New Year’s free-for-all – January 1, 2016

Eve in bedIt’s the New Year’s open thread free-for-all!

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.  (This thread will be open all weekend and will serve both as the Friday work open thread and the weekend free-for-all.)

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

{ 1,081 comments… read them below }

      1. Jessica (tc)*

        I love Hey Arnold! I introduced my husband to it several years ago, and now I call him “football head” all of the time. (He doesn’t have a football head, but I can pretend to be Helga anyway, right?)

        1. So Very Anonymous*

          I love Hey Arnold! too! Arnold is such a great kid. I’ve never been able to watch the first Christmas episode (about Mr. Hyunh) without crying.

      2. Buggy Crispino*

        No house cleaning on New Year’s Day …. two reasons (wive’s tales which I absolutely believe since it keeps me from doing yucky things):

        Anything you do on New Year’s Day, you do all year long, so you don’t want to be slaving away at housework. And, washing and sweeping shouldn’t be done since it washes and sweeps away all of the luck of the new year.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I do housecleaning all year long anyway, so I really can’t see how that’s different!

          I wish I could be having loads of hot s3x with a stunning British dude, but that’s not happening, so housecleaning it is! Though I did pause for some F&M Queen Anne blend, made in my English teapot, covered with an F&M cozy, sipped from a replica Titanic third-class cup. :)

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              I ate my blackeyed peas today, but in the form of Pioneer Woman’s blackeyed pea dip served in fried corn tortillas as tacos. My kids didn’t complain about their blackeyed peas this year. Yay!

      3. Panda Bandit*

        I tried to clean one room and only made it part of the way. Oh well! At least one table has been cleared off and the bed has clean sheets.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Ha, that’s how I usually do it. Clean a little, internet break. Clean a little more, lunch, another internet break. OMG how did it get to be three o’clock, big burst of cleaning before it gets too dark to see.

    1. Noah*

      Working, but not at work. We had both Thirsday and Friday off this week. I’m bored at home, figured I might as wel et something done.

      On the couch with my laptop, binge watching Merlin and planning out safety audits for 2016.

      1. Brett*

        Did 16 hours Sunday-Wednesday, 12 hours yesterday, and 12 hours today.
        I think we will be doing 12 on/12 off until Monday morning.

        My boss has it worse… he was supposed to be on vacation this whole week and got called in.

      2. Noah*

        Oh yes! I worked a lot during Thanksgiving and Christmas at PT job. Lots of OT, holiday override, and incentive pay. They’ve actually called twice today, but I don’t feel like going in and haven’t answered.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        One perk of university employee life that I love is that I’ve been off work since December 23 and don’t have to go back until January 4. All but two days of that are paid holidays, and I worked through several lunches in December to keep from having to use two vacation days for the days not covered by holidays. It feels like a free vacation!

    2. Overeducated and underemployed*

      Nope, but will be tomorrow. Honestly I would like to call out sick, since I’ve lost my voice and my job is public speaking and customer service, but it is my second to last day and I plan on returning, so I feel like I should just go in.

    3. Elli in Cali*

      No, but I worked swing shift last night, and will be working the day shift Saturday and Sunday.

      Today I’m trying to do the things that I want to do in 2016: exercise, go to more local museums, and improve my work competence. So far I’ve done some continuing education (in pajamas), confirmed the museums are open, and eaten chocolate (still in pajamas) instead of exercising.

      1. Anna*

        The best way to make long lasting changes is to ease in to them and make small adjustments daily. Otherwise the shock to your routine is too great and you’re less likely to follow through.

        I should change my user name to Enabler. :)

        1. Elli in Cali*

          The enabling is appreciated! I hit 2 of 3 of the goals yesterday. The continuing ed is something I enjoy, the exercise not as much, until it’s over. That’s going to take more increments to adopt.

    4. Liane*

      No, working Sunday, which isn’t usual for production people, but facility was shutdown for holidays since Christmas Eve.
      I know I have a couple articles I could finish writing and I may have some ready to edit, but tomorrow is soon enough.

    5. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      Yep! Saving today’s PTO to use another time. However, I did not have to go into the office.

    6. Sydney Bristow*

      Had yesterday off, but I’m working from home today (Saturday) and tomorrow off and on for the extra overtime. It’s my choice though so it doesn’t seem as bad. Working on that resolution to make a significant dent in my student loans!

  1. Holly*

    Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone got home safe from any festivities they did. Anyone want to share their resolutions?

      1. Florida*

        I have been trying to do this too. I need to find a conversation partner. (There are plenty of Spanish speakers around here. I just have to find someone who wants to help.)

        1. ExceptionToTheRule*

          My cousin’s wife is a native Spanish speaker and my cousin is bi-lingual as well. They’ve both offered to help with conversation.

          1. Florida*

            There’s a podcast I like called News in Slow Spanish. Sometimes Spanish seems to be so fast because they run all the words together. This podcast gives a newscast (it’s a short one) very slow so you can learn it.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I don’t usually bother anymore, but this year I decided to get back on track so I can lose the 20 pounds I regained and then the last 25 pounds to hit my goal weight. (I had weight loss surgery two years ago.) I just have to do it. I eventually want to have the extra skin removed and I can’t do that until I’m close to my goal and stay there for awhile.

      1. Anna the Accounting Student*

        I don’t bother anymore, either. If pressed — or if I’m feeling goofy — I say that my resolution is to not make any.

        1. Anna*

          I changed how I approach them. They are no long resolutions; they are projects I’d like to accomplish. So I got a new sewing machine for Christmas. One thing I’d like to accomplish this year is to learn how to use effectively. I also will be attempting to accomplish getting the basement cleaned out with my husband.

          And possibly getting a new job that pays a little more than I make now because although I love where I work, who I work with, and the company I work for, that one last component is missing and that’s becoming more of an issue.

    2. GiantPanda*

      Must do:
      Stop letting the job take over my life.

      Should do:
      Get fit to take part in the 10K business run in October. This includes losing the weight I recently regained by yo-yoing.

      Would be Nice to do:
      Watch less TV (to get more time for reading). Keep my habitat at least semi-clean at all times.

    3. Doriana Gray*

      For my concrete goals:

      *Finish and publish books two and three in my YA comedic mystery series
      *Publish three more of my short story collections under my penname
      *Complete all three of my property technical certifications for my day job

      For my more abstract resolutions:

      *Advocate more for myself and others at work
      *Try to find the best in any crappy situation I find myself in so that I don’t let it bring me down
      *Expand my work network and just be generally kinder to those I meet there because so many people in my company came to my aide when I really needed it recently, and I never know when I might need that kind of help again

    4. Elizabeth West*

      –Lose the weight I gained back after my last trip (it’s not that much) and KEEP it off.
      –Fix this house up some so I can get out of it.
      –Publish something.
      –Find you-know-who and get you-know-what. Oh, and get married too. ;)
      –Go to Europe. Don’t worry, UK; I still love you! <3

    5. Elsajeni*

      My 2016 goals:
      – Procrastinate less about a particular work task I don’t like.
      – Dedicate more time to my various crafts and finish at least one project each month.
      – Dedicate more time to writing and finish at least one project each month.
      And a bunch of fine-grained weightlifting and fitness goals, but the big ones are:
      – Deadlift 300 lbs.
      – Do some stretching and assistance work every day that I’m not at the gym.

    6. Mimmy*

      1. I promised myself to step out of my comfort zone more often – ha! Easier said than done! I’ve been doing it here and there through my volunteer councils, though membership in both are severely lacking, making it hard to get things done as a whole.

      2. Find a job, at least part-time to start with since it’s been so long.

      3. Find a partner to practice ASL with – I’ve been learning off-and-on since my hubby got me the DVDs last Christmas (2014).

      4. Adopt better health habits – yes, many people say this every year. But dang it, I have to try!

      1. nep*

        Yay for stepping out of comfort zone. Nearly always yields magnificent results — and often unexpected…opening doors you didn’t know were there. And for healthy habits. All the best to you.

      2. Uni Admin*

        Stepping outside of my comfort zone was one of my goals this year, too. Particularly in terms of being more social/making friends. I hope we’re both successful.

    7. BBBizAnalyst*

      Do more solo traveling. I did 3 solo road trips this year that I really enjoyed. Definitely want to expand that to more exotic locales this year.

    8. Hellanon*

      Get more exercise, see more friends & eat dinner at the table instead of on the couch.

      … yeah, it’s a low bar this year!

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        My resolution is to have us all eat at the table at least twice a week. This will mean keeping the table cleared off. My husband didn’t eat at the table with his family very often when he was growing up. His dad worked nights and his mom worked the swing shift. So for him, eating whenever in front of the TV was the norm, and he doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal. My house was the complete opposite. My mom made dinner every night and we all ate together, so I hate missing that family time.

        My youngest daughter has activities one or two nights a week, sometimes I get my hair done or a mani pedi after work, and my stepdaughter works a few nights a week too. So eating together every night would be a tall order, but 2 nights a week is doable.

    9. Amber Rose*

      More muscle building so I don’t re-injure my ankle. Or worsen I guess, as it still hurts a bit.

      Do something I find terrifying but would be fun/useful. Last year I got my advanced drivers license, so I guess this year I’ll try go for my first grade for martial arts. Could there be anything more terrifying than 5 people staring grimly at you while you try not to fall over? First I need to qualify to move from wooden weapons to steel ones. Probably this will happen around May.

      Start renovating. My house badly needs a new front door, a new kitchen floor, a couple coats of paint and the services of an electrician.

      Possibly join a hooping class with a friend. It looks fun.

    10. Harriet*

      Look more polished (I’m actually fine at this first thing in the morning, I’m just terrible at touch-ups throughout day – or at least at lunchtime – to not end up shiny faced with hair sticking up and chocolate on my skirt)

      Get outside for some daylight and a walk every single day instead of working through lunch at my desk.

      And the wildcard that I will probably not get around to sorting: get a life outside work. Or at least try not to be so invested and all-consumed by it.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq*

        Oooh, if you have shiny-face issues, I have to recommend City Color HD powder. Normally, I’m oily by like noon, but when I wear that (over my other makeup, or by itself) I’m oil-free all day. Only by like 6 or 7 do I start to feel even a tiny bit oily. Changed my life!

        1. Harriet*

          Thank you for the recommendation! I have super sensitive skin so I’m really wary of new products, but that definitely sounds like one to try!

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I would also recommend blotting paper! You can get it at Sephora. Sometimes it’s available at drugstores, but I think it’s harder to find. This stuff made SUCH a difference for me. In a pinch, you can also tear up a toilet seat cover and blot.

      1. salad fingers*

        Viel Glück! I am also trying to hone my crappy college German skills this year, and perhaps unwisely, trying to learn a little Dutch to be able to speak with my Dutch boyfriend and his mom in.

    11. Cb*

      1) Finish the PhD
      2) Take a proper holiday with my husband – it’s combined with a conference but in an amazing location so I think it counts
      3) Try an aerial yoga class and develop my yoga practice
      4) Start TTC

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          My cousin posts pictures on Facebook of her aerial yoga class. She was a cheerleader in high school and always very athletic, though, so not sure how that works for us more physically average types.

      1. Overeducated and underemployed*

        This is my biggest hope for 2016, but I don’t want to make it a resolution because it feels sort of out of my control. It was also one of my top 3 hopes and goals for 2015 (besides graduate and survive first year of parenthood), but it was the only one that didn’t happen, and making it a resolution makes failure personal.

    12. Nashira*

      I plan to earn some tech certifications, start weight lifting again, and learn to cook really good Sichuan food. Part of my Christmas gifts this year was a nearly complete pantry of Sichuan staples – I just need yacai and douchi and to make up red oil and prickly ash/Sichuan peppercorn oil. :D

    13. asteramella*

      I’m going to give away or discard 25% to 30% of my belongings–partly because I do better, mentally, with less stuff, and partly because I anticipate moving into a smaller place this spring and will need to downsize.

    14. Shell*

      -Learn yoga (first Iyengar lesson starts in a week, yay).
      -Improve in tidiness. I’ve bought the UfYH app ages ago but still haven’t really gotten into the rhythm.
      -Go back to fandom…maybe. It’s my oldest hobby and I love it, I still do, but I’ve also lost quite a bit of faith in the fandom community last year.
      -Be a little more social. 4-5 close friends moved away the past 2-3 years and I haven’t made any new friends since, so my social circle is very spare since I broke up with my ex.

      1. asteramella*

        IMO different fandoms have very different communities. It’s tough to find media you love that has a pleasant fandom culture, but I’ve had better experiences in small fandoms for e.g. indie games, indie comics than in large fandoms for mainstream media works.

        1. Shell*

          The fandom in question was one of those smaller, supposedly-friendly communities… There were many praises, from myself and others, about how drama-free it was…until it wasn’t. That’s why I’ve lost so much faith as a whole, because it really feels like no matter how small and friendly and accepting it’s supposed to be, it doesn’t really end up that way, not really.

          Though I’m probably just being a cynic about human nature and totally spoiled by the AAM community.

    15. Lillian McGee*

      Not really resolutions, but ideas … I want to stop sitting on the couch playing on my phone so much and so I will think up a few projects to start and *actually finish* …like a new recycled t-shirt quilt, or a few other sewing projects I have in mind. I would also like to ease myself back into drawing stuff. Maybe some writing??? Make myself be creative like I was back in the day when my inner child was more of an outer one…

      1. literateliz*

        This is my resolution too: make stuff!! In December I sketched every day (often pretty crappy ones, but still), started writing in my journal again, finished a knitting project I’d been working on for literally years and started another, so if I keep it up I’m golden. It feels more fun and positive than resolutions I’ve made in the past; I’m also trying to recapture a past, more creative self :) I would also like to spend less time on my phone, but I’m a fan of adding things to my life (to crowd out the bad habits) rather than forbidding things.

        My secondary/slightly more serious resolution is to make time to read every night before bed. Right now I’m an editor who doesn’t read, which is a little sad!

    16. super anon*

      Sure! I’ve grouped them into categories for easier reading.

      Health & Fitness:
      – Hit 130 lbs or be able to fit into an article of clothing that best fit me ~3 years ago.
      – Continue getting stronger (I have some gym specific goals for this one)
      – Hit my step goal on my fitbit at least 5 days out of every week.
      – Eat less junk food (although I don’t eat that much to begin with, but I could always cut down more!)

      – Seriously study Mandarin so I can take the HSK Beginner test in 2017.

      Money & Savings:
      – Buy myself a Mont Blanc pen for my birthday.
      – Go on a “replacement only” no-buy for makeup products (Essentially, the only items I can buy are things I currently use and have finished. I can’t purchase any new products I don’t have in my collection for an entire year).

      1. super anon*

        Oh, I forgot my work related resolution! It’s to either find a better paying job in a less toxic environment, or do well enough in my job to successfully negotiate a substantial raise to bring me up to market rate for my position .

      2. CrazyCatLady*

        I started Mandarin classes at the beginning of 2014 but after 6 months got a new job and got engaged so I didn’t have time for the lessons. I really loved it and want to get back into it though.

        1. super anon*

          I studied Korean for a few years and lived in Korea but I was never very good at it. I ended up taking a Mandarin class and I found a lot of it similar to Korean in terms of vocab & grammar, and even easier in some ways.

          I fell off the horse in 2014 too – so maybe this year can be the year we both pick it back up!

    17. LizB*

      I’m going to run a 5k. To accomplish this, I’m going to do the Couch to 5k program, because I am drastically out of shape.

      I also got one of those journals where you answer a different question every day of the year, and then go through it again five more times so you end up with five years’ worth of answers and can see how your perceptions changed. It’s going to take some dedication to complete it every day, but I’m going to do it!

      1. skyline*

        Happy running! Several years ago I set a goal to be able to run a mile without stopping. I did Couch to 5K as part of this. Now I run half marathons, and am trying to do my first full marathon this fall.

        1. LizB*

          Wow, that’s awesome! I don’t know if I’ll ever be a marathon runner, but I’ve heard many people say that Couch to 5k has turn them from non-runners into people who love running. Here’s hoping it can do that for me too!

          1. Ted Mosbey*

            I looooove to run! When you can easily run a 5k at a time you’ll start loving it too i promise!

    18. MsChanandlerBong*

      I don’t really have resolutions, but I made a list of personal and professional goals/tasks I want to complete. On the personal side, I want to walk at least 8 miles per week, do something creative at least once per week (I just ordered a pack of canvas, paintbrushes, paint, and a palette), and read at least 50 books.

      My goal for 2015 was to read 100 books. I hit the goal, but my professional task list is pretty long this year, so I don’t think I’ll have as much free time for reading.

    19. Take Me 2 Atlanta*

      Awesome question — Happy New Year to everyone as well! 2015 has had its ups and downs, but I’m definitely ready to tackle 2016. This new energy has made me create some lofty goals for the new year:

      Overall, I’d say my theme for 2016 is making a commitment to my health and happiness. My biggest goals:
      – Budget for making my apartment a more comfortable space to live in (Investing in quality furniture, making some splurges on decorations, having more pictures of home/family/friends, etc.)
      – Do something active everyday
      – Have a vegetable with every meal
      – Do more traveling (I’m several hours from some great cities and new job is so supportive of taking time off)
      – Read more (Bought myself a Kindle for Christmas. Probably the best $50 I’ve spent in a while)
      – Become more crafty (This coincides nicely with making my apartment more comfortable!)
      – Be more active in the AAM community. I’ve only commented a handful of times, but I’ve actually been following the website everyday since 2008 (Has it really been 7 years?!). So a big thank you to all of you and Alison!

    20. skyline*

      – Run my first marathon
      – Be an adult and take care of estate planning (will, durable power of attorney, health care directive)
      – Take a class in something fun and new (right now I’m looking at swing dancing or cooking classes)

    21. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I’m going to focus on my relationship with my husband: getting back some of the intimacy, calling to set up marriage counseling appointments. I have some things I’ve been holding against him about the way our marriage works, and it’s time to become unstuck.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        Kudos to you! That’s a tough thing to admit, even anonymously. Best of luck to you!

    22. misspiggy*

      Continue with the project of putting my health first, rather than last. It’s amazing how long this is taking, but the more I do it, the easier it is to rebuild the rest of my life, as physical suffering is reduced. This year in particular, I’m going to stop thinking I should reduce the amount I eat post-Christmas, so long as plenty of healthy food is included. I’ve just fattened myself up for the winter, no point in trying to reverse that until it gets warmer.

    23. KitCroupier*

      Two small things I want to do every day:
      Donate or throw away one item (at least) or a full bag of trash I’ve picked up that day.
      Do at least one 20/10 (more is great, but one is minimum) is so great

      A few BIG goals: Run/Walk 1000 miles in a year, run a half marathon, save $1 for every mile I run.

      What I’ve learned through the years is to set the bar low for resolutions. Too high and when we inevitably miss we get frustrated and give up. But it’s been two days and I’m still on track! (1.5 miles down, 9998.5 to go!)

    24. Sunflower27*

      1) Have a successful IVF cycle or find peace that I may not be able to have another child. We’ve had a rough year – one miscarriage at 9 weeks, one ectopic and 5 other cancelled cycles.

      2) Complete some home improvement projects: replace all sinks in kitchen and bathrooms, have sprinkler system installed.

    25. Ted Mosbey*

      I’m not into specific new years resolutions because I always feel like if I really cared I wouldn’t have waited for a random date in the middle of winter. No offense meant to people who do them! They just don’t work for me personally. I do periodically ask myself what I want my life to look like and set goals based on that. The past nine months were travel abroad, take the GMAT, and work with a personal trainer. Now working on:

      -Apply to at least 3 GMAT programs
      -Submit at least 3 poems for publication
      -Get back on the water at least once or twice a month (former rower, always missing it!)
      -Hit my fitbit goal 5 days a week
      -Turn 27, celebrate one year with my amazing boyfriend and BECOME AN AUNT!

      I was always super athletic growing up and even played sports in college. The past few years my health and fitness level have really been slipping. A knee injury while training for a race took away my favorite hobby: running. Ever since that it’s been weight gain city. I want something to change, but I’m not sure exactly what or how.

  2. Is my department falling apart?*

    I’ve noticed a lot of oddities at my company recently that has me concerned about the security of my department.

    1) Our most senior analyst of 25 years left the company.
    2) Our director left the company a month after that.
    3) The rest of our most senior analysts were transferred to a different department practically overnight and with no warning.
    4) The managers in our department are not in the know.
    5) Another department recently created a new team which appears to overlap significantly with ours. In fact they even used our job description to post a new position. The only news we have from this is that “it will be different” but that our managers are “still looking for clarification”.

    This has me concerned that our department will be phased out or dissolved. Does anyone have experience with situations like this? If the worst should pass, will there usually be some notice (like a least a month’s) or will it be quick and overnight like what happened with our senior analysts?

    1. BRR*

      It’s tough to really know what is happening. Even if it’s the worst there’s not telling how your company will handle it. I found out that if my company lets someone go for any reason, they cannot tell them until their last day. If I were in your shoes I’d probably start doing at least some job hunting.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, I agree. This would make me nervous too. Of course, it may still be fine. If you end up not needing a new job, then yay–if you do, or it looks as if you will, you’ve got a head start on seeing what’s out there.

    2. Doriana Gray*

      Update your résumé and start looking in the event that the worst does happen – you’ll at least be prepared.

      1. Lee Ann*

        Ditto to that. Something similar happened where I worked and my manager only found out when someone up above him accidentally left some paperwork right out in the open. Then they told him not to tell us that our group would be dissolved and we’d be reassigned- so he immediately came and told us. (Best manager ever!) This was a smallish software company during a tech boom (pre-“dot-com booms”) and you just had to wave your resume in the direction of a recruiter to have half a dozen interviews lined up – which we all did, and got much better jobs by the time upper management deigned to admit it.

    3. Paige Turner*

      Someone here (Alison or another commenter- if anyone remembers, let me know!) gave some really good advice recently- if you’re worried about being laid off for whatever reason, you should start preparing as if it will happen, because you really can’t know for sure. If someone tells you not to worry, they might be wrong or not able to tell you; the only definitive answer you’ll get ahead of time is, “yes, your job is at risk.” So go ahead and start looking now. (Not to say that you shouldn’t ask for advice, but I wouldn’t put too much weight in any answer that tells you everything’s fine).
      Good luck and keep us posted!

    4. Valar M.*

      Start looking elsewhere. These are a lot of yellow and possibly red flags. If they’re doing this much and the company doesn’t have the awareness to realize how it looks and reassure you – that’s still concerning, even if nothing terrible is about to happen.

    5. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      Been there. Your department is about to be made redundant. Depending on org size, you’ll have 3-6 months to get out. Maybe. Some places give immediate notice, others only give a few weeks. Given the previous analysts, you may receive immediate warning and immediate dismissal.

      You may or may not receive severance pay. You may or may not be offered a chance to post to a different position, or receive special treatment as a laid-off employee. If you have insurance, you’ll need to COBRA it. That will be expensive, so be prepared to shoulder that cost. File for unemployment if you do not get severance; file for FICA exception if applicable. I received a packet with my options – hopefully, your company will as well.

      If you have a company intranet, discreetly search for HR policies around reduction in force, displacement, layoff, redundancy, or whatever your company calls the practice.

      Brush off your resume and start looking. It’s a new year; you’ll likely know by end of quarter what will happen, if not sooner. Assume that your job is going away. In interviews, you may mention the circumstances or focus on your own development goals. Alison has several articles here from readers in the same boat who aren’t sure how to explain why they are looking for a new position. Should you still have your current job when you land a new role, give two weeks notice and no more.

      You may be feeling remorse and a surge of loyalty – I did, which felt odd. Don’t compel yourself to dive into work, go above and beyond, and try to help save a sinking ship. Stick to your 40 hours, produce at quality, and focus your jitters into the job search or developing a new skill. Ignore the office rumor mill if you can; if you can’t, don’t contribute to it.

      Best of luck. Steel yourself and try to stay positive, because the next couple months will be stressful and you may be working under a lot of ambiguity. Take care of yourself as much as you can. Find a hobby, grab a good coffee, get a mani/pedi or do something else that you enjoy; treat yourself occasionally to help get through the tension with your sanity intact. Talk to family and friends who are supportive. Luckily, you have some warning to get ready – look at this as your opportunity to reinvent things or change the old routine. When it happened to me, I didn’t see it coming. Take advantage of the time you have.

      1. asteramella*

        If you’re laid off, you don’t necessarily need to opt for COBRA coverage through your former employer’s plan. You can go to the insurance Marketplace instead. If you don’t have specific medical needs that are met by your employer-sponsored plan, the Marketplace can be a better (and much cheaper) option, especially if you qualify for premium subsidies.

    6. bob*

      I hate to sound like the prophet of doom but now is the time to backup any personal stuff, including contacts on your computer, and elsewhere.

      A piece of advice I got from a tech lead once was to never have more in your desk than you can carry out in 1 box under 1 arm. It came in handy later!

  3. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

    So, I have a sort of work-related question. I have to do a presentation (outside work) and I have been told to treat it as a “business presentation”. I have to produce a Powerpoint to go with it. What I’m stuck on is what to do about the slides. Just leaving them black and white feels like I haven’t put enough effort in, but I know better than to use most of the standard Microsoft backgrounds that are incredibly gaudy and distracting. I’ve settled for something in-between – it’s a standard one – cream with a thick black line down the left hand side (apart from title pages, which have a thick black border made up of two corners of a square). Is this still too cartoony/distracting and I should just stick with black and white, or should I have some sort of background and something neutral like this is ok?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      That actually sounds really nice.

      Ours have to be on a company template. Outside work, I try to stay away from anything too crazy, but that sounds nice and subtle.

    2. azvlr*

      You can download other backgrounds. Search for “free PowerPoint backgrounds”. Microsoft even has some available.

      On the other hand the simpler your background the better. Yay for doing this! Your audience will appreciate it.

    3. FutureLibrarian*

      For future powerpoints, consider using Prezi. I was introduced to it in a college course, and they offer a lot of options for backgrounds that are open to use. If I remember correctly, they also will auto-cite ones for you that require credit.

      I also found it looked nicer than Powerpoint for me personally…but that’s definitely up to each individual!

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I like Prezi a lot. Unfortunately, I don’t have a need to use it these days, but it’s much nicer than Microsoft PowerPoint.

      2. Clever Name*

        Prezi is really cool. My son has used it for school. The only caveat is I think they are all publicly accessible unless you have a pay account.

      3. asteramella*

        Prezi can be good, but some of the more swoopy/dynamic transitions can make your audience motion-sick.

      4. AnonInSC*

        Does Prezi still require web access to use/present? That has been a problem for me in the past – many times I can’t count on internet access and need a ppt on a jump drive just in case.

        1. FutureLibrarian*

          They claim to offer a desktop app, but that doesn’t really make it portable (it also isn’t clear whether or not that is included in the free version).

          I wish it were! I’ve thankfully only needed it in classroom situations where wifi was a given.

    4. Shannon*

      Your background sounds fine. Remember, you don’t want your slides to distract from what you’re saying.

    5. grumpy career changer*

      I generally use a very simple background – often a light grey or a blue pastel that changes on a gradient from light to very light from the top to the bottom of the slide. Very basic. And I’ve only ever gotten positive comments about how it looks clean and how it’s relatively accessible to people with low vision. (Well, what’s accessible is the black text, large, and not much of it, that can be read against this background very easily.) Go simple. Good luck!

    6. Short Geologist*

      I’m a big fan of non black and white presentations because they can cause eye strain and migraines. So a cream background sounds good, and I’d recommend dark blue or green (or brown) text.

    7. Valar M.*

      That sounds good! Microsoft has a few – maybe 3? that still have some style to them but aren’t distracting. They add enough variation to keep it interesting – I just usually find a more muted color palette, or update it so that instead of 7 different colors there are only 3 in the same family. FWIW, I don’t think black and white is a good option either. To me it does look a little sloppy and I also find it hard on my eyes.

    8. Stephanie*

      I think you’re overthinking it. What you have sounds fine. It just needs to look like you did more than the bare minimum, but not have spinning WordArt. It sounds like it meets those criteria.

      1. Harriet Vane Wimsey*

        Has anyone seen Life After Death by PowerPoint by Don MacMillan on YouTube? Hysterical!!!!

    9. Onnellinen*

      The book Slideology by Nancy Duarte really helped me think about good, eye-catching (and uncluttered) layouts for slides. Highly recommended. Link to an online excerpt to follow. Not quite what you were asking about, but it’s my go-to resource to make my PowerPoints look good, so I thought I’d pass it on!

    10. FTW*

      I would keep it simple with colors. The cream and black is fine, or consider white background, black text and separation lines of a primary/secondary color.

      I would put a thin horizontal line to separate title from slide body, and another thin line to separate side body from footer. Suggest avoiding and horizontal lines because they take up real estate.

    11. Betty (the other Betty)*

      Especially in a dark room, a dark background (navy blue, dark green, something like that) with white or very light text works well, looks professional, and is easier on the eyes than a bright white background.

    12. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      Thank you for all of the feedback! I am reassured about my background choice, so I think I will stick with that – and I’m glad to know that my instinct to avoid black and white was spot on. I’ve been asked to bring it on a memory stick, with email as a backup, so unfortunately I don’t think Prezi would be suitable, but I’d never heard of it before so it’s still useful to know.

    1. Florida*

      I’ve broken up with someone after just a few appointments – enough to give them a fair chance, but also enough to know that this isn’t the person for me. But that’s different than breaking up with a long-term therapist.

      Why are you breaking up? You could just say that you don’t feel like you need to come as often but you’ll call when you need to. If that’s the case, I think most therapists would understand that.

      If you are quitting because of money, tell them that. They will understand. Also, they might be willing to work with you if that the reason and you want to continue.

      1. Lillie Lane*

        I’m breaking up because I’m not getting anything out of it. My therapist talks a lot about studies he’s read (I think he thinks of me as an intellectual peer rather than a patient/client) and it’s getting old. He isn’t really helping me with new techniques.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Have you told him this? If you haven’t, I’d try being direct with him first by saying what you said about him seeing you more as an intellectual peer as opposed to someone he’s supposed to be helping, and while you appreciate him seeing you as a smart and engaging conversationalist, that’s not what you’re paying him for.

          If you have said something and he’s still doing this, just tell him that you think it’s time to move on because you’ve gotten everything you can out of his sessions.

            1. Doriana Gray*

              You’re welcome. I had to have this same conversation with one of my previous therapists – it was hard, but he understood.

    2. Lucina*

      Would you mind to explain what you mean as breaking up? I have seen a therapist for a few years and I think we did good progress, but at a certain point I realised that I did not want to go anymore, and I just stopped. I think I had good reasons: I had to take significant time off from work to see him (we are in 2 different European countries and long weekends add up), I felt better, and I wanted to focus on something else (new job), so I needed the time and money. I still feel guilty about stopping abruptly, and I’m trying to understand if I really did something bad.

      1. Anna*

        I think you’re okay. It’s a relationship but therapists are professionals and know their clients will move on in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons.

      2. Ruffingit*

        As a therapist, I wouldn’t say you did something really bad, but it does help us to know that someone is going to stop coming so we can do some transition work with you if necessary or so we can discuss why you want to stop and what we may have been able to do better as therapists. Whenever a client abruptly stops coming, we do wonder if there is something we could have done better for them and it helps to hear the truth no matter how difficult it might be for you to say it. It helps us grow as professionals.

        It’s not that you owe your therapist an explanation, that is certainly not the case. But, if you can give one, it helps us and if you can at least call or email to say you won’t be coming anymore, that is a big help. For many reasons, but a major one is so we know you didn’t have some kind of horrible accident or commit suicide or whatever. And yes, we do worry about those things when clients just abruptly disappear.

    3. Audiophile*

      I stopped seeing a therapist because I felt like I wasn’t getting much out of it. She was more scattered than I was and I can be really scattered. She was late for appointments and this was when I was rushing from my college campus to get to her on time. She’d wait to deposit checks, which drove my mother crazy and at least once she misplaced a check and wanted another one.
      I eventually found the right therapist for me, interestingly enough, she was my mother’s therapist at the time. My mom voluntarily stopped seeing her. I was seeing her regularly for a while but stopped because I kept running into insurance issues. I saw her about 8 months back and paid her directly, she offered me a fair rate since we know each other. She provides good advice, in my opinion, but she really just lets me talk through whatever’s going on. The last time I saw her, it had been more than a year since we’d seen each other and I was having a bit of a crisis, she let me go through it and I left feeling better.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Your therapist’s behavior with being late, scattered, not depositing checks, etc. is entirely inappropriate and you were smart to let that person go. Anyone is therapy is already having some issues, they don’t need someone who doesn’t respect their time or their money.

        1. Audiophile*

          It was hard, because it was my first experience going to therapy as an adult (or almost adult since I was still in college). I don’t even remember what explanation I provided. I remember an awkward situation where I ran into her at a bookstore, though.
          She wasn’t late often, but it was enough to annoy me, especially since I was rushing all the way there from school and that ate into my time, it really bugged me. But losing the check was what made my mom go “please stop seeing this woman.”

    4. Nashira*

      I don’t know how well it was for them, but I’ve broken up with three therapists because I got exhausted educating them about what life as a queer trans person w/ chronic pain was like. I just told them I “was feeling better” and didn’t make more appointments. It took too much energy to try and explain, so… I didn’t.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      We must be doing something wrong — our cats have always known they are cats, and they also know they are below us in order. Of course, my spouse keeps telling them they are cats and we own them. My pillow pet almost sleeps like Eve there, except I’m usually wrapped around her.

  4. NewDoc*

    Work-related question here: I will be finishing up residency in six months (yay!) and just found out where my husband will be relocated too, so it’s time to start actual, normal-people job hunting as opposed to standardized application systems. I’ve received advice from multiple people, including our program director, that I should call the practices I’m looking at, even if they don’t have a job opening posted, during the work day, and ask to speak to the business manager or one of the physicians and then present myself and ask about openings. This seems like such an annoying idea to me — both from reading AAM and from my experience working in busy clinica I feel like that would be so annoying — but it’s advice coming from many people. Do you think that can possibly be just how things work in this area? (I’m applying for a position in a subset of primary care in a medium-sized US city, if that helps. I also have confirmed with multiple people working in private practice in different locations that some practices just don’t post openings and wait to get the “right” resume just by happenstance or through connections.) Right now my plan is to give all these networking connections I’ve emailed a bit of time after the holidays before I do any of these phone calls — but if I do go the phone call route, any suggestions for scripts?

    1. DebbieDebbieDebbie*

      Congratulations NewDoc! Cold calling practices is not great advice. While it may randomly pay off, it’s not only labor-intensive and emotionally exhausting for you; it is also annoying and disruptive to busy people. Most of our successful, good-fit hires (specialty practice) have come to us through networking. Second to that, we would use a recruiting agency. Have you considered using a recruiter in your target city? If you don’t want to go that route, would you consider a Locums Tenens assignment until you get the “lay of the land” of your new city and build a local network?

      1. Pretend Scientist*

        I agree. I work with a group of ophthalmologists and our most recent hire came from our surgical fellowship program.

      2. NewDoc*

        A recruiter is a good idea — I had been hesitant because in my previous experience with recruiters it seems they want you to be available by phone during hours when I’m usually at the hospital, but maybe that was just this particular one. Thanks for the advice and confirmation of my instincts — I will continue to hold off on cold calling!

  5. Florida*

    A candidate for US Senate recently posted this job announcement . I don’t know what kind of applicants he will get, but it gave me a good chuckle.

    I need a new assistant immediately. Requirements:
    – Cannot be a friend of mine. Familiarity makes for horrible pace and work quality.
    – Must be between the ages of 18 and 32. People who are older eventually let surface their repressed resentment at being told what to do by someone younger than them.
    – Must be at least semi-attractive, whether male or female. You will be my personal representative, and people will judge me based on your appearance.
    – Must be intelligent. This is a fast-paced job demanding independent thought and resourcefulness.
    – Must live in Orlando. Long commutes always turn out poorly.
    – Must take oaths of loyalty and secrecy. You will be my right hand, with all that implies.

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      I think the last one is where it went from ‘funny, unintentionally or not’ to ‘creepy run away’.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Yeah, I’m thinking, “Does he want someone to help him bury the bodies?! Or at least not tell anyone where he put them?” Then the whole, must be semi-attractive thing – yup, he’ll be great to work for.

        1. Florida*

          I wasn’t going to say this until you mentioned burying the bodies. This guy has admitted publicly to being investigated by “the FBI , US Marshalls, and other law enforcement” but he hasn’t said why. He acknowledged that he sacrificed a goat and drank its blood. He said he would either start or be the cause of the Second American Civil War. He has expressed support for a eugenics program. So yes, the bury bodies thing isn’t too far fetched.

          I thought everyone on this board, though, would get a kick out of the job posting. We should at least give him credit for being completely honest about what he’s looking for.

          1. fposte*

            I’m thinking he might be one of those people who isn’t so much publicly admitting to be investigated as publicly bragging, possibly falsely, about it. Because he’s that much of a maverick, dammit.

            1. F.*

              I remember reading about him and the goat blood. He seems to believe that any publicity is good publicity.

          2. Anna*

            Oooooohhhhh, I know who you’re talking about.

            Question: Are US Senators somehow immune to laws on age discrimination?

            1. Florida*

              I can’t imagine he’s immune. Right now, he’s not a senator. He’s just a private citizen who is looking to hire an assistant. A political campaign is a private business, not a government business.
              I guess it never dawned on him that he is violating the laws of the country. Or maybe, he knows, but doesn’t care. He is planning to start the next civil war, so maybe part of his platform is that we should bring back age discrimination.

              1. Maybe Tomorrow*

                Lolol he’s trying to replace Rubio.
                I dont think the job posted will be very long term.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              They are not. Interestingly, they used to be, but the Congressional Accountability Act, enacted in 1995, made congressional offices subject to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the ADA, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, FMLA, and some other big ones.

      1. Florida*

        Sadly, it’s not a joke. This guy is crazy, even for Florida politics. I’m 99% positive that the age thing is illegal. You’d think a senatorial candidate would know that.

        1. fposte*

          I hope he gets candidates who are excited about the oath thing and want to do it in blood. This has potential for exponential Floridian bizarreness.

        2. doreen*

          Maybe. Remember, it’s common for laws to apply differently to public employers- and what’s even more common is for elected officials to be exempt from laws that apply to even public employers. Although it’s still crazy to put in in writing.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I can’t help myself. I have to say this.

      1) Friends. This is probably not a big problem.
      2) Ages. I guess he must be 33?
      3) “But you can’t be prettier than me.”
      4) “Must be intelligent.” How will he be able to gauge that?
      5) Orlando. I hope he did not waste money on a nationwide ad.
      6) Remember the expression about the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing?

        1. Florida*

          Can you imagine if he looked crazy, but his job ad said you have to be attractive to work for him?

    3. DebbieDebbieDebbie*

      Requirement #4: If you are intelligent enough to get the job, you are intelligent enough to know you’d better not apply!

  6. Lulu*

    If you leave a job due to ethical reasons, is it ever okay to tell your new employer this was the reason why you left? I am concerned about how things will go during employment verification since my leaving was a bit messy.

    1. fposte*

      Can you clarify when you’re talking about doing this, and what it is you might need to give them info about? (And are you in a field where employment verification is a regular thing? Because it’s not always.)

      1. Lulu*

        I’m not even sure if there will be employment verification, but I’m concerned. I work in the mental health field. I just want to explain to my new employer that my old employer might not have such kind things to say about me due to my sudden leaving.

        1. fposte*

          I’m still not sure where you are in the process, though. You’re referring to them as “new employer”–so you’re not an applicant but you’ve accepted the offer? Or are you talking about prospective employers? And is there anybody from there that you’ll be using as a reference, or are your references from elsewhere? How long did you work there, and how long were you in the field before that?

          In general, you go with Shannon’s approach–basically, things changed and you left–but there might be more specific needs depending on the situation, your history, etc.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Ugh. Okay, if you are in a more or less rural area or an area with not many services in the MH field, other employers in the MH field already know about your former employer. This means they probably won’t ask you that much. Or they may just state that they get a lot of applicants from your previous employer, to kind of cue you that “it’s okay”. These cues do not really mean “talk about it with us”, the cues mean more like “We know why you left, you don’t have to explain. Let’s focus on this new job here.” They may just confirm employment with your previous employer and disregard any commentary your previous employer might have.

          You might find it helpful to know what type of reputation your former employer has with 1) people in the same field and 2) the area in general. These can be two different answers.

    2. Shannon*

      Of course. There are ways to tell your new employer that you left for ethical concerns without saying that directly. Saying that you were leaving because you and the company were going in different directions, or something like that. Depending on whether or not your ethical concerns are also public knowledge (ie: the business is being investigated) you may actually want to address that.

    3. Florida*

      I’ve left a place for ethical reasons and I couldn’t find any upside to telling them why. I just said it wasn’t a good fit, or some other sort of vague reason. My rationale was the that telling them the real reason might hurt me, but would in no way help me. And telling them my vague reason wouldn’t hurt me or help me.

        1. Florida*

          Two things:
          1. if I said “I’m leaving because I think this place is full of lying crooks,” then I would likely have to listen to all the reasons why the company is not full of lying crooks. That’s not really harmful to listen to it. It’s just not something that I want to get into.
          2. The other thing is that if I said the company is full of lying crooks (I wouldn’t use that exact verbiage), then they would think that I was a disgruntled employee who was frustrated about something else and didn’t want to say it. I didn’t want them to tell a future reference that, “She started off as a good employee, but then began spreading rumors about the company being lying crooks.”

          It just seemed safer to say I was leaving for another opportunity, or it wasn’t the right fit, or something similar.

          Usually, if the company culture is unethical (as opposed to one unethical employee), they don’t see it as unethical. They have justified this in their mind that “It’s OK to overcharge on hours because our rates are low” (or whatever the situation is). They have somehow justified this as being ethical, so your pointing it out isn’t going to help any. That’s how I approached it.

        2. fposte*

          When you’re talking to people who don’t know you, they don’t know whether you’re somebody who routinely badmouths others or who has a legitimate complaint or concern; they don’t know whether you’re inventing or overreacting to stuff and would do the same about the new job, or whether you were pushed to the limit by practices that were borderline illegal.

          I think there’s a common impulse for people, when they left in a way they didn’t expect because of bad stuff at the job, to want to make it clear that it wasn’t their fault. Which is understandable, but the explanation isn’t going to have the direct effect or credibility that one might hope, so you actually want to be very sparing with such an explanation–it makes it clearer you’re in the reasonable category.

          1. Lulu*

            very good point. everyone is telling me to just tell the truth about this place, but I don’t want to make myself look bad in the process. Of course it’s not a lie if I say it was a bad fit.

            1. fposte*

              Right, there are lots of true things that can be said. Some of which will work better in the situation than others :-).

    4. Sherm*

      I think the odds of them hearing anything negative about you are small. For one, at this stage, they might just want to verify that you indeed were truthful about when and where you worked.

      1. Lulu*

        Yeah true, but it was a very small office where everyone knows each other. IE, no real HR dept. So the person who handles that stuff may be prone to gossip.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I know stuff like this can seem huge, but it might work into a non-issue.

          I know in the past people have suggested having a friend call pretending to check references and then report back to you what was said. I have never done that personally, although once in a while I did think about it.

          I do know that once the ethics issue hits the newspapers, interviewers quit asking questions about Old Job.

          1. Lulu*

            So I don’t need to worry about giving a heads up that this place might be negative toward me? Obvs it supposed to be just verification, but you never know what they’d say.

            1. misspiggy*

              Only if the friend test reveals they’re out to get you. Even then, you’d need to be careful how you phrase it, for the reasons discussed above. If you’ve already said at interview that you left because of differences in work culture/fit, that should be enough of a clue that a negative reference should be viewed with some scepticism. Of course, if the friend finds out that they’re saying untrue things, you could consult a lawyer about possible defamation.

    5. Mando Diao*

      Could you say something like, “Their approaches didn’t quite line up with my education and my personal preferences when it comes to how mental health is treated.”

  7. azvlr*

    I posted an ad on Craigslist for a drummer for my band. Our last drummer was drunk and belligerent on a regular bases. On the other hand, while it’s not my thing at all, our bass player can handle his weed. In the ad, I wrote “We are not ones to judge, but please don’t let your habits interfere with making great music.”

    I got a reply back, not for an actual drummer (darn), but feedback complimenting me on addressing this touchy subject, which is not uncommon with musicians. I realized I had AAM to thank for the wording in my ad!

  8. Be the Change*

    Send some good thoughts my way, won’t you? I wrote last week that my Christmas was a bummer, but this holiday week has gone from being a bummer to being actively upsetting and distressing.

    First, my husband’s father zapped him for the zillionth time, implying that he’s an irresponsible goof-off screw-up. It’s not true, not even a tiny bit, but my f-i-l is a born critic and he never listens so it’s impossible to explain anything to him. So that made me furious and sad.

    Second, I became aware of a piece of casual cruelty that outraged me, and enraged me, beyond all reason and logic. It’s the kind of thing that happens thousands of times every day all over the world, but it happened at my garden gate so I saw it this time. I have not cried so much in more than 15 years. I did manage to alleviate the situation temporarily, but that comes with its own problems and I hope to God I haven’t made things worse in the long run. I’m working on a longer term solution but it’s going to be very hard. (I’m not describing the situation because I don’t want to put the pictures in your heads.)

    So… yes, Happy New Year; can we please have a better 2016 than 2015?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am so sorry.
      One grief (sadness) seems to make a second grief (sadness) even huger. And what is worse, is our inability to make clear and immediate changes in either situation. Which leads to a third item to grieve over, our own powerlessness.

      As I read, I think your FIL is also a piece of casual cruelty, so I am seeing that as a common thread in the two situations here. It’s an odd twist that I have found, rarely do our actions make things worse. If you dragged a secret out into the light of day, that is not worse, that is better. Yes, it creates some hub-bub for a while, then the dust settles. Likewise, if you showed a spotlight on something that is under everyone’s nose. Yes, there is some upheaval, but in time it settles.
      Keep your chin up. Good vibes heading out to you!

    2. misspiggy*

      It sounds like in both cases you bore witness on the side of right and kindness. Which is often very painful when one can’t change the overall situation, hence why so few people do it. But it’s vitally important, and I think you can feel very proud of yourself for making the world a better place.

    3. Be the Change*

      Thank you guys, you are all so kind!

      I am realizing that when you want to do right and be kind, you also need some *skill* in the situation. I’m quite concerned that in the second case, which is more serious, I have not acted with skill. I’ve embroiled several people in a situation that I won’t have time to follow until its end. I’m praying that there won’t be some kind of total ass explosion. Also hoping this won’t dissuade me from wanting to be kind the next time!

      Re my husband’s father, he is a very good man who deeply wants things to be “right” for his family. Hah, though, we come back to skill. He’s not very skillful at it, never was, and now he’s pushing 90. And he knows *nothing* about people.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Re: “some *skill* in the situation”….

        How do you get that skill? You start out small, and you practice. Kudos to you for getting started.

        And I’ll take your word for it, that perhaps you didn’t act with skill. But you acted, and that has to be better than doing nothing, and letting casual cruelty stand unchallenged. Remember: all that it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m so glad people like it! We (my tech savior and I) do lots of technical stuff behind the scenes that no one ever sees, so it’s nice to have a project be so visible in this case!

    2. Jessica (tc)*

      I also love the feature to auto-collapse all comment threads, which is helpful when going back to read through comments after the first few times through. Thanks for making things easier on readers as the comment sections get bigger!

  9. Sandy*

    I have been stuck in Istanbul airport for three days. THREE DAYS.

    Say something, say anything, I just need some entertainment before I lose my mind.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, wow, I didn’t hear about the snow there. That’s got to be hugely frustrating.

      Can you treat yourself like a four-year-old and make up really stupid games? Count how many people are wearing a certain color. Count how many people go into the airport’s equivalent to Cinnabon. Make a scavenger hunt–can you find a sign with a misspelling, a person with red luggage, and the cheapest food in the airport? Or can you come up with ways to be the helpfulness fairy and wander around amusing children and helping old people haul luggage? Randomly pay for somebody else’s coffee?

      Or you can just hunker down over your phone and Candy Crush it out until your eyes bleed. Good luck.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        The helpfulness fairy sounds like a good idea. I bet others are bored too — if you’re enough of an extrovert, you could meet some new friends, listen to the life story of an old lady, collect autographs of people from as many countries as you can find, share a meal with a lonely and bored stranger.

        1. fposte*

          I like those ideas. I’m not an extrovert, but I can play one when necessary, and I’d have a good time doing those.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            I was travelling to a conference with some teens a few years back, and one of the teens was going to turn 16 while we were gone. I bought several birthday cards, and several of us secretly got all sorts of people to sign them for her. We got travelers in the airport and a pilot, and after we arrived we added cops, a homeless lady, hotel staff, and attendees and speakers at our conference.

            1. fposte*

              Oh, that’s delightful. And I’m sure that kid (former kid?) remembers that birthday better than most.

          2. Alma*

            My weather disaster plan includes a trade paperback copy of Hoyles Rules for Games, and a block of playing cards (I think there are 8 packs shrink wrapped together). Whether you’re trying new ways of playing solitaire, building towers of cards, or learning to play bridge or hearts with strangers in an airport over several days, it may save your sanity.

        2. TootsNYC*

          the helpfulness fairy is way more entertaining than most of the stuff I come up with in my head.

      2. Sandy*

        I love your suggestions! I had already done a few stints as the helpfulness fairy but now I am off to count shirts…

    2. GH in SoCAl*

      Hi thee to “Breaking Cat News.” The archive will keep you occupied for awhile. If you finish that, try xkcd.

      1. Perse's Mom*

        I read the Special Report on Shelter Cats and cried most of the way through it. I used to work at an open admission shelter, so I can relate to a lot of it, though perhaps oddly, the physical special needs cats and dogs often got adopted really fast. Missing an eye or a leg and they were snatched up, but ongoing medical conditions, not so much.

    3. Cat*

      Oh you poor thing. My six hour layover there last month was enough. I’ve hope you’ve gotten plenty of free samples of Turkish delight in the interim.

    4. FutureLibrarian*

      Have you read NotAlwaysRight and all of the connecting sites? If not, get thee to their site. Hilarious customer/family/friend/life blurb stories.

      I was going to suggest AskAManager…but that won’t work haha.

      Chowhound is a decent foodie website. You could read the backlogs of posts!

      1. Sandy*

        Ha! Oddly enough, I was a subscriber to Chowhound when it was a PRINT MAGAZINE. I’m going to go feel old now :)

      2. K.*

        I’d also recommend Cake Wrecks – the ways in which people mess up cakes are myriad and hilarious.

    5. Clever Name*

      Oh my goodness! We moved to Denver about 9 years ago, and our flight was scheduled on the day of an enormous blizzard. The airport closed for 4 days, and people were stuck there. Even employees. I thought to call the airline as our cars were being loaded up on the moving van only to find out that our flight had been cancelled. Our house was empty and sold and the new owners took possession shortly thereafter. We ended up staying in a hotel for 4 days. With 2 cats. And a newborn. It was nuts. It would have been worse to be stuck in the airport.

    6. Valar M.*

      Download amazon kindle app to your phone – there are quite a few books for free on there that are decent.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        I was stuck at Frankfurt for a day, sick as a dog. It wasn’t snow but high winds that caused all the flights to ground. These were the pre-Kindle days, so there was only a very limited selection of books in English at the airport. So I say walk around and see if there’s anyone else there who speaks English. They may have a book they’re done with that you can swap, or as someone else suggested, buy a deck of cards and get a game of something going.

        Also, because I was sick as a dog… I wandered around trying to find a place to lie down and take a nap but everywhere was covered in people or luggage. So I went up to the customer service desk and asked them if there was somewhere I could go and lie down, that I normally wouldn’t ask but I was sick and everywhere was taken. I must have looked like death warmed over or something because they gave me a slip for a hotel room off the property, showed me where to catch the shuttle. I thought I’d have to pay — and at that point, I seriously didn’t care, I just wanted to lie down and sleep — but somehow it was free! It’s a good thing I got that rest, too, because by the time I got to my car to go home, it was almost 4am… and my battery was out. Took 45 minutes to get it charged up enough to turn over. Travelling is so glamourous!

        1. Valar M.*

          Oh man. That sounds rough! I haven’t traveled with more than a sniffle so far – I have been lucky. Traveling sick is my nightmare. They are also better at hotels at having rooms by the hour for people to nap in. They’re pricey but worth it in that sort of situation!

    7. Maybe Tomorrow*

      Not Constantinople?

      Lol now the song is stuck in my head. I love They Might Be Giants.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        Wander around, ask people why they changed the name, and see who can say.

        You could find out if they like it better that way.

  10. Elizabeth West*

    Happy New Year, everyone!

    I posted the annual WordPress reports as usual today. Those are fun to look at. I have no idea why people go to Clerical Chick at all; I rarely post there, and it’s not anywhere near as good as AAM and Evil HR Lady. But it always gets more hits than my writer blog. Maybe if I had anything to talk about that would help. :P

    I watched Bridesmaids last night for the first time (yes, Netflix, I’ll send your DVD back now). OMG THAT WAS SO FUNNY. I could totally relate to Kristin Wiig’s character. And I really hope I can meet someone like Officer Rhodes. He can look like Chris O’Dowd too; that would be fine!

    Really hope everything goes well at work this year. I clicked some dumb horoscope link at MSN and it was eerily spot-0n, but that was just for fun. According to it and a Buzzfeed quiz, it’s going to be a much better year–let’s hope the Universe was reading over my shoulder!

    Everybody have a good day off. If you have to work today, enjoy your weekend!

    1. ginger ale for all*

      Bridesmaids was hilarious! I saw it in the regular theater twice and the local dollar one once.

    2. Camster*

      I love Bridesmaids!! I think I’ve seen it about ten times since it appears regularly on cable. The airplane scene still makes me laugh when I think about it. As for meeting an Officer Rhodes — yeah, I would love to meet someone like that, too!

    3. Rin*

      I think I’m the only person in the world who did not like Bridesmaids. I do like Chris O’Dowd, though…

  11. Courtney*

    I’ve always wanted to travel by myself, and this year I’m finally going to do it. I plan to take the trip in mid-May. I’ve been saving money and will continue to, but it won’t be a ton. Any suggestions for a fun solo trip that won’t cost a fortune? I live in the Midwest U.S., so I’m not sure if overseas flights will be feasible money wise (even though I would absolutely love to go overseas, that might have to wait until 2017).

    1. fposte*

      What do you like to do when you travel? I think there are plenty of cool North American destinations that you’d enjoy, depending on your pleasures. Charleston? Montreal? San Francisco?

    2. Amber Rose*

      Your money will go far almost anywhere but particularly in Canada right now. Vancouver and PEI, being coastal, are warm and beautiful that time of year.

      If you’re feeling more adventurous and want to go slightly further, Mexico is usually really inexpensive and a ton of fun. I spent a week in Puerto Vallarta a few years ago and had a blast, and the trip with the resort package barely cost anything.

    3. Elle the new Fed*

      I travel a lot on small budgets… Cheapcaribbean is great for package deals to the caribbean (although not necessarily the ideal for a solo traveller), but since you are so close to Canada I second that! There are a lot of fun things to do. I did much of Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia solo and it was great. Also, I’m an introvert and don’t particularly like or need to make friends as I travel. I did great completely alone but there were tons of people to meet.

      And lastly, there are a lot of fun places domestically as well. New England is lovely in the late spring!

    4. Cath in Canada*

      long-distance trains are a great option for solo travelers, and pretty reasonable price-wise if you don’t get a private compartment. I’ve done Toronto-Vancouver and San Diego-Vancouver and would recommend either – I did both routes non-stop but I think you can get passes where you can hop on and off so you can explore all the intermediate stops. It’s really social – I’ve met some super interesting people in the dining and observation cars.

    5. Valar M.*

      I’d recommend the west coast. I’ve done solo trips to Seattle and California and had a lot of fun. There were plenty of entertaining things to do that were still perfectly fun alone, lots of tourist things, good restaurants, and enough single professionals running around that I didn’t feel like I stuck out at all. I’d also recommend one of the big national parks in the west – if you just want peace and quiet. Though in May the mountains may still be pretty inaccessible if you want to hike, depending on how the weather goes.

    6. Dan*

      You really need to tell us your budget, and how long you want to be gone for…

      Most of Asia is dirt cheap at the moment.

      1. Treena*

        If you’re up for travel hacking, you can get a free/low-cost plane ticket to almost anywhere, and if you choose somewhere cheap, like SE Asia, the trip would be incredibly affordable.

  12. Harriet*

    Has anyone worked on a suicide prevention hotline before? I shortly start training for one (not a New Years thing, was accepted in October but between one thing and another couldn’t start training till now) and I’m starting to wonder if I’m completely crazy to volunteer / not emotionally robust enough to do it. If you’ve done it before, what did you think of it?

    1. Shannon*

      I don’t know, but, I just wanted to say good luck. You’re very brave and selfless to volunteer to do that. Thank you.

    2. katamia*

      I’ve thought about doing this but haven’t officially tried to volunteer because I’m not sure if I could handle it and kind of don’t want to find out the hard way if I can’t. I’d be really interested in hearing about what the training is like if you’re able/willing to share.

      1. Harriet*

        I haven’t started the training yet, but up till now it has been a careful selection process – informational chat, interview, group exercises. The training takes a few weekends and then you are also paired with a buddy for a while.

        So basically my wobble is pointless because they take good care of their volunteers and you only get to the answering phone stage when they and you are both sure you’re ready. If it’s something of interest I would definitely recommend you look into it. Apart from anything, I have never met such a nice bunch of people as the volunteers at the selection events.

    3. Catherine in Canada*

      No, but at a very dark moment in my teens, I called one.

      The line was busy.

      I hung up and started laughing. It just seemed so perfectly ironic. Even a helpline didn’t have time for me. The humour of it has kept me going through many dark times since.

      1. Harriet*

        As a fellow dark humour fan this made me smile. They tell us we just listen and help callers to find answers and strength within themselves. You obviously had that in spades to take such a positive from it :)

    4. jamlady*

      I have and I’ve been thinking about getting back into something similar. I have depression and severe GAD so I thought it would be a good way to give back to the community the same way they gave to me. However, my anxiety links to control and I really, really struggled after a few months because of the ones I couldn’t reach. It’s extremely intense, extremely heartbreaking, but also extremely important and does give you a lot of hope on the good days. I felt bad about stopping but they were very clear with me that it’s not our mission to help people only to destroy our own mental health in the process. And they meant this for everyone, not just people like me with a history. It’s a wonderful thing to do – but don’t ever push yourself further than what you can handle and don’t feel bad about taking a break (or leaving altogether). It doesn’t do any good in the big picture if you can’t also be healthy.

      I don’t know you, but I’m proud of you, and I wish you luck in finding a way to have this in your life (or not, whatever is best).

      1. Harriet*

        Thank you so much for sharing this, and I’m in awe you were able to do so for so long while in the grip of anxiety and depression. When I have been in the midst of that in the past I haven’t been capable of helping anyone else at all. Good luck with everything.

    5. Anna*

      Just keep it in mind that most often the phone rings and it’s someone who just wants to talk or connect or ask for support groups for transgender people and you’re pretty sure he only calls when you’re working.

      I worked graveyard at a women’s shelter and part of the job was the crisis hotline was transferred to the shelter office overnight. In the three months I was there, I got exactly one phone call from someone who was suicidal.

      1. fposte*

        Wow, that’s really interesting. I guess the reference services calls aren’t too surprising, but the fact that so few were actually explicit crises surprises me. I think this is one of those jobs where I never lost the fictional picture of it.

      2. Harriet*

        Thank you, that’s a good thing to bear in mind. They did say that they get a surprising number of sex calls (cheaper than premium rate numbers) and people who just want to chat.

    6. K.*

      Not suicide prevention but I did volunteer as a rape crisis counselor for a couple of years, which included both in-person and hotline counseling. I won’t lie: it takes a toll, but it was incredibly rewarding and eye-opening. I would advise making time to take care of yourself emotionally, whatever that means for you; make sure you have an outlet to discuss things with (don’t break confidentiality, obviously), and if there are other volunteers, stay in touch with them. The volunteer meetings were very helpful because you were all going through the same unique experience, you know?

      And if you are getting burned out, speak up! It’s to be expected. Good luck!

      1. Harriet*

        Thank you, this is very helpful! I couldn’t really put into words what I was looking for when I posted but I think affirmation that it is rewarding and also that it is OK to take care of myself and everyone might struggle a bit with it. They do seem to have an incredible volunteer support network.

      2. Sophia in the DMV*

        I swear I posted something earlier. I volunteered at a suicide prevention hotline for a while, the 11pm to 7am shift. I agree that most calls are related to people needing to reach out to another human. You also have regular callers (yes, that’s really a thing) and a few that are very intense. However the training I went through was great, very through, a lot of role playing calls, training in groups of maybe 4, and we shadowed other shifts before stating our own and we had pairs working each shift

        1. K.*

          We used to get warnings about regular callers who were using the hotline as a 900 number. There are people who get off on rape fantasy and would try to use us to play that out. At volunteer meetings, I think all of us had gotten the same caller at least once.

          We had class training with role-playing and we also did shadowing. The shadowing was VERY helpful.

    7. Froggy*

      I currently volunteer on one. As previously mentioned, 90% of the calls we take are not from actively suicidal people (from my experience, I can get actual stats on my next shift). Still, it can be very emotionally draining.

      A lot of the training I received centered around learning how to approach the calls in a healthy way, as well as self-care. Everyone has different responses to different types of calls. You’ll learn which ones are hard for you and that you need more support with (and which ones you are a rockstar at handling).

      Talk to your trainers and supervisors about any concerns you have. They’ll help you continue to assess whether this is the right fit for you.

      All that being said, volunteering on the lines has given me the knowledge and confidence that I can handle literally any conversation that needs to be had. I use the techniques in my every day life and have grown immensely as a person since I started.

      1. Sophia in the DMV*

        Yep. I used to be one. 11pm to 7 am shifts. Most people needed someone they could feel safe reaching out to. Training is intense – you’ll do a lot of practice calls and will shadow people before you man the phones

    8. NicoleK*

      I was an intern at a crisis hotline for a year (2000-2001). The majority of the callers were lonely individuals who just wanted human contact, callers who needed resources, or individuals with SPMI diagnosis who were in between therapy session.

    9. hermit crab*

      I don’t have anything helpful to say, but have you read A Slender Thread by Diane Ackerman? It’s about her experiences volunteering on a hotline in the 90s. It’s a really lovely book and she talks a lot about the effects on volunteers.

    10. Lola*

      I volunteered on a suicide hotline many years ago. It was stressful but incredibly fulfilling. The team of volunteers I worked with very supportive & generous and the training provided was very good. The vast majority of calls were from repeat callers who needed to know that someone out there cared enough to talk or listen or just hold the phone in silence – often In those loneliest hours in the middle of the night.
      Thank you for giving your time.

  13. Fleur*

    I really hate job hunting as a software developer. First is the studying for technical interviews for things I never actually use on the job. Then there’s the pressure of coding in your free time to have a github account to show off. All this is well and good if I were still a student, but the reason I’m job hunting is because my current job has no sense of work/life balance, and when I come home, I’m so burned out I have no desire to continue coding.

    It’s a terrible catch 22. If I were happy at work, I’d be spending more time coding for fun in my spare time. But if I were happy at work, I wouldn’t be job hunting or needing personal projects in the first place.

    For my sanity, I’ve recently started looking into guitar and singing lessons because music has always made me happy. But there’s always the nagging hopelessness that this just further pushes back my job search and in turn makes me unhappier in my current job.

    1. FutureLibrarian*

      I’m job hunting too, and while I thankfully don’t have to have a coding presence, I understand the feeling of burnout.

      Friend, take care of yourself. You’re no use in interviews or job hunting if you’re so miserable and exhausted that you can’t think straight!

      Take guitar lessons or singing lessons. Give yourself time each night to eat a good, nutritious dinner, work on your “homework” for the night (whether it be finishing an application or working on a Github thing), and then leave yourself 30+ minutes to just…do whatever. Play guitar, take a walk, knit a sweater, watch tv.

      It is so, so important to remember to take care of yourself while job hunting. A happy interview is a good interview!

      1. Fleur*

        Thank you for your supportive words! It’s so hard to keep my head up because I’m tired all the time, but maybe a fun hobby can be what it takes to kick my time management into high gear.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      It’s possible that some jobs that have work/life balance are ok with you not having a github account to show off, nor give super technical interviews. Perhaps it’s because I like doing maintenance coding, but I’ve successfully found jobs, good jobs, with nothing to show but a good resume and cover letter and myself. I would never be hired by Google, but I’ve had good jobs at a testing lab, city government, farm, manufacturer, government contractor, and now a utility. Most of those were looking for someone who wasn’t afraid of learning something new, but also didn’t expect more than about 40 hours a week.

      1. Fleur*

        Can I ask what sort of work is involved in maintenance coding? Curious because I haven’t heard much about that. I’m not really gunning for the likes of Google, but I currently work at a consulting company whose clients primarily do legacy enterprise code, and the lack of quality in the code base is a large source of frustration for me.

        Sometimes it feels like I’m looking for a unicorn – decent code base vs reasonable hours/getting away from the startup overtime culture – especially since I’m only one year out of school so I don’t have the experience thing going for me yet.

        I’d be really curious to hear your interview experiences and how you narrowed down your choices, if you don’t mind!

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Narrowed down my choices? Mainly, if I was looking for a job, and they offered, I took it. I’ve never had two plus job offers at the same time, and three of those times I was unemployed when looking, so I was especially not picky.

          The lab – it had a LIMS (Laboratory Information Managment System) that had existed for some time, but people always wanted changes and reports out of it. Then our company was bought out and they wanted to put a new system in place. So I helped convert data, make the new system actually handle the data we did, and trained people on the new system. This was long before there was anything like source control, and yet there was a lot of appropriate things done. And I learned from things that were done wrong, too.

          The city – I helped support a GIS, and again we were moving from one system to another. I did a lot of the database stuff (which is what I really like).

          The farm – they had an ancient computer and a weird (yet very usable) software system. I helped make reports and queries, and again helped with a conversion to a newer computer and newer software. We supported payroll and did some Y2K work. (Yeah, I’m old.)

          The manufacturer – they actually write software to go on the equipment they make, but I ended up supporting their in-house service department, and helped write software to sell that didn’t end up being successful. I did a lot of database work, and finally worked at a job that had source control.

          The government contractor – We supported a lot of different systems, some written fairly well, some written by insane and evil geniuses. I got to do all sorts of database and web page work, training people on our GIS, implementing upgrades, writing documentation (bleh!). The interview for that was only a half hour! I had old letters of recommendation and the guy that hired me know the manager from the first job.

          The utility – I’m mostly writing reports, getting to know our databases very well. And writing more documentation. (I finally found AAM after starting here.)

          Overall, I’ve worked a lot with databases, which I really enjoy. I’ve trained people to use software, tested changes, written documentation, helped upgrade software, talked to people to see what they need, written the code, implemented it — essentially doing anything and everything a company needs, when they have some in-house software that doesn’t quite do what they need, or have canned software that doesn’t quite do what they need.

          I like figuring out what is wrong with software, finding bugs, so ugly legacy code doesn’t scare me. It doesn’t bother me when I don’t know a language or a system — I just jump in. If things are a little bit better after I’ve touched it, that’s good enough.

          1. Fleur*

            Ah, that sounds a lot like what my company does now, though I only work with databases in terms of running queries. The ugly legacy code is just frustrating because of the whole enterprise fizzbuzz syndrome, not to mention how slow it is to compile and deploy, and then of course we’re too busy giving ambitious deadlines on new features to fix the existing millions of lines of spaghetti code.

            In a beggars can’t be choosers way, I think I need to stop being so bothered by badly written code.

            1. TootsNYC*

              Maybe being able to forgive the people who wrote it? That might be behind why it’s such a big annoyance, the idea that some stupid people did this!!

              But, those stupid people were: human; limited by the technology and language they were using; limited by the not-well-developed-yet target of “what will this need to do?”; always jury-rigging with not enough time.

              Think of those long-ago legacy coders as allies who got dealt a tough hand; it might feel easier to clean up after them.

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                And, those stupid people are often me, looking at what I did a few years ago, a few months ago, sometimes a few weeks ago. Each day I code better than I did the day before, but I have all of my own bad code to maintain too.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      That stinks. I wish I had anything useful to offer you here. I have several friends who work in tech, and they complain about similar issues. One of them is a tech writer (not a software developer) and still had to take irrelevant-to-everyday-work coding tests for interviews.

      Best of luck!

        1. Nashira*

          Mercy, I could have written this same thing, and I grew up surrounded by software devs. Love code, do not necessarily love other coders.

    4. Lee Ann*

      I’m on the other side – software engineer who has to do some of the interviewing – and we don’t expect github accounts. I’m not even sure if any of my coworkers have one; the skills to do an entire project single-handed don’t necessarily overlap with the ability to work collaboratively – some people just work better when someone else comes up with the big ideas and they get to make that idea work.

      We try to ask questions that are relevant, especially since we want Mac devs who know – or at least can grasp – the subtle tricky parts of Mac programming and that’s hard to find.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Couldn’t the GitHub account show collaboration, though? I mean, I doubt you have time to dig into the whole history of someone’s GitHub account, but it may not be a single project but contributions (e.g., pull requests) to several projects.

        1. Lee Ann*

          Possibly – haven’t used it, so I don’t know. Other than one programmer who submitted a lot of Linux fixes while he was in college, most of us haven’t done much in the open-source world. The year I was job hunting after a layoff I did take an existing Unix project (before github even existed) and port it to the Mac because I didn’t have any current Mac Cocoa on my resume, but nobody asked to see the actual code.

      2. Fleur*

        I’d love to find more companies like yours. I’d much prefer more practical lines of questioning. But so far I’m encountering a lot of tricky programming contest type questions, and people who expect github accounts showing open source development contributions. It just feels like there’s so much to do to get an online presence and stand out because the entry level programming jobs are so saturated.

    5. Marcela*

      Yeah, I’m under the same frustration too. I am a developer, yes, but I am not a programming wizard. I’d describe myself more as a one-woman orchestra, somebody who can do many different things but not at the expert/guru level. All the codes I’ve done belong to somebody, so I’m not free to show them to somebody else.

      I remember a specially frustrating ad for a job in Drupal. The form included a box for my handle in and I could not submit without it. I do have one, since I worked 5 years as a Drupal developer, but the code wasn’t open source and it was 2 or 3 drupal versions ago. It’s like those ads asking for a (mandatory) LinkedIn handle. I haven’t been in this country long enough to have a full and complete network, and most of the people I have worked with are scientists, for who LinkedIn is not really that relevant, therefore they don’t use it.

      Somehow it feels all companies want superstars, geniuses of programming. My talent is to work very, very hard and being able to learn whatever I need for a given task: not that I am the best programmer in the world. I get so frustrated sometimes.

      1. Stephanie*

        Ugh, I hate ads that ask for mandatory LinkedIn handles. I have a LinkedIn profile, but it’s kind of at the bare minimum. I log on to accept connections and look up an interviewer.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        So frustrating. It sounds as if they are also more concerned with being good at job hunting than being good at job doing.

      3. Fleur*

        I completely commiserate with you. If I never have to see rockstar or ninja in a job ad again, it would be too soon.

        Hopefully the new year will bring better luck to both of us!

    6. Rubyrose*

      Former developer, now Business Analyst. Also old, like ThursdaysGeek :-).

      Listen to ThursdaysGeek – sage advise there. See how s/he was willing to do whatever was needed, outside of actual heads down coding (training, documentation (I know!), report writing)? Those activities will help educate you in ways to design and code systems that will be more useful to the business, that will stand the test of time. Having a variety of tasks, as opposed to just coding, will lessen your stress level.

      And that variety, along with your ability to actively express your interest and ability to learn whatever needs to be learned, will make you more marketable to the types of positions and employers you are looking for. These companies are probably smaller (yes, no Google or MicroSoft) but with fewer people they are more likely to value someone who has more in their toolbox than software languages. If all they care about is if you know how to code some off-the beaten-path need right now, as opposed to whether you can stretch and support whatever they need, that company may not be somewhere you want to be.

      Another skill that good companies are interested in is how you estimate how long it will take you to do a piece of code and how close your estimates are. Estimates help set expectations on overall workload and ultimately how much overtime you are putting in.

      When I talk to recruiters recommending developers, the mere mention that the developer knows how to ask the questions that business users can understand immediately raises their rank several points. Developers who just take specs as written and blindly codes without question are not desired by better firms. And by better, I do mean the firms who truly believe in work/life balance and do practice it. They do exist, please do not lose faith in that.

      Granted, I have no idea about github, and thanks – I will go check it out, just to know what it is. But I don’t think you are totally dead in the water without it.

      To get back to your current situation –
      1. Yes, take those guitar and singing lessons!
      2. Rework your resume, if needed, to include toolbox skills that are more than just heads down coding.
      3. Actively look for opportunities in your current position to cultivate skills that support/complement coding.
      4. Avoid the trap that, if you are working a lot of OT on a consistent basis (what I call working stupidhours (space between those two words intentionally left out)), you end up spending a lot of time at work complaining about the work instead of doing it. If you are spending more than 15 minutes a day complaining to coworkers and/or goofing off or avoiding work, you are contributing to your own misery. Go to work, work, and when you leave, leave work at work. This is for your mental sanity. Easier said than done, especially if you are on call, but needed.
      5. With only a year under your belt, it may take some time to find another position that is more in line with what you want. My last job search took a year, primarily because I knew what I was looking for and was not willing to settle. Sticking it out at the old job was painful and made me dog-tired. Part of what got me through it was the realization that if I did nothing I would be stuck in an unacceptable situation forever.

      Sorry for the ramble. Best wishes to you!

      1. Fleur*

        Thank you so much for the advice! The main problem with OT at my consulting firm is that they’ll pile more work on you the more you prove yourself. Last deadline, I finished my assigned work with a week to spare. Then I was pulled in by the project big wig to help someone else with part of their work – *urgently*. It was hugely complicated, my code review took two whole hours to go through everything, and I was working crazy hours to finish what should reasonably be a month’s worth of work in 2 weeks. My reward for doing well at this? Being put on critical bug fixing for stuff that has daily deadlines and multiple checkins per day, with the testing team doing the equivalent of “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” at each meeting. If it weren’t for my scheduled PTO, I’d have gone completely insane.

        The upside is that if there’s one thing I’m confident of, it’s that I’m wasting none of the hours I’m charging. I don’t even spend more than 15 minutes per day at lunch just so I can pray to go home at a reasonable hour. One of the older devs where I work warned me that the better I perform, the worse my hours will get, but I was keen on my first job and now I’ve dug myself into a hopeless hole.

        I will take into consideration about modifying my resume to include more supplemental skills. Working at a consulting company does mean a lot of client facing interaction and back and forth with the design team in gathering requirements and making sure the design makes sense and isn’t missing use cases. I think amidst the misery, I do like being given input on design matters at my low level, I know I wouldn’t necessarily get that chance elsewhere.

        Thanks again for taking the time to help! I’ve made changes to my resume and cover letter templates to be more than just technical information. Hopefully that gets me bites from more companies!

        1. Rubyrose*

          OK, you have the attention and trust of the higher ups – they would not be giving you all that additional, critical work otherwise. On one hand, that and the other info you have shared says great things about you and the fact you have what it takes to be truly successful and have a bright future. Kudos to you!

          On the other hand, yes, that older dev warned you of the downside, and unfortunately you are now living it. Hopefully you are still on PTO and are probably heading back on Monday? Good time to implement a change. Time to start putting in some boundaries/good business practices. Consider implementing any or all of these:

          1. When given a new task/assignment, give them, as best you can, an upfront estimate of how long it will take. Verbal is good, written (in email) is better. Be sure you put in some pad, even if you think the task is an easy slam dunk. Think of it as giving worst case scenario, or the additional time needed if you have to constantly put it down and pick it up (consider constant rank up time). Give them this time whether they ask for it or not.

          Estimating is a skill that is developed over time. Some developers never get it down, and people like me are paid to take their estimates and pad them to be realistic before presenting to the client or putting into a project plan. Don’t be hard on yourself at this stage if you miss the mark. Being more accurate will come with time and experience, if you actively compare your estimates with what the reality turns out to be and don’t get discouraged with this process. This skill can be especially helpful as you move up the ranks, or if you ever decide to go out on your own.

          2. When given a new task, on top of all the others, ask your manager to help you prioritize all of your work. Now, you may already know or be able to figure this out on your own. But the goal of this is to remind your manager that you already have 7 time sensitive tasks and she has just added 2, so what is going to give? Many managers, especially in the heat of battle (and it is a battle on software projects gone wrong), forget what is totally on your plate. And some don’t care. So your job is to look out for yourself, the clients, and ultimately the company. You can make it easy for all by keeping a summary list of what is assigned (both billable and non-billable) and what you believe current priorities are. When assignments are verbal, be able to whip out the list quickly. If manager fumbles, tell her you will send via email and will assume your ranking is accurate unless corrected. And send that email. You need the written documentation, in case things totally fall apart.

          In this same vein, don’t know what current weekly reporting/project planning you currently have to do. But if there is none, start keeping track of what you are doing on a weekly basis and send to manager, or put in a format (thinking Excel) that can be sent if history is needed. Since you work for consulting firm you might already have to do some of this, for billing purposes. But you need to be able to show not only billing items but the stuff that is internal work, that would not be billed to client. Do not need detail; this is something that would take an absolute max of 15 minutes a week. You can use this as a memory jog to come up with items to add to your resume. It also helps support asking for a potential promotion/salary increase. I don’t see you angling for this, but over time it may become important.

          3. Fifteen minute lunches need to be increased to 30 minutes, and hopefully taken away from desk. Only fifteen minutes are contributing to your burnout.

          4. Develop, at least once a week, maybe two, same day(s) of week, a standing appointment right after normal working hours that you have to keep, during which you are unavailable to work. The goal is to train them that you are not always available; you are not their slave. If they ask, all you are obligated to tell them is that it is personal business. Even if your plan is to go home and crash, present it to them as something you are paying money for and cancelling will give you problems. They won’t like it, but over time they will get used to it and start accommodating it.

          5. Take these practices to any and all future positions up front. Retraining them is harder than setting the expectation initially.

          You can get yourself out of this rut!

  14. Cruciatus*

    So the crappy treadmill we bought a decade (or so!) ago has started spewing fluff. I couldn’t figure out where it was all coming from (thought maybe we had some weird mouse nesting situation in the basement) but eventually realized it is probably from the belt. The treadmill wasn’t used for years and only in the last year or two I started using it during winter months to keep my steps up. It actually seemed to get worse once I sprayed underneath with silicone. It’s also stopped keeping up to speed once I step on it. It will go, but slowly. I took off the motor cover and everything actually looks good. The other motor belt thing is undamaged. The motor is definitely working, just not when I step on it.

    So, the question is, do we try replacing the belt for about $100 and hope that solves it or just go all out and buy a new one? My mom told me she would pay for it (probably because I haven’t asked for much for Christmas/birthdays the last few years. The highlight this year being Sonicare toothbrush heads!) Plus, good for my health and all. I really did use the treadmill a lot during the winter and crappy weather days in better seasons.

    I’m mostly a walker, with the occasional “run” (usually a mile or two). I spent most of the day yesterday looking at Consumers and Amazon/internet reviews. The machines I’m looking at are probably more than I need, but they are A) actually available to buy and B) have good reviews across the board. They are the:
    * Sole Fitness F80
    *Proform Pro 2000

    Does anyone have any thoughts about either treadmill and/or suggestions for another one that is actually available to buy that may be up my alley?

    1. fposte*

      I don’t know treadmills so can’t offer a recommendation for a replacement, but given that you really use this, I’d lean toward the new one. There’s too much risk of going to get around to getting the belt replaced any minute now and falling out of the habit in the meantime.

      (Love my old Proform elliptical, but who knows what that has to do with a new treadmill?)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. I’m not familiar with treadmills, but yours is ten years old. Probably there are huge changes in the technology with the current models. One thing that helped me make a decision on my sewing machine was to talk to someone who repairs them. The life expectancy for my machine is 25 years, since this is year 25 you know what happened. It died. I will be replacing it, not repairing it.

    2. Grumpy*

      There will be plenty of used ones at the end of January when the New Years Resolutions start breaking. ;O)
      Can the $100 fix last until you get a good quality used one?

    3. Mockingjay*

      Sometimes local fitness centers will sell used treadmills. Mine does.

      They replace equipment routinely – like rental cars are after so many miles. My gym is pretty careful to only sell clean, working items. YMMV, so check around.

    4. Cruciatus*

      There’s currently a price war on different sites for the F80. Think I’ll sit back and watch this for a while… It’s already $150 less on one site than it was yesterday. Plus, through one site I can get cashback through Fatwallet. Only $18 bucks but, hey, still a factor!

  15. Maxwell Edison*

    Half work-related, half family stuff: At Christmas I got very annoyed with my BIL, who seems to think that full-time freelancing = sitting at home eating bonbons all day. He referred to my current situation as “funemployment” and “retirement.” Um, no. I’m running my own business (and making a profit) and putting in more actual work than I did at Corporate ToxicJob because I’m not spending hours in meetings listening to developers scream at everyone. BIL is an OK guy but has a huge elitist streak (he bought me a book for Christmas, but not anything I’ve asked for or expressed an interest in – it’s what he thinks I should be reading). Fortunately, because he lives overseas I only have to put up with him once every few years.

    1. Cb*

      Aargh, I just play relative bingo! My BIL did his doctorate in the sciences more than 20 years ago and doesn’t quite get how the process works for social scientists / the academic job market of today so his questions are a bit unhelpful and annoying.

    2. Rubyrose*

      And what does BIL do to earn his keep? Work a ToxicJob for Corporate?

      I think I would probably try to find a kidding way to point out to him that he does not know what he is talking about. With some folks, doing that and repeating it several times is enough to shut them up.

      But with that elitist streak, he may believe he knows everything. What would he do if you flat out told him that you were tired of him judging your choices and would he please knock it off? Sound harsh, but it is not as if he is treating you with soft kid gloves.

    3. ginger ale for all*

      You could do a Carolyn Hax “wow” or laugh and say in adult to a child voice “I forget how out of touch you are at times until you say something like that to remind me”. Say that last one with a smile and shake your head and then change the subject.

    4. misspiggy*

      I have a similar-ish sibling situation, and what works for me, after trying polite deflections, is calmly saying, ‘Actually, I’m feeling quite hurt. Let’s talk about something else (subject change.)’ Seems to snap him out of competition mode and remind him that we need to be kind to people we love.

  16. Elizabeth*

    I spent the last 2 weeks gathering quotes & contracts together from various vendors, and on Wednesday, our Board approved a $3M expenditure, of which I was responsible for close to $1M. We’re going to replace our main information system, which I was hired to implement almost 20 year ago. I got a “job well done, we couldn’t have done it without you” from our CEO in a email that was CC’ed to my boss, her boss and about half a dozen other senior people.

  17. Noah*

    So, I have a cat now. She kind of chose me I guess. I’ve seen her before in the neighborhood, she’s very friendly and always came up for pets or to rub between your legs. I always assumed she had an owner somewhere taking care of her.

    Last week I came home from work and she was laying near my front door. No big deal, I said hi kitty and reached down to pet her. Normally she’ll jump up, but she didn’t really move. I dropped my stuff off inside and came back out to check on her some more. Seemed like she was having trouble breathing and didn’t want to move. Didn’t help that it was raining and cold.

    I bundled her up in my dog’s carrier, which was all I had, and took her to the local 24 hr vet. They said she had an upper respiratory infection and started antibiotics. She spent 4 days there and is ok now, but they said there is significant scarring of the nasal passages and she’ll likely always be prone to more infections.

    The morning after I took her to the vet I walked around the entire neighborhood going door to door with pictures. No one claimed her or knew who her owner might be. The vet says she was spayed but not chipped.

    Right now she’s in my office and so wants to meet my beagle puppy. They are laying on opposite sides of the door. She keeps sticking her paws out under the door. I’m trying to follow the suggestions to keep her in one room for a few days, but the two of them so seem ready to be friends. My beagle is great with cats, the breeder he came from also has cats and he goes to visit about once a month or so when I travel for work.

    The vet was awesome and would not let me pay for anything besides the costs of medications and vaccines.

    1. fposte*

      Congratulations, Noah! I hope the pup-to-puss introduction goes okay, too. What does New Cat look like?

      (And how nice of the vet. Costs like that are no joke.)

      1. Noah*

        Looks a bit like a cheetah with the golden fur and black markings. The vet says with her long legs and markings it is possible she’s at least part Savannah, but he wasn’t 100% sure on that.

        I was super thankful to the vet. I’ve seen him once for a checkup and stuff with my beagle, but no long term relationship.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      So, what are you going to name her? Very rarely have I selected a cat — usually they find us. Two in the past were Fig (Found In Gutter) and Gus (Grey Unwashed Stray). Scraggle (who has scraggelly chewed up ears) is our most recent guest, and she also was spayed but not chipped.

      We get dump cats where we live. It makes me angry, because they are more likely to be hungry and scared and then hit by a car or eaten by a coyote than find a good place to live. If people want to get rid of their animals by killing them, then take them to a shelter that kills humanely, don’t dump them so they die by torture and in fear.

      1. fposte*

        I have friends who live out in the country, and it is Pet Dump Land out there. As you say, the coyotes find this valuable.

      2. Noah*

        Not really sure about a name yet. The vet and staff were calling her Wheezie, because she still wheezes a bit when breathing due to the scarring. That just might stick.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          I like Wheezie! It has a nice ring to it.

          We had another dump cat that we didn’t keep. We called him Stinker, once we found out he sprayed. We got him fixed and found him a job as a mouser at a farm. He was a nice cat, but not one that could be an indoor pet.

          1. Noah*

            Haha, I’ve been saying Wheezy my neezy all day long. Just looked up where shizzle my nizzle came from and may have to stop saying that.

      3. Be the Change*

        ThursdaysGeek, can you say a little more about the ethics of humane-kill shelters when there’s no other choice? Are you serious when you suggest it? I’m really asking, not trying to catch you out or criticize in any way.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m not ThursdaysGeek, but I have strong feelings on this topic so figured I’d jump in too.

          More than 3 million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters in the U.S. every year for lack of homes. No-kill shelters are often only able to operate by turning away animals, or by essentially warehousing them in cages for months or years. It sucks, and it’s the reality of animal overpopulation, since there are far more dogs and cats born every year than homes for them. There’s no practical alternative though — there just aren’t enough resources to care for them.

          (That’s one reason why people shouldn’t buy from pet shops or breeders — thus creating more demand for breeding them, when so many animals have to be killed because there aren’t enough homes for them — but instead should adopt from shelters or rescue groups. And it’s why it’s so important to spay/neuter your animals.)

          When ThursdaysGeek says “If people want to get rid of their animals by killing them, then take them to a shelter that kills humanely, don’t dump them so they die by torture and in fear,” I imagine that she’s referring to the fact that animals dumped on the street are likely to starve or die painful deaths. Given the fact that there are millions more dogs and cats than there are available homes, sometimes the most humane thing shelters can do is to peacefully put them to sleep. It sucks, and it’s a question of picking the kindest of many bad options.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Yeah, I was expressing disgust at people who dump animals, rather than expressing joy that we have to have kill shelters.

            A few years ago, I saw something black in the road as I approached an intersection, one of the roads being a 55mph highway. Someone had dumped three half-grown lab puppies. Two had already been hit and killed by cars, and the third was so traumatized that we couldn’t get near to it. Why do people do that?!

        2. Marcela*

          I can’t believe that somebody who abandon an animal on the street is not perfectly aware that that is a 100% certain death sentence. It’s just a matter of using their eyes and see the enormous amount of animals killed by cars. Besides, our pets haven’t been taught how to feed themselves. And in many places, temperatures are dangerous an important part of the year. Even worse, our homes are mostly peaceful environments, relatively noiseless, so being dumped outside, with the noise of streets and cars, and their claxons when pets cross the street must be overwhelming and disorienting.

          I don’t believe somebody can truly ignore all of that. Therefore, if you decide to kill an animal, why do you decide to do it the cruelest why, when there are shelters where the exact same thing can be done without such horror for an defenseless animal? It’s not the best solution by all means, but unless we all get serious about stopping the overpopulation, choosing the less cruel evil is the mark of a decent human being.

        3. Be the Change*

          Hi everyone, thank you for these thoughts. Actually I agreed with ThursdaysGeek to begin with, but some family members of mine are opposed to putting to sleep even when clearly indicated. “We don’t put people to sleep, why would we put animals?” …coming from a cultural tradition where you don’t even step on ants.

          Regarding pets in this country I’m visiting, pets are ONLY purebred. If you’re wealthy enough to have a pet, you want a purebred status symbol. This makes me super angry. Zilch I can do about it.

      4. Dynamic Beige*

        You do not choose the cat… the cat chooses you! All my cats have been Dumpees, including the fuzzbutt sitting next to me on the couch right now and his mother? Grandmother? Aunt? Known only unto God the relationship between them girl who is sleeping somewhere else.

        You’re good people Noah. That cat knew what she was doing when she went to your door for help.

    3. Blight*

      Don’t be scared to just let the dog and cat be together right from the start. We had a cat for years and she was used to being the Queen of the house, then we got an energetic Shih Tzu and everyone told us to keep them in separate rooms and have small visits over a few weeks… After the first hour of watching them both trying to get past the door I just let them both run free throughout the house. The good thing about cats is that they can easily jump to a level where a dog cannot bother them. I found it was very positive to allow them to just ‘be’ and not be separated – it just seems to make a big deal out of nothing.

      1. Noah*

        Yeah. I just gave up on the keeping them separated. The dog went running between my legs to get in. They met and sniffed each other for awhile. No barking, hissing, or growling from either side. I’ll probably make sure they are kept separate when I’m not home for awhile, but for the moment they seem to be getting along fine.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Aw. I adore/love/am obsessed with interspecies friendships. Please keep us posted on this one.

          My heart wants to explode every time I watch Eve and Olive being BFFs and they don’t even have the interspecies thing going for them.

      2. nerdgal*

        Both my cats were dump offs. They were both tiny kittens when we found them. They are a very entertaining pair.

    4. Myrin*

      That’s how we got our own cat three and a half years ago (minus the being injured and ill part, thankfully)! We even named him Stalkie because he kept stalking us for months (seriously, he’d miraculously appear behind every window and door as soon as you walked into another room) before we decided to take him in as we found out that he didn’t belong to anyone else, either. It has made the life of our neighbour’s cat approximately a million times harder because they’re something like each other’s arch nemeses but he enriched my whole family’s life so much, it’s incredible. I hope you will be just as happy with you new cat as we are with ours!

    5. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      Aw! Thanks for doing such a good thing!

      A 6month old kitten adopted us in similar fashion. She was friendly yet skittish, started sleeping in the yard, and tried to get in the house. Husband took her to vet, got her shots done and exam done, and discovered she was already spayed.

      One of her first nights, she was curled near my feet. I shifted slightly and she bolted; we realized she’d had a home before but was not treated kindly.

      9 months later, she’s healthy, more social, curls up on laps, and mostly gets along with our 14yo cat. She’s glommed onto the boy completely. She’s our little PTSD kitty with her quirks, and we love her very much.

    6. Jean*

      That’s me sending good vibes to all the people who make homes for stray cats. Maybe this is the year for me to express my feline fondness by supporting a help-the-cats organization. I can’t take in any strays myself because allergies.

    7. Perse's Mom*

      Congratulations on the addition to your family! The shelter term for cats with chronic upper respiratory problems (at least at the shelter where I used to work) was ‘snot rocket,’ though I think Wheezie is certainly kinder. :) Plenty of options for fun nicknames with that, too.

      The extra bonus of cat/dog combos is that they’re not going to pass Wheezie’s URI back and forth, as they might if it was a cat/cat pair.

      My entire family acquires our feline friends via stray and/or farm abandonment – I think I’m the only one of us that’s actually adopted cats and even in that case, they were former barn cats, strays, or given up by their owner.

    8. The Expendable Redshirt*

      Paws up to you! Congratulations on being adopted by a cat.

      My oldest cat Maury adopted me too. He started by hanging out in the front yard. Over a few weeks, I noticed that his fur was becoming more matted. The poor Maury looked hungry too! So one night during a rain storm, I let him in. In the morning, I brought Maury to Animal Services to see if his human family could be found. Nobody turned up. It turned out that Maury was an eight year old senior cat and his chances of being adopted were lower than average. So Maury came home with me!

      *soapbox moment* Most of my cats have a similar adoption story. A lost waif brought home from the shelter. But I think that finding a pet at a responsible breeder can be a good option too. There are many ways to help shelter cats beyond just adopting them.

  18. LibraryChick*

    My past several main employers use those third party services for employment verification. I am job hunting right now, and am wondering how I should note that on the application? Should that be information I provide later in the process (after an interview?). Some of the digital applications have very rigid parameters of what information can be entered in to those fields, so I have no way of including it if I wanted to. What has worked for the rest of you?

    1. Noah*

      I wouldn’t worry about it. When I did employment verification for security badges it was always easy to figure out which companies used the third party services. When you called they would either transfer you to an information voicemail or just tell you to use ABC Verification. Towards the end of my time there I would always start by search at BIG Verification and see if the company names I needed were listed there. So much easier to print out the verification and then move on.

  19. Cb*

    Help please? Our housesitter smoked out of the window in our guest room and now it smells of smoke. We’ve had the windows open but any hints on removing the smell? It doesn’t seem to be on anything specific (have washed the linens) but am keen to get rid of it asap.

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      Sometimes putting dishes of vinegar around the room can help kill the smell faster. Opening the windows is good, and if you can run a fan in there to help ventilate it more, that will help as well. You may want to wipe down all the surfaces in there, since smoky smell can cling to things, and give the floor a good cleaning as well. Is it carpeted? If so, shaking baking soda into the carpet and letting it sit for a while before vacuuming it up can help. For hard floors, a good mopping. Are there curtains or blinds? They can usually be washed as well, and if the housesitter was smoking at the window they may be hanging onto the smell too. If the housesitter wasn’t there for too long, it won’t take the smell too long to dissipate if you keep working at it.

      1. Girasol*

        Wash hard surfaces and launder the bedspread, curtains, throw pillows and any other washable fabric surfaces.

    2. Elle the new Fed*

      Baking soda in bowls or on plates has been the biggest success for me. Or an air purifying machine. I lived in an apt that had a smoker upstairs and the air purifier was the only way to clean it out constantly.

    3. Noah*

      If you can’t get rid of it any other way, ozone generators work. You have to remove plants and pets from the home first, because it can harm them. My dad has rental homes and a combo of using Killz paint and the ozone generators almost always destroy the smoking smell.

    4. New Years Turtle*

      Charcoal. Just put a few lumps around the room. It will absorb all the smell. Just be sure it’s not “quick lite” or anything like that because those are typically soaked in lighter fluid.

    5. MommaCat*

      The smell is probably in the drywall, and I only know of time and air getting the smell out. Maybe try burning a candle or something to help cover the smell for now?

    6. Pennalynn Lott*

      “Smells Be Gone” unscented odor eliminating spray by Punati has been able to kill any smell I’ve thrown (sprayed) it at. Including the time my boyfriend set fire to the oven and the whole house was covered in smoke. Spray *everything* with it. Walls, ceiling, floors, bedding, curtains, furniture, etc. You can buy it from their website (just Google it) or on Amazon.

  20. Devils Avocado*

    I got a new job, just before Christmas! Starting Feb 1. I’m moving from working in an administrative role in a not for profit to working in an awesome higher education job where I’ll get to use my master’s degree more directly. I am beyond thrilled to move into a role that is not purely administrative.

    I haven’t told my current boss yet… I found out after our office was already closed for the holidays, so I am planning to tell her on the first day back. (I’ll work a 4 week notice period, so I felt this was reasonable.) I’ve been having nightmares about resigning, though. I’ve read all of the archives here about resigning, but I’m still nervous because I am leaving at a super bad time (I’m leaving in the middle of the financial audit, which I coordinate…) Any advice?

    I also wanted to say thanks to everyone here – I read the site daily, but don’t comment that much. I’ve been job searching for 8 months now and was beginning to feel quite hopeless. Reading the site really helped me. Happy New Year to all!

    1. Florida*

      You can give your four weeks and offer to come in on a contract basis in the evenings to help finish things. But really, four weeks is plenty of notice, so you don’t need to feel guilty at all. There is never a good time to resign. If it wasn’t the audit, it would be something else.

      1. Devils Avocado*

        Thanks. I don’t think I want to offer to contract – I really want to turn a page and focus on the new role. I’m hoping they don’t ask for a part time or contracting arrangement, but if they do I will likely decline.

    2. Elle the new Fed*

      Agree that 4 weeks is plenty. I’ve also found that resigning always seems more terrifying than it actually is. As Alison has said, moving on is a normal part of business and its the employers job to deal with it!

    3. No Name For This One*

      Once when my dad resigned, and the employer wanted him to stay, my dad said, “Did you really think I would work here until I died?!” I’m not recommending this line, just sharing it.

      1. Devil's Avocado*

        Thank you so much! After 8 months of looking (I’m in a Canadian oil city there unemployment is surging right now) I was so pleasantly surprised to get this offer.

    4. Valar M.*

      Just keep telling yourself that it isn’t your fault or your problem – you’re giving 4 weeks, that’s more than enough time to get someone already there into some sort of groove and hand over the big picture stuff on your work. Offer whatever you can to help make that transition as smooth as possible given that its a difficult time, and be gracious. They can’t expect anything more from you than that.

      And – congrats!! Enjoy the new job.

      1. Devil's Avocado*

        Thanks so much! I’m not sure what they’ll do. It’s a tiny organization (15 staff with 2 other current vacancies), and I’m the entire operations department right now (everything from HR to bookkeeping, board support, admin assistant to senior leadership, and just generally making sure the lights stay on and everything keeps chugging along…)

        I know everyone has the tendency to think their offices will crumble without them, but in this case I really do think they’re going to be quite shocked and really have to scramble to cover my duties. I’m just hoping no bridges will be burned!

    5. Rubyrose*


      I understand the desire to leave them in good steed, hence the 4 week notice. And on reading the other posts and seeing how small the organization is, I can understand.

      But in terms of taking care of yourself – is there any chance that they will not take the news well and perhaps not treat you well during that 4 week time period? If so, consider only giving 2.

      In one position I was at for 5.5 years, I gave a 6 week notice. Again, a smaller organization and I was a supervisor. It was my first professional job out of school and I was very concerned about leaving them well and on a good note.

      My manager did not take it well. He literally quit talking to me, relaying information and decisions to me through another worker. He told this same person that if they wanted me gone before the notice period was up, they just needed to say so and it would be done.

      My saving grace – I got called for jury duty right after I gave notice and was put on a criminal trial! So the last three weeks of the six week period I was out of the office. That also did not sit well with my manager, who suggested I postpone my civic duty. With how he treated me those first three weeks, no way!

      Just take care of yourself.

      1. Devil's Avocado*

        Based on how they’ve treated other employees who have resigned recently (with similar notice periods) I think they’ll react fine. Plus, the last week of the 4 weeks notice is field work for the audit (pulling samples, walking through processes, etc.) which is completely my responsibility. I think they’d have to be pretty angry to let me go before that, because not having me available for that at this point would really put the audit in jeopardy.

        I know what you mean about long notice periods… my last job I left because I was moving, and I gave 3 months notice (even smaller non-profit). It was brutal. I stopped getting consulted on decisions, I was no longer assigned projects, etc. Longest 3 months of my life!

    6. NicoleK*

      I recently left my toxic job at a less than ideal time (one manager was on maternity leave, this time of the year is a super busy time for the organization, a lot of staff turnovers this past summer, and etc.) When I gave notice I acknowledged that the timing was terrible and outlined my plans to make the transition as smooth as I can. I communicated with everyone that would be affected by my departure. Everyone was given the same information regarding transition plans, where to locate important documents, etc.

  21. Cross3t*

    What’s the time-frame for Happy New Year’s/holiday emails before they’re too late? It’s a week or so in for me, but I’ve been told that anything past January 2 is already late.

    1. Valar M.*

      The first week, but I probably wouldn’t blink if it was someone I heard from infrequently and they said it to me a a couple of weeks in either. I don’t put weight on this sort of thing – people who say it mean well, that’s all that really matters.

    2. Lee Ann*

      The season’s not quite over yet – I know a priest who sends Epiphany cards (Jan 6, the 12th day of Christmas) because he’s far too busy in the lead up to Christmas :)

      1. Alma*

        I’m still dating handwritten note cards “Christmastide” – who has time to write before 12/25?

  22. Anonymous Poster*

    Hello everyone–

    I was reading through the thread on University of Phoenix that popped up earlier this year, and this got me wondering about other online only universities. Is Walden in the same boat as University of Phoenix and DeVry, when it comes to masters and above level coursework? I’m really curious what people that do hiring out there think of that university. Thanks!

    1. fposte*

      It’s not so much the online as the for-profit, which Walden is. It doesn’t have the name recognition/infamy of UoP and DeVry, but it’s going to have the for-profit problem to some extent nonetheless. (Western Governors is online but nonprofit, by contrast.)

      1. Anonymous Poster*

        Ah, I missed the distinction between online-only and for-profit. Thanks for pointing that out, and for the response.

        I hope you all have a happy 2016!

    2. Elle the new Fed*

      I was reading through that too! But while I think Walden is less recognised, it still has a bit of the same stigma due to its for-profit status.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      Walden is for real? I thought that was a Doonesbury for-profit school. Ah, Googling has shown me the difference between Walden College and Walden University.

    4. Mean Something*

      I’m curious about this because since I got involved in hiring (secondary school teachers), I’ve seen a few Walden educational-technology degrees on solid-looking resumes. I would be interested in talking with candidates about what they gained from those programs–I can absolutely see that such a niche could be well filled by a for-profit online school.

      (I also taught in one for-profit design college, and it was a pretty serious place, but there were definitely areas in which the educational mission and the for-profit status came into conflict!)

    5. Valar M.*

      I think it depends what field you are talking about to some extent. In the sector I work in – any sort of work online makes me raise an eyebrow. Even if its from a well-known brick and mortar nonprofit. Hands-on practical experience and networking are vital. Its difficult enough when someone is fresh out of a program and a little green. When they’ve missed the boat entirely because they worked from home? I really worry. If they had solid work experience, internships and recommendations to offset that, I would still consider them, but it would be a flag for me.

    6. periwinkle*

      Walden doesn’t have the greatest reputation, but OTOH its lower name recognition may reduce any stigma placed on graduating from a for-profit.

      I didn’t jump into the thread about U of Phoenix, which got rather interesting and somewhat heated. The general consensus was that all for-profits are hideous; however, I don’t know how many contributors to that thread are attending or had actually attended one. I am. Like many others at my company, I’m a student at Capella University (online for-profit); I’m working on my doctorate there. Could I have been accepted and fully funded at a non-profit school with an excellent reputation? Yes, I’m sure of it. Could I have attended that better school without having to sell our house and move and while keeping my current full-time well-paid job at a company that is footing almost the entire cost of the degree program? Nope. Would I be attending a for-profit if I were footing the bill? Oh hell no (although I have been happily surprised with the quality of this program). Does my company recognize and value the degree? Yes, although they wisely put the real value on what you actually do with the knowledge you gained. Now, can I take my for-profit doctorate and be taken seriously elsewhere? Maybe, maybe not. Am I getting a lot of intellectual stimulation from my fellow students? Many no, some yes, with ratio improving as I get deeper into the program. My experience and that of colleagues/friends who have gone the for-profit route is that you get out what you put in, although that still depends on the curriculum and instruction quality. (this is also true of non-profits!)

      That said, if you are looking at the master’s level, there are _oodles_ of non-profit universities both public and private with blended or 100% online programs. I earned my master’s from a state university that offered the degree both online or on-campus.

  23. Lunchtime Blues*

    I wrote in a couple of weeks ago about our employee who had very serious food allergies that were proving difficult to accommodate. At that time, we’d essentially shut down our staff kitchen and other people were struggling to figure out what they could eat. I have an update that might not be satisfying.

    She’s gone.

    As several people pointed out, we really had two issues — allergies and performance. In three months, she hadn’t gotten a handle on her new job, and what work she did do when she was here was sub-par. We called her into a meeting, and explained that we wanted to discuss performance issues. She instantly trotted out her plan for more accommodations. They were pretty crazy. She seemed to think that we were obligated to give her an entirely different position in the company that would allow her to work in a private office, or from home where her allergies would not present a problem.

    We told her that those positions weren’t open and even if they were, her performance in the last three months had not given us the positive impression that led to that kind of promotion. We explained that if she was going to remain at the company, she needed to improve attendance, reliability, etc, etc. She gave us a song and dance about how she was a very competent, very excellent employee who was perfectly suited to her role – if we would just appropriately manage allergens in the office . And then she dropped a bomb on us – she wasn’t taking allergy medications, hadn’t been taking them, and wasn’t going to take them.

    As we had been led to believe that she was going to the doctor in an effort to get the right medications to control her allergies, we were shocked to find out this was not the case. So at that point, we didn’t seen any option but to fire her. I realize that her allergies might have been at the heart of her performance issues, but she was delusional and I didn’t think the situation would improve.

    I’m working right now on the job ad, and I’ve made it clear that the person working in this role will be exposed to a number of common allergens.

    1. fposte*

      Wow. I’m glad she’s gone. Do you know if she was like this at any previous jobs? Maybe it was just the way she was showing her discomfort with this one.

    2. Mimmy*

      Wow. You did the right thing. She needs to understand that an employer does not have to accommodate her if she’s not going to do her part in managing her allergies. It goes both ways.

      Good luck in finding a better fit for the position!

    3. AllergySufferers*

      I haven’t read your previous discussions of this person, and it sounds like there were a lot of problems outside of the allergies. But not taking allergy medicines probably shouldn’t shock you so much. I have some severe allergies and I don’t take them. They only very marginally improve my symptoms, are expensive, and give me other symptoms that are difficult to manage. I’m far from an anti-med person as I do take other medications, but the only thing that helps my allergies is by avoiding the allergens. That said, I don’t put that burden on my employer. I do what I can to mitigate and expect them to still treat me with respect for cleaning my office like a mad woman all the time. But I’ve also left jobs, too. One of my biggest is mold and I’ve had to leave jobs with moldy buildings before.

    4. New Years Turtle*

      There are a myriad of reasons why someone with severe allergies can’t take allergy medicine though!

      Women who are pregnant or trying and even sometimes breastfeeding are very limited on what allergy medicine they can take. She could have been working with an allergist to find something, only to be told there was nothing that wouldn’t interfere with her heart medication or who knows what.

      I also have worked closely with allergists when I had a very strange, multi-week recurring allergic reaction. We never found out what caused it unfortunately.

      I did not see the original post, but it sounds to me like an employee had severe allergies which caused attendance issues and then was told she could not work from home due to her attendance issues and was let go since she wasn’t taking allergy medications. : <

      1. Lunchtime Blues*

        It is not possible for our production employees to work from home. All the necessary equipment and raw materials to do the job is at our place of work. Only a few of our employees could work from home, and all those positions are filled. Had one been open, her performance issues (that is, the low quality of work she’d done when she was present) would have prevented her from taking on that role. Her attendance was a serious issue, but it was less serious than the sub-par quality in her work.

    5. asteramella*

      I hope your company consulted counsel before making this decision. If you’re in the U.S., she may choose to make an ADA claim.

      1. Observer*

        It doesn’t mean she would win. The key here is REASONABLE accommodation, and it doesn’t sound like that was possible here. Also, ADA does not protect someone who is just not performing, unless the reason is a disability that the employer could accommodate but refuses to.

        1. asteramella*

          Reasonable accommodation isn’t the only aspect of ADA that applies. Courts generally out a huge emphasis on the employer engaging in an extensive and thorough interactive process with the employee. And there are many suits involving low-performing employees who allege, and sometimes prove, that they were fired due to their disability rather than due to their poor performance, or that similar poor performers without disabilities were not treated in the same manner.

          1. Observer*

            Actually, at the Federal level, the interactive process is not required if the employer can show that there really was nothing they could have done, although some states do require it, even if it’s pretty clear that the process would have gotten nowhere (think CA). And, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a long drawn process, either.

            As for the law suits with low performing employees, yes, they win if they can prove that they were not fired because of performance. But, that’s not the case that’s being presented here.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      It sounds like she brought up her allergies whenever you guys brought up her performance issues. (am shaking my head).

  24. Cath in Canada*

    Happy New Year, all!

    We’ve been spending the week dog and house sitting for my husband’s brother and his partner, who are in Barcelona. I’ve always wanted to have a dog some day (we have two awesome cats right now, as a matter of convenience), so I thought it would be a good trial run. The dogs are great and it’s been really fun, but man, you can’t take a day off like you can with cats! I don’t think we’ll be getting a dog any time soon – definitely not while we’re both working full time – but I’ll definitely be looking into it once we’re retired / have won the lottery. Sticking with cats until then though!

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I’ve considered cats a lazy person’s pet (we’ve always had cats). Spiders and snakes are even more low maintenance, but I agree that cats are much easier than dogs.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        SO much easier. We’ve been going back to our own house every second day to take care of the cats. They’re always pleased to see us (they’re unusually snuggly cats), but they don’t really need us!

    2. Applesauced*

      Yep. Having more than one person care for a dog is mich easier. My boyfriend is out of town for two weeks, so suddenly I’m a single (dog) parent. He’s pretty low energy but having just doubled my dog time is a lot of work!

      1. Cath in Canada*

        There have been a couple of mornings when my husband was still sleeping when it was time for their first walk of the day, and taking them both out together by myself was really hard work! We’ve both been getting over a bug, and my husband usually works insanely long hours starting at 6 am, so I’ve been letting him sleep in so far on this mini-vacation – but I think I’ll wake him up from now on!

    3. Lee Ann*

      My brother lives in NYC and has Jack Russells – the most hyper dog on the planet! For a while he and his girlfriend came home every lunch – one taking lunch early, the other late – so the dogs would have two midday walks. Eventually they put them in doggy day care.

      Meanwhile I was acquired by a Cocker Spaniel – came home to visit my mom & stepdad who had two elderly dogs plus the year-old Cocker, who decided that since those two dogs already had one person apiece, they weren’t allowed to play with me; I was *hers*. So she came home with me. Cockers are much more chill than Jack Russells and she was already past the “needs potty breaks every few hours” stage, so she was perfectly happy to be a couch potato until I got home. She was a smart girl and we did dog agility once a week until she went blind.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Ain’t that the truth! I have a miserable cold, but the buddy still needs to go out. We just got back from a couple of days in Atlanta, during which I woke up and took the pooch out at 3:30am (it had been POURING and he refused to go until he absolutely had to), and now we’re home and he has barfed twice. I love my dog so, so much, but yeah, no breaks unless you send them to boarding for a mini-vacation. When I worked from home, his daycare days were the best. :)

      1. Cath in Canada*

        We’ve been super lucky with the weather – sunny and crisp, rather than the miserable rain of the preceding week. It would have been a very different experience if it had rained every day!

    5. newreader*

      Dogs are great! But I agree they’re a lot of work and time. When our last dog passed away about 6 years ago (at age 12), we realized our schedules at that point didn’t allow for the time to be fair to a dog. The 12-year-old dog was fine staying home on the couch for 8-10 hours a day, but a younger dog could be destructive with that much free time on their paws. So instead I volunteer at the local shelter to get my dog “fix” and we’ll wait until retirement or winning the lottery to have another dog. The husband is allergic to cats, so I can’t do that option.


      Word! After last year’s breakup with BF, cannot believe how much effort it takes to have dogs. Even though BF never walked them, he at least was home in the evenings to let them out when I couldn’t get away from work or I was running late to my workout. Now I have to tell my workout buddies at least once a month, sorry, I’m going to be late. And they (my dogs) had my partner trained. It’s taken a year but they are getting me trained too, finally.

  25. Today's anon*

    I asked about cooking classes a while ago so wanted to report back. We were 9 people and divided ourselves in 3 teams; each team had 2 recipes to make, and there were 2 “all-group” recipes, where we all contributed. The instructor ran around the whole time, helping us out and bringing us all together when we reached a special technique or step he wanted to demonstrate to the whole group. At the end, we had a huge meal with all the food we had cooked (8 dishes, including 2 desserts) and there were lots of leftover to take home. It felt very “food network-y” to have a big kitchen (each group had their own stove and counter space), and all ingredients sitting there ready (and not having to wash anything up after!). It was really a lot of fun, if a bit long (4:30h), but I learned a lot. Recommended!

  26. Cruciatus*

    In other news, while I haven’t made much progress toward moving out of my parents’ house (and buying my own house. I don’t have a large salary, but I’ve been saving, saving, saving. I live in an area where you can get a lot of house (3 or 4 bedrooms, full basement) in a non-scary area for about $75,000 to $100,000. Obviously it can go way above that as well, but cheaper houses are out there) I did take a step!

    By…buying flatware! I normally don’t like to spend money on something I may not use right away, so this was actually kind of a big deal for me. It’s a step toward the reality that, in the next few months, I will really start looking into houses (I find it too difficult to do now when it’s dark at 5 when I get off work, and since I started a new job a few months ago, I wanted to get a few paychecks under my belt). I’m starting to think about those things that will be nice to have the day I move in. I’m now looking at plates (probably will go with Corelle. It’s what we have now and they have lasted longer than I’ve even been born). Vacuums. Anything else I could buy now so that I don’t have to think of it later? I really don’t want to deal with furniture now.

    Pots and pans should probably be on the list. My mom bought a Vita Craft set 50 years ago that we are still using today. They have a lifetime guarantee that my mom actually used a few years ago when some of the handles were coming loose. They either fixed it or sent back brand new pots. I contacted them about a distributor in my state and there is one. It’s probably going to be at least $1000 (probably more) for a set of pots and pans. But she’s been using them for FIFTY YEARS! So they hold up. Plus the lifetime guarantee. Is it crazy to spend that amount of money (I can afford it–at least now before I start having mortgage payments)? I’m somewhat creeped out by nonstick pots and pans that make up the “best of” lists (I don’t really know why. Probably because I never use them myself and life has been OK).

    1. fposte*

      That’s a lot to spend on pans, IMHO; do you even cook that much right now? I also looked around for reviews, since you can get pans that cook very nicely indeed for considerably less than that, and found at least one suggestion that the new stuff wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and the handling of the purchase is pretty shady. I’ll post it in a subsequent comment.

      I would really suggest waiting until you move for stuff you don’t need now, because 1) you won’t have to move the stuff and 2) the house may indicate priorities other than the ones you’re thinking of currently. You may find you’d rather get new windows and a $10 pan from Goodwill than $1k of pans.

        1. Cruciatus*

          It’s all very confusing. The Celebrity China stuff–I don’t know what that’s about. It doesn’t look like the stuff I’m talking about which you see if you google “vita craft kansas”. But I think they might be part of the same company. But those pots and pans (with black handles, knobs on the pan lids) are what I know–the Celebrity China stuff doesn’t look right. They aren’t the products that are in the (recent) Vita Craft catalog we have. I don’t know if Celebrity China is like Toyota, and Vita Craft is Acura (bad example since I like Toyota–but you get my point).

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, like with electronics, too. However, I’d still want to find out for myself, from somebody who isn’t a company rep, how the new stuff cooked before I spent $1k on it during a time when I’m really needing money to start a household. You can always spend it in another couple of years, after all–it’s not now or never.

      1. Cruciatus*

        I don’t cook a lot at the moment, a few times a week. But I will cook almost every meal myself once I move. The other comment hasn’t posted yet, but I do know there are different Vita Crafts. A Japanese one, another one, and the one I’m looking at from Shawnee, Kansas. It’s possible they aren’t they same quality anymore. But they just have the benefit of being used for 50 years and still looking pretty good and I saw the company actually fulfill their lifetime guarantee.

        About getting stuff now…as it is now, I really only have a few car fulls of stuff that I would need to bring immediately. I haven’t collected a lot of furniture, I borrowed most everything I used the last time I lived alone from friends (microwave, dishes, utensils, etc.). I will have a very empty house/apartment/whatever for a while! But for now I am keeping my purchases smaller with flatware and dishes.

      2. Pennalynn Lott*

        Yep, within a year of buying my house I needed to replace the microwave, the water heater, the dishwasher and the disposer.

        1. Anna*

          Or you could do what we did and have a kitchen fire so insurance replaces the old everything. We’re still trying to figure out how to set fire to the bathroom and now, apparently, we need to work out how to catch the roof, too.

        2. periwinkle*

          Microwave, dishwasher, washer & dryer, and refrigerator – all replaced since we bought the house last February. The disposal needs replacement eventually. We have our fingers crossed that the range will remain cooperative until we’re ready to renovate the kitchen in a couple years!

          Regarding cookware: if you don’t cook a lot, do not buy some expensive cookware that may or may not be worth the price. Start with the basics – non-stick frying pan, covered 3-qt saute pan, 2 or 3 saucepans, and a small stockpot will get you started. You do not need top of the line gear at this point! If you’re near an IKEA, the IKEA 365+ line of cookware is pretty solid stuff and you could outfit your kitchen for less than $200 (and that includes pot holders, cutting boards, dish towels, a big colander, etc.). When you have more experience cooking and have a strong sense of what pans you’re using all the time, *then* you shell out the big bucks for the high-end pans.

          You might also find that you don’t need expensive pans in the first place; my absolutely favorite pan is a 12″ aluminum frying pan purchased from a restaurant supply store for $10 or so.

          Knives, on the other hand, are worth spending some $$$ – I still use the same 8″ Henckels chef knife that I bought in 1998 and my mother’s Japanese vegetable knife that dates back to the early 1970s.

          1. Alma*

            I just moved (and am in the process of seriously downsizing my “stuff”).

            Start watching prices on those items you know you’ll need (vacuum, bedding and bath towels, flatware, pots and pans). They definitely have times of the year when the prices are really the lowest.

            Buy 18-10 flatware rather than 18-8. It makes a huge difference in strength (“the spoon in the ice cream test” from shopping TV). I found great prices on well known brands in 4 setting packages at national chain stores.

            Don’t buy a set of pots/pans. Start out with a skillet, an 8 qt stock pot, and a heavier (like Le Creuset or Staub) 4 to 6 qt casserole with lid. For the skillet and stock pot, watch when brands offer “try me” pieces, and you can pick up a skillet for half of what it would be open stock.

            If you have the time, go to estate sales or downsizing sales and get them for a song.

            My favorite piece is Le Creuset “brasier” which looks like a skillet with two small handles on the sides instead of one long handle. It has a lid, and with the short handles it goes into the oven, too. I use it for eggs and stovetop stuff, as well as roasts and chicken in the oven.

            Then if you find you could really use another piece, get it. Choose it for its functionality rather than what it matches.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              I love that LC braiser :). Although I think my most-used enanameled cast iron piece overall is the 5.5 quart Staub I bought 12 years ago. It was my first piece of self-bought cookware (as opposed to my mom’s old stuff) and I love it.

    2. Colette*

      If you want to pick up a few things, here are some suggestions:
      – a shower curtain
      – garbage cans (bathroom, kitchen)
      – a few cleaning supplies
      – broom and dustpan
      – mop

      The small stuff adds up when you’re moving into a new place.

      1. Catherine in Canada*

        New sheets, towels, blankets, quilts/bedspread. Presumably you might be able to take stuff from Mom and Dad’s house, but it’s nice to have new.
        (and don’t fall for the patterned or coloured sheet trap – get white and white towels.)

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Hi Cruciatus!

      First off – congrats on saving so much! That’s really impressive.

      For your house, I strongly recommend getting a home warranty for at least the first year. It will cover all appliances and plumbing in the house, so if something big fails – like the HVAC – you’ll be covered to fix or replace it with a small deductible. It’s really good peace of mind.

      Now, for your dishes and flatware. Costco has really nice flatware – my set is from them and has held up beautifully, minus a few spoons that met their end in the garbage disposal.

      Corelle is nice and simple, and you can always upgrade later when you have a better sense of your style. I stupidly bought a set of beautiful Pfalzgraf with a pattern when I got a house, and it didn’t go with anything else. Plain white is a good set to start with. For Glassware – target and Ikea have very decent stuff. No need to spend a ton on that.

      Now, for my favorite topic – cookware! Not sure how much you cook, but you can get some good stuff for well under what you think you’ll be spending.

      I’d go for mostly tri-ply stainless steel. You don’t need many pieces to start with. I’m a big All-Clad fan but I also live near a Williams Sonoma outlet and get it pretty cheap. Tramontina at Costco is pretty good, and the Cuisin-art Multi-clad consistently gets great reviews and is probably the best value for your money.

      I think the following pieces are essential:
      2 quart saucepan – stainless steel
      4 quart saucepan or soup pot – stainless steel
      10-11 inch skillet – stainless steel
      10 inch nonstick skillet for eggs and omelets
      10-12 inch cast iron skillet – lodge is a good brand for this
      Stock pot – no need to go for tri-ply/clad on this – basic SS is fine
      Enameled cast iron pot – 5.5 – 7 quarts. Staub or Le Creuset – this is your splurge piece.

      Now, you also need a good chef’s knife. Zwilling Online has great deals on Henckels knives, but you want to research the different lines. I’m also pretty partial to Wusthof (classic, precision, or Ikon II lines) and have way too many knives. I’d get a basic chef’s knife – 8-9 inches, a smaller one, a serated knife, a couple paring knives, and that should be plenty. If you don’t know how to use a knife well, I’d take a knife skills class at WS or Sur la Table.

      That should be enough to get you started :) Have fun – these are great days ahead of you!

    4. The Butcher of Luverne*

      Somewhat crazy, yes! I’m all about buying quality when it makes sense, but may I offer a suggestion?

      All you need for a good basic kitchen setup is one good cast-iron fry pan, a 2-quart saucepan w/lid and a Dutch oven. Use Bed Bath & Beyond coupons and get them all at 20% off.

    5. Cruciatus*

      Thank you, everyone! I am taking down everything people have suggested. Another reason I’m doing this a bit early is just so I can keep an eye on deals. I’m not in a hurry so the chances I’ll get the best deal are good. I will hold off on $1000 pans but I think I’ll stick with stainless steel (whenever I do buy). I’m used to the clean up of our pans and it really doesn’t bother me (much). I probably use 4 different pots and pans regularly so I don’t need a huge set. Too bad nonstick are the main ones that are reviewed though. Even in Consumers. But I do have a few cheap-o pans that will get me through a few weeks once I am in a new place so it’s not a critical decision at this point.

      And if anyone is interested, the flatware I did buy was Oneida’s Cloister which is 18/10. It’s not too fussy or weirdly thin (there are some WEIRD choices out there that don’t seem practical to me–example, Crate & Barrel’s Aero Mirror flatware. I am frustrated just *looking* at it! Much too thin for my liking).

      1. Christina @ My Homespun Home*

        In addition to the suggestions about pans, check out a restaurant supply store. The best pot I have I got from one of these places, it has a super thick bottom so it cooks incredibly evenly, it’s all metal so it can go in the oven, and is just generally a work horse meant to stand up to a commercial kitchen. I’ll post a link to one similar to what I got.

    6. TootsNYC*

      I have whatever decent store-brand line Macy’s was selling 25 years ago when I got married. My grandmother-in-law-to-be bought me a set.

      They’re great! They work really well, and they’re not likely to break anytime soon.
      The lifetime guarantee is just not that big a deal.

      But if a handle did come off?

      I don’t need a lifetime warranty, because I can replace the whole set for about $150–that’s what I spent to get a similar set, of BETTER quality, for a friend who was moving out on his own for the first time (a bunch of us went in on it, as a housewarming present).

      They are really tough, and really great looking.

      So no, I wouldn’t recommend $1,000 for cookware. I think most people can go a lifetime with a $200 set; and those who can’t, can just get a replacement set for another $200. That’s a $600 savings.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Oh, and I *do* suggest you get a set, because they’re just so economical. Choose carefully, to get a decent spread of saucepans, and plan to add on an open-stock pan now and then.

      2. TootsNYC*

        One other thought–you’ll be starting out cooking for one, so you’ll need smaller saucepans early on.

  27. katamia*

    I’ve been job hunting, and a lot of the jobs I’m finding that fit my experience and field interests are either admin jobs or jobs with a lot of admin responsibilities. Unfortunately, having worked as an admin in the past, I know that at my best I’m a mediocre admin. I can’t anticipate what coworkers or clients need but can try to help (but will sometimes fail) if people tell me what they need. I can answer phones, but I’m awkward and not good at placating angry clients. And I just don’t care enough about my appearance, honestly, to remain at that level of “polished professional” that a lot of places around here seem to want–my hair is frizzy (and the frizziness doesn’t bother me), I don’t wear makeup, my wardrobe is in dire need of a tailor (which I can’t afford), and I have little to no fashion sense and zero interest in acquiring any.

    Obviously I’d try hard and improve over time, but I don’t think I could ever be really great at an admin job. Some of these admin jobs are at organizations I’d really like to work for, and I know at least some of them tend to promote from within. But I also feel like I wouldn’t have a good chance to show my bosses in these jobs (if I even got any of them) what I’m capable of other than my fabulous typing skills, which…yeah, those won’t help me move up. :P

    Have any of you been in this type of situation? How did you handle getting past a job you weren’t as good at to something you were better suited for? Or am I better off just focusing on jobs that play a little more to my strengths?

    1. Biff*

      I’ve found that “How did you handle getting past a job you weren’t as good at to something you were better suited for?” isn’t really how it works. The jobs that seem to be behind a ‘gateway’ job like this often build on skills you gained. That is, if you are expected to be polished, able to anticipate client needs, and have smooth phone operation as an admin, you might not use those skills as MUCH in the next job, but they are expected to be there.

      I think you need to focus on jobs that play to your strengths.

      1. katamia*

        The jobs that seem to be behind a ‘gateway’ job like this often build on skills you gained.

        Huh. That honestly never occurred to me before. I suspected that “focus on what you’re good at” would be the advice I got, but that’s a useful “why” for me. I’ve mostly been in teaching and/or self-employed, so I don’t have a great sense of how things progress in a lot of office environments or how different office jobs really connect to one another. Thanks.

        1. Clever Name*

          Okay teaching. That’s a good start. Do you like teaching? Looking for trainer positions might be a good place to start.

          1. katamia*

            Hm. I don’t really know much about becoming a trainer–having never been through any kind of corporate or nonprofit training, I don’t know what sort of things people usually get trained on other than maybe various kinds of software (which I’m not, at this point, qualified to train anyone on, although I might be able to learn). I was a decent teacher (certainly much better at it and enjoyed it more than admin work), but I don’t think I really have any skills that I could leverage into becoming a trainer. I’ll look into it, though, and see if it looks like a good fit/something to pursue.

        2. Alma*

          A tailor may be able to do what you need very inexpensively. You might also know someone with a fancy sewing machine who will trade out tailoring your clothes to work for you for babysitting, or running errands, or something else she needs help with.

          1. katamia*

            Unfortunately, all my friends who sew live far away from me, too far for me to use their services. I’ll keep an eye out in case I can find a tailor whose prices are closer to what I can afford, although I doubt it’ll be able to happen for awhile, unfortunately.

    2. Clever Name*

      So it sounds like admin work isn’t for you, and that’s okay to admit that. I think it would be helpful to write down what you are good at and what you enjoy doing. Doesn’t have to be overlapping. Then look for jobs that match that and brainstorm how your experience fits in to those jobs. It doesn’t have to be a 1:1 match of everything listed. Apply to stretch jobs and see what happens. You may be surprised. :)

      1. katamia*

        That’s sort of the problem–a lot of the jobs I’ve been finding have admin-type jobs as their entry-level openings, and then I’m completely unqualified (I don’t mean “this job is a bit of a stretch,” I mean “this job wants 10 years of experience doing similar work when I have zero, plus they want a language I don’t speak and two computer programs I’ve never learned that would be prohibitively expensive for me to learn”) for almost anything else. I’ve been trying to find a steadier income than self-employment (I left teaching to become self-employed), but it really looks like at a lot of the places I’d be interested in working, it’s admin or nothing.

        1. misspiggy*

          Sounds like finding a place that is a good fit is the first step, so that being an administrator for them is a role you can fulfil well. In the UK it might be health or social housing organisations, or animal/youth/drugs charities, which would be a good fit. I’m thinking places where a polished appearance isn’t necessary, but an administrator or receptionist needs a strong and kind manner, flexibility, and the ability to pick up a range of different things on the hop – as with teaching. You’ve probably got a lot more transferable skills from teaching than you realise. Maybe trying to set up informational interviews in different fields would give you a better sense of which types of organisation would offer admin jobs that you would shine in.

          1. katamia*

            Oh, good point. I haven’t been looking at many of those types of organizations because I’ve been hoping to transition more toward what I studied in college, but maybe that’s too big a leap. Something like the organizations you mention (I’m US, but we have a lot of similar organizations in my area) might be a good way to get partway toward what I think I want and also get a better sense of what other organizations might be a good fit for me. I’ll definitely look more into those.

    3. periwinkle*

      Figure out your strengths first. Take a little quiet time to write down the answers to these questions:
      1. For each job I’ve ever had, what tasks did I enjoy the most?
      2. What are the common threads for those tasks?
      3. For each job I’ve ever had, what did my managers/peers/customers praise me for?
      4. What are the common threads to those praiseworthy things?

      I figured out that I really loved anything analytical and was most often praised for skill in figuring out the connection between Data Point A and Data Point B. With that identified, plus some other traits, I figured out a good direction and worked toward it. In 2008 I was a really mediocre administrative assistant. Now I get to be analytical all day and it is loads of fun. They don’t mind my utter lack of fashion sense.

      1. katamia*

        If you’re comfortable sharing, how did you find ways to demonstrate your analytical skills while working as an admin assistant? I think I have a pretty good sense of what my skills are (some analytical, some writing, mainly), but when I worked as an admin before, I never really had an opportunity to demonstrate my skills–I never got to do much beyond phones, dropping off/picking up documents, and typing and filing. And this may have just been the particular company I was working for, but I never really got opportunities to do anything else. My boss seemed perfectly happy to let me read webcomics in my downtime (I was 20 and not particularly motivated, but even now when I reflect on that job, I can’t imagine what I could have done to really show off what I could do).

    4. NoTurnover*

      The things you’re saying concern me a little that the fields/companies you’re concentrating on may not be a good fit for you–or that you may need to make some changes in order to have a good shot. If it’s important to be a “polished professional” as an admin, professional appearance will probably be an expectation for more senior staff, too. (In my subfield, it would matter very little at either level.) If you get angry clients as an admin, the people higher up probably get them, too (only they probably get the more complicated ones that have been escalated). Basically what Biff said–often, the skills admins have are also needed higher up. I don’t think that means you have to be an absolutely awesome admin in order to have any chance of advancing, but the skills you mention seem to me like ones that would probably remain important in a company that values them.

      It sounds like you may be in a tough financial situation, so if you need to find employment with one of these companies, maybe it’s time to fake it a bit with appearance, improving phone skills, etc.? (I wouldn’t like it either–at least not the appearance part–but if necessary I could do it for a while while continuing to look for something that’s a better fit.)

      1. katamia*

        I don’t *need* to find employment with one of these companies. This is me trying to take things to the next level, since I’ve been mostly self-employed recently (other than a truly disastrous non-admin office job that I did have to quit for my health), and I’m looking for a steadier income. So, yes, finances are definitely an issue–I’m not making enough through self-employment to get a tailor or buy a bunch of makeup to figure out what looks good on me or anything like that, but it’s not an “admin job or be homeless” situation or even close to it.

        Also, the self-employment (working from home, no required meetings or Skyping or anyone ever seeing what I look like) probably has not helped the appearance thing, lol.

        1. Bee*

          I think you need to make a compromise if you really want to work for those places. I don’t think frizzy hair is unprofessional, but certainly a little makeup can go a long way – when I don’t wear it, I’m constantly asked if I’m tired or ill! Which isn’t a good impression to give so I do put on a little makeup every day. I have worked with many makeup artists as a photographer and picked up lots of tips from them so if you’d like some pointers on what to wear on a budget, I’d be happy to help :) it’s sad but true that we get judged by our appearances still !

  28. Mimmy*

    Happy New Year everyone!! Cannot believe it’s 2016 already!

    Some New Year musings…

    New Years can be really tough for me. With each passing year, I get more and more disheartened about where I am in life. I always say I’m going to finally try something only to chicken out at the last minute. For example, I was going to meet up with a couple of classmates in New York City last month, but once I realized how HUGE Penn Station is (I’d be going by train), I was like “uh…no thanks!” I know I would get incredibly overwhelmed.

    Even in terms of career development, I’ve stayed stuck because I’m afraid it will lead to a dead-end yet again, just like everything else. I know that’s an unhealthy attitude and a cycle that I really need to break this year.

    Actually, what I really is someone to talk to one-on-one to sort out my ideas and worries. My counselor is wonderful, but I feel like I need something more hands-on, like coaching maybe.

    1. Christy*

      Sounds like a new therapist would do you some good. Mine is all about tools for confronting the world.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I agree with Christy. Your counselor may indeed by wonderful, but it sounds as if your counselor isn’t also giving you what you need at this point, so you may want to find a new one who will help you tackle your current concerns.

      By the way, feeling overwhelmed at Penn Station is a totally normal thing. I had to meet up with people there recently, and it was a bit annoying. We didn’t know what entrance or Hudson News we were each at, even with cell phones.

      I don’t know much about your career, but I will say that I’ve seen some extremely fulfilled people who have terribly dead-end and boring jobs—they’re usually artists who have a day job doing admin stuff (steady paycheck and benefits) and then have their art they do on the nights and weekends. That may not be you at all… just throwing that out there. I know many of us feel pressure to have a job that’s fulfilling and a career track that makes sense or goes to ever-increasing responsibility.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I can’t tell from the examples, but are you trying to take too big a step? Like going into the city- I would find that daunting to the point I would not go by myself. However, what about a smaller city nearer to you? Can you get yourself there, maybe shop in a couple stores and come back home? That is just an example, it may or may not be relevant to what you have going on. However, I am thinking of smaller steps.
      So looking at your career/work life, what small steps could you take that would make you feel a tiny bit unstuck? Maybe sign up for an online class or take a class at a college close by? Maybe join some sort of group activity? Pick a challenge that you stand a good chance of having success at. Notice, I say A challenge, not TEN challenges. Don’t beat yourself up, chose one thing and give it a run, such as do one class and see how it goes. Or decide to join a group for six months and see how it goes.

      My wise friend told me that when we get stuck in life that is a time of “building up”. And building up can be whatever that means to you, it can be financial (savings), professional (education and other career oriented things), personal (family/hobbies) etc. So I think you are on the right track about needing hands on stuff to plan and do, because it would build you up. So my wise friend went on to say, do one thing at a time. That way you can tell what is working and how everything else shifts with the addition of this new thing. It’s important not to make it massive with lots of changes, because you want to carefully consider each change/activity and weave it into your day-to-day life. Think about renovating a house, you would go room by room and say to yourself, “What is needed in this room?” This is more of that type of step-by-step thinking.

    4. misspiggy*

      You sound a little bit like a friend of mine, who has quite a lot of anxiety but has built a life she enjoys. She is very clear what she isn’t up for, and simply doesn’t do those things. She’s also clear on what gives her pleasure and satisfaction, and when those areas require her to stretch her boundaries, she does it, but not too often.

      She won’t travel very far to see friends – and explains that, so we know it’s not that she doesn’t like us. But once a year she will visit countries she’s interested in, or which her partner wants to visit. She’ll minimise stress on those trips by booking well in advance with the same travel company, staying at the airport the night before the flight, and so on. When she’s had to deal with life stresses like illness in the family, she’s gone to the doctor and got medication to tide her over, as soon as she notices an increase in anxiety.

      It’s the opposite of my approach to life, but I really respect her for knowing herself so well and unapologetically setting boundaries.

    5. TootsNYC*

      Yeah, I often think I’d rather have a life coach than a mental-health counselor.

      Are there any near you? I don’t know if they’d be covered under health insurance, the way my psychologist/therapist was/is. But that’s what I’d look for.

      Or, since you do still deal with some “I’m overwhelmed!” issues, maybe find a counselor that can delve into more practical stuff.

  29. Anonymous Geographer*

    So, my week has been interesting…

    One of my jobs is disaster modeling for a county that just got hit by a massive flood this week.
    We broke the all time records set in 1993 on one river and 1982 on the other. We had to sandbag 500-year flood levees because they were overtopping.

    I had to build a 50 mile long flood inundation model working all night on Sunday night (after driving in 4 hrs from out of state where I was on vacation), and revise it every time the projection went up (which happened four times). I am not a hydrologist, but I have trained myself enough to build off the flood gage predictions made by the real hydrologists.
    We had about 25 sites of concern, and I hit every single one of them +/- 20ft on horizontal flood distance (which means I hit the flood depths within ~4 inches on a flood that hit 9 feet over major flood stage).

    I also had to build search and rescue maps, assemble US National Grid based field guides, update road closures and build an adaptive web app for that (21,000 users), deploy a damage assessment application, build a map series for FEMA building inspectors, and troubleshoot dozens of IT problems; and ran an ad hoc team of 5 people all from other departments to fill in the hundreds of one-off requests from 15 other support teams.

    Crazy week, which leads to a problem I have having. I kept getting everything dead on right this week. All my projections are right, all my apps are working, all my prep work is flowing together so that nearly everyone is getting the materials they need. I have spent several hundred hours over the last 8 years since our last major flood putting all of this in place, but it has never been used, so to me it is a complete miracle that this works.

    Every time someone says something positive about it, I keep deflecting by telling them how incredibly lucky I got. I cannot get my self to say, “Well yeah, I took train-the-trainer courses on US National Grid and became the statewide instructor for our state in it, so that’s why I had all of the maps and romers on hand and knew how to build new ones from scratch” or “That inundation model I am using took 3 months to build and I ran it by a half dozen hydrologists for their input; I had it on hand just in case it flooded and could build a new model for unprecedented levels because I knew every step of how to build a new model from scratch.”
    Nope, I just say, “Can you believe how lucky I got with that? It turned out perfectly, that never happens!”

    This is compounded by one department being hypercritical of everything I do because I am switched our systems to nearly all digital, and they want nothing to do with digital forms/maps and want everything paper, by hand if necessary. So they are very vocal about what a “failure” everything is, while I am having a hard time supporting my successes.

    Not sure how to turn this around and address this during the rest of the incident and after, but I feel like I need to do something so people understand that the hypercritical department is not representative of my work.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      You just described very well how digital and the preliminary work you have done has been successful. Continue to point out the benefits of having that in place, how you were glad you did all that work up front so that this was available when it was needed. When you use the word ‘lucky’ add to it that there was a lot of work putting it in place, and while you feel lucky that it worked so well, better than you expected, it is also luck based on hard work and science, so even when it doesn’t work as well, it will still be better than doing it the old way, doing it by hand and on paper.

    2. fposte*

      Ah, I know where you’re talking about; I’ve been watching the rise (not in person, fortunately for me).

      Does it mean anything that your self-credit statements are comparatively long and complicated and your deflection is simple? I know when I take deserved credit I don’t generally employ such long and detailed descriptions. What about something shorter–“I worked hard, so I’m glad it’s paid off,” or if people are genuinely asking for a little more specifics, a short version: “It was becoming the statewide instructor on the grid that did it. I really recommend that.”

      I’m just wondering if you feel so much pent-up desire for credit, because of your hypercritical department, that it’s spilling into these longer explanations. And in most situations I’d say you’re right not to use those, but I don’t think the alternative has to be “I just got lucky”–it can be “Yup, put in the hours and it shows.”

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Oh yeah, a short and easy statement is a great idea. If they want to know more, you can give it. If you say lucky, they won’t ask for more.

    3. edj3*

      I know where you are too, and I’ve been watching with sick fascination. My family lived in Cape Girardeau for a while and while I wasn’t there very long, you just can’t live there and not be aware of the power of the mighty Mississippi.

      And yes, you need to learn to say thank you and then stop talking. You did a lot of excellent work in a difficult field and that work was clearly valuable and needed.

    4. asteramella*

      “Thank you, I’m glad the work has paid off.” “Thank you, I’m glad this information has been useful.” “Thank you, it’s great that we’ve been well-prepared.” “Thank you, please let me know if you have any suggestions to improve our offerings.”

      Remove the words “lucky,” “chance,” “coincidence” and the like from your vocabulary. Say thank you and express optimism and resolve. People won’t think you’re arrogant if you do this, but they might think you’re stupid if you downplay your work in an attempt to be humble.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I love these responses and if the urge to deflect kicks in, your go-to can be “please let me know if you have any suggestions to improve our offerings”.

        Please practice these in front of the mirror.

    5. New Years Turtle*

      I use to be a compliment deflector. Then someone pointed out that every time I deny someone’s compliment, I’m signaling that I don’t think they are smart enough to know what good is. In essence, I’m insulting someone trying to compliment me.

      Now I simply say “Thank you” or “I appreciate that” whenever someone compliments me and it has help improve my working relationships a lot.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ohhh this is a very good observation. I think people don’t want to toot their own horns too much, and accepting a compliment feels a little bit like tooting by proxy! But this is so right.

    6. Anonymous Geographer*

      Well, they are not really compliments, just positive comments about the work products not directed towards anyone particular. We are a cynical group as a whole, so compliments tend to come out as, “At least this thing was not screwed up” rather than “This thing worked really well”. No one really knows that I did any of the heavy lifting, just the very easy end products. For example, since the flood levels come from NOAA, everyone (including my bosses) think the inundation data comes from NOAA too and I just have to drop it onto a map. Basically, everything looks easy because of the prep work, so no one really thinks that anything all that amazing happened.

      I think asteramella’s approach might work well with this problem though, but approaching it as a group outcome while still taking some responsibility for the outcomes.

      The hypercritical department, meanwhile, wants things I do not have and have to make from scratch, so they take hours. They have been pretty vocal to my co-workers, my boss, and his boss, that they thought I was just screwing around for hours doing nothing while they waited.

      1. Clever Name*

        I think it’s okay to take credit. Just saying, “I’m so glad it’s working smoothly. It’s taken years of work” or something.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        If your goal is to change the HC department, that probably won’t happen. They enjoy being Negative Nancys and that is huge part of their identity. If you try to change that, you are taking away their identity.
        So maybe the best you can do there is to get them to quit whining for five minutes. Almost not worth it, right?

        I think of everything you have said, the part that bothers me is that your bosses do not know what you did. When the dust settles, perhaps you can write up what you have done to achieve the accuracy you got here. Or maybe you can organize a group autopsy of what went right, under the heading of “we are looking for good practices and what we should keep doing.”

        Stop letting that HC department have so much space in your head. You have proven to you, the most important person in this story, that they are full of hot air. How much more proof do you personally need? None, right? So now it is time to go forward and show TPTB what you have done and show why it works. Let the HC department stand back and talk to each other while you chug on ahead.

        1. Alma*

          Ooooh yes, a group de-brief. The whole group will value that document, instead of it just being there on the record.

          The work that you did, with the de-brief, might be useful for other Emergency Management or Planning departments since everywhere is flooding this year. I think it’s got legs.

          It was nearly 15 years ago when my Dad and I stood in Paducah, watching the flood gates be put up. Dad saw the ’36 flood in Louisville, and most of the people watching that afternoon had never seen the flood gates go up in their lifetime. They were actually taking pictures.

          1. Anonymous Geographer*

            We will definitely be doing an after action report for the whole operation. While my tactics and strategy will not make it into the AAR, at least a few people up the line will see it.
            I did pass my methods on to a hydrology group at the national level who works on these sort of things. It seems to work well when you have gaps in information necessary to build a full inundation model.

            1. Belle diVedremo*

              I’m days behind on reading but hope you’ll see this in case it’s useful.

              For your boss, can you do a summary of what you sent to the national hydrology group, and include in it where you got your data (so he knows you didn’t “just drop it in”)? I’d encourage you include a description of how you updated your work as the numbers evolved to improve your projections and recommendations to those in the field. And if possible, mention that in meetings as the AAR is developed (by now it’s likely undeway).

              I’ll also join the chorus of those suggesting that you change your language from “lucky” to “achieved” now that you know your methods worked. If someone asks, you can say you felt lucky to be right, but are glad that your methodology was so successful. And so successful that you’ve been asked for it by the national hydrology group.

              There are so many people (and critters, and crops) in the path of these rivers. Thank you so much.

      3. Nerfmobile*

        Also, consider finding a way to share how all the prep work led up to this, after every thing calms down again. If your org holds brown bag lunches or other internal trainings, schedule one or two where you talk through specific pieces of effort and how that played out in the disaster response. That way you can help others understand the prep work involved and discuss how to take the next steps for next time.

    7. Clever Name*

      First of all, THANK YOU for the work you’re doing. You are saving lives. As for the compliments, practice looking in the mirror and smiling and saying, “thanks”. :)

      1. Clever Name*

        Also, if you’re working with a team, it’s gracious to say, “Thanks. It was a lot of hard work, but I couldn’t have done it without [team]”

    8. Elizabeth West*

      As someone who has family right freaking there (fortunately, they all live on higher ground and nobody had to evacuate, though I ended up driving home after Christmas in that storm, which was one of the most terrifying drives I’ve ever taken), I just want to say thank you for doing this work. Just because nobody I know needed it now doesn’t mean they won’t–55 was flooded VERY CLOSE to where my mum lives.

      I don’t know what to advise other than saying, “It took a lot of work over time, and I’m really glad we had it when we needed it.” But I’m available for kicking the hypercritical people if you like. >:(

      1. Anonymous Geographer*

        They are on my last nerve right now. Just after my boss and his boss left, as I was getting ready to leave, they dropped an enormous batch of “must have tonight” work on me. Second night in a row they did this after all the rest of my team left too. That was 2 hrs ago, and I still have 1-2 hrs more left to finish off what they want.

    9. TootsNYC*

      For one thing, stop saying “I got lucky” or using the word “unbelievable.”

      Those aren’t accurate. So *be* accurate.

      “We worked hard to get here,” that’s a good phrase. It includes your teammates, your boss who supported all the work -you- did. And it points out (for the future) that this level of accuracy and thoroughness took work, and if they want more of this quality in the future, they’ll need to give you all the same opportunities to put in the work.

      “I’m grateful we had the time to create these tools before they were needed.” Again–it’s accepting the compliment, but focusing on other people, or the effects of the good work, or what went into the Great Thing that’s being complimented.

      “I’m glad we were able to alert people to the danger.” This also lets the compliment stand unchallenged and focuses on the outcome for everyone.

      These are all really good strategies for accepting compliments. In a way, they’re all the same.

      Also, using the pronoun “we” is very useful in the followup. Because while you did all that work, you didn’t do it alone; you had the “village” helping you: the people who gave you time in the workday, who paid you, who encouraged you, who put copier paper in the copier machine, etc. All those people enabled you to do the work you did ahead of time. And some of them may have contributed much more materially.
      So say “we.”

      And talk about how rapidly you (plural: “we”) were able to provide this info -because- of the digitalization of everything.

  30. Grumpy career changer*

    So, first, a big thank you to the commenters here for providing helpful advice and great stories all year round. This blog, and especially the comments, helped me get through a long job search this year. No, last year!

    Now I’m in the happy position of needing advice about starting a great new job, exactly what I was looking for. Here’s my “problem” — there was an internal candidate who wanted the job. I have no reason to think that the disappointed candidate will be unprofessional about it at all. Still, I want to do what I can to make the situation work well. Any thoughts?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I was in a similar situation when I got hired. My future co-worker had applied for my position and not gotten it. She was, frankly, unprofessional about it and for the first two months gave me attitude of the “prove to me you’re more qualified for this position than I am” variety. I’m hoping your co-worker won’t be like that. Still, I’ve managed by actually proving myself to my manager (not my co-worker) and also, sadly, occasionally massaging her ego by complimenting her on the things she is good at. I absolutely agree with my boss that I was a better fit for my position, but I also genuinely appreciate the things this person offers to our team and am audible about it.

      I think you have to feel out how insecure this person is. If she welcomes you to the team and seems to genuinely not hold anything against you (it’s not your fault, after all), awesome. But you may just have to play some politics to smooth things out otherwise.

    2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      Ditto on feeling out the new coworker before saying a work. Definitely do not lead off with some preamble about making things work despite the other person not getting the role.

      For now, wait and assume nothing. See how you work together. If you have friction, address the source of the friction only. Any thoughts that friction or tension is based on the other person’s disappointment is speculation on your part, and it’s best not to raise it or assume it. If you are wrong about the assumption, voicing it to that person could make things worse.

      Keep in mind that you have nothing to prove or justify to that person. If ill will is directly toward you, that’s on the other person. Check out the reader update on “Tim” a few days ago – it’s an extreme example, but if misplaced anger is sent your way, don’t feed it. Deflect it. If it gets bad enough, talk to the person, then talk to your leader – but again, address the observed behavior, not the speculation. Your leader can read between the lines (hopefully).

    3. Not So NewReader*

      How do you know there was an internal candidate? Did the boss tell you? If so, maybe you can get an idea from the boss what this person was told when you were hired. And this maybe something that you do by just passively listening to everything the boss says in the hopes finding a clue. You may find out there is an opening for the coworker in six months. Or the boss may say that the person is slated to go to another department. Who knows.

      Meanwhile, start at square one. You are very happy to have this new job, you’re excited to meet everyone and looking forward to working with them. That is your starting point, give everyone this same message. Figure that it will be up to you to be sincere and be outgoing and treat everyone the same. That may carry you right through this whole thing, sincerity and fairness can carry us a long way.

    4. Artemesia*

      IN starting a new job that has supervisory authority (I am assuming this does — if not then this may have to be drastically modified) it is always a good idea to sit down with each person and get their input — it is a way to get acquainted, get the lay of the land, and sometimes identify real issues you need to address. If the group is too large, you can meet with teams or small groups. If it is common knowledge that this person was a candidate, you can bring up that you understand this, and talk about working together going forward.

      If you are a co-worker and not supervisor in this position, then do this also but more informally — seek out coffee or lunch with people to hear their views not as the new boss but as a new co-worker.

  31. Owl*

    Just finished The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza. It felt like a giant AAM letter. I didn’t like how it treated Millenials per sé, but sometimes it was very accurate from my experiences. Anyone read it?

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      I really liked it (I read it under the name Techbitch which is perhaps the European/UK title) and thought it was a very cutting view of the fashion world. (I’m sure not all young people are like that, though!)

  32. Bantha Pudu*

    I have a work situation that either requires polite agreement or tactful assertion, and I can’t decide which route to go. My direct supervisor, while nice enough, is pretty self-centered, and doesn’t always have the best grasp on appropriate workplace boundaries. She was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, went through treatment, and is now cancer-free. It’s been a rough few months, and I’m glad she’s come through so strong. The thing is, nearly every conversation she brings up somehow revolves around cancer, from the carcinogens in our diet and hygiene products to endless stories of acquaintances who had a cough or felt a twinge and turned out to be full of end-stage cancer. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that we’re all ‘ticking time bombs’.

    I’ve had friends with cancer, lost close relatives the disease, but have never been through it myself- I know I can’t even begin to see things from her perspective. Still, the constant stories and borderline philosophical lectures are draining and… insensitive, in a way I can’t quite pinpoint. Am I out of line? Is there a way to shut these conversations down without appearing like an uncaring jerk?

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think there’s a “you talk too much about cancer” shut down available to you in the situation you describe. I think the ones you can use are the generic extrications–“Gotta get back to work!” “Sorry, I was concentrating on my book,” etc. You can throw in a “Well, we’re all glad you’re better” as a transition point if you like.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, seconding this. I had a girl on my hall freshman year who had cancer as a teen and she talked about it all the time. My roommate even was even joking about it like “Hey, did you know Persephone had cancer?” But there’s no polite way to say “shut up about your cancer.” I would just nod along and say noncommittal things like “Oh, I’ll consider that about blueberries.” I’m guessing she’s talking about it so much because that was/is such a big thing in her life. Probably as she gets further and further away from her last treatments and maintains good health, she’ll talk less about it.

        1. fposte*

          I do think that if she’s actively talking about what’s going into Bantha’s mouth, you do have the wiggle room of “I’m not comfortable with that kind of scrutiny of my food–can we talk about something else?” because it’s about your own food. (Ditto if she’s talking about Bantha’s body–you get to say “Uh-uh, not doing that.”) But in general, you have to be really, really close to somebody before you can say “Enough about the cancer already.”

          1. Bantha Pudu*

            Oh, I absolutely agree. And to clarify, it’s not her own experiences with cancer that I find troublesome, it’s the ‘advice’ based on pseudoscience and the talk that any one of us could be riddled with it right now (true, but not something an anxiety sufferer needs to hear on a regular basis).

    2. asteramella*

      Regardless of her health history, it’s unpleasant to be subject to constant commentary about the healthiness or unhealthiness of your food and your daily habits. I think a lot of the deflections that have come up in previous posts about “health police” coworkers would apply here.

    3. Daenerys T*

      I’ve had similar experiences with friends who are cancer survivors. I’ve always seen it as a way of coping with a trauma/near death experience (which doesn’t make it any easier to listen to).

      Agreeing with the others that trying to steer it away from being pointed at you (“Actually, I don’t really like discussing my food choices”) is probably the way to go.

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      I agree with the others. Direct it back to work fairly quickly.

      I had a cancer removed this fall, one I’ve probably had for years, and one that is so easy to treat that it’s removed and other than occasional checking, that’s all. And I don’t feel like I can talk about it. Because, sure it was cancer, it was even rare, but it wasn’t anything traumatic, so can’t call it a big deal, so why bring it up at all. No-one is likely to see the impressive scar. It almost seems not fair: I had cancer and there’s no reason to tell anyone about it.

      I’m not sure how I would deal with her either. Because in that situation, I still couldn’t talk about it. But we all have traumas in our lives, and cancer is just one of them. You have different ones, and yours may be just as important to you as her cancer survival is to her. So, in some way, she is insensitive to not recognize that cancer doesn’t put her above others who have had different trials to bear.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Going in a slightly different direction, I am thinking of her talk about cancer as an expression of grief. Grief for how her body failed her, grief for all the invasive stuff that goes on in cancer treatments. I think I would suggest to her that she might want to join a support group of cancer survivors.

      “This sounds like it’s a pretty rough thing. Have you thought about joining a survivors support group?”

      If this does not sound like something you could make work, then how about using an affirmation of some sort. “Well, thank goodness you are okay now.” Work the word NOW into your affirmation because her shock/grief is such that she is still replaying it all in her mind. She’s still in the past, even if partially. You may gain ground by simply reassuring her that it is over now.

  33. Stephanie*

    So we hire a lot of seasonal employees for this time of year. I asked my (acting) boss about recommending people for rehire as I had my list of recommendations. Turns out our union contract mandates that rehires are by seniority. So this one particular employee who everyone agrees is horrible might get hired permanently as he’s about to hit his tenure date.

    I’m just hoping the ones I do like are senior enough. A couple of them got Employee of the Month. They thought they were being told they were being hired on permanently and instead got a t-shirt and a “Great job!” *sigh*

        1. Audiophile*

          Aw, that still sounds really brutal though. Jeez.
          I hate when seniority keeps bad people around.

  34. Trill*

    Happy New Year everyone!

    I am looking for work after relocating. The problem is I am in a very niche scientific field, and there are no open jobs in my new area. There is, however, a part time, lower level job in a town nearby. This is more of a “tech” job where I have been working as a “specialist” for a number of years, although I would have the skills to complete the required tasks of the job and probably contribute in other ways if needed. But if I were to apply for this job, it would be a temporary thing, or even on a casual basis while I look for something full time and permanent and/or while they find and train a permanent person for the role.
    So is it worth it to apply or would I be wasting their time and mine if I had no intention of staying long term? And how would I go about explaining the situation in my application?

    1. fposte*

      I think people often leave part-time jobs for full time, so that’s not a huge deal; however, I’d expect that you still make some minimal duration commitment to the job if you applied for it. It’s not usually helpful to have somebody in short-term and then have to put somebody else in; it just means training somebody twice. I’m also not clear on what you mean by “casual basis” here–does that mean you’d expect flexibility? Or are proposing to work as a contractor?

      So I think you have two choices: apply to the job as described and do it for minimum six months, say, until moving to full-time; or make an alternative proposal that you work for them hourly/contracting/whatever you were thinking of, since your skills fit their niche, even though that wasn’t exactly what they were advertising for.

      If it’s a real niche area, they might jump at having you; it depends on their needs and the market.

      1. Trill*

        By casual I mean per diem. Not committed to any hours per week, just working as needed.

        And while my specialty is quite niche, a tech job can be trained on the job in a month or two if they have some basic background knowledge. So I may not be all that valuable to them except that I would only require a day or two of training to get used to their systems, not a month or two.

        1. fposte*

          That sounds like you’re not in the U.S., so my advice may not translate then. In the U.S. that would likely be a contractor position–you’d be a consultant, essentially.

    1. Noah*

      Burn the house down and rebuild? :)

      Just kidding, lots of stuff is supposed to work but unfortunately it all takes time and lots of effort. I removed a roomful at my current place and found this stuff called SimpleStrip at the home improvement store. It has fabric sheets you soak in the solution and apply to the scored wallpaper. The sheets hold the solution to the wall and for me the wallpaper came off with minimal scrapping.

    2. Blue_eyes*

      Get a scorer and rent a steamer. My dad and I removed up to 5 layers of wallpaper (going back to the original paper from 1906!) from my childhood bedroom a few years back. We tried spray on products and they just didn’t get the job done. If I remember correctly, the steamer worked the best. You can rent them from a lot of hardware stores. The scoring tool was also invaluable because it helped the steam or spray product to penetrate all the layers. The spray on products might work just fine if you only have one or two layers of relatively new wall paper.

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        Yep. My parents and I removed wallpaper from every single room in their house (three patterns per room! Why!) and those suckers must have been attached with some kind of absurdly strong glue, because the steamer really worked best. Score first, then use a spray product to see how attached the paper is, and then rent a steamer if if doesn’t work.

        1. Stephanie*

          I bought a handheld fabric steamer to remove tint from my car windows after I moved to a state that banned tinted windows. It worked surprisingly well (although took forever).

            1. Stephanie*

              Ha, from Google after the DMV wouldn’t pass my car for safety inspection. I went back and failed again because I assumed I could still have tint on my quarter windows. You steam the adhesive off and just peel.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Who’d thunk? I thought it was in the glass OR it would be some elaborate process involving expensive equipment.

      2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        Piece of advice if you are removing wallpaper from an old house:

        Cockroaches apparently loved the taste of wallpaper glue used in 1930 in my old bedroom. Found tons of them embedded in the glue behind the paper when I took it down. Scrubbed the walls thoroughly, then myself in a Silkwood shower.

        Have fun!

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      Never put it up in the first place! Ha!

      OK, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I have removed a *lot* of wallpaper in my time so the two things I’m going to suggest are:

      1. hand held steamer. I forget how much I paid for that thing, but it was worth every penny. I’ve loaned it out to a few people, too. It’s heavy, but it worked, even on wallpaper that was 6 layers deep (just hold it longer and let the steam seep in). It is a Black and Decker. I don’t know if they still make them but the problem with renting can be that if the job is harder than you anticipate, it will take longer than a rental, or require several rentals at which point, you might as well buy it.

      2. liquid fabric softener with a scorer. The wallpaper in my grandfather’s house just laughed at my steamer, because someone had wallpapered, then painted, then wallpapered, then painted. The paint layers stopped the steam. I was given this tip by someone at a paint store, but if you google fabric softener to remove wallpaper, you’ll find lots of recipes for it. I would spray the wall, score it with the Paper Tiger (I think that’s what it was called), spray some more, let it soak. It took a while, but eventually it all came off. The Paper Tiger pierced the paint layers and let the water/softener soak through. The steam alone didn’t work as well, even on the scored walls, so there is something in the fabric softener that works on the glue.

  35. Audiophile*

    I’ve been feeling meh since Monday, my throat was bothering me a little. I went out to dinner that night with a friend and her former coworker, had awesome Indian food at this place in Manhattan. We had our first blast of winter here in lower NY, I’m in the Westchester area. I think getting hit with sleet and basically freezing is what did me in. I took a detour on my way back to the subway and just ended up being really cold the rest of the night. My North Face jacket failed me and made me wish I had taken my nicer coat out of my closet. Tuesday, I didn’t get much done at work, spent the day chatting with that friend. (She’d told me she was pregnant on Monday, before we met up for dinner).

    Wednesday was more productive, as far as work was concerned but I definitely wasn’t feeling well. And yesterday, I just felt awful. I was so glad my manager had told me I could take Thursday off, because whatever this was fully kicking my ass. Had a little champagne at midnight, but I really just wanted to be in a Alka Seltzer pill-induced coma. I’m feeling a little better today, but that’s more because I’m trying to stay ahead of it. I hope the rest of you had a more exciting night than me.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Ugh, I’m also not feeling well. Luckily for me I’ve been off work this week, but STILL. Just a nasty, nasty cold. Then the dog barfed yesterday, so I decided to stay home while the boyfriend had dinner at a friend’s place and went downtown to our favorite bar. I watched an Episodes marathon on Showtime. Whoop. Ee.

      Anyway, I sympathize, and I hope you’re feeling better today!

  36. Anonymous Educator*

    Am I the only one who likes having a combined open thread / free-for-all?

    It would also seem to me to be less work for Alison, since she then doesn’t have to do as much policing (“posted in the wrong thread—please wait until the free-for-all”).

    1. fposte*

      We used to do them that way, but people who just wanted to read work stuff found it got too buried. And this is a pretty low-key version–they could get pretty big!

    2. Christy*

      I think it only works on holidays because there’s so few comments, relatively. But it’s great on low-traffic days.

    3. Noah*

      Like fposte mentioned, it used to be that way, but the threads would get huge and eventually they were split up.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      Oh, I didn’t know that. Thanks for the historical insight!

      I don’t know if Alison would be up for this, but I almost wonder if it makes sense for her to have a (phpBB or vBulletin) forum associated with the blog instead of mega-comments. It could have ads, too, to generate revenue for her and also link back here, of course.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I can see why people sometimes suggest this, but ultimately it’s probably too far outside of my mission — which is really just to give workplace advice, and not so much to provide a discussion forum, although that’s turned into a nice side effect. I’d worry that separate forums would lead to me hosting unmoderated discussion boards where I couldn’t really vouch for the quality of the advice (not that I can in the comments either, but it’s easier for me to keep an eye here and jump in if something’s egregious — although frankly I don’t always see things in time here either).

        Interestingly, a commenter here (I think Victoria Nonprofit?) has mentioned that the owner of Offbeat Empire has said that creating forums was her worst business decision because it cannibalized her traffic from the places where she wanted it and sort of turned into a monster that required constant resources. So there’s that too :)

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          Television Without Pity from 2002 through the Bravo deal was an excellent case study in how even well moderated forums with respectful commenters can devolve in a frighteningly short period of time. The exodus was so, so sad. Previously.TV is good, but doesn’t have quite the same magic that I felt with TWoP.

            1. Doriana Gray*

              I miss TWoP, too, but some of the moderators annoyed the hell out of me. I left after two years of posting because if you didn’t agree with the crowd in some of the forums, you weren’t welcome.

            1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

              I wasn’t a mod, but was a long time poster from the days when TWoP sold banner ads to survive. I made them for the CSI forum. The communities there got so tight that many of my wedding guests were posters I met there, two of them subsequently married, many of us hosted TWoP parties.

              Some communities were very inclusive, true. Each forum had its own FAQ. People were required to read at least the last 225 posts (15 pgs) before saying anything. Forum rules were enforced.

              The site began to boom around 2004-2006, more mods came in. Some mods had been long time posters. Suddenly cliques formed, longtimers began to bully newbies, other LTPs began trying to mod the threads themselves. Rules were enforced but volume grew too quickly. Exodus 1 began.

              Bravo deal was announced (2008? 2009?) causing another schism. Now it was the BeforePosters and the AfterPosters and the cliques got worse. Rules were ignored, punishments were haphazard. Sars, Glark, and Wing Chun operated with amazing transparency; the new PTB were secretive and it seemed that forum enforcement was arbitrary. Exodus 2.

              Suddenly all the ads were corporate, popular writers gone, and the site took a new tone. A few of us held strong but as old timers left, newbies blathered, and mods allowed it; eventually we realized the new people brought traffic. The rest of the old crowd left. Exodus 3.

              The site died shortly after.

              I’m still friends with those TWoPPers. We commiserate every once in a while. For us, it was a place where we enjoyed sharing intelligent, analytical discourse among random inside jokes. (Seriously, [monkey]). Unfortunately their forum success didn’t scale well as their volume grew. Bravo got the higher revenue and traffic they wanted but they undervalued the community immensely. There wasn’t enough in the forums to keep people coming back, so their traffic began to dwindle shortly after that final Exodus. Bravo then began to launch show pages with blogs and videos that included their own comment sections, bleeding more traffic from the forums; they essentially lent a hand in killing their own site.

              Bravo potentially had the resources to manage a smoother evolution, avoiding cliques, keeping the rules, encouraging discourse, and managing enforcement; they just didn’t care to do so. And why they cannibalized themselves as part of their digital strategy is an absolute mystery.

              I can’t imagine how much Bravo wound up pissing away in infrastructure and IT personnel for the TWoP acquisition.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Fascinating — thank you. Seems like they could have bought the site but left the old owners in place to continue running it (if said owners were interested in doing that, which they may not have been) and avoided lots of those problems (although I’m sure there were plenty of reasons doing that might not have been feasible).

                1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                  Not privy to the deal, however, note a few things about Previously.TV’s evolution:

                  – Previously.TV’s first launched with brief summaries of shows, but they were not called recaps nor were they more than one page
                  – Sars, Glark, and Wing Chun established their presence with their real names, Sarah, David, and Tara
                  – Writers who left TWoP showed up on P. TV under their real names
                  – P. TV did not cover any of the same shows as TWoP.

                  As TWoP communities withered and shuttered, PTV picked up the dropped shows. When TWoP dropped long form content, PTV introduced it.

                  When TWoP closed its forums, PTV opened their own almost immediately.

                  I’ll guess that creative control was part of the deal which I cannot imagine the site creators would surrender. I’ll also guess there were some IP clauses and non-compete clauses involved as well.

                  If you go to PTV today, it’s like using the Wayback Machine to view TWoP from 10 years ago. The forum rules and discussions are very similar, but that community spirit isn’t present like it was on TWoP. But then, PTV users, to my knowledge, never bought fan ads to keep the site running.

                  I followed all this not just from personal interest but professional. I work in Web Development, specifically in driving traffic and preparing for growth. This is why Bravo stymied me with how they handled their assets, and I found the birth and evolution of PTV compared to TWoP’s slow death utterly fascinating to watch.

              2. Al Lo*

                I also have a really tight group of friends from TWoP, and we migrated from the main boards (one of the Meet Markets) to our own sub-forum in 2007, related to one of the big dramatic blowups, the details of which I can’t fully remember right now.

                I really joined the TWoP boards in about 2005, and really felt the solid community there for that year and a half or so, and then our community continued, but the venue had to change.

              3. TootsNYC*

                This is the part that interests me:
                ” Bravo got the higher revenue and traffic they wanted but they undervalued the community immensely. There wasn’t enough in the forums to keep people coming back, so their traffic began to dwindle shortly after that final Exodus. ”

                Alison has mentioned that unique visitors is part of what drives revenue for her, so regular community members don’t add advertising dollars.

                But if the part I quoted is what happened–that the longtime regulars created the value that made the forums’ reputation so that unique visitors even heard about it…

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Just to clarify, y’all definitely add advertising dollars! (Every view contributes to ad revenue.) What I meant was that more casual readers provide a substantial portion of the site’s revenue, so it wouldn’t be a feasible economic model to switch away from ads to something like donations, subscription fees, or so forth.

        2. Christy*

          Right, and I think the only example of a good forum idea is Friends of Captain Awkward, which was established by regular posters, is monitored by regular posters, and isn’t run by Captain Awkward herself at all. But her fans needed a place to chat far more than AAMers need a place to chat, and CA was kind of getting overwhelmed by her commenters and readers, I think it’s fair to say.

            1. TL -*

              I think that it kept on getting suggested (but CA said, while she was not opposed to the idea, she was not interested in running it) and then, if I remember correctly, a few readers really started working on it sometime after the big social anxiety question debacle. CA basically said she could not keep going as things were and started taking fewer questions and avoiding certain topics- my guess is that motivated people to start up the forums – to get support, to continue discussions after the comments had been shut down, and to open up a place for questions when CA either wasn’t taking questions or wasn’t taking a particular type of question.

  37. Blue Anne*

    What sites do you use to jobsearch in the USA?

    In the UK I’ve always got an eye on Reed and s1jobs, but I have no idea what the American equivalent would be.

    My marriage visa renewal is coming up this month, so I’d like to look at the kinds of things that are going in places I’d like to live, should I get kicked out of the country…

    1. Noah* is decent but for the most part I use a combo of going to company career pages and LinkedIn.

    2. katamia*

      The general ones I use are Craigslist and, although the quality of Idealist varies a lot depending on where you are–I’ve found lots of great listings in the DC area through Idealist, but it was almost totally useless for what I wanted when I was in Los Angeles.

      1. Audiophile*

        I’ve used craigslist a bit, had one or two interviews result from jobs listed there. I’ve mainly used Indeed. But my last two jobs came from Idealist, I saved searches and had daily emails sent that matched that criteria.

        When I briefly searched for jobs in Los Angeles, it picked up weird jobs that weren’t even located in CA. So I probably wouldn’t use Idealist again, if I was searching for that area.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      I’d actually consider looking at some industry-specific sites, too. For example, if you work in private schools (which I tend to), you would like at

    4. Cruciatus*

      I often look directly at company websites, but beyond that I usually use which collects a bunch of jobs from all over the place,, my state’s civil service job listings, my county’s job postings, and the local newspaper’s job listings. Usually that hits the main jobs (though I live in a smaller city).

    5. Elizabeth West* is good, and I also looked at the career board through my state’s career center website. The latter is where I found Exjob, btw. and Glassdoor also helped a little, but Indeed was the best. I also looked on employer websites–there are several large ones here and I kept an eye on their job pages.

      Careerbuilder had some good local ads, but it and Monster were too full of junk. I felt squicky about uploading my resume there too. I had a version just for online stuff, but really, most of the posts on there were just crap.

  38. Lillian McGee*

    It was me and Mr. McGee’s first New Years together as husband and wife (and before you ask if his name is Bobby, these are not our real names…)! So what OBVIOUSLY had to happen?? He got called into work! For a 12:00 a.m. start! I was like… really??? They couldn’t make it 12:35 or something??

    But that’s the railroad for ya. He is an on-call conductor and some train out in the middle of nowhere had to be re-crewed. We had to leave our friends’ party early and I spent the countdown on the couch alone with the cat. Sounds depressing but I have had a really great year and I was in good spirits nevertheless. :)

    Happy New Year!

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Now I have the tunes “Me and Bobby McGee” mixed with “I’ve been working on the Railroad” running through my head. May the times between the ball dropping last night, and it dropping in a year be the time together worth remembering.

    2. LizB*

      My boyfriend got a very nice collection of live Grateful Dead CDs for Christmas and is listening to them on our stereo, and their version of “Me and Bobby McGee” was literally just ending as I got to this comment. Spooky!

  39. ShoeRuiner*

    I’m looking at a job at a university, not a faculty job, asking for a CV. I’ve never made or used a CV. Should I apply anyway and send a resume?

    1. ResearchSnail*

      Yes — CV is academia-speak for “resume.” For academics a CV is much longer than a traditional resume, but if the job you’re applying for is not faculty, then a resume is what they’ll want.

  40. jamlady*

    My migraines have been out of control this week. It was a good week to work from home 3/5 days since my whole team is gone, but I don’t expect it will get any easier with this El Niño. So here’s where I’m looking for advice: I live in the desert and my house is currently at 17% humidity and my cats are both having skin issues from the dryness. I’ve read things about humidifiers helping with migraines, particularly barometric pressure migraines, but I also felt like they were worse when I lived in Texas (much more humid than the Mojave desert). Anyone has experience with adding a humidifier to their home for migraines? All stories welcome!

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Hmm… I get triggered by changes in barometric pressure, and it never occurred to me that the humidifier might help. I use mine to keep dryness at bay for us and the dog (terrible dry skin). Worth a shot, though make sure you keep that sucker spotlessly clean.

      1. jamlady*

        I’ve been looking for cheaper ones that are still easy to clean. Even if it doesn’t work for me, one cat has major dandruff and the other (who compulsively cleans when he’s anxious) has been starting to chew so hard on his back due to dryness that he’s breaking skin!

    2. Observer*

      Get a small humidifier to test with. They are inexpensive, and if it doesn’t work, or even make things worse, you won’t be out too much money.

      1. jamlady*

        I think it will help the cats regardless, and I could always find a different spot for it that’s not near my usual spots in the house if it makes things harder on me.

    3. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      Have not tried a humidifier. That’s a new one.

      I’m also in the arid SW – I began taking Diamox to help with the barometric triggers; it reduces the amount of CSF in the body so less pressure builds in the intracranial area, reducing the migraine trigger. I have found some relief, but my neuro says the pressure ones are the most difficult to treat.

      1. jamlady*

        I’ve tried dozens of medications over the last 10 years (you probably know the drill), but nothing has ever worked. We’re in a “let’s try lifestyle changes” phase for the next couple of years. Especially since last year they totally changed on me and I started getting severely blinding auras for hours with no pain and then the pain would hit me like a truck and I would be out for 2-3 days (Texas was really, really bad). It’s been better now that I’m back in the desert for all of the other triggers, but that pressure change… I’ll be totally fine and then I’m suddenly falling asleep at my desk and getting ready to throw up, just waiting for it to hit. No good! I really don’t want to go back to getting a reset shot in the butt every week haha. I’m glad you’ve found a medication to help you. I’ll write a note about it in my migraine journal.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          Only other med I can suggest is MMJ if it is available to you. CBD is highly effective against muscle aches and general pain and helps nausea very quickly, THC helps with nerve pain, nausea, and appetite, and CBG is excellent for inflammation pain. CBN is good for insomnia.

    4. BRR*

      For the cats, I have put flax seed oil on my dogs food in the winter and that has helped with his skin.

      1. BRR*

        Also with 17% humidity I would be running a humidifier nonstop. I just got a vornado one that is awesome.

        1. jamlady*

          Yeah I think it’s going to be necessary. I also have crazy allergies and asthma (and one of my cats does too), so I probably should have had one up and running since I moved back here. The price ranges are kind of all over the place, but it looks like cheaper ones do work okay.

          1. BRR*

            It really depends on room size in my experience. We got the vornado through an Amazon deal for our large bedroom and it’s great. If the living room gets drier soon I might try filling the slow cooker with water and leave the lid off.

            1. Artemesia*

              pan on stove or slow cooker etc just don’t put out enough humidity (we tried all those)– even a small humidifier doesn’t. If it is really dry you need an incredible amount of water to get things up to comfortable levels. I think we paid about $150 for ours that holds 3.5 gallons and will put out about 6 running full tilt if it is really dry — Our has 9 fan speeds so you can keep the sound of the fan low when you are in the room but turn it up when you are out or at night if you need to do so in a very dry climate.

            2. TootsNYC*

              Vornado makes a humidifier? I’m a major fan of their space heaters–it’s the only kind I’ve ever used that made every corner of the room the same temperature.

        2. Artemesia*

          I live in the chilly north and every year when we move to heating my skin goes nuts, my sinuses go nuts. I finally got a large ‘whole house’ humidifier. Mine looks like a piece of 1950s furniture and displaying the humidity % on the front; I have a plant sitting on top. The other option was a giant thing that looked like a cuisinart or a dialysis machine or something — so ugly furniture was the choice since I have no place to hide it. we have about 900 square feet in our main room and this thing runs through between 3 and 6 gallons of water in 24 hours depending on how dry it is. That keeps the humidity at around 35%. It uses ordinary tap water and a few drops of something to keep algae and bacteria at bay and doesn’t need to be cleaned often. Changed my life.

          If dryness is making the headaches more common, or in the case of animals or people with skin issues in winter — these things are gold. If we had a house and our own heat system I’d put in some sort of central humidifier, but this thing works well for us as a stand alone. The small ones you get at the hardware store just don’t put out enough water. I do use a spewing penquin humidifier in the bedroom and it is okay for that small space.

    5. F.*

      Although I live in PA where low humidity is definitely not a problem, I have found that I get migraines if I get dehydrated. Be sure you are drinking enough water and stay away from coffee and tea, which are diuretics.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I have my dog on fish oil for his dry skin. Seems to be helping.

      I assume you are drinking water, are you getting electrolytes from some source?

      Growing up, we had a humidifier in the living room. I don’t think it did much for my headaches. (Not migraines, though.) I got rid of my headaches by fixing up my diet, which sorely needed fixing.

    7. Schnapps*

      I live in the PNW where we have no end of weather changes, and humidity is not an issue (unless it’s too humid, and then that’s a problem – it’s pretty disgusting when it’s cold, raining, and humid at the same time). Anyways, I always say I’m allergic to weather changes – I get the full on headache/migraine/body ache and some days it just about incapacitates me. The shift from high pressure to low pressure always gets me, regardless if it’s humid or not.

  41. Daenerys T*

    I guess a combination of work/regular thread is a great place to post this, as I think my issue is a mix of the two!

    In February 2015 I started NewJob. OldJob hired me straight out of college, and I had been there for 9 years. By the end, it was awful and toxic and I was depressed to the point of crying every day on my way to work.

    NewJob has been going better than I ever could have imagined. I received a surprise bonus and raise 6 months after starting (which my boss made clear was not a substitute for my year end review, but rather a recognition of my hard work and accomplishments thusfar). I picked up new skills quickly, which resulted in being handed huge projects that are exciting, fun, and challenging me every day. I’ve gotten to travel all over the country. I’ve received fantastic feedback from not just my boss and colleagues, but external clients as well.

    Here’s the crazy part: all of this has shot my anxiety through the roof. I panic every time my boss sends a complimentrary email or sings my praises, because I feel like at any moment he’s going to realize that I in no way live up to the image of me he has in his head. Whenever I’m given a new project (at our company, the scope + challenge of the project is kind of a rank within our department — and I am always getting the first/second biggest projects in the company), all I can think about is how badly I’m going to screw it up. Ten minutes before I meet with new clients I’m usually hiding in the women’s room and trying to control my hands from shaking so they can’t see what a wreck I am. Whenever I make a mistake, it occupies my thoughts for days and it doesn’t matter how many other things I did right that day — I’m convinced that there’s going to be an email from my boss demanding a meeting to rake me over the coals (…which has never happened, just to give some context to how irrational my brain is).

    To top it all off, our business model works in a failure rate of about 40% — which means that things go wrong *a lot,* and when they do, it’s generally understood that the issue is just part of the way that our product is built, and has nothing to do with the performance of the person who is in charge of the product. Basically, if I suck at my job 4/10 times, I’m batting it out of the park.

    Logically, I know that the combination of OldJob + my mental health still not being in the greatest place is what is causing these feelings (plus a healthy dose of impostor syndrome). But I can’t seem to force myself to remember this when I’m trying to hide my panic attacks at work, over things that I know that other people would be grateful for, such as praise from management, higher pay, etc…

    Has anyone else ever experienced anything like this? I was thinking about going to therapy but I feel ridiculous complaining to a doctor about how things are going well and it’s causing me anxiety…

    1. Amber Rose*

      Imposter syndrome is a real thing that affects lots of people to varying degrees. If you go to a doctor I can guarantee you will not be the first, or last, person they talk to with these issues.

      I strongly recommend therapy. Get some coping mechanisms and tools to help you fight back against these fears.

    2. Observer*

      You are not complaining that things are going too well. You have a problem with anxiety which is causing major stress, and it is beginning to interfere with you ability to function effectively.

    3. Bye Academia*

      I 100% understand where you are coming from. I think it’s pretty common to feel anxiety when things are going well due to a combination of impostor syndrome and fear that things will stop going well.

      My advice to you is to just bite the bullet and go to therapy. Seriously. It’s not silly/ridiculous (even though it might feel that way at first). You’re not getting therapy because your life is smooth, you’re getting therapy because you’re anxious. You deserve to enjoy the success you’ve been having.

    4. Ashley*

      This sounds so much like my story! I was hired out of college by FirstJob and it became toxic around the 5 year mark – I was depressed, anxious, crying every day.

      Found current job a little about three and a half years ago – the constant praise, raises, bonuses and recognition started and I started feeling imposter syndrome and that I was going to mess it all up and not live up to my early self. Well, over three years later – it’s still happening! Just keep in mind – this means we work at positive companies rather than the toxic environments we were in last time. We deserve it!!

    5. The Expendable Redshirt*

      Yup. I’m still having spikes of Imposter Syndrome eight months into my job. “You don’t know what you’re doing! Boss will realize this any day now!” will periodically flash in my head. To try and combat this illogical nonsense, I focus on the numbers. Am I meeting goals? Yes. Exceeding them? Yes. Therefore the doubts are false warnings. It doesn’t stop the anxiety totally, but it helps.

      1. Soupspoon McGee*

        My imposter syndrome was held at bay as a rose through the ranks, got to know the higher-ups, and realized they don’t know what they’re doing either, but they project an air of confidence so nobody else knows.

    6. Artemesia*

      I spent my entire working life with anxiety. I managed it and did fine — but I would have been so much happier and more productive if I had gotten some professional help and put some of this to rest. I would strongly recommend therapy and consider well into that if anti-depressants are also needed. I know people who have improved the quality of their life dramatically with either or both of these.

    7. TootsNYC*

      I did! It helped to talk to my counselor about it.

      I was in a clinical depression greatly exacerbated by a bad work environment. Then when I got to a workplace that was a much better fit, it was actually hard for me. My boss would ask me to step in to her office to discuss something (like, a schedule even), and I’d nearly crawl out of my skin.

      It’s a perfectly reasonable thing–it’s a version, in a small way, of PTSD. So, talk to a doc, and maybe a counselor. And get some mental exercises to do that will boost your confidence and help you be the one in charge of your anxiety. Best of luck!

  42. JCokh*

    I have 2 questions.

    I applied to a company, they invited me to participate in the first part of their screening process which was a video interview. The following week I was offered a phone interview which will take place on Monday. In the same email I was invited to schedule an in person interview so I scheduled it for Friday of the same week (aka next Friday)

    Soo…. 1. Is it weird to schedule an in person interview the same time I schedule the phone interview? I was under the impression that the phone interview served as a screening process to determine whether to invite a candidate to an in person interview.

    2. I’m a young professional, this would be only my second full time job out of college (still currently at my first, am totally miserable there and promised myself to eliminate all things from my life that do not serve me), so I have a question about wearing lipstick to a job interview. What sort of color is good for a black woman to wear? All of the advice I see around is geared toward white women and it’s basically “don’t wear bright colors”. Since my skin tone is different one can reasonably assume lipstick will look differently on my skin tone than it does on a woman of a different skin color? I love a red lipstick! But is it automatically a no-go or could I probably pass with it?

    For reference, my skin tone is a bit like the actress Sanaa Lathan.

    1. Stephanie*

      I usually do brown lipsticks when I do wear lipstick, especially for job interviews. (I’m medium toned, not sure what to compare it to, but my skin tone isn’t too far off from my Gravatar.) I personally think red would be fine, especially if you’re not interviewing at a super conservative place. Fire engine red might not be great, but I bet a brownish-red would be conservative enough, but not super drab. I would go to a makeup counter and ask and tell them you want something for a job interview.

      1. Stephanie*

        Also, red lipstick intimidates me for some reason. I think it’s just because I don’t wear makeup too much and it seems so conspicuous (which is a big change for me).

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Absolutely second the makeup counter! Go to a department store– Nordstrom if you have it, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s– or a MAC counter/store. They’re experts! You can try on a bunch of different colors and see what works best. (These are the days I really miss Prescriptives.)

    2. Elle the new Fed*

      I can’t give advice on lip color specifically, but I’ve found the website Corpette to be useful for work fashion advice and there may be something in the archives there! I find lipstick to be completely appropriate in neutral/low-key, not bold, colors.

    3. Noah*

      1) It is a bit unusual to schedule both at the same time. Although one time I scheduled both a Skype and in-person interview at once. The first was with HR and the latter with the hiring manager. HR wanted a chance to screen and also be available to answer questions about benefits, etc. The hiring manager knew they wanted to interview. Maybe this situation is similar.

      2) Obviously skin tones will vary widely, but I would think a duller red would work out fine. Depending on skin tone a bright red might work too if you make it the focus of your face. Professional looks tend to skew towards natural but generally one bold element works out ok.

      1. hermit crab*

        We have staff in lots of places and do combination phone/in-person interviews all the time. We’ll have the candidate do a short session with the in-person hiring manager, then the HM will leave the room and an off-site project manager will call in, etc. But this is post-phone screen and the candidate is physically in our local office. It does seem a little odd to have separate interviews during the same week — why wouldn’t they just pick a block of time where everyone is available?

      2. Artemesia*

        I think the key is people shouldn’t be aware of the lipstick but of your face. If they look at you and think ‘red lipstick’ rather than ‘pleasant face’ it is too bold. I like the idea of a dulled brownish red or something even a bit more neutral. And I agree that with dark skin a bright — not neon bright but still strong- color can work like a dark green or burgundy. But there is much to be said for something in the brown/beige range if it looks good on you. You want your face and your words to dominate.

    4. Observer*

      Of course the colors will look different. The key is not too glow in the dark or like you’ve got clown makeup, more or less. You also don’t want to look like you are gravely ill or dying. And that is different not just between white and black but shade of whatever.

      If you have something you like that is “lively” but not “night club”, that would probably work. If not, the advice to go to a good makeup counter is good. A place like Sephora might work well, since they carry a wide variety of brands and colors.

    5. super anon*

      do you know your MAC foundation shade number? if you do that’s a good way to google and find swatches of shades on people with a similar skintone to you.

      i love makeup, and looking at swatches. i love seeing swatches on different and darker skintones than mine because the difference is really striking! i’m a nw13 (the second palest shade mac makes) and colours that would look super bold & vampy on me, look like MLBB shades on women with darker skin tones. (ex: colourpop’s tulle looks super vampy on me, but i saw a picture of an nc50 woman wearing it and it looked like the perfect nude colour for her. it wasn’t too bold or vampy at all). it also goes the opposite way – the very light nude colours that look very neutral on me would look very bright and bold on you (ex: colourpop’s midi is an amazing nude on me, but it would pull very light on darker skinned woman).

      i recommend poking around the internet looking for swatches of colours to get an idea of what you’d like. i also recommend going to a mac counter to get foundation matched to have that colour number in mind of easy google searching, and to have them use some of their lipsticks on you to get a feel for what shade range you can look in.

      i’d also recommend poking around /r/brownbeauty on reddit, as it’s a great resource for swatches! /r/makeupaddiction can be good too sometimes, but i find that subreddit caters to very light skinned women, but if you search using your mac foundation shade number you + lipstick swatch you can usually find some good posts. oh and the blog temptalia is an amazing resource for finding colours you may like, seeing swatches, and finding dupes!

      good luck on your lipstick search. :D

    6. Audiophile*

      I usually do lip glosses more than lipsticks. I have two go to colors from Origins – Fruit Punch and Ruby or Sparkling Rose. It’s been so long the colors probably aren’t even available anymore.

    7. Nina*

      Co-sign on a darker red if you want to wear a color. I think a deep burgundy or crimson would be fine.

      It helps to experiment. Just a few days ago, I spent nearly an hour at Ulta trying on different shades of brown before I found one I was pleased with (Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Suede in Fashionista). So far it’s working out ok. I would hit up your local Sephora or whatever makeup counter available and just test them out.

    8. ginger ale for all*

      I am not sure if this is an appropriate reference but with the news of Natalie Cole’s death, there are a lot of pictures of her in red lipstick and she looks wonderful. If you look great in it, then wear it. Also, I appreciate it when speakers in presentations wear a bolder lip color. It makes it easier for me to read their lips if I am having problems hearing them. Best wishes.

  43. Myrin*

    (This comment starts out depressing but is actually a hopeful one.)

    This week has been eventful for my family.

    My little sister has been dealing with depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and PTSD ever since the abusive relationship with ex-boyfriend when she was 15. She’s dealt reasonable well with it but it completely spiralled into something huge over the last year or so, despite seeing a therapist and being able to talk more openly about the whole thing. My family’s GP came over on Wednesday and they had a long talk and concluded that it would be best if she went to a clinic for some time to learn to deal with all these issues more effectively and long-term.

    We will hear from the GP on Monday (he’ll be the one to arrange everything which is great because he’s old and forceful) but we expect she will be moving into the nearby hospital sometime in the middle of the month. She’s very scared but also “excited” (quotation marks because well, as excited as you can be about something like this) and finally hopeful again that this will help her and she’ll heal and become reasonably healthy again.

    I’m so very proud of her for taking this step even though she’s afraid and I really, really hope she will get the help she needs there.

    1. nep*

      This sounds like a huge step in the right direction. May she get the help she needs to move on and find some peace. All the best to you and your family.

    2. FutureLibrarian*

      What a huge, scary, and wonderful step. Sometimes we need to take a big leap to make positive progress in our lives, and she’s really going for it.

  44. aNoN*

    After reading some of the most seen and read posts of the year I came to recognize a lot of the 24 year old who burned bridges and couldn’t hold a job for very long. I’m constantly worried about sounding entitled but honestly I feel a lot of what this OP felt. My job is challenging and I do well in my role but I hate it!! At 25 I have great experience in my field but my goodness, there are days where I want to quit. The corporate world is just not for me but I’m in finance and on my way to becoming a CPA and don’t know what else to do. I’ve thought about teaching some classes at a local community college when I get my license because I like teaching. However, that does not pay enough to maintain the lifestyle I enjoy so I keep my for corporate job. I feel so miserable because I feel trapped and like I wouldn’t mind burning a bridge and just quit. A lot of commenters expressed similar experiences of doing a job despite it not being fulfilling. How can you possibly make it through a career this way?? I’m freaking out about this a lot because I don’t have another way of making the money I make now. I literally work for my paycheck and that’s it. How can a disenfranchised 25 year old like myself stop being so negative?? How does one keep on keeping on?! For what it’s worth, yes I have hobbies and see a therapist..thanks everyone!!

    1. Colette*

      What is important to you in your life? Do you want a fulfilling career, enough money to travel, a short commute, flexible hours? You’ve identified a career you think you’d like, but you have decided that you value the money you’d make elsewhere more – is that in sync with what you actually want out of life? It’s ok if it is, but if that’s not what you want, what changes can you make to live on less?

      1. Colette*

        And the next piece is to watch what you tell yourself – you’re not stuck in a job you hate, you are lucky to have a job that allows you to do X (whatever that life priority was).

        1. financially irresponsible parents*

          this! i’m 26 and not particularly happy in my job or field, and i have days when i feel like i’m trapped and having an existential crisis and just want to quit. instead i remind myself that i’m lucky to have a job that lets me do x, y, z (in my case, work really flexible hours, have an insane amount of vacation time, and be really independent in the work i do). i also tell myself that my job doesn’t define me, and my pay allows me to do the things i like to do, which for me are buy makeup, luxury goods, and pamper myself & my bf in ways i couldn’t if i didn’t have the job.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Can you use this job to fund the education you need to get to your next career?
      You are 25. IF you knew for a fact that you would have a totally different career by age 30 could you hold it together long enough to fund that transition?

    3. Soupspoon McGee*

      I’m in my 40’s. I gritted my teeth through two jobs while I saved money and figured out what I really wanted to do. I got through them by setting and meeting measurable goals: move closer to family, pay off student loans, save almost a year’s salary, sock away retirement, invest in things like antiques that will last me a lifetime, take classes, travel.

      It was not easy. My last job paid very well, but the last few years were increasingly hard. But . . . . a few years ago, I figured out what I really want to do. I spent the last year of my job taking classes and saving money so I could leave that job and prepare for a new career in healthcare. Now, I make a tiny fraction of what I did before while I take classes, work my way up from the bottom of my new field, and wait to hear from graduate programs. It’s not easy. Money is tight. But I have a great support system.

      And . . . even my worst days, when somebody dies and I’m covered in bodily fluids that are not mine, are better than my last job. I am so much happier knowing I can make a difference in people’s lives, even if in tiny ways.

      You can get through a high-paying, soulless job IF you have something to look forward to. Maybe you need a few years to enjoy your lifestyle while you work out what else you want to do. Maybe you need to dial it back to see if you can live on less so you can make a change when you’re ready. Give yourself a deadline. If you only have to work like a maniac for three more years, then you can bear it so much better (I know this!). Good luck!

      1. aNoN*

        wow, thank you so much for sharing your story. I can’t say I know what I really want but this story is inspiring. Thank you again!

  45. periwinkle*

    I asked last weekend about adding a young playmate for our 2-year old neuter kitty; his high energy did not endear him to our three senior girl kitties. We set out to adopt but good grief, it’s difficult to find kittens this time of year – especially in the Seattle area where shelters have to import adoptable animals! Organizations rescue cats and dogs from regions with high-kill shelters and transport them here.

    We missed out on several kittens (I mean, their photos were posted in the morning and they were adopted by mid-afternoon), but finally lucked out – five kittens had just been released from foster care, four had already been adopted, and there was one remaining 3-month old male who was, in the words of the adoption counselor, “completely cray-cray.”

    So our boy Ivanhoe now has a little buddy I’ve named Kenilworth (yes, I am an English lit nerd). They got along immediately and even the senior ladies don’t mind him.

    Thanks to fposte for sending that link last week!

    1. Hellanon*

      Your kitten looks just like my Ziggy when he was a young’un. Congrats on adding to the family & on the successful introduction…

    2. Purrsephone*

      Have you checked with Purrfect Pals (Foster Dad John is their best known rep and foster parent)? Or you might consider TinyKittens/LAPS in Langley, Canada. These two rescue organizations are fantastic. I follow their blogs and Livestreams constantly. TinyKittens actually has plenty of cats and kittens right now. They will consider adopting outside their immediate area but you would need to go to them to get the pet.

      1. Schnapps*

        Dang. Langley is just across the bridge from me. Next time I need a cat, I’ll look them up.

        I already have two cats – my strata won’t allow another, unfortunately (or possibly a good thing, otherwise I’d have 50 cats).

  46. nep*

    Got one of those ‘page-a-day’ desk calendars.
    The page for today has this, attributed to Mary Oliver:

    ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do
    with your one wild and precious life?’

    1. could be anyone*

      Husband gets a Dilbert one each year. Takes it to work and uses boxes that makes the short cubicle wall on his right taller.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Ha, I like that. My favorite page-a-day calendar of all time was a Far Side one I had years ago. I saved some of the funniest comics somewhere.

      I got a tiny calendar of glitzed-up London pictures for Christmas last year, just large enough to hang near my chair in my cube, and I liked it so much I bought this year’s on Amazon. That reminds me; I need to buy a new one to mark *koff*personal stuff on.

    3. nep*

      For years I had the Eats, Shoots & Leaves calendar on my desk. Love that one. Didn’t find a 2016 out there.

      1. nep*

        Thanks. I listened to an interview w Mary Oliver after I saw the quote. Certainly am going to check out some of her work. Her book A Poetry Handbook sounds interesting too.

  47. Jascha*

    I just found out I’m getting a promotion in the new year. Obviously, I’m thrilled (though experiencing serious impostor syndrome just thinking about it). But the problem is, the other person with my same job title, who has been with the company at least as long as I have and whom I consider a friend, isn’t being promoted as far as I know. I’m a little more experienced at what we do (which I think is why I was chosen), but I’m very worried that this will create trouble between us or change the office dynamic. Does anyone have advice on how to handle this?

    1. fposte*

      I would wait to worry until it happens :-). There’s no reason for you to think she’ll have a problem with this beyond garden-variety wistfulness that she’ll negotiate quietly on her own. And it’s also possible this *will* change the office dynamics a little, and that’s okay too. You may have less overlap and different perspectives than you used to.

      I’m thinking some of this may be a variant on the impostor syndrome–that you’re worried about changes being bad generally, and you’re hanging it on this relationship. But it’s okay that things will change; you’ll manage it just fine, and probably so will she.

      1. Jascha*

        Thank you! I hope this is it. I just don’t want it to affect our wider friendship (as it’s not like I will be the person’s manager or any such thing, so I think it’s okay to want to continue being buddies) or damage the office dynamic. We are a very friendly office, and while change is okay, I hope I can avoid a negative direction. I’ll wait and see how things turn out, though, instead of trying to figure out what to say or do about it.

  48. LizB*

    I’m frustrated today… I’ve known I should do some therapy for a long time now, and a few weeks ago I finally found the courage to call up a therapist and make an appointment! The therapist came very highly recommended by a friend I trust, her approach sounds like it’d work for me really well, and she takes both the health insurance I have through my parents and the insurance I’ll be starting in February from my new job. I’ve been really excited to start working with her, and looking forward to my intake appointment next week.

    …except now that can’t happen, because my dad waited too long to do his health insurance enrollment and now we kinda-sorta don’t have coverage for the month of January. We’re eligible for COBRA, but since you don’t pay for that until the end of the month you need it for, my dad wants to see if the family can get through January without needing any medical services so he can avoid paying for it. He says if there’s an emergency or we get acutely sick, we should get whatever treatment we need and he’ll pay for the COBRA to cover it, but any “discretionary” medical expenses should be put off until February when their new non-COBRA plan kicks in (and when I’ll be on my own insurance anyway).

    COBRA is hella expensive, so I understand why he wants to do it this way, but damn this timing is inconvenient. I was so close to getting help! I want to get better so badly! And now I have to call the therapist back and reschedule for next month, because I sure as hell can’t pay for appointments out of pocket. It’s also frustrating because the insurance snafu is mostly caused by my dad, and the issues I need therapy for are also mostly caused by my dad… like, it wasn’t enough to screw up my mental health, now you also have to prevent me from getting treatment for it? Logically, I know that’s a totally unreasonable reaction, but it just seems like cruel irony that the man who spent my formative years turning me into an anxious, neurotic mess is now accidentally the reason I have to wait another month to try and move on. Ugh.

    1. BuildMeUp*

      I’m sorry! That’s really awful timing.

      I think when you call the therapist, before you jump to rescheduling you should let her know about your situation and see if she offers any low-cost options for people without insurance, a payment plan so that you could pay for your January appointment(s) over time before your insurance kicks in (if that’s something that might be doable for you), or has any other options for you. I’m sure this won’t be the first time one of her patients has had insurance issues, so I think it’s worth a try to ask her about it.

      I’m also going to link to a Captain Awkward post in a separate comment about low-cost health care options. #6 talks about pro-bono/sliding scale stuff, and there are some other things that might be helpful. (I don’t know if you’ve read CA before, but it sounds like with your situation with your dad, you might find some of her writing really helpful!)

      1. Florida*

        Agree about explaining the situation. The therapist might at least offer the negotiate rate instead of the retail rate. You would still have to pay the full negotiated rate as opposed to only your co-pay, but it might help. Also, a lot of therapists have sliding scales for people whose insurance doesn’t cover it. Good luck.
        If they know that your insurance situation is temporary, they might be even more willing to work with you.
        Good luck.

      2. LizB*

        Thank you! I’m a regular reader of CA (I actually found AAM through her blog!), but I don’t think I’ve ever looked at that post about low-cost health care; I’ll definitely check it out. And I’ll ask the therapist about a payment plan or sliding scale. I just feel bad having to do that for our first appointment(s), for some reason — I feel like it makes me look disorganized/flaky to make an appointment and then not be able to pay for it.

        1. BuildMeUp*

          I don’t think it makes you look that way at all! You thought you were going to have insurance in January, but through circumstances out of your control, you won’t have it until February. It’s not your fault that it happened this way, and I absolutely understand wanting to start as soon as possible rather than wait! And besides, if she’s a good therapist (and it sounds like she is), all she’s really going to care about is helping you.

    2. Jean*

      Good for you for making the decision to get some help and phooey to your Dad for not finishing the health insurance enrollment in time. I hope the month goes by easily and without any additional aggravation.

      I’m going to brainstorm other ways you can take care of yourself in January. Feel free to ignore my suggestions if they are completely unhelpful.
      — Can you ask the therapist (when you call to reschedule) if he/she has any suggestions?
      — Is there any sort of low-cost or no-cost mental health care available in your community? I would look for either government agencies or non-governmental organization that provide human services.
      — NAMI aka National Alliance on Mental Illness has many regional/county/local branches in the U.S. These may offer free classes, workshops, or support groups. Perhaps one of these will be a good stopgap measure for you.
      — Can you commit to getting regular exercise doing something inexpensive, such as taking a daily walk? Physical activity often helps relieve emotional or mental distress. (Not speaking disparagingly here–I’m another person who has to consciously take a variety of regular actions to maintain good mental health.)
      — Can you find something else to do that you enjoy and that distracts you, in a positive way, from the fact that you are delayed by no fault of your own?
      — Earlier comments upthread mentioned that sometimes people telephone a crisis hotline just to talk to another person. Perhaps you can try this, or keep it in mind to try if none of my other suggestions (or any of your own ideas) seem to be helping.

      Good luck. I have faith that you’ll manage. You sound annoyed but not at the end of your patience. If possible, please post an update next month.

      1. LizB*

        Thank you! I like your list of ideas. I can definitely do some of them — I have a free gym membership through my work, so exercise can definitely happen, and if things get bad for some reason I know of a free counseling service in my city that I could go to. I’m not in too much immediate distress, if that makes sense, just the same low-to-medium level I’ve had for as long as I can remember. I was just so excited that I was finally DOING something about it, and I feel a bit deflated that I probably have to wait.

        1. Alma*

          If you have a gym membership through work, do they also offer an EAP? This will get you started immediately, and perhaps get you a referral – or places to start.

    3. Victoria, Please*

      Oh, FFS. I’m sorry, LizB. That was a total screw-up on your dad’s part. Especially if it’s basically as easy as most health insurance enrollments, where you check a box, scrawl your signature, and hand the form to HR. Even if it was more involved, messing around with your family’s health insurance is a really irresponsible move.

      Very best of luck, I hope the therapist can help you out as others have suggested.

      1. LizB*

        Thank you. I think this was a bit more complicated, but still, he’s worked for probably a dozen companies in the past 30 years, he should know how to sign up for insurance by now! I’m really not sure how we’re going to get away with no claims for the month, since I’m pretty sure my mom and sister both have regular prescriptions that will likely need to be filled at some point, but whatever, I’ll let them deal with that and figure things out for myself.

  49. K.*

    I have a work/life update:

    On the depression front: I hope to make an appointment with a therapist this upcoming week. I have new insurance and a list of potentials; I made the list before I got the new insurance so I need to see if the potentials take it, if they offer any sliding scale options, etc. I had a wonderful time with one of my best friends yesterday, who is also seeing a therapist, and she said she’s realizing that everyone has struggles. That was helpful for me to hear, and also good to have some QT with her.

    On the work front: I have an interview next week! I applied for something over the summer. My initial phone screen went very well, or so I thought – they said they were impressed by me, wanted to bring me in, and then I got a form rejection. I was bummed. A few days before Christmas, I got a call from the same HR person I’d spoken with over the summer and she told me that they’d made an offer to someone else (apparently I applied toward the tail end of the hiring process, so I suspect they had this person in mind when they spoke with me) and that person “didn’t start with the company.” They put the position on hold as some other things in the department were in flux and are now revisiting it, and was I still available and interested? If so, would I be able to come in to meet with the hiring manager the first week of the year? I am, I am, and I can, so we set it up. I’m excited and nervous. Cross your fingers!

  50. Schedule Keeper*

    Hi guys,

    We have a department of about 30 people and we are moving to a system that allows them to select their own shifts out of a given selection. They will be able to swap and change them as long as all shifts are covered. Here’s the rub: our current setup doesn’t make this easy.

    Does anyone know of an online based program that will allow us to set up a selection of shifts and allow users to sort of “grab” a shift. Ideally it would also allow us to track how much time they spent between working, meetings and breaks (but not necessarily a time clock as we have a separate global timecard system that we cannot change) and show time off.

    1. LCL*

      I don’t know of any such program but I bet they are out there. Speaking as another schedule keeper, I feel obligated to point out some things. Because choosing the shifts is the easy part of all this…
      How many hours is an employee allowed to work each week? Required?
      Are employees allowed to work overtime?
      When does your workweek for payroll purposes start? It may or may not be when the schedule starts.

      FYI, in the U.S. Nonexempt employees must be paid time and a half for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. They aren’t allowed to voluntarily give that up. The employer isn’t allowed to average workweeks, or try to slide hours from 1 week to the next to avoid OT. The employer is allowed to have people on different workweeks, but not allowed to move workers back and forth.

      What will you do when nobody will work night shift on Saturday, or Sansa won’t work weekends, or Joffrey insists Monday through Wednesday days are his, or brienne and arya do a trade so brienne gets over 40 hours each week, or people run into use it or lose it with vac because they trade for days off, or Jon and Theon agree to a trade but Jon always sicks out on Friday, or?

      You can solve these problems with clear structure and rules that are clearly communicated with the workers. Except for the excessive use of sick leave, if you solve that one let me know.

  51. Nicole*

    Anyone else enjoy shopping on New Years Day? It has become a little tradition for us. We have lunch at Red Robin (my birthday is next week so I get a free burger) and then browse the sales. We usually do more window shopping than anything, but it’s very relaxed because there’s hardly anyone in the mall.

    Also snagged a bunch of wrapping paper and greeting cards 70% off at Walmart. Won’t need any for years to come!

    1. Al Lo*

      We shopped yesterday, and the mall was actually pretty busy — it closed at 5, and we were there from about 3:30 onward, finishing up spending some Christmas money, and then going to see Star Wars. On an aside — I’ve been very impressed by the internet with that movie! I didn’t see it until yesterday, and I wasn’t spoiled at all in the 2 weeks between release date and then. All the major articles were posted with very clear spoiler warnings, and my Facebook and Twitter feeds were VERY spoiler-free.

      Anyway — re: shopping — My husband and I didn’t buy each other gifts this year; instead, we set aside a couple hundred dollars each and went shopping together to get those fun splurge-y things that we can’t necessarily justify buying through the rest of the year.

      When the Hot Topic Doctor Who limited edition clothing line came out in November, I immediately started stalking <a href=";this coat (I love coats; especially skirted coats), but it sold out almost immediately online and I never caught it at the Hot Topic locations in my city — the employees said that it kept selling out within hours of coming in. Well, yesterday, I happened to find the last one, in my size, in store, and I grabbed it with my Christmas money. (When it first came out, I also snagged the Fair Isle sweater — again, the last one in the store — out of the stock boxes at the back. It never even made it onto the shelves!)

  52. ugh*

    I usually do not care that I’m single, but two events this year make me want to scream.

    1. Our holiday work party was mandatory and when we got there, the person who planned it had seating arrangements. It was by departments so I thought it wouldn’t be a problem, but all employees who brought spouses and partners as +1 were at separate tables and I got shoved over to the “singles” table with some other coworkers. Talk about being humiliated.

    2. I went to a New Years party last night where I was the only single person. This wouldn’t have been a big deal except a bunch of people wanted to talk about my dating life or if I brought anyone and there’s only so many times I can hear the smug “I’m so glad I’m not out there/dating now” comment before exploding. Even if it’s not meant to be purposefully cruel, it’s still a comment that comes off as arrogant or pitying. Please stop trying to “commiserate” with me when you’re in a relationship, especially if we’re not close friends.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      I’m sorry – I know exactly how annoying that is. I was at my soon-to-be new division’s Christmas party two weeks ago, and one of the supervisors that I’d gotten semi-close with two years ago when I was a trainee (and she wasn’t a supervisor) asked me in front of people whether I was seeing anyone. I said no pretty enthusiastically, but the other people at the table kind of gave me pitying looks. Blah. Not all of us derive our sense of self worth from being paired up and, thus, don’t need people’s sympathy.

    2. Jascha*

      When I was single and people tried the “I’m so glad I’m not looking for a partner now” line on me, I would say, “Yeah, me too.” It was quick and easy to say and sent the message that I was single by choice (or didn’t want to talk about it), not because of some flaw in myself or my dating skills.

    3. Colette*

      I understand and agree that sometimes being single in a world of couples is hard, but interpreting being placed at a table with other single people as humiliating seems harsh – it’s possible the organizers didn’t want to put single people at a table where everyone else would be talking with their spouse. Unless there’s more to the story, you might want to reframe how you think about that.

      1. BuildMeUp*

        I don’t know if I would call it humiliating, but it seems weird to have a “singles” table at a work party. It’s not like the single people won’t have anything to talk to the couples about – it’s a work function! They’re with their coworkers! It seems awkward and arbitrary to separate coworkers by whether they brought a date.

      2. ugh*

        It was intentional. Based on the remarks said throughout the night by the organizer, it was meant as a slight. We have someone different plan the party every year and while we’ve had department tables before, this was the first time it was so separated. It was only my department that had a “singles table”. The other departments didn’t have anything, and there were spaces at some of the other “couples” tables. The person is charge of organizing most definitely meant it as an insult.

        Regardless, it’s like being relegated to the child’s table when you’re an adult. Just because someone is single doesn’t mean they’re not capable of talking to their married coworkers at a work party.

        1. Colette*

          Were you the only person at the table? Presumably not. (If you were, I’d recommend just pulling up a chair at another table.)

          It’s possible that the organizer meant it as an insult in some way. It’s kind of sad that she thinks it’s an insult, if that’s really the case – but so what? Since this table was only for people in your department, you were still with people you know and with roughly equivalent jobs. Would you have been insulted if those same people brought dates? That would be essentially the same situation, without the “singles” aspect to it.

        2. BuildMeUp*

          That’s really odd! At least since you have a different organizer every year, it shouldn’t happen again.

    4. ginger ale for all*

      Ugh! Please please please let the powers that be know that assigned seating at a company party is absolutely asinine.

      And I am one half of a couple who have been dating for about five years. I get to deal with the question of ‘So when are you getting married?’ on a regular basis. I usually reply with a ‘we aren’t ‘ but I want a more snarky answer for the repeat offenders (the comeback of telling them that they will have plenty of time to diet has been considered). There are people who will be rude whether you are single or coupled. They don’t seem to realize that they are being rude either.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        When people ask personal questions multiple times, I sometimes remind them, that they asked me that before. “Oh, the answer is the same as the last time you asked.” Full STOP. Don’t repeat the answer you gave last time. Just let that hang there in mid-air. It depends on the person, if someone is just a known PITA then I have no problem replying like this.

  53. Mina*

    I just bought an 08 Honda Fit Sport on Wednesday – and I named her Lady Flufferton. It just worked. I love this car. Thank you Allison for the inspiration!

    1. periwinkle*

      We have a 2009 Fit Sport. We’ve never named it but sometimes refer to it as the Tardis. It’s amazing how much stuff you can load into a Fit!

      1. hermit crab*

        My brother’s ca. 2006 Fit came with a manual showing how to arrange the seats etc. to fit various stuff inside. One of the items was a live alpaca. An alpaca! I will always remember that.

      1. suze*

        I just bought a Toyota Tacoma on Thursday. My first new vehicle in 14 years. I was very attached to my 2002 Dakota but at 215K miles it was time. Good grief it was a complete pain going thru the process. I’m shocked at the salespeople who don’t return calls including the son of my best friend who I intended to purchase from. Ended up buying the truck elsewhere. I never have heard back from the son. Two salespeople we were waiting days to hear from finally called back while I was in the middle of finalizing the deal on the Tacoma. Too late!

        Congratulations on your Honda!

    2. BuildMeUp*

      Congrats! I have an ’09 Fit Sport named Judy (the built-in GPS voice just sounds like a Judy). I’m always surprised I don’t see more people driving Fits!

    3. Merely*

      I’ve got an ’08 Fit and I love it! Moved across the country with all my furniture in it (college student, so admittedly not much — roll up mattress, small desk, collapsible shelves and chair, hamster in cage, but still….).

    4. Rubyrose*

      I LOVED, LOVED my Fit! Had a 2011 Sport.

      I traded it in a couple of weeks ago for a CR-V. When I got the Fit I was working from home and could just not drive when the snow/sleet/ice would come. I just started a job at a hospital 13 miles away where I am required to come in during bad weather, no exceptions. We had a big snow two weeks ago and I had to face the realization that I needed all wheel drive and something with more weight. It was sad to do the trade in.

      You made a great choice.

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        Same same! I had a 2011 Sport, and sold it this year to buy a 2011 CR-V. I commute about 20k each direction to work, and while the Fit has been pretty decent in the snow so far, I realized I wanted something stronger and safer for the winter. Especially because this year we’ll be moving three hours further north and facing a LOT more snow–so I wanted the AWD and something sturdier. I miss my Fit, but I’m really pleased with the CR-V so far.

          1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

            God, it was hard to get used to the difference in size! We got it in May or June, so I’ve had time to get used to it, but it was hard at first. I was so used to being able to zip into and out of any parking space I wanted and the maneuverability, and I still miss that, but it does feel better on the highway. My biggest problem with the Fit was feeling pushed around on the highway by winds and drifts by other cars, and I don’t feel that at all any more.

    5. StillHealing*

      Yay! Congratulations.
      I have a 2012 Honda Fit. It’s “Raspberry Blue” color but I call it Jedi Blue. :o)
      I had a CR-V for eight years then traded it in for an Odyssey for four years. Loved both but city driving and parking requires a small vehicle with good gas mileage. Traded down from the Odyessy to the FIT in 2012 and it has been my favorite car over all.

    6. Blue_eyes*

      Love(d) my 2009 Honda Fit Sport! I had full custody of her for two years, then I moved to NYC and transferred the title to my parents. I still get to visit her on holidays though. ;) She was the first (and only) car I ever owned and she was/is great. Love how much stuff you can fit with the seats down, love how it drives. What color did you get? Mine is the dark purple metallic color.

      1. Mina*

        Storm silver. And they did a fine job detailing it, plus a bit of bodywork to get out most of the dings.

        1. Blue_eyes*

          Fun! After I bought mine, my best friend bought a silver one. We call hers “the Spaceship”.

  54. financially irresponsible parents*

    does anyone else have financially irresponsible and difficult parents? how do you deal with the pressure and various emotional issues that come along with having to parent your parent?

    i’m 26 and my mother is an absolute trainwreck. she has a lot of mental problems (depression, and i’m fairly certain she’s either a narcissist or has borderline personality disorder), and is very, very bad with money. i grew up very poor, but as an adult i’m very good with money. all of my bills are paid in full and on time. i have no credit card debt, and i like to think that i make sound financial decisions. i should also add that i am much more educated than my mother, and i make significantly more money than she does.

    the problem is that she is terrible with money, and it really stresses me out. i can’t afford to support her financially right now as i live in an expensive city and make $$$ student loan payments each month. the problem is my mother. she has saved nothing for retirement and refuses to. she has always told me growing up that she didn’t need a retirement plan because i am her retirement plan. she continues saying this now that i’m an adult, except i don’t want to be her retirement plan! i can’t save for my own retirement/a down payment on a house/pay off student loan debt/etc if i’m supporting her. even when i tell her she should save for herself, she refuses. she used to ask me to “borrow” money, even when i was in school – when she knew i didn’t have a job, and i’d have to give her money from my student loans to support her. the last time she asked me for money was a week after i started my current job – after i had been unemployed for nearly a year, and 2 weeks after i had spent several thousand dollars of my savings for her to come to my city for my university graduation, because she wouldn’t have been able to afford it otherwise. a few months after that my grandfather passed away, and she asked me to pay for the cost of his funeral because they had no savings/insurance to pay for it.

    my latest frustration is that she bought a new car yesterday. except, because she has such awful credit she can only get subprime car loans at insane interest rates. because of this her car payment for a 5 year old chevy is the same as my boyfriend’s brand new mercedes e class payment. at first she told me she was getting a new car at a refinanced lower rate (12% vs nearly 30%), but this new car is at the same rate as her old one.

    this financial irresponsibility is compounded with severe emotional issues my mother has, and a whole host of other problems including difficulty with boundary setting, being incredibly self absorbed, etc. my entire childhood and adult life i existed to make my mother happy and validate her emotions, and now as an adult i feel like she makes me crazy! she still uses me as her emotional crutch – her latest episode was calling me at christmas threatening to kill herself because no one loved her and everyone left her alone (if you can’t tell i don’t go back home for christmas). i’m an only child and she has no spouse – so she is my responsibility and it’s super stressful having that burden on my shoulders. how do those of you with irresponsible parents do it? it’s gotten to the point that i hate having to talk to her at all, but i know i can never tell her any of this because with her emotional issues she would take it very, very poorly.

    sorry for the wall of text – but i’ve never been able to get any help for this. even the various therapist i’ve gone to have kind of given up when they hear how crazy my family life was/is!

    1. Shannon*

      You can’t fix her and she’s not your responsibility.

      If it makes you feel better, budget a small amount each month that you have in case of mom emergencies. What’s there is what’s there. When that money is gone, you have no more money for her.

      Keep trying another therapist, because it sounds like you still need help setting boundaries with your mother.

    2. fposte*

      Wow, that’s really daunting–I can see why you’re stressed about this. I do think you’ve had a poor run of luck with therapists, though–there are therapists treating survivors of genocides, after all, so this really isn’t the biggest problem therapy has ever had to face–and you might keep exploring the therapy options.

      However, without getting into the emotional side too deeply, can I ask you to consider that she is *not* your responsibility? That she is an adult and is her own responsibility, no matter what she says, and part of your disentangling from her is understanding that it’s not your job to fix her, save her, or make her happy–and that it’s okay if she takes things poorly? I know you were probably raised to think that that was the end of the world (that’s true even in many less dysfunctional families), but it’s really not.

      On the finances: I’ve mentioned the finance forum here a few times, and this problem comes up there with some frequency, so you’re not alone by any means and you might want to look there for more details. What I see people doing a lot is making decisions, in concert with a partner if there is one, about what specifically they would be prepared to give and what would have to happen before they’d give it. Grocery gift cards, direct payment of rent, etc., are more popular than just handing over money, for obvious reasons, and people often figure out a clear ceiling of what they can give, even figuring it into their budget. I personally would be uninclined to give her money at all this point if she’s got enough money to buy a car, so it’d be mostly planning for later. Is she working? Do you know if she’ll be eligible for Social Security?

      Sorry. This one isn’t fair, and you’re right to find it nerve-racking.

      1. financially irresponsible parents*

        I should have made i clear in the OP that I stopped giving her money. When she asked me the last time I said no to her, and I refused paying for my grandfather’s funeral as well. That was really difficult and she threw a lot of guilt my way (“I know I should be doing better! I’m such a failure!” etc) but I got through it. My bf & I both agreed we will not support her in anyway, but it’s a really difficult struggle getting through years of conditioning that she put me through, even though logically I know what I need to do.

        Since my grandfather died it’s been really difficult – her emotional outbursts have gotten worse and talking to her is nearly intolerable. The car thing is just the straw that broke the proverbial camels back today.

        ty for your help! you always leave such useful comments.

        1. Hellanon*

          Good for you for recognizing that it’s *conditioning* and not logic that’s behind feeling guilty when you say no or contemplate saying no. It’s an extreme form of emotional manipulation – your mom doesn’t even need to throw the tantrum anymore because you already know that any form of resistance on your part will be met with one.

          My sympathies. My parents have the financial smarts of a pair of voles and have approached their financial decision-making with a combination of magical thinking ad cheap vodka their entire lives. They’re currently running through an inheritance that they “couldn’t” share with my sister & I and after a lifetime of hearing “we’d love to give you money but we just can’t, oh and by the way, can we borrow $1000?”, she and I are practicing our no’s. It’s not going to be pretty.

          Hold firm. She is not your responsibility – that’s not how it works.

    3. Ruffingit*

      My parents are total opposites in terms of finances. They’ve been divorced for decades. My father has planned for everything for himself including his eventual cremation and said he never wanted to be a burden on his children. My mother, on the other hand, has done no financial planning and lives with my husband and me due to her many medical issues. She is not a narcissist or borderline so there’s that, but she did say she would live with me when I was a young adult and I resisted that. When it came right down to it though, she was unable to live alone due to her medical issues. Though I am not an only child (3 other older siblings), none of them are capable of caring for our mother and none of them contribute financially to her care. So it’s just me and my husband.

      My situation is different from yours in that my husband and I agreed together to take in my mother and when it came right down to it, there was no other choice. She couldn’t live alone due to her medical issues. My advice to you is to stop enabling your mother. Do not under any circumstances give her money. She has to learn that her decisions have consequences. Make it very clear to her that you will not be her retirement plan and if she doesn’t start getting her financial life together, she will end up in a shelter. Harsh? No, it’s reality. You cannot handle your mother’s issues and live your life as you need to. Her poor choices need not become your burden. Just because you are her only child doesn’t mean she is your responsibility. YOU are your responsibility. None of this is easy, but if I’ve learned anything in my many years as the emotional crutch for a parent is that you have to set boundaries. I do that with my mother now. She is passive-aggressive and tries to do the guilt thing sometimes. I let her know firmly that I do not operate with passive-aggressiveness and guilt. If she wanted something, she needed to use her words and be a grown-up. It has helped a lot.

      If your mom threatens to kill herself, call the local police in her town and let them know she made the threat. They will send someone to her home and possibly escort her to the hospital on a mental health hold. I guarantee she won’t make that threat again.

      Bottom line is that you need to make decisions that work for you. Your mother will someday die and you will be left with massive debt or working until your own death because you made her problems your problems. Don’t do this. Get therapy to help you work through the many issues surrounding this. It will help you navigate this.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        My advice to you is to stop enabling your mother. Do not under any circumstances give her money. She has to learn that her decisions have consequences. Make it very clear to her that you will not be her retirement plan and if she doesn’t start getting her financial life together, she will end up in a shelter. Harsh? No, it’s reality.

        Please listen to this. Your mother is out of control.

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        Her poor choices need not become your burden.

        Except in some jurisdictions, which are experimenting with laws that would shift the duty of care on to the children. I wish I could say that I am making that up, but I’m not. When I first heard about it, I thought that surely it couldn’t be true, but it is.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I know a few states had laws about the children have to pay the medical bills. But I thought that the laws were very seldom enforced.

          There aren’t enough bad words in the English language for me to say how I feel about those laws. When I 23 my mother left over a quarter mill in medical bills. At that time minimum wage was about 3.50 an hour, I think. At that rate, I would have had to sign over my paycheck for 71,000 working hours. I have no clue how a person would handle that stress load.

          1. Ruffingit*

            These are Filial Responsibility Laws and they are not as clear cut as they sound. From my research, they generally come into play when a parent does not have the ability to provide necessities for themselves. Necessities include shelter, food, medical care. BUT…the child’s own financial situation is also taken into account such as their personal needs for savings and retirement for themselves.

            Also, some states do not oppose this duty on children whose parents abandoned them or did not support them.

            More info here:

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Adding one more thought: Just because some person tells you that you are responsible for paying a bill, does not make it true just because they said that. In two different states, ten years apart, I had two times where someone from the accounting department of a hospital WAITED for me outside my parent’s room to tell me I had to pay the medical bills.

              The first time it happened, I said “You can’t get blood out of stone.” I was dead broke. The second time it happened, I said, “Here’s the family lawyer’s number, call him and tell him.” And that ended that conversation.

              In NYS, the two people I know of that actually paid their parent’s bills both had kept their parent’s real estate. The lien went against the real estate and had to be paid off at the time of the owner’s passing. Selling the property would bring that to a conclusion. So when the adult child wanted to keep the property they had to negotiate a payment plan.

    4. asteramella*

      Ha ha ha, did I write this? I have an eerily similar mom (down to “you’re my retirement plan”!).

      If you are not currently in therapy–it can be very helpful for articulating new boundaries with your mother. Even if therapists haven’t worked well for you in the past, going in with a focused plan to learn and grow coping skills and boundary-setting might yield useful results.

      For me, I had to recognize that 1) my mom is not my responsibility and that 2) my money is not my mom’s money. I had to decide not to “lend” her any more money (let’s be real, I’ll never see that money again). And I had to practice saying: sorry I can’t help you, but you’ll figure it out, Mom. I know you’ll make it work. I cannot afford to support my mom, either, and even if I could, I’d just be throwing money into a black hole and enabling her destructive financial habits. If I give her $500 for an emergency, that just means she’ll spend that $500 on non-essentials and come back later asking for money for the same emergency.

      Captain Awkward has some good posts about family who treat you like an ATM/retirement plan/safety net, too. Sounds like reading about “parentalization” may be helpful to you too.

      1. super anon*

        When I learned about parentalization/parentification I realized that it fit me and my childhood 100%. It explained why I am the way I am as an adult and the interactions between my mother and I. I know it’s not good to self-diagnose yourself, but even having a phrase to google to get advice and realize that I wasn’t crazy and my childhood wasn’t normal and okay was such an eye opener and was the start of my journey and the realization that my mother & our relationship was Not Okay.

        1. asteramella*

          Eh, self-diagnosis can be helpful in many cases, but that’s here nor there. When trying to figure out how to deal with difficult people, the behavior is what matters, not the diagnosis. I will never know if my mom “officially” has a personality disorder, but reading about narcissism and narcissistic parents has helped me immensely because her behavior is the same.

    5. Anonymous Educator*

      so she is my responsibility and it’s super stressful having that burden on my shoulders.

      Others have said this, but it bears repeating: your mother is not your responsibility. Based on your description, she’s being emotionally manipulative and making you feel as if she is your responsibility, but she is not.

      her latest episode was calling me at christmas threatening to kill herself because no one loved her and everyone left her alone

      I know this is going to sound cruel to you, because I’m an outsider who doesn’t know your mother, but you really have to call her bluff on this emotional blackmail. If she’s genuinely suicidal, your suddenly coming over for Christmas isn’t going to change that. And if she’s just being emotionally manipulative, all the more reason not to give into her demands. I know that is difficult. I know it is easy for strangers who don’t know you or your mother to say she’s not your responsibility, but she genuinely is not.

      I wish I had something better to give you than that. You are in a tough, tough position, especially since it sounds as if, despite her problems and how difficult she’s making life for you, you genuinely love your mother and wish the best for her.

      1. Florida*

        There is a book called Emotional Blackmail by Susan Forward. I highly recommend it to people who parents use guilt. It’s a common book that your local library probably has.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          She has another one called Mothers Who Can’t Love which is also probably available at the local library.

    6. BuildMeUp*

      That sounds really, really tough. As a few others have said, I know it’s difficult, but please keep trying on the therapist front! Eventually you will find someone who’s the right fit, and it can make a huge difference.

      I’m seconding the Captain Awkward rec – she writes pretty frequently about difficult parents and setting boundaries. There’s a recent post titled “Family, Finances, & Feelings” (it should be the first google result for that phrase) that deals directly with parents who ask for money, and I’m sure there’s more in the archives that would be helpful.

      I’ve also heard that the reddit subthread “Raised by Narcissists” is really helpful.

      I would also strongly suggest checking your credit report ASAP. Parents with boundary and money issues, especially ones who consider your money “their money,” often have no qualms with taking out a credit cards or loans in their kids’ names. I know it’s not fun to think about, but if you do decide to officially cut her off, you might want to put an alert or freeze on your credit to prevent something like that from happening in the future.

      1. financially irresponsible parents*

        I’ve checked my credit report and it is okay aside from one account for a very small amount that’s reporting as in collections that makes no sense (I didn’t open or close any accounts with that company in the timeframe it registers at, nor does the charge ring any bells for me) that I’m currently working on tracking down and getting removed from my report. I was recently able to get a several thousand dollar credit increase on an existing card, and a brand new credit card account for several thousand so I think I am okay at this point. I have added “get a credit report” to my yearly to do list because it’s a financially sound thing to do anyway.

        1. fposte*

          You can get it every four months for free! You’re allowed one free one a year from each of the companies–Transunion, Equifax, and Experian–and you can cycle through the companies so you’re getting one free one every four months.

          1. financially irresponsible parents*

            i’m canadian – here to get free credit reports you have to request it by mail, and iirc you can only get one a year. most people i know buy their reports online for $20 because it’s faster and less hassle.

      2. Finny*

        Agreed, as I had to file bankruptcy when I was just out of university (so 21 years old, in my case), thanks to my mother taking out many many credit cards in my name. I lost count of how many she got, but I had to get rid of all of them, and my own cards, thanks to that mess.

    7. Dear Liza dear liza*

      Ooof. I actually went to a therapist a few years ago on this issue because I felt like I had to give my mom money, while my partner vehemently disagreed. To my shock, the therapist, who had a background in social work, sided with my partner! She said she had numerous patients in similar circumstances, and she coached me a bit on setting boundaries. Good luck!

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I am thinking that the problem with therapists is that they did not have an action plan for you. Probably because they had never encountered a problem as serious as yours. It’s okay to ask if the therapist has experience with your type situation. There are plenty of people who do have a mother that is soaking up way to much of their time/energy/money/other resources.
      You made it pretty clear here, tell them what you have said here. Then ask if they have ever successfully helped someone through this minefield.

      But, yes, to everything said here, boundaries, calling the police for suicide threats and so on.

      What is your goal here? (Not snark. Sincerely want to know what you want out of this situation.) Okay, next question, what changes would be enough that you could live with it?

      What you are facing is the task of filling in the Grand Canyon and you only have a teaspoon to scoop the fill with. She is telling you that you are her retirement plan. This means that she plans on draining you until her dying day. That is her plan. Yes, she is actually going to do this.
      At some point you will have to start saying no. The longer you wait, the longer it will take for her to understand you mean NO. This is because you have said yes so many times, in her mind no cannot possibly mean no. (I really hope you did not pay for your grandfather’s funeral.)
      And yes, she will get emotional with you. That is her way of manipulating you to get what she wants. It’s hissy fits or temper tantrums, not unlike what five year olds do. If it helps picture her as a very tall five year old.

      Take some time to google books on mother-daughter relationships. Most library systems have quite a few of them, if you prefer just to borrow the books. I have read a few and it’s helpful to see the patterns in people’s stories. And it is also good to read about what others did (everyone does something a little different) and what worked/did not work for them and how they felt about it all.

      1. TootsNYC*

        You might want to seek out a family therapist, not a regular “my own mental health” therapist. You don’t have to go -with- your mother to the family therapist.

    9. Finny*

      My parents were similar. I cut them off entirely, no contact, and moved to another country. Best decision I ever made, though I know it’s not for everyone with parent-related issues.

      Still no contact with my dad, but my mother and I reconciled a couple years before her death.

    10. fposte*

      I was thinking about this tonight as a math problem. The choices are basically saving one person–yourself–or saving no person–because you’ll destroy yourself to save your mother and save neither. Saving yourself is the road with the most overall benefit.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        This is like the thinking that EMTs/Wilderness First Responders/etc. use when they enter a situation. The first thing you think about is scene safety because you never want to create another victim. Your first instinct is to rush in and pull that person out from a rock slide, but if more rocks slide and you get injured too, then there are two victims and one less rescuer, so you’ve just made the situation worse for everyone.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          We were taught the same thing in first aid. Do not allow yourself to become injured. This was particularly important for all the seizures we assisted with. Some get very violent and very random. We were told to get back, wait, then go back in and try to assist some more. We said, “But, but, but” and the instructor said, “No buts. That person needs to you to stay UNinjured so you can keep assisting.”

    11. Rubyrose*

      I think you have been given some awesome advise from everyone here and i don’t think I can rephrase it any better.

      In the course of being in therapy I ran across several borderline personality types. Yep, I called the police several times when I heard the suicide threat. They finally figured out not to make those threats in front of me, I would act on them, just not the reaction they wanted.

      I also had to cut all contact with my mom. She was doing different things than yours, but the bottom line was that she did not want to face reality and deal with issues in an adult manner. She screwed up my childhood, but she was not going to mess up the rest of my life.

      You can do this..

    12. Artemesia*

      You have to decide to free yourself of this and then get some emotional/therapeutic support of your own to do this. And you need to make it crystal clear to her that you are not her retirement plan and that she will not be living with you or getting support from you in her old age; she will have to make do with her social security and savings. look into financial services for older people in your area and offer to set her up with someone to advise her on how to set up an IRA with automatic deduction.

      It is one thing to step up to help a parent who falls on hard times through no fault of their own — it happens and it is a cold world. But someone who blithely fritters away her money, indebts herself and brags that you are her retirement plan doesn’t deserve the support and will literally eat your life up. How will you prepare for your own retirement and support your own family when the day comes if this vampire is glued to your neck.

      I would also seriously look into employment as far away from her as possible. If you are in Boston, start looking for work in Seattle.

      But most of all you need someone to help you sort through this so you can hold a firm line.

    1. De Minimis*

      Best–was able to transition between leaving my last job and finding a new one after four months of searching. That’s pretty good for me.

      Worst–lost our oldest dog the week before Christmas.

    2. Doriana Gray*

      BEST: Getting promoted into a new division in my current company after suffering through my psychotic soon-to-be former boss’s meltdowns this year. I start the new job in two weeks! Yay!

      WORST: Watching someone I was secretly in love with marry someone else. Well not technically since I wasn’t at the wedding, but you know what I mean. My heart hurts every time I think about it, and I’m dreading seeing him around work in the new year since I’m still irrationally sad and wondering when the hell I’m going to get over this.

      1. Nobody*

        Congrats on the promotion, and sorry about the guy. I have a “one who got away,” and Facebook loves to throw him in my face as someone I might know (and his profile pictures are always things that rub it in, like his engagement photo, his wedding picture, him holding his new baby, etc.).

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Thank you! And ugh – I’m sorry to hear that. It’s times like this I’m glad I don’t do the whole social media thing. Seeing his wedding pictures and then the inevitable pics of his babies with the perfect wife would send me over the edge. It’s the main reason I declined a job working in his division over a year ago, and it was a job I would have been good at too. *sigh* I hope you can at least block those alerts or something.

            1. Doriana Gray*

              Lol, hell I was considering actually moving! That would solve that whole accidentally bumping into each other thing for sure if I lived in another state.

                1. Doriana Gray*

                  I’m in the same boat (no money to move). I’m hoping my new job will help with that after a while, but then I have to figure out where I’d go – all the places I want to move (NYC, LA, New England) are expensive. This is the problem with having champagne taste on a beer budget.

    3. jamlady*

      BEST: Finishing my Master’s and landing a great higher level permanent job where my husband and I wanted to end up (jobs like this don’t exist in my field, so the timing was super perfect).

      WORST: My husband being stuck in the military and halfway across the country for the last 9 months wondering if his contract would ever end (and as of today, it did, so that goes in the best for 2016).

    4. Not So NewReader*

      BESTEST! (for me, at any rate) getting my house fixed after all these years. It’s been a long haul, still a ways to go but many of the safety issues are over and gone. I feel twenty years younger.

      Worst (very minor) I think I have pulled just about every muscle in my body doing this work. I am not 20 any more. I can’t lift 12 foot sheets of sheet rock. dang.

    5. Ruffingit*

      BEST: Getting a new job and being able to leave the hell of my last toxic workplace.

      WORST: Just a general feeling of exhaustion and needing to take a vacation, but not being able to.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      1. It’s OVER!
      2. England again. And hanging out with friends there. And seeing James Horner at Royal Albert Hall. :’) And getting a reader pass to one of the world’s largest research libraries (nerdgasm!). Although it will expire in April–dammit!

      1. TWO crushes and both of them turned out horribly! I’m sick of crushes. I want something real!
      2. Watching other people get EXACTLY what I wanted. It’s my turn now, 2016. Get on it or I’ll kick you with my skates on.

    7. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      Best: completed a full year of blogging, got to visit Banff and Lake Louise (which I’ve always wanted to do!), published a few articles, and did some home improvement with my husband and our house looks great now.

      Worst: Many, many things, but the worst of the worst is probably that my dad was diagnosed with terminal, metastasized esophageal cancer, and will likely have only a year or two at the most left.

    8. Rubyrose*

      Best – new job that for IT is a cushy job. Working for a hospital, NO ON CALL, first shift, Monday – Friday, so far maximum of 43 hours a week. No funny hours to work with offshore. Best manager I’ve had in 20 years and the job uses my strengths. Also, I’ve come to understand and really appreciate my experience and strengths. For the first time I’m really confident in myself and know where my limits are.

      Worst – decline in overall health, due to the crazy contractor job I had earlier in the year before the new cushy job. I still have a cough from mid May that the doctors have having trouble nailing down.

    9. ginger ale for all*

      Best – I can’t decide. The one best that still warms my heart would out my identity here because it was in the news (I am not famous but it would be easy to google).

      Worst – I still don’t have control of a health issue and it leads to a lot of rough days. I hate calling in sick at my new job.

    10. StillHealing*

      WORST of 2015 was finding out on my 22 Wedding Anniversary that my husband was having an affair with the old neighborhood girlfriend who had tracked him down in November 2014. (Just after divorcing her third husband)

      BEST of 2015 was The Divorce from the lying, cheating bastard being final, December 23rd!

    11. Sydney Bristow*

      Best: Got married, got to go to Australia, and landed a permanent job after 4 years of temping. It really was an awesome year.

      Worst: Found out on NYE that my grandmother who has always been super healthy has breast cancer. I don’t know all the details yet but my sister said she thinks it is stage 4. I’m completely gutted over this.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Please do something this year to reknit/reset your setting. Invest in you in some manner that is meaningful to you. I lost eleven close family members in five years, even the dog passed. I went through my days robotically, patiently trying to wait for the tidal wave to subside. I did some reading, some massage therapy, praying/meditating. I watched less news. I moved away from the toxic people in my life. So, you see there are many ways that you can invest in you/your life. It’s not fair when we are hurting the most we have to work even harder. But we know ourselves better than anyone, so we should get to decide how best to proceed.
        May the new year be much kinder to you.

    12. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Best: Daughter earning a national merit scholarship that covers her entire room/board and tuition with about $1,000/semester left for textbooks, etc. She is completely financially covered for her four-year degree.

      Worst: Leaving my university job to go work for my department head’s private firm, only to discover that his wife was like working for a spoiled toddler.

      Best 2: Getting hired back at the university, with a promotion, after that fiasco.

      1. SL #2*

        Congrats to your daughter! I was about 3/4s covered for my 4 years and the best part of it all was my parents’ palpable relief.

        And congrats on the return to your old job!

    13. Lizzy*

      I will answer in terms of my professional life…

      Worst 1.0: Working the most soul-sucking job of my professional career.

      Best: Getting laid off from soul-sucking job, which led me to getting a temp job with an awesome organization (and the potential to go permanent later this year).

      1. Lizzy*

        Forgive my typo. I was going to list 2 worsts, but realized that the second one was actually quite a blessing and combined it into my best.

    14. Stargazer*

      Worst: being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

      Best: PEOPLE – Getting married and having the wedding of my dreams, as well as all the kindness from friends, family, and coworkers around my diagnosis.

    15. Ann Furthermore*

      Best: A wonderful and much-needed vacation to Hawaii, where none of us had ever been. Thank you, frequent flyer miles! Runner up — being able to take the week of Christmas and New Year’s off. I took the same week off last year, and both times I was able to get SO much done: cleaned out my closet, made a bunch of stuff for the freezer, and generally got things organized. I’m going to try and do that again this year too.

      Worst: Working on an absolutely awful project with horrible, horrible, horrible users. I’ve ranted about them periodically here. Completely clueless and helpless. The stupidity reached its apogee in September, when they called me at 11:00 one night in a panic with an emergency that HAD to be resolved immediately. So I got out of bed and fired up my laptop. Then they called back at 11:10 to say, “Oh, never mind, we’ll just figure it out tomorrow.” OMG. I hope things will be better with them in 2016.

    16. Soupspoon McGee*

      Best: I’m going back to school, and I keep surprising myself with A’s and B’s in subjects I never thought I’d do well in, let alone like. Who knew I’d like organic chemistry or could get A’s in anatomy and microbiology? Not me!

      Worst: We lost my 14-year-0ld kitty, Lily Marlena. She was a beauty.

    17. Carmen Sandiego JD*

      Best: The boyfriend spent time with me at Christmas, he gave me a promise ring (said in his card he’s contemplating…commitments). Also, his mom, who is nice but really hard to please, seems to like me and even offered to lend me her silver ornate Xmas stuff.

      Worst: My mom keeps trying to fix me up with doctors/lawyers and says my bf isn’t good enough. Also, she’s saying to not make permanent commitments (ie. do not get engaged) without explicitly saying so.

      Silver Lining: My mom can’t actually say “don’t get engaged” bc I have awesome extended family that really has my and my bf’s back thank goodness…..and my mom knows there are certain things she can’t get away with saying

  55. De Minimis*

    Been off for the holidays, dreading coming back Monday. Wondering how much is just the usual “don’t want to go back to work” thing or if it’s genuine dissatisfaction. I’ve already sort of decided I probably just want to stay long enough at this job to be fully vested in the retirement plan, then go elsewhere. The pay and benefits are good and I like a lot of things about the place, but have been disappointed with the lack of work/life balance. I work with one supervisor who works very late every night and I can tell they are not happy that I want to go home after working all day.

    My half-year evaluation will be later in the spring, I guess we’ll see where I stand then. I feel like I work to improve, but I worry that I am still not doing well enough. Just want to hang on to this job a few years, I don’t see a lot of advancement opportunity here–they do give raises and promotions based on taking on new responsibilities, but I don’t really see a lot of room to move up in my department.

    My goal really is just to pay some debt off, possibly relocate to a place with lower cost of living, and be able to survive on a lower paying job, work another decade or so and then hope that I can start transitioning to working less….I’m approaching my mid-40s and have always kind of struggled as far as work. I just want to shore things up to where we can get by on less if we have to….

  56. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Who has good new year’s eve or new year’s day traditions?

    My husband and I spent a good hour last night after midnight naming all the good things that happened in our lives in 2015 — big stuff (we made it to our 2-year wedding anniversary! we adopted Eve! I bought a new car, which at first I hated but then I loved!), but also small stuff (we ate a ton of tacos!). We’ve decided to make it our new new year’s eve tradition, and I am hereby recommending it to others.

    This does not require a partner; you could also do it on your own. (Similarly, when I turned 30 and was completely freaked out by where my 20s had gone, I made a long list of all the things I’d done in my 20s and it made me feel much better about the passage of time.)

    1. fposte*

      I love this. The older I get, the more important I find it to appreciate pleasures and achievements of all sizes, not just the big stuff. Not quite “stop and smell the roses” (though I love my roses); more “yell with victory when you finally clean the vase.”

    2. Elkay*

      This is a seasonal tradition we’re going to shift to new year’s this year. I love party food but we don’t get invited to parties so we buy a load of party platter food, all the small canapé type things and eat that while sitting in on our own.

    3. Audiophile*

      I like the idea of making a list of good things that happened in my 20s. I turn 30 this month and it’s totally freaking me out. The only thing keeping me sane at this point, is that I have a new job. (I feel you played a significant part in this, Alison, so thank you!)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I was extremely freaked out about turning 30 (way more so than turning 40, for some reason), but it turned out that the 30s are awesome. You’re still quite young but (often) have more disposable income, a better sense of yourself, and less concern about what people think of you. I loved the 30s.

        So far, I find the 40s weird. I feel officially middle-aged, which is strange, and I feel like true aging is in sight — like I know it’s coming in a way that I never quite processed before.

        But yes, do that list! I loved doing mine.

        1. De Minimis*

          40 just kind of came and went, I didn’t think of it as being much different than the late 30s. I’m only starting to feel the 40s now, I’ll be officially in the mid-40s this year and now it’s starting to hit me. I think a lot of it is my body starting to feel older—more aches and pains, vision problems. etc.

        2. Audiophile*

          A lot of people say the 30s are awesome, I really hope so. I feel like I have a better group of more dependable and mature friends, than I did in my early 20s. Which I really needed.

          I hope I have more income, because at this point, it can’t get any worse than it was in my early 20s when I barely made enough to get to work.

          My birthday falls on a Friday this year and as much as I’ve joked with friends about requesting the day off, I have no real plans, so I might as well work. I may change my hours a bit, so I can do an early dinner with friends.

          I’ll definitely make a mental note to do that list.

        3. danr*

          Put your fears of middle age far away. My grandmother, who lived to 92 said that middle age really started at about 65. Her problem was that at 80 she had widowers chasing her who thought she was around 70 or so.

        4. Ruffingit*

          My best friend put it well when she said “Your 20s are for learning lessons, your 30s are for applying them.”

        5. Elizabeth West*

          Wait until you hit 50, Alison. :P

          I became eligible for my first discount–a small one at Hancock Fabrics, less than the 55+ one but still a SENIOR discount. At first, I was like “WHUUUUUUUT NOOOOOOOO” But then I was like, “DISCOUNT WOOOOOOOOOOOOO”

          It was weird.

        6. edj3*

          25 was my hard birthday. I was in a miserable marriage with two small children and could not see an end to wiping poopy bottoms and snotty noses. Every significant birthday since (and I am past the half century mark) has been a breeze in comparison.

          I can’t remember where I read or heard this but it’s stuck with me:

          Your first 50 years are largely luck; the second 50 are shaped by the choices you make.

          So while I don’t make resolutions, I do a gut check on the choices I’m making. I want to live fully all the way to the end, whenever that may come.

        7. Soupspoon McGee*

          I don’t feel like I’m in my mid-40’s. Last night, I was thinking that one of my perfumes smelled like it fit a 50-year-old woman, then I realized I’m almost 50. I guess I’ll hang onto it for a few more years.

    4. danr*

      We cook a good dinner and have a very good bottle of wine. We talk about the good things we’re looking forward to for the coming year.

    5. Katie the Fed*

      I have a couple to add:

      A couple years ago I started sending my then-fiance an email to his gmail on NYE with the highs and lows and funny memories of the year. Like: I tried durian for the first time. We went white water rafting in west virginia. My grandmother died. Etc

      I figure as we get older we’ll start to forget a lot of the little things and I want to remember it all :)

      Second – we have an annual NY Day open house. It’s very nice and casual and every seems to enjoy it. I plan to keep doing it.

    6. Sydney Bristow*

      I do the same! Each year I like to make my Awesome List of all the things I did over the past year both big and small. I also look over the resolutions I’d made the previous year, see how I did, and set new ones.

    7. Dynamic Beige*

      I heard something this year about making a “good things” jar and I decided that I would do it and do it as a gift for someone. The idea is that whenever something good happens, you write it down on a scrap of paper and put it in the jar. Then, you pick a day to pull them all out and read them. New year’s, Xmas, Thanksgiving, whenever it’s full? The choice is yours. I think that sometimes it’s just easier to remember the bad things, because they take over your life and really stand out. This would be a way to be reminded about the other stuff and celebrate that.

    8. Soupspoon McGee*

      We did something different this year. We went out to to dinner and talked about our goals for the new year (not resolutions, but things we wanted to focus on). Then we went home, put on pajamas, watched a movie, and kissed at midnight. It was lovely.

  57. Mike Schmitt*

    I started at a new law firm yesterday and finished at my previous firm at midnight the night before…and quite literally at midnight. I was working up to the second the clock struck midnight to finish projects that were assigned to me. The project I was working on late that night was late but had been pushed for weeks because other more urgent things kept popping up for other partners. In any event, I was almost done when, at 12:00AM, the computer screen went blue and I was locked out. So, unable to access the documents or email, I called my boss’s work line and explained that it was almost done but I was locked out, have a happy new year, it shouldn’t take another associate long at all to finish up, been a pleasure, etc. I had been working for this firm for 5 years and had developed a reputation for quality work and so I got a lot of work from a variety of partners, who each wished me the best and told me that it was a pleasure working with me and that I would be hard to replace, etc. Content with my exit and looking forward to my first day at the new firm yesterday, I dozed off..
    Then, after arriving at my new firm and meeting all of the staff and feeling very happy about my decision to leave my previous firm, my pocket buzzed. I looked at my phone and found the following message from the former boss:
    “Mike, I just looked at the assignment and it is nowhere near complete. You assured me you would finish it. I am extremely disappointed in you, especially after I had the firm bend over backwards a couple of times for you.”
    I was irate, both at the fact that he sent me anything at all and because I had no idea what the bending over backwards crap was all about at all, as I never once received negative feedback. Also, the system must have saved only a prior draft because the assignment was nearly done. What would you do? He was the main reason I left in the first place and I have dreamed of telling him off for years. I have half a mind to do it now but also know that I try my best to keep a level head. But I’m having a very hard time just letting this sit.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      Let it go. I know I’ve had two bosses I would loved to let have it for being assholes (my current one being the second), but as Alison and one of my former bosses pointed out to me, my leaving was all that needed to be said – getting a new, and better, gig was the ultimate win.

      That text from your former boss is petty and unprofessional and says more about him than it does you. Kick ass at your new job and don’t worry about this guy.

    2. danr*

      Let it go, and if you answer just mention that the system locked you out at midnight without saving your work. Bet the IT folks can find the bit you were working on though. And, congratulations on starting a new job, and look forward only.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      “Mike, I just looked at the assignment and it is nowhere near complete. You assured me you would finish it. I am extremely disappointed in you, especially after I had the firm bend over backwards a couple of times for you.”

      “Bob,the system must have saved only a prior draft because the assignment was nearly done. I did have it almost finished and the system locked me out at midnight. I am sorry to hear that you are so disappointed. It was my intent to do my best right up to my last minute of work. As far as bending over backwards, Bob, I am sorry to hear this, too. It has always been my wish that we worked well together. Unfortunately, I am not in a position where I can fix either concern. I am only left with sincerely wishing you the best in the future. Mike”

  58. MsChanandlerBong*

    I have a résumé dilemma, and I’m sure AAM readers will know what to do! I’ve been a freelance writer for 11 years. Unfortunately, almost every single one of my clients has me a sign a non-disclosure agreement before I start writing. I’m not allowed to tell anyone I wrote their content, and I can’t share the content with anyone as part of my work portfolio. Most of the work I do is for law firms and medical practices (law firm blog posts, articles on medical conditions, website copy for physician practices and urgent care centers, etc.).

    I want to update my résumé so I have it on hand to send to potential clients, but I am having trouble figuring out how I should format everything when I can’t mention my clients’ names. Would it be weird to list each company as “Raleigh, NC Law Firm” or “Baltimore, MD Urology Practice” and then list out all the projects I’ve completed? Or should I just put Freelance Writer/Editor at the top of the section and make a list of selected projects (brochure copy, blog posts, attorney profiles, physician bios, etc.)?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t have much to offer here based on my own professional experience (I am not a freelance writer), but is there any chance the NDAs cover only the actual content itself and not that you wrote it at all? It’d be interesting to look into, for example, how ghost writers (which I guess essentially you are) do their résumés.

      I don’t know how reputable this site is, but Ghost Write Pro recommends building in a résumé agreement. If that’s not already in the language of the NDA, can you ask to have that amended?

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        With these particular clients, I can’t tell anyone I wrote the content. That includes giving someone the link and saying I wrote it or saving the content and sharing it with someone as a PDF or Word file. The resume clause is something I can do going forward, so thanks for the suggestion.

    2. BuildMeUp*

      The résumé agreement that Anonymous Educator mentioned is a great idea!

      I think the way you have it listed should work, as long as you include something that explains why you’re not listing company names, unless this is very common in the industries you work in and you’re sure anyone reading your resume will know why you’re doing it.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Thanks! I will include a note in my introductory email (I’m not applying for full-time positions; I’m sending letters of introduction/interest to marketing firms that concentrate specifically on medical and legal marketing).

        It’s just a pain. Right now, for example, I’m writing product descriptions for a well-known retailer (if I said the name, pretty much everyone would recognize it). It would look great on my resume to say that I’ve written hundreds of product descriptions for this company. Unfortunately, they didn’t hire me directly. I do the work through a third-party company, and the terms of service specifically state that I can’t reveal any client names or use the work I do in my portfolio/as project samples.

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      This may not help but someone I know writes speeches for corporate executives. She is not allowed to say that she wrote for ThisExec or ThatExec but on her website, she says that she has worked with many high level people, that she is not allowed to disclose who they are publicly, but if you want to sit down and meet with her over a cup of coffee, she would be willing to talk about it in person.

      Maybe something similar in a cover letter would help? “Since I began my freelance writing career 11 years ago, I have completed 134 profiles for people in these professions; been published X times as a ghostwriter in these journals. My clients value my discretion and I have signed contracts over the years where I am not publicly allowed to divulge who I have written for, but if you were willing to meet with me, I could provide you with samples of my work… etc.”

      Also, I have a similar problem in that most of my work is also confidential and as I work for agencies, I can’t use it in my portfolio — I can show it to someone in person, but putting it up on a website or sending samples around, can’t do it. I decided that the only way I was going to be able to show something was to make fake projects as a sample of what I could do so that I would have some portfolio pieces I could show and were all mine. You might want to do something similar, post samples of your writing style that aren’t connected to a project. I’m also working on a bunch of articles to turn into blog posts to put on a website, you might want to do something similar — build authority by writing about what you do, which also gives people insight into who you are.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Thanks so much for the suggestions! I am actually working on some samples from scratch so that I can put them on my website and share them freely with potential clients. I’m also putting up a new website right now, and on the past projects page, I’m going to write something like “Due to the non-disclosure agreements I have in place with my clients, each law firm name has been replaced by its location and a description of the services provided” or something like that.

  59. RunnerGirl*

    Question for non-profit folks with national organizations: how is your development department structured at the organization’s headquarters? I recently started a senior level position at a non-profit with 25 state chapters, and I was surprised at how few development positions there are at the headquarters. But then again, I don’t really know what is considered typical. So I’m curious to hear how development departments are structured in other organizations?

    1. Kimberlee, Esq*

      At my old job (national nonprofit with no chapter system) there were around 25 employees, and there were like 3 specific fundraisers (not including the ED) and another 6 people who worked full-time in support of fundraising (writing, database, etc). At another organization I donate to (national nonprofit with chapters in many states), there is only one person doing any fundraising work (not including the ED), and she does both direct asks and a bunch of the admin and writing associated with fundraising.

      I think the reason is that nonprofits are terrified of reports and rankings and whatnot that care too deeply about what % of your money you spend on fundraising, and development salaries are like all fundraising. So theoretically a fundraiser is worth it if they earn at least their full salary in donations, but in total that might be really bad for the organization, increasing the amount of money it’s spending on fundraising without generating proportionate program spending. So, they might be gun-shy about over-hiring on fundraisers?

    2. BRR*

      I know with one rather large nonprofit I had just interviewed with they had a moderate sized team at the national headquarters and it was mostly major gifts. Annual giving was done more at the regional level and they were working to coordinate it more between the regions so that appeals and thank yous were sent out at roughly the same tim to be more uniform in message.

      I’m know another national/regional org that has 75 development staff members at the national office that raises approximately $130 million annually.

      1. De Minimis*

        Ours is similar, one full-time development person at the main office, and another couple of people who have development tasks mixed in their regular roles. We have a lot of federal grants but non-federal is still a really crucial part of our funding [with the goal to increase that over time so we will be less vulnerable to political winds] so the one development person is really busy. I’ve also seen the ED really bring in a lot of funding in the brief time I’ve been there.

  60. Jascha*

    I think your instinct to identify the type of client rather than the name is good (much like saying “a 67-year-old male” instead of the name of the patient in medical writing). If you have room, perhaps you could include a line at the top, or at the bottom with asterisks after the clients, explaining that NDAs prevent you from naming the clients. If it were only one or two, I’d be inclined to suggest a list of “selected publications” that omitted them, but if it’s nearly all of your clients, you might risk leaving off too much of your work.

  61. Wendy Darling*

    Can someone reassure me it’s okay not to do a phone interview while I’m on holiday? The recruiter has asked me three times now what my availability is this week, and I told her the first time we spoke that I would be traveling internationally and not available until late next week, but that hasn’t kept her from asking about this week two more times.

    If I REALLY knocked myself out about it I could take a call, so I am plagued by this nagging guilt that I’m not doing enough.

    1. Audiophile*

      I think it’s fine to skip it. Unless you’re really jazzed about this and think this recruiter might disappear if you put her off any longer. You did tell her you’d be traveling and be unavailable, so I’m not sure why she keeps asking you about your availability.

    2. Blue_eyes*

      It’s fine to not take a phone interview while you’re on vacation. You clearly stated your availability and she didn’t listen to it. Unless you really really want this job, just don’t respond to her until you get back.

    3. TootsNYC*

      As a hiring manager, I wouldn’t be rejecting a candidate for not being available for a phone interview during this week.

  62. PinkTeapots*

    I know it’s a little late in the day, but I just wanted to thank everyone for their advice last week. I gave my boss my notice! He did try to counter offer, but I told him that I was firm on my decision. Like I said last week, the new position is in my field, a great step for my career, and a 30% increase.

    I did give a four week notice so he was very appreciative of that. Then the next day, he came back and said I was making a great decision for myself and that while he didn’t want to lose me, the best part of being a manager is getting to watch his people succeed, whether here or somewhere else.

    Additionally, I’m going to be helping interviewing for my replacement and if time allows, train them as well, which I’m very excited about.

    Thanks again to everyone for helping me with my giving notice anxiety!

  63. Seasonal Downer*

    This festive season has felt rough and I don’t know why. I haven’t done anything different tradition-wise, I have a great family and job but something’s not right. Maybe I just need more sunlight or something.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      It could be the weather. It’s been really super weird. We had 60s and 70s right up until Christmas Day and I have never in all my born days seen that and it’s just strange. This El Niño is a bad one.

    2. StillHealing*

      My son had a tough Christmas for several reasons. One of his best friends’ Dad died on Christmas day. He was only 55. My Ex didn’t even call our son on Christmas so I sent ex a warning email that it’s his responsibility to reach out and nurture their relationship. Ex has since called called son a couple times this past week.

      Seasonal Downer, Get in for a checkup with your doctor. Trust your gut when something feels off. It could be a variety of things, low vitamin D, thyroid, etc.