Sunday open thread – December 14, 2014

Sam with treeIt’s the weekend free-for-all.

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

Have at it.

{ 834 comments… read them below }

  1. Elizabeth West*

    I’m really hating on myself for not getting this trim attached to my skating dress before now. It’s sooooooo tedious. I’m gluing the sparkly things and then will tack them down so they don’t fall off. Sewing on the sequin trim was so annoying I quit before gluing more stuff to watch Saturday Night Live, because Martin Freeman is hosting. They did a mashup of The Office and The Hobbit/LOTR and a Christmas Mass thing (especially funny if you’re Catholic) that made me cry laughing.

    Book is up to 63,894 words. Not done yet. Won’t be done by Christmas. Have too much stupid holiday stuff to do. I’m not doing anything for Christmas, so I may just sit here and write all day. Yay!

    What are people doing for Christmas?

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      You will let us know when you’re published, right? Oh, of course you will. I do plan on getting a copy.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Don’t hold your breath; publishing anything could take forever (or never happen at all). I wouldn’t want you to turn blue! But yeah, of course I would let you know.

        I feel like I’m really close but I just can’t quite get there. Frustrating as hell.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Yeah, my sister is in the same place. She has a finished book, and I read a lot — it’s worth publishing. But she hasn’t found anyone yet. So she’s continuing to write, more novels, more short stories. Someday.

    2. Waiting Patiently*

      I’m not doing much for Christmas. Although I hope to go into NYC and see it all decked out sometime during my holiday break. Oh and I will be shopping for a new refrigerator, since it decided to kunk out on Thanksgiving Day.

      Congrats and good luck with the book!

      1. en pointe*

        I love seeing cities done up for Christmas. They do Sydney beautifully, and I imagine a place like NYC would be even better.

        My favourite part is this giant cathedral near the town hall. After dark, they project a light show onto the cathedral of christmas lights, religious scenes, messages of hope, etc., with choirs each night. Not even religious; I’m an atheist, but I still go every year. It’s very beautiful.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I really want to go to Europe at Christmas to hit all the Christmas markets. We’re thinking of Germany and Prague for next year, maybe.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I wish I were in London at Christmas with someone special. :(

            Word on the Water, the London Bookbarge, posted a video on Facebook yesterday of people dancing by their boat (music was playing). It made me miss it so much I almost started crying.

          2. Chocolate Teapot*

            Well the obvious itinerary would be Prague and then to Dresden and Leipzig. There are good things at the Christmas markets (Dresden Stollens and Erzgeberge wooden nutcrackers), and of course, if you happen to be a Bachaholic, then Leipzig is definitely the place.

    3. Glor*

      For Giftmas, I usually go stay with my fiance and his family and do Obscenely Delicious Food meals with them. We exchange gifts, yada yada. The usual. This year tho, I’m really not sure… New job and I don’t know what my training schedule is going to be.

      But at the very, very least, I’m thinking of making him an “o rly” hat to match the Captain Obvious hat I made him one year.

    4. Jen RO*

      I am doing NOTHING and it will be great. Work has been a bit overwhelming lately so I am taking two glorious weeks off. I will go to the usual Christmas Eve dinner at my parents’, probably drop by my boyfriend’s parents at some point, and do nothing else in particular.

    5. Carrie in Scotland*

      You’ll get there eventually Elizabeth, keep on writing! :)

      Christmas – I am attempting to do Christmas with my family (I don’t usually for a whole bunch of reasons).

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I hope it’s sooner rather than later. :P

        Good luck with the family thing! I’m a little bummed I can’t really go this year, but I have to work Friday and I just can’t drive six hours in one day.

    6. en pointe*

      Congratulations on the book progress. That is quite a lot of words!

      I am going to Christmas bingo with my neighbour. Then to lunch at another neighbour’s. A huge family of Islanders who are wonderful – always laughing. Excited to spend the day with some of my favourite people!

    7. The Other Dawn*

      Not sure yet. My husband got stuck working on Christmas. He’s a security team leader and security is 24/7. I hate it, but he makes good money and we need it right now. I’ll probably just hang out with the kitties until he gets home. Then maybe to my sister’s or his sister’s house.

      My family celebration isn’t until January 10 (people are coming from out of town – yay!!) and that will be a big one. We’re hosting for the first time in our new house so I’m busy trying to get all the decorations up, doing some deep cleaning, etc.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I wish my family would do it either later or earlier; when Christmas is on a weekday, it really messes everything up. But they won’t budge on “we have to do it ON the day.” I think they forget I’m the only singleton and it can be harder for me to make arrangements, pay for catsitters, etc. than it is for them.

    8. Felicia*

      For Christmas I am participating in the Jewish tradition of Chinese food and a movie. I think we’re seeing Annie. Just me and my sisters, my parents are going to Cuba.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          It’s prohibited but plenty of people do – just fly through a third country. I can’t go, obviously, given uncle sam signs my paychecks.

        2. Felicia*

          I’m Canadian so not only are we allowed, it’s a common vacation destination. They have a thriving tourist industry of Canadians and European. It’s especially popular for college students because it’s cheap. Ive never been interested, but most people I know have been at least once. It’s only closed to Americans, no one else. There are direct flights from here to Cuba, which is what my parents are doing.

            1. Felicia*

              Really? Everyone I know who’s been to Cuba says the food is horrible.

              Tourism in Cuba is very isolated on resorts though, and just like they’re not experiencing authentic Cuba, they’re probably not experiencing authentic food.

              If you want to go somewhere hot in the winter, for a Canada Cuba is the cheapest and quickest option, probably why it’s popular.

    9. Mimmy*

      Our Christmases are usually nice and peaceful, unlike the chaos that is spending Thanksgiving with 19 adults and children, lol (said children are awesome though!). We usually spend Christmas Eve with my parents to attend one aunt’s Christmas shindig, stay the night, then get up, open gifts and go to ANOTHER aunt’s house, on the same side!

      But this year, Aunt #1 isn’t doing her thing this year, so we’ll just spend Christmas Day with my parents and Aunt #2. Oh how heavenly that’ll be because Aunt #1’s shindig can be quite crazy as that’s when Santa usually comes!

    10. DeadQuoteOlympics*

      We just realized that we are going to have to create a completely new holiday tradition because of our new cat. There is no way a decorated tree is going to survive her. She is a climber and a leaper and fixated on anything dangling, no matter what it’s attached to (like the drawstring of your pajamas, ouch). Putting up a tree in her vicinity would be an irresistible invitation to disaster. Add her propensity to play with the two large dogs and it would be Godzilla versus the MUTOS trashing San Francisco. So we are going to try to put up a tree with just lights, and substitute family baking and other new collective rituals instead of family tree decorating. We are a bit bemused– I’ve had cats before and usually can get by with not putting anything delicate on the lower limbs, but we all recognize it won’t work with this cat.

      Good luck with getting back to the book after the holiday stuff!

      1. Schmitt*

        We have the same problem. We’re planning on starting with just tree, then adding lights and popcorn garlands and if those survive a few days maybe some non-breakable ornaments.

        The tree is on the balcony atm and she is verrrrrry interested.

        1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

          I never realized how much an Xmas tree signals “I am a giant cat toy” to certain felines. We did have a Siamese when I was growing up that would chew on low hanging gingerbread cookies on the tree, but no cat that looked at the whole parcel as an adventure gym.

      2. JayDee*

        We put the breakables on the lowest branches so they don’t have as far to fall if our Bad Cat tips the whole tree over. He is very smart, so I know that he actually knows better. But he will chew the (artificial) branches, bat the ornaments, and even act like he’s going to climb.

    11. Purr purr purr*

      Hey, I’m writing too! What genre are you writing in? When did you start? Is it your first? I’m only at 14,000 words so far but I’m hoping to get mine out there by the end of May. Always nice to meet a fellow writer on here!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Hey fellow writer! :)

        This one is a bit more literary with a speculative element, I started dicking around in it a few months ago, and it’s my fifth (if you count a fanfic and the stupid book I wrote in high school, which, since I actually finished it, I count).

    12. Alma*

      I have to work weekends and holidays, so this year I’m going to visit my Dad in The Home the Monday through Friday of New Years week. Being underemployed has some plusses this year as it gives me the flexibility to go. The Independent Living residents have a gala New Years Eve, with the “ball drop” (a LA Times Square) at 7:30pm. Right about my speed.

      Dad has not been disclosing health and mobility issues he has been having, so I am hopeful he will have come to some decisions on his own that we can put into motion. I am making much more frequent trips now.

    13. Cath in Canada*

      We’re going to my husband’s sister’s place, which is always fab – they’re a great family and we’ll have lots of delicious food and drink, fun board game nights around the fire, and hopefully some good skiing!

        1. Cath in Canada*

          Not the easiest thing to learn as an adult – I started learning at 24, and it’s quite disheartening to be constantly passed by little kids giving you scornful looks for the first couple of years! But I’ve achieved my initial goal of being able to go out and enjoy a full day on the slopes, even if I stick to the easy blue runs and don’t get to ski with my friends who all grew up here and learned when they were kids.

          I remember the day I did my first blue run without feeling like I was going to die, on a blue-sky sunny day – I suddenly realized that I was the only one on the slope and I was turning beautifully and the mountains were just gorgeous and birds were singing, and I thought “OK, now I see what all the fuss is about!

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Oh wow, that sounds great. I learned figure skating as an adult, so I’m sure I could do it–though having big long things strapped to my feet might be a little difficult. Skate blades are shorter and I’m not that coordinated! At least I understand about edges.

            If I try it sometime and can’t get the hang of it, there’s always hot cocoa in the lodge and guys in ski sweaters, right? ;)

            1. Shell*

              Skiing is wonderful. I still miss it even after all these years. Just be careful–I busted my knee on the slopes and in the interests of having functioning joints I’ll never ski again ;P

              But yeah. Fresh powder and lying on your back in the silence of an empty snowbank just watching the clouds…it’s wonderful. And quiet. You can hear yourself think. :)

    14. Persephone Mulberry*

      After 13 years of marriage, DH and I have pretty well established traditions. We go to my grandparents’ house for Christmas Eve – four generations, close to 50 people. It’s crowded and noisy and one of my favorite parts of Christmas. Christmas day we do presents in the morning and celebrate with DH’s family in the afternoon, at either his mom’s or his sister’s house. We also get together with his extended family, usually in early January.

    15. Audiophile*

      I saw the Office of Middle Earth sketch and the Christmas Mass skefch. Both were spot on.

      Publishing can absolutely be an uphill battle, but don’t be so quick to doubt it.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          And slashing WIC – ho ho ho, Merry Christmas! Meanwhile, it also included $479 million for F-35s that the Pentagon didn’t even want! Suck it up, poor people!

    1. Dan*

      As someone who lives off of the government teat, I just don’t care anymore. If it goes on long enough, it affects my paycheck, but congress are a bunch of idiots if they think avoiding a shut down deserves a pat on the back. No, you idiots, running a functional government is the job you are paid to do. The same people like to tell us that showing up everyday is merely worthy of a “meets expectations” at review time.

    2. Ludo*

      As someone whose industry relies heavily on government funded institutions, even the threat of a shutdown can have a massive impact on everything.

      That said, while a shutdown (as previously seen) can be catastrophic for those who need the government to be operational…I can’t help but feel the best thing they can do for the people at this point is shut down and go away for awhile. Because what they passed to prevent a shut down is so much worse than a shut down would have been.

      Brace yourself…the next two years are going to be a hell that will extend its reach for decades to come.

    3. CAA*

      I’m not happy with what they passed, but I am pleased not to have to tell 35 people they’re being temporarily laid off again. Last year we lost 4% of annual revenue; two employees who wanted more stability left us; and one who had been recently hired after a long period of unemployment lost his apartment. Government shutdowns cause a lot of pain.

      1. De Minimis*

        I sign off on almost all of our purchases, and a good deal of our spending is done with small/local [or at least in-state] businesses. That doesn’t even take into account employee spending. I think some people have this notion that government spending exists in some kind of vacuum or only affects people in Washington, but when we’re shut down it’s basically equivalent to a major employer being non-operational for a lot of communities. And even though we remain open even during a shutdown, I know we had one person leave last time and I think the more this becomes a regular possibility the harder it will be to keep staff [and we have a hard enough time as it is] which generally means reduced medical care/services to our community, so it has a negative effect there as well.

  2. Kate*

    Thinking of going on a cruise in Feb/March. We want to spend not a whole lot but still have something with decent food and accommodations. Any recommended lines?

    We usually do a fancy Mexican vacation but with grad school and some large house purchases a cruise is cheaper but still gets out of New England weather for a bit.

    1. Dan*

      Carnival, although it also depends if you live in a port city and what itineraries you want. I.e. driving to new York might be cheaper than flying to Miami (or ft Lauderdale, which is usually the cheaper of the two.)

      I’ve sailed carnival twice, and they’re fine, particularity at that price point.

    2. Elkay*

      Check our Cruise Critic. I found that really useful when I was trying to work out which line to go on. We went Princess to Alaska and they were fine for us (couple under 35 no kids).

    3. Former Recruiter*

      The hubs and I much prefer Royal Caribbean. Carnival can be much more of a booze cruise. Try for a 7 night. Out of ft lauderdale is great, the pier is a 10 minute cab ride from the airport. Cruise critic forums are a good resource.

      1. Dan*

        I think the booze cruise is dependent on the itinerary. The two times I went, I didn’t get the feeling.

        I’m no big advocate of carnival, but when price is the number one issue, I think its hard to beat them.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      I second looking at Cruise Critic. Lots of info on there. I’ve been on Norwegian and MSC. I liked the MSC accommodations better. The bathroom is human-sized, whereas the Norwegian bathroom is tiny. The toilet is in a separate “closet” and it’s SOOOO small. Bed is more comfy, too. But, boy, did the TV SUCK ASS! Terrible picture and hardly any channels. It’s an Italian cruise line, so I’m not sure if that had something to do with it. Lots of foreign channels. That said, the food and TV was better on Norwegian.

    5. Ludo*

      There are some great prices on 7 nighters out of Galveston that time of year.

      Be careful about getting too late in March – that is the start of spring break season. Prices go up and so do the number of drunk college kids on the ship.

    6. badger_doc*

      Norwegian is my absolute favorite! They are very hygienic with hand sanitation stations everywhere. We had a great time last January when we went to the Caribbean. Would definitely go again, hopefully near the middle of this winter!

    7. Episkey*

      I would not recommend Carnival (they are cheap, but you get what you pay for) and I would definitely not recommend going on a cruise where the itinerary focuses on the Bahamas. A girlfriend & I did this one year together and we can laugh now, but at the time it wasn’t funny.

    8. Treehugger*

      Whichever you pick do not stay on the lowest deck. I went on a cruise and was on a really strict budget so had the travel agent book us the least expensive room and ended up really close to the engines. Whenever we went into/out of port it was really loud and if it happened at night good luck trying to sleep. Yay for the 24 hour pizza and ice cream bar.

      BTW this was on Carnival out of Ft. Lauderdale for a week around the Caribbean. They had a chocolate buffet one night, and it was awesome. I was also challenged to try escargot at dinner one night and loved it. Now I know what my go-to zombie apocalypse food source will be.

    9. Nerdling*

      Check out Cruise Critic and then the pricing on Vacations To Go. We’ve done Carnival and Royal Caribbean, both very fun. We cruised out of Miami this year on a Carnival ship that had a section of one of the upper decks reserved for adults only, which was awesome. The next time, I’m hoping we have enough saved up to try Norwegian. Their ships look as though they have more amazing stuff to do on-board.

  3. ThursdaysGeek*

    It’s been interesting reading comments from people who don’t celebrate Christmas, and how it is viewed. To a Christian, none of the Santa/reindeer/movies have anything to do with our religion, and we know plenty of people who aren’t Christian and who celebrate what we consider the secular part of Christmas with no issues. Do people of other religions really think that Santa and elves have anything to do with Christianity?

    I think that’s why the Hanukkah balls didn’t bother that manager: Christmas is just an American celebration, and we mush everything up together, we have Thai Pizza, so why not mix the holidays together too? It’s not religious to her: it’s just the American melting pot.

    1. Jill of All Trades*

      To me, Santa and elves are on par with saying “bless you” when someone sneezes; it’s a societal convention, not a religious conversion (though original meanings may have been otherwise). I do feel bad for that poor OP though; her manager is going way overboard and there’s a power disparity and it doesn’t matter that she’s Jewish, she’s not into Christmas so the manager needs to drop it already.

    2. LAMM*

      I have a friend who is Muslim and (semi) celebrates Christmas. She loves Santas, reindeer, snowmen, etc and appreciates the whole giving/being thankful vibe (which, as a nonreligious person, is the part of Christmas I celebrate as well. Plus, I love buying and wrapping gifts). Some years she even puts up a small tree, just to be able to decorate it. And cookies.. can’t forget about decorating cookies :)

      To her, it’s not a necessarily a religious holiday, but another time of year to celebrate and be thankful for what we have.

      1. LAMM*

        Just to clarify though, she celebrates it because she wants to. Not because someone is forcing her to (which is NOT OK). Which is a different situation from the Hanukkah Balls writer.

      2. Waiting Patiently*

        Same here, growing up we didn’t celebrate the secular parts. Decorating, Santa, elves and etc. Although we did get gifts. My mom wrapped up presents and left them on the living room table. I’m pretty sure my mom only did that so we wouldn’t be the only kids at school without new stuff during Christmas. And we mostly got clothing and a one or two toys. While I don’t have a problem with Santa, I really don’t like the wild lies we tell children about this figure.

        1. catsAreCool*

          When I was a kid, we knew Santa was pretend and also that we shouldn’t tell other kids that he was pretend. I loved knowing – it made me feel like I knew something cool that most kids didn’t.

          We had the tree and stockings and stuff, but we knew those things weren’t really what Christmas is about.

        2. Sarah A.*

          Personally I’ve always laughed at the Calvin and Hobbes strip with Santa observations. Calvin is sitting with Hobbes and listening to the part of the song “He knows when you are sleeping! He knows when you’re awake!” and then Calvin asks a very pertinent question.

          “Santa Claus. Kindly old elf or CIA spook?” I was rolling after reading that! Plus I want to live in an area where I can build those kind of snow men! Ha ha ha!

      3. the gold digger*

        The other day, I talked to someone I met through work. He is Egyptian and Muslim and has just started grad school in Germany. He was raving about the Christmas markets, telling me they are the most beautiful thing he has ever seen.

        He also said he really likes the sausage. I asked how a nice Muslim boy was eating German sausage and he answered that he is not eating pork sausage. He loves the whole spectacle. But as LAMM pointed out, he is not being forced into anything.

        1. Sandy*

          I adore Christmas markets. So many of them are truly gorgeous- all the lights, the trees, usually snow… but they are still someone else’s traditions. It’s like going into the Blue Mosque in Istanbul or the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. They are jaw-droppingly gorgeous sights and I can appreciate the huge amount of craftsmanship that went into them, while still being well aware that they are someone else’s house(s) of worship.

        2. HR Manager*

          I was lucky enough to be in Sapporo, Japan once in late November (I’ve seen Xmas trimmings go up in November in Hong Kong and Japan). They had put up a European-like holiday market, mingled with beautiful ice sculptures (not as awesome as their annual snow festival). It was amazing – I think even better done than decorations I’ve seen in some US cities. Lots of fun, and seeing the mingling of their traditions.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think the important thing to recognize here, though, is that the fact that she chooses to do that doesn’t mean that others are in the wrong for continuing to see Christmas as a non-secular holiday and preferring for people not to assume they see it as secular. I’m not saying you’re doing that at all, but sometimes people use examples like this as part of a “see, this non-Christian celebrates it, so therefore it’s just a universal cultural celebration that we can all enjoy” campaign when in fact it’s not.

        1. LAMM*

          Oh I agree. She’s even said some of her friends and her parents thinks she’s odd for celebrating what is essentially another religion’s holiday.

    3. Dan*

      Same here. Christmas has become so secularized that it really doesn’t have much religious meaning to me. I was raised Christian but have not gone to church in 17 years.

      So, I don’t relate very well to those think the mere mention of the holiday conotes some conspiracy to convert everybody, or that “winter holidays” are some tone deaf way of finding another name for the same old same old.

      Its paid time off from work to go see family. Like thanksgiving and new years.

    4. Sandy*

      There’s a power dynamic at play that has to be taken into discussion of this in North America (and probably Europe too, but my experience there is limited).

      The countries where I have seen the whole “secular Christmas” thing play out the most successfully- Japan, China, parts of SE Asia- it works because there’s another dominant religion and “secular Christmas” is a choice.

      Some stores will have “Christmas sales”, people like the lights, you can go home and listen to the occasional Christmas carol because they like the tune without feeling that they are bad Muslims/Hindus/Buddhists/Jews for having done so.

      When Christianity is as dominant as it is in North America, it’s extremely difficult have it be similar. You can put potatoes, water, spices, and cream in a pot and call it what you want, but at the end of the day, it’s still potato soup. A lot of non-Christians (myself included) are uncomfortable with that.

      Add to it the missionary zeal of some people towards either religious or “secular” Christmas, constant Christmas carols at the mall, radio and TV stations screaming about “the war on Christmas” and it’s a mess. Not exactly welcoming territory!

      1. Dan*

        Using your logic, you still have potato soup no matter what country you are in, or the religious mix of the people making the soup.

        Yes, you are right that if we are just rebranding things, then we are only deluding ourselves.

        But non Christians might want to consider that the holiday really has become secularized, and it’s not as if the stupid tree and Santa Claus have any religious connotation, or if they do, the connection is very very loose. I travel around the world quite a bit, and if I end up some where during a local holiday, I just chalk it up to “what they do.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s one thing to feel that the holiday has lost much of its religious significance for some people who celebrate it. But for those of us of other faiths, it’s still another religion’s holiday. It’s not secular. It’s a Christian holiday, both religiously and culturally. That some people find it secular is a reflection of how dominant Christianity is in the U.S.

          1. Stephanie*

            Yeah, agreed. This is admittedly an imperfect analogy, but it’s like when I see “nude” or “flesh” colored anything. “Nude” or “flesh” has come to mean Caucasian skin tone (more often than not) because that is the dominant race in the US and therefore the ingrained standard for a nude tone.

            Santa, Christmas trees, reindeer, and all that may not have a specific religious purpose, but they’re definitely associated with what’s at its core a religious holiday. The fact that Christmas has had the opportunity to evolve into a more secular holiday is because Christianity (and its holidays) are dominant in the US.

            1. BRR*

              I like your analogy. I am agnostic and was raised jewish and to be it’s not the norm. I don’t have any traditions I have no traditions or activities to do on (or near) Dec 25th and it’s never been something where anything has taken place so to me it’s a day off from work like labor day or memorial day. This discussion on here has made me think of what would happen if it wasn’t a holiday. Even stores that open now on Thanksgiving are not open on Christmas and it is a government holiday where as employee need to take off for other religious regions. There’s a valid point that it’s because so many people would ask to take off that but that’s a byproduct of how it’s the dominant holiday to begin with.

            2. Felicia*

              Stephanie explained it wonderfully. I know Santa and Christmas trees don’t have religious significance, but they’re still part of Christmas, which is still a religious holiday of a religion that is not my own. I think people who are part of the dominant religion have the luxury of not even having to notice how much Christmas has permeated everything, and even to think people of other religions should celebrate it.

              Even the reason Hanukkah got so secularly well known and the only holiday a lot of non Jews can name is entirely due to its proximity of Christmas and the dominance of Christianity. It’s not a religiously important holiday – certainly far from the most important. the only reason Purim for example didn’t become as well known is because it’s not in December.

              I also am not a fan of the American idea of the melting pot, and prefer the Canadian concept of being like a mosaic. You shouldn’t have to assimilate into another religion’s holiday just because they’ve secularized it and are the vast majority.

              And Stephanie, I love your example of “nude” or “flesh coloured”, and with my privilege as a white person i hadn’t considered. It’s sort of like how I am always assumed to be straight until proven otherwise. We live in a heteronormative culture , just like we live in a culture where being white and Christian are the norm too. If you’re not any one of those 3 things (or if you’re none of those 3 things), it’s very hard.

              1. Stephanie*

                Even the reason Hanukkah got so secularly well known and the only holiday a lot of non Jews can name is entirely due to its proximity of Christmas and the dominance of Christianity. It’s not a religiously important holiday – certainly far from the most important. the only reason Purim for example didn’t become as well known is because it’s not in December.

                Ha, my Jewish friend said this about Hanukkah: “Well, the Maccabees were a fringe group bordering on a cult and Hanukkah is just prominent because of its proximity to Christmas. But, hey, Jews also like gifts and bonuses at work.”

                Yeah, I first noticed the “flesh” thing with crayons as a kid and asking my mom why the flesh crayon didn’t match my tone. I think it’s hard to see the unseen ways which privilege exerts itself if you’re part of the dominant group. There’s a famous piece called the Invisible Knapsack which talks about this (I find it a little navel-gazing, but it’s a good article).

                Re the conflated holidays, to a lesser extent, I feel the same way about Kwanzaa. No one in my immediate or extended family celebrates it and none of my other black friends do. It’s an American holiday, so African friends don’t celebrate it (and just celebrate whatever religious holidays they have). Not to speak in absolutes, because I’m sure there are crunchy, vegan soul food eating, black soap using, dashiki wearing black communities that do celebrate it; it just feels like something that’s gotten more attention because of its proximity to Christmas.

                1. Felicia*

                  None of my black friends celebrate Kwanzaa either, but we’re Canadian and it’s considered an American holiday primarily, and I think a lot of people forget Kwanzaa was invented in the mid 60s so it doesn’t really have the family tradition of other holidays. I think some people assume all black people celebrate Kwanzaa because of its proximity to Christmas.

                  I also hate when people say that a lot of religions have important holidays in the “holiday season” by which they mean December…um no, Christianity is the only one with their religiously important holiday in December. And Pagans i guess.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  I just got a wake-up call on the flesh/nude thing the other day–I was talking to a new skater’s mom, and they are black, and she was telling me she had to remove this nude stretch mesh fabric (a lot of skating dresses have that over bare spots so you don’t freeze to death or show too much) from her daughter’s dress because it was way too light for her skin tone. I was like, come to think of it, I have NEVER seen that fabric in anything other than white people colors. Which kind of sucks!

              2. Catherine in Canada*

                Actually, it all runs deeper than you might realize. Santa Claus and Christmas trees _are_ Christian religious symbols, and just because they’ve been commercialized doesn’t make them any less so.

                Santa Claus is derived from Saint Nicholas, a 4th century bishop well known for charity, giving gifts and so on. There’s a Russian tradition that says he brings the gifts at Christmas because the Christ Child is too small to do it, so asked St. Nick to go out in his place. Some cultures celebrate St. Nicholas Day on Dec.6th, others have him bring gifts on Christmas Eve.

                The Christmas tree is part of the whole let’s-include-pagan-symbolism-to-make-this-new-faith-more-understandable thing. (Advent wreaths are just another version of the same thing.) Greenery at the winter solstice (and lights too) are a very, very old and very, very powerful symbol. Powerful in the sense that they speak to us on a very basic level, regardless of what faith you’ve layered over top.
                Hanging decorations on the tree harkens back to the practice of hanging votive offerings on sacred trees.

                Sorry, pushed a button here. I’ve written three books about Catholic traditions; I’m a bit of a geek on the subject…

          2. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Yes, exactly this. I am so tired of hearing people say, “But Christmas is secular now!” and expecting that to make it different (or even suddenly OK) for people like me. I often say I would prefer if Christmas were more religious and holy, because that would mean it wouldn’t be so pervasive and people wouldn’t give me shit about it.

            11 months of the year, I walk around appreciating everyone’s differences, including my own. From November 26th through December 25th, I walk around knowing that at some point I will have to face someone who says, “What do you mean, you don’t celebrate Christmas? It’s so secular now!” and feeling like I have to make a case for being “other”. It’s not pleasant.

            1. matcha123*

              I agree with your statement.

              I don’t ask people about what they do for holidays. Usually they are the ones telling me they are doing something. I never felt like it was my business to ask them about things like that.

              It is rude to tell someone that they should join in on something because they feel fine with it.
              Though, I do think that on this site, people are generally respectful.

              I also think that seeing something in a different way doesn’t mean that someone else’s feelings or thoughts are automatically negated. I’ve been pulling aside friends and coworkers this past week to hear their thoughts and I’ve gotten some interesting replies :)

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                Asking people what they are doing is just fine– in fact, it’s a perfectly acceptable topic in polite conversation. What makes it rude is when one answers, “Oh, it will be quiet for me, I don’t celebrate Christmas,” and the initial asker looks askance and responds with disbelief and says something like, “But that’s horrible! You should be celebrating Christmas! Why don’t you????” An exaggeration (or maybe not… Hanukkah Balls), but it happens and it’s abominably rude.

            2. the gold digger*

              And I go in the opposite direction! (Not to diminish your feelings – I can understand why you would get frustrated and annoyed – if I were in your position, I would get that way, too.)

              My in-laws are staunch, almost militant, atheists, yet get very upset when my husband does not visit them for Christmas. They also expect special treatment on Easter, which is, as far as I can tell, definitely not as widely celebrated as Christmas. You don’t get to have it both ways! You don’t get to eschew religion but then get upset when someone does not observe a religious holiday the way you want him to!

              1. Clever Name*

                WTH. My husband and I are atheists, but we celebrate Christmas. We do not celebrate Easter at all, much to the chagrin of our 8 year old, who really wants a huge basket of candy.

                I have 2 good friends who are Jewish but who have Christmas decorations out. It seems weird to me, but I pretty much do the same thing.

            3. Sam*

              I’m Jewish, moderately observant, working in a public sector office that has higher evangelical Christian representation than the general population where I live. It’s funny because my most devoutly Christian colleagues and I are the ones who find ourselves agreeing about how to handle Christmas in the workplace – because we all wish we could stop tiptoeing around Christmas as a secular holiday “for everyone” and let Christianity reclaim it as a religion-specific or at least culturally-specific celebration.

              Like, no: the thing in our lobby is not a “Holiday Tree” just because there’s a star on top instead of an angel. It’s a Christmas tree. And it’s cool that you put a Christmas tree up – it looks nice. But you’re not somehow including me in it by calling it a holiday tree. Same for the Secret Santa exchange, the contest for which office has the best “holiday” decorations, the four “holiday” lunches/open houses clustered around the 25th of December, the band in Santa hats playing carols in the lobby, the “holiday” craft sale intended to provide people with “holiday” presents, and the mandated team-building exercise of writing work-related parodies of the “holiday” classic The Twelve Days of Christmas.

              I’m very happy to have others celebrate their holiday around me, and I’m even happy to take part in some things, because cultural sharing can be perfectly nice when it goes both ways. But there’s something, deep down, a little sinister about the pressure to join in, smiling and enthusiastic, with everything – as though this is my biggest holiday of the year as it is theirs, or as though it’s my holiday at all – or else risk being the Grinch, or Scrooge, or really, the Jew.

          3. Monodon monoceros*

            I mostly agree. Although i had a somewhat related thought today- i wonder if the Romans got irritated when the Christians took over their fun Saturnalia festivals with all their new fangled Christian ideas. I imagine that was a real buzz kill.

          4. Kyrielle*

            Thank you for continuing to explain this, by the way – I was raised agnostic, but absorbed the dominant culture (lacking a religious tradition to counter it), and am now Christian.

            So this is really eye-opening. It makes total sense; I’ve just never had to think about it, and I really appreciate being made aware, so that I can be consciously aware of it. (I don’t think I’d ever go to the lengths that people here are saying are unwelcome – but I’d rather be aware of it, and able to consciously avoid any actions/words that would lean that way.)

        2. Ciera*

          No, not “secularlized,” but maybe vastly more commercialized. Regardless of what symbols or traditions each person uses to help celebrate Christmas, it is still a wholly Christian holiday. And while elves and bells and flying reindeer and the like are not Christian symbols, they parts of Christmas traditions. And Christmas traditions are, well, Christian. I am Jewish. I do not celebrate Christmas. I don’t embrace the traditions spawned by it. I am not envious of them. And I would take and have taken great offense with anyone trying to force them upon me, in any way. Having said that, I do admit that I have waster countless hours this week trying to write a song or poem about “Hanukkah Balls.” Sigh…

          1. Anx*

            I disagree that is wholly Christian, unless perhaps you mean culturally Christian and not religiously.

            I’m an atheist in an areligious family that celebrates Christmas as a mostly secular (not commercial) holiday. Our ancestors were Christian so the holiday became family tradition.

      2. Elkay*

        I suspect in countries where another religion is dominant there must be other religious celebrations where they become cultural because the calendar gives you time off to celebrate them. I’m not knowlegable enough about any religion to know what they might be but I know that I only celebrate Christmas because I live in a country that’s calendar gives me Christmas off work/school.

    5. Andrea*

      It’s not that I think Santa is a Christian figure, it’s that his entire purpose is for a holiday that is Christian. It might help to think of these things as “culturally Christian” – basically even if you aren’t practicing within the Christian faith your cultural celebrations are largely focussed on the dominant Christian calendar, and mostly likely your family heritage is also from a Christian faith. People who’s family culture is not historically Christian celebrate other cultural events.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          We’re not supposed to, but because it’s the dominant one, it has permeated things quite a lot. What bothers me is that people are now trying to shove it into legislature rather than just leaving it in the cultural domain.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Exactly — Santa exists for Christmas, which is a Christian holiday. So while Santa himself might not be an especially religious figure — in the sense of spirituality — he’s a symbol of a religious holiday. And sure, there are plenty of people who celebrate it in a more cultural than spiritual way, but it is a Christian holiday regardless. So for non-Christians, it’s frustrating to be told that we should see things like Santa as secular. Part of Christmas; therefore, not secular.

        All of this is tied into people thinking of Christmas and its symbols as just part of the culture at this point, as opposed to particularly religious, but that really erases non-Christians from the picture.

        1. Dan*

          One thing we talk about here from time to time is how the meaning of words change, and how some petiole get offended by certain words choices.

          Along those lines, so do the meaning of many holidays. Labor day, memorial day, and the 4th of July really aren’t observed in any sort of way that respects their origins. Along the same lines, there really are secular aspects of Christmas. Says the guy who stopped going to church 17 years ago and still buys people presents.

          I’m actually more irritated that I can’t eat pork for lunch because my Jewish boss has some religious hang up at certain times of the year than I am that I have to look at Santa at the mall.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t think many people are getting irritated over having to see Santa at the mall. But plenty of people do get irritated when people assume that they observe Christmas or its trappings when they’re not Christian.

            I really, really think that people who don’t belong to non-Christian faiths don’t have standing to tell people who do how they should experience this stuff. In general, it’s not a good idea for people in the dominant group to tell people outside of it how they should feel or think.

            1. Dan*

              Yet at the same time your advice to the person writing in about having a Jewish boss who prohibited pork in the office during certain times of the year was to accept it. I don’t think you even advocated having a discussion with him.

              When your religion dictates what I can put in my body and when, that’s taking things too far and I have real issues with that. Its not OK just because it’s a minority religion.

              FWIW, the only thing I like about most holidays is the paid time off. My family gatherings are small, so I can deal with it. But I could do without the trappings and cultural stuff surrounding most holidays, and that includes Halloween.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                If you’re talking about the Passover thread, that was a whole different ballgame than “you can’t eat pork”. It had to do with the kitchen and the surroundings and simply not putting certain things in a refrigerator. For ONE WEEK. Not even–five days. There were plenty of alternatives offered to the OP, like keeping her lunch in a cooler. No one told her she couldn’t eat pork! Don’t make this about “this religion is pushing their beliefs on me”, because no one was telling that OP that she had to sit at a seder and eat only matzah.

                1. Jillociraptor*

                  And also…that’s one workplace. Mandatory Christmas is every store, radio station, TV show, street corner, etc.

              2. Formerly Bee*

                That post was about what could and couldn’t go in a fridge for a week. Not about what employees could and couldn’t eat.

              3. Observer*

                As others have noted, if you are talking about the passover thread, that is TOTALLY not what happened.

                The boss never told her that she can’t eat leaven (it wasn’t about port). He said that she cannot put it in HIS refrigerator. While I can see why that’s annoying, it’s a TOTALLY different issue.

                And, I don’t beleive that your boss ever told you that you can’t eat pokr (or any other item) because of his religious convictions. So, please stop with the straw men.

          2. the gold digger*

            Labor day, memorial day, and the 4th of July really aren’t observed in any sort of way that respects their origins.

            A friend once asked why I was going to the cemetery where my dad is buried on Memorial Day.

            “Because he died because of his fighting in Vietnam,” I answered. (He died of a cancer that has been linked to Agent Orange, to which he was exposed when he was station in Vietnam in the late 60s.)

            She still didn’t get it. I had to explain to her that there are ceremonies at cemeteries on Memorial Day to honor the men and women who died because of their military service. (I just looked it up: technically it is for people who died while they were on active duty, but they still read my dad’s name. Small town. Everyone gets remembered.)

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I think it’s pretty much all war dead these days. At least that’s how most people seem to observe it, which is fine. Everyone should be remembered.

              Best war casualty tribute ever: the poppies at the Tower of London. That just blew me away.

          3. en pointe*

            But you’re the guy who stopped going to church 17 years ago and still buys people gifts. You’re secular right; you don’t favour a particular religion? So do you also secularly celebrate Hannukkah? Or secularly participate in Ramadan? (I stand corrected if you do, but I’m guessing that you don’t.) In fact, how many Americans do you know at all who secularly celebrate Hannukkah or participate in Ramadan?

            There’s a reason that Christmas is the event that you just happen to secularly celebrate – because it is overwhelmingly culturally dominant in the US (and it sounds like also a part of your background). If Judaism or Islam held the status that Christianity does in the US, or were part of your background in the way that Christianity apparently was, then it might very well be Jewish / Muslim events that you now secularly celebrate instead.

            See how these events are still tied to religion, even if religious meaning isn’t a part of how you personally celebrate it? Tied to religion doesn’t mean secular.

            1. Felicia*

              If Judaism were the dominant religion, Hanukkah wouldn’t have nearly the status it does now, which it only has due to its proximity to Christmas. I imagine people would secularly celebrate Rosh Hashannah, because it’s religiously more important and can be fun :) Or Purim I think thats the most fun holiday.

              1. en pointe*

                Yeah, that’s why I just said Jewish / Muslim events would be secularly celebrated because I know Hanukkah isn’t the most important Jewish holiday. That said, I will now shamefully admit that I chose Hanukkah and Ramadan (and misspelt Hanukkah, I might add) because they are literally the only two non-Christian religious events I know. (And I’m not Christian either, but a staunch atheist.) Which I guess just goes to demonstrate the Christian cultural dominance thing (particularly the part about Hanukkah being the Jewish holiday everyone knows just because it’s close to Christmas). Whether you’re personally religious or not, none of this is really secular.

                1. Felicia*

                  There really is no wrong way to spell Hanukkah, at least in English, because its not an English word. The way I chose is just the most common, and the one in the style guide of teh Jewish newspaper I used to work for.

                  And I figured you might know that about Hanukkah, but I figured I’d point it out for people who might not know. I don’t even dislike Hanukkah but it’s not one of those holidays where you’re supposed to take off work, so I wish people knew the holidays where you’re supposed to take off work instead so i wouldn’t have to explain myself. I also sort of hate what Hanukkah has become due to its proximity to Christmas. (maybe because I prefer other holidays, and Purim has great potential to be secularized because it has costumes, and alcohol).

            2. Dan*

              I seculary celebrate as few holidays as I can get away with. I’m not arguing the cultural prominence of the holiday in the US, in fact quite the opposite. Heck, when I worked in 24/7 jobs, I worked the holiday and took the cash.

              I think about this as if I were living overseas… If they are getting a paid day off from work, I’d take it.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                But most people aren’t complaining about the day off work. They’re complaining about a whole set of assumptions, misplaced pity, and a dominant cultural group whose obliviousness at times renders others invisible.

                And we’re not living overseas, where you’d expect things to play out differently. We’re living in our own country.

            3. Observer*

              In fact, if you go to the Middle East, for instance, where Islam is the totally dominant religion, you will see aspects of that, as well. For instance, “In’sh Allah” (G-d willing) is used by everyone, even people who are not deeply religious – alsmost like people say “bless you” or “G-d bless you” here in the US.

        2. Stars and violets*

          A priest I once had would disagree with you. I was living in SE Asia at the time and he was particularly insistent that no-one should dress as Santa when we went carol singing because Santa was not Christian. It having never occurred to me to dress up as Santa to go carol singing, I thought this was hilarious. The fact that he felt it such a possibility that he had to nip it in the bud, made it even funnier.

        3. Andrea*

          Agreed, it also minimizes differences within groups who are also having different cultural conversations about traditional vs secular celebrations.

          1. Andrea*

            Oops, attempting to agree higher up on the thread. I would suggest that the priest suggested this because Santa is a part of Christmas he didn’t want emphasized, not because Santa belongs to a different religion.

        4. catsAreCool*

          This is interesting. I’m Christian and grew up Christian, and I tend to think of Santa as a secular thing, but that doesn’t mean that I expect people to celebrate any part of Christmas if they don’t feel like it.

          Part of the way I was brought up is that it’s rude and counterproductive to try to push people into believing what I believe. People who aren’t interested are going to be annoyed and turned off. I think that’s why some people get so mad at religion – some religious people are trying to push their beliefs onto others.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yep. I did a whole blog post about not pushing stuff on people or telling them they’re wrong because they don’t believe the same things. We got quite a bit of flak for being Catholic in a Baptist town when I was growing up. It’s always been a huge trigger for me when people do that. I want to smack them.

          2. Traveler*

            Yeah, to me growing up Santa, and the Easter Bunny and so on were all secular things that had nothing to do with religion, that just coincided with religious holidays. We certainly were not allowed to bring Santa/Easter Bunny into school or church As an adult, I can see it differently, how those are seen as the “trappings of religion”. But because of that upbringing, I can also understand how those things don’t register as religious at all. They were usually framed as things non-Christians did to enjoy the holiday.

            Bottom line, I agree though: Don’t push your stuff on other people, and everyone will be happier for it (regardless of religion or lack there of).

        5. Kay*

          I find this conversation really interesting because I don’t think of Santa as a religious figure myself. I am basically agnostic, but have some religious extended family (grandparents, some aunts and cousins). Several of them shun Santa entirely as being out of the spirit of Christmas. I seem to remember one aunt & cousin that would make a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas, and others that don’t do the Santa myth at all because, according to them, that’s not what the holiday is about.

          So if Santa is not part of the religious Christmas, but also not a secular figure, I’m not sure how to categorize him. Many supposed Christmas traditions are actually borrowed/stolen from other traditions and societies.

          1. Kay*

            Also, I believe the only reason Christmas is when it is is because December 25th is near the winter solstice. When Christians were persecuted, they celebrated a lot of their holidays at similar times as pagan holidays in order to “disguise” their celebrations.

    6. louise*

      Thank you for bringing this up!

      I grew up in a small niche of semi-fundamentalist Christianity and we were always super careful to keep the secular paths separate, i.e, no reindeer/elves/Santa at out house. My mother grew up not even being allowed to have a Christmas tree–they could ONLY celebrate with reading scripture and singing the carols printed in the hymnal.

      TL;DR: I grew up believing those secular parts of christmas truly have no connection to those who want to celebrate religiously. It’s been eye-opening as an adult to realize otherwise.

      1. Emily*

        Lots of people are culturally Jewish and religiously atheist, and will (for example) have a Passover Seder because the cultural institution is important to them, and it’s commonly accepted that those people are still Definitely Jewish. The Christian church on the other hand rejects culturally Christian atheists, so when those people are busy performing the secular versions of Christian traditions, the Church is all “Na na na nothing to do with us!”. Pretty sure though that Santa is related to Christianity just as much as the atheists’ impromptu Seder I saw at a conference, involving matzo, wine, radishes, trail mix, celery, chicken legs, and hard boiled eggs at a table in the cafe, was very clearly related to Judaism.

    7. Ruth R*

      (Minor note – I’m in the UK where Christmas is definitely considered a Christian holiday. I’m from a largely non-religious Jewish background. Also interestingly, most people I’ve come across in my life have not really known what Hanukkah is besides vaguely having heard of it. Because it tends to only show up in a American TV shows as far as the UK is concerned, I often am asked if it’s am American Thing. At least there’s no danger of Hanukkah Balls…)

      Moving on to christ vs reindeer, about 4 years ago I was living in a flat of 10 people which included 3 students from Hong Kong and one from Beijing. They had all come to the UK for the first time that year (to study). The students from Hong Kong knew about Christmas and thought of it as a very western holiday.

      My flatmate from Beijing had heard of it… but had no idea what it was. He also didn’t know what Easter was (at all).

      The rest of my flat (a mix of mostly English, but also one Nigerian and one Romanian person) attempted to explain Christmas to him (and later, Easter). It quickly became clear that no one quite knew how to explain it especially when it came to Santa vs Nativity Story. It didn’t seem to quite add up and I think or friend from Beijing must have thought we didn’t quite understand the holiday ourselves or were perhaps confusing 2 different ones (and we kind of are – Christmas vs Midwinter).

      I guess it sounded a bit like “it’s about Jesus being born.. and also a guy in a red suit bringing presents.” (Also it didn’t help that he didn’t really know anything about the Christian religious including really knowing who Jesus was anyway. We ended up just calling him [Jesus] “That really important guy” that year.

      The same thing happened when we got to Easter and the religious story didn’t seem to quite tie in with the idea of chocolate eggs and bunnies… Unfortunately, we didn’t end up explaining this one very well and in an attempt to join in with the celebrations, he gave everyone an egg (as in a chicken egg) for Easter.

      Luckily, he (and the 3 from Hong Kong) were very good at explaining Chinese holidays to us (and good at cooking) so we also had many successful and non-confusing celebrations that year.

      1. Elkay*

        I think Santa (bastardised version of a saint) is easier than eggs to explain, although starting from scratch he does confuse things.

      2. matcha123*

        After moving overseas and meeting more Brits and Europeans, I definitely got the feeling that Christmas was more closely tied to the church than what goes on in mainstream America. My British friend sent me a Cadburry advent calendar one year. I was like “Ah. I think I’ve heard of this before,” and then ate all of that delicious chocolate.

        When I’ve given talks at Japanese schools around Christmas time, the kids ask me if there’s a Santa in America haha.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Aww, with the eggs. At least he was trying to do what he thought would be nice. And actually, he’s not far off because eggs are a fertility symbol! *Spring holiday*

    8. jhhj*

      A lot of people end up saying that, no, Santa/reindeer/whatever aren’t religious (or aren’t even culturally Christian). But — assuming they’re from North America — they all seem to be people who weren’t raised with some religion that isn’t Christianity.

      So perhaps if you’re Christian, consider how odd it is that non-Christians disagree with you[1] and that maybe your insistence that Santa has absolutely nothing to do with religion is your privilege talking. (Non-Christians may, of course, choose to have a Christmas tree or whatever, just like some non-Jews have seders.)

      [1] Atheists are an interesting question, but for argument’s sake I will say that if you were brought up by Christians or your parents were, you probably count as a cultural Christian in this respect.

      1. Liz in a Library*

        Jhhj, I think this is a really good point. As an atheist who was raised Christian in my early years, I was reading through this thread hoping very much that someone would point out the difference between choosing to celebrate Christmas secularly after leaving the hugely dominant (in the US) Christian religion, and being forced to celebrate Christmas, even a secular one, when it directly conflicts with your faith. They are not the same experience at all for many people.

        1. Schmitt*

          Exactly this. I celebrate “Christmas” because I enjoy giving gifts to and spending time with people I love. And also because midwinter in northern latitude is a pretty shitty time of year and damn it, people need something to look forward to! Which is more or less the whole point of the pagan celebrations, in my uneducated opinion. ;)

          1. Elizabeth West*

            That’s why I look forward to winter solstice, and wish people a happy one. Because the days start getting longer after that. So Happy Solstice (a little bit early)!!!

    9. Tau*

      I’m a second-generation atheist from Germany who celebrates Christmas. My Christmas is rather low on Santa coming down the chimney on the night of the 24th and reindeer and the North Pole and elves, and instead involves Advent wreaths and calendars, St. Nicholas on a grey horse with his helper Knecht Ruprecht filling children’s shoes with candy on the 6th of December, nativity scenes, Christmas markets and a very great deal of Spekulatius, among others.

      From my perspective, Christmas is very obviously a Christian holiday. It’s also a cultural one – it’s a culturally Christian holiday. And I do consider myself culturally Christian because I am from an originally Christian family and a lot of the traditions and so on have been preserved despite the fact that both my parents are atheists and I can count the amount of times I’ve been in church for a religious ceremony (vs as a tourist or the like) on one hand. It’d be absurd to ask me why, since I’m an atheist, I don’t celebrate Passover, Rosh Hashana or Hannukah, or Ramadan – they’re not part of my culture and belong to a religion I have no connection to. It’s equally absurd to ask an atheist who is culturally Jewish or Muslim who doesn’t celebrate Christmas why they don’t. And asking a religious Jew or Muslim to start celebrating Christmas is definitely pushing another religion on them where it doesn’t belong.

      Similarly, Santa+reindeer+elves have no real place in my Christmas and I’m not planning to introduce them anytime soon. That brand of Christmas is not just Christian but from a very American brand of Christianity and hence not part of my culture. (I’m sure there’s nuance there in that different branches of American Christianity involve different Christmas celebrations – just as the fact that for me, Saint Nicholas’ helper is Knecht Ruprecht, not Krampus or Belsnickel, baby Jesus does not bring anyone presents, and we have an old family recipe for Spekulatius are all characteristics of what branch of Christianity and region of Germany my family is originally from.)

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        Wow, I didn’t think any Christian denomination involved the infant Jesus bringing anyone presents! As a Catholic we had our fair share of Christmas trees and presents, but there was never any connection between Jesus-bringing-the-presents. Is that a thing in other Protestant groups?

        1. Tau*

          I’m reading up on this now… the Wikipedia article (article name is Christkind, not linking because I don’t want to get caught in spam) says it was originally introduced by Martin Luther, who wanted to discourage the use of Saint Nicholas… but then it spread to Catholic communities and a version of Santa Claus got popular in the Protestant ones, so now it’s actually more of a Catholic thing, although obviously not for all Catholics and there are apparently some traditionally Protestant regions where it crops up too. I’m from a northwestern Protestant background and associate it mainly with Bavaria and Austria (which are strongly Catholic), but the Wikipedia article has a whole list of regions throughout continental Europe and apparently parts of Central and South America where it says this tradition in common. The (more informative) German Wikipedia article on the subject is a bit more conservative regarding how widespread this is and mainly lists places like Catholic regions in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – not France or Spain like the English one.

          Also,reading it sounds like the Christkind was originally meant to represent baby Jesus but sort of evolved from there and incorporated other common holiday figures (there seems to be a lot of angel and cherub imagery involved, for instance), so now the connection is a bit more tenuous than I might have made it sound. Still – in a bunch of places, the Christmas gift giver is not Santa Claus or some related Saint Nicholas derivative but a small child with wings and a halo called something like “Christ-child”. Draw your own conclusions…

    10. INTP*

      I’m a staunch atheist and I love Christmas. That said, there are a lot of Christians who view it all as Christianity-related – the militant “Jesus is the reason for the season” crowd. I was told as a kid that the present-giving tradition came about because god gave us a present. And even I don’t deny that the core purpose of the holiday is religious in nature. Even if a lot of the traditions were taken from other religions and whatnot (I like to call my tree the saturnalia tree), we would not be celebrating Christmas in this country on this scale if it were not a predominantly Christian country.

      Also, I have no conflicting religion. I can understand why someone whose deeply held religious beliefs are directly in conflict with the idea of Jesus being a messiah would not just cavalierly go “Oooh lights! Presents! Yay!” and ignore the religious part of it entirely like me.

      1. Observer*

        I can understand why someone whose deeply held religious beliefs are directly in conflict with the idea of Jesus being a messiah would not just cavalierly go “Oooh lights! Presents! Yay!” and ignore the religious part of it entirely like me.

        Exactly! Thanks for putting it so well.

  4. Jill of All Trades*

    I’m thinking of going to Brussels layer this month. Besides seeing Mannequin Pis, what else should I do?

    1. DeAnna*

      If I remember correctly, Bruges isn’t too far away from Brussels, and it is a beautiful city with canals and museums.

      1. EA*

        I misread that as “camels and museums”, which paints a somewhat amusing picture if those are the top 2 tourist attractions.

      2. INTP*

        Bruges is so quaint and beautiful. FWIW though, I’d make it a day trip out of Brussels and not stay overnight (you can get there on the train, it runs many times per day). If you aren’t going to do a lot of shopping there isn’t that much to do. When I planned my trip people kept telling me to spend only one day in Brussels and extra nights in Bruges and the other small towns but I got bored in Bruges by the end of the day and wanted more time in Brussels.

    2. Nivaneen*

      You definitely need to visit the Mont des Arts, which is very scenic and a great place to snap some photos: http://www.montdesarts.com/

      Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert (http://www.grsh.be/en/) are home to some truly fantastic chocolateries, a Vaudeville Theatre, and general opulent gorgeousness.

      La Monnaie Theatre is another must (http://www.lamonnaie.be/en/). If you’re not interested in actually seeing a performance there, it’s still worth it for the guided tours of the building.

      And last, but certainly not least, if you’re there prior to January 4th, you NEED to visit the Christmas Market. If you visit La Monnaie you’ll come across it anyway. It’s usually centered at the Grand-Place, and you should start there, but then by all means explore the rest of it (and this could take a day or two, but it’s oh so worth it!)

      Now I’m all nostalgic and envious – if done right (*cough*thatmeansavoidthemetro*cough*) Brussels can be an absolutely fantastic place to visit, especially during the winter. :)

    3. Jen RO*

      Waffles! They are amaaaaazing! Even the ones in the touristy areas – I had great ones close to Manneken Pis. Also, the big square is absolutely beautiful. I am sure there will be a Christmas market and lots of fun stuff.

      (Also, I don’t know where you are from, but if you come from a warmer climate… bring a thick coat. I froze my ass off in November.)

      1. Jill of All Trades*

        I’m from Atlanta, where we don’t usually have much of a winter :) Good call on reminding me to bring a coat; I usually don’t take one.

        I’ll look into Bruges and Ghent.

        1. Jen RO*

          A *winter* coat. And boots. My boyfriend had to buy a new pair after one day in Brussels… I had to buy the ugliest, warmest hat.

    4. Carrie in Scotland*

      I second DeAnna, go to Bruges, it’s beautiful! – or Ghent, which is between Brussels & Bruges.

      I remember not being very impressed with Brussels, but it was a long time ago and the last stop on a busy 3 weeks of travelling which may have coloured my view a little.
      I hope you enjoy!

    5. Hummingbird*

      The last time I was in Belgium, I did not get to see the downtown area of Brussels. I’m planning on going next year and I am interested in hearing about what others say about seeing in Brussels.

      However, if you have the time to see other cities, Gent is definitely worth seeing. The funny thing about Gent and Bruges is that those from Gent will say that Bruges, while also medieval, is not its original anymore due to WWII. Gent was nowhere near as hurt as Bruges was; Bruges was nearly wiped off the map. Nonetheless, both are worth seeing. Gent is just closer to Brussels. You also have Antwerp(en) to the north, and not too far from Antwerpen is another town with the largest outdoor square – Sint-Niklaas.

      If you are interested in history but want to stay close to Brussels, there is Waterloo where Napoleon was ultimately defeated. Other areas of interest are the Atomium and, if it is still open, Mini-Europa, a miniature outdoor village of all the countries of the European Union.

      There are other places I would suggest throughout Belgium, but it all depends on your time and budget. Enjoy!

      Veel plezier! (Have a good time!)

      1. Jen RO*

        For a different opinion: Atomium was not really worth the trip. It’s OK if you’re bored, but I was unimpressed. Mini-Europe was either closed or too expensive, so we didn’t see it. (It did sound way more interesting than the Atomium.)

    6. Nivaneen*

      I commented a few hours ago, but I included links and I suspect it’s been stuck in the moderation queue because of them. So, sans links, here’s my list of Brussels:

      1. Mont des Arts, which is very scenic and a great place to snap some photos.

      2. Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert; they’re home to some truly fantastic chocolateries, a Vaudeville Theatre, and general opulent gorgeousness.

      3. Speaking of chocolate, if you’re a chocoholic (or even vaguely interested in chocolate), the Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat is totally worth a visit.

      4. La Monnaie Theatre is another must. If you’re not interested in actually seeing a performance there, it’s still worth it for the guided tours of the building.

      5. And last, but certainly not least, if you’re there prior to January 4th, you NEED to visit the Christmas Market. If you visit La Monnaie or the chocolate museum you’ll come across it anyway. It’s usually centered at the Grand-Place, and you should start there, but then by all means explore the rest of it (and this could take a day or two, but it’s oh so worth it!)

      Now I’m all nostalgic and envious – if done right (*cough*thatmeansavoidthemetro*cough*) Brussels can be an absolutely fantastic place to visit, especially during the winter. :)

      1. Nivaneen*

        I meant *my list of “must-see” sights in Brussels.

        The other version doesn’t make much sense…

        1. Nivaneen*

          6. I can’t believe I forgot this, but another great, quirky museum to visit is the MIM (the Musical Instruments Museum). It has a restaurant on top floor – the food isn’t spectacular, but the view is.

          And er, I’ll stop replying to myself now.

      2. Jam Wheel*

        I was in Brussels 4 years ago now or so, and thought it was interesting. Was only there for one day overnight for a concert (located at l’Orangerie that had a nice looking cafe inside), and we stayed primarily in the inner part of the city.

        Can confirm that Galerie Royales Saint-Hubert is pretty amazing – to this day I remember the Delvaux store with amazing bags I swore I would return to some day (with more money!). The Grand Place is neat to see because we don’t have such a thing really in the US. We also wandered somewhere up by an art museum, and past some amazing cathedrals and churches. The thing about Brussels is that you have to look up on the sides of the buildings- some crazy crazy mural paintings on some of them. I took a photo of a very long fox chasing a washing machine down the side of a building. It was definitely more hilly than I thought it would be.

        I also dropped a ton of cash at the Tin Tin shop and ate gorgeous croissants and jam at some place for breakfast.

    7. Jill of All Trades*

      I should have included that I’ll be by myself and I move pretty fast through a city so I can pack in quite a bit and hit the trains to add in more cities.

      Does anyone know if businesses are closed on Mondays like in Zurich? I got completely caught off guard by that.

      1. Nivaneen*

        Museums are closed on Mondays, but nearly everywhere else stays open. (Stores are generally closed on Sundays, though, so be prepared for that).

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Antwerp is worth a visit too. The SNCB website has plenty of information about trains throughout Belgium and day trips out of Brussels are incredibly easy.

  5. Stephanie*

    This is the last week of Serial. :( I am still undecided as to Adnan’s guilt!

    If y’all are looking for a Serial replacement, Criminal is pretty good.

      1. Monodon monoceros*

        No!!! That mail kimp girl drives me batty! I have to forward through it because it get shabby.

        1. Jill of All Trades*

          I agree about the mail. . . kimp? kid (lord I hope she’s a child!). Like a cheese grater on my nerves.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Pretty sure it’s a kid. I confess, I love her and her assumption that it’s “khimp”, as in “Chanukah”. :) I realize I am part of a very teeny minority in my love for her. But really, my favorite is the Italian (?) man who says, “Use-a da MailChimp”.

            1. Monodon monoceros*

              Yeah, the “Use da Mail Chimp” guy doesn’t bother me because it sounds like English is not his first language, but the kid, if she is a kid, sounds old enough that she sound know the word chimp.

                1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                  I know I have spent way too much mental space on this, but I have a Theory about “MailKimp Girl”– she’s a kid in NYC, probably about 9 or 10, learning about different languages and cultures and words. She sees lots of marketing and brand names, and most of them make some kind of sense. “MailChimp”– and keep in mind she’s reading– looks totally made up and weird, so she assumes its origins are not English. And because she goes to school with people from all different nationalities, and maybe her parents are from another country, the “ch” is usually a “kh” sound when she sees it, so that’s what she goes for first.

                  By the way, I say this as someone whose last name includes a “ch” that is pronounced as a “k” in English and a “kh” in its original language, but way too many people think it’s a “tch”. It’s super annoying because it’s an obviously foreign name and many other people I meet tell me my name is pronounced exactly as it’s spelled, thank you very much, and why would anyone even think it’s a “tch”.

                  I am projecting on the MailKimp Girl!!!

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I know! I am freaking out!

      Did you hear about the tweet from Best Buy? They took it down because people complained it was in bad taste (“this is a real story, there’s a murdered girl”, etc.), but… I thought it was clever and very on-point. *sheepish*

        1. Jill of All Trades*

          They said “We have everything you need. Unless it’s a payphone. #serial”

          You’re not alone AvonLady; I too thought it was clever.

    2. Liz in a Library*

      I’m torn between wanting far more Serial and being relieved that it is finishing by Christmas; I wanted to burn all the episodes on a CD for my mom who is both a huge Luddite and a huge true crime fan for her drive home after the holidays.

    3. Rebecca*

      I haven’t listened to this, but I’d like to. Confession: for the life of me, I cannot figure out how to download the podcasts and put them on my MP3 player. I tried to use something called “Feedly” but it appears only the last 3 podcasts downloaded, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out where they are on my computer (it’s a Windows computer). The length is perfect, about an hour, and I’d love to listen to a podcast while I walk for exercise.

      If any of you want to take pity on me and give me some pointers on how to do this, I’d love it. This is my shameless plea for help! I have to admit this has left me feeling pretty silly. I managed to set up a home network and have done all of my own home IT stuff since the late 90’s, but for some reason, this one thing has me baffled.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        The only thing I use is iTunes, which will download the podcasts as AAC files– if you’re not using an iPod, it won’t help unless you can convert those files. Do you have a smartphone? You can stream directly from the Serial website, though that will use data.

        1. Annie*

          I used Podkicker which you can subscribe and download on wireless or stream as needed. It pulls them as they are uploaded (I woke up and saw that the episode was ready- downloaded it so I could listen at work).

      2. brightstar*

        If you go to the Serial website and click on the individual episode, there is an option to download and it will save it to your hard drive as an mp3. From there you might be able to drag and drop to your mp3 player files.

        1. Rebecca*

          I’m using Firefox, and when I click the download button, a new tab pops up and the podcast starts to play. There are no other options, like save, so I’m confused.

          1. brightstar*

            Do you have Chrome on your pc? That’s what I’m using.

            Google shows this is a known issue with Firefox.

            1. Rebecca*

              I downloaded Chrome, problem solved! Thank you :) The episodes are downloading into a folder and I’ll be able to drag them to my MP3 player.

    4. Cath in Canada*

      I was going back and forth for the first few episodes, but for the last three or four weeks I’ve stayed very firmly on the “at a minimum, there is plenty of reasonable doubt” side of the fence. The episode about the defence lawyer in particular was everything I was hoping it would be after they mentioned it a few times earlier on.

      I’m very interested to see how they wrap everything up! I have my PMP exam that morning (I know, what was I thinking) so I’ll have to wait until Friday morning before I get a chance to listen. I think I’ll have to stay off the internet all day to avoid spoilers!

    1. Stephanie*

      1. Modifications! Sometimes I just can’t do a pose or I’m injured or that particular muscle is strained or whatever, so I like hearing modifications (or suggestions with the props) that will get me the same stretch.
      2. Reassurance about working at my own level. Sounds silly, but it’s nice to hear from the instructor that it’s perfectly fine that I can’t do a headstand or whatever advanced pose.
      3. I personally like it if the instructor comes by and fixes my positions. I like that just so I don’t injure myself. But be sure to ask students ahead of time if it’s ok if you adjust them.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Yes to modifications. My favorite instructor has us do a pose, but then suggests a whole bunch of modifications you can do otherwise if you need more/less of a stretch, or if you want to work your core more, or whatever. I really like hearing all the different variations.

        And an instructor who is quiet during shavasana.

        1. nep*

          Quiet during a lot of things.
          All the apparently superfluous talk (as I’ve seen just in videos) deters me from taking a class. I get that the instructor’s got to clearly explain a pose and what the body’s doing, but man oh man it gets to be ridiculous and seems to me would ruin a good session.

    2. ProductiveDyslexic*

      I do a mindful yoga class. Half meditation, half gentle hatha-ish yoga. The thing I like most is that we do different excercises every week.

      For example sometimes our teacher has a theme like hip opening, heart centre, or poses to do with the moon. Other times we try different kinds of meditation, e.g. bodyscan, visualisation, using various aids. My favourite is meditation on concentric circles, keeping eyes open for as long as poss, then closing eyes and holding the image for as lonh as poss, then repeat.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I started doing hot yoga recently (only because the studio is a 5-minute walk from my house!), and I have one instructor who I think is amazing. He’s a new teacher, in his 40s, kind of on the pudgy side, and he does the entire class with his eyes screwed shut like he’s afraid to face himself in the mirror. And I love him. He uses great music (it’s a very… un-yoga studio, which can be good and bad) and offers a ton of modifications, and I always feel like I’m progressing with him.

      There’s another teacher I like just because of the poses she goes through. Some of the instructors at this studio are runners, and there’s a lot of lunging and leg work, but the woman I like is a bit older and focus on the core a bit more. I find her way too touchy-feely, but I always feel good after her class.

    4. class factotum*

      Quiet. Honestly, the instructors who talk the entire time about Finding My Center and Finding My Peace annoy the heck out of me. SHUT UP! I want to listen to my podcast and exercise. I do not want to listen to you chattering on and on.

      Also, there was an instructor who yelled at me because I was wearing socks and not in bare feet and she yelled at the entire class because we were not paying close enough attention to her. Wait: here’s the full story: http://class-factotum.blogspot.com/2011/06/drop-and-give-me-20-maggots.html

    5. Blue_eyes*

      I agree with everything Stephanie said.

      I also like that my favorite instructor faces us and does the opposite of what she wants us to do (as in, she says lean to the right, and she leans to the left so we can mirror her). It must be hard to say the opposite of what you’re doing, but it’s very helpful to be able to see her and mirror her movements instead of watching her back. This instructor is also really good at giving a lot of clear instructions about movements, modifications, and breathing while still keeping her tone and pacing very calming so it’s not distracting from my practice.

    6. Annie*

      My studio (that I need to get back to) lets us use props when ever we need them (straps, blocks, blankets, bolsters, etc.) which as someone with a large chest and short arms are awesome.
      Also they offer modifications (I can’t do eagle to save my life, my chest is too big and my arms are too short) so the teacher I like best gives me suggestions to get a similar stretch.

    7. INTP*

      I agree with modifications. I hate, hate, hate that sometimes instructors act like in an advanced class, no one should need modifications. No matter how long they’ve been practicing yoga, some people may still have tight hips, weak shoulders, etc and need modifications.

      This is individual but I prefer when there are no adjustments unless someone’s about to injure themselves, or the instructor at least asks before adjusting. I have really tight calves and IDK how many yoga teachers have caused me pain by deciding to try to push my heels onto the floor while I’m in down dog. It’s hard to speak up and say “Stop doing that” in a class where everyone is listening and the teacher is the authority figure, kwim?

      What I like: When we get to spend a lot of time in certain poses, especially great stretches like pigeon, but also strength-building poses. I prefer this to moving quickly all through class. I love when we start seated, in child’s pose, doing cat-cow, etc instead of starting standing and immediately moving into sun salutations. I like “slow flow” or one particular class that is 30 minutes vinyasa followed by 30 of hatha. I prefer when it’s all yoga and they don’t incorporate traditional workout moves like fancy planks or an abdominal workout.

      I love a guided shavasana, or when the instructor reads a passage she enjoys or something. I also had an instructor that would push down on each person’s shoulder’s during shavasana and bring around some sort of lavender aromatherapy thing. (If you didn’t want to do it, she’d have you fold your arms to show you wanted to opt out.)

      1. Trixie*

        The heels, they really don’t need to reach the floor. I like to bend my knees and then raise my hips, and the knees are where they are. I’m pretty flexible in the hamstrings but those heels will never touch, or come close unless I walk them in a bit. I also like to move my shoulder blades in a bit on each side so my shoulders lay flat, really opens the chest.

    8. Tris Prior*

      If the teacher tells me to correct my form, but what she’s suggesting is something I cannot do, or something that hurts – BELIEVE ME. Don’t insist that “it’s not that hard” or “you can do it,” when, no, really, I do not bend that way!

      My first yoga instructor had this issue. My knees were just not getting lower than my hips, no matter how many of those block things she gave me to sit on. Then, I overheard another student come up to her after class and tell her “it hurts when I do pose X, what should I do differently?” And the teacher said something like “well, I don’t know why THAT would ever hurt you.”

      uh?? Bodies are individual things. It sucks when you’re made to feel like you’re lying or slacking or not wanting to work hard just because your body can’t do what the instructor wants.

  6. LAMM*

    My brother and I typically go on a “Birthday Trip” sometime in March as our birthdays are 15 days apart, we are only a year different in age and live in different states. We try to arrange it around away games for our hometown team. This year it looks like we might be going to Pittsburgh around mid-March.

    Any suggestions about places to see, stay at, eat at, areas to stay away from, etc? Thanks!

    1. BRR*

      If you like museums there is the Andy Worhol museum and the mattress factory which is a modern art museum. I have friends who liked Hofbräuhaus but I have never been there so cannot personally attest to it.

      1. LAMM*

        I was debating between a couple of cities, but my brother is a huge Warhol fan (we once drove to Chicago just to see one of his paintings!). The Warhol museum was the tie breaker.

    2. Phyllis*

      I just spent a week in Pittsburgh right before Thanksgiving for a training. Really enjoyed it. We were on the South Side at a Holiday Inn Express that was reasonable; there are trains coming through, but after the first night, didn’t hear them. Plus they have a terrific hotel shuttle that will get you just about anywhere you want to go.

      South Side has E. Carson Street, which is twenty or so blocks of bars & restaurants. A couple of favorites were Fatheads (about 100 craft beers on tap) and Urban Tap-their Sunday brunch menu was awesome.

      Do the Duquesne Incline if you get a chance. At one time, there were 61 inclines on the South Side to get the steel mill workers to work. Now there are only two left; the Duquesne has an overlook that will will give you a terrific view of the city and all three rivers.

    3. class factotum*

      The Strip is fun – great shopping, great people watching. Get a cappuccino at the little Italian place on the corner before you start. Sample cheese at PennMac with the lady who calls everyone “Dearheart.”

      The folk/history museum by the Strip – the Heinz History Center – is really good if you are interested in folk and local history.

      Eat at Primanti’s – great sandwiches that come with the french fries on the sandwich.

      I love the Burgh. We go there almost every year to see my husband’s best friend. It is a fun city with great food and it is really beautiful.

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      This may seem like a no-brainer, but don’t get the sushi. It’s not really a sushi town.

      I live in NYC, so it’s not like I was going there for the sushi, but my niece, who’s a student there, misses sushi terribly during the school year, so I took her to Umi, which people rave about as being on par with good sushi restaurants on the coasts. It’s not. It’s more expensive than many NYC sushi places, and the sushi itself is 100% mediocre. Every time there was a sauce (eel sauce, spicy mayonnaise, etc.) that sauce was cloyingly sweet, and the fish wasn’t anything to write home about.

      On a happier note, get ice cream at Dave & Andy’s. Pittsburgh is not a sushi town, but PA is a dairy state. Holy crap that stuff is good.

      1. Sevda*

        Has she tried the sushi at Wholey’s in the Strip? That’s always my go-to for sushi in Pittsburgh… decent prices and always very fresh (perhaps because it’s just a guy at a fish market rather than a restaurant).

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          I haven’t heard her mention it. Thanks for the tip! I’ll tell her — if there’s good sushi she can afford on a student budget, you’ll have just earned me a lot of Auntie Points!

      2. LAMM*

        Neither of us are sushi fans… but I will let him know should he get the urge (I don’t eat seafood in any shape or form). We are also both lactose intolerant but have been known to indulge in the occasional ice cream. Thanks!

    5. Annie*

      Depending on what you like check out a (and as a Caps fan I can’t believe I’m suggesting this) Penguins game- they have a 3 game homestand from 3/12-15 – not playing major rivals so they probably won’t be super expensive but should still be fun.

      1. LAMM*

        That’s actually why we would be going. We’re from the Detroit area and the Wings play them that Saturday :)

    6. Elle*

      Falling Water and Kentuck Knob are both a good day trip from the city and Lawrenceville is a really young and vibrant community now. The Strip on a Saturday morning is great and my favorite Sunday brunch spot is Park Brugge in Highland Park.

      As for neighborhoods to stay away from, Homewood, Hill District, and Larimer.

    1. Saro*

      Good luck! I liked the book, for the most part, Taking Control of your Fertility. I found the sections on tracking the fertility signs very helpful.

    2. Another Lauren*

      Congrats! And good luck / happy trying!!!

      My husband and I definitely had that moment of “holy sh-t, what are we thinking, we can’t do this!?!?!?” And then two weeks later found out we were expecting… :-)

      Three years later we have a two year old and another on the way (and still having those “holy sh-t” thoughts, but wouldn’t change a thing).

      1. Cassy*

        I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one with “holy sh-t” thoughts 6 months into this parenting thing. haha!

        I still catch myself looking down at her while she’s nursing and thinking, “Holy cow, this awesome little person is mine.” : )

    3. Clever Name*

      Heh. It’s a wild ride but totally worth it. You find yourself loving another human more than you thought possible. And you also find yourself saying thing like, “Get you underwear off the table!!” :)

  7. Kat*

    I work as a sub teacher’s aide at the local alternative high school. They dont get a lot of support from the community.
    I have an art “class” idea that involves teaching kids different things with an end goal of making items to sell at various places to raise money for them.

    What items would you like to see/be likely to buy? I have block print cards, jewelry, school color knitted scarves…or any color. Decorated cell phone cases (school colors/personalized). I cant knit, but I can teach them the other stuff.

    Any other ideas?

      1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

        Second this — they disappear at an astounding rate around here, and you can make them out of so many materials and techniques….

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Soap seems to be popular.
      Candles in ‘vintage’ tea cups are quite common over here in craft fairs. Bit of ribbon, candle, very pretty.
      Pincushions – some nice fabric, ribbon and some pins.
      Wine charms?

    2. Emily Robin*

      Hats? Especially if they are cute (like with animal ears/faces on them, or with bright colors) or pretty and soft. Maybe I’m just showing my childish side, though – I have a cow hat that I think is pretty adorable, and am thinking of buying my boyfriend a silly hat for Christmas because I don’t know what to get him.

    3. Blue_eyes*

      Knit or crochet accessories like reusable coffee sleeves (I made 120 of these as favors for my wedding), ear warmers/headbands, hats, etc. I find crochet is easier to teach to beginners and the projects work up faster than with knitting. There are tons of free patterns on the yarn craft community Ravelry. Be sure to check pattern permissions to see if the pattern author allows you to sell projects made from the pattern.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      If you have a shop class to work with, cheese boards and cutting boards are really nice. Lots of sanding, but the cutting is pretty straightforward.

  8. Sara*

    If you had six weeks to yourself, what would be one of your goals or daily activities? I broke my leg last week at a Christmas party (just walking through the crowd and slipped on a wet floor in flats). The first week went by quickly, but I could use some inspiration for the next five. Thanks!

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Ugh, sorry to hear that! I’m a TV fanatic, so I would do a whole bunch of binge watching of series I’ve always wanted to find time to see. A friend of mine was on bed rest for the last 2 months of her pregnancy, which is when she discovered Netflix.

      But that could get old fast. With a broken leg, I imagine your mobility is going to be limited to some degree. Is there crafty stuff you like to do? I found the cutest Christmas wreath project on Pinterest, but I just have no time to try and do it.

      1. Sara*

        Thanks Ann, I’m trying to find something new to watch and fill the Serial podcast void when it ends next week. I have debated trying to learn how to knit, but the needles scare me – go figure!

    2. Dan*

      I was going to say travel the world, but then I kept reading. But what does to yourself mean in this context? Do you live alone? Have a significant other? Can you work from home?

      Simple things are reading, watching movies, playing video games… Possibly learn to cook some new meals?

      1. Sara*

        Hi Dan, I have two cats and my boyfriend, but he’s working quite a bit until Christmas. I can dream about travel plans so maybe I could research a few places and make some plans. I find it hard to relax or rest when I have unexpected time off and not a lot of people around, and yes, no mobility. I did order a few cookbooks so that will be fun to browse through and pick out some new recipes. Cheers.

    3. Sandy*

      I’m on bed rest for the next month in anticipation of a new arrival in the new year, so I feel your pain!

      A few suggestions:
      Radio shows/podcasts (Serial, Stuart McLean)
      Binge-watching shows (I’ve got Downtown Abbey and Outlander on the go)
      Magazines (I downloaded some app where I get a free 60-day trial of unlimited magazines)
      Knitting or crocheting (you’ve got nothing but time to learn!)

      1. Sara*

        Oh Sandy, that doesn’t sound fun. It’s too easy to go stir crazy! I don’t want to be a couch potato, and I want to try and enjoy this forced down time, but I am getting bored of the internets. I love Serial, it’s ending soon so need a replacement, will check out your suggestion. I have to go find this magazine app, as magazines in New Zealand are super expensive! Yes, learning a new skills sounds like a good idea, I just have to get started. Hope the time goes by quickly and you’re back on your feet in no time! Thanks.

        1. Sandy*

          If it helps, it’s called “Next Issue”. It’s a Canadian app, but I’m not in Canada at the moment and it worked fine.

    4. jordanjay29*

      Sounds like you could use some activities that don’t require moving around, am I right?

      I enjoy watching TV shows and movies. It can get fairly boring watching so many of them in a row, but it’s one thing that you could do to pass the time.

      If you want something productive, what about crafts? Learn to knit or crochet, if you don’t already, and make something fun. Make something with beads. Get a bedazler (I’m totally serious) and bedazle something.

      1. Sara*

        Thanks, yes, no moving for me. I love that you bedazzle! I should pull out my craft box and see what I could do with it. I did see some crochet snowflakes that looked cool and wondered how easy/difficult it would be to learn :)

        1. jordanjay29*

          I don’t bedazle, but I think if I was laid up for a few weeks, I would totally get one. There’s an episode of my favorite sitcom, Malcolm in the Middle, where the main character and his mother are sick. They get a bedazler and bedazle the whole bedroom.

      2. DeadQuoteOlympics*

        Learn to draw (human style, with paper and pencil) if you always wanted to be able to? If you are more computer oriented, really ambitious, and have the money to buy them or access to the programs, teach yourself Photoshop. In my experience everyone who uses Photoshop gets very engrossed in what we call “pixel doinking” in ways that can easily eat up HOURS. Even if the end result is solely to put your sister’s head on some dame on a vintage pulp fiction book cover and make a poster out of it.

      1. en pointe*

        That’s what I was going to say! I would love to learn a new language and starting out with regular practice is supposed to make it easier, so if you’re interested, the big chunk of time could be great.

    5. Elkay*

      I know this sounds really dull but don’t underestimate the power of napping if you need it while you’re healing.

      Other than that Netflix, box sets and computer games. How about Kindle Unlimited for a month? The books disappearing off you device at the end of the month should be motivation to finish them.

      1. Sara*

        Thanks Elkay, I do have about five half read books I could get through. I do need to be okay with napping, even if it’s three times in one day! Cheers.

    6. AW*

      Sorry to hear that, I hope your legs heals well. Make sure to rest up and keep your leg elevated when your sitting.

      I broke my leg in high school, a week before the summer holidays started. I got my cast off a few days before schoool started back. I read and watched lots of tv. I made sure to get up to the 7 11 at the top of the road, or go and see my friend that lived round the corner from me just to get out house and stop me going stir crazy.

      Oh and when you get your cast off make sure to have some moisturising cream (ask the pharmacy for a recommendation) to rub in to your leg, I can’t tell you what 6 weeks in a cast will do to your skin.

      1. Sara*

        I have so many memories of hitting up the 7-11 when I grew up in Canada. Tough time to break your leg at the beginng of school holidays! It’s summer in New Zealand and I’m off to a slow start. Ah well, the good weather is nice and I don’t have a case of Mondayitis :) Thanks for your advice. This week I have three visits planned, and it makes such a difference to have something to look forward to. Cheers.

    7. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Read a giant book or one you’ve always wanted to read. You have time to tackle War and Peace now, right? :) Also agree about the binge-watching and the movies.

      1. Sara*

        Thanks, I think I just need to get over the guilt of binge watching, but I’m starting to see a pattern here with the advice. I think just need to go with it :)

    8. Dorth Vader*

      I nth learning a yarn craft! I personally find crochet easier than knitting- only one hook to worry about as opposed to two needles, you can make really tall stitches to finish projects faster, and it’s easier to put projects aside when you don’t have to worry about accidentally slipping stitches off the needles. I’d suggest getting a kit like the Susan Bates “I Can Crochet” set. It comes with a booklet of tutes and patterns, the hooks you’ll mostly use, darning needles, and a few other accessories. Even if you prefer learning from video, the patterns are helpful to have for when you start reading patterns. They’re easy to follow and are a good stepping stone.
      If you’re more of a visual learner, I hear the Crochet Crowd has good YouTube tutorials. I’m sure there are a million others, but they’re the ones I’ve heard the most positive feedback from. If you REALLY get into it (or just want to look at pretty things) there’s a huge, wonderful crochet community on Instagram!

      1. Sara*

        Thanks for all the tips on where to find info! I am a visual learner, and maybe I can add a book to my Christmas wish list. Right now I just have a walking cane with a seat – not that I can use it, but it sure makes me laugh, and I know it will come in handy when I start physio. I think crochet might be fun to try. I love instagram, will check it out. Cheers!

    9. Hillary*

      My mom made my brother’s wedding quilt while she was recovering from a knee replacement.

      If you can stand and have people who’d like gifts, King Arthur Flour has been sharing their favorite candy recipes lately. A lot of them take substantial time because you have to wrap them after they’re cooled.

      Cooking for the freezer might be another good one. I freeze my own potstickers and samosas when I have time – better than the premade ones and much less fat.

      1. Sara*

        Thanks Hillary. It would be nice to make some candy gifts to say thanks to all my friends and family. MMMM samosas! Now I’m hungry. Cheers.

    10. Jill of All Trades*

      You could get binoculars and “Rear Window” your neighbors:) (I’m kidding)
      You could take a class online through Coursera.
      You could teach the cats tricks.
      You could write a short story. Or something non-fiction related to your occupation. Or start a blog about your leg like Alison did when she broke her foot a while back.
      I second learning a craft like crochet – I learned from a kit and YouTube videos can help you through tricky stitches. It’ll keep your mind and hands occupied and be productive while not requiring leg movement.

      1. Sara*

        Ha, I did just move into a new home, and I still haven’t met most of my neighbours, I suppose that’s one way to do it :) I am signed up with Coursera, so maybe I should actually take a class! I have two cats, and I think Waffles would love to learn a new trick. She has crazy eyes lately, just going bonkers and running UP the Christmas tree. Alison is an inspiration, I love how she turned her interest and knowledge into a blog to help others! I googled broke my leg blog and there’s tons of good stuff to read. I guess everyone has a story on how they broke their leg. I just slipped on a wet floor and smashed my femur into bits. Thanks so much for your reply!

        1. Jill of All Trades*

          Hers was Ohfuckmyfoot and knowing she came out on the otherside ok will help you worry less about her sanity during that time.

          Since you just moved, you now have opportunity to gather interior design inspiration and order stuff online.

    11. Purr purr purr*

      I had six weeks to myself last year and it was heaven! I read books, do some writing, sewing, drawing (I’m awful but I started working through the book ‘Drawing on the right side of the brain’), worked out (probably harder for you with a broken leg), took walks (same again) and basically did all the things I don’t usually have much time for.

      Sorry to hear you broke your leg and at a Christmas party no less! I hope your recovery goes well!

        1. Jen RO*

          Oh thank you for reminding me of that! I can’t believe I almost forgot. I bought a jigsaw puzzle at the company charity “yard sale” and, since my puzzle-hating boyfriend is away for a week, this is the perfect time!

      1. Sara*

        Thank you! Yeah, and at the start of the party, so I didn’t even get into the wine. I did sit for two hours behind a curtain with first aid listening to the party, that was fun :/ I could some arm and back workouts since I can sit for those, and I have lots of ‘exercises’ to do for my leg to keep it moving. I need to change my mindset on how to use this time for things I enjoy instead of feeling like a victim and like I’m missing out. I have always wanted to try water painting, I guess now I have the time :) Cheers.

    12. Cath in Canada*

      Oh, that sounds rough!

      When you’re sick of Netflix and reading, how about doing an online course through Coursera or something similar? Or learning to draw if knitting doesn’t seem like your thing?

      1. Sara*

        Hey Cath, thank you! How’s the weather in Canada? I miss having a white Christmas now that I live in New Zealand. Good idea, and I think taking a course will help keep me occupied and feeling productive. Cheers.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          Sunny and cold here in Vancouver, after a week of the most epic series of rainstorms I can remember. I cycled home during one of them, which I do not recommend! There probably won’t be a white Christmas here in the city, but there definitely will be in the interior, where we’re heading one week from today!

          Hope your leg heals quickly and you don’t get too bored!

    13. Katie the Fed*

      I would try to learn to bake complicated things. And invite friends over to share in the successes.

    14. Windchime*

      I didn’t break my leg, but I was non-weight bearing for 6 weeks after surgery on my ankle last year. I did a lot of knitting and a lot of Netflix. I think that’s when I watched House of Cards and ….something else, I don’t remember. Lots and lots of knitting, reading and Netflix was pretty much it.

    15. Windchime*

      If knitting scares you, maybe try crochet? It’s a little less intimidating; there is only the one (non-sharp) hook and you can start out with some small projects, like crocheting dishrags. Just have someone pick up some 100% cotton yarn (they make something called Sugar and Cream for this) and a medium sized hook. Dishrags are nice because they are useful, small (so there is an end to the project in sight) and if you make a mistake, it won’t matter because it’s just a dishrag.

    16. Elizabeth West*

      Oh no! :( I hope you heal quickly. Ouch!

      Reading, I guess, would be mine. I have so many books I need to read and just have not had time. And there are crafts galore I could be doing too.

    17. HR Manager*

      Ouch – I hope you heal quickly. Here’s my ideal list:
      1) Make a significant dent in my Netflix/AmazonPrime watchlist
      2) Clean every corner of my house
      3) Do a thorough cleaning of the litter pan
      4) Finally unpack the last of those stupid boxes of books
      5) Actually arrange and neaten my guest/library room
      6) Line my drawers and my china cabinet shelves (the liner rolls have been sitting there for 1 year)
      7) Clean out my closets – pick out clothes I don’t wear and donate
      8) Work on my jigsaw puzzles
      9) Work on recipes I want to try

      Here’s what would really happen:
      1) Pare down Netflix/AmazonPrime watchlist, and add 6 more movies
      2) Clean half of 1 closet
      3) Clean 1 room
      4) Start a jigsaw puzzle and leave that unfinished on the table for the next 6 months

  9. Ann Furthermore*

    So I’m in the midst of my annual Christmas goody bake-a-thon. This year I’m making pumpkin pie truffles, which I made for the first time for Thanksgiving this year, and everybody went insane over them. One batch makes 30, so I can make 3 goody bags of 10. Anyway…I made 2 batches today. After they get rolled into balls, they need to sit in the freezer for a couple hours to set. So I took a tray of them out to the garage, and DROPPED IT while trying to get it into the freezer. Some very un-Christmasy language came spewing out of my mouth. But then, when I went to pick them up, I realized that since they were sitting on parchment paper and covered in plastic, none of them actually touched the foul garage floor. So I was able to rescue them. It’s a Christmas miracle!

        1. Kay*

          OMG, these look amazing… I’m going to make them and surprise my family! (If I don’t eat them all myself first…)

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            They are sinfully delicious! I’ve never made pumpkin pie, or any pie for that matter…pie crust scares me. They’re not hard to make, you just have to have time to let them sit in the freezer between steps. And the recipe says you need 2 cups of white chocolate chips for dipping, but I found it took 2 1/2 cups. You can technically get them coated with 2 cups, but it’s a challenge, and the last 1 or 2 don’t look as nice as the rest.

            I loved them on Thanksgiving…you’re usually so full that just 2 or 3 bites of something is perfect.

      1. bob*

        Con! Con! My gawd these drive me nuts!! Department of redundancy department!

        No need for a comma to separate the last 2 items in a list.

        1. Raine*

          Famous quote from Times newspaper, which doesn’t use the serial comma, talking about a Peter Ustinov documentary and saying that “highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year old demigod and a dildo collector.”

          There are people where I work who can quote major botches caused by the lack of a serial comma off the top of their heads. (I’m not as talented. I have to look them up recalling a name or somesuch from the more famous examples.)

          1. Jen RO*

            With the serial comma, that sentence would identify Nelson Mandela as an 800-year old demigod. This is one of those instances where a rephrase is really needed.

            1. Jill of All Trades*

              Without the Oxford Comma it’s giving those attributes to Mandela. With the comma it breaks those items into separate things.

              1. Jazzy Red*

                Exactly!

                Although, to be truthful, I don’t always use the Oxford Comma. It all depends if the sentence makes sense with it or without it.

              2. Jen RO*

                Well – no, it doesn’t. I realize I am arguing English grammar as a non-English speaker, but I am the kind of person to read grammar books for fun.

                With the comma, Peter Ustinov meets a demigod named Nelson Mandela and also meets a dildo collector.
                Without the comma, Peter Ustinov meets Nelson Mandela, who is a demigod and a dildo collector.
                Different meanings, but both wrong.

                1. B*

                  Not exactly – with the comma both meanings are possible. Only grammar nerds would read it incorrectly, and would either be quietly amused or get ragey.

                  You’re right though, much better to totally rephrase!

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Famous quote from Times newspaper, which doesn’t use the serial comma, talking about a Peter Ustinov documentary and saying that “highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year old demigod and a dildo collector.”

            This made me nearly choke on my cookies.

        1. Camellia*

          This! And my company just announced the adoption of the Associated Press no-last-comma style. Oh, the pain!

      2. jhhj*

        If your sentence relies on a single comma for clarity, your sentence is actually not clear and should be rewritten. (Also the Oxford comma can introduce ambiguity too.)

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I used to be very con, then some friends in publishing and academia made me pro. For what it’s worth, when I learned how to use commas in second grade, we were taught the non-Oxford method.

      4. Tomato Frog*

        I heard someone on the radio make this argument, and then the anti-Oxford comma person actually countered with an example where the Oxford comma impeded clarity. I can’t recall it, unfortunately, but since then I don’t passionately argue for the Oxford comma, even though I continue to use it.

        1. Tomato Frog*

          Though I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this who could give examples. But I haven’t had my coffee yet.

      5. Cath in Canada*

        My sister and I have an ongoing war on Facebook about the Oxford comma. I’m pro; she’s con. Sisters divided! But at least we both agree that there should never be two spaces after a period.

    1. Stars and violets*

      Can’t we all just get along together? :)
      I used to be anti but when I was proofreading my brother’s PhD thesis I realised that sometimes, as Alison says, it’s necessary for the sake of clarity. Mind you, his PhD was in cosmology so clarity is a subjective term.

    2. Sail On, Sailor*

      Definitely pro. Nothing clever to add about it. But when a writer leaves one out, it drives me absolutely batty. Then again, so much of the writing I see in e-mails and on-line drives me batty….

      Fortunately, I married an English major. :-)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I will argue that the logic for it is consistency. Since it’s sometimes required for clarity, it should be used always, so that you’re not being inconsistent.

        1. jhhj*

          What about the dedication “To my mother, Ayn Rand, and God”? Now leaving it out is required for clarity.

              1. jhhj*

                Exactly! A sentence (where the ambiguity is not desired as some sort of joke) that depends on a single comma for clarity needs to be rewritten. Then the use or non-use of the Oxford comma is a matter of taste.

            1. bob*

              I have to politely disagree because I think you’re reading the sentence wrong due to the extra comma.

              If the sentence was “To my mother, Ayn Rand and God” it would mean the dedication is to all 3 subjects in the list and it would be grammatically correct.

              I don’t understand why leaving a redundant comma in a list is required for clarity (or consistency)? I wonder if people are confusing an actual list in a sentence with an embedded clause but then I also woke up with a headache.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            What a terrible dedication! Ayn Rand didn’t believe it God, hated theists, and probably would hate your mother.

            But that wasn’t really the question, was it? :)

    3. Jen RO*

      Mostly con, because it is a big no-no in Romanian, so it still looks like a mistake to me in English. But I do use it from time to time, when a sentence simply needs it for clarity (and can’t be rephrased).

      1. 15*

        Ah! It’s a big no-no in Italian too and I agree it looks like a mistake. But from what I have read about the Oxford Comma it does make sense to use it, so I’m trying to train myself.

      2. en pointe*

        I am anti in my everyday life because I was taught that in Australian English we don’t use it except for clarity. But it is one of my guilty pleasures of commenting on AAM because I get to use it as much as I want. I am a closeted oxford comma enthusiast. Also, American words. I love saying y’all. I can’t say it in Australia, so I must use it on AAM instead :)

        1. Jill of All Trades*

          I said y’all when I was in Australia and no one looked at me weirdly. Of course I’m from Atlanta so it probably would have been weird if I’d avoided saying it. Everyone was fascinated with my accent and I theirs.

          You go ahead and let the y’all fly hun! It’s good for you :)

          1. en pointe*

            Ha, you get to say it because you’re actually American! I already get funny looks for the way I speak because I’m originally from the bush, and use more bush slang than most city folk. Deliberate choice not to try and adapt though – the way I talk is home. But still, better save the American slang for AAM, I think :)

              1. en pointe*

                Ha, not too exciting. In the bush, people still say stuff like fair dinkum, drongo, Big Smoke, etc. – stuff that you don’t hear as much in the city anymore. If you ever come down under, I would be happy to teach you. Though IIRC you want to go to New Zealand, right? Not too keen on our animals? :)

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  LOL you have some cool animals, but some scary ones too. 0_0 Though if I took the time to go that freaking far, I would definitely want to visit Australia as well as NZ. :)

                2. en pointe*

                  Haha yeah most European and American tourists I’ve met do both together because it’s a bloody long way. The flight is supposed to be ridiculous – 20 hours or something.

                  Also, our animals really aren’t that bad :) It’s actually kind of funny because the animals foreigners think are cool like roos and wombats are actually kinda not. You want to stay away from them aside from the zoo. Wombats have serious claws and if you get in a roo’s face too much, it will literally punch you in the face. The snakes, on the other hand, aren’t aggressive unless you provoke them or step on them. I run on a track where I see Eastern Browns sometimes, which can kill in 30 minutes, but no one’s died in Sydney in a while. You just watch where you’re putting your feet. And most of the people who get eaten by crocodiles where I grew up are tourists who doing something stupid.

                  New Zealand does have less that will kill you though. I really want to go there too. It’s supposed to be very beautiful.

                3. Gene*

                  When we spent a month in Australia back in 99, there were towns where my wife just couldn’t communicate because she Just. Couldn’t. Understand. Them. I didn’t have nearly as much trouble. One time in a pie shop, she spent 5 minutes trying to get a sachet of ketchup (tomato sauce to you) before I took pity on the poor shopkeeper.

        2. Jen RO*

          I told my American coworker that I was “up shit creek without a paddle”… he is still amused, two weeks later.

          1. Jill of All Trades*

            If you really want to amuse him, use “swing a dead cat”. It’s used in relation to something being really common, like if your workplace has a lot of people named Maria – you can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting someone named Maria.

              1. Windchime*

                Or “Since Hector was a pup”. As in, “Wow, I haven’t seen you since Hector was a pup!” That one isn’t very common, and I think I only know it because my grandparents came from Oklahoma.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  In very rural southern Missouri, I had a very serious relationship with someone who said things I have never heard before, not even with my growing up an hour from where he did. They include:

                  –Rode hard and put up wet (referring to horses, but used as a colloquialism for being tired)
                  –Coon’s age (as in, “I haven’t seen you in a coon’s age.” Lots of raccoon hunters round here.)
                  –If I had a feather up my ass, we’d both be tickled (used with someone whose glee you didn’t share).
                  –I gotta pee like a rushin’ race horse.
                  –You-uns (instead of y’all). Pronounced “yoons”.
                  –Holler (hollow)
                  –Bubba (I’d heard this one but not so frequently.)
                  –Crick (creek, as in “Get them cows across the crick.”)

                  I am not making any of this up.

                2. Jill of All Trades*

                  I’m from GA and I’ve heard all of those and used most of them. But I thought it was Russian racehorse, which never made sense.

                3. Notmyrealname*

                  Generally “rode hard and put up wet” is used to mean looking rough, especially looking older than you are around here.

                4. C Average*

                  I used to be good friends with a guy from West Virginia, and he used lots of wonderful folksy expressions, including some of the ones listed by Elizabeth West, above. My favorite was “as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”

                5. Jill of All Trades*

                  And one of my favorites: just because the cat has kittens in the oven don’t mean you call ’em biscuits.

                  It’s better if you hear me say it with the syrupy accent.

      1. Camellia*

        Is this the extra ‘u’? I never realized that the extra ‘u’ was not correct in America until I started using Word. And I couldn’t figure out why it was underlining favourite and colour so I just added them to the dictionary. It was years later that I discovered the majority of my favorite authors were British and I had absorbed that spelling from my reading. No wonder it looked right to me!

      2. Elizabeth West*

        One of the main characters in my book is English, and I’ve been writing his POV scenes in UK English (you can change the language setting in Word, even within the same document). It’s fun to write it the American way and watch the program change it. I do like the spelling better, I think.

        1. ProductiveDyslexic*

          You or your editor may want to be aware that Word will accept both baptize and baptise, etc., as correct British English…

    4. Liz in a Library*

      Hahaha! I’ll have to share this with my journo friend with whom I am constantly fighting about this. :) (Also, pro!)

    5. Jill of All Trades*

      Very Pro Oxford Comma here. I work in finance but the marketing department will ask me to proofread articles for them; they say the Oxford Comma is out in professional communications but I stick it back in every time. Because clarity. And consistency.

      1. Brigitte*

        Ugh! Don’t do that! They just have to edit them out again, and that’s not cute.

        {says the PR who always has to edit out the commas her clients add in.}

    6. littlemoose*

      I write all day at work and I’m firmly in the pro camp. Adds clarity at times, and helps pace longer sentences.

    7. Anon Regular*

      Con, but mostly because grammar snobbery makes me crazy and the Oxford comma people are the worst. :)

      1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

        I know what you mean, but I’m pro all the same for clarity and consistency. Although every time I edit someone else’s writing and add one, I think of the Vampire Weekend song of the same name, fell a little snobby, but revert to thinking BUT I DO. I GIVE A FUCK ABOUT AN OXFORD COMMA.

        Dangle a participle when it makes sense, though, or misuse the word momentarily the way everyone does now, and I will not judge. It does amuse me that the only people who consistently still use momentarily correctly are sportscasters, because you really need that word when describing a fumble or temporary possession of some ball, puck, etc.

    8. C Average*

      Pro. It’s how I was taught, and it’s such an ingrained habit that it just LOOKS wrong to me when that comma isn’t there. It’s wrong in the same way that wearing brown shoes with a black dress is wrong, or using the wrong font on a presentation. It just doesn’t look right to these eyes.

      Also, there’s a persuasive reason to use it (increased clarity in certain types of sentences) but I’ve yet to see a persuasive argument marshaled against it.

    9. Brigitte*

      I don’t care one way or another. I learned Oxford Comma growing up, but had to switch to AP style for my career. The only thing that makes me crazy is when a colleague or client refused to use the company’s style out of personal preference. You’re just creating more work for you poor marketing and PR people.

  10. Sheep*

    Does anyone have experience with multicultural/multireligious relationships/marriages? I’m making the move to my boyfriend’s home country (Middle East), and we’re currently arguing a bit about how that will have to look like… For him (+ his family), living together without being married is a huge no-no, for example. I want to wait, marriage is too soon. Any advice, insight?

    1. Treena Kravm*

      I’m confused. You’re moving to a country in the middle east to be with your boyfriend, but it’s too soon to get married? It seems to me like if you uproot your life and move to be with someone, it’s quite a commitment on it’s own. What are you going to do there? I presume you can’t work without a visa/marriage, but maybe I’m wrong.

      I think you need to figure out why one commitment (moving to another country to be with him) is a-ok and the other (marriage) isn’t. List out all your reasons for waiting/it being too soon, and then dig deep and list some more. Really think about why you don’t want to get married. I think you’ll find your answer in there.

      To answer your multi-cultural question, I feel like you should give up right now on convincing him to live with you without being married. Without knowing anything more than your write here, it seems like a lost cause.

      1. Waiting Patiently*

        Living together before marriage isn’t a huge issue here as it can be in a Middle Eastern country. Not accusing the poster of this but sometimes we want to take our American way of during things into a another culture/country and sometimes you cant no matter how widely it’s accepted here. I think it definitely needs to be figured out before uprooting her life.

        1. Dan*

          I’ve been to 21 countries and have to agree whole heartedly. There are just things we cannot do, whether we like it or not, and we best not learn the hard way.

          One of those things is avknowledging that many countries are not as progressive with women’s rights as we are.

      2. Sheep*

        Thanks for all your answers guys. I probably didn’t explain myself enough.

        To explain a bit more. My career is international. I met this man while working in a third country, and we fell in love. We moved in together. Then he lost his job, and my salary wasn’t enough to sustain both of us. We both wanted to continue the relationship, so we came up with options. He stayed around for two months while unemployed, job hunting, but it is hard to get a job here at the moment. So he had to go back. And I started job hunting there.

        I was just offered a job there. It’s moving me in the right direction for my career, so I will take it regardless. So I can support myself. It will be a little tight financially, but it’s a good opportunity for me.

        1. Observer*

          Then, dont’ move in with him. Go to be near him and move your career forward. Decide about marriage separately.

          Clearly, living together before marriage isn’t ot that big of a no no for him, as you lived together before. So, the issue is living together IN HIS COUNTRY. That tells you something about what it’s like in his country. Which is another good rason not to get too entangled with him just yet. You need to decide if you can see yourself spending the rest of your life there, or with this country as your hime base. Given what you describe, there is a good chance that your guy is going to want to stay there or that it’s always going to be “home” to him, not just in a sentimental way.

          That will mean that you need to make some decisions about your future together. And, your ability to make truly free decisions will be much greater if you are on your own, rather than married to him, or even living together.

          And there could be legal and social ramigications to living together without marriage. Those costs could be significant. And this could affect both of your careers, as well.

          I’m not saying that there WILL be such costs. But the fact that this guy is suddenly getting cold feet over something that he didn’t care about till now indicates that he’s probably either too submissive to his family or that there are some serious costs to this type of setup.

          If he’s not amenable to continuing to see each other if you don’t get married and live separately, that should tell you something, as well.

          1. Sheep*

            This is pretty much what I am doing. I’ll move there, find my own place to stay, and take it from there. I must add though, that he is not suddenly getting cold feet about anything. Getting married was always the plan, and living together in Jordan without it was never going to happen. But our timeline was changed dramatically, which gave me the cold feet (understandably) because it would be too soon to marry anyone, let alone someone from a completely different culture.

            I’m happy to have Jordan as my home-base. However, my career will demand that I move regularly, and he is fine with that.

            1. Observer*

              He is getting cold feet about living together before marriage – he was ok with it, till the move back to Jordan came up.

              If any particular country is “home base” that can have legal implications. One more thing to check with your lawyer.

              Your BF may be fine with moving regularly NOW. That is one of those things that are likely to change. If you have kids, that will almost certainly cause a rethinking of the issue, and you have no way to know how that will play out. But, even if you never have kids, there are a number of reasons why he could come to feel differently about the issue. I’m not suggesting that your BF is being dishonest. I am saying that there is a good chance that neither of you really realizes the full scope of the changes that might happen once you are back in his home country with the kinds of cultural, social and familial pressures that are already coming into play.

    2. Sandy*

      Sort it out now!

      I live in the Middle East now, and one of the biggest cultural differences to North America, in my opinion anyways, is the *sustained* level of family, cultural and societal pressure that people live with every day.

      If you guys are going to make a go of it here, you’ll need to be absolutely, completely 150% on the same page about this, and even then, you’ll probably have an uphill battle ahead of you.

      I’ll try and give you an example… A few months ago, I had a meeting with the public health department of one of the local universities. We were talking about maternal health initiatives, and the woman mentioned that in this area, the rate of unwanted pregnancies is sky-high.

      Now, in most countries I’ve worked in, that means there is a lack of access to birth control, whether because of finances, supply chain, taboos against using it, etc. I asked about it, and the woman was aghast. She was like, “No! No! No! We have plenty of access and women know how to use it. It’s the mothers-in-law. They want more and more grandchildren and no one can stand up to that kind of familial pressure over the years, so women have two to three babies that they don’t particularly want.”

      1. Waiting Patiently*

        Wow, that last paragraph is sad. I agree that this should be sort out sooner rather later.

    3. Dan*

      Oh boy. There is a lot going on in your question. I always feel that foreign peoples religious and family ties are stronger than they typically are in the US. If you can’t accept them at face value, think long and hard if this relationship is for you.

      Iow, if both he and his family feel that living together is a no no, monster problems will arise if you push this.

      As treena asks, how are you supporting yourself? Are you dependent on him already? Keep in mind that many foreign cultures look to women to take on a subservient role, so make sure you are comfortable with that.

      I feel like you don’t have the first clue what you are getting into. This isn’t about marrying someone from a different religion in the US, but almost giving up your entire sense of self and throwing it at the mercy of someone who holds a more dominant position over you.

      I’d feel differently if you were married here first, but you are not.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Echoing this, OP, please read and learn about what your life would be like. Don’t go into this thinking you will be the exception to the rules, assume you will not be.

      2. Sheep*

        Dan, maybe I didn’t explain myself well enough, but a) I do have a clue, and b) I’m not throwing myself at the mercy of anyone. I don’t like the tone of your post.

        I will be working, and able to support myself, regardless of being married or not. If we are, we’ll be much better off financially, but I’m not going to get married just for that reason.

        Just wondering, why does being married ‘here’ make you feel differently? If/when I get married, it would be in my own country, which he suggested, because that gives me equal rights in terms of divorce.

        1. class factotum*

          that gives me equal rights in terms of divorce.

          Just anecdata, but isn’t it pretty hard for a non-ME woman to keep the children if there is a divorce in one of those countries?

          My parents lived in Saudi Arabia for five years. Of course, they were two Americans married to each other on an international compound, but my mom saw a lot of problems with foreign women married to Saudi men. She herself was not allowed to drive. She had to cover herself completely to leave the compound. I know KSA is one of the most rigid – don’t know which country you would be going to – but it is a super serious thing and I agree with the other posters that marrying a ME man if you are Western deserves serious consideration.

          1. Sheep*

            Yes, you’re right that it’s hard to be allowed to keep the children. At the moment I’m not planning on having children at all. But if we do, that’s definitely something we would need to figure out first. (And make it legally binding).

            Fortunately, driving is allowed, I won’t be covering myself, I can do things on my own, go out with friends, go dancing, etc.

            1. Observer*

              In almost every ME country, however, a husband can be stricter than the law, either legally or in practice.

              Look at what Sandy writes about familial pressure. You think it couldn’t play a role in how your husband might behave? Or in how family planning works out?

              You are approaching this from a very American point of view. Things really do work significantly differently in other parts of the world. spend some time there before you make your decision.

        2. Dan*

          Sheep,

          I’m sorry if I came off on the wrong foot. It’s just that when I write to random strangers on the internet for advice, they’re generally one of the *first* places I’m going for information. If I’m writing for advice after I’ve done my homework, I’m probably looking to validate my opinions. Further, for someone with rather specific circumstances, you’re writing for advice from people whose primary function here is work related issues in the USA. I get that this is the open non-work thread, but for “real” circumstances such as yours, I”d be looking for advice from a more targeted group. Your original question was sparse on details so I worked with assumptions, and those go off the deep end when you start talking about being a woman moving to the middle east.

          When I said “get married here” I meant that in the spirit of you would get married and stay here. As others have mentioned, divorce laws generally have to do with where you are living at time of separation. To that end, you don’t really even have a “US” marriage, you have a marriage in a specific state. And to get divorced in a specific state, that state has to have jurisdiction. In Virginia, one has to be living here for six months prior to filing — regardless if the marriage occurred in Virginia in the first place.

          You mentioned you work for the embassy, I assume that means state department and you’re a fed. One thing to check into is where your legal residency technically will be, and if it’s stateside, check what those rules are about filing in that particular state.

          If you’re asking about the cultural aspects of my comments, here’s what goes through my mind:

          1. People have to adapt to the cultures that they live in, not the other way around. When I travel abroad, I have to realize that certain liberties I enjoy back home I can’t overseas. Fact of life, and I have to respect that. If your SO was coming over here, I’d say he’d have to learn to accept the fact that women have more rights. But he’s not — you’re moving there, and the onus is on you to adapt to that culture.

          2. You’re a woman. Simply *being* a woman in a Middle Eastern country is much different than it is here.

          3. In most non-western countries, religion and family have a much tighter cultural influence than they do here. If the dominant religion says that women must submit to men and do what they say, well guess what? If living together before marriage is a cultural no-no, then also guess what?

          4. You mention that this is your BF’s first xmas. How much time has he spent in the US at all? You talk about how your culture is important to you. You need to figure out how much he understands and respects that.

          5. Even in the US, marriage might be about love (and it’s pretty easy to do, trip to the court house, two signatures, and $50), but divorce is a pain in the ass. Divorce is about all kinds of other stuff that’s hard to articulate. And this is a country that generally shows some difference to women. Other countries don’t. Maybe I spend too much time on the internet, but I’ve read a few stories about American women marrying Middle Eastern men, and when things go wrong, they go very wrong. That scares me, and I’m a guy. You’ve got to do so much more research to understand your rights in the Middle East under those circumstances.

          1. Sheep*

            Hi Dan,

            Thanks for clarifying. I’m sorry I got defensive. It’s a massive topic, there are so many things that we could talk about, and that I could explain, so I chose just some aspects of it (otherwise my post would have been an essay).

            Maybe my comments come off as very young and naive, but I’ve lived abroad for the past 8 years. So I do know a thing or two about cultural differences, having to adapt, etc. I haven’t lived in the Middle East before though, so that will be a new adventure.. However, I have friends in Jordan, which is where I will be living, and elsewhere in the region too. From what they are telling me, the restrictions I will face will be liveable for me. (Comparing to other countries where you can’t walk anywhere on your own, etc).

            My boyfriend has spent one entire day in the US. That really doesn’t matter though, as I have nothing to do with the US either. ;) He lived outside the Middle East for the past three years, and has no problem adapting to other cultures/my culture. And he does accept and encourage the rights of women, which is very evident when you meet him. Of course, moving back to his home country can affect that, but I am very much put at ease by the way his sisters-in-law lead their lives and how they are treated.

            We met and lived together where I am now. Long story very short, he was going to move back home, but decided to stay here for me. He was let go from his job (even longer story, but not his fault ultimately), and after a couple of months of unemployment we couldn’t afford for him to stay anymore. Moving back to Jordan was always in the cards for us. It’s just that the timeline was sped up due to him losing his job. And having to get married before living together in Jordan was also something that I knew about (reply to Observer) – he didn’t just spring this on me. It’s just that I got a job there much sooner than I expected, which meant getting married much sooner than I expected/want.

            Anyway, this has become a very long, ramble. I promise I am doing my due diligence (and so are my parents). I just wanted to hear what other people (who don’t know me or him) would think about the situation. I appreciate people’s concern and thoughts on this. The reason I asked in this forum is that people behave, and generally seem to think through their answers before hitting the reply button.

            1. Observer*

              https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/inline_images/Jordan.pdf

              Freedom House is a reputable organization, so I checked what they have to say about Jordan, since you mentioned where you are going. The legal restrictions could be worse, but if you notice, there are some major issues are due to social pressures. Considering that those social pressures actually affect how the law is applied, that tells you of the strength of these issues.

              Living there, separately, seems to me the best way for you to see the reality of both the society, which is in many ways fundamentally different than most European (western AND eastern) countries, and how all of these factors play out in real life with your BF and his family.

    4. Graciosa*

      You need to really think about the legal impact of this decision.

      If you are married and move to this country, are you comfortable with the impact this will have on you under all circumstances – if your then-husband bows to family pressure and prohibits you from [traveling / driving / leaving the country / dressing as you prefer / holding a job / whatever under local law] are you okay with that? His behavior in your current environment free from familial pressure may be VERY different in another cultural setting surrounded by extraordinary pressure to behave in a way that is consistent with local tradition. Also, if he dies, or is otherwise unable to make these decisions, are you comfortable accepting those of the designated family member who would replace your husband in this legal role?

      If you’re reluctant to do this, listen to your instincts – but please find out very explicitly (and from sources other than your boyfriend) exactly what you would be getting into before making a decision to do this.

      I know one woman who reviewed these issues and decided the risks of going to her now-husband’s country of origin were unacceptable, so she agreed to marry him on the condition that she will never go there (he visits his family, but not with her) and they will never have children (because of their and her legal status in the event of a dispute). I’m not saying that’s the right decision in all cases, but she made an informed choice that she can live with.

      If you’re not married, or if there is any risk in getting married (how well do you know his family?), I would hold off and avoid getting yourself into something you can’t get out of. I think the commenters who noted how difficult living together will be in certain countries are absolutely right, so I tend to the opinion that either you shouldn’t go with him or that you should both remain somewhere that offers you an acceptable level of legal protection (could be a different country from your current one if you want to experience living abroad).

      Good luck.

      1. Sheep*

        Thanks for this comment Graciosa. You make some interesting points. I didn’t mention which country I am going to (and I still won’t), which makes it harder for you guys to comment. I will say though, it’s one of the most liberal countries in the region, it’s to the capital city. His family is upper middle-class, all university educated (including his mother). His mother wears a head scarf, but his two sisters-in-law do not.

        As for your first comment, on being prohibited from things – I will not be. Women lead fairly liberal lives in this country, and the only thing that I feel I can’t accept is the fact that there are different rules for how and when women and men can ask for a divorce. Which is why we (my boyfriend suggested this) would get married in my country, so that we will be on equal terms.

        If we marry, and he dies, I am not bound by anyone or anything, and would be free to leave the country. If we were to have children (I don’t think I/we want them), I would definitely make sure that were he to die, I would be able to take my children elsewhere if I wanted to.

        1. Sandy*

          Do a thorough check of your target country’s laws. It may be worth accessing a list of local lawyers that most US/Canadian/UK embassies provide to their nationals in-country.

          As a rule, the rules of country in which you are living will trump those in the country in which you are/were married. That’s true around the world, not just the Middle East, and it’s not universal. Some countries will also prioritize the rights of their own nationals over a foreigner (even with a work permit), regardless of gender.

          Not every country is Saudi Arabia, but even Jordan, the UAE or the PA are not North America or Europe.

          1. Sheep*

            That’s interesting, I didn’t know this.. I will definitely check with the embassy (which will also be my employer). I’m a bit confused as to how this works though, if I get divorced in my own country, that doesn’t apply universally? (I/we are not planning on staying in the ME forever, if that makes any difference).

            I think this is how the whole thing would happend: We would get married in my country, but it would have to be registered in his as well. So we’d have to sign a legal contract (of our own choosing, so definitely incorporate anything about divorce, rights to children etc).

            1. fposte*

              Divorce is generally about jurisdiction, not the location of the marriage; there may be overlap between the two in some places, but most countries recognize marriages that occurred in other states and countries. Therefore it’s likely you wouldn’t be able to just nip back and divorce in US/Canada/UK–you’d have to stay long enough that that’s the country that would have jurisdiction.

              Whether that counts in Unstated Country depends on its laws of what it recognizes, so I agree with the suggestion that you talk to a lawyer who knows this stuff about the countries involved.

            2. Observer*

              Another thing to realize. You and your husband can sign all the contracts you want, but a court can decide that it’s non-binding for any number of reasons. So, if you were to go that route, you would need to make sure it’s done with the help of a really good lawyer who can help you make sure that it will stand up in a court in the country you are going to.

              You say you are not planning to stay there forever, but those things can change in unexpected ways. And, life happens. What happens if your husband is in a car accident or the like? My point is that these issues apply even if you don’t plan to stay there for the rest of your lives. If this is more than a visit, then you need to think about these things.

            3. TL -*

              Depending on the country, signing a contract may not make a lick of difference to what he can actually do.

              And I’m seconding whoever said if he’s willing to live with you in a foreign country unmarried but not in his home country unmarried, I would be really, really careful. Here’s a third person saying that the cultural/societal/religious/familial pressures of non-Western cultures can be hugely, hugely different that what we experience and understand.

            4. Treena Kravm*

              Not sure you’ll see this, but I wanted to let you know that I briefly entertained the idea of getting married in my country of origin (I’m a dual American and EU citizen) but in this particular country, if you’re married there, you’re basically married for life. The divorce process takes years. (My cousin has a 6 year old with his new girlfriend…and they waited years to start having kids). It’s changing, but still too scary for me, so a US wedding it was.

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          But is it the case that your marriage, should you want a divorce, is viewed by that country as falling under its own laws, and not the laws of the country in which you were married? I’m asking — I don’t actually know the answer to this. My guess, though, is that in order to divorce under the laws of a country, you have to physically be in that country, regardless of where you were married.

          That is one question I would want to be absolutely certain of the answer to before taking that step.

        3. TL -*

          I wouldn’t take the wearing of a hijab to be indicative of how conservative they are overall. I have a ME-American friend whose whole family eschews the hijab (and who dresses fairly, though not extremely, modern; certainly she shows more skin than the Duggars do), who is very well-educated and encouraged in her pursuit of higher education, and her parents still expect to arrange her marriage, and for her to live at home until she’s married. Don’t take his word for what his family’s expectations of you will be – try to explore it with them before you commit to being part of their family.

          Also, being married in a different country doesn’t exclude the marriage laws of his home country from applying to you. (And you and he should both study and learn the marriage laws, because it doesn’t sound like either of you have as sound as understanding as is needed.)

    5. Rebecca*

      Please make very sure you want to do this. You could get there, find out it’s not for you, but be unable to leave. I don’t know which country you’re talking about, but some of them have pretty draconian laws and you don’t want to misstep and find yourself jailed or worse. I would think long and hard about this, as you’re already arguing about how this will look, and you’re not even there yet.

    6. matcha123*

      I think that you need to have a long, and possibly difficult, talk with your boyfriend about your expectations and his. Middle Eastern countries can be wildly different. Are you talking Turkey or Pakistan or Turkmenistan?

      He will also have to stand up to and challenge his parents on various issues.
      Living together without being married is a big thing for my boyfriend’s family, too. And they are Asian. Personally, I am with you, there is no rush to get married sooner than you feel comfortable with.

      To a degree, you may probably have to ask or make him set boundaries, talk with his parents and, also, explain the whys and hows of their thinking to you and your thinking to them. He is their kid and it’s his responsibility to deal with them while you offer support.
      On the other hand, are there areas that you can compromise on? For example, if his parents expect you to bring a small gift when you visit, and you think is unnecessary, could you just go with it?

      Sorry I don’t have any better advice, but this all depends on how your boyfriend thinks he can interact with his parents on your behalf.

      1. Sheep*

        Thanks for your reply! I definitely agree with having to compromise on some things. That’s part of any relationship, but even more so in ones with different cultures. We’re talking a lot about expectations, both his and mine, and slowly figuring them out. Bringing him to my home country for Christmas (it will be his first) will be great for him to understand a bit more where I am coming from. (+ meet my family and friends, obviously)

        1. matcha123*

          I hope it works out well!

          I’m trying to get my boyfriend to go meet my family for some time, but he always has some reason why it’s difficult.

          Hopefully your way of introducing him will give him something to base his conversations with his parents on :)

    7. Is This Legal*

      Is there any inkling that he might benefit from marriage, think greencard?
      Be careful he might change once you guys are in his native country. My sister married a guy from Middle East, all was nice and dandy until they moved up there. He completely changed to appease his family.

      1. Sheep*

        No, even if we are married it would be really hard for him to come back to my country (not US). And his family is really well off (better off than my own, for example), so they wouldn’t need it.

      2. IrishGirl*

        My aunt knew someone who had a similar experience; she met and married a Turkish guy in Ireland, as soon as they got married he started mentioning and suggesting moving back to Turkey and she having to live with his mother and sisters.

      3. INTP*

        This reminds me of Not Without My Daughter. Look into the laws and make sure that you’re not walking into a situation where your rights to escape would be legally restricted.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Yeah….a racist movie about one specific person dealing with one country at a specific point in time probably isn’t the best reference material on this.

          1. INTP*

            The laws responsible for that situation applied to far more than one person at one point in time, though. I’m not saying to assume that’s going to be her future. I’m just saying to make sure that you’re not moving to a country where you are treated as a second-class citizen or not 100% autonomous. It’s not like there are none of these countries left in the world.

    8. Katie the Fed*

      Middle East is far from monolithic (as you undoubtedly know). Can you share which country? I could give much better advice/thoughts. Like, Oman and Egypt would be very different experiences. Or Iran vs. Tunisia.

      Personally, I woudn’t move in with him. It’s going to poison the well with his family, and make it very hard for you to socialize or befriend the locals, his family, etc.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Oh Jordan is lovely! Very nice people. I love Amman – there’s lots to see and do and a thriving expat community. I don’t think you have to worry about any legal problems there or “not without my daughter” (ugh) type stuff, so that’s good. Just worry about his family – but like I said I probably wouldn’t live with him first just while you get to know everyone and test the waters with his family. But that’s just my two cents.

    9. Jean*

      One more factor to consider: No situation is guaranteed never, ever to change. What if you move into Unnamed Country–after deciding to rely on all the safeguards you mention here (earning your own income, being able to support yourself without his financial input, marrying into a wealthy family apparently free of religious fundamentalism, mutually deciding with your husband that you won’t have children) and one of the following occurs:
      – the government of Unnamed Country gets overthrown by devotees of ferocious religious fundamentalism
      – the government of Unnamed Country does not get overthrown by said group (see above) but violent conflict overtakes certain regions or the entire society
      – one of your husband’s women relatives marries a guy who is religiously & culturally conservative, and he starts to influence the rest of the family
      – your husband himself either actively changes his mind, or (in American terminology) caves in to family pressure re matters of having children, working outside the home, GOING outside the home, having any contact with people who are not his relatives outside the home, etc. …

      I am aware this sounds borderline bigoted, even to my own liberal American ears, but from what I’ve seen it can be very, very tough for a marriage to span the difference between Modern American Womanhood and Modern People Who Come from a Very Different Traditional Background, especially if one of the spouses is planning to live as a minority of one within the other’s culture.

      I’d be making the same arguments if you told me you were Jewish and considering marriage to an agnostic or atheist from a devoutly Southern Baptist family. Ditto for anyone trying to marry across ethnic or religious differences: Are you sure? Are you really, really sure? Have you considered every possibility and potential unhappy ending? Traditional culture can pack a wallop, even among us self-declared modern people! It’s possible to transcend the differences and live happily ever after, but it’s also possible to have to learn to live amidst the fault lines…and/or be surprised by an earthquake years later.)

      Full disclosure: I _am_ Jewish. I am sure that some of my uneasiness about your question stems from my own ethnic wariness based on the more unfortunate extremes of ME culture. You can call this the “OMG if my airplane lands in KSA I’ll be in danger” syndrome or you can simply call it prejudice. I know that I don’t speak for all Jewish people in this matter. I will claim equal opportunity prejudice in that I’m also uncomfortable with the idea of walking into a KKK bar, past a crowd of leering men, or into any other kind of significantly hostile-to-me setting. Fear? Yes. Also, despite my deep desire that we all just get along, realism.

      Finally, I’m fully aware that there every religion or ethnic group has both crazy extremists (Jews who want to rebuild the Temple atop the so-called Temple Mount? Westboro Baptist Church? ISIS? WWIII, anybody?) and reasonable members who find the far-out folks totally UNrepresentative of their community’s genuinely peaceful, humanitarian, life-affirming, live-and-let-live beliefs and practices!

      1. brightstar*

        I’ve been wanting to read that but the local library doesn’t have it :(

        I’m reading another JoJo Moyes book. I love her writing.

      1. Treena Kravm*

        If you happen to see this, would you mind telling me what you like about it? I read the synopsis, and I just go “eh,” but you’re the 4th person to recommend it.

    1. Stephanie*

      I’m reading Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn From the Strange Genius of Texas by Erica Grieder.

    2. JMW*

      Brown Girl Dreaming. Autobiography of Jacqueline Woodson written in verse – won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Not just for kids – beautifully written.

    3. Jen RO*

      I am reading The Gate to Women’s Country by Sherri S. Tepper… and I’m not enjoying it too much, it feels dated and “look feminist issues here!”. I also started Alison’s book a couple of months ago, when I got promoted to team lead… and I never finished it. Maybe the 2 weeks of holiday will do the trick!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Skip the chapter on goals until you actually need it; that’s really meant to be used as a reference and the later chapters are (in my opinion) much more interesting.

    4. Crow*

      Been slowly rereading all the books I have by Kim Stanley Robinson. Currently going through The Years of Rice and Salt, forgot how intersting and insightful this book is. Looking forward to Galileo’s Dream again. Recently wrapped up The Magician’s Land by Grossman, and Good Omens by Gaiman and Pratchett, since BBC is going to make it into a radio drama this Christmas.

      1. class factotum*

        I have to read this! When I was in grad school, one of my favorite things to discuss with people of different backgrounds – history majors, Middle Eastern studies – was “What if the Black Death had wiped out the educated part of Europe and all the knowledge had been lost? I always thought this would be a cool thesis.

        1. Crow*

          What I love about Rice and Salt is that a hack writer could have written some utopia, and blamed Europe for all the world’s ills. Instead, KSR shows that a Europe-less world not only has different problems, but many of the same ones our world did/does, just from a different perspective. Good people still struggle with slavery, religious persecution, and war. It’s just that those people are brown and black, rather than white. And as always, KSR talks about deep difficult stuff while having compelling characters.

          Incidentally, KSR is one of the only authors I will happily buy hardcover for.

        1. Crow*

          I loved Galileo’s Dream. Half futuristic discussion of time travel, math, and first contact, half bio of Galileo. The future stuff was neat, but the biography was absolutely fascinating.

    5. Carrie in Scotland*

      I just read the creepy You by Caroline Kepnes – I highly recommend.
      I am currently reading Hotel Alpha by Mark Watson (British comedian).

      1. Sarah A.*

        I’ve finished In the Woods by Tana French and it was fantastic!

        By saying that You is creepy do you mean in the “you-can’t-possibly-guess-the-ending” way or it’s something you can actually see happening? I’m curious about this one and am on the fence about reading it. Our library here is dying so it’s bargain hunting or borrowing from a friend now.

        1. Carrie in Scotland*

          You is creepy in the psychological thriller and omigosh do I never want to meet that guy but there is sweet parts to his personality type of way…it reads a lot like Bret Easton Ellis’ novels do.

    6. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon. It’s been out for a few years. Heard him twice on Fresh Air and finally decided to tackle it, and it’s very, very good. About conditions that require parents to raise children who are very different from themselves, like deafness, dwarfism, autism, etc.

      Just finished Amy Poehler’s memoir and liked it a lot. I learned that she and I are destined to be besties because we both cite Judge Judy and Dolly Parton as heroes.

    7. Phyllis*

      A Separate Country by Robert Hicks from the library and Deep Shelter by Oliver Harris on the Kindle.

      A Separate Country is in post-Civil War New Orleans and features General John Bell Hood and his family (it’s a novel).

      Deep Shelter is the 2nd in Harris’ series featuring Detective Nick Belsey. I read his first one, The Hollow Man, in about two days.

    8. AdAgencyChick*

      I just finished The Gift of Fear, after having it recommended so many times by strangers on the Internet. :)

      I can’t decide what to start next. Probably the Alan Turing biography, because I’d like to have read it before seeing The Imitation Game.

    9. Blue_eyes*

      Just finished House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. While technically a YA novel, it was better than many books intended for adults. It’s set in a dystopian future society along the U.S.-Mexican border. Same genre as 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, etc. I already put a hold on the sequel (The Lord of Opium) at the library.

      1. C Average*

        Hmmm. I think my stepdaughter’s reading these. (She’s twelve, and when I saw a book with “opium” in the title I kind of picked it up and gave it a once-over to make sure it was age-appropriate.) Might have to give ’em a read.

    10. danr*

      I’m starting a re-read of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books. I first read her series Dragonflight in Analog and was hooked. I haven’t read all the books, but I like the main story line. When I need a break, I go to some other books that I like. New author Todd Tucker has two modern submarine short novels. Then there are the Arthur stories retold by Gerald Morris. A neat YA series, The Ranger’s apprentice by John Flanagan is good for some light reading. And, the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell.

      1. Schmitt*

        The Pern series has its problems but the world is really interesting. I love the books set early in the world’s timeline where it’s still more sci-fi than fiction – I run a text RP game focusing on an alternate version of the decline of that period actually.

        1. danr*

          I stopped reading the books where all of the problems were solved by time jumping. It was a good twist for the first books, but then it was overused.

    11. Finny*

      Listening to both Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and Closer to Home by Mercedes Lackey. And just about to start The Invisible Orientation by Julie Sondra Decker on my e-reader.

    12. Annie*

      I keep going back to Jasper Fforde – he writes a fantasy (I guess) based in England in 1985 and people can jump in to books and characters can jump out… it sounds ridiculous (and is) but its interesting and it kinda gives you an idea of classic book characters would be like behind the scenes. It starts with ‘The Eyre Affair.’

    13. salad fingers*

      Inherent Vice by Pynchon, in preparation for the movie. Previous to that, I’ve been on a Raymond Chandler binge, so IV (pynchon does noir/hard boiled) is like a continuation of the last string of Chandlers, except I feel like I just dropped acid. Movie came out yesterday, I think(?), but I can’t find it playing anywhere in Chicago, so it may just be the book for awhile.

    14. Elizabeth West*

      Was re-reading The Yearling, because I needed something I didn’t have to concentrate on (I’ve read it so many times it’s practically memorized). Stephen King’s Revival is sitting on my coffee table waiting for me. :)

    15. C Average*

      I’m reading the much-recommended Neapolitan series by Elena Ferrante. I loved the first book, “My Brilliant Friend.” I’m finding the second book not quite as good as the first–the bar got set very high!–but still a very satisfying read. I’m looking forward to the third book.

  11. louise*

    Four years ago my husband was unexpectedly laid off. It was hard, but turned out to be the catalyst for some major improvements in our lives.

    Yesterday he graduated with his bachelors and has already been working in his field over two years.

    We threw a giant party after the ceremony and couldn’t believe how many people came to congratulate him. He amazes me with how graciously he accepted the initial setback and then the determination and diligence with which he approached plan b.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      He’s got grace under fire, for sure. Congrats to the both of you, because it takes two to make this success happen.

    2. Jean*

      Mazel tov to both of you for managing this long transition. That’s lovely news. I wish you years of happiness after this accomplishment.

    1. fposte*

      I didn’t know what that is, and I looked it up–that sounds miserable, Revanche, and I hope it lets go of you soon.

    2. Erin*

      I’m really late reading the thread so I’m just now replying. I really hope you read this. I got PUPPS when I was about 6/7 months pregnant with my son. I used Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap in a cool shower. Let the lather sit on the rash for as long as you can. I took 3 showers a day using this. Within a couple of weeks the rash was clearly receding, and by the time I delivered I was totally itch free and had been for a while. I also had some relief from calamine lotion, Aveeno anti itch lotion and Eucerin lotion. The soap made the biggest difference though! And I took Benadryl to help me sleep during the worst of it. Good luck and I hope this helps!

      1. Revanche*

        Hi Erin, thanks for responding! Just popped back in out of curiousity.

        I have tried a few days of the Grandpa’s Tar Soap, but just saw the doc and derm who both said to avoid soap on the affected areas for now so I’m torn! I’m curious, though, were you not using anything else so that you knew it was the soap that was helping? I’ve been trying so many things myself I’m just not sure what might be helping or not :P

  12. Waiting Patiently*

    On fb a couple days ago a friend shared that her workplace is doing Dirty Santa and the way she explained it seems it’s like the white elephant game. She said “gifts can get pulled away. ” She was asking for gift ideas and immediately the comment section went in the wrong direction. While she kept implying she wanted tasteful gifts ideas like wine and a nail spa package…the comments kept going to the dirty side…Ha! I so can’t wait for her to post an update once they have the party. It seemed like she would be real disappointed if she got “dirty” gift…

    On another note our workplace will be doing “you got jingled”. I had to Google it–and it seems easy enough.

  13. Glor*

    So, I don’t know how to handle this situation that came up tonight.

    I was trying to catch the bus out of my city up to Seattle. This specific bus was the last bus that went that way until 9a Sunday morning. I ordered a cab to get me to the transit center and built in a rather decent overage for how long it takes to get there, and said “Yeah, I need my taxi here at 6:45p.” They say sure, no problem!

    6:55p rolls around, and that’s when the driver calls and says he’ll be there “in 4-5minutes.” I said sure, because there was a chance we could get “in front of” the bus on one of the few stops it makes on the way out of town. He didn’t show up until closer to 7:05p. I told him that he was too late and that I had missed my bus, and therefore wouldn’t be taking the ride. I had to stay here in town and will be catching the 9a bus.

    I tried calling the cab company to gripe, but the wait was horrendous, it being Saturday night and all.

    At this point, I know I still need to call them [I will in the morning], but I’m not sure what to expect other than “oh.” I don’t feel right asking for compensation, but I feel like they owe me something more than just “well, sorry.” I just don’t know what’s even acceptable for something like that.

    1. Waiting Patiently*

      I would really emphasize how much of an inconvenience it was. They are providing a service albeit transportation which can be tricky with traffic. Did they know the entire situation?

    2. BRR*

      In this situation it doesn’t sound like there is really a remedy. If you call they’re not going to do anything and even if you asked for compensation I would doubt you would get it. If they horribly inconvenienced you or cost you more money such as requiring an extra night in a hotel I would see if there’s a government agency you can complain to. I would probably just leave a bad review on yelp/trip advisor and call it a day.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Agree. I’ve had similar experiences (though not ones that were quite as bad as having to stay an extra night somewhere) — usually in the vein of “this service person didn’t show up in the window you said he would, and as a result I’ve wasted half a day of PTO.” Complaining — including complaining on social media — has never gotten me anything better than a 15% off coupon (oh, you mean the same 15% coupon that you email me every week? gee, thanks!).

        I would leave the complaint on social media anyway — but you’re unlikely to get any sort of compensation. From the business’s perspective, your goodwill is not especially valuable to them — only your continued patronage. You *might* get something if they think they’ll be losing a repeat customer if they don’t give it to you. But for services that tend not to be used repeatedly by the same customer (like, unfortunately, a taxi service not in your home city), the business probably isn’t going to want to spend any money buying your goodwill. Sad but true.

    3. Raine*

      If you called ahead a few hours and specifically requested the 6:45 time, then yes, do call them to complain about the missed bus. If you called them at 6:30 and they didn’t arrive until 7:05, unfortunately I’d say that’s pretty much well within the wait time to expect, especially on a Saturday night, unless they just happen to have someone nearby and no one waiting for a ride.

    4. The IT Manager*

      I’m sorry this happened to you, but I am not sure that you’ll be able to get what you want from them – acknowledgement that you were inconvenienced. (?) What do you want them to say to make you feel better.

      That said, you did not give them much cushion. You told them the taxi must be there by 6:45 and by 6:55 you were almost too late. I would have told the dispatcher I needed the taxi by 6:30 for a larger cushion.

    5. INTP*

      This is just something that happens with cab companies, ime. They’re flaky. Really, in my experience, you need to build in enough time to get another cab if that one doesn’t show. I’ve actually double-booked them when I needed a ride to the airport and couldn’t build in an hour buffer, which I know is jerky to the cab companies, but you have to do what you have to do. I had one company claim to lose my reservation (even though I had booked online and called earlier that day to confirm), and then they wouldn’t send another cab when I called because of an event causing a lot of traffic in my neighborhood (probably also the reason for the “lost” reservation). I had to just drive to the airport and ask a family member to go pick up my car so I wouldn’t be charged for parking. I lived less than 2 miles from the airport, btw.

      Either ask for compensation or just post a yelp review and call it a day, imo. The person you talk to isn’t going to be the person whose fault it was that you were inconvenienced (it’s probably no one’s fault) so I’m not sure what the point of trying to get anything other than compensation out of them is. If they apologize, it’ll just be a canned apology on the company’s behalf to appease you.

    6. Gene*

      If you regularly use cabs in your city, it’s time to create a relationship with a few cabbies. All the good, reliable ones have regulars. When I go to Vegas, I never wait in cab lines, I have relationships with about 6 cabbies there, 2 fairly close (we send Christmas cards and one of them just got 2 fruitcakes from me) and the others just business. When I’m going there, I find out who’s going to be on and give him my flight number. When I get off the plane I text or call and when I get to the curb, my cab pulls up and off I go (and I never have to worry about getting longhauled.) Same going out on the town and back to the airport. If something happens and they won’t be able to make the appointment, they let me know and usually get another cabbie to cover. Only once in the last 15 years have I had to have the doorman call a cab for me.

      Get to know a cabbie or three and this won’t happen to you again.

  14. Sarahnova*

    So, here I am with my two-week-old peacefully snoozing while I grab some breaskfast.

    His birth went smoothly and I am recovering well, but besides all the exhaustion and brain-fog, I’m kind of wondering… what to do with myself. As a Brit, I have loads of maternity leave, and as a goal-oriented extrovert, I’m kind of wondering if I’m going to struggle. My husband’s back at work and my friends from the prenatal group haven’t yet had their babies or are still in hibernation. Is there really nothing much to do but watch endless box sets whilst feeding on the couch? Has anyone else felt like this whilst on maternity leave?

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Congratulations! I hope being a new mum continues to go well (no advice, sorry – other than just relax, new motherhood is a Big Thing)

      1. Sarahnova*

        I’m doing my best to be modest with my expectations of myself, but the weepy hormones have now kicked in bigtime and I feel kinda… lonely. Plus I never knew quite how panicky you can feel when you’re alone with a baby who won’t settle and you simultaneously feel like “I MUST stop this baby from crying” and “I have no idea how to stop this baby crying”. I’m going to try and get out to a “breastfeeding cafe” tomorrow, but even when my husband is watching the baby my head is buzzing so much I’m having trouble sleeping. :( Oh well, onwards and upwards – I’m assured that all of this passes…

        1. Revanche*

          I’m told those feelings are normal (common, even?) the first two weeks and it should pass as you continue to heal and recover but perhaps it might help to have some help in to lend a hand and give you a break? We just had our birth prep class and the nurse said they really want you to rest, sleep and recover at least 4-6 weeks after natural delivery, longer if cesearean, so it makes sense you’re still waiting out the fog and such.

          I know a few friends in the UK who couldn’t stand being home for their full leaves so they returned to work after a few months so I don’t think you’re alone in feeling like you need more to do. If that’s what’s best for you I’d hope that you could choose it. Sending you best wishes!

    2. Jenna*

      I had a load of maternity leave too (Canadian), and I gave up after 6 months and went back to work. I was exhausted and feeling completely isolated because getting infant twins out of the house was a ton of work by myself. I think I was also experiencing a bit of PPD as well. Canadian maternity leave is nice because after the first 17 weeks which is just for the mother, the remaining 35 weeks is parental leave, which either parent can take (or both together). So after Christmas, my husband and I switched roles and he stayed home with the girls for the remaining leave time and I went back to work. I instantly felt so much better. I got full nights of sleep during the week as the girls were bottle feeding and my hubby did the night feeds so I could sleep. I also got out of the house during the day an interacted with adults.

      I am in no way saying that you should do the same thing, but my point is that if you find you really don’t want to stay home and figure out an arrangement to make it work, don’t feel guilty about it. I did for a bit at the beginning, then realized that my mental health was also important to be able to care for my family.

    3. Melly*

      I’m in the US but was fortunate enough to have 6 months maternity leave. It is hard and boring, isolating for sure. And the hormones and sleep deprivation, oh my! I was ready to go back to work after 6 months.

      Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you have any friends or family nearby. Also, new mom’s groups are a major plus for extroverts. I found a good one that met once a week then a few of us peeled off and met later in the week for coffee. I would have gone nuts without those meetups! I didn’t manage to get our for mom’s group until like 6 weeks out I think. Leaving the house with a tiny baby can be very intimidating, especially in the winter.

      Congrats on the new arrival! It’s a big change, and how you are feeling right now is so normal.

  15. Juli G.*

    I had a baby less than 48 hours ago. The poor guy has had a host of complications since then including surgery at 12 hours old. Thankfully, the surgery was minor and the other issues seem to be things caused by the trauma of laboring/anthestisia from surgery but he is the nursery on tubes and wires and I’ve held him maybe an hour total. We’ll be here several more days, meaning I miss some of my favorite Christmas traditions with my older child. Older child is a preschooler who didn’t want a sibling and is already acting out because Mommy is gone.

    My SIL texted to see if she can come visit at some point. My husband responded that she could but to please text first as the baby is in the nursery due to his surgery and with my first labor, I had a very difficult recovery (thankfully I am way better this time). She flipped out, saying we weren’t allowing anyone up there and contacting any family member that would listen.

    It’s so irritating. I have enough actual drama going on, along with hormones I don’t need manufactured drama too. I’ve also been comforting my parents as they are very sad to not be able to hold new baby (join the club). I’m actually just about ready to ban visitors.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am so sorry this has been so rocky for you. Yep, I think I would ban visitors, too. Or hang up a sign that says “leave your drama outside this door”.

    2. Elkay*

      Congratulations. I hope baby recovers quickly from surgery.

      Your sister in law is being a bitch, ignore her and definitely ban visitors if you need to.

    3. Carrie in Scotland*

      I think you are doing the right thing. It must a fairly traumatic time and naturally you want some time alone. keeping you & your family in my thoughts and please come back on future open threads to update us :)

    4. Monodon monoceros*

      Totally ignore your SIL, and if anyone is actually listening to her, ignore them too! Do what you need to do for your family right now. Anyone reasonable will understand, and everyone else can suck it. Ban visitors if you need to, and if anyone whines, see above.

    5. AdAgencyChick*

      Your baby is still in the hospital and this chick has the balls to be pissed off because your husband told her NOT that she can’t see the baby, but that she should announce herself first to make sure it’s a good time?

      Lord, what fools these mortals be.

    6. Sarahnova*

      Do it, if you need to. You have every right to put yourself and your new baby first right now. Your SIL is being an [unprintable] and anybody she runs to with this “Juli G is being unfaaaaair by putting her sick newborn’s needs first!” is going to know perfectly well she’s an idiot.

      All the best for your recovery and your little one’s. And congratulations!

    7. fposte*

      I think banning visitors would be utterly reasonable, actually. Would your husband be willing to be the bad guy on this? That would seem like an appropriate spousal service right now.

    8. Observer*

      The good news is that your husband seems to get it.

      As for family, if anyone calls to complain just respond “the baby is recovering from surgery right now, and everythig needs to work around that.” Rinse, repeat. You may find yourself feeling like a broken record, but a simple, no discussion invited, standard response is the best way to cut down on drama and to keep yourself from flipping out. That’s important, because you really don’t need it.

    9. Revanche*

      That’s completely out of bounds of her and I’d ban her for sure. You’re taking care of your baby as you can, of course, and she can go kick rocks. I certainly hope anyone she wails to tells her she’s being a self centered git.

      Wishing your baby a complete and speedy recovery.

  16. Jen RO*

    My boyfriend is on a work trip until Friday, so I have the house to myself! I will listen to loud music, watch movies and do my nails in the living room – sweet, sweet freedom!

    1. Jen RO*

      Also, we had the company Christmas party last week and it was extremely fun. We had music-themed costumes, company-paid food and drinks and several contests. One my direct reports won an iPod! I dressed up as a punk chick and it was a hit – apparently lots of black eye shadow suits me!

      (Before you ask, everything was optional, including participation.)

      1. en pointe*

        We had ours too. On a yacht! The husband of one of our managers is some fancypants CEO and they hosted us on their giant yacht. (Also optional attendance. I know a couple of people who didn’t go because they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to leave early.) I loved it though.

        And apparently I need to be less judgemental because fancypants CEO is actually really nice – he taught me how to fish. I don’t know what I was expecting. Half intimidating, half pretentious? I don’t know, but he was just normal. And I am immature for stereotyping.

        1. Jen RO*

          Haha, I was just telling someone about a recent town hall meeting we had. Some fancypants higher-ups spoke to us, but the sound was shit so I didn’t understand a word. Lately, we help a fairly confused foreigner get a drink, and we chat for a bit. He asked what we do, what issues our department faces, stuff like that, really nice guy. Later, we found out his name and looked at the org chart – he’s so high up he’s not even connected to us! Right below the CEO or something.

    2. class factotum*

      My husband has been gone for a week! It feels like I have been at a spa. I have put my biteguard early and binge-watched TV. I love him, but I also love him when he is away and I do not have to talk to anyone!

    3. littlemoose*

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who enjoys that. My boyfriend has taken a couple of family trips during which I had the house to myself, and I enjoyed it – ate whenever I wanted, have myself a pedicure, watched whatever I wanted on TV, etc. I felt kinda guilty about enjoying myself, so now I don’t feel as bad! (I did miss him and was happy when he returned home.)

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        No way, man, I love it when my man goes away. Sadly for me, he NEVER goes away– hasn’t since our first year together when we did holidays separately. When I was working at home, I had whole days of alone time and it was glorious. Most of my friends are the same way. We miss our men, but we loooove the time without them. My mom is the complete opposite and hates being alone, so when my stepfather goes away she fills up her days and evenings with all kinds of outings. It works for her, but I’ve always kind of felt bad for her that she can’t enjoy her own company. Especially since most of the time she rails about how annoying my stepfather is, but that’s another story.

  17. AnotherAnon*

    Any tips on dealing with downstairs neighbors whose cigarette smoking is wafting upstairs into most rooms of your home? I own my condo, while the downstairs neighbors rent, and I’ve been emailing our condo association for the last week asking if they can force the downstairs neighbors (or their landlord) to purchase and use air filters, with no response. I’ve lived in condos/apartments most of my life and am used to dealing with living in shared quarters with others, but these particular neighbors have been nothing but a headache to me since they moved in about 18 months ago (screaming, loud parties, music that wakes me up at 2 AM, etc.), and I’m really aggravated at this point. The smoke really bothers me and gives me headaches, and since I’m working from home a lot, I feel uncomfortable in my own home Talking to the neighbors directly has generally resulted in only a temporary behavior change, and it’s not like I can ask them to quit smoking or go outside to smoke.

    1. BRR*

      I typed out a couple of responses and each one seemed to only escalate the situation and while it would provide temporary relief everything would make it worse in the long term. I had thought about calling the police about the noise, asking the landlord to pay to have your apartment cleaned, and saying how the smoke is giving you medical issues but I think they’re all very poor ideas.

      All I can say having similar neighbors is I’m sorry. Only thing that might work is if you know the landlord and an ask if they are allowed to smoke in their apt.

    2. matcha123*

      I’m having the same problem and my rental company is not interested in doing anything.

      Maybe it’s not the best response, but when the guy goes out for a smoke (and I can hear him since he’s next door and these days he starts hacking phlegm when he goes on the porch), I just say in a loud voice, “It stinks/smells.”
      Other choice words include, “If you want to kill yourself, do it without bothering others,” “You have no manners,” “It smells (said about 100 times).” It helps me to not smash his face in when I pass him in the hallway.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with telling them to take the smoking 200m outside of the building. They don’t have to stop smoking, they just have to stop smoking there (around the apartment).

    3. Hillary*

      I hate to say this, but in my association the board wouldn’t be able to do anything about this. If it isn’t prohibited in the bylaws (ours were written in the 80s, so smoking isn’t mentioned), we can’t stop people from doing it. Not remotely the same severity, but I keep half my windows closed in the summer because my downstairs neighbor does laundry on weekend days and her fabric softener makes me sneeze.

      Short term, there are often ways to deal air leaks. Its probably coming up where the floors meet the walls, sometimes caulk there can help. If you have shared radiators, around them is another likely spot.

      Longer term, changing the bylaws is probably the only way. That’s why I got on the board the first election after I bought.

    4. Seal*

      My condo association’s bylaws have a clause about not disturbing your neighbors as well as spelling out the right for owners and/or tenants to expect to be able to enjoy their own peace and quiet. This covers loud noises, music or parties, especially at night, as well as smoking and other funky smells. The previous tenants in the condo attached to mine smoked, but their landlord banned them from smoking indoors for the very reasons you describe. Although their smoking outdoors was a bit irritating, I live where you need to run the air conditioner 6-8 months a year so my windows were rarely open. When they moved in there was a problem with them parking wherever they wanted rather than in their assigned spaces; the condo association addressed this immediately at my request and it was never a problem again. So check with your condo association’s bylaws or covenent and see what your rights are; you may well have more power than you think in getting this resolved.

    5. fposte*

      That’s what finally led me to buy a house–smoking downstairs wafting up.

      Unfortunately, I agree with people that you can’t require your neighbors not to smoke in their own home. Can you put filters in your air vents to minimize the impact?

    6. Purr purr purr*

      I feel really bad for you because I was in this same situation last year. The people renting the apartment below me smoked like chimneys and it would come into my apartment. Even in winter at -35C, I was forced to have windows open just to get fresh air in! Unfortunately, I’m not sure there’s a lot you can do about the smoke unless there are specific laws in your area about smoking indoors, even in homes, or if there’s no rules enforced by the condo association. The best thing you could do is to make a noise complaint every time the neighbours are loud. It would be a back-door way of getting them kicked out. If they’re disturbing you with the noise then I can guarantee they’re disturbing others around them.

  18. Anon333*

    So, this is knid of stupid, but I’m irritated over it and think additional perspectives may be useful. The back story… Several weeks ago I stumbled across a photo that looked exactly like a friend of mine (I thought and still think it was her), catch was it was topless. Because of the racy nature of the photo and where it was posted, I contacted her, in case an ex was posting things or her computer was hacked, etc., that I thought she wouldn’t want online. Well, friend swore it wasn’t her (I don’t care either way, just wanted her to know). Her emails to me contradicted each other to the point I was very confused. She then supposedly deactivated her Facebook account, which was how we stayed on contact usually. When I asked her about it, she said she was freaked out and deactivated it… Okay? I don’t get that, but alright. Now, come to find out, she didn’t deactivate her account, she blocked me and had her husband block me too. I’m really hurt, but I don’t even know if I should bother to say anything to her. I mean, she’s already lied to me and doesn’t blocking someone mean you don’t want to talk to them? What would you guys do?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I would read that as “she doesn’t want my help”. Not being snarky, that is actually how I would frame it and I would just leave that topic alone, never mention it, again.
      It could be that she does not realize you are blocked or it could be that she deliberately blocked you. There is no way of knowing what is going on here. What you do know for sure is that she sent a bunch of confusing emails, so for whatever reason you struck a nerve with her. We don’t react to things that don’t bother us, something bothered her here. Yeah, you were trying to do a good deed and it did not play out that way. So, in cases like that, I just back away from the topic.

      Rule of thumb: When I sincerely try to help someone and they end up angry because of my help, then it’s time for me to stop. Maybe she will come back later on and clarify what all went on here, or maybe not. FWIW, I think you did the right thing by telling her. But there must have been more to the story that you were not aware of. This happens sometimes but you tried at any rate.

    2. en pointe*

      Well, that sure sounds like the picture is of her and she’s freaking out that someone she knows has seen it. I can understand why you’re hurt, as you were only trying to help. I don’t know what blocking you is supposed to achieve – I guess, just stopping her from having to talk to you about this anymore. This just sounds to me like a panic response on her part. I wouldn’t take it personally; I think she probably would have reacted the same way to any friend who contacted her about this.

    3. Sarahnova*

      In short? It’s her, she’s freaked you saw it, and she’s lashing out. Back off and see if she gets over it; if not, well, I wouldn’t contact her until she contacted me… with an apology.

    4. some1*

      Well, it’s pretty telling that when confronted she claimed to have deactivated her FB account rather than admit she blocked you. To me that indicates that she either knows she overreacted or she would rather lie than tell you she’s upset with you and why.

      I think she’s embarrassed because the picture is her or she’s angry because it’s not and she thinks you don’t believe her. Instead of discussing those feelings with you, she chose to block you.

      I would think really hard about whether you want a friend like this in your life. I had a friend like this once who handle being being upset with me by doing rash things like this, and it’s exhausting to deal with.

      1. Scarlet*

        Stop blaming victim please. Read my comment below. 40% of women have been harassed or had their emails hacked online.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t think some1 was victim-blaming–she didn’t say anything bad about the existence of the picture, just about the friend’s behavior.

    5. Scarlet*

      Maybe she thought you leaked the picture. I’m not saying you did (I believe your story) but imagine it from her perspective… she doesn’t know who hacked her email account. Maybe someone’s messing with her, sending her anonymous harassing emails. Then you contact her. What’s she supposed to think? This is probably why she blocked you. In absence of knowing who did it, and knowing someone did it, she jumps to most likely conclusion: that person who… found picture, says “hey I think this is you” might be person who hacked email.

      She has no idea who to trust and who not to. And who can blame her?

      Best in future if you find nude pictures of anyone to simply delete and walk away. Forget it.

      1. Anon333*

        I would hope she wouldn’t think that about me, I’d never do that, but you never know. It’s too bad she feels she can’t just say that to me, if that’s the case. It definitely wasn’t me that posted this photo. I acted based on what I’d want someone to do for me.

        1. Scarlet*

          When you’ve had your email hacked and been threatened, you feel differently, because you don’t know who did it. You also don’t know what messages she’s received or threats she’s gotten. You also don’t know how this message came across, however innocently it may have seemed to the poster.

          I believe you when you say you didn’t do it! However, look at the hacks that have happened recently to major corporations and the government and consider the fact that women are major targets; try to put yourself in this woman’s place.

          I had my email hacked several months ago and a threat sent to me. Never knew who did it. I didn’t lose any compromising information, luckily; no nude pictures, no bank account information, just the threat sent to me. Still, it was incredibly threatening to my peace of mind. I would really have hated to have people sending me messages saying “by the way, who do you think sent this threat?” I had a couple people on Facebook playing detective and trying to figure out who could have done it…. I just blocked them and deleted them even though I didn’t suspect them of sending the threat at all. They were contributing to the harassment whether they knew it or not. And I’m asking you, anon333, to consider the fact that you were potentially contributing, whether you knew it or not.

          She probably knew those pics were out there. Try to see it from her perspective. I do not see you as the perpetrator, and I can very much imagine you reached out from good intentions. However, her defensive reaction is for a reason. She’s been harassed and she has no idea from who or why. This is a major issue, with major life implications for her.

          I’m incredibly grateful that all that happened to me were threats.

          1. elsa*

            i think your personal history is coloring your view of events here. You seem to be making some rather excessive assumptions.

    6. Anon333*

      Thanks for the responses, everyone. It definitely helps to take a step back and see how others perceive things.

    7. JMW*

      If you think there as been a misunderstanding, a note of apology might be appropriate…

      “Dear Friend, I wanted to apologize if I have upset you by letting you know about the photo I found. I only meant to alert you in case the photo was you, because I certainly would want to know if someone had posted a compromising photo of me. I am really sorry if I overstepped and caused you distress. Anon333”

      Send, then let go. If there was a misunderstanding, and she is the forgiving sort, she will reach out. If there is something else going on, she might not. Either way, it’s in her court.

  19. Ali*

    Anyone else here ever do house-sitting? How can I be a little less anxious about being alone overnight?

    I still live with my parents (saving to move, though) and have house sit/pet sit plenty of times by now, and everything always goes smoothly. However, when nighttime rolls around, I find myself feeling nervous about being in the house alone. I tend to lie awake longer and little noises make me nervous. For example, last night a dog several houses up the street was barking…and barking…and barking…around 12:30 a.m. It wasn’t a really loud bark, but I could still hear it and felt agitated. I also thought something was outside causing my own dogs to bark, but when I popped my head out of my room, they were quiet. That said, I got nervous at about 11:00 last night when they did hear something outside and start barking. Our neighborhood is pretty safe, but sometimes I worry that they hear something that may be an indication of trouble.

    I know I’ll need to relax a little when I do eventually move and end up in my own place, so just wondering if anyone had any tips for how to deal with this.

    1. JMW*

      When I am alone in the house, I leave a light on somewhere. You might also consider leaving a television on (sound off) somewhere in the house. These are indicators that someone is possibly still awake in the house, which might deter a potential intruder. For me, this gives me comfort ans helps me sleep.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I like to use night lights- I know I should sleep in total darkness but I like my night light.
      I also sometimes like some soft classical music on the radio.

      About an hour or so before bed, create a no fly zone for news and negative things. Seriously, no scary Steven King before turning in at night. Read something light/happy to help your mind calm down.
      You could try a cup of chamomile tea to take the edge off. To me,when I drink that tea I feel like I am grazing, but it’s warm and that is helpful.
      If you have dogs with you, I think that reduces the concerns by 50%. Keep them in the house with you and let them bark their heads off. (Don’t ask how I figured that one out.)
      Keep your phone with you.
      If you are just tossing and turning and fretting, decide to focus on something. Make a list of things you are grateful for, plan out your day tomorrow or your up-coming week. Take that nervous energy and redirect to something positive. Yes, you will go off track, catch yourself and get back on track.

      I think being alone at night is something that takes time to adjust to. When I was first here alone, I did. not. like. it. But now it is okay. The problems I feared never came up and I did face other problems, things I did not think of such as the furnace went out. I turned off the breaker, went back to bed and called the fuel company in the morning.
      My late aunt was fond of saying, the thing you fear is not what happens. IF (notice, IF) anything happens it is usually much smaller and you find that you just deal with it.

    3. C Average*

      When I am home alone, I sleep with one of the kids’ stuffed animals. I’m not afraid to admit it, and I swear to God it actually helps.

    4. Kay*

      New places have a way of having different sounds than “home”, so I try to listen for them earlier in the day. For example, that’s the air conditioner kicking on, that’s the refrigerator, the dog down the street may bark during the day too. Things seem a little less ominous in the light, so if you recognize them then, they’ll be more understandable in the dark. I also tend to be much more diligent about double checking that everything is locked up tight before I go to bed. You might also try some deep breathing exercises to calm yourself down if you find yourself feeling anxious.

  20. the real vanilla*

    Next year I’m going to do it – officially set up my side business. Currently I freelance write, review resumes, provide interview coaching, and PR. I’m thinking that a LLC would be best. Has anyone else done this and has any advice?

    also, any tips for coming up with a creative but professional name?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      “Just the right words”

      Okay, maybe not. Everything you do involves words. My very first thought was “Words R Us”- clearly that is NOT want you want but it does show a general idea.

      I see some businesses use trendy names, such as a knock off of a name of star or a group that is currently popular. I think you should pick a name that 20 years from now will still make sense.

      I have a friend whose business name is also something that inspires him when the going gets a little tough. For example: On a rough day he can tell himself that “The name of my business is ‘Just the right words’, that is what I provide people. So that is what I will do now, I will find just the right words for this difficult assignment.” (Not his business name, nor his field of endeavor. However, this example parallels how he uses his business name for his own inspiration.)

    2. EA*

      Vanilla and Associates, LLC. (Or, substitute your last name if you prefer). Even if you don’t have any associates, it will set you up for future successes. Plus has the possible benefit of making your company look bigger than you actually are.

    3. Persephone Mulberry*

      It probably won’t give you the exact right name, but I have been having SO much fun with this “hipster business name generator” – the website is hipsterbusiness dot name – and perhaps one of the random combinations will inspire you?

  21. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Any advice on how to get water marks off painted walls? We rent and therefore didn’t choose the paint, and the bathroom walls get drip marks on them right under the towel rack. Same problem in the kitchen behind the stove– the condensation from cooking is starting to show. Can I use a Magic Eraser on the walls? Or anything else? The paint in the bathroom is a dark blue and the kitchen is a dark yellow.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Thanks! I’ll give that a shot, after testing an area, of course. The paint is beautiful but it’s SO impractical. I hate those water marks.

        1. Monodon monoceros*

          How reasonable are your landlords? I would actually tell them that the paint type is not appropriate for the rooms and that it’s being affected by normal activities. They should either repaint, or at least be warned that it will not last and you shouldn’t be responsible for it looking bad if/when you move.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            They seem relatively reasonable, but they’re young and somewhat inexperienced in the whole landlording thing. He bought the house right out of college and spent two years renovating it, and while it’s beautiful, some of the extras (paint, bathroom fixtures) aren’t particularly practical. I’m not worried about deposits or anything– we have the house for two years, so there’s bound to be wear-and-tear, and I’m sure they’ll touch up the paint before the next tenants anyway. It doesn’t look horrible– in fact, my super-picky grandmother didn’t even notice– but the water marks annoy me.

      2. Lillie Lane*

        Someone told me about the Magic Eraser a long time ago and it’s one of the best cleaning tips EVER.

        A former landlord made us paint all the *hardwood floors* with *flat paint* once. Who does that? We had a mud incident once and it took about 4 packages of Magic Erasers to get it off the floor.

  22. a.n.o.n.*

    This is a combo of work and non-work related so wasn’t sure where to put it.

    Today I’ll be spending a lot of the day baking for a cookie swap. Anyone have a favorite cookie they like to bake that’s quick and easy? I’m set with my recipe, but I’m always looking for cookie ideas. I’m making pumpkin chocolate bites. It’s just a can of pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, chocolate chips and yellow cake mix. Fast and easy, plus it makes 4 dozen with one recipe.

    The cookie swap is for work. I am so happy to be working somewhere that decorates for Christmas. The job I was at for almost 20 years and the most they would do was poinsettias. We were a minority-owned business and the CEO felt that we shouldn’t recognize any holidays, lest we offend someone. My previous job, well, I wasn’t there last year and I left before Christmas time this year. At the new job we walk into the lobby and there’s a huge 15 ft Christmas tree decorated in the company colors. It’s gorgeous! And so many people decorate their cubes. I love walking into the building and feeling the good Christmas vibes. And they have several different things going on: holiday dinners for each department, Christmas Eve potluck breakfast, cookie swap, Yankee gift swap, etc. It certainly gets me into the holiday mood.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      I love Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for chocolate-chip cookies made with melted butter, and it’s easy as anything. (I’ll link following.)

      I also make flourless peanut-butter cookies if there’s any gluten issues running around. 1 c peanut butter, 1 c sugar, 1 egg, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp baking soda. Blend everything together for about 1 minute, then roll into balls and bake 11 minutes or so in a 350-degree oven on a parchment-paper sheet. Let them sit a few minutes before removing to a drying rack, as they’re pretty fragile at first. Also excellent with chocolate chips or any other kind of addition! Maybe sprinkle a little sugar on top of the balls before they go into the oven. You can cross-hatch or not with the tines of a fork, whichever you prefer. Dead simple, about 30 minutes start to finish, and delicios.

    2. CAA*

      Kolaczek (Polish) are easy and they look impressive when piled on a plate. The dough has 3 ingredients: 8 oz cream cheese, 3 sticks butter, 3 cups flour. Beat the butter and cheese until fluffy, mix in the flour. Chill for an hour. Roll out 1/4″ thick and cut into 2″ squares. Put a teaspoon of fruit filling in the center of each square, then fold two diagonally opposite corners towards the center and pinch together, leaving the other two corners unfolded. Bake at 350 for about 13 mins or until the edges are just starting to brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

      You can use jam to fill them, but it tends to melt and run in the oven, so the canned fruit filling that’s intended for danishes works best. I usually do half apricot and half raspberry, because I like the colors, but you can also use prune or ground walnuts mixed with brown sugar.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I am totally going to try these! And if they turn out well, bring them to Christmas eve at my (predominantly Polish) grandparents’ house.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      The easiest and quickest candy is one I learned from a Somali lady. Put 1/3 to 1/2 cup of white sugar in a pan and heat it on high until it melts. As soon as the sugar is fully melted, mix in an equal amount of sesame seeds, and pour it on an oiled board. Roll it quickly with an oiled rolling pin until it is thin and flat. Quickly cut it in small pieces and pry it off the board with your knife. It will be cooling rapidly, and will be crisp and easily break apart when it is cool. It takes all of 5 minutes to make a batch, is gluten-free, and yummy. I used a combination of flax and sesame seeds, to make it more colorful.

  23. ECH*

    It’s not a cookie, but you could cut it up into cookie size and it’s delicious. We call it fruit bread instead of fruitcake because of fruitcake’s bad reputation (one year in high school, I handed one to my teacher and without even tasting it she said, “I didn’t know you hated me”). If anyone tries it I’d love to hear how you like it!

    The Hines Family’s Famous Fruit Bread

    2 eggs
    2 cups water
    2 boxes date or nut bread mix
    2 cups apricots (halved)
    2 cups candied cherries (1 cup each of red and green)
    2 cups pecan halves
    2 cups pitted bite-size prunes
    2 cups pitted dates (halved)

    Grease and flour 3 or 4 8″ x 4″ loaf pans.

    In large bowl, combine eggs and water. Add remaining ingredients; by hand, stir until combined. Pour into loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 70-80 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

    Cool 30 minutes; loosen edges and remove from pan. Cool completely.

    To store, wrap tightly in foil or plastic wrap; store in refrigerator or freezer.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      Where do you find date nut bread mix? My mother used to make fruit cake with that, and I’ve never been able to find the mix. Betty Crocker used to make it.

      I want to eat this fruit cake again!

      I did make brown bread with my grandmother’s recipe, and it took me right back to her kitchen. This time of year makes me especially emotional and nostalgic for the simple things of my childhood.

      1. ECH*

        My mom said she got it at Meijer (we are in Michigan). Not sure where you are located; I checked out meijer.com and couldn’t find a search function but it looks like they’re changing the website so maybe check later to see if they have it.

  24. Mimmy*

    Final paper for class due tonight and I haven’t even finished writing it :/ I always do this….I figure, “oh, I have time!”, but then find myself at the last couple of days wishing I’d given myself more time because an idea pops in my head.

    Nevermind the fact that I’m feeling slightly crappy, probably from my flu shot the other day.

    Blah!! :(

  25. Raine*

    I’m really curious about the Sony leaks — the side of the story not in the news. I mean, aside from WHO is doing the leaking, I’m trying to figure out why they’re leaking certain threads to one publication, then other threads to another. (How they’re picking the publications they’re leaking to.) And if there’s an ulterior motive behind the leaks beyond simply torpedoing the studio (Amy Pascal is certainly the focus of a lot of the leaks, but someone has done a good job of pretty much tarnishing the persona Angelina Jolie has carefully crafted over the past decade or so.) Some of the gossip is it’s Rupert Murdoch’s empire striking back with more hacking, this time anonymously giving the info to other outlets that aren’t actually known for their reporting (Gawker) and instead will just publish it without looking into where it came from or why someone might be feeding it to them.

    1. Rebecca*

      I don’t follow Hollywood anything, but to me this is a good lesson in why you should never, ever put information in an email that you wouldn’t want printed on the front page of a newspaper.

    2. fposte*

      As somebody with a love-hate relationship with Aaron Sorkin, I was unsurprised to see him make an ass of himself in his communications.

    3. Sarah A.*

      That hacking nightmare is why I see the pay for people working in that industry fleeing it and starting on their own. I’m working on the side because I couldn’t live out of my car and work for free for six months as corporations expect with college grads. The entertainment industry is unbelievable. You don’t have to be any good at what you do – just with whose ass you kiss. That’s my own personal observation there.

      I left that joke of an industry and now do something else instead. I work on my own without compromising on what I do after Job#1 is done for the day. It’s good to at least have some control over what you do but I went from working three jobs to two. Job #2 is really fun but I don’t depend on it for everything. Ironically the entire point of college was to not have to work three jobs to make ends meet and save for retirement. Now I have one less job to work.

      If you think some of the companies you work for are notorious on how they treat people just read how some of those Hollywood companies treat college grads. The lawsuits over Black Swan spring to mind.

  26. Bend & Snap*

    I’m moving out after christmas and starting divorce proceedings…so this year is a pretty sucky one.

    We have a 17 month old and will celebrate for her but my heart is definitely not in it this year.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      I’m so sorry that you are going through this. Do you have anyone you can lean on for support nearby?

      1. Bend & Snap*

        Thanks. My family is across the country and I just have a couple of close friends here. I’ve been pretty isolated.

        Stbx is from here and has a ton of family and support. He hasn’t accepted the divorce and hasn’t told anyone, and I see them making my life pretty difficult when they find out.

    2. Jazzy Red*

      This certainly is a tough time for you. I hope it helps to know that we’ll be thinking of you, and wishing that everything goes smoothly for you.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Aw man, I’m really sorry. It’s cold comfort, but while I think it’s totally worth it to celebrate for your little one, just know that she’s little enough that she won’t remember it, so if anything goes wonky (tears, awkwardness, too much wine), give yourself a pass.

      1. C Average*

        +1 on the “she’s little enough that she won’t remember” bit.

        My stepkids were respectively two and five when their parents began official divorce proceedings. (The marriage had been unraveling for a while and they were already living apart.) They both remember very little of their life before their parents split. They’re well-loved and well-adjusted. They know that although Mom and Dad came to the difficult decision to end their marriage, the relationships each has with the kids is forever, and that they’ll live near each other and co-parent with mutual respect and lack of drama for the duration of the kids’ childhood. This kind of outlook goes a long ways.

    4. Bend & Snap*

      Thanks everyone! Things will be better on the other side…just in the very difficult part right now. I really appreciate the kind words.

  27. Hillary*

    Interviewing Wednesday for a job that appears to be a great next step – I’m really looking forward to it. It was the first time I could check yes for every required and preferred qualification on Taleo, the initial project is something I would enjoy doing again, it’s a good company and I’ve heard the manager is good to work for. I think they want me – three weeks from application to interview, and my phone screen ended up being 4:30-5:30 on a Friday night after I had a group work trip pop up. Plus I might not be the most senior woman in the room almost all the time at this company.

    So, where would you go to buy department store quality tights without being overrun by holiday shoppers? The malls here are all insane. I’m almost tempted to buy online and have them overnighted.

    1. Stephanie*

      Uggggh, the mall. I went to (try) and see a movie yesterday. It was only playing at the small theater by the Nice Mall. Parking and crowds were insane. I also forgot it was SantaCon, so there were lots of drunk people in Santa costumes walking around.

      Anyway, try Zappos! If you’re in the US and order today or tomorrow morning, the tights should be there by Tuesday.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        They do SantaCon outside of NYC? UGH. I hate SantaCon. Hate hate hate. So many drunk people walking around in sweaty velour. And I’m sorry you missed your movie! I hate getting psyched up for a movie and then dealing with crowds and crap.

        1. Stephanie*

          Yuuuuup. I believe it’s nationwide and there’s both SantaCon and Santarchy. I was waiting to turn a corner and this guy was taking a super long time. I was thinking “Is that a mall elf? If so, that’s a really bad elf mall elf costume. Is he drunk? Oh no, SantaCon has made it out here!”

          1. en pointe*

            Not just nation-wide. Ours was Saturday in Sydney, Australia. Though Australia typically adopts anything with binge drinking pretty damn fast.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I get my tights from HUE.com, because I only wear Hue. :) Bare Necessities, Zappos, etc.– if you need them right away, definitely Zappos.

    3. Hillary*

      And I made the mistake of looking at the description again on LinkedIn, which (un)helpfully told me how many people had applied. I should know better.

      Off to reread Alison’s book.

    4. Observer*

      Online and overnight sounds like a good idea, even though expensive.

      Target does have some decent tights, if you are a “regualr” (not xl / xs) and some of their stores are not in malls, so that might work a bit better than a mall.

    5. Hillary*

      Update – the closest Macy’s wasn’t terrible. The mall is slowly moving downmarket and Macy’s is a bit too expensive for the current demographic. They were even on sale.

    6. cuppa*

      I get all mine from Marshall’s/Ross/TJMaxx. If there’s one near you that’s not near a mall, that’s where I would go.

  28. Jen RO*

    (Alison, please delete if it is too work-related)

    I am thinking of hosting a board games evening during the holidays, with some coworkers that have expressed an interest. However, I do NOT want to invite everyone in my department, because there are some people I simply do not want to see in my free time (I don’t hate them, they are just mildly annoying). The rub: some of the people I would be inviting are my direct reports; some of the people I would definitely NOT be inviting are also my direct reports. (The relationship is much more casual than the phrase “direct reports” suggest – we are all very friendly and casual regardless of the position in the org chart.)

    What would AAM commenters do? My options right now:
    1. Only invite the people I want to – it’s my holiday and my house after all.
    2. Send an invite to everyone on the team (~15 people) and hope that the annoying ones won’t be interested.
    3. Ask someone else to organize the whole thing and don’t host it at my place.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      Oh, Jen, this is more than tricky. If you go ahead and invite some of your subordinates and not others, it’s going to cause a lot of problems in your workplace. It will be seen as favoritism, especially if any of your friends receives a better project, desk, stapler, etc., than any of the others. And think about future pay raises, and all the damage this perception of favoritism can do then.

      If you must do this, then option #3 is your best shot, but be aware that the truth (that it’s actually your party) will come out eventually. You’ll still have the problems above.

      1. Jen RO*

        It wasn’t my idea to start with – I just wanted to offer the house because it’s larger and/or closer than the others’ (and I am sure they would want to see my cats). But offering up the house does start to make it *my* thing…

        1. Jen RO*

          Maybe I will come back to this in next Friday’s thread – I do think it’s a tricky balance between friends and coworkers/reports, but that’s definitely going into work discussion territory!

    2. LolaK*

      I think you would either have to invite everyone or not be involved in the planning. It gets tricky when one group is excluded especially when there is a direct report relationship. I would be really upset and worry about the work consequences if I was in the excluded group.

    3. The IT Manager*

      Oh, Jen RO, I like you, but I don’t think you can do option 1 without being/becoming a bad manager. At the very least it is an unwise decision showing blatant favoritism for certain people you supervise.

      Option 3 is similarly but less problematic even if you distance yourself from the planning if certain people are left out.

      1. Jen RO*

        Thanks for the opinions guys, I had figured that much, but my boyfriend was firmly in the camp of “why the eff would you invite people you don’t like”. He tends to be very black and white like that…

        I will chat to the coworker who had suggested this and see what she thinks. We will probably go back to the initial idea of going to a board games cafe (I don’t know if these exist in the US, but basically you go there, have a drink, and play with their games or bring your own).

        And I want to brag – Cards Against Humanity doesn’t ship to here, but I found someone whose parents own a print shop and she will print them for me, yay!

    4. Crow*

      I think you have to invite everyone, or else you will get a lot of resentment. And direct reports that are annoying plus resentment could add up to something you just don’t want to deal with on a daily basis at work.

      Aside from that, my boardgamer side wants to know what you all will be playing!

      1. Jen RO*

        Aside from Cards Against Humanity (see above – I hope I can get them printed soon!), it depends on where we end up. If we go to someone’s place, it means we all have to bring our own games (I don’t own any, but I can borrow Catan and Zombiecide from my brother). If we go to a board games cafe… whatever they have there, but Catan will probably be involved. Some of the people at work wanted to play Monopoly but it just takes aaages! I am also not a fan of charades so I am lobbying against Activity. I was hoping I could find a translated version of Taboo, but no… :(

        1. Annie*

          If you actually follow the rules of Monopoly and don’t just play the accepted way its a lot quicker. Just so you know. :D
          Also if you can get it there is an app game called Heads Up. Its a lot of fun and gets hilarious.

        2. Dr. Speakeasy*

          I love Cards Against Humanity, but I’m not sure I would play them in an open/public setting, or with a group of work colleagues.

          1. Jen RO*

            Oh my coworkers and I are just as dirty as the game, it will be a blast. But fair point on the public thing – I should assume that everyone around us will know English… or at least will be intrigued by the crazy laughter.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Speaking as an employee whose boss would pick or reject her party pals, please, invite ALL or NONE. Our work place fell to new depths of hell because of this boss’ party.
      Even inviting all can still pose problems. “Yeah, the boss invited me, but we all KNOW she doesn’t actually want me there.” oh, boy.

      This is something that can go very wrong, very fast.

      I would vote for option 4: Throw a game of checkers on the table in the break room and be satisfied with that.

    6. Observer*

      I don’t think you can do #1 and retain any level of effectiveness. Think about all of the AAM submissions around bosses who show favoritism, and talk about how the boss goes out with his / her favored ones, and those people get the good projects etc.

      It’s annoying, but only do it if you are planning to move on in the near future.

    7. INTP*

      I think that with social events and coworkers, you should either invite none, all, or a tiny proportion that you are close with out of a given group. (For the last part, i.e., if you invite two coworkers out of 10, that’s fine, but I wouldn’t invite 4 out of 10. The closer the portion invited gets to 50%, the more it starts to look like certain people are being excluded rather than certain people are being invited.)

      The lines here need to be a little stronger because they’re your direct reports. I would veer toward inviting either none or all of them. If the relationship is really that casual and you have little say in their promotions, scheduling, and other thing that could result in accusations of favoritism, it might be okay to invite one or two that you are already known to be close with. You definitely can’t just invite all the ones that don’t annoy you and exclude the others or anything like that.

    8. Emily Robin*

      If you weren’t their manager, I would say that it’s probably okay to invite who you want (within reason – obviously you wouldn’t want to make a big deal about it or invite all but one person). But like others have said, it smacks of favoritism to do it as their manager.

  29. CaliSusan*

    My new obsession is Google Shopping Express. I just used it to have 10 bottles of Hubert’s Blackberry Lemonade delivered to my doorstep. (I LOVE this lemonade but it’s hard to find in stock, and when I do find it, the store usually only has one or two bottles.)

    Are you using Google Express and have you found anything cool or interesting to buy?

      1. CaliSusan*

        Ha! Nope, but I should. I am loving their business model. Last weekend I braved the weekend crowds at Costco to get one thing (a box of Duraflames). Next time I’m totally sending Google to Costco for me.

  30. Wolff*

    Any advice for cohabiting with a partner who is messier than you?

    We’ve lived together for two years so it’s nothing new, but I’m always the one sweeping, washing dishes, taking out the trash, putting away clothes, etc. Partner does bigger projects sometimes, like building shelves and organizing cabinets, but it doesn’t quite balance out. They aren’t bothered by messes the way I am.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Ask your partner to take out the trash. You may have to ask every time, but start there. And don’t put away his/her clothes– if they’re all over the place, get a laundry basket and throw everything in there.

      For the other stuff, I recommend making peace with your own cleanliness. My bf is wonderful and actually fastidious about his environment, but homeboy won’t spontaneously pick up a sponge EVER. It’s actually ok with me– I like things to be particularly clean, so I do the cleaning. I have a routine down and it doesn’t take me long. Occasionally I’ll ask him to do the dishes and he will, and that’s key, I think. But the balance is important, where he doesn’t think I’m nagging him and I don’t feel like his mother.

    2. Keri*

      I am someone who is super uptight about messes/apartment cleanliness and gets really frustrated and mad at this kind of behavior. Especially when I feel as though not only am I the one doing *everything*, but they are actively working against my efforts by making new messes. This obviously leads to nagging/fighting, which really doesn’t help.

      I’m in the middle of break-up with a co-habitating partner, and during the 3 plus years we were together, I never could stop the messiness despite trying various approaches, so I don’t really have advice there. I read something on AskMe awhile back that has kind of stuck with me (even though it is a little hokey). An OP had a situation like yours and someone posted an answer that basically just said, you really cannot change this person’s behavior. All you can do is change your attitude about it. They suggested when you come home and see your partner’s jacket and bag and whatever else tossed where ever they left it (for example), instead of getting mad or feeling defeated that you do all the housework and seeing the mess as something you need to clean up, look at the mess and think of it as evidence that you are lucky enough to live with someone you love, think of a quality of they have that you love and would miss if they weren’t around, take a breath, and just try to let it go.

      Also, the reason it feels like the housework doesn’t balance out is because you have different ideas of how much should be done. I try to think it of the extra housework as something I am doing for myself, not as something my partner refuses to do.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Doing it for yourself- that is a really good way to look at it. Pretty much because you are. My husband could not have cared less about the cleanliness of the house. There were a few things he was careful about- not dragging snow/mud in, picking up his clothes and a few other things. But everything else was off the radar.
        And I reach a point where I realized I was the only one thinking that the house should be better. And that is when I changed to cleaning to suit ME. And why not, it’s MY house, too!

        There are little things you can do. For example, have a couple of places to put laundry- this makes it easier not to leave something draped over a chair or dresser. I probably have too many small garbage cans in my house but it made it easier to keep crap from collecting up.

        You really can’t make them care. Someone pointed out that a lot of messy people are more about relationships than they are “things”. At first I did not like the inference that I could be materialistic, but then I realized that, yeah, some of the “messy” people I know do go above and beyond in caring for others. If you can see that he puts relationships first, that might help some, too.

    3. Samantha*

      I have the same issue. When it really starts to bother me, I try to think of all my hubby’s good qualities. He may not do as much around the house as I like, but he’s incredibly loving, encouraging, a hard worker and a wonderful father. I also realize that he has become tidier since I first moved in, and I’ve just accepted that he’s never going to be as near and tidy as I am.

    4. Jen RO*

      I’m the messy one and… no advice, sorry. It just doesn’t bother me. I can live with clothes on the ground and food on the floor. What’s helped a lot is getting a dishwasher (they are not very common here) and hiring a cleaning lady who comes once a week or once every two weeks.

    5. danr*

      As the messy half, I’m writing from experience. Split the cleaning chores… you both wash the dishes. Our general rule is that the cook doesn’t wash, but we break it all the time. Both people put their own clothes away, but things can pile up here and there. Trash gets taken out before it’s picked up. We have weekly pick ups so the night before we do a refrigerator and freezer check and toss what we have to.
      For the cleaner person… ease up. Eventually, both of you will find a happy medium. And it will take more than two years. [grin].
      Building shelves and organizing cabinets don’t county since they’re not constant chores.

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        Ha! The problem for me with splitting chores is that Boyfriend has no concept of what “clean” means, and he does everything — everything! — in life half-assed. If he washes the dishes, it just means I’ll have to go back and rewash them all. If he vacuums, I have to re-vacuum. If he cleans the kitchen (wipes down countertops, cabinets and stove top, sweeps and mops), I have to first throwaway the sponge he used because he used the same one on the spots on the floor as the spots on the counter and cabinets, and then I have to redo everything he just did.

        If this were just “there’s a right way to fold towels” kind of thing, I wouldn’t care. But we’re talking food prep surfaces and utensils. There really is just one standard of “clean” when it comes to those things.