weekend free-for-all – September 3-4, 2016

Eve watching birdThis 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: Harmony, by Carolyn Parkhurst, about a family who — increasingly worried about their older daughter’s behavioral issues — seek help at a cultish camp. I loved this and stayed up way too late reading it several nights in a row. It’s so good that I want to start all over from the beginning, and might.

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

{ 865 comments… read them below }

        1. Laura (Needs To Change Her Name)*

          Hah when I let my kitties out on the screen porch I ask “do you want to watch some Cat TV?”

    1. Sarah*

      It looks like Datura to me. Beautiful, very toxic, often grows as a weed in waste areas. If it’s not Datura it is closely related, and definitely in the nightshade family.

    2. Dynamic Beige*

      We used to have something like that… we called them Angel Trumpets. They were soft and velvety, they grew in poor conditions and were practically impossible to kill.

  1. AliCat*

    I got a dog from the local shelter about four months ago. He’s almost a year and a half old now and I love him to pieces but…he seems pretty miserable all the time. I was incredibly upfront about what I could offer an animal when I spoke to the shelter and there were a whole bunch of people that applied for the same dog, but for some reason they chose me. I take him on an hour long walk first thing in the morning and the same at night and I come home for lunch every day to take him out and play with him for a bit. I also take him to the dog park for an hour about four times a week (weather permitting). I’m really trying my hardest here but he seems to be so sad – when I get ready to go to work he cowers in the corner, when we’re not out on a walk he’ll whine a lot but won’t want to play. When I leave, he’ll yelp and cry and destroy everything he can. He also has no idea how to play with toys. In order to get him even somewhat engaged I have to run around the house with the toy a few times and then he’ll come check it out but the second he has it, he’s no longer interested. The only thing he truly enjoys is the dog park, but only when there are other dogs there. I can’t help but feel like I’m not giving him a good enough home and it’s breaking my heart but I honestly don’t know what else I can do. Please help!

    1. the gold digger*

      I am not a dog person – we have cats. But we got two cats specifically so they would have company when we are not around. Maybe your dog is lonely? Is it possible for you to get him a companion?

      (PS I yield to all dog owners – my idea might be totally wrong for dogs.)

    2. (Not an IRS) Auditor*

      For the separation anxiety, do you crate him when you leave? Crating feeds into a dogs denning instinct and makes them feel safe. It can also reduce stress by letting them know they are off duty, as some dogs think they have to defend the house when you’re gone. It’s super stressful to keep alert the whole time your gone!

      Some dogs aren’t into toys, that’s ok. I had a lab that didn’t like to chew anything. Unusual, but just her personality.

      You are getting him way more walk time than most dogs get – most are lucky if they get two 10 minute walks. That’s fantastic. (Unless it’s not that energetic a dog. He should come running when you say walk or pick up his leash.)

      I’m not sure what behavior you’re seeing that makes you think he’s miserable? Is it more than just sleeping most of the time? Because lots of dogs sleep a lot. Unless I’m preparing food or doing something else interesting like that, my dogs spend most of their time sleeping, or at most quietly staring out a window looking for squirrels.

      If you tell us his breed, we may have more specific advice.

      1. AliCat*

        I crated him for the first three months but lately he crawls under tables and cowers in corners when its time to be put in the crate. I usually put a kong toy in there with him with some goodies in it – which he likes (sometimes he’ll run in the crate and grab it and then run away). But these days I physically have to lift him (all 50 pounds) to put him in and he yelps like someone is whipping him when he’s in it. I’ve been trying to leave him in the bedroom instead with some toys I know he won’t destroy and leave the blinds up so that he can look out. But when I’ve been doing that recently he’s been biting the baseboards and eating the blinds and basically anything else he can find. And of course not knowing what new creative way he will find to destroy something is giving me so much anxiety when I leave the house so thats not good either.

        He’s a weird mix of a couple of things – he’s a quarter lab and then a weird mesh of chow chow, husky, beagle and german shepherd.

        1. TL -*

          Is he trained? Does he have jobs to do? It might help him to have something to intellectually focus on – he’s got more than a few smart, likes to be trained breeds in him.

        2. MillersSpring*

          Have you tried cleaning his crate and giving him fresh bedding? A fresh clean crate pad and a thorough cleaning will help. You probably should try a natural cleaner so it doesn’t end up with a chemical odor that puts him off.

          I agree that he likely needs a friend. A kitten would be a great addition. They are so interactive and entertaining!

        3. Tindomerel*

          Hi, long time lurker and first time posting!

          It sounds like you have the physical exercise part down, is it possible he needs more mental stimulation? I have a German Shepherd and he requires tons of physical exercise, but I also need to keep his mind stimulated since the “gears” are always turning in his head. You mentioned your dog likes getting treats out of his Kong, so it sounds like he enjoys a challenge! Games such as find it, hide and seek, and even obedience training do wonders for their minds, and they also physically tire them out. Your dog is a mix of several working breeds, which might just mean that he wants a job! Owning a working dog isn’t easy (a bored GSD is a destructive one), but it’s also awesome. You sound like a great owner btw! :)

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I love German Shepherds and their desire to work. My GSD appointed herself to the “job” of patrolling the back yard for flying insects, and when the target was acquired, she would snap them down with her front teeth.

        4. ChemMoose*

          We adopted our dog about three years ago and he does the same thing. He knows when we are leaving and absolutely HATES the crate. We can’t leave him alone because he does house destruction (we’ve gone through 3-4 door frames), and in his crate, he doesn’t stop digging (thankfully the crate floor is pretty indestructible).

          He has separation anxiety, and many trainers say you should not crate dogs that have separation anxiety because they may hurt themselves. As someone mentioned below you have to re-crate train with positive reinforcement. Thankfully this has helped recently as our dog doesn’t dig in the crate anymore, and he doesn’t pee it either.

          You are an awesome dog parent with all that you are doing. It’s likely your new fuzzball picked up the anxiety by being dumped in the shelter. The fact that you are trying to help him adjust speaks volumes to how much you care. Keep up the great work!

        5. BobcatBrah*

          It could just be his personality.

          I have 3 dogs (a pug, a lab, and a mutt who’s the same size as the lab), and the mutt just whines and whines and whines, but she gets plenty of play time, I take her on jogs, I’ve taken her to the vet and she’s got a clean bill of health. She’s just a whiner.

          But, since you’re in a different situation with only one dog, then you might want to look into getting another dog (who is about the same age, so he has a real playmate). Dogs do better in pairs.

    3. Kevin*

      As far as destroying things and being scared when you leave, you should be crating him when you’re not there. Many people think it’s mean to put a dog in a crate but they actually feel more secure when they’re in the crate…it’s their home. Both dogs that we’ve had over the last 10 years would go lay in their crates when they wanted a nap or when it was too busy in the house. It was their safe place. The crate should be barely big enough for them to stand up in, no bigger. Here’s a good article about dog crates: http://www.labradortraininghq.com/labrador-training/what-size-dog-crate-and-which-type/

      Toys: Cider (Golden mix) loved his “bone” and would carry it around the house and get it out whenever anyone would come for a visit and show it to everyone. Cooper (Pomeranian) literally never cared about toys at all no matter how much we tried to get him excited about it. Don’t worry about that.

      You’re absolutely doing everything right from what I see. The fact that he loves playing with other dogs is a very good thing. If you have the bandwidth, you might try getting another dog because it seems like this guy likes to have other dogs around. If you can’t, that’s OK. Remember,if you got this dog from a shelter, you’re dealing with his history and sometimes that’s a lot to overcome. Also, you can’t judge a dog’s “happy” or “sad” by human standards.

    4. OhBehave*

      We rescued our pup. She was about a year and a half when we got her 10 years ago. She behaved in this very way. Her vet said that this is quite common with shelter/rescue pets. Total separation anxiety.
      For the first few months, our pup would jump our 6 ft. fence occasionally. After the second escape, she would come back after 5 minutes. The fourth time was her last escape. We also tried to keep her caged when we were gone. She tore up 2 metal cages (she’s 45 lbs.), destroyed the plastic tray in the cage, etc. After a month or so, we decided to let her have free reign in the house. She became frantic – yelping, running around the house, etc. I started leaving her for 5 minutes, telling her I would be back. Coming back in the house I would grab a toy and play with her. She didn’t seem to know how to play either. We would wrestle and play. She finally worked through her issues and became totally comfortable in the house alone and is the perfect dog now. Of course, every time we leave we tell her we will be back!

      Lots of praise for him when he comes to check out the toy you have. A little gentle wrestling is fun too. You adopted him out of a shelter with many other animals. He’s used to chaos and noise. Maybe leaving the TV or radio on will help a bit. If adopting another pup is a possibility, that may be an option. I really think he will ‘grow out’ of this stage. Remember, that young age is still considered a pup in some breeds.

      1. Amadeo*

        Yes, this is pretty classic separation anxiety. It might be worth finding a trainer or behaviorist to help you directly and also let your vet know what’s going on in case some medical relief is warranted.

        Try to vary your leaving cues. Put him in the crate for a break when you’re not going out at all. Pick up your keys or purse, put them back down. Go out the door, come right back in. These are all desensitization techniques. What he’s doing right now is ramping up with dread with each action you do that points to you leaving.

        It’s something that you can, eventually, overcome with him, but it’s going to take some hard work and some professional help. And it’s got nothing to do with what you are or are not providing. Exercise is good, a tired pup makes a less destructive pup, but it’s going to take more than that.

    5. Bird*

      It sounds like he may have some separation anxiety, which isn’t uncommon. Crate training him may help with the destructiveness and give him a “safe place” where he feels comfortable. The ASPCA has some good resources about it, and your vet may be able to help as well.

      Some dogs aren’t really toy-motivated, which is fine but sounds like it may be troubling to you. He may be more food-motivated, in which case there are toys the combine food and problem solving-the extra mental stimulation will be good for him, and is almost as tiring as physical exercise. Things like doing daily training, maybe teaching him new tricks, might also help perk him up and strengthen your bond. It doesn’t have to be arduous – 5-10 minutes of work would be great each day to start. If he likes it, you can do more!

      You sound like you are actually a great owner, and I’m sure your dog is not at all miserable. Because he’s a rescue, it just might be a little more complicated for him to adjust – even after 4 months of being with you! You’ve done a great job of giving him a solid routine, as well as excitement and socialization on a regular basis. Don’t be discouraged by what you see of other dogs and their owners. Those moments are mere snapshots, not an accurate representation of the day-to-day for those dogs and their people.

    6. Clouds in My Coffee*

      Can you hire a trainer? Even one or two sessions could give you some great insights into your dog’s behaviors and possible solutions. I’d look for someone who is a balanced trainer rather than pure positive. That’s my personal preference and what I’ve seen have the best results from dogs in rescue. (I volunteered with a rescue for several years and we got all types of pups.)

      I’d try to get him back into the crate — a trainer can help you work through his crate avoidance. Have you tried giving treats and crating him for short periods while you’re at home? Like when you read a book and have some coffee in the same room? Doing that type of thing can help reinforce the idea that crate doesn’t equal Mom leaving.

      Good luck!

    7. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Is occasional daycare an option? I’m a huge advocate for it, probably because we lucked out with our first daycare experience– ours was run by a trainer, so in addition to supervised playtime and socialization, our buddy learned some commands. It also helped him to get out of the house and interact with people and other doggies, and our house became “our” space, where he always felt safe and in control.

      Re: the toy thing… I know plenty of dogs who aren’t into toys, and some (like my buddy) who will show interest sometimes and then none at other times. Keep on doing what you’re doing! Maybe try something he can chew on, like a cow ear or a bully stick. That will keep him engaged.

      For the first couple of months we had him, our dog (who was 2 1/2 at the time) acted out a bunch. Did lots of puppy-ish things, like chewing up a flip-flop and picking up a cashmere sweater from a pile and trying to run away with it. He was testing his boundaries for sure. We corrected him and spent some time teaching him tricks. Now he has us wrapped around his dewclaws, but he doesn’t destroy things.

      Please hang in there. Four months isn’t long at all, especially when you rescue, and it sounds like you’re doing a great job. My dog used to whine and cry when I left for work, and I think we were about 4 months in before that stopped– and I missed it! Now he just gives me a look like, “Whatever, Mama, BYE.” You are absolutely providing a good home for him, you just have to get used to each other. Keep trying with the crate– other people have great suggestions.

      1. TL -*

        One of our dogs loves toys and treats and anything to play with and our other doesn’t care at all- he’s never chewed anything he didn’t find outside and he wouldn’t eat a full steak dinner in front of his face without permission. They’re both great dogs, though!

    8. FCJ*

      I second the trainer. We saw all kinds of our dog’s behavioral quirks clear up just because we finally firmly established who was the boss. It was amazing. She was just generally happier and more secure even after the very first session with a trainer. We had someone come to our house and do one-on-one training. It’s expensive to do that way, so if your little dude is cool with other dogs you could try group sessions first, but you might not get the same results. Just depends on the dog.

      Four months isn’t very long. Our rescue doggy probably took a year or so to really adjust, before we really stopped noticing changes in her demeanor. Her separation anxiety was never as intense as you describe, but one thing that worked really, really well for us was calming treats. You can get herbal ones from pet supply stores–they’re not narcotics or anything like that. I honestly don’t know how or why they work, or if it was some placebo effect by proxy that changed the way we interacted with her, but if we gave her a treat or two maybe fifteen minutes before taking her into a situation that we knew would cause her anxiety, she handled it a lot better, and eventually we stopped needing them at all.

      Also, your attitude is crucial. Dogs pick up on the tiniest amount of stress or anxiety or disapproval from their people, so if you’re stressed about a situation, he’s going to stress out, too. Which is going to make you stress out more and it’s a horrible cycle of stress. It might require you to add some time to your leaving-the-house routine, but if you can pull together as much calmness as possible, and create a solid routine with him he’ll start to feel better about you leaving because it’ll feel less and less like abandonment. Make sure his crate is a nice, safe place for him, sort of like his own little room. Don’t put him in there as punishment, avoid interacting with him too much while he’s inside–call him out first. We feed our dog in her crate (with it open) and that really helped her think of it as her space. She basically just chills in there half the time. To get him acclimated to being in his crate while you’re gone, you can try closing him in there while you’re there sometimes, so he doesn’t automatically associate it with being alone.
      I think someone else suggested getting another dog. If that’s a possibility for you (it might not be, so no pressure, but if it is), or if you can get a cat, just having a friend in the house while you’re gone or busy might make a world of difference.

      Basically, there are a million little tricks and strategies to try, and they’re all going to depend on what works in your household and the personality and needs of your dog. But you clearly love him, and you sound like you’re willing to put a lot of energy into making a home for him, and that’s a huge first step by itself. Like I said, four months really isn’t a long time, especially if he’s still young. Our dog was a year and a half when we got her, and the longest she’d ever lived in one place was 8 months. If your dog has had a pretty unstable life until now, it’s going to take him a little while to get used to you as his forever people.

      Internet hugs if you want them. You’re doing a great job, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree that you are doing great, this is hard. A friend just gave up on a dog that was just way to clever. My friend could not keep up, the dog went into foster care and will be placed once it’s trained.

        You might consider playing some classical music when you are home and when you leave. (Do both so the dog does not associate music with you leaving.) I had a old shepherd mix who grew anxious with age. Soft music helped him to calm.

        You might like the idea of a Thundershirt. (You can google it if it interests you.) Friends got a Thundershirt for their dog and they felt it was helpful.

        I have a husky mix now and this guy is hyper-hyper-hyper. He has enough strength to knock over a grown man. Plus, I think he is smarter than me. We went through years of situations where I would get him to stop doing one thing and he would turn around and start doing some other thing that I had to pull him out of. He can take his collar off and open locked doors. He opened cabinets and drawers and put the contents all over the floor. It went on and on like this.

        I got some relief simply because he got older. I got more relief when I called a veterinary chiro who did Eastern Medicine. She had me stop feeding him chicken and start giving him turkey, beef and fish. Turkey is a downer, chicken revs them up. I can really recommend looking at the dog’s diet, from first hand experience.
        I think that some vitamins would help your little guy. But I would not attempt this on my own, if it were my dog. I am guessing but the dog could probably do well with some vitamin E and vitamin B, probably minerals and some other things.

        There is a homeopathic remedy called “Rescue Remedy”. Many health food stores have it. I can’t recommend it as a stand-alone solution, but it would probably help in conjunction with other things.

        Hang tough, something will kick in if you just keep trying different things. And thanks for caring enough, too many times these stories don’t end well. It’s nice to see people caring.

    9. Enginerd*

      You’ll laugh but dirty laundry works wonders or it always has for me. If your dog gets separation anxiety really badly throw some dirty laundry in the crate with him. If recommend something you don’t care about first just to make sure he doesn’t destroy it. Something with a soft feel and your event all over it will work wonders to calm his nerves

      1. Bibliovore*

        It takes time. Our little rescue pup. Cowered, shivered, peed submissively, drooled, and cried for almost a year. It broke my heart.
        Baby steps. She will never take to toys. She is not food motivated. The crate made things worse.
        We consulted a behaviorist.

        You may need medication for the separation anxiety.
        We blocked off part of the house for her.
        We left pee pad.
        We practiced leaving and coming back for 5 minutes, 10 minutes and 15 minute intervals.
        We found a food that would motivate her- in our instance that is smoked salmon and greenies.
        When we come home, we do not make a fuss but we do give her a greenie.
        I sit quietly and hand feed her salmon.
        We do not make a fuss when we leave.
        Now a year later- she is fine with us leaving but if we don’t go immediately we can hear her crying. She does settle down.
        Finally- really more than a year, this week she curled up in her dog bed like she always was there. no, she ignored it completely.

      2. KR*

        I agree with dirty laundry! Pretty much as soon as I brought my dog home and he realized I was taking him out of the shelter, he took a liking to me. The first night he was home he was having trouble falling asleep and wanted to get into bed with me (it’s reserved for my cat so she can have her special space with me). I gave him a throw blanket from my bed and he was golden. A month or two later my roommate gave him a blanket for himself that he sleeps with every night.

      3. nonegiven*

        Some hunting dog breeds have a tendency to wander off in the field, they get excited. Owners will train the dog to sleep on a used article of clothing so if the dog wanders off they can leave their jacket in their hunting area so the dog will come back to sleep on it.

        1. Natalie*

          That’s a common part of freshman dog training too – “on your mat” or “on your spot”. If you take classes you’ll learn it, or you can probably find the steps online.

    10. Soupspoon McGee*

      Do you have a doggy daycare nearby? We took our pup there when we were gone for more than four hours at a time, and she loved it. As she grew older (and more relaxed/less destructive), we took her less frequently. Ours is run by trainers, so she got lots of good socialization, play, and training.

      1. Doodle*

        YES to daycare. It saved our dog (and my sanity). She’s also much better on days she doesn’t go to daycare: she’s tired from the daycare visit and just a calmer happier dog now that she has consistent friends. She loves the dog park, but I don’t think it gives the same consistency.

    11. Meag L*

      You sound like an amazing dog owner! 2 hour long walks and a lunch break visit + dog park is SO MUCH MORE than what TONS of dogs get!

      I’ve fostered some dogs from a shelter and this does sound like separation anxiety to me too. I adopted a 12 y/0 lab from a shelter last year and he has chewed and ruined so much, but I’ve just dog proofed my house for the most part and I love him so much I don’t really care, haha.

      I will say I tried him on an anxiety med and it actually made things worse.

      You sound like you really care, so I”m sure you will get things worked out. If you do go with a trainer please research them well and their methodology. I’ve seen dogs suffer from well meaning, but not effective trainers.

      Best of luck!!

    12. Dognonymous*

      This is so hard. I’ve gone through similar challenges with a few shelter dogs of my own and fostering dogs. I agree with everyone else that it sounds like you’re doing way more for him than most dog owners, and I hope you can let go of some of the guilt you’re feeling. It’s a stressful situation but it’s not your fault. In case you’re considering trying to find another home for hime, I also want to encourage you to stick with him if possible, even though it’s really hard right now. With his level of anxiety switching homes would most likely be very tough for him and not many people would give him the level of exercise and attention you’re providing.

      Other commenters have already given a lot of good tips on how to address his fear (dirty laundry is awesome), and I’ll add to the list of people who suggest working with a trainer for a few sessions at least. If that’s out of the budget, you might also try contacting the shelter you got him from, they may know of some lower cost resources or have people on staff with training experience.

      I’ll also jump on the crate bandwagon. Crate training did wonders for my dogs with high anxiety… once I learned how to crate train. *Disclaimer: I’m not a dog trainer.* Here’s what has consistently worked wonders for me:
      – if possible, put the crate in a room he hangs out in a lot while you’re home (like the living room)
      – leave the crate door open at all times when you’re home, and put really cool stuff in there (kongs full of peanut butter, really stinky weird treats like smelly cheese, even just smear peanut butter on the crate itself… if he won’t even put his nose in there yet, smear it on the outside first). Bonus points if you can sneak the treats in there without him noticing, so that he can discover it at random, that’ll reinforce that he should check the crate out periodically
      – if you ever catch him checking out the crate, praise him like crazy
      – ONLY feed him in the crate, even if you’re home – just stick the food bowl in there. again, leave the door open for now. if he’s too scared to go all the way in to get the food you can start with the food bowl at the front of the crate, then slide it a little farther towards the back with each feeding as he gets more comfortable. maybe stay away while he scopes it out & eats the food so that he doesn’t worry about whether you’re going to shut the door on him
      – ONLY give him treats by tossing them into the crate, again you can start with them towards the front so only his nose has to go in, then toss them farther in over time
      (basically you want him to think of the crate as his “magic food box” – this is where all food comes from always, even after 10 years my dogs eat in their crates)
      – if possible, never shut the door on him until he’s consistently willing to step in there without immediately racing back out
      – once he’s a little calmer going in and out with the door shut, practice shutting it for very short periods – first you’ll just kinda pretend to close it and immediately open it again, next time maybe latch it and then open it right back up, then 30 seconds shut while you feed him treats through the crate, etc. you may even want to feed him entire meals of kibble by hand this way so that you can give him a pretty constant stream of “treats”
      – when you start shutting the door on him, try to be as calm and laid back about it as you can be, and do stay nearby so he doesn’t feel like he’s been left alone
      – as you get to a point where you can leave the crate door shut for a few minutes, be careful not to ALWAYS shut him in for longer periods each time or he’ll start to get suspicious. mix in times where you still just shut the door and open it right back up.
      – once you’re able to have him in there calmly for short periods, you’re almost there but you’re also at the hardest part… you’ve got to commit to NEVER opening the crate door while he’s whining or yelping, unless (and this is a big unless) you think he’s actually going to hurt himself, in which case definitely abort the session and try again another day. dogs are smart, if whining and yelping gets the door open he’ll learn to do it deliberately. my rule is to try and wait until they’re quiet for at least a full minute before opening the crate door, but you may want to use shorter periods starting out if he just can’t make it that long.

      In my experience the entire process can take anywhere from 1 week to 1 month, but dogs are individuals so it could be longer. And while this has worked for ~10 dogs for me at this point, I’m sure there are dogs with extreme anxiety who may not succeed on this plan either. Anecdotally though, one of my foster dogs was rescued from a situation where she’d been left locked inside a crate in an abandoned house with no food or water, and was skeletal by the time she was found. She had some serious crate anxiety to say the least. This method worked for her, although we did have to abort a few sessions along the way to make sure she didn’t hurt herself. It took 3-4 weeks, and in the meantime we kept her in a bedroom with the door shut, with the crate left open in the room with her. I’ll never forget the day I walked into her room and found her sound asleep in the crate for the first time.

      Sending lots of positive vibes and best wishes to you and your pup!

      1. Good Afternoon!*

        As a rescue cat owner it consistently take between 6 and 9 months for our cats to really embrace their new home. Sure after a month we get cuddles and can play and they have sleeping spots. But there is something about that time frame where they’re just different.

        More sure and confident. It sometimes shows as silly or energetic. Current cats because M: less needy and more mellow and T: surrendered as aggressive, adopted as energetic, but fearful and defensive is now only mildly defensive in appropriate situations and cuddly. And also follows our toddler around like a shadow.

        It seems they have to get to a pout where they accept this is real and long term. (Just aging also helps, but it’s been similar with 6years and older cats as well)

    13. SunShiner*

      When our dog was a puppy, she hated going into the crate despite our best efforts(we tried every tip I have seen here) to make it a cool, safe place to be. One trainer saved our lives with this tip to get her into the crate: put a leash on the dog and thread the leash through the top of the crate from the inside and gently pull the dog in(then take the leash off.) We usually had a treat or something at the back that she could have once she was in. Our dog was quite young and not very heavy, but this took a lot of the stress out of getting her into the crate when necessary.

      Also, we were pretty desperate by the time we called a trainer, and the above tip was just one of many that we got from her. We had scoured the internet and talked to other pet owners about various issues we were having (plus, we had had dogs and thought we knew what we were doing), but she always left us with some simple suggestion that helped a lot. I would definitely try a trainer before medication.

      1. KS girl at heart*

        Have you tried to leave a radio on in the house? My brother has 3 dogs that are crated when they are not home and he leaves a radio playing softly when they leave. It helps to not have the total silence or the scary noises outside.

    14. AliCat*

      To answer some questions
      – first off, I’m definitely not re-homing him. I’m determined to do the best for him and if that means throwing money at my landlord to allow me to have another dog, then so be it.
      – he’s been in training once a week since I got him and I’m not sure it has helped him at all. He’s better around other dogs now (but I think the constant socialization at the dog park does more to help with that). Our trainer moved to Europe (yes seriously) this week so we are in the process of finding a new one but I live in a remote place so options are slim.
      – I work with him on training on a daily basis. I try to stimulate him mentally with games and toys but he has a short attention span (pretty much that of a goldfish). If it takes him longer than a few minutes to figure something out, he’s no longer interested – peanut butter filled kong included.
      – there are no doggie day cares where I live – I think its because land is outrageously expensive here. There are a few dog walkers but our local dog park is getting quite neglected (and their business model means that they collect about six dogs at a time and take them to the park, then rinse and repeat) – recently large holes in the fence have appeared and the upkeep has really been poor lately – so I’ve personally been taking him to a dog park about 20 miles away that I think we both like better – but unfortunately no dog walkers will go to the further one.
      – tried dirty laundry in the crate and he didn’t really seem to care.
      – I feed him in the crate and he has zero problem popping in and out. I sometimes even leave him in there when I go outside to do yard work and he doesn’t have an issue at all. He seems to have this threshold though of about 2 hours where he’s fine and then all of a sudden he loses his damn mind.

      – I know this is silly but I don’t think he really likes me much at all. For the first week I had him it was like he was attached to my hip. Now he rarely willingly comes near me – which really makes me think I must be doing something wrong. If that was just his personality, then I’d learn to deal, but he’s so affectionate and snuggly with other people!! What gives?

      1. Bibliovore*

        I feel your pain. That is when I consulted the behaviorist. I seriously couldn’t imagine living with a dog that didn’t “like” me.
        Time was the only thing that worked. It was only this week a year in that the “crazy rescue dog” that I live with walked voluntarily into her crate.

      2. Natalie*

        Have you checked out Rover? It’s a gig-economy app for dog walking/sitting/boarding/etc. There may be people in your area that can dog walk or have doggie daycare in their home.

        As far as the possibility that he doesn’t like you – he may not have bonded yet, it’s true. That takes time. My husband is only just starting to bond with our shelter dog which we’ve had for 6 months or so. Keep working and playing with him and it will happen.

    15. ATXFay*

      First off… THANK YOU for adopting! :) My husband and I adopted our dog in January (his first, my umpteenth) and she has been a handful. Although I had dogs in the past, I never had a heeler.. and holy moly – she is the most energetic 7 year old dog I’ve ever met. 58 lbs of sheer energy, excitement and anxiety.

      I second giving him a job to do and getting him involved in some training. We were really overwhelmed with Callie for the first three or so months we had her. We finally got her enrolled in Sit Means Sit, which I think is a national chain, and it has been an amazing transformation. We couldn’t walk her out in public (she’d pull and lunge at other dogs, even dislocated my husbands shoulder), couldn’t leave her unsupervised for more than 30 seconds (she jumped our 5′ fence when my husband ran into the house to get a poop bag), would cry when we would crate her/put her in her room, and was generally so crazy to the point that we thought we wouldn’t be able to keep her. The trainers were able to work with us and we now almost always have a job for the dog to do – even it’s just laying down on her bed or in front of the fireplace (they call it teaching her to “place”). Even if we are out and about, she has way more confidence knowing that she can “place” on nearly any surface (fire hydrant, rock, stone wall, garbage pail) that we can quickly get her calmed down if she gets riled up by another dog, etc. She’s also much happier and better in tune with us as a “pack”. She’s even learned that the cats are the top of the pecking order, even above my husband and I! Training really saved our relationship with this dog and although she is not perfect, we are making strides every day. By ensuring we always have her doing a job while we are home, she is now so happy to just chill out in her room/crate anytime we put her in (not that we need to all that often anymore). It’s more mentally stimulating than physical, and that seems to work for her. If we slack off, she’s a nervous nelly and will pace & bark incessantly (“OMG! THERE’S A TREE OUTSIDE!! TREE, GET OFF MY LAWN!! MOM, MOM, MOMMY, MAMMA.. DID YOU SEE THAT TREE! IT’S STILL THERE.. GET OFF MY LAWN!!!!”). It will all work out, don’t worry. You pup will get adjusted – just stay as consistent as possible and it will all be fine :)

  2. The Other Dawn*

    I finally found a Meetup group I want to join that interests me AND it’s close by. It’s a book club. I’ve never been in a book club before, but love to read. And I definitely NEED to meet people– I’m sorely lacking in the friend department.

    Part of me is worried, though, that I might not like it. When I read, I read to be drawn into the story. I’m not analyzing it or wondering why John said this and not that. I figure I’ll try it out for a couple months and see what happens.

    Any tips for a new book club member? Feel free to share your experiences.

    1. the gold digger*

      At my book club, we do not do English-major level analysis. We talk about if we liked the book or if we hated it. We actually have more fun when we all hate it because we talk about how implausible the plot was and why on earth would this character do whatever.

      And then we eat. :)

      My advice is to have good food when you host.

    2. TL -*

      Book clubs vary! Mine just talks about I liked this or didn’t like that and what would be the movie casting and did you see that twist coming?
      Not super analytical at all but very fun!

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I’m hoping that this is the case with mine. I just want to talk about whether I liked it or not, whether the plot was realistic or not, and then eat. Since the description says fiction only, I’m guessing this might be an indicator that it will be more on the “let’s have fun” side.

      1. Hellanon*

        Years ago I was in a book club where we were trying to read books by non-American authors, and we hit on the idea of doing themed potlucks (so the time we read a French writer we had cheese fondue, that sort of thing). We carried on with it for 2 years, I think, and it was fun and not too taxing, and if you really hated the book, you didn’t have to finish it but you did need to talk about why…

    4. Rebecca in Dallas*

      I’m in a book club and we don’t get too deep into the analysis of the books we read. We usually end up finding a list of discussion questions online (or sometimes they have one in the book). We spend a lot of time catching up on what’s been happening between our meetings!

    5. Yetanotherjennifer*

      I’m in my third book club. (Changed due to cross-country moves. ) this one is a bit more analytical than the rest; we take turns leading the discussion and most people do at least a little research beyond printing the questions supplied by the publisher. But as a participant it’s easy to just agree/disagree or build on someone else’s idea. Nobody’s judging or even noticing your input. And there is usually at least one person who didn’t finish or even start the book. The big thing is how you get along with the other participants. And it may take a few meetings to get a feel for the group and their selections. Ask if anyone has kept a list of books read in the past. It can give you an idea of their literary tastes. Budget-wise it’s good to note how many new releases they read. A new book a month can get expensive. Our local library carries book club selections where they have a bundle of 10 copies to check out. When it’s your turn to recommend books it’s helpful to provide the Amazon listing info and check the local libraries for available copies.

    6. Chaordic One*

      In my book club we attempt to learn a bit about the author of the book we are reading and discussing, like where and when they were born and what their personal experiences were and how those experiences may or may not have influenced their writing. Not in great depth, mind you.

      An example might be someone who experienced combat in World War II and then wrote about the horrors of war.

    7. Stellaaaaa*

      In my experience, book clubs tend to fall apart when newbies try to take the reins too early or when they try to shift the tone of the group. Go to the meetings and just observe for a while. Decide if you enjoy the vibe that’s already there.

  3. V Dubs*

    What are your favorite shows to see live?

    There’s a great playhouse near me, and I saw Romeo and Juliet last night, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona the night before. I might go catch Our Town today as well! All awesome performances. Romeo and Juliet was standing room only so the. Rowe definitely brought a lot of energy. It was so awesome to see the words come alive on stage!

    1. Mallows*

      I used to live near Ashland, OR and so went to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival quite a bit. They did a fantastic production of Two Gentlemen that was set in something like a high society sports camp. Pinks and greens and pastel plaids everywhere.

      I would love love love to see Jesus Christ Superstar live. And I’m a fan of Sam Shepard too…

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I do like theater. I wish I could go see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London. Someone said it might come to Broadway, but I want to go to London! *stomps foot like a five-year-old*

      1. stevenz*

        So just go to London. Go in the off season when you can get deals on airfares, like for a long weekend. It’s easy to do – if you live on or near the east coast. If you don’t, go anyway.

    3. LawCat*

      I like musicals live! My favorite is Jesus Christ Superstar (I’ve probably seen it 5 or 6 times). I enjoy seeing what they’re going to do with King Herod. The best was when he was Elvis :-D

      We have a theater in the round in my city that exclusively does musicals and they did a great production of South Pacific. I need to go see more shows there.

      1. Artemis*

        The funniest play I’ve ever seen live was Noises Off – when I left my body was literally sore from laughing non-stop for two hours. For Shakespeare I love Othello and Much Ado About Nothing.

        1. SophieChotek*

          Artemis — I agree with you on _Noises Off_ — I saw an absolutely fabulous local theater production about 3 years ago; in retrospect I wish I’d gone to see it twice. I agree – non-stop laughter for two hours– everything was perfect — the timing, the slapstick, the delivery of the lines

          For Shakesepare – saw an amazing _Taming of the Shrew_at Statford almost a decade ago; I would count it one of the 10 best productions I’ve seen live; perhaps top 5 — and only one of two times i’ve seen an audience break into spontaneous applause midway through a scene the acting was just that good

          Never seen a good Much Ado live

          And would love to see a good Measure for Measure, All’s Well that Ends Well, Richard III live — only seen filmed (stage/movie) versions

      2. V Dubs*

        Musicals make me so happy! This same theatre is also doing Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, which is brilliant (and has the soundtrack on Spotify!).

      3. SophieChotek*

        Law Cat – Have you seen the “Jesus Christ Superstar: Live from ARENA” production? It’s fabulous. Love it.

        I just saw local production of _South Pacific_; it was okay. But I saw the Broadway revival with Kelli O’Hara at Lincoln Center years ago, and that was good.

    4. Mike C.*

      I love attending live recordings of public radio shows. I’ve seen Radio Lab, Wait Wait and Says You so far, and they’re really a great deal of fun. They often add a bunch of special stuff for the live audience and you get to hear the stuff that gets edited out – mostly because it’s material that they aren’t allowed to air. ;)

      1. The Unkind Raven*

        I love seeing Shakespeare live; I like the Public Theater’s Mobile Unit; those versions are abbreviated (90 minutes), but they are excellent. Our Town is an old favorite. For a variety of reasons I saw Something Rotten! on Broadway several times and I really do love it.

      2. SophieChotek*

        I once went to Prarie Home Companion Live–sadly I was not old enough to appreciate — it was year and years ago; now I would appreciate it more

    5. SophieChotek*

      V Dubs — did you see _Our Town_? It can be really good (when well done) or so boring (when not). I saw Helen Hunt as the narrator when she was in it Off-Broadway–must have been 8 years ago or so. Fabulous production!

    6. SophieChotek*

      I did just see Disney’s _Beauty and the Beast_ this weekend. Local production but overall pretty good.

    7. SophieChotek*

      My favourite live shows to see: (er provided they are done well…)

      Le nozze di Figaro (I’ve seen it live 10 or 11 times)
      La Boheme (seen it live 2-3 times)
      La traviata (seen it lives 2x)
      Turandot (seen it live 2x)

      Tartuffe (seen it live 2-3 times)
      Measure for Measure
      A Doll House (would like to see it live)
      The Lady from the Sea (actuall never seen it live, but I want)
      Uncle Vanya (want to see it live)
      The Cherry Orchard (seen it live 2-3 times)
      Mrs. Warren’s Profession (Would like to see it live)
      The Wild Duck (would like to see it live)

      Carousel (see it live 4-5 times)
      Jane Eyre: The Musical (seen it live 1x)
      Pride and Prejudice: The Musical (would like to see it live)
      Jesus Christ Superstar (see it live 1x)
      Titanic: The Musical

      …so many more…

    8. C Average*

      A few times a year, my husband and I host a reading of a play. We print off scripts for everyone and highlight each part ahead of time, and we encourage costumes, accents, etc. Each person draws a role out of a hat at the door. We’ve done Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, and (my favorite so far because we all actually wore togas) Julius Caesar. We research and prepare period-specific food as well.

      We’re considering branching out next time and doing something other than Shakespeare, probably a musical.

      If you love theater and enjoy hosting parties, I can’t recommend this highly enough. It’s been so much fun.

  4. Staci*

    I know this is related to your column but it’s a free for all so here goes! Just wanted to say I just found your column surfing the web and I’m addicted! Totally catching up on the treasures of past years in my spare time. If anything it validates every bad experience with management I’ve had throughout my career and provides so much gratitude for the boss I have now reading all the horror stories. Thanks so much for what you do!!

      1. C Average*

        Me, too! I’m on the west coast, so the new column goes up at 9 p.m. my time. I always read it before I go to bed and try to guess which letters will get the most comments. Then I refresh and read the comments in the morning.

        1. Bibliovore*

          on the me-too front. I do believe I am undiagnosed work-a-holic. Weekend thread is always a struggle- do I have any other life?- downtime is laundry, cleaning and “service to my marriage” A therapist once asked me what I did for “fun” and I couldn’t come up with anything. The occasional reading of a non-work related book. A phone call to/from a friend. Physical therapy. Yet I truly get joy from my weekend marathons of catching up with AAM. Right now sitting on the back porch, breeze blowing, tiny old dog sleeping (I love watching her breath as she sleeps…nose and paws twitching) at my feet. Seeing the comments from “old friends” The knowledge that if I am having work-related stress or just petty an
          annoyances that I am not alone.
          AND your very practical, common sense advice on navigating the fraught world of work.

    1. Seuuze*

      I am completely addicted too! It is the first thing I read in the morning before starting my day, or right after breakfast. And everyone I meet that is job hunting I explain how they have to start reading this blog and how easy it is to use the search engine. I just cannot praise it enough.

      And one can easily adapt all of the ways to use the talking points with all other aspects of communicating well with others. I grew up in a hugely dysfunctional family with atrocious communication skills and in spite of the years in therapy, still find communicating difficult at times. Reading how Alison instructs us all on how to tell people difficult things in a firm and professional manner is a great tool as we all navigate our lives.

      1. C Average*

        THIS. So much of her advice boils down to communicating effectively–something that helps out in all facets of life.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Agreeing on the therapeutic value of applying new communication skills. It’s great to see people talking through things that people around me when I was growing up could not talk through. It’s not just about the word choice or how to express an idea. It’s also about seeing people receive a difficult message and handling it like adults and professionals.
        Not only are the instructions important but seeing the message received and responded to is important also.

        I have never seen anything like this here. I am also grateful that you keep the non-work thread open, too, Alison. I firmly believe that you have changed the course of many people’s lives.

  5. Anon in CO*

    Happy long weekend! This might be too personal for some people, but I’ve been wondering about this. How much do you manage to save each month and how much do you save toward retirement? I put $300/month in to retirement but feel like it’s not even close to being enough to ever retire. I put a lot more into savings, though.

    1. NicoleK*

      I wish I could put $300 a month into retirement….Hopefully, my luck will improve soon and I’ll be able to pay down bills and put more into savings.

    2. Anonymous Fish*

      If you have a healthy emergency fund and liquid savings, I would shift some of those savings from “savings” to your retirement accounts for the tax benefits. There are some sites that have guidelines about how much of your salary you need to have saved relative to your age in order to match the lifestyle that you have now. See: https://www.fidelity.com/viewpoints/retirement/how-much-money-do-i-need-to-retire

      I’ll be real: I put really little towards retirement (relative to my salary), because of student loans — I only do 2% a year. But, my employer contributes about 15% of my annual salary to my retirement account since it contributes to my 401(k) AND has a generous profit-sharing plan, so despite my best efforts (0r lack thereof), I actually have retirement savings to speak of. I still don’t meet the guidelines in the link above, but I’m getting closer to them.

    3. the gold digger*

      I put $300/month in to retirement but feel like it’s not even close to being enough to ever retire. I put a lot more into savings, though.

      If you are in the US, you might want to consider putting money in a Roth IRA and your 401K at work rather than savings, as there are tax benefits. I think you can put in about $5K a year into Roth. 401K is like $15K? Not sure.

      I max out my 401K and my Roth. We also have automatic deductions every month to investments that are not tax shelters. I make a decent income, but even when I was making a lot less, I always maxed out any tax shelter available to me. My order of paying expenses is housing, utilities (cable counts as fun, not as a utility), insurance, food (not eating out if I couldn’t afford it and even now not eating out much because my husband and I are really good cooks), retirement and savings, and then fun stuff.

      I was shocked when I found out a friend in grad school had cable TV but didn’t have health insurance. He could have gotten it through UT very inexpensively but just didn’t want to spend the money. You pay the bills before you have fun.

      (I saved money when I was a Peace Corps volunteer – I am pretty ruthless with my money – didn’t have much when I was a kid and am determined to be able to retire comfortably.)

      1. abankyteller*

        Friends of mine are behind on bills or not paying back their student loans, but have cable TV and take vacations. At least one never brings lunch to work and eats out every day, but can’t pay down her credit cards.

        How is that sustainable? It’s not!

        1. Anon in CO*

          I’m always surprised by the amount of people who eat lunch out every day and come in with a Starbucks coffee every morning. To each his own, though!

          1. the gold digger*

            I know! If I were really rich, I might do that, but even then, probably not, as I prefer to go to the gym at lunch and I really don’t like how much time is wasted eating out. I like the food usually, but I hate the ritual.

      2. Anon in CO*

        I put $150/month into a regular IRA, and $150/month into a Roth. I don’t have a 401K at work, sadly. Then there is $100/month going toward investments. I put way more into regular savings than I think I should – probably $1000/month into regular savings and then another $400 or so into accounts for vacations. I live pretty frugally. How did you figure out what investments to put your money toward? I’ve been thinking about seeing a financial advisor or something but I always assumed they were for people who are super wealthy.

        1. the gold digger*

          We need to talk to an adviser – they have them at USAA as part of the overall service, so I wouldn’t worry that they were telling me to do stuff just for commission. We are definitely not super wealthy.

          But – we have not done it yet. We just picked a few funds in each category: low risk (like bonds), medium risk (blue chips – do they go here?), and high risk. We have not invested directly in stocks – just mutual funds. We put the money in and leave it alone.

          However – I am not a financial adviser. :) So take what I say with a grain of salt. (Except the diversification part – do diversify!)(And max out that IRA if it will not cause you hardship!)

        2. Natalie*

          For investments just go with a low-cost index fund. Both Vanguard and Fidelity are some of the lowest cost ones. You’re unlikely to do better trying to actively manage your investments.

      3. Florida*

        It is always amazing to me how other people decide to spend their money. I’m with you – health insurance is a little bit more of a priority than cable TV. It is fascinating how and why people prioritize their expenses.

    4. Michaela*

      Retirement: I max out my 401k and IRA every year. The IRS limit on a 401k is 18K, and since I get paid twice a month, that’s $750 every paycheck. The IRS limit on IRAs is 5.5K, since I’m under 50, so that’s $230 per paycheck.

      My emergency fund is 15K in a high-interest savings account. If I have to dip into it, for stuff like my “gotta move house in <2weeks" catastrophe earlier this year, I pay myself back with $25-50 transfers from checking every Friday until I'm back to normal.

      I am super, super lucky to be able to take this much out of my paycheck and not miss it. When my salary wasn't as high as it is now, I prioritized the 401k and emergency fund.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        We max out both, too, because we make good money but we live (mostly) like we did when we were young and house-poor. Still have the same dining room set that we got in the scratch-and-ding section of Marlo right after we bought the house many years ago, although you wouldn’t know it unless you were looking for it. :)

    5. Colette*

      What are your savings for? If you just want the flexibility but don’t have a specific plan for them, that is money you can use at retirement.

      I put $500/month in retirement and about $600 in savings. But how much you can save depends on a lot of things (salary, living expenses).

    6. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I put 5% of my salary into a 401(k). I have a good chunk of change in there right now, but I’m now unemployed, so growth will slow on that one for a while. I have some money in mutual funds and various other investments, and it’s not a ton, but it’s a nice cushion for now. If I were to retire tomorrow, I’d be in trouble, but in another 20 years or so I might be ok.

      Savings… that’s a different story. I lived in New York for a long time and didn’t make enough to truly start saving until a couple of years ago. Then I spent most of those savings on a move to a different apartment, then on a long-distance move. The long-distance move ended up being pretty pricey (more than we anticipated) and I racked up some credit card debt, which I have been steadily paying off. My goal had been to put at least $500/month into a savings account, but that all went to the credit card. I have a small pension fund from a previous employer that’s not growing at all, so my plan is that once I get another job, I’ll cash that in and pay off the credit card (very high penalties, I know) so I can start building up a savings cushion again.

    7. Sparkly Librarian*

      15% of my paycheck goes into my employer’s retirement plan. I also max out my Roth IRA (so about $450/month) and when I have a windfall, a chunk of it goes into a Schwab account that is split between a CD ladder and cash (I’m planning on buying bonds in a few years, but need the liquidity for now).

      I’ve been cramming a lot into retirement savings for a few years (since I paid off my grad school loans), both because I know the power of compound interest and because I’ll have to redirect some of the monthly funds when we have a baby/small child to support. I don’t feel like it will be enough (at this point I’ve given up on being able to collect Social Security), but I don’t know what will happen in the next 30 years, either.

    8. Jersey's Mom*

      I put 20% into 401k and $400/month into an HSA. I try to put at least $50-100/month into a savings account. That’s my quick access/just in case fund. Emergency vet, broken water heater, re-shingle the roof type of account. I assume that social security might give me some “shoe money”, but I don’t assume it will provide any significant funds (i.e. I don’t count on it whatsoever).

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Oh, the HSA is important! I socked money away in there until I had the amount of a full deductible, and then I stopped (and switched to a different, non high-deductible plan with a new employer, coincidentally). I suppose if I were ideally prepared, I’d have set aside double the annual maximum deductible, to be prepared for a major health issue that either took several months to resolve or happened near the turn of the year.

    9. Dan*

      I put about $1k/mo into my 401k and my employer matches it with another $800.

      Because that is quite a bit, outside of that I do nothing. Too busy dealing with the shit life throws at me and student loans and all that.

      $300/mo by itself isn’t enough to retire on, but those accounts are just one piece of your overall financial health.

    10. Kate*

      I’m a Canadian federal employee, so between my contribution and my employer’s, 15% of my gross salary goes towards my retirement.

      That’s a lot of cash.

      Since we’re also trying to put money away for our daughter’s schooling and her current exorbitant daycare costs, I tend to leave it at that unless I feel like I have some “extra” at the end of the month or year. Maybe 2000 CAD goes in a year that way?

    11. LawCat*

      It’s varied between $500-$1000/month into a traditional 401K, but we’ll be ramping that way up to $1500-$2500 because I got a new job recently with a big boost to our income.

    12. Rey*

      My family unit is laser-focused on paying off debt right now, so we’re currently only putting $1000/year into a Roth IRA. Only one of us has any retirement benefits through work, but that one hasn’t done anything with it so far (boo, hiss). As soon as we’re done with debt, though, the next step is to sit down and figure out what our retirement plans need to look like. It feels wrong to be doing that before I’m 30, but that’s what needs to be done these days.

    13. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I’m in a state pension plan where I contribute 5% off my income and my employer contributes 10%. My financial advisor says that, since that is a guaranteed payout, I should put another 5% in an aggressive plan. I don’t know diddly about investing, so I’d just be following her directions on the assumption that they sound good

    14. lfi*

      i put 250 into my 401K and we max out my husband’s because of his employer’s insane match rate. we attempt to save at least 2K a month after all of our other expenses to build us a nest egg in the event that one of us loses our jobs.

    15. memboard*

      Somewhere between 12% and 18% of gross pay. So far, according to my financial planners, I am on track to retire at 65. We shall see. I don’t have an employer pension fund.

      To add to your anxiety, I want to point out that you might be forced into retirement in your early 60s (I am thinking of a layoff) and your financial plans would be thrown off. Unfortunately I am not really protected against this.

    16. Red*

      I save $100/month to retirement, $100 to the “crap happens” fund, and $50 to vacations. But I make $33k a year, so…

    17. DragoCucina (formerly Library Director)*

      Good for you. Putting money into retirement and savings. I drummed this into my sons’ heads. Even $5 is better than nothing. When my husband worked making money that caused my friends to ask why I worked. I maxed what I was legally allowed to put into retirement. Our philosophy was my husband worked for the present, I worked for our retirement. I’m still a decade away from retirement and now the “major breadwinner”. I’m really happy I maxed out what I could when I did.

      We cut the able over a year ago and don’t miss it. We haven’t had a landline phone in 15 years and I think we should give up VOIP. We went to Boost cell phones. I’m on wifi 75% of the time, so I don’t need blazing hot data speeds. Other savings are trying to prep meals so we don’t eat out as much and reduce waste.

    18. FiveWheels*

      Currently not saving anything – paying off my debts, which should be done next week if all goes to plan. With interest rates as they are it’s much better to use excess cash to get rid of liabilities first.

      The caveat is that I have approx £25k in credit card credit available to use as an emergency fund.

      I always try to maintain a month of wages in my current account, and wherever possible pay for any expensive luxuries (including clothes, holidays, sports tickets etc) right before payday. It stops me from getting into the “yay payday spend… Then three weeks later, broke” trap.

    19. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

      I max out the IRS allowable amount. It’s a lot, and it hurts sometimes. But I started doing it young – I contributed 6% of my paycheck when i started, and then kept increasing over the years until I hit the max, and then adjusted my spending accordingly.

      My husband also maxes out his contributions – we’re both federal employees so they go into TSP which like a 401(k). Last year I switched from traditional to Roth contributions, so it’s an even bigger hit out of my take-home pay. But we’re committed to doing this, and we wanted to do as much as we could before we had kids because it’s easier to save more now.

      I sit down with my employees when they start and make sure they know the importance of saving in their TSP – at least 5% so they get the government match.

      I wish we had more in our take-home pay sometimes so we could live it up a little more, but frankly we’d fritter away the extra :D. We’re VERY budget conscious people though – furniture is pretty basic, house wasn’t cheap but by DC standards it was pretty affordable, plus we have a shorter commute which is a tradeoff. We take vacations but I’m really good at doing them inexpensively.

    20. NDQ*

      What you save, how much you contribute, and where you park your money depends upon your goals. When and how do you want to retire? What does retirement look like for you? How is your health? Family health history? Once I decided the year I wanted to retire, then I took a hard look at my financials. I got aggressive with saving and putting it all into different investments. In addition to all of the tax friendly options at work (401k, HSA, deferred comp), I have a Roth, and various Vangard funds.

      Earlier this year, I realized the goal of buying a small multi family property. This has given my bottom line a huge boost. I’m now saving toward property #2.

      I’m on track to quit my day job in 2022. By then, I’ll have rental properties to manage but won’t work a full-time job.


  6. anonforthis*

    This is hard to type but I need some advice from normal people. I’m in my early 30’s and recently single after 15 years. Do I really need to do online dating if I want to find someone at this day and age? Everything has changed since I’ve been out of the game.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I’m not single, but my friend is recently divorced after 25 years (she’s 45) and she went the online dating route. And it’s been…interesting. She said that all she gets is men who want sex and that’s it, or she gets tons of unsolicited penis pics. She found one decent guy, but that went south when he gave her herpes. She’s now deleted all the dating apps from her phone and is taking a break, as she realizes she really needs to spend some time on herself and by herself before trying the dating game. And she’s decided she will meet people the “old fashioned way” by getting out into the world.

      My personal opinion is that you don’t need online dating. It’s an avenue, but I don’t think people need it to meet someone.

      1. Hellanon*

        I took a break from dating after my last divorce and have enjoyed it so much that I never started back up.

      2. evilintraining*

        I got a lot of that, too, at 53 and even on Our Time! Sometimes it’s worse than going to a bar, and I think it’s the anonymity. But I did eventually manage to find a very nice man, and we’ve been together almost two years now.

        A couple tips for online:
        1) Some will try to get your number right away by saying that they hate online chat/email/using credits to chat. They’re usually the ones who are disgusting.
        2) Most don’t read profiles. I was very specific about the kind of man I wanted to meet and got the most responses from total opposites.
        3) Although I didn’t meet my SO there, I had the most luck with genuinely nice men on Plenty of Fish.
        4) Seriously, no Craigslist!

    2. Anon in CO*

      I met my husband online but you can definitely still meet people out in the real world. If you don’t want to do online dating, there are also Meetups and things like that where it’s low pressure but you’re still getting out there and meeting people.

    3. C Average*

      Like everything else, it depends.

      First off, it depends on what you’re after. Do you want to go on dates? Do you want a long-term relationship? Do you actually enjoy dating, or do you see it as a thing you have to do in order to identify the right prospect for a long-term relationship partner?

      Secondly, what is your current life like in terms of exposing you to potential partners? Do you meet new people–or have the potential to meet new people regularly, or is your circle pretty small and consistent?

      I think online dating makes sense for people who very much want a partner, aren’t opposed to going on a few dates with people who won’t ultimately be the one before finding the one, and don’t have a lifestyle that throws them together with new people in real life on a more or less regular basis.

      Of course, if you want a partner and have a small circle and just plain don’t like the idea of online dating, there are other intentional ways you can broaden your circle, get out and meet people, etc. There’s the usual advice: join groups, try new stuff, take a class, volunteer, etc. I know that advice is kind of cliche, but it makes sense and can actually work.

      Good luck!

      (I know n = 1, but I’m 42, have never dated online, and have had about a half a dozen serious partners, including my now-husband. I met my first boyfriend when I was learning to rock climb, my second one through work, my third when I was learning to kayak, my fourth through work, my fifth through flirty eye contact and eventual conversation at our mutual coffee shop of choice. And my husband? We knew each other slightly for nearly a decade through our running club. I never thought of him as a prospect at all, though I liked him and thought he was funny and a good guy. I was surprised when he asked me out. Turns out he’d always had a crush on me, but we’d never been single at the same time, and then we were. Aaaaand we totally hit it off, and here we are nearly eight years later.)

      1. anonforthis*

        I’m interested in dating as I have never really done it before. I’m not looking for a new LTR right away I don’t think. I don’t see new people often so this might be good for me.

        Your story about meeting your current husband is how I hope my life turns out, though.

    4. Mike C.*

      I met my wife online, and I have a good number of friends who have met their significant others or spouses that way as well. But the thing is, you don’t have to stop going out into the world just because you have a few online accounts and vice versa.

    5. ArtK*

      When I was divorced (almost 16 years ago now), I tried a number of things. Online dating worked somewhat — I had some nice dates and one extended relationship, but the routine got kinda tiring and I did meet a lot of *interesting* people.

      I ended up meeting my wife at a shared activity. We both love to sing and were in the same choir. We bonded during a tour, in part as self-defense against some of the more obnoxious personalities on the bus. The funny thing is that we also ended up matching on both Match and eHarmony.

      Overall, I think I would recommend doing things that you like to do, that get you exposed to new people. Don’t go into something looking for dates; go into it because it interests you. Even if nothing comes of it, it won’t be time wasted! (There’s little more frustrating than spending a lot of time with someone who turns out to be nothing like their online profile.)

      So, volunteer. Take classes. Join discussion groups. Be around people. Be happy with yourself.

      1. Trixie*

        Yes to meeting through shared activities. Whether it’s Meet-up, group fitness, what-have-you but such a great way to meet people in general (or if you’re new to the area) with shared common interests. I can’t suggest this often enough. The group setting takes the pressure off one-on-one but you get the know someone in person almost immediately.

    6. Lore*

      My last two relationships were one online and one real world. I did a lot more online dating in between, had some good and some bad experiences and ultimately stopped because I was bored and depressed in life and doing stupid or risky things and then regretting them. I think the key to online dating is healthy boundaries and concrete expectations. You will meet a lot of people you would never have met, especially if you live in a big city. Some of those people will suck, some of them will be awesome but not into you or vice versa. There’s a few people I went on dates with that I wish I’d tried harder to stay friends with. And I have lots of great/awful stories.

      After I stepped back from online dating I made a conscious effort to find other ways to engage socially with the world. It happened that one of my close college friends was recently divorced at the time and we did a lot of stuff together–including the anti-Valentine party where I met my current SO.

      In short–absolutely worth trying but also important to create a sense of yourself as a single social being in the world especially if you’ve never really been a single adult.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I met one person in a non-dating chat room, and it ended horribly. Online dating sites didn’t work for me. I met no one. I tried a bunch of free sites and one paid one. All I got were weirdos and really really old men (because of my age)–the latter mostly on the paid site–or no response (I’m not a hag, but that sure makes me feel like one). Real life has yielded nothing. I have met no one going out, no one in meetups, no one at work, no one through anybody I know, and no one at *gag* church. Everyone here is either married or ridiculously young college kids. I can’t afford long distance, so I haven’t widened the pool in terms of geography, but I don’t want to try online dating again. It was a total waste of time for me.

      If you want to try it, go ahead–your mileage may vary. It’s always worth a try.

    8. Dan*

      No, you don’t. It had its pros and cons like anything else, and is one avenue among many.

      I have better than average luck with it, but the two girls I’m actively seeing right now I met offline.

    9. Rey*

      I’m in my very late 20s, and met my SO in the actual world, rather than the virtual. It still happens! If you feel strongly about avoiding online dating, that’s ok. But it can be a useful tool, so I’d suggest doing a little investigating before you write it off completely. I think there are a few good posts about using online dating sites over at Captain Awkward’s blog if you’d like to take a look.

    10. chickabiddy*

      I’m 47 and newly single after 25 years. I live in a fairly small town, work primarily from home, and most of my social circle is female. Right now I am not actively pursuing dating, but I’m fairly sure that when I want to, I will probably have to look online. In some ways I’m okay with that that because I am much more likeable through a computer screen, but it’s also really intimidating.

    11. DragoCucina (formerly Library Director)*

      You don’t have to, but it’s becoming very common. My husband does the marriage prep for our parish. I just asked and 55-60% of the couples met online. Some are specialized dating sites (our faith, people who like Star Trek, etc.) others are the big name sites.

      Know that there are nice guys out there. My oldest son is in his 30s and gets frustrated because he sees nice women getting involved with users. Alternatively, some can’t tolerate his hobby. He plays on a competitive team pool. Too often it’s interpreted as just getting drunk. Never a good plan for winning tournaments.

      1. Vendrus*

        Your son might want to know about a particular stereotype that’s very common on internet dating sites and the internet in general:

        Every guy I’ve met who was openly frustrated with ‘nice women getting involved with users/jerks/assholes/etc’ has has tendencies towards or been a Nice Guy. This is very very not a good thing. If he’s making comments about the issue he’s seeing to anyone except you, he will be turning most people off by association.

        (If you’re not familiar with internet Nice Guys, it generally starts something like: ‘She keeps going out with these jerks and they’re always hurting her. Why does she pick them over nice guys? I’d treat her right.’
        It then (rapidly or gradually) devolves into something like: ‘I deserve a chance, I love her and he doesn’t, she’s so selfish’, and other language commonly used by school/workplace shooters.)

    12. Beleva*

      I’m also single in early thirties after a long term relationship. I have done a hit of online dating as I don’t really have many other avenues to pursue and many of my friends are couples and hang out as couples. I think it pays to be clear about what you’re both after as early as possible. If the guy is freaked out by that he’s probably not a good guy anyway. I’m not in the U.S but I’ve found tinder is for hookups, but sites like okcupid often lead to more long term prospects.

    13. Stellaaaaa*

      Online dating is very difficult if you don’t live in or very close to a major city. It’s also hard once you cross over into your 30s; you won’t even show up in people’s results if they cap their matches at 30. I’ll risk generalizing here: I’ve found that men who want monogamous relationships don’t have to go the online route. Women who try online dating often find themselves very frustrated because very of the men they’re meeting want commitment. I just never hear the horror stories from men that women have on the regular.

    14. Not So NewReader*

      If you don’t want to do online dating then don’t. That’s my take on it.

      From my own experience, older, married friends seem to know people. I am chuckling because I have no interest in dating. But friends, who are about 10 years older than me seem to be the ones who ask if I am interested. They say it in a tone that indicates they have someone in mind.
      For me, if I did date, I would start with referrals from people I trusted. Still chuckling, because this is how I met my husband, we had friends in common and they each encouraged us.

  7. bassclefchick*

    Question for British readers (or Anglophiles, of course!). I was poking around on the BBC’s website and saw the article about the TV license changing. This totally fascinates me. What, exactly, is a TV license and how does it work? Is it an annual fee? And why on Earth does a color license cost so much more than black and white (not to mention, you still have black and white?!)

    Here in the US, I pay a monthly cable bill. OK, I actually got rid of cable and just have internet so I can stream Netflix and Hulu. My monthly bill with everything I wanted was about $120 per month. I’d certainly take one payment per year of that amount over a monthly bill. But, all I really have to do is buy a TV and I can get just the local channels for free. But then, that’s why an hour long show is really only 40 minutes because of all the commercials.

    I totally understand why the students are saying they can’t afford the license. This is such a different way to do it than we do in the States that I’m curious!

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Not British here, but I think the BBC is government-funded, so it’s a little different, and that’s probably what the TV license is for (which probably also pays for the BBC iPlayer, which I really wish we Americans could get access to, even for a fee).

      In America, we don’t have any government-funded TV, as far as I know. Even “public television” is funded by viewers through pledge drives and sponsoring corporations or foundations.

      Last year, my spouse and I cut the cord, so we no longer do cable, just streaming services.

      1. nonegiven*

        So, kind of like forced PBS contributions?

        Seriously, there is a legend that you can pick up a PBS station on antenna in this area, but like bigfoot, I’ve never known anyone who actually did. I only found out what PBS even was after we got cable.

    2. dave*

      Yes the BBC is a public institution, financed by this fee, charged to every household, company and other organization. The idea is that they are financially independent to broadcast objectively. Their mission statement currently says “inform, educate and entertain”.
      If you own a tv, you can receive the channels of the BBC and from private networks, the latter with a heap of advertising. Apart from that, you can pay for further channels, like a cable package in the US.
      The tv market in Germany has a similar structure, btw.

    3. Caledonia*

      what dave said.
      The TV licence works out at around 16 US dollars a month and some change.
      The students aren’t as bad off as all that, if they are in halls (student accommodation) and most in a shared house and move home for the summer, they can get a refund for the 3 months they don’t use. If they live in a shared house, only 1 person per household needs to pay for the tv licence, it’s not per person in that specific case but it is per person in halls.

      I’m pretty sure there is a radio only licence fee as well, as part of the BBC output is radio.

      1. Short and Stout*

        Actually, who needs a licence in a shared house depends on the tenancy agreement. Joint tenancy agreement = one licence, separate = separate licences.

        There is no radio licence fee, apparently there used to be though.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, as far as I know, no radio fee. My auntie LOVES BBC radio. I got to listen to bits of The Archers and the shipping forecast (she likes the chat shows, but we listened in the interest of my research).

          We love British TV and they love American TV–one of the tour guides there told me there is a huge appetite for US shows, and indeed I watched more US TV with my auntie than I did British stuff! I think BBC would make loads of money if they charged Americans a small fee to access the iPlayer. I once tweeted that to them, but they ignored me. I should have hunted someone down when I visited or left a note or something!

            1. bassclefchick*

              I WOULD like to see different versions of MasterChef! LOL. Yeah, “reality” TV is usually pretty stupid. And I was HOPING you’d chime in, Elizabeth!

            2. straordinaria*

              2016 reality TV is truly dire. There’s currently a show called Naked Attraction: “a British dating game show in which single men and women select a date from six naked men or women.” The mind boggles.

              (I don’t have a TV licence, incidentally, and don’t see myself ever bothering at that cost. I’m living with family at the moment but even when I lived alone, I barely watched TV. Although they can send officers to your house to check – my father didn’t have a TV licence for years because he “couldn’t afford it”, and I remember being home alone as a young child and watching an officer peer through the letter box to see if he could spot a TV. I didn’t know what was going on and thought I was about to be kidnapped by burglars. Doesn’t seem legal, in retrospect.)

              1. N.J.*

                There’s a U.S. TV show that is similar. Naked and Dating or something like that. I think it’s on VH1.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                I saw a thing about that one online. Ewww. I would totally watch Gogglebox, though. And I loved QI–reruns landed on BBC America, unfortunately right before I cut off my cable TV. :(

    4. matcha123*

      Not in the UK, but I live in Japan and Japan has a similar tax/fee. If you have anything* that is capable of receiving a TV or radio signal, you are supposed to pay. They send people door to door to sign them up for payments.

      *Even if you are not using your TV to watch TV, you are supposed to pay. Many computers here can take TV signals, so if you had one, you’d be expected to pay. And of course a majority (?) of Japanese cell phones have One-Seg, which allows for watching live TV, so if you have such a cell phone, you are expected to pay.

      I’m not sure how it’s done in the UK, but in Japan they include paperwork with a new TV and for cell phones you are (kindly) urged to contact NHK (the national broadcast agency that collects the money) to tell them that you have a TV.

    5. bassclefchick*

      Thanks, everyone! Very informative. Just more proof that every country does things their own way. And yes, it may be “public” television here, but it isn’t government funded. Well, maybe a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, but certainly not it’s whole operating budget.

      1. Natalie*

        We have publicly funded TV – the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is funded nearly wholly by Congressional appropriation.

    6. Apollo Warbucks*

      The licence fee is used to pay for the BBC there are three other terrestrial channels that are funded by adverts as well as satellite and cable providers. Even if you never watch BBC shows you must pay the license fee.

      If you watch any TV live as it is broadcast, then you need a licence, the loophole they just closed was that catch up and online services were not live so if you only had a computer or tablet (but no TV in the house) you were able to watch the BBC content for free.

      I don’t have a TV but use iplayer quite a bit, so think it’s fair that I pay for the content I’m getting.

    7. Chaordic One*

      My cable TV company offers BBC America as a premium station. It was pretty good at first, but lately it’s been pretty disappointing. I used to love watching “Top Gear,” “Being Human” and “Ashes to Ashes”. I still love “Dr. Who” and like “Graham Norton” and “Orphan Black.”

      OTOH, I’m awfully tired of “Star Trek TNG” reruns and endless reruns of old James Bond movies. There’s a second BBC News TV Channel that is in an even more expensive level of premium channels, but I think I already pay too much for cable.

      Here in the U.S. a very small amount of funding for PBS comes from the U.S. government. On a state level, some states contribute comparatively small amounts of funding to the PBS stations in their states (mostly to cover state events and state news) but they’re not really comparable to the Beeb.

      1. bassclefchick*

        When we had cable, we paid for the premium tier that included BBC America so we could watch Doctor Who. We really only watched that and Graham Norton. And then we got a whole bunch of other channels in that tier we never even watched. Too expensive, so we cut the cord. Not sure how I’m going to get the new season of Doctor Who now.

    8. They mostly come at night... Mostly*

      South African here. We have TV licenses too. It’s a fee you have to pay every year for the right to own a TV. You can’t buy a TV if you din’t have a license. Not legally anyway. He money goes to the SABC which is a state owned corporation, like the BBC. They are fundrd by the state, TV licenses and advertising.
      You need to pay them, even if you never watch any of their channels.

      1. bassclefchick*

        Wow, that’s really interesting! I think it’s fascinating to learn how other countries do every day things we never really think about.

      2. They mostly come at night... Mostly*

        Please excuse the horrible typos. My spelling is usually pretty good. I was typing on my phone, and that tiny touchscreen keyboard sucks.

    9. Mander*

      Personally I think the licence fee is worth it just for BBC 6Music but I tend to watch BBC channels more than anything else. I rarely watch TV but I don’t really think the fee is a particularly huge hardship myself. Also I have a deep and abiding hatred of advertising so the more I can avoid it by watching BBC channels the better!

    10. Mike C.*

      Christ, as an American, I would kill to pay the inlicence fee in exchange for access. I had BBC World (and Al Jazeera America) and I was astounded how much better the news coverage was compared to typical cable news fare. No single station is perfect, but wow. I get so sick of hearing how these stations are “all news, 24 hours a day” but they can’t spend more than a few minutes on a complicated interview. Ugh.

      /Even CNNi is a huge improvement over CNN.

  8. Employee 427*

    This relates to the site, but it isn’t work-related: anyone else having issues with pop-unders on mobile devices? I usually browse AAM on my phone, and some of them have been especially irritating. There was one for Ontario vacations that didn’t have a close button, and there’s one for pepperoni that I swear the close button doesn’t work — it just takes me to the ad anyway (and I doubt I’d fat-finger it over two dozen times).

    Anyone else having issues?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Will you email me with details about what’s happening so I can try to troubleshoot? (And anyone else who’s experiencing this — I try to keep technical stuff with the site out of the comments.) Thanks!

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I’ve had one, and I can’t remember the name, but it promises a free iPhone or something.
      The ad takes over the AAM site on my older iPhone 5/Safari when I’m scrolling the AAM comments, and then I can’t close the ad or get back to AAM and have to close out the browser entirely.

      It’s weird though, as i don’t see that ad on the desktop site, so it may not be coming from AAM.

    3. Here*

      I do especially when I’m on LTE. In fact when I open the site on LTE I usually get rerouted to a spam site, so I usually open and then go on airplane mode up read.

    4. Dottie*

      Yeah, the site is basically unusable for me on mobile now. The ads at the bottom of the screen are impossible for me to dismiss without activating them, which makes it useless.

      1. TL -*

        If you zoom in a lot, you can usually hit the “x” without hitting the ad -at least on my phone, the ad enlarges with the page.

        1. Dottie*

          The problem I have is that the X overlays other links on the page, so when I manage to hit the X it activates that link. It’s infuriating, and incredibly poor design.

    5. LawCat*

      Yes, some I can’t even close with the X button. I try and hit it and it opens up another site. I just close it and try to view it later when there might be a different ad.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        For what it’s worth, those ads are intentional ones (unlike redirects, which sneak through without anyone’s permission), and they are directly responsible for there being as many posts per day here as there currently are (as in, before I added those, I was going to cut down on posts because I had too much work — adding those allowed me to cut client work instead).

      2. Clara*

        Blessed be the AdBlockers, saviours of the Internet. I’ve given up trying to use this site on mobile, and I won’t use it on a desktop or laptop without AdBlocker.

        I’d happily pay AAM a few bucks to compensate for the loss of ad revenue, if there was a Patreon or tip jar. But I won’t put up with the shitty ads for anything.

    6. Stellaaaaa*

      My phone browser usually crashes from the ads two or three times before I’m able to stay on the page.

  9. Talyn*

    My husband is an alcoholic.

    That’s really hard to type out, and it’s probably too much of a downer for the weekend free for all, but I need to talk about it somewhere. It took me a long, long time to even admit it to myself. He’s high-functioning – you would never in a million years guess it about him. But he drinks a lot, some days he chooses to drink instead of eating, he pounds multiple shots of hard liquor as soon as he gets home, and after some long and difficult conversations in which we agreed on strategies to help him do better with his drinking – he simply moved to hiding his drinking, which I didn’t know for months until I decided to clean out one of the spare bedroom closets and found a laundry basket full of empty vodka bottles.

    I could tell stories on and on but the best summation is that he’s an alcoholic who’s getting worse almost every week and I don’t know what to do.

    I’ve put a lot of long and hard thought into this, and for me right now a divorce is not the answer. But I need support. Has anyone had experience with a family member who is an addict? What helped you?

    1. Come On Eileen*

      Hi there. I’m an alcoholic. I’ve been in recovery for two and a half years, but when I was drinking, I liked to hide it too – so much easier (in my twisted head) to do it on the down-low and keep it to myself, hoping that others didn’t find out.

      Al-Anon is GREAT for family members of alcoholics. I’ve attended as there are other alcoholics in my family – some in recovery now with me, some actively drinking – and I’ve found it a big help. There are others who are in the same boat as you are, and you learn coping skills and how to detach with love.

      The reality is that he’ll stop when he’s ready, when he gets sick and tired of living this kind of life. In the meantime, you have to do what you need to protect yourself. That might be divorce, it might not – sounds like not, and that’s okay. But you do have to learn what you need to take care of yourself. I wish you luck.

    2. Anon in CO*

      I’m sorry you’re going through this. I’ve had family member addicts and significant other addicts. I’ve heard Al-Anon helps but I never tried that. Going to therapy on my own helped – and I think even if he were to agree to go with you, it’s still beneficial to have your own separate counselor. Talking about it to other people helped. Every addict is different but there are so many similarities in their behavior and ours as it relates to them, so talking about that and realizing other people are in the same situation helped me a lot.

      Take care of yourself.

    3. Hellanon*

      My dad is an alcoholic – I’m sure he’d he’d call himself high-functioning but it’s warped *everything* if not broken it outright – and all I’ve ever been able to do is watch. Meaning there’s absolutely nothing I can do to change him or his behaviour, or my mother’s.

      However, I’ve had good help from therapists with the task of boundary-building and disengagement, and my sister and I have done a lot of work on building a narrative that feels true for both of us about how it’s affected us. One of the things with addicts is they try and drag you into the parallel world with them so that you will continue enabling their addiction – like the hidden bottles, which allow him to continue on in the serene belief that “no one can tell he’s drunk.” For my dad, it’s putting the vodka into coffee cups or water glasses.

      I wish I had advice for you but my considered opinion is that you can’t change him – only he can change him. You can, however, change you – and what I’d do there is to start working with a therapist and potentially a lawyer. Maybe not on divorce, but on asset protection and making sure you have solid insurance, at minimum. My dad through some miracle never wiped anyone out in a DUI but his love of making major life decisions while hammered wrecked their finances over and over and has left them scrambling, a situation which I feel no need whatsoever to help with (see above, also therapy). You need to take care of yourself, and you need to do it now.

      Best of luck.

      1. LizB*

        My dad is an alcoholic too, and I second this whole comment. I heard somewhere that when someone you love is an alcoholic, you have to remember the three C’s: you didn’t Cause it, you can’t Cure it, and you can’t Control it. Alcoholics only recover if and when they’re ready. My dad has been trying to stay sober for about 4 years, after 20+ years of active alcoholism, and he keeps relapsing because he’s just not mentally ready yet. The only thing I can do about it is control how much contact I have with him, and get therapy for all the issues I have stemming from his addiction.

        I will say, though, if you were planning on having kids with your husband… maybe don’t, or at least not right now. My family looked perfectly functional and nice from the outside, but it absolutely was not on the inside, and no kid deserves to grow up in the kind of an environment that inevitably gets created when their parent is an alcoholic.

    4. Tricoteuse*

      Al-anon is good support for you but there is very little evidence that 12-step programs work to treat addiction. There’s a book out there called something like The Sober Truth or something. A Freakanomics podcast called “The Cure” talks about evidence based treatment.

      I finally left my alcoholic husband because the reasons he drank made I’m a miserable person to live with.

      Good luck. This is a special kind of hell.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      I’m sorry. It’s a really difficult situation to be in. When it happened to me years ago, I eventually had to leave, as it is extremely hard to stay and not become an enabler.
      Therapy might help, either for both or just you, as well as marriage counseling.

      And of course there is also Al-Anon and AA… though personally I found Al-Anon off-putting, because at the time, yes, I also drank a bit and partied on weekends (I was like 22), though I certainly never had an addiction problem that got me into trouble the way my SO did. But to Al-Anon people, what I did on weekends was somehow just as bad. At the time, it almost felt almost like a “victim blaming,” because I could control my actions and be content with 1-2 drinks+few puffs of MJ, while SO could not (he had arrests, DUI’s etc.).

      I don’t want to write AA/AlAnon off, that was just my experience some 20 years ago (and in a fairly small city), so I would hope attitudes have changed or I just had a bad group. I also didn’t particularly care for the overly religious tone of AA/AlAnon, but again, my experience with them was long time ago. They’ve helped millions, so they must know what they’re doing.

    6. Tara R.*

      My dad is a drug addict. What helped me? Getting away, distancing myself from the drama, cutting off the money I was loaning him, and limiting our contact to what I was comfortable with instead of what he wanted. That’s not right for you right now– but the thing about addiction/alcoholism is that there’s nothing loved ones can do to argue someone out of it. That Intervention show is a lie. If you’re going to stay with him, you’re not going to be able to control his drinking or make him stop; he’s the only one who can do that.

      1. anon for this one*

        I am someone Al-Anon helped.
        Go to six meeting to see if it is for you.
        At first it seems counter- intuitive.
        But how do I “fix” this?
        Wait a minute, I’m not the one with the problem.
        Al-Anon program gave me the ability to detach with love, find my own serenity in the midst of chaos, the ability to do the “next right thing” and make choices that were good for me no matter what my husband was doing.

    7. Semi-regular, but anon*

      My mom is detoxing at the hospital right now, so I feel you. There’s so so much information out there and it can be overwhelming, plus (just like anything) everyone has a different idea of what will help best. My honest first piece of advice is probably not what you’ll hear elsewhere, but: check in with your money. Alcoholics and addicts suffer from a lack of impulse control, so make sure you have a little bit stocked up that he doesn’t have immediate access to. Treatment can be extremely costly, and you also have to make sure you’re going to make it through financially. See what your insurance covers in terms of substance abuse. Check out an AA meeting if you feel like it (look for open meetings, meaning allies can come too) even if it’s just to see if it’s something you like. Even if it’s just for you and not for him. Personally, I prefer an empathetic, non-punitive approach to substance abuse treatment, but different things work for different people. I’m so so sorry! If you have specific questions, you can always check in here.

    8. nep*

      Sorry you are experiencing this. So, so difficult.
      My dad was an alcoholic, my brother is, his daughter is. Many aunts and uncles on both sides of my family are / were.
      A lot of good tips in the comments here — especially for taking care of you.
      I’ve often wondered what my brother’s ‘rock-bottom’ is going to be, or if it will ever happen. I keep thinking there must be a part of him that’s sick of tired of being drunk and a slave.
      I hope whatever you decide to do (Al-Anon or other) that you’ll find some peace and resolution.

    9. Dan*

      Distance helped me.

      I hate to say this but if things don’t change, divorce needs to be on the table at some point. If logistics prohibit that now, do what you can to change that so they aren’t a barrier later.

      Fwiw, I didn’t like al anon.

      Freedom is a wonderful thing, but as the saying goes, freedom ain’t free.

    10. MariantheLibrarian*

      Yes, I have had this experience. I’m sorry to tell you that the only thing that worked for me was leaving. But I’m glad to tell you my life is infinitely better now, so much better that I couldn’t have imagined how good it could be at the time. I wish I could go back to my self of three years ago and tell her to leave, sooner, and ask why I waited so damn long.

    11. Jen Erik*

      My husband is an alcoholic too.

      I’d agree with the others – Al-anon helped me as much as anything. When I first went I was furious – whoever he was seeing at the time suggested I go, and I bitterly resented it, because it was his problem, not mine. Other people come and spend the first meeting in tears. (This is why the try-it-for-six-weeks suggestion is helpful: you can get past the emotional overreaction and see if it helps you.)
      They won’t tell you what to do: I think some people come hoping for a solution, or to be told it’s okay to leave, but that’s not what it does.
      Al-anon helped me to believe that it wasn’t my fault (because if it wasn’t these peoples’ fault, and I could see it wasn’t, then it wasn’t mine either.) And that there’s no point trying to control it – no strategy to limit drinking ever works – which I understand intellectually, though I never managed to stop attempting to control him. And that often, alcoholism is a terminal condition.

      Other things that may be helpful – if you do tell people, and it’s hard, often they tell you about someone in their extended family who is an alcoholic. I’ve found people to be kind, where I expected them to be judgmental.

      (If, however, they say admiringly ‘You’re so good to cope…’ ignore this: people don’t mean it as a trap, but it implies that the right thing to do is to cope, and sometimes it’s not.)

      Fwiw, my dh drank for twenty-five years (he’s a bright bunny, held down a good job throughout) went into rehab, sobered up, started drinking again three months later, after some years looked at going into rehab again, and went through a long preparation period for that, decided he didn’t want to stop drinking, at which point we semi-separated (he only came home at weekends). He got worse, we reached a tipping point where his health and job were going to go, as was I. Being a bright bunny, he could see the end was nigh, and he went into rehab again (12 weeks, it takes that long, his boss was excellently supportive and visited him at the clinic) and he’s been sober for four years. I would have literally bet the house that that would never happen.

      And we’re happy. I found out I love him again. In the fallout after sobriety, it became really apparent that it had affected the children more deeply that we’d realised, so it’s not an easy happy ever after, but I wanted to say that there are different outcomes.

      Most vital bit of advice ever is (I think) somewhere in the AA blue book, probably in the ‘advice for spouses’ section. It says ‘Save yourself’.

      I truly wish you all the best. I hope something in all that helps.

    12. chickabiddy*

      I am currently divorcing someone who was probably an alcoholic, although the alcohol addiction is not the reason for the divorce. In hindsight, my best advice would be to build yourself a strong support network that does not involve him. If he is high-functioning, people who know both of you may not realize (or even believe) how bad things can be if/when a crisis does occur, and that can feel a bit like gaslighting. You will be in my thoughts.

    13. JPlummer*

      As so many have said, Al-Anon can be a great source of support. Would also suggest that you do not tell your husband he’s an alcoholic. That’s his call to make, and hanging that label on him will either scare or anger him. Al-Anon members or a therapist can help you come up with some specific consequences your husband will face if his drinking continues. You need some leverage and he needs to know you’re serious about disrupting his status quo.

      This is worst-case scenario stuff, but… do whatever you need to do to keep yourself and kids, if you have any, safe from violence, physical or verbal. If you’re constantly walking on eggshells and inhibited in what you say or do because of husband’s drinking, have an escape plan and a bag packed. Your family and friends can be a big part of that. If your finances are in joint accounts, it might be a good idea to keep yours separate.

      There are many valid criticisms of Alcoholics Anonymous. I’ve read “The Sober Truth”, which is highly critical of AA and I don’t disagree with any of the criticism. AA has an abysmal success rate and the 12 steps are kind of hocus-pocus-y. But after being written off as a hopeless drunk, I sobered up in Dec. 1981 because of AA and the men and women I’ve met there. What the hell, it’s free, it’s everywhere and it’s occasionally magical. There is also a group called Rational Recovery that is an alternative to AA.

      By the way, I know many marriages, including my own, that have survived addiction. Retaining a divorce lawyer isn’t a rite of passage for spouses of addicts. I hope you find a good Al-Anon group. That alone should scare the hell out of your husband;o)

    14. Mazzy*

      I was going to go anon, but realized we are mostly all anon enough as it is, so I am going to go out on a leap and use my regular name here.

      I have some insight as someone still struggling on and off with this and I will try to break it down into bits instead of a TL DR wall of text.

      First and foremost, I hate the labels. Yes, I am going to be one of those people. I hate “isms” and I also hate “ics” labels. I know we need words to describe certain thought and behavioral patterns, but so many more things in life are fluid that those “isms” allow. Alcoholism is an especially fluid term. There are no set number of drinks by which you become one.

      There is absolutely no value in my opinion into forcing someone to admit they are an alcoholic. There is value in getting someone to admit they have a drinking problem. Pushing someone to tie their behavior to a word that has so many stigmas and stereotypes has no purpose and may actually detract from what you are trying to do.

      I come from a background where very little drinking is tolerated, so my family was calling me an alcoholic years and years before drinking was ever a problem for me. This did not help, and actually I’ve never discussed any alcoholism problems with my family because they don’t get it. I know they will have an “I told you so moment” because to them I was an alcoholic ordering two glasses of wine at an anniversary dinner, when that is actually a very normal thing to do.

      Where I come from, not exercising is fine. A human size brownie with cream and chocolate sauce on top is fine. Eating yourself into obesity is fine. But alcohol is the devil, even for someone who drinks modestly, so they will never ever get it and I am not going to try.

      I think to way too many people, hearing “I am an alcoholic” means “I started drinking during the day” or “I drink til I black out” or “I drink every night,” or some other extreme scenario. Most people aren’t going to believe you if you’re an Elizabeth Vargas style alcoholic, someone who just needs those few drinks most nights. No daytime drinking, no withdrawals when you stop, no losing it all from drinking your savings and life away.

      What I found lacking from so many discussions when I tried to stop drinking was cold hard health information. I found general articles on the general damage alcohol does, but most of it focuses on the emotional and life impacts of drinking. Even most of the comments just now were on how to cope and how to feel and how to handle your emotions.

      I think all of those things are very important, but alcoholism at least for me was a very physical thing and the consequences were mostly physical.

      I think I would have stopped drinking if the few people who tried to broach the topics approached it as a physical health issue foremost, instead of telling me how it was ruining my life. Or worse, because you don’t want to be an alcoholic because alcoholic is a bad word, even though they don’t really even know what it entails.

      Drinking had very real physical impacts that no one dared discuss with me, and if they had, I would have had to admit sooner that I had to stop drinking. Not because alcohol is had, or alcoholism is a bad word, or because I was going to hit rock bottom and lose everything, but because I was hurting the one and only body I was going to have.

      The first thing alcohol did for me was dull my skin and made me gain weight. Now, I was very thin and pretty, so I had leeway to gain a few pounds and still be considered attractive, which killed my motivation to change. I went from being someone who stood out in the crowd to being more average. That was dangerous because it didn’t force me to change. I was, however, constantly apologizing for the way I looked or explaining that I had gained weight, which got burdensome. Some of my stories from my pre-drinking days of men proposing to me after three dates didn’t make sense unless you knew how I looked.

      Which is one of the reasons I hate it being considered OK to be a “wine with dinner” person. I saw what moderate alcohol did to me before my drinking picked up. It dulled my hair, my skin, my eyes, made me get a little puffier. It is BS that you can have a few drinks and not have an impact. It always does. It’s a sliding scale, it isn’t an either/or situation where you’re either gorgeous or one of those “after meth” mug shots, the damage can be much more subtle, but it’s there. And who knows what else is going on in your body that night it is cleaning up the alcohol. Maybe kidney stones or cancer is forming inside of you, but you have your immune system compromised and your liver working overtime to cleanup alcohol just so you could have a little buzz. It is such a stupid risk to take.

      The physical damage came soon enough though. After maybe five years of 20+ drinks per week almost every week, gastritis starting creeping in. First it was a general sense of slight unease in my stomach. Then it was acid reflux, sometimes feeling like I was throwing up a bit in my mouth. Then loud burping if I drank too much coffee or ate too much. Or ate anything with sugar. And if I ate sugar, then I got a white coat on my tongue. And I also got frequent bloating.

      Then over the years I think my stomach balance just got off, and I had gas when I drank too much. Did you know wine contains sulfur, which smells on the way out? That was something that kept me socially isolated at times. Alcohol also caused ongoing constipation. My metabolism was very slow towards the end.

      During the last year, I got sick to the point of throwing up multiple times from alcohol four times. Four times!!! The worst part is that I didn’t even drink too much during the last two times, but my stomach was just so irritated in general that it didn’t take much to push it over the edge. The gastritis pushed me to have hiccups too if I drank too much. Very embarrassing to get in public by the way.

      Then my water balance was off. If I drank (which was very often but less so at the end), I looked like a gained five pounds water weight. Then if I didn’t drink the next day, I’d be peeing all night the following night and into the second day, and my abdomen would look thin again. I started to have pain where your liver is, but my liver enzyme tests came back normal. I never got an ultrasound though.

      The alcohol must have also been contributing to a lot of my joint pains and nerve issues that basically disappeared when I stopped drinking.

      Then my thoughts started to get very blah. I couldn’t get happy or feel good. This was actually good for me in a way, because that state of mind pushed me in my career and in other areas to work very hard to ignore the pain. But soon it got to be too much. “Happy” for me became having a few drinks and thinking about the past, instead of just living in the moment.

      I sometimes had bad dreams that were creepy because they felt real and were things that could happen. The worst I still remember even though it was years ago, where I felt like I looked eye to eye into the face of a few demons. Or some sort of very negative spiritual energies. And they let me know they were draining my health and energy on purpose. And then I felt my teeth falling out. That dream really stuck with me because it felt real, and I don’t know what to make of it, but I found it interesting that teeth falling out uncontrollably is one of those dreams quite a few people have and is in all of the dream dictionaries. When I woke up I knew it was about alcohol, and the thought of a negative spiritual force pushing me to drink has crossed my mind numerous times, especially when I was reaching for a drink when I didn’t want one.

      A few weeks before I stopped drinking the last time, a blood vessel in my eye must have popped, because I looked like Droopy in one eye, with three very visible red likes darting half-way across my eye. No amount of resting my eyes or drops would diminish the appearance. I am very sure they were alcohol related, and I was thus walking around with an obvious sign that I drank.

      After drinking, I got lazy. The physical issues caused by drinking pushed me to exercise and work hard, but feeling good just on its own made me get complacent. I didn’t have to go out and do anything to feel fine, so I parked in front of the TV for the first time in years. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because I probably made my heart and organs work overtime for so long that they needed a rest. And no, unwinding with a bottle of wine or drinks at home is not letting your body relax.

      All of the emotional and other issues I had while drinking stayed. I think the few people I confided in with this were a bit disappointed in that part. There were some things I had done or believed or believe now or feel now that I think they thought were alcohol driven or would taper off – but not everything is alcohol fuels. I wasn’t perfect but for alcohol, and just because I did something stupid within a day of drinking does not mean that it was an alcohol fueled action or argument.

      Actually, I think I became a bit harder to get along with in a way, because my friends now couldn’t dismiss things I said that they didn’t like as “the alcohol talking.” Sobriety gives you credibility, but not everyone can handle you being the solid and credible one all of a sudden.

      Just as I was getting called out on stuff, I then felt I was doing the same to others, fixing personal issues I had been ignoring caused my others – not me – that I had been ignoring with my almost nightly drinking releases. So that is something to be ready for, you might think the treatment might be about your husband being the broken one, but when gets sober, he may remember all of the things you did wrong but he chose to drink instead of deal with them at the time. But now without that crutch, he is going to want to deal with some of those things. Be ready. The drink isn’t talking anymore.

      So to wrap it up, I would say focus on the physical damage now, and the emotional/relationship will come up on its own later, and avoid pushing any labels because alcoholism can mean so many things to so many different people, and trying to fit everyone in one box isn’t the point, the point is to figure out why the person is drinking and help them change it.

      1. Mazzy*

        To clarify one part that isn’t clear by “After drinking, I got lazy.” I mean after I stopped. It’s a little counter intuitive, but sobriety actually made me a bit lazy.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This is amazing, thank you for writing all this out.

        Continuing with the physical damage aspect, my father started retaining fluids. I mean really retaining fluids. His heart could not pump because there was no room. So then his heart would work hard to catch up with the beats it missed. This is called tachycardia.
        There were times where his heart would pound and pound. Picture running for miles when you’re not in shape for it. Then there were times where he had no heart beat. You know, you don’t always go unconscious if you heart misses a beat or two, but it can be hard to tell people that you are having a problem. So you just sit there. And you wait. Because you know the moment will pass. And then one day the moment does not pass. And that is when you know you have a huge problem.

        1. Mazzy*

          It helped to write it out for me, to form my story in my head in case I talk about it in public ever again.

          Isn’t the fluid thing scary? That is one of the scariest parts for me. I never ever thought about it until it happened, and I really wish now that things like that were mentioned in HS when they tried to dissuade you from drinking. The pressure is uncomfortable, and the waking up to pee when it finally passes keeps you from getting a deep rest, which keeps you from healing, and the less good you feel, the higher the chance you will relapse. Vicious cycle.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            You did a great job explaining, I could follow right along. I was able to pick out things I saw with my father so that helped me make sense of things. I think that I will probably spend the rest of my life making sense of his story, I keep picking up new tidbits of info.

            Every time I see someone with a bit of a belly, I grow concerned. Of course, I would never say anything, but knowing how that plays out is frightening. DNRs were new back then and people spoke of them in whispers. I did not sign one right away. He died four times in two weeks, they resuscitated each time. I was surprised to see how violent resuscitation actually is. I think less people would agree to it if they knew. I finally signed the DNR. I could see the brain damage from the repeated deaths, he was no longer himself.

            I remember him saying that sometimes we have to tell people it’s okay to leave. I told him that fighting was okay but letting go was okay, too. And that was the last time I saw him. No regrets because from his perspective he felt he was done here. He was 72. He should have been traveling the world and enjoying the fruits of his hard work. So I thought. Then I realized we don’t get to pick out what other people should value, he lived the way he saw fit.

            Back to fluid retention. I think we (society) spend way too much time worrying about “fat”. With many people it’s not fat, it’s fluid. And that fluid will get ya long before the fat will. Yep, that fluid thing is very scary and it blindsides us.

    15. Stellaaaaa*

      Don’t feel like you need to stay with him just because you used to drink with him. That’s something I feel is really common but isn’t talked about: how a social/opportunistic drinker or user (as in, you partake because it’s already there) might feel guilted into staying with a partner whose drinking/drug use morphs into addiction. If you used to drink alongside him and now you don’t anymore, that isn’t evidence that he’s “weaker” than you and you somehow owe it to him to stay.

    16. Sara*

      Mine is, too.

      We met in college and at the time, his excessive drinking seemed pretty normal because that’s what everybody was doing. However, after college, it ceased to feel normal to me. When drinking socially, he would often drink to excess – to the point of not being able to remember what happened that night. At home, I would find that he was drinking in secret and hiding the evidence. It was scary and frustrating and disappointing. He knew it upset me and he would promise to stop, but then I would find that he was still sneaking it. Or, he would stop cold turkey for a few months, then start to backslide by having “just one” – which turned into a nasty downward spiral within weeks.

      I think the thing that served as a real wake-up call to him was when he was arrested and spent the night in jail for public intoxication. I never would have known about it – he clearly wasn’t planning to tell me – except that I freaked out when he never came home that night, and the following morning I was able to do some sleuthing that ended with my finding out where he was and why he wasn’t answering his phone. It was terrifying for me and humiliating for him. I insisted that we start going to AA meetings, and he agreed. We went together a few times, and then he went alone a few more time after that, but it wasn’t really for him. He didn’t connect with the other people there and didn’t like the heavy emphasis on spirituality. However, it did open his eyes to the fact he was truly was an alcoholic.

      The thing that finally helped him stop drinking was seeing a therapist. He found that the root of his drive to drink is largely based in social anxiety, so his therapist worked with him on that and also prescribed some behavioral meds that have helped. He hasn’t had a drink in a few years now and intends not to drink again, probably ever. I’m so thankful for this resolution, but I can’t say I had much to do with it. I alternated between being loving, angry, and sad, and none of it seemed to change his behavior – it just made him more secretive. Ultimately he decided he wanted to change, and he took steps to make it happen. I hope your husband will too.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        From what I have read drinkers and smokers share the same nutritional deficiencies AND they share a sense of not being loved, not fitting in, or people not caring about them.

        This has absolutely nothing to do with any failure on your part, OP. Please be sure to understand this. This sentiment is regarding the world at large. They find the world to be cold and harsh place.

        A friend of mine has been sober for 25 years, no drugs, no alcohol. I see in him what I have seen in other people, he has a very high sensitivity to his own pain and to other people’s pain. It’s normal for him to call and express sadness/upset for people caught in the various floods/fires/storms around the nation. It really bothers him that people suffer so. I firmly believe that there is something there regarding how the addict processes pain/sorrow. And I think that they tend to feel it deeper and differently than an non-addict. This is just from what I have seen and is nothing scientific.

        OTH, I can say that these stories here have touched my heart. My hope is that somehow each person in each of these stories finds an easier road and their hearts not feel so heavy.

        1. Mazzy*

          This is interesting, I identify with the feeling others pain more acutely part. At the same time, most people never realize how compassionate I am because those things sound like bragging or making small talk or empty words when you express them, so I usually don’t say them out loud, but at the same time, I can be really negative in other ways, so people hear me complaining, but aren’t going to hear that I gave money to a bunch of charities when I was doing my bills, because that just doesn’t come up in conversation.

          I think people find it weird when you care about something that happened to someone you don’t know well, as opposed to someone you know well, but they don’t get that maybe you’re seemingly ignoring your friend’s problem because you know they can handle it, but the stranger seems to need more help. But to the outside, that makes you look cold, or socially clueless, because you’re reaching out to the “wrong” person.

          I definitely have learned that much of the “concern” people express is due to social pressure or maintaining status (such as in HS when everyone would run over to the popular girl’s house when something minor happen, but ignore the girl of average popularity when something worse happened) or social capital, and it makes me question attempts at compassion or concern when they are aimed at me, which does lead to me putting a guard up which will eventually lead to a drink.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Ahhh, yes, I remember that stuff with the popular person. I think the decades have helped me separate from that some what. I learned to question people’s sincerity while I was growing up. It is a hard thing to deal with, if you decide you want something different in life. The one inroad I found was just to be sincere myself. People did blow me off and in that moment I learned not to delve into heavy topics with them, look for someone else. My sincerity became a “people filter” of sorts.

            I will say that it is important to acknowledge a friend’s problem and encourage them that “hey, you’ve got this one, it will work out for you.” That little sentence has become more and more important to me as I age. Sometimes people succinctly say, “It will be okay.” It comforts me a lot when people tell me that. But yes, it does seem weird to other people if we are worried about a stranger and appear not to be worried about them. This one is fixable with a deliberate effort to offer more comforting thoughts here and there.

            I have seen first hand, that compassion can be demonstrated and sometimes that says more than just talking about it. A bit of a dramatic example, but here’s what I mean: When my husband passed the people at church were so kind, well they still are, but at that point they really reached out for me. Picture falling overboard in an ocean and you see everyone reaching for you. Yeah. It was like that. I had never seen that before and I learned so much. One man came over to me and I will never forget it. He kept looking at his shoes while he spoke, he was so uncomfortable. “I am not good at saying stuff like this, but I am so moved by what I saw here with your husband, I had to come over and say I am sorry.”
            That took huge strength on his part to break out of his usual routine for grief and come over to talk to me. I watched his strength in doing that and I gained some strength. “If he can find a way to do this, then I can find a way to do what I have to do.” I am sure he never realized how his actions impacted me. And it all started with his compassion for my husband’s situation.

            Compassion wears odd costumes. And compassion comes out in the uniqueness of what people think of to say. Basically, much of compassion consists of just seeing it from the other person’s perspective. And that is so powerful. “Yes, I understand. You want to strangle that idiot that ran over your dog and drove off. I would want to strangle him, too.” Sometimes statements like this are how people show compassion.

            We are not wrong in having emotions such as compassion or sadness or anger. It’s how we use these emotions that can make or break our quality of life. We are supposed to feel for other people’s situations. My wise friend used to tell me, when ever we have a strong emotion we need to deliberately plan something to balance that strong emotion. That can be making a donation, volunteering time, writing a letter to the editor, almost any appropriate action can help to off-set or satisfy a strong emotion. It’s building a plan that is the hard part. And if we don’t learn this growing up, then we have to teach ourselves. I still watch, when my emotions start running, I know I have to take some sort of action. It’s a matter of choosing which appropriate gesture I will use.
            My friend who did the drugs and booze started taking some nutrition. He said the same thing I did, he could feel changes at his very core. His thoughts on things changed. I know that nutrition is a huge player in all this, too.

    17. Massachuset*

      i didnt love al anon (went for my mom), but it seemed like my dad got something out of it. what always helped me was being honest about it with other people. it felt so much better to not hide. i found many people were empathetic and sympathetic, having someone in their family who faced some kind of addiction. its different with a partner then with parents, but i think making sure you have financial flexibility and potentially independence is important. i have felt a lot of different things about the situation over time, and it has always been good to have the option to do what i wanted. if you dont already i also found it helpful to have my own hobbies and things, so that even if my family life was tough i had a place or things that dependably made me happy. though i didnt get anything out of al anon some of the comments from people who did resonate with me, like finding a way to detach with love, the 3cs, etc.

    18. Belle di Vedremo*

      The generosity on this board can be just astounding, this thread is another example. Thank you to all who step up and step in for others here and elsewhere with such kindness and support.

  10. Anonymous Educator*

    My spouse and I like to go to museums, and occasionally we get memberships. This last time, the museum we got a membership at offered a slightly more expensive one that gave us access to the North American Reciprocal Museum Association (NARM) and Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums (ROAM). I had no idea there was such a thing! And I’m very excited. It doesn’t include things like the Met, the MFA, LACMA, or SF MOMA, but it includes a whole ton else. Why am I hearing about this only now? Anyone else got this thing?

    1. Kay*

      There are a bunch of reciprocal agreements out there and NARM is the most common one for people who are members of museums. Sometimes they will have regional restrictions – ie you can’t use it at a museum within 50 miles – so that museums don’t poach members from each other.

      There are also museum employee professional organizations like AAM and AASLH that will get you free admission to most museums, and you don’t have to work at a museum to join them.

      They’re not terribly well-known because some (not all) museums depend on admissions revenue as a key part of their budget line. The bigger the museum (or the bigger its overhead, like an outdoor or living history museum) the more likely they are to depend on admissions. So they have a vested interest in not talking up those benefits too much. Another reason is that it’s a really awesome benefit for a relatively small percentage of members. Yet another is that museums are trying to change their member programs from a pay-for-benefits model to one of stewardship/relationship building; they want people to give money to support the institution and to make that the key emotional part of the transaction, not necessarily a listing of benefits.

      That was probably longer than you were looking for but I work in museums (also an educator!) and the economics of development and philanthropy are fascinating for me. :)

    2. N B*

      I love museums, too, and I love reciprocal memberships! Another option for readers to consider is to ask if your public library has something like the Museum Adventure Pass. You can check it out with your library card and get a discount as selected area museums. http://www.museumadventure.org/ It’s a hot item at the library where I work.

    3. EmmaLou*

      Some zoos do this as well. It’s very cool. We love to go to new cities and see new things and this just opens doors. “Oh, they’ve got a History Museum on our list! Let’s go!”

      1. Nicole*

        Yes! There’s a small zoo near us that charges $55 a year for membership but it gets us into other zoos (and some aquariums) around the country for free or half price so it’s very much worth it because we love to see different zoos when we travel. We also used to have a membership to our local arboretum where we could get discount/free admission to other arboretums and botanical gardens across the country. We used that benefit when traveling as well.

    4. LawCat*

      Oh my gosh, we JUST upped our local art museum membership this week to the level that includes the NARM and ROAM access. We’re planning a trip to SF and while it won’t work at SF MOMA, it does at the Asian Art Museum. (We’re still going to hit MOMA in addition to the Asian Art Museum.) It also includes another museum near us that we love but don’t get to a lot so we’ll be upping our visits to that museum.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yes, it includes De Young, Legion of Honor, Asian Art, Disney Family, and Jewish Contemporary—all worth visiting!

  11. Elizabeth*

    Earthquake! M5.6 centered in Pawnee, OK, at about 7am CT today. I was sitting in my recliner doing some work when it felt like a big gust of wind was trying to blow the house down. The cat kind of lost his mind for a bit, and my stomach went wonky.

    Who else felt it?

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      My husband woke me up to tell me about it, and my daughter said it woke her up in her dorm room. Our local weatherman jumped out of bed and did a live Facebook cast in his boxers and t-shirt. I love that guy and how passionate he is about weather and geologic events. His wife was asleep while he was casting, and he noticed that she was awake when he saw that she’d shared his live cast on her Facebook. Plus, his cat was yowling at his office door, and he got up in his boxers to let her in.

  12. Kay*

    FALL BAKING SEASON! It’s low 40s overnight in Vermont, and the air had that crisp clean taste to it. I’m not looking forward to winter but I am thrilled our summer heat has finally broken.

    Who’s baking what? I’ll follow in the comments with two recipes I’m trying this weekend.

    1. Kay*

      First I’m trying these, as part of my endless quest to reproduce some amazing chocolate coconut cookies that an acquaintance makes. She won’t give me the recipe (she says it’s proprietary to a friend of hers who runs a bakery…on the other side of the country) so I’m left to my own devices: http://www.sugarhero.com/mounds-cookies/

      Second I’m loving the King Arthur Flour bake-along idea! So I’m going to give these a try: http://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2016/09/01/inside-out-pumpkin-muffins-bakealong/

    2. C Average*

      I tried making popovers for the first time last week. I think the recipe still needs some fine-tuning, but the family gobbled them up, so I guess I’m at least on the right track! I think I’m also going to tinker with my go-to challah recipe and see how it tastes with pumpkin filling.

    3. Come On Eileen*

      Aw man. It’s still in the 90s in California. I love fall, but I wish we had more a more fall-like season here :-) I’ll be wearing shorts and complaining about the heat today and wishing I were in Vermont. (Side note – I visited Vermont for a week by myself a few years ago and just loved everything about it.)

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Ugh, I would so love it if we had a real fall here in September! So jealous. I really start to miss New York around apple-picking season, when it’s still 80+ degrees here.

      Anyway… I got a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer for my birthday, and even though I am dieting, I vowed to give the Kitchenaid its exercise at least once a week. I am also unemployed and like projects. The most ambitious thing I made was Nigella Lawson’s Coffee and Walnut Layer Cake, which was realllllly good. I used whisky instead of milk, made it better. However, I really need to learn that even superfine sugar has no place in frosting, and it’s confectioners’ sugar or nothing.

      I also made bagels (raggedy– I still can’t get the kneading right) and biscotti recently. The biscotti tasted good but were too thick, closer to mandelbrot (an old Jewish recipe). I plan to make another loaf of bread this week and maybe a cake.

      When apple season hits, it’s apple cake and apple pie. Our apples down here kinda suck, but they’ll do.

      1. C Average*

        Coffee and walnut layer cake? With whiskey?

        This bears further investigation. Yes, it definitely does.

      2. Natalie*

        If you didn’t use it, I found Cooks Illustrated’s bagel recipe was excellent. It’s subscription only but you can probably find it copied on a free site.

    5. periwinkle*

      Summer is over in Seattle – doesn’t last long but so lovely while it’s here. It’s a drizzly weekend and baking is definitely on my mind. Cake sounds good, possibly because I’m on Rose Levy Beranbaum’s mailing list and she just announced that The Cake Bible is finally coming to Kindle. The cats had destroyed my old butter-smudged copy so that was an obvious necessary pre-order…

      Anyway, I’m thinking simple – chocolate chip cookies based on Marcel Desaulniers’s recipe – soft and substantial, not at all crisp.

    6. Elkay*

      I made scones today (which I think are different to US scones but I don’t know how) which I intend to eat tomorrow with lots of strawberry jam. They look a bit flat but I think they’ll taste ok.

    7. bassclefchick*

      I read Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen series. It’s a fun series. I just made some Frosted Flake M&M cookies. Delicious! And she included a recipe for baked donuts, so of COURSE I had to run out and buy some donut pans. Can’t wait to try those.

      I’ve also got the Outlander Kitchen cookbook. The overnight oatmeal in that one is excellent. And there are a couple of meat pie recipes I really want to try.

      Why yes, I DO want the Game of Thrones cookbook. AND the Doctor Who cookbook.

      1. Kay*

        I own the Game of Thrones cookbook, the Doctor Who cookbook, the Hunger Games cookbook, a general geek cookbook, a literary cookbook (with all sorts of recipes from classics) and not one but TWO fan-made Farscape cookbooks. Let’s not even mention the actual kitchen utensils which, to give you a taste, include a TARDIS cookie jar and a Star Trek pizza cutter. The geek is strong in our household.

    8. Pam*

      It’s still summer here in Southern California. I got together with friends about a month ago for a jam-making day. Mostly strawberry, but I did a couple of small batches of pineapple as well.

      I’m thinking about recipes for pumpkin butter and apple butter to give for the holidays.

    9. Nina*

      I absolutely SUCK at baking, but there’s a chocolate hazelnut tart recipe that I’m dying to try, so I’m going to give it another go. Not very fall-ish, but it still sounds amazing.

      1. C Average*

        I swear I’m not trying to be snarky when I say this, but every time I hear someone say they’re no good at baking, I really want to know how that’s possible. Baking basically amounts to following the recipe and the directions! How is that hard?

        I’m always told I’m an excellent baker, but I think I just have good reading comprehension, honestly. I put zero imagination into the stuff I make. I just do what the recipe says, and it almost always turns out.

        Cooking, on the other hand, is SO CHALLENGING for me. What does “saute lightly” mean? What does “season to taste” mean? What does “chop coarsely and toss in a moderately hot skillet until just browned” mean? And beyond that, how in the world can people cook without recipes? This ability amazes me.

        I am a lowly follower of directions. A cup of this, a half teaspoon of that, mix well, put in a greased and floured pan, bake at 350 for 50 minutes. It’s idiot proof. Or at least it’s always felt that way to me.

        1. Nina*

          Very possible. Cooking isn’t that different in that they both use recipes you follow to get the result you want. I think baking has more chemistry (especially if there’s yeast involved) and the timing and measurements are more precise. Cooking allows more leeway, IME. For example, a bit of extra salt may not spoil a dish, but an extra teaspoon (or not enough!) of yeast or baking soda can change the whole composition of a pastry and ruin it. Your rice might be a bit burned if it’s on the stove too long, but those cookies will be hard as rocks if they’re in the oven two more minutes. Stuff like that.

          I’ve never baked anything from scratch, but I’ve tried boxed baking mixes for brownies, cookies, and cupcakes, and they NEVER turned out the way I wanted them to. Didn’t experiment, either. Followed the directions, and the most they ever came out was passable. Baking is a science, and I envy those who do it well.

          I’m the opposite; I would much rather cook. Stuff like “saute lightly” or “season to taste” is OK for me because you have more flexibility on what they mean. My mother taught me to cook, so most of what I know is from memory, and I’ve had some major flubs trying stuff on my own.

          1. Mela*

            Is your oven older? The temp might be inaccurate. For less than $10, you can get a thermometer for inside the oven to know what the real temperature is.

            Also, one secret for baking is that things continue to cook for a bit once they’re out of the oven but still on the tray, so when you take them out they should be under-cooked just a touch. You can alway put it in for more time, but can’t undo what’s already been cooked. I always set the timer for 2-5 minutes less than what the directions say, just in case.

          2. C Average*

            I so wish I could cook! The flexibility you like is terrifying to me. I don’t want to have to decide how much seasoning or how much time on the stove! I need that stuff spelled out.

            Mela’s suggestion about the stove is a good one. If your oven runs hot or cold, that can definitely have a huge impact.

            1. Nina*

              Yeah, my oven has been replaced since I last tried to bake. Pretty sure it was older than dirt and replaced with something slightly younger. Maybe the tart will turn out better with this one, and if I let it underbake a minute or so.

              Lol, I enjoy the flexibility of cooking. Cooking can be frustrating enough when I’m trying to time my food so everything is ready at the same time, so I’m ok with adding/subtracting a bit of this and that.

          3. Not So NewReader*

            And doesn’t altitude come into play more with baking?
            You have to adjust the recipe for altitude, that can add to the mystery or misery of baking, whichever way you frame it.

        2. acmx*

          I’m with you, C Average. Baking for me is so easy because I have precise directions to follow. Even with recipes, cooking is hard. So many of the instructions are subjective.

          I have no imagination for cooking.

        3. EmmaLou*

          Baking is so much feel and experience. Don’t over mix the brownies, add just enough lard/shortening to the pie crust until it feels right and depending on the weather in your bit of the world it may not always be the same amounts. Don’t mix the cream into butter, watch to be sure the meringue doesn’t turn grainy, FOLD in! Don’t beat! Well, darn, there goes the soufflé! Cool the meringue away from drafts so it doesn’t sweat!

          1. C Average*

            You know, now that you say this, I can kind of see it. I grew up with bakers in the house, and probably picked up a lot by osmosis. My stepdaughter bakes well and is confident about trying new recipes, I think in part because she’s seen me do it and she has a sense of how to knead the bread, roll out the pie crust, whip the egg whites, etc. I guess it does only seem easy because I’ve been exposed to it all my life and understand the directions as a result of that exposure.

            Cooking, on the other hand . . . sigh. I will never be one of those I-don’t-need-a-recipe people.

            1. Nina*

              IA with you both. Your surroundings play a bigger part than you think. Thinking on it, I realize that NO ONE in my family bakes; not my parents, grandparents, cousins, siblings, so I can’t say I learned from my surroundings. I always got weird looks when there were potluck things at school and I always bought something instead of baking it. Cooking however, is something I was not only taught, but expected to know.

    10. DragoCucina (formerly Library Director)*

      Not really fall here yet (90s still), but I baked a loaf of olive oil-oregano bread today. My canister of coarse sea salt was moved so I couldn’t top it with salt as I like.

    11. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I’ve been putting sliced apples in the rice cooker with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It makes a sweet caramel sauce on the apples, and I serve it with vanilla ice cream.

      1. Mela*

        We’re headed into spring here, but all winter I’ve been doing sliced apples, onions, and cubed butternut with a dash of salt, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, and oregano in the slow cooker. Sooo good.

    12. brightstar*

      It’s still hot here, but watching the Great British Bake Off has me baking anyway. Last week I made a sachertorte that came out really well, even if I didn’t pipe Sacher across the top (too lazy). Today I’m baking I oil and sea salt lemon bars, which is one of my favorite things. I found the recipe in the New York Times cooking site.

      I bake even though it’s hot and I don’t really eat what I bake since I’m on a low carb diet. My boyfriend eats some and we give the rest away. The lemon bars are going to a friend of mine who’s been helping me a little with legal issues.

  13. Anonymous Educator*

    I got gifted tickets to a musical I had no interest in seeing, but it turned out to be really good. It’s Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. I’m not a Carole King fan (or wasn’t), but her life is fascinating, and I really had no idea she’d written so many hits in the 60s (for other people). I thought she just did Tapestry, and that was it.

    1. bassclefchick*

      That one is coming to my city this season. I may have to check it out. Thanks for posting. Yeah, she wrote a LOT of stuff for the 60’s girl groups.

    2. Nancypie*

      I saw that one about a year ago and really liked it. I’m a big Carole King fan, though. I think the lead actress changed since I saw it.

    3. Fields of Gold*

      I saw it too!!! I thought it was so good! I saw it with the original cast, and the lead was AMAZING. I don’t think I’ve found something whose singing I enjoyed more.

    4. Charlotte Collins*

      My BF loves Carole King. Not because of Tapestry, but because did musical versions of some Maurice Sendak poems, so she reminds him of his childhood. (He also loves Sendak.)

      I recommend the songs for anyone with young children. Or nostalgic SOs.

  14. Colette*

    I think I need to fire my physiotherapist.

    You may recall I broke my ankle in April and started walking in June. When I started walking, my flexibility was at -6.5. (Good ankle is at 10.5). I improved for a while, then plateaued at -0.5.

    Then my physiotherapist went on vacation and while I was working with her replacement, I improved to 2.5. That’s a pretty dramatic improvement for a week.

    Since then, I’ve had a few small gains, but not much. I mentioned to my physiotherapist that the other one’s approach seemed to work better. She changed some things, but … I’m tired of this.

    But changing to another physio is awkward. Do I book with the new one? Book with the old one and tell her I’m moving?

    Right now, I haven’t booked with anyone, but I need to figure out what I’m going to do soon.

    (I’m sure it’ll be fine, this is a business decision, and if my current physio is upset, I don’t ever have to talk to her again. But still.)

    1. Elizabeth*

      It’s not awkward! You’re just business to her and she won’t care at all besides losing the money from a client. I’m pretty sure your ankle is more important.

      Book with the new one. You don’t have to tell the old one that you’re leaving unless you want to. If you do, just say that you’re going to be trying a new physiotherapist to see if it works better for you. It’s seriously not a big deal!

      Hope your ankle gets better.

    2. Pearl*

      Make an appointment with the new one. Tell them you had great results with your time together and wanted to switch.

      Booking an appointment with the old one to tell them you’re switching wouldn’t be a good use of your time, you can do it over the phone. You may want to get a copy of your records sent to the new one’s office if they’re not in the same clinic. I don’t think they’ll take it personally. Their approach may be truly inferior or it just may not be good for your body, who knows? (And if they do take it personally and show it, they’re not really someone you want to work with anyway.)

      1. Colette*

        I really don’t think she’s bad at what she does. She was great at first, it’s just time for a change. It’s the same office, so no need to transfer records.

    3. Blurgle*

      It’s a business transaction, but even more so every ankle fracture is different and may benefit from different treatment. She might be fine for someone else, but not for you.

    4. salad fingers*

      I showed this to my brother who is a physical therapist and he said, “yeah, she just needs to switch therapists, or maybe go to a new clinic if she’s uncomfortable.” and then, “also, where is she from?”

      There you have it. Physical therapist agrees.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      If she purposely makes it at all uncomfortable then SHE is the problem, and she might need to be on a PIP or something! Just ask to work with someone else, and try not to think of it as weird. If she makes you uncomfortable about switching, then to me that’s a huge customer service issue.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          OK, good, so she should at least be at least professional and civil about it, and at best will be elated that you are doing what works best for you. Just remember that that’s probably what she wants, is for you to get the best care and have the fastest and easiest recovery possible, and if someone else can make that happen, she’d probably want that for you.

          I know it’s still hard not to worry about what others think, I’ve been working on obsessing less over that for decades now, and I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can at least convincingly pretend not to give a [expletive]. :)

    6. Misc*

      I badly sprained my ankle a year and a half ago, and it turned out I had some underlying structural issues complicating things (basically, after a certain point, the exercises were making things worse because my gait was very weird and my leg swung the wrong way, but for the first six months or so, they were really helpful). It took… Four physios to finally get to the point it’s nearly healed, and each one was good at different things (I got passed around in the same clinic due to leave and stuff and finally, got officially passed onto a more experienced one).

      But the approach is different for initial recovery, for tracking down underlying issues (two of them told me some ankles just never get better so they couldn’t do much more, but I knew it was still actively healing), different exercises help with strengthening different things… Phantom pain is just confusing to some physios, a lightbulb moment to others. Sometimes you just need fresh eyes who can switch from initial recovery stuff to fixing complicating factors. Sometimes you need people with different levels of experience. Some people are better at motivating you to exercise/not overdo it/listening/ignoring the irrelevant stuff and often that’s just a personality match. Some are better at established and proven effective procedure, others are better at responding to your weird and unique body.

      (my first one was no nonsense, and great at pushing me through the initial recovery but dismissed my random pain and structural stuff because that wasn’t the main issue I was there for. The next two were very attentive and paid attention to everything but were completely confused by my non healing and mystery pain, and the last one went ‘aha, this is your problem’ and was able to ignore the actual injury to focus on the underlying stuff because I already had a good groundwork for the basic ankle rehab ).

      Apologies for rambling, on tiny mobile screen so can’t review writing properly :D

      Just ask to make an appointment with the other physio/say you’d like to try someone new to see what happens. Same as trying a different doctor – within the same place, it’s painless.

    7. Belle di Vedremo*

      I’d ask for the other person for your next appt. See how it goes, and if it goes well then just switch – especially if they’re in the same office. That gives you an additional test appt, and you can simply request the person whose techniques are a better fit for you personally. You’re not firing the current one, that person remains employed. You don’t “owe” that person your care, you’re responsible for your care. It’s also possible that the new person has a different skill set/training and if there’s a pattern of clients moving to work with new person perhaps the outfit will add that kind of training for everyone, benefiting everyone in the long term.

  15. Random Lurker*

    Let’s hear your favorite inspirational quotes!

    Every month, I choose one for my journal and try to make it my mantra. Haven’t found a good one yet for September. For August, I used this one from Eleanor Roosevelt:

    “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

    1. Anon in CO*

      I have so many!
      “Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.”
      “Ten years from now, make sure you can say you chose your life; you didn’t settle for it”
      “Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up”
      “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both, not at the same time”

    2. C Average*

      Mine is from one of my favorite books, Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge: “Happiness is your birthright, and those who pray with joy pray with power.”

      (It’s a very strange and wonderful book. I found it by accident on my Great Aunt Helen’s guest room bookshelf when I was about 15. I still re-read it at least every couple of years.

      1. Blueismyfavorite*

        I guess I don’t understand this quote. Happiness is a birthright? I see it more as a gift we’re lucky to have and in modern times, free of the necessity of fighting just to stay alive, we’re able to search for. But a birthright? Don’t know about that.

        1. C Average*

          Now that I think about it, it really doesn’t entirely make sense as a stand-alone quote, but it’s a touchstone for me because, in context, it’s a distillation of one of the main themes of the book. The book means a tremendous amount to me because it opened up new avenues for spiritual faith.

          I was raised in a very conservative part of the country and attended, with my family, a very judgy evangelical Christian church. One of the key takeaways of the church, as far as I could tell, was that if you were enjoying yourself, you were probably doing faith wrong and you would most likely go to hell when you died. I really hated it, but our town was small and there wasn’t an internet and I really didn’t have anything contrasting options to examine.

          The author of Green Dolphin Street was an overtly Christian author, and it’s an overtly religious book. One of the main characters–the speaker of this quote–is a woman of deep and admirable faith, but also a person of great joy and kindness and humility–completely unlike the Christians I’d encountered growing up. She became my spiritual role model, and I go back to this quote again and again when I think about my own faith. I love the idea that goodness and spiritual faith aren’t incompatible with a sincere and unapologetic appreciation for all the joys this world has to offer. It’s a sentiment that really resonates with me.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          It might be a trivial point, but the quote does not say “continuously” happy. I think there is an inference of “continuous happiness”.
          Interesting to me, because if people knew that happiness is a birthright and this was obvious to all, then there would be no need to say it. It’s not obvious to all. And, indeed, how many times do we encourage each other with, “You deserve to be happy.” For some folks happiness is far too fleeting, it there is any at all.

    3. NSweek*

      One of my favourites:

      “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

      ― Robert A. Heinlein

      1. Jackie*

        Some favorites:
        Be a lamp unto yourself. Look not for refuge in anyone but yourself. – Buddha –
        We accept the love we think we deserve. – Stephen Chbosky-
        It’s only when we demand that we are hurt. – Henry Miller –
        Curiosity is a willing, a proud, an eager confession of ignorance. – Dorothy Parker –
        I’m not scared of hell. It’s just heaven for bad people. – Dr Who –
        Integrity has no need for rules. – Albert Camus –
        A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book. – Irish Proverb –

    4. C Average*

      This isn’t a quote exactly; it’s just a word, but I love it.

      In Japan they have a word, “ganbatte,” that roughly translates to “do your best.” But it’s not like the way we say “do your best,” with a shrug and a meh expression. It’s like, “do your very, very best, give it all you’ve got, kill it and drag it home.”

      I learned it on a business trip to Japan, and I still write the Japanese characters on my hand when I’m undertaking something intimidating and difficult.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, hunt it down and kill it.


      I kind of like Everybody poops, because in two words, it reminds you that we’re all pretty much the same when you remove the outer trappings. Plus, it makes you feel less intimidated by someone whose social status is higher than yours but whom you have to deal with anyway. It’s the same as We all put our pants on one leg at a time, though that’s not really true because I put mine on both legs, but hey you get my meaning.

      Also Mark Twain:
      The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.
      Grief can take care if itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.

      Helen Keller:
      What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.

      And this, because it makes me laugh every time:

      1. Elizabeth*

        The real question here is how you put pants on both legs at the same time. Do you jump and do it in mid-air?

        1. Kyrielle*

          I sit on the edge of the bed (or on the floor, some days) and stick both feet through at once, then stand up….

    6. KR*

      “Every path is the right path. Everything could’ve been anything else and it would have just as much meaning.” – Mr. Nobody (2009)
      It seems like kind of a downer but it helps me keep calm and remember that things don’t have to be a certain way. I will be happy and okay no matter what.

    7. nep*

      ‘I want to live my life taking the risk all the time that I don’t know anything like enough yet — that I haven’t understood enough, that I can’t know enough, that I’m always hungrily operating on the margins of a potentially great harvest of future knowledge and wisdom. I wouldn’t have it any other way. …Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.’
      –Christopher Hitchens

      And a couple from Mooji:
      ‘Be what you cannot not be — consciously.’

      ‘What you don’t have cannot help you, and what you do have needs no help.’

    8. Gene*

      “Today is a good day to die.”

      It reminds me to live as if I’m going to die tomorrow. Don’t leave the important undone, don’t waste time on the unimportant.

    9. Apollo Warbucks*

      “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”
      Mark Twain

      “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
      Marcel Proust

    10. Indy, Jenn, and Hannah*

      Be strong even it breaks your heart..;.
      “Sometimes the only choices you have are bad ones, but you still have to choose”
      If you travel in time and space, most of the people you know and love will eventually be gone. But you’ll also be able to go and find them again.

      Every war ever fought right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot. No matter how right you feel, YOU have no idea who’s going to die. YOU don’t know who’s children are going to scream and burn. or how many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered. How much blood splattered until everybody does what they were always going to have to do right from the very beginning: SIT. DOWN. AND. TALK.

      Doctor Who

    11. Seal*

      “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
      Mark Twain

    12. LizB*

      “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” – Pirkei Avot 2:21

      (Modern interpretations say that the phrase “the work” refers to humanity’s collective work of making the world a better place – no one person or generation will be able to do it all on their own, but that doesn’t mean you can stop trying.)

    13. LawCat*

      I like “She believed she could so she did.” I’ve gone back to this again and again. Often getting over one’s mental blocks are the real challenge with achieving goals, at least that’s been the case for me.

    14. EmmaLou*

      The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.~Eden Philpotts
      Tell someone you love them today, because life is short. But SHOUT it at them in German, because life is also terrifying and confusing.

    15. Caledonia*

      Above all be the heroine of your life, not the victim. It will be a little messy but embrace the mess. It will be complicated but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like but surprises are good for you.

      -Nora Ephron

      1. Florida*

        After he had finished a concert and had gone backstage, violinist Fritz Kreisler heard someone say, “I’d give my life to play as you do.” He turned and looked at the lady and said, “Madam, I did.”

        “You pay a price for getting stronger. You pay a price for getting faster. You pay a price for jumping higher. You pay a price for staying just the same.” – H. Jackson Brown

      1. Florida*

        “You can be hard and you can be judgmental, and with those two things alone you can make a mess of your life the likes of which you won’t believe.”
        – Anna Quindlen, One True Thing

    16. New Bee*

      “I change myself, I change the world.” I’m a huge admirer of Gloria Anzaldúa, and I really liked what I took away as a message about the importance of self-work when I was a budding young activist. :-)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          So many people do not get this one. Courage is the act of overcoming something, if there is nothing to over come then there is no need to have courage.

    17. Ever and Anob*

      “It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishment the scroll,
      I am the master of my fate –
      I am the captain of my soul.”

      – ‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley

      Also, the entire poem “If” by Kipling.

    18. Ever and Anon*

      “It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishment the scroll,
      I am the master of my fate –
      I am the captain of my soul.”

      – ‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley

      Also, the entire poem “If” by Kipling.

    19. DragoCucina (formerly Library Director)*

      “Blessed to be a blessing.” A paraphrase of Genesis 12:2. The gifts I’m given are meant to be shared.

      “To bigotry no sanction.” George Washington

    20. Dot Warner*

      “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'” – Muhammad Ali

      “With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.”
      ” It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.” – Captain Jean-Luc Picard

      1. Sybil Fawlty*

        Oh my goodness! One of my favorite quotes ever! I just watched Peak Performance again this week. I was watching it during my son’s terminal illness and I broke down crying. It is so true. Star Trek forever.

    21. Florida*

      Here’s a few I like that are all related:

      “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”
      – Joseph Campbell

      “You can be the ordinary thread in the tunic, or you can be the purple, the touch of brilliance that gives distinction to the rest.”
      – Epictetus

      “You’ve made this day a special day by just being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are.”
      – Mr. Rogers

    22. Sybil Fawlty*

      I live by this quote:
      ” The best thing to do is the right thing. The next best thing is the wrong thing. The worst thing to do is nothing!”
      Teddy Roosevelt

      And I’ve had an interesting life for sure.

    23. Lily Evans*

      The poem After a While by Veronica A. Shoffstall (too long to copy/paste, but easy to find with google) has always really spoken to me. I first read it when I was about 18 and it stuck with me ever since. I think about it a lot whenever I’m making big decisions now, and it was somewhat prophetic in the fact that some of my biggest regrets stem from waiting around for other people to do things with me instead of forging my own paths toward what I want.

      Also this quote of Pam’s from The Office’s finale: “It’d be great if people saw this documentary and learned from my mistakes. Not that I’m a tragic person. I’m really happy now. But…it would just…just make my heart soar if someone out there saw this and she said to herself ‘be strong, trust yourself, love yourself. Conquer your fears. Just go after what you want and act fast, because life just isn’t that long.'” I watched that finale for the first time last year and I just listened to that speech and started crying because it was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment in time.

    24. Nerfmobile*

      “A life lived in fear is a life half lived.” It’s apparently a Spanish proverb but I learned of it from the film “Strictly Ballroom”.

  16. matcha123*

    My family is really just myself, my parent and my sibling. I didn’t grow up with grandparents and extended family. I basically have assumed that in order to make it, you do it yourself. But more and more, I see people getting help from family and close friends. Is this how it is for most people?
    I’ve always thought that people that leaned on family and friends for support were cheating, but is this the norm? I’ve been living alone since graduating university and I feel frustrated bouncing ideas off myself and doing a bunch of ‘adult’ things by myself. In the past two years, I’ve gone to a few weddings and it always feels so weird for me to be in a place with so many family members (family of the friend). It also makes for really awkward conversation when I’m asked about my family. Is life less stressful when you have a lot of family around you? Family that you like that is.

    1. the gold digger*

      I feel very lucky to have a big family (16 aunts and uncles, although one just died, and 26 first cousins, lots of second cousins or third cousins or first cousins once removed – whatever you call them). My husband has only two aunts and uncles and three cousins, none of whom he has ever spent time with, and his two half-brothers are not – well, they are not people we want to spend time with.

      I really like almost everyone in my family. It’s really nice to have cousins my age who share a history with me. It’s really nice to have people in my life who share the same memories.

      Primo and I stay with my family every summer on our way up to the cottage we rent. We hang out with my cousins and aunts and uncles. We go to weddings and funerals. We have family over for dinner. He has none of that from his side and I think it’s kind of sad.

      So yeah – life is nicer with family you like, but bad family, like Primo’s, can create a ton of stress.

      1. matcha123*

        Interesting! I like my family, but with so few people, spending a lot time with each other can get kind of stressful. My mom came from a large family, so I think that setup is more comfortable for her.

    2. C Average*

      My family of birth is a lot like yours. I grew up with my parents and one sibling. My father had been orphaned as a boy and his remaining extended family lived on the opposite coast. They’re fantastic people, but we probably only saw them ever five years or so. My mother’s folks died when I was fairly young, and her one sibling lives several states away. We love him, but rarely visit. There are a whole gaggle of second cousins and great aunts and so forth, but I’ve met them once or twice or, in most cases, not at all. We’re too geographically dispersed.

      It was always kind of awkward talking about my dad’s side of the family, because he was raised by a variety of near and distant relatives and refers to many people as his “sisters” or “aunts” or “uncles” when they’re either more distant relations or not even related at all. (Notable example: his beloved Aunt Willie, who is African American. My dad is white. He had to explain to me when I was about five that Aunt Willie took him in for a time and that he absolutely considers her family, but that we’re not related by blood. That’s how I learned that race is actually a thing!)

      It’s been interesting to marry into a more traditional family. My husband’s parents are still living, and the kids love having grandparents. My husband has two siblings who have two kids each, and the kids are in constant contact with their cousins and look forward to seeing them a few times a year. They’re a huge part of each other’s life, and I imagine they always will be. It’s very, very different from my own experience.

      1. matcha123*

        Yes, I also had some unrelated “aunts” and “uncles” when I was younger. I spent a lot of time explaining that even though I call this woman “Aunt Grace” she is not my mom’s sister and I call her that because that’s what I’ve been told to call her!

    3. Marcela*

      Oh, no, life can be terrible with lots of relatives. My dad has 9 siblings. So I have more than 30 cousins. And then more than 50 second degree cousins, some older than me. They are not nice people to be around.

      I remember when I was a child, my uncles used to tell my mom she was getting older every.single.time we saw them. Or the many jokes they made about my dad and other women, which several years later turned out to be true. I wonder if they knew then, but now I believe it takes a special kind of rotten soul to joke about it instead of seriously saying something or shutting up if, as I believe it would have happened, my mother would have never believed something like that. Or there is this time when I was leaving my country forever and I thought it was decent to say goodbye. The aunt supposedly in charge of organizing the family meeting replied to my dad’s email saying that of course she would be happy to host such a meeting, adding that she was going to be very sure to invite my dad’s other woman (and this was just right after my dad was discovered, and he had left our place for a time). It was a joke, they told me after I lost my mind. But I don’t want to be part of the family of someone who jokes about the worst pain of somebody else they are supposed to care at least a bit.

      So right now, I limit my family to the people I love. That’s it. I even tell people, when it’s no important, that my dad doesn’t have siblings. I’ve come to believe blood doesn’t mean much, and my family is composed of people who love me back, nothing more, but nothing less.

      1. matcha123*

        That doesn’t sound very pleasant at all. I agree that the quality of the relationship is better than the quantity.

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        Audiobook of the week — Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal

        So far, it’s been about the kinds of stresses people go through as children and the kinds of chronic illnesses that can result from them years later. But interestingly, the researchers found that being in a situation where you are repeatedly humiliated by your parents/other family members turned out to be more stressful than other things that you would think would have a worse effect. Haven’t gotten to the “how you can heal” part yet, but I’m looking forward to it. Some of the patient case studies are harrowing, the kinds of illnesses they went through years later that made no sense and could be tied to childhood stress/Adverse Childhood Events.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Wanted to add, I tend to think that families unwittingly train each other to get certain illnesses. Ummm, not saying this right, I think that families say and do things that holds the door open for certain diseases to march in. Families raise their own vulnerability, sometimes.

          2. Dynamic Beige*

            When one of the case studies was about a woman who developed vitiligo in her teens, I did go “ha!” out loud, since that’s what happened to me. Also, it gave me some insight that my mother’s neglectful ways, some of them probably came out of being poor before universal health care. I would bet that there were times when she just had to tough it out because there wasn’t money or time to go to a doctor, so if it didn’t kill her… There were, however, a few times when going to the doctor earlier (or at all) would have been a good thing. But when that’s not your experience, and you’re busy already, it’s just one of those things that doesn’t seem all too important.

    4. Pearl*

      I also only have a parent and a sibling, neither of whom are secure/well enough to assist me even with just advice-giving. Dating someone whose family lives near us, is secure in their positions, like each other well enough to offer help, and are emotionally able and experienced enough to offer advice is downright bizarre. My girlfriend’s parents check on her when she’s sick and offer advice. My mom wants me to be her therapist. Are you sure this isn’t a holodeck simulation…?

      If your family are people that can be relied on I do think life is remarkably less stressful but I don’t know whether this is true for most of the population. I don’t know if this is a case of like attracts like, but my girlfriend’s family is also an exception in my social circle. I know a lot of people whose families are overbearing, just plain stressful, or actually abusive.

      If it helps, when people ask about my family, I tell the same few stories over and over. Don’t feel awkward. Most people will get the hint if you don’t bring up family all the time on your own. The people who do ask are probably just trying to make conversation. I usually say something like, “Oh, my brother works at a restaurant and my mom unfortunately has a few health problems so she can’t work right now. That reminds me, did you hear about this entirely different topic?” For what it’s worth no one has ever then asked, “But what about your dad/grandparents/etc.?” I’ve even just said, “Oh, my family is very small and they all live across the country” and had the conversation switch topics.

      1. matcha123*

        Hmm…that’s a good point about switching topics. I can never think fast enough for that to happen. I know people mean well, but I mostly stand to the side during the family conversations and hope they ignore me.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Build a game plan for handling that. Sometimes we have to because it comes up often enough. Following the example here, “My brother works in a restaurant. And my mom can’t work right now. Ohh, speaking of restaurants, have you tried that new one over on X street?”

          See this is a digress that you can build into your answer. It sounds like you just randomly changed topics. Notice the question, this throws the conversation ball back in their court. They are so busy thinking about their answer they do not have time to notice your family size.

          I had a thing recently, where my car broke down. The shop manager said it would be a while for it to be repaired and maybe a family member could come get me. My tiny local family is gone now, so I gulped down the words I really wanted to say. And I came up with “my friends are at work now. Because of the distance they would have to drive to get me it would be a huge imposition on them.” Not the manager’s fault that I don’t have local family, but I was really angry at the assumption that I did. I sucked down that anger and redirected. This only happens to me with car issues. I hate how people assume you have family and assume they will drop everything to come get you. So clearly, I need to work on a plan of how I will respond since this keeps coming up.

    5. Perse's Mom*

      It depends entirely on the family in question. My sister (and her husband) are very supportive people. The rest of my family are varying degrees of reliable, and most of those degrees are of the NOT AT ALL variety in both financial and emotional categories.

      I’ve just learned over the years where my support is and who I can rely on. It’s a shorter list than many people have, but that I have a list at all is more than many *other* people have.

      1. matcha123*

        I do have a few good friends and acquaintances. However, I worry about overwhelming them with things that others would go to family about. But, maybe I should just trust that they will tell me if it’s too much…

        1. Kyrielle*

          Good friends are the family we choose. Sometimes, we don’t know that we’re overwhelming someone until they go away.

          I have a lot of supportive family (my mother’s relations, but also my in-laws – they are an awesome group of people). One of my best supports is my husband’s uncle’s wife. (Spelled out here just to show you how the relationship is technically distant.) I adore her, she seems to like us very much, etc. (I also like her husband, his uncle – but I don’t chat with him about issues being a mother! Hehe.)

          But another of my closest contacts and supports is a woman I went to college with. A very dear friend – perhaps not quite sister-close but certainly closer than distant family. We bounce things off each other, rant and work through things, laugh and share good stories, and when we meet in person (because we’re a few days apart in driving time!), we hug and we talk over each other, and it’s awesome (for our version of awesome; I’m sure there are people who would be driven nuts by it, but they’re not us).

          An extended support system, whether it’s blood-family, legal-family, or friends (what some call chosen-family), is awesome. The fact that someone wasn’t born (or wed) into being close to you doesn’t mean they can’t be close. Granted, the newer and weaker the connection is (whatever it is), the more gently you want to rely on it, until you have a sense of its strength.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          My aunt was widowed a couple years before I was. She asked her only daughter to help with almost everything. Since I am an only also, I had to have a chat with her.

          I explained how my parents problems reduced me to a lump on a gurney in the ER. They ran me here, there and everywhere. I concluded with “If you ask her to do everything you will burn her out and she won’t be able to do anything.” I followed up with suggestions. “Spread out your requests, don’t keep asking the same one or two people. As you look around for ways to spread your requests out, think about the specific person. ” In my setting I told my aunt it would be a BAD plan to ask me to help with a car repair. It would also be a BAD plan to ask my husband to weed the garden as he would remove anything that was the least bit green. Think about what the person does well with or has natural abilities in doing.

          Take each thing and break it into parts. So let’s say Problem Y has three parts, a, b and c. I sometimes find that I can do parts a and c. I just need a little help with part b. Then start to look around, who does part b well?

          The next step in asking for help is figuring out how to repay the person. I have a friend who helps me with my house. I was not always able to pay him, which he was okay with if the job was small. So I looked for ideas on how to repay him. It turned out to be pretty easy. I found friends who were quite happy to PAY my friend to work for them. I referred my friend to them. He was happy, they were happy and I got my emergency problem fixed.

          Try to repay any kindnesses as often as possible. And there are creative and non-monetary ways you can do that. That referral for my friend, involved almost no time, it did not cost me anything but it meant something huge to him. Think about what might be meaningful to others in their life.

    6. Noah*

      I have a big family (oldest of five kids) but I’m the oldest and have pretty much always lived on my own. I moved across the country less than a month after graduating high school. I have never taken money from my parents since I turned 18.

      My dad is the youngest of 13 kids, so I have a lot of extended family. Honestly, I love them, but there is way too much going on there and I would rather only see this a few times a year. My immediate family is great, and I wish I saw them more, but I’ve been living on my own for too long to really need their help for anything.

      I do have great friends, and I do ask them for advice. Same thing with a few of my siblings that I am close to. I’m just not one to really ask for help though. I had surgery and took an Uber home rather than inconvenience anyone for instance.

    7. AliceBD*

      My parents are both one of 4 siblings, although my mom’s side has more members (more births and fewer deaths). Both sides get along with each other, and I am convinced my grandmothers would have been BFFs had they lived in the same town instead of a few states away; they had a grand time together at big events they both attended like my high school graduation. Everyone helps each other out, whether that is loaning each other money (I know everyone says don’t loan money within families, but we’ve had great experiences with it) or help with childcare or just general life help. So grandparents taking care of grandkids, or adult children changing lightbulbs for elderly parents, but also things like me living with my aunt for 2 months for a summer internship during college. It was a paid internship but she refused to let me pay rent or help with food costs, so I could save the money. Her granddaughter lived with them at the time, and a cousin of mine from the other side of the family and his family lived in the same city with his wife and kids. I did unpaid babysitting work at various points for the kids, because you help family out.

      I grew up always within 10 minutes of my dad’s mother, and we were constantly together growing up. She did a lot of childcare when my brother and I were little, and then as she got older we helped out and my parents were her main caretakers as she declined then passed away. (She lived in a step-down retirement home, moving from apartment to assisted living to nursing home, but my family was there at least 3 times a week unless we were sick.) My dad talks to his remaining siblings and to my cousin (son of his sister who passed away) I think at least monthly.

      We visited my mom’s family, a few hundred miles away, several times a year growing up. I still talk with that grandmother every week on the phone, and I think my mom is in semi-regular contact with her siblings. (Plus Facebook.) Certain members of that group of family have some attitudes we vehemently don’t agree with that they are very vocal about so it is rather uncomfortable to see them now. If they didn’t say those things it would otherwise be pleasant to visit them; two of the cousins from that side also don’t share those views or agree with them, and I see them much more. Last year this time I went on a week-long cruise with my mom’s sister, her husband, and my grandmother.

      I talk to my mom at least 3 times a week, and my dad about once a week or whenever he picks up her cell. (He’s not as helpful to brainstorm with, and absolutely useless at helping me with knitting questions.) I definitely bounce ideas off of them and call them for help with things, both personal life, professional life, and how-do-I-fix-this things. I’m job searching, but I’ve moved my job search to a different city so I can be less than 2 hours away from them, in a city with family I like, instead of 5+ hours away in a city where I have no long-term ties. My brother lives across the country and LOVES his job, but I know he misses living near family.

    8. CMT*

      There’s no right or wrong way to live life, so people who get help from their families definitely aren’t “cheating”.

    9. Dynamic Beige*

      No, it’s not cheating, it’s just the luck of the draw. My family is very small as my mother was an only child and there was a lot of separation that happened. She died when I was 19 and we were never close the way I see other people are with their parents. Some people just luck out and get the kind of family you wish you had had. However, I think even if she had lived, she would not have been the I-can-go-to-her-anytime-for-tea-and-sympathy kind of person I would like to think a mother “should” be, because she wasn’t like that at all.

      I feel frustrated bouncing ideas off myself and doing a bunch of ‘adult’ things by myself.

      This, I totally get. We should all have someone we can talk to and confide in, but that doesn’t always happen for whatever reasons. Someone who, when we’re sick, will go to the drug store for us and buy us NyQuil (or Kleenex or whatever… and some food from the grocery store). If you’re lucky, that person will be family or a good friend. If you’re not, that person will be you in the back of a taxi. Or a service who delivers to your door (we didn’t have those when I was a kid, so I forget that they are out there now).

      So often, I don’t go out and do things because I don’t like doing things by myself. I’m by myself pretty much all the time, so going to the movies “by myself” isn’t really a treat of alone time, it’s a way to see everyone else has kids/friends/SOs to go to the movies with. Going on vacation is… why? I’ll be by myself, I can do that at home. I’ve had my moments where I have bitterly complained, crying and wailing about my fate. That may sound over dramatic but you try shoveling your driveway at 9pm on a cold night with a raging cold because you need to get out and get food/medicine and see how happy and joyous that makes you feel.

      I’ve been trying to correct that over the past year by going to meetup things that are group oriented like card nights so that it’s more a bunch of people — not a bunch of couples. I’ve met some good people and some uh… *interesting* people. No one I can call a real ‘come over to my house for dinner’ friend yet, but these things take time. I’m not looking for a BF/GF romantic relationship or marriage or anything like that, just reasons to socialise with people of a similar age bracket and/or mindset that has nothing to do with work. It’s not easy. After all these years in my comfy clamshell, I have to pry myself pretty hard to get out of it. But at least I’m trying! It’s so easy now, there are so many online services and communities so you can find stuff you might like, give it a try for free or for cheap. You just have to have the desire to do it and the will to get out there.

      1. matcha123*

        I can identify with this. It took me years to get comfortable with going out alone. Now, I will go to the movies or take a small trip to another city.
        One thing I just can’t bring myself to do is to contact people to talk. I feel like I’d be a bother and wasting their time. Besides, who wants to listen to someone rant and complain?
        I had surgery a few years ago and I was not happy doing everything myself when I could only move around very slowly.

        1. Temperance*

          If you’re only “ranting and complaining”, yes, people may not want to talk to you, but in *my* experience, the people who have this fear are never, ever the people ranting, complaining, and being unpleasant. Ever. Reach out!

        2. Not So NewReader*

          One thing I learned about injuries/illness/hospitals is to be sure to tell some one that you live alone or have minimal support. Sometimes that can buy you some extra time in the hospital or get you some extra support later on. Make sure you speak up on this point, please, because sometimes you will get extra consideration because of your living situation.

    10. Temperance*

      I have a really large family, FWIW, but they aren’t the supportive lot that you’re envisioning. I have the same feelings, FWIW … that I’ve worked harder and never had family to lean on. Which is pretty true. I feel slightly superior about it, but I’d give up that superiority for a supportive family and no student loans.

      I feel super awkward when people bring up family, too, FWIW. Having a crazy mom isn’t something that other people ever think about as a possibility because I’m a normal adult with a job. I just say that my parents are conservative evangelical Christians, which is also true, and then change the subject.

    11. HannahS*

      Most people in my family (including in my parents’ generation and even my grandparents’) got some financial help from their parents, usually for education, a down-payment on a first home, or both. The general feeling is that people want their kids to have good job prospects and be financially secure, so if the parents can afford to help, they do.
      I don’t understand what you see as cheating. The amount adult children rely on their parents differs culture to culture and family to family. Most people in my community (Ashkenazi Jews) feel strongly about their kids’ education and will help if they can afford to. At the same time, I hear very few stories of Jewish parents moving in with their adult kids to provide childcare once the grandkids arrive–but I know many Chinese multi-generation families where the grandparents contribute a huge amount to the home life.

      1. the gold digger*

        some financial help from their parents, usually for education, a down-payment on a first home, or both

        Yeah, that doesn’t happen in my family. :) I envy people who have that and wonder if some of them know how truly lucky they are. (We have friends who are still helping their just graduated from college and in his first job with what I consider a very decent first job salary child pay his bills.)(It took me a few years to pay off my student loans – my parents just didn’t have the money to give.)

        I do, however, get great venison bratwurst and summer sausage from my cousins with the deer processing business. Another cousin and his wife own a bakery, so I have as much bread as I want.

    12. Stellaaaaa*

      In a certain social or financial class, it’s very common for the younger generation to get help into adulthood. This is in part due to massive college debt, which is somewhat unique to the current generation of young adults. I feel like property transfers are less common than they used to be. You don’t hear about too many people inheriting houses anymore. These days it’s all about the liquid funds. Whenever someone I know is able to buy a house or a condo, 99% of the time I’m able to suss out that an inheritance came through.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Part of the problem is that older people cannot or don’t keep up with the house repairs. As the years go by the house falls further into disrepair. By then the kids just don’t want the headaches. In one instance older family members had lived in their house for 50 years. Being frugal people, much of the wall paper was original to the 30’s and 40’s. The furnace was a monstrosity and so out-dated that it had to be replaced and so on. The surviving spouse could not understand why no one wanted a huge house that needed a ton of work. In her mind the house was fine.
        Sad stuff, but this is how it can go.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          Yeah, my family has roots in England and there’s occasionally talk of estate inheritances, but who has practical use for a gorgeous old house that they can’t afford to heat? Or renovate for sale? That’s a bigger issue with real estate in general, that young people are priced out of the housing market by older people who are trying to sell for way more than the homes are worth. Cool, this house you bought for $8 in 1963 that hasn’t been renovated since the ’70s! I’ll totally pay $500 k for that, sure. So yeah, these houses can’t be transferred to new owners, even down the family line so it’s more obvious that people are just handing money to their adult children.

    13. Mallory Janis Ian*

      My side of the family used to be very close when I was a kid, but everything kind of fell apart after my grandpa died, and then some more after my grandma died, because he was the main one holding it all together. My grandparents raised me in a middle class home. They took me and my siblings from my divorced parents because neither of them could raise children. At my mom’s house, we were living in filth and walking our own selves to school an hour late because she was still asleep or passed out from last night’s partying. We lived with my dad and his new wife for one year, but he was drinking and not working, and my step-mom couldn’t handle six kids (three of hers and three of his) on her waitress salary with no adult help from my dad. So when my grandparents died, I lost the only responsible adults in my life, the only people who cared enough to raise me, and the only ones able to give non-stupid adult advice.

      My husband’s parents helped us buy our first house. When we were first married and expecting our first child, we were living in an apartment. They brought us to look at a nice, cute older house in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood and asked us, “If we bought this house, would you rent it from us?” They rented it to us for only the cost of their monthly mortgage payment, and after a year and a half, they sold it to us for what they paid, counting our previous payments toward the purchase. They really gave us a good start in life, and nobody on my side would have had the means to ever do that. My mom and dad would be more likely to need financial assistance from me than to be able to offer it.

    14. Sparkly Librarian*

      Your last sentence is really the key part: the positive benefits come from family you like.

      My parents have two and three siblings, and my sister and I grew up interacting with one side of the family much more because they were fairly local (all in the same state, with a gathering point in the same town as we lived). We also tend to collect friends to join our holiday celebrations (some people call them “orphans”, but I think that’s rude), whether just once or year after year, so there are regularly 25 people at dinner on big occasions. Not a ton of kids, but we’re long-lived so I had my grandparents into my late 20s (still have one living, who’s 95 this year).

      My parents are geographically close, retired, and financially stable enough that I could ask them for assistance, but I don’t often do so. They proved very helpful when I bought my first house (down payment financed by my savings plus inheritance from grandparent), helping to transport some larger items and providing a bunch of hand-me-downs or thrift-store purchases of home goods. My mom drove over and stayed at the house for a day to supervise the delivery and setup of appliances, so that neither of us had to take a day off work. She stopped by Costco and filled a shelf in our new closet with cleaning supplies, too. I absolutely appreciated that… but I also know people who do not live near/speak to their families but have close friends who would do that sort of thing. They just have to be at a stage in life (free time, disposable income, etc.) that it’s possible. I occasionally will bounce an “adulting” thing like salary negotiation or investing off my dad, but I get the majority of my adulting satisfaction through experience/discussion with my wife.

    15. Not So NewReader*

      I am not sure life is less stressful with more family. Even in good families there are car accidents, illnesses. etc. And, of course, these things can cause worry for everyone in the family.

      I grew up in a family where you do not ask for help. Ever. If you end up in ICU because of your problems then oh, well! that, too, becomes your problem. I did eventually ask for help once in a great while when I first got out on my own. But when my husband got sick then passed all of the sudden, gloves were off, I had to blatantly ask for help.

      A few things that came to the foreground for me:

      In order to be a good giver, one must learn how to be a gracious recipient.
      Oh my. I could write paragraphs on this. However, basically, for me it meant learning what is actually helpful to others. Because, in the course of receiving help here, I learned what meaningful help looks like.

      We are all interconnected and interwoven much more so than we even realize. We are supposed to help each other. People who do not accept/give help do suffer some loss in quality of life. I wildly underestimated how important this is in life and I feel sad for my family who did not ask for help.

      And it seems like, if we spend too much of our lives refusing to ask for help something happens that forces us to ask others for help. IF this is true, I have decided to make it a habit to ask for help more often so, hopefully, I can ward off a forced situation. ;)

      So yes, if a person grows up in a family who does not get help then seeing other people get help can feel like they are cheating. Realize that this is false, accepting help is not cheating.

  17. Cari*

    Oooh, I love Carolyn Parkhurst, and I have this book at home. I got an advanced reader copy (the perks of being a librarian).

  18. Lemon*

    Thoughts on how to figure out when you’re ready to (try) to have children?

    It’s funny, the whole time I was a teenager/early 20s, I was absolutely terrified of getting pregnant. I grew up in an area with a high teen pregnancy rate, and my mom was always stressing the importance of birth control. I also had big goals for myself (going to a good college, grad school, etc) and knew that an unplanned pregnancy could make achieving those things a lot harder.

    But I always wanted kids eventually, and now I’m realizing ‘eventually’ will be here before too long – I’m early 30s, have a committed partner (we plan to get married in the near-to-mid future, it’s just a finances/logistics issue). I’m just starting a career where you have to move around/up the ranks frequently early on, so I want to wait a couple more years until I’m in a position where I can stay for a longer term. But then… it should be time. And I guess I don’t know how to switch from a mentality of ‘omg getting pregnant would be a disaster’ to… actually wanting to be pregnant.

    I think the biggest hesitation I have right now is just having to say goodbye to my independence/free time (I know that’s an exaggeration, but maybe not a huge one). I’m a very independent person, and I love having free time. And there’s so much I still want to do – so many books I want to read, stories (or even a novel) I want to work on, places I want to visit, adventures I want to have. And just keeping up to day-to-day life when you’re working full-time isn’t easy. I can’t imagine how difficult it will be with the addition of kids.

    Probably my issue right now is just seeing all the downsides of kids and not thinking about the upsides. (I babysat a lot in high school, and I remember how fun it was to watch their little personalities develop, to see them learn, to make them laugh with silly little things… I know they’re great fun.) But I really am not looking forward to basically having to dedicate my whole life to the little guys. Any words of wisdom?

    1. brown paper packages*

      Well, I don’t have kids, so I really probably should not be commenting on this at all. But I think this works in any situation where you’re trying to decide something: I’d ask yourself, why you want kids? Does it feel good? Are you excited about it?

      From your question, it kind of sounds like you’re doing it out of FEAR of being old… not out of LOVE that it’s something you want.

      I’m not saying that IS the case. I’m just pointing out what it looks like. But focus on why you want what you want, and see what answers come up.

    2. Samantha*

      If you’re not looking forward to having to dedicate your life to your kid(s) I’d say you’re not there. Parenthood is hard. You have to be all in going into it. Especially in the first few years, they need you SO much. Your life does revolve around them. As they get older and more independent you have more time for yourself. The number of children you have makes a big difference too. We just have one and our lives have not changed nearly as much as if we had 2+. It’s still relatively easy to travel, eat out, go do fun things with just one, especially the older he gets.

    3. C Average*

      It’s a big decision, and once you’ve made it, there’s no takesies backsies, so it’s good to give it some considered thought.

      I had a lot of exposure to kids growing up–I had a much younger sibling, I babysat a lot, etc. I never wanted kids of my own, but wound up falling in love with a guy who had two daughters from his previous marriage. The kids live with us full-time. So, skipping over the whole pregnancy part (which, I’m not gonna lie, seems full-stop dreadful to me), I’ve got an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old in my life. They were three and six when I first began dating their dad.

      A few aspects of parenthood that shocked me:

      –the sudden sheer complexity of getting fairly mundane things done. Before kids, if you ran out of milk, you went to the store and bought more. With kids, you have to make sure they’re dressed appropriately for the trip and they’re clean enough to be in public, make sure they’ve been fed and watered and whatever else, make sure they’re fastened in to their car seats correctly, make sure they’ve brought along any comfort items required for such journeys, make sure the music in the car doesn’t cause them to scream and make vomiting noises, make sure the temperature in the car is to their liking, etc. When you get there, you have to keep them close by and under control at all times. You have to make sure the all-important comfort items are not deserted in the bread aisle. You have to respond appropriately to requests for treats. You have to shepherd them to the bathroom and the water fountain. You have to know the symptoms of an impending meltdown and have an evacuation plan in place. You have to master the apologetic look to strangers when the kids act too kid-like.

      It’s often a lot easier to just say, “We don’t really NEED milk, right?”

      The other thing that blindsided me was how utterly immune to reason kids are when they’re emotional. It’s an objective truth that there are no monsters under the bed. It’s an objective truth that one fragment of eggplant won’t contaminate an entire plate of food. It’s an objective truth that one side of the back seat is not superior to the other side of the back seat. It’s an objective truth that the cat will run away if you pet her backwards.

      I have no powers of communication to convey these truths persuasively to small children, and neither do most people. You have to meet the kids where they are emotionally–scared, disgusted, defensive, indignant, whatever–and somehow prevail on them to do what you need them to do (sleep, eat their dinner, buckle up, etc.), but you cannot convince them you’re right. You’ll resort to bribery and deception, and you will be disgusted with yourself for doing so. This is normal.

      The first couple of years were really, really hard. Then there were a couple of easy years, and then teenage hormones hit and we had another really, really hard year. Things are good right now. I would currently give (step)parenthood two stars on Yelp. If I had to do it again, I think I would, maybe, but not because it’s fun. It’s important and sometimes deeply satisfying and occasionally fun and a whole hell of a lot of work.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Yes to all of this!!!

        If you have family in the area you can retain some of your independence better than I can, since both sides of our extended family are far away. Babysitters for one-offs aren’t really a thing here? Don’t know why.

    4. Sybil Fawlty*

      This is such a personal decision that it’s hard to give advice, but since you asked . . .

      It really doesn’t take up your entire life, usually anyway. It’s about 10-15 years of super hard, intense, focused effort, depending on how many kids you have and what they are like. And then it may be another 10-15 years of about half as much effort, again, depending on your children. And after that, it’s not really bad. So 30 years out of your life, which sounds like a lot, but it does end.

      On paper, kids are a terrible idea. You are right about losing some independence, free time, etc. But it’s impossible to put on paper how wonderful and how fulfilling they can be. The pride, the catch in your throat when they do something that reminds you of someone else in your family, the feeling of being part of the chain of humanity, it can be heady stuff.

      My advice is if you think you want to at all, don’t miss it. Good luck!

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Yeah, my kids are currently 19 (“away” at the college where I work, living in a dorm ten minutes from our home) and 15. Just as I was about to run out of steam for intensive little-kid parenting, they entered a phase where I could let up and relax a lot more, hallelujah! It feels so good now to be able to go away for a weekend with my husband, or just to go out and spend a whole day alone, without worrying about what to do with the kids.

    5. Mike C.*

      Maybe if all you see are downsides, you don’t actually want to have kids. I went through something similar, finding excuses to wait until I realized that I just didn’t want kids and that it was ok not to want to have kids. There’s incredible pressure to have children and that can sometimes get in the way of a clear decision.

      Ultimately it’s up to you, but give yourself permission to make the choice that makes you happy.

    6. Jen Erik*

      I came to the conclusion there’s never a right time to have children. (There are probably wrong times, but we waited a few years for the ‘right’ one, before I had my epiphany.)

    7. lfi*

      i just said to my husband the other day we’ve spent 13 years trying NOT to get pregnant and now here we are trying and its like wtf?

      i would say that we have been very thoughtful about life.. we both went to college, got jobs that led to careers. we got married, and bought a house. originally my husband said that he wanted a few months just us in the house.. and now it’s been just over a year. so we are definitely ready, but now it’s the hard part of actually getting the baby to come.

      something that i’ve been struggling with is this new identity that it’s going to create. for a long time it’s been “mrs lfi” or “lfi the hr girl”. but the new identity of “future lfi’s child’s name mom” seems daunting. so i will try to make time for me – even if it’s when the baby comes that my husband watches them for a bit each week to let me do things/hobbies that i like – going for a walk with my camera, getting my nails done.

      not sure if any of my rambling helped.. but you are not alone! we do have family nearby – so that might help us out. don’t be afraid to lean on people – as they say it takes a village. wishing you the best!

    8. matcha123*

      I’m the type of person that looks at things from a worst case scenario. If I feel comfortable with that, then I will do it.
      For kids, I’d passively assumed I’d have them when I got older. But, the older I got the less I wanted them.

      There are situations I see online that rarely, if ever, happened when I was growing up. Toddler tantrums in stores? Nope. Teen pregnancy? Nope. So, I don’t know if I’d be satisfied with a kid that did that stuff. Like others have said, you can’t really just say “oops, no, don’t like this one. return.”

      There’s nothing wrong with not wanting kids. A lot of my friends have made, in my opinion, the unfortunate decision to have kids. But, that doesn’t make me want them. I can’t see into the future and without a strong financial and social network I can’t see it working… Of course I don’t want them anyways.

      1. Amtelope*

        However old you are, I’m pretty sure that toddlers sometimes had tantrums in stores and teens sometimes got pregnant in your youth. It may be that in your parents’ circle of friends, toddlers weren’t taken to stores, or that teen pregnancy was dealt with quietly enough that few people knew about it. But bad toddler behavior and the tendency of teenagers to get pregnant aren’t new.

    9. Sandy*

      So I was in a very similar position before we had a daughter. On the whole, I would say that my fears about losing my free time and having unchecked items on my bucket list have so far not materialized.

      There’s a few reasons for that. One is that I knew going into it that I felt this way, and my partner and I have adjusted our parenting accordingly. We made sure, for example, that she (and we!) got used to staying with a babysitter very early on. [I got twitchy just thinking about a colleague of mine who has never spent a night away from his kids and they are nine and seven]

      We also do a lot of “switch-off” parenting, where we had *set in stone* times where one parent is in full parent mode and the other is not. My husband takes her to the park every day so I can have 45 minutes to myself to read a book or something.

      It helps keep both of us sane. And it helps that we’ve decided (or it was decided for us) to only have one child. It’s a lot easier to grocery shop with one kid rather than multiples.

      Going into this “whole parenting thing”, I feel like no one really mentioned how much *fun* it could be. I imagined myself giving up all sorts of adventures. What I didn’t imagine is how much my idea of an adventure would genuinely change. I have taken do much more joy than I could have imagined out of teaching my daughter how to ride a tricycle, watching her gently stroke the ears of our huge dog, hear her first word screamed with delight (the name of our cat), introducing her to my favourite Disney movies…

    10. the gold digger*

      I did get pregnant, which was a surprise to both my husband and me, as the doc had said, Um yeah – advanced maternal age don’t bother (not those words). My first thought was, “Crap. I have just been given a life sentence in prison.”

      I had a miscarriage at ten weeks and to be honest, it was a relief. I am sure we would have been happy to have a healthy child, but still would have been hard. And the risks of having a child who was not healthy, given Primo’s family history (a sister with BPD, a nephew with mental disabilities) and my age were pretty high.

      If you don’t passionately want children, it’s probably not a good idea to have them.

    11. Blueismyfavorite*

      You’re ready to have kids when you have an overwhelming desire to have them, which it doesn’t sound like you have. It sounds like you’re conflicted about whether you want to make the lifestyle changes having kids requires and since you’re already at the tail end of your fertility (I’m assuming you’re a woman), you may never decide to have kids and that’s ok.

      Kids change everything about your life. There’s no sitting down and leisurely reading a book for the first five or so years after your baby is born and there’s no picking up at a moment’s notice and traveling. If you decide you never want to give those things up it’s ok.

      I work in child protection and I see kids every day whose parents weren’t ready to be parents or aren’t capable of providing their most basic needs. I wish more people would realize that all adults don’t have to have children.

      For me I always knew I wanted kids and that desire became intense once I was married to a great husband that I knew would always take care of his children. We weren’t in a great financial place to have kids but we went for it and never regretted it. Parenting is extremely hard but extremely rewarding. There’s nothing better than your very own sweet little baby. But my goodness, babies completely upend your life!

    12. Jen*

      Mine are 3 and 3 months. I don’t find them to cramp my lifestyle much, buti M sure the time will come. We get babysitters, we plan family trips where we all get to do something fun (this weekend was a day at a winery where the 3 y/I went apple picking and climbed trees and played soccer and hide and seek; mom and dad drank wine…). We took our first on several international vacation- itineraries were modified and lower key than our adults only trips but still a ton of fun!).

      I didn’t like being pregnant or nursing, not because I had any problems (I had textbook pregnancies both times, easy deliveries and happy nursing babies) but I don’t like “giving up” my body. For me, that’s the worst part. I love these little munchkins, even the 3 year old whose personality is like looking in a mirror every single day (for better or worse…)

    13. Lemon*

      Thank you all so much for sharing your thoughts, experiences, and kind words. You’ve given me a lot to think about!

  19. brown paper packages*

    Anyone have any luck refinancing student loans? Any companies you can recommend? I was looking at sofi, which had some good reviews, but also a lot of bad reviews.

    1. Dan*

      It’s been a long time, and with fixed rate ffelp loans, refis aren’t what they used to be when things were variable.

      I looked at sofi. Their teaser rates are awesome, but by their own admission, almost nobody qualifies for them. They actually don’t even look at your fico. I have a 760 fico, make good money, and they wanted to offer me rates much higher than I pay now.

      1. brown paper packages*

        Is there any light at the end of the tunnel for refinancing?

        My loans have been $1400/month since graduating (now they’re up to $1500). On an entry level salary, I barely scraped by; I can’t say it ruined my life, but I probably would’ve enjoyed my early 20s a lot more if I had money to do anything. My loans are already on interest only.

        1. Dan*

          Do you know what refinancing actually means? It only matters in terms of what your rates are. If they are already low, than yeah, you’re stuck. If they are high, then there’s a real chance.

          Your lender may let you stretch your repayment over a longer period, lowering your monthly payment.

          Something doesn’t make sense to me though. At my peak, I owed $92k in student loans, and my interest only payments were $600/mo. How the hell are you on the hook for so much?

          1. brown paper packages*

            Well I asked the loan company, and I think it’s because one of my loans has a 11% interest rate. That’s what they told me.

            I don’t know — I think I went to school at a really bad time? One of them I had to pay it back DURING my sophomore year so… that was pretty terrible. Honestly, I don’t know why I got so screwed because it doesn’t seem to make sense to ANYONE, and my friends are over here complaining they have to pay $300/month.

            1. Dan*

              I’m guessing you aren’t a math person, nor very clear on what the situation with your loans really are.

              That said, it doesn’t take a whole lot of understanding to get on top of things. What you really need to do is take all of your loan information to a financial planner, not your loan company’s rep.

              The information you need for each loan is:
              1. Total amount outstanding
              2. Interest rate.
              2a. Is the rate fixed or variable?
              3. The loan type (Perkins, Stafford, subsidized, unsubsidized, private, etc.)
              4. The lender for each loan (Sallie May, Great Lakes, AES, etc.)
              5. Your payment terms (how many years, interest only, etc.)
              6. Your payment history for the last year

              I can tell you that if you are paying 11%, you’re dealing with a private loan of some sort, as the federal stuff is nowhere near that high. For you to be in the $1200 range on *interest only*, you’d have borrowed (or have capitalized) $100,000. Have you borrowed this much? If not then you’re on more than interest only plan. (And yes, some private loans don’t have any in school deferment options.)

              But you really want to take your loan docs to a financial planner. If you bring him everything I listed above, he can tell you in 15 minutes if everything is on the up-and-up, and what your options are. (Some options are lender specific, but this guy would tell you what to ask for.)

              1. brown paper packages*

                Yes, I borrowed more than $100k. Half are on interest only, and half are through dept of education.

                I called my loan company though, and they said that if I don’t pay my loans, and wait until they’re overdue, then call and say I can’t pay, they might be able to lower the payment. The annoying thing is though, they have to also talk to my parents (who cosigned) and ask them about THEIR income… which would probably NOT help to lower my payment. My plan is to try to get my parents taken off the loans, THEN try to lower it. I don’t know what the rate I’ll end up with will be though, or if it’d be better to just refinance.

                I’m really TRYING to take control of things now. The truth is, I got a lot of very very very bad advice from counselors, both at my high school and at my college. They told me loans weren’t a big deal, everyone has them, you don’t even think about it, and I should go to the best school (that didn’t give academic scholarships). I didn’t end up with any financial aid either because I had to list my parents on my FAFSA even though they didn’t support me financially. My loans have caused myself a lot of anxiety, but I don’t think it’s useful anymore to beat myself up for not knowing better when I was a 17 year old kid. And when I already had so many people tell me, “That’s the way life is, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” I kind of developed a learned helplessness even years later like, well guess I just have to pay this astronomical amount and there’s no other solution.

                But I digress…

                I didn’t actually consider talking to a financial planner though… I didn’t know they could help with that sort of thing. Honestly, I just thought they helped with investments. Come to think of it, I DID talk to a financial planner a couple of years ago, and she basically just said, “GET OUT OF DEBT ASAP AND PAY IT OFF AS FAST AS YOU CAN AND DON’T DEFAULT,” and didn’t give me any other advice. Sooooo… I didn’t know they could help with that.

                Is there some kind of certification I need to look for in a financial planner to find a good one?

                Thanks for your help, by the way. I really appreciate it. =)

                1. Dan*

                  The type of planner you want is a fee based one. It might cost you a couple of hundred, but you need to do that. Most planners want to manage your money because that’s where the real income is for them. I’m not up on designations, so can’t help there. But you can call people up and ask if they are particularly knowledgeable wrt to student loans.

                  You do not want to become delinquent on your loans. You will fuck up your credit on the chance that you might get better terms, and it’s not worth the risk. Bonus points: you’ll fuck up your credit, which actually raises the rate you will pay when you do get your loans refied. So it’s counter productive.DONT do it.

                  You got in this jam because your parents let you. The truth of the matter is that at the age of 18, the government limits the amount you can borrow for undergrad. It’s pretty low. The private stuff won’t touch you. You need a private loan to bridge the gap, and your parents to consign it. Btw, that part is on them.

                  I’m usually pretty big on personal responsibility, but the reality is that we let people with no job and no life experience borrow large sums of money. if you want to buy a house, you have to go through a huge underwriting deal. No bank will lend an 18 year old enough money to buy a house, but they will for school. Go figure.

                  You’re right though that you have to own it, because what’s done is done. I’m one of the lucky ones, as I ended up with a good paying job. Yes, my major has good employment prospects, but I attribute my ability to pay my loans and actually have a life to luck more than anything.

                2. Dan*

                  Forgot to mention… Do give sofi a look, they’ll do way better than 11%. My gripes with them center around thier advertising for the most part, but my rates are really low and hard to beat.

  20. Tara R.*

    I am officially in Rainy City, all moved in, with all my stuff. My dad drove me in the u-Haul and it was fine. Stressful, expensive, but here I am. Thanks for the help and support as always.

    I’m going to spend today grabbing some miscallaneous things I forgot to bring with me & decorating my room so it doesn’t look quite so depressing. Kind of excited to get back to school!

  21. BrideofFrankenstein*

    Is anyone out there completely sick of people asking them when/if they are having kids? My husband and I want to have kids, but for reasons that are not medical or financial in nature, we’re unable to have them right now. I feel like this topic comes up every time I’m around other women, and no matter what vague answer I give or if I refuse to answer by deflecting the conversation, I get the look of pity, which I can’t stand. I know that there are others out there that know how I feel, but it sucks to feel so alone and isolated in this.

    1. Mike C.*

      Trust me, you’re not alone. It’s really obnoxious how some get so put out because you aren’t making the same life choices they are. Tell someone that you’re not interested in being a parent and that look of pity crashes changes to a look like you’ve shot their dog.

      Luckily, most parents I know don’t act like this.

    2. Sparkly Librarian*

      I am lucky that no one in my family has pressured me to reproduce (and the people I know who do tease about what it’ll be like “when you have a kid” only did so after I made it clear that we hope to adopt very soon). But I get an awful lot of attention on the subject from the teens/tweens at work! “Ms. Sparkly, how many kids you got?” “Ms. Sparkly, do you have kids?” I know it’s typical for kids this age to ask their teachers and other adults who work with children, but when I smile and say “I don’t have any kids” or “Not yet, but I love babies” (when I had a baby on my lap) they seem SHOCKED. Thankfully, none have tried to talk me into/out of it yet!

      1. Rob Lowe can't read*

        My students ask me about my non-existent kids all. the. time. I actually think it’s really funny when the same kids ask multiple times – not that I expect them to remember every word I say, but it’s like, “I still have zero kids, just like I did when you asked me three weeks ago…”

    3. Trixie*

      A lot of times its just making conversation, not meant to be hurtful or personal. I imagine it feels sucky because the question brings difficult topic front and center. I feel similar initial reaction when asked if I’m married or dating, and it’s never fun saying no but it’s just a question. Not a judgement.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      My otherwise awesome dad did this to me for a while a few years back. I completely hated it, because the reason I don’t have kids isn’t that I didn’t want them or I’m unable to have them, but because I haven’t found anyone to have them with. (I honestly don’t know if I can, since I’ve never had the opportunity to deliberately try–and if that doesn’t make you feel like you’re sitting at the Kid’s Table of Life, nothing will!) His constant harping on it made me feel really inadequate and awful.

      He nagged me so much I got fed up and asked him why. He said, “I want grandchildren!” I said, “YOU HAVE THREE!” That shut him up finally.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        OMG. Yep. Shut that down. Wrong road, Pop.

        I wasn’t married when my mother told my aunt she wanted to be a grandmother. She knew better than to say that to me. ha! Of course, my aunt had to tell me. My aunt did say, “well maybe she should get married first”.
        sigh. It was then that my aunt learned not to mention it again, also.

    5. Seal*

      My parents used to nag at me about wanting grandkids, despite the fact that I had made it abundantly clear that I didn’t want kids. After hearing this for YEARS, I told them that I was sure one of my male friends would be happy to serve as a sperm donor. That finally shut them up.

    6. Pennalynn Lott*

      I’ll be 50 next month, so people have FINALLY quit asking me when/if I’m going to have kids. But, yes, I got very very very sick of it. It started around age 17 (wanting to talk to me about my future plans), and continued on for decades until just a few years ago. [Although, hmmm, now that I think about it. . . the questions simply changed from when/if to “Why didn’t you ever have children? Why are you so seeeellllfffiiissshhh??”]

      I have no idea why so many people are so freakishly interested in the reproductive decisions of others. [Which also includes my anger at certain state governments attempting to insert themselves into every single uterus in the country.]

      1. Woman of a Certain Age*

        As someone who is now a “woman of a certain age,” I find I now get asked, why didn’t I have children? My stock answer is,

        “Just lucky, I guess.”

        The timing was never right. I would have wanted to take parenthood seriously, and it just seemed I never had the financial resources or something else was going badly in my life. Either someone in my family was ill and needed taking care of, or I didn’t have a job, or my spouse didn’t have a job, or I had health problems, or my spouse had health problems. And then you reach “a certain age” where it becomes less and less likely that you ‘re going to have children and at my current age I don’t think I’d really be up to it anymore. I don’t think about it very much.

    7. themmases*

      I have a couple of friends who have been bringing it up a lot lately, and it became clear pretty quickly that it’s because *they* are thinking about it. I won’t deny that some people are just nosy. But I honestly think a lot of people are bringing it up because it’s on their mind, if not about you then about themselves or their friends or someone in their family. When I think of it and if I care about/am interested in the person, I try to turn the questions back on them. A lot of times it’s what they want.

      I have to say, also, that if someone told me they want kids but aren’t able to have them right now then I’d think looking sympathetic was the appropriate response. That’s not about pushing kids on people (I personally don’t want any), but just what people do if you tell them you’re not getting something pretty important that you want in life. Have you tried giving a response that wouldn’t elicit sympathy, or just giving less information? I would have a pretty different reaction to someone saying they’ve chosen to wait a while longer vs. telling me they want kids but are unable to have them right now. Kid conversations are hard because plenty of people *will* be pushy, but in general I think it’s worth a try to give people a cue on how you feel about something and how they should respond. And if you don’t want someone’s advice or opinion on something going on with you, just don’t tell it to them.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I think context is important. My father was emptying his house. He had to sell it to pay off my mother’s medical bills. We were cleaning the attic and he asked about my baby clothes and toys. I told him to get rid of them. He wasn’t happy, but the situation was not a happy situation anyway. It was the closest he ever came to asking me about grandchildren. I kind of admire him for that, he had to have been wondering and yet he never said anything.

    8. lfi*

      yes. literally since the night of our wedding. but what can you do… we are trying but no luck yet.. so it stings.

      just say in the future, and if they give you a pity look say you are looking forward to it and are content now.

    9. Dot Warner*


      My favorite response to this are: “Why do you ask?” and “Well, I prayed for children for years… then one day I realized that’s not how you get them!”

    10. Bruce H.*

      I’d be tempted to say something like, “My parole officer thinks that would be a bad idea at this point in my life.”

    11. Random CPA*

      This question can be a tough one for people trying to conceive who can’t and I’m surprised that people in general aren’t more sensitive to that. In my group of work friends, I got pregnant twice before anyone else. Another friend in this group who had been married longer hadn’t had kids yet and people used to ask when she was having kids or would ask her when she was going to start trying. She didn’t tell anyone but me (I guess because I never made comments like that) that she had been trying for years and couldn’t get pregnant and that it wasn’t as easy as everyone thought it should be for her. Luckily for you it’s not medical, but again, I’m surprised that people don’t consider the fact that your family planning is none of their business.

  22. Lizzy*

    Advice on having more fun stuff to do (and spend less time watching dumb videos on my phone)?

    I could say I have a cell phone addiction, but I think it’s more “lack of doing other things and going on my phone by default.” But the cell phone problem is actually a big problem in itself — my elbow tendinitis has gotten so much worse, and I have to go to physical therapy now!!!

    Even when I was in school and had homework I had this problem, because I’d finish everything so fast, and not sure what to do with the rest of my time. I don’t look forward to weekends because I’m not sure how to fill them. I like being really busy and really scheduled, but even when I take fun classes outside of work, it’s only once a week. The only time in my life I managed to not have this problem was in high school when I danced for 5 hours a day every evening.

    Anyone else have this problem? Advice on how to go about fixing it?

    1. Lizzy*

      I guess it’s the same thing as asking: What do people do with all their time when they’re not at work?

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        I run (joining a running club has been awesome for my social life!), watch TV, read, do crossword puzzles. My dog and I started taking a training class so now I also spend time with her working on training stuff.

      2. RKB*

        I took up knitting! I’ve found that when I try to engage in other activities my mind would drift because it was easy to not concentrate, and then I gravitate towards my phone. With knitting, because I have to really focus, time passes without me realizing.

      3. Nina*

        If you want something kind of crafty to do with your hands, latch hooking is a fun, simple activity. I tried knitting, but it got too frustrating. Latch hooking (also called rug hooking) was surprisingly a lot of fun and there are a lot of lovely patterns. You can find any latch hook kit at a fabric/craft store.

      4. the gold digger*

        I garden (but am going to give that up for doing heroin, as heroin is probably cheaper in the long run).

        I write – I have my blog and I am working on a book.

        I read. I cook and occasionally go to cooking classes with friends. I watch TV shows on DVD.

        Primo and I go to free concerts in the park. I am trying to get him to take dance classes, but we agreed that in exchange for his getting rid of that damn timeshare that became his again when his ex wife died almost two years ago (she had never taken his name off the documents – if you get divorced, this is something to put on your list) by Christmas (he is going to give it to his stepdaughters, to whom it should have gone in the first place, but we have been paying the fees since his ex died and I DON’T WANT TO OWN A TIMESHARE), I would accept a “I don’t want to” to all social activities until after the election.

        However, that does not mean I want to spend the time freed up from not going to swing dance or salsa classes working on his campaign. I am done with that.

        1. the gold digger*

          And when I wasn’t working, I did a lot of volunteer work – at the library, at a pre-K reading program where we read to little kids, at a church-sponsored 3rd world craft shop, for the funeral ministry at church, etc.

    2. Cordelia Naismith*

      I have hobbies that I enjoy. For instance, I play the cello in a local community orchestra. We rehearse once a week, on Monday nights. That gives me some structured social interaction with people as well as enhancing my enjoyment of music. And practicing gives me something to do in the evenings the rest of the week, too.

      I also enjoy knitting. That’s less structured — I don’t currently belong to any knitting groups or anything. It’s something I do on my own, often while watching movies and/or listening to audiobooks, so taking up a crafty hobby like that might not do anything to curb your movie watching!

      Is there some kind of hobby you think you might enjoy? You can always take it up now, even if its something you don’t know how to do. I learned to play the cello as a kid, but I only learned to knit as an adult. It’s never too late, right?

      Since you’ve got tendonitis in your elbow, playing an instrument might not be the best thing for you, but is there anything else you think you might enjoy? Maybe taking a class in something? Learning a language?

      1. Lizzy*

        I think having structure is a good suggestion. That way, I wouldn’t be spending so much time trying to figure out what to do, and instead I’m spending more time doing it.

        I was taking some fun classes after work, but that was only once a week (and all I could afford). I’m thinking part of the problem was my salary didn’t allow for me to do very much, so I felt kind of stuck a lot of times. Those are good suggestions though. I mean, knitting costs some money, but it doesn’t cost money every time you pick up your needles. I guess that’s the same with practicing anything really. You don’t have to pay money every time you do it.

        I guess in my head I just thought everyone lived these crazy busy lifestyles where they’re doing *something*. I don’t know what that something is, but it’s secret and magical. Hahaha. But probably most people go home and work on something there. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thanks! =)

        1. Cordelia Naismith*

          For free stuff, check out the programming at your local public library. Also check out your Parks and Rec department to see what they have to offer (although most of those classes are paid, not free, in my neck of the woods).

          There are plenty of free classes on the internet, too. Like MOOCS, for example — there’s Coursera or FutureLearn.

          For knitting, YouTube is an endless source of free videos. My local yarn store also offers a basic “how to knit” and “how to crochet” class that’s free if you purchase the yarn in their shop. And there’s Craftsy — you have to pay for most of their classes, but there are some free ones.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          If there is a Joann’s Fabrics near you, you can get on their mailing list and get really good coupons towards the materials and supplies you want.

    3. themmases*

      I can definitely second or third the advice about knitting (although I prefer crochet). I am a fidgety person and I often feel like I need to occupy my hands while sitting around, which is when the phone comes out. We’re coming up on a great time of year to knit a scarf while you catch up on a show.

      I also like reading, learning different coding languages, drawing and coloring, and sometimes sewing or other crafts. I like computer games (both casual and more immersive ones), although I don’t play them when school is in. But I find I need to get regular exercise in order to be able to really concentrate on any of those hobbies. I think the fidgetiness is extra energy that I really do need to burn off. I would never expect my parents’ dog to behave without a walk, or my cat to be calm without getting to play sometimes. I think humans are pretty much the same way, we’ve just invented too many fun ways to not realize it. It doesn’t have to be becoming an athlete if you don’t want– just breaking up your day with a walk or something.

      I also have a list of projects in my Google Keep for when I get bored. They’re a mix of work stuff, fun things, and things that are somewhere in between like home improvement projects… If I’m ever really bored I open it and pick one.

      1. Lizzy*

        It seems like most of the activities people recommend are solitary, which makes sense because it’s probably easier to organize than a bunch of people.

        I wonder what people who are always around other people do. Do they just do the same things they would do alone, but with other people? My thought is that if your life is that exciting, you have to be rich and famous, and you probably pay someone to set up fun stuff for you to do. Hahaha.

        1. Belle di Vedremo*

          Hmm, I mentioned citizen science volunteering elsewhere. I have just loved it, and met some really great people. Some I see only on a project, some I schedule team work with, and some I get together with in general outside of volunteering. Having an ongoing group to serve as the core really helped me get started. At 0ne place, we were, generally: a grant writer, a few stay at home moms, a school secretary, a couple of English majors, an architectural assistant of some sort, a retired rocket scientist, an Irish Dance teacher, retail staff, an anthropologist turned GIS specialist, etc etc; and we were all better or more interested in some things than others.

          When you’ve had something pretty consuming, like your 5 hours of dance a day, it can be hard to figure out what else to do and how to go about it. Is there another way to dance? Is there something you notice catching your attention when you encounter it that might have ways to participate in without having to be an expert? Are you interested in being back-stage help sometimes? Is there a program introducing kids to dance that you’d like to support somehow? Is there something going on that you care about in other ways that you’d like to support – in the trenches, in the office, etc etc? What makes you prick up your ears, or say “ooh, cool”? And don’t forget to think about how much time and energy it makes sense to commit every so often.

    4. AliceBD*

      Ideas of things to do are below. I’ve used specific examples but they are just a jumping off point for illustrative purposes. I tried to do a mix of things that cost money and things that are (probably) free, and individual activities and group activities, since I don’t know your preferences.

      Join a gym/YMCA/whatever and find things you like to do — at one point I was swimming every morning before work, doing yoga Mondays after work, and doing a dance exercise class Wednesday after work (moved to a different city so no longer doing that due to scheduling/locations, but it was fun while it lasted!)

      Join multiple activities — so you might have group exercise class you like on Monday and Thursdays after work, a volunteering gig on Tuesdays, a language discussion group on Wednesdays, etc. So things are once a week, but 7 once-a-week things fill up your time.

      Look on Meetup, local community center, local service organizations, local library to find things to do. Even if a specific group doesn’t work with your schedule (meets while you’re at work for example) it might seem interesting and you can find a similar group at a different time. You can also identify things you really don’t want to do. If a group seems interesting, go to it. You may hate it or you may love it, but now you know, and you’ve filled up some time.

      Identify hobbies that are lifelong. These can be a combination of free to super expensive, individual and group. So teaching yourself to sew or knit or cook. Or birdwatching or going on walks and learning to identify local plants. Or learn a new language or to play a musical instrument.

    5. Stellaaaaa*

      Get an adult coloring book! A lot of the popular sci-fi fantasy stuff (Game of Thrones, Outlander, Harry Potter) have coloring books. I just got the Flower Fashions coloring book. It’s ladies wearing dresses made out of flowers! You can also get books dedicated to fashion of any era, or 800 pictures of butterflies or bears or dogs or fish.

      A hobby doesn’t have to be something that feels like…an episode. On Tuesdays I work in the office near an Ulta, so I usually stop in there to smell all the new perfumes. Suddenly, I’m someone who knows a lot about perfume, which is only a little more interesting than it sounds. You’re doing all this random reading on your phone so it might not be a huge adjustment to get into reading books with a “rule” against checking your phone more than once an hour. Don’t be afraid to read books that are kinda dumb and goofy. I just read Nine Women One Dress. It’s like the traveling pants. Kinda dumb! But fun.

      Are you into makeup? What about making an effort to practice along with tutorials, even if you’re not going anywhere that warrants wearing makeup? Makeup goes bad eventually and we all have so much that we end up never using. I don’t think it’s wasteful to play with makeup on a night in.

    6. Jubilance*

      Knitting! I just saw a post Slate about this – the author also spent way too much time on her phone, and decided to try out knitting as a way to keep herself occupied. Knitting is almost my preferred hobby, and I happily spent hours with my needles making new things.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        I told my mother I felt guilty about knitting things for myself (I make a lot of gifts).

        She pointed out that this was the only was I was getting any hand-knit items without buying them. (She is not a knitter, and my grandmother who did knit passed away a few years ago.)

        I also bake, but that’s weather dependent and much messier.

        The great thing about knitting is that you can decide whether to do a complicated pattern that requires a lot of attention or a simple pattern where you can also catch up on some TV/film viewing.

    7. Christy*

      I too joined a running club! We run together 2x/week, and I run solo once a week. I go to a group exercise class once a week and to yoga 1-2x/week. I go to weight watchers on Mondays. (And have made good friends there!) I also try to lift weights 3x/week.

      I also watch a lot of Netflix.

  23. Perse's Mom*

    Perse’s health went downhill fast late last week, so this week started off with putting my cat down on my birthday. She’s survived by me and her buddy cat, who spent the next two nights sitting under a chair in my room, alternately looking at the door and under the bed, crying for her friend to come out from wherever she was surely hiding.

    My sister’s been trying to rehome a tiny kitten with me since the day after the final vet visit. -_- She’s eminently practical minded (which normally I appreciate), and I also know she’s not going to drive down here and push the kitten into my arms. I’m sure the offer is serious – if I want her, I can have her. But I’ve got a couple of months to think about it, so if I change my mind (I did tell her I don’t want a kitten), that’s okay. If I don’t, that’s also okay. And in the meantime, I just get periodic photos of an adorable neonate torbie.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’m sorry you lost your kitty. :( *HUGS*

      In a couple of months, the kitten will be bigger and easier to handle. It might be easier to consider by then, too. I know that’s not a given, but it’s good you have some time. In the meantime, you and Buddy Cat will benefit from lots of snuggles.

      1. Perse's Mom*

        Buddy Cat is… not interested in being my buddy. She’s always wanted to get along with other mellow adult cats but she never really bonded with ME. It’s the first time in 16.5 years that I haven’t had a cat that snuggles with me. It’s an unsettling feeling.

    2. Dot Warner*

      So sorry for your loss. My kitties have been gone for a couple of years now and I still miss them every day.

  24. Mike C.*

    So I promised my wife I would get all the frozen crab out of the freezer, in the form of legs and that bit the legs are attached to. My plan is to steam them and extract the meat.

    But what then? Crab cakes come to mind, but is there anything else folks can think of? Any good recipes? Thanks!

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Crab dip?

      You can take dip and crackers to work if there’s too much for you. I did that when I bought too much British cheese that would have gone to waste when I went overseas last year. I cut it up and put it in the break room with crackers and olives and everybody inhaled it. :)

    2. Nancypie*

      This am in the today show there was a guy baking crab cakes that looked delicious. The recipe is on today for com/food I think. I bookmarked it on a different device.

      1. nep*

        Every time I hear or read ‘bisque’ I think of the yada yada episode. Elaine: ‘I mentioned the bisque.’

  25. nep*

    New neighbours cut down massive trees.
    It’s hideous.
    I look the other way as I approach my house now.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I understand your pain. Neighbors up the road just moved in to a historical house–it was built in 1730–and tore out basically every single bush around the house. Not the same as trees, but it just looks so bare and weird. I hate seeing it like that. But maybe they have some sort of allergy to those particular bushes.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        Or, there might be some issue with the bushes/roots and the house’s foundation. As much as ivy-covered walls may look nice or bring up ideas of old campuses, the roots on that stuff plays havoc with masonry.

        It’s entirely possible that they want to make the basement more waterproof or something that is necessary on that house given its age and they have to excavate around it for that. If you want to stop mice getting into your house, it’s not a good idea to have long grass/weeds or bushes around the foundation, you can’t plug holes you can’t see.

        1. Liz in a Library*

          Yep…this is why I’m taking down a beautiful and very old oak next to my house. The foundation is being destroyed by its root system. :(

        2. Former Diet Coke Addict*

          Yup. My parents bought their house twenty years ago and the yard was full of beautiful old trees. One by one almost all the trees have had to come down–the roots are starting to interfere with the foundation, or the basement, or the driveway/patio, or the trees have come down with a disease and are dying, or they’ve just reached the end of their natural lifespans and it’s safer to take them down then wait for them to die and come crashing down in a storm and ruin someone’s home.

          Unfortunately these things don’t last forever.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Ugh. Yeah. I had a massive tree in my front yard taken down last year. The base is easily 3 feet in diameter. Oh my, it changed the whole appearance of the house. I miss my tree so much. But it was so dangerous. I woke up one morning at 2 AM to find the power company out there dealing with that tree. I could not get back to sleep.

      I don’t have many trees or shrubs on my little lot, so that made it worse. Hopefully they had to take the plants down for good reasons. I have problems here with lot drainage as well, so the tree really had to go.

  26. Cristina in England*

    Is the free for all up mega early this week? Is it a permanent change? Just so I know when to check in, I thought I’d ask.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I put it up early today because there’s no short-answer post this weekend because it’s a holiday weekend here. (Posts will be lighter on Monday too, although I haven’t figured out exactly what that will mean.)

    2. Caledonia*

      It’s always up earlier on a US holiday. That’s why there was no new post prior to the thread (I’m assuming) but still the updates from Fri.

  27. Regular going anon*

    Has anyone ever had to distance themselves/avoid someone because that person’s mental illness was out of control? I know it’s a horrible question, but there is someone in my life who has OCD and anxiety. I have tried to be understanding and would never do anything to trigger their anxiety or OCD buy it’s gotten to the point where their conclusions are controlling my life (how many times I’m allowed to chew my food, what colors I’m allowed to wear each day when I see them just for some examples). I don’t want to be a horrible person but it’s not fair that this takes over my life when that person is around. I have tried to speaking to them about it but they are making me out to be the bad guy. I have started avoiding that person all togetger now because I can’t take it. This person does this to other people who don’t say anything under the guise of being understanding. I don’t want to be a jerk but I told them that having a mental illness is not an excuse to be a controlling jerk. It just sucks that I’m being made to be the bad guy here.

    1. TL -*

      It’s not okay for someone to be a controlling jerk, regardless of what’s going on in their life. The best thing you can do for yourself and your friend is to have boundaries. Nothing is a good enough excuse to continuously treat someone badly.

    2. Cristina in England*

      Woah, no you aren’t the bad guy! You cannot change this person and even if you are the most sympathetic person in the world, you’re totally normal for wanting to decide yourself how many times you chew your food and what colours to wear. You can gently disengage from this person and change the subject or suddenly need to leave when they try and say stuff like this to you.
      Captain Awkward is going to be a great place for you to trawl through the archives. There is tons there on setting boundaries with people.

    3. Engineer Girl*

      I have a sister who is bipolar and also BPD. I can’t tell you the number of times she tried to control my life. Vilification campaigns, distortion campaigns etc.
      The issue here is boundaries and it is utterly appropriate to enforce appropriate boundaries. Telling someone how many times to chew or what colors to wear is way beyond appropriate boundaries. You are NOT the problem for enforcing those boundaries.
      They will gaslight you, tell you that you are the problem, retaliate. Anything to gain back control.
      It is utterly appropriate to go low contact or no contact if they don’t honor your boundaries. It’s also OK to grieve that you can’t have a normal relationship with that person.
      Being supportive means appropriate boundaries. It is NOT doing whatever the other person wants. They may say you’re not supportive. That doesn’t mean it is true.

    4. Mimmy*

      Oh yes, I went through this for years with one friend, though her behaviors weren’t from OCD. I don’t want to give any details about her diagnoses for privacy reasons, but I will say that she grew very attached to me. I remember one time her telling me she’d keep voicemails from me on her answering machine. I think she had a few other friends, but there was always some sort of drama with them. She really got bent out of shape when I began dating my now-husband. We took her with us on a couple of instances but it was so awkward.

      Just having her in my life was incredibly draining emotionally, and I finally cut her out of my life for good about 10 years ago. She tried contacting me through my parents once a few years ago, but I never called her back and she hasn’t tried again since, to my knowledge, but I dread the day that she does.

      The long and short of it is – you are not the bad guy here. No my friend didn’t have OCD, but I do think she controlled and gaslighted me in other ways. I agree that mental illness should not be an excuse to cross boundaries and be controlling toward others. Deciding to distance yourself can be difficult, but it is also freeing. I know that sounds horrible–believe me, I felt like crap when I cut off my friend–but you have to look out for your own emotional health too.

    5. Temperance*

      My mother has BPD and anxiety and probably other issues, too. I don’t really speak to her much and I haven’t seen her in two years. I’m okay with this. She’s tried to control my life and manipulate me depending on her own emotional needs and comfort level, and she’s a horrible person. I don’t want to get into specifics, but she needs to be #1 in everyone’s life, so she’ll try to destroy your other relationships and your reputation with other people to get what she wants.

      You aren’t the bad guy. You’re 100000% correct. This person is controlling, and other people are enabling him/her to keep controlling things.

    6. NicoleK*

      I posted several weeks ago about a friend who was going through a mental health crisis. I did try to be supportive and understanding. She spent multiple nights crashed on my couch. We had many conversations-in person and over the phone about her issues. I was the only person she had confided in about her mental health issues. And it got to be too much for me. I did end up telling her that I needed a break which she did not take well. She ended up packing her stuff immediately and leaving my house that morning. I tried reaching out to her via text but only got a two worded response. That was two and a half weeks ago and I haven’t had any form of communication with her since she left.

      I’ve known her a long time (19 years). And her life has always been a constant stream of turmoil. It does get old and tiresome to advise her on the same core issues time and time again.

    7. C Average*


      This situation is really hard for the neurotypical person, because you care about the mentally ill person enough to want to avoid triggering them, and you can tell that their distress is genuine. Often, as difficult as they’re being, they’re NOT trying to be manipulative, at least not consciously. You know they’re dealing with true difficulties you can’t even fathom, and you feel like a jerk for being judgmental when you yourself drew the lucky card and aren’t mentally ill.


      Just as your friend wants to enjoy a world free of triggers, you’d like to enjoy a friendship that doesn’t involve walking on eggshells. These are both legitimate desires. You have the right to exit the situation and the relationship when it becomes constraining to the degree that it causes you anxiety.

      As they say in search and rescue circles, never create a second victim. In other words, don’t undertake a risky rescue. Only a trained professional, the right meds, and/or a dedication to bringing their illness under control will help your friend. You trying to control every move in order to please your friend won’t help your friend. And it certainly isn’t doing anything for you.

      (Family is trickier. I’m currently attending a NAMI Family to Family class to get a better understanding of some of the conditions that affect members of my family. It’s enlightening. If you have a family member who’s mentally ill, I can’t recommend this class highly enough.)

      1. Anon for this*

        Speaking as someone with OCD and anxiety: yes, to all of this.

        Your sensitivity to not upsetting your friend is wonderful. And if this is their anxiety talking, your friend probably isn’t deliberately trying to be controlling. But you’re not to blame for wanting to distance yourself, and not be caught up in the same restrictions that this particular mental illness likes to make up! Going to great lengths to accommodate OCD/anxiety can actually be counterproductive. It sounds like they need help from a professional, and there’s nothing you can really do to change them, beyond encouraging them to seek help from a specialist.

    8. Dan*

      I divorced my ex more or less because of mental health stuff.

      TL;DR: Nobody has the right to drag you down with them.

    9. HannahS*

      Your friend is very sick, which you know. They deserve your compassion, which you have given. Some/most/all of this is not your friend’s fault, which you understand. Your friend is also making you miserable.

      In difficult times, friendship demands understanding, kindness, and support. It does not demand misery. I believe that true friendship requires a person to “stick it through” when that includes things like compromising on how/when/where you see each other, changing the balance of who’s giving/taking emotional support, and taking care of the person (physically or emotionally) more than you would usually, but NOT when it makes one party miserable. Controlling someone else’s dress and eating habits is abusive, full stop. Regardless of the reason. You can maintain feelings of compassion for your friend without continuing to spend time with them.

    10. Stellaaaaa*

      I have too much experience with this. I grew up around people with mental illnesses and it took me a long time as an adult to un-learn the unhealthy behaviors I was mimicking out of habit; I was acting like someone with those illnesses even though I didn’t actually have them, because it’s all I knew for a very long time. After a few painful social and dating experiences, I had to make the mean-sounding decision to avoid people who have illnesses and refuse to treat them. (I’m not talking about people who are working to be healthy, nor am I talking about people who don’t have the resources to get the help they need, though people in the latter category generally fall off my social landscape anyway.) For some reason we’re pressured into not saying that health is the ultimate goal. We’re not allowed to want these people to be healthy. We’re supposed to accept the illness as a quality of their personalities…which just isn’t something I can do anymore. I grew so tired of feeling like I was a bad person for not being a martyr and allowing these people to use my life as their learning experience.

      1. Temperance*

        OH YES. YES. YES. It took me years to learn how to relate to people because I mimicked my BPD’s mother’s way of relating to the world. I’m still ashamed of how I treated people.

        I don’t think you need to justify yourself. You made the best choice for your own health and safety.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        “For some reason we’re pressured into not saying that health is the ultimate goal.”

        I think that is because all we can do it treat the issues, as opposed to healing the issues. We have a long way to go in our mental health care system.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Yep, the correct response is to move away from this person.

      I have mentioned this before and you might find it helpful. Sometimes when we try to help some one we are actually blocking their path and preventing real help from getting in and changing things for them.

      As you back away from this you can hope the opening you leave brings in someone who will be effective in helping your friend.

      FWIW, I have distanced myself from a couple family members over the decades. It really upset me, but I had to do it. Talking to them was like drowning.

    12. Belle di Vedremo*

      It’s not a horrible question, it’s the right question.

      And TL’s right, there’s no excuse for treating others badly on a regular basis.

      Mental illness may be the reason this person is being a controlling jerk, but that doesn’t mean you should put up with it. It’s never wrong to take care of yourself.

  28. Moving East*

    Soon I will have the ability to move due to work. And I would really like to move to the East coast, I was born in Pennsylvania, and lived in upstate ny for a few years. My family moved to Arizona when I was 9. I was thinking of moving back to new York because it’s what I already know but Vermont or even New Hampshire are possible.

    Does any one life around the finger lakes or upstate ny? What do you love what do you hate? Is Vermont as amazing as I have been told? Also I love cold weather so long dark winters are no problem for me. Thank you all so much.

    1. Elizabeth*

      I used to live in upstate New York.

      Pros: The Finger Lakes are beautiful, lots of wineries, easy access to Niagara Falls and relatively easy access to NYC and New England

      Cons: The sky was overcast 99% of the time, awful winters, not much to do, not much ethnic diversity

      I’m really not kidding about how grey it was all the time. We used to be so happy whenever the sun came out, and we would go out into the driveway to stare up at the sky. The constant grey could get very depressing. This might be just the Rochester area though, not the rest of the state.

    2. Rob Lowe can't read*

      I’m convinced that either Vermont is really as amazing as people say it is, or there is some state-wide environmental agent that alters people’s brains in such a way that they cannot NOT evangelize about Vermont. I live in Boston, but haven’t actually been to Vermont yet – I’m a transplant, not a New England native – and I have never met anyone who has lived in Vermont for any significant amount of time who doesn’t think it’s an earthly paradise.

      This is just to say, if there is a downside to Vermont, you might never find out about it. But hey, if there is some sort of pro-Vermont parasite that lodges in people’s brains once they move there, it’ll probably cause you to not notice any downsides!

      (Vermont, please don’t come after me. I’m just trying to consider all the possibilities.)

      1. TL -*

        There’s not much to do in Vermont and while it’s not incredibly isolated, it’s not exactly easy to get where things are happening. I do think people tend to self-select in or out of living there, so the people who do live there really love it.

    3. Mkb*

      I lived in central NY for college and loved it. The winters are tough but summer and fall are great. I would have stayed up there if there were better job prospects in my field.

    4. C Average*

      Oh, Vermont.

      I spent the longest, coldest, most miserable winter of my life in Vermont. Sometime in February, I turned in my Ben & Jerry’s apron, tucked my pansy-ass Pacific Northwest tail between my pansy-ass Pacific Northwest legs, and took Greyhound home to Idaho. I was 23 and flat broke, and I hated Vermont so fiercely that I willingly rode the bus for three days straight to escape. It was the only mode of transportation I could afford.

      It was cold in a way that somehow felt personal, like Vermont hated me and wanted me to leave. No matter how many layers I put on, I was always freezing. I bought a monstrous and hideous down coat at the Salvation Army because I couldn’t afford a new one. As a result, I was marginally less cold and looked like the Michelin Man every time I left my apartment, which I tried not to do unless it was completely necessary.

      The people were simultaneously reserved and (to my mind) preposterously house-proud of their ridiculous little state. I came to hate them collectively. “The only reason they love their stupid state so much is because they’ve never been anywhere!” I would fume on the phone to my mother. “They honestly believe the leaves don’t change anywhere else. They apparently don’t realize you can get perfectly good maple syrup at Costco!”

      I can look back at it all now and laugh, but man was that a miserable winter.

      (The Frost cabin was awesome, though.)

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Ha. I live in the South, and Vermont is one of my states that I dream of living in if I ever moved. I think I’d like the house-proud aspect of living in a pretty little state. Maybe I’m a little house-proud myself, because when my husband’s parents moved here from California and couldn’t shut up about the drawbacks of this state, I felt like they’d walked into my house and insulted my choice of curtains. :-)

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Ugh, I hate winter. I would hate that.

        I’d move to the east coast if the warmer states weren’t all wacky/backward. If I could afford it, I’d go back to California’s central coast. I loved it there. Sometimes I dream of going back to Santa Cruz, but housing is so high it will never ever happen unless I win the lottery or marry a zillionaire.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Vermont is … kind of laid back, I guess that’s how I would say it. It’s different.

      If I moved, I would try Burlington, Vermont. People seem to have interests and there are plenty of activities.
      Yes, very cold, but the people are very friendly.

      NY is beautiful. But employers are leaving daily. It is a pro-consumer state, so as a consumer you know your rights will be protected. Less so in Vermont, I’d miss that. I see things in Vermont that would never be allowed in NY. And I see that they are pretty lenient with drunk drivers, I don’t get it.

      Northern NY never warms up, I swear. I remember one year in Placid, it was August 19 and they had 45 degree rain. brrrr.

      No state has everything. I think go where you think you are most apt to find employment. This means the larger towns and perhaps cities.

    6. NaoNao*

      I’m from upstate Western NY and there’s both pluses and minuses.
      Like the other commenter from Rochester (also my home town) I can’t overstate the oppressive grey-ness of the sky. It’s like it merges with the giant piles of dirty snow in the winter to form a dome of awful that presses on your skull until you can’t take it anymore. Also, lake effect snow–big drifting snow that doesn’t melt all winter, pounding snow that starts at 2PM and goes all day, all night. Heavy, damp, chunky snow. It’s not just cold. It’s a whole thing. It snows “sideways” like 15 days or more a year.
      Winter starts in mid-October and ends in, oh, June-ish. There are many family photos of us in parkas in both Halloween and Easter.
      Close to Canada
      Close to NYC/ Philly –Maple Leaf Line, baby!
      Beautiful, temperate fall, summer, and spring (it starts late but it’s lovely)
      Small town vibes with most big-city amenities (culture, good eats, university town feeling)
      Very reasonable cost of living
      Friendly to young families (good schools, safe communities, lots of “state fair” type stuff to do)
      Economy pretty strong with lots of opportunities for the tech field
      Historical properties (this is something I really miss out here in Denver)

  29. Meredith*

    Has anyone adopted a doggie in NYC? It seems like kind of a stressful/competitive process. Any advice for a new adopter?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I did it! It can be competitive because there are so many people (like apartment hunting!) but it is also extremely rewarding. The period between our application and approval was one of the most stressful of my life, and I was lucky– it was only 14 days and we got the dog we wanted.

      Advice: get those references lined up and ask them to respond ASAP. I still check references for my NYC rescue even though I moved, and I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to chase people down, and how disappointing it can be when someone else gets the dog you had your eye on because your application wasn’t completed in time. Ask three people you can trust, know you, and are generally responsive. Bonus points if they’re just as eager for you to adopt as you are.

      Go to the adoption events. Talk to the volunteers. Be open about your own needs. No one will think poorly of you if you don’t feel ready to take on a dog with extra issues.

      Home visit: it is NOT SCARY. Rescues just want to make sure you live in a place that’s safe for a dog. I used to do home visits all the time, and I only flagged two potential adopters– one I red-flagged because she kept talking about how she didn’t want the dog peeing inside at all (accidents happen) and it had never occurred to her to get a dog walker, and the other I yellow-flagged because they were renovating one of their bedrooms and it was a mess, plus they lived in a 6th-floor walk-up, so I recommended they not adopt a puppy or a senior. I also told them that flat-out and they agreed.

      Most NYC rescues understand that you live in a city and an apartment and you have a life. If anyone gives you a hard time for not having a yard, walk away and go somewhere else, because those people are unreasonable.

      The adoption fee is expensive, but remember that it covers transport, vet care, initial supplies, etc.

      What else? Oh! When you are ready to pick up your buddy, there are dog taxis. Canine Car is one of them. We used some other guy, Tony something, to get our pup from Williamsburg to Harlem. Dog taxis love love love helping bring puppers to their forever homes.

      Recommendations for rescues: See Spot Rescued, Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue, Social Tees. :)

      1. harley*

        +1000 for Canine Car, for general transport and emergencies, too. The woman’s name is Alice, and she is a saint, for real, who drove to my apartment at four in the morning once, to help me get my dog to the emergency vet after we’d both been mauled by a neighbor’s animal. She helped get him to, in, and out of the van, advocated for him in the office when we’d been kept waiting despite his massive gaping wound, and made the time to drive back after he came out of surgery to get us home again. A few years have passed since then, and my dog has, too (liver failure at five years old, I had to put him down in March) but I really do believe I would have lost him that night if Alice hadn’t been there to help.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      One more thing: have a plan for mid-day care before you apply, even if that plan is simply, “I’ll hire a dog-walker” and you don’t have anyone lined up. I don’t know anyone in NYC whose dog doesn’t get a mid-day walk. It’s especially important in the city where trains can be unpredictable and life can get a little chaotic (you don’t want to risk your pooch being cooped up for 10 hours), and there are so many excellent dog walkers that don’t charge an exorbitant amount of money. We hired the same guy our neighbor used, and our dogs became bestest buddies.

      Good luck!!!

      1. Meredith*

        Thanks! I was actually wondering what people do when they have a full-time job. I’m moving soon, so I was thinking maybe I could get a place close to my office and take my dog on walks during lunch. But a dog walker seems like the obvious good idea. I also considered doggie day care, but I don’t know much about it.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          In NYC, we sent our buddy to doggie daycare once a week. Here, he goes once every two weeks. Daycares in NYC are a lot smaller and definitely more expensive, but I think they’re great. The dog gets a chance to run around and socialize in a controlled environment and will sometimes even get some training. That said, not all daycares are created equal, and I’ve heard about some not-so-great ones. Ask for recs, take tours, etc.– if you do adopt, there will likely be other adopters who can give you their opinions, and you can ask other dog owners in your new neighborhood.

    3. animal lover*

      I am not sure where you are looking but the main shelter organization does not seem to be competitive (nycacc dot org). They will ask questions in terms of your experience, who else you might live with, and with what other animals, and I think for dogs they call your landlord to make sure it is in fact legal for you to have a dog. They have centers in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island. The main thing is I think for you to have show that you have actually seriously thought about the reality of owning a dog – having to walk the dog, feed it, take it to the vet etc. A lot of people seem to come in with romantic ideas that won’t match the reality. Full disclosure: I volunteer there but with work with cats.

  30. The Other Dawn*

    Any recommendations for a point-and-shoot camera? It’s main purpose will be concert photos. I’m partial to the Panasonic Lumix due to the long optical zoom and image stabilization; however, I’m open to other suggestions. I really don’t want to spend more than 350.00. Under 300.00 would be best. My current Lumix is good, but it seems like the quality isn’t quite as good as it once was (not sure if that can happen with cameras).

    1. Cristina in England*

      I am about to buy a Canon Powershot 720. I am not sure if it has a different name in the US but I have always bought Canon point-and-shoots and I love them. I wanted this one because it has a big zoom, wifi, and I can even control it with an app, apparently.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      We got a Lumix in 2011 and we love it, it takes better pictures than my MIL’s much more expensive camera, but now I wish it had wifi, because plugging it in to upload files every time I use it is a bit of a pain.

    3. Lydia*

      We love our Lumix and it does pretty well in low light for a point and shoot (I’m assuming low light conditions when I think concerts). I’ve had several over the years and always found them to be sturdy camera with good picture quality. Our current model can be controlled with an app on our phones which is great when taking vacation pics with all of us included!

    1. Cristina in England*

      Congrats! When I got mine I kept sending half finished texts because I wasn’t used to a touch screen. Beware of that! :-)

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Congrats! I got my first smart phone two years ago, and I’m still using the same one. I’m eligible for an upgrade, but I think I’ll keep this one as long as it’s not giving me any trouble. One thing I noticed when I got a smart phone, is that the amount of time I spend reading novels has drastically reduced. I spend so much more time now entertaining myself with blogs, Facebook, games, etc. So I’ve started getting books on kindle and reading them on my phone, and I supplement that by listening to books on cd during my commute.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I resisted getting one because I would have had to have a contract. Net10 did have a cheap plan and I got a Galaxy S2. I was so excited to finally get one! When it bricked, I found that major carriers have no-contract options that aren’t pay-as-you-go (it’s the same as a regular contract phone but month to month), so I switched to T-Mobile. Though I’m still on my S4 because I like it.

      I bought a charger the other day (my good one has run off somewhere), and they said I have one more payment and then the phone will be mine. Plus, if I want to upgrade, the required down payment has dropped rather a lot because of my length of time with the service. :)

  31. periwinkle*

    AAM swimmers and water exercisers, I seek your wisdom… I’m, shall we say, short and very round. Weight-bearing exercise can be hard because of weight, while my apple shape makes the exercise bike challenging. And I thought hey, what about water walking, swimming, and the like? I used to swim a lot as a child but haven’t been in a pool since I was a teen (I loved it but, well, body issues). After waffling about it for a while I went online and bought a swimsuit, damnit, because it’s about flippin’ time I took care of myself. So…

    1. For those who went back into the pool after a long hiatus, how easy/difficult was it to get back into the swim of things, to borrow an appropriate cliche?
    2. If you’re out of shape and looking to ease back into regular exercise, how would you choose between water aerobics and (sloooow) lap swimming? The YMCA only offers water exercise classes during normal working hours but weekend classes could work.
    3. I’m wary of getting in the way of other lap swimmers, even at 5am (when the Y opens its pools to laps, and when I normally get up anyway) and not sure if I remember even the basic techniques anymore. Am I just using this as an excuse to keep waffling? (well, okay, I know the answer to that is to stop being a wimp, hit YouTube for swimming videos, and go join the Y)

    1. Cristina in England*

      I started swimming for exercise as an adult and I remember being both very tired and very hungry at the start.
      I did morning laps as soon as the pool opened, but I hate exercising in groups. If you aren’t sure whether you’re better solo or in a group, maybe try both? I am really big into self care regarding exercise and so I would just ease right into it, go slowly, and take every opportunity to congratulate yourself on keeping at it.

    2. Today's anon*

      Usually when there is lap swim, the lanes are slow, moderate, fast etc. (or if they are not labelled the more to the middle the faster the lane) so choose the best lane for you. But you may consider a swim class if that is offered. You will be doing different things and there are people who are coming back like yourself so it won’t be the like the pros; also it is a structured way of adding distance which for me at least was difficult on my own when I got back into it. And the commitment of a class is a wonderful thing when body and other issues get in the way of what is best for us :)

    3. Aurion*

      I would do slow laps, with the caveat that I’m wary of dragging people down in group fitness plus I feel awkward about it (people staring! I know truthfully they’re probably not staring, but it feels that way). Laps I can take breaks whenever.

      If you go during dedicated lap times where the entire pool is open to laps only, then there should be a lot of designated lanes by speed–slow, medium, fast. Pick the one most suitable for you.

      For me, swimming again was like riding a bike–my technique was a little sub-par but it was completely fine. Take it easy at first; I gave myself a touch of shoulder impingement by going too hard. But if you like to swim, swim!

      1. Aurion*

        Er, I meant to say that I’m biased against group stuff because I feel like people will stare at me (even though I know that’s irrational). My first sentence didn’t make sense.

    4. Trixie*

      I tried a swim class at my Y, to freshen up and gently immerse myself in the routine. I don’t know that I got much out of it compared to tips from youtube and reading. I already knew how to swim but this class also had absolutely beginners. I would suggest 5-10 or whatever feels challenging, and go from there. Generally try to become more comfortable swimming for a period of time. My places do have open swimming but I make sure I’m not in the masters swimming lanes. (Fine goal, though.) You’re inspiring me to look back into this!

      1. Today's anon*

        Interesting. Where I am there are classes from absolute beginner to pretty advanced but not advanced enough to join a Master’s team. The first few classes the teachers shuffle people who chose the wrong class (it’s pretty obvious very quickly). So even though there are faster and slower we were more or less within a manageable range.

    5. Dynamic Beige*

      I went to water aerobics once when I was visiting someone and it wasn’t that bad. Sometimes I think that I should sign up for something like that again. Because you’re up to your armpits (more or less), no one can really see you. Because pretty much everyone is there for similar reasons — age/weight/injuries or disease (arthritis for example)/needing to get in shape — it’s not like there’s a cadre of ultra thin people getting all outraged that you can’t keep up with the high-impact aerobics/antics. Also, you’re more buoyant in the water and you’re not constantly wiping sweat from your eyes.

      People say that the most important part of an exercise routine is that it is something you can do and enjoy doing. You’re more likely to keep doing it if you enjoy it. You won’t know if you like water aerobics until you try it. Your local pool may offer swimming lessons for adults. You may find that you prefer to have a class where you are expected to be there (like an appointment or commitment) rather than an open swim where it’s up to you to go.

    6. chickabiddy*

      I am also shortish and quite round and I teach water fitness classes part-time so I may be biased, but I would say that the classes may be a good start and then you can work your way up to lap swimming. At “my” YMCA the 5am swimmers are pretty serious. You may or may not have to share a lane depending on how busy yours is at that time. If you do, stay to the right and don’t worry about being in anyone else’s way — he or she will pass you if needed.

      1. Bibliovore*

        There is usually a slow lane, if lanes are shared. In NYC where I used to swim, you got twenty minutes in a lane by yourself. Where I am now, I swim for twenty minutes then do 15 to 20 minutes of water chi (like tai chi and chi-gong)
        If you can find a water chi class that might ease you into the habit.

    7. C Average*

      If you decide to start lap swimming, give it a couple of weeks (at least) before you decide whether or not it’s for you. At first, you’re still sorting out your stroke and your breathing and which speed is the right speed, and you’re also adjusting to the whole going to the gym and dealing with wet gear thing, which feels like an ordeal at first. Once these things start to feel routine, you may find (as many do) that the activity is meditative and pleasant.

      I like to swim my age in laps, thinking back on particular years as I go. I get lost in memory and find a sort of flow. It’s really lovely. I’ve fallen out of the habit lately. I miss it and should get back to it.

    8. TL -*

      I’m on the faster side for a casual swimmer and someone going slow wouldn’t bother me at all. It’s not going to impact my workout, even if we share a lane – I’ll just stick to the other side or do a stroke I’m bad at. Do whatever you like to do! There’s a lady at my Y who just holds on to the side of the pool and kicks for half an hour; she’s always great for a quick chat between laps but other than that, I don’t think she gets any more attention than the Serious Swimmers in Speedos. (Which is to say, very little to none.)

  32. an obvious anon*

    My ex husband has a deeply obsessive hatred for me. We share children. He has a very long history of spying on me (the nail on the coffin of our marriage). There is at least one incident in which I know he got a friend of his to pose as an admiring stranger, and reported back to him.

    I had other weird things happen online to me (tried online dating, two people I contacted were acting BIZARRE – turns out they were fake, and I am pretty sure they were set ups by my ex). There are other incidents I am not comfortable sharing on here.

    I have not confronted the ex on anything related to spying since the divorce. I don’t have concrete evidence. I’ve tried hiring PI’s. No one left me with confidence that they can help. I feel helpless.

    My question is, should I confront this ex? Not with an accusation, but with a question like “X type of situations are happening to me. Do you have anything to do with them?” Keep in mind our relationship is beyond contentious (there is a history of mental and physical abuse on his part). I do not speak with this person at all, ever. I have no idea how to handle any of this. Police has been of no help in the past, and I am not trying to get anyone in trouble. He will find a way to turn it around to make me the bad guy. That’s his MO.

    1. Elizabeth*

      Jeez, this sounds really scary. I’m obviously not an expert but imo getting in contact again is the absolute last thing you should do. That’s the point of all this stalking, that’s what he wants, and getting in contact will just encourage him to keep bothering you. Maybe write to Captain Awkward? She’s really good at this sort of thing.

      I’m really sorry this is happening to you!

    2. Jean*

      +1 re this sounding really scary and I’m sorry this is happening to you. I’m also not an expert, just a concerned blog-reader who wishes you peace of mind and personal security. As someone else wrote earlier on this blog, Internet hugs if you want them. My gut instinct is for you not to confront or even question your ex (at least, not yet, not without someone really reliable & skilled on your side) because in the past your interactions were so painful. Why expose yourself to more grief and/or possible danger?

      I have two hopes:
      1) immediate–that another AAM reader with solid knowledge rather than my (possibly inaccurate) instincts will write in.
      2) not-so-immediate–that you can assemble your own team of local, supportive, and easy-to-contact experts. Ideally, this team will have knowledge of your particular situation, empathy for you, and expertise re any relevant resources, laws and/or regulations (state, county, or municipal laws & regs; public or private organizations) that support the rights and wellbeing of people who have experienced domestic violence. Your team should know about available local resources and legal supports re personal safety, domestic violence, orders of protection, and post-divorce parenting issues (e.g. how to continue to share parenting with someone who makes you this uncomfortable). Possible candidates: lawyer or legal advocate, social worker, therapist, local DV activist, or sensible friend (someone who can support you without getting so emotional as to become an ineffective aid or advocate).

      While this is happening, take care of yourself as best as you can, because stress is hard enough without being compounded by exhaustion or lack of poor nutrition. But don’t blame yourself, either, if you have some insomnia or emotional eating or lack of eating. Life happens. We all try to cope the best we can.

      Good luck. Let us know how you’re doing. I’m sure there are many other people here sending supportive vibes to you.

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      Honestly, I don’t see any point in confronting him about it. If he is doing it, he’s not going to suddenly cop to it and plead forgiveness and be all contrite and everything. It’s only going to become one more thing that proves you’re “crazy” or whatever story he likes to tell himself to justify his actions.

      I think there aren’t many things you can do that you haven’t done. You could contact your local domestic violence shelter for advice. They may have places you can go to for support or counselling. Change your locks, change your passwords. Get motion sensor lights for over your doors, a security system if you can afford it. Arrange to drop off and pick up your children at neutral locations — a fast food restaurant, the library, the mall. Arrange to have someone else there with you at the time if you can, a friend, sibling, parent. If you feel your children are safe with him, arrange to do things on those nights. Whether that’s dating or book club, it should be harder for him to stalk or harass you when he’s got the kids. Instead of online dating, joining general social groups on something like Meetup would be a way for you to meet new people that is not “obviously” dating… not that that’s any of his business now that you’re divorced but he’s got a screw loose and is not rational. Or make a profile that doesn’t have your photo, has privacy settings so that your photos are not displayed. Document every weird thing.

      And this is the hardest thing: tell other people that your ex is having trouble letting go. This isn’t something that you have done, it’s something that he’s doing. If you don’t tell anyone, keep quiet about it so that you don’t look “unhinged”/don’t cause trouble or make gossip… it gives him more freedom to keep at it. I don’t mean you have to tell every nitty-gritty detail, just that the more people in your life who know that he has a history of stalking, the more eyes will be watching. “I tried online dating once and I met a couple of people who seemed really great, but then they did these really weird things. It made me think of stuff that Ex used to do, like that time he got his friend to…” I don’t know if your ex is single right now, but for some people, if they can’t have you, no one else can. You may be “fine” or “safe” so long as you are by yourself, but the minute a new SO comes into your life, your Ex is… not going to take that very well. Especially if he thinks that he is going to be replaced as Daddy. Get a copy of The Gift of Fear and read that. It is so, so wrong but short of your Ex getting hit by a bus tomorrow, he’s not really out of your life and with your kids, he never will be. It’s not fair that you have to take all these steps to protect yourself from his control issues, but you do. You may not be able to get a restraining order due to the children, but you may be able to rewrite your custody agreement for neutral location pickups and dropoffs. Even if you do manage to get one, it’s not like they come with a magic force field that repels the person, it’s nothing more than a document.

      I’m sorry you have to go through this. In a perfect world, he would get psychiatric help, see how his actions helped bring about the demise of the marriage, accept responsibility for his part in it and move the hell on, already. But some people are just born with an axe to grind and live to resent, which is unfortunate for everyone they come into contact with.

    4. C Average*

      Seconding Dynamic Beige’s recommendation to let a few trusted friends know this is happening and to document everything. And a big yes to “The Gift of Fear.”

      I wouldn’t confront or even contact him. It seems like what he’s after is to get a rise out of you, to keep you scared.

      His behavior IS scary. It isn’t normal. You’re not the bad guy.

      It sucks that the police aren’t taking you seriously and the PI isn’t helpful. Talking to a domestic violence or battered women’s shelter is a good idea. They’re used to advocating for people in situations like yours and know what kinds of resources are available.

      Good luck. This sounds really scary.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        It’s scary. But don’t let him know that you know. He will just change his tactics. You want to lull him into a sense of security so he will get overconfident and make a mistake. You can also protect yourself better if he sticks to the same tactics.
        Document everything and don’t react. He’s purposely trying to spoil things for you and will be happy that you react in a negative way.
        Tell a few trusted friends, preferably those that have themselves experienced people with personality disorders. They will believe you because they’ve experienced it too. Others just can’t believe it is that bad because they have never had anyone go off like that.

    5. Fiona the Lurker*

      Keep a diary; record every incident that makes you uncomfortable, and any evidence you discover that connects it back to your ex. You may find you end up with enough to make a restraining order possible, and then if he breaches that he’ll be in serious trouble. But it could be a long haul, unfortunately.

    6. LCL*

      If you have a recent photo of him, make some copies and show it to your friends and neighbors and family and tell them he is stalking you. And to never tell him your whereabouts or schedule.
      If you have a cell phone that he ever had access to, get rid of it.
      Same with your computer. Or take the computer to a good service tech and tell them you think you are being stalked and have the tech look for evidence.
      Check your car or have it checked for a GPS used to track someone.
      Get a PO box, use that instead of your home address.

      Consider getting a gun, if you are willing to go to training, and believe you could shoot him to protect yourself.

      1. Panda Bandit*

        Very good suggestions here. Definitely get the computer looked at because he might have put a keylogger on it.

    7. Clouds in My Coffee*

      This is terrifying. I agree with others that you should not confront him. It won’t do any good and could escalate things. In addition to the practical steps LCL listed and the advice to contact a DV shelter for resources, could you also contact your divorce lawyer? If you liked them, they could be a good resource for advice and could provide a list of things to use to secure an order of protection (or something akin to that). Either way, best of luck. Don’t downplay your fears, either; trust your gut and then start taking steps to protect yourself.

    8. Observer*

      I agree with most of the advice you’ve gotten.

      Do NOT contact him about this, but do keep a log and a much documentation and proof as you can come up with. Even if you cannon conclusively prove any given incident, patterns matter.

      Letting some people know that there are issues is a good move. As you share children, and you don’t communicate with him, there is at least one third party in the mix. Unless that person is being paid by your ex, you should let that person know any time your ex does something that could potentially affect the children. Also, lawyer up. You don’t need to sit in their pocket, but you want to know what you legal options, and what kinds of things are relevant to a potential legal case.

      And, seriously consider therapy for yourself. This must be a nightmare for you. You don’t want this to totally pull you down emotionally, and you also want to limit fallout for your kids.

    9. Belle di Vedremo*

      I’m so sorry this is happening. And so glad you’re out of that marriage.
      Agree with the chorus of not contacting him.
      Also agree with the suggestion that you find people experienced in navigating this sort of thing for advice and support.

  33. Tamara*

    Are your twenties REALLY the best time of your life? I’m 28 and, honestly, my twenties have been sooooooo mediocre. Everything about my life is completely underwhelming. I realized that I started university 10 years ago and, honestly, I feel like I haven’t done much with my life since then… yet ugh, I feel like everyone else has a fabulous life with an amazing job, married, kids, buying houses, whatever. I feel like I can’t catch up.

    1. Jean*

      Multiple responses here:
      – Life is not a race to perfection so don’t put that pressure on yourself.
      – You’re probably making more of a positive difference than you realize. You don’t have to make the front page of The New York Times (paper or cyber versions) to be a good friend, child, sibling, or neighbor; or a helpful employee; or a heroic stranger. (Holding a door for someone struggling with half-a-dozen packages is heroic, even if it’s less dramatic than diving into an icy river to save people from drowning.)
      – You’re not alone! I’m in my mid-fifties and I sometimes feel this way.
      – Without trying to make your entire existence into “picket fence perfection” (a phrase I just invented) is there anything that your discontent is trying to tell you, and if so, are there baby steps you could take to start your journey to a happier place?

    2. C Average*

      Advance warning that this is gonna be long and rambly.

      I think most people’s twenties are all about trying on a lot of different hats. Different jobs, different partners (or, in my case, unrequited crushes mainly), different friend groups, different hobbies, different hairstyles, and so on.

      It doesn’t feel that awesome when it’s happening, because, yeah, you’re always looking at your overachieving peers and wondering why you’re so far behind. You feel vaguely screwed up and incompetent and undesirable because you’re not paired off and settled down.

      And you’ve got this illusion, I think, that once you DO pair off and settle down, you’re going to get issued an official Grownup Card™ that confers upon you confidence and finesse and the ability to handle your new and age-appropriate responsibilities.

      It’s a lie, mostly.

      You have the partner and the kids and the house and the job, but you still feel screwed up and incompetent. It’s like the non-career version of impostor syndrome. You wake up every day and think, “How the fuck did the cosmos decide that *I* am qualified to drive people to school and make important decisions about reroofing the house and say the right things when my aging parents experience health scares and choose the right middle school for my offspring?”

      And suddenly you’re oddly nostalgic for your twenties, when not only did your responsibilities match your skill level, but you were thinner and hotter and had all these CHOICES you’d now kill to have.

    3. Dan*

      I can’t speak for women, but as a dude, oh hell no. I make a *lot* more money in my 30s than my 20s, have more time in at the job, so have more vacation. And since I’ve put time in at the job, I’m not longer at the bottom rung. More time off, more rewarding job, more money to spend. Oh, no roommates.

      On a personal level, I certainly understand myself more. Having been divorced, I’m having fun just going out with girls and not worrying about “settling down”.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      Are your twenties REALLY the best time of your life?

      No? I mean, the 20s are the best time of someone’s life. But for others, it was high school. Still others, the 30s, the 40s, the 50s, or the 60s. It really depends on what’s going on in your life. Sounds as if, for you, the 30s could be the best time of your life.

      Also, this…

      I feel like everyone else has a fabulous life with an amazing job, married, kids, buying houses, whatever. I feel like I can’t catch up.

      … is total BS. A lot of your friends who seem to have amazing lives are dying inside and dealing with addition, depression, cheating spouses, etc.—they just aren’t posting that on social media.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Obviously this is a generalization and everyone is different but: Good god, no. The 30s are way better than the 20s. The jury is still out on the 40s (I’m really not enjoying seeing aging suddenly coming at me so clearly), but the 30s are great and so much better than the 20s. More disposable income, better sense of how to arrange your life in ways that make you happy, far less concern about what other people think … much more enjoyable.

      1. EmmaLou*

        I think the forties are where you start to care less. In a good way. You really start to see which things are worth caring about and which you’ve been wasting your time on. So you care more deeply about some stuff but lots of other stuff really. doesn’t. matter. (Cue Elsa singing.) Yep, the aging crap shows up but hopefully, you can use it to make some new choices, new styles, new paths, new skills. The forties have come with more confidence for me. I remember a family member that I love dearly saying, “But you haaaaave to go! It’s faaaamily!” and replying, “Actually, I don’t. So I’m not going to.” and the world did not stop. Forties have been good for me.

        1. chickabiddy*

          Yes, I have a friend who calls it the “f-you forties”. I agree and I’m enjoying it. Some of the physical stuff is less than wonderful, but I find that I say no to things I don’t want and yes to things that I do much more easily than I did 20 years ago.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          This. This. I loved hitting 40. I can’t believe it takes so long to find so much of ourselves.

      2. Indy, Jenn, and Hannah*

        I am 46 and my 40’s rock. I don’t have an SO so I get to do things my way and I actually know what that means and what I want to do.

        No kids and that’s ok too.

    6. Ruffingit*

      My best friend (she and I are both in our 40s) once said “Your 20s are for learning lessons, your 30s are for applying them.” My 20s were rough and while I’d commit a felony to be that thin again, I am much happier now than I ever was in my 20s.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Ha, yes. I wish I could look like I did in my twenties (without the cat-calling) and live the way I do now.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I’d have to lose weight and get some hair extensions. My hair is only about half as thick as it used to be. It started off really thick, so fortunately it doesn’t appear thin, but I still notice. Also, I work on a college campus, and I’ve noticed that youthful hair is super glossy in a way that mine isn’t any more. Boo.

    7. Engineer Girl*

      It just gets better overall. What you lose in looks you gain in wisdom. You don’t get upset by things that freaked you out when you were young because you’ve gone through bad things and survived. You usually have more disposable income. Your friendships get deeper.
      One thing that is really great is that the older you get the less constrained you are by other people’s expectations. You live life for your own goals instead of the goals set by others.

    8. Stellaaaaa*

      I think there are certain types of experiences that you can only have in your 20s. You can only do the backpacking thing for as long as you feel it’s acceptable to put off getting a job with a standard schedule and for as long as you’re willing to have a home base at your parents’ house. You can’t sustain your super-fun social life past the point where you need to start filling your resume with solid stints at good jobs. There’s a certain quality of dating that goes away once the good people are pulled into long-term relationships and the baggage of past relationships starts to affect how people approach each other. I think there are aspects of growing older that are just as good as those things, but I also don’t think it’s wrong to think there’s something cool about having done certain things when you were younger.

    9. Jo*

      Definitely not. I’ll be 32 in a couple weeks and it’s only in the few years that I’ve started to get my life together. I have a tendency to worry that I ‘wasted’ my 20s, but I’m trying to move out of that mindset into thinking of it more as preparation for being where I am now (which is still not completely set but getting closer).

      I spent all of my 20s working part-time retail jobs, living paycheck-to-paycheck in crappy apartments, miserable, anxious, depressed, etc.

      None of that changed until I decided to change. Now I’m still not quite happy (all the time, at least) but closer than I’ve ever been before. It just took me a while to figure out where I was going and how to get there.

      Also, like others have said, there is no set life plan that everyone is supposed to follow. Nearly everyone from back home followed the traditional path: graduate, get married, buy a house, have kids — that, to me, seems like purgatory. But it seems to work for them. Find what’s right for you. And keep in mind that the grass is always greener: they might just envy you your life, or at least parts of it.

    10. AcidMeFlux*

      I have this “first day rap” I give my students (I teach adult EFL in Europe) where I stress that “if I say something that you don’t understand, please stop me IMMEDIATELY and politely ask me to explain. It’s okay not to know something.” And most of the time at least one student says “yeah, but it’s embarrassing to be the only one who doesn’t get it”. My answer is always, “Hey! These people surrounding you, nodding and smiling yes yes teacher, with such confident looks on their faces….they’re almost all lying. They’re as scared shitless and confused as you are. It’s the really smart people who stop and say hey, what????….” Same in your case. All those friends showing off nice big houses? Spend sleepless hours wondering how the hell they’re gonna keep up with the mortgage. Those superconfident parents are secretly thinking they’re the worst parents in the world. Your Masters-of-the-Universe corporate whiz-kid friends? Sneak off to the office bathroom to cry alone in a stall sometimes because they’re convinced they have no idea what they’re doing. Give yourself a break. Life doesn’t even begin till 30. I’m 61 now, and while I’d like some more years back to live, no way would I go back to being 28.

    11. Panda Bandit*

      Never listen to anyone who says a specific thing will be the best time of your life. I’ve heard that about high school, college, and all kinds of random events. It’s all opinions and it will be different for everyone. My 30s have been much better than my 20s and I expect the upward trend to continue.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        My mom, and several eighties songs, told me that about high school and it depressed the hell out of me. My mom had to issue a retraction of the statement, because I went to her all upset, like, “Really!? THESE are the best years of my life?!”

    12. Not So NewReader*

      It gets better. Your next decade will go easier and you will feel like more stuff make sense and you are accomplishing things. And your 40s will be better yet, it just keeps going.
      Take care of yourself, take care of your body, your finances, your ability to earn money. This is your time of building up. Hang tough, it’s worth it.

      As others have said I would not go back to my twenties. Life was a hamster wheel, it felt so pointless. Things starting kicking in once I hit my 30s. And 40s were even better.

  34. Tom*

    **This comment is about the photo of the cat**

    This adorable cat is about to post his most recent meal on Facebook to prove to his social media friends how
    successful he is by displaying his ability to enjoy fine and exotic foods

    It looks like the tech revolution is influencing feline evolution.

  35. Random Citizen*

    Someone upthread mentioned getting their first smartphone, and I’m thinking of getting one also and looking for recommendations! I’d like to keep my current phone plan (T-Mobile), which has unlimited talk and text, certain amount of high-speed data/month (don’t remember the number – it’s low) and unlimited regular data.

    Mainly, I’m looking for something with a good GPS and camera, a decent web browser (preferably able to handle pages of pictures), decent internal storage, and a really good touch screen. I have had my fill of poorly working, unresponsive touchscreens on work devices, and I can’t trade my awesome slidey keyboard in for something that doesn’t type just as well (so a device with a slidey keyboard would be so cool!!!! Probably not happening, but cool. :))

    Any suggestions?

    1. acmx*

      The Priv has a slide out keyboard. I had it briefly but it was too big for me. It was a nice phone, though.
      Moved to the Classic; good but heavy. So much better than android. That said, I’ve got a mid range Sony that I picked up today. Still not a fan of Android.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        So much better than android.

        I’m a little confused here… doesn’t the Blackberry Priv use Android?

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I’d recommend the Nexus 6p if you are okay with a really large screen. Great camera, and large storage is extremely affordable compared to an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy.

      1. Random Citizen*

        Large screen is okay, but large phone is not really (and I can’t have one without the other, sadly). I’m so used to being able to actually fit my phone in my pocket, and I’m not really willing to give that up. Are there Nexus with smaller screen and comparable camera and storage?

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            Yes, the Nexus 5x is a good choice—relatively affordable, definitely works with T-Mobile (as well as other carriers), has an excellent camera, and is small-ish (at least compared to the Nexus 6p).

            1. Random Citizen*

              Thanks, guys! I’m going to try and stop by my T-Mobile store soon and hopefully try this one and the iPhone SE in person and see how they feel. Appreciate the suggestions!

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      I wouldn’t swap my iPhone for any other type of phone and it seems to match what you are looking for.

      The 7 is out soon so you should able to get a good deal on a 5 or 6 which are slightly older models but still very good phones.

      1. Random Citizen*

        I looked through some of these and really like the SE because of the smaller size and great specs (camera, processor, etc.). Obviously my current phone is smaller, but I’m not sure if I’ll end up hating the smaller size on a smartphone. Have you had one of these or a similar size screen? Also, if I was looking into getting one, would you recommend buying a used one, and, if so, what should I be looking for? Thanks so much for your input!!

    4. Mander*

      Is expense an issue? I had a Moto E for a while and it was a great phone for the price. Currently I have a Oneplus X which is also excellent for a reasonably inexpensive phone.

      I’m in the UK though so there are probably considerations that I don’t know about. Also I’m an android person.

      1. Random Citizen*

        From a few reviews I read, it sounds like Oneplus X has trouble connecting to LTE networks on T-Mobile and AT&T in the US, so that’s out, but Moto E looks good! Android is the one OS I’ve never really had a chance to try, but I’m not a huge Apple person, so definitely willing to give it a try.

    5. Belle di Vedremo*

      Don’t all smartphone plans now come with unlimited talk and text? The lowest level of data available on plans also continues to increase, and on mine there has been differentiation between high speed and “regular” data. Don’t assume that your current plan is the best current option out there, even from TMobile. Last time I upgraded, my then current plan was no longer an option and was more expensive than the cheapest new option which included unlimited talk/text & more than twice as much data.

      I recommend browsing the internet for options based on your criteria, and then browsing the physical phones. Most vendors have test models you can play with to some extent. See what you like, and what meets your criteria. Then shop for the plan and phone you want.

      1. Random Citizen*

        Yeah, I have five phones on my current plan for $80/month total, and I haven’t been able to find anything comparable. Mostly, I want to be able to check email and google things on the go, so I can get buy without unlimited high-speed data, much as I’d like to have it. Just a trade-off in what I’d rather spend my money on, and that isn’t my highest priority right now.

        After I get some ideas on what I’m looking for, I’ll stop by my T-Mobile store so I can get my hands on a few phones and see how the operating systems feel. Thanks for sharing!

    6. Observer*

      If you need a physical keyboard Blackberry is the only game in town. But, the BB Classic won’t meet your needs, and the OS won’t do much of anything anymore. Besides, the screen is squinchy small, and really unsuitable for web use. It’s also not too responsive.

      The Priv uses Android, which means that you can do pretty much anything you can do on a smartphone with it. The same is true of iOS – I was comparing to BB10 not Apple. So, that might be an option for you. On the other hand if you get something with a good screen there are some excellent keyboards out there that can make your typing a much better experience.

      There is a huge range of price and functionality. You can get shockingly good phones in the $200 range. Depending on what you need, you might even be able to spend less.

      A couple of things to note. One is that screen resolution matters, but up to a point. Usually, you can find out how many “pixels per inch” (abbreviated as PPI) a given device has. Once you hit 400 or so, it stops making that much of a difference if you go up or not. Only the cheapest (and ime, junkiest) phones will have trouble with GPS at this point. On the other hand the quality of cameras varies greatly. You need to decide how “good” you need “good” to be – you can go from barely adequate to giving pro-sumer dedicated cameras a run for your money.

      Also, as others have mentioned, shop around for plans. Unlimited talk and text has become common. Find out who has good coverage in your area, then compare plans and prices. T-mobile might be your best bet – but it might not be.

      I’m going to link to 2 sites that I have found to be very useful in trying to find phones, in the reply to this.

      1. Random Citizen*

        Yeah, BlackBerry isn’t really in line with what I’m looking for, and the Priv is a little bigger and more expensive than what I’m looking for. Thanks for the info on screen resolution – I’ll keep that in mind while I’m looking. The links you sent are really helpful. Thanks for passing those on!

    7. Random Citizen*

      Thanks all for the suggestions! To answer a few of your questions:
      1. Phone plan: Yeah, I know that unlimited talk and text is standard now. Reason I’m hoping to keep my current plan is that I was on an ancient T-Mobile plan with 700 minutes of talk and pay-per-text until a couple of years ago when then consolidated all their plans, but let people stay at the same rate they were paying, so I have a family plan right now that’s $40/month for the first line and $10/month for each additional line, so we have five phones for $80/month, which is probably the best deal we could get. I looked around at other plans last year and didn’t see anything comparable, but if anyone has any particular suggestions, I’d welcome them! If I switched plans, it would just be mine, and the rest would stay on the current T-Mobile plan.

      2. Cost: I’d be happy to pay $200-300 for a good phone. I really don’t want to spend over $500 (with tax), but I’d rather get a nice phone now, with the idea of keeping it for a while, rather that something that will drive me nuts and make me want to pitch it out the window in six months (mostly: touch screen must be responsive. Very responsive.

      3. Size: Smaller is better (I’m coming from a T-Mobile Sparq II for reference). My current phone actually (usually) fits in my front pocket which I like, and I don’t really want a huge phone – something easy to carry and fit in places. But, yeah, built in keyboard taking up the screen (like BlackBerry) is probably not what I’m looking for. I like the Priv, but it’s bigger than I’d want to deal with all the time.

      Hope that answers your questions! I really appreciate all your input and will be digging through them over the next couple of days to hopefully find my next phone!

  36. Family on the Mend*

    Thanks for the advice from a few weeks ago on how to make my scheduling easier on my colleagues at work – my manager liked the idea of keeping appts scheduled to one day per week, and things are going smoother at work. Anyone game to help me answer these other questions I’ve got?

    1. Insurance. It seems like COBRAing my parent’s healthcare and getting Marketplace coverage will cost the same, i.e. 100% of my family’s monthly social security benefits. Does that sound correct to you? I feel like maybe insurance shouldn’t be $1,300, so my family can afford to pay at least one other bill!!! I am a YNAB user and a wannabe Mustachian, but I don’t think there’s a blogger in the land that can support 3 people on $26K, so I’d like to cut the insurance bill way down. Should we consult a private insurance agent to help us navigate this, or do hospitals provide a service that can help us figure out what we can do?

    2. I’m really frustrated with my family’s situation, even though I also feel like a huge jerk when I say that, but I so desperately want to preserve some personal space. I can’t handle my anger well when I am literally walking out the door to drive to work in the morning and my mom can’t figure out a simple computer problem or asks me an insurance question. I just want to leave for work in peace! And I want to spend time away from home that is alone and doesn’t end at work or a medical facility maybe just once a week! Is it appropriate to set ground rules with my own parents about how I need my privacy in the mornings before work and an evening a week?

    1. Elizabeth*

      I can’t help you with number 1, sorry! But I hope you find a solution.

      As for number 2, it’s definitely fine to have some alone time. Try regularly scheduled outings by yourself. Maybe get up early and work out before work so you don’t see anyone? Or go to a coffee shop or a bookstore every day after work? Or sign up for a class that meets three times a week? Something that is part of your schedule so your parents get used to it and know to expect it, and so you have something to look forward to when your parents are driving you crazy.

      I’m currently living at home while job searching and going for a walk by myself every morning saves my sanity. Good luck!

    2. Ruffingit*

      I feel your pain big time on #2. My ill mother lives with my husband and me and there is always some computer issue, phone issue, (her) bill issue and/or a visit to a doctor, a medical facility, etc. It’s exhausting. You absolutely need to carve out time for yourself in the morning, evening, or both. It’s been vital to my health for me to retreat to my bedroom immediately upon coming home from work. I just need 30 minutes of solitude.

    3. Stellaaaaa*

      For #2, it took me proving to my mom that I really don’t know much about tech stuff. I can show her how to change the font in Word, but I can’t help her with deep software or virus stuff. When she needs help putting her computer back together, I tell her that my method of guesswork in plugging stuff into other stuff surely isn’t more competent than hers.

    4. it happens*

      I don’t remember all of the specifics of your earlier post, so please forgive any misstatements.
      If your parents are on SSDI then they should also qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, look online and call the Social Security agency for help on applying. If the appointments you take them to are at a hospital, then make an appointment with the finance office of the hospital for the next time you’re there, they should be able to help you through this (you will not be the first person they’ve dealt with in this position.) As well, you should make an appointment with a healthcare navigator to figure out options under the ACA – the $1,300 sounds like the list price, not the post-subsidy price. COBRA is very unlikely to be the least costly option, though may have the broadest range of providers, something to be very conscious of in choosing a health plan.
      On #2, yeah, you’re a whole person, not an appendage of your parents. Find time for yourself. Maybe make an appointment with the hospital social worker as well (if parents’ care is through a hospital.)

    5. Family on the Mend*

      Thanks to all about #2, you’re right, I need some space to be me and enforce that as long as it doesn’t compromise safety or wellness.

      it happens: We COBRAed to not have to worry about finding new in network doctors, at least until open enrollment for the Marketplace in January. By subsidy do you mean premium tax credit? We were approved for $1,000/month premium tax credit, but we’re not sure we can use it on COBRA coverage. We opted not to use the premium tax credit for 2016 because we weren’t sure how it would affect our taxes.

  37. Vanessa*

    Moving to the UK soon and I am /so/ tired! I’m currently living interstate from where I grew up, and while I’ve sold most of my furniture/appliances I’m moving my keepsakes (photo albums etc) back to my parents place. I’d forgotten how exhausting it is to move house, even just for the smaller items!

    For people who have moved overseas, any advice on what is worth bringing with you and what not to? Over the years I’ve learnt to pack light when travelling but this is a whole new kettle of fish. The airline I’m going with has a 30kg limit, so I’ve debating things like: do I need all three winter coats or should I just pick one and buy more when I get there? How many pairs of shoes? Is it worth the bother to bring my hairdryer?


    1. Caledonia*

      Where in the UK are you moving to?

      I am in Scotland & only own 1 winter jacket (with fleecy lining), and another more lightweight one that does for autumn. You could always buy a hairdryer here, it doesn’t seem worth the space when you could put something else in.

    2. misspiggy*

      Think capsule wardrobe – capsule everything. What items are the most versatile, or work best combined with others? What clothes, shoes and accessories fit most comfortably, launder well, and make you feel most put together? Plus two or three things that will make you feel better when you’re feeling homesick or lonely – for me that would be a picture, a couple of books, a soft toy.

      30kg is not much at all – don’t take anything heavy that isn’t emotionally important, such as a hairdryer. (Also, don’t take anything electrical that only works with US electricity, unless you’re sure you can’t buy one in the UK and you have the right adaptor.)

      There may be some medications you can’t get in the UK, but you can get pretty much everything else. The online supermarket delivery service Ocado also offers quite a lot of American foodstuffs.

      If you already have clothing that protects against wind and rain, bring that in preference to warm outerwear. The base temperature is relatively warm but the rain comes at you horizontally. Hope the move goes really well!

    3. Cristina in England*

      I moved here from the US 11 years ago and in that time I have noticed a LOT of American stuff become available here, like Sharpies and Oreos and other random things, except Ziploc bags so do stash a few in your pockets if you use them for household things!

      Agreeing that you don’t need much deep winter stuff, but I would recommend getting one really nice raincoat with a removable thinsulate lining. Places like Travelsmith sell this stuff. You’ll be able to wear it pretty much year round!

        1. Cristina in England*

          If you have found some that are as good as Ziplocs, please share! Everything I have found seems so flimsy in comparison. And I will never use the IKEA ones again, they rip like crazy!

          1. Crystalline*

            …IKEA ziplocs? Do you have to assemble them?!

            @Vanessa: I second the other comments so far. Especially about the hair dryer. Yeah, it’s one more thing to put on the To Buy list, but is it worth the space + having to think about the adapter you’ll need to plug it in? Good luck on your move; what an awesome new adventure.

    4. FatBigot*

      “Is it worth the bother to bring my hairdryer?”

      Assuming you are moving from the US, almost certainly not. I understand US domestic mains voltage is 110 volts, except some large appliances that can be 220 volts. UK nominal mains voltage is 230 volts, but can be higher or lower (the meter adjacent my PC is reading 250 V right now). Many modern electronic devices, e.g. phone chargers can work with anything in the range 110-240 volts. You will need to check the label on each one.

      Other things that are principally motors or heaters (Hair dryers, hair straighteners, toasters, blenders, electric drills etc.) will get very upset if they get 230 volts when they expect 110 V. I would give a 50% chance of your hairdryer bursting into flames if plugged into 230 volts when it is expecting only 110.

      Your mains frequency is 60 Hz, ours is 50. I am not sure what effect this will have.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        OP could use it with an adapter, but it will shorten the life of the dryer. She’s better off just buying one over there. You can get almost anything you’d need.

        I read on an expat site to probably ditch things like cookie sheets, big American cookware, etc. because everything is smaller. Exceptions would be measuring cups/spoons, as they use metric and if you’re not already used to it, your favorite recipes might be tricky for a bit. Other things they mentioned:

        *Don’t bring shoes you can’t walk very far in.

        *You’ll most likely need spring/autumn-type clothing, and think layering. You can buy loads of super cheap t-shirts, etc. at Primark if needed. :) There will be times when it does get hot and there is little to no AC in the UK, and you may want to travel someplace warm, but you won’t need a ton of summer clothing. The last time I visited was late April / early May–it was getting warm at home, but I FROZE. I was wearing a trench, a scarf, and gloves!

        *Small appliances (as FatBigot explains above). Just buy new ones when you get there.

        *If you have DVDs from the US and you buy a player in the UK, they won’t play on it unless it’s multi-region. You probably don’t want to schlep them with you anyway. Sell them or rip them to a hard drive.

        Also, I’m super jealous! I would love to move there. If I could go anywhere, London would be my first choice, California my second.

    5. Mander*

      It doesn’t really get very cold here compared to most of the US so I’d just bring your favourite, mid-weight coat. Don’t bother with any appliances, household goods, etc as you can readily get them here. You might want an American sized bottle of aspirin if you use it (you can only buy them 16 at a time here!). If you happen to be tall and plus sized it can be a pain to buy clothes here, so factor that in if you have any kind of special occasion coming up. Otherwise just bring your favourite walking shoes!

      1. C Average*

        Also in the meds category, if you suffer from motion sickness or regularly spend time with anyone else who does, get a stockpile in the U.S. For some reason, the stuff is far less available in Europe, and what is available is far less effective. If my family ever moves abroad, we’re carrying a case of Bonine with us.

        (It only took one road trip through Italy with a vomiting child to teach me the importance of effective motion sickness meds.)

  38. Benji*

    What are the best tips for healthy living that you’ve successfully adopted? Like, habits that you’re able to stick to and have benefit from?

    It’d be great to get some advice that are more ‘specific. Stuff like “move more” is so generic, but something along the lines of “10k steps” or “30mins a day, 5 days a week” (exercise) is easier to track. The one I really need to work on is getting enough quality sleep, which I know will make big difference but I have so much trouble sticking to.

    (The one piece of dietary advice I could never follow is to use fat-free dairy products (rah their go without lol…)

    1. HannahS*

      This might be more general than you’re looking for, but I found that for “life change” stuff I’ve actually had the most success with making changes at a glacial pace. Cutting down on sugar, for example, I did over maybe 5 years–item by item. First, I stopped buying/packing desserts to eat with lunch. Once I stopped missing it (months later), I stopped having dessert after dinner. Then, I changed to eating a savoury breakfast over a sweet one. Once that didn’t feel like a disappointment every time I looked at it, I limited juice to one cup a day, and so on. I’ve also done it with reducing my cheese intake (a tragedy, but it was getting ridiculous), and am working on it with exercise now. I’ve found that doing that means I have a minimal amount of diet/exercise discomfort at any given time, and makes it more likely that I’ll actually stick with it in the long term.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I’ve found these practices to be helpful:

      * If you have to drive somewhere, park as far away from the store/restaurant as possible. This has the added advantage of you not having to circle to find parking and you gaining a few extra steps to walk back and forth.

      * If you take the bus or some other transit and happen to be early, get off a stop before you normally would and walk.

      * Don’t grocery shop on an empty stomach.

      * Be realistic about when you can exercise. In my imagination, I wake up at the crack of dawn to go running and then shower and get ready before going to work. In reality, every time I’ve tried that, it’s never lasted more than a few weeks. I’m tired when I get home from work, but I’ve found that’s the best time to go running—don’t settle in at home; immediately change into running clothes and go running.

      * Pack a lunch for work. If I eat out or eat at the work cafeteria, I can just get whatever I want in whatever quantity I want. If I pack a lunch, I have to be deliberate about quantity, and it makes it a lot easier for me to eat correct portions, because I just eat everything I packed for myself.

      * When you’ve decided to go to sleep, put your phone into airplane mode. That way, you’re less tempted to randomly grab it to check something or to be disturbed by some notification as you’re trying to go to sleep.

      Your mileage may vary, but that’s what I’ve found helpful.

    3. brown paper packages*

      I would read “I Can Make You Thin” by Paul McKenna. Even if “thinness” isn’t your goal, it talks about the importance of really enjoying what you’re doing and being aware of it, and feeling good about it. So like, if you have a cookie, make sure you really want it, then feel happy about it (and not guilty) after. And don’t eat a whole pile of french fries by default — only do it if it feels GOOD to. I think it’s less about forcing yourself to exercise and sleep and whatever else and more about doing what feels good. Psychologically, if you do that, you’ll naturally start to notice more and more things that feel good, and you’ll become healthier without even realizing it.

    4. Dot Warner*

      Re: sleep, in addition to the usual sleep hygiene stuff like go to bed at the same time every night and avoid electronic devices before bed, here’s some stuff that’s helped me (night shift worker, flopping sleep schedules every other week).

      -White noise. Could be a fan, could be a white noise machine, but either way it helps you think about something other than all the stuff that’s causing you anxiety/stress.
      -Along the lines of anxiety/stress, if that keeps you awake, find something mindless to distract yourself with, like remembering every address or phone number you’ve ever had, a repetitive prayer or mantra, focusing on your breathing, etc.
      -Comfy bed. If your mattress is lumpy or uncomfortable and you don’t want to replace it, try getting a memory foam mattress topper. I got one for my cheap IKEA mattress and you would not believe the difference it makes! New pillows work wonders too.

    5. Fiona the Lurker*

      Drink plenty of water; 4 litres a day at least. It’s a bit of a nuisance to get into the routine (1 litre before 8 a.m., 1 between 8 and 10, one between 10 and 1 and the last any time after that works for me), but once you start you’ll find it does wonders for your digestion, weight, and general level of energy.

    6. AnotherTeacher*

      Building on what others have said…

      1. When I make dinner, I plan to have leftovers to take to work for lunch. That covers 2-3 days a week.
      2. With leftovers or instead of, whatever I take to work for lunch is very healthy and vegetable heavy. I set up a situation where I have to eat what I’ve brought, and it’s usually the healthiest things(s) I’ll eat all day. For example, I don’t really want to eat a big salad at home but will do so at work. Or, I’ll make something like mac & cheese with broccoli, with a ration of 1/3 m&c to 2/3 broccoli.
      3. When I leave the house, I bring a bottle (refillable container) of water. It’s a habit now to drink it on my commute or while doing errands.

    7. Elle*

      Getting a Fitbit has been a great motivator for me. I was active before, but am even more so now because I feel compelled to get at least 10,000 steps in. I usually get way more than that though. It’s amazing where you can get extra steps in!

    8. Swoop*

      The biggest one for me has been not beating myself up about not being perfect at it but giving myself credit for doing the good stuff. If I don’t exercise a day or eat crap all day then it’s not the end of the world/it’s a clean slate tomorrow, but if I exercised and/or ate well yesterday then yay me, let’s try again today!

      other than that:
      – find an exercise you enjoy
      – try to at least stand up every 30 minutes or so. If you can walk around a moment, even better
      – grocery shopping…people usually say not to shop hungry but I make better choices when I’m hungry – you might want to experiment a bit to see what works best for you
      – fat is actually good for you! sugar not so much
      – walk. if you have time for nothing else, walk.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      BEST – Went to a comic book convention today and found out an artist I really admire is (or at least seems to be) an extremely nice person (Gerhard, in case anyone’s wondering).

      WORST – My spouse has been having a tough time at work, and all I can do is listen (which I know is helpful, but I wish I could just magically fix it all with the wave of a wand).

    2. Beleva*

      Best: weekend has been a good mixture of fun, housework, and relaxing.

      Worst: struggling with lack of friends, it takes so much time and effort to meet new people and start considering any of them real friends

    3. Caledonia*

      BEST: I WAS OFFERED AND ACCEPTED A JOB!! The money from my flat sale went through so after a year and 6 months of unemployment & living off the state, I HAVE MONEY. I have bought things like clothes! ( I have only bought tights & 1 dress the entire year. Many of my clothes have holes in) #swag

      Worst: nothing.

        1. Caledonia*

          thanks everyone! :) you’ve all kept me sane over the past year!

          @elkay – admissions for a university.

          1. Elkay*

            I used to work in a position connected to university admissions and I really enjoyed it, hope you find the same!

    4. Jo*

      Best: I made a new friend who I spend a lot of time with so I’m not hanging out alone in my room all the time (she’s also conveniently a roommate in my shared house).

      Worst: The hangover after a really long but fun night out with the new friend on Thursday night.

    5. ECHM*

      Best: Five weeks of marriage to a prince of a guy. A long weekend where I can sleep in.

      Worst: The death of my very sweet mother-in-law out of state.

    6. Fiona the Lurker*

      BEST: My mate’s 70th birthday party yesterday – quiet and relatively sedate as her husband is ill, but a genuine and warm-hearted celebration of a lovely person.

      WORST: My husband was assaulted in the street (no serious injury, thank goodness) by a man who DIDN’T WANT THE LEAFLET HE WAS DELIVERING. How inadequate do you have to be, to get to upset over a piece of paper?

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Best: Made some money on my supermarket loyalty cards. One of them gives cashback on own brand goods, the other gives vouchers when you collect over a certain number of points.

        Worst: Pouring it down with rain and I am trying to assemble application documents and receiving conflicting information about whether they need to be translated or not.

    7. acmx*

      Best: Accepted a job offer!

      Worst: Either the thought of packing or having to wait for my background check.

    8. Elkay*

      Best: I found shoes for my holiday (I leave at the end of the week so it was getting tight)
      Worst: Busy week all round and general grumpiness from all in the house.

    9. the gold digger*

      Best: The worst bad news we have had this week is that there is dry rot in the exterior window trim. We can fix that. It is a problem that can be fixed with time and money and it’s something we can do ourselves, thank you internet.

      Worst: My 65 year old, has bicycled across the US twice, otherwise very healthy uncle was diagnosed with stage 3 multiple myeloma on Wednesday. As in, he had been having back pain this summer so he and my aunt were not taking a long bike trip this year. He finally went to a physician (after six visits to a chiropractor – not even going to get into what I think about them here) on Tuesday. Had blood work Wednesday at 8 a.m. At 10 a.m., the doc calls and says, “You need to see an oncologist TODAY.” At 11:30, he and my aunt are at the oncologist 50 miles from their house. Two hours later, he is in the hospital. I am hoping that he can be cured, but stage 3 anything is not good.

    10. AvonLady Barksdale*

      BEST: Finally getting in-person interviews that sound promising! I am going to take all of these job-getting vibes from this thread and channel a few for myself.

      WORST: I gained weight this week. Less than a pound, but I’m disappointed in myself. It’s because I made that delicious cake. And resisted exercising. And ate more tortilla chips than I should have. I’m also irritated that a tiny weight gain has such a negative effect on me.

    11. danr*

      Best: we bought a new tv… big flat screen.
      Worst: taking the old one apart (all those cables) and now setting up the new one. It’s supposed to be a “smart setup”… so I have my doubts.

    12. Mimmy*

      Best: Set up a time to meet with a woman who I consider a sort-of mentor. I see her fairly often but it’s always during a meeting or other event, so we hardly ever get time to truly chat. So on Thursday I requested that we set aside some time. She has a lot on her plate professionally and personally, so fingers crossed this doesn’t get canceled (set for Sept. 16).

      Worst: My husband got king crab legs last night–which I’ve gotten sick from–and I decided to give it a try since he got them from a different place (he was convinced I’ve only reacted to crab legs from one particular store). No dice!! Ugh, that answers that!!

    13. C Average*

      Best: Started a new job that I already love. I love my workplace. I love my coworkers. I love the pace and the flow of the tasks. So happy. Also, I went running this morning with an old friend and former colleague, and we’ve decided to make it a regular thing. We’re both coming back from a long slacking-off period, so we’re both kind of out of shape but motivated to improve.

      Worst: The kids go back to school on Tuesday. Don’t ever tell ’em I said so, but I’m going to miss the little buggers. We’ve had a long, wonderful, languid summer involving just the right amount of boredom. I’m sad to see it end.

    14. Sparkly Librarian*

      Best: This week my household started a month-long pantry challenge, where we spend $0 on groceries and focus on eating up the food stores we already have. I have a menu for lunch and dinner every day this month, and it’s quite satisfying to check off when a meal is done. And there are the small challenges like, “I don’t like corn tortillas as much as flour ones, but that’s what we’ve got left, so they’re for lunch.” that are meaningless in the long run but feel like accomplishments. Near the end of the month there will be a full turkey dinner! Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, peas, cherry pie. I have the idea that we can invite a few friends and one will bring the cranberry sauce.

      Worst: My wife followed a trail of water streaming out to the curb and found our side alley one big puddle and part of the yard soaked. The GOOD news is that it’s not our water pipes; it came from the neighbors’ and she alerted them to shut off their water. But it still got into our basement and spoiled a number of boxes of things (that I’d set aside for a garage sale, so…). Spending the weekend cleaning and drying rather than selling.

    15. Panda Bandit*

      Best: 3 day weekend!

      Worst: Pulled a muscle in my back very badly after carrying some heavy stuff.

    16. Lizabeth*

      Best: having a fisherman’s breakfast at Zoe’s – eggs, sausage, fried potatoes and blueberry pancakes.
      Worst: having to drop the mast on the catamaran before breakfast just in case Hermine stalls off the coast of NY/NJ and leaves us with 40 mph winds for a couple of days.

    17. Trixie*

      Best: Made a few goals this week, including 3 mile walk at lunch and trying overnight oats for healthier breakfast. Also, found my prescription sunglasses which are a few years old but would still be expensive to replace.

      Worst: Still adjusting to new fall schedule which doesn’t include a lot of alone time at home. Toughest day by far is Thursday when just want to come home and chill.

    18. Elizabeth West*

      Not new-to-me. NEW. My sister does marketing for a tire / auto care company and she was able to get me a hyooooge discount. It’s been years and years since I could buy anything but used tires. Which pop. When you’re four blocks from home. >_<

      I also went to Best Buy and got another home theater system (a cheap one) since my existing one is very very old. I shall move it into the bedroom with the old TV so I can watch DVDs in there. Hoping I can hook the new one up properly. I hate that part of it.

      I read all of Book 2 of the Miss Peregrine series in one sitting the other night. And I bought Book 3. :)

      The Giant BossSpreadsheet meeting is this week. I did get assigned a different weekly one that's easy to do (it's for GrandBoss)–it's just copy and paste. I'm afraid that will make Boss think I can do more than I can do. I don't really like my job anymore. :\

    19. copy run start*

      Best: Paid for new remote start system for my car! No more frozen winter drives to work! (My commute is short enough that the car doesn’t really warm before I arrive, which is bad for it. And I am in such a rush every morning that I don’t have time to walk down to the parking lot to start it and go back inside.)

      Worst: One year anniversary of a pet’s death, depression creeping up again, behind on schoolwork due to working so much OT.

  39. Lizzy*

    Anyone who follows the law of attraction struggle with “inspired action?”

    I think I first took it to mean, “DON’T DO ANYTHING BUT MEDITATE UNLESS YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN’T NOT DO SOMETHING,” which doesn’t make any sense, because meditating is still “doing something.”

    I think it makes more sense to just do things that you think you might want to do, and then enjoy it regardless of the outcome.

    I get where people are coming from when they say, “only take inspired action,” as in like, don’t force yourself to do things that no part of you wants to do.

    I also feel like, there might be different thresholds that people deem “inspired.”

    I just think sitting around and waiting for you to be SO EXCITED YOU CAN’T NOT DO IT is kind of an extreme way to live every part of your life.

    Anyone have any thoughts on this?

    1. the gold digger*

      waiting for you to be SO EXCITED YOU CAN’T NOT DO IT

      I never get excited about cleaning the bathroom. But I do it. So yeah – that’s not a good overall philosophy for me.

      1. AcidMeFlux*

        Can’t get excited about cleaning the bathroom either. I just try to concentrate on how nice it’ll be the next morning to step into a perfectly clean shower.

      2. FiveWheels*

        I never get excited about cleaning the bathroom itself… But i get very excited about the process of making my environment clean and tidy and nice.

    2. Temperance*

      I think that the Law of Attraction is fairly wacky, FWIW … but yeah, lots of things about it just don’t make sense.

      As an adult, you have to do plenty of things that aren’t “inspired action”. I’ve had to sit through boring church services, attend meetings that I don’t want to, work with people I don’t like … the list goes on.

  40. PamPam*

    I need to get better at buying clothes. I don’t buy anything new for a year, I wear the same few outfits every week or every other week, and then I’m like, “Crap all my clothes are old and raggedy and don’t look good.” And then I buy a few outfits, and the same thing happens again.

    I think part of the problem is I’m not that great at dressing for my body. I don’t go shopping that often, and when I do, I don’t end up with a lot of great pieces. Are there some services that can help with this? (For someone on a budget?) I feel like I ought to hire some teenager to help me out. Kids got fashion game these days haha.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      This is pretty common, even among people who are good with fashion. You can go out and buy a new favorite shirt but it’ll probably only see 20-30 nights out. No matter what you buy, you’ll always fall back on wearing the old favorites, even if they aren’t the prettiest or best-fitting thing you own. Sometimes you end up wearing not-so-nice things because you feel you should save your good stuff for special occasions.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      Check out Inside Out Style Blog by Imogene Lamport. She has loads of information of how to dress by body type.
      Vivienne Files has a nice section on how to build a capsule wardrobe. It’s more for a woman “of a certain age” but easily adaptable.
      If you want clothing to last you have to buy the good stuff.
      I’d also suggest finding a good tailor. They really can make an OK fit become a great one.

      1. AcidMeFlux*

        Yes, a tailor! Where I live (in Europe) tailoring is inexpensive, so much of what I buy gets touched up a bit before I wear it. I like to buy things a size too big and then have them taken in a bit here and there and the difference is amazing. It also gives me a much bigger range of choice. For example, I get a lot of stuff in thrift shops or vintage stores, and I love men’s shirts from the 50s through 70s. The tailor can feminize them with darts at the bust or ruching around the button placket, shorten the long sleeves into 3/4 (which is much more flattering for me than short sleeves), take off the collars and in general make them look a lot prettier. I’ve bought dresses in prints that would be too bold in one garment, had them “separated” into a short blouse or jacket and a skirt and wear them separately.

        Another thing is to take a good hard look at what you feel good in. Look at old photos. I reviewed my most flattering outfits and decided to ban turtlenecks and mock turtles, wearing instead scoop or V necks, wear pants and jeans that are exactly waist height and no higher (womens’ trousers seem to come up to my ribcage), and to stick with certain colors (peach is lovely but not on me). Black, grey, dusty off-pastels, minimal prints, accessories for color accent, etc.

        1. PamPam*

          That sounds so scary to me! I wouldn’t even know what things can be tailored and what can’t, but it’s worth looking into.

    3. HannahS*

      It’s also pretty normal for clothes to wear out that fast, unless you’re buying really good quality and/or washing them carefully. A cotton button front shirt worn and washed once a week would reasonably look a bit faded or limp 52 washes later My clothes are a combination of Gap quality and Target quality, and I find that by then end of three seasons those clothes look tired.

    4. C Average*

      Do you know someone whose style you admire? See if they’ll go shopping with you, and agree ahead of time to at least try on anything they suggest. It’ll move you out of your comfort zone a bit, and it might even be fun for both of you. People with great style generally like being told they have great style, and they often really like to shop, too.

      Also, I’ll put a plug in for a company called Stitch Fix. You sign up online and fill out a profile, and they send you five pieces in the mail. You try them on at home, keep and pay for the ones you want, and send back the rest in a prepaid envelope. I used to get fixes regularly and really enjoyed the surprise-and-delight element of the experience. I probably kept about a third of what they sent me. I now get a fix about every four months, just for fun. It’s definitely improved my style.

      1. StudentA*

        I looked into Stitch Fix, but I got the impression that their stuff is not very fashionable. I took a look at their blog section and that is the impression I got. I would not mind a mail clothing service if their stuff was pieces I could not easily find myself at the local mall – you know, Ann Taylor and the Gap type of stuff. It’s time for finding unique pieces that are fashionable that I find challenging. And I can’t find a service with that model, because I think it’s harder for this type of business to be lucrative. It would mean a lot more time curating uncommon clothes. I think Stitch Fix would like you to think they do a lot of curating, but from the reviews I came across, that does not seem to be the case.

        1. C Average*

          I agree with much of what you say here, actually, but I’m a fan of Stitch Fix anyway. Let me attempt to explain.

          I’m not a follower of trends. I’m of A Certain Age, and I know what I like, what makes me comfortable, what suits my body. I’ve never owned skinny jeans and I never will. Ditto peplum dresses and tops, jumpsuits, and whatever other trends come and go. It’s just not me.

          Being on-trend isn’t what I’m after.

          I can go out to the stores and look around, but it’s overwhelming. This is too loud, this is too boring, this isn’t my style, this looks poorly made, this is too young, this is too old.

          I wind up in a fashion rut. I have probably twenty different black dresses with pockets and six different pairs of black ballet flats, and I’ve somehow become the woman who dresses like Wednesday Addams and I don’t know what to do about it.

          Stitch Fix is like that friend who says, “You know, you should try wearing some colors.” Or “This cut might look good on you, based on the stuff you’ve liked in the past.”

          Stitch Fix will never make me on-trend, but it’ll nudge me out of my comfort zone into something flattering and right for me that’s different from what’s already in my closet and that I never would have thought to choose for myself. That’s the appeal for me.

          I love having fashionable friends who wear trendy clothes well, but that’s never going to be me.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I freaking love skinny jeans, but you can buy them at Walmart. Riders is made by Lee so they actually fit me without the high price tag. (They don’t last as long but that’s okay since my weight tends to fluctuate.)

        2. Blueismyfavorite*

          Yeah, I recently signed up for Stitch Fix and the results have been…mixed. I didn’t know, because the company doesn’t tell you this up front, but the clothes are Stitch Fix brand, which really limits the selection. I asked them to quit sending me the Stitch Fix brand rayon shirts that cost $85 and they seem to be having a hard time coming up with natural fiber pieces for me. Also, I’m 5’11 and need pants with at least a 32-inch inseam and they can’t supply those. I’ve gotten 4 boxes from them and have only loved the things in one box so I’m probably giving them two more chances before I may cancel. The jewelry they’ve sent me is nice, though.

      2. PamPam*

        That’s a good suggestion, but all my friends are guys. Haha. Maybe it would be a good way to develop better female friendships!

    5. Katia*

      I recommend the book “The Pocket Stylist”. It has really great advice on how to think about fitting your body (without any body shaming) and lots of practical suggestions. It’s helped me immensely.

    6. Trixie*

      If can get to a Nordstrom’s, you’ll find a free personal shopper service to help with exactly this. My sister tried it and was pretty happy with the results, including things she wouldn’t have tried otherwise. And found a couple new brand names to keep in mind going forward.

      Also, I think this is where simple things like adding a scarf, some jewelry, or new shoes to the mix can help broaden a wardrobe. I do like fall/winter when I can layer more because i have so many more options to work with.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, accessories! It’s way too damn hot here in summer to wear scarves. I have two new ones I can’t wait to throw on–come on, cooler weather!


      2. PamPam*

        Thanks everyone who commented! Great suggestions!

        Trixie: I think Nordstrom might be a bit out of my budget anyway. Do you know if the personal shoppers charge a fee?

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          I believe Nordstrom’s personal shoppers make a commission on purchases, but they don’t charge a fee.

          1. Trixie*

            Correct, no fee. Nordstrom’s can be an investment but my sister was so frustrated having no luck on her own. She was happy to invest in some solid pieces which made a significant difference in her closet and weekly rotation.

    7. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Check out Get Your Pretty On. She’s a fashion blogger who offers seasonal wardrobe challenges. Each challenge costs about $70 (there are early bird discounts) and gets you a capsule wardrobe shopping list with suggested shops and 21 days of outfits using those pieces. There is a Facebook group and everyone is very supportive. Her fall challenge will start in a few weeks. The first season I spent about $400 because I needed most of the pieces. Now that I’ve been doing this for over a year I spend less each season. Her wardrobes have a few basic pieces and some trendy pieces and there are several repeat pieces between seasons. Plus, I’m better at knowing what will work for me.

      I also like The blog Getting Myself Together for great wardrobe and fit advice on a budget. And Wardrobe Oxygen has many great capsule wardrobes posted on her blog. And I second the recommendation of Inside Out Style Blog for great advice on figure flattery.

    8. Goats*

      Try Already Pretty and You Look Fab (both blogs – YLF has a big forum component that is also really helpful.

      Already Pretty is pretty focused on developing your own personal style. She also touches on body image stuff. I really like her approach.

      You Look Fab is great for inspiration, but I find it can be a little bit hive mind-y – people there REALLY like shopping (and don’t often consider the environmental or social impact of continuously buying clothing) but also have amazing suggestions and really well defined personal styles. They’re also quite accepting of other people and differing circumstances. So it can be useful.

      I’m changing up my personal style right now, too. I just got rid of 4 garbage bags full of clothing (so embarrassing) and am personally moving toward dressing like and artsy witch. I’m loving it. Getting rid of all of the stuff I never wear or that doesn’t fit has made getting dressed so much easier.

  41. Feeling used*

    Through my work I got connected with a small organization that I support financially a little bit because the family that runs it are sweet people. Recently I went to one of their fundraisers and bid what for me was a huge amount of money on a food package (x number of meat and sides, grilled by a local leader) so I could support them while getting food for a party I’d already planned to have. Well, we found out we won the bid, and now the organizer wants to put some kind of a picture in the newspaper, to appreciate the donor and to get some publicity for the organization. My husband and I give generously to a variety of organizations, but we do so quietly. Plus, this organization has a ways to grow before I am comfortable lending my considerable local credibility to it. I don’t even want the food package any more … I feel not only am I out way more money than I would have spent for my party, I’m also being used. Am I overreacting?

    1. Fiona the Lurker*

      I don’t know about being ‘used’, but it looks like this came with far more strings than you were expecting. I think you’d be justified in declining to take part in any publicity unless that was specifically included in the terms of the auction. The people who are fundraising should have clarified their expectations at the outset, and if they haven’t it’s quite reasonable for you to decline to get involved.

    2. Whit*

      Well, you chose to spend that amount of money on the food, so I think being annoyed about that is not really reasonable. Using photos of fundraising events for publicity is pretty normal, in my experience, but I don’t see any reason you can’t simply say that you don’t want to be involved (“I prefer to keep my charitable donations private, thanks.”)

      Characterising it as being used seems a stretch, this all sounds pretty standard for this type of event. Is there something else about this experience that’s made you unhappy?

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        It sounds as if the fundraisers were not clear about publicity. A local newspaper here might publish a list of raffle prize winners or a photo of the charity handing over the prize to the lucky winner, but it is usually explained.

        1. Feeling used*

          I wouldn’t have a problem if it was a raffle – like I spend $10 for a ticket and get a $500 prize. That’s fair. Now I’m spending $250 to buy a meal for 10 and have to get trotted out for publicity too.

    3. Feeling used*

      Thanks for your input! I would have planned for a much lower-budget party had I just bought food for it at the store. And you’re right about photos of fundraising events … maybe it’s just now that after the event is over that they are “calling me back” for a picture makes me feel weird? I guess I’m just afraid to decline because I feel she’ll take it personally for a variety of reasons and it will hurt our relationship, and it’s the feeling of being trapped that bothers me. Appreciate your helping me process this.

      1. Elkay*

        Would you compromise and let them take shots of the finished meal without you or your guests in shot (on the table or in the kitchen ready to go out)?

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s pretty normal for charities to ask stuff like this, but it’s also totally normal and okay for you to decline! Charities are used to a certain percentage of people turning down requests; it shouldn’t be weird for them. You could just say something like, “Oh, I prefer to be private about my charitable donations so I should pass, but I’m really glad to have been able to support you.” They’re likely to be 100% okay with this (and if they’re not, that’s not an organization to continue to be involved with because any negative reaction would be really unprofessional on their part).

      I think you are feeling annoyed that they even asked, but charities ask for lots of stuff — it’s just how they work. It’s fine to say no whenever you don’t want to do something.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreeing and adding, they may wish to be transparent about what they are doing that may be part of the publicity, also. They are showing an actual donor and recipient of the prize, it adds to their credibility to be public about it.

    5. Engineer Girl*

      Disclosure of terms and conditions ahead of time is the rule. That lets people decide based on all the data.
      Just decline because those terms and conditions weren’t a part of the deal. You’re under no obligation to them.

  42. Sorgatani*

    Another wrist update/progress report.

    Cast #2 lasted hardly any time at all before needing replacement- again, waaaay too loose – I must have still been pretty swollen. We didn’t even get a chance to decorate it!
    The admitting nurse was the same one I talked to on the Saturday, so that made things easier.

    Good news and bad; a book I pre-ordered came in at my local bookshop.
    It’s a colouring book.
    Something to look forward to though – the pictures are as amazing as I hoped they’d be.

    I’m not in much pain now, except for a pang every so often.
    Even went to a convention yesterday – the Madman Anime Festival. It was difficult at times, and crowds meant a bit of jostling was inevitable, but I enjoyed myself overall. Random funny moment: I was taking a photo of a big Gundam (humanoid robot) display and a girl accidentally photobombed me while my phone camera was preparing itself. She was getting her mum to take one of her with the gundam, of course. Perfect timing, so I had to laugh.

    I can finally manage stick deodorants again (a relief, the sprays were making me cough – my preferences have obviously switched) and even got to shave my armpits for the first time in a fortnight (other half has no desire to have a blade near me, I can understand)

    Now, however, the skin on my fingers is starting to get dry and a bit cracked. Feels like weird parchment. I’m not sure what to do about it, and might visit a chemist.
    I have had skin issues in the past – random tiny bubbles on the fingers that I’m not sure what they are, or where or why they show up, and I was pretty acne-prone as a teen, which I don’t know if it’s a factor here. The stupid bubbles are cropping up now, maybe it’s seasonal, sleep or stress related.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Do the bubbles itch and then flake or get rough? Hand eczema starts as patches of tiny little blisters that look like bubbles.

      The convention sounds fun. The coloring book is awesome. :)

  43. Clothing Donation*

    Anyone know of a charity organization to donate women’s petite suits?

    The Dress for Success location isn’t very close and only has 1 donation day and it’s during the week.

    1. Crystalline*

      What about your local women’s shelter(s)? I’d bet there’s always someone there who could use something like that.

        1. Crystalline*

          You’re welcome! It sounds bad, but I forget about them sometimes, too–as places to donate, anyway. We frequent Vets 4 Success, but we also usually don’t have fabulous suits to donate.

    2. Belle di Vedremo*

      Other charity second hand shops can be great, too. There was a “junior league” equivalent organization near me that had great stuff, and also was affiliated with the local shelters and Red Cross so new customers there got vouchers to use at the shop. Really liked supporting them. In that town, the local Salvation Army store was awful which was a disappointment after living somewhere with a fabulous store. Thanks for thinking of supporting others in this way.

  44. Crystalline*

    I’ve been waffling back and forth about commenting for a while, and figured I better just do it! Love, love, love love love this blog. Allison, you are amazing, and I love the community here! I found you via a Yahoo! article about the fired interns, and have been reading almost every day since. It gives me so much hope to know there are managers out there who care about their employees. I’ve teared up a few times just reading those stories. Your advice is fabulous and I’m actually looking forward to re-writing my resume. Which is saying something considering how much I hate that thing.

    Hopefully this isn’t too work-centric for the open thread, but OMG. Major loves. You all are wonderful.