weekend free-for-all – August 20-21, 2016

3 catsThis 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: I’m currently reading Amy Schumer’s new book, but really I’m still thinking about the book I recommended last week by her show’s head writer, You’ll Grow Out of It.

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

{ 897 comments… read them below }

  1. Caledonia*

    This is my last week(end) in my flat after 10/11 years (11 if you count in total, 10 if you take out the time I didn’t live in it for whatever reason).

    I don’t feel as sad as I thought I would, maybe because I already said goodbye last year before I had to move back again.

    1. Confused Publisher*

      Congratulations! I hope you’re moving to bigger and better things, taking only the good memories from here.

    2. Cristina in England*

      Happy last weekend! Are you moving to your new city for sure or staying in your current city until you get a job in the new city?

      1. Caledonia*

        I’m temp living with my brother and his gf until I get a job somewhere. I had a positive interview experience on Thurs so am ever hopeful.

  2. salad fingers*

    First, a, selfish ask – what are you reading right now, do you like it, should I read it. Thank you to Stephanie for recommending (did you even really endorse it?) Dietland by Sarai Walker. Really enjoyed it.

    Next, tldr; Would anyone like to help me recommend a book for my friend who is 30 and has never read a book?

    One of my besties told me not long after we became close that she has never read a book, fiction or non-fiction, start to finish. Never read a full book. I’m a pretty big reader and grew up completely surrounded by books on all sides so this was shocking to me. She had super negligent parents and had to learn a lot of the basics on her own (brush your teeth twice a day, new pair of underwear every morning sort of stuff )-:).

    Anyway, at 30, she would now like to read her first book! She wants it to be a novel, she wants my advice, and I don’t know what to recommend. She’s told me that she gets bored/extremely tired when she tries reading, and she doesn’t want her first book to be long. She is also super turned off by anything witchcraft or fantasy related (goodbye harry potter, twilight, probably even hunger games, etc). Not sure about the relevance here, but in case it helps, things she likes: art – all of it, any kind of it, but specifically architecture, design, jewelry, and classic tattoo art; music; drugs (maybe sounds bad, but she’s always loved Timothy Leary and thoughtful discourse on mind-altering substances); comedy; vintage americana, motorcycle stuff, etc; travel (she is one of my most well traveled friends). She is also from Milwaukee and really identifies with that so bonus points for easy reads set there or in Wisconsin?

    I’m having a hard time deciding if it makes more sense to recommend YA to her or something more adult. I associate becoming reaaaally drowsy while reading with lack of comprehension, long sentence structure. ye olde timey language, etc. But also with the content being boring, and I think a lot of classic YA stuff would bore her. Thoughts?

    1. Caledonia*

      Answering your first question only (because I wouldn’t know where to start with your second) I recently read a novel called The Lauras by Sara Taylor. It was amazing and immediately made me go and read her first novel The Shore. I’ve also read Sloane Crosley’s essays, I was told there’d be cake which was great too.

          1. Lore*

            Ack! I just had to return it to the library unread because it was on hold and thought I was ok with missing it. Maybe I’ll give it another shot. I just started The Sympathizer–intrigued by its being the first novel ever to win an Edgar and a Pulitzer. It’s dense, I’ll say that.

            1. C Average*

              It’s worth a go, in my opinion. It wasn’t a life-changing book or anything, but it was definitely one of those books that evoked reactions–laughing out loud, muttering, “Oh, God, I know that guy,” sighing in frustration, etc. I read it when it first came out–maybe six months ago?–and I still remember the names of most of the characters. I tend to devour a lot of books, especially books that are getting talked about, and they often blur together. A book that sticks with me six months later is noteworthy.

            2. Theguvnah*

              I thought the Clasp was terrible, if that helps any. And I loved her essay collection.

              I just finished the new Megan Abbot You Will Know Me which was fabulous and a great follow up to my Olympic gymnastics obsession!

              1. C Average*

                What did you find terrible about it? I’m always interested in why people dislike particular books, especially if they’re books that I enjoyed.

                I didn’t think it was Great Literature or anything, but I found it to be a pleasant way to waste a few hours. The subplot involving the old lady was weak, but it was mercifully short and close to the end.

              2. Caledonia*

                See I didn’t like her essay collection – some of it was good but some of it I felt I just couldn’t relate to at all (maybe because I’m not American? who knows)
                The Clasp was great in that I related to it more and I liked the storyline but it had a very abrupt ending out of nowhere. It’s been better than other books I’ve read lately but I wouldn’t read it again type of thing.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I wonder if with her interest in psychedelics if she’d like something like Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins.

      Or a book written in letters? I’ve recommend E by Matt Beaumont here before; it’s darkly funny if that’s her thing. Or as a diary, like Bridget Jones’ Diary. Or something heavy on interpersonal stuff, like High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. (These are all pretty light, on the assumption that’ll more easily grab her than something heavier, but they’re still good.)

      Or, is there a movie she really likes that was based on a book? She might find it interesting to get more of the back story by reading the book.

      1. salad fingers*

        Thank you for these, and especially Tom Robbins. Friends in the past who were not huge readers have recc’d Even Cowgirls Get The Blues to me (which I still need to read). I like the movie idea too. I thought about something like American Psycho, especially because she loves the 80s pop culture. I don’t actually know her thoughts on the movie but I will probe a bit :-)

      2. Awkward Interviewee*

        I second High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. I think it might mesh well with some of her interests.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Tom Robbins immediately came to mind for me, as well. And I love Nick Hornby, so I second that rec– About a Boy is a good one too.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      I’ve just read the girl on the train and really enjoyed it, I’m not a big reader but it was an easy read and the story kept my interest and I read most of it in a 6 hour train ride.

      1. salad fingers*

        Ooh, I haven’t read that one but a quick google says it’s a psychological thriller, which may be a good route. This also reminded me that I think she might really like Gone Girl, if it isn’t too long.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        That sounds great. Also, maybe “Another Roadside Attraction” by Tom Robbins. (I thought his first 3-4 books were the best, with the rest starting to seem formulaic.)

        1. salad fingers*

          Yes! Very good suggestions. I have to admit that I was sort of reluctant to mention psychedelics in a conversation about my friend reading her very first book, since non-linear story lines can be hard. But having the context of watching Fear and Loathing I think she would be in a better spot.

    4. Graciosa*

      After the elimination of fantasy, I was wondering about something in humor or travel? The only author who comes to mind is Bill Bryson, but I’m not sure I really nailed it. My thinking was that a lot of the work in these areas is presented in manageable chunks (essay-like chapters) which might be more easily digestible.

      If the goal is to get more strictly into the novel form, mystery might be an option. If she likes vintage Americana, she might enjoy some early Nero Wolfe stories by Rex Stout. The humor is a bit in the wisecracking style, and the Nero Wolfe character is – well – a *character.* There are a lot of trilogies in the series, which may allow her to try a shorter story and see if she would enjoy one of the full length novels.

      For a purer mystery play with a major twist at the end, I would suggest The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, although I prefer The Secret of Chimneys personally (both Agatha Christie).

      For a more clearly comic mystery, I would vote for the Grub and Stakers novels by Charlotte MacLeod (possibly written as Alisa Craig). Some of her other work (like The Curse of the Giant Hogweed) probably strays into areas your friend doesn’t want to go, and now that I think about it the very last Grub and Stakers book has a ghost in it, but the rest should be fine.

      A final thought is simply to pick your personal very favorite book (not in a category she’s avoiding) and share what you love about it.

      1. salad fingers*

        Thanks for these. I’m going to take a peek at the Rex Stout ones for her.

        To your last point, my personal all time favorite book is very opposite to what she would like unfortunately, as much as I want to recommend it to everyone ever. Infinite Jest – looooooong, not really an easy read, with a main character I suspect she would find annoying, not very sympathetic. I was thinking about Bastard out of Carolina, an old fave from high school, which was a fave and has a class/gender undercurrent that I think she would like. It is sort of traumatic for a first book though :-/

      2. Colette*

        For mysteries, Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum mysteries are funny and relatively easy. Note that the first one is darker and the characters haven’t gelled yet – you can start with a higher number.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          I agree — for a first novel that’s light, has easy language and a story that just goes along, something like One for the Money would be a fine choice. It all depends on what your friend is really interested in, though.

    5. Chocolate Teapot*

      What about Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier? That is not too long, and there is the film with Scarlett Johannson and Colin Firth which is quite close to the book.

    6. Library Director*

      I’m reading Awakening by S.J. Bolton. The film of her book Sacrifice of course didn’t do the book justice.

      For your friend take a look at Orca Soundings publishing. They specialize in books for reluctant readers. If you see references to reading levels don’t let it throw you. Most adult fiction is written about a 5th grade reading level.

      The stories aren’t juvenile, but the pace is quick and a reasonable book length. You can see a list here: http://www.orcabook.com/Adult-C1337.aspx

      1. salad fingers*

        Thank you! I thought there might be something specifically designed for adults who aren’t confident readers. Trust a library director to have the links for this sort of thing on hand.

        1. Library Director*

          You’re welcome. I didn’t really answer your first question. I like Bolton. They’re not as dark as Gillian Flynn, but not cozy mysteries.

          1. Kerry ( like the county in Ireland)*

            Also, I know some people get pissy about this but I am a MLIS holding professional: listening to an audiobook counts as reading. Honestly I read less and less books things, but I listen to a lot of audiobooks.

            1. Aurora Leigh*

              Yes to audiobooks! I’m a very visual person, so they don’t work for me at all, but they were awesome for my brother. He didn’t want to read, but he loved listening to the stories . . . and since our library often only had the first book of a series on audio, he had to read the next books to find out what happened to the characters he was already attached to.

    7. katamia*

      Reading Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing right now. Really liking it, not a good idea for someone who’s never read a book before.

      I can’t think of any specific books that might fit the bill here because she and I don’t have any interests in common, but could she be getting drowsy because of the physical position(s) or location(s) she tries to read in? I read all the time, but if I try reading in bed or lying down on a couch I’ll fall asleep pretty quickly no matter how much I’m enjoying the book.

    8. bassclefchick*

      You didn’t mention detective or thrillers, but James Patterson’s stuff is easy reading. All of his series are great, but Women’s Murder Club and Alex Cross are favorites. If she likes art, suggest Dan Brown, but I wouldn’t really call it an easy read.

      Any of the rock star autobiographies would be a great suggestion. I LOVE those. It’s my guilty pleasure. Think of a band, and one of the members has probably written a book. Alice Cooper’s was easy. Nikki Sixx’ was better than I thought it would be (but not really sure how he survived all the drugs). The ones I really found interesting were Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne’s books. It was fascinating to see different perspectives on the same events.

      If she likes mysteries, the Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun is really easy. Plus there are a ton of mysteries that are fun and have recipes included, if she likes that. My favorite are the Hannah Swensen (Joanna Fluke is the author) and the coffeehouse mysteries (Cleo Coyle). Have fun!

      1. EmmaLou*

        I got so tired of Hannah’s last few books. The very last wasn’t as bad but the interminable love triangle was just…. toooo dang long. And then! !!! But they are set up there in Minnesota.

        I like Donna Andrews’ bird books. They make me laugh which I enjoy in a cozy.

          1. Kerry ( like the county in Ireland)*

            Oh, they are fantastic. Especially the first one, which was really written as a straight family story/belated coming of age novel, and then sold as a mystery. So funny.

              1. Kerry ( like the county in Ireland)*

                I’ve seen her talk at The Poisoned Pen in Phoenix a couple of times. People took her to task that the books aren’t “mystery” enough and she flat out says she wrote them as a family story and Isobel’s coming of age, and the publisher took the first one and said, “I can sell it as a mystery” and it sold like gangbusters. So good for her, and I hope she has enough freedom to keep writing what she likes.

        1. bassclefchick*

          I agree – she should have just chosen one already! And then!!!! I apparently missed a book since I didn’t realize she already chose. LOL

          I like the bird books too. So fun!

        2. Sophie Winston*

          Another vote for the Donna Andrews bird books. Great characters, lots of humor and and a great pragmatic protagonist.

    9. neverjaunty*

      Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder books – The Hot Rock is the first in the series, but the later ones get even better. They’re funny, light, with a chatty style and they’re great for people who aren’t into SRS PROSE but are nonetheless extremely well written.

      1. Library Director*

        I was just recommending these Friday! They are fun. An argument whether it’s ethical for a thief to steal a Christmas present for his girlfriend, crashing through skylights into a convent (with nuns that hire the gang), reality TV, and more in the series.

        Another favorite Westlake book is Baby Would I Lie about a tabloid newspaper.

        1. Valeriane*

          I loved the earlier Westlake books I read in high school, too, though they don’t seem to be as easy to find as the Dortmunder series.


    10. Laura (Needs To Change Her Name)*

      Would she like to check out children’s books she might have missed out on? Little House in the Big Woods is an easy, fun read and if she likes it soon she can say she hasn’t read just one book, she will be able to read a whole series!

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        That was my first “real” chapter book! (I was 6.) I loved them all and I still think about the Ingalls family. As an adult though, I find Laura can be a little wordy with all the details of exactly how they did things.

      2. Manderley*

        I recently read the Anne of Green Gables series (as an adult) and enjoyed them immensely. Great idea!

    11. Troutwaxer*

      Maybe you can find some graphic novels she’ll like. With her interests in psychodelics, she might like the Spider Jerusalem graphic novels by Warren Ellis.

    12. Aurora Leigh*

      What I’m reading now — Siren’s Song by Mary Weber. It’s awesome! The 3rd in a series though, so you should read Storm Siren first! It’s YA fantasy, the female lead as the ability to bring down storms, but has spent her whole life as a slave. (And as probably guessed the fate of the world rests on her . . . but I still am really enjoying it!)

      For your friend — first book is awesome and special! I’ll second the Agatha Christie suggestion, although And Then There Were None is my favorite.

      She might be opposed to a kid’s book, but I still love The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett. The Graham Rust illustrations are gorgeous, too.

    13. it happens*

      How about Just Kids by Patti Smith? It’s about music and art and it’s short and so interesting…

      1. salad fingers*

        I actually think this would be perfect for her – she loves Patti Smith. She wants to read a novel but I’m going to suggest this to her too.

    14. TL -*

      If she’s into classic rock, a number of them – Keith Richards, Nikki Sixx (my favorite one!) – have written autobiographies that are fun, heavily involve drugs, and fairly easy to read. They can be a little depressing, though.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I really enjoyed “Somebody to Love” by Grace Slick (of the Jefferson Airplane). She has been such a jerk throughout her life, but she owns her shit and I found it entertaining.

    15. Christy*

      The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J Maarten Troost. It’s about a year living in Kiribati and it’s hysterical.

    16. HannahS*

      Someone else mentioned Bill Bryson–he’s written some hilarious travel stuff, and a lot of it is in “chunk” format–like, every chapter stands alone. That might be a good starting format for someone who isn’t used to sitting and reading a continuous story over many hours.

      Alternatively, are there any comedians or pundits she enjoys that have written books? One of my big gateways into non-fiction was autobiographies by people whose work I like (e.g. Bossypants by Tina Fey). Their books are often short, funny, and accessible.

      1. Tax Accountant*

        I love Bill Bryson. My favorite travel book is the one about Australia, “In a Sunburned Country”. Very entertaining, but easy to put down and pick up without losing a story line.

    17. Sami*

      Dave Barry! He hilarious! He a book about his travel adventures. And as its not fiction, it’d be a good dip into reading. She can pick and choose among the chapters.

      1. Sarah G*

        Love Dave Barry! I once wrote him (don’t remember what about), and have a handwritten postcard from him that I’ve kept!

        1. Sami*

          He came to my city for a Town Hall speaking event. I got to meet him. So cool! And he autographed his Bad Songs books for me.

      2. catsAreCool*

        Dave Barry’s humor columns are wonderful!

        If your friend like mystery, Donna Andrews writes fun mysteries with birds in the titles.

    18. MillersSpring*

      I would recommend Room, The Art of Racing in the Rain, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Each of these is well-paced, fairly brief, and has an unusual narrator. If she likes romantic comedy, I also recommend Bridget Jones’s Diary because the epistolary format makes for small digestible chunks.

    19. ClairefromLondon*

      One of my colleagues started reading for the first time with Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. He told me they were just like films, he could imagine everything. The sentences and chapters are short, cover a huge amount of plot and I think he came across just the right thing to ease into reading.

    20. Mela*

      I was surprised to learn that my husband had also not read a full book until he was 30+, but he got going with a little encouragement from me. He’s always read a lot, mostly news and computer guides/manuals. He wasn’t raised by readers and is a kinesthetic leaner, so it makes sense, but I was still shocked when I found out. He prefers non-fiction now, but he started on the Hunger Games, and ripped through them. He enjoyed the movies and was intrigued when I was telling him about some details that were in the books but not the movies.

      Movies based on books are excellent, because you don’t need to rely on the reading to follow the general plot, memorize character names, etc. Plus, the work of creating an image of what each character looks like is already done for you. Room is heavy, but because it’s written from a 5 year old’s POV, it’s easy to read/follow.

      Maybe something like Eat, Pray, Love or Wild if she’s into travel. Into the Wild is written as part narrative and part investigative journalism, so it’s easier to digest. Graduates in Wonderland is a collection of emails two friends sent to each other while they were living abroad in different countries and was a very nice, easy read. Q&A by Vikas Swarup is the book Slumdog Millionaire is based on, and was a quick read.

      If YA as a genre isn’t an issue, but more content, what about classics like Bridge to Terabithia, that are focused on big themes? Little Women? Or those classics that are “watered down” for kids and re-written a bit to make it easier for them? I had been super snobby about them (even as a child!), but then accidentally read the children’s version of Around the World in 80 Days and genuinely enjoyed it. The Wizard of Oz is technically young adult, but I don’t think of it that way (not sure if that’s fantasy for your friend though).

      One unexpected thing about YA that helps is that they’re printed in a bit bigger font. It seems silly, but that actually helps because if you’re eyes aren’t used to following lines and lines of text, tiny font makes that more intimidating. So it’s not just the book, check out the layout as well. Why don’t you go to a bookstore together prepped with some suggestions, and get a few for her to check out, and she sits and reads the first chapter/story of a few and see how she likes them? She can evaluate the story as well as the layout that way. It would be very discouraging to buy a book and then not finish it, especially since she wouldn’t be able to tell if she just didn’t really like it or if she’s destined to never read, which can feel very defeating. And you can have a friend date at the in-store cafe afterwards to celebrate!

      Chick lit is also very accessible and enjoyable. I recently read Big Little Liars by Liane Moriarity and it had a good background mystery that didn’t take over the whole story but still kept me engaged. Collections of short stories or essays are also a good idea. It’s easier to motivate yourself to push through a 10 page story than a 200 page book when you’re feeling blah about reading. Plus, with short stories, she’ll get a good idea of what she likes and what she’s meh about relatively quickly. Comedy writing is a good idea too. Mindy Kahling, Amy Pohler, Tina Fey, Aziz Ansari, Chelsea Handler, Jim Gaffigan, Michael Ian Black, Jen Kirkman, Sara Barron, Lena Dunham are all comedians I’ve read and haven’t been disappointed yet. Candy Girl by Diablo Cody: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper is sort of a mix of memoir/comedy.

      Lydia Davis has some great short story collections. AM Homes’ The Safety of Objects is a collection of really twisted stories, full of drugs and sex but not too explicit. Also, I know she’s looking for a novel, but Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs is pop culture commentary in essay form. His other books have similar topics/formatting. He has one just about music, I think. Downtown Owl is his only novel, and it’s set in a small town in North Dakota, so I imagine it’s similar to Wisconsin (it’s all about a big snow storm).

    21. Dynamic Beige*

      It was recommended on here a few weeks ago, but if your friend is also into romance and (spoiler alert!) a happy ending, A Room With A View. Some of the Edwardian language might be a little stodgy to her but it involves travel, art, music and learning about who you are despite who your parents/society wants you to be.

    22. Stachington*

      I found Memoirs of a Geisha to be a nice interesting read, especially if your friend enjoys travel, art, and other cultures.

      Trainspotting might also be interesting, but reading a book entirely in Scottish slang was pretty hard.

      Go Ask Alice was a book I remember reading and liking in high school, and was more of a cautionary tale about drugs.

    23. Karin*

      I’d highly recommend anything by Jodi Picoult or Liane Moriarity. With JP, start with “My Sister’s Keeper”, which was made into a movie, but the movie was awful. With LM, start with “The Husband’s Secret”.

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        I love Jodi Picoult! I devour pretty much everything she’s written. I also really enjoy Amy Tan, but having too many narrators may be difficult for a newer reader. What about Phillippa Gregory (of The Other Boleyn Girl fame)? She’s written a ton of historical fiction covering the Tudors, et. al.

        Has she read books for school at all? Some of the classics we read in school were actually really good… To Kill a Mockingbird comes to mind as a fantastic story with strong characters.

    24. Ruthie*

      My favorite book I’ve read in the last couple of years is “Wool” by Hugh Howey. He self-published while working in a book store a few chapters at a time. It’s a science fiction/post-apocalyptic novel, which is not a genre I would have thought I would be into until I read this book. Great female main character. Fox has movie rights apparently and I simply can’t wait to see it.

    25. Sarah G*

      I am not a graphic novel fan, but this book is amazing – a graphic novel for even people who aren’t graphic novel readers –“Blankets” by Craig Thompson. I’ve been gifting it to people a lot over the past 5 yrs or so, and everyone loves it. It’s 500 pages, but the equivalent of only 100 pages worth of words (if that), since so much of that space is illustration. A very quick read. Everyone I know who has read this book loves it. You can look inside at Amazon.

    26. Blue_eyes*

      Books that are technically YA or even young readers chapter books , but are very well written might be a good place to start. If she’s never read an entire book, her reading level may not be up to some adult books (as with everything, practice makes you better). Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech is one of my all time favorite books and is still enjoyable as an adult. She has a number of other novels as well with some of the same characters. Jerry Spinelli (Maniac McGee, Stargirl) is another YA author whose books are still good for adults. Roald Dahl books like The BFG and Matilda are good too. I think quick and approachable will be key for a first book.

      1. salad fingers*

        I really like the idea of Roald Dahl stuff to build her confidence. And like a commentor said above, it would be nice to read some of the stuff she missed. I have both of those at home so I’m adding them to the list, thanks :-)

      2. chickabiddy*

        I have read some of my teenager’s YA fiction and one author that I personally enjoy is Laurie Halse Anderson. They are relatable even from an adult perspective and they are fairly quick reads.

    27. Ginger ale for all*

      How about 84 Charing Cross Road? My reasons for recommendation is that it is just around 120 pages long, it’s a classic, and it has been made into a movie. Also, it is a book about books. It is old enough for it to be more likely found in a used book store though.

    28. Lady Kelvin*

      It’s not a novel but I thought Chris Hatfield’s memoir An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth to be a great read. And I rethink the Hunger Games, it’s definitelynot sci-fi or fantasy because the entire book is plausible just set in the future. It was the first book that my not a big reader husband read that he told me he finally understood why I stay up all night to finish a book.

      1. salad fingers*

        I hear you on the Hunger Games. I read the books and loved them, and I know they’re more dystopian than anything else, but I don’t think it’s what she’s looking for unfortunately. I think what I was failing to really explain is that while she loves art and creativity, she’s not a person who likes speculative stuff. She likes stories about real sounding people dealing with real present life woes. Beyond that she loses interest. This is true of movies and TV she likes as well.

        But yes, otherwise I can see why the series is a great gateway to reading for a lot of adults!

        1. TL*

          Oh, she might like Miss Pettrigrew Lives For a Day or Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. They’re both sweet and old fashioned and about very real people who are dealing with very real life issues (different authors; totally unrelated.). Miss Pettigrew was made into a movie.

      1. M*

        The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella – fun, relatable, and really thought provoking without being preachy.

        1. Lindsay J*

          I read this recently and enjoyed it.

          I also read one called Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen which was fun and had similar themes.

    29. teclatrans*

      For mysteries (and feminism, and the 20s), I highly recommend the Phryne Fisher murder mysteries. I love the TV series, but I love the books more. I listened to them on audio, and I can highly recommend the narrator.

      I loved Tina Fey’s and Amy Poehler’s memoirs (also on audiobook, now that I think of it). The nice thing about these is the chapters are written as full stories in themselves.

      Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a gripping read, though it does get a bit magical.

      1. Doodlebug*

        I love these threads regarding books. I’m a compulsive reader and look forward to looking the titles up on Amazon.

    30. But I'm The Principal*

      Blu Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer. It’s for middle readers, but it’s a pretty compelling mystery involving architecture, art, Chicago (not quite Wisconsin, but very near it?). If she were into fantasy, I’d recommend anything by Neil Gaiman.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        all her books are fascinating! My brother loves the puzzles and math she incorporates in the mystery.

      2. salad fingers*

        Oooh, I like the sound of that. We live in Chicago (she has for 9 years now, so it’s a second (first?) home for her) so I will definitely look it up. Thank you!

    31. Sydney*

      I’m reading The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney and also The Last Stand by Nathaniel Philbrick. So far The Nest is good. The Last Stand is also good but less of a quick read.

    32. DoDah*

      If you like some light dark-humor- horror fiction–Hex (Thomas Huvelt) and The Last Days of Jack Sparks ( Jason Arnoff) were quite good. Dear Committee Members (Julie Schumacher)–fiction in the form of letters–funny as heck.

    33. Jill*

      Going to second Sara Taylor, because she’s amazing, but my rec goes to Boring Girls. Heavy metal girl band! Rock tours! Amazing female friendships! Murderous revenge! This book has everything.

    34. Happy Balloon*

      My all-time favorite book is A Prayer for Owen Meany, which would be a terrible first book for your friend (super long) but is highly recommended for anyone else. For your friend, The Phantom Tollbooth is technically a children’s/YA novel, but it is excellent and fun and also funny. The Little Prince is also short and super engaging but might be too sad in parts? Paul Reiser (from Mad About You) has written some funny memoirs that don’t take long to read. Jonathan Franzen writes novels about the midwest that I’ve enjoyed, but they’re long.

    35. Laura B*

      When my sister read her first book, in her teens, it was a book written about a movie she had seen. You know, a book written from the movie’s plot, as often appears after a hit movie. Anyhow, I have always thought that already understanding the movie made her brave enough to pick up the book and try to read it. Even now, she’s not a big reader, but she will pick up books and read, and I always remember her first book and how she wouldn’t put it down until she had finished it, as she sat, weeping, and really reading. It was very powerful.

    36. Kat*

      OK I am late here but have her try Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. It’s historical fiction about Vermeer and features a lot about art. It also has some romance and drama. It’s a really quick read too!

    37. Fenchurch*

      Maybe something by Chuck Palahniuk? They tend to be short, but well written and very fast paced! Fight Club comes to mind. But I also have heard good things about Choke and

      The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald is a classic and really keeps your attention, and is a quick read.

    38. selenejmr*

      Christopher Moore’s books are wonderful and are comedies. “Lamb – The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Friend” was great. “Sacre Bleu” is a comedy and is about art & artists. He has several other books.

  3. Looking for Ideas*

    What are your travel ideas for a bucket list?

    I’ve been thinking lately about what I would like to do / have done, and would love to hear other suggestions.

    So far my list includes:

    All continents
    Kentucky Derby
    Wimbledon / French Open
    Trans-Canadian rail trip
    Cruise across a major ocean
    Great Barrier Reef
    The underground city in Australia (sorry, forgot the name)
    Easter Island

    Any other suggestions? I would have liked to attend a space shuttle launch or travel on the concorde. Any really great experiences traveling or recommendation for a favorite trip?

    1. C Average*

      Here are a few of my favorite travel memories:

      –going on a walking safari in Krueger Park in South Africa. We got to sleep in a treehouse sort of thing beside a watering hole and track rhinos on foot. We also got to sit by the fire with our guide and hear his stories of being in the military during the apartheid era.
      –running a marathon in Paris and a half-marathon in Tokyo. If you’re into running, doing a race in a foreign country is a really interesting way to experience the culture and landscape.
      –visiting a cat cafe in Harajuku. They’ve begun to catch on in the U.S. now, but Japan is where they started. If you’re a cat lover, experiencing Japanese cat mania is pretty fun.
      –hiking rim to rim in the Grand Canyon. Standing at the rim and looking across is one thing; actually making the trip on foot is probably one of the best travel memories I’ve ever made. I saw plants and rocks and insects I’ve never seen ANYWHERE else, and the way the morning light looks from the bottom of the canyon is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

      1. lblonde*

        They have some cat cafes near me in Ontario, Canada! I don’t know about the others, but the one I’ve been to has cats from the humane society and they can be adopted.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      A Radom list of places I want to go and things I wang to see:

      South America
      Inca trail, Easter Island
      South Africa
      A safari
      Coast to Coast across the U.S.
      Trans Siberian train from Moscow to Beijing
      Terracotta warriors
      Great Wall of China
      Hong Kong

    3. Overeducated*

      Alaska – definitely southwest passage, Kodiak and gold rush sites, maybe interior mountains but it’s huge and I don’t know much about it
      Norway and Finland – fjords, boats, trains, interest in Saami culture
      Belgium – beer tour please
      Scotland – especially Orkney
      Grand Canyon
      Glacier National Park (before it’s gone :( )
      China (part of the excitement would be learning enough to plan an itinerary)
      The Andes
      A steam train ride, probably in PA or WV

    4. katamia*

      -Trans-Siberian Railroad (Moscow-Vladivostok or vice versa)
      -Ajanta caves in India
      -Çatal Höyük in Turkey
      -basically all of Greece since I’ve been obsessed with ancient Greece ever since I was a little kid
      -Machu Picchu
      -Iceland, especially the Gates of Hell
      -a sillier one, but I’m planning a trip to Scotland right now, and one of the things I want to do is visit the restaurant that claims to have invented chicken tikka masala

      1. C Average*

        Ooooh, I forgot Iceland! If you go there, and if you are at all a Game of Thrones fan, I can’t recommend the GOT tour highly enough.

      2. Alicia*

        Just got back from Iceland and it was absolutely amazing. Was the best trip I’ve been on and the landscape was astounding. So drastic and dramatic and changed depending on what part of the country. I just hiked every day to experience the outdoors.

    5. bassclefchick*

      Favorite travel memories:
      Seeing the apostle clock in Prague (and Prague itself, lovely city)
      Petting a penguin at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago
      Stopping at a park in Innsbruck Austria just under the Olympic ski jump and seeing what the skiers see as they’re making their jump (spoiler alert: it’s a cemetery)
      Train ride through Canada

      Bucket destination list:
      Scotland (huge Outlander fan and I’m OBSESSED!)
      Grand Canyon
      Pacific Northwest

    6. Troutwaxer*

      Personal favorites included:

      The Island of Bali, in Indonesia. If you go there, read “The Island of Bali” by Miguel Covarrubias first. The books was published in 1937 and much of it still applies now.

      The Montaverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. (Anywhere in Costa Rica is good, of course.) I don’t know how global warming has treated the place, but it was magnificent in the 1980s.

      The Mayan city of Tikal, in Guatemala. (Any Mayan area will have its delights, of course, but Tikal is the grand king-daddy of Mayan cities.)

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Travel memories:

      –Road trip to Alice’s Restaurant in Woodside, CA and the motorcycle thing. I’m not into bikes, but DAMN that was cool. I had literally forgotten about that until just this second.
      –Trips to Los Angeles to see John Williams at the Hollywood Bowl. The second one sucked because my ex had just dumped me and he was there, but the concert was awesome and my friends took me to Little Tokyo.
      –First visit to England in 1983. London, Surrey (Hampton Court Palace), Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge, etc. Just wandering around London alone, I fell in love with it and we’ve had a long-distance relationship ever since.
      –Second and third visits; Second was the first time I got to see more of the UK (Scotland and Wales). I could live in Cardiff quite easily, though I’d probably want a car. Going to Loch Ness and riding the overnight train there were both bucket list items. :) Third visit was my first to Royal Albert Hall (for Titanic Live; James Horner –RIP– and James Cameron were both there). I could live in London for the rest of my life and not see everything I want to see in just that city alone.

      Travel bucket things:
      –More of the UK. Pembrokeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria (my family origins are there), Lake District, Oxford, Cambridge, more of Scotland, Lincoln, etc. Okay, ALL of the UK. :)
      –To see Europe and my friends there: Poland, Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland (I don’t know anyone in Italy, but give me time).

      That is all I’ll probably be able to manage before I die, but it would also be fun to visit:
      –South America
      –New Zealand (BIG bucket list one)

      I’d really like not to have to go alone on my next trip. It’s getting old.

    8. Mimmy*

      My favorite places:

      -White Sands, New Mexico. The sand looks like snow, and the sunset is like nothing you’ll see anywhere else.
      -Niagara Falls, Canadian side. We did one thing that I think was called Journey Under the Falls. At one point, there’s an outside area to just watch the falls from below, and I was almost in tears at how utterly gorgeous it was.
      -London. This was 20 years ago, but I went with my sister, and we got to see places like Buckingham Palace and the crown jewels. We went to Ireland on that same trip, and it is beautiful.
      -Drove through Napa Valley (?) while in California

      Bucket List destinations:
      -Grand Canyon

    9. Wrench Turner*

      Fly to the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador, charter the Encantada to sail you around and hire the guide named Juan to give you a tour of the wildlife and its adaptation to the very unique climate Darwin studied. Beautiful places, great boat and crew, amazing guide and adorable animals everywhere.

    10. nep*

      I don’t have a bucket list but a few random things/places I’d like to experience: Picasso’s ‘Guernica’; the Grand Canyon; Mao, Chad (again); Ethiopia; the Alps;…more…there are too many.

    11. Mike C.*

      An F1 Grand Prix.

      Fastest, most technologically advanced racing series in the world. Decades of history and you’re going to end up in a great city regardless of the race you chose.

      Other than that, exploring ancient sites around the Levant.

      1. Confused Publisher*

        I read your post out to my husband, a lifelong F1 fanatic, and this is what he said: ‘If he’d like a recommendation from Confused Publisher’s Husband, do Monaco if you possibly can. As a once-in-a-lifetime thing, it’s all about the glamour, the views, the food, the atmosphere, the sounds, the sights….’ He trailed off on a happy sigh. (Do you get the feeling he’s invested?)

    12. Karin*

      I am in the process of trying to visit all 50 US states at least once before I turn 50. I’m currently 44 and have 15 states left. I’m planning a five-state road trip with my son next summer. After I hit all 50 states, I’m going to hit the Canadian provinces and territories I haven’t been to yet. (Well, maybe not Nunavuit.)

      1. KS girl at heart*

        One thing I have done is watch a rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center. It was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever watched even if it wasn’t a manned space craft. Also just doing the tourist thing at the space center is pretty awesome and I usually hate that kind of stuff.

    13. Dan*

      Fwiw, once you’ve specified “all continents”, Antarctica is redundant ;)

      I don’t have a bucket list, either like one of the other posters. I’m still rather young and have a lot of life left (I hope) so I just take things a year at a time.

      I’ve seen most of Asia, at least the countries touching water anyway, and have been to 5 continents. I’ll hit up Africa next fall.

      I like wildlife, so I’d offer up hiking in the rainforest in Borneo (orangutans!) and a safari in Africa.

      1. Looking for Ideas*

        Fair enough on the continents (apologies – I was mixing the list of wants and favorites and Antarctica is actually the latter!).

        Africa is one I’m still missing, and a safari should definitely be on my must-do list –

    14. V Dubs*

      I know some people try to do all the presidential libraries or the national parks.

      On my list is the Azores Islands and Ireland.

    15. Looking for Ideas*

      Thank you to all who commented – such fantastic new ideas! I’m going to bookmark this in case I lose the notes I’ve been scribbling as the replies came in –

    16. Jen RO*

      I don’t have a bucket list but your thread made me think about what placed I’d like to see and things I’d like to do…
      * Iceland (even since I saw an Amazing Race episode – it looked out of this world)
      * Route 66 and seeing small American towns. I hope this doesn’t sound offensive, but the US is fascinating to me because things seem to become “historical” much sooner than in Europe, and I think it would be really cool to see the culture of a young country after visiting many of the old ones. (Admittedly, this is based on watching American Pickers and watching the guys get excited about junk that my grandma has in her basement.)
      * Grand Canyon and Yellowstone
      * Hawaii
      * Danube Delta (just because it’s ridiculous that I’m 30+ and I’ve never seen one of the major touristic attractions in my own country)
      * Pamukkale in Turkey
      * Newfoundland (I have no idea what there is to see, but I love the traditional music)
      * New York, 46th And 2nd, for the Dark Tower connections

    17. Lily Evans*

      One of mine is seeing the northern lights. I’ve been fascinated by them since I was a kid. I’d also love to go on a whale watch with a relatively high chance of actually seeing a whale. Since you can do both of those things in Iceland, I’m hoping to go there someday.

      Also, I’ve been reading the blog Be My Travel Muse and she had a great post about tips for traveling to Easter Island.

    18. Chickaletta*

      Indonesia. I just spent a month there this summer and absolutely loved it. I’d love to go back and see more places, I only had time to travel through Java, Bali, and a tiny island called Gili Air.

      I don’t have much of a bucket list. The one place I’d really like to see is Socotra, but it’s not possible to travel there now. Someday I hope.

    19. Cam*

      Some more ideas: celebrate Mardi gras in New Orleans, the solstice at Stonehenge, Oktoberfest in Germany. If you have a favorite animal, seeing them in the wild. Or make some food based goals like eating chocolate in Belgium, guinea pig in Peru, wine-tasting in France, high tea in England, etc.

    20. Lindsay J*

      Montreal, for the food. (I’ve been there, but was sick as a dog so didn’t enjoy it. We ate at Subway because I could barely keep anything down.)

      Toronto, specifically for the Harry Potter themed bar and the Monkey Paw bookstore.

      Japan, for cat cafes, maid cafes, and all the other cool stuff.


      Vienna to see the Spanish Riding School Lipizzaners




      Skiing in the Alps

      I want to get a mountain collective pass and go to all of the places they offer skiing at (it’s like 14 places in the US and Canada)


      Brazil, because I worked with some awesome people from there. Same with Romania and that’s one of the reasons for Thailand.

      Turkey because that’s where one of my best friends is from and she tells me all kinds of stories about growing up there.

      And Freetown Christiana in Copenhagen
      Slab City California

      Summer Olympics, specifically fencing

      As for trips I enjoyed, I went to New Orleans over Halloween last year and really enjoyed it. I did a graveyard tour, attended a voodoo seminar, drank in a supposedly haunted bar, and visited a bunch of supposedly haunted historic buildings. It was interesting and really got me into the Halloween spirit.

      1. Snargulfuss*

        I went to Vienna with three friends and for two of them the Spanish Riding School was a top priority. We bought tickets to observe the morning exercises. I’m not sure what my two friends were expecting the horses to do (jumps, flips?) but they were hugely disappointed when the most exciting thing we saw was some fancy prancing. I’m sure what we saw takes tons of traning and maybe the horses do more impressive things during the actual shows, but it was kind of underwhelming (though a memorable experience because of my friends’ disappointment).

    21. Crafty Time Lord*

      Mount Everest is at the top of my travel bucket list. Not to climb it, of course! I just want to stand in base camp and look up.

  4. C Average*

    I am really, really into Halloween. (Or, basically, any event or occasion calling for the wearing of a costume.) In the five years I’ve been married, I’m proud to say I’ve really raised my husband and stepkids’ awareness and enthusiasm around Halloween. We talk all year about what we’re going to be, and we often devise group costumes. (Not like four people in a caterpillar costume, but four people in costumes that go together or are part of a theme. I’d love to do a true group costume some year, even though I don’t think we’re sufficiently coordinated to make it work.)

    This year I’m getting an early start because I’m doing my city’s comic con and need a costume for that. I’m dressing as Joy from “Inside Out.” My family wants to get in on the action, and I’m in the process of creating a Bing Bong costume for my husband. It is going to be amazing.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Ha, when I lived in Santa Cruz, Halloween was the big holiday. It’s not so much here–it’s mostly for kids, except for the haunted houses people go to. I love scary stuff. I love watching old horror films all month long and eating candy and popcorn and going to grown-ass costume parties and GOD WHY DOESN’T ANYONE DO ANYTHING FUN AROUND HERE?????

    2. Emily*

      That sounds like so much fun! I’d love to go all-out on a costume some day, but often find myself busy and stressed and not good enough at the advanced planning to make it work.

    3. Mimmy*

      I’ve always loved Halloween and would do anything to attend an adult Halloween party. However, my husband is not into it, so I don’t see that happening anytime soon :(

    4. Chaordic One*

      I have this friend who has good ideas for costumes, but he picks them based on characters that are just a little too obscure and nobody knows who he is supposed to be. When he was a kid he dressed as Tom Baker Dr. Who and nobody knew who he was supposed to be. The most common guess was Charlie Chaplin.

      Some years later he was invited to a “Dead Celebrity” costume party and he went dressed as Klaus Nomi. Same thing. Some people thought he was Joel Grey from Cabaret or else PeeWee Herman. It sounded like a fun party. The best costume prize was won by a headless Jayne Mansfield.

  5. Prediabetic*

    I’m wondering if anyone has been diagnosed with prediabetes and then successfully reversed it. I had lab work done this week and my glucose is now in the low end of the prediabetes range. I already exercise regularly (running 5 times per week), but apparently it’s not the silver bullet to good health for me. My test results are forcing me to realize I need to further improve my diet and to lose weight (my BMI puts me in the overweight category).

    Any resources and tips to help me do this? I want my next test results to have me back in the healthy range. Thank you.

      1. Prediabetic*

        Good question. I am actually a pretty good sleeper. Regular sleep schedule, typically sleeping 7 to 8 hours per night on average and I wake up feeling rested. But something I’ll be sure to be conscious of (no pun intended) if that changes.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Really good point, there are certain blood sugars that are only made in the body by sleeping. You can’t get these sugars anywhere else.

    1. Overeducated*

      A good friend of mine lost some weight (20 or 30 lbs I think, mainly through diet) and brought down her numbers. I’m not sure if she was diagnosed with prediabetes or told she was “at risk for prediabetes” though.

      That stinks when you are in such good shape from exercise though. Genetics and body chemistry are unfair sometimes (ok, a lot of the time).

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        Same thing with a friend of mine. He was prediabetic (or maybe had one type of diabetes) used a CPAP machine. He did something similar to Whole 30, lost a ton of weight, changed his eating habits and now is off all medication, doesn’t need the CPAP any more.

    2. Searching*

      Have you had any nutritional counseling? If you already exercise regularly, learning how to combine foods can help control the blood sugar spikes. Look for a registered dietitian (RD) who also has a certified diabetes educator (CDE) credential. Many insurance plans will cover this service, but check with your plan to make sure. I’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes as well and for me it’s a bit of a struggle because I’m not as disciplined as I should be about my diet.

    3. Marzipan*

      In my experience, losing weight is much more about diet than it is about exercise. I’d love to be able to exercise and then eat whatever I want, but since what I want is invariably ALL THE CAKE it just doesn’t work. (Not saying exercise isn’t worthwhile, obviously. It just won’t do the whole job.)

      I find My Fitness Pal really helpful – there’s a free app and website with a massive food database, allowing you to track your calorie intake versus your requirements and exercise. You can also track nutrients (eg percentage of carbs/protein/fat, plus other more specific stuff) and set your own targets if you want to balance your diet in a specific way.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          My mother and I just had an argument about this very topic. I was telling her about how I’m closely monitoring my diet, eating tons of fresh fruits and veggies, eating 1,600 calories per day, etc. Of course, being the chief parade pee-er (as in, she always pees on my parade), the first thing she said was, “Well it doesn’t matter how good your diet is if you don’t exercise.” Yes, I know you need BOTH, but right now, diet is something I feel I can control. I have a chronic illness that makes it difficult for me to exercise a lot, but I can count calories and measure my portions. If I have to pick between doing one thing and doing nothing, I think it’s obvious that doing one good thing is better than nothing at all.

          1. TL -*

            Just for losing weight, it’s all about the diet. Exercise can make you a lot healthier in various ways but it doesn’t really do much for your weight.

            Also. Exercise won’t help you if it’s exacerbating an illness/injury you already have!

            1. Amadeo*

              Yup, weight loss is 90% diet, 10% exercise. The exercise is mostly about minimizing loss of muscle mass while you shed fat. There’s not enough cardio you can squeeze into a day to undo a Big Mac meal. You only burn a couple hundred calories or so per 45 minutes of cardio. It’s better to just not eat the Big Mac.

    4. was prediabetic*

      I have struggled with prediabetes for the past six years. My fasting glucose was also in the low end of the range, though according to my most recent blood tests, last year and again just this week, my fasting glucose dropped so that I consider myself to have reversed it. Some things to consider.

      1. Exercise is important. In addition to running, consider adding weight training, even if it’s just body weight exercises like squats and push ups.

      2. Diet is really important, probably more important than exercise. Watch what you eat. I found it was more effective to eat a relatively higher level of healthy fats and reduce processed carbs.

      3. Buy a glucose meter and test your own blood so you can see how certain foods affect YOU. Test first thing in the morning and an hour or two after eating. You might find that certain foods are fine in small amounts and others need to be avoided completely. I use the following guidelines: Fasting-less than 100; one hour after eating-less than 120; two hours after eating-less than 140.

      I think that even if you reverse it, you need to remain vigilant. Consider this an early warning to make some healthy lifestyle changes.

    5. katamia*

      When a relative was diagnosed with prediabetes, his doctor recommended the DASH diet. Not sure if you’re familiar with it, but I thought I’d mention it in case you haven’t heard of it. That relative managed to reverse his numbers for awhile by cutting out carbs almost completely, but he couldn’t stick to it (he’s kind of an all-or-nothing person and not great at finding a happy medium for diet or anything else), so now he’s diabetic and on medication.

      Another relative has diabetes (yeah, I’m probably going to get it eventually because it runs in the family) and always said she felt really good when she followed the South Beach diet.

      Also, certain medical conditions can increase the chances of getting diabetes. I don’t know if you’re female, but if you are, have you been tested for PCOS? That can increase insulin resistance.

    6. TheLazyB*

      My dad started walking a LOT and reversed his prediabetes. However his numbers changed so much that we wonder if they got them wrong initially.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I married into a family of diabetics. The one thing that I saw, after diet and exercise was water intake. I don’t know what the correlation is but every single person in that family refused to drink water. I said what’s up with this. I went on and decided to just watch other people. Same deal, the more diabetics I met the more I noticed either a low water intake or no water intake. I do mean plain water- not tea, coffee, soda etc.
      Interestingly, when I did see a diabetic drinking water, it was with the smallest glass they could find and the glass was not full. “Oh, I am drinking water, see?” hmmm.
      Figure out what water intake level is good for you. I aim to follow this formula but other people have different ideas: Take your body weight and divide by two. That answer is the number of ounces of plain water you should drink per day. Now if you are are no where near that level, work your way up. Don’t do the full amount on the first day or even the first week.
      To help yourself keep track you can get some glass pitchers and measure out the correct amount each morning. Then when you have a drink of water, take from the pitcher. This is a solid way to actually keep track. I’d avoid plastic containers, because that is just me.

      Simple meals with whole foods seems to help also. The body was can have difficulty breaking down a meal with 500 ingredients. I know that sounds outlandish, but when you start reading label and counting all the ingredients in a packaged food, it easier to see that we can eat hundreds of ingredients in one sitting and not even be aware.
      Simpler foods break down better. Chewing your food is also important. I don’t chew well, my teeth and my jaws are wildly misaligned. I have to concentrate in order to chew my food well. My practitioner said I would do well running everything through a food processors before I ate it. Peach. “Pre-chewed food.” Chew well so that the food is starting to break down before it hits your stomach.

      1. Help with Google calendar goals*

        Hmmmm . . . My grandma was diabetic, and she hated to drink plain water. I remember her complaining her head off because her doctor told her to drink plain water and specifically excluded sweet tea as a substitute. And the way she taught me to make sweet tea was with two cups of sugar to a two-quart pitcher. I’m down to 3/4 c of sugar in my own two-quart pitcher of tea, but it’s not from my southern raising, that’s for sure.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Sugar is hygroscopic. It draws water. You would think a thirsty person would want to drink water. I don’ t get it but I see this happening a lot.

          For your home made tea, you might like to consider stevia or agave syrup to sweeten with instead of cane sugar. Stevia is supposed to help with blood sugar levels, from what I have read. I have no clue. I was working with stevia for a while and decided I just needed to stop sweetening things. lol.

          But you are right, I saw the same thing here, an adamant HATRED of water. Amazing.

          1. Tandar*

            Agave isn’t great either, I’m prediabetic and my Dr says stevia is ok in moderation but to consider agave syrup basically no better than cane sugar in terms of how your body reacts. Same with most of the other sweeteners some people will try to say are “healthier” like honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Yeah, I liked agave but I wondered about it. I agree that most sugars may have less of this or that, they are still sugars. Fruit and fruit juices can be used to sweeten things but again, they are still sugars.
              We tried growing our own stevia plants and processing it. That was interesting.

    8. BrownN*

      I’ve been diagnosed as prediabetic and have be participating in a program offered at the YMCA. It’s called the Diabetes Prevention Program and I’ve been finding it helpful.

      Earlier this year, it was decided that this program will also be covered under Medicare because it been quite successful. Here’s some information on it: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/03/23/471583523/hhs-says-diabetes-prevention-program-will-save-medicare-money

      Hope this helps.

      1. Doodlebug*

        I am prediabetic also. The one thing that has really helped my numbers is The Low Carb High Fat diet. http://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb (this link is for info only, not to get you to sign up). This really works! Diabetes runs in my family and I have 1 sister with Type I. After 23&me told me that I had a high percentage of diabetes in my genes and had a 67% chance of being obese – that got my attention! I tried the South Beach diet but found that I really needed some carbs to feel satiated. My A1C (a test that measures your blood glucose over 3 months) has been 5.8 using the LCHF eating method. 5.6 is normal.

        For me exercise is probably only 10% of my weight while eating is 90%. We are all different. Being in menopause does not help a bit!

        I drink tons of water every day. But, I also live in AZ and it’s very dry here.

        1. NacSacJack*

          Anything below 7.0 A1C is considered good. Doctors like to see post-fasting blood sugars at 100, it was 140, then 120.

          Interesting about not drinking enough water. Hmmm.

    9. Saturnia*

      My mom had stress induced diabetes 2 and managed to reverse it. I’m not sure if this applies to you, but it may be worth getting an intensive blood panel done to check ALL hormone levels since one out of balance has major impacts on the others, and over time can lead to serious health biz. For my mom, she did start running and managed her diet very carefully to avoid “quick carbs” but also took adrenal hormone supplements.

      If you do get blood work done, review the results with a holistic health care practitioner, someone who will look at actual numbers and not just “is it in the normal range”. Being at the far end of “normal range” is awfully close to being out of whack.

    10. Belle diVedremo*

      My experience has been that sequencing when I eat what makes a huge difference. Starting my day with protein and veggies/fruit makes the rest of my day much more comfortable.. Getting my body chemistry launched that way reduces my interest in and desire for high carbs and sugars throughout the rest of the day, and when I do indulge those things don’t rattle my blood sugar anywhere near as much. It was amazing to see how much that reduced my hunger and craving for carbs/sugars. When I eat carbs/sugars for breakfast, I have to work much harder to keep on an even keel the rest of the day. I do still eat most anything I want, but it has to be *after* protein and greens. I hardly ever hear anyone else talk about sequencing food as a management technique, but it makes a huge difference to me.

      Good luck.

        1. Belle di Vedremo*

          Sure. I have a high need for animal protein and eat a lot of meat: Burgers. Eggs. Curry (that one took getting used to), with chicken or beef rather than veggie. Spinach and other greens. Salad with chicken or eggs. Pot roast. Swapping breakfast and dinner is the basic premise, and if animal protein isn’t on offer I go for veggies over carbs. For breakfast, no pancakes without eggs. For dinner, pancakes are just fine. When just carbs are on offer, I look for oatmeal and amp that up with nuts, and pay more attention the rest of the day. I got there by paying attention to how I felt after eating different things, and noticing things like a donut didn’t hit as hard after a burger as it did before one. My system doesn’t recognize things like soy or beans+rice as protein, if yours does you will have more options in that regard.
          Hope the experiments are helpful.

    11. NacSacJack*

      As everyone has already said, diet is a big factor. Reading this I didn’t realize how far off I am. Keep in mind though you may be predisposed to being a diabetic and might not be able to prevent it. You may have a pancreas that isn’t the right size or wasn’t built to last. What you do today kicks the can further down the road. The goal is to kick it past the endpoint.

      PS To all those with diet suggestions, thank you.

  6. Hlarz*

    Does anyone have reasonable advice on saving money? Many of the articles I’ve found seem to assume their readers have many times my income, and the advice isn’t applicable to someone living on $2,000/month. I’m not dropping $4.50 on a fancy latte five times a week, I’m not getting expensive (or any) haircuts…and really, no judgment if you are–I probably would, if I could afford it! :)

    So, yeah–what money-saving trick worked for you?

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Every time I get a 2 Euro coin in my change, I save it. It soon adds up. The other thing I do I have a direct debit into a savings account, which is made when I get paid each month, so I don’t feel as if I am missing money.

      1. Hlarz*

        Dollar coins haven’t really taken off, so saving change takes a long time to be worthwhile, but I still do it. :)

      2. TootsNYC*

        I read of someone who did this with $5 bills in the U.S.
        They don’t come up as often as some other denominations, and it’s not as big a hit each time it happens. But it happens.

    2. RR*

      Rent: I’ve founding sharing living space a good way to save on rent. Best if you can find roommates who are similarly motivated to save. Truthfully, I love to live alone, but living with others for several years is why I can afford to.
      Food: cook your own as much as possible. For years my mantra was “beans are cheap and a good source of protein.” Cooking dried beans takes some time (plus the need soak first), but then you’ve got the base for several meals for very little money.

      1. Hlarz*

        Good point about frugal roommates–I know I pick up the habits of people I spend time with, good and bad. Hadn’t considered it re: spending though. Something to keep an eye on! Thanks!

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        I think rent is a huge thing. $2000/month doesn’t mean anything to me. That could be a lot or a little, depending on where you live and what you’re paying for rent. If you’re paying $500 in rent, $2000/month can save you quite a lot of money. If you’re paying $1200 in rent… not so much, no matter how many corners you cut in other ways. That’s the problem my spouse and I are facing (we live in San Francisco). We make a decent amount of money for other parts of America, but SF (either in rent or mortgage) just kills your income for housing.

    3. Graciosa*

      For me, the key was always thinking in percentages. I started out making *very* little money, and just allocated by percentage for everything. I was lucky enough not to have to get an apartment on my own initially (I would absolutely have had to rent a room somewhere if I couldn’t share) so I could keep my housing costs under the recommended portion of my budget at the time.

      Whenever I got a raise of any kind, I sent half of it away to some sort of savings (whether it was cash savings in a different account – I spend my checking – or a retirement account or other investment). Keeping the other half let me feel as if I was making some sort of progress in my standard of living.

      It was very, very slow, and I had to remind myself frequently that I had survived on [Whatever] before my raise, and I could survive on [Whatever + 1/2 raise]. It has paid off over time – time is definitely your friend here – but it feels like you’re not making much progress with either your savings or your standard of living for a long time.

      You might also think about Dave Ramsey’s approach for some things. He has a free budgeting app that lets you track and assign a task for every dollar in your budget. I like some of his ideas for getting out of debt (the “Baby Steps” and debt snowball concepts). I tend to ignore some other aspects of his program (including the religious ones when I’m thinking money). You could see if anything resonates with you.

      If you track *everything* you spend, you may be able to find your own ideas about where you can cut – or how to increase your income, which is also an option.

      I think the only real clear trick was the “saving half your raise” one (and it can be quite a while between raises!), but perhaps thinking about it differently (either percentages or detailed and diligent tracking) may give you some other ideas.

      Good luck.

      1. Hlarz*

        I actually got a raise this year! Piddly, but a raise. Unfortunately, rent went up by twice that amount the very same month–I’m lucky it wasn’t sooner–so, no surplus to squirrel away. Thanks for the name–I do see a lot of religious stuff on his website, but also good info on budgeting, saving, debt management, etc. I’ll do some reading. :)

      2. Shabu Shabu*

        I was going to say something similar. Percentages make life easier.

        I like to do the 50/30/20% rule. All niceties (rent, food, utilities, all needs) should fit in the 50%, 30% goes to wants/do what you want with this money, 20% goes to savings. I auto transfer 20% percent of my take home pay every paycheck, so that part is always covered.

        Obviously, change the percentage as needed, but something should always go to savings! Some people do 30% savings and 20% free money. I might do this over the next year to save more.

    4. Trixie*

      Looking at your budget, what are you expenses?

      When I could afford just the basics, I would:
      -Buy cheaper, filling food; if we ate out, it was monthly, 2 for 1 night at subway. Brown bag lunch.
      -Drive less (bike, walk, carpool, bus) saved money on gas when it was more expensive.
      -Did not use heat in winter unless absolutely necessary (house is horribly inefficient anyway; put up blankets/curtains to block draft; wore more layers)
      -No a/c; went to places that had it including mall, library, etc.
      -Shopped at cheaper grocery stores including Aldi’s
      -spaced out haircuts as far as possible.
      -No shopping to speak of.
      -Movies from library
      -Negotiated internet rates
      -When I could, applied for part-time work.

      1. Hlarz*

        For some reason, going to the mall to snag some free AC made me laugh. :) Oh, and Aldi’s is my main store. I occasionally pick up stuff at the (much closer) Kroger, and started a comparative price list. It’s unbelievable how much more food you can get for $40 at Aldi’s than Kroger–even with a Kroger card.

        1. Trixie*

          It really is, especially with how many groceries are going for the retail effect. Here we have Harris Teeter, Publix, Fresh Market and all so pricey. I also love going to my discount movie theater to enjoy the a/c but I’m assuming even budget movies are out for now. Maybe a bookstore instead of mall, less temptation! I would also go to McDonald’s to work with my laptop, dollar ice tea with free refills.

          1. TL -*

            Oh, speak for yourself! I can wander a mall all day and stay within budget or spend no money at all but if I just look at a bookstore, I spend $30.

    5. Oryx*

      The latte theory as related to personal finances doesn’t really do anyone any good so don’t worry about that. Slate had a great article awhile back called “The Latte is a lie” or something.

      Do you have a budget? That was the first thing that really helped me focus because I saw where all of my money was going and it was very, very eye-opening. I also set up an automatic deposit from my paycheck into my savings account so when the paycheck hits my checking account, that money is already gone and I build the budget around that. I’ve heard some people talk about doing cash / the Envelope Method but that never worked for me.

      1. Hlarz*

        I found it! It made me feel a lot better about my frustration with that idea, thanks!


        I do have a budget, and track my spending on food, gas/car expenses, and electric (the things that fluctuate) pretty closely. The non-negotiables–rent and student loan payments–take up over 60% of my income. I guess I’d better look into whether that’s normal!

        1. Allison Mary*

          Are your student loans from the government (stafford loans)? If you haven’t done so already, it might be worth checking to see if your monthly student loan payment can be lowered to better fit your monthly income.

          My own Stafford loans are going to be due for payments soon, and I know that that’s definitely an option for me. Of course, if the payments are lower, you’d probably end up paying more interest over the whole life of the loan, so I’d only recommend doing this until you can get your income up higher, and then try to pay them off early.

        2. Kerr*

          I’ve seen the 30-35% housing cost recommendation, but I’m making roughly the same amount, and rent is sky-high around here. So my non-negotiable costs are in the same ballpark. :( I don’t think it’s uncommon, especially in HCOL areas and for people just starting out.

          I haven’t been living off this budget long, so I’m eagerly reading this thread! I am/am planning to cook from scratch a lot, and pre-make and freeze things for easy meal prep during the week. Groceries are actually where I feel the most confident (I can totally cook); it’s toiletries, paper goods, and other consumables that concern me. Also Internet, because it’s necessary and even the cheap plans are so expensive. (I tried negotiating; didn’t work. But I did get my own modem/router, so I don’t have to pay that fixed cost every month.)

          Second the recommendation to have some money automatically taken out for savings – even if it’s just a little bit. I have some automatically taken out of my paycheck, which helps me know that something is being saved and I’m not even including it in my calculations.

        3. Lindsay J*

          This article makes me so happy.

          I hate these types of tips. No shit if I were spending $5 a day on coffee I could cut that out and save $35 a week.

          But A. I don’t spend $5 a day on coffee because I don’t have $5 to spend on coffee to begin with. If I did it would be the first thing I cut out. B. That $35 isn’t going to pay my $650 rent, $250 car loan, $50 cell phone bill, $500 student loan bill, $200 car insurance, $150 health insurance, or any of my other essentials. (It does buy me groceries at Aldi, though).

          In some (a lot) of situations something drastic needs to change – either making significantly more money, or changing your life in a significant way like getting a roommate, downsizing your housing, getting rid of your car and taking only public transportation, etc. (And all of those things come with a significant cost as well. When you’re really poor it’s not that easy to up and move – you pay to break your rental contract, you pay to fill out an application for an apartment, you need to put down first and last month’s rent, you need to rent a moving truck, you might need to pay deposits for utilities, etc. Same with selling your car and buying a cheaper one – if you’re upside down in your car loan that’s just not going to work, and if driving a less reliable car is going to make you late for work and get you fired the cost might be much higher in the long run. Public transportation isn’t always an option. Etc.)

    6. Felix*

      Food planning! I had to start making most of my food from scratch for health reasons, but I was shocked at how much my grocery bill dropped.

      I used to spend around $100-120 on groceries a week and now it’s between $60-80. Simple things like roasting my own chicken (instead of buying pre-cooked) and then using the carcass to make stock (so no longer buying pre-made stock).

      Making my own muffins/banana bread/energy bars is shockingly less expensive than pre-made.

      you might already do this, but if not I would suggest looking at your grocery costs and trying out some meal planning!

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        I’m going to second this!

        Having a meal plan not only helps me keep the grocery shopping in check, it also helps me to eat out much less. I got laid off in July and we can make the necessary bills on my husband’s salary. It is a little extra work, but especially if you use the grocery ads to help you determine what kinds of things you want to cook, you can save a ton and eat really good foods.

    7. Overeducated*

      When I was living on $2000 a month, having rent around $500 in a shared apartment is what allowed me to save. I moved to a more expensive city with higher rent and health care costs and now I’m saving less even with the same household income. Having a car also takes a big chunk out of your income, though it’s not optional everywhere. Big expenses can get you big savings, coffees and such can only get you little savings. (But having a social life based on getting together at friends’ places instead of going out really helps with the little savings. Good beer, geeky board games, and brunch or pizza parties are our go to affordable hosting ideas.)

    8. C Average*

      I stopped doing any traveling for other people’s stuff. Given how scarce my vacation time and unallocated income were, I decided I was finished buying plane tickets for things that weren’t my idea. I started declining invitations to weddings, reunions, milestone birthdays, family holiday get-togethers, and anything else necessitating costly travel.

      To my surprise, first off, very few people pushed back on my simple “no, I won’t be able to make it.” And also to my surprise, those who did push back seemed perfectly satisfied when I explained that I’d love to come but it simply wasn’t in my budget. I think there’s this idea–propagated by a million advice columns and etiquette books–that an invitation is the equivalent of a court summons and that people will be Very Angry if you say no. They’re really not.

    9. Nanani*

      Budget hard and stick to it.
      You also have to be realistic – don’t make a budget that requires never eating out if saying no to all invites would seriously hurt your social life, networking, etc.
      So, know yourself, then budget realistically.

      Aside from that…
      Look for free alternatives for entertainment, like getting DVDs from the public library instead of paying for netflix or the like.
      Try keeping your lights and AC off and going to a cool public place when it’s hot.
      Drive less and walk more. Needing to keep your purchases down to a number of bags or total weight you can carry home without a car might help if impulse purchases or over-stocking supplies is a problem.

      It’s hard to make good general advice since 2k/mo can go a wildly differerent distance depending on cost of living where you are and individual factors like family structure and ongoing debt. Maybe look for “starving student” type advice places instead of general interest articles?

      1. HardwoodFloors*

        I have been going to Free museum days. A chance for my SO and I to see how appealing a museum is without spending $15 or $20 each. Some museums are free on certain afternoons/evenings and some offer free on your birthday. This is a cheaper entertainment and also can/might be combined with more walking making it much better than something like dining out.

    10. Aurora Leigh*

      It sounds like you’ve already cut out most of the extras, so look at where you can trim your standard bills. If you can switch to a prepaid cell phone plan (I use Cricket) that could save you a bunch. Can you cut cable all together or switch to a cheaper provider? They always try to sell you the middle speed of internet, but in my area, I have no trouble with the base package. Garage sales and Goodwill are my friends. I have about half your income, but I’m single in a low COL area, so that helps a lot ( my rent is only $400).

    11. Ann Furthermore*

      Some banks have a “rounding” option that will round your debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and automatically put the remainder into savings. So if you purchase something for $5.63, $6 would be pulled from your checking account and 37 cents would go into savings. I’ve never tried it but it seems like a good idea, and if you use your debit card for everything, it would probably add up.

    12. BRR*

      I figure out what I should be able to put away and transfer it from my checking to saving when I get paid. I can’t trust myself to live frugally and stash away what is left over. Also people report great success with taking the money out in cash and putting it in envelopes separated by budget area. Something else I do is use my credit card for the points but pay it off at least once a week so it’s basically a debit card but more protection and better rewards.

    13. Marzipan*

      Something I have done successfully in the past is to set myself a weekly spending limit and just tot everything up towards it. So, I’d allocate myself £100 per week for all day-to-day spending (not counting mortgage, bills etc) and just add everything up as I went along – food, entertainment, clothes, travel, whatever. It was helpful in two ways – firstly, because even if I spent the whole hundred, that would leave me with money left to save at the end of the month; and secondly, because it made me much more aware of what I was spending and therefore I became a bit more thrifty and less likely to reach the £100 mark in the first place. Certain choices became more obviously choices, and less attractive when weighed against their cost.

    14. Allison Mary*

      For a very cheap smartphone data plan (for Android) check out Republic Wireless – you can now bring your own phone to their service, as long as it’s a compatible device. They have a list.

      If you’re a menstruating person, do some heavy research into menstrual cups (to find the size/shape/firmness best suited to your pelvic floor muscles and your cervix height) and/or reusable cloth pads. I say research first, because some of the most common brands of menstrual cups (like the Diva cup) are ill-suited to a low cervix. I love the LENA cup, the Si-Bell cup, and the Super Jennie (I have a low cervix, my pelvic floor muscles aren’t that strong, and I get bad cramping).

      I also make my own shower soap mixture out of a mixture of 1 part Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, 3 parts water, plus a smidge of either vegetable glycerine or sweet almond oil, to make it a little more moisturizing.

      A Merkur long-handled stainless steel safety razor is about $23 on Amazon, will last forever, and the refill blades are crazy cheap – like you can get a pack of 100 blades for $10-$11. Over a few years, this is infinitely cheaper than buying traditional razor blades, though you do have to finesse your technique a bit, with the safety razor.

      My primary cleaning products are white vinegar, baking soda, cheap dish soap, and this magical, cheap stuff called Bon Ami that I learned about when I did a brief stint for an eco-friendly housekeeping company. We do buy paper towels, but I try to use them as a last resort – opting for old cloth dish rags instead.

      I walk and bike everywhere as much as I can. Or take public transit. (I sold my car a few years ago and have been fine without it – but obviously this can be hard to do, depending on the area where you live.)

      I found a blog called the Non-Consumer Advocate, and she is always posting about the different frugal things she does each day, to save money. I’ve found a bunch of inspiration from her.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Also cheap, Android-wise, is Google’s Project Fi, and they refund you for unused data pro-rated. The only catch is that you have to have a Nexus 6, Nexus 5x (very affordable), or Nexus 6p. You also have to be in the U.S. to start (abroad data costs the same).

    15. Gaia*

      I did a few things.

      First, remember that none of these changes have to be forever – they can just be for now.

      I went completely prepaid on my cell. I now pay $40/month with unlimited minutes, texts and data through Verizon. I also stopped upgrading my phone. I’ve had the same phone 3 years and it is just fine. Sure, I want a new one but I also want 6 months of expenses in my savings account.

      I opened an extra bank account and added up my bills (including average electric, etc) and half of that amount goes into that account via direct deposit every paycheck. Because I get paid 26x a year, this leaves me with a little cushion in case of an unexpected bill.

      I got rid of cable. I have Netflix (not optional in my world), I have Amazon Prime and I have Hulu. Those average out to $29 a month versus the $80 a month I paid for cable. I also dropped to the “economy” internet package for $30 a month vs $50.

      I stopped eating out. No fast food, very few restaurant meals. I also stopped buying soda – all told this probably saves me about $100 a month.

      I walk where I can instead of driving to save on gas and maintenance. This isn’t a lot of places but it adds a bit.

      And finally, I started writing down everything I spend money on. Not necessarily to stop spending money but just to be aware. Any income can include waste. The key is to know what yours is and decide if it is worth cutting it out. Everyone has their own non-negotiables. Yours are fine, whatever they are. But I bet there is a chance for you to adjust somewhere.

    16. AliceBD*

      I use a budget. Specifically, You Need a Budget (YNAB). I don’t love the new version (I started with it 5 years ago when it was desktop software; now it is web-based) but it’s SUPER useful and I love the method. Note: the current version allows you to connect your bank accounts so transactions are automatically pulled in. You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to (I don’t). I know that’s a sticking point for some people, so I like to mention it upfront.

      I would recommend watching one of the demos (live or taped) to see if it looks interesting to you. There are a lot of help materials and also a very active forum if you have questions.

    17. Stachington*

      What worked for me was this:
      1) Make a budget to see where you can save money,
      2) NO BUYING DRINKS when going out. So many of my friends, particularly when we were young, wasted so much money on terrible alcohol when going out. Maybe this won’t apply to you.
      3) Pay off any high-interest debt, if you can.
      4) After determining how much you need per month with a comfortable margin for extras, have the excess amount you don’t need each month automatically transferred into a savings account. I started just having $100 a month going to savings, and increased it as my salary increased. I’d also toss any extra I didn’t spend each month into savings. I amassed a large cushion within a year.

      Good luck!

    18. Mike C.*

      The other advice is great, but are you in a place where you feel like you’re underpaid? Have you thought about cleaning up your resume and seeing if you can get a raise that way?

      If nothing else, it will make all the other advice work that much better.

    19. Dan*

      What do you mean by reasonable? At some point, you will have reasonably cut just about everything you can, and there is just nothing left to cut. To the articles’ point, sometimes you actually need to have more money coming in in order to actually save it.

      Without knowing your budget and your priorities, we can’t tell you “easy” things to save on if you aren’t doing them already.

      One thing that will save you a boat load of money? Never pay for any beverages whatsoever. Always drink tap water. I cut out sodas at restaurants., although do buy juices and seltzer at the grocery store.

    20. Not So NewReader*

      It took me come time to come to terms with what I needed to do here. But now that I am used to it, I kind of like it. I rotate through all my bills and see if there is any way I can reduce each recurring bill.

      Some bills like a mortgage, this is an all or nothing thing, You can either refi or you can’t/choose not to refi. So move on to something else.

      I was able to reduce my oil bill by going on a budget plan because they give a discount to people who pay a regular amount each month. I saved a couple hundred bucks there.

      Health insurance. When they jacked my bill by 2.5 times what I was paying from the previous year, I called and asked WHY. Whooops, they put the wrong code on my account. My health insurance should have been about the same as last year.

      So my car and home owner’s insurance went up. I called my agent. She found a policy that was 55% less than what I was paying. This came to just over $1k per year that she saved me.
      A friend gave me a tip about salt for my water softener. I changed where I bought the salt and reduced that bill by 50% each year.

      You can’t do all the bills at once, it’s not physically possible. So it makes sense to take one bill at a time and see what you can do to reduce it. And it makes even more sense to just continuously be looking for ways to reduce bills because prices do nothing but go up.

      I got my mortgage payment down and oil went to over $4 a gallon. Good thing I was paying less for my mortgage. So I insulated my ceiling and that helped to reduce the oil use. Well, that insulation went in just in time for my crazy health insurance bill. I called on that and got that corrected, then I opened my car/home insurance bill and chased that one down too. Stay sharp and watch what you are being charged.

      A friend said he was too busy to chase smaller savings. I can see where that makes sense for some people’s settings. Determine what level you will intervene at. For example if your car insurance goes up $100 it might not be worth your time to hunt for a new company. So just watch and see if it goes up again next year, then consider switching companies. Pick your battles, but make it a habit to go one bill at a time and say, “Is there something I can do to reduce this bill?”

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        There is a programme on the BBC “Eat well for less” and a spin off “Shop well for less”. I don’t know if there is a US or other version (there are clips on Youtube) but the format is that a family spending well above the national average on groceries, tries supermarket products for a week in blank packaging and does more cooking from scratch.

    21. Jen*

      When I was living on about your income (27k annual, which after taxes ended up meaning about $1900/mo to my bank account each month), I did the following:

      -keep fixed housing costs low. I was young and wanted to live somewhere close to the city, so I got roommates. $600/mo.
      -never ever buy lunch or coffee at work. I got a nice lunch bag and coffee maker and brought my own every day.
      – sign up for my company’s retirement plan. They matched 100% of the first 6% (instantly vested) so I made sure I contributed that. This impacted my ability to save outside retirement but it was worth it to me!
      – limit “going out” – no bars/restaurants etc.
      – BUT I was young and in a city, so this was hard. I ended up taking a second job (babysitting) and told myself anything I earned babysitting was “fun” money. So I generally babysat Friday nights, made $70-100 ($15/Hr) and then used that as my weekend “fun” spending money.
      – no gym membership (I ran, then I got a health plan that reimbursed $150/year of a gym so when I found one that was $10/mo, I did sign up- but it was “free”).
      – continue paying my student loans. Friends of mine scaled back their payments (“income based”) but at an 8.5% interest rate i just sucked it up and made the payments. As I earned more, I threw more at the loans and my 10 year loans were paid off in 6.
      – meal plan and shop sales. I’m not a couponer but planning meals out and making big batches did enable me to save big on groceries.
      -host social events and keep things cheap- eg Potluck BBQ type events, movie nights, BYO beer tasting parties etc.

      I had a car, which I needed. I could have saved more had I not had one.

      I am Female, so when I went out on dates I often didn’t pay (though I offered).

    22. Menacia*

      Money saving tricks are all about doing without or doing it yourself. Write down a list of everything you spend money on, and I mean *everything*. What do you spend money on daily/weekly/monthly/yearly that you could potentially cut out altogether, what could you cut down on, and what could you do yourself that you are currently paying others to do for you? What are your largest expenses? Someone mentioned rent, do you rent by yourself or with others, if you rent by yourself, could you potentially change your situation and cut your rent? Do you drive or take public transport, which is cheaper? Do you cook the majority of your meals and bring your lunch to work? How much do you spend on entertainment, and could you find similar entertainment for free? Finally, have you thought about finding a better paying job? ;)

    23. NDQ*

      Lots of advice here already. This is absolutely my favorite topic. I’ll suggesting reading Mr. Money Mustache, the blog and the forum. Even if you aren’t interested in retiring young, the money saving and lifestyle changing advice is amazing and worth your time. Take what you can use and ignore the rest.

      Question every expense you have. Look at where and how you live, what you eat, what you drive or use for transportation. Eating can cost a chunk, but for example, look at your protein source and see where you can get your protein in a less expensive way. Shop the sales for groceries and cut out the waste. PBJs for lunch are fast and cheap. Rice and beans can be dressed up. Roast a chicken for dinner, then use the leftovers for sandwiches, then boil the carcass for stock. There are creative ways to use everything you can as much as you can. Cut down on products you use, stop shopping, make your meals at home, and so on.

      The key to keeping money is to bank the savings. I opened an investment fund away from my bank (inaccessible) and started with a $25/month auto transfer. As I found ways to cut down bills, even a little, I would call the advisor and add another $5 or $10 (whatever I saved) to the monthly transfer or as a one-time transfer if it was a one-time savings. When I got a tiny cost-of-living increase at work, I would add that amount to the transfer. Tax return, a one-time transfer. After four years, I had enough to buy a multi-family property. Now my renters pay my mortgage and I pay myself rent to the investment account so I can save up for the next property. When I started, I was making very little each month as a funded grad student.

      Good luck. You can do it. It’s a slow process, but it gets fun watching the money grow.

    24. Chickaletta*

      – Don’t go into debt (unless it’s a mortgage). Avoid at all costs students loans and credit card expenses that you can’t pay off every month. What it does it lock you into an expense that you can’t get out of, and if you’re paying interest it’s just money down the drain.

      – #1 piece of advice: Don’t marry someone who has poor money habits. This was my biggest mistake, I have spent the first ten years of my marriage helping my husband pay his credit card and student loan expenses by the tens of thousands of dollars. We have many years to go, and even with counseling, talking, etc, I’ve come to realize that he won’t ever change. We will never qualify for good mortgage rates because of his credit score. He has no idea how to budget, set goals, or save. He spends every dollar of his paycheck and sees no reason to invest, create a retirement fund, or put money into our son’s college account. We will have to live off of the government in our old age, God help us if social security runs out. I will probably die a poor woman if I don’t divorce him, which is something I’m seriously considering at the moment just to save myself and my son. It’s funny, my dad lectured me for years in my 20’s about how to manage money, but he failed to advise me to marry someone who also has good money habits. And if you think that “love” will get you through, well, good luck on that.

      1. MommaCat*

        You may have already tried this, but one thing my mom had to do for my dad was put spendable money in a separate account; she wasn’t so money-savvy herself, but she could have conceivably put money into a separate savings account at the same time. As it was, she just kept enough in the first account to pay all the bills.

        1. Chickaletta*

          And then what did she do when he opened up credit cards without telling her and then forgot to pay them on time?

    25. Wrench Turner*

      Drink tea instead of soda or booze. Cook at home, in large batches, whenever possible. Lots of rice and beans, lots of slow-cooker meals. Potlucks with friends help stretch meals out even more. Look in the clearance section of the grocery store, or the day-old breads and freeze what you don’t eat right away. Only buy thrift store clothes. If you don’t have pets or health concerns, turn off your AC/heat until it’s really the worst of the hot/cold season. Roomates help spread costs if you have the space for it, or move back in with your parents if possible -no shame in this.

    26. AnotherHRPro*

      1) create a budget and figure out were you are spending money today – I like mint dot com to track my spending
      2) it you have credit card debt pay it off as soon as possible as interest is just throwing money away
      3) if your company has a 401k (or equivalent) with any matching funds take advantage of that. If they match the first 3% you contribute do whatever you can to get that free money!
      4) consider using cash more – it can make you more aware of they money you are spending
      5) stop eating out – it is amazing how much money we spend on lunch and dinner by eating out vs packing or eating at home

    27. Snargulfuss*

      Lots of great suggestions here (though I admit I haven’t read all of the comments). I’ve also been really frustrated with these articles that tell me I can save money by not doing a bunch of stuff I’m already not doing. For years I lived in a very high-cost city on a meager salary. Here are a few things that have worked for me:

      – Save up an emergency fund that’s at least as much as your healthcare and auto insurance deductibles. Having a good emergency fund will allow you to choose higher-deductible insurance plans and thus pay less on your monthly premiums.

      – Track all of your expenses so you have an accurate idea of how you spend your money.

      – Create sub-accounts and put savings into those accounts every paycheck. For example, I have sub accounts for my annual auto registration, travel, new car fund, etc. This helps me save up little by little for things instead of having to take a huge chunk out of one paycheck (i.e. annual auto registration). It also helps me spent on fun stuff (i.e. travel) without guilt and without overspending because I know exactly how much I have set aside for that purpose.

      – Allow yourself a set amount of fun money every month. This will allow you to go out to lunch, a movie with friends, buy a new pair of shoes, etc., but it will set limits. I’ve read that trying to exercise self-control all of the time fatigues your ability to actually exercise self-control and can lead to binges, so allow yourself a small amount of money that you can use deliberately .

      – In one of Laura Vanderkam’s books she writes that we too often to focus on saving money instead of trying to find additional ways to earn money. That line of thinking didn’t really work/wasn’t especially appealing to me, but some people might have hobbies they can monetize or might prefer to give up free time in order to take on side jobs and increase income.

  7. Captain Radish*

    Help! I’m trapped at my wife’s family reunion and I don’t relate well to any of them! I am also a massive introvert and would much rather stay at home and play Skyrim all day! What do I do?

    1. Kate in Scotland*

      Is there any job you can do, e.g. preparing or handing round food, mixing drinks etc.? Kids, pets to entertain? (if you like kids/pets). I find all of those things make me look good/involved and are easier than actually interacting :) You have my sympathy!

    2. AcidMeFlux*

      Push yourself a little. Even people who look like they have nothing in common with you can at least be genuinely entertaining. The trick is to ask questions.

    3. C Average*

      Offer to perform any beer runs or errands that need to be done. You’ll seem helpful AND get away from all the people. Also, if you’re in a setting you’ve never visited before, you can go for a walk and explore. Sometimes when I’ve done this, I’ve found that another introvert wanted to come along, and we’ve gone for a walk and bonded in our discomfort and desire to escape.

      1. Captain Radish*

        I ended up being the watchman for the kids at the playground until it was time to go, so I ended up OK. My wife is the black sheep of her family and takes much more after her aunt than her mother (the only two members of the family to go to college, for example). I can hold an intelligent conversation with a handful of them, but relate very little to the others. Don’t get me wrong, I find nothing wrong with them, but I would assume not talk at all to talking about nothing.

    4. Nanani*

      Say hi, chat a little, then find a reason to head home after a reasonable amount of “face time” has elapsed.

    5. Temperance*

      There are few things I hate more than mandatory family obligations. You have my sympathy.

      What I always do is find a super little kid or baby to hang out with. That way, adults don’t think you’re just avoiding awful Aunt Bea’s stories about her bunions, but you’re Helping. Win-win. Plus, kids are always more fun than adults.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I go with the helping thing, too. There’s food then clean up after eating. Maybe something breaks in the course of the day and you can offer to help fix it or help go get a new one, whatever.

    1. C Average*

      Best: Visited my sister for her birthday, and we went to the Brandi Carlile/Old Crow Medicine Show concert and had a GREAT time. She’s had a hell of a year, so it was great to see her healthy and happy.

      Worst: Coming to the realization that I’m probably battling some depression and have been for a while, and trying to figure out where and how to start crawling out of the cave.

        1. C Average*

          Thank you! I think awareness is a good first step, as with anything else. Hugs help, even (actually sometimes especially) anonymous internet hugs.

    2. Trixie*

      Best: I am housesitting for a friend who recently lost her cat and brought mine along for trial stay. If he seems okay, I will leave my Orange Boy here with her for a therapeutic play date. Nothing worse than empty house after losing a pet.
      Worst: Eating too often these days leaves me feeling broke and bloated. New beginning this weekend!

    3. Ruffingit*

      BEST: Having a weekend getaway with my husband for our anniversary. It’s so relaxing and just what we needed.

      WORST: My mother’s attitude is rough to deal with sometimes especially since she lives with us.

    4. Elkay*

      Best: My volunteering commitments for the year are done and my weekends are now (mostly) free
      Worst: I spent the majority of the week with someone who while isn’t nasty is (to me) insufferable. They couldn’t engage in a conversation that wasn’t about them, eating disorders or humble-bragging about something they’d done.

    5. Overeducated*

      Best: went with a friend to an awesome new playground.

      Worst: moving. We have 3 days to finish packing, cleaning, and divest ourselves of stuff and the amount of stuff to do is overwhelming. I’ve also wasted hours on the phone with our health insurance company just to find out they will not cover the medication my kid needs, and I can’t even get a reason. Really trying to keep it together and be patient with my husband who is also under a lot of stress, but there have been tears today.

      1. Oviraptor*

        I would be so stressed with everything you have going on at once. Hang in there! I work in a pharmacy (and can SO relate to your insurance issues). If I may make a suggestion, call your pharmacy and ask them to send Prior Authorization paperwork to your child’s physician. The physician (or their staff) will fill out paperwork to request the insurance company cover the medication. Sometimes the insurance company will deny the request (most commonly because they would prefer to pay for a generic in the same class/category). But, many times the insurance will agree to cover the medication. Typically the Prior Authorization needs to be renewed yearly.

        If for some reason the pharmacy can’t send this paperwork to the physician (I can’t think of a reason why they couldn’t, but you never know) you can call the physicians office and ask them if they could start the Prior Authorization process. The physicians/staff in my area are more than willing to do this. And honestly, it is more common than one would expect.

        Also, this process does take some time. Filling out the pages(!) of paperwork by the doctor, and the review process by the insurance company takes time. It can take a few weeks (but sometimes they surprise us and it only takes a few days).

        Hope this info helps you a bit. It truly is very common (multiple times per day we send these requests).

        Good luck with your to-do list.

        1. Overeducated*

          Thanks. We did get a prior authorization but the company rejected it with no explanation (except “the plan does not cover this,” which was the problem in the first place). There is an appeals process but unfortunately we can’t wait 30 more days, we need the medicine, so we just were stuck spending the money. Our pharmacists were very sympathetic and tried to help, it just didn’t work out! (This is for an increasingly common medication that is actually in the news lately for how expensive it’s getting.)

    6. Blue Anne*

      It’s been a super good week.

      Best of the week is probably walking out on my extremely ridiculous employer. Closely followed by one of the boytoys taking me to my first strip club to celebrate that night. (It was quite an upscale one, I think, and the dancers certainly seemed to like seeing a woman there who was genuinely enthusiastic about their butts. The few ladies in the audience other than myself seemed to be straight and dragged along by partners.)

      Worst… probably sitting in bed not being able to sleep the night before quitting, kicking myself that I had let my manipulative boss draw me into a conversation covering everything from my career dreams to my abusive ex.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        You did it, you got yourself out of there. I am so glad to hear this. Congrats. Forget about the convo. It’s over and the abusive boss is out of your life now. It’s small potatoes compared to the importance of saving your health and your career.

    7. Anonyby*

      Best: Got to snuggle a kitten at work this week! And he decided I was safe and started to snooze in my arms with his head on my chest. <3

      Worst: Wanted to go on a daycation this week, but knees weren't up to it. :(

        1. Anonyby*

          They are! I was wearing a crossover top with a tank underneath for modesty, and he put his head right on the patch of skin left exposed, and both of his front paws stretching up on either side of his head. <3 <3 <3 I asked him if it was because I smelled like cat, but he didn't reply. lol

    8. Gene*

      Best – Costume and presentation were a huge hit! (see below)

      Best – Friend of 30+ years decided at last minute (OK, a week ago) to come to the Con.

      There is no worst.

    9. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Best: Finally, after two years in this town, I got to volunteer at the local community theater! We live a short walk away. I sold concessions and had a lovely time.

      Worst: It’s hot. So, so hot. I have tried to run but I simply can’t do it for more than a minute. Also, my hips remain super sore and I just can’t seem to stand up without discomfort.

    10. Cajun Lady*

      Worst: My house was flooded. Almost all of my parish and the surrounding parishes were under water. I woke up at 3:00 am on my birthday and had to walk with 2 dogs and 2 kids through waist deep sewage water to be rescued. We lost everything. I had to throw 15 years of my life in a pile on the road. I have no flood insurance as we are not in a “flood zone”.

      Best: watching the people of my state come together as one and help each other. I am so proud of Louisiana right now and the generosity of my company who provided me with supplies, clothes, shoes, and services.

      Sorry it was a VERY depressing week.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Do you have any contact info for anyone who would like to make donations for folks in your area?

      2. fposte*

        Wow. I’ve been thinking about Louisiana, as I’m sure have most of us. The losses are heartbreaking, but I’m very glad you’re safe.

      3. Ruffingit*

        No need to apologize Cajun Lady, it has been depressing and hard for you. I live in Texas and have been keeping an eye on the news regarding the floods for you guys. I feel terrible for you and am wondering if you’d mind if I started a Go Fund Me for you. Losing everything and having to start over with two kids and two dogs certainly makes you deserving. If you are OK with it, let me know and we can get the details nailed down.

        1. Cajun Lady*

          I appreciate the thought but it isn’t necessary. My company has been amazing through all of this and has gone above and beyond for my family. Even though this is going to be costly in ways I have yet to imagine, we have a decent savings, have applied for aid, and my company has promised to pay me for all the time off I need (I am an hourly employee that has no vacation time left). Thank you for your thoughts and well wishes.

      4. brightstar*

        I live in EBR, and while I was one of the few lucky ones to not flood, this week has been heartbreaking. Almost everyone I know lost most of what they own, including my family.

        Have you heard from FEMA yet?

        The people who are politicizing this flood make me angry. A lot of things this week have made me angry, though.

        1. Cajun Lady*

          I’m in EBR too! FEMA is coming out today to inspect. This has been such a humbling experience as my family has had to rely solely on the kindness of others for the past week. This whole week has been overwhelming to say the least!

      5. Overeducated*

        I’m so sorry! Glad you and the dogs are safe and wishing you the best in dealing with the loss and upheaval.

      6. Mimmy*

        Happy to hear that you are safe and that your company were helpful to you. I love hearing stories of neighbors helping one another during such events. It reminds that there is still good in this world.

    11. Jen RO*

      Best: Went out with friends, had a chance to catch up, and wasn’t too hungover the next day.
      Second best: One of the friends (who is also a coworker) had a chat with our boss in preparation of her return from maternity leave, and his plans for both her and me sound really really good. He basically wants to promote her and move me to an expert role rather than a team lead role, which would mean less stress and more doing the work I like. I can’t wait!

      Worst: Just thinking about my workload for the following month gives me anxiety. I am also going on holiday soon, and right now I can’t think of the fun I will have, but of the ton of stuff I will have to do when I am back.

    12. Victoria, Please*

      Best: my husband’s best friend’s son for married and it was so great to see my husband with his BFFs.

      Worst: I was told to dress “maximum!” So I wore a cocktail dress, brutal heels, and *spanx* for an event in a public park with picnic tables. …cultural disconnect meets geekly inability to understand social norms. Owwww my feet.

    13. lfi*

      best: got to take a nap today. started a new book. mani pedi.
      worst: monthly time seems to be here so we’ve struck out third month in a row trying to get pregnant. le sigh.

    1. Camellia*

      40+ years ago. Evening, with a full moon. Outdoor amphitheater surrounded by tall trees. Mikhail Baryshnikov.

    2. C Average*

      Game four of a four-game sweep, Mariners versus Rangers, sometime back in the ’90s when Junior, A-Rod, Edgar, the Big Unit, and all the other greats were playing. I was with my dad, my sister, and two kids who were good friends of our family. We had stolen my mom’s whisk broom (sweep, get it?) and wound up flinging it onto the floor of the Kingdome with all the other brooms. The drive home was about five hours and none of us slept. We were still too excited.

    3. QualityControlFreak*

      This is long, but I can’t resist. It was a private LARP on our property, the back of which is crossed by a small stream and surrounding wetland area. I was playing the daughter of the Boggyman, newly wed to the human Baron of the land to cement an alliance. The Bog people are shapeshifters, so I was able to assume human form. However, I had impulsively used a spell on my new husband to change him into one of my own race, and he had gone native. The barony was in uproar, and my father ordered me to hunt down my spouse and get him back into his human form. Until I completed my task I was to remain in human form myself.

      That’s the background. The Magic Moment took place in the woods at night, in a ruined graveyard lit by lanterns. I had engaged a group to assist me and their leader was digging in an old grave to retrieve a scroll. He was about elbow deep when the woods to the right came alive, loomed over him and asked, “What’re you doin?” I was standing outside the pool of light, watching. The captain straightened up, reeling away from my brother boggy who was honestly just curious. Then the forest on the other side stepped forward and inquired, “Why’re you doin that?” He half-turned, looked straight at me and snarled, “Get them out of here!” It was just … perfect. I was the GM, but I had no idea my NPCs (Non-Player Characters) were hiding there. Magic!

        1. QualityControlFreak*

          The magic, for me, was watching the story in my head come alive right in front of me. I have wonderfully creative friends. One of them actually did write a book about one of our LARPs!

    4. Elizabeth West*

      30 September 2014
      Place: Tintern Abbey in the Wye Valley near Chepstow, Wales
      Time: Around midday
      Weather: Warm, dry, clear
      Activity: Eating lunch inside the presbytery completely alone and looking at this. https://aelizabethwest.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/in-the-presbertery-tintern-abbey.jpg?w=792&h=392

      Even though I was by myself, for that moment, I didn’t mind. And for the rest of my life, I’ll remember it every time I bite into a Welsh cake. :) More pics and the rest of that day here. https://aelizabethwest.com/2014/10/01/wales-tintern-abbey-and-the-national-museum-in-cardiff/

      Oh, and a visit to the abbey was also a bucket list thing. Thank you, William Blake.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      One moment that has stayed with me was a moment on a hill top about an hour north of me.

      It was my uncle’s property. He had the sweetest water I have ever tasted. I could drink that water in lieu of a meal it was that good. That water always cleared up my skin. My father and I hiked up a hill because we thought some one was cutting trees on my uncle’s property. After much ado, we found no problems. We stood at the top of the hill for a minute to rest and this sense of peace and wholeness came over me. I cannot explain it except to say, it was like I found parts of myself that I had been looking for. For some reason, I came down that hill a stronger person than I was when I went up it. I celebrated with a glass of that fabulous water.

      Sometimes things happen in life that are meant for just one person to appreciate. This is one of the moments because I cannot describe in words what came over me. But it was a very powerful moment for me. Then I wondered if there was just a lack of oxygen at that level. ha!

    6. fposte*

      My most magical recent one was a day of remembrance for a woman who had run the summer camp that kept me sane as a kid; standing on the hill, shaded by pines, looking out on a sparkling blue lake that was every bit as beautiful as I remembered and that I had been fortunate to see every day for years of summer, in the company of 50 years of women sharing that same experience.

    7. Jen RO*

      It’s going to sound cheesy, but a Bon Jovi concert. 20 years ago, when I was listening to their music, I could not even imagine actual famous groups coming to Romania, let alone my favorite one. I saw them live in Vienna in 2008, but 2011 in Bucharest was just… wow. Seeing them on my “home turf” during a greatest hits tour with all the classics, and ending with a relatively unknown song like These Days off my favorite album – I don’t tend to get emotional at concerts, but I almost cried.

      Second, street artists in various places – Sighisoara (Romania) during the medieval fest, Vienna next to the Stephansdom, Munich at night close to the town hall, London in Covent Garden, an ancient amphitheater somewhere in Turkey. I don’t know why I like them so much, but I could watch for hours. It’s probably a combination of being on holiday and the fact that this kind of entertainment is not common around here.

      1. Mimmy*

        Not cheesy at all! I actually find attending concerts of my favorite artists magical as well. Everyone else was picking nature-oriented “moments”, so that’s why I went that route, lol.

  8. Confused Publisher*

    A couple of weeks ago, I posted here about losing my grandmother and not feeling supported by my in-laws. I was very very grateful for all the support and wonderful advice for coping and carrying on that I received here.

    I’m doing okay, taking each day as it comes, but today my hard-earned equanimity was shattered by something that upset me much more than it should have done. Going through old paperwork ahead of a move, I found my husband’s medical paperwork, including his diagnosis of stage 2a non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I didn’t know him when he went through this (we met shortly after he was given the all-clear) and I also found the consultant’s letter giving him the all-clear, but I found myself tearing up and I’m still sad. I guess it’s because I’m still grieving my loss?

    Has anyone ever found themselves reacting like this? How did you cope?

    1. Hlarz*

      After a serious loss, or even just a long spell of hard times, I’ve found myself in tears over small things–maybe I spilled something, or couldn’t find something I was looking for, maybe someone was unkind, or even kind. Not sure I have any great coping advice, just to be patient with yourself and not get mad at yourself for taking longer to grieve than you wanted or expected. Good luck.

      1. TheLazyB*

        I put my DH’s phone through the washing machine (never checked his pockets) a few months after having a miscarriage. I sobbed and sobbed like I’d murdered the phone. So, yeah. Nothing to do but get through it I guess :(

        I remember your post Confused Publisher. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    2. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      I’ve found that lots of times after recovering from something difficult emotionally, I’m somewhat “fragile” afterwards, emotionally. Think of it as your emotions being a ceramic vase or piece of art–when it’s broken it can be repaired, but the glue will take some time to cure and be as solid as it was before. The vase can fall apart much more easily before the glue is dried and cured–it’s more fragile and delicate. Just like smaller things that you’d normally take on with equanimity can be far more upsetting than normal.

      Your emotions will need some time to recalibrate. Don’t stress about things being more upsetting than normal–and not just sadness, lots of times all kinds of emotions will be closer to the surface. Fear, anger, jealousy, all kinds of negative emotions can bubble up when normally you’d be able to wave it off easily. Grief is a crazy thing that affects all facets of your life, and sometimes it rises up in weird and unexpected ways.

      I’m sorry for your loss. Be easy on yourself.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        after recovering from something difficult emotionally, I’m somewhat “fragile” afterwards, emotionally.

        Yup. Grief is a process and you can’t get over it, you have to get through it. It’s not a switch you can flip off or on. You may find it helpful to have a day where you just let yourself bawl your eyes out, especially if you’ve been trying hard to stiff upper lip it and be the rock. It took years that death scenes on TV or in movies would start me crying but now I can watch one without getting all weepy about it.

        Kind of along the broken vase/glue metaphor above, there is a Japanese art form called kintsugi where broken pottery is repaired highlighting the seams in gold or silver. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kintsugi In a way, I like that better because it acknowledges the broken places and kind of celebrates them. We all have scars. Some of them are from bad things, and some of them are from ones we’ve lost. You are who you are because of all your experiences, not just the best or happy ones. It’s perfectly normal to mourn the loss of love and when you’re mourning something to be affected by other things more than you might ordinarily. It must have been a terrible time for your husband to go through that. If things hadn’t worked out for him, you never would have met him. Of course you feel sad that you weren’t there for him at a point in his life when he needed you (even if you hadn’t met yet). With the knowledge that you’ve lost someone important, of course the knowledge that you could lose other important people is going to sting. Most of the time, we don’t think about these things and just go about living our lives because if you had to think about how we’re all mortal all the time, we’d spend all our lives worrying about our deaths and that’s not living.

        1. Confused Publisher*

          That is a really interesting concept, and in a way, rather comforting too. Thank you for introducing us all to it.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      For the lack of a better word, I call this “chaining”. Chaining happens in times of grief and it is where our minds/hearts LINK together seemingly unrelated things.

      For example, a person losses their job. It’s entirely possible that they could find themselves thinking about all kinds of stuff and in tears or near tears. Stuff such as a test they failed in fifth grade, or the cutie that said NO when the person asked them for a date. And so on, in this example here, the person is chaining together other “failures” in life. Whether these are “true failures” or not does not matter for the person who is grieving a lost job. S/he is chaining together all the events in life where they came up short somehow.

      In your case, it could be(I have no way to know for certain) that you are finding common threads regarding the vulnerability of human life. Anyone of us can go at any time.

      Interestingly. I remember a conversation here where we all talked about how would we know if a regular poster passed away? We more or less resolved it by promising to send someone to tell the group. For whatever reason that conversation came up because of… the vulnerability of a human life.

      Nothing like a loss to really drive home the point that any one of us can go at any time. I think it causes most people to pause. Our spouses/SOs are the center of our universes and thinking about the fact that they are vulnerable, too, is mind-bending. It can really rock us, especially if we have just lost a key family member.

      So what is going well here? You cried. That is the most perfect response. Cry. The hair trigger on your tear ducts will fade, it will take time, but you will get back your resilience.
      In a bit, you won’t find yourself in tears at unexpected times so much. And the way to get your resilience back is to cry whenever you need to cry. Tears allow us to rebuild ourselves.

      For coping, use affirmations. “I am grieving the loss of my grandparent so it just makes sense that I would grieve my husband’s loss of his health, too.” And tell yourself that it is okay to cry, this will help validate your own emotions. It’s a way of showing respect towards yourself.

      Another good coping tool is talking it out with people. Remember being a kid and there were monsters under the bed or in the closet? The best thing that could happen would be to shine light under the bed or in the closet, right? Same deal here, drag the stuff out into the light of day and look at it with others. Guess what? You just did that step also, just now.

      “But,but, but…” Yeah, I know. You are doing this stuff and not feeling an appreciable difference. That is because it takes time. Keep doing it, don’t stop doing it. Are you able to take walks a few times a week? That would help also. Again, if you can get out and walk, keep doing it.

      It’s tough, tough stuff, I know that first hand. It led me to the question, how do I cushion myself in times of grief in the future? I am sure I will see many more sad losses.

      Again, very simple ideas:

      Deliberately stop and appreciate someone around you every day. So like a really appropriate thing would be for you to tell your hubby how much you appreciate him in your life. That would help to balance the sadness you felt earlier, too. But you can continue on with this exercise, hug your dog/cat. If you have a good boss/cohort tell them you appreciate working with them. Take an extra moment each day to really appreciate/enjoy what you do have. This does help to balance the sadness.

      Another thing that I did, I bit the bullet and decided to learn about the grieving process. What does it look like, what is normal, how long does it take and so on. I googled and I read books. Knowledge is power. Grief gives us very strong feelings of having NO power. Having knowledge can give us back some power in times of grief. It does not cure our grief, but it can pull us through it.

      One more exercise. Help someone, even if it is just holding a door for a stranger. Find someone to help. Now, I remember you saying that you had family around you who do not appreciate you. So please be sure to understand here, that I don’t mean THEM. Find appreciative people and give them a helping hand or two. This goes back to taking back your power. In times of loss our power is stripped from us. When we turn around and help someone with their problem, our power starts to return to us.

      Story. My father had nothing left, the medical bills took it all and the disease took my mother. His world was turned upside down, he was in a state of shell-shock, it rattled him to his very core. So he went down the street and helped a couple. The wife was taking care of her dying husband. He would sit with the husband and read the Sunday comics to him. That would free up the wife to go take a nap or go outside or whatever. In that simple gesture, he started to restore parts of himself that he thought he had lost. He brought back his own power.

      1. Confused Publisher*

        How did you get so wise? Every time I post about something that I don’t understand or am working through, you manage to articulate just what I couldn’t, and put your finger right on the nub of it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Sometime it will be your turn to pay it forward. You will gather up things you have read, add your own stuff to the mix and you will find yourself talking with a crying person. And because of what you see here with your own setting, you will have an idea of things to say and you will also know how important it is to say those things. Life is a circle sometimes. Sometimes we give and sometimes we receive. I have been most fortunate to be surrounded by people who showed me these things, so now I can complete my circle by showing someone else.

        2. Dynamic Beige*

          One of the things I’ve been thinking about recently is that we are born as a blank slate. This is not a new idea, but what does that really mean, to be born blank? I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know what “angry” or “happy” meant, but I did. I had those feelings, but I didn’t know their names/what we call them or how to identify them. I can remember a time before I knew what loss was and I can remember how difficult it was navigating that for the first time. And so it is with you.

          When you go through something the first time, you think your experience is unique, and it is to you. But the older you get and the more experiences you go through, the more you see that people go through similar things. You see how they deal with them (or don’t) and you learn. One day, you may know someone who is losing their grandparent and doesn’t know how to cope with it. Sharing your experience will help them understand that what they’re feeling is completely normal and they will think that you are wise. Which you will be because you will have gained knowledge through experience. The next time you lose someone (because unfortunately, there will be a next time unless you are very unlucky), you won’t be so embarrassed or weirded out when you dissolve into tears over something that seems random and unconnected. You’ll understand that that’s what happens when your emotions are raw and you’ll be understanding to those who behave similarly.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              You will. We can see that already. This is because you think with your heart and your mind. And you are really soaking up what you are reading here. It will stay with you the same way you remember to cook dinner or put the car in park. It’s another piece of information that you found necessary and useful. When you do decide to help comfort someone it will just flow for you.

  9. GOG11*

    I’m really torn up over something and I’d love some advice.

    I’ve been having quite a few health problems lately and decided to see a therapist to help me manage the resulting anxiety and cope with the new symptoms/limitations. I’ve been seeing current therapist weekly/biweekly since mid-June. At the latest appointment, it became evident that she and I hold some very different beliefs regarding certain medical things (think evidence-based medicine vs. idk what to even call it). At the last appointment, she focused a lot on my diet and medications, but didn’t offer any specific concerns just blanket statements/beliefs similar to things like eating non-organic food is bad, being reliant on medications is bad, diseases are a modern thing resulting from chemicals (except everything is made of chemicals…?) and toxins. I can’t remember the exact wording, but she has expressed other, lower-key anti-medicine sentiments in previous appointments.

    In short, the focus was entirely on things I only feel comfortable adjusting with the guidance of a dietician or my GP and the specialists I see – not someone who does not have a medical degree or any specialized knowledge in these areas. I would prefer to focus on developing coping mechanisms and strategies to deal with the challenges presented by this yet-to-be-diagnosed illness.

    I don’t care that she personally believes these things. I am not religious and would have no problem with a religious therapist, but I see this as something similar to telling me to rely on faith that I don’t have to help me cope rather than helping me develop strategies that are compatible with my beliefs/wishes.

    Should I find a new therapist? I assumed she would help me cope with symptoms and develop relaxation strategies (which she has done some of), but maybe I need to be clearer that that’s what I’m seeking. I do include a quick run-down of medical updates at the beginning of the apointments, so maybe I should stop doing that (though I do it because my medical issues provide the context for the problems I’m experiencing). I’ve seen various therapists off and on throughout the past 10 years but have yet to find one who is great, so I am reluctant to start over yet again if I don’t have to.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I’m a therapist and I would urge you to find a new one immediately! She is not doing the job she should be doing and frankly, could be verging toward malpractice because she does not have an MD, is not your doctor, and should not be offering you solutions (well founded or not). Please find someone else. There are therapists out there who will listen to your concerns and help you with what you came for, not offer you advice. Therapy is not supposed to be about advice, especially around issues the therapist is not licensed in.

        1. GOG11*

          Thank you. She doesn’t say “you should try diet X” or “you should stop taking so many medications” but it’s more of “have you tried diet X? If babies were brought up being fed the right foods they wouldn’t develop Y types of illness” and “don’t you think symptom A is caused by the medications you’re on” even though I’ve said symptom A is a hallmark symptom of the condition I was diagnosed with. I said I planned to see a dietician once I know what illness I have and that I plan to map out my symptoms and the timeline of medications and take it to my doctor’s appointment in a couple of days. At that point, I expected her to react as though I would be working with the appropriate medical professionals to address those things and instead she kept playing devil’s advocate about food and meds.

          Do you have any tips for finding the right fit, or do I just need to keep going and trying people out?

          1. Ruffingit*

            Look for someone who has a lot of experience in dealing with chronic or major medical illnesses. There are therapists who do that. Also, ask to interview them over the phone or have a “get to know you” session so you can assess fit. If they refuse to do so, then you know to keep on looking.

            Although your therapist isn’t telling you exactly what to do with your medical illness, her implication is that you should stop taking medications and you wouldn’t have symptom A or whatever. That is so, so dangerous because there could be people out there who listen to her, stop taking the med and then have horrible outcomes. I am disturbed that she would be giving you her thoughts on what is causing illnesses, etc. It’s not her wheelhouse. She can feel any way she wants to, but it’s not her job to share her personal feelings on topics with you.

            1. GOG11*

              Thank you so, so much. I found her through my company’s EAP and was focused more on the anxiety aspect than the chronic illness aspect, so I will look for that if I choose to see someone else.

              “That is so, so dangerous because there could be people out there who listen to her, stop taking the med and then have horrible outcomes. I am disturbed that she would be giving you her thoughts on what is causing illnesses, etc. It’s not her wheelhouse. She can feel any way she wants to, but it’s not her job to share her personal feelings on topics with you.” This is so validating. I was having trouble putting why it felt gross to me into words and this is it.

    2. C Average*

      I would look for a new therapist, yeah. I think for therapy to work, you really should have a decent degree of confidence that your therapist is all there and is generally a person of sound judgment, and it sounds like you’re having doubts about that. I also think for therapy to work, you need someone who doesn’t make you feel like you need to censor yourself, and it sounds like you might be inclined to do that in order to avoid these sorts of comments from her.

    3. Library Director*

      Yes, find a new therapist. A good faith based therapist doesn’t operate on pray the problem away. Granted I don’t know if that is what yours has said, but I know too many that do. As a person of faith I find it insulting. Please know there are good ones out there.

      1. GOG11*

        Thank you. I know that many people keep their personal beliefs separate from their professional work. In this case, it wasn’t anything faith-based, but more about her allowing her personal biases to impact the session instead of basing things on my needs (and I sure as heck don’t need to eat turmeric and quit taking my meds, some of which are as important as insulin would be for a diabetic person).

        1. Library Director*

          Oh my. I have friends like that. Your health is too important for that. Turmeric may be great but that’s because of chemistry. It’s not magic. I have a friend who smokes and thinks turmeric is going to prevent health consequences.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I had a faith-based therapist (a former pastor), whom I located through my church, and I found that *I* had to be the one to drag the topic of my faith, and our theology (and how it related to the coping mechanisms I was learning, and my way of framing problems & anxiety), into the conversation!

        So yeah, a good therapist ought to be able to focus more on the therapy they’re providing and less on their own beliefs (whether that’s a traditional faith of some kind, or a worldview that’s not religious).

    4. Loose Seal*

      I had a therapist like that once. She was very into crystals for healing, wearing copper bands, and taking every supplement from the health food store. But at our third appointment I told her I wasn’t looking to get into any alternative “therapies” at present; I wanted to deal with what I had, in more of a CBT sort of way. And you know what? She immediately switched her persona over to CBT-therapist! I was kind of surprised that we got on so well after that but I saw her for the next six years until I moved from the area. Every so often she’d start a session by telling me the new alternative thing she was trying but I’d remind her that I didn’t want to spend money on those things and we’d move right on.

      So, since you don’t want to start looking for a new therapist yet, maybe have one last appointment where you lay it all out and just see. If she isn’t able to give you what you need, then you’ll know you tried and will be able to move on.

      1. GOG11*

        Oh, this is very heartening! I’ve explained a few times that I’m only willing to do evidence-based therapies, but I haven’t been explicit about wanting to stick to CBT (which she has said is the type of therapy she does). This is the first session that’s been dominated by her blaming my medicines and diet (which isn’t bad! I’ve discussed diet with my GP and he’s said I’m doing the things I need to be doing, so it’s not like I’m eating twinkies and cheetos or anything), so there is hope.

        1. Laura (Needs To Change Her Name)*

          I am a CBT therapist and, if you feel more comfortable leaving and finding someone new, you don’t have to wait to see if this approach would work! (Likewise, if you like her and want to see if she can change, that’s also totally cool.) If what you’re doing with her doesn’t feel right or helpful, ask questions and trust your feelings. Plenty of people claim they are doing CBT because it has a good research-based reputation, and some of those people are not doing CBT. E.g., talking about the superiority of eating organic food has nothing to do with the relationship between your thoughts and feelings :P

    5. Blue Anne*

      I would absolutely be looking for a new therapist in that situation. That relationship isn’t one where you want to feel pressured or uncomfortable; everyone has some things on which it is absolutely imperative that their therapist is on the same page with them. (I purposely sought out one who was queer, myself.)

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Whoaaaaah. Nope nope nope nope. Absolutely find a new therapist.

      This should NOT be part of her work with you. In fact, were it me, I would file a complaint about her because what she’s doing is very unethical.

    7. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Some people see results from making health changes like improving their diet, exercise habits and sleep habits. And of course, all these things improve as you get better at managing your anxiety. It’s a positive circle. So it’s not out of line for a therapist to discuss these things with you and even provide advice and resources for improving them. But I think the talk of toxins and chemicals is a little too far.

      If you think this therapist is otherwise a good fit you could simply say no to this advice and keep seeing her about your anxiety. See how that goes and if she’s willing to accept that boundary. Meanwhile do your research and find two or 3 more names as a back-up. Good luck!

      1. going anon here*

        Yes. Eating well (and I firmly believe that our bodies are different so “well” for one person may not be the same as for another) and getting regular exercise and sleep is vital for mental health. But it cannot cure a chemical imbalance. I need to take care of myself in order to function, but I also need meds. Eating organic kale is not going to stave off a panic attack.

        1. GOG11*

          XD Or I could eat organic kale to help put things in perspective and show myself that there are worse things in the world than experiencing a panic attack (really, really not a fan of kale).

          I’ve discussed my diet with my doctor and he said I’m doing everything I can food-wise to keep from exacerbating things, so I really don’t know where it’s coming from (other than a strange belief that food alone can cure everything).

      2. GOG11*

        If the focus were on improving these things, I wouldn’t mind – I’m there to cultivate for specific strategies to improve my well-being. But she doesn’t even really know what my diet is comprised of currently and isn’t familiar with my health conditions (ex., she suggested something that not only doesn’t have any evidence to show it’s effective for healthy individuals but can cause serious pain and irritation for someone with my condition). She was leaning pretty heavily on pseudoscience, and that’s what bothers me.

        I will work to create better boundaries, see how she resonds and go from there.

        1. TootsNYC*

          “She was leaning pretty heavily on pseudoscience, and that’s what bothers me.”

          I’d suggest you bail immediately. I just don’t think it’s worth the time to wait for her to not change. Because she’s not going to change.

          1. Loose Seal*

            I agree with this even though my experience turned out ok. It’s not so much that she is into a particular diet/lifestyle. It’s that she didn’t get to know you where you are starting from before she started in on her plan for you. That’s a really bad sign in a health professional.

            It does sound like you’d like to stay with her at least so you don’t have to go through finding another therapist (I get that. It’s so tiring to find a new person when you’re not at your best health.) but if you are going to one more appointment, really lay it out for her. And if there’s someone you trust in your life who would be willing to take on the burden of calling around to help you find another therapist, that might help too.

    8. Jen RO*

      I would look for a new therapist. I couldn’t trust the judgment of someone who believed in pseudoscience.

    9. Lindsay J*

      Yeah, I don’t think I could continue seeing a therapist that believes in “toxins” etc. My respect for them as a practitioner and an educated person in general would be gone. Even if I brought it up as concerning, and they didn’t speak about it in a session again, knowing that they thought my depression was the result of anything other than a neurochemical issue would make me question their ability to work with me and treat me adequately.

      For a therapist to be anti-medication seems especially dangerous to me. People get bombarded with messages from all over the place that taking medication makes them “defective” in some way and that a healthy diet/exercise/sheer willpower should be enough. They don’t need to be getting that message from their therapist, too, when that medication might be the only reason they feel up to the task of going to the therapist and applying what they learn from them in the first place.

      I’m responding regarding treatment for depression because that’s my frame of reference. It sounds like your illness may be more physically based, but the point still stands. Some people need medication. They don’t need to be told not to take it by anyone other than their trained medical doctor.

  10. louise*

    Spending a week with family 14 hours from home. Husband didn’t come this time. Parents are aging and I’m trying to get back every 3-4 months to see them, but to be honest, once here, my mom kind of drives me crazy. Am older sister does, too. Most trips back remind me why I settled far away. Pretty sure this is common among those of us who are far-flung.

    Any ideas for making the time more intentional? They are an easy day-trip from one of the Great Lakes, so I’ll chauffeur them there tomorrow. They are mostly homebodies, and the budget is nil, so free is our only option.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Maybe ask them about their life experiences. Get them talking about who they were when they were young. That could give you some insights into them and allow them to revisit some happy times.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        There are some people for whom there are no (or very few) “happy times” and you will get “the past is in the past”/”why do you want to bring that up” and other stuff.

        So, if they do that, ask pointed questions. What do you remember best about the farm when you grew up? Or, do you remember going to your first school dance? How much money did you make a week at your first job? Family albums can be of help here in a “who’s that? … I didn’t know I had an Uncle Antoine, what happened to him?” kind of way.

        The key is to try and stay away from things that might be too hot-button. But people love talking about their first car (or a special one) or house or something like that. How your parents met, what their wedding was like, what you were like as a baby.

        I would also suggest that if there’s something special that your Mom likes — such as getting her hair done at the beauty parlour — that she doesn’t do all that often, take her and pay for it. Or something like that. Chiropodist? A lot of old people have trouble taking care of their feet/toenails because it’s hard to get down there. Weed her flower beds, spend some time going through the accumulated stuff for your old childhood things so you can retrieve them before they get tossed (if they haven’t been already). Take them out to a restaurant or for ice cream. See if there’s free music in the park or something low key.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            That is so much easier to do now with smartphones. We never had a home movie camera or video camera and sometimes I kind of wish I had some old movies or recordings to listen to.

    2. Temperance*

      Day trips/activities/board games?

      My husband’s grandparents are the homebody, never go anywhere except church type, and visiting them is … challenging, because they just drone on and on about nothing except religion and Republican politics.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      OMG, you and me both. I feel really bad that I want to stay 24 hours or less when I visit my aging parents, because they’re always asking for me to come back…but when I get there, they don’t want to do much of anything or even talk very much. Unless my dad wants to talk about politics, which makes me want to punch a wall.

      The only advice I have, especially if one of your parents disagrees with you politically and wants to talk about it all the time, is to deflect with anything possible. My dad loves baseball and can go on about it for hours. So as soon as I arrive, I usually ask to put on whatever game is on so that we can talk about that instead of politics.

      But mostly…no advice, just commiseration.

    4. Lady Kelvin*

      Are you me? Middle child with great lakes adjacent budget strict parents who are exhausting. I don’t really have much advice because I’m still trying to figure out how to visit them without going crazy. I am commiserating though :/

    5. Not So NewReader*

      With some of the older people in my family and with the parents I would call a week ahead of time and ask them what they needed help with.

      One time an aunt had a leaky shower head. Because we asked ahead of time we were able to pack a spare shower head we had and some tools. Another time my father wanted help researching something, I had time to call a few places to get an idea how to proceed with finding the info he wanted. In each case, when we got there, we spent time doing that activity they wanted help with.

      Because of tight budgets we would bring some food and take turns cooking stuff with them. This helped to fill up time but it also was a planned activity.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I was going to suggest this sort of thing–a project.

        Sometimes projects cost money (and sometimes it’s way more than you might think!), but stuff like decluttering a closet doesn’t have to.

        And “making food ahead for the freezer” could be an activity as well!

        1. TootsNYC*

          and, someone mentioned weeding the flower garden–yardwork is a great project, because you can almost always find something to do that doesn’t actually cost money.

  11. Amber Rose*

    Martial arts seminar day two (maybe three if you count the unofficial Thursday meetup). Spent an hour trembling uncontrollably and fled the room once in a panic. Teachers really want me to grade. My assumption is I would try and then fail by fainting dead away after 10 seconds.

    Anyways, we spend a lot of off time discussing the problem of falling membership. An idea would be doing like, Martial Arts Expo, where we get a venue and a bunch of groups and have demos and booths and stuff. But the sheer volume of work that would have to go into organizing something like that. Woof! Intimidating.

    1. SusanIvanova*

      Something that’s a lot simpler – we used to do self-defense demos in the local mall. No booths, the mall did the publicity and handled the little stage setup, and we showed off the flashy yet practical stuff. I could still do the purse snatch skit in my sleep :)

  12. Felix*

    Several friends have just gone through break-ups. I really want to support but often over think what I can/should do to help out.

    What would you like your friend to do to support you during a hard time after a break up?

    1. Ruffingit*

      Let them talk. And talk. And talk some more. I found when my friend was going through a breakup recently, she needed someone to listen. Not offering the usual “Oh, he wasn’t good enough for you” or whatever. Sometimes you just need a kind, nonjudgmental ear that is understanding.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        Not offering the usual “Oh, he wasn’t good enough for you” or whatever.

        Because then they get back together with the guy who you said wasn’t good enough for them and that’s what they remember!

        Aside from letting them talk, are there any things that these friends “couldn’t” do while they were with whomever? Chick flicks, day in IKEA/going to garage sales/just hanging out? Do that. Maybe there’s something special that you would like to do — day trip close by, museum, state fair, peach picking and they wouldn’t mind coming along for the ride.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Simply being there is huge. When I’ve had break-ups or just really hard times, the best friends are the ones who say, “I’m coming over” or “You’re coming over here”, with no judgments or expectations. I’m a loner most of the time, but when I’m depressed, I cannot be alone, but I don’t necessarily want to put in the effort of hosting beyond opening a bottle of wine. Of course, there are people who want to be left alone at such times, in which case, a quick text to check in is always good.

    3. Allison Mary*

      I went through a rough breakup about six weeks ago. It still really hurts.

      I want my friends to ask me directly what kind of support is most meaningful to me. But, then again, I’m pretty self-aware and know what I want, so I would be able to answer that question. Not everybody would necessarily be able to identify what support they want.

      One other idea is to ask them what their biggest love languages are – words of affirmation? gift-giving/receiving? quality time? physical touch? acts of service? Then maybe let that guide your brainstorming as to what kind of support to offer – though depending on how close the friendship is, I would still probably ask before I went out and bought something for someone, or tried to physically touch them. Offering to spend time with them, or to come over and cook a meal for them, or just giving verbal affirmations while listening, are all pretty easy to do.

      1. Allison Mary*

        Oh, and also be clear and open about it when you are reaching the point where you can’t continue to give of yourself emotionally without feeling overly drained. Do it with kindness, obviously, but there’s definitely a point where, if your friends are still struggling and wanting support with no end in sight, you’re totally within your rights to suggest that they seek professional help. It’s totally fair to explain that you simply don’t have the emotional reserves to continue on indefinitely the way that they want. Dan Savage talked about this on a recent podcast episode, I believe – it really hit home with me, as I think I can fall into the trap of being the person who wants unending, eternal support from friends, when I’m hurting or struggling with something.

    4. zora.dee*

      call me out of the blue and ask if I want to do something specific. Like: wanna come over and watch a movie? Want to go for a walk?

      I am terrible about hiding when I’m bummed out and thinking that I don’t want to ‘bother’ my friends. But I get better faster when I get out and do things in the world instead of wallowing.

      Also, just acknowledge that breakups suck and feeling crappy sucks. I’ve actually stopped hanging out with certain people who just kept repeating 7,000 times each hour: “oh, you’ll get over it, it’s not that bad. Be positive!” or other platitudes. Sometimes things just feel crappy and it sucks to feel like I’m being talked out of my feelings.

      1. Awkward Interviewee*

        So much yes to your last paragraph. Don’t try to talk me out of being sad that something in my life sucks. Sucky things happen sometimes and it’s ok to be sad. Let me acknowledge the suck, and then maybe help me have some distraction for a bit.

    5. MillersSpring*

      Get me out of the house for something fun, such as seeing a movie, strolling through a nature preserve or going to a street fair. Come to me with a specific plan or idea, to take the onus off me.

    6. Stellaaaaa*

      Don’t tell them they’ll find someone else someday. Some people never do and it’s never helpful to have other people brush that fear aside with such aplomb.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      This idea works in very specific situations. I had a friend who REALLY floundered. He’d start something and not finish and he’d find all kinds of ways to waste the day. So I told him to set a goal in number of hours and work on a particular task. He chose to clean his garage. I thought that was a good choice, straighten things up, new start and all that. So I said, how many hours will you do today? He chose to do three hours. (yeah, he was real rocky.) Well, he did it! He did the three hours. So banking off of his choices, I said, “Okay tomorrow do 4 hours and call me when you are done, tell me what you got done.” And that was it, he was off and running by the third day.

      He just needed a mechanism to make himself move around, cleaning the garage was ideal for him. And he needed to have someone care that he actually did the hours. By the third day he was back to moving around and doing things.
      It did not heal him and I know he will always be sad over that break up. But he was going to go into crisis if he did not start moving around and doing normal life tasks. Fortunately, he wanted help, we can’t help someone who does not want help.
      Sometimes mundane activities can help to get people going on a new track, so I used that fact to gain inroads to help him find inroads to his feelings of being lost.

    8. Jo*

      I think I’m just about to have my first breakup ever and it’s already killing me. I’m not that young (31), just haven’t dated much so this is my first serious relationship. The thing is, it’s not actually that long or that serious and I thought I did a good job not getting to attached. Apparently I did not succeed, judging by how much it hurts.

    9. Felix*

      Thanks everyone! These are all really great suggestions. Ijust called up one friend to invite for a spontaneous afternoon hangout. Turns out they were already booked, but said they were so happy to get my call. :)

    10. AnAppleADay*

      I used to post as “stillhealing” here on AAM.

      During the break up of my marriage and the long, drawn out divorce, the best support I received was from one or two posters here on Ask A Manager.

      They helped me understand I was grieving. It gave me a name for what I was going through. Books on grieving were recommended and helped me tremendously.

      It can be a long process so being there for your friends and allowing them their process without judgment or impatience will really help a lot.

      If they want to do a “letting go” ceremony of some sort and would like witnesses or participants, think about being a part of it. For me “letting go” ceremony always involves burning something so as long as it’s not burning the ex’s house down or something illegal, it could really help to have friends be a part of it.

      One thing I’d steer clear of is ask if they are ready to date again. Please don’t set friends up with someone unless they ask. One of my care providers and a couple friends and co-workers started telling me “there’s someone out there for you” and I needed to start dating/move on/ get back out there, all around eight months after filing for divorce. (Four months before it was final) I don’t know what they were thinking but I was not even close to being ready. That was last August. This August, I’m still not ready for I’m dealing with bankruptcy as a result of the divorce.

      I’ll get back out there if a d when I want to. It may very well be the same for your friends.

  13. Cheryl blossom*

    I’m loving the idea of a trading economy and am interested in trading my skills (communications type work) for personal training. Has any one successfully had a trade exchange? If so, what are your tips for making this successful?

    1. Hellanon*

      Look into time banks – there are several near where I live, but if there aren’t any close to you, tga would be a good model to adopt if you want to start one.

    2. Hellanon*

      Look into time banks – there are several near where I live, but if there aren’t any close to you, that would be a good model to adopt if you want to start one.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Echoing the time banking. I have done some time banking. It could be that you gain your time bank hours by using your skills with person A, and then you do your personal training with person B, who accepts time bank hours.

      A few things:
      One hour of time means one hour. It does not mean an hour and fifteen minutes. Don’t expect to be given bonus minutes, do not give bonus minutes yourself. It dilutes the value of the community when some people give away free time.

      Materials/expenses should be handled separately as a cash transaction. All you are trading is time. Some people may need gas money if they drive to your house.

      Which brings me to my next point, be careful. A time bank member should have references from others. Or maybe you have a friend in common and that friend can vouch for the person.

      Meet with your person before the trade. Look over their setting. Tell them what you are looking for/offering. Make sure that both of you clearly understand what the exchange is.

      With professional services, it has been my preference to pay part in cash. Don’t assume that a professional will take time bank hours as complete payment. They still have overhead costs that have to be paid. If you do find a professional who is willing to do an exchange for ONLY time bank hours, lucky you! ;)

      If you have a good exchange, post it on the time bank site. It’s very nice if you can state specifically why the exchange was good. “I brought my dog to Jane for grooming. My dog tends to be nervous and Jane was amazing in her ability to get my dog to sit calmly.” A nice review like this helps Jane get more offers for exchanges.

      1. Cheryl blossom*

        I just looked up time banking, this is such an interesting system! It doesn’t look like this is something established in my city yet, but I’ll have to do some more searching to make sure. Thanks so much for your really helpful tips!

  14. Loose Seal*

    You guys, I’m entering the cooking competition at the county fair on Monday. I have never done this before so I’m incredibly nervous. It does not help that my mother-in-law (a woman I really like for the most part) told me that my cooking wouldn’t cut it at the fair.

    The Backstory: When we were looking at this year’s fair catalog to see what the judged lots were, my husband recognized the name of last year’s grand cooking winner. He said that she was a friend of his mother’s. So I texted his mother and explained that I wanted to enter the fair and could she connect me with her friend so I could get an idea what to expect. Weirdly, his mother didn’t do that; she came over to our house instead. I had just pulled a jelly roll cake out of the oven when she got there and I offered her a piece even though it was still warm. I figured that she would at least get the flavor profile even if the cake didn’t hold the roll position and the creme came out (because it was not cooled yet). Long story short, she didn’t like it. At all. And proceeded to tell me I needed to really step up my game because no one was going to like a cake that was gluten-free and sugar-free with no fat! Also, she said it needed to be pretty to look at too, a comment I ignored because you can’t ice a hot cake and have it be pretty and if you want a good-looking cake, maybe you should give people warning you are coming over!

    But now I’m really worried that not only will no one like my entries, they will be actively repulsed. (My MIL’s moue of distaste as she took a bite really stuck with me.) But here’s my issue: I’ve been trying to get a recipe website/blog off the ground (at my link if you’re interested). Since I had bariatric surgery last December, I’ve noticed there isn’t a whole lot of internet resources for people who’ve had the surgery but still want to be hands-on in making their food and eat the same things they serve their family and friends. So I challenged myself on my blog to enter the fair with recipes that fit the post-bariatric lifestyle. (Plus, I have Celiac disease so I have the gluten-free stuff to contend with too — not so easy to produce baked goods with no wheat flour.) I didn’t think I’d win, really, at the fair. I just wanted to show that you don’t have to make the kind of cake everyone expects. But the closer I get to the date, the more I’m talking myself out of entering. I really don’t want to look like a fool.

    So, commiseration? Anecdotes of fairs past? You go, girl’s? I’ll take anything at this point. But now I have to go over to my site and write a post about pie.

    1. C Average*

      Do it! The worst that can happen is that you won’t win. And the way the judging works (at least at the fairs I’ve known about) is that the winners are the cream of a really good crop. In other words, if you don’t win, it doesn’t mean you suck; it just means that someone else’s cooking was even better than yours. And there aren’t black ribbons for last place. It’s just the winners and the also-rans.

      I think it’s awesome that you’re finding joy in creating things you like to eat within your new dietary framework.

      And your MIL strikes me, to quote a certain children’s song, as a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce.

    2. Caledonia*

      Good luck!

      People might look at your cake and think ‘not for me’ but then taste it and be amazed! I know I have been when tasting gluten free, sugar free stuff before. Don’t listen to your MIL, do the fair and rock their tastebuds!

    3. Anonyby*

      Don’t let your MIL rain on your parade! If anything, I’m even more impressed by what you do because GF&SF is SO HARD! There is no loser in fairs in my book–everyone who enters is a winner. There’s just a few winners who get more clutter at the end. :)

      Right now my opinion of your MIL is about the same as C Average’s.

    4. Aurora Leigh*

      You go girl! :)

      I haven’t shown at fairs as an adult but it was a staple of my childhood. Some judges at our (rural county) fair were great and some were a little drunk on the power of judging kids cooking . . . I remember one time I naked cookies and the judge told me they had raisins and she didn’t like raisins . . . and rice crispy treats that were heavily criticized for lumps. So don’t get upset if some of the judges turn out to be jerks, that’s on them, not you. Some people get ridiculously drunk on miniscule amounts of power.

    5. Temperance*

      Just remember: your MIL didn’t win the contest, her friend did. She sounds like a negative person.

    6. TL -*

      I guarantee you there will be at least one and probably quite a few people who will appreciate the gluten free! So even if you don’t win, you’ll make a few people’s day.

    7. Emily*

      I think it’s awesome that you’re entering the contest, and wish you the best of luck! Even if you don’t win, you will have put yourself out there, and that’s worth a lot.

      And on a semi-related side note, I am absolutely fascinated by recipe substitutions, perhaps because they help me to understand what the different components of the recipe are doing. I have no dietary restrictions, but I sometimes make vegan or gluten-free stuff just because it is SO COOL to me that you can replace eggs with bean liquid, and etc.

      1. Loose Seal*

        Ooh, put my site in your RSS feed then because I’m going to be doing a series of posts where I talk about the chemistry of each ingredient and how it needs the others as catalysts, etc. I’m fascinated by that too and so thrilled that I can get all sorts of ingredients nowadays to try things just to see what happens. Of course, we even have to eat my failures so I try to space out the “I don’t know if this will work but here goes” sorts of ideas.

    8. Loose Seal*

      Thank you all! Believe me, your words are helping me. I suspect I will be checking back frequently over the weekend so I can stay buoyed up.

      My MIL is generally not like the way she acted that day. Usually, she’s very considerate of others. I’m sure it’s why it stuck with me so hard. I thought it must be really, really bad for her to say so. Or that she really wants her friend to win again this year because if you win the grand prize two years in a row, you are given another prize and are known as a Supreme Queen/King of the Kitchen. I’m not even entering the “…of the Kitchen” competitions because I cannot make all 30 (!!) of the things they judge that person on. It’s just too expensive and time consuming. I am sticking with individual entries so I’m not even really competing with her friend.

      Here’s my fantasy: The judges are working their way down the table, slowly savoring each bite but feeling their belt tightening and their taste buds growing numb. And then, they get to my entry and it’s like a bracing dash of water. They are so amazed at getting something that isn’t so full of fat and sugar that their taste buds begin to sing in hallelujah. They keep coming back to my entry, practically like a palate cleanser, in between sampling the remainder of the dishes. Then, as soon as they get to the end of the line, they in unison reach for the blue ribbon and place it on my now empty plate.

      LOL! Whatever keeps you going, right?

    9. TootsNYC*

      go for it!

      Also–mention the gluten-free thing to the organizers. They really should have a category just for that. And then you can sweep it!

      (Your MIL is a total pill. Ignore her.)

    10. Rahera*

      Do it! I think you’re fantastic for entering a cooking competition however you place :). Show them what you can do!

      That was not desperately helpful of your mother-in-law, to say the least, but as somebody said, ‘don’t let anybody mess with your swing.’ You can do this! :)

    11. SongBird*

      I entered the county fair a lot as a kid and young adult, and one thing to remember is that this is the first of what could be many years of entries. If you don’t do perfectly this time, that’s FINE – there’s always next year and you’ll have learned from things this year.

      Also, as others above have said, the judging isn’t as impartial as one might hope, so don’t let that part bug you. Just keep making your food as well as you can and it’ll be okay.

    12. ginger ale for all*

      You should enter and represent a different point of view for people who need gluten free options. It would be great for the public to see how you can still eat normal, but slightly altered things. Also, I walked with a friend for his very first 5k years ago and we came in dead last. But you know how we thought of it that day? We thought that it was awesome that we beat all the people who did not get up off of their couches to come out and walk with us. So enter and enjoy! You never know how well you will do and if you don’t do well, then at least you stepped up to the plate and swung your bat.

    13. Belle diVedremo*

      How on earth could you look like a fool? Being different is different, not foolish.
      And how will you get your first experience with entries for the fair if you don’t enter?
      DO IT!

  15. Trixie*

    The recent flurry around freshman dorm rooms at Ol Miss had me shaking my head this week. Having not gone to college or lived in dorms, I had no idea they could be so plush. While I appreciate the their “budget shopping,” it still feels so decadent to me and out of touch with my reality. Just a totally different existence.

    1. Overeducated*

      I don’t think that’s normal. At least not in all regions. I lived in dorms and we usually decorated them with just posters and pictures of friends and family. I certainly didn’t coordinate with my roommate!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I spent my freshman year full of rage at my roommate’s insistence on hanging a George Michael poster — on a slant — on our wall. On a slant.

        1. Mimmy*

          Awww Alison, he was a hottie!! ;)

          Thankfully I didn’t have a roommate, save for one miserable semester, because my posters weren’t exactly cool – Debbie Gibson and Michael Bolton **hides**

        2. C Average*

          On a slant. That is amazing.

          I was in a sorority. We spent all summer coordinating our room theme, because we were supposed to. We also spent all summer purchasing matchy-matchy clothing for rush week.

          That was a weird period of my life. I felt like I was temporarily playing the role of some other person. But not a person who hung George Michael posters on a slant, thank God.

      2. Temperance*

        My freshman year roommate decorated with sports posters and DARE posters. She was the worrrst.

          1. Mimmy*

            I forget what it stood for, but I think it was an anti-drug program. It was pretty big when I was in high school.

          2. EmmaLou*

            Drug Abuse Resistance Education. Big in the late 80s and 90s. Quote from Wikipedia: Researchers at Indiana University, commissioned by Indiana school officials in 1992, found that those who completed the D.A.R.E. program subsequently had significantly higher rates of hallucinogenic drug use than those not exposed to the program.
            So. I stopped reading after that. There were other studies mentioned that may have found huge successes. I just thought that line was kind of funny.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        My daughter and her roommate didn’t coordinate, but somehow they ended up fairly coordinated, anyway. I guess they each just got this year’s popular colors, because both their comforters, rugs, and closet curtains are soft aqua and medium-coral colors.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      It’s pretty non-standard, though everything they did can be replicated with cheap stuff. We didn’t do much of that in my dorm. Mostly posters and painting the walls, though some people did bring lots of comforts from home. Made it harder to move their entire setup into the bathroom during prank time. ;)

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I think because it’s matchy and fluffy it looks pricier than it really is. You could do most of that with Bed, Bath, and Beyond, JoAnn Fabrics, and Home Depot.

        I did art posters (a lot of Chagall) and a collection of big square silk scarves I found at a thrift store as fabric hangings. I know I had a rug but recall nothing about it.

    3. Cruciatus*

      It’s not the norm, but I think it looks so decadent because they coordinated their purchases and all that symmetry makes it look more expensive somehow (though I read some of it was handmade). But that’s just their room, not others’. If you look at the wall behind it it’s definitely good ol’ brick, just like my dorm rooms were. But with a bit of coordination you can decorate it to be anything you want. In mine we had a bunk bed, desks built into the wall, a dresser, a closet, and a window. I brought a couch that cost $25 at Salvation Army and we had to bring our own TV (though we were provided with cable and this new thing called internet!). I’m sure we had a couple posters on the wall (my roommate definitely had one of the NSync guy that had the dreads.) But the roommate I had for 3 years and I just weren’t that interested in putting that much effort into a place you only live 9 months. Our room was definitely a mishmash of our own personal likes (not that I’m criticizing the students who did up their dorm–it just wasn’t any sort of priority for us).

      1. Trixie*

        It reads like it’s kind of an unofficial friendly competition for this particular dorm at Mississippi. And plenty of similar looks on Pinterest. I’m thinking more common among southern schools.

        1. TootsNYC*

          My daughter went to Vassar, and they had a “decorate your dorm room” contest.

          People have hobbies–this was theirs. How is it worse than someone else’s?

          And other people have OTHER hobbies, like getting drunk at frat parties. I’d rather have my kid spend energy decorating the dorm room.

          Rolling my eyes at the “you’ll vomit all over it”–believe me, when people put that much energy into decorating their room, they aren’t going to trash it.

    4. Caledonia*

      The area in which I am moving from has two new student buildings with a third being built and a fourth proposed. There are some “luxury apartments/flats” within them before anyone even decorates them. It’s definitely a different existence.

    5. Gaia*

      My town of about 200,000 people has no less than 10 massive “luxury student housing” buildings around town. These have between 50-100 “quad style” apartments (four bedrooms that share living rooms and kitchens). They are insanely expensive (think $8-900 for one of those rooms) and have crazy amenities. Over half of all freshman at the university live in these because the university has very few dorms.

      I hate them. They are jacking up the rent in the rest of town.

    6. Bex*

      The reason those rooms are making headlines is that they are SOOOOO not normal. When I was in the dorms (even at a school where most of the population was pretty affluent) IKEA was considered “fancy” because it was new and not thrifted or hand-me-downs, and plenty of people make furniture from milk crates. My comforter was made by my mom and my prized possession was my minifridge.

    7. Sir Alanna Trebond*

      I don’t understand how they’re allowed to paint their walls??? If I so much as sneezed on my dorm room wall, I would have seen the charge on my tuition bill.

      1. TootsNYC*

        They didn’t paint their walls. The story Alison linked to points out it was the original drab beige. They added lamps, which made the room light look a little more yellow.

        1. TootsNYC*

          At my school, back in the late 1970s, you could go pick up paint in one of six or so colors, and paint the room yourself. At the end of the year, they’d touch it up, and whoever got the room the next year could live with it or repaint it (since it was often the same person, some years it never got painted).

    8. Clever Name*

      The dorm room I lived in at a state school was very Spartan. Cinder block walls. Pipes running along the ceiling (which was handy to “share” cable with your friends in the room next door). Two twin beds, 2 closets, and a built in dresser and a mirror. Heat and a/c were centrally controlled, so you were either roasting or freezing for a week or so in the spring and fall. Generally one roommate brought in a rug to cover the old linoleum floors.

      1. Clever Name*

        I’m also recalling that my roommate freshman year had pink and white and lime green everything. I jokingly called my half of the room The Dark Side. I had a batik blanket in dark green and navy and maroon and my towels were similar colors (those colors were very of the times in the 90s). I’m still friends with my roommate. :)

  16. Elkay*

    Does anyone have any tips on how to get cats to stop scratching wooden tables? We have cardboard scratchers, a cat tree and a free standing post as well as a plug in Feliway scent.

    1. JaneB*

      You can get double-sided strips of sticky stuff (like wide double sided tape, but it’s supposed to peel off furniture safely) which feels icky to the cats’ paws and isn’t too visible on the furniture.

      If your cats are the kind that get bored easily, maybe try cleaning off the legs to get rid of any scents they’ve put there (with one of those more specialised cleaners for cat odors if possible), then make the legs unappealling for a few weeks by wrapping them losely with tinfoil or cheap plastic bags (my current cat loathes the sound and feel of cheap supermarket carrier bags, my sister’s little destructive menace hated tinfoil) and put catnip/feliway on the places you DO want them to scratch, to encourage them to learn a new habit. That might help them redirect…

      Are they scratching the legs, or the top? If they’re not scratching the legs, then maybe a cat tree or post won’t help – my first cat was a pest for wanting to scratch on the tops of things and on carpets near doors, which was solved by getting a couple of heavy duty doormats with a nice rough texture and spraying them with catnip then putting them near the main routes where she wanted to scent mark – she quickly decided that that was perfect for scratching (and it was also easy to move away if I wanted the place to look a bit more mother-level-tidy and less a-cat-and-a-mess-live-here – she never really took to scratching vertically like cats are supposed to. My current cat likes to scratch things vertically, and will use scratching posts, although her favourite thing is the log-basket – I decided I was OK with that, as it’s kind of rustic looking anyway, and it’s much better than the chair-backs she toyed with when she first moved in.

      Good luck! Redirecting cats takes patience… some of the little beggars behave as if you being annoyed is actually positive reinforcement and do things just to be annoying, I’m sure of it!

    2. Dynamic Beige*

      I took paper towels and used packing tape to cover over the areas that were being shredded (essentially just taped them top and bottom). That worked to stop the immediate scratching. I also covered chairs/couches with blankets.

      I bought catnip spray and spritzed it on things they were allowed to scratch. But, it was finding the “right” scratcher that really sealed the deal. Turned out that they preferred ones that were on an angle rather than straight up and down. I sprayed the catnip on, put a treat on the top and got my one cat to jump on it, took her paws and made scratching moves on it and she got the message. From then on, I just tried to make sure that when they scratched something they weren’t supposed to, I intervened. When they scratched things that were OK, I either left them alone or did the whole “good kitty!” thing. They quickly destroyed the first scratcher, so I bought another of the same model and now that one is also… undone. I bought some new rope for them which will hopefully be delivered soon so I can repair them — they loved them that much.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        Ooh! I’ve been contemplating replacing the rope on my cat’s scratching post. Where did you get it, what is it called?

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          I wound up buying it on Amazon. I took a sample around to various stores and couldn’t find it. They have a section specifically for sisal rope https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_1_2_hso_sc_smartcategory_3?rh=n%3A2975247011%2Ck%3Asisal+rope&keywords=sisal+rope&ie=UTF8&qid=1471732116&sr=8-2-acs

          As near as I could figure out from looking at photos and using a ruler, I needed 1/2″ sisal rope. They sell a lot of different sizes and I don’t think that the thinner weights would last very long. Also, I read somewhere on the Internets that you need some good gloves because sisal rope is rough to work with.

          The scratchers I bought are similar to this one

  17. Emily*

    Just posting to say thank you to C Average – I made your nutella- and hazelnut-stuffed challah recipe from several weeks ago, and it is delicious! I was worried that I might mess it up somehow (I am a breadmaking novice), but it came out just fine.

    1. JJtheDoc*

      Ouch, I missed this one! C Average, could you repost the recipe – or the link – please? Pretty please with nutella?

      Thank you!

  18. Awkward Interviewee*

    Does anyone have any experience using those pod-type moving services such as PODS, U Pack, or U Box?

    Assuming my long distance job search is successful at some point (am in the final stage for one possible job… I’m really really hoping they pick me!), I’ll need to move from the midwest to the east coast where fiance currently lives. I have a small one bedroom apartment worth of stuff. Full service movers are really expensive, but I’m not crazy about driving a rented truck through the mountains, especially since we’d have to tow my car or drive it separately. A self-pack, they transport service seems ideal. Does anyone have any experience with which company to pick over the others? (Are there others besides the 3 I listed?) I’ll get quotes and do a price and size comparison once the move becomes an actual reality, but I’m not sure how to judge quality. So I’m wondering what experience people have as far as things like customer service, reliability (did they drop off and pick up the pods on the days promised?), how banged up your stuff got, etc.

    1. TL -*

      I used U box (the ups one) Austin->Boston and really loved it. Super easy. The only thing was I’d go a size up next time.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      I used U-Pack a very long time (like 12 years) ago. It worked great, or at least none of the problems were on their end. (I was moving in with an ex who was seriously lazy — I had all my shiz packed well in advance of when the truck showed up, and he didn’t! So I ended up doing almost all of the work of loading the truck myself, and we ran way over the allotted time. TOTALLY HIS FAULT.)

      That being said, we were moving a small NYC one-bedroom’s worth of furniture. Anything larger, and I’d want to have at least one or two strong friends (whom I would pay with something way better than pizza!) at both ends of the move, to help with furniture and heavy boxes.

    3. Aimee*

      Hey, we moved from CA to MI last October and we used Relocubes. They were fantastic. Every person we dealt with was competent and helpful, and offered advice and tips unsolicited (like the best time to check tracking numbers on the cubes, how much we could go over the weight limit, etc.) You have to make sure your boxes are packed crazy well–make sure everything is very tight in your box, and that everything is very tightly packed in the cube. When stuff moves around, it can slam against things and that’s where you get breakage. One thing to think about–with the cubes especially, a lot of dust falls from the ceiling and edges as it shakes around on the highway, so make sure your boxes are sealed and your furniture is covered.

      We paid just over $2,500 to move 8,000 lbs (yes) 2,200 miles, delivered in five days. The only problems were a couple of scuffs on furniture we did not wrap well enough, and a couple bottles of fancy vinegars dinged each other and cracked.

      The process works thus: you order a number of cubes, you get three days to fill them (though if you order them dropped off on Thurs/Fri, you get the weekend also, so extra days), they pick them up, and then drive them and drop them at your location, where you get another three days to empty them. If you need them stored, they do monthly storage as well. We ordered three cubes, though we only used two, so we only paid for the two. We had them dropped at our house on Thursday, filled them over the weekend, the guy picked them up on Monday, we paid a minimal fee for guaranteed delivery (like $350ish?), and got them in Michigan on Friday. We had clear and fast communication with the company, and you get a tracking number for each cube. You do need two locks to secure each cube. Obviously anything truly valuable should be transported with your person (laptop, jewelry, etc), but we had no problems at all with the rest of our stuff. You also will want rope and bungees to secure stuff at the doors so you don’t have a stuff avalanche when you open them on the other end.

      To give you an idea of space, we moved a two bedroom house. About 220 boxes, about 100 of those were 1 cubic foot each, the rest were slightly bigger, with maybe 10 that were 5 to 10 cubic feet each, and furniture-wise we had a cal king mattress set, a large coffee table, an ikea expedit, a sideboard, two medium sized bookshelves, 10 folding chairs, two folding tables, a loveseat, a futon, a big cat tower, and also a bike.

      We just bought our boxes and bubble wrap and moving paper from Home Depot instead of scrounging around because we are lazy. We got tape on Amazon, and wardrobe boxes from U-Haul. With the cubes, moving supplies, gas, hotels (3 nights for cross country), and food (12 meals for two people plus snacks), we ended up paying right under $4,500 for the total move.

      I recommend them highly. We were very happy with our experience. And let me reiterate: 8,000 pounds of stuff, moved 2,200 miles, in 5 days, for $2,500. With no real breakage or loss.

    4. zora.dee*

      I did PODS, the cost was just about what it would have cost to hire movers/rent truck/drive myself. Maybe $200 more, but I think totally worth it.

      I moved from Portland to SF, so 600+ miles. I would stick with one of the experienced companies bc they know what they’re doing, have reliable equipment, etc. It was nice to have the time to unload on the other end, since I had to send some of my stuff to a storage unit since I didn’t have a permanent place yet. That would have been a much bigger hassle with a moving truck. And it’s up to you to pack your stuff tightly, but nothing moved around in mine. They have pulley systems that move the pods straight up and down to put on the truck, and if it’s packed well, it shoudn’t move in transit. Customer service was also good, they did everything they said, and were easy to coordinate with.

      1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

        +1 for Pods.

        The cost wasn’t that different for a move halfway across the country in terms of PODs vs. moving myself.

        We packed it over several days, tied it all down, and didn’t even fill the thing. We could have easily fit a couch in there (I didn’t bring mine), so it fit a normal sized one bedroom apartment’s worth of stuff. We unpacked it in an hour on the other end. They dropped it off right at the door.

    5. Erin*

      ABF let’s you use a specific length of trailer and was cheaper than a cube for me. They have exceptional customer service all around – I was charged for 6ft when I only used 5 and they corrected it immediately. The only issue is you need to have space for a 26 ft trailer. They also have a pod option if you are comparing rates.

    6. LilyLou*

      I used the U-Pack containers a few months ago for a long distance move. They were great! Buy your own locks and ratcheting straps for tie downs. Delivery and pickup were on time, and if you are lazy and hire movers to load/unload at either end it’s awesome.

    7. Noah*

      I’ve used ABF several times, both their pod and trailer options. Hire help for the day to load/unload. My last move I hired traditional movers and it was a disaster. Never again. From now on I will stick with the pod companies and just get some assistance loading or unloading.

    8. periwinkle*

      We used Door to Door when we moved from DC to Seattle. We had pared down our stuff so that we only needed one 5’x7’x8′ container. I had already moved while my husband was still in DC – D2D dropped off the container at the old place, D2D picked it up when full and drove it to their Seattle-area storage facility, and then my husband hopped in the car for a leisurely drive across the country. (I had already driven one car and later flew back to drive the third car – yeah, I drew the short straw…) When we were ready, D2D dropped off the container at the new place. They can arrange for loading and unloading services but my husband loaded it himself and we hired a local company to unload (3rd floor apartment with no elevator – we were happy to pay for help).

      No problems at all, everything arrived when scheduled. You are responsible for ensuring everything is packed properly. Our container included a slew of computers and parts (old ones), dishes, and other fragile items, and since we packed carefully everything made it safely across country.

      I cannot remember the cost but it was definitely below the quote from PODS.

  19. HannahS*

    Thanks everyone last week who wrote to answer my question about dealing with yoga evangelists while chronically ill. I didn’t get to answer anyone individually, but I read and appreciated your advice :)

  20. Gene*

    Worldcon Masquerade was great! My costume was Rambo Brite.

    I won two awards in the Novice Division; a Workmanship award for Puffy Pattern Work and a Performance award, Chuck Tingle Award for Humor. Don’t Google Chuck at work…

    I can’t figure out how to link to a Facebook video on mobile, but here are a couple of photos on my Instagram feed.

    1. bassclefchick*

      Awesome! So clever. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been following along for weeks and couldn’t wait to see the end result!

    2. fposte*

      I laughed very hard and loud. That’s brilliant. And I love your full commitment–even the perfect tights!

    3. Clever Name*

      Yes! I love it! Absolutely hysterical, and the craftsmanship is amazing. I can tell you put a lot of work into it. Well done!

    4. Belle diVedremo*

      Oh, very cool! Looks terrific, and the size of the grin might be the best part…
      Thanks so much for remembering to show us photos, we’ve been so curious and these are wonderful.

  21. Grey*

    What happened to Kraft Mac & Cheese? I thought I had made it with expired milk or butter before I discovered that it tastes different because of a formula change.

    Has anyone found a different brand of boxed Mac & Cheese that tastes as good as the old stuff?

    1. so anonynous for this*

      that’s been happening to a lot of foods. It’s what comes of being healthier,.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I love being healthier in general, but to this I say, “Boooooo!” I haven’t had Kraft Mac & Cheese in YEARS, I miss it, and I hate to think that if I bought a box now, it would taste terrible or very different. It would be like opening a can of Spaghetti-Os and finding that they’re made with chicken or whole wheat pasta or something.

        (By the way, I have now determined what will be on the menu when the bf goes away for a weekend in September– I always eat things he hates/can’t eat. It used to be a weekend-long feast of sushi and rotisserie chicken, but since I’m unemployed and on a much tighter budget…)

        1. salad fingers*

          AvonLady Barksdale … I’m sorry to interrupt, but I was hoping to see you here.

          I just started watching The Wire and couldn’t remember why the name Avon Barksdale was so familiar, until something clicked and I yelled at my bf, “That’s where her name comes from!” And now my mental image of you has completely changed from cold cream/dog enthusiast to, to be honest, I don’t even know what.

          Just thought you should know. Carry on..

            1. Dynamic Beige*

              I did something similar in terms of “why does that name sound familiar?”… and when the penny dropped, imagined someone trying to sell Avon in The Wire’s neighbourhood. Not sure what Omar would think of that.

    2. copy run start*

      Annie’s Mac & Cheese is far better than the Kraft stuff ever was, if you like cheddar flavor. However it’s 2x – 3x more expensive, somewhere around $2.50 a box. And you get less. :/ But that’s what I’d recommend!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I love Annie’s, especially the garlic alfredo flavor. :) I also like the Simply Nature brand from Aldi–it’s their organic line. They have the orange mac ‘n cheese like Kraft and the little shells too.

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      About once every 5 years, I see KD on the store shelf and think “OMG! I haven’t had that in forever!” so I buy it, make it and after a very short time, I can’t stomach it. I mean, I can’t finish the bowl. Throw the rest out.

      Now I buy Stouffer’s M&C when it’s on sale (in the freezer section). Loads of calories, but oh so good.

    4. Cristina in England*

      Ugh, same with Saltines! Whyyyyy mess with something that has a devoted following?

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Ever since they made manufacturers get rid of trans fats, everything tastes terrible. Crackers, cupcakes, cookies, etc. that I used to like now taste awful to me (Cheez-Its, Ritz, Tastykakes, and so on). Even Crisco is different, so I had to stop using the pie crust recipe and pumpkin chocolate chip cookie recipes that had been in our families for years.

        1. Cristina in England*

          Interesting! I still like Oreos. Maybe products made in Europe or for a European market are the old recipe? Oreos are actually sold here but my mother sent over the Saltines from the US.

          1. Mela*

            More likely the European market always had the healthier version. Just a guess, but more likely I think than the other way around.

          1. OhBehave*

            Yes. You have to make pie crusts with lard.
            I haven’t noticed the change in Crisco (in the big can) with anything I bake. I tend to use it in place of butter in chocolate chip cookies only (adding a few T. of water).
            Believe me, my family would say something if they noticed something off!

    5. Aurora Leigh*

      I still like Kraft . . . but I miss sending the box tops in for cool prizes! I got a lot of stuff from them and Kool Aid back in the 90s. I had T-shirts a stuffed Cheese-asorus Rex, and a Kool Aid Barbie Doll (she wore overalls!).

    6. Cruciatus*

      Wouldn’t a store brand equivalent be pretty close or did they change their formulas too? Maybe it’s because that’s the kind we usually had unless it was cheaper than Kraft, but I grew up eating that and liking it. I don’t think I had the Kraft version often enough to know if it was super different/better. It was likely one of the first things I learned to “cook.” I know not all store brands are created equal but you could try a few different ones and see if it hits the spot. Then buy enough to last you until the end of times.

    7. Esra*

      I just do pc white now. Same great taste and waaaaay better pasta than kraft. I miss the neon orange. It’s like those awful new naturally-coloured smarties.

    8. Pearl*

      If you want classic!Kraft taste, you might try just throwing butter, milk, and Kraft singles into a pot with macaroni. I don’t know how well this will work without the classic powder, but my dad always added Kraft cheese slices to the mac and cheese when I was growing up.

    9. Fafaflunkie*

      May I ask what country you’re buying this product from? In my Home and Native Land, it would be sacrilege to dare alter whatever was in that Sacred Package containing the magic Cheese Powder. I come from a time when they declared you use Parkay margarine along with the Magic Powder and water (but anyone who truly knew how to make KD used milk. Along with shredded cheddar cheese. We’re Kraft Dinner connoisseurs up here.)

      1. Fafaflunkie*

        Oh… no margarine. Butter. After all, this was a time we didn’t give a rat’s ass about eating healthy :P

    10. AnAppleADay*

      Annie’s makes regular and gluten free that in my opinion, are better than Kraft ever was.

      I typically make box of Annie’s gluten free “shell rice pasta with white cheddar” and box of Annie’s Homegrown Rice Pasta and Cheddar Gluten Free, together. Sometimes I dice plum tomatoes and add to the final and/or add cooked hotdog rounds (Hempler’s unsecured beef franks). Geez, it’s making me hungry writing this!

      Loved the Kraft boxed Mac and Cheese when I was a kid and ate a ton on it :o)

  22. Anon for this one*

    Someone upthread asked for advice on how to be a good friend to someone going through a breakup.

    I need some advice on how to handle a friend who is wallowing. At this point she’s been broken up with the guy longer than she was dating him (dating around 6 months, broken up for almost a year). But if she brings him up, it’s just as though she got dumped yesterday — she wants to talk about it for HOURS. Analyze every word he said to her when they were together, tell me what she’s learned by keeping tabs on him on Facebook, so on and so forth.

    I’ve already told her I refuse to speculate on what’s going on in the ex’s head any more. I can’t possibly know what he is thinking, and I certainly do not have any good suggestions for what my friend can do to get him back. (I have also told her it is completely futile to try and get him back.)

    I don’t know what else to do at this point. This is passive-aggressive and horrible, but sometimes I just don’t answer when I see a text from her and it’s about the guy. I want to be a good friend (because she has been a shoulder for me to cry on when I’ve needed it, too…but I swear, I do not make her do that with me for nearly as long!), without spending hours at a time discussing a relationship that is obviously not going to be rekindled. Is that even possible?

    1. C Average*

      I feel like it’s almost impossible to influence the length of someone else’s wallowing period. I won’t say “completely impossible,” but pretty close to it.

      Twice in my life I have wallowed long and hard, and in retrospect I’m sure I was intolerable to be around and probably alienated some friends. I had zero self-awareness at the time. Even if someone had said something, though, I’m not sure it would have mattered. The only way out was through: the same album on repeat, the same letters reread a hundred times and deconstructed anew each time, the unswerving conviction that he was The One (until the day it dawned on me that he was actually a pretentious tool with great taste in literature and really nice hair).

      I have a friend who tends to be a wallower and knows it, and she will actually say things like, “I know I’m talking about Ex too much these days. Can I talk to you about him for literally five minutes and then we’ll move on to other topics? I just need to process something I’ve been thinking about.” And then she actually does it! Five minutes of rumination about Ex, and then not another word. Could you flip that script on your friend and say, “You know, I feel like we never talk about anything but Ex, and it’s sort of well-trodden ground at this point. Can we devote five minutes to the topic and then move on to new material?”

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That’s a great idea. I too have wallowed mightily and will try the five-minute rule the next time I’m tempted to belly flop into a puddle of angst at ANYTHING. (Though I hope my next relationship doesn’t require any sort of ice cream therapy.)

    2. Adam*

      I read somewhere that after a break-up how long it takes to get over the relationship is about twice as long the relationship itself was. So maybe your friend is just about to turn the corner!

      In serious I think C Average has a good idea by setting the boundary of how long you’re willing to let your friend discuss the ex and then moving on in the conversation. I’ve done this with friends before and no one has pushed back on it. In fact, it may have given them a gentle push in the “move-on” direction.

      1. YaH*

        And I read that it was half as long as the relationship… I think it may be time to strongly suggest the friend get therapy if she’s still so stuck on a very short-term relationship.

        1. Anon for this one*

          She IS in therapy!

          I like C Average’s idea combined with yours. Like, sometimes I can let her have 5-10 minutes, and sometimes I can say, “I can’t answer that one, you’ll have to save it for your therapist.”

    3. Stellaaaaa*

      It’s easy to call it wallowing when it’s not you. Six years ago I was rejected by someone really loved and I haven’t recovered. I’ve tried to date other people but I just don’t want anyone else. You can’t put a time limit on how long someone’s allowed to remain in love with another person.

      1. YaH*

        But you can put a time limit on how long you let it impact your entire life- and others’ lives. It’s okay to be sad, but if the end of a relationship is keeping you from living a full and healthy life, then it’s time to get some help.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Or, you can certainly put a limit on how long you let it impact other people because you vent to them!

          Feel however you want to feel–if you aren’t able to “live a full and healthy life,” so be it. But at a certain point, it’s out of line to burden other people with your feelings.

      2. C Average*

        Oh, man. That is tough. I’ve been there, I really have, and it is so hard.

        Please think about talking to a therapist about this. I think this kind of thing is a bit like complicated grief: it’s a normal human reaction, but it can really get in the way of the beautiful life you can and should be leading. (And that beautiful life doesn’t have to include dating other people, but you might want it to eventually. It’s really worth exploring that.)

        I had a really strange thing happen. In my early twenties I fell madly, hopelessly in love with someone who thought I was merely OK. We dated long-distance for a bit and talked vaguely about a future together. I’d never really been in a relationship before, so this one loomed huge for me; he’d had dozens of partners and didn’t consider me anything particularly special. We broke up and he wound up marrying someone else.

        For years, I had opportunities to date other wonderful people, but the ghost of that first relationship was always in the room. I felt that no one could ever compare to him. I rejected some lovely, kind, talented people who would have made terrific partners because I believed that if I didn’t feel the same bolt of lightning for them that I’d felt for him, it couldn’t really be love.

        He wound up divorced, and we reconnected. We had a brief, rather wonderful fling. I’m glad we had it. But the older, wiser me saw him for what he was and recognized that I could do better, that I’d been young and naive during our relationship.

        I wound up with someone great, someone I’d take over that first guy any day of the week and twice on Sunday. There isn’t lightning, and I don’t care. I’ve come to believe lightning isn’t synonymous with love. And I wish I could have back all those years I spent pining for someone who didn’t feel the way about me that I felt about him. I could’ve done worthwhile things with that energy.

        So when I express the wish that others would find ways to move on from a failed relationship, it’s not because I’m unsympathetic. It’s because I made a long journey through that particular swamp and think, in retrospect, it would have been better to speed up the trip somehow. I would wish this for my friends, and for strangers, too.

        I hope you can find some peace about this, whatever that might look like, and if love is something you’d like to find, I hope you find it with someone who loves you back.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          Telling people to get therapy is dismissive and gets to the point of what I was saying. I appreciate your comment but since you did get a chance to be with that person, telling me about your wondrous perspective that enables you to tell me I need therapy is incredibly hurtful.

          1. C Average*

            I’m sorry it came across that way; that definitely wasn’t my intent.

            I’ve gotten therapy as a means of dealing with other difficult things in my life, and have found it incredibly helpful. I’m a big believer. At the time I was struggling to process the end of that particular relationship, I took the long, slow, hard way. I grieved and wallowed and annoyed my friends by talking too much about something that was over, and I revisited a relationship that had honestly never been worth the energy I put into it. If I could go back and skip all that and talk to a professional about how to move on instead, I’d do it in a hot second. I guess that’s the perspective I was trying to share.

            I would never say someone else–particularly a stranger on the internet–NEEDS therapy. But if you’re having a hard time, I think it’s worth considering. It’s helped a lot of people, including me, deal with difficult stuff.

            Regardless of what you decide, I wish you the best of luck. It’s very hard to lose someone you love.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Suggesting someone consider therapy isn’t insulting, anymore than “hey, you’ve had a sore throat for months; why not consider talking to a doctor” is insulting. (And really, suggesting otherwise perpetuates a pretty harmful stigma about getting mental health help!) When something emotional is negatively impacting your life for years, as you’ve described, therapy is a wise thing to suggest.

            I thought C Average’s comment was thoughtful and kindly stated.

            1. Stellaaaaa*

              I was insulted that therapy was suggested as if it hasn’t occurred to me before or as if I hadn’t tried it before. It’s no different than telling someone with a chronic illness to give up gluten and dairy, or maybe try yoga. These are suggestions that have been made before and are not helpful, especially coming from someone who went on to talk about how wonderful her marriage is. Doesn’t matter how well stated the comment was. It was insulting and invalidating.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I think it must feel insulting and invalidating to you because you’re in a painful place, but I don’t think it was actually either of those things. Anyway, we don’t need to debate it; you of course get to feel how you feel.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                Believe me, I know where you’re coming from. I truly do. And I wish I could feed you ice cream and say this to your face and then give you a goddamn hour-long hug because you need it.

                You’re holding on to something that is long gone. It means something to you, or else you wouldn’t do it. I don’t know if you’re hoping or waiting or just using it to keep from getting hurt again (something therapy could help you figure out, but not unless you’re ready to know that). But I do know this from experience. Nothing else will ever happen until you let go. That includes good stuff as well as bad.

                You are the most important person in your life, not some person who didn’t care or couldn’t see how awesome you were. It’s scary as f*ck to step out of that comfort zone–and yes, misery gets comfortable after a while, because it’s familiar. But you absolutely deserve someone who feels exactly the same way about you as you feel about them. We all do. Being rejected doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with YOU–it means there was something wrong with the relationship. Why would you want a relationship with wrong stuff in it? Because it felt good for a while? It doesn’t stay that way, trust me. And if it’s the wrong person, well they will still be wrong even if you do get another shot, even if the two of you have the best of intentions. I know because I tried it.

                You can yell at me all you like. Call me all the names you want. Take it out on me. but I hope you think about what I said. Six years is way too long to let someone who doesn’t care about you take up your headspace.

                *stupid internet hugs that aren’t as good as the real thing but I mean them sincerely* <3 <3 <3

                1. Gaia*

                  Elizabeth West, I just want to say your comment was very kind and likely very true. I know that I, for one, held onto something for years not because I really wanted it but because holding onto it meant I would never let someone in again and if I never let them in they could never hurt me. It took a long time and a lot of therapy for me to realize that and to realize that not only could I never be hurt – I could also never be loved. And I wanted to be loved. I hope Stellaaaa is able to move forward soon, when she is ready.

              3. Gaia*

                Hi Stellaaaaa,

                I think suggesting someone that is struggling seek therapy is closer to suggesting someone with a chronic illness seek specialist care than it is to suggesting they given up gluten or dairy. It is simply recognizing that there is a real treatment that exists out there for what is ailing them and there is no shame in taking advantage of that.

              4. YaH*

                But being in love with someone for six years who doesn’t love you (and it sounds like you were never actually in a relationship with the person??) is extremely different than a chronic illness. One is a permanent and lifelong disability that must be coped with because there is no cure, the other is… a choice. It may not feel like a choice, but being heartbroken over a relationship that never was, for more than half a decade? Heartbreak is not a mental disorder, it’s a situational/circumstantial issue that can be successfully recovered from. You’re choosing to be stuck on that person, for whatever reason.

                And as a sufferer of chronic illness who also has gone through her fair share of intense heartbreak, I’m insulted by your comparison of the two.

          3. MK2000*

            Gosh, I thought that C Average’s comment was pretty clearly supportive and well-intended. Yours was the one that was snide (“your wondrous perspective,” really?) and dismissive.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I have a family member that does this with other events in life.

      She did just break up with him yesterday because she is doing everything she can to keep the memories fresh in her head. Her constant review of old conversations is not therapeutic, it’s allowing her to keep the relationship alive in her mind. Same idea with FB.

      Sit her down and tell her, “You dated this guy for six months. It has been a year since you broke up. You talk about him all the time and it is like the break up was yesterday. I think you should find a counselor to go to. I cannot help you with this break up any more because I have run out of advice. I am not a professional counselor and since I am not able to be of any meaningful help to you, I think you should go see one.”

      If she says, “oh but if you are my real friend…..” that is when you say “No, a real friend does not let a friend stall out in the past. A real friend helps her friend move forward and find new and enjoyable aspects to life.”

    5. TootsNYC*

      I would say, take that passive-aggressive and make it active.

      I like the scripts about “this isn’t good for you,” but I might say that by now, you should focus on your own boundaries.

      “I do not want to ever talk about him again–I’m worn out, and to be blunt, I don’t have any patience for it anymore. I am an Ex-Boyfriend/Breakup-Free Zone. Plus, I want my friend back. So if you want to call and talk about anything else, I’m totally there. But I will never answer a text about him or about this breakup; if you bring him up in a phone call, I will get off the phone; if you bring him up while we’re out somewhere together, I will leave.”

      And then do so. Don’t be mean or cruel to her, just say, “OK, I told you I don’t want to hear about him. Are you able to drop the subject, or should I just go home? We can get together some other time.”

    6. zora.dee*

      I sometimes have had a tendency to spin my wheels and get caught being negative about something waaayyyy longer than justified, so I kind of feel for your friend. But I know what you mean from your side, and you’re right that it is probably not good for her at this point.

      One thing that I think would have been good for me when I was in that place, and that wouldn’t have hurt my feelings, is framing things as a ‘distraction.’ Sometimes it’s good for me to feel like I’m distracting myself from the thing I am sad about, and then after I do that for a while, I realize that I’m not as upset as I thought I was when I was fixating on the negative.

      So, maybe, “Can we talk about Ex for 5 minutes, and then can I distract you with something frivolous, like talking about the olympics? Or this movie I saw/books I’ve read, etc.” Maybe once you move on to a different topic, she will get focused on that and forget to fixate on Ex.

      Good luck! I hope she is able to get past this someday, it sounds sad.

  23. Mela*

    Has anyone used the Texture magazine app? It’s $15/month for 175+ digital magazine subscriptions in one app. It looks so appealing but there must be a catch, right?!

    For those interested, notable inclusions include The New Yorker, National Geographic, NG Traveler, The Atlantic, Mother Jones, GQ, Smithsonian, Rolling Stone, Popular Science, Time, Newsweek. Plus pretty much every women’s magazine I’ve ever heard of, lots of business, athletics, travel, cooking, dieting. Also lots of random niches (farmers, truckers, architects, surfers, vegetarians, you’re all covered!) It even has a couple of French Canadian magazines in both French and English.

    There’s a deal right now on Amazon– if you pay 6 months in advance, they give you a $50 Kindle Fire for free. I probably won’t go that route, but it seems like a good deal with the 6 months costing $90.

    1. Sandy*

      I used it and loved it! Then I had to get a new CC number and never updated it with them. I sometimes think about renewing it though!

      1. Callietwo*

        I just started using it after the amazon prime deal for cheap Kindle Fires and I love it! I paid the six month rate in advance and got the free 16 gig Kindle Fire which I gave to my husband and he’s sharing my Texture account so we’re getting dual usage out of our subscription. You can use the account on up to 5 devices, so it’s on his fire, my fire, my iPad and my iPhone.. so I can read anywhere :)

        I’ve been undergoing a multitude of medical tests (still no diagnosis and I check in tomorrow for more *sigh*) and this has just saved my sanity.

        I’m reading magazines I hadn’t read before and really enjoying them. So far, I haven’t found the catch. They even have articles that are exclusive to Texture readers. You can download articles or the entire magazine. I’d say if you’re not going to pay the six months in advance, then you don’t have anything to lose! It’s less than a coffee a day to try it out for a month. Enjoy!!

        1. Mela*

          How is reading on your iPhone? I don’t have a tablet so that would be my only way of reading and I’m not on my phone much.

          1. Callietwo*

            The font is on the small side for most magazines on the iPhone. You can easily expand, then there is some scrolling involved when you do that, though. But, out of all the options, it’s my least favorite, to be honest. I use that when I have unexpected waiting around to do and bored (and just trying to keep my patience in check!)

            I have the iPhone 6S but not the plus version. Depending on what phone you have and the size of your screen.. I’d say If you could swing it, I’d go the 6months in advance/free Kindle route. But if you have one of those phones that is more tablet with a phone in it, then maybe it would be better.

          2. Callietwo*

            Hey Mela.. I hope you’re getting updates on this thread- I just now had an email from Texture:

            “You spoke, we listened!”

            pinch and zoom.

            With larger text and optimized images, the stories in Highlights are now easier to read on your phone.”

            It looks much better to me and I wanted to let you know!

    2. Temperance*

      I love my Kindle fire, FWIW, but I use Zinio for magazines. My library has a membership, so I pay nothing to read all my favorite magazines.

      1. CAA*

        I’m also loving Zinio for libraries, especially that it’s free. :-)

        I’m not sure if all libraries get the same collections or not, but mine has everything mentioned in the original OP except for The Atlantic and Time.

    3. Fafaflunkie*

      That Texture app was preloaded in my Samsung tablet (then known by its prior name: Next Issue) I tried it out but I’m not much of a magazine reader. It all depends on whether or not you’re going to read at least five of them per month to recoup the subscription cost, based on subscribing to them individually. If so then you’re good to go. If not, you’re better off perusing the magazine’s individual sites and checking out individual articles within them.

      1. Fafaflunkie*

        …but now that I’m thinking about who owns this app (Rogers) I highly recommend you stay away. Personally I’d hate to give them more money than they already get from me. :p

  24. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    I almost blew my relationship. Whoops. But it ends up being “funny” , I swear.

    So I decided on Thursday that the moment was NOW. I just HAD to chop off my hair. Wanted to end up looking like short haired Ginnifer Goodwin or Ruby Rose, since I just can’t really handle long hair that much anymore.

    The thing is, I’ve also wanted to go back to turquoise blue hair for two years. Been unemployed all that time and I could feel the… stagnation, if that exists in English, I thought I was going nowhere anyway. Soooooooo… when I called the salon (that I’d been to the first time I went blue) I asked if they had the color in stock at the time. They could get to some before I’d be in.

    So, voilà. No more long hair, and no more brown hair either. TheBoyfriend was pissed because of the job situation (he’s really worried, I understand him though) but… I’ve scored another job interview for Monday *and* they’re fine with the blue (I told them beforehand).


    *La la la :P *

    1. Pokebunny*

      I’m too risk-averse. I don’t even have bold color shirts. All my clothes are boring neutrals. I envy you for pulling it off with such style!

      1. SandrineSmiles (France)*

        It’s the same shade as my current profile image, except the profile image dates back to 2013. Less hair now. Kekekeke.

        That’s the fun part too: I knew some people would say it’s cool… I didn’t expect some of the enthusiasm o_o .

    2. Aurora Leigh*

      That’s awesome! Sometimes I want to put a streak of purple in my boring dishwater brown hair, but I’m too cheap at the moment . . . Plus my mom would freak out . . .

      1. Callietwo*

        I colored my hair purple, but it’s not as purple as I was hoping it would be. I used L’Oreal Paris Feria “Power Violet” Hair Color V38 Intense Deep Violet. It’s really a Violet Brown (on me anyway, as I have brown hair to start).. Maybe something that like would be okay and keep your mom from freaking? The way I see it, it will grow out and you only live once! I’ve had tons of compliments :)

        1. Aurora Leigh*

          I may try it! Starting a new job in a couple weeks, so I should wait to get a feel of the office first . . .

          1. Callietwo*

            Yes, definitely get a feel for what’s acceptable in the office before but also know it’s not all that ‘out there’ either. I work for a non-profit contracted to the state govt where I live and it’s not at all an issue.

            Good luck on your new job!!

    3. AnonCat*

      Wow. And you’re in France? I think it’s awesome that the company is OK with it. Good luck on the interview.

    4. Sparkly Librarian*

      YAY, blue hair! I have purple streaks, and am so glad that I work in industries where I only ever get compliments on punky color. Had an interview this week, so I figured I’d get a trim… told the stylist “2 to 3 inches, not too much” and ended up losing 6. (I DO love my long hair, so I am sad about this.)

    5. Temperance*

      I’M SO JEALOUS. I had pink hair for years – with a break in the middle for blue and purple, obvs – and I miss it!

    6. Blue_eyes*

      Yay blue hair!

      And yes, “stagnation” exists in English and makes perfect sense here. The related verb “stagnate” might also be useful to you to describe the situation. :)

    7. Elizabeth West*


      Hahah, I remember being so excited after I went blonde and realized that hair chalk would actually show up. :) Also, I LOVE being blonde so I know how you feel about the blue. :D

    8. Lindsay J*

      That’s awesome.

      My hair is getting long and I’m kind of feeling the urge to chop it off again. I feel like it looks unkempt when it’s long but looks edgy and sexy when it’s short.

      I went into the salon with a picture of Ruby Rose a couple years ago and came out with exactly that type of haircut and loved it.

      My hair is kind of boring colored now, and I henna-ed it so I think I’m kind of stuck. I might go jet black soon, though.

  25. Adam*

    Has anyone here tried that new Grammarly application (writing/editing software) that’s been making the rounds on the internet advertisements lately? I’m trying out the free version which has been pretty interesting. Has anyone upgraded to the paid version and what do you think of it?

    1. MissDisplaced*

      No, but I do currently use a similar one called WhiteSmoke.
      It’s ok. It does sort of help, especially for work-related documents, but it also does not quite “jive” with Word.
      Sometimes, I am just like ???
      But between both of them, I find it helpful.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      I use the free version on my work computer. I has been very interesting! Apparently, my commas aren’t up to snuff anymore. I have found the weekly summary emails particularly useful for seeing bigger-picture trends in my writing.

    3. Noah*

      I have the Office and Chrome plugins installed.

      My only gripe with the Outlook one is that it turns off the auto-save function, so you have to consciously save an email if you want it to show up in your drafts folder.

      I haven’t bothered to upgrade to the premium version. The free version works fine for me.

    4. Aurion*

      I uninstalled it because it does not understand Canadian English; no matter what I write it’s wrong. (In fairness, Canadian English is pretty much a bastardized version of British + American English.) Also, when I”m writing casually on the internet, I know I’m not using perfect grammar and that’s intentional, which makes Grammarly’s markups very frustrating (especially because it slows down my browser if the post is very long).

    5. TootsNYC*

      I have it at work for Chrome–it’s mildly useful, but it annoys the pants off of me because it keeps insisting I should put commas after introductory clauses (I don’t use them after short clauses).

      It helps me spot typos.

  26. Bibliovore*

    so the thirty year old fridge that came with the house died. In the last thirty years, I have bought 4 fridges. Had bad experiences with LG,Kenmore , GE and subzero. So, am I cursed?
    A friend has a Liebherr and loves it. What’d yah say..anyone have one ? Have a fridge you love? I want bare bones…no ice maker etc ( long story) freezer on the bottom. I am in the Midwest US, if that makes a difference.

    1. Dynamic Beige*

      When my fridge died, I bought a freezer on the bottom (door, not pull out drawer) and I think it’s great. It’s an Amana. The guy who sold it to me said that there was essentially one manufacturer of refrigerators left in North America, so it didn’t matter what the name on it was, it probably came from the same factory. I have no clue about European manufacturers. I like opening the door to get out whatever and not having to bend over. If you think about it, most of the time you use the fridge, it’s not for the freezer, so in my mind it makes more sense to have that part at eye level.

      Just one issue: if it’s too full on the bottom, the door sometimes doesn’t close all the way and I’ve woken up to snow on the floor. I didn’t want the drawer that pulls out because it seemed to be a waste of space. Also, if you have young children, that would make keeping the ice cream/treats out of reach difficult.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I want one of those so bad. I’m tall and hate bending over when I go into the fridge. But they’re almighty expensive and I can’t afford it right now.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          I’m not very tall but I found it so… I dunno… logical I guess to open the fridge door and just look straight in. Also makes it easier to clean without so much bending. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to freezer on the top. I don’t remember it being that much more expensive than the “normal” kind. However, this is a basic model with no bells and whistles. No ice maker, no water dispenser, no double doors or stainless steel. No panel that keeps track of what you’re eating and sends you messages of what you’re running out of.

    2. Elizabeth*

      I love our Samsung. It has some issues with freezing the water line for the in-the-door water, but if you’re not needing that or an icemaker, you shouldn’t have a problem. We bought ours from Lowes.

      1. SongBird*

        Are you getting sheets of ice in the fridge under the bottom crisper drawer? If so, there’s a fix for the whole thing.

        Inside the back panel of the fridge – you’ll have to take out all the food and shelves – the chiller is at the back with a heating line around the outside which defrosts the cooling coils. It has a little tab that sticks down into the drain that’s supposed to drain the water to where it can evaporate onto the compressor. That drain line can freeze up.

        The fix is to wrap some heavy copper wire around that heating coil and shove it down the drain hole. After, of course, carefully peeling off the back panel of the fridge.

        My partner did this himself – it’s really simple, once you get the shelves cleared and the fridge open. Oh, and unplug it first. (Not that you wouldn’t, but it’s an easy step to miss.)

      1. Bibliovore*

        The present one is. sub zero and we had already had the repairman in once. It is the fridge part that is broken. It doesn’t go above 60 degrees. We are going to have the repair person come again but. Don’t hold out much hope.
        We are buying from a local independent because we believe in supporting them even though it will be more expensive.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          My late husband used to work on machines. He used to say, when making a purchase look at WHO will be repairing it when it breaks, because it WILL break. (His words, not mine.) Because of him I do tend to look at how repairs are handled and the reputation of the repair person when I buy a major purchase. Like you, I prefer to support small/independent businesses, too. After I was on my own, I had to replace three major appliances on a shoestring budget. I called a friend who seemed to be picking out good products and asked him where he shopped. He mentioned an independent local biz, like we are talking about here. And I went there for my appliances. I had problems with the dryer and the repair department came right away and fixed the dryer.

          The only other thing I can think of is do you have problems with brown outs? Unlike blackouts, brown outs are just a drop in household current. The lights dim but do not go out. Here, I have metered household current at 80 when it should be 120. These drops do damage electric motors in our appliances and furnaces. Because there is a time lag between the brown out and the failure of the appliance, that can make it hard to figure out the reason appliances are failing.

    3. Menacia*

      Never had any issues with the Whirlpool fridges I’ve purchased over the years, they seem to really hold up well, the last one we purchased at a scratch and dent place. The defects were small and in a location easily hid.

    4. Temperance*

      I have a Samsung that I’m in love with. It has an icemaker/water filter, but there are models without. It has french doors on the refrigerator, a refrigerator drawer that slides out, and then a large freezer drawer with bins.

    5. Blue_eyes*

      We have a KitchenAid fridge that came with our rental apartment and it’s been good. It’s at least 6 years old and has only ever had one minor issue that was solved by having more freon added. It has double doors on the top and freezer on the bottom. I think it has an icemaker, but ours isn’t hooked up to water so it doesn’t work which is fine. I don’t love the way the baskets in the freezer drawer move/work, but it’s fine and all bottom freezers seem to have the same issue.

        1. Blue_eyes*

          It was a very hot day and I went to get some ice and realized that things in the freezer were melting. The fridge was cooling somewhat, but not well enough. So I called a repair company and they came out. I think they added more freon because it was still running and cooling somewhat, just not getting as cold as it should. If it had continued not cooling well enough we might have had to replace the cooling element or something.

    6. TootsNYC*

      I hate my current Kenmore–we bought it from an online listing at Sears, and the line that said “tightly sealing crisper drawers” was a flat-out lie. I’d have made them take it back, but I needed it desperately for Thanksgiving.

      I liked the Kenmore I had before. And I liked the KitchenAid before that.

      But I’ll go a little skinnier.

      I always go w/ freezer-on-top (cheaper), but one thing I don’t like lately is that the “horizon” between the two sections is so low, and the mechanisms are not in the back, but are under the bottom floor of the fridge–which means I have very little tall storage in the fridge, AND I have to lean over to look into it.

      I’m going w/ the ultra-cheap fridge next time, bcs it’ll be skinnier, and the “horizon” is a little taller.

    7. Fafaflunkie*

      Wow, thus reminds me of a deep freezer that my parents obtained as a bonus for buying 200 pounds of meat. This was in 1966. That freezer finally gave up the ghost in 2009. It moved to four different addresses in the interim. In other words: they don’t make them like that anymore.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        We had an old Westinghouse freezer for meat–it lived in our big outbuilding and lasted for YEARS. It had four shelves with little doors on each one, behind the big door, kind of like a barrister bookcase, and a big drawer in the bottom. I kind of wish I had it now.

  27. Pokebunny*

    This is semi-work, but it’s for my own self too!

    I’m thinking of growing facial and keeping it neatly trimmed. I’m Asian, so a light stubble will probably take me 3 months to grow. If at all. I’ve never been anything but clean-shaven.

    I guess my question is, do you like beards (neatly trimmed and groomed)?

    1. Caledonia*

      Everyone is different. For me, a neatly trimmed and groomed beard or stubble – yes. For my friend, well her boyfriend has a huge woodsman type beard that’s a bit wild.

    2. Aurora Leigh*

      Yes! I like beards :)

      My mother and grandmother don’t however, so that could matter in the work world.

    3. Graciosa*

      No, not at all – I really dislike them. My circle of friends really dislikes them as well, although we have considered giving a pass to “Tony Stark” in the various Marvel movies. ;-)

      Do not let that influence you.

      There will always be someone who likes or dislikes your hair / beard / shirt / shoes / whatever. The important question is whether or not *you* like your beard – if you do, go for it.

    4. Jen RO*

      I don’t have an opinion on beards in general, it depends on how they suit the wearer. My boyfriend looks better with one; my brother looks better without.

    5. Temperance*

      So I’m in the minority of women – I really dislike them. I can assure you that my position is the minority one, though, as all of my straight friends like men with beards.

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        I’m not into beards either… but my dislike really only applies when my husband doesn’t shave often enough. I don’t want to kiss someone whose beard is going to scratch my face! Since I don’t kiss any coworkers, men outside my husband having beards there’s not really a like/dislike opinion going on unless they aren’t neat or have food stuck in them or something.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I”m not much of a beard fan, but I don’t mind if they’re kept neat and trimmed, and I kind of like stubble. If a full beard, I prefer a short one like the one Chris Evans (swoon!) likes to wear, not a Gandalf thing. Farmer Ex used to wear a big old woolly one in winter to keep his face warm and it drove me nuts until he shaved it off in summer. It was like kissing a bear wearing a muffler. :P

    7. Hrovitnir*

      What Graciosa said. I personally am a fan of clean shaven through many iterations of short facial hair but find full beards and moustaches actively repellent. But it’s your face! You should play around with it and see what you like!

      I have had everything from waist long hair to a #1 for extended periods and every natural and unnatural colour available, because I enjoy such things. I know if I was a person who grew facial hair I would have to try all the things! I swear, I would definitely try Seneca Crane’s facial hair if that was an option for me (look it up if you haven’t seen Hunger Games or remembered what I meant. It’s awesome.)

    8. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

      Why not?

      I think in general, beards are no big deal, and you should definitely grow one if you would like to! :)

  28. zora.dee*

    Any advice on how to deal with an invisible health situation on public transit?

    I had an out of the blue health emergency last weekend and spent 3 days in the hospital. I’m mostly okay now, but I still feel worn down and have some back pain. My commute to work involves either the commuter bus or the subway, and either way at least a few days a week the seats are all taken when I get on. I can’t figure out what to say to ask for a seat, since I don’t have an obvious visual reason, like the super pregnant woman, or the other one on crutches (both of whom get on at the same stop.) But in both cases, there is lots of bumping and shaking, and they are crowded and hot, and I start feeling woozy if I try to stand the whole way.

    Can I just ask someone in the front if I can sit down? Should I say something like “I have a health issue” or “I just got out of the hospital” ? I feel like it’s going to be awkward if I ask for a seat since I look young and healthy. Am I overthinking this?

    1. Blue Anne*

      Honestly, in that situation, I would pick the nicest-looking person with a seat, and do what you suggested – say “I’m sorry, but I just get out of the hospital and I’m feeling really woozy, would it be okay if I sat down?”

      For what it’s worth, I can’t think of anyone I know who would say no to that.

    2. Rahera*

      I’m very sorry to hear this. given that you can’t stand easily, I wonder if you would consider carrying a stick for a few days until you are stronger? You don’t have to use it, but it is a sign to other commuters that you have some sort of issue, and also if you can’t get a seat and have to stand it might help you stand without getting quite so exhausted.

      I hope you feel much better soon.

    3. LotusEclair1984*

      Ask firmly but politely. Something like “I need to sit because I just got out of the hospital. Do you mind? Thanks!” Even with a visible disability people sometimes need prodding. When I broke my arm I had to ask people to give up their seat during the morning rush on the NYC subway. Despite the cast, people did not budge unless asked.

      1. Mela*

        Yes, seriously. I was shocked. We took my MIL to New York for a day and NO ONE would get up unless I asked them. And I did, and I was not polite about it as she is super visibly old and not steady on her feet. I would just say, “Can you get up?” And then turn from them without waiting for an answer to help my mil

        A simple, “Would you mind if I sat down?” is good for you, and if any push-back or funny looks, then you can add “I can’t stand on the bus/subway.” *pointed look* Does your transit system have marked disabled seats? Aim for those. People who sit in them know they might be asked to get up and are (slightly) more prepared for the question. Also, if they say no on the bus, go straight to the driver and explain the situation.

        1. Temperance*

          Gentle reminder: some of those people might have also had invisible disabilities. I always sit on public transit because I have some health problems, and a knee injury that is heavily exacerbated by standing for long periods of time. I’m not risking my own health for others.

      2. Mephyle*

        Seconding AnonCat’s and Rahera’s suggestion, in combination with the other suggestions on asking for a seat. A cane is a symbol that makes your invisible disability visible. You will likely be surprised how well it works for your purposes.

        1. AnAppleADay*

          I third this. Especially if you are young. In our city, Seniors and Disabled get priority seating in the front of the bus. You may still need to ask for a seat but using a cane may help “define” your need.

          When I have a flare of inflammation in my lower back, I end up with “foot drag” along with pain. I stumble and trip a lot on my own feet. I use a cane during those times and people seem fairly quick at vacating the front of the bus to allow me to sit.

    4. Cordelia Longfellow*

      I have several invisible disabilities, and I’ve schooled myself to just ask directly: “I have a disability. May I please have a seat?” Even if your disability is temporary, it still counts! Most of the time, I don’t have a problem. Occasionally I get dark looks from elderly people when I don’t get up to offer my seat to them, but I just say, “Sorry, I have a disablity and can’t stand on the bus/tube/etc.”

    5. TL -*

      Does your train/bus have specific seating areas for the handicapped? If so, you can ask a (non-disabled looking) person in those seats if they need the seat.

      That should pretty heavily imply that you do and they will probably give it up (unless they do need it, of course!)

      1. zora.dee*

        Yes, we have those seats, and many days there is one seat open there and I can sit. But sometimes it’s particularly crowded and they are all full and that’s what I’m a little anxious about. In the past, I would just stand if the only available seats were the disabled seats.

        I think what feels particularly awkward about this is that I have been taking the same commuter bus for months and it’s usually the same people so a lot of us recognize each other. And I have always been fine standing in the past, so I feel like this will seem weird to people. But I’m probably overthinking it and most of them won’t even notice. ;o)

        But thanks for all of the advice, everyone! I’m going to practice saying these a few times this weekend, so it’s a little easier. And it helps to get validation that I can just ask without a huge explanation of my medical history ;o). I hope it goes smoothly!

    6. James Buchanan Burn*

      When I was in my first trimester and feeling awful (though not yet showing) I just went over to the people in the seats for disabled folks and said, “excuse me, may I sit here?” It worked.

    7. Good Afternoon!*

      Honestly I’ve stopped asking if people want to sit. They have never said yes and sometimes been down right nasty.

      That said the instant someone asks I smile and say Of Course! And the. move my butt.

      Wait; I do ask small children that I know feel uncomfortable talking to strangers and advocating for themselves. Sometimes they say yes so they can see out of the window.

      When I’m pregnant I have no issue requesting someone to move, but don’t do it all the time. Just when the need hits. So I typically decline when offered as well.

      California Bay Area fwiw.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        When traveling in larger cities with public transport, I always tried to not sit in those seats, and if I see someone get on who looks tired/older/ill/is obviously disabled, I hopped right up without any fuss. It’s no skin off my teeth to stand. Kind of fun, like being on a boat and keeping your sea legs. :) When I had to wear my knee brace in London, though, I sat if I was hurting and stood if I was feeling okay. Nobody said anything. They could see the brace–I wore it on the outside of my jeans.

    8. HannahS*

      You could also say, “Sorry, I’m feeling woozy/faint/nauseated, do you mind if I sit?” The people will assume either something chronic, or that you just have a bug, but it has a sense of immediacy to it.

  29. Cristina in England*

    I posted a few weeks ago about planning our family road trip and staying with my mother in law for a week, having never spent more than two hours at a time with her. We had a lovely visit with her! No one fell out with each other and on the last day we were all sad to leave. It was an amazing success. My daughter kept asking if we could stay forever.

    The road trip part of it was a bit hairier. Any toys or games had to be put away because it turns out my 3yo gets car sick fairly easily. And surprise! So do I now, apparently, for the first time in my life. So I sat between the two children in the back every single time we were in the car, holding my 3yo’s hand and making sure I had a bag ready, the both of us making sure to look out the front window. Thank goodness for diaper bags. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without them.

    We also stayed at a farm cottage for a week. We went berry picking and explored some local historic villages. No internet and barely any mobile phone signal for a whole week! I would love to do something like this every year.

    Next week maybe I will post about our nightmare bathroom renovations. I hope by then it will be finished, as they started on the first day of our two week holiday.

    1. Caledonia*

      I’m happy you all had a great time! And it sounds like a really nice, sort of throwback type of holiday. Shame about the carsickness though :/

      As for renovations, in my opinion – and experience – urgh and they always take longer and cost more than you think. Hope they are finished soon!

      1. Cristina in England*

        @Caledonia, Agreed on all points! My husband had a lot of this style of holiday as a kid. The bathroom should have been finished while we were away, and yet…

        @M, thanks for these top tips. I will definitely order Seabands for our next go, and I never thought of sunglasses!

  30. Caledonia*

    Olympics anyone? High/low lights?

    Highlights include the velodrome cycling and Andy Murray winning his second gold medal. Del Potro and Nadal coming back from injury layoffs and winning silver and gold (doubles) medals.

    Lowlights – the lack of composure of the crowds, booing and generally being disruptive (e.g. in the golf people were picking up the ball whilst it was in play) and the lack of people attending some events. The para-olympics have been downscaled.

    1. Karin*

      Highlights: The US fencing team did pretty well, considering we are not traditionally a fencing powerhouse. (I fenced in high school and college and am still a big fencing groupie.)
      Lowlight: Ryan Lochte. JERK.

    2. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      Highlights — we’ve had a record medal haul and some AMAZING up-and-coming talents winning medals — Tom Walsh, Natalie Rooney, and Eliza McCartney especially. And Val Adams! I was gutted she didn’t get a third gold, but she was so gracious and Michelle Carter really knocked it out of the park, and silver is nothing to spit at. And Jacko Gill! To come ninth in the shotput final when he fractured his foot six weeks out is mindblowing. We streamed the shotput final live in the office and were screaming the whole way through. Although most of us feel we’d be hard-pressed to throw a tennis ball 22 metres, let alone a shotput…

      Lowlights — our media can be a bit… unforgiving of failure. Particularly around the men’s Sevens performance and Nikki Hamblin in the 5000m. Like, my viewpoint is that coming in last in the Olympics still puts you in the top 0.00001% of the world but some of the media is being really disparaging.

        1. TL -*

          Oh that’s interesting. The USA media is really forgiving, I feel, and very much tends towards the “it’s an honor to be at the Olympics” and, some tempered “oh, what a disappointment for Athlete! But it’s the Olympics and you can never predict what will happen.”

      1. Helen*

        Celebrations are deserved, but I hope that doesn’t lure them into a false sense of security (like their confed cup win) and think everything about their national football is all hunky-dory again, or they risk another rude shock in two years time.

    3. Cristina in England*

      Highlights: Andy Murray! Also, showing my daughter some of the events and having her actually be interested in some of them (the dressage and horse jumping). Katie Ledecky’s amazing swimming, but because I was on holiday with no internet I will have to go back and watch her events. Usain Bolt winning his triple triple.

      Lowlights: Tom Daley not qualifying for the diving final. US media calling Katie Ledecky the female Michael Phelps and general US media misogynist nonsense about female athletes. Thankfully the British media is much better in this regard.

      1. Ever and Anon*

        Seriously! This isn’t just for your comment, but for people in general: get off the high horse and stop monitoring what people say under a damn microscope. The glee with which people pick out these examples of perceived misogyny is petty, tiresome, extremely toxic. I’m a woman, and I have to do a ton of mental gymnastics to see how that comment about Ledecky is derogatory.

        Anyway, that had to be said. I’m done. I don’t expect anyone here to agree really, but to the part of the world that hasn’t gone mad, you’re not entirely alone.

        1. Nashira*

          Wow, rude. When you’re looking at commentary that involves things like crediting Hosszu’s medal wins to her HUSBAND and the insistence that excellent woman athletes must be “the female Man-Dude” in order to have their excellence recognized, it isn’t minor. It’s indicative of our culture’s fondness for minimizing and dismissing women’s accomplishments, or crediting women’s work to the nearest man.

          Extra rude for using mental illness as an insult.

        2. Guest*

          Yikes, I rarely see a comment this rude on this site.

          Reasonable adults explain why they disagree with someone, not freak out because someone has an opinion they don’t and shame them into shutting up.

    4. Marzipan*

      I was really pleased for Justin Rose about winning the golf gold. Not that I give two hoots about golf, but it seemed like the golfing world was maybe being a bit sniffy about the whole thing, whereas he got totally into it and went to the opening ceremony, and spectated at other sports, and was very much ‘I’m an Olympian! I’m on Team GB!’ so for him to win was nice.

    5. Elkay*

      Mo Farah’s win and the women’s 400m relay Bronze last night kept me up until 3am but definitely worth watching. Unfortunately the time difference and being away from home most of last week meant I didn’t see as much as I would have liked to, mainly the track cycling which I find weirdly addictive.

    6. LotusEclair1984*

      Highlights: Stunning, jaw-dropping performances by Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Aliya Mustafina in the women’s artistic gymnastics. Thoroughly enjoyed the performances of Manrique Larduet, Oleg Verniaiev, and Danell Leyva in the men’s.

      Lowlights: The Lochte mess, and Islam El Shehaby refusing to shake hands with Or Sasson, who bested him.

    7. Raia*

      Highlight: April Ross and Kerri Walsh-Jennings!!!! They had a great run and while I was gunning for them to get gold of course, it was amazing to see April Ross make some really spectacular plays. Kerri was amazing as always of course, and I wonder if she will come back for Tokyo.

    8. Gaia*

      The absolute best thing I watched during the Olympics was the Italian man winning gold in fencing. He was so dang excited that I couldn’t help but cheer for him (even though he beat the American).

  31. First Time Homebuyer*

    My husband and I are considering buying the house we are living in (it’s a parent’s). It’s a very complicated situation apparently, but we need to find out the value of the house. Depending on the price we may buy it or sell it. Do I call a realtor to try to get a value? What if we decide to buy it rather than sell it? Do we then have to work with that realtor or can we just get a lawyer?

    1. Sibley*

      I’d talk with a local realtor. They should be able to guide you. But you basically need an appraisal.

      1. First Time Homebuyer*

        We don’t really want to pay twice for an appraisal though because we will have to get one through the bank and I don’t think they will count an earlier one right?

        1. TootsNYC*

          A bank’s appraisal is different from a real estate agent’s. So you’d have to pay for the bank’s appraisal anyway.

          A real estate agent should be able to tell you: “This is what homes like this have been selling for in the area lately. This is what I would suggest the owner give as a selling price.” The bank will want someone with different credentials to do the appraisal associated with the loan.

          A real estate agent might be able to put you in touch with the kind of appraiser that a bank would use, and help you figure out if your bank would use that appraiser, thereby saving you money in terms of bank fees.

    2. jack of all trades*

      You can get an appraisal but that will cost you. You can call 2-3 realtors and tell them you are thinking about selling. They should each give you their estimate of value/selling/listing price and suggestions for work needed to sell. And also what they will do for you to get it sold. You do not have to use any one of them if you do sell. But you may find one you think you can work with. This is all part of being in the realty business and very normal.

      1. First Time Homebuyer*

        Thanks! That’s basically what I was trying to ask in a bad way. If we get realtor to give us a selling price are we committing ourselves to them. It was on the market 9 months before we moved in and it didn’t sell but now houses on the street are going for 50k+ what the previous asking price was and we have done almost a complete redo.

        1. TootsNYC*

          No, you aren’t committing yourself.

          If your parents were going to sell the house to anyone but you, he’d call 3 real-estate agents, who would come and do set of “comps” (comparisons to comparable houses) and suggest an asking price. Each of them–as part of their sales pitch (for their services), and each of them would realize that only one of them will get the contract. And that perhaps none of them will (if the owner decides after all not to sell).

    3. Library Director*

      Depending on your state if you have an agreed price you don’t need to go through a realtor to buy the house. We purchased a house from an acquaintance and just used a real estate lawyer. When we transferred ownership to our son (who had been renting it from us) we were able to do that through a lawyer for a quick deed. In our state no realtor was needed in either situation.

    4. Dynamic Beige*

      It’s not that complicated (exactly) you need an appraisal to determine the property’s value. You can either do that by going through a realtor or by hiring a company that does appraisals.

      My property taxes are based on some kind of assessment from some corporation and I know that the value they list is below market value. But it is a document that has a figure on it. Whether or not that would stand up in a court of law, I have no idea.

      If you go to a real estate agent, they will give you the current market value/what they think it will sell for. Depending on your situation, you may need something official — I don’t know if real estate agents will give you an estimate on paper. You may into the problem, though, that you will never get rid of that person as some agents are… persistent.

      You can also hire a company that does appraisals that will give you what it’s worth that is not based solely on current market. I went this way because it was an estate matter and I wanted something official. There was about a $30K difference between what a real estate agent suggested (I did not engage this person) and what the appraisal company’s report said. But considering this was being handled by lawyers, I figured I needed something solid. I kind of wish, though, that I had just taken the real estate agent’s estimate.

      So, if your situation is also some kind of inheritance issue and you have siblings, you’ll need to get the other kids on board. Because if you say that the house is worth $X, there’s bound to be someone who will say that they don’t believe it and it should be worth $Y. The more documentation you have, the better off you’ll be. For example, you might want to consult more than one real estate agent and use the average.

      Once the price has been settled, you will need lawyers to handle the paperwork. Due to how the real estate market can fluctuate, I would suggest you don’t get into some rent-to-own thing with your parents. Make it clean, purchase it outright. If your parents are OK with you taking whatever your percentage of the estate might be from the price, that’s up to them to offer.

      1. First Time Homebuyer*

        No inheritance issue technically because my parent is still alive but it is what she planned to leave my sibling and I and that is complicating it because she basically wants us to buy him out and I won’t do that for the amount she wants. But it is hard to have a conversation with hypothetical numbers.

        I’m not in love with the house and am fine selling but she doesn’t really want to do that either it turns out.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          Well, that’s kind of my point. Something is only worth what another person is willing to pay for it. Your mother or sibling may think the house is priceless… but it’s not. If you’ve got your numbers you can say to your mother “Here is the research we did on the current market value of the house. I am willing to pay you $ThisAmount(based on research) — we have spoken with our bank/mortgage broker and we will qualify for this loan.” If your mother wants to give half that amount to Sibling after, that’s up to her. However, your mother would be better off taking the money and investing it for her future care requirements than giving it to Sibling (unless your mother has enough set aside and doesn’t need it). Not to mention that there may be capital gains taxes that will have to be paid on it, so Sibling might not get the full half anyway.

          The benefits of buying this house directly from your mother are that she will not pay a commission to a realtor, buying directly from her will save her that amount.

          If she’s unwilling to do it, then she can list it and sell it on the open market, let the chips fall where they may. You can also bid for it on the open market if you choose to, so can your Sibling. The dangers are that:
          1. the house might not sell
          2. it might not sell for the price they want it to/less than they hope to get
          3. someone outside of the family will buy it

          I would also suggest that you start looking for a new place. Maybe you’ll find a house you really want and this will be moot because you won’t be interested in buying your mother’s house any more. Which also may work out to your advantage because if your mother is set on giving Sibling their inheritance now (pre-inheritance?) from the sale of the house, then you should also get your piece at the same time. At the end of the day, you don’t owe it to them to buy this house and you can always walk away.

          1. First Time Homebuyer*

            Yes, my argument to her is she should save it and not give it to my sibling but I can’t do much about it. The easiest solution would be we buy it because she is storing a lot of stuff here and she wouldn’t have to move it but I’m not spending tons of extra money for that.

            We are in a very expensive area because we have a great school district but we don’t have kids so that is worthless to us. We could spend 25k less and get more house in the town next to us and I would be fine with that.

            My mother does want us to buy it but if we can’t agree on a price I consider fair I’m not. I’m willing to take a bit of a hit because it is my mother but not so she can turn around and give it to my sibling. She needs to keep it to live.

            We need an estimated value first before we talk again because it is leading to arguments that might not be needed.


            1. First Time Homebuyer*

              And by estimated I really have no idea what the house is worth. It could be anywhere from $x to $x+50k or $x+$100.

              Plus my husband and I did a ton of work and my mother says it was all unnecessary but is willing to pay us back for the cash out of pocket but seems to imply it didn’t effect the value at all which is more of a principle argument with me than anything else.

              Like I said above she tried to sell it before for a very low amount and couldn’t because of the condition. We have redone the two bathrooms, ripped up the entire house of 25 year old carpet (she smoked – it was disgusting), installed new hardwood floors on two floors and two staircases, painted every room (again smoking had turned the walls brown), resurfaced the cabinets, bought all new appliances, a new counter and completely redid the outside porch. And replaced two walls of drywall, 3 closet doors, and a front door my brother destroyed during a few violent outbursts as a teenager. And she wants to give him money now.

              I’m thinking we just want to walk away but we have to do some research.

              1. Dynamic Beige*

                OK. That is an *insane* amount of work and it sounds like the only value the house really has right now is because of what you put into it. You took a dump (sorry, but that’s what I’m picturing) and turned it into something livable — desirable even to other people. That is a huge accomplishment! Your mother is being completely unreasonable about this. There’s nothing I can do to budge the needle on that but I hope it helps you to know that at least one random internet person thinks you’ve done an amazing thing and have not been properly acknowledged by the people who are going to benefit from it.

                I hope you have some sort of documentation about what the house was worth when she previously tried to sell it, as well as kept all your receipts. Because I hate to say it, but these kind of Scapegoat/GoldenChild things never go well and a neutral third party (i.e. a lawyer) might be what you need to negotiate with. Your mother will probably never see reason or logic when it comes to your Sibling. You know that if she gives Sibling the money, Sibling is not going to suddenly straighten up/fly right and be there if she needs help in the future… that’s going to be all on you. Which isn’t right or fair but that’s the way it is. And I’m truly sorry for that.

                1. First Time Homebuyer*

                  We have reciepts for the physical product we bought and the labor of doing the floors (we did the stairs and everything else ourselves – and I don’t care about the value of our labor in these discussions) and we know what she was selling it before when it didn’t sell as a fixer upper. I actually don’t think sibling is pushing for this (and isn’t an asshole teenager anymore) but is also trying to buy their own house right now and wouldn’t turn down money most likely. My mother just feels guilty I think.

                  The only other thing though is sibling is more willing right now to buy a house that would have an
                  in-law apt for my mother (they have kids and it would help having her around anyway) than I am so if she wants to contribute to that and have somewhere to live I am more okay with that because in the long term that is helping her live.

                2. First Time Homebuyer*

                  And thanks for the support! Families can be tricky and I’m willing to take a hit on a few things like not charging for our personal labor, but I’m not taking a higher mortgage to give my sibling money because my mother doesn’t want to sell the house for a reasonable price to me.

                  And yes probably a lawyer will have to work on the numbers. I’m not
                  looking for a “steal” I just want acknowledgement and to be fair.

                3. Dynamic Beige*

                  I am glad to hear that your Sibling is willing to have an apartment for your mother. So many times, that’s not the case.

                  And yeah, I totally get that you want what’s fair. It’s been my experience in these kind of things that when people get emotionally wrapped up in something, they lose perspective.

                  I just find it “funny” that your mother feels guilty about your Sibling, but not you. Even if you’ve been living there rent free, you’ve more than given her back the value in the repairs and improvements you’ve made. Life is not fair.

                4. First Time Homebuyer*

                  No, it isn’t. And we definitely haven’t been living here for free. We’ve been paying the entire mortgage, taxes and fees. And she has been getting the tax deductions. It will all work out. I would be more stressed if I really loved this house and was fighting to keep it.

            2. Temperance*

              Wait … your mother wants you and your husband to pay for the home, but would just give it to your sibling, free and clear?

              I wouldn’t give her one thin dime, if that is the case. Why do you need to pay him a ton of money, with no expectation that he would do same?

              1. Dynamic Beige*

                Not exactly… if I understand it correctly, First Time Homebuyer has been living in her mother’s home for an unspecified period of time without any sort of rental contract. They have been paying the mortgage, utilities and making improvements to it. No idea where the mother lives right now. (Another thing you might need to look at FTH is that if you have been making these payments, has that helped or been applied to your credit score?)

                This appears to be the only asset the mother has and, if she were to pass away tomorrow, it would be split equally between her two (?) children.

                The problems are that since FTH and her husband have moved in, they have improved the condition of the property drastically so that it is worth much more today than it was years ago. Also, the real estate market has improved since Mother tried to sell it previously. Mother seems to think (and perhaps Sibling, too) that the house is worth *more* than it is — there isn’t any documentation that says what it is worth.

                Any way you slice it, lawyers need to be involved.

                Also, FTH, I just remembered something that happened to a friend of mine. She and her husband bought the family farm from his mother when they got married. Years later, they divorced and her Ex was going to have to sell the farm because he couldn’t afford to pay her for 50% of it as per the divorce decree. The property had gone up in value since they purchased it and so when it was sold, the Ex came to my friend and told her that his mother wanted her cut of the increase in value. My friend told him to go pound sand, that if he wanted to give his mother half of his half, he was welcome to do it but they had bought that property fair and square and ex-MIL wasn’t going to get a penny of my friend’s portion. So there’s that. You never know what kind of crazy people nurse in their minds about what they think they’re entitled to.

                1. First Time Homebuyer*

                  It hasn’t been part of our credit scores but no place we have ever rented has been.

              2. First Time Homebuyer*

                Dynamic is right. It is her only asset and wants to leave it to the two of us (sibling and I) as “inheritance”. She feels like I am getting something (the house she would sell at a discount I guess) and is trying to fair.

    5. Tmarie*

      If you’re in the states, zillow.com will give you a good idea of what your house is worth. Also, in Washington state, and I assume others, most county websites have property tax information on-line and include the assessed value of the home.

      Again, all this assumes you are in the states, and your state is like my state.

      1. First Time Homebuyer*

        It has a very high value and I would be shocked if it was correct. It also lists houses on my street that have sold over the last year as wildly off high numbers so I think it is basing it off incorrect comparisons.

    6. Anon attorney*

      From what you’ve said below, as well as an appraisal I think your mother needs to talk to an attorney specialising in tax/trust and inheritance issues. In my jurisdiction what she is proposing would probably have consequences for tax planning and the funding of any care your mother may require in future. There might be another way to achieve what she wants which is more tax efficient for example. If you’re involved in a land transaction like this you should also take your own legal advice. Otherwise, I agree that you need a valuation before you can have a sensible discussion about anything to do with the house.

      1. Jen*

        Fwiw an appraisal is $300-$500. May be worth the fee just to have real numbers.

        In my high cost of living area an appraisal of a 3200sq ft property was $450.

      2. First Time Homebuyer*

        There will be huge tax implications and that will have to be determined. The mortgage lender suggested she gift us the equity so we could avoid PMI and I have no idea what that would mean for her or us but we have to figure that out before we decide anything.

  32. Sorgatani*

    I broke my right (dominant) wrist while playing basketball on Wednesday – fell backwards onto it.
    This post is taking forever!
    I learn whether or not I need surgery on Monday (been warned it’s a possibility).
    So now I am figuring out how to be independent as possible – I can (with difficulty) do up a bra, I have a shower guard for my cast, and I’ve bought a few pairs of tracksuit pants so as not to deal with zip-flies, and got my hair cut from a bit past the shoulder to just below the ear – quite manageable one-handed.

    This is my first time breaking bones, any warnings/hints/war-stories? 31 years major accident-free, so I don’t feel prepared at all – so much to figure out.

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      My mom fractured both her wrists one winter falling on ice. It was dreadful! She found it really useful to make good use of dry shampoo and as many baths as possible (much easier to keep things dry in the bath than in a shower with water spraying everywhere), and one of the biggest problems she had was cooking. We invested in an electric can opener and my dad and I took on most of the heavy cooking duties for a while, but really it just sucks all around. The wrists are really useful! Also, don’t be afraid to make use of handicapped doors–your wrists do a lot of work pulling open heavy store doors, weirdly enough.

    2. Elkay*

      I broke my wrist a few years ago, although not my dominant hand. I was lucky that I still lived at home so cooking/cleaning etc. weren’t an issue for me. Mainly I remember keeping it elevated at night to stop it hurting, I tended to sleep on my side or back and lay my arm across my chest tucked up towards my shoulder. Also, when it comes out of the cast it will still hurt (I was shocked to discover this), if you can get physio that will help.

    3. LCL*

      Talk to your doctor to find out what rehab you will need, if any. If so, select that practitioner now.
      For the bra, turn it around so the hooks are in front, fasten it, then turn it back and pull up the straps.
      Ask for help carrying things. Cause even if you can carry things one handed, you still have to open the door.
      The area covered by the cast will itch, and be pale, and have some muscle atrophy. So don’t freak out when the cast comes off.
      Buy a small fan that you can set up to blow onto your hand. Casts get hot.

      1. Cam*

        I broke my right wrist when I was 7 and I remember the itching as the worst part! The drs will tell you to never put anything in the cast, but if the itching drives you up the wall, I discovered that a zip tie is the best solution. It’s really thin and the ridges on it makes for some good scratching. The square bit at the end means that you shouldn’t accidentally lose it in the cast either.

    4. Wristful thinking*

      About 10% of wrist injuries/surgeries can trigger CRPS. If you have swelling, stiffness, burning skin, etc. after surgery, don’t tough it out. Go back to the doctor for follow up immediately and start physio right away. The recovery time will be many months longer than the usual 2 months but it will happen. It’s a bear though. Good luck and best wishes for a “regular” wrist break!

    5. Sorgatani*

      Thanks ^^

      Sleep still isn’t fun (pre-break I’d side-sleep and thrash) and I plan on sleeping on a floor mattress until I’m used to the cast. Been elevating it with a sofa cushion. Just glad I haven’t woken up squishing the cast yet.

      Fiance is being fantastic about it all, he helps me see the funny in the fraught.

    6. TootsNYC*

      A colleague of mine broke BOTH wrists. Her life was a mess!

      Good luck, and >>ouch!<< on your behalf.

    7. LotusEclair1984*

      If you feel tingling, numbness, or pain in your fingers, go to the ICU and get a new cast asap. I needed to get re-casted even before I had surgery because of the pressure and pain of the first cast. After the surgery, I got a new cast every week (or two?) for about 6-8 weeks. When getting medication at the pharmacy, ask for the easy-top instead of the childproof twisting one so you can do this yourself. Be prepared for shoulder pain because of the uneven distribution of weight in the arms and using only your non-dominant limb; ask for massages from the fiance :) Overall, you’ll be surprised at how resilient you can become even with your non-dominant hand. Good luck and I hope you have a speedy recovery!

    8. OhBehave*

      If writing is a big part of your job, you might want to check into Dragon Naturally Speaking. My hubby uses it all the time and my daughter uses it due to a disability.

      Fiancé’ can help you with your bra (but you may get distracted :). I would just caution you to do everything your doc and therapist tell you to do! I know a few people who just ignored some directions and had to have surgery again or it took longer to get the arm back to normal because they wouldn’t do the recommended therapy.

      We really don’t know how much we depend upon some parts of our bodies until they are out of commission! Hoping you don’t need surgery.

    9. BackintheSunshine*

      Ouch! First, I hope your pain levels are tolerable and wish a quick recovery. I had surgery on my non-dominant hand in May and can appreciate what you’ll be going through.

      I found this link on putting on a bra with one very helpful: https://patienteducation.osumc.edu/Documents/Bra1Hand.pdf as putting it on in the front and turning it around doesn’t work for me.

      I also suggest accepting any and all offers of help as you’ll find doing normal daily chores (laundry, cleaning, meal prep, etc. ) very tiring. Also, take pain medication on schedule. This is not the time to be a hero or Super Girl.

    10. Sorgatani*

      Woo! No surgery, just time.
      Don’t even need a fresh cast apparently; specialist thought a few weeks should do it.

    11. Garland Not Andrews*

      I know I’m late joining in. I broke my dominant wrist just before my 50th birthday! The big thing to remember right now, Ice is your friend! I cannot take much in the way of opiate pain killers, so to keep the pain levels where the OTC’s work, I spent a lot of time with a bag of ice wrapped around my arm.
      May you be blessed with quick healing!

    1. AnAppleADay*

      German team looked so sad, so defeated. :-( It was Brazil’s time to win the gold. They needed and deserved it!

  33. Skin cancer PSA*

    PSA: I know we all lead busy lives, but please take time to do regular skin checks yourself and also to see a dermatologist once a year for a skin check with them.

    I recently had a mole removed. I wasn’t concerned about anything medical and it wasn’t even a vanity thing, it was only because it was on my abdomen and the tops and waistbands of my work skirts were hitting it and it would rub and get itchy or bleed. A week after I had it removed, my dermatologist called because he had been concerned enough to send it for testing and it had come back positive for melanoma.

    Skin cancer wasn’t even on my radar. I am of Mexican decent and certainly don’t have pale skin. I honestly thought skin cancer was something that happened to redheads and fair skinned people who tanned outside or in tanning beds a lot. My dermatologist told me that people of any race or ethnicity can get skin cancer and that the survival rate for non fair skinned people is lower because often it gets too far before it is detected because the person wasn’t aware of the skin cancer risk.

    My cousin’s fiancé was diagnosed the same week I was. She is a redhead of Irish decent and is the most fair skinned person I have ever met. She has never used a tanning bed or laid out to tan on purpose and she always wears sunscreen and stays in the shade (even on cloudy days). She was also diagnosed with melanoma despite protecting herself and having no family history. Both of us got lucky because we were only at stage one. Mine was about the size of a nickel and hers was about the size of a dime. They weren’t deep in our skin and hadn’t spread to the lymph nodes or any organs. Besides having some skin cut out to make sure they got it all, neither of needed chemotherapy or any other treatment. We have to go to the dermatologist every 3-6 months for the next little bit. Early detection saved us.

    Please check your skin regularly. We are the last two people I thought would get skin cancer but we both did. Be aware of the ABCDE’s of skin cancer: Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter and Evolving. Do a Google Image search to see examples of these. Even if your mole doesn’t look like melanoma (mine didn’t) it could still be. Be aware of your skin, check it regularly, including places like under your nails and between your toes. See a dermatologist once a year for them to check. It could save your life. Also practice sun safety. Cover up, wear sunscreen and hats even on cloudy days and avoid the sun between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. No matter what your race, ethnicity or skin tone is you can get skin cancer and if you don’t catch it earlier it can be deadly.

    Have a good weekend everyone.

    1. Mimmy*

      Glad you and your cousin’s finance were diagnosed early. I have a friend who’s husband got melanoma on the top of his head (he’s bald), and they had to do a skin graft and take out the lymph nodes. I know he’s had further testing but my friend hasn’t said anything about the results, and I don’t want to ask :(

      Two questions:
      -How do you check under your nails?

      -My dermatologist said that since I don’t have a family history of melanoma, I didn’t need to be seen every year. Is that not true? I think my mom and sister has had skin cancers, but not melanoma. Basal cell maybe?

      1. Christy*

        I saw a dermatologist for a skin check after a mole fell off (don’t ask) and in my self-introduction I talked about how I know the ABCDEs but this one concerned me. After a thorough skin check, she basically said “you’re aware of your skin. You don’t have a family history. You have someone who pays attention to your back? You’re fair skinned and you’ll notice any changes. Come in if anything changes.” Which makes sense–I’m pretty on top of the skin thing. Still definitely happy to see the PSA here.

        I’ll note, for those reading, that the Diameter metric for mole-checking is if your mole is bigger than 6 mm in diameter–about the size of a pencil eraser, or about 1/3 the diameter of a dime.

      2. jack of all trades*

        You usually don’t need regular checkups unless there has been something funky. I had a mole removed from the back of my thigh that I felt had changed just a little. It wasn’t cancerous but it wasn’t completely normal either. Now I go yearly for a skin check.

      3. Lady Kelvin*

        I went for a skin check in June cause I have a ton of moles and sun spots, and I had a few i wanted to make sure we’re OK, and I had insurance so I got afford to go. Thankfully the ones I was worried about were fine but had non-melanoma removed from my back which was a mole I didn’t even know I had. After my initial appt they said come in every 2 years, after the biopsy found something it became come in every year. I also have family history of non-melanoma skin cancer, so it probably depends on a whole lot of factors and I’d trust the doc to tell you how often you should come in. The most stressful part about it is that apart from my husband I couldn’t tell anyone because it would inevitably get back to my extended family and then I’d never stop hearing about it. But we didn’t even tell them when my mom had breast cancer until they decided surgery and radiation are necessary. Not being able to talk about having cancer is horribly stressful.

      4. Samantha*

        I had a mole removed in January that turned out to be benign, and my dermatologist said I didn’t need to come back every year (also no family history of melanoma). But due to the fact that I’m very fair and used tanning beds back in college (ugh!!) I’m playing it safe and will continue with annual skin checks.

    2. Chaordic One*

      Lots of over-the-counter skin moisturizers now have low-level SPF sunscreen added to them and if you’re not going outside a lot, (like just to the car and from the car back to indoors) it makes sense to use them. If you’re going to be outside for longer than 15 minutes or so, then use a higher-level SPF sunscreen.

      The wife of a cousin, also a blue-eyed, red-haired, fair skinned woman had the worst case of melanoma I had ever heard of. She had been an avid outdoorswoman, her favorite thing was golf and she did like to tan. She was diagnosed when in her early 70s. The cancer had spread and the doctors ended up having to amputate most of her nose. The next 9 months were hell as they set about creating a new nose for her and she wore a mask in public to cover the scars.

      They inserted an upside-down silicone nose mold under her forehead which stretched her forehead skin. (She wore bangs to cover mold.) After the skin had been stretched for several months doctors created a new nose for her using bone from her hips, cartilage from her ribs and the skin from her forehead. (I had seen a documentary where they did almost the same procedure for a mountain climber who lost his nose to frost-bite.)

      Afterwards she had a presentable face to show the world. If you had seen her before you’d know she didn’t look the same and her new nose was smaller than the old. But if had never before met her, you wouldn’t notice. She certainly looked more natural and better than Michael Jackson. She recently passed away, but she lived up to her late 80s and passed away from natural causes completely unrelated to skin cancer.

    3. fposte*

      Thank you for the reminder, and I’m glad that yours was found early. I’m not in the sun a lot now, but I was out in it a ton as a kid and had several bad burns, so I’m definitely somebody who has to be alert.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Same here. I used to lay out in college, too. Thank goodness I quit that because I never really tan. I stopped going in the sun to keep looking younger than I do, but it’s a good idea to stay out of it and check regularly anyway.

        1. OhBehave*

          We used to lay out in the afternoon sun slathered in baby oil! I rarely tanned. A woman I worked with totally worshipped tanning, sun or a bed. She died of cancer at 34. I always cautioned her about what she was doing but she was addicted to it.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I think it really does get addictive. It feels nice to lie in the sun (if you’re near a pool and can cool off periodically–I liked it then and hate it now). Plus, the change in color is gratifying and a light tan does look nice. Too bad it’s so dangerous.

    4. Nicole*

      Glad it was caught early! I’m always lecturing my sun worshipping husband to wear sunscreen. We have our skin checked annually by our dermatologist which helps ease my mind since we’ve definitely had sunburns as a kid which is a risk factor.

    5. SusanIvanova*

      Skin cancer can also happen to pets! We had a dog with no fur on her belly who loved to lie belly-up in the sun. The vet caught it and removed it, and she was fine after that; we were just more careful about letting her lie around outside.

  34. Caledonia*

    Exercise to target a squishy stomach and thigh area? Due to having no money, my diet – never great – has been really bad and now I feel yuck and squishy. I’m not a gym person (I might join one but it won’t be for a while) and have never really exercised so be gentle.

    1. C Average*

      No advice, alas, but I will be watching any responses with interest, because I am in the same boat.

      A few months back, I picked up (mostly as a joke) a book called The West Point Fitness and Diet Book. It was published in 1977 and it came from the free box at a yard sale in my tiny hometown, where I was visiting my parents. I have been toying with the idea of actually trying to follow it, because I like a lot of the assumptions it makes. It assumes you don’t belong to a gym, because gyms in the 1970s were a lot fewer and much more for the hardcore. It assumes you don’t have a lot of access to exotic foodstuffs because–well, see previous comments about the 1970s. It assumes you have a day job and interests outside of fitness.

      I find all this refreshing. Having been REALLY into fitness in the past, I’ve read a lot of books that make no such assumptions.

      1. Caledonia*

        That sounds really cool actually. I find it really hard to do any kind of diet plans because I’m a fussy eater e.g. I don’t like salad (but I do like cooked veg) or fish so I just end up continuing my rubbish food intake.

      2. AcidMeFlux*

        Just be careful with older generation fitness books because lots of them recommend exercises that are now considered harmful for knees or backs (like all those 80s aerobics tapes that urge you to slam your feet on the floor as hard as you can.). I used a variation of the West Point exercise program you mention when I was in my 20s in the 1970s and I loved. It got me in the habit of exercise.

    2. Mimmy*

      I’m squishy too, so I’ll be following as well.

      I would think anything that works your core would help tighten up the abs, such as sit-ups. I know I need to work on my core because my gut is messing with my lower back / buttocks area :(

      C Average – I had to laugh at your post because while gyms are more ubiquitous, my husband and I really do not like them.

        1. Merry and Bright*

          Me too. I swim and walk a lot instead of getting the bus when I can, and belong to a walking group so I do get exercise. But gym? No! School PE lessons are at the heart of my gym phobia. As an adult I have only entered one for physio following an accident 15 or so years ago.

        2. Sherm*

          I’ve been in a number of gyms with different types of people, and I can tell you that you can forget about high school trauma or those movies and commercials where everyone in the gym is flawless and knows it. You will find people in various stages of fitness at the gym, and — important to me — I have not once seen anyone be teased because of their weight, age, or lack of strength. I can’t guarantee that teasing has never happened in the history of grown-up gym going, but if it happens I am sure that management would be interested to know that harassment is going on in their gym and would put a stop to it. But the gym-goers that look the most intimidating, the ones that look like they spend all day in the gym (and maybe they do!) often keep to themselves to the extreme — they are serious about their workouts and just want to focus on that.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I only go to the gym to use the track when I can’t walk outside. If I had a treadmill, I wouldn’t even do that!

          Don’t feel bad–I’ve been a bit squishy myself, with all the injuries and crap lately (tendinitis in my ankle, whiplash, a pulled hamstring the last time I skated, and of course the Cat Bite of Doom). Time to get back to walking and my Pilates DVD for my back.

    3. Christy*

      Honestly, you’re not going to see any results without changing your diet. Any muscle that you would build in those areas would still be hidden under the layer of fat that we all have. You have to shrink the layer of fat to see results.

      That said, exercise is a really good incentive to change your diet. You should probably start with some bodyweight exercises. Google “nerd fitness bodyweight exercises” for a good beginner routine. Squats and lunges in particular will help with the leg strength. Planks are great for abs. And running is cheap cardio to help with the fitness and fat loss. Couch to 5k is a great program to learn to run for beginners. You can run *really* slow and it still counts! A year ago, I didn’t run at all, and I just ran a 5k distance today and I’m signed up for a 10k training program.

      Fitness is so rewarding–I’m like an exercise junkie now.

      1. Christy*

        Btw–I have lost 40 lbs through diet and exercise, and I still have 40 lbs to go before I have a “healthy” bmi. I’ve slacked on the diet part of the equation for six months while still working out very regularly, and I haven’t lost any weight in that time. I feel great but the exercise isn’t enough to change my body shape on its own.

      2. Trixie*

        Yes, changes start in the kitchen! Then planks, lunges, squats to start. Using body weight to begin with but then adding actual weights. I’ve looked at kettlebells online, totally reasonable. And as we age, we do have to work harder to maintain or make changes. Good to know now before moving forward :)

        1. Christy*

          Be careful with the kettlebells! (General note, not just you, Trixie.) You can really injure yourself if you don’t know how to use them properly. My KB instructor gets horrified by people trying to use KBs in the gym most of the time.

      3. blackcat*

        In my experience, this isn’t quite true if your layer of fat is not the thickest.

        I’m petite, but permanently a bit squishy. I think it’s just how my genes say I’m supposed to be. While the squish doesn’t go away when I get in shape, it does get less squishy/giggly when I build muscle under it.

        Part of why I know I’m not losing much, if any, fat is that any reasonable exercise routine makes me *gain* about 5 or so pounds. My legs get stronger… and bigger. I know I’m healthier, despite the extra weight because of how I feel. It has annoyed me when doctors are all like “You gained 7lbs* in a year! You should think about exercising some more.” And I’m all like “Well, yeah, the exercise is the source of those 7 lbs.”

        I have rarely found health care providers who take a sensible approach to weight, particularly given recent studies showing lower mortality rates among people with “overweight” BMI compared to people with “normal” BMI. People at the low end of “normal” appear to have mortality rates greater than people at the low-middle range of “obese.”

        *I am small enough that 7lbs is noticeable as a percentage of my weight. That makes it both less and more ridiculous when doctors comment on my weight.

    4. Chaordic One*

      While not a perfect answer, you might consider just walking briskly on a regular basis. I wear sneakers or sensible flats and stick to streets with sidewalks. I try to walk for at least half an hour, to get my heart pumping. I love doing it in the fall and don’t mind the winter and sometimes I make a point of walking to a particular destination (like to the library or to a store if I will only be buying a few small items I can easily carry home with me. (I’ve been sloughing off lately because of weather in the mid-90s and low hundreds.) Sometimes I take a little radio or an MP3 player with earphones with me.

      It tightens your thigh and tush areas. Your thigh muscles might get a little larger, but its muscle and not fat. They will look more toned and you’ll probably lose at least a little fat. I wouldn’t worry about it. Anyway, it does burn a few calories and while it doesn’t really tighten your tummy area, your tummy might get a little smaller.

    5. fposte*

      It sounds like you’re talking about the spot reduction myth–that you can target the fat in a specific area through exercise. Unfortunately, as Christy says, all exercise will do is develop the muscles under the squish :-). I really like Chaordic One’s suggestion of walking, and IIRC you’re in an area where you have some hill options to ramp up the difficulty if you choose.

      1. Christy*

        And btw–it’s really awesome and fun to have a healthy heart and stronger muscles under the squish. Exercise is a really good way to set goals for yourself and watch yourself make concrete progress towards those goals. And even without weight loss or visible changes, it’s rewarding.

        I self-motivate best by setting big fitness goals and then working towards them–I only started dieting so I could make weight to try the flying trapeze, a big goal of mine. (I had to lose 40 lbs.) I started running not for cardio or fitness, but so I could run across a bridge in a 10k.

        It may be that weight loss is a sufficient motivator for you. It wasn’t for me.

      2. Trixie*

        Love hills whether biking or walking. I’ve been lucky to live near some great local hiking spots and what a difference it made. Free and beautiful scenery.

    6. nep*

      You do not need a gym to lose fat and build muscle, so this need not be a barrier to reaching fitness goals. Walking, squats, lunges, mountain climbers, planks, push-ups (start on the wall or kitchen counter — it counts).
      As others have mentioned, it’s mostly going to be down to what you eat. Ditch the processed foods, drink plenty of water, get adequate sleep.
      (Could you elaborate on eating ‘really bad’ now ‘due to having no money’ ?)

    7. Lady Kelvin*

      As much as people want to convince you otherwise, you cannot spot target your body. You want to think about doing full body exercises like kettlebell swings or chops. If you have some extra money I can recommend Jillian Michaels videos, basically anyone but the yoga video. No more trouble zones and the 30 day ones are both good, and I enjoy the 6 week six pack video too. She does full body workouts and seriously kicks your butt. I have slimmed down and toned up a lot with her. Muscle burns more calories than fat so you want to focus on building muscle and less on losing fat. Good luck!

      1. C Average*

        Your post reminded me of something else I think is important: Don’t try to take on an exercise program you hate just because it’s supposed to be good for you and your friends recommend it.

        I’ve always fantasized about being the kind of person who takes classes or follows programs like the ones you describe. Kettlebells LOOK so cool! Jillian Michaels SEEMS like she’d be so motivational! The truth, though, is that I’m kind of a klutz and it takes me eons to learn new moves and complicated exercise programs are nearly always an exercise in humiliation and discouragement. My best intentions are no match for my utter lack of coordination.

        If I stick to things that are relatively repetitive–running, swimming, basic weight training and body-weight exercises–I can very quickly get into a groove of regularly exercising and enjoying it.

        If I take on the kinds of exercises I know I hate (despite all my aspirations otherwise), I’ll quickly start making excuses to skip a session here or there, and soon I’ll be skipping all the sessions.

        While the exercise you enjoy might objectively be not as good as other options, it’s a whole lot better than not exercising at all. Find something you enjoy or at least don’t hate and stick with that for a while, rather than forcing yourself to do something that doesn’t seem appealing at all or that you know won’t play to your strengths.

        (I know there’s something to be said for getting out of your comfort zone, but not when you’re trying to develop a new habit. Challenges and add-ons can come later, when you’ve been exercising for a while and want to up your game.)

        1. Mimmy*

          If I lived in your area, I’d come work out with you :P I love your realistic take on starting an exercise program.

        2. nep*

          People often ask what kind of cardio or strength training is ‘best’?
          The one you will do consistently. Period.
          Consistency trumps everything, in exercise and in clean eating.
          (Agree with Lady Kelvin above also — focusing on building muscle will go a long way.)

        3. Amadeo*

          Agreed. I tired P90X and ended up completely freaked out by Tony Horton, something about him pings the ‘don’t want to be alone in a room with you’ radar in the back of my brain. I also didn’t have the attention span for an hour and a half of arms. Or legs. Or whatever else that day was supposed to be.

          Jillian Michaels for me is ‘eh’. At first I hated her and had I been in the room with her I might have had a swing at her face just to stop the ‘tough love’ talk.

          I kind of dig Shaun T though. He’s goofy, he’s great about reminding you to tone it down if you need to, just so long as you keep going. He’s got a modifier that actually modifies and is easy to follow if you are fat and out of shape like myself. And T25 is only 25 minutes. The only problem is my own motivation there.


          I am taking Tae Kwon Do classes and at times I do seriously hate the master and end up going home b*tching to myself about how if I wanted to join the Marines I’d have done it in high school. But he doesn’t comment if he sees me having to dial it back in class, so long as I’m trying every week. I’m learning something useful and it’s fun…mostly.

          I also love to dance, so I have a few dance video games for Wii, my favorite being the Michael Jackson game. Well, so long as no one is watching. If I had to do it with an audience I’d probably be far too shy!

          So, find something you love to do, and do that! 10 minutes at a time, if you gotta at first, work up to 30 minutes each day.

        4. Lady Kelvin*

          Sure of course the best workout is one you do consistently, but you have to try lots of things until you find one that works. Im much more likely to try something someone recommends than picking something at random, so suggestions for this G’s to try are always useful. Plus the benefit of Jillian Michaels is that you can do them in privacy of your own home and there are modifiers for every fitness level. I’m not suggesting that this is the best way to do it, but I definitely think it’s worth a shot because you just might like it.

          1. C Average*

            Totally agree! It’s good to have a go at lots of different things, knowing it might take some trial and error to find the right fit.

            I think my initial response was, in part, based on a lot of previous experience with serious gym rats. I used to work for a large sportswear company, and almost everyone there was a dedicated jock. (I say that in an affectionate and frankly envious way.) They all did kettlebells and videos and classes, and they all seemed to effortlessly adopt the latest fitness trends. It took me a long time to figure out that I was never, ever going to be like them, and that I’d be better off staying in the slow lane and working out every day than trying out new stuff, failing, getting discouraged, and quitting.

            The way that Caledonia described herself made me suspect that she’s more of a slow-lane sort of person than a dedicated jock sort of person. I could be totally off base here, though!

            I took a HIIT circuit class last spring, where we met often and the instructor actually drill-sergeanted me into some level of competence at the exercises (which were HARD, and included stuff like kettlebells and sleds and pulleys and battle ropes). It made me realize that mastery IS possible for people like me. It just takes a lot longer. I’m envious of people who have aptitude and affinity for this sort of thing.

    8. HannahS*

      I’m a big fan of FitnessBlender on youtube. They’re workouts are desgined to be done with very little/no equipment, and for a variety of levels. What I particularly like is that they aren’t cheerleader-y about it–there’s no “guilt” for going more slowly or stopping early. And I can blast whatever music I want in the background, because they don’t play any.

    9. Chickaletta*

      I agree with the other commenter that unless you change your diet that you won’t see much change.

      If you drink sodas, stop. They’re the worst. If you drink alcohol on a regular basis (like a drink after work every day), cut back on that too. They are full of calories and they’re bad for your gut. Drink water, that’s it, it’s all your body needs.

      As for exercise, just chose active over ease. Chose the stairs instead of an elevator. Don’t drive all over the parking lot just to get the closest spot. Don’t sit down just because there’s a chair available; stand to read your mail, wait for an appointment, talk to your neighbor, etc. If you have an errand that’s close by, walk instead of driving. Work in the garden instead of watching tv. You get the idea.

    10. Gaia*

      Caledonia, you need to change your diet. Having “no money” is no excuse. You can eat decently (not necessarily organic or grass fed) on a very reasonable budget. I feed myself for about $70 every two weeks. I don’t buy organic because I cannot afford it. But i buy almost no processed food. I cook my own meals. I don’t buy bulk (except spices – it is ridiculously cheap to get spices bulk!). I buy meat on sale but eat meat nearly every day. I usually make enough each night for two – so I have lunch the next day.

      All the exercise in the world will make no difference if your diet is bad. In fact, changing your diet can make a difference without much increase in exercise.Plus you’ll feel better. Try a week eating only “whole” foods. If it comes in a box, no. If it comes in a bag, no. If you have to add ingredients to make it edible, no. If you can buy it in a drive thru, no. It sounds tough – and it is, at first – but it is doable and possible and a great way to start.

      1. Chickaletta*

        ^^ Yes to this. Some people call it “shopping the perimeter”, which basically means buying as much of your food from the non-aisle sections of the store (dairy, deli, meat, produce…). Also, check the “ethnic” section for things like rice and spices which are often much cheaper there than in the regular section. Buy produce that’s in season, for example right now corn on the cob, berries, plums, and apricots are at their best prices of the year so treat yourself to those now. By mid-fall their prices will be 2-4x more, if you can even find them, but squash will be on sale then and there’s so many different kinds of squash and ways to cook it that you might never repeat a meal twice. Potatoes are almost always super cheap year round and can make a whole meal. Same with pinto beans.

      2. Christy*

        I agree with you that changing your diet is the solution, but let’s not act like it’s easy to change your diet or your entire method of shopping. Particularly if you’ve been eating processed food and aren’t used to cooking every meal. Or if you don’t have the time to cook every meal because you’re busy working.

        In fact, as great as it is to eat “whole” foods (and it is, I really love it), it might be easier for Caledonia to start by substituting the lighter versions of processed foods as an intermediate step. Choose a Lean Cuisine instead of a different frozen dinner. It’s not the best, certainly, but it’s definitely better for you. I had a few months where both my wife and I were totally burnt out on cooking, and I ate a lot of Lean Pockets. Was it as delicious as home-cooked meals? Was it as healthy? No, but it sure was healthier than a lot of other options.

      1. Cordelia Longfellow*

        It was incredible! Even sitting alone in my flat, there was such a sense of community, and the band was amazing as ever. 2016 has been brutal for musicians, but it has been such a blessing to have this final tour and to be able to watch the last show.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          The thing is… they are famous (at least in Canada) and beloved. They have albums and concert videos, they will never truly “die” and be gone. At least not in the way that most people will be, and not for a long time. I mean, will they still be playing Bobcaygeon in 2562? Assuming the earth and humanity survive that long, that is.

          I guess in a weird way I find it less sad when someone famous dies because they leave more pieces of themselves behind in their work. There may not be any new work, but there is all kinds of work that keeps them alive and in memory, that can be enjoyed over and over again.

          It’s terrible and “not fair” that he’s got cancer and it’s terminal. That he won’t get to live out his life to a ripe old age. But years from now, I’ll be able to play a song, or watch a DVD and remember. Not many people get to leave such a legacy and in my own weird way, I find that sadder somehow.

    1. Cristina in England*

      I am not Canadian but I did attend university there so I get what the Hip and Gord Downie mean to Canada. I saw them play a couple of times, and both were great shows!

      We hung out together every single moment
      ‘Cause that’s what we thought married people do
      Complete with the grip of artificial chaos
      And believing in the country of me and you

  35. Iris*

    How do you feel about public proposals?

    There’s been a few engagement stories coming out of the Olympics, but it seems like an awfully public stage. Especially that diver whose partner got down on one knee right after her medal ceremony (she got silver). I can’t remember whether it was live but either way it would’ve been broadcast to millions of people. It’s li,e one of those stadium proposals but amplified a few thousand times. Of course if he was sure she’d have said yes then it’s probably not that bad. But she did pause for a long time and afterwards said she didn’t expect to get married so young which made me wonder if it was the pressure of the moment.

    1. katamia*

      They’re coercive–I’ve read about women who said yes in public but later said no because they felt pressured to say yes. Which I suspect is what some are counting on when they choose such a method. If the proposee openly states that they want one, then that’s different (I know some couples who have agreed that they were going to get married but who still wanted to do a “romantic” proposal even though they were already technically engaged), but I know if I were ever proposed to in public, that would be a fantastic sign that whoever was proposing to me wouldn’t be someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m against them, seriously against them. The only possible scenario in which I can see it being okay is if the person being proposed to expressed multiple times to the proposer a desire to be proposed to publicly (the timing and method would be a surprise but the fact that it was public would not be).

      Other than that, it’s an unnecessary spectacle and puts a lot of undue pressure on the proposed-to person to say “yes” (at that moment too) and to look enthusiastically excited… it puts a lot of pressure of performance in that moment, even if the proposed-to does, in fact, want to get married.

      1. Marzipan*

        This. If a couple are already on the same page about getting engaged – it’s something they’ve previously discussed and planned – AND the proposee has made it clear that they would appreciate a public proposal, then OK. Otherwise, saddle up the nopetopus. It’s so coercive; it puts immense pressure on the person to say yes or face public disapproval. Being incredibly contrary, I would say no on principle to any public proposal I ever received (although, I’m also incredibly single so it’s not likely to be a problem…)

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          I am trying to imagine what kind of saddle could go on an octopus… this must be why in underwater stories merpeople ride seahorses or dolphins.

          Some people *love* being the centre of attention. Those are the people who should have the public proposal. If you don’t know your intended well enough to know whether or not they would love being proposed to in public or a flashy/showy way, you should probably keep it private.

            1. Dynamic Beige*

              OK, I’m going to be pedantic here and point out that that Nopetopus is not wearing a saddle, but a bridle (or perhaps a harness). ;)

              I can’t see any octopus (or nopetopus) worth their salt accepting a saddle or bridle because they’re so squishy and flexible.
              [puts on saddle]
              Octopus: Hell, no.
              [wriggles out in .3 seconds and scoots off in a cloud of ink]

    3. Not So NewReader*

      The first few on YouTube were kind of neat. But now it’s not new any more.

      Should I ever meet someone, I would hope he would have the good sense not to do this.

    4. Al Lo*

      My general feeling on proposals is that they should never be a complete surprise. The TV trope of a totally unexpected proposal and the bated-breath waiting is just so foreign to my understanding and experience of relationships. By the time you get to that point, you should know that the other person will say yes, because you should have already been discussing plans, goals, dreams, etc, and how the other person fits into them.

      I was proposed to publicly, but my husband a) knew without a doubt that I’d say yes, and b) knew that I would enjoy being the centre of attention in a public way like that (and would appreciate having friends and family witness the moment). The surprise was when and where he proposed, not *that* he proposed. I have no problem with public proposals as a concept; I just always hope that they’re consensually public.

      1. Elizabeth West*


        I wouldn’t want it to be a big splashy public thing. I would expect we would already have talked about getting married at length before he asked and he would know that.

    5. AcidMeFlux*

      I feel totally squicky about them for all the reasons people have mentioned. Furthermore, if I were an accidental bystander/witness, I think I’d be pissed off at being roped into someone else’s drama.

    6. nep*

      I don’t like anything about them. I don’t think it honours the proposee or the relationship.

    7. Sorgatani*

      Other posters have expressed my sentiments – it just isn’t me. I see manipulative elements in that kind of staging – turning it into a spectacle.
      Neither I nor the fella wanted to be the centre of attention in that way. So, when the fella proposed, it was just us. No staging, no script.
      It was a perfect moment.

    8. Callietwo*

      My then boyfriend, current husband and I were eating dinner with my daughter and her friend one night next to a group table of about 20 people.. the tables were all incredibly close due to the size of this group and while were sitting there, one guy goes down on one knee next to a girl directly next to us with someone facing in our direction was recording the whole thing.

      Hubby is saying “don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it” over and over through the whole thing. He and I knew he was joking but I’m sure they’re just thrilled to have him uttering that in the background of their video…. I guess that’s the chance you take when you foist a public proposal though.

    9. Awkward Interviewee*

      I agree with the rest of you – public proposals are only OK if the proposer already knows the proposee will say yes AND proposee actually wants a public proposal. (I definitely did not want a public proposal, and I’m so glad fiance proposed privately!)

      I actually felt bad for the Chinese diver. She looked overwhelmed and not very happy to get engaged. I also thought it was kind of a jerk move by her fiance. He basically took the spotlight away from her silver medal and put it on him / them as a couple. If I had just won an Olympic medal, I would want the focus on my badass athletic ability, not my relationship. I can see how the fiance may have wanted to make it memorable and special by proposing at the olympics, but he could have done something less attention grabbing that wouldn’t have put her on the spot, such as doing it privately while taking a walk through a scenic part of the Olympic village or something.

      1. Forrest Rhodes*

        Absolutely agree. All of the early morning workouts, and the practices when you have a stuffy nose or aching muscles, the low-level jobs you take so you can earn a little bit of money and still have time for training, all of the dedication it takes just to make the Olynpic team in the first place; and then yessssss! You’re there, and not only did you perform well but you’ve medaled—glory, hallelujah!—your Olympic dream is coming true … and ninety seconds later it’s not about all your hard work and personal focus, it’s about “hey, we’re getting married.”

        I’m not against marriage, nor am I against public proposals (I guess)—but if someone I love has just achieved this wonderful goal, I’m going to stand back, cheer my brains out, and let her/him absolutely wallow in the pure joy and satisfaction of having made the podium. I’m not gonna shove myself into the center of it all.

        And, without sounding too “surly to bed, surly to rise” here, I’ll quote a friend who has personal experience in both of these areas (Olympic medalist; married person): “Marriages are supposed to last forever, but sometimes they don’t; but for the rest of your life your name will be preceded with ‘Olympic medalist.'”

    10. Blue_eyes*

      My husband is super against public proposals, and I think they’re weird too. His biggest complaint is that they often involve a lot of lying (if other people are in on it) and it just doesn’t sit right with him to start off an engagement/marriage by lying to your partner.

    11. Lady Kelvin*

      I would have been fine with a public proposal for us because we had set a date, reserved the venue, etc about 6 months before we got engaged (although I found out later he already had the ring by then…) but we had decided to get married even before we set the date, we were just getting married out of town and happened to be there so we picked a venue. If you haven’t already decided to get married I do think you should even think about proposing, let alone in public. Marriage should never be a surprise.

    12. TootsNYC*

      I have a very unpopular opinion, which I seldom share.

      I think they’re kind of self-centered, actually. Most surprise events are (surprise birthday parties, surprise “soldier coming home” events).

      The surpriser gets to be in total control, and gets to have all the fun of anticipation. And gets applause later, and attention, for creating the surprise.

      The surprisee is just a character in their play.

    13. Sherm*

      I will always think of that “Real American Genius” commercial from a few years back. “You’ve combined the three things you like the most: Baseball, your girl, and lots and lots of attention.”

    14. Gaia*

      I am so opposed to them that even if I would otherwise say yes, I would say no if I was proposed to in public (which includes in front of just family or friends). They are so coercive. If you say no, you’re a terrible person for embarrassing the other person. And, as a woman, I’ve been conditioned since youth to never ever ever be rude so I’d feel pressured to say yes even if I wanted to say no.

      But then again, I hate the idea of a “proposal” to begin with. Deciding to get married should be a conversation and decision that two adults decide upon together over time. Not a surprise question sprung out of nowhere.

  36. catsAreCool*

    Any recommendations for yoga DVD’s?

    I haven’t done much yoga, but what I have done seems to be good.

    1. Jillociraptor*

      I love the Do Yoga With Me YouTube channel. I’m not very skilled so I can’t speak to the channel for more experienced folks, but for me it’s perfect!

      1. Felix*

        +1 to this channel! I also like using the website: do yoga with me . com

        On the website you can search videos based on experience level and the amount of time you have available to work out. The instructors are really good!

    2. Dot Warner*

      I liked Yoga For Every Body by J.J. Gourmley – very good if you’re a beginner. Most of Rodney Yee’s videos are good too, if you’re looking for a challenge.

    3. Blue_eyes*

      This is not a DVD, but I really like the app “Yoga Studio”. It’s available for iOS devices, not sure about Android. It’s $4-5 I think. They have lots of pre-made classes that you can download that come in a variety of lengths, difficulty levels, and purposes (strengthening, back pain relief, relaxation, etc). You can also choose individual poses and combine them into your own routines which you can then save.

    4. Lily Evans*

      Not a DVD, but Yoga With Adriene is my favorite yoga youtube channel and she has tons of free videos!

  37. Jen RO*

    Following up from the language discussion earlier this week – can anyone recommend resources for German? I’m already taking classes, but I want something quick and fun I can do on a regular basis. So far, I’ve found a couple of YouTube channels, and I think my favorite so far is EasyGerman, because they speak *in* German rather than *about* German… and they speak clearly enough for me to understand. (I tried Duolingo but I don’t like typing on my phone, so I only use it infrequently).

    As an aside, I asked my teacher how long he thinks it takes a person to become fluent in German ans he said 2.5 years.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      There is a free podcast called Coffee Break German, I’ve used the Spanish version and liked they have a conversation and then break it down in English. It starts off with simple conversations and then gets more complicated.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      I thought my German 101 college textbook, Wie Geht’s, was great. Though of course I wasn’t trying to use it to teach *myself* German.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        Late to the party, but I LOVED Wie Geht’s! It was incredibly useful and I loved the little Easter eggs thrown in there. And the guy talking about his hobbies: “Ich bin ein Star Trek Fan!”

    3. Sparkly Librarian*

      I’ve been using the web version of Duolingo and find it both easier to type and more structured in the lesson — for example, instead of falling into a new unit with vocabulary or grammar you’ve never seen before there’s a written lesson you can read first.

    4. Irish Em*

      I’ve been using News in Slow Italian, I know they have a slow Spanish, I think it’s safe to assume they do a German one as well :)

    5. Bidding Adieu*

      Pimsleur audio is my go-to for language start-up. Libraries often have them, and they’re great for getting your brain to think in the language. Also good for practicing the sounds from the start.

  38. Vanilla*

    I think I am depressed. I don’t really have any specific reasons to be. its been a hectic year so far ( got married and bought our first house and adopted my first pet in 20 years) and now things are purposely slowing down.

    I’ve also realized a lot of things in recent months, most notably that working at home full-time isn’t probably the healthiest thing for me. I’ve also realized that I’ve naturally drifted from my core group of friends, which is understandable because I’ve changed a lot in the past few years, but its still sad. I realized that some of the friends are rather materialistic and really don’t like “outsiders.”

    so the question is …how can I best help myself?

    1. Sorgatani*

      Depression doesn’t seem to need a reason. It’s a frustratingly empty and isolating state of being, and I’m sorry you’re going through it.
      Perhaps a change in routine is in order – any trivia nights, amateur sports teams or craft classes in your area?

    2. Lily Evans*

      I’ve definitely read things before about post-wedding blues (I think Captain Awkward has answered a letter about that), so you’re definitely not alone. It can be really hard to have so much build up to a big event in your life (which it looks like you’ve had a few of this year) and then just… go back to normal. It’s worth looking into a therapist to talk to, but here’s some of my advice:

      How flexible is your work schedule from home? Could you take your laptop to a park or a coffeeshop, just for a change of scenery and to be around people? Do you have to be working during certain hours, or could you take some time in the morning or afternoon to get out of the house and maybe go to a class or something? A lot of towns have community centers with classes for adults that can include everything from art, to languages, to exercising, or you could look for a meetup group to try. I personally try to leave the house at least once a day, it’s way too easy to fall into my own head without that. Even if it’s just a walk up the street to grab a coffee, getting outside seems to be the hurdle I have to jump every day.

      Also, it’s almost never too late to get back in touch with friends, if that’s something you want to do. It definitely feels awkward to reach out first after it’s been a while, but I’ve done it a few times now (and had old friends reach out to me) and it’s never been unwelcome. Worst case scenario you just make vague plans to grab coffee that never come to fruition, and then it’s just not meant to be. But chances are they miss you too, even if your depression is telling you they don’t.

    3. PowerBall*

      That’s a lot of transitions! It could very well be situational depression, which I think is really called Adjustment Disorder? I would talk to your doctor.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      If you have been expending an unusually high amount of energy, such as longer days, you might be low on vitamins and minerals. You might benefit from some vitamin D or getting out into the sun more often if that is okay for you to do. You could just plain be freakin’ tired. Do you get eight hours sleep a night?

      It’s fairly normal after “big excitement/lots of changes” for people to experience a down period. That down period can be an emotional drop or it can be a drop an activity level or both.
      Sometimes lulls happen in life because we are supposed to do what is in front of us, complete one thing before moving to the next exciting thing.

      Friends are a toughie, because it’s hard to let go and hard to stay all at the same time. Start to figure out what you would like to do to meet new people. This could be joining a group, taking up a new interest such as an exercise or scrap booking, or maybe getting involved in local politics. Rather than entirely ditching your friends, I’d recommend just adding new people to your list of friends. If the old friends fade away, then so be it.

      Lastly, my wise friend told me that when we hit lulls in life, we need to deliberately plan what our next gig will be. Sometimes it feels like a bunch of stuff happens in our lives without much direction from us. So we can wake up one morning and realize, “Hey, where did all the busyness go?” Strategically pick a new goal or two and start to map out the steps to attaining that goal. Your goal could be anything: an IRA with a couple thousand dollars in it; meeting three new neighbors a week; finding different work with more human interaction, etc. You goal can be anything you want it to be, my recommendation is to be strategic about it and pick something that will serve you well in the future. (Yes, meeting three neighbors a week WILL serve you well in the future as you feel will anchored in your new community.)

      Key part: sometimes lack of goals will exacerbate feelings of depression. While nothing replaces the importance of having a check up or seeing a counselor when necessary, some of these things can ease the difficulty while waiting for that appointment date.

  39. Vanilla*

    moisturizers recommendations for combination skin?

    I’m in my mid-30s and currently using kiehls super multi corrective moisturizer ( not the real name but it comes in a purple jar). I’ve used it for a couple of years but it is pricey ($65 a jar I think).

    1. KR*

      I’ve had great luck with Neutrogena oil-free moisture with spf15. I believe it’s around $10/bottle and the bottle lasts me a while. I put it on every morning and sometimes at night if I shower or I went to the beach (the salt dries my skin out).

    2. periwinkle*

      Eucerin Daily Protection face lotion. I have really weird skin – my nose can be beaded with little oil bits and peeling dry at the same time (and maybe the same spot). Ack. This version of Eucerin is on the lighter side (so won’t aggravate the oily bits) without being watery. And… SPF30. It’s about $10 for a 4oz bottle ($7 at Amazon).

    3. Lore*

      For daytime moisturizer with sunscreen, I use something from Trader Joe’s ever since Target discontinued the Boots product I like. It’s oil free and it’s got zinc (I am mildly allergic to some of the chemical sunscreen ingredient). I find their oil free night moisturizer too oily though and also sometimes use the Kiehl’s in the blue bottle. Pricy but I only use
      a couple of times a week so a bottle lasts a long time.

    4. HannahS*

      I don’t know if I have combination skin–I suspect I’m dryer, but I’ve been really happy with Spectro Gel’s facial moisturizer. It’s pretty no-frills (light, absorbs quickly, fragrance-free), but I like it. My oilier friends swear by that yellow Clinique one–it’s also nice and light.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I really like Olay for sensitive skin. My mum used Olay for years, back when it was pink! It’s light and absorbs well and isn’t greasy. Now I use that in the daytime and Pond’s at night.

    5. catsAreCool*

      Aquaphor feels greasy and doesn’t have much of a scent, but it’s amazingly wonderful to skin!

    6. Damn it Hardison!*

      First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration. I also have combination skin (also acne prone) and find it works really well. Despite the name it isn’t overly moisturizing. It’s available at Sephora and Ulta. I’ve been using the same container for almost a year so it’s a pretty good value.

    7. Mags*

      Absolutely love Bare Minerals (I use Butter Drench but they have multiple formulas) and First Aid Beauty moisturizers. They are WELL worth the money.

    8. zora.dee*

      I love CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion. It’s great on my combination skin, I don’t feel dry, but I don’t get breakouts. Plus, it has 30 SPF including physical sunscreen, Zinc Oxide, which is way more protective than just chemical sunscreens.

      I also have really sensitive skin. And it’s drugstore brand so not super pricey.

    9. Dot Warner*

      St. Ives Collagen Elastin! I’m the same age as you and it’s the reason I still get carded. ;)

  40. Help with Google calendar goals*

    I’ve been using Google calendar goals to schedule time to walk for thirty minutes, six days a week. I originally set up the goal for “any time”, blocked out my work, commute, and dinner times, and it would typically schedule exercise for around 6pm.

    I’ve decided to commit to a 5:30 am walk instead (8am on weekends), but Google won’t schedule the earl