Sunday free-for-all – December 21, 2014

Olive with menorahThis 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.

{ 861 comments… read them below }

  1. Ama*

    I’m engaged. My mom is not adjusting well to the reality of having to share me with fiancé’s family for the holidays and has begun attempting to manage how they celebrate holidays by demanding that my fiancé and I tell them what my family is doing and forcing them to accommodate.

    She has used language that enforces her desires upon us (“tell them you want to do x”) and done the divide-and-conquer routine to wear us down to get her way, going to one of us separately from the other and stating her wishes, and then going to the other if the first doesn’t give the reply she wants.

    How can we put a stop to this? We’ll be married by this time next year and it’s really not a dynamic I want to deal with when we’re starting a life together.

    1. Gene*

      Fixing this is Fiance’s job, s/he needs to handle hir mother. When mom drags you into it, you need to tell her to talk her progeny.

      And you and your fiance need to get on the same page.

      1. Ama*

        We are on the same page, so her tactics never really work, and it’s my mom that’s the issue, not his mom. His mom is actually really great about boundaries and respect.

        It’s just irritating and baffling to me because my mom and I have never been close and now she’s getting clingy, so I don’t know how to handle it.

      2. snapple*

        I think you have the details wrong. The commenter’s mother is the one who’s having a difficult time adjusting .

    2. Beezus*

      Call her on it, and tell her it needs to stop. Be firm and as unemotional about it as possible, you have to be fair to your SO and give him time with his family at the holidays too. It’s perfectly reasonable, and hopefully she’s just having a hard time adjusting and will see that in time.

      Next year, talk to your SO about holiday plans in advance, so you’re on the same page, then tell your mother what you’ll be doing, and be firm about it.

    3. fposte*

      Probably easier to change how you respond than to change her. Depending on your mom’s character, that can mean anything from abstracted “uh-huh” to comic deflation (“We’re having trouble finding a tablet to carve that on”) to skipping past the control to address the subtextual worry (a hug and a “Mom, even though I won’t be here over some of the holiday I still love you and you’re still the most important mom in the world to me”). Might also be time to have an offense, which would be your own schedule and plans that you can present as a fait accompli and refuse to be drawn into tweaking.

      1. Ama*

        Deflecting with noncommittal “uh-huh” has led to the divide and conquer game. The control is part of the fiber of her being (hence us not being close) so addressing what may be behind it would be addressing her humanity itself. I think declaring our plans as already done and not subject to change, leaving only already allowed-for openings, will be our best bet next year. Thanks for all the suggestions!

        1. fposte*

          I will note that it’s imperative that you and your fiancé agree in advance what the protocol is and know how to stay on message. That way all divide and conquer gets your mom is a double “uh-huh”–or, if you’ve planned your plans, a “thanks, we’re good, we’ll see you on the Friday as agreed.”

          And I don’t think it’s too late to declare your plans for this year :-). They can dovetail with what’s already been discussed, but you can take ownership of it and add in what you need for your own private holidaying.

        2. jamlady*

          Totally agree with setting firm plans. My parents are super chill, but my mother in law… Love her to pieces but she is very overbearing. We always tell them upfront what plans will be for us and to not cancel/schedule things around us and risk ruining other people’s plans. She hasn’t changed and she still tries to decorate my house and guilt trips my husband (unsuccessfully) for stupid things, but for holiday schedules, she doesn’t fuss.

      2. Clever Name*

        All of this. Controlling behavior can be a symptom of anxiety, so addressing her underlying worry (losing you-believe me, that’s every parents greatest fear) might help.

    4. Paul P*

      If you and your fiance have come to an agreement about what you’re doing for the holidays, be upfront with both your parents and your finace’s.

    5. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      Oof. I think you’ve got some great advice here, especially from fposte. Depending on your relationship with your mother (because I completely acknowledge this may not be feasible for everyone), you can try what I did if their tactics don’t work…

      When my grandma lectured me about how “little” time I spent with my family vs. partner’s one year (my family still ended up with more than 50%), I called a moratorium on any family visits over Christmas the following year and we spent it alone. It hasn’t been an issue since.

      1. Ama*

        You have no idea how much fiancé and I would love to do nothing with anyone. We’re already talking about doing our own thing next year and spending time with only each other.

        That or we’ll just schedule the honeymoon over Christmas.

        1. Christy*

          I urge you to do the work to set the boundary rather than make up an excuse, because excuses are temporary but boundaries are semi-permanent.

        2. Elkay*

          Do it. Set the norm the first year that Christmas is your holiday as a couple. It’s great, trust me. Although I’ve been lucky that neither family pushes to see us. In fact it was my mum’s suggestion that we spend Christmas alone.

        3. Mal*

          My husband and I moved 1500 miles away from our families shortly after we go engaged. It. Is. Wonderful.
          This year we spent Thanksgiving alone and will spend Christmas alone.
          On the honeymoon:
          Take it during Christmas!!! We spent 10 days in Jamaica for ours in Dec 2012 and spent Christmas on the beach, getting a tan, drinking fruity drinks and getting presents from a Santa with a strong Jamaican accent. I’m positive that no other Christmas can ever top it and each year since I’ve been disappointed by a white snow Christmas instead of a white sand Christmas.

        4. the gold digger*

          When my husband and I got married, we faced that same issue with his parents. They have called him a “bad son” for not going to their place for Christmas and have told him that he is “abandoning” them.

          One year, he got an email from his mom on Christmas day that ended with, “Everything sucks and I get despondent.” And merry Christmas to you, too!

          It has been very hard on my husband, but he has stood (mostly) firm – that we spend our holidays together in our home. There was one Thanksgiving where he surrendered, but other than that, our holidays are ours.

          I agree with Christy that it is a good idea to set the boundaries rather than make an excuse. Good luck. This seems to be something very, very hard to do, but the payoff is worth it.

          1. Ruffingit*

            “Everything sucks and I get despondent.”

            That sounds like someone I’d want to spend my holidays with…

            Geeze, people do not realize how much their guilt tripping attitude and negativity drives people away.

          2. Emily Robin*

            “Everything sucks and I get despondent.”

            Oh my god, that is an amazing line. (I’m sorry your husband had to be on the receiving end of that, but it made me laugh.)

        5. Alma*

          That is not a bad idea. Start planning NOW for someone to throw you a holidays shower: the turkey platter and carving set, the ornaments for your tree or whatever is appropriate for the holidays you celebrate. Talk with great enthusiasm thus year about how you both are looking forward to establishing your own traditions and routine, and “let this be fair warning, we’re taking next year off! ”

          Juggling family face time is brutal. I’ve tried to talk my siblings and their families into picking a week in August when we can stay at the beach, and spend quality time with each other. I’m still waiting.

        6. UK Nerd*

          Do it. After one particularly horrendous Christmas with my partner’s mother, I vowed that the following Christmas (by which time we would be married) I would not set foot outside my own house for anything less than water, fire or blood somewhere it shouldn’t be. This is now our family tradition. The mother-in-law can complain about it all she likes to whatever saps end up spending Christmas Day with her, but neither of us have to listen to it.

          For some reason, the fact that it was our first Christmas as a married couple made everyone a lot more willing to accept that this was the way things were going to be from now on.

          1. Grapey*

            “For some reason, the fact that it was our first Christmas as a married couple made everyone a lot more willing to accept that this was the way things were going to be from now on.”

            In the same vein “we just bought our house this year and would like to spend Christmas together, alone, in it.” helped others accept our plans.

    6. Dan*

      Is this the first time your mother has displayed this kind of behavior? By that, I mean controlling. If this is a repeat pattern, then logic may very well not work. (I have a mother to whom the only thing that matters is what she wants. Everything else be damned. I don’t even try to reason with her anymore.)

        1. Dan*

          Moving 600 miles away and speaking to her only on her birthday and Mother’s Day. I’m traveling to see my parents for Xmas, and she’s made it clear she wants me to attend church with them. Nevermind that they dragged us to church kicking and screaming for 17 years, and I haven’t attended church since I moved out, also 17 years ago. My last trip back was a constant battle over church, culminating with me threatening to never come back if she won’t drop the subject.

          1. StuckInTheHotel*

            Oh dear. I think we have the same mother. Although I’m the older sister … moved out 28 years ago and been married 22 years. This year we live 3,500 miles away (in England) so no trip home. I feel your pain.

          2. Csarndt*

            Yep, 500+ miles, especially if there is a city known for bad traffic in between ;)

            “I’d love to come but, man, I *hate* Chicago traffic around the holidays! I have some coworkers with little kids who want some time off to make Santa come so I’m gonna stay home and work this year. We’ll catch up when you come for (insert name of minor holiday) long weekend”

            My family used to fight over who I stayed with and when and for how long and who else was invited and for how long. Oy! It’s enough to make you want to cancel Christmas! Darn Chicago traffic ;)

            1. Bea W*

              Having recently experienced Chicago traffic on a normal day, I totally agree this is a legit excuse! Chicago gets my vote for the worst traffic EVER…and not even in rush hour. WTF Chicago???!!!

              1. Dan*

                Sorry, as a long time DC resident, I would have to say that DC has Chicago traffic beat. It’s gotten worse over the years, too. Saturday evenings heading into the city are now all stop and go traffic.

                1. Bea W*

                  This is why I purposefully avoided getting into any kind of car or taxi during rush hour when I had to work in DC. The one thing that threw Chicago over the top for me was it being 11 AM mid-week and traffic being mostly stop and not much go in both directions. It made me pine for Beltway.

            2. Dan*

              Oops, it’s more like 800 miles and coincidentally, I’d have to drive through Chicago. 800 miles is long enough where flying is the default. At 500 miles, its a toss up, depends on fares and what not.

        2. Student*

          (1) Don’t stay in your mother’s house for any occasion whatsoever. Do not have her stay in your house when she visits, even if this means springing for her hotel. Stay at a hotel, or with a nearby friend, or whatever. It will cut down on the time that she has to corner you both. It’ll also make you feel more powerful and independent when she asks things of you that you don’t want to do. It gives you an out when you get tired of dealing with her – and that is exactly when you need to leave her presence, lest you give in to her demands after being worn down all day.

          (2) Practice what you will say when she makes predictable demands. Saying no is easier when you have a script. “We already have other plans.” “We’d like to visit you on X day this year instead. Are you free that day?” “I can’t make it for X. I hope you and Other Family have a great time. Are you planning to {make family comfort food} for them?” Use immediate questions to deflect attention off of you and onto her and her plans/hopes/interests. Use white lies if that will help you cope with this and she’s demonstrated that she won’t respond normally to honesty.

        3. Bea W*

          My mother was like this. I had to divide holidays between my dad and my mom. They’d been divorced for 20 years, but there was this continuing need to compete with my dad for our attention on holidays, and it was really awkward if plans conflicted.

          For me, I had to decide for myself what my boundaries where, how much holiday “cheer” I could take, and growing more of a thick skin, reminding myself that it’s not me with the issues. At some point I started spending Thanksgiving with out of state friends, and kept only Christmas for my parents, because that was exhausting enough.

          My mother passed away 5 years ago. So now I am down to one family function (instead of 3) on Christmas and no pressure or guilt trip attempts for spending time with my dad.

          My sister moved out of state years ago where she married and had her own family. She would arrange to visit after the holidays. That worked well for her. She had continued that for my father after my mother died…until he started canceling on her and disappointing the children. Screw that!

    7. Lori C*

      I presume you and your families live in the same area. I suggest you tell your mother you will let her know what your plans are when you and your fiance decide what your plans are. You can be firmer with her if needed and tell her she does not have a say in your decision. All the way to Drop it Mom, or I am not talking about this with you any more Mom, and say goodbye when on the phone. When she attempts to talk to your fiance, he will need to tell her Ama will let her know of your plans when you both decide. You handle your family, he handles his. I also suggest establishing a rotating schedule NOW. Thanksgiving with his family. Thanksgiving with your family. Thanksgiving with just the two of you/friends. You will want to rotate yourselves into the rotation since you are forming your own family. Don’t let yourselves be coerced into spending your holidays driving all over the place in order to spend all holidays with both families. Good luck!

      1. Megan*

        I like the idea of a rotating schedule – my DH and I do a variation of this, although our families have been very accommodating. Most important, I would be sure to carve out that Christmas morning for your family as soon as possible, or you will have your mother insisting that you all sleep over on Christmas eve so that your children can wake up to Santa’s presents at HER house. My coworker is doing that with her newborn this year and I’m just like MIND BLOWN.

        1. LisaS*

          My mother did this when my sister & I were little – wrote herself into the rotation, and refused to get locked into holidays with any of the grandparents. I can only imagine the battles it took, but it was really nice to have an occasional year off from the digging up & parading of old family dramas…

    8. Not So NewReader*

      You are very wise to deal with this now, rather than letting it fester. Yeah, there is going to be some blow-back but stand your ground. You may not totally eliminate all the drama but you can greatly reduce it.
      As others have said, never underestimate the power of you and your other half deciding what you will be doing for the holidays. Develop your plan together and stick to it. If you get too much flak tell them you can always stay home and not visit at all.

      Married couples do a lot of this anyway. Usually on a smaller scale such as, “We will go to Bob and Sheila’s party but we want to leave by 9 pm.” Then they stick to that decision. Typically your decisions as a couple will be much easier than the one you are facing now.

    9. Katie the Fed*

      I have a mother a lot like this as well, and it took a bout of bad anxiety following the holidays to land me in therapy and learn how to deal with her.

      What helped me a lot was when I truly accepted that I didn’t need her permission or approval for anything. That no matter how much she might try to manipulate, guilt, or freeze me out I was under absolutely no obligation to do what she wanted. It sounds simple but for people with parents like this it’s hard, but quite liberating.

      So it started with small stuff – if she was giving me grief about something I just either laughed it off and ignored it, or said “ok, gotta go mom” and got off the phone. For the wedding, I did what I wanted but paid lip service to making her feel really special as well, for the sake of minimal drama. We’re spending the holidays with my husband’s family (who is lovely and I genuinely enjoy spending time with them – it doesn’t feel obligatory) by just mentioning it in passing, and not making a big deal of it. It’s a little easier because his family is closer. But basically – I never made it sound like I was seeking approval, because I wasn’t.

      On your wedding, a bit of advice – you can head off a lot of issues by going through the motions of doing something special with her. I took us out for a day of pre-wedding pampering. I’d rather have gone with my friends, but I also wanted to appease her and prevent any drama. It worked.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        I highly recommend therapy for anyone who has this types of issues with a parent. And you’ve nailed the core issue for many of us: we’re grown adults still seeking approval for our decisions from our parents as if we’re still 9 years old. Therapy really can help you move past that behavior/emotional cycle.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Exactly – and honestly, once I changed how I approached things – it was a DRAMATIC change in our relationship. I won’t say it’s great, but it’s much easier – I think for both of us actually. It took some practice – she tried the silent treatment and other things, but I just let them roll off my back and when she eventually wanted to talk to me again I didn’t even acknowledge that I’d noticed. Freaking liberating, I’m telling you.

        2. dang*

          I am also in therapy for this issue (along other things, but geez it always seems to come back to that!!) I second Katie’s advice. It’s all about mindset and feeling ready to set consistent boundaries and enforce them.

        3. Bea W*

          YES!!!!

          I actually faked sick once to get out of Christmas. It was at that point I had to admit I really had take control back for myself and do things differently.

        4. Dan*

          I wouldn’t have chosen that phrasing in my case, but I suppose that is the core issue. I don’t do anything because its what mom wants, but at the core, I would like my mother to acknowledge that people can have differing views on things, and someone isn’t wrong just because they don’t agree with her.

          I once therapy in college because I thought *i* was the problem and it was time to grow up. But I stopped after one session because I wasn’t willing to change.

        5. Nashira*

          Oh my god with a good therapist, therapy is amazing. Even though it can absolutely hurt. Now that I’m not repressing things, to preserve that image of a loving family, it hurts quite a bit to see how abusive my parents and older brother were/are. But it’s better to work through that and find ways to have the healthiest relationships I can have w/ them.

          EAPs can be good places to get referred to therapists btw.

        6. Sunflower*

          Agree Agree agree. I am still dealing with this and understanding that a lot of my issues with this stem from her own issues. My therapist recommended a lot for my mother to come in with me. I honestly felt that was probably the only way she would maybe possibly change the way she approached me about things(aka laid on the guilt) but I never felt comfortable enough to bring her or tell her I was in therapy.

      2. Mephyle*

        What Katie the Fed said is very key. Your goal is not to get her to be ok with what you decide to do. Your goal is to decide together what to do and stick to it.

    10. just laura*

      Good for you for recognizing this and wanting to put a stop to it. Boundaries are important and you are smart to begin with boundaries rather than try to regain them in the years ahead! Good luck.

    11. BRR*

      I might have missed it but I can’t tell how much involvement you want with your mother and if the holidays is an isolated issue or if these actions are constant.

      Most couples decide on a plan for the holidays. For me and my husband it’s always Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with his. I don’t celebrate Christmas but Thanksgiving is a big gathering so it works out nicely. His two siblings alternate with their significant others so one year Christmas at the guy’s family the next at the girl’s.

      I think once you have a decision made it might be easier. Same with your wedding. Things like “We are serving this.” Any push back can be responded with “the decision has already been made” or one I used A LOT “This is a very stressful time for me and I appreciate your advice and it’s been very helpful as I did *previous thing* but after you bring something up once can you please let it go so as to not contribute more stress.”

    12. Puddin*

      I think a good approach is to explain that you want to spend time with her and with finance’s family and the best way this will happen is X. If she cannot accommodate that, you will be disappointed, but understand that she has time constraints too and make plans for visiting another day/in another way. You have to really take charge of your mom and the event here. Your fiancé should be doing the same for his family. It is worth mentioning that if she is trying to get ALL of your family and everyone’s inlaws together at the same time/place it could very well be doomed form the start. How many people is that and how can you possible coordinate everyone’s schedule this time of year???

      Narcissistic Moms look it up, it might help. Mine has been – quite frankly – a poor human being about this sort of stuff. Hopefully yours is not to this point and is just having trouble adjusting to the new family order.

      I am sorry you have to go through this frustration during the holidays.

      1. Dan*

        My mother is that N of which you speak. When we were growing up, she never explained anything to us. The rationale for everything was “because I’m your mother and I said so.” So my explanation these days is “because I don’t want to.” I mean, the woman does not have conversations with people who disagree with her, so trying to explain my self is a waste of fresh air. It’s not like she’s ever going to be ok with someone’s reasons for disagreeing with her.

    13. JMW*

      Read The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner. It is the best book ever on changing the dance in a relationship and create boundaries. It includes lots of examples to help you understand how to do it. Changed my life!

      1. fposte*

        And if you haven’t dived into Captain Awkward, boundaries and families are a recurring theme there, so there’s lots of good advice and support.

    14. Grand Canyon Jen*

      Even if your mom does not have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), this book might be helpful:
      “Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist: How to End the Drama and Get On with Life” by Margalis Fjelstad. It was a real eye-opener for me. I also thought “Dealing with the CrazyMakers in Your Life: Setting Boundaries on Unhealthy Relationships” by David Hawkins had lots of practical suggestions. The author writes from a Christian perspective and I’m Jewish, but the book was very useful nonetheless. You’re very smart to think about how you want to react to this behavior right at the beginning of your marriage. Good luck – we’re all pulling for you!

    15. ZSD*

      Do you happen to have siblings who might also be married in the near-ish future? If so, things might get easier once there are several siblings who can set up a standard way of sharing the holidays between families. For example, my brother and I both alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas with our family and our in-laws. This year, we both were with our parents on Thanksgiving, and now we’ll both go to our in-laws’ for Christmas. Next year we’ll do the in-laws for T-Day and our family for Christmas. Could you set something up like that?
      It sounds to me like you might be trying to do Christmas with both your family and your husband’s family in the same year. It might be too late to change this for this year, but in the future, could you do one or the other? Do one family for all of Thanksgiving, and the other for all of Christmas. If your mom knows she’ll get your full attention for the whole long weekend (or whatever) for one of these holidays, maybe she’ll be more understanding about not getting to see you for the other one. That might be simpler than trying to orchestrate Christmas Eve with one family and Christmas Day with the other.

    16. Ama*

      Wow, I’m amazed to come back here and see such awesome suggestions! It’s given me a lot of food for thought and reading material. Thank you so much to everyone for sharing your thoughts and experiences!

      I’ll be sure to update in future open threads if anything noteworthy happens.

      Thanks again!

      1. Kat M*

        A bit late but my husband and I have had issues with his family regarding this. One thing that helped both of us was reading the book “Boundaries.” It is pretty heavy on Bible quotes and religious references, but I think the authors did a great job of explaining how to maintain boundaries in a loving way.

        Another thing we do is give each branch of the family one holiday where we travel to see them each year. If we are able to build in more trips, we will do that and they are, of course, welcome to come and visit us in our city. We have to constantly do this……..It can be very frustrating, especially as my own family has been nothing but accommodating, but we realize that, as long as we stand our ground and are on the same page, we’re doing what we can do.

    17. Snowball II*

      Super-late and haven’t read the comments to this, but if I didn’t know better I’d think I wrote this post myself, and here’s how my husband and I have handled it. We (me and husband) make a decision about what we’re doing, taking into account various factors that are relevant to us (whether his sibling will be in from out-of-state where she lives, whether my sibling will be off from his non-standard-hours job or not and when, etc.), and then make a decision about who we’re seeing when. We then tell the Moms when they can expect us and for how long (the moms generally both issue “come here and spend the whole day here on Christmas!” invitations, so we’re not inviting ourselves or anything by doing this), and then we do what we said we’d do. The first year there were a lot of attempts to derail/change our plans (“no, but, you could stay longer/come here earlier/maybe you don’t *really* need to go to othermom’s place”), all of which were met with “this is the plan we can do, are you with it or not? If not, we’ll see you on ::other day that isn’t Christmas day::.” The moms whined, Mom #1 tried to hold us hostage by withholding dessert, etc., but we stuck to it. We’re on year three of “this is what we’re doing and you shall live with it,” and there’s no more resistance (although my mom remains a fan of the random passive-aggressive comment designed to imply that I no longer love her, which, ummm, yeah, good job mom. That’ll definitely encourage me to spend more time with you).

    18. I.M. Bananas*

      “We’ll be married by this time next year and it’s really not a dynamic I want to deal with when we’re starting a life together.”

      Hee hee hee. Sorry. Just a knee-jerk response on my part. :D I’ve been married to my husband for almost 14 years (we’ve been a couple for 16.) I’m 40 and my husband will be 44 soon. We are even parents ourselves, with a 12 and 9 year old. , and our mothers STILL try to lecture and manipulate us like we’re children ourselves. Long before 40 I felt like an accomplished, capable adult, so…these attempts at control don’t sit well with me. At all.

      When my husband and I had our first child we moved closer to our families, within an hour from each of them…so we would pack up our stuff and the baby and alternate visiting the families EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND. Whichever grandmother was not graced with a baby visit that weekend was “so sad” and we had to hear about it. Ridiculous.

      His family is Jewish and mine are not. So, Chanukkah/Christmas wasn’t an issue…thankfully. Honestly, if his Jewish mother had tried to make a stink about Christmas with my family, I would have flipped my lid at her looong ago!

      So, my husband and I made the rule, right after having the baby and moving, that we would alternate Thanksgivings with our families. Even years with his family, odd years with mine. Baby’s first Thanksgiving was an odd year…so…we went to my parent’s house.

      We got a sad, passive-aggressive, phone call from his mother while there. “I hope you have a wonderful day. We’re SO SAD you’re not with us, but ‘we understand’.”

      “We understand.”

      LOL.

      I have so many more stories. Family dynamics are insanely stupid sometimes.

  2. Gene*

    In celebration of the Holiday Season:

    Best and worst Secret Santa/White Elephant/Yankee Gift Exchange gifts.

    Go!

    1. Gene*

      Best: a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue

      Worst: a pair of “underpants for two”

      Best misfire, party at Division Director’s house, no mention of gift exchange, and wife and i showed up without.

    2. Beezus*

      Worst gift ever – a thrift store dress with a huge lacy collar and a large bow in the rear, at least 15 years out of date, and not in a cute retro way, with a small rust stain on the skirt. Given by someone who could afford a normal gift, and it was a standard names-drawn gift exchange, gag gifts were not on the menu. I was 14 and mortified. My mother made me wear it at least twice.

    3. Dan*

      I got a pen. It came in a case. No engraving. Lame. I traded it for sme chocolates… From a girl who doesn’t eat chocolate. Go figure.

      1. Stephanie*

        I had a friend bake me a chocolate cake for a going-away party. I am allergic to chocolate…so I just watched everyone else eat the cake.

        1. StuckInTheHotel*

          This! The office manager presented me with a cake covered with nuts at my going away party. I’m highly allergic to nuts and I know she knew that. I left the room and went back to work. That was 21 years ago and it still pisses me off.

        2. Anonsie*

          My own parents did this to me once, but with a banana cake. Banana cake! It’s like they had to scour the city to find the only cake on earth that contains something that makes me sick.

    4. Stephanie*

      Best – A eggplant ornament. My friend knew I really like to cook (and also cook eggplant) and got me this cute, glittery eggplant ornament from Sur La Table.

      Worst – A necklace from Brighton Collectibles. My friend has very um, odd tastes, but I have no clue what he was thinking (even for him). It was very hippie, 60-year-old soothsayer (or Overaccesorized Grandma). I’m sure it’s someone’s style (as the store’s still in business), but it’s definitely not mine. It was a choker (those look horrible on me since I’m busty with broad shoulders) that had a thick silver band with engraving on it. The pendant was a heart with half cut out. The other half was solid with a floral cut out. The metals were a mix of silver, bronze, and gold. And it was HEAVY. Really heavy. I believe it was costume. (I really, really hope it was costume.) Anyway, I told him thanks and then donated it a few weeks later.

    5. Nina*

      Worst: a used lip balm.

      In all fairness, she was giving them away and this was when all the middle school girls were using each other’s Lip Smackers. However, I never it because I was such a germaphobe. Tried to tell my friend that I really didn’t want it, but she insisted.

    6. Felicia*

      Worst: I got a bottle of coke. I don’t even drink coke mostly. Everyone else got much nicer presents.
      Best: I got a TARDIS mug this year :)

    7. JustPickANameAlready*

      Best: a bag full of hand-stitched mousies stuffed with catnip for my feline friends.
      Worst: keychain finders that were supposed to beep when you whistle to help you find your keys. They were huge and ugly and got lost somewhere in my stuffed-full walk-in closet, then would randomly start beeping, usually in the middle of the night.

      It could have been worse though, my coworker who had been sober for 15 years received a scotch decanter.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      Best–a set of two hot cocoa mugs in a gift box, with cocoa mix. Yum. Though cheap, they were surprisingly sturdy; it took quite a few years before I had to pitch them because they were so chipped.

      Worst–a foam banana.

      I haaaaaaaate white elephant gift exchanges. I will skip a party to avoid them.

    9. SaraV*

      I really can’t think of a worst…

      Best received: an “office set” that had a mail sorter, pen/pencil holder, and a neat mini notepad all tucked into a wire wastebasket. We still use all of them. (Well, the notepad has been used up)

      Best given: My husband’s work Christmas party was mid January, and we were extremely tight financially. The day of the party, during my lunch hour, I stopped at the high end department store in town. I found a nice glass ornament that actually fit with my husband’s occupation marked down 75%, and they were selling bars of Godiva chocolate for a $1 at the register. And free gift wrapping! I think I spent less than $5. I consider myself extreeeemely lucky with that find.

    10. Cath in Canada*

      Best: it’s a tie between the word-puzzle-a-day desk calendar and the “WTF?!” post-it notes

      Worst: various horrible scented soaps / lotions over the years. I like more natural scents like my citrus scented soap or my coconut scented hand lotion, NOT sickly sweet floral concoctions that would have been too much even for my Grandma

    11. ThursdaysGeek*

      Best: a Disney Goofy watch that runs backwards. I loved that watch and when it wore out, I found another backwards watch, which I now wear. I have a hard time telling clockwise and counterclockwise now.

      Worst given: I make jam so I experimented and made zucchini jam. I wasn’t willing to try it, although I’m sure it just tasted like sugar since zucchini has no flavor. That was a gift that got stolen because someone actually wanted it!

  3. Changing the Subject*

    I wasn’t sure if this was too off-topic for Friday’s thread, so here it goes…

    I am looking to have a medical procedure done next year for which I will require a 3-4 day recovery at most. Ideally, I would have it done on a Tuesday or Wednesday and take the rest of the week off work. It will probably not be until the summer, which squares well with our schedule, since we’re generally less busy in the summer.

    Now, here’s the issue: Due to the nature of the procedure, and my extremely private tendencies, I want as few people as possible to know what the procedure is. I don’t want my employer or coworkers to know I even had anything done. (No, it’s not plastic surgery, it will not be visible when I return to work.)

    We have separate vacation and sick leave buckets. I have 10 days’ vacation and 5 days’ sick leave. We can book the sick leave ahead of time in our system, but we are required to provide medical documentation. I don’t want to provide medical documentation due to the nature of the procedure.

    So, my plan is have the procedure done on vacation time, where I don’t have to provide a reason or any documentation, since my employer doesn’t care what I’m doing.

    However, my coworkers will usually ask casual and totally innocuous questions such as, “Ooh, got plans?” and “Where are you going?” etc. if they figure out I’m off for a few days. If I act shifty or don’t provide information, that’s when they get too curious. Like if I said “It’s for a personal issue”, they wouldn’t leave me alone. I’m thinking of telling them I’m traveling to Nearby City to see some friends. The city is about a 3 hour drive away, so the story should hold.

    Do you think this is reasonable or should I just get over it and reveal my private medical information to my employer?

    Thanks, as always, for your advice. This readership is the best there is, I swear. Thank you.

    1. Beezus*

      If you’re not comfortable sharing, don’t share! A white lie for something like this is fine. I also think it would be perfectly ok to say you’re having a minor medical procedure done and will need a few days’ recovery, and if anyone asks questions, smile and say you’d prefer not to discuss it.

      I would also develop the habit of taking off a day or two here and there without sharing details on how you’re spending the time, if you’re private about your personal life. That way it’s your norm and they won’t think anything of it.

    2. Natalie*

      Staycation for sure. If your recovery will allow it, check out that museum/botanical garden/weird street performer you keep meaning to see, and then you have one thing to gush about when your coworkers ask. If not, just go with Netflix binge and alphabetizing your spicerack. No one’s going to care enough about that to pry.

    3. fposte*

      I get the privacy thing, but would you be willing to find a halfway solution that isn’t outright lying to people? There’s a risk of backfire there and you may end up doing sitcom type embroidery on the lie. I think in general if you’re working with the nosy it’s good to improve your stonewalling technique–let them ask, you don’t have to answer beyond a pleasant smile and “It’s just time to take some days off. What do you think I should binge watch?”

      Though ultimately I’d probably just take the medical leave. In most organizations, the people seeing the paperwork will have seen so much medical info about delicate areas that it’s humdrum and should be discreet about it (a firm “My privacy is important to me–I can trust this information stays confidential, right?” might not hurt). That shouldn’t mean you have to tell co-workers, and if you’re in a workplace where you have to tell somebody awkward or somebody with a big mouth I can understand skipping it. But I’m currently in the fourth week of a planned two-week medical leave, so I lean strongly toward keeping officialdom in the loop for your own protection.

      1. fposte*

        Ah, I like people’s staycation idea–that way you don’t have to make stuff up, you just omit the medical part.

      2. Changing the Subject*

        Sorry to hear that — I hope you are doing OK!

        3-4 days is pretty much the bad-case-scenario recovery, but not the worst-case. I think I might book my entire 2 weeks’ vacation just to be safe, and then if I feel fine, I’ll unbook it and go in anyway (this is totally fine at my workplace — people book and cancel trips often enough, and it’s considered OK to book vacation time and then go in anyway and cancel it).

        I think I will just say “No big plans — just time for some R&R.” I’ve taken staycations before (e.g. this year I took some days off before the 4th of July) and that answer seemed to go over just fine. The others’ advice is great and you are right, if I make up a trip and someone sees me or something it could be a problem. It’s not a situation where I must lie, so I should avoid it.

        The other thing is, my manager in particular has shown extraordinary discretion. I could go to him and say “Hey, while I’m taking vacation time, it’s actually for a minor medical procedure” and discuss the off chance that I’ll need more vacation time so at least he is in the loop. If I burn through the entire 2 weeks’ vacation, then I can still provide medical documentation and go on sick leave or FMLA. That option is not ruled out just because I started with vacation. I think this might be the best option — keep my trustworthy manager in the loop, and everyone else out of it.

        1. jordanjay29*

          If you have a trustworthy manager, is there a reason you’re opting for vacation time instead of medical leave? Why would you need to tell your coworkers you’re going out on medical leave? Just tell them you’ll be out and let them assume it’s vacation.

          1. Changing the Subject*

            Well, we have to put all vacation and medical leave through our managers but also HR/payroll. The manager approves it, but HR/payroll also knows about it. If it’s medical leave / sick leave, the documentation goes only to HR and not manager — precisely so that our immediate managers don’t know what our medical issues are. Ironically, my manager is fine, it’s HR that I don’t trust! They’ve put out false rumors about other people, e.g. regarding people’s citizenship (that they are not US citizens when in reality they are (we are in the US)). So I’m not going to put medical documentation through them unless I burn through the 2 weeks’ vacation, which is unlikely.

            I realize I’ve explained this in a confusing manner…my apologies for that.

            1. jordanjay29*

              Ooooh, HR is the problem. Shucks, that’s rotten. I wish you had a better recourse. I mean, I’m not sure what HR could really do with the knowledge that you’re having a generic medical procedure (you should really use HIPAA protections to your greatest extent here), but I can see why you wouldn’t want to take the chance.

              Best of luck.

            2. misspiggy*

              Wow, that makes me appreciate UK data protection laws for the first time. How did your company not get sued for that?

            3. Observer*

              Your HR people are nuts. I’m surprised that whoever pulled that got away with it – it’s the kind of that could really get the company in trouble.

            4. Bea W*

              Ugh. I understand that. Worked in a place where HR and/or the Queen Biatch of Finance (who oversaw payroll) leaked sensitive information to the owner’s EA who was a huge gossip.

            5. LaurenR*

              I’ve seen doctor’s offices willing to give an excuse indicating that you need to be out for a procedure for x number of days without including a diagnosis or description of the procedure. Any chance your doc is willing to write up one of those? Then if anyone asks you can say you’re out for medical reasons and give no more information? That way you don’t need to blow through all your vacation time for procedure recovery because, let’s be honest, recovering is not a vacation for the most part.

              1. Agile Phalanges*

                Yes, this. The doctor (or other medical provider) doesn’t need to LIE, but just be non-specific. “Changing the Subject will be undergoing a medical procedure on June 1 that requires three additional days of recovery time. Please excuse Changing from work through June 4th.” No specifics, doesn’t even say whether it’s diagnostic, surgical, medical, or anything. Just that you have a legitimate need to miss four days of work.

            6. Elizabeth West*

              Ugh, what the hell kind of HR do you have?! How unprofessional. In that case, I’d just do it on vacation and then if people ask, say “I’m going to relax and do nothing. Yeaaah!” Technically, it’s not a lie, since you will be resting. :)

            7. Mephyle*

              It makes me want to suggest that you could drop veiled hints to HR that you need time off to sort out your immigration status (with strict instructions not to tell anyone). It could work if you fit people’s stereotype of born-in-America. Well, I’m just floating a karmic fantasy. Not suggesting it seriously.

      3. Alma*

        I agree with fposte. “I am sure you will respect my Health Care Privacy rights…” is a strong statement.

        The medical leave will be more flexible should something cause your stay to be longer than outpatient. It would also be important if you are using your job’s insurance coverage.

        The week after my gall bladder was removed was the week I was in bed gripping the pain pills. After another minor procedure, I got bronchitis from the intubation, and was coughing so fiercely I was afraid I was going to bust the stitches. Ya never know!

        1. Changing the Subject*

          I should not have used the term “medical leave” since we don’t actually have medical leave beyond 5 paid sick days and unpaid FMLA.

          I don’t *know*, but there are probabilities. If there is a 10% chance I’ll need more than 14 days to recover, I’m not willing to provide the documentation to HR unless that 10% chance transpires. Realistically, the chance that I’ll need more than 14 days to recover is less than 1%.

          Plus, I only have 5 sick days, so if the recovery took seven times longer than normal (21 days instead of 3), I’d still have to use vacation time in order to get paid.

          I think if I keep posting here I’m going to go into asshole mode and get myself IP-banned, so I should probably stop posting now. Thanks everyone.

    4. jordanjay29*

      Any chance you can talk to someone higher up and not in any way part of your daily work life? Like someone in HR or the boss’s boss’s boss? At that point, someone who barely knows your name, much less cares about why you’re out on medical leave, should keep your information protected enough (and HR definitely should, you can bet they see more information than they could ever gossip about).

      If that’s not an option, you might consider asking your medical provider for a very generic letter for documentation purposes. Saying nothing more than that you’re going to have a minor surgery and will be waylaid for 3-4 days. If you’re in the US, this is sufficient for any employer due to HIPAA regulations, they can’t legally ask about anything specific. If you’re outside the US, and your employer isn’t satisfied, have the medical provider include their phone number and let your employer call them to satisfy their curiosity. Outside the US, Doctor-Patient privilege should prevent any medical provider worth their snuff (and who want to keep practicing) from divulging anything confidential, they would likely just confirm what’s on the letter (“Yes, Ms./Mr. Changing The Subject will be treated at our facility on X date. We expect recovery to be a few days, s/he shouldn’t be working during this time.”).

      I agree with fposte here that you want to provide SOMEONE with SOMETHING related to your medical leave. You don’t want to use vacation days for this, that’s an injustice to you. Your modesty will not suffer too much, and you’ll enjoy the 10 vacation days.

      Besides, anywhere that is going to maliciously use your medical leave against you, or gossip about any such condition, is not a place you want to be working.

      1. Changing the Subject*

        Yes, I want to use my vacation days for this. I’m not sure what you mean by “injustice”, but I don’t feel like I’m being wronged by using my vacation time to do something I’ve wanted to do for years. TBH, I don’t really “enjoy” my vacation — I mostly just sleep like 14-15 hours a day. So I’m fine using vacation to have a medical procedure, after which I’ll be sleeping plenty, anyway. I didn’t even ask for vacation time when negotiating, I’m not really a vacation kind of person.

        I appreciate your concern, but I am fine working at my current job. One thing I see a lot on this blog, that I don’t really get, is the whole “If your employer does X, do you really want to be working for them?” Why yes, I do. I don’t mean to be rude or offensive, I just can’t relate to the mindset that I should find another job because of occasional non-ideal behavior. (I am very fortunate to be healthy enough that medical issues are a rare occasion.)

        Anyway, I think I’ve settled on what to do — so thank you for your help!

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just a reminder to please keep this thread non-work-focused (it was specifically created for that reason and I’ve found if I’m not vigilant about that, its nature changes). Thank you!

      1. Changing the Subject*

        That’s what I was concerned about…but I thought it was too non-work-focused for Friday’s (since it’s medical related). I’m sorry Alison!

    6. Student*

      Usually, you don’t need to document the actual procedure to take sick leave. You need a note from a doctor that says, “Changing is undergoing a medical procedure that will require 4 days of leave time.” Or, sometimes it just says, “Changing requires 4 days of medical recovery time.” I’d encourage you to talk to your doctor here.

      The, come up with a nice white lie and tell it when asked. If you use the sick leave after all, then make one up that will plausibly require the same amount of time. Tell them you’re having your wisdom teeth pulled. Tell them you’re undergoing a sleep study. Tell them you’ve been having some back pain and you’re getting some stuff done for it. Dissemble if asked for details: “I don’t understand the medical mumbo-jumbo, but the doctor said it’d probably help, and that I needed to take it easy for a few days afterwards.”

      If you use vacation time, just tell them you’re visiting some distant relatives – the boring, obligatory kind of visit. Visiting a sick aunt or grandmother. Niece’s wedding. Second cousin’s baby shower. In-law’s retirement party. Make up some minor comment for your return, and then deflect with a question about your co-worker. “Oh, In-Law’s retirement party was pretty much exactly what you’d expect. The old codger seemed to enjoy himself, though. Anything interesting happen around here while I was out?”

      1. INTP*

        PBI – Sometimes having to provide a doctor’s note at all, no matter how vague, violates privacy by the very nature of the doctor’s specialty. I’m not sure if that’s the case here, and I’m not trying to be argumentative with you. It’s just a soapbox I get on because a lot of people don’t realize how the vaguest doctor’s note can reveal information a person doesn’t want to share. (For ex., your nosy boss is annoyed by your vagueness, googles your doctor’s name, and finds out that it’s a psychiatrist, oncologist, etc.)

    7. De (Germany)*

      I am in a country where I need doctor’s notes for medical leave and those never have any information on what you have on them. Just that you need to be away from work from day X to Y. Would that work?

    8. INTP*

      A staycation – “I’m just going to stay on the couch and watch netflix!” – is a good excuse if your workplace and coworkers can be trusted to leave you alone and not try to call you or even get you to come in for an “emergency” knowing that you won’t be “busy.” It protects you from consequences more than other lies if you’re found out in that you can point out that you really WERE staying at home, watching netflix on the couch, you just left out the medical procedure because you found the particular type somewhat embarrassing.

      If your coworkers can’t be trusted to leave you alone for a staycation, then lying is fine as long as you have the basic knowledge to answer basic questions. I.E. check what the weather was, choose a city you’ve already been to before so you can make up things you did, double check if there were any major events in town, etc.

      Some people might think lying is OTT for this sort of thing. I worked in the nosiest office ever (I literally told my boss “I’m having surgery to add drainage holes to my maxillary sinuses” and she wanted to know where in the sinus cavity the holes would be and what they were using to drill them), so I get it – sometimes people need to be placated with details and it’s easier to lie than nobly sacrifice your sanity and peace to defend your right to be vague.

    9. HR Manager*

      Doctor’s notes can be discreet. If it’s required for your leave/sick time policy, you can ask your doctor to write something general (i.e., needs to be off for x days to recover from a medical procedure). When I needed to be off work for shingles, my doctor didn’t put that right on the note either. Just a note saying I advise xx day off from work to rest and recover.

      Most of my managers are good at not digging into why. They just accept this and move forward. I would also let nosy coworkers know that you just need some time at home and let that be.

  4. Is This Legal*

    At what point did you decide to divorce, and what was the main reason? What was it that you said, I can’t deal with this anymore? Just curious…

    1. Windchime*

      I think I’ve posted this before, but I knew when I realized that I was looking for a place to drive my car off the road and into the river, so that it would look like an accident. If I was actually thinking that was a reasonable alternative to staying married, it was time for it to be over.

      That was years and years ago, but I still remember when the realization hit me.

      1. Not for this one*

        I was never married, but I had a similar realization in a long term domestic partner relationship. Partner wasn’t home when they were supposed to be and I tend to worry so I was thinking maybe they had gone off a bridge or something. And suddenly I thought “that would make things a lot easier.” Horrible sounding, but at the time I couldn’t envision ending things an yet didn’t want them to continue.

        For whatever it’s worth, we split amicably and are still really close friends. My brief “could you just die, accidentally?” moment didn’t change the fact that I cared for them. And we’re both much happier with our lives now.

        1. Cristina in England*

          “My brief “could you just die, accidentally?” moment didn’t change the fact that I cared for them.”
          YES. I thought I was alone in that.

          1. Windchime*

            Make that 4. According to the therapist I had at the time, this is a really common fantasy that people have when they are divorcing or contemplating divorce. It doesn’t mean that you really want the other person to be dead, it’s just an indication that you really want the relationship to be over and that’s one way it could happen without anyone really having to purposefully end it.

    2. Cristina in England*

      When I realized that I didn’t want to have children with him, even though I always wanted children. I realized I was creating obstacles, like “we will have kids after I get my masters” and then when that was finished, another “after”. I realized that although we got along on a day to day, superficial level, we wanted completely different lives, and had different values. I realized I had been shrinking in order to fit in with him and my inlaws and their idea of a good life. I realized that when we met I was working in a customer-heavy job and when I got home I wanted to relax quietly, but then as I was doing my masters I was home all the time, and I wanted someone to talk to–we did not have stimulating conversation. We had a superficially perfect life but I was so unhappy and lonely and lost.
      I am so so sorry you’re having to ask this question. Even though I made the choice to leave and I was so unhappy in the marriage, getting divorced was the hardest thing I have done, and I felt real grief for the life I left.

      1. StillHealing*

        Mine is the same. I divorced first husband when I realized I did not want to have children with him. He was emotionally unavailable frequently and spent a lot of time with outdoor recreation. It was mostly his time though we did mountain bike, cross country ski and hike together. Bringing children into ‘his time” would encroach to much. He didn’t have a patience or safety mindedness to introduce children to outdoor recreation.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        My first serious relationship wasn’t a marriage, but we lived together for a couple of years and it felt like a divorce when I ended it. The impetus came really soon after he proposed to me and I accepted. Being engaged made me take a much more serious look at whether I wanted to spend my life with him, and sadly the answer was no. The main deal-breaker was that I did not want to have children with him. He claimed –in all seriousness — that he wanted a boy just like Bart Simpson. No. Just no.

    3. Kimmy*

      When the thought of having a son just like him caused a non-mistakable “oh heck no” gut reaction. Also, the day I realized that I cried in the bathtub at least twice a week, instinctively slept turned away from him, and knew that if I won the lottery I’d be outta there.

    4. Dan*

      For me it was more lke a straw that broke the camel’s back ind of thing. But i guess I could say that i truly knew it was when we were fighting and she wanted to get a hotel for the weekend. Instead of missing her, I was happy she was gone. I hadn’t felt that happy in probably a year or so, and I was going to do whatever it took to hold onto that. If our marriage was over, then so be it.

      We separated six weeks later. I don’t look back.

      1. Dan*

        I will say that the day it ended, I didn’t expect it to be that specific day. No withstanding that it was a Saturday, and I had already been to see a divorce lawyer earlier in the afternoon to see what I was up for. And boom, it happened. Just like that.

        Separation day has got to be the weirdest day ever. You’ve certainly been thinking about it, you may have talked about it, but the day it actually happens. You’re like “oh shit. This is how it goes down?”

        1. The Maple Teacup*

          For me, that day was when my husband turned to me and said “I want a divorce.” He never deviated from that path. The reason was he didn’t love me anymore. It was a one sided process.

              1. jamlady*

                I’m sorry for this. I may be making a lot of assumptions here because I have no idea what was happening in either of your lives, but it sounds like he wasn’t a strong enough partner. Marriage is hard and carrying it all by yourself is heartbreaking. I hope things have been better for you.

          1. Bea W*

            My mother did that to my dad. I don’t think he ever truly got over it. He’s not exactly great in the relationship department himself, but I still feel bad for him. He didn’t see it coming and didn’t get a choice in the matter.

            1. The Maple Teacup*

              Ouch. Poor Dad. :(

              I realized my marriage was truly dead when I got a flat tire and needed a tow truck. Turns out the Ex was the primary holder of the policy, and canceled mine without warning. I had to buy membership on the spot. Or it could have been when I was removed from the medical insurance and got stuck with an unexpected bill. No wait, it was when I got the official divorce papers served to me without warning. It had been promised that I would be notified the day the papers would show up. Nope! I open the door expecting a kid selling Girl Guide Cookies and got legal papers. Those were moments of “I don’t want to deal with this/you any more. Good riddance!” It’s actually more humorous now than it sounds.

            2. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Not to make light of it, but I can top that. My mother packed up her things while my father was out of the house and moved without telling him. (She had already leased an apartment, which I knew about, but I didn’t know that she wasn’t planning on telling him at all before moving out.) Then when she got her stuff to her new place that day, she called me and told me that she found the note she had written to him in her stuff, could I call my father and let him know?

              I felt bad for my dad, but they were so miserable together that I had been hoping that they would split up since childhood. It did them both a lot of good, they were stuck in such unhealthy patterns and there was no breaking them while they were together.

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                Wow about the moving and not telling. That’s how my grandma moved back to Arkansas from California in the fifties. She had been telling and telling my grandpa that she wanted to move back, but he didn’t want to. Well, one day while he was at work, she packed up the whole house onto the truck. When he got home from work, she told him, “The kids and I are moving back to Arkansas; are you coming or not?” So he got in the truck with her and they moved back to Arkansas.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I’m widowed, not divorced. So this may not count. But I feel very strongly that life can be exceedingly difficult and if you cannot talk to each other, then you have nothing. We buried 3 out of 4 parents together, cleaned out their houses together and did our own life things concurrently. We both felt we were in the marriage for the long haul but there were lots of days that were hugely challenging.

      The outside forces, alone, that tug on a marriage are innumerable. If you have forces inside the relationship that are tugging on the relationship, it’s a major big deal.

      You have to have some sense of “team”. We did not always agree with each other, but we did agree to help each other, anyway, in spite of disagreeing over particulars. This goes back to, you have to be able to talk with each other.

    6. Stacy*

      I knew things were seriously not good when, like someone else said, I knew that if I won the lottery I would leave.

      I knew things needed to be done immediately when I found bruises on my body after an argument & my spouse’s only reaction was “I never touched you” and to be angry at me for speaking up about it & bringing it to the attention of others. I believe my exact words were simply “We’re done here.” Because what else is left to say at that point then?

    7. Is This Legal*

      I know a couple who divorced after 30 years of marriage and I was thinking after that long you might as well stay. You’ve been cheated on, lied to and all the bad stuff, how low could it go? I guess from reading this there comes a point when you just can’t take it anymore.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I know a couple that divorced after 50 years. I guess I would describe it as an awakening. It was no one thing in particular, it was 50 years of “things”.

        1. fposte*

          I think it was Thirtysomething that had a great bit about somebody’s sixty-seventy-year old mother divorcing, saying that it was about her deciding that it wasn’t too late for her to have the life she wanted to have. I think of that now when I hear about people divorcing after many years together or late in life–that it could be about somebody taking courage and valuing their future at that age, same as any other.

    8. Carrie in Scotland*

      Never married but with my last partner, whom I was with for 2.5 years and lived together it was when he fell into the Christmas tree drunk in front of my brother who was here for Christmas…I knew I couldn’t keep being with him. That, and the fact that he never wanted to go anywhere and any time we did, we’d just stick to the same places.

    9. GOG11*

      When I found out about woman #6 or something. And that the relationship had occurred prior to our engagement even. At that point I knew it was completely about him and nothing about me or our marriage could change his compulsive behavior.

    10. NacSacJack*

      It took a while. It was my second long-term relationship but it was when he was on a staycation and would not walk the dogs, cook, clean or even leave the house the entire 7 days. Then he lost his job and it went downhill from there.

  5. fposte*

    Finally, week four after surgery things have started turning around. Incrementally slowly, with lots of backsliding, but they are actually better. Thanks for the kind words during my downturn, and a hat-tip to Katie the Fed for reminding me to walk. Still can’t make it farther than the end of the block, but it does help.

    1. Nina*

      I’m glad things are starting to improve for you. Recovery is painful, but at least it’s happening. :)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Don’t answer here, if you don’t want to but do you have someone walking with you or are you doing these walks alone?
      I kind of see you as one of these determined, self-sufficient types that sort of powers through things. When I read this I thought- I bet she is walking by herself. If this is the case, please consider taking someone with you. Family members who have walked with someone have made out better than if they walked alone- just an observation, may or may not have merit.

      1. fposte*

        You’re not wrong in the characterization, but as a rule-follower I am a very compliant patient, and I’m out there taking my little walk several times a day, regardless of weather. (They’re also not concerned with distance right now.) The advantage of going by myself is that I can pick time and turnaround exactly to suit my needs and use windows of opportunity. But I will in future enjoy thinking of you, kind NSNR, as I forge ahead, and that will be like walking in company.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, good thought. Right now I’m just walking in front of two neighbor’s houses, and they’d come and prop me up if I tipped over, but hopefully I’ll make it farther soon.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Ahh, the power of positive thoughts. I have been working with affirmations lately, myself. I highly recommend this to anyone facing a short term challenge– and not just physical challenges, either.
          So, perfect, take all your positive thoughts out for a stroll.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Aww good I’m glad you’re doing a bit better. And yeah, the walking is hard but it helps a lot. I found out I couldn’t walk my dog though when my back was out – any sudden movements from her and I was doubled over. Oy. Back problems are the absolute worse.

      Also, tell the truth: was “backsliding” an intentional pun? :)

    4. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Glad to hear things are getting better for you. Lots of positive thoughts and vibes have been sent your way.

    5. danr*

      Good news… but be prepared for the next plateau. And do walk. I remember the feeling when I made it down our driveway without stopping. (our driveway is about 200 feet long). Yesterday we stacked our firewood delivery and I took breaks to sit every half hour or so. Actually made the work go faster.

  6. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    WE GOT A NEW KITTEN OMG OMG OMG.

    We just moved into our own home a few months ago so were never able to have pets before then. So we decided our Christmas present to ourselves was going to be a kitten.

    She is a BEAUTIFUL grey and black tabby, 8 weeks old, we’ve named her Jean for Jean Batten because she is super-adventurous. She is so ridiculously adorable and I am just delighted by everything she does. She is my absolute favourite thing <3

    1. Kimmy*

      Congrats!! Kittens are the best! I write down all the sweet and funny things my four-legged babies do and it is so fun to read when they’re older :)

    2. skyline*

      Kitten! Congrats to all!

      Kittenhood is such a brief and wonderful time that all I can say is treasure it and find some way to capture it. My girls are now sleek adult ladycats, and I love them as they are, but I’m glad I have pics and video of their first weeks with me. They were so playful, and uncoordinated, and hilarious.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        A few weeks back I rediscovered a video I had taken of our younger cat when he was ~8 weeks old – I nearly got up and drove to the humane society for a fresh kitten. LOL

      1. Non-profit Anon*

        We bought a new kitten this Christmas as well. She is a three-month-old calico. Currently she is hiding upstairs in our room. We are hoping to keep it a secret until Christmas morning from our two girls. At the adoption shelter they recommended a week quarantine from our other cat, so we are hopingthat will be finished and she will be acclimated to our home by Christmas morning.

        It’s so fun and so hard to keep this beautiful secret from our little girls. but I know they will freak out and be so excited whenever they find out!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Advice learned the hard way: Let your older cat smell things that smell like the kitten during this week (blanket she’s laid on or whatever). If the older cat gets used to her smell before they meet, it will make for a shorter adjustment period!

          1. LisaS*

            A charming thought, but one to which my ten year old calico would issue a disgusted, “Feh!”

            Seriously, I brought a yard kitten into the house 7 years ago, and despite a warmup period extending several months (he had a variety of health issues) she *still* hates him and attacks him on a regular, if random, basis. He’s bigger than she is, though, so I’ve told him he’s on his own…

        2. TAD*

          I actually alternate cats between rooms so that they can get used to each other’s scent before they ever meet each other. It has worked pretty well. I do the same sort of thing with dogs. I do rescue and always have new fosters coming and going so I’m really structured in integrating new dogs into the household.

    3. Monodon monoceros*

      I’m jealous. I love my 15 year old kitty, but I adopted her when she was 10, and before that I had 2 older cats that passed away. So it’s been a long time without a kitten! I volunteer for an animal welfare organisation and I’m really hoping to foster some kittens soon to get a little bit of kitten time.

    4. Windchime*

      There is nothing more fun than a kitten! My cat is now a beautiful, grown-up two year old, but I have videos of his first Christmas where he is shakily climbing the Christmas tree and knocking off ornaments. He is so tiny and cute! Enjoy this time; she will be a big girl soon.

      I love kittens so much. :)

    5. HR Manager*

      Dang I want pictures. I miss having a tiny furball in the house, even though my two 16 lb boys are still cute and cuddly. *sigh* I was just thinking how they used to fit in my hands. Now one of their heads fills up my palms. Congratulations and enjoy – they grow up so fast!

  7. Windchime*

    I’m watching a new episode of “90 Day Fiance” and, like every other episode I watch, it makes me really miss TWoP (Television Without Pity).

    1. fposte*

      Reading the archives has been one of my recuperation amusements. I particularly miss it after Project Runway episodes, since it’s the main show I still watch that I would Rush to read the recaps for.

    2. RFWL*

      Everyone moved over to previously.tv when TWOP was closed. Have you tried over there? Its like they distilled the best TwOP posters to that forum.

      1. Al Lo*

        I like previously.tv, but I really miss the long-form recaps. It’s just not the same with all the different shorter formats.

      2. Windchime*

        I haven’t tried over there–thanks for the tip. I just want to talk about the train wreck that is Danielle and Mohammed with somebody who will understand . :)

    3. AmyNYC*

      Check out the MonkeySee the Npr clutter blogger,I’m think their lead blogger used to work at TVoP. Also they have a podcast with a bunch or NPR culture and arts people called “Pop Culture Happy Hour” which I LOVE

    4. Sunflower*

      I am just catching up on 90 day fiance. Mohamed and Danielle are so bizarre and awkward I almost wish they had their own show. Cassia and Jason- have you ever seen someone who hate her fiance more than she hates him? same with Daya and Brett. Not sure who is more vicious between those 2 ladies. I laughed every episode Daya thought the ring was fake- no honey, if the ring was fake, it wouldn’t have a giant flaw in it. It is nice to see some couples who did not meet online/have spent more than a couple weeks together before getting engaged. I’m hoping the pop star and his fiancee can work it out though!

  8. jordanjay29*

    So I’m moving out at the end of December. This is the weekend after finals (I’m done with school!) and my dad volunteered to drive up tomorrow to help me bring some of my stuff down. Whatever will fit between our two crossovers.

    Problem is, my apartment is hot. Too hot. The radiators are going full blast, despite the fact that it’s been hovering around 30 F here for the last few weeks. I’ve shut off all but two radiators, and the biggest of those two I’ve tried (and failed) to shut off. I have all the windows open that I’m comfortable (which is all but the two that open onto the fire escape). I’m just about to jump in a cold shower except that would steal away precious awake time that I want to use for packing.

    On the bright side, I’ve got half my electronics packed away. Those are the key things I want to take back with me this weekend, aside from a chair and some clothes. The rest can wait until after Christmas, but it sure is going to be interesting try to get it all out of here. When I moved in I had a small pickup truck that I could use to haul a lot of the furniture pieces, but now I have a small(er) crossover that I doubt I’ll be able to fit half the amount of stuff. I’m considering renting a moving service, since none of my friends are up here anymore (either graduated and moved away or on break until mid-Jan) and I don’t think I can convince my parents to run up the three flights of stairs between my apartment and the street again and again and again.

    1. Jeanne*

      I think moving services can be worth every penny. They save your back, they save your family relationships, they save time. Do all the packing yourself though. It’s a lot to pay them to put stuff in boxes.

    2. Stephanie*

      If you’ve got the cash, I’d hire movers. I used some for a move and they were worth every penny (including the additional $95 they charged for moving in and out of third-floor rooms with no elevator access). I also knew plying friends with beer and pizza wasn’t going to work.

      If you don’t have enough room in your car, you could rent a U-Haul cargo van. (Is this a local move?)

      1. jordanjay29*

        In-state, yes. It’s about 3 hours by car. The U-Haul would be great, except I need people at both ends to help pack and unpack it. I don’t have those.

        1. Puddin*

          Check out Craigslist – with the normal caveats – for people who will help load and unload the UHaul. There are handy people and even franchised mover services that do this sort of thing (at least in mid market or bigger cities). Would not hurt to call your local moving company to see if they offer this service too. Also keep in mind a UHaul is a pain the arse to drive. It will probably add an hour to the total drive time, in my experience anyway. But it will save tons of money by not having the movers drive in their van. And def pack yourself, this will save big bucks. Oh and if you need boxes freecycle can help with that too.

        2. Stephanie*

          You’re moving for a new job, right? If it’s at a big enough company, try asking for your company’s EAP or relocation services. Even if you’re not getting relocation provided, they should be able to provide the name of reputable movers they’ve worked with before. My dad’s friend did this when she self-relocated out here.

        1. Stephanie*

          I think because at that point, we were all working professionals and most of us could afford a decent dinner (so free dinner wasn’t much of an incentive). I also didn’t think a cheap meal was enough for what would have been a full day of work (and I lived in a third-floor room at the top of a super narrow staircase).

            1. jordanjay29*

              HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

              Okay, so I’m actually packing. No troll dolls (LOL! I remember those, and painfully I might add). And I would probably offer up the remainder of my liquor supply, which is about 2 half bottles of red wine, some rum, amaretto and Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Also, I cleared out the majority of my books (no, I didn’t move in every book I owned, but it’s surprising how many “bedtime reading” and textbooks one accumulates over the college years) and movies a while back.

              But yes, that sentiment applies. Thanks for the late-night humor.

            2. doreen*

              OMG, I got stuck helping my sister-in-law move a few months ago- and it was just like that except we didn’t even get beer and pizza and I don’t think she lifted a single box herself. She was too busy nitpicking about how we were doing things. At her age (47), you really ought to hire movers instead of asking your fifty-ish friends and relatives to help.

              1. Clerica*

                The three times my cousin and I helped my mother move, we “helped” in the sense that we did all the, you know, moving while she’d spend three hours at a stretch packing boxes of Celestial Seasonings alphabetically or whatever. We figured out pretty quickly that her doing that was better than her “helping” us by dogging our footsteps while we hefted furniture and complaining if anything so much as grazed the edge of anything else.

              1. Clerica*

                This was what pushed me to go digital even though I used to view hard copies almost like travel souvenirs. Each one held a memory. But when you move at least once a year on average, and when there are a good six boxes full of books of the “from my cold, dead hands” collection…yeah, the rest had to go.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  I don’t move very often, but I’d like to; I hate where I am. I need to purge. I did give away eight boxes of books to the library sale a couple of years ago. It’s probably time to do that again.

          1. Dan*

            I haven’t had to move in several years… Assumimg my next move is criss cross town, I’m just going to pay $500 and suck it up. There are people who advertise for like $75/hr with a free truck and I really don’t have that much crap. Uhaul is still going to cost half that.

            1. Christy*

              Dude, uhaul in-town moves are really not that expensive, even in our area. Everyone has this impression and it’s just not true. You have to pick up and drop off to the same location for it to be cheap, but if you do, it’s pretty cheap.

              I’m not saying that it’s worth the cost savings, not at all, but there is definitely a substantial cost savings.

        2. jordanjay29*

          I can’t afford it, and even if I could, no one is in town that I trust. If it’s beer and pizza, I have to pay for it. If it’s a moving service, I think I can get my parents to foot the bill (on the logic that it won’t be them doing the moving).

      2. Seal*

        +1000 to this. After having friends and family help me with every move since I went off to college, I hired movers for my last 2 moves and it was a revelation. Worth every penny!

        1. StuckInTheHotel*

          I have moved 11 times in 22+ years. Hire packers and movers if you can afford it. Watch them like hawks. Supply coffee (and maybe doughnuts) in the morning, water bottles all day and a tray of subs for lunch. Fed packers/movers are happy packers/movers. Only a few disasters over the years but not enough to cry about.

    3. Gene*

      Or you could install a hitch receiver on your small crossover. I’m firmly of the opinion that all vehicles should have a receiver.

      1. jordanjay29*

        When I say small crossover, I mean Nissan Juke. I’m not even sure it has the power to pull a trailer, much less the legal ability due to mirror FOV.

        1. Stephanie*

          Yeah, my last car was a manual transmission Chevy Cavalier. It struggled to get up steep hills or mountain passes. My owner’s manual pretty much said it couldn’t tow anything.

          1. jordanjay29*

            My little truck was a ’94 Mazda B4000, aka Ford Ranger. It was a Rear Wheel Drive, not 4×4 or AWD, so it was perfect (translation from sarcasm: NOT!) for the icy hills of my town. So glad I was able to get rid of that and get something better.

            1. Stephanie*

              My friend and her husband came over during the DC Snowpocalypse in 2010 (where the city shut down for like a week due to record amounts of snow). Perhaps the cabs have improved since I’ve left, but DC cabs were pretty bad back then (loose regulations, poor maintenance, etc). They call a cab to leave and I head to bed.

              Next day, they tell me the cab com and it had rear-wheel drive. Cab gets stuck in a snow bank. Driver’s solution is that he’ll step on the gas while they both get out and push. They do this, get the cab going. They said they then had to run in the snow to catch up with the cab and hop in (driver was worried he’d get stuck again if he stopped). I wish I was awake to see this (and had a camera).

              1. jordanjay29*

                Sounds like me in my old truck at any stop sign here in town. Creep up the hill and—oh no! a stop sign!— slow down as much as I can, wait for cars to go through, then speed back up. Well, try to. Spin wheels for a few minutes, sometimes slide into the curb, watch cars behind me get pissed and go past.

                RWD is lots of fun in the winter.

          2. Dan*

            Heh. When I moved from DC to LA, I packed my Chevy Malibu *full*/and it struggled going through denver. When I moved to Cincinnati, I actually had a hitch I stalled and rented a trailer. I had the car checked out before I left, told the LM what I was up to, and paid $1500 in repairs to get on the road. 4 hours outside of LA, I had problems that lasted for the rest of the trip. Cost me another $700 when I got to Cincinnati.

    4. reader*

      As the parent I vote for movers. We moved son across state a few months ago (this is 3rd major move since college graduation). Husband and I are not really physically up to this anymore. Fortunately it was only one flight of stairs at the new place and he didn’t have too much stuff. Told my husband when we got home I’ll pay for the movers next time if I have to.

    5. VintageLydia USA*

      We got lucky when we did our 4 hour away move. Our familieshelped us pack out at old location (where they live) let us borrow an E350 van which was able to pull the largest trailer Uhaul offers. We were met at the other side by a friend who’s wife just HAPPENED to live in the same apartment complex we were moving to, and they were ending their separation/getting back together at the time so he was taking to opportunity to visit her and figure out logistics with her.

      Next move (an hour away thanks to DC Metro traffic) we were depending on help from friends, both of whom bailed. I’m just glad we were moving from a high rise with an elevator and to a ground-level condo.

      We’ve only moved once since then and we rented a Uhaul and through the Uhaul website you can find movers. You have to have everything packed up (fine by me–I’m a bit neurotic with packing and I have a system that makes unpacking a relative breeze.) But it was great. All I had to do was direct where to put things. Since it was a local move and we had control of the vehicle the entire time, we didn’t have a lot of the drama others have with missing/broken stuff.

  9. Stephanie*

    Argh, I sprained (maybe broke?) my little pinkie toe. I am impatient. I can get around fine, but I miss being able to do more active things and am limited in which shoes I can wear. Heal faster, damn it!

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Ouch! Nothing much you can do for that except tape it. I hope it feels better soon.

      I think I broke mine a few years ago—I hit it on a chair hard enough to take me to the floor, and it hurt for four months after. I could still skate, though!

    2. Alice*

      I stubbed my toe a few years back, but never had it looked at. Went in a walking intensive vacation soon after. Now that toe goes numb when I’ve been hiking for a few hours..

  10. Juli G.*

    Just wanted to give an update. Last week, I posted about an extended hospital stay for my newborn/his surgery and my sister in law’s drama over wanting to visit. In the end, she didn’t visit or ask to visit again. Still mad, I guess. Baby spent until Wednesday in the nursery with a feeding tube, IVs, etc and even oxygen for the first few days and after proving he could eat and gain weight, we were released. I’m up feeding him now at home. :)

    Anyway, thank you all for the kind words. Being trapped at a hospital post partum with an unwell child is very difficult especially with another kid at home. I was also struggling because I was “missing Christmas season”. Sympathy from all of you really helped me. Thanks for being a great community!

    1. nep*

      Glad to hear the little one’s better and improving, and that you’ve been able to get back home. Best of health to you all.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      He’s home, you’re home. damn. My eyes are getting a little damp here. So glad to hear this, may you have a spectacular Christmas with your new little one.

    3. Robyn*

      I didn’t see your post last week, so glad he’s home and doing well!

      My now nearly 4 foot tall, 50 pound 5 year old spent the first 9 days of his life in SCBU here in Belfast. It was hard and I didn’t have another little one at home!

      Enjoy him! I wonder if there’s a way to post new baby smell… :D

    4. Observer*

      I’m glad to hear things are going well.

      One of my co-workers keeps a baby diaper from one her grandkids. It’s her way of reminding herself of her blessings. The baby was an itty bitty premie, and she was hugely worried for obvious reasons. Today this baby who you could almost hold in one hand is a perfectly healthy, normal, average sized school child.

      Hopefully this will be your story arc, too.

    5. Windchime*

      So happy that your little one is doing well. My first baby spent 3 days in the NICU and it was so upsetting and stressful. The last thing we would have needed was an out of town guest during all of that.

      My baby turned out fine–he is now 6’5″ and 30 years old.

      1. Alma*

        What delightful news!! I’m picturing you all “nesting” and enjoying each other. And it is allowed to state “no visitors” even family, even when you’re at home. This time is so precious!!

    6. Ann Furthermore*

      I’m so glad your little one is home! I was in the hospital while pregnant at this time 6 years ago. In an ultrasound it was discovered that my daughter’s heart was beating way too fast, so I was in the hospital while they tried to figure out the right mix of drugs to give me to regulate her heartbeat. I was released on Christmas Eve, but not until the very end of the day, after they told me I’d be discharged first thing that morning. Turned out that it was an insane day in the NICU, with something like 4 multiple births happening in the same day, and an emergency C-section for someone flown in on Flight-for-Life.

      My daughter was diagnosed with a heart defect when she was 3 days old, which was corrected with surgery when she was 2 1/2. That was incredibly stressful — I can’t imagine how nerve wracking it would have been for her to have surgery when she was just a few days old! So glad you and your little one are home. Enjoy your first Christmas together!

    7. Kyrielle*

      I missed your post last week – you have my sympathy on the ordeal (belatedly), and I’m so glad he is better and home with you now!

  11. Neruda*

    I’m the opposite of the first poster. This is my first Christmas away from my family and I’m really not looking forward to spending Christmas with my in laws. They’re just SO different to my family (we celebrate with lots of extended family, his family is tiny, no cousins, no kids etc). I’m trying to put on a brave face but to be honest I just feel so sad. His family and mine are an 8 hour drive apart so we’ve decided that Christmas eve and Christmas day will be with one family and Boxing Day with the other family. My family actually celebrates across the three days in order to accommodate our growing extended family, partners, kids etc so I’m missing Christmas eve and Christmas day with my family this year. No one will even be at his mums house on Christmas eve, she is working until 11pm. I know that they just do things differently and I have to be fair to both families but I can’t help but feel disappointed :-(

    1. Elkay*

      I congratulate you on being willing to go to your in-laws and do something different. My family is small like your in-laws and our Christmas is a mix of reading, napping, eating and board games, which I appreciate probably sounds dull to you but it’s relaxing to us. It sounds like in the future Boxing day might be better spent with your in-laws as that tends to have fewer expectations than Christmas day. Good luck!

      1. Neruda*

        Thanks for your reply. I would actually love to spend boxing day with them but I think they’ll see that as unfair. Last year we had Boxing Day with them and they actually did nothing at all on Christmas day (his sister had McDonald’s for lunch), they just waited for us to come over Boxing Day and we had Christmas then. I kind of feel like if Christmas day isn’t that important why can’t we just do that every year but I don’t actually feel like that would be a fair ask (his mum would really hate that) and also, eventually his siblings will no doubt get married and then we’ll have to try to work around more people. I guess we shall see what happens I suppose!

    2. fposte*

      I think, as Ama’s finding up thread, that first coupled/married holiday carries a lot for everybody. Can you try re conceiving it not as losing the day with your family but starting the family tradition with your husband? It might help to identify things that are just for the two of you that are part of the season, no matter whose house you’re at, so it’s not just the in-laws’ Christmas but your Christmas at the in-laws’ and your parents’.

      1. Neruda*

        Thanks fposte. I think this is the only way to approach it. Thinking about what I’m missing just makes me sad!

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        This! In particular, I’d think about what you and your husband could do together on Christmas Eve to make it special, that could turn in to a bi-annual tradition.

        1. Neruda*

          Yes, definitely. I actually asked my husband the other day if maybe we could go out for dinner or something on Christmas eve. Thanks for your suggestions!

    3. ZSD*

      It’s always hard getting used to the ways the in-laws are different from your own family. For example, in my family, setting the table properly is a big deal, whereas my in-laws just set the table all willy-nilly, never the same way twice. This should be a tiny thing, but it took me a while to adjust. More to the point, my family opens gifts one at a time. A single person opens a gift, they say thank you, everyone oohs and aahs, and then we go on to the next gift. My husband’s family opens all the gifts at once, so you don’t see what everyone else gets and you don’t watch people open what you got them. This is really weird to me, but I’ve learned to just accept it (kind of!). You’re probably seeing similar differences between your own family and your in-laws, and yes, they can drive a person crazy. I think everybody has something that makes them think their partner’s family is just BROKEN. :) But…you just get used to it.
      Good luck!

      1. Revanche*

        Hah I had the opposite learning experience: My family hands out gifts one round at a time and then everyone opens together, while my inlaws open one at a time and it kind of drives me crazy because I hate having attention focused on me like that. Even with family, as it turns out :)

  12. Schmitt*

    What is everyone cooking for Christmas? Last year I wasn’t feeling it and my SO cooked (delicious Thai) but this year I am back on track and planning:

    Christmas Eve, just the two of us, steaks with baked potatoes and green beans. My SO’s coworkers are all jealous because traditional German Christmas Eve fare is potato salad and boiled sausages.

    Christmas day, four people:
    spinach salad with bacon bits, cranberries, almonds and a raspberry vinaigrette
    roast turkey (you guys in the US would not BELIEVE how tiny you can get a turkey over here)
    mashed potatoes
    roasted red bell peppers / onions / carrots next to the turkey
    brussel sprouts sauteed in bacon fat
    no bread because “Germans don’t eat bread with meals like that” (we might have had a big fight about that *cough*)

    I might do a carrot and ginger soup instead of roasting the carrots.

    1. Elkay*

      My reply to this ended up as a post on it’s own. I’ll repeat it here anyway!

      Christmas Eve: Takeout while watching The Muppet Christmas Carol

      Christmas Day: Croissants and champagne for breakfast. Mid afternoon turkey for two with chipolatas, stuffing, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, broccoli, peas, carrots and gravy followed by sticky mincemeat pudding with chocolate sauce. We’ll probably break into the Christmas cake in the evening.

      Boxing day: Leftover meat with mashed potatoes, peas and pickles.

      1. Clerica*

        The Muppet Christmas Carol has been my favorite for something like 18 years. I really don’t like the Muppets in general, but love the heck out of that movie.

    2. Robyn*

      My in laws are hopefully going to be down, but my father in law fell while in India and fractured his collar bone about a month ago and is still in pain, so they may not come. He sees his consultant tomorrow and then we’ll know.

      But, of course, I’ve already ordered food!!

      So for, hopefully, 5 of us:

      Christmas Eve: Ham in Coke, mashed potatoes, carrots, yorkshire puddings, apple sauce

      Christmas Day: My cinnamon rolls for breakfast with gallons of coffee. 5 year old will be up early!

      Turkey
      Sausage stuffing
      Sage and onion stuffing
      Brussels sprouts
      Yorkshire Puddings
      Chipolates in bacon
      Roast potatoes
      glazed carrots and turnips
      Gravy
      Bread sauce
      Christmas Pudding
      Chocolate tart

      And then? I’ll fall over from all the cooking (my kitchen is not made for more than one person!) and have a lot of vodka!

    3. Tau*

      Ha @ traditional German Christmas Eve fare! Our family switched out the potato salad for potato gratin because my brother and I turn up our noses at potato salad, but otherwise we stick to tradition. Then meat fondue on the 25th with various homemade sauces and I think I’m baking bread to go with it.

      Although I think we’re swapping those this year – custody issues surrounding my niece (the single kid in the family) means she’s only coming on the 25th, meaning we decided to do all presents on the 25th rather than 24th as is traditional so it’s just not her, and at that point it’s easier to swap the meals as well… since I’m pretty sure the idea behind potato salad and boiled sausages is that it’s quick to make and quick to eat leaving lots of time for prepping the tree and unpacking presents!

      Also, carrot and ginger soup sounds delicious. And I don’t know who I’m supporting with this but I’m German and I also wouldn’t have bread with the meal you mention (which sounds similarly delicious!)

      1. Schmitt*

        I grew up with my mom’s traditional buttery yeast rolls with holiday meals. Soooo good. And you can use them to mop up the gravy from the plate so you get every last bit!

        1. Tau*

          This is making me really think, but I guess as a general rule of thumb I wouldn’t have bread with a hot meal, especially not alongside potatoes or any other kind of base-carbohydrate-food like pasta or rice. The exceptions are bread alongside soup (only iffy if it’s potato soup) or bread on its own as a starter in a multi-course meal, for instance at a restaurant.

          Conclusion: if you make carrot soup instead of roasted carrots you might be able to finagle the bread!

          Also, this discussion reminds me of a holiday food I forgot in my first comment: my dad and I bake bagels for breakfast on the 25th and 26th. Not traditional German but we picked up a love of bagels when we lived in the US.

    4. Greggles*

      Christmas Eve- Shrimp and Brats
      Christmas Day (wife’s birthday) Lasagna and Birthday cake (salad too)

      1. Bea W*

        As I was scrolling down to browse through what everyone was cooking, I saw “shrimp and RATS”….WHAAAT? Oh. Shrimp and *Brats*!

    5. Katie the Fed*

      We’re doing our feast on Christmas Eve. I’m roasting a leg of lamb, potatoes, and some other sides I haven’t figured out yet. We love lamb. I’ll probably give it a rub with a middle eastern-style spice blend – allspice and cumin and other good stuff. Mmm.

      1. Schmitt*

        I love lamb but my SO does not, so I’ve never been brave enough to try cooking it. Plus it’s so expensive that it would hurt if I screwed it up *g*

      2. A. D. Kay*

        The lamb sounds amazing. We live in an area of the U.S, where it’s pretty easy to get both lamb and goat and we love both. I make Lancashire hotpot with goat meat instead of lamb and it turns out great.

    6. matcha123*

      I’ll either pick up a rotisserie chicken at Costco, like I did for Thanksgiving. Or, I’ll buy a bunch of burritos at Costco and eat them with Japanese Christmas cake and maybe some Asti :9

    7. OfficePrincess*

      It’s just the two of us this year, so I’m making cocktail meatballs and …something Christmas Eve and then a ham steak, roasted broccoli, and more of the fabulous (extra buttery) stuffing we had for thanksgiving on Christmas Day. We have a freezer full of cookies and peanut butter balls I made when we thought we’d be going to visit family, so that will take care of our movie snacks (and Baileys spiked hot chocolate, of course).

    8. Carrie in Scotland*

      There are 7 of us and I’m doing something dessert-y, which is yet to be decided between chocolate yule log or frosted chocolate chip brownies.

    9. Hillary*

      Christmas Eve will be our big meal – new traditions developing as my niece gets older.

      Christmas Eve:
      Shrimp appetizer, I’ll probably bring something I can eat too
      Ham
      Cauliflower-tomato Mac and cheese
      Salad
      Pie for dessert

      Christmas Day were doing a late brunch with quiche and homemade bagels.

    10. Al Lo*

      We’re, as always, splitting the holiday between my husband’s and my families, who live about 30 minutes from each other and who like each other very much.

      Christmas Eve, we’ll go to church with my family, and then go to my husband’s grandma’s annual carol sing and family get-together.

      Christmas morning, we’ll open stockings and gifts with my family (possibly at our house; possibly at my parents’), and then head to his parents’ house in the afternoon for more gifts. My family (parents; sister, brother-in-law and nephew; and brother and his girlfriend) will join his family for dinner, which is awesome and makes our life way easier.

      Boxing Day, his aunt and uncle throw a party for one side of his extended family; the 28th, we’ll go to my aunt’s for my extended family; and the 30th, we’ll host the other side of his extended family.

      It’s nice that there’s absolutely no drama about who spends which part of the holiday with whom. It’s busy, and one of these years, it’s be nice to get away, but we also legitimately like the vast majority of our family members, extended and immediate, and we don’t see the extended family more than a few times a year. If we went away, we’d honestly miss them. Still, without kids and with a desire to still participate in the long-running family tradition, it’s a bit hard to start building our own traditions. We’re working on it!

    11. Windchime*

      Christmas Eve will be mostly appetizers and bubbly drinks. We usually have little BBQ smokies, cheese and crackers, maybe some wings, fruit and veggie tray, etc.

      Christmas Day–Not sure yet, but I think maybe ham and scalloped potatoes, green salad with candied pecans, cranberries and feta (and raspberry vinaigrette), some kind of bread. And of course Christmas treats like sugar cookies and fudge.

    12. VintageLydia USA*

      We’ll have either 6 or 7 adults and one toddler. We do our big meal on Christmas Eve, usually. I’m doing a standing rib roast, green beans, corn pudding, mashed potatoes, bread, and salad. This was cut down significantly from last year (I had 2 or 3 more sides. I could’ve fed an army, and I had a mini breakdown because of all that work. Learned my lesson!) I’m making no bake cookies and we bought a bunch of apps (mostly various types of fancish cookies and crackers and cheese.) I’m going to ask my step-dad to bring some good bourbon and his coconut pie. I can live without the pie but the bourbon will be nice ;)

      Christmas day I’m making a baked french bread casserole for breakfast and I have some bacon, sausage, etc on hand if people want something more. I’m also making ahead a quiche in case we don’t have enough leftovers to last us the rest of the day. I want to enjoy my Christmas day and not spending it in the kitchen. I have two bottles of champagne and one of sparkling cider chilling in the fridge, along with a lot of other wine (I need more whites. I have a ton of Malbec and Cab, but I know my MIL prefers whites so I should stop by the wine store on Monday.)

      I have no idea if the two year old will eat anything other than the mashed potatoes so I have some chicken poppers in the freezer just in case.

    13. salad fingers*

      Christmas eve with boyfriend’s family will be a build your own taco bar thing… I will probably contribute marinated portabello mushroom / grits and kale insides things. Thanksgiving with these guys was 5 courses of soups. I thought the meal was non-traditional because they’re Dutch and not a Thanksgiving celebrators, but a theme of thematic celebration food emerges…

      Christmas dinner will be pretty traditional with my family, I’ll bring my regular brussel sprout slaw and probably some sort of side dish.

          1. Schmitt*

            It looks great. It might even be something my SO would eat given the honey mustard dressing – but I think I’ll try it after Christmas to be sure.

    14. Elizabeth West*

      I’m alone this year because I have to work on Boxing Day (and I have no PTO to spare, though at least I’m out of the hole now). If I went to Mum’s, I’d have to drive six hours in one day and that is NOT happening.

      My go-to dinner when I’m on my own is a small ham slice with duck sauce on it (yum yum yum), probably some mashed potatoes (or I might bake a sweet potato), and a veggie of some sort. I plan to spend Christmas Day in my PJs watching holiday movies and writing (not at the same time!). :)

    15. Melly*

      I love talking about food! For Christmas Eve, my husband, daughter and I go out for sushi. Christmas morning we are hosting my small family for brunch. I’m making: lemon ricotta pancakes with sautéed apples, bacon, fruit salad, pastries and mimosas. For dinner we will go to my mother-in-law’s house for dinner and presents with all the cousins.

    16. Jen RO*

      I am going to my parents for Christmas Eve dinner, so I’ll eat whatever they serve! Usually it’s appetizers (various types of salami and ham, cheese, etc), then some sort of meat (probably roast beef this year), then sarmale (minced meat in cabbage rolls), then cozonac (traditional cake). Though I can never eat this much, so I usually skip at least one course.

    17. Claire*

      Christmas day breakfast is freshly squeezed orange juice and Christmas Morning Muffins (Nigella Lawson’s recipe), prepped on Christmas Eve and freshly baked in the morning. Plus fresh fruit, cereal and toast as desired. And a segment or two of Terry’s Chocolate Orange from our stockings (it’s traditional!).

      Christmas dinner will be potato and parsnip soup, a seafood platter (smoked salmon, prawns, crab meat, plus salad and seafood sauce), roast turkey, roast ham, roast potatoes, chipolatas, honey glazed carrots and parsnips, roasted brussel sprouts, sage and onion stuffing, gravy, bread sauce, and cranberry sauce. For dessert there will be a Yule log, a strawberry Pavlova, a tower of profiteroles and home-made vanilla ice cream.

      Boxing Day will be leftovers for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Plus opening one of the boxes of chocolates currently under the tree.

    18. Ann Furthermore*

      We’re doing a spread of finger foods. My nephew and his wife are hosting, and my mom and I are providing the food. I’m making bacon wrapped dates stuffed with cheese, and also salsa. My mom is bringing either roast beef or ham to make little sandwiches, and a bunch of other munchies.

    19. Alder*

      Swedish meatballs with lingonberries and milk gravy, plus peas with Swiss cheese and pimientos and boiled red potatoes. We’ve been eating the same thing every Christmas eve since… um… hundreds of years ago, as far as I can tell…

  13. Elkay*

    Christmas Eve: takeout while watching The Muppet Christmas Carol

    Christmas Day: Croissants and champagne for breakfast. Mid afternoon turkey for two with chipolatas, stuffing, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, broccoli, peas, carrots and gravy followed by sticky mincemeat pudding with chocolate sauce. We’ll probably break into the Christmas cake in the evening.

    Boxing day: Leftover meat with mashed potatoes, peas and pickles.

  14. The Maple Teacup*

    Morrie the cat started his medical treatment a few days ago. It involves a daily anti-inflammatory pill and weekly B-12 injection. Thanks to pill pockets, I just stuff the pill inside a tasty chicken flavoured casing and he eats it.

    1. The Maple Teacup*

      The injection is a lot more daunting. Needles give me the creeps, and I have to learn to administer the vitamin subcutaneously. Not happy! Not at all! But I will force myself to become competent for the sake of my cat.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I hope that when you start to see improvements that this will make it a tad easier in some way for you.

        1. The Maple Teacup*

          I think it will. Fortunately, I have a roomate in the medical field. Giving injections is a boring, normal part of his job. He’s already offered to help if my hands shake too much! Lol

      2. AcademicAnon*

        Sub-q injections are not hard, if you can pinch yourself you can give an injection. Just be careful Morrie doesn’t associate you with just the shot.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Pill pockets are amazing. I’ve had to give Lucy a daily pill this last week and she just gobbles them right down with pill pockets. So much easier than forcing a pill down her throat.

      1. Adonday Veeah*

        I’ll second the Pill Pockets. Even when she’s feeling puny, my rickety old cat will still snarf a pill pocket.

        1. skyline*

          My cat is too clever for Pill Pockets. She happily snarfs it down…and then spits out the pill. I’m glad there’s no current need to medicate either of them. (I love living alone, but it’s one of those moments when having an extra pair of hands would really help!)

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Cat burrito? Roll up kitty in a towel (not too tight) with head sticking out and then you can tuck her in one arm and administer meds. I had to do this for Psycho Kitty’s momma when the neighbor didn’t know how (it was liquid antibiotic I had to squirt into her mouth). I gave her treats afterward. Or you could have the vet show you how to scruff her–they put their hand on the back of PK’s neck where a momma cat would carry them and they don’t move.

            I might try Pill Pockets if I have to medicate PK. She ate her aspirin when she had the infected tooth–I crunched it up in her soft food. She gobbles that so fast that she probably didn’t even notice, ha ha.

            1. fposte*

              There is a great video on YouTube showing how to do the kitty burrito–a search will probably get you to it. (There are probably more than this one, for that matter, but this was a nice low-key one.)

            2. Pennalynn Lott*

              At one point I had five kitties with chronic conditions that required multiple daily oral meds and sometimes daily sub-q injections of fluids or meds. I’ve gotten so good at oral meds that, unless the cat is acting like it’s being murdered, I can do it in one smooth motion sans kitty-burrito. And while I still cringe inwardly at poking my cats with needles, I’ve seen how much good it does them enough times to be able to do it without feeling guilty for “hurting” my cat.

              We do what we have to for the ones we love. :-)

          2. Revanche*

            Dog2 was doing that til Dog1 acted like Pill Pockets were the BEST THING EVER and he decided that they must be. I’ve never seen a cat fall for that kind of competition, so much, though. Elizabeth’s kitty burrito is probably way better.

    3. Jen RO*

      I had no idea these things existed… one of my cats is in treatment too right now, but I think we have come to an agreement: if he swallows his pill on the first try, he will be left alone for the rest of the evening.

    4. nep*

      I’m supposed to be giving my cat liquid meds (orally by syringe) twice daily. Most of it has ended up on his coat, the floor, a wall, or me. The vet assistant gave some tips on how to do it, but I’ve not been able to master this. Still working on it — meantime cat not getting his meds as he should.

      1. The Maple Teacup*

        Ack! Administering liquid medication is hard. I’m sure the vet assistant explained things adequately, but here’s how I’ve tried to do it. 1) sneak up on the unsuspecting cat. 2) get behind cat. 3) using my right hand, gently take the top jaw and pull back. Kitty should now be gargling at the sky. 4) depress liquid via syringe into the mouth with my left hand. 5) flee the scene.

        Usually it ends up on his coat, the floor, a wall, or me. Some does get into kitty tummy.

      2. Alicia*

        Our trick is you just try to get it back as far on the side of their teeth as possible. So, hold their head fairly sturdy, and get behind their back teeth. They can’t do anything about it and it goes down the hatch.

      3. Kyrielle*

        Does it have to be done sans food, or is mixing okay?

        Because mixing with a bit of actual chicken/fish/beef broth (whatever favorite flavor ) or wet food might turn it into something he snarfs instead of spraying. If you’re lucky.

    5. Trixie*

      Vet meds have come such a long way, from Pill Pockets to flavored med chews to the ointment that can be applied to their ears. So much less traumatic for our furry friends.

        1. Trixie*

          Heads-up that some of these options may be more expensive than the plain pill form but sometimes it really is worth it. Good luck!

  15. ILiveToServe*

    So it has been a really, really crappy year. Okay, two years.
    Moved from NYC to Midwest for an academic appointment. (suddenly really “*get* the tenure track pressure thing…it sucks)
    Walked into a sh*tstorm, took me 2 days to figure out that my 2nd was a lying sociopath (diagnosed by disability services…they said this was the first time that they had ever recommended firing an employee- “there is is no accommodation for compulsive lying” ) She was a union employee…took another year and half PIP to fire even with a bankers box of documentation. (I think it is okay to share this work thing here as I can say there was no weekend or evening that I was not working on this or dealing with my own mental distress over the situation)

    Coldest winter in New Location in 33 years. There are no clothes warm enough. I learned to drive in three feet of snow and 4 inches of ice. Add that to more business travel in the first year than I had ever done in my life…in the first year, NYC three times, New Orleans, Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago, Bangkok, Costa Rico, Singapore, DC. Father-in-law died after the first six months (one of the reasons we moved here) paying two mortgages (apt in NYC on the market for a year) Husband disabled by back pain, then had knee replacement ( He became a hostile dependent, I sought professional help) He is just becoming mobile when I have to have a complete hysterectomy. I have complications and am out for two months. The dog who is old has been having medical issues since we moved and has been on and off steroids and antibiotics since we got here. We go to every length including weekly home visits with a vet chiropractor/acupuncturist. We delude ourselves that she is getting better (I am now carrying the 29 lb dog up and down three flights of stairs… husband can’t he has a new knee…I’m not supposed to…I just had abdominal surgery, She has to go out to eliminate every two hours) Four weeks ago, thirteen year old dog tears her ACL going up the stairs (I am in bed sleeping, husband did not notice she was no longer next to him…not blaming just explaining) Regular vet is pressuring for knee surgery for her. Finally got her old vet on the phone who said she was not candidate. Last week started obsessively googling for answers and the same one came up over and over. Got second opinions, 3rd opinions. Started “end of life” journal for her. Two days ago put the dog to sleep. Cannot stop crying.
    AND I am on past deadline for final edit on writing that must go in on Monday.

    Okay doing the “gratitudes”
    We have good health insurance and have both recovered from our medical issues.
    The apartment in NYC finally sold and we paid off the mortgage in new location.
    The husband is retiring in a month (I guess that would be on his gratitude list…I would be grateful if he learned to cook)
    I have about fifteen years of work ahead of me (I am pretty confident that after things settle down a bit I can address the tenure packet) in a place that the work is exactly what I love and am competent in.

    Bad employee is gone as of July. New staffing is exceptional (that is a hint)

    I have discovered wool long underwear. Seriously, who knew?

    Driving turns out to be a really amazing thing. Again, who knew? I am exactly 11 minutes from my office. In NYC I had over an hour commute each way on the subway. (and did you know that you can start your car, leave it in the driveway, have a cup of coffee and when you get in it is toasty warm?) oh and I am pretty sure Santa is bringing me a shearling steering wheel cover.

    Money- we have enough to buy the food we want to eat, roof over our heads, heat, cars, gas for the cars, and although I don’t think I will ever have enough SmartWool, I do. And a little extra to spread around to our pet charities. And we had enough to make our old dog comfortable in her last weeks as well as a home visit hospice vet for our final farewell.

    And this blog… Thank you Alison- you, the Evil HR Lady and commenters were there in the darkest hours giving me a reality check, assuring me that “this too shall pass” and that I was being a reasonable human being doing the best that I could in trying circumstances.

    1. fposte*

      Youch. That is quite the saga, and I am deeply impressed that you are coming through this as strong as you are. I’m sorry for all the grief, and I join with you in the gratitude for Smartwool and AAM.

      There have been a lot of people having a bad time in 2014. I’m working on a theory that this year was some kind of defective factory second. To a better 2015!

    2. Alfie*

      Wow my heart goes out to you. That sounds rough. I am in the Midwest, and it was a terrible winter even for old hands. Good for you for also focusing on gratitude. Hope things are on the upswing.

      1. Alfie*

        Also I should have given my condolences on your dog. Mine is 13 as well and having trouble on stairs and she is such a wonderful companion. It seemed odd to me to call that out with all that you have had to deal with, but it does not surprise me that you are shedding many tears over it. It sounds like your dog had a wonderful life with very caring human caretakers. You gave her a good life! Again hoping things get better in 15. Sounds like odds are they will.

        1. Alfie*

          And sorry, just one more thing: Silk long underwear rocks too. It is expensive and worth every penny. You can get it at REI.

          1. OP2*

            Alfie,
            I was just going to write that silk is fine at twenty to thirty degrees but is an epic fail at 17 below zero. I read aloud your post to the husband and he disagreed. He said, depends how you layer. So Alfie how do you layer ?

            Here was me one day this week…smart wool long johns and zipper up long sleave first layer top. Two pairs of smart wool socks. Felted sweater jacket ( Eileen Fisher) and wool blend pants. Bear claw shearling lined boots, Patagonia down jacket with a mountain hard ware down vest. Polar tec cowl . Cashmere scarf , cashmere beanie cap. Smart wool glove liners, hand made Marino flip top mittens and hand made felted gauntlets.

            Locals seeing me walk into work usually guffaw and say what are you going to do when it gets really cold?

            1. Alfie*

              Well the thing I like about silk is it is so thin and so it enables additional layers. Also it insulates well but breathes. I am not sure I layer as much as you do, so it may be something to do with conditioning or tolerance? I am in Minnesota and it was -30 with wind chill, in the negative teens and 20s proper, for most of last December and January.

              I usually wear silk long underwear (tops and bottoms), one pair of wool socks, pants (wool, cotton, denim, sweats, or something made in a laboratory), a long-sleeve cotton tee-shirt-type top, a cardigan sweater or jacket/blazer on top of that. When I am outside I have a pea coat or down jacket, gloves and hat. Sometimes a scarf, but I tend to leave them places so not always. I wear winter boots (Ugg knockoffs, duck boots) if we have a lot of snow or regular shoes. There is also the problem of being able to take things off when you work in an environment that can be 80 degrees warmer than it is outside, and not looking like a giant sweaty plush toy at the office.

              I definitely agree that at some point it all becomes rather useless.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I would do the same thing, 10 things going on and the bulk of my story would be the dog.
          I think there is a different standard for the way we feel about people and things vs how we feel about dogs/pets. And pets embody something that we cherish- maybe it’s that unfailing love and companionship. They don’t talk, which is also helpful. Perhaps it’s their sincerity, try finding people who are that sincere. Not easy. I think they provide a reliable constant in our lives, everything else may be topsy turvey but the critters are even-keeled.

          I think 2015 will be a better year for you. You work hard at your challenges and that will pay off for you. Cynics like to talk about the calm before the storm. I like to think that after a storm comes the calm.

          1. ILiveToServe*

            I just bought myself two Annie Lamont books Help Thanks Wow and Stitches. Hope they help with the “Big Feelings”

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Let us know what you think.

              There is a lot of good stuff out there that is helpful.

              I will google these two myself.

    3. Persephone Mulberry*

      That is a hell of a year (and then some). Best wishes for 2015 – and tell Santa to put a remote starter in your stocking along with the wheel cover!

    4. salad fingers*

      That is awful, and yeah, I can see the weather here last winter really being the ice on anyone’s cake of bad times — that sucked. I hope 2015 is way easier.

      1. Neruda*

        That is an incredibly hard year. When you started to write your gratitudes I thought for sure they couldn’t balance it out but it seemed like you did. Congratulations on finding the positives and here’s to a wonderful 2015.

    5. Kyrielle*

      My condolences on the loss of your dog, and my sympathy for the rest of what you went through. Quite the list.

      May next year be better in every way possible!

  16. Robyn*

    A very joyous Yuletide to everyone and a blessed solstice!

    Or

    Merry Christmas and Happy new year!

    Or

    Happy Chanukah!

    Or

    Beautiful Kawanza!

    Who did I miss? :D

  17. AvonLady Barksdale*

    To piggyback on Gene’s White Elephant/Secret Santa gift… what’s the weirdest gift you’ve received PERIOD, not in any of those situations? And not just Christmas– weddings, bar mitzvahs, birthdays count.

    This was sparked by the “gift” I received yesterday of previously-read magazines. “I brought you these!” presented during a pre-Christmas/Chanukah gift exchange. Magazines like Women’s Health and SELF. Magazines I do not read and never asked for. It was so weird, it took me about 12 hours to realize I was insulted. I also received a bottle of vermouth and was told, “This is for you, but I get to drink it.” This person does not live in my household, and no, I did not open the bottle.

    Go!

    1. Robyn*

      Not me, but my brother and his wife got as a wedding present…a fan. Just a bog standard box fan.

      And it was probably their best gift as they used it for decades! :D

      1. The Maple Teacup*

        For Christmas in eighth grade, I got an archery set from my parents. This was long before the Hunger Games was a Thing. I had given no indication that I wanted to learn to shoot arrows.

    2. RandomName*

      My husband’s grandmother (who is fairly well-off) constantly gives us her used stuff (junk) wrapped in beautiful boxes for Christmas. One time, her note with one of the items stated that she didn’t know what the item was for, and maybe we could figure it out and use it. We had no idea what it was for…and not even something we’d keep for sentimental purposes. Went right in the garbage.

    3. OfficePrincess*

      A used soduku book. The easy and medium ones were all filled in but the hard ones were blank. Um thank you?

    4. ExceptionToTheRule*

      A set of four ceramic, stemmed, red solo cups from my brother that he got me two summers ago. It’s the only time I ever re-gifted anything and told the recipient, but they were perfect for my cousin’s fiance so they were a second gift at their couple shower.

      I’ve now outed myself to anyone on here that might know me.

    5. danr*

      Not weird, but thoughtless in terms of not thinking. When I taught (5th grade), many of the gifts were aftershave. I did a general thank you to the class then asked why I would be impressed by aftershave when I have a beard. I heard a collective intake of breath as they realized that yes, it was pretty silly.

    6. BRR*

      My grandmother in law gets books for all her grand kids for Christmas and all she knew about me was that I was raised Jewish so she got me a book on the holocaust. It was very sweet of her to include me and I have a strong sense of humor so I think it’s funny but I do think there’s a little wtf.

    7. Beezus*

      A psychedelic Jesus…framed wall hanging?…that lit up and had a mechanical psychedelic wheel spinning in the background, for my wedding. Hubby and I are agnostic. It honestly broke in our luggage on the flight home, and I was honestly disappointed because there is no way to explain how appalling that thing was, you really had to see it to completely understand. It was from an aunt that I have never been close to, and I think it was intended as an insult, because that would be like her.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Aging family member.
          I more or less had to accept them, because I don’t think she realized that this might be odd.
          It’s been 15 years or so, and I still have them. Which is even odder.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I think I will try putting them next to my favorite pens and see if the unlosableness is transferable.

              Or I could use them to find new ways to slaughter the English language. Which ever.

    8. the gold digger*

      My mother in law is the mistress of unwanted, ugly, useless gifts. Perhaps the worst thing they have ever given us is the framed photo of her and my father in law. She did give us the option of two frames, but still.

      That was also the year that she got us a cast-iron cat.

            1. the gold digger*

              YES!!! I will burn the photo (which husband tossed into a drawer the second we got home), delete their phone number from my phone, and package and mail the cat. I would also burn the cheap pressed board nesting tables painted with hibiscus and hummingbirds, the vase hand-painted with blue flowers, the posters celebrating the adoption of the manatee, the Florida panther, and the seat turtle, but all gifts have already been exchanged (after many tears from MIL) or given to charity.

    9. Ruffingit*

      The first Christmas my ex and I were married, his parents gave us gardening tools – shovel, rake. I just looked at them as I’m not a big gardener/landscaping type. Her comment to us was “Now you can clean up that back yard of yours…” Oh…um…thanks? My husband just looked at her deadpan and said “I already have a set of these.” His mother started kind of backpedaling at that point, but the damage was done.

      Basically, she gave us a “gift” to do something she wanted done, which was to have our back yard look better.

    10. salad fingers*

      green 3xl dress (i wear medium/large) with a note that said “for my irish sweetie, i know you like to wear things loose) (have red hair but i’m not particularly irish, i don’t like to wear things loose)
      easter cookies from the grocery store bakery section that had expired sometime around easter (my birthday is in late may)
      a tub of cinnamon santa gummies
      several packages of trader joes deydrated smashed bananas that expired in 2006 (this was 2011)
      and the kicker
      a 5lb bag of Kirkland trail mix, opened and resealed, which upon closer inspection was found to house *cobwebs* and *five* dead moths. and it also expired in 2006.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      Oh man, some of these are really bizarre, hahaha. I usually don’t get weird gifts, just bad ones. Like clothes that are ugly and don’t fit (seriously, who buys clothes for another adult) and stuff people buy when they are trying to approximate something you’re interested in but don’t hit the mark. Like skating knickknacks. Ugh, something else I have to dust. Just buy me tights! I need those!

    12. Chris*

      I received a dog toy for Christmas one year from my Aunt. I was only 12, and it bothered me for years after, as all the other cousins got “real” toys. Not sure what sparked that…

      Happy ending though for my dog :/

      1. Emily Robin*

        Ooh, I got a dog toy one year, too!

        It was from my great grandmother and I don’t think she realized it was a dog toy (as opposed to a stuffed animal)… but I was jealous of my sister’s gift, which was an actual, intended-for-humans, plush bear.

    13. Mimmy*

      My grandfather (on my dad’s side) used to give out at Christmas those little shampoos and lotions you get at hotels, sometimes wrapping them in TIN FOIL (my brother just reminded me of that this weekend!).

      One uncle (also on my dad’s side!) tends to send everyone random DVDs for Christmas.

    14. Blue_eyes*

      For our wedding we got some fantastically ugly vases. They were huge, brown and puke green glass monstosities that looked vaguely like sea anenomies. The people who gave them have never been to our home and have no idea of our taste. Plus we live in a 1 bedroom apartment so we definitely done have space for ugly, useless, breakable things. And they could only be returned within 14 days. So we schlepped them an hour on the subway to exchange them. We got a pair of earrings and a menorah instead.

    15. Alder*

      Now that I have a cat, everybody gives me cat-themed gifts. Not just cat toys, or tacky pillows that declare my love for cats- the gifts are MY-CAT-themed. So far I have an embroidery of him chasing a fly, socks with a cat on them that looks like him, and… a vintage PLANT POT shaped like my cat.

      The plant pot is awesome! But as much as I love my cat I don’t want to decorate my whole house with his face…

  18. The Maple Teacup*

    Strangest wedding present was a neon green plastic rabbit (no limbs or tail, just the head of a rabbit attached to a cylinder) that could be pulled out of a cup. To this day I have no idea what it was.

  19. Katie the Fed*

    OK, I have a potentially awkward question, but I want to know:

    Do you or anyone you know ACTUALLY celebrate Kwanzaa?

    I’m white but I have a fairly diverse group of friends and I’ve never in my life met a single person who celebrates it. One of my black friends laughs and says “it’s just a made-up holiday from the 60s – nobody I know celebrates it.”

    So – anyone celebrate it? I feel like it’s only mentioned in the spirit of diversity and inclusiveness around the holidays, but it seems funny to include it with seasonal greetings when it appears nobody really celebrates.

    1. Non-profit Anon*

      Our city has several Kwanzaa gatherings. I’ve gone to some with Black friends. It ends up being more like a block party which is pretty awesome.

      I also know a lot of the Black churches in our community celebrate Kwanzaa, along with Christmas. They use the colors of Kwanzaa in decorating, and talk about the words.

      None of my Black friend celebrate Kwanzaa at home.

    2. Felicia*

      None of my black friends celebrate it…we are Canadian, and they are under the impression that it is more of an American thing (no idea if that’s true, but that’s what i’ve been told).

    3. matcha123*

      My mom’s friend did/does. She is black (American) married to an African man and adopted a black daughter. She is/was very involved in the black community and every December she’d do something Kwanzaa related.

      I’m multiracial, if it matters, but I think her yearly invite was her way of trying to connect us some some larger community that we’d normally have little involvement with. She’d also invite this other good black family to her place for the candle lighting and reading the meanings in Swahili(?) and hand out Kwanzaa presents.

      But, yeah, her family was the only one I knew that did Kwanzaa.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        It’s Swahili, which used to strike me as a bit odd because Swahili is an eastern African language with strong Arabic influence (due to the Arab slave trade), versus western Africa where most US slaves came from. But I guess in the 60s Swahili was seen as a symbol of pan-Africanism which coincided with the creation of Kwanzaa.

    4. Elizabeth*

      Our local farmers market does. Which seems a little weird, because to say that no one involved in the market is a part of the ethnic/racial background for whom the holiday was created is an understatement.

      1. salad fingers*

        Yeah, I was raised in a Unitarian Universalist church that was just about entirely white (that has changed, my mom tells me) and we learned about and celebrated Kwanzaa — kind of embarrassing.

        Liberal white people ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        1. Katie the Fed*

          It could be worse. You could have made Sandra Lee’s infamous Kwanzaa cake. (google it if you’ve never seen it – it’s….amazing).

        2. Anonsie*

          Liberal white people ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          Hahaha oh my god. I wish I could carry this on a poster board and hold it up every time I had one of those moments.

    5. Jubilance*

      I grew in a super pro-Black so every year I can remember, my family celebrated Kwanzaa. Each night we’d like the candles and talk about what that day’s principle meant. We’d also attend community Kwanzaa events as well. Now that i’m an adult I don’t really do it anymore, except maybe attending a community event.

      Kwanzaa is really only a “thing” for those who are really into the Black Power movement. It gathered a lot of steam in the 90’s but definitely died off.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yup, this. My family and friends aren’t particularly into the Black Power movement (that is to say they’ll definitely protest things like Ferguson, but you won’t catch any of them in a dashiki), so I don’t know anyone personally who celebrates Kwanzaa.

        1. the gold digger*

          One of my former bosses is a military brat. His dad was stationed in Africa when H was a teenager. H came back to the states – this was the 70s – wearing dashikis. But now he wears suits. (Oh. H is African American.)

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Thanks for answering! Holidays definitely change over time too, so it might be something that will ebb and flow over the years.

    6. The IT Manager*

      If you wiki it, you see your friend is right. It was made up in the 60s and was created in the US for African-Americans.

      It’s not a religious holiday, but it at least aligns directly with Christmas on the calendar ie always Dec 26th through Jan 1st which makes it handy to toss in with Christmas when being inclusive by mentioning other holidays since Hanukkah moves around the calendar a bit and Ramadan moves around alot.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I’m well aware of what Kwanzaa is and the history behind it – I’m asking if anyone celebrates it :)

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Sorry, that sounded snippier than I meant :). I’ve done a lot of reading up on the history of it – just curious how relevant it currently is.

    7. OP 1*

      I love how since no one you know celebrates it, No one must really celebrate it. Would you say the same thing if you knew no Jewish people, or Hindu people, or Muslim people if talking about Haunakkah, Diwali or Eid/Ramadan?

      Interestingly, I can believe this type of logic is what could have resulted in Haunakkah balls. I challenge you to not worry about whether people you know are actually celebrating it, and try to embrace that being inclusive is not to appease everyone else and doesn’t take away from you or the other holidays being celebrated.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Did you actually read my question before you decided to attack me? I’m not assuming that people don’t celebrate it – I’m ASKING because I’m genuinely curious.

        Being that I don’t live in a predominantly African American community, and that none of my own black friends/colleagues celebrate it, I am wondering how prevalent celebrations actually are.

        You’ve made a lot of pretty awful assumptions in your comment – I actually do know people who celebrate Hanukkah, Diwali, and Ramadan, but I have never met anyone who celebrates Kwanzaa, so I was asking. I think the history behind it is interesting, but I’ve often wondered if it’s more a relic of its time when it was created than something that continues to hold relevance in black communities today.

  20. Alistair*

    So, there’s a pile of us commenters on here with Anonymous and variations, and like 700 Alisons. Maybe an end of year gift to yourselves would be a new name on here! Or anyone else looking for a change, or a more individual identity here, this is the time!*

    There’s no need to tell us the reasons behind the switch nor the significance of the new name, unless you want to, of course! But please tell us who you were, and who you will be from now on!

    So, in that vein, I was Crow, and I will be Alistair from here on out. Crow was boring, slightly work identifiable, and didn’t ‘read’ well. Alistair is… call it an old family name. But it’s existence is not known at work! Plus, I saw Crow T. Robot on here, which is 100 times more awesome, and I didn’t want to thunder-steal from them!

    So, anyone else want to join in the fun?

    *No offense intended to anyone with one of those names! It was just the first few examples I could think of. [Obama] If you like your name, you can keep your name! [/Obama]

      1. ILiveToServe*

        I started as Manager Anonymous and then librarian anonymous, LV2 and just realized that whatever the last name I used comes up automatically.
        ILiveToServe comes from a children’s book, Each Little Bird That Sings. It should be heard in your head in a sighing eye rolling of early adolescence voice . Could you take the garbage out? “I live to serve ” Could you see what your little brother is up to? “I live to serve “

    1. Sophia in the DMV*

      I know there’s another Sophia, so maybe I’ll be Sophia in the DMV (DC, MD, VA not Dept of Motor Vehicles)

      1. GOG11*

        Thank goodness for that! Who wants to hang out in the DMV all the time?! (Though maybe working there is more pleasant than trying to get in and out on your lunch break)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I’d like to change my name to something shorter. But I am hitting a brain void. It’s so easy for a new person to pick out a name someone is already using- I don’t want to keep changing it.
      I do chuckle at the number of people who say “I’m not good at coming up with names.” Oh, yeah, I can relate.

      1. Diane*

        Jamie, if you’re willing, I need a new username. There are at least two of us who use my current username.

    3. AcademicAnon*

      Extremely hard for me to change it to something less anon-y, as it wouldn’t take much info to find me via a search. FYI for any employer, if you don’t HAVE to have a publically available and online list of all your employees, don’t.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t think anyone is suggesting real names — in fact, I’d steer people away from using their real first names, because that’s how we end up with multiples.

        1. Alistair*

          Yeah, I never meant to say “No Anonymous Names” or “Real Names Only.” I had been thinking of changing mine to something more interesting/less identifiable, and I thought this could be an impetus for others to do the same, and maybe we could reduce our multiples here at the same time.

          Please keep your name if you like it!

    4. Windchime*

      I’ll stick with Windchime. I’ve used some version of this name as my online name for like 15 years now. I do get confused with all the different versions of “Anon” that we see here, and there are so many Alison’s that it makes my head spin.

      1. fposte*

        Windchime’s the kind of moniker I really like, too–I find it easier to remember and connect distinctive words/names rather than letters, numbers, etc. That’s why all the variations on “Anonymous” tend to get muddled in my head–they all translate to Anonymous and read as the same person.

    5. VintageLydia USA*

      Alistair is hands down my favorite name ever, but my husband hates it so I had to name my son something different (to be fair to him, he likes Alistair, but hates Al, which is what Alistair would inevitably be shortened to by nearly everyone but me since it’s a bit of a longish name.) Also it’s the name of a character of my favorite video game franchise, but I liked the name before the game was a twinkle in the creator’s eye. Lydia is my favorite girl’s name, which is why it’s my moniker on here :)

      1. fposte*

        Sos did you actually letter up the teapot in your avatar in honor, or is it shopped? I should get “fposte” on something.

        1. VintageLydia USA*

          ‘shopped! I love that teapot and use it all the time, so I don’t want IRL people to know my moniker ;) Internet is my “safe space” to vent about people I need to be polite to so I don’t need them googling me!

    6. B*

      Yeah there are (at least) two Bs on here. I really need to come up with a better handle. But i’m so lazy! ;)

      1. Neruda*

        I’ve had 3 names on here. One was my actual name which I quickly changed, then my middle name (turns out 2 other people had that name but I swear I’d never seen them comment before!). I ended up going with Neruda because surely no one else will have that name?! (Used in honor of Pablo if anyone cares :-))

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I’ll keep mine. It’s my pen name and connects to my blog. Other names I’ve used online anonymously aren’t that creative, which is kind of stupid because my character names are usually fairly good.

    8. Emily Robin*

      I’ve commented a few times as Emily, but then I noticed that at least one other person commenting with the same name. So it’s Emily Robin until I come up with something better.

    9. Jazzy Red*

      I used to be Worker Bee on a different now-defunct site, and we now have someone here with that name. I always look to see what “I” wrote. (That was funny to me a few minutes ago – not so much now.)

      I’ll stick with Jazzy Red. I’m retired now and very lazy.

  21. Saro*

    Any sewing AAMers out there? If yes, what do you like to sew? This year, I hope to sew more, I am not good at it but enjoy it very much. More hobby time in 2015!!

    1. Elsajeni*

      Yep! I’ve done a few garments, but I find that I tend to run out of steam on them, and also, since I don’t know enough to alter the patterns, they never fit quite right. So lately I’ve been shifting more toward craft/accessory sewing — I’ve done a cosmetic bag (with a waterproof lining!), an apron, a fabric book cover (for paperbacks), etc. For Christmas gifts this year I planned to do some potholders, some oven mitts, and a casserole tote. Unfortunately, my machine has broken down… some people will be short a gift. :(

      1. Saro*

        That’s really cool! Have you looked at any of the craftsy courses? I signed up for one when it was 1/2 off (something like, ‘basics of sewing’) and I plan to watch that over the break.

    2. Hillary*

      I quilt – I’m obsessed with Judy Niemeyer paper piecing right now. Goal is to finish my current project before 1/23 so I can start one of her patterns at retreat.

      I should probably be sewing instead of playing on the Internet. ;-)

    3. Not So NewReader*

      If I had more time I would love to try heirloom sewing. Reality is that I have an old-old New Home that only comes out to do repairs. But, hey, I was able to repair the hole in the grass catcher bag on the tractor. Yah!

    4. VintageLydia USA*

      I would like to learn to sew, but it just seems too difficult to learn with a toddler underfoot. I’m thinking of trying lettering/calligraphy and book binding. I wrote and bound a book for a friend a year or so ago and binding it was a lot of fun. It didn’t look professional, but it was a much better presentation than stapling or tying it with string through giant hole punches. And lettering would be easy to do and practice with Kiddo running around.

    5. the gold digger*

      I used to sew almost all of my clothes when I was in junior high and high school. In college, I would sew the dresses my friends and I wore to formals. I have not done much sewing other than alterations in the past years, though – good fabric has gotten so expensive and I don’t see the point of putting all that effort in cheap fabric. (Same thing with knitting – I am not going to do all that work in acrylic, but nice wool is so expensive.)

      I keep thinking I need to start sewing again, though, as I would like dresses that 1. fit and 2. have long sleeves. Oh. And perhaps pockets. The only clothes in my life that have pockets are my jeans, which are not work appropriate, two of my workout tops (hello manufacturers – I would like to carry a housekey with me when I go running), and my pajamas, which is the place I need pockets most, as I have to take a lot of stuff to bed with me.

    6. V. Meadowsweet*

      I sew! Not especially well, and not especially often, but I have huge lists of clothes I want to make :)
      I’d like to do it more, but time and patterns (I’m tall, so waist position and lengths are almost always wrong)
      but it’s still fun! and all the lovely patterns! and all the lovely fabrics…. :D

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I sew my skating costumes because I can’t afford to buy custom dresses, and the off-the-rack stuff doesn’t fit (I’m too tall). I HATE SEWING. Of course, that could be because I usually work with difficult fabrics like stretch velvet. :P

    8. Ann Furthermore*

      I don’t sew, but I do like doing cross-stitch. This year I made Christmas stockings for my daughters, and they really turned out nice if I do say so myself. The hard thing about cross-stitch is that it’s hard to find patterns that don’t look like they’re straight out of your grandma’s house, but I found a nice website for a store in Tulsa that has a great selection of patterns.

    9. Blue_eyes*

      I want to sew more in 2015 too! Come to think of it, I don’t think I got out my sewing machine at all during 2014. I mostly sew things for my home – placemats, napkins, curtains, throw pillow covers – because they are all straight lines. I also hem pants and do small clothing repairs. I want to get into quilting and I saved some free craftsy quilting classes so I can learn how. I would love to sew clothes, but I’m not there yet.

    10. Celeste*

      I’m sewing addicted! I make quilts, by machine and by hand. I do a little garment sewing, mainly for my daughter’s Halloween costumes. I used to make her simple dresses. Once in a while I’ll sew other crafts, as well as mending or other utility work like fastening Scout patches. I’m no good at alterations; I’d really need some education for that.

  22. Brianne*

    I’m an absolute dunce when it comes to make up, especially because I have to take my glasses off to see. Anyone got any tips for how to do nice red lips/winged eyeliner? (Yes, I’m feeling inspired by Taylor Swift lol)

    1. matcha123*

      I have no idea, I am a klutz with make-up. But, I would recommend searching for Japanese or Korean brands for liquid eyeliner. The brush tips are very fine and stay well. I just finished using Tony Moly (Korean) and now I’m using Kanebo Kate (Japanese).

      I only mention that because I’ve read people online who say that Korean/Japanese brands have finer tips.

    2. fposte*

      Other people may have specific names, but I highly recommend YouTube for makeup guidance. You can really see what to do and the before and after.

      1. Bea W*

        I’ve done this, and I just still can’t get it right. I suck at make-up, especially eye make-up! I wear glasses also. I am not sure if it is because I have to lean in real close to the mirror to see or because I have no skill what-so-ever.

        1. Celeste*

          Get one of those high-power makeup mirrors! I’m currently deciding between one at Bed Bath & Beyond, and Container Store. I’ve come to the end of the line with the little hand-held 10x mirror I keep in my makeup bag, though it’ll still work for travel. If there is one thing I love a hotel room to have, it’s a magnifying mirror in the bathroom!

    3. Sunflower*

      I’d recommend going to Sephora. The key to a nice red lip is choosing a color that works with your skin color and skin undertones. You can try a couple diff. colors and the consultants can help you find one that works with your skin. Youtube is really the best place to find tutorials on make up though I’ve found!

      1. Stephanie*

        I always feel really weird with red lip color, perhaps because it’s so conspicuous. (I am also at a loss how to match it.) I just end up defaulting to brown or some other more neutral shade.

        I also prefer liquid eyeliner, which does have the risk of making me look like Cleopatra if I’m not careful.

        1. salad fingers*

          Red lips are also difficult to maintain if you’re somewhere where you’ll be eating/drinking/breathing. Hard to get right, and I’d recommend trying on a couple of nothing to do, nowhere to go days to get the hang of how well your lips/the lipstick holds up.

          1. UK Nerd*

            Maybelline’s 24 Hour Colour lipstick is slightly optimistically named, but once it’s on it will stay on through at least one meal and any amount of drinks.

    4. Persephone Mulberry*

      I love, love, love gel eyeliner over liquid when I want to do wings/cat eye. I feel like it’s easier to control.

    5. AcademicAnon*

      One thing I’ve found that helps, if you’re nearsighted, if you can get shorter travel sizes of something. That way you can get closer to the mirror.

    6. VintageLydia USA*

      A magnifying mirror and gel liner with a brush. My eyes are slightly asymmetrical and wings highlight that fact so I don’t do them, but whenever I try I have much more control with gel and a brush than with liquid liner. As far as red lips, it’s just trial and error. For some people it’s easier to start with more burgundy or berry tones (which are closer to the browns or pinks they’re used) and go from there. My favorite red is darker than most, but still very very red (Napa Valley lip crayon by Burt’s Bees.)

    7. Dulcinea*

      I have never tried this, but I heard that if you close your eyes and cup a spoon over your eyelid you can trace it to make perfiect winged eyeliner. You can also use it to curl your lashes (supposedly). I bet you can find more detail by googling. Alos, if you do try it come back next week and let us know how it went!

    8. YourCdnFriend*

      Uh. I’ve watched a lot of YouTube tutorials and sometimes I learn tips that help. But, for me, the best way to master the winged eyeliner look is half decent makeup (I use high end drug store, not high end sephora because I am kind of cheap about such things) and practice. Just practice a lot. And for me, somedays I am on and some days I am not.

      For red lips, the key for me has always been matching lip liner. Don’t just line your lip with the liner, fill in the entire lip and then apply the lipstick. The liners don’t have to be a perfect match, but close.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This, re the lip liner. You do NOT want a line around your mouth and no lipstick. Plus the liner helps the lipstick stick.

        I’m not so great at eye makeup; haven’t tried the cat-eye thing yet. It took me 45 minutes yesterday to do my eye makeup for the skating show.

  23. OfficePrincess*

    A few years ago I was given a set of knitting needles and a beginner how-to book. I wasn’t super interested and semi figured out a basic stitch before I gave up and packed it away. Now that I have more time on my hands (and almost a week off that I can’t use to go see family after all) I want to get started again. Any tips / suggestions / resources for how to learn or simple things I can do?

    1. Trixie*

      I’d like to start something small too with the new year. I’ll probably sit down with a friend who knits to start with, but I see a ton of instructional clips on youtube and free starter patterns on Pinterest. Another friend made me an eternity scarf which I wear all the time, so another would be a great final goal.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Start out really simple- like dish cloth or a scarf. Something that is basically square or rectangular with one or at most two different stitches.
      The first item you make you are learning how to cast on, keep going in a straight line and getting acclimated to the needles. (Okay you are also learning how to pick up dropped stitches and finish off a piece.)
      I am sure you will find videos around the net, look at several. This way you get more than one person’s explanation on what to do.

      Don’t be afraid to rip it all out and start over if you are not happy with your progress.

      Did you roll your yarn into a ball? A lot of people like to do that because they can make sure it is not tangled. Nothing like hitting a tangle while you are trying to complete an item.

    3. CheeryO*

      First step is to make sure you have yarn and needles that will play nice together. I’m guessing you were given medium sized needles, so make sure you have a medium-weight yarn (worsted or Aran) to work with. If you have a lot of trouble, you could try buying really thick yarn and larger needles (something like size 13). It’s easier to learn on bigger needles, and your project will work up faster. Bamboo needles are also easier to learn on than metal ones, since the yarn grips instead of sliding around.

      I would recommend starting with a practice square instead of jumping right into a project. You can learn how to cast on, knit, purl, and bind off with YouTube videos, and then you can practice everything until you feel pretty comfortable. If things get super wonky, just rip it out and start over.

      Then when you do make your first project, it will come out pretty decent, which is more motivating than making something hideous.

      1. OfficePrincess*

        After messing around a while today, I’ve confirmed that the yarn is the biggest issue. It was given to me as a gift but it’s … not normal. I don’t have the label to know what it’s called, but the best way I can describe it is that it’s both crimped and twisted like a bad 90s hairdo while not being wound tightly as a strand. It’s constantly catching on itself and splitting. I guess I need to make a trip to the store before I can really start practicing.

        And thanks for the idea to make a practice square instead of a project. The first time I tried to learn, I decided I was making a scarf, and then just quit when it wasn’t working. I think if it’s going to be a hobby/way for me to relax, it has to be zero pressure.

        1. Blue_eyes*

          It sounds like you have “homespun” style yarn. It is a huge pain to work with, especially for a beginner. Try starting with a single ply wool yarn, or just a basic multi ply wool or acrylic. You want something not too slippery, not too sticky, and something that doesn’t split too easily.

          1. Celeste*

            Agree, go with wool when you’re new. I tried learning on cotton, which has no elasticity and is slippery, and made it take a lot longer to get the hang of it.

    4. Windchime*

      YouTube videos are great–I’m an experienced knitter and I watch them all the time. I’m pretty much self-taught, but some people learn better by actually having someone help them get started and your local yarn shop is a perfect place to begin. They often will have knit-along nights where you can take your project and experienced knitters can help you.

      Finally, go visit Ravelry dot com. It’s a huge site for people who knit and crochet and it’s an amazing resource. Good luck! I love to knit; I feel silly just sitting and watching TV without a knitting project in my hands.

      1. OfficePrincess*

        I’m sort of nervous about knitting groups since I’m so young (mid-20s). What are the odds that others from my generation would be there?

        1. Trixie*

          I think you’d be surprised. From artsy crafts folks to those who really like DIY textiles. Not sure how big your local community is but start with Meet UP, then FB groups, if anything you might start your own hip “Stitch N Bitch” group!

        2. plain_jane*

          It really depends on your neighbourhood. My Local Yarn Store (LYS) night ranges from mid 20s to late 70s I guess, with a solid core in the 30s-40s. So you’d be on the younger side, but not unreasonably so.

    5. MegKnits*

      Knittinghelp(dot)com has the best videos for how-to’s on every kind of stitch. Casting on/off, sewing up pieces and it goes on. Also check your public library. I checked out two ebooks on knitting last week (which reminds me I have to read them).
      Also if you need patterns, check out ravelry(dot)com or bernat(dot)com. They both have free patterns that you can start with.

      1. Lia*

        Seconding Knittinghelp Dot com. The videos are terrific and very easy to follow.

        I would actually hold off on Ravelry a little, if you actually want to knit. I find a direct correlation between time I spend there and how much knitting I get done! So many things to look at…

        1. OfficePrincess*

          I’ll definitely have to check that out. I’ve found that there is a wide range of tutorials from super helpful to more confusing than trying to figure it out on my own.

          1. MegKnits*

            Good luck!! It’s good once you get the hang of it. Start basic, with a scarf or a dishcloth doing just knitting. Then try learning purl stitch. Stick with those two for a while and you’ll be good.

    6. Blue_eyes*

      I taught myself to knit from library books and online tutorials and videos (this was around 2000 in the way back in the dawn of Internet videos, so there are way more now). Start just making small squares and then unraveling them and doing it again until you get the hang of the basic stitches. Then make something simple like a washcloth or scarf. I use he online yarn crafts community Ravelry for finding new patterns and tracking my projects. Craftsy is a great resource for quality tutorials and some of their courses are free. Good luck!

  24. Elizabeth*

    I’m sitting wasting time waiting for the laundry to finish, so we can start packing. We’re leaving tomorrow morning for 2 weeks in Germany!

    1. B*

      Oooh exciting my sister lives in Munich and i love visiting her and her family :) whereabouts are you going? Hope it’s fab :)

    2. Schuyler*

      I hope you’re having a lovely time! I’ve been to Germany three times on my way to other places, but the most I’ve spent there is a day. It’s my dream to take my mom to Germany and visit some of the areas where our family came from–and to spend Christmas in Germany!

  25. Sunflower*

    I’m trying to book an all inclusive vacation(flight, hotel, food, booze) for a girl’s trip in the beginning of April. I’ve never booked one before and am pretty clueless. I want to stay under $1000/person for a 3 or 4 night trip. We’re flying out of somewhere in the NYC, Philly, Baltimore area depending on direct flight availability. We don’t have a specific location in mind- I am hoping for Costa Rica but i think it might be too expensive. I have no clue what is a reasonable price or websites to find these deals? Any advice? Help!?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Groupon and Living Social usually have pretty good deals.

      BUT, if I can be permitted to preach for just a minute – I urge you to reconsider all-inclusive. A lot of people don’t realize that by staying in all-inclusive resorts you’re not really helping local economies at all -most of the profits go to international companies who employ locals only in terrible working conditions for very low wages. The locals rarely benefit from the tourism, and in many cases are harmed by policies that restrict them from accessing beaches that are reserved for well-heeled foreign tourists.

      If possible, I’d try to stay in a locally-owned hotel or rent a place. Costa Rica is easy enough to travel – you could rent a house and hit a grocery store to get food and drinks – it would probably end up cheaper and you’d avoid some of the pitfalls of all-inclusive travel.

      Feel free to ignore me – this is just an issue I feel strongly about – that travel/tourism should benefit the locals. :)

      1. Bea W*

        Great suggestion! Depending on the size of your group, renting a house is a great way to save on costs. People like all-inclusive for the convenience, but if you don’t mind handling more of the financial logistics that require pooling money for accommodations, groceries, and such Katie’s suggestion is super. The downside is that you’d have to be much more involved in managing the trip and the payments than you would if you found a package where everyone was responsible for booking and paying for their own spot.

      2. Schuyler*

        Thanks for the information, Katie. I’ve thought about doing something all-inclusive when traveling with my mom, but I’ve never gone that route. I appreciate your chiming in here on this, as that’s something that would be important to me, too.

    2. Bea W*

      No direct experience, but have heard from a number friend and family that Mexico has a lot of affordable all-inclusive packages. My sister has been a few times because it is less expensive than taking vacation trips in the US, and the dollar goes a long way. She flies from the same area.

      I also know a few people who had been to Costa Rica and rave that it is spectacular, but I have no idea about the costs. If you find it’s too expensive, check out Mexico. I wish I could tell you what specific websites to look at. I usually just google a lot and use Trip Advisor and Travelocity. Trip Advisor is a great site for reviews. I am not sure if you can book actual trips through there, but I use it all the time to look up hotels and destinations to get more information from the traveler reviews.

    3. Mal*

      I HIGHLY recommend going through Apple Vacations .com
      I’ve booked all inclusive trips through them at least three times and the prices are fantastic, so far the best deal I’ve gotten was $720 for 7 nights in Punta Cana in November at a “4 Apple” resort. I think the actual resort was Iberostar.
      And you can search a lot of different destinations easily to find the best deals.
      Also, I’ve learned that Saturday flights are usually cheapest :)
      Have fun on your trip!!

    4. BRR*

      I’m honeymooning in Costa Rica and from the research I did it’s not big on all inclusives. They have them but for a good one it will be a lot more expensive that if you did one in Mexico. It depends on what you’re looking for in a vacation. If you just want to sit by the pool/beach I believe you’ll get more bang for your buck in Mexico or in the Caribbean (someone with more knowledge might know where it is cheapest). As Katie mentioned a house rental in Costa Rica is very affordable but you have to then worry about driving in the country (no signs, and pot holes).

  26. Bea W*

    Continuing the recent travel streak of the last couple years, for 2015 already booked…

    1) Belfast Ireland and where ever else my family research takes me, which right now is some rural villages in County Down. This is a trip lead by professional genealogists specializing in Irish research. I’ll be with other people doing the same thing. About 1/2 the airfare will be will be covered with the voucher I got for the unfortunate bird strike incident that occurred on my way to Israel this past summer.

    2) Disney and Universal Studios! I haven’t been since I was a kid, back when there were 2 hotels and Epicot was barely finished. One of my friends suggested we go this year. My family has a place near by, so accommodations are free, which is awesome because…Jeepers! My jaw dropped when my friend told me how much her airfare was going to be for flying 2 hours down the coast. It’s not like she’s coming from some podunk airport in the middle of the country. I could make 3 trips to her place for the cost of her one ticket to Orlando! I don’t know how whole families afford this trip. The airfare for a family of 5 alone would bankrupt a lot of people. Then you add on baggage fees, hotel, eating out, park tickets, ground transportation, and other incidentals and holyfreakinmoly!

    1. BRR*

      @orlando

      I can fly there from where I am on Frontier and if you have a little flexibility it can be around $100 per person. My mom just booked a trip from St Louis to Ft Lauderdale area (can’t remember which airport) in January for $125. Even when you add on bag fees it’s less than $200. I know for a family of five it adds up but it can be more affordable than the legacy carriers.

      1. Bea W*

        $100 a person?? Holy crap!! Jet Blue has a ton of flights between Boston and multiple destinations in Florida so it’s not outrageous, but it’s not under $200 either. My friend is flying from NoVA, and there just weren’t inexpensive options for the time we are going. My friend’s ticket was around $600. We put in all kinds of variations on the dates around the time we can go, and it was still $600 and up for her. My ticket was less, but not so much less that it made any sense for her to come all the way up to Boston and fly with me.

        1. BRR*

          For our wedding last week we got 9 of my husband’s family here for under $1,000. Well maybe a little over because they charge even for carry on. What everybody did was check big bags and combine.

            1. BRR*

              Thanks! It was amazing and now I can stop annoying everybody with etiquette questions. Now I can annoy everybody with figuring out what to pack for Costa Rica.

  27. Jubilance*

    We’re less than 3 months away from our Pi Day wedding and I’m super excited but also freaking out – it feels like we have so much still left to do! I think I’m just putting a lot of pressure on myself tho.

    I’d love to hear from other folks on the following:
    * Did you do welcome bags for your out of town guests? What did you put in them?
    * Did you do the welcome party & post-wedding brunch for your guests? How did they go? Were they well attended?
    * Any ideas on signature cocktails? Our plan is to have one from him & one from me but I’m at a loss as to what I want for mine.
    * We also plan to do a beer/wine/signature cocktail only bar, and provide each guest 2 drink tickets. Any ideas on how to distribute them? I was thinking of attaching them to the programs so that every person gets one.

    1. Sydney Bristow*

      We are getting married this summer and our “favor” is a ticket to a fireworks festival in the evening after our daytime reception. I was planning to have it folded into the napkin at each place setting. That might work for you in case not everyone takes a program (unless you set them on the seats ahead of time).

      Congrats on your upcoming wedding!

      1. Sarah in DC*

        I love this idea. I’ve always said if I became unexpectedly rich I’d have fireworks at my wedding, but this is way easier!

    2. OfficePrincess*

      We skipped welcome bags. Even though we had a fair number of out of town guests, almost all them were familiar with the area and almost all of them were family. On top of that a good chunk stayed with other family who lived in the area so it would have been hard to distribute them.

      We also skipped the welcome party/post wedding brunch. We ran into a ton of my husband’s family the next morning since they were at the same hotel (note to wedding guests, when the bride has two tote bags, a suitcase, and a wedding dress over her arms, she’s not interested in stopping to talk for 10 minutes) and I know there were other family gatherings the day after, but we were on our way to our honeymoon by then.

      We didn’t do signature cocktails or drink tickets, but I do like Sydney’s idea of putting them at each place setting. It’s a quick and easy way to distribute them, but if you plan to have a cocktail hour in a separate space, putting them with the programs or stationing someone by the entrance to hand them out might be better options.

      1. Jubilance*

        90% of our guests are out of towners, and most have never been to our wedding location, so I wanted to put together something simple with some snacks & info on the city.

        We’re having cocktail in the same location but a separate room (doing a room flip) so everyone will need their tickets for the cocktail hour, which is why I was thinking of distributing with their programs.

    3. DeeDee*

      The symbolism of a signature cocktail is that it is what both of you can call your own, not each of you as individuals. Come up with one drink and make it something you’d enjoy on each anniversary.

      1. Treena Kravm*

        But that’s terrible if they’re only doing wine/beer/1 signature cocktail. Even if they can find a drink they both like, the chances of many guests enjoying the single one is slim. We did 4 cocktails + wine/beer. We gave them cutsey love-themed names. I was going to do 5, but decided that was 1 too many, but I loved the name of the one that got cut. Bloody Brawling Bourbon (Blood orange bourbon)

    4. BRR*

      We didn’t do welcome bags. I think they’re nice but if it’s going to add too much to your plate just skip it. We received one for one wedding with some chocolates, a can of coke (it was in Atlanta), and a bottle of water. Something to snack on and the water was nice, I’m not a huge soda person but maybe others liked it. Trader Joe’s sells individual nut mixes so maybe those would work.

      We had our friends over the night before since we don’t get to see them that often. Most were running late but I think it’s nice to have something for when people arrive. It depends where people are coming from and how your guests view attending these things. For my mom’s side of the family they see every event as mandatory while my husband’s side sees the entire wedding as optional. We did not do a brunch due to budget (the hotel had free breakfast at least) but nobody seemed to mind as many wanted to get on the road.

      For signature cocktails do you each have a favorite type of liquor? Maybe search vodka signature cocktails or gin signature cocktails.

      I have no experience with drink tickets at a wedding but I can imagine it being chaos. Could you put two at each place setting? If you could eliminate the drink tickets I would do so. But I 100% understand budgets and if you have heavy drinkers you need this in place.

      1. Jubilance*

        Eliminating tickets isn’t an option for us or our budget, it was actually the best option we could come up with to allow us to host a bar for our guests at all.

    5. just laura*

      Re the first two: nope and nope. Those seemed like a bunch of extra work with little payoff. I took a less-is-more approach and left the city as soon as the wedding was over! Had an amazing time but didnt want to make myself insane on planning.

    6. Anon in Tejas*

      Bag– cute, yes. Water, snack food, map (hotel if large or surrounding area, starbucks, pharmacy, etc) , schedule of event, etc.

      Signature cocktail– what about your favorite pie into a cocktail? Like coconut crime pie into a cocktail with coconut rum and something else? Or lemon icebox and it’s a lemoncello cocktail.

      1. fposte*

        And I’m in love with the typo of “coconut crime pie,” and I want to call it that for some kind of theme party. (Or for a really, really bad pie.)

    7. Sunflower*

      The first two things- I think you can skip both, The welcome bags are nice but I find them pretty unnecessary. If you have the time and budget, they are a nice touch but aren’t necessary.

      The brunch you can also skip. It’s one of those things that I’ll go to if they have it but if not, I really don’t care or notice. Most of the time I just want to get home and I’d be just fine picking up a bagel on the way. Also, if you have a lot of out of towners, depending, a lot might skip out early to catch flights or get home early.

      I’d have one signature cocktail that most everyone would enjoy and another that isn’t as popular but has significance. Usually any cocktail with vodka, cordial and a fruit juice is a popular choice

      1. Stephanie*

        The brunch you can also skip. It’s one of those things that I’ll go to if they have it but if not, I really don’t care or notice. Most of the time I just want to get home and I’d be just fine picking up a bagel on the way. Also, if you have a lot of out of towners, depending, a lot might skip out early to catch flights or get home early.

        Yeah, seconding this. My friend had wedding brunch at her house. Wedding was downtown, but the brunch was at her mom’s out in the suburbs. The airport was a straight shot from downtown (and a semi-affordable cab ride), but it was really awkward to get from her house to the airport. I enjoyed brunch, but there was this slight anxiety where I was worried that I would be stuck with a $100 cab ride to the airport (I was leaving at a different time than most). I eventually figured something out after bugging enough people.

    8. Katie the Fed*

      I did welcome bags with local-themed treats. Beer from a local brewery, some local munchies, etc. I didn’t do a map since there was a website and most people have smart phones. I also threw in a couple apples because it was fall and I thought people might like something healthy – everyone was happy for them :)

      My in-laws bought a bunch of booze and their hotel room turned into party central – so that was the extent of a welcome party. But they also expanded the rehearsal dinner to include ALL out-of-town guests, which was a lot of people (hey, their money if they want to). Then we invited friend-aged people out for drinks after that.

      We didn’t do a day after brunch because most people left the night of the wedding.

      For the drink tickets – can you have them attached to the escort cards?

      1. Jubilance*

        Yeah we’re opening the rehearsal dinner to all our out of town guests – making it easy by serving pizza :-)

        We could do this and have everyone pick up their escort cards during the cocktail hour. We just need to make sure everyone has their tickets during the cocktail hour, which is why I was thinking of distributing them with the programs.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          We had the escort cards at the bar for the cocktail hour so it worked out well. Programs could work well too but if you have any late arrivers that could be tricky.

          I love the Pi Day btw! Are you serving pies? We had wedding pies instead of a wedding cake – everyone loved them.

          1. Jubilance*

            Our favors are mini-pies in a variety of flavors, so everyone can take something sweet home. I had to have wedding cake but we couldn’t NOT have pie at our Pi Day wedding.

  28. Carrie in Scotland*

    Today I am sleepy because I had an epic phone call – 6 and a half hours – with a boy that last until almost 7 am this morning. Said boy lives a few hundred miles away but we are meeting in the middle – Edinburgh – for an all day date thing after the new year. I am tentatively excited about such a thing even though you hear of awful stories when it comes to internet dating.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      OMG, it’s like real life Gavin and Stacey! :-)

      I wish you luck, caution, and awesomeness. Listen to your spidey sense, but enjoy yourself. Those meetings can be so exciting. BUT– I give you permission to leave early or abruptly if things get wonky.

    2. Adonday Veeah*

      A six-and-a-half-hour phone conversation is a good omen. At least you know you have stuff to talk about! There are awful internet dating stories, but there are awesome ones too, that lead to the forever-kind-of-love! Leave yourself a back door. I’m hoping you don’t have to use it. Have a wonderful time in Edinburgh! Report back.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        my friend actually suggested I find a pub with a front and back entrance in case of needing to escape :) I will report back (it’s not for 2 weeks)

      1. Sydney Bristow*

        I met my fiancé online about 3 years ago and we are getting married this summer. Have fun and trust your instincts!

    3. SecinUK*

      I met my husband on the internet (MSN chat rooms, you got to love them!). This was nearly 12 years ago and I do know quite a few people from the chat room I used to frequent who ended up together and are still together. It can happen! Have a great time and be safe!

  29. Alfie*

    I am just so happy it is the Solstice. I have been counting the days until it starts getting light again and telling the dog each day. The long dark days are not great for body or soul. Looking forward to rededicating myself to exercise, healthier eating and togetherness time walking with the dog!

    1. Mal*

      This is basically what my husband said today when I told him it was the solstice. “Just think, it can only get warmer, sunnier and days get longer from here on out!

        1. De Minimis*

          Yeah us too, Jan/Feb are usually the worst of winter, and we often have at least one more cold spell in March.

          *Really* hope to be somewhere else next winter. I grew up here but spent most of my 30s in a place with milder winter weather and since I’ve been back here I’ve learned that I just don’t want to have to deal with that anymore.

      1. Bea W*

        Well… for us it gets COLDER before it gets warmer. We still have the snowy months ahead. At least it will start getting lighter earlier in the morning though. I can’t take these dark mornings.

          1. fposte*

            Could you get photosensitive lights or sensors? Both my front and side door lights go on when it gets dark automatically, and it’s absolutely awesome.

              1. Anonsie*

                We put cheapo timer switches on our outside lights for this. You just do the wall switch– takes like 15 mins and you can take them off when you move.

      2. TL -*

        Yeah, it’s definitely going to get colder in my city until the end of February or so. But the promise of longer days is giving me hope :)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I hear you and waiting for the light, too.
      Hopefully, this Jan/Feb will not be like last year. That was really discouraging.

    3. Lulubell*

      I’ve been telling people all week that I couldn’t wait til today so the the days can start getting longer again. Glad to know I’m not alone!

  30. Sunflower*

    The holiday’s always bring to surface my weird feelings towards my family. I love my family but I’ve always considered myself closer with my friends. When I hear holiday songs and watch movies that talk about the importance of spending the holiday’s with loved ones, I have those feelings towards my friends. At family get-togethers, I end up avoiding everyone but my dad(we get along mostly because he doesn’t ask me about my future life plans). Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who feels this way. My friends seem to think it’s weird that I try to avoid family events. My family has never done anything bad but we just aren’t close. And the holiday’s seem fake- like my mother is trying to act like we are a tight knit family and we really aren’t. I’ve never gone to my family in an emotional crisis or even introduced them to someone I’m dating because I’ve always felt more comfortable with my friends. I don’t know. I guess I’m just looking for confirmation that I’m not a total freak and/or bad person for feeling this way.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      This is the first Christmas in 3 years I’m spending it with what constitutes with my family. I’m telling myself that if I don’t like it, I don’t have to do it again.

    2. reader*

      Not a total freak. My family is fine but not people I want to spend a lot of time with and certainly not with all of them at once. Generally speaking we would not pick each other to be friends with. We are very different people.

    3. Miss Pronounced*

      Confirmation granted! You’re not the only person who feels that way, I am somewhat the same way. It’s absolutely nothing to feel bad about…it’s just the way things are sometimes.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I’ll agree with that. My friends have been my true Christmas for me. Family? Sometimes yes, but not all the time.

    5. jamlady*

      Totally not strange. I’m very close with my family but my husband’s family is the opposite. They get along okay, they just… aren’t close. I knew my husband as a friend for 6 years before we were engaged and I didn’t meet them until we were almost married. He and his sister both keep their lives super private. It’s just how they are. We didn’t fly home for the holidays this year and it barely bothers him – he just likes his grandma’s cooking lol.

    6. Trixie*

      I’m tight with my super small family but don’t feel the same intensity to spend holidays together. Given a choice, I’d much rather travel/visit any other time of the year when it isn’t completely insane. But I’m also someone who enjoys the holidays alone with fun outings, dinner, movie, etc.

    7. Lulubell*

      Nope, definitely not the only one. I wish I was closer with my family and had the relationships with them that some of my friends have with their parents, but I just don’t. My friendships are also really strong, so I figure I can’t be that much of an emotionally distant freak.

  31. Bea W*

    I got my second Stitch Fix this month and loved that one too! I was unsure about a couple pieces when I took them out of the box, but they fit perfectly and looked great when I tried them on. I kept the whole box again. It was actually only $150 for all five pieces, which I thought was a great price. I have not been able to find clothing that fits well and that I like to much at any of the less expensive big box stores. So it’s worth paying a bit more for clothes that fit well and are decent quality. I wear the things from my first box all the time. I owe whomever posted that months ago, a huge double debt of gratitude now!

  32. Mal*

    Ok y’all, I usually just post replies to people, but my husband and I will be relocating to a large Midwest city in May(about 2 hours from where we live now) and next weekend we’re going to go visit a couple different apartment complexes in the new city.
    What do you consider deal breakers and absolute necessities in a new place?
    On a scale of 1-10 how important is a second bedroom? It’s just the two of us with no plans for kids in the next few years, but we live 1500 miles from our hometown, so we do have visitors a few times a year, but can’t decide if a second bedroom is a must have(we’re in a one bedroom now).
    Rent rates are very reasonable in this area too so a second bedroom isn’t going to break the bank either, it would just be a cost savings if we didn’t have it.
    Thoughts?

    1. GOG11*

      Perhaps you could think about what you like and dislike about your current place to start. My house doesn’t have any sort of entryway or mudroom. The backdoor just comes into the kitchen where the landing to the basement stairs is. There’s no room for me to take off my shoes or store things like coats and if I ever move, that’s something I definitely want! Are there any things like that that you’ve thought about before? Or does what you have work really well for you (so that you could get a similar place in New City)?

    2. Hillary*

      An office/hobby room is really nice to have – it’s a place to shut the door if one of you wants quiet.

      I’ll only live on the top floor again. Noise and water both travel down.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      If you think you want a second bedroom maybe you can use it for a hobby/craft room or a library/den area primarily. Put a sleeper sofa in there for when guests come. For me a guest room has been about a 9 on a scale of 1-10. I don’t use it a lot- but it is sure good to have. I put seasonal items in the closet and drawers in that room. And it gives me space to throw stuff, if I need to suddenly straighten up another area of the house.

    4. INTP*

      Top dealbreaker: People are allowed to smoke indoors, or you can vaguely smell any kind of smoke coming from under your neighbors’ doors, or there are a lot of cigarette butts near the building. Even if it’s not in the unit when you visit, weird ventilation things can bring it into your unit. Your clothes will smell like it (try getting a job in a suit that reeks of smoke), you might get sick, etc.

      Second dealbreaker: bottom floor apartment. Maybe this is just coincidence but every older apartment building I’ve lived in, the people on the bottom floor have had flooding at some point. Plus, I know that most thieves are opportunists and I don’t want my unit to be the easiest one to break into.

      Third dealbreaker: This depends on the area, but no off-street parking. If street parking is plentiful and unregulated, or obviously if you don’t have a car, disregard it. But in my midwestern city, there are bizarre regulations about street parking so the only way to park off-street involved nightly parking tickets or moving my car to inconvenient locations multiple times per day and paying for nighttime use of certain lots (assuming I could even get a spot in them).

      1. jordanjay29*

        I agree with all of these. My building is non-smoking, but people smoke RIGHT OUTSIDE THE DOOR. Sometimes they smoke on the second floor fire escape landing. Inevitably, the smoke gets inside the building and I’ll have to smell it for an entire evening. Opening the windows doesn’t help, since that’s where the smoke is.

        If you find a place that’s non-smoking, make sure its enforced, too. My college is supposedly non-smoking, but it’s supposed to be peer-enforced. Which is just as effective as you’d guess it is: not at all.

      2. the gold digger*

        And the weird street parking could be almost bearable (but still a dealbreaker), but throw snow into the mix and it would be a nightmare. Attached covered parking is really, really nice if you are going to a place that gets snow.

        I really hated having to go to the basement to wash my clothes when I was still in communal living. My husband’s apartment had its own washer and dryer and that was nice – no trudging down a few floors only to discover that someone else was already doing laundry.

        But my husband also had the crazy upstairs neighbors who did laundry every single day at 5 a.m. until he complained. Then they waited until 8 a.m. after snapping at him that this was NOT New York City and people here get up early, which made me wonder if they had ever been in New York. I don’t think that it is super quiet at 5 a.m. there, but what do I know?

        How much laundry can two retired people generate? They did laundry at 8 a.m. and then another load at 4 p.m. Every day.

        So yeah – I don’t know how you do this, but check out the crazy neighbors. You would think old people would be easy and quiet, but you would be wrong.

    5. salad fingers*

      This might be really obvious but in my experience living in an apartment in a large midwestern city, not a given: LAUNDRY! PREFERABLY IN UNIT! Not even funny what a pain laundromats are.

    6. Sunflower*

      For me, a guest room is not a big deal except that ample storage space is a big deal for me so if the place does not have an attic or basement, I would go for a 2 bedroom to store stuff in. My friend just moved into an apt and her number one thing was natural lighting. I have to admit having a lot of natural lighting does change the ambiance of an apartment but while it looks beautiful in pictures, being woken up at sunrise or not being able to sleep late because of light sucks. And I’ve never found a pretty set of blackout curtains.

      1. Alder*

        Natural lighting is my #1 thing. Also: Landlords who won’t be up in my business. Ability to walk to some kind of hang-out-spot like a coffee shop or library.

        I’ve been incredibly spoiled that the longest commute I’ve ever had was 5 miles. Right now I bike to work and live close enough to walk on nasty-weather days. I pay more in rent, but I don’t have a car, and not having to deal with traffic saves me SO much time.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      If you know you’re going to have visitors, I would definitely go for the second bedroom. Both you and your visitors will be grateful, and it might come in handy if one of you is ill and doesn’t want to keep the other one awake coughing or tossing about.

      The thing I most wish I had done when I bought this stupid house was to get one that had TWO bathrooms. Mine needs to be redone–seriously, a gas station bathroom is better than mine–but I won’t be able to do it all at once unless someone from one of those TV shows does it, because I won’t have anywhere else to go!

      1. ILiveToServe*

        if you can afford it. Second bathroom even if it just a powder room. Walkablity score- can you walk to a “main street” to eat a meal , pick up a quart of milk and if there is a bookstore or library, it is perfect.

        I love having a spare bedroom- not just for guests…sometimes you just need a break…perfect place for a retreat. We have a stationary bicycle in ours. Midwest. Bad weather. Need exercise.

        1. the gold digger*

          There is a “walkability index” somewhere online.

          Wait. OK. Walkscore dot com. It tells you what you can walk to from your house. It’s pretty cool and it’s useful.

    8. HR Manager*

      Here’s what’s big for me:
      – A MUST – no smoking or reasonably smoke-free (ugh – my sinuses would shrivel and die)
      – Cat friendly
      – Decent sized kitchen with recent appliances and a pantry for storage
      – Good natural light
      – Quiet neighbors
      – Close garbage disposal options (and not smelly; well-maintained!)
      – In building laundry facilities
      – Walkable to groceries – a must since I have no car

      Nice to have:
      – Second bedroom for kitties
      – Balcony space
      – Big closets (if good storage is already available)
      – Hard wood floors vs carpeting
      – Walkable to amenities (restaurants, etc.)
      – A/C

  33. GOG11*

    My divorce is now finalized! And about a week ago, I submitted an idea for a product to a company that takes people’s invention ideas and turns them into products (then pays royalties). I’ve had this idea for a long time and it is nice to be validated in this way after all the crappiness of the divorce. It feels like things are finally moving forward.

      1. GOG11*

        Thank you! I hope it will get that far! I can say now, actually (and I’m happy to share as I think it’s quite nice even if it doesn’t solve a big problem or anything). It’s a credit-card-sized quarter holder. It allows you to store quarters in a slot in your wallet (or directly in your pocket). I always go to ALDI and I about half the time I end up spending or losing my coin for the cart corral. So this would keep it away from random ‘undesignated’ pocket change and, thus, keep me from spending it. They make coin things but you can’t transfer your groceries to a new cart without losing your token (and, as many of them are attached to your keys) your house and car keys as well.

        I have no idea if it will make it to the next stage, but I’m really hoping it will! If not, I’m going to find a way to make it myself so I don’t have to carry all my groceries in my arms anymore.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thank you for asking! It’s actually healing a lot faster than I expected. I don’t have 100% function back yet, but it’s getting there, and I can type basically normally now (although I’m going to continue taking advantage of all these update posts to continue giving myself a bit of a break for the rest of the month). It was pretty much the opposite of my foot injury a few years ago; when that happened, I thought it would be pretty minor and it turned out to be totally life disrupting for close to a year. With the thumb, I was prepared for it to be highly disruptive for a while, and it’s turned out to be much easier than I’d feared. I like this way better.

      (And I feel silly complaining about either after reading Janis’ post below! Scary.)

      1. Windchime*

        My foot took a good year to heal, too. Huge pain. I’m glad your thumb is coming along more quickly.

  34. Janis*

    OK, pros and cons requsted for the following situation:

    Nine weeks ago I was in a pretty serious car accident. I missed 8 weeks of work (and a lot of AAM) mending from several broken bones. To be clear, my life was never in danger, but I was a virtual shut-in while mending. I couldn’t even take a shower for the first 14 days (I add that just for some fun squickiness.) Anyhow, even though I was the one carted away in the ambulance, I was given the citation and the summons for an improper left turn. I didn’t see the car that hit me until a split second before impact.

    The girl who hit me was shook up, but not injured. I think I knew it was my fault the second after it happened. I later saw the police report and she was 24 years old, literally young enough to be my daughter. I’ve never hit anyone, but I am sure she felt terrible about it, as most of us would.

    Since I have her name and address I’m considering sending her a note telling her I’m all right, I’m back at work part-time, I know I was in error, etc. (I would have to do some wordsmithing, of course. ) Part of me says not to, to just let it drop, insurance companies handled everything, and so on. There’s no question of my admitting guilt since that’s all been sorted out. But another part of me says she’s so young, and must have been in terrible shock seeing the fire department cut the doors of my car off to get to me, and probably had a rough few days.
    Thoughts?

    1. Stephanie*

      Pro: It’s a nice, thoughtful thing to do.
      Con: I’d wonder about legal implications. I saw you got a citation, but I’d wonder if this could fuel the fire if she decided to sue. IANAL (although I used to work with a bunch of them), and little things like that could hurt.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yup. If you do this, you need to wait until the insurance is all settled and done.

        My initial reaction was to say that this is a very nice thing, a lovely sentiment, etc., but the more I think about it… don’t do it. I urge you not to project on this young woman. While she was probably very, very shaken up at the scene and it probably did impact her emotionally, you don’t know if she feels sympathetic or even kindly toward you. After all… it was your fault. I don’t want to make you feel worse than you do, and I think your heart is in the right place, but unless she reaches out to you for some reason, I’d advise you to leave her to her own recovery.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          AvonLady said exactly what I was thinking, only better. 8 weeks is probably just enough time to start feeling “normal” behind the wheel, without being constantly hyperalert for cars popping out where they’re not supposed to be. Sending a note is probably going to remind her of the accident more than anything.

    2. Observer*

      Run this by your lawyer, just to make sure you’re not overlooking anything. But, I do think a short note would be nice. No matter whose fault it was, it must have been pretty traumatic for her. So letting her know that it really wasn’t her fault and that you’ll be ok should be helpful to her.

      1. Janis*

        Well, I don’t have a lawyer. A 15 year old car totaled a 13 year old car and no attorney was really warranted. My car insurance company sent me a check weeks ago, so I can only assume she got one around the same time.

        I think the nays have it, unless there are some late posters.

    3. BRR*

      Personally I wouldn’t. It’s a very kind thought but (a heads up the following is going to be blunt and you might not like it) if somebody caused an accident I wouldn’t particularly care how they were doing. I might be mildly interested just out of curiously but with having to deal with everything like insurance and car repairs I wouldn’t really be worried about the person who caused it. It might have caused me some shock but it would take awhile for me not to feel anger.

      1. Sunflower*

        I am kind of in this camp to. If she knows your injuries were not life threatening, she might not be all that interested in how you’re doing. My car was totaled (hit when it was parked thankfully) when I was 24 and the insurance company was actually not difficult to deal with but the entire thing was a nightmare. Between dealing with claim adjusters, police reports and trying to find a car that I could actually afford, it was a huge headache and if the person who hit my car contacted me, I probably wouldn’t really want to talk to them.

        I’m sorry this happened(it can happen to anyone) and I’m glad you’re okay but I’d recommend trying to forget about it and just move on.

    4. fposte*

      I’m pretty much in agreement with Stephanie on the pro/con thing, and I’m leaning toward con because the woman’s feelings toward you (I know at our age they feel like girls, but remember they’re old enough to be commanding people in the military) might also be kind of complicated. I understand the impulse, as I was rear-ended by a very sweet sixteen-year-old guy once who was horrified and hugged me when he found out I was okay. It’s a weird kind of connection.

      But mostly I’m glad you’re okay and mending. Enjoy those showers!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      My husband was an insurance adjuster. I know he would have said do not do this. Do NOT.

      I understand your desire to reassure her, but probably others around her are helping her with that. Please just concentrate on healing your body.

      I am sorry this happened to you.

    6. GOG11*

      I don’t have any advice regarding the pros and cons (and I think it’s been covered really nicely anyways) but I’m so glad you’re doing alright now. It sounds like it’s been a very long healing process and I’m glad you’re on the upswing.

    7. Otter box*

      Don’t do anything that can be construed as admitting fault. About 15 years ago my grandparents were in an accident where my grandfather was at fault – he rear-ended someone because he didn’t notice they’d stopped. (Fwiw he was getting to the point where he probably needed to stop driving.) My grandparents thought the woman they’d hit was nice and felt so terrible about what had happened they apologized. Turns out this supposedly nice woman took their apology and used it to sue them for an obscene amount of money. I’m actually not sure how it all turned out because my grandfather fell ill and died not long afterward, but that sure taught me to never admit fault in a situation like that.

      1. fposte*

        I was working for an insurance company when one of the nicest guys there got mildly hit by somebody, who apologized; his reaction back at the office was “I sure hope we don’t cover her.”

      2. Sunflower*

        Not sure what the situation was then but I know in PA, regardless of the situation, if you rear end someone you are always at fault. Here we also have limited tort and full tort and depending on what your limit is, that controls how much you can sue people for.

    8. Carrie in Scotland*

      When I was 19 or 20, I was in a car accident where the other driver crossed into our lane and hit us (he’d been on night shift and lost concentration) .
      I don’t remember this but years afterwards my dad – who was driving at the time – said that he’d come round to our house to apologise and I wouldn’t talk to him (I’m assuming my dad did).
      I feel a bit bad about it now but clearly I was upset.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      I’m glad you’re doing better but I’m with the others. It’s probably best not to. I know the guy who hit me on my birthday last year was very sorry and didn’t mean to (then pay attention to red lights from now on, dude). I’m sure he felt bad for a while, but I don’t care. I am still freaked when I turn at that intersection, though I had to get used to it quickly because I go through it every day.

      And I would not hand someone written admission of fault–she could still sue the crap out of you.

      1. Janis*

        All right, the nays have spoken. No note will be written. But I believe there is a perception out there that by doing so I would be admitting fault. The fault was assessed at the scene of the accident by the police, so that idea is a nonstarter. Insurance companies tell you not to admit fault at the time, but when the police assess fault, it’s a done deal. The fine to the county has long since been sent and the check cashed.

        As for those who say she wouldn’t care how someone was doing that she hit, even if it weren’t her fault …well, hell’s bells, folks, I can’t even go there. What a world. But I will go along with the advice.

        1. Trixie*

          First, so glad you’re on the mend. And appreciating showers again.

          Second, I imagine this young driver has folks in her life reassuring her accidents happen (sometimes our fault, other times it’s someone else’s) but we do get past them. Especially when that insurance check comes in to help with repairs!

        2. Observer*

          As for those who say she wouldn’t care how someone was doing that she hit, even if it weren’t her fault …well, hell’s bells, folks, I can’t even go there. What a world. But I will go along with the advice.

          Although I think I would care, I also think you are being a bit unfair. It’s easy to see why she might see it differently. After all, she could just as easily have been the victim. So I could see her thinking “I could just as easily be the one who had to be cut out of that car, and now you want be to care about what happened to you?!”

        3. Elizabeth West*

          For the record, Janis, HE hit ME. I did not hit him. I was making a LEGAL left turn and he blew through a red light whilst watching a fire truck and nearly totaled the only good car I’ve ever had. I’m extremely lucky that 1) I didn’t get hurt, and 2) my car was fixable. I still cannot go through that intersection without thinking of it, and I probably never will until I move away from this neighborhood, which can’t come soon enough for me.

          And though I’m very glad he wasn’t hurt and we shook hands and moved past it at the scene, I don’t have any desire to contribute to any psychotherapy he may have needed after the fact, because that is not and has never been and never will be my responsibility.

          You enjoy the view from your high horse, there. >:P

          1. Janis*

            Elizabeth, I do not even know what you are talking about. No snideness was directed personally at you.

    10. Celeste*

      Resist the urge to mother this young person. I get it, but I think you should put it out of your head. I don’t really see how any good can come of it. You never know how it will be received, either. She might think it’s a passive aggressive dig of some sort. Be like Elsa and let it go.

  35. AvonLady Barksdale*

    We are prepping for our annual latke party… but it’s the first in our new home and city. I miss my friends in NYC, but I am looking so forward to welcoming people here, even if only a few show up.

    I am also irrationally concerned that I won’t have enough food, but that is bs.

    1. BRR*

      I just made some last night but they’re almost already gone. Can I come? My house still smells like oil. It was only one night of frying but the smell will last 8 nights.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I haaaaate the lingering smell– only downside! At our last building in NYC we had a community room with a stove and did the party down there, which was SO AMAZING. So here’s our solution for today: we bought a charcoal grill and we’re going to fry the latkes in a cast iron pan on the grill in the backyard. Wish me luck, please! I will be frying in the dark…

        1. Alfie*

          Wow that’s a great idea. Good luck! I will be interested in how they turn out. I agree you probably will have enough, but also in my mind there is really no such thing as too many latkes.

        2. danr*

          get a light. There are grill lights that will clip onto the sideboard. And there are some for sale since they’re being pushed as gifts. And I sure hope it’s warm where you are. Charcoal loses heat very quickly when it’s cold. As a backup, make a quick trip to a hardware or camping store and pick up a portable gas stove (coleman type) with a couple of bottles of gas.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            We have a deck light, so I’ll be able to see a little bit! It’s about 45 degrees out here– chilly, but not bad. This is all experimental, really, and if it doesn’t work, we’ll just move the operation inside. I think I might cook a few latkes before people get here, though my usual M.O. is to cook during the party and make people visit me.

            1. danr*

              run out and get a couple of weber starter chimneys. After your initial load, start a chimney again so it’s ready to pour in and keep the heat up. It takes about 20 minutes for chimney started charcoal to be ready to use. Good luck and let us know how it went…

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                Went mostly ok– the first batch was pretty good, then I got some newcomers later in the evening and the coals just would not stay hot (it was cold and windy here). But we tried it and did it (mostly) and I’m glad we did. Our house doesn’t stink!

                We also had about 14 people show up, and for just being in town for 5 months… that’s pretty good. It wasn’t quite the extravaganza that we used to have, but we had lovely guests who knew how to socialize with each other. I had to kick out our last stragglers at 10, which was 2 hours later than I expected. We’re also almost entirely cleaned up now– just the dishes and a general wipe-down of the kitchen left, and we can do that tomorrow. ‘Twas a good latke party.

  36. INTP*

    I’m spending three weeks of the holiday season with my grandmother. I have a couple of sticky family questions.

    1) My grandmother has early-ish stage dementia. I love her and she was like a second mother to me growing up. Part of the reason I’m staying so long is to be with her while she still recognizes me and is more or less herself, just with very poor short-term memory. However, I’m finding myself getting annoyed about things, and then feeling awful about it. For example, she fixates on specific things, I think to get some sense of control and ease her anxieties. Right now one of those is people eating. She forgets that you’ve eaten 15 minutes ago and constantly badgers you to eat, even seeming to get her feelings hurt if you don’t want her to make you some food or coffee. I know there isn’t any solution to this but I’m hoping other people can tell me that you’ve also found yourself getting annoyed and even snapping while dealing with a relative with similar issues so I don’t feel so mean.

    2) I’m working remotely, and people in my family tend to stop by my grandmother’s house constantly and unannounced. She’s a southern matriarch and her house is sort of a gathering place – this isn’t considered rude in the culture. My parents and I live far away from the rest of the family, (maybe more importantly, we live not-in-the-south), so when we’re here, people tend to just assume that we want to see them as often as they’re able to show up. I suspect that at least once I’ll be on a deadline when someone decides to show up to “spend time with me” unannounced. I can’t not let them in because it’s not my house. Anyone dealt with this and have good wording for “I’m happy you thought of me but I’m going to need to be alone in my room concentrating, and I really need to be consulted in advance next time, even if no one does that here”? Or just general tips for getting people to understand that your remote work is just as time-sensitive and important as if you had to go into the office at a specific time?

    3) Another thing my grandma forgets is that I don’t eat meat. Since she insists on doing the cooking, but can’t manage as much as she used to, side dishes tend to fall by the wayside (reasonably so) and be things that I don’t like at all, like canned green beans. Several years I’ve been starving all of Christmas day because I just picked at a few things during the meal and then tried to fill up on desserts, and had to wait a few hours to go eat something else so it wouldn’t be obvious I hadn’t been satisfied by lunch. My relatives down here in general tend to not get that vegetarians need protein too, not just vegetables and bread. I’m sure I’m not the only non-meat-eater with this problem, anyone have a good solution? My grandma doesn’t love people in her kitchen while she’s cooking so I’m thinking I’ll try to make something that can be made ahead before she’s awake, like a quinoa or lentil salad, that I can fill up on maybe.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      For #1- YES, a thousand times yes. It’s pretty easy to find yourself feeling short-fused. Maybe you can take someone with you that is willing to team up with you and do work-a-rounds for some of these things. For example, Grandma keeps asking you if you want more coffee, your partner in crime redirects grandma by talking about her lovely poinsettia.

      Just so you are aware- as dementia progresses it becomes less and less reasonable for one person to try to work with the ill person alone. The worse the disease gets, the more people are needed.
      So, be sure that it is even reasonable for you to attempt this alone, first.

      #2 Can you FB or email blast people to say that you will be there but you will be on the clock working at particular times? This is my second reason for saying can you take someone with you.
      Maybe a neighbor would be willing to help out while you have to work. Or, if Grandma goes to church, maybe someone from church would come.

      #3 Either prepare some foods you can eat or know where the best stores are and their hours of business. Definitely do this. I am very limited in how I eat so I always bring something I know I can have when I travel.

      1. INTP*

        My grandpa lives here, so he can help out somewhat. I’m able to work undistracted when only the two of them are home, and he can distract her somewhat.

        I’m not on Facebook really or in regular contact with many of my relatives, so I felt it would be presumptuous to just call or email people to announce it. Of course, 5 minutes ago my aunt’s family of 5 walked in and will be staying for several nights, and I have a 9am deadline tomorrow. I’m getting some weird looks because I have barely looked up from my computer. However, they either didn’t tell anyone they were coming or only told my grandma (at this point everyone knows that they need to tell my grandpa things or they will be forgotten). I had no idea until they walked in.

        1. TL -*

          In my experience with southern culture (and I grew up in Texas), it’s fine to do that as long as you welcome, acknowledge, and then excuse yourself – do the requisite 5 minutes of full-attention chit-chat – and (since they’re spending the nights) spend evenings/early mornings with them, that’ll go over much, much better than any other approach that still lets you work.

          Also, work out of their line of sight, like in your bedroom if possible, so they’re not constantly seeing you not joining the conversation.

    2. Sunflower*

      1- My grandmother had dementia and Yes it’s so normal to get annoyed. I think a lot of the annoyance is frustration because you know there’s nothing you can do to fix it and you know it will get worse so don’t feel bad for feeling this way. It’s totally normal. Dementia seems to manifest in each person differently. I would second Not so NewReader and have someone on your team and you two can work together. Sometimes, even if it seems cruel, it often just helps to assert ‘Grandma, I ate 15 minutes ago. See, you made me x and y. here is my plate’. PS- I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this. It’s an uphill battle and I feel for you *hugs*

      2. Find a library or starbucks if you’re on deadline. I know the feeling of people not understanding that just because you aren’t at the office, it doesn’t mean you aren’t working. The best idea is probably to remove yourself from any distractions.

      3. Offer to make some of the side dishes. Are there dishes you enjoy that the rest of your family might enjoy as well? If they are scared of quinoa, tell them it tastes like rice or pasta. If they don’t want to eat it, oh well, more for you!!

    3. MegKnits*

      For the eating, could you get away with tea or another light beverage that wouldn’t be too inconvenient to have a few times a day?
      Or how about when people stop by, say you are in the middle of a deadline and can only chat for 5-10? I know it’s not the best, but it’s better than 30-60 minutes.

    4. TL -*

      Take advantage of the make-yourself-at-homeness of Southern culture – when someone comes, welcome them in, show them the kitchen, sit them down with your grandma, chit-chat for 5 minutes, and then be very polite and friendly, and excuse yourself to go get work done. If you can, come out for 5 minutes every hour or half-hour or so and catch up. Especially emphasize the fact that you’re down here to help out with your grandma (not for vacation) and I bet you people’ll be fairly understanding about it.

      Suggested wording: Oh, I’m so sorry to have to leave y’all like this, but since my bosses were really great in letting me work remotely in order to come down to help with Grandma, I’ve really got to make my deadlines! Please, make yourselves at home and holler if you need anything, and I’ll be out as soon as I can/will visit with you next time/am really looking forward to visiting with you at brunch next Sunday!

      3) I don’t know about how your family works, but my family is kinda “I’m cooking what I’m cooking and if you don’t like it, fix yourself something and don’t complain.” So maybe just fix yourself food, and eat when you get hungry. Don’t make a big deal about, but don’t try to hide it – offer to share if you think it’ll be taken well. And your grandma’s old enough that I would actually say it’s fine to lie to her and say your doctor wants you on a low-fat/low-cholesterol/low-meat diet for some made-up reasons, and you miss her cooking terribly but you really have to stick to the diet.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        OMG, can you be my southern-niceness translator? My family is very blunt and direct — we’d just say, “Can’t talk, got to get some work done” and run out of the room, and my in-laws are not at all like that and I need a translator like this. (My husband is good at telling me how to do it, but often it’s too late.)

        1. TL -*

          Oh, anytime! I love southern hospitality and grew up in a very small town, so the right manners and playing nice were super important to making the tiny community run smoothly.

  37. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Maybe someone can help me resolve a where-to-live question that’s been completely stumping me.

    My husband and I are totally obsessed with the idea of living in a log home. Not like a small log cabin, but a relatively normal house (preferably chalet-style) that is made entirely out of logs. See, for example, the ones pictured here.

    However, most of the places where log homes exist are pretty far outside of the DC metro area, where we live currently. For instance, there are amazing ones in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia (in fact, we’ve stayed in one there several times, which is what originally got us thinking about this), and you can get a beautiful house on several acres of woods for far less than what we’d pay for much less space in DC … but it seems pretty misguided to choose the place where you live based just on the kind of house you want. There are other places that have them too, but they’re all at least a couple hours from where we are now. I’m sure we could be happy in some of those places, but (a) it seems like it would be crazy to uproot ourselves and move somewhere quite different just because of our love of logs, and (b) if we did consider doing it anyway, I can’t figure out how we’d decide specifically where to go. I feel like I need a real estate consultant or something, someone to listen to everything we want and then tell us where to find it in a 300-mile radius … but I don’t think there is such a thing.

    Ultimately, I think I’m realizing that maybe this is a pipe dream and we have to give up on it (at least until retirement, when presumably it might not matter so much where we live), but we’re both finding it very hard to give it up.

    1. fposte*

      Could you dip a toe in via the summer cottage approach, maybe even just renting?

      And have you seen the Cabin Porn tumblr? It is to drool for.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’ve thought about that, but we’re both such homebodies that the idea of shuffling back and forth between two places doesn’t feel appealing. I want home to be home, not half-home, you know?

        I like to do my drooling here:
        Pinterest log home search (be prepared for painful, painful envy if you click)

        1. fposte*

          With you on the home thing. Do you think the shuffling between home and DC would be equally wearing, or would home be enough of a magic castle that it’d be worth it? Or is that basically the question you’re asking yourself?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think we probably wouldn’t do that much shuffling between the two, but I could be wrong about that. I might be deluding myself into thinking we’d be fine in a less urban area, but we have so many amenities here that we don’t take regular advantage of (but are paying for in real estate costs) that I think we’d be okay. (The main urban amenity we take advantage of is the ability to have everything delivered within hours.)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Decades ago, my father bought one of these and had it built on a piece of property he owned.
      The logs are square, not rounded. It’s tongue and groove construction so the logs lock together. All the interior walls go up at the same time the exterior walls go up.

      The one my father had built was much smaller than these guys here. Basement and roof were considered “extras”. It is cedar so you might want to think about allergies in your families.
      It’s not quite the rustic look of a log cabin, but that means it might fit in more easily in the areas you are considering.
      http://lindal.com/homes/gallery/small_treasures/chalet.cfm

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You get one built make sure they drop a plumb-bob every few layers to make sure they are going STRAIGHT up.
          just sayin’….

          It came out beautiful, though. My father went with a sheet metal roof. He put in a double chimney so he could burn oil or wood. It had a full basement and a deck off the front of he house. He built a covered area next to the basement door that served as a sun room and a place to keep fire wood dry.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, man, those fill me with longing. We used to spend summer vacations in cabins like this (only less posh than the brochure ones) in Wisconsin and they still make me feel all summery and happy.

        1. doreen*

          It might be easier to buy property and have the chalet built on it. I know there’s a log home builder I pass a few times a year and it’s pretty obvious that they are only involved in selling/building the home and not the property.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’ve been ruling that out because building seems like such a headache (and exactly the wrong thing for a neurotic worrier to involve herself in), but you might be right that it could ultimately be the way to go. That way we wouldn’t be limited to existing houses and could put one exactly where we wanted it.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Am chuckling, building a home is one of the top five most stressful things you can do. Because of that house*, I am permanently cured of ever wanting to have a home built.
              *It had very little to do with the house kit itself and more to do with circumstances at the site and the builders my father hired, etc.
              I was surprised at how little came with the kit, though.