weekend free-for-all – February 14-15, 2015

Valentine OliveThis 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.)

Book Recommendation of the Week:
You should read About Alice, by Calvin Trillin. It’s a warm, funny, and moving portrait of his wife, written five years after she died. If you’ve ever read any of his food writing (and you should!), you may remember Alice as a frequent character there. This is a really beautiful — and entertaining — tribute to her.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 761 comments… read them below }

  1. Rin*

    I know this is a pretty generic request, but does anyone have advice on how to stay positive when so many aspects of life are going wrong. Seems my family is in a bit of a bad luck streak, and it’s really getting me down. I’ve been trying to feel more grateful for the things that we do have, but if anyone else goes through this, I’d appreciate thoughts.

    1. LizH*

      I have been in the bad luck streak before. Gratitude for what you do have is important. Also, please take care of yourself the best you can. Do you have someone you can go for a walk with and get out of the house? I find that to be helpful. Also, do whatever small things you can for yourself to make sure you treat yourself well. A long soak in the tub, give yourself a manicure or pedicure. I also find journaling to be very helpful.
      Try to find things to laugh about, and people to laugh with. Stay away from negative people if you can. I am so sorry you are in this position right now, but I promise, it will pass and things will get better.

    2. TL -*

      I give myself time to sulk and be unhappy and feel like life’s unfair – maybe a day or two? Then I go out and do something I like and think of how I can put a positive spin or see a positive outcome for as many situations as possible.

    3. Stephanie*

      I try to do small nice things for myself.* I also let myself wallow in the shittiness long enough just to acknowledge the feelings.

      *At one point, this was buying good nail polish. I now have an absurd amount of nail polish that lead my friend to ask if I was moonlighting as a nail tech.

      1. Jean*

        I have indulged in the same small luxury. Collection currently running at approx. 10 bottles–not outrageous until you realize that I wear said polishes maybe 4 weeks out of every year. [Not to work, usually, or at least not on my hands. One has to make some effort not to fully reveal one’s unconventional sense of fashion. ;-) ]

        My stash includes yellow, purple (vegan!), blue, teal (for Ovarian Cancer Awareness month in September), grey, and a couple of pinky-beiges. What do you have? Any brown, orange, blue, green, bright red, black, glitter, crackle, or …? And do you have long nails or short nails? I’m a short-nail person myself.

        Okay, gotta sign off to meet the family!

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          I was on a nail polish kick for a while, too (Damn you, Zoya and your ridiculous sales!) so I’m sure I have upwards of 50 bottles in every color of the rainbow although I’ve never counted exactly. And now I’m on a Jamberry kick so the polish is collecting dust in my closet. /sheepish/

          1. Stephanie*

            Oh man, the Zoya sales. I’m a short nails person–hold over from learning a string instrument and I find long nails too cumbersome.

          2. Claire (Scotland)*

            Nail polish is my weakness too. My current collection is over 100 bottles, and I have to stop myself buying more every time I go shopping.

            I have seven different black polishes. Not including the black glitter. Nine blues, eight greens, and ELEVEN purples (yes, I just checked). A bunch of various neutrals. Three metallic silvers. Plus base coats, top coats, Seche Vite, glitters, shatters (four shades). And then there are the nail art pens as well.

            I have a nail polish problem. But it’s so PRETTY!

          3. Al Lo*

            I have so much nail polish to get rid of now that I’ve switched to Jamberry, including a gel nail set/UV light. Right now, it’s just in the bathroom cabinet, but before we move next, I’ll probably sell/give away/throw out almost all of it. I’ll hang onto a few for my toes, because my baby nails are just too baby for jams to stay on as well as they should, but I definitely don’t need most of them any more.

            In fact, I haven’t used my regular polish in almost 2 years, when I switched to UV gel; and haven’t used that in almost a year, when I switched to Jamberry.

        2. Stephanie*

          Also, I really like metallics: blues, purples, silvers, golds (really yellow in general), and iridescents. Also a fan of grays–Sephora had a shade of khaki that was my go-to and then they stopped making it. I find glitter polish too much of a hassle to remove.

          1. Lacquered*

            @Stephanie Was the Sephora by OPI polish called Metro Chic? OPI’s You Don’t Know Jacques is a dupe and it’s part of the core collection, so it’s easy to find!

            @Claire I have eight purples…just from Zoya. Sixteen all together! But I was actually surprised when I counted up and found I have more green than any other color.

            @Jean I keep my nails short. I have less tip wear and chips that way, and my nails themselves don’t break or snag or get dirty (like, underneath—yuck.) Plus I have long nail beds anyway. The first time a nail tech said, “oh, you have great nail beds!” it seemed like the weirdest compliment ever. Now I’m like, “thank you so much, I got them from my mom!”

            My collection is 100+ and I’ve gone so far as to inventory them in a spreadsheet by brand, color, collection, special effects…you know, for data reference…

            There’s a cool documentary on Hulu called Nailgasm about nail art as a trend and as an industry. Features lots of driven, talented, creative, entrepreneurial women (and their incredible art!)

            1. Stephanie*

              It was called something like “Under My Trenchcoat” and was this light khaki color with a subtle gold shimmer. Super pretty and it was a good neutral (I even wore it to a couple of interviews).

        3. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I have about twenty bottles of nail polish, and I only ever osint my toenails, not my fingernails. I have a lot of bold pinks, and the rest are blacks, grays, purples, greens, and blues. And one weird rosey/grayish taupe (?) that I can’t figure out whether I like it or not.

          I have been looking and looking at Jamberry nails, and haven’t bought any yet. I almost did for Valentine’s day, but didn’t, so I’ll probably end up with some for St Patrick’s Day.

            1. saro*

              I tried them and really didn’t like them. The patterns are pretty but they just looked like stickers to me. Maybe I should try again.

              1. Al Lo*

                The better your application and seal, the more they look like nail art and not as much like stickers. If they’re pulling up at the edges or don’t fit quite properly, they’ll look more like stickers. I mean, they are a sort of sticker, but they don’t necessarily look like it.

        4. Melissa*

          I did this too! I have a shade of pretty much every color (well, not black) and I probably have about 30-40 bottles. I would buy them and then paint my nails a fun color just to brighten my day. I’m too impatient to paint them now – I have to wait for them to dry and ugh, I hate that! I did buy this UV gel nail polish system because I thought it would last longer without chipping, but ultimately for me the polish lasts just about the same amount of time as regular polish – perhaps a day longer, no more. And it’s more of a hassle to remove.

          I have short nails, personally. makes it easier for me to get stuff done with my hands!

          1. Stephanie*

            I wasn’t into blacks too much, but I stumbled across some really pretty shades of metallic black that changed my mind. Creme blacks still feel a little too middle school goth kid (although I’ll wear the hell out a dark purple or blue, so I’m not sure if black’s that much more of a stretch).

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              I’m the same way about blacks. Mine are all metallic or pearl or shimmer, because the flat or creme black seems like a little much. I really love the dark charcoal greys, and in all the same finishes. I think the finishes soften the dark colors somewhat, and that’s what makes me like them better.

      2. Tris Prior*

        I’ve recently fallen down this rabbit hole; I only have a handful of polishes but I used to have none. I work with my hands so a mani lasts maybe a couple hours on me before chipping or even shearing right off in sheets, if I am lucky. But I recently decided that I don’t care – it makes me feel good even if it doesn’t look nice for long. I found the trick is to stick to the light glittery polishes so that when it starts chipping it’s not as noticeable – that way I don’t get pissed at myself because I cannot girl.

      3. Saro*

        Oh me too. But I accidentally left them at my parents’ house and have nothing here. I must re-build my nail polish stash!

    4. Jean*

      I answered you below when replying to MJ. See _huge_ textblock of doom* below under Jean.
      TL;DR: Life isn’t consisently easy, happy, or fair. We can either wear ourselves out banging our head on this particular brick wall, or accept it. (We can also do what we can to make some of life easier, happier, or more just for at least _some_ people in _some_ situations!)

      original term–used by another AAM poster on a previous open thread–was textblockofdoom (all one word).

    5. Melissa*

      I make a list of all the reasons I’m awesome and/or all the things I have to be grateful for. Usually I do it in my head, but if things are really bad, I will do it on a piece of paper. That usually cheers me up, and sometimes reminds me that things aren’t as bad as I think they are. But even when they really are and I have a reason to be super stressed out, it can be heartening to remind yourself of the things and people you love and the things about yourself that are really great.

    6. Saro*

      I’m so sorry Rin. I think everyone down thread has given plenty of good advice. I’d like to also add that it’s okay to say no to people and refuse onerous (i.e., not fun) commitments because you just don’t feel like it.

    7. Katie the Fed*

      Rin, I say this so often I feel like it’s becoming trite – but I really believe one of the best things you can do when you’re feeling down is volunteer work. Something with people, especially. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or something along those lines – helping people will make you feel good, it’s a good distraction from your own problems, and you might get a bit of perspective too (I’m not saying that your problems aren’t legitimate – but realizing how fortunate you are can be a powerful thing).

      If you can’t deal with people, something with animals is good – walking dogs at a shelter, etc.

      1. Jean*

        Katie the Fed, I can’t always fit volunteering into my schedule but I can usually manage to cheer up someone in my circle of “friends and relations” (credit to A.A. Milne) by calling or sending a “how’re you doing?” email. My other technique–learned from a friend who follows current events very closely–is to compare my life to that of so many people in other, poorer, and/or more conflict-filled circumstances*. Voila, instant perspective! Not trying to be snarky here; just saying that my life looks so much better in comparison, even with my pile of petty complaints.

    8. Anon Accountant*

      Find 1 thing daily to enjoy whether it’s giving yourself a manicure, having a friend over for coffee, reading a favorite book, etc. This may sound corny but tell yourself “and this shall pass”. Sometimes a reminder that bad times won’t last forever can help you.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        I forgot to mention. Exercise every day whether it’s walking, yoga or a Zumba class can lift your spirits also.

    9. Turanga Leela*

      There is so much good advice here. Adding mine to the pile (and this echoes a lot of what’s been said), try to schedule time most days to do the following:
      1) Exercise. Intense exercise (weightlifting, hard/long runs, kickboxing, Crossfit) is especially good if you’re up for it, because you can’t think about anything else while you’re doing it. Stretching and yoga are amazing. Just going for a walk can be helpful.
      2) Get outside for at least 10 min/day, especially during daylight.
      3) Meditate. The Pranayama app, which helps you time your breathing, has been really, really helpful for me during stressful times.
      4) Try to eat well and drink enough water. During bad times, people often forget to take care of themselves physically, but little things like getting enough protein and staying hydrated can make a HUGE difference in your mood and outlook.
      5) Interact with friends and family. Make a point of calling/Skyping/gchatting/texting family and friends who you’ve been out of touch with. Go out for coffee or drinks with people who are local. You want to interact with a mix of the people who have been going through the bad luck streak with you AND people outside of it.

    10. Rin*

      Thanks everyone for the suggestions.
      I have been trying to focus my thoughts/actions in other directions, sometimes productively and sometimes not, because Netflix bingeing is a legitimate therapy, I’m convinced. I’m definitely going to try to implement some of your suggestions, though I’m not a fan of nail polish :)

    11. SallyForth*

      Last year the David Suzuki Foundation had a 30×30 challenge. The idea was to get out into nature for 30 minutes each day for a month. I started getting off the bus on my way home, walking through a different park and tree-lined neighbourhood, and taking the time to breathe and notice my surroundings. Then I’d get back on the bus, refreshed. It really helped me cope better.

  2. Eva*

    There has been a terrorist attack in my home town of Copenhagen just a few hours ago, at an event I had been Facebook-invited to attend and had in fact considered attending. Luckily, the terrorists did not succeed in doing as much damage as they had no doubt intended; “only” 1 is dead and three are injured. According to initial reports, the person who died was a member of the audience. I am still waiting to hear if it was someone I knew.

    In Copenhagen we’ve been expecting terrorist attacks for years (and in fact there have been several thwarted but very well-planned and potentially extremely deadly attempts, including a plan to storm the building of a local newspaper, decapitate all the employees and throw the heads out into the square below), but this is the first time I’ve personally felt like a potential target. I’m not sure how I feel, but I wanted to share it with you all.

    1. Elkay*

      I heard a bit about this on the news, it sounds terrifying. Take care of yourself. Denmark strikes me as being much like France and Australia where the public will not let themselves be intimidated or live their lives in fear.

    2. Jean*

      I saw the headline while using the web. Glad you’re OK and sorry that not everyone survived this horrible event.

    3. Vancouver Reader*

      I’m so sorry to hear about the attacks. I always thought Denmark was a peaceful country, I didn’t realize it’d be a target for terrorism. I hope you and your countrymen remain strong and don’t let the terrorists get their way.

      1. Eva*

        Thank you, Vancouver Reader and everyone else, for your kind thoughts. Denmark has indeed historically been a very peaceful country (and it still mostly is), which makes it all the more surreal.

        Incidentally, just in case anyone is curious about how it all played out, the same terrorist who was responsible for the afternoon shootings went on to attack a synagogue in the evening and succeeded in killing 1 man who was guarding a bar mitzvah taking place inside with 80 guests. Again it was fortunate that he did not manage to kill many more. He chose suicide by cop a few hours later. So it’s over for now.

        Thanks again for your well-wishes. My Facebook feed today is full of Danes declaring that we will not allow ourselves to be intimidated and that we must protect the rights and safety of our controversial cartoonists/artists/newspaper editors as well as our Jews. Here’s hoping we succeed!

    4. Monodon monoceros*

      I spend a considerable amount of time in Copenhagen for work. I’ve always felt (feel!) so incredibly safe there. When I saw the news last night I felt a bit violated…how could a place I feel safe have something like that happen? My thoughts are with you, my colleagues, and the rest of Copenhagen.

      1. Eva*

        Ironically I think Denmark’s sense of safety is actually part of the reason why we landed on al-Qaeda’s target list. The controversial 2005 cartoons that poked fun of the prophet Muhammad were originally solicited by a newspaper editor *because* it seemed so far-fetched that it might be dangerous to draw and publish them. No one could believe that the freedom of speech and satire which we have enjoyed for so long was seriously threatened. Like children playing with fire, what followed took everyone aback. I’m not sure if nationals of a less peaceful country would have been innocently naive enough to solicit those cartoons in the first place without worry. (To my knowledge, the brave people at Charlie Hebdo always understood the risk of what they were doing.)

  3. Sabrina*

    A couple of weeks ago someone suggested reading The Passage. I finished it yesterday and really enjoyed it. Seems like it took a lot to get going, but I stuck it out. Will be starting book 2 shortly.

    1. Cruciatus*

      It might have been me! This excites me because people never take my book recommendations. I take that back…when I worked at a public library a woman asked me for something good to read. I had just finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and suggested it to her. I’m not usually into that type of book but it was well written and just…nice. Well, she said she didn’t think so and left. Weeks later she came back in to apologize to me. Her friends also all recommended it and loved it and now she did too! But other than that I usually get “Well, maybe…” which actually means “nope.” So even if it wasn’t me, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      1. Sabrina*

        LOL it may have been. It was in response to my recommendation to read The Strain. No one ever takes my recommendations either. And then Game of Thrones became A Thing and how right I was!

  4. INTP*

    Update on gluten free – at the 2 week point, I’m seeing no results for my ADHD, though I think I might be experiencing some reduction in sinus congestion.

    I thought that I would feel very deprived on the food front, but surprisingly I don’t – there are plenty of things to eat without having to resort to substandard gluten free products. I made really good brownies from David Lebovitz’s blog. Really there are just two major annoyances:
    1) Militant pro-gluten weirdness. I’ve really only discussed this with a health community online, here, and a couple of people I know IRL. But I’ve been told multiple times that I absolutely shouldn’t try gluten free without a confirmed celiac diagnosis (I would rather eat gluten free than get my intestines biopsied, thank you) or that I should find a different doctor because mine gently suggested this as something that helps some people with ADHD (and brain fog is a celiac symptom so it seems solid enough to me). And then there’s the general mocking and annoyance of gluten-free people and accusations of it just being a trend or bandwagon. Annoying. This is why I don’t talk about it.

    2) I can’t eat out at all, pretty much. I ate out maybe once a month before this, for convenience reasons, and wasn’t really attached to it. But sometimes there’s no leftovers to pack for lunch or you’re going to be out all day and it’s just the best thing – except now, I absolutely have to plan my food ahead, because if I don’t bring a lunch to work or out with me I don’t get to eat a lunch. I’m planning to spend most of tomorrow locked in a coffee shop with some homework and I’m thinking I’ll just have to be tacky and hide some food in my backpack to eat there, because I can’t think of any coffee shops that serve anything more substantial than a gluten free pastry and a side salad. (Same for any sort of counter service restaurant I could step out of a coffee shop to eat at – and if I go home, I won’t go back out. My city doesn’t have a lot of counter service ethnic cuisines that are gluten free by default, mostly I can choose from different sandwiches and flatbreads and quiches. Even a hearty vegetarian salad is tough to come by – it’s a meaty salad or it has no protein besides a tiny sprinkle of feta.)

    1. Sunflower*

      I think the thing with #1 is not so much not eating gluten , but more eating ‘gluten free products’ that shouldn’t be like bread/pasta. Similar to low fat products, in order to keep a comparable taste/texture, they add in a bunch of crap( ie sugar) that isn’t good for you. So for the person who only excludes gluten because they want to lose weight, they really shouldn’t be eating gluten free bread, they should just eat regular bread.

      My friend has MS and her doctor also suggested trying gluten free. So I don’t think its a terribly weird suggestion.

    2. TL -*

      Chipotle is your gluten free fast food friend. Subway is also good for salads, just try to avoid rush hour so they can be careful while making a salad for you.

      Wendy’s does a baked potato with various gluten free toppings, some of which have protein ( I think the chili but am not sure; they have an online allergy guide.) Burger king corporate offices recommend a gf fryer but you should ask at each location.

      Most big chain restaurants have an online allergy guide that’s worth checking out if you haven’t.

      1. TL -*

        Also Starbucks has vegetarian protein box (with eggs) where everything is generally wrapped separately and you can just throw the pita bread or whatever it is out.

      2. Sunflower*

        Even smaller restaurants do gluten free. I used to work at a small, local chain (4 restaurants) and we had a gluten free menu including gluten free wings and burgers (gf rolls)

      3. INTP*

        In terms of places walking distance from work or home, we unfortunately have none of those places, except Subway (which I don’t think has any vegetarian salads with sufficient protein – I need tofu or beans or something to make salad a meal). There are a couple of places in my city that cater to health foodie types, they just aren’t in convenient locations for me. I’m in the midwest and you’re lucky if a place even has a veggie burger on the menu, let alone anything gluten free.

        I’m okay with never eating out, I just have to get better about meal prep (I put some TJ’s gluten free frozen meals in the work freezer just in case) and I feel awkward about eating outside food in Starbucks.

        1. TL -*

          You can bring your own protein to put in subway salads, which might be less awkward? I feel like they won’t care if you buy food – I have brought my own chips to Mexican places before without problems.
          But yeah. Food is hard and vegetarian places are actually not so great for allergies anyways in my experience.

    3. TL -*

      Also I wouldn’t trust gluten free by default cuisines because a lot of them Americanize their food and will randomly use flour for say, a thickener in curry. The smaller restaurants will also be less likely to have heard of gluten free and that conversation just ends up being very frustrating.

      1. INTP*

        Very true, and frankly, I don’t trust people to really know if something is gluten free if they aren’t working with a restaurant that is clearly aware of all the requirements (and potential liabilities if they are wrong). Knowing how many people will say something is vegetarian when it has fish sauce or chicken broth, I totally don’t trust someone not educated about GF to say something is free of wheat when there’s a sprinkle of flour in the sauce or whatever. Especially if there’s a language barrier.

        To be honest, I just posted that snippet because I anticipated being told to go for Indian, sushi with my own soy sauce, mexican with corn tortillas only, etc, and we have none of that as fast food here.

    4. asteramella*

      I have a similar situation because I’m vegetarian and work in an area with very few vegetarian options (not even, like, french fries or salads that aren’t just a regular salad minus all the non-romaine ingredients). I pack a lot of nuts, dried fruit, and crispy baked chickpeas, which might work for you too because they are shelf-stable and lightweight.

    5. Random Name*

      I eat gluten free too mostly because I need to have some dietary restriction that keeps me eating all the junk food I like that’s made with flour. I’m a sucker for cupcakes and m&m cookies. I also stay away from the gluten-free products that as one commentor mentioned is usually just loaded up with sugar. But I know what you mean about people lumping you in with the gluten free bandwagon. My husband says that to me and I remind him that it’s a way of forcing myself to not rely on bread to fill me up with calories and instead eat more fruits and vegetables (and also cut out a lot of sugar in the form of baked goods).

    6. Melissa*

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying gluten-free – going without gluten is not going to hurt you, after all. A lot of scientists are beginning to think that for some people with ADHD that a gluten-free diet can help their symptoms (and there’s established science showing that more people with celiac disease have ADHD, and vice versa, than you would expect by random chance – suggesting there might be a link). And even if people did want to try it for other things…who cares? It’s not like going without gluten is going to damage you in some way.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        “It’s not like going without gluten is going to damage you in some way.”

        This. I can’t understand why people think they need a particular diagnosis to go without gluten. Hey, it’s your body, do what you think is right for your setting. I do think that it is important to read and understand what we are doing and why we are doing it.

        Most of the time I eat flourless and sugarless. I have no big need to find a medical doctor to okay that. I know that I feel better and I very seldom get colds. I use to have non-stop colds during the winter.

        1. TL -*

          I can say I only find it annoying when people make it out to be a strict requirement when it’s not (or complain about it when it’s a dietary choice, not requirement.) If you’re gluten free by choice,don’t speak of it as an allergy. Everyone should still respect your choices but an allergy is a whole different thing.

          1. Elysian*

            I would agree with this. I also think that a lot of people get really excited about their diet choices and try to push them on others and try to make them feel unhealthy for not following them. I know I’ve had that experience with gluten-free-by-choice people, vegetarians, people on the paleo diet, people doing cleanses, etc. “Just try it, you’ll feel so much better, its really the best way of life because XYZ!” I think that when there’s a medical explanation people are more comfortable with diet changes because its less likely that you’ll try to push it on them (they don’t have the disease after all). In the end I think the ultimate key is just to be extra careful not to be a lifestyle-pusher. I think enough people have been shamed about their food choices for whatever billion reasons that we all just need to be extra careful to make our own choices and not push them on others who aren’t asking about them.

          2. INTP*

            Well, for me it’s an elimination diet. So while I’m not going to get severely ill if I ingest some, if I do eat any gluten (whether that’s from a restaurant not taking me seriously or getting hungry and succombing myself) I will have to start this 30 days over again. So if I’m talking to a restaurant staff or something, I’m going to say it’s a requirement rather than a choice – because if they can’t meet it, I would rather just not eat at their establishment than risk getting my experiment interfered with.

            I’m not telling people socially that it’s an allergy socially, but I’m not really telling anyone about this in general. Obviously I’m not going to tell anyone I have a terrible reaction when I might start eating it again in a month if I get no results.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I’ve been eating flourless sprouted wheat bread (not gluten free, obvs) but not so processed. It’s so tasty, and the only bread I can find in this cultural wasteland that is similar in texture to what my auntie buys in England.

        3. DeadQuoteOlympics*

          I think it has to do with our (U.S.) preoccupation with medical diagnosis/justification as a major factor in our lives. It was living in another country that made me realize how weirdly foregrounded medical discourse is in our culture, and when it intersects with food, all of a sudden everyone has an opinion. I think that’s the source for the “militant pro-gluten weirdness” (great phase). I absolutely HATE HATE HATE green peppers and they are in everything (why are you in my coleslaw, peppers?), but no one gives me grief or arguments about it because I express it as a dislike not a medical choice.

          I don’t have a dog in the gluten-free fight, but I have GERD (acid reflux) and I just realized that no one gives me any grief about it when I say “I can’t eat that” — I don’t get into GERD debates about specific foods, people just accept that I know what I’m talking about with respect to my body. So maybe some variant of a very Miss Manners-ish “I’m sorry, I don’t eat that because it doesn’t agree with me” repeated endlessly without further explanation (through increasingly gritted teeth as necessary).

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I agree. Some how we have abdicated our autonomy when it comes to how we handle our physical issues. We need a doctor to bless everything. We have grown afraid to try to help ourselves. The problem is that from what I see if a person searches long enough they will eventually find a doctor that agrees with them. This gets expensive and time consuming and I am not so sure that it lends credibility. I do know that if I quit eating x or doing y and consistently I feel better then I might be on to something that I need to pay attention to.

            No, not everything works for everybody. But that is not the same as “Stop looking, nothing works”. All it means is “you will find incremental helps if you keep searching”. These incremental helps do add up over time.

            1. INTP*

              And the frustrating thing with gluten free in particular is that if you research, they are finding that many, many people who test positive for celiac had none of the primary symptoms. There are zillions of possible atypical symptoms and non-digestive symptoms but many doctors will only even give you the blood test if you have diarrhea and weight loss. Not every doctor lives on pub med and stays current with research at all, let alone outside their primary field.

              If I do turn out to have celiac, it would definitely not be the first condition that I’ve only had diagnosed accurately due to my own research and persistence. My ADHD was diagnosed as anxiety and a psychiatrist kept pushing me to take SSRIs that made me very sick. Multiple doctors told me my sciatica was just from working out too hard. Doctors are not infallible, sometimes diagnosing yourself is safer, but apparently I’m supposed to go get a confirmed celiac diagnosis before an elimination diet lest I inconvenience anyone without a doctor’s approval.

              1. Hlyssande*

                That’s ridiculous because a lot of doctors advocate the elimination diet first due to the invasive and painful testing!

    7. snuck*

      I think that number 1 is could be about getting the tests done first – there’s a blood test that is a good indicator – you don’t need to go to the biopsy. The bioposy is the gold standard, but the blood test is a good measure. BUT … you need to be eating gluten for a period of time beforehand so your titers are up, or so there’s some damage to measure in a biopsy. If you go gluten free then you can’t be sure of the test results and living gluten free can be limiting so it’s best to get the test done before you go gluten free or it might be a waste of time going gluten free.

      That said – if you feel significantly better – your symptoms clear up (it usually only takes a few days for dramatic results) then it doesn’t matter if it’s coeliac or not, you feel better, it’s worth the effort.

      1. INTP*

        Is there any reason, though, that I couldn’t just eat gluten for a week to prepare for the test? I’m not sure if it’s covered by my insurance so I figured it’s not worth getting if I have zero improvement from an elimination diet. I definitely will if I feel a lot better, because I want to know if I can have zero molecules of gluten for the rest of my life or if I can indulge on occasion.

        1. TL -*

          Recommended time is 6 weeks; my doc said he usually finds 2 sufficient.
          The reason they’d push for a biopsy first is because if you have a bad reaction to a food, eating it for 2-6 weeks becomes a really awful prospect.

      2. Another IT Manager*

        My doc tells me that biopsy used to be the gold standard, because it was better than the old gold standard (which was babies starving to death on a full stomach). But it’s only about 30% effective at catching people who benefit from a GF diet, so the new generation of docs are moving toward a gold standard of either a blood test (which can flag people who aren’t having noticeable symptoms) or a GF diet.

        Since the biopsy is expensive, inconvenient, and really buggy, I’m more than happy to see it go away.

    8. Kyrielle*

      Re #1, I wonder if they were thinking of the fact that there’s a blood test. As I understand it, that one can’t “rule in” celiac (it can’t prove you have it). But it can rule it /out/ – certain results on it mean you definitely don’t have celiac.

      On the other hand, there’s also folks who respond well to a gluten-free diet even though they’re confirmed as not celiac. Are they sensitive to gluten w/o celiac? Sensitive to something else that vanishes on a gluten-free diet? Is it just because they expect it to work?

      Who knows, but I am betting they do not care as long as it does work.

      1. TL -*

        Celiac has a genetic component; they can test to see if you have the gene but having the gene doesn’t mean you have celiac’s.
        I don’t know about a test to actually diagnose beyond the biopsy but I haven’t done any research really. Just the tests I’ve gotten done recently.

      2. Fucshia*

        You can get a false negative if you haven’t been consuming gluten recently enough before the test.

    9. Gene*

      Eating out gluten free at a diner is simple (at least according to my GF friends), cheese omelet and hash browns, no bread.

  5. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    So, last week I talked about how 2015 is kicking my ass so far and I just wanted to go to bed until it’s over (and thank you for all the love and support on that thread, by the way, it was very appreciated.)

    Well. Yesterday my mum rang to say that my uncle is in hospital with a brain bleed. Won’t have the results of the scan until Monday, could be brain infection, lesions or cancer.

    Are you freaking kidding me, universe? STOP NOW.

    1. Jean*

      MJ and Rin,
      If it’s any comfort, you’re not alone in facing life’s difficulties–which includes watching while folks you care about face life’s difficulties (chronic illness, incurable illness, or curable-but-only-via-horrible-treatment-regimen illness; job worries or job-hunting troubles; overbearing relatives or unhelpful friends; logistical aggravations such as car troubles, noisy neighbors, uncooperative service providers; logistical aggravations plus tight finances…). After spending the past year or so watching people deal with samples of all of the above plus job-hunting, job-finding, and job-learning myself, I’ve finally concluded that except for a brief time in our childhoods–if we’re very fortunate–these woes and worries are just part of Life. Doesn’t make it any less gut-wrenching, stomach-churning, or otherwise emotionally upsetting but … there will be hard as well as good times. I’m finding all this gets intensified the older I get, because that means that my peers and their parents are also getting older. Statistically speaking a lot of this grief-causing stuff (chronic illness, disability, life-threatening events) seems to happen to older people.

      Except when it doesn’t, of course, and that’s when you have to get through a young person’s funeral thanks to childhood cancer or teenage suicidal depression. (Ditto when someone dies who has young children.)

      I’ve certainly done my share of shouting “WHY?!” at the universe, but since I haven’t received any explanations I’ve decided to focus less on WHY the awful happens and more on WHAT good I can do in response. Sometimes this means being present in person at a memorial service or on paper via a condolence note (or via phone line or longer email message–I’m old-school enough that I don’t find brief email or text messages sufficient for this kind of support). Sometimes I can do something constructive such as driving someone to the doctor, bringing over a meal (ask first re logistics & any dietary limitations), or donating to a charity favored by the deceased or his/her family.

      I still fret and rage now “when bad things happen to good people” (to quote the title of the book by Rabbi Harold Schulweis), but it’s less intense than before I accepted this unhappy reality (that bad stuff happens). It’s comforting to be able to tell myself “you can’t change the overall situation, but you’ve done something concrete to improve one part of it, so now it’s okay to relax a bit and pay attention to something else.” It’s easier to do happy things when I’m able to keep my Inner Martyr from moaning that she Has to Save. the. Entire. World. Right. Now.

      Good luck with all of this. Unfortunately we all have to travel our own individual path to get to this kind of acceptance. Take care of yourself on the way.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      The rain will stop. I promise.
      I agree with the poster above who indicated to view this as “I am here to serve”. That will help, definitely.
      The one thing I will say, is that for every awful thing that has happened in my life, a locked door flew open. In other words, Awful Thing would happen, then something else that I thought would never, ever happened would also become reality.
      Deliberately look for locked doors that suddenly fly open. Expect it. Keep your eyes wide open. There seems to be a give and a take to life. Life takes something away from us but then gives us something we never expected. For whatever reason, we can’t seem to have it all at once, so don’t look for that. That is the road to disappointment. But there usually is something new that comes in to our lives in spite of the rain.

      And yes, if you feel yourself changing in light of all these sad events, that is pretty normal. We are supposed to change. You will be okay. Will you always remember this time? yes. You will.

      Sending warm thoughts your way.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Agreed on horrible things leading to unlocked doors that ultimately provide good for us. Also, I’ve found it helpful, in the midst of horror, to realize that one major lesson is that you can get through difficult times and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That is one thing bad times teach us. There is no such thing as perpetual motion, eventually everything stops, both the good and the bad. But with the bad comes the lesson that we can persevere, we can survive. And there’s something very helpful about knowing that.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      I’m so sorry for everything you’re going through! I hope things calm down soon and your uncle is ok. Also, not blow sunshine up your ass, but the brain is a remarkable thing – I’ve seen people make full recoveries from strokes and aneurysms, when it initially wasn’t even clear that they’d live.

  6. Sunflower*

    What are good websites to get unbiased reporting of news/politics?

    For an SiruiusXM listeners, what are your favorite talk/news stations?

    1. littlemoose*

      I think the NY Times is pretty even-handed. I read that and my local paper online, and then use Flipboard for general news as well. Sometimes using an aggregator like that can get you multiple perspectives, and you might find a particular source you like that way.

    2. Windchime*

      I don’t read a lot of news online, but I when I need talk radio in the car I always listen to NPR on channel 122.

    3. Jean*

      You can read the stories that have played on NPR (national public radio) at npr.org. Yes, it’s a little bit weird to be able to read a radio story when you remember the times that radio news was played once or twice, with no recall unless you had a tape recorder (or access to the reel-to-reel machines used by the professionals).

      The NYTimes is _wonderful_ also. You can also find all sorts of other newspapers online.

    4. Aknownymous*

      I like the NY Times as well. I also read BBC, which presents the news from a more European perspective. I feel like I get a more well-rounded understanding of what’s going on in the world from reading them both.

      1. Aknownymous*

        And, the Economist has really great, in-depth articles if you are interested in economics (obviously), international affairs, and politics.

    5. asteramella*

      No one news source (or news-aggregating blog) is unbiased. Your best bet is to consume multiple sources of news and kind of triangulate the coverage to find your own perspective. My job involves reading a bunch of news and not everyone has that kind of time, but I read news sites including NYTimes, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, The Hill, and several more conservative local news sites and industry blogs. You can also follow news sources on Twitter or sign up for news update emails e.g. Kaiser Health News. SCOTUSblog is also a good jumping-off point for learning about current SCOTUS cases that most people may not necessarily be aware of, like King v. Burwell, that may have wide national effects.

      1. CA Admin*

        I’ve been really put off by the reporting at the Washington Post lately. I used to really like it, but ever since the whole Rolling Stone UVA rape story, I haven’t really been able to look at them the same way. The way they went after that girl was truly appalling. They’re good with most political news, but I’d avoid anything involving gender issues.

        I love NPR though. They’re not always perfect, but they’re the best I’ve found in the mainstream media.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I unsubscribed to WaPo after a particularly egregious George Will column last year about college rape victims loving their celebrity status

        2. asteramella*

          I have major problems with every news source listed above but as I said, I read it for my job, so my personal opinion about handling of various stories/issues doesn’t really affect that.

          For people who don’t want to spend money, though, WaPo is much easier to read than NYTimes, WSJ, LA Times, etc. due to the lack of strict paywall.

      2. nep*

        Every source will have some kind of bias. Best bet is to read from several different sources, to the extent you can make the time for it. Well worth it.

      3. Short and Stout*

        Twitter actually can be a great way to get news without the bias BS, I’ve found. Just the facts as they’re breaking.

    6. Melissa*

      I also love the New York Times, but I wouldn’t say it’s unbiased. They lean liberal, and they usually endorse Democratic candidates for office. I would say, however, that they usually provide pretty fair and balanced coverage (actually fair and balanced, lol).

      I like the Washington Post, too. I also like Slate, but that is far from unbiased, lol.

    7. weird name gal*

      I’ve never heard anybody interview a celebrity better than Howard Stern, Sirius 100. Hands down the best interviewer ever. CNN, NPR, there is a lot to listen to on sirius.

    8. Katie the Fed*

      I’m more international-news oriented, so I really like NYTimes, Al Jazeera English (they have some great human interest stories too), the Economist, BBC, NPR. Your typical left-leaning international stuff :) I like the Atlantic for features and interesting takes on things. Christian Science Monitor also has some great international coverage.

      Most news is going to have some bias, but NYTimes I think is pretty good on just the news aspect. I’m happy to pay for their news because I think it’s generally the best. I dropped my Washington Post subscription last year and haven’t really missed it.

  7. littlemoose*

    Hey AAM, I am reading on my iPhone (as i usually do), and this page has repeatedly launched the App Store for various games. I haven’t clicked on anything – once it did it after I loaded the page and hadn’t touched it again. I know you switched to a new ad provider recently and I wanted to let you know, as it’s a little off-putting.

    1. VintageLydia USA*

      I just had a Dentastix advertisement autoplay with no apparent/obvious way to turn it off or mute it (other than just muting my speakers, which is what I ended up doing.)

      1. littlemoose*

        Thanks for the info! I hope it is resolved soon, although I adore your site too much to stay away. :)

      2. CA Admin*

        It happens sometimes with the LA Times app also–it’ll just launch the app store without you clicking anything.

    2. Hummingbird*

      On my laptop, I’m getting a lot of video ads that automatically start playing on this blog. So far, it is have been about Iams dog food and Dentastix.

    3. Clever Name*

      Yeah, I’ve been having that problem on my iPad too. The App Store kept opening up telling me to download those candy crush-like games.

    4. Cruciatus*

      I feel a little ridiculous asking since I don’t have the problem everyone else does… but since it sounds like ads are allowed…where are people seeing them? I have never seen one, though in the top, right corner it does say “ADVERTISEMENT” but there is no actual advertisement. Is my ad-blocker actually doing its job? Though I don’t have that at work and I still don’t think I’ve ever seen an ad (I don’t mean this to rub it in! Just curious about what might be different).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        If you have an ad blocker, that’s why you’re not seeing them. Although if you’re willing to whitelist Ask a Manager on your ad blocker, that would be awesome since that’s how I support my ability to do the site :)

      2. beckythetechie*

        If you’re using Firefox, you may want to check for the add on that allows one most socially conscious or ethically responsible ad per page. The name escapes me ATM but it should pop up near the top of the list, and saves surprise Rush Limbaugh appearances most of the time.

  8. ThursdaysGeek*

    Fictional news articles inspired by AAM:

    The newest single “Don’ Wanna Go There” by the group The Abilene Paradox just reached #1 on the charts. What is surprising is when asked, most people said they didn’t like the song themselves, but had bought it for a friend, who did like it. They leave it on when played on the radio, if others are in the car, because all of their friends love the song.

    1. fposte*

      They also assumed their friends were amused by the recursion of playing the song while they were actually traveling to Abilene, where their friends apparently really wanted to go.

  9. Windchime*

    This is the cutest, cheesiest kitty picture ever. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! What are your plans? I don’t have a sweetheart, so my sister and I are going to go shopping and then come home, have surf and turf and drink until we feel silly!

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      Hubs and I are staying in and FINALLY watching Big Hero 6 and possibly eating a heart-shaped pizza. We usually downplay V-day because it’s very close to my birthday and less than a month from our first date anniversary.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      My husband took me out for a back-roads ride in his new ( to him) red jeep. We saw some beautiful vistas and got stuck on a stump when he gallantly tried to take me far enough down a rough side trail that I would pee in the woods.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        The first place he stopped, I wouldn’t pee there. So now we have a joke. Y’all know that book of cat poems called “I Could Pee on That”? My book about camping/hiking/backroads exploration would be a bunch of poems about a woman’s difficulty finding a good, well-screened place to pee, and the delight upon finally finding an appropriate spot. Title: “I Could Pee Here”.

        1. OriginalEmma*

          When I lived in Alaska, I learned that women can and do pretty much pee everywhere. And we’re not talking just sparse woodland cover. I’ve had friends drop trou on MUPs in the city when there was little foot traffic.

    3. Calla*

      I had a lunch with a former coworker/friend around the corner (my fiancee worked today, since I am recovering from surgery and can’t do much I told her not to worry about taking time off), napped, and SO is bringing some champagne home so that, dinner, and a movie or TV will probably be all the excitement for me :)

    4. Melissa*

      My sweetheart is currently 250 miles a way. SO I took my dog to the dog park and got caught in the beginning of the blizzard out here – one minute me and the four other people there were looking at the horizon commenting on how dark and grey it was, and the next minute there were 30 mph winds whipping snow around us and whiteout conditions. Luckily there was a break in the snow that was long enough for me to get home safely with the dog (while driving 20 mph the whole way, and losing traction a couple times!)

      The high tomorrow is 3F with a wind chill of as low as -20F, so…Zelda (the dog) and I will be snuggling on the couch together!) Me and the hubby are celebrating the last weekend in February, when he can come out here.

    5. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      I got my husband back after having him overseas for a few weeks! It was very nice to have him back, though I’ve had more fun than helping him lug his kit to the car and to the house in the piles of snow. It’s too late for anything other than dinner at home, but tomorrow night we’re going for sushi and I have a delightful three-day weekend!

    6. AvonLady Barksdale*

      My bf and I came to NYC for the weekend to see friends and hang out in our old neighborhood. We saw his grad school friends today and went to our favorite bar to hang out with a bunch of other friends… and they all bailed except for two. Everyone here is sick and cold. Oh well. Then he and I had a delicious dinner, and we are back at our friend’s place for some rest. She’s out of town and has an amazing apartment that she generously loaned to us and the dog.

      And this morning, bf surprised me with the most beautiful flowers that he ordered from our old favorite neighborhood florist. He snuck out to pick them up while I was in the shower. I cried.

    7. Natalie*

      Bf and I aren’t big Valentine’s people, so we’ve just been eating pizza and watching movies. Oh, and I did my taxes.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      I skated this morning and then nerded out with nerd friends this evening as we got ready to cosplay at a con next week (I couldn’t find anything, but then I decided to be Amy Pond with The Silence hashmarks). In between, the day sucked like a supersonic vacuum:

      –Two of my nerd friends announced their engagement today (this was not really a surprise, but the timing–owch).
      –Another person I know got engaged to her boyfriend…[wait for it]….
      Her ENGLISH boyfriend. Who lives in London.
      –A zillion other people AND the person I liked got married today.


      1. Revanche*

        Sorry about the timing on those engagements but yay for your Amy Pond cosplaying! I met a gal at SDCC the big anniversary year in that cosplay and it’s my favorite.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I was going to be Donna Noble, but I just couldn’t find an outfit that I liked without sewing anything. And I didn’t want to do the bride. >:(

          What I’d like to do one of these days is the dress from Vampires of Venice–the vampire lady’s one, with the huge gold ruff? That would take some serious sewing, but one of my nerd friend is a hugely talented cosplayer–maybe she could help me.

    9. Al Lo*

      We’re super night-owl people, so we made dinner reservations for 10:45 at one of our favorite restaurants. It’s a tapas place, and when we go on our own, we always end up spending and eating too much — small plates always work better with more people, so we made reservations for 4, with no idea who our other two would be, and put the call out on Facebook for a couple, or a couple of people, to join us. My husband’s brother and his girlfriend came out, and it was great. We were the last to arrive at the restaurant, and closed the place out when we left at 12:30 (the last people before us probably left around 12:15).

      Prior to that, the day was pretty lazy. Sleeping in, getting some stuff done around the house, watching Friends, and then at 8:30, getting ourselves ready to leave for dinner.

    10. Katie the Fed*

      I made a little shepherd’s pie in a heart-shaped casserole, and brownies for dessert. Then we watched re-runs of Curb Your Enthusiasm. It was as romantic as we need to be :)

    11. OriginalEmma*

      I readWuthering Heights to celebrate. It’s one of my top 5 favorite classic novels and despite re-reading it on a lark, I’m instantly enthralled and remember why I love this book.

      And those who prefer movie adaptations, I HIGHLY recommend the version from 2009 with Tom Hardy. I feel he really captured Heathcliff’s surliness, isolation and passion. Bonus: it has Andrew Lincoln pre-Walking Dead fame.

      While I never saw the 1939 version, I have seen the Ralph Fiennes one and though I love me some Voldemort, I didn’t think it was that good a movie.

    12. Felicia*

      My parents invited me over for dinner because i was sad about being single, and both my sisters were therE (all 5 of us are hardly ever at the same place at the same time) and we had a family game night of cards against humanity. It was really fun!

  10. NBF*

    Does anybody have any advice about selling a house?

    I bought my first house five years ago but I need to move this summer and this will be my first time going through the selling process. Any tips or suggestions anybody has would be hugely appreciated. Anything and everything please: choosing a realtor, staging, packing negotiating, keeping the house clean and tidy (I don’t have kids but do have pets), anything else…

    1. Anonyby*

      Go ahead and meet with multiple realtors. The ones I know will schedule get-to-know-you meetings so you can get a feel for their style, see if you click. It’s best to go with one that you really click with, that will be an advocate for YOU and understands what YOU want. Ask how long properties they work with stay on the market. What’s their pricing strategy? How do they market properties? What do they see as important for you to do in preparing to go on market?

      This is mostly what I’ve picked up from overhearing agents meet with clients (I’m a receptionist for a real estate company, as disclosure).

    2. DeadQuoteOlympic*

      Pack up everything you aren’t using regularly and put it in storage or in the attic/basement/garage. It gets a lot of your packing done early, and it makes your spaces and storage look bigger. When we sold our first house, I had half our possessions packed before we started showing it. Make sure that your bookshelves are not overflowing, pack up the good china, box the Kitchen Aid mixer you only use at Thanksgiving, etc. Cutting down on clutter and possessions also makes keeping it clean and tidy at a moment’s notice easier. If it doesn’t make your house look too sparse, get rid of some furniture in storage too (you don’t need the knick knack table because the knick knacks are packed up, and now you don’t have to keep it dusted….you get the drift).

      1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

        Oh yeah — and thoroughly clean the doorknobs and lightswitch plates every week — anything people will touch as they move through your home (and especially if you have lots of showings with lots of touching, which adds to the problem). We looked at a house that was clean in other respects but every doorknob felt really gummy and it didn’t leave a good impression. It was an old house, and they had small kids, so I could understand how it could happen without the owners being filthhounds, but I still remember it and not in a good way.

        1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

          I keep forgetting things, argh — another thing to address now instead of when you are frantically packing to move is the garage or storage sheds or basements. You can’t just haul old paint and leftover lumber, etc. to the curb. Start getting rid of your hazardous chemicals and non-working weed whackers now, because it may involve trips to the dump and specialized disposal of chemicals. Those spaces have to be entirely empty when you sell and it’s more complicated than clearing the rest of the house, and it’s horrible to try to do it at the last minute.

        2. V. Meadowsweet*

          shine everything that can shine and the room looks cleaner and bigger
          anything that should shine that doesn’t makes the room look smaller and not-clean, even if it is otherwise spotless

    3. Cristina in England*

      –do not assume anything in negotiations. For instance: my friend is buying a house, and assumed that since the vendor was taking his TV off the wall, he would take the bracket too. Nope. Furthermore, even if the vendor did take the bracket off, he would probably leave the wall with holes in it, something my friend wouldn’t have realized. I know that is better advice for a buyer not a seller, but a novice seller dealing with a novice buyer might have some extra problems in terms of those little details.
      –paint your walls off-white, as any colors or “feature wallpaper” will put people off. By “put people off” I mean they will try to get the house for less money because it is obvious to them what work they will want to do to it.
      –have an honest friend do a walk-through to note any worn wallpaper/paint/carpets that it might be feasible to replace or hide by rearranging furniture.
      –if you don’t have a pet vacuum, buy one, and maybe an air purifier, to run before/during open houses.
      –declutter like your life depends on it.

    4. Artemesia*

      We had multiple realtors who grossly underestimated what we should put it on the market for — we put it on 45 K above the lower suggestion and 25 K above the higher and had 3 contract offers at offering price in two days (obviously we had underpriced it not overpriced it) So be sure you know what similar properties go for in your area. We have had this happen twice. The first time we just sold it ourselves — this was 35 years ago — for a lot more than the realtor was going to put it on the market for. Like we got 150K and they wanted to price it at 95. The second time, they wanted to price the house at 375 and we got 420 without a quibble and I think had we been patient could have probably gotten 440-460.

      We also really try to make sure the place shows well. All that advice about clearing out the junk is right. We got ride of stuff and stowed away stuff so that the closets were neat and about half full and the kitchen cabinets not overflowing etc etc. I also always buy new towels especially for the master bath. We always buy the same color towels and so just take them with us to the new place but there is something about fresh new towels that helps keep the bathroom from having that grungy lived in look.

      We did necessary painting, repairs, and had the wood all polished up and looking good. You have to drop everything when they want to show it, so we made sure it was show ready and that we had a routine for stowing things.

      It is also important to secure valuables and papers so no light fingered or identity thieving person walks off with stuff.

      A cool eye to the curb appeal is also helpful. We replaced the lights by the front door — got Home Depot stuff that wasn’t expensive but looked typical of our neighborhood and was shiny and new — our old lights had been a bad choice and had weathered oddly.

      Super clean, smelling good, uncluttered — we didn’t ‘stage’ in the sense of bringing in things, but we made sure to put the best food forward.

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        The smell thing–a nice smell is good, but really the best-smelling thing a house can be is clean, fresh, and full of nice fresh air. When we were looking at house there were so many out there where the homeowners just went crazy with Scentsy crap or air fresheners in every single room, and the smell was truly overpowering. The house we ended up buying had an owner who was wayyyy into scented everything, and here’s a true story: We bought our house in September, spent a month or two with the windows open, cooking, burning candles, etc. etc.–and when we came back from Christmas and the house had been closed up for a full week–we could STILL SMELL THE ORIGINAL OWNER’S SCENT. It damn near got into the walls.

        The moral of this story is that overpowering scents of any kind of not great.

      2. LD*

        Everyone has good advice! Declutter, clean, etc. And be prepared in case the property sells fast like Artemesia’s experience! Friends have sold their home twice in recent years for moves and each time they sold their homes to people who saw the homes on the first day! And they were unprepared, thinking that it would take a month or more to sell. so they had to find a place to live since the places they were moving into each time weren’t ready yet. Good luck!

    5. asteramella*

      If you are moving further than an hour away, sell or give away as much stuff as possible, especially heavy or bulky items like books and clothes. The only thing worse than packing your stuff is packing stuff that you later unpack and go, “Huh, I don’t love this thing, and yet I spent a huge amount of time and energy preserving its place in my life.”

      If you like Unf%!kYourHabitat, the lady who runs that wrote a great moving guide!

    6. Melissa*

      I have not sold or bought a house, but from looking at houses myself with an eye towards purchasing (and from secondhand from friends) – the advice to pack up half your stuff and store it away is good not only for the reasons stated (gets packing out of the way but also makes your space look bigger), but also helps people visualize the house as their own – as being able to live there, rather than the house as someone else’s that they’re just peeking out. The same thing is true of any particularly loud prints on the wallpaper, curtains, area rugs or linens/bedspreads. A lot of people do the floral prints that were popular in the 70s and 80s and they make the rooms look smaller and also kind of dated.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I had to sell my father’s unfinished house. I knew I would get less because it was not finished. I felt that I was willing to do one or two things to help give it “appeal”.

      Realtors do know exactly where to invest your money to help expedite the sale of your house. But make sure they understand this is not a bottomless pit, you must limit how much you can do to the house to make it more sale-able.
      I ended up doing two projects to the house- it cost about $600 total. The realtor estimated it would add several thousand dollars to the selling price. I felt good about what we did.

      The other tip I received from a family member who worked in real estate is that your first offer is probably going to be your best offer. Don’t make yourself crazy waiting for subsequent offers. The only exception I would make is if the buyer had a laundry list of things they wanted fixed before completing the sale.

    8. snuck*

      Negotiating – not sure how it works in America, but in Australia the following applies:

      When an offer to buy is made there’s a deposit, and conditions… each party can put conditions down and it includes things like “Subject to finance” and “subject to fixtures XYZ being in working order” (usually aircon, water heaters, reticulation etc) and “Curtains and blinds to remain in place” etc… that sort of thing so everyone knows what’s being left behind and what will be in working order. Another common one here is “Subject to resonable building inspection” and “Subject to review of Strata Title meeting minutes” – both of these are wishy washy and can let the buyer get out of something if they find something they don’t like the sound of. Better is things like “subject to clearance from pest inspection and confirmation building is sound” and “confirmation there are no outstanding lawsuits or large funding projects before the Strata Committee” (I’ve got out of a contract on both those before – one where the building required extensive work in damp in bathroom walls and another time where I found out the building management were about to ask all the owners for $35k each to redo the plumbing… that was on top of the purchase price of the unit obviously…)

      Sellers often place conditions such as “settlement to be completed by (30-45 days is common)” and “curtains, blinds and wall mountings for televisions will be removed” or “custom made garden gate will be removed” etc.

      It’s important to work out what you want and be clear, no diplomatic, simple clear statements will suffice.

    9. Ann Furthermore*

      In addition to decluttering, put away all of your family photos and any other personal, unique things. You want your house to be a generic blank slate, so people can visualize themselves living their, see their stuff in the space, and so on.

      If you live alone, you can also get an early start and pack up things like dishes you never use, pots and pans that only make a rare appearance, and so on. Anything you can pack up now is something you don’t have to pack up later.

      If you don’t want to pay for a storage unit for the stuff you’v packed up, stack it in the garage, if you have one, and if you’re willing to park your car in the driveway. Potential buyers usually don’t care if the garage is full of stuff — a 2 car garage is a 2 car garage, pretty much. All they care about is that it’s there.

      And if you don’t do it already, get into the habit of making your bed every day when you get up…one less thing to do when you need to clear out of your house for a showing.

    10. catsAreCool*

      When you pack, try to organize by which rooms stuff will normally go into. I didn’t do that last time, and unpacking was a pain. If you have a lot of books, either put them in small boxes, or pack boxes half (or less) with books and half with something light, like clothes.

      Having a good real estate agent is huge. A good one should know some good businesses for fixing up anything in your house that needs it. You want someone who looks after your interests.

      Packing is a great time to go through your stuff and figure out what you want to get rid of. I found taking things to GoodWill to be easier on my nerves than holding a yard sale, and I could donate stuff bit by bit as I found things.

      1. snuck*

        Yeah… totally pack by space/room… and then if you have a little bit of room at the top of a box throw some off season clothes in to fill it – then at the other end it’s easy to unpack and toss those clothes into a laundry basket to put away all together wherever you plan to.

        And mark your boxes on the sides, not just the tops. And if you can stack them together in similar rooms/spaces so that you can find things if you need to unpack them. (Write what’s in them too)

        And use good boxes with tops. Huggies nappy boxes (about 7o nappies?) are a good size for books – not too heavy, solid box etc – or the wine boxes – also good for books.

        1. Graciosa*

          Colored dots are your friend in packing. Movers may or may not read what is written on the side, but I’ve had very good luck with colored dots and instructions that yellow goes in the kitchen, blue in the master bedroom and so on.

          1. Al Lo*

            We use colored duct tape, and then when we move in, put a piece of tape on the doorknob of each room, so the boxes go in the right place.

            Also: the wide roll of plastic movers’ wrap. Actually, get a wide roll (18″) and a skinny roll (6″) and use them to wrap/seal odd-shaped items. For instance, all the music that gets stored in the piano bench doesn’t need to be separately boxed; we just use the wrap to seal the bench and it’s good to go.

      2. Hlyssande*

        Wine (case) boxes make for excellent book boxes. Not too heavy! I’d recommend checking local liquor stores to see if they’re getting rid of any.

    11. Katie the Fed*

      I’m going through this now too. One thing I’m happy about is the mortgage broker said we can buy before we sell our current house, so we don’t have to deal with contingency offers and keeping our house perfectly clean while people come in to look at it. That’ll be a big relief. is that something you could do?

      1. NBF*

        I wish I could, but I’m moving out of the country so I’m really hoping I can get it sold while I am still in the USA. Also, while I know what country I will be moving to, I don’t have a specific city nailed down yet, and I will probably rent for awhile there before I buy.

    12. Jill of All Trades*

      One thing I plan to do about a year or so before I list my house is have it inspected so I can know about any issues that will come up when a buyer is having the house officially inspected. I do not want a surprise to become a sticking point during close, and I can decide ahead of time what to fix and what to just disclose.

    13. Kay*

      If you haven’t read Freakonomics, I’d highly recommend the chapter on real estate. Realtors make ~3% of the sale (if the buying and selling agents split the commission). That means an extra $10,000 for you is only $300 extra for the realtor. Not that there aren’t a lot of great realtors out there, but it’s more to their advantage for a house to sell quickly than for a lot of money.

  11. Anonyby*

    So, through the second week of what has become Crazy Month for me, and most days I’m going home and just wanting to sleep. It’s upped my eating-out because I’ve had no time/energy to cook. (I had a few frozen homemade meals, but burned through those fast.)

    I’m also getting incredibly frustrated with my dad (whom I live with, complicated situation that I’ve touched on in past threads). Nearly every day I get home, and he’s still in his sleeping/lounging clothes. The only things that I see getting done are dishes, and him doing his laundry. Even then… There was leftover dishes that I meant to clean Monday and didn’t do, so he really was justified asking me to get them done Tuesday, but I was still left annoyed at it (mostly because I was just cranky overall).

    Also. I have told him I need a new phone. I’m on his account, and so far he’s been paying for it. I TOLD him that when I upgraded, I’ll pay for my stuff. A couple weeks ago we went to look, and then left empty-handed because he was considering upgrading too but needed to think about it because he has an old grandfathered in unlimited data plan. We had a bit of an argument last night because I saw that the deal we had been looking at if we went with both upgrading (rather than splitting me off to preserve his current plan) was gone. He had decided that he wanted to keep his current plan for the moment, but didn’t say anything to me about it. I had plans for what I would do depending on what he wanted to do with his plan, but now those are screwed up because the deals have changed. (And I can’t just go in on my own because my name isn’t on the plan at all-everything is under his name. I had planned on insisting on having my name added no matter which way we went, as I’m hating not being able to make decisions. I’ve gotten him to add me as an authorized person to accounts before.)

    1. Cristina in England*

      I am sorry, I don’t know your history with your Dad, as I must have missed previous comments. I am assuming that you have some sort of credit problem that means you can’t get your own account. Have you thought about getting your own Pay as you Go? You might be able to get a second-hand unlocked phone online. Also, and I honestly do not mean this to be patronizing in any way, but have you re-evaluated your “needs” vs “wants” regarding the phone? Many people would say I “need” a new phone too since I bought mine in June 2009 (nearly six years old!), and most new apps won’t run on it. That said, I only “need” it to text and phone, and I can use my old apps and browse just fine. Do I want a new phone, with a front-facing camera so I can Facetime my far-away family from it? Hell yes. The bottom line is that I haven’t been able to afford a new phone since 2011, so I am stuck with this one until it really and truly stops working completely and I have to look for a cheap second-hander.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Again, just wanted to say I apologize if any of my comments are coming off as patronizing, I don’t mean it that way, I just know that I myself learned a whole new definition of need v want when the bottom fell out for me a few years ago.

      2. Anonyby*

        It’s not so much a credit problem as I’m underemployed and have a low income.

        At this point I’m not willing to change my phone number, since I’ve had it over a decade at this point and I’m relying on it both for my current job and for my job hunt. As far as “needs” versus “wants”…I’d think having a cell phone that spends more time tethered to a power source than not and that cannot have its OS updated due to memory restrictions means it’s time to upgrade. I’ve been going over my financial situation so that I can start taking more of my own bills on away from him, and this was a timely one that I’m just getting to where I can take on.

        1. Anonyby*

          My phone is older too. Not quite as old as yours, but I’m not one to be constantly hopping to the newest and best thing. The thing is, the problems I’m having with it are hampering its primary function. The apps haven’t been affected as much, but between it constantly being out of power and glitches from the out-of-date OS affecting the phone aspects of it… I have a lot of factors weighing into my decision, and I’m trying not to act impulsively or recklessly. I’m just really frustrated with interference from someone who has been slow-to-act/not-acting on many things that have long-term affects for BOTH of us.

        2. Artemesia*

          My husband recently upgraded from his old flip phone to a fancy new iphone — he had no trouble transferring the phone number.

          1. Anonyby*

            The problem is that my name isn’t on the account-if I try to go in by myself for any change I lose my number. I don’t “own” it. Dad does. Hence my wanting to get my name added to the account if we stayed on a connected plan.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                Agreed– I did it, and I think all I needed was the account number and my stepfather’a PIN or some other identifying information.

        3. Ruffingit*

          I’ve had good luck with TMobile. I have the Nokia Lumia 521. It’s a basic version of a smartphone and I love it. Does what I need it to do. TMobile’s unlimited talk and text plan is $50 a month and you can actually add three additional lines for $100 a month if you so desired at some point in the future. TMobile also lets you transfer your number if at all possible so check and see if you can do that and just get away from your dad’s plan altogether.

          Personally, I loathe sharing cell phone, cable, etc. type stuff with anyone because it always seems to cause more problems than it helps. Split off from dad ASAP.

          1. Anonyby*

            I have friends who are on TMobile. I’m currently with another provider and would like to stay with them, but the plans I’m looking at are also unlimited talk/text. I’m also in California, and we have a law that makes it so that transferring a number is a non-issue if I did want to change providers.

            My ideal is to split off from him, but I was willing to stay on a bit longer if he decided to also upgrade, because that meant we’d get a MUCH higher data plan than I’m on now. Well, that deal is gone.

        4. Observer*

          If you can get an account elsewhere, you can roll your phone number over. Get your name on the account or at lease on the number, and then you can start looking at your options.

    2. Otter box*

      Is your dad reluctant to add you as an authorized user for some reason (logical or not), or is it just a “can’t be bothered” thing? If it’s the latter, there are a couple different ways he may be able to get it done without having to make a trip to the store. I don’t know what carrier you have, but the one I used to work for would let account holders add authorized users over the phone or by logging into their online accounts. Once your name is on his account, you can go in and upgrade. Also, my old employer lets customers upgrade and still keep their grandfathered data plans, even though the sales reps will strongly pressure customers to change their plans and give them up. Other carriers may make customers give up those old plans, so I’d do a little research to see which applies to you.

      If you want to take your number and create your own account (again, this is how the carrier I worked for did it – others may vary, but I suspect they’re all similar), he can call or go online and process what’s called a “transfer of billing responsibility” for you to take your own number. Then you can even set it up on a prepaid account, which can be pretty inexpensive for basic plans, and there are decent phones available for purchase that don’t cost an arm and a leg like, say, and iPhone would. (I’d recommend the Moto G, which retails for around $180 but can be purchased for less in some cases, but there are much less expensive options too. Or, a $20 flip phone if you don’t need internet.) At some point, once you’re fully employed and more financially secure, you can switch it to a postpaid account if you want, or even port it to a different carrier altogether.

      1. Anonyby*

        He can’t be bothered to spend the time/energy to add me. To get him to add me as an authorized user, I have to catch him when he’s calling someplace to deal with an issue, and remind/nag him to add me as an authorized user. He’s just not going to think or act to add me on his own otherwise.

        I also really wanted to stay away from speculation/suggestions of what I should get. I know what I want, and I know my budget. I worked out what I could afford to put towards a phone. Then I worked out what my plan/phone options were. I decided I wanted x set of options minimally, but could possibly afford y (x+perks) depending on how all the fiddly numbers they don’t show you shake out. We went to the brick-and-mortar store for our provider so I could get answers to those fiddly questions, and Dad started looking around and got to talking to the clerks and started thinking about upgrading his phone. He wasn’t sure and needed to think about it because he had something that he wouldn’t be able to get back (his unlimited data), but for me, if he decided he DID end up wanting to upgrade, then we would jointly end up with f. If we went with f, I could for-sure end up with what I would get from y, so I was reluctant to push him too hard.

        Now he’s held out too long and they’ve raised the cost of the plans, which means I need to do my calculations all over again, and then drag him back out, and will likely end up having to pay more for less. THAT is what I’m frustrated with, combined with the fact that I have ZERO authority on the account.

        1. LCL*

          Consider replacing the battery on your old phone. They have a finite lifespan. Also, pop the battery out, and look at the battery terminals. Blow out any pocket fuzz, maybe gently clean the terminals with an eraser.

  12. Elkay*

    Looks like new job = new germs. I hate taking time off sick, especially when I’ve only just started, but I had to admit defeat on Friday, I felt so foggy headed on Thursday that I felt like I was working at half speed. I spent Friday on the sofa with Netflix, I did the same again today with a trip out to the shop which is a five minute walk from my house. Unfortunately my head still isn’t clear so I panicked when I couldn’t find the pizza I went to buy and came home with three pizzas of varying flavours and an Easter egg. I went into the cheap shop next door and found chocolate on sale so I bought some of that too. I think I shouldn’t be allowed to shop when I’m sick.

    1. GOG11*

      The week before a 20 miler I ran this summer I had food poisoning, and then the night before I didn’t get much sleep (ex husband kept making way too much noise and kept waking me up).

      By mile 15, I just started eating all the food I had on me, one item after another until it was all gone. I was so tired and felt so crappy that I just wanted something to make me feel better and food was the only thing available to me/I had on me. It didn’t physically work, but it mentally made me feel like I was doing something to address my discomfort.

      I hope you feel better soon and that you find something to soothe you in the mean time.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      There are nasties going around right now. There’s a coughing one, a puking one, and a horrible sore throat one. I had the latter this past week–worked from home for three days and am still a bit tired yet. I hope you feel better soon.

      1. Liane*

        The puking one–often with diarrhea– is at my work. I got it last weekend. Was really gassy Friday after supper, then woke up in the early morning hours puking. Was feverish & achy all weekend. I tried to go in to work Monday. Got there, started talking to my supervisor before I clocked in and realized I wasn’t going to be able to stand. She told me yes, I should go back home and she’d let people know I called in. I stayed very dragged out all week. I still don’t feel quite right; a day at work really drains me. Hoping that having both today and yesterday off takes care of that.

        And yes, Elkay, this one definitely affects thinking. I could barely remember anything, all week, & others who’ve had this mention the same thing.

      2. DeadQuoteOlympics*

        God, the puking one. if you don’t have someone to go out and shop for you when you are in the throes, get some emergency Gaterade for electrolyte replacement and put it in your fridge now. I don’t know what I would have done without my husband, because I couldn’t even make it downstairs for a day.

          1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

            Yes! They terrify me more than anything else because I find it so unpleasant. It is possible that my terror saves me, because I become hyper-vigilant about hygiene and cleanliness if the bug is going around the office or someone in the family gets one, and I actually don’t get them very often.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I had the coughing one all month long in January, and I STILL am not completely over it. I still have some minor congestion, and every time I laugh, it sets off a coughing fit. I haven’t exercised this whole time, and I’m not sure whether I should keep resting or start back up again (with a few brisk walks for starters).

  13. Ali*

    I wrote in last week about dealing with Valentine’s Day depression, and I admit that I did cry last night about feeling alone and not getting any gifts.

    However, I woke up this morning for work, and my parents had left a card and some fudge and cookies by my place. Also, the last couple of days, I’ve been talking to the first decent guy I’ve met on an online dating site (seriously, you guys should’ve seen some of the messages I was getting…ugh), and although I’m not sure if it will ever go offline (he lives a couple of hours away), we have some common interests and a good rapport. If I never meet him, I’m enjoying the practice of getting to know an available guy, and I’m also starting to form a friendship with a more local guy who is also single. Nothing serious on that end as of now, but he agreed to do one of our common hobbies together when my schedule frees up more.

    Getting the gift from my parents was nice. I just think I’m one of those people who needs small gifts on certain days (my birthday, Valentine’s Day, etc.) to feel loved. I don’t have high expectations, so I don’t need five-star dinners by candlelight or the works. But the fudge made me feel better and not as bad about being alone. I know now to look for this in a future partner, so today has turned into something of a learning experience.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Gifts must be your “love language.” There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a good thing to be aware of and to let SO’s know. Also discover their love language.

      I’m not a gifts person, and I’m sure my ex had the best intentions by giving me a knick-back from a trip he took, but I just saw something I did not need or want. Just something to be aware of.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        My whole family recently took a love languages test online. I was “acts of service”, husband’s was “words of affirmation”, son’s was “quality time”, and my daughter can’t remember hers so she’s going to retake.

        Re: acts of service: I really, really love my husband when he’s doing something to fix up the house.

      2. Melissa*

        I’m a gifts person! (Tied with physical touch, on the love languages thing). Yeah, it’s not really about expensive gifts or even big gifts. My husband used to bring little knick knacks for me back from every place he traveled when in the military and that just thrilled me. To me it meant he was thinking about me when far away from me and knew me well enough to pick out something he knew I would like.

      3. Katie the Fed*

        I think I’m a words of affirmation person. I’m like that Chris Rock bit – women need food, oxygen and compliments. So true in my experience :)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Good for you regarding the tears. You needed to do that.
      And good for you for finding a softer landing on this day, than you anticipated. I am very happy for you.

      It’s funny/odd. I have found that if I cry, the day goes a tiny bit better than expected. I don’t know what the correlation is there, it seems that something unexpected happens and it distracts me a little bit.

    3. Steve G*

      If it makes you feel better, going out last night with the pre-VDay dates filling up restaurants that are already full was not fun. I was meeting people travelling through NY, so couldn’t really reschedule. The restaurant we were at for 2 hours with a $180 bill (for 3 people) was rushing us the whole time – every 10 minutes asking “how is everything do you want anything else?” They even brought the bill without us asking for it. So at least you are missing all of this type of VDay “fun!”

      1. Katie the Fed*

        A few years ago I went with some friends for a Valentine’s Day evening at a high-end restaurant. It was miserable – barely enough food (one course was 6 dime-sized raviolis), ran out of bread, bad service, etc. We ended up leaving and going to Five Guys because we were still hungry :D

    4. little Cindy Lou who*

      I’m currently a single lady (since September) and this is the first V-day I’ve been single and not minded. I bought myself a bottle of wine and a slice of chocolate cake and watched Muppet Treasure Island. It was perfect, especially considering how windy and cold this weekend is.

      In other words, do something for yourself that you know you love and revel in a moment of loving yourself. It makes those tougher days way easier to get through. Relationships can be way over-rated as a magic happy bullet, so it’s important to not feel like your life is incomplete without one.

    5. Katie the Fed*

      That was really sweet of your parents!

      Enjoy online dating for what it is – a chance to meet some different people, and at worst have some funny stories to share with your friends. If you remove from it the expectation that you’ll meet The One, then you may end up pleasantly surprised.

      It’s a minefield though, and I know it can really suck at times. :(

  14. like a chainsaw of tiny firecrackers and he smelled tire*

    Did someone on AAM mention working with container ships not long ago? Has there been some kind of delay in the pipelining of shipments from China to the US?

    I have this ‘hobby’ of browsing online catalogs like amazon, banggood, etc, and ordering cheap toys (laser pointers, magnifying spectacles, flashlights, and so on – we’re talking like $3 for some of this stuff) with free “slow boat from China” shipping. So it can take awhile for things to arrive – in fact, I’ll often forget about it until it arrives, which is kind of a nice little treat.

    But the last order I placed has taken significantly longer to arrive. In fact, it’s still not yet here. It’s not some huge deal like I’m afraid I lost a $5000 item; I’m just kind of curious if there’s been something going on to delay shipping?

    1. fposte*

      Oh, there’s been a *huge* labor dispute with West Coast ports that’s leaving them slowed and shut down–I’m an indifferent Midwesterner and even I’ve heard about it. I’m betting this is what you’re feeling the bite from.

    2. Rebecca*

      The west coast port situation is awful. There are container ships floating around off shore that can’t offload, and it’s just getting worse. It could drag on for months.

      1. like a chainsaw of tiny firecrackers and he smelled tire*

        No kidding? I guess I haven’t really been keeping up with the news much lately. My nifty new (and probably illegally rated) red laser pointer is probably on one of those ships. Not to mention my $10 watch.

        Seriously: i hope they resolve it soon. My stupid laser pointer is trivial compared to the havoc this kind of thing can cause: people will lose their jobs, etc. “A hurricane triggered by butterfly wings” and all that.

      2. LisaS*

        It started in LA but it’s *all* West Coast ports at the moment, and it’s crippling importers as well as exporters – the citrus farmers are looking at losing their entire export crop and apparently are talking about trucking goods to Houston and back through the Panama Canal, not an ideal solution. Not entirely sure what the root issues are in any detail but they’ve been trying to work them out for a couple of years now, without much success, obv.

    3. CrazyCatLady*

      Ugh, yes it’s awful. It happened on the east coast a few years back but didn’t seem to affect business operations as much as the west coast is.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      Can I ask – are you the same person who’s had a string of really funny/strange usernames or are we being bombarded by a bunch of funny people lately?

    5. Beezus*

      I posted about it in the Friday thread, because it affects me at work. :)

      Yes, steamship lines using ports on the Pacific coast (Pacific Maritime Association or PMA) are in labor negotiations with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). Negotiations have been going on since July, and while there hasn’t been a strike or a lockout, the longshoremen are slowing work down to flex their leverage (I believe their official position is still that a slowdown is related to transportation issues, but that’s at least partly BS.) Things are taking 2-3 weeks longer to process through the port, and they’ve built up a pretty impressive backlog. Also, the PMA shut the ports down this weekend – Friday and Monday are technically holidays on the ILWU calendar (Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays), so anyone working the 4-day weekend would automatically get time and a half ($54-$75/hour!). The PMA doesn’t want to pay higher wages for what has become less productive work. The port will get more congested, and there’s a decent chance that the act of denying the ILWU holiday pay this weekend will escalate things to the point of a strike or a lockout. You will definitely see it more on the news if that happens.

      There’s not a lot of official detail on what the negotiations are hung up on, because they’re supposed to be secret, but chances are good that healthcare costs are a sticking point, and the repair for chassis (the frames that containers are put on to be trucked from the port.) The ILWU workers’ healthcare plans qualify as “Cadillac” plans under the Affordable Healthcare Act, so their employers now have to pay a pretty significant tax on those plans. They want to ask workers to share some of that cost, and the workers have never had to pay for healthcare and don’t want to start now. The PMA used to own all the chassis in their networks, and union labor was contractually used to repair them, and there’s a not-insignificant portion of the ILWU labor force involved in that. The PMA sold the chassis portion of their business this year (having the shipping lines own them was an oddity unique to the US, and they didn’t need the headache), and the union is concerned that the repair work is going to non-union laborers now, and they’re worried the new private owners might not be sticklers about keeping them in good repair and it might lead to safety issues.

      Weather has also caused a lot of delays with rail transportation this year, so if you don’t live very close to the west coast, there’s a chance your shipment got bogged down with that, too.

      I’m sure that was more than you wanted to know, but I find this stuff fascinating. :)

      1. like a chainsaw of tiny firecrackers and he smelled tire*

        On the contrary, I really enjoyed your summary and I really appreciate your taking the time to share it with myself and everyone else!

  15. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands*

    I’m actually reading fiction again (good side effect of long bus rides). This week I finished Lexicon – it’s great, especially if you like thriller dystopian enthralling reads with meta-commentary on language, data-mining, and media. I’m sure someone will make the movie, and with the right cast and director it could be excellent. Definitely recommend the book.

    (also – sad Valentine’s day, but I’m too weary of sad holidays to give it much energy.)

    1. The dollar decides how far you can go*

      Thanks! That sounds interesting. Have you ever read John Barnes’ Kaleidoscope Century? There’s a major subplot involving the “Meme Wars”, which you might like.

      And Joe Haldeman’s Tool Of The Trade involves a guy who has a watch that emits a signal that makes anyone do whatever he tells them to do.
      Ted Chiang’s “What’s Expected Of Us”:

      People used to speculate about a thought that destroys the thinker, some unspeakable lovecraftian horror, or a Gödel sentence that crashes the human logical system. It turns out that the disabling thought is one that we’ve all encountered: … It just wasn’t harmful until you believed it.

  16. Sunflower*

    I had posted about issues with my super skinny roommate last week and am looking for advice since her eating issues have gotten a lot worse recently.

    My roommate has had eating issues the past couple years. She was definitely a little chunkier in the past and I wouldn’t necessarily think she had an eating problem(although people who don’t know her have asked me) but there are 3 big things that stick out to me
    1. Most days she will casually mention she was so busy at work she forgot to eat and then will eat only a slice of toast for dinner.
    2. In public, she’ll often only very little and then not eat the rest of the day
    3. She binge eats when she’s drunk(she’ll eat an entire pizza). Or if she only eats a couple slices, she’ll obsess over how fat she looks afterwards.

    She recently started ‘cleansing’ and now she is going to the gym daily which she has never done in the past. Not eating is one thing but not eating and exerting your body like that….really worries me. The worst part about it is I’m pretty positive her boyfriend knows and he’s okay with it. He has said in the past that he likes skinny girls and flat stomachs so I don’t know if this has something to do with it. We were recently watching a show where someone admitted to having an eating disorder and she kind of mentioned that she is happy with her weight and wouldn’t want to be any skinnier but these actions don’t seem to reflect that.

    Anyway I’m not sure if i should say something or let it go. I mentioned this last week but I can’t help but this some of this is motivated by my jealously of her being super skinny(I’m not overweight by any means but am definitely curvier and have problem areas). She’s been eating like this for years so why would she stop now? 2 of my roommates in college had eating issues and it did not go over well when I tried to address it with them. Honestly, I don’t see it going over well with her either so maybe I shouldn’t say anything?

    1. Cristina in England*

      I am very sad to say this, but it sounds like she is deep into an eating disorder and there is nothing you can do about it, apart from just being her friend. As you know from your past roommates, addressing it with her is likely to drive her away from you. The only thing I can think of that might not do that would be to let her know that you suspect she is having some problems and that you love and support her and are there for her no matter what (if that is all true, anyway). Eating disorders are not about food, they’re about controlling or avoiding uncomfortable feelings like shame, self-loathing, and inadequacy. Fixating on her food intake is to miss the point.

      The exception to this is if she is so skinny that she might actually be killing herself, and in that case, you should contact her parents or someone else who would have the authority force her into a hospital.

      Maybe Captain Awkward has some good advice on how to be a good friend in this situation? Maybe try to talk to her and quietly try to find out if her boyfriend is building her up or tearing her down emotionally?

    2. Daenerys*

      I know that when I was in the depths of my eating disorder, my reaction to someone confronting me about it would have been denial, anger, and then attempting to hide my disordered behavior from the person who called me out. Every person is different, of course, but I think that any conversation you have with her needs to be thought out first — is she going to get upset to the point that you two will be uncomfortable living together?

      Are the two of you close? If so, maybe letting her know that you care about her health and are there for her if she ever wants to talk would be a good tactic to take. If you genuinely think she is in danger, the National Eating Disorders website has a help line to call — they can probably steer you in a better direction.

      Unfortunately, healing an ED can only come from the person suffering from it. I hope your roommate can get the help she needs!

    3. Victoria, Please*

      One thing to consider is that her problem — and she has a serious one — does not impinge on you. If she binges and purges, SHE cleans up the bathroom. If she binges and eats all the food, SHE replaces it. Etc. If she needs to go to the emergency room, yes, take her, but SHE is responsible for the bill. And so forth… It sounds cold, but eating disorders are incredibly disruptive to others in the eating disordered person’s life; since part of the issue is control, control needs to mean taking responsibility.

      It would be fine if you said Hey, I’m concerned about you, is everything okay? And then really, really listened but then did not try to solve problems. Just listen.

      And, editorial comment: the boyfriend is a MFing a**hat.

    4. nep*

      Similar to above — while I was in my anorexia fog, when someone would show concern about my habits and weight loss it would only urge me to stay hungry, eat less, get thinner. Of course everyone’s different; just putting that out there.
      I agree that it would be good to reach out to a loved one of hers who might step in. Sounds like she’s already putting herself in danger.

    5. asteramella*

      Please note that body size/shape has nothing to do with whether you have an ED or not.

      If her behaviors bother you, there is nothing you can do but try to refer her to professional resources and/or ignore and disengage. To be blunt, if you are not a professional, you have little chance of helping her (as is the case with any serious mental illness) and lots of chances to inadvertently make things worse.

      1. Melissa*

        To be blunt, if you are not a professional, you have little chance of helping her (as is the case with any serious mental illness) and lots of chances to inadvertently make things worse.

        I’m not trying to be nitpicky, but this honestly isn’t true. It’s a fear that many roommates and friends have – they don’t want to talk about depression, suicide, or eating disorders with their friends because they are afraid they’ll make the problem worse, so they don’t say anything. But there’s little that helpful, well-intentioned non-professionals can do to make a mental health problem/eating disorder worse. On the flip side, there are lots of things that friends and roommates if they feel comfortable can do that could help a person with an eating disorder, if that friend is willing to get help.

        But I agree that if the friend is not willing to get help, then the conversation might be unproductive.

      2. my vegetable love should grow vaster than empires and more slow*

        if you are not a professional, you have little chance of helping

        I do not think that has ever kept anyone from offering their advice here on in the AAM comments!

    6. Student*

      I know this is your friend. However, this is also an adult with a serious mental and physical health problem. An adult who does not want to fix that problem, an adult who has decided that living with the problem is better than getting help. You can’t help her until she wants help, and that is all there is to it. That’s the way serious mental problems work out. It’s tragic, but it’s out of your control.

    7. Melissa*

      I think whether or not you should say something depends on your comfort level with her and the context. When I worked in residential life, we always encouraged roommates to say something when they suspected one of their roommates had an eating disorder – but that was a different context, in which we also encouraged them to come to their resident assistant and start a process that would, hopefully, end up with the roommate talking to us and in the counseling center getting help. But assuming you don’t live on a college campus, that’s not a process that’s going to start – she’ll have to access help herself, unless you know her parents or significant others who can have an influence on her to get some help.

      If you feel comfortable I might mention it to her, very matter-of-factly, and say that you’re just saying it out of concern for her – because you’re worried about her and you care about her as a person. She may very well reject you or get upset, at which point you can drop it.

      I will say, though, that just because she’s been eating like this for years doesn’t mean she won’t stop. People learn to manage eating disorders every day, and sometimes the catalyst is that someone who cared about them reached out to them and made them aware that they had a problem and needed help. I’m not saying that to pressure you into saying anything (it really should be based on your comfort – you’re not responsible for her health!), but more so to assure you that if you want to, it could potentially be useful. Maybe.

    8. nof*

      For your own sake, try not to monitor her food intake. It doesnt her (as there’s have said, it may just affirm her disorder) and it’s not a healthy role for your to play either. It’s hard not to notice, but try to at least not dwell on what she eats or does not eat. Your feelings of jealousy and discomfort are perfectly normal, but they’re also a sign your need to take care of yourself first. I say this as someone with experience living with a person with an eating disorder.

      For practical tips, remind yourself food is fuel, and try to decouple the association of food, fat, and your value as a person, both in your own self talk and when you talk to her.

    9. EduNerd*

      Are there other things you’ve noticed, unrelated to food consumption, that worry you about her behavior? Speaking as someone who’s been in a similar position as you, you may be able to gain more traction by talking to her about other issues you’ve noticed. EDs are rarely about food per se – as others have mentioned, there’s a huge element of control involved. Has she had some turbulence in her personal life that is making her feel out of control? For example, maybe her job is unstable, or there are problems with her family. Checking in with her, framed as concern for those events in her life rather than her shape or consumption habits, might make her less defensive and more open.

      I do firmly believe that professionals are necessary to manage EDs (if in fact this is what it is – you don’t seem sure, which is 100% normal/fine, but I don’t want to assume), but also that the individual has to want to get better, or at least be open to it. That’s not to say she has to lead the charge to seek out that help, though. Please do keep an eye on her, if you feel up to it/comfortable, and look for opportunities to help her help herself. Don’t micromanage her or try to be her mother, but do what you feel comfortable doing, including involving her parents or others who may be able to help if you want. Many, many people who’ve recovered from EDs end up being very grateful to those who nudged/pushed them into treatment, even when they were reluctant or strongly opposed at the time.

      1. Sunflower*

        I can definitely see it as a sense of control. She is the type who needs to have everything planned out and she has trouble accepting when other people don’t work that way. Like if I don’t have a plan for my day when I wake up, it makes her nervous and she’ll ask me multiple times throughout the day if I’ve planned my day out yet.

        Her family is close but I sometimes wonder if she struggles more with it than she lets on. I’m a big believer in birth order being related to personality and actions and we are both the only middle children in our circle of friends. Both of our mothers are very needy(hers will call her multiple times a day for no reason) and while I am very strongly vocal about not being able to put up with it, she doesn’t really say much. She hides her feelings a lot so it’s hard to say how this stuff really affects her.

        As far as behavior, she is very easily influenced and swayed so while she hasn’t done anything I would consider dangerous, it’s hard to tell what she would do if someone brought it up. Late the BF has been convincing her to go to he casino and she’s lost close to $1,000 in the past month but doesn’t seem worried about it.

        Like I said, she hides her feelings so maybe that’s the biggest thing holding me back from saying something. I don’t think she’d ever admit to not having control of something so I fear I’d push her farther away

    1. Claire (Scotland)*

      Getting a massage is one of mine. Indian Head Massage is great, and I had the best massage of my life at the LUSH Spa (The Good Hour – it’s got a nautical theme, and they put a bath bomb in something under the massage table so it creates a fog on the floor, and there’s custom recorded music – sea shanties! – and they use frozen jelly blobs to chill tense muscles, and a massage bar of your choice, and afterwards they give you tea (with rum, should you choose) and “ship’s biscuits” in a labelled jar (actually shortbread fingers). It was GLORIOUS and totally stopped my tension headaches happening for a long time.

      A trip to the Turkish baths is a cheaper option – steam room, icy plunge pool, warm relaxation areas. I take a book and lie there for hours, occasionally cycling through the steam/plunge routine before returning to my lounger and getting back to my reading. After, I feel like jelly in the best possible way. I’m going tomorrow, actually.

      I find I need methods like these to make me physically relax in order to be able to mentally relax.

      1. Melissa*

        I have wanted to get a massage at the LUSH spa for the longest time and you just pushed me over the edge. I think I might do that next time I’m back in New York!

    2. Mimmy*

      -Hot bath
      -Crossword puzzles (don’t laugh, but they do help!)
      -Laying on my head for half hour – something I’ve started doing recently when I feel overloaded
      -Watching our favorite sitcoms (Big Bang Theory, Mike & Molly)

      1. GOG11*

        How do you lay on your head? I am curious to try some new things (go to methods aren’t go-to-able anymore or aren’t working) and I don’t know how to do this.

        Also, I can see why crossword puzzles would help. I don’t think it’s laughable at all :)

        Thank you for the suggestions.

          1. GOG11*

            Oh, okay! That makes more sense – though maybe a handstand would be beneficial. Might help get more oxygen rich blood to my brain :)

    3. CollegeAdmin*

      Costly method: Facial. I don’t find massages relaxing, but I got a facial on a whim the other week and I felt so calm afterwards.

      Free method: Meditating (kinda). Honestly, just sitting somewhere quiet with the lights off and my eyes closed, even if I’m not sleepy, is very soothing.

      1. Claire (Scotland)*

        I’ve never had a facial, but I got a £30 off voucher for one at my hair salon’s sister spa, so I’m booked in for it on Thursday.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I had one facial and it was one of the worst experiences ever. I had just come back from Iraq and my skin was a mess, so I went for one. The woman spent most of the time talking about how I was getting fine lines and wow my pores are so big. The size of my pores has never even been on my radar of things to care about, so I was pretty unamused.

    4. CrazyCatLady*

      Pretty much the only time I physically relax is during a massage (I get 2-4/month because of it!) and during restorative yoga classes.

    5. Sunflower*

      during the day
      – Sitting on my couch with a book and cup of tea(tea and anything relaxes me)
      – Taking a hot bath and reading a book
      – Sitting on the beach with a book (is there a theme here?)

      At night:
      – Drinking a glass of wine in my towel/robe and watching SATC
      – Listening to the ocean in near silence

      anything around the ocean i find to be the most ultimate relaxation

  17. Ruth (UK)*

    Internet and phone use! I’m trying to cut back. I’m not planning to be one of those people who deletes facebook or anything but after watching how kinda creepy zombie-like people look in public when glued to screens, and realising I was super being one of those people (realisation came when my phone died on a train ride and I felt genuinely anxious over it despite not really needing it.. and a few other things like this happening).

    So I’ve cut out internet use my phone (I now only use it for calls and texts and checking the time. And I have google maps as well because of my tendency to get lost. But I have un-installed the facebook app and all games and email (I figure email usually isn’t something that requires an immediate response).

    It’s actually going really well and I’ve started reading fiction again. I went from being a kid/teen who was always reading something to being an adult who would chose phone-solitaire instead. I take the train to work and now actually enjoy the commute (seriously, when my train is delayed on my home journey as we wait for the signal to come into the platform, I think ‘aha! now I get to finish reading thiiiis bit! … oh damn, we’ve arrived!’)

    ps. I had to start super small to get back into reading. It was like my brain was re-wired to be unable to focus on that kind of information.. thing. I couldn’t get into anything for a while and felt easily distracted by it. So I initially started again with Beaver Towers which is aimed for approx 10-12 year olds. Also, it’s REALLY SCARY for a children’s book! It’s also just really scary in general!

    pps. extreme phone use etc kiiinda makes me think of Brave New World and how people in that world take soma to escape reality…

    1. Revanche*

      Yay for mindfulness and reading!

      I thought I was relying on it too much too but have decided that it’s OK to use as my at home social life (I don’t get out much. Before, because of my chronic health probs, now because we also have a newborn on top of the health thing) as long as I’m mindful about not being glued to it when I do get out and about.

    2. Daenerys*

      I just switched jobs from a 15 minute walking commute to a 45 minute bus/ferry commute. I’m trying to use it as an excuse to devote an hour and a half to reading each day! I’ve been reading mysteries so far, and I’m really enjoying the “quiet time!”

    3. Steve G*

      Good job! I live in NYC and many times that I am on the subway, I see 5 or 6 people in a row on their phones, 3 or 4 of them with headphones in. It does make you a bit disappointed because whenever I look at what these people are doing, they’re always mindlessly scrolling FB or playing videogames. It’s not like they’re actually reading, most of them anyway.

    4. Stephanie*

      What helped me a lot was using the Do Not Disturb function. I already use it while driving and just extended to keeping it on even when not driving. I find not hearing the alerts as much makes me much likely to check it. Also, I’d disable all the push notifications you can.

    5. Vancouver Reader*

      I download books onto my phone to read because it’s much lighter to carry around than a hardcover, especially when I was taking the bus. So yes, I was on my phone, but I was reading and not playing Candy Crush. :)

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        I think if you are only reading that and never skipping tabs, or clicking on messages when they po up etc as you do so, I am not sure if this technically is something I count as phone use. I think I find it too tempting to look at other things on the device if it’s in my hand.

        Still, evidence suggests that reading on a screen still isn’t the same even if you’re reading the same stuff, and your brain treats it differently in how you read it etc. Not that I know much about this beyond what various google searches (eg. ‘is reading on a screen the same’ etc) brought up on several occasions. . .

        Still much better than candy crush of course!!!

    6. SherryD*

      I’m considering challenging myself to not take my phone to work for a whole week. I take public transit, so I tend to fiddle with my phone on the commute, on my breaks, and, yes, occasionally while I’m on the clock. I never use my work computer for personal use (other than maybe checking a sports score or a news story… never my Facebook or personal email), so this will probably be a very annoying challenge!

  18. Snowed In*

    Are there any people here suffering under the snowstorms recently? In on the Boston area and it’s certainly made interviewing and commuting a nightmare.

    How do you dress both for the weather and still pull off the business casual/interview formal look? I’m a woman, for whatever that’s worth when it comes to fashion tips.

    If anyone has commuter tips as well, I’m happy to hear them. The MBTA is downright non functional right now.

    1. Melissa*

      Not in Boston – I’m in central PA so we’ve been getting less snow than you, but still a lot of snow. There’s like a permanent layer of snow/ice on the ground, and we’re getting another 2-4 inches as I speak (plus wind gusts of 25-35 mph. Fun).

      I’m not sure about the interview formal, but I dress business casual for work and I’ve been wearing thick tights and leggings underneath skirts and dresses, and dressy sweaters or cotton long-sleeve shirts on top. If it’s super cold, I wear tights underneath my pants. I also have an assortment of scarves that I wrap around my neck for warmth but also look pretty cute with the outfit. I’ve mostly been wearing boots – one of my coworkers (a stylish winter dresser) has a nice pair of leather Uggs that are perfect for business casual but still lined with the sheepskin, so they’re super warm. I have some dressier-looking sheepskin boots too, but also some regular leather boots that I can wear thick socks underneath.

      For the interview, you could wear a dress suit with thick tights underneath your pants, and perhaps show up a little early and change from boots to shoes right before you step inside? (I know a lot of commuters in New York, including myself, did this on snowy and rainy days – wear rain boots or snow boots, ore even just sneakers for comfort, then change into the heels/dress shoes once you get there.) If you want to wear a skirt suit you might be able to find some heavy-knit tights that are pretty warm and yet look formal when you wear them – black might look especially snazzy under a grey or charcoal suit.

    2. TL -*

      I think for the commuter problems, you’re just going to have to depend on others being understanding.
      I have a car but parking and traffic are a nightmare so it’s not a good alternative to the t anyways.

      1. Bea W*

        And leave super early whether you are on the road (driving, bus, taxi) or train (no explanation needed if you’re in Boston). Do not depend on the T’s schedules or claims of “regular service” resuming. Do not depend on the commuter rail right now, period. Drive or take a cab if you live or are going to the Braintree branch of the Red Line.

        You have to dress for this weather. Bring your good shoes and things in a bag. When you go, get get in a bit early and use the the bathroom to freshen up. Ask the receptionist for someplace to put your boots and 100 outwear layers. I am sure they have been doing this for people for 3 weeks and it’s not an odd request.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        hahha- it’s supposed to be minus 50 wind chill here tonight and tomorrow night. I will probably look the way you describe when I go to work tomorrow. If I can get rolling. I swear the tires freeze to the ground. Am so not looking forward to this. I remember minus 80 wind chills years back and that had no mercy, at all.

    3. notfunny*

      Yikes. I am in the Boston area, though I made it out to Philadelphia for a couple of days to see my parents — it is not clear whether I’ll be able to get back anytime soon.

      I would suggest that you wear boots and bring a bag to put them in when you get to your destination. I would wear the warmest coat (even if it’s a ski jacket or not what you’d wear to the interview ideally), hat, gloves, scarf and maybe even base layers underneath your interview outfit. If you have the option of wearing a suit or skirt, that may be easier to keep presentable even if you have to walk through lots of snow as you can just take off leggings and have tights underneath that stay dry? I would leave so much extra time, maybe get a cup of coffee at the closest place nearby if you have extra time, and get settled into the right number of layers/your interview outfit. The weather, while frustrating, is also a convenient conversation starter with those in the office who might see you with an extra bag for layers/boots, etc. If I were interviewing in a place where I wasn’t wearing a suit, I would probably wear a nice dress and cardigan or pencil skirt and nice sweater with leggings over tights, the best boots that I have for trudging through the snow, and my puffy long down coat.

      As for commuting, I am still biking to work (the couple of days that I took the bus were awful enough to cause me to bike again). I know I will definitely get there as long as I don’t get run over! As for commuting tips if you use public transit, I would figure out any/all alternate routes to and from your destination (and scope out good places to get a snack/drink/meal if you get stranded or frustrated). I’d bring a good thing to read/thing to do/activity that does not require internet or battery power, water and a snack of some kind so that if you do get stuck, you have provisions and something to keep you entertained.

      Good luck!

      1. Bea W*

        Stay in Philly until spring!

        I have no idea how you manage biking to work. I am afraid for my life when I have to walk any distance, because it is trecherous and sometime there is no choice but to go out onto the street. The area where I work is actually pretty well cleared for pedestrians, but at home I am taking my life into my hands. People shovel the sidewalks but so often there are no curb cuts or the shoveled properties are not connected. Then there is the ice, and so many places where it’s not wide enough for two people to easily pass each other. I’m not talking about side roads either, I’m talking about main streets with businesses on them…in Boston…not all of the neighborhoods have gotten the same love as the parade route.

    4. CheeryO*

      I’m in Buffalo, and I’ve been over winter ever since our seven-feet-of-snow snowstorm in November. My tall Sorel boots have been my saving grace. I’ve also been wearing fleece-lined tights and a Uniqlo heat tech top as base layers most days.

    5. HR Manager*

      I’m in Boston and hopefully not too late for this. I can wear business casual into work, and thankfully we’re more relaxed here that I do straight forward casual when the weather is this crappy.

      If I were interviewing, I do pants and then long snow boots that I change into proper foot wear as I arrive or at a nearby coffee shop. If it’s really that bad, I bring a bottom that I change into too (i.e., wear jeans but change into a skirt at a nearby ladies room).

      As a recruiter, I am more sympathetic and relaxed about clothing in disastrous weather like ours, but I would expect some effort or someone who would at least explain the situation and not pass this off as normal.

  19. CollegeAdmin*

    I just highlighted my hair for the first time…and I hate it. I have light brown hair; the highlights were done using lightener. Instead of the subtle golden strands I wanted, I got streaks that look almost bleach blonde (or white in some lights – eek!). I called the salon and am scheduled to return next week.

    1. I don’t think they should charge me for the fix, but should I tip? How much?

    2. Tell me your horror stories and/or “it got better” stories. Based on keywords from Pinterest, I got ashy blonde when I wanted warm/honey/caramel highlights. Fixable, or should I just ask to go back to all brown?

    1. Elkay*

      The last time I had my hair highlighted I got a mix of colours with the lightest being a bleach. I don’t know if the girl was running out of time or just made an error or what but I ended up with a big swathe of bleached hair which showed up whenever I had my hair tied back, which is about 95% of the time. I was really self conscious about it but I suspect no-one else noticed, chances are it’s the same with you. You didn’t get the picture in your head (and kudos for going back to get it fixed) so you’re really aware of it but other people probably won’t see the problem and just think “Hey, nice hair do”.

      I’m not sure about tipping (I don’t tip my hairdresser) but if it’s the person who did the original colour doing the fix then I don’t think you need to tip.

    2. Aknownymous*

      Ouch, know that feeling! To answer your questions:

      1) I would not tip if they are fixing their mistake. You’ve already tipped (presumably) for the service, which should have been correct the first time. However, I think the exception to this would be if you didn’t communicate exactly what you were looking for the first time. They should still fix it free of charge, but I would tip in that situation.

      2) It’s fixable by a competent colorist. They will put a tint over the bleached parts to darken it to the color you are looking for. The best thing is to bring a picture, or look at the coloring samples most hairdressers have, to ensure that you get exactly the shade you want.

      Any bleaching of my hair brings out a lot of brassy orange tones, so I’ve had a few unpleasant dye jobs. In my case, I didn’t want to bleach it any further, to avoid damage, so I ended up tinting it back to its original color, then redoing the proper highlights about two months later. I wasn’t happy about walking around looking a sunrise for the two weeks before the tinting, but hey, it happens :)

    3. DeadQuoteOlympics*

      Are you going back to the original stylist? Are you confident that he or she can fix it? If you think it was a communication problem as Aknownymous points out (you weren’t explicit, for example) then you can address that with more information in photos and words. However, if you feel it was lack of understanding or care on the stylist’s part, then it might be worth calling and asking to speak to the salon owner and asking for their best colorist to fix the problem.

      Some hair just responds to color in a certain way. My stylist says my hair “grabs red” — it’s almost impossible for me to get ashy highlights, even if I wanted them (we tried once). So there might be some idiosyncratic color chemistry going on too.

      1. Liane*

        While I only do home coloring, I have talked to our stylist, as my teen daughter loves wild colors. Stylist says that brunette hair, like ours, almost always has a red component, which I can believe. My hair, when natural, has always appeared in bright lights light auburn to dark strawberry blonde. Cannot see the effect in Daughter’s hair because it is naturally shades darker than mine, close to black.

    4. Melissa*

      If you do decide to tip (and I personally would), then I think you can tip 10-15% of what the service price would be for the color. A little less than a normal tip, but still a decent amount.

      I always do odd things with my hair that grow on me after a couple of weeks, but few of them have had to do with color.

      1. Liane*

        Not an expert on tipping, since my stylist owns her little shop, but I would say to definitely tip if a different colorist is doing the fix. They had nothing to do with the original job, and are fixing it when they could be doing a “new” job that will include a tip.
        More of a judgment call if it is the original colorist, IMO. But tipping would be kindest.

    5. TL -*

      I got my hair highlighted and the stylist asked to darken the roots and I said sure because hair grows out…and I hated the brunette roots on my blonde hair and still hate them four months later though they’re not nearly as noticeable.

    6. little Cindy Lou who*

      I was getting my highlights redone on a cruise once and the stylist absolutely became negligent. He didn’t tell me he had another client booked and he was rushing to get her started and left the color for waaaay too long in my hair. It came out absolutely platinum. My mom literally said I looked like a cheap bimbo when I met her for dinner (we vacation together once or twice a year). So I went back, talked to the salon manager, and showed her that not only was it completely different from the highlights I wanted touched up but the color wasnt even consistent down the length of my then very long hair, and she agreed it was terrible. She had one of the girls who was excellent with color fix it to the honey color I always went for (toner is the fix, I think). (I kept my hair on the blonde side then; I’m a redhead now).

      pictures are always the best bet when communicating something new to your stylist too. I take screen shots on my phone when I see something I like while browsing on the net and then pull up the gallery to flip through with my stylist when I’m at the salon.

    7. Sunflower*

      I had my hair highlighted last summer by my usual colorist and it came out way blonder than I was hoping and it was similar to you- my skin/hair is warm so I wanted more golden/caramel and they looked ashy. While it might be what some people wanted, I thought it was totally unnatural looking and I was FREAKING out!! This had never happened before. Note, I’ve been going to my hair salon for 10 years and my whole family goes so I trust almost everyone there. I called back and my usual colorist was actually out so I had my sister’s stylist do it. They put a color gloss/glaze on it and it was PERFECT afterwards.

      1. I tipped her because she was fixing the job up. I think I gave her between $5-8 since the cost of the gloss would have been around $35/40.

      2. I would suggest trying the color gloss/glaze first since it’s much less damaging on your hair than a full color. If you don’t like it, than you can go back and ask for all brown.

      1. CollegeAdmin*

        You are describing exactly how I feel about it – people tell me it looks find but I think it looks so fake!

        To everyone who’s asked – I am going back to the same stylist. I showed her some pictures when I was there the other night, but I’ll admit I focused more on the cut than the color. (I did say I wanted subtle, but apparently we have different definitions.) She was wonderful though, and based on her photo gallery is extremely talented with color.

        1. Sunflower*

          Yup- people told me it looked fine and I sensed what they really meant were ‘it looks fine but it could look better’. Once I got the gloss, people who told me it looked fine were saying ‘ooo it looks sooooo good now’. I would recommend the gloss- my salon puts glosses on all the time to keep hair looking shiny and healthy so it’s very gentle on your hair and you’ll still have the highlights

  20. Rebecca*

    I just wanted to report that I’m still following many of the Primal Challenge guidelines even though I was done with the official 21 day challenge 2 weeks ago. I don’t do it 100%, but maybe 80% (?). The biggest thing for me is the diet soda issue. I drink naturally flavored seltzer water now, and in much less quantities. I drink more water, with lemon and/or lime slices. Soda is a treat on the weekends item, and it’s one can, not 3. I’m not completely avoiding carbs, like cookies, chocolates, that type of thing, but having just small quantities, infrequently.

    So far, since the beginning of January, I’ve lost almost 12 lbs. So for me, anyway, eating meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, eggs, dairy, and not much else seems to work, and I’m not deprived or hungry. And I checked my BMI, and I’m no longer morbidly obese, but at the lower end of the obese range. I still have a ways to go, but the day I find myself in simply the “overweight” column, that will be a woot worthy day!

    My next step is to get a bicycle. My doctor cleared me for bike riding, and was surprised that I asked, until I reminded him that we’re supposed to ask before starting new activities :). He suggested starting out on grass since the landing would be softer if I toppled over. I hope to add bike riding to my walking program.

    Hope everyone is staying warm. Tomorrow’s high temp here will be less than 10F, and I saw a forecast for -15F for Monday morning, just in time to go to work (thanks to my company for taking away our paid holiday on Monday, not bitter or anything).

    1. GOG11*

      Congratulations on your weight loss! I have enjoyed following your progress and I’m glad you’re continuing to update even though the challenge is technically over.

      And kudos to you for getting a bike! If you’re able to visit a bike shop, I’d recommend that (over getting one at a department store or something). When I got my helmet at the local shop, they fitted me and answered any questions. Very worth the time and little extra money for the wonderful service.

      1. Rebecca*

        I’m planning on visiting the bike shop in town, as I had the same thoughts. I need a sturdy bike, and I’d like to have them suggest a bike based on where I’ll be riding. And I also want a helmet and elbow pads at the least.

        1. OriginalEmma*

          That’s so exciting you’re getting a new bike! Might I recommend some bike blogs? LovelyBike, Let’s Go Ride A Bike and Endless Velo Love are my favorites. Be fair warned, though – these bloggers ride expensive bikes. Not the <$500 we wee folk purchase at a local bike shop, Sports Authority or Walmart. However, what I really like is that they focus a lot on cruiser/commuter-type books, typically step-throughs ("women's bikes") with upright handlebars. Those might feel more comfortable and safer (you can see all around you and are not crunched up like when you ride drop-bars) for folks returning to bicycling.

          1. GOG11*


            If you are interested in riding a bike as a form of travel, you may want to consider a road bike. They have skinnier wheels which offer less resistance and allow you to go faster with less effort because there’s less resistance. I bike as a form of cross training for running and I prefer a mountain bike because it requires more effort and is a more efficient workout for me.

            I would highly recommend trying a road bike before buying one. I borrowed one from someone in the cycling club for a 15ish mile ride and I rode the breaks the whole time because it went so. freaking. fast. Some people like that and some people, like me, get slightly terrified when you hit 30 mph going down a hill.

            1. GOG11*

              I meant to say that many road bikes are the ones with the low handlebars and that people ride with a bent forward posture. Great for speed/efficiency, but it may not be for everyone.

    2. Aknownymous*

      Wow, congratulations, 12 pounds in just over a month is a LOT! And making a complete lifestyle change and sticking to it deserves major props, because it’s hard :)

      If I may just offer one suggestion about bicycling: not to question your doctor or anything (I am no doctor!), but from personal experience – biking on grass is like 10 times harder than solid ground, and the uneveness of grass may increase the risk of you toppling over. You might be safer on asphalt, especially if you lower the saddle a bit so you can put both feet on the ground fairly easily while sitting on it. All my tumbles on a bike involved grass stains :)

      1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

        Yeah, the grass advice is just mystifying — biking on sand would ensure a soft landing too, but you would need that soft landing a lot! A helmet, long sleeves, covered legs, and a flat, CLEAR (no gravel– gravel is the worst) surface like well-maintained asphalt are more likely to protect you. And I second the advice about going to your local bike shop, especially if they sell cruisers or city bikes — they are used to recreational riders.

        And congratulations! That’s great progress and it sounds like your new habits will stick with you.

      2. Rebecca*

        I think he meant it sort of as a joke, like the first time I try to take out after all these years, and at my age, I may appreciate a softer landing than asphalt :)

        1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

          Ah, age. A factor that you might look into is “flat foot” bike designs like Electra or other comfort bikes — designed to let you put your feet down flat at stops, and they also have a more upright ride, which increases visibility (both for you and of you in traffic). I recently took up bike riding again after many years and I found that I felt much more stable and comfortable on a step-through frame with a somewhat foot forward design. I spent a grotesque amount of money on my bike, but I love it so much I find excuses to go somewhere just so I can ride it. I think it’s some bike blogger that wrote “the right bike for you is the one you will ride” so test ride whatever you are considering. I did find differences in comfort and stability across a number of bikes that ostensibly were the same design.

    3. catsAreCool*

      If you ride a bike, get a good helmet and stay away from cars!

      If you cross the street with cars around, walk the bike, and make sure you catch the eye of the driver who is supposed to stop for you. People don’t always see bikes.

  21. ZSD*

    For those of you who have gone on Alaskan cruises, what excursions did you do that were the most amazing or best value? Are there any you did that weren’t worth the money?

    1. Elkay*

      We should have skipped the trip to the Totem Bight State Park, it took two hours out of our short time in port and wandering around Ketchikan would have been a much better thing to do. The lumberjack show was definitely worth it though, but only if you enjoy that type of show, it’s not like you’re going to learn anything from it.

      Whale watching was fun (we combined it with a glacier walk), didn’t do the white pass railroad but did it by road, unfortunately the weather sucked so the majority of the trip was just looking at clouds, I would have been pissed off if I’d paid to do the train and had zero view of the surroundings.

      I’ve only been on one cruise so I don’t know how Alaska compares to other cruises but I didn’t find Cruise Critic to be any help when looking at excursions because it was a weird combination of not enough nitty gritty information and lots of people offering alternatives to the cruise line excursions. We did one non-cruise line excursion but that was in a port where we had lots of time to spare so if we were delayed on the excursion it wouldn’t matter.

    2. littlemoose*

      I enjoyed the kayaking that we did, even though I have never really been a big kayak/canoe person. It helped that we had amazing weather – low 70s and bright sunshine. We also saw a deal right behind our kayak, which was awesome. That’s what I did in Juneau. (We were there in May.) I also really enjoyed zip lining, which is something I’d always wanted to try. Not for those afraid of heights though!

      If I could do it over again I probably would have skipped the photography tour excursion, which is something that my friends picked. They’re really into photography, with expensive cameras and lenses and whatnot, and that’s kind of what the tour focused on (no pun intended). But we saw some bald eagles and some lovely nature in general, so definitely not a bad time.

      I hope you have a great time! Alaska is just gorgeous.

    3. Audrey*

      The whale watching was unforgettable. We saw so many whales, including a mother and calf – the calf was learning to breach and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      The cruise through Glacier Bay was where we saw some amazing glacier calving; the White Pass train ride was really scenic and relaxing; we loved walking around the Ketchikan waterfront, and we still have artwork hung in our house almost 20 years later. And I agree with Elkay that Cruise Critic is a great resource. If you can afford it, Regent Seven Seas Cruises are all-inclusive, so after you factor in premium drinks and meals, excursions, and tips, they’re not much more than all the hidden costs of some other cruise lines, but the service is spectacular. (We took them to French Polynesia, not AK, but they go there, and we’re considering an AK cruise with them some time soon.)

      1. Elkay*

        On the contrary, Cruise Critic was a nightmare for me, for excursions I said to avoid it!

        Other info was fine but the forums were a minefield.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Oops, sorry Elkay! That’s what I get for skimming the Open Thread before bed!

          I found Cruise Critic pretty useful, but that was years ago. Has it gone downhill, or have you not liked it for a long time? I do remember we had to sift through a lot of comments and threads for the information we wanted, but my wife and I are both pretty good at searching, sifting, and aggregating.

          1. Elkay*

            I’ve only been on one cruise which was last summer so that was when I was looking but the forums seemed full of people who just wanted to respond and never add anything actually replying to the question that was asked. Threads seemed to go along the lines of:
            – Has anyone toured the chocolate teapot factory? We’re only really interested in spouts and I don’t want to spend time looking at handles.
            – If you want to go to the chocolate teapot factory you need to go with Wakeen and Umberto, we do every excursion with them, don’t go with the cruise line.
            – Oh yeah Wakeen and Umberto are great, if you decide not to go with them you can get off the boat and jump across the crocodiles, you’ll see a nook in the hillside, twice a day a troll comes by, you can hitch a lift with him for half a sandwich. When you leave the factory make sure you come out of the exit which faces 225 degrees north and at 17 minutes past every other hour there’s a pony that will take you back to the crocodiles. So much cheaper than the cruise line!
            – My third cousin once removed went to the teapot factory.

    5. sarag*

      It sounds weird, but we went snorkelling and it was amazing!! I think we were in Ketchikan. It was end of July/beginning of August, and they put us in 7mm wetsuits (really thick!), but it was so warm I was glad mine was a bit too big. It’s honestly among the best snorkelling I’ve ever done, highly recommend it! I don’t recall the price, but it was definitely way cheaper than a lot of the other excursions.

    6. FMLW*

      Ziprider in Icy Strait Point. Bear watch in Ketchikan…flew in a floatplane to a hatchery on a small island and the bears were less than 20 feet away, enjoying their salmon. Train ride up the pass in Skagway, make sure you get a seat on the left side of the train.

    7. OriginalEmma*

      I’ve never done an AK cruise but lived in Alaska and had the pleasure of visiting Ketchikan. I second everyone here who says Ketchikan is lovely. It’s beautiful, pedestrian-friendly!!!, and has a really unique layout in some areas where boardwalks and stairs enable people access to their homes (which are built on stilts into the mountainside)! Creek Street in the “old town” is a must-see.

  22. GOG11*

    I’ve been posting lately about my struggle to get my asthma under control (and all the joys that come along with uncontrolled asthma). My medications aren’t working like they should and the side effects are too severe to continue anyways. My doctor doesn’t know what to do with me so he stopped the meds and put me on some stuff to basically do the bare minimum until I go to see a specialist in a couple of weeks.

    I had some medical testing done this morning and I will know the results when I see the specialist. In the mean time, I am trying to get my high BP under control (thanks, asthma. You’re rad).

    Warm thoughts, good vibes, prayers, etc. are all welcome. Thanks everyone for listening and helping me with my various work issues throughout the past couple of months. This community is amazing.

    1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

      I am thinking good thoughts at you as hard as I can. People I care about have asthma and it’s terrifying when it is bad. I hope you get better soon!

      1. GOG11*

        This is the first time it’s flaring up/being poorly controlled and I had no idea it could get this bad. Thank you for your kind words. I hope your loved ones are doing better now.

        1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

          They are, actually — they just hit on the right medications and learned their triggers and slowly got on top of it. One of the worst triggers for a friend was a sudden dip in temperature — are these swings in the weather affecting you?

          1. GOG11*

            Cold, dry air has always been a problem for me. Lately, it’s perfume/fragrances and cigarette smoke. A harsh, cold winter and exposure to lots of fragrances and some smoke on a regular basis has caused me to go down hill over the past 4-5 months.

            I try to keep from going out in the cold and I put scarves over my mouth when I do. The other stuff I’m working on avoiding at work.

    2. CrazyCatLady*

      I have really bad asthma and came close to dying when it wasn’t under control. It’s very scary! I hope you’re able to figure out how to get it under control!

      1. GOG11*

        I’m glad that didn’t happen! I am trying to keep calm and not worry but to be honest I’m starting to get scared.

          1. GOG11*

            Started with rescue inhaler as needed and before exercise for exercise-induced asthma.
            Added inhaled steroid (helped a ton!)
            Started to develop intense sensitivities/allergies to smoke and fragrances (those and cold air are the biggest triggers).
            Then inhaled steroids + oral steroids.
            Then inhaled steroid/long acting beta agonist (can’t tolerate, didn’t really improve things anyway).
            Now oral steroids + rescue inhaler as needed til I see the specialist.

            1. CrazyCatLady*

              Ugh! How awful that none of these stabilize you. Do you use a peak flow meter? Before I went into respiratory arrest, I only had a rescue inhaler and that is super dangerous so I’m glad you’re at least using oral steroids (but the side effects! ugh!) . I also have sensitivities and allergies to smoke and fragrances, as well as cold air. I use an inhaled steroid and Singulair – have you tried Singulair? The combination seems to help, but it seems like every few years, the medication stops being as effective.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Oh dear! Take care of yourself, and I hope that the specialist can help resolve things somewhat!

      1. GOG11*

        Thank you for the good vibes. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for that :)

        Completely unrelated, but whenever I see your posts/photo, I think of Adele (sorry if you get that a lot or loathe Adele).

    4. Sympathizer*

      Have you tried a daily OTC antihistamine? I use allegra once a day, and it helps with inflammation & allergy triggers. I also use Symbicort as a maintenance med.

      1. GOG11*

        I do take an antihistimine allergy pill everyday. I forgot to list it. It seems like you’ve found a good combo and the right mix makes all the difference. Take care.

    5. MJ*

      We suffer with it in our family. We purchased a nebulizer online (about $60). We have prescription meds we can use in it when asthma is really bad, but we also find saline solution offers some relief wit no side effects.

      1. GOG11*

        I have one but the treatments make me shake like a leaf. Plus, the cold air is kind of painful. I haven’t tried saline solution, yet, so thank you for the tip. I will see if I can pick some up at the pharmacy here soon. Take care.

    1. GOG11*

      If you google “how to use instagram without a smart phone” a couple of articles come up. I haven’t used any of the methods listed myself, but maybe there’s something there that will work for you.

  23. Revanche*

    I’m having lots of mixed feelings today so I’m going with bullet points.

    + I survived gravid Christmas hosting: we had our baby!
    – I miss sleep.
    + we get to have some family and friends dropping by to help out, some of whom we haven’t seen in ages. We feel loved.
    – my dad won’t be one of them.
    + dog loves his new human sibling
    – I’m a human milk bar and it’s exhausting. But it’s so good for baby I wish I could produce more. Am trying to hydrate and eat enough. Rest is obviously an issue. Drinking fenugreek tea. Am I missing anything else?
    + we’ll have steak for dinner. I like broiled, they like pan seared. What would you do?
    – worrying about an uncle who’s been hospitalized for a heart attack.
    + I am lucky enough to take more than just a few weeks off maternity. At partial pay but still.
    – new baby = fatigue = a seemingly endless pain flare up. The first time I couldn’t pick baby up because of joint pain, I admit to crying. Being a crippled mom is every bit as distressing as I feared.
    + husband has been a champion at supporting emotionally and physically/taking care of the household. (But it is hard work. Would like to thank him tangibly when my brain returns)
    – dear friend has sad reports of her spouse starting to experience Alzheimer’s symptoms which reminds me of losing my mom to similar. We are brainstorming ways to help them cope: getting OnStar reactivated in case he has a foggy brain episode and gets lost or in a car wreck.
    + I’m getting excited about getting tax paperwork pulled together.
    – did you know breastfeeding can make you sleepy and in some cases trigger depression sessions? Also can affect vision. Worst evolutionary adaptations! Blurry vision, sleepiness, and weepiness: NOT useful when you have a helpless critter relying on you.
    + abstractly looking forward to taking baby to SDCC. Possible we might regret this but nahhhh… Should baby’s first cosplay (costume) be Worf?

    Happy Saturday y’all!

    1. Melissa*

      I don’t have a baby and so I have little advice in that regard (good luck) but I think it’s awesome that you are taking baby to SDCC. I worked NYCC one year and saw lots of tykes in cute cosplay costumes; it was pretty awesome. Worf might be hard to pull off on a baby, thought – how are you going to get the forehead thing going on?

      Congratulations! I hope it gets easier as time goes on (all secondhand experiences point to yes).

      1. Revanche*

        I thought of Worf today because baby naturally does this adorable Klingon forehead wrinkles facial expression but .. That’s totally impractical to expect hir to maintain it for the cosplay :) I’ll think on it some more.
        We’ve done SDCC consistently but I’d love to do NYCC some time. T of curiousity: Did you work work it or volunteer work it?
        And thanks! They all do say it gets better :)

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      As for the steak, you recently gave birth and you’re still eating for two, you get the steak the way YOU want it!

      Has the friend taken the spouse to a specialist? Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but it’s far from the only one, and some of them are treatable or even reversible.

      1. Revanche*

        Hehe I only quibble over how the steak is prepared if I am cooking. Turned out husband was going to cook so I sat back and enjoyed.
        Friend and spouse are actually part of a very interesting long term monitoring system with loads of Alzheimer’s specialists. They were doing it for the data points at first but caught some early signs that it may truly become an issue. I very much hope they’re nothing but early signs that don’t develop further but at least I know they’re being looked after by specialists in the field.

    3. Dulcibella*

      Congratulations on a healthy baby! So happy for you. Sorry about the minuses, hang in there. Life is definitely comprised of pluses and minuses. Wishing you all the best. Even with issues that make it not perfect, this is a wonderful time in your lives.

      1. Revanche*

        Thank you! I agree that even despite all the hardships, this is a very special time in our lives. We try to cherish it all. Even the spit up :)

    4. Saro*


      Here’s my advice for increasing milk supply:
      – Oatmeal every day;
      – lots of water (I get so tired of people telling me to drink water, so I’m sorry for saying it to you);
      – More food in general. I found that when I cut calories, my milk supply went way down. I craved protein so enjoy the steak how you want it;
      – Fenugreek did not work for me at all;
      – Those lactation cookies work. That brewer’s yeast was nasty and I can’t bake but even what I concocted increased my supply. For a little while, I just took a spoonful of brewer’s yeast plain with water. BLEGH. But it worked;

      I love your blog by the way. I’ve been following it for ages.

      Worf, definitely Worf.

        1. Revanche*

          Thank you for these tips! I really do need to do better with more calories, not just “enough”, as my appetite has fallen off and I think I may be accidentally eating too little after all. And maybe i can find those lactation cookies in store. I love baking but my hands won’t allow it.

          And gosh it’s always such a nice surprise to run into a reader of my own blog, I don’t hear from many of you so I’m not necessarily sure who all y’all are. Thanks so much for following, I appreciate it and hope there’s something worth commenting on once in a while!

          1. saro*

            I was into PF blogs for a while and must have found yours through that. Yours is the only one I still subscribe to! I like to comment but it’s hard bc I usually read while I’m nursing my baby.

            1. Revanche*

              Cool! Thanks for letting me know and continuing to read.

              That reminds me, I was just joking today that nursing is often a 2- hand job but sometimes it seems like it requires 3 hands! It’ll get better, I assume. :)

      1. catsAreCool*

        My technique for drinking plenty of water is to have 2 of those cups people put in their cars to drink from – something with a top that can easily be lifted and put back, something that’s hard to spill. One is in the fridge cooling, while the other is next to me so it’s easy to take a sip when I feel like it.

    5. Artemesia*

      I hope the spouse with Alzheimer’s can be deprived of that driving license asap — rather than worrying about onstar in case he is in a wreck. I have watched several elderly people be a menace on the highway long after they should have stopped driving. My father drove the wrong way up an exit ramp for example; thank God he didn’t kill someone or himself. He didn’t give up the license until his doctor insisted. My FIL drove even though he was blind even after his DL had expired. His sons finally pretty much stole his car when he was hospitalized so he wouldn’t put people at risk. Once AD symptoms begin, people should not be driving. And the condition tends to deteriorate fairly quickly.

      The best thing you can do with friends with this issue is to be their friend. i.e. continue to include them in social event, make a point to go out to dinner with the couple even when his behavior becomes quite odd, visit and hang out. With Alzheimers friends often disappear leaving the spouse miserably isolated. The other great thing you can do is offer to spend an afternoon with him so she can get out for an afternoon. Have lunch with him and be there. This may not be necessary now, but it soon will be. My mother cared for my Dad pretty much alone for 15 years. He would be up several times a night and wandering; if she turned on the shower for herself, he would be out the front door — it is pretty tough for the caretaker. (my brother and I lived thousands of miles away and so could spell her only on rare visits) It means the world to the caregiver to have some time off, even a few hours and to still know the partner is safe.

      1. Revanche*

        Just to clarify as I probably conflated the two thoughts, the spouse only MAY be showing early symptoms or they may be nothing. They’ll be tracked closely by a medical professional but getting things like Onstar in the meantime seems like a good idea even if the one poor evaluation turned out to be nothing to worry about because it’s worth it for the peace of mind. Kind of like getting them AAA because this is a reminder we don’t want them stranded and having to change a tire alone. If any issues truly developed then, yes, the conversation would be about alternative means of transport and not about dealing with aftermaths of accidents.

        So that was just a poor description of that bullet point on my part.

        But yes that’s a great reminder, we will make more time for them if a caregiving situation develops.

    6. beckythetechie*

      *hugs for new mom woes* I’ve been a nanny; this too shall pass. If there’s someone you trust who would stop 1-2 days a week for specific jobs, you may lighten the load of worries on yourself by miles. “Aunt Imogen is coming Thursday. The bathroom can wait till she’s here.” If you can spare the extra, a lot of cleaning services will do select rooms for $20-$30/room. It maybe worth the $ for a while to give your spouse, yourself and your hands the respite.

      A simple baby “costume” (depending on the wee!one’s needs, of course) might be to cover the carrier or stroller with faux fur and say you’ve brought your Tribble. Or deck the stroller out with panels down the sides and the little one can have hir very own shuttle craft?

      1. Revanche*

        thanks! We’ve been thinking hard about long time help options, we don’t have family or friends we can trade ‘sitting with, unfortunately, so it’s a bit of a challenge to find someone we could trust to help look after hir to give me a break. Wish us luck!

  24. Katie the Fed*

    So, expanding on my commentary from Thursday with the matchmaker thread (my comment was in relation to the Bye Felipe tumblr) – how do you raise kids who are compassionate, decent human beings. Especially boys – how do you raise them to respect women?

    Hubby the Fed and I are wanting to start a family in the next couple of years and this is the stuff that terrifies me. What if we raise an asshole?

    1. Samantha*

      I think a lot of this is modeling the behavior you want to see in your kids. If your son grows up seeing your husband treat you – and other women respectfully – that will make more of an impact than anything. Re: being decent and compassionate, I think it’s never too early to start teaching your kids how important it is to do things for others – it’s not all about you! I’ve mentioned before that I work at a food bank and I love to see parents bringing their kids to drop off food or volunteer together. What they see you do and what you do with them speak loudest.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Thanks for responding! We do volunteering for the homeless (make bagged meals, serve food) and we’ve discussed that as being something we want to do with our kids too – I think it’s really important. I know for me whenever I start to feel I’m losing perspective in life, volunteering is a good way to ground myself.

      2. Artemesia*

        Absolutely. My kids really learned what a good marriage is about by living with us. My daughter has a lovely partnership with her husband, some of which she has had to forge by being insistent about how they share the responsibilities. My son is lovely to his girlfriends and now to his fiance. They learn what they live.

        And engaging them in doing things for others from the beginning pays off. I see it in my grandchild who is generous and loves doing things for others. It can start with something as simple as ‘helping make Daddy’s birthday cake’ or ‘making a mother’s day card for Mommy’ and then grow to include charitable activities in the community. We always got ‘Angel Tree’ kids at Christmas the ages of ours and they would help shop for gifts for the child we drew. My daughter helped sandbag the Mississippi with her father when she was a teen during a flood time. And anything to make big gimmee events like Christmas or Hannukah also about pleasing others helps. My 4 year old granddaughter made ornaments for everyone at Christmas this year.

        1. Treena Kravm*

          And on the flip side, despite my brother being exposed to my parent’s wonderful marriage, he spent most of his adolescence being a total asshole to his girlfriends (he was a cheater). Don’t get me wrong, he turned out fine and has been with his current girlfriend for years now, but he needed a LOT of guidance getting there. It mainly consisted of me and my Mom consoling his hysterical girlfriends on our front porch and then calling him out on it constantly and without fail.

          He’s 25 and still calls me for advice on fights, sex, gifts and everything in between. Make sure your kids have that person outside of parents (who does not have to be his older sister, I realize that’s weird for most people!) and they’ll be fine.

    2. DeadQuoteOlympics*

      You won’t (or it’s very unlikely). I used to worry about it too (I have a teenage son) but most of what they learn is by watching you. If you and your spouse treat each other with respect, as well as the people around you, your kids will learn that as a norm. Also, make sure you have conversations about news, events, tv shows, movies, things that happen at school, where you and your husband express your views and ask your kids to express theirs (it’s the function of the family dinner). That feedback will be constant from you, and the sophistication of the conversations will change over time, but it’s never too early to start pointing out examples of respect and disrespect, and how you expect them to respond. All of that presupposes that you know what they are watching, listening to, and talking about — it’s really a function of engagement. My son and I have long watched Dr Who together, and talk about all kinds of things through that lens (e.g. why Donna is the BEST companion according to me). NPR on in the car is a great conversation starter.

      It does get trickier as they get older — I pay close attention to my son’s friends. In middle school his best friend of several years started being really hurtful to both my son and other friends. We had several conversations about the meaning of friendship and respect, and that kid is no longer part of their circle. I do worry about him being more influenced by peers or popular culture to ill effect, but being a parent means you are always at some low level of anxiety about something anyway! He’s cooking dinner for his girlfriend tonight for Valentine’s Day (totally his idea), so at the moment the threat level of incipient assholedom is low.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I love that. Of course as a kid I thought I would curl up and die from having to listen to NPR, but I’m fine with subjecting my kids to that. I like the idea of talking about opinions and sharing TV shows – I don’t think we really did that with my parents. You sound like great parents – with a lovely son! Also, “incipient assholedom” would be an amazing band name! :)

        1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

          Oh, I think “incipient assholedom” is probably the working title for many bands.
          The NPR strategy will result in things like trying to explain the Israeli Palestinian conflict to a 6 year old. But it will keep your mind nimble!

          1. Katie the Fed*

            At least the 6 year old will probably listen and not come back with poorly reasoned talking points :D

      2. Artemesia*

        Absolutely. My kids really learned what a good marriage is about by living with us. My daughter has a lovely partnership with her husband, some of which she has had to forge by being insistent about how they share the responsibilities. My son is lovely to his girlfriends and now to his fiance. They learn what they live.

        And engaging them in doing things for others from the beginning pays off. I see it in my grandchild who is generous and loves doing things for others. It can start with something as simple as ‘helping make Daddy’s birthday cake’ or ‘making a mother’s day card for Mommy’ and then grow to include charitable activities in the community. We always got ‘Angel Tree’ kids at Christmas the ages of ours and they would help shop for gifts for the child we drew. My daughter helped sandbag the Mississippi with her father when she was a teen during a flood time. And anything to make big gimmee events like Christmas or Hannukah also about pleasing others helps. My 4 year old granddaughter made ornaments for everyone at Christmas this year.

    3. Random Name*

      I get praise from my older son’s school all the time about what a wonderful boy he is, while I get reports from my younger son’s school about behavior problems. My older son’s school administrators give me praise about my parenting and I just say,”You might want to wait until my other son starts going here before you compliment my parenting.” Both kids have been raised the same, held to the same standards, given the same rewards and punishments based on their behavior and one is very much a people pleaser, while the other one challenges everything. Kids are who they are and there’s only so much you can do to mold them.

      As far as respecting women, time will tell, but in my family my husband and I make it obvious that both of us contribute to decision making, not just him. We also praise each other in front of the kids (“Wow, you boys are so lucky to have a mom that cooks as well as yours” or “You’re so lucky your dad takes you to do such fun things”). I think kids see how their dads treat their moms and that impacts how they treat women later in life.

      Also, I refrain from making critical comments about other women’s or my own physical appearance in front of them so they don’t focus only on physical appearance.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Ah that’s a very good point about not commenting on women’s appearances (including my own). I need to get better about that as well – it’s not a good habit. And I love taking time to praise each other to the kids – that sounds lovely :)

      2. Artemesia*

        LOL. I had the opposite. I remember when my second child went to the same nursery school her brother had been to 5 years before her. At the first parents conference, they were just all over themselves with ‘We can’t believe this is Alonzo’s sister; she is so polite and so kind and sharing.’ Obviously they thought kid one had the worst parents ever and thus had major cognitive dissonance over the well behaved considerate one that followed.

        They are both wonderful adults but the second remains the ‘nice one’ in the family.

    4. Revanche*

      I share this fear of yours as my older sibling was a manipulative leech of a horrible person and am quietly worried that our Little Bean may inherit whatever genetic combination predisposed Sibling to that.

      I think there’s a lot of early foundations that have to be laid. Lots of conversations about not generalizing men or women as a faceless whole, teaching compassion and thoughtfulness by example. Encouraging the kids’ natural tendencies to think of others and guide them to do something constructive with it, and also how to think critically about what they observe.

      I don’t know how true it is but I was told that often a child’s basic personality is formed by around age three, with gradual developments through age 8. I think there’s a grain of truth to that, certainly Sibling’s manipulativeness was practiced so early that I stopped trusting him by age 7, so you know he had to have duped me many times up til then.

      I don’t know what the secret is, only that our jobs as parents are to love them, be there for them, prepare them for the world by setting boundaries and following through on discipline, but there aren’t any guarantees.

      I asked for advice from parents who raised kids I think are lovely, engaging and thoughtful even as teenagers: only pick the battles you MUST win to fight, and hold your ground. In those situations, no always has to mean no if you’ve thought about it and decided of course. You’d not do yourself any favors if you make knee jerk decisions.

      You’re really thoughtful here and I suspect that will serve you well as a parent. I wish you (and us hah!) All the best luck with this decision.

      1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

        Have you ever listened to a This American Life episode called What Big Teeth You Have? It’s about an older brother babysitting his younger brothers. When I was pondering raising an only child and deflecting nosy inquiries about their loneliness and potential spoiled bratdom, I would remember that all sibling relationships are not happy ones.

        1. Revanche*

          I had not but I’ve made the very same point a number of times when people try to insist we must have more than one. I would have been much better off without a freeloading older sibling to cause me more than a decade of angst. Then again if my parents had decided to stop at one, I wouldn’t be here and he’d just be their problem. Still. Not existing would have been less stress! Hah.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        ahhh this all sounds so daunting!

        “I asked for advice from parents who raised kids I think are lovely, engaging and thoughtful even as teenagers: only pick the battles you MUST win to fight, and hold your ground. In those situations, no always has to mean no if you’ve thought about it and decided of course. You’d not do yourself any favors if you make knee jerk decisions.”

        Wise, but daunting! And the bit about their personalities being formed so young. Gahh the stakes are so high! I want to make sure we do this right.

        Thank you for the tips -I’ll bookmark them for the nights I’m up guzzling wine and weeping to myself :)

        1. Revanche*

          The stakes *are* high but the fact we care enough to worry about it and seek guidance has to lead to SOME better results, right? RIGHT?? :)

          I got a couple good examples of how to pick and choose battles: parents control TV choices and don’t allow crap tv because of the kinds of BS you see made OK on those shows. You see so much casual sexism, racism, ableism, etc, on mainstream shows and that’s a huge part of normalizing those attitudes for kids. So they have conversations about why those shows are unacceptable and they don’t fly at their house. But things like what they want to wear to school (barring serious indecency)? Doesn’t matter enough to fight about. One they’re old enough and foolish enough to insist on wearing something weather inappropriate then they can and suffer the consequences. There are clear lines drawn between need and want. But they also remember to have fun and enjoy each other because it’s not all about discipline.
          They must know what they’re talking about because when I met their kids, I loved them and they were at an age where most kids are pretty obnoxious (IMO).

          And hey, come vent over in my neck of the internet woods if you need to, come to that :)

    5. DeadQuoteOlympics*

      Katie the Fed, I have an answer for your Friday thread question on powering through a low-level cold — find a Mexican restaurant and eat Sopa Azteca for lunch. All the goodness and healing of chicken soup plus enough Jalapeños to make you cry.

      I’m never in time to participate in the weekday discussions (just benefit from the collective wisdom at the end of the day) but Sopa Azteca is too useful a trick not to pass on.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        ooh thank you! Funny thing about DC – we have almost no actual Mexican restaurants, but I’ll see if the Salvadoran ones have it. Thank you!

        1. Christy*

          Idk if they have Sopa Azteca, but there is delicious authentic Mexican food at Taqueria Habanero in Petworth, should you ever be in the mood for Mexican.

        2. Stephanie*

          Ha, yeah. After moving to DC from AZ, I was confused by all the “Mexican” restaurants. It was never spicy enough!

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            I was recently in Eugene, OR and ate at a “Mexican” restaurant. It was all bland stuff that my boyfriend’s midwestern mom would serve. I kept asking for more jalepenos, when all they’d bring out was a tiny ramekin with maybe 6 or 7 jalepeno slices in it. “No, no, I want a whole *bowl* of them!” There was absolutely zero flavor without them.

    6. But What About The Nisha Call?*

      So much about parenthood is just rolling the dice and hoping for the best. But, in large part, I think that kind people tend to raise kind children. So much of kids’ worldview is based on the behavior they witness in their homes — so, even absent deep discussions about compassion or equality or respect (or whatever other value you want to instill), simply seeing their parents consciously live those values teaches them that’s the way it should be. For myself, I prioritize humor and laughter a lot in life. My husband and I are ridiculously silly sometimes, we’re total smart-asses, and there is literally nothing I love more in life than getting an uncontrollable belly laugh out of one of my boys. I’ve had teachers and caregivers over the years tell me that my older son (he’s 13) is one of the happiest kids they’ve ever known. To me, that is the most meaningful compliment I think I could ever get. :)

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Not a parent myself. But someone who I hold in very high respect said to me ” Nice parents who are lousy at discipline (not enough discipline) still eventually end up with nice kids. Parents that are too harsh and too strict may run into difficulties as their kid goes into adulthood and beyond.”

      I had to pause for a moment. I have never heard anyone express this thought. Her point was that eventually the nice, gentle, consistent ways shine through. The kid may go through some rough patches but when the dust settles, the kid is a nice adult.

      I have to say one time I met a pair of young brothers that I was so very impressed with. My husband and I ended up showing them some of the stuff in our house because they were interested enough to ask. They wanted to see the Victrola play. We explained about the doors to control the loudness of the music. They were so much fun. It dawned on us that their parents had spent huge amounts of time showing them things and explaining how things worked. They were fairly young but they asked such good questions. It seemed like their parents filled up their time and their minds in such a way that they did not have any time or brain space to be assholes.
      I also thought that the parents were extremely unusual with how much teaching they did.

      It’s a pattern I have seen over and over- young kids are so willing to follow their parents and do what their parents are doing. My husband indicated that he would do stuff with his dad, that was not that interesting to him personally, but it was an opportunity to hang out with dad. So he took that opportunity. (His dad used to hunt small game. My husband would go with him when he was young. As my husband got older, he stopped going. But the lessons learned there stayed with him.)

    8. matcha123*

      Model the behavior you want them to emulate.
      Nip bad behaviors in the bud.
      Be mindful of your language. Sometimes we can say things like “Boys like XYZ,” or “Minorities are so PQR,” but those off-hand remarks can remain with someone forever.
      Being thoughtful of others is a good thing. Holding doors for someone is not something you do because the other person is a woman, but because it’s the polite thing to do.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        This is a good point about the offhand comments. It also made me think of something we’ve been discussing in regards to school districts – I want to have them in good schools but I don’t want them in totally white districts – I think growing up with diversity is a really important thing.

        1. Felicia*

          Another totally random one is that parents often assume their small child will some day fall in love with someone of the opposite sex. I really internalized that and it made things harder when i did come out. Because when a little girl asks a question about love or marriage, they will hear “well when you grow up and find a boy you love…” or “when you grow up if you find a boy you want to date…” totally ignoring the possibility that their daughter might want to date or marry another girl. Straight people seem to rarely notice it, but i’ve found it rare that anyone acknowledges the possibility that their kids might be gay. That’s just something i wished my parents would have done, and that all parents should do imo. Even as an adult, people assume i’m straight until i tell them otherwise, just like as a child they assumed i’d grow up to be straight.

          I also like including all sorts of diversity in daily life…like when they inevitably ask you about beliefs, it would be awesome to teach them about what all sorts of people believe, or to teach them all about holidays you don’t actually celebrate.

          1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

            I actually did this with my son — I work in academia with a high percentage of LGBT friends and colleagues. We had a very early conversation about the use of “gay” as a slur (1st grade? 2nd grade?) and we talked about how many of the people that he actually knew and liked would find that incredibly hurtful to be scorned just because they loved a person of the same sex. An outcome of that conversation was for me to be carefully gender neutral when I talked about his future romantic life — I tried always to use partner or significant other, and suggest that whatever eventually happened, it would just be part of our family life like any other development.

            About a year ago he told me I could stop doing it, he was pretty sure he preferred girls.

      2. Revanche*

        Casual language is huge. I’ve lost track if the number of times I’ve heard the “boys are…” And “girls are….” generalizations since getting pregnant and it’s quite off putting. Stereotypes aren’t fun things to pass on.

    9. Observer*

      My two cents:

      Don’t fall into the helicopter trap. You simply cannot control everything about your child’s experience or life. You also really cannot INSURE that your child will be the kind of person you are proud of. It’s counter intuitive to many people, but experience shows that if you actually accept that and deal with the reality your chances of a good outcome are much, much higher.

      You don’t have to get every. single. decision right. But there are a few big issues you want to get right.

      Picking your battles wisely is an excellent peice of advice. (The serenity prayer speaks very well to parenting issues.) Byond that is recognizing what should not even be on the table. There are certain aspects of your child’s personality and character you really should not try to change or “fix”. eg Your child falls in a different place on the introversion / extroversion scale than you do? That doesn’t need to be “fixed” – It needs to be embraced and accomodated.

      Experience shows that it’s actually not true that nice patents wind up having nice kids, while overly harsh discipline inevitably breeds bad results. A lot depends on the child. And, I’ve seen some really, really bad results from nice parents who are too afraid of being harsh. The evidence shows that neither permissive nor authoritarian parenting provide really good results on a consistent basis. What seems to work is authoritative parenting. You are the parent, you are in charge, you get to make decisions which may make you unpopluar. On the other hand, thse decisions proactively consider your childs needs and POV, and you are open to listening – to a reasonable degree.

      Let your child make as many decisions as possible (what’s sensible is different at different ages and atages of course), and to the extent possible allow / require a child to do for him / her self.

      Lots of luck!

      1. catsAreCool*

        I’m not a parent, but I worked in a daycare center for a few years, and I learned a few things:

        1. It helps to be very very consistent on rules.
        2. It helps to have as few rules as possible. It also helps if the rules make sense. Most of our rules were about niceness, safety, cleanliness, or adult sanity. Don’t be mean to other kids. Ride the big wheels safely. Don’t touch the fence because you might get splinters. Wash your hands before eating. Clean up before going home and before getting lunch. Kids tend to have a sense of what is and isn’t fair (even though they are usually OK with things being unfair in their favor), and fairly applied rules work well.
        3. Be consistent with what you do when you enforce the rules. Depending on what kind of rule was being broken I usually gave 1 warning and if that wasn’t listened to, gave a time out. Kids have an excellent sense of how many times you’ll tell them “Stop that” before you make them stop. They’re also very good at figuring out where you’ll be more lenient and will take advantage of it, but I don’t think it’s completely a conscious thing. 1 warning and then a time out works really well if you always follow it. Also, don’t spend time arguing with the kid about the time out when it’s time for a time out. Kids learn that this is a great way to stall and maybe even get out of it. After the time out, if the kid wants to discuss this, that’s OK. Before the time out, if the kid has a reasonable reason for what happened, OK, but it has to be kept short. I’ve seen kids get into 5-10 minute debates with parents trying to get out of a time out.
        4. If the kid is angry about the time out (or restrictions on dessert or TV or video games), that’s OK. It’s OK to be angry as long as they aren’t being jerks about it. Don’t give the anger a lot of attention in this type of case – if they figure out that being angry about a time out makes you less likely to give a time out, they’ll be angry a LOT.
        5. Encourage them to talk and think and make up their own minds.
        6. As much as possible, help them make up for something wrong by doing something to fix it – a kid who spilled milk can learn to clean it up. A kid who breaks something can do extra chores to help pay to get a new whatever-it-is.
        7. Using TV and books as good and bad examples can be really helpful. They have scenarios that won’t come up all the time in real life, but may happen sometimes. I don’t remember my parents specifically telling me to be respectful to police officers and to never make any sudden movements or threatening movements around them, and we didn’t run into police officers often, but that knowledge seems to be programmed into me. I don’t know if they mentioned it during a TV show or something.

        1. LD*

          So much good and reasonable advice! And I hope this addition is also good and reasonable for you…
          To add to the “it’s ok to be angry”, it should also be okay to have other negative emotions, too. Don’t say “you shouldn’t feel that way” simply because it is a negative emotion. Children will get angry, or sad, or depressed, or frustrated, or jealous, mad or whatever, and they will act based on how they feel. You want to teach them or support them that they can have those feelings and still behave in a way that isn’t harmful to themselves or others. Help them understand that their feelings are their feelings and everyone has negative feelings, and if we are lucky enough to have smart parents or some other adult help us, we can learn to manage those feelings and still be good people. (Thanks Mom and Dad!) In some cases you’ll want to help them learn that although they have those feelings, a change in perspective may offer them a way to process (that word “process”!) their feelings and come to see the situations in a different light and learn from that as well.
          Just the fact that you are concerned about raising decent, respectful, happy kids, goes a long way. You can’t control it, but you can have the most influence! Be decent, respectful and happy yourselves! I think your children will be lucky to have you for parents!

    10. Vancouver Reader*

      I don’t have kids but watching my sister and her husband raise their two boys, I’d say leading by example is huge. Also, don’t make a big deal out of most things; my sister swears in front of the kids, the kids in turn wouldn’t say shit if their mouth was full of it. I think a lot of times kids push boundaries and do things contrary to what their parents want just to get a reaction. Their kids were also exposed European style to alcohol, but they don’t like the stuff and because their parents don’t make it taboo, the kids aren’t into it when the parents aren’t looking.

      1. Treena Kravm*

        Re alcohol: this x 1 million! I started drinking wine with dinner at 12ish and made it through high school, college, and life without getting really drunk once. I can’t say I didn’t binge drink (that’s only 4 drinks!) but I’ve never slurred words/stumbled etc. I was taught really early that the purpose of alcohol is to enjoy the taste, compliment food, etc. Once my peers started using it as a social lubricant/getting drunk as “fun,” I was already scoffing at them (and DDing, holding hair back, and stopping potential sexual assaults etc. because I still went to plenty of parties in high school).

    11. Clever Name*

      I have an 8 year old son, and one thing I consciously do is I question aloud heteronormative mores and gender stereotyping. Preschool seems to be the worst years for the binary girls like pink boys like cars thinking. I would say “boys can like pink too”. Or the time when he got into my makeup and smeared lipstick on his face. He did get in trouble for it (don’t mess with mommy’s things!) but I also told him that makeup is not for children, but if he wished to wear makeup he needed to wait until he is a grown up.

      And yes, a son watches how his father treats his mother and women in general. My husband and I both have friends of both genders, and my husband is a kind and thoughtful man.

    12. AVP*

      I saw this question earlier today, and after thinking about it more, I have one thing to add…think deeply about who your kid’s other role models are, besides you and your husband. I don’t have kids, but my mom was an early feminist and my parents always had pretty good relationship modeling (my mom even supported our family for a few years while my dad was getting his business off the ground. She is far better educated than he is).

      However- my brother still turned into a bit of a Gamergate-sympathizing, rape-culture-denying asshole. Not in a particularly egregious way, but surprising things will come out of his mouth from time to time and he’ll back it up with “but I read that on Reddit! It’s true.” Thinking about where this came from, I’ve realized that he really, really looks up to our two older male cousins, who are huge “fratboy bros” who make a lot of money doing financial things and do not have ideal views on gender relationships and equality. My oldest cousin, who is the worse example of this, took care of my brother a lot when we were younger and he’s always looked up to him so much. Since he was 15 years old or so, he’s regularly gone over for Sunday football with “the guys,” aka my cousin’s frat brothers, where they get a little drunk and talk smack, and things my brother heard there have totally carried over into his outlook. So if you have someone like that in your life…use them sparingly around your kid! Have conversations after to see if they’re getting any new ideas that worry you. Keep the lines of communication as open as possible.

      1. Observer*

        Eh, keeping bad influences out of your kids lives is a losing game. What you CAN do with people like your uncles is use the to teach your children just how complex people can be. Your brother looks up to them becuase they did something very good and kind – they stepped up an helped a youngster who needed what they had to offer. They are, in other words, a mix of good and not so good. More effective than trying to limit contact is talking about whatever it is, and helping your child(ren) understand that although Uncle Morris really a good person, his views on relationships need to be taken with a grain of salt. And while while Aunt Millie can be abrasive and even sound like the kind of feminist no one wants to be around, when push comes to shove she’s loyal and will help you out without even mentioning your gender. etc.

        It strikes me that your brother has a broader issue – “but I read it on Reddit. It’s true!” is just lame, regardless of what he is defending or attacking. Someone needs to call him on that.

    13. beckythetechie*

      Ime, if you’re worried about raising “an asshole” you’re less likely to do it. The worst behaved (as in, a real danger to herself and others) child I know has one parent who tried to teach her things like personal responsibility and valuing time, not just attention, from an early age. Meanwhile the other parent was so concerned about Their Little Princess having fun and being the center of the world that the child has no concept of danger, no respect for other people, and no real understanding of a world outside her own head. Said child is now 4 only answers to “Princess Name”. She reportedly tried to demand that her preschool teachers only call her “Princess Name” and had a melt-down that required her mother picking her up from early that day. I’ve seen her be told “That’s not safe; stop that,” and reply with “Shut up.” I’ve been hit and screamed at for politely declining tea party in the middle of a conversation with her parent. (Needless to say I minimize my time around this child, but unfortunately that means I don’t get to see my friend as often as I’d like either.)

  25. Calla*

    I’ve mentioned a couple times I was getting a breast reduction… it happened Monday! Healing seems to be going pretty well, though of course I am paranoid about every slightly odd thing. Hint: when you’ve had your chest cut open with like 6 big incisions, everything is gonna be odd. I am getting a LOT of napping done, and I didn’t realize how itchy and bloated I would be! (If anyone’s curious about anything I’m happy to answer any questions that won’t put me in moderation for 2 years.)

    I had this entire week off, but start working again from home on Monday and honestly am nootttt looking forward to it. But at least I don’t have to go straight from time off back into the office, I guess.

    1. fposte*

      I’m so glad to hear that it went okay and that healing is moving along. I suppose it’s inevitable that you’d find the occasional surprise in that situation, but napping cures a lot. Good luck on the Monday return!

    2. asteramella*

      Congratulations! For me the itching stopped after a couple of weeks, but I still had “zingers” (sharp sudden pains like being stuck with a pin) for a few months while my nerves were knitting back together.

    3. CrazyCatLady*

      I’m hopefully getting one this year! Going for my consultation next month. Is it weird to get used to, seeing such a big (literally and figuratively) part of you mostly gone? Do you think you’d be okay going back into the office after a week if you had to?

      1. Calla*

        Congrats!! It’s super exciting to be starting the process, isn’t it?

        It’s not so weird yet because I’m living in large button-up tops right now and the surgical bra kind of flattens everything even more. I know it’s gonna look totally different when I’m wearing a real bra and real tops. But seeing them when I take a bath… OMG yeah that’s weird! But in a good way!

        Everyone’s ability to go back differs, but me personally, purely on a pain/comfort level, I think I could go back into the office if I didn’t have to take the T. I’m not sure about navigating the bus and train quite yet! If you have a ride or a buddy to go with you, that would probably be easier. But I didn’t really expect how easily tired I would get and that’s why I’m super glad I am WFH next week. I went out to lunch with a friend earlier today and had to stand 10 minutes waiting for a table and omg, once we sat down I was so exhausted (after eating I felt much better, though). So it’s good to know if I need to take a nap around lunchtime, no one will know :)

      2. Schmitt*

        I had mine last July. It was not weird – it was amazing. The first time I actually saw myself in a mirror (while not being doped up) I cried.

        The recovery depends a whole lot on how much you’re having done; my friend went from a DD to a C and was fine going back to work after ten days. Mine was a lot more; I was off work for a month and that was about right (though I’m in Germany; I’m pretty sure in the US I would have had to go back a lot sooner).

        1. CrazyCatLady*

          A month? Yeah I can’t afford to take that much off. They’ve been telling me 1-2 weeks before i can go back and I’m going is closer to 1! I’d be getting much more removed than DD to C. I think they have to remove at least half a pound from each breast and still leave you with a reasonable size in order for my insurance to cover it.

          1. Schmitt*

            I didn’t even get my surgical drains out until day 6!

            In that case:
            * be aware that riding in a car may make everything tender for a long time. For hour+ car rides I took an ibuprofen beforehand
            * be aware that you may be absolutely pooped for a good month or so. All my hobbies fell by the wayside after I went back to work because I literally could barely manage anything except sitting on the couch after work
            * if you have anywhere private at work to make this possible, keep bags of (unpopped) popcorn in your freezer there. They don’t stay cold long but they’re very malleable so perfect for fitting around things.

            1. Calla*

              I cannot second #2 enough. Physically I feel fine at this point but I’ve dozed off while playing on my phone in bed a couple times (at reasonable daytimes, like past 9am and before 7pm) the past couple days! You’re just so wiped.

        2. Calla*

          A month! That sounds soooo nice. Though I don’t know how I’d manage to go back after that much time off. :)

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Yay for healing!
      Boo for going back to work—it would be nice if when we had surgery we could recover on a nice tropical isle with hot cabana boys bringing us soothing libations for weeks and weeks.

      1. Calla*

        Cabana girls in my case, but gosh yes that would be nice, especially since I’m in Boston! I live right by a river and it would be nice if it would just be a little warmer so I could at least get some fresh air over there, even if I don’t have the energy to go for a walk or anything.

    5. Sunflower*

      What made you decide to get the reduction and what size did you go to? I’m a 32DDD and 5’1 so my boobs stick out on me quite a bit. I’ve never had any health issues with them before but lately I’ve started feeling strains in my shoulder blades while running and wearing 2 sports bras has stopped it for now. On a non-health based front, I’m just kind of sick of dealing with the extra struggles- specialty bra shopping(and spending!), bikini shopping, literally just lugging the extra weight around.

      1. Calla*

        Oh yes that’s quite big for someone so petite! I bet you’d have no problem getting insurance approval.

        I’ve had back pain since I was like 15, so over a decade now; that was the major factor. I have horrible posture despite trying to correct it, and also pain under my bra straps. Then yeah there’s the usual non-health hassles, like spending a lot of specialty bras and the huge range of clothes I can’t wear because they don’t fit right, clothes that seem like they have a perfectly modest neckline turning out not to, etc.

        I’d considered it for a long time, but was scared of surgery (I’ve never had anything other than my wisdom teeth out). Then I started my most recent job which has fantastic insurance so I started thinking about it more. I have some friends who have had it done, so I talked to them. There’s also the website RealSelf which has great recovery stories. That’s what got me less terrified and prompted me to finally set up a consultation and get it started.

        I was a 32F (the surgeon said my actual *breast tissue* volume was smaller, which is common, a lot of women have more “fatty” tissue, but my best-fitting bra was 32F) and they think they got me to around a 34B, which is what I wanted.

  26. Victoria, Please*

    I am one of, like, five Americans who don’t have a smart phone yet. Helpful AAM community: 1) Does having one smooth your path, or does it tend to add more confusion and overwhelm to your life? 2) If I got one, what would you recommend (I have Verizon)?

    1. Calla*

      Honestly I cannot imagine living without a smartphone these days! I don’t think it’s overwhelming. Get only the amount of data you need because that can be expensive (as a single person on Verizon you only need a couple GB), and don’t worry about being able to do EVERYTHING on your phone but it’s certainly handy. I primary use phone, email, text, a few games, the kindle app, and some random useful apps like Uber (which has been a lifesaver these past few weeks in Boston, where the T shuts down and getting a cab is impossible because everyone else is doing the same).

      I have an iphone 5 but I have a techy friend who is an evangelist for samsung smartphones. Go to a store and play with them!

    2. Sabrina*

      I think it makes things easier for me at least. I do not have it connected to any work stuff though. I like that I can use the internet (and games) anywhere. It’s very helpful when you are away from home and/or need directions. I have Verizon and have a Samsung Galaxy S4, which I love. The new one is the S5 which I’ve heard is also good.

      1. Tris Prior*

        I am another! Who knew that 3 out of 5 non-smartphone-owners read AAM?! ;)

        I am, however, planning to get one as a reward for getting out of debt, which hopefully will happen by summer. (Only about $2500 to go!) My challenge is going to be how not to turn into one of those people who are constantly staring at their phones and therefore cannot hold a conversation while having dinner with friends, etc.

        1. nep*

          Congratulations on clearing the debt. Good for you.

          (Phones — one of the craziest examples of the we’re-all-glued-to-the-phone-screens phenomenon was the recent photo of people looking at their mobile phones while participating in a die-in.)

      2. Iro*

        No smart phone here! Although I am teased mercilessly at work for it and I’m also finding myself in situations where a smartphone would be useful (scan this for an instant coupon, lost and spouse has the gps, house hunting, list continues).

        We are looking at getting a T Mobile based plan if we do get smart phones though since they have 0 overage charges. If you go over your data it just goes slow. Which I greatly prefer to a $500+ bill.

    3. Cruciatus*

      Not to dissuade you, but if you’ve made it this far without one you’ll probably be fine! However, I got one (Galaxy S4 on Verizon) somewhat reluctantly a year and a half ago. As long as no one in my family changes the plan, I was grandfathered in to a plan that doesn’t require the extra data plan fee so the bill isn’t really much more. I don’t think it’s added more confusion, though I do notice I look at the screen more often than I’d like (though I can drive without touching it, and only check it on breaks at work). And I almost never actually talk on it… But with the right apps I do feel some things are easier–like shopping list apps instead of writing everything on scraps of paper and hoping I remember to take it to the store, I have Amazon Prime and I can listen to my own purchased music or other albums easily (and of course there’s also Spotify, Pandora), having it in the car when I need directions has helped me quite a few times, and if I forget to bring a book somewhere, it’s nice to have a little game to play (euchre is my go to!) and I downloaded a free texting app because I think it’s ridiculous how much Verizon charges for that. Oh, and I’ve used it as an internet hotspot when my home internet went down. So, that’s probably more information than you wanted–but just saying the phone has been very helpful! I do hate that sometimes in bed I’ll think “oh, the notification light is blinking…let’s just check that out…” but that’s on me, not the phone itself.
      The Samsung S4 and S5 do have really good reviews. You’ll probably be happy with any but I prefer non-Apple products myself, not because I think they are terrible, but I think they’re too restrictive on things like adding storage and using only the Apple Store. But people who have them do love them. So just look at prices/sales and features and see what appeals. I don’t think you can go too wrong (though maybe check a few reviews…).

      My parents are both due for new phones but they want to stick with “dumb phones” as they say. And nowadays the options are nearly nonexistent, which sucks! The only option Verizon shows in their online store is some refurbished piece of crap that all the comments hate. Not sure what we’ll do when their phones actually die (hopefully they can last a bit longer).

      1. Melissa*

        They can buy phones from Amazon! Amazon has a wireless store that actually sells a bunch of models of phones, many of which work with Verizon. They’re cheaper there anyway, and there’s no contract, but they can get the old flip models or they can get candy bar style phones – whatever they want. I was keyed into this because my sister only likes phones with slide-out QWERTY keyboards, which stopped being popular probably around 2006, so she has to go to Amazon (or retailers like TigerDirect) to find them.

        Another source is eBay.

        1. hermit crab*

          Oh, this is a great idea, thanks! I love my slide-out keyboard phone (we call them “typewriter phones” because when my dad first upgraded from a flip phone, he asked if he could get one “with a typewriter”), but it’s like four years old by now and it’s starting to go.

    4. Elsajeni*

      I resisted getting one for a long time, but you know, I do really like having it. I’d say the biggest benefits for me are easily getting my email while traveling (I don’t have to pack my laptop!) and getting directions and ideas for where to go while I’m out and about. The one problem I’ve run into is that, once I’d had it for a while and gotten used to it, I got into the habit of going to the phone first when I’m looking for a distraction — so if I’m at lunch or a coffeeshop or somewhere and I brought a book or something I wanted to work on with me, I have a hard time actually disciplining myself to read/work instead of playing with my phone.

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        I just load my books onto my phone, via the Amazon Kindle app. That way I satisfy the urge to play with my phone while still doing something productive.

    5. Melissa*

      It could be either; it really depends on you and your needs. Personally, I find that it smooths my path – I love reading the news on my phone, and being able to check my email, search the internet to run price comparisons on the store, etc. It doesn’t overwhelm me because I have changed the settings so that it doesn’t (no notifications from Facebook, for example; it doesn’t ping every time I get a new email, etc.)

      I personally am an iPhone user and I like that phone, so that’s my recommendation. The iPhone 6 just came out a few months ago, so you can get that – or you could get an iPhone 5 or 5S for cheaper. I had a Samsung Galaxy S3 and while I switched back (I’m hooked into the Apple ecosystem) I thought it was a very good phone (now the S5 is out). I also test-drove the HTC One and I really liked that one; they have the HTC One Remix now which is the updated version, I think. I have also heard good things about the LG G3 and the Google Nexus (which I think you can only buy directly from Google or from a retailer like Amazon; I don’t think you can get a contract deal on it from Verizon). The Nexus being a Google phone, it gets the new updates to the Android system first.

      The one thing I would say is that if you want to take full advantage of the smartphone ecosystem, go for an Apple or Android phone. Windows phones haven’t really fully caught up to the variety of apps and options in the Android and Apple app stores.

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      1) I can’t speak for others, but I love having a smartphone. It’s great to be able to navigate if you’re in a car (or even taking the bus), look for nearby restaurants, take and share photos at a moment’s notice.

      In terms of confusion and overwhelmingness (is that a word?), I’d say a lot depends on your habits. I do a few things to try to keep things sane: turn it into airplane mode when not using it (so I come to apps—they don’t come to me), turn off almost all notifications, focus on people I’m talking to instead of focusing on my smartphone.

      2) I know this isn’t a popular choice, but the Moto X 2013 is the best smartphone I’ve ever seen or used. It’s just the right size (not too big, not too small), has good battery life, launches the camera with two shakes of the wrist, and has a not-annoying and battery-saving “active notifications” screen when your phone is locked. It’s definitely available for Verizon… although I don’t know if you have to get it used… they may try to push the Moto X 2014 (which is essentially the same except much larger (physically).

      1. Saucy Minx*

        I use my smart phone for email when not at home, but mostly for texting , & occasionally for phone calls. I do not like trying to read FB or news, although perhaps that is due to my vision making it a pain to squint at the small screen or scroll back & forth when I’ve made the type large enough to read.

        My main annoyance w/ the smart phone usage is my sister, who always tells me when my phone has made a noise, as if I am obliged to check instantly for the email or text. I don’t think so. I’ll get to it sooner or later.

    7. Stephanie*

      I found it helped. The biggest thing I noticed was that I didn’t need to travel with my laptop as much (I hate traveling with a laptop) because I could check email and all that on the phone. It was also very helpful for figuring out public transit directions on the fly.

      There are times where it’s pinging too much and I just have to mute it.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      I love mine. I had a feature phone for a long time, way past everyone I know, simply because I couldn’t afford one. Now that I have one, I won’t go back (unless I’m on the lam, ha ha). I even eschewed the cheap British feature phone for a small basic smartphone when I got one on holiday, because I wanted to be able to google stuff. (I had a prepaid phone and it wouldn’t work outside the US and couldn’t be unlocked.)

      It was a total lifesaver–much much better than stopping on a street corner to look at a map. Doing that screams “TOURIST!” but everybody stops to play with their phones. The Britphone won’t work here, so I use it as an mp3 player and have Skype on it so I can make wi-fi calls if my main phone poops out.

    9. little Cindy Lou who*

      I got my mom her first smartphone a year or so ago and she loves it.

      I use mine all the time. I Google prices when I’m shopping in stores to make sure I’m right about whether something is a good deal, look up restaurants on the fly when out and about with friends, Skype with my dad when he’s out of the country, read or listen to audio books on my commute, stream pandora at work, etc. I don’t think it’s overwhelming, you’ll learn the basics first like how to check texts and email and make calls and then you can take some time to learn the other features as you’re curious.

    10. Observer*

      Why have you not gotten a smartphone? How one will work for you depends a lot on that.

      Some thoughts, though.

      If you get a smart phone, you can let it overwhelm you or you can set some parameters for yourself to keep things under control. For example, most notifications are off and I ignore them under many circumstanes (eg don’t look at text / whatsapp once I’m in bed.) In general, a lot is a bout your attitude in this respect – do you feel the need to respond immediately to every beckoning of the phone or not?

      Another common issue is games. Some of them are really addictive, and some people find that it’s just a good idea to not get started with them.

      There are a few things that make my life really much easier. One of them is the mapping – Google Maps is phenomenal, and the addition of Waze (another mapping app that has lots of traffic related info) can be really useful if you drive. If you are comfortable with a larger screen device (hold one before you buy), you can really use them as a decent book reader. I have an unlimited text plan, so texting is not an issue for me, but still the addition of WhatsApp is huge. For group types of communications, it’s excellent. There are other apps like it, so you really want to know what people around you are using. Unfied calendar is another nice thing. And the ability to get a look at email on the go is nice as well. Last, but not least, for me is Evernote. It’s a note-taker with versions for both desktop and phone. It makes my life so much easier.

      As for what to get, I agree – either Apple or Android. Windows is an outlier and although lots of people say the interface is very intuitive, if you will need help you will probably be up a creek, while there are tons of people who know Android or Apple.

    11. Pennalynn Lott*

      Mine has definitely made my life easier:

      * Driving directions to places I’ve never been, then finding a restaurant to eat at once I’m at those places.
      * Auto-alert for traffic conditions between where I’m at and some event I’ve got on my calendar, so I know if I need to leave early. (And it gives me driving directions to the event).
      * Being able to find the closest gas station with the cheapest gas.
      * Reading books via the Kindle app.
      * Finding my car when I can’t remember where I’ve parked it.
      * Watching movies and TV shows (great when you’re stuck in a doctor’s office or somesuch).
      * Adding to a grocery list the moment I think of the item I need.
      * Not having to carry a bunch of member/reward cards for different stores.
      * Buying things from Amazon Prime the minute I think of it, instead of trying to remember when I get home.
      * And my favorite thing of all: Never having to wonder about something without having an almost-instant answer. (“I wonder how many birds call North Texas home?” “I wonder how you can tell the flu and a cold apart?” “I wonder why traffic is moving so slow?” “I wonder if it’s OK for dogs to eat blueberries?”) I love whipping out my “second brain” and looking stuff up on the spot.

      1. Vera*

        Do you have an app to tell you where the car is parked? Sometimes I use Google Maps and add a new “place” for that purpose, but I’m not entirely satisfied with it.

        1. Mephyle*

          There are specialized map apps where you can mark your position, and then compass-route your way back to the marked point. The one I have is MiScout.

    12. Rachel*

      They’re wonderfully convenient. I’ve had my Galaxy S4 for almost two years now, and I love it. As many other commenters have said, Google Maps is a lifesaver. I love not getting lost in new cities unless I want to be, and it lets me look up restaurants and such in my area.. with reviews.. which also makes eating out in new places easier for me. I’ve found some great restaurants that way.

      I also use it as a bookreader (three cheers for being able to bring my library with me wherever I go!). Fbreader is a great app, and I’m sure there are others. I get my e-mail on it, which for my job is pretty helpful (I’m a music teacher–this way if a student sends me an e-mail in the middle of the day to let me know s/he will be out sick, I actually get it in advance of the class). And if I’m curious about something, I can look it up right then, no worrying about whether I’ll forget to look it up later–also nice.

      For long road trips in the mountains in a rental car (a very specific use case :) ), it’s great because I have a lot of my music on it, and new cars let me play that music on the car’s speakers–no worrying about radio station reception.

      A lot of the smartphones have good cameras on them–the S4’s is quite nice. I like being able to look at vacation pictures from the couch, and it’s pretty convenient for those times when I haven’t anticipated wanting to take a picture–it’s more likely that I’ll randomly have my phone on me than a camera.

      There are plenty of free games available through the Android ecosystem, but you might want to avoid those if you’re worried about devoting all of your free time to it. I have one installed, and that’s enough for me.

      I do one thing to make sure the phone doesn’t take over my life. The S4 has a blinkenlight for notifications that shines over the tip of the case I got for it, and is quite bright and annoying while I’m trying to sleep. I turned that off, along with all notification sounds. (I also have the ringer off, but that’s me–I love my cell phone, but I’m /really/ not a typical-use phone person ;) ). That way the phone isn’t constantly telling me to check it, so I don’t get into that loop.

    13. Clever Name*

      I love my smartphone! I don’t really play games on it or anything. For me it’s a tool I use to make my life easier. Navigating to unfamiliar places, setting reminders by voice when I’m in the car and can’t jot down a note–location or time-based reminders are a miracle!– my work and personal calendars are synchronized and tell me when I need to be places, geotagging my car when I park in enormous parking lots, taking photos (very handy for my job when I forget to bring a camera), getting weather reports and even severe weather alerts, keeping in touch with my friends, and yes, even making phone calls.

      I didn’t get a smart phone until I was over 30, so I can definitely survive as an adult without one, but it makes many things much easier and convenient.

    14. Jean*

      Checking in as either #7 or #8 of the five :-) unless I’m disqualified by admitting that I could not exist without my flip phone. (Well, it would be possible but there would be a lot of logistical hassles.)
      I look forward to reading everyone’s comments when I take my next break from home cleaning. Sigh. Not glamorous but it’s nice to have a clean bathroom and somewhat less clutter.

    15. beckythetechie*

      Skip the Droid mini at all costs. My husband’s on his third and they’ve all been glitchy little pains in the neck that run remarkably hot for “normal operation”. I like my Samsung Galaxy S4 mini, though it’s got limited RAM so I’ll be looking in to the Galaxy S5 Note or the S6 depending on how my job search goes. I’ve only had a true smart phone for a year or so, and I’m surprised by how much I use features other than the phone. I take tons of photos now, so having a decent camera in my hand for a couple hours a day is an unexpected plus. I love the Pandora app so if I really just need to not be overwhelmed by the racket on the bus, I can put in headphones and hear something new. I have a reader app on it as well, and an office suite if I decide to show my Resume to someone on the fly. It’s been very handy over all. Worth the $40/mo ime.

  27. A. D. Kay*

    Can y’all please remind me of the name of the silicone microwaveable containers that someone mentioned in one of the open threads a few weeks ago? I believe it was a Spanish company that offered a plethora of adorable, functional silicone containers for storage and microwaving. Please tell me that I actually read about these in an AAM thread, instead of having some dream after watching too many Pedro Almodovar movies.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Definitely lekue. Not sure if it was me or someone else but it’s always on my list of favorite things

  28. fposte*

    Speaking of surprising things after surgery: I’ve been on Lyrica for nerve pain following my spine surgery, and it’s working really well, and things are generally going well, so, great. But it turns out that Lyrica has a common off-label use as an anti-anxiety agent, and while I never thought I had treatable levels of anxiety, wow, I really, really like what the Lyrica does for me. I sleep like a log, I procrastinate less, I’m insanely more productive, I’m less avoidant, it’s great. I’m going to start tapering down to half the amount I take to see how the back tolerates it, but I may also call my primary care physician and talk about going on it longer-term even if the back is okay without it.

    And in case that doesn’t happen, I’m taking advantage in the meantime, and my kitchen cabinets are now *awesomely* organized. Tomorrow the bedroom closets!

    1. Revanche*

      Do you have more energy (maybe as a result of sleeping better)? I’m curious whether it might be worth my trying. I don’t have anxiety, but I do have chronic pain and I didn’t think the side effects would be positive but your experience suggests it’s possible! :)

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I think I do; it gets hard to disentangle post-surgical improvement from the medication effects, though, in that respect, whereas the work difference was very clear to me. Lyrica’s apparently particularly good for nerve-related pain–spinal cord, shingles pain, diabetic neuropathy, fibromyalgia stuff. It started working for me on the nerve pain within a couple of days, but sometimes it takes a few weeks to work; in fact, that’s apparently one reason why it isn’t as well known as other anti-anxiety agents, because there’s a similar delay on effectiveness for that, and so many anti-anxiety agents work more quickly.

        I’m on 75 mg twice a day, which is pretty much the entry-level dose. I was pretty sleepy on it initially, but I adjusted after a week or two (I still can get a little drowsy midday but it passes). I couldn’t really tell you when the anti-anxiety effect kicked in because the surgical recovery/nerve pain predominated and I wasn’t at work for several weeks; I first noticed it for sure about 6 weeks after I started taking it.

      2. Rachel*

        My husband has been on Lyrica for fibromyalga and migraines for several years. It’s very helpful for him. There are several options for treating this sort of thing, so if you’re interested in giving them a try, don’t be afraid to switch ’em if the side-effects of a particular one are bad for you.

        Lyrica is one of those that will give you withdrawal symptoms if you go off it abruptly, so keep that in mind too.

        1. Revanche*

          @fposte, cool. Slow to start is no problem for me as long as it does eventually and does help at all.

          @rachel, That’s useful to know about the withdrawal, thanks. I once went cold turkey off a med I should have tapered off of because the side effect (severe, suicidal depression) was so intense but I was also relatively certain that it’d be ok for that one. (It’s been a long while.)

          Since I’m now BFing, I can’t start it now so will have to take some time to research but there’s something nice (?) about having a potential treatment that may help. I’m going to need all I can get once Little Bean goes mobile!

    2. But What About The Nisha Call?*

      I’m really interested to hear more about this if you’re willing. I had neck surgery a year ago and still struggle with very consistent pain issues. My doctor has recommended Lyrica, but I’m pretty med-reluctant I guess, and (maybe this is silly) but all the commercials I am inundated with for this medicine and its side effects really freak me out. I’ve got a sample box of this that has literally been sitting beside my computer for months while I give it the side eye and hesitate to take it (while constantly bitching about my neck pain).

      1. fposte*

        Oh, the side effects warnings daunted me too! I think the more recently a medication is approved, the louder they have to trumpet the side effects, because I’m not seeing that the really bad stuff is hugely common. What I mainly had was sleepiness and a little bit of brain fog that makes me stumble over words when talking or writing sometimes, but I talk really fast so I always do that anyway :-).

        As I said, mine kicked in right away but a lot of times it takes a few weeks, which when you’re in pain seems forever; I don’t know how many are in your sample but it might not be enough for a full test. While I can’t tell you exactly how much is Lyrica and how much is my post-surgical healing, it was pretty clear how effective it was in the first few weeks because I could really feel the pain coming back when I was waiting for the time when I could take another pill. I will note that when I said it initially made me sleepy I meant seriously sleepy for the first week or so; since I was on post-surgical leave I was no good to anybody anyway, but I was pretty zombified at the start.

        I think it’s probably worth your trying, since your doctor has already thought so too; I don’t know that it’ll work as brilliantly for you, but it’s done well for a lot of people. And if you’re still dealing with a lot of pain even just being a little zombified for sleep might not be a bad thing. (BTW, I had a cervical fusion ten years back myself, but got really lucky on that with no post-op nerve stuff.)

  29. CrazyCatLady*

    People who never get sick: how do you do it? Is it just luck or do you have any habits that prevent sickness?

    1. Victoria, Please*

      I started taking lysol wipes with me on airplanes. The moment I sit down, I madly wipe all surfaces that I would touch during the flight. I take them to the airplane lav and wipe it all down too. Sometimes if things are gross, I do the same thing in the boarding area.

      I have not gotten sick once from flying since I started doing this, it’s great, since I used to get sick every damn time I flew. I imagine the same thing would work for other public germ-sharing spaces.

      Also I eat really well and I get enough sleep, I’m very selfish about it.

      1. Lizzie*

        I don’t *never* get sick, but I rarely get terribly sick. I credit my sleeping habits as well – I basically insist on being in bed by 9:30 and asleep by 10. (I do get up at 5, though.)

        1. Treena Kravm*

          I don’t do anything besides wash my hands after using the bathroom and getting enough sleep. I get a cold maybe once every year or two? My dr. was concerned with my sleep schedule so he put me on a restrictive schedule of max 6 hours per night…and 3 days later I had a raging case of strep throat.

          In general, it’s better to do things to boost your immune system than to get rid of the germs you’ll encounter. Easier at least. Hydration, sleep, good nutrients all go a ways further than Purell.

            1. Treena Kravm*

              I was a zombie too! I was going to bed early and waking up for an hour or two in the middle of the night, so he wanted me to “hunger for a solid chunk of sleep” haha

              1. Cerafina*

                Ooh, have you heard of segmented sleep or bifurcated sleep? I stumbled on an article claiming this is how our ancestors used to sleep, with a period of wakefulness they regarded as normal and useful … but we just don’t do it anymore because electricity/industry/etc. Like, cool accidental historical reenactment I guess? :)

                1. Rachel*

                  I ran into one of those articles too. It sounded interesting! I do wake up in the middle of the night on occasion…

              2. Rachel*

                Little did he know that a more likely outcome was a patient wandering about the city mumbling “braaaiiiinnnnsss..” ;)

          1. Pharmgirl88*

            Me too – I maybe get the common cold every year or two, but Airborne gets rid of it pretty quickly. Other than that, I make sure to get enough sleep and eat well. I only use sanitizer at work (lots of sick people at the pharmacy!), or if I’m somewhere I can’t wash my hands after using the bathroom / before eating, but outside of that I don’t really worry about germs.

      2. weird name gal*

        I never worry about germs. I wash my hands after the bathroom and before eating, but I don’t worry beyond that. I get my vaccine boosters, b/c I work in preschool. I sleep like a log. I think lots of exposure to germs makes your body more tolerant!

        I never ever get sick, I do get flu shots though, maybe that helps. I eat what I want too, but lots of veges and fruit.

        1. LisaS*

          Seconding this – I wash my hands (warm water & ordinary soap) at the usual points during the day, but I don’t like hand sanitizers, wipes, anti-bacterial soaps, etc. I credit 25 years of teaching young adults, many of whom are/were from other countries – I think my immune system got such a workout in my thirties that I’m effectively immune to lots of viral strains, plus I get flu shots every year. Also I’m lucky to be generally healthy, but I really do think it was the early exposures…

    2. nep*

      Healthy eating, lots of water, adequate sleep, exercise, regular hand-washing. (Also no smoking, and staying away from second-hand smoke.) I, too, am quite selfish with my sleep, food-prep, and exercise time.

      1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

        I have a hypothesis that drinking a lot of water leads to lots of trips to the restroom which leads to lots of hand washing which leads to catching fewer communicable diseases.

        1. nep*

          Perhaps. I wash my hands in between trips to the bathroom as well. But you could be on to something there.
          (This brings another habit to mind — no idea whether it’s a factor — I never eat out or eat carry-out. Prepare my own food and of course wash all fruits and vegetables very thoroughly.)

          1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

            Yes, that’s a risk I just accept — that my daily Starbucks habit exposes me to every common bug out there. I used to have a lot of daily contact with college students, and then I moved to a different job with no public service aspect, and I stopped getting so many colds every winter.

        2. hermit crab*

          I second this hypothesis! I also read somewhere about washing your hands every time you come back into your house, and I now do this religiously.

          1. fposte*

            I’m torn on this because my skin is increasingly dry in the winter, and moisturizers really are a poor substitute for natural skin oils. Anybody got any tips to handwash without making things worse by causing skin to start cracking and splitting?

            1. Onymouse*

              No hand washing tricks, but I sympathize. I also have very dry skin. The best I’ve done so far is keep a giant bottle of moisturizer on my desk so that I’m actually applying it after every hand wash.

            2. nep*

              Indeed my hands tend to get quite dry and even crack sometimes during this cold, dry season. The degree of dryness/cracking seems to be affected by what I eat and how well I’m hydrating myself.

            3. Cruciatus*

              I wish I had some tips but I know my hands couldn’t survive without moisturizer! Every time I wash my hands (unless I’m about to eat something with my hands) I put on this stuff I found at Sally Beauty Supply–Triple Lanolin Aloe Vera Hand and Body Lotion. I really like this stuff. It absorbs fast and I like the smell (though there is a non-scented version). My hands feel pretty good all year without any cracks. If your hands are already cracked/split it might not help much (though it might not hurt either). It does say it helps “restore natural moisture” (but maybe they all say that?).

            4. Aknownymous*

              I use a few drops of Neutrogena’s Body Oil after I wash my hands. It seeps in quickly, makes your hands super soft, and smells heavenly! I use it for my body as well after I take a shower, but I bring a travel size bottle of it in my purse for use throughout the day. My hands have not dried up or cracked since I discovered this miracle potion!

            5. GOG11*

              I use olive oil (half dollar size) on damp hands. super gentle, effective, cheap, fragrance free and even organic if you prefer it.

              (Sorry it’s posted twice. Couldn’t figure out how to copy and paste on mobile.)

            6. Not So NewReader*

              I don’t have a dishwasher (no space). So I have to do dishes by hand. I changed over to an organic dish soap, it totally changed my winters. Now I use a mild soap- it’s cheaper than the organics- and my hands are still doing well. I also put organic soaps at each sink for just washing my hands.
              I feel like my choices are pay now or pay later. I can get the cheap soap and the shell out money for my cracked hands. Or I can front the money and pay for milder soaps.

              My previous solution was St Ives. That worked the best of everything I had tried up to that point.

            7. Rachel*

              I find that what I wash my hands with has an impact. I use a liquid glycerine soap at home, and it does seem to change how dry my hands get afterwards.

            8. beckythetechie*

              When I have theater gigs that require painting etc, every other day I take a teaspoon(ish) of coconut oil, rub it all over my hands, and put on rubber gloves for 10 min. Then wash off the oil with warm water, or you can rub into your hair if it’s also getting dry. While bottled moisturizing lotion etc. works, natural oils like coconut and almond often work better. You can also do the same w/ the gloves while you’re washing dishes; the heat helps open pores and absorb the oil better.

    3. Stephanie*

      -Drinking lots and lots of water. I drink at least a half-gallon every day (admittedly, some of this is due to living in a desert climate).
      -Regular exercise
      -Lots of hand washing
      -My sinuses tend to get dried out, so using a humidifier and Neti pot (as well as drinking a lot of herbal tea) helped to keep my sinuses from getting clogged.

    4. Tris Prior*

      The biggest thing is trying really hard not to touch my face without washing/sanitizing hands first. This is more difficult than it sounds.

      I used to get sick constantly, and then about 20 years ago I made a major dietary change (for non-health-related reasons) and realized that suddenly, I wasn’t getting sick any more. I get maybe 1 cold/virus per year now. So clearly, that’s something that works for my body. (I don’t want to start a debate on various diets here so I will just leave it at that.)

      Honestly? I think a lot of it is genetics. My mother hardly ever gets sick either, nor did my grandmother. I haven’t been eating that well lately, nor sleeping well or exercising, and yet I’ve managed to dodge Partner’s horrible flu that he’s had all week. Even though I kissed him and drank out of his glass at a party the night before he got sick. Go figure.

      1. nep*

        Indeed not to get into the debate over what eating regime is ‘better’ — but I do think people tend to underestimate the power of consuming real food as opposed to packaged food-like substances. Our body tends to thank us when we eat well, plain and simple. (Not implying that’s what you changed — just putting out there what worked for me. I never knew I could feel as fantastic as I do. The clean eating did it.)

        1. fposte*

          There’s some interesting indications that the advantages of low-carb eating have considerably diminished now that there’s so much packaged low-carb food; one theory is that to low-carb it in the early days, people needed to make their own stuff rather than eating out of boxes and that was a big factor in the results.

    5. Sherm*

      (I do get the occasional cold, but that’s pretty much it.) I think it’s mostly luck. Well, not quite “luck” in the sense of pure chance, because my luck would have run out sooner or later. I probably have a decent immune system. I think it helps that I eat well, sleep well, and don’t smoke. And I’m also a bit of loner.

      Because I HATE being nauseous, I take no chances at all with food poisoning. If I accidentally left a cooked chicken breast out overnight, I won’t eat it. If anything tastes the slightest bit funny, I won’t continue.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I used to get sick a lot. As a kid, I was sick constantly. I gave up flour and sugar and that fixed that situation for me. I did it long enough that I can have a little bit of flour and sugar once in a great while. But I had reached a point where it was a quality of life issue and giving these things up was nothing compared to what I was going through.

      When I started eating differently, I started getting interested in proper hydration, going to bed on time, etc. So other things fell into place after I got control over the awful amounts of crap I was eating.

      I hope this next one makes you chuckle. I have a friend that keeps spicy foods in the freezer. When he starts feeling coldy- he digs those spicy things out and tears through them. I can’t eat the spicy stuff he eats but it works for him. He knows that if he breaks into a sweat because of the spices he probably will get rid of whatever low grade bug he has. I do not recommend this, of course. But this is another person’s take on how to handle things.

    7. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      I haven’t had a cold in years, but honestly, more than anything I think it’s luck. I eat pretty decently, take a multivitamin, get enough sleep, drink a ton of water, get fresh air, and the big ones–I’m not exposed to too many kids and small children in my daily life, and I don’t take public transit. Babies and kids are delightful walking petri dishes and public transportation is a great vector for disease.

      Other than that, probably lucky.

      1. Steve G*

        I haven’t had a cold in years either and I am always in the NYC subway. I say this half-jokingly, but I do feel living in NYC has been like taking a vaccination for 100 diseases, because when I first moved here, I got lots and lots of small sicknesses for the first few months – a couple of colds, a flu, but more just days where I felt like I was getting sick, then didn’t, but after like 6 months, I did feel that my immune system was stronger and I just don’t pick up things as easily anymore.

        1. Stephanie*

          It’s true. You need some dirt in your life. Although out in the Southwest, there is a mysterious fungal infection called valley fever that is nasty (but it’s suspected the fungus is in the soil). But there’s no real way to avoid it.

          I work in a shipping warehouse and I used to be super vigilant about trying to get all the dirt and dust off before I took my dinner break. I realized I was about to wash my hands raw and just sort of gave up (I still wash my hands before eating). I just accepted I probably have ingested some dirt. No sickness yet.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I’m convinced mine is strong because I used to play in the dirt as a child. :) Not even a cold on this last holiday, though that may be because I got a flu shot about three weeks before I left. When I do get sick, it rarely lasts long (this bout of sore throat awfulness last week kept me down for about six days, and that felt ABNORMALLY long). And I heal very quickly from cuts, injuries, surgery, etc.

          I also think quitting smoking was one of the best things I could have done for my overall health. I think it was 2007–I haven’t had a cig since then, though I still want one every once in a while. But I won’t take it back up unless the world is coming to an end, and then all bets are off.

    8. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands*

      Gargle with warm salt water every day. It’s also good to rinse nasal passages with a neti pot, although I find this harder to do every day. Either way, salt water magic! I use 1/2 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of water (and I use good sea salt, not iodized Morton’s – it just tastes better to me).

      Drink a lot of water, wash your hands often but don’t use a lot of chemical antibacterial products (assuming you’re not immune-compromised in any way) – as my father used to say, live in a normally unhygienic environment. Also, probiotics and vitamin D.

    9. Emily*

      I’ve noticed that if I feel like I might be starting to get sick, I can often ward it off by sleeping a lot.

    10. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Not much to add except that I try not to touch doorknobs and elevator buttons. See, a lot of my sweaters are a bit oversized, so I just pull the sleeve down over my hand when I need to touch a doorknob or door handle (if I’m not already wearing gloves). I also wash my hands a lot, drink a lot of water, eat a ton of raw vegetables, and keep my stress levels low, and recently I have averaged a cold or flu about every 1 to 1.5 years now that my kid no longer goes to the germ incubator (day care).

          1. GOG11*

            lol! I meant the pens provided at the doctor’s office and the electronic pen at the pharmacy. lots of people go there because they’re ill and so I try to avoid the one yhing most of the sick people have touched.

      1. nep*

        Great point here — stress levels. A big factor in overall health. 1) Don’t sweat the small stuff; 2) It’s mostly small stuff.

    11. Panda Bandit*

      Rarely sick, not never, but I’ll throw in my 2 cents. I can count the amount of times I’ve been sick on one hand. I’d say my only healthy habit is drinking a lot of water. Any scientist will tell you that your immune system needs some germs around so it can stay in fighting shape, so I go by that. I don’t sanitize every surface around me. I have never had the flu (never had a flu shot either) and the last time I got sick was about 4 years ago.

    12. mm-or*

      I just don’t get sick (often). Never have. I’ve been at my current job 25 years and have missed three days for being sick in that time. My sister is the same way so maybe there is a genetic component.

    13. Grody Groderton*

      I don’t smoke, I don’t spend any time around small children, I drink plenty of water, I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, I get a flu shot every year, etc etc etc… but I’m also pretty cavalier about hygiene and food safety, so it could just be dumb luck.

      1. AVP*

        My (not a scientist) theory is that being a little cavalier about hygiene and food safety is what keeps me heathy! Allowing some contact with bacteria, building up antibodies, etc. I also bite my nails which someone once told me was a way that ancient people allowed themselves to intake some bacteria and stay healthy, but that might just be mumbo-jumbo.

    14. Anonyby*

      For me, I think a lot of it is genetics. I try to be mindful about washing after doing particularly nasty stuff (touching raw meat, going to the bathroom, being around people I know are sick), but I don’t sweat small potential contaminations (like dropping food on the ground and immediately picking it back up). The rare times I do feel sick, I find drinking OJ (or a Jamba Juice with the Vit C & Zinc boost) immediately helps, as does spicy food.

      I have a poor diet, bad sleeping habits, plenty of stress, and not enough physical activity, so it’s not like I’m doing everything “right”!

    15. Sunflower*

      I’m not sure if it’s my habits now or how I grew up. We didn’t worry about germs in my house. I never remember being told to wash my hands after coming inside or wash them before eating. I’m not super germaphobic and when I do get sick, it’s usually when I go to a new area/locale.

      I would watch and see when you tend you get sick and try to prepare then. Not overthinking it or being terribly afraid of getting sick has always worked for me

    16. azvlr*

      I used to get sick all the time. Looking back I think it was allergies that turned into colds. Two things seem to be different: I am now taking thyroid medication, and left my husband. Actually it wasn’t that I left him, but that I left the house where there was lots of pet dander. I love cats and dogs, but I really think I’m healthier without them around. (I borrow other people’s pets from time to time).From your username, I’m guessing no pets would be a tough option to try.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        Haha! Actually, the same is true for me. I used to get sick ALL the time living at home with my parents (they had 3 dogs – 2 of them massive great danes -, 3 cats and 2 birds. They also lived in the middle of the woods and I have bad allergies and asthma. Moving out did wonders for getting sick all of the time. Now, over 10 years later, I only have one cat and I seem to get sick far less often.

    17. CrazyCatLady*

      Hm, maybe my definition of “never get sick” is too stringent! I feel like I get sick too often, but it’s usually only 1x/year at most (knock on wood!) Thanks for all the tips!

    18. StudentAffairsProfessional*

      Sleep. I almost always get 7-8 hours a night. I am not a crazy hand sanitizer (I wash my hands a normal amount but I wouldn’t say it’s frequent) nor do I take multivitamins. If I have a particularly busy or wild weekend and end up going to bed really late or not getting a lot of sleep, I usually find myself getting sick shortly after, so I really think getting 8 hours each night is crucial to staying healthy. I work in a University Health Center so I’m surrounded by sick people, yet I almost never get sick. Exposure therapy maybe?

    19. Gene*

      My office is at a sewage treatment plant and I regularly interact with raw sewage.

      I’m immune to pretty much everything!

  30. Sophia*

    Has anyone been to Turkey? A friend and I just booked a trip, I’d love any travel suggestions. We’ll be there for 2 weeks in September.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Istanbul is my favorite city in the entire world (and I’ve been a LOT of places). Turkey is fabulous! It’s like all the great stuff about Europe plus all the great stuff about the Middle East plus history and delicious food and wonderful people. It’s really lovely.

      I think you could easily spend 3-4 days in Istanbul exploring and shopping and sightseeing, drinking coffee in cafes, etc.

      Ankara is meh – I wouldn’t make a point of going there unless you feel a particular affinity for Attaturk.

      I would spend a few days in Cappadocia, and then maybe a few days on the coast – kind of depends what you’re into for a vacation – do you like beaches, history, hiking, etc?

      I’m jealous! We always try to fly Turkish Airlines so we can stop in Istanbul for a couple days. It’s really the best city. If you love cooking definitely hit the spice market.

      A few things – you don’t have to dress super conservatively but don’t over-expose (you’ll want to be more covered up if you’re going to visit any mosques, obviously). You’ll get your typical barrage of carpet sellers and whatnot – just bargain hard and I wouldn’t drop any big money unless you really know what you’re doing. If you’re going to venture outside of the main tourist areas in Turkey just do your research – I wouldn’t go near the southeast right now (I think travel is probably restricted there anyway). I would avoid talking about Kurds or the Syrian war; talking about how much you love Turkey is always a good subject – Turks are very proud and nationalistic :)

      1. Saucy Minx*

        One of my sisters & I visited Istanbul in the mid-1970s. We thought we were modestly dressed in our nice slacks & T-shirts, neither of which were snugly fitted, but we were definitely given the eye by the men; however, they didn’t bother us — it was the occasional young boy who followed us & cat-called & made extremely rude suggestions which they were in no way qualified to fulfill. They spoke English to us, & I spoke German to them.

        So my suggestion would be to wear a tunic top or loose blouse, loose trousers or long skirts, & avoid young boys.

        Or read a Rick Steves travel book w/ info on Istanbul & what to wear there nowadays.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Now I’m singing that song, “Istanbul’s not Constantinople, now it’s Istanbul not Constantinople…been a long time gone from Constantinople; why did Constantinople get the works? That’s nobody’s business but the Turks!”

        1. AVP*

          I keep singing that as we book pieces of this trip, and my boyfriend has never heard that song and thinks I’m crazy :/

    2. AVP*

      I was literally here to say something similar! I just booked a trip to Istanbul for March, and we’re staying in the Galata neighborhood (recommended by a friend who’s from there).

      There’s a great NYT article about places that Orhan Pamuk loves in his hometown, will post a link below. I would also recommend watching movies by Nuri Bilge Ceylon, one of the biggest independent directors in Turkey.

      I don’t know if I’ll have time to drive to Cappadocia, which is about an 8-hr drive from Istanbul, but my friend took a road trip there a few years ago (during August or September I think) and her pictures were stunning. They have an ancient Greek city that was abandoned centuries or millennia ago, and it’s not a tourist attraction – it’s jus abandoned and you can walk around and take pictures and do whatever.

    3. Vancouver Reader*

      We went about 6 years ago to Istanbul and loved it! People there are super friendly, we even had one restauranteur make another group of people scootch over so we could have their table. We didn’t do the Turkish baths, but we did do the spice market and the Grand Bazaar. We took a trip out to the ‘burbs and had a fun time trying to pantomime what we wanted because of course they didn’t speak English and our Turkish was restricted to what was in the guide books.

    4. Jen RO*

      Istanbul was lovely, though it would probably be overwhelming for someone from a different culture, especially the bazaar – soo many people trying to get you to talk to them/buy from them… I am from a similar culture (well, we were under the Ottoman Empire for many years), but I hate that and I spent most of my time in the Grand Bazaar avoiding eye contact.

      I didn’t have any problems with clothing – Istanbul is very much like Western cities. My usual style doesn’t include short skirts and clevage, so I just wore my regular clothes.

      Cappadocia is amazing, but it might be hard to navigate without a Turkish speaker. We had Turkish friends showing us around for a few days and it was stunning. The people were extremely welcoming too.

    5. Schuyler*

      I know this post is a couple weeks old, but it’s funny–I was just thinking about Turkey today. My mother and I spent a week in Istanbul in February 2013. We stayed at a hotel not too far from the Hagia Sophia, blue mosque, Topkapi palace, etc. It was about a 10 minute walk for us from our hotel, and I’m not a fast walker. I’d highly suggest the Basileus Hotel; my review is at http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g293974-d1948202-r221699764-Basileus_Hotel-Istanbul.html, plus of course there’s lots of others.

      -My thoughts this afternoon were specifically about Chora Church. It was both my and my mom’s favorite part of our visit. It was actually something I had thought about visiting, then pushed to the “maybe” list, but after visiting Hagia Sophia I figured it was a must see, simply because I loved the mosaic work at Hagia Sophia and Chora is covered in this. I was astounded at how beautiful and vibrant everything is even after so long (it was covered up for a long while, but still). If you can fit this into your schedule, it would be my #1 suggestion.

      -We did do the Turkish bath–I wasn’t about to leave without it. I didn’t have any problem with it though the pressure was a little much for my mom. We bought our own scrubby things (there’s certainly a name for them but I can’t recall it now) when we were out shopping instead of them using the ones they had there.

      -My mom liked the Grand Bazaar, too–we stopped there 2-3 times, at least, I think. Again, it wasn’t very far from our hotel–most of the time we walked. We ended up buying several pieces of jewelry each, but I wish I had found some chalcedony that I’d liked since that’s typical to the region.

      -We also saw a whirling dervish ceremony. It was really interesting to see, and to hear the music as well.

      – I wish we had visited the archeological museum. It’s in the same area as Hagia Sophia, but I don’t think I realized that at the time that we were walking by it daily.

      Our first full day there we did accidentally make our way to the blue mosque from like the back side. A carpet seller there–whom we didn’t realize was a salesman–was kind enough to take us through the mosque and explain some of the features to us. Afterward, he took us to his shop. Once I realized what was going on I felt really bad, because neither of us had any interest in purchasing a rug, so we avoided guides at the other places we visited. I really hope to visit Turkey again someday and see more of the country. You’ll have a great time!

  31. Shell*

    More of site-related than anything. On Friday I was posting on the work open thread from work, and the site blocked me as spam. I know sometimes the spam filter gets overzealous, but I didn’t see my blocked posts come back so I’m curious if the spam filter kills spam (or what it thinks is spam) posts outright instead of putting them into a queue for Alison to review. Does anyone know?

    But Alison, please don’t feel like you ought to go dig through the filter for my posts (if there is a queue). The post wasn’t anything important, I’m just curious about the site settings.

  32. Cruciatus*

    I realize I will sound like a commercial but…for book readers, I just want to recommend the website fictfact.com. It keeps track of your book series for you. Before, I was keeping track of all my series and publishing dates with a notebook that was constantly growing with dates scratched out and new ones written and looking ugly as time went on. The site been useful for telling me when the next book will come out. In fact, because of it I’ve realized a few book series I thought were over actually had more books written (for example, Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series had a new book, Clariel, published in 2014–the last book published was in 2004). And I like pulling it up to see publishing dates for future books in my series so I can start requesting them from the library (or buying the right books at the bookstore). I hope someone else might find it as useful as I have! (and it’s free, of course!)

      1. Cruciatus*

        It can’t work miracles…but it will email you the minute they have a release date so you know how much longer you’ll have to wait.

  33. The Splendor and Misery of Bodies, of Cities*

    I’m having a really good Valentine’s day! To start, my wife liked the orchid I gave her. And then my daughter came home from college unexpectedly. But we had no shortage of food: I grilled a couple of huge USDA Prime bone-in Ribeyes; my wife and daughter made Fettucine Alfredo from scratch, with sauteed baby squash. Salad was mixed greens with home-made bleu cheese dressing. We had fresh lemonade with dinner, followed by pecan coffee. Dessert was a chocolate-dipped strawberry sampler. The lemonade was nice – we opened up all the windows in the house and it was just warm enough to make the lemonade extra-good. My daughter had to go back to her dorm, now we’re chilling and watching a new episode of How To Get Away With Murder. I got a new toy (Grendel RA-9 Grenadier) and I’m just playing around with it. And to top it all off, I found out that Monday is a holiday and I don’t have to work.

    My wife’s girlfriend from the gym is at the door, I don’t know what’s up with that. She’s got wine, though. I hope she doesn’t stay long; it’s almost time to dim the lights. Gotta go! I hope y’all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day, too! Did anybody do anything extra fun, or have a really good dinner?

    1. CAA*

      I made lemonade today too! Friends gave us a bag of lemons from their tree, so I froze 4 cups of juice, made a pan of lemon bars, and a pitcher of lemonade. It was 82 degrees here, so the lemonade was refreshing.

      We had mahi mahi with mango salsa and cilantro rice for dinner — also very good on a hot day.

  34. Mimmy*

    Reason #23861 I love the Ask A Manager site: It’s reliable!!! If the site does go down, you know that someone likely has posted about it on the Facebook page, bringing it to Alison’s attention pretty quickly. Or, if there is to be any maintenance, she would probably let us know. I’m trying to get to a message board that I frequent, which it’s been down all evening and there is no way to find out what the heck is going on. That’s because message boards like the one I’m speaking of are run by a parent company, which supports numerous forums, so you’re at the mercy of this faceless company, and those watching the servers are probably out on their Valentine’s Day dates, lol.

    Alison, I hope you never go to a message board format like that!

  35. angel tears*

    Anyone here have experience with agoraphobia? From what I’ve read, it doesn’t seem to ever go away for most sufferers. I know some people end up climbing out of it, but apparently relapse is extremely common.

    A couple of weeks ago, a poster wrote about her driving anxiety. I responded that I have a driving phobia, and now, weeks later, I am realizing that I’ve become both agoraphobic and claustrophobic. I am not being a hypochondriac. I am truly suffering here. I know it’s related to personal trauma, and it makes sense in that irrational psychological way why my mind and body ended up like this.

    When I realized how bad things were going, I made an appointment with a psychiatrist and he put me on a medication. I am so terrified of being on medication for the rest of my life. There aren’t long-term anxiety medications, just very short-term and very addicting ones. I know many anxiety sufferers are on SSRIs, but those are intended for depression and the side effects absolutely terrify me. I also know from experience that weaning off of them is a nightmare.

    Anyone have advice?

    1. fposte*

      Oh, that’s so hard, I’m sorry. Brains are very complicated things. I wonder if your fear of being on medication is actually another manifestation of your anxiety and if it might subside once the medication starts to take effect. When I got my thyroid nuked years ago so I had to be on synthetic thyroid hormone for the rest of my life, it really bothered me, but then I got pretty used to it, and as I’ve grown older and other things have come up I’ve got several things that I’ll be on for the rest of my life. It’s ended up not being that big a deal–it’s like flossing, it’s something vaguely intrusive that’s part of the daily routine.

      I think that it’s quite possible that you can develop a routine or find a medication that will help you avoid or minimize the problems you’re most concerned about; it just won’t necessarily happen right away. (BTW, I’m not not not not giving medical advice, but as I mention upthread I accidentally found Lyrica, which isn’t an SSRI, working well as an anti-anxiety agent for me, and it’s apparently being used as an adjunct therapy in a lot of GAD situations. Maybe worth asking about something like that?)

      It’s hard when your brain’s this kicked up not to hear every rustle of grass as a predator about to leap, but the fact that you were able to go and get help is a really good sign, I think; it also sounds like you did so pretty soon after realizing the extent of the anxiety, and it’s likely going to be easier to modify as a result. So I think you’re on the right road, even if it doesn’t feel much like it yet.

      So hang in there, and good luck.

    2. Emily*

      One of my favorite bloggers (Jen of Epbot and Cake Wrecks fame) struggles with anxiety and agoraphobia that she writes about sometimes. I’m not sure if she takes a regular medication, but she has recently had some luck with exposure therapy.

      Good luck managing your anxiety and finding a medication (or other treatment) that works for you.

    3. Anonymous Agoraphobe*

      I have agoraphobia. It’s not fun, but it’s survivable. I’m not currently medicated, and I don’t have a therapist. Since my diagnosis I’ve had relapses where I couldn’t go to the grocery store two blocks from my apartment… but I’ve also been able to move across the country, travel internationally, and go skydiving. Maybe it will come back as bad as it was, but I survived the last relapse and the initial episode, and I will survive it again if I have to. I refuse to let it dictate my life 24/7.

      What helped me the most was Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). There’s more to it than what I can describe, but the short version is that it’s designed to identify your unproductive thought patterns and feelings, find what triggers the patterns, and then challenge the thoughts. Some days the challenge might be thinking “My value as a person is not connected to my fears.” Some days the challenge might be thinking “If I did go outside, what is the worst thing that could happen, what is the best thing that could happen, and what are the most likely things that could happen?” And some days the challenge is actually getting up and going outside even if you don’t make it all the way down the street. This is what helped me long term.

      I haven’t found that antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs helped much as a daily med. One thing that did help me was to have an “emergency” med like Ativan, which I could use in the midst of a freakout. I think the biggest help was that psychological boost from knowing that I had something with me that could help if I did panic. There are some attacks that you can’t stop no matter what, but some can be cut off at the source before they blow up completely. Knowing I wasn’t defenseless and without tools ended up being one of the best things when I was doing a challenge outside in public. Use the meds to get your feet under you, then talk with your doctor about longer-term solutions once you’ve gotten your current situation sorted.

      TL;DR: You’re gonna get through this. Try CBT, and think of the meds as a tool for the time being.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      So, I used to feel the same way as you about medications – I should be able to fix this myself, etc. But FINALLY my thyroid doctor of all people convinced me to try a low dose of celexa and I’ve been on it for a while. What it helps me with is the seasonal depression, because I used to get SO down in the winter, and this seems to balance me out better. I honestly feel almost no different, just a more stable version of myself. I really, really didn’t want to be one of Those People on antidepressants, but you know what? If there are substances out there that can help me be a somewhat better version of myself, because my brain chemistry is a little off, then I’m fine with that. I still feel everything I want to feel, I just feel a little more in control of my emotions now. Does that make sense?

    5. Anonymous for PTSD*

      I haven’t dealt with agoraphobia, but with another anxiety disorder (PTSD) and related phobias. My advice is to find a good therapist who believes in a possibility of recovery. For a long time, I saw therapists to manage what I saw as a chronic condition. Then I stumbled on one who thought I had a chance to recover, at least partially, and it’s incredible.

      You can learn about specific therapists in your area through Psychology Today’s website. I used it to find my current therapist. It’s also helpful if you’re looking for someone who is good with people in your specific situation. For example, I was able to search specifically for therapists who described experience with trauma victims/survivors, eating disorders, and self-harm.

      From that website, you can read about the types of therapy they use, and contact them to talk about it. Look for someone who has successfully worked with patients who had similar phobias or experiences. Ask about their approach to exposure therapy, if you’re thinking of trying that. Make sure that they plan to do it in a way that you’re comfortable with.

      Also, about medication: I take an SSRI. I have the predictable sexual side effects, but no other problems. That’s a trade-off for relief from anxiety that I’m happy to make. But at this point in recovery, I’m planning to lower the dose and eventually go off medication, and in research on that, I’ve learned that it’s slow and sometimes difficult but still very possible.

  36. Mallory Janis Ian*

    Best and worst of the week?

    Here’s mine:

    Best: we found out that my daughter is a national merit finalist!

    Worst: husband’s job list a major client to bankruptcy, and he may have to take a position decrease with an $800/month psy cut in the subsequent reorganization.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Best: A nice Valentine’s Day with my love.

      Worst: My boss sucks and I’m finding it more and more difficult to deal with.

    2. LAMM*

      Best: it’s a tie between landing the promotion I’ve been working my butt off for for the past several months and enjoying the first 3 day weekend I’ve had in forever… I’ve been off since 6pm Thursday and don’t go back til 2pm Monday.

      Worst: My phone doesn’t really *do* phone calls anymore. Any incoming calls I get have to go to VM because it freezes when calls come in. And my laptop is now claiming that it is not running genuine Windows (this is after months of not recognizing the battery, which came out of nowhere) and the keyboard is on the fritz. So… it looks like I know what I’m spending my tax refund/work bonus on…

    3. Stephanie*

      Best: I met up with fellow commenter C Average! She is in my neck of the woods for the weekend. She is just as lovely in person.

      Worst: What we assumed was just a fatty deposit on our dog’s leg (he’s 11 and those are apparently common in older dogs) ended up being a malignant tumor. Vet said he thought it was localized and removed it yesterday. Dog seems to be doing fine, but still kind of on edge.

    4. Elkay*

      Best: I’ve just finished off my end of year accounts for the group I run and it was relatively pain free.

      Worst: Stupid stinking illness. Still feeling crummy.

    5. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Best: Just filed my taxes! And even though I had a bunch of contract income that I didn’t bother setting up taxes for (it’s temporary), I only owed a tiny bit because of my zealous over-withholding I do every year.

      Worst: Due to the above contract income, I don’t get the fat ~$5K refund I was really looking forward to most of the year. Sigh!

    6. danr*

      Best: I’m walking without pain. Last year I wrecked my back digging my car out of a snowbank at the end of our driveway. After surgery and recovery the pain is still gone. I can shovel and clear the driveway but I don’t overdo it.

      Fair to middling: I ordered the Chocolate Teapot Ltd hat… what I got was a Mountain View California, California Republic hat… but Cafe Press is supposed to send me the right one and I don’t have to send this one back.

      Worst: more snow. We’re not getting what New England is getting, but the storms are coming every week. The forecast low for tonight is -3 F (-19 C ).

      1. Masters Degree JD lady*

        Best: 1st valentines day w/bf (and scary since on his ride over, the car in front spun off and hit a tree-all were ok and bf was 1 hr delayed, he was helping them out. He’s so nice). Also, I’m saving up for starting a savings acct far from parent purview.

        Worst: Recovering from a cold (bf bought me cold meds yay lol). Parents still pressuring me to retake bar a 4th time despite my current 60k/yr contract gig and upcoming senior role interview tmrw for something more long term in $70k range for later. Also-mom’s surgery’s in 2 wks. **siiigh*****

    7. Anonyby*

      Best: I’m getting a lot more hours at work! More hours = more money! Now to try to translate this into a new, steadier job…

      Worst: Dealing with Dad. Between what I mentioned at the top of the page, a discussion I had with his gf last night, and a lot of other stuff… I’m getting fed up. I’m trying to get better options on the table, but that’s slow in coming. It’s also leading to some dangerous daydream/thinking that I’m trying hard to shut down (ie “this would be a lot easier if x very-highly-improbable event happened!”).

      Here’s to hoping for a better week next week!

    8. Bea W*

      Best: This week is over and tomorrow is a paid holiday!

      Worst: Oh which do I choose?
      The MBTA Commuter Rail putting the brunt of cancelled service on my line and not alerting people of severe delays, no shows, and worst of all, loading us up on a train and then booting us off to give that equipment to another line that didn’t have one cancellation all day, while we had at least 10.
      My work laptop suffered the BSOD.
      It won’t stop snowing.
      My front door froze shut. After I thawed it out, my neighbor thought it would be a good idea to leave it not closed all the way, but all that did was give the snow melt more spaces to refreeze, and it was frozen shut but worse than before.
      My roof has scary ice dams that are beyond ice melt in panty hose remedies, and I worry about how much damage is going to happen below. This is why the door is freezing shut.
      Mass layoffs that hit friends and collegues – not just layoffs but layoffs whilst the company brags about earnings and potential for even more earnings this year. One of my friends said she was not going to look internally. She hated what the company has become since being acquired 3 years ago and is done with it, not to mention that they are replacing people at her level with contractors (like they have with many other functions). Obviously, that doesn’t bode well for her long term job security here.

      This week sucked.

  37. Shell*

    Best: my new job is going swimmingly, the days go by really fast and I’m learning tons while enjoying myself.

    Worst: I’m at a burnout point with my creative writing and I haven’t written anything decent in about two months. (Elizabeth West knows what I’m talking about as a fellow writer.) I keep wanting to throw in the towel even when I know I shouldn’t; I’ve done that once before and missed it so badly. I keep reading the writing of some of my idols and saying to myself, I can’t quite yet–I can’t write like that yet, so I can’t quit.. But sometimes this all seems way more trouble than it’s worth.

    1. Saucy Minx*

      I assume we are talking about writing fiction, since as a freelance journalist I had to meet my deadlines in order to get more assignments & earn some money. Kind of motivating!

      For eight years I worked part-time in a mystery bookstore, so heard many an author say that their daily goal was five pages. Some days they wrote five pages, some days ten or more; some days the work was good, & some days it was not so great. Each day they had the same goal: five pages minimum, & if they wrote more it did not mean they could do less the next day.

      Some of them had set hours. Some of them had a dedicated place. Some of them had to write it out by hand, as it worked better w/ their thinking process, some of them used manual typewriters, & some computers. Some of them wrote multiple drafts, & some of them thought it through in their heads & had excellent first drafts that needed very little rewriting. Some of them had a pre-writing routine: get dressed first, get the first sentence in your head before sitting down, have a cup of tea or coffee.

      But one & all, they had the daily goal of X number of pages, no matter what.

    2. Anonyby*

      I totally feel you on the creative writing. I’ve wanted to get back into it, but I’ve been struggling. I’ve had writing partners for so long that it feels like I can’t keep things moving on my own anymore… and willing writing partners have dwindled to the point where I was down to one… And I stopped writing with her because we had a ton of communication issues (to the point where we’d feel like we’d gone over everything and talked it to death…and still be on completely different pages when we’d start writing, amongst other communication issues).

      But keep going! Remember, if something’s not perfect now you at least have a framework there and go back and fix it when you edit! You can do it! *waves cheerleader pompoms*

  38. Crazy cat lady*

    I’ve never done this before but I’m using gofundme.com for the first time.

    One of my kitties passed away a couple months ago due to possible hemophilia. It came out of the blue and created a mountain of vet bills for us ($4,000+). This was in addition to a multitude of personal problems we were having and now we’re in a position of not being able to pay this bill and many others (several doctors, propane etc.). My friends and family convinced me i should try a fundraising website to try and raise some funds for my late kitty’s medical expenses. It took me awhile to do it; i feel weird asking for money and it’s hard to admit we need help. But the vet bills are big and are getting old so I did it. I’m hoping for the best.

    Has anyone done this before? If so what was your experience?

    1. GOG11*

      I’ve done quite a few small scale fundraisers and I enjoy being able to help a person or cause I really care about (especially bc I can’t afford to donate much). I’ve never done it for myself, though, and I would feel awkward about doing it, but I’d gladly donate to help a friend/family and I’m sure w/ roles reversed they’d feel the same.

      It seems like your family would like a way to support you, but I understand your hesitation. I hope you’re able to find something that works for you. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your kitty. Take care of yourself.

      1. Crazy cat lady*

        Thank you. Yes, it’s definitely been a very difficult year. Never had such a horrible year in my whole life. Pretty much for every good thing that happened, something way more crappy (and expensive!) happened. But it seems to be showing signs of looking up, thankfully.

        1. GOG11*

          It was funny because I actually have two go fund me tabs open in my browser right now (I opened them yesterday). One for a local family that lost their house in a fire and one for a local woman who does great work in the community but who has been diagnosed with a very serious medical condition. I am struggling with medical expenses myself and a reduced income, but I can’t bring myself to close the tabs because I still want to donate. The drive to help is there for people who care about you, and it seems like you’ve got some good, caring people in your life.

          I’m glad things are finally looking up for you and I hope things continue to get better.

    2. LD*

      I sympathize in the loss of your kitty. I had a similar situation with vet bills when one of my cats required 24 hour care while I had only expected boarding (he apparently got separation anxiety and refused to eat). The bill for that 24 HR care for a week was over $1000 and that was 10 years ago. The office manager at the vet helped me set up a payment plan. Perhaps along with the fundraising, you could talk with them about a long term payment plan, too. I’m sorry you are having to deal with the financial stress at the same time as you are grieving the loss of your pet. Take care.

    3. beckythetechie*

      My apartment came with a cat. Well, sort of. She decided she was going to stay with me instead of living on the porch of the apartment downstairs in a foot of snow and -12*F weather (so essentially what we’re having now). So, off to the vet we went, and the cheerful 5ish year old cat I thought came with the apartment turned out to be 10 and have serious dental issues. $400 for surgery when I’d just taken a loan from my life insurance policy was not in the cards, but the little thing was in so much pain she couldn’t eat and her kidneys were shutting down.

      GoFundMe we went, hoping it’d take a month or so and I could nurse her along with fluids in the mean time. I set the thing up on a Sunday, shared around to some blogs and on my Facebook page, and we went to bed. (She’s the one that sleeps on my back.)

      Monday I woke up, and someone who remains anonymous paid the entire $400 in one donation in honor of a pet of their own. Dame Molly Mo McCuddles of Mrrpington got her teeth pulled, her kidneys rebounded fairly well, and she’s currently recharging her solar cells on the window sill, quacking at the starlings in the tree outside. :)

      1. Crazy cat lady*

        That’s awesome! I’m so glad it worked out for you. I’ve thought about sharing on some blogs I read, but I don’t want to hijack the comments or anything. Did you have any weird comments come out of that?

        I guess I feel weird because this isn’t to save an animal or help with expenses for a living animal. These are expenses around the death of an animal. Maybe I’m just being too awkward about it; it’s hard to ask for help.

  39. Katie the Fed*

    Hey Alison – if you’re still looking for a stockpot, I was at the Williams Sonoma outlet at Leesburg today and the Williams-Sonoma brand thermo-clad was 70% off. Plus you can get an outlet center coupon for another 20% off one item – I picked up an aluminum stainless steel clad 8 quart stockpot originally priced $380 for $92.

    1. danr*

      Must be the season for buying All-clad. We don’t have a William Sonoma outlet near us, but we did buy the 4 quart essential pot on sale. We know what we’re going to use the pot for, but we don’t know where we’ll store it yet.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I have the Saute/Simmer All Clad (similar to the essential) – it’s great!

        The ones at the outlet were the Williams Sonoma brand, not All Clad, but get great reviews. I’m kind of wondering if I want to get a second one – at close to 80% off retail it’s hard to resist getting in two sizes!

    1. Stephanie*

      Last books:
      -I read Gone Girl. I saw the movie and was curious to read the book. Just gah…the ending was even more anticlimactic in print. It’s like her publisher told her it was too long and she needed to end it. I couldn’t put it down up to that point, however.
      -I listened to The Poisonwood Bible on audiobook while I drove. I enjoyed it! I wasn’t too into at first, but it grew on me.

      Currently reading:
      Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld by Jake Halpern. It’s nonfiction about the whole world of debt collectors–these are the people who try to collect on debt after banks have given up and written the amounts off. They’ll buy books of uncollected debt for pennies on the dollar and try to get whatever money they can (and end up making huge profits). It’s interesting so far–it does of kind of jump back and forth between character study and banking regulations (like the author can’t decide which he wants the book to be).

      Up Next:
      Drown by Junot Diaz

    2. V. Meadowsweet*

      in the midst of the Night Angel trilogy (Brent Weeks) and ‘A Face Turned Backward’ (Lauren Haney – mystery series set in Ancient Egypt, in a city in then-Lower Nubia)

      hoping to read ‘Unperfect Souls’ (Mark Del Franco – modern AU mystery series where Faerie and Earth have recently merged) if it comes in to the bookstore!

      1. Al Lo*

        I love Bonk. Such a good book. I’ve recommended it here — not sure if anyone else has, but I’m glad you liked it! It’s so good.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Packing for Mars, also by her, is great. If you like that genre, I have lots of recommendations – my husband and I love those types of books

    3. Lizzie*

      The last book I finished was Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, which is about life in North Korea. (It was great, but obviously the subject matter is a bit heavy.) I’m about 3/4 of the way though The Good Lord Bird now, and I think after I finish that I’m going to switch gears and read Boxers, which is a graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion.

      1. AVP*

        oh I loved Nothing to Envy so much – if you want more North Korea nonfiction after, I also liked Suki Kim’s recent book Without You, There Is No Us, which is about the time she spent teaching English to the sons of the NK elite outside Pyongyang.

    4. Liane*

      Just finished (in the last month):
      1. Onslaught at Arda (Fantasy Flight Games). One of my Christmas presents. Star Wars RPG campaign that my game group wants me to run for them.
      2. Star Wars Rebels junior novel (Michael Kogge). Because I needed something simple while I was sickest and because they didn’t publish a grown-up novelization :) surprisingly good. Had a lot of good “backstory” and “offscreen” details not in the pilot movie. In most novels based off movies/pilots (as opposed to novels made into them) that I’ve read, it’s straight from the script, with any differences caused by final cut or the author working from an earlier script draft.
      3. Blood Runs in the Family (Rich Burlew) latest Graphic Novel compilation of his longrunning Order of the Stick webcomic. D and D spoof combined with epic fantasy adventure. The acme of the stick-figure school of art. Lots of fun and character development.

      Now reading:
      No True Way (Mercedes Lackey, ed.) Latest shared anthology set in her Valdemar fantasy world. So far, most of the stories so far are good, although 1 had a too-grim ending & another just stopped. Not like the 1 Stephanie mentioned but just at the point where it looked like you were getting to the story proper; as if it was the Prologue or Chap. 1 of a full novel/novella.

      Eagerly Awaiting:
      Dead Heat (Patricia Briggs). Out 3/3!!! Latest in her Alpha & Omega urban fantasy series. Mom, Dad & Teen Girl waiting on it. But I get to read it first because it is pre-ordered for MY Kindle app on MY iPad. And I pre-ordered when Amazon was offering it for $5.99, half what new Kindle novels usually cost!

    5. AVP*

      I recently finished Miranda July’s novel and really enjoyed it. I like her short stories, although some of her movies and art are too twee for me. But I think she really pulled it together, created a fascinating character and just let her go out into the world. Also, it was a tiny bit smutty in a good way.

      So many that I’m in the middle of right now!

      – Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories – I saw Cabaret on Broadway a few weeks ago and it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to read the book version for years. total classic, if you’re interested in Wiemar Berlin and gay life in the 30’s.

      – Lev Grossman’s The Magician King – I loved the first book in the seres and the second just came up o my library borrow list. Totally engrossing magical fantasy.

      – Jean Hegland’s Into The Forest – If you like dystopian fiction, this one is good. Reminds me a little of Emily St. John Mandel, which is a huge compliment.

      Next up: my (real life) book club decided to have a trashy romance month and we’re reading Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War. I haven’t started it yet but it looks kind of intriguing, and it’s free on kindle!

    6. Anonyby*

      I just finished (re-)reading “Emperor Mage” by Tamora Pierce. I love her quartets set in Tortall, and this is my emotional favorite of them, in addition to being the first one I read. I just need to finish “The Realm of the Gods” before I can set the Tortall books aside for a recommendation by a friend. Jo Clayton’s “Soul Drinker” trilogy is his favorite by her, and I happened to find the whole trilogy in a single hardback when I was in clearing out my store credit at a used book store that was closing.

    7. Blue_eyes*

      I recently read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. We watched the movie last night and I thought it did a really good job of capturing the main character and the overall tone of the book.

      Just started Some Luck by Jane Smiley. My mom got it for me for Christmas. I took a little while to get into it, but now I like it.

    8. beckythetechie*

      Cookbooks: Taming the Feast by Ben Ford (Harrison’s son). I now have instructions for making roast pork for 90 or planked salmon for 60, which seems out of place for a vegetarian, but a good number of the sides etc. he includes are veg/vegan friendly and the techniques are a major part of the focus of the book. Plus pretty pictures, so yum!

      Fiction: The Kingkiller Chronicles #1 “The Name of the Wind”. I have #2, “The Wise Man’s Fear” on request at the library.

      Non-fiction: Axolotls; Care in captivity. I have to change our tank set up, but it was the only book on the wee things at the library and hopelessly out of date. Back to ambystoma.org I go. :)

  40. LAMM*

    Anyone know of a place in KC where you can get authentic Paczkis? My mom lives on the Kansas side of the city and misses them like crazy around this time every year (where we’re from you can find them literally everywhere)… she says it’s not the same if I mail her some.

    1. matcha123*

      I just want to chime in and say that paczkis are the BEST. THING. EVER. and I am so sad that I haven’t had one in almost 10 years. Unless you could get them there within 24 hours, I’d agree that mailed paczkis probably don’t taste the same.
      Good luck with your search!

  41. GOG11*

    I use olive oil (half dollar size) on damp hands. super gentle, effective, cheap, fragrance free and even organic if you prefer it.

  42. Ann Furthermore*

    I posted here a few weeks ago about a summer trip to the UK, which we’re definitely going to do, but probably not this year. I really want us to be there for at least 2 weeks. But we have a 6 year old that we were planning to leave home with my mother-in-law, and even though she’d be at daycare most of the time, 2 weeks is still a big commitment for my MIL. She’s in her 70’s, and my daughter is a ball of energy, active in sports….and stubborn as hell sometimes to the point of being pretty unpleasant. So we decided that the UK can wait.

    So now I’m exploring Disney vacation options, since our daughter is at the perfect age for something like that. There is a Disney hotel in Hawaii, and I have enough frequent flyer miles for all 3 of us. But the prices I got on the hotel website were, predictably, insane. Then I stumbled across an intriguing alternative.

    Disney has a time-share program called the Disney Vacation Club. You pay to get in, then pay each year to earn points that you use at Disney properties. If you’re not going to use all your points, you can contact a points broker who will find someone (like us) who isn’t a member but will buy your points and use them. So the non-member pays the broker $14 per point, and the broker pays the points owner $13 per point, and keeps the difference.

    The estimate I got on both website was half the price of the hotel’s website. I have been scouring the internet trying to find something telling me that this is a scam, or there’s some kind of hidden catch, anything to make my inner cynic say, “HA!! Told you so!!” But I can’t find anything. In fact it’s just the opposite — all the reviews I’ve read on places like tripadvisor say that it works like a charm, goes off without a hitch, that the people who work for the brokers are great, and so on.

    Has anyone heard of this, done this, or know anyone who has? I’d really like some information from an actual person, instead of just relying on reviews from strangers. I don’t know why I’m so dubious. We’ve done a few vacation rentals through VRBO, and had fantastic luck with that, and this is basically the same thing. I guess I’m worried about schlepping all the way to Hawaii only to find out that this was an elaborate scam.

    PS – thank you to everyone who made such awesome suggestions about things to do and see in the UK! I’ve kept all the comments and will absolutely come back to them when we’re ready to make that trip.

    1. V. Meadowsweet*

      I _think_ this is what a friend has joined, and I think she’s been happy with it. I can ask if she still is and would recommend it, but won’t be seeing her until Monday, sorry :/

      1. DebbieDebbieDebbie*

        My parents are currently in the middle of a 3 week vacation at Aulani, the Hawaiian Disney resort. They are long time Vacation Club members as is one of my sisters. For some context, my family are huge fans of everything Disney but I am not and my eyes tend to glaze over when they talk about their vacations. What I can tell you is that after 10+ years of membership in the vacation club, my folks have never been scammed and are completely satisfied. My sister and her husband purchased addt’l points from my parents this year to take their girls on a mega trip to the Magic Kingdom.
        In regards to Aulani itself, they have also been very satisfied with the resort. My dad describes it as mostly Hawaiian with a few Disney characters showing up from time to time and all of the fabulous Disney customer service my parents appreciate. This is their third trip since retiring 5 years ago.

    2. Elkay*

      I’ve heard of it but only via Disney blogs. I think it’s a fairly well established practice (you can also buy Disney Vacation Club points second hand which is cheaper than direct from Disney) so you should be fine.

      1. Elkay*

        I just remembered one thing, as far as I can tell the vacation club accommodation are villas rather than hotel rooms so you don’t get all the amenities of the hotels.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      Are you able to check the terms an conditions of membership, or maybe ask Disney if it’s OK to transfer point to a third party, so you know you’re not breaking any rules of you buy the points second hand.

      In the UK paying with a credit card makes your bank jointly liable for providing the service so if you get ripped off they have to return the money to you, I don’t know if you get that protection in the U.S.

      Again in the UK all travel operators must be licensed and bonded is there a scheme like that in the U.S. ? If so make sure the broker you use is a member, and check out travel insurance to see if that will cover and potential problems.

  43. catsAreCool*

    I’m looking for advice on coloring my hair. I have long curly brown hair with some white in it, and I’d like to color the white.

    I’ve been thinking about just getting some hair dye from the store and using it, but:

    1. My hair tends to be dry, and I’m worried about coloring it making it drier.
    2. I really hate the smell of most hair dyes (I probably just need to deal with it). I’m the kind of person who avoids going down the grocery aisle with all of the cleaning products because I find the smell somewhat overpowering.

    People give great advice on this thread – any suggestions?


    1. Elizabeth West*

      Maybe try a natural products store? They might have some kind of thing that’s less harsh, or know one that is. Or you could ask your stylist for advice (I know they might try to sell you their coloring service, but they might also know of or have something that fits your needs).

    2. Stephanie*

      Coloring white hair can be tough since it’s often a different, drier texture. I went gray early and found coloring it to be really tough. I’ve got coarse, Afro-textured hair and I found trying to dye the white hair to be a disaster (moisture-wise) since my white hair was even coarser, drier and wiry. Plus, the upkeep was annoying. So I just gave up, but I’m aware not everyone wants the Paulie Gualtieri thing I sort of have going on.

      I’d try a semi-permanent or even a rinse. I found permanent dyes a bit too harsh. You could try henna–I found that worked well as a deep conditioner. Main catch is that it’ll stain your white hairs (usually burgundy, gold, or auburn depending on your “shade” of white and the henna). If you’ve just got a few white hairs here and there, it can look pretty (and your brown hair will have some highlights), but that might not be the look you want if you’ve got chunks of white hair.

    3. DeadQuoteOlympics*

      Along with all the other aspects, home dying long hair can be very, very messy. If you do go forward with it, get some real, properly sized latex or latex free gloves, and remove all stainable items, especially cloth, from your chosen venue. If you can talk a friend/relative into helping you, that’s even better.

      As Stephanie says, dying over gray/white can be tough. I gave up doing it at home as I got older with more gray, and now rely on my stylist.

      1. Liane*

        Yes, coloring long hair is a pain. If you are doing it at home, I recommend getting someone to help you. When Teen Girl leaves home, I think I will either have the stylist do it or stop.

      2. Anony*

        +1 And after many years of buying box dye at Target, I’ve learned that you should pick up a cheap navy or black towel while you’re at it.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I used to put several drops of chamomile oil in my conditioner. This gave the white a very soft blond tinge that looked natural. I really liked it and got compliments.

      But it was a PITA. I had to dump out all the conditioner, count out the drops, stir it VERY well and then put it back in the bottle. The only good thing was that once finished, I was set for a while.

      The white has taken over more real estate now and I no longer care enough to spend the time. ;) It was fun while it lasted!

    5. CoffeeLover*

      I know you’re asking for grocery store brands, but it might be worth getting a professional to dye your hair at least the first time. And while you’re there you can pick your stylists brain for good store bought hair dyes. I think the biggest problem is having to use stronger dyes to get those white hairs. I’ve always dyed my hair a darker shade which has made my hair softer, not dryer. I used to get my hair dyed at Aveda. Their hair dye is all natural and amazing. (My hair type: Very thick, curly, dry)

      1. Lulubell*

        I get mine professionally done at Aveda too, and love it. Like the OP, I also have long, naturally curly hair, and I started going lighter (blonder) to mask the grays.

    6. AVP*

      have you looked into the Lush henna hair dyes? I’ve used them before and I have some pros and cons:

      Pros: they’re super hydrating (I also have long, curly hair), they’re very natural and won’t ruin your hair, they work really well for what they do, and they don’t smell like chemicals.

      Cons: they’re a little hippie-ish, so if you live with someone they might think you’re crazy, they make a mess, and they only come in four colors so if your hair is wildly off from the base colors, you might be out of luck.

      There are plenty of videos on youtube, plus on the Lush website, but this is how I did it to get a great color result: I used 3 blocks (they come in blocks of six, so one purchase was enough for two sessions; I kept the rest in the fridge). You chop it up and mix with water, apply to your hair, wrap in a crappy towel you don’t mind ruining, and let it sit for three hours before you go to sleep. Rinse it out, clean the bathroom, go to sleep with hair still wet and wrapped in a towel, and wash it out for real in the shower the next morning with shampoo and conditioner. It lasts for about 3-4 months and fades naturally, I didn’t get any roots growing in.

        1. Stephanie*

          I’ve used Lush henna before. I recommend it as well. I have really thick hair, so I actually needed all six blocks for any coverage.

          Lush will dye it for you in store, actually. I remember I got it done in store and then went to Target (as it had to sit for several hours). I had plastic wrap and a scarf covering the plastic wrap. The girl behind me in line was like “Uh, ma’am. You know something’s dripping down your neck out your scarf, right?”

          1. AVP*

            lol, yes. I tried the plastic wrap but doing it myself was wayyy too drippy. Wrapping your hair in a towel might give you a less-deep color but it saves the rest of your house!

    7. Sunflower*

      I tried to use John Freida color gloss to turn my highlights darker and it did nothing. However, a lot of people claimed it covered greys really well. I think most went to a professional to get it done first but they maintained it by using the gloss. There’s no ammonia or bleach in it so you literally can’t screw anything up by using it and it’s very gentle on your hair.

  44. SingleMingle*

    I need advice on family drama. I have a cousin who is treacherous and years ago threw me under the bus in the workplace by trying to sabotage my promotion (we worked at the same place). It was out in the open (she got other people involved), obvious and very callous–so much so that she developed a bad reputation among some coworkers for being a jealous, disloyal person who would sell their own mother. After this incident, I stopped talking to her and cut her out because really…blood may be thicker than water but who needs family like that? I just felt I could never really discuss any personal things or career things with her because she was such a jealous person (I learned through that incident). Well anyway–fast forward years later and whaddaya know…that cousin pops up again and has befriended my mother (who is in her 70s). My mother and this cousin are not related by blood because she is a cousin on my father’s side. My mother and father divorced over 40 years ago and they hated each other, but my mother occasionally kept in contact with her ex in-laws. Well, my cousin had a death in her family, so my mother invited her over for dinner and has befriended this cousin. My mother even had the nerve to tell me that when the cousin came over and they were looking through family photos, a photo of me came up and my cousin put it down and then walked into the next room because she did not want to see me. My mother actually told me this and then said, “It’s obvious she’s jealous of you”, but my mother has no plans of discontinuing their new relationship (even though she knows about the former incident where she threw me under the bus). My mother suggested that the issues between my cousin and I and “our issues” and she is free to speak to her but I feel betrayed and that my mother is being hostile towards me in a passive aggressive way–especially since this cousin has let on that she feels negatively about me. I have stopped speaking to my mother over this because I feel she stabbed me in the back. Some of my friends suggested she’s lonely (because she’s retired), but lonely or not, you don’t go cavorting with your child’s enemy. I think my mother was trying to be coy about the whole thing, but it backfired because I just abruptly stopped speaking to her and now she’s calling leaving voicemails saying “I don’t know why I haven’t heard from you but Just wanted to check in and let you know I love you” (which is also passive aggressive to me–she knows what the deal is…other relatives have told her). So, what would you do in this situation??? Any suggestions–I don’t know if I’m being too sensitive, but I do have an up and down history with my mother because she and other relatives ave been jealous and resentful about my successes (I’m the first person in my family to go to college and even got a Ph.D).

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I think you should maybe have a face-to-face with your mum (calm, no yelling or responding to any passive-aggressive barbs) and let her know how you feel about this. It probably doesn’t carry much weight coming from other family members. It might not fix the issue, but at least you’ll have cleared the air with your mum with how the situation makes you feel. And you should do it away from anywhere the cousin might show up or be. Then you can proceed from there.

      1. SingleMingle*

        Thank you Elizabeth. I appreciate your advice. This is definitely an idea I’ve thought about. I think what bothers me is that I cut her off for three years and we rekindled our relationship a few years ago and it’s like we’re back to square one, so after you go through several “outs” with someone over the same issue (issue: you do not support me, you betray me all the time) then it becomes apparent that it’s not about whether they are “aware” or not of how they are hurting you, but whether you want to be around someone who openly or passive aggressively is hostile towards you.

    2. Steve G*

      I wouldn’t stop talking to one of my parents at that age (for too long) unless they have a history of things like this. You can give her a firm talking to, but the part of this post that stuck out to me the most – that you’re the first person to go to college, etc. – makes me think the overall problem isn’t solvable. When someone gets a good job in a family that is otherwise lower middle class or poor, some people are happy, some families get all sort of weird jealous feelings like you describe. Some people will think “why are they so special,” or “they must’ve got lucky” or some version of something like that. People say all sorts of weird things about your success. You’re probably never going to convince them that you earned your position through hard work and years of experience.

    3. fposte*

      Oh, cousin sounds like a piece of work. I do think it’s fine to cut off parents who are bad for you, but this seems more like you’re doing it as a punitive move, so I’m not sure I’m feeling it. If this is part of a larger thing with your mom being generally bad to you, that’s another matter, of course.

      A lot of your description is about loyalty and backing–who’s on your side, who’s your enemy, who’s jealous of your success. When you’ve had to fight a hard fight, I can see how that can be important information, and you and your family all sound like you’re a little enmeshed in some dynamics that may not help (it sounds like you’re calling your mother passive-aggressive while allowing relatives to tell her why you’re not speaking to her). But maybe it’s worth looking at this a different way for a little bit, especially since you have, you know, won :-). Save for ex-spouses and people against whom criminal complaints have been filed, I don’t really think of sworn enemies much in a contemporary context; what I’m reading is this is somebody who was a jerk to you at work years ago, which is annoying but not omerta-worthy to me. If I were your mother I wouldn’t think of this as a betrayal of my child.

      And what if you didn’t think of it as that either? What if you said “Eh, cousin’s crazy and mean, but she lost, and as long as I don’t have to see her it’s good that Mom has somebody to talk to”? Maybe try striking a deal with your mother that you don’t have to hear about her rather than one where you’re insisting on your mom’s behavior outside of your hearing? But overall, nothing makes it clearer that you’ve won by not being bothered by the loser and letting them have no control over your future life. Might be worth a try there, too.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is a really good perspective here, OP.

        It could be that your family routinely punishes each other for transgressions of various types so you are responding in a manner similar to how you have been treated.

        My friend got me laughing the other day. He was talking about a ridiculous situation in his family. He said, “I borrowed your expression, ‘let me know how that goes for ya’ .”

        I have been working on adopting this take on things. “Good luck with that” and let it all go. I have seen other people do this, I want to test drive it myself. It is HARD. I grew up in a family where every single move was second guessed at every turn by everyone. (I am tired just from reading that sentence.)
        It’s really not a healthy family dynamic at all.

        Your mother is right. She can have relationships with whomever she chooses. You are right to warn her that your cousin would sell her grandmother if the price was right. I am not sure if she was disloyal to you, she may feel with age comes privilege. Because of her age her judgement trumps yours. Ugh. I won’t even go down that road. (My personal belief is we need to keep relationships with people of all ages, because we can learn something from a 10 y/o or an 80 y/o on any given day.)

        In short here’s what I would have suggested:
        Mom: I am hanging out with Cousin, now.
        You: She’d sell her grandmother if the price was good.
        Mom: I can hang out with whomever I wish.
        You: Yep. That’s right, mom. Good luck with that. And when the ceiling falls in, don’t tell me that you did not know that could happen. I have informed you.

        See, with the right to do as we wish, also comes the responsibility to clean up the mess that follows. Someone’s failure to listen to our early warning advice does not automatically mean we are responsible for clean up detail later on.

        Yes, I think go see your mother. But keep it short and keep it simple. This is not hard stuff, really. “Mom, if you keep hanging out with Cousin she WILL hurt you in some manner. I know this from experience.” Don’t let it go into a long conversation involving 12 other events from ancient history.

        For your own hurt- no one can tell you how you should feel. I would suggest to you that you think about what it is you would like to do to prevent these wounds. We might get cut using a knife a few times and then we decide to get a better strategy for handling a knife. Likewise with your mother, get an effective strategy so that she does not cut you with her foolish decisions. Cousin is already beginning to show her true colors- as evidenced by her dramatic reaction to a picture of you. Cous’ has a flair for theater that is for sure. Mom put herself in this situation, let her deal with Cousin’s drama.

        Just recently, I was listening to someone say they were going to do Terrible Idea. I said, “Good luck. Let me know how that all plays out for you.” I changed topics. It felt soooo freeing to be able to just let it go.

        1. SingleMingle*

          Thank you NotSoNewReader. You’re right. I will just have to have a relationship with my other not divulging much information, and just let it go. You are right about the age part. But also I feel like parents in general feel they are immune and invincible sine they are your parents…like if I decided to have a relationship with my father’s ex-mistress, I’m sure my mother wouldn’t be all “Oh, let me sit here and watch things play out but still talk to you because you’re my only daughter.” But I’ll do so because quite frankly, one of us will die and I don’t need her controlling me from the grave (i.e., left with guilt over not speaking to my mother when she passed). Bunch of crap–age, role in family. But I get it.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Your mom is 70 that so that feeling of living forever and knowing ALL will not last. It will change yet again. But that will take time.

            I smiled sadly at the ex-mistress example. I believe there are some people who do seek out their father’s fling to talk to her. And yeah, that has to be difficult for the mother, okay, impossible for her.

            And, please do not misunderstand, I would never tell anyone who is dealing with a toxic parent to stay active in a relationship with them. noooo. I am the last person on earth who should say that! Only the person in the relationship can really decide the best course of action.

            However, I think that the real problem is not her willingness to adopt/take a liking to your cousin. That is a symptom, not the whole problem. What I see is mom has failed to understand you and your concerns. And that is a big hurt. Real Big. Cousin could go away tomorrow and you and your mother would still have plenty of other things to unpack.

            And that is where to put your focus. Think long term and think about what you want your relationship with your mother to be given how she is about things. Think about how everything gets so big, and everyone is drawn into the battles. Think about how everyone takes sides against each other. Think about the big picture here. This is a very hard way to live.

            I don’t believe anyone owes anyone blind allegiance. I do believe that people owe each other an opportunity to be heard. And you are not being given that opportunity by your mother. Since we are talking about a parent that raises the level of the violation.

            1. SingleMingle*

              NotSo thank you. I do need to look at the big picture. The problem is my mother understands my concerns perfectly as I have expressed them over and over and over the years. Her response is always “That’s YOUR opinion of how I’ve treated you. But that is not reality.” She knows full well the deal and has catty relationships with any other women in her life (i.e., boss, coworkers). She is well aware of how she hurts me, she just chooses to continue doing it.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I am so sorry. There is such a huge disconnect in her mind. I cannot imagine what would make anyone blow off their child like that. But, yet, here we see it.

                Please know that all women are not like that. And adult women do not behave that way. It took me a while to find that out for myself, I hope it goes quicker for you.

      2. SingleMingle*

        Fposte….yes, you’re right, it’s punitive as a result of my mother being hostile. It’s hard to think about it in terms of “that’s just my crazy mean cousin” when she actually tried to sabotaged me before. I believe that my mother provides her information about what I’m doing professionally and personally and that’s what hurts the most because she’s not trustworthy, so it’s hard for me to shrug it off and be dismissive about it. Some relatives told me now my mother and cousin talk about how I cut my mother off and now that’s their “thing”/bond so to speak. If this was the workplace, I can handle it strategically, but it’s family and …they’re just acting hostile and stupid so I can’t play it like a “game”.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I know it’s a lot easier said than done. But this isn’t an isolated point of drama–you’ve got relatives stirring this stuff up like mad by feeding you all this crap, and you’ve got you listening to them and taking what they say to heart. That makes things so much worse than they have to be. If you want this cousin to have less effect on your life, start with controlling your actions rather than your mother’s, and stop listening when people want to talk about her. Right now you’re still keeping this cousin front and center. Does she deserve to be front and center in your life? It doesn’t sound like it.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          What is it with families? One person’s problem becomes everyone’s problem?

          I hate to say it but the only adult in this whole story that I see is YOU.You are trying to think this through and not let emotions yank you around. Everyone is way too involved here in things that do not concern them. At least I now understand why your cousin feels she can get away with what she is doing. There is so much bickering she knows she can leverage her way in.

          I suspect that this is not totally about this one story. I am thinking that this is a life time of such similar stories. I hope you take some time to read up on family issues and negative family dynamics, in order to fortify yourself. Knowledge is power. If you are able to articulate what is broken here you will better able to decide where to draw your boundary lines. In turn, you will have a good shot at a better quality of life.

    4. Student*

      It sounds like your family is is actively harmful to your well-being.

      Cut them off. Start making your own personal support network of friends to replace them. If you have one or two good relatives, cherry-pick them, but avoid “family gatherings” and so on. It’s time and past time to recognize that your family does nothing good for you and all sorts of bad things to you. You are the black sheep, the scapegoat, and that is all you will ever be to them. You will never have the storybook family that you keep waiting for. Let that idea go and move forward with whatever is good for you. Develop healthy relationships with other people. If you can’t tell what a healthy normal relationship is, go to a therapist.

      I’ve been there. It’s really hard to give up on the idea of making your parents proud, of earning their respect. It’s hard to give up on the idea of a “normal” family. It’s hard to accept that this is out of your control. But it is out of your control, and nothing you do will ever make it better. Because you’ve tried everything already, right? You tried anything that seemed reasonable, and it never made your mother or cousin into a normal human you could deal with. You’re just stuck in a pattern that never improves. Might even slowly get worse.

      I was the first PhD in my family, too. I’m reasonably successful. All that makes me in my family is a target to exploit, attack, and gang up on. It’s sad, but it’s their problem and not mine. Once I cut them off and looked for normal relationships, things got so much better. My mother is dying of a horrible illness now. I feel the normal things, feel bad for her. Don’t want her to die. But I’m also not on the hook for all the soul-sucking horror of her slow death. I’m not her caretaker, I’m not paying her medical bills, and I don’t have to go through the self-loathing cycle of “what if I forced her into treatment earlier”. I’ll be sad when she dies, but I will have no regrets about the distance I put between us for my own sanity and well-being.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        OP, take this post here by Student, print it out and hang it on the wall. Seriously. This is pure gold right here.

        My mother died a terrible death, too. What bothers me the most is that the way she lived – her life was incredibly harder/lonelier/nastier than need be. Her illness and passing were relatively short compared to her life, and her suffering in life was avoidable. Yet, she did not find a way out.

        Nature hates a vacuum, OP. Nice people will come along, they will include you, make you feel welcomed and give you a sense of belonging. Everything your mother cannot give you. Look for those nice people. They are all around us.

      2. SingleMingle*

        Oh Student–you get it. Thank you. You’re right–They are actively harmful, these issues have been going on for YEARS and I’m definitely the black sheep of my family and it all started when I went to college. This whole “bond” between my cousin and mother is more like two jealous girls sharing their shared resentment towards one person (me) and THAT’S what bothers me. For crying out loud, they are NOT EVEN RELATED! Unfortunately, the whole family dynamic seeps into my workplace (i.e, i’m quite intolerant of people who have bully personalities in the workplace and don’t brush it off, instead I just avoid and cut them out because it reminds me too much of being bullied in my family). I have some great friends though and I’m working with a therapist on getting over the whole “everyone is out to get me” (that happens when relatives actively do stuff like this all the time). A lot of people assume something is wrong with the child when a mother-child relationship is toxic and that the child should suck it up and “get over everything” but I’ve tried that and it’s too emotionally and spiritually draining. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve spent crying myself to sleep over fights with my mother and other relatives (they operate like a gang and gossip and choose sides) and for years, I’ve thought maybe I shouldn’t strive so hard for success just to placate them, but that’s over. Thank you thank you thank you for your advice.

    5. beckythetechie*

      Explain one time to your mother that because of the issues this cousin has caused you in the past, you wish nothing to do with her. Then leave it at that. If your mother calls, talk about everything but your cousin, and if she brings it up, tell her why you’re ending the call and hang up. The cousin may very well be fishing for more info on you to have another go at discrediting you, etc. If you don’t think your mother can keep a friendship with this cousin without you coming up as a topic of discussion, you may be better off with a little distance for now.

  45. CoffeeLover*

    Travel in Europe question here. I’m visiting my boyfriend in Sweden for a few months and while he’s happy to travel with me sometimes, I have a lot more free time than him. I would like to do some solo travelling, but don’t have much experience with it. I’m an independent person and don’t mind doing things by myself, but I don’t know what it would be like to wander the streets of Europe alone. Any suggestions on where to go and what to do as a solo traveller? How did your solo trip go and were there any challenges you had to overcome?

    1. Steve G*

      From living in Czech Rep, I saw that our American fear of big cities isn’t a fear that exists in every country (though it does in most). We have places like NYC, LA, Chicago etc. where gangs and murders and muggings are a risk of living in those cities, and we also have classes here (though we deny it), and the poorer areas of American cities are much more noticeably poor than the lower-income cities of western and central Europe. in Eastern Europe, the poor area are bad, but that is in parts of the Balkans and Eastern Hungary/Romania, areas you wouldn’t want to go to alone anyways (when I was in those areas, a lot of people talk to you in the streets, and in Romania, those tended to be gypsies, and not that they were saying anything bad, but it can be uncomfortable to not respond, basically signaling that you are a foreigner).

      That aside, I totally recommend Prague and Vienna. There are many other cool cities in that area, for example, I love Warsaw. It is very safe. But it is also very spread out, which means street traffic is lighter than in American large cities, which can make you feel unsafe (even though it is only a feeling, but..). Prague and most of downtown Vienna have lots going on so there are always lots of other people around to help if you need it

      1. CoffeeLover*

        Thank you for your comment! I will add that I have travelled Europe before (I’m originally from Eastern Europe so I’ve walked those “dangerous” streets alone). Also I live in Canada, but I suppose it is pretty similar to the US.

        How did you find doing typical travel things alone? One of my favourite things to do when travelling is just walking around and absorbing the sites, but I’ve always had someone to enjoy the sites with. I think maybe I just need to bite the bullet and see how it goes.

        I hadn’t really considered Prague and Warsaw, but I will definitely look at them now. I was briefly in Vienna a few years ago, but that might be worth revisiting as well.

        1. fposte*

          I do a lot of solo travel and walking around is the bulk of it. My challenge is to stay aware of my own limits and not press on to do something just because I feel like I have to or I planned to. It’s weirdly harder for me to observe my limits when I’m on my own.

          If you start feeling isolated, coffee shops can be a good place to take a break and chat to a local (or another visitor). But mostly I really just like immersing myself in a city.

          1. CoffeeLover*

            I’m honestly more worried about feeling isolated vs any safety concerns. I can say though, immersing myself alone in a city is sounding more and more appealing. And you’re right, I can always get some human contact at a cafe or by joining a walking tour or something. Thank you!

        2. Steve G*

          Oh well if you are from Eastern Europe then I have to add Budapest to the list! Both Prague and Budapest have big castle complexes right on the edge of downtowns, so there is lots of walking to do all in the same area, without getting on public transport. There are lots of walking tours from old town square in prague (that’s why you always see people leading them with an umbrella in the air even on sunny days); Budapest has caves underneath their castle, which are a cool place to go on a tour on. No one will notice if you are alone or not.

    2. Steve G*

      And as per your last question about challenges to overcome, they are the same as travelling with another person. I did get stuck in a small city because I missed the last train/bus home once though, and I left my CC home because I was trying to save $, so I guess the only thing to advise is to have a backup CC for all occasions, even when you think you won’t need one. Had to wander/sleep in the streets that night…………..

    3. Christy*

      I did solo weekend trips to Vienna and Copenhagen, and they were both fun! Solo travel is way better than having a bad travel companion. I’d make sure you have a few things you know you want to see, so you can give your trip some direction, but otherwise there’s nothing to worry about.

      1. Steve G*

        agreed, I once went away with someone who didn’t tell me they had all sorts of food intolerances, so they just stared at me while I ate out like 5 times. Sorry I starved myself before going to Poland and I was not going to be guilted into not eating!

      2. CoffeeLover*

        That’s a good point! I’ve been lucky enough to have good travel partners so far, but maybe I’m overdue for a bad one :P.

    4. AVP*

      I loved traveling by myself in Europe…I took a big solo backpacking trip when I was 21 and it mostly went well. The Scandinavian cities are very polite and you’ll be fine alone. Copenhagen is great for that. Looking south from Sweden…Berlin and Prague are beautiful, Krakow is great (and dirt cheap). I’ve never been to Norway or Finland but have heard great things. I loved Edinburgh and Scotland in general, if you can get over there. Amsterdam is beautiful, Bruges is great…I really wanted to see more of the smaller countries, like Estonia and Latvia, but ran out of time and money.

      On traveling alone as a woman…I don’t think it was that bad. There were certain cities where I felt a bit singled out (Rome, Paris) but what I learned is that people can prey on women’s tendency to want to be “nice” – if you give someone an opening, they may take it and use it to their advantage to drive you crazy. But if you perfect a bitchface and stop worrying about appearing “mean” or “closed off,” they will move on to an easier target. Walk like you know where you’re going, derail onto a bus or the metro or a cab if you need to, and don’t be afraid to slam your hotel door in someone’s face. But again, 99% of the people I met were perfectly nice and friendly in a normal way – New York is worse.

      1. AVP*

        I wonder if there’s some correlation between colder places being politer and more standoffish, warmer ones being more likely to inappropriately hit on you and invade personal space. Maybe it’s all the wool and puffy down coats in the colder climates?

        1. CoffeeLover*

          Haha I know what you mean, but I actually enjoy the Southern European vibe. Maybe it’s because I’m from south eastern europe and the male “attention” you get is pretty similar? Maybe I’ve learned how to deal/ignore that part of it? I found Italians very warm and approachable, and I don’t get that same vibe up north (not to say people aren’t kind… just less likely to talk to strangers). I know some Canadian friends that visited Italy and felt the same way you do though. I actually laughed out loud at your “slamming the door in someone’s face” comment. I’ll have to keep that in mind. :P

          I have a few friends in Scotland so I’m definitely going to check out Edinburgh. I’ll keep they other places you mentioned in mind as well. Thank you! :)

          1. Treena Kravm*

            It sounds like you have a couple of places where you’ll want to be visiting friends. If you’re worried about getting lonely on the solo-trips you take, I would suggest alternating the visiting-friends trips with the totally solo ones. That way it’ll get shaken up and it won’t get monotonous.

    5. Emme*

      I spent three weeks backpacking through Europe at age 19, and did it again at 22. I’ve never felt any less safe in Europe than I did in major cities in the U.S. I highly recommend solo traveling, it teaches you a lot about yourself and there is the added bonus that you can do whatever you want to do. I don’t know where you’re planning to go, but I really enjoyed Berlin, all of France is great, the UK, Spain, Italy, Switzerland….. its all good :) The one rule I did try to stick to was to be home when the sun went down, which is not something that I’d necessarily repeat now that I’m a bit older (but it did make me feel like I was staying out of harm’s way). One of my favorite things about Europe is how easy it is to hop on a train and get to a new city/country- enjoy it!

    6. Eli Roth*

      Stay away from Bratislava.

      (muah ha ha) Just kidding. I have a friend who used to work there, I’m like “isn’t that the place in that movie …?” He laughed and was like “yeah, yeah, yeah.” He tells me it’s actually a very nice place – much larger than it looks in the movies – and that in real life the vast majority of the local populace are very much opposed to torturing and killing young foreign backpackers.

      1. Steve G*

        Don’t even joke about that! I lived in an apartment in a villa with lots of nooks and crannies, and places to hide in the basement, and it was on the edge of the woods in Prague, when Hostel came out. Thinking it would be a regular horror film, I stupidly saw it, and on a sunday night….so by the time I was going home, most of the streets were empty. I remember it was the first time I was the only person on the bus. I was scared s**** to go into the huge, dark house with the 100 places for someone to hide. I think I almost had a heart attack that night. The place where he cuts the guys finger off under the bathroom stall door was in Prague…..that movie seriously scared me for a couple of years…….

        Bratislava and Slovakia is lovely as a whole, but not much to do there, very rural country..

        1. Eli Roth*

          I’m sorry. For what it’s worth, I’ve had the same reaction: long ago I saw the original version of Maniac (with Joe Spinell) with some friends, and came home to my empty apartment – and proceeded to go completely OCD checking the doors and windows and closets. I didn’t get to sleep until my roommate got home hours later.

  46. MaryinTexas*

    Can anyone recommend a good over-the-counter treatment for zits? As I’m getting older, I’m starting to get zits when I never did as a teenager. Clearasil doesn’t work, so I’m wondering what all of you have tried that works? Thanks!!

    1. Aknownymous*

      I like a well-formulated salicylic acid, which clears pimples, unclogs pores and improves the skin overall. Paula’s Choice has great products; the 2% BHA has done wonders for my skin. They’re not that expensive either, about 20 dollars for a bottle that lasts a good 6 months.

    2. Anony*

      Stridex pads in the red box. Use it with a mild, non-foaming cleanser once every day or two and let it dry before putting on moisturizer.

      The red box is important. The other Stridex pads don’t contain enough salicylic acid to work.

      I’ve had acne since I was a young teenager. I tried just about everything, including prescription treatment. This has been the best one for me.

      If you use Reddit, check out /r/skincareaddiction. Take their Paula’s Choice recs with a grain of salt, but the rest of their information is pretty good.

    3. nep*

      As an adult — stopped getting zits when I stopped eating processed foods and dairy. Used to get a couple/few bad ones every month; now it’s been longer than I can recall.

    4. Calla*

      Tea tree oil!! I do not use any OTC medicated stuff, I find it does not work. I use a prescription acne gel that I’m weaning off of, and Vitamin A (as a pill) and tea tree oil really help a whole lot with breakouts. I also feel that it helps I only drink water and (unsweetened) tea. Make sure you’re using good general skincare. It’s all about keeping your skin healthy as a whole and not just treating spots when they pop up (not saying you do that, just sayin!).

    5. Elizabeth West*

      The Mario Badescu pink drying lotion will zap a zit almost overnight. I had heard that and didn’t believe it, but I tried it and it works. It’s weird because you don’t shake it up; you stick a cotton bud through the top goop into the pink goop and apply. It’s basically calamine and something else.

    6. Treena Kravm*

      The same happened to me as an adult and I use witch hazel on top of regular Arbonne face wash/moisturizer.

  47. periwinkle*

    First, I’d like to second Alison’s book recommendation. Calvin Trillin is one of my favorite writers and his book about his wife is just wonderful. I first got to “know” her as the endlessly tolerant supporting character in his hilarious food writing.

    Now, a question for the collective mind. We just bought a house (yay) and are moving in later this week. It’s on a cul-de-sac at the very end of a short street and is surrounded by high shrubbery. Even with houses all around it felt private, until… The house had been vacant for 4 months and I guess the neighboring kids decided the back yard was a great place to play. My husband was installing fresh batteries in the smoke detectors when the kids came by – they wanted to see the inside of the house and play in the back yard.

    The back yard is wide but shallow so it’s all very close to the house. The yard is fenced but the gates are old and obviously not lockable; they’re also mostly covered by shrubbery so they’ve been pushing through the plant growth to get back there anyway. More importantly, my husband works from home, I’m a doctoral student who also works full-time, we are introverts who need privacy, and we don’t particularly like being around children in any context (we don’t hate them, we’re just not kid-oriented at all). We had planned to replace the fence and gates, but there are much higher priorities for our renovation money.

    Obviously we need to set a boundary with them. I don’t want to be That Neighbor and I don’t care if they’re playing loudly elsewhere. They just can’t play in our fenced-in back yard (nor do we want them to come in the house to meet our cats).

    So how do I *nicely* tell them, in language that makes sense to a 6-year old or 8-year old brain, that they can’t play there anymore?

    1. fposte*

      That seems to me like a “tell their parents” thing more than a “tell the kids” thing. Preferably after you’ve had a “meet the neighbors” party so it’s not their only point of contact with you. Acknowledge that this is a hard habit to break, and that it would be wonderful if there were a real park as close as your hard, but there’s going to be renovation and stuff going on and it’s not safe for them–maybe one of the parents has a backyard that would work as the new place?

      1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

        +million. Take some cookies or brownies over, tell the parents that you can’t allow them to play there any more because of safety and liability issues, sorry! No sane parent is going to question that. If the kids keep asking, just say firmly but cheerfully that you and their parents agreed that they couldn’t play there anymore. Really, chances are that the kids won’t hate you — they can make distinctions between aloof and mean. Buy their scout/school popcorn and cookies when the time comes, smile at them on the street, but just be firm and consistent about “no you can’t come in/play in the yard/kiss the cats, we are terribly busy right now.”

    2. LD*

      Great advice bout starting with the parents and making it about liability and safety. It is also okay to tell the children directly that you live in the house now and your backyard is private and off-limits. We had to do the same thing with a neighbor’s child who was coming into our garage and yard as if it was his. It felt uncomfortable but we had to say it. A neighbor’s garage is no place for a kid to play and run around, even or maybe especially when you are working in the garage. We were still cordial with the parents, too.

    3. Kyrielle*

      What the others said. I have two kids, 3 and 6, and as of yet they only play under our watchful eyes anyway – but if they were mature enough to play away from us making free of someone’s back yard, I would want to know – even if it _wasn’t_ annoying that person but especially if it was. I would definitely reinforce the boundary!

      Also, I think “this space *was* unoccupied, but now it’s not, and we need you to respect that” is something that may make sense to the kids, never minding that they really should not have been there in the first place.

    4. Beezus*

      Yeah, some kids aren’t good with boundaries. It’s not as if they understand the boundary is there, and are choosing to ignore it, they just don’t understand that it is there, at. all.

      If you talk to them directly, “this, not that” works well (you can play in your own yard, but not ours; you can pet the kitty but not hug the kitty, etc.) Small kids are better about following “this, not that” because it gives them something that is okay to do at the same time as something that is not okay, so if they’re in doubt about the not okay thing, they can remember the okay thing and do that. It would still be good to follow up with the parents so they can reinforce the rules and they know what’s up if the kiddo mentions it.

      Shortly after we moved in, I had to tell my neighbor’s daughter not to come into our (unfenced) backyard and knock on our glass sliding back door, while peering inside, to look for our son to play, after she caught me walking around the house in my undies that way. She’s a good kid, it’s just not a boundary she’d ever encountered before – the other families in the neighborhood with kids her age allowed it. I made it as simple as possible for her – she could knock on the front door if she wanted to see if he could play, but she couldn’t come into the backyard unless he was back there playing with her.

    5. Clever Name*

      I have an 8 year old who I can totally see doing that. Heck, when I was 8, we ran through all of the back yards. This was before the days of privacy fences. Honestly, talking to the parents about it before you say anything at all to the kids turns it into a Big Deal. Most kids that age will follow adult instructions. I think if you just say, “Hey guys, you can play out front, but please stay out of our back yard” they should stop. If they don’t, then you can mention it to the parents. Really though, most kids will do what adults say, and it’s no big deal. It took me years after having my own kid to feel comfortable telling other kids what to do, but kids are used to it.

  48. Audiophile*

    I posted back in October about getting into standup comedy. I finally found a class that was local and not an exorbitant amount of money. The guy teaching it seems to have a decent rep, he’s a working comic. There’s a class show at The Comic Strip. I’m trying to find local open mics but they seem to be nonexistent or defunct. I don’t mind going to the city but seeing as how I’m already broke and I don’t have a set day shift, chances are I won’t get down there too often.
    I’m one of the youngest in the class, which surprised me. But I got some good laughs out of my jokes and my first one landed well, when no one else’s did. They asked if I’d ever done stand up before, I think most in the class have taken it a few times. I’m really enjoying it.

    1. Stephanie*

      Oh fun! I have always been a little terrified of standup. I did improv for a little while, which I found less terrifying since there were others (and you were just making everything up anyway)

      1. Audiophile*

        It’s fun. I’m enjoying it!

        I remember having terrible stage fright as a kid (you know, your usual grade school plays where you played a tree and no one but your parents knew which tree you were) or ( a chorus concert in 8th grade where you sang a song with your best friend). I think, like most things this became heightened in my replaying the memory. I missed the first two classes and everyone was impressed that I got up last week, in what was my first class. Apparently, most people don’t do this.

        I found a few local open mics – Monday, Friday and Sunday. I probably won’t sign up for tonight’s since I’m not at work, but I have time to decide.

  49. Today's Anon*

    I am having a bit of a problem with my mother. After my father died, I inherited a commercial property that had been my grandfather’s. Because I live very far (in another country actually) from where it is, my mother kept managing it, with the understanding that she would send me the money quarterly. She has not. I know it’s not a case of stealing the money but more one of her being able to control me. Does anyone know anything about managing a property in another country? Or any ideas of who I could hire to help me with this (a financial person? An accountant? a property management company? a lawyer?). I have never been interested or had the money to buy or manage anything apart from my home and I have no idea how to go about this and it feels totally overwhelming.

    1. fposte*

      If it’s in the US, there are commercial property management firms that would do this job. Obviously they’ll take some of the income stream, but if you’re getting nothing now that would presumably be an improvement. Check around in the area where the property is to see who the established firms are and then talk to them about how it would work. I don’t think you should try to manage it from a distance–in fact, I think you might also want to consider selling, since absentee landlordism even with a management company may be quite a hassle.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        This all is awesome. A property management company seems like the way to go. And it would prevent your mother from exercising this control over you!

    2. Lamb*

      Have you asked her about the money directly? You could couch it as being concerned the money got lost whatever way she “sent” it to you if that makes it easier for you to ask.
      Another thing that might factor in to your decision regarding hiring someone to manage the property and selling it outright is, in either situation who would be finding/vetting/hiring the property manager or real estate agent for you? Do you know anyone outside of your family who could give you a recommendation?

    1. nep*

      I hear you. Seriously it grates. (This morning here I got in the car and the thermometer showed -7. Some consolation today — sunny day, blue sky, zero precipitation. Just bloody cold.)
      Ready for the Spring thaw.

      1. Bea W*

        This morning here it was snowing. :(

        It is sunny now. (Yay!) I need to go out an shovel my way to my back door which is logged shut again with 2 feet of snow. I just don’t want to anymore.

  50. Blue_eyes*

    My husband just got a job. He starts a week from Monday, so we decided to take a last minute trip to Florida to see his grandparents and escape the cold weather up north.

    What are the best things to do/see/eat in Miami/Fort Lauderdale/Boca Raton? We’ll be flying into Fort Lauderdale and staying in Boca. We want to spend at least one day in Miami. I’ve never been to south Florida before. Advice?

    1. Stephanie*

      No recommendations for South Florida (I didn’t get to see a ton in Miami before my flight out), but congrats on your husband’s new job!

    2. LD*

      Warm water, warm sands…make time for a beach visit. And can you drive into the Keys? They are beautiful, too.

    3. LongTimeFan*

      Miami is definitely a city built for cars. Public transportation is decent to get you into the major areas of the city, but it can definitely be a hassle depending on where you’re going. For instance, a trip to South Beach takes roughly 30-35 minutes by car, but 1-1.5 hour(s) by public transportation. I will say, however, I found the public transportation to be fairly reliable when I was there.

      In terms of places to go, I’d recommend Coconut Grove and Brickell. Both are stations on the metro. Coconut Grove has a nice shopping area and Brickell has the downtown vibe of the city. If you’re into art, I’d recommend stopping by Wynwood Walls. It’s basically a huge area with graffiti and other artwork that changes every month and you get to walk around a view it. Depending upon when you’re going, they have a huge block party every couple weeks with food trucks, music, and tons of people viewing the artwork. It’s a fantastic time.

      The Florida Keys are awesome! I definitely recommend Key West, but it’s about a 4 hour drive from Miami, which makes it a bit hard for a day trip. If you’re into water activities, there’s a coral reef park in Key Largo (John Pennekamp) where you can rent kayaks or paddleboards. If you’re into biking, you can bike in the Florida Everglades! About an hour drive from Miami.

    4. Blue_eyes*

      Thanks everyone! We will have a rental car (husband’s grandfather is a horrible driver so definitely do not want to ride with him – in a strange twist of fate, husband’s grandmother was recently in a car accident, but it was not her husband driving). I would love to drive out to Key West, but we don’t really have the time, we’re considering going to Key Largo at least. I looked into the Everglades a bit, we may go on one of those air boat tours. Renting kayaks or paddle boards would be fun too, I think there’s a place in Boca where we could do a tour.

      LongTimeFan – thanks for recommendations of places to go in Miami beyond South Beach (which is pretty much the only thing I’d heard of in Miami).

  51. Shell*

    Asking the collective AAM hive of wisdom here. Good lord, I think my head just exploded. Sorry, this is long.

    So, to follow hildi’s incredibly useful terms here: on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is relationship-focus extreme and 10 is task-focus extreme (I’m using this as a spectrum and not because TFP is better!), I’m about a 7-8. My brother is about a 15, all about efficiency. My mother is somewhere between -5 and -2, all about the feelings. My father is probably a 4. In the Ask. vs. Guess spectrum, Brother is 10000% an Ask, Mom is 10000% a Guess.

    This has caused quite a lot of arguments in the house, as you can imagine. (Relevant: we live in the same house, though my brother is a science grad student–which might play into the dynamic here, academics?–and is often busy as hell. And extremely terse/control-freak-y. As in, once when he called me on the phone, he was like “report”…which made me wtf, because dude, you’re not my drill sergeant.)

    What inspired this: my parents, whose English sucks, needed to get Task X done at some government offices. According to my brother’s research, it involved either Method A or Method B, both of which included a long amount of forms and appointments with several weeks/months of waiting time afterwards. He asked my parents to fill out the forms and he’ll go with them to government offices later this week. When I was reading over the forms for my parents, I figured out a Method C that could accomplish more or less the same thing, so we went and got Task X done at an office yesterday. Mom called my brother about to tell him the news.

    Brother was irritated because according to him, he had already had rearranged his entire week’s schedule (working overtime, rearranging experiments, cancelling appointments etc.) to deal with having to take parents to the government office later this week and now he has to rearrange everything again. In his view, my parents always get impatient with tasks and give one person a task but then ask the other person the same task and never loop the first person in and we end up doing the same thing or run in parallel lines and waste a lot of time (this is true, this is a longstanding pattern with my parents, and it happens a lot with fixing computers). He said in principle and to be polite, before we ran off to do Method C we should’ve looped him in, because in workplaces you loop people in when plans or schedules or assigned people change and you should conduct tasks within families like you do in business.

    Mom was of the opinion that they just wanted to get something done, that family shouldn’t need schedules down to the minute, and my brother is always so terse (he really is, see my comment on “report” above) and busy and they just wanted to get it done. His terseness makes her anxiety spike and make her not want to ask him stuff and she wishes that since she puts in so much effort to help make his life easier he should do the same (which Brother thinks is conflating completely separate matters). She thinks that workplace dynamics should not apply so strictly to family, and that they did not “fire” my brother (that was the analogy he used) from Task X just because they asked me.

    What was a small disagreement blew up because Mom is an emotive arguer and my brother is a terse black-and-white person…and it blew up in front of my brother’s girlfriend. My brother apologized later via text, and Mom sent him a text back asking him if he only apologized because his girlfriend told him to. You can imagine how well that turned out.

    So I can’t change my mother’s extreme feeling perspective, nor my brother’s control freak tendencies (personally I think they’re both too extreme in their views). They just spent half an hour arguing about this again from their respective unyielding perspectives. I was trying mediate to focus it on solving the problem and being productive in the future (“okay, so you’d like to be notified via a call before we try a different method rather than we try it and tell you it failed”, etc.) but wasn’t very successful. Mom’s crying, Brother’s pissed, Dad’s upset, and I feel like the only adult in the house.

    I might try to talk to Brother to see if he can be less terse but I’m not expecting miracles (I’m not close with him, but his habits only annoy me slightly rather than hit my buttons so generally his mannerisms roll off my back). Both sides feel pretty wounded right now.

    Since apparently I’m the only adult in the house, is there a way to conduct future tasks so that both of these extreme folks can just simmer the hell down? My work schedule makes it impossible to be 100% the go-to person for my parents, otherwise I probably would. It’d be easiest if we’re not all under the same roof, but that’s not changing. I’ve tried to emphasize to Mom that she can’t change Brother, and that it’s less productive to argue about who’s more “right” and more productive to decide on HOW to do things going forward, but that’s not sinking in either.

    I just want to smack their heads together at this point. My arguing style tends to be less “whose perspective is more right” and more “let’s solve this problem going forward”, but apparently I’m the only one who thinks so.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      You’re right. You are the only adult in the house.

      You have the solution- you did a great job of sorting all that. They don’t want your solution.
      Tell them when they are ready to actually solve problems you will help. In the meantime, you have x or y that you must go do right away.

      The only thing I would add to what you have said is do not allow yourself to be used as the mediator. These stories unfold as everyone goes back to normal except all of them are mad at the mediator.
      Insist that they discuss their problems with each other, not you. Look at the poster way up thread if you want to see what happens when everyone gets involved in other people’s relationships.

      1. Graciosa*

        Completely agree – but Shell and everyone in the family expect this to continue as it always has. It will be a hard pattern to break (meaning work hard at this, not “do not attempt”).

    2. GOG11*

      I am a trained mediator and I have worked with families who needed mediation services. One of the benefits of handing things over to a mediator is that someone doesn’t get stuck in that role, because if you are in that role, you can’t represent your own needs and interests – attempts to advocate for your needs are put on the back burner in an effort to be fair/neutral/impartial.

      You have a good grasp on logistics and I agree with Not So NewReader’s advice about disengaging from the emotional aspects and letting them know that you’d be happy to lend a hand if they want assistance hammering out the details of what they want to do or if they need help carrying out a plan.

      In my area, mediation services are offered to the community at no charge. If there is a service like that in your area, I would recommend giving them a call to get more information and see if an actual mediation would be beneficial for your family.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        ohh- this is interesting. When we get to the next work open thread I would like to hear more about this!

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Cool, among my dozens of questions, where do you get funding from so that you can offer free services?
            I can see where there is a huge need out there, so there must be criteria for applicants.

            Whoops- starting already. I will be patient.

    3. beckythetechie*

      Maybe for the time being you need to just lay the sentiments expressed here out in writing. Yes, I’m talking about emailing your brother (at least) and maybe writing your mom a note. “I am your child/sibling, not your secretary/psychologist. I think it would help smooth things over with mother/brother if you X, but I can’t do that for you. Please know I love you, but you’re driving me bonkers dragging me into the middle of a simple problem. We all need to try to be respectful adults about this. Thanks.” With it in writing, when your mother gets past her knee-jerk emotional reaction, she’ll have it to refer back to so she can actually *think* about it a little. Your brother, meanwhile, will have a similar opportunity but without the pressure of potential emotions in a face-to-face sit down which would probably make him uncomfortable and defensive, and therefore more prone to checking out. And finally, there’s the cathartic nature of it for you, so you can symbolically put it down and walk away until you want to pick it back up.

  52. Confession*

    I don’t live a normal life. I work in entertainment. I don’t make a ton of money and I’m not famous, but I have a different set of stresses and problems than most people.

    I’ve always been good at doing creative things, but when I was younger, what I wanted most was to settle down, marry young, have four to six kids, and run a small business. That didn’t work out. My fiance had a drug habit. I stayed with him for five years, trying to be loyal but insisting that he had to get clean before we could get married and have kids. And that didn’t happen.

    We lived in a resort town. By the time I left him, the seasonal, transient, entertainment-focused lifestyle had become all I knew of adult life. I moved to a big city and fell into the music world. It was a natural continuation of what I knew. I went to grad school and tried to be a normal 9-5 worker but couldn’t really do anything other than the entertainment business because that’s my culture. And now I’m back to doing my own thing, outside of a traditional office, again.

    My life has been strange – running a small business and raising a family didn’t work out for me, and more unusual doors have opened for me instead. I’m over the disappointment of not having kids and I’m embracing it. It’s a fun lifestyle.

    I read this blog because it’s an escape from the kinds of stresses I’m dealing with and it helps me keep everything in perspective. You all are the best!

    1. StudentA*

      I like getting glimpses of people whose lives are very different from mine. I’m glad you shared your story :)

    2. Clever Name*

      I love hearing about people who don’t work typical 9-5 jobs. One of my good friends works in Antarctica in the winter (their summer) and travels the U.S. and the world the rest of the time. I see her once a year and I love seeing her adventure photos on facebook.

    3. beckythetechie*

      *hugs from a displaced theater tech* Yeah, it’s weird, sometimes, but it’s going to make for a hell of a memoir. :)

  53. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Y’all, I have found the best smelling liquid hand soap in the world. Periodically I get on a kick where I become determined to find the absolute best ___ (fill in whatever product — sheets, soap, olive oil, it could be anything). I’ve randomly been obsessed with finding a moisturizing liquid soap with a perfectly pleasing smell, and I’ve now succeeded! It’s made by South of France, and the scent is Orange Blossom Honey. Your hands smell like honey afterwards; I’m obsessed with it.

    I found it at Whole Foods, but Amazon has it too.

    I keep washing my hands and then walking around sniffing them with delight.

    1. GOG11*

      The listing on Amazon says it “Leaves hair soft and luxurious.” I don’t know if that was a typo or if you may have also found a new contender for shampoo.

      1. Rebecca*

        I make homemade soap, and some of the soaps can be modified slightly to make a great shampoo bar. Maybe this is a dual purpose soap?

    2. Editor*

      This sounds promising, but really what I want is to find the best commercial handsoap (that doesn’t set off my perfume sensitivities) and get it installed in business and workplace restrooms.

      I am so tired of sticking my hand under soap dispensers and coming away with some putrid odor that I can smell every time I bring a fork to my mouth, or something that irritates my eyes even though I’ve rinsed and dried thoroughly. My mother thinks Ivory is the gold standard in inoffensive soap — I prefer Dove unscented bars, but I don’t want to use a bar of soap in a restaurant, thruway, work, store or other away-from-home bathroom. Why is commercial soap so awful? (Yes, I know, cheapness. Sigh.)

      1. GOG11*

        Fragrances trigger my asthma and I can definitely empathize.

        I know hauling a bar of soap around isn’t a good option, but I could you use a potato peeler or cheese slicer to shave off single-use pieces? Carry the pieces in a baggy, use one, and the rest of the soap stays dry. That way you’re not dealing with a slimy mess all the time.

      2. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands*

        I buy EO liquid soap and keep it in the ladies’ room at work – worth it so I can avoid that awful, stinky, chemical-laden pink stuff. I’m sure you could get it in bulk. Their products are beautiful, made with organically grown ingredients and pure essential oils, and they have a ton of integrity. The easiest to find is the lavender scent, which is not my favorite but not bad either. Their prices are reasonable for the quality.

      3. Clever Name*

        Ugh. The Gojo pink industrial soap is the worst. So drying! It’s a combination of factors. Cost, but also what’s available through suppliers. Is an MSDS (or whatever the new acronym is) readily available?

          1. Stephanie*

            Gaaaah, the Gojo. I usually carry hand lotion, but forgot it one night at my warehouse job. I wash my hands semi-regularly because the environment’s dusty. An evening of the Gojo without moisturization had my hands nearly cracking. I stopped by Walmart at 1 am after I got off solely to buy some hand lotion.

      4. beckythetechie*

        Can you carry a travel bottle of Castile soap with you while you’re in public? Usually it’s far less offensive to breathing difficulties etc. and it’s easily cut with other substances for home use in laundry machines, etc.

    3. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      There used to be a line of bath products called Kings and Queens, all named after different rulers, and their Nefertiti products were honey-scented. It. Was. Phenomenal. It was like bathing in melting honey without the stickiness. You smelled like honey afterwards and it was divine. They quit making them and now you can get it on Amazon at like $20 a bottle, but some days I consider it.

      The Queen Isabella was cinnamon orange. It, too, was utterly fantastic. What I wouldn’t give to have that line back again.

    4. Formerly Bee*

      I can relate! I’m looking for the Perfect Bar Soap.

      Greenwich Bay Trading Co. makes these “destination” themed soaps. Most of them smell pretty good, but the “Belgian” one… The label says dark chocolate, cocoa bean, and hazelnut. They’re not calling it Nutella soap, but it’s Nutella soap. It made my skin incredibly soft and it made my apartment smell like I had a kitchen full of chocolate cakes.

      R.I.P. soap, gone but not forgotten, now replaced with another Perfect Bar Soap candidate that is not as close to perfect.

  54. The Other Dawn*

    I’ve decided to challenge myself. I’m going to eat through the kitchen and freezer as far as I can before I go shopping again. The only things I plan to buy are dairy and any necessary vegetables. Obviously if I need bread or something I’ll buy it, but the plan is to buy as little as possible.

    I’ve realized that we tend to waste a lot. We buy stuff and forget we have it, then we buy more. Stuff gets tossed because of freezer burn or expiration dates. I’m in a position where economizing is necessary right now so what better time to do it?

      1. GOG11*


        I have so much stuff in my pantry I need to use. In my defense, many items are for time-consuming recipes that I’m just not up for making at the moment, but still. So. much. food. Please do share if you discover neat tips and tricks.

    1. Clever Name*

      Allrecipes.com is a great website for coming up with meals when you need to find a recipe that uses particular ingredients. It also reminds me of the meals my mother and aunt and I made out of items from my granny’s kitchen when she was dying. For some reason, we thought it was important to use up the food in her kitchen. Well, I know the reason- we’re from the Midwest and Granny grew up during the depression. Wasting food simply wasn’t done.

    2. Formerly Bee*

      It’s fun! I’m doing this now, for the same reasons, and I’ve gotten creative… After I ate a LOT of pasta. I didn’t know I had so much %#@$*#& pasta.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I plan on posting my meals (and my struggles) on my blog. It’s linked to my name. I made ham bone soup and strawberry cream cheese cake yesterday. Didn’t have to buy a thing!

  55. Grad Student*

    Tax question here! As so subtly stated by my pseudonym, I am a grad student. Any other grad students out there with income exclusively from fellowships/scholarships? My total income for 2014, on three different 1099-MISC forms, is about $10,000. I am filing with single status. Does anyone have suggestions for low-income tax help for grad student “freelancers”/”independent contractors” with 1099-s and deductions? Neither my university nor program has been particularly helpful. While I qualify for VITA services, I have already been turned away since I have 1099 forms and no W-2 forms and am not sure how to proceed. I hesitate to go to a place like H&R Block given the complicated nature of taxes for freelancers/independent contractors. Thank you in advance!

    1. GOG11*

      If you live in a state with a benefit bank, find a site near you and make an appointment. They handle a wide variety of tax documents and situations and the number grows every year. I’ll post a link below. Good luck!

    2. BRR*

      I have always used turbo tax and have liked it. My now husband used the free version to file when he had a fellowship in grad school but he says the income was reported on his 1098. It looks like for 1099s they say to use the $35 version but my only experience is with w-2s.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        Hmm. I used Turbo Tax Free File in grad school, but I never had 1099s. I wonder why you can’t use the free version with 1099s. Now I’m dreading doing my taxes even more…husband and I had 5 total jobs this year, 3 of which have 1099s.

    3. beckythetechie*

      Depending on your state, with that sort of income going on, you may be able to e-file as part of VITA through an authorized online service. Your state’s benefits or taxation website will have more details, or you may be able to call the local tax authority and get direction from them.

  56. Elizabeth West*

    We’re getting tons of sleet right now; it’s supposed to snow 3-5 inches overnight and then 1-2 tomorrow as well. It’s going to be below freezing, so I can’t see how it’s going to accumulate much. It’ll probably be the poofy snow. But of course, it has all this lovely ice to stick to. >_<

    I got ALL my errands done today–got bread, got milk, I had eggs, I got cake (yeah!), I have plenty of tea and coffee and cocoa. And I ran all over and found enough elements to assemble a sort-of-lame but passable Donna Noble costume for the small local con next weekend. My Doctor Who group is going together–for some, it will be their first time at this con. It better not be nasty–I am NOT driving up and down those vertical Ozarks hills in winter weather again. Last year was the most frightened I've ever been driving. It took me three hours to make a thirty-minute drive home from where the con was. I can cancel my hotel reservation up until the nineteenth before I have to pay, so by then we should know what the weather will do.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Aaaand the pilot light on my water heater went out! Auugggh!!

      I called someone and they will help me tomorrow. I got the gas turned off so I won’t blow up. He told me it might be a thermal coupling gone bad and that is an easy fix, he said. They will have to come out in the storm though. #sorrynotsorrybecauseineedhotwaterrrrr

      1. GOG11*

        Oh no! I hope you get it up and going soon (and at a reasonable price). My furnace died back in November (permanently unfortunately). Why can’t these things crap out in the summer?

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I don’t know!

          It was dust in the sensor, actually, and it tripped it and turned off the pilot. The combustion system is closed and the plumber told me that is very very common since they designed those. He showed me how to clean it and turn the pilot back on (and off). He said when they first came out, they didn’t even know themselves what kept happening and they had to contact the manufacturers. He said the design was safer because you don’t light the pilot with a match anymore, but it has its own problems and that is one of them. He said I should open it up at least once a year and blow the dust out with a can of air.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I think this means your hot water is back- I hope so.

            I hate-hate-hate furnace/hot water issues.

            That was interesting what you said about the Ozarks, never thought of it but those mountains are newer than what we have up here. We have loooong low grades- like two miles down hill. Aging mountains, they are not real steep. But we do have truck ramps for emergencies in some places. I bet that was one scary ride. I took 2 hours to make a 35 minute ride, I will never be the same again. I cannot imagine taking three hours.

  57. No Name for this one*

    I’m upset with my husband. I had an acquaintance who was supposed to refer business to me (we had a written agreement in place). He tried to undermine me on a big deal (someone else offered him a higher referral fee and we had a non-compete in place), I terminated the agreement. I speak to him when necessary but don’t like him at all. My husband called last night saying he was having dinner with the guy. Then came home, not drunk, but had obviously had drinks. My husband had said he was going to stop drinking last November. He also ignored my texts about an un-related manner last night – he said he didn’t get the texts. I checked his phone last night and he did. I didn’t talk to him much last night because we had company and I was angry. This morning, he suggested the acquaintance do a professional favor for me and I refused, saying that I wanted nothing to do with him at all. I’m pretty angry right now so am I missing something and my reaction is wrong? I’ll be, at the very least, conveying how disappointed I am tonight.

    1. Revanche*

      Huh. I assume your husband knew about the unprofessional behavior with regard to the now-terminated agreement? Was he friends with the acquaintance separate from your working relationship? On the face of it, if he did know, it seems at least a little strange that your husband would do any of the three things he did if this wasn’t a long standing friendship. Why go spend time with a person who behaved in an untrustworthy manner to his family? Why drink with that person? Why suggest that you have further contact with this person?

      (Is this someone your husband feels you need to maintain a cordial or friendly relationship with for the sake of your business?)

      Based only on what you’ve said in the above post I’d be rather upset too, I wonder if there’s more going on…

    2. Graciosa*

      Let’s see – breach of loyalty (your husband should pick you over unethical guy), lying (about the texts) and going back on his commitment to stop drinking (and with unethical guy!).

      No, I don’t think you’re overreacting.

  58. "We're not asking. We're demanding!"*

    I want to give a shout out to the movie Selma. Don’t pass up a chance to see this. If you are expecting some dry historical document – this not that. I thought it was about 10x better than 12 Years A Slave (and I’m a big fan of Chiwetel Ejiofor). I’ll warn you that some scenes didn’t do anything good for my blood pressure. You’ll see some actors you’ve seen elsewhere turning in amazing performances, and David Oyelowo just kicks ass as Dr. Martin Luther King. Heh, and you get to see Oprah apply some whoop-ass to a cracker. It’s a fast-paced drama that will suck you in within 5 minutes, with a compelling narrative and also some really spot-on music.

    I’ll be completely honest: every year or two Hollywood turns out a movie that gets lauded by the social justice pundits and I grit my teeth because I know there’s a good chance I’ll end up suffering through it. This is not that movie.

    1. A. D. Kay*

      I wholeheartedly agree. It was a very powerful experience. Amazing cinematography, set design, acting, everything.

  59. anosmianon*

    I have almost no sense of smell. What kinds of food should I avoid microwaving at work? I know the obvious ones: fish, spicy food, buttery popcorn.

    Just to be clear, I really can’t smell much. I didn’t know bananas or raw onions or potato chips *had* a smell until a coworker talked about how noticeable those are to her. I’ve burned food on the stove because I didn’t smell it. Etc.

    1. Iro*

      Bacon (I hate when people microwave this because it fills the entire floor with bacon smell for hours) Broccoli. Curry. Beans.

      Oil based spices (think chili, beanless mexican food, etc) shouldn’t smell too much if you want some spicy.

      But who has an issue with popcorn? It’s popped at work like all the time in every office I’ve ever worked.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        Popcorn is really smelly though and it lingers for hours. It’s not that it smells bad, but certainly does make everyone want popcorn.

      2. beckythetechie*

        Cheap popped corn with “butter flavor” added stinks to high heavens. If it’s corn, salt, and butter it usually doesn’t smell quite so off-putting.

      3. Dmented Kitty*

        I would not mind some bacon scent in the office. :D Not bacon grease, though. Just the smell of crunchy, crunchy bacon. Being from the Philippines, I am used to strong-smelling foods, so I don’t really get fazed by fish or onions.

        Right now I think the scent that shows up more often is curry. I love curry, though, so I don’t mind. :P

  60. CollegeAdmin*

    Alison – I just used a excerpt from one of your posts (properly attributed and cited, of course) to support a stance in my grad school discussion!

    The question was concerning whether someone using the results of a data analysis to make decisions should know all of the technical aspects of that analysis. I took the stance that no, that’s not necessary, and cited your post on “Should your manager know how to do your job?” when crafting my argument. Hopefully at least one of my classmates becomes an AAM convert because of it!

    1. CollegeAdmin*

      I also said that if you were looking for someone at, say, a CEO level, who knew how to do all the tasks of all the people he or she oversees, that you were looking for the business equivalent of a unicorn. Because that’s honestly the best phrasing I could think of.

  61. Bored*

    Anyone else feel constantly starved for intellectual conversation? It seems that most people just want to talk about tv shows, sports, gossip, etc.

    I’ve tried reaching out and trying to connect with people who share my interests so we can talk about those interests. But my interests are more popular among men and guys don’t want to hang out with me unless it’s a dating type of situation. I get a lot of, “But people will think we’re dating,” etc. No one wants to just hang out and talk about geeky stuff.

    1. Revanche*

      Maybe not constantly because I’m not super social but I do crave some such conversation. Twitter satisfies some of that need and one of my friends does as well but it’s no Parisian salon up in here.

      What interests have you got that are primarily male-oriented? And what dudes are you encountering that don’t know how to be friends without it looking like a date? (And who are they worried about looking at that anyway?) I have plenty of male friends with whom I can hang out one on one and discuss anything: money, careers and goals, cars, comics, gaming, family, relationships… I don’t really understand this “concern”. Then again I’d not have the patience to hang out with people who couldn’t have a normal friendship without worrying about imaginary optics.

    2. Buu*

      Sounds like ( and I use this term with affection) you’re surrounded by Muggles and need to find some geeky friends? I would suggest you hit up sites like Meetup.com and look for groups that are relevent to your interests. I recently found a board gaming group that mentioned it’s welcome to new comers so I went despite not being that into board games and had a great time. Organised groups mean there’s no the awkwardness of two people alone and it provides a ready made social situation that you can walk into and out of at your leisure. Might try a few different groups but you’ll find one that suits you!
      ( also by geeky I’m guessing you could mean sciences/computing as well as comics etc? If you can find a group that matches your age try manga and small press groups, usually have a big female presence. If it’s sciences look at your closest museum or university for membership events ).

    3. beckythetechie*

      Yes! I didn’t realize what a nerd I am until one day at my last job a customer flipped out because we wouldn’t ship his parcel because it had dry ice in it. He asked why not, then looked at me like I was nuts when I said “sublimation”. I had to explain the process entirely because he knew to use dry ice to ship frozen meat, but didn’t understand the science behind it.

  62. little Cindy Lou who*

    My very pretty but equally dopey Himalayan cat had something strange, clear and maybe kinda organic-looking in her eye this afternoon (she wouldn’t let me get that good of an up close look). Just a minute ago she was sitting calmly right by me for attention so I grabbed my water bottle and slowly raised it over her head. Bless her little heart, she looked right up at it, innocently curious, and I dribbled some water right in her eye. She noped off that couch lightning quick but came right back and head-butted me, purring. And whatever she’d gotten in her eye was flushed right out so I’ll take that as her thanks. But any thoughts on what the heck the it in her eye could’ve been?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I was using eyebright (it’s an herb that comes in a liquid form) on one of my cats. I believe it was my Persian.
      She would get this brown mucky stuff in her eyes, it ran down a little bit on to her check. It was very liquid- almost the consistency of water. I started out wiping around her eyes for her but found that was not enough.

      I think she had congestion due to allergy possibly? and due to the fact the Persians are bred for having flat faces. This pushes all their nasal passages into a tiny-tiny spot and they can’t drain well. It’s pretty cruel to do to an animal, but here we are, too late to unring that bell.

      IF it continues you might want to check out eyebright and/or change her food. Do one thing, see if it gets better. If not, move to the next thing. See if it happens again, though, before you jump into anything.
      I ended up not having to use the eyebright once I changed her food and she got into the routine of the new food.

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