weekend free-for-all – July 4-5, 2015

the third foster kitten is seen at last!

the third foster kitten is seen at last!

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school. If you have a work question, you can email it to me or post it in the work-related open thread on Fridays.)

grey whiteBook Recommendation of the Week: I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away. Brilliant and funny Bill Bryson tries to get reacquainted with America after living in England for 20 years.

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

{ 771 comments… read them below }

    1. Merry and Bright*

      Have you read his one on Shakespeare? Not his usual track but quite brilliant.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        No I haven’t, but I just looked it up on Amazon it does look good. Thanks for the recomendation.

        1. Peter*

          Just got it on CD and listened to it on a cross-country drive. Seems to me like it’s from a series of takes on what is known on various topics. Very well done.

    2. Cristina in England*

      I read this book in my teens, long before I moved to the UK from America, but I remember clearly the part where he describes the impossibility of walking even across the street in certain American places because it is so pedestrian-unfriendly. I should read it again now that I’ve been here ten years!

    3. hermit crab*

      I read I’m A Stranger Here Myself when I was in the 8th grade and have a crystal clear memory of absolutely cracking up while reading it in English class when I was supposed to be paying attention…

    4. Elkay*

      I saw him speak a couple of years ago which makes me think he’s moved back to the UK again. I think this book is a series of columns he wrote for The Sunday Times which I occasionally read but I certainly didn’t read all of them. His books are definitely ones you can’t read in public unless you enjoy snorting through your nose trying not to laugh out loud.

    5. Tau*

      I do like his books on the UK and the US, especially because his is an interesting point of view which you don’t see that much of and which I can sympathise with quite a bit. I’m less fond of the ones where he goes outside his expertise, so to say – I found his book on the rest of Europe pretty flat, with a lot of the humour resting on stereotypes because he didn’t have the experience of living there to give a more nuanced and deep view of the countries involved, and the one on the English language is littered with egregious mistakes. It reads like a book not just written by a non-expert, but by a non-expert who sourced all his material from people playing “how much nonsense can we tell this guy before he gets suspicious?” and took it all as gospel truth.

      1. Ismis*

        I completely agree! It was such a pity cause it turned me off all his books :( I felt like I couldn’t believe a word in any of them. I’m slowly getting back into him now but it took me years…

    6. fixithere*

      I think this book is a series of columns he wrote for The Sunday Times which I occasionally read but I certainly didn’t read all of them. His books are definitely ones you can’t read in public unless you enjoy snorting through your nose trying not to laugh out loud.

  1. MsChanandlerBong*

    This is regarding my home computer, so I hope it’s not considered too work-related for the open thread. =)

    I’m having problems with my graphics card/display drivers. When I am browsing, using Facebook, etc., every so often, I’ll get some artifacting at the top of my screen. Surprisingly, the black squares go away if I move my cursor back and forth over them (similar to erasing something on paper). Eventually, my screen goes black for a second, and then I got a notice that says something like “The ATI display drivers have stopped working.”

    A few seconds/minutes later, I get the blue screen of death. It says something about atikmdag.sys (I couldn’t write down everything before it rebooted my PC).

    Any suggestions? I uninstalled the old ATI installation manager from my PC and downloaded new drivers. However, doing so did not fix the problem. Is my graphics card totally bad, or is this something fixable?

    1. Bea W*

      Couple of other things you can try before you replace the card
      1) Crack open your computer, clean all the dust, pet hair, etc., and re-seat your graphics card – assuming it’s not integrated with the motherboard.
      2) Do a clean install of your OS (back up everything first of course!)

      Are you running any other programs when this happens? Anything recently change? If your graphics card is being wonky over browsing, and you’ve had it a while without any issues you may just need to bite the bullet and replace it, but at the least I’d try the above 2 suggestions before deciding to do that.

      Also I have found Googling whatever issues I have really helpful. Search on the name and model of your graphics card. There is always at least one person who has had the same issue and has written about it. More often you’ll find the issue is common and about a half dozen ways to troubleshoot it before deciding to bite the bullet and replace something.

    2. Anna*

      Speaking as someone who builds PCs as well as uses them for heavy gaming (I’m not certified, however), there’s a chance your graphics card is dying.

      It’s far from the only possibility, however. I had a similar issue with my current build that was traced to a RAM slot (RAM throws out the most irritating, untraceable errors).

      There could also be a temperature issue with the card overheating. First thing I’d recommend is using canned air to clean everything out, then find temp monitoring software. It’s not as accurate as hardware, but it’ll do for this. I recommend SpeedFan, personally. Freeware and provides more info than you’ll need: focus only on CPU and GPU. On average, you don’t want it getting too far above 80C under load, but it varies and I doubt this is your issue.

      My initial search for your error code shows a software issue. Which version of Windows (assuming here) are you running?

      Also would need to know if it’s desktop or laptop and built in vs standalone.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Thank you! I’m using a Dell Inspiron 570 desktop. Re: built in or standalone, I am not sure what you mean. I do know that I don’t have a separate video card; does that help? It’s the card that came with the computer, so it’s not something I purchased and installed myself. My OS is Win 7 Home Premium (64-bit). I’m going to install the temp software and see if that helps.

        This started a few days ago after the tower was making a lot of noise (revving like an engine). I opened the case and cleaned off the fan blades, but I didn’t have any compressed air at the time, so I couldn’t blow the whole thing out. I ordered compressed air from Amazon the same day, so I do have some now.

        1. Bea W*

          The specs (search Dell Inspiron 570 – but I’ll link in a separate reply since it will probably get held for moderation) I found say the graphics card is integrated which means it is part of the main board vs a separate card installed in one of the slots. Your graphics processor should be the ATI Radeon HD 4200.

          Make sure you use the drivers from the Dell website. Sometimes the ones from Windows update or the AMD website won’t be fully compatible with the PC manufacturer’s version.

          I know Dell used to include a hardware testing program on their PCs that was accessed during boot by pressing one of the function keys. I used it within the last year, but I think those PCs were about 5 years old. Check the support information for your model on Dell’s site. That software was really useful in troubleshooting those PCs.

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            Yes, I do have the Radeon HD 4200 (I used the auto-detect program from AMD). The weird thing is that I went to the Dell site for drivers, and all it gives me is a BIOS link. There aren’t any drivers listed for my particular model, so I thought maybe I had to use the ones on the AMD website (I tried installing them, but I got a warning message when they installed, so I don’t know that they work).

            1. Anna*

              If you had a separate/standalone card, I’d say to grab the drivers straight from the chip manufacturer, whether its ATI/Radeon or Nvidia (the only two actual chip makers for graphics cards, by the way — everyone else is just the the heatsink). An integrated card is often best left to Windows to determine installers if only for ease of use. Everything else I’m responding to below.

    3. Anna*

      I’d actually suggest saving a complete OS install for a final resort short of replacing the card — time consuming, irritating, and usually unnecessary. Unless you’re running Vista, because Vista sucks.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        I have Win 7. :) And I don’t think this PC came with a Windows disc, for some reason. If it did, I can’t find it, and I still have the Roxio music discs for computers I don’t even have anymore.

        1. Anna*

          Win 7 disc is *not* requires for Windows installation. :) If you end up deciding/needing to, there’s several ways to install an OS. For a pre-built system, there’s the recovery partition. If you’re like me and erase the recovery partition because I want those extra 3GB, gimme now, there’s ways to download (legally!) a CD/DVD image and put it on a flash drive, etc etc…

          There’s ways. And they’re really not difficult, just takes some patience if you’ve never done it before.

        2. Bea W*

          Dell has a recovery partition. You can find out how to access it for your particular model from the manual or the website. PC manufacturers did away with physical recovery disks a long time ago, although most will give you a way to create your own hard copy just in case. What you do need is your Windows product key, which will be on a colorful sticker on the side or back of your computer in microscopic print.

          1. Anna*

            And if you need it, there’s software to pull it straight from Windows itself. Its…iffy, though, on how Microsoft sees its use.

    4. Bea W*

      It goes without saying Vista should just be replaced. :D Have you read much about 10 or been able to try it out? 8 has been really good to me, but it needed 3rd party tweaks up the wazoo to make it functional for a desktop.

      My experience is the average user would rather toss their hands up, back-up files, and start fresh and try to figure out all of the tools and such for troubleshooting, but you are totally correct that it is usually not necessary, but it’s not horrible for the average user who doesn’t have a lot of customizations or other software and games loaded. I swear on a new computer I must spend half the time with the OS and other things and the other half installing games and restoring all of the settings and add-ons and such. That’s the worst part!

      1. Anna*

        Pfft…always get rid of the bloatware with a complete wipe. I’ve built from scratch since I was 16, though, so only deal with that on family laptops. Thank goodness.
        Didn’t like 8 for desktops. Wary of 10, but willing to give it a go.

        On to the tech support!

        Revving is Not Good! Typically indicative of fan or power supply failure. First thing is to note what happened when the sound happened. Black screen? Anything?

        Next, run the system with the side off. It’ll impact cooling negatively, but not by much for your rig. Make sure all fans are running. I highly doubt they’re adaptive, so they should be. If overheating IS an issue, installing an additional fan may solve the problem. Look up how to set up for good airflow in a case.

        The integrated card is a decent one. It’s what I have on my UD3H-Z77 (a motherboard with usb 3.0 issues), and it gets me by while I save up to replace my burnt out standalone GPU. Plays NewVegas at any rate.

        If you’re OK with reinstalling the graphics drivers, I have no doubt you’re capable of solving this on the software side of things (hardware isn’t too hard either, but we’ll get there). I’d suggest doing a fresh install of DirectX, too. Your partial error code pointed that direction.

        1. Anna*

          And because I forgot: temp software is only for monitoring. It will do nothing but provide relevant information. You don’t even need to keep it if you don’t want. :)

        2. MsChanandlerBong*

          Nothing really happened with the revving, except that the computer was extremely slow. I’ve been having trouble with Shoickwave Flash (particularly when I read AAM, coincidentally). My PC/browser will be fine. Then I’ll open AAM, the browser will slow down to the point that it becomes unusable (it takes several minutes to scroll down a page), and then I got a message that says “Shockwave Flash has stopped.” I use Chrome, so I checked my plugins page to see if I had a conflict between Adobe Flash and Chrome’s native Flash player. I didn’t. I tried updating to the latest version of Flash; it didn’t help.

          I’ve been disabling Flash from the Chrome plugins page, but sometimes I have to re-enable it (to listen to Pandora, for one thing).

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            Just started a new post to apologize for my typo above (when I was typing, my characters weren’t coming out right away, so I had to delete and re-type a lot). Then my screen went black for a second and I got this message: “Display driver ATI Radeon Family has stopped responding and has successfully recovered.”

            Also, the video ads on this page are being weird. Is it the Ritz commercial that’s accompanied by music saying something about shaking your body? The sound doesn’t match the video, so I can’t tell. =)

            1. Anna*

              S’all good.

              First, some clarification if didn’t know: if its Flash, its Adobe. Period. Shockwave is just a player, Chrome’s is just a driver. There shouldn’t be any sort of conflict there (but then it is Flash, which is like the Internet’s personal Vista).
              Here’s a quick trick in regards to global Flash settings: http://bit.ly/1NHqtKf
              Shortened via Bit.ly, but there’s all your Flash settings for anything and everything every version interacts with on your PC, inside programs or on the web. Bookmark it. Its useful to have. :)

              Pretty certain its not directly a Flash issue. Flash is delicate and likes to get unbalanced at every left turn. Symptoms are pointing to a major software/driver conflict or failing card, from my experience. Have you recently installed or downloaded any software *other* than the ATI drivers? Check real quick to make sure there’s only one antivirus software going.

              How comfortable are you with messing with hardware? A simple check (albeit repetitive and with a few reboots) will eliminate RAM sticks and slots as an issue. Best to eliminate outside causes before going, “OK, time to chuck the motherboard.”

              If it does come down to being the graphics card for certain, its possible to get a standalone card and completely bypass the onboard one. Its not a permanent solution, but it would do the job. Standalone cards would require a whole ‘nother discussion, from compatible types (3 slot types) and whether your power supply can support it without slowly burning out.

              I get verbose. I apologize.

            2. Anna*

              I lost everything I typed. The one time I didn’t copy…! Agh!

              I apologize for the verbosity, but I’ll be away from the computer for several hours and won’t be able to update with whatever you decide to do for a while. If you decide its better to take the rig to someone — because your “additional symptoms” lead me to think its hardware rather than software — skip Geek Squad. Smaller shops can look at it for you on the spot with no wait (usually…) and typically have the better prices. Pay attention to user reviews. Also, because I’ve seen it happen and I think you’re quite intelligent enough not to do this…just bring the tower. Everything else can stay behind. XD

              Now for the summaries!

              1. If it says “Flash”, its from Adobe. If there’s any sort of conflict, it won’t be between variations on the Flash software, whether its a player (Shockwave) or a driver (Chrome’s native support). Flash is delicate, however, and crashes with every left turn. Its like the Internet’s version of Vista.

              2. There is a slight chance that your antivirus could be causing all this mess. I *highly* doubt it, but double check and make sure you’re running just ONE antivirus suite. Get rid of the stupid/obvious stuff first, right?

              3. The addition of keying errors, an entire suite of drivers (rather than a specific one) failing, mis-matched sound tracks…this is pointing to a RAM issue based on my personal experience. Might not be, but might be. Its an easy — if not quick — one to eliminate if you’re ok with going into the guts of your rig. You won’t mess anything up — everything plugs into the motherboard in only one direction. Its not possible to hook it in backwards. (not for lack of trying on my part at times). I’ll include the RAM troubleshooting in another reply just for space considerations.

              4. If upon eliminating RAM as the issue, then its definitively the graphics card. More likely hardware related than software, but its not always so simple as that. There’s ways to work around it. One option — aside from replacing the motherboard (are you under warranty?) — is to install a standalone graphics card.
              4.a: Determine what types of free slots you have on your motherboard: there’s only three types, and its most likely a PCIe. Open the case and *look*. Take a picture. An image search will show you the differences quite handily.
              4.b: Make sure your power supply meets the minimum requirements. The wattage should be listed on a sticker on the side or back. You probably have a 300 watt PSU (power supply unit).
              For the things you mentioned doing, a low-end card will work just fine, and your PSU will be able to handle anything that hits under the $50 price point with no problem (plenty of decent cards there and below). Best prices can be found at TigerDirect or Newegg, Best Buy is useless for PC things.
              Higher-end cards require additional power requirements beyond what the motherboard slot provides, so just avoid those. Going for more than that would require a full-system upgrade and more to consider in the power arena (single vs dual 12v rail, efficiency ratings, etc).

              1. Anna*

                And RAM troubleshooting! Easy, seriously.
                There is a software test you could do (memtest+) which takes a lot of time and is less obvious than this tried-and-true method.

                1. Power down the system and *unplug* the power cable. Important. Open the case. Flashlights are handy here.

                2. How many RAM sticks do you have? How many RAM slots are there?
                Image search if you’re not sure what’s what — they’re the long thing things, typically slotted vertically next to the CPU (which itself is hidden under that fan in a center-corner of the motherboard). Typically is the key word here. You have a decent older processor, btw. Bargain workhorse. It should be good for the long haul.
                If you have only one slot, don’t bother with this testing until you can get a second RAM stick from someone to test with. If the stick is going bad, you need one known to be good to work with. You can probably borrow one from somewhere, so long as the sticks are the same type (different types have different layouts in regards to the notch). I suspect you’ll have two slots, as that is standard.

                3. The process is straight forward: each stick needs to be tried in each slot, one at a time. If there’s only one stick, you move it from the slot its in to a different one. There’s a clip on the end of each slot to anchor the sticks in: push them down and remove the sticks. Keep in mind which is which — it doesn’t matter what slot they come out of or go back into, just that you don’t waste time re-testing the same stick.
                Don’t worry about damaging them. Grip firmly but gently, and they should slide out easily. They’re tougher than they seem. :)
                Set extra sticks aside, but not on carpet! static electricity and all…put them on a table or some such.
                When putting a stick *into* a slot, look at where the notch in the stick is. There’ll be a similar one in the slot, forcing the stick to go in only one way. You literally cannot put a stick in backwards, so line it up and and push down firmly. The clips should automatically engage. If you have to force it, take it out and try again.

                4. Plug the computer back in and boot ‘er up. If it boots up, mess around for a while and try to get the error to occur again. This may take some time, and your computer will likely be performing at a lesser level due to less memory to work with (unless you only have one stick in the first place — its possible for a stick or slot to go only partially bad).
                4.a: If your computer does *not* boot up, congrats! You’ve found the problem. Test all the other sticks and slots anyway, because it might be the *slot* rather than the *stick*. Joy. Forcing it down to just one stick in one slot narrows RAM issues down right quick.

                5. Repeat for all sticks involved.

                If the end result is the machine booting up with every slot and stick combo just fine and the error still occurs, its the graphics card. 95% likelihood. PCs are tricky that way.
                If it *doesn’t* boot up with a particular slot or stick, there’s the likely issue. If its the slot, just don’t use it (you’ll upgrade eventually). If its the stick, replace it when you’re able. Take the stick to a shop and tell them, “I need one of these!” Your rig will support up to 8GB RAM max — go ahead and max it out, whether with a 2-stick pack or a single stick (if a slot is bad).

                If you have only one stick, its a real quick test. Its worth doing, though. As I said before: RAM likes to be a red herring, so it never hurts to eliminate it.

                There’s been a lot of info and options provided here. I highly recommend trying everything, and if necessary, take it in somewhere. After backing up your data. (always always ALWAYS back up your data).

                1. MsChanandlerBong*

                  Thank you so much! I went out to see fireworks, so it’s a bit late to start troubleshooting now, but I’ll come back tomorrow and go through all the steps. I am having quite a bit of trouble that leads me to think it’s either a bad hard drive, a corrupted version of Windows, or a RAM issue. I got the BSOD again earlier, and when I rebooted, it took forever for everything to come back up. I can barely load anything in my browser, and I am getting all sorts of weird errors (I tried to back everything up before I started doing anything that could result in file loss, but it told me “Windows Backup failed while trying to read from the shadow copy on one of the volumes being backed up. Please check in the event logs for any relevant errors.” I also got a Runtime error telling me “This application has requested the Runtime to terminate it in an unusual way. Please contact the application’s support team for more information.”). I did a system scan, and it told me there were no integrity violations, and I am running chkdsk now while I am on my other computer.

                  The comp is five years old, so it is definitely out of warranty. I have installed additional RAM before (not on this comp, but on my FIL’s business computer), so I am okay opening up the case and looking around.

                2. MsChanandlerBong*

                  Thanks again for all of your help. I’m not sure if you’ll see this, but there is something very wrong with my PC, and it’s more than just the graphics card/display drivers. I am getting very weird messages (Runtime errors, Visual Basic errors, etc.), it’s taking FOREVER to open/delete files from some of my folders, Chrome is crashing every two minutes, I can’t look at my event logs (I opened the event viewer, but it froze, and I got a message about how there was an error in a snap-in), and so on.

                  I backed up my Downloads folder, which took me almost 12 hours…that’s how long it took to simply move files from my comp to my external HD. I’m going to open the case and try re-seating the RAM tomorrow. If it doesn’t help, my tower may be destined for the junk pile. I can keep the monitor, keyboard, and mouse and just get a new tower if necessary.

              1. Anna*

                Couldn’t reply directly above, so I’m replying here. >.>

                While a faulty HDD is possible, that’s typically accompanied by clicking rather than revving. They can die silently and suddenly, though!

                Skip Windows backup. Just don’t bother with it (aside from me never having good experiences with it, there’s easier/faster ways to get things). Get a flash drive of sufficient size — most people have a few million laying around — and directly copy the files you want to keep. Windows organization makes it super easy.

                Open an explorer window (not Internet Explorer. the file browser is also called ‘explorer’…thank you so much, MS.). You’ll want everything relevant under the Libraries tree: Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos. The last three just grab the entire folder and copy them over. Documents is used as a hodgepodge collection by Windows for game saves, so unless you want that misc info, just grab the folders that are relevant to you. Don’t forget your downloads folder! Only grab what’s worthy of keeping: very few people actually regularly empty the DL folder, so sort through it.

                You said you use Chrome, so unless you use an internet bookmarks service, you’ll want to save your bookmarks. Open Chrome, ctrl + shift + O. Navigate to Oraganize > Export bookmarks to HTML file…
                Default save directory is usually ‘Downloads’, but it’ll be wherever you tell Chrome to download stuff. Add that to your flash drive(s). You can import everything again later.

                If all else fails and it needs to be done, disconnect the hard drive and connect it to another computer. If you need help with that, lemme know and I’ll walk you through. Just need the right cables. :)

                1. Anna*

                  On a side note, if you utilize Chrome’s built-in cloud bookmark service (where you can access bookmarks tied to your account on your PC, tablet, phone, and on the moon), don’t worry about backing up your bookmarks. They’ll be there when you log back in.

                2. MsChanandlerBong*

                  Thank you! I usually do directly copy stuff to my external HD, but I thought doing Windows Backup would somehow be better. The good news is, I have actually been backing up regularly (learned my lesson the hard way), so if this PC suddenly dies, it won’t be a horrible emergency–I’ll just be bummed. I use Evernote’s Web Clipper extension to save pages of interest, so I’d be okay even if I didn’t have a chance to back up my Chrome bookmarks.

                  I’ve got to corral my cats for their morning routine, but then I’ll be trying the troubleshooting methods you outlined. BTW, chkdsk turned out fine. It did fix some issues (file references that were pointing to the wrong place, missing files), but there weren’t any bad files or corrupt sectors.

              2. Anna*

                Replying to above:
                “….there is something very wrong with my PC, and it’s more than just the graphics card/display drivers. I am getting very weird messages (Runtime errors, Visual Basic errors, etc.), it’s taking FOREVER to open/delete files from some of my folders, Chrome is crashing every two minutes, I can’t look at my event logs (I opened the event viewer, but it froze, and I got a message about how there was an error in a snap-in), and so on.”

                Definitely an emergency situation.

                Keeping to what’s been pointed to so far, go after the RAM if possible, because there’s still a chance that’s the core of the problem. If you can borrow a standalone GPU from someone, you can bypass the onboard card and see if things calm down with that. You may also have a virus, but if you run your antivirus and do thorough scans and utilize safe web browsing habits, that’s fairly unlikely (that and the symptoms are pretty atypical).

                Slow file access like that is indicative of hard drive failure. The rest is hit and miss. Do remember that I’m not actually a certified expert here, just someone with a lot of experience to call on and way too much free time. :)

                If you do decide its time to just junk the tower, try to recycle it where appropriate. PC parts are toxic waste, sadly. Its a good idea to keep the RAM (if good, as backups come in handy like you wouldn’t believe!). If the hard drive is good, keep that too (but wipe it completely). An internal drive, whether its 3.5″ or 2.5″, can be turned into an external or just slid into the tower as a second drive — real handy as a complete back up.

                If you end up buying a pre-built tower, it should come with its own copy of Windows. Something a lot of people are unaware of is just how MS keeps track of the licensing: the license is tied to the CPU. You can switch out everything *but* the CPU, and legally retain your current copy of the OS. Once the CPU is upgraded…so if you get a new machine with a new processor, the license cannot be transferred.
                If in the future you buy your own copy of Windows, look into the OEM versions, rather than the direct-to-consumer ones.

                1. MsChanandlerBong*

                  Thank you so much! I am still troubleshooting; I’m about to open up the machine and look around. I ran checkdisk, and it didn’t turn up any bad files/sectors. I’m also able to access my files just fine if I access them via my other computer (I have everything networked so that I can be lazy and not have to run upstairs when I need a file from my desktop; I can just open it from my laptop!). That leads me to believe the hard drive is not the issue.

                  I also ran the Windows memory diagnostic. It didn’t turn up any problems/errors, so I’m a bit baffled. I was really thinking it’s a RAM issue (I’m still going to try re-seating the RAM). I ran my virus scanner and MalwareBytes; neither program detected any threats. If re-seating the RAM doesn’t work, I might try re-installing Windows.

                2. Anna*

                  Even if memory diagnostics come up clean, it could still be RAM. That’s why related issues are so *irritating*. That’s why the physical process of not just reseating, but moving one stick at a time between every slot.

                  If you were unaware, the graphics card — integrated or otherwise — has its *own* RAM, so bypassing the onboard card is still a good thing to attempt if possible.

                  I do hope its just the RAM, and glad its not the hard drive. On the other hand, you don’t really need an excuse to upgrade… ;)

                3. MsChanandlerBong*

                  There’s no reply link under your most recent comment, so I hope you see this. I took out all four RAM sticks and put just one back in. The computer was very slow, and I couldn’t do much without it freezing briefly every time I switched between panes. I took that stick out and put a second one in. The comp is working much better, so I was all ready to call it a bad RAM stick, but then I got the artifacting at the top of my screen again. The comp is usable right now, which it wasn’t yesterday, so I’m just going to see if I can figure out why I keep getting black pixels at the top of my screen!

  2. Setsuko*

    I’ve been feeling bad that I don’t do any volunteer work any more. I’m finding it hard to find work that fits into my schedule. What volunteering do you all do?

    1. MsChanandlerBong*

      I really like Volunteer Match because you can look for virtual options. Half the reason I stopped doing so much local volunteer work is because of the cost of gas and the amount of time it takes to get back and forth. If I have three hours to spare, I’d rather spend all three volunteering than spend two volunteering and one on commuting/getting settled. I mostly do stuff that lines up with what I do professionally (writing/editing), so I write newsletters, make website updates, etc. for organizations doing work for causes I support.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I do reference checking for a dog rescue. It’s NYC-based– we adopted our buddy from them– and… I no longer live in NYC. :) I used to do home visits (part of our application process is to check out the potential adopter’s home) and I loved it, and since I moved away I volunteer entirely by email. It fits into my schedule and lets me help an organization that gave me so much. Admittedly it doesn’t feel like much, but I’m glad I do it.

      1. EduNerd*

        That sounds really awesome! How did you get started with that? It seems hard to start, since it requires a certain level of trust?

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Honestly, it started when we adopted our dog. We just kept going to adoption events to see everyone and I volunteered to do home visits. When we moved and they put out a call for reference checkers, I asked to be added to the list. I loved doing home visits, and I never felt uncomfortable– I got to read the applications and was in touch with the potential adopters before going to their homes. (I used to spend the first few minutes getting a tour and checking out how people decorate!) I love my buddy and there are so many great dogs out there just waiting to be adopted, it’s my pleasure to take some time out of my life to make sure those pups go to good homes with good people.

      2. fallingleaves*

        The dog rescue I volunteer for also has volunteers review applications from home which is a nice option to help out if you can’t make it to their events.

    3. JO*

      I’m a volunteer commissioner for my local parks and recreation department. I attend an evening meeting once a month, do some email correspondence throughout the month, and volunteer at weekend events (like music in the park, annual festival, etc.).

      It’s not like working in a soup kitchen, but it makes my community more enjoyable and friendly, and I get to meet a lot of people in the area.

    4. Stephanie*

      I’m an audiobook editor for my state’s Braille and talking book library. The state provides audiobooks and Braille books to the visually impaired. I do quality control for the raw recordings and edit out extraneous noises. I go
      in weekly to the studio.

      In the past, I’ve done volunteer coaching form some high school robotics team and worked in order fulfillment warehouse for the city library’s online store.

      1. Trixie*

        Curious, how did you find something like this? Sounds interesting on so many levels.

          1. Trixie*

            I’m so excited you mentioned this, looks like a great direction for volunteer work. Looks like the training process is a bit of a time commitment if I’m reading it correctly. Did you do something with Library of Congress and National Federation of the Blind?

            1. Stephanie*

              Actually, it’s my state’s library, but I’d imagine they do stuff with the the National Federation of the Blind (or at least get funding). Time commitment’s about two hours weekly (and training was the same). I’d probably head in more if the studio were closer to my house.

      2. Finny*

        As someone who is severely visually impaired, and relies on audio books much of the time, thank you very much for taking the time to do that. It really does make a difference.

        1. Stephanie*

          That’s great to hear. I don’t see our patrons for the most part (I think a lot have mobility issues or don’t live in our metro area–so the audio sets are mailed out usually), so it’s good to hear from a patron.

      3. hermit crab*

        For those of you interested in audio recording work, if you don’t find any opportunities through your state, there’s also a fantastic organization called Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, now at learningally dot org). They have both remote and in-person volunteer opportunities — I’ve been reading/recording science textbooks on and off for them for years!

    5. Trixie*

      Time permitting, I’ve always wanted to connect with a shelter to help walk the dogs and give them lots of exercise/play time. If I was a better photographer, I’d help out with really cute photos to capture their personalities. I’ve also helped collect donated items for young families, shelters, etc. I think if you find something that hits close to home or a cause you’re really committed to, it becomes a priority in your schedule.

    6. Carrie in Scotland*

      I volunteer in a charity shop that specialises in books & music.

      My friend volunteers at a befriend a child charity; every fortnight she takes the child she was matched with for a few hours and they go and do something.

      Some other friends do brownies/girl guides/rainbows.

    7. Colette*

      I’m a leader with Girl Guides. I also maintain the community association’s website and occasionally help at their events.

    8. Lulubell*

      I’m a Big Sister with the Big Brother Big Sister Association. It’s a 2x/month commitment, but I love it because it gets to me to do things I’d want to do anyway (museums, exhibits) and lets me see the world through a child’s eyes.

    9. Ann Furthermore*

      I do quite a bit of volunteering at my daughter’s school. This year I organized the school’s auction, which we did exclusively online for the first time, and we raised $16,000. I also do other work with the PTO, and help out in the classroom once or twice a month. And, I donate supplies, snacks, and other stuff to the classroom too. There is a lot of money in our county, but the school budgets are ridiculously low, because more than half the people who live here are retired. So they won’t vote for any sales tax issues on the ballots. I’ve also found out that at least in Colorado, capital improvements can only be funded with money raised by bond issues, and one hasn’t passed in this county in almost 10 years. So the schools really are strapped for cash, and I’ve seen for myself that the principal and her staff really try hard to stretch a buck and are very careful with how they spend their money. Since there isn’t a lot of extra to go around, me spending $20 a few times a year on tissues, Clorox wipes, and crayons really does make a difference for the teachers. I’m lucky enough to be able to afford to do that, so I’m glad to help.

      1. Stephanie*

        There is a lot of money in our county, but the school budgets are ridiculously low, because more than half the people who live here are retired. So they won’t vote for any sales tax issues on the ballots.

        Similar situation in a nearby district. School budget’s strapped, so the district is going down to four days a week. Well, there isn’t a ton of money that area (lots of retirees and working class or poor residents), so tax increase failed. Unfortunately, that’s not the only district in that state that’s cut down to four days a week.

        1. Melissa*

          That’s going to be terrible for the working class and poor residents with children who will have to pay for childcare on the fifth day!

    10. Aam Admi*

      For the past 3 years, I have been spending 10-15 hours a week in Nov, Dec in fundraising for a Christmas Charity. I also used to volunteer a lot of hours for Toastmasters acvities. This year, I reduced my Toastmaster volunteer hours and am instead helping out the local HR certification agency. This could take up quite a bit of my time but has the advantage of counting towards my annual continuing professional development points. I also help the food bank with special events. Of course, I can afford to spend a lot more time in volunteer work since I started working a Mon-Fri 40 hour/ week job with negligible overtime and generous vacation policy.

    11. DeLurkee*

      On Saturdays I volunteer with Riding For The Disabled. I first got into it as a way to spend time with horses, as I love them, but over time took on more of an aide type of role for the riders.

    12. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I was a cub scout / boy scout leader for eight years, until my son lost interest in continuing. I advocated from within the org to quit discriminating against gay or transgender boys and leaders.

      Then I volunteered at our local animal shelter for awhile, taking dogs to the farmers market to increase visibility for adoption (and to get them out, exercised, and socialized).

      Now I do my volunteering primarily through my congregation (Unitarian Universalist) where I’m on the social justice committee, which has been mostly LGBT support and advocacy.

  3. academic librarian*

    just a thank you to the hive- Earphones.
    I told the husband that if he spoke to me with earphones in his ears that I would not reply. That it was rude and it didn’t matter whether he could hear me or not. That it didn’t matter what he thought. I was consistent on my end. Not sure how long it has been but I can’t remember the last time he spoke to me with them in his ears.

    1. TheLazyB*

      Oh wow that’s good to hear! I remember that thread although I didn’t comment. It was clearly really upsetting you and I’m glad he’s stopped :)

    2. StillHealing*

      That’s great news! Congratulations!

      Think I’ll try it with my 21 year old….

  4. OfficePrincess*

    I know there are a lot of book lovers around here, but what do you all think of your local libraries? I went to mine for the first time this week after living here for about a year, and I have to say I was a little disappointed. It was very cluttered and claustrophobic, the aisles were so narrow you can’t squeeze by if someone is already in it, and there were no signs to show what was where. The clerk at the desk who set up my card didn’t talk and acted like I was an inconvenience. I had a list of about 10 books by a variety of authors and multiple genres, some current and some older, and none of them were there. I’ve only really had experience with one other public and a few academic libraries, so I have to ask, is this normal?

    1. Cruciatus*

      It doesn’t sound normal. Ours is pretty good. I live in the suburbs of a smaller city where there’s one main library. I mostly use a small branch (of which there are 4-5 in the county). Is yours part of a larger system? I almost never browse the actual library but just find what I want through the online system. If it’s at another library I can have it sent to the branch of my choice and I receive an email when it’s in. The staff should (normally) be willing to help out with that sort of thing if you want to do it in person. The county library system also shares with a few private libraries in the county so that increases the likelihood of finding a book (though there are some things they don’t share, like bestsellers). Also, either online or in the library (through a clerk) I can “request to order” and they almost always do. I’ve gotten them to get CDs, DVDs, books, etc. that I was interested in. Sorry your experience stunk. I didn’t realize maybe just how good I have it with our library system!

    2. Mean Something*

      No, it’s not normal! Libraries are dependent on public funding and should have a better service attitude. Is the branch you went to part of a larger system? How close are other branches?

      (I am fortunate to live in a big city with a pretty thriving library system, the best of the several I’ve used.)

    3. Bea W*

      Not where I live, but I live in an area with excellent libraries. Did you go to the main branch for your area or a satellite branch? In some towns they do have these small branches that are a bit neglected and due to their size are not as well stocked, but you would be able to request a book from any other branch. We also have an extensive inter-library loan network where you can request a book from a library in another town that is part of the network, but in a main branch building you should rarely have to use it except for special topics. Best selling and new books are often checked out and may even have a waiting list, but I’ve never had problems finding any particular book, especially older ones in my local public libraries.

    4. jcsgo*

      I’m sorry. I’m not sure if that’s common but my local (semi-rural) library isn’t like that. One suggestion – search the online catalog to see if they have an agreement to share materials with other county or state branches. Our region shares items among a tri-county area, and we can also request items (for no fee) that aren’t offered within these 3 counties from other branches around the state.

    5. OfficePrincess*

      Since everyone seems to have the same questions for me, this is a reply for all of you –

      It’s the main/only library for my area. Around here they assign them by school district (probably something to do with the tax structure that I don’t really understand.) and this is one of the best-funded districts in the area, which makes this even more baffling. There is an arrangement where if you get a library card at your local library you get borrowing privileges at most of the libraries throughout the state. I guess I’ll check out some of the others in the area. They’re a lot less convenient to get to, but if the odds are that they’ll be better, I’d say it’s worth it.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        As others have mentioned, there may be a reciprocal borrowing arrangement between neighboring libraries that will let you request items and have them delivered to one library location. There isn’t any additional cost to check out these loaned items, just a longer wait (about a week under most circumstances). Our city library transfers items between branches on request, and is also part of LINK+, which has those same privileges for about 65 library systems statewide. If yours has a similar setup, you can use your closest library as the pickup spot. That’s how I primarily used the library before I worked there, when my working hours and commute meant that I couldn’t make longer visits. I mean, it’s not ideal – of course I would love for every person to feel comfortable visiting her local library and actually enjoy spending time there – but it might be more convenient than driving to a branch further away.

      2. Jazzy Red*

        I use the library in the next town to me. It’s a terrific library – the only complaint is all the noise from the children’s section.

        Because I have to drive a ways to get there, I try to combine other errands in that trip.

    6. Stephanie*

      Hmm, I live in an outlying part of my metro area, so I go to the county’s at-large system. It’s pretty good and I can find most things. There’s reciprocity with the other municipalities, so I have cards at my city’s system and the big city’s library. Between those three, I can usually find what I’m looking for.

      Only weird thing is that the county system is crazy about address verification. I renewed my card this week and had to show two forms of ID to prove I lived in the county (they asked for a secondary form since I said I didn’t own my home). I showed less ID to get a drivers license. I think some of it is because the neighboring county’s system is pretty bad and those residents try to use this system.

      1. Artemesia*

        That has been true at all the libraries I have belonged to in recent years. I just renewed in big northern city and had to bring ID to prove my residency.

        1. Stephanie*

          Ah. Past libraries, they were pretty lax (bar for residency verification was pretty low). I just lucked up and happen to have my voter ID card in addition to my license, but it just seemed extreme they needed multiple forms of ID. I didn’t even have to show address verification at the DMV!

          1. the gold digger*

            I didn’t even have to show address verification at the DMV!

            That’s probably because DMV is funded at a state level. Libraries are super local and people who live in places to avoid paying the taxes don’t get to use the services they are not paying for. At my library, you can pay a fee for a card if you are outside of the taxing area, which I think is fair.

            Our property taxes are pretty high, but I have done the math: If I had to buy every book or DVD I have borrowed in the past year, even if I bought used, it would still cost me more than the taxes. I love my library and think is it about the best thing going for my tax money.

    7. Lizabeth (call me hop along)*

      This is definitely not normal. Most public libraries are support by the local taxes. Mine has an online database to all the member libraries plus a couple of other databases. Visit the libraries around your town, they may be better.

      Also consider talking to the head of the library about how you were treated.

    8. Heather*

      Our library is awesome and it won the Library of the Year Award in 2014. I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s great.

    9. Artemesia*

      I moved to a big northern city from a mid size southern city and my primary use of the library is with ebooks especially since I travel a lot. I also like that they return themselves as I am terrible at getting books back to the library in time. I was surprised that the available Ebooks was much larger in my mid size southern city than my giant northern one. It is not just number of copies, but many popular and non-fiction books are simply not available here. I assume it is a budget priorities matter, but it is disappointing.

      A plus in my new city is that I can order any book they have on line and it will be delivered for pick up to a small branch near me so I don’t have to drive to a distant library branch.

    10. Not So Sunny*

      It’s sad when your library doesn’t measure up. Some are under-funded, some are under-used… I moved from a suburb with a FANTASTIC library to a small town with one that’s so-so. Their idea of “new fiction” is Amish-themed paperbacks… nothing against the Amish, but they make up 1% of our population. I tend to get suggestions from my sis and mom (big readers) and new-release lists and just order them through the library’s co-op system.

      1. Avocado*

        You might already know this, but Amish themed fiction is never almost never written by or for Amish people. Rather, it’s the latest popular romantic subgenre for mainstream Christian readers who have a thing for their romanticized vision of the Amish that’s all wholesome old-fashioned living and strapping biceps from all that barn-raising. It’s a genre that no more reflects the realities of Amish life or the tastes of Amish people than high seas romances reflect the lives and tastes of pirates.

    11. Cristina in England*

      My local library is in a dilapidated, damp-ridden building, and it is about the size of my living room and dining room put together. Some of the library staff (not sure if they’re librarians or library assistants) act like customers are inconveniences, and do not bother to help at all. The central library is a bit better and although it is slow I can get most of the titles I need through inter-library loan.

      I have two degrees in library studies, and I know a LOT of librarians. Although there are many many wonderful librarians out there, it must be said that I have met quite a few terrible ones too, through work and socially. A lot of people go into it because they think they won’t have to deal with people. Not most, I think, but enough to support the stereotype.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      Sounds way underfunded for some reason.

      We’re lucky here; we have a very good library system with multiple branches in the city and surrounding area. The main library in the centre of town is a Carnegie library, too, in a cool old building. When I moved here, it had these really ugly metal stacks that covered the windows and was dirty and dark, but they refurbished it to its former glory and now it looks amazing.

      The only time I’ve seen a library like the one you’re describing was in a very tiny town north of here, but the clerk wasn’t as surly.

      1. academic librarian*

        I am ashamed that your public library has poor selection and poor service. The good news is that can change. Become a Friend of the Library. There should be a board of trustees overseeing this library. Write a letter stating what you have observed and that a well run local library is indicative of the way the rest of the town/community is managed. Questions to ask- what is the funding stream? Is there a degreed librarian on site?
        You CAN make change. I chose my new home in a neighborhood with a clean, community oriented library with superb customer service. Most libraries will be able to interlibrary loan whatever you want.

    13. Melissa*

      No, not normal. I’ve used public libraries for years in multiple cities, including several branches in Manhattan. The librarians are usually polite; some are really eager to help patrons, but I’ve never had a rude one. And while I sometimes can’t find some of the books I want, I usually find most of them. And often you can order the ones you want from other branches.

    14. Libraries*

      I grew up using the same library I am using now, and honestly, I think it’s changed for the worse. I saw it evolve from a strip mall location, to a free-standing branch, and finally, to a regional library. I grew up with outstanding librarians who knew my reading preferences and were excited to help. My family was even founding member of the new library… and we promptly stopped going about a year or two into the new location because it was so different and so awful. What was supposed to be a fantastic new resource became impersonal and just…not.

      I finally went back for the first time in forever, and what was once a shiny new heavily-staffed building had two people there: one ignored me, one was just… meh. I’ve already had a miscommunication with the staff. The recommendations and featured books are *all* Christian books. It seems like the best bet will be to search knowing what I want already. I’ve also used the remote electronic resources the same way. This library is also part of a network, so I can borrow from other locations, which is great because I haven’t easily found post-grad level books there yet.

      It’s just really disappointing, because I remember how fantastic this branch and network used to be. I don’t have the energy to turn it around or to complain. Sorry, I’ve got enough to do. Just throwing my comments in here to let you know that I agree this isn’t the way it should be, but unfortunately this is the way it is in some branches.

    15. anonymous daisy*

      I work in an academic library and I would be upset if a patron came in and was as disappointed in our library. Ours is so elderly that we just cannot change the aisle spaces (the shelving system was built into the library in the 1920’s and the only way we can change it is ti tear the place down). We try so very hard to make it up to patrons with great service and every bell and whistle we can afford to give the patrons with technology. Let the library know. They need to know how they can get better.

      Also, the lack of signage is weird. I don’t think I have ever been in a library without adequate signage. JMO, it is usually too much.

    16. Anna*

      Not even a little normal. I’m fortunate to live in a city with one of the largest library systems in the country, but even when I lived in smaller towns with smaller libraries, they were great.

    17. fluffy*

      Sorry about the bad experience–give it another chance. Make friends with your online catalog (if there is one) and do your ordering online. Is the building going to renovated or replaced soon? That may explain the clutter and lack of signage. Every employee can have a bad day, but we try to help them regain their politeness. I never find the books I want for myself on the shelf–there’s usually a waiting list for new and popular. We, too, share our material with nearly the whole state, which can explain why more things are out than in.

  5. Blue Anne*

    I’ve been away for work this week, and Bartlett the puppy has been looked after by my wonderful husband and three of our friends.

    She just turned three months old and continues to be adorable.


    I swear she’s gotten bigger just in the week I’ve been away, and I think I’m right because she’s able to get up on the sofa by herself now. She’s already about the same size, or bigger, as all the small-breed dogs in our neighborhood, She’s toileting in one spot reliably (our kitchen, unfortunately), pooped outside this morning (HALLELUJAH) has gotten way better at walks, coming when called, and sleeping on her own at night, and is starting to get the hang of this “sit” idea, all new this week. She has her final set of shots this week which is awesome because every time she sees a dog she really wants to meet it, and we really want her to meet other dogs too.

    I have to say, though, although I thought through all the puppy stuff, I didn’t realize just how much it would be Toddler Lite. There is a lot of poop, she needs constant attention if she’s not going to get into trouble, she’s not good at telling what she needs, she’s just strong enough to destroy things, she cries at night, anything she finds immediately goes in her mouth, and there’s that occasional unsettling feeling of “it’s quiet… too quiet.”

    So happy. :D

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      She does look adorable, and she looks like she made herself right at home.

    2. Relosa*

      I love raising puppies, but yes, it is very much like toddlers for awhile. They are babies, after all. The best part is though that a) dogs are usually much more obedient, and b) they mature much faster – of course that’s a mixed blessing I guess but also remember c) they don’t have thumbs (though; milk teeth), so that limits the amount of terror they can cause :)

  6. Aknownymous*

    If anyone has ever been in a long-term, long-distance relationship – how did you make it work, and if you broke up, how did you come to the conclusion that it was the right choice? I find it so difficult to determine whether my long-distance relationship is working or not. Sometimes it feels like it does, and sometimes it feels like it doesn’t, and I honestly don’t know what to make of it.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Can’t speak for myself, but my parents were across the globe from each other for three years, and they coped by writing letters to each other every day and having one five-minute bad-reception phone call. They’re fast approaching their 50th anniversary. It’s tough, though—no one will ever say it’s easy. But it can be done.

    2. OfficePrincess*

      My now-husband, then-boyfriend and I were long-distance for most of the first 3.5 years we were together. Frequent visits and calls and skype are the easy answer for what kept us together. But we’re also both people who don’t date casually. It took a lot of honesty and open communication to get through it. There were times when I wanted to give up and have the typical young adult experience of going out and meeting other people etc, but I never pulled the trigger. He had been my rock through a lot of things and giving that up wasn’t something I was willing to do. It would have been a whole lot easier, but I like how things turned out.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think LDRs only work long-term if there’s an end in sight. If my boyfriend went on a year-long fellowship, for instance, we would stay together and work on it. But if there’s no chance you’ll be physically together for a significant period of time, then… I don’t think I could put in the effort. My bf and his ex were long distance while she was in medical school, and they worked at it because they planned to be together when she was done– they moved in together and then quickly realized it wasn’t meant to be. But that doesn’t mean the distance wasn’t worth it, it just means that the real test of a relationship is the day-to-day, routine stuff, and for that you need physical proximity.

      1. Sara*

        I totally agree with this. My boyfriend and I were long distance for 10 months of our first year together (three apart, two together, seven apart), and the only thing that got me through that last long stretch was knowing that it would end. There was a point where he thought he might move someplace other than where I was (possibly as far away as the opposite coast!), and I’m not going to lie – I’d probably have strongly advocated for ending it if that had happened, since it would have potentially meant we’d be apart for anywhere from three to five years.

    4. Small Creatures Such As We*

      My fiance and I are getting married in a month (yay!). We lived 700 miles apart for 4 years while I finished my Ph.D. and he did a postdoc. In 2011, we moved in together, via a cross-country relocation to California because he landed the elusive tenure-track job (I had no job when we moved). I won’t lie. It was unbelievably hard. I’d had a failed LDR when I was 18, and would never had done another LDR if I didn’t think he was the best thing that had ever happened to me.

      We did A LOT of IM/Skype during our time apart; we phoned too, but IM was a constant. I went to visit him every few months, and he flew back here probably 1-2x/year (I was post-masters, so my time was much more flexible, and he was without a car in corner-of-no-and-where, Indiana).

      We went long-distance after dating for about a year and a half. And we really had no end-date / plan for how it would end. He HAD to leave on a post-doc, and I asked myself what I wanted: (a) not have him in my life at all (break up) or (b) not see him every day (long distance). Before he left, we talked very bluntly about fidelity and about our long-term goals and whether we were compatible. Everyone in our social circles knew that we were committed to each other (and it being academia, many of them had either done long-distance themselves or had faced a future that COULD require serious long-distance). The postdoc/dissertation life is basically WORK ALL THE HOURS, so even if we had broken up, I wouldn’t have been out meeting new people (I mean, I met new guys, but I never wanted to date any of them. Other than the lack of being touched, not having him there/being there for him was probably the hardest thing (for things like giving comfort after a bad day, celebrating after an achievement, or caregiving when you’re sick).

      It’s hard, but I think you have to see if you can separate out your feelings between what’s about being long-distance vs. what’s about your relationship WITH him/her.
      When your (psychological) gut twinges, is it about the roller-coaster of being long-distance? (the hello! let’s spend all our time together! and now I have to leave and this sucks so much!)
      Or are some of their actions/stray comments giving you pause, and you’re disregarding it as “oh, LDRs are hard”.

      I am fairly neurotic, but I never doubted that my now-fiance loved me or that he was trustworthy. He was reliable and he is ridiculously well-adjusted. And we were very, very honest with each other. In my failed LDR, my partner WAS untrustworthy and unreliable, but I didn’t trust my instincts about him, and I believed each lie that he told me (he cheated multiple times).

      Um, it probably helped that I saw a psychologist monthly during grad school (for ADHD/depression), including the 4 years that we lived apart. So…maybe it’s a good idea to have a neutral party that can help you sort all this out?

      1. Aknownymous*

        “When your (psychological) gut twinges, is it about the roller-coaster of being long-distance? (the hello! let’s spend all our time together! and now I have to leave and this sucks so much!)
        Or are some of their actions/stray comments giving you pause, and you’re disregarding it as “oh, LDRs are hard”.”

        This is such a great point that gets to the essence of what I’m trying to figure out. Food for thought, for sure.

    5. Cristina in England*

      I’ve had several that started out local and then ended up LDR when school ended or summer vacation ended or I graduated. They all ended when the stress of the thing really brought out the worst in us. I echo a previous poster in that it really really helps to have a local end in sight. I did not have that in those cases.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      At some point, and you’ll know when you need to have that conversation, one of you will have to move if you want the relationship to continue. I would not move for one that I felt unsure of because of the cost and hassle. LDRs can be difficult and frustrating.

      Mine did not work out but there were other factors besides the distance. I didn’t end it; he did.

    7. Oryx*

      I’ve been in two LDRs — I ended one, he ended the other. The distance wasn’t the cause of either break-up.

      The functionality of an LDR isn’t that different from the functionality of a local relationship. Do you want the same things? Are you on the same page with regards to your future? Even if you don’t have a specific timeline, it’s still important to know you moving in the same direction.

      For me, when I ended the first I just knew there were too many personality differences to make it work long-term. And these are things I found out AFTER we moved in together, that’s the real test. For the second, he met someone else. So, again, not that much different between non-LDRs that end.

      That being said, it CAN be done and I know several couples married after being in LDRs.

      1. Bangs not Fringe*


        I can’t say how much I agree with this comment. I am now married (and local) to my LDR-person (first 1.5 yrs spent transatlantic, 7 hour time difference). All relationships can be challenging, difficult, or frustrating. This is not merely a function of distance. Often this is a function of poor communication. And while (verbal) communication is important in all relationships, weak communication can be more obviously noticed in LDRs because we can’t compensate with other things as quickly and easily (love languages anyone?).

    8. Marcela*

      My now husband, then boyfriend, spent 13 months apart when he was doing his PhD in France and I was in Chile. It was very hard and as you say, sometimes we felt our relationship was working and some other times that it wasn’t.

      The easiest part of the relationship, even then, 10 years ago, was to keep us connected. We used ICQ (I bet only old dinosaurs like me know this venerable ancient messaging system; or russians =^.^=) all the time, to talk about important stuff but also the silly things that happen every day, like the first time he saw a squirrel or the first time he went to a bakery to buy a baguette. We shared pictures every day and I wrote letters to him every week. Now I read them and it seems I’m complaining about life in every line, but he says he waited anxiously for each letter and he was very happy when they arrived. We also talked even a few minutes every night. It was important to say goodnight.

      The hard piece was that we were not there when there was a problem. We had 7 hours of difference, and if I needed him late afternoon, he was sleeping. When he needed me early morning, I was sleeping. Almost half a day we would spend alone and we were not used to that. It was specially hard since we did not develop a fully grasp of what the time difference meant for several months, so in many occasions we go angry because the other wasn’t replying messages or email, only to realize later that he/I were in class or a meeting or commuting or sleeping.

      We didn’t know then that there was going to be an end to the situation. I didn’t have plans to leave with him. I don’t know now why we didn’t decide to break up. We talked a lot about how hard was to be away and tried to minimize the more painful moments. I guess the good ones (we have been together for 4 years by then) where worth all the suffering.

    9. Ted Mosby*

      This is a no judgement statement: I’ve found that when I ask for a lot of feedback about my relationship (is this normal? did this happen to you guys after two years? do you think this means we should break up?) it usually means the relationship is over. If you’ve been going back and forth in your head for a while, I think it’s time to cut the ties. You should be in a relationship you are (almost) always thrilled you get to be in.

      1. Christy*

        Some advice, coming from Ted Mosby himself!

        Also, I think this advice is great unless you have clinical anxiety–I questioned my relationship just as I questioned everything, and as my anxiety has improved, my relationship anxiety has also improved.

      2. Aknownymous*

        This is an interesting take. I just can’t decide if it’s the relationship or the distance that is the problem. We are in time zones that are 10 hours apart, and there is no end in sight currently. Like other people pointed out above, it makes it a whole lot harder, because any kind of life planning is impossible, and we aren’t able to talk that much, except for weekends.

        1. blackcat*

          10 hour time difference LDR veteran here… (ok, it actually varied from 8-10, depending on the state of daylight savings in the two countries).

          It sucked. 100% awful. Talking was so hard (we did a lot of 10pm for him/6-8am for me) and worse when he was traveling for work (he would lack internet access for periods of a week or more).

          I only pushed to stay together when he moved because I was completely convinced that he was the person I would marry. We also had a timeline for being together again. We married 4 years after he came back. If I hadn’t been so sure about our relationship OR if there hadn’t been a clear timeline, I wouldn’t have done it.

    10. Sandy*

      I’ve done a few, mostly recently when I was in Afghanistan and my soon-to-be husband was in North America.

      -timelines matter. Afghanistan was in some ways easier because there was a definite end point in sight. Counting down days is remarkably therapeutic!

      -come up with a system that works for you. Some people watch a movie “together” over Skype, others do a morning/evening check in, others communicate primarily by text message. What works for someone else won’t always work for you and vice versa.

      -shut down the haters. There’s always somebody who finds it necessary to chime in that you must be careening towards a break up/divorce or have commitment issues or some other inappropriate comment just because you are LDRing. It’s a time suck and it will just eat away at you.

      -LDRs are way more common than you think. People come out of the woodwork when they find out your situation! Especially helpful if you need to get out of work early on Afridays or something to catch a decent train/plane to your SO.

      -I’m convinced there was more fighting in my LDRs than my non-LDRs, probably because of frustration and loneliness. Unfortunately, the only way to know is to try both! Ultimately, I think you know it’s over when the effort to call/arrange logistics for a visit/etc. doesn’t seem worth it.

      1. Aknownymous*

        Thanks for your tips! There is definitely more fighting, which is one of the things that makes me question the relationship. But you’re right, could be be because of the frustration. Because it’s very frustrating!

    11. Finny*

      The now- husband and I met in 2004 at an anime con where we were both working security. After the con I went back to my home in the States and he went back to his in Canada. We got together later that year, and spent the next several years long distance with occasional visits, until I moved to Canada the day before Christmas in 2006.

      During those years of long distance, we talked on the phone every day, anywhere from fifteen minutes to three hours or more. We IMed every day. Sent each other care packages. Lived for those few short visits.

      And we survived, and I honestly think we, as a couple, are stronger for what all we went through during those years of separation. And yes, I do think that communication is the key, as well as the glue that held us together.

    12. Dan*

      I have a very strange story to tell…

      I had an LDR when I was in a transition period in my life, I was working midnights which made dating conventionally difficult. The LDR and I planned on going to grad school together and that ended up falling apart. I suppose you could say that *I* knew the relationship was over when we couldn’t really come to an agreement on grad school.

      The story gets strange, because post breakup, LDR and I independently moved to the same city together within six months of each other. LDR knew that I moved to the same town, but I was in another relationship at the time, so there was no opportunity to “rekindle the old flame.”

      Fast forward five years after that, LDR and I now work *for the same company.* Yeah… but strangely, LDR decided to telecommute six months before I joined the company, and moved back to where she was when we met originally. I also had left my previous relationship before I joined the company.

      I find this all highly amusing, because the distance was one reason we broke up. Her office on campus is just one floor above mine — but as fate would have it, the point where we could be closest, we aren’t.

      FWIW, this is a relationship I’m happy to *not* rekindle. But I find the geography and timing highly amusing.

      1. Aknownymous*

        Except for the fact that you don’t wish to rekindle the relationship, this sounds like it would make a great romantic comedy :)

    13. Aknownymous*

      Thanks so much to everyone for graciously sharing your own stories and experiences! I appreciate all the input, tips, and thoughts, and it definitely gave me a lot to think about. It’s also comforting to know that I’m not the only one who has struggled with this (not that I thought I was, but it sure felt that way), and encouraging to hear all the success stories. I don’t know if mine will be one of them yet, but at least I know it can be done if the relationship is the right one. Thanks again!

  7. LizB*

    Thanks to everyone a few weeks ago who gave me advice about packing and moving in with a significant other. I successfully got my apartment packed, and we moved in yesterday, making pretty decent time even though there were only four of us working on it. Today we’re unpacking what we can and taking stock of what furniture we might want to get to fill in the gaps in what we have. I’m still weirded out by the fact that I’m living with my boyfriend! For real! This is happening! But everything is good so far, and we’re continuing to have good discussions about how we’d like to set things up and what our living preferences are.

    Also, protip for anyone who moves with IKEA furniture — if you lose one of their little bits of hardware (screws, dowels, etc.), go to the customer service desk in the store and tell them the name of the furniture piece and the part you’re missing. They’ll likely have some spare ones in stock, and might even give it to you for free if you only need one thing!

  8. Stephanie*

    Alison, feel free to delete if this is too work-related. So I’m going to be working a graveyard shift in a couple of weeks. How should I work on transitioning my sleep schedule to accommodate that? How can I stay relatively rested? (I’ve got blackout blinds already.)

    1. DebbieDebbieDebbie*

      Is it just a single shift? If so, I would set my alarm for 2-3 am the night before I have to go in. Then I would exercise or clean, do some vigorous activity then lay down for a nap from 5-10 pm, wake up and head to work!
      If you will be doing a run of shifts I would do some thing similar but not as drastic over several days.
      Also, if you intend to sleep when you get home from work, be wary of drinking a lot of caffeine during those last 2-3 hours of your shift.
      Good luck!

      1. Stephanie*

        It’s a permanent schedule change. Just trying to figure out to get used to sleeping during the day!

        1. DebbieDebbieDebbie*

          Ahhh…okay. I worked 730pm-730am or MN-730am for about 6 years when my kids were babies-preschoolers. With the exception of a small minority of folks, most of us never felt quite “right”. Things that helped: minimal caffeine early in the night, avoidance of caffeine after 2am. Eating well: packing food from home like hard boiled eggs, fruit, small portion leftovers, etc to avoid eating the donuts or ordering takeout. My sleep routine was terrible for a variety of reasons but I had the most success with eating a nice breakfast (this became our family dinner time), taking a walk and then trying to get at least a 6 hour block of sleep. Splitting sleep spelled disaster for me: 40lb weight gain, depressed..I was 26 and looked 50. I also had trouble staying awake after 8pm on the nights I went in at MN. So my 6 hour block would be 5-11p on those days. Otherwise I would aim for 12-6p.
          This was all prior to cellphones so I would just unplug the house phone. But it would be essential to have all calls and notifications on your phone silenced.
          And then buy-in from family and friends – it is difficult to get others to understand why you are “taking a nap” at noon.

        2. Audiophile*

          Ouch. I just got out of doing 2nd shifts, which were interspersed with 1st shifts.

          Why the schedule change? Did another coworker depart?

          1. Stephanie*

            It was a promotion. Pay is still terrible and I’m not quite full-time (about 30 hours a week), but it’s a more marketable job. Baby steps, sigh.

            My mom saw the new work location today and got a little worried about the overnights. (It’s not the greatest neighborhood. Again…baby steps.)

    2. Oryx*

      Treat it like a normal work schedule when you get off. That is, if you work 8-5, you don’t go home at 5 and go right to bed. You maybe run errands, relax, eat dinner, then go to bed.. If possible try to do the same when you get off at 8 am or whatever time it is. Run errands, relax, eat breakfast, then go to bed. If you go to bed too early you’ll get into a cycle of waking up too early before you have to need to. Sort of like waking up at 3 am when you don’t have to wake up until 7 am and can’t go back to sleep and are exhausted at work.

      1. CC*

        That varies with the person. For some, it works the way you describe.

        When I was working night shift, 6:30PM-6:30AM, I found it worked better for me to wake mid-afternoon, do whatever stuff I wanted to do, then go to work. It’s not ideal because there’s less wiggle room for something running late when you have to be at work on time vs. getting to bed a little bit late one day, but for some people it works better.

        You’ll have to figure out what works best both with the outside things you want to do and with how your body handles day sleeping.

        For the transition, I favour a single hard wrench to the new schedule, same as I do when changing time zones, but — normally I can fall asleep any time, so I can pull that off. I know this doesn’t work for everybody. For changing day for night, what I would do was nap as much as possible the day before I had to day sleep, then stay up as late as possible the night before my night shift, then sleep as much as possible the day, then work the night.

    3. Noah*

      I worked nights for years.

      If it is just a single shift I would either sleep in late OR wake up early and plan on taking a nap in the afternoon. For me it was usually easier to just stay up a bit later the night before and plan on sleeping in late.

      I was lucky that my night shifts were typically either 3 days long or 4 days long. I would typically stay up light the night before, sleep in late the first day and then go work the night shift. The next morning I would go home, spend an hour or so reading and relaxing and then go to sleep. Earplugs, a white noise machine, and blackout curtains all help with sleeping during the day. On the last night I would go home and take a nap, and then try to switch back to a semi-normal schedule for my 3 or 4 days off.

      1. Stephanie*

        Thanks for the tips! I was definitely curious about how to adjust my schedule if I was out of town or something.

    4. Dan*

      I don’t think I have much useful advice, but I’ll share some personal anecdotes.

      I worked straight midnights the entire time I lived in LA. It’s honestly fine as part of your day to day routine, I worked a lot of overtime after my shift was scheduled to end, so I generally would work work work, stay up, go to bed around noon, wake up around 8pm, and then go to work.

      The ass kickers were traveling to see friends and family. I would typically get a 6am or 8am flight out of LA, and get to my destination early evening. By that time, I’d be tired, take a nap, and then stay up all night. Ouch. The hardest part was coming back. I could get a nonstop flight at a decent time, but that would put me back into LA at 10am, needing to be to work at 9pm. Since I had just gotten a good night sleep, I really wasn’t feeling tired until I got to work.

      The only reason I survived that job was that midnights were often quiet, so I was literally able to sleep on the job during slow periods.

      Where you live, black out blinds and air conditioning are your friends. Just be prepared for your social to go to pot, it’s pretty hard to have one when your “weekend” is 9pm-5am Tuesday and Wednesday.

    5. ExceptionToTheRule*

      My co-workers who work overnights have a variety of strategies. Some of them go home and go to bed and get their 6-7 hours of sleep in, then they’re up mid to late afternoon. That seems to work well for those that have school-age kids & spouses. Others go about the rest of their day and go to bed on the back end. Others still do the “nap” method. They go home & take a nap, then do their “day” and then go to bed in the evening.

      I think what matters the most is consistancy and routine. The ones who suffer health-wise are the ones who bounce all over the place.

    6. Kristen*

      I might be repeating some of what others have said here. I have worked the night shift (12-8:30am) for nine years now. I think everyone is a little different in what works for them. Thankfully, it was never too difficult to adjust. I think most people I work with either sleep when they get home in the morning or they split their sleep (9am to about 1pm then 6 or 7pm to 10pm). For me, it just made the most sense to keep a normal schedule and stay awake after work (like it’s evening) and sleep before work. I figure it helps to stay awake at night if I just slept for the day. You already know to keep your room dark. If you find that it’s not dark enough, try a sleep mask (I recommend this one from Target http://tinyurl.com/qhd48xt ). I recommend keeping a fan on in the room as well to drown out any outside noise. I stay away from caffeine after I get home from work as well. At least one other person has mentioned diet. Working nights can be hard on your body, so continue to eat healthfully and exercise. I also try to eat like I normally would if I was working day shift. I have “lunch” at work and “dinner” at home around noon. I’m terrible about breakfast though and sometimes eat junk when I get home. I don’t recommend those two habits. I think the best advice with everything though is consistency. Especially with sleep, it’s important to have a set bedtime and bedtime routine (you probably don’t want to be hanging out in the sun right before bedtime).

      As far as on the weekends. I try to take a nap after work on Fridays for about four hours or so. I sleep during the night on Fridays and Saturdays. I take another nap (about four hours) before work on Sundays. One negative I have found is I get very tired in the late evening on Friday and Saturdays.

  9. AvonLady Barksdale*

    What are everyone’s plans for the Fourth of July? I’m curious about expat celebrations in Australia and the UK, too, just because I find that kind of thing fascinating.

    For my part… we are being lazy as hell. A friend was going to have a cook out but it started pouring and he cancelled it, so my boyfriend made me a Bloody Mary. We watched the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest (well, I listened, I cannot watch that) then decided to tune in to the Drunk History marathon on Comedy Central. We also briefly considered going to a local historic house, but once the rain started, all bets were off. It’s sunny now but might rain again very soon, so I am exercising my independence by napping and reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton. Oddly, last Independence Day we were living in Harlem and we decided to visit Alexander Hamilton’s house, so maybe being all Hamiltonian is a new tradition for us.

    1. OfficePrincess*

      My husband’s in a band so he’s out of town. I’m working on cleaning the apartment alternated with the NCIS marathon that’s on. I wanted to sit outside with a book and a beverage, but it’s overcast and raining off and on. I’m slowly starting to make friends around here, but I’m not at a point with any of them where I feel comfortable suggesting plans, especially on days that are frequently reserved for family/closer friends.

    2. Pennalynn Lott*

      I gave myself a pedicure, and then Boyfriend and I are going to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. Then we’ll play a board game when we get home. Pretty darn boring. :-)

    3. Blue Anne*

      I’m an expat in the UK. Normally there’s a barbecue and baseball with other expat friends, but this year it didn’t work out that way. Instead, we’re just having burgers and Sam Adams for dinner, I’ve got the American flag up in the window, and I’m spending the evening rolling over all the other countries as America in a game of Civ. :D

          1. Cristina in England*

            What??? Ok, I will have to keep my eyes open! I have seen Brooklyn Lager here and there but I’ve never seen Sam Adams!

    4. Cristina in England*

      I’m an American in the UK, and I made burgers and corn on the cob tonight, with Coke floats for dessert. I do not know where my flag is because a lot of my stuff is still in boxes from our last move, but I have one! I also wore a red dress with white and blue flowers.

    5. Gecko*

      I am American but lived in the UK for 7 years. I didn’t really have any expat friends, but my English husband and I would always host a BBQ for our friends. Some years we would have sparklers if I could find them.

      This year we did the annual bike parade in our neighborhood for the kids. Now all 3 kids are napping – yay! Later we will grill some sausages and if the kids stay awake long enough, watch the fireworks. Our city display is visible from our front yard.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Oh my goodness, 3 kids napping at the same time, it’s an Independence Day miracle! :-)

    6. Cath in Canada*

      Do any American expats in the UK ever get any pushback about publicly celebrating American independence? I mean, I’m British and I really don’t care – go ahead and celebrate, wherever you are! Have a ton of fun! – but I can imagine some Brits being less fond of the idea, sadly…

      There’s apparently a huge Canada Day party in Trafalgar Square in London every year, that anyone can get into if they show a Canadian passport. I’d love to go, and will if I’m ever back home on July 1st!

      1. Cristina in England*

        All of the Brits (both English and Scots) have been really into the 4th. I used to have parties sometimes and it was always a good time. I got some GWB comments when I first moved here, but it was more like “hey, what’s up with THAT guy?”

        It was only when I lived in Canada that I got anything negative about being American.

        1. Blue Anne*

          Really? You don’t get anything negative about being American even the rest of the time, not related to the 4th? I’m a little jealous.

          My friends do a lot of America bashing even after I’ve told them that it bothers me when they get vehement about it, or when it’s on a time like Thanksgiving or September 11th. I guess it’s not actually directed at me, but it’s still a bit hurtful.

          1. Gecko*

            I would get that occasional request to “say something American” or rude comment about politics, but not really from my friends. More from coworkers or random strangers. I spent my first two years there as a student at a university with a lot of other international students, so I didn’t stick out too much.

          2. Cristina in England*

            When I first moved to the UK I lived in Glasgow, and Glaswegian humour can be really abrasive. What they see as “banter” feels like bullying to me. So, I probably did get some comments, and some really terrible impressions of American accents in my first few years there, but I was assured at the time that it was “banter” and meant to be friendly.

            The comments I got in Canada were… more earnest, as Canadians are. The biggest compliment I got in Canada was “I didn’t know YOU were American!”

            1. Cristina in England*

              I should also add that “banter” is more of a working class thing, and I got many fewer comments when I left my job in the private sector and was back at university for graduate work and then got a job at a university. Middle class humor seems to be different. I am NO expert on different classes in Scotland or the UK, except to say that people are a bit obsessed with it and me pointing out specific differences is a normal part of how people discuss things here, unlike in America.

            2. Cristina in England*

              I’ve been thinking about this all morning. I’ve lived here so long, it has taken me a few hours to remember my early years here! Especially when I was a little younger (and maybe meeting younger people) I definitely met people who wanted to talk to me specifically because I was American. I felt a little like an exotic animal. It was kind of off-putting for me for someone first question to me to be “where in America are you from?” It felt like they weren’t really interested in me, just my accent.

      2. Blue Anne*

        Heh. Yep. Our barbecues are usually out on the Meadows in Edinburgh, using cheap disposable barbecues. One year, a local hippie wandered over, pissed on one of our barbecues, told us he was being ecologically friendly, and started telling us about how America was still ACTUALLY ruled by England and we were fooling ourselves about Independence Day. In a very Scottish accent. The irony was hilarious.

        That’s the worst I’ve ever had, though, and I think he was very high.

        1. Cristina in England*

          The next time I’m in Edinburgh (in September) I am going to the co-op to look for Sam Adams!

      3. Gecko*

        I never got any pushback. (Aside from a small amount of good-natured taking the p*ss occasionally, but that group of friends did that to everyone about anything). My friends always liked the excuse for a party and we had a good time.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I’m American who wishes she were in the UK. :P

      I’m doing nothing today. I haven’t even gotten dressed. I’m about to make myself a cup of tea and sip it and watch some British telly online whil(st)e I pretend we lost the war. ;) I have a friend who just moved to UK to marry her English bf and she posted about missing the Fourth and I ground my teeth practically into stubs.

      If you want to know where my Anglophilia thing comes from, read my latest blog post (click my name to get there).

      1. Cristina in England*

        I hope you can find a way to live here or some back again soon! Have you ever looked into a house-swap thing with a Brit? Ok my only point of reference is seeing the trailer for that movie The Holiday (with Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law and Jack Black), but this must exist somewhere in real life. Isn’t that what Craigslist is for? ;-)

        1. Blue Anne*

          It’s totally do-able in real life, my mom does it all the time. She’s gotten some lovely flats in Glasgow and Edinburgh through swaps.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Unfortunately, I can’t swap my house with anyone because it needs several thousand dollars worth of repairs. It’s not up to the standard of where I would want anyone to stay here. I should have spent money on that rather than travel, but I REALLY needed to get out of here. That autumn trip saved my sanity. And for the spring one, I really needed to be with my chat friends.

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        Haggis and black pudding are the best, if you go to a chip shop in Scotland you can get them deep fired in batter which is so gross but also so so good too.

        1. Cristina in England*

          I love black pudding with an egg and potato scone on a roll, although I flip-flop on whether it’s with ketchup or brown sauce.

      3. Saucy Minx*

        Fellow Anglophile here.

        Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was my first contact w/ English writing, & it was he who kick-started my love affair w/ London, British mysteries, & dry humo(u)r, not to mention the joy of reading British writers who have a large vocab & use just the word that is required to convey meaning, atmosphere, & wit. Thanks to Sir Arthur, I visited England, met my future husband, made close friends who are still my besties, & worked in both book & magazine publishing in London.

        Last November I visited my step-daughter & had a glorious time, taking over quilts I had made & returning to the USA w/ rose & violet creams from Charbonnell et Walker. If the step-daughter’s plan of winning the lottery prevails, we shall have cottages in the Cotswolds & be surrounded by rescued kitties.

    8. Mallory Janis Ian*

      We’re cooking out (burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, corn on the cob), the kids are shooting fireworks on the driveway, and we’ll go to the football field later tonight to watch the town fireworks show (with a sonic milkshake picked up on the way there, as is our tradition these past 15 years).

    9. nep*

      Nothing 4th-related. Just enjoying a day off and catching up on things don’t have time for during the week.

    10. Nashira*

      We’ve been playing Dragon Age: Inquisition and hiding in our house like two overstimulated autists. This is night three of nonstop fireworks from 6pm to 10:30. At least the cat is taking it well this year.

      I hate the Fourth of July so much.

        1. Windchime*

          Same here. My small town is like a war zone on July 4th (apologies to anyone who actually is in a war zone; I have never been in one so I am imagining that this is what it sounds like). Parts of it are fun; families are sitting on their front lawns with music playing while kids run around with sparklers and responsible parents light off the whistling Pete’s in the street. But a lot of people shoot off the big, illegal fireworks and it goes on for HOURS. Last night it was from about 7 PM till well after midnight. My poor cat was terrified and kept running from room to room, trying to find a safe place to hide.

          And now I’ve got a yard full of firework scraps so I’ll have to go and clean all that up.

          1. nep*

            It’s all I can think of when the noise is going 0n — what must this be like for people who have been in war zones? I might be way off base; of course not speaking from experience — I just wonder about that. I know the fireworks are tradition and all that — but I for one would be happy to do without. (I’ve lived in areas where the boom boom was weapons fire; I think that’s part of why it’s unnerving.)

    11. Ann Furthermore*

      I started the day by finally, at last, dragging my horrible ERP implementation project across the finish line! So I was celebrating my independence from that today too. Ran into an issue yesterday, and got it resolved early this morning. Yay!

      Went to my brother-in-law’s house this afternoon for a barbecue, and then came home. Then my daughters and I walked up the trails in our area over to the next neighborhood to watch the fireworks at the big park over there. It was quite a hike — about 1.5 miles each way. My 6 year old did great though, kept up with us both there and back. And it got me my 10,000 steps for the day. Then we came home and the neighbors were shooting off fireworks in the cul-de-sac, so we watched those.

      On the downside my husband discovered some kind of leak in the plumbing coming from the master bath, and hasn’t quite figured it out yet. Then he banged his knee hard on the coffee table, and said it’s been hurting more and more all night.

    12. Monodon monoceros*

      I’m an expat in Norway, and I did nothing US related for 4th of July. The animal shelter where I volunteer was having an event during the day, so I helped out there. The only American I know is away on vacation, so I didn’t feel a strong desire to do anything really. And although everyone usually loves a party, even if it is for someone else’s holiday, July is “fellesferie” month where almost everyone in Norway disappears on vacation, so it would have been difficult to get a group together to celebrate.

      Thanksgiving is my US holiday here where I really make the effort to do something. I had a dinner last year with 15 people, and there was only 2 of us Americans.

      1. Monodon monoceros*

        Oh, and my dog enjoys 4th of July much more now that we moved from the US. No fireworks!

    13. Connie-Lynne*

      I decided at the last minute to run out into the desert Thursday where some friends were camping. I had a great time driving too fast and learning how to do drifting bootlegger turns in my truck, swimming at a hot springs, and visiting people I rarely get to see any more.

      Friday night Mother Nature gave us an amazing if somewhat scary lightning show, and Saturday I headed back to the Bay Area to watch the fireworks with my husband (and eat BBQ with friends who were surprised and delighted to see me).

      I packed a rockstar quantity of fun into three days and really enjoyed it!

  10. Looby*

    This is a question for those couples living together. Do you thank your partner when they do housework/chores etc? I’m talking basic things like doing the dishes or vacumming, cleaning the bathroom etc. I personally don’t thank my boyfriend unless it is “extra”.

    When we first moved in together, I would thank him for doing simple jobs like unpacking/repacking the dishwasher. But then I realised I was thanking him for doing basic chores like cleaning up after himself. He used the dishes too, why am I thanking him for putting them away? He’s not thanking me for doing it. So I stopped saying thank you unless it’s above and beyond like putting together furniture.

    Some of my friends have told me I should thank him every time he does something around the house, but I don’t understand why. He is 50% of this household, why would I thank him for doing his share of the chores?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      We thank each other. I thank him more than he thanks me, but we still do it. I especially thank him when he does something I haven’t asked him to do, and he thanks me when I do one of “his” chores, like taking out the garbage cans when he forgets. It’s kind of like thanking him for bringing me a drink or a cup of coffee. I honestly never think about it. He thanks me when I cook an especially yummy dinner, and I like that.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Actually, my spouse and I have been together a long time, and we never used to thank each other for chores done, but recently (the past couple of years), we have been, and it makes a difference. It’s not to say “That’s some unexpected thing you did” so much as “I know you’re doing it anyway, but just so you know—I appreciate that you’re doing it.” It should go both ways, though. One partner shouldn’t be thanking the other and not vice versa.

    3. MsChanandlerBong*

      Yes, and I believe doing so is why we have such a strong, happy relationship. My thought is that, yes, it’s our “jobs” to do things like cleaning and paying bills, but it does not hurt to thank the other person for his or her contribution to the household. My mom and dad are currently having some issues, and I think part of the problem is that my dad’s attitude is “Well, it’s her job to cook, so why should I thank her for a good meal?” and my mom’s attitude is “Well, it’s his job to put a new roof on when we need one, and repair the hot water heater, and do all of that, so why should I say thank you?” Both of them have expressed that they feel very underappreciated.

      Basically, saying “thank you” costs nothing and is a nice thing to do. If he’s not thanking you, then that’s a problem, but it works really well when both partners do it.

    4. Blue Anne*

      Not regularly, but I make sure that it happens sometimes. Our general rule is “you don’t get cookies for doing something you’re supposed to be doing,” in any sphere.

      But everyone likes to be appreciated for doing what they’re supposed to. So yeah, sometimes, if I haven’t told him for a while that I appreciate it, or if he’s been doing a lot.

    5. OfficePrincess*

      We do say thank you to each other, even for the little things. For the most part it helps with feeling us both feeling appreciated. He works from home and he does most of the housework, so sometimes I feel like I’m not doing enough. At those times I thank him extra, but feel really uncomfortable when he thanks me. He means it sincerely, but I can’t help but hear it as my doing something is so remarkable he has to point it out. It’s irrational, but being in the habit of thanking each other all the time helps.

      1. Artemesia*

        My husband does our floors; I often comment on how great they look after he has done them. But I never thank him for doing his share of the work.

        1. Bea W*

          I think that works the same way as saying thank you, complimenting his good work on the floors. What he hears is that you noticed and appreciate the effort enough to say something positive.

    6. Artemesia*

      It isn’t my house and my work — it is our house and our work. I think thanking someone for doing his share of the chores implies he is doing you a favor. It would be like thanking him for ‘babysitting’ his own children. That said, of course I thank him when he does me a service e.g. fetches something for me, makes me coffee or runs an errand for me. And I praise his cooking etc. But I don’t thank him for doing the dishes when I cook just as he doesn’t thank me for doing them when he cooks.

      A key to a happy marriage is being considerate of each other and that means praise when warranted and thanks for above and beyond. But thanking for doing routine chores (unless it is your norm and he is thanking you for the same things) is IMHO undermining of the partnership marriage. I always thanked him profusely when he brought me gas when I ran out in the car or did similar dumbass things.

      1. Sophia in the DMV*

        I don’t agree. I think thanking and acknowledging one another for the small routine stuff is really important. At least for me and my husband. We never used to but it’s one of the changes we’ve made when we started seeing someone and it’s helped a lot. It’s about expressing appreciation, even for the small things – especially for the small things, so we don’t take one another for granted

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        Obviously do whatever works best for your marriage, but I appreciate it when people thank me for doing things I’m expected to do, and I go out of my way to thank others for doing things they’re expected to do. I just find it makes things more pleasant in general. I pay people at a coffee shop for a muffin, and I say “thanks so much,” even though I’ve paid for the muffin, and even though they still make the same hourly wage and have to give me the muffin, whether they like it or not. When I was a teacher, my students (not all of them) would sometimes say “thank you” to me for being their teacher. That was amazing! I didn’t have a choice. I had to teach them. I didn’t get to pick the rosters for my classes, but it was just nice to know I was appreciated.

        I guess it depends on your own cultural expectations. In the cultures I’ve been a part of, “thank you” doesn’t simply mean “You have done some unexpected amazing thing you didn’t have to do and went above and beyond.” It can also mean “You have done exactly what you were paid to / expected to do, and you did it well, and I appreciate that you did it.”

        1. Bea W*

          I do this to, thanking the clerk for the muffin. Sure it is their job, and they are getting paid to serve me a muffin, but in it seems rude to me not to say thank you. That’s the way I was brought up -always say “please” when you ask for something and “thank you” when you receive something or someone does something for you.

          In retrospect, I wish we had practiced this in the home more often. The lessons in manners stopped at the front door.

        2. Myrin*

          I agree with this when it comes to “professional” relations but I agree with Artemesia when it comes to personal ones; it’s really not black and white for me, like, either thank everyone who ever does anything or don’t thank anyone ever.

          In general, I think with personal relationships, it’s about reciprocity. I don’t care if someone in my household doesn’t verbally thank me for doing things that are just “normal” things to do, I just want to in some way feel appreciated and react the same way to others. However, I’d strongly oppose one person always going above and beyond and thanking for every little thing and the other never thanking for anything at all. It should be balanced and I think Looby’s attitude is absolutely fine considering their boyfriend doesn’t seem to say thank you for anything.

    7. Bea W*

      People like to know they are appreciated, even for things that seem like no-brainer obligations. Saying thank-you is an easy way to acknowledge and show appreciation.

      I lived with a guy who wasn’t quite right in the head, and he ranted on and on about how he did x y and z chores and I never thanked him. He actually never thanked me either, but reading your post I’m thinking why not say thank you every so often. People don’t usually find mundane household chores enjoyable and a lot of us have to really motivate ourselves to do them, and a positive acknowledgement for having done those things feels kind of good and reminds you that all that crappy work is appreciated by someone other than yourself.

    8. misspiggy*

      We either thank each other or say appreciative things. We are both natural scumbags, and we have health/energy issues that limit our capacity to do housework, so if either of us lived alone it would be in squalor. Therefore it is worth appreciating when one of us cleans or cooks – we are doing it for the other’s wellbeing, and we both need motivating. Plus it’s good to have extra opportunities to be nice to one another in the grind of daily life.

      1. misspiggy*

        This topic reminds me of The Enchanted April. It’s a delightful novel in which a miserable middle-class English housewife in rainy 20s London escapes temporarily to a castle in Italy, and decides she’s just going to be happy and lovely to everyone, dramatically affecting the lives of those around her. It’s a great template for relationships (even though the author, Elizabeth von Arnim, wasn’t terribly good at staying married).

        1. fposte*

          Have you seen the movie? It’s quite lovely as well; Josie Lawrence, Miranda Richardson, and I believe the third is Polly Walker? One of the Pollys, anyway.

    9. De (Germany)*

      We usually thank each other, and that is something that is really important to me. I want housework to be acknowledged as work, and for it to be divided equally and thanking each other is a part of that for me.

    10. littlemoose*

      We do sometimes, and I kind of wish we did it more. At first my boyfriend was confused when I would thank him, because it is a basic thing, but I appreciate that he does it because (a) then the house looks nicer and (b) then I don’t have to do it. My dad would usually thank my mom for making dinner, even though it wasn’t anything elaborate, so I guess I learned it at home. I just think it’s an easy way to show appreciation for and kindness toward your partner.

    11. Aussie Teacher*

      Another vote for showing appreciation for your partner here (obviously it goes both ways – he should be thanking you too).
      At the moment I do the majority of the household chores because I’m a SAHM. My husband makes a point of noticing and complimenting things I do around the house, and it really means a lot to me. It’s often pretty thankless being at home with 3 small children, and he regularly expresses appreciation that I stay home with them instead of pursuing my career, and for all the household stuff I do. He pitches in heaps on weekends and evenings and I try to let him know I appreciate his efforts too.

    12. Sara*

      I’m pretty good about thanking him, but I do it more when (a) it’s a chore that (I think) sucks, like washing the floors, or (b) it’s something I probably should have done but didn’t get around to (usually this is unloading the dishwasher). He thanks me often, but less often than I thank him – but I think this is because we have wildly different approaches to cleaning/levels of tolerance for uncleanliness. He likes to do a little bit here, a little bit there (vacuuming the living room one day, the bedroom another) to stay ahead of the deep cleaning game. I am perfectly happy to let all manner of messes grow, until one morning I wake up and say “This house is filthy!” and then I will clean maniacally until everything is spotless again. Rinse and repeat. (How does he put up with me?)

    13. Not So NewReader*

      We thanked each other randomly. Sometimes instead of thank you’s we would give compliments- “the closet looks great after you cleaned it!” or “terrific meal!”

      We had talked about this and agreed on random thank you’s and compliments. We both grew up in homes where you were not thanked for doing what you were supposed to do, and for whatever reason that did not go well. AT ALL. We both agreed that the silence felt like entitlement- “you live here with me therefore you owe me.”

      OTH, I do not like a constant stream of thank you’s or empty compliments, he felt the same. This is how we decided on doing it randomly. This way thank you’s and compliments felt more sincere as there was thinking behind the words.

      I go with the school of thought that no one HAS to do anything, a person makes a choice to do something. It has just made my life easier to think this way. The old way of thinking about obligations and “owing” someone never seemed to work out very well, it seemed to involve a lot of score keeping and no real sense of gratitude.

    14. Tris Prior*

      Yes – all the time! We both hate doing chores and are really terrible about keeping up with them. So when one of us manages to un-weld our ass from the couch and get something done, we always thank each other.

    15. Marcela*

      We do thank each other, but it’s not “thank you your Highness for leaving your throne and doing a peasant’s duty”. Instead we say it as “I noticed you did something at home and I’m grateful that now I do not have to do it”. Both of us detest household chores. Some more than others, different ones each one of us. He hates making the bed, I hate cooking. So when he cooks, I thank him meaning “it’s so good I don’t have to cook”.

      The critical point is that we both need to be aware that the house is not going to be clean and tidy by itself. When he moved alone, my brother discovered that there was no fairy cleaning the bathroom. I knew that because my mother didn’t allow me to believe in the magical cleaning fairy. So when my husband moved alone to another country, he gained first hand knowledge not only about how hard was to clean, but how unpleasant is to keep our places habitable. And although we have different ideas about whan clean and tidy means, we try to do the thing the other hates the most, so he doesn’t have to. And thanks in this context means “I am aware of what you do and why you do it”. I feel loved by that and I hope he does too.

    16. Greggles*

      I always say please and thank you because that’s what I want my son to do. My wife does the same. I like to be in an atmosphere of appreciation and thankfulness!

    17. at who's blind word so clear but so unheard*

      I think that many / most people are not so literal in how they interpret “thank you”. It’s not so much a “thank you” as it is “I want you to know that I appreciate that you did that”. Because over time, not showing appreciation and just taking someone for granted can kill a relationship.

      > He is 50% of this household,

      I often wonder just what that means. Do both parties work and split the rent and other expenses? I am sometimes surprised at what some people consider a 50/50 split.

      1. Sandy*

        In our case, yes, that is exactly how we do it.

        Every year, we sit down and work out our mandatory expenses. Mortgage, child care, car insurance, Internet, etc.

        We split that according to our salaries. It used to be 70-30 with him having the bigger share due to a higher salary, but I’ve been rapidly catching up, so it’s 50-50 now.

        After that, we’re free to spend our respective salaries as we see fit. I put a high priority on saving for retirement and/or walking away from my job, so I squirrel away a lot for that. He doesn’t share that view, so he doesn’t.

        Certain non-monthly expenses still have to be take care of, like groceries and vet bills, and then we negotiate that out (in practice, it usually means that I pay for groceries and he pays for restaurants)

        1. Sophia in the DMV*

          But thanking should be a two way street- not just you to him or vice versa

        2. the gold digger*

          This is absolutely none of my business, but I am surprised that you are the one saving for retirement and he is not. (Or that is what it appears to be.) Is his plan for you to pay all the bills once the two of you retire? Or is he not going to retire?

          1. Sandy*

            Both of us have work pensions. I very much value the idea of not being tied to this job forever just for the pension, he doesn’t consider that to be a major concern. As far as he’s concerned, it will all work out in the end.

            It drives me *mental*, but in ten years, I have yet to change his mind on this point. I can either drive myself crazy trying to force the issue, or do what I can on my side to make myself comfortable.

            I clearly went for the latter.

            1. the gold digger*

              If you do figure out how to change your husband’s mind about anything, please let me know! My husband and I do agree on money, but we do not agree on mean, ailing, alcoholic parents and how much time they deserve.

    18. Anne*

      I thank my husband for each thing he does, and vice versa. We try not to keep “score” re: household stuff. ( even though I do more! :-)). I also thank every person who works for me, every day. It’s something I learned from my first boss, many years ago. It doesn’t cost anything and it’s a nice thing to do.

    19. Nashira*

      Yes, I do. I’m coming out of two years of severe depression, untreated PTSD, and a nasty new autoimmune condition. My partner took care of the house nearly on his own, and still does more than I do. He doesn’t think I need to thank him, but I can tell it makes him feel seen and appreciated, so… I do it, as well as trying to help lessen his load as much as I can.

    20. Dan*

      You need to make your partner feel appreciated, how you do that is up to you.

      My ex didn’t work outside the home (no kids, long story) and on the days she cleaned, when I would come home from work, she would *demand* that I observe how clean the place was, and that I tell her how wonderful she was for cleaning.

      Yet, when I would say to her, “I just spent 50 hours at work to pay the rent” I’d just get this WGAF attitude. I don’t feel the need to be thanked for going to work and paying the rent, but it left a sore spot when she wouldn’t give me “credit” for it.

      That’s an underlying symptom for a whole host of reasons why the ex is the ex.

    21. the gold digger*

      I thank my husband not because I do not think he should be doing half the chores but because it makes my life easier – stuff gets done faster when I show that I appreciate him.

      In his defense, he also thanks me for what I do, but if he didn’t thank me, I would still do things because I don’t want to live in a dirty house. His standards are lower than mine.

  11. huddle up kittens!*

    I’ve read a lot lately about people living on 25% or less of their take home pay. My question is – how in the world do they do that?

    I’m in my early 30s and consider myself somewhat financially savvy and fairly frugal. My apartment is around 25% of my take home pay. I’m trying to buy a home early next year and have been saving for a down payment. I’ve looked and looked and done a ton of research and I can not find a cheaper, liveable apartment in my city that’s in a fairly safe neighborhood. A roommate is always an option but I really enjoy living alone.

    I don’t go on vacations. I’ve curbed my dining out and coffee budget tremendously. I don’t have expensive hobbies anymore. I do occasional freelance work. So what’s the deal?

    1. huddle up kittens!*

      And for context, I live in a Midwestern city where the cost of living is very reasonable and my salary is $60K.

    2. Pennalynn Lott*

      They make $200K and live in a low COL area? Or they live with their parents, who pay the bills and buy the groceries?

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, this pretty much. I think there’s way too much guilt peddled in personal finance advice like that. Most people couldn’t live on 25% of their income without living a life of extreme sacrifice.

    3. Artemesia*

      Most of my life we could not have made it on 25% of our pay. But the principal of living below your means and stockpiling for the future paid off big time for us. We are now comfortably retired and barring financial crash or catastrophic chronic illness we are probably good to go.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I think it really depends on what kind of job you have and what area you live in. My rent is pretty close to 75% (not a typo) of my take-home pay, so my spouse and I both need our full-time full-pay jobs, or we just wouldn’t be able to pay the bills. But I live in the Bay Area. I know someone who used to live in the Bay Area, still works for a Bay Area company telecommuting, and is living in Wisconsin on a Bay Area salary, so she could easily take a 25% pay cut and be okay. If you’re in a high-paying industry and live in a low-cost-of-living area, it can be done.

      Also, I used to live in the Boston area, and rents in Salem or Waltham are much cheaper than rents in Cambridge or Boston proper. You can work at a place in Boston and earn a Boston salary and pay Salem rents and still take a 25% pay cut and be okay (not living in the lap of luxury, but okay).

      1. Sara*

        I live in Boston and I feel you on that non-typo. Our rent is 72% of my take-home pay, and even though my boyfriend and I do split it, between rent and my other fixed expenses (transportation and student loans, mostly) 65% of my paycheck is spoken for as soon as it gets deposited – and then there’s groceries, and utility bills, and everything else that always manages to crop up. Granted – I do have a poorly paying job at the moment, and with any luck will be offered a much better paying one in the not-too-distant future, but it’s still outrageous how much it costs to live here.

        1. Bea W*

          There are a couple of new apartment buildings next to where I work in Cambridge where the rent nearly meets or exceeds my take-home pay! I don’t make chump change either. You’d have to be making well into the 6 figure range to afford to rent there. SMH.

    5. OfficePrincess*

      I just did the math and 25% of our combined take home pay would be under $800/month. All I can do is laugh. After student loans and regular bills, that would leave us with under $200/month for rent. For that we could probably rent a room (not apartment, just room) in a questionable area of town. Of course, doing that would mean my husband loses his job. So then we’d have to live on less than $500/month and there goes having $$ for any type of rent.

      Yes, we are saving some money for the future and don’t spend on extras, but we aren’t saving anywhere near 75%. That’s just not realistic unless you’re making significantly more than average for a given area.

      1. Bea W*

        Hmmmm yes, doing the math…my mortgage/condo fee alone is 25% of my monthly net. If I were renting a similarly sized place it would be more than that!

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      When you say 25%, do you mean $45,000 from $60,000… or do you mean $15,000 from $60,000?

      1. Not So Sunny*

        I honestly can’t imagine anyone being able to do that anywhere unless they live with their folks. Or maybe — maybe — if they make 100k, don’t have a car or student loans and live with roommates in a low-COL area.

      2. huddle up kittens!*

        $15,000 from $60k.

        Another thing I forgot to mention – I have no debt at all.

        After reading the replies so far, I do feel better about my situation. I don’t live extravantly IMO but there are definitely areas I could probably still cut back in but everything in moderation and balance.

        1. danr*

          One thing you can do is stop using the atm. Figure out a cash allowance for the week and use it. Put the extra cash away for emergencies or a nice dinner once in awhile. Leave what’s left from the allowance in the bank to pay credit card bills, rent, etc. A credit card should be no fee and have a cash back feature. The goal is to make every cent work for you. Finally, don’t forget future retirement. Contribute to your 401k (or equivalent). It lowers your income tax and puts money where you can’t spend it.

        2. CAA*

          If your salary is $60K, then $15K is 25% of your gross pay, not your take-home pay. Your take-home pay is the amount you take home after withholding of taxes, so it’s even less.

          If you want to live on $15K, you can try putting together a budget to see if it’s even possible. Figure out how much housing costs, then utilities, food, transportation, etc. $15K/yr is $1250/mo, so you’d have to get down to around $400/mo for an apartment, which almost certainly means sharing with one or more roommates. $150 for a transit pass (you can’t afford a car on this budget); $100 for utilities; $400 for food; shop thrift stores for clothing; you probably can’t afford cable or internet at home, so hopefully you like to read and you patronize your local library. You can have a cheap cell phone, but no smartphones.

          I think it can be done, but how miserable will you be and for how long? Is it really worth it, or would it be better to try to live on 50% of your salary and have a few luxuries?

          1. Just a thought*

            Obviously, YMMV, but I think a smartphone might be possible if they got a pay-as-you-go.

          2. Cambridge Comma*

            This is much less than we spend for 2 people. We don’t share an apartment and we have a recent model smartphone on a contract each, plus internet at home. No cable, though, as we don’t watch much tv, not because we couldn’t afford it. We buy new clothes, not from thrift stores. It doesn’t feel miserable when it’s a choice and you could buy anything you want to any time. It’s not comparable to someone having to live on minimum wage.

        3. Bea W*

          Not having debt makes a huge difference. The only debt I have is my mortgage. Everything else I pay off within a month if I charge it. I am to a point now where I can afford to do that even with big ticket items, but when I had less saving and a lower income, my goal was to not spend more than I could pay off in 3-6 months (preferably 3) if I needed to spend that kind of money, like replacing an appliance, a computer, or something car related. I have never taken a loan on a car. That started out 20 years ago by necessity, and I just paid for my latest car outright as well – used of course, buying new for what I need just feels like setting cash on fire! Not having that payment and not having a student loan payment or credit card payments is a lot of money I have free for other things. I save a lot of it, but I also indulge a bit – travel, smart phone, cable TV/ high speed internet, getting my hair done – all the things I’d go without when I was starting out.

    7. Kirsten*

      I wonder this too, I think they must either make a lot of money or have no housing costs. Even if I went barebones I would only be able to get down to 60% of my salary.

    8. AvonLady Barksdale*

      We could maaaayybe do it if we had two equal incomes. Maybe. Doubtful. Right now I make a good 7-8 times what my boyfriend does– I pay the majority of the rent and bills, I pay for all luxuries (like trips to visit people, wedding gifts, etc.), I buy about 75% of the household stuff (furniture and the like), and we’re very comfortable. I will be able to put more money away once I completely pay off our interstate move (I made some financial choices that I don’t regret at all, but they were expensive!), but right now we do ok and live within our means but not exactly below them. If he made exactly the same salary I do and we decided to keep renting this place, we could probably do it. However, that day is very far away and I would like to buy a house, dammit.

      We live in an area with a pretty decent COL– housing costs are low, taxes are reasonable. My bf’s PhD salary actually makes a dent here. It would be absolutely impossible if we still lived in NYC; we’d have to be pulling in at least $600k and living as frugally as we did on my pretty-good-for-NYC salary and his piddly-for-anywhere salary. And I would never be able to do it on just my income.

    9. Colette*

      They have roommates, and prioritize saving over activities that take money, most likely. Living on 25% of your salary isn’t achievable for many people, but saving is.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      I’d like to see the budget plan these people have. The only way I could see this happening is if they had a high income and lived in a very inexpensive area and chose very modest housing and transportation.

      I look at each of my expenses every year and ask myself if there is anything I can do to reduce this expense. Some years I get lucky, once I refied and dropped my mortgage payment by over 50%. Most gains are more like with my water softener system- I decided to quit buying salt from Big Company and to purchase the salt locally. I saved $75 per year doing that. whoopee. But I have made it part of my routine to look for ways to reduce recurring expenditures. I used to look once in a while. Now, I look around as a matter of course.

      1. Expendable Redshirt*

        Living on 25% of my net income would be absurd. I make my living as a financial administrator and this idea is nuts. Talking about budgets and living realistically is something I do every day. A person would probably be living with family/six roommates and earn an income of a rock star.

      2. StateRegulator*

        I love the MMM blog. I’d like to retire at a reasonable age so I’ve stepped up my savings/investing rate. I’m saving 35% of my gross salary now but working toward 50% slowly. Does it hurt? Not really. Mostly it means cutting waste. I still travel, eat well and see doctors. I’ve made little changes that add up over time. I make an average U.S. salary in the Midwest.

    11. at who's blind word so clear but so unheard*

      I’m not sure what percentage we spend, but buying a house and locking in a decent interest rate has lowered our effective cost of living over time. Our current mortgage payment is far lower than we’d be paying in rent.

      And getting into the habit of saving money off into a 401K, stock-buying programs, whatever; if you start doing it early, over time it builds up. It also helps to not allow one’s standard of living to grow too quickly: just because you got a raise doesn’t mean you should run out and buy a boat.

      1. at who's blind word so clear but so unheard*

        And – at the risk of total obviousness – it can be helpful if you’re a married couple where both people have jobs that pay reasonably well. Which was not the case for us until a couple of years ago.

        Oddly enough, I could easily retire now if I wanted to. Even more oddly: I don’t really want to, yet.

    12. Dan*

      I haven’t been reading those blogs, but it’s probably dual high income earners in a low COL area. I make a damn good salary (80th %-ile nation wide, based on median *household* income.) Even my rent alone for a modest 1 BDR apartment in the suburbs clocks in at 30% of my pay.

      I actually have no interest in living like a pauper and retiring early. My company has lots of lifers (I’m 35, there’s plenty who have been with the company longer than I’ve been alive.) I like my work, it’s not stressful (40 hour a week job), gives 1 month vacation every year, and supports “phased” retirement (people dropping down to part time and what not before being squeezed out the door.)

      Bottom line is that I have no desire to quit my job ASAP. I’d prefer to enjoy living life while working, because my company allows me to work to live, not the other way around. We all have different values and value judgements, those happen to be mine. ‘Cause, well, I actually like traveling overseas and what not. And eating good food…

      1. Clever Name*

        I actually have no interest in living like a pauper and retiring early.

        Seriously. The MMM blog puts a heavy emphasis on doing it yourself, and he clearly enjoys much of it. I really don’t want to do everything myself. It’s also clear that his current lifestyle will never improve because he’s already retired, and I really can’t see myself enjoying a lifestyle that dictates re-roofing my house myself and riding my bike everywhere. Will that work when I’m 70?

        I’m pretty happy maxing out my company’s 401k match, and saving for my son’s college and then retiring comfortably (based on my broker’s projections). Heck, my parents saved so much for retirement that their take home pay in retirement is more than it was when they were working. And I’m not working long hours at a job I hate either.

    13. Cambridge Comma*

      We live on 15% of our income in a pricy European capital, and are in our early 30s. It wasn’t deliberate, I just realised last year going through my bank accounts that our living expenses had not increased whereas our salary had, so there really aren’t any feelings of deprivation involved. The key to it is not being much of a consumer and cooking from scratch, coincidentally a lot of things that Mr Money Mustache recommends.

    14. ExceptionToTheRule*

      25% of my take home pay would be just over $8700/year or $725/month. I also live in a midwestern city with a reasonable COL and that’s not being frugal, that’s attempting to live well below the poverty line without being eligible for benefits.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        Yes, but you have savings for emergencies, and you can invest in property etc., so the situation can’t be compared with actually living below the poverty line, as it is anxiety free.

  12. Christy*

    Possibly moving to Kansas City!

    I posted months ago about possibly moving to Kansas City. Well, my girlfriend and I are in Kansas City right now. I don’t really understand the Midwest. I’ve spent my whole life in the Northeast, and everything seems to be a lot more spread out than I anticipated. So far, we have walked around Westport (and I’m surprised really just how much of it is bars and restaurants) and Crossroads (which was super fun on First Friday and we’ll check out again). We drove to Lawrence for fun–it seems like a great town, but too far for me to commute.

    Mostly I’m surprised at how much of the city isn’t urban at all. Like, Waldo isn’t remotely urban, and that was very surprising to me. I’m excited to see more of Crossroads. Maybe we can live in a loft there.

    And OMG Grunauer was amazing. I’m in love.

    We’re going to look downtown, too. I’ll post more later.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Yes, you really do need a car to live in KC or St. Louis or here. Most Midwestern cities are very car-centric. And it’s funny how they are like city city city–SUDDENLY RURAL. There isn’t much suburban buffer. The suburbs tend to be a little ways down the highway rather than stuck to the thing. There’s a lot of room for sprawl here, and it’s also quite a farming-intensive area, so I guess they left a lot of room for that.

      I haven’t been to KC in ages. I need to go up there and visit some friends.

    2. Gene*

      Those of us who have spent our lives in the Midwest and West see this reaction a lot from people who have spent their lives in the Northeast. There are a lot of counties out here bigger than a lot of the states there.

      Mom used to work a car rental counter at the Phoenix airport and still remembers the couple from NYC who got in about noon and were planning on stopping at the Grand Canyon, then gambling some in Vegas before driving to the Disneyland Hotel for the night. And they didn’t believe her that they’d be lucky to get to Vegas before dark. Maricopa County (where Phoenix is) is bigger than New Jersey, and is (IIRC) only the 5th largest county in Arizona.

      I really like Kansas City, it’s a great place to live. I have a niece who lives there and a lot of family in Central MO.

      1. Sara*

        I’m a Midwestern transplant to the Northeast, and it still amuses me how going on a day trip to another state is a thing here. I get that it takes about as long to get from my current home to, say, New Hampshire, as it did to get from my teenage home to the area Fancy Mall, but there’s something about the idea of just casually going to another state that hasn’t quite normalized in my mind yet.

        1. Windchime*

          Yeah. I remember having a conversation with an online acquaintance from the Boston area. I was talking about commuting to work (10 miles) from town A to bigger town B when I was living in rural Washington state. She kept saying things “just take the train!”. Um. What train? The Amtrak comes through twice a day. It stops only in town B (the town I’m commuting to). In the morning, it’s headed to Seattle and in the evening, Spokane. Those were the choices at the time. It seems like a lot of people from big cities back East don’t really know what “rural” means in practical terms, or how dependent we are on our cars in the west.

      2. Clever Name*

        Seriously. Don’t underestimate distances. Believe what locals say when they tell you how long it takes to get somewhere. It’s not traffic that dictates driving time, it’s miles. Also, keep an eye on the gas tank. Kansas is fairly populated, relatively speaking, and there are exits with gas stations every 15 miles or so. In eastern Colorado, exits are spaced more like 30 miles apart, and many of them do not have gas stations.

        Also, people in the Midwest are less direct than people on the east coast, and they may interpret directness as rudeness. Just something to be aware of.

    3. edj3*

      Yes, one thing we have in KC is lots of space, hence the sprawl.

      I can’t remember if you said you’d need to rely on public transportation? But if so, check out Midtown too (around Armour–runs E/W and between say 31st and 39th Streets). You can find some big apartments in not terribly dodgy areas of town which may cost less than lofts in the Crossroads but still have public transportation. I work downtown, and have heard that rents are going up in the area. One of my direct reports is moving to the 18th & Vine area so that might be another place to check.

      Wish I were there to wave at you but alas, I’m in India. I hope you enjoy the rest of your visit.

      1. Christy*

        Thank you! I drive (my job will be right near Union Station) but my girlfriend used public transit. We’ll check out those areas today!

    4. TootsNYC*

      I grew up in Iowa (small town) and live in NYC now, and I find one of the biggest differences is all the “shoulder space.” Around dwellings, around office buildings, beside roads, heck even inside roads (turning lanes are a thing, all lanes are wider) etc. Everything has a lawn!
      And that means that the cores of the lots (the building itself, in other words) is farther from everything else.
      In NYC, buildings touch one another; in NYC suburbs, lawns are smaller or even nonexistent.

      So that’s part of why everything is so far apart.

    1. Bea W*

      BEST: IRELAND!!!!! Where people drink Guinness at 9 AM in the airport, because…heck I’m going to be trapped on a plane for 7 hours why not? (I didn’t actually drink, but I sat at the bar next to the gate, and I was the only one not drinking.)

      WORST: Jet lag, flight delays, going back to work – take your pick.

    2. Cristina in England*

      Best: popsicles in the park with friends on one of our 5 days of summer
      Worst: Terrible Two tantrums

      1. Bea W*

        OMG popsicles made me remember the BEST BEST part of my week. ICE CREAM!! OMG every other shop in Newcastle sold ice cream, the most delicious ice cream I have ever had in my life. Why can’t we have ice cream like that in America???? WHY???? *cry*

          1. Bea W*

            Sorry to disappoint, I was in Newcastle of County Down, NI but maybe there is good ice cream in Newcastle Upon Tyne. I’ve never been there.

            1. TheLazyB*

              Too many newcastles! If it wasn’t there i would have thought Newcastle under Lyme, even though i remember you posting about being in NI. Ooops!!

        1. Cristina in England*

          Was it the type of shop with a small ice cream counter where they just have one flavor… plain? And you can get raspberry sauce on it? That’s what they have in Scotland. Apparently it was the Italian immigrants who brought it over.

          1. fposte*

            There’s a nice Bill Forsyth movie, Comfort and Joy, about a battle between two rival Italian ice cream sellers in Scotland.

            1. Cristina in England*

              I keep meaning to see it, as I love Local Hero by Bill Forsyth, and I love films that take place in Glasgow. Thanks for the reminder!

          2. Bea W*

            Oh no they had all kinds of flavors, but I do confess I was very fond of the one with raspberry sauce already on it. Chances are if the shop sells ice cream they also sell about a dozen desserts that will make you fat just looking at them. Many of the places advertised making their own ice cream fresh daily. The taste backed that up.

            That’s interesting about Scotland. A lot of shops seemed to sell coffee and gelato, and I was truly puzzled by that. Gelato? In Ireland? There was also a Ben & Jerry’s (US chain) in the middle of all that. It was kind of sad. I went to this absolutely wonderful Italian restaurant in Belfast. I was skeptical about what awfulness Italian food might taste like in Ireland, but it was truly wonderful, and they don’t kid around when they say “spicy”. The last thing I expected in Ireland was anything spicy.

            Not once did I see corned beef or cabbage on a menu. Fish? – check! chips? – check! potatoes? – check! Beer? – Check! Shepard’s pie? – served it at PRONI, and with more meat, more potato topping, and less vegetables than what I’ve been eaten back home.

            1. Cristina in England*

              That’s so interesting! It seems that that area also had an influx of Italian immigrants. Yes, the one-flavor shops also make it fresh daily. It’s really good once you get over the whole one-flavor thing!

    3. Mimmy*

      Best – At the shore with my family for a week. Bonus points for somewhat nicerr weather than forecasted.

      Worst – Two-day training this past week–it wasn’t horrible, but it was definitely long. Day two in particular was a bit of a snoozefest. Also, the dysfunction in my group just keeps growing. I’m still going to work my tail off to help out, but as soon as they get more people, I’m out. At the very least, I probably won’t seek reappointment when my term ends in 2 years.

    4. Carrie in Scotland*

      Best: Where to start? I got a job! I got a raise! The tennis is on! I had one of my favourite cocktails.

      Worst: my dad isn’t being very supportive of temporarily maybe storing my stuff and cat if I can’t find a rental that’s unfurnished and takes cats.

    5. TheLazyB*

      Worst: this morning. Stuck in the house with my 4 yo, stir crazy, no one was replying to my messages about meeting up this afternoon, could have cried. 4 yo was refusing to get dressed. DH was at work.

      Best: this afternoon. Made it out of the house, met up with a load of my friends at a festival, the sun came out and it was scorching hot, the 4 yo went on a few rides and then we all went to sit outside a great new pub in the shade and eat chips (fries). DH came along after work. Much, much better :)

    6. Tau*

      Best: I graduated! Full-on graduation ceremony involving gowns and hoods and a great deal of Latin.

      Worst: My shiny new laptop has decided that its screen doesn’t really need to work now does it? And Googling hasn’t turned up much in the way of fixing it. I mean, at least it’s well within warranty but – things I did NOT need two days before starting a new job. :/

      (there was also a great deal of moving and buying + building Ikea furniture and unpacking boxes, but those have gone very smoothly and as such do not qualify as “worst”, to my utmost surprise.)

    7. Anonymosity*

      (You can probably guess it’s me, but I don’t want my name on this.)

      Worst–only that it was a bit boring. Also we had month and year end at work so the beginning of the week was just nuts. Monday and Tuesday wore me out so much that by Thursday I was just useless.

      Best–I got to talk to my office crush a little bit. I’m pretty sure he’s not interested in me, and I learned a few things about him that make me realize he’s probably not for me anyway (not bad things), at least not long-term. But with those in mind, a fling would be possible without me getting too attached. I’m not going to make a move, though.

      Aaaaaaand I need to stop it now. >_< Stop stop stop stop.

    8. Aussie Teacher*

      Best: going on holiday this afternoon up the northern coast of Western Australia for a whole week. Some truly spectacular scenery to show the kids. Our kids are just about busting out of their socks they’re so excited!
      Worst: packing for a family of 5, and trying to fit it all in our car.

    9. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      Best: Finalised things like travel insurance and home-airport transport for our trip to the USA. It’s less than four months now, I’m getting seriously excited!!
      Worst: Tripped over at work. Fractured my ankle. In plaster from knee to toe. Losing my mind.

    10. nep*

      Best: Today — ran in to a person I’d not seen in about 13 years (for most of that time I was overseas). I was walking out of a store as he was walking in. Interesting timing. Great to connect w him again.
      No worsts.

    11. Ruffingit*

      Best: Three-day weekend that was sorely needed!

      Worst: Went to the movies with my mom and husband yesterday. They went on ahead to get our seats and I got a large popcorn and a large drink. I was also carrying my mother’s purse. Went into the theatre, which was already dark and was scanning the rows to see where they were. I missed the step going down into the theatre and the popcorn, the drink and the purse went flying as did I. Unfortunately my body and my ankle decided to go in different directions so I’m left with a severely sprained ankle and a skinned knee.

      Thankfully, there was a lovely older couple sitting right there and the man jumped up immediately, helped me get up, insisted I sit down, asked me what soda I had and said he would get me another popcorn and soda. Acts of kindness for the win!

      1. Mimmy*

        OUCH on that ankle sprain, but a big YAY for human kindness. Stories like that renew my faith that there are good people out there. Wishing you a speedy recovery!

    12. Felicia*

      BEST: Saw Kinky Boots with my mom on Tuesday and it was an amazing musical, I highly recommend it!

      WORST: Had to deal with a homophobic acquaintance who I thought could be a friend (I’m a lesbian), who had the nerve to tell me to my face she didn’t agree with my lifestyle. I’ve never encountered anything like that in my life before, which is because of the time and place in which I was fortunate enough to be born and grow up, but it was very upsetting.

        1. Felicia*

          Apparently she doesn’t realize why I never want to see her or speak to her again. She actually asked “Are you mad at me?” via text. I can’t believe i didn’t realize she was like this before. I really thought I was making a new friend.

          1. Ruffingit*

            It stinks enough that she made nasty comments to you, but it just adds insult to injury when she asks if you’re mad at her. I wouldn’t say mad, I’d say disgusted and disappointed would be my reactions. Stinks when you find out a could-be friend has such bigoted views :(

      1. Ewww*

        People still say “lifestyle”??? I’d be so tempted to say something like, “What, you don’t like people who live in the country/in the city/whatever?” Ugh. You don’t want this one in your life. Just be glad you found out before you were in too deep.

    13. Anna*

      Best: Went on 150 miles of side-road excursions over the last two days on my motorcycle. Always good.
      Worst: Right-hand indicator light blew when I was still 15 miles from home and no spare on hand.

    14. Trixie*

      Best: Busy house/cat sitting this week, which was perfect timing for some personal space. Plus writing project continues and that income is so very much appreciated.
      Worst: Adjust to lack of personal down time at home when both of us working from home while job hunting.

    15. S*

      Best: getting to leave work early on Thursday, so my holiday weekend started 2 hours early! (I work for a tiny organization and our ED is all about the work-life balance)
      Worst: the slump of realizing that it is Sunday and I still have to go to work tomorrow ):

    16. Elkay*

      Best: No stand out bests.
      Worst: I have a weird bite on my foot. The oven broke, again, which means we have to buy a new one because it’s a recurring problem and at this point we’re throwing good money after bad. The oven is built in so we have to pay a registered electrician to fit it.

    17. Gareth Keenan Investigates*

      Best: Saving a puppy who was running down the middle of an interstate (in a rainstorm).
      Worst: Learning that morning sickness can come back with a vengeance in third trimester, and that it’s so hard to get anything done while feeling miserable.

      1. Windchime*

        Wow, that’s a pretty good “best”! Did puppy make his way back home after you saved him?

        1. Gareth Keenan Investigates*

          He did! In a weird twist of fate, he belonged to one of the vet techs at the clinic where I took him to scan for a microchip.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            A happy ending story, I love it when things play out this way. I bet the vet tech was amazed.

    18. Windchime*

      Best: 4th of July cookout with all of my kids and their dogs.

      Worst: Fireworks that would. Not. Stop. I had to carry food and water up to my cat, who was hiding under the bed.

    19. Shell*

      Best: Finished watching a perfect-game playthrough on Youtube (since I don’t own the console or the game and I love watching games anyway) and was surprised at the game’s quality and how much I loved the game, considering I was only meh on the prequel. My feelings! Also, I think the game’s great plot and characterization finally kicked me out of my writer’s block for my fanfiction.

      Worst: I slept terribly last night (probably too much excitement at the Youtube series). Hoping that it won’t carry forward into the work week, but it probably will.

    20. LCL*

      Best-watching the womens world cup final right now, and it is a great game.
      Worst-temperatures above 85 f since Friday, so no bike rides, having to walk the dog at 8:30pm, no central air…

    21. Connie-Lynne*

      Best: last day of job, desert camping, fireworks

      Worst: 6 hours to get from Fairfield to the eastern edge of Sacto, which turned a 6-hour drive to the desert into an 11- hour drive! My aching tuchus!

    22. StillHealing*

      That’s great news! Congratulations!

      Think I’ll try it with my 21 year old….

      1. StillHealing*

        Oh that’s weird. I posted this up a few subjects – not in the BEST and WORST subject!

    23. StillHealing*

      BEST: The three day weekend. I really needed it.

      WORST: The unending HEAT in the Pacific Northwest West. It’s too much. I can’t do anything around my apartment without sweating. I haven’t walked outside for exercise longer than 15 minutes at a pop because it’s too dang hot! Thank Gosh I work in an air conditioned building this time around. I would like a week of cool, rainy, grey days where the temp doesn’t go above 70 degrees though. We need it !

  13. CollegeAdmin*

    Seeking fashion advice!

    I just switched roles from being an assistant in an administrative office to being an analyst in IT. (Hurrah!) However, I’m now looking at my wardrobe and realizing it doesn’t fit with my new department. I’ve been wearing pencil skirts, button-ups, cardigans, and heels – it appears that our IT department is barely one step up from jeans. So, the question: how can I shift my outfits to be less formal?

    I’m hoping not to have to buy a whole new wardrobe here. So far, I’ve worn my more casual sweaters and ditched the heels for flats (which makes me very sad; I love my heels but I really think I’d look out of place), but what else would be appropriate?

    1. OfficePrincess*

      Could you add a few more casual pieces and swap one item from your typical outfit each day? So one day is a more casual top instead of the button-up, one day is pants instead of the skirt or a different cut/material for the skirt. Once in a while you could take multiple pieces down a notch and add your heels back in. After a while as you get more comfortable in your new department, you may also feel comfortable going back to your standard wardrobe. At that point, you wouldn’t necessarily be the new woman who is way overdressed, but CollegeAdmin who knocks it out of the park and likes to look good doing it.

      Good luck!

    2. Not So Sunny*

      Not sure you have to dress down as much as the others… why not all your same tops/sweaters with dark jeans or skinnies?

    3. Ellen*

      Good quality (but un-fancy) t-shirts can go nicely with a pencil skirt and flats, and shouldn’t be terribly expensive to integrate into your wardrobe. Pants are generally more expensive, but ankle pants with a fancier top are also a good option, I think.

      I’m generally with you on shoes–I find that heels can look too fancy in a casual office, especially with a skirt–but they could work with the ankle pant outfit described above (maybe with an untucked button-downs) or even with a very nice pair of dark jeans if they’re within bounds at your office.

    4. Jen RO*

      I worked in a software company where shorts and flip flops are not uncommon, so I know where you’re coming from. Pencil skirts are worn when Big Bosses are around and that’s about it; however, heels with jeans or pants are common and look great IMO (something like this: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/20/ba/bb/20babb03aa326e545daa78559db1b68d.jpg or this: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/ed/ab/9a/edab9a9483aa98f65a56a7b474298411.jpg). I also like the blazer + casual pants + flats combination (like this: http://in1.ccio.co/R6/v6/4F/6fcc9726d17657ad61485e8c07b0a129.jpg).

    5. Mints*

      I agree with everyone here. Aim to go halfsies. So like, fancy skirt and plain T shirts (long sleeve t shirts are great to avoid cardigans in the summer) and fancy shirts with plain jeans. Also, generally, I say the heels are better with jeans and flats are better with skirts.

  14. Variation*

    Flask a Manager: I’m going to a picnic this week, and I’ve been instructed to bring an alcoholic drink to share with the group. Does anyone have any suggestions for a summertime beverage?

    1. HR Caligula*

      Bacardi Malibu Rum and Orange Juice, don’t forget the ice. It’s tasty, refreshing and not as strong as most liquors.

    2. OfficePrincess*

      If you plan on hanging around drinking for a significant chunk of the day, I would go for sangria. It takes some prep ahead of time, but isn’t as strong as most options, so you don’t have to worry about getting too drunk too fast.

    3. Lizabeth (call me hop along)*

      Moscow Mules? Lime juice, vodka and ginger beer or switch out the vodka for dark rum for a Dark and Stormy.

    4. Random Reader*

      Sangria!!! It’s a great summertime beverage and can be as customized as you’d like. Look on Pinterest for recipes.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Flask A Manager! I love it.

      Mojitos: lime juice, sugar, mint, rum, soda water. A great “pitcher” drink, super easy. Even better if you replace the sugar with jalapeno-infused simple syrup.
      Sangria: cheap red wine, fruit (I like peaches and blackberries, myself), brandy, Sprite (my secret ingredient!). Let it sit for a few hours before drinking.
      Make lemonade, add some mint leaves, add vodka. You can add vodka to anything, really.
      Gin, St. Germain, lemonade. Maybe a little lavender.
      Bellinis are a favorite of mine, especially in the summer when you can use fresh peaches. Make a big container of peach puree, spoon it into glasses, top with champagne.

    6. Elkay*

      Pimms with lots of frozen fruit in it (no need for ice cubes) and lemonade (Sprite/7Up).

      1. Marcela*

        Ooh, yes, Pimms with fruits. I don’t drink alcohol because I do not like it usually, and last summer I was introduced to Pimms with fruits: delicious, fresh and very light!

    7. Mints*

      Whatever you do, frozen fruit! It’s the best in the heat (it’s been over a hundred a lot lately and I’m super aware of how to stay cool)

    8. manomanon*

      Sweet Carolines (that’s the MA/CT term at any rate) It’s an Arnold Palmer with either sweet tea or lemon infused vodka- either works since they both blend with the flavor. They are fantastic but tend to sneak up on you!

  15. Jubilance*

    Any Los Angeles readers out there? I need info! I’m pursuing a job that sounds awesome, but it’s in the LA area, which was never on my radar to move to. I have this vision of a super expensive area with horrible traffic but there has to be more to it than that, right? So tell me all the pros & cons of living in the LA area. Are there areas that are lower cost that could be a better option to live in? What a realistic salary out there, considering the high cost of living?

    1. Hellanon*

      I’m an LA native!

      Living here can be awesome but also $$$. Where is the job located, what neighborhood or city? You’ve got a zillion options in terms of where to live but the traffic is definitely something to consider.

      With the caveat that I live in central LA and outlying areas can definitely be cheaper (and the beach more expensive) LACurbed tells me that rents are averaging $1500 to $2500/month for any place you’d actually want to live. Utilities are pretty cheap; food will vary a lot depending on where you like to shop. Going out varies a lot as well; movies usually run about $14/per person. Gas right now is $3.50 give or take. Car insurance can get expensive depending on zip code/mileage. Base salary to live here comfortably? Probably $60-75k, again depending on your lifestyle & your baseline for “comfortable.”

      1. Jubilance*

        The job would be in either Glendale or Burbank. I’d like to hit that sweet spot of decent commute and decently priced housing, but I’d pay more $$$ in housing to have a shorter/easier commute if needed.

        1. So Cal Dweller*

          Check out prices in Glendale, Eagle Rock, South Pasadena, Pasadena, Alta Dena. All have nice areas. There might be some nice areas in the San Fernando Valley such as Studio City and North Hollywood; I am not as familiar with those communities. You definitely want to stay away from the coast, as the commute would be terrible. Be warned, these are all valley communities and it’s a lot hotter and the air quality is sometimes worse. But some of the foothill communities have really nice areas.

          1. Hellanon*

            Atwater9, Los Feliz, Glassell Park, even Highland Park if you’re the urban pioneer type; La Cnada/Tujungs if you like the foothills; Monrovia or Sierra Madre if you want to live in a village. San Marino if you win the lottery before moving here. Seconding NoHo, though, and look at Valley Village.

        2. Camster*

          I live in Glendale and work in Burbank! The commute between the two is not bad (about 10 minutes in the morning taking the freeway and 20 minutes home taking surface streets). Check out apartments in Glendale, Burbank, North Hollywood…prices vary, but average about $1200 for a one bedroom? A lot of apartments being built in Glendale but those are about 1400 and up. I love living here (have lived here all of my life so kinda biased). A lot of places to see around here. And Disneyland is about 45 minutes away (if there’s minimal traffic)!

        3. teclagwig*

          Where to live will be different for Glendale vs Burbank if you want to limit your commute. If you are in Glendale, South Pasadena, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Atwater Village/Gladwell Park/Los Feliz) are all pretty good (short hop on the 2 and/or the 134). If you are in Burbank, you would want something more along the 5 or 170 (North Hollywood, Studio City, maybe Atwater Village, Los Feliz), though you could also look up along the 210. Burbank and Glendale themselves are fine, just more suburban than I like. You might consider living near the light rail (North Hollywood, Highland Park/South Pasadena).

          I live in the Bay Area now, so I can’t speak to costs, though I can say that it seems cheaper than here.

        4. Connie-Lynne*

          I own a house in Altadena!

          I really like it there — suburban prices but 15-30 min from big city fun. Old Pasadena and South Pas also have microcenters for shopping, restaurants, and movies.

          If you wind up living near the 210 (which I recommend) you can take the 210-NW up to the 2 south to avoid traffic to Glendale, or Tujunga Canyon Rd for a gorgeous traffic-free drive to Burbank.

    2. Gene*

      “LA area” encompasses a lot of area. To get a useful answer, you probably need to narrow it down a bit.

      But traffic is pretty much universally lousy.

    3. Sherm*

      I’m an LA reader! Yes, the traffic can be brutal BUT you can manage with some careful planning. I would definitely try to find a place that isn’t terribly far from work. There’s no misery like being stuck in So Cal traffic for hours every day. My last job, however, was a simple 15 minute commute. My current one is a still-bearable 35 minutes.

      The West LA area is expensive, and it is full of bitter stressed-out people who will honk at you for hesitating half a second. I’m glad I don’t live there. LA is vast, though, and the LA area is even vaster. So I suppose that can be a plus: Whether you want urban and funky, or Mayberry, or something else, it just might exist. Another plus is that you will never run out of activities or things to see. And of course there is the legendary weather.

      If you make a decent middle class salary, you should be fine. When I was making ~35K I was renting in a nice suburb. (But I didn’t have a ton of expenses.) Although nothing is going to be super cheap and not scary, there are many areas I would be happy to live in. I would definitely at least consider moving, perhaps checking out areas when you are here interviewing. Let me know if you have other questions.

    4. So Cal Dweller*

      I live in coastal Southern California, about 20 miles south of Los Angeles and your vision is pretty much correct. I will share my opinion about the area, but keep in mind it is somewhat biased because I want to leave the area.

      Pros: Some would say the weather is the biggest pro to living in the Los Angeles area, though it seems to get hotter and hotter each year. It seems to be warm all year long, which some people like. You really can drive from the beach to the mountains, or vice versa, in one day, but it will be a long day. There are lots of opportunities for almost any entertainment you can think of and just about every retailer is somewhere here. If you like outdoor activities, this is the perfect place, as you can easily get to bike trails, hiking trails, the beach, etc., and outdoor activities are a year-round thing. There are some really neat communities, both along the coast and inland, but they tend to be very expensive.

      Cons: The traffic. Do not underestimate this. There is bumper-to-bumper traffic every day, even weekends. On week days, rush hour starts before 6:00am and runs until 7:00pm or later, with no significant let-up mid-day. Traffic goes in all directions; there is no central business area. Related, the crowds. There are tons of people everywhere you go. The weather is warm all year long, which I don’t care for. The high cost of living. There are less expensive areas in Southern California, but the areas are either sketchy or really far away from Los Angeles and Orange Counties, where the better jobs are located. Considering the traffic, this could be a big deal. I know of people who left this area to buy a new and bigger house in the Inland Empire. Some are coming back to smaller houses and/or taking chances in sketchy areas because the commute killed them in terms of time and money.

      Honestly, I think the quality of life in the Los Angeles area can be very good, but it takes a lot of money. If you are lucky enough to find a nice place to live close to work, which will minimize your commute, that makes a huge, huge difference. What kind of salary is needed really depends on other expenses you might have. You will need a car here, for sure; not many people can swing it on public transportation alone. Your housing expenses will depend on whether you rent or buy. If you buy, what kind of down you can make. Homes (~1200 sf) in sketchy areas start around $400k. In nice areas, modest homes that need work can top $1M. I would strongly recommend you investigate housing prices/rents and other info in communities near the employer’s location.

      1. Hellanon*

        I live in one of those sketchy areas and while the ice cream trucks, accordion music & my neighbors’ fondness for dropping trash on the sidewalk annoy me, we’ve got a really friendly community & an active community org down here (I sent most of my morning helping set up our July 4th party), and the amazing diversity makes it a fun place to live. Plus it’s safer than Santa Monica was and I can walk to all sorts of fun. So… people live a lot of places in LA, and it’s not necessary to live near the beach to enjoy the lifestyle here.

        1. So Cal Dweller*

          Hahaha, sounds similar to my neighborhood! Except we cannot walk anywhere fun because we are in what used to be a suburb, so it is still sprawl but now very crowded. Our commutes are close to an hour, but in opposite directions. Crime is a concern, there is graffiti on the brick walls that surround the residential neighborhood. I still go out for walks, but do so in the early mornings before the trouble-makers wake up.

          I think the key to a good lifestyle in So Cal encompasses much of what Hellanon has. If you feel safe and comfortable where you live. If you have connections with your community. If your commute is reasonable. If you can easily get to amenities and entertainment that are meaningful to you. Many times, it takes some money simply to live in a neighborhood where you feel safe. Living near the beach is not necessarily part of this.

      2. Lionness*

        As someone born and raised in the Inland Empire…I encourage them to return to LA….. :)

    5. Dan*

      I was talking with some friends about this very subject tonight.

      I spent three years in LA, the San Fernando Valley, to be exact. IMHO, living in LA compared to DC is much more dichotomous. The good parts (aka the “beach”) are expensive, and the not good parts are cheaper but suck ass. I feel like DC has much more middle ground.

      When I moved out to LA in 2004, I was able to rent something for a similar price to what I had for a metro accessible place in Arlington, VA. But I felt like my place in Van Nuys sucked a lot more than what my place in Arlington did.

      Traffic is going to suck at all hours of the day and night.

      People can disagree with me if they want, but I feel like you need a six figure salary or close to it to enjoy yourself out there.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        The San Fernando Valley, Van Nuys in particular, is both costly and sucky! Your evaluation isn’t wrong, but it’s very not generalizable to the rest of LA.

        The West Side, for example, is costly with shitty parking, but has a lot of amenities that some folks think makes up for it. The South Bay is pretty suburban, in COL and amenities, but does have great beaches.

        Long Beach is probably the greatest place to live in all of the USA, with lots of civic pride and a small-town community feel, with big city amenities like restaurants, night life, an airport, and walking areas. Plus, there’s a “lookin at” beach right in town and great “goin to” beaches just down PCH.

        The San Gabriel Valley is pretty nice, too. Close to LA proper, not quite as friendly as LGB, reasonable COL.

        There are even nice parts of famously-dangerous East LA, Inglewood, and Compton, as long as you’re willing to meet your neighbors and get to know the community.

    6. teclagwig*

      I moved all over the LA area as a child and young adult, and it is really not homogenous. The only thing that all areas definitely have is traffic and a mind-blowing number of people. I have seen bumper-to-bumper traffic (through some corridors) as late as 11pm at night. (The 210/2/134 are not this bad, from what I have seen on visits, with just normal rush hour crunches.)

      I absolutely have chosen between employers based on length of commute and number of alternate routes available. I would not suggest living more than a 10-15 minute sans-traffic drive from your job.

      Working in Burbank you might be tempted to try Van Nuys, but I wouldn’t suggest living too far West of the 170. The Valley is so full of sprawl and traffic and heat (speaking as someone who lived there and whose grandparents have been in the valley since the 70s), and everywhere else is a long drive or an even longer set of bus rides away.

  16. The Other Dawn*

    I’m so happy for the three-day weekend – I have two parties coming up and had a lot of yard work to get done. I was feeling defeated for quite while, because the weeds and grass just exploded in the garden. But I made a deal with my niece – she works as a job coach for the mentally handicapped and does a lot of landscaping with her clients – that if she helped me with the gardening, I would help her pay for a ticket to Huntington Beach, CA. I’m going on a business trip there and bringing my sister, but my niece wanted to go, too. She was quite happy with that deal, so she came over this weekend and we knocked it out. I finally listened to everyone who told me to buy lots of mulch. They basically said I don’t have a prayer of controlling weeds without mulch. So I bought 8 bags and my niece spread it for me, among some other yard work. Go to my blog to see the finished product (just click on my name).

    I got a few more RSVPs for the surprise anniversary party for my in-laws. Since I have a good amount of people coming, I decided not to chase after the non-responders. Those were the people that I had asked directly several times and still got no answer. It still burns me that those people blatantly ignored me. And these were family members, not long lost people that haven’t been heard from in years. Anyway, in the end there were only two couples I didn’t hear from, aside from those people I just mentioned.

    My old tenant-from-Hell has been trying to friend my new tenant on Facebook, but New Tenant knows the story so she’s having none of that. (I’ve known New Tenant for a long time.) Old Tenant came over to the house and caught New Tenant’s friend outside and started telling her sob story. Which completely baffled them because Old Tenant doesn’t even know the friend. (She will basically talk to anyone who will listen. About anything. Even private stuff.) Then Old Tenant knocked on New Tenant’s door. Luckily she peeked out and saw who it was and didn’t answer the door. I don’t know what Old Tenant could possibly want. Maybe she’s hoping to spread her sob story and is hoping it gets back to me. Who knows? It just sucks for New Tenant because Old Tenant lives down the street and still goes over there to feed the neighborhood cats. She’s worried she’s going to get bothered a lot.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      I know you know this but your old tenant is CRAZYPANTS.

      Happy that your new one is working out and that your surprise party is going to have a decent gathering for your in-laws.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Serious crazypants. So glad I don’t live near her anymore. She used to live across the street from me at the old house – that’s how we became friends – and she would always stop by unannounced and talk like a chatterbox for 20 minutes at a stretch. It used to drive me nuts. I don’t care for surprise visits since I have 10 cats and there’s always a mess to clean up. Plus it comes across as a demand that I stop everything and entertain someone. And it just seems like the person doesn’t respect my time. I understand the intention behind the visit and know it’s not meant to be a demand, but it sure feels like that to me. But I hate talking on the phone, too, so maybe it’s just me.

        1. Act Casual*

          Ugh I hate talking on the phone too. I feel like a hostage. I hope that doesn’t make me a horrible person.

          1. nep*

            I avoid talking on the phone. Unless absolutely necessary for business or an urgent exchange of information, I don’t want to talk on the phone.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      The garden looks terrific! The mulch will save you so much work. In my area mulch is on sale, this is a good time of year to buy it.

      That’s a shame about the non-responders. Their loss, I say. We just cannot make the horse drink the damn water. I am sure you will have a great party anyway.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Thanks! I love it. Now I just need to make sure I keep up with pulling out the stray weeds that pop up. Now I know all the stuff to do and not to do next year. I’m 40 and this is my first real attempt at gardening and maintaining a nice yard. Old house had a crappy yard one story down and it just wasn’t conducive to relaxation and entertaining.

  17. Gene*

    New Big Brother season.

    Who else isn’t going to miss Jayce (however it’s spelled) in the slightest?

    Comments on the cast?

  18. academic librarian*

    Entertaining help, please. We are going to have an open house to celebrate finally feeling at home in the new ( 2.5 years) midwest city. Next Sunday (short notice but this is what we have given our travel schedules) Inviting work friends, neighbors, local friends. Hours 1:00 to 4:00. Menu help please- the usual chips and dip and guac. Thinking deviled eggs, cold cuts, salad. If the weather is rainy, I’ll make a pot of chili. Feeling a bit in a rut. What is your favorite dish for a crowd that can stay out for a few hours. Any suggestions? Oh and for those who recall- the porch is finished and we chose carpet squares for the walkout.

    1. the gold digger*

      Spanish tortilla. Hummus. Memphis Junior League Onion souffle (google for the recipe). Rhubarb chutney over cream cheese served with crackers.

      You may laugh, but I had sliced ham spread with cream cheese rolled around a dill pickle slice at a church thing and it was delicious.

    2. Marcela*

      It’s not really ” a dish”, but in our family we love to offer baby carrots, celery and peppers together with hummus and other “sauces”, such as guacamole, tzatziki or what we call pink sauce (mayonnaise and ketchup). It’s fresh and delicious.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’ve made giant kugels (noodle puddings, basically) that last for a long time. Or a huge pan of mac and cheese. Roasted veggies with tahini sauce. Pasta salad.

      Honestly, you can’t go wrong with chips and dip. A very good friend of mine and I have a “tradition” of serving Lipton onion dip at every single party we throw, no matter how formal. It is necessary! Very good chips and a dip bar would be super easy for you and fun for everyone else.

    1. Bea W*

      That reminds me a few weeks ago I was eating in the cafe and someone microwaved super stinky fish in one of the microwaves they have out for people who want to bring lunch. Oh, it was so bad, and this is a huge open area. The overpowering stench just drifted everywhere!

  19. The Other Dawn*

    Alison, I just noticed that one of the kittens is a tortie. I LOVE torties; I have two of them, Thelma and Louise, and they’re sisters. Has your foster baby developed the “tortie ‘tude” yet?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      None of the kittens is a tortie (a tabby, a buff one, and a grey one — I wonder which one is looking tortie in the photo?), but Olive is a tortie. And definitely has the temperament.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        The one on the left in both pics.

        Huh. See, I would say Olive is a calico. She has the classic calico colors and has white. Torties typically don’t have white. Actually, I’d say your kitten is a dilute tortoiseshell, because she looks exactly like my two. If you click my name and go to my blog, click the Kitty Korner page and scroll down to see Thelma and Louise. They are both dilute tortoiseshells.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I had no idea that a dilute tortie was a thing, or that they could be grey! I assumed they had to have typical tortoiseshell coloring. I googled and she does indeed seem to be one. And wow, your two are so similar to her!

          I know Olive’s white should technically make her a calico, but her white is so minimal and the rest of her so dark and tortoiseshell-like!

          1. The Other Dawn*

            When I Googled tortoiseshell cats I saw there are actually lots of color patterns and degrees of color tones. They can be very dark, almost black, or very light and practically gray. It’s very interesting to see the variations. I owned a tortie when I lived at home but didn’t know she was at tortie until I got Thelma and Louise. She had lots of copper coloring in her. And she was a bra stealer…

        2. Elkay*

          One of mine is like Thelma and Louise, she’s got definite grey patches (and a grey belly which she happily exposes) but is fairly mottled.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Psycho Kitty is a tortie too. I feel you on that one. She DEFINITELY has a ‘tude. Poor baby disappeared earlier, when the fireworks started going off. She’s probably deep in the culvert pipe. It’s her favorite hidey hole in summer (nice and cool).

      3. Elkay*

        I thought they were ginger, lighter ginger and grey, now I need to go back and look at the photos again.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          When we were very young, we had cats like two of those (excluding the grey), and we called them orange and pink. Buff or lighter ginger is probably more accurate, but I still think of him as my pink cat.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Patience! And lots of toys. Now she’s usually out and about, and she loves playing, but she still doesn’t want to be touched! It’s been nearly three weeks and she still won’t let me pet her. WHY?

      1. edj3*

        I had a non feral cat that preferred not to be touched–no abuse, nothing bad in his background, he just didn’t care for it. I could maybe maybe briefly pet the top of his kitty head before the teeth were bared. Oddly, he loves to plaster up against me and purr, but drew the line at petting. I guess it was just his personality. Perhaps your little foster is the same way?

      2. TheLazyB*

        Are you going to miss them when they go? I keep forgetting they’re not permanent members of the household!

        Silly question?!

      3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        We’ve had our (crazy) rescue dog for 8 years and he still doesn’t like to be petted, or to cuddle or to be held unless under very specific terms (when he initiates, which is rarely). He will growl and air snap if we touch him otherwise.

        In other news, he was initially raised with 9 cats. We’ve always chalked it up to that!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, my crazy mutt wants to chose when he gets petted also. I have never seen a dog pull away from petting as much as he does. I got him at nine weeks so his previous history is not a long story. I guess it’s just his personality.

          Alison, have you tried planned ignoring? I adopted a nervous little kitten, that hid under one bed for two weeks. We got a little concerned that her curiosity did not seem to be kicking in. Every night after dinner, my husband would sit on the floor in front of the bed and read. He paid no attention to what the kitten was doing. She finally came out and started wandering around. After a bit she decided to check out my husband’s shoes and legs. It was not much longer and she was climbing on him. The key here was that he just ignored her while being in the same room with her. She had to make the first move. This took a week maybe longer and some nights he would sit there for almost two hours. Later, I got a second cat and it was a similar story with my husband ignoring the cat (adult cat) and finally the cat’s curiosity triumphed over the fear.

  20. Sleep deprived*

    I used to be a morning person, and I still am at heart. I love it when I can get a gym session done before the sun’s fully up and then have some quiet time in a cafe before going into work.

    Lately though I’m having SO much trouble getting to bed in time. It’s not like I’m actually busy with anything but I just can’t “switch off”. I’ve tried yoga and meditation and but none of that seems to work (I’m probably not doing it properly…). Now I’m waking up with only just enough time to (rush to) get ready for work and I really miss my quiet mornings.

    Does anyone have any pre-bed routines that help them get to sleep? Recommendations please!

    1. Samantha*

      Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Tea about an hour before bed always works for me.

    2. Trixie*

      I’ve experienced this a few times. My solution was to get myself up and around at my normal early hour for the day, get out for some fresh air/exercise after work, and then go to bed exhausted at a reasonably early hour. Not so early I’d be up at 3am but late enough I’d wake up on my own at a decent hour. I loved finding that sweet balance because I went to bed ready to actually go to sleep and in the mornings would get up wide away with plenty of energy.

      Folks will complain about lack of energy after work and then take a two hour nap which means they’re usually wide awake that night until 2am and wonder why they’re exhausted when they actually get up. Grrr.

      1. Sleep deprived*

        I find that if I can get into the cycle I can stay on it fine. But the problem is when that cycle gets disrupted (weekends away usually) and then it’s /so/ hard to get it back! It’s frustrating because I’ve been through this many times and I /know/ it’s going to happen yet somehow I can’t avoid it! Argh!

      1. Windchime*

        I find some of these creepy. For instance, the ones where the lady whispers. Apparently some people find it soothing, but I just find it so creepy and weird.

        I will sometimes turn on a podcast, like “On Point”. But on occasion, it will be too interesting and then I’ll stay awake to hear it all.

      2. Relosa*

        Came here to say the same thing. Good thing there are so many of them so once you find the type/triggers that work, it’s like turning out a light on your body each night. Most of my favorite videos I’ve never seen all the way through because I’m out in 5-10 minutes!

    3. Tau*

      I have a *lot* of problems with this (I suspect it may be an executive dysfunction thing, for me), which sucks because I am also a morning person at heart. For me, the main problem was the internet – I’d get “stuck” online. So – living alone – I took the rather draconian route of attaching a socket timer to the wireless, meaning my internet switches around an hour after I’d like to go to bed every night. If you like the idea but it isn’t an option because you live with people who’d be up in arms, there are also ways of using browser addons like Leechblock to shut off access to all sites between certain hours of the day. It doesn’t always work but I accidentally stay up until 4am much, much less than I used to!

    4. Blue_eyes*

      I’m the same way. This year I’d been slipping into getting up later and later. What works best for me is to start forcing myself to get up earlier, and then my bedtime will naturally correct itself to be earlier. So I would recommend that strategy – you’ll loose a little sleep the first few days, but then you’ll be too tired to stay up late.

    5. Artemesia*

      I don’t know how old you are, but with aging comes a diminishment of natural melatonin. My doc has me on a 5 mg bilevel (slow dissolve) melatonin at bedtime and it really made a difference. It is OTC and you can try it out and see if it helps you. Our brains naturally make the stuff at sundown but sometimes they don’t get the job done.

    6. Pennalynn Lott*

      I installed f.lux on my laptop, which both slowly dims my screen at night (to coincide with the natural sun setting) and puts a reddish tint on the screen (blue light signals to your brain that it’s “awake” time). I shut off the lights in my room (all but one orange-ish colored night light) at 8:00pm. I take a 10mg melatonin capsule at 9:30. Then I turn the TV off at 10:00pm. And then I go to bed between 10:30 and 11:00, no matter what.

      I also have a nighttime “take care of the pets” routine, which I do right before I jump into bed, so I think that helps signal to my body that it’s time for sleep.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      One of the things I have had to do is watch what I eat for dinner. Some foods will keep me awake by giving me too much energy or being too hard to break down. That is when it hit me that I needed to think about preparing for sleep the moment I got home from work. I needed to rap up loose ends so I did not think about them half the night and that sort of thing.

  21. nep*

    Who’s following the football World Cup?
    My heart goes out to England team and fans. Bravo, England.

  22. OfficePrincess*

    Help! I’ve been using today to catch up on housework. I washed my bath mats, but the rubber backing on one completely crumbled off in the washer. I’m tossing the mat, but how the hell do I get the tiny crumbly bits out of the washer without knocking them down into the drain? I don’t have a shop vac and am way too short to really reach the bottom of the inside of the washer. Any ideas from the hive?

    1. Samantha*

      This has happened to me too! Can you use a step stool to be able to reach the bottom of the washing machine? I used lint roller sheets to grab the little rubber pieces.

    1. Marcela*

      Recently we got a VPN account to watch the BBC videos. They have great documentaries. I love the animal and scientific ones. In the animal area, I recently watched and loved Kangaroo Dundee, about a guy with a sanctuary for kangaroos in Australia. In science, one about the history of chemistry, called Chemistry: a volatile history. But I guess the one I loved the most since we started watching documentaries non-stop (giving up completely our tv antenna) is Good Swan, Bad Swan: Dancing Swan Lake. I don’t know a thing about ballet (except my hyperlordosis made impossible to achieve the most basic steps when I was a child) and I loved to be explain the subtleties of the dance steps.

        1. Marcela*

          Yes! Now we want to go to Australia and bottle feed some joeys or meet the famous Roger. I looked the pictures of the sanctuary in Travel Advisor and I was so green with envy! I hope the new series also make their way to the BBC page, because it was so great.

      1. Hugo*

        The thing I love about documentaries is that they’re often (not always) pretty short, they allow you to expand your horizons, and most are more interesting than they would appear. I like picking some random ones on topics that I’m not even greatly interested in, just to learn a little bit. A few of the best I have watched:
        – “King of Kong and a Fistful of Quarters” about an unemployed man working to break the world record score for the Donkey Kong arcade game
        – “The Fog of War” which revolves around the career of former Sec. of Defense Robert McNamara
        – “Hubble” – saw this in IMAX but is out on DVD too I believe, about a space mission to repair a component on the Hubble telescope
        – “Nursery University” is about rich parents in NYC working to get their children into very expensive, ultra competitive PREschools
        – “Jesus Camp” takes a look at children attending a conservative Christian summer camp
        – “Hoop Dreams” as someone else mentioned, probably one of the greatest documentaries ever made
        – “Everest” is basically a film version of the book “Into Thin Air.” Also saw in IMAX, not sure of its visual impact on a smaller screen, but the story is heart wrenching.

        I am not a huge fan of topic / political documentaries as they obviously try to sway a specific opinion, but almost all documentaries do have slight hints of bias in them. The better ones balance out opinions via interviews, different perspectives, etc. But the adage to keep in mind when watching them is that there are “always (at least) two sides to every story.”

    2. The IT Manager*

      Dogtown and Z-boys (1000% better than the non-documentary dramatized story that came out a couple years later “Lords of Dogtown”). IMO an amazing story even if you’re not interested in the California skateboard revolution.

      I’m blanking on any other recs; although, I am a documentary fan. I’m currently mid-way through Brooklyn Castle.

    3. Trixie*

      Excellent question and topic. Please ask this again on a non-holiday weekend free-for-all.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I love a good documentary! No matter the subject, I’m down. I enjoyed Brooklyn Castle a lot. We watched What Happened, Miss Simone? the other night and I thought it was great. Also by that director, Something’s Wrong with Aunt Diane– super powerful. For something heartbreaking, Dear Zachary.

      I love love LOVE the whole Up series. When I saw a lobby card in a theater announcing 56 Up, I literally jumped for joy.

      I recently watched Antarctica: A Year on Ice and thought that was pretty good. I wish The Wolfpack was playing near here, but it looks like I have to wait for it. Hmm… what else… I watch so damn many it’s hard to keep track. First Position, about a ballet competition, and Jig, about Irish step dancers, were both good too. Startup.com is an old favorite. Seriously, if it’s a documentary, I’ll try it.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        No way! I loved Up!!! They had it on Netflix but I haven’t seen 56 up yet. I don’t know if Netflix kept it.

        I watched one on Netflix about that woman, Tania Head, The Woman Who Wasn’t There I think it’s called, who faked being a 9/11 victim. It was fascinating, but it also pissed me off tremendously at the same time. I wanted to hit her.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, she fascinates me, especially since it seemed like the 9/11 survivor thing was just one of a sequence of invented pasts for her.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Factitious disorders such as Munchausen’s and similar things like this fascinate me. I wondered if that wasn’t what was going on with that Rachel Dolezal woman. Who, by the way, has been added to Head’s Wikipedia page in the “See Also” section.

            1. fposte*

              Ha, then I wasn’t the only person thinking about the connections between the two.

      2. Windchime*

        I watched Antarctica: A Year on Ice as well, and loved it. Others that I have recently watched:

        –Remote Area Medical. If you aren’t appalled and embarrassed by the US Healthcare system after watching this, then I don’t know what to say.

        –Little White Lies; interesting story about a woman whose racial identity was not what she thought it was, and how she came to terms with it

        –something about the Back Street Boys. Not that great.

        –Twin Sisters: Twin girls from China who were adopted by different families; through a coincidence, their mothers met on adoption day and the girls have stated in contact over the years. Really good.

    5. Steve G*

      I usually just type in “BBC documentary” and something interesting comes up. I love the English ones about the middle ages there, one of the most interesting ones I saw recently was the one on the history of sewage/water in London, it is nuts about how they functioned before running water….they also have a lot of good ones on the origins of civilization.

      1. Marcela*

        Yes, those are great. Have you seen ones called something like “the hidden killers in the victorian/eduardian/tudor home”? They are incredible, and it’s very worrisome to think we could be repeating the same mistakes.

        1. Steve G*

          OMG I did see the Victorian home one. Crazy! And crazy that it wasn’t that long ago! I loved the bathtub where you lit a gas flame underneath it. Nothing like potentially burning your backside to get clean, and if it overheated, how did you get out? If you stood up, you would have burned your feet. I guess you had to grab for a towel and out it under your feet in the tub….looked dangerous

          1. Marcela*

            The one with the beginning of electricity at home… oh, god. Cables were not covered then, and electric installation was done only for lights, so when other electric devices appeared, they were just “plug” into the cables or later plugged into some hook hanging from the lamp in the middle of the room. Wow.

    6. littlemoose*

      Not sure if it’s widely available, but we saw a documentary about the Pruitt-Igoe housing projects here in St. Louis that was really excellent. I think it was called “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth,” but I might be misremembering.

    7. Ann Furthermore*

      Best: Got the project I’ve been working on for the last year dragged across the finish line this morning. Hooray!!

      Worst: Found out I need a root canal. Ugh.

      1. Artemesia*

        The great thing about root canals when you need them is that you instantly feel so much better.

    8. Stephanie*

      -Hoop Dreams! So good. I barely noticed the 3-hour run time.
      -20 Feet From Stardom
      -Pink Ribbons, Inc
      -Central Park Five
      -Tales of the Grim Sleeper (currently on HBO)
      -Going Clear (the Scientology one)
      -Blanking on others. I love documentaries, so I’m sure I’ll think of more.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        How could I forget 20 Feet from Stardom???? I loved that movie. A friend got me a ticket to a screening at the New York Times Building, and not only was the film mesmerizing, I got to see a panel with the director, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fisher, and Darlene Love. Incredible. I’ve been a choral singer all my life and have always wanted to sing backup, and I just love that film.

        Agreed on Central Park Five and Going Clear, too. If you watch Thought Crimes on HBO, the film itself is ok, but a very good friend of mine “plays” (does the voiceover) for the wife.

    9. Carrie in Scotland*

      Last year or earlier this year, the BBC had some amazing documentaries on WW1, which Jeremy Paxman presented.

    10. Blue_eyes*

      So many favorites! I can’t even remember all the names.
      – Mad Hot Ballroom (inner-city students in NYC compete in ballroom dancing)
      – Helvetica (about the font)
      – Urbanized

      And a bunch of food ones that I can’t remember. There are a ton on Netflix.

  23. The IT Manager*

    Dogtown and Z-boys (1000% better than the non-documentary dramatized story that came out a couple years later “Lords of Dogtown”). IMO an amazing story even if you’re not interested in the California skateboard revolution.

    I’m blanking on any other recs; although, I am a documentary fan. I’m currently mid-way through Brooklyn Castle.

  24. NicoleK*

    How does one change or let go of their expectations? Holding onto said expectations have led to frustration and disappointment for me.

    1. fposte*

      Can you say more about what kind of expectations we’re talking about? Sometimes an expectation is really a hope for difference; sometimes it’s a difficulty acknowledging the acceptability of what is; sometimes it’s probably something else entirely. Are we talking other people, for instance, or you?

      1. NicoleK*

        Other people. Expectations for my spouse, boss, mother, and etc. Great insight as usual fposte.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Just remember that you can never ensure a specific result. I still hope for a specific result, but I know that a lot can affect the outcome, much of it beyond my control, and that not getting the outcome I want is sometimes better for me. But whatever the outcome, it is what it is, and by the time I know the outcome, it’s in the past, so the real question is, what do I do from here?

      If you want to work on this, I’d suggest Chop Wood, Carry Water. My philosophy in this area has been greatly influenced by my reading on Zen Buddhism.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I think you answer your own question in part. We can change or let go of our own expectations by reminding ourselves it hurts too much not to. That hurt manifests in frustration or disappointment.

      This is kind of a tricky question to answer. Some expectations should be held firm, like expecting a partner not to be abusive. That is not an expectation to let go of.

      Other expectations are not realistic such as I am going to become the president of the US. (I won’t even attempt to explain why that is NOT realistic.) In cases like this we have to do a reality check and remind ourselves the many ways an expectation like this is not realistic.

      Our expectations of others seem to be a good way to set ourselves up for some kind of disappointment or upset. I grew up in a family where there was endless expectations about others. Let’s summarize by saying this did not go well, at all. There was always some upset and some drama. I found repeatedly that it is best not to expect family or friends to do specific tasks or give specific types of support- 75% of the time they will not do what we expect of them. I call this being practical. I try to replace all those expectations I was taught with an attitude of gratitude for what people are willing to do.

      I think you are much closer to answering this than you might realize.

  25. The Other Dawn*

    I’m making the cake for my in laws 50th anniversary surprise party. My plan was to make the carrot cake I made for my nieces wedding. Everyone raved about it. Well, I just made four cakes and they were all a total disaster. Way too oily and they fell apart. I tried reducing the oil and the fell apart even worse. No Idea what the problem is. All I can think of is that the recipe I saved on my computer actually isn’t the one I used for the wedding. I thought it was but maybe not. Plan B is banana cake with vanilla butter cream. I’ve made that tons of times so shouldn’t have any issues. I’m so mad that I lost all that time.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Strangely, I find that when I put pressure on myself, am not in the mood to bake or something, the recipe never works out! I swear, the cake KNOWS. A few weeks ago I promised some people I’d bake a lemon & vanilla frosted cake but when it came down to it, I didn’t really want to. It burnt. The next week I did it and it worked out.

    2. JMW*

      Apparently it is the gluten that holds a cake together, and all of the extra bits you add to a carrot cake tear the gluten apart. If you try carrot cake again, you might try shredding your carrots and whatever else you add much smaller. For example, you might try a microplane or zester for carrots to get really fine shreds. You can chop your nuts smaller, or even puree them together with the carrots.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Did you move in between cakes? Are you at a different altitude? Do you have a different oven?

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I moved and now have propane instead of gas. I’m going to buy an oven thermometer. I wonder if the temp is hotter than it used to be. I know the burners on the stove top run much hotter with propane.

  26. Steve G*

    I never thought sobriety would be the thing about me that people consider controversial and pisses so much people off, it became the unexpected theme of this holiday weekend and I am glad it is 11pm and the weekend is officially done (well not completely but I am ending it now!).

    I don’t feel I owe people explanations for why I don’t want to drink. I don’t think someone needs to be an alcoholic to realize they have an addictive personality and need to stop something. I am not the type of person who can indulge in anything (alcohol, cheesecake, Italian food) in moderation, I either do it, or I don’t. I decided I’ve had enough and declined a few invites recently at things that I should have been at, but I know I couldn’t be at without succumbing to the bottle. Two were at bars, so they were straight-up hell-no’s, but one today was at someone’s house, and of course, everyone thought (even my mother who usually plays Switzerland!) I should have gone and not drunk (even though wine was my drug of choice and that family is known for always bringing excellent wine selections to any event). I was ganged up on for not going with my sister leading the pack at my parent’s house tonight and I flipped the f*** off and walked out yelling things I shouldn’t have said, but I need to shut their resistance to change down, and I am totally ready to lose friends/family members for long term sobriety if I have to choose between the two. I’m so over these stupid conversations. Isn’t there anything else to talk about?

    I have seen positive changes in my body which were unexpected, and I knew they were talked about at a party last night (someone told me, it was like a big surprise that I look good apparently, which pissed me off to hear more than being a compliment and everyone wants my secret – um exercise, diet, and no drinking, its not a new formula), and IDK if one of peoples’ issues is a feeling that despite our culture’s acceptance of moderate drinking, that it actually does impact your health and my not drinking is proving that. I never had red eyes, but my eyes have gotten really white/bright during this time. I was never puffy, but my abs and face do look extra gaunt compared to the way I was looking, etc. etc. I’m also killing it in bootcamp classes, and again, people notice the change, but….I know no one really wants to hear complete abstinence as the solution for anything.

    I’ve never really dealt with hardcore alcoholics, but I’ve met WAY too many people who drink 3-4 drinks 5-6 nights a week who would be totally offended if you insinuated they drink too much…but I have become judgmental of such “moderate” drinking because I’ve been there, and I know that nothing good comes out of it. Sure, there are the lucky 10% of people who eat and drink everything and manage to stay healthy to 90, but I do think that drinking catches up with most people, and I think people don’t want to admit it, or can’t see it, because they’ve been drinking so long that they don’t even know what would happen if they stopped drinking altogether. I also think that people are prevented from ever saying “I drink too much,” because then they labeled as alcoholics, which is a nasty word, and implies that things are a lot work than they actually are.

    1. Jane*

      I don’t drink anymore either. I wasn’t an alcoholic, but it certainly wasn’t doing me any favors. Weirdly, I found my friends who drink in (what I would consider) problematic ways are more sympathetic to people who quit than moderate drinkers. I think people who naturally moderate just think, “Why don’t you just drink less?”

      Good luck, Steve G. I haven’t had a morning yet where I wished I’d had too much to drink the night before.

    2. at who's blind word so clear but so unheard*

      Hey – stick to your guns on this! It blows my mind that you’re catching grief over not drinking. But you’ve got a right to set your boundaries. I sincerely hope that you don’t lose friends or family over this, but – you’ve got a right to say “no”.

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      Good for you. I am not a big drinker either, nor is my husband. We both have addiction and alcoholism in our families; in fact, my brother died last year and when it was all said and done, it was the drinking that did it to him.

      Maybe 3-4 times a year (if that) we’ll cut loose and tie one on. But other than that, we’re not drinkers. We don’t usually have beer in the house. I have wine, but because I use it for cooking. Maybe once every few months, one of the other of us will go out for happy hour with friends, or have a couple beers with the neighbors. I’ve never gotten any hostility, but I have gotten questions. “Do you not drink?” And I usually just say that we do, but in moderation, and that’s normally the end of it.

      Stick to your guns. You’ve made a choice to do something to improve your health and well-being. To hell with everyone else.

      1. Steve G*

        How old was your brother? I watched the documentary (on youtube) Drugged-High On Alcohol that followed a 20-something severe alcoholic who died at the end of the show, and it scared the crap out of me.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          He was 61. He struggled with addiction all his life, and his drinking was a source of great turmoil for my family for many years. It really was a terrible situation. He and I weren’t close, because of things he did and choices he made that were very hard on my parents, and a few times I had to be the bitch that had to tell them that he’d been deceiving and manipulating them.

          This is a horrible thing to say, but although it was a horrible shock when he died, it really was not that much of a surprise. I just hoped my mother would not have to go through the pain of losing a child, but unfortunately, she did.

    4. Dan*

      We all have our own values and value judgements.

      I totally get where you’re coming from re: “no such thing as *one* drink” because that’s me. I’d bristle at the notion that three drinks every day is a lot, because for me, I’d catch a buzz for five minutes before losing it.

      From a value judgement standpoint, I feel like we over value quantity of life in this society. Telling me that I won’t live until 90 just isn’t a big motivator.

      1. TheLazyB*

        For me it’s not the life expectancy – it’s the healthy life expectancy. Drinking tends to shorten both. I used to work somewhere where an 80 year old was the chair – a fellow octogenarian came up to him on a station one morning and started complaining about how once you were in your 80s everything started falling apart and the cold gets into your bones and you might as well be dead, not knowing this guy was a similar age. He looked 20-30 years younger.

        I don’t want to live to 90 with the health of my grandparents from 80+, but I’d love to live to 90 with the chair’ health.

        As always, YMMV :)

    5. nep*

      Bravo, Steve G. Just Bravo. May you continue to enjoy your health gains.
      Let people react as they will — You’ll never know quite where that’s stemming from and in the end it’s irrelevant. As the other commenter said, to hell with them. Period.
      (Re Dan’s comment about longevity — not everyone who abstains is doing so because s/he’s looking to live to 100. I simply know how great I feel in that moment and every day when I don’t drink or indulge in any other substances.)

    6. Blue_eyes*

      It sounds like you’re making the best choice for yourself. If people offer you alcohol just keep repeating “no thanks” or something similar until they give up. You don’t owe anyone an explanation about your choice to stay sober. There are so many reasons people do this (alcoholism, potential for alcoholism, medications, don’t like the taste, etc.) and other’s need to mind their own business.

      Are you unable to be around other people who are drinking? Is not drinking keeping you from attending social events that you would like to attend?

      1. Steve G*

        I just can’t be around people drinking because I’m not going to be able to abstain, I guess at some point I will be able to, but it too much for me to both abstain and keep rejecting drinks and having discussions about why I am rejecting drinks. I want to think about other things! There should be a million other things to do in life!

        1. Hellanon*

          My dad quit drinking last year after a lifetime of serious hard drinking. Having watched him attempt this multiple times – unsuccessfully – I think two things made the difference. One goes to motivation, and everyone’s is different. The other goes to lifestyle, and I think part of what kept tripping him up was that all his friends were hard drinkers and he didn’t know how to talk to people if he was sober, whether they were or not. So if he wasn’t drinking at some social event, I’d find him out on the porch, staring off into space, as if he couldn’t quite get the world to focus without a 16 oz glass of vodka in front of his face… so that can play in as well, and might be something to be aware of. You’re not just abstaining from the alcohol, you’re abstaining from the conversational & transactional patterns that social drinking imposes, and that’s what can be both hard to sustain and likely to engender opposition. Good luck, in any case; as the daughter of alcoholics, I fully support your decision!

        2. Pennalynn Lott*

          My mom just celebrated 34 years of sobriety on Friday. She exchanged her addiction to alcohol for an addiction to AA and the whole 12-step mindset. Which means that she was successful in sobriety because she ditched her drinking friends and spent 100% of her time around abstainers.

          I quit drinking for a few years while I was dealing with some personal issues and it was no big deal to tell folks, “No thanks, I’m having fizzy water tonight.” For anyone who pushed me on it, I simply said, “Did you not hear me? I said I’m having fizzy water tonight.” End of discussion. But most of my friends and family aren’t heavy drinkers, and they are all very good about respecting boundaries. I could show up at Thanksgiving after decades of eating turkey and announce that I’m now no longer eating meat, and everyone would be like, “Have an extra helping of green bean casserole then,” without batting an eyelash.

          It sounds like your issues are two-fold: One, your inability right now to abstain if alcohol is available. And, two, your family’s lack of boundaries. Both can be dealt with in therapy. (You’ll never be able to change your family, but you can change your reactions to them so that it isn’t a big problem for you).

          Also, joining fitness groups would give you access to people who have fun doing healthy things that aren’t centered around alcohol. (Like running / biking / hiking / geocaching clubs and the like).

          1. Steve G*

            I already go to bootcamp/insanity fitness classes a couple of times per week, but I’ve been thinking of AA just to be able to meet people with an interest in non-drinking things. Not sure if its a regional thing but NYC-eastern Long Island? It does remind me of reality shows where you always see the people drinking or why they are having wine in the middle of the day. There can be wine and other alcohol all over the place, so a change in scene is definitely needed.

            Congrats to your mom, that is as long as I’ve been alive (I’m 34:-))!

        3. misspiggy*

          I’m watching two friends severely damage their health and cognitive abilities because they haven’t been able to take the steps you’re taking. It’s awful, and now they’re physically dependent it’s too late for them to do much about it. If they had asked their friends not to provide booze at social gatherings, I think we would have done so, but they never got as far as wanting to avoid alcohol. It’s hard for moderate drinkers to understand that some people need to abstain, but if anyone is actively pressuring you to do things you know to be unhealthy, they need to grow up.

    7. Anonymous for this comment*

      I don’t drink, either. My mom, grandmother, and great-grandmother were addicts. It’s usually not a big deal, but a few people have surprisingly strong opinions on it. And they’re the same people who can’t get through a day without drinking.

      I do think that drinking catches up with most people, and I think people don’t want to admit it, or can’t see it, because they’ve been drinking so long that they don’t even know what would happen if they stopped drinking altogether. I also think that people are prevented from ever saying “I drink too much,” because then they labeled as alcoholics, which is a nasty word, and implies that things are a lot work than they actually are.

      Yeah, that’s it. You’re happy not drinking and they don’t really want to see that option right now.

      IMO hang out with more sober people or start meeting up with people where drinking isn’t normal. I cut down on some of it in college just by meeting friends for lunch instead of dinner.

    8. The Cosmic Avenger*

      It’s not so much a drinking thing, it’s more of a boundary thing. I drink 2-3 drinks a night 6-7 nights a week, and I’d never think to pressure someone to drink or even question their decision to not drink. But then, I could go without drinking while socializing with someone who might be sensitive about alcohol use, whereas it sounds like these people consider a lack of participation in their preferred activity as disapproval. Well, some people just don’t get that some things are not necessarily all about them.

      tl;dr version: a preference for drinking is not a reason to be unsupportive of your decision not to drink.

      1. Steve G*

        I got to the point I could never drink like that, if I could just do 2 glasses of wine at night after all of my work, activities, and exercise were done, I’d be fine. But I get obsessive over stuff I guess (including work, exercise, and other healthier things), and I started to be able to drink a whole bottle in one night, and couldn’t stop and leave it in the fridge, I’d have to pour it out when I wanted to stop, which is pretty bad, and wasteful. I wish I could have just drank like you, but apparently I’m not going to be able to!

        1. Blue_eyes*

          You sound like a family friend of mine. He has struggled with addiction (often alcohol or drugs) on and off for most of his life. He’s sober now and has replaced his addictions to substances with ultra-marathon running. He’s now obsessive about his running, but at least that’s a much healthier obsession. It seems like you’re doing what’s right for you by staying sober and focusing your attentions on more productive and healthier habits.

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          And that’s great that you realize that, Steve! I always say that, even if you only have 1 or 2 drinks, if you act really differently when you drink, you should probably never touch the stuff again. And if we hung out, I would probably abstain from drinking during that time unless you said you were OK with it. I don’t mean I’d ask you, I mean you’d have to convince me, because friends don’t put their friends in uncomfortable positions just for their own enjoyment. It sounds like in some ways your family has as much of a problem with alcohol as you do, since they’re unable to go without it in order to enjoy your company.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      Good for you! You’re doing something healthy for yourself. It’s not their business.

      I hardly ever drink anymore, which of course makes me a lightweight when I do. We partied a lot when I first went to university, but after that, I pretty much didn’t bother. Smoking, however, is completely out for me now. I can’t have casual cigarettes when I go out because I’m a tobacco addict and I do NOT want to get on that train again. Unless an asteroid is about to destroy the Earth or something, and then all bets are off.

    10. Observer*

      I’m going to agree with everyone and say, do what you have to do. People should NOT be pushing it. And you should most definitely not be judged for protecting yourself.

      But, there is one thing you are doing that may be legitimately feeding the problem. You say that you ARE judgmental of people who you consider drink to much. Well, that attitude comes through, whether you explicitly say it or not. Get rid of the attitude. You have nothing to lose. It may help with your family. But, even if it doesn’t you don’t lose anything. You can recognize your own needs, and act on that without the judgement, so you you don’t risk anything.

      1. Steve G*

        I’m tryin’ to get rid of the ‘tude but I had people picking arguments with me yesterday about this when I went on a day trip to my hometown – I felt like I was pushed to be judgmental which made me feel “dirty” in a way, if you know what I mean, like I lost my innocence yesterday because I felt pushed to say nasty things. It’s like everyone wants some big dramatic sob story when you stop drinking, and if you don’t give one, then you are covering something up. So, enough pushes, and I unfortunately reminded a few people of the flaws and mistakes in their lives and how they need to get off my back and out of my crap. I don’t sit and analyze other peoples’ mistakes, but if someone is going to analyze mine when I’m not there, then I am (understandably) not going to be happy, and….yeah….being grilled by yet another person about why I wasn’t at a particular party when they damn well knew the reason….I reminded them in front of everyone of the skeletons in their closet and to mind their own s***. I was a ball of nerves after that when I left, and to add insult to injury, I couldn’t go have a few drinks to calm my nerves, so that person being a condescending b*** for no reason to me when they knew all along it had to do about alcohol? They are NOT someone to have around. If you think I am a full-fledged alcoholic, why would you pick a fight with me, knowing a full-fledged alcoholic turns to alcohol to calm their nerves. So obviously you don’t really care……….if they really cared, they would have said “xyz wished you were there.” That would have been it.

        1. Pennalynn Lott*

          One thing that worked for me, during the years I wasn’t drinking, was to say something along the lines of, “I’m trying to eat healthier these days and alcohol is just empty calories. I’d rather have more of your famous guacamole than a drink.”

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Drinking and other habits mask anger. When that anger comes out- it can wear many different costumes. It could be that your family is toxic to you. This could be a temporary thing or it could be a life-long toxicity. Or it could be something else. No way to know, yet.
          By choosing to get healthier (not just quitting the alcohol but because of all the things you are doing to be healthier ) you are going to have levels of mental clarity that will reveal a fresh perspective to you. Dots will connect that never connected before. It will be okay. You will make it.

          I quit drinking years ago and I see my own thoughts from that time, in what you have written here. In my family you could drink once you reached age seven. So I had been sipping since seven. By the time I hit my early twenties, I started rethinking things like you are here. It was a journey. I don’t think I was a full blown drinker but I was on my way there. The roughest part at that time was filling up my new free time. I decided to work several jobs so I would not miss the bar scene and my friends so much. Speaking of friends, they all fell by the wayside once I quit drinking. I had to go make a new batch of friends that would do non-drinking activities with me. This took a lot of time to play out.

          The whole thing involved anger and tears. It was the anger and tears that I should have been dealing with right along and did not because of finding ways to bury it. I see you have exercise, that will help with processing anger. So I can only add to be sure to cry when you need to. Tears cause a chemical reaction in the brain that help the brain to be healthy, this is a good thing to remember. I just had a good hard cry a week ago or so, and boy, I have felt better since. I think it builds over time and we need to push out those tears every so often.

          I do have one thing to add to what you have said here- you have a couple of comments about becoming addicted to this or that. That vulnerability to addiction can be caused sometimes by vitamin and mineral deficiencies, ie. bad nutrition. I became concerned about my own vulnerability after my experience with drinking. I got involved in whole foods and nutritional supplements. That made a difference for me. My point here is not everything is just in our minds/thinking, sometimes we need extra vitamins and minerals to fortify our bodies which in turn helps support how our mind copes with stuff. A tired mind latches on to stuff and will not let go. A fortified mind can find paths through that.

          You are making lots of good choices here. From my own experience I would have to believe that this right now is the roughest it will be, it won’t get worse. Just have the audacity to keep going and keep working the way you are. It gets better.

    11. CLT*

      It’s a weird dynamic, but people abstaining sometimes makes other people feel guilty about their less than healthy habits, and so they increase the pressure to get you to partake in order to absolve themselves. My family is really good about people making their own choices; I am really sorry yours is not.

    12. TheLazyB*

      Have you read Gretchen Rubin’s stuff about abstainers and moderators? It’s pretty useful for me to think in those terms.

    13. knitcrazybooknut*

      People are afraid of success, because it means they might have to try themselves.

      People who are in dysfunctional patterns are afraid of change, because they might have to see themselves clearly if someone changes and they have to open their eyes.

      People will push you back into your box if you try to get out, because they have a vested interest in you staying right where they know you are.

      Great job enforcing your boundaries. Amazing job figuring out what you wanted to change and doing that. Be happy with who you are. Stick to your boundaries; if someone says you should be drinking, leave (the conversation or the event). Eventually people will get the hint, or you’ll find other people to be around.

    14. Pennalynn Lott*

      I wanted to add this: One of the most incredibly freeing and empowering things I learned in therapy is that I don’t owe anyone an explanation for my actions and choices. You don’t like my choice? Tough noogies. You like it and want to praise me? Whatever. I didn’t do it for your approval, I did it for ME. Good, bad or indifferent, *I* made the choice, *I* will reap the rewards or consequences.

      Practice saying versions of “Because I said so.” And sticking to it. “Why aren’t you drinking?” “Because I don’t want to.” “Blah, blah, blah, what’s wrong with you?” “Because I don’t want to.” “You’re ruining everyone’s fun. You need to have a drink.” “As I said, I don’t want one.”

      When people try to bait and berate you, make it boring for them. Don’t reply with anything other than, “Because I said so.” Choosing not to engage is *very* freeing!

      1. Observer*

        I like a Miss Manners version of this “I’ll have to pass”. There is simply no room for discussion there, either but does imply that you are not being cavalier. Lather, rinse, repeat.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Be kind to you- this takes practice. You are forming a new habit by using responses like this. When you first start saying things like this can be with clinched teeth and fists. That is okay, at least you did it, even though it was hard. It will get easier.

          People used to make me angry with their remarks about not drinking. I tried to figure out why they made me angry. There were dozens of reasons. And usually that is what anger is based on- dozens of reasons, not just one or two. Anger is similar to drowning, it’s a flood of emotions. Building a plan to deal with the remarks in the moment is a good step forward on breaking the cycle of remark-anger, remark-anger.

          I do agree that people are doing some real damage to their bodies with lots of things and they do not realize. It was interesting at Old Job, I could tell what people had for breakfast or if they had tossed back a few the night before. I could see the difference in their work. More recently, a friend commented that his employee went out and smoked a few joints the night before. He could see the guy’s abilities and thinking took a nose dive the next day. Some people get this. Some people will get this in the future. And some people will never get this. I estimate that about 30% of the population will never, ever get this. Unfortunately, we do not get to pick which group our family and friends fall into. All we can do is work on ourselves. I have had to revisit these thoughts here hundreds of times. This is really hard stuff to wrap our minds around.

  27. at who's blind word so clear but so unheard*

    Has anyone seen any good fireworks videos yet from this year’s 4th of July?

    Over the last few years, people began to notice that drones go with fireworks the way that peanut butter goes with chocolate. There were a number of videos posted to youtube and elsewhere, but most of them were rather lame. Except for the one that I’ll post in the Reply link, in which it’s pretty obvious that the person piloting the drone had the Take No Prisoners kind of attitude that’s necessary for making Great Art when people are shooting explosive charges at a couple of thousand dollars worth of drone hardware that you paid for yourself.

    (The music is “Con Te Partiro”, sung by Andrea Bocelli, which has sold some ungodly millions of copies since it was released in 1995).

    All that said: if anyone has seen anything really good recently, I’d love to know about it.

  28. saro*

    As some of you may know, I live in a post-conflict, developing country. My husband and I made the difficult decision to move back to the U.S. I’ll be going initially with our child and my husband will follow later, likely in a year or so. I am slowly processing my emotions about it. I think it’s the right decision but sad for the country and so many other emotions. I’m also re-assessing my company (was just researching performance reviews last week!). Let’s just see…

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Wow. I remember you talking about some of the dangers, I think you guys are pretty amazing people.
      Will you be able to do something stateside to help the people of this nation? I was thinking about volunteer work or advocacy work.

  29. Audiophile*

    Anyone on here a redditor or been reading the reddit controversy?

    I was never much of a reddit follower, barely knew the site existed. I popped in a few months ago, made an account and asked a few questions. I’ve found a few subreddits that I read and follow but I wouldn’t consider myself a very active user or redditor like others.

    1. saro*

      I follow a few of the ‘off the beaten path’ subs and usually skip the front page. It’s pretty bad, isn’t it? Looks like it was a huge mess and much of it caused by bad management!

      1. Audiophile*

        Hi fellow redditor!

        It got a little crazy. I highly doubt it was the result of one AMA. I’m sure it was about the all mighty dollar.

    2. Jen RO*

      I’ve been reading since Friday, imaginary popcorn in hand, and loving the drama. I was actually going to ask Alison about the “fired for cancer” thing, but it came out after the Friday thread was over…

    3. Steve G*

      I just randomly heard about it just 2 weeks ago when I was listening to “scary true stories from Reddit” on youtube (you must look up “scary true camping stories,” “scary true pizza delivery stories,” etc.)..and I found out what Reddit was.

      I actually think this is more of a “delicious” story than Rachel Dolezal because I find it a bit out there that someone as controversial as Ellen Pao went out and got herself a CEO post. I would have thought companies would be apprehensive to hire someone who sues their employer. I mean, from the lawsuit, the defense says: “Pao clashed with almost every member of the firm whose work actually overlapped with her own. When Pao started seeing negative feedback on her performance reviews “she saw the writing on the wall” and devised a plan to maneuver her termination into a “payout.” Pao claims she was unceremoniously fired out of retaliation justified by doctored performance reviews, but Hermle argued that she had seen it coming far in advance.”

      I just don’t get why a company would take the risk of hiring someone so controversial, to say the least, into a CEO post, are there really so few applicants to those job?!

      1. Audiophile*

        I wasn’t very aware of who she was or the lawsuit, but I’ve popped into a few subreddits and anything having to do with her or that she’s popped into to try to explain or defend herself immediately gets downvoted.

  30. Kimmy Gibbler*

    Hope this isn’t “work related” as I consider it more of a lifestyle question, but has anyone had experience with “super commuting”? I currently work in Denver, but job opportunities here in my field and advancing in my career path are very few and far between. The reality for me is that, if I want to take the next step in my career, I will have to relocate. There are a lot of extenuating circumstances, though, that make me really reluctant to move my family and kids somewhere else, at least right away. I’m considering beginning a job search in California that would involve a 4-5 day workweek there, with a weekly weekend trip home. I am the primary breadwinner in my family (my husband works, but makes much less than I do), and right now I’m feeling like this is the only option for me to move on. Anyone with weekend warrior experience?

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      I also live in Denver, and I have spent quite a bit of time in California over the last year for work. I would not want to live there. I don’t know how anyone can afford to buy a decent sized house, and the traffic is completely insane.

      I did consulting work for awhile and was on the road Sunday through Thursday every week. It was not a bad gig when I was single, but then when I met my husband and we got engaged, it was much harder to be traveling all the time. And we didn’t even have kids to worry about at the time, although now we have a 6 year old daughter, and his 17 year old daughter lives with us too.

      I travel a fair amount for work now. I’m lucky that my husband is very supportive and doesn’t complain about all the single dad duty. Like you, I’m the main breadwinner in the family, and he totally gets that sometimes my job has to come first. And he also doesn’t have any hang-ups about his wife out-earning him. I will admit that it’s nice to have the break that you get with work travel. You get a lot more time to yourself, you can watch whatever you want on TV, and you get plenty of alone time, which is something that can be sorely lacking when you’re living in a house with a spouse and kids. But even though I appreciate the break, after a few days I start missing my daughter terribly. I hate missing her sports stuff, playing with her, doing our bedtime and story routine, and so on.

      The other thing that’s hard is if you’re doing the 4 day work week, and then there’s a holiday, then you’re into wondering if it’s worth it to just travel for 3 days. That also makes it hard to take a long weekend or use a day or 2 of vacation time. Also, it completely and totally sucks to be sick when you’re away from home. In addition to that, if you do the 4 day work week away from home, then you’ve usually only got 1 day to get all your errands and running around done: going to the dentist, doctor appointments, grocery shopping, post office, returning something to a store, and all the rest of it.

      Would you have to be paying to maintain 2 households, and/or get another vehicle? The costs of that could add up in a hurry.

    2. Sandy*

      My spouse did it for 18 months. He saw the writing on the wall where he was, nothing was coming up in our city, and he got a very good job offer in a city five hours away by car/one hour away by plane.

      It’s hard but doable. We didn’t have kids at the time, so I can’t advise on that side of things.

      I would caution that it is *expensive*. The long-distance commuting costs add up really fast, especially when you are eager to just get home and spend time with your loved ones, so the cheapest option isn’t always the best one.

    3. Anonny*

      My dad did this at a couple points when I was growing up, and it was pretty tough overall. When my siblings and I were younger and Mom was a SAHM, it was okay, but the second round, which lasted most of my high school years, was pretty awful. At that point, my mom was working outside the home as well, but we never really established clear lines of communication or expectations as a family. There was a lot of confusion and stress and anger during the week, and in a house full of teenagers it’s kind of hard to sweep that under the rug and pretend to be a totally chill, happy family on the weekends. Honestly, a big part of why I still (over 10 years later) have kind of a distant relationship with my parents is because those years were so confusing and isolating for me.

  31. Anna*

    Deleted because work-related — please post on the Friday (work-related) open thread — thank you!

  32. Ann Furthermore*

    I’d like to say thanks to everyone who answered my question on the Friday thread. Very good feedback there, and I really appreciate it! I didn’t have a chance to post a reply until very late in the day, so I wanted to say thanks here too.

    I think last week in the non-work thread I posted about how I got myself a Fitbit and started counting my steps. I’m still going strong, hitting the 10,000 steps a day. Someone replied and said they’d talked with some friends about the strangest behavior changes they’ve made to increase their steps. I’ve certainly got a few. First, I’ll walk around in circles while brushing my teeth in the morning and evening to get a couple hundred steps in each time. I’ve started walking up and down every aisle at the grocery store to increase my steps, and now I’m spending more money than I usually would, since I see things that I would normally pass by. And, I’ve noticed that I’ve started doing things more inefficiently. Like with putting away laundry. Instead of folding it all and taking a pile of clothes to my daughter’s room, I’ll fold one thing and walk it into her room, then come back and fold another, take it to her room, and so on. I’m sure my husband would think I was completely insane if he saw me doing this, but by the time I’m done I can have another 1000-1500 steps added to my daily total! LOL.

    Down 10 pounds so far! This is something I’m enjoying doing for a change…usually I dread any and all kinds of exercise, and have to force myself to do it.

    1. Cruciatus*

      I do wonder if my neighbors think I’m crazy sometimes. After work I usually always have more walking I need to do to hit my goal (steps and active minutes). I don’t really want to go anywhere to do it so I just walk up and down the driveway which is probably 120-150 yards long. They probably care less than I think, but for 20-30 minutes it’s usually me just walking up and down the driveway and around the house when I want to “shake it up” for a second. I also walk around while brushing teeth or waiting for the microwave to ding or whatever. I just see more opportunities to walk around than I did before–even if sometimes it’s inefficient! Waiting for the copier to finish at work? Walk around. Waiting for someone who’s late? Walk around. When I get together with a certain friend we usually have time to kill before dinnertime so we meet at the mall these days and get a couple laps in before moving on for the night. Do you have friends with a Fitbit? You can connect with them through the program and compete with them. My friend, sister, and I are currently in a weekend walking duel. I won the workweek challenge, but only because I had happened to take last week off so I had more time. When I see my friend nearing me in steps it definitely makes me kick it up a notch–though it’s all just in good fun. Sometimes I win, sometimes they win but I figure any extra effort is good for all of us.

      I agree that the Fitbit was the first thing that sort of worked for me. I don’t dread it. Sometimes I don’t hit my goal for whatever reason, but I do 90% of the time so I figure it’s OK to have a bad step day. And, for me, it’s been over 2 years since I’ve gotten mine and I’m still a fan. At first I noticed the extra effort I put into getting steps, but these days I notice that it doesn’t seem as time consuming, even though I’m getting more steps now than I did at the beginning. It all just feels easier to do so it’s easy to keep doing it. If that makes sense.

      1. Nashira*

        I pace back and forth in the aisle by the copier at work. I can be there for half an hour or more so why not? When pacing gets boring, I stand on one foot. Discreetly.

    2. Pennalynn Lott*

      Ha! I just got a Fitbit a couple of weeks ago, too, and I definitely do the “inefficient” thing to rack up more steps. Instead of taking out the garbage and recycling bags to their respective cans at the same time, I take them out individually. Same thing with carrying stuff from one end of the house to another. Why carry five things in one trip when I can carry one thing in five trips?

      I’ve lost 4 pounds, but they all seem to have disappeared from my bra. :-)

  33. Aloe Vera*

    I got my first-ever black eye today. What humorous reply should I provide at work on Monday when people ask what happened?

    What actually happened was a 4-year-old accidentally ramming her head into my cheekbone while we were swimming.

    1. Monodon monoceros*

      “I was beaten up by a 4 yr old” has the benefit of being funny and true.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        My brother got a black eye from a baby’s shoe, back in the old days when babies wore shoes with hard soles. He was on the floor, holding the baby up in the air, and his eye got in the way of her foot. Yeah, he told people his baby niece beat him up, and everyone laughed about it.

      2. Ann Furthermore*

        I’d go with this too. I used a similar line when my daughter gave me a fat lip by jumping up to give me a hug while I was kind of leaning over, and slammed the top of her head into my mouth.

      1. Maxwell Edison*

        Be prepared for people to not believe you. I once had some visible bruises from walking into a door (long, boring story). Went to work and the conversation went like this.

        Coworker: What happened to you?
        Me: Walked into the door.
        Coworker (while giving me a pitying look): I see. Maxwell, if you ever need any help or need to talk, I’m here.
        Me (nonplused): What do you…oh! No, I really did walk into a door.
        Coworker: Sure. Sure you did.

        1. Treena*

          Well, walking into the door is the go-to for so many abuse victims, I’m not really surprised. My mom has a blood disorder and if you poke her, a giant bruise blooms. She’s given up trying to convince others my dad hasn’t been beating her (since she was 7?!). She gets frustrated sometimes but I remind her about the people who *are* being hit–what if no one reached out to them?

        2. misc*

          I’m a major klutz and am forever scratching myself on corners of walls, desks, cabinets, etc., so I’m no longer surprised when a scratch magically appears on my arms or legs. Once I got one on my wrist and my then-boyfriend accused me of self-harm.

          1. Aloe Vera*

            I usually have at least one major bruise on me at all times, and half the time I can’t even remember where it came from! For some reason, I bruise really easily.

          2. Ruffingit*

            My skin is super sensitive so if I scratch at a mosquito bite or something it looks like I was attacked by Freddy Krueger. Some people just have sensitive skin, but people are always asking WHAT HAPPENED? like I was in a knife fight or something.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Not to be used in conjunction with “beat up by a four year old”. People will get really outraged to think you brought a four year old into a bar.

    2. Pennalynn Lott*

      I had a friend in college who routinely gave herself black eyes when answering the phone. She picked the receiver up so fast (and spastically) that she smacked herself in the eye (or upper cheek bone) with it, which I found unbelievably hilarious. So whenever I’ve had a shiner I always say the phone did it.

    3. Mints*

      Reared from a horse while saving a damsel. (Is it called “reared?” Bucked?)

      Although saying a baby did it because you gave him a dirty look would be funny too

      1. Startingly Anon*

        Bucked :) (rearing is just going up on the hind legs)
        …though probably ‘fell from a horse’ while saving a damsel, unless the horse was a wild horse caught just before the rescue rather than OP’s own trusty destrier (hey, the more backstory the better!)

    4. Aloe Vera*

      These are so hilarious. I think I’m going to go with “A mermaid beat me up.” Said 4-year-old was pretending to be a mermaid when it happened. She’s my friend’s foster daughter.

      On an unrelated note, I so admire my friend’s courage take in foster children. I don’t know that I could deal with the loss when it’s time for them to go to a permanent home – it is so bittersweet.

  34. nicolefromqueens*

    Basil Vodka 3.0 did not quite turn out as expected, though much better than 1.0 and 2.0. This time I used a lower basil:vodka ratio, and left it for six hours instead of 2+ days. I will likely get some more opinions tomorrow morning. I’ll try the peanut vodka next week. Thank you everyone for your input!

    Also, did anyone else watch the Twilight Zone half marathon today? I only got a few episodes in. I missed all of my favorites: Number Twelve, The Obsolete Man, and Maple Street.

  35. S*

    Apple Music v. Spotify. What’s your preference? I am a Spotify user (started using it during their invite-only period, but have never used Premium), testing out Apple Music now, and I actually prefer most aspects of Apple Music, and I especially love its integration with my extensive iTunes library.

    I don’t want to lose my Starred playlist on Spotify, though…

    1. Claire (Scotland)*

      I’ve never really been much of a Spotify user, though I have had a (free) account for years. Probably because I’m not that into music overall, and I tend to stick to things I know I like. But I have an iPhone so I did the update the other day and have been trying out Apple Music a bit, and so far I like it. I’m not sure I’ll like it enough to pay the subscription come October (and I turned of automatic payments so I don’t accidentally forget to cancel if not), but it definitely has some nice features and I’m enjoying using it. I think if I was a more advanced Spotify user the decision would be really hard.

      1. S*

        I use(d) Spotify pretty regularly until now, since I’m testing out Apple Music. I never had a problem with Spotify’s free version, but now Apple Music is giving me so much more (with the caveat that I’ll have to pay for it monthly in October) and so I’m pretty sure I’ll be subscribing to one or the other at that point, but now it’s a matter of which service I want more. I’m leaning towards paying for Apple Music because I can still use Spotify for free at work (which is where I’ll need it most of the time).

  36. TheLazyB*

    It’s too late for this really, as I already messed up, but hoping someone can help me with what to do next time……

    I am meeting a friend for lunch later this week. Said friend works with a load of people I used to be close to but am no longer. They were mainly friends from a certain period of my life that I then drifted away from, but some I got very hurt by as I thought we were still close and then they left me out of a big event and it was all very sad. I don’t know if I overreacted but I decided not to call them to let them call me and none of them did.

    But another one, I knew her at the same kind of time and distanced myself from her as she freaked me out to be honest. She was going through a tough time and all that but also latched onto me and started oversharing and hugging me and I just wasn’t ok with it. I backed away trying to ‘slow fade’ and in the end she stopped messaging. I will call her Girl x.

    I also left Facebook round this time.

    Now my friend works with all these people and has asked if she can bring them all. And I was like yeah, sure…. before I realised that Girl x was part of that gang. Lunch Friend knows of the awkwardness with the first bunch but I think has forgotten about how much Girl x freaked me out at times.

    So I don’t particularly want to see the first game again but it would be fine if they come, I bumped into most of them since then and although I had residual sadness about what happened if wasn’t awkward. But Girl x? I would rather not see.

    Is there a way I could have phrased this when Lunch Friend asked if she could bring them? Or is it just all too ridiculously complicated* and I just need to suck it up?

    * yes. Yes it is, isn’t it. Sorry about that.

    1. Today's anon*

      I totally feel you. I have a friend I see maybe once a month who will regularly invite others that we both know to join us for dinner. I don’t even have the issues you describe with those other people (although definitively issues with one of the people!) but I am not as close to them/feel we have much in common. I tend to feel left out when that happens, especially if the original invitation was just me and my friend (it makes me wonder if she wants to spend any time with me or not). Now I try to say something like “well, I really wanted to catch up with you” sometimes I’ll add “it’s been a while” or something like that. That way I don’t have to get into why I don’t like someone else but also if the point is my friend and I getting together then … that is not happening if it’s a group or even 3 people.

      1. TheLazyB*

        I would suggest actually saying explicitly ‘I really like catching up with you one on one, can we do that this time?’ – at the time of the initial invite – and see where it goes from there. You’re not criticising other people there just stating a preference.

        But I would be unlikely to do it IRL because I would have the same fear that she didn’t really want to spend time with me :( however that is unlikely – why would she keep initiating plans if she didn’t want to see you?

        Situations like that are so hard!

        1. Today's anon*

          They get easier the more you can focus on yourself and your needs. To me, this reads as directly related to your question below and I would want to explore in therapy why you are so afraid of expressing a simple preference? Because as you describe it, the most likely scenario is that she is just being thoughtless, not acting out of malice. How can you develop the kind of friendship you describe below if you are not showing yourself fully? This is something I struggle with myself.

          1. fposte*

            And not even necessarily being thoughtless–she could be somebody who’s expressing her *own* preferences. I have friends who love group socializing, and while I’m happy to see them one on one, that’s not the way they like to do it. And I like them enough that I’d rather see them sometimes the way they like and sometimes the way I like, than not be friends at all.

            1. TheLazyB*

              Yes yes yes this is it! Or at least part. She likes bringing people together but would never take offence if I said I would like to do something else. Thank you so much for that insight – simple but valuable!

          2. TheLazyB*

            I was so busy falling over myself to make clear that the other crowd were ok if they wanted to come that a) I completely forgot that Girl x was in that group and b) it never even occurred to me to say I’d rather catch up with her one on one. It’s actually an excellent point – we used to see tons of each other and our schedules have changed so we rarely are free together now, and our lunches are only short, so it would have been an entirely reasonable thing to say and she would have totally understood. Hmm. Need to have a think about this.

          3. TheLazyB*

            Your last two sentences are really good. I had that visceral “no that’s wrong!!!” that often means someone has a point. Deffo something for me to think about.

    2. Carrie in Scotland*

      “I’m sorry, I wanted to catch up with you one on one ” “I don’t feel like I’m in the mood for a big gathering right now but would love to do lunch with you.”

      Also, could it be that girl x has changed since the last time you saw/spoke to her? If it’s that big a crowd, you could stay away from her as much as possible, and just talk to the people you want to?

      1. TheLazyB*

        Thank you. I’ll have those up my sleeve for next time!

        It’s possible Carrie, I’ll keep that in mind, because I am assuming not but I might need to give her a chance.

        Btw I think it was you who suggested towels or something over my curtains last week to help me sleep and make my room darker – it’s helped loads! Thank you.

  37. TheLazyB*

    Connected to my last post.

    A lot of years ago, a then-friend waxed lyrical on the theme of spring-cleaning your friends. Friendships can have a lifespan basically.

    A few times I’ve done this, to a greater or lesser extent. Sometimes making it explicit, sometimes just fading. I am really curious to know whether other people do it. Captain Awkward gives people an African Violet as a sign of friendship ended, although I’ve never figured out whether this is literal or metaphorical.

    Basically when I do it it’s because I don’t think I am getting anything from the friendship except stress of some kind. We break up with SOs when our relationships are over but with friends we don’t have an equivalent. Too often I find myself making friends with people and then becoming their emotional support without getting anything in return. I do know that I learned a bit of a martyr complex growing up…. I must take care of everyone without ever, ever asking for help or support – I am working on this in therapy, but still… I want to find friends who challenge me and stretch me and who understand my urge to change my patterns and grow…. but there is no one like this in my life. Just people I find myself trying to care for or advise, without them even asking that of me. (I know.)

    I’m not really asking for advice here, but I would love to know if anyone relates to any of this.

    The common thread is me. I know I need to change to change these patterns. If anyone does have any specific actions that might help that’s great. But please don’t berate me :) like I say I am in therapy, and I’ve already come a long way. But I know I have much further to go!

    Thanks to anyone who read all this :)

    1. NicoleK*

      Are you drawn to people who need help, need to be “saved”? I noticed that in my life, when I was not emotionally healthy, I was drawn to people who were the same. I would give and give, probably because it made me feel better about myself. As I became emotionally healthier (work in progress), I was no longer drawn to people mired in drama or helplessness. I wanted to be around healthier people. People who would not only take but give too. So the only suggestions I have is to keep working on yourself and to get out and meet new people.

      1. TheLazyB*

        Yeah… I think it’s the getting-out-meeting-new-people bit I am struggling with. And, err, the getting more emotionally healthy part. So, yeah. Your entire comment=spot on. Work in progress…..

    2. Colette*

      I can relate. I like fixing problems, so when someone needs help that I can easily provide, I’ll offer to help – but that can end up terribly one-sided. I’m getting better at stepping back and not helping (also, not making plans all the time). I’m also getting better at speaking up when I notice a problem, because I default to “everything’s fine, everything’s fine, this needs to stop immediately”. I’m also getting better at asking for what I want instead of going along with what others want all the time.

      This isn’t directly friendship related, but in 2008 I challenged myself to do something new every day, and it literally changed my life. I’m much more comfortable with doing unfamiliar things and it pushed me to change and grow (and not look for that from someone else).

      On the friendship note, I think it’s important to realize that you can have friends for different reasons. You can have the friend you love to see movies with, and the running friend, and the one you talk to for four hours every six months. Not every friendship will be the same, but they can still be valid.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        I feel like I’m a fixer.

        There is that famous quote about you surround yourself with the people that you think you’re worth. When I was younger – teens/earlier 20’s – I didn’t have very good friends, I didn’t think much of myself. I mean, they weren’t bad people, but often a little lost in life.

        I now have 3 really good close friends and a bunch of good and less close friends – ex workmates, fellow volunteers etc.

        I agree with colette in that challenging yourself in some way can often help. For example, I have a list (a bit neglected recently) of 30 things I want to do/see/achieve before I turn 30. Perhaps you could set yourself 12 – one for each month?

        1. TheLazyB*

          Yeah, the fixer thing, I’m better than I used to be, but still I have a way to go….

          Do yo know what that quote is Carrie? I don’t know it but it sounds good to keep in mind.

          I am 40 next year…. :)

      2. TheLazyB*

        Your last paragraph, yeah I’m good at that part.

        Well…. I say that but thinking about it, maybe that’s something else I need to work on :-/

        In fact, yeah, all of your comment is really helpful.

    3. fposte*

      In addition to what NicoleK said about who you’re drawn to, I’d say some of this may be about the pattern you encourage as much as the person you’re engaging with. If you never ask for the favor, never assert that it’s your turn, and never want to push for the activity you want, that’s molding a friendship into a sidekick-hero thing rather than a friendship of equals from the get-go. I don’t know if this is you, but I think for a lot of people, especially women, there’s a pattern where we do this in the hope that our virtue will be recognized and someone will push beyond the selfless pattern to reward us by prioritizing our needs; that they’ll see through the caretaking to our own desire to be taken care of; that someone else will do the work of speaking up for what we want and save us that daunting task. But that’s an awful lot of work to put on somebody else.

      And in the meantime we’ll either be teaching people who could be good friends to a stronger us that this is the way we are and like to be, or losing possibilities of friendship with people we’d really like but who prefer a more visible backbone.

      I think Heather Havrilesky, who writes as Dear Polly at New York magazine and formerly at The Awl, has some really good writing about this that you might find it thought-provoking to read. I’ll see if I can find a few samples and post links separately.

        1. TheLazyB*

          Oh my god, I think I wrote one of those letters ten years ago…..

          Thank you. The links are great.

      1. TheLazyB*

        fposte… yes. Everything. Precisely.

        My therapist was really impressed this week because I asked a friend if she’d give me a lift to work 2-3 days a week. I am not good at asking for… well, anything. And I asked and she said yes and it’s working really well for us both.

        You say a lot there that my therapist has said but you phrase it a bit differently and it just makes sense in a whole different way….

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I’ve never really been into spring-cleaning friendships. I’ve found my friendships tend to naturally drift or get closer as time and life happen. There are a few rare exceptions, but I’d really be open to pretty much any of my drifted friendships coming back… but if they don’t, they don’t—and I don’t shed any tears over the lost ones… I just hope they’re doing well.

      1. TheLazyB*

        There are some who’ve drifted too, and mostly it would be great to hear from them.

        But some of my ‘friends’ have been exhausting people who didn’t treat me very well, and I’m not willing to put up with that any more :(

    5. on the right side of the white noise*

      “A prudent man, remembering that life is short, gives an hour or two, now and then, to a critical examination of his friendships. He weighs them, edits them, tests the metal of them. A few he retains, perhaps with radical changes in their terms, but the majority he expunges from his minutes and tries to forget …” – H. L. Mencken, 1919.

      I’m nowhere near as hard-core as Mencken describes (I’m not convinced that he was, either), but yes, I do this. I guess at heart I consider relationships to be transactional: in a good friendship, Friend A and I are both getting something out of our friendship (and “something” can be as simple and intangible as “feeling good when we’re around each other”). And there is something like a ‘credit limit’, which varies depending upon circumstance: an old friend going through tough times can rely on me for a lot of support for a long time. Some guy I met at a party last week? Not so much. For better or for worse, there’s a tiny clump of neurons in my brain that functions as an ‘accountant’, and when it becomes apparent that someone is ‘taking’ way more than they are ‘giving’ – I’ll cut them loose. Ex: I had a neighbor who was a reasonably nice fellow, we got along well – but it got to be that every time I saw him, he had some favor to ask of me. And when I would ask for a favor in exchange – he’d have an excuse, or he’d forget. I’m leaving lots of stuff out but one day I decided “enough!” and ‘dumped’ him. He’d sometimes call or stop by to ask for a favor and I’d tell him “no” – which led to him not calling or stopping by anymore.

      What you describe about providing emotional support to others but not getting any back from anyone – you weren’t raised Catholic, were you? :) If you’re in therapy, that’s probably about the best thing you can do. I have some familiarity with this. I guess I’d ask: are you actually looking for support from someone, and not getting it? Or are you looking for ‘healthier’ friends who aren’t in need of any kind of support? I know you’re not looking for advice, but I’ll comment that when I started down this path myself, I began to notice that I had some friends who were “toxic”. So the job was to a) dump them and b) find friends who were more positive. Which also led to the realization that I needed to be more active about choosing my friends.

      The other thing I’ll mention is that I find it is sometimes difficult to be married and find close friends. This may well be my own personal bugaboo, but the boundaries of marriage sometimes conflict with the kind of openness I look for in a close friend. Any given married couple probably has a few confidences that should stay between just them.

      1. TheLazyB*

        “What you describe about providing emotional support to others but not getting any back from anyone – you weren’t raised Catholic, were you? :) ”

        Hahahaha yes. Yes I was. How on earth could you tell?! ;)

        Will come back and reply to everyone later but had to reply to that one straight away :)

      2. TheLazyB*

        “I guess I’d ask: are you actually looking for support from someone, and not getting it? Or are you looking for ‘healthier’ friends who aren’t in need of any kind of support?”
        Oooooooh. Interesting. Both. And I never realised till just now.

        Not even not in need of support though, I know that’s unrealistic… I just want people who are further down the path than me. Or even just on that path. Or know of its existence :)

        ” I know you’re not looking for advice, but I’ll comment that when I started down this path myself, I began to notice that I had some friends who were “toxic”. So the job was to a) dump them and b) find friends who were more positive. Which also led to the realization that I needed to be more active about choosing my friends.”

        Choosing my friends! Yes. I just presume everyone is a friend. And start trying to fix them and mould myself to their needs.

        So many patterns to untangle.

        1. on the right side of the white noise*

          This is awful late, don’t know if you’ll ever read this. But – yeah, I’ve found that it pays to be a bit “choosey” about my friends. Which is not to say that I act like a jerk towards any new person I meet; everyone more or less starts off at about the same ‘place’. But I guess you could say I’ve become a bit more judgmental in my old age. For example, I once went out with a group of people who were largely ‘friends of friends’, and we were all waiting in line at a restaurant, and a couple of these people recognized someone else at the restaurant and immediately started to make fun of her. Maybe ya kinda had to be there, but it was a huge turn-off for me, and most of these ‘friends of friends’ ended up becoming ‘distant acquaintances’. I hate to say it, but when I was younger I was not so discriminating, and so I had a number of serious jerkwad ‘friends’. I don’t know if any of this resonates with you, but I have to say: life without toxic “friends” is simply way better.

    6. Nashira*

      I broke up with a close friend last week, explicitly, yeah. He likes to collect women with traumatic back stories so he can tell us how to “fix” ourselves, and liked to throw temper tantrums whenever we didn’t fit the mold he had in mind for us. Or had opinions that weren’t in lockstep to his own. Oh, plus he consistently misgendered me, while making a fuss over my genderfluidity to other people… Thanks to the wonders of therapy, I realized what was going on, and just told him I was not able to meet his friend needs. Not anything of why, just that I no longer could. We haven’t spoken since, and I’ve frankly felt a lot better for it.

      I’m hoping the African violet is just a metaphor though. ;) I was so frustrated by the above and other things that, had I had a flower to give him, I would have thrown it. Not at him, but thrown it.

    7. Dynamic Beige*

      Captain Awkward gives people an African Violet as a sign of friendship ended, although I’ve never figured out whether this is literal or metaphorical.

      I didn’t know about Captain Awkward until reading this blog, so I’ve made it a point to read some of the older posts and, if memory serves, this was a wish. It’s like when you break up with someone, you have “the talk” so everyone knows it’s over, but you don’t do that with friends. Someone was commenting that they wished there was a way to let a friend know you weren’t interested in continuing the friendship in a nice, parting gift sort of way (it might have been CA) — give them an African violet and wish them well. I don’t believe anyone has ever done that, because as you point out, it hurts enough to know that people you consider a friend aren’t treating you in a way that says they see you as *their* friend. And that would really suck, getting an e-card of a potted African violet with a “hey it’s been great, but I’m not interested in being your friend any more. Have a nice life!”

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Two thoughts: I love the thing about friends for a reason, friends for a season or friends for a life time. I found a lot of peace in that explanation.

      Fixers. One thing that is helpful here is to work very hard on fixing ourselves. Once you see how much work goes into fixing yourself, you start quickly realizing which people around you are not working on themselves. You can see the lack of effort on their part. Don’t help people who are not trying to help themselves in some manner, they will only pull you down.

  38. Hugo*

    Confession: I don’t really enjoy summer. Why?
    – The heat. Midwestern summers are hot and sticky. Everything you do makes you sweat. Everywhere you go is hot. A/C at home costs a fortune if you really want it cool in the house, otherwise grocery stores or movie theaters are your only spots of repose.
    – Bugs. Mosquitoes, flies, wasps, bees, ants, earwigs. No matter where you go, they’re there.
    – Mowing the lawn and taking care of the yard. At least once a week, 3-4 hours is devoted to cutting the grass, pulling weeds, and trimming trees / bushes. Worst of all, this activity also combines the first two nuisances on the list.
    – Noise. Nothing is worse than 9am on a Saturday or Sunday and you hear your neighbor’s lawn mower or weed whacker start up. Not only is it annoying, it makes you feel like you too should be doing something productive which inevitably involves heat, bugs, grass, and noise. So now you’re immersed in all the worst parts of the season. Then, there’s fireworks. I’m not sure when blowing up small toxic explosives made in China became the best way to celebrate our nation’s independence, but it sure is an annoying occurrence for at least the few weeks before July 4.
    – Too many expectations. This one is a little hard to describe, but between the parties, festivals, outdoor chores, smells of grilling, and people telling you it’s so “nice” outside, summer is a season that makes you feel guilty about not doing anything. And it usually leaves you with no excuse unless there’s some horrible thunderstorm outside. The festivals really get me. I am not sure what is so enjoyable about being outside with other sweaty people, trying to eat sticky food in the grass, bees flying around you while you are trying to eat, etc. Picnics are even worse. I cannot think of one other human activity that is portrayed so differently in media than its actuality. Take a look at a Woman’s Day or Family Circle in June or July. You’ll for sure see a spread about picnics. Beautiful, smiling people, all dressed in Nautica, none of them sweating, scrumptious food straight out of a professional kitchen, no bugs, all the children running around happily holding streamers or pinwheels, etc. Reality: everyone’s hot, everyone is miserable, everyone is sweating, bees flying around your drinks, flies landing on your food, all hot food is warm, all cold food is hot, some kid is crying because they got stung by a bee or hit by a baseball bat, WHAT KIDS ON EARTH EVEN PLAY WITH PINWHEELS OR STREAMERS ANYWAY!!!, all this nonsense just makes you want to drink, but nothing is left or it is warm. I hate picnics.

    Fall and winter can’t get here fast enough. My apologies to all the summer lovers out there.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I totally agree that summer is the season that makes us feel guilty about not being outside, doing the yard work, and being active in general. Often I want to hibernate in the house either watching TV or reading, but I feel guilty or lazy. So I end up going outside to sweat my ass off for a few hours and come in full of bug bites and sunburned.

    2. Carrie in Scotland*

      For me, it’s the heat and the fact that I dislike not wearing tights (I am not fond of my legs) so then on the hot days we do have, I feel like I’m melting.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I apologize for laughing but this was really funny. And true!

      I enjoy horrible thunderstorms. It used to bug me that it was so hot–I didn’t want to go outside at all, and I still don’t like being in the sun (I’ve been avoiding it for the last few years because I don’t need any more wrinkles thank you very much!). But I’ve gotten used to it a bit–I’ll walk in the heat after work, and go to a picnic (I’m just glad when someone actually notices I’m alive and invites me). After the ice storm in 2007, I’ll take summer over winter any day. My utility bill is cheaper in summer than in winter.

      The only thing I don’t do is mow the lawn. I have a bad shoulder and it just kills me to do it even with the power mower (mine broke anyway, and all I have now is an old-timey reel mower). I have someone who comes and does it for me and they do a better job than I ever could–mow and trim and will take away branches.

      Here’s something you left out. When it’s really hot outside and you go to the cinema but if you don’t wear a jacket you absolutely freeze to death.

    4. TheLazyB*

      i suspect there are many, many people out there who feel exactly the same and just never admit it even to themselves :)

      I get the guilt/obligation to Enjoy Summer!!!!!! more than anything else……

    5. So Cal Dweller*

      I agree with everything you’ve written! And it’s getting worse and worse for me as Southern California, which never really had seasons, becomes even more and more year-round summer. And as monsoons travel further north and we get the humidity on top of the already-intense heat.

    6. NicoleK*

      Midwesterner here. I’ll take summer anyday. Cause the only other option is winter. And I hate the winters.

      1. Rose of Cimarron*

        I’m with you. I hate being cold and I hate driving after dark, so I long looooong summer days with lots of daylight. That said, I’m once again in an apartment with no air conditioning, which sucks even in Colorado, and that’s not much fun either. Give me warm weather and OCEANS and you can keep the mountains.

    7. Pennalynn Lott*

      I hate the heat. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I live in Texas. I, too, have never understood the “Yay, it’s summer, let’s go outside!” thing. Ugh. No. Why don’t we just stay indoors where the A/C is cranked and everything is pleasant and no one is getting bit by something with an exoskeleton?

      And the whole thing where summer is the time for grilling food outdoors? Double ugh. Because, damn, it’s already 95-100F outside, but now you want me to stand next to an *extra* heat source??? Oh, hell no. And those misters on the patio? They only make things worse when there’s 70% humidity (or higher). Oh great, now I’m hot *and* dripping wet. Joy.

      Sadly, it will be hot and miserable here until the end of October.

    8. Victoria, Please*

      Rofl!!! Totally true! I used to work outdoors in summer – hard work, too – and I was always very cranky at any suggestion that I should then be outdoors for *recreation*. On my days off all I wanted to do was sit in front of the fan…no AC in our quaint ol’ place.

    9. StillHealing*

      We are having a heat wave in Seattle and I hate it! No,we don’t get as many bugs as you do in the Midwest, nor do we get the sticky sweating like the Midwest. But it’s still miserable. I am missing the cold gray rainy days….

  39. Trixie*

    Anyone into adult coloring books? I just got the Secret Garden postcards and what a great item. Quality paper for heavier inks although I’m sticking with colored pencils. I love the idea of postcards, sending to friends and family at non-holiday times.

    1. Blue_eyes*

      Ooh. I do love coloring. Link? There’s a cool architecture adult coloring book coming out this fall, I think.

      1. Trixie*

        I don’t have a link, just purchased through a small shop before they sold out. If search online, you’ll find Secret Garden coloring books and now postcards. Beautifully detailed. I’m starting with a 12-pack of coloring pencils as as someone else suggested these quality cards would hold up well with other mediums. Just so relaxing.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I’m a big fan of the Dover coloring books. I have a ton of them. Usually, I use colored pencils for those because the line drawings are so detailed in some of them, and crayons stick to the next page. I also have crayons and a bunch of vintage kid’s coloring books I got at a flea market (some of them are irregular). I color in those when I don’t feel well or don’t feel like working on a more intricate picture.

    3. CLT*

      If the paper is heavy enough, I strongly recommend watercolor crayons or pencils. You put down a mix of color, then move it around with a wet paintbrush. Very controllable.

    4. WorkingFromCafeInCA*

      I just read an article about adult coloring books! It seems so relaxing- like I could listen to a podcast or music while doing it. And is it friendly for non-creative, cant-draw-more-than-a-stick-figure types? Where / how do I find some to get started with?

      1. Trixie*

        This kind of thing is made for those of who can’t draw. A local paper goods/creative store will probably carry a few adult coloring books, maybe even Joann’s Fabric because they carry so much more than fabric. I also saw them online if you van’t find them locally. I’m starting with Enchanted Garden postcards and a 12pack of colored pencils. I’m still on my first one and it’s just so relaxing because you’re just coloring already existing lines. Enchanted garden is pretty detailed which is why it works well with pencils but once you start looking you’ll have plenty to select from.

  40. The Other Dawn*

    Anyone watching Wayward Pines? How do you like it? Did you read the books also? I read the books and I’m enjoying the show. I really, really wish that Blake Crouch would write a fourth book. The ending in the third book left it totally open for a sequel.

    How about Under the Dome? I started watching it when it first came out and then quickly lost interest; however, I just finished reading the book and have decided to watch the series from the beginning.

    And finally, anyone read the Pendergast novels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child? I’m totally hooked on those books. I’m always sad when I get to the end and realize I have a wait almost a whole year for another one (they release in November). I try to wait until about 6 months after a book is released so I don’t have to wait as long for the next one, but then it ends up being a year anyway. And I love all other books, both written together and separately.

    1. DeLurkee*

      I read Under The Dome and really enjoyed it. Then I watched the first few episodes of the mini-series on TV and was so disappointed, I stopped watching. The TV version was rewritten as so formulaic and predictable, IMO, down to the completely unnecessary and inappropriate love triangle, and it was a far lesser work than Stephen King had written. :(

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I’m going to try watching it again and see if I can get into it. I suspect, though, that Junior and Rennie won’t be anything like what’s in the book. I’m guessing Junior won’t be visiting the pantry….

    2. Alistair*

      Preston & Child are some of the very few authors I will happily buy in hardback. I’m glad they got back to the supranatural style of stories they originally started with. I personally didn’t like the Diogenes Trilogy, and am meh on the Helen Duology. I prefer Pendergast to be investigating weird goings-on than dealing with family.

      1. Marcela*

        Did they go back?? I hated the Helen trilogy. I mean, seriously, they pretended I believe that?! Actually, I was so angry at the end of the second book that I refused to buy the third until I could find it used in Amazon for $0.1 plus shipping. I hasn’t happened so I haven’t read it.

        1. Alistair*

          Oops, it WAS a trilogy! Shows how much I liked it…

          White Fire, the first book after the Helen Trilogy was absolutely everything I love about the Pendergast books. Mystery, thrills, weird goings on. I don’t remember if there was a mob scene; they seem to have gotten away from those.

          The succeeding book is Blue Labyrinth. It was pretty good, but the villain was pasted on, and Pendergast is a jerk to those he cares about far more than usual.

          Hope their next one is good too.

          1. Marcela*

            Two books? Wow, how annoyed I must have been to completely remove Pendergast from my mind for this long. I’ll get them, I still consider myself a Pendergast fan, therefore I have to have all his books. Including the 3rd Helen book, as soon as I can find it as cheap as nothing, because I don’t know if I’ll read it. Thanks!

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      I’ve been watching both — with WP I was “OK, it’s going to be A or B” by the third episode for the reason it existed and when it turned out to be B, now I’m waiting for how they’re going to resolve it. The accident was real and Dillon is in a coma? I don’t think it’s meant to be a series, so it’s got to wrap up somehow.

      I think they did a very clever thing to explain how the kids on Dome are now a year older. I don’t know though, there’s only so long that can spin out.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Pendergast is AWESOME. I’m behind on P&C–I haven’t read any of the Gideon books and I’m behind on Pendergast too.

      Under the Dome sucked (the TV show). They lost me completely when they made Julia younger and look like a model. NOPE. Also, Big Jim wasn’t horrible enough. The book, though, kicks ass. I keep telling everyone to forget the show and read the book.

      1. Marcela*

        If you love Pendergast, do not read the Gideon books. Even my husband, who is very rational and non passionate about characters in books, HATED Gideon. We had two books(?) and they were subject to the punishment reserved for truly horrible books in our opinion: expulsion from our home. The only other books that had received that punishment are the Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I haven’t read the Gideon books either. Many people have said they didn’t care for them. If they’re available online from the library I’ll take a read, but I don’t want to buy them and be disappointed.