weekend free-for-all – April 23-24, 2016

Eve with iPad

Eve has discovered iPad games.

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

Book recommendation of the week: The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. A dysfunctional family, an endangered trust fund, and so much bad behavior. But somehow it injects its dark humor with heart, and you end up caring about all most of them.

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

{ 1,076 comments… read them below }

    1. Honeybee*

      Agreed! I normally don’t even pay that much attention to the pictures but this one is adorable.

    1. StillHealing*

      That made me chuckle. She won’t want to share it with anyone and will demand Alison buy her a new one when the next generation comes out.

        1. Windchime*

          My old cat liked the Friskies game with the swimming fish, but new kitty doesn’t seem to care for it. I’ll have to check out other cat games.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I showed my cat several cat games on my phone, but she wasn’t very interested. Her favorite toy is a sticker ball from our sweet gum tree.

  1. BRR*

    Travel question theme. I going to Nashville for a conference and will have a day. Suggestions on what to do and how to get around or other logistics? I land at 1030 am and will be staying at the Gaylord opryland. Can’t stay out too late as the conference starts early the next day. Not really into country music but wanted to see the city a little as people really like it. Thanks in advance everybody!

    1. Gene*

      Hermitage Museum


      It’s been 45 years since I’ve been there and still remember those.

      1. Anonnn*

        I just got back from Nashville and found it meh. Not a huge country music fan, but the hall of fame is a really good tour just in terms of American history, and the Hatch Print Show tour (and extra $15) was hands down the best part of the trip. Other than that, downtown is incredibly unwalkable and full of touristy bars and bachelorette parties.

        Honestly was surprised at how much Nashville failed to impress.

        1. Writerchik*

          I’ve lived here 30 years and seen the changes. It’s a great city! Uber over to 12South, the Gulch or Five Points in East Nashville for dining, drinking. Downtown — Lower Broadway is touristy but worth seeing. Pop into Toostsies or Roberts. Country Music Hall of Fame is great. We have a beautiful state Capitol. If you want to get to the Bluebird Cafe, go online and see if you can get tickets.

          1. Anonnn*

            Not everyone is comfortable using Uber, and it’s certainly not an answer to the city being so unfriendly to pedestrians.

            1. Calliope*

              Not everyone walks or drives or takes cabs or takes buses, either, but it seems odd to object to a recommendation that someone use a common form of transportation. How would you prefer for someone to suggest that the OP visit other parts of the city?

            2. Stephanie*

              To be fair…that’s kind of the South (and a lot of Western cities). A lot of those cities really grew when the car was king and oil was cheap and it’s reflected in the public transit infrastructure. Not to say those places aren’t working on it, but it’s a little unfair to malign Nashville for not being like midtown Manhattan.

              1. Honeybee*

                To be really frank, there are relatively few American cities where one can get around completely without a car. U.S. cities – especially outside of the Northeast and a few West Coast cities – are built more sprawling than cities in other countries, so a lot of our biggest touristy cities require a car or cabs to get around effectively. I can only think of a few off the top of my head that I would visit without renting a car (New York, Boston, DC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and maybe Seattle).

          2. BRR*

            Thanks for the tips. And remember people to try and stay away from the not everybody can have sandwiches. I’m very comfortable with uber.

          3. Shortie*

            I completely agree with Writerchik. Take a taxi, Uber, or Lyft, or rent a car and get out to some of those great places Writerchik listed. Not much to do around Gaylord Opryland. If you do rent a car, lots of dinner places valet so you don’t have to worry about parking. And if you do Downtown – Lower Broadway (which I also recommend at least seeing even if you don’t hang out down there), there are plenty of parking garages if you don’t want to deal with street parking. The garage under the big new downtown convention center always has a lot of spaces and is easy to get around in.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        I liked the Hermatige. It’s the home of one of the more controversial presidents – Andrew Jackson. If I remember it was outside of Nashville and isn’t easy to get to via public transit.

    2. S0phieChotek*

      Was there a few years ago — second Parthenon
      Also there is a plantation, Belle Meade, that I visited that might be of historical interest
      I was there the weekend of the CMA–why my organization decided that would be a good weekend to also decide to have an academic conference there is beyond me–all I can say was downtown was nuts…the bars and restaurants seemed full and jammed at 10am!

    3. Bluebell*

      I was there two years ago in May and really enjoyed it. We walked around Centennial park and visited the Parthenon. Also took a trip to Cheekwood which had beautiful gardens. One night we went downtown but didn’t actually go into any clubs. Have fun!

    4. Dangitmegan*

      I live here and Nashville is awesome. You can’t come expecting it’s walkable like New York. It’s a small place that is booming and still figuring that out.

      I actually live right near Opryland and it’s true it’s not walking friendly around here. Uber is pretty great other than at around 1 am when everyone is going home. You’re in a good location to get places pretty easily. You’ll be pretty close to the Hermitage if that is of interest and East Nashville where there’s a lot of fun new places to eat and shop (including The Pharmacy) is not far. The park is great, you can tour the Ryman which is cool. Belle Meade and the Parthenon. And the Hall of Fame is fun even if you don’t like country music.

    5. Laura (Needs a New Name)*

      Eat at Monells! Weekend brunch if you can. Go hungry! Reallllly hungry.

    6. Teapot, Teapot, and Teapot, LLC*

      Do you like baseball at all? The Sounds are the AAA affiliate for the Athletics, and opened a brand-new ballpark last year. Vanderbilt has one of the best college teams in the country — their stadium is much smaller, but it’s a really nice little bandbox. Tickets for both are super reasonable.

    7. NDR*

      Nashvillian here. Though it is getting more crowded lately, my husband and I love to go to the Nashville Farmers Market for lunch (it has a big food court with lots of international choices) then walk around the Bicentennial Mall/park next to the market. You get a great view of the Capitol building, and there is a giant map of Tennessee on one end of the park that’s fun to walk and get a feel for the state. It’s a little fresh air, a little local history, and a good lunch all rolled into a single stop.

      It’s true that the city as a whole isn’t super walkable but each of the neighborhoods are once you are there. Each area has its own flavor: East Nashville (leans hipster, good coffee and restaurants, bar scene and live music are good), Germantown (still up and coming but great restaurants and close to downtown), 12th South (slightly yuppie maybe, casual, good restaurants and a nice large park), Hillsboro Village (Vanderbilt adjacent, quite casual, some good shopping), the Gulch (newly developed, a little slicker than the rest of town but nice places to shop/eat). If you are comfortable riding a bike, we have rentable bikes all over town. You can pick one up in one spot then drop it off at another.

      I also love the pedestrian bridge that starts (or ends depending on who side of the river you are in) right downtown and has great views. Cheekwood, Belle Meade Plantation, the Hermitage, etc. are all interesting but slightly out of the main part of town. The Ryman is the original Grand Ole Opry, and even if you don’t like country music, it is beautiful and historic (they offer tours). And downtown.

      I would say that Yelp is pretty accurate for most places, especially if you throw out the super highs and lows; it’s a good tool for finding places you’d enjoy. Personal favorites – City House (dinner), Bakersfield, Mas Tacos Por Favor, ML Rose, Fido, Bongo Java, Crema, 8th & Roast, Thai Esane, Hattie B’s, Edleys BBQ.

      I hope you enjoy your stay!

  2. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Happy Passover, those who celebrate! I sat next to a 102-year-old woman last night who beamed with joy when she discovered we support the same presidential candidate. It was a fantastic way to spend a Seder. This week has been so sad, I feel privileged to have had some joy.

    1. Jean*

      Sorry you’ve had sadness this week. I hear you about being grateful for having joy. I’ve had a similar week.

      1. Jean*

        And (due to penitence after reading about the self-centered 15-year-0ld [hopefully he’ll outgrow it])–
        Happy Passover to you, too and your Seder-mate from last night. That’s a neat experience to have.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      Happy Passover and good wishes for renewal after a tough week.

      We’re having friends over for a seder on Tuesday, but last night was just my boyfriend and I. We aren’t particularly observant, but it was a nice reminder of how great it is when we do choose to share these rituals. Even if a big part of our seder was him talking sh*t about my rendition of the Four Questions. :)

  3. Emilia Bedelia*

    Does anyone have any advice/resources/etc for improving one’s handwriting as an adult? My handwriting is atrocious. Like, I can’t read my own handwriting sometimes atrocious, and I’m not even a doctor or anything. If I’m writing something that is intended for another person, I can slow down and write neatly, but it takes much longer. I take a lot of notes/jot things down all the time at work, and it’s a little embarrassing to be sitting next to people in meetings with a page full of scribbles. I know I could just slow down, but writing quickly is a whole other habit I need to break. Has anyone ever successfully “fixed” their handwriting?

    1. Meemzi*

      Yes! I was looking at notebooks from middle school and cringing at my handwriting so I made a conscious effort to write how I wanted my writing to look (pretty and in cursive.)

      One thing that made a difference was looking at letters I didn’t like and finding prettier versions, then practicing writing them alone and in words.

      Then I found myself doodling mostly letters and words instead of little hamburgers.

    2. MillersSpring*

      Write more slowly and practice. Take notes by hand instead of with a laptop. Make lists by hand. Try journaling and make a slow conscious effort to form each letter.

    3. Mimmy*

      I find having the right kind of pen helps too. Ones that are a little thicker are easier for me to control.

      1. Bibliovore*

        Practice calligraphy. I hated my handwriting. Now I have what would be referred to a a Celtic hand. It isn’t beautiful unless I am taking my time and using calligraphy pens but it is distinctive and readable.

    4. Short and Stout*

      My Dad did! By teaching himself calligraphy, to the point where he was asked to write several long lasting documents. But that kind of writing takes time, and a light box, and a special pen ….

      My handwriting at work is terrible. I wouldn’t worry unless I couldn’t read it myself. :) (And honestly, I type much faster so anytime I can take notes on a computer or tablet I do.)

    5. TootsNYC*

      I would imagine you could simply do all the same handwriting exercises that you were supposed to do in grade school. It’s a matter of getting the muscle memory.

      So get a few kids’ penmanship books (start w/ the early books, where it doesn’t take as much focus to be within the lines). And a tray table, and do some penmanship practice while you’re watching TV.

    6. Swoop*

      practice :)
      if you’ve a notebook and a basic pen (I find a basic ballpoint of a comfortable size with a medium point gives me the easiest and most uniform writing) just practice writing – grocery lists, ‘the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’, lines of the letters that are hardest to decipher, favourite poetry or quotes from books or plays or movies, new poetry or stories or novels or screenplays, anything! Make a point of forming the letters so you can read them tomorrow.
      question though: why do you need to break the habit of writing quickly? it’s so useful!

      1. Emilia Bedelia*

        I mean that I have 2 habits: writing quickly and writing poorly. Breaking either habit would mean I have better handwriting- but I’d rather just learn to write neatly and quickly than write slowly. So, it’s not as simple as “just slow down” because that’d be just as hard as just learning to write neater.

    7. Yetanotherjennifer*

      My daughter has terrible handwriting, but she’s 13 so I hold out hope. There is a learning disability called dysgraphia which affects writing, spelling and the ability to organize thoughts into writing. It’s lesser known so there aren’t a lot of resources, but it’s a good place to look for solutions. I’ve noticed that my daughter’s drawing skills have slowed as well which leads me to wonder if they are connected. Since she loves art, I try and exercise the one in hopes it affects the other. Here are some things I’ve used:
      – first vow to use your very best handwriting whenever you can. Same goes for print vs cursive. Use whichever works best for you. And see what modifications you can make to help legibility. My hand jerks when I try and write cursive so I break up longer words and use simplified letters.
      – look up figure eight exercises. Basically you trace around a plate twice to form an 8. Then you trace the 8 three times and then form a letter. It takes some time to complete the alphabet but it can be very meditative.
      – Waldorf educators teach a special type of line drawing before they teach handwriting. I’ve had trouble in the past finding books but you could google and see if you can find anything. Or check and see if you have a school near you.
      -handwriting without tears is an elementary grade program for teaching print and cursive. They have a great methodology and workbooks that can be purchased through Amazon.
      -zentangles are decorative embellishments to lines. They are funky and fun and approach the issue from the art side
      -I just saw these two books in a recent Real Simple magazine but I haven’t checked them out yet. “Spencerian key to practical pendmanship” and “Write now” by Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay. The second introduces a simplified version of cursive.
      -there are also special grips that can help you hold your pencil properly and that may help your pendmanship.
      -Check and see if you have a teacher’s store near you. They will have the pencil grips and other handwriting resources.

      It will probably take several months before you see consistent results but keep at it. Lots of these things you can do while watching tv.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        I’ll second Getty and Dubay! I love the italic handwriting, and it makes my left handed scrawl readable :)

      2. Emilia Bedelia*

        You know, I also can’t draw…. maybe they are related. I’m a good speller/writer so I don’t think it’s dysgraphia per se but I will definitely check out some of those resources. I was hoping for suggestions beyond “practice!” because that’s obvious, so these look helpful!

        1. Cecily*

          I have dysgraphia, and it doesn’t always include spelling and such! I was told (/my diagnosis is) that it’s a “thinking words –> writing words” problem, so more in terms of transcription. It’s sometimes comorbid with dsylexia and other such things, so maybe that’s where spelling gets tacked on.

          Basically, how it affects me is: writing for any period of time hurts my hands (because it takes more effort to write, I think?), and I essentially have to have what I’m going to write fully formed in my head before I can write it – I can’t write and think at the same time. Stream of conciousness writing is magic as far as I’m concerned, my brain will not do the thing.

          Amusingly, I am also a professional artist, and drawing and writing are totally disconnected as far as I’m concerned.

    8. Shell*

      I’m improving my handwriting add well, and it really comes down to practice. I usually just copy down song lyrics or random paragraphs from books I’m reading.

      I have a preference for cursive italic writing, but I don’t have the patience to really form all the letters the way I’m supposed to. But if I focus and go slowly, I can manage a bastardized italic/print hybrid that’s quite readable and pretty nice. I’m still working on speed and remembering to write with the arm and not just fingers/wrist.

    9. First Initial dot Last Name*

      I just turned in my handwritten dissertation, I have some thoughts on improving your penmanship.

      I second getting a fatter pen (the BIC four color has a nice sized barrel), the increased size will help ease the tension of gripping your pen or pencil. If you can’t find comfy pen grips try using a kneadable eraser and shaping it around your stylus for a personalized grip, if you can’t find kneadable erasers (drafting supplies at staples or an art store), if you can’t find that, try mounting putty, knead it into a blob and form it around your pen. My hubs holds a pen in a really weird way, and instead of his writing coming from his fingers it flows from his wrist, (I don’t know how he does it), the kneaded eraser has helped ease his grippy tension and has allowed him to relax a bit for flowier effort.

      Practice your letters. It feels silly but it helps. Think of making letters as drawing rather than writing.

      1. mdv*

        A *handwritten* dissertation??? I didn’t know anyone allows that any more! How long was it? (just curious!)

  4. Turanga Leela*

    We’ve just putting a bird feeder and bird bath in our back yard, and I am really excited! However, I noticed that a neighbor’s cat is roaming the neighborhood, and my partner told me that it’s gotten into our yard before. I don’t want our birdie visitors to get mauled when they stop for a snack and a bath. Any suggestions for how to approach the neighbor about his outdoor cat? I realize that keeping him out of our yard may mean that the neighbor has to keep the cat indoors, which would be a huge shift in how he manages his cat, and I don’t really want to start a fight with the bird.
    I’d also be open to other ways to protect the birds, if there are any.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Er…yeah you cannot really ask someone to keep their cat inside when it’s an outdoor cat. I like birds too but my cat goes outdoors and I can’t tell where she goes. I’m sorry, but that’s kinda out of line :(
      Could you have a bird feeder outside one of your windows, especially if you’re not on the ground floor, is that a possibility?

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Agreed… but he might be open to getting a bell for his cat’s collar. Or perhaps you could fortify the feeder itself to make sure the cat can’t climb up it?

        1. Engineer Girl*

          A bell may not even work. My cat discovered that if he got mud in the bell it would silence it. Smart cat.

        2. Marzipan*

          I’m sure I read somewhere that having a bell on its collar eventually makes it a cat that likes to hunt into a more efficient hunter, since it has to compensate and become extra-stealthy.

          On the flipside, this cat may be like mine – interested in the general concept of birds*, but entirely incapable of managing the logistics of actually catching one…

          (*except seagulls. He’s really scared of seagulls.)

        3. Lady Bug*

          A bell won’t work on a stealthy hunter. My car used to prance down the street, you could hear the bell all the way down the block. Then one day we watched him take a 5 foot leap at a bird, that bell didn’t make a sound.

      2. Perse's Mom*

        It’s not out of line when it’s against the law (as it is in many municipalities in the US). As soon as a pet crosses the boundary lines of your property onto someone else’s property, they’re considered roaming. If they’re picked up by animal control, you’re fined. If they’re picked up by a random person and taken to a local shelter and that shelter happens to partner with animal control, you’re fined.

        I get that the UK views this very differently, but seriously. There are real and present dangers (coyotes, feral cat colonies, FIV/FeLV, dogs at large, plus the ever present American love for their guns – yes, housepets do get shot (and not just by our police)).

    2. Snow*

      There are meant to be ways that you can keep cats out of your yard. Lemon and orange rinds at the borders – or mirrors/bottles of water that are reflective but I agree with Carrie you can’t ask someone to make an outdoor cat an indoor cat. They may have gotten somewhere with a yard because the cat needs to be outdoors – some cats are miserable indoors.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, my cat could not be an indoor cat at ALL. I had this discussion already with my former neighbor–she had a finch feeder in her yard and didn’t want my cat to eat the finches. I told her if she saw Psycho Kitty in her yard to feel free to shoo her out, but I couldn’t make her come inside because we both would go insane. The cat was that way when I acquired her (through a dumping).

    3. Kay*

      I’m not sure that conversation will go well. People who want to have outdoor cats aren’t going to change their management because of something going on in your yard. You might mention it in passing, though, and see what he says: “We just got this bath and feeder, and I’m so excited! I worry about them, though – have you found that your cat brings in a lot of birds?” Other than that, I guess, just hope that the birds see the cat coming. Our cat is indoor, but he’s such a dolt that I would be shocked if he ever got a bird, so some cats may be better hunters than others.

    4. Accountant*

      Don’t worry about it. The birds are not stupid.

      I grew up in the country with outside cats and lots of birds. The only time the cats caught/ate birds was when the birds were already in distress– like they had flown into a window and were lying in the grass stunned, then the cat pounced, etc. A typical cat cannot catch a typical bird, though they have a ton of fun trying. Birds are much faster and will just fly away when they see a cat. The presence of outdoor cats and dogs did not scare away birds from our yard. My mom was really into birds, we had tons of bird feeders, and all creatures, great and small, typically got along well enough.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        “a typical cat cannot catch a bird”
        I disagree with this statement, you should see all the ones my cat has brought me over the years! (as well as mice/shrews). Mostly they are tiny wee things, babies, which are much easier to catch as they haven’t fully learned. To my knowledge, my cat hasn’t brought in one because it flew into the window.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        My cat caught hummingbirds. He also released a live mourning dove and a live sparrow into the house.

        1. Alice 2*

          poor hummingbirds! my cat prefers* to hunt ground dwellers, so we’ve had our share of chipmunks and mice running around the house.. One time we heard a small scream get closer and closer to the house, and my cat brought in a baby bunny! Basically unharmed (just traumatized), and we were able to shepherd it back outside..
          She tried to get a Pileated Woodpecker once… but it was as big as her, and flew away when she approached. Silly cat, not sure how she would have managed that..

          * Perhaps its should be “is only able to hunt”

          1. Engineer Girl*

            Oh the cat liked ground dwellers too. He used to bring his kill into the bathroom and gut it there. I’m grateful that he chose an area with tile and had easy clean up. I learned not to go onto the bathroom in the dark with bare feet. You only so that once.

        2. bkanon*

          Not an hour ago, I had to help a bird escape. It’s the live prey they bring in that bothers me. The dead ones are at least easy to remove!

      3. Nye*

        Cats are a massive predator of wild birds, actually. While the study from a few years ago that suggested cats kill billions of birds annually is likely on the high side, the data are consistent in saying that outdoor cats are a huge problem for bird populations. (Of course, this includes feral cats as well as outdoor pets.)

        That said, I don’t think you can really ask someone with an outdoor cat to keep it inside. With a feeder and a neighbor cat, I’d be very careful not to let too much seed fall on the ground to protect the doves/juncos/etc that might prefer ground-feeding.

      4. Jen*

        Not relevant but a funny animal story… My dog caught snakes, rabbits (mostly babies but once got the big one…), small birds, mice, and the feather in his cap (pun intended) was when he had a mm Epic Showdown with a turkey. He ended up catching the turkey but couldn’t kill it, so ran around the yard with the turkey flapping its wings mightly hitting the dog and throwing feathers all over the place. EVENTUALLY I helped break things up, turkey was dropped and hobbled off, and the dog and I just looked at each other like WTF was that.

    5. fposte*

      There are repellents you could try along the border of your yard. The ones that spray air work pretty well, but obviously they don’t cover a wide area; I see ultrasonic ones also exist, and there’s always motion-activated sprinklers.

      They all would require you to spend money. But unless you’re in a municipality that makes outdoor cats illegal, I don’t think you’re going to get anywhere asking him to change his cat to an indoor cat. I think the most you can do is ask if the neighbor might be willing to try a collar on the cat–there are ones specially geared to warning off birds–that you pay for.

      (It’ll still scare the birds, of course, which is one of my issues with outdoor cats–they don’t have to kill to have a deleterious effect on bird populations. But that’s a philosophical issue that doesn’t confer any obligation on a neighbor lawfully keeping his pet.)

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        @ fposte – I’m sorry but if someone – especially someone I didn’t even know! (I’m assuming turanga doesn’t know the neighbour) – said to me that they’d like my cat collared and would pay for it, I’d be like WTF. (maybe because I’m British??)
        Until recently, my cat didn’t have a collar/bell as when she was little it was a totally futile exercise. It’s only now she is older (7) and I’m fed up with her bringing in live birds and mice that I’ve collared her. But it was my choice, as her owner!
        So you could buy the cat/owner a collar but they might not wear it, keep it on for long (and what are you going to do then, keep buying them) or it might distress the cat.

        1. Snow*

          My outdoor cat went through 5 or 6 collars in a few months before I gave up on it – I want him to wear one with identification (he’s chipped but – just in case,) but he is an escape artist and just sheds them.

          1. Carrie in Scotland*

            @snow, mine was the same! I used to joke that somewhere, there was a bush or a tree with half a dozen pretty collars on it :)

            1. Cath in Canada*

              My cats are great escape artists when it comes to collars. I tried all different types and followed all the fitting recommendations. One cat would wear a collar for a few weeks before it disappeared, but the other one never kept a collar on for more than a few hours. I eventually gave up – they have ear tattoos so they’re identifiable if they ever get lost (they typically don’t stray more than a few metres from our back door though).

              When we had to move our tumble drier to repair it a few years ago, I found a whole bunch of collars behind it! I made sure to check if there was a hook or anything around there that a collar could get caught on, and found nothing. So I think they were not only getting out of their collars, but also hiding them so they couldn’t be put back on. It’s the single smartest thing they’ve ever done.

              1. JaneB*

                A friend of mine found that bush!! She also had a collar-shedding kitty, and when she cut back the lilac bush in the yard found a whole stash of collars, some neatly buried, at the back by the fence!

            2. Mallory Janis Ian*

              I put a collar on our indoor/outdoor cat, and she dramatically froze and stiffened up all over and fell over on her side, meowing pitifully. We double-checked that it wasn’t too tight or anything, and it wasn’t: I easily could get two fingers underneath it. She just really hated having it on. I told the family that she would get used to it, but they caved to the cat’s theatrics and took it off while I was out grocery shopping. After that, I didn’t have the heart to make the poor cat start at square one again with the collar. Our neighborhood is full of people who have all lived here for more than twenty years, anyway, so they all know that she is our cat.

              1. bkanon*

                I have three indoor/outdoor cats, and same – the whole neighborhood knows where they live. They mostly stick within a few hundred yards of our house. The whole neighborhood is fairly outdoor-pet-friendly. There are several houses where I don’t know the names of the humans there, but I know that’s where $Boxer or $Husky or $BlackLab lives. :)

        2. fposte*

          I think people might be WTF, but they’ll be a lot more WTF about of a suggestion that they need to keep their cat inside; this is the most I think you could ask of the neighbor. But I agree that ultimately it’s going to be up to Turanga to deal with it in her own yard.

    6. Nella*

      Urrrgggi had an issue with outdoor cats pooping in my herb garden. I tried to talk to the owners but no luck there. I would skip thr talking and just cat proof your feeder inatead. We got a scare crow lawn sprinkler thing that worked on cats, deer, and people seeking donations. I would also suggest putting the feeder up high and away from anything that is climable by a cat.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Pepper in the mulch will keep them away. I used to buy those giant things of black pepper and sprinkle it all over. They HATE IT. The only downside is you have to reapply it after it rains.

        1. Hellanon*

          Bookmarking this idea!

          Now if there were something that would work on the local dog owners…

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I have a stubborn mutt here. He dug holes in my hard, clay soil. My other dogs gave up because of how hard the soil is, but not this guy. At his worst, he had so many holes that HE could not walk through the yard. My friend had to roto-till the whole dog run to get it leveled out again.

            I went to one of those cheap price grocery stores that has big shaker containers of spices and herbs. I bought a big container of mild cayenne. Knowing cayenne can burn, I shook some out on my hand first to make sure it was mild. On work days, I would just shake the stuff over the new hole. Later, when I filled it back in, I would shake some more over the top. It took a while but he gave up. I did notice that he was very careful not to walk through the treated area.

    7. Delyssia*

      Huh. I’m a little shocked at how many people support outdoor pet cats wandering wherever they want. Don’t get me wrong, I basically agree that you can’t just tell the neighbor he has to keep his cat inside, but to me, the only time I would consider it okay to have an outdoor cat wandering free is in the country, not in anyplace I would consider a neighborhood.

      On the actual question, I would think your best approach would be to ask your neighbor if he has any thoughts on keeping his cat out of your yard. He might just tell you off, but he might have some reasonable thoughts on something either you or he could do.

      1. fposte*

        The outdoor vs. indoor cat debate makes breastfeeding arguments look tame. It’s the animal lovers’ version of the Second Amendment :-).

      2. Carrie in Scotland*

        @ Delyssia, ok then, how would you make sure a cat stayed….where, exactly? Backgarden? Yard space? For instance, my back garden has low level walls and backs out onto many different gardens. How would it be possible for me to make sure my cat stayed in ‘their area’?

        On TV over here (UK) there was a fascinating programme about cats and where they go. They actually don’t go that far.

        1. Delyssia*

          I am absolutely not going to tell anyone else what they and their cats should do. :) For me, personally, I would only have an outdoor cat if I lived on a farm or had a yard that was fully fenced in and could keep the cat in the yard.

            1. fposte*

              They do have catproof fences and fence toppers. It looks pretty easy to self-install–one design is basically netting installed at an angle.

      3. Marzipan*

        There’s a strong cultural component to ideas about how cats are expected to live, as far as I can tell. In the UK, my local RSPCA would have been reluctant to give me a cat if I’d wanted to keep it indoors (unless it had FIV, or maaaaybe if it had been some old lady’s house-cat for a decade or something) so it always seems strange to me to read what people online (generally in the US) think about this. Obviously this is a generalisation, but the US view seems to generally be that it’s risky for cats to be allowed outside, whereas the UK perspective is more focused on the cat having the opportunity to explore a larger environment more freely.

        1. Delyssia*

          Interesting! I am in the US, so clearly that’s where my viewpoint has come from.

          The local cat rescues I’m aware of generally strongly prefer to place their cats in homes where they will be indoor cats only. (Local animal shelters tend to be less zealous than rescues, so they may have more flexibility. And even the rescues, to my knowledge, don’t entirely rule out letting cats outside, they just don’t like it much.)

          1. LizB*

            The (US) rescue we adopted from insists on indoor-only cats; it was part of the adoption contract we signed. We are in a fairly large city with very cold winters, though, so maybe that’s part of the reason? (I also don’t really know how they’d know if we were letting her outside, since it’s not like they’re going to show up at our house and demand to see the cat.)

            1. Delyssia*

              I haven’t actually adopted from any of the local rescues, but I’ve seen language on their applications that seems to indicate that it would be possible to get an exception to the indoors-only policy. For example, [Organization] “has a policy of requiring all adopted cats to be housed indoors, unless an exception is made and noted on this application.” It is entirely possible that if you note an exception, they’ll just throw out your application, though.

              1. LizB*

                It probably depends a lot on the rescue. Ours grilled me over the phone for two hours about every little detail of my application, and almost didn’t let us adopt our kitty because we were planning on trying to keep her out of our bedroom at night (the woman interviewing me kept bringing up that her cats just love to cuddle at night, and kitty would be so sad if she couldn’t do that). So they’re probably an extreme example. :)

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  Animal lover here. This stuff gets me. We have so many homeless pets why-oh-why are we grilling people for hours and filling out forms that are 10-12 pages long and charging hundreds of dollars to get these animals homed? How does that get our unwanted pets to their new forever home?

                  My friend wants to get a pup. The amount of money she has to lay out to find a pup is incredible. We are talking thousands by the time she gets the yard perfect and get the house perfect. wth. I have seen her with her pets- they know they are loved and part of the family.
                  I don’t get what we are doing here.

                2. Noah*

                  Ugh. I finally started locking my cat out of the bedroom at night because she was really disruptive to my sleep. I don’t think she would bother me if she would just sleep, but she doesn’t. So it has become a nightly ritual, after spending some cuddle time while I read before bed, she will hop up on her own and head out. Before I go to sleep I get up and close the bedroom door. I don’t know what she does all night roaming the house, but thankfully she’s not noisy.

                3. Perse's Mom*

                  @Not So NewReader – the pet adoption process depends entirely on where you’re trying to adopt from (and sometimes local ordinances). My local shelter practically gives away cats; they haven’t bothered checking to see if renters are even allowed to HAVE cats in a decade.

                  They’re more strict with dogs, but it’s still… like $100 for an adult and maybe $175 for a puppy, complete with medical exam, all age appropriate vaccines, microchip, and spay/neuter. I think they only care about housing if it’s specific breeds, and that’s less about ‘how big is your yard and do you have a fence’ than it is about ‘will your homeowners insurance drop you if they find out you adopted a rottweiler or will your landlord force you to return the dog when they find out you got a pitbull.’

              2. Connie-Lynne*

                Ours were, when we adopted, indoors at night but outdoors in the daytime if they wanted to be. We also do a lot of indoor socialization during their first months before letting them go out.

                The humane society said they preferred indoor-only but had zero problem with our methods.

          2. Cath in Canada*

            I think part of it is simply that there’s more wildlife in North America that might harm a cat – raccoons and coyotes pretty much everywhere, and even bears and cougars (my sister-in-law lives in a pretty well-developed part of North Van, and she’s had a bear in her garden several times). Urban foxes in the UK don’t seem to have the same reputation for killing pets.

            We’ve reached a compromise – our cats are allowed out during daylight hours, when we’re home and can leave the back door open. They are giant cowards – they don’t roam far, and they run back into the house if they see so much as the tip of a raccoon’s tail. I’m aware that letting them out even a little bit might very well reduce their life expectancy a bit, but I think keeping them in would reduce their quality of life as they do really enjoy being outside. One in particular gets quite stressed when weather and darkness keep her penned up inside all week in the winter.

            1. fposte*

              And then in Australia they want the cats inside because of what they do to the wildlife, not the other way around.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Here, you have to protect your dog from coyotes, and coy-dogs. Another friend recently had her dog killed by a coy-dog. The Department of Environmental conservation releases coyotes and sets the stage for all the drama.

              Life expectancy of an outdoor cat here is one year. This is in part due to the harshness of our winters.
              Farmers favor outdoor cats for rodent control. Others go the opposite way and favor indoor cats. Our few cat shelters are fill beyond capacity. Some vets will do free or low cost spay/neuter on feral cats.

            3. Sibley*

              Yeah, I have 2 indoor-outdoor cats, and I can’t change it. There are raccoons, possums, and coyotes outside, and I’m right by a forest preserve, so it’s a real risk. I manage the risk by bringing them in when it gets dark.

              The older cat doesn’t go out much anymore, and she bolts inside at the slightest scary thing. The younger cat is fully capable of out running most things, climbing trees, etc, and I’m resigned to the fact that her happiness and quality of life means an increased risk of shortened quantity of life.

            4. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

              There is a big issue in London at the moment about someone(s) who has been going around killing cats and leaving their mutilated bodies about (sorry everyone!). The tally is now up to 100 or so and its heartbreaking to read. Yeah the foxes tend to be pretty big here, but seem less threatening than, say, a raccoon in the US. I would be more worried about my local psychopath at this point :/

              My kitties don’t live with us here yet, but in the US they were proper indoor kitties because we lived by two large roads. We did get them a cat-specific outdoor tent and they had supervised (fenced) yard time, and they were pretty happy with that. Now they live with grandma and grandpa in Sweden where of COURSE you let cats out and oh man, are they in heaven. But its a very quiet neighborhood, limited traffic, and people are very responsible cat owners (Sweden tends to skew more cat than dog Ive noticed). The neighbors pay attention too: Our boy kitty escaped the first summer through a window one night and guy across the street called at 6.30 the next morning to let us know the cat was sitting on top of (where else) the recycling can and since he knew Martin was supposed to be an indoor kitty, thought we should know.

        2. Tris Prior*

          When we adopted our cat from a shelter, we had to sign something saying that we’d never let it outside. This is fairly common in my city. (US)

          1. Hellanon*

            Same here (Los Angeles). But, where I live, letting them out is just a vet bill waiting to happen.

            1. Tris Prior*

              Oh yeah, I am in Chicago and no way would I let my cat out. I have seen too many cats hit by cars here. :( And, I’d be worried about her getting into rat poison that people leave out, or eating plants that are sprayed with pesticide, etc.

              1. Windchime*

                I live in a pretty quiet neighborhood and mine isn’t allowed outside either. I can hear plenty of coyotes and owls in the trees just across the street at night; I don’t want him to become another animal’s supper. We also have lots of raccoons, and there is at least one nesting pair of eagles nearby. It’s just not a safe place to let a cat outside. My neighbors’ cat is an outside cat, and she is a pest. She poops in my flower bed and picks fights with my cat through the patio door. Given all the wild animals around, I (sadly) think she won’t last long.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        My outdoor cat wasn’t socialized by her former owner. If she had been mine as a kitten, she’d be a mostly indoor cat and go in and out. But I had no choice in the matter–and she was dumped on me. If I didn’t take her, I knew no one would care for her. So we’re stuck with each other. She lives outside all year round–I have a doghouse for her that gets insulated to death in the winter, a box in which to eat out of the wind, and I worked from home during the Polar Vortex to make sure she was okay in such deep cold (she was).

        She doesn’t roam that far. And she’s nearly 13; her birthday is coming up next month. She mostly sleeps a lot and hangs out in the culvert pipe during hot weather. According to my other neighbor, she’s nowhere near as annoying as the other roaming cats in the neighborhood (there are a lot).

    8. Stopping By*

      I suggest the following collar (not sure how to put a link in, so here it is with spaces): bird be safe dot com
      The collar is bright colors, which the birds can see much quicker than they can see the cat, so there are far fewer bird deaths. Cats are having a major effect on songbird populations so if you could talk your neighbor into trying this . . .
      Past outdoor cat owner.

      1. Betty (the other Betty)*

        Thanks for the info on the collar. It looks like they have studies showing that it works to protect birds, and is kind of cute. It’s at: birds be safe .com (birds plural).

        I don’t know if the OP could give one to the neighbor with any expectation that they would use it with their cat, but if I had a cat I would certainly give it a try.

    9. periwinkle*

      Putting aside the whole indoor/outdoor cat argument…

      We’ve fed ferals in our yard in a previous residence and our current neighbors have outdoor cats. We’ve also always maintained successful bird feeders. They can co-exist!

      First off, even though outdoor cats may stalk and kill birds attracted by the feeder, it’s not wholesale slaughter. The vast majority of birds will be perfectly fine. You’re not inviting them to the Red Wedding.

      If you are concerned about bird safety, use pole-mounted feeders including pole-mounted platform feeders. The latter will attract ground feeders like doves and juncos (birds that cannot perch or cling to tube feeders) that would be at the most risk from cats. We have a couple platform feeders that are at ground level but they are in an open area clear of cover where a predator might lurk. Most of our feeders hang off a multi-arm pole that is far enough away from trees so that the local cats cannot get near the feeding birds. A standalone bird bath is vulnerable but again you can place it away from trees and hiding places to make it less hazardous. If you can, use river rocks to make one side of the bird bath shallow so smaller birds (and bees) can use it.

    10. Momiitz*

      Use cayenne pepper sprinkled around your yard it cheap and non toxic. When the cat gets a smell of it, it will hurt but not injur the cat.

    11. Turanga Leela*

      Thanks, guys. I may try to do the citrus peels and pepper in the yard (although we have high walls around the yard, so I’m not sure if we should put the deterrents on top of them or inside them), and we’ll probably get a water gun to keep away any cats we see. I think you all are probably right that there’s no productive way to raise this with my neighbor.

  5. nep*

    The photo, as usual, is a.dor.a.ble.
    And your book reviews are great, Alison. So nicely put. You’ve certainly got a flair.
    Timing has it that neighbours on each side of our house (directly next-door) are moving during the next couple of weeks. So, a whole set of new neighbours at once. May they be quiet, decent people with no horrible, violent dogs.

    1. fposte*

      Fingers crossed for you. I have several lovely neighbors who are getting up in years and I want them to stay in their homes forever.

      1. nep*

        Indeed — I know what you mean. We have been quite fortunate as far as neighbours go. May that trend continue.

        1. Ultraviolet*

          I’ve always been afraid of buying a home in the future (it’s not in the cards right now) because of the possibility of getting stuck in a bad neighbor situation. My family had several when I was growing up.

          I hope your new neighbors will be great!

          1. Windchime*

            I had a bad neighbor situation when I bought my first house. That experience taught me that neighborhoods which seem quiet and nice during the day can have a whole different vibe at night. Like, the quiet house next door can be a party house for a bunch of single young men on the weekend. Or the quiet little unassuming house on the other side can really be a meth lab that only operates at night.

            When you do find a house you’re interested in, make sure to visit the house late at night. When I was looking to get out of the the Neighborhood from Hell, I would get in my car at midnight or 1 AM and drive to the new, potential neighborhood and just sit there and observe for awhile. Do this on a weekday night and a weekend night. It’s not foolproof, but there are things I would have known about the bad neighborhood before I moved in if I’d done this.

            1. nep*

              Hey — good idea. As you said, not foolproof, but certainly could provide some crucial information.

  6. anon in a hot apartment*

    I moved into my new apartment this fall and I was in such a rush to move out of a bad situation that I didn’t think twice about certain things in the new apartment – like ventilation and how hot it would be in the summer. The apartment is a heat trap and there’s only one window I can use for an air conditioner (the bedroom is in the basement with no windows and the upstairs has street level windows that are nailed shut and one small window above the door that I can open for some ventilation).

    I want to put an air conditioner in the window, but it’s right near the gas stove and I don’t know if that’s dangerous or okay? The window is the only other exit point aside from the door in case of a fire. Gas stoves make me really nervous and I don’t want to put in an air conditioner if it’s going to cause damage or anything. I’ve tried a lot of fans for the few hot days we’ve had already and they don’t do much.

    I drew a wonderful MS Paint picture of the location of the stove in relation to the window: http://oi68.tinypic.com/2lu29t2.jpg

    Does anyone think having an air conditioner so close to a gas stove is actually dangerous? The space between the stove and the window is about 1.5 feet.

    1. Amber Rose*

      You can also try a free standing AC unit. We had one in our sauna of an apartment. It had a little hose you stuck in the window and then the unit could be moved around a bit.

      As a side note, be cautious of the basement bedroom thing. Having no windows in a bedroom usually violates fire codes.

      1. MillersSpring*

        Yes, I believe that a room has to have a window and a closet before it can be called a bedroom.

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          In addition, the windows must be of a certain size in order to be up to code. Any you need to be able to open them.

      2. Noah*

        There is a show on HGTV, Income Property, that is always sticking bedrooms in basements. Even if there is a window in the bedrooms they show, they never look large enough to qualify for egress. I’ve always assumed that Canadian rules are different or there is some other loophole I’m not aware of. I’m certainly not a building inspector though.

    2. nep*

      Sounds like a fire hazard. I don’t know that I’d want to block a window that is the only exit other than the door. Perhaps the free-standing unit is the best option.

    3. Cath in Canada*

      My sympathies. We used to live in a heat-trap apartment and I hated it. (My husband lived there by himself when I met him, and I moved in later. The rent was super cheap so we put up with it for a few years while we saved for a down payment on our own place). It was above a pizza restaurant, so we had oven heat coming up from below and heat from the sun coming through the skylights. We couldn’t leave the windows open when we weren’t home because it wasn’t a safe neighbourhood. It baked in there and we spent most of our summer evenings eating and hanging out in a local park rather than at home! We had a window fan and two upright fans, and a spray bottle of water by the bed to cool ourselves down at night. I hope you find a way to get some relief!

    4. Lizabeth*

      Is your apartment up to code? A basement bedroom should have an exit besides the door and windows shouldn’t be nailed shut.

      1. YaH*

        That’s exactly what I was wondering. If you’re in the US, I don’t think your apartment would pass a fire inspection.

      2. TootsNYC*

        yeah, those nailed-shut windows are a problem. I get that you don’t want people coming in, but that’s what security gates are for.

        So if it’s not up to code, you could line up a new place, then call in the violation and get out of the lease without penalty.

        Also–if you have the upstairs as an option for living space, you could put your bedroom there. (since your kitchen is in the basement, maybe you don’t have first-floor space?)
        There’s no law that says you can’t switch the use of the rooms around.

        1. anon in a hot apartment*

          There’s no way I have money to move to a new place at the moment. Not with moving costs + first/last/security. That probably won’t be an option for another year.

          The kitchen is in the first floor and it’s so hot during warm weather that I don’t think sleeping there would be an option.

    5. LisaLee*

      I would try contacting your landlord and asking that the nailed-shut windows be un-nailed. There’s no real reason to do that, and it’s dangerous in case of a fire. I don’t think that there should be any problem with having the air conditioner unit by the stove, but it also sucks to block your only window, and one working window is not ideal for ventilation.

      If your landlord resists fixing the problem, contact the city’s housing office. My city was extremely helpful when I had problems with an apartment. They won’t kick you out of the apartment even if its not totally up to code, but they will apply pressure to the landlord to fix things.

      1. anon in a hot apartment*

        I’ll probably ask to un-nail the windows, but they’re street level and they have grates, so it wouldn’t be that helpful in case of a fire. It’s a really old neighborhood, so a lot of apartments are like this in the city.

    6. LadyTL*

      I rent a room that is a pretty big heat trap and can’t have AC. What I do it have lots of fans and use ice packs rotated out (at night and when we are at work we pile a few in front of all the fans). That actually seems to work pretty well at helping with the heat buildup. You can also fill metal water bottles up with water most of the way and freeze them for bigger cooler ice packs as well.

  7. nep*

    Just ordered a pair of ‘thinoptics’ reading glasses today, with that sleek carrying case that sticks anywhere. A colleague at work showed me a pair she’d just gotten — pulling them out of this thin pocket on the side of her phone. So handy. Anyone use these?

      1. nep*

        I put my colleague’s pair on and wow. Light, comfortable, stays in place. Just enough as needed. If the pair I ordered works out as well as I think it will, I’ll end up ordering a couple more — for the car, desk at home, phone…
        I really like when people develop smart, useful things like this.

      2. Me2*

        I googled them too. These would not keep my hair out of my face which is the ancillary purpose of having reading glasses for me, the reading glasses headband.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I like that they are so thin I could put them in/on my phone case. I have one of those cases like a small wallet, with space for a few cards, and I like to put my phone and my card in there sometimes and leave my heavy-ass purse at home.

  8. Amber Rose*

    We’re hosting a dude with diabetes next weekend. Anything I should provide/get rid of for his stay? I don’t know much about diabetes honestly. I did ask him too but haven’t heard back.

    Side update and question: I bought my sword! I’ll see it in about two months, since it’s currently being forged by a master smith in Japan. The question is, how/what does one name a sword? It has a wicker and pine tree theme, a blue wrap and a blue sheath.

    And next year we go off probation for the convention which means that I’ll be able to wear it freely as I walk around and that’s just so cool. Like a real samurai. :D

    1. katamia*

      I don’t think you need to do anything special for the guy with diabetes unless he says he really wants X around or really doesn’t want Y around. Dietary preferences vary so much by person. My diabetic family members eat a lot of nuts as snacks, but, well, they like nuts. If this guy doesn’t or if he’s allergic to nuts, getting him nuts won’t help at all. It’s great that you’ve already asked (and if you don’t hear back within a couple more days, maybe try asking one more time just to confirm he got the message with your original question), but people manage (or don’t manage) their diabetes in such different ways that it’s best to just go off what he says and his preferences to the extent that you can.

    2. LizB*

      Everyone I know with diabetes is good at managing their symptoms/levels on their own, and doesn’t need much in the way of special consideration. Maybe have some orange juice in the house in case of emergencies? But I’d guess that he probably travels with a stash of glucose tablets or similar, plus all the other medications and monitors he’s going to need. It’s possible he has dietary restrictions, but he’s the only one who’ll know those details, since they’re different for every person.

      I have no sword name ideas but it sounds SO COOL! :D

    3. Gene*

      I don’t think the Japanese have a tradition of naming swords. So the best name is probably “my katana (wakazashi, yoroidōshi, or whatever type it is)”.

      1. Amber Rose*

        We’re not too hung up on tradition. The senior student in our class named hers and I figured it would be fun to name mine.

    4. Lizzie*

      Historically, Japanese swords were only named in common practice to distinguish them from other blades made by the same smith. In the majority of cases this was simply done by putting the name of the original owner before the name of the swordsmith (i.e. Kanze Masamune, a Masamune sword gifted to Tokugawa Ieyasu by the Kanze family who originally commissioned it and therefore were the first owners), but sometimes it had to do with a particular characteristic. More notorious blades received later names because of their owner’s reputation or incidents in which the blade was involved. Contemporary swordsmiths don’t name their blades at all and would likely find it to be extremely odd.

      1. Amber Rose*

        It’s just a training sword. Dull as anything and impossible to sharpen. The naming would just be for fun, for use in class.

        1. QualityControlFreak*

          My first sword was a shortsword named Half-pint. We still have her. A sword that was made for me is named Wolfsong, for its maker and the sound it makes moving through the air. I was thinking I haven’t named my kindjals, so I just (now) decided to go with Thing 1 and Thing 2. ;)

    5. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      I am a type 2 diabetic. Asking him is the first thing to do. As someone else said, asking him and asking this forum is extremely considerate of you. Just taking his needs into consideration shows you are a wonderful person. On behalf of all diabetics, I thank you.

      Try not to go overboard on the sweets while he is there. I am not saying that you have to rid your house of everything sweet, but don’t have the typical Thanksgiving spread of cakes, pies, brownies, cookies, ice-cream, etc. available for dessert and snacks. If you want to have something sweet, consider either a low-sugar or sugar-free version of it. If you know that he drinks soft –drinks, get some diet ones. If you don’t have it in your house already, just buy a small package of Splenda or something similar (just not the pink stuff). Fresh fruit for snacks would be nice.

      Next, if you want to go this far (and no one would blame you if you didn’t) cut down on the carbs while he is there. If you are cooking, include more protein than carbohydrates in your meals. For example, for breakfast, instead of cinnamon rolls, bagels, cereals, or something similar, go for the eggs and sausage if you are into those things. For a lighter breakfast, get some Greek yogurt.

      You don’t have to go overboard, just try and give him some options.

      Again, thank you on behalf of all diabetics.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Try not to go overboard on the sweets while he is there. I am not saying that you have to rid your house of everything sweet, but don’t have the typical Thanksgiving spread of cakes, pies, brownies, cookies, ice-cream, etc. available for dessert and snacks.

        On that note, definitely don’t decide that bagels are a great thing to provide for breakfast. They’re extremely high in sugar (carbs).

      2. Amber Rose*

        Oh that’s easy then. I can’t handle sugar in the morning and I’m not big on sweets generally anyway so I pretty much only do eggs and meats for breakfast. I’m not sure what’s happening for evening meals yet but I’m sure I can work that out with him.

        I’ll stock some diet soda and a little juice. And pick up some grapes and such.

        Thanks for the advice. I take hosting seriously, I want people to feel at home.

    6. Ruth (UK)*

      I don’t know about sword names but I have named my axe… Its name is ‘toothpick’ because the axe head is a bit smaller than people might expect and I had a few jokes made that it was like a little toothpick…

    7. Misc*

      Based on a friend with diabetes, you don’t need to do much, as he’ll be on top of managing it (or not, but if not, you can’t help that!) but be aware that:

      – he probably needs to eat at regular specific times
      – all carbs = sugar, so just offering ‘healthy’ bread or something instead of white bread and cake won’t help much, but making sure there are some not-totally-sugar options around will make it easier for him
      – otherwise, just make sure he has what he needs, and assume he’ll have dietary preferences like anyone else

      (possible stuff to figure out for your own comfort: will he need to inject insulin in front of you and can you be non-weird? what does a hypoglycemic crash look like?)

  9. Kyrielle*

    So, as I said earlier this week, how about a thread for folks on (or about to try) a low FODMAP diet? Favorite resources, recipes, products, advice?

    Commiseration for how much it limits your food? Discussion of the ups and downs?

    Go to phrases or orders at restaurants? Anything you’ve found to be a reasonably safe order?

    Please keep in mind that everyone’s sensitivities vary and what works for you may not work for me and vice versa, so take all recommendations with a grain of salt. (Good thing salt had no FODMAPs.)

    I will try to add my recipes later, I’m posting this from a family outing and I don’t have them handy on my phone. :)

    1. Kyrielle*

      Nicer Foods – https://nicerfoods.com/low-fodmap-food-shop/ – has low-FODMAP beef and chicken bouillon, sausage and taco seasoning (I like the taco seasoning; it relies on having their oils, see next), garlic and onion infused olive oils (no flesh left in).

      I don’t find the onion oil as useful as the garlic, since I can use the green parts of white onions for that, but they’re both handy. Even though I tolerate a little garlic, I feel safer using the oil since I really like strong garlic flavor and pushing tolerance isn’t fun.

      Other products I tolerate well that you may or may not:

      Franz Mountain White gluten-free bread (rice based, doesn’t have to be refrigerated or frozen, does well for sandwiches or toast – but it can be slightly sticky chewing compared to regular bread, not too bad)

      Bobo’s oat bars (original, chocolate, lemon poppyseed) – these aren’t targeted at low fodmap but the ingredients list isn’t too bad and I tolerate them well. (They have other flavors, some with nuts I can’t have, some with ingredients that aren’t ideal for low fodmap.)

      Kettle Brand potato chips – if, like me, you have trouble with corn oil, this brand line mostly (entirely?) doesn’t use it. Not a health food, obvs, but health food I can cook at home, and I like them.

      Earth Balance Soy Free substitutes well for butter even in baking, in my experience – but I may be tolerating some ingredients others can’t.

      I need to get home before I have the exact info on the flour I use.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Bob’s Red Mill Organic Brown Rice Flour. (Do they make it non-organic? I don’t care if it’s organic, I just care that I can substitute it for ‘flour’ in most recipes and get away with it.)

      2. TL -*

        Kettle brand uses no corn oil but does use corn starch and some potentially corn derived sugars in their flavored chips.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Good to know – thank you! I only get the sea salt (I don’t like most flavored) so I hadn’t read the ingredients for the others.

          1. TL -*

            No problem! I am pretty well informed on the corn status of most foods and it’s always nice when it comes in handy for someone else.

    2. Cherylblossom*

      FODMAPPERS unite!

      I just got the $10 Monash university Fodmap app- after 2 years on fodmaps I wasn’t sure if it would be helpful at this stage- but oh my gosh it is!! If anyone is on the fence, hop on over. I love it. Already made some changes for the better.

    3. fposte*

      For reasons neither my GI nor dietician understood, low FODMAP made me much, much worse. I lost about 10 pounds a month on it. (I suspect it was because my SIBO was perfectly happy with FODMAP-legal carbs and I ate more of them than I would have otherwise. So, basically, death by Rice Krispies.)

      But Enteragam has been a huge gamechanger. I’m mostly popping into this thread to mention that, since it still isn’t very widely known and the low FODMAP crowd may well include people who’d be interested.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Oh yes! I’ve heard low FODMAP diet is not good with SIBO, there’s a diet for that and an area of overlap between the two of them. :/

      2. Misc*

        AAARGH rice … I spent ages hunting through local supermarkets looking for some very basic rice pops cereal that didn’t have sugar in (because fructose sets off my IBS like whoa if there’s too much of it >.<). BUT NO. Even the 'FODMAP/digestion friendly/fruit free' fancy cereals have loads of nuts and seeds and golden syrup and sugar in – I can tolerate them on good weeks, but not at all during a flareup.

        Sorry, you mentioned rice, and it triggered flashbacks :D

        (I lost about 10kg in 2 months when I went 'sugar' free, but the IBS didn't go away at all until I went fructose free – it just meant that the fructose-triggered hypoglycemia got really noticeable. The weight loss stopped once I got stuff balanced).

        1. Kyrielle*

          Ugh. Yes. I’m lucky in that I tolerate a bit of added sugar pretty well. I suspect I’d do better without it, but getting that out of my diet is such a nightmare. :(

          1. Misc*

            Yeah. It was REALLY hard – I’d be down to just the odd hot chocolate at cafes and not policing ingredients TOO closely and it still wasn’t enough.

            Tip: glucose powder. If it’s a digestion issue, pure glucose should be fine and it helps act as a substitute sweetener AND helps smooth out the blood sugar issues that can come with cutting too much sugar/carbs. (…I eat a spoonful whenever I’m feeling crashy – when I first found it, I just sat there eating spoonful after spoonful and did get a bit worried, but turns out, it doesn’t actually create cravings, I was just REALLY low on blood sugar).

            1. moss*

              I had to cut out sugar and flour, including most fruits. It was very very difficult but the results as far as cutting down on pain and discomfort were totally worth it.

    4. Torrance*

      My stepfather was on that last year to rule out dietary causes for a major health issue and the best piece of advice he got was to laminate and carry a chart in his wallet that listed suitable foods. Transitioning was incredibly difficult, not only because he had to give up his favourite foods, but he struggled with trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t. I think he used the Stanford list but, from what I remember when I was doing research, there is a wide variety available.
      That suggestion probably won’t be helpful to anyone who is already on and committed to the diet but I thought it was worth mentioning.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yes, very true! Also for those with smart phones, there are apps – Monash University has one that is one of the better – or you can just haul up the Stanford pdf.

      2. fposte*

        Kate Scarlata’s blog has a PDF shopping list for this very purpose. Just go to katescarlata dot com and look under FODMAP Resources.

      3. Wendy*

        I’m on strict fodmap too (plus low residue for crohns) and my nutritionist suggested this too – I find it a really helpful perspective shift to think of things in terms of ingredients I can eat

    5. Soupspoon McGee*

      I did it about 3 years ago, and I found I didn’t tolerate wheat, onions, apples, or watermelon. I already knew dairy was an issue. But! I am happy that I can eat green beans, squash, and potatoes. The first year was really frustrating because I focused on what I couldn’t eat. I learned that I can eat a little of the irritating food if I’m really careful (so, a thin-crust veggie pizza is okay if I take plenty of lactase pills), but if I combine a little of everything irritating, I’ll be sorry.

      I like the Hungry Hippie (vegan, low-FODMAP) http://www.hungryhungryhippie.com/.

    6. Kyrielle*

      Sources I use for FODMAP info and recipes:

      Monash University app, and the Stanford page. (For those who don’t know, the FODMAP research started at Monash, and in the US Stanford is heavily involved also, so those make great resources.)

      I just found this site and haven’t started looking closely: http://thefodmapfriendlyvegan.com/ (I’m not a vegan, but given that I can’t tolerate lactose -at all- even to hard cheese, I’m hoping I’ll find some good vegetable recipes here.)

      I was recently pointed to http://www.northsouthfood.com/and have just started exploring.

      I swear I have other links but where they are I’m not sure.

    7. Kyrielle*

      Recipe: Low FODMAP meatloaf. (Yes, some of the juices will end up out of the meat. If you want to add gluten-free bread crumbs of some sort that you like and can tolerate, feel free? But this worked pretty well for me.)

      I’m lazy, so I Googled this and found: http://www.paleorunningmomma.com/pre-race-food-easy-paleo-and-low-fodmap-meatloaf/

      And then, because I’m lazy, I further adapted it. What I did:

      2 pounds ground turkey
      1 whole egg
      1/4 tsp salt*
      2-3 tsp Italian seasoning**
      1 tsp dried chives

      Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix ingredients thoroughly. Spray a 9×5 baking pan and press mixture into it, pressing down a bit more in the center. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes / until no longer pink in the center. (I think I overcooked this slightly. I don’t think it actually mattered. It was wonderful.)

      * I was quite happy with this amount but you should be aware that I often find tasty what others call bland, and adjust your recipe accordingly. The original called for 3/4 tsp.

      ** I didn’t have poultry seasoning handy and I couldn’t find any at the store that was looked low FODMAP. As it happens, I’m glad I couldn’t find it. Best substitution is best. I don’t WANT poultry seasoning. I used McCormick’s Italian mix. Since this already had oregano and basil, I added more than 2 but less than 3 teaspoons and called it good. It was.

    8. Kyrielle*

      Recipe: Low FODMAP take-off of Qdoba pulled pork.

      So, I love Qdoba’s pulled pork. And honestly I tolerate it pretty well. But I confess to a desire to make it at home, and why would I _not_ convert it closer to low FODMAP?

      So, I got the recipe I started with here: http://qdobaathome.blogspot.com/2013/04/pulled-pork.html

      And I did this:

      3 pounds pork*
      1 bunch green onions, green portion, chopped
      0-2 Poblano chilies, cut into thin strips**
      2 Jalapeños, seeded and minced
      0-2 Anaheim or Hatch green chilies, cut into thin strips**
      2 cups tomatillos, husked, cut into large chunks
      garlic-infused olive oil (maybe 2-3 tsp?)
      2-2.5 teaspoons salt
      1/2 teaspoon black pepper

      Wash and cut onions, tomatillos, and peppers. Place in bottom of crock pot. Place pork on top of vegetables. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic-infused oil.

      Turn crock pot on low and cook for a minimum of six hours. (Per the original recipe, if your crock pot has a high setting you can cook on high for the first two hours, but don’t leave on high too long as pork will become tough.)

      After six hours, shred pork with tongs or forks, removing any fat prior to shredding.

      * I have used carnitas and shoulder roast at different times; pork chops reportedly also work.

      ** To get as strong a flavor as the restaurant, use two of each. If you’re a fan of less heat, reduce the number of peppers.

    9. Kyrielle*

      What’s your favorite FODMAP-friendly trick? Do you like quinoa, and what do you serve it with?

      What vegetables do you manage to make tasty and pleasant and low-FODMAP? Fruits? Desserts?

      (Am I the only one who orders things as a lettuce wrap to avoid the question of what’s in the “gluten free” bread options, which sometimes have some other grain I also can’t deal with?)

      1. Liza*

        Oh, the other things in gluten-free bread! This afternoon I went to a restaurant that has a whole gluten-free menu. When I asked for the gluten-free menu they brought me a GF dinner roll… which had onion in it and scattered across the top. (They did a great job of working with me to figure out something I could eat, though! I found a salmon dish that looked safe except for the possibility of garlic or onion in the sauce; the server talked to the cook who said there was garlic in the sauce, but they could make me something similar without the sauce, and just do a (non-garlic) herb rub on the fish. It was delicious!)

      2. fposte*

        Baby spinach salad with grated Parmesan and, if I’m feeling meaty, prosciutto, with lemon and olive oil dressing. The Organic Girl baby spinach comes prewashed and you just smack a handful in a bowl, grate and dribble, and you’re ready to go.

      3. Kyrielle*

        Chicken nuggets – adapt recipes by rolling in (cooked) quinoa, instead of in flour or bread crumbs. Anything that’s supposed to be breaded and crunchy, you might consider this for – not sure it would work for all of them, but worth thinking about. (I did ground turkey once, with food-processor-shredded carrots and spinach mixed in, and quinoa coated. And some spicing and other stuff, but. FODMAP friendly, yummy, and sneaky nutrition. Is it still sneaky if everyone knows it’s there?)

    10. Liza*

      (Since someone else might search in the page for “IBS” to find this thread, like I did, I am adding this sentence with the word IBS in it.)

      I’ve been doing low FODMAP just since last summer, and I’ve found a way of eating that works for me but isn’t very nutritions, I’m afraid. I know there are all kinds of great low FODMAP recipes out there, but I don’t like to cook! Here are the things I eat most often when I’m at home:

      * Lightly salted rice cakes with cheddar cheese melted on them (or occasionally some other kind of cheese, but usually cheddar)
      * Rice cakes with canned sardines
      * Food Should Taste Good blue corn tortilla chips, often with sardines and some goat cheese (this one is pushing it a little, I think the goat cheese has some lactose left in it)

      Away from home, my most common meal is a sandwich of Glutino gluten-free seed bread, mayonnaise, lettuce, provolone cheese, and tuna salad at the deli near my work. The woman who runs the deli lets me keep a loaf of bread there! I really appreciate that.

      1. Kyrielle*

        That deli sounds awesome! If you don’t want ideas for making it more nutritious without having to do much if any real cooking, stop here, as the rest of this is thoughts on that. (But again, yay for an awesome deli!)

        Easy ways to add a bit more nutrition without a whole lot of extra work: baby carrots (pre-washed, etc.), bell peppers (a store near me sells them pre-sliced), salad mix with lettuce/cabbage/radish, smoothies with only FODMAP-safe foods (spinach, any tolerable fruits). I’m a serious fan of a handful of blueberries or a small banana.

        I have learned how to cook rice and quinoa in small amounts in the microwave. I’m…actually disturbingly fond of a can of tuna, a half-cup of rice, a bunch of spinach, and a bunch of mayonnaise mixed together. This is not exactly good food, but hey, it has some vegetable content and I like it….

        Do you tolerate orange juice okay? I do, as long as I don’t have more than a cup or so of it.

        A BLT on gluten-free bread is also a good bet – and you can get pre-cooked bacon that you heat and toss on.

        For the goat cheese, if it seems to give you trouble but is borderline, a lactase pill might help with that. (Mine is bad enough I’ve mostly stopped, but I do sometimes still have a bit of a sweet and just take a pill.)

        Many restaurants can adjust as Liza notes above, too, and as you try to reintroduce foods and find what you’re most sensitive to, you may also gain the ability to just order off the menu in some. (It depends. If garlic is a major problem for you, then probably not….)

        1. paramilitarykeet*

          We have a rice cooker, and it is so easy to make quinoa ( or any grain for that matter, like faro, barley, etc) on the semi- brown setting. It comes out flawless every time, and I don’t have to watch over it. Huge time–and effort–saver.

          1. Kyrielle*

            I’ve never wanted to have to store and clean an extra thing for that when I can do it with what I have, but these days I cook rice and quinoa a lot more than I used to! Any advice on type to get? Is it easy to clean? (I don’t suppose you can chuck the food-contact portions in the dishwasher, which is sort of my favorite thing….)

        2. Liza*

          Thanks, Kyrielle! Those suggestions sound tasty and workable, I’ll have to incorporate some of them into my meals.

    11. Misc*

      Search for ‘fructose malabsorption’ – while it’s possible you (generic you) might have no problem with fructose, it does seem to be behind a lot of IBS cases, and every fructose friendly recipe is *almost* guaranteed to be IBS-friendly (some mix and match with lactose and fructans because not everyone has the same limitations, but it’s much, much safer as a rule than just generic ‘IBS/fodmaps recipes’ and they tend not to be too heavy on the other FODMAPs).

      For example, I love this site: https://nourishbyashlyn.com/recipe-index/

      I recently realised I was intolerant to all the FODMAPs and have ALWAYS been fructose intolerant (…malabsorbent?), so this was a huge eye opener – I have always, always had apparently random dislikes and am one of the pickiest eaters ever and suddenly there’s a REASON I hate most cooked veges (for example, I always had to have ‘white’ pizzas because I couldn’t stand cooked tomato anything) and onions and lentils and ripe bananas and just this long list of stupid things that seem unrelated at a first glance. I’ve had to cut some foods I actually like, which I spent years trying to avoid doing because my diet is so limited, but it’s made a huge difference already.

      The biggest problem I had when going fructose free so my stomach could heal was the massive energy crash + headache that lasted for two weeks until I realised the internet was mistaking carb cutting for ‘sugar withdrawals’ and I found a pot of glucose powder and started eating that (it’s like sugar! but sugar that doesn’t give me cravings or depression or days of fatigue or stomach problems or hypoglycemic crashes!).

      Current staple meals tend to be:

      – rice (soaked overnight beforehand really helps – I have brown rice for extra nutrients, but it’s harder on the stomach without soaking) + stock, peas, tuna, chicken, very minor amounts of other veges as available
      – gluten free pasta (usually rice based) + avocado and a little cheese (feta/cheddar), or with tuna and herbs.
      – gluten free bread (locally, I don’t really like Vogels, but I love the Liberte brand for toasting)
      – marmite
      – eggs from my chickens (as long as I don’t eat too many – a couple a day is ok)
      – porridge in smallish amounts
      – chia seeds (again, small amounts – half a cup) soaked overnight with lots of cocoa stirred through
      – chips from a couple of ‘known’ safe food places (tolerance varies with the amount eaten, the type of potato, and how they cook it) (I can have the odd roast potato too, but I usually save that for visiting the parents as it’s too much bother to cook for such small amounts).

      Sweet stuff:

      – dutch processed cocoa. It’s much less bitter, so tastes much chocolatier and doesn’t need lots of sweetening. You can also make replacement chocolate with coconut oil + cocoa (warning: acquired taste, so I love it but people who still can eat normal chocolate hate it).
      – rice syrup or just pure glucose. Rice syrup used to taste bland but now tastes like honey to me.
      – beware sugar free sweeteners. Once I realised Sorbitol was the devil, I had to go on a massive hunt for a sorbitol free toothpaste. THIS WAS WAY HARDER THAN IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN.

    12. Cherylblossom*

      Ack! There are so many things I want to add to this thread! I’ve become such a good cook because of the Fodmap diet. Sadly I’m doing like a bajillion hours of OT at the moment for an imminent deadline. I’m hoping we can continue this convo another week so I can contribute more!!

      1. Kyrielle*

        Sympathy on the OT! When you get out from under it and feel like writing this up, if we don’t already have a thread for it that week in the open thread, feel free to launch one – I look forward to it!

  10. matilda*

    So, um…this is super embarrassing but I was reading this blog before bed a few nights ago with a glass of wine or two and I ended up having a dream about Alison. She lived in an apartment upstairs from a huge, old library. But you had to take an elevator to get there. She sort of lived this double life where she would give people advice as one person, then change back into herself (?). There were these big armchairs where you would sit if you needed to talk to her about your problem. For some reason I sat there but I wouldn’t talk. I just kept reading a book I had checked out from the library that was written entirely on little cards stuffed inside two halves of a coconut.

    Then things got kind of creepy. I went to her apartment one day and realized the door only worked from the inside. The outside didn’t have a doorknob or anything. I took that to mean that Alison never left and could probably lock you in there if she wanted to. I got scared that she was trying to kidnap me and then I woke up.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Every part of this is awesome, from me living above an old library, to my weird transformation from advice-giver back to me (that one is pretty accurate), to the coconut book, to my never leaving the apartment, to you ending up scared I might kidnap you. I love this.

      1. Allison Mary*

        Hahaha! The dream itself is fantastic and Alison’s response is even more fantastic!

      2. matilda*

        Ha — thanks for not banning me! I was so weirded out by my own self I almost didn’t post.

      3. Rahera*

        The coconut book is wonderful.

        I’ve always wanted to make one of those secret hollowed-out books you keep things in, but I haven’t found one with the right title yet. :D

    2. S0phieChotek*

      Thanks for sharing!
      If I had to be kidnapped by someone, AAM is now on my list of acceptable…

    3. GH in SoCAl*

      Once you enter Alison’s space, it IS genuinely hard to leave! There’s always Just One More coconut card to read.

    4. Buggy Crispino*

      This is great and I also laughed out loud when I got to the part about the coconut.

      I think I might have posted about it at the time, but I dreamed about this group and Alison a year or so ago. She was hosting an AAM gathering in her home, which was an old converted 747 plane (or something like it.) Alison’s husband thought it was funny to fire up the plane/house and take all the unsuspecting visitors for a ride. We must all have some crazy ideas about Alison’s home life.

      1. StillHealing*

        I laughed out loud two when I read, “book I had checked out from the library that was written entirely on little cards stuffed inside two halves of a coconut.” Matilda, your mind is very creative while you dream!

    5. Windchime*

      OMG, the coconut book is hilarious. As is the idea of Alison, the gentle lady who shares cat pictures with us and gives polite, professional scripts being a secret kidnapping librarian.

  11. Kay*

    I just booked my honeymoon! A cruise of Baltic sea capitals for 10 days, in August. I am so far beyond excited it’s ridiculous.

    So, tell me things to see and do in: Copenhagen, Berlin, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki. (We’ve got Stockholm covered, my husband has family there.) Special emphasis on Copenhagen, since we’ll be there for 3 days.

    We are both huge history buffs (I work in museums), he’s a big craft beer drinker, we’re both able-bodied and love to walk & hike. We’re both fairly experienced travelers so can navigate public transit, etc.

      1. Christine*

        For Berlin: Brandenburger Tor as the most shown sight of the City, Checkpoint Charlie for the history of the City, Kadewe for shopping
        Potsdam with Sansoucci is too much for one day, but my favourite. Eat a Currywurst and drink Fassbrause.

        1. ZSD*

          Sansouci is beautiful. If you can swing it, go to the opera or a theater while in Berlin; it’s the theater capital of Europe.

        2. Christine*

          And don’ t forget the Reichstag for architecture and Museumsinsel if you are into paintings.

          There are bus tours and guided tours available in Englisch. Don’ t expect to see much from the Wall.

        3. Cath in Canada*

          The Pergamon museum in Berlin is one of the single most impressive things I’ve ever seen in my whole life. They have a full-scale reconstruction of the Babylon city gates, a Greek temple, and other amazing things. It’s on Museum Island – my parents went to some of the other museums there too, and said there were some great ones but that the Pergamon was the stand-out.

          1. Artemesia*

            We were heading to Berlin last fall when we learned the Pergamon is closed for years for renovation. I saw it in 1961 two weeks before it disappeared behind the Berlin Wall and it remains the most impressive museum experience of my life so I wanted to revisit it. Of course at that time it was the first great museum I had ever been to. We went to Prague instead; will go to Berlin when it re-opens.

          2. paramilitarykeet*

            I love the Pergamon! It has a piece of the Ishtar Gate in it! Beautiful, deep blue tiles. Brings back happy memories of young me going to a museum-night there in the late ’90s.

    1. fposte*

      St. Petersburg: walk down Nevsky Prospect in the late evening sun. Go to the St. Peter and Paul Church, burial site of more tsars and grand duchesses than you can shake a stick at. Church of the Spilled Blood is pretty amazing (interior is almost entirely mosaic art) and has lots of little stalls around the square if you want to shop. You could spend your whole visit at the Hermitage and never run out of things to look at.

      And I too think this sounds fantastic.

    2. Cristina in England*

      Christine mentioned KaDeWe for shopping in Berlin and I agree totally, but you must must MUST go to their food hall, it is the most amazing thing. Seriously it is incredible. Google image search “KaDeWe food hall”, you won’t be disappointed.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      I went to Copenhagen over Easter, it’s a really nice city do t bother with the zoo it’s very very depressing the enclosures are nothing more than concrete bunkers and the animals I saw looked very depressed.

      The old Carlesberge brewery is quite nice, the Royal place and cathedral are also worth going to see. The changing of the guard is good if you get a chance to catch that.

      The mermaid statue was good I’m glad I went to see that (the walk to opera house and catheridal from the statue is pleasant)

      There are some good galleries and museums but I didn’t get a chance to see many of them.

      As for Berlin there’s a curry wurst museum I liked, check point Charlie and the attached museum is worth going to and museum island is really good

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Oh and in Berlin you can visit the parliament building but you must boom online first.

    4. ptrish*

      The National Museum of Copenhagen is great and FREE. I always like to start my trips with an introduction to the place I’m in.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Oh! We were in Copenhagen a few years back, and we loved it. We enjoyed walking around everywhere; we were staying a few blocks south of the train station, and walked everywhere I mention below.

      We did the Copenhagen Food Tour, which was a nice way to see a fair amount of the city, and the guide and the food were both amazing. It started and ended in Torvehallerne Market, which we wound up eating in every day we were there. It’s a great place to eat lunch, or to put together some Danish food for a picnic or hotel lunch. It became the home base for a lot of our wandering. Oh, if you don’t start with the food tour, consider a boat trip around the harbor and canals, that’s another good way to see a lot of landmarks and get a feel for the layout of the city. (We like to start many of our visits to a new city with one of those Hop-on Hop-off buses, so we get an overview of the city and get some more ideas of things to do and see, but in Copenhagen, the boats are kind of the equivalent.)

      We went to Rosenborg castle, that used to be where the Danish royal family lived, and it’s got a lot to see, like crown jewels and scepters and orbs, and the old throne room. Kastellet is a huge star-shaped fortress built in 1662, complete with (star-shaped) moat, and it was a nice place to explore.

      Tivoli Gardens is like a combination public park and amusement park — a lot more trees and benches and fountains than US amusement parks. We didn’t really go on any rides, we just wandered around and enjoyed the view, although it’s definitely busier and noisier than I would expect from a public park.

      For food, Aamann’s smorrebrod was so good, we went back and bought a picnic lunch on our last day. Kodbyens Fiskbar (fish bar) is a very nice (and $$$) seafood restaurant, and was one of the best meals I’ve had anywhere.

      Oh, and Norrebro Bryghus is a smaller brewery/brewpub where you can get a tour, taste some samples, and get up close and personal with the beer and the brewers.

      I’ll post some links to these places in a reply, although you can probably Google them.

    6. Artemesia*

      How much time will you have in Petersburg? I spent 9 nights there last fall and am going for 5 more this fall. Loved it. We spent 4 days in the Hermitage. If you have a short one day stop there then Church on Spilled Blood for sure. We also found the Russian Museum wonderful but you may not have time. The Church on Spilled Blood and a bit of the Hermitage may take the time you have. We loved the Mariinsky but the ballet doesn’t premier till late September – don’t know when the season ends. And we loved the Georgian restaurants. (lots of terrible pie shops and cafeterias though; don’t waste your limited time for food on those.) Wonderful city.

    7. New girl*

      In St. Petersburg you have to go to the Hermitage. You could spend literally hours there and still not see everything. I found the Bronze Horseman to be of interest also. Saint Issaacs Catherdal has interesting WWII history. Andddd lastly, Peter the Great’s summer gardens.

      I can’t speak of Saint Petersburgs metro system but the metro stations in Moscow are beautiful!

      Please go to a traditional Russian restaurant and have raspberry and honey blini and think of me.

      1. Artemesia*

        the metro in Petersburg is amazing (it took us over 5 minutes to just go down the escalator it is so deep). It however doesn’t take you anywhere much where tourists want to go; it is primarily about getting suburbanites into the city. Huge stretch between stops. We just walked from our apartment to the Hermitage and other sites in the center of town and to the Mariinsky.

    8. Blue_eyes*

      Lovely! I did a cruise with a very similar itinerary a few years back and it was a fantastic trip! I’m blanking on specific recommendations right now though…

      Tallinn was one of my favorite places we visited. Since you said you’re able to walk and hike, definitely climb up one of the towers along the old city wall. Some of them will charge you to enter and climb up, but there are some free ones too.

      1. JaneB*

        Tallinn is amazing! Seconding the old city wall, there are some excellent little craft workshops in the arches on the inside too, and generally the old city – it’s an excellent place for a wander

        Sounds like a really great trip!

        1. Development Professional*

          Yes! Seconding all the wonderful artisans inside the old city wall. Lots of wools, hand-painted silks. Also, wooden toys and really anything you can think of made of wood.

          Tallinn is a great walking city. Have fun!

    9. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      In Berlin – depending on when you are there and personal interests you may want to check out some of the flea markets around town. We just went last month for the second time and we get a kick out of the Freidrichshain area – sort of hippy/hipster type area (but not to stay in). There is a square called Boxhanger Platz that has a market there on the weekends – this last time we saw a woman in a mobile kuchen van selling about 15 types of kuchen, but previously we’ve seen a lot of antique and vintage sellers. Lots of great, funky restaurants in the area – try The Barn for some of the best coffee and organic breakfast ever (and nearby Cupcake for a really good cupcake!). Also – EXCELLENT funky new designer shopping at Bikini Berlin – a huge indoor mall area. Its near KaDeWe (just up the street) by a bombed out church and the Zoo (don’t waste money on the Zoo as you can actually walk around it, and there are viewing windows from inside Bikini Berlin). What you could do is walk down from the Brandenburger Tor towards the Siegessaule (Victory Column), which will put you into the Winter Gardens, behind the Zoo, and proceed from there to shopping district.

      My partner is big into craft beer but didn’t find too much in Berlin, not sure if that is due to the German purity laws or not, but any beer you get will be tasty.

      Copenhagen – fun city, a lot of people suggest going up the twisty church tower for a good view. The Mermaid is a LOT smaller than you think it will be, but its a lovely setting and worth seeing. I haven’t been there in many years, but its probably my favorite Scandi capital.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        Berlin has museums for pretty much ANYTHING. I really enjoyed the ComputerSpieleMuseum (all about the development of computer games, including some from East Germany). The musical instruments museum is cool, too.

        The Brandenberger Tor is interesting and once you get to that area there’s a lot of walkable history if you have the time and mobility.

        I would not recommend the Checkpoint, it’s a re-creation, basically a tourist trap. If you’re gonna hit a cheesy tourist trap, the Currywurst museum is a better choice: it’s honest about just being a goofy way to get your dough and all my Berliner coworkers are quite proud of it in a silly way. It’s particularly fun if you have kids. Bonus: the Ritter Sport faktory is just down the street.

        If you’re there a Saturday or Sunday, make a brunch reservation somewhere! They do it up right in Berlin!

    10. WIncredulous*

      TV tower and zoo in Berlin! Brandenberger Tor!

      Never been to any of the other cities, so no advice there.

    11. Honeybee*

      Ooh, when I was in Berlin I took a 3-hour walking tour of the city that was focused on WWII history which was my favorite historical period to study. It was amazing! If you’re into history, you’ll want to see Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial, the Jewish Museum, the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag building, the Berlin Wall memorial, the Gendarmenmarkt, Unter den Linden (near the Brandenburg Gate) and the Berlin Catherdal. There’s also a German Historical Museum and a large park called the Tiergarten (don’t remember making to either of those). There are tons of other museums in Berlin. It’s a beautiful city and I really loved my trip there!

      I remember the Berlin public transit being fairly easy to figure out with a map. I had taken some German though, so I felt like it was easier to read.

      And oh, if you love beer – Germany (and the Netherlands and Belgium) were where I first started drinking beer. I hated the taste before that, but when I visited and tasted the beer there I was like “oh, beer can be tasty!”

  12. And Peggy!*

    I’ve noticed over the past few open threads that there are quite a few commenters here who live in the Boston area. I’m wondering if any of you have successfully found roommates in the area, or if you have any tips for finding them (other than craigslist and posting on Facebook).

    Alternatively, any tips on good areas to live in for a young professional are also welcome!

    1. EA*

      I would suggest Craigslist for roommates. If you screen people and are upfront/ask a lot of questions you can have success.

      As for areas. Idk your budget but Somerville is prob a good place to start

      1. And Peggy!*

        I’ve been using craigslist and have had a couple “roommate interviews” from there, I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing some super awesome website for roommate hunting (I really doubted it, but it could be out there?). And my budget is ~$1000/month ($1200 max), which seems like enough to get a fairly decent apartment as long as it’s shared.

    2. Rob Lowe can't read*

      I haven’t looked for roommates here, but everyone I know who lived/lived with roommates found them on Craigslist (or while attending college). If you know people in the area, you might ask them if they know anyone searching for roommates; last year two women I worked with linked up some friends who were new to the area and seeking roommates.

      I lived in Allston and Brighton when I was in graduate school, but I realize those neighborhoods are not attractive to everyone because of the large student population and the not-so-efficient green line. I’d second the suggestion to look at Somerville, I’d think you’re likely to be able to find roommates there as well.

      1. And Peggy!*

        Thanks for the tips! Allston/Brighton is so close to where I’m working, but probably not an area I’d want to live in. I’m glad to hear that Somerville’s alright because that’s where one of the apartments I visited is and it seemed pretty nice, but sometimes it can be hard to tell. And I think I might just make a post on Facebook (despite how much I hate it) because I know I have friends/acquaintances who live here.

    3. ptrish*

      I’m a young professional living in Somerville. I met my roommates on Craigslist. Most leases turn over on September 1. If you’re moving here in early summer, you can often find an apartment looking for someone to sublet for the summer and then sign onto the lease. Or you can sublet for the summer and use that time to look around more and figure out exactly where you want to be. Other areas to look: Cambridge, Brookline, Jamaica Plain. But Somerville is great!

      1. And Peggy!*

        I’m lucky because I’m commuting from my parents’ house in NH right now so I don’t have to find something immediately (though sooner would be better), but I have seen a lot of sublease->lease postings on craigslist, which would be ideal. And thank you for those suggestions, I’ll definitely keep a look out for places in those areas!

        1. ptrish*

          That flexibility is nice! I actually started with a summer sublet, planning to move at the end of it, but then stayed–I was nervous about living with two straight guys (as a gay woman) and turns out they’re super great.

        2. Rob Lowe can't read*

          If you’re working near Kenmore, Brookline would be a good choice. One downside of Brookline is that there’s no street parking overnight so it’s common to have to pay for parking (either as part of your rent or renting a space).

          1. And Peggy!*

            I’ve heard good things about Brookline, but it also seems to be on the more expensive side from the listings I’ve seen. And the parking thing is definitely a drawback (and good to know about since I do have a car).

    4. Alston*

      Despite the name I much prefer living I Cambridge /Somerville than over the river in Boston/Alston /Brighton. Alston is loud, dirty, and full of college students. Brighton is better but a lot of it is far from the T and you’d have to rely on the bus. You should try posting a room/roommates wanted ad too–that way you might be able to find a roommate or two to apartment hunt with. What area are you going to be working/schooling in? Personally I love living near Porter and Davis Square. Close to the T and groceries, and a lot of good restraunts/things to do in walking distance. Also can be decently affordable, for Boston. Most apartments turn over on September 1st so if you want to move sooner you may have to sublet something first. Fortunately with all the college students that is usually pretty easy to find.

      And whatever you do, DO NOT rent/ go through Alpha management (or whatever they are called) apartments are terrible and the owner is known as a Boston slumlord.

      1. And Peggy!*

        I’m working near Kenmore Square, so not terribly far from Cambridge/Somerville. I’m hoping that the person living in the Somerville apartment I saw the other day will pick me, it was really close to Davis Square, affordable, and had a free parking spot (!!!). Honestly, it’s like job hunting all over again, but way more personal (can we get a guide for what to expect/ask in roommate interviews?). And thanks for the warning!

      2. EA*

        I second this. Alpha is terrible and I reported them to the mayors office (when menino had a hotline) due to my shower not working

    5. S0phieChotek*

      When I lived in Boston as I recall I also found my roommates (and the apartment I later rented for 5 years) through Craigslist and my university’s website and–oh church bulletin– a couple churches had online bulletins and I looked to see if they had anyone looking for a roommate and I may have posted to say I was looking for a new situation

    6. SL #2*

      No advice, but I love the username! Given my fandoms of choice, I first went for Marvel’s Peggy Carter and then a split second later, I immediately had The Schuyler Sisters stuck in my head.

      1. And Peggy!*

        I’ve had it stuck in my head for days, hence the username (no complaints though, it’s such a great song)

    1. Gene*

      Best – visiting Mom

      Second best – the wedding and festivities

      Third best – visiting the rest of the family

      Nothing qualified for worst this week.

    2. Jen RO*

      Worst: nothing really, just tired at work.

      Best: I’m currently in Munich on holiday! The weather is worse than I was hoping, but I’m in a foreign country and not thinking about work, so all is well.

    3. Emilia Bedelia*

      Best: It was “spirit week” at work- so, I got to wear jeans, and there were free cookies one day. Mmm :) I also won a meal voucher for the cafeteria at a training session I had to go to, so I’ve got a free lunch saved for a rainy day!

      Worst: I dropped my glass French press (while it was full of coffee, no less…), so no iced coffee this week. Very sad :(

      1. Soupspoon McGee*

        I went through four glass French press inserts before I bought a ceramic one. I love it! It’s held up very well. The only downside is that I cannot see how much coffee is in there.

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          I kept the plunger, so I think I’m going to experiment with all my glasses to see if there’s one that it will fit into. Or I’ll just take it with me to the store to test it out and find a glass it’ll fit in- I’m sure that will make a great impression on the other patrons.
          I didn’t know they made ceramic ones, I will have to investigate

      2. WIncredulous*

        Best: watching the original “Steel Magnolias” (I love the remake, too.)
        Next, going to meet with an indie film crew in Tuesday to film at my work.

        Worst: My grandma died April 12. I’ve been having a hard time.
        I got an awful mole removed on my sternum and I have a week to go with the stitches, they are itchy and awful.

        Last best: I’m going to see “Keanu” on Friday and I can. Not. Wait.

    4. Anxa*

      BEST: I got my glasses
      WORST: I’m worried that they aren’t perfect. I had the typical weird doubly vision at first, cuz I had just gone a month without wearing non-polarized ones, but I’m not loving them at the computer screen.

      Also, I lost my license after taking it out to fill out out an application.

      After locking myself out of a car. I’m really worried about these blunders.

      1. Trixie*

        I do too. I misplaced a library book which I never do and no idea where it is. And just yesterday, I misplaced a flash drive within the distance of maybe ten feet.

        1. Anxa*

          The worst is when you misplace something all of the time, and you never know if it’s real this time. I lost and recovered my flash drive twice in 3 weeks. Then it went missing for another 3.

          I waited weeks for new glasses because I was holding out hope that it was temporary.

          The license? That’s one of those things you lose all of the time. I’m so sad; one of my favorite beers is on tap locally and while I don’t get carded often if I’m with my S.O., I don’t want to risk it. But it’s right there, a few blocks away, and yet my license will not turn up. Thinking of just getting a duplicate Monday.

          Also, I have a cat. So often he’s batted something around the house.

    5. S0phieChotek*

      Best: A friend invited me to dinner and a concert — we went to the concert last night and heard a beautifully sung and conducted concert of Brahms’ Ein Deutshes Requeim

      Worst: I work three jobs at the moment (1 position is seasonal temp thing) and have to still work this weekend

      1. SophieChotek*

        Hmmm got back from working five hour shift…98 cents in tips. Am actually not quite sure how I feel about whether I should expect tips or not….so not trying to start that debate…coffee shop ….

    6. Doriana Gray*

      Best: I’ve been kicking ass at work and taking names, even catching mistakes that long time employees have made that I was able to avoid by being extremely detail-oriented. Got major kudos from my boss on this one because the mistake even slipped by him causing my division to pay out thousand of dollars it shouldn’t have. Also, our Sr. VP took me and a coworker to lunch yesterday afternoon, and I got to pick the place. I think we are beginning to develop a good rapport which will come in useful if I ever need an ally on the executive/officer level.

      Worst: Prince’s death. I have been a huge fan of his since I was three years old (“Kiss” is the first music video I remember seeing), he inspired a lot of the songs I wrote in middle school and high school, and now my little purple unicorn is gone. I found out at work Thursday and struggled to get through the rest of the day without crying (I lost it when I got home). He was the inspiration for just about everything I’ve ever done creatively – I don’t think I’ve been this crushed by a celeb death since Tupac died (another one of my childhood heroes).

      1. Seal*

        As a Minnesotan who came of age in the 80s when the world first became aware of the Minneapolis Sound that Prince helped create, I feel your pain. This is more than the death of a legend – this is a death in the family.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          I love the fact that you guys lit up the bridge in purple for him – that was sweet.

      2. Mimmy*

        I hear you on your worst. If anything ever happened to any of my current or past favorite celebrities, I’d probably be just as crushed.

      3. StillHealing*

        I too am having a hard time dealing with Prince’s passing. Not sure why exactly. I’ve been trying to explain Prince’s music and influence to my son. I’ve been listening to his music so lot these past couple days. It was a big part of my college years. MTV started the first fall I was in college so I watched a lot music videos! I’m watching tonight’s special Saturday Night Live of Prince’s performances over the years. Jimmy Fallon is hosting it.

            1. AnAppleADay*

              Thank you for posting these! Very true, spot on.

              I think some of us had conformity beat into us as young children while originality, spirit and self-expression was beat out of us. Prince not only showed us how to reclaim the parts of us we thought were lost, he gave us the permission we thought we needed.

        1. Mimmy*

          My husband watched that – Prince’s performance at the 40th Anniversary after party was perfect.

          Alison – I saw that article yesterday. Sums it up beautifully. I think I remember its original publication after David Bowie died.

      4. Alston*

        If anyone is in the Boston area the Planetarium is actually doing a Prince show in June. I went to the Bowie one last month and it was really good, and really cathartic. I’d recommend it.

      5. Connie-Lynne*

        Yeah. Celeb deaths have never gotten me before, but when Chyna, Pastor Dick, Prince, and a real-life friend of mine all went in the same day, I kind of gave up.

        Definitely the worst.

        Best was my boss and team at work being understanding about it.

        1. Mimmy*

          Oh yikes, I’m so sorry, especially about your friend :( Wonderful to have a supportive boss and coworkers though.

    7. ptrish*

      Best: my long weekend in Seattle last week was amazing! I kind of want to move there!

      Worst: I broke up with my ex about a month ago and I’ve been seriously regretting it (and how I handled it) lately. I think I need WAY more time…

    8. Elizabeth West*

      WORST: This time last year, I was in London. This year, I am not. *sigh* My British Library reader pass is going to expire…. :(

      BEST: I have something to do tonight so yay. Plus it’s nice out. Though I haven’t been out all day, LOL.

    9. Ruffingit*

      BEST: Date night with husband tonight. I really need it.

      WORST: My sweet puppy got a piece of her ear bitten off by a dog we were going to be fostering for awhile for a friend. Now, we’re not going to foster the dog. We just can’t trust her. My poor baby bled like a stuck pig, it was horrible.

    10. Snazzy Hat*

      Best: Starts out sounding like worst, but I had a good cry with my father as I was freaking out about my job search, general anxiety, cabin fever, and not spending time with my friends (and the added bonus of “they probably don’t like me because I don’t invite them to places or get invited to places with them”). He gave me great advice. This monday he & I are bringing my bicycle to a shop for service. One of my aforementioned friends and I clarified things and made amends; after the semester is over, she and I are doing a photo shoot in a park.

      Worst: I tried to fix my bicycle on my own and found more problems, hence the upcoming trip to the shop.

      Can’t go without mentioning: Prince’s death & Chyna’s death. What the hell.

    11. Raia*

      Best, Got two 16in pizzas from work for free! No one else would take them, and they’re even from a mom and pop place. Blasphemy.
      Worst, my brother feels burnt out at work after only a few months. He flew 6,000 miles and took a pay cut to get there, so it’s kind of devastating and he isnt sure of the direct path to achieve his dream anymore. Sad to see.

    12. knitchic79*

      Work related but here’s mine.
      Best: I got transferred to lead a new and bigger section a couple of weeks ago and a coworker that has had it before said she’s impressed with how terrific it looks.

      Worst: I got transferred to a new section at work and now my brain hurts and I have double the people to keep track of and impostor syndrome is kicking in. Sigh I’m going to go have a bourbon and a cookie. Lol

    13. Trixie*

      Worst then Best: Car wasn’t started on first try which is odd with new battery. With three attempts yesterday morning before it started, I took it to mechanic at lunch. Decided to replace starter.

      Best: Mechanic is three block from work, so I could drop off and walk to work. Entire bill was maybe $250. Even better, my CEL turned off today. Probably the fuel injector fuel I added to non-ethanol gas. We’ll see how long it stays off.
      Second best: Housesitting this last week so space from home was wonderful. Have the house to myself this weekend while family is off on biking tour. Enjoying space and looking for lost library book. (See above.)

    14. ginger ale for all*

      Best – extra hours at one of my part time jobs. The money will be helpful.

      Worst – Prince. Chyna. She won me over when she was on one of those reality shows that had a number of celebrities living together. She led with her heart.

          1. StillHealing*

            The year just seemed to begin with deaths. David Bowe followed by Alan Rickman.(Alan Rickman felt like a huge loss as well) Merel Haggard, another musician died on April 6th.

    15. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      Best: My husband is home from a 2-month deployment, a day early! Unheard of! And in time for our second anniversary on Wednesday! And we have a weekend getaway planned next weekend to celebrate it!

      Worst: Not great news from my dad’s oncologist.

    16. Jillociraptor*

      Best: Fantastic leadership development training yesterday and today that really helped me hone in on how my behavior has been out of whack with my values and strengths lately and helped me clarify how I want to develop next.

      Worst: An applicant to one of my organization’s programs had an extremely negative experience with the application process, and I’m not sure how to address it with the staff involved, or with her directly.

    17. Revanche*

      Best: got a couple hours of sleep this morning after being up half the night ruminating on an exciting new idea.

      Worst: our refi signing didn’t happen and I don’t know when it will be ready :(
      Had heard all good things about SoFi’s student loan refi so tried them and it has been an utterly miserable experience. Far worse than working with my traditional lenders in the past.

    18. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Best: I early “inherited” my mother’s dining room table and china cabinet. It’s all set up and looks so beautiful in my house! Also, because of that, our old table is going to become a craft/board game table in our game room, which prompted my husband to do an AWESOME job cleaning up the game room :-)

      Worst: In preparing for the table to come, I’ve been going through some things and there’s a set of end tables and coffee table I’m planning on getting rid of. When I picked up one of the end tables to move it, the glass insert fell out and split my lip and chipped my tooth a little bit. Did I mention I don’t have dental ins… grrr!

    19. Leeza*

      Best: I live in Israel, and our company closes for Passover, so I’ve got the whole week off!
      Worst: Work was a bit stressful last week since we were trying to finish up things before the break, but that’s all forgotten now. :-)

    20. Misc*

      Best = I repaired a bunch of furniture I’ve been putting off for months
      Worst = depression sucks.

    21. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Best: A co-worker gave me a pair of her season theater tickets that she couldn’t use this weekend, and I took my daughter to see “The Bridges of Madison County”. She almost didn’t come with me because it’s the end of semester and she has three papers due this week, but I was glad that she decided to take a little break and join me.

      Worst: hmm . . . Nothing comes to mind. I wish I didn’t have to work in the spring time when the weather is nice and I’d rather be spending time on my household spring cleaning projects instead of trapped at my desk all day.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I had never read the book nor seen the movie, so I was getting the story for the first time via the play. I thought it was interesting that all the scene changes happened right in the open by crew members dressed as local citizens just pushing the shrubbery, for example, off stage and bringing the staircase onstage.

          1. SophieChotek*

            When done well I like the transparent scene changes.
            saw a production of School for Scandal and Amadeus that both did something similar and it worked well

    22. Elkay*

      Best: Nailed some birthday gifts.
      Worst: Went to a party for a friend and felt totally out of place. I have now retreated to my introvert cave.

  13. Alison Read*

    Help! My daughter has a friend that’s truly obnoxious. We took him on holiday with us and he was insufferable. He responded to all statements by discussing himself. We were discussing teapots and he responded with a comment regarding an experience he had with a scooter – completely unrelated, I responded I’d missed the segue and asked how that tied into teapots. He replied it didn’t but he didn’t have anything to say about teapots! He, at almost 15 yo, is so self absorbed he hijacked a conversation only a couple sentences in to a different topic so he could be the center of discussion.

    We’re new to the area and he seems to be quite popular at the high school … I was wondering if anyone knew of a contemporary “How to Win Friends and Influence People ” type book for the younger crowd I might give him for his upcoming 15th birthday? If not for him for my daughter to ensure she never mimics this behavior (although when we spoke to her she did agree it bothered her he was the #1 topic).

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Maybe I’m extra crabby today but I’d be giving that book some serious side eye. Mainly a) this kid isn’t your kid and b) such a book might be totally over his head and be left to collect dust, thereby rending your point completely redundant.

      Most likely, the best you can do is when he is spending time with your family, try to deal with him being turning the conversation onto him, in the moment and open up the conversation to everyone.

      The kid is also 15! weren’t you a bit self involved at 15? Maybe he can’t relate to the conversation without turning it into something that is about him.

      1. katamia*

        Yeah, I don’t think I would have taken that well at 15 either. Or, heck, even now unless I’d specifically asked for it. The kid is popular, so at least in his current environment, I’d say he does know how to win friends and influence people.

        1. Alison Read*

          katamia – Touché!!! In his circle he clearly does know how to win friends and influence… his peers. I hadn’t been able to look past my own irritation to recognize that! My daughter is my youngest and we’re now living in a very blue state after a lifetime of over seas & very red Stateside, I think the combination of being a (relatively) older parent and a different culture has me a little shell shocked by her peers’ behavior. The self absorbed behavior was just a sliver of the obnoxious behavior. Your point is well taken, it’s a different age and culture and this is accepted.

          1. GH in SoCAl*

            But that doesn’t mean you have to accept it when he is conversion with *you.* You can set expectations for what is considered polite in your home/on a trip you are hosting. You don’t have to “school him on what’s proper” — but you can take the reins of the conversation back from him. Make sure everyone has a chance to talk. In the long run you’ll be doing him a favor.

    2. fposte*

      I don’t think it works to give people books to fix them, and it’s not very pleasant unless they’ve asked for them. I’d stick to making sure your daughter sees what’s going on and knows better than to emulate it, and to gently redirecting him if he gets out of hand again while you’re there: “I think we’ve wrung all the juice out of the scooter topic, Percival; Daphne, how’s that basketweaving project going?”

    3. Bruce H.*

      Remind him, repeatedly if necessary, that it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

      1. Honeybee*

        I think that’s just as if not more obnoxious than him talking about himself all the time.

    4. Oignonne*

      I think it would be inappropriate to give him the book, but I can understand your frustration. Some thing you can do though, and this applies to any guest you have issues with, are:
      1) not invite him into your home/on trips
      2) enforce the rules you do have for your home (if he says something rude, interrupts, etc. “we don’t speak to people like that here,” “we give everyone a chance to offer their thoughts”)
      3) regain some control of the conversation (“to get back to X …,” “I actually wasn’t done talking about this”)
      4) If you haven’t already, have a discussion with your daughter about the qualities she likes in her friend and about how to communicate well in relationships (she could speak to him about it- “I sometimes feel invalidated when we talk, as though all the focus is on you. I’d like to have more balanced conversations.”)

    5. Lizabeth*

      He’s fifteen. His peers are onto him…limit your interaction with him since he will probably give major stink eye for a book like that. Best way to deal with someone that self centered is to ignore, and carry on the conversation like he didn’t say anything.

    6. LisaLee*

      It sounds like your daughter is aware of her friends problems. We all have friends, especially at that age, who aren’t perfect. Since you’re new to the area, she’ll probably find a better friend group over time as she starts to get to know more people.

      I’d just limit your time with him. Don’t invite him on holiday anymore and redirect the conversation when you’re with him.

    7. VideogamePrincess*

      Maybe he’s not actually self-centered either–he could just be impulsive. There’s a good chance he’ll grow up in time.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        My daughter has a friend who we’ve known since they were both two years old, and she comes across like Alison Read’s daughter’s friend in conversation. She is impulsive, and she also sucks at contributing to a conversational topic that is not of specific interest to her, so she always ham-fistedly turns the conversation to whatever topic she is currently obsessed with (Justin Bieber, crocheting, upcoming band trip, etc.).

        I love this girl as my daughter’s faithful friend, but I can only take her in small doses. So I’ll converse with her for a little while and let her tell me what’s going on with her, and then it’s time for my daughter to take her off my hands and the two of them to hang out together without my involvement. We don’t invite this friend on long trips where we adults can’t sufficiently limit our interactions with her.

    8. Kate M*

      I mean, I wouldn’t chalk it up to being in a blue state (where maybe parents are stereotypically more permissive, if that’s what you’re getting at?). And I wouldn’t say that this is acceptable anywhere really. There are some people that are always going to be more self absorbed and that will come through in conversation. Some people outgrow it (which hopefully this kid will), and some never do. It could be a combination of being young and self absorbed, or being nervous around other people’s families, trying to make conversation (maybe his parents told him to be talkative and engage, and he’s taking it too far). You didn’t say if your daughter said he’s always like this at school, or was just like this around you, but it’s very possible he could be more comfortable around his peers.

      That said, it’s always a good idea to try and manage these conversations when you can. If he jumps in, let him say a few words/sentences, and then turn back to the person he steered the conversation from and say, “that’s interesting, but I wanted to hear more about teapots, etc.” Or you could try to engage him, rather than having him engage himself. Instead of asking him if he has any experience with X (which he might not), you could ask him what he thinks about X, or if he’s ever thought about doing X, or if he knows anyone who has done X.

      This might not end up helping if he just really needs to be the center of attention at all times, but that can also (somewhat) be dealt with by just not acknowledging some things. If he continues do interrupt conversations to insert himself in the middle, a well placed “hmm” or “huh, interesting” and then turning back to the topic at hand might work.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        Oooh, this!

        I don’t get the red state / older connection, either, but I ‘m totally on board with the advice about turning the convo back to the original topic!

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Sounds like my mother as well.

        Conversation with a regular person:
        #1: I went to the mall.
        #2: Oh really? How was it?
        #1: It made me feel old. There were a bunch of teenagers running around.
        #2: Bummer.

        Conversation with my mother:
        Me: I went to the mall.
        Mom: I’m working on a quilt block.
        Me: I bought some tarts at Yankee Candle.
        Mom: My coworkers are annoying.

        With my mother, I honestly think this is the result of her doing for everyone and listening to everyone for years. When she turned 50, I think she just decided she’s going to be top dog for once, and it’s gone too far.

    9. ginger ale for all*

      I am not so sure that parenting another couples child is the wisest idea but perhaps just talking with your daughter about how to behave and how to handle narcissism in her friends would be a better use of your time. It is frustrating to deal with people like that and I get why you are tempted to nip it in the bud. And a thought, how many conversations did you have that he was not able to participate in? I know when my family gets together that we tend to talk about our relatives and past shared experiences without even realizing that we shut out our guests unknowingly. Perhaps he didn’t have the social skills to cope with that?

    10. Revanche*

      I might have missed where you said why you took him on holiday with you?

      I remember being raised to be polite but I was miserable at social cues as a teen. If he MUST be around, I’m sure that some brisk and blunt redirects are in order so he doesn’t keep getting away with hijacking conversations. Like the others, I’m doubtful he’d take one look at the book, it’d be a waste of a good book and money :)

    11. Melissa*

      When he changed topics to scooters, he could have just been feeling awkward at having been left out of the conversation since he didn’t have anything to say on teapots. I mean, I wasn’t there so obviously he could just be obnoxious. Teenagers often are. If you don’t like his behavior, you certainly don’t have to invite him along anymore, but I wouldn’t start trying to give him reading material as a way to change him. Start with talking…

  14. Gene*

    Still in rural Missouri until Monday, then back to Seattleish. Mom is doing well, 90-yo Uncle is doing OK, other family well. Spent last evening hanging out with Ron Williams, Leona Williams’ son and cousin’s husband’s nephew. Cousin and Leona are neighbors, only houses on a private road on 80 acres.

  15. Jen RO*

    Any suggestions of things to see/do in Munich? We’ve got 2 more days here, we’ve already walked through the old town, and we’re not into museums.

    1. Christine*

      Munich: Englischer Garten, especially the Biergarten there. Do you know you could surf in munich. BMW Welt if you are into cars, the Zoo Hellabrunn, Olympia Turm to see the city from abo e, Deutsches Museum is good even if you hate Museums.

      Rent a bike?

      1. Christine*

        Or take a guided tour in the Allianz Arena or if you are into shopping go to Ingolstadt Village Outlet Shopping. There should be a direct bus shuttle from munich. Look it up on their website. Or go to Viktalienmarkt for the famous market. And welcome to the typical german weather. Now you know why we are so typical german.

      2. Cristina in England*

        Oh yeah I had forgotten about the surfing thing in Munich! If I remember correctly it is waves generated in a man-made river, and if you don’t fancy doing it yourself you can watch from a bridge.

        1. Christine*

          No the river Isar is not really man made, only the canal with
          the wave in it. And it’s really very cold water. And fortbilden by the law, people just do it and police looks the other way.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      dachau concentration camp is very somber but a really really fast aging bit of history.

      hofbrauhaus for a decent meal and beer

    3. Clever Name*

      We loved volksbad. There is a pool to swim with swimsuit and then a spa area with saunas and steam rooms where you go without swimsuit. It helps to speak German, but we don’t and got through it okay. :)

      There’s this monestary that brew its own beer (and is also Karl Orff’s final resting place) that is in a town south of Munich that you can get to by train the bretzl and schwine haxn (I’m sure I’m butchering the spelling) are yummy, and it’s in a pretty area.

    4. Jen RO*

      Thank you all! It seema like I am on the right track already – we saw the Englischer Garten and the Eisbachwelle yesterday (thanks to an article in the Lufthansa magazine!) and today we are going to Dachau. My boyfriend loved the Viktalienmarkt (and the hot chocolate we had). There is even a fair at Theresienweise – I was expecting just an empty lot and ‘this is where Oktoberfest would be if it were the right month’.

      What is up with all the asparagus, and why is everyone wearing traditional costumes?!

      1. Christine*

        If you go to a Volksfest that is what you wear. It’s a trend in recent years. Asparagus is in season now and May and spring is a season to party.

  16. Regular poster (anon for this)*

    All four of my grandparents are immigrants. I’m second generation. My grandparents, all of their children, all of my cousins (who are old enough), and myself went to university and earned, or are in the process of earning, an advanced degree. Most of us work in academia. Anyone who has married into the family also has an advanced degree. We value education. It’s just the way things are done in my family.

    My younger sister applied to two ivy league schools, and a university that has a prestigious science program. All three accepted her and offered her scholarships. She has already declined all three offers in writing and is instead going to join the military and be some kind of mechanic. She told my parents she won’t ever go to university or pursue post secondary education and wouldn’t have even applied to university if they hadn’t been breathing down her neck. They also found out that she lied to them about one her classes because she took a shop class instead of the science one they encouraged her to take. Her actions have caused so much drama and I don’t even know how deal with it or help my parents and family through our disappointment.

    1. fposte*

      I know it’s really startling when a family member breaks from cultural expectation, but as rebellions go this seems like a practical and reasonable course of action. I think what I’d do to help is stand up for my sister. “She’s focusing on useful and honorable work, and I’m proud of her; I hope you are too.”

      1. Wendy Darling*

        Younger sister sounds like she’s got her head on straight! She knows what she wants and she’s going to get it. It’s not like she’s moving to Los Angeles to become a movie star, she has a very concrete, achievable plan here. Which is more than I had when I spent three of my four years in undergrad waffling around trying to figure out what on earth I was doing.

        Plus if younger sister decides that actually she DOES want to pursue higher education, the military will help with that when she gets out.

        1. Regular poster (anon for this)*

          Her plan is to be a career soldier. If that fails she wants to fix vehicles in a garage. She says she doesn’t care about the money and she’ll jump off a bridge or gouge her eyes out before she goes to university, now or later. It was really upsetting to hear her say this, especially after I asked her what school she wanted to attend when she leaves the military and she said “none”.

          1. TootsNYC*

            My brother is in the U.S. Army; he enlisted as a private.

            He is now a Chief Warrant Officer 5. Do you know how hard that is to get? It’s the highest rank you can possibly get as an enlisted man. It’s amazing. He’s a rock star. In the Army, CWO’s, especially 5’s, are spoken of with awe.

            THAT is the path that a very gifted soldier, especially one who is going into a technical area, as a mechanic (and not infantry), is likely to travel. People around her will defer. Lieutenants, majors, and generals will rely on her advice.

          2. Wendy Darling*

            Well good for her?

            If she changes her mind, she has options. If she doesn’t change her mind it sounds like she has a good plan. College isn’t for everybody. I’d rather jump off a bridge than start my own business but it’s a lot of people’s big dream.

            I’m not sure why you’re so emotionally invested in her going to college but, to be extremely blunt, you need to knock that right off. She’s not running away to join the circus, she’s choosing a perfectly viable career path with great prospects that just happens to not be one you would want for yourself. She is not you, and you need to find your way to being okay with letting her make her choices for herself.

          3. MsChanandlerBong*

            Good for her. I would never discourage anyone from pursuing an education, but it is *not* the only path that can lead to a fulfilling life. I think we’re too quick to push teens into the college pipeline in this country. College is great, but it’s a waste of money if you’re not ready for it and/or you don’t want to be there.

          4. Connie-Lynne*

            She sounds passionate, how wonderful.

            I failed out of college a few times until my mid-30s. In the meantime, I learned how to fix my own vehicle, do minor home carpentry, lots of electrical work, painting, sewing, and organizational skills.

            I’m reasonably successful financially, very personally successful, and most of all, happy more often than not.

            Some folks take different paths from their families, and that’s OK. She’s young, she has so much time to explore and change her mind many times. She’ll be OK, she’ll just be different from you.

          5. Honeybee*

            My husband was an aircraft mechanic in the military for four years, and originally intended to make a career out of it as well. He loved it. He got to travel around the world, he was paid relatively decently, he was promoted rapidly and had his own troops to look after by the end of his four years. He did change his mind and decided to leave the military and go to college, but it wasn’t anything the military did specifically – it was his own career goals that changed. I have some other family members and he knows some friends who have retired after their 20 years. They’re in their late 30s/early 40s, drawing retirement income, and sometimes starting a second career. The military also has excellent benefits.

            Don’t ask her what school she wants to attend when she leaves. The military may be a different choice from everyone else in your family, but it’s not a bad choice. And college isn’t for everyone – not because she can’t do it but simply because she doesn’t want to. Be happy for what she’s chosen and support her in it, even if you have to fake it until you actually feel that way.

    2. Gene*

      Good for your sister! She knew what she wanted to do, and just as important, what she didn’t want to do. How she did it was a bit underhanded, but was probably necessary, given the way you described the family.

      University isn’t for everyone and the military is one of the best places to get heavy-duty mechanic training and experience. And an experienced mechanic can easily pull in 6 figures, so she’ll probably out earn a lot of the academics.

      1. BRR*

        “University isn’t for everyone” is a principle that needs to be more widely adopted in this country. I get how she is gifted but it’s ridiculous to force her to follow a path she doesn’t want to travel. She’s not throwing her life away.

        1. Amadeo*

          Seriously. There are so many trades out there that can’t fill positions and so many university grads that can’t find jobs. There’s nothing at all wrong with learning a trade – you’re always going to need a mechanic/plumber/electrician/etc.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          I’m really good at a couple of things I really loathe and never want to do again. I think most of us probably have one or two of those.

          Younger sister sounds like she’s really good at academics and HATES IT.

        3. Kyrielle*

          THIS. I had people back in high school tell me I should go into mock trial and then law. I had people in college say I could be a lawyer. I _still_ occasionally get it.

          Except that, while I’m good at putting together a position and argument, while I’m good at reasoning, while I enjoy research, I _dislike conflict_ and seriously hated mock trial. I want to _make things_, not practice law.

          Why should my life be miserable just because I am capable of something? I’m capable of lots of things. I don’t have time to do all of them, and I don’t see why I should pick a path that will make me unhappy over an equally fine path that I think will make me happy.

          Yes, I find the sister’s choice strange, because _I_ would dislike doing what she’s planning to do. But she’s not making me do it; she’s doing it. So I can find it as strange as I like, but I have no right to an opinion of whether she should do it.

        4. Windchime*

          And it’s possible that she will be a gifted mechanic. It sounds like that’s where her heart lies, so hopefully her family can accept this.

          My son is one of the smartest people I know. I always thought he should end up as some kind of a policy advisor in Washington DC. But he has been working his butt off for the past year to become a fireman. If that doesn’t pan out, he’ll try to be a police officer. At first I was upset by all this, but then I realized that is where his interests truly lie. He doesn’t want to be stuck in an office wearing a suit; he wants to be out in the world, using his brains to help people who are in dire circumstances.

    3. nep*

      Ultimately it’s about what inspires her and what she wants to do.
      Sounds like up to now she has let the pressure get to her to the point of lying (to take a class that interested her more) and to the point of applying for things she really didn’t want; seems to me it’s a positive thing that she’s now being more assertive in a way and following what she truly wants.

    4. Anxa*

      I understand military service can be controversial and very difficult on a family, but is this more about the path she’s not choosing than the path that she is?

      Clearly she’s already taken her education seriously enough to apply and be accepted to such prestigious programs. Perhaps your family values academia more strongly than education?

      As for the lying about taking a class, I understand the feelings of disappoint when being lied to. But I also understand being a teenager and having no support to explore your interests, talents, and try to build skills for the future. I’d say shop class is actually probably a better class to take in high school depending on the situation: High school science labs don’t provide much actual lab work and the subject matter could be learned independently in many classes. But she feel like this is too good an opportunity to pass up; it can be much more difficult to get access to free or cheap instruction, learning materials, and a workspace after graduation.

      1. Regular poster (anon for this)*

        You are correct that the disappointment we all feel is over the path she isn’t taking, as you say. It’s not just about academia as there are family members who are not in academia (surgeons, scientists for government agencies, cancer researchers etc.)

        My sister is gifted. Truly gifted. She was offered full scholarships to two ivy leagues schools and another university that is one of the most competitive programs in the country. Even in my family, that’s significant. I am in the process of earnings my second graduate degree and her abilities leave me in the dust.

        It’s just upsetting to us because she has declined opportunities that most people can only dream of. It was also disappointing for my parents to hear her comments about how she only applied because they wanted her to. It was expected she would go to university and earn an advanced degree. She told my parents she would rather jump off the golden gate bridge than go to university.

        1. nep*

          If she’s gifted, she’s gifted. Sounds like she will excel in anything she does.
          No one but your sister can know what will fulfill her in the end.
          The more I read the more I get a sense of her breaking free from external pressure.
          It may be that down the line her choices do not take her where she wants to be — but she’s got to live through it all and find out for herself.

        2. fposte*

          But opportunities are like spouses–it’s up to the person involved to decide if it’s the right one, no matter how rich and attractive they look to outsiders. She’s not obliged to follow the path the family wants or live out their dreams–it’s her life, and this is hardly a tragic plan for it.

          Your family sounds like it would have been a really hard place to be a nonconformist in, so it’s not surprising she didn’t tell anybody about this beforehand.

          1. TootsNYC*

            “But opportunities are like spouses–it’s up to the person involved to decide if it’s the right one, no matter how rich and attractive they look to outsiders.”

            That’s a nice analogy. Maybe the thing to say to Mom and Dad is, “Would you want her to marry a man she doesn’t love, just because he makes a lot of money?”

            Also–regarding the “passing up opportunities others can only dream of”: Well, now someone who really wants that opportunity will be able to get it. Because your sister won’t be wasting it.

            1. nep*

              To mix the two — I could get a marriage proposal from someone ‘others can only dream of’ — but I have absolutely zero desire to get married. It would go completely against what I want and how I envision my life. So I ‘should’ say yes to this person because it would be a dream come true for — others?

              1. nep*

                I get that family pressure like this can be out of love and concern for a person’s well-being and future. And perhaps that makes it all the tougher not to ‘intervene’. But — well, everyone’s already said it here.

        3. Ruffingit*

          So because she’s gifted academically, she must pursue that course? Why? She’s going to do something she wants to do and enjoy. Frankly not to be harsh here but it sounds like your family needs to stop thinking that academics is the only acceptable course of action for every single person in your family and that any other road is not good enough. That is a very privileged and arrogant view of life. Support your sister in HER dreams, not YOUR dreams as a family. I have four degrees, two undergrad and two graduate and I am all for education, but only if it is desired by the person pursuing it. If your sister would rather jump off a bridge than go to university, for God’s sake LISTEN TO HER and be supportive of what she wants.

          1. Mazzy*

            I don’t think it’s privileged, it’s simply embedded in our culture that college = success. A family of immigrants who maybe sees things differently may not see that that is changing.

            My question for the family would be if they want her to go the academic route purely to go that route, or because they see it as the secure path to a good income. If it is the latter, they need to be shown all of the recent examples out there on the net about people going to college and not making a lot, not being able to find career jobs, or vice versa, non-college grads making it big…

        4. TootsNYC*

          You wrote: “It was also disappointing for my parents to hear her comments about how she only applied because they wanted her to. It was expected she would go to university and earn an advanced degree.”

          I’m the parent of a young man who was just accepted to 4 colleges and is making his decision now.

          I would feel ashamed if he told me that the only reason he applied to college is because he felt forced into it by me.

          I think your parents need to consider that someone other than your sister is the one who is violating the standards of decency and appropriateness.

          And I agree–if she’s gifted, think how amazingly she will rock it on whatever path she chooses.

        5. Anxa*

          Well, I’m certainly not gifted, but I was smart enough where everyone expected me to go to college. And I wanted to, too! I just wasn’t really sure what I was going there for. To be clear, I wasn’t reluctant to go, just lost and very anxious.

          I was an early reader. I had a 130+ IQ. I had to be put into the gifted program. I was in the top 1% on all of those assessment tests when we were young. Even through middle school and high school, when I started to under-perform, I was actually a pretty good student in hindsight (although I felt like a failure with a low A average). Still, I managed to get into some decent schools and off I went.

          Well, the undiagnosed anxiety and possible ADHD and my perfection exploded in college (only I didn’t realize that was what was happening) and I pretty much wasted my education. No one every pressured me directly to go to school, but there was always this assumption that I was too smart not to go. I would have been better off exploring some alternatives.

          Keep in mind that these aren’t the opportunities that she’s dreaming of, though. She’s doesn’t seem to have any support or access to her own dreams.

          Can you talk to her about perhaps deferring admission as a compromise? I don’t mean ask her to defer then pressure her into accepting them. I am wondering if there’s anyway to keep that door open and allow her to pursue her own goals.

          For what it’s worth, I have friends with degrees from top ranked science programs that are unemployed (although they don’t come from families that are well connected and wealthy or have prestigious jobs, so that may be why).

          1. Regular poster (anon for this)*

            Unfortunately she has already declined all three offers in writing so there is no way to defer them. We all knew she had been accepted, but she didn’t tell my parents about her plan until after she had secretly declined. She claims they are not her goals and she only applied because she knew it was expected. Her plan is to be a career soldier so she said a deferral is not an option.

            I empathize with the issues you had with anxiety and ADHD. I wish you well in the future. In my sister’s case, she does not suffer any illnesses like that (although it would be a relief if she did only because it would explain her declining the offers). Her desire to be a mechanic and not go to university was a complete surprise to everyone.

            1. TootsNYC*

              “Her desire to be a mechanic and not go to university was a complete surprise to everyone.”

              And I wonder if perhaps you should all be just a little bit apologetic about that. I think you are placing blame on the wrong person!

              Inside one’s family, it has always seemed to me, is the place where you should be able to be most yourself. But your sister has not felt able to do that–ever. Ever ever.

              And I think a very large part of that blame has to fall on her family, not on her.

              Kudos for her having the strength to chart her own course before it was too late.

              1. Doriana Gray*

                Kudos for her having the strength to chart her own course before it was too late.

                Yup. Anon’s sister is awesome for saying, “Eff this. I’m going to live my life, and the rest of you will deal.”

            2. Delurking to say...*

              I am gobsmacked that you would be relieved if she was diagnosed with a mental illness, only because it would explain her “rebellion” from the path everyone in your family is expected to take. That right there speaks volume about your character. Frankly your family sounds awful.

              (I mean no disrespect to anyone who suffers from a mental illness. My point is that OP is awful for saying it would be relief if she had one because it would make him and his family feel better)

              1. ActualName*

                As someone who has a mental illness let me tell you that your reaction is not in anyway offensive. OP saying that in the first place is what is offensive because it would be using the mental illness to explain away who his sister is as a person and what her dreams are. Which is a fate that a lot of us face and is normalized.

            3. Engineer Girl*

              You really don’t get it! I am considered either gifted or genius. From the age of 5 I knew that I wanted to be a scientist/astronaut. You would have to put a pillow over my face and smother me to keep me from that dream. Some family members tried just that and it resulted in strained relationships for the rest of our lives.
              Your sister is gifted. She knows her dreams. You can’t stop her. You may as well ask a dog to be a cat. You can choose to support her or choose alienation. Because rejecting her dreams is really rejecting who she is as a person.

              1. catsAreCool*

                “You may as well ask a dog to be a cat.” This!

                This is what your sister wants to do. Not everyone wants college; not everyone will use it either. Sounds like she’s been pressured her entire life to do higher education that she doesn’t want.

                Besides, being a mechanic requires being able to work with the computers in the cars they have now. She’s probably going to learn a lot and actually enjoy it.

            4. Sunflower*

              First of all, your sister did not ‘secretly’ decline. She does not need anyone’s permission to decline or accept college admission.

              You say you’re totally shocked by this decision. It seems you think she has not thought this through. Considering the things you have said about your family regarding this decision (they are very upset, can not understand), I’m going to say your sister has felt this way for a long time and has thought about it for a long time. My guess is she has an entire plan for this. She has kept her mouth shut about it because she feared exactly what has happened- you would have an extreme reaction.

              My family has never been very supportive of my decisions so I kept my mouth shut about most of them. When I made a choice, I thought about it very very thoroughly, did all the research, had a plan , so I would know what to say when my parents inevitably reacted badly. They would say ‘You’ve never expressed interest int his before’ and assume just because I had not told them that I had not thought it through. I suggest if you want to keep a relationship with your sister, you should try sitting down and listening to her and not judging her for making a decision simply because you do not agree with it.

              1. Artemesia*

                This. She took a high school course ‘secretly’ in her chosen area of interest. This is not a whim; this is something that has engaged her for a good long while and she has been working on to prepare herself for. That she had to hide her interests from her family says a lot about her family. She has not only ‘thought it through’ but she has been forced to do that without engaging her family because she knows her family is oppressive and without boundaries and does not respect her right to make fundamental decisions about her own life. The idea that a mental illness would be preferable to a young woman who knows what she wants to do with her life and is willing to stand up to her family to do it is one of the most ugly things I have ever read about a family dynamic. It is pretty darn close to ‘I wish she were dead.’

              2. ActualName*


                As, my sister might be career military (She’s at an Ivy League school studying nursing through ROTC) and my dad was also career military before he retired to take care of us. He was also a mechanic before joining as enlisted. And let me tell you, those are great jobs to have. I’m pro soldier, not pro military.

                At the very least she’ll be guaranteed an income, an a rather good one at that, and if she’s as gifted as you say she will be she will be highly respected and will rise quickly in the ranks. She’s not wasted her gifts or intelligence, she’s just using it in a way you and your family don’t approve of. And that’s what’s objectional in all this.

            5. dawbs*

              as gently as possible, I’d like to say that “she does not suffer any illnesses like that (although it would be a relief if she did only because it would explain her declining the offers)” is both a rather obnoxious thing to say (really, you wish she were ‘sick’ because that’s the only justification you can come up with for her to make a choice you dislike?) and to state that you have *NO IDEA* if she has such an illness.
              It’s not that people who are gifted and are dealing with their own private demons (ADD/ADHD-[which, FWIW, often presents differently in women], depression, hyperacausis, anxiety disorders, etc. ) have flashing lights and signs. It’s not that they might not be incredibly gifted and find academics easy–it’s that issues like these can still readily exist below the surface.

              Considering how unaware everyone in your family is of what’s happening inside your sister’s head as far as likes/dislikes and opinions, I think it’s probably entirely reasonable to suggest that you have NO IDEA what is happening in her head and what her struggles are in a normal day.

              I’m not saying that she has these struggles, just that it takes an enormous amount of hubris to assure us all that it’s not a possibility. (and if she is struggling with one of these things, it’s something which is compounded by being barking miserable at the job/school where one spends half of her waking hours).

              If your family wants to ensure that she never considers college in the future, continuing to present this as an ‘us vs them’/’white collar superior to blue collar’ POV would be the way to do it. A worldview that paints adult paths as parallel and moving between them as a realistic possibility leaves her future up for discussion, if she wishes to switch tracks back.

        6. Emmy*

          Not to be unkind, but the point of a gift is that the recipient gets to do what she wishes with it. Right now, she wants to learn to be a mechanic. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s a great career for someone who likes hands-on, hard work. And if she did want to run away to join the circus, that’s her call as well. She’s young and she’s an adult. She gets to choose. Your choice is to support her adulthood and cheer her on … or not.

          I’m sure you don’t mean to, but you kind of sound like you look down on people who choose paths other than academics of any kinds. Me? I loved college. I’d be a perpetual student if I could afford it. Others, not so much. My nephew is a mechanic. Skilled. Great at what he does and always employed. And Happy. I’m proud of the man he has become.

          1. Windchime*

            Same with my nephew. He struggled in high school, and sweated and struggled through 4 years of college. And now he is a mechanic on a hydroelectric dam. It’s an important position with a lot of responsibility; he maintains the turbines that produce electricity for a huge portion of the state’s residents.

            We need good mechanics and other tradespeople as badly as we need good doctors and lawyers and scientists.

        7. Connie-Lynne*

          Maybe she’ll become a gifted mechanic. Or move from mechanic to engineering. Or become a stunning welder and make Big Art.

          I won’t bore you with my personal litany of amazing opportunities I passed on as a massively gifted teenager, but by the time I graduated HS, I loathed school and formal education. I managed it for one year and then crashed and burned hard.

          Good for her for figuring it out early and being direct about what she wants to do.

        8. Cordelia Longfellow*

          To borrow one of Captain Awkward’s excellent phrases, your sister is not making this decision AT you. I know her saying that she’d rather jump of a bridge than go to university feels like she’s judging you and your parents’ choices to do the same thing, but she’s just expressing her own feelings. As a fellow gifted student, when I was younger, nothing grated on me more than teachers harping on about my Potential. When I enrolled in community college to stay with my family, several of them told my I was debasing myself. Serious side eye for them! Now as it happened, I went on to finish three degrees, but that was my choice, not anyone else’s. Life is too short to only do what one Ought to Do, especially if it will make one miserable.

          I wish your sister all the best in her chosen career, and I hope you and your parents can work on letting go of expectations and processing your feelings outside of your sister’s presence.

        9. Honeybee*

          If she was smart enough to get into top universities now, then she’s smart enough to achieve heights in whatever career she chooses. Ambitious and intelligent people don’t lose that just because they choose a different path. She might be leading the military branch she chooses some day, or end up a Chief of Staff or commanding some really important mission. (And if she was smart enough to get in once, she’s smart enough to get in later, if she wants to. The GI Bill will pay for it and many elite universities are quite friendly to non-traditional veteran students.)

          Or maybe she won’t and she’ll open her own shop and be extremely happy. The important part is that she’s happy doing what she wants!

      2. TootsNYC*

        Yeah, I think even if she had wanted to be a scientist, shop class is probably a smarter bet. You can make up time on science when you’re at college. There is almost NO way to make up time on shop class!

        1. TootsNYC*

          and shop class is smart just because; if she had wanted to go into science, knowing stuff from shop class could easily have practical applications.

          But boy–welders and pipe fitters make good money. They have the reward of seeing their work take shape physically and tangibly in front of them.
          They are heroes to the people whose stuff they work on (swooping in and saving the day).

          And at the end of their workday, they go all the way home.

    5. Nella*

      Its good she decide to do whay she likes. It took me several tries to get a into a job that I enjoy doing and coming into work. Having a mechanical skill also makes a person so much more useful on their own and not dependent on others. She will also gain a lot of confidence from being able to accomplish something tangible.

    6. Ryan the TempAnon (regular poster)*

      I’m dealing with something similar, although less extreme–I went to college, got my (useless because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life) degree, and then struggled for years trying to fit in at 9-5-type jobs because that’s what I was Supposed to Do. I finally just gave up because no matter how hard I tried, I just wasn’t excelling. I’m now focusing on things that are more natural fits for me, but even though I’m older, it’s still hard to hear “You just need to find the right office job” from family members even though I don’t think one exists.

      It’s very hard to go against the grain of what your family thinks you’re Supposed to Do. I don’t know your sister, but she’s not doing this just for fun or to create drama. It sounds like she was very unhappy and thinks that going into the military will give her a sense of fulfillment she wasn’t getting from academic courses.

      Also, just because she says she’ll never go to college doesn’t mean she never will. She’s a teenager (I’m assuming). In 10 or 20 years, she might change her mind. In the meantime, she’ll be getting valuable work experience.

    7. Educationmatters*

      Wow, maybe show her the career trajectory she will be taking with the IVY league path and the mechanic path 10 years out. Take the parents out of the equation and approach it as a concerned brother. Tell her she is fortunate and privileged to be in this position and she seriously needs to consider quality of life 10+ years down the road.

      My 2 cents.

      1. Regular poster (anon for this)*

        I agree with you and I tried doing this but she told me off. She says she has no desire to be a doctor or a scientist (those were the programs she applied for) and has always wanted to be a mechanic. She told me she would rather gouge her eyes out than go to university and fold my parents she would rather jump off a bridge. She only applied to get my parents off her back and she didn’t even want to go. She never told us anything about wanting to be a mechanic or that she took a shop a class. If we had known we could have tried to change her mind before.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But — it’s not for you to try to change her mind. Why does she not get to follow the path that speaks to her, just as you all did? Share information, sure, if she wants it — but that’s different to trying to “rescue” her from a different goal than yours, which is what it sounds like is happening. And it sounds like she doesn’t want input anyway, which makes a lot of sense if the family is one that has already loaded her up with pressure about The Only Acceptable Way. (Do you not hear that in what you’re writing?)

          1. Rahera*

            + 1 let her follow her own dreams, and trust her to know what’s best for her. I think she sounds amazingly together and strong, and I believe she has the right to make these decisions for herself.

        2. Regular poster (anon for this)*

          *told my parents (excuse my typo)

          She says in 10 years she hopes to still be in the military and wants to be a career soldier. If not her back up plan is to be a mechanic at a garage or somewhere. University is not in the equation for her unfortunately.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            Why unfortunately ?

            I wouldn’t not have done well at uni. I went travelling after school and loved it I fell into a decent job and 10 years after high school I wouldn’t have done anything differently.

            Leave her to make her own choices and for the love of god stop judging her or thinking some how the path she’s taking isn’t valid. You sound like my sister (hint that’s not a good thing!)

            And surly military service is worth while, or don’t you think we all owe a debt of gratitude to our service men and women?

            1. Regular poster (anon for this)*

              It’s unfortunate because she is gifted and has opportunities most people can only dream of. She could have done so much and taken the academic, science or medical world be storm. She could have brought pride to our family and made discoveries that would have helped so many people.

              I have respect for people who serve, as does my family. But we wanted something better for my sister. She has so many gifts and it’s upsetting that she declined the opportunities she did.

              1. fposte*

                Oh, that hurts *my* heart so I can only imagine how your sister must feel. Your family really can’t take pride in her achievements otherwise?

              2. Apollo Warbucks*

                But that’s her call, she can chose the path she wants for herself. My sister went to an Ivey league school and graduated with honours then went on to get her PHD she’s now working in STEM and loving it and that was the right course for her. If I’d been forced or coerced into going to uni it would not have been right for me.

                Also Saying your sister is too good to serve with them is a funny way of showing respect for The military.

              3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                It’s not her job to bring pride to your family :)

                It’s her job to find a path that allows her to make herself happy and hopefully leave the world a better place.

                I get that you think it would have been nice for her to follow a different path, but she doesn’t want that one. So will you be able to support her in being who she is? Right now you’re telling her that who she is isn’t good enough. If you keep that up, you’re likely to do real damage to your relationship with her. Please listen to those of us here who are telling you to back off!

                1. nep*

                  ‘It’s not her job to bring pride to your family’.
                  Simple. Powerful. True. Something probably many families have got to let sink in.

                2. Lynn*

                  “It’s not her job to bring pride to your family :)”

                  With all due respect, you don’t know anything about the kind of culture she’s grown up in. I get that in America it’s the norm that people think they can do what they want and not care about what it means to their family because they’re adults and should be independent, but for some people the opinion of their family – and the opinion OF the family from those in their social circles – actually matter a damn huge deal. It’s not just a matter of saying “I am who I am” and expect everyone to be OK with that. It’s not even enough to assure them you’d be happy because you know what? It’s not just your job, it’s your DUTY to be something your family can be proud of.

                  This is not to say I think the sister shouldn’t fight for what she wants, but I wish people here would stop assuming it should be easy for the OP to be fully supportive right away.

                3. nep*

                  Wanted to respond to Lynn here but it wouldn’t work — so in response to Lynn: I think there are plenty of commenters here who are demonstrating a sensitivity and an understanding of how difficult this is. I don’t get the impression that most people are implying at all that it should be easy.

                4. Shell*

                  @ Lynn

                  I’m an immigrant, and I’m from a culture that really emphasize on family (I have tons of family stories to that effect) , and I still think that heaping the expectation that the sister should go to college for the sake of the family is complete crap. Even if it’s hard for the OP and the family to accept, that’s their challenge and not the sister’s responsibility to help them come to terms. The sister can explain and lay out a plan to reassure them that she has thought this through, but it sounds like no one wants to listen to her, so I don’t blame the sister at all for not bothering.

                  The sister is very smart and could take the science (medical, whatever) world by storm. Guess what? She isn’t going to take anything by storm if she doesn’t want to be there. Research is difficult and soul crushing at times, and it’s so, so easy to burn out if you hadn’t made the explicit choice to stick it out (and sometimes you burn out even if you had made that choice). If the family’s approval is contingent on the sister going into a Family Approved Field and Doing Great Things in that field, they are going to be sorely disappointed in her anyway, because she doesn’t want to be there and thus she likely won’t achieve what they want her to. If she’s going to disappoint the family either way, she might as well do it while being happy.

                5. Ultraviolet*

                  (in response to Lynn’s comment)

                  I appreciate this point. I would love to see more advice that attempts to meet the OP and family where they are.

              4. Engineer Girl*

                Your sister knows her gifts and talents best. She knows what to do with them. She knows best how to develop them.
                You are lying to yourself about all the good and discoveries your sister would make. She would NOT make those discoveries because she would hate her job! Miserable people don’t change the world.
                It’s not her job to bring pride to the family. That’s dysfunctional.
                Also – you don’t have respect for the military if you think that they are beneath your family. And I know plenty of military types with PhDs.

              5. LizB*

                From reading your comments I’m getting an overwhelming sense of pressure to follow the specific, prescribed family path, and I’m just a random internet commenter — I can’t imagine how much pressure your sister must feel, and have felt, her entire life! Why is she obligated to take the scientific or medical world by storm, just because she’s smart and talented? Why is it her job to bring pride to your family, and why is it only possible for y’all to be proud of her if she follows the same path that the rest of you have? She doesn’t owe it to you to live up to the idealized image of her potential that you have in your head. She doesn’t owe it to the world to find the cure for cancer or become a world-class surgeon, just because she might be capable of those things. I’m actually getting kind of angry on your sister’s behalf, because this is a really terrible way to treat your family member. I can’t even imagine feeling the need to lie to my family about the classes I was taking in order to pursue my passion. If you ever want to have any kind of decent relationship with your sister, you need to back off, because if one of my relatives put this kind of pressure on me and said they could never be proud of me for picking a different career path, they’d never be hearing from me again.

                1. YaH*

                  THIS (+infinity)

                  OP, please let your sister know that even though her own family is ashamed of her, there are thousands and millions of other people who are so incredibly proud of her for pursuing her dream despite so many obstacles. She’s a real role model and a wonderful example for others.

                2. Windchime*

                  We don’t even have to try to imagine how the poor sister feels. She has said that she would rather gouge her eyes out or jump off the Golden Gate bridge than go to university. That’s a pretty strong statement of how passionately she feels about this.

              6. Juli G.*

                Take it from someone who’s sibling went what I thought was a less “acceptable” route when I was 22- there is a lot of pride to be found in a family member that goes their own path, works hard at that path, and is a wonderful contributing member of society.

              7. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

                I was an extremely gifted student in high school. I wasn’t interested in higher education, but succumbed to the pressure to go.

                I lasted a semester.

                Even if you somehow succeeded in talking her out of what she wants to do and into what you all want her to do — do you really think she’s going to apply herself to a course of study she’s not interested in?

              8. Wendy Darling*

                I am so, so sad for your sister. :/ She deserves way more than she’s getting from you or your family — it’s so crushingly obvious that you don’t respect her choices, and if we can tell that through the internet you bet your buttons she can tell (ever wonder why she took shop class in secret? Yeeeeeeeeah…).

                Feel free to send her my way, she sounds fabulous.

              9. Not So NewReader*

                So like, if she were a mechanic on a space flight, she still some how be less than?

                Or let’s say she worked on medical equipment and saved people’s lives because the medical equipment was in working order, she would still be less than?

              10. ginger ale for all*

                Pfft! Let her live her life as she chooses. I have a high IQ myself and my family thinks I have chosen the wrong path. I made the choices that make me happy. Just because I am strangely gifted in mathematics and physics doesn’t mean that I am going to make my living using skills. What if you weren’t given a choice in life like you are doing to her?

              11. Snazzy Hat*

                Personal anecdotes follow, to reassure you that a person can be X and also Y, or Not X but still Y because those aren’t related.

                – Both of my parents were in the military. Both are freaking brilliant people. Both did civilian things when they got out of the military. My father recently retired from his thirty-something-year career as a scientist.
                – In undergrad, my freaking brilliant sister was a Communications (Theatre, Set Crew, and Television were her big fields) & Sociology major and earned her Comm BA in three years. Five years ago she earned her PharmD.
                – My freaking brilliant s.o. was in a gifted-and-talented program in middle school, and dropped out of a crappy unaccredited for-profit college. Before that, at age 18, he learned how to operate a forklift. He now has a wonderful job in a safe environment with a great crew.
                – The freaking brilliant son of one of my cousins didn’t have to go to college at all. He studied welding in high school, and had a job offer as a welder before he graduated.

                If your sister wants to be a mechanic, then I want her to be a mechanic. If she wants to be a career soldier as well, I want that for her, too. “The best” for a person varies from person to person. College and the military were great for what my father did/does with his life. My cousin’s son has no reason to consider going to college. It is not for everyone.

              12. blackcat*

                She can bring great pride to the family through service.

                My grandfather enlisted as a teenager and served for a total of about 40 years. He did go to college after a long time (15 years or so) and became an officer. He’s a brilliant man who used his brilliance in a multitude of ways over his career (and after). The great thing about the military is that great talent is rewarded pretty consistently. They’ll find a way to use her gifts in ways you (and she) can’t imagine right now.

                And military service can lead to so much to be proud of. My grandfather saved dozens of lives through his actions. He was buried at Arlington with full honors. Almost 100 soldiers (and about a dozen military horses) were a part of the service. He was a great man, and the nation honored that greatness. I can’t imagine a life I could have been more proud of.

                (I say all of this as a super liberal pacifist AND as a scientist. Most scientists do very little that changes the world in a meaningful way.)

              13. WIncredulous*

                Why is being a mechanic/soldier so awful?

                I feel really bad for your sister. She should have your support.

              14. ActualName*

                Get this out of your head right now. She could not have taken the medical or science world by storm because she HATES those things. It doesn’t matter that she’s amazing and gifted in those areas if she HATES them. It’s not giftedness that makes an expert. It’s passion. She’s passionate about the military. She’s going to take them by storm. And you should be proud of her for that.

              15. Panda Bandit*

                You’re wasting your time fretting over your sister’s decisions and trying to change her mind. Start loving and supporting her for the person she actually is. You’re very likely to lose her in the future because she will remember the way everyone has behaved.

              16. Honeybee*

                Given that you have many scientists and academics in your family, I’m sure you’re aware that sheer potential and intelligence is not enough to make great discoveries. You have to have motivation and perseverance. In fact, I’d say those are more important – a person with above-average intelligence and extraordinary passion and grit for science is more likely to achieve in the field than a person with extraordinary intelligence but no passion for the field.

                Pushing your sister into science or medicine or whatever wouldn’t have made her into this amazing [fill in the blank]; it would make her a miserable person who was forced to do X because her family wanted. I was friends with some of those folks in college and supervised some of them in graduate school. I remember the tearful conversations with parents when they confessed they no longer wanted to be pre-med or to go to law school, the sadness when they encountered disappointment upon declaring they wanted to be a teacher instead of an engineer; and the sheer anxiety and stress they encountered when they really needed to take a break and their parents coerced them to keep pushing. It’s not healthy, and it doesn’t engender warm family relationships.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I’m going to be blunt here–you need to leave her alone.
          She’s made her choice, and it’s hers to make. You need to respect that and so does the rest of your family. If you try to push her to follow a path she doesn’t want to travel, all you’ll do is drive her further away from you. She may be brilliant, but that doesn’t mean her intellect is excited by the same things as yours.

          There is nothing bad about what she wants to do–it’s good, valuable, honorable work, and the military offers a ton of opportunities for someone that intelligent. I wish I were as focused as she is when I was her age. I would be very proud if she were my sister. I think that’s what you need to focus on.

          Remember, Queen Elizabeth II served in the military and trained as a mechanic and truck driver. If it wasn’t too lowbrow for her, it’s not too lowbrow for your sister either.

          If this is the wrong choice for her (and I’m not sure it is), then she’ll discover that, and if she’s as smart as you say, she’ll figure out something else. Or if this is just what she wants to do right now, then it will at least broaden her horizons and help her decide. But she is her own person, not an extension of you or anyone else. She needs to figure out what makes her happy without anyone trying to direct her life.

          A choice isn’t a choice when there is only one thing in front of you.

          1. Jinx*

            I don’t understand why brilliance has to be reserved for certain professions. If OP’s sister applies her brilliance (and her passion, which she wouldn’t have as a doctor) to being a mechanic, she might do some amazing things. She might even apply some of her brilliance towards activities outside work, like writing or art or community service. Or she might not. Intellect is not a public resource that is “owed” to society at the expense of personal satisfaction, and ultimately she gets to decide what makes her happy.

        4. TootsNYC*

          She never told us anything about wanting to be a mechanic or that she took a shop a class. If we had known we could have tried to change her mind before.

          And this is exactly why she didn’t tell you.
          Can you see that?

          I’m a parent of a kid sort of like your sister. And it has been my lifelong (his life, actually) goal to be accepting of him so that he would never, ever need to lie to me.

          I think your parents really messed up here–and proof of it is that she is lying to them. About what? About a class at school, for god’s sake! About a college application.

          Your family is lucky that she is smart enough and confident enough that she’s not lying to you about drugs or something!

          1. ActualName*

            “If we had known we could have tried to change her mind before.”

            This is indeed a horrific thing to say and I really wish I could give your sister a hug. My parents were always accepting of my seemingly unreasonable life goal, and now I’m going to one of the top art schools in the country. But they’ve been less accepting of my disabilities and mental illness (mostly because they didn’t know how to raise or support me) so I know how hard this is on your sister.

            My parents knew that they should support me, even though they did a bad job of it at times. The fact that you don’t even seem to want to support your sister or care about her happiness is pretty upsetting to read. I wish I knew what to say to convince you that you and your family are hurting your sister.

        5. Kyrielle*

          “If we had known we could have tried to change her mind before.”

          This speaks volumes to why she never told you. She likely thought – realized – her choice would not be respected. Why would she want to spend even longer listening to you _tear down what she wants to do and who she wants to be_?

          How would you have felt if you were exactly who you are but your whole family was blue-collar and thought college was a waste of time? How much would you tell them so they could judge you?

          I hope she’s able to find people who will support her in what she wants to do and who she wants to be. What’s left to you and the rest of the family is, individually, to decide if you are going to support her and be a good part of her life, or if you are going to treat her poorly for what she wants and exile her from the family (either explicitly or by how you treat her).

      2. Honeybee*

        There is no reasonable way to do that because there’s no way to predict what her career trajectory will look like in either of those scenarios. She could go to an Ivy and decide to be a social worker; she could go to an Ivy and decide she hates it, do poorly and drop out two years in to go do what she was going to do anyway; she could go to an Ivy and struggle to find employment afterwards. Or she could go into the military and have an illustrious career, or open her own very lucrative mechanic shop, or do mechanic for a while and return to school and have a great second career…I mean, there are so many twists and turns a person’s life can take.

        And I think that’s important for the OP to remember here, too. She’s choosing what she wants to do for right now, not necessarily forever. I mean, it would be absolutely fine if that’s what she wants to do forever, too – but her family doesn’t have to see this as the End of the World because 1) it’s a good choice and 2) she can always change careers or paths later. There’s no special or particular order everything needs to be done in.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      She will never be unemployed. She will probably be paid more than some of the top earners in your family. People will respect her and some people will swear up and down that she saved their lives. This is where she is going.

      Is the disappointment yours also? Just because she has a different choice for a career path is not the same as saying she is a failure.

      Ask yourself why she “has” to go into academics. Ask your family to explain why she has to go into academics.

      Don’t say this out loud but maybe SHE is disappointed when yet another family member goes into the academic field. People who share the common interest don’t usually think about it from this side of the coin.
      If she turns out to be brilliant at it will they be less disappointed?

      1. nep*

        This disappointment on the part of family members is generally based on conditioning. And it’s always a good thing to examine our conditioning and how it affects us. Not always positively.

    9. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “It’s just the way things are done in my family” is a problem if it’s such a dominant guiding principle that there’s no room for anything else, and that someone deciding they want to follow a different (but still perfectly reasonable) path is causing this much upset. She’s not proposing a life of crime or addiction; she’s just not interested in advanced education at this point in her life. She wants a different path for herself.

      The secret shop class is a sign that your sister felt she couldn’t be open about who she is and what she’s interested in. Wouldn’t it be kinder to show her that she can be?

      I don’t even know how deal with it or help my parents and family through our disappointment.

      Could you instead focus on helping your sister through what must certainly be her (justified) disappointment with your family’s reaction? She’s the one who needs the support here, if everyone is freaking out about her not sharing their same goals.

    10. Engineer Girl*

      I’m going to answer this as someone who received a lot of negative feedback from my mom on my career choice. It was devastating.
      I see a woman that knows herself and knows what she wants. She is passionate about mechanical things which means she will do very well. Few people know what they want at such a young age, yet she does. This kind of passion is almost always successful.
      University isn’t for everyone. My uncle only finished the 8th grade but could make anyhing out of metal. He ended up with several patents and became a multimillionaire. His machines are used around the world. His son was the same way – learning disabilities kept him from university but he a a leading person in his city. In short, you can be successful without a degree.
      Your family has a problem in that it only sees one solution for success. They foolishly think that success only comes from an advanced degree. That’s a big fat lie.
      Your family also has boundary issues in that it is trying to dictate life choices to others. Your sister has chosen a path that is honest, will provide good income, allow her to live independently, and will help others.
      Yes, I’m being harsh. Your family is way out of line on this one. Please, please, please reconsider the pressure.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        OP, take a hard look at this.
        Is this worth losing your sis over? Because that is what it will come down to if you and your family cannot flex.
        Frankly, I would probably make the same choices your sis is making by not including everyone in her decisions. I would give it some time. If the problem did not ease, I would probably remove myself from my family.

    11. Dynamic Beige*

      My grandmother was an immigrant, she cleaned houses. My mother was an immigrant, she never went to college and got into social work only because in the 70’s you didn’t need a Masters for it. I was the first woman in my family that was able to go to higher education. My grandfather thought I was going to join the military so that I could get a “free” degree. Uh… whaaaaat? When I told my mother I wanted to go to art school, she kind of gave this sniff and nod thing that I knew meant “don’t come crying to me when you’re broke and waiting tables.” She wanted me to go to university and become a professor — mainly because that was what she had wanted. If I had knuckled under that, by the time I graduated there were no jobs in academia or for new teachers because it was the early 90’s and we had just entered a long recession. I’ve been employed since graduation. There are times when I wish I could go back and become an electrician.

      Point is: if I had done what my mother wanted me to, I wouldn’t have been true to myself and I wouldn’t have been employable. There is absolutely nothing wrong with learning a trade if that’s where your interests and inclinations lie. Some people just prefer to have a job that is active. People will always need a mechanic (or a hair stylist or a furnace repairman) and doing it this way, she won’t graduate under a mountain of debt. If she’s as smart as you say she is, she can always change her mind later if she decides she wants a degree in something.

    12. Artemesia*

      Loving or accepting your child or your sibling should not depend on them living out the life you plan for them. She isn’t doing drugs and homeless, she has chosen a different career path and by her high school choice of a shop class already given some evidence of being seriously interested in that path. What is not to love?

      Your parents make an enormous mistake if they show ‘disappointment’ because she is not them. This is a great way to permanently alienate your child. Disappointment is for when they get arrested for shoplifting not for when they make a considered choice of a career path different than your own.

      1. Artemesia*

        And this reaction is likely to mean that she moves far from the rest of the family and withdraws from the family except in some perfunctory way. Most people don’t like to be showered with acid by their family. She sounds like someone with a spine; rejection is a two way street.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Yes, and actually, if she were my child I’d be proud of her – for daring to stand up for what she wants, but also for _taking that shop class_. I see someone who thought “I REALLY WANT TO DO THIS” and then decided “maybe I should try it out and see if I like the reality” and who still wants it. Not that there’d be any shame in what she wanted to do without having taken the shop class, but when it would have been ‘easier’ for her to take the expected class, instead she took the one that matched her interests _and let her explore and confirm them before committing to them post graduation_. That’s…actually really awesome.

    13. Tex*

      I think enough people have made the point about the family dynamics at play. I am a first-generation immigrant with a very similar over-achieving family. I also took shop class in high school, which helped me when i chose architecture as a major. I love, love going to the field to see the work sites in person. And these days, I’m working in oil and gas, so I get to go to some massive megaprojects in the middle of nowhere.

      It seems to me the problem is more about (1) the family’s blue collar vs white collar stigma, (2) the possible problem of her having longevity in a career (working in a very physically demanding job can be hard on the body) and (3) if she is as bright as you say, possibly becoming bored once the romance of soldiering or being a mechanic wears off.

      If the family can move away from “it needs to be this way” to a mind set of how can we help her explore the avenues to excel in what she will be happiest doing, let me offer the following possibilities to keep her future options open:

      1. West Point – being an enlisted soldier is much different than coming out of one of the academies. It is selective, physically and academically rigorous. There is a commitment to the military once she is out, but she can also come out with an engineering degree.
      2. Mechanical engineering – she can work on cars, or she can help design them. The car companies in Detroit, as well as cool companies like Tesla, are looking for these people. The degree can also help launch a career at Nasa, oil field companies, etc.

      If it were my sister, I would encourage her to take a year off to pursue an apprenticeship as a mechanic and then maybe finds herself not enjoying it as much as she thought in even two or three years (what 18 year old really knows what they want?):
      3. Any decent university (including the ivy league) is going to be thrilled with an academically gifted young woman who went after her non-traditional dreams. So what if she starts school a couple of years after her peers.

      If she goes the enlisted military route,
      4. Columbia University has a small program to help non-traditional students that are excelling in junior colleges and have not considered an ivy league path. (A lot of ex-military in this program).

      Best of luck to her.

      1. Regular poster (anon for this)*

        When she first told my parents she had declined all three of her offers because she was enlisting in the military, my father thought she meant that she would be attending West Point. She said no and lumped that in with her statement that she would rather jump off of the Golden Gate Bridge than go to university. I tried talking to her as well and I brought up engineering (one of our family members has two advanced degrees in engineering) but she is insistent that she wants to be a mechanic and she will be joining the military as an enlisted soldier. Her plan is to be a career soldier and if she has to retire for whatever reason she’ll work in a garage. She told me she is never going to university, now or later, and would sooner gouge her eyes out. She also told me off when I kept trying to talk to her about this.

        Thank you for your response and for trying to help (unlike most of the other replies to my post)

        1. Artemesia*

          Bullying a family member for not living the family script is not something most of us want to help with I think. As I said before ‘rejection is a two way street.’ The behavior of the family is a fundamental rejection of this young woman as a an actual human in charge of her own life; expect that rejection to be returned.

        2. GiantPanda*

          This sounds like your family has put way too much academic pressure on her way too long. Being an enlisted soldier or a mechanic may or may not be what she pursues long time. But the only way she might ever go back to book learning is if all of you back off completely and start supporting her finding her own path.

        3. TootsNYC*

          Thank you for your response and for trying to help (unlike most of the other replies to my post)

          I have news for you–every one of us who is saying, “you and your parents have the wrong outlook” are actually trying to help. You dismiss our advice at your peril.

          I see a very, very distant relationship with your sister in your future. One thing she’s going to love about the military is that it will take her far away from all the rest of you, and this pressure that she is already fighting so hard against.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            Oh yeah. And in the military she’s not going to have to worry about putting a roof over her head or where to get her next meal.

            You just can’t force a square peg into a round hole. Well, you can, but you’re going to damage both of them in the process and wear yourself out with the effort.

          2. nep*

            We can’t get inside her sister’s head and know all those details.
            I get that the bulk of the responses here have been rather stinging. The truth sometimes hurts. But also, it seems we are coming from utterly different ‘worldviews’ and views on success.
            Anyway it can’t be an easy shift to make and we don’t know the half of it.

            1. Dynamic Beige*

              But also, it seems we are coming from utterly different ‘worldviews’ and views on success.

              And so does your sister. With all those academic stars in your family, if there’s one thing you can say about your sister, she has definitely found a way to stand out from the pack. She will never have to think about how X cousin’s thesis was “better” or Aunt so-and-so was the youngest tenured professor in the family… but she isn’t! There simply is no comparison. Maybe that’s part of the point, she didn’t feel she could distinguish herself in that group in some way — despite what you think of her gifts and intelligence.

              Look on the bright side! If you can get past this, you will have an excellent trusted resource you can rely on to help you buy used cars or give you their opinion about how to choose a good mechanic. The father of a friend of mine owned a body shop and I have been somewhat envious over the years that he was able to help her like that. Every time I walk into a mechanic or dealership, I can’t help but wonder if I’m getting ripped off/being given a Boob Tax.

          3. Doriana Gray*

            One thing she’s going to love about the military is that it will take her far away from all the rest of you, and this pressure that she is already fighting so hard against.

            This is probably exactly why she wants to join the military. She doesn’t have to do that to become a mechanic, but the idea of travel may be appealing to her right now given the tremendous pressure cooker she seems to be living in.

        4. LizB*

          Thank you for your response and for trying to help (unlike most of the other replies to my post)

          If you had posted, “I would like to learn to fly by jumping off the roof of my apartment building, what material should I use for my artificial wings?” you would not have gotten very many responses about artificial wing construction. Instead, you would have gotten lots of comments saying “DO NOT try to fly by jumping off your roof, that is a TERRIBLE idea!” Those commenters would, in fact, have been trying to help, albeit not in the way you expected when you posed your question.

          That’s what’s happening here. We’re not giving you exactly what you asked for, but that’s because your whole premise is a bad idea. You can ignore our advice all you want, but we’re trying to help you avoid some really, really nasty consequences.

        5. fposte*

          Well, we responded to the request you posted; it looks like you may have been looking for something else than what you said.

          This is kind of surreal because I used to have these same conversations with relatives when their kids came out. Your expectations don’t control their lives, your plan for them wasn’t better if it didn’t suit them, etc.

        6. Gene*

          What more help do you need beyond, “You should accept her decision.”?

          I’ve deleted the rest of my comment, I think the first sentence summed it up. And I didn’t want to pour the contained vitriol on the discussion.

        7. Cam*

          No one else seems to be commenting on this, so I will. You keep repeating her comments of “gouge her eyes out” and “jumping off a bridge”. I think you assume she is exaggerating, but she is telling you that self harm and suicide are real possibilities if she is forced to continue with school. Please please please believe her when she says this. In high school and college, I knew a number of intelligent, driven students who were anxious, depressed and suicidal because of the pressure they and their parents put on them. Their parents also had no clue about this, because they were too scared of their parents reactions to tell them. One friend tried to commit suicide freshman year because of the pressure. Please listen to your sister when she is telling you that going to college could be harmful or even fatal to her. Just nexuses you don’t think she is depressed, doesn’t mean she isn’t. If she had to hide shop class from her family, she certainly would hide depression from them at well.

          1. Connie-Lynne*

            And smart / gifted kids are, as you have learned already, often as good at hiding things as they are at everything else.

          2. Honeybee*

            Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes + 1 million times yes.

            I used to work in residential life at an elite university, and part of my job was responding to psychological incidents. I worked with DOZENS of students who were under so much stress and pressure from their families and social groups to achieve more and do more than they just broke down under the stress. Several of these students tried to take a leave of absence or some time off and their families wouldn’t let them because they were pushing them to just get over it or ignore their own wishes and desires to continue achieving and climbing higher. It never ended well for the student. Elite universities are already stressful enough places if you want to be there; remember that they are filled with ambitious and uber-competitive kids who were all at the tops of their classes and did a zillion things in HS. I can’t imagine how terrible they must feel for students who feel out of place and miserable.

            PLEASE for the love of your sister listen to her plainly telling you that her mental state will be negatively affected if you try to force her to do what you want.

    14. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

      What do you value more in life…a strong and healthy relationship with your sister, or your family’s beliefs?

      I suggest you sit down and really think about this. If your family continues to push and push, you will likely force your sister to limit or completely cut off contact.

      You will NOT change her mind. She has made up her mind, and is doing what she chooses. So now, you must make up your mind.

      1. Artemesia*

        When my husband returned from his overseas military stint at age 23, he was greeted by a hysterical family who demanded he keep his next younger brother (of 6) from marrying the awful woman he was set on marrying. He foolishly (but he was only 23) did his family’s bidding. He failed to prevent the marriage; his parents failed to prevent the marriage. They were all right in that the marriage didn’t last and was a poor choice. The brother later married a lovely woman everyone loves and has a nice family and now has grandchildren. But the attempt by the family to bully him on this adult choice forever ruined the relationship he had with his parents and to some extent estranged him from his siblings as well. He always approached family events in a guarded way the whole time his parents were still living. His parents to their credit realized they had erred and this made it easier on us when my husband decided to marry an older divorced woman (very Catholic family). So I benefited from their mistake. Bullying an adult about decisions fundamentally theirs to make like career or marriage never turns out well.

    15. TootsNYC*

      I’d start talking about how much machinists/plumbers/pipe fitters/welders make; how it’s a form of STEM; how well the work experience of the armed services is sometimes regarded.

      I’d talk about how well-thought-out her plan is, and how independent she is. How it was surely hard to stand up for herself in the face of ALL that family pressure. ‘

      Heck, she could just run away and join the circus. She’s got a plan to tap into the military for training, etc.

      And I’d be pretty open about my amusement at my parents’ and grandparents’ and everybody’s idea that Theirs Is the Only Way.

    16. TootsNYC*

      Regarding the point you made above about how your sister could have brought pride to your family.

      I have a brother (mentioned above) who has risen in the U.S. Army to the highest rank an enlisted soldier can achieve. We are VERY proud of him.

      But we’re proud of him because he is a reliable, smart, energetic guy. He is honest, upright and true. He is clever and efficient and effective. And he is kind and humorous.

      Those are the reasons we are proud of him.

      The rank he has achieved is simply *evidence* of all the other reasons we are proud of him.

    17. Ultraviolet*

      I imagine it must feel like your sister has rejected your family’s values, and that she’s not grateful for the work your parents and grandparents have done to put her in a position to earn the opportunities she has. That would certainly be very painful. But on the other hand, your sister’s career path is revealing some things she values, and I bet she feels like your family has rejected what’s important to her too. It’s painful all around. Do you think there’s any chance that you could all come to recognize and respect the things that are important to each other?

      I’d like to propose a thought exercise. Imagine that for some magic reason, it is possible for your sister to have EITHER a happy life, or a prestigious career, but not both. Leave aside for now any feelings you have that the successful career would end up making her happy, or the fact that the military career she wants can be pretty prestigious too. Just imagine she can be prestigious or happy but never both. Which would you want her to choose? What feelings do you have about your choice? What do you think she would choose for you? (No need to actually tell me what you choose or feel if you don’t want to, but I really urge you to think it through. It might clarify some things.)

      Please forgive me if I’m reading you incorrectly, but I have the impression that you (and your family) probably do feel sure that if she chose the academic/scientific path despite her misgivings, she’d end up really glad she did. But consider how many times she’s resisted pressure to go that way. Choosing the career your family approves would be much easier than choosing something else–the fact that she has chosen something else must indicate she really wants it. I also want to point out that she’s hidden a lot from you in her effort to move away from the family career and into the military career. She hasn’t shared with you a lot of thoughts and important decisions. And some of the effort she put into science and academic achievement in high school must not have been as enthusiastic as it might have seemed. Because of that, it’s really possible that your family doesn’t actually have enough information to predict what will make her happy.

      As far as how to help your family through their disappointment: recognize that it’s a grieving process for them (and maybe for you too). Don’t be in a rush to resolve your feelings or theirs–you’re just going to feel bad for awhile. At some point, it might help to find some resources online about being in the military or being a military family. Maybe seeing the incredible respect many people have for the US military will help. Ideally you’d ask your sister to share with you some of the things she’s excited about and looking forward to about the military or being a mechanic. To the extent that your family’s motivated by worry about her happiness, this could really help. But if it seems likely to devolve really quickly into an argument, better put it off. Maybe you could ask your sister to provide some reading material for you to learn more about her chosen career (and by association, about her)?

      1. Artemesia*

        They don’t care about what will make her happy; they care about her doing what they say.

        1. Ultraviolet*

          No, I completely disagree (at least for a value of “happy” that includes “reasonably safe and secure,” which I acknowledge I didn’t touch on). I’ve seen friends fight through this type of cultural value clash, including the issue of bringing pride to the family. It’s a conflict of perspective on happiness and the good life, not an attack from evil oppressors seeking control for control’s sake.

          It’s not clear to me how your comment might have helped the OP, if they were still reading.

          1. Honeybee*

            Yeah, I agree with this. I think the OP and her family really do want the sister to be happy. I think it’s cultural values and a dash of myopia – they are all very happy with their chosen careers and with academic achievement and so they find it difficult to see how anyone else could be happy without that. And for a lot of people/cultures, bringing pride to the family and reaching the highest heights within a prestigious field IS happiness. Those folks also may have a difficult time seeing how someone could be happy with a non-prestigious career. They feel like if they just push the sister she’ll see the error of her ways and realize that she really does love science after all and would have made a terrible mistake by joining the military, blah blah blah.

    18. Victoria, Please*

      You’ve gotten an earful on this already. Here’s my two… I have a PhD, I work in academia. My brother and sister both have masters’ degrees and both are military officers. My brother flies planes and my sister commands ships. Your sister, as gifted as she is, is NOT going to STAY a mechanic in the military. She’ll be in Officer Training School at the first possible opportunity, and after that, it’s “up or out.” Your family, believe me, is going to relish thinking and talking about Lieutenant then Commander, then Major then …. heck, General sister.

      My mom loved me (she died in 2011) and she was proud of Dr. Victoria, Please, but I was not the kid she bragged about and told stories to all her friends about and anxiously followed on FaceBook.

        1. TL -*

          At least when my granddad was told that OCS was no longer an optional future but his only future, they made sure that he got his college degree first.

          That being said, you can do a lot to be proud of as an enlisted soldier.

          1. Cass*

            Absolutely, sorry if my comment was taken that way. I come from a military family, I just meant to clarify the above comment.

      1. Honeybee*

        Uh, she may certainly stay a mechanic in the military, although she may no longer be an on the ground mechanic in the military. My husband went in enlisted as an aircraft maintainer (mechanic). Above him there were layers of enlisted personnel at the senior NCO ranks – Master Sergeant, Senior Master Sergeant, Chief Master Sergeant – who spent their entire careers as aircraft maintainers. It’s just that as they rose up they spent less time doing the on-the-ground actual mechanic work and more time doing supervisory and administrative work in the field.

        Also, another surprising thing I found is that many – most, even, perhaps – senior NCOs have college degrees. My husband told me that most of the people in the upper ranks of his chain of command had them, and that these days it’s actually pretty difficult to get promoted past a certain level (TSgt, I think) without some college. The current Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force started his career as an air traffic controller and earned an associate’s and then a bachelor’s through his service career. The guy before him got a master’s degree in the service; the guy before HIM got a BA (and was an aircraft maintainer!); and the two guys before him were also both maintainers/mechanics for different systems (one for aircraft and one for missiles).

    19. Wendy*

      I come from a similar family and I found that pushing the focus back onto the important of work and contributing to community (very important values for my culturally catholic family) and also reminding them that learning isn’t only something done at school helped my family to be more accepting. In fact higher education, at least for the humanities/arts PhDs in my family, is largely independent learning/interacting with colleagues in the field – which is precisely what your sister will do but without the BA enroute to her other learning. The practical and cultural markers for success in an academic field just look different than in other fields – different but not lesser. As a last resort I’d remind people of the important science and math required to be a successful working mechanic.

    20. fposte*

      Regular, can I ask what you do, and whether you like it? Is it possible that you wanted some of the possibilities that you saw your sister as having and rejecting, and that’s part of why this is hard for you? Is it possible that there’s a part of you that might have wanted to take a different path than the parent-approved one and you’re feeling some pangs for the possibility your sister’s “defection,” as your family would seem to view it, implies for what your life could or would have been?

      I’m the same generation as you, immigrant-wise, and I know there’s a lot of layers about achievement and value. But sometimes the best gift you can give the generation after you is the gift of choice–the gift of freedom.

    21. LCL*

      She is so into the mechanical aspect of the world she lied to take a shop class? Good on her, she knows her mind and her talents. Tech people can make a very good living. Be proud you’ve got someone in the family who can fix things.

    22. TootsNYC*

      OK, trying to help here.

      I do understand the disappointment; as Ultraviolet points out, this is a grieving process. It’s human to have expectations; it’s not uncommon for parents to neglect to truly see their children, and to try to be “in charge” of their lives for longer than they should.

      I also can understand the concept of seeing the military as “second best”; there is a modern reality that some people enlist in the military when they have no other options (can’t get a job; can’t get into or afford college/training), so it can be seen a “a loser’s choice.” (It isn’t.)
      And joining the military has dangers–my brother the Army CWO, points out that he never forgets that primarily his job is to shoot people, and be shot at, for his country. Right now he runs a supply depot, but that’s his core job–war. It’s dangerous.
      And for young women, there’s the added danger of sexual harassment and assault.
      So I can see that her course of action seems less prestigious, and less safe, than a civilian life. I’m not unsympathetic. I’ll confess to having a somewhat similar reaction to my brother’s decision to enlist (because, well, other decently paying work wasn’t available, he couldn’t afford college, and his family needed the benefits). But I never, ever said it to him.

      I’ve said above that I think your parents messed up, and that I’d be upset -at myself- if my kid told me what yours did. So I wonder if there’s some of that for your parents too–that they feel chagrined at their own mistakes, and ashamed or guilty of having created a situation in which their beloved daughter lied to them and is now so harsh about rejecting their pressure.

      What you can actually do:

      -first, change the focus of the conversation and the mental energy. The focus is not on changing your sister; it’s on processing her decision and all your emotions (without impinging on your sister with them), and maintaining a good and loving relationship with her. So redirect when people are lamenting; stand up against any efforts to badger her. Verbally support her right to make the decision for herself, and suggest that you all handle your own emotions about this privately, where she doesn’t have to listen to them.
      Sympathize with your parents’ disappointment and grief, but do so in a way that doesn’t support any sense of outrage.
      It’s OK for them to feel sad that their future, and their daughter’s future, won’t be the way they’d hoped and envisioned. It’s not fair for them to feel outraged. So say, “I hear that you’re sad,” and “yes, it is disappointing.” But not, “yes, she is being mean to you.”

      -second, coach people into giving up the need to be right. And to separate her life from yours. Hard for parents to do; hard for older siblings too. It should have been happening all during high school, but it didn’t, so it’s a crash course now. Recognize that this “rift” is normal and appropriate. Talk about it as if it’s normal and appropriate for your sister to strike out on her own.

      -third, get people to focus on “a relationship with our daughter 7 years from now.” Because focusing too tightly on the next 3 weeks is going to drive her away for far longer. Say this. Talk about it out loud, so they are forced to see it, in case they can’t see that far ahead.

      -fourth, apologize to your sister, and try to listen without judging. Model for your parents what a sensible reaction would be. Let them follow your cues about tone of voice, subject, support, etc. Act as if this decision of Sis’s is interesting and intriguing; speak with interest, friendliness, calmness. Their emotions are running high, and they might really benefit from observing non-emotional reactions here.

    23. Stephanie*

      So I bet she is probably burned out. I think a lot of those kids who can get into Ivy League and similar type schools have been on a grinder since age 10. I was kind of one of them (my parents pushed me, but they also didn’t want me to have a nervous breakdown at 17) and went to college not fully ready for the jump in what was required of me. I managed to graduate on time with a respectable enough GPA, but I kind of wished I had maybe done something else before jumping into college. I was there because I was supposed to be, but I think I took it for granted. But as a Gifted Child ™, doing anything aside from going to a respectable school immediately after high school graduation was akin to saying I wanted to join the circus. And I definitely knew people in college who had been pushed and overscheduled for the previous 10 years and just crashed and burned.

      College won’t go away. I promise. And even my elite alma mater with a freshman class that was mostly valedictorians/class presidents/National Merit Scholars straight out of HS had a few non-traditional students (including a former nun). So it’s not like that avenue is completely closed.

      If she does do the military, it might help focus her. When I took some post-bacc classes, I found the material was a little fuzzier, but that my work ethic was way better because I *wanted* to be there and I knew to treat it like a job.

      1. Revanche*

        Very much agree. Off the top of my head, I know at least a dozen valedictorian, salutatorian, graduating in the top ten of their class, students who were so burnt by the time they went to their Full Ride Ivy that they crashed and burned in the first year. 15 years later, some are only JUST NOW getting back on their feet in a way they seem steady.

        “Her plan is to be a career soldier and if she has to retire for whatever reason she’ll work in a garage. She told me she is never going to university, now or later, and would sooner gouge her eyes out. She also told me off when I kept trying to talk to her about this.

        Thank you for your response and for trying to help (unlike most of the other replies to my post)”

        I come from a family where It Is Expected ruled. Hell, even expressing a differing opinion could be trouble under the wrong circumstances, particularly if it was considered wrong and made your parents look bad. It was our job to make them look good, always. Know what isn’t fun and I didn’t do just for kicks? Challenging the norm. I did it because I had to, for my sake, and to live a life that I could LIVE and not just tolerate. But you don’t do this for the pleasure of it. And it sounds an awful lot like you and your family are more concerned about the effect of her decision on your lives than on hers, from the emphasis on your expectations that she do something specifically “good enough” for her. Maybe she’s right, maybe she’s wrong, but they are her mistakes to make. The worst doctors, surgeons, and professors I know aren’t the one who were less talented. They were the ones who were bitter about their career choices and did far more harm in their career paths than good.

        And when your own sibling would rather threaten suicide than follow the expected path, I think that’s a huge red flag that she’s been pushed as far as she’s going to tolerate. We live in the Bay Area and it’s sickening how many teens take their lives over the pressure to perform academically.

        If your family would truly rather she be dead, or mentally ill, than for her to pursue an independent unexpected path, then I doubt anyone here can give you the help you may be hoping for.

        I’d suggest that accepting it is her life to live and within which to make her mistakes is the best advice everyone is offering.

        I understand very well that cultural expectations are enormous. And I still argue that having your currently healthy and brilliant sister alive and well and even possibly happy is far more important than anything else. As another commenter said, it’s doubtful she’ll stay just a mechanic. But if she does, that’s still her choice and her life.

        Be the sibling she can still talk to if she wants to change her mind. Because if you leave her with nothing but arguments or ultimatums, you’ll both be poorer for losing the relationship.

        1. ActualName*

          Thank you for saying this. I’m reminded of some other commentry on mental illness above though, about how if the sister was mentally ill it would at least explain why she wants to do these things. It’s all so toxic and I really wish I could reach out to the sister.

    24. Vancouver Reader*

      As a first generation immigrant, I can understand how your family feels. However, your family also has to realize that coming to a different country, there are chances that someone in the family will become more cultured in the ways of your new country. Your sister has learned to speak her mind, and kudos to her.

      The worst thing you can do with anyone, about anything is try to force someone to do something they don’t want to do. If you keep telling your sister she’s making a big mistake, she’s going to be even more determined to prove you wrong by making it in the military, even if she finds after a while she hates it. But she can’t leave it because you and your family will be there to say “I told you so.” Try and support her in the direction she wants her life to go; she’s still young, she could go through a million more ideas before she hits 30. The good thing is that she is super smart and will be successful in whatever she decides to do.

      1. Shell*

        I think it’s harder for immigrant families to accept the realities of their kids wandering off the chosen path, because so often the first generation makes a lot of sacrifices during the immigration to help their kids have a better life (in their perspective). I’m still finding out little and big ways my parents sacrificed for us in immigrating here, and things they went through that they didn’t tell us/we hadn’t noticed. And we immigrated a long time ago.

        Parents want what’s safe for the kids, which may not always be what’s best for them (though they usually think it is). We the kids should make a point to honour our parents’ sacrifices and love and appreciate them, but that doesn’t mean we have to follow the life script they imagined for us. It’s really hard to succeed at being the lawyer, engineer, doctor, or other high powered profession they imagined us as if we don’t want to be there in the first place. And doubtless they’d be disappointed too if we become the high powered profession of choice and really sucked at it, burned out, etc.

    25. Not So NewReader*

      “We value education. It’s just the way things are done in my family.”

      Your family can value your sis’ education or your family can value your sis. Your family cannot have both. Tell them they must chose which they value more as they can only have one.

      Text books do not teach about love and what love looks like.

      Reality is that your sis has already started to move away from your family. I know it hurts to read this but this is what is happening. It’s too late to convince her to get a higher education. Maybe if you guys are lucky you can convince her to remain interactive with the family.

      I think that you are trying to help, OP. But I think you have missed just how serious a situation this is because it stopped being about higher education a while ago. Now, it is about basic respect. Your sis is asking for respect and hearing “NO” at every turn. If Sis does not feel basic respect is in place she will leave the family eventually and never return. She has already found a “substitute family” by joining the military. They will fill up her days and fill up her life.

      This is one of the sadder threads I have read in a while. I hope this situation changes drastically and soon.

      1. catsAreCool*

        Also, learning to be a mechanic is an education in itself, even though it’s a different kind of education. Does it help at all to think of it this way?

        1. Kerry ( like the county in Ireland)*

          There’s a woman-owned garage in my city. The woman who owns it also runs a nonprofit for girls interested in the automotive trade.

          Yeah, she went to Oberlin but that’s not where her story began or ended.

    26. Jillociraptor*

      I imagine you’re feeling a little under the gun on this thread, Regular. While I will say that I don’t think it’s appropriate to expect your sister to live your ideal of a life rather than her ideal of a life, I know that it’s hard to contend with losing the vision you had for what your family would be like.

      Here’s something you might try. I’m assuming you would say that what you really want here is for your sister to change her mind and pursue the course you would prefer. From what you’ve told us, this isn’t going to happen. Your sister has made her choice, and the more you push her on it, the more she digs in. So, let’s take that outcome off the table. Let’s assume that, no matter what you do, what you say, what you threaten or reason, your sister will remain committed to her choice. What now? What’s the best possible remaining outcome? What gets you the most of what you want, for you and for your sister?

      Here’s another question to think about: Why does it matter TO YOU what choices your sister makes? What stories about yourself and your family are you no longer able to tell? What are the situations or events that you are dreading as a result of this? The more you can clarify this for yourself, the more you can start processing this turn of events, rather than stewing about something that isn’t going to change.

      It might also be helpful to remember that your sister isn’t making this decision *at* you. I get the sense that you perceive her choice as an intentional affront to your family, not as something she genuinely wants, that best embodies her vision of the good life, but that also happens to not be what you want for her.

    27. Engineer Girl*

      Poster, I’d like you to consider something about being an immigrant to the US. In the “old country” education was valued and may have been the only way to succeed if you weren’t born into a privileged family. It worked for your family and became the family paradigm. Perhaps in the old country the armed forces only had two classes – working class for the grunts and officer class for the elite. The two never mixed.
      The US still is a land of opportunity and has many paths to success that may not have been available in the old country. So yes, your family paradigm works. But other paradigms work just as well here. You can defer university and it is still available later on. Neither Bill Gates nor Mark Zuckerberg finished university. I worked with a couple of engineers that never finished university but had so much field experience that they knew more about operations than the university guys. In short, there are options available in the US that weren’t available in the old country. The family paradigm is only one of many ways to gain success in the US.
      Your sister is demonstrating that your family is now fully integrated into the US by pursuing a paradigm that wasn’t available in the old country. She is exploring options that your grandparents never had.

    28. Maya Elena*

      So a lot of comments side with your sister, but it is possible that she is just impulsive and, for all her giftedness, not very mature. Suppose she made a terrible decision and wasted her opportunity just to spite her parents. Or she acted under peer pressure from a jealous and inferior friend.

      Regardless, at some point people must be allowed to taste the consequences of their actions. Especially if she has always been insulated from any kind of risky behavior in the past.

      Besides, she can in fact reapply to college after military service. That’s about the best extracurricular activity there is to have on one’s application, I’d think.

      Finally, I gotta ask: does your family secretly believe that people without at least a master’s degree are subpar? If she went to college but didn’t get an advanced degree, would your family still be on her case about “wasting her potential”? If so, they may need to reevaluate their biases before your sister eventually cuts them out of her life.

    29. Sherm*

      It might help to realize that nothing is being wasted here. In your position you know that academia is extremely competitive these days, and the “STEM shortage” is a myth. The scholarships and academic slots that you imagine for her will go to someone VERY talented and deserving of them. On your sister’s end, she will use her own considerable talents to do amazing things. If you are surprised/dismayed at the number of commenters cheering her on, it’s that your sister is showing a remarkable amount of courage and strength of will for her age, which, although not going over well with her family right now, will take her far.

      And if — by chance — she next year in the military wonders “What on earth was I thinking? I should have gone to college,” it’s not Now or Never, as other commenters have said. I got my bachelor’s when I was almost 30 and went on to earn an advanced degree at one of the most prestigious institutions in the nation.

    30. Dan*

      Hi Regular Poster,

      There’s a few things that stood out to me, on top of the 115 posts in this thread when I read it.

      1. You speak as if your sister walks on water, and is destined to do Great Things (TM). A couple of things here: At 17 or 18, it’s hard to know what’s someone’s “potential” really is. Second, life is full of people who had “great potential” and just decided to live life. I’m not going to call it “failure” because it’s not.

      2. My mother got in the way of me living my life precisely at your sister’s age. 18 years later, we barely speak. Keep that in mind. You have to ask yourself what’s more important: Your relationship with your sister, or “the family way.”

      3. Some of the best experiences I’ve had in life were at blue collar jobs. I will forever remember them fondly. And guess what? They weren’t a waste. I have an “office job” in the same field as my blue collar work. That work set me up for a six figure salary, making double what my parents make. So now I’ve got a strained relationship with my mother, and make way more than she does. Was she right?

      4. I had a 2.6 GPA as an undergrad. Oops. I was burned out, and had some other complications to deal with, but it is what it is. Am I a failure because I didn’t get a 4.0 or close to it? See previous point: I have a six figure salary. I’m not bragging here, but how would one even define failure? I’m living my life for me, doing the things that I want to do, and don’t require financial support from anybody.

      1. TL -*

        As to 1) she could have such potential, get her PhD, and spend her whole life in pursuit of one tiny piece of knowledge that adds one tiny drop to the field of knowledge in one very specific field. And in some ways, this would be a great accomplishment. And in other ways – well, discoveries that truly rock even the just the broader science communities are very, very, very rare. Even the most intelligent, luckiest, hard working people often don’t do more than shine brightly in their field when it comes to academia. Knowledge like that builds slowly and gradually 99.9% of the time. That is not satisfying to a lot of people.
        And on that note, it’s certainly not fair to your sister to expect her to rock the science/medical world or make discoveries that change people’s lives. That’s not a realistic goal for researchers, whether or not it’s what they want to do with their life!

    31. BBBizAnalyst*

      If this was 10+ years ago, i could definitely see my brother writing this. We don’t have much of a relationship (read: close to zero) now and I am now that I am about to turn 30 because of how overbearing he is. You have to wonder if it’s worth your relationship with your sister because she didn’t move down the path that you’re trying to force onto her.

      I turned out pretty damn okay. Your sister will too. Leave her alone or she’ll make the decision for you.

    32. The Expendable Redshirt*

      Your sister sounds awesome! This is an intelligent, brave individual, who appears to be making realistic life choices. Instead of thinking of this as a disappointment, try a different perspective. Trade school is not lesser than university. The military is not lesser than an academic career. People have different brains and passions. It may be pretty weird for your family, but different is okay.

      As a personal note, I grew up in a military family where Dad was a mechanic. Younger Brother went to trade school and just started a business in the energy sector. I went to university and have employment in the social work field. My sibling did NOT have the desire to go to university, even though he was *smart* enough. In contrast, my brain liked university and did well there. If we had tried to live each other’s lives….it would have been a disaster! There is no way I am mechanically inclined enough to set up an electrical grid. Remember, different is okay.

  17. Mimmy*

    While I was never officially a fan of Prince, his passing on Thursday was heartbreaking. I grew up in the 80s and remember when Purple Rain was popular; I enjoyed his other music as well. However, I had no idea how much of an impact he had until Thursday. The outpouring of grief and all the tributes on social media has been unreal. I’ve found that I don’t always appreciate celebrities until they pass on.

    The most heartbreaking part for me is that he apparently overdosed on Percocet, an opiate, about a week before. His people first cited the flu, but has now admitted that he’s had some issues with hip pain over the last few years. While it’ll be awhile before we know how exactly he died, I’m saddened at the possibility that it may be related opiate addiction – he’s always been clean.

    I didn’t fully appreciate Prince’s talent and authenticity until my husband and I saw him in 2004 on his Musicology tour. He played all of his old material and even brought out all his friends from the Purple Rain era – it was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. His music and the movie Purple Rain started to grow on me a little – the ending when he sings Purple Rain always makes me cry. His Super Bowl performance of the song in 2007–in the POURING RAIN–was also really awesome.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      His Super Bowl performance of the song in 2007–in the POURING RAIN–was also really awesome.

      Not just pouring rain – the rain was purple because of his lights! That was the most epic performance I’ve ever seen.

      As for the rumors about how he died, I’m taking everything with a grain of salt right now. First it was AIDS talk, now it’s pills when, as you said, Prince was clean his entire life. The endless speculation is just extremely distasteful to me because he was notoriously private when he was alive – his health issues, whether it was his hips or an STD, were no one’s business. That’s not directed at you by the way – it’s directed at the bottom feeding tabloids and bloggers who almost have a perverse desire for his death to have been grisly.

      Like I said above, I’ve loved this man since I was three years old. He was my first crush. I saw the video for “Kiss” and was instantly intrigued by this glorious creature in a cut out jumpsuit and high heels. He was here for us weirdos, the people who didn’t really fit in anywhere. He gave us a voice and the confidence to do what we please without trying to be like everyone else. I remember driving down Roosevelt Boulevard in Philly with my aunt at about seven or eight, singing “When Doves Cry” at the top of our lungs, the time I tried to sing “Cream” at my third grade talent show, the night my friend and I watched Under the Cherry Moon together in high school because she had never seen this gloriously dreadful masterpiece (his wardrobe was killer in this movie, though) – he brought so much joy to my life. I will miss him greatly.

      1. Mimmy*

        I read and responded to your post above – but it’s so interesting how people’s lives are touched by singers, moreso than actors or athletes. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a Prince concert, but I think that’s one way we connect with our music heroes. I’m a huge fan of Kelly Clarkson–have followed her pretty much her entire career and have seen her 8 times, meeting her once in 2005. Granted she’s the polar opposite of Prince, but I feel just as strongly about her as you do about Prince.

        As far as the tabloids go – frankly, I’m not surprised, and it really is disgusting. An aunt ranted on Facebook this morning about a Prince special on Dateline last night, saying it was going right for the drug angle and other “secrets”. Conversely, I watched the 20/20 special, and it was very respectful – they didn’t even try to speculate on the cause of death, which I appreciated. Usually I find them a bit more sensationalist, so I was pleasantly surprised by last night’s show.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          I’m glad 20/20 was respectful – I can’t watch anything about him right now because I’m trying to stay focused on studying for another designation, and I don’t want to be angry by sensationalistic reporting, or conversely, a hot sobbing mess due to heartfelt eulogizing. Now I know how the Michael Jackson fans felt. It’s unreal.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          I read and responded to your post above – but it’s so interesting how people’s lives are touched by singers, moreso than actors or athletes.

          I don’t care at all about sports. When a favorite actor dies, I’m a little sad, but it’s usually just a bit of nostalgia. When I see a good movie, I can appreciate it. I may be moved by it and cry or laugh, but it’s fairly temporary. Maybe a really good movie might affect me for two or three days. A good song, a good album, an artist with several good albums? That will affect me for weeks, months, years, decades, and I don’t even have to see the artist in a live concert for her or him to have that effect on me. Music is that powerful.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            Or, to put it another way, I know a lot of people (like me) who don’t care at all about sports. I know a handful of people who “don’t watch movies.” I don’t know a single person who doesn’t appreciate music. They may have different taste from me in music, but they appreciate some kind of music.

            1. Amy UK*

              *raises hand* There are plenty of people who don’t care about music. It’s just become bizarrely unacceptable to admit it socially so we keep quiet. Like, to the point that “What’s your favourite band/song?” is one of the openers of most small talk or first date chat. I don’t hate music, I just don’t care about it. I don’t play it when I’m alone. If you asked me who my favourite band/artist is, I’d have no answer. I can say “Oh, I like this song” if someone else has the radio on, but who sings it means nothing to me, and I’ll almost certainly never download the song/album.

              And tbh, it’s comments like yours that mean people who don’t like music feel pressured to fake it. Like you say, there’s people who don’t like every kind of interest (art, sports, films), so why assume music is any different.

          2. Honeybee*

            Thiiiiis. There are lots of songs that are forever associated with memories and emotions for me. There are some artists that just mean a lot. I bawled when Michael Jackson died because his music was a big part of my childhood and my connection with my family. I grew up dancing to Jackson 5 songs during Saturday cleaning with my family, watching new MJ videos premiere with my parents in the living room, trading MJ songs on special mixtapes traded with high school boyfriends…I have memories associated with most of his songs! Prince is kind of like that too. His music makes me feel things! I don’t feel that way about athletes or actors.

        3. Kate M*

          I will say there are probably some actors that have this kind of impact. Robin Williams for example.

          I think maybe though it’s more often musicians that have this impact because with actors, we know they are playing a part. It might be a very impactful part to us, but we know it’s not necessarily their words or feelings. It’s not actually them as a person, and they play so many different people. For musicians, they might be playing a part too, but it’s harder to tell. It’s not like they change characters every year. It’s more like we see it as their words speaking directly to us, rather than a writer’s words coming through an actor. How true that is might be debatable, but it’s easier to see it like that.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            This explains it perfectly. Actors are saying other people’s words. They’re playing a part. All celebrities do to a certain extent, but musicians, especially the ones that write their own lyrics, are exposing a piece of themselves to the world. There’s something very intimate about that exchange that just isn’t there with other entertainers.

          2. Mimmy*

            That’s a very good point Kate M. Robin William’s death was heartbreaking as well. I couldn’t stand the guy because he was so hyper, but when he passed, I saw how much his work had touched people. I loved all the sweet quotes from his movies that people posted on Facebook.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      It’s super easy to OD on opiate painkillers even if you’re not addicted. They’re strong stuff. We won’t know anything until the toxicology tests come back, if there’s anything to know.

      1. TootsNYC*

        yeah, I don’t think it’s fair to say that he wasn’t “clean” anymore because of Percocet–either taking it, OR becoming addicted to it because of health reasons.

      2. Kate M*

        And it can be really easy to become addicted, even if you’ve never taken drugs before. Just because someone isn’t addicted to any substances now doesn’t mean they never will be. It’s one thing that our society really needs to start treating more as a health issue rather than a moral issue.

        (This isn’t directed at any commenter here, just saying that even if he did die because of an OD/addiction, it shouldn’t really be any different than him dying because of another medical reason. Just sad all around.)

    3. StudentA*

      I’m in complete agreement. He was never my favorite but his passing broke my heart. He is a consummate professional (artist). He could run circles, hundreds of them, around what gets passed off as musicianship today. This is a loss of truly epic proportions to the music world. His commitment to his craft has always been plain to see.

      I know I’m using a lot of dramatic language, but I feel prince was dramatically significant.

      And can I also say he came off in interviews as a sweetheart and as intelligent in such a likable way?

      Society takes talent for granted a lot. We are jolted when these legends leave this world. May he rest in peace.

    4. Carrie in Scotland*

      I’m not a fan but I do feel sad that Prince has gone. He was such a brilliant artist and very unique.
      I love how several attractions worldwide were turned purple in his honour.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        Me too. I’m not all broken up, but I was shocked when I heard it. When it was announced that Bowie was gone well… he wasn’t exactly a young man so it wasn’t like really a huge surprise. I probably sound too callous but when, say, Keith Richards joins the Choir Invisible, he’s had a good long life and while it will be sad and many fans will be devastated, no one can live forever. It’s inevitable for everyone but at least their art lives on to be enjoyed. It’s just Prince was not that old. That’s the part that’s got me. I kind of feel the same way I did when it was announced about Kurt Cobain… too young. So much talent, gone so soon.

    5. Stephanie*

      If it is not obvious from my avatar, I’m black. What I really appreciated about Prince (aside from his music, which I loved) was that he was a black pop culture figure who wasn’t a hyper masculine athlete or rapper or Beyonce-like pop star. As a nerdy, kind of awkward black kid, I appreciated there was a black pop figure who was just different and widely accepted.

    6. Clever Name*

      So my desktop background at work is a Prince/Bob Ross mashup (it makes people giggle). Coworkers were asking me all day Thursday if I had heard the news and if I was going to be okay. I’m as big of a Prince fan as anyone who grew up in the 80s, and it was just coincidence I looked at a picture of him at work every day. That said, I’ve been thinking what Prince meant to me. Obviously, there’s his music, but I’m inspired by his proud display of weirdness. He’s someone who said, “conformity- screw you!” He was someone who was true to himself, even when people laughed or made fun of him. It’s taken me a long time to embrace my own weirdness and to do my own thing, and I’d like to think Prince had a small part to play in my own transformation. So every time I let my freak flag fly, or just wear purple, I salute you, Prince.

    7. Mimmy*

      Doriana Gray – Did you see SNL’s tribute last night? My husband showed me the opening monologue by Jimmy Fallon, and Prince’s performance at the SNL 40th anniversary after-party last year.

      My husband was more of a fan than me, and I can tell Prince’s death is hitting him a little bit :( He’s been watching a lot of videos and interviews over the last few days, sometimes getting choked up. Purple Rain is playing in select theaters but nothing close to us. It’s just as well because we’d both be a sobbing mess.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I didn’t see it actually – I was studying all night :(

        It’s probably for the best though – I was listening to his music the other day, and “4 The Tears in Your Eyes” came on. I started crying again. Then on Friday I saw the video of the cast of Broadway’s The Color Purple doing “Purple Rain,” and that brought tears to my eyes as well. I can’t watch anything Prince related for a while I don’t think.

        1. Honeybee*

          Oh man, I almost cried during that video clip of the “Purple Rain” tribute and I did cry singing “Diamonds and Pearls” along with my radio during a Prince tribute on the radio. It had been a long day at work, I learned about his death at the beginning of the day and my commute was tripled by traffic on the way home so at that point I had been listening to 40 minutes of Prince in my car. It was ripe for an emotional breakdown!

    8. Honeybee*

      I loved Prince and it pains me that I never got to see a live concert of his, nor will I ever now. I listened to a clip of his last performance in Atlanta and the last thing he performed was a beautiful piano medley of my three favorite Prince songs – “Purple Rain,” “The Beautiful Ones” and “Diamonds and Pearls.”

      I was reading a Slate article the other day that had an interesting perspective. Prince was incredibly vigilant about controlling what music and media was on the Internet – he pulled all of his music off of most streaming services last year (it’s only on Tidal) and aggressively used legal action to pull clips of his concerts, interviews and performances from YouTube. The writer of this article mentioned that normally when a musician dies people run to their streaming services and YouTube to watch old clips and listen to their music by themselves. But her theory is – when Prince died, we didn’t have that, so people turned to sharing incredible stories they had about the way Prince and his music touched their lives. I thought it was an interesting theory, and one he would’ve liked. (One clip that I did turn to was this hilarious one he did on the Muppet Show about how he could make a song out of anything.) The radio station I mostly listen to on the way to work played nonstop Prince music for 24 hours and even now plays it intermittently with other stuff, way more than they ever did, usually framed with some memorial words. I mean, even MTV actually played music videos in honor of Prince. (And I wore purple pants to work on Friday.)

      Also, all of the stories I’ve ever heard about people meeting him in person point to him being an incredibly awesome person in real life. One guy said he had a delivery to Prince’s address in Minneapolis and he expected a household employee to open the door, but Prince opened it himself and invited him in, offered him drinks and food and told him to come back any time!

  18. Anxa*

    Feeling rather grumpy:

    I walked 30 minutes to get to the library to work on a job application, since I can’t afford ink anymore (the cartridges never last long enough, I guess they’re planned to quit these days?). I cleaned up my computer area (there was hair and eraser bits and sticky soda spots). I get all settled and people will just not shut up.

    There are quiet areas, but no computers there. I honestly could accept that if the computers were in an area where group projects and conversation were allowed, but this is far more annoying. Everyone’s just cackling and laughing and being generally boisterous and I just don’t don’t understand how people can be just that inconsiderate. Why can’t you socialize literally anywhere else?

    1. Aisling*

      Public libraries these days are not quiet places; they are more “community centers” where people can hang out and talk. It is difficult if one expects a quiet spot for research, homework, or anything else that’s quiet. I’d take ear plugs or a ear buds with you next time, and play some white noise to drown out the talking.

      One thing I noticed when working in a pubic library- the inconsiderate people at the computers sometimes have no idea that they’re being inconsiderate. Manners have to be taught, and after meeting two or three generations of the same family, I realized that sometimes, they just aren’t being taught.

      1. Anxa*

        Unfortunately, I’m quite familiar with the transition. What I’m dying to know is, where is the community center for trying to get stuff done or enjoying quiet leisure? It also seems incredibly classist, and assumes people have a safe, quite place to do homework, apply for jobs, and otherwise buckle down and get to work. Then again, I suppose libraries exist to serve the middle class more than the poor, so it does make sense.

        There’s also no way to drown it out without blowing out my eardrums :-(. Fortunately, they left. I probably would have said something if there weren’t a quiet level.

        1. Aisling*

          I agree with you on the quiet place to work. At my library, we would have quieted down the group, and the staff at your library should have done the same. Point of fact, however- public libraries exist to be an equalizer between the poor and the privileged. It’s the poor who need them the most.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        That’s too bad about the noisy computer area. Our library has two computer areas: a large, open space for collaborative work and chatting, and a smaller, enclosed computer lab with signs posted that this area is a quiet space.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Does the library have any study rooms you could use? Ours do–they’re little tiny rooms into which you can go and shut the door. They have glass in the door, I guess so people don’t get up to didoes in there, but it should help cut out some of the noise.

    3. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

      Does your library loan out laptops to be used in the library? Or, do you have a local college you can get a “membership” at to use their library/quiet space?

      1. Anxa*

        I’m at the local college!

        It’s….a party school. This library is fantastic in so many ways. It’s huge. The computers have nice, big monitors. There are quiet areas, group work ares, a common floor (where I’m at) with rows and row of desktops. Also, the chairs are pretty comfortable for a public facility. They do lend out laptops,tablets, etc., but my membership doesn’t qualify (I’m an affiliate member).

        It’s incredible. The only problems? Accessibility and the patrons. The school has a construction project that’s taking over the parking lot (I don’t think they’re that concerned with students’ access to the library). And people talk in the quiet floor all of the time, talk way too loudly to be appropriate in the common floors, hog the large study rooms to browse their phones for hours as a single person, and so on.

        1. Wendy*

          Maybe try a public library instead? College libraries in my experience cater to what suits the students – in this case a large gathering place

    4. S0phieChotek*

      Yes, the public libraries here seem to be like free daycare or something. Little children run around screaming and middle-school age/high-school age children sit around, ostensibly doing homework, but more often talking. Hard to get anything done. I just run in and get books and leave. Sorry if I sound grumpy but I consider libraries to be places of learning not social settings. I’m glad rules have relaxed since the stereotypical cardigan-wearing prim librarian that runs around saying “silence” but it’s too loud in libraries it seems…the balance between providing other services to the community and becoming a playground is difficult one to tread…

  19. Alistair*

    One more month and our 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe will be paid off! Suddenly, we’ll have an extra $260 per month. So…what should we do with it?

    My first thought is paying extra to our credit cards, as we have a fair amount of credit card debt. But I had also been thinking about trying to rebuild a depleted emergency fund, and socking the money away to build towards the down payment on our next car.

    Any thoughts on the matter? My fiscal knowledge is not great. Is there anything I’m missing?


    1. fposte*

      This is an “it depends” question, but what’s your interest rate on the credit cards, and (if you feel like sharing) how much debt are we talking about? Are you on a scheduled track to pay them off otherwise? In general, interest rates on credit cards mean you’ll get the most bang for your buck by paying them off faster–remember everything you buy on a card with a balance costs you more.

    2. Anxa*

      We put a few months into a savings account (okay, just earmarked it in our checking) for car repairs.

      Wouldn’t you know, just one month after it was owned free and clear the battery started going and maintenance tasks crossed the threshold from ‘hey, we need to take of the alignment soon’ to ‘whoa, we need to take care of the alignment NOW’

    3. Not So NewReader*

      The rule of thumb that has been most comfortable for me is to build up the emergency fund first THEN pay down debt. If you have no emergency fund you will be forced to use your credit and the revolving debt load never ends.

      If you have to take money out of the emergency fund, then you can refill it, then go back to paying down other debts.

    4. Nicole*

      I’d build up the emergency fund first and then put that extra money toward paying down your debt. That way you won’t be adding to your debt if an emergency comes up. Once both those things are done I’d take that extra money and invest it in a Roth IRA for your retirement. Best thing about them is you can withdraw any of your contributions before retirement age without penalties.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      An emergency fund is important, so that should definitely be on your list. But so is paying down debt. If you really have no emergency funds, I’d put all of it towards an emergency fund for at least the first four months; then, when you have $1000 in emergency funds, maybe dial back and put $50 of it towards debt, until you hit $2000 in emergency funds, and so on. That will help kick start your emergency fund, but also once you have built it up a bit, you can focus a bit more on paying down your debt. The exact numbers or split isn’t important, but I would quickly build up the emergency fund, then start to dial it back once you have a cushion.

    6. Artemesia*

      If you don’t have an emergency fund I’d do that first. Any little bump in the road messes yo up if you don’t have that. Once you have a couple thousand socked away then hack away at the credit card debt and get rid of that.

    7. BRR*

      Not sure what your savings or debt are but save a few months of living expenses before paying down your credit cards then keep saving while paying extra. Something might happen where you can’t charge something and you have the cash that way. Also if you have credit card debt you should probably think about how you got into this debt and how to prevent it from happening again once it’s paid off and your next car down payment should be out of the picture unless a car dies or you really need another one. Credit card debt is very expensive to have.

    8. Alistair*

      Ya’ll are pretty much echoing my thoughts here. A few extra details: About $10,000 total over 2 cards, at rates of 12% and 14%. About $1,000 in a savings account for our emergency savings. I always pay more than the minimum to the cards.

      Generally, the credit cards have been used for food and necessities at home. But within the last year there’s been a few minor (but expensive) medical procedures, and an expensive car accident that has not been fully repaid by insurance. Though I admit I splurged at Christmas.

      We’re not drowning, just paddling upstream, and this money is like some nice new awesome paddles. I’m thinking a split might be best: $60 to the emergency savings, and $200 to cards.

      Thanks for the thoughts everybody!

      1. Jillociraptor*

        Some really great advice I got when facing a similar issue: paying off credit cards is useless if it puts you in a financial situation where you’re going to need to incur more debt.

        So, if you could keep the additional $260/mo in your checking account, and avoid needing to put routine expenses on your credit card, that will be better for your financial health in the long run. Similarly, if building a savings account means that you’re less likely to have to put unexpected but regular emergencies on your card, that’s the route you want to go. Paying down your debt of course reduces the interest you’ll pay over the long term, but it also just opens up more of your credit line to be used (rather than building your cash-available), so it’s vital to create a plan that helps you avoid incurring more debt in the future.

        1. Alistair*

          Jillociraptor, this is a brilliant line of thought I hadn’t even considered. Thank you!

      2. Dan*

        Can you get 0% or similar low balance transfer offers from opening a new card? Or, do you have cards with available credit offering you balance transfers with low rates? If so, you’ll pay 4%-5% of the balance but then have that low rate locked in for up to 18 months. This way, you can focus on building your emergency savings.

        TBH, I’ve focused on paying down the debt at the expense of my emergency savings. I’ve got access to a relatively large line of credit, and decided I’m better off getting rid of the debt than carrying the debt and trying to build savings. With the line of credit I have, it’s unlikely to get slashed, and, um, I can always borrow more.

        I’m in the last year of a three year plan to pay off $20k in debt, and I’ve managed.

    9. Sibley*

      You might like this blog: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com Lot of ideas that you might find helpful.

      I’d recommend building up your emergency fund (so you don’t have to go into debt because of something that comes up) and work on paying off the credit cards.

      If you take proper care of your car, it should last a long time too.

    10. NDQ*

      Once you have $500 to $1000 set aside for savings, attack the debt. But the real key is changing your spending habits so that you save/invest more of what you earn.

      MMM is a great site for improving your life and building wealth. Dave Ramsey’s site can help you with debt, but not investing.


  20. AnotherAnon*

    I’ll be putting my condo on the market and moving to a different place (location still TBD, but definitely at least several hours away from my current city) in about a year’s time. Any tips on long-range preparations for The Big Move? I.e. how to make the packing and moving process easier, how to prepare my property to go on the market, how to mentally and emotionally prepare for the move? I’ve already started culling my belongings and donating things in good condition to charity while tossing stuff that’s in poorer shape.

    1. Artemesia*

      The first step is obvious but hard. Get rid of the crap. We ended up donating most of our furniture and household good before moving to refugee resettlement. Best decision we ever made. There are one or two things I wish we had kept but more than that I wish we had gotten rid of.

      Before putting a house on the market ruthlessly go through the closets and donate clothes you don’t love and wear, get rid of all the worthless junk you kept because it might come in handy, go through your kitchen and decide what you really like and want to take along and then donate the rest. The goal is to have the place ready to show looking neat clean and like it has plenty of storage. Clean orderly closets with extra room in them make the house look roomy and livable. Kitchen counters and cupboards with lots of space that are need also give that message of livability.

      Then look at the decor. If it needs paint, go neutral, probably white. If it doesn’t need paint, be sure it is clean. Clean and wash baseboards, switchplates and such. Make sure small cosmetic defects are dealt with. Make sure everything is spotless. While showing a house, have some place to stow things in use when a showing is scheduled e.g. a drawer or covered basket where yesterday’s jeans go.

      We always buy new towels for the bathroom; we always get the same color towels and so get a fresh set that we will take to the next house. There is something about new towels that just makes a bathroom look well cared for and clean and fresh. Of course deep cleaning is important.

      One thing I did before putting my house on the market was refinish all the wood cabinet doors with a one step finish that renewed their color and shine. It was an easy wipe on wipe off thing and just transformed the cabinets. I started because my husband sloshes water everywhere in the bathroom and the cabinet below his sink was water damaged. I sanded it and used this one step finish and it was like magic, so I used it on the other bathrooms and kitchen cabinets and it made everything look new. We also repainted (it had been 15 years) and re-carpeted the upstairs (it had been 25 years). If the carpets had had better care, we would have just had them cleaned.

      Pay attention to smell. We had a cat and were very careful about keeping the litter fresh during the period we were showing. (the first realtor we contacted said we had to get rid of the cat if we didn’t have someone who could take it — yeah, kill the cat, that’s the ticket) We did some of the old tricks like baking cookies, but mostly we just made sure the place was very clean and burned the occasional scented candle.

      We had 3 bids before it ever went on the market; we probably underpriced it a bit although we asked 25K more than the 3 realtors we consulted recommended, but we were ready to sell and move.

      1. AnotherAnon*

        Wow, thank you so much for your thoughtful and fantastic advice! I’m definitely saving this post and using the things you mentioned as a checklist to get started on now. I moved into my current condo right after college when all the furniture I had was basically a bed and dresser I bought new from Ikea and my parents’ old couch, and I’ve slowly accumulated way too much stuff over the years. It’ll definitely be a big long-term project to work on, but it will definitely reduce my stress if I get started now.

    2. Snazzy Hat*

      Start packing the stuff that you know is important but don’t need to access. For example, books you recently read; you probably won’t read them again in the next ten months.

      Throw a party that includes “buy/take my stuff”. I attended one for two friends moving from the East Coast to Hawaii. Notable items I purchased include a lounge chair, the perfect table for my basement, and a 5′ long cloth zip-up wardrobe; s.o. got a tea chest *with tea* and two snazzy knapsacks, one of which he now uses every day for work.

      When moving day is close, put together a box of “Unpack This Upon Arrival” stuff and mark it clearly.

      Repeat my first suggestion *multiple times.* I can’t tell you how infuriated I was when my sister’s moving truck was in the driveway and her closet was still full of clothes.

      1. AnotherAnon*

        Thank you Snazzy Hat, those are some great tips! There are definitely things I can pack now. I moved cross-country after graduating college back in 2009, but at that time I had relatively few possessions and was able to make detailed inventories of what went into every box (all 10 boxes or so, not including the big furniture items). I definitely need to start eliminating things I won’t be needing in the future, preferably by selling, donating, or giving to people who will appreciate them.

    3. beefy*

      Everything takes longer than you think it will. You have more stuff than you think you do. You need more tape and boxes than you think you do.

  21. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’m sending my husband to Scotland in the fall to see a band he loves, as a combination xmas/anniversary present. He’ll be based in Glasgow and there for a week. Any Scottish readers with suggestions for him?

    1. Christine*

      Visit a whisky distillery? I wasn’ t there myself. It’ s just a member of my to-do-before-you-die list

      1. Cristina in England*

        Weirdly, the distilleries near Glasgow are only easily accessible by car, which doesn’t make any sense as they take drinking/driving very seriously here. There might be a bus trip there if he is into it but you would have to investigate in advance.

    2. Cath in Canada*

      I miss Glasgow! I lived there for three years and loved it.

      My favourite thing to do there was to walk from the Botanical Gardens, along the river into Kelvingrove Park, explore the Kelvingrove museum, then go for food and beers on the Byres Road / Ashton Lane. If he’s into architecture and design, try a Charles Rennie Mackintosh tour. The Burrell Collection is a quirky little museum out of town.

      Edinburgh and Stirling are easy day-trips by train, and there are buses that go up to Glen Coe and Fort William if he likes hiking etc.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        All of these!

        Loch Lomond is beautiful in autumn – there’s a relatively inexpensive boat ride around the lake and with the leaves turning, it’s just wonderful.

        For Asian food/shops – go to the southside/Victoria Rd.

        If he likes ice cream, Nardini’s on Byres Rd is a must, and Ashton Lane at night is beautiful (there is also an amazing, independent cinema there). Glasgow University is beautiful (dates from 1451) and several days – def the weekend – there are guided walks around the campus.

        Also, he definitely should try the tube! It’s a circle of only 15 stations. You can’t go wrong… :)

        1. Cristina in England*

          Just want to translate for a minute: “Asian” here usually means South Asian, specifically Indian or Pakistani (“Asian” in the US more frequently means East Asian, or Chinese/Japanese/Korean).

          Yes do take at least one trip on the subway so you can see how miniature it is. :-)

        1. Cristina in England*

          At the ABC? I used to love the ABC very very much when I lived there. I recommend Variety bar, which is a couple blocks west of ABC for a pre-show drink. There are also a few decent restaurants along that strip, and the Centre for Contemporary Art which has a cafe in a very interesting space (outside walls inside, somehow).

          A couple of my downthread recs are very close to ABC: Glasgow Film Theatre and Wee Curry Shop. Oh, and I just remembered Akbar’s curry shop, which is a couple of blocks farther west from Variety Bar.

          1. mander*

            If that’s the same Akbar chain as the one in Newcastle, take a friend or two if you order naan bread. They are so big that they come on a special stand.

            I’ve actually only been to Glasgow a couple of times so I don’t have that many recommendations, except that the central square is rather pretty.

            (Also, I had no idea your husband was a bit of a Goth!)

            1. Elkay*

              I miss naans on a tree, they’re so common around Leeds/Bradford but curry houses down south stick with plates. The trees are such a good idea because you can get more food on your table that way.

    3. Cristina in England*

      What is he into? Will he be driving at all? He could very easily get up to Loch Lomond if he wants to see lovely countryside, it is less an an hour away by car, and you can also take a train there. Glasgow has tons of clubs and gigs so he could probably fit in a few more while he is there.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        He is into ruins, castles, and beautiful scenery (so Scotland is perfect for him). It looks like there are a bunch of day trips to the Highlands, etc. that are really affordably priced, so hopefully he can do some of that, and I will suggest Loch Lomand specifically.

        1. Cristina in England*

          On one of her visits my mum did some day tours that left from Buchanan Bus station in the city centre. She enjoyed them. She went to Inverness, and I can’t remember where else.

        2. Cristina in England*

          Sorry for all of the posts, my time there is coming back to me bit by bit. If he wants ruins, then St. Andrews is well worth a shout. He could drive there or take the train, changing in Edinburgh. St. Andrews is gorgeous, with ruins, an ancient university, and a beach!

          1. Carrie in Scotland*

            Although to be technical, you can’t get to St Andrews itself by train. You’d have to stop in Dundee and take the bus or hire a car. But it’s worth a visit!

            1. Cristina in England*

              Oh sorry, I got that wrong. You can get a bit closer than Dundee. Here’s what the tourism site says:
              “St Andrews is served by Leuchars Rail Station, which is on the East Coast main line linking London, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. The station is just ten minutes by road from St Andrews. Public bus services to St Andrews meet all train arrivals and there are always taxis waiting just outside the railway station. Many accommodation providers in St Andrews also offer a pick-up service for their guests.”

              1. Cristina in England*

                Reading that back, it seems a bit terse, but I am just so excited to be able to contribute to one of these “where should I go” questions that I am posting in a bit of haste! I had completely forgotten that the train doesn’t go all the way, thanks for correcting me. :-)

              2. Carrie in Scotland*

                Yeah but not many trains stop at Lauchars! (might be a bit better now). I’d actually forgotten about that station…which says it all, really.

                1. Harriet*

                  I would actually say that all services on that line stop at Leuchars, even the express ones. From Glasgow to St Andrews I’d suggest getting the bus though, to avoid the faff of two trains and a bus. St Andrews is beautiful, would definitely recommend. A day trip to the Highlands would also be good, as would Loch Lomond!

                2. Cordelia Longfellow*

                  It’s really quite easy to catch a train from Edinburgh to Leuchars. I lived in St Andrews when I was going to school, and would do day trips to Edinburgh quite frequently. From Glasgow, just get a train to Edinburgh Waverley station and then catch a train to St Andrews. :-)

    4. Apollo Warbucks*

      There are two whiskey near the city:

      auchentoshan by train
      glengoyne by bus

      Edinburgh is awesome and only an hour on the train, or is he going to stay in Glasgow for the whole trip?