weekend free-for-all – May 7-8, 2016

Olive and EveThis 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 Japanese Lover, by Isabel Allende. A love story between a Polish girl sent to San Francisco to escape the Holocaust and the son of a Japanese gardener who’s sent to an internment camp after Pearl Harbor. Displacement, love, aging, gardening, mysterious letters… It’s gotten mixed reviews, but I’m loving it.

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

{ 840 comments… read them below }

  1. regina phalange*

    long distance relationships – worth the effort, or no? just met someone who lives a significant distance from me but we’ve made it clear there is interest there. however, in the back of my head, the logical side of me is saying it’s going to be too hard while the other part of me is like fk it, this guy is awesome. and then of course there is the worry he’s going to meet someone in his city and be like j/k never mind. so, I’m a little guarded right now.

    1. Me2*

      My husband and I commuted back and forth from WA state to SoCal for the first 2 years of our relationship. We ended up meeting in the middle (OR) and have lived there for almost 24 years. We both are people who like a lot of personal space though, so he frequently goes alone to our beach cabin and I get the house to myself.

    2. Buttercup*

      My parents did the long distance thing in the 80’s. My mom was here in NH and my dad was in Japan. They somehow made it work. They would send cassette tapes back and forth. I don’t know if its easier or harder now with communication being so much easier now. BTW my parents have been married now for 28 years.

      1. Buttercup*

        They also only knew a few words of the others language. It seemed that they communicated through simple words and music and friends translating.

      2. AnAppleADay*

        Oh my goodness, my first love and I sent cassette tapes back and forth to each other when I went off to college. He was still in High School and this was the very beginning of the ’80’s. Long distance phone calls were too expensive.

        OP, with the new technology, staying in contact, even constant contact is possible. At the same time, it seems all your fears are valid. Take you time and trust your gut.

    3. Schmitt*

      It’s hard, but I’ve been married for thirteen years now, and we started out with an ocean in between for several years.

      I’d say it has to be clear relatively soon that someone would be willing to move – if you’re both very tied to your area, better to realize that early on.

      1. regina phalange*

        Ironically, I used to live in the city he lives in now but moved away for a job opportunity. So, had that not happened, this wouldn’t even be an issue. Your point is well taken though and I agree.

    4. Fjell & Skog*

      I don’t have any advice, but am going through the same thing. I started a long distance relationship with someone in December who lives in another country, a 20+ hour plane trip away. We’ve kept emailing and skyping since then, and I visited him again a month ago and things were great. The distance sucks, but I’ve been single forever and really like him, so right now I’m willing to give it a try. But I always feel like he waits just long enough to email me that I think “well, this is it, I’m never going to hear from him again”, but it might be just my paranoia and worry about getting hurt. We haven’t discussed yet whether we’re exclusive, but I’m not seeing anyone else. I don’t think he is either, but soon I’m going to have to ask. I figure it will either 1) give me some assurance (if he isn’t seeing anyone else either), or 2) it will all fall apart (because I don’t know if I’ll be OK with continuing if he is seeing anyone else). I’m just not ready for it to fall apart yet, so I’m being a chicken about asking him.

      1. regina phalange*

        OMG I am the same way. Like if I don’t hear from him during the day I’m generally convinced he’s lost interest. And this is brand brand new, like we’re in the midst of planning a weekend to see each other soon, and I’m excited and hope it goes well but am afraid I’m going to do something to screw it up before then. I’ve also been single for a while but all the dysfunction of my last relationship is what is causing me stress and I know that’s the exact wrong thing to do but I don’t know how to shut that down.

        1. Fjell & Skog*

          A few days before I went to visit him, I was freaking out because I hadn’t heard from him for a couple of days. I’ve learned by now that when he is working he gets really focused and I just won’t hear from him for days, but I still freak out. I actually emailed him and said hey, I understand if you can’t come pick me up at the airport (I have lots of friends in the city), so just let me know, and I understand that things change. He emailed back right away and said of course he would be there! And then of course the visit was great. So I think I was freaking out for nothing, but I can’t stop my mind from thinking the worst every time. I don’t know how to stop it either. I’m happy to be in some sort of relationship, and I do really like him, but yeah, sometimes I think maybe it isn’t worth all the stress either! But I know that’s why I’ve been single forever, too. I avoid any situation where I could get hurt. So now I’m trying to give it a shot. Ugh, it is hard though.

          1. regina phalange*

            Well I hope it works out for you! I know it’s really hard but it is good you are giving it a shot!

            1. Fjell & Skog*

              I hope it works for you as well! I guess as long as you still feel like it’s worth it, don’t give up!

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          For what it’s worth, it sounds like the source of angst for both of you (Regina and Fjell & Skog) is that you’re focusing way too much on whether he likes you, rather than letting things unfold and seeing if you like him and if you mesh well together (and your focus on the former can really get in the way of clarity on the latter). In both cases, it sounds pretty early to care that much about whether he likes you enough, and it sounds like you’re doing that thing where you lose sight of the point of dating — which isn’t “find guy who likes me and don’t screw it up” but rather “see if we are happy together each being our normal selves, which will take a long time to figure out.”

          (I recognize this because I’ve totally done it myself, and this is what it looks like…)

          1. Fjell & Skog*

            This is a good point, and I’ve been worried about this. Am I still trying because I just don’t want to be single again, or do I really like him? I don’t know yet, that’s definitely true. But I am trying to keep that in the back of my head.

            1. regina phalange*

              Yes, agreed, very good point Alison. I should just try to relax and not stress.

          2. Sally-O*

            Yes, this is key. The way I knew that my now-husband was right for me was because I didn’t have to question whether he liked me – it was obvious. And it was obvious I liked him. And we could be comfortable expressing our feelings without playing any games or putting thoughts into the other person’s head.

            1. Jessica (tc)*

              I love how you worded this! I felt the same way about my now-husband throughout our long-distance relationship as well.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Yeah, ditto here.
              We were living about 4 hours apart when we first met. My husband and I were together for 27 years when he passed.
              What we did was “ask me no questions that you do not want to hear an honest answer”. We were free to see other people and so on. Neither one of us had patience for lying and cheating, so why draw up an agreement that creates the opportunity? Just live and let live.

              We never had to ask each other. It was so obvious that the other person was not seeing anyone else. By the time I moved up here, there was really no need to talk about an exclusive relationship because we were already doing it.

              I agree that the nervousness says more about you than it does him. It could be a clue that this is not the right person and you know that on an intuitive level but not in your conscious thinking.
              Or it could be that your ability to trust is broken. My husband’s was when I met him. We found that less rules made the relationship very comfy. Trust grew because of being comfortable. There are ways to deal with a broken ability to trust if both parties agree to work at it.
              Or it could be that you have gone without a real relationship for so long that you have yourself half convinced you do not deserve one. That is totally NOT true, hope you tell yourself that in rebuttal.

              1. regina phalange*

                for me, my ability to trust is broken. so far he’s done nothing to make me not trust him, but I’m waiting for it to happen, and that’s on me. that’s what I am trying to fight through.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  One day at a time, my friend. My husband and I agreed that we do not want anyone in our lives who does not want us. We meant this about each other. Just tell me the truth and set me free to find someone who does want me in their life. We both agreed on this point.

                  As a separate activity consider setting aside time to grieve. Grieve that you got burnt. Grieve that your ex-person was not the person you thought. Cry.
                  This next one is an odd exercise too. Just because people around us are behaving badly, does not mean we are or will behave badly. Reconnect with the good person inside you. Decide that you will continue on being a good person and doing right by people. It is amazing how reaffirming our own identity allows us to take back control. So while, yes, your ex caused the sky to fall, you took control of that situation in the end. And you remain a good person who deserves to have a good SO. Affirmations can be very helpful.

      2. Ruffingit*

        I know it’s hard, but you should clarify with him ASAP whether this is exclusive or not. I get being scared, but it will save a lot of pain in the long run if you peel off the bandaid now and ask. It’s been five months so that is long enough to be able to ask this especially with someone who lives a 20+ hour plane trip away. That is a huge investment of time and money to visit if this is just a casual thing on his part. I was in a LDR with my husband for about 18 months and we had an ocean separating us, but we were both very clear early on that this was exclusive. I certainly would not have invested the time/money it took to visit and such if it was just a casual thing. If I wanted to just sort of see what is out there, I could do that in my home town.

    5. Mela*

      Only you can decide if it’s worth the effort. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with seeing if something’s there. But before you become serious, I find it’s much more successful if there’s a plan to end the distance part. Ie “I’m in grad school for 14 more months, after that we move in together in your city and I look for work there.”

      1. Marian the Librarian*

        Absolutely this. My now-husband and I were long distance for 18 months, and I did the exact thing Mela describes (I was in grad school and made a plan to move to his city). We only dated for three months before he moved for grad school, but we were able to visit each other frequently. Having the end date made it seem bearable and helped us push through tough times. We’ve been together over 5 years (lived together 3) and married over a year now, so it worked for us!

    6. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I think I always liked the space so had quite a few long distance relationships over the years. Usually an ocean apart, but it also meant I didn’t have to deal with the bar scene, or seeing someone later in my circle of friends (which happened with one of the guys I dated in my own city). I think they are definitely something you have to go into with full conviction, both of you, or there is way too much doubt. Desire to make it work also means you will be upfront in planning right away and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and it keeps the relationship strong even if you aren’t there. If thats not present on both sides, then you may as well bail now.

      My SO we met online and had a lot of shared interests. Our first phone call was disasterous as we,, neither of us likes talking on the phone :), and I think he was a little nervous. But in the end it worked out in mysterious ways, though we were both definitely at points in our lives that we weren’t tied to where we were living and were willing to take risks. In the end he moved country for me because you don’t say no to a free Green Card from the US Govt (he actually won the lottery on his first try), and while it meant a few leaner years because he had to finish school in the US, I was willing to put my own dreams on hold for him. Here we are, 12 years later, still together, doing what I wanted to do years ago, but its even better because we are together.

    7. Jessica (tc)*

      My husband and I met online, but our story is a bit different in that we became close friends without the romantic part of it first. Neither of us were the other person’s type really, so it was odd when I started thinking of him as “more than just a friend.” I didn’t say anything for fear of ruining what had become my closest friendship with the person who “got” me better than anyone else, but luckily he overcame that and asked me if I’d like to try something more. We were long distance throughout the entire relationship, from friendship to marriage, but it worked, because we were willing to make the calls and type long emails and travel to see each other as often as possible with our work schedules.

      I’d say the most important thing is to keep checking in with your own feelings when you talk and see each other to make sure that things haven’t changed. When you only see each other every so often, it can be hard to figure out how you really feel about each other and to keep re-evaluating that, which is why talking is so important. Focus on how you feel about the relationship and let him manage how he feels, but practice an open discussion style. We both had some misgivings going in, just because we were afraid to lose the friendship, but we’ve now been married for 10 years and I can say it was one of the best decisions of my life.

      If things take a more serious turn or start to head that way, you both need to consider the “where will we live?” options. It might be easier for you, since you are actually from the area where he is. :) Because I lived in a rural area where it would be hard for him to find a job in his specialized area, I moved to his area instead with the understanding that if my career eventually led us elsewhere, he’d be willing to do the same for me. (I just received a specialized graduate degree, so it’s becoming a possibility, and he’s reaffirmed his desire to have me find a job I love, no matter where it is.)

    8. Lily Evans*

      If you really like him, I think it’s worth the risk! I think it’s normal to worry about someone you like meeting someone they like better even when you live in the same place. You could probably come up with a huge list of things that could go wrong in any new relationship, it just comes down to taking a leap of faith and being willing to be vulnerable. And communication. A lot comes down to good, clear communication in LDRs. Set up boundaries and expectations in the beginning so that you don’t end up trapped in “do I like them more than they like me?” land.

    9. INTP*

      My take is that it’s not worth it unless you’re in an established relationship with a plan to end the distance (i.e., one of you goes to grad school with a commitment to choose where to live together afterward).

      I totally understand the impulse, and I’m not saying that I wouldn’t follow it again, but I just don’t find that you are going to really get to know each other sufficiently to know whether you even want to have a relationship from a distance. Even people who have been together for years behave a little differently on visits while they’re long-distance than while they’re living in the same city. It’s not really an environment conducive to two people deciding whether the relationship is worth uprooting their lives for. (And I know there are success stories, as mentioned below. This is just my experience as someone who moves a lot and has had a lot of budding relationships become long-distance early on.)

      1. Ultraviolet*

        I think this is where I land too. I’ve had one long-distance relationship to date (several months in the same place followed by two years living apart and a breakup) and while I did enjoy it, I think if we had lived in the same town the whole time it would have ended sooner and that would basically have been a good thing. I suspect that’s not all that uncommon. At this point I’d only do long-distance as described in your first paragraph (and I’ll probably have to do that soon, ugh).

      2. Cristina in England*

        “I just don’t find that you are going to really get to know each other sufficiently to know whether you even want to have a relationship from a distance.”

        This is so important. You can get along great with someone, like magically great, and then find out much later that actually you do not share the same values or ideas about how to live life or raise a family. Ask me how I know. :-/

    10. dragonzflame*

      Worth it – with two caveats. Both people actually have to be 110% in, and there really needs to be an expectation that the long distance will end.

      I did it for eight months with my now-husband. We got together to have some fun before I moved away to study and he went to live overseas for a while, but realised we were a bit more into each other than that. It was valuable though – you learn different ways to trust each other and get really good at talking because your time to do it is so much more limited.

    11. Andraste*

      For me the question would have to be how long is the long distance. My now fiance-and I started dating living 100 miles apart–it was far enough that we couldn’t see each other every day but close enough that we could see each other often. I don’t think I could have done it if we didn’t see each other regularly. That kind of closeness is something I really value and need in a relationship. It’s worth a try, and if you really like the person it’s worth it to put up with the hassle. But it’s also important to keep in mind that it is unsustainable in the long run and you really need a plan for when you’re going to close the distance.

    12. Dan*

      How long distance are you talking? Is it doable car-ride, or plane ticket more or less required?

      As others mentioned, there’s a difference between being together in a “local” relationship first, and then doing it long distance. If you don’t have an established relationship and plane tickets are required, then I’d pretty much say to forget about it.

      I dated someone in another state for awhile that I had met on the internet. Non-refundable plane tickets add for a level of complication that can be very difficult when you first start out. How far in advance do you buy the tickets? What happens when you are no longer feeling it, and the other person has booked three or four tickets? Do you stick it out because you don’t want them stuck with a big bill? Do you offer to pay some or all of the cost?

      What happens when things come up that preplanned tickets get in the way of? These things get way too complicated if you don’t know each other very well and are just starting out in a relationship. It’s completely different if you already have something established and life dictates a long distance thing for awhile. If you’re just starting out, you haven’t decided who is moving where yet, and that becomes very important down the line.

      To each his own, but it’s difficult when the relationship requires plane tickets , you just met each other, and are just figuring things out.

        1. Newish Reader*

          If you’re in the US, check if Southwest flies the route you need. Southwest doesn’t have change fees, so that really helps as far as making your air travel a bit more flexible. I’ve been in a relationship with someone 600 miles away for almost a year now, and in the beginning, knowing that if things went south I wasn’t completely out of luck as far as the money I put into my next plane ticket really helped.

    13. NicoleK*

      My long distance relationship story. We both were 19 years old. I moved 20 minutes away to be closer to school. I didn’t have my license and he didn’t either. He started spending time with the ex girlfriend of his ex best friend. Three months later he tells me, “we should see other people”. Distance didn’t make the heart grow fonder, it made the heart forget.

    14. KR*

      My boyfriend is in the military. We’ve been together for 4 years, 3 of which have been long distance with sometimes limited to no contact. It’s hard but possible. We see each other usually every 3 months even if it’s just for a long weekend.

      1. KR*

        As far as distance I’m talking me being on the east coast, and he’s been on the west coast for two and a half years. Hell be there for another two years with a deployment to Australia coming up.

    15. Jen Erik*

      I did it for 3-4 years, married now for 30.

      I think it helped that we’re both introverts, instinctively monogamous, and had a similar very conventional model in our heads of how life is supposed to go. (Meet someone, get married, have kids…) And I was head over heels in love.

      My daughter did long distance for a year, but that didn’t work at all, because she needs her person on tap, and he wasn’t good at faithfulness.

      Useful tip: I found to keep it going we needed to meet at least every six weeks. (Couldn’t afford to fly: many long train journeys.) Eight at a pinch, but at eight there was too much adaption to do over a weekend.

      Useful tip 2: My husband is an alcoholic – I don’t know if I’d have spotted it if we’d been dating normally, but it might have been more obvious. As it was, I didn’t work it out until after we were married and living together. I therefore wouldn’t recommend that anyone goes straight from long distance into marriage. (I know not many people would nowadays, but we did.)

      (He’s been sober now for several years, and I’m rather head over heels again. )

    16. LC*

      It can work, with a few caveats. There needs to be a light at the end of the tunnel, whether it’s a sure thing that you’ll be in the same place in a year or two, or a plan to reevaluate the possibility of a move in a certain amount of time. You both need to be super into each other. And neither of you can have a jealous bone in your body.

      I went on a few dates with my current SO before he moved back to the West Coast for a year. Initially we agreed not to keep dating, but after a few months of incessant texting, Skyping, and the occasional visit, we decided to make it official. I think part of the reason it worked in those infant stages was that we knew we’d be in the same place again when he returned to school about eight months after we sealed the deal.

      It’s now been two years and we’re apart again this year while I’m in grad school, this time across the pond. But we have a solid foundation now, and I’m fairly certain I’ll be in his city in two or three months. So it definitely can work, but if you do start dating, one or both of you probably needs to be open to the possibility of relocating eventually.

    17. Elizabeth West*

      Worth it for the right person–not so much for the wrong. I wish I had all the money back I spent on mine, but I should have known better than to waltz right into that situation. (Not a bad person, just not a good situation)

    18. Al Lo*

      My husband and I were long distance for 2+ years when we were dating (him in Calgary, me in California), while I was in school. Our situation sounds like it was a bit different than yours, in that we were already committed when I moved away, but even so, we’d only been dating for 6 months when I moved. By that point, we knew were going to get married eventually, and that definitely gave a level of comfort in the relationship. Having said that, there were still definitely times when I was a complete wreck, when things got busy and we couldn’t talk, or whatever.

      For me, it was a huge lesson in making the choice to trust him. We couldn’t talk every day for various reasons, and that drove me crazy. It wasn’t that I thought he wasn’t into me or anything like that, but I didn’t always feel like I was a big enough priority to him. I had to choose to trust that I was (and, in fact, a part of why we couldn’t talk all the time was that he was working extra jobs to help put me through school — and I had to trust his actions to show he loved me when I couldn’t hear the words , and when the actions felt kind of removed from my day to day life). It sounds ridiculous now, years later, but

      We saw each other every 6-8 weeks or so. We joked that we were spending our honeymoon budget on flights so that we would get to the honeymoon, period. I flew back way more frequently than I would have ever done to see my family. On those long weekends, we both tried really hard to clear schedules so we could make up time together. On longer trips (a few weeks at Christmas or summer), we tried to just live around each other, so that we got the day-to-day of being in each other’s lives in non-special ways.

      It worked. It wasn’t the easiest, but we got through it. I could do it again if we needed to for work. In some ways, it’s almost easier once you take away the dating side of it. (With no kids. Putting kids and the shared workload into the equation totally changes things when one partner leaves for a while.)

    19. ginger ale for all*

      My patents had one date in person in the early 1960’s and then continued their relationship by letter and phone until they got married. My dad couldn’t remember what my mom looked like in person until she lifted her veil during the ceremony. The have been married for over 50 years. So, yes, it can work.

    20. Finny*

      The husband and I were in two different countries when we first met in 2004. I lived in the States and he lived in Canada. We met as volunteers for security at an anime con in Toronto. Visited back and forth for several years, with daily phone calls and emails. Just before Christmas 2006, he flew me up to Calgary. We got married in February 2007, and started the process for me to become a permanent resident.

      Nine years later, we’re still together, and I’m far happier in Canada than I ever was Stateside. So it can be done, and it can work. In my opinion, it helps if both parties are determined, and if neither would mind moving for the other. In my case, I moved to Canada because he had a decent job up here, I didn’t in Colorado, and I needed to get away from my mother. But he would have been perfectly happy to be the one doing the moving, if I hadn’t wanted to.

    21. Jubilance*

      Worth it if you’re both willing to do the work. When I met my husband, he was in DC and I was in Minneapolis. We alternated who visited, and saw each other once a month, and after 8 months, he moved here. Now, there were a lot of things that lined up that allowed us to afford to travel that often, and for him to move that quickly, but I’m so glad that we gave it a try and didn’t let the distance be a barrier.

    22. Jess*

      I just got married to my boyfriend of four years, the first two of which I lived in Cleveland, Ohio and he lived in Texas. Its absolutely worth it. Is it hard? Yes. But it can work. The best thing that living so far a part did for our relationship is that it forced us to learn to communicate effectively and often. I wish you all the luck :)

    23. Menacia*

      At this point, I think it’s hard to determine what’s worth the effort if you’ve only just met. You do mention that he is awesome, so perhaps you can go with that feeling and see where it leads? I met my husband online, in a chat room (anyone remember IRC?), we just started out as friends, being very non-committal and just enjoying chatting with each other. Then we graduated to the phone, and then met in person (we were only 2 hours away from each other), and we have been together ever since (17 years, 14 of them married). I guess if it’s right, and both are willing, anything is possible! :)

  2. NewDoc*

    Any recommendations about schedules for recurring maintenance for a first-time home buyer?

    1. danr*

      It depends on what you have.
      Furnace and whole house AC: get a maintenance contract with a local outfit. If the person that you’re buying from has one, see about continuing it. There will usually be a cleaning and checkup before each season.
      Lawn: get a mower and start mowing. When I did my own mowing I cut the grass to be 3-4 inches high. You’ll get a feeling for what height you want. I don’t fertilize my lawn and I don’t use pesticides. Since the lawn is not a monoculture, diseases and pests don’t bother it too much. I don’t water either. It’s green when it rains and brown when it doesn’t.
      Driveway and sidewalks (if you have them): Think about how you’ll clear the snow and what the regulations are about clearing the sidewalks of snow.
      Watch the signs that go up at your neighbors’ houses when they’re having work done for leads for the same stuff for you.
      finally… have fun.

    2. Anon and Ashamed*

      Yes! We started using this (sortof) when we bought our house. It’s super helpful, although I think I’m going to build out a calendar that is better adapted to our climate/home/lifestyle.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Martha Stewart Living used to have Martha’s Calendar, and it had that sort of thing recurring.

    4. Girasol*

      Drain the water heater every six months (let some water out of the tap at the bottom to get the sediments out.) Youtube has instructions.

  3. i will kiss you mother earth*

    Hello – I’m a devoted reader of AAM but don’t post much. For the past 6 months I have flown to the Midwest from the east coast about every other week, on average. I am a fearful flyer – turbulence terrifies me and every blessed flight I have been on so far in this adventure I would qualify as turbulent – but I suck it up because I know my fear is irrational and this is what I must do right now. My question for other anxious flyers (who don’t medicate because they have to drive later, or because it doesn’t help, or whatever) – are you just drained the next day? I landed last night at 8, but the exact arrival time doesn’t seem to matter much. Today, and most Saturdays (the days after I fly home) I’m more or less useless for any task that requires thinking or exercise. Normal after the 3-4 hours of stress of flying the previous day?

    1. Me2*

      Extremely nervous flyer here, and I have to fly internationally quite often. I don’t have as much issue once I land, but am unable to relax for even a minute onboard. Why does turbulence always start the second I lock the door to the toilet? The only thing I’ve found to help me is to do something rhythmic with my hands like needlework. It occupies just enough of my brain that I can stop keeping the plane aloft just with the sheer force of my mind power, and it slows my heart rate tremendously. I’ve tried medication but that makes me groggy for 36 to 48 hours.

      1. Nicole*

        I don’t have as much issue once I land, but am unable to relax for even a minute onboard.

        That’s exactly how I am! I brought lots of reading material last time I flew but it was completely useless. So was listening to music. The only thing that distracted me even slightly was watching something on my iPad so next time I fly I plan to have movies/shows downloaded. Also, I flew Southwest and they had a website you could access (for free) that showed the plane’s altitude, speed, and estimated remaining flight time. Whenever something felt “weird” to me, I would check the stats and see the altitude or speed had changed so I could reassure my brain that was what was causing the sensation I was feeling.

        It seems like it always feels bumpier when I’m standing or in the bathroom, so I try to do that as quickly as possible to get back to my seat. I also try to sit over the wings as much as possible since you feel less movement there.

        Finally, the thing that bugs me the most is some of the takeoffs. Our last flight scared me because it felt like immediately after takeoff, before the plane reached a decent altitude, we went into a turn, and from my perspective it felt like the plane was rolling over (and of course I leaned to the other side because I guess I thought I could level the plane out haha). My anxious brain was convinced we were crashing. I’m sure what happened was completely normal and routine but I don’t fly often and hadn’t experienced that before.

        1. i will kiss you mother earth*

          Oh, I hate takeoffs the most. I think it’s because I can feel (or I think I can feel) the fight against gravity. And banking early in a takeoff scares me too. I usually connect in Atlanta and it seems it’s always cloudy there and thus bumpy.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I LOVE takeoffs! That’s my favorite part! I like it when the plane goes really fast right before it lifts up, and I always try to feel when the wheels leave the ground but I never can.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              I love the speeding-down-the-runway part, too. It’s because I like to drive fast in my car, and I always think, “This is how fast I wish I could go in my car.”

            2. stevenz*

              Sometimes you can tell by the sound, especially if the runway is rough.

              Personally, I love thrust reversers.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Yes, but you can’t feel it. I think I also like takeoffs because it means I’m going to get where I’m going soon. The worst part of flying for me is sitting around in the airport. >_<

          2. Nicole*

            I know exactly what you mean, and that’s a good way of putting it – feeling the fight against gravity. I also dislike the part where after they reach cruising altitude they “slow down” because it feels like the plane is dropping backwards for a second.

        2. Lindsay J*

          Just in case you didn’t know – if you have Amazon Prime, their iPad app allows you to download videos and movies to play later. I download a few before long flights to keep myself entertained.

    2. Lily Evans*

      I am the WORST flier. Like, the first time I flew being old enough to remember it, the flight was just a three hour long panic attack. I was only visiting for a few days, and I swear I never totally recovered from the flight. I slept about 12+ hours the first night and was a zombie the rest of the long weekend. The next time I flew, I did take medication and my anxiety was stronger than the pills… but it wasn’t as horrible as the first time. It’s exhausting though just carrying that tension in your body for an entire flight without a break.

      1. Bibliovore*

        I AM the worst flyer. And yes, I really need a recovery day from the experience. That isn’t always possible. To make the experience tolerable-I try to take the earliest direct flight possible even if that means leaving for the airport at 5:00 am. That way usually I land at my destination early afternoon at the latest. Check into the hotel. If it is a city that has a Bliss spa, I might book a massage in advance for late afternoon/early evening. If my hotel has a gym and pool, I plan to exercise and swim. I also make sure that I eat well. I will plan my meals in the destination city that first night so that I don’t get too hungry. I try to have a “travel day” on the homecoming end. That might mean a work at home day to catch up but also that I don’t teach classes, have meetings or conference calls on that end.

        1. i will kiss you mother earth*

          You two made me feel better. I feel terrible that, for example, I went to see a friend this afternoon and knew I was just going to be too tired to last long, and I landed 24 hours ago. When I fly *to* work in the morning (which I try to avoid) I get through the day but whooo….it’s wine in the evening for me.

          1. Bibliovore*

            I also don’t plan anything in my home town the night before the day I am going to fly. I NEVER sleep well that night so I just don’t try anymore. I download podcasts. Download ebooks. Download magazines. Charge up all the electronics. Check weather for the travel city. Pack. Do a checklist (swimsuit, headphones, shoes, business cards, mailing labels etc) and prescriptions. Check meeting schedule. Print out invitations. Print boarding passes. Pack snacks.(dried fruit, nuts, mini gouda cheese, pretzels, protein bars) Call the car service. Send reminder email to the dog sitter. For example- going to Chicago this Tuesday- won’t plan anything for Monday night.

    3. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I love flying, but found about five years ago I was starting to get nervous for no reason about turbulence. Part of this is probably due to spending about ten years flying out of turbulent mountainous areas of the Western US (a FedEx captain told me the air is crashing over the mountains like waves, which generates the turbulence, so think of it that way) and part of it who knows (well I know the thought that goes through my mind but im NOT sharing it here!)

      What I have also found helpful is to remember that what we in the cabin consider turbulence is actually just light speed bumps in the air road. Classification of severe turbulence is a relatively rare event and usually happens predominately in areas where often warm, moist air conflicts with cooler air OR its spawning thunderstorms. Think near the equator (the incident of severe turbulence this week near Jakarta) or in the Central US where the Gulf Stream can hit colder mountain/Canadian air (and any captain/airline dispatch will route you around and never through a thunderstorm). Aircraft wings can take a significant amount of flex and aren’t going to go flying off. Watch the cabin crew – if they suspend service/secure the cabin and go to be seated with seat belts, then the captain deems it to be/could be turbulent enough where he feels their safety needs to be considered. There are also many ways a crew will try to mitigate passenger discomfort – usually through slowing the airspeed of requesting a higher or lower altitude – learn to recognize when that is happening so you know they are trying their best to fix the problem and it will be over soon. I also always ALWAYS make sure to know my emergency exit before takeoff and knowing the fastest route (remember, it may be behind you :)) I feel those small things give me, however small, a feeling of control over the situation although I also know the odds are miniscule we would a) crash and b) crash due to turbulence.

      Is it the lack of control that makes you tense up? I can imagine having tense, stressed muscles waiting for, or experiencing, turbulence is like working the muscles through exercise and thats why you are in a state the day after. Stressful times at work make me tense up and I am a basket case who needs to sleep at least a day after a stressful period, so I would cut yourself some slack. Try deep breathing and focusing on a spot in front of you as well. I had a rough flight with heavy winds into Helsinki last year and found that taking deep breaths and only focusing on a single point directly ahead was a bit more helpful than clinging to the seat in front or gripping the armrests so tightly. I asked the Mr to not talk to me as I needed to concentrate so I could focus, accept the situation, and do what I needed to do to relax.

      Story time – I once got on the last flight out of MSP to Chicago one afternoon when a ‘landicane’ was coming through the area. I was worried going to the airport, i was worried at the airport, I was REALLY worried when the captain/FO got off the little Barbie jet coming in from Chicago looking SPENT. That is probably the one and only time i have ever seen the flight deck looking that worked (lots of variable cross winds) and yet they got back on the plane after an hour and off we went. The airport was closed right after we took off and that was probably the scariest flight I’ve ever been on. Unfortunately that damn weather system followed me from MSP to Chicago to Atlanta (flight landed in Chattanooga as it was unable to make Atlanta due to low fuel from strong headwinds), to NYC to London for THREE DAYS. You would have thought I would have gotten over turbulence after that, but no, still have issues!

      1. i will kiss you mother earth*

        I have no idea what causes it. Lack of control on a train doesn’t bother me – I’m an excellent passenger. It might be more lack of knowing wtf is going on – when I fly Delta and the flight crew keeps us informed of light chop ahead or whatever, it’s much better. I have not found that other airlines do this as reliably. And yes, you’d think exposure to terrible turbulence would make it better. Exposure therapy definitely does not seem to help, at least for me!

    4. TootsNYC*

      Maybe one of those cognitive behavioral therapists, or other cognitive something-something therapists could give you a few exercises to do to help you cope w/ the terror better, so you’re not so exhausted?

      It’s not like you need lifelong therapy, but there *are* tactics you can use.

      All my sympathies! There must be techniques out there that will take the edge off, if nothing else.

      1. i will kiss you mother earth*

        Thank you so much! I am probably going to look into this in a month – ironically, I’m traveling so often for the next month that I won’t be home enough to book any sort of appointment! But it will be over soon and then I can prep for fixing this in future.

        1. Kyrielle*

          For what it’s worth, and no therapist was involved in helping me put this together so take it with a grain of salt or 16, here’s what helps me and/or other people I know (and may or may not help you):
          * Meditation or listening to music, preferably calm music – instrumentals are kinda awesome
          * Concentrating on my trust in the process – deliberately, not my trust level, -just my trust-
          * Zoning out. Don’t try to do anything that uses my brain – because encouraging it to work encourages it to worry. If I can doze off, that’s brilliant
          * I modify my diet the day of a flight, but that’s partly because I have IBS and really need to keep it from kicking up!
          * Brainless distractions. Adult coloring apps and/or non-network games with nearly no thinking (solitaire) on my smart phone are both pretty good. (Reading uses too much brain for me and encourages thinking, tho YMMV.)
          * Must wear comfy clothes. Little discomforts can really mess with distracting myself into a spaced-out mindset, and I want to be spaced-out.

    5. Ex Resume Reviewer*

      Yes. I’m fairly useless the day after flying, regardless of medication though. There’s the whole buildup piece I think that wears into me. I get panic attacks if I don’t medicate, though a healthy dose of Benadryl is my choice because it’s non Rx, gentle on my stomach and wears off in 4 – 6 hours. Driving under the influence of Benadryl is a thing in some jurisdictions though, but depending on your flight length it might work. I take it an hour before take off and re-up if I need to. Benadryl may not be strong enough for some folks though.

    6. Grumpy*

      Not a nervous flier but a frequent one. Take cues from the flight attendants, if they’re calm then you can be too. If they’re freaking out… yeah, maybe worry (I’ve survived emergency landings and flaming engines with no problem though). Count the number of rows to the exit and keep your wallet close by so you can keep it with you as you exit if you really do think there will be a problem, but honestly the odds are so against anything happening. Have you seen that image of all the flights on earth at any given time? It puts things in perspective.
      I’m completely drained after flying but find drinking a big bottle of sparking water soon afterwards really helps snap me out of cranky-zombie mode.

      1. i will kiss you mother earth*

        You have survived flaming engines? Holy moly, tell me more. Right, I know the statistics and I have no belief at all that the plane is actually going to crash or that even anyone is going to be injured by turbulence. My mother calls it a hind-brain thing. I will try the insta-hydration – I do avoid drinking water properly on planes because 1) I want a window seat and 2) I don’t want to feel the shell of the plane and then all the nothing beneath my feet should I choose to walk.

        1. Grumpy*

          Not much to tell. It was an older plane and I was sitting beside someone who was honestly studying to be a pilot and he barely looked up from his book when they announced that there was a problem — he just shrugged like it happens sometimes, you know, and sometimes they’re out of Diet Coke, whatever, don’t bug him, he’s busy studying.
          So I knew if he didn’t care much then everything was going to be OK (but one newer flight attendant panicked anyway).
          Then the plane landed (we were close to an airport) and was surrounded by fire trucks and we got off pretty quickly. Then we all waited 10 hours for the replacement plane to fly us onwards.
          Good luck on your next flight, hope it’s smooth and event-free.

    7. Jean*

      When my fear of air travel first raised its head about 15 years ago I told myself that with my personal history it doesn’t make sense to start being afraid in mid-life. (I’ve been traveling on airplanes since infancy to visit family in distant locations. I’m also already maxed out by the effort of periodically coaching myself through other fears that arise when I drive in underground tunnels or over water-spanning bridges.)

      What helps me is to have a brief meditation during take-off and landing and a needle-based handcraft in between. I also remind myself that every day, the vast majority of active aircraft take off and land without incident.

      That said, it’s no fun to live with one or more phobias. I’m grateful that mine are mild cases and don’t involve major inconvenience or suffering. It’s good to read that most other folks here are also able to endure despite mild-to-moderate discomfort.

      1. i will kiss you mother earth*

        It is SO frustrating to have this rear its ugly head now. Until I was about 30, I loved to fly. No worries at all, don’t remember any turbulence, etc – surely it was around then (although I hear noise that increased CO2 in the air is making turbulence less predictable, and of course diverting flights around turbulent areas might be a profit-suck) – but in the past five years of my life it just has gotten worse. I don’t understand why and it’s infuriating. You are the second person who has mentioned needlework – that sounds like a great idea. Thanks.

        1. Lindsay J*

          I randomly developed a fear of getting injections and blood drawn when I was in early high school. Up until then I never had an issue with it. Nothing traumatic happened to make me afraid. It just happened. It was so weird and frustrating because intellectually I knew there was nothing to be worried about, but the instinctual part of my brain was just like, “nope”.

        2. Leeza*

          Me too. I had no fear of flying until I was in my 30s. Now, I am TERRIFIED of turbulence. Rationally, I know it’s as harmless as driving over a bumpy road. But when the turbulence starts, I am scared out of my mind. I am seriously considering having my doctor prescribe Xanax or something before my next flight.

    8. GreenTeaPot*

      When I fly to Europe, I sleep almost immediately for an hour, wake up, shower and I’m good to go. Coming home, not so much. I drag for a day or two.

    9. i will kiss you mother earth*

      Thanks, all. It’s funny, at no point do I actually think the plane is going to crash – I know the stats and all that – it’s a purely physical reaction, it seems, and it exhausts me. I sit as far forward as possible and sometimes I find that looking at the roof of the plane helps. The fear is all gone when we start descending, even if the descent is through clouds (thus bumpy) – because I know it’s almost over – but I guess just being at that level of stress for several hours is wearing. I am as choosy as I can be about what aircraft I fly and what times of day – I never fly from home late at night because I know if I land at midnight I will be completely useless the next day. I guess it just bugs a little that you’re kind of not allowed to be afraid when you fly for business, and if you get stuck in row 22 on one of those tiny ERJs in unsettled weather you better not admit you can’t focus enough to do work on the plane. The idea of airlines now potentially charging people extra to choose a window seat makes me want to cry – it’s so much worse when I can’t see what’s happening.

      Needlework is a fine idea – I play games on my phone at the moment but needlework might fit that bill too. Thanks for the idea!

      It’s so nice to hear I’m not the only one. I beat myself up about this a bit :-( And kudos to those of you who do this ALL the time, not just for a six-month stint. I am literally counting down how many flights I have left.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Okay, this is kind of a different answer. You might want to look into vitamins/minerals or even homeopathic remedies. If you think you feel off balance, you may want to have a seasoned chiro check out your bone alignment. (I had stuff out of alignment and eventually it took away my whole sense of balance. The loss was a gradual process that started as a vague feeling of things bothering me.)

      If you take any scripts or have taken a script in the recent past, google for side effects. Sometimes a chemical build up will antagonize us and minor disturbances get bigger.
      You mention not drinking water, and even a little dehydration could exaggerate something into a much bigger issue.

      1. Paquita*

        I am not a nervous flyer. I also have not flown very often. I do have a story though. DH and I went on a trip to Israel many years ago. Coming home, about thirty minutes out over the Mediterranean, we apparently ran into some turbulence. When people later asked if I was scared I did not know what they were talking about. I slept through the whole thing.

    11. stevenz*

      First of all, your fear is not irrational. Being six miles above the earth where it’s 60 below outside and no oxygen to speak of, going 500 miles an hour is an aluminum tube built by someone who may have had a fight with his boss that day and about a million parts any of which might fail at any moment, is not a natural human condition. This is not to scare you but to let you know that you are not alone, and not unreasonable. I have heard that we are born with two fears, fear of loud noises and fear of falling. In fact, I believe that deep down inside, most of us are afraid to fly, we have just learned to sublimate it very very well.

      I’m a pilot so I know what can go wrong, but I also know how rarely it does. So, a few thoughts:

      If you’re religious, pray. Seriously. I’m not religious but when I was, I prayed and it helped. Now I just keep my faith in the Bernoulli principle and Newton’s second law.

      Keep your seat belt fastened at all times. Seat belts are for turbulence or hard landings, not crashing. As long as you’re in your seat you’re safe. But if you’re heading for the back of the plane chances of bad turbulence at that very moment are very unlikely, so don’t hold it the whole way.

      Breathe. Stay hydrated. Eat something. Wear comfortable clothes.

      Airliners are exceptionally safe. The chance of, say, engine failure, is less than 1% and planes are built to fly on one engine, just lower and slower. There is lots of system redundancy so even in the case of system failure, things will seem normal.

      Can something happen? Sure, and something does but not very often. There are risks in everything and airline travel is one of the safest things there is. Do you do sports – soccer, horseback riding, ice skating, motocycles, biking, rock climbing, etc.? I used to play polo which is extremely risky. Every time I would mount up the thought would go through my head “is this the day?” but by the time my seat hit the saddle, all such thoughts were gone. Flying is much much much safer than playing polo – though nowhere near as much fun.

      A thought experiment: Imagine that you are outside the plane watching as it flies along. In turbulent conditions most of the time you will notice that the plane barely moves. It just feels a lot worse inside than it really is. (I know that’s too rational to be comforting.) Even in heavy turbulence, the wings are not going to fall off or something crazy like that. It’s really scary but part of that is because it can take you by surprise and that’s what gives you the first adrenaline rush. All airplanes are built to take that kind of turbulence and much worse.

      Also think of this: When you’re really rich, you’ll probably own or lease a business jet of your own and you’ll think “this is so cool” every time you get on it.

      Until then, try to fly first or business. Just because.

  4. Blue Anne*

    Has anyone ever filed a bunch of back taxes? I’m getting different tones from different accountants and I guess I’m just looking for some reassurance that, I don’t know, I’m not a terrible person or an idiot.

    I left the country a few days after my high school graduation, clueless about taxes, and stayed away for nine years. It turns out I was supposed to be filing every year even though I wouldn’t have had to actually pay anything. Now I’m back and trying to get this sorted out. (Need to get copies of my payslips from former employers in the UK, urgh.) I haven’t had any letters from the IRS or anything, just being proactive about it.

    If there are going to be fines I’m okay with paying them, but the way the accountants I’ve spoken to have been talking to me is just making me feel terrible. I mean how was I supposed to know? No one tells you this if you leave the country as a teenager.

    1. Mela*

      I feel your pain! I have never made any tax mistakes, but for some reason tax professionals abroad talk to you like you’re an idiot no matter what you do. They say the same things over and over again and are really patronizing =/

      That said, you’re in a huge mess and this is going to be a really long process, so you need to find someone who you’ll want to work with for a few months. So come up with a spiel, similar to what you wrote here. Use phrases like “I’m being proactive,” “left the US as a teenager,” “in the process of gathering necessary documents.” Call them up and work with the one whose response you like. You’re the customer, you should be treated with respect. Also look for people who work with expats specifically, instead of a run of the mill US tax professional.

      1. KR*

        I agree with this. You are the customer – if they treat you like an idiot find a new accountant. Just because they’re educated and we experts in taxes doesn’t mean they get to give you flack for not.

        1. TootsNYC*

          It’s especially galling considering that they’re going to make money off of you. If you’d done it right the first time, you wouldn’t need them!

      1. TootsNYC*

        Ooooh, this is very hopeful, Blue Anne! Go read it.

        If you are accepted into the program, penalties for failing to file tax returns and FBARs or pay any tax due will not be assessed.

        And from your words here, you match the requirements for this program!

        1. Blue Anne*

          Oh my gosh that would be so great. I’ve filled in their contact form too. :)

    2. Emmy*

      From personal experience, it could be the IRS is not going to be so horrible as you imagine. We messed up our withholding one year and ended up owing … a lot (to us). I just called IRS and told them that we were idiots and what should we do now? The woman was very understanding and let us set up whatever payment plan I wanted. I mean, I got to choose the monthly amount. She did warn me that once I’d set it, it would be set. There was no changing or skipping payments. We didn’t, so I don’t know what would have happened if we had. She was very nice. Perhaps calling the IRS and asking what exactly you need to do and explaining will be not as terrifying as you imagine. Hoping for the best for you!

      1. Blue Anne*

        That would be great. If I can just work this out and have a set monthly payment, that would be completely fine. I hope it works out that way!

      2. TootsNYC*

        I have heard this as well–that the people at the IRS and the system of the IRS are both much kinder and gentler if you’re polite and trying to make it right.

        1. Ultraviolet*

          I have also heard this secondhand from two people (independently) who filed incorrectly and were treated nicely by the IRS.

          1. De Minimis*

            I’ve heard similar things, and also that state tax people are usually more difficult than the IRS…

          2. KAZ2Y5*

            I can confirm from firsthand experience that the IRS is much nicer than state tax people.

            1. Nervous Accountant*

              I don’t know. I’ve had good and bad with both, some IRS people are extremely nice and helpful, and maybe once in a while I’ll get a “you should ask a tax accountant.” (erm….I’m a tax accountant and I needyour help?)

              That said, I’m not sure why you do need to file 9 years of taxes if you had left the US and hadno ties here, but I’m not going to guess or speculate on the specifics. But lots of good advice here. Good luck!!!

              1. MT*

                “erm….I’m a tax accountant and I needyour help?”

                This made me laugh. I’m in the same boat, as tech support, whenever we call the equipment manufacturers for support.

                “Have you called your company’s IT department?”
                “We are the company’s IT department.”

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Echoing others, I have heard of people calling up the IRS and the IRS worked with them.

    3. Fjell & Skog*

      So, I didn’t file for 3 years. No good excuses, I just didn’t file because for a while I avoided being an adult in many aspects of my life…. A few years ago I decided to become an adult, and contacted a tax guy who specialized in helping people and businesses who either hadn’t filed, or were in some sort of tax trouble. They were actually great and never gave me any guilt trips, and didn’t really even ask why I didn’t file. They just told me what I needed to do, helped me file and pay the fines (which weren’t as bad as I thought they were going to be), and it was a huge weight off my shoulders. I did it all long-distance because I live outside the US and they are located in Virginia. The guys’ name was BJ Haynes, I think you can find them if you google them + taxes.

      1. Blue Anne*

        This is really reassuring, thank you. I’ve just filled in their online form and asked them to contact me ASAP.

        It’s just, I know I messed up and I’m resigned to paying a bunch of accountancy fees and probably also fines… I’d just like not to be treated like a dumb kid on top of that, you know?

        1. Fjell & Skog*

          Yes, definitely. I was all prepared for them to scold me, and they never did. It was just all business, let’s get this sorted out. It was actually totally easy to work with them. I hope it gets worked out for you, too!

      2. Cristina in England*

        If you don’t mind me asking, what were the fines like, ballpark wise?

        1. Fjell & Skog*

          I honestly really can’t remember…I think it was some % of what I owed, and since I made hardly any money in the years that I didn’t file, it was pretty small. They offered a monthly payment option, but I just paid it all off at once, for all 3 years, so it wasn’t too bad. Although I was trying to be an adult, I did still just make the payment without dwelling too much on how much it cost, so you’d think I should be able to say how much it was, but I really didn’t want to think about it, so now I can’t even remember! Not very responsible adult behaviour still…oh well, baby steps to adulting.

          1. Blue Anne*

            You know, I’m genuinely beginning to believe that a lot of adulting is knowing when it’s okay to just delete some past pieces of information from your brain and concentrate on the stuff you actually have to do in the present. :)

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              You know, IMO 90% of adulting is saying “Well, this is going to suck, I wish I didn’t have to deal with this….but I had better just forge ahead and get it over with now, or it’s going to be worse for me later.”

            2. Not So NewReader*

              I think it’s really easy to beat ourselves up because of oversights/errors.

              But we forget to take pride in stepping up to the plate. It takes strength to say, “I got a mess here. I am going to clean it up.” Part of that strength is knowing you will not break into a thousand pieces before it’s over. And part of the strength is committing to see it through to its conclusion.
              In years to come you will be happy that you did this, of course, but encourage yourself to be proud of you, too.

              1. Connie-Lynne*

                This! You’re making it right now, you should be proud (and you should find a tax pro who isn’t condescending, that’s awful of them!)

                I failed to file for three years when I was young. Two years I was due a refund, one year I owed. The IRS did my figuring for me (both the taxes and the fines) and sent me a check for the balance. Completely painless.

                I have had other occasions to reach out and they are always nice and helpful.

    4. Not Karen*

      I feel you on the attitude that apparently you’re supposed to know these things when no one ever tells you… One time for some reason I forgot to file my state taxes and it took them three years to notice even though I did file my federal ones, and the people at the tax office refused to take responsibility for their failure to notice as if they were allowed to forgot but I wasn’t. On top of that they sent the “failure to file” notice to my old address and claimed that was my fault, too, because I hadn’t called up the tax office after I moved (out of state) to tell them my new address, even though I had since filed returns under my new address and thus they should have been notified that way. Not only did no one ever tell me you’re supposed to notify the tax office when you move, I don’t even think that’s true, because it explicitly says on the IRS website that one way to notify the IRS of an address change is to file your taxes with your new address. I would think the IRS would communicate with state tax departments.

      1. Dan*

        I don’t think the tax office has any responsibility to take.

        They wait awhile to truly make sure you didn’t file when you should have.

      2. Temperance*

        The local tax office where my parents live tried to get me to pay 3 years worth of local taxes … even though I had neither lived nor worked in that community for years. They actually waited 5 years from the supposed required filing date to notify me, which was “coincidentally” also after those records were no longer available online from the IRS.

        I obviously fought them over it, because I wasn’t about to pay even more taxes to a place where I didn’t live, but I am convinced that they wait just so people who can’t be bothered to do some research write them a check.

    5. Blue_eyes*

      You are neither a terrible person, nor an idiot! It’s not unreasonable that as a young adult living abroad you didn’t know that you needed to file taxes in the US.

      I think both the fact that you wouldn’t have had to pay anything back then, and the fact that you’re working it out now before the IRS came knocking on your door will work in your favor. I would keep calling accountants until you find one who treats you like a reasonable person who made an understandable mistake.

      I am absolutely not a tax accountant or a lawyer, so take this as a thoroughly non-expert opinion. It is my understanding that penalties for non-payment are correlated to the amount you owed and how long it’s been since it was due. So if you owed very little (or nothing) in the past, your penalties will be much lower than someone who say, just didn’t report any of their income and owed thousands of dollars.

      1. Cristina in England*

        If that is true about penalties being tied to the amount owed, then you should be ok since the threshold for paying taxes as an American abroad is something like £80,000, I think. If you made less than that, you won’t have owed anything. They may still penalise you since you had income though.

        1. Blue Anne*

          Yep, this is pretty much the only reason I’m not completely panicked right now. I *think*, purely from unreliable googling, that I’ll owe minimal or zero back taxes or fines. The main thing I’ll need to pay is the accountant’s bill, which will probably be a few grand. I think. Here’s hoping.

          1. Cristina in England*

            Check out that HRBlock link above from Not Karen. You should be able to get a quote from them too, to compare. What I saw on the page suggested a lower price than that, but I do sometimes miss the fine print.

            1. Blue Anne*

              Yeah, the thing to keep in mind is that when they say a few hundred dollars per tax return… I think I have five tax returns to do. Plus some other bits of paperwork.

    6. Cristina in England*

      You have sympathy from me! I think global taxation of American citizens, including those who have never lived or worked in the US, is abhorrent. It is taxation without representation!

        1. Blue Anne*

          Yeah, which I did, at least in the presidential elections. So I’m not making that complaint, at least.

          Still, it wasn’t like I was benefiting from the infrastructure or labor laws (ha!) or anything like that. It’s frustrating. The whole thing just seems very harsh… apparently the only other country that does it this way is Eritrea.

        2. Cristina in England*

          For US citizens who used to live in the US but have moved abroad, yes, absolutely, good point. For US citizens who have never lived and worked in the US, it is different. Just under half of states (and DC) allow US citizens who have never lived in the US to register to vote where their parents would be eligible, which means that just over half do not, yet all US citizens are required to file and pay taxes on income, even if that income was already taxed in their home country, even if they never set foot in the US.

            1. Blue Anne*

              Just be warned: I never had any intention of coming back either. It’s not easy to immigrate to any first world country.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Yes, I know. And *hugs* for you. It’s not likely in any case. Much as I’d like to live abroad, I simply cannot afford it. :(

                Also, why is the comment box upside down!? my name is under it instead of the other way round.

          1. Wendy*

            In fairness though the American government supports their people in forgien countries differently than many countries who do not tax when you work abroad

            1. Sara smile*

              What support do you think that is? Do you know how many countries tax its citizens on worldwide income?

            2. Blue Anne*

              What kind of support would that be? I never saw any.

              And the only other country that taxes its expats is Eritrea, so…

            3. Mela*

              “Differently,” as in terribly? Every single service at a consulate is charged (50USD for notarizing a document). Expats don’t get emergency evacuation if there is a single commercial option available. If there are no commercial routes open, the US will CHARGE you for the chartered flight, and bring you to the nearest safe location, not the US. If you have an adopted child or a step-child who is not a US citizen, they must be left behind during an evacuation. If you’re a dual citizen and in the country of citizenship, the US will do absolutely nothing for you. (This part is understandable, but then long-term expats who obtain a second citizenship basically lose all of their terrible benefits while continuing to pay their taxes)

              The US government sucks and is a disgrace to Americans living abroad.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Actually, Cristina, the issue is not taxation without representation, but of double taxation. If Wakeen’s Teapots sends you to the Teapotlandia facility for indefinite assignment, of course Teapotlandia taxes the income you make while working and living there full-time….but then if you’re an American citizen, the US wants to tax you AGAIN on that same income. When you live in one US state and work in another, usually both states will calculate their tax your income, but then one state will give you a credit for the tax paid in the other state (I believe it’s usually the state in which you live, but IANAA).

    7. Jerry Vandesic*

      Don’t forget your state taxes. While you were out of the country you were still considered to be a resident of the state where you resided before your move. Unless you were previously living in a state without income taxes (e.g., Texas), you need to take care of the state tax situation. In addition, unlike the IRS with the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion which could wipe out federal taxes for foreign income, you will likely owe state taxes.

      I had this happen to relative who worked for the state department. She lived in CA before she was sent to Spain for work, and never filed CA taxes on the income she earned in Spain. A few years after she got back she started to receive inquiries from CA tax authority, and eventually had to pay penalties + interest as well as her CA taxes. It was a mess.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Whaaaaat? Really? Jesus, that never even occurred to me. That’s completely ridiculous. Ugh.

        Well, one more thing to ask about when I find an accountant who doesn’t act like a jerk.

        Okay, actually, having done a little googling, I found this page: http://www.expattaxcpaservices.com/state-tax-returns-american-expats/

        Which suggests that California is particularly bad. I was a resident of New York before and didn’t keep any financial ties to the state, so I think I’m good. I’ll still check with the accountant, though.

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          Unfortunately you are still on the hook for NY taxes if you were a resident of NY just before your overseas move. You have to be a resident of one state, and if that state isn’t one of the few that doesn’t have an income tax then you are liable for state taxes. That’s why a number of people who move overseas make a move (at least on paper) to a state like Texas right before the foreign move.

          The fact that NY hasn’t bothered you might not leave you in the clear. The problem will be when you file your federal taxes. That could cause NY to notice that you didn’t file.

          1. Jerry Vandesic*

            You mention above that you voted in a presidential election while you were away. Was this for NY? If so you made a strong case for being a NY resident.

            1. Blue Anne*

              I honestly don’t remember what state I voted in. I registered as soon as I got to the UK, and at that point you could’ve made a god case for me being a tax resident of either NY or NJ.

              I’ll ask the accountant about it.

          2. Blue Anne*

            So are you saying you think the part of that page discussing states which are neutral about expat taxes is wrong?

            1. Jerry Vandesic*

              Unfortunately I know nothing about NY taxes, so wouldn’t hazard to venture a guess. Your plan to discuss this with a good accountant makes a lot of sense — just make sure they know NY tax law.

          3. Mela*

            This isn’t necessarily true. I’m a NY state resident and I don’t pay NY state tax living abroad. My husband works for a US-based company and “lives” in NY, so NY state taxes get taken out of each paycheck. We get a full refund (minus the week or two we visit back home and he works) because you only pay state tax if the work was physically done in that state.

      2. Cookie*

        For whatever it’s worth, this is definitely not true in Ohio. Ohio just wants notice that you are no longer a resident (and do not intend to return to Ohio)

    8. Dan*

      My tax story was moving from DC to VA on the first of the year. I filed with my new address, and VA said, “hey, got your fed return but no state return.” I filed with DC, but back then, their systems were so bad there was no record of it.

      I told VA for six months that once they could prove I was a resident and owed taxes, I’d pay. They finally dropped it.

    9. Sara smile*

      You need to be getting advice from someone who is knowledgeable in US/UK expat tax matters. You are not going to get the right tax advice from contacting a US tax firm familiar in just domestic tax issues and you definitely aren’t going to get the right help with H&R Block. There are some fairly inexpensive options out there – check out Greenback Expat Tax Services for one.

      You need to be concerned with catching up your back federal taxes, confirming if you broke state residency and confirming if you need to file FBARs.

      I am a US and UK qualified accountant and have worked in expat taxes for going on 15 years so I can answer so basic questions that point you in the right direction.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Yep, those are the things I’m looking into. I don’t think I’ll be going with H&R Block but their page did confirm what I thought was true about the streamlined offshore process, which is encouraging.

        I was actually about halfway through ICAS before getting kicked out of the country, which makes it that little bit more embarrassing!

        1. Fjell & Skog*

          The Guy I mentioned before filed my overseas return, with FBAR and everything. So even though they are US focused, they were fine handling the Expat bits.

          1. Blue Anne*

            Yep, I’m definitely leaning towards using him. Thank you for the recommendation!

      2. Blue Anne*

        Question: I think I probably need to file FBARs. How do those work? Is it one per bank account? One per year with all your accounts on it? Should I be contacting my banks for all my bank statements back to the start of time?

        1. Sara smile*

          The FBAR form is filed per year and each account goes on the form. And yes, contact your banks for statements. You will need to go back 6 years.

          Also be VERY careful with a voluntary disclosure for FBAR. Please make sure you get tax advice on this and don’t do it without advice. I know two people in a personal capacity who did voluntary disclosures on FBARs and they ended up losing 25% of highest balances in all their accounts. These were stay at home moms whose only crimes where not filing the forms.

      3. Cristina in England*

        Why wouldn’t H&R Block be any good? They seem to have an expat tax department, based on that link?

        1. Sara smile*

          US taxes when someone has lived abroad in the UK are particularly complicated because it requires specific knowledge of UK taxes (because the UK operates an irregular tax year, because the US/UK treaty has some irregular treaty clauses, etc.). Operations like H&R Block deal with generic expat issues and some of the choices they would make on your return would actually be completely wrong for the situation or would be missed entirely.

      4. Cristina in England*

        I have an expat tax question, I hope you don’t mind. In years when I did not make any money (some because I was a full time student, some because I am looking after my children full time), I did not file tax returns. I filed last year to reclaim some tax on an investment I pulled out, reporting my income as $0. Do I have to file back taxes for the other $0 years? I have read many places that I do not have to file if I made no money, but I wonder if an exception is made for those abroad. What do you think?

        1. Sara smile*

          I actually usually advise adults to file a tax return regardless, even if they don’t have a filing requirement, just to log the return. Memories are short. You don’t want to get audited down the road, not remember your circumstances or not be able to prove your circumstances. Also with the instances of identity theft in tax returns on the rise (i.e. People filing a false tax return with your ssn to get a refund), it can be a good idea to have your return already attached to your SSN for that year if only for record keeping purposes.

          1. Cristina in England*

            Thanks, that’s good to know. Can I file back taxes (reporting a $0 income) myself without an accountant? Will I have to pay penalties for doing this? And regarding your FBAR post above, can I not disclose FBAR while doing so?

            1. Cristina in England*

              I should add that the combined total of my accounts is way under the threshold for required FBAR reporting. I pretty much have no interesting activity in my accounts but I totally take your point about having a record of it to protect myself in future.

              1. Sara smile*

                I posted my reply below before seeing this. If you have no FBAR requirement then yay!!! for you. This is super easy.

            2. Sara smile*

              You can file back taxes without an accountant.

              If you have zero liability, there are generally zero penalties. The huge caveat here is that there are no penalties if you are not also required to file one of the forms that have its own penalties (form 8938, 5471). If you have triggered a requirement to file one of these other form and have failed to do so, then obviously this advice would be different.

              The FBAR filing is separate from your tax return filing, though you do report if you have an FBAR filing on schedule B of your tax return. If you have not been filing your FBARs, I can only advise you to please seek tax advise from a paid professional and try to resolve it. Do not run from it, the consequences can be life altering. This is not meant to be all doomsday but I have known personal acquaintances who were financially ruined by not dealing with this issue. The Treasury is not just going after rich Americans hiding money in offshore funds.

        2. mander*

          I’d call the IRS first. I had exactly that situation and I didn’t bother filling because I had no income and no refund coming to me. They issued me with a certificate to say I didn’t file in those years because I didn’t have to, and it was all good.

          I still don’t understand the FBAR thing though. I make very little money but I do have signatory authority over a joint account with my husband as well as the mortgage on our house. I really wish we had a congress person who specifically represented expats.

      5. Lord Snooty*

        My friend is a dual uk/us citizen, resident in the uk whose never filed a US tax return. She has no need ever to return to the USA. Is there any upside to coming clean to the IRS? Shes never earned above the foreign exclusion limit.

        1. Cristina in England*

          Has she ever filed taxes in the US? If the IRS has never heard of her and is never going to, I would think twice but I am not a tax professional.

          1. Cristina in England*

            I am interested to know what Sara smile says about it because my own children will be in this position one day.

            1. Sara smile*

              As a tax professional, my advice has to always be to file her 6 years of back tax returns and FBARs (but god forbid do not file those FBARs without the help of a paid professional).

              Downside is a lot of paperwork. Upsides would be of the not looking over her shoulder variety. If the IRS did find out, they could file a substitute return on your behalf (which will totally be wrong) and then lien your property/accounts for the tax (which she won’t owe). Or revoke your passport. Let’s be honest, that’s pretty out there and doomsday, though all within the IRS’s power.

              Not a doomsday scenario, the money they can take from you for not filing your FBARs, that is real and scary and can be financially ruinous.

              If we were in an alternative world and I wasn’t a tax professional…

              1. Lord Snooty*

                But can the IRS get a lien in the uk legal system on uk assets?

                Passport , meh, use the other citizenships.

                1. Sara smile*

                  No I was strictly speaking of us assets. And a us passport. But she would not be able to use another passport to enter the us. A us citizen is legal required to enter and exit the us on a us passport.

                  And note these are the pros and cons of today. The us is getting increasingly aggressive with other countries and one day we will see liens and the like apply across borders. A few years ago, it was unthinkable that foreign financial institutions or foreign governments would be providing data to the us government for tax evasion purposes, yet here we are. The us welds a strong arm and they aren’t afraid to use it.

                2. Blue Anne*

                  Just to confirm what Sara smile said here – I have a friend who is a dual US/UK citizen. Visited home in the US using his British passport – or tried to – and they put him on the next flight home. Never got out of the airport.

    10. mander*

      It might be different for you if you had a taxable amount of income, but I didn’t file any taxes between 2004 and 2015 (except 2006) because I was a student, and then basically unemployed (tried to run a small business but only made a few hundred dollars in a year).

      I called the IRS when I found that I needed tax information to apply for the income based student loan repayment plan and explained that I didn’t file because I had no money and was sponging off my husband, and they issued me what I think is called a certificate of non-filing. They were very nice and helpful.

      I didn’t actually bother with the state, but that’s probably a mistake.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Thanks for the name of that, I think I will see if I can get one of those instead of filing for those years!

    11. GermanAnon*

      I was in pretty much the exact same situation. As a dual citizen and having lived outside the US all my adult life, I had no clue I had to file in the US. I only found out when I moved to SoCal for a few years.

      I just filed all the returns for the previous years with a letter explaining the situation. Since I was always below the threshold where I would have owed any taxes in the US, it was just a non-issue. Never heard from the IRS about the whole thing and was never charged any fines.

      I live abroad again, now, and just make sure to stay on top of filing.

    12. Sara smile*

      Fun fact

      Have a look at your US passport. It does alert that you need to pay US taxes while abroad. On older passports it used to be on like page 2 but now it’s buried in the back on like page 50. Most people have no idea it’s there buried in all the fine print.

    13. Cookie*

      Something really similar happened to my dad. He has dual-citizenship, decided to return home, and thought he’d never return to the U.S. so it wouldn’t be worth filing here anymore. But then he started collecting retirement in the US and had to file back taxes. We got it sorted, it was a lot of stress but no penalties for him.

  5. George*

    Hey, I work for a small start up that’s just developed an app for Android. If you’re interested in testing it and giving us feedback it would be much appreciated!! Just let me know

      1. Jessica (tc)*

        Same here. I’m an Android person, but I’d need to know what the app is for before expressing interest. However, I do love trying out new things! :)

      2. George*

        So I work for the team at Collative Pro (collativepro.com) which encourages professional creative collaboration. The app is in its really early days and needs loads of improvement, but at some point in the near future, we’ll be needing people to test drive it. Basically, the idea is you can connect with other creatives through the app. So if you’re working on Project X, you could find yourself a teapot designer and a teapot manager through the app. You could also just find people who sound interesting and save them for later. You also make your own profile so people can find you and connect if they’re interested in collaborating.

        Hope that waffle all made sense.

  6. Mela*

    Who’s been to either Mexico or Puerto Rice? I want to hear all about it! Favorite cities, things to do, anything really. Who’s recently driven to Mexico? Which border crossings do you think are okay and which would you avoid?

    1. Margaret S.*

      I live in Mexico, but I’ve never crossed the border by car. There are several expats-in-Mexico forums around and people there post information about their experiences with the border crossings. Check MexConnect-dot-com and go to the Forums, and/or expatform-dot-com and go to the Mexico Forum.

    2. SophieChotek*

      I have been once to Puerto Rico about 8 years ago for a conference. The Old Town and Zola Fort were beautiful, especially at sunset. A friend who was also at the conference did a rainforest tour and her pictures were stunning.

    3. Stephanie*

      If you’re going to drive, check your car insurance. It might not cover you internationally. You can buy supplementary insurance near the border.

      I’ve crossed at San Ysidro (the San Diego-Tijuana one). It was fine, just super busy. It is open 24 hours though. The local radio station would include the wait times for there and the other big one in the San Diego Metro (the name escapes me). I would listen to that or check the CBP website.

      I’ve also crossed at the smaller Arizona ones (Algodones and the one near Douglas). Getting to Mexico was fine, but the waits to get back into the US were bad. Really, you just want to base it on where you’re headed in Mexico.

      1. CAA*

        Otay Mesa is the other major border crossing in the city of San Diego. It’s open 24 hours.

        Tecate is the smaller crossing in the eastern part of San Diego county. It is closed overnight.

    4. Sheep*

      I’ve done Nogales-Nogales (from MX to the US though), and it was fine. Not a single problem. (Might have helped that we were two blonde girls).

      I LOVE Mexico. It’s one of my favourite countries ever. I lived in Guadalajara for a year, which was pretty fantastic. I would recommend Mexico City, it’s full of life and charm. Guanajuato and that area is pretty cute. The area south of Cancun (Yucatan) is nice for beach times. Tulum, Isla Mujeres… On the top of my to-do list, that I didn’t get around to, are Barrancas de Cobre (seriously, google it, spectacular) and Oaxaca).

    5. mander*

      It’s been a long time but I visited Oaxaca several years in a row in the 90s. Beautiful place, interesting local dishes (I particularly liked squash flower soup), and excellent archaeological sites all around.

    6. Fantasma*

      Try Puebla — beautiful old city that’s a great place to take cooking classes to learn how to make regional dishes. It’s also close to Tlaxcala, the smallest Mexican state. You can fly into Mexico City and take an hour bus ride or fly directly to Puebla.

    7. Temperance*

      I’ve been to both. If you’re interested in traveling around and sightseeing, I highly recommend Puerto Rico over Mexico. Booth and me rented a car while there and drove across the island, and didn’t feel unsafe at all. We socialized with locals and had a really wonderful time.

      We had some scary, unpleasant experiences in Mexico (and know others who were pulled over and forced to pay a bribe to local cops, or who took a taxi ride someplace and then were locked in and held up until they paid a bribe), although there are some really beautiful resorts.

  7. Mazzy*

    Good timing, I had wanted to come back after the comment thread on advice columnists where I agreed with another reader that there was something about Mallory Ortberg that rubbed us the wrong way. I just was reading all of the typical articles on the internet and noticed “LuluLemon” in a few places. I had never heard of them before. Then I remember that within the past week, Dear Prudence answered a letter where a woman did not know how to handle her daughter’s embarrassment that she did not show up at her school in LuluLemon pants. Coincidence that I just happened to notice this company after a number of years, or an SEO-type campaign to get their name out there? Having an employee write in to an advice column, throwing in your company name, is a great way to get some free brand awareness. I don’t see why Mallory couldn’t change the name “Lululemon” to “yoga pants,” or just a generic phrase like “hipper clothes.” I think the takeaway from the letter was “lululemon must be great because everyone is wearing them, lemme buy some.” Plugging brands just makes it look like you have an agenda, which makes me as a reader what other less obvious agenda you have.

    1. Hellanon*

      Lululemon may be on a bit of a charm offensive – they are widely hated on the internet for, among other things, implying that larger women shouldn’t wear their clothing.

      1. Blue Anne*

        I’ve heard some pretty bad stories from friends who worked at their shops, too. One in particular eventually quit because she couldn’t keep up with the pressure to attend 5-6 workout classes a week in full Lululemon gear. I’d have gone nuts.

        1. Grumpy*

          They are batsh’t crazy, no doubt… but their stuff is still better than Nike or UnderArmor so I tolerate them for now.
          That said, I want to throw my sweaty Tracker shorts at their heads for their frustratingly awful customer service.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Lululemon carries a very specific connotation and has become almost a shorthand for a certain type of image, so I can see it feeling relevant. I’m sure that I’ve included brand names in letters without thinking about it, and I really don’t think she or the letter-writer had any agenda in doing that (and my hackles are totally going up about that, because it sucks to have to field that kind of accusation when you’re just trying to give someone advice). I also really like her writing and her advice and think she’s awesome.

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        Not only is it a very definite kind of image (that image being hip, in-shape, eco-conscious, “cool,” and attractive all at the same time), Lululemon is wildly, wildly popular. For all of the backlash against them for their tone-deaf remarks, they’re insanely popular for workout clothes. There is not a gym in the nation that doesn’t have people (both men and women) wearing their stuff–particularly yoga pants and leggings.

        1. Schnapps*

          I live in LuluLemon heartland. I don’t own any pants or shorts because, according to Chip, the clothes aren’t made for my body type :) (I kid! Chip is no longer with LuluLemon which helps a lot – he’s a wildcard)

          I will say, however, their bang tamer headbands are da bomb for exercising. I forgot mine at home one day at work and made a special trip down to the LuluLemon Lab because I was going to yoga immediately after work. They fit, hold bangs and side flyaways in place, and wash up really well.

        2. Stephanie*

          Yeah, it’s an image I have trouble swallowing, despite how many people tell me their clothing is really high-quality. That image, combined with the remarks about plus-size employees and some of the weirder stuff I’ve read about the corporate culture turn me off from the brand.

        3. Retiree57*

          Should have read this before I posted below with my interpretation of the brand image. I guess “hip, in-shape” reads as skinny conformist to me. But how do you get eco-conscious? Aren’t yoga pants made of some kind of petroleum-based fabric and manufactured…internationally? (I don’t want to say foreign sweatshops since I have no idea.) unless they are made of organically grown hemp (or the like), how do they get a rep for eco-anything? Just wondering because I haven’t encountered this. (Maybe the advertising? Wear your yoga pants in your prius…)

      2. Blue_eyes*

        Agreed. I would guess the daughter in that letter didn’t just want her mom to wear any yoga pants, she wanted the brand name because of the connotations and “image” it portrays. So the brand name was totally relevant to the letter. And yes, Mallory Ortberg is awesome.

      3. Rahera*

        +1 I really enjoy Mallory’s column. I think she’s wise and writes from a genuine place. :)

    3. Blue_eyes*

      I did not think the take away from that letter was “go buy Lululemon.” My impression was that Mallory suggested it sort of flippantly as the easiest way to solve the problem (and easiest =/= best).

        1. Blue_eyes*

          You’re right! I was mis-remembering the last question from the letter where the mother wonders if she should just capitulate.

        2. Ultraviolet*

          I wished she had suggested buying some Lululemon pants and hanging them in the window or flying them like a flag.

        3. Clever Name*

          This is when you have Uncle Buck pick your daughter up in his jilopy. ;)

    4. Lily Evans*

      I think that ten years ago the same letter would’ve been written about the daughter wanting to wear Abercrombie clothes. The brand has an identifiable logo and is a status symbol.

    5. INTP*

      I’m not familiar with that advice columnist but it sounds like a coincidence to me. Lululemon has been a widely known name brand for years, probably the most widely recognized high end/fashion-oriented athletic clothing brand that exists. They also carry a very specific connotation – they’re not only expensive and popular but more socially prestigious than equally expensive mainstream brands with more inclusive sizing and marketing like Athleta and more widely recognized than more expensive and trendier niche yoga brands. It’s 100% believable to me that an image-conscious teen would be embarrassed that her mom wouldn’t wear lulu pants specifically, not just any yoga pants. It’s not about the yoga pant style but the lulu logo.

    6. Ultraviolet*

      Mallory didn’t change it because the change would have made it a different letter, to which she’d have responded differently (even if only in tone). The brand Lululemon really has a lot of cachet and many people would recognize them as a sign that the wearer is on-trend and high-status. If Mallory changed “Lululemon” to “yoga pants” in her letter, it would have turned it into a different letter, since it wouldn’t be as clear why the daughter was asking it of her mom. And changing it to “hipper clothes” would have been more different still, since it wouldn’t have conveyed the silliness of the daughter’s request. “Mom, why can’t you dress cooler?” just isn’t quite the same as “Mom, why don’t you wear the cool brand of yoga pants when you pick me up?” Part of why it’s funny is that there’s no point wearing the more expensive workout clothes to run errands, except to impress people, and the people you’d be impressing are just the friends of a kid you’re chauffeuring around…

      It’s not impossible that it was a fake letter, but the fact that Mallory didn’t change the brand name is absolutely not evidence of that. Also, I don’t think the letter made the brand look especially good. It’s more likely to make you laugh at Lululemon adherents.

    7. CMT*

      It sounds like you’re looking for nit-picky things here. If you don’t like Mallory Ortberg, don’t read her column!

    8. Temperance*

      I’m honestly not a fan of her. I miss Emily Yoffe. More often than not, I find myself disagreeing with her advice, sometimes emphatically.

      I think part of my personal dislike for her is from one of her first columns, where a mentally ill woman wrote in to complain that her family was avoiding her, and Prudy reamed out the family for not caring, being terrible people, etc. It set me off because it’s something I could see my mentally ill mother writing, and I felt that Emily would have done a better job answering.

    9. Retiree57*

      I would have suspected it maybe five years ago, but I’ve heard of the brand for years. Wouldn’t recognize it if I tripped over it, though. Definitely a cultural symbol, maybe the same way polo shirts meant preppy 30 years ago. Lululemon means…. Suburban white skinny conformist, maybe? (I didn’t know the skinny part but other comments reminded me of that; perhaps this is why I don’t have any personal knowledge of the brand, LOL.)

  8. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    Are all the northern Alberta AAM readers OK?

    For those of you who haven’t been keeping up, the Ft McMurray wildfires are getting worse and are projected to cover about 2000 square km by the end of today. The entire city, about 80,000 people, has been evacuated, and those who went north (rather than south towards Edmonton) are now being evacuated from those smaller towns as well. On the plus side: some cool weather may slow down the progress of the fires, and firefighters from all over Alberta (and all over Canada, with some assistance from Mexico and possibly from US firefighters?) are working incredibly hard–including a bunch of guys I know. Please stay safe, northern Albertans!

    The Canadian government is matching all donations to the Canadian Red Cross.

    1. nep*

      Thinking a lot about Alberta residents. Really no words suffice.
      Wishing you all the best, dear Canadians.

    2. Sail On, Sailor*

      Yes, as someone who lives in a wildfire-prone area of the US, my heart goes out to the Northern Alberta communities. Stay safe and hang in there!

    3. RKB*

      I’m from Edmonton, and I work for the city. We are all so exhausted so I can’t even imagine what the evacuees are going through. We’ve all been OT approved to go help out wherever we can.

      Looks like people for the most part are okay… Just shell-shocked. I’m a young women who apparently has a sympathetic face (I get lots of strangers who tell me their problems on the train/in food courts/in line at the bank) so I’ve been comforting a lot of young women, especially teenagers. My other half is a paramedic, he’s dealing with lots of withdrawal evacuees, which sucks. My mom is coordinating patient placements in our hospitals.

      I am proud to see how the city is pulling together for these people. It’s stunning.

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        Lots of pets have been evacuated with their owners! Sadly, not all of them, but there are some great images of pets flying coach with their owners, and lots and lots of vets in Edmonton are offering free medical care and free boarding for affected pets or people who can’t keep their pets with them while they’re in shelters.

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          When the wildfires devastated Lake County here in California last year, there were a few vets who cared for pets free and also did some work re-uniting pets with owners. It was very heartening.

          I hope all y’all up in Canada stay safe!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Ft McMurray folks, our hearts are breaking for you and what you are going through. We pray for you often. May a calming rain come soon.

    5. NN*

      I’m an Aussie and we’ve had some terrible bushfires here too. My heart goes out to everyone affected – people are thinking of you all around the world.

    6. mander*

      It’s just awful. We had two massive fires near my home town within a few years of each other but they were nothing like this one.

    7. Catherine in Canada*

      The Fort Mac fires are just beyond words.
      Terrible, inevitable, awesome and awful.
      But, despite the tragedy, I find myself inordinately proud of us Canucks – an orderly and smooth(ish) evacuation, no fire-related deaths, and (so far) no finger-pointing.

  9. Cruciatus*

    Well, I found someone’s Fitbit in my work parking lot (which is at a college, on graduation day–could be anyone’s!) I’ve emailed Fitbit and hopefully they will be able to help reunite the device with its owner. I thought about wearing it with my own so that they wouldn’t “lose” steps then realized how insane I’ve become over wearing my Fitbit (if it’s charging, I have to sit still!). I’m hoping customer service will come through and we’ll be able to find the owner. Has anyone found one and been able to get it back to the owner?

    1. Mela*

      Try contacting the security office on campus? That’s where I would go if I realized I lost it on campus.

      1. Cruciatus*

        I will on Monday. I found it on my way out on Friday and they are closed by then. I may let them know I have one in case someone calls, but I think I’ll hold on to it in case I have to send it in to Fitbit who might be able to find the owners. I don’t think police services will be as proactive and it’s possible the person has no idea where they lost it.

    2. Cruciatus*

      Fitbit is going to send me a prepaid slip to send it back to them and they will find the owner (hopefully)!

      1. GreenTeaPot*

        That’s good to know. I don’t have one, because I bought a good pedometer a few years back, and I use that and Map My Walk, but I’m thinking I want one. It’s just the kind of thing I would lose!

      2. Alston*

        That’s how I got mine back, they mailed it to me :D Also if you ever lose yours, email fitbit-when my boyfriend lost his they sent him a new one.

        1. Cruciatus*

          Did they let you know it was coming? It probably belongs to someone at work so I’m probably going around this the long way. I worry about the person realizing it’s lost then spending money on a new one, just to have it mailed to them a few days later.

          1. Alston*

            I think so–it was also really really fast-so faster than I would have bought a new one anyway.

    3. Trixie*

      What kind of Fitbit do you have? I’m contemplating one for my mom as birthday gift. She doesn’t use a smartphone so a lot of the syncing /blue tooth options wouldn’t really help her. She would just upload directly to her computer. I am looking at Fitbit, Garmins, Jawbones, etc.

      1. Cruciatus*

        For both GreenTeaPot and Trixie–I have the Fitbit One. I’ve had it for about 3 years now and it’s still a pretty motivating device for me–and even more so when my friends and I compete in work week or weekend challenges. I’m not a fan of things on my wrist so the One works for me (and my friend loves her Zip, though it’s not rechargeable). I put it on my pocket and have never had a problem (except if I forget to switch it to other pants if I change). Obviously the person who lost theirs did…but they could have been keeping it somewhere else (bra, belt, whatever, and maybe it got loose). Mine can’t do all the nifty things the fancy ones can, but I mostly want to know how many steps and flights of stairs I’ve taken. I still get miles, and time active. Sometimes the wrist ones don’t count steps with some activities (like when you use a shopping cart). I still use the sleep feature all these years later but don’t look at my results across time or anything. I just try to get at least 7 hours or more a night if I can so I do sometimes go to sleep a bit earlier just to get it to say at least 7 hours. I do mostly sync through my phone, but it comes with a dongle you plug into the USB port and it works just fine on the computer. I got the Fitbit years ago because it had the best ratings but it’s possible as technology as improved the others have gained in ratings. I took it to the track once to count every step around for a lap and the device was exactly right. The only time it is off is when it’s super, super windy, and even then it’s only the flights of stairs that are wrong. But besides that, it didn’t even get my stair count wrong when I went to an amusement park. I thought maybe on the bumpy rollercoasters it might count it as a flight or 10 but it didn’t (dammit!). Their customer service has been great. When my first one was acting wonky, they were sending me a new one hours later despite not having proof of purchase (because it was a birthday gift). And now they are helping me find the owner of this one on their dime, so that’s pretty cool. I know others who have lost theirs and Fitbit sent them a new one (free!).

        1. GreenTeaPot*

          Thank you, Cruciatus. I will look into it. I’m really interested in the sleep feature, too, because I don’t get enough at night. I have to nap at noon.

      2. Alston*

        I have the HR Charge. I had the old fitbit with the dots and it did nothing for me. Having one with the actual steps, my heart rate, estimated calories, etc is waaaay more motivating. It’s actually made me mad competitive with my other fitbit friends/my boyfriend, gotta get the most steps so I can CRUSH their scores. I would probably get her one of the ones that show the number of steps on it (so pretty much anything except the fitbit one)–you can see it right away so it’s not a big deal not to have a smart phone to sync it to. If she wouldn’t like to wear it every day the little fitbit clip on might be a good idea, my friend clips it to her bra.

          1. Snow*

            That’s the flex with the dots I had one and then upgraded to the HR charge (I wanted the Heart Rate for a more accurate calorie burn but my OH has the flex now and is happy with dots (because he just checks the details on his phone.)

        1. Cruciatus*

          Right, the Fitbit One does indeed show you steps, flights, calories, miles, and time right on the device itself. Syncing it to the computer just shows extra stuff like when you were active, how long you slept and how many times you were restless, and previous days’ numbers, all the badges you’ve earned, etc. I think the ones with the dots and no extra information on the device itself is one of the wrist ones.

    4. Stephanie*

      I can’t find my charger and it’s making me sad. Which is a little silly–it’s not like I’m walking any less, but still!

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I was given a Fitbit One as part of a company wide fitness and wellbeing programme. I use the clip/holder to attach it to my clothes, but it always feels a bit flimsy. I only use it for counting steps and it gives me the number of calories burned and flights of stairs climbed.

  10. drivesmenuts*

    I am catching up on AAM while sitting in my barn, waiting for my goat to give birth. She’s taking her sweet time. Thank goodness my barn gets wifi!!!

      1. drivesmenuts*

        You are welcome to follow my goat at “Lucy the Goat” on Facebook (not “Lucy the Adventure Goat” or the “Life of Lucy the Goat” — those are other goats named Lucy with FB pages).

    1. Ruth (UK)*

      weird coincidence, I was JUST thinking about goats! Hope all goes well for your goat!

      1. drivesmenuts*

        I think it was a false alarm. She’s happily eating and resting. I’ll post pics when the babies come!

    2. Jean*

      Man, the Internet really is amazing in the way it knits people together. Wifi in the barn? A pregnant goat? (Can you tell I’m a city girl sitting at home in her PJs in thelate afternoon?)

      Who’d’a thunk it? :-)

  11. I'm Avoiding Lunges*

    I am starting to come up with an exercise plan after an extremely long exercise hiatus. I am in my mid-twenties and I am extremely inflexible and my knees sometimes feel uncomfortable doing traditional squats.

    I am going for more low impact workouts and I wanted to avoid doing lunges and traditional squats. I am not sure if it is possible to tone the lower body without lunges/squats.

    I wanted to strengthen but I really don’t like lunges and squats at this point. I think they are a bit too much since I am now more weaker than I was a decade ago. And I am also not much of a runner.

    1. Pharmgirl88*

      I don’t know if this would work for you, but this is what I started with last year after a long break. I’m in my late 20s – was relatively active in high school, did okay in college, but it basically stopped once I started working. (I’ve never been a runner either!)

      I’ve always enjoyed dancing, so I started with zumba. Just the short video ever other day, then slowing moving up to the longer videos everyday. Once I was active enough, I started moving on to other things – 21 day fix, now I’m trying out piyo. I used to hate lunges and squats – still do, but they’re now much easier to do.

      1. Schnapps*

        I’m currently on T25. :) I like it a lot better than 21 day fix. PiYo is next on my list :)

        1. Nancypie*

          Love t25! I’m on my second round (did 21 day fix in between). Really great for all levels.

      2. Catherine in Canada*

        If you have a uni pool or YMCA or other nearby, try swimming.
        It’s good cardio, good muscle development with no impact, so less of a chance of hurting yourself as you get strong.

    2. Non runner*

      You might find that a ballet barre workout is beneficial. It’s not quite as strenuous as a full on squat or lunge, and it’s nothing like running. You could also do Pilates. Target usually has instructional videos — or find some via YouTube.

    3. ScarletInTheLibrary*

      You might want to look into Fitness Blender. They have a variety of low-impact videos (many are on YouTube, so low risk cost wise). I used them before getting into XBox Fitness.

      1. nep*

        Second Fitness Blender — they’ve got some great workouts / exercises.
        (Has anyone had a chance to watch Kelli’s talk about her health background? It’s quite something. I really like her / them a lot more since watching that. There’s just this raw, honest tone to it that is so appealing.

    4. Lily Evans*

      This might sound counter-intuitive, but maybe start with easy tutorial videos for either yoga or pilates that target the core. A lot of variations of sit-ups and plank poses also help build leg muscles, even when that’s not what you’re specifically targeting. I’d also recommend some gentle stretching yoga videos to help with flexibility and “wake up” muscles that aren’t used to being used.

      1. Lily Evans*

        I recommend Yoga with Adriene on youtube for yoga videos. She has a ton that are all different levels and target different body parts. Plus, she’s really good about noting adjustments you can make if poses are uncomfortable and she’s really big on not pushing too hard and listening to your body.

        1. Corrupted by Coffee*

          Me too. She’s got an amazing back pain routine. I highly recommend her yoga camp. Just be careful, the 30 days of yoga videos are more advanced than the yoga camp ones.

          1. Lily Evans*

            I hadn’t seen the yoga camp ones (it’s been awhile since I’ve been on her channel) but they look awesome!

        2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

          THANK YOU for this. Im active but have been having a lot of problems lately with back pain due to tight hip flexors from a) too much sitting at work b) worst work chairs ever and c) my main activity also impacting hip flexors. I wasn’t sure where to start with a youtube video because I hate classes – checking this out now!

          1. Lily Evans*

            Her pain relief videos are great, I totally second the back pain one that Corrupted by Coffee mentioned. There’s ones for upper and lower back and the lower back one was a life saver when I started my first office job and wasn’t used to so much sitting. I also love the home video because as someone who’s socially anxious, sitting in a room full of people was pretty counter-productive for the whole relaxation part of yoga!

        3. AnonInSC*

          I’ll check those out, too. I’m always hesitant about YouTube videos unless they have been recommended. I figure the AAM folks are smart :)

        4. Sheep*

          I love Yoga with Adriene! I’ve tried some other youtube instructors, but none of them make the sessions as fun as Adriene. (I like looking at pictures of Yogabycandace for inspiration, but there is something about her voice/style that means I can’t get into her videos.)

    5. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      Yoga is a great way to ease back into movement, and it can help with some of that inflexibility (which may also help with discomfort in your knees). Lots of gyms have beginner yoga or intro yoga classes, and there are a ton of Youtube videos about yoga (Yoga with Adrienne is great) but if you’re starting from scratch you may want to be in a class where you can have an instructor correcting your form.

      It is definitely possible to tone your lower body without doing lunges/squats, and you may find that you work your way back to those. If you’re a swimmer, swimming is a great total-body exercise. Cycling is also great for your legs and cardio, which will help you strengthen.

      You can look into pilates as well, which is going to be focused on strengthening, and like with yoga, there’s always a workaround for beginners or people who are taking it easy on a particular body part. There are a bunch of great youtube workout resources–Fitness Blender, as mentioned, is great, Yoga with Adrienne, Jessica Smith TV has a bunch of low- or no-impact exercises, Blogilates for pilates (you can avoid anything squat- or lunge-heavy), the BeFit channel (tons of different types of workouts), there are tons more.

      Good luck!

    6. nep*

      Good for you getting back to exercising.
      I suggest not ruling out squats and lunges forever. They might never be right for you, but you might find that in time when you’ve strengthened your legs and hips a bit, they’ll feel OK and you can incorporate them.
      (If/when you ever start working lunges in, suggest doing reverse lunges rather than forward — there is something about that return from a forward lunge that can be taxing on the knee for some people. Some have a much better time with reverse or walking lunge, where you’re pushing up and forward on that front leg.)
      Look up some exercises that will strengthen glute maximus and glute medius muscles — that can help a lot in lower-body strengthening.
      Walking up and down on a step / steps can help, if that doesn’t bother your knees?
      All the best.

      1. Margaret S.*

        I want to second that squats and lunges might be in your future at some point. I “hate” them but I do them because of their effectiveness. I can’t do any impact – can’t jump or run at all – my joints are just too old. I mean, I could jump or run, but I’d pay for it with joint pain afterwards. Lunges and squats are something I can do, and they help my bones and joints, contributing to reducing pain, instead of the opposite.

    7. nep*

      Just wanted to add — when you do any kind of exercise, it’s a good idea to do some deep, static stretches afterward when your muscles are warm. In my experience it helps alleviate stiffness later.

    8. I'm Avoiding Lunges*

      Thank you for all your suggestions. I will continue to look into Youtube for possible low impact workouts that can keep me moving.

      With youtube I do find a lot of workout videos, sometimes I find one where there is a good routine in the beginning and then halfway the instructor began to lunge. Arrgghhh! NOO! Why lunges??

      Sometimes it could take hours until I find a workout video with the intensity I am comfortable with. wonder if there is a way that could edit the videos I saved on youtube to cut out the lunging parts.

    9. INTP*

      It’s probably not your joints that can’t handle the squats and lunges, so much as your smaller stabilizing and supporting muscles being weakened and/or inflexible. Pilates would be a good way to strengthen those muscles while improving mobility. Walking is also great and has little risk of injury. You can also try hatha yoga on youtube (most gym classes are vinyasa style which involves lunges).

      1. nep*

        Yes. When your core muscles, including hip muscles, are stronger, squats and lunges might well be more manageable.

    10. Lizabeth*

      Don’t forget about simply walking instead of running. The other one I haven’t seen mentioned yet is water aerobics – much easier on the joints and no sweating!

    11. drivesmenuts*

      I know this probably sounds nuts but if you are having joint pain or soreness on a regular basis, try cutting gluten, all grains, and all sugars from your diet. I can barely move when I eat those things.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      Walking is a good start. It’s low-impact, is good for you, gets you out of the house, and is free! I always start with this when I’ve had time off.

    13. Stephanie*

      Swimming! It’s great for a low-impact exercise. Depending on your city, you may also get free or low-cost access to the public pools. (When I was still in DC, the super nice aquatic facilities were free of charge with proof of residency.)

    14. AmyNYC*

      This was me a few months ago! I HATE exercise. I don’t understand the “runners high” or any of that, I hate sweating, I feel dumb at a gym because I don’t know what to DO once I’m there….
      I’ve been taking group exercise classes which have helped a lot, I really need a guide telling me what to do – don’t get me wrong, I still kind of hate it, but I’m also getting stronger and can feel like I’ve achieved something after an hour long class. I like Burn or circut training classes, but that could be hard on your knees.

    15. Yetanotherjennifer*

      I hear you on lunges and squats, they’re not fun but they are powerful. You could look into a home TRX system or doing TRX in the gym which would allow you to do supported squats. It’s a great way to ease into the move and reduce the chance of pain and injury.

  12. Anon and Ashamed*

    How much help is “enough” to offer friends and family when they are in their hardest times?

    My extended family on my father’s side has had an unimaginably terrible year. In the last 12 months, we’ve lost my grandmother, an aunt, and an 18-year-old cousin who committed suicide during her first month at college; two aunts and an uncle were diagnosed with lung cancer, with prognoses ranging from “a few weeks” to “nine months”; another uncle had a quadruple bypass; a cousin had a heart valve replacement; my father was diagnosed with COPD and spent last summer and fall in and out of the hospital.

    Over the same time frame, my husband and I have made a lot of big (but good) changes: we moved, bought a house, we both changed jobs, and we got a dog. It’s been both the worst and the best year of my life.

    I’ve been struggling lately with feeling unable or unwilling to give (time, attention, focus, etc.) as much to my family as I assume they want or need, and I’ve been trying to figure out what I believe my obligations are. To be honest, I haven’t done much caretaking during all this time. I spent a lot of time with and took care of my father and mother when he was in and out of the hospital, but for the others I’ve just attended the funerals, listened and hugged at family gatherings and helped with a few very small practical things. I haven’t visited my uncle with lung cancer in hospice; I haven’t sent cards or flowers to anyone in the hospital; I haven’t called just to check in.

    I feel guilty about this, but I also feel like it takes most of my energy – both emotional and physical – just to go to work every day, keep the puppy alive and vaguely happy, have a relationship with my husband, and do my part to keep us fed and the house standing. My life is not hugely demanding; I’ve constructed it that way because I know that I have limited energy. But I feel like I’m just creating a justification to avoid doing the things that nobody wants to do.

    There’s another layer here, with regards to my uncle who is in hospice. He’s barely been a part of my family. He doesn’t come to family parties, doesn’t celebrate the holidays with us, and in recent years has declared that he “hates” several of my uncles and won’t go anywhere that they are. He and my aunt were in the process of divorcing when he was diagnosed (they went to the ER on Friday; their final appointment with the judge was the following Tuesday). Should I now be expected to spend time with him in hospice? It would literally be the first time in over a year that I’d seen him, and the first time… maybe ever… that I spent more than 10 minutes with him.

    tl;dr: I’m not doing a good enough job of caring for the people in my life who need caring for, I’m not sure whether I want to change that, and I’m pretty sure that makes me an asshole.

    Ugh.

    1. Colette*

      I don’t think you’re obligated to visit or care for someone who is part of your life, but it is nice to do something, even if it’s just sending a card, if you have a relationship with them or with the people caring for them.

      However, it seems to be bothering you . Is there something you can do that works with your life? For example, could you get a pack of blank cards, write a short message in each, and send them?

    2. Anonacademic*

      I go by the relationship or in the absence of one, what kind of gesture is in line with the type of person I want to be – so compassionate but not drowning in everyone else’s pain, if that makes sense. I try to send cards or “thinking of you” type messages to the sick person or their caregiver. My family is also big on remembering those passed on Facebook with pictures and stories which is actually a nice way to share experiences. I live 3000 miles away from them now so it helps me feel still involved.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      One lesson in life that I keep revisiting because I have not learned it, is to trust that I am where I am supposed to be.

      The second I start thinking about this, I run into trouble. How can I neglect persons #1 through 17 and STILL be where I am supposed to be. I do not understand. Yet, this is it.

      Realize that we have dual thinking most of the time. This is where, we can mourn one thing and ten minutes we can later rejoice over another thing. Life is a mixed bag, it’s never all sad nor is it all happy.

      Next step, we cannot be all things to all people. There are not enough hours in the day. I tend to believe we walk the last mile of our lives alone, no one else understands our pain the way we do. So even a person who is surrounded by people can still feel very isolated because of pain. If we live long enough we all will become old and it will be our turn.

      Honestly, I am still piecing together what to do about all this. I lost 11 close relatives in five years. (hey, who keeps pulling the rug out from under my feet?) One thing I see we can do is be a little bit more aware of the person standing next to us. Help a stranger in the hopes that some how by karma/fate/god a stranger helps your loved one in trouble. Put it out to the universe what you want your loved ones to receive but you cannot give them directly.
      Another thing we can consider is taking an extra second for the people who do come into our day/life on a regular basis. Take a moment to deliberately appreciate those around us.

      See, it’s reeeal easy to make a long list of all the people we did not help and all the things we should have done. This will pretty much cause anxiety attacks if we do not stop making this list. Stop making the list, it’s not humanly possible to do all these things. It’s better to look around for opportunities right in front of us to make a difference in someone’s day. Take that guilty feeling and use it for good things.

    4. mander*

      I think that with the uncle you’re not necessarily obligated to go see him, since he’s not really a big part of your life. But it might make you (and him) feel better if you sent a “thinking of you” type card. It’s not a huge time investment but it is a meaningful gesture without involving you in a lot of drama that you don’t want.

    5. OhNo*

      Well, first of all, if doing any of this would negatively impact the parts of your life that are most important, then don’t do it. You can’t help others if your own life is falling apart at the seams, so making sure that you are in the best emotional, mental, and physical state you can be in should always be your top priority. Remember: don’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm.

      Secondly, it sounds like one of your major concerns is how draining this would be on you. Is there any chance your husband could help shoulder some of the burden here? Maybe he could help you set up flower deliveries to people in the hospital? Or take over a few more chores at home so you have the energy to do some of the emotional heavy lifting of calling or visiting people? Even just having him buy the cards for you to write in might help, because it’s one less step you have to deal with.

      Lastly, I’m really sorry to hear that so many of your relatives are having a hard go of it. I know that kind of thing can be horribly stressful, even if you’re not in the thick of it, so I hope you can just keep taking care of yourself!

    6. Temperance*

      Here’s my .02:

      Your first responsibilities are to yourself and your immediate family – so husband and pups. I get having limited energy. That’s where I am now, too.

      I can see both sides of this, as someone who was recently very ill/hospitalized and an introvert who hates family obligations. My husband was point of contact when I was sick, because I didn’t want to have to drum up the energy to deal with ~concerned relatives calling me and visiting constantly. My roommate the second go-round had chosen to hospitalize herself, and then was all about the attention and demands for it. It was freaking bizarre to me … to the point where when my phone rang, she wanted to make sure it wasn’t for her. She could have gone home at any time but chose not to because of all the family attention. (I was in the room most of the time, and yes, the doctor would tell her every AM that she could leave.)

      I approach things from what I would want, which is to be left the hell alone. I also resent fawning over people who are minorly ill or trying to milk it for all its worth, which admittedly was made far worse by my recent hospitalization.

    7. stevenz*

      First, live your own life.
      Second, set priorities, sort of like triage. Who are you closest to? Who needs *your* help the most? How close are you in terms of distance?
      Third, there is only so much that you can do so don’t try to do more.
      Fourth, help can be in the form of flowers, a note, a phone call.
      Fifth, forget Uncle Fester.

      Attending funerals, commiserating, comforting, etc are all good things and all that you can do in many cases. Also, there are lots of other people available to help. It’s not only your problem. But being supportive and caring are the most important things.

  13. Stephivist*

    We are moving 2000 miles away with two kids and one dog (accepted a great new job, yay!).
    Any tips and tricks? Advice for staying sane?

    1. Ghost Pepper*

      Congratulations on the new job! I was in a similar situation a couple years ago, except it closer to 1,000 miles and we had one toddler and one cat. We flew with the mammals and hired a moving company to arrive a day or two after we arrived.

      I think the biggest thing was hiring a trustworthy packing/moving company. My friend moved from the East to West coast for a job. Before they dropped off his stuff, they jacked up the price and held his stuff for ransom until he paid. After hearing that horror story, I researched how to choose a moving company, looked up businesses’ reviews and ratings on BBB and the state attorney general’s office, and interviewed several movers. The one I chose ended up being fantastic and seamless. They packed everything, moved it, and unloaded everything almost perfectly. It really made the whole relocation easier.

      Before the movers came, I separated out the items I wanted with us (e.g. tax returns, passports, other sensitive docs). Also, separated things I knew we would need for the next few days, including toys, clothes, etc. Sorry if this is obvious; I really had to think this part through.

      You can do this. Good luck!

    2. Stephanie*

      Ghost Pepper has really good suggestions. I second having a box of stuff you know you’ll need immediately. You don’t want to get there and realize you have no clue where the rest of your shoes are (or whatever).

      Depending on the size of your company, I’d ask for referrals from their relo service. Even if they aren’t paying you, they probably still have some companies they’ve vetted (at least at a cursory level).

    3. Yetanotherjennifer*

      I’ve moved cross-country twice. Both times during the Christmas holidays in places that get snow. I don’t recommend it. But one thing that really helped was to keep two giant plastic totes on hand at all times: one for old home and one for new. I’d throw-in important papers, presents, door stops and other things I couldn’t afford to lose. Your inventory and moving contracts should go in the new state box. Sometimes an important thing might find a temporary home in the state’s box until I found a better packing place for it. These boxes should be brightly colored and should not leave your sight during the move. It’s also good to have a box or tote that is the first off the truck or travels with you and contains enough bedding and towels for your first night. Also figure out what you’ll be doing for food those first few days and plan for that. When we moved to KY, my new next door neighbor brought over dinner the day the truck arrived. It was so greatly appreciated.

      A mover once told me that at some point you have to accept that your current house is no longer your home even though you’re still living there. That’s when you’ll really make progress with the packing because you’ll be ok with stacking boxes in your living room. Be especially meticulous in labeling boxes. And have your own inventory with your moving company’s numbers next to your description of the boxes. Check things off as they go on and off the truck. We have at least 3 boxes that disappeared somewhere amongst 3 moves. They didn’t get unpacked after moves 1 and 2 due to space issues and now I can’t find them in house 3. So maybe they’re in an attic somewhere or maybe they didn’t make it off a truck. I’ll never know but there were keepsakes that I miss. Speaking of which, there are things in your home that make it feel homey. If you can identify those things, or even designate those things, then you can make sure they get put in place early in your unpacking and that will help your new house feel like home.

      If you have littles, Usborne has a great book, Mouse Moves House, for explaining the move. Try and involve them in all aspects of the move; let them pack some boxes, decide which toys go where, etc. It can really help with the transition. Good luck!

    4. MsChanandlerBong*

      I moved 1,996 miles from home a few months ago. Tips/advice:

      * Get a cheap pocket folder and use it to store printed directions. I’ve tried relying on my cell, but there are places where there is no service, which can cause problems if you’re relying on having a connection for directions.

      * Start packing and cleaning the current place as early as possible. I made a room-by-room checklist and started tackling it about 90 days before we moved. Break it down into tiny chunks so you can feel accomplished even if you only have five minutes to work on something.

      * Call the utility companies now and see what you need to do to start service. My Internet provider had a one-month wait for new installs, so I was REALLY glad I called ahead (I work from home, so Internet is a necessity for me).

      * Sell some stuff. We sold anything that didn’t fit in our sedan. I don’t even remember what we had, and I don’t miss any of it.

      Good luck!

  14. Ghost Pepper*

    If someone says “no gifts” on their invitation, it really means no gifts, correct?

    If so, some people always inevitably bring gifts, and then the rest of the people who don’t bring gifts feel empty-handed.

    What do you typically do? Same rules apply to BBQs where the hosts tell guests not to bring anything?

    1. Cristina in England*

      Is it a birthday party? Then bring no birthday gift but I think a bottle of wine or a box of fancy cookies would be appropriate. Essentially, a “hostess” gift not to be opened during the party. Same applies for a BBQ.

    2. Mela*

      I think for birthdays and weddings, a card is nice and a heartfelt note is always appreciated. If you really want to give something, you can put in a check (weddings) or a donation to a charity they support (either) and other guests wouldn’t know.

    3. Blue_eyes*

      If they say “no gifts” I think you can take them at their word. There will always be the people who ignore it, but you’re not in the wrong for following the hosts’ directions. Any host who would get angry that guests did not bring gifts when the invitation stated “no gifts” is entirely unreasonable. That said, a small consumable gift (chocolate, alcohol, homemade treat) is never a bad idea if you feel uncomfortable showing up empty handed. A card or note is also always appreciated.

    4. NicoleK*

      If someone says “no gifts” I don’t get them a gift and I don’t feel bad.

    5. TootsNYC*

      I believe them.

      And I don’t bring a gift.

      If it’s a party, I don’t bring anything unless I’ve specifically asked and they’ve specifically said yes. Extra cookies are a pain in the ass when they arrive unexpectedly.

      I don’t do hostess gifts either. I just invite people over to MY place sometime.

      If it’s a big event, i send them a card with a medium-size person note. Ideal is for it to arrive before the party, but after works too.

      1. Cristina in England*

        “Extra cookies are a pain in the ass when they arrive unexpectedly.”

        Can I send you my address for all future “pain in the ass” cookies that arrive unexpectedly at your door?? ;-)

      2. Connie-Lynne*

        Oh my god I had someone bring, unannounced and unasked, a crockpot of clam chowder to a party for which I had literally spent three days prepping tiny hors d’oeuvres.

        To top it off, I hate clam chowder.

    6. danr*

      My mother’s solution to the folks bringing gifts to a ‘no gifts’ party was to take the presents away to another room and not open them. After all, the people who obeyed the instructions shouldn’t feel embarrassed.

    7. mander*

      I wouldn’t bring anything. It implies that they aren’t planning to deal with the stuff you might bring. If it was a BBQ with the kind of people I hang out with I might bring some cold beers anyway, but I wouldn’t bring a gift to a no-gift wedding.

      1. MT*

        “It implies that they aren’t planning to deal with the stuff you might bring.”

        Yeah, when my SO and I were in a tiny apartment and were in the process of downsizing (two people who had lived on their own moving in to one place together = double everything!), we were very explicit about “no gifts” and would have been annoyed at somebody who didn’t respect that.

    8. crushing anonymously*

      Interesting. I always took “no gifts” to mean cash gifts only. Or does “no boxed gifts” have a different connotation?

  15. Colette*

    Foot update: I’m cleared to sit up and get to go back to work on Monday. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for it to heal.

    (And I saw Civil War today.)

        1. Colette*

          I do volunteer work with teenagers, and I always tell them that they can’t get hurt because that’s a lot of paperwork. And when I broke my foot, one of my girls texted another, who replied “that’s a lot of paperwork”. So (mild spoiler ahead) when one character says he would have to arrest himself and another replies “that’s a lot of paperwork”, I laughed and laughed. (No one else did – it was only funny to me.)

    1. fposte*

      Ooh, I’m impressed you were able to negotiate a cinema, and I’m glad you’re up and scooting! Make sure to take care of yourself when you go back to work–that’s bound to be pretty tiring at first.

      1. Colette*

        I have to say I covet the handicapped stalls at the theatre – so much bigger than my bathroom. It wasn’t bad- I went to an early show and plopped myself down in the row one step up, since it curves at a different rate than the one in front (which gave me room to rest my foot on my scooter).

        I’m getting a ride to work with my neighbour, which will make it easier. And I don’t plan to do much else this week. Hopefully it will work out.

      1. anonanonanon*

        Without spoiling anything, the writing is excellent and it makes the Cap movies the only standalone movies that have consistent characterization (and having the same screenwriters for all three movies really helps). Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman and Scarlett Johansson are all fantastic.

        But it really is more of Avengers 2.5 than Cap 3. It’s not a Cap movie in the same way as TFA or TWS. But I’m still bitter the studio decided to do Civil War as a Cap movie and not an Avengers movie, so.

      2. Colette*

        I definitely enjoyed it. Probably a little confusing if you haven’t seen any of the previous movies – there are a lot of charactersto keep track of.

  16. Treading Water*

    Just received an amazing (AMAZING!) offer from a company that I’ve long wanted to work for, and for the first time in my professional life I think I’m actually going to have a really good manager. Huge thanks to Alison for all of the amazing advice – I was on your site every day (sometimes multiple times) for words of wisdom, tricky phrasing, and reminders to be patient throughout the process. You helped me to ask thoughtful questions, feel equal in my interviews by treating them as a conversation with me evaluating just as much as my interviewer, and just generally deal with tough questions with finesse.

    I want to send a little thank you note and gift to my references because they apparently gave really glowing reviews (and they are people I’m friendly with anyway; trust me when I say they wouldn’t be received weirdly). Any ideas? People who’ve sent little thank you gifts for work and non-work reasons? Trying to avoid wine since one doesn’t drink, and trying to avoid anything that would potentially spoil quickly since two travel frequently for work. I know there are a lot of really creative people on here so hoping you can toss some ideas my way.

    And I know, I know, this kind of toes the line between work and non-work threads but I’m hoping that since it’s about gifts it’s sufficiently non-work? I’m the least creative gift-buyer in the world.

    1. Pet Peeve*

      With all due respect, one of my big pet peeves on this site is when people say, “I know this is the non-work thread, but I have a work question…” I can forgive people who aren’t familiar with the rules. But it drives me bananas hen someone says, “I know the rules, but I’m going to ignore them.”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        In fairness to Treading Water, she she said she thought it straddled the line between work and non-work. (I do think it’s more work than not, but I don’t think she intended to just flagrantly ignore that rule.) I agree with the pet peeve in general, just don’t know that it’s in play here!

      2. TootsNYC*

        It feels more like, “Give me advice on what kind of gift to give someone.”

    2. TootsNYC*

      Since Alison has cleared it, I’ll answer your question.

      I wouldn’t want a gift for this. Whether I was a friend or a former colleague/manager.

      For one thing, you really shouldn’t spend that much money on this type of a gift. And I have enough inexpensive crap in my life; the older I got/get, the less clutter I need.

      I would want a note, and an update about the job. That’s all I need. I want to hear (email is fine, though a written letter tells me you put a little extra energy into it) the upshot, and I want to hear that my words made a difference. In more than a sentence or two.

      I don’t actually want to feel that you’ve “purchased” my recommendation in any way, so I would prefer not to get a gift at all. Not even a Starbucks gift card

      I think human connection is one of the most valuable things there is, and I think there’s less of it in the world than there used to be. Provide some.
      Heck, if you were local, I might love it if you took me out for a drink about 2 months into the job.

      Anyway, that’s me.

      1. Rahera*

        In that situation, I think a handwritten letter would be lovely. Maybe if you know their style or taste, a fun or beautiful blank card such as you might get from an art gallery…

        Personally I would feel a bit uncomfortable at being given a gift. Words you’ve taken a bit of time over are really nice, and tend to be appreciated.

    3. NicoleK*

      Before I applied for a management position at Old Job, I met with the two people who were most familiar with that position. I did get them Starbucks gift card for their time and sent them an update when I was offered the job.

    4. misspiggy*

      I’m agreeing with others who say a note is best, but you could write it in the kind of high quality art card that could be framed or kept on the mantelpiece.

    5. AnotherFed*

      I’d fell kind of gross getting a gift from someone I was a reference for. You already earned your reference with the work you did for me however long ago, and stuff of some sort now would feel like it cheapened what you already’d done.

      That said, I’d love to grab coffee or a beer a couple months into your new job and hear all about it! If schedules or distance don’t allow that, send me a nice note on a blank card – that will move from desk to desk with me for many years.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, exactly. Someone once sent me flowers after I gave her a reference, and I felt icky about it — like it was somehow a quid pro quo. I gave her a great reference because it was my honest assessment, and getting a gift afterward felt like it subtly implied otherwise.

  17. Becky O.*

    Have you read The Secret History by Donna Tartt? It’s her first novel and the best one, in my opinion. I just re-read it for like the 50th time. I love it so much that I hope no one ever turns it into a movie.

    1. Me2*

      “I love it so much that I hope no one ever turns it into a movie.”
      Possibly my favorite line ever on this blog.

  18. Dangitmegan*

    So I’m headed to Fort-de-France tomorrow for work for eight days. I lucked out and there are only two days with events scheduled that include me. I’m gonna have a lot of down time.

    Does anyone have any suggestions about things to do and see in Martinique? I’ve been trying to do my typical pretrip research and planning and there really isn’t much online.

    1. Mela*

      Never been to Martinique, but in my experience, guide books are the go-to resources for places that don’t have a lot of information online.

      1. Dangitmegan*

        I looked at a couple in the library but I didn’t find much past what I already knew. There’s a couple things they really push, but they are also pushed online.

  19. Colette*

    Ants. Last year I had ants in the house. Multiple rounds of ant poison later, they were gone, and now … they’re back. They seem to hang out on a wall. (Ok, I have weird ants.)

    Any suggestions on how to get rid of them this time?

    1. danr*

      It’s a rite of spring. Put out ant traps and eventually you’ll get that nest. And next spring you’ll have ants again. Some years are better than others and some years are worse.

    2. Not Karen*

      Don’t know if this works for ants, too, but for spiders I put a few drops of peppermint oil into a spray bottle with water and spray around the edges of doors and windows.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        I smear peppermint or eucalyptus Dr Bronner’s soap around the places they come in. They hate it and won’t cross it, and it’s easy to clean up after the baits finally take the little assholes out.

    3. Margaret S.*

      Have you identified where they are coming in? A couple weeks ago, we had an invasion that went in at where cable on the veranda light passes into the ceiling, and must have crawled several yards along the wiring through the veranda ceiling and into the walls because they came out inside the house at a light switch. From their they found their way along the wall another few yards into the kitchen. We put insecticide at the veranda light where they were getting in, and removed the light switch cover and stuffed the space with scraps of cloth soaked in insecticide. Once the ones that were already inside were disposed of, no more came in. Until the next invasion a week later, and this time they were getting in where the water and gas pipes pass through the wall to enter the kitchen. Once again I sprayed those entry points, and no more ants. For now.

        1. Margaret S.*

          It isn’t always obvious; you have to use some careful observation and patience. But it’s worth it if you find the entry point because it means you can attack the problem at a single point instead of having to fight them on a broad front.

    4. Lily Evans*

      I had the worst ants in one of my last apartments, and my memere recommended terro liquid ant traps and they worked amazingly well. They’re liquid so sometimes some will leak onto the floor (keep them where pets can’t reach) and it’s sticky to clean up after, but honestly it worked so well I didn’t care. IT’s the type of thing where it’ll seem like it’s getting worse because it draws ants in, but then they bring it to the nest and it just wipes them out within a couple days.

      1. Ultraviolet*

        My last landlord gave me terro traps too and they worked great. Mine didn’t leak either, though like you I’d still have said it was worth it! My disclaimer is that I didn’t have pets at the time and so I just placed them right on the floor out in the open. So I have no idea how well it would have worked had I needed to put them out of reach. I can’t even picture where I would have put them!

        1. Lily Evans*

          I had ants under the fridge and in my cabinets (it was horrific, they even came down from the ceiling) so putting them in those places kept them away from the cat.

          1. Ultraviolet*

            Oh thanks–I have a cat now so I will file away “under the fridge” for future reference. Fortunately the ants I had didn’t go in the cabinets–they were actually not that into the kitchen at all for some reason.

        2. JJtheDoc*

          Second or third or …. on Terro traps. We live near a large open space, and there’s construction going on one street over, so…lots of wildlife in motion. Sometimes it takes several Ttraps over 2-3 days, but they carry the bait back to the nest and the visits stop.

    5. Rahera*

      Ooh, my sympathies. I go to stay with my parents every year, and spend my time being bitten by ants, who make an ant line right across the bed.

      One thing that does seem to slow them down a bit is lavender water. I spray it on the bed and the wall every day and it decreases the number of ants a bit, though I think blocking their entrance way is the only really effective thing and who knows where that is :|.

      Good luck with them, and I hope they stay on their wall at least if you can’t shift them.

    6. Borax*

      I wash my floors with Borax and water to keep bugs away. We also had an ant invasion the night before we left on vacation. Turns out, there was a gap between our back door and door frame. That time, I washed my floor with Borax and water and laid a thick line of Borax along the bottom edge of the door. When we returned over a week later, there were no ants at all.

    7. Raia*

      Diatomaceous earth, looks like flour and comes in a large bag you can get at Home Depot or Lowes next to the Terro traps. After a while my ants got resistant to the poison in the Terro, however DE apparently cuts away at their exoskeleton when they walk over it so they don’t get past it very far. It’s not a poison though, so they don’t take it home and feed it to and kill the other ants, so it’s most effective when you find the entry point. Not sure about safety for pets.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It kills mechanically. The granules are very sharp. It would be like a human eating shards of glass. Since pets and humans are very large, they might experience some diarrhea but not much else. Bugs however do not stand a chance, it rips their insides up and they are done. They cannot build immunity because it kills mechanically, not chemically.
        I there is a food grade DE, I think they feed it to cattle. But I can’t remember why.
        Then there is the DE they use in pools.

    8. Allison Mary*

      Food grade diatomaceous earth worked wonders for me in my last apartment building (which was over 100 years old).

      I followed the ants until I had pinpointed a few places where I thought they were entering/exiting my actual space, and I used a little contraption called a Pest Pistol I got on Amazon to blow small bits of diatomaceous earth onto the cracks where they seemed to be disappearing, and it was pretty immediately clear by the traffic jam that they did NOT like it. I kept doing that every time I found ants, and eventually – no more ants.

    9. Temperance*

      I’m currently at war with ants in my house. Raid makes an excellent ant gel in a red tube that kills them, and I’m putting Terro outside and spraying some Ortho home defense around, too. I have a bug phobia.

  20. Anonymous Driver*

    I’ve been learning how to drive for almost a year (well, I didn’t drive during the winter) and I need some advice. Why is it so hard for me to stay centred in my lane? I always drive to the left and I can’t STOP it. I can only stay centred if I really, really focus on it… and I sort of end up losing track of everyone else. Everyone I practice driving with gets sooo upset with me for, but I don’t know what to do to stop it! I’m too afraid to take my driver’s test without being perfectly able to do this.

    Any advice?

    Honestly I wish I could live somewhere where I didn’t need to learn how to drive, but ugh, for practical reasons I need to learn now and I hate it.

    1. Anonymous Driver*

      Ah, I meant to say “I always DRIFT to the right” not “drive to the left.”

      Maybe I should watch movies while posting.

      1. Late learning driver*

        I have found that what is really needed is practice. Are you getting practice everyday? It turns out that getting your license is just the first part.
        Are you drifting into oncoming traffic? Then this is a problem. To stay centered in the lane, keep your car lined up with the one in front of you.

        1. Mica*

          I find it really hard to get practice everyday, I go out with my dad on weekends, but I can’t get practice during the weekdays. Going out with friends isn’t an option.

          I’m NOT drifting into oncoming traffic, thankfully.

          1. Late learning driver*

            This is exactly what is going on. You are drifting to the right because you are centering your driver side rather than centering the mirror/ center of the car.

            AND you are not getting enough practice. I had someone pick me up at work everyday and we went on errands- to the dry cleaner, to Target, to the grocery store.

            Get a test date. Aim to be competent by then. I think I had about 30 days.

            And I was shocked that I passed and the state was letting me drive alone. Yet it was the time right after getting my license that I actually was learning to drive.

            1. KR*

              This – practice is most important. When they test you they test to make sure you can be reasonably safe and not be a danger to anyone. I developed most as a driver in the first year AFTER getting my license.

              1. MT*

                It was a year between getting my license and saving up for a car, and I really feel I didn’t start truly “learning” to drive until I had my own car and was taking it out every day.

    2. Blue_eyes*

      Drifting to the right can be a natural tendency when you’re learning to drive since drifting to the right puts you, the driver, in the center of the lane. For your passengers though, it feels scary because they are now at the far right edge of the lane.

      A quick google tells me that the most common recommendation for this problem is to look further ahead. If you look further ahead at where you want the car to go, you will follow more of a straight and centered path.

      Another tip is to find the center of your hood (where a hood ornament would go). From your view point as the driver, the center of your hood should line up with the lane line on your right. There should be an imaginary straight line from your eyes, to the center of the hood, to where the right lane line disappears from your view under the car. (Someone please correct me if this is wrong, I’m pretty sure this a thing we learned in driver’s ed, but that was 15 years ago!).

      1. Short and Stout*

        +1 for looking further ahead, my driving instructor made this my mantra

        1. YaH*

          Same here. Stop looking at where your car is lined up in the lane, start looking at the line of cars in front of you. You’ll naturally straighten up.

          Also, I highly recommend taking a driving class.

      2. AnotherLibrarian*

        That’s what my dad taught me over 30 years ago, back when I was learning to drive.

      3. Nerfmobile*

        Figuring out where the center of the hood should line up with the lane line is good, but exactly where that will be probably varies by driver and car geometry.

        Getting tons of practice really is the key. Until a lot of the monitoring-and-correcting is well enough learned to be subconsciously processed, driving will always be stressful.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I aim my right foot (the one on the pedal) down the greasy streak in the middle of the road.

      Are you focusing far enough out?

      Can you practice by getting out on a highway (preferrably the interstate) early on a Saturday or Sunday morning and just drive drive drive w/ the aim being to get yourself used to positioning yourself in the lane?
      I say highway because: no stopping, no turning, nobody entering or turning–nothing else to track, just the lane.

      Good luck!

      1. TootsNYC*

        saw your note about having difficulty finding time to practice. Maybe just practicing for this issue only for a little bit would be good. Being able to hold your lane is really something you want to be nearly automatic.

        Also look into your arm/hand position; you want it to be restful, so you’re not pulled off-center by some muscle thing.

        1. fposte*

          It’s also worth checking to see if your wheels are aligned and balanced, since it could be the car and not you.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I learned to aim my foot on that greasy streak far down the road. And the streak/gas pedal alignment has the advantage of being accurate no matter what shape or size your car.

      3. Anonymous Driver*

        I think my problem was that I was focusing in the wrong place. I went out driving today and consciously focused a lot further ahead and barely drifted to the right at all!

    4. Mela*

      When I was learning how to drive on the other side of the road, I had the drifting issue. Figure out a way to get your car on a road with lines and no traffic. Line it up (get out and check or have your practice buddy tell you when you’re straight). Stop the car and notice where the lines are hitting your dashboard. Just above the vent on the right? Right in the corner of the dash on the left? You can also use your side mirrors to check this.Wherever it is, take note, heck put sticky notes on the interior to remember. Then when you’re driving, it’ll be easier to focus/check yourself. Once you get into the habit, it’ll come more naturally.

      Are you driving on the right side of the road? If so, drifting to the left is not a common mistake, as you’re going into traffic. Is that the case?

      1. Anonymous Driver*

        No, I meant that I was drifting to the right! I wasn’t paying attention to what I wrote, sorry!

        1. Mela*

          Ah ok that makes more sense. So I did the same thing when I started driving, because I wasn’t sure where I was and it’s better to hit the curb/mailbox than another car. It also felt like the other cars were super close as they passed and the stuff on the side of the road was very far. It just takes time to get used to your car and knowing what space it takes up. Because lanes can vary according to width, I learned to line up my left wheel ~6 inches away from the center line, and then whatever room I had on the right was buffer. So focus less on keeping yourself “centered” and more about keeping the car in a consistent spot. Good luck!

          1. TootsNYC*

            It’s not better to leave a wide berth on your left 9between you and oncoming traffic) and ignore where your right “points” are.

            You can see what’s happening on the left. So a big enough space is fine, and you will NOT hit something.
            If you veer right, you WILL hot something–and that’s bad no matter what it is.

            My DD was practicing and she had to go through a narrow space because of a double-parked car on her left. She gave herself too much space, ignored her right side, and clipped side-view mirrors. She’s lucky she didn’t scrape an entire car, because it was the WHOLE mirror, not just the tip.

            You can see the left. You can control the left. So don’t make it big–just make it big enough.

            But yes to figuring out how to have a consistent space. And in normal lanes (i.e., not threading your way through narrow spaces), trust that if you feel centered, there’s enough space.

    5. Engineer Girl*

      I align my hood with the stripe in the road. Figure out where your hood should be in relation to the stripe. A big vehicle will have the stripe be less to the left of the hood than a smaller vehicle.

    6. LCL*

      In the us, roads are often crowned. That is, they peak slightly in the center, for drainage. So it is natural to drift right. Practice will fix this. Your vision is good, right? Fairly recent eye exam?

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Take a good look at your steering wheel. Make a note of where the cross bar is when you are going straight. This tells you that your front wheels are pointed straight.
      If you move the cross bar from that position you are going to drift right or left.

      I think you need to go to a driving school with professional teachers. I have never seen anyone learn anything when their trainer is upset with them. Your family does not have the tools to teach you. A professional teacher has seen every problem under the sun and knows exactly what to do to. Call some schools, tell them exactly what you want help with. Ask if anyone there has worked with this exact problem.
      Yes, it will cost money. But, again, your family is showing you that they do not have the skill set in place to help you. Move on. Find some one who will teach you and teach you correctly, instead of getting upset with you.

      Going to a school was the best thing that happened to me. My father made me a nervous wreck. I never thought he was a fantastic driver to begin with. But he could not teach worth a crap, either. I started trying to learn to drive when I was 15. I did not get my license until 17 and what clinched it was the driving school. That teacher put so much time into answering ALL my questions. “What happens if you start to move and the door is open?” I am sure he heard the questions a thousand times, he answered me anyway.

      Think of driver’s school as an investment in you.

      1. KR*

        Yes to drivers school! A lot of drivers Ed classes will include a certain amount of driving time in addition to the classroom time – for me it was two sessions a week, a couple of hours a week in a company owned car that you didn’t have to worry about breaking. They had copious insurance and if you crashed it they would consider it a learning experience. My dad was also really bad with teaching. He taught me how to drive okay but when he tried to teach me to drive a standard transmission it was a nightmare. The first thing he had me do was start and pull forward up a hill -because “if you can do the hardest thing you can do anything”. Right dad.

        1. MommaCat*

          Ugh, I didn’t feel comfortable starting up a hill with a stick shift until about a year after getting my standard transmission car; I live in a flat area, but then I worked for a month up in the mountains. I’d probably still be nervous on hills if not for that. Anyway, my sympathies.

      2. Anonymous Driver*

        I actually do have some lessons set up at the end of May/beginning of June. I just wanted to become more familiar with the “basics” of driving (don’t ask me to parallel park or make a left turn going across traffic right now).

      3. Lindsay J*

        I absolutely couldn’t learn to drive with my parents. They were too high strung and would get anxious with me, which would make me more anxious and would cause me to struggle and mess up more than I would otherwise. (One especially memorable time was when I was applying the brakes, but apparently not fast enough for my dad’s liking. He yelled, “The brakes, the brakes” and I momentarily freaked out thinking I was stepping on the wrong pedal and hit the gas instead.

        My grandfather wound up teaching me how to drive. He had a much more relaxed demeanor (maybe because he had taught his three kids to drive) and I learned much more easily because he was not adding to my anxiousness by being upset.

        If he wasn’t available, a driving school would have definitely been my next stop.

        1. Late learning driver*

          Yes. A professional or non family member. I only made it around the the block when my husband tried to teach me. He did NOT stop talking for one minute and made me crazy nervous.

    8. mander*

      I had this when I was first learning. The driving instructor told me to check that I could see the white lines behind me in the side mirror, and that helped until I finally got an “eye” for being in the right place.

    9. Retiree57*

      If you can, practice on long straight roads and practice your far gaze, then use your close vision to check your placement every few seconds. You can use some of the lining-up tips to fix your check points. Then, develop a rhythm to check your placement points. A few seconds with the furthest distance or forward focus, then flick a glance to the rear view mirror, flick to the left rear view (checking placement with the left line), flick to the right rear view (checking placement to the right), with the goal of complete awareness of all traffic 360 degrees around you. Something like forward________ flick flick flick forward___________flick flick flick. The habit eventually becomes second nature. The long forward focus keeps your lane placement smooth while the side checks allow for minute corrections. You can also picture yourself as a motorcyclist and seat yourself closer to the left wheel rut than the middle of the lane. (Cyclists don’t like to ride in the middle, more debris and grease.)

  21. Anon and tired of being bread winner*

    Met DH in 2006. We married in 2007. DH was laid off from his job several months before the wedding. After unemployment benefits ended, DH returned to the restaurant industry where he had previous serving experience. As a server, his hours vary (approximately 20-25 hours a week) and his earnings varies. After several years of this, I told DH that he needed to get a full time job or go to school and get a degree. He opted for the degree. Prior to meeting me, he had started and stopped school several time because he didn’t know what he wanted to do.

    So for the past four and a half years, I’ve financially supported him while he was in school. DH attended school full time and continued to work part time as a server. In truth, I’ve been supporting him since his unemployment benefits ended in 2008. DH graduated in Dec 2015 and has not found a job in his field yet (niche field; jobs are not plentiful; and appears to be difficult to get a foot in the door). DH’s degree seems to be a degree that doesn’t naturally translate to a job.

    I’m totally frustrated but haven’t really discussed this with DH. He’s trying. He’s the first in his immediate family to earn a college degree. His parents did not have careers, but odd jobs. They made ends meet. I know he’s frustrated too and I guess that’s why I just ignore the elephant in the room. This was not the life I imagined for myself. I never expected to be the primary wage earner in the family. We are able to pay our bills since I manage the household finances but there’s very little money left over. Since meeting DH, I’ve been consistently employed and put myself through grad school. I’m employed in the human service/non profit sector and never made a lot of money to begin with. I can’t talk to my family or friends about this. I’ve seen what happens when one starts venting too much about their spouse to family and friends. Sigh…..I’m not expecting a miracle here, just needed to vent.

    TL;DR: I’ve been financially supporting DH and am not sure how long I can live like this. And I don’t know what to do about it.

    1. Anon for now*

      No advice to offer, but so much sympathy.

      The details are different, but I’m in a very similar situation. Husband and I have both dealt with bouts of unemployment and underemployment for the past 3 years (including him being fired from the only two full time jobs he’s held as an adult). He recently completed a program and is now looking for work in a slightly different field and I have a full time job again, so things are looking up a bit.

      I hope your husband finds something soon, and that you find a way to talk about it with him honestly.

      1. 3D Queen*

        I’m so so sorry. This was me five years ago (engaged not married). His intentions were good, but he could never hold down a job because it wasn’t his passion and he never saw a problem letting me continue to pay for everything, even things we couldn’t afford. We didn’t make it directly because of this, but it was more so about the lack of communication more than anything. It took me 5 years to rebuild my credit, bank account, etc. Agreed with others that communication is key, but also don’t get swallowed in guilt. You are not a bad person for wanting a relationship where the other half pulls their weight financially, as crappy as it feels. Money matters, and talking about it matters. Good luck!

    2. Sail On, Sailor*

      Sending you much sympathy. The only advice I have is to not let your frustration build to the point where you explode and lash out at him. Find a time to talk with him about this honestly but calmly. Or is there a low-cost clinic in the area where you could talk with a counselor to vent about the situation? I applaud your instincts not to vent to family or friends.

      1. Artemesia*

        Too late now but 4 years ago there should have been a discussion of the degree and how it will connect with employment. This wasn’t a kid in college exploring his interests, this was a man who is returning to school to be employable; the program should have been aimed at employment from the beginning including internships to help him connect with employers.

        Time to have that discussion. Clearly not working and being supported are now the norm in your household. Waiting for him to feel responsible for supporting himself is not working out.

        I hope he is at least doing the major work for the household while you support the budget through your work.

        1. Caledonia*

          You don’t mention if he is working at the moment? But I’m agreeing with Artemesia here – you need to have a conversation with him immediately. And he needs to get a job to support the household if he isn’t working just now and continue to look for jobs that is in his degree area (if applicable because not every degree = a job).

          1. Tired of being bread winner*

            He has continued to work as a server while he’s looking for a full time job.

            1. Dan*

              Why is that difficult for you? Not judging, because even a job as a grocery store clerk wouldn’t have been enough for me to not begrudge my ex. It wasn’t what it paid per see, but more so that those hours don’t mesh with my 9-5 schedule. Low pay and different hours weren’t what I wanted in that relationship.

              1. Tired of being bread winner*

                Dan, are you asking if I have issues with him being a server? Frankly, I don’t care what he does for a job. He’s been gainfully employed with the same restaurant chain since 2008. He does not have attendance or performance issues. My issue is the low pay (less than $14,000 a year depending on hours). If DH made $40,000 as a server, finances wouldn’t be an issue.

            2. Artemesia*

              It is possible to make a decent living as a waiter and to do it fairly full time; it sounds like he is not making much and working long hours at it. I know waiters who make 50 K a year with tips; I assume if he were doing this, you wouldn’t feel so taken advantage of.

              1. Stephanie*

                Yeah, a friend said his waiting gig at a high-end restaurant paid more than his low-level nonprofit job (that being said, he was quick to point out some of the obvious downsides).

        2. Tired of being bread winner*

          Before DH started his program, we did have conversations about his program. And I was concerned about the job market for that type of degree.

          I’m not working in my dream field, I’m not even sure if there is a perfect job, perfect field for me. I have a career/job that pays the bills. On the other hand, DH was looking waiting for and chasing his dream job/field. As the spouse, should I have told him no? Obviously, that decision has not paid off to date.

          DH was employed before he met me. With the exception of 6 months where he was laid off, DH has always been employed (the issue is low income, not inability to sustain employment). DH does his fair share of housework and majority of yard work.

          1. TL -*

            Okay, but I think you’re getting to the point where he’s always chasing his dreams and you’re always making sure he can. Why has the equation never flipped so you can have some time to pursue your passion/dream job and he is enabling you to do so?

          2. Christopher Tracy (formerly Doriana Gray)*

            As the spouse, should I have told him no?

            Yes. It’s all well and good to be supportive, but when you’re the one footing the bills, you have every right to draw the line somewhere practical.

            1. Anonacademic*

              This. My husband wants to buy a motorcycle and quit his well-paying but tedious job to start his own company and also save money, but they can’t all happen at once. I remind him of this, nicely but firmly, pretty often (such as when we pass a motorcycle dealership). Thankfully we share the value of financial security so he takes the feedback well. But part of being an adult is delaying gratification and if he weren’t willing or able to do that it would be a deal breaker (and that was a big part of why we broke up for a while before we got engaged – we had to work on aligning our priorities).

          3. Colette*

            It’s not about telling him no, it’s about having a discussion about what you need (I.e.you need him to bring in $X) and how his degree fits into that. Maybe it doesn’t, but if that’s the cases, how will he provide what you need?

            Alternatively, how will the two of you work together to lower how much money you need to live the life you want?

    3. Dan*

      I hate to the the Debbie downer on this one, but my two data points on this topic ended in divorce.

      One was a friend of mine, and the other was myself. Granted, there were a lot of other things that didn’t help, but I think I would have stuck it out longer if my spouse actually bothered to hold down a job. The thing is, I knew her work history was spotty, and she was also “finishing school” when we met. No surprise that she worked only five months out of our three year marriage, and that she would bitch about work every day, and never bothered to go to work on time, which lead to her getting fired. I get paid alright, but I also live in a county where the median household income is $100k. It’s not fair for one spouse to expect a free ride off the other one.

      If your expectation is that your spouse will be gainfully employed, and things turn out otherwise, I hate to say it, but the road ahead is a very steep hill. It may or may not be “their fault” but money does matter. If I ever get married again, damn right there is going to be.a very frank discussion about finances before the knot gets tied.

      Marriage is very much a business transaction, but nobody ever talks about it. Some people can be great friends or great to hang out with, but lousy housemates and/or business partners.

      1. h.cowl*

        I love that, a marriage is a business transaction. I’m a newlywed (under a year) but my husband and I have definitely experienced that in our 6 years together. I’ve also heard it said that your most important career decision, if you’re planning to have kids, is who you marry.

      2. Tired of being bread winner*

        Yeah, if I ever get divorced, I’m not sure I would marry again. Money does matter and so is sharing the same financial mindset.

    4. LibbyG*

      Perhaps framing the discussion in terms of mutual financial goals would help? Like, if we want to have X income in retirement, we need to be putting away Y now, and we can only do that if you start earning something like Z. What do you think, Spouse? Getting a job in your niche field didn’t work out. What’s plan B.

      But I realize it might not be the money per se but more the sense that he gets all this copious leisure time while you’re doing all the adulting. That’s a crap deal, and you aren’t being selfish if you don’t want to accept it.

      1. KR*

        +10203649264 is he making up some of the adulting duties since you bring in the bacon and work more? If he’s home 25+ more hours then you it makes sense for him to do most of the chores, cooking, errands, whatnot

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes — I read somewhere (maybe here?) that one goal should be for you each to have roughly the same amount of leisure time (the time that’s left over after work, housework, etc.). I really liked that framing, and if that’s not currently balanced, maybe that’s one place to start.

    5. KR*

      Has DH considered looking for a full time serving gig or another part time job to make up the income? It can be done. I do customer service and a part time professional job and I bring in about 25000. It’s not a shocking amount of money but its enough.

      1. Tired of being bread winner*

        DH will need to start paying on his student loans later this summer. I’ve already told him that I’m not paying his student loans. He may need to consider obtaining another part time job if he isn’t able to make the payments.

        1. CAA*

          Sorry you’re in this situation. One thing to look into is your responsibility for the student loan debt. Since the debt was incurred during the marriage, you may be responsible for it and it can impact your credit record.

          1. Dan*

            She would be responsible under one of two conditions: 1) she cosigned on the loans, or 2) they live in a community property state.

          2. tired of being bread winner*

            I did not cosign on his student loans. And we don’t live in a community property state.

    6. Mando Diao*

      I would say that you can’t expect him to change after almost 10 years of marriage during which you’ve never actually spoken to him about this issue. You can’t really expect a grown adult to change at all. You married someone with no job and no career prospects. When you asked him to go to school or hunker down and get a better job, he didn’t opt to get a job. He has a college degree and a fairly strong starter resume (same employer since 2008). There’s no reason he couldn’t find an entry-level $10/hour job…except he likes working part-time.

    7. FiveByFive*

      Pardon, as I’m not sure I fully understand this. Unless both people in a relationship are working and making the same salary, one of them axiomatically will by be the primary breadwinner. And more and more these days, it is the female side of a male-female partnership earning the most money. It seems like you might be operating under the antiquated rubric that the “man wears the pants in the family”. Or am I misunderstanding?

      Some of the responses here justly point out that if your husband has more leisure time than you, he should certainly be helping more around the house. But beyond that, I’m not exactly sure what the problem is with you being the primary breadwinner. Imagine if a husband posted a complaint here that his wife wasn’t earning as much as him, despite going to school to earn a degree and serving on the side.

      1. KR*

        I think the issue is that the poster doesn’t want to be the only primary bread winner- she doesn’t earn a lot of money so most of her paycheck goes to bills so they can’t have the kind of lifestyle the way they want to. DH is under employed and working part time while poster works full time. She doesn’t want to support DF but would like him to be a mostly equal payer into the budget. I didn’t see those kinds of undertones from this post

        1. KR*

          I’m sorry I can’t type this late at night on mobile. Good luck making sense of that

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I think the problem is lack of money means no goals means life is kind of like be adrift at sea.

        Maybe you can ask your spouse what he thinks are important goals for the two of you. Then ask him what he thinks you can do a team to reach those goals.

        Goals are really important, not only do goals help to keep us healthy but goals also help keep a relationship healthy.

        If this goes on much longer with no changes you may want to consider a marriage counselor to see if you can sort out where the hurdles actually are here.

      3. Caledonia*

        Fivebyfive – I din’t think its being the primary breadwinner as much as the difference in income for the OP. She says he will have loans to pay off soon (that she wants him to be responsible for) and that they don’t have much money left over per month.

      4. Artemesia*

        He is earning 14K a year. This is ridiculous year after year especially for a man who has a college degree AND experience as a waiter. Anyone with that level of ability should be able to earn an amount that supports the household. The problem isn’t unequal salaries; the problem is a man who likes diddling around while his wife supports him. I say that as someone who has been out of work and whose husband has been out of work but it would never occur to either of us that we didn’t need to support each other in the down times but also do our fair share and make sure we were fully employed as soon as we could do it.

      5. tired of being bread winner*

        KR is correct. DH isn’t bringing in a lot of income. So my salary pays for all the household expenses. Which leaves little income left to put toward savings, retirement, and vacations. I would like him to be able to contribute more toward household expenses. That is all.

    8. eemusings*

      I could ramble on about this topic indefinitely. But I won’t.

      In my case, I have never been unemployed – a mix of good luck and hard work. In the 10 years we’ve been together he has spent a significant chunk unemployed and or/ underemployed, much of it beyond his control however some I suspect he could have played better, and certainly he has never had much of a career direction. I didn’t expect to be the main earner either but it looks like that’s unlikely to change, and that’s a bit of a hard pill to swallow (particularly as I’m the saver and he’s the spender). Due to how unemployment works here, basically as long as I have a job he cannot receive unemployment.

      It is such a tough situation as the only solution is one that is beyond your control.

      My learned-the-hard-way advice is just this: Identify your top priority. For me I finally realised it was myself, and not my relationship. It was self care, a stable home and financial security. The toll this was taking on my mental and even physical health was not sustainable.

      1. tired of being bread winner*

        Eemusings-what was the outcome? Did you just resigned yourself to remaining the primary wage earner? I couldn’t tell from your post if you were still with your partner.

        Obviously, I’ve been the primary wage earner but I can’t see myself doing this for the next 30 years. Or 5 years. We do not have children. There are no physical or mental health issues that prohibits DH from working a full time job.

    9. CAA*

      Does your employer have an Employee Assistance Program? Call them and talk about getting some financial counseling where you and your DH both go to the session(s). If not, look for a free program in your area.

      You guys really need to talk about money and how you’re managing it. Does he even know that he’s not meeting your expectations and that you’re disappointed? Are you sure your expectations are realistic given his background and experience?

      1. Yetanotherjennifer*

        This is a really great idea. If the poster is having trouble with this conversation it may be easier for the husband to hear coming from a third party. Sad as it sounds, the poster’s and the family’s needs may sound more reasonable when echoed and validated by someone else.

    10. Temperance*

      Why is he only working part-time when he’s done with school? Is he working in fast-casual sort of places, or fine dining?

      I waited tables after college, and I made no money at a “family restaurant”, but pulled in about $500/week at a five-star French place. I worked at both at the same time because Booth was finishing college and we needed the money. Even if he could get in at a place like TGI Friday’s, Olive Garden, or Red Lobster, he’d bring in fairly decent cash.

    11. Menacia*

      (Sorry this is long!) When my brother got married, his wife told him she wanted to be a stay at home mother, silly brother agreed. She pops out two kids a couple of years after they get married, all the while my brother is working extremely hard (at work and home) and gives his family a nice life. She decides she wants to move to PA (from NY), so they do so, and now my brother has a long commute from PA to NY, and is still working extremely hard (at work and home). Well, the kids are growing older, and needing mom less, so she decides to go back to school (she already had a college degree) to get a job in healthcare. She was well on her way but then when she needed to do clinicals, she quit (“the kids need me too much”). My brother’s great job was eventually downsized (since everything was now computerized, he was no longer needed), and had to look for a new job. He went back to school, so he could market himself in a different sector of the financial industry. He was really struggling, and asked wife to get a job, she reneged, and then finally she took a job, part-time, in a library paying minimum wage. She even said that she would go on welfare if need be (WTF?). It took my brother two years to find a job (he was working all that time thankfully) but this time, he had live in another state during the week, and go home on the weekends. To say my brother has killed himself for his family is an understatement. Whenever I see his wife on FB, posting all the events she attends, and getting $40 manicures, it makes me sick to my stomach. Marriage is about TWO people supporting EACH other. Sorry, this topic REALLY got to me! On a side note, I have a wonderful husband who would give me the moon…but I would give him the stars. ;)

  22. Ruth (UK)*

    I’ve been taking Arabic classes and I am finding the language extremely hard! I am not sure if the letters are more difficult to learn than the Latin alphabet or if it’s just because they look unfamiliar to me. They change their shape depending on where they are in a word. I know the Latin alphabet letter shapes do change slightly when we join them up, and typed letters can look quite different than handwriting, but I feel like the Arabic letters change a LOT and also, they start to look more similar to each other… in their independent forms all is well, but once they’re joined up I start forgetting what is what.

    I’ve been trying to watch Arabic kids’ TV shows but they always seem to show letters just in the independent form in alphabet songs and stuff so it hasn’t helped much. Speaking isn’t as hard for me – I studied Linguistics at uni and am not new to language learning. But this is the first time I’ve tried to learn one with a completely different alphabet…

    (ps. I am learning Modern Standard Arabic)

    Anyone else learning languages here? (Or any Arabic speakers with helpful / magical tips?)

    1. TootsNYC*

      disclaimer: I am making this up.

      What about children’s books? Won’t help with speaking, but maybe with reading. And it’ll go more slowly than TV. Can you find ones for early readers? In know in English there’s a really nice range of difficulty.

      1. Talvi*

        Children’s books might be particularly helpful for Arabic – iirc, Arabic (and Hebrew) children’s books are more likely to indicate the vowels; this gets phased out as children become more proficient readers.

        1. Ruth (UK)*

          Ah yes the lack of vowels is an issue too. Not so much when writing, just when reading :D And yeah I’ve noticed children’s books tend to include them which is useful :D

      2. Sandy*

        I speak fluent Arabic and learned as an adult. I found kid’s books to be AWFUL for learning Arabic. The vocabulary was just too random to ever be useful again- the “billygoat” (NOT the same word as goat) “scampered” over the stream, etc.

        1. Observer*

          Children’s books are almost useless to learn vocabulary in most languages. The advantage of children’s books though, is that you get the vowels. I could be wrong, but I think that Hebrew and Arabic are the only languages where this is an issue.

          1. Rob Lowe can't read*

            Children’s books can sometimes be useful for learning about sentence structure/syntax, but you’d have to choose the books very carefully (which might be challenging, especially for languages where fewer books are available). I use emergent reader texts with my ESL students (children, teens, and adults) primarily for learning syntax and high frequency words, but I agree that vocabulary can be hit or miss.

    2. Ang*

      No tips, but I’ve been learning Mandarin and can totally relate to the non-Latin alphabet (or complete lack of any alphabet). Mandarin is tonal, also – is that the case with Arabic? It’s mind-bendingly difficult, but the challenge can be fun. Good luck with your studies!

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        Arabic is not tonal (phew!) but it still has some sounds that are super hard to pronounce as a native English speaker. For one letter (Ayin) our teacher advised us back in the first lesson to hold onto our throats as if strangling ourselves while pronouncing it, and said this would help… Wikipedia says about it, “The ʿayin glyph in these various languages represents or used to represent a voiced pharyngeal fricative or a similarly articulated consonant, of which there is not even an approximate substitute sound in English.”

        It’s this letter: ع
        I think it also exists in Hebrew: ע

        1. Observer*

          It does. I probably wouldn’t worry about learning to pronounce that one so quickly. Yes, people who know that language will realize that you are not a native speaker, but that would probably be true even if you did manage to get it kinda sorta right – which it what would probably happen. With time, as you hear it more and and you get a better hand of the flow of the language you’ll probably get it.

          And, I second the others who say children’s books.

    3. Blue_eyes*

      Ooh, me! (Raises hand). I’m learning Hebrew and having some of the same difficulties you’re experiencing in Arabic. With Hebrew at least, I don’t think it’s that the letters are harder to learn than Latin alphabet, it’s just frustrating as an adult to have to try so hard to decode letters. At this point in my life I’ve been reading fairly automatically in Latin characters for more than 20 years, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it feels very hard to read in other characters. I also think there is an initial push where it is very difficult, and that at some point you will get “over the hump” so to speak and the reading will feel much easier. It’s certainly given me a new appreciation for what early elementary students do!

      Hebrew also has some letters that change depending on position in the word, and there are basically two alphabets to learn. (“Print” is used in books and other typed materials, so you need to be able to read the print characters and “script” is used to write, like cursive in Latin alphabet. Print and script are probably about as different as printing and cursive in Latin alphabet.)

    4. anonanonanon*

      I’m relearning Polish after years of not speaking it. After my grandparents died years ago, my father stopped speaking and I stopped speaking it so I forgot a lot of it. I found it surprisingly easy to relearn once I started up again. It helps that despite being a Slavic language, it’s based on the Latin alphabet. It also still sometimes trips me up that w’s are pronounced as v and ł is pronounced as w, etc. (and funnily enough, a lot of Polish immigrants from my hometown had the ł in their names changed to t’s by immigration, so they have bizarre sounding names).

      I remember trying to learn Russian when I still spoke Polish frequently and I could not get the hang of the Cyrillic alphabet at all.

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        Aah, I know a little bit about Polish sounds… the area I live in has quite a lot of Polish people and I’ve learned a few basic phrases (hello, how are you, etc). My job involves speaking to [hospital] patients on the phone about their upcoming outpatient appointments and I often have to call up or answer the phone to people with Polish names or surnames so I’ve ended up looking up what sounds the letters correspond to in Polish. (Funnily enough, a colleague of mine really won’t get it into their head about the w’s making a v sound and will pronounce all the names as if it was an English word spelled that way (so Slaw would rhyme with the end of coleslaw and not with have) even if I try to point out it’s a Polish name (or even if the med record gives a huge clue like ‘main spoken language: Polish’ being written on the top somewhere)).

        1. anonanonanon*

          Yeah, my last name is pronounced so differently in English than it is in Polish. It was Americanized when my grandparents immigrated to the US, so the W was pronounced as a W and the Ł was pronounced as an L instead of V and W.

          It’s one of those things I think most people with non-English based names get used to. Plus, I think most people try to pronounce unfamiliar names phonetically, which makes sense in theory, but not so much sense once you realize not every letter has the same sound in other languages.

          Good on you for looking up the differences, though!

      2. Hummingbird*

        I caught on to the Russian Cyrillic alphabet very easily and get read words (while not knowing what is being read). The Russian alphabet can be sung like the English one despite there being more letters.

        1. Talvi*

          I’m working on Ukrainian myself at the moment, and while I caught on to Cyrillic pretty easily, handwritten Cyrillic is a nightmare! Certain sequences of letters all look the same! (Is that ш or ии? Who knows?)

    5. Jillociraptor*

      I took Arabic in college and studied Hebrew as an adult. The non-Latin letters are hard! It adds an extra step to reading.

      I found Hebrew easier to learn because I learned it in a way I could instantly apply–reading Jewish blessings and prayers. Arabic was tough because our book taught us words that I didn’t have a ton of use for (United Nations was in the first chapter) so I couldn’t put together phrases or think “what words do I know that have this letter?”

      It might help to try out a phrase book to help you with actual practical application, while also focusing a ton on phonics. I did hours of flash cards on just the letters with both languages. Good luck!

    6. Sandy*

      So as I mentioned in a comment to someone else’s reply, I am fluent in Arabic and learned as an adult.

      Take heart, Arabic is considered to be one of the world’s hardest languages to learn. It’s on par with Manadarin and Japanese for difficulty. The good news is, unlike Mandarin, it’s easier upfront (ie to get you doing basic communication) and harder later on (ie to get really really good at)

      I don’t know how far you are into learning Arabic, but the strategies I recommend are pretty stage-specific.

      If you are just starting out: there is no substitute for just rote memorization, especially with the alphabet. You just have to sit down (seemingly FOREVER) and get it. It’s especially hard since you are probably used to reading Latin letters as “snapshots” rather than having to sound each letter out.

      Three strategies helped me at this stage:

      Quizlet has an app. Sometimes the flash cards are already loaded somebody else, or you can create your own. Fire up the app everywhere you go- waiting for the bus, waiting for a friend who is running late, just before bed when you want to wind down. The more you to do it, the better.

      Another is to use the record video function on your iPhone/iPad (or whatever device you have handy with that function) and record yourself reading passages. You’ll identify pretty quickly where you are stumbling. We used to practice getting my time down- the first time was hideously painful and took like 3 minutes to get through a tiny paragraph, then 2.5 minutes, then 2 min 15 secs, etc.

      Finally, to get really comfortable with the letters, you need to write. It will help with the (seeming) absence of vowels as well. It doesn’t actually matter much WHAT you write, just write. Your name. Your friends’ names (great party trick!) “my name is Ruth”, etc. The trick here is that you can’t type them, you have to write them. Typing doesn’t encourage the development of the same type of muscle memory.

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        Thanks for this. I’m still very much at the beginning stage. I’ve had about 16 classroom hours over the last couple months but also do actually get a chance to practice with Arabic speakers. I’m part of a group that helps refugee families settle in my city and does things like run English classes etc ( I normally look after young kids while English classes run). We play an awful lot of ping pong and they will keep score in Arabic and stuff so I get to practice numbers etc. (notably most of the families in my city were displaced from conflicts before or other than the current issue with Syria so don’t ask my anything about that. But many of them are Arabic speakers)

    7. Sheep*

      Hey! I’m learning Arabic too, and finding it so so hard. It doesn’t help that I’m married to an Arab, and living in the Middle East, and everyone is expecting it to be easy for me, ‘because you get to practice all the time’. I really don’t. I don’t practice with my husband, and work is in English, so… (I know I should put in more effort, but there are other issues involved too. Long story.)

      Anyways, a good friend of mine who is studying Arabic said to me the other day that ‘Arabic is not a summer fling, like Spanish or French. Arabic is like a marriage. It is a lifelong commitment. You have to work on it every day. You will go through periods where you detest it, and you would rather give up, and don’t understand why the hell you started it in the first place. But then you get to a period where you think it’s magical and fascinating, and you can’t imagine ever giving up on it…’

      How long have you been studying Arabic, Ruth?

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        A couple months and am about 16 classroom hours into it. I also just replied to another comment above.. But i do often get a chance to practice some basics as i know a good number of Arabic speakers and also i have a reason and specific use for wanting to learn which i think helps a lot. I can see how living in the middle east might sound very immersive for a language but end up being not so much in the way you describe. Especially from English, since English is just everywhere… I have a friend I’ve known since highschool who is half-arab and grew up in the middle east but moved to England as a teenager. She speaks Arabic fluently but she says its not really quite her mother tongue as she went to an English curriculum school where English was the main language and Arabic was taught more like a second language (though from a young age) and her parents used English at hone.

    8. SandrineSmiles (France)*

      I just started Japanese (as in, I opened my exercise book for Kana not that long after waking up) . My sister has been living in Japan for almost three years now, she’s not coming back anytime soon and it pretty much seems like she might get married and stay there (not sure about the marrying part but it’s plausible enough) . I’ve been saying I’d do it for over 15 years now, it’s about time.

      The joys of learning… ha ^^

      I did start learning Arabic some 20 years ago. One piece of advice: do not give up on practicing, ever. If you’re anything like me with a goldfish memory, never stop practicing within the first ten years or so. After that I guess you may relax (unless you’re REALLY REALLY GOOD) but yeah.

      ^^;

    9. jbeans*

      So I studied Arabic – MSA and Egyptian Colloquial – in the US and Egypt. At one school, they had us practice reading English sentences written with the Arabic script. I thought that was helpful. Memorization was helpful, too, particularly the dots. Some letters are easier than others so I recommend getting those down pat (seen and sheen, ta and tha, taal and dhaal, ra and za, etc.), then move on to the more difficult ones and the ones that disappear at the end of a word (I’m looking at you, noon!). :-) It’s years and years since I had to read Arabic, though, and I’ve been working on becoming *truly* fluent in French.

    10. Rob Lowe can't read*

      I took Arabic in college and was one of the more proficient students in my class, but I had very few opportunities to use it with native (or even near-native) speakers, so that’s not saying much! I’d like to pick it back up one day, but it’s not high on my language-learning priority list right now. I’ve also studied French and Afrikaans and I’m fairly good at both (though my productive French is rusty). I’m learning Spanish on my own right now in preparation for a language-learning trip to Costa Rica this summer, and I also need to learn some Portuguese/Cape Verdean Creole.

    11. Menacia*

      I have no idea if this would help with Arabic but co-worker of mine who came here from PR when she was young (8 years old) told me she learned English (another difficult language) though music. She always loved music, so it was natural to her to use it to learn English words, create sentences, etc. I just Googled “How to use music to learn Arabic” and got some hits which you may find useful. Good luck!

  23. NotAFunName*

    Hi…so I lurk a lot and have noticed that a lot of people have screen names related to literary characters and film or TV characters, I.e. Charlotte Collins, Harriet Wimsey, Cordelia Vorkosigan, etc. If you are willing to share, is this your fav character? Someone you think you are like or wish you could be….?
    Happy Weekend!

    1. fposte*

      I don’t know if Flora Poste is my favorite character, but I like how she conducts herself in the world, and I admire her ability to deal unflappably with chaos and put it creatively to rights.

      1. Undine*

        Ah! I’ve been meaning to ask if you are Robert Poste’s child, but I see you are. (And did the goat die?)

    2. Temperance*

      My name is after Temperance Brennan and Carrie A. Nation, two incredibly interesting women (although Dr. Brennan isn’t real).

  24. nep*

    Anyone following the Olympic trials for weightlifting going on this weekend in Salt Lake City? Go Team USA.

  25. Artemesia*

    I am making chocolate covered strawberries for mother’s day tomorrow — just tested it out. I injected the berries with grand marnier, dipped them in semi-sweet chocolate and decorated with white chocolate. Easy and they are amazing; the grand marnier makes those unfortunately flavorless California strawberries taste amazing.

    I am putting sprinkles on the ones designated for the kids without the liqueur.

    You can get diabetic syringes with needles without a prescription — the needles are a bit small and short but get the job done if you don’t have access to longer needles which I didn’t.

      1. Rahera*

        Oh my, so do I! Going to have to set up a strawberry lab here and try this out…

    1. TootsNYC*

      I’ve sometimes wanted syringes in order to squirt glue in some place. I’ll have to look into that!

      Glad the strawberries are working out well.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      California strawberries aren’t flavorless. I suspect you had some that got shipped across country and are therefore picked too early and are flavorless. The ones I have out here are big and sweet. But then I live about 30 miles north of where they grow them.

      I love what you’re doing with them though!

    3. Connie-Lynne*

      I was gonna say, I’ve never had flavorless CA strawberries, but I buy mine from the farm a couple miles gro. My parents’ house!

  26. AMG*

    Does anyone have any experience with treating concussion syndrome/CTE/TBI? Western medicine has failed us entirely, and don’t even get me started on the Mayo Clinic. My husband hasn’t been able to work or drive in a year. I am watching him deteriorate and my heart is breaking. He’s only 49 but will need nursing home care soon if things do t change. We are trying neurofeedback. Other suggestions?

    1. Student*

      Give up on a bad doctor. Get second (or third, etc.) opinions. Don’t give up on “western medicine”. Some doctors are incompetent, some don’t listen – but the good ones are following a methodology and set of processes that gives the best medical results the (entire) world has ever seen. That other stuff? Some time there is something to it, more often not – they’re much more likely to be cons preying on your vulnerability, fear, desperation, and frustration than to improve your husband’s health. Some doctors really do suck, but the harmful ones get their licenses revoked. More “alternative” medicine practitioners suck, and the harmful ones just set up their snake oil stands in the next town over.

      1. AMG*

        That’s a good point, thank you. We aren’t in a position to poo-poo any options. We had some negative expereinced with a holistic doc too. Good reminder to stay open but cautious.

    2. Clever Name*

      How awful. NFL players and boxers have this issue. Are there resources they use that you haven’t tried? I’m so sorry you’re going through this. What about eastern medicine or naturopathic care?

      1. AMG*

        We have spoken to several former pro football players. One has started ‘Concussion Care Center’ and we are saving the money to get a program from there. It’s in Phoenix so it requires living there temporarily, but presents a strong option. I’m looking for anything and everything.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I would suggest a chiro who does other things also. I am a big fan of Standard Process Products, so if you can find someone who uses/recommends this brand you might be on to something.
      If you decide to call a chiro ask if they have worked with this syndrome before. If no, ask them if they know of anyone in your area who has.

      *Note: I do not think chiropractic may be appropriate in his setting. That is why I suggest someone who does chiropractic and other modalities, Many chiros are cross training to use other methods, because,yeah, chiropractic is not appropriate for everyone.

      1. AMG*

        My chiropractor has some alternative therapies, like oxygen, laser therapy, and essential oils. Friday was our consult with him and we are going back tomorrow to see what else he recommends. Also going to try acupuncture later in the week. This is reassuring–makes me feel. Like I am in the right path.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I am smiling. I know that feeling. If you want to, I’d be interested in hearing how things are going for you guys.

          1. AMG*

            Thank you–I will let everyone know. We are going to try some laser therapy first and work into the rest. I guess the doc has done this before and wants to avoid over-stimulating him.

      2. stevenz*

        I can’t imagine anything a chiro can do for CTE. It will be a waste of time, a waste of money and a distraction from getting proper treatment.

        1. AMG*

          That’s very possible, and would not be the first dead end we have found. I am willing to invest in this and look for other options too. It beats doing nothing. I just have to temper my expectations and not get my hopes up. My merry-go-round of maybe finding help for him and coming up empty is heartbreaking.

    4. Jean*

      The U.S. Armed forces have been treating TBI in service members injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. An online search might connect you with information re treatment regimes, published articles, names of MDs & scientists involved, clinical trials (??), and/or organizations that inform or otherwise help spouses and families. You don’t say if you’re a military family–if yes, there are military-specific support organizations. (Neither self nor spouse is military so no in-depth experience here.)

      I hear you re the heartbreak. I suspect from my own experience (ill spouse + medical oddysey) that you might also be exhausted. Check out the Well Spouse Association. I’ve read pages on their web site but haven’t had time to prioritize becoming a member. You’ve probably heard this before, but take care of yourself (nutrition, sleep, exercise, mini-breaks, emotional/practical support from people you like or love) as much as possible. If you have a week of destroying your own health don’t blame yourself, just try to increase your self-care.

      1. AMG*

        That’s a good point–I will start researching. We aren’t military. DH got this from martial arts, football, and getting into fights as a kid. Latent for 30 years.

        I am trying so hard to take care of myself but I already feel like I am being psychologically drawn and quartered. But I suppose I can fight more if I am in better mental and physical shape. Time to just being strong and bite into that too. Good reminder–thank you.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Excellent advice, Jean. Couples are very much attached to each other. If one starts to have problems then it is more likely that the healthy spouse will have problems also.
          AMG, stressed/taxed people can benefit from vitamins for the heart and minerals for the brain. And that is just for starters. Alternative med people know that sometimes you have to treat everyone in the house in order to get the main patient on a healing road. If you ask I am sure the chiro would be DELIGHTED to help you find supportive things for your body. You might find an opportunity to ask if you can get a little break in pricing because he would be checking you from time to time. Sometimes they will give that second family member a break.

    5. TL -*

      There’s not much we can do about brain injuries – but I do think western medication and patience are your best options here.

      1. AMG*

        You are right…I won’t give up on Western meds. Just going to keep finding the good docs and advocating for him. Ty.

        1. Catherine in Canada*

          This really and truly sucks. I second the patience advice though.
          Our son, who is now 36, had several concussions and one skull fracture in his teens and early adulthood. He was an undiagnosed bi-polar, I think most of his injuries were mania related. Each successive concussion had more severe results, even if the head injury itself was minor like he ran up a flight of stairs with a low ceiling, bumped his head on the ceiling and knocked himself out. The short-term memory loss from the skull fracture when he was 14 (he broke the bone behind his right ear) took about 10 years to completely resolve. He was quite functional before that – he could drive and hold down a job, but not manage a cell phone bill for example – but it was still definitely a thing. He’s now married, with two daughters, has a house and a great wife and a steady job.

        2. QualityControlFreak*

          I’ll be thinking of you and your husband. In 2014 I suffered a TBI and received top-notch care at Harborview Hospital in Seattle (UW Medicine). I had multiple skull fractures and bleeding in the brain. I’m lucky, after brain surgery corrected an issue with my vision I’m mostly functional (limited sense of smell/taste, no other problems so far). But I’m not the same as I was before. Your husband is lucky too, to have you supporting him. Best wishes to you both.

    6. Library lady*

      No experience with this, but you might find a good research partner in your local librarian. You have access to all sorts of research articles through databases your library subscribes to, and you might find information on your own with a little guidance. Hospitals may have librarians as well, with access to a wide range of medical resources.

    7. Belle diVedremo*

      I’m sorry you folks are going through this.

      For Western medicine, http://www.braininjuryinstitute.org/ looks to be a good resource for options and providers. Their TBIs cover a wide range, some of which won’t be useful to you two (eg, gun shot wounds) but some might.

      For alternative medicine, have you heard of the Chikly Institute’s “brain” curriculum for practitioners? https://chiklyinstitute.com/Brain This is all with hands on the skin/hair, not within the brain itself.

      With Western or alternative practitioners, you want the best ones that are the right fit.

      Some people, like me, respond really well to the Chikly brain (and other) work. Some not as much. Look for practitioners through the Upledger Institute at http://www.iahp.com/pages/search/index.php. (Chikly taught through them before setting up his own Inst.) They do mean it about using only the first three digits of the zip code to search for therapists/practitioners. Treatments are generally on a massage table using bare hands on skin and hair. Some will discount this entirely, which is fine – I used to. I can say that you’d know pretty fast (1 or 2 sessions) if this was a viable option for him.

      My practitioner is a massage therapist who has treated concussion clients, and reports that generally the longer the time between concussion and treatment the more treatments are needed to bring things back or order. She’s had good success, sometimes resolving recent concussion issues with one or two sessions. Can’t speak to TBIs. Disclaimer: I haven’t had or been treated for concussions but will happily rave about her work to interested parties.

      A good acupuncturist should be able to help with comfort and well being; some have additional skills which could open the way to more treatment options. I would not go to a chiropractor for this; their focus is on the bony structure not the soft tissue.

      Self care on an ongoing basis is important for you, too.

      If you’re interested in a longer conversation, great; if not, great. Either way, holding you both in the Light.

    8. Athletic Trainer*

      Athletic trainer here. Has he done vestibular therapy? There is new research out about specific exercises to help rehabilitate long term TBI patients and a neuropsychologist is someone I would recommend. Illiniois Neurological Institute in Peoria, IL has a major study going right now. Specifically looking at rehabilitation outcomes. I have an athlete that participated in it. It is in conjunction with OSF St. Francis

      1. AMG*

        We haven’t tried that–I will check into it. Vestibular therapy is a new one to me so that’s awesome!

        (To complicate this, our insurance company isn’t paying behavioral health claims. It’s a benefit I pay for, they won’t deny claims, but nobody is taking our insurance so we have to self-pay. How they are getting away with fraud is beyond me but that’s another battle.)

    9. stevenz*

      Do you know the *exact* diagnosis? CTE – Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and TBI – Traumatic Brain Injury – are very different conditions. CTE is a brain wasting disease, degeneration of brain tissue. TBI is from a hard impact, a concussion. The NFL controversy is that it was not known until the past several years that repeated TBI can lead to CTE; that’s what the NFL denied for so long. (The connection was made by a pathologist in Pittsburgh.) (Other diseases like CTE are Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (Mad Cow), and Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy, also called Chronic Wasting Disease in deer. Also a sheep disease called Scrapie. Spongiform is like it sounds – microscopic images of the brain show that the brain looks like a sponge, with lots of voids in it.)

      There is no cure or treatment for the encephalopathies. “Eastern” or “alternative” medicine can do *nothing* for it. Concussion can be treated up to a point but the best response to concussion is to not get a concussion ever again. Make sure you get an accurate diagnosis because the three you list above are very different. You need Western medicine to do this. This is a very new field of medical study so there is a lot that isn’t known. That doesn’t mean that doctors are stupid, it just means there is a lot they don’t know, and the Chinese don’t either.

      It was only in 1995 that it was discovered that Mad Cow Disease could be transmitted to humans through eating beef. That was considered to be utterly impossible, but years of testing showed clearly that it can. Millions of cattle in the UK were slaughtered and burned when they were diagnosed causing great harm to the beef industry and panic in the medical industry. In humans, Mad Cow manifests in variant CJD. It can take years, decades, after exposure to show any symptoms but there is no cure and is always fatal. I’m being so hard because this is something to take completely seriously and not get sidetracked – or bamboozled – on alternative treatment or herbs or incantations or any of that. AAM is not the place to go for advice. Go to the best specialists you can find – and they may even be at the Mayo Clinic. It doesn’t have the reputation it does because they are incompetent – and ask every question that you can think of. Maybe it’s not CTE but you have to know. Good luck and very best wishes. This has to be a seriously awful situation to be in for you and your family.

      1. AMG*

        Wow– this is really helpful. We have no diagnosis but different doctors have said CTE and others have said TBI. I’m inclined to think TBI based on the docs’ knowledge on the subject. I will look into this too!

      2. AMG*

        And I am not ruling out University or other hospitals. I don’t think Frankincense will cure him. I am trying to look like a good ‘mark’ who will pay $5K for snake oil. We ARE desperate. But DH, even in this state, has good instincts about people. Thank you for your very sound, common-sense advice. :)

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Best: CIVIL WAR! Me, my spouse, and the minion went, and met an old friend of mine there with her two kids. It was a blast!

      Worst: Went to an estate lawyer, and she’s setting up revocable living trusts with marital trusts, a children’s trust, pour-over wills, health care proxies, advanced directives, powers of attorney, and a couple of related things…the adulting was the good part, but damn, I had serious sticker shock! (Mid-four figures for everything.) So we’re probably scaling back our summer travel plans. I know I should feel fortunate to have First World Problems, and it’ll save us SO much more in money and grief than we’re paying, but still. Ouch.

      1. Bibliovore*

        We did this! I blame Gold Digger. It is a relief to know that we are not leaving a mess for someone else if the worst happens.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I know, reading about Sly and Doris is an inspiration in a perverse
          way, although most of my motivation comes from seeing how poorly my father has planned for his care and his estate, as I’ve commented over there.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Oh! Also, at brunch today with my MIL, who really has her [stuff] together estate-wise, she said she paid about 2/3 of that just for her trust, for just her, so I feel a lot better about what we paid now.

        I feel like we just defeated a boss level in Adulting! \o/

    2. Caledonia*

      Best: handed in my final assignment for this module!!

      Worst: Now I have to revise for my exam in a few weeks :( and also, crappy financial situation.

    3. Trixie*

      Best: CXWorx certification training this weekend. I know the sequences really well, and timing is strong.
      Worst: I haven’t spent as much time preparing for this weekend so all the planks are painful and a struggle. I just need good form for final day tomorrow, then practice for endurance while teaching/filming.

    4. Ruffingit*

      BEST: Tomorrow is a true day of rest for me. I’ve been on the go forever and haven’t had a single day to just breathe. Looking forward to that.

      WORST: Feeling overwhelmed at work and in general.

    5. GreenTeaPot*

      Best: One project was easily done, the weather was great, and I did 260 minutes of cardio this week.

      Worst: Procrastinated a bit with two other minor projects.

    6. Mimmy*

      Best: By sheer luck, several of my regular meetings have been canceled, giving me even more time to work on THREE papers for my class!

      Worst: Said three papers are all due by the end of May – it’ll be miracle if I don’t end up tearing my hair out. I’m finishing up the small paper tomorrow (just in time for Mothers Day!) and now have to get my behind moving on the other two – 4 pages and 8-10 pages!

      Worrying: Two of my meetings were canceled because the primary staff liaison has been out sick. She was to be out “for a few days” last month, but I’m guessing it’s worse than first thought since she’s still out at least through the middle of this month. I don’t know what’s going on, but she has been very supportive of me, so please keep her in your prayers.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      WORST: A looooooong and hard week. Lots to do at work, all very dense and intensive. I’m exhausted.

      BEST: I have friend things this weekend! :D Also I went to Best Buy and bought a new telly–the backlight on my old one is going out, and I have to turn it on several times to get the picture to come up. Unfortunately, it fits perfectly in the small armoire, but screens are no longer available in that size (37″ widescreen). So I went up to a 48″, which meant a TV stand. I think I’ll move the armoire and old telly, along with the Roku, into the bedroom and use it there until it dies, when I will either buy another slightly smaller one for there or turn the armoire into an actual clothes armoire. It’s such a nice one I hate to get rid of it.

      The telly I bought is a smart Sony Bravia 1080p. I didn’t really want a smart telly, but what can you do? They’re almost all that way, and the only one that wasn’t only had two ports (OH HELL NO). This one has four, which should cover all my peripheral shenanigans. :) Oh, and it was on sale!!!!!

    8. KR*

      Best… boyfriend came home. He’ll be home for 25 days.
      Worst… 11 hour workday today at retail job. So stressful because of two faced mean spirited people. Someone I thought liked me and liked working with me was trash talking me behind my back to others and it stings. I wish I could hold my own better but I’m really sensitive to criticism, meanness, and rejection even when I know I’m in the right and someone is being unreasonable.

    9. Apollo Warbucks*

      Best:

      I went on a tour of a really historic local micro brewery which was fascinating, I learnt so much about the town I live I never knew as well as learning about the beer. The tour guide was amazing a history academic and musician (who gets bonus points for having toured with one of my favourite bands from the late 90s. Who had a hit or two but certainly weren’t mainstream)

      I spent Friday and Saturday at a tech conference for work in an amazing city with some great people and learnt a lot and had a lot of fun at the Friday night party as well as collecting some cool conference swag.

      I’m just off to see some of my family I don’t see often for a BBQ which I’m looking forward to.

      Now the weather is better and the eveningd are lighter, I’ve dusted my bike off and have been on a few rides in the evenings.

      Worst:

      Work has been awful this past week, there are 5 or 6 major problems where 1 would be enough to make me want to scream. Really it’s been brutal this last month of two (since before Easter) I keep hoping the tide will change but no sign of that happening yet.

    10. Sheep*

      Best – Sunny days, brunches with Prosecco (newfound love), and a new Norwegian TV-series that is so so addictive(Skam).
      Worst – Work. Husband away for work again. House is a mess.

    11. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Best: my 20th high school reunion was last night. It was a lot of fun and great to see some of these people. I have no family left in my hometown, so we made a trip of it, and our hotel is gorgeous and comfy. The doggy is enjoying it too.

      Worst: the drive here took 9 hours in the rain and traffic. I got rear-ended, and while it looks fine, my check engine light came on. We got her license plate number, insurance company and name, but the photo I thought I took of her insurance card didn’t save. Blech.

    12. Lindsay J*

      Best: I brought a video game system (called a Retron 2) that plays NES and SNES games, so my boyfriend and I have been having fun playing Mario and Mario Kart, etc all weekend. It’s a lot of fun.

      Other best: My mom just texted me that she got her mother’s day flowers and was very happy with them, and boyfriend and I took his parents out to dinner last night.

      Worst: Work is really boring. Also looking around at other jobs in my field and realizing that most of them at my level pay less than I am making now. So it looks like I’m going to be stuck waiting out the boringness for awhile. They keep on promising that we’ll get busier and I’ll be able to take on more tasks and things will get more interesting, but that hasn’t happened yet.

    13. Christopher Tracy (formerly Doriana Gray)*

      Best: I finished the third part of one of my certification courses on Thursday night, and by Friday, my job approved my reimbursement and incentive bonus requests, so I should have $820 coming to me soon. Also, I finished part two of this certification course on April 24 and just got my reimbursement funds and bonus check yesterday, so I’m all set for my trip to Vegas in three weeks!

      2nd Best: One of my division’s vendors took us to a ball game Monday night, and we got to hang out in a suite – yay to free food and booze! Then my friend was one of nine employees to win two tickets in our division raffle to use our company’s box at the ballpark Tuesday night for a game. Her husband couldn’t attend, so she invited me to tag along. Again, yay for free booze and food! Oh, and it was cool getting to talk to and hang out with people I don’t really speak to often at work.

      Worst: Two days of partying (and on a weeknight no less) was too much for me. I was sluggish and unfocused for the rest of the week (thank goodness I was able to complete certification course). And Friday afternoon, I developed a nasty cold courtesy of some of my foul coworkers who insisted on coming in this week even though they were hacking up a lung. So gross. My throat hurt like hell Friday night and Saturday. I’ve been drinking Theraflu and taking echinacea twice a day since and feel a little better today, though my cough persists.

    14. Finny*

      Best: Got my CNIB card, which doubles as my transit pass, and also got accepted into the Hadley School so I can start learning braille.

      Worst: The above good things also mean I’m definitely legally blind (I have been for years, but it took a while to get the official proof), and 20/250 in my good eye and 20/300 in my bad eye is really not fun. Gotta try and get a tablet to use rather than my phone, if I can somehow get the money.

      1. Mimmy*

        It’s a long shot, but could the state agency that serves people with low vision help pay for the tablet? My state has paid for some of my magnification devices (I’m visually impaired myself but not quite legally blind). They may only pay if the tablet is for employment purposes, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask about resources while at Hadley. The accessibility features on the phone (iPhone) are helpful, but I still prefer the larger screen of my iPad.

        Good luck!

        1. Finny*

          Thanks! I’m in Canada, so I’m not quite sure what supports might be available, but I plan on looking into things. I know cnib has a program for getting technology at reduced prices, but I’m not sure if tablets are part of that. I’m going to be talking to people to find out, though.

    15. Anonyby*

      Last Week’s Best (that I didn’t get to post): I PAID OFF MY LAST BALANCE-CARRYING CREDIT CARD!! :D :D :D My intention when I got my first credit card was to never carry a balance, but thanks to Life getting in the way, I’ve been carrying balances for about 3.5 years. Paid off two cards last year, and then a boost in hours plus my tax return meant I could pay off the final (and largest) one! I am so excited to have that monkey off my back. Now to spend a few paychecks putting what I had been using to pay off the cards to up what’s going into savings, then once my savings account is a bit healthier I’ll work on some other adulting that I’ve been putting off.

      This Week’s Best: Found the last ingredients I need to make corn-free vegetarian-safe fondant for fancy baking! I have one friend that’s corn-intolerant, which makes fancy baking difficult. So many things have hidden corn in them, including all mass-produced fondants and gel food colors. Even some of the rare powdered colors have an extra-hidden corn in them (dextrose). Now I just need corn-free glucose syrup and I can make the full range of what I’ve made before, only corn-free… A friend of a friend made some, so I’m waiting on my friend (who offered) to acquire it and pass it along. If there’s no more of that left, then I’ve identified a corn-free brand of glucose syrup that I can buy online.

      Worst: Tired tired tired. Six-day weeks are catching up with me, and the last two weeks in a row were scheduled as five day weeks, but then I had to work one of my days off last-minute. I need the hours, but I also need to not burn out.

    16. LizB*

      Best: Went to a Paul McCartney concert and had a BLAST. I’ve never had so much fun at a concert. The man is amazing — he played for nearly three hours straight, bouncing around the stage and joking the whole time. What a fantastic performer.

      Worst: This stupid cold just will not go away completely! I’m glad the fever and aching neck/jaw/head are gone, but the constant minor congestion and very slightly sore throat are driving me up the wall. I just want to feel 100%!

    17. Temperance*

      Best: it finally stopped raining after 8 or 9 days of nonstop rain.

      Worst: I caught Booth’s cold, and because my immune system is jacked up, I’ve been on the couch all weekend and didn’t get to go out for Derby Day.

    18. Overeducated*

      Best: TWO job offers! Not 100% sure which I will take, and scared about the adjustments of moving and going back to work full time. But also really excited about this next chapter and the end of this interminable search.

      Worst: finding out my toddler has an allergy (to an ingredient in one of the few foods he’d previously enjoyed). Not only do we have to avoid that ingredient, but also the class of foods most commonly associated with it until he’s big enough to get a blood test. So far we have to skip a lot of foods at potlucks, church coffee hour, etc. In case they were “processed in a plant that also processes” the other common allergens that we don’t even have evidence he’s allergic to. The line between paranoia and anaphylaxis is just too thin….

  27. Amber Rose*

    We bought a second car today for my husband. It’s just a puttering around the city mini car. The car place dude seems to think having husband as a co-buyer will help raise his (truly awful) credit rating. I hope so, but I don’t really understand how that works. Nothing else has really helped so far. Any ideas?

    And a dog peed on my shoe today. :/

    1. Colette*

      Who is the first person listed? Interestingly (in Canada at least), I believe that credit gets credited to the first borrower listed, so if he’s listed first his score would be affected.

    2. NicoleK*

      You and your husband should pull his credit report. Review for incorrect information. If there’s incorrect info listed on the credit report, you can request the credit reporting companies to investigate. If it’s incorrect, they’ll remove the incorrect information. Removing incorrect info should improve his credit score.

      1. Amber Rose*

        There’s no incorrect information. We get a free one every few months due to this thing where the government lost his student loan info.

        1. Student*

          Everyone in the US gets three free ones a year, one from each major credit bureaus, at the annual credit report website. It’s a federal law.

    3. Mela*

      In general, if your name is on a loan, then the payments made on that loan are “credited” to you. So even if you don’t pay the money yourself, the record of 3-5 years of on-time payments will go on his credit report. But this requires that the payments be made on time, so keep that in mind.

      Why is his credit rating low? If it’s just late payments, you have to wait it out and keep making on-time payments in the meantime. Other stuff is super specific, so if you’re willing to share, I’m sure people will have ideas.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Mostly it’s low due to a surplus of late payments and bad debts. We had our utilities turned off a couple times, back when everything was in his name.

  28. sad, lonely anon*

    I’m feeling real down about life lately. I’ll be 30 in a month and I just….feel like my life is going nowhere.

    I’ve dated, but never had a long term relationship. It’s not so much that I want to get married, but I’d like the company of a partner. I feel like no long term relationships by 30 is a sign that’s something wrong. Though to be fair, I didn’t start seriously dating until about 26. But I’m terrified that if I do start dating someone they’ll laugh at my lack of sex experience at my age (I’m not a virgin, but I can pretty much go 5 years without missing sex).

    I’ve been trying to search for a new job for two years now with no luck. I live in a crappy apartment on the outskirts of the city because it’s all I can afford after rent and loan payments. I know I’ll never be able to own a house because of debt and I really do want my own place. All my friends are married or having kids or buying houses. I haven’t been able to afford to go on a big vacation in over 5 years because flights are more than I can afford, so I have to watch all my friends go on group vacations without me.

    Sometimes I think moving somewhere new would give me a fresh start, but even if money weren’t an issue, I’m worried that I’d have trouble meeting people because everyone I know is nearby, and I don’t want to move and be miserable. I just feel like the awkward one out, who is still stuck behind and not making any strides in life. I know I shouldn’t compare myself to other people and I am really happy my friends are getting the things they want, but it just makes me sad sometimes that the things I want are a pipe dream.

    1. Mando Diao*

      People are only just starting to realize that society really isn’t set up for single people to navigate. There’s no road map for being a single adult without much in the way of stressors; we’re used to watching tv shows about people whose jobs consu