based on early reporting, legitimately thought that Michael was a young stringbean of a child. He was an adult man, and I’m uncomfortable that the left-wingers resorted to such heartstring tugging to make their point.

      1. Anx*

        I have had similar gut reactions to the use of ‘child’ to describe Brown. However, I think ‘teen’ and ‘kid’ are perfectly representative. Those words emphasize that he was young without feeling disingenuous at all.

        But I think the reason child is used so often is to counter the trend for people to view young black males as young adults before teenagers or children and aren’t afforded some of the forgiveness when they mess up as white kids do.

        1. soitgoes*

          I agree with you, and I also understand why presenting the real facts of Michael’s age and very large size might have caused things to swing too far in the opposite direction where closed-minded people are concerned; there’s no doubt that he must have been a powerful presence. But it only has the effect of making moderates drop out of the conversation (due to being sick of sifting for real facts), leaving the conversation to the extremists, both sides of which are not being entirely honest.

          I read a blog post about how Solange Knowles was holding off on releasing a line of shoes on Black Friday “to show support for Michael Brown.” The comments were praising her wildly, except the one that wondered if Solange might be exploiting the tragedy for personal gain to promote her shoe line and to make people view her as a good person/forget about her recent violent outburst. That person was run out of the commenting community and labeled a racist. It’s no wonder that people are dropping out of these discussions like flies.

    7. catsAreCool*

      I’ve been wondering about that and figured the best thing to do was to google evidence about this. I’m tired of reading about what the witnesses say when they contradict each other.

      This article has a link to the autopsy report, etc.

  3. fposte*

    I finally had my back surgery and it went pretty well. There’s still some nerve pain, but that can take a while to subside, and even with that things are better than they were–I can go for walks again (and am supposed to do so a lot, which is great). The minimally invasive outpatient thing is amazing–my bandage is basically the size of a large postage stamp and I was happily back home that night. Tomorrow is the first shower day, so I’m quite excited about that; plus I get all of next week off to recuperate as well, which I’m going to enjoy. Got a lot of stupid house tasks and binge watching planned.

    1. Mister Pickle*

      Please allow me to 2nd those congrats! And if there was ever a time to binge-watch stuff on television, it’s now!

    2. Dan*

      Watcha gonna binge watch? Netflix has 8 seasons of House (shit, need to get caught up!) and and 10 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy if you’re so inclined.

      1. Erin*

        I was unwell for large portions of the summer and autumn, and watched all of Grey’s on Netflix. It was amazing. Have a speedy recovery!

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I believe House is going away tomorrow– I think I saw it on a list– so better get cracking!!!

      3. Pennalynn Lott*

        When I had both my hips replaced last year (one in March, the other in October, with a total of 9 months recovery) I binge-watched Dr. Who. Hadn’t ever thought I’d like it, but a friend gave me a TARDIS tea infuser for the holidays the year before, so I thought if it’s something she thought I’d be interested in, I’d give it a shot. I’m so glad I did! I’m a total Whovian now!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I am very happy to hear you are doing so well, congrats! A week off, eh? So that means you will have time to hang out here a little more? ;)

    4. danr*

      Good news… chances are that the pain is from the surgery, not the back pain that you had. I had overnight spine surgery with a device to stabilize the spine at the end of July. The pain from the surgery, and associated pains in the legs took about 2 months to go away. The pain that the surgery was done for is gone and has stayed gone. I have other pains in the back, but it’s from arthritis in the spine. Walking is the recommended therapy.

      1. fposte*

        Thanks, all, and especially danr (I was hoping you’d weigh in!). It’s really reassuring to me to hear that you got good improvement after two months. I think the minimal debility of this kind of surgery means that my expectations get too high too fast. I’m definitely all about the walking–four times a day outside, and no binge-watching anything longer than half-hour episodes to make sure I get up and move around, and it definitely helps.

        1. Alma*

          Heee heee here… I had a discectomy (minimally invasive, 1″ scar) and came to in recovery swearing like a sailor. My orthopedic surgeon had said he saw no reason why I shouldn’t be back to work in 3 or 4 days. I have zero pain threshold, but after I got over the anesthesia it was so different. Post-surgical pain felt like healing right from the start, and yes, the more I walked, the better I felt.

  4. Anon Regular*

    My husband and I have been undecided about whether to have children, and within the past year put ourselves on a (rough) deadline for making a decision in June. I think he is leaning towards yes. I am firmly torn and unsure.

    So, between now and June I want to read a lot about raising children (it’s what I do to solve problems). I’d love recommendations for books on childrearing, parenting theories, and parenting and pregnancy memoirs (e.g. Nurtureshock, Free Range Kids, Bringing Up Bebe, etc.).

    I’m also specifically interested in any reading suggestions you have about fat pregnancy. I’m significantly overweight and curious about what that will mean for a pregnancy and childbirth. I’m emphatically not interested in weight loss advice (you can go ahead and assume that, unless you’re a cutting edge bariatric researcher I know everything you know about nutrition, fitness, and weight loss) – but very interested in how weight relates to pregnancy.


    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I recently gave a pregnant friend my copy of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel. It’s about raising self-reliant children. It looks at this through the lens of Judaic teachings, but the messages are broader than that – it’s not important to be of any faith, let alone one specific one, to think about the ideas in the book.

    2. Anon for this*

      I don’t have a lot of advice but I definitely feel for you because my husband and I are going through the same decision process. I’m dealing with the added problem of not wanting any children we have to spend time at my in-laws’ because they smoke (a lot) in their house. My husband isn’t sure he can tell his parents that… ugh… Huge life changing decisions are complicated.

      The only thing I can recommend is that I read Offbeat Home a lot and they have a semi-dead sister site called Offbeat Families. I’ve seen a lot of interesting articles there. Good luck for your decision-making process.

    3. fposte*

      You might like Anne Lamott’s Operating Lessons–it’s a wonderful read just to read, but it’s also the story of somebody who really didn’t expect to be a mother and kind of made her own path.

      More theoretically, you might find Judith Rich Harris’ The Nurture Assumption thought-provoking if you want to go a little deeper than most lay reads–she’s basically challenging the way psychology has often ignored its own findings to support a narrative that makes parental influence more important than she believes it to be. It’s written very accessibly for a more scholarly read and it’s a bracing antidote to the “you must raise your child *this* way” wars.

    4. Sandy*

      Re: weight in pregnancy. I’m not sure if this will be a help, but I’ll put it out there. I’m overweight and pregnant, but overseas at the moment. My OB/GYN hasn’t weighed me at all this pregnancy. Not even once.

      My North American family and friends are appalled because it’s apparently such a big part of their prenatal appointments. I asked my doc about it, and she seemed rather taken aback, saying “I can tell just fine if the baby is growing on pace via the ultrasound. Why do I need to weigh you and add an extra cause of stress?”

      And from what I can tell, it *is* a huge extra source of stress for women! “Too little, too little, too much, too much…” Etc etc etc.

      1. B*

        Yeah in theUK you don’t get weighed. Apparently there is no evidence it does any good. I wonder what would happen in the US if you flat refused?

        My sister is in Germany and they do weigh there.

        1. Rowan*

          You do get weighed in the UK. They use your BMI as one of the metrics to decide whether you’re high or low risk. Maybe it’s one of those things that differs from area to area. I was lucky – by the time I got weighed, pregnancy had changed my weight enough that I got to be low risk, because I’d have been livid if my BMI had changed the care I received.

          1. B*

            I’ve been pregnant twice (one child, one miscarriage) and never been weighed, even at my first appointment. From what i read at the time it seemed that that was standard in the uk. Weird if it varies between areas! Especially as our area is quite ‘unhealthy’.

    5. Dan*

      Can’t comment about the weight related pregnancy issues.

      That said… I’m a dude, and child free by choice. Likely going to stay that way, although I claim that I have the right to change my mind down the road. I’m 35, but realistically, I don’t see that happening, although for me, I don’t have the “do or die” issue that women have.

      For me, it’s a combination of two things: Lifestyle and money. I didn’t come from a wealthy family, which means that I didn’t have a lot of “toys” growing up. I always knew that I wanted more “toys” than my parents were able to provide. I borrowed a shit-ton of money for college (close to six figures) and live in a high COL area. Kids are going to cost money, and come with trade offs. I still want to live the life I’ve dreamed of (haven’t gotten there yet) and feel that kids will derail that plan and that I will resent them.

      I enjoy “me” way too much. When I come home from work, I like my quiet apartment and no obligations. The idea of a 18+ year commitment just… blows my mind.

      IMHO, you either want kids, or you don’t. If you’re on the fence, and really don’t feel like anything is missing from your life, then I think you have your answer.

      1. CA Admin*

        I’m going to agree with Dan. As women, we get a lot of pressure from the outside to want babies. People will sometimes actually wonder what’s wrong with us if we don’t.

        It’s ok to not want children. I often hear that ambivalence coming from a place of insecurity due to all the social pressures we get. Most women I’ve met who say they are ambivalent or not sure really aren’t deep down, they just don’t feel ok expressing that.

        Motherhood should be something you’re excited for. Something you want wholeheartedly. If you don’t, I think you have your answer.

        1. Just Visiting*

          Motherhood should be something you’re excited for. Something you want wholeheartedly. If you don’t, I think you have your answer.

          Absolutely. There are money/time/lifestyle reasons why I don’t feel kids are for me, but if I really wanted them, I’d make it work. I’d rearrange my life for them, it would be hard, but if kids were something I wanted I would find a way to make it work even if it meant dismantling the sweet-ass life I have now. The only reason that matters is that I don’t have a shred of maternal instinct. I never have. People who really want kids don’t have discussions about whether they “should” have kids, they have discussions about “when” they’re having kids. Just IMO.

          1. Noni*

            I must agree with the above commenters. I knew absolutely without a doubt that I wanted kids, and I was lucky enough to be blessed with them. They are now grown up and delightful, and I would not change a thing.
            But the early years were without a doubt the hardest slog of my life. Lack of sleep, shortage of funds, never a moment to myself, a complete change to my lifestyle, some days so exhausted and over-stretched I just yearned for the time my head could hit the pillow. I can’t imagine how difficult this would be for someone who wasn’t even sure if they wanted kids or not!
            As others have said, don’t feel pressured by other people’s expectations, don’t be afraid to just say, “no I don’t want kids” if that’s how you feel.
            All kids deserve to have parents who wholeheartedly want them, with no ambivalence!

            1. B*

              I only have one child, and – yeah. I wanted him desperately, and love him beyond reason, and yet still there are some days I just want him to go the hell away. And he’s 3. You can’t really tell a three year old to go away.

              Having said that – if you think you’ll regret it if you don’t, go for it.

              1. matcha123*

                I think you can tell him that, though maybe not as strongly.
                I’m pretty sure that when I was that age, my mom would say, “Mom needs some quiet time. So, I need you to sit here and quietly read your book or go to your room and play with your toys.”

                I’m a big advocate of parents telling their kids things that relate to money/alone time/etc.

                1. Monodon monoceros*

                  I dropped by a friend’s house one day and her 3 and 5 year old answered the door. When I asked where their mom was they said “oh, she put herself in time out in her room. We’re not allowed to talk to her when she’s in time out unless it is an emergency.”

                2. J.B.*

                  Depends on the kid as to whether he/she will listen ;) Totally worth promoting self entertainment, but they all have their own personalities.

                3. B*

                  He has a sixth sense for when I am getting stressed and gets clingier around then :-/ It will improve as he gets older I’m sure, but he is just not very self-sufficient atm. J.B. is totally right!
                  Monodon monoceros, I think if you have two kids you can get away with this better as to a certain extent they will entertain each other. On the rare occasions DS has a friend around without their mum being there [he has friends round quite often but usually the mum will stay too], he’s FAR less interested in me :)

        2. nep*

          That’s just where I was going with a comment I was writing — I think sometimes women know deep down they don’t want children but — for various reasons related to social conditioning — are not OK allowing themselves to express it.
          In any case only you know for sure, OP, and I hope you’ll find peace in a solid decision.

        3. Sammy*

          What these guys said above – also, you get what you get – I LOVE my son SO much and I wanted kids in the worst way, but he is disabled, and that brings a whole new level of parenting into play! Just something else to think about!

        4. matcha123*

          There is nothing wrong with wanting to spend your money on yourself! And there is nothing wrong with not wanting kids.

          If life had a preview option, I’d go with the best choice, but since it doesn’t I can only do what I know feels right. I think some people assume that because they buckled down and “did the right thing” by having kids, their situation applies to everyone. It doesn’t. Do what’s best for you and your situation.

        5. Anon Regular*

          Re: if you’re not sure, that means no.

          I just… don’t agree. I’m an indecisive person. I’m afraid of making commitments and layer discovering a better option (in small decisions, like what to order at a restaurant, and in large decisions like buying a house or accepting a job offer). And yet I make decisions and commitments and life is good (and bad and everything in between). If an initial hesitation meant no I wouldn’t do anything.

          1. fposte*

            I’d agree with this. I joke I’m still not entirely sure of where I should go to college, and that was thirty years ago. I’m childless by choice and lead a very happy life, but would I have enjoyed life at least as much with kids? Maybe, couldn’t tell you.

            One of the problems with asking for books is that there aren’t many books about the experience of not having a child. So we’re kind of stacking the deck in our suggestions, and I’m glad there’s some conversation about the other side happening in response. I also think that while it’s a big threshold decision, it’s not always the fork in the road it’s framed as, in that a lot of people would lead good and satisfying lives with kids and good and satisfying lives without.

          2. B*

            You are an optimiser! So am I. Satisficers are happier in life. I WISH I could be one. I’m getting better, but it’s just not who I am.
            If you’ve not heard these terms Gretchen Rubin of the happiness project talks about it a lot.

            1. Melissa*

              I’m a maximizer too (I think different sources differ on optimizer/maximizer vs. satisficer). But sometimes it drives me crazy, so I have to up my criteria or cut down on the amount of choices I will compare because otherwise I would never decide. And even after I decide, I often wonder whether I made the right choice and whether something else would’ve turned out better. It took me about 3 months to decide what car to buy, and just last week I was wondering if I should’ve gotten another model.

          3. Libby*

            I’m glad you said that! I don’t think it’s helpful to say that someone should be 1000% sure before choosing parenthood. It’s always a leap of faith. It seems like you can’t go wrong here: whether you do or don’t pursue parenthood, you’ll be happy for making a considered decision and for making it together. My book recommendations: Heading Home With Your Newborn, The Happiest Baby on the Block (and the one for toddlers), and A Love Like No Other. The last one is a collection of essays by adoptive parents. I didn’t adopt, but they still resonated with me.

          4. Anonsie*

            I’m like this as well but for the really really big things like this, that hesitation is a lot more telling. You can move houses and change jobs eventually, and in the mean time you can even rail about how much you hate your house and your job. Not options for something like this.

        6. Anon today*

          “Motherhood should be something you’re excited for. Something you want wholeheartedly.”

          I don’t entirely agree. I was nervous and a little unsure and afraid to become a mother. It has been a tremendous sacrifice and a struggle at times, but I do not regret my children.

          I throw this point out to say that you have to be willing, sure. But you don’t have to be 100% confident.

      2. Helena*

        “I enjoy “me” way too much. When I come home from work, I like my quiet apartment and no obligations. The idea of a 18+ year commitment just… blows my mind.”

        Ditto. I also don’t want kids. I can list any number of logical reasons around money and health and so on, but to be honest if I wanted them I’d make it work. The biggest reason, to me, is that I’m a very…. self contained person and I need space and quiet more than air. One ‘me night’ a month while the kids are with the grandparents is nowhere near enough. The adults close to me understand this, but small children will not. As for maternal instincts, I’ve always said I have the wrong kind of maternal instinct or maybe a partial maternal instinct- I get fiercely protective over people hurting the helpless, but I have absolutely no drive to snuggle babies or sing songs or do any of the other things so many women- people- seem to love doing.

        1. anonintheuk*

          Yes. I have a medical condition which would deteriorate with pregnancy and childbirth, the question would be just how far. And it’s hereditary. I know people with these conditions who DO have kids, but I think that adding worsening pain levels and a little being entirely dependent on me to my current situation would lead me to nervous collapse, not blissful fulfilment.
          Plus, I have known a lot of husbands/partners who unfortunately, when faced with a difficulty like a disabled partner, flee.

          1. very anonymous*

            Same as above. Got lucky and married someone older who did not want kids. I went through a period in my thirties when I wanted to adopt. Went into therapy to clarify wants and needs. Got a dog. Spent my energy in volunteer work with teens.

        2. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

          Me too. Which is why I am a fantastic aunt and will always try to live near my sister’s kids while they are small. They are very good children and will be interesting people. But they are not quiet and oh god, the emotional energy they take.

        1. Rowan*

          Room by Emma Donoghue was the closest depiction to life with a small child I’ve ever read! It’s parenthood taken to extremes, but I found it really resonated.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Childless person here. I never had a goal of having kids. As years went by and life unfolded it seemed that my life was (and still is) pretty full in spite of not having children.

      I am happy with how my life played out. My one caution is that if you decide not to have kids, the second half of that decision is how you will fill up your days and your time. It’s not just a kid decision it is also a decision about how your future might play out. I have friends – in their seventies now- that are childless and verrrry active. They do a lot to support individuals in their community (they know a LOT of people) and they travel extensively. They also do extreme volunteer work. I am not saying this is what you should do- noooo, I am saying that there are lots of things you can do as a couple and live very full, rich lives. But it takes a bit of planning and it helps to be deliberate about how you fill up your days.

      1. Girasol*

        Me too. They say you’ll be sorry when your biological clock ticks out, but mine did ten years ago and I’m not a bit sorry. IMHO world population would be better off if only those who truly want children have them, and not those who are pushed into it by culture, peer pressure, underage accident, or all those other sad reasons.

        1. Jessica (the celt)*

          I agree with this. If every child was desired completely, devoid of expectations of what he/she will be and just with expectations that you’ll have a child and that’s what is wanted, then this world would be a much better place. I place no other qualifiers, because if you truly have joy in having your child, then most other things don’t really matter.

          The biggest thing about having children or not having children is that there is absolutely no compromise there. You either have a child or you don’t have any children. One child isn’t a compromise between no child and some children, so don’t ever forget that when discussing these things with your spouse. I’d recommend checking out books by people who’ve had the same struggles — whether they ended up having children or not. Sometimes you’ll see yourself in one side more than the other, and that also might help you make a firmer decision.

        2. ExceptionToTheRule*

          My biological clock never got wound. I’m excited for my friends who want children and have them and I’m sorry for my friends who don’t have them and want them, but the idea of having my own does nothing for me and I’m okay with that.

      2. soitgoes*

        I agree with your second paragraph. I’m approaching 30 and already my social circle is rapidly thinning as friends drift off to focus on their new marriages and babies. You have to have a very strong sense of internal direction to avoid becoming complacent when your friends head down a path that you’re not going to walk down yourself.

        1. Jen RO*

          I am very thankful to have friends who have gotten married and had kids, but still understand and respect my choice not to do those things.

      3. JC*

        I’m getting to this thread a day late but I am happy to see the affirmations here from the childless by choice. I am 33 and my husband and I are not going to have children. He had a vasectomy, so it’s a done deal (for simplicity’s sake; I know there are other options for becoming a parent). We were both ambivalent about having children, in the sense that we each could have been convinced if we had a partner who wanted them, but otherwise didn’t especially want them.

        In the past few years mannnnnny of my friends have had their first child, and it always feels strange. I sometimes feel like a weirdo for making a choice that is different from most people’s choices, and I wonder how my life will unfold as it diverges from most of my peer group. I still don’t want children, but the strange feeling comes from not hitting a “normal” life milestone when other people are, if that makes sense.

        I think the advice to be deliberate about how you spend your time is good advice. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to spend the time I’m not using on raising children, in hopes that I will use it for good (e.g., advancing at work, traveling, doing fun things with my husband and friends) rather than waste (e.g., on the internet…guess it’s time to get off now!).

    7. Robyn*

      You can read and read and read and you’ll never know what it is like to have a child of your own until you have a child of your own.

      If you are not 90 – 100% sure you want a baby, please do not have one.

      I have one son who is adored. But he’s hard work. Not just because he’s 5, but because he’s mildly autistic and other learning disabilities.

      I thank God every day for him. But if I still also have days when I count the microseconds of peace until he’ll be home from school and then the seconds to bed time when peace will come again.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        My spouse and I have decided not to have kids. I will say we talked to a few older couples without kids to ask if they ever regretted it. They didn’t. One person said her only regret is that she wouldn’t have grandkids. That didn’t seem a good enough reason to have kids (the potential to have grandkids), especially since our parents won’t be having grandkids, even though they had kids.

        I’ve also had a few friends with kids confide in me that they wish they hadn’t. They still love their kids and will provide for them. They’re not going to give their kids away or tell their kids “You were a mistake.” But, off the record, they said if they had known what they know now, they wouldn’t do it again.

        I 100% support the idea that if you’re not fully sure you want to have kids, don’t have them.

    8. Christy*

      Same issue, although it’s my girlfriend who is fairly strongly against while I am ambivalent/pro-kids, but maybe only because of societal conditioning. Books I’ve purchased or read (because I’m totally doing the same thing, only without the deadline): All Joy and No Fun, What to Expect (When You’re expecting, The First Year (I’m reading this one now and it’s really teaching me a lot about infants that I didn’t really know), The Toddler Years), Mommy Wars. I also have some books particular to our situation–they talk about lesbian conception and adoption. I have a book called “I Want a Baby, He Doesn’t” that I haven’t read yet that I hesitate to recommend because I don’t know the message, and I don’t know if it’s helpful.

      One thing to keep in mind is that the bulk of child rearing in our society falls to the mother, and it’s the mother who is pregnant, and it’s the mother who has the deadline of menopause, so if you ask me, it’s a bigger decision and a harder decision for women. I don’t know anything about your relationship or if your husband is planning to be a stay at home dad who does all the housework already, but statistically speaking, he’s probably not that person. You are the one who will have the bulk of the labor (pun unintended but glorious) when it comes to kids, and you should keep that in mind when making your decision. (It’s not a part of my decision because I’m in a gay relationship, but it really is an important part of the decision for straight couples, if you ask me.)

      And good luck! It’s a big decision. One thing that we’re doing is talking about the hypothetical children and our potential parenting strategies, which is helpful for me because it makes me think about the actualities of having kids. You could do that with your husband–talk about your future kids and also your future child free life. See which fantasy is more appealing, and see which alternative is more depressing.

      1. Christy*

        Oh, and I’m way overweight, and I have PCOS, (and my girlfriend would not get pregnant) so I know for us, we’d likely skip right to adoption. And I also know it would be a different decision process if it could be a biological mix of the two of us. But it’s not, and it never could be, really, so it’s not as big of a choice, it seems.

        Maybe that could be a good way to think about it? Would you want kids if you couldn’t easily conceive? Would you undergo fertility treatments to conceive? Would you adopt? I think that may help you consider the idea of if you want a pregnancy or a baby or a kid and what you’re willing to go through just to obtain that kid.

    9. Ann Furthermore*

      I was always pretty sure I didn’t want kids. There were some not-so-great things about my childhood, and in some ways my parents were not the greatest examples, and I didn’t want to “continue the cycle” as it were. Then I met my husband, and after we’d been married a few years I realized it wasn’t that I didn’t want kids, it was that I hadn’t met the right guy to have kids with, until he came along.

      We now have a 5 year old daughter, and I do love her more than anything. But oh Lord, is she a handful. Being a parent is incredibly rewarding, but it’s also the most challenging, exhausting, and exasperating thing you’ll ever do.

    10. Kyrielle*

      In my experience, parenting books will tell you what you *should* do, but not what life is really like. Memoirs might be better, but most of those are either sunshine-unicorns-and-fairies or humorous slogs in the trenches – neither a full view of reality.

      You might see if a friend or relative with small children would be willing to let you come over and help with taking care of them for a day – they would get partial relief from child-care duties, you’d get some feel for what it’s like, at least with specific kids.

      1. Anon Regular*

        We have nieces and nephews and beloved kids of friends, and we’re first-line-of-defense babysitters. We’ve done the “see what it’s like” thing. I’m really truly just looking for book advice.

        1. Jessica (the celt)*

          Do you only want books about parenting, or are you open to books about people who have ended up choosing to not have children?

            1. Jessica (the celt)*

              It’s definitely growing! Here’s a list on goodreads of some non-parent by choice OR by chance books: . Of that list I’ve read Laura Carroll’s books, and I also follow her blog and she recently had a post with books by authors who are also mothers who talk about the motherhood assumption: .

              Another good blog with general information and no pushy agenda is the NotMom at . There are many authors who post on this particular blog, but they haven’t all come through non-motherhood by the same route: some couldn’t have children, some didn’t want to have children, and others just put it off until it was too late. I like that the community is fairly varied, so you get respectful viewpoints.

    11. Hlyssande*

      Re: Weight

      If you do decide to go through with it, make sure that you find an OB-GYN who is going to treat you compassionately as a human being while you’re pregnant, and is respectful of your wishes for how you want the pregnancy to go, your delivery plans, etc. I’ve heard so many stories of people being pressured into a C-section just because they’re fat.

      A good doc will respect your wishes in all ways and not push you out of your preferred birth plan unless there are complications requiring it.

      Good luck in whatever you decide!

    12. Clever Name*

      I’m not a baby/kid person, and my vision for my future when I was young didn’t include kids (or a husband for that matter). When my husband and I were dating, we both said that we probably wanted kids. I got married really young at 21. Didn’t want kids right away. Then I started to feel like something was missing in our lives. We had a great life. Had jobs we enjoyed. Had regular date nights. I felt this way for 2 or 3 years until we finally felt like we were ready to have kids. We decided to start our family and we had a son. I won’t lie. While my pregnancy was fairly uneventful, labor and delivery were incredibly difficult, and our son was a very high needs baby. Our son doesn’t have any disabilities, but he is very different from most children (to the point that the vast majority of parenting books simply aren’t relevant), and he isn’t exactly easy to parent, but I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. I feel like I was meant to be his mom. We have decided not to have any more children. That decision is based on a mixture of being really happy as a family of 3, not having that feeling that something is missing, and really not wanting to deal with another difficult baby/early years. Our son is now 8, and we can finally do things like travel internationally with him and he’s pretty great in restaurants now. For me, having a child was almost a spiritual decision. I decided to allow another soul not only to inhabit my body for a time, but to make a decision to bring another soul onto the planet that I would be connected with for the rest of my life. That’s pretty heavy.

    13. Celeste*

      Expect a lot of medical monitoring in any pregnancy. Try not to take it too personally. Everybody gets a blood pressure check, every time. Everybody gets the gestational diabetes test. Expect strangers to weigh in on everything they see you do and lots of things they don’t see. My take was, you never really understand the culture until you have a child in it.

      There is not a whole lot of choice out there in plus size maternity wear. I had to get all of mine online. I had the best luck with JCPenney, since they also carry plus size tall maternity (total unicorn find). There are some other online sites I’ve seen through the years that have dresses, but I was happier in separates. If you can find a jumper, you can wear a lot of your regular tops underneath it for months.

      Definitely use the time to learn your employer’s policies regarding maternity leave, breastfeeding at work, and so on. Also be clear on what your insurance covers. If you think there is any way you might want supplemental disability coverage through AFLAC, learn their terms. They typically want you paying into that for almost a year prior to a pregnancy before they will cover leave you take during or after a pregnancy.

      I think you’ll find no shortage of books, and if that makes you feel better, go for it. I’ll recommend the site Literary Mama for some great reading, and the magazine Brain, Child as well. To me the only books that are really valuable are the ones about child development; there is a great series that is for each year, ie Your Child At Two. That said, I think you’ll get a lot out of being around a child. Can you babysit for someone? Often? That will take you far, especially if you spend time with the same child/ren and get to know them and feel some of the attachment.

      There is one book I will recommend, and that is Baby Bargains. It has great advice on holding down the cost of baby gear.

      I think you should also tune into your husband during this time and find out what he is looking forward to/dreading about it all. It might help you refine your feelings.

      I can’t really advise on going into childbearing just for your spouse. I did not have that experience; I craved my baby. That did not cause any of the lows to be any different, but I feel that it carried me through them, if that makes any sense.

      Good luck with your decision; I hope that in the end, it won’t be a difficult one.

  5. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    Oh, man, guys. All the Thanksgiving and Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. All of them. We’ve spent a hearty amount online, and will probably spend more before the end of Monday. Amazing. Loving it.

    1. Mister Pickle*

      You’re not alone! I took the opportunity to snag a few stocking-stuffers myself. Amazon is my friend!

    2. Sail On, Sailor*

      We’re fairly disciplined when it comes to finances, but we got sucked into some sales, too. There have been mind-boggling discounts on items we’ve been watching for a while. I’m not talking about the cheap knock-off electronic stuff that the retailers put out especially for Black Friday junkies. I’m talking about quality name-brand merchandise.

      For instance, my husband has been needing a new pair of leather work boots. He’s been watching the price on a pair sold by Sears that normally run about $120.00. But between the sale price and a few rewards points, he got them for only $40.00. Whoo hoo!

      1. Kyrielle*

        I got the vacuum I have wanted (which should be about $110) for under $30 after discounts and reward points. Loving it when things I’ve been watching go on good sale! (Alas, the camera I covet didn’t. I’m not very surprised, though.)

      2. Joline*

        I bought my dog booties on sale. Worked out well – I didn’t even realize it was a sale weekend, just knew that she needed booties so her feet didn’t freeze off.

      1. nep*

        Oh, man. I was anticipating that post to end with something like ‘I’m such a champ’. I, too, spent nothing on the Black Friday deals. Pretty great. I still own all that money.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I am waiting until tomorrow to buckle down and get everything. I love Cyber Monday. Last year I spent about $300 in 20 minutes and got a call from my credit card company verifying that it was me! The first time I did Christmas with my bf’s family– and the first time I bought gifts for more than 3 people– I got EVERYTHING online, to the point where my doorman was all, “Uh, you have yet another package…” I also get cash back on my card for shopping at certain stores, so I basically get either some money back or free shipping and it’s awesome.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      I love Cyber Monday, but I’ve gotten to really despise Black Friday, since so many of the stores open on Thanksgiving night. I think it’s horrible and it is sucking all the joy out of a day that is supposed to just be about being thankful for what we have. Plus I feel so bad for anyone who has to work on Thanksgiving night and deal with people who will come to blows over a TV at Walmart, or a Vera Wang cardigan at Kohl’s. Ugh. Plus my husband told me that he read somewhere that many of the electronics sold on Black Friday are specifically manufactured for Black Friday sales. So…real high quality goods there, I’m sure.

      I have friends who go out Thanksgiving night, but I absolutely refuse, and I’ll never do it. The way I look at it, if I choose to go shopping on Thanksgiving night, then I’m choosing to make someone work on Thanksgiving and give up their holiday.

      Sorry. Black Friday rant over now.

      1. Melissa*

        Many of the electronics are either manufactured especially for BF OR they only have a very limited number of the special deal, and do it really to lure people into the store to buy less-discounted or full price stuff. I have a friend who worked at a big box retailer for the holidays and one year there was like a children’s tablet my cousin wanted for her children discounted; he told us that the store would only get 5-10 of them.

        My MIL went out on Thanksgiving afternoon at around 6 or 7 pm to go shopping. We ate at 4 pm. And my poor sister-in-law worked at a big popular department store from 8 pm to 6 am on Thanksgiving. When we picked her up she looked kind of shell-shocked and she didn’t want to talk about it, lol.

    5. Hlyssande*

      I wasn’t planning to do any Black Friday shopping, but after a fabric store trip my friend told me about a new outlet mall she’d heard of and since she was leaving for home on Saturday…

      I ended up scoring THE BEST cardigan sweater ever from the Torrid outlet there. It’s black and white and patterned like a Fair Isle sweater, except there are skulls worked in. So soft! So swingy! Skulls!

      So wearing it to work tomorrow.

  6. November*

    Has anyone used a light box for mood therapy? Do you have a recommendation for a brand or model, hopefully not too expensive? I think I may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder. I have been feeling overwhelmingly sad, off and on, for no real reason. The only pattern I’ve noticed is I feel worse when it’s a gray day than when we get a bit of sun.

    1. B*

      I can get one through work and I’ve asked about it. I have a bad association with November anyway and I think the lack of light makes it really bad these days. Hope it helps.
      I’m in the uk – this site may not be relevant to you but it looks good:

    2. FD*

      My mom uses one and it helps her a lot. It doesn’t completely stop it (she has REALLY bad SAD–even rainy days in the summer knock her for a loop), but it does help.

      Her current one is a HappyLight, which seem to range from about $50 to $150, going off Amazon.

      1. Bea W*

        Too many gloomy days in a row throws me off. I’m pretty sure I drive my friend crazy when I open up all the blinds while visiting because not having the natural light exposure messes my head. She’s content to live in a cave and it’s even dark at night with few lights in the room. I feel bad disrupting that, but it’s seriously bad for me.

        1. Mimmy*

          Ahh glad I’m not the only one. I can’t stand having the blinds closed on a sunny afternoon, even when the glare from the sun interferes with watching TV.

    3. Wander*

      I do. It’s something I have to use very consistently in the winter; for whatever reason, missing even a day will throw me off for a week or so. My seasonal affective disorder is pretty severe, so on its own, it isn’t enough (though it definitely does make a positive difference), but in conjuncture with exercise and medication, I’m pretty managed. I use SunTouchPlus, which normally goes for under $100. Mine has lasted two years now with no problems, and it’s quite sturdy. I highly recommend it and light boxes in general if you think you have SAD.

    4. Susan*

      I’ve also recently started using the happy light. It really works. You just put it on your desk and don’t look directly at it. 30 mins. Big difference between when I use it vs not. Only thing is it’s really bright, even the lower setting. I covered it with white tisue paper.

    5. Bea W*

      I’ve been using one about 8 years and swear by it. I have been using the same Sunstation brand lamp the whole time. For travel I have a Go-Lite which is portable. You ideally need a 10,000 lux or brighter light. Also try to get outside midday for at least 10 min. When I started my doc recommended 30-40 min morning and evening. Then once I felt better one session per day. When I first did it I felt like crap and was skeptical it would work, but I was feeling more normal by the end of the first week.

    6. CaliSusan*

      Yes! I have the NatureBright SunTouch Plus and I love it. Bought it off Amazon this time last year for around $70, though the price sees to fluctuate a bit. I notice a big difference when I use it consistently every day. I also take vitamin D and magnesium during the winter months. I live in Northern California and I think my SAD would be a lot worse if I lived further north, bt I still do everything I can to tackle it.

    7. Lamington*

      I’m using the Happy Light deluxe so far and I really like it. However I need to ramp up on Vit D.

    8. Pennalynn Lott*

      Have you had your serum Vitamin D levels checked? I used to suffer from really bad Seasonal Affective Disorder until I started taking really high amounts of Vitamin D3 (4000-6000 IUs / day). It has made all the difference!

      I went to an endocrinologist for other issues a few years ago, and he was damn near apoplectic when I told him how much D3 I take and practically yelled, “Stop taking so much immediately!” But when I went back a few days later to review my blood labs, he had to retract his order and tell me to keep doing what I was doing because my serum Vit D levels were perfectly normal.

  7. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Thumb surgery. Has anyone had it, and if so, what was your recovery like?

    I’m having surgery on my right thumb (dominant hand) on Thursday (tendonitis — specifically, trigger thumb) and I’m hearing wildly different accounts of recovery time. My surgeon said I’ll be back to being able to use it pretty normally in a day or two, but people online are talking about it like it can take a couple of weeks. But it also sounds like trigger finger surgery, which is more common than trigger thumb, is a longer recovery time, and there’s less out there about the thumb. I’d be inclined to trust the surgeon, but the wildly varying accounts have me confused.

    Also, when I broke my foot a few years ago, the doctor totally downplayed what the recovery would be like (and didn’t bother telling me highly useful things that would have made for a faster recovery if he had — which my physical therapist later told me was unsurprising), so now I’m a little skeptical about whether surgeons provide particularly useful guidance beyond dealing with the immediate fix. This time I would like to not be blindsided if in fact it’s a more onerous process than he’s presenting it as.

    And yes, I’m a little concerned about my typing ability during the recovery!

    1. fposte*

      Oh, I think I dodged that bullet–that was the only time a cortisone shot ever worked for me. So I haven’t done it, but I am a big fan of cut to cure right now rather than suffering on in painful patience, and I hope it all goes well.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I actually did two cortisone shots for it earlier, both of which worked for a while, but then it came back. Apparently a third in the same location isn’t a good idea, so hence the surgery now.

        1. Sunflower*

          My mom had that surgery after two cortisone shots too. It definitely is a recovery that takes several week. They will probably recommend PT like exercises at home after the bandages come off too. Good luck!

            1. Kat*

              You can always type with just your fingers, except now as I type this I am seeing how much I use my thumb lol. I feel for you. I hope you recover soon!

              Typing without my thumb sucks, forget I even suggested it!

    2. fposte*

      Though I will agree that surgeons aren’t good guides to recovery (mine found the whole topic clearly dull). They always want to tell you about their colleague who went back to work the next day after the same procedure, and I think once they’ve put Tab A in Slot B, they’re not really interested in what else is going on with you. Any chance you could check back with your old PT to ask about this recovery?

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          The hands, the HANDS! My great fear.

          With movie stars it’s their faces. With me my HANDS must type must type must type…….

          Best of luck!

          1. Melissa*

            I broke my middle finger in high school and had to get it splinted to my ring finger for it to heal. MISERABLE. I did eventually learn how to type pretty quickly with 9 digits instead of 10, though.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      I’m not sure how relevant this is but, I broke my thumb swimming years ago and it was a killer. I couldn’t do anything with it for weeks trying to button or unbutton my shirt or pants was really painful and frustrating, and after the break healed the mussels had wasted away so I couldn’t even hold a glass of water or grip anything.

      1. Alma*

        The opposable thumb is a big deal in getting just about anything done. Perhaps your PT could suggest tools that would make life easier while you’re healing. A jar opener, a can opener, button hooks and oversized plastic things to snap on keys to make them easier to turn.

    4. Melissa*

      I have never had thumb surgery, but in my limited experience with surgeons they tend to underestimate recovery times despite having seen literally hundreds of the surgeries they do. Not sure why. I had surgery near my tailbone and the surgeon made it sound like I’d be back to normal in a few days – he was like “Yeah, you can go back to work on Tuesday no problem!” (I had the surgery on the Thursday before MLK day). Ummm…no. By Tuesday I was still in a lot of pain and woozy.

    5. Risa*

      I just had this done on my thumb on Tuesday and I’m typing this with a huge cast on my right hand. It’s a little slower going, and my left thumb is handling all the space bar work. While my surgeon was in there, he also removed two ganglion cysts deep in the wrist. First couple of days were painful, but I’m now using ibuprofen to manage the pain and it’s more than adequate. I see my surgeon again on Wednesday where I’m hoping he’ll give me a smaller splint, but he did tell me that I would be in an immobilization split for two weeks post surgery. But I go back to work on Monday. I’ll need to make some accommodations – using my touchscreen tablet to take notes since I can’t write with a pen real well, more time to type emails and reports, etc.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ooooh, you are a perfect source for me! I’m relieved to hear that you’re typing.

        What I’ve been worried about is the doctor is making me think I’ll be able to work, but then discovering that in reality I can’t. (Whereas if I know about the likelihood ahead of time, I could get a bunch of work done in advance … which I guess would be smart to do regardless.)

        So you can type with the other fingers on that hand, as long as you don’t use the thumb?

        1. Risa*

          Yep, the four fingers are free of the cast, which is big so they sit a little higher off the keyboard than normal, so sometimes I strike the wrong key. I would definitely have some work done in advance, but know that you should be able to do new work after a couple of days if something hot pops up. Just go slow and know it will take a little longer than usual to type. I’m finding I’m having to think a little more about my typing as I type, because I can’t use my normal muscle memory, so hopefully that won’t distract you from the ideas you are trying to communicate.

    6. Hlyssande*

      My mother has had multiple trigger finger surgeries, and the recovery was pretty quick for her as far as I know. She only just retired from medical transcription this year, so having working hands was a must! I’m not sure what the average recovery time is though and I’ve never heard of trigger thumb. Gah! D: I hope it goes very quickly for you!

      One thing that you can do if you start getting another one after this is massage up and down the finger or thumb, all the way from the base of it in your hand to the second joint and back – basically following the tendon. That worked for my mom when she started getting yet another one.

      Good luck!

    7. Mephyle*

      I don’t have specific anatomical advice but about the problem of the surgeon not knowing as much as a physical therapist about recovery, can you get hooked up with a physical therapist immediately so that you can find out these things in a timely manner?
      About typing, some of my colleagues use Dragon Naturally Speaking (we are freelance translators and spend all day typing) and are very satisfied with it. Even many people who didn’t have an injury felt that the investment in Dragon was worth it because once they had trained the dragon and gotten used to it, it made them more productive.

    8. Celeste*

      I had a surgery on my wrist for De Quervain tendonititis. It’s a similar thing, the tendon sheath seizing up. Shots did nothing. Surgery did cure me, but recovery took me a few weeks. The first was really hard; don’t be stingy with the pain pills, especially if you go home with compression bandaging. Recovery was not easy, because it was my dominant hand; that said, I’d do it all over again because surgery WORKS on this stuff.

    9. mina*

      Hmm… nothing to offer but are we going to get a series of updates from the thumb’s perspective? The foot was very informative, I thought.

  8. Mister Pickle*

    I’ve seen a number of movies recently:

    Fury was errr interesting. The ads I saw seemed to imply it was like Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, but with tanks! Instead, it was one of the most unforgivingly raw portrayals of war I’ve seen since Peckinpah’s Cross Of Iron.

    Young Ones was a unique science-fiction western. A bit difficult to describe; it was basically just a story of betrayal and revenge that was set in the near future.

    I wanted to like Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac part 2, but it was just awful. It was supposed to be intellectual and meaningful but it was just pretentious crap. One of the worst endings I’ve ever seen. A movie so bad that even naked Charlotte Gainsbourg could not save it.

    The Maze Runner was another stupid one, although I kinda knew that walking in.

    A Million Ways To Die In The West was funnier than I expected it to be (I’m not a huge fan of Seth MacFarlane), but it’s not the Second Coming of Blazing Saddles. It got a bit long.

    The best thing I’ve seen recently was a Swedish television show called Real Humans. I’ve only seen a few episodes, and its not easy to find, and you have to deal with English subtitles, but it was compelling and sucked me in fast. It’s about androids in the near future, not a topic that excites me, but this show is so far doing a great job of it.

    1. jordanjay29*

      I just saw Big Hero 6 today. Not the deepest movie out there, but for a Disney Pixar film, it was good. It’s nice to see a film targeted at kids that deals so well with the subject of loss. I usually enjoy Pixar films very much, they always seem to tackle the subjects that Disney and other kids films are afraid to touch, but they don’t lose sight of their target audience in the meantime.

      I had to go look up the release date for The Maze Runner after you mentioned it, and now I realize I totally missed its theater run. I guess that’ll happen when you’re deep in the last college semester. I heard it was better than expected, but that’s not exactly high praise for a book adaptation. There are so many bad adaptations out there, so the bar is rather low already.

      The Swedish show sounds interesting. I recently finished watching the Danish show Borgen, which was based on the US show West Wing. Similar to the Real Humans, it required English subtitles, but thankfully the show has grown quite a following in the UK, so the show and subtitles were readily available.

      1. Anonyby*

        I love Big Hero 6. It completely tore me up inside, though I admit that I’m rather thin-skinned when it comes to movies.

      2. Emily*

        I saw Big Hero 6 the day after Thanksgiving and really enjoyed it! Parts of it made me laugh out loud (which was a nice surprise – I don’t always go for kids’-movie humor). It was also nice to see so many non-white characters.

    2. FD*

      My family and I went to see Penguins on Wednesday, which was fun. Certainly no great cinematic work, but entertaining to watch with kids.

    3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I really enjoyed Interstellar – it was the kind of sci-if that I really enjoy (humans struggling with human problems, not just OH NO ALIENS SLIMY SCARY ALIENS). A bonus for me was multiple lead roles that were female scientists.

      1. Mister Pickle*

        I’m curious about Interstellar – I’m pretty rough on science fiction movies – and so far it’s like they’ve been hiding all of the “eye-candy” and keeping it out of trailers and ads. And usually the parts of a SF movie that I enjoy the most are the FX and production design. The plots are typically a lost cause.

        (If you ever get a chance, Sound Of My Voice and Another Earth are two of the best science fiction films of the last decade. They have great plots but minimal FX work. Go figger!)

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Blargh! I loved Interstellar but I HATE the lack of women and POCs. It drives me crazy about sci fi – writers can imagine amazing futures or parallel worlds but apparently cannot imagine different social structures than those in White, upper middle class communities.

        I won’t spoiler Interstellar but I was unimpressed by both the relationships of the women to the men and the contributions of the women (and the one Black guy).

        1. Mister Pickle*

          I haven’t seen it, but I’m sure I will be impressed by how the POC selflessly gives his life to save his white friends.

          My advice to you is to go read a book by Samuel Delany :)

        2. Anonsie*

          I always think of the XKCD Uncomfortable Truths Well. “For a universe that’s supposed to be half Chinese, Firefly sure doesn’t have any Asians.”

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Nothing will EVER be the second coming of Blazing Saddles. Nothing. Ever. In perpetuity. Amen. :)

    5. Windchime*

      I went on a movie binge yesterday after my Thanksgiving company left. I watched Independence Day (for the umpteenth time), Captain Phillips (so good!) and Magic Mike all back-to-back as I knitted and did post-company laundry. It was an awesome way to decompress from the holiday.

      1. Adonday Veeah*

        Ooh. Magic Mike. Matt Bomer naked. My bff walked out on that movie — said it was the worst plot she’d ever seen. But… Matt Bomer naked… who needs plot?

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I watched Snowpiercer not long ago and I LOVED it. Starring The White Witch, Captain America, and the War Doctor. And Ed Harris. Yaassssss. Oh, and the guy from that Korean horror flick The Host, the really good one about the giant fish. I don’t know his name. Yes, I know that sounds really stupid, but The Host was a fantastic movie.

      Oh, and I just watched The Ghost and Mrs. Muir the other night, before Netflix pulled it. WHY DID NO ONE WARN ME THAT MOVIE WOULD MAKE ME BAWL MY FACE OFF

  9. Wander*

    If a wedding is held at someone’s house (like house they live in everyday, not vacation home or anything), how early should you arrive? The invitation lists a time, which I assume is when the ceremony begins (though it doesn’t actually specify); my instinct is to show up half an hour before that, but I a.) have never been to a wedding that wasn’t held at an official venue, and b.) don’t want to show up too early and find they’re still getting ready. (I’m pretty sure I’m overthinking this.)

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      If you’re close enough to the couple to have been invited, I think you’re close enough to just ask! This is why my wedding website listed “guests arrive” and “ceremony” at different times. You could always add “Is there anything I can do to help before the ceremony?” The last wedding I went to, the bride and groom were glad of some help with things like setting out programs.

    2. Observer*

      Unless the invitation says something like “reception at x:00” and “ceremony at y:00”, do NOT come early. If you want to help set up, call in advance and ask if you can help. Otherwise, no, don’t assume that there is something for you to be there for, before the time indicated on the invitation.

    3. Melissa*

      I would still show up 15-20 minutes ahead of time, although every wedding I’ve ever been to has started later than the time stated on the invitation. Even if they are still getting ready (which they almost always are), they will usually have a place for the guests to sit.

      I’ve been to one wedding at a house that started at least an hour late.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      For my wedding we had a bit of a cold snap that morning, and some people came early so they were milling about inside of the venue (the ceremony was due to be outside in late morning). It got really awkward because I ran into some guests before the ceremony when I was on my way to do the first look pictures.

      So I’d say arrive no earlier than 15 minutes before. If you get there earlier, just hang out outside.

    5. Blue_eyes*

      Having just gotten married recently, I know that many people put the time they want guests to arrive on the invitation and plan to start the ceremony 15-30 minutes later. My impression is that it is uncommon to put the exact time that the ceremony starts on the invitation, because they know people will be late and don’t want anyone to miss it.

      1. Mephyle*

        Yes, this.
        Also, if you know the Happy Couple or their parents well enough to be invited to the wedding, don‘t you know them well enough to give them a call or send them a message and ask?

    6. Anonsie*

      As someone who has thrown these at houses before: Show up at the time on the invite or a MAX of 10-15 minutes before. They will still be getting ready and won’t have anywhere for you to be.

  10. Saro*

    I desperately need recipes. I’ve moved overseas and only have a stovetop, no oven. I do have an old school pressure cooker and am in a high altitude. Any recipes for dinner parties would be great too. Thank you!

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      There are a zillion things you can do. I’ll link below to “stove top recipes” on as a starter.

      Any thinnish meat can be pan fried. Any thicker meat can be braised on a stove top. Your only real limitation is going to be your assortment of cookware, as if you want to make a big pot of food you’ll need a nice, big pot with a well fitting lid.

      Personally, I wouldn’t fool around trying to cook a big piece of meat. I’d make boneless chicken breasts, pound them out to even thickness in a pan, or poach bone in breasts in a pot, and then do a vegetable and either a noodle or rice dish.

      Soups! Soups are so wonderful and all stove top.

      Probably the only thing you can’t make is a cake, a lasagna, a meatloaf, a rib roast. I can’t think of a lot that can’t be made without an oven. Virtually any crockpot recipe will convert to slow cooking on the stove top, you just have to adjust timing.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Stove top recipes:

        How to braise meat:

        Stove top chicken:

        Skillet meals:

        Poaching chicken. (I do this all the time and the results are wonderful)

        This will get you started. :)

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


          Come back when Alison has had a chance to pull my link post out of moderation. I posted 5 links for you, different directions to think about.

          It’s an adventure to you! Like camping, only, with a roof.

      2. Nashira*

        You can do meatloaf in a skillet. Make hand-sized patties and fry it like a hamburger. It’s a good way to do meatloaf for 1-2 people without having to make a couple pounds of meatloaf, then risk eating it all.

    2. Mister Pickle*

      How are you set for the various tools you need to cook? Do you have at least two or three good knives, and two or three cutting boards? Pots and pans? Spices?

      1. saro*

        Yes, I brought good knives with me, have 2 cutting boards and spices. I have good pots and pans too. I am a decent cook but didn’t realize how often I used the oven until I got here.

    3. Rebecca*

      Can you use a slow cooker? I’ve used mine to make everything from mac & cheese to a beef roast with veggies and potatoes, chili, soups, and even desert items.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Check out the Wonderbag on Amazon. It’s basically a VERY insulated bag that was designed for people cooking in Africa primarily and other places with limited cooking fuel sources. It’s a really cool concept – you bring something like stew to a quick boil and then let it sit in there and slowly cook as it retains heat for hours.

          I love the idea of it and it’s designed for places like where you’re living. Plus if you buy one they donate one as well!

    4. Marcy*

      I didn’t have an oven when I lived overseas and bought a toaster oven. It isn’t the same as having an oven but it was helpful when I wanted to bake a cake or something. You might try that. I got really sick of cooking only on the stove-top.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Curries! Stews! Soups! I cook most of my (vegetarian) meals on the stove. With some good spices and veggies (and beans, if you’re so inclined), you can make some wonderful, filling meals. Can you get a rice cooker? That will eliminate the need for stove space and provide you with a great staple dish to have around.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I rarely use my oven any more. I have a combination microwave oven which I can use for most things, and it doesn’t need pre-heating either.

    6. Judy*

      I love my pressure cooker. I have the book “Pressure Perfect” I think the author is Lorna Sass. You can make so much in it, fairly quickly. I’ve not tried the lasagna or cheesecake recipes.

    7. HR Manager*

      Do you have space for a toaster oven? I have a Breville SmartOven, and it’s the best counter-top oven I’ve had. Works just was well as my big oven (sometimes better) and even has a convection function to boot. Since I primarily cook for 1, I use that more than the big one. Wonder if you have a similar option overseas?

  11. Sandrine (France)*

    Hello all!

    Sigh of relief as my unemployment money is FINALLY coming in… My bank advisor will finally get off my back. Whew.

    With that said I still wanted to sell my only pair of Louboutin cause well wedding is postponed due to finances anyway… And the only site where I could have sold it other than Ebay (ugh, the fees!!) will not accept my listing and will not tell me how to present it so it’s good for their site. “Counterfeiting” , they say. “I have the invoice from the shop” , I say to customer service… Who doesn’t ask for it and leaves me to put up a Facebook status, asking friends to share. Ugh. Thankfully since the unemployment money is coming in, not so urgent now, whew.

    On anoter note… Hmm. Let’s see. I’m still friendly with my exes and I’m spending part of it with the first of them because he’s alone for three days and I’m not working and a longtime friend wanted to see us as well. I still value FirstBF a loy but boy am I happy to be in a different place now xD. He is very sweet, but… Yeah. Haha. Hoping Fiancé can join us later as he said he would so we can all have the Starbucks drink I’ve been aching for since getting fired.

    And Mom is happy, and Sis is coming home from Japan for vacation in a few days… Life is getting GOOD.


      1. Sandrine (France)*

        Sadly, Katie, I can’t. They specifically say that they should be tried on “on carpet” because those red soles, while pretty, are just deeeeeeeeeeeeeelicate. And I wore them twice so on the “second hand market” it would go for a decent price, but returning them is a no go :( .

  12. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    Thanksgiving went well. We do a multi day affair, just for the immediate family, and everything turned out well. I did two turkeys over the three days and both came out nearly perfect! (I like to cook but turkeys and I don’t get along and it’s usually more failure than moderate success.) Did about 10 dishes all told and all went well. Whew.

    Here, however is the important question that could save a marriage:


    I use a lot of tinfoil when wrapping the leftovers. The husband says “It’s not 1957 anymore. What is with the tinfoil usage?” (the refrigerator is full of shiny parcels and casseroles covered with Reynolds Wrap.)

    I say, “that’s what you do! it’s…… Thanksgiving! you wrap things in tinfoil!”

    He laughs at me. He laughs at me! Apparently Donna Reed used tinfoil but I’m supposed to use… plastic containers?

    Wouldn’t be the same.

    Tinfoil or not?

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Leftovers – fridge – tinfoil/clingflim unless it’s cooling down and is going to be frozen, which is then in plastic containers. So…both! ;)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      No tin foil, here. Family member died with aluminum deposits in the brain. That cured me!;)

      I use Pryex/Corning Ware with glass lids for my stuff. I like that I can reheat it in the container- and then set it on the table- I do not have to keep piling up more and more dirty dishes.

      The whole aluminum thing started with me when I was in my teens. I noticed that soda from cans tasted just awful to me. And the older the soda was the worse the taste was. Some people don’t notice the taste difference, though.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Corning Ware with glass lids, now ***that*** takes me back. Mom! I don’t know if I have the refrigerator space for a bunch of casseroles and lids though.

        Yep, I much prefer soda in glass or plastic.

        1. Bea W*

          My beverage container preference is glass > can > plastic. I really dislike the taste of plastic, and beer really only belongs in glass. I find beer in cans gross.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, that’s interesting–I find myself drinking a lot more water if I have it in plastic, and that goes for cups as well as bottles. It’s just a softer impact in some way. And I always hated the metal taste of cans for anything, so I guess I’d be plastic > glass > can.

            1. Bea W*

              Plastic makes water taste weird to me. I will take it out of the tap (depending on the region) before I’ll drink it out of plastic.

          2. Schmitt*

            We took a tour of a small craft brewery a couple months ago. Apparently beer lasts much better in cans than in bottles – they were in the process of completely switching over. I suppose if you pour the beer out of the can into a glass anyway….

          3. Cath in Canada*

            We only buy beer in cans if we’re going camping that doesn’t involve driving right up to the campsite in a car – less fragile, and you can stomp them down when they’re empty to save on space on the way back out.

      2. NewDoc*

        I can’t taste much of a difference with sodas, but I remember drinking canned water once (post-Katrina, the Budweiser factory in Houston began canning water for refugees in the Astrodome) and it tasted so strange!

      3. Katie the Fed*

        I don’t like covering leftovers with foil, because it starts to rip with the wrapping and unwrapping. Boo. I like my rubbermaids (I should really switch to pyrex because I have some big concerns about chemicals from plastic but…meh).

        I really only use foil for cooking -lining a baking sheet, etc. It lasts forever in this house.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Both! I totally use both. I used both last night when I made post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving (stuffing goes on sale and I LOVE IT). I made a green bean casserole in a quart dish, so I covered that in foil, but I made the stuffing in a braising pan, so I put it in a container.

      If the dish needs to stay intact and doesn’t really hold up to the container transfer, use the foil. And tell your husband to shove it. (Well, that might be harsh, so try this: “Honey, until you start putting the leftovers away yourself, you can shove it.”)

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Ha, ha!

        He just loves to pick on me. I’m sure it’s because I am so perfect otherwise, he needs to find leftovers to tease me about.

        Green bean casserole, perfect example. Must have a tinfoil cover on the dish it was baked in. (I love green bean casserole! I saute extra mushrooms to mushroom it all up and decrease a bit of the milk to compensate. It comes out evilly Campbells Soup comfort food delicious. Only time of year I’d Campbells up food.)

        I think I’m subconsciously throwing back to the way Mom did things, because I spend so much time when making Thanksgiving thinking about family that is gone and the times that we had. I never realized that the way I deal with leftovers on Thanksgiving is different than all the other times of the year. I have a stockpile of plastic containers that it doesn’t occur to me to touch for Thanksgiving food.

        1. fposte*

          I totally get this. If you’re not prying open the tinfoil to peel extra slices of turkey breast off the pile at odd hours, can you really say you did Thanksgiving?

          (And I love just about every kind of fresh and cooked cranberry sauce but remain sentimental about the cylinder straight out of the can.)

          1. Bea W*

            I am always disappointed when there’s no slices of canned cranberry sauce at the table. It’s not Thanksgiving without the can-shaped cranberry sauce.

            1. fposte*

              My brother and I reminisce about the days when the date stamp (or inventory or whatever) was actually impressed into the can end and therefore was visible on the cylinder. Self-numbered food–that’s the sign of quality!

        2. Bea W*

          My mother worked in a lab and was fond of sending me off with leftover gravy in a pee cup, a tradition I have gladly let go to the grave with her.

        3. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I do the same thing with my green bean casserole! I love that stuff. I love food and I love nice restaurants and I love fresh ingredients and all that, but I have a deep appreciation for Campbell’s and Ro-tel with Velveeta and all kinds of sodium-laden tasty garbage. Especially around Thanksgiving. Alton Brown may tell me how to make my own crispy onions, but they’re better when they come from the plastic French’s container.

          This reminds me of the time when I lived alone and made a brisket, then I wrapped the leftovers in Saran Wrap and foil because… that’s what Mom always does. Funny how these things are ingrained.

    4. bassclefchick*

      Although I have tin foil in the house, I almost never use it. I tend to like the Glad plastic containers. If I give leftovers to friends, I don’t worry about getting the container back and they don’t have to worry about anything spilling on the way home. Over on Offbeat Home, they seem to like a thing called Cover Blubber. It’s an eco friendly version of plastic wrap or tin foil.

    5. Ann Furthermore*

      I use foil for some stuff, but for leftovers I use glass containers with rubber lids. I started doing that a few years ago when I read something about BPA in plastic containers. It said something like, “You know how tomato sauce will stain your plastic containers? Well, what makes you think that doesn’t go both ways?” That struck a chord with me. So now, something that will be reheated goes into a glass dish with a lid, and something that won’t goes into plastic.

    6. Anonyby*

      It really depends on if I’m putting the food in/on whatever I’m going to eat it in or not! For instance, if I make a plate that just needs reheating (or put a stew in a bowl), then I’ll cover it with plastic and then foil. If I’m willing to put myself through the extra steps (or just don’t have the bowls/plates to spare), then I’ll put it in a plastic or glass storage container.

  13. Carrie in Scotland*

    As part of my 30 things before I turn 30, one of my items on the list is to show no mercy in looking through all the things that make me, me – clothes, books, DVDs, craft bits and bobs and then photos, documents and so on.

    Do I really need 3 versions of an essay I wrote in 2010? Do I really need this ribbon – does it tell me anything? The photos – they are the hardest! Some of them I don’t even know where they are other than “in Europe”. What does this photo show me – a swan in a lake? Swans are pretty, yes but a swan is a swan.
    So far I have deleted over 700 photos, of duplicates, of people I no longer speak to, of the most random stuff. It’s hard though. I find myself thinking a lot of the past.

    1. B*

      Haha, i get you. I struggle with that kind of stuff so badly.
      I’m in Newcastle, are you close enough to do a swap – i help you, you help me??
      Kidding….. kinda ;)

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        I’m in NE Scotland, so Newcastle is a bit far just now but come next summer/autumn I hope to have moved to Glasgow, which will help with travelling to other places. I don’t fly and it just takes forever to get anywhere.

        1. B*

          Oooh, I got badly sunburned once on a beach north of Aberdeen. In about twenty minutes. That took us by surprise! I presumed I was far too far north for sunburn.
          I’ve only been to Glasgow once but I really liked it!

            1. Carrie in Scotland*

              ha! it has been known to show it’s face now and again ;) winter is pretty bad though – sunset before 4 pm :(

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Good for you. Yeah, this is tough stuff to do. But it is a way of sorting out where you are at in life- what is important to you and what is not. It’s a trip down memory lane. But I think as we go along we tend to reframe our experiences because of new experiences, so we almost need to revisit some stuff and look at it with fresh eyes. It is surprising what has become less important. And it can be surprising what has become even more important.

    3. Mister Pickle*

      Are you talking about deleting digital content?

      If it’s a psychological thing where you want it gone, I understand. But memory is so cheap nowadays, you can archive stuff off onto (say) a USB key and it’s deleted to the extent that you won’t bump into it on accident – but it’s still available if necessary. I picked up a Seagate portable 5TB drive on Thursday for a bit more than $100. I think it has onboard encryption, too, which is nice for keeping archives private.

      Just a thought. Myself, there’s some stuff I definitely want GONE – but most stuff, I’m not sure.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        I’m putting it onto USB sticks – the photos, the music and documents I want to keep. But in order to put it on USB’s I’m going through them and asking myself ‘what does this mean to me?’ There really isn’t a need for duplicates or for blurred pictures or for drunken ones in which I’m surrounded by people I hardly knew in the first place, let alone 4 years down the road.

        1. Mister Pickle*

          Yeah, duplicates and most blurred photos are just a waste of space.

          The time is coming – in some ways, it’s already here – when software will take those random pub photos and tell you who everyone is, plus the date, time, and location (even if that data is missing from the photo’s EXIF data).

            1. Mister Pickle*

              Yeah, it’s a trip. But look at what FB already does with facial tagging. There may be a privacy challenge to the technology that slows it down, at least for public consumption – but I give it 10 years max. All of that computer vision stuff is moving along faster (I think) than most people expected.

              And of course, I’m a random guy on the Internet – so you know it must be true! :)

              1. Pennalynn Lott*

                My Samsung Galaxy S5 correctly – and freakishly – tagged my cat Violet (one of 5 kitties) in a series of pics I took of her one day. How the hell does my phone know the names of my cats. . . and which one is which???

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Finishing and handing in my 2000 word essay on “creativity in the English language”. I have 60 words ;)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Ironic, eh?

        Nothing like an assignment on writing to suddenly curb our ability to write.

        Fortunately, here you can see plenty of creative writers. There are people that are able to express things that others are thinking and yet have no words for. Then we have folks that have that knack for turning a phrase and we are laughing until tears flow. And most importantly, we have Alison. Look at her writing. She has decided to write in a manner that is free from ambiguity. She watches her word choice and tries to pick words that most people will be able to accurately understand what she is saying.

        So as you are reading along, think about the many creative ways people use language right here. I think it’s pretty interesting.

        1. Carrie in Scotland*

          That would be interesting, if only I was allowed to use my own examples! But sadly, I have to use the materials given to me.

        2. Mister Pickle*

          Heh, yeah! A big part of why I am here is to learn. And writing unambiguously is part of that.

          (I wish the AAM board provided a bit more ability to edit typos, though. Either a preview, or like on metafilter, you get a five minute window after you hit submit to edit typos and errors. I like to think that we all understand that typos happen – but sometimes I wail and gnash my teeth when I re-read something I wrote and it’s like I dropped 40 IQ points)

          (In truth – and at a the risk of coming off like a sod – I wish the AAM board laid out its threads and sub-threads a bit differently. Especially with some of the recent Open Threads exceeding 1000 responses – sometimes I get lost. To be clear, I’m not saying “replace it” – instead, it might be nice if there were an alternative view of the comments, and users could choose to view either way?)

          1. fposte*

            It took years even to get to the expand and collapse options we have now, so I think this is the best we’re going to get. It’s really tough to get the right system on the right platform at the right price, I think.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yeah, I recently poured a bunch of money into getting the collapsible/expandable comments, and the general costs of keeping the site running keep increasing as traffic increases (for example, the monthly hosting cost just went up again since my previous hosting plan was buckling under the traffic), so I’m sticking with the current set-up for a good long while :)

              1. Not So NewReader*

                It’s all good.

                I usually read my comments before posting and stuff gets by me on a regular basis. I am not sure an edit button would help ALL of us! ;)

    2. Rebecca*

      My next Kindle Lending Library book! I just finished “Dust”, by Hugh Howey (3rd book in the Silo series). I’m not sure what I want to read next. I’m thinking about “Station Eleven”, but I might read something else, I haven’t decided yet.

      1. Windchime*

        I love everything by Hugh Howey. Try “The Plagarist” for a quick read that is really interesting.

        I recommended Station Eleven a couple of weeks ago. I think that you will like it if you liked the Silo stuff by Hugh Howey.

        1. Jen RO*

          Ok, that’s it, I ordered the book. I keep seeing it recommended here and I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories!

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I am between jobs and this is my Week of Freedom. I have three days completely off, during which I will clean, nap, read, get my nails done, get my eyebrows done, take the dog for a vaccine and then take him to the park at the art museum, and watch crappy TV. I may go to a movie or two, and I will try to go to some mid-day yoga classes. My grandparents arrive Thursday afternoon and while it will be a bit stressful, I love my grandparents and am thrilled they are taking the trip down to see us.

    4. Sheep*

      Finishing the UN YPP exam that I am sitting on Thursday (7.30am) in New York. I’ve spent too much money on this trip, haven’t studied enough, and now I just want it over and done with!

      What I’m actually looking forward to though, is spending a couple of days in New York AFTER the exam! (Any advice on what to do there on my own? Apart from the inevitable shopping and coffee drinking.)

      1. Lore*

        The Matisse show at MOMA right now is great! Friday evenings (I think) they’re free after 5. May be a madhouse but worth seeing. Also I think the Rockefeller Center tree is up but not out and it smells delicious. Also dim sum. Always dim sum.

          1. Lore*

            Up but not lit, that should be. Though they might be lighting it this week? Also the holiday dept store windows are going up if you like them–and usually not too crowded on a weekday afternoon.

    5. Windchime*

      We have code freeze for this sprint on Tuesday, and I’m looking forward to that being over. Other than that, I think I’ll put up the Christmas decorations this week. I really love having my tree up–it makes the living room so cozy.

  14. Rebecca*

    Stray Cat update: I haven’t seen the mother cat since Tuesday, before the snowstorm here. Her two 10 week old kittens stayed on my back porch. I have a makeshift “habitat” on the porch filled with pieces of fleece and wool blankets, and it’s totally covered with an old sleeping bag, so they had a place to sleep and get out of the cold. I made sure they had food and water, but on Friday, I took them to the SPCA. I still don’t know what happened to their mother. If she appears, I’m going to make sure she gets spayed through the county Trap/Neuter/Release plan.

    It was hard. I had to sign a card stating I knew they could be put down if they’re not adopted. But I have to think I did the right thing. They have a better chance than trying to survive outside, and possibly getting sick, being eaten by a coyote or other animal, or being hit by a car.

    I really wish that people who drop off cats in my neighborhood would just stop. Just because we have barns does not mean we need cats. A house cat that was born inside, taken care of for weeks, and is then dumped out on its own has little chance to survive. It’s heartbreaking to scoop them up off the road after they’ve been hit and bury them.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I read that the average cat lasts about a year outside. We have way too many animals in this country and not enough homes for all of them. The best we can hope for is to get our animals neutered so at some point the production rate goes down. All my animals have been rescues. Three dogs, three cats- not even a drop in the bucket, considering the number of animals out there.
      You did the best you could do with that situation. I admire how you stayed on your goal. Hopefully mom will come back at some time. Not easy stuff … at all.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      That is so sad, Rebecca.

      I fail to understand a fundamental lack of respect for life. These cats are lucky that you are keeping an eye and doing the best that you can for them.

    3. Trixie*

      Another idea for shelter from cold is using an inverted styrofoam cooler with an access cut out. (You can google on Pinterest.)

    4. Cath in Canada*

      The chances of a bonded pair of young kittens being adopted is really high, assuming they’re healthy. That’s what we were looking for when we got our cats, and it took multiple visits to the shelter before we found a young bonded pair (they were 8 months old at the time so we missed the really hilarious kitten phase).

  15. Schmitt*

    Imposter syndrome – on the internet!

    I want to be a part of the AAM community, because duh, but when I go to reply to something, most of the time I’m like “nah, someone’s said something similar; nothing I say will be a positive contribution.”

    Which has the effect that although I have been reading the site for years and feel like I know a lot of you guys, you don’t know who I am!

    1. nep*

      Slay the ego and the imposter syndrome thing dissolves. It’s about not being hung up on what others think of you.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Don’t feed the Negative Nancy or Norman inside your head. Each time you feed Nancy or Norman it just makes it easier for them to their thing the next time.

      If you read along you will find that a lot of us echo what someone else has said but sometimes we add one more thought or we say it in a different manner that might resonate for other people.

      In short, if you look for reasons not to reply you will always find them. But if you look for reasons to reply, you may be surprised and delighted.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I lurked AAM for quite awhile before I first posted. There’s a LOT of conversation and it does feel a bit intimidating to just jump in. I had the same question, do I have anything to contribute?

      The first couple times I posted (under another user name), it seemed as if nobody paid attention to what I said which… who knows if they did or didn’t? Most posts don’t get replies and look at all the things you read and take and in and don’t reply to. But if you are feeling shy and you do post and it looks as if nobody heard you, that kind of affirms the fear that you had.

      What I found good for making conversation and “meeting people” was replying to other people’s comments/posts. I only make a stand alone comment (first level) when I think I have a decent starting point for its own conversation or when I’m very early on in commenting and I think I can give a start to a thread about OP#2 or whatever. The double bonus to replying to someone else’s post is that 1) they feel heard and 2) the chances of a conversation for you are greater.

      Friday Open Thread is terrific for breaking into talking because there are always more people looking for insight than there are multiple replies to their post. Read from the bottom up. The first post might get 25 replies but the latecomers may have none or only a few. There are always people posting just to have an ear – they’ve gained a job, they’ve lot a job, something really good happened at work, something really bad happened at work. There are never too many “yay!” or “I’m so sorry” responses when somebody needs an ear. (I can rarely get to open thread myself, but I miss it when I can’t. )

      HTH. Talk when you can and you’ll just feel more comfortable the more you do.

      1. Schmitt*

        I posted a question of my own in the Friday open thread and, conversely, I felt obligated to post a lot more replies than I usually would since people were nice enough to answer mine!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I have noticed in the open forums and on regular days the OPs that answer get more people chiming in, than those that don’t answer posters. Worse yet, if the OP does not answer sometimes the conversation goes off in a direction that may not be useful to the OP.

          Personally, I like seeing the OP answer. Sometimes I see 300 responses and no OP anywhere and I wonder did the OP drown here or did the OP give up.
          Maybe some OPs privately email Alison and she keeps that conversation private.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            With some OP’s, I think they’re probably just not comment section people, so they’re just not going to engage in the comments (or maybe even read them — who knows). For people who are used to comment sections looking like they do in a lot of other places on the Internet, you can imagine why they might not want to ever engage in commenting themselves. (That said, my “your post is going to be published” form email does include a note about the comments often being helpful, and encourages people to engage there, particularly during the first day, if they’re inclined.)

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Totally understandable,that they are not interested in the comments. I have seen some nasty-nasty stuff in the comment section for an obituary. (wth?!) If people are willing to mouth off there, then the sky’s the limit.
              Sometimes, though it feels like the OP gets more hints and tips when they participate, because they refine their question or narrow down the situation in some manner. If nothing else they might see where other people have faced something similar, it’s good to know that others have been through X, also.

            2. Windchime*

              The comments on this site are, by far, the most useful and polite comments that I’ve seen. I even read some of the articles that were linked above (regarding the politically-sensitive topic), and the comments for those articles dissolve almost instantly into name calling and flaming. So I can understand how some OPs might not even think about or wish to read the comments. I’m sure that Alison’s remarks to the OP (in her reply letter) help, though!

    4. Snow Queen*

      I can so relate because I’m that way, too! I’ve been reading AMA daily for years, and feel like I “know” most of the regular people here. Sometimes, I start typing a reply and then go, “Nope, I have nothing else to add because there are 300 comments and mine won’t make a difference or even be seen.”

        1. Aussie Teacher*

          You probably won’t see this because I’m a day late, but I feel exactly the same way! Unfortunately I’m in Australia, which means I have 12 hours time difference to AAM and the comments are usually coming thick & fast when I’m asleep!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Alison, I remember you saying you were doing a tree last year. Do you think you will do one this year?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It went up last night and I am delighted. My poor husband spent hours putting 1200 lights on it. We’re not sure how we ended up with so many. I’m hoping it’s not about to catch on fire.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          My FIL and MIL grew up in an era where you would put actual lighted candles on a tree.

          I am sure recalling that era made them super fire safety conscious. There are smoke detectors that look like tree ornaments that you can get for your tree. We got them one. I thought that was a bit much, but as the years roll by, I have started using one.

          I went to a party last year with a VERY large tree that had real candles on it. They lighted the candles. It was very pretty and a real treat to see this. I found, though, that I kept double checking the tree after they lit the candles and I made sure I knew where all the doors were.

          I am sure your hubby checked the wires as he put them up and I am sure that he did not overload the electrical outlet. I think it will be fine.

          1. Windchime*

            Years ago, I watched a scary show on 20/20 or something that showed how fast a live tree can go up in flames. I took down my live tree the next day and went back to the fake one. I love the look and smell of a live tree, but I also like having the fake one because it feels safer and I can leave it up well into January.

          1. Diet Coke Addict*

            It depends how big your tree is! Smaller trees you can do 100 or 200 and it looks fine. My parents get a huge eight-foot tree every year and go with 800-1000 depending on how thick you want the lights.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Shush, woman, I am barely recovering from Thanksgiving!

      I mean to say, good for you! :-) :-)

        1. Not Myself*

          I have a UK Thanksgiving story to share –

          A classmate studied in the UK one year during college, and the school decided to try to make the displaced American exchange students feel welcome by hosting Thanksgiving for them and serving a traditional menu –

          Which the Brits had read included “sweet potatoes” –

          Thus explaining the sugared baking potatoes offered as part of the Thanksgiving meal. :-)

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            I am telling that sweet potato story.

            That’s hysterical.

            First time I talked to a UK friend of mine about Thanksgiving, I was chatting about the food I was making.

            So. Many. Cans.

            I almost never used canned food any other time of the year, but the Thanksgiving traditionals I grew up on and make for my family require, many, many cans.

            She was (politely) horrified. She couldn’t understand why I would use tinned food on a holiday. I teased her with, how else would I know the recipes? They are on the back!


            Americans, what are you going to do with us.

            1. Persephone Mulberry*

              For the first time in 7 years of hosting Thanksgiving, I made a fancy stuffing from scratch instead of unboxing some Stove Top. My family was disappointed.

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                Awwww. Year to year consistency is important to most people.

                I can’t stand Stove Top. If you want to try something that’s a bridge between Stove Top and fancy stuffings, you could look at Pepperidge Farms. It’s what my mother made, just using the herbed square crumbs that come in a bag. I add chicken broth, onions, celery (all mom) and then mushrooms (daring me). And I don’t spare the butter.

                I think it’s amazingly good. But is that because it’s my family stuffing? Probably!

        2. Felicia*

          Haha I’m in Canada so no Thanksgiving to recover from now! Our is in October, but in my experience it’s really not as big of a deal as in the US. Canadian Jewish families tend to not do Thanksgiving so I’ve never done it.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Actually, I’ve been seeing UK people co-opt it. I saw tons of articles on MSN UK (my computer apparently thinks we’re still there, because it defaults to it) about what to make, and they’re not just aimed at homesick expats. I guess the turkey feasts are the draw, because it’s kind of a celebration for us that we got away from you!*

          What bugs me is that UK is doing Black Friday. Stop it!

          *Disclaimer: I for one would have been happy to stay there, but that’s just me. :)

    3. Schmitt*

      It occurred to us yesterday that since last year, we have acquired two young cats. Now we are re-considering putting up a tree at all! Meg loves to drag ribbon-like things through the apartment (garlands? strings of lights? Oh gods) and Mo’s greatest joy is sitting on a table or nightstand and knocking everything on it off one by one.

      1. Rebecca*

        I did something a little unorthodox with my tree. It’s a small 4′ table top tree, and last year when I put it up, the young (8 month old) cats made it their job to knock it down. So, I grabbed some ratcheting tie down straps and very securely strapped the tree stand to the little table, and covered all the straps with a tree skirt. I also use wooden ornaments and metal bells on the lower limbs, so when they bat them onto the floor, they don’t break.

        1. Trixie*

          I also went the route of tabletop trees in purple, blue and fuschia tinsel. It’s like Dr Seuss stopped by for tea after Thanksgiving. Great bargain at Big Lots.

          1. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

            I bought a tiny live tree a couple of years ago that came with a stand. I hope Whole Foods has them again this year. I decorate just with lights and put the cats’ toys on the tree, so there’s a giant nip filled squirrel and some mice peeking through the branches. If they knock down, no harm.

      2. Marcy*

        I have acquired an active young cat since last year and have an older cat who still loves to climb in the Christmas tree. I thought the young cat would be a problem and decided to only use plastic ornaments but so far she only sleeps under the tree. She hasn’t tried to do anything else. The older cat still climbs it and sometimes sleeps in the branches (that’s where she is right now) but she doesn’t seem to do more damage than just knock an occasional ornament off the tree. You could try putting up the tree with plastic or wooden ornaments. I wouldn’t try garland but mine could care less about the lights. I can’t have bows on the presents, though. The older one eats them.

      3. Seal*

        For years I got a real Christmas tree and had to secure it to a door so my cats wouldn’t knock it down. I also made a point of hanging non-breakable ornaments at bottom just in case. After the initial novelty wore off, the cats mostly left the tree alone every year, save using the trunk to sharpen their claws.

        Eight years ago, I moved halfway across the country for a job. Since I now travel every Christmas, I had to get an artificial tree. All the cats did with that was sleep under it, which was sweet. A couple of years ago my senior kitties passed away, and I now have three young energetic troublemakers who think everything’s a cat toy. So I stopped putting up the artificial tree in favor of a tacky tinsel tree (at least it’s green!). Surprisingly, the cats tend to leave it alone – even they have their limits when it comes to destroying things for the holidays.

      4. catsAreCool*

        I’ve got a fake tree and plastic ornaments. Michael’s Arts and Crafts store and Home Depot both sell ornaments that are hard to break.

        Don’t put up any tinsel. Cats will sometimes eat it and may need surgery if it gets tangled up in their insides.

      5. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The big thing is not to put tinsel on it — if they accidentally ingest it, it can be really, really harmful. So no tinsel, and possibly no dangly ornaments on the bottom if they’re the type of cats who like to play with such things.

        1. Schmitt*

          We have a spangly, tinsel-type garland that gets hung outside the apartment door, because Merlin goes big-eyed crazy when it comes out and tries to eat it. Yeeeeeepppp.

      6. Windchime*

        My cat is a big boy now, but two years ago he was a 4 month old kitten and he spent many happy hours climbing the (fake) Christmas tree. I just kind of went with it; all the decorations that year were non-breakable so that he wouldn’t get hurt if he knocked something off.

    4. Elkay*

      We’re going to buy our first ever real Christmas tree either next weekend or the weekend after. I also need to buy some decorations otherwise it’ll be a sad looking tree.

    5. Ann Furthermore*

      We are finishing ours today. We got a new tree this year, and my husband went overboard (in a good way) and bought a 12 foot tree!! We have very high ceilings, so it will fit in our house, but it kind of has to sit out in the middle of the living room. I don’ care though…we have a TON of ornaments and we add to the collection every year. Plus I love Christmas.

    6. HR Manager*

      I put up my mini-tree, and one of my cats spent about 15 minutes chewing it. (=_=)
      It’s a fake tree, for heaven’s sake. I can’t have real trees, tinsels, dangling ornaments, pointsettas….cats pretty much take away a lot of what is fun for the holidays.

      Yes, their snuggliness makes up for it, but I miss my pretty lights and real holiday decorations.

  16. Carrie in Scotland*

    My cat keeps on bringing me live mice and then “losing” them in my flat. I can handle dead ones (just scoop & bin) but running around ones freak me out. So there’d been a mouse since last night under my sofa and I was too scared to get it – it was very fast – and so had to get my neighbour to help me get it out.
    I wish I had a man for this sort of thing :(

    1. Rebecca*

      This made me smile. When I was a teenager, we had a tiny striped cat named Gretta. She was the queen of killing all the things. In the summer when I was home from school, Gretta would hunt in the morning and bring us gifts like snakes, mice, chipmunks, that type of thing. They weren’t always dead. My Mom gave me the task of removing them from our basement (Gretta would meow to come back in, and bring the gift with her).

      One day, Gretta brought in a “dead” chipmunk. I scooped it up with the broom and dust pan and lifted it to eye level as I was curious to see a chippy up close. It sprang up on its hind legs, screeched, and I screamed and threw the dust pan. The chippy took off with Gretta in hot pursuit, and she finished the job in the laundry area. My Mom stayed at the top of the cellar steps. Fun times!!

    2. Elkay*

      They run along skirting boards so try and put something (box, bucket, cat) on the skirting board and the mouse should run into it, whether it stays is a different matter. We’ve never successfully caught one but that’s what the man who came to try and find the mouse for us told my dad.

    3. jhhj*

      Oh I had that — the cats could chase and even catch mice, but they never figured out how to kill them. Sometimes they worried them to death, sometimes my roommate’s cat would take over and finish them off. I cleaned up the dead mice, the roommate cleaned up the (much rarer) dead birds.

      But there was construction being done, so the basement wasn’t sealed to the outside.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It took us a while to get this house sealed up, so we had critters until then. One time I had a mouse that I just could not get. My husband thought I was nuts- “there’s no mouse in here”. Yeah. okay.
      Sat down to dinner one night- crash-bang-crash. The animals got the mouse. My husband, laughing, goes to investigate- the dog and the cat were sitting a distance apart from each other in the living batting a half-dead mouse back and forth between each other. The living room version of field hockey. He cleaned it up, once he got done laughing.

    5. Elizabeth*

      Our cat has been playing “catch & release” with a mouse on the second floor. He will stun it hard enough that he loses interest, then it creeps away. Repeatedly. If we tried to take it away, he would get extremely upset.

      1. Rahera*

        Long-time lurker here too :), hi all from New Zealand.

        Just wanted to say I live in an old house which lets the mice in, and last autumn got hold of a tip-trap which catches the mouse so you can release it. It’s a tube that is capped at one end, and you put a bit of peanut butter inside the cap. The tube is bent up at an angle halfway along and has a sort of claw opening. You place the open end flat on the floor, the mouse goes in after the peanut butter and when it gets into the second half of the tube it tips the trap and the claw end closes. Not exactly fun for the mouse, but the trap can’t misfire and hurt it like a regular trap, and you can release the mouse later without handling it, which is great if you’re squeamish like me. Also unlike a lot of traps, they do get to eat the peanut butter while they’re waiting for you to let them out again ;-).

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I have a thing called TomCat that is like that. It’s a metal box they can go in but they can’t get out. Luckily, I haven’t seen any mice or evidence of them inside the house at all. The ants are bad enough!

  17. Need help*

    If there is anyone out there who is dealing with, or has dealt with a close family member with mental health issues, I would so appreciate any advice/coping skills. My mom has had issues as far back as I can remember. I’m well into adulthood, with kids of my own now, and am trying to navigate my relationship with her. It can be extremely frustrating & sad dealing with her, but I am determined to stay in her life and be there for her as best I can. I just need help figuring how to set and keep boundaries, and to not let her issues keep affecting my life negatively. She refuses to see that she has any problem, and will not seek help. So that’s where I’m at. I would be so grateful to anyone who would be willing to share any insight with me.

    1. Christy*

      Captain Awkward has some great stuff that relates to this. She seems to write a lot of advice posts about mental illness and difficult family members. Try searching her archives.

      1. Temporarily anon*

        I second Captain Awkward. She and her commenters have stellar advice based on real life experience. Her core advice is always look after yourself, set firm boundaries and find a good therapist – for yourself. You cannot fix your Mum. You can only look after yourself. I speak from experience as the child of a paranoid schizophrenic who refused help for many years because of the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

    2. JustMelissa*

      I highly recommend the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) class called Family-to-Family. It’s a 12-week course for family members of those suffering with severe mental illness. The program has three components: education about the physical, emotional and behavioral components of mental illness; coping stratagies for you (family member and/or caregiver); and support group/community building. As you said, you can’t make her seek help, but this class will help you figure out what good boundaries look like for your situation, and give you the support you need. In my class, there were about a dozen participant families. Most were parents, but we also had one person dealing with a sick parent, one with a sibling, and two (including me) with a spouse.

      It’s no magic bullet – I still struggle with boundaries and avoiding negative impact on my own life. But, I feel pretty empowered to work through these feelings when I find myself struggling. Good luck to you!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      There are numerous good books about mother-daughter relationships to consider also. You’d have to read the jacket to decide which one is the closest to something that would fit your setting. Libraries have them- so no need to spend a small fortune on books.

      Also, don’t allow yourself to walk this alone, ever. If you can, connect with a trusted family member, hopefully from your mother’s generation. Sometimes just getting a few “Why?” questions answered can be helpful. (Why does mom worry about X? Why does mom insist on doing A and B?- those type of questions.) Insights can give you new coping tools. This could be a person that is long distance but is willing to talk to you on the phone and takes an interest in how you are doing.

    4. MJ*

      My favorite boundary book is the classic Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner. It doesn’t specifically address mental illness, but it has helped me tremendously through the years as I have navigated boundaries in tricky relationships. It came out in the early 80s, but it is still in print and probably at your local library.

    5. salad fingers*

      I don’t have a meaningful relationship with my dad and don’t think he would want one if I tried, so I don’t necessarily have any advice there, but after resisting therapy and the idea that he might be clinically depressed for years, he recently started seeing a doctor and taking meds for depression in his late 50s. He is apparently doing better as a result. Just a thought — something may give eventually and your mom may decide to get help. I hope things get better for both of you and your relationships.

    6. Clever Name*

      Yeah, my mom has some mental health issues she refuses to get help for. They aren’t severe, but it sure makes it less than fun to spend time with her. I won’t go into all the details, but it’s incredibly frustrating to deal with. I used to have a really great relationship with my mom, but that’s pretty much gone now. I’ve had to recalibrate my expectations when it comes to interactions with her. She is unable to be a supportive mother to me, and in many ways the roles have reversed. She looks to me for guidance and direction. I really wish things were different. Luckily I can talk to my sister about it, and my dad is still able to have a normal adult parent relationship with me. I’m learning to set reasonable boundaries to preserve my own mental health, and I’m learning to accept that for example, when we talk on the phone we will talk about stuff she wants to talk about and that she really isn’t able to be supportive of stuff I may need to talk about.

      1. Need help*

        Thank you for sharing this, it is very similar to what I am dealing with. I sometimes feel quite alone in this whole thing, so I appreciate knowing there are others out there who are in the same boat.

    7. Amethyst*

      I found the book “Toxic Parents” by Susan Forward to be very useful. Also, “Perfect Daughters” by Robert Ackerman, but the latter is specific to daughters of alcoholics.

  18. AvonLady Barksdale*

    So glad the open thread is here, because I need a Thanksgiving vent. My boyfriend’s stepmother (SM) is, in a word, awful. She’s been married to his father (FIL, for brevity) for about 5 years now– she’s wife #5. FIL is a very nice man but extremely passive, and I am seriously close to done with both of them. We recently moved to their state; we’re now 80 miles away when we had been 1000 miles away. My bf was so excited, because he and his dad have a great relationship and they like to spend time together, and now it’s so easy to get in the car and drive to see them, and holidays are much simpler– no flights, no hotels, no dog boarding, no days off work. Great, right?

    NOPE. SM doesn’t want us around. She has her own son– grown and married, a few years younger than my bf– and the sun shines out of his ass, so she treats my boyfriend like he’s lower than dirt. It’s not even a matter of not liking him as a person. He exists, and was there before her, and takes some of the attention off her, therefore he is a piece of crap and not worth her time or even a modicum of hospitality. We arrived on Thursday and she didn’t even greet us, just came into the kitchen and breezed past us as I said, “Happy Thanksgiving, SM!” and got no response. This is normal for her. Then she kicked me, the bf, and the bf’s sister out of the kitchen so she could talk to her mother on the phone, then 10 minutes later she yelled at FIL because no one was helping her. Then I did help her, but I got crap for taking up space on the kitchen counter. I brought a casserole as requested, and she made a huge fuss about the timing of heating it up and how it would take soooo long (15 minutes). We brought a bottle of wine that we thought everyone would enjoy– and FIL said it sounded like it would be great with dinner– and she refused to open it. After dinner, I offered to put things in containers, I was told not to, then 5 minutes later she called bf’s sister into the kitchen and asked her to do it– I told bf’s sister, who was also sick with a virus, to sit down and I would take care of it. I complimented SM’s stuffing, and her response was, “Well, when you can’t use meat or nuts, it’s SO LIMITING.” Bf is a vegetarian and his sister is allergic to nuts. I wanted to say, “Bitch, I have made it my entire life without putting bacon in my brussels sprouts, so shut the eff up.” At one point, I went out with FIL and bf’s sister to check on a dog FIL was watching, and bf declined to come with us– I later learned he was afraid to leave her alone with our dog, that he suspected she would open the door and let him out in an unfamiliar neighborhood in the cold.

    But the worst part– and the part that put me over the edge– was Christmas. As of a week ago, bf and his dad were talking about Christmas plans. FIL sometimes likes to go away, so he was making suggestions, but no plans were made. We got there on Thanksgiving and I said, “So, what’s the plan for Christmas?” and learned that FIL and SM decided to go to a B&B in some nothing town so they could “get away” without anyone else. No one told bf beforehand. His sister will be spending Christmas with her boyfriend’s family, so she’s all set, but… my boyfriend basically won’t have Christmas. He has spent every Christmas with his father since he was a child. He looks forward to it every year. Since he and I have been together, we have jumped through hoops and re-worked our budget so we could make Christmas happen, and now that it’s so much easier this year… we don’t have any Christmas to go to. I can’t give him Christmas– I’m Jewish. Bf will probably convert, but we both understood that even if he becomes religiously Jewish, we will still do Christmas with his family because it is FAMILY. And now, SM and FIL have decided that this doesn’t matter one iota. Bf believes it’s all bean-counting– if SM can’t see HER son on Christmas (he spent last year with us and will go to his dad’s this year), then FIL can’t see HIS. Bf’s mother passed away five years ago. No Christmas with a parent. Disappointing on its own, but no one even said anything to him. They basically expected Christmas to roll around without telling us that our usual plan– spending it together– wasn’t happening.

    We were supposed to go with them to some Christmas show in a few weeks, and bf doesn’t want to go. He’s pretty upset, and I don’t blame him. He just has to call and say something, and that’s really, really hard. I wish I could do it, but a) it’s not my place, and b) I wouldn’t be able to get through the conversation without telling one or both of them to eff off.

    I am not used to this. I have never met a grown-ass woman who couldn’t put on a fake smile and be hospitable for a couple of hours, especially when her only guests are her husband’s kids. My mother is a narcissist and a little insecure too, but that manifests in, “I must be the best and everyone must talk about what a great hostess/cook I am,” so she puts on a good show for everyone. This, “I don’t want you here and you’re going to know it” attitude is so foreign to me.

    I hope everyone else had a better– or at least a nicer!– Thanksgiving! And I want to hear some good stories. Horrible, uplifting, no matter, just some good ones, please. :)

    1. Schmitt*

      We are trying to coordinate Christmas with my wife’s two brothers. We live about an hour and a half drive away, and have in the past always driven to one of them for Christmas (we have a small place, three cats, and were financially under the weather for several years at the beginning of our marriage).

      Last year, my wife mentioned that we could possibly host Christmas this year. Her oldest brother called a couple weeks ago to ask about plans. My wife offered to host again, but was firmly declined because “it’s too far to drive”.

      They can drive to Austria for a ski vacation, but not to us for Christmas dinner. OK then.

      (It’s entirely possible it’s the cats, which would be fair enough, but they use the same excuse for any other get-togethers we suggest in our area.)

    2. the gold digger*

      That sounds awful. SM is a piece of work.

      For me, any event with my husband’s family that does not end with someone (rightfully) storming out of the house after being accused of being a bad mother because her children served themselves white meat instead of dark meat or that does not end in tears with my offering the tearful person some xanax only to hear her say, “Oh, I brought my own tonight” is a good holiday.

      However, we have never had a holiday with my husband’s parents that did not have some kind of drama, which is why we spend our holidays by ourselves now.

    3. Colette*

      That’s ridiculous.

      As far as Christmas goes, what is important to your boyfriend, knowing that being with his dad is off the table? Maybe there is something the two of you can do, or maybe you can get together with his sister on another day to do something special.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. Now is probably a good year to start introducing your bf to the Jewish Holidays. You guys had planned to do that anyway. I am sure that will fill up a lot of time, talking about the history and the significance of the traditions.

        1. Alma*

          Maybe you have friends in similar circumstances (functional families exist only in H******k holiday specials). A Bring Your Own Tradition (or start a new one) gathering might be a lot of fun. There will be interesting foods, decorations, and stories to share. Give yourselves permission to do without the toxic people this year.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yeah, I’m looking into a special trip. For the first time ever, I have the week off and he’s on break (grad school). But every time I bring it up, he shuts down. Poor guy. What’s worse is that we just moved and our closest friends are in NYC, so it’s also tough to call around and see who wants to get together.

        We may go back to Jewish Christmas, also known as Chinese and a movie.

    4. Mister Pickle*

      Have you considered simply not attending?

      I never got along with my in-laws – this was years ago, before they both died in a head-on collision – and while we always kept the ‘nuclear family’ together for holidays (almost always at our house) – my wife would take the kids to see her parents a couple of times a year and leave me to play bachelor for a week. I liked having some alone time.

    5. matcha123*

      I think you should have put the step-mom in her place. What’s she to you? Or your boyfriend? The dad must know that she is a *cough* witch with a capital B.

      Re: Christmas. Is his family religious?
      For me, Christmas means Santa, presents, trees, lights and being with family. Nothing about Jesus or going to church or anything like that.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        They’re not particularly religious. I feel very strongly– as does my boyfriend, interestingly– that the trappings of Christmas have no place in my Jewish home. So we don’t do Santa or a tree in our home. That’s part of what makes this such a blow– Christmas is for being with his family. My mom invited us to Florida, as I knew she would, but we probably won’t do that, and it still wouldn’t be Christmas. SM is horrible, but my family’s no picnic either!

    6. catsAreCool*

      SM sounds horrible. Have you considered writing to Captain Awkward or Carolyn Hax? They’re good at helping with ways to deal with this kind of thing. A lot of it is about setting boundaries and (sadly) visiting less and spending less time at their house. Some of it is ignoring bad behavior and being pleasant on the rare occasions when the other person is. Some of it is speaking up and saying something like “Maybe we could just see you alone” to the FIL, although that might not work.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I *always* consider writing to Carolyn Hax. :) One of the best things about being a Hax-ian is knowing what she would say, so I try to remember that I as I move forward. As far as I’m concerned, the boundaries are set– we won’t make as much of an effort to see them now. Seeing FIL alone is, sadly, out for the most part; we drove out there in early November (while SM was away, because of course she won’t invite us over) and had a great time, but I fear that was a one-time deal. I would love it if bf and FIL did stuff together one-on-one– I think it would be great for bf, who really misses seeing his dad on a regular basis– but SM won’t stand for that. A few years ago, bf’s sister made arrangements for a father-daughter vacation, just the two of them in Florida for a few days. DAYS, mind you, not even a whole week. SM not only invited herself along, she told FIL that if she couldn’t go, he wasn’t going either, and he freaking caved. Sister said it was miserable and she would have bowed out if the tickets hadn’t already been purchased.

        Now, on the other side of this, SM feels free to go all over the country and see her family alone and FIL is perfectly content to stay home. He is not invited, nor does he want to go. But heaven forbid he should take a few days to see one of his kids– causes a major war in that house. Frankly, it disgusts me, both that she pulls this crap and that he gives into it.

        My grandmother advised me to tell SM to “f–k off” next time I see her. It is SO TEMPTING.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, the “he gives into it” thing is really relevant here. All of this is okay with him, or at least more okay than a fight. Being on wife #5 suggests he might not be the most careful picker in the world, so maybe you just have to wait this one out and see if you like #6 better.

          I’m kind of surprised she was okay with you bringing your dog–a strange dog is a big deal in most households. Maybe that’s one where Dad actually won the fight and that’s why she was so untrustworthy with the dog?

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Probably. I don’t think she would have harmed him or put him out, but bf is the pup’s dad and entitled to his own distrust, if that makes sense.

            If this marriage dissolves, I may advocate for singlehood.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’d be tempted to tell her to F-off too. But assuming that’s off the table, can you both start just calling out her bad behavior — “SM, you’re making us feel like you don’t want us here. What’s up?” “SM, have I done something to upset you?” Etc.

          I wish your boyfriend would talk to his dad about this is making him feel, and the fact that SM makes him feel so horribly unwelcome. Maybe it’ll get harder for the dad to allow it if it’s forced into the open like that. (Or, maybe it’ll drive a wedge in between your boyfriend and his dad, so proceed with caution.)

          But since SM travels a lot, maybe your boyfriend can start planning trips to see his dad for the times when she’s away.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            You’re right on many counts. I have been so hell-bent on being “nice”… I think it’s time to be much more assertive, especially now that my bf has stopped trying to keep the peace and is really upset. After the first Christmas I spent with them, that his sister hosted, I sent a note to SM thanking her for being so welcoming. I told my bf that, given what he told me, I wasn’t going to give her any reason to add me to her criticisms. Now I know that’s all for naught.

            I told bf– and I will continue to tell him until he gets his dad on the phone– that his only solution now is to tell his dad how he feels. We both know this might create a big wedge, but my bf is at the point where he will accept that, and I know him– I know he means it.

            I am now, more than ever, super grateful that my own family is on my side when it comes to certain things, like my mother’s nuttiness. I can call up my grandmother and say, “Did you know what your daughter just said to me?” and she can do the same, and we will both tell my mother to cool it. No one will say anything to this nasty piece of work, and I have been sitting back because I’m “just the girlfriend”, but dammit, this is ridiculous.

            1. Stars and violets*

              Your BF’s father sounds like my FIL: anything for a quiet life, so even if your BF told him how he feels, I suspect the father would still cave in to what SM wants because he has to live with her.
              I was going to suggest that BF and his father meet up outside of the house to do things together but from what you say above that’s not going to fly. Poor BF may just have to accept that his dad’s a wimp. My sympathies to you and him.

            2. the gold digger*

              I tried being nice to my husband’s parents, but after the whole bad-bacon-eating thing, I decided there is nothing I can do to make them like me. They have threatened twice in the past 18 months to disinherit him if he does not “get [me] in line,” but they won’t tell my husband what that line is. His mom wrote me a letter and told me she had to suck it up with her in-laws and that I needed to do the same. (Those were not her exact words, but that was the sense.)

              I would be so happy to have it out with them, but my husband doesn’t want to do it because he feels bad for his mother, which I can see, as is dad is verbally abusive to her. I watched his dad reduce his mom to sobs once – FIL was disagreeing with the irrelevant details about a story that happened 40 years ago.

              I guess my point is that there are some people you will never be able to please. No matter what I might do – I have changed how I address letters to his mom (because I was doing it wrong), I have changed how I open a letter (again, doing it wrong), I returned MIL’s mother’s wedding ring that MIL had given me before my wedding because MIL decided I was not wearing the ring and didn’t deserve it, I have cleaned their (nasty) fridge, I have cooked many a meal (and discarded the broccoli stems because “We don’t like those” and peeled the apples because “We don’t eat apple peels”). I have sucked it up, but every time I move ten yards, they move the goalposts.

              So I am done. I am not trying to please them any more. I cannot make them like me. I can’t make them happy. So I am done. Except I still take notes because they give me great material for my blog and novel to be.

              My husband is very lucky to have married into a welcoming, happy family.

              It’s not you, AvonLady. It’s them.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                Ugh. That is horrible. Just horrible. I cannot understand some people, and I come from a family of loons. I’m glad you’ve taken their craziness and turned it into good material.

                By the way, I love broccoli stems. They are delicious. If that ever comes up again, save the stems and pickle them.

    7. Ann Furthermore*

      We had a truly wonderful Thanksgiving. We host every year; I think this was our 9th or 10th year. It’s always my family, my husband’s family, and some close friends. This year we had some friends join us for the first time.

      It’s a 3 day cook-a-thon for me (although to be fair, not all day for 3 days). Tuesday I chop all the veggies, on Wednesday I make desserts, and then start cooking on Thursday morning. This year I brined the turkeys before my husband smoked them, and they were sooooo good. I also had 2 new additions to my menu this year: dates stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon (super yummy), and also pumpkin pie truffles which were (if I do say so myself) spectacular.

      It’s so much work, and so exhausting, but I love to cook, and I love having the house full of friends and family. We’ve devised a pretty good system over the years, and it seems to go a little more smoothly each time.

      The only hard thing this year is that my mom seemed a bit worn out and exhausted. She’s 84, so that isn’t totally unexpected, but my oldest brother died in January and I think these first holidays without him is pretty hard for her. Thinking about it later, it kind of stirred up some resentment and bitterness towards my brother; he struggled with addiction, and that’s what took his life. So I felt some of those old angry feelings towards him that I always felt, about how the things he did and the choices he made took such a toll on my whole family, especially my parents.

      1. Erin*

        I did bacon wrapped dates too. We stuffed some with fontina, some with goat cheese, and some with roasted almonds. My stepmom can’t have dairy or gluten, which made choosing appetizers hard. Interestingly, lots of people preferred the almond stuffed ones, but I loved the cheese.

    8. B*

      My husband’s stepmother is that horrible. It’s actually kinda nice that it’s not just him IYKWIM?
      I am so sorry you and he have to deal with that :(

      1. Artemesia*

        Luckily the steps in my extended family have been civilized and decent people, but I know of a couple of situations as awful as those described. Our next door neighbor died, and her husband remarried and basically threw out his 17 year old daughter. The daughter had been adopted during infancy by him and his first wife; he just discarded her.

        In another case, the wife died and the new wife ended up inheriting everything when the husband died — and the children of the first wife received nothing at all — it all ended up going to the stepmother’s children. It was a substantial estate and they didn’t even get the family heirlooms from their family.

        1. house mouse*

          This is what happened to my SO, and it just destroyed him. He would have cherished having something – anything!! – from his mom.

      1. the gold digger*

        Oh! You mean because husband’s father goes through wives quickly! I was thinking, “Well, yes, maybe she is old….” and then I felt a little bit guilty because I was agreeing with Chump. But man, some people are so mean you do think that.

    9. Lulubell*

      I’m really sorry you are experiencing that, and can commiserate about at least one point. My father told me that this year – for the first time ever – he and my stepmother will be spending Christmas alone, and essentially that I am not invited. “You’ll do a nice Christmas with your mother this year.” Um, my mother is Jewish, which is why I have always spent Christmas with my dad. It’s the only time of year I really see members of his family. I also live across the country, and had just booked a $750 flight home for the holidays (not including the $300 worth of miles), after telling my dad I was planning to do so. My stepmom is not horrible in any way, but I assume this request was at her behest. Her dad just died, and his birthday was Dec. 24th. In my mind, that was part of why I thought I should make the trip home. People are getting older, I should make it a priority to be with my family during important times. Hard to argue with her wanting a private Christmas but man it hurt hearing my dad being okay with it.

    10. Judy*

      Late, and you’re probably not going to be reading this, but I had a few thoughts. Can your BF talk to his sister? How far away is her boyfriend’s family? I know that my family has pretty much “taken all comers” over the holidays, anyone who doesn’t have a place to go. I’ve had a college roommate there, and some of our interns and international people from work.

    11. NaCSaCJack*

      Knowing I am 24 hours late, I hope this gets seen. My suggestion? Have Christmas anyways. Help him celebrate. What will you do with kids (if you decide to have some) if BF is still celebrating Christmas with his family? Its a part of his history and background, no need to cut it off, just because you are Jewish. Given the world today, no one marries someone from the same background anymore so traditions get blended. Alternatively, I like the suggestion of going some place. Once my mom passes on, depending on the time of the year, I plan on telling my eldest when she calls for Christmas plans, “Oh its time to make your traditions like you suggested years ago when you told me you were tired of hiking over to mom and dad’s for Christmas, I’m going to …. for Christmas”.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t know how observant you are, but could you do a secular Christmas for him? A lot of non-religious people (and even some Jewish people) just do that part of it. Or, since he may convert anyway, he could participate in the Jewish holidays.

      Also, I would love to kick that woman’s ass. What a mega-bitch.

    13. Anonsie*

      I’m angry at BF’s father on his behalf. He knows Christmas is important to his son and they always get together, but now suddenly he’s gonna scrap it without even giving advanced notice? SM is a jerk but it’s dad’s job to put the kibosh on that crap– he knows what the standards are in your family and if he’s not putting that back to her, that is all kinds of wrong.

  19. Just wondering*

    Anyone have advice on how to expand my social circle while avoiding large gatherings? I find as I get older (I’m only 35 but still…) I really don’t enjoy spending time in large groups of people, like more than 7 to 10. Parties don’t do it for me. Unfortunately, I live in a community where people tend to invite their 30 closest friends to every event. If I plan something more low key, like a games night at home, I find it gets hijacked by well-meaning people who want to invite a friend or two each, and I come off seeming unfriendly if I don’t expand the party. I do want to meet new people, but my job has dormitories for staff, and the new people who move in there seem to come out as a set of 20 or not at all. Any trip to the movies, dinner, nearby sites, etc., inevitably gets turned into a mob of 15 or more people and we don’t get to do half the things we plan on because we’re coordinating troop movements, essentially. Whenever I suggest just a few people getting together, each person I invite wants to bring just one extra person, and we’re back where we started. I like all these people, and nobody else seems to be bothered to be in a huge crowd, but I end up staying home because I can’t stand the chaos of moving in large groups. Ideas?

    1. Colette*

      The very thought of that many people all the time makes me want to take a nap.

      The solution is to be firm but polite. “Oh, I’d love to see X, but I find it overwhelming when there are too many people around, so I’d prefer to keep it to just us”. You can do this pre-emtively, too. It’s ok to ask for what you need.

    2. fposte*

      I agree with Colette, but I also think it’s really good if every now and then you can go to one of the big scenes. I don’t like those either, but I have friends who really do, and it’s not fair to them to always ask them to socialize the way I like rather than the way they do.

      The dorm thing is tough because people get into the everything-includes-everybody mold there. Most of what you’re talking about suggesting sounds like an evening event, though–maybe you’d have better luck with a quick coffee or a breakfast with an early riser rather than something that takes up what some people see as prime socializing hours.

      1. Just wondering*

        fposte, that’s a good point about compromise. I have to attend some things, otherwise the invitations stop coming, and I don’t want to be totally removed from the group. But I really like the idea of non prime time events. There are some people who might like the idea of coffee or games before work rather than after. Most of the dorm people keep totally different schedules than mine – lots of 6 am bedtimes after all night drinking binges – an early start might help me find the more likeminded people.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Maybe you can host a special night for introverts only (Meyers-Briggs introverts), and then they won’t feel the need to invite their friends?

    4. Blue_eyes*

      I agree with other commenters and I think you could also try inviting people to do things one-on-one. That way you can build relationships with people that you do like (or would like to know better) in a way that is more comfortable to you. You can also use these interactions to mention that you really like more low-key events with fewer people and try to feel out who else feels the same. Or plan events that naturally have a limited number of spots. Some ideas: murder mystery party, private room karaoke (this is way more fun than the open karaoke in bars because it’s just you and your group singing in front of each other), get 4-6 tickets to an event (sorry, I only have 6!), an outing that involves driving somewhere (I can only take 4 people!). I enjoy large group events, but always hanging out in groups that big would bug me too. I totally get what you’re saying about the logistics, it’s a huge pain. Good luck!

    5. soitgoes*

      It’s very common for people in their early to mid-20s to get caught up in the idea that all of their friends have to be friends with each other. People usually grow out of that by the time they get older and have their own homes where they can invite people over at the exclusion of others. I think your dorm setting is putting people back in that college mindset.

  20. Ali*

    So I’ve been going to therapy for depression/self-confidence issues for a few weeks now, and I’m still having struggles, but I think I’m heading in the right direction.

    I realized yesterday I really need to change the way I look at life in general, whether it’s with doing “adult” things like staying organized at home, my eating/exercising and my approach to work and the job search. I took the weekend off work and was cleaning my room, which was quite frankly a mess, and I couldn’t believe that my problems de-motivated me to the point where I felt like I was living in a hot mess. I also know I haven’t been eating like I should and make excuses for that when I actually have a lot of healthy snacks by me from my snack box service. Yet I’m still eating cupcakes and cookies for snacks and making less-than-desirable choices when I eat out. It’s a tough cycle to break yes, but I’m seeing now how many excuses I’ve made and that I need to hunker down.

    I don’t want to say that I’m perfect yet, but I know now I need to get my life together and that I can’t believe I’ve wasted so much time being negative and making excuses when I could’ve made strides and progress. I could’ve been out bettering my resume, actually dropping more weight and setting and achieving fitness goals. I want to run a race next year, and my dad, who is also a runner, told me it’s a matter of how bad I want it. Well, I hope I can apply that now to other areas of my life and get turned around.

    1. Trixie*

      I think this is where you focus on future goals, and not worrying about what ifs. I’m in the same boat in many ways and all we can do is look forward. A race a year off is a fantastic milestone, and lots of time to build up to. I have a major sweet tooth and its one of those things were I either have to skip altogether or find something healthy that will satisfy. (For me, dark chocolate.) But I do know the better I eat, the better I feel, and the better I feel, the easier it is to stay motivated throughout the day, week, etc. If I do slip or simply splurge, enjoy it and then back to regular programming.

      TL:DR Start of a new year is a great time to make some changes. And feel good about them. Good for you!

    2. Stars and violets*

      Depression is like a black hole that sucks all the energy and motivation out of you. Don’t give yourself a hard time about all the stuff you haven’t done or that you have been eating junk food. Move on from that and treat it as something that happened when you were very ill. If you’d broken your leg, you wouldn’t be beating yourself up because you ate one or three more muffins than you ‘should’ have or didn’t keep your place clean and tidy.
      You’re recovering. Do what you can and don’t feel bad about the stuff you can’t yet manage. You will do them, just not now. Be kind to yourself. When you’re depressed you’re your own worst enemy. Do not listen to that voice.
      Good luck.

      1. DepressionAndOCDGirl*

        Yeah, what Stars and violets said.

        Find ways to make it easier on yourself. Don’t beat yourself up. If you can do something you want to do, great! If you can’t, take it easy on yourself.

        When depression really hits me, I try to focus on things that absolutely need to be dealt with: work, bills and having food, clean clothes, and clean dishes. Also feeding the kitties. Just about everything else is optional, at least for a while.

        One thing about depression, people may think it’s “all in your head”, but some of it can be physical and related to the amount of seratonin you have.

    3. fretnone*

      Ali, please know you’re not alone, and you are so, so brave for recognizing where you are and taking the step to help yourself. Coming to that awareness and admitting it is tough; I keep coming back to that point in life and this last time I realized that it was getting in the way of the life I longed for, and I did, somehow, have the power to change.

      I’m gathering up the courage to take that first step and see a doctor and finally start healing instead of waiting it out (it’d always fade, and come back). I’m inspired by hearing others’ ability to find it in themselves to take care. Keep being kind to yourself. I wish you all the best to keep to the course you’ve started on.

  21. Mimmy*

    My friend is home from the hospital!!! She’ll still be in an outpatient program, but our mutual friend says she sounds much better. We’re hoping to get together with her this week. YAY!!

  22. triple flip*

    Did anyone else brave the shopping crowds this weekend? I shopped on Friday during the day and participated in Small Business Saturday as well. I don’t have a ton of gifts to buy this year and it feels so good to have found some great deals and be done with my shopping.

    There seemed to be a lot of good deals this year, even from the non big box/chain stores. My significant other is a retail manager in a pretty niche market and they did very well too.

    Is anyone else buying less this year? I’ve cut back what I usually spend on gifts (for financial and practical reasons – my friends and family already have a lot of “stuff.”) I’ve bought more gift cards and “experiences” this year too.

    1. Bea W*

      He’ll no. Treated myself to leftovers, a spa pedicure, and the only day of the year there is literally no line going through Dulles security. I call it Fantastic Flying Friday.

    2. LizH*

      Absolutely cutting back. Under normal circumstances, I try to shop year round, keeping in mind people’s likes and hobbies. This year I was unemployed for almost 6 months, so no extra spending on anything, especially gifts. I went through my list this year, and chopped off 4 kids who are now over 18, and under other circumstances would have gotten a small gift. I also knocked off a friend from my list who in the past I had gotten a gift for. She knows my situation, so I know she will understand. My boyfriend is getting some things,but way less than what I would normally do for him. I will not use credit cards for Christmas shopping, and because of emergency vet bills for my dog, I am seriously in debt, because those bills did go on credit cards.

    3. Carrie in Scotland*

      I’m buying less this year – not having a boyfriend anymore makes it one less, for starters.
      I’m going halves with my brother for a present for our dad and his wife and then just one extra gift on the side. Then it’s just my brother’s girlfriend and one other to get for.
      Need to be careful as my November pay was my last before Christmas, which I’ve never had before, eek! Don’t get paid again until 31 Dec…and I’m a spender at the best of times.

    4. Anonyby*

      We’ve really cut back on the Christmas gifts since my grandma passed away (she LOVED Christmas and gifts, so we continued for her sake even when all the grandkids had grown up). On the one hand, I’m broke so that’s good news for me. On the other, I miss opening gifts or going “I can’t really afford that luxury right now, but it would make a good not-crazy-expensive gift to ask for for Christmas…” I’ve handed out homemade gifts the last few years, usually something knit/crocheted, or a food item that I cooked/prepared.

      I’ve hated Black Friday craziness for as long as I can remember. Dad wanted to go out to look at phones this year (not even to buy, just to LOOK!), and I was quite glad to have legitimate things that I needed to do that allowed me to avoid that…

  23. Pastel*

    I can’t believe that elementary schools nowadays are teaching additional and subtraction through the “number line system.” I have a nephew that is in first grade right now, and our family have been teaching him simple additional and subtraction through the “counting your fingers” method. It was the method that was taught when I was young, and I am sure most of us remembered it. I asked him if the school mentions “counting fingers” and he said “no, they use number lines.”

    I do not understand why schools start using number lines to teach math; it is going to be hard to use when we add and subtract larger numbers that we need to “carry the one” and “borrow from the number to the right.” Our family will try our hardest to encourage our little ones to count their fingers instead of “number lines.”

    In case I have kids in the future, I wanted to know what will be the best way to explain to a child that a method that is used in school is not effective and it should be disreguarded when doing assignments?

    1. nep*

      Perhaps share the other method(s) with the child to show him/her that there are options, and allow the child to discover what proves more effective and what works best for him/her.

    2. fposte*

      I never learned counting on fingers, but I also don’t know what a number line is. Are you sure you’re not overfocusing on fingers because it’s been the way you did it?

      1. Felicia*

        I never learned counting on fingers and i finished elementary school 13 years ago. But it seems like counting on fingers would make it harder for numbers higher than 10? I didn’t learn with number lines either, i actually learned simple addition/subtraction with beads, until i could do it in my head. I have heard from a lot of people that counting on their fingers hurt them when getting to more complex topics.

        Not saying teachers are always ight, but i think there are a lot of ways to do each thing, so as long as it works for the kid, then i don’t think the method matters

      2. Mimmy*

        I’ve never heard of a number line (will have to check out the link below). All I remember is having a helluva time with all of those long methods used in learning calculations and having a fit when assigned a ton of math homework!

    3. Observer*

      Counting fingers doesn’t help much for carrying and the like either. Before you decide to tell the kids theat their teachers are incompetents, you should consider a few things.

      Firstly, you don’t have to belong to the “teacher is always right” school to recognize that undermining the teacher has some real costs to the child, even when the teacher really is an idiot and NEEDS to be shown up. Insisting that a child do assignments YOUR way, when he has to do them the teacher’s way in school, is a recipe for stress and confusion. And, telling your kid to disregard the teacher’s instructions is likely to backfire, especially when the kid is expected to “show their work”.

      The fact that you were taught differently does not meant it was better. It could be different – and it could even be better.

      Number lines actually are a far broader concept than fingers. For many children finger counting starts breaking down once you start dealing with numbers over 10. While carrying and borrowing is the one area that doesn’t translate well on a number line, it actually doesn’t do so well with finger counting either because you now have a mix of totally concrete – number of fingers – and conceptual – each finger being a stand in for a group of 10. But otherwise, number lines work for numbers at any size or scale. And, they are the best way I can think of to introduce concepts such as negative and positive numbers. It’s a lot easier to use something students are already familiar with in that context than teaching them about numbers lines at that point.

      So, while I would not tell my kids (grandkids at this point, actually) that they should not use their fingers, I would never tell them to NOT use the number line, unless I saw that it really doesn’t work for them.

    4. Bea W*

      I vaguely recall number lines in school…vaguely recall hating them. I came into school knowing basic addition and subtraction. I don’t remember what method they primarily used to teach it. Many kids did use fingers. My mother taught me using coins and my brain just absorbed that and I was doing math in my head. I never did math on my fingers, and am perplexed by that too, but I made more sense to me than the number line method.

    5. Graciosa*

      You don’t tell a child that the teacher does not know what they’re talking about and should be ignored. This has consequences far beyond what you intend when you say it.

      You can explain alternative methods for approaching a problem which may assist in the learning process, but the goal should be to have the child master multiple techniques. This is not a battle between you and the instructor, and there is nothing to be won if you attempt to prove that your way is better than the teacher’s.

      A child who knows several ways to handle a problem – and really understands how numbers and mathematical operations work – has an advantage over others who only understand one way. However, a child who does not understand the technique incorporated into the curriculum is at a serious disadvantage – a well designed curriculum will build each year upon techniques that were mastered in a previous year. Handicapping a child by trying to stop him or her from mastering one you don’t like is not helpful.

      The child also needs to understand that the teacher may require that the student demonstrate mastery of the technique being taught – it’s not always just enough to get to the correct answer, and you do your child a disservice if you suggest otherwise.

      1. Bee*


        And frankly, your kid won’t appreciate being put in the middle of a disagreement. Especially one that makes school more confusing or difficult for them.

      2. Observer*


        I also agree that teaching multiple methods can be an advantage, although for some children, sticking to one method may be a better strategy.

      3. Elsajeni*

        Yep. Knowing multiple methods can be really useful and important; most of the time, the teacher is actually teaching multiple methods to start with, because of course we know that different methods will “click” for different kids and we want as many of them to click as possible. But when we do focus in on one method in particular, there’s generally a reason for it, and it’s important that students be able to show that they can use that specific method, as well as showing that they can accomplish the mathematical task at hand. (For example, I taught algebra, and I taught three different methods of solving a system of equations; each method was better-suited to some problems than others, and part of what I was teaching was how to choose the best method. I needed to make sure that all of my students could actually use all three methods before I could ask them to make meaningful decisions about which method would be best for a given problem.)

    6. B*

      What everyone else has said. I’m currently reading a book called Maths for Mums and Dads. It’s UK focused, but you might well find it useful and interesting. It explains the reasoning for using different methods than teachers did when we were kids – it’s all about children understanding the general principles behind maths, so that they can be more likely to spot if they come up with a wildly inaccurate answer.
      My small child is only three and won’t start school for ten months but I’m finding it helpful for myself personally too!
      There is a place for explaining to kids that teachers aren’t infallible, and that sometimes they need to do things in school that can be done differently in the big wide world, but teaching them to use different methods is asking for them to do very badly in school.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        Sounds like an interesting book – I’ll have to try and get my hands on a copy! And thanks for sharing that link, I think it will help people unfamiliar with number lines to see some of their uses.

    7. Tara*

      Speaking as someone who went through elementary school semi-recently and went through my dad’s rage against the new education system that left me in tears several times as I kept getting in trouble from the teachers for insisting on doing things his way and then getting in trouble with him when I told him the school way made more sense to me, please just leave this alone. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s bad! You can show him a different way without claiming it’s superior.

    8. kas*

      I googled the “number line system” and it looks quite … interesting. I can see why you would want your nephew to count with his fingers instead.

      However, like others mentioned above, I don’t think it’s a good idea to have your nephew/future children do things your way. His teacher is the one grading his work, he has no choice but to follow her method. I once found an easier way to work out a math problem in high school so I did all my work using the simpler method. Well, when it was time to do the actual work/tests and we had to show our work, I didn’t know how because I didn’t pay attention to the teachers method, I just did it my own way. I would get the answer right, but definitely lost marks for not showing my work because I didn’t know the formula/process taught in class. I would advise against explaining to a child not to follow what is taught in class, maybe if you have a real issue with it, discuss it with the teacher or principal?

    9. reader*

      Unfortunately this is not anything new. There are too many teachers going for master’s and your thesis has to be something different from the next guy and college professors need to publish, so you get new ways of doing things.
      And then of course everyone has do it (because of course we are always trying to find the one size fits all world). When my brother was in 2nd grade (1968) his teacher had to have a conference with my mother because he wouldn’t use the Popsicle sticks to add. Count out 2 piles and then put them together and count them and you have your total. (7 sticks + 8 sticks = 15 sticks.) He had already figured out how to add. He didn’t need the sticks. Of course the teacher seemed to forget the point was to get them to where they didn’t need the sticks any more.

      1. Anonsie*

        Hah! I once got a phone call home because we were supposed to flag out words we didn’t understand in the books we were reading, look them up in the dictionary, and then write the definition on the flag. My teacher saw that I only had a couple of flags in my book and was very upset that I wasn’t following the rules, and was even more upset when I said I hadn’t hit many words I really didn’t understand. I had to stand up in front of the class while she picked out words from other kids’ flags and make me explain them in an effort to teach me a lesson, which didn’t work out so well (because I really did know them) so she called my parents for insubordination.

        I don’t know what my dad told her but I think it was something like “why are you trying to punish her for being good with vocab?”

        1. Observer*

          If you are in a hole, stop digging! Your teacher seems to have forgotten that simple piece of common sense.

          I can see why the teacher originally thought that you were slacking off, but once you showed that you weren’t she should have left it at that.

          Did she actually use the word insubordination? If she did, I would really be tempted to ask her if she knows what the word means.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      I remember the number line system. We got a ruler on our hands if we used our fingers. yeah, it was a while ago. I also remember a system that I never figured out.

      The problem would look something like this: the number 3, plus sign, and then a box or square or triangle, then equals sign and the number 5. We were supposed to fill in the box/square/triangle with the correct answer. But we were not allow to subtract it in our heads to find the answer. I just said nothing and did the subtraction anyway. I have no clue how other kids arrived at answers.

      I thought my father had a helpful idea, figure it out the way I was most comfy with. This would raise my chances of getting the answer right. Then go back and figure it out the way the teacher wanted. He said if I used more than one method I should arrive at the same answer with each method, if I was doing each correctly. What I liked about this was that it allowed me to figure out if my own work was correct or not. This was different from other subjects such as English, Reading, etc., where I could not always figure out if I was on the right track. He said it was a good life lesson for me to learn how to look at a problem from more than one angle. I definitely found it challenging, though.

      1. Observer*

        Your father sounds like a smart man.

        I remember one teacher (not one of mine) who wouldn’t allow the children to use their fingers to count, but insisted that they make lines on the paper. This one kid wouldn’t do it. She was a bit of a neat freak and didn’t want to mess up her paper. Her mother called the teacher and actually managed to make her back off. This was before IDEA and “reasonable accommodation” etc. were common buzzwords, but she still managed. It’s a good thing, too, not just for this kid. I’d be willing to bet that she was not the only one having problems, and not just because of the neatness. Plenty of first graders still have a hard enough time handling a pencil and writing that this could easily get in the way of actually doing the math.

    11. Blue_eyes*

      I’m not sure how you can say that the number line system is “ineffective” when you haven’t used it and don’t seem to fully understand it’s uses.

      As an elementary and middle school teacher, I can say that number lines are actually really useful math tools. Number lines are great for learning to count, skip counting (5, 10, 15, 20…), learning about negative numbers, seeing how fractions and decimals relate to whole numbers and a whole bunch of other things.

      As others have pointed out, counting on fingers works well for small numbers but breaks down pretty quickly as the numbers get larger. Number lines can be used with numbers of any size (you don’t have to write every number in between). You’re right that carrying and borrowing when subtracting can be tough for students to understand…Which is why they need a thorough grounding in the number system so that they fully understand place value and the relationships between numbers. Number lines are one way to help students organize and think about numbers visually.

      1. Mister Pickle*

        Yeah, I’m wondering how do you handle negative numbers by counting on one’s fingers?

        And what if the math class is being taught by the guy who teaches shop? He probably doesn’t have 10 fingers, it would be confusing.

        (sick, I know, sorry).

    12. Anonsie*

      That’s funny, I did the number line thing somewhat instinctively as a kid. It made more sense to me than the way it was taught in school, and I can do basic math in my head faster than most people I know. It’s simple with larger numbers as well because you can break them into pieces or drop off some zeroes while you work. I would guess it’s more important to show a number of different methods and let kids pick up the one that makes the most sense to them… I got in trouble for doing the number line in 6th grade, which is silly.

      No joke, I have this one group of friends who are all engineers and whenever we go out to dinner I have to wrestle the check away from them and just tell each one individually one at a time what their food, tax, and total are to add to the pot because they straight up can’t do it in less than 30 minutes otherwise. Even with calculators! I just do it in my head and tell them what to do because otherwise they squabble over it forever. Their excuse is that they always use programs for math now and the simple stuff has slipped away.

  24. Lee Silverstein*

    I continue to be amazed by the number of issues presented to Alison where someone has a gripe with a coworker or supervisor and her response is “have you spoken to the individual about this?”
    Why is this simple and logical solution so difficult for many people? Many of the issues that we face both personally and professionally could be solved simply by talking to the person involved. Your thoughts?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I can tell you when I was younger, I had a REALLY hard time doing that. I wasn’t raised to be assertive (in fact I was raised to be agreeable and not make waves – I think this is the case for lots of women too). So when I first encountered a creepy coworker making really inappropriate comments, I had no idea how to handle it. The thought of saying something to him was shocking to me.

      It’s a learned skill in many cases. I had to teach myself to be assertive and to strike the right tone when having those difficult conversations.

      1. Lee Silverstein*

        Good for you. I agree that assertiveness is a skill that needs to be learned. It’s one that took me many years to aquire.

      2. Mimmy*

        Absolutely. My tone isn’t always great when I’m trying to be assertive, so I tend to hold back. Although I was assertive with my counselor at our last session (nothing major–just one or two tiny things), and she praised me for being gracious. For me, that was a giant step. I hope to have more successes like that in the future, and with bigger issues too. Baby steps for sure!

    2. fposte*

      Oh, this interests me too, and I’ve been on both sides of it because I do know how difficult I can find it to talk to somebody about a difficult issue or ask for what I want–one of the great benefits of getting older is that I find that a whole lot easier.

      I think there’s often a big pile of gender stuff involved and a big pile of ask vs. guess culture; there’s also the fact that indirectness and allusiveness is often quite prized in other discourses. What always interests me is the people who think they *have* been direct when they haven’t been anything like that in my definition (I can’t find the post now, but there was the AAM OP who felt that saying something in front of her boss was the same thing as saying something directly to the boss). Sometimes I think that people who find the direct request difficult really hold their stress in raising the issue against the other person, too, which makes the whole situation worse.

    3. Bee*

      But then we wouldn’t have any advice blogs or columns to read!

      Really, though, I think most of us know that talking about it is usually the best thing to do. We’re just not sure what the best thing to say is, and getting advice and talking it through online helps.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        ” We’re just not sure what the best thing to say is, and getting advice and talking it through online helps.”

        And you have to moderate your tone for everyone. I can be blunt with my husband and he just lets it roll. I have to be VERY sensitive with certain friends and coworkers because if I come off too harsh it’ll be counterproductive.

        1. Windchime*

          Exactly; tone is so important. And some people (like me!) don’t have the gift of knowing how to word things. A lot of what Alison does is provide scripts, so that people can word things in a direct yet kind manner.

          1. Stars and violets*

            This was my problem. I hate confrontation and get very anxious when I have to confront someone. This anxiety has made me sound aggressive in the past, probably because I overcompensated. So devising and having a set script ready to go helps me to focus and gets me over the initial burst of anxiety. I can then engage more rationally and I don’t walk away feeling even worse than I did when I started.

    4. Wander*

      For me, I find a lot of the times I already know that talking to them would be the best (and possibly only) answer but still find myself hoping that there is some other way. It’s a combination of being really shy and having been raised to be polite at all times. I worry that perfectly reasonable requests will come off sounding rude, because while I may say, “Could you please stop singing? I find it really distracting, and it’s hard for me to focus. Thanks!” I know I’m asking because their singing is monotone and honestly pretty terrible, and that’s rude to say. So I hold out hope that there’s some secret way to make them stop singing, even though I know there’s not. Pretty irrational, but I suspect a lot of people who write in with questions like that just need to be told that no, talking is the best way.

      I’m more surprised by the number of ‘is this legal’ questions about things that wouldn’t really make sense to be regulated.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      If a person grew up in a family where issues are not handled directly then this whole concept is uncharted territory.

      I tend to think in pictures myself, so words are secondary to me. If a difficult moment suddenly comes up, I don’t always have the words to say what I see in my head. It’s fascinating to read here people’s descriptions of things, that I would not be able to describe. So some folks could just be at a loss for words, perhaps even describing the problem to Alison was a major effort.

      And lastly, there are lots of reasons why people feel “dis-empowered”. Alison groups words together in a logical way and basically tells the person “go take back your power and don’t let anyone steal it again”. That is a valuable message.

    6. Hummingbird*

      Either I get so churned up inside that I actually get afraid and don’t know what to say or, if I know what to say, I’m the kind of person to add in some good swear words, especially if I’m angry. So I bite my tongue. Because I know no matter how I say it, it won’t come out with right result.

    7. soitgoes*

      I think that when people send in those questions, they’re really just asking Alison to write a script that they can follow, or they’re hoping that there’s some other solution that they haven’t thought of yet.

      Some workplace issues are very complex in that, even if you can identify a problem, you can’t always pinpoint how you think things should flow if the issues were fixed. It’s not weird or off-base to need help figuring out what a workable solution would look like. There are a lot of questions where Alison’s response starts with a variation of, “You’re actually focusing on the wrong problem here,” or, “The solution you want to impose won’t work.”

    8. HR Manager*

      Because no one likes tough conversations. They are awkward and produce a lot of stress and anxiety. And for many, they have never learned to work through that stress and anxiety, and find it easier to avoid it to escape the stress. Good communication skills (and especially for conflict resolution) are harder to come by than people think.

      I’ve learned to be quite direct, and even blunt, because I dislike the anxiety of unresolved issues/conflict even more than difficult conversations, but even then I can still get a knot when I have to deal straight feedback or manage a conflict. If I could reprogram schools and colleges, it would be to require all students to go through a conflict management and resolution course and also a self-awareness course around anxiety/stress and how not to avoid it.

    9. Anonsie*

      Because people want to know if their complaint is one they need to keep to themselves, something they should only subtly try to push on, or something that’s actually worth saying something directly. They’re asking if they’re really the one who is “right” enough to do something about it or not.

    10. ThursdaysGeek*

      When we moved into our current house, our neighbors had peacocks. They’d mentioned that the former owners of our house had tried to shoot the peacocks. After living there for a couple of years, I understood why: peacocks scream at 120 decibels every few minutes from about 3am to 10am for about four months of the year, and they liked perching on our roof. I understood, but we didn’t have a gun — we had to talk to the neighbors or go insane from lack of sleep.

      But it is hard! It’s not simple when you’re asking someone else to do something that they may not want to do. It’s hard when you don’t know the other person very well. Who knows how reasonable they are? We did talk to the neighbors and it turned out great. They got rid of the peacocks, and now we know we can talk to them when we have problems. But lots of people are not that reasonable and considerate.

  25. Katie the Fed*

    So, I love to cook but I’ve always had pretty basic cookware. WIth getting married I was able to register for some higher end things – and oh my god what a difference it makes! I’m suddenly obsessed – I’ve been scouting the Williams Sonoma outlet to pick up more All Clad pots and pans, and I really should stop. We just don’t have the storage space for everything I want, but it’s all so nice and pretty. Sigh. Someday we’ll have a bigger place.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Ooh, I know just how you feel. I have one All-Clad pan (ONE), and it made my cooking life so much better. I sigh with you.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Not to be an enabler, but Williams Sonoma has these great “Essential pans” that are on ridiculous super sale right now. The 4 quart is the workhorse of my kitchen – you can saute and simmer and do all kinds of things with it.

        If you have a W/S outlet near you – they have the All Clad triply and D5 usually for 30-40% off, and it’s original quality (not seconds). Plus at certain outlets you can get an additional coupon book. Leesburg Corner out here has a coupon at the main office that includes 20% off one item at the Williams Sonoma outlet – and they’ll combine with other discounts. It’s how I picked up my All Clad soup pot.

    2. Elkay*

      My brother described my kitchen as the TARDIS because I have a tiny kitchen but so many gadgets that every inch of storage space is utilised to the very best of my abilities. I just wish I’d asked if any more power outlets could be put in when we had it refurbished.

    3. Erin*

      Oooh I’ve been coveting All Clad for a while now but have always been scared by the price. We have Calphalon so not a bad brand. I did buy a large Le Cruseut Dutch oven which I love.

      1. Schuyler*

        I love my Le Creuset dutch oven. It’s my favorite thing in my kitchen because I could use it for almost anything I could think of in a pinch: soup, pasta, frying pan if need be, rice… the possibilities are endless.

        1. Alma*

          What is the Le Creuset pan that looks like a skillet, but has 2 small handles called? The brasier? I have the big one and the small one, and I use them for everything. It has a lid.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        See my comment above about the Williams Sonoma outlets. You can get a piece at a time for a REALLY good price.

      3. the gold digger*

        And the really nice thing about All-Clad is that their products are still made in the US. I don’t mind paying extra for something if I know that is has not been made by a political prisoner in a country with an oppressive legal system. (Yes, looking at you, China.)

        However, I have only two All-Clad pots – one I got on eBay and one our friends got for us at the big All-Clad sale near Pittsburgh. They are expensive.

    4. Schuyler*

      I didn’t realize how big a difference it made until I started taking cooking classes a few years ago. Now I tend to use the same 3-5 things any time I cook. My Le Creuset dutch oven is probably my favorite item I own, because I can use it for just about anything if I need to.

      I used to have a bunch of non-stick things from Calphalon that I bought ~8 years ago or so, I think… shortly after I finished college. I used to think that if it wasn’t non-stick it was a hassle. Now I rarely use those and they’re just taking up a ton of space. I’d eventually like to get one more All Clad frying pan and at least one sauce pot so I can cycle out the pots I have now.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Yeah, I didn’t do calphalon or non-stick because they usually don’t last quite as long (and I’m not going to baby my cookware). I never really cooked with nonstick but I got a set of two Green Pans at Costco to make omelets – nice and nonstick ceramic, and not too expensive.

        Which are your favorite 3-5 items in your cookware collection. I’m trying to tell myself I don’t really need the 6 quart All Clad essential pan…

        I love my Staub dutch oven – I just got a second large one because my 5 quart was feeling kind of small.

        1. Schuyler*

          My Le Creuset dutch oven; AC fry pan; Global knife; and KA bowl-lift stand mixer. #5 may just be the big Epicurean cutting board I bought (when I grew up my mom/grandma used a tiny cutting board) or the liquid measuring cups I have that allow you to look down from the top and see how much is in cup. My immersion blender is useful too (this has made making soup so much easier).

          I use my dutch oven for a lot, and what I like most about it is that if I got rid of all my pots and pans, I think I could use it for cooking anything I make. It’s my go-to item.

          1. Mister Pickle*

            +1000 for Global knives! I love knives in general, but for cooking, I’d be lost without my Globals. Aside from feeling good in the hand and cutting well, I like that they’re a single piece of metal – no parts to get loose, no cracks that will accumulate food and dirt particles.

            One other thing I swear by is getting a number of smallish (9″ x 15″ or so) cutting boards – nothing fancy, you can get cheap plastic ones at Target etc – and using the heck out of them. Pop ’em in the dishwasher when they get dirty. An awful lot of cooking prep involves putting a food item down and cutting it, so making this as easy, safe, and hygenic as possible is worthwhile.

        2. Anonyby*

          If you look at Cooks Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen recommendations, they go with the high-end stuff for the traditional pans… but their favorite non-stick is the cheap T-fal pan!

      2. Erin*

        I did the same thing! Bought a bunch of nonstick because I thought it was the best right out of college. I feel as if just buying the Le Cruseut really elevated my cooking. All of a sudden I was making coq al vin and cassoulet. You all have inspired me to put some All Clad on my Christmas wish list.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Do it! I resisted for a long time because I don’t like to be wasteful and I felt I had perfectly serviceable stainless steel so I didn’t really NEED new cookware. It’s reallllllly nice. Plus, I figure we almost never eat out so investing in cookware makes sense.

          1. fposte*

            Decent cookware really does transform things. I follow the ATK recommendations so can get the inexpensive good stuff when it’s just as good, too (yay Victorinox knife!). But I’ve also amortized that All-Clad soup kettle to like a penny per use by now.

        2. Schuyler*

          Agreed. For me, the cooking classes helped as well, simply because it helped honed my technique and taught me to be a bit more organized in my cooking.

  26. Elkay*

    What’s your current TV guilty pleasure? I’ve just discovered Gilmore Girls on Netflix, it’s so lovely and mindless.

      1. Schuyler*

        Me too. I’ve started to lose interest a bit… after the first three episodes or so (like many shows, I think “how can they sustain this in future seasons?”)… but Viola Davis is amazing and think it could completely jump the shark and I’d watch just for her.

      2. Persephone Mulberry*

        I was totally on board with HTGAWM until the last two episodes. I do not know if I’m going to be able to bring myself to start watching again after the break.

      3. Mister Pickle*

        I grew quite ambivalent about How To Get Away With Murder, but I enjoyed the season finale quite a bit. I thought it did an extremely good job of drawing together all of the people and plot arcs, most of which were climactic, and packaging them up in an enjoyable, intelligible form. Technically, it was an extremely well-crafted 43 minutes.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Yey, Gilmore Girls – I love it!
      Guilty pleasures include Midsome Murders, Columbo, The Apprentice and Masterchef – jury is still out on whether or not I like Marcus Wareing enough to keep watching it – I miss Michel Roux Jr! (this will make little or no sense to those who don’t watch Masterchef in the UK)

      1. Elkay*

        I’m not watching Masterchef this time round, you need Michel Roux Jr so that Monica can say “Michel would not like that”, Monica was always far scarier than Michel!

        I very nearly bought the entire Columbo box set as it was an Amazon Black Friday offer for £30 this week.

        1. Carrie in Scotland*

          Marcus is more more of a softy now he is the main man in it, he was rather different when he was a guest. Gotta love Monica’s facial expressions though!

      2. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

        God, Midsomer Murders. That show. I like it but between the outrageous murder rate, the fact it’s the whitest county in Britain, there’s an ever-expanding number of towns and villages within its borders, and then the outlandish ways people get murdered…it’s fantastic in its own way, it really is.

    2. Bee*

      I’m watching The L Word again now. Super trashy!

      I also have to recommend Grey’s Anatomy. It keeps getting better/worse in later seasons.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Sadly, I find most of Shonda Rhimes’ stuff unwatchable at this point. The dialogue and plots of Scandal got too ridiculous, and Grey Anatomy got laughably bad a few years ago. I want to like them, but I just can’t :(

        1. Windchime*

          Yeah, I quickly stopped watching Scandal for the same reason. Also, I used to watch Revenge but after the first season it just didn’t keep my attention any longer.

          I just saw the first two episodes of “How to Get Away With Murder” and found it to be great fun. I need to somehow dig up the other episodes (many of them are already gone from On Demand).

        2. Sunflower*

          Grey’s has really been a roller coaster. It was amazing, then really bad, then great again and now I feel in between. Currently I actually like all the story lines except Meredith. I’m really over Mer/Der- can the show go on without them? I hope so.

          So far how to get away with murder has been good but I fear it’s peaked too early. I’m not sure where the show can or will go after this season.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      I’ve been watching the Walking Dead and really enjoying it. It reminds me of Lost in the early/good years.

      1. Elkay*

        The Walking Dead is getting really good again, I thought it took a dip in season 2/the governor series arc, but it’s picked up again now.

        1. Jen RO*

          I really enjoyed the last episodes, but I don’t get the point of the priest. (And ugh, the Governor stuff was sooo dragged out!)

      2. Elizabeth West*

        That is one of my favorite shows. Daryl <3 <3 <3
        I missed it last night because I was finishing up for NaNoWriMo. I'll watch tonight because I think something bad happened. :(

    4. Schuyler*

      Jane the Virgin. This is my favorite show of the new season, hands down. I love the kinda campy storyline, I love the novella narration, and I think the actress who plays Jane is adorable.

      I also still love Sleepy Hollow, though I’ve had a hard time getting as into it this season. Ichabod & Abbie are a great pair, even as platonic BFFs. I think I’m an Ichabbie fan, but their true friendship is enough for me (now, anyway).

      1. Nina*

        I agree that this season hasn’t been the best, but I’m excited about the fall finale tomorrow. That said, I’m very worried about who they’re killing off. I know it won’t be Ichabod or Abbie, but it could be Jenny. :(

        1. Schuyler*

          Oy. I didn’t know they were killing someone off. I seriously hope it’s Katrina, though I doubt it. Lyndie Greenwood is fantastic… I didn’t like Jenny at first but she’s really grown on me. Same with Captain Irving. Here’s hoping it’s a minor character I don’t care much about (Reyes–or even Hawley–I’m looking at you).

          While I haven’t been quite as into it this year, it’s still the show I wait until everything else is off my DVR to watch because I like to save the best for last. I think Katrina is really bothering me; last year I didn’t understand when people said they didn’t like her, but I’m so bored with her all the time.

          1. Nina*

            Yeah, it was posted on Entertainment Weekly that there would be the departure of a beloved character. It does not bode well for Miss Jenny or Irving. :(
            I know Hawley is leaving the show (fine by me) but he’s not exactly beloved, and I know Katrina isn’t. Crossing my fingers that they mean Hawley.

            Katrina would work better as a character if she actually did something useful besides gripe about Henry. She’s a witch and yet she never does anything! Plus, Ichabod always turns into such a dunce around her.

      2. Persephone Mulberry*

        We just started watching Sleepy Hollow on Amazon streaming. It took me a few episodes to get into it, and Katrina TOTALLY rubs me the wrong way, can’t put my finger on why. But I’m enjoying the rest of it.

    5. Anonyby*

      Not so much guilty… But I’ve been in love with Agents of SHIELD, Forever has been a decent show (not world-shattering, but well enough). Dancing with the Stars can be a lot of fun, but I tend to yell at the TV if my favorites are voted off. :)

      I’ve also recently gotten into Cutthroat Kitchen… When it premiered, the idea of sabotages didn’t sit right with me… But my schadenfreude has kicked in to make that show a lot more fun. :)

      1. VintageLydia USA*

        I’d hate Cuttthroat Kitchen if it were anyone but Alton Brown hosting it. You can tell he’s enjoying every last second of it which makes what would ordinarily be a tediously ridiculous show (like Cupcake Wars–ugh!) to something really fun.

    6. Alma*

      I’ve just found Criminal Minds this season, and have been trying to piece together the timeline of 8 or 9 previous seasons by watching the marathons. And I do like HTGAWM!

    7. Mimmy*

      Red Band Society, although they just halted production, so the show might be on its way out :( Fall finale is this Wednesday.

    8. HR Manager*

      I’m a horror-fanatic, so aside from all the cheesy horror movies that I try to get my hands on, I watch a lot of those stupid pseudo-documentary style ghost and paranormal shows. Not the ghost hunter/researcher ones, but the ones that tell the individual stories and have those terrible re-enactments (A Haunting.., My Ghost Story, etc.).

      Oh and I watch a lot of Forensic Files, even though I’ve probably seen every one of them at least 3-4x now.

  27. FrugallyUnemployed*

    I made my entire Thanksgiving meal from ingredients I found at the Dollar Tree. I had no other choice due to money restraints and to my surprise it was delicious! Southern Mac n’ Cheese, spicy spinach, yams with marshmallow, baked beans, carrot cake and baked chicken. (yes my dollar tree sells packs of chicken for a buck, no it was not spoiled or expired).

  28. Elizabeth*

    My mom fell on Tuesday night, breaking her hip. They did surgery on Wednesday to replace it. Her outcome so far is about as textbook perfect as we could hope for.

    I’m currently sitting in the hospital waiting room, while the aide does the daily care that comes with being in the hospital.

    I’m almost 4 hours from home, still on call for work, having made the drive twice this week. I’ve had to fix one issue while I’ve been sitting here. I don’t want to go to work tomorrow. I’m worn out physically from all the driving and the strees. I know I have a 9-10 hour day tomorrow, and a 10-12 hour day on Tuesday. I don’t know how long I can do this.

    1. Victoria, Please*

      So sorry, Elizabeth. It’s really great that the recovery is going so well, but I hope you can get some help and that your work will give you a little slack and understanding. /hug

    2. LizH*

      So sorry to hear this. Is there anywho who could at least cover a half day for you so you can get some rest? Can anything be pushed back a day or two? So sorry you have all that on your plate, but glad your mom is stable. Hugs and prayers to you and your mom.

    3. Kyrielle*

      So sorry to hear about your mom’s injury! Glad the recovery is going well so far. I agree, check with work and see if there’s anything they can do to shift the load a bit. This time of year is stressful in general, but what you’re dealing with is beyond that, and hopefully your boss and coworkers would recognize that.

    4. Windchime*

      Is there any chance you can work remotely for a couple of days? Being so far away from home and under such stressful conditions is hard. I hope that your mom’s recovery continues to go well.

    5. Billy*

      As I had a broken hip once ,your mother will develop muscle imbalances in her legs when fully recovered. My left leg has been more stronger than my right since the fracture. In colder climates, she may experience dull aches on the affected side occasionally.

      Her recovery will involve a ton of rubber band work, getting flexibility and movement back. The second phase is using a walker or a cane for a few weeks,or even a month, until she gets stronger and better. Recovery time is about 2-3 months depending on age.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Call in sick. Seriously, exhaustion is a problem. If you cannot do that, then just watch to make sure you can drive a vehicle, if asked. If you cannot drive, tell someone but don’t drive.

      Also start looking at pulling together a team, or several people at any rate, that you can shift off with who will check in on your mom. I am not clear on how much help/support she needs. But it sounds like you are reaching your limits. So try to see if someone will come to help support her. Does not have to be a family member. If she is a church person, you could call the church. Maybe there is a neighbor or friend that would be willing to pitch in.

      Make sure you eat. Hospitals are very dry, so get water regularly. It is amazing how water can help restore the mind/body.

      I hope your mom has a speedy recovery and I hope you can get a full night’s rest soon.

    7. Observer*

      This is rough.

      Can you ask your boss for a mix of remote work and intermittent FMLA leave? Unless your employer is really small, this sounds like a textbook case for what it was intended for.

      In the meantime, please take care of yourself. Make sure you get some decent food to eat (buy prepared if you need to), and DRINK. Leave anything non-essential undone, in favor of getting some rest. And get the hospital to put you in touch with any helpful resources that exist in your mother’s area.

  29. Victoria, Please*

    What’s a nifty and not too outrageously expensive tech toy to send to an 18-yr old genius nephew who has just started college??

    1. Katie the Fed*

      For an 18 year old, I’d say gift card. They have a pretty good idea what they want/need and it’ll save you the trouble of finding out exactly what he doesn’t have.

      Teenagers are the only people I think gift cards are ideal for.

      1. Anonsie*

        Agreed– I was always excited to get Target and Amazon gift cards when I was in college because I could get things I needed (toilet paper & other grocery stuff) or something fun depending on what the money situation was at the time.

        It feels REALLY good to be chronically broke and then one day get to go buy all the dumb stuff that eats up your money (deodorant! toothpaste! paper towels! shampoo! razors!) and have it go on a gift card so no money actually comes out of your pocket.

    2. Mister Pickle*

      I’d vote for just cash, or an Amazon gift card. I buy a fair amount of stuff from places like AdaFruit that aren’t really “gift-card oriented” (although AdaFruit will let you use Amazon to pay – other places that deal in hobbyist components probably won’t).

  30. Katie the Fed*

    A big thank you to everyone who gave me advice last week for my first Thanksgiving! It turned out really well! I brined the turkey (btw, wrestling with a turkey brining bag is a good test of a marriage) and roasted it with some aromatics (apple, onion, celery, garlic cloves, and a handful of mulling spices) in the cavity. Made mac & cheese since we had kids coming, mashed potatoes (potato ricer is the best!), stuffing, green beans, brussels sprouts in an apple cider vinegar/maple syrup/mustard sauce, sweet potato rolls, sweet potatoes, and other things I’m probably forgetting.

    It was great! The turkey turned out perfect and finished cooking before I was ready, so I wrapped it in foil and some towels to keep it hot for a bit. The only hiccup was running out of serving and counter space because of my tiny kitchen, but we made it work.

    The best part was that nearly every wedding gift for the kitchen got to make an appearance – I’m very sentimental so I enjoyed knowing that the serving platter came from one Aunt, the mixer came from someone else, etc. It was a great way to think about everyone who supported this big transition.

    So much fun! Can’t wait to do it again.

      1. AnotherFed*

        Next time, try brining in a 5 gallon bucket! No wrestling, plenty of room for even the biggest of turkeys, and even if you don’t have fridge or safe outdoor storage space, dump in some ice. We do it in a big home depot bucket – nothing beats the look on MIL’s face when the turkey comes out of that bucket to go in the oven! :)

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        That’s what I use too. I was able to brine 2 turkeys in a single cooler (smaller birds…12 or 13 lbs) and put them in trash bags (double-bagged to be on the safe side). After everything is in the cooler, I cover it with ice, and if it’s cold enough I just store it out in the garage or on the deck until they’re ready to cook. Try them brined and in the smoker. OMG. Just, OMG.

    1. Anonyby*

      I’m waiting for the day I have the courage/money to offer to host Thanksgiving instead of my aunt… The sides are usually good, but she tends to put the stuffing in the bird (which makes germaphobe me die a little), and the bird is always overdone… Not as big a deal for the people eating dark meat smothered in gravy (or my dad who LIKES dry white meat smothered in gravy), but I like the white meat, and I get teased mercilessly if I break out the ketchup to try to get dry meat down (I’m not a fan of gravy)…

      Alton Brown brines his turkeys in one of those sporting water coolers. I’ve wanted to try that since I saw it!

      I’m also working on convincing my friends that we should have a feast day of our own… Perhaps outside of the holiday season, so as not to have to work it in around all of the other holiday schedules.

      1. HR Manager*

        Yep, I used to brine in a cooler and it’s pretty manage-able. I switched to a dry brine this year, and still can’t decide if I like it better than the wet brine method. I will say it’s nice not to have to deal with about 30 lbs of water with my 15 lb turkey.

        But my new thing of turkey roasting — spatchcock! Gets’ done in 1.5 hours, and the crispest skin ever.

        1. Anonyby*

          It’s tempting to spatchcock a turkey for my friends (since I know some of them will be into the crispy skin, it’s not something that my family has ever prized)… But for spatchcocking, I’d find it a waste to not put anything under the turkey, but I’d want to keep everything else vegetarian-friendly… Yeah, going to go crazy. lol

  31. Kali*

    I may be too far down the page to get any responses, but it’s worth a shot: What are the best white lies you’ve found to tell family to avoid attending or shorten your time at holiday gatherings?

    I don’t like being crammed into a tiny house with a bunch of people I only sort-of like with the chaos of opening presents, but if I tell the truth about how I feel, the fits that are thrown are even worse. There’s no making them understand that I don’t want to attend and if I say I have to work and I won’t be able to make the gathering until a couple days later, they offer to move the present-opening chaos for me! I hate lying, but telling the truth also doesn’t work.

    1. Kyrielle*

      The problem with the white lie in this case is that they’re going to try to fix it so you can attend – and you’re still stuck.

      Is there any chance a really pretty-fied version of the truth would work? Something like this, ideally said very cheerfully: “I’m really looking forward to some quiet and down-time this holiday season. I don’t want anyone to spoil or dampen anyone’s excitement, though! What would the best time be for me to stop by for an hour or two, and see all of you?”

      That way, you’re establishing (whether it’s true or not, and without saying it) that you care about them and about seeing them, that you hope they have fun, and that you’re not staying long. And they really, really can’t fix you wanting quiet time. But this way you’re not criticizing the state of things or saying you object to it, just looking for something that simply isn’t possible in that venue.

      Maybe. Depends on your family whether it could work tho.

    2. JMW*

      White lies don’t work either, as you have seen. Best to find a way to express the truth that they can absorb. I find it helpful if I can find a concise statement of truth that I can keep repeating when pressed. For example, you could say that the chaos of present-opening makes you anxious or that being in a crowded space makes you anxious. You can agree to attend for a short while or not at all, but when pressed just keep going back to your concise statement. People will generally not keep arguing with a broken record, and even if they do, there is little expenditure of energy for you if you just keep repeating the same thing. Good luck!

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You’re not feeling well and have a headache that’s resisted all medication.
      You weren’t able to sleep last night and probably should leave early to nap so that you don’t fall asleep on the road.
      You are watching a neighbor’s dog while they’re away and need to return home to walk her.
      You promised to stop by a friend’s Christmas gathering for dessert.
      The foot you broke a few years ago is acting up and you’ll feel better once you get home.

      Not that I know anything about this.

      I agree being direct is ideal, but when the situation/people make that unworkable, I don’t think stuff like this is crazy to use.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I am glad it is not just me. Sometimes the excuse has to pop up last minute because that is the only way an excuse works. So you accept the invite as usual. Then when you arrive, “oh Y came up and I have to leave in x time.”
        You might try working on them during a different part of the year. “All the chaos and noise is just not my thing.” If they start harping on you, tell them this is part of the reason that you do not enjoy the gather and if they continue to harp on you there is no point in you showing up at all.
        Getting together with family and friends should be a pleasure, not a command performance.

    4. Stars and violets*

      I’m all for the white lie that oils the wheels of social discourse but this sounds like an ongoing thing so the best thing in the long run is to be firm. Just say you’re going, then go. You don’t need an excuse, just a “Well, time for me to go. It’s been great. Bye!” and get your coat and leave. Ignore the protests. Be cheerful but don’t engage. It’s none of their business why you want to go, family or not.
      If they kick up a ruckus or berate you afterwards, tell them they’re making it harder for you to go to any family event because they won’t accept that you can’t spend as much time with them as they want and then ignore.
      Good luck.

    5. louise*

      Last year I got out of a chaotic, tiny house event like you describe (and which causes me to be short of breath) by having surgery. I wish I could do that every year.

      This year marks the 5th thanksgiving we got out of by participating in a big shindig at church. The white lie? We let the family think it’s a dinner for the homeless (we never told them that, they assumed!!) but it’s actually just a dinner for those of us who either have no family or don’t like being with our family. :)

      1. Kali*

        Love it. I might have to try the surgery thing :)

        I totally agree that direct is the best way to go. And heck, it works with my side of the family. This, however, is not my side of the family and I guess I really down-played how bad the reaction to the truth is. Screaming, crying, guilt tripping…from “grown” people. So the white lie has become a necessity.

        Sadly, it’s always out of town (1000+ miles) and we have no kids. Maybe this would be a good reason to get a dog…have to stay home to take care of Fido!

  32. Audiophile*

    I’ve been thinking about trying stand up. A few friends have been encouraging but that’s completely different than a roomful of strangers.

    I was looking into courses, I know there’s disagreement on whether they’re worth the money, but I think it would make me more comfortable than just showing up to an open mic. Living in the NY Meto area, all the major comedy clubs have a course, some seem better than others.

    Has anyone here done stand up?

    I decided to challenge myself to finish my next full length screenplay, since it’s NaNoWrimo but I didn’t feel inclined to write a novel. Anyone finish a novel this month?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Well, personally I’d rather gnaw off my own leg that voluntarily stand in front of a room of people, but I’m glad there ARE people who like to entertain, because I like to be entertained :)

      A course probably is a good idea if for no other reason than making connections in the business and learning practical tips. With most artistic endeavors, the art is only half the battle. The rest is marketing and knowing the business.

      Good luck!

    2. Schuyler*

      If you try this, I hope you’ll give a status update! I’ve toyed with trying stand-up myself, and like you looked into some classes here in Chicago. I don’t know if it’s at all encouraging, but I went to an open mic in LA once and though there was a varying level of talent that evening, the audience–and the other comics–were incredibly supportive of everyone.

    3. Blue_eyes*

      My husband and I both did some stand up in college and he’s been thinking about getting into it here in NYC. Since he has some experience he was planning to just write new material and go to some open mike nights. Perhaps you can find a friend (or meet someone online) who also wants to do this and you can workshop your material together?

      PS – I initially read your first line “I’ve been thinking about trying TO stand up,” and I was imagining that you were recovering from major surgery or something and had been laid up for a bit.

    4. Arjay*

      You know how sometimes your brain will just fill in missing words when you’re reading? My brain turned “trying stand up” into “trying TO stand up.” I was waiting to see what injustice you were going to stand up to, and when I didn’t see that, I decided that you must have some terrible, incapacitating movie-of-the-week disease. So, hey, once I figured it out, you made me laugh! :)

        1. Audiophile*

          Good to know I made someone laugh, Arjay.

          Blue_eyes – did you enjoy it? I enjoy making people laugh, but the few times I gotten on stage I’ve felt terrified. Anyone who saw my performances said they couldn’t tell and I did enjoy myself while I was up there. I’m close to the NYC area, so I was looking at clubs and classes to see where I could test it out. Most classes are full for the winter and I’m envisioning a not so great winter, so I’m going to sign up for April classes. But I’d like to get out there before then. I tried to find a meetup group or something but none of them seemed very active.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Didn’t finish, but made 2,000 over the word count. That’s okay; I just do it to get myself moving when I’m goofing off on something.

      I so want to learn screenwriting. A writer friend advised me to do that, because he thinks my last book will sell and he said “You can get more money if you write the screenplay!” I’m just like, okay.

      1. Audiophile*

        I write screenplays, and I’ve always enjoyed it. (Goal for 2015: to finish the one I’ve been working on.) I may attempt a go at a novel since I have yet to sell anything.

        I’ve heard you have more say if you wrote the book, and it’s certainly “easier” to sell a novel than it is to sell a spec script, but I’d say that very much depends on producers, studios and directors.

    6. Anonsie*

      Oh man please give updates on this, because I’ve been thinking about trying it myself but I know I would bomb until I worked it out and that idea is so terrifying.

      I gave up on NaNo years ago, but my mom has finished with 50k every year for the past 5 years. She’s something like four books deep into a sci-fi series now, she’s been querying publishers for some months as well.

      1. Audiophile*

        That’s part of the reason I wanted to take the course, but it’s full for January. I get first dibs on April. I’m writing/editing now, because I’m hopeful I can will myself to do it at least once before the course.
        I’m sort of afraid of bombing, but after a conversation with a few friends, I’ve realized I need to just TRY things before I write them off.

        My NaNo challenge did not go the way I wanted it to.

  33. Katie the Fed*

    Since we’re in full holiday mode now – has anyone successfully ended gift-giving among adults in your family?

    My husband’s family suggested that since we’ve all spent so much with the wedding and a new baby (his brother) this year, why don’t we just not. I think we’re all relieved.

    I suggested it to my sister – she was happy about the idea so we’re killing it there.

    We’ll still do gifts for the kids, of course, but that’s it. The only holdout is my parents – they’re all about the gift exchanging but they always demand wish lists. So it becomes this ridiculous thing of having to think of things I want in a certain price range, and then getting them someone from their list. We’re adults! Can’t we just buy what we want for ourselves and forgo the wish lists?

    For my husband and I, we’re still navigating those waters. I’m not really sure the point since we combine finances, but a few things would probably be a good idea. :)

    1. Kyrielle*

      Something that works in some families but not others, but might work for you – ask, instead of things, for stories. Written-down accounts of childhood, funny family stories, family history, little vignettes. Not everyone enjoys sharing those – but many people do, and you can get some real treasures that way.

      Someone who *really* wants to give a thing could maybe put together a little booklet or photo book with stories, but everyone else, you’re down to the cost of paper or email. And you get family stories, which at best can be super-neat, and at worst…well, they’re not deluging you in things you don’t need.

    2. JMW*

      We replaced gift exchange with a family game (Yankee Swap kind of thing). Initially you were supposed to put in a gift that you already owned, but over the years people have made or bought things that they thought might be popular. A lot of family heirlooms have circulated. My husband and I don’t exchange gifts on prescribed holidays any more either (though we might randomly buy a gift for no reason). We go out or plan a meal for special occasions. We do buy presents for our still-in-college kids, and probably will do till their are more established.

      It’s relieved a lot of holiday stress.

    3. LizH*

      We eventually did it for kids gifts only. My family has always celebrated on Christmas Eve. I have a large and extended family. My sister in law hosts us for a nice dinner. The main dish is always ham. We all chip in. I always get her a nice centerpiece as a combination hostess/ Christmas gift, since feeding us all gets expensive, and she never asks for money. Some bring wine, some dessert, etc. We sit around and share stories and memories. We are all adults, and buy what we need throughout the year. Both of my parents died right before Christmas, so Christmas is subdued for my family anyhow. It is more about us spending time together then anything else. Also, it removes so much stress from everyone, not trying to have to figure out that special gift.

    4. LadyB*

      Not quite the same, but we started setting a £10 limit on all adult presents a few years ago.

      It seems to work really well, nobody spends a lot of money (saves embarrassment as family members are in very different financial places), everyone has something to open and we actually get more thoughtful presents as you have to really think about what to get instead of throwing money at the problem.

    5. kas*

      Thankfully in my family there are way too many kids so instead of buying for each other, we all just decided to buy for the kids which is expensive enough as it is. However, we all still buy for our own parents and my parents still buy my sister and I gifts.

      I have a big family so before we decided to only buy for the kids, we would pull names from a hat. You only had to buy for that 1 person and didn’t feel obligated to buy for anyone else.

      1. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

        After my dad died we stopped exchanging gifts, because we’re all just slackers who hate shopping anyway. We do buy for my sister’s kids–they are just getting a lot of books this year from me. Like a lot of books–I think 7 each. I keep a list of things they’d like and then I will maybe give them to their mom and have her distribute before/after Christmas.

        I like looking at decorations and I like Christmas cookies, and that’s about it for my holiday spirit.

      2. Artemesia*

        My daughter’s extended family has a draw for kids and a draw for adults — they have one kid, so they buy for one kid; they are a couple so they buy for two adults. Everyone gives to their parents and own children. It really saves money for young families whose kids already have plenty of stuff but still makes for a festive exchange.

    6. Windchime*

      I think that many of us would like to stop the gift giving, but it’s difficult. Mom always is the holdout for us, too, even though they are on a retirement income and I would rather they not spend money on me. I can’t think of anything I need or want for her to buy me. I have several siblings who are in dire straits financially and I would feel terrible if they spent anything on me since I know it would be such a hardship. I’m in good financial position and so I would like to give them gifts, but I also don’t want them to feel bad for not being able to reciprocate.

      I do still enjoy giving gifts to my adult kids and their partners. But sometimes I wish we could all just stop the madness.

    7. Crow*

      My wife’s family somehow transitioned to drawing names: you only buy a gift for that person. Kids still get gifts from everyone. I think any change needs a champion, though. I believe my SIL spearheaded the change for our family, and it was her pushing (and the sounds of relief from everyone’s wallets) that made it happen.

      1. cuppa*

        Late to the party, but we did this for years and it was great. Now we’ve changed to giving bottles of wine to each other. We each pick a region and buy for those participating in the exchange. I now do nearly all my Christmas shopping at a winery, grocery store, or liquor store. It’s awesome.

    8. The IT Manager*

      Hmmm … We did it one year when my sibling’s family had a bad year and money was tight.

      But I have to confess it made me sad. I’m single and my siblings are not. It cut down a lot on my giving and receiving. I’m glad that the restriction only lasted a year no matter how difficult shopping is.

      1. catsAreCool*

        I’m single with no kids, but the way I figure it, if we give gifts to everyone, I have to spend a lot of extra time and money trying to figure out what the adults in my family want, and they have to do the same for me, and then I have to smile when I get a gift or two that I don’t particularly want.

        When we get gifts for the kids only, it’s easier and cheaper, and I can get myself some stuff on the day after Christmas, when it’s cheaper :)

    9. the gold digger*

      My family has never been big on exchanging gifts – my dad was in the military and we always lived far away from the rest of the family and mailing gifts wasn’t practical. Also, my mom has six siblings and I have 26 first cousins, so even more not practical.

      My husband’s mother, however, loves to give gifts. Unfortunately, she has the knack for sending things we neither need nor want. My husband did try to find some joy in learning he had “adopted” a Florida panther, a sea turtle, and a manatee one year.

      He has asked her not to send us stuff (at least the adopted animals came with just posters and calendars), but that has not stopped her from giving us a potted tropical plant (we lived where it gets very cold in the winter and we are not going to heat our house just for a tropical plant), the cheap pressed board nesting tables painted with hibiscus and hummingbirds, or a framed photo of her and her husband, which – and I am not the one who did this – now resides face down in the bottom drawer of the linen chest.

      His requests that she not send us presents have been met with tears and great resistance, even with the suggestion, “We would love tickets to a play or a gift certificate to a restaurant.” She protests that she might as well send cash, which would be just fine with me, as my husband could use it for the plane tickets and car rentals when he visits them. And lunch. The lunch we have to buy for ourselves because they do not eat lunch and do not think to provide it for their guests.

      Holy smoke. Am I ranting?


      Sorry. Got distracted. This is a hot button with me. (Anything to do with in-laws.)

      So no, we have not figured out how to do it, so now anything they send us gets a nice handwritten thank you note and then goes into the Goodwill bin.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        <blockquote.My husband’s mother, however, loves to give gifts. Unfortunately, she has the knack for sending things we neither need nor want.

        This is people in my family. Seriously. I have told them many times not to buy me anything but they probably got me a box of crap in JULY.

    10. CoffeeLover*

      I come from a culture where you don’t give gifts at Christmas. So thankfully, I’ve never in my life had to deal with that in my own family. I also learned that the man I will most likely marry also doesn’t do gift exchange with his family (his is a sadder story involving a family death around Christmas). Point being, I’m thrilled that I can avoid obligatory gift-giving for the majority of my life :D.

    11. soitgoes*

      I’m a big fan of buying perfume for women relatives. Buy them a new bottle of something they use frequently, even if they already have a bottle. Eventually they’ll need a new one. Of course, this only works for the very mainstream (usually celebrity-branded) fragrances that trickle down to Walmart and Target for $20 a bottle.

      This might seem like an odd suggestion for an adult, but scope out the housewares sections on uber-trendy sites like ModCloth and Urban Outfitters. When I was furnishing my new apartment, I got a lot of inspiration just from knowing what was out there, even if I didn’t buy many things directly from those companies. Once in a blue moon you’ll see a really neat gadget, art print, or space-saving piece of furniture, and you can usually find more affordable versions with some clever googling.

    12. catsAreCool*

      My family has been doing Christmas presents only for the kids for several years now. I’m not sure how it started, but I love it. Kids are so much easier to get gifts for!

  34. Tara*

    I wrote in a few weeks ago about issues with my dad’s addiction, so I figured I’d update.

    I only ended up coming to his house for a few nights of his week this time. It looks like the custody issue is going to take care of itself, as his source of income has been cut off and he doesn’t have any money to pay rent. He’s giving his notice today. He used again while we were at my mom’s last week, and went cold turkey off everything– pot, drug of choice, alcohol– about six days ago. He’s going to two meetings a day right now

    As for me, I’m doing a lot better. My mom has booked me some counseling sessions, and I might go see a psychiatrist to try to figure out if the anxiety issues I’ve had my whole life are a disorder or just the natural result of a stressful life . I want him to be okay, but of course I’m aware that it’s his own choices that have brought him to this point. I want to say thank you for all the kind words you guys shared last time I wrote in. They truly helped me a lot.

    1. Emily*

      I’m glad to hear that you’re staying with your mom and getting help for your anxiety. Hopefully things work out for you and your family.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Well, this brought a tear to my eye. It sounds like you are on a good path that will be supportive to your needs here. That is so good to hear.
      This is one of those life shaping problems- it will forever be a part of you and shape your thoughts and actions in years to come. As you have been doing, continue to never allow yourself to be alone and face a problem of this size. There are too many good people who are willing to help, keep finding them and letting them. Don’t worry about paying them back. Your turn will come in the future and in the present, they will be paid back by seeing you flourish, which you will.

    3. C.M.*


      I have found Al-Anon to be a great help in dealing with my family members’ addictions. Counseling is helping me, too. I am hoping that you continue to take care of yourself and find that life gets better and better.

    4. Stars and violets*

      I’m just a stranger on the internet but I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. I hope things continue to get better for you.

  35. Cruciatus*

    So, my sister and her boyfriend FINALLY left. We basically spent the entire time together hanging out in a tiny room during the day. No one else has concerns about him but… So, they’ve been dating just over 3 months and while hugging me goodbye (FINALLY–did I mention that?) he was like “We’re family!” and I was like “Whaaa!?!?” That’s weird. He’s only been in the US for a decade so MAYBE it’s a cultural thing but it freaks me out. When they were only dating a month he was already ILYing my sister and was upset she wasn’t saying it back yet. I just find him…annoying. He’s actually nice, I’ve never seen him act crossly over anything. But he’s completely passive. He orders whatever my sister orders at a restaurant (unless it has pork in it) because he’s “not picky.” Have a damn opinion over your dinner menu! She told me he wants them to dress alike! WHAT THE HELL? I don’t know why she likes him or why he likes her (I don’t mean that as a slam on my sister. Over this weekend I just didn’t see anything that made me say “Oh, I get it!”) And I’m afraid he’s way more into her (though not because it’s HER, but because he jumps from 0-60 in relationships in 5 seconds). A while back she told me she’d just settle for someone at that point (she’s nearly 40, he’s early 40s) and I’m afraid that’s exactly what’s happened. Sigh. I just had to talk about it here because no one else spent as much time with them together so no one else in the family sees what I see (and I won’t tell my sister!). And he’ll be back for Christmas despite his religion not even celebrating it. Yaaaaay…

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Where’s he from? There are red flags all over this. Any chance she’ll be receptive to you gently bringing up your concerns?

      1. Cruciatus*

        He’s from Morocco. Early on with the ILY thing I told her I was concerned and she agreed. She wanted to know what I thought of him after I had just met him for the first time and I told her my concerns and said he better treat her right. She said he does and I went home. The thing is, as I sort of said, I’m not sure she’s all that into him. Like, my aunt and dad got him playing Scrabble for the first time and since English is his 2nd or 3rd language, his English Scrabble vocab is not great (at least against my family). Anyway, she just stayed on the couch playing her game. I actually went and checked to see how he was doing every so often. While they sat on the couch there was no real talking. They just chatted over what my sister needed to get to get ahead in some game and I guess he’s helping her through that game on his own tablet (because heaven forbid he play his OWN DAMN GAME!) I didn’t hear anything of interest uttered between them. When they CONSTANTLY held hands at the mall my sister kept her fingers straight. And maybe that’s personal preference for her, but I was like “Hmm…she doesn’t look into holding hands with him.” (I admit I could be reading into that but his hand was tight and her fingers sticking out made an impression). And they have some international cruise they’re taking together in 2 months or so. I’m sort of hoping my sister will just go on the cruise and then dump him but it may be wishful thinking. We had a few moments alone together but I just couldn’t find a way to say anything with him just in another room (not because I was scared of him, but it just didn’t feel like the right time). I’m hoping he can’t get Christmas off and I can talk with her then. Maybe if she phones me. I started avoiding the room I’m normally in so I’m hoping that registered with her a bit and maybe she’ll ask why. It all sounds petty when I start to explain it but there’s just something that niggles at my brain though. I don’t think I’m seeing things that aren’t there just because he’s “taken my place” or something.

        1. catsAreCool*

          Sad. I’m single and over 40, but I’d rather be single than be with someone I’m not all that into.

    2. Sheep*

      I agree, a lot of red flags here. Though for your last sentence, I think that is something very positive. The fact that he is willing to spend Christmas with you guys even if it’s outside his religion.

      Is there any way you could get some information out of your sister as to why she’s so into him?

      1. Cruciatus*

        I could try. I’m going to wait for her to (hopefully) contact me. I want to talk to a mutual friend of my sister’s who spent a bit of time with all of us the other night and see if she noticed anything. I wish I could see him coming here for Christmas despite his religion as a positive, but I think it’s more that he wants to spend time with my sister ALL THE TIME (and I do get that new couples do this). I don’t think he has anyone else to hang out with. His family doesn’t live here. But I don’t think he has friends either–and I find THAT suspicious as well. Blech. Well, look for updates about the situation at the Christmas weekend Open Thread…

        1. Windchime*

          Does he already have his green card? Is he the same age as her, or younger? I would worry that he is just using her as a way to stay in this country, but if he has been here for awhile, maybe that’s not an issue.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Eh, the Christmas thing, without all the other stuff, isn’t that drastic, I think. I’m Jewish and I spend every Christmas with my boyfriend’s family (except this year, see above!) because it’s a family holiday and he considers me his family and it’s part of being his partner. I go gladly because it’s for him, the way he comes to Rosh Hashanah and Passover because it’s for me. He came to his first RH after 3 months together, and Christmas was at 6 months.

          But everything else? Yeah, I’d be pretty annoyed. I started reading your post and thought they were really young. Try to keep an open mind, but also be honest (yet gentle!) with your sister about your concerns.

          1. catsAreCool*

            I know a guy who’s Muslim who says his family celebrates Christmas (secularly). They live in the US.

    3. Stars and violets*

      This sounds very frustrating for you but your sister is an adult and gets to be friends with whomsoever she chooses. Harsh but true. All you can do, ime, is be around to pick up the pieces if things don’t work out.

    4. CoffeeLover*

      Definitely a culture thing. I’ve dated guys from that area (Morocco and Algeria to be specific), and have friends from the area. From personal experience and talking with friends, guys there get attached very quickly and are quite needy by North American standards. It’s just not something we’re used to. Our dating standards are a lot more… hands off, get to know each other for a while, etc. Honestly before I even saw you said he’s from Morocco, my thoughts went there. He may have been in the US for a decade, but he spent the majority of his life in Morocco and dating women from there. It’s what he’s used to. I think you should just try to keep that in mind. He’s following the dating norms that he’s accustomed to. If it doesn’t bother your sister then I think there’s not much to say. Meeting the family can be stressful, and I think it’s a bit unfair to judge him from the start. Personally, I only care if my relatives are with BAD people… people I find annoying or that have habits I dislike, I learn to accept because I’m not the one married/dating them.

    5. Anonsie*

      I’m leaning towards cultural on this one, but if your sister’s not into it then she should consider sidling out of this one.

      That said, I have a lot of these types of issues with my partner and he’s been in the US quite a bit longer than this fellow, but I generally consider them to either be quirks or things that will even out. He adjusts to a lot of things (he hadn’t dated any American women before me, mostly other immigrants or 1/1.5 gen people from his home country) with some explanation. For example we had to have a very long discussion about how yes, it is ok for him to come over to see me in my apartment with no one else there, no one will whisper about me. He was buggy about it the first time but then he relaxed and felt ok coming over and not always having to meet in public or with friends as escorts. So if she actually does like him a lot, I wouldn’t say these are major warning signs like I would if the guy was raised here, but the feeling-out period is going to be a lot longer since it’s harder to know what’s individual and what’s cultural.

  36. AnotherFed*

    Does anyone have good suggestions for easy, reasonably healthy workday lunches? I am trying to eat out less, but am getting very tired of sandwiches! Smallish recipes would be nice – it’s just me, so by the time I finish something like a pan of lasagna, it’s been a week straight and I don’t want to see pasta again for a month. Thanks in advance!

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I do pasta salads – make a big bowl of whole grain pasta with some chopped up veggies and maybe turkey or chicken sausage and/or a can of chickpeas. Pour a bottle of a light vinaigrette over it and let it soak in overnight.

      Sometimes I make up a big mess of quinoa with veggies and chicken too and have that all week.

    2. Windchime*

      I will do a big pan of lasagna. After I have my fill with supper and maybe lunch the next day, then I’ll cut the rest into lunch-sized chunks, wrap and freeze. Then I can just pull one out when I’m ready to see lasagna again. It’s actually pretty handy, and I’m guessing that would work for lots of different casserole dishes.

    3. Rebecca*

      I always have a serving of fruit (an apple, orange, or some grapes usually), a piece of Baby Bel Cheese, baby cut carrots, and maybe some tuna or egg salad on Wasa Crackers, or peanut butter on Arnold’s Sandwich thins.

    4. Trixie*

      I like making a batch of Barefoot Contessa’s tabbouleh with roasted chicken or protein of choice. A nice hearty grain like bulgur or israeli couscous gives it some staying power. Lemon juice keeps it bright. And a nice side of hummus is always appreciated.

    5. Jillociraptor*

      You could try making a bunch of ingredients you like each week for faster prep. For example, you could make a few chicken breasts, a bunch of beans, some rice, and 2-3 sauces. Then you’ve got a few different meals (maybe simple chicken chili, chicken burrito, chicken with red beans and rice and chicken salad sandwich) with much less prep. It might help with the repetitiveness problem.

    6. Blue_eyes*

      I get really tired of sandwiches too. I often bring leftovers of whatever I ate for dinner the night before. Most pasta dishes reheat well. I also like to bring soups. Sometimes I make homemade empanadas and those travel and reheat well for lunches. The great thing about empanadas is that I make a whole bunch at once and then freeze them and eat them once in a while over a few months. Burritos also do great in the freezer. Having something tasty in the freezer can seem like a miracle when you’re running late and don’t having anything else to bring for lunch.

    7. Stars and violets*

      Vegetable soups with lentils or beans added are easy and nutritious. I sometimes buy ready made vegetable soup and add pasta and/or beans if I’m pressed for time or energy. I’m also fond of canned tuna mixed with rice, chickpeas and a bit of mayonnaise. That’s good with some green leaves. Hearty salads, like nicoise, are quick and easy to prepare and can last a few days too.

    8. soitgoes*

      I’m a big fan of non-lettuce salads, like an apple-beet salad or a carrot-avocado salad. I think this is one of those situations where those trendy green juices can be a good option. We all roll our eyes at juice “cleanses,” but a homemade juice or smoothie is a great option to keep in your back pocket when you have short lunchbreaks and want something convenient.

        1. soitgoes*

          Definitely. You don’t want to go too far and do a full cleanse, but tbh a veggie smoothie is way healthier than what most of us eat for lunch.

    9. Artemesia*

      I don’t like sandwiches and am not fond of salads and don’t want to spend a lot of money eating out — or the calories. What I did during most of my working life is have leftovers for lunch which meant planning meals that would yield good leftovers. Heart soups, casseroles, pasta dishes etc heat well in the microwave. So if I would have say spaghetti for dinner one night, I would make for the two of us enough for 6 and then toss the extra sauce with the extra spaghetti and refrigerate it and take a portion for lunch for 4 days. Leftover hamburger stroganoff was my favorite, but various stews were also great. Mac and cheese which my grandchild likes and my husband doesn’t also is a great lunch.

    10. anon in tejas*

      I’m a big fan of soups this time of year and salads in the spring/summer.

      Today, I’m having kale, cabbage and white bean soup, with a hunk of french bread. I’ve also thawed out some chicken tortilla soup I made last year, which I’ll have most of this week as well.

      There are several soups that you can make in smaller batches on your stovetop and enjoy over the course of a few weeks (if frozen or super cold fridge, they’ll stay good).

    11. HR Manager*

      I tend to make an extra serving of whatever I’m having for dinner the night before and will bring that in for lunch. What’s worked well is pasta, fried rice, and stir-fried/grilled/baked protein. I eat a lot of rice, so a leftover serving of protein with rice is often what gets brought in.

      You can easily bring in salads (bags of pre-mixed) – just get a large enough container for the salad itself and a separate container for the dressing to keep you salad from getting soggy.

      I keep takeout containers, and fill that with my favorite cereal so that if I’m ever starving and I don’t have lunch, I eat the cereal (we offer milk in the office).

  37. butter knife*

    There was an odd situation in my family over the holiday. One relative drove in on Wednesday, ate dinner with the family on Thanksgiving and all seemed well. She seemed as if she was in great spirits and we just all adore her. She got up in the middle of the night Thanksgiving night and left without saying goodbye or leaving a note. She left way ahead of the time she said she would leave ( she was going to leave on Sunday). I was only there for the dinner and I had to get be home so I don’t know what happened Thanksgiving night but the people I spoke to about it are mystified. I sent her a short e-message saying how much I enjoyed her company and didn’t mention the oddity. This is so unlike her.
    If this happened to you, what would you do? I am searching for ideas that will put her at ease. My parents are hurt and won’t call to ask what happened just yet. They want to wait a bit so they speak to her with calmness. Something must have happened but we just don’t know what it must have been.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      The weather was pretty bad in a lot of places- maybe she was worried about it? Someone should really just ask her.

    2. fposte*

      I would check in to make sure she was okay. Unless you’re missing some key history, I wouldn’t wait or think of it as a slight.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Somebody should have called her immediately– I would have been worried sick. I understand that your parents are hurt, but it’s very possible she’s more hurt, or perhaps she thought she’d told everyone she was leaving early and didn’t realize it would be a surprise. Coming at her with, “We’re so hurt by this,” will put her on the defensive, which is especially bad if she has a very simple explanation that doesn’t even involve feelings, like the weather, as Katie said.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I think just calling her and saying we have been worried sick about you, are you okay? Then stop talking and listen.

        When she finishes, if it’s reasonable to say “it’s okay”, then say so. But add that for safety’s sake it would be best if she leaves a note. It could be that she got a call that a friend was sick. “No problem, just let us know that you have not been kidnapped or worse.” If you almost sent out a missing person on her- tell her that.

        I know the media likes to hype up how unsafe this world is. But, dang, I think it is just good practice to let people know when you will be arriving and when you will be leaving.

        The beauty of this technique is that if she comes out with “i have decided you guys are a bunch of jerks and I don’t want to visit anymore” you can still respond with the safety angle. And let her know that a bunch of people were pretty worried. It might make her think.

    4. Stars and violets*

      Since this is so unlike her, why didn’t your parents contact her immediately and try to find out why she had done this? Perhaps there is some undercurrent in the relationship that you are unaware of.
      My mother did something like this once. Just decided to leave, only in her case it was after only one day of a supposed week’s visit. I was at work and couldn’t call then but as soon as I got home I was on the phone making sure she was okay.
      I cannot understand why anyone wouldn’t want to know that their relative was okay, under normal circumstances.

    5. Artemesia*

      unless she has a reputation of being a passive aggressive jerk and stomps out and hopes to stir up conflict, then I would assume she had some sort of personal issue – e.g. perhaps a stomach upset or something like that and so fled the scene. I would think a quick follow up of ‘concern that you are okay’ is the right note. If she is being a drama queen, your folks can deal with ‘oh then you aren’t sick? Great, we were concerned. catch you later.’ then ignore.

  38. Catherine in Canada*

    Who here is a Fluevogger? And if so, how many? (I’m being deliberately obscure to stump all the non-Fluevogists.)

  39. Anonyby*

    So we moved me over to the house my dad’s in last week… Having an oven again is nice (baked cookies for my friends that weekend, rolls for Thanksgiving dinner, and roasted butternut squash last night). However, Dad is already stressing me out, not to mention that it’s reminding me that yes, I really am introverted… After dealing with him and his girlfriend on Sat-Thurs morning, I was just done when we got home from T-day dinner. I tried to go nap in my room and twice he came and knocked to order me to do stuff!! Argh. Then I slept in on Friday and stayed in until I needed to leave to do some things, and he complained that “even living in the same house, [he] still never sees [me]”! Argh!

    He has no idea how to treat me as a fellow competent adult, and it’s a big ball of stress for me.

    1. fposte*

      Might be time to look at the thread above about speaking directly to people to get what you want :-). Seriously, talk to him about some roommating policies and identifying times when you will be able to do stuff with him and when you won’t.

    2. Clerica*

      Well, if it’s any consolation, my landlord isn’t related to me and I feel the same way, like I’m not seen as a competent adult. I’d say “fellow” but…she’s actually kind of a mess. I feel like the adult most of the time. :)

      I had to work overnight the last two nights, so both of the days involved me trying to cobble enough sleep together with her puttering around, opening the garage door every five minutes (it happens to be right over where I sleep). I work seven days a week, and my second job is pretty physical and takes a lot out of me. She doesn’t seem to understand that me being home doesn’t mean it’s time to play. It’s time for Clerica to sleep or have a little me time. I posted once in an open thread how she was constantly texting me, even after I’d gone to bed. I think it’s a generational thing whether you’re related or not (obviously not everyone, just people who don’t have a good sense of boundaries) that they think anyone younger than them is there to serve or entertain them. I was complaining to someone at work and he said “It’s like she thinks you’re a delinquent teen who would get into trouble if she didn’t provide some structure for you.” That made me laugh.

      I found that she’ll pretty much back off…for the most part…if I point out issues like I’m surprised she forgot again. “Oh, Jane, remember how I told you I have to be in bed at 8 so I can get up at 4 and get through the workday? Yeah, I have a ton of stuff to get done before bed.” She doesn’t work and I think she genuinely forgot what it’s like to have restrictions on your time, to only have a couple hours to yourself a day. I also think that a lot of extroverted people take it personally when you’re by yourself, like you’re being unavailable at them instead of needing space to recharge. So I’d try explaining these things to your dad as they come up, but I don’t have much faith that he won’t “forget” again, sorry. :( It’s been my experience that you can get to where you have someone sort of trained not to bug you, but they don’t really understand and think they’re doing you a favor by “giving” you space.

    3. Artemesia*

      “Dad, for two adults to live in the same place, there has to be some understanding about how we share chores, respect each other’s privacy and so on. Let’s sit down and talk about the ground rules for living together. ”

      And the issues of privacy are a big deal in these ground rules. I would want in your case the rule to be that when you are in your rooms, you are not disturbed unless there is an emergency. And the first times he does this again, I would come to the door and re-iterate that — that you will be down later but need your privacy right then.

      It is easier if you are making a financial contribution but even if you are not, a frank discussion about how grownups live together without making each other crazy is in order. He obviously doesn’t have the right instincts here, so you are going to have to spell it out and then tend your boundaries.

  40. Sunflower*

    Have you ever had a piece of information that could destroy a friendship in more ways than one?

    In a nutshell, Kristen has had an on and off thing with with Rob for 5 years- everyone knows he is off-limits. Taylor and Kristen (and I) are very good friends. Rob and Taylor were having a fling and hid it from everyone. Rob gave me this information(completely unprompted!). I’m struggling now with both 1. What Taylor did to Kristen and 2. My feelings about my friendship with Taylor. She’s always been one of my closest, most trusted friends and it just makes me question her as a person. There’s always the possibility Rob is lying but people have been suspicious of Taylor and Rob in the past and the evidence definitely points to a romantic thing, as opposed to friendship, going on. And, honestly, in my bones I know he’s telling the truth.

    What do i do? I feel like I either need to talk to Taylor or let it go. I know Taylor will deny it so is it really worth starting a fight over? Taylor also happens to be my roommate which only further complicates things. If i do decide to just let it be, how do I process my new feelings about her? I feel like I can’t trust her…

    1. fposte*

      Let it go. And tell Rob not to tell you stuff he doesn’t want on the front page any more. (Also, why is Taylor and not Rob the source of the badness to Kristen here? An on and off thing generally is not compatible with exclusivity.)

      1. Helka*

        Everything you said here, yes.

        Rob is not off-limits to others; others are off-limits to Rob. He’s the one in the relationship, he’s the one who has to abide by the relationship’s rules.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      If you try to solve it, you will end up being odd-man out and they will all be best of buds.
      Don’t try to fix this.

      Tell Rob “Gee, looks like you have a problem. Good luck with that.” And move on. In other words, tell him you don’t want to hear it.

      As far as Taylor is concerned, you could move out. But that is rather extreme. You could confront her and have ten times the drama you have now. Or you could ignore it. Tell yourself that Rob probably lied. Or that Taylor has been doing this all along and you were none the wiser. So really nothing has changed. Bottom line is that it may not be true and you can’t be the one to decide what is true.

      At this point,I would be wondering about Rob getting too chummy with you, ick. TMI and why?

    3. soitgoes*

      Well Taylor shouldn’t have done anything with Rob unless it was a genuine love thing, in which case hopefully Kristen would have understood. That said, I have a hard time not judging people who do hurtful things when it doesn’t matter to them either way. Personally, I’d pull back from Taylor, even if it meant distancing myself from the whole group, which sounds like a drama minefield anyway.

    4. Mister Pickle*

      It made my brain hurt just to read that.

      I’d a) accept that yes, you need to be cautious about trusting any of these people, drama kings / queens that they are, and b) keep quiet about it. I’m not seeing any scenario where talking about it leads to making life better for anyone involved.

  41. Masters Degree Searcher*

    I guess this is really random, but I just bought non-fat Trader Joe’s cottage cheese, expiration date December 12. It’s November 30. I opened it and found 2 small brown spots on the surface of the cottage cheese. It smelled ok and tasted normal, normal consistency.

    Should I keep it, or toss it?

    It’s the 2nd time this’ happened. The first time, I found a blue spot on the cottage cheese plastic wrap covering the food and threw it away immediately. Hm :/

    1. Blue_eyes*

      Bring it back for an exchange or refund – TJ’s has a very generous return policy. It will also alert them to a potential problem, especially if they get multiple returns on the same product. Non-fat (or low fat) dairy products also spoil faster than ones with higher fat contents so that may be part of the problem.

      1. Mister Pickle*

        This. I’ve never shopped at Trader Joe’s, but their returns policy is apparently somewhat legendary.

    2. CoffeeLover*

      I don’t know about cottage cheese, but anytime I find a moldy spot on one my cheeses, I cut it off and keep eating. Cheese itself is mold anyway. I’ve been doing this my entire life with no consequences, so there you go.

      1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

        Don’t do that with cottege cheese. Liquidy wet cheeses are already all infected with mold, so toss and return.

  42. Elizabeth West*


    It’s after midnight and I have to go to bed. I’ll read and comment on this thread tomorrow. 4,100 words tonight, and I am at 52,921, well over the NaNoWriMo goal, though I’m not close to being finished. The real goal was to get moving on this first draft and try to get it finished, although the impetus for writing it has been heavily damaged by…events.

    I also finished my layout for the trim on my dress for the holiday ice show. Here’s a picture:

    It looks funny because I haven’t actually put them on yet. I’m skating to “I See Fire,” by Ed Sheeran, from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Last year it was “Song of the Lonely Mountain,” from the first film (which is now my test program), and the second the new Billy Boyd song is available, I’m cutting that and skating to it also. Then I will have skated to every song from every Tolkien film (I already did LOTR). :)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        You know, I made this dress last year, and it didn’t fit. I had cut it as L rather than XL and it was too tight, so I shoved it into a drawer. I was going through my fabric (very unexcited about making a new one) and I found it, and I thought, “Well, I’ll try it on since I’ve dropped some weight.” It fit! Though if I gain weight between now and the show, it won’t! I know it isn’t perfect, but I’ll only be on the ice for 2:10 and nobody will see it close up. :D

        Way easier than making a new one. I can’t buy them because I’m so tall and custom dresses are too expensive.

  43. Sandrine (France)*

    Ah, another thing.

    As some of you might know, I have started my own Youtube channels and there is something I’d like to do where you might be able to help.

    I was thinking of starting a video version of “Ask a Manager” … except it wouldn’t be “Ask a Manager” , obviously :P … but something like “Ask a Friend” and people can send in questions that I can reply to anonymously should they wish to. I’d be doing other videos (like my cat napping and purring… that is so cute) but yeah, this is what I’m hoping to do.

    So, that’s where I would need your help. Is there anybody, anywhere, that would need a little support and that could “help me help them” by sending me a message that I could use in a future video ? Any topics welcome that you’d need a friend for. No judgement, anything… and the reason why I’m asking to use questions like that in a video is because I have recently discovered that, while I speak decent English, my writing sometimes gets rather confusing (which makes me sad, really) .

    So yeah :) . The website link here is actually my FB page, but you can e-mail me if you’d rather do that.


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