Christmas open thread – December 25-27, 2015

Olive wreathIt’s the Christmas open thread!

The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything that you want to talk about — work-related, not work-related, doesn’t matter. Due to the holiday, I’m expecting much lower commenting on this post than usual (which may make it easier to keep up with), so have at it!

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue :)

{ 727 comments… read them below }

  1. snuck*

    Hope you’re all enjoying your day…

    What’s been the best moment for you in the last few days?

    For us it’s been my sons’ glee at finding the reindeer ate the carrot…

    1. TheLazyB (uk)*

      For us – that and the message Santa left on our fridge in magnetic letters <3

      Merry Christmas!

    2. SL #2*

      My friend has a large greyhound, and we took him for a walk tonight down Christmas Tree Lane (really large fir trees that are professionally decorated every year). There was a family just walking down their driveway as we passed by, and the first thing the little girl asked was “WILL THE DOGGY EAT THE CARROT?”

    3. newreader*

      I’m hoping the best moment is yet to come. We’re heading out in a few hours to visit with family and I’m looking forward to spending time with the kids and grandkids we don’t get to see too often. Even though we live in the same town, all of our schedules are so busy and time together isn’t as frequent as I’d like.

    4. Liane*

      A hug from College Son during Christmas Eve service. Rather than stay in the choir loft all service, we just went up for our one piece and returned to sit with families. I was rejoining my daughter in the back when he came out of the sound booth for Communion. He hugged me and wished me Merry Christmas. Was not expecting one from him in public.

    5. NewDoc*

      Working in the ER yesterday, it was finding out that this little baby, whose labs and appearance were suspicious for leukemia — doesn’t actually have cancer! Hooray!

    6. Doriana Gray*

      The best moment for me in the last few days was having my soon-to-be new AVP and his teenage son read some of my books, love them, and ask me to mentor the son. He’s an aspiring journalist/novelist and I like helping kids like him to find their voices.

    7. Cristina in England*

      It feels like yesterday but I had a baby two weeks ago, and he is wonderful and his older sister loves him and all the uncertainty about maybe having to go into hospital over the holidays is now over and done with (I was due yesterday). Did I say how wonderful he is? :-) We had really streamlined everything this year, the dinner, etc, and made it easy for ourselves and so we had a really relaxed day opening presents and talking to our families on Skype and I wasn’t exhausted after making dinner. And now I am going to try and put this baby in his bed and eat some Christmas chocolate. :-)

    8. Natalie*

      My fiancé and I already had some quality time planned (commenting during an Xmas movie break) and surprise! Our housemate went out of town Wednesday and isn’t coming back until Sunday morning. It’s been awesome!

    9. Audiophile*

      Having Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off without having to use PTO! It’s a revelation. New job counts them as holidays and shuts down. I haven’t had those days off in years, though one of my sisters swears I took off the Eve last year, I don’t remember. But it was just nice to be home and not have to worry about my check taking a hit.

    10. Nethwen*

      On the first day if winter, my spouse and I went out on the porch under the almost-full moon with fog drifting by and we danced to So She Dances. I’m not a dancer, but it was a sweet moment to enjoy beauty and togetherness after a deluge and busy working days.

    11. asteramella*

      Realizing that I have 10 straight days off to spend time with family, put in job applications, and catch up on errands. I haven’t had a “real” break of more than 3-4 days in a year and it feels sooooo good.

    12. phyllisB*

      At our house, Santa writes a thank you note for the milk and cookies, and for the carrots and water for the reindeer. (Now for the grands) they were always so thrilled that Santa would write to them. Almost got busted one year, my oldest said, “Mommy, Santa’s writing is almost like yours. And he uses stationary like yours!!”

  2. Greggles*

    Merry Christmas! Baby’s up to eat. She is 2weeks old today. Wife’s birthdays today too! Life is wonderful!! Oh an 5year old was happy with his gifts! He is anxious to see what Santa brings!

    1. Happy Bday Jesus!*

      My daughter turned 2 today. I read somewhere that 12-25 is the rarest day for birthdays. Less birthdays than any other calendar day. Makes those born on Christmas that much more special. ;-) Merry Christmas. Happy Birthday to the wife. And congratulations to your family.

  3. Tara R.*

    My dad got into a treatment centre, and should be clean and off the streets for the next several months… It’s a Christmas miracle! He’s got 30 days right now and I’m hoping it will stick this time, although the last time he was clean for this long his temper took a turn for the worst and he got really, really nasty. It sounds mean to say that I’m relieved I only saw him for a couple hours when I first got here, and he’s no-contact for the first few weeks so he can’t do anything at all to ruin Christmas/make my life miserable. The other Christmas miracle is that my grades are trickling in and I have somehow obtained two A+s and a B+. The latter being one percent away from an A-, but such is life. (I’m still waiting for my politics grade but I’m anticipating something decent.) Looking forward to a quiet day at home with my mom and my brother tomorrow, and then hopefully some good down time with my friends until it’s back to the grind.

    (Sometimes I feel like I tell y’all too much about my life, but there is way too much going on that’s completely socially unacceptable to talk about.)

    1. Not So NewReader*

      May your dad find new levels of calmness/peace to go up against all the churning he feels inside, I hope for your sake as much as his sake.

      Congrats on your great grades! Hang tough on the other stuff. It will does get better, if even we can’t see how or why.

    2. Ruffingit*

      Really hope things take a turn for the better for your dad on a long-term basis. And congrats on the grades!! Way to go!

      As for telling us too much about your life, I think God created forums like this so we are able to get the things out there that we can’t always talk about in our daily lives.

      1. Overeducated and underemployed*

        Yes. I am so grateful for anonymous forums that don’t require universal accounts (Disqus drove me away from several previously great sites). I am glad that what we talk about on AAM is not linked to Facebook or dozens of other places!

        1. fposte*

          Oh, God, Disqus. I finally decided to stop fighting it and reconnect with my Disqus account after The Billfold moved to Disqus, and now of course it’s moved to something else. I will be delighted to leave Disqus behind.

          1. Ruffingit*

            Me too. I really dislike Disqus. I miss the days of straight anonymity if you will. No signing in to anything, just make up a name and done.

          2. Overeducated and underemployed*

            I stopped commenting on the Billfold after they went to Disqus. My Disqus account was from commenting on other political and religious blogs that I didn’t want associated with the more personal and financial stuff I would write there or here, and starting a new email just for a new account seemed like too much trouble. Not sure if I will make a medium account, the commenting interface is terrible.

    3. Sunflower*

      Congrats on the grades and good for your dad! I really enjoy hearing about and giving advice on people’s personal lives on there. The anonymity makes it easier to say things- things you wouldn’t necessarily say to many of your friends. I’m glad you feel comfortable talking about it with us on here too :)

  4. TheExchequer*

    Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or happy Friday!

    My best gift this year was getting to stay in my apartment despite a lay off and getting a new job lined up. It’s been a tough few weeks for a couple different reasons and I’m really hoping this is a sign of better things to come.

  5. Antti*

    OK, so this one is a mix of work and non-work, but I’m focusing on the work aspect for now here.

    What do you do when people constantly call you the wrong name? I go by a totally different name than my legal name (example: person’s legal name is “John Smith” but they are going by “György Smith”) for personal reasons; in-person this is not an issue, everyone in my department at my office knows the correct name (and may or may not be aware of my legal name). But whenever I email people who don’t work closely with me (most commonly external agents but also plenty of internal folks), I almost always get called my legal name, even though I sign using the name I go by. The major thing is that our company uses LotusNotes and has it configured so that legal names are displayed where you see the sender’s name, and it will only show a legal name as configured in the company directory, even if there is a preferred name notated in the directory. I don’t know how far I could get with having my directory name further modified aside from making a legal change (which is something I’m still working out), but in the meantime, what would you all do to get people to stop calling you the wrong name?

    (I would think of correcting people in the moment, but these are mostly people I wouldn’t expect to speak with again or with any regularity so responding after our business is complete just to make that correction seems pretty pedantic to me.)

    1. Tara R.*

      Hm, this is tricky, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with correcting it as long as you’re not sending an email for the sole purpose of correcting it. I would just add “PS– The directory is a bit out of date for me, so I like to let people know I go by Gyorgy” onto the end of your email. If you have one of those big corporate signatures that’s a million lines long, I’d put it before.

      I know your signature’s right there, but people don’t often actually look at those, since they’re so rote and the information about the sender is right up at the top. Adding an extra note will probably

    2. Mando Diao*

      Is your chosen name a nickname or your middle name, or is it a wholly different name? It shouldn’t matter, but people are more likely to respect an obvious nickname over something you chose yourself. It’s just a weird jerky thing people do. Id definitely suggest going forward with the legal name change if it’s important that your chosen name represent you in your professional life.

    3. Kat M2*

      I have the same problem! I myself am considering a legal name change for that reason. I myself will correct people (with a note like, “I know it gets confusing!” or something like that), but I agree that the legal change is likely best.

      I don’t get why companies can’t just list people by the names they go by. Mine claims they can’t change mine to the one I prefer but they are very inconsistent about it, which is even more annoying……

      1. StudentPilot*

        I did the legal name change – my nickname was so far from my legal name that it actually became easier to just change it. I got tired of correcting the same people all the time (although, to be fair, there was a cultural difference that didn’t help)

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Quite a few of my family members go by their middle name (especially if they are named after someone else in the family). My father just ended up having two names, his legal name was used by people he worked with and his middle name was used by family/old friends. You could tell the relationship just by which name the person used in addressing my father.

      Things did get messed up once in a while. For example, one day a person called me asking for my father by using his legal name and without thinking I said, “No, there is no one here by that name.” whooops.

    5. Momiitz*

      I work with a lot of people at my job. The work paging and email system is set up with the employees legal name. It can be very hard to remember everyone’s nickname. I don’t work with the same crew day in and day out. It can be hard to remember everyone’s preferred nickname. Especially if I don’t see that person everyday. And at my job out of the 100 people in my group about 25 of them want to be called by something other than their legal name.

    6. KD*

      Have you talked to your IT staff about an alternate email address? I previously worked with a woman who needed to go by a different name when her ex was released from prison and the organization I worked with at the time did everything in their power to make that happen. (He was in prison for nearly killing her and was not supposed to be getting out for years) I hope your reasons are different but if you can explain why it’s important you can probably get some help making the changes to your email address before a legal name change gets approved.

    7. Aam Admi*

      Whatever you do Antii, please do not make a big issue of it and have it noted on the co-worker’s performance review, like a former co-worker of mine did.
      My former boss supervised a number of employees that worked at various remote locations. He hired a Clerk with an Oriental first and last name (like Mong Guan). Most of my Chinese friends that prefer to go by English names have email addresses with the English names so we know what names they prefer to go by. I have never met this clerk before or spoken to her except for copying her on our group emails. Apparently she goes by the English name Meg. In response to one of her emails, I had written back ‘Dear Mong …’.
      At my performance review 6 months later, I was surprise to see my boss had placed a note under ‘areas for improvement’ saying “Aam Admi needs to exercise better judgement in communication, her messages to internal clients come across as rude and condescending.” At the meeting to discuss the review I asked boss what he meant by this comment and if he could give me an example. He pulled out this email I had sent to Mong six months earlier and said, though he herself did not find anything wrong with this email, Mong’s feelings were deeply hurt so he wanted to make a note of this on my annual review.
      I was so dumbfounded that I said nothing more- four months later, I quietly took a transfer to another department.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Wow. And waited six months before telling you? Then put it in your annual review?
        This boss has a lot of turn over in help, I bet.

          1. Aam Admi*

            I did not know this term is considered offensive in the US. I have heard my friends use it frequently in reference to people from Korea, Japan , China & Vietnam when they are not sure which of these countries the person belongs to.

          2. Amy UK*

            It’s not offensive in the UK. I don’t think you’d hear many younger people use it as their first description, but it’s not uncommon as a follow up to “What kind of Asian?” (since saying someone is “Asian” here tends to refer to South Asian, rather than East/South-East Asia).

            As a noun, it might be more problematic (“He’s an Oriental”) but as an adjective (“She is Oriental”, “An Oriental first name”) it wouldn’t raise eyebrows.

    8. Nicole*

      There’s a vendor at work who insists on spelling my name Nichole despite my full first name being part of my work email address and giving this a vendor a heads up about the spelling after several emails being addressed to Nichole. They continue to do it nonetheless. :/

      1. Liane*

        I have enough trouble with people not being able to spell my legal maiden name (still half of my surname). There are SO many who clearly have no clue when I tell them, “Just like the cat in Alice In Wonderland.” And then they spell it wrong while listening to me spell it out…
        Bless their hearts (Southern USA expression indicating user is Not Happy, to put it mildly, with person they are speaking of)

      2. Windchime*

        There was someone at work who insisted on misspelling my name after many corrections. My name is a name that usually has an ‘e’ on the end, but for whatever reason, my parents decided to spell it without one. So think “Traci” instead of “Tracie”. Anyway, after many corrections, he sent out an email to the team that said that “Tracie” was going to do a certain task. I replied to the team and said, “Thank goodness; I was afraid that task would come my way but I’m so relieved that ‘Tracie’ will be doing it instead.” He finally stopped misspelling my name after that. That was one of the many reasons that guy bugged me.

      3. jhhj*

        A sales person who worked with me once emailed me with a nickname (like calling me Annie when my name is Anne), which pretty much two people in the world use (I am not a nicknamey sort of person), and I was so pleased when my manager just blasted him for that.

      4. Pipes*

        My name ends in -leigh instead of the traditional -ly. Not terribly uncommon (especially in recent years, it’s gotten more popular).

        A coworker I work VERY closely with not only spells it -liegh, consistently, but he also lives in Raleigh NC.


      5. Another Nicole*

        My boss and a coworker do this to me as well. I cannot for the life of me understand.

        When it comes to my boss, I do wonder if the “mistake” is on purpose. She’s an odd one in many ways. My name is in my email, my signature, and on my door… Not sure how we’re missing it and inventing the extra “h”.

    9. periwinkle*

      All you can really do is say “by the way, I go by Khaleesi , not Daenerys.” Repeat as needed and it will definitely be needed.

      I didn’t have a problem using a different first name until I started working at a hospital which required legal names on our email addresses and badges. People got confused because they’d see one name and hear the other – definitely a Joaquin/Wakeen situation.

      That’s when I finally gritted my teeth to do the paperwork to make a legal name change! The legal change in court was the easy part – the tedious bit was getting everything else with my legal name changed to the new one. Worth it.

    10. Tmarie*

      One of my uncles was named Andrew Grant. A relative declared he looked more like a “Jerry”, so that is what he is known by in the family. At work he went by Andy. He has friends that call him AJ, not AG, but AJ. One time, when I was little, the phone rang early in the morning, and my sleeping bag must have been closest to the phone. When the man asked for Andy, I went and woke up my cousin Andrea.

      And both my parents went by their middle names. When my older sister graduated, she listed our parents by their legal names in the little blurb that the honor graduates get in the newspaper. They were listed as Evelyn & Albert, instead of Ruth & Don. The next year I got it right. And when it occurs to me, I still laugh at my sister for being so legally correct when filling out that form!

    11. LCL*

      I am the person on the other end, I work for a large company and get emails with the formal version of the person’s name. Here, it is acceptable to tell people in the initial conversation ‘the directory says Jane, but I go by Wanna’. It is also Ok to ask on the first meeting ‘are you Robert or Bob or Robbie?’

      Also, this is how the dance is done to allow people that speak different languages to get the pronunciation right.
      tl:dr tell people what you want, it isn’t rude.

    12. Lee Ann*

      If someone calls me Lee in email or a bug tracking comment where personal notes would be inappropriate, I’ll add a Usenet-style signature line, like I’ve done here. Sometimes it even works :)

      – Lee Ann

  6. Organized Chaos*

    Can I just say that I feel very strongly that Pinterest may have been created just to irritate the living daylights out of “normal ” people? I have literally just spent the last 6 hours trying to make “incredibly easy wreath cookies” and “very simple cherry almond shortbread cookies” and as God is my witness I can not get my cookies to look anywhere near as beautiful as the photos on that site.

    It is now 3:30am and I feel so defeated by cookies and Pinterest that I want to hole myself up in my closet and eat all 4 dozen cookies because even though they may look like I just stepped on them, they taste amazing.

    Happy Christmas or Festivus or whatever else you celebrate. God Bless.

    1. Christy*

      Hah! I’m a Pinterest hater too. I just fundamentally don’t see the appeal. I don’t think I’m visual enough for it. Plus like, I know how to just make bookmarks on my computer.

      1. Stephanie*

        I don’t get it either! I know because I have two X chromosomes, I’m supposed to be all over that, but I don’t see the appeal. Like, you just look at stuff?

        1. Audiophile*

          I’m so glad I’m not the only the one who just doesn’t get Pinterest. I have an account somewhere, but I can’t even get behind pinning stuff on an actual bulletin board and you want me to go gaga over a digital board? Pass.

    2. Mirilla*

      Lol I hear you! This is why I try to stay off that site. It’s never as easy as it looks. Happy holidays to you!

      1. Organized Chaos*

        Lol, that search was hilarious! Weird thing is that when I was looking for cookies to make, I found the 2 recipes on a Buzzfeed post but the prettiest pictures of the two types of cookies was always on Pinterest. I don’t even have a Pinterest account. But I do have yummy cookies. Lol

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Remember that they are cookies– it is about the taste, not the look! There are few things I despise more than beautiful cookies that taste horrible. So, in my opinion, you are way ahead of the game.

      Step away from the Pinterest. Really. My bf’s stepmother is a slave to Pinterest, and we all suffer. Watch The Great British Baking Show on Netflix and enjoy watching people bake stuff that looks yummy.

      1. Briefly Anon*

        My office got sent so many cookies this year that were beautifully decorated and tasted like chalk. No, I take that back. Tums are at least flavored.

        It was very sad but did help me not eat do many cookies.

      2. Stephanie*

        Remember that they are cookies– it is about the taste, not the look! There are few things I despise more than beautiful cookies that taste horrible. So, in my opinion, you are way ahead of the game.

        Yes yes yes yes, a thousand times yes.

      3. phyllisB*

        Ha Ha!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s what I tell my family; looks or taste, which do you want? They always vote for taste. There are a lot of recipes that look beautiful but taste like…………….(I am looking at you, anything with fondant sheets) so I make my own frosting/decorations, and even though they don’t look professional, they seem to like it. :-)

        1. Liane*

          A friend and her mom do cakes as a hobby/ side job and warned me about the taste. I told her later that I had decided fondant was edible Sculpy (a modeling compound), but suspected real Sculpy might taste a bit better. She laughed and agreed.

    4. Artemesia*

      The story of my life. I am betting that the perfect photos took dozens of tries or were done with clay or something or photo shopped. The normal variations of baking etc just don’t produce that perfection. I made some layered panna cotta recently and the layers in spite of my doing everything I should have, were not as precise as the photos. Or maybe you and I are just klutzes in the kitchen — also a viable theory.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        My co-worker made a practice batch of owl cookies that looked perfect, just like the ones on Pinterest. Then she made the recipe again to take to her family cookie exchange, and that batch turned out really wonky-looking. I think sometimes it’s all about holding your mouth just right.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        But, I also wouldn’t put it past some of those Pinterest obsessive people to doctor the photo or the food to get that perfect look.

        1. Liane*

          When I saw the OP, my first thought was an article I read as a teen, in the very-pre-internet era, about how food for ads was prepared.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            The trick that stuck with me was that they use paint for the milk in cold-cereal photography. I can’t seem to get that out of my mind. :-O

            1. Liane*

              So that’s why it pours like that; should have guessed since Dad was a painting contractor. Don’t recall that one, but do recall that just about everything trick made the food inedible.

      3. Stephanie*

        I read an interview with the Smitten Kitchen author and she said she spends tons of time staging her photos.

    5. Nicole*

      I can see where you’re coming from. There’s a lot of pressure to achieve a picture perfect outcome so I don’t even try. I do like Pinterest for creative ideas, however, but especially love it for discovering new recipes. As long as the food tastes good I’m happy.

    6. West Coast Reader*

      I never search for recipes on Pinterest – instead, I save recipes from trusted sources who usually provide decent enough photos to pin. I find it much easier to organize my recipes – in fact, this is why I started my Pinterest account.

      Usually, I look for multiple versions of the recipes and the comments before I make anything to save time and potential heartache.

    7. Lee Ann*

      I hate when the most useful-looking Google search result is on Pinterest, because without a subscription you can’t even see it. They really should have an option to limit searches to something you can actually get to.

      1. Persehone Mulberry*

        You can exclude Pinterest from your search results by entering “” (no quotes) after your search term. Works for any website or word. I use -youtube a lot when I’m looking for non-video tutorials.

    8. snuck*

      Pinterest ARGH!

      As a parent of two small children, who ventures into the alternative lifestyle (part time homeschooling, montessori, alternate diets (allergy based) and children with neuro diversity) … that place is both an ugly black hole full of unachievable targets and a place all my friends send me… to fail.


      It’s a place to engender a sense of inadequacy in us all. You know most of the people who are on there are mummy bloggers right who get paid to do this stuff, and only do it because it was their career before they had kids so they can do it damn well?!

    9. Sunflower*

      Agree to google ‘Pinterest fails’. I think Pinterest, like many other sites, has click bait and I think putting terms like ‘easy’ and ‘impossible to mess up’ help get pins but most of the time when I click on those recipes, I’m like WTF this is a lot of work to do!! And those people have to have made those recipes MANY times to get them to look that good. If they taste good though I’d serve them!!’ No one cares how they look!

  7. Festive De*

    Christmas is traditionally celebrated in Germany on the 24th, so I am already on the morning after Christmas :-) Already had the almost-fight with family and everything. Going to the in-laws later.

    What’s everyone’s Christmas dinner here if you are celebrating? We had deer, red cabbage, and dumplings (Hirschragout, Rotkohl, Serviettenknödel), very German.

    1. Liane*

      I am making roast beef in our slow-cooker. The kind with onion soup mix and mushroom soup to make the gravy. It is simple and everyone loves it. We’ll have mashed potatoes and a spice cake made by 18 year old daughter, and the second loaf of bread amost-20 year old son baked yesterday. If we need anything else, there is broccoli and plenty of cheese sauce.

      But I wish we were having venison/deer for the roast.

    2. Elsajeni*

      My family had our Christmas dinner yesterday, too. We had take-out barbecue for the main dish — a small tray each of sliced brisket, sliced sausage, turkey, and ham — with kind of an interesting combination of barbecue sides (baked beans, Texas caviar) and Christmas sides (sweet potatoes, corn pudding, ambrosia salad). And for dessert, many different kinds of Christmas cookies, a pumpkin pie with Jack Daniels whipped cream, and a raisin pie.

      Tonight we’ve been invited to my younger cousins’ house for dinner with that side of the family, too. Since our hosts are young men ages 24-28 with no known interest in cooking, I’m intrigued to see what they will come up with. We might be having Christmas burgers and brats.

      1. Elsajeni*

        I was unfair to my cousins! It turns out they are much more responsible than I was at their age, they own a Crock Pot and everything, and they served us a delicious slow-cooked ham, macaroni and cheese, and gumbo. Plus one of them had gone out and bought my favorite soda. They are the best.

    3. Briefly Anon*

      Last night at the in-laws, we had snacky foods and chili; today we’re having American-style lasagna. Rotkohl sounds delicious right now tho!

    4. Marzipan*

      We are having slow-roast rib of beef, done to a Heston Blumenthal recipe. Getting the oven to an appropriately low heat has involved putting it on the setting you’re supposed to use to warm plates, and leaving the outer door open. Meat thermometers are involved. It has been in there for about four and a half hours and probably has another hour or so to go. Also, pheasant, in combination with the beef somehow. (My brother is in charge of the whole meat thing.) And then an orange tart I made yesterday. And apparently I’m supposed to be making brownies for ‘tonight’ but there is literally no way we’ll be eating anything after that lot. (Although if we do, it seems there’s parsnip ice-cream to accompany them…)

        1. Marzipan*

          He’s basically playing into a family joke – on Christmas day we always used to have a more traditional turkey dinner, with roast parsnips as one component… and somehow the parsnips would always get forgotten in the oven, until someone brought them out at the end, which we would call ‘the parsnip course’. So, I think he’s trying to represent that in ice cream form.

          I can’t yet report back on what it tasted like because as predicted we didn’t make it that far, and in fact we didn’t even get to the orange tart until half eight in the evening. Probably the parsnip course will happen sometime today…

            1. Marzipan*

              I can report back that the parsnip ice cream was a success and the emergency backup vanilla got to remain in the freezer. Also, for reference, parsnip ice cream tastes vaguely like banana ice cream, but with a slightly (and not unpleasantly) parsnippy finish.

    5. the gold digger*

      We will have

      cream-cheese stuffed bacon wrapped jalapenos
      cheese grits (have a bunch of shredded parmesan I have to use before it molds)
      sweet and sour cabbage
      grilled bulb onions
      blue cheese stuffed beef tenderloin

      and then we will watch movies.

      No gifts – my husband and I don’t exchange gifts because we already have enough stuff and we would rather spend our money doing things, like vacations. We are hoping to go to Hawaii in January to use some of the timeshare time for the timeshare of which we are the unwilling owners.

      My mission is for him to give ownership of the timeshare (which his ex wife got in the divorce but never took his name off so when she died – with months of unpaid fees on it – the timeshare and the debt became my husband’s) to his stepdaughters as soon as we come back from vacation. I am tired of paying for something I never wanted to own.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        *steals menu for future reference*

        This sounds wonderful. I love cheese grits; I use extra-sharp cheddar and Creole seasoning in mine. I always think they’re even better left over the next morning. Then I reheat them and serve a fried egg on top for breakfast.

    6. overeducated and underemployed*

      I’m not sure because I’m not cooking it :D I know there’s a goose involved.

    7. QualityControlFreak*

      Christmas Eve with the extended family is a big potluck/snack fest in my aunt’s kitchen. Christmas morning is brunch at my folks’ (two quiches baked last night now heating in the oven; one spicy sausage, cheddar, red and green bell peppers; the other bacon, cheddar and mushroom). Then back home to put the prime rib in the oven. Beef, mashed potatoes and rich, dark gravy, popovers and pumpkin pie. Also made three batches of homemade bread for family gifts. Tomorrow I’m not doing a blessed thing! Happy holidays everyone. ;)

    8. Doriana Gray*

      I’m having gluten free and organic lasagna, mashed potatos and gravy, fried cabbage, and honey cornbread. My mom’s having the same fried cabbage and mashed potatos, but with macaroni and cheese, roasted chicken, sage stuffing, and cheddar biscuits. (Damn you, celiac, because her food is amazing and I want some of her stuffing and mac and cheese.)

        1. Doriana Gray*

          She uses lots of peppers for a kick (e.g. jalapeños, crushed red pepper, black pepper, lemon pepper) and garlic salt. It’s spicy, but not too spicy.

    9. Donna*

      Tamales, posole (a stew made from red chile, hominy, and pork), green chile chicken enchiladas, pinto beans, tortillas, and biscochitos (cut out cookies covered in cinnamon and sugar).

      1. asteramella*

        I see you, New Mexican ;) I no longer live in NM but I miss red and green and biscochitos so much. Sigh.

    10. Clever Name*

      We’re having a low key Christmas this year- just me, my husband and our son. We were going out for Chinese last night (husband’s family’s tradition) but the only Chinese restaurant in town was closed. :/ so we ended up having pasta with Alfredo sauce. Also having a non-traditional Christmas dinner- nachos. :)

    11. Stephanie*

      I am about to start baking a gingerbread layer cake. (This is my first attempt at making a layer cake…so hopefully it turns out ok). I’m also making garlicky brussels sprouts.

      My mom is handling everything else.

    12. Persephone Mulberry*

      A few years ago my sister in law made homemade manicotti for Christmas dinner, and it promptly turned into a recurring tradition, along with my husband’s world class spritz cookies.

    13. Valar M.*

      My family is German so even though we’re in the US we celebrated yesterday too. We are having the big meal today though, because we’re American. But – its going to be rouladen and spaetzle.

    14. Elizabeth*

      For Christmas Eve, we always do something snackish/appetizerish. Last night was cheesy crab dip and pizza dip with French bread, plus cheese & summer sausage.

      Christmas dinner today was roasted leg of lamb with a pan sauce from the drippings, plus butter & garlic, fresh steamed carrots tossed with butter & fresh grated ginger, and popovers. Dessert is gingerbread pound cake.

    15. Christina @ My Homespun Home*

      We had a bunch of snacky things (cheese, crackers, candied nuts, hot artichoke dip) then for dinner filet of beef with little rolls so people could make sandwiches, lobster tails with butter, arugula salad with dried cherries and pecans, and scalloped potatoes. Dessert was a choice of homemade peppermint ice cream, ricotta cheesecake, nutroll, and pizzelles.

      I’m stuffed.

    16. Jen RO*

      My family also celebrates on Christmas Eve, though I think we are in the minority for Romania. I had dinner at my mum’s and we had appetizers (including home made fish eggs and fish and mayo salad, yum!), roast beef with fries (not very traditional, but we love our fries!), sarmale (traditional cabbage rolls filled with minced meat), panettone instead of the more traditional Romanian cozonac (De – wikipedia tells me that cozonac is a type of Stollen, though the filling seems to differ), and pineapple cake.

      And, best of all, my grandma made me and my boyfriend 30 extra sarmale to take home!

    17. Liz in a Library*

      We hosted my in-laws for Christmas Eve (and they showed up 45 minutes before invited without calling again, even though they were already in town…). We did a cranberry and stuffing filled pork loin, some roasted Brussels sprouts, pasta with sweet peas, cranberry sauce, crudités, pumpkin cheesecake, and wassail.

      My family are coming today, so I’m trying to get it together to get prep started soon. We are roasting a goose and some carrots and radishes, making a bread pudding, and doubtless consuming a lot of liquor. ;)

      1. danr*

        remember to give them a time 45 minutes later next year. And warn anyone else that they may talk to who knows the real time.

    18. 2horseygirls*

      My brother and sister-in-law hosted us last night. I think my sister-in-law missed her calling in logistics – she had a spreadsheet with times, serving bowls, etc. that my husband (with 25+ years as a certified executive chef) was in awe of. ;)

      We had prime rib, carrots and green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, a broccoli-cheese bake and a layered jello my mom made. Dessert was a cherry layer cake, with endless varieties of Chrustmas cookies (my godmother, sister-in-law and mother-in-law are all renowned bakers).

    19. Nethwen*

      Christmas Eve at home: Ribs cooked in the slow cooker, sweet potatoes in the slow cooker.

      Christmas morning: Egg, potato, and sausage casserole assembled the day before.

      Christmas dinner at friends: Ham, turkey, chili, mashed potatoes, mashed cauliflower, greens, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, cheese ball, desserts.

      Best part of holidays is eating all day. I like it even better now that I limit the sweets and make more “real” food. Who would have guessed…

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I hate turkey too (except for lunch meat turkey – I actually like that), but I was too lazy to make a ham this year (hence the lasagna). How do you make yours?

          1. Doriana Gray*

            Ah, I see. My apartment is the size of a shoebox, so I understand (and there was only two of us this time).

  8. katamia*

    Next week or maybe early January, I’m going to email my old part-time WFH jobs and see if they’d be interested in hiring me back. No performance problems that I know of and they all seemed to like me, so I think my chances are pretty good. However, are there things I should say or avoid saying that might improve/not torpedo my chances? I was thinking something like this:

    “Dear XXX,

    As you may remember, earlier this year I left my position as a YYY to take a job in ZZZ country. My contract in ZZZ country has ended, and I have returned to the United States. I would like to return to work for you in the YYY capacity starting on or around AAA date. Please let me know if you are interested.”

    How does that sound? Any suggestions, either of things to add or reword? (It’s short enough that I’m assuming there’s nothing I should be taking out…?)

    1. misspiggy*

      I’d add a reminder of the key skills you have. Also, instead of saying you would like to work, you could say, ‘I would be available from (date) if you need anyone to do y.’ It just signals that you’re focused on their needs rather than your own. Good luck!

      1. nep*

        Agree — make it sound like it’s aimed at addressing their needs, not yours. I think at this stage you could even omit any reference to a specific date. But if you do want to keep that in, suggest re-wording it to something like what misspiggy wrote.

    2. snuck*

      I feel it sounds impersonal.

      This should almost be a bit more like a cover letter… but a warm approachable one. Spell out a personal connection, indicate something you really liked about what they were doing, list a new experience or skill that you can bring back to their table.

      Dear Jane,

      As you may remember I went to Morocco to work in tea pot handles and it’s come time to return home. I really enjoyed working with you on tea strainer mesh manufacture and saw some great new ideas while I was there – made out of Thai silk – fancy that!

      I’m now also able to design the handles on teapots, having learnt this in Constantinople, and would like to have the chance to bring this to you late January when I’ve got my feet back under me.

      I would love to talk to you about any opportunities you might have coming up that I would be suitable for, and even just to have a coffee and say hello.



      1. katamia*

        It is a little impersonal, but they’re WFH jobs where I’ve never met any of the people in person–they live across the country. I don’t have a particularly warm relationship with them (nothing against them, but I certainly wouldn’t say I “know” them), and getting coffee would require a huge trip for at least one of us, lol.

  9. Kaybee*

    Help! I have two very attractive job offers on the table and I don’t know how to choose between them!

    I asked my boss about the possibility of 100% remote work two months ago, and he said no. I’d actually already been looking for a remote job as we are paid peanuts due to our town not having many jobs available in teapot production – but the cost of living here is actually very high! My landlord had just given me notice which is what made me ask about the possibility of keeping my current job and moving somewhere with more affordable housing.

    I started looking at on-site jobs elsewhere, and I scheduled a day off to go and attend an interview and look at rentals in a nearby city. The day before the interview, my colleague (the only other senior on the team) resigned as he had landed a remote gig. I carpooled home with my boss and he asked a few questions about my situation, i.e. would a significant pay raise would be enough to help me find somewhere to live. I admitted that I had been looking for remote work anyway as I was not happy with what I was being paid.

    When I returned to the office, the boss had sent me an email asking “if we let you work 100% remotely, how big of a raise would you want as well, in order to stay?”. It felt like a bit of a trick question (what if they say no and I finish up staying!) but I replied anyway, asking for a 30% raise. He passed that onto the CEO, who ignored this proposal like he ignores every other problem that arises in our little satellite office.

    Well – it’s 3 weeks later now, and on Tuesday I had a phone call advising that I am the preferred candidate for another job in a town far far away from here. The snag is that due to managers being on annual leave they can’t confirm the salary they’d offer or provide a written offer until the 15th – and I have to be out of my house by the 9th. I resigned from my current job on Tuesday afternoon – I know it’s usually a bad idea when I haven’t had a written offer yet, but a one-month notice period is stipulated in my contract and I’m already going to be spending the last 2 weeks of that sleeping on a friend’s couch.

    Our CEO sprang to life and called my boss 2 hours after I resigned, telling him that I could have my remote work and my 30% raise.

    I’ve been getting progressively more excited about the new job as I’ve gone through the selection process. It’s in an industry that interests me more than the current job, offers some sweet perks, and will give me a wider variety of work. On the other hand, it will require me to live near a town which doesn’t particularly excite me, and I’m probably looking at a 30-minute commute time as well.

    And now, I have the well-paying remote gig that I’ve been looking for all year, complete with the comfiness of having worked for this company for the past three years, so I know the people and the work (although I’m still learning new skills). The freedom to live anywhere in the country is a big drawcard for me.

    I’m expecting the salaries for each offer to be identical (in a blank moment I only gave the new job the bottom number of my desired salary range, and they’ve indicated that’s unlikely to be a problem). I’d be delighted with either one of these offers, and it’s very difficult to pick one. Does anyone have any tips for choosing between the shiny new job, and the comfy old job with added benefits?

    1. misspiggy*

      Sounds like it’s down to who you’d be working with and career progression. Congratulations on having such good options to choose between!

    2. Daisy*

      I think working at a job remotely when they have previously said no would be problematic. They could very easily change their mind. And they were willing to not change anything until you actually quit. I say cross them off the list.

      1. Christy*

        Anecdotal, but my friend pulled this move when she moved to Flordia from Pennsylvania, and she has now worked remotely for like 5 years and it’s going well for both her and her employer.

      2. Dan*

        I gotta plus one this in a major way. Quite frequently, remote workers are out of sight, out of mind. Bad place to be.

        Op had to fight this hard for a raise, she’ll have to fight just as hard for the next one.

        1. Daisy*

          It’s not that all remote is bad. I just think allowing remote after basically being pushed into a corner isn’t going to end well. They aren’t really into it and could revoke their agreement to it at any point.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Think about your personal goals, both mid range and long term goals and which job fits into the goals the best?

      If that does not help, then my favorite question to ask, is which choice offers me the most options? If nothing else you do not want yourself to get painted into a corner and stuck there.

    4. Ruffingit*

      Honestly, I’d go with the new job. This is very similar to what Alison has discussed regarding counteroffers, which is basically what your old job did here – you had to resign before they offered you what you asked for. That is not a good sign. Do a search on this site for counteroffers and read what Alison has said about those and why you shouldn’t take them.

      Also, the fact that the CEO ignores things until they are dire is a bad predictor of future success at the company. And, you’ve been there 3 years. Seems to me, it’s time for a change.

    5. Rubyrose*

      Is there a town that you have always wanted to live in that has good job prospects in your field? If so, keep the old job that is 100% remote, move, and start looking for something else in the new town.

      I’m not liking that the current position only responded to you when you quit.

      I took a remote job not because I was looking, but because it gave me to opportunity to move cross country, back to where I wanted to be, with a way to pay the bills. I stayed in the job for seven years but when it was time to leave I was where I wanted to be and had the luxury of being able to be choosy about what I accepted.

      1. overeducated and underemployed*

        I agree with this – it sounds like the only major benefit of the old job over the new is that you could choose where you live. Otherwise the “don’t take a counteroffer” advice seems very wise, but if you really want to move somewhere specific that isn’t where the new job is, it could be worth the risk and you could search again in your new location if you feel like things are not stable.

      2. Kaybee*

        There’s not a particular town I have in mind, but almost all of the jobs in my field are in the major cities, while I’d much rather live in a small town in a sparsely populated region. I have a shortlist of a few but I always intended to find a remote job first and then find my perfect cottage in the woods. Now my landlord has forced my hand somewhat, and I’ve got very little time left to sort something out.

        The new job is the largest employer in a smaller city. I am leaning towards taking it because of the circumstances around the counter-offer from the old job, but I’m a bit frustrated that after escaping from the city life 5 years ago, I’d be passing up a remote opportunity to return to the concrete jungle.

    6. Emma*

      Well you actually only have one offer on the table – the one from your current employer. Until you have a written offer from the second company that confirms salary, all you know is that you’re currently the front runner. It’s unfortunate you can’t wait for an actual offer to come through before making a decision! Is it worth the risk to be out of work completely to wait on them making an offer when you need to find a place to live and may be unemployed and not qualified for unemployment since you quit?

    7. AvonLady Barksdale*

      When we were getting ready to move, I went 100% remote, and I am thankful every day that my company agreed to it. The move was pricey and I paid for it myself (still paying for it, honestly, but that’s my fault), and just having that income security was a blessing. So here’s what I think– unless or until you have an offer from the other company, accept what your current job is offering you. Just don’t sign anything that requires you to stay for longer than, say, 6 months. I ended up finding a new job 3 months after moving (my old job was miserable), but I would have stayed for a good year just for the security of it.

      Now, if the other job comes through and looks good, by all means take it. I don’t like this counteroffer business, and Ruffingit raises excellent points, but sometimes you have to go with the “sell your soul a teeny bit” option.

    8. Jen*

      Truthfully given your situation, I would accept the current offer. If and when you get a second offer, reconsider. I would NOT say “no” to the job you were looking for all year without a rock solid-in-writing offer.

      Worst case you accept the second offer when it comes, resign, and tell job #2 you need to start in Feb for logistical reasons, which makes sense wince you’ll have to move.

    9. Soupspoon McGee*

      It all comes down to what you value . . .

      Your boss and CEO aren’t going to change their ways, even if you’re working remotely for more money, so can you live with that? How is management and leadership at the new job? What do you need in a manager? Which job gives you better opportunities to grow and learn the things you’re interested in? Which job will give you the experience to get you to the next thing you want to do? Is working remotely from anywhere more or less important than living in a town you’re not excited about while you commute?

      Also think about your skillset and your ability to compete for other jobs. You now know you could ask for more than a 30% increase at a new job, if others are available. Are you able to stay on the market, or are you ready to settle down for a few years?

  10. misspiggy*

    I’m skulking in bed waiting for painkillers to work before I can get up and peel potatoes. It’s really important to me to be able to help with the festive meal, so once I’ve done that I’ll be feeling much more Christmassy.

    Merry Christmas to AAM people, and thanks so much to Alison for making this such a great space.

  11. Christy*

    Sigh. The alarm doesn’t go off until 8 and I woke up at 6 on the dot. Oh well, time for me to work on finishing the library book I borrowed from my mom’s public library.

      1. Christy*

        Fates and Furies! I finished it at my mom’s and grandpa’s this morning. I liked it! The second half made the first half worthwhile. Now on to The Beautiful Bureaucrat.

        1. Liz in a Library*

          I’m almost halfway through and I’m still struggling with my irritation with Lotto. I can’t wait to get to the narration shift.

          1. Nancypie*

            Is there a narration shift coming? Maybe I’ll consider picking this back up then. Up to now (he’s just gone to the artists’ colony) this book has been so, so tedious.

            1. Liz in a Library*

              I’m only a tiny bit past where you are, but my understanding is that the second half of the book is from Mathilde’s point of view, and I find her much more interesting and sympathetic so far.

  12. KAZ2Y5*

    Just want to commiserate with anyone else working on Christmas. I have the night shift (for both Christmas Eve and Christmas) and I have a horrible cold :-( I have been taking the max of lots of meds to try and clear it out sooner (or at least for it not to be so bad). I was debating whether to skip my family’s Christmas dinner (5pm so I can eat before work) because I didn’t want to get my grandson sick. But when I talked to my son, he said to come on, that GS is already sick. I then remembered we all ate lunch after church Sunday and he was kind of sick then. So yes, he has already given me one christmas gift! I want to return it! It’s a good thing he’s so cute!

    1. Working Too*

      I’m working the night shift this week, too! ::fist bump / hugs:: I tried to get my coworkers interested in cooking a meal together (or, really, me cooking it for them. we can do that at work if it’s quiet) and…they weren’t interested. I guess they all have people who are doing Christmas for them, but I don’t have anyone around to celebrate with so it felt like my only chance to get a nice Christmas dinner. I wish I hadn’t been so sure they’d be into it (as some of them have in years past), so I would have made the time to buy some nice ingredients for myself instead, before all the stores closed. I can figure out something to eat from my freezer and pantry but it’s nice to make something special, isn’t it?

      I was sick last weekend, too, but stayed in [skipped parties :( ], and got over it quickly. I hope you do, too! When I get off of work I’m planning on celebrating the day by playing some music and reading Christmas scenes from some of my favorite books before I have to go to bed again. I have a pile already, but any suggestions?

    2. Noah*

      I have to work for about 6 hours later today at my part-time airline job. I don’t really mind working holidays. Generally everyone is in a good mood and things are quiet compared with a normal day or at least the days surrounding the holiday. The extra pay isn’t bad either.

    3. SMT*

      I’m working at least 8 hours at a theme park today (yay). We get an extra 8 hours holiday pay for the week, which will help me save some PTO since I’ve left early the last three days I worked this week. The good news is that my sore throat isn’t quite as sore as it was a couple of days ago, and I think it’s finally turning into more of runny nose cold.

      I’m also getting lots of compliments on the Christmas cookies I made on my day off yesterday to bring into work (my fiance and I saved a few for ourselves). Since management doesn’t seem to think of doing anything special for those of us working on holidays (especially this holiday), I don’t mind too much. Although as I frosted cookies at 8:30 last night, I considered this might be the last year I do this.

      1. Revolver Rani*

        Hi folks, I’m working too. I have a deadline on January 8 and just too goddamn much to do to stop for weekends or holidays. I don’t celebrate Christmas anyhow so it’s just another day for me (well, another day in which the entire universe shuts down so I have to plan around that a little), but still – I’m exhausted and incredibly tired of how stressful this deadline cycle has been. I want it over.

  13. Miss Elizabeth*

    Merry Christmas! I got a new job lined up for January! I escaped the horribly, toxic, and backstabbing job. I just have to work my notice period and I’m onto a new adventure… I can’t wait.

    1. Mirilla*

      That’a great. Good for you!!! I’ve noticed a significant drop in job postings for this month due to holidays I assume. I hope to follow your path soon!

    2. Aam Admi*

      That was me a year ago Miss Elizabeth. I had the best holiday this time last year with the new job lined up for new Year and counting down days from toxic job.
      Enjoy the holidays and hope your notice period is not too bad.

  14. Not So NewReader*

    This is nice, a combo open thread! Thanks, Alison!

    To all those working today, thank you for all that you are doing.

    Wishing everyone Christmas peace.

  15. Carrie in Scotland*

    Merry Christmas (or salutation of choice) to everyone on AAM.

    You guys are truly amazing and I hope you all have a wonderful day!

  16. Holiday stress case*

    The holidays are especially stressful for those of us who grew up in dysfunctional homes, and this year is no different for me. It’s one of the few times a year that I see my parents, and this year they are (so far) refusing to attend the annual dinner at my grandmother’s, which of course is hurtful to her. Apparently they weren’t planning on calling or seeing me either today, or my son. I’m used to them ignoring us but at the holidays it hurts. Such a sad time of year but I try to make the most of it in my own household and with my inlaws. I wish you all a smooth stress free day with your loved ones!

    1. Ruffingit*

      I’m really sorry you have to deal with parents like this. It sounds incredibly stressful. I’m wondering if you’ve considered estranging yourself from them? I hate to put that out there for anyone, but it sounds like they are more emotional trouble than they are worth. HUGS TO YOU!

      1. Holiday stress case*

        Thanks so much. I’m the only child and they are getting older with medical issues so I have to stay involved to some point, although I’ve backed off quite a bit to let them help each other rather than relying on me for everything. I see them on their birthdays and holidays, or when they need something from me, like a ride to or from a hospital stay, etc. I used to step in a lot on my father’s behalf with the doctors to be his advocate to get him good care (he is sickly) but not much anymore because all I got was grief, stress and no thank yous….My relationship with them has been strained since I was a teenager because they kind of checked out on the parenting role. They didn’t give advice, show concern or generally even seem interested in me for those last years in the house, like I was a tenant. There is mental illness there which goes untreated (refuses help) and I’ve had to remove myself from them for my own mental health. I did go over their house today (out of guilt) and it ended up with me in tears because now their cat is sickly and mother had refused to take him to the vet apparently. I hadn’t been over in several months so had no idea the cat was ill. It was really really skinny and losing it’s hair, plus she knows it has feline leukemia so it needs to get to the vet, but she can’t be bothered. I was mad about it and we argued (am I supposed to say ok – neglect your cat? WTF?) My father had tried to get her to take him to the vet but she wouldn’t go and he can’t drive himself. No one called me. So now that is likely on my plate next week because I don’t know if she’ll get the cat treated. They’re just sick people who are toxic in general to others (and each other) and although I love them, interacting with them is HELL for me (p.s. I’m literally just about the only person on the planet who interacts with them at all apart from my son once in a while but not often.) Ideally I’d love to go no contact forever with them because the less I have to do with them the better I feel about myself and life in general.
        My own family is much different. I’m super interested in my son (probably annoying) and am involved in his life. Our household is full of conversation, care and concern. And laughs! We get along and genuinely care for one another I’m thankful for that. Plus I adore my inlaws so MIL is like a mother to me.

        1. jamlady*

          I was just thinking about things like this the other day. My dad grew up with a violent father, abused mother, and too many siblings than they were able to care for. His sisters were in and out of foster care and he was homeless a lot, but my mom’s parents took him in a lot as a teenager and he adjusted pretty well as an adult. My parents are a little codependent, but are absolutely wonderful and open with us. On the flip side, my MIL was raised in a similar environment but ended up with a bad man who left her with two kids and then with a good man whom she now verbally and mentally abuses (though he gave up a long time ago and is also at fault in a lot of ways). Yet my husband and his sister are both wonderful partners, very open and dedicated, and are happy people. They deal with similar issues as you, but they’re so wonderful with their own families. I can’t imagine how hard things are for you, but the fact that your own family is a happy unit says a lot. I’m super happy to see you’ve made it through the dysfunction and that you’re offering a better life for your child. It’s very wonderful!

          1. Holiday stress case*

            Thank you for your kind words! I’m happy to hear that others in your family have formed better lives for themselves and their kids too. Without self awareness or analysis of the situation, we can grow up thinking that type of behavior is “normal” when it’s anything but that!

    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Sad for you!

      I grew up in dysfunction also and personally, my redemption came with my kids. They’ve had a lovely, happy (if very weird) nuclear family. We’re to them being adult children now and I’ve got a crew in for the holidays, everybody is happy. We had a great Christmas Eve celebration and we’ll have a great Christmas day (adult children sleep late, still sleeping) and none of this is anything like my childhood.

      Making things good for my kids has washed away what wasn’t good for me.

      I wish you and yours the best!

      1. Holiday stress case*

        That’s awesome. I’m so glad for you. If I was able to go no contact with my parents, my story would be very similar, and I’d be able to heal from the dysfunctional past. Half the day on Christmas for me is great with my own family and my inlaws. The other half is this hellish dysfunctional circus of misery with my parents (see above post from today). Did I mention my father’s elderly mother who now turns to me for everything because my father checked out on her too? Although he’s sickly he could call or visit. He rarely does either. I’m her go to person. And surprise – she’s pretty narcissistic. That’s another story…

        Another holiday, another “WTF is wrong with you people?” moment with them. I don’t even enjoy the holidays anymore because I dread interacting with them.

    3. Sunflower*

      I’m sorry for you :( My family is a different kind of dysfunctional and spending time with them around the holidays is difficult for me. I’m glad your inlaws are around though- Sending hugs your way!!!

  17. Ruffingit*

    Asking for a friend – no, really! :) So my friend Mark was in a toxic job situation for about 18 months. He left that job around mid-November and took another one in the same field, but had a slight pay cut and no benefits. The previous job was so toxic, it was worth getting out. I could totally relate with him on that as I had the same situation as I’ve posted about here before. Anyway, a week after taking the new job, Mark finished a certificate in his field that makes him quite a bit more marketable so the possibility of a big pay increase and benefits is there if he gets another job in his field, which requires this certificate that he now has.

    The problem is how to explain on a resume why he’s looking for a new job when he just started a new one? How would one put that on a resume? Or, is it better to leave off the new job since he’s been there only about a month or so? We were talking about this the other day and I told him I’d poll the awesome people on AAM about this. So, thoughts?

    1. Dan*

      Well… He knows you don’t explain that stuff in a resume, right? That’s cover letter territory of anything.

      I vote for leave it off. The normal story when the time line is that tight is that new job makes you an offer contingent upon successful completion of said certificate, or gives you some sort of probationary period to complete it.

      There’s no compelling story to tell with leaving the recent job on, and no harm by leaving it off. Avoid the inevitable awkward questions and leave it off.

      1. Nicole*

        I understand where you’re coming from but by leaving it off won’t it create an awkward situation when asked whether he’s currently employed? He wouldn’t want to lie not only for moral reasons but also because if a potential employer contacts his previous place of employment they are going to learn he no longer works there.

        Unless you think he should make it appear as if he’s currently unemployed. But that’s still untruthful and I’m not sure it’s a good idea.

        I’m curious to see what other people think, however.

        Unfortunately I don’t really have a good suggestion on how to explain why he’s looking for another job so quickly.

        1. fposte*

          The suggestion isn’t that he pretend the previous job is current, it’s that he not put the job on that he’s had for only a week.

          You’re thinking of a resume as a legal affidavit. It’s just a snapshot of what’s relevant to the application–you don’t have to include everything. If it comes up in the interview, it’s fine to say “Oh, I’m working a job out of the field to hold body and soul together.”

    2. fposte*

      A new qualification can be akin to a new degree if it means you’re eligible for new, more highly paid positions, so it’s often a pretty decent reason to leave.

      I’m with Dan on just leaving it off. If he takes a while to find a new job, the current job needs to go onto the resume, but I don’t think it’ll be a big deal even then. “Once I was certified for Teapot Fission, I wanted to find a position that would use that.”

      1. Ruffingit*

        The problem Mark is having is that current job (let’s call it Teapots Inc) uses the new qualification, it just doesn’t pay much for it. Usually, Teapots Inc hires people who are working on the qualification and once they have it, they usually leave Teapots Inc for a better paying job in the field. Teapots Inc knows it can fill its positions with people working on the qualification for cheap and they do so. Mark was in a situation where he knew he could get into Teapots Inc and out of his horribly dysfunctional old job with no problem and he did so because old job was so toxic it was taking a toll on his health. All of our friend group encouraged him to jump ship because we could see how hard it was for him to be there in many ways. So now, he has a job at Teapots Inc and wants to move on to use his qualification for a better position, but is unsure how to explain why he left toxic job, moved to new job and now wants to leave or if he should just leave the position off his resume and make it look like he quit old job without a new one to go to.

        It’s a conundrum and I’m just unsure of what to advise here.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Maybe it is understood through out his field that Teapots Inc is a “starter job” because they do not pay well. It could be that everyone is used to seeing applicants from Teapots inc. Not much of an answer, I know. Some companies serve that function they get a lot of people started in their arenas.
          Maybe could say that he is excited about his new qualification and he is eager to start to really develop his expertise in X, so although it might be a little early, he wants to start looking around to see what openings are available and how a person with his background would fit such settings.
          In short, play the card of extremely excited to get moving in his new area with new qual.

        2. Dan*

          Well, if it’s known in the industry that’s how Mark’s company operates, a reasonable employer shouldn’t hold it against Mark for looking for more money, er “pay commensurate with qualifications and experience.”

          Go with whatever can be spun into a better story. A couple of us think that leaving it off is the way to go, but there’s obviously some nuance that you see that I’m missing that is causing you to think it’s not the clear way to go.

          You’re looking for the best story with the fewest red flags. I don’t know the norms for Mark’s industry. You want a story that makes an interviewer go “yup, yup, yup, makes sense, let’s bring the guy in.” You don’t want them thinking “this guy makes no sense.” You don’t want a story that invites a lot of critical questions.

          Either way, mark is going to have to talk about why he left his first job.

          1. Stephanie*

            Yeah, I had a job interview once where everyone knew FormerJob was pretty toxic and had a high turnover rate. The interviewer brought it up even. I had the nice version of “This job was f*cking terrible” and the interviewer started going on like “Oh man! I heard that place is terrible!” I just said something noncommittal and moved on. Even if it is true, you don’t want to dwell on it in the interview. You want to talk about why you want this new job.

          2. Ruffingit*

            The only concern Mark has with leaving off current job is explaining why he quit toxic job without another job to go to and/or explaining that he is working, but has only been there a month. He’s worried that will make him look like a flake.

            That said, I think leaving it off and explaining why he left his other job may be the best way to go. I’ll pass on the advice to him and I know he’ll appreciate it. All of his friends really feel for him, it’s been a tough year work wise, but I’m hoping he’s able to find something that is better for him. Having ridden the toxic job express myself, I feel particularly empathy for him.

  18. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    I can sneak in a piece of news that I’ve been dying to blab but didn’t want to put in any high traffic place here.

    I’m pretty sure I mentioned at one point that we’d gotten the order for the cast and crew holiday gifts for a popular television show. I’ll tell you here which one it is:


    Flashback two months: I review our open quotes in the system, a few times a day. I see a quote under the account name of “Suits”, good sized quote $$$, and I figure it’s some kind of shop or clothing manufacturer, right? But I can’t pull it up properly in google. So I go to the rep and say hey, what’s this. Answer “I think it’s some kind of Toronto television show.” My brain does a slow take. “Wait, what? Television show? You mean this quote is for SUITS the real and actual SUITS???”

    He blinks because he’s never heard of Suits.

    Ha, I am like “GET THIS ORDER. WHATEVER IT TAKES. WE HAVE TO HAVE THIS ORDER. Mike, Louis, Jessica, Harvey and Donna (angels sing) must wear things we have touched!”

    The order, which we did get, was a cheerful pain in the ass for my rep because I was all over it. The contact on the other end was probably exhausted because I upgraded everything. “Okay tell her that I want to also do hangtags with the show logo, free! tell her I’ll do them for free!, because it’s going to be a much nicer presentation that way.” I approved *everything* myself and we fussed through making a tight deadline with an absolutely gorgeous end product (high end scarf and some kind of hipster beanie, with the show logo, packaged together nicely).

    Did I remember to run an extra set for myself?

    DAMMIT. But I did have pictures taken. :)

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        I think only something from Shondaland could have gotten me more excited.

        Or, The Blacklist. Because, Spader.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*


        It’s fun to have stories to tell. Most everything we do is routine. Having a story to tell at the family dinner table is fun.

    1. Tomato Frog*

      Aaaah, this makes me so happy. I haven’t seen Suits (should I see Suits?) but I know well the fangirl freak out. May it result in repeat business!

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        Only if you like shows about lawyers. Synopsis: slacker guy with perfect memory falls into a job at a top firm by a complete fluke. Wacky — legal and very serious — hijinks ensue because practicing law without a licence is against the law. And a lot of people say “Bullshit!”

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

          It’s *marginally* a lawyer show. I love legal shows and I couldn’t put Suits in that category. I’d say it’s a telenovela more than anything else.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            True! They do far more personal stuff than actual lawyering stuff! And it’s been that way since Street Legal. Some people just don’t like lawyers, though, in any capacity.

    2. Dan*

      Heh. I used to work with private jets for a living, and got up close and personal with a LOT of celebrities. The first week it’s cool, after that, they’re just another PITA ;)

    3. could be anyone*

      Congratulations. I am looking forward to the new season. And I claim 4 degrees of separation (ala Kevin Bacon).
      Suits to Wakeen to AAM to could be any one.

    4. Dynamic Beige*

      Dammit! This story made me laugh. Also, shame this blog is public… or you could post a photo ;)

      I love to Toronto-spot in Suits. I have been downtown where the bank towers are and have been pretty sure that all the trucks lined up the street were for Suits — some TV shows or movies put out signs, others don’t. So near… and yet, so far.

      So many shows shoot around here, and aside from the “Hey, she’s scaling the cliff up the street from my house!” (Covert Affairs) it always makes me laugh to see the cuts. There was one show that didn’t last very long called The Bridge and they shot mainly in Toronto but used the Skyway Bridge as “the Bridge” — it’s almost an hour away depending on traffic. So yeah, you can’t exactly leave your police station in Toronto, drive a bridge in Hamilton and then wind up in a snooty area of Toronto… but only locals would know that.

      1. bibliovore*

        day after a very low key Christmas as I had oral surgery this week and am basically laying around with ice packs and pain meds. pudding, ice-cream, luke warm coffee, and yogurt for another 5 days or so.

        This posting was a delight to read. Someone once gave me “Touched by an Angel” swag and I just want to say I don’t care that the show was sentimental stuff…it was really helpful during a very low time in my life. I love and treasure it. Suits is just plain fun and I accept it for what it is. And I love the Donna (angels sings)

    5. jhhj*

      I liked the story a lot better before you described the actual products, when I was just imagining everyone wearing teapots.

    6. Revanche*

      *fangirl flails* Jessica and Donna forever!
      Haven’t been able to watch in a long time but I will watch anything with Gina Torres forever and ever amen. So Awesome!

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t know this show, but that is so cool!!!!

      Those moments are great. An actor from Galavant (Karen David, who plays Isabella) liked my tweet about the show and I was STOKED. :) So I know how you feel!

  19. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Merry Christmas to those of you who are Christmasically inclined, and Happy Chinese Food and a Movie to those of you who aren’t!

    Because it is warm and disgustingly humid here, I have had a bad headache for the past three days. I woke up this morning feeling better, but I can still feel that little pang in the corner of my skull and I cannot deal with this. We are going to my boyfriend’s dad and stepmom’s place for Christmas dinner, and I need to feel better. My boyfriend invited friends of his to join us– it’s going to be… interesting, to say the least.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I hope you feel better!

      I got so overheated last night, I came close to fainting which I never do. I actually had to sit with my head between my knees next to the fan.

      Part of this is my fault because DAMMIT, I had an outfit planned for Christmas Eve DAMMIT and I was damn well going to wear it. (It involved a scarf with snowmen and a sparkle cardigan.)

      I finally listened to the menfolk who had been yelling at me for an hour and changed into sleeveless and 86’d the scarf. My husband was wearing a Hawaiian shirt.

      Rest. Near a fan.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        Also can I say they should all be grateful that I didn’t get to “have the chimney cleaned” on my to do list or there would have been a fire DAMMIT.

      2. Liane*

        Highs have been in the 70s most of this past week, except the days it was raining, including 1 day at 77F (25C) & tomorrow’s high is also supposed to be 77. After more rain today.
        Arkansas is infamous for its “Don’t like the weather. Wait 30 minutes, or 15, & it will change” climate.

    2. Stephanie*

      Heh, funny. It’s slightly below normal in Phoenix. We had people from corporate at work for the month and one guy was like “Man, it’s colder here than I would have guessed.”

      1. mondegreen*

        Same here. It’s a little too warm for a sweater, which is just plain wrong at this time of year.

    3. BookCocoon*

      I had to laugh at your greeting. My family is having brunch and opening Christmas presents, then going out for dim sum followed by Star Wars! We started doing dim sum as our Christmas tradition about five years ago after discovering no one in our extended family liked traditional Christmas dinner :)

    4. Meg Murry*

      Ugh, this weather is killing me. We had crazy thunderstorms the night of the 23rd-24th, and I had the worst headaches off and on from 9 pm until almost 3 the next day. Ibuprofen, aspirin and caffiene just moved the pain from one place to another, it never really went away. I’m assuming it has to do with the pressure rising or falling or whatever.

      We also have crocuses randomly blooming in our yard, so I wonder if it’s also some kind of pollen allergy for something that is blooming that normally isnt this time of year.

      It finally went away, but now its starting up again because my MIL just gave me a gift of a rug that is super saturated in a strong scent – fabric softener or potpourri or something. At least it’s nice day so I can air it out.

  20. Ms.Frizzle*

    Hey guys! So I have a few questions that probably no one can answer, but I will ask anyway.

    Q1: I have a job interview with an employer who told me previously that I had been second choice for a different job at their company. I mentioned this in my cover letter and got another interview for another position right away. Is it possible this interview is a formality? (At least I am hoping.) I mean, are chances pretty good when they previously wanted to hire me? (NOTE: I know that I can’t possibly get a spot on answer with this–I just want some opinions.)

    Q2: I left off a job from my resume when applying to this company, and so it leaves a sizable gap (but not longer than 6 months). I would prefer not to lie, so if they ask, would it be appropriate to mention that I did have a job during this time but I left it off due to personal reasons? I am not trying to hide anything, but I do not want to reveal the company due to some pretty bad stuff that was going on (not on my end).

    1. Colette*

      It’s possible but not likely, so prepare like you’re sure you don’t have the job. To me, “personal reasons” raises a lot of red flags. Is there a short, neutral way to explain why you’re looking?

      1. snuck*

        Yeah… “Personal reasons” is a bit of a cop out. I’d rather hear a gentle version of the real reason than be left to guess what happened… my imagination is probably a lot worse than the truth.

        “I was in a serious relationship and it ended difficultly which affected my work” is better than “Hrm I wonder if she wound up screwing the finance guy and his wife found out” ;)

        (Not saying this is you… I’m just… I’d rather have a polite door stop answer. And… I might ask questions about your answer, if you say you were avoiding a person who stalked you I might say “Have a think now about what accommodations we can talk about if we want to offer you the role” and if you say it was because you couldn’t work with the team there it’d lead into a team work question from me for sure. “I wanted to travel for a few months” is cool, but it might make me wonder about your commitment to be honest… but “I wanted to go to the XYZ Teapot convention in Oslo and investigate contemporary teapot design in Barcelona while I was across the ditch” then that would be more palatable. )

    2. danr*

      No, your new interview is not a formality. It’s real. Put as much work into it as you did for the first one.

    3. Dan*

      Q1: if the interview is with a different department, it’s absolutely real. If it’s with the same department, it *could* be a formality… Until you blow it off and make them think twice. If they thought you were rock star material, your job is to confirm that, not make them second guess themselves.

      Q2: You very much do not want to lie, or even be less than candid. If they think you’re hiding something, they’ll keep probing until they find it, and then cut you lose because they couldn’t put their finger on it. Or they’ll cut you lose right away, because it’s not worth their time to probe.

      1. Ms.Frizzle*

        I wasn’t suggesting I lie in the least. I just don’t know if it will be a big deal to them that I left it off, unless I point out that I was only at it for a short amount of time. The reason I prefer not to tell them about this company is that I didn’t agree with the way business was being handled, in a matter of words. I am not going into much detail here about it, but it wasn’t good, and it was best for me to leave this company.

        1. fposte*

          As long as the gap isn’t likely to hurt you more, it’s a reasonable thing to do. I wouldn’t focus on why you left this one off so much as why you included the ones you did. “I focused on the work history that showcases the relevant skills for the Handlemaker job.” That would usually just mean you had an out-of-field stint.

          1. the gold digger*

            I like that idea. After all, when you complete your formal job application (I have never not been asked to complete one), you will need to list that job. (At least, in all of my applications, I have had to list everything.) So an easy explanation like that is a good idea.

            1. Ms.Frizzle*

              I’ve had jobs that didn’t require me to fill out work history. But you can’t really guess which ones would make you and which ones won’t.

        2. KD*

          If they ask about the gap address it but otherwise leave it alone. “Oh yes. During that time I worked for abc but left due to differences in operating philosophies. Since then however I have continued to grow my skill set with xyz…”

        3. Valar M.*

          AAM will tell you your resume is a marketing document and that it doesn’t have to be a recounting of every job you’ve ever held. If they ask you can respond that you left due to (reason) and because your time there was short you hadn’t accomplished anything worth noting on a resume but you’d be happy to tell them more about it if they are interested.

          6 months is a short time. I can’t imagine they will be that particular about it.

    4. Artemesia*

      You could still end up their number 2 pick this round; obviously you impressed them to get as far as you did last time, but it doesn’t mean you are their number one now — just that they want to give you another serious look. This is a good sign but not a sure thing at all AT ALL. And never over estimate how much people remember — they know you did well but they may have no specific memory of why they thought so. You want to knock their socks off again.

  21. PinkTeapots*

    So, good news! I’ve been applying for jobs/interviewing at a few for about two months. I like my current job but there’s no room for growth and it’s not in my desired field (as well as some other toxic things like being mis-classified as exempt and a refusal to deal with colleagues who won’t do their jobs even though it hinders others from doing theirs). I’m also in the middle of getting my MBA in HRM so I wanted to try to actually get a position in HR. So Wednesday, I was offered and accepted a Payroll and HR Specialist position with a great local company and I couldn’t be more excited. Beyond being in my field, it’s a 30% increase in pay, a better commute, and I absolutely loved the two women I’d be working with.

    However, how do I even begin to tell my boss? We have a great relationship. I am the lead in my department as well and I know there are things he trusts me with that he just doesn’t trust anyone else to do. We’re *still* waiting to hear about our raises and I know he’s been trying to help me get a large one as well (his boss, the man I’ve met exactly twice in the almost two years I’ve worked here, decides raises). Anyway. I know he’s going to be disappointed and it’s just such a hard conversation to have to have. The normal “thanks for the opportunity. I’ve loved working here. Blah blah will be my last day.” Just doesn’t fit into this situation.

    Thanks in advance for any help! And Merry Christmas!!!

    1. Colette*

      Maybe change “thanks for the opportunity” to something more personal (I.e. “I’ve really enjoyed working with you, you are a fantastic manager”) but really, it feels personal but it’s not a personal decision. You’re not letting him down, you’re just moving on.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Any boss worth his salt isn’t going to say anything but “go with my blessing” to an employee who says “I’ve loved working for you, and now I’m being offered a 30% increase and a job in my field, so I’m afraid it’s time to say goodbye.”

    3. Cruciatus*

      When I told my boss I was leaving I actually asked the Assistant Director to be there with me. I asked her how she thought he would take it (she figured he’d be OK). The man thought I was fantastic. He told me and other people all the time. He thought the woman before me was irreplaceable but then I came along and I was now even better than she was (he only told me that, not other people). It actually got to be rather embarrassing! I didn’t think he’d be cruel or anything, but I knew it would come as an absolute shock. I spit out that I had accepted a job elsewhere and he said “Fu….!” and managed to stop himself (it was more humorous than alarming). Then he extended his hand and shook mine and wished me luck. I can’t believe how worried I had been up to that point. Then we bitched about our workplace and their low salaries (the main reason I left–he had no control over my salary, unfortunately. He would have given me a million dollars a year if he could’ve). It was all OK. I just kept it to a pretty routine script because it made it easier for me. I don’t think there’s any reason to rewrite the script. Keep it simple, keep it professional. If there’s more you want to say, you can do it later once the shock for your boss has worn off a little.

  22. Ash (the other one!)*

    I can’t believe it’s Christmas. I go back to work from maternity leave a week from Monday.

    Any advice from been there, done that working moms about leaving my newborn, pumping, etc.? Luckily she’s staying with her Dad and not going to daycare, but I am still so sad to leave her.

    1. NwP*

      I’ve gone back to work after maternity leave this time of year three times. You can do it! For pumping, I always tried to visualize the extreme feeling of relief when you’re really full and the baby starts feeding. That helped me A LOT.

      It’s hard to leave them when they are so small and helpless, but the most important thing is that whoever watches them cares. The daycare people aren’t taking your place, they’re keeping your child safe. You’ll be just fine. :)

    2. overeducated and underemployed*

      It’s hard! Having her dad take care of her will make it easier, it honestly will. Pumping sucks when you think of it in terms of “instead of wearing this apparatus I could be holding my BABY,” but when you get used to it as its own thing, it can actually be a nice break from work. I found the advice of bringing a picture of your baby and thinking about her to stimulate letdowns a bit too painful (though it might be necessary if production is an issue), and I can’t work while pumping, so I just got into the routine of bringing a novel and enjoying the short rest.

    3. Clever Name*

      As far as pumping goes, it’s a federal law that employers must provide a private area that is not a bathroom for nursing moms to pump. La Leche League and Kellymom websites have a ton of info.

      1. J.B.*

        The federal requirement is part of the fair labor standards act just fyi may not apply to exempt employees.

        1. Clever Name*

          The requirements for a space to pump applies to all employees, but yes, whether you get paid for the time it takes you to pump depends on whether or not you are exempt. I think most exempt employees are expected to use their discretion, as they are typically expected to do for other times they are at work but not working (bathroom breaks, getting coffee, brief chats with colleagues).

    4. J.B.*

      Leaving a kid with dad definitely ease the transition, without the daycare routine. Hopefully kiddies is taking a bottle okay, if not have dad practice with you out of the house. For pumping I recommend seeing if the standard cycle works before messing Ithaca it (I would let down quickly and cut that phase off which lead to pain.) If you can’t pum enough it will be fine, and your.sleep. matters. One bottle of formula a night saved my sanity.


    5. Thinking out loud*

      1. Bring a complete extra set of pump parts (including bottles) and put it at your desk somewhere. You will have days when you forget stuff – I had at least one day when I forgot everything except the pump!

      2. Ask dad to send you a couple pictures a day. It makes me feel much closer to my son (who is three next month).

      3. Try not to pump just before you leave work, and ask dad to avoid feeding the baby for an hour or two before you get home, if possible. Feeding the baby is a nice way to reconnect when you get home.

    6. Zahra*

      Bottles can introduce nipple confusion (at any age and at any point in time since they started the bottle/pacifier), but the younger they are, the more likely it is.

      Suggestions I’ve seen: use a hard spout sippy cup, use a regular child tumbler/glass, use a supplemental lactation system (SLS, dad can put it on his finger). Expect baby to catch up on mommy time and boobs as soon as you come back home and during the night. By the way, tell dad not to feed baby just before you come in if you’ve pumped a while ago. Baby not interested in nursing and having to pump instead of breastfeeding when baby is right there sucks (sorry for the unintended pun).

  23. NJ Anon*

    Having a cup of coffee, enjoying the yule log and music on TV (god knows its too warm for the real thing!) Waiting for adult kids to get up! MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!

    1. Mimmy*

      You’re not kidding about the warmth here! (I’m in NJ as well) We had our windows open yesterday! I’m glad it’s not bitterly cold, but, dang it, this is way too beyond normal for my liking!!

    2. Artemesia*

      I noticed that the yule log on TV last night had a big marmalade cat stretched out and yawning and stretching in front of it. Nice touch.

  24. Rye-Ann*

    This is shaping up to be a pretty good Christmas so far even though I have to go to work for a few hours tomorrow. My boyfriend got offered a job 2 days ago…he’s been looking since before we graduated in August so this is very exciting!

  25. Katie the Fed*

    My boss sent out an email yesterday: “One of the things I most like about working here is the diversity of our workforce. Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or Ramadan, I hope you have happy holidays!”

    Is it THAT hard to check a calendar?

    1. Dan*

      He tried. Have a snort and let it go. We have holidays that aren’t personally meaningful that we observe anyway – like veterans day and mlk day.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Yep! And judging :) “I celebrate diversity by paying only a tiny token appreciation to religious traditions I’ve never bothered to read anything about!”

    2. Tomato Frog*

      Oh dear. And, ya know, just changing “you’re celebrating” to “you celebrate” would make it that much less dopey.

    3. TL -*

      And the prophet’s birthday – which is a thing though not a holiday? – is Christmas day this year, so Islam did have something going on.

  26. SH*

    I don’t get to see my family during the holidays and people (especially at work) always make me feel bad about it. Yesterday I found out two of my roommates don’t celebrate Christmas so we’ve been enjoying the long weekend together.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      My brother didn’t get to come home this year for Christmas (he’s working – ugh), and his daughter and her mom are in Georgia for a Christian revival, so I hope my brother has some friends he can spend the day with too (until he has to go back into work).

      Enjoy your long weekend!

  27. Tomato Frog*

    Did anyone see this? How to sabotage an organization and production, via the 1944 OSS Simple Sabotage Field Manual:

    I like the list of tips that Business Insider has complied — it reads like one of Alison’s “Don’t do these things” lists. There’s more great stuff in the manual, in the section “General Interference with Organization and Production” (p. 28). Tips like: “Multiply paper work in plausible ways. Start duplicate files.” In the words of Seymour Skinner: Done and done. And I mean done.

    Of course, not all of the tips in the manual are about soft sabotage through deliberate incompetence. It includes things like “Start a fire in an office” and tells you how to sabotage heavy machinery. A good holiday read!

    1. Clever Name*

      I read that a while ago. Pretty fascinating, as I discovered many duplicate files and records at my first job. Some of the files we were legally obligated to keep basically forever, and it was kind of important to be able to find stuff.

  28. Mimmy*

    I just want to wish the AAM community a very Merry Christmas!!

    Funny story – I FINALLY submitted my paper on Wednesday night. I’m like “WOOHOO!!” Then, yesterday morning as I was clearing out all my files, it hit me that I’d made a blunder: I had put a placeholder on my title page, “Title”, until I came up with a proper title. In APA format, you also should have a running head, a sort of “short title” on each of the pages. So I put that as my place holder…

    …Well, I was so desperate to have that paper done that I neglected to actually come up with said title!!! So yes, my paper is now sitting on my professor’s computer with “Title” on the cover page, and “Short title” in my page headers. I emailed him to see if I could correct and resubmit. So we’ll see….


    1. Artemesia*

      A very common proofread fail is titles and figures. People proof the words, but skip over titles. I once worked on a project doing scholarly work on school de-segregation that send out an important document with the title ‘Strategies for implementing segregation in schools’ instead of ‘desegregation’ — I was thankful that proofing that had no fallen to me.

      I found in the galleys of a book I wrote that went on to be a very important oft cited research work in the field a huge error in a figure. We would have looked like fools if this rather common model had come out with this huge mistake in it. It made it all the way through to galleys before I noticed it.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. I’d send it with the cover note: Accidentally sent the penultimate version without the title; here is the correct version. Worst case, they don’t accept it but you still have the original in.

    2. periwinkle*

      Been there, done that, ouch. The standard feedback I’ve always received on my grad school papers is “outstanding writing and synthesis, points deducted for APA errors.” It seems that no matter how carefully I think I review for formatting, something stupid stays in. MS Word also trips me up sometimes with line spacing.

      Getting the writing done is such a relief that I’m likely skimming over the last review too quickly. But… I want that paper submitted and out of my hair!

    3. Cristina in England*

      I put the wrong title on my PhD thesis, and didn’t notice until after I had passed and gotten it bound. It wasn’t a huge difference but it did completely change the meaning; think “developing a model for accountants in Norway” instead of “… for accountancy…”. Oops!

    4. Shell*

      Oof, my sympathies. But don’t lose hope! Resend a correct copy with the title and there’s a good chance they’ll just shrug and overlook it.

      Anecdote: I send my undergrad research report (the one I spent an entire semester on)…and then realized that my PDF version saved all the comments and markups. So the paper was literally unreadable with blue and red strikethroughs all over the place and annotated comments. (This was back in the age when you had to use a PDF printer to print to PDF and Word didn’t do this natively; I suppose I had selected “final showing markup” instead of “final” for the version when I hit print.)

      And of course, I discovered it like two days late.

      I very shamefully sent in a revised version with profuse apologies. And when it came time for my presentation, the prof told me point-blank that the report was “one of the most well-organized reports she had ever seen” (probably for the undergrad level, because I modelled the report off the theses of the grad student I had worked with). I don’t think she even remembered about the marked-up copy I first sent her.

      Send a revised copy. You’ll probably still beat yourself up about the error, but you would be no worse off than your current position.

    5. Mimmy*

      Well, he must’ve graded the papers already (dang that was quick!) because I just got mine back–yes, with the goofed-up title) and got NO points taken off!! WOOHOO!!!!

      Although…if I’d done that in my other grad program, I would’ve surely gotten points taken off (though I did extremely well in that program too. Shrug).

  29. Stephanie*

    I survived peak shipping season. And I don’t have to see some of those terrible employees ever again. (A few were good and I wholeheartedly recommended bringing them back, but many were awful.)

    Now I wish my boss would approve my vacation request for next month. :(

    1. Doriana Gray*

      ModCloth is the devil. I might as well just have my paychecks direct deposited into their business account.

      1. Stephanie*

        I applied to a job (didn’t get it) at Nordstrom Corporate. I applied thinking “I might get a bill instead of a paycheck here.”

          1. Audiophile*

            Kate Spade has gotten quite a bit of my money. They’re about to get a bit more, I found a smaller wallet that I want soon.
            And Coach.

        1. Kerry ( like the county in Ireland)*

          They warn you that if you go over your credit limit, your manager gets a call. But 20-33% off depending on position, plus extra off in-house labels at least twice a year is very hard to walk away from, especially when you know when new merchandise hits and when markdowns occur.

    2. Mando Diao*

      I was so relieved when one of my Cyber Monday purchases looked crappy in real life. At least I can get that money back.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, I had that happen with a sweater. Looked cute online, but horrible IRL. But I just kept the store credit (and they offered a bonus for taking store credit), and the cycle just continued.

        1. Mando Diao*

          Yeah, my only saving grace is that I’m not squarely in ModCloth’s target demographic, style-wise. I see something I like maybe twice a year. But ooooooh, I just had to splurge on the Espresso Bean Dream Cardigan. (the Marvelous Novels Cardigan went back.)

          Now ASOS….that one’s my problem.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Oh, yeah. It’s a problem. And thanks to targeted advertising, every time I’m online, a Modcloth dress that I is shoved under my nose.

        1. Audiophile*

          Santa was good to me and gave me enough pants/jeans to at least make it to my 3 month review. If I get some corduroy pants like I was planning, I’ll be fine for a while. Also got some nice tops (Lauren Conrad, Apt9). Plus I had just bought myself a few Ann Taylor shirts as well.
          But yeah I’m going to have to stay away from ModCloth.

    1. Dan*

      I’m in Hanoi at the moment. Wrong time of year to be here, it’s been overcast which really mutes the natural colors of things that people come to see. Off to bed soon and then down to Ho Chi Minh City in the morning.

      Seen so far:

      Penang, Malaysia: Better food scene than Singapore, and CHEAP. Highly recommended.

      Siem Reap: Touristy, but cool. Angkor Tom is really something, makes me want to see Tomb Radar when I get back. Parts of it were filmed there.

      Hoi An, Vietnam: Overrated, won’t go back, unless I have a significant other who says its on the bucket list. Too touristy.

      Hue, Vietnam: Awesome street food scene, good local food. Would go back as a stop on the way to see other parts of central Vietnam that I couldn’t get to this time.

      Hanoi: Worth a visit at the right time of year, In conjunction with trips to places like Sapa and Halong Bay.

      1. Artemesia*

        I spent a few days in Siem Riep in August of 2001 — just before the big construction boom. Just loved it. I loved Ta Prohm particularly for the ancient overgrown feel but Angkor Wat, Bayon and other parts of the complex were also amazing. One of the best things I have ever done. Would love to see Viet Nam as well. (my husband luckily missed his big chance to see the place by being assigned to Turkey during the Viet Nam War rather than Nam)

    2. Dan*

      Oh, and having a blast. Doing this one solo, get to do what I want, when I want, where I want, because I want to. I’ve traveled with friends, exes, and family, and they all have their ups and downs. Even when I travel by myself, I’m only as a alone as I choose to be. There’s always several singles on the tours that I do.

      Xmas eve had some ruckus in the street, I went to bed befor it started. Xmas is not a big deal here, everything was open.

  30. Nicole*

    Finally saw the new Star Wars movie yesterday. My husband is a huge fan. I like the franchise, but wasn’t necessarily jonsing to see the new movie. But guess what? I LOVED it! I really love the new characters. I shouldn’t be surprised though, it is Disney after all.

    We had a nice time celebrating the holiday with my parents, siblings, and stepson last night. It’s just hubby and me today. We already opened our gifts and I just finished making some delicious bacon in the oven (only just discovered that method a year ago and wow, it’s so much better than a frying pan to get some super crunchy bacon).

    The rest of the day will be a lazy one for us. Merry Christmas, everyone!

    1. Jen RO*

      I also watched it yesterday, with my boyfriend who is a big fan. It was… ok, not better or worse than I was expecting. But we did get a VIP cinema ticket which came with free drinks, appetizers, popcorn and nachos, plus super comfy couches, so the experience was worth it!

    2. asteramella*

      I don’t really care for Star Wars but I really enjoyed TFA. My brother, who was hugely into Star Wars as a teen, enjoyed it too–there’s something for everyone, I think :)

    3. Mander*

      We saw it last night, and while it was enjoyable enough the plot seemed really weak to me. I liked the characters but I felt like there wasn’t very much tension in it — everything seemed too easy and not suspenseful enough. But it wasn’t terrible.

  31. Sparta*

    I was wondering if some people could clarify a religious accommodation issue for me. I’m a new employee at a larger retail chain. Jan 1 is a holy day in my faith, so I asked for some time off to attend services. My manager basically said he doesn’t believe me because other people of my faith didn’t ask for time off and it’s Jan 1, and that since I’m the new person I’m the one who has to work the holidays. I’ve been getting told that since the process for determining who gets time off is fair, they have the right to tell me I have to work, even though I have a religious obligation. Is that correct?

    1. Artemesia*

      Jan 1 is a holy day of obligation in the Catholic faith but as new guy I’d be figuring out how to attend a service that didn’t conflict with work on one of the most busy retail days of the year. Around here at least there are very early masses that would accommodate most work schedules. But perhaps that isn’t your religious faith and it isn’t so easily accommodated.

      Or perhaps offer to work later in exchange for a later start.

      Sorry I am not a lawyer and don’t know how far you can legally push it.

      1. Sparta*

        Unfortunately the services are 10am and 6pm and I work 10-7. What gets me is that other employees got the full day off just for wanting a holiday, so it’s not like black friday where it’s all hands on deck. I only asked for 2h off.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          Would it be possible to move your shift? Could you come in earlier so you could leave later? Is there someone who would be willing to swap with you?

          Are you a participant in the services, such as singing in the choir? Is there something special that happens like with Ash Wednesday? That might make it easier for him to have “proof”. As an observant Catholic, this is obviously important to you otherwise you wouldn’t be asking random internet people about it. I suggest you find something on the Internet that lists all the Catholic obligations and give it to him along with whatever your church has listing their services and ask for his assistance in coming up with a plan that works for you both. There are so many lapsed Catholics out there (and people of all faiths, for that matter), that it’s entirely possible that the people he asked just didn’t know it was an important observance for the devout. I’m not religious at all and I have never heard of New Year’s day as being a day of special church services, so it would be news to me if someone asked for it off.

          As a last resort, ask your priest what you can do — if anything — instead of the service. There must be some accommodation that can be made for people unable to attend such as the ill or infirm who could not physically go to a church.

          1. Sparta*

            Unfortunately I’m not doing anything there other than going to a pretty much ordinary mass. Sadly boss knows just enough about Catholicism to be dangerous, as I mentioned below. I’m a bit worried about asking for his assistance because he also doesn’t let us out on time – I’d half expect he’d say I could go to the six o’clock, but then not let me out on time (he just says we should work faster if we want to get out).

    2. FD*

      I’m guessing that it’s that you need to attend Mass because it’s a holy day of obligation? I apologize if that’s not correct, but a quick google didn’t turn up any other religious days on Jan 1, 2016.

      Given the nature of retail, it may not be reasonable to have the entire day off. Can you go the night before, or to a Mass that’s not during y0ur shift? Usually if you look around, there’ll be at least a couple the night before, a few the morning of, and usually at least one parish does one in the evening.

      1. Sparta*

        Well I don’t have a car, so a different parish means spending most of the day’s pay on a cab. I only asked for 2h off; other employees got the whole day off just for asking with no religious obligation.

        What gets me is that the manager apparently asked another catholic employee who said she didn’t know of anything on jan 1, so he figured I was lying and threatened to write me up if I brought it up again.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Disciplining you for asking for religious accommodation isn’t legal.

          I don’t know how much you want to push this because your manager sounds like a real dick and this is a new job, but the law is this: If it’s sincerely held religious belief and they can accommodate you without undue hardship (sounds like they could), they need to. It doesn’t matter that they have a “system” that this would conflict with. Their system doesn’t get to trump the law.

          If you wanted to push it, you could bring in some documentation of the religious nature of the day (shouldn’t have to, but sounds like you’d need to with this guy) and clearly say “I’m asking for a religious accommodation for sincerely held religious beliefs, which I understand the law requires.” Or you could go around him to HR and explain what’s happening.

          But you need to balance your legal rights here with the fact that this guy has already shown himself to be a jerk, suspects you of lying (!), has told you not to bring it up again, and it’s a new job.

          Personally, I’d push it because I get really pissed off by people acting like your manager is acting, but you need to decide how important it is to you. It’s possible that you could permanently impact your standing with him or even get fired. That wouldn’t be legal but it certainly happens, and any legal remedy available to you would be a ways off (you could file with the EEOC but meanwhile you’d be out of a job, so your financial situation factors in here).

          1. Sparta*

            It seems like part of the problem is that my manager knows just enough about Catholicism to be dangerous. I work with a lot of C&E Catholics, so he’s using them as the benchmark for what’s really important for Catholics to attend. Plus he knows there’s a saint’s day most every day so he figured that I’m just asking for some random unimportant day off to have an excuse to go drinking the night before. Unfortunately he (and some of the Catholics I work with) don’t know what a holy day of obligation is and that it’s different from just a saint’s day.

            I’m in the process of an internal transfer (mostly because my manager is a jerk so I arranged to be moved), so I’m not too worried about messing up his opinion of me. I’ll probably go to HR if he doesn’t see reason.

            1. asteramella*

              If your HR dept is reasonable, they will appreciate knowing that your manager needs to be re-educated on the company’s legal obligations.

            2. Jen*

              I grew up as a Catholic kid- Catholic school, mass on Sundays, etc. I did not know that Jan 1 was a day of obligation. I am sharif that because I would probably ask questions/have suspicions in your boss’s shoes. If you came to me and said “I need to attend a mass, either 10am or 6pm. If I did the 10am, I could punch in at [time]; if I did the 6pm, I’d need to leave by [time] to make it. Given that this is a religious accommodation, which is more reasonable to make this work?” Or mix with Alison’s language above. But sharing/educating may be a good idea here given that this now-lapsed but formerly pretty observant Catholic had no idea…

            3. The IT Manager*

              I think the other part of the problem is that many/most Catholics accommodate work by finding a mass that works within their schedule even by going to a vigil mass or another parish. I see you mention any other parish requires an expensive cab ride, but a lot of thoughtless people don’t consider that some people may not be able to drive wherever they need to go whenever they need to.

        2. Valar M.*

          AAMs already given you excellent advice on what to do if you want to pursue this so I’m just going to mention the other part:

          It was my understanding that if you had to work, and there were not times that mass was available outside of your work hours you have a legitimate reason to not attend and therefore are excused from your obligation. This was in the US. Check with your priest.

  32. Artemesia*

    We had dim sum and cocktails at a friend’s house Christmas Eve and then saw Star Wars. I insisted we walk over an hour early because although we had tickets, they weren’t reserved and I was afraid there would be a huge Christmas Eve crowd and didn’t want to get stuck in the first row. Luckily one of the other women in the group also felt we should do this AND there was a bar at the theater — So we continued the part at the bar and then watched Star Wars along with maybe 25 other people in this giant theater. Felt like an idiot.

    You would think they would hire a script writer for a movie this important and not just re-use the original script minus Yoda.

        1. Liane*

          No, it is not. IMO. It has all the exitement, fun and so on of the original, but not a remake.

          By the way, all, for true and heartwarming Force Awakens story, google for R2-KT, a pink droid who is in the background of a couple scenes with the Resistance. R2-KT isn’t an Abrams or Disney creation, although it is by their kindness she appeared; she was made many years ago by FANS for a terminally ill little girl.

          1. Artemesia*

            The climactic destruction of the death star thing is just well chewed old gum — same story (they always make these things with one vulnerability, doncha know) but less exciting execution of the thing.

            I thought it was very lazy story telling. Would have liked more Leia but a decent enough movie of its sort. It is fun to see old friends and I thought the casting of Ben Solo/Kylo Ren was perfect. The ideal snotty adolescent; everything Aaakin should have been but wasn’t in the truly terrible prequels.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              They’re starting with a new generation, so the first one of course would be a bit familiar. This one is for the OLD fans. The rest will be for the NEW fans.

              I enjoyed every moment I recognized. But there was enough new and intriguing stuff that I will be back.

        2. Contraria*

          And see, I think the original (New Hope) is pretty boring (and Luke really annoying) and I loved the new one!

  33. Amber Rose*

    I have an 8 kilo turkey. For 2 of us. I reeeeaally love turkey. XD

    It also means we just finished breakfast and I gotta start in on turkey prep. I hope it’s defrosted.

    Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays all!

    1. KD*

      I almost got the 2 of us a turkey too but decided to double up on cranberry sauce instead and go with 2 kilo roast so we’ll still have leftovers.

      Happy cooking!

  34. overeducated and underemployed*

    This Christmas break started out with a meltdown because I had to accept a temp job with a ridiculously long driving commute Monday, which is not where I was hoping to be after six months of searching, but my current contract is ending so it’s that or nothing. I’ll barely break even after gas and day care, so the only real point is to keep my resume active. And it is very tempting to say “oh, I’ll take a few months off to just be a mom,” that would be lovely…but most of my regrets in life come from *not* taking opportunities when offered, and I’d probably spend a lot of those months off being depressed about unemployment. Hope this was the right decision.

    Anyway, yesterday and today I managed to actually enjoy the holidays anyway. My top moments have been taking my toddler outside to run around with his grandfather and dog in the unseasonably warm weather yesterday, watching Christmas movies with my husband last night, and then toddler’s first participatory, awake Christmas! He loved a bunch of his toys this morning, we had a great time running around after him and snapping pictures, and he’s been inaugurated into my family’s traditions now. I was looking forward to that for so long, and it was over so fast, but I hope the memories last.

    1. West Coast Reader*

      I took a temporary data entry job a few months ago because I needed the money. Now I’m discussing possible employment with one of the employee’s side businesses! I barely talked to him, but the supervisors recommended me to him, so he approached me. Nothing is finalized yet; however, it looks like a great opportunity. Do a great job, expand your network, and something better may come along soon. :) Good luck!

    2. Artemesia*

      Our Grandchild was off to visit her other grandparents, along with my daughter and SIL of course so we missed that fun of a young kid Christmas day this year. We did do a Christmas Eve Eve and she is delightfully into our major traditions like choosing each person an ornament that symbolizes their year. Such fun to live and create traditions with little kids. We have been lucky to have shared every other Christmas with this child so far as we live around the corner and the other grandparents are a days drive away so glad she got a chance to see her cousins, aunts, uncles and Grandmother this Christmas but miss her.

  35. Faith*

    I wanted to thank Alison for the great feedback that she had provided on my resume. My revised resume has landed me an interview at a great company, and I am happy to report that I will be starting my new position in January!

  36. ginger ale for all*

    I visited people not to be named last night and when I asked if they liked the gift I got them last year, they couldn’t remember it. I really stretched my budget for it last year and thought it would be perfect. It was a gift certificate and I don’t think they ever redeemed it. I know I shouldn’t have asked but the words just came out of my mouth. I am just kicking myself. Next year, I am just going to get them a gift that is half the price with only a tenth of the thought invested.

    1. Dan*

      Why bother with gifts at all? I pick up stuff when I’m abroad if I find things that I know others would like. I don’t go out of my way to do it, unless it’s for a significant other. That way, if they don’t like it, I’m not terribly disappointed.

      My ex’s dad and gf went to Honolulu once for a conference. They bought all the guys in the family sun visors. That family is very big on show, and apparently it was clearly noticed that I wasn’t jumping up and down with joy. I was like, um, you bought everybody the same gift, which shows you put no thought into it whatsoever. And you’re mad because I didn’t think this was the best gift ever? You coulda brought me a bag of macadamia nuts from the airport, and I would have thanked you for thinking of me.

      1. Ruffingit*

        What did they say when you said that? Because seriously, sun visors? Gee thanks for the best gift ever…

        1. fposte*

          In my head, Dan was living in Seattle at the time :-).

          I love it when I’ve given a gift that really makes somebody happy or is really useful to them. But you know, sometimes it’s not the expensive thing or the elaborately planned thing, and sometimes most of that happiness is upon opening the gift. And I’ve come to find that okay. My goal really shouldn’t be to change their lives, but to let them know I was thinking of them with warmth and love.

          It can be a hard habit to break. I was packing up stuff for Goodwill, and I was thinking of how thrilled people would be to get the stuff I was donating. And then I laughed and realized most people wouldn’t even give it a solid first look, let alone a second, but somehow this story of a transaction where the stuff retained its significance was really important to me.

          1. Ruffingit*

            In agreement with you on happiness being found knowing the giver was thinking of you with warmth and love. I think in Dan’s case though, it appeared that they didn’t bother thinking of anyone, they just mass bought something for all and expected everyone to be uber excited.

            1. fposte*

              Oh, yeah, totally. I was thinking more about the earlier part of the thread. People who expect you to perform massive gratitude for airport-bought gifts are not people who I worry a ton about giving to.

          2. periwinkle*

            Hey, I’m in Seattle and would love a sun visor as a gift! The standard pattern is morning drizzle and afternoon sunshine; the visor would keep my glasses dry in the morning and help me get past the glare in the afternoon. Our company store has a plethora of baseball-style caps available…

            1. fposte*

              That’s what I get for hyperbole about a faraway place. Can we just pretend they brought back snow shovels instead?

    2. Ruffingit*

      Unless these folks are particularly important to you, I see no reason to stretch your budget to purchase them a gift. Also, for some people, gifts are not their “language” as it were. They appreciate receiving something, but it’s not as meaningful as a card expressing your love or taking them out to dinner or something. Hate to get all sappy here, but The Five Love Languages is a great book that explains how people like to receive things. Maybe these folks just don’t speak the gift language.

      In any case, I agree with Dan. Do away with getting gifts at all for people unless they are very important in your life.

    3. Artemesia*

      go on line to and send them a box of candy and be done with it. When great efforts are not rewarded — reduce effort.

      1. blue_eyes*

        +1 for Sees candy. I’m currently in my hometown of Seattle and enjoying lots of Sees candy. The lollipops are my favorite!

    4. fposte*

      I love gifts, but I would be unlikely to remember what it was you’d gotten me a year later if you just said “the gift,” even if I loved it.

      By all means, dial it down on the gift front, but do it because you want to keep to a more reasonable budget and enjoy the gift giving, not because this means anything about them. You’re not going to hit it out of the park every time even with people who do like gifts, and if they don’t, as suggested upthread, all the more reason go to modest.

    5. ginger ale for all*

      Thanks for the common sense and cheering. I think I am mostly disappointed because I secretly wanted to keep it for myself. I had gotten them a gift certificate for Blue Apron. Sigh. Next year I won’t be so invested either way.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Ouch. I have gotten really burned a couple times. One was a twelve dollar multi-color pinwheel. I don’t know why, I thought it was the greatest thing. I gave it as a gift. Recipient’s parent left it in the yard all winter. Come spring it was trashed. I almost cried. Then I realized some things are such that if I will not buy them for myself then I cannot buy them for other people. For whatever reason, I enjoyed that little pinwheel so much. It cost almost an hour’s worth of my pay at that time.

        Icing on the cake, when I questioned what happened to the adorable pinwheel I was told “It’s just things. People are more important.”

        Eventually, I became older and wiser and a few years later, I decided that we did not have to worry about exchanging gifts. After all, they are just things.

        This was a confusing situation, because the people involved seemed to enjoy receiving gifts. So I was dealing with some mixed signals. In the end, I had to go with the plan of not giving gifts to people who do not care.

        1. fposte*

          My other takeaway is that if I love the thing, I can keep the thing. I empathized only too well with your grief over the poor battered pinwheel (I would have cried too), and these days if I get to that level of investment, it just stays mine and they get something else.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            It has to be this way. There is such a thing as giving too much. It took me a while and it took repeated episodes for it to sink into my brain.

      2. LizzyB*

        Would Blue Apron transfer it to you if it hasn’t been used yet? I would thing they could track it based on your order.

    6. Cassie*

      My family doesn’t do gifts – the exception is when I was little and my parents would get me something like a plastic bowling set or something – so I really don’t get the whole gift giving thing. I mean, I get that it’s a nice gesture (and usually not a demand for a gift in return), but it’s kind of an unnecessary burden for some people.

      There are a few people who give me gifts (ranging from wine to chocolates to housewares) and I never give anything in return. I’m not going to reciprocate because I’d be happy as a clam if people don’t get me anything. I will say that the fuzzy scarf that a coworker gave me last year is serving me quite well this freezing Christmas – at the time, I thought it was too bulky!

  37. Pennalynn Lott*

    Can dropping a phone onto a hard tile floor do something to it that causes it to chew through battery power (even though it was in a Zagg protective case)? I thought maybe the battery had been damaged, so I replaced it, but my phone still doesn’t hold a charge for as long as it did before I dropped it. As in, it’s been off the charger for only an hour and a half, but the battery is already at 83%. Prior to the fall, it would be at 98%. I haven’t used the phone, just unplugged it and left it sitting on the counter.

    1. Dan*

      You could have a short circuit. I had an issue with my car where a short in the cigarette lighter was draining the main battery ever so slowly. Never would have guessed that.

    2. Electrical engineer*

      Most consumer electronics are not vibration tested. Even if case took the initial force of the drop, the inside of phone feels it to.

      It might be a short as dan mentioned. Which means two electrical contacts that are not normally connected and normally operate at different voltages have been tied together and are drawing current to try to force a voltage difference between the two points. In systems capable of high current output this can result in significant enough current draw to melt the shorted connection open again. However in current limited systems this can result in rapid battery discharge (which can also damage the battery itself depending on the charge/discharge profile for the chemistry) or power system cycling or brown out.

      Phones however are less likely to have loose wires running around to create a short from vibration. (Though it could be an ICs bond wires) You might also have an open in the feedback somewhere leading to deregulation of the power regulators causing excess power draw.

      In either case your phone should be hot to the touch. If it isn’t it may be the battery state of charge (SOC) measurement or indicator that is damaged. In which case remove the battery immediately and do not attempt to recharge the phone. Lithium ion batteries are becoming popular for use in electronics but they are still dangerous if over charged. As in they have been known to catch fire. And lithium reacts violently with water so any such fires must be smothered.

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        Thank you, Electrical Engineer! My phone isn’t hot to the touch. Are you saying that’s the danger signal. . . if my phone *isn’t* hot to the touch?

        I dropped it a couple of weeks ago. If it were going to go up in flames, wouldn’t it have happened by now? (Just looking for a little reassurance that I’m not putting myself in harm’s way by charging my phone on my nightstand).

        1. Electrical engineer*

          I realize I’m a bit delayed responding so I hope you are already working on resolving the issue.

          If your battery is discharging that quickly the power needs to be going somewhere. And a good chunk of it should be going into heat. If your phone is not hot to the touch by comparison to other objects at ambient temperature it is likely not discharging at an accelerated rate even if the indicator says it is. This may not cause you any problems if the overcharge circuitry is in tact but the reality is you don’t know what was damaged and the indicator circuitry is likely located near the over charge protection circuitry so it may have experienced damage as well.

          I personally would stop charging the phone until I was able to troubleshoot or hand it off for repairs. Not having the design and layout information available I’d take it to a repair shop.

          Different battery chemistries will react differently to over charge. Some can take the extra stress for hundreds of charge cycles and some can only survive a few cycles. I assume consumer products stick to safer chemistries but truthfully, the longer your device is supposed to be able to operate off of a single charge the more volatile your battery is going to be. It’s a trade off for increased energy density.

  38. TheBeetsMotel*

    Our hard-to-shop-for father in law loved the accent tables we bought for his living room. It’s always a crapshoot buying for him, and he can swing from “Woo Christmas” to “Humbug” without obvious cause, so yay, gift success.

    1. knitchic79*

      Sweet! Love even gifts go over big…feels good to know people are happy. Hubby made leather money clips for the men this year…everyone loved them. And the journals, pretty lotion, and lip glosses for the ladies were a hit too.

  39. Aam Admi*

    AAMers what is your Modus Operandi for Boxing week sales. Do you make a list of what you would like to buy and visit various stores looking for bargains? Or do you mostly buy things non whim if the deals are good? Do you browse online first before purchasing at Brick & Mortar stores?
    Throughout the year, I make lists of things that are not urgent but needed in the near future. I avoid the Dec 26 rush but spend the rest of the Boxing week looking for deals. I mostly stick to my list but sometimes buy a few things (eg sweaters) if I happen to see a great deal.
    Also, this year I am looking to get a new Master Bedroom set and would like to hear from anyone that has used adjustable beds – brand recommendations, pros and cons, where to get the sheets, etc.

    1. fposte*

      I have a shopping cart open online as we speak :-). I may do an early mall run tomorrow before the crowds blow up to get a cheap item that I don’t want to wait to have shipped, but otherwise any sale shopping is online.

      Enjoy your new master bedroom set! That sounds like exciting shopping.

    2. LCL*

      I don’t buy household furnishings anymore-I am over 45 and have lived in the same place for a long time. So I have too much stuff! But yeah, once I discovered post holiday sales as a young adult I would try to shop then.

      I still do the post holiday thing for clothes and luxury items. (For me this year, that is ski gear and earrings.)

  40. Tris Prior*

    Had a dream last night that I’d taken a new job with a design firm, it was Christmas Eve, and my new boss asked me, “What is your availability for meetings tomorrow?” I replied, “uh… tomorrow is Christmas?” and she looked exasperated and said, “so? What is your availability?” I told her I would not be available as, you know, it was Christmas and I’d be with my family. Suddenly was in a restaurant having Christmas morning brunch with Boyfriend and saw that all my co-workers were having a meeting there, and my boss was looking daggers at me…

    Thanks, subconscious, for dredging up all of my fears about job-hunting when my job ends in a couple months! I have been in SO many toxic jobs that demanded 24-7 availability (this was design, btw, not any sort of medical profession, IT, police/fire, etc.). I’m terrified I’m going to end up somewhere like that again because EVERY time I have asked in an interview about work/life balance and then got hired, I learned quickly that I was lied to. So I started asking to talk to employees who were on the team I’d be joining…. and they lied too!

    I want a job that will allow me to have a life too, like my current job does. I have no idea where to find this.

    1. Artemesia*

      LOL. My brother was a high level executive in retail for many years, finishing his career as CEO of a major Fortune 500 company. He remembers earlier in his career getting a call Christmas morning from his boss that opened with ‘are you doing anything, we need to talk about the Fergus Contract.’ His response ‘oh no nothing much just SITTING AROUND the tree WITH MY KIDS OPENING CHRISTMAS PRESENTS. ‘ Retail is heavily Jewish and I think his boss actually assumed he was also Jewish. No one was a harder worker than my brother, I remember him up at 3 am on the day after Thanksgiving to go visit as many of the stores under his purview as possible on this important day, but Christmas morning business really offended him.

    2. Dynamic Beige*

      Just find it somewhat ironic that your subconscious doesn’t want you working on holidays… yet has no problem with restaurant workers being required to work on holidays.

      Anyway, yes, that can be a problem in the design world. Much of it depends on how high you want to go in your career. And it also depends on how good you are at setting boundaries, and that uncomfortable feeling that can come up after you set those boundaries. I worked with someone who refused to work overtime. He came in at 8, went home at 4 and I was shocked at his brazenness — how had they not fired him? How was he “allowed” to just get away with that? Because I would have never considered saying “no” if my manager needed me to work, unless there was some extremely important reason that I couldn’t. Neither of us were ever promoted to a higher level, so there’s that.

      I would say that in your interviews be very clear that work/life balance is important to you. Try to schedule your interviews for near the end of the day. You’ll get a much better idea how many people are working late if your interview ends at 5, but everyone else is glued to their desks. If the company does that bait-n-switch thing of “Oh yes, work/life balance is paramount to us!” but then starts in with the “what are you doing going home, it’s only 5” stuff, you will have to enforce that boundary by leaving and whatever consequences happen because of that. Maybe you won’t get plum assignments, maybe you won’t be considered for promotion or COL wage increases only. It may take you a while to find that firm that practices what they preach, does the kind of work you want to do and has enough pipeline to allow for it with no fire-fighting last minute emergencies all the time. IMO, that requires strong managers and project managers who know what they’re doing technically and won’t let the clients get away with bad behaviour. From my perspective and what I’ve experienced, there’s a lot of “never say no to a client, ever, no matter how ridiculous they’re being!” out there. You can’t always spot that from the website or lobby or interview room.

      1. Tris Prior*

        Yes, that is exactly what I experienced – never say no to a client, never push back even when their request is physically impossible (like when 1 client wanted 8,000 PAPER proofs overnighted to them and there was no physical way to get that many pages to come out of the printers that quickly). My one co-worker went 2 months straight without ever seeing her kids while they were awake.

        Honestly, at this point I do not really care about advancement and being given plum assignments. I’ve been down that road. I used to be very career-oriented. I worked my ass off for years and yes, it got me advancement… not pay increases though because salaries were always frozen, and sometimes there were pay cuts in lieu of getting laid off. And it seemed to get me the worst assignments with the most demanding clients, because “oh, you’re SO good at this, no one else here could possibly handle this client/project/workload…”

        Right now I mainly want something that pays a living wage that also allows time for my own creative pursuits and side business, even if that means I am not climbing a corporate ladder. This must exist somewhere other than my current job; I’m just not sure how to find it. And obviously I know I can’t say that point blank in an interview or else I’ll come off like a slacker!

        I don’t even want to work in design again, really, but I fear that I may not be qualified for anything else. :/

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          Heh. That’s what I worry about too. “Gee, I’m burnt out and want to do something different, but this is all I’ve ever done, so what else could I be good at?” You get to a point where going back to school and training to be an _________ just is no longer appealing or possible.

          So if you don’t want to go full-time freelance/start your own studio, then I’d say just really be upfront when you’re at your new job that you don’t work overtime. People ask if you can work at whatever tonight/over the weekend, tell them you’re unable to do that and don’t allow yourself to be backed down. This may require you to be constantly on the lookout for new positions, because what you seek may be available but rare. FWIW, my first job was one where there was rarely any overtime, it was a small shop of 4 people, maybe that’s the kind of thing you need to find, something smaller and less high-profile.

          1. Tris Prior*

            Yes, exactly! And not just what might I be good at, but how do j convince employers of that when, though i have transferable skills, they want someone who’s got that exact experience….

            At my current job we are actually not allowed OT! It is pretty nice.

            I am probably going to need to freelance until I find something permanent but I learned in the past that I cannot handle the instability. Also, my landlord is selling the building so there’s a good chance I will be apartment hunting in May… And most landlords here won’t approve you if you don’t have several years’ worth of profitable freelancing to show them (went thru this a couple years ago and that was an issue.)

            1. Dynamic Beige*

              At my current job we are actually not allowed OT!

              Maybe that’s a way you could phrase your question about work/life balance: “At my current job we are not allowed OT [for whatever reason/so we ]. What’s your policy on OT here?”

              Funnily enough, my first salaried job paid for overtime hours, it was rarely needed. My other ones where I was on salary and wasn’t… hours were abused rampantly.

              1. Dynamic Beige*

                Oops. Shouldn’t eat and post and get distracted…

                I meant to say “So we are all out the door at 5/have a great team of PMs that keep a steady hand on the workflow, whatever they do to maintain that.”

  41. Dynamic Beige*

    This is sort of a work question, but also sort of a non-work question — how do you prefer to leave comments on websites?

    I am frequently amazed at how everyone here uses proper English, and there just aren’t the stupid negative things that often creep into other websites or forums. You would think that not having to sign up would encourage the doofuses (doofusi?) to post that inane babble, but it doesn’t appear to. Granted, I don’t see what happens in moderation so there is probably way more than I’m aware of.

    Having said that, I belong to a mastermind group and this week we got onto a discussion about how do you engage people to comment on your posts. One of the people has been writing a blog (not consistently) for several years now and no one comments, or very rarely, which they find frustrating. They know that there are lots of people visiting their site and reading certain posts, but no discussion is really taking place.

    My suggestion was that the site used Discus and for me, I just don’t want to have to create an account, sign in every time, have all those comments follow me around etc. When a site I used to comment at switched to Discus, I stopped going there. The thing that didn’t occur to me later was that when you use Discus, they “own” the comments, not the person who runs the site. Anyway, the other 3 people were all “you can’t do it that way!” for various technical reasons and I just said, that’s my experience. Their implication was that I was doing it wrong. That particular site I stopped going to, they would frequently be spammed even with the log-in requirement.

    But when I think about a site like this, there is a lot of commenting going on, same thing with Captain Awkward — neither of which have any “formal” commenting “sign in to comment” thing. I know that’s partly because: community! But I wonder how much of that is that it’s simply easier to comment here?

    So it’s gotten me curious… am I just a weird middle aged outlier person, or is this more common than I think it is? Since I also have to have a website and will be setting up comments for myself, it’s something I’m going to have to implement, too. I see where this other person in the mastermind is, and I haven’t come to terms yet with how that would feel, to be uncommented on, article after article. But that’s a whole other issue.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        Also, it’s your choice to leave identifying stuff, like the link to your personal blog as you do, or not, like me — not a requirement for what? Tracking?

    1. Nicole*

      From a person who maintains more than one blog and rarely receives comments, I think part of it is that blogging in general isn’t like how it used to be. When I first started my personal blog I had a lot of frequent visitors who commented regularly but now that’s stopped and many of them have abandoned their blogs altogether. It seems like people would rather “like” or fave something without starting or continuing a dialogue. I see this on even the popular blogs I follow so I try not to get down that my other blog (linked here) doesn’t get any comments. I only hope my readers enjoy it even if they choose not to interact with me. One of the reasons I love Ask A Manager is because the comments are so active and interesting but it seems to be the exception. Why, I’m not sure. Perhaps because it’s so unique? I can’t think of any other site where you can get the type of help you do here.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        I hadn’t considered that, the “Like, Share, Fave” button thing. They don’t have that on their site either. I had also suggested to them that having the other suggested posts being years old wasn’t helping them. Once again, I apparently do not know what I am talking about. So I also suggested that they could take their most popular posts and revisit them with updated content about how things have changed (or not) since they wrote their post, which would provide a link they could put down at the bottom of the original post. Also was not well received. Because I am not a webdev and I don’t play one on TV.

        1. Nicole*

          Sounds like that person wants to vent but isn’t actually open to your advice. It wouldn’t hurt to at least try your suggestions (which I think are good ones and I plan on trying on my own blog) and see if they receive more comments. If I were you I’d make a mental note and not waste your time trying to help that particular person in the future. But that’s just me.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            Yeah, well, in this group, I am sort of the odd one out who does graphics rather than programming of some sort. All I can provide is suggestions based on end-user experience, so I’m glad that you think I’m not off my rocker! ;) Seriously, I do not have a website and haven’t had one in uh… a decade. It’s a big challenge to get all of that, write the content, do the coding etc. Or at least I’m finding it so.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I have opinions on this!

      I actually used Disqus here years ago for a very brief period of time. I got rid of it for a few reasons, including that it would sometimes go down and all comments would disappear with it, and that I didn’t love the idea of them “owning” the comments (i.e., if they shut down one day, potentially all the comments here could disappear with them). Also, many employers block Disqus comments entirely.

      In general, I think lots of people won’t bother to register to comment (I usually won’t). Plus, while I think there’s a way to comment anonymously on Disqus, it’s not immediately obvious to everyone, and many people don’t want a trail of their comments following them around.

      You would think that not having to sign up would encourage the doofuses (doofusi?) to post that inane babble, but it doesn’t appear to. Granted, I don’t see what happens in moderation so there is probably way more than I’m aware of.

      It happens, but it’s occasional, definitely not constant. The spam filter catches most outright spam, and while we get occasional drive-by commenters posting inane or rude stuff, it’s pretty much the exception. I still haven’t solved the mystery of why. (Interestingly, the comments here from the early years had a different flavor than the ones now — not quite Yahoo comments level, but definitely not the caliber of more recent years. I can’t explain that one either.)

      1. fposte*

        I keep poking around to see if anybody’s used the AAM blog and community in research–so far no, but I think it would be interesting. When I go look at old posts, I’m always intrigued to see the different flavor of the comments, as you mention. Is there a tipping point in numbers of comments, or maybe an optimum for both minimum and maximum? Is there a optimum percentage of regulars? How much does the blog owner’s engagement matter? (A ton, I’d say.)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I bet there is an optimum percentage of regulars — you want enough so that there are community standards that are self-enforcing (a general sense of “how we talk to each other here”) but not so many that it feels cliquish or new people feel like they’d be intruding.

          I bet there’s also an optimum for number of comments, both upper and lower ends. I think it’s possible and maybe even likely that we’ve passed the optimum number of comments per post, since I know that some people stopped reading them altogether because they felt like they could never keep up. (But I’ve also come to be a big believer in the idea that a successful blog will never be able to please everyone, even lots of very reasonable people who want very reasonable but conflicting things.)

          I think, too, it depends on how the blog owner is defining success. Traffic? Revenue? Usefulness? Community engagement? Mentions elsewhere? Comments (and if so, then all comments or only certain kinds of comments)? For me, I’ve realized that comments are a key part to my ability to keep publishing as frequently as I do. I can’t imagine writing this many posts if I didn’t have a comment section giving me the gratification of immediate feedback and discussion; the commenting community keeps me motivated and interested and challenged. But I didn’t have that when I started; back then, I was motivated more by “here’s something I want to say and I enjoy the process of writing it out.” That’s still true for me, but it wouldn’t be enough to get me writing four posts a day (back then it was more like a couple a week).

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            How the person is defining success… I think that’s an excellent point. My gut says it’s a “people who comment on my post are telling me they like it — and I like being liked/all my hard work ain’t been in vain for nuthin’ ” but these blog posts are not the main focus of their business, it appears that they use them as a way of promotion/to create authority. I’m going to have to challenge them on what they really want out of their blog. In some ways, writing a blog for more than a year is an accomplishment.

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        That’s interesting about the going down and losing all the posts… looking at some of their pages, I noticed that one of the suggested ones had 11 comments, so I went to it to see them and, there were no comments. I thought I must have clicked the wrong link, went back, still no comments. Third time — memorise the title of article to be sure it’s the right one! Still, all comments gone. Which I mentioned and they didn’t believe me.

        Did not know about that employers blocking Discus thing… will have to bring that up.

        And yeah, I’m a big believer that I wouldn’t ask someone to do something that I myself was unwilling to do. If I’m not willing to sign up for an account at Commenting Du Jour service, then why should I expect someone else to?

        I think that when one person elevates the level of discourse, one of two things happen. Either they are run off for being a prig and a killjoy or other people go “wait a minute, there’s another way to do this commenting thing? And it’s sane? I want more of that!” and they start upping their conversation as well. Birds of a feather, and all that.

        1. fposte*

          I also think the blog owner’s interaction can be really important here. I don’t always set my radar to a level where I notice individual commenters, and here I only started seeing the patterns when Alison mentioned individual commenters and interacted with specific comments in a way that acknowledged longer history. I think that’s the “in my living room” thing, and that was when is started seeing it the same way.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            This mastermind person has said that they get very excited when someone comments and responds to each one. Maybe with Discus there’s just another level of “stuff” in there that makes it more impersonal?

            1. fposte*

              It certainly felt like that for me; I also don’t like the karma-type numbers for upvotes (hence my largely just lurking on Reddit). The less it feels like a conversation, the less interested I am.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

          I very rarely comment on anything online, other than chatting up my friends on Facebook. I started commenting here because there were people I wanted to talk to.

          1. TL -*

            Although I comment less here than I would like, because I’m usually on my phone or I’m not sure it’s a helpful thing to say so I decide to think it over and either I forget or someone says it before me.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            This is the only blog I regularly comment on, and it’s because the comments section here is like dropping by a comfortable place with people that I already know I like, already in the midst of interesting, respectful conversations.

    3. Mando Diao*

      With anything online, it’s easy to forget that the way things seem on the internet is almost never how they present in the real world (if you just went by the internet, you’d think that everyone in the world loved Dr. Who and Benedict Cumberbatch). If your group is trying to generate the exact sort of conversations that they themselves would have, it’s not going to happen.

      As far as the community/manners stuff goes, in general I keep in mind that just because someone can remember their password and type in fairly readable English doesn’t mean that they’re not the same person holding an END OF DAYS sign on the corner. I think content generates its own commentary in a way. If you’re not happy with your general audience, there’s an issue with your content.

      Disqus is a mixed bag. I refuse to even read sites that use Disqus, and I know a lot of people feel the same. It constantly has problems, and it makes it so sites take forever to load.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        If you’re not happy with your general audience, there’s an issue with your content.

        Or the style you present it in. Since we were in a video chat, I didn’t take the time to read any of the posts, I’m going to have to read one and see if I like the style. It’s also possible that because there’s no promotion being done that sends people from Twitter to the posts, there’s no way for the audience to share it easily. Hmm…

  42. CA Admin*

    Mike C. – your posts about fountain pens awhile back have created a monster! Your post led me to the Fountain Pen Network, which led me to Goulet Pens.

    I started out with 1 fountain pen and a box of cartridges. Now I have 2 pens, 2 boxes of cartridges, 2 bottles of ink, a monthly ink sample subscription, $30 worth of good paper notebooks off of Amazon, and a wishlist of new pens to keep me going for years.

    The pens just feel so good to write with! And the ink is so pretty! And the paper feels amazing! My husband really doesn’t get it.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Ha. I got like that about the post by literateliz about planner decorating. I’d never even heard of it before I read her post about it, but I was intrigued enough to go down a Google/ Instagram/ Pinterest rabbit hole for the rest of that day. I then went out and bought a new planner and loads of decorative papers, washi tape, stickers, etc. New hobby acquired!

    2. Hillary*

      Mind if I ask where the subscription is from? My bf is a collector and I need birthday presents. :-)

      Also, you may want to avoid massdrop. It’s dangerous to the wallet.

      1. CA Admin*

        I already know about the danger of massdrop. I narrowly avoided a $$$ pen that I was lusting after.

        The ink sample subscription is through Goulet Pens and it’s called “ink drop”. You can do a single month or an ongoing subscription. They also have really cool sample packs that are available all the time. I love that website!!

        1. Hillary*


          I’m a quilter, so massdrop is equally dangerous for me. Fortunately I already have most of the tools they offer.

  43. EmilyG*

    Is anyone else here a New Year’s resolution maker? I didn’t use to be, but got into it the past few years and was pleased with my little goals. Most of mine have revolved around fitness and music hobbies, but also professional activities I wanted to do in order to raise my profile and gain some new skills. It worked! With some help from this site, I got a dream job this year and moved back to my hometown. Now I’m not quite sure how to frame goals for next year, at least professionally speaking… sort of like, I met some goals that were so big I’m caught off guard having to think of news ones! Anyone want to share their resolutions?

    1. Doriana Gray*

      My biggest resolution will be to try to find the good in every situation. I’m starting a new job in January, and once the shine of that wears off and I’m in the thick of things, I want to remain positive even though my industry is extremely difficult. My other resolution is to finish books two and three in my YA comedic mystery series, and three more short story collections.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Mine is to let go of negative feelings and anxiety that I’ve had for the past few months. Leaving my old university job to go to my boss’s private firm and then not being able to make a go of it with his wife really shook my self-confidence more than I’d realized. I should have taken some time off work to regroup before immediately starting a new job the very next Monday. But now I want to do some reflective walking and concentrate on self-care and not being so hard on myself.

    3. Allison Mary*

      I think my resolution is going to be to pass all four sections of the CPA exam before I start my entry level full-time accounting job next October. ^.^

    4. asteramella*

      I try to make concrete, measurable resolutions. I resolved to be a vegetarian in 2015. It mostly worked out–my spouse is a vegetarian, so that helps, I’m not very strict (e.g. I don’t mind animal rennet in cheese so I don’t have to, say, avoid all Kraft cheeses). I found I didn’t miss meat very much, except seafood, which I still love. I’m going to be a pescetarian in 2016 and see how that goes.

    5. Sunflower*

      Most of my goals revolve around my person life. I think it’s really important when making new years resolutions to aim for concrete things and not just general statements
      – Be better friend and really listen/mean it when I ask someone ‘how are you’. I tend to take over conversations and sometimes I can be selfish and forget to ask how other people are doing. In every conversation, I want to make sure i ask ‘how are you’ or ‘what’s going on in your life’ or just check in with close friend and ask how they are doing.
      – Find new hobbies. I am having trouble setting concrete goals for this but maybe try at least one new activity every 2 weeks?
      – Volunteer more. I would love to do more work with mental health awareness and help fight the AIDS/HIV stigma.
      – Go on at least 1 date a month. I’m so lazy when it comes to dating!
      – Get serious about my budget and start planning what to do with my money saved. I want to make an excel sheet and record my spending and decide what to cut.
      – Start a bucket list. I don’t have on and I want to start checking stuff off it!
      – Stick with therapy and make an effort to work with my therapist and not reject everything she says that I don’t agree with. I really like my therapist but often times my need to be right overrides my want to be happy.
      – Be a more active networker and build my network in cities outside my own

  44. Undermined*

    All, I have started a new job recently. It’s a senior position reporting to the CEO. Also starting around the same time was a junior admin person reporting to the CEO. This person spends a lot of time with my boss and I have unfortunately discovered he has been undermining me.

    He has taken over projects behind my back, I have caught him talking negatively about me to my peers (other employees that are senior to him). He has even taken the phone out of my hand and taken over conversations I was having.

    My boss depends on this person for information about what’s going on around the office, but I know everything he’s passing on is colored by his desire to take over projects and relationships he feels will be valuable to his career down the line. I’m conflicted about how to approach this. I don’t manage him, but I jabs a lot of management experience. His behavior is an office cancer. It’s become clear that others feel the same way. (They directly told me during holiday gatherings.)

    First and foremost I feel that this persons actions and desire to undermine me is coloring my boss’s perception of me. I rarely get to meet with him and most of the info he gets comes from this person. Second, I have a very low tolerance for this stuff. I’m very fair and I’d like to think ethical. If this person expressed a desire to work on higher level projects, I would find a way to make it happen. But the way he has gone about every interaction has made me want to avoid dealing with him all together. When we have had conflicts, I address it right away. But his response is completely disrespectful.

    Anyone have any advice for me? I’d hate to see myself lose this job or even continue to feel miserable going into work when I know I have to deal with this person. Everyone else in our group is great, and this was the job I really wanted during my search. Any tips for nipping this in the bud?

    1. fposte*

      First off, if you’re in a senior position and a junior admin attempts to take the phone out of your hand, the response is “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”, a swift retrieval of the phone, and a report of the behavior to the admin’s boss. We are long past the bud on that.

      Any behavior like that, behavior that is egregiously inappropriate, gets dealt with directly. “This is not appropriate workplace behavior. Do not do this again.” Behavior like gossiping about you within your earshot gets dealt with by modeling behavior. “Bob, I’m sorry to hear you’ve been concerned about the work I’m doing on the Snitterman project. So far Big Boss has been happy, but if you have specific suggestions, please let me know.”

      But overall, I would worry less about this person than your boss. Does your boss think you’re doing good work? Do you like the boss? You mention you rarely get to meet with him–is that part of what’s making you anxious? Can you arrange more regular meetings? Because if your boss thinks you’re doing well, this guy doesn’t matter, and your response is mostly to stop paying so much attention to him.

      1. Undermined*

        I did the whole “what the hell do you think you’re doing” in response to the phone and two other incidents. The problem is that he honestly laughs. And somehow he always gets more time with the boss than the rest of us. He even volunteers to spend the weekend working with him. Believe me, I’ve tried the modeling part too. Another big issue here is that I work with all men so I suspect I’m excluded from many opportunities to get face time with the boss and rest of the group.

        I’ve talked to my boss about it but it’s seemed to get worse. He said we would all talk as a group but it hasn’t happened yet. I will follow up again after the holiday.

        1. fposte*

          Good plan–just make sure the emphasis should be on what needs to happen for the work, not just how annoying Bob is. How much time he spends with the boss isn’t a thing–it’s how much time *you* need with the boss.

          1. Undermined*

            Thanks! Agreed! I won’t spend any time talking about the butt kissing but I would like the boss to come to his own conclusion about how much this guy is coloring perceptions with his negativity. In positive news I also just (like today! Merry xmas to me!) got permission to schedule meetings with this junior person. So hopefully they will nip all the secretive BS in the bud. If I don’t get answers in the meeting, I will follow up in writing. And I will be giving the boss updates on each meeting in my one-on-ones.

            I’ve always found that people like this get caught and straightened out. But the sheer level of disrespect they’ve shown me and at least two other senior colleagues is really disturbing.

  45. Num Lock*

    Santa delivered my Christmas present a bit early this year: A NEW JOB!! Just waiting on the drug test and background check to clear before giving formal notice at work–which is hard, because the holiday is causing delays and I’d like a full week off between jobs. I must remember to be patient. New job is at an awesome company with great long-term prospects doing exactly what I want to do! I can hardly believe it. I honestly never expected a call back, let alone being the successful candidate. It still hasn’t fully sunk in.

    This job offer couldn’t have come at a better time. Toxic soon-to-be-exjob made it clear that it is time to go this week. Apparently my supervisor isn’t beneath lying about my performance and making up warning conversations. When I called her out on it, she had to rope her boss in to save her from herself. He’s clever enough to know he can’t get away with faking performance meetings because I document everything, so he resorted to insulting me personally and twisting the past for 40 minutes, then finished by offering to torpedo my chances at another position in the company I’d recently applied for. Oh, and the whole time they both maintained that I don’t have performance issues, even though the things they were discussing were CLEARLY performance issues. They honestly had me questioning my sanity/perception of reality for a bit there. The only thing that kept me from rage quitting was knowing I had a good shot at this job. I am going to RELISH giving my two weeks notice next week.

    I was asked what I wanted my legacy to be at work as part of this whole evaluation nonsense. I’ve decided it should be forcing management to hear, “Where’s Num Lock? No one else here can help me!” daily for at least a year.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      “I was asked what I wanted my legacy to be at work as part of this whole evaluation nonsense. I’ve decided it should be forcing management to hear, “Where’s Num Lock? No one else here can help me!” daily for at least a year.”

      So may it be!

    2. knitchic79*

      Nothing like a healthy dose of gaslighting to speed/ confirm a desire to exit. Good for you getting out of there with your sanity relatively in check! Merry Christmas! :)

  46. NL*

    Does anyone else find receiving gifts to be sticky? Part of the problem is that I’m really picky about what I’ll wear and what I want in my home. If someone buys me clothing, there’s a 99 percent chance I won’t like it enough to want to wear it. Also, I also really hate having “stuff” around and only want to keep things that bring me joy. If someone buys me, say, a kitchen tool, there’s a 99 percent chance that I’ll either already have it (if it’s something I wanted) or it will be something I have to give away or store and never use.

    I’ve thought about saying no more gifts but that wouldn’t fly with my family. I don’t want to be ungrateful. I appreciate that people are thinking of me and I know that’s what matters most. But I feel bad every time I open a gift and know the giver wants me to like it and spent money on it and I know I’m going to need to get rid of it. I hate thinking that I’m wasting their money.

    1. Beezus*

      Nudge people to gift you with experiences, then, rather than things. Gift cards to restaurants, tickets to movies, concerts, etc., a zoo membership, and so on. Talk up your interest in those things around gift-giving events, ask for them when prompted for gift ideas, be especially effusive thanking people for them when they go along with it, and in a year or two, even the most stubborn family members should catch on.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Sometimes this request has to be repeated multiple times before it sticks. My mother-in-law is especially insistent — one year I suggested concert tickets and restaurant gift cards, and she said, “but I want to give you STUFF!”

        She’s *seen* our tiny NYC apartment, so I don’t know where she thinks the stuff is going to go. She finally seems to have gotten the hint this year, though!

        1. Bibliovore*

          It took years but I finally got my family to stop giving me stuff. I just kept repeating that our small NYC apartment had no more room and for each thing that came in, something had to leave. They started sending fruit and I gotta say , I do love those Florida oranges in December.

    2. Ruffingit*

      Agree with asking for experiences vs. gifts. And, if that doesn’t work, then regift what you receive to someone who would appreciate it or sell it and donate the money to a favorite charity. That way you don’t feel like they are wasting their money on something for you. And, it might help you to be more enthusiastic if, when you open the gift, you don’t see it as a high-tech blender, you see it as a $100 contribution to a charity you love.

    3. blue_eyes*

      Say thank you and then pass it on to a friend or donate it. And then do what Beezus and Ruffingit suggest re: asking for experiences.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      We got to a point where we had enough things for our little house. I would say point blank, “No more coffee mugs, I have 50 of them.” I got 9 more coffee mugs that year.
      The year I said no more tree ornaments I have enough for 3 trees, you guessed it, I got 11 more of them.
      Sometimes it is like giving them a road map to fail.

      So we started opening our presents with two bags beside us. One was for garbage such as gift wrap and such. And the other was for things to donate. Toss the wrap in the wrap bag, toss the gift in the donate bag. At first I felt horrible about that. Then after a bit I realized I was speaking clearly, No more mugs, No more ornaments. I realized that the gift giver was not concerned whether I used the gift or not. Nor was the giver concerned that I might be upset over not being able to use the gift. They were just buying things for the sake of filling some odd sense of obligation.
      My suggestion parallels what others are saying here. Start by saying, “Gosh, you know, I have enough stuff. I feel bad if I can’t use something you guys gave me. It upsets me. While my preference is to slow way down on the gifts or even stop, some people may not like that idea. So I am asking for X instead of the usual selection of gifts. I would actually use X and it would be meaningful to me.”

      If they don’t change what they are doing, then you have the go-ahead not to feel guilty about giving stuff away.

      1. danr*

        By mentioning what you didn’t want, you cemented the item in their minds. “She mentioned coffee mugs… we’ll get them some”.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, the ears only pick up every other word or so.

          It also goes this way:
          Them: Do you want x?
          Us: No thanks, won’t be able to make use of it.
          Much later:
          Them: I bought you x, isn’t it great?
          [Us: Figure out what store they bought it at an return it for something we’d actually use.]

    5. Case of the Mondays*

      I’m also a minimalist but I do occasionally want something. I try to keep a list and then share it with family at the end of the year. They all appreciate the suggestions and know it isn’t a demand. Then after the holidays during all the sales I buy the things I didn’t get that I still want from earlier in the year.

    6. Mallory Janis Ian*

      My women’s group recently announced that we will have a post-holiday exchange where we bring in gifts (or any item from around the house) that we won’t use. So now I’ve been happy at the re-gifting potential of various co-worker gifts.

      1. Rubyrose*

        Many years ago I was in a study group at church. The leader, a priest, told us that every year after Xmas he and the other priests of that denomination in town (about 10) met for lunch. They would each bring the most obnoxious gift they had received from a parishioner and use them for their Secret Santa exchange.

        Well, we in the study group had an idea. Next December, we found the perfect gift for our leader. A plastic toaster, about six inches high. It had in it about 12 thick cardboard pieces of toast. Nine of them has bible verses printed on them. Three were blank, so you could put in your own, Maybe cost $10.00??

        The look on our leader’s face was priceless. He could not believe we got him such a thing, but on the other hand he saw the opportunity to get rid of it.

        We did give him another, more appropriate gift.

    7. Sunflower*

      I am a lot like this too and I’ve tried to ask for gift cards or experiences but my family thinks that’s not much fun apparently. Around October I start making a list of things that I need or things that will need to be replaced shortly but isn’t immediate. This is the stuff I put on my life. I ask for a lot of make-up and skin stuff so i can be brand specific. Not sure how much storage space you have but even if you have extra junk lying around, if you can shove it away somewhere it’s much more valuable to have junk you’ll actually use!

      If all else fails, ask for things from stores with lenient return policies that you like to shop at and return it for store credit or something else.

    8. MsChanandlerBong*

      I am not a “stuff” person at all. My MIL was appalled when I asked her for a gift card to the grocery store last year (she asked what I wanted; I didn’t just take it upon myself to request a gift!), but that’s the type of gift I enjoy. Money has been tight lately, so the opportunity to shop for groceries without having to carry around a calculator and dip into my coupon envelope is a very exciting thing for me. I also love Amazon gift cards. My mom sent me one this year, and I used it to buy 50 lb. of cat litter, 35 lb. of cat food, and a utensil crock. My husband is having a tough time finding a job, so it makes me really happy to know the cats will have clean litter and plenty of food for at least two months. I’d much rather peace of mind than a picture frame or piece of bric-a-brac.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      I tried no more gifts and it didn’t work. And I caved this year and ended up buying gifts. And to top it off, EVERYONE is paired off and I hate being the singleton. Hate. It. So I decided that from now on, I’m going to travel at Christmas. This year, I got good stuff and gave good stuff so it will end with a bang, ha ha.

  47. Colette*

    A while ago, I asked about books for 11 year olds. I ended up getting:
    The Family Romanov (for both girls)
    Howl’s moving Castle
    A Tamora Pierce book that I don’t remember the name of.
    The Westing Game
    (One of the girls has a birthday coming up, so one of those books is for that).

    Girl #1 is already well into The Family Romanov. (Girl #2 hasn’t opened her gift yet).

    Thanks again for all of the suggestions!

  48. Fleur*

    I actually had a nightmare about my job last night. I am taking a much needed 2 week vacation after almost 3 months of 60-80 hour weeks, and I dreamt that I was asked to go into work and just spend half an hour deploying a system. Then when I went in, I kept getting pulled into other work, answering questions, and then I finally left work to go home, only to discover that I didn’t do the single task that I sent into work to do in the first place. Then, for some reason, I had to walk 40 minutes back to work to do it.

    That’s a bad sign about the stress of a job, isn’t it?

    1. Num Lock*

      Yes. I had a similar nightmare once where I was trying to close up, but people kept coming in and the office kept expanding so that, by the time I tracked one group down and got them out, 5 others had wandered off into the maze. :(

  49. Jessen*

    Hooray for Christmas and relatives! My parents presented me with a new suit and a pair of blouses for Christmas, since I have nothing to wear for interviews right now. I also got an old pair of black pumps my mother was going to send to Goodwill.

  50. Ruffingit*

    BEST AND WORST HOLIDAY EDITION! What is the best and worst gifts you’ve ever received? What is the best/worst holiday story, family dysfunction, etc? Share your holiday best and worsts.

    1. periwinkle*

      Best and worst gift are the same: My husband’s holiday “bonus” from a former employer. Said employer had recently paid to sponsor the game-starting puck drop for the local NHL team. So for their Christmas bonus the employees received… a hockey puck with the company logo and a bag of microwave popcorn.

      A single-serving bag of microwave popcorn.

      The popcorn is gone but the hockey puck has been immortalized in a shadow box frame. Whenever my husband feels cranky about his current company he can look at this fine piece of art and remember that things could be much worse.

      1. Rubyrose*

        Love this!

        Reminds me of a place I worked at. It was known for the elaborate,huge gift baskets it gave employees every year. You could feed a small country for a day with it. Company got a new CEO, who decided to give each employee a 5 pound bag of unshelled peanuts. You could hear the grumbling from a block away.

    2. Brownie Queen*

      I have a worst one for you.

      When I was younger I worked full time on a horse farm, 8 hours day, cleaning stalls, handling horses, etc. manual labor. Christmas time normally meant cash gifts and tips from the horse owners. One year I got a re-gifted jogging suit. Really? After being on my feet 8 hours a day I want to go jogging.

    3. Rubyrose*

      Best: one year, when I was fairly depressed and not wanting any holiday contact with anyone, I opened my front door on Dec 24 and found a stocking. Obviously handmade (not trimmed, uneven stitching). Filled with an oddball assortment of items, including a small wooden angel ornament. No name. I don’t know if it was meant for me or if someone delivered to the wrong house. But it touched my heart. I still have that stocking and angel.

      Worst (or at least most memorable): at my first professional job, many years ago, at a medical lab that employed around 125 people. Lab was owned by three people. I had been on the job about 2 years, in IT.
      February: another IT employee and I are asked to join the company Xmas committee. The committee was in charge of organizing the formal dinner with spouse/entertainment/dancing at some local venue. The company had sponsored this for about 5 years. Term of appointment of 2 years. We accepted.

      May: Xmas committee decides to ask Owner3, who lived in another city and a known accomplished after dinner speaker, to do a 15 minute set at the Xmas dinner. He accepted.

      June: the three owners decided to spin the IT dept into a separate company, which would continue to service the lab but also bring in other business.

      July through November: the previously good relationship between IT and the rest of the lab went downhill. The rumors of IT receiving massive raises (not true) abounded. We were supposedly making extra revenue that should be given to the lab for raises, not the owners. It was so bad that during a big outage, when many people were working extra hours to catch up and the owners brought in KFC for everyone, lab workers told the IT workers that they were not welcome to any food and my manager forked over money to keep the peace (such as it was).

      December, day of party: my IT coworker and I go pick up Owner3 at the airport. On the drive in, we ask him to give us an overview of his speech. He had decided to poke fun at the new IT company and how the lab had changed because of it! Coworker and I tried to explain to him that it would not be a good topic. Owner3 would hear nothing of it.
      Party time: Tried warning Owner3 again, with no result. I started drinking heavily (which was not normal for me). Sat down at my table, where my coworker and Owner2 were sitting. My drink was empty and I didn’t feel like getting up and getting another, so I “borrowed” coworkers drink without asking. Owner2 sees this, says nothing, but give me a look that could kill.
      Dinner is over, time for the entertainment. Owner3 starts in. All conversation, laughter, and merriment come to a screeching halt. The 15 minute talk lasts about 5 minutes, then Owner3 immediately announced it was time for dancing.

      February: Owners inform the Xmas committee, through HR, that there will no longer be a Xmas party, so no need for a committee. The next Xmas, company had everyone order a gift from a catalog.

      Thanks for this topic – I’ve been wanting to tell this story for a long time.

    4. Persehone Mulberry*

      Best: my husband went SO FAR overboard on my gift this year: he replaced my engagement ring, which had gotten stolen years ago when we were young and super poor and didn’t have rental insurance. Except my old ring was a 1/5 carat solitaire and the new ring is a a pave wrap with a half-carat diamond that he’s going to have fit to my wedding band. But the ACTUAL best part is that he’s been secretly selling stuff from his collectibles collection for months to get it. I’m just blown away.

    5. Clever Name*

      Best: low key Christmas in the mountains with napping and watching movies.

      Worst: only Chinese restaurant in town closed on Christmas Eve.

    6. Mimmy*

      Worst Christmas gift: Probably anything from one of my uncles because 9 times out of 10, it is a DVD of some random movie. This year, we got a Laverne & Shirley DVD. I never got into that show! Oh…also, my grandfather used to give the grandkids bags of random hotel-size toiletries! But he was lovable so I can’t fault him for that, may he RIP.

      Best Christmas gift: When my now-husband proposed to me at my grandparents’ house in 1998 <3

    7. Natalie*

      Worst gift I ever got: not Christmas, so I’m cheating a little bit, but when I graduated from high school my grandmother gave me a book written by a former Miss Wisconsin (grandma’s state of residence) that was part memoir and part why you should save yourself for marriage. Too late gma.

      Best: last year, I had my first ever Christmas tree as an adult (a previous partner had been allergic so no trees for years). My mom came over for tea and since I had mentioned I had a tree she said she’d see if she had any ornaments. Well, she brought a shoebox with all of the ornaments I remember most from my childhood. She’s not a sentimental person and has a tendency to get rid of things without asking me or my brother if we would want it (including our dog; my brother found out and took her before mom could take her to the humane society). And we have a strained-at-best relationship. So I was really surprised and touched that she had all these ornaments still. Put them up again this year!

    8. Schnapps*

      A tool set from my ex-husband. It didn’t help that he presented me with diamond earrings a few days after.

      Best gift: my Bissell Carpet Cleaner. Brilliant. My parents gave it to me at my request. I love that thing a little more every time I use it.

    9. Ruffingit*

      BEST: Christmas in Germany with my then-boyfriend now husband. He is from Germany and was living there. It’s a gift I gave myself that year and it was our first Christmas together.

      WORST: My ex-husband gave me weather stripping for my car. On the one hand, I appreciated that he was thinking of me and wanting my car to work well, but on the other…weather stripping…for a gift? Just didn’t feel very gift-like to me.

      Also, my ex in-laws gave us garden equipment (rake, shovel) and said “Now you can clean up that messy backyard of yours.” UM…thanks. Yeah. Totally appreciate you gifting us with something that will help us fix our house the way you think it should be. Awesome.

    10. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Oh goodness… My bar for worst gift is based on a gift my aunt gave me when I was a kid. I got a VHS tape on how to use a Minolta camera, but I did not receive (nor did I have) a Minolta camera. I’m pretty sure that she just picked something up for cheap/free and threw it in a gift bag.

      As far as best gifts… that one is harder because I’ve had a lot of really great gifts over the years, but they were great for different reasons. I think my favorite gift this year was tickets to a show that I’ll get to go to in March. :-)

      Stories are fun. Worst Christmas was probably the one where my dad was sick (he’s fine now), but he was going through something. I was young and didn’t know all the details, but he was miserable. We ended up celebrating Christmas on about the 22nd because he was feeling a bit better that day, and we didn’t know if he would be better on Christmas or not.

      Best Christmas was probably one of the ones when I was a kid. My mom always tried to do it up big, lots of decorations, make a special breakfast. The older I get, the more they run together, but I feel like there was one year where there were basically mountains of presents. As a kid, just seeing that was so fun. I really enjoyed all the traditions and things we developed. As an adult, I don’t care so much about mountains of “stuff”, but just being with family whatever you do is nice.

    11. AdAgencyChick*

      Best and worst were from the same person (a friend of mine who loves to give gag gifts):

      Best: a pair of pot holders in a hideous 1990s color scheme that say “Spice up your life” and “Can’t touch this.” Since this person and I have been friends since the ’90s…bwaaaahahahaha! (And I actually use the pot holders.)

      Worst: the same Christmas he got me a pair of glasses that you can use to read while lying down (they have mirrors so you can be lying flat, holding the book vertically and you see the text). I already wear glasses and I didn’t want to put those on on top of them (not that I could imagine using the mirror glasses even if I had good uncorrected vision).

    12. the gold digger*

      Best gift: Hard to say – I have gotten so many wonderful presents from people who really get me. A former boyfriend gave me a belt sander (so I would quit borrowing his). My husband got me a wooden toilet seat so I would not be shocked by the porcelain seat when I got up at night. For our first Christmas together, he got me diamond earrings. We have become more practical, but that’s OK – I pee a lot more frequently than I wear earrings.

      Worst: Now that Sly and Doris are dead, this list has become static. There is so much to choose from – the adopted manatee and sea turtle that came with a poster and an adoption certificate, the cheap Chinese pressed board nesting tables painted with hibiscus and hummingbirds, the potted tropical plant for our cold, dark, upper Midwest house, the custom jigsaw puzzle of a map of our neighborhood. But they really outdid themselves the year they got us the cast-iron cat AND the framed photo of themselves with the option of two frames.

    13. jhhj*

      The worst gift was a notepad from my aunt & uncle, where the first few sheets had been torn out and there were pen impressions in the top sheet.

      1. jhhj*

        Might I add that for some reason, that year we were there at the same time as the cousins on the other side, with whom they were closer, so we saw these $10 presents for us (way under the agreed upon amount, and less than my family spent on them) and $80 presents for them.

    14. MsChanandlerBong*

      The worst gift I’ve ever received was a bottle of maple syrup. The best gift might be from this year. My MIL knows we have been having a tough time, so she told us she’d like to take us shopping the day before Christmas Eve. I figured she’d tell us each to pick out one gift, but we got to the store and she said “Try to keep it to $400.” I almost died. My husband picked out two pairs of dress pants, a belt, a tie, and a wallet. I ended up getting a Black & Decker blender, a tea kettle, pot holders, a Pyrex casserole dish, a Pyrex liquid measuring cup, a set of vegetable peelers, four monogrammed mugs, a rolling pin, and a Yankee candle. Turns out her boss gave her a very generous bonus in the form of a gift card, so she used some of it and then turned around and spent the rest on us.

      I also managed to find a Leblanc clarinet on eBay, so I used my Christmas gift money to buy it. It’s a vintage model from the 1970s, and it’s made of solid wood instead of a resin composite. I plan to join a community band in January, so I hope it arrives in time for me to get a little practice in.

      As far as family dysfunction, we moved about 2,000 miles from home, so we didn’t have to put up with the usual drama this year. My family is drama-free, and my MIL is drama-free, but my husband’s dad, stepmother, and extended family are out of their minds. It was nice not to have to go to Christmas Eve dinner (AKA Misery Fest) and listen to all the nonsense.

      1. fposte*

        I would delight in a bottle of maple syrup (I love the stuff), but your MIL’s present is absolutely awesome. I’m glad you had some nice stuff coming your way.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yay for MIL!!
        My mother gave me a bottle of real maple syrup with a cinnamon stick in (she probably got it at Hallmark, if I know her). I actually used it. This year, I got another one, right when I ran out. :)

  51. periwinkle*

    Kitty question!

    We have 4 cats. Three of them are senior spays (10, 13, and 14), one is a neuter who just turned 2. The girls are mellow and get along well. The neuter… well, just imagine being a young teenage boy being sent to live with your aunt and great-aunts. He’s active and playful and bored. We try to wear him out with toys but his energy level is high.

    Consequently, we’re off to the local shelter this weekend to look for a high-energy friend. Age and gender are the questions. He’s a dominant boy just hitting the early maturity mark (although he won’t be fully mature until 3 or 4 – he’s a purebred and this particular breed matures late). If we brought home another male around the same age I know we’d have territorial issues. What about a young confident female? I was also considering adopting an older kitten or maybe two; the shelter’s website just posted a pair of 6-month old bonded brothers that they’d like to have adopted as a pair.

    We’ve had 6 cats before so quantity isn’t an issue. If my husband had his way we’d have All The Cats (but that means All The Scooping, so no).

    1. fposte*

      The Way of Cats lady says that sex (as long as they’re altered) isn’t usually a bar and in fact she suggests same sex is often more compatible. But she thinks energy levels are the really important thing–your focus on a “high-energy friend” is exactly right.

      I know the math isn’t quite right, but I’ll attach her link on getting a third cat in a separate post, because it talks about compatibility usefully.

        1. periwinkle*

          “The solution to your cat problem is more cats!”

          Now that’s some advice I can get behind. Many thanks for that link! The advice is very helpful and clarifies what’s we’ve got going on here. There’s definitely a social connection problem. Our boy kitty is loads of snuggly bouncy extroverted fun if you’re a human, not so much fun to be around if you’re a quiet senior cat.

  52. Today's anon*

    Etiquette question – what if someone gives you a gift when you were not expecting one and don’t have anything for them? I don’t celebrate Christmas (and they know it) so really it was not on my radar. And yes, I thanked them!

    1. Colette*

      That’s all you need to do. You could write them a sincere note thanking them if you want, but you don’t need to get them a gift in return.

    2. Cassie*

      I just thank them. In the past, I might have felt obligated to rush out and find a gift, but not anymore. If you give gifts expecting to get gifts back, then you’re doing it wrong :)

    3. the gold digger*

      I just learned that the oldest women in my state is my grandmother’s cousin and she lives in the old folks’ home two blocks from my house. I went to meet her the other day. She was asleep but was talking in her sleep. She is 114 years old. She was saying, “Oh, you shouldn’t have! That is so lovely! But I don’t have anything for you!”

      As in – 114 years old and she is still having nightmares about being caught unprepared with gifts!

  53. Liane*

    Just in case anyone is wondering why I am spending so much time today with AAM & Company:
    I got a migraine midmorning. It has pretty much gone away, after 2 doses of non-prescription meds, but I still don’t trust my stomach. So lying down in room where I can’t smell food while playing with tablet is all I can do.
    Wonderful Son walked to Walgreens to get me ginger ale and peppermints a couple hours ago, and he and Amazing Daughter are finishing the cooking, which I hope to be able to eat much later.
    Having done Retail Customer Service, I am very much against anything but essential services being open on major holidays (or Black Friday other than standard business hours). But I was so grateful they were open today, because I was feeling sick enough at one point, I was afraid I might need to go to the ER.

    1. Aam Admi*

      Sorry to hear about your migraine Liane. Hope you feel better soon and enjoy the rest of the weekend.

      1. Liane*

        Thank you both! Headache is gone, but still don’t feel quite right. Was able to eat Daughter’s mashed potatoes

    2. Lindsay J*

      Yeah I agree on the whole “things being open” part.

      Normally I wouldn’t go anywhere on Christmas. But, I’ve been put up in a hotel for 16 days. And not an extended stay one with a kitchenette or anything. And I do need to eat. So I was very greatful ihop was open for me to go to after work today.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Aww. I hope you’re better by now.

      Walgreen’s is wonderful. They stayed open during the 2007 ice storm, with no power, and added people’s purchases up on a calculator. In the dark. Yes, I thanked them! And nobody bitched in the queue, which was even more miraculous!

  54. Elliot*

    Work question:
    I’m the recreation director for an adult home and my boss wants me to take PCA training to be able to cover for the nursing department in a pinch. I don’t wish to do this for many reasons:

    A. Being in recreation, I don’t provide medical care. I feel like there are certain boundaries that could adversely affect my effectiveness as a recreation director if crossed, such as giving showers and changing residents’ clothes.
    B. Being pulled away from my department constantly by residents and staff to help with nursing is going to interrupt my activities.
    C. I am really not enthused with the prospect of working the undesirable overnight and major holiday shifts that are in need of coverage.
    D. I hate to sound like a jerk, but I’m a department head in a field I love and it took me a long time to get here. Training to do unrelated entry level work isn’t something that helps me meet my long term goals. I have all the respect in the world for nurses, especially PCAs who are hardworking, underpaid and so vital to our facility, but it is not a job I ever wanted to do. And to be any kind of supervisor, I would need LPN training or higher, which my organization does not provide.

    Is there a good way to decline this gracefully? My boss is framing it as a great educational opportunity, but it’s not. My organization has an all hands on deck culture which I enjoy, but none of the other department heads cross train for entry level nursing.

    Hope everyone is having a great holiday!

    1. Rubyrose*

      Something short, sweet, to the point, that is said in a gracious voice? As in, no thanks, I’m not interested.

      I don’t think you want to bring up that it does not fit into your long term goals, because that might bring the question of what those goals are, and the boss will probably be evaluating whether those goals fit in with your organization.

      I can see where what you bring to the table, in terms of enhancing the lives of your residents, is different than other professionals. Stick to your guns.

      1. Meg Murry*

        I agree with Rubyrose. I would just be cautious and look for signs – is there any chance your boss is implying they can’t justify a full time employee in recreation only? Is she heavily implying she needs you to be a certified PCA so you can be scheduled for some recreation shifts and some PCA shifts because otherwise you would have to have your hours cut?

        Is there a way to meet in the middle – not doing a full out PCA training, but just doing some basic training like CPR or safely assisting fragile people in an out of chairs, etc? Assuming you haven’t already done that kind of thing, of course. Could you counter with some other type of continuing education as a proposal?

        Or she might just be grasping desperately at straws, hoping you have some interest because she needs more people. I know you said none of the other department heads are cross trained, but how do the other departments compare to yours in size or responsibilities? Do you have employee under you, and could you offer to see if any of them are interested in the training (without committing them, but some migh actually want to be cross trained)?

    2. Artemesia*

      You need to make it very clear that this is not where you want your career to go and absolutely decline the duty and the training. AND you need to be getting your resume together and looking for other employment. This is a very exploitive move on their part and suggests they may have financial issues and can’t hire adequate staff or that they don’t respect your role and skill. Not good. You have it sussed out. Be firm that you are not willing to do this or you will be changing diapers at 2 am and wonder how it came to that.

      1. Elliot*

        I will absolutely not be doing it. I’ve offered to take first aid recertification instead to be able to react properly to an emergency (especially since I take residents off campus alone).

        Leaving isn’t an ideal option right now. I’ve only been in the position for a couple months, and I’ve just begun to build report among the residents. I also really enjoy the unique population in this facility, and it’s more responsibility than any position I’ve ever had in this field, so it should be a great resume builder for moving elsewhere in a few years. And I feel very much vested in my work– my department was an absolute mess when I started, and it’s very rewarding to see it turn around with so many positive reactions from my residents.

        Yeah, the facility is a struggling nonprofit that pays PCAs less money for more work than anywhere else in the area, and our population is very challenging, so it’s hard to keep them for any period of time.

        I will not be short staffing my department or working an irregular schedule to do PCA work. I do hope my refusal doesn’t cause ill feelings among the rest of the staff, who along with the residents have embraced me and the drastic changes I’ve made to my department (which consists of me, a couple volunteers, and a PCA who is cross trained to do very simple activities on my days off.)

        1. Observer*

          Well, your last sentence provides the framing you need – You were hired to do a job, and training to do another job is going to short staff your primary position.

    1. katamia*

      Yes! I was kind of surprised that they picked her to begin with, but I’ve been really impressed with her so far. I wasn’t a huge fan of Yoffe, so I think that enhances the contrast.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I might have to take up Dear Prudence again, then. I used to read a whole array of advice columnists, but the past couple years or so I’ve pared down to just AAM and Carolyn Hax. I left some columnists behind in the move from Google Reader (RIP) to Feedly and just have not missed them. But mainly I feel that most of my advice needs are met between Alison and Carolyn, although it seems like Captain Awkward might be something I should check out. People here are always referring to that blog for difficult family problems.

  55. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Also, do y’all want the normal weekend free-for-all that generally goes up on Saturdays at 2 p.m. EST? Or will this one right here take you through the weekend? I don’t want to double up if everyone would rather stay right here.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Yay! Having the thread appear today felt like a gift, and now, having it double as the weekend thread — and open early –feels like another gift!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I missed the early–the internet at my mum’s was not a thing and I didn’t want to use up too much data on my phone to tether. But I’m here now and enjoying. :)

  56. Shell*

    Cleaning up my desk and opened the paystub I’d gotten from my boss last week.

    I got a very, very large bonus (to me, anyway). Bonus to the bonus: I have been at my current job less than one year, and was told that employees only get bonuses starting from the second year. I will probably clarify with my boss to make sure she didn’t make a mistake, but wow.

    Did I mention that every employee got two gifts by the boss? (I’m talking about things like Bluetooth speakers and wine mixing sets, etc., carefully chosen to our interests and taste. And easily re-giftable if she did get it wrong.)

    Merry Christmas, everybody.

    1. danr*

      If you heard about the bonus practice from fellow employees, don’t take it as policy. Chances are that they didn’t know anyone who got a bonus earlier than two years. Just thank your boss for the bonus and the gifts.

      1. Shell*

        My memory is a little fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure the person who mentioned the bonus policy is my boss (who is the owner–small place). I’m pretty (but slightly less so) she said bonuses are given a few times a year, but this is the first one I got.

        That said, I’m only about a month short of my 1 year anniversary, and it’s the holidays, so my guess is that she decided to let me slide for this round of bonus-giving. But I will definitely thank her again!

          1. Mander*

            I don’t know, I’d be tempted to clarify there wasn’t a mistake just in case you find yourself being told you have to pay it back two years from now! Worse things have happened here on AAM.

  57. West Coast Reader*

    Merry Christmas everyone! I have a second interview coming up next week, and I can use some advice. First of all, I have to present for 15 minutes on 3 topics. One of them is “how I will contribute to the company culture”. For this part, I’m assuming I should identify how I meet their core values and give them an insight of what I’m like to work with? Is there anything else I should add?

    And then there’s a 15-minute Q&A with the team – what should I prepare other than describing my strengths, skills, and experience in relation to the job?

    1. the gold digger*

      I am assuming by Q&A that you get to ask them questions, as well?

      I would ask about your would-be boss works – does she want you to check in at every step of a project or only want to be informed if there are problems? Are there other people who will have the authority to give you work? What are the big projects they are working on? How do you work with people not in that office?

      I would want to make sure I am not jumping into the fire – that’s how I handled my last interview. I was trying to get out of a horrible situation and I didn’t want to get into a worse one. You get to interview them, too!

  58. T*

    Hope everyone is having a happy holiday. Just a quick note to say thank you Alison for your book recommendations (a few posts back). I’ve borrowed a few from the library and am almost through Mr. Penumbras 24 Hour Book Store. Excellent recommendation!

  59. SL #2*

    I think it’s colder in LA right now than it is in most other parts of the country. I don’t understaaaand!

    Anyway, I smell the ham baking and the ice cream in the freezer is calling my name but my stomach is telling me I’ve hit my dairy limit for the day already. But at least the Warriors are kicking ass! Hope everyone’s having a great day, whether or not Christmas is your thing.

    1. Mimmy*

      I was just thinking earlier how the weather patterns in the country are the opposite of what they were last year. Last year it was the Northeast that would get snowstorm after snowstorm after snowstorm. This year, it’s the west’s turn!! Even in New Mexico, they’re expecting 12-18 inches–my husband grew up there, and he says that’s very unusual.

      1. Natalie*

        I’m in Minnesota – Minnesota! – and we have basically no snow. I can see patches of green on the lawn. It is… confusing.

      2. Meg Murry*

        Outside of the highest mountains, that’s extremely unusual for New Mexico. I lived in southern New Mexico 10 years ago, and the one time it was snowing, the whole school shut down to take the kids outside, because it could very well be the only time in their childhood they would see snow actively falling from the sky and do things like catch snowflakes on tongues, mittens and eyelashes. Most of the long term residents there could list off each time it has snowed in their lifetime – it was usually only a handful.

  60. MsChanandlerBong*

    All we want for Christmas is for Santa to bring my husband a job. Things have been tough, and if he doesn’t find something soon, we’re going to end up living in our car.

    But, we do have more than a lot of other people, so I’ll wish everyone a happy holiday and be grateful for what we have.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      It’s perfectly ok to whine when you’re in worrisome situations. People always have it worse – but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel bad. I’m sorry you’re going through such a stressful time and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that something good comes his way.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Thanks so much! It means a lot. I don’t know if you saw my post in the job thread last week, but he had a job offer, but then the offer was pulled because his former employer prohibits supervisors from giving references. They only allow potential employers to know employment dates and the employee’s final salary/hourly rate. So because the HR rep couldn’t talk to a supervisor, they took the offer away. Then he had an interview last Thursday that he came home feeling really upbeat about. He’s usually either meh or “I don’t know if it went well,” but this time he was standing tall and talking very animatedly about it. Monday, I heard a big sigh come from the area of his laptop…he got an email saying they are no longer continuing with his candidacy.

        I am self-employed, and there is a lot of work available to me right now, but the pay isn’t great. It’s hard to make at least $800 per week when you’re doing tasks that are five bucks a pop. Once we finish the year, I really need to start marketing myself to clients who are willing to pay more for quality. I’m a freelance writer; unfortunately, many people believe that typing skill = writing skill. I do a lot of work for law firms, and there have been several times I’ve been hired to edit stuff and had to turn around and completely rewrite it because the client hired cheap writers without any industry expertise. State bar associations have very specific rules about what you can say on a law firm blog or in an article on a lawyer’s website, and the writers willing to work for pennies usually don’t know those rules. For example, I edited one article that was full of “We specialize in X area of law” statements. That particular state’s bar association says you can’t call yourself a specialist unless you take and pass (and then pay to maintain) a certification in that practice area. And the specialty we were writing about (personal injury law) isn’t even one of the specialty certifications offered!

        TLDR; I’m hoping to send out a direct mail piece to some carefully selected law firms (I really enjoy writing about medical malpractice, so I’m targeting personal injury firms) and convince them that they should hire me at a hire rate because I know what I’m talking about and can keep them in compliance with state advertising/ethics rules.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          If you don’t already know about it, look up Ed Gandia’s blog. He’s a freelance writer who helps other people up their freelance writing game. You might find some good tips there.

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            I love Ed Gandia! I paid for one of his courses a while back, but I’ve been so busy trying to stay afloat that I haven’t gone through the whole thing yet. I should add that to my list for January. He had a marketing program that sounded really good, but it was like $4,000, and I don’t even have $40 to spare (never mind thousands).

      2. Not So NewReader*

        “People always have it worse – but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel bad.”

        This is a really important point. Telling ourselves things could be worse is a tool/device for helping us to pull our thoughts together. Used repeatedly against ourselves is, basically, us abusing ourselves. It’s just another way we beat ourselves up and does nothing to proactively help us with our situations. It works up to a point and then it does not work anymore. Sometimes kicking ourselves in the butt is what we need to do but we also need to do other things such as forgive ourselves and take care of ourselves.

        1. Mander*

          Indeed. This is a variation on the “first world problem” dismissal, IMHO. It invalidates your feelings because they aren’t the worst possible ones. Definitely abusive if overused.

          Anyway I really hope something comes through for him soon! That really sucks about the reference thing.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Very true. There is always someone who has it worse. If you try to push away your own feelings on their behalf, then how will you ever help yourself?

          It’s the same as when they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before you put one on your kid. You can’t help anyone or do anything properly (or sometimes at all) if you don’t take care of yourself.

  61. Cassie*

    What does a company/workplace usually do if someone informs them that another employee is watching porn in the office?

    A coworker told me that she and a few other coworkers overheard another employee watching porn on his work computer – at first, she thought maybe he accidentally clicked on a NSFW link but the sounds continued throughout the day. She asked that I not tell anyone because she’s afraid that he will know it was her (their desks are in the same area). She mostly just wants the guy to stop (or at least put on headphones – ?!), but she also feels uncomfortable when she’s at her desk and especially if/when she has to stay late past 5pm.

    She isn’t the first employee to make this claim to me (the other person to tell me about it was pretty vague, though). Both times I mentioned it to an HR rep and the HR rep said that at some businesses, it’s an automatic firing if you are caught. The HR rep said that he’d take care of the necessary next steps, but I was wondering what the typical process is. I assume they would contact IT to find out what sites the person visited. Do they also inform the employee what they are doing, or do they wait until they have some kind of evidence first?

    1. knitchic79*

      In my experience the person being investigated is not told…in cases like this anyways. Giving them a heads up would defeat the purpose. But I can see a dysfunctional or otherwise lame company telling the guy to keep things “fair.”

      In our store we once had a security gaurd watching porn, on his phone, in our bathroom. He set the phone down I guess and left the bathroom. These were family bathrooms (single stall, unisex). Next lady in line walks in, locks door. Security comes hauling butt back and proceeds to bang on door and beg for his phone. With the best withering glare ever she gives him his phone and reports him to our managers. It was his first day…and last.

    2. knitchic79*

      So Hubby and his mom both for me paella pans for Christmas. Any AAM goodies have a recipie you love? Tonight I’m making a sausage, seafood one. Neither of us are picky eaters so if you guys have really wild ones we’d be down to try them! Or any paella tips in general. (Definitely on the lookout for snails and rabbit to do a traditional Valencia)

  62. Grad Student*

    Merry Christmas y’all!

    I am seeking advice on references and federal job applications. In the usagov resume builder, one is required to list the supervisor and contact information for each position held. There is a separate page for entering in one’s references. Recently I have tried to connect with 3 different former supervisors (none of whom are listed in on my separate reference page), asking if they could provide a positive reference in the event they get contacted. Haven’t heard back. For 2 out of these 3 positions, I have other supervisors to list who would provide a positive reference. But for 1 position, I had only 1 supervisor. If I never hear back from this person, should I remove this job from my resume? How many times should I try to reach them?

    1. newreader*

      I wouldn’t remove a job just because you haven’t been able to contact the supervisor. Employers should know that the person that supervised you at a previous position may no longer be with that employer or in that role. When I fill out applications that want the supervisor name and contact, I often put a general company phone number, such as HR, since the supervisor may no longer be at the phone number I had for them when I worked there. I make sure the refernces page lists current contact information and that I’ve checked with those people to ensure they are willing and able to provide a reference.

      I may be wrong, but I think the application section for employment history is for verification purposes of factual information (job title, length of employment, salary, etc.) and the references section is for those people that you want the prospective employer to use for reference checking.

        1. Grad Student*

          Thank you newreader and AAM! That completely makes sense, but aren’t employers able to contact anyone about my work history, on or off my reference list, or am I misunderstanding the advice given in #3?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes, they are, but not being able to reach a reference doesn’t warrant removing the job from your resume! Sometimes references become unreachable; employers understand that as long as they’re able to contact other people who have managed you.

              1. Grad Student*

                A follow-up: Would it make a difference if I am concerned that one of these past managers would provide a bad reference? The contact information I have is up-to-date, so it isn’t a matter of the person having moved on from the place of employment. And if the person does respond and says that they wouldn’t provide a good reference, then should I delete the job?

  63. Ineloquent*

    Guys, I have a sad situation that is totally not the best for this post. A coworker who I worked with with some frequency was the gunman in a tragic murder suicide involving his children. I’m in shock, frankly.

    1. Shell*


      Oh man. I can’t even imagine how to handle hearing that news. I hope you’re taking care of yourself.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Oh my! Tragic and mind-bending all in the same stroke. Talk it out. If not with us, then find people around you to talk with. Don’t let yourself fall into isolation with your thoughts. Other people are looking for people to talk with so they will find their own comfort in talking with you.

    3. asteramella*

      I am so sorry to hear this. I hope your company makes counseling available to you and your coworkers. If they don’t, please seek out help from your EAP (if you have one) or a counselor who has experience with trauma. This kind of situation can be scary and upsetting even if you are only peripherally involved.

  64. Sunflower*

    My therapist has recommended a book called ‘Reinventing your life’ to identify issues that affect me. ‘Emotional deprivation’ basically describes me to a tee and ‘Defectiveness’ is not that far behind. While this presents in all kinds of ways for different people, for me I’m incredibly attracted to unavailable partners and have never been able to enter a relationship or commit to someone. My therapist is telling me change is not immediate and I’m probably going to get myself into bad situations again. Honestly I feel pretty hopeless. Relationships and things around them scare me/affect me more than the average person. I feel I will never be satisfied by a relationship and even though I strongly wish to both give and receive love, I feel incapable of both. It’s a very paralyzing feeling and I feel my mind will never click and get what I need to do to overcome this.

    Is there anyone out there who dealt with similar feelings/issues and has encouraging stories/advice beyond what the literature says?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t think that I know what it’s like to be you nor do I have any right to claim any special knowledge.
      I do know a couple of things that have supported my endeavors to grow beyond my circumstances.
      Put yourself next to people who have healthy, happy relationships. Watch what they do. Pay attention when something they tell you gives you a warm fuzzy. They are showing you how good relationships work in real life.
      Take care in what you read. Make sure you pick books that offer ideas on what to do, as opposed to just listing off problems. I liked the boundaries books because they tend to talk about how not to get walked all over. We get walked on too much and we tend to go numb.

      Just because change is not immediate/instant is not the same as saying change will NOT happen. And it’s okay to make mistakes, that is how we all learn- I call “mistakes” learning experiences. If you think about it, Alison earns a living because of other people’s ability to make mistakes. There are many people who make a living off of helping others because that is how great the need is on this planet.

      Right off the bat I see two HUGE things in your favor:
      1) You want something different.
      2) You sought help.

      In my mind, you have 50% of the situation back under control. Those are two really big accomplishments right there. Be patient with you. Talk nicely to yourself. If you catch yourself not being patient with you or not talking nicely to yourself, forgive you and get right back on the horse.

      I think next year at this time you will be able to write in and tell us that you are at a different place than you are now. I say this because of your huge accomplishments so far.

    2. nep*

      No special knowledge or advice.
      What comes to mind though is don’t be defined by someone else’s terms or some ‘category’. It might not seem so, but it’s quite powerful to say something like ’emotional deprivation describes me’.
      Not dissing what might be helpful advice or literature, and not being insensitive to what you’re feeling and experiencing; I guess I just want to suggest not ‘becoming’ stuckness. You are not stuck, plain and simple. The fact that you’re addressing this means a hell of a lot. You’ll move through it. Know your power. There are aspects of yourself and strengths you’ve yet to tap into.
      All the best to you. Keep us posted.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, I like this. I think about this with people’s usernames sometimes, especially in connection with research on how things like your passwords can cue your mood and your day.

        Initially I bristled a little, Sunflower, when you talked about what the therapist said (and “defectiveness” just seems like a weird category–don’t we all have defects?), but then when I moved the perspective a little I could see some sense. I would encourage you to take it not as “I am doomed to do bad things again” but “I have been in this pattern for a while and it takes more than understanding it to change the pattern. I may make this same mistake a few more times before I have enough practice to avert, and I need to understand that’s not a failure but a part of the process.” So I think it could be a reassuring thing about process rather than a hopeless thing–does that make any sense to you?

        1. Grad Student*

          “I have been in this pattern for a while and it takes more than understanding it to change the pattern. I may make this same mistake a few more times before I have enough practice to avert, and I need to understand that’s not a failure but a part of the process.”
          This phrasing is awesome.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I copied this into my journal (along with “I am not stuckness” from nep) to use for encouragement as I navigate my own journey this year. I love this group of readers and the wisdom and inspiration that can always be found here.

  65. Be the Change*

    So nice to hear about everyone’s Christmases! Enjoy! …I’m having rather a downer holiday myself. My mom’s side of the family is having a wonderful family reunion with tons of great food, wine, presents, fun, movies, walks, and so forth…and I am on the other side of the planet in a place that does not celebrate Christmas. They have a lot of weird skinny Santas, though. I didn’t get any Christmas cards and only one present: a ceramic vegetable peeler.

    Actually I kind of love the peeler, it’s from my kooky uncle of whom I’m very fond and he sent such a nice note.

    I’m — content — to be where I am, since it means that I have a dearly loved husband and extended family around the world. *And* I miss the lovely celebration that I know is happening. So, thanks everyone for sharing your stories, I’m enjoying reading them. Happy Merry, All.

  66. Haru*

    How would you ask your manager if it would be okay to take PTO for 26 Fridays starting from July to December? Normally, people take 3-4 weeks of during summer, another 1-2 weeks in winter, and 1-2 days during various holidays. If it makes any difference, my last four annual performance evaluations went well. My original thought was to ask for 20% reduction in work hours and salary when its not busy season, and that I wouldn’t mind losing bonus completely. But, spreading out my PTO days instead of asking for reduction in hours seemed liked it would be easier for time sheet purposes. I don’t have a good reason for wanting a 4 day work week for half a year though, like taking care of a family member. Or, is this a really bad idea and I shouldn’t ask?

    1. Mando Diao*

      I don’t see anything wrong with asking. If they need an explanation, tell them the truth: you don’t have any longer vacations planned for the year and the routine will allow you to use your time without causing any major disruptions in the office. I would, however, be prepared to have some of those days switched away from Fridays.

      1. Haru*

        Thank you! Its nice to know that asking wouldn’t be unreasonable. I asked my friends this question first, and they all said this was a bad idea.

    2. Meg Murry*

      I think it’s not unreasonable, although in would work better in some situations than others. I worked at a company where people often stayed there their entire careers and earned 6+ weeks of vacation once they were 25+ year employees, so many of them took off Fridays in the summer plus 2 or 3 single week vacations throughout the year, and as they gt more vacation it start to spread to May- Sept, etc.

      In order for your proposal to work, though:
      -Your job has to be mainly an individual contributor type, where it wouldn’t matter when you did your work, as long as you got what you needed accomplished.
      -It can’t be the type of work with lots of Friday deadline that would get pushed off to another colleague to deal with or cause them to get pushed to Monday/Tuesday.
      -If I was the manager, I would want to know you could work Fridays and trade for another day in the future if there was a true urgent situation – a coworker unexpectedly quits without notice or winds up in the hospital during the busy season, etc. So someone planning this schedule so they wouldn’t have childcare, etc on Fridays would concern me.
      -would 26 Fridays be ALL of your PTO? Would you take 0 days the first 6 months? I’d be concerned about someone hoarding PTO (coming in when sick, or getting burnt out) for the first 6 months of the year to make this happen. If you have something close to 26 days, what if you took every other Friday all year long instead? Or if its 30 days, 2 Fridays a month plus a once week at some point?
      -People seem to notice absence on Fridays more than other days, and feel like so-and-so is “never there”. If you want to climb the ladder here long term, I’d suggest a less conspicuous day. For instance, taking one Friday at the beginning of the month and one Wednesday in the middle/end. I get so much done by taking a mid-week day every month or 2 for tasks like a dentists appointment, car tune-up, dry cleaner run, Target and/or Costco stock up shopping, haircut, etc, and mid-week absences are less noticed. I have a few appointments I need to do every 3 months, so I schedule those out almost a year in advance, and that become my “get life stuff done day”.
      – Is your department one where only X people can be off on a given day? That would not work for me or you to have ALL the Fridays, because it would mean one less person in your dept could take a full week of vacation, and/or others also could take long weekends if you’ve blocked all the Fridays.
      -Are you in a position where someone steps in to handle your work? Some positions/fields require a one week (or more) absence annually so that anything inappropriate/fradulent comes to light. People who work with money and don’t take week+ vacations can be red flags to auditors.

      I think in some jobs its a proposal that can work – and in others its a big fat no way, with lots of gray area in between.

      1. Haru*

        Thank you so much for your detailed response! Some of your points didn’t occur to me as something that my manager would care about until I read it. It was really helpful!

        – Currently, I am responsible for training and reviewing work done by interns and staff from January to June, but the type of work I do in the second half of the year is different and more of an individual contributor type.
        – The work I do technically doesn’t have Friday deadlines, but my manager sometimes gives me work on Friday afternoon and say it needs to be done before Monday morning so he can review it then. But, the last five times, he ended up not reviewing it until Wednesday or Thursday. Is there a good way to point out that he does that?
        – I wouldn’t mind working Fridays if there was a deadline, it’s more that during summer, work is slow and I rather not be at work, asking for work when there’s not much to do.
        – I don’t have any children or any other responsibilities, which is why I feel like I don’t have a good reason for wanting a 4-day workweek. My reasons seems so petty to me. I don’t like taking long vacations because I end up feeling more tired at the end of it than relaxed and refreshed. And, I have friends I want to visit in another state, so I want my weekends to be longer.
        – I have a little bit more that 26 PTO days each year. I’m work in public accounting, so unless I’m sick I don’t take any time off from January to mid-April, and then there’s one project that takes from mid-April to end of June to finish, which is why I thought of July to December.
        – That’s interesting, I wouldn’t have noticed that. Right now, I don’t want to be promoted past my current job title, but I don’t know what I’ll think in another five years, which is why I’m worried that this is a bad idea. Thank you for suggesting alternatives. And, I’m not sure if this is usual. At the firm I work at, if you’re an exempt employee, if you ask to take 2-3 hours off for a day, it doesn’t count towards your PTO use. I usually spread out my dentist appointment and other task throughout the year, so it doesn’t use up any PTO time.
        – I would say no, each person work on their own projects, and its rare that people get assigned to someone else’s project, so I would think it would have affect on other people taking a full week or more off.
        – I’m not required to take a week or more off annually.

        Would anyone have any suggestions for how to ask your manager if it would be okay? Not sure how to bring this up or when? Should I wait until my annual evaluation to ask? I am thinking of asking for one day off every other week instead if that would make a difference.

        1. Haru*

          Opps, forgot to add. Would it be okay to not mention it and ask for one day off every other week as a separate request each time?

          Also, in the past three years, people with the same job title and years of experience are usually (70%) promoted to a more managerial role within a year, so I’m worried that waiting until my annual evaluation would be too late, because I don’t want to promoted and have to increase my work hours and be more available. Lately, my manager has been assigning me more individual contributor type work, so I could be the other 30% and I’m worried over nothing.

    3. asteramella*

      What’s your employer’s written PTO policy? My employer specified in our employee handbook that we may not use PTO in order to effectively modify our work schedules.

      1. Haru*

        I looked through my employee handbook more carefully. Other than saying we can’t take more than one week of unpaid time off without asking partner approval in advance and to not use our PTO during busy season, unless we’re sick, there’s no restriction. But, I don’t know anyone who has modified their work schedule this way.

    4. Treena*

      I think it’s fine to ask. If your review is less than 3 months away, then wait for that, but if it’s not for a while, just bring it up during a check-in meeting, “I was thinking about something and I wanted to run it past you. It occurred to me that I would much rather use my PTO days off more frequently and not take whole -week vacations. I was thinking about taking off 1 day/week or 2 days/months–is that something you could see working?”

      One thing to keep in mind is that some bosses/companies might see an issue with you not taking a whole week, just from a rest and relaxation point of view. If they bring up that concern, I would be prepared to either explain convincingly how exhausted you are after a week vacation and/or offer to take 5 PTO days in a row, and then either do a staycation or a truly low-key trip.

      1. Haru*

        Thank you! The wording you provided sounds perfect. It sounds so much better than what I was planning on saying. I’m really glad I posted the question here =).

  67. Sparkly Librarian*

    Tomorrow morning I’m going out with my dad and his Rottweiler to sit outside in 36-degree weather for two-three hours while a team of humans and search dogs try to find me. (I have been assured that if they can’t find me, I will have a radio to talk to them.) I’m taking a sandwich, granola bar, and Stephen King’s newest collection of short stories. Am I nuts? Who knows?

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Yup! They’re area search dogs, being trained to find lost people in the wilderness. This is my dad’s big hobby in retirement — first EMT training, then SWAT support, then he got a dog.

        1. alex*

          That’s so great; I’d love to do that kind of training with dogs! I never considered it but now will google. We humans are unworthy of the awesomeness of dogs. :)

    1. Today's anon*

      Maybe bring something warm in a thermos? 36 is cold to sit for 3 hours not moving much. Maybe also bring some toilet paper! :)

    2. Sparkly Librarian*

      Survived! And was actually quite comfortable under a ghillie net once the sun started to come over the mountains. 5 different dogs took turns finding me in 2 locations. Then I helped with a training exercise for a 6-month-old pup who is learning to focus on a particular (unfamiliar) person while avoiding distractions nearby. Helps with working in rubble, such as a building collapse, when many workers and machinery may be moving and making noise in the same area.

      Plus, the training leader thought I looked young enough to confirm with my dad that I was over 18 before accepting paperwork. Readers, I am 31. So that tickled me.

  68. LizB*

    All right, this one is sort of work-related, sort of not:

    My parents’ house is not a pleasant place to live for a variety of reasons. My younger sister (early 20s, did 2 years of college before she had to stop for mental health reasons, not a lot of consistent work experience) would very much like to move out of their house and leave their area, which has very few jobs she’s qualified for. I live 2000 miles away in an area with a better job market, better public transit, and lower cost of living. Sister is visiting me right now, and has been checking out job openings in my neighborhood and making noises about maybe wanting to move out here and find an apartment. I think this is a great idea!

    What neither of us knows, however, is how this process should work. Should she apply for jobs first from my parents’ city, using my address, then try to move out here once she has one? Should she try to move first, crash in my guest room for a month or so while she job searches, then look for an apartment afterwards? Should she try to move and immediately find her own place, then job search from there? She doesn’t have much in the way of savings, and while our parents will probably chip in some to support her, it’s going to be a very hard sell for them to completely pay her rent when according to them it would be totally easy for her to find a job near their house if she just ~applied herself~! (They alternate between that view and thinking that she’s totally helpless due to mental health and would immediately melt down and be unable to function if they didn’t do everything for her. They see no conflict between these two views.)

    So, advice from folks who have done any part of this situation – long-distance job searching, job-searching after relocating, getting away from dysfunctional parents? Thanks in advance!

    1. Ruffingit*

      I vote for her moving and crashing in your guest room for a few reasons, one being that it will be a lot easier for her to job search in a town where she’s currently living. Also, and perhaps more importantly, it seems like putting some distance between herself and dysfunctional parents may help her thrive. I can’t imagine her mental health is being done any favors by staying with people who either push her too much or not enough. Giving her some space from them to grow on her own will likely make a big difference for her.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          But… it should be with the understanding that there is a time limit on the free room. If the sister has a spotty employment history, she may not be able to find a job right away.

          LizB, you know your sister better than we do and if you think that she would take such an offer and use it to loaf around… or if she would use it to get a job, any job and bust her hump to get her own place: IMO that should be the deciding factor. The mental health issues you mentioned might be parent-related and once she’s away she’ll be better off… or not.

          It would be very kind of you to take her in and help her get on her feet, but some people live to take advantage of things like that.

          1. Ruffingit*

            Agreed that there need to be rules for length of stay and obligations during the stay such as job hunting, contributing to clean-up, etc. But overall, if LizB is considering this, I’m assuming that she knows her sister well enough to know that she won’t be a loafer. Still though, you make a good point that rules for the situation are important!

  69. Helena*

    Hi, are there any other job seekers out there who feel like they are going to go crazy in the next few weeks waiting for responses knowing that everyone is in holiday mode and a lot of people are out the week between Christmas and New Years? I feel like I am going to go nuts. I have made a list of projects to do so I am not just sitting around waiting but I am pretty anxious about getting work. (And I know, job hunting is like dating and if you really want something, you won’t get it or you will jump into the wrong thing convincing yourself it’s right just to get it.) I am in this weird (but probably common) limbo of being underqualified for the jobs I want but too qualified to get jobs that will help me get the jobs I want. (And if course holiday small talk doesn’t help: “How’s the job search going?” and “Oh, you’re not working?”)

    1. Valar M.*

      Yes I had an interview and won’t here anything for weeks. This happened to me a couple of years ago too. I suppose it should be a good thing that I’m getting calls back during a period that’s traditionally slow in hiring but the waiting is harsh. Though, at least we know what the silence is for.

      1. Helena*

        What is the worst is I am like please, please contact me. Then, I’m like wait, do I really want to work for a company who is working so hard during the holidays???

    2. blue_eyes*

      I feel you. I’m in a similar situation with regards to qualifications. I just got a conditional offer, but nothing can move forward because of the holidays. I’m trying to put it out of my mind, but I’m starting to get anxious about it.

  70. hermit crab*

    Someone here recommended the book The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness a while back (about the normal, non-superhero kids in a town where other kids are always off saving the world). My library hold finally came through and I read it the other day. I just loved it! So charming! Definitely one of my favorite books that I have read this year. Thanks to whoever mentioned it!

    1. fposte*

      I think that was me. I still haven’t actually read it, but I loved the concept. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  71. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    Update from last open thread. I asked about how to get along with my in-laws (esp. my mother-in-law), and got some really good advice from people about lowering expectations and having small victories. I think it’s going well. My sister-in-law actually spoke to me (when at Thanksgiving she just ignored my existence entirely), so even though she got me a pretty lame gift, I don’t care because it’s progress. My mother-in-law actually got me something that I really liked.

    And the biggest success of all in my mind is that I noticed that when I was there, they chose to go outside on the patio to smoke instead of smoking in front of me. They still smoke in their house at other times and it still aggravates my allergies, but I thought it was a really nice gesture. Overall, I’m really happy with how it went and I am hoping we continue in this direction because it seems like a good path.

  72. Uncertain Inquirer*

    I worked in a nonprofit’s finance dept as a clerk who helps to input revenue entries from all of the nonprofit’s operating units. My manager manages one half of the units, while the other half was managed by another senior associate who does not manage me. But I help enter in revenue entries from goth my manager’s units and the other senior associate’s units.

    I have always asked my manager for guidance on these revenue entries since the units’ bookkeepers are sometimes not has organized and may make errors. I asked my manager questions regarding both her and the other associate’s units, unless some issues will need to be best address to the other associate.

    There was a time (I believe when my manager wasn’t in the office—I think) when I was working on one of the associate’s units and found that the unit assigned some revenue as general even though on one of the backup documents it indicates that it was for a unit’s program. I emailed the other associate and cc’ed the finance dept director to ask him if I should change the revenue code to reflect that specific program. He emailed me back with the finance dept director cc’ed stating to just put it as general revenue. The finance dept director did not reply back to the email expressing a comment/disagreement. I followed up with the associate to ask about this issue again and he said that the unit collections of money to that program was an occurrence that was very minimal, so there is no need to have a specific revenue code.

    After that I followed his direction and just leave the revenue code as general collections. But after six months into the job, I am still thinking that it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I am thinking of emailing my manager to ask her this question of whether I should tell that specific unit to change their revenue coding. But I do feel some anxiety from this issue because it will show that I have some disagreement with the decision of the associate and possibly the finance dept director. I am wondering if my manger will involve the associate in this, or just instruct me to take care of this on my own?

    To add to the anxiety, in the new year, I might be entrusted with more finance responsibilities and I am going to learn from the other associate how to do some of the new tasks, since he will also have a new role in the dept. I also am not making the best impression as I have inept at communication/being social in the workplace.

    1. Observer*

      I’m not sure why you would bring this up with your manager. You asked the associate who is in charge of the unit what to do. He answered, and cc’ed the finance director. You questioned him on it, and he responded reasonably with his reasoning. Even if he didn’t cc the finance director, it’s clear that the finance director did not see fit to disagree with him. To now go to your boss – who is NOT his superior, to ask about over-riding the person whose decision it should be would really be stepping on toes.

      Now, you may be correct in your assessment of the situation. But that’s not the point. Unless you have something really strong, you need to accept that unit director gets to make the call, not you. You CAN ask for further explanation, if you do so truly in the spirit of trying to understand how this works, rather than “I still think you are wrong, and you need to convince me otherwise.”

      Also, perhaps your communications may be coming off as inept because you are challenging more than you should.

  73. knitchic79*

    It would be much easier imo to job search from your city. If you’re already willing to put her up while she saves and job hunts I’d opt for that. Once she’s established you might find your parents more inclined to be helpful if necessary. My dad felt like any mental health diagnosis was going to be a kiss of death for my son…until he saw that he was more than capable of having a perfectly normal, not overly stressful, existence. Once he saw that he mellowed. Good luck to you both!

  74. danr*

    I know there are folks here who like kitchen gadgets. A big catalog site for them is going out of business. We got an email today that Chef’s Catalog is shutting down and having a huge sale.

  75. NicoleK*

    Any suggestions on how to become a “rock star” at work? Throughout my career, it feels that I’ve been seen and treated as a solid, reliable performer, but not a “rock star”.

    I grasp and learn things very quickly. I work well collaboratively or independently. I get along well with my colleagues and can work with majority of personalities. My performance review competency categories are generally rated 3-4 and a lone 5 on a 0-5 scale (5 being exceptional and very limited). I have excellent decision making skills and can manage without a lot of oversight. Bosses like me because I come in, do my job, and don’t cause a lot of drama.

    As for supervisors, I’ve had average bosses, mediocre boss, one toxic boss, and a few good bosses.

    On the flip side, I’m introverted, reserved, and private by nature. I’m not the life of the office and people don’t naturally gravitate toward me. I get on well with all my colleagues, but only become close with a few coworkers. While I perform well, I sometimes get overlooked by management when plum assignments are available. I’m a decent communicator and am working on improving my written and spoken communication. Bosses like me, but I can’t say that any of my bosses loved me and would go to bat for me (maybe with the exception of 1 boss).

    So how does one stand out when society favors gregarious, extroverted, well connected individuals in the work place?

    1. Boop*

      How much ability do you have to make your own projects? In my experience, the Rock Star employees tend to identify problems and take it upon themselves to create the solution.

    2. fposte*

      Maybe in your office the binary you’re offering makes sense, but it doesn’t in mine. My rock stars have by no means been gregarious and extroverted.

      Now, admittedly, I’m talking from one manager’s perspective, but what they do have is scope. They see the whole of the mission and contribute to it–they’re performing tasks in the service of the larger concept. They’re always considering how the org could work better or what adaptations it needs to make. Basically, it’s top down–they want to make a difference in the field and this is just the part they’re standing in, rather than they’re doing tasks and then think about where they fit into the goals.

      You may notice I *didn’t* say they weren’t well connected. Not because they had friends in high places, but because in many fields, you have to be able to make human connections to be a rock star. You don’t have to have Elvis level charisma, but it’s really good to have a practice of collecting go-to people–and then go to them. I’m a slow burner on relationships, and I think it’s preferable to step up the pace a little. Liked ’em at the conference? Call ’em to propose a project. Don’t wait until you’ve known them for five years. You don’t have to be extroverted or gregarious to do this–you just have to email.

      Overall: Big picture. Ownership. Willingness to reach out. Willingness to fail.

      1. fposte*

        Sorry, that started out sounding more dismissive than I meant to. Let’s try this instead: All is not lost! You don’t have to be gregarious and extroverted!

      2. Jillociraptor*

        I think this is exactly right. There’s one thing I’ll add — the layer over all of this is that you have all of this context that lets you know what you’re uniquely well-positioned to provide. “Standing out” is about being able to marshal your specific strengths, resources, networks, etc., to solve a problem that matters to the leaders in your organization.

    3. periwinkle*

      As fposte pointed out, gregarious and extroverted are not essential traits but being well-connected helps. I am a poster child for introversion and yet – well, I’m not a rock star yet but I’m a popular opening act!

      Is there something you’re really good at that helps other people in tangible or intangible ways? I am the queen of analogies and my particular talent is translating concepts into analogies and examples that make sense to the audience. This takes me from being part of the crowd to being “oh yeah, she’s the one who talked about force field analysis and buying a house.”

      Become an expert on something and offer that expertise freely, even if just as small nuggets of useful information. I have a specific expertise and it didn’t take long before people would ask my opinion on that particular aspect of their projects. Word gets around.

      As an introvert you may prefer to develop a small network rather than a large one. No problem, just make sure that your small network includes a couple hyper-connected people. I’ll often turn to one colleague (a fellow introvert, btw) who can almost always connect me to someone who can answer my question or is likely to know someone who can answer it.

      At my company, you don’t get handed plum projects. You ask for them. You position yourself to be the logical person to do them. You get proactive about it. You express your strong interest in a specific project or a type of project. “Hey, I heard about Project X, that sounds really interesting. [useful nugget of background information or a problem-solving suggestion]. If you need any help wit