weekend free-for-all – October 8-9, 2016

img_4934This 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: Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng. Family dramas, how I love you.

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

{ 926 comments… read them below }

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Hear, hear. The storm ended up coming a little further west than expected, so we got the rain we anticipated plus horrible winds. Our power keeps flickering. The dog went out for a quick pee this morning and has been asleep ever since. He doesn’t usually mind storms, but he does not like this.

      However, we’re better off than my SIL in South Carolina. They went slightly inland and are fine, but their power is out and they’re huddling in an interior room in case a tree falls down. Scary stuff.

      1. TheBeetsMotel*

        We’re looking at increased rain and wind, Nor’easter-style, but hopefully nothing too terrible. Rain has only just started in semi-earnest now in southeastern VA. Hoping the night doesn’t bring anything too crazy! All the best to you and yours.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Thanks! Our power is now completely out, and 3 trees fell down right next to our driveway. Thankfully, they fell toward the neighboring driveway, which is empty (house is for sale). I’ll call their realtor tomorrow, I guess.

    2. salad fingers*

      A friend of mine is pregnant and lives on the east coast of Florida. I texted her on Wednesday to check in and make sure she and her husband and the bun were safe. She reminded me that her due date was the next day and that her house and birthing center were in evacuation zones. Really nothing like adding a hurricane to the stress of giving birth for the first time!

      1. Overeducated*

        Oh no! I hope the baby hangs out until things calm down and she is able to give birth in a familiar place. If not hope she is close to good care.

        1. salad fingers*

          Her brother’s name is also Matthew and he was an absolute wild child. Many jokes were had about naming the baby after the hurricane and her brother, and what that would mean for the kid’s temperament! She hasn’t had him/her yet, btw. Good baby.

    3. BobcatBrah*

      Florida here. The storm was far more overwhelming than predicted, thankfully.

      I know they’re a little more flood-prone up north.

      1. Florida*

        I think you meant underwhelming. Judging from what happened in Orlando, it’s a scam to call that a hurricane (I know other areas had it worse.) In Orlando, I lost power for about 30 seconds (I know. It was rough.). Some of my neighbors lost their power for a little bit longer. Lots of yard debris in my neighborhood but very little real damage.

        1. SMT*

          I’m just glad I didn’t have to go to work at a theme park in the wind and rain I kept watching at my house.

      2. Whats In A Name*

        I have family on the coast of the Carolinas. They got it pretty bad there, lots of damage and flood waters but nowhere near what they were expecting to see and nothing like what they experienced in years past, so we are all thankful!

        1. Mina*

          Fayetteville, NC here. Very wild ride, especially on top of last week’s unrelated saturation. Lots of power loss, damage, water rescues…. nasty. Personally my cats are and I are good, except for the boil water advisory.

          1. Anon for this one*

            Greenville, here! I grew up in a coastal (actually near the coast, not just coastal they way Greenville is described as coastal) town that really got damaged pretty badly by Sandy. Still, my suspicions that inland areas can be just as, if not worse, than beach towns were confirmed last night.

            I’m hoping the Tar river stays pit for now. Sorry about the water advisory, I hear Greenville updated their system after Floyd so I’m hoping I’m good.

    4. kittymommy*

      Thank god it took a little eastern jog at the last moment. We were expecting some pretty bad tropical force winds/rain and I only got gusts with light rain, considering I live in a mobile home I’m happy. DId get half a day and all of Friday off.

      I have some friends in Jacksonville that made me think of this site though. She and her husband work for a large corporation in Jax. They were told on Thursday that they would have to work on Friday since they didn’t have kids. Anyone with kids could stay home on Friday, if you didn’t you had to come in.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It always good to know how your employer feels about you. Useful information for making decisions later on.

    5. Loopy*

      I’m in South Carolina in an area hit fairly hard. I am in an evacuation area but stayed for various reasons and luckily we had no damage. We are just getting cellular service back now but still have no power. So I’m sitting in the dark using some precious cell phone battery power to preserve my sanity.

      Wasn’t as bad as we feared at some points during the week though!

      1. Whats In A Name*

        I am glad the storm last power; my grandparents sent me photos and I was watching videos last night. They are on SC Coast as well! Glad you are safe, they chose not to evacuate either.

    6. Miaw*

      I don’t understand. Why would anyone name natural disasters “Matthew”, “sandy” or “katrina”?

      That said, i hope everyone is safe!!

      1. Kyrielle*

        I replied with a link to the naming convention, but wanted to write this separately since the link would go into moderation. Basically, they want short, easy-to-remember names because it reduces confusion when more than one storm may be discussed at the same time.

      2. Alistair*

        To add to what Kyrielle says above, naming something can make that thing much more understandable and knowable.

        My somewhat related story about this: I was doing some mapping on the side of a short mountain/tall hill in Western State. My only existing map was an old USGS map where my site was only a few inches across; I had to make my own close up map to get the detail I needed.

        Despite hiking those ridges and valleys for two days, I was having major trouble mapping the place. Finally, I gave all the ridges and valleys names, and it was like a light bulb went off. Even now years later, I can remember Broken Bottle Ridge was to the south and Carcass Ridge was to the north.

        In the end, attaching names to the physical features made them easier to talk about, easier to remember, and somehow made them more “real” to me. I think those feelings can apply to naming hurricanes as well.

    7. Anxa*

      So far so good!

      What a week! My boyfriend is moving into our new apartment right now and pretty much had to take our cat and as much as he could fit to start his new life into the civic and outrun the hurricane. I stayed up all night packing his things and car (I wanted him to get some sleep* before the drive), then got up early so we could go by the bank. All I wanted to do was hunker down and relax at home and get organized for the next phase of The Move. Not have to switch gears into hurricane mode.

      I cleared some storm drains, packed a go bag and monitored the weather tweets. My boyfriend’s parents called about picking me up and I, thinking they were right in my neighborhood and noticing it could be my last chance to get out (I have no car now), said sure. I didn’t want to hem and haw while someone was behind the wheel. It’s not the decision I would have made ordinarily. I like to stay put, like being able to monitor when my fridge goes out, and like to stay off the roads. I ended up traveling at pretty much the worst time that roads were still actually, barely passable; losing some food, and not having my me-time (it’s been a long week).

      All in all though, I was very lucky to have them come out and get me and it was nice not being cut off in my near-the-river neighborhood. I hope I don’t seem like I’m complaining about it, it’s just not the weekend I was hoping to have.

      I’m back home for now, but we’ll see how it goes. My current apartment bus accessible and evacuating means having to get rides to and from work. Crossing my fingers our center is open tomorrow; I could really use the pay. Best situation would be if we could add hours on later this week since we wouldn’t be at danger of hitting 25 hours, but I don’t foresee that happening!

      *We couldn’t get a lot of packing in earlier as I didn’t want to start too early because I figured the longer the boxes are sitting out in our apartment, the more likely fleas are going to follow us. I do not do well ignoring pests and just want to focus on finding a job when I get up there, so I’m trying to be as cautious as possible. Also, our dryer crapped out this week which is really not fun when trying to move.

      1. Anxa*

        Unfortunately for me, work will be closed tomorrow. I’m praying for a make-up day. It’s midterms, so maybe they’ll let us do “overtime” and work extra hours later, even though we wouldn’t actually get close to overtime (or the 25 hour limit we have). I could go on about other reasons that’s be awesome, but I don’t want to go into “work issues” and focus more on how inconvenient the storm is (I know one missed day at work is nothing compared to flood damage).

    8. Andrea*

      Sanford, FL here – lost power for 20 hours, and still don’t have internet back. Lost part of my fence, and the top of a tree, but no one was hurt.

  1. Myrin*

    Uuuuh, I’m sick and I just want to whine about it. Can someone tell me a funny story of something they did while they were sick or something?

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Well, mine is a little gross and came on the tail end of a cold.

      When I was dating my husband and was still a teenager, I was just getting over a cold and was in the coughing-up-a-lung phase that comes at the end. I had just eaten a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate ice cream, NY Super Fudge Chunk I believe, and decided to drive to his house. I got on the main road and promptly had a coughing attack. It was so bad that I puked chocolate ice cream all over the steering wheel, my lap, the dashboard, you name it. I pulled over. Being that I was in my first year of driving, I didn’t know that I should always have a lot of napkins in the glove compartment for things such as this. I had a couple to use, but obviously that wasn’t enough. I had to drive home, change clothes, clean the car, and take a heavy dose of cough medicine.

      You’re welcome. ;) And feel better!

      1. Overeducated*

        Super fudge chunk indeed.

        I have a similarly gross story of puking all over the place early in dating my husband. He said later that the fact that it didn’t make him less interested in me was a sign that our relationship was going to be more serious than his previous ones.

        1. Emma*

          I’d been dating my partner for about 10 months when I went to stay with her just before Christmas, and did all my Christmas shopping in her town. We then drove south together to see our respective families for actual Christmas and – of course – I left all my Christmas presents in the back of her car when she dropped me off. Cue a frantic Christmas eve train journey to her parents’ local station to retrieve the pressies.

          Once we’d completed the handover, I had a bit of a wait for my return train, so we sat in the station pub chatting. Without going into too much detail, I had a sudden bout of horrible diarrhea with no warning. I missed my train because I was locked in the only bathroom, with a queue of three people outside, for fifteen minutes. I had to take my underwear home wrapped in a plastic bag. I was wearing beige trousers.

          It was, all in all, pretty traumatic. But! The not-terribly-long-term-yet girlfriend stuck around, was very sympathetic and not visibly grossed out (which is probably a testament to her acting ability), and waited another hour to see me onto the next train, which got me back home without further incident.

          That was some kind of bonding experience.

      2. QualityControlFreak*

        Yes. I have experienced the coughing-up-a-lung to gagging thing and ended up barfing in the bathtub. Then I looked in the mirror. I wear contact lenses. Both of my eyes were bruised from the pressure, reaching about halfway up the whites of my eyes. The purple bruising faded to dark red over the next few weeks; I looked like a half-full vampire. As luck had it this was leading up to Halloween….

    2. Aurora Leigh*

      As a kid, I came down with a buster of a head cold when family from out of town was visiting. We were sitting around the supper table and I sneezed milk out my nose all over my aunt’s boyfriend!

      I was mortified . . .

    3. ..Kat..*

      When I developed gluten intolerance a few years ago and didn’t know it yet, I was throwing up all the time. I still have vomit bags in my car, my purse, and tucked into a drawer in every room of my home! Even the bathroom, because sometimes it was (ahem) coming out of both ends. I am afraid to toss them, because sometimes I get accidentally exposed. But, this is funny sad, not funny haha…

      1. HardWoodfloors*

        HA. Went through the same thing about five years ago. I kept asking my self why I kept getting food poisoning (once or twice a week) and then finally cut out gluten about 4 years ago and that helped immensely.

    4. Lily Evans*

      One time in college I had some sort of flu that led to a fever and general achey tiredness. I couldn’t find anyone to cover my work-study shift since it was really close to a break period and most people were already gone, and working retail in high school had put the fear of God in me with regard to calling out sick. Somehow the fever combined with the fact that I’d been catching up on the first season and a half of The Walking Dead and the emptiness of the campus, led me to being really paranoid that there were zombies hiding in the woods I had to walk through between my dorm and my job. Once I was around other people, I pulled it together, but I was almost crying by the time I got to work (I get overemotional when I’m sick, and the zombies just put me over the edge). My friends all thought it was hilarious when I told them that story.

    5. Pennalynn Lott*

      The summer between my Junior and Senior years in high school, I had to move back home to my mom’s house after living with my dad for three years. My dad made me leave my cat behind with him. :-(

      During February of my Senior year I got really sick. Like, missed-several-weeks-of-school sick. I was in pain (from the fever) and crying all the time. One day my mom, completely exasperated and exhausted, was rocking me as I was crying and said she wished there was something she could do for me to take the pain away. I replied in between sobs, “If. . . [sob]. . . I. . . [sob]. . . only. . . [hic]. . . had. . .[sob]. . . a CAAAAAT!!” My mom, who didn’t allow pets inside her house said, “You just get yourself your better. As soon as your fever breaks, you can go pick out a cat from the shelter.”

      My fever broke in the middle of that night and I woke up the next day feeling awesome. I called my best friend and told her we were going cat shopping. That was 1985. His name was Fred. He lived with me in four states and accompanied me for 15 moves. I had him until he was an old, old man and had to be put to sleep in December of 2003.

      Pretty sure my mom never intended for me to hold her to her promise. ;-)

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        That’s a great story and boy your mom must have been pissed when Fred crossed the threshold!

        One day my mom, completely exasperated and exhausted, was rocking me as I was crying and said she wished there was something she could do for me to take the pain away.

        I just wanted to say that I wish I had a memory like this. :( I developed an illness in high school that could have become very serious if it had gone on longer and all I got was scolded for how much school I was going to miss. Even then, I had already thought of how I would get my homework before I told her what the doctor said. No apology for not acting sooner or not rolling her eyes when I had to state my case for a doctor’s appointment (because it was just a cold and I was being dramatic) or for hauling myself there from school. At least she let me go to the doctor, I guess. :/ And bought the prescription. So at least there’s that.

    6. AvonLady Barksdale*

      My bf and I had been together for a few months after a year of getting the timing wrong. Beginning of October, I came down with the flu, and it was so bad, I woke up crying one morning and begged him to get me ginger ale.

      Anyway, at one point, he put his arms around me very tenderly and said, “I love you.” I looked at him and let out a disgusting cough, like an old man after too many cigarettes. So phlegmy.

      It’s been 5 years and he still brings that up. When he does, I give him the finger. We’re very much in love.

      Feel better!

    7. Nina*

      Some years ago, I was feeling poorly at the office, and noticed the lower part of my jaw was swelling up. Doctor diagnoses it as a sinus infection, writes me an antibiotic prescription, no big deal. An hour after I went to bed, I woke up in some of the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. It was like someone trying to hammer nails from the INSIDE of my face. I couldn’t even cry because moving my face hurt so much. Oddly, the pain only lasted about 5 minutes and I went back to sleep.

      So, I woke up the next morning and wandered into the hallway, where I ran into my brother. He actually screamed and said “What the hell happened to your face?!?” That odd swelling near my lower jaw? Well, it had tripled overnight. One half of my face was fine, the other was a big wall of flesh that had swollen to my collarbone. And it stayed that way for hours. I took a sick day from work, since I was actually scaring people.

      1. Kittymommy*

        I get that about twice a year. Sinus infection. One time I went to the Dr (walk in clinic) and when she came in she actually gasped and speed in her tracks. I’m so used to the symptoms now, I go in, tell them what it is, tell than I need amoxicillin 875, prednisone 20, & if painful enough, hydrocodone 5/500. I feel your pain. Literally!

    8. lfi*

      pretty sure i had a small bout of heat sickness while in rome several years ago. after kinda sorta passing out at the Coliseum, we get on the subway to go back to hotel. as i exit the train i pause and know i’m gonna puke. so i walk over to the edge of the platform.. and as an oncoming train proceeds to pull into the station i puke. and it comes back on me. with my BF holding me to ensure i don’t fall off the platform.

      go to hotel. take a nap. wake up feeling better and immediately down a big mac. good as new. ;)

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Oh noooooo! I puked in a gutter once (on my way home sick from work, probably food poisoning) and straightened up just in time for a bus to pull to the curb and park in my vomit. Yours is way worse, sorry.

    9. paul*

      My first year at my current company we had a Christmas party at the CFO’s house. I was feeling fine when I went–absolutely A-OK.

      We were eating, having a great time…and all of the sudden I knew one end or the other was going to explode. Unfortunately I guess wrong, and hurled into her tub while sitting on the pot. In a bathroom roughly the size of my kitchen and nicer than any I’d seen to that point.

    10. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

      I watched the entire series of Arrested Development when I was doing with the flu for a week, once!

    11. Jersey's Mom*

      I had just gotten a puppy and found out the hard way that she would get carsick. The vet said to give her a bit of dry toast and take short drives to happy places to see if she’d grow out of it. Over the weeks, she seems to get better. We had our 6 month vet appt, so we skipped breakfast, had a bit of toast and I bundled her into the car (on a towel, (I’m not completely crazy) and went to the vet. Success! Clean car and clean puppy. After the vet visit, got back into the car and headed home. She was in the back seat (on her towel, I wasn’t taking any chances), and she barfed. So I pulled over and put her into the front seat (onto a another clean towel, because I think ahead), and took off. Then she barfed again in the front seat. I pulled over, mopped her up best I could and refolded the towel to try to keep her clean. She felt really bad and tried to cuddle and lean on me, then barfed again, all over the stick shift, my hand, my lap and all over herself.

      At this point I gave up an drove home at 70 mph. I was kind of hoping I would get pulled over — I figured a car full of barf, plus the barf on me and my wallet would stop any cop in his/her tracks and I’d never get a ticket.

      I still can’t figure out how the hell all that barf came out of a 6 month old puppy who had not had breakfast.

    12. Sunflower*

      When I was in middle school, I caught a 24 hour bug and threw up in front of the entire football team during team pictures. So you might be sick but at least you are(hopefully) past that possibility of embarrassment!

    13. Vancouver Reader*

      I am another one of those who did travel sickness. I was probably overtired from staying up on our trip to Paris, and when we got there, it was daytime, so we didn’t go to bed right away. Instead we walked around, and tried to get into the time zone. We were walking through La Samaritaine and I started feeling sick. I went to the bathroom, but nothing happened. So, I asked for a bag, just in case, and carried it around the store with me. I felt better, so I gave the bag back, but as soon as we walked out the door, I puked on the steps. We started to head back to the hotel, and stopped in the Tuileries because I was still feeling quite unwell. Took a seat on the chairs provided and had a nap in the sun. As soon as I woke up, I leaned over and threw up again. I hadn’t done that since I was a child!

      Finally made it back to the hotel where I slept and slept. To this day, my husband jokingly accuses me of being the reason La Samaritaine closed its doors.

  2. nep*

    Corrected: Starting to learn guitar. For now working on dexterity and building up those calluses. Guitarists out there — your favourite tips? What do you wish you knew when you started out? (At some point I’ll start lessons, when I find the right person and can afford it.)

    1. bassclefchick*

      Good luck! Do you play any other instruments and/or know how to read music? I do not play guitar, but I have played in bands and orchestras for most of my life. I know guitar sheet music is usually different than other instruments, but I would at least learn the basics of music theory and how to read music. Learning the circle of 5ths is a pain, but very important to learning cord progressions and how it all goes together. Your local music shop should be able to help you get some basic technique books. And if you’re in a university town, some of the music students might be willing to take on a student for a lower price.

    2. Minta*

      This is a very indirect tip, but it’s notable. I started learning about 15 years ago. Took lessons, fiddled around on my own. Took a hiatus from the guitar for a while. In the meantime, I had taken up regular exercise (cardio & strength) for the first time in my life. Started playing guitar again and noticed a huge difference in my ability to keep up with the challenging songs I was playing along to once I remembered the chords I needed to play. It was easier to press the frets. The difference was surprising (and delightful).

      Play stuff you like. Get your hands on some used tablature books from guitarists you admire. Try and identify artists whose music is somewhat beginner-friendly. I suspect you’re not quite ready for Steve Vai-level stuff yet! ;-)

      Take your time, and try to learn good form and clean tone as you’re learning to assemble songs. That way, when you can increase your speed, you’ll be playing effectively and less sloppily. Enjoy!

      1. nep*

        Thanks for the great tips, bassclefchick and Minta.
        (Indeed one teacher I was checking out on YouTube stresses just that — keep it slow and focus on clean; the speed will come with practice.)
        I play only percussion instruments. I don’t read music; it’s a language I sure wish I’d learned. Didn’t play an instrument in school. (If I had a child, that’s definitely something I would have him/her do — nothing like that training from a young age.) But hell — never too late to learn.

      2. bassclefchick*

        I agree with Minta! Play stuff you like. Part of the reason I left my last orchestra was because the conductor kept picking Sibelius. Blech! So yes, play stuff you like. You’re more likely to practice if you want to play it. At least you have a basis of understanding with percussion – rhythms and beats you already know!

        I also agree to go slow. Clapton is a guitar god for a reason, but he didn’t start out that way, either. He breaks all the “rules” of music theory sometimes, but I also guarantee he knows what they are.

        Just have fun and remember everything will eventually start to make sense!

    3. Grumpycat*

      Seconding the “play music you like” suggestion! I play the guitar as well and I’m most motivated to practice when I have really interesting music to sink my teeth into. Turns out I don’t like anything but fingerpicking traditional folk songs, so that’s what I do!

    4. LCL*

      Buy a chord book. I have ‘The gig bag book of picture chords for guitarists.’ This will allow you to decode chords that aren’t written out, or give you a starting point for simplifying a complex chord before you totally get the theory.

      I started out playing bass, and can still only read bass clef, but I manage.

      You tube is your friend. You can find a tutorial for any popular song, then find the song and try playing along. Tabs are great fun, but you get what you pay for. Tabs accuracy varies from ‘nailed it’ to totally bogus.

      Listen to a lot of classic rock, it’s really guitar driven. But be aware the guitar sound is layers upon layers upon layers of tracks. The guitar solo in ‘Born to run ‘ is 16 tracks! One guitar player will never sound like LED Zep. Don’t listen to Keith Richards or jimmy page to learn the fundamentals, you will get discouraged and quit. My greatest regret is that I quit bass for a long time because I couldn’t figure out John Entwistle’s fills in “My Generation”. Well, I still haven’t met a bass player who can figure that part out by ear.

    5. Guitarist*

      If it’s your first instrument, learn some basic music theory. Get into a routine of practicing scales and chords. But also have fun with it and don’t be intimidated. Changing between open chords has a steep learning curve at first. But you can build your confidence by putting the guitar in an open tuning and playing slide. You can’t sound bad that way, and you’ll be unintentionally learning what sounds good.

      1. Guitarist*

        And play in front of an audience as often as you can. Ten minutes of playing live is equivalent to hours of practicing at home in terms of what you learn.

    6. Florida*

      The slower you practice, the faster you learn. (That’s true in more than music.)

      It is better to practice 10 minutes a day than 90 minutes only on Saturday.

      If you don’t know how to read music, learn. You can only get so far playing by ear. If you want to play with others, you have to read music.

      Agree with others that you should play music you like. When you start to look for a teacher, be sure your teacher subscribes to this philosophy. But I would also encourage you to push yourself with other music. For example, on piano, everyone needs to play some Bach inventions even if they don’t like Bach. The techniques and musicality you learn from studying it will improve your other music. So, if you are working on 6 pieces, maybe have 4-5 that you really like and 1 that you don’t especially like but it pushes you.

      1. nep*

        Absolutely agree — same w the drumming, learning a language, and so many things — a bit of time every day rather than cramming in a bunch once in a while. Makes such a difference.

    7. Jenn*

      If you have a tablet or computer with decent sound you can do ear training videos or apps to help learn what different notes and cords sound like, I’d also recommend a tuning device or program to help you as you learn. There are also free resources at most public libraries and some even loan instruments as well as music and videos

    8. Anonymous Educator*

      A few tips:

      1. Some guitars have lower action than others. If it feels you’re really hurting your fingers to press down on chords, you may want to see if you can find (maybe a friend can even loan you one for a couple of months) a guitar with lower action (where the strings are closer to the frets) than your guitar has. Once you build up your callouses and adjust your finger muscles, you can play on higher action again.

      2. A lot of people start out with “cheating” barre chords (like the F chord where you put your index finger only on the high E string and don’t strum the low E string), but you’re really doing yourself a disservice if you learn that way. It will hurt your index finger like hell, but you should learn to do a proper barre chord and stretch your finger all the way across. Once you learn the proper F barre chord, you can play 99% of any chords you want to play by sliding your chord up and down and lifting or re-placing your middle finger. (No, experts, it won’t cover things like diminished chords and the like, but for a beginner, a sliding F / Fm will cover pretty much everything.)

      3. You can play pretty much any 50s doo-wop song with G / Em / C / D. Try it out. It’s a great confidence booster.

      4. For picking (vs. strumming), rest your fingers so that the thumb is on whatever bass string is the primary one for the chord you have (D for D; E for E, F, and G; A for A, B, and C) and rest your index, middle, and ring fingers on the G, B, and E strings respectively. Do not look with your eyes ever! Feel the strings under your fingers. And then pluck slowly one at a time and then try to rest your fingers back to where the strings are. Not looking is key. Really try to build muscle memory there.

      5. Have fun!

  3. In debt-update*

    Just wanted to thank everyone who gave me suggestions a couple of weeks ago regarding my family’s financial situation. My husband was able to take out a 401k loan to cover the costs off all of our outstanding debt, at 3.5% interest, which goes back into his account. Obviously this is less than ideal, but it seems to be the best option. In addition, we set up a budget and have an app which we are tracking ALL of our spending and we are now on a strict budget. We have enough for everything we need, plus we are building an emergency fund so we won’t need the credit cards. The kids have been great, and our son helped us set up the budget. There is now complete honesty in the house, and we have committed to not using credit cards unless in a dire emergency, and then everyone in the family has to know about it and agree it is an emergency.

    You all were so understanding and kind on a very dark day. You gave me hope that we could overcome this, which in turn gave me the right attitude and the resolve needed when talking to the family. So a huge thank you to the AAM community!

    1. BRR*

      I’m really happy to hear you’re in a much better financial position and am impressed by how you have taken so many huge steps. I’m a little nervous on the 401k loan though. It’s considered a poor choice in almost all situations and I just want to point that out to others who are reading.

      1. In debt-update*

        Yes, you are absolutely correct on that. It was the best choice for us, but I certainly wouldn’t steer anyone else in that direction!!

        1. Yetanotherjennifer*

          You carefully considered the options and you made the best decision for your family under the circumstances. Sometimes the icky choice is the best one. I’m glad you’re making big changes to your lifestyle as we’ll. I wish you the best of luck in getting it all cleared up.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Being able to sleep at night, priceless.

      Congratulations and many more continued successes!

    3. Sibley*

      Keep it up! Stick with this, even when the emergency is passed, and you’ll find that you’ll be so much better off the longer you do it. :)

    4. Whats In A Name*

      I didn’t see your original post but am so glad you found a solution and got your entire family on board; finances can be stressful and break a family apart.

  4. bassclefchick*

    Let’s discuss the MasterChef finale! OK, I’m extremely late with this, but none of my friends watch the show. LOL

    I really wanted Brandi to win, though I think it was pretty obvious early on that it would be Shaun. Well, I wanted Terry or Eric to win. But I had to pick someone else and by the time they were eliminated it was beyond obvious it would be Shaun. And I REALLY didn’t like David being the third person in the finale. He threw tantrum after tantrum and kept getting through. I think they should have let him quit.

    Is it wrong that I was glad Andrea screwed up so badly in the challenge that she didn’t get her food to the table and got eliminated? I did not like her at all. I’m glad she was knocked out early. Though I’m not sure how Nathan kept getting through. I wanted Terry or Eric to go further than Nathan. Nathan’s fainting during the tag team challenge was just another sign he wasn’t ready to be there.

    What did you think? Did you think Shaun should’ve won? Though I am glad that there was far less drama this season than previous seasons. (I’m looking at YOU Courtney (season 5) and Krissi (season 4)!)

    1. New Bee*

      I watched the first 20 minutes of the finale, then googled and saw Shaun won and didn’t bother watching the rest. I was rooting for Terry (he wuz robbed!), and David was just ridiculous. Of the three left, I wanted Brandi to win–I loved how Dan spoke so highly of her when he was eliminated.

      This is the first season of Masterchef I’ve watched (I’ve seen MC Jr), and at times the talent seemed…mediocre (see Nathan, Diamond). Towards the middle of the season the eliminations started to seem pre-ordained (though I did think the Andrea elimination was the right thing to do).

      1. bassclefchick*

        Yup, the rules are the rules. You had to get the dish to the table before time ran out and she didn’t do it. I think I would have stopped watching if they let her continue! I thought Dan was a bit of an ass, especially when he basically copied what Tonnoria was going to do, but he could cook.

        1. A Large Cantelope*

          His “frat boy” shtick was hilarious. I’m like, “Didn’t you graduate college at least 3 years ago?” He’s what my friends and I call the “old dude in the club.”

    2. Mimmy*

      I was rooting for Brandi too since she seems more like a “home cook” than the guys were, but I had a feeling Shaun would end up the winner. And yes, David should’ve been eliminated when he had that hissy fit a couple weeks prior.

      Nathan totally reminded me of myself when I get flustered. I’ve never fainted but have gotten all bent out of shape when I have people coming at me from all directions.

      1. A Large Cantelope*

        I don’t understand how a successful poker player, of all people, could be so all over the place under pressure.

    3. Lily Evans*

      I really wanted Brandi to win too! I was bummed when she didn’t, but I definitely liked Shaun better than David. I wish they’d kept it to a two person finale. My dad always says that they keep some of the more volatile or annoying contestants around just to keep the show interesting, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s true.

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      I did not like this season. Maybe it’s because reading Tom and Lorenzo has made me more suspicious of producer manipulation in general — I ended up reading rumors somewhere that cooking shows are notoriously rigged. For example, when a contestant’s “oven never turned on,” it might have been someone who works for the show turning the dial off when the contestant’s back was turned. That kind of thing.

      I don’t know enough to say MasterChef definitely does this, but man, did Nathan’s (literal) collapse look awfully staged to me.

  5. crushing hard*

    I have a question that I am sure some will think is silly. Here goes. I am a people watcher. I don’t stare, but I do look at people. Sometimes I smile, but often I am too consumed in my own world or am too anxious to make eye contact and smile. So, there’s a guy at work who I sometimes catch looking at me. He is very friendly and kind. Thing is, I am really into him. He sometimes smiles at me and sometimes I smile back, but often, I am just too scared and I look away. Yeah, charming, I know.

    Does anyone here have any suggestions on how to tell if:
    –he’s looking at me because he thinks I am looking at him. Kinda like “oh, there’s that girl I catch staring at me all the time”
    –he’s looking at me because he’s a friendly guy and probably just wants to be nice, to smile, etc.
    –there’s something else there (what I am really hoping for)

    I am certain he knows I have a thing for him. My combination of nervousness and curiosity around him are pretty obvious. I don’t think anyone else necessarily is noticing, but he definitely has. It is important to point out that he is in a senior position. He’s not some young “bro” checking girls out at work. But he is also not in a position that allows him to be flirtatious. Rock, meet hard place.

    I’d really appreciate some suggestions to figure him out somehow. I have decided against initiating conversation with him, unless we’re in the elevator or something, where it’s completely expected to chat.

    1. Marzipan*

      Is he in a position where it would be inappropriate for him to have any kind of involvement with you? (eg managing you in some way?) If so, do nothing.

      Otherwise, just talk to him already!

    2. Minta*

      It’s very difficult (my MO is very similar to yours), but I try and remind myself to try and talk to someone from a human point of view–as opposed to I’m talking to a guy-on-whom-I-have-a-searing-crush-omg-he-can-smell-it-on-me-POV. A fellow employee POV works too. See? You’ve already got an in–a way to get to know each other in a somewhat neutral fashion. If you approach it like I’ve described, and not as a declaration of your interest in him, then there’s less risk of you revealing too much before you learn more about him and what his interests are (or aren’t).

      Of course, this is all providing he’s not in a supervisory role with you.

      Are there any happy hour or other sorts of opportunities to find yourself in a conversation with him?

      There’s always breathing and meditation to help you find your center before, during, and after talking to him. Best wishes!

    3. Guitarist*

      He might not have any idea. In my experience, guys can be a little slow to pick up on those things. And some guys are shy about initiating.

      Can you think of an excuse to talk to him? I would try to strike up a casual work friendship, get to know him a little and see if there really is something there.

  6. The Other Dawn*

    Alison, thanks so much for mentioning the Instant Pot–I got one last weekend and I love it! Made beef stew last night with the pressure cooking function and it turned out great. Less than an hour from start to finish and the veggies didn’t disintegrate! Making hard-cooked eggs now. If you want to see, just click my name and it will bring you to my blog where I just posted about it. :) Next up is frozen meat and then homemade seasoned rice.

    1. BRR*

      I love my Instant Pot. My MIL got us one for Christmas and I was skeptical. I love how it took the place of my slow cooker an rice cooker and how fast it can cook other things. Now I just need my husband to not be as concerned it’s going to explode.

      1. CAA*

        There is hope! I taught my DH to make rice in our Instant Pot and he’s much more relaxed about pressure cooking now that he uses it himself. He still freaks out about the idea that I leave it on overnight to make yogurt, but I’ve pointed out that we are in the house and we do have working smoke alarms.

        1. No Name Yet*

          Question about making yogurt in the Instant Pot: I’m assuming you still have to boil the milk separately, and then cook it overnight in the IP? Or does it somehow magically do both steps?

    2. Foodie Christina*

      Instant Pot represent!

      I’ve had some kind of flu/virus this week and still managed to make fantastic soup in my pot with less than 5 minutes of effort. Cut an onion in big chunks, sauteed with some chopped garlic I had in the freezer. Cut a bunch of peeled carrots in big chunks, threw those in with a peeled, quartered chunk of ginger, and a few cups of still-frozen chicken broth. Pressure cooked for 20 minutes, and everything was perfectly soft for blending with my stick blender. Ate some for lunch, let it stay on warm until dinner, pot the inner pot in the fridge so I could reheat it the next day.

      I love this damn thing so much.

      1. It happens*

        They go on sale on amazon pretty frequently. Genuinely worth it – even if just for soup (and stock to make soup later.)

        1. Overeducated*

          I am thinking of putting it on my Amazon wishlist in case anyone is feeling excessively generous this Christmas. I have a slow cooker so I would feel guilty replacing it, but it sounds like cooking stuff that is currentlyin the “weekend project’ category on weeknights after work could rock my world.

          1. Athena C*

            Honestly, I use both. The only thing I got rid of was my rice cooker, but sometimes when I’m having parties, two slow cookers is a lifesaver.

    3. Clumsy Ninja*

      I would really love to get one, but I currently have a slow cooker that works and a pressure cooker…..maybe I’ll put it on my wish list, anyway.

      1. Foodie Christina*

        I had a brand new stovetop pressure cooker too, which was why I put off buying an Instant Pot for nearly a year. When I finally got my pot, I realized for me they serve 2 different purposes: my big pressure cooker has 50% more capacity, so I use it for big batches of stock, or stuff I’d be cooking on the stove anyways. My 6qt IP I use for daily stuff–rice for dinner, reheating frozen leftovers (it does a surprisingly good job), making a small batch of applesauce while I’m doing other stuff. I’m willing to make space for both in my cabinet, given how much I use them.

        I did dump my slow cooker, though. I only really used it for stock in the first place, and like how that turns out better in a pressure cooker.

    4. Pennalynn Lott*

      Thank you for the reminder! I was just racking my brain trying to come up with something for Boyfriend for the Winter Solstice. He loves to cook, and he loves to cook *big*, so I’ll be getting him the 8 quart InstaPot. We have a Crock Pot, but it’s ancient [handed down from one of our parents; we can’t even remember which one of us brought it to the relationship. :-) ].

    5. LawCat*

      We love the Instant Pot!! I’ll be making soup in it this weekend :-)

      I often make steel cut oats, veggie broth, beans and bean dishes, and yogurt in it. So easy to clean too. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

    6. The Other Dawn*

      Any tips on boneless chicken breast? I defrosted a pack and now I’m just staring at it, wondering how to approach it. Pressure cook? “Stew” setting? Suggestions for herbs and spices?

    7. self employed*

      Is the 6 qt necessary or is the 5 qt sufficient? Can you cook a whole chicken? Now I want one!!!!!

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Bed Bath and Beyond doesn’t carry it (I was bummed). I got mine at Target for 119.00. I think Amazon is the same.

          Given that the pot it taller and more narrow than a slow cooker, I’d stick with a 6 quart. As long as you stick with a smaller chicken, it should fit.

  7. Meg*

    My baby is about to turn 1, so the family size question is coming up a lot. We’re thinking about stopping at one for lots of reasons (none of them medical / fertility related). I always thought I’d have two, but I’m feeling like I would be OK with just one. I love our little family. My brother and I fought a lot as kids and while I love him, we aren’t close as adults. But of course people argue it’s not fair to / lonely for the only child. Thoughts from only children / others? I’m about to turn 35 so we don’t have to decide right away but it’s been on my mind.

    1. Allypopx*

      I was the only child and the only grandchild, so even though we were quite poor I ended up pretty spoiled and self-important. Reality kicked that out of me around first grade (kind of…it lingers) but it was definitely a result of being undersocialized. But any family dynamic will change the way your kids turn out! I liked having my own space and getting a lot of direct attention and that self-importance turned into self-confidence after awhile, which is nice. It’s definitely more financially stable to have less kids. Arguably less tiring. I’m sure the case could be made that it’s better for your partnership – you make the choices that are best for your family, ignore the naysayers.

    2. Sophie*

      Only child here – I don’t think it really makes any difference and I would never say I had a lonely childhood at all! Having another child to keep them company sounds a bit strange in my opinion. Do people genuinely say this?

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I’m really weirded out by that. I’m reminded of last (?) week’s discussion about wanting vs. not wanting children and some people seriously only or mostly deciding on having them because they want someone who cares for them when they’re old. I think the same answer to that goes here as well – if you want to have more than one child, it’s great to think that then you first child will have someone to play or just generally interact with; but having another child just so that your first child won’t be lonely? I don’t think that’s a good idea at all and, like with the elder care question, doesn’t even have to turn out like you intended.

        (What I mean by that is that I have one younger sister and I didn’t actually deal with her much when we were younger? I was an extremely jealous child and was downright mean to her when she was little so any loneliness feelings on my part would not have been quashed by my sister’s existence at all. We seem to have gone the opposite route of many siblings one hears of – we didn’t really get along as children but we’re now (and have been for several years) very very close and best friend-like.)

      2. Former Invoice Girl*

        I’m not sure if your question was rhetorical or genuine, but people do indeed say that – it seems like it crosses international borders, as I’ve been hearing it all my life here in Eastern Europe as well.

        Another thing I hear kind of often is that children who don’t have sibling grow up to be selfish because they never have to share, so having another child is good for the first one because apparently they won’t be spoiled that way (?). I’m not really sure it works like that, tho.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          For those of us “onlys” who were raised in a very strict environment because of this stereotype, please encourage others to go on a case by case basis rather than relying on a stereotype. I have been watching this for 50 plus years and it’s time to get rid of this stereotype in the same manner we have ditched other stereotypes.

          OP, a child can be spoiled if she is an only kid or if she is one of 12 kids. Family head count has little to do with it, as this is a problem caused by the adults around the child, it’s not an automatic thing limited to only children.

          1. Yetanotherjennifer*

            Our neighbors have five children and the stories about the baby of the family going to kindergarten and learning the world didn’t revolve around her are pretty funny. A tough lesson for her though.

    3. Ivy Grad*

      I’m an only child, and to make matters worse, my family moved countries twice while I was growing up (I made friends, we moved to a new country, learned the language, made friends, we moved to a new country again, rinse and repeat).

      I am not in any way upset about being an only child. Instead, I like to think that I’m very independent and okay with doing things by myself in ways that others aren’t. That said, I am very competitive and like things to be done my way. I recharge by being alone. It may be unrelated to being an only child, but I’m mentioning it for full disclosure.

      My parents received a lot of fuss from friends and family when they stopped at one child. I don’t think they regret it either.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        I am with you. Only child here. Overly independent and strong willed (i.e. can be a control freak). But also comfortable by myself when I am in situations where I have to travel, have dinner on my own, etc.

        I really think it depends on the dynamic of the family, the situation, the household. I was a latchkey kid, living with a single mom working and going to school. My dad was involved but lived 600 miles away.

    4. all aboard the anon train*

      I’m the oldest of three and the only girl. I honestly can’t imagine growing up without my brothers. I was lucky enough that we were all really close (we’re all two years apart). We were close as kids and we’re close as adults and we rarely fought, and I used to think this was common until I realized a lot of people don’t have great relationships with their siblings, especially opposite sex siblings. I suppose I’m just really lucky that I do.

      I actually liked having siblings because knowing how my parents are, I would have gone insane if all their attention was focused on me. But at the same time, I was also always cool just hanging out by myself and don’t like being the center of attention.

      That said, a lot of my friends were only children and they never seemed lonely. I don’t really understand the reasoning behind it not being fair to only have one child. All this depends on each person individually. If one child is lonely without siblings, another might not be. You can have a child who gets along with their siblings and another that doesn’t.

      Really, do what you think is best for you.

      1. Anononon*

        I am also the only girl of 3 siblings spread apart by two years; however, I was the youngest. I value the relationship I had with my brothers and considered us to be pretty close, although fighting happened for sure. One reason I’m grateful for them was that we had each other to talk to when our parents divorced (specifically, our mother leaving). There was a lot of pain that only we understood at the time and it nice to have each other to talk to.

        Obviously, I don’t mean my story to be a reason that someone should have more than one kid. That truly is up to you and an only child can be just as happy as any child with siblings. As a kid though, I do think it’s nice to have another kid in the house to talk to and be a kid with.

    5. salad fingers*

      I have three siblings who are all older than me by at least 5 years and while I wish I had one closer to my age, I am super happy with our set up. We are very close friends and act as each other’s main(?) support system, probably especially so given our crappy parents. I would be so sad to not have my siblings at this point – they’ve really shaped who I am and are the only people who truly understand what it was like to grow up with my parents – but I’m sure I would have sought out something similar by now if I were an only child. I don’t think you should worry too much about it.

    6. Juli G.*

      You do what you want – your kid will be fine either way. Truly.

      I will say, when my first was one, it was way too early for us to make a call on family size. We had barely figured out how to be a family of 3. The next year, it was much easier to make the decision that we wanted another – we felt way more confident as parents.

      I know age plays into this significantly but this may not be a “now or never” decision.

    7. Torrance*

      I was raised as an only child who had a half-brother four days a month. I was far from lonely when I wasn’t with him– I was enrolled in after-school programs & scouting as a child, extracurriculars & religious youth programs as a teen. I had friends and things to keep me busy, but I also had the sanctuary of solitude, to lose myself in my imagination.

      I haven’t seen my brother in nearly two decades. Having a sibling doesn’t automatically mean you have a family. It’s a bit cliche but there’s a saying that ‘friends are the family we choose for ourselves’. I think that as long as you are okay with not having more children and you make sure your child has the opportunities for socialisation on their terms, you’re all set. :)

    8. Aurora Leigh*

      I’m the oldest of three. I cannot imagine not having my siblings. We’re close, and we have those inside jokes that only someone who’s known you forever can get. My cousin is an only, but but he hung out with us a lot, so I think we gave him some of the sibling experience.

    9. Ruffingit*

      I have three older siblings and none of them have been helpful or made a difference in my life except as cautionary examples. I’m the one left entirely with the care of our mother so it’s like I’m an only child anyway and in many ways, I wish I truly was because I’ve been treated to harassment by one of my brothers and condescension by another. It’s just a huge hassle and frankly, I’d rather not have to worry about them when my mother passes, but of course they are going to have to be informed. UGH.

      So really, sibling relationships are a total crap shoot and the way to make this decision is to decide what YOU can handle and want as a parent. No one else gets a vote.

    10. Stellaaaaa*

      I’m the oldest of four. My two younger brothers have mental illnesses that make relationships impossible unless I want to endure abuse and nurture codependency. My sister is 7 years younger than me and only now (I’m 31, she’s 24) are we starting to interact like friendly acquaintances. I know my mom is a little heartbroken by how things shook out. She wanted a big family where everyone was close and got along. I don’t think you can plan for things like that.

    11. Clever Name*

      We had a child because we had agreed we would in the general sense. By the time we started trying I had wanted to start a family for at least 3 years by that point. Then our son came along, and he was what people kindly describe as a “high needs baby”. We assumed that it would get easier, but it kind of didn’t. Now he’s 9 and I love our little family. The three of us can fit on an airplane row, and we have a ton of fun doing things as a family. Occasionally I’ll think abstractly about having another, but the thought of going back to the baby years is really unappealing. I mean, you basically blow up all semblance of a normal life for at least 3 years. And I had always assumed we’d have 2 kids.

      1. dawbs*

        I think this is sometimes where the stereotype of ‘only children being a bit needy/odd’ comes from–correlative, not causative.

        I have one kid, and she’s awesome and I’m glad to have her. She fits into ‘highly sensitive” and she has some sensory issues and it took her until almost age 3 to sleep through the night.
        Having her is great–but having 2 of her is kinda terrifyingly thinking of biting off more than I can chew (hell, with just 1 kid, trying to keep up with Occ. Therapy 2x a week keeps me on my toes. I don’t know how the parents w/ 2 or 3 kids at our center do it. Although they do–and they do it well)

        So in 30 years, someone who meets my kid, (who, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess she still might be a bit quirky), might repeat that tired old line about only children being made weird by being lonely…
        when the reality is, she was a bit weird from day 1, which is a contributing factor to her being an only.

        1. Cristina in England*

          YES!! This is so true. My older child is needy/highly strung/sensitive and it is easy for an outsider to think that I have caused this through my parenting choices but in reality, these things are how I get through the day and keep everything from falling apart.

        2. Misc*

          Yeah, I was the Easiest Baby Ever and my next sib was the Hardest (never slept, couldn’t be babysat or held by anyone by mum til 3, that sort of thing) – sheer chance, but my parents have said they wouldn’t have tried again if sib 2 had been first!

      2. chickabiddy*

        I just want to sit on this bench too. I had much the same experience — high-needs baby/toddler made it impossible to think of a second, and by the time I could, I didn’t want to any more. My daughter is 14 and has thrived as an only. While I might be biased, and she certainly does have her “features,” I don’t think most people would consider her to be spoiled.

      3. Clever Name*

        I can see that being a stereotype. Our son has several diagnoses, so his issues aren’t just because he’s an only kid. :)

    12. Tara R.*

      I was an only child until the age of 9, and I’ll go against the grain and say I was definitely lonely at home constantly; I never had anything to do or anyone to play with. I was pretty happy with my books most of the time, but even I could only read for so many hours a day. I think if your kid is an only child, you have to be prepared for the fact that they’re going to take up a lot more of your time– it’s not fair to just leave toddlers/young kids to their own devices all the time, because they will get bored. I also had a lot of challenges making friends in elementary school, because I wasn’t used to being around other kids. (Ultimately turned out fine though.)

      I love my little brother to pieces, but I can’t really speak to the real sibling relationship, since I’ve always played more of a third parent role.

      1. KR*

        I was an only child. My mom got her tubes tied when she had her c section. I have a half brother but he’s significantly older than me and lived with his mom for a while. I was definitely lonely when I was a kid. It was nice getting all of the attention but I craved company and companionship. I definitely had socialization issues and I’m very introverted and anxious. I don’t think it was directly a result of not having siblings.

    13. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t think an only child is more or less likely to be well-adjusted or outgoing or timid or lonesome; that depends on how it’s raised and on personality, barring any mental or physical health issues. You have control over the raising part. Personality is a crapshoot.

      If I’m lucky enough to have a child before it’s too late (please universe, hurry the f**k up), I fully expect that he/she will be my only one. I’m okay with that–if the opportunity to adopt came up later and my as-of-yet-hypothetical partner and I were both on board with it and felt it would be good for our family, then I’m okay with that also.

      I think my limit would be two. But I would really like to actually HAVE one.

    14. Photoshop Til I Drop*

      I am an only child.

      Let me offer a point of view that many people don’t mention. My husband’s sibling is a complete burden to us: refuses to work or get treated for mental illness, is constantly getting into trouble with money and the law. My in-laws are frail and will not be around much longer, and my husband is so family-oriented that he will never wash his hands of his sister. She will become our problem.

      Many people argue that only children are spoiled or unsocialized, but my parents made sure that didn’t happen with me. I was taught sharing and boundaries through extended family, friends, and volunteer work.

      My husband’s parents decided that he needed a sibling to learn all those things. In reality, what they did was create a life-long albatross around his neck.

      If you want a second child, have one. Just don’t let anyone convince you with psychobabble about spoiled only children. People pretend that having a sibling automatically means being given a life-long best buddy, when the reality is that every jerk has relatives too.

      1. Ruffingit*

        People pretend that having a sibling automatically means being given a life-long best buddy, when the reality is that every jerk has relatives too.

        AMEN and a Hail Mary thrown in to boot! YES! This is so very true.

      2. anon for this*

        Word. My sibling has a lot of wonderful qualities, but she’s unable to take live independently, complains about it all the time, and can’t/won’t to do anything to better her situation. She complains that we don’t communicate enough, but I e-mail and she doesn’t reply, I send letters and cards and she doesn’t write back, etc. I’m not saying I’d rather be an only child but… if you’re expecting your kids will be best friends because they’re sibs, adjust your expectations.

    15. just another librarian*

      Only have another child if you want another child for the purposes of wanting another child. Your kid will be fine with or without a sibling.

      I didn’t want another baby until well after my oldest turned 1. That is perfectly normal. My children are about 3.5 years apart. But I got pregnant right after I decided to try for the second one, so somewhere shortly after my oldest was 2.5.

      You don’t have to discuss your plans to have another baby with any person besides your planned co-parent (as it sounds like you have one).

    16. Maya Elena*

      I’d err on the side of more children, not less: from families I’ve seen, the privations pay for themselves many times over in the ensuing years, in the form of love and laughter and constant presence of activity in everyone’s lives, which staves of loneliness and apathy and dull routine.

      But then, I’m a sucker for large, loud families, and I hate the pall of silence in a half-abandoned house of rooms for years unused. And when times are at their worst, what bonds hold stronger than those of blood?

      But I’ve never heard of anyone in a stable family situation have an Nth child and admitting any kind of regret, once the first sleepless years are over. :)

      1. Ruffingit*

        And when times are at their worst, what bonds hold stronger than those of blood?

        My friendships have held steadier when times were at their worst than any of the bonds I have by blood. I wish I had family I could call on for help when things are rough, but my three siblings are totally worthless. I’m just saying the whole blood is thicker than thing just isn’t the case for everyone.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Oh my, how true!
          A hard lesson to see and absorb for sure. I knew from my own experience what happens. A friend ran into difficulty with his adult age son. Family was no where in sight. I said to him, “it’s your friends who bail you”. We tossed around some ideas of things we could do and we did a few of the ideas. It has been years and his family still has yet to show one ounce of concern.

        2. Temperance*

          Yep. My FOO is largely toxic and negative. My friends and husband were there for me when I had a serious medical crisis earlier this year. They brought my husband dinner and visited me in the hospital.

          My own mother wasn’t notified, because she would have showed up, fought with my caregivers, screamed at my husband, and acted like it was about her. So yeah, I have no patience for people who claim that family is everything.

      2. the gold digger*

        what bonds hold stronger than those of blood?

        Primo’s jerk half-brother Ted, who has been trying to drain his own mentally-disabled’s son’s trust, was quite insulted when Primo declined Ted’s offer to be a trustee for Ted’sSon’s other trust.

        “But,” said the man who has screamed at Primo, threatened to contest the will, threatened legal action against Primo for not getting their father’s lawyer into Sly’s hospital room to update Sly’s will, and in general, been a jerk to Primo, “family is EVERYTHING!”

        No. Thanks. That kind of family I don’t need.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This has to be a genetic thing. :(

          I am sorry this story has no end for you. I hope sanity prevails very soon.

      3. Snazzy Hat*

        There have been times when I’ve referred to my cousin (the only one on my dad’s side) as my brother “because he’s more like a brother to me than my actual sister is like a sister.” This isn’t the case anymore (cousin is very unreliable & forgetful & flighty, sister is very professional & has her own crap to deal with), but for several years I trusted my cousin with my life and I trusted my sister with my pen, maybe, depends on the pen, although definitely not one of my favourite pens.

        There are *plenty* of relatives on my mom’s side whose complete absence for the rest of my life would be acceptable if not encouraged. My s.o. has a brother who we hope will be in prison when our wedding eventually happens.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Cousins can be great relationships. Close enough to understand the family dynamic but not so close as to get caught in the sibling rivalry.

      4. Going anon*

        Two of my relatives are abusive. Physically and verbally. I’ll take the bonds with kind unrelated people over the blood bonds, thanks.

      5. Temperance*

        Eh, I think that this is really a generalization. I don’t know if you realize what you said here, but not all bonds of “blood” are wonderful or strong … and saying things like that can be really stigmatizing to those of us with crap family situations. Just something to remember in the future.

        My sister loves my nephew, but regrets it because he’s a difficult baby.

      6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

        “And when times are at their worst, what bonds hold stronger than those of blood?”
        Friendship, TBQH. People who choose to be there and love you, not people who happened to share parents or other relatives. My family is one such example of being stuck with quite a lot of people I’d never have chosen to associate with because they’re abusive, selfish, and grasping. That’s on a good day. Now that I’m an adult, I can choose never to associate with them again!

        I know of more than one family with multiple kids where one of the parents has totally checked out. In one with four kids where the dad told his oldest: Things were fine until we had you. And then after them (gesturing to the rest of them)? Ugh.

    17. Sibley*

      It’s ok to have 1 kid. It’s ok to have 2, or 3 or 4 or more. It’s also ok to have none.

      The kid will turn out ok if you only have 1. Do what feels right, and don’t worry about anyone else. :)

    18. Overeducated*

      I’m not an only so can’t answer the main question. Just popping in to say that socialization doesn’t only happen at home. My 2 year old just started full time day care and he comes home reciting the names of his friends. It’s different than having a stay at home parent.

      I also think 1 year after the first may be too early to decide. I couldn’t imagine having a second until my first was around 20 months, he was just so intense! (Now I really want a second but we’re not in a situation where that’s financially or logistically possible right now. I also thought I would want a bigger family but we will probably stop at 2…real life gets in the way of ideal life.)

      Good luck. This is a big decision.

    19. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      Notes from an only child: I was lonely growing up and longed for a sibling or two. Even as an adult, I would love to have a sibling. More so, it’s very difficult for me to deal with my aging parents without a sibling, because there’s no one to help in dealing with issues. My parents have placed an extreme amount of pressure on me to have kids, because I’m an only child and there is no one else for them to get grandchildren from. Struggling with infertility and aging parents and moving far from them has all been extremely hard on our relationship and I dearly wish I had a sibling to share the familial load with.

      You know your family best, and whatever you decide will be fine, but there are plenty of us only children who would love to have siblings both as kids and adults.

    20. Pennalynn Lott*

      I’m like you, Meg. I have a brother, but we fought All The Time. And not just tit-for-tat arguing, but knock-down-drag-out-both-of-us-covered-in-bruises fighting. We haven’t said but maybe a few dozen words to each other in the past 30 years.

      You only need a sibling to keep a child company if you’re abandoning them to their own devices while you go off and do your own thing. But getting them involved in clubs, sports, hobbies, volunteering, and your own age-appropriate adult conversations ought to take care of any feelings of loneliness. Sure, they’ll play the “What If” game, wondering if life would be better with the Perfect Younger Sibling, but I know I sure as h*ll wondered if life would have been better without my Abusive Older Sibling. It’s human nature to see the grass as being greener on the other side of the fence, especially when you’re a child and don’t have a lot of things to compare your life to.

    21. Yetanotherjennifer*

      I’m raising an only child and overall I’m happy with it. We work well as a family of 3. Three is after all a magic number. Although, this like other threes, often breaks down to two and one. As the SAHM and default parent I am often part of the two. I have to work to give my husband that time. Even so, my daughter and I have a bond that he misses out on. But the teen years are here so that may change. I try to give my daughter sibling-like experiences. We participate in our local University’s host family program for international students, we had an exchange student over the summer, and we work to maintain her relationship with her cousins (technically step-cousins). I also recall when she was younger I played the role of a sibling in her play, helping her learn the finer points of sharing and fair play.

      My daughter is now content as an only. She did want siblings for a while, she named her first doll “Sister,” but now she likes our family of 3. And if you count imaginary siblings, we were overrun at one point: 64 I’m told including “Jambo” who lived in our crawl space.

      A friend of mine is an only. One thing she noticed, and I notice as well, is that it’s easy for the two adults at the dinner table to have an adult conversation that excludes the child. She says she felt left out a lot in that sort of way. It’s something to be aware of. You could use conversation cards or other cues to keep at least part of the conversation at a child level.

      My one big concern is that my daughter will be the one responsible for many people as they age. There is myself and my husband plus my brother and my husband’s sister who are both single and childless. Even if we all plan for our continued independence, and some of us are more able than others in that area, that’s still a lot of people to turn out the lights after. That’s why I work to foster her relationships with my step-sisters’ kids. They probably won’t be there to help with our care but hopefully they’ll be there as support for her as she cares for us.

      1. ChemMoose*

        >>”…it’s easy for the two adults at the dinner table to have an adult conversation that excludes the child.”

        I’m an only. I actually really appreciated this experience, as I was often exposed to adults and adult conversations while not being required to “be an adult”. This meant that I was able to talk to adults easily (didn’t hide behind my parents), and thankfully my parents would answer any questions I asked.

        Many of my teachers through school never could guess that I was an only child, and I’ll owe that completely to my parents. I had some older cousins that I would hang out with every other month, but I loved being by myself (I’m an introvert). I had interactions with my peers outside of school with my heavy involvement in Girl Scouts, some gymnastics, and I went daycare too. I loved reading and just using my imagination; you could easily find me making up stories, plays, singing songs, etc. when left alone. Never really cared to have a sibling, and now that my parents are getting older I do worry a bit about how I’ll take care of my parents. Thankfully I’ve expressed that to them and they are preparing appropriately. It helps that they are taking care of their parents and they see what works and what doesn’t.

        I’ll also add a sadder note here. I had two cousins, and the younger one was killed in a car accident when he was 11. It made my older cousin an only child after 11 years of being an older sister. We can’t predict the future, so do what makes you happy every day.

    22. Tax Accountant*

      My sister is my best friend. Despite that, my daughter is going to be an only child.

      The book “One and Only” by Lauren Sandler is very good on that topic. It’s research based on a variety of considerations related to having an only child. It goes over all the main stereotypes and potential problems (and also discusses the upsides to it).

      I think there are really no guarantees. You can have one child and have her be happy or have her be lonely. Despite having a sibling, I was often lonely growing up because we lived in a rural area and it was hard to find other kids to play with. You could have two and they could be best friends, or they could be at each others throats from day one. I’m working on an estate right now at work and the two siblings are at each others throats. It’s disgusting. One of them tried to steal a bunch of money from his elderly dying mother, and now they’re in a huge legal battle. There are just no guarantees. You do what is best for your family, you love your child, and it will be fine.

      If you have one kid, there are some things you can do to mitigate the difficulties. For instance– knowing there will only be one person to help you in your old age, you can make sure to save a ton of money for retirement so there will always be resources and you won’t be a financial burden on your child. That One and Only book gave me a lot to think about and was very helpful to me in planning for the future.

      1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

        Was coming here to recommend Sandler; my son is an only and looking at the actual research helped me ignore the “he’ll be spoiled and/or lonely” remarks. Neither are true, although he did grow up in a Mayberry RFD type neighborhood with kids all over the place.

        And I have friends whose siblings are either indifferent or actively malignant (as in embezzling and worse) in the aging parent scenario, so there are no guarantees there, either.

        Here’s an article from Sandler: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/opinion/sunday/only-children-lonely-and-selfish.html

    23. Guitarist*

      I’m not an only child, but the “so they won’t be lonely” thing doesn’t make much sense to me. What if the siblings don’t get along? What if they get along great but don’t socialize with anyone else?

      I think that socialization is about how a child is raised, to a large extent. You can live in a neighborhood where there are a lot of children who play together or involve your child in activities that give them a sense of community. I think that may make a bigger difference than their number of siblings because it teaches them how to interact with people outside of their family on their own. That’s a really important life skill.

    24. TheBeetsMotel*

      I’m an only child, not by design (my dad caught mumps shortly after my birth and his sperm count was too low for my mother to get pregnant again). There were times I wish I had siblings growing up, but really, I think the reality you’re presented with is what you accept – I don’t really feel one way or another about it now.

      That being said – NOT that this is a good reason to have more children! – I do worry about having to bear all the responsibility alone when my parents start to get older and need extra help and care.

      1. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

        I just said this in my own reply below but to speak to your point about being an only taking care of parents alone, that’s why my parents had me. They said that it’s lonely to grow old and be the only one who remembers your childhood together, and to bury your parents alone. But they came from families with nearly ten siblings so the loneliness of an only just didn’t bear considering in their life experiences. But it turned out that I did have to bury Mom alone while trying to keep my horrible brother from acting out at her funeral and he still stole my car and took off for hours *during her funeral*.

        A dear friend now in her 70s was an only and didn’t have kids of her own either (by choice). She shared the difficulties of her taking care of her dying parent alone and assured me that it was easier than my experience of doing the same because I was saddled with a crappy sibling who not only didn’t help, he was actively creating more problems for me. But as told by an only, it can be done if you’re financially stable and have a good support network of friends or peers. I know I’d be glad to help out any of my friends who needed it during a tough time like that, whether or not he or she had siblings. And in some cases, I’ll have to help because they have siblings who are too irresponsible to be depended on.

    25. Finny*

      I’m an only child; I was born a twin, but she died the day we were born (three months early in 1981, it’s surprising either of us survived). My parents tried to have other kids, but had multiple miscarriages, so quit trying at some point.

      Honestly, I think I would’ve hated having a sibling. People in general are not something I’ve ever cared for, and I’ve never been lonely without a brother or sister. I’ve always been much happier with books, plushies, My Little Ponies, etc. than I ever was playing with other kids.

    26. Anon for this*

      I’m an only child. I wasn’t lonely, I learned to entertain myself.

      I turned out very introverted, sensitive, and stubborn, which might or might not have been different if I had to get along with a sibling.

      I don’t know what having a sibling is like, so I never felt like I was missing anything.

    27. Tristancandy*

      My first had a bit so a surprise rushed birth (preemie), so from the start, all eyes on baby. After a the 2nd year, had the same teetery-tottery feelings about trying for a second. Would it change our happy family? Would the kids fight nonstop? Would it destroy our finances, which were just recovering from the first birth ?

      It was having the first kid that decided the try for second. Because having the first changed our happy family. There was a lot of stuff that happened right before, during and after the birth. The bills were more than our mortgage. And yet, all of that somehow seemed separate, seemed like a slight distraction from what we actually had gained. And as for the fighting? Occasionally over who gets the first cookie. They play video games together, the little one willingly shares Halloween candy with the big one (even the good candy!-how are these my kids?). The big one brings home a stuffed animal for the little when returning from a solo trip/visit with family. Because I can look back, I can say that either way, we would have been happy with what we got. but maybe it worked out so well -because -we started with a happy little family, and increased from there.

      Love is something that is not a finite supply , you can always make more.

    28. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

      I asked this same question on my blog and dozens of “only”-readers replied that they never missed having a sibling. I myself fought with my only (older) sibling tooth and nail and he’s the bane of my existence (no joke), but my husband has multiple siblings and has a freakishly close relationship with them even though I think they’re nothing alike. A few of my dear friends have pointed out that the heartache and financial costs to me because of my older sibling would have driven them right over the edge, they were glad not to have had to also be angry at a useless sibling while taking care of a dying parent. At least they were alone in the task because they didn’t have siblings and not because their siblings were completely selfish jerks.
      A very good point, really, and brings home the idea that we have no idea what kind of relationship any of us will have with a future maybe-baby.

      Anyway, that all confused me further and I’m still pondering as JuggerBaby closes in on the end of Year Two. By my reckoning, my parents were greatly blessed in me, the younger child, and maybe they’d both be in their graves by now if it’d been just them and my older brother. We adore our first and maybe only and we can only hope we can always do so, but my takeaway so far is that we need to want to have a second more than anything else to have it. It’s a tougher road wrangling two than one, and I still can’t quite fathom being pregnant again much less pregnant while chasing our one around. That and the costs may well be our deciding factors.

    29. Nella*

      I am having the same delimma. My child is going to turn 2 soon and I m 37. I am torn about having another one. Part of me wants to, the other part just wants to enjoy the lifestyle we have with one. We could afford another one, but that would mean less house renos, not as fun vacations, watching what I spend, smaller university funds for both, and the pain of finding childcare. I also had a pregnancy that was not pleasant at all and would probably not work through another pregnancy.

      I have heard all sorts of things said about having another and my mom is the worst. She even offered me 100k to have another child. Yes that’s right, my own mother offered me cash to give her a grandchild. That thought is not the reason why I would want to have a child.

      I told myself we would wait and see how a year goes by and have given ourselves a deadline. We if don’t have one by 40 no more trying. Plus we want to become part time workers in less than 20 years. Anothere child would mean we would have to keep on working full time longer.

    30. Elkay*

      I’m the youngest of two and my sibling and I fought/did not get on pretty much until our early 20s (one memorable Christmas involved us having an argument moving through the house both insulting the other’s career choice) but we get on pretty well now. We have very different personalities but interests in common so we generally have something to chat about. As another poster said, I wouldn’t trust him with my pen but if I told him where the pen needed to go I know he’d do it without question so I don’t have many fears about us looking after elderly parents.

      Interestingly my dad is an only and there are pluses and minuses, you lack the drama that comes with siblings (as someone with an awful sibling in law I think my mum lucked out) but the concept of sharing is something he has difficulty coping with. Interestingly I’ve found that in my limited experience of only children they have a different concept of sharing – not that they can’t share. In my experience if you ask someone with siblings to share a bar of chocolate they’ll split it into even sections and give the pieces out but an only child would put it in the middle and expect everyone to help themselves because sharing doesn’t mean even sections to them it means everyone gets some.

      I know a few people from sets of four siblings and there’s pretty much always one awkward sibling in a set of four (position in the family doesn’t matter for that one). So my main advice would be don’t have four kids.

      1. the gold digger*

        I think this discussion of sharing is fascinating. I have two siblings, so this is not an only thing, but I have never understood why we think it’s so important to force children to share things that belong to them. Nobody should have to share their stuff if they don’t want to. Adults are not condemned for not letting other people drive their cars or live in their houses. Forced sharing reeks of communism to me. :)

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          I actually disagree about adults not being condemned for not sharing. There are definitely people who make a stink if their friend doesn’t let them borrow their car or use their Netflix password or something.

        2. Elkay*

          I wasn’t thinking about possessions I was thinking mainly about food and attention. I don’t think I was every made to share my things with my sibling.

      2. C Average*

        Now I am pondering all of the four-kid families I’ve known. Weirdly, there aren’t very many. Lots of three-kid families and quite a few five-kid families, but very very few four-kid families.

        And you’re right: there is always one weirdo in the bunch. Surely this is fodder for someone’s graduate thesis, yes?

        1. aeldest*

          I’ve got three siblings and we don’t have a weirdo. Now I’m wondering if that means *I’m* the weirdo.


    31. Jen*

      My DH was an only child and only grandchild. I’m one of 3 and my parents each have 2-3siblings.

      When we talked about kids, DH wanted a bigger family. He didn’t grow up lonely, but he grew up playing by himself a lot (he’s an introvert so this isn’t that bad…), playing with his mom, etc. he was well socialized and had lots of play dates but it isn’t exactly the same. His parents had him when they were on the older side and didn’t want a second kid for a few reasons (she was a working mom and didn’t want another career hit, his dad was 45, etc).

      We have 2 now and might be done, or we might have one more. Youngest is still a baby so we have a bit of time to decide.

    32. C Average*

      I’m seven years older than my sister, so I spent my early years as an only child. I really liked being an only child. I was sensitive and introverted and a homebody, and I loved spending time at home with my parents, who were very much like me in terms of temperament. We were three shy, bookish, even-tempered people living in harmony, and it was awesome.

      Then the baby came, and chaos ensued. My sister was born angry, and wanted a lot of attention throughout our childhood. She was highly social and not at all bookish, and my parents were constantly inviting over other kids to fulfill her insatiable social needs. She was loud and emotional and often impossible to please. Living with her was like having a horrible houseguest who never left. I was frequently called upon to babysit, and I hated it and vowed to never have children of my own.

      After I moved out for college, my sister and I became very close. She can still be a challenging person, but she is definitely among my best friends in the world. We’ve even been pretty successful housemates at various times in our adult lives.

      I love my sister dearly, but on balance having a sibling was pretty ruinous to my childhood. I’m glad she was born now, but if you’d asked me my opinion between ages seven and about nineteen, I would’ve confessed that I wished gypsies would snatch her in the night. Just being honest here.

      1. the gold digger*

        I love and enjoy my siblings now, too, and I didn’t even have a difficult childhood with them, but I would have loved loved loved to have been an only child. No sharing a bedroom. No noise. No fighting. I see no downsides at all to being an only.

        Also, I do not see why it is essential that a child be “socialized” before kindergarten. Wasn’t teaching kids to play with other kids one of the original purposes of kindergarten?

      2. Temperance*

        Yep. My mom is mentally ill, and has low energy. She also only liked babies, so whenever she would have another kid, I was stuck taking care of the older kid, kind of like a Duggar. It sucked. By the time she had my youngest sister when I was 15, she was done even doing the basic tasks of parenting. I hated my baby sister because of how much I had to put in to taking care of all of her needs. She’s 18 now, and … we’re still not really close whatsoever.

        I’m close with my closest-in-age sister, because we both remember our mom being neglectful and crazy, whereas our other siblings don’t remember it because we took care of them. I definitely resented them when I was younger, because my mom couldn’t even get her shit together to drive us to the library to check out books because she was so “stressed”.

    33. Mephyle*

      Only child here. The reason was that my parents met and married at a somewhat advanced age, so I was sort of their last chance at parenthood.
      I wasn’t lonely because (1) bookworm, big time; and (2) a playmate next door close to my age.
      What I missed out on was the “sharing with siblings” thing. To me, what you miss if you don’t have that, is learning and practicing living with people whom you’re not getting along with and who are bugging you.
      I wasn’t up on the ‘rules’ of childhood like ‘don’t snitch’ and I was mystified at first when my cousins (whom I only saw for a couple weeks every other year) turned their backs on me for reporting to adults that we had been playing in the part of the barn we weren’t supposed to be in.
      I was well into my twenties before I realized that I was carrying a hangover from childhood when I was often the only child in a group of adults (e.g. when my parents visited friends and relatives). It took a conscious mental shift to realize that when I was with a group of adults older than me, I was a fellow adult and not a child.

      1. Mephyle*

        Another example of how I didn’t know how to negotiate with living with others: At camp I had disdain for the others who loudly announced their every move (or so it seemed to me – I thought they were just attention-seekers). But later someone mentioned to me that I was breaking the norms when I just silently slipped into a choice bunk in the cabin on the first day, claiming it for my own without saying anything out loud.
        There were probably many other such incidents where I was breaking the unspoken rules that children with siblings knew, but there were only a few that I became aware of because someone later explained it to me.
        All in all, I have no regrets about being an only. I just wrote the above to bring out some aspects that I have not seen mentioned in discussions of only-child vs. sibling families, and to try to explain to people with siblings what some of the things are that they pick up without realizing that only-children may not have learned.

        My mother was born to be an only child by temperament, but had four younger siblings. She (like me) loved to hide away with a book, and none of the rest of them, including her parents, could ever understand this.

    34. Paula, with Two Kids*

      The underlying question I’m getting from you is worry that if you have a second child, that they won’t get along. I read somewhere, that a gap of 3 1/2 years was a good gap for reducing sibling rivalry. If you want a second child, I think you should go for it.. But not right away. And there’s nothing wrong with stopping at one. Nothing at all.

    35. Temperance*

      I’m the oldest of 4. I’m close with one of my sisters, and close-ish to my brother …. but honestly, I would have had a better childhood as an only. Your kid will be fine.

    36. Sunflower*

      I have a relatively neutral relationship with my 2 siblings. I love my sisters and luckily, all of them are mentally stable and independent. We get along but we are far from best friends. I rely on my friends for help when times get tough. My older sister’s need to control my life has definitely affected me mentally and created some insecurities for me. Sometimes I wonder if I was an only child, would I have grown up more competitive and determined? Would I have wanted to run the world as opposed to be content in my job that I like?

      I think you should do what you want. Regardless of how many children you have, they will all grow up to have issues and insecurities.

    37. Fauna*

      I’m an only. I was not lonely, as I had a very active imagination, and just made up friends when necessary. I will say that I was always more comfortable around adults than kids, because I spent way more time with adults. I don’t feel bad that I don’t have siblings, but I do love that my husband has a sister, who I’m now very close to.

    38. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      Two sibs (one on each side–about 4 years apart each). Didn’t really have much in common with them as a kid, so I was lonely/bored at home anyway. Grew up and have even less in common with the eldest. We’re very very loosely connected. I appreciate the oldest one for taking on the majority of my parent’s attempts to “mould a perfect child”, but I’m pretty ok not talking to them for long periods of time.

    39. Anonomoose*

      I’m the only child of well-off parents who retired very early, and since they didn’t have a good marriage all their attention was focused on me to the point of being suffocating – we’re close now but it was definitely expected that I would be a confidante to my parents growing up, because I was just the only one there. Also, I feel like the lack of socialisation with similarly aged siblings led to some social anxiety and issues relating to my peers. Conversely, I definitely had more attention and opportunities than some of my friends with many siblings did.

  8. Allypopx*

    Someone who doesn’t have to work Columbus Day weekend should tell me all the fun things they’re doing that don’t involve sick employees and computers breaking down. Let me live vicariously through you.

    1. Aurora Leigh*

      I slept late and planning to take a leisurely walk through the neighborhood and enjoy the crisp fall weather. Lazy Saturdays are my favorite!

    2. The RO-Cat*

      Well, for me it’s a normal weekend, since we don’t have Columbus Day here. We hopped into our clunker, headed to my in-laws and praying it’ll hold together the whole 100 km (~60 miles or so), which it valiantly did. We arrived to a charming fall day, complete with rain and 5C (~40F) and gave up BBQ because wood tends to not burn when wet. I saw my country mash Armenia into a pulp at football, 5-0 away, had one black beer (that I like) and one pilsener (that I can swallow, but it’s faute de mieux) and I played with a pup and a cat, while they played together and mostly ignored me. Hope that helps.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I’m playing with my new Instant Pot, planted a shrub I bought a month ago, and I’m now picking up one of the cats at the vet. She had dental done, so big bill. :( Just overheard the people at the desk telling a client exactly why one f the vets isn’t working here anymore. Not cool. Considering saying something to the remaining vet on duty.

    4. Former Invoice Girl*

      We don’t have Columbus Day here, either, so a normal weekend for me – I slept in somewhat late, went to shop for toothpaste, dishwasher, and shower gel (how specific, haha), did some cleaning and organizing, and also took the time to read my Excel book (I’m not nearly as experienced with it as I’d like to be, even though I’ve improved a lot these last few months). Now drinking wine after dinner.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Sorry, I’m not actually doing anything fun. I have to work on a story this weekend and clean the house and that’s about it. So far today, I have done basically nothing. It’s been a very long week and I don’t get Monday off.

        1. Clever Name*

          I’m not aware of anything closing here (schools open, city and county offices open) except for federal stuff.

      1. New Bee*

        Schools in CA (or at least my part of CA) don’t, but my husband works for the state and has Monday off.

        1. Sparkly Librarian*

          I work for the city (which is in CA), and we don’t have it off starting this year. Instead we get Cesar Chavez Day in May.

    6. Persephone Mulberry*

      I honestly forgot it’s Columbus Day weekend. I think it’s a stupid holiday, and I’ve never worked anywhere that treated it as a holiday, so I’m just doing normal weekend stuff. DH put new memory sticks in my computer, so I’m playing on it to see if I can tell the difference (eh). I got a new art commission that I’m going to start working on here shortly. Looking forward to football on TV tomorrow. The usual!

    7. Clever Name*

      Guess I didn’t realize it was Columbus Day on Monday. Is it a 3 day affair where you are? Here in Denver it’s not celebrated at all. We celebrate Cesar Chavez Day instead. :)

      1. Allypopx*

        It’s a big tourism holiday. I work in a museum so it is for us. Offices are technically closed but us operations managers are here.

    8. Jen RO*

      I had a pretty uneventful day. Did my German homework, went to German class, then went to my brother’s place where I kicked ass at Catan and Cards Against Humanity and watched Romania kick ass at soccer. (I don’t care about soccer, but the other people did, and it was mildly amusing to see it was 3-0 after 10 minutes.) Oh, and I forgot my wallet at home and *didn’t* get stopped by the police!

    9. ..Kat..*

      I am working this weekend also. I have the malfunctioning computers. But instead of sick employees, I have sick patients (yep, I’m a nurse). Get good sleep, and clean your hands a lot (don’t want you to get sick too).

    10. Audiophile*

      I’m off, for the first time in a long time. Have no real plans, because I’m broke at the moment.

      Might go catch a movie tomorrow, I kind of want to see “The Girl On the Train”.

      Other than that I’m going you try to enjoy my Monday off.

    11. Pennalynn Lott*

      You probably don’t want to live vicariously through me. I’m studying for an Intermediate Accounting mid-term that’s on Monday. . . which I didn’t even realize was Columbus Day. :-(

    12. Chaordic one*

      At the library where I volunteer, it is going to be an in-house staff training day and the library employees all have to go, although they won’t be dealing with the public.

      I live near an Indian reservation and there is usually a Columbus protest parade in a neighboring town and that will be fun. There have recently been several marches held to demonstrate solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux reservation against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

    13. Kit*

      I work on the weekends, and it’s Thanksgiving here so my work (butcher shop) is (obviously) quite busy, but I have Monday off and will be roasting a duck. If it makes you feel any better I have the joint mobility of a tin man and weak little baby arms from schlepping turkeys all week.

    14. Snazzy Hat*

      I don’t have anything fun planned this weekend, but Monday morning I have to go to my other house so water mitigation can take a sample of the bathroom ceiling & test it for asbestos. Although that sucks, as soon as it’s done I get to go to the upstairs apartment & hang out with my favourite tenant & her two adorable cats.

    15. Temperance*

      Not that this will make you feel better, but I’m spending the weekend recovering from my last 3 weeks of insane work stuff. Cleaning my house, grocery shopping, etc.

    16. C Average*

      I am finishing my Halloween costume, which is ridiculous. I am dressing as Catbus from My Neighbor Totoro, and it is a huuuuge project. The front is a giant cat head that I wear (imagine one of those toddler pumpkin costumes, but adult sized and with a giant cat face on the front) and the back is a fake-fur-covered storage bin with windows cut out and paws hanging down. Four of the paws have dowels underneath with wheels at the bottom so that the bus can be pulled behind the head. Now I just have to figure out how to install headlights.

    17. Phoenix Feather*

      My husband and I took the day off to attend our county fair. It was Seniors Day, so even us middle-aged people got a discount and we didn’t have screaming hordes of sugared children attacking. It was quite nice – we got there at 10:15 am and spent two hours just moseying around. Went home for a nap, picked the kid up from school at 3pm, then went back to the fair with our unlimited rides wristbands and spent 4 hours going crazy. Finished with a cinnamon roll ice cream sundae for me and a churro ice cream sundae for the kid. I figure my 23,000 steps earned one little splurge!

      And that was our boring but traditional Columbus Day.

  9. Aurora Leigh*

    Last week I asked about introducing cats, and I just want to say I used your tips and it is going really well! There was some initial growling and hissing, but 3 says in and we are all hanging out together in a civil way!

    Thanks everybody!

  10. Sunflower*

    Wondering who I should go to get answers on these insurance questions. FYI I’m in the US.

    I really like my dentist but his office manager is terrible at billing. My mom and sister go to the same dentist and have told me she always screws up- often saying they owe hundreds when they really owe $50. Luckily I haven’t had to deal with it until very recently. I had my standard cleaning last week where she informed me I owe $300 from a procedure I had over a year ago. I told her I paid the amount she told me and she said she can only estimate the costs of things. I panicked and just paid the bill from my HSA. 2 days later, I asked for a detailed bill and I have no idea how to read it. Some things are billed as Ins write off with no dates while others have dates but the amounts don’t match up.

    So what do I do? To further complicate things, I got new insurance a few months after this procedure so I’m dealing with reimbursement from 2 different insurance companies. Should I send the bill to my insurance companies and ask them to check for accuracy?

    1. ArtK*

      Have you and your family raised these issues with the dentist? This is something that the dentist should know about, but won’t if you don’t speak up. Document each and every issue. Gather the bills showing the date discrepancies.

      Also, will the office bill insurance directly rather than you paying and then getting reimbursed?

    2. Sibley*

      In general when you have insurance:
      1. You go to the doctor/dentist. You pay any co-pays.
      2. Doctor/dentist submits claim to the insurance company.
      3. Insurance company processes claim, pays doctor/dentist as appropriate, and sends you an Explanation of Benefits (EOB). this tells you what was billed, any adjustments, what they paid, and what you’re responsible for.
      4. You pay the doctor/dentist whatever you’re supposed to. Some places will send a bill, others you have to track down.

      Anytime you have problems, confusion, etc – call the provider or the insurance company. Which one you call depends on what you’re looking at or what the problem is. If in doubt, call both.

      NEVER panic and pay. They can bill you.

    3. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Our dentist has us pay for the work in full that day and then submits the info to our insurance company for reimbursement. The check comes directly to us. You could check with your insurance company to see of you could do that with your dentist. But I wouldn’t trust them to submit for your reimbursement.

      Your insurance company should be sending you statements that include the amount billed, their portion, your portion, etc. If you no longer have that info you can request a copy from them. And they could help you make sense of the line items on the statement you have but they probably won’t fix it for you.

      1. Searching*

        The problem with paying the dentist in full up front is that you don’t get the benefit for any contractual discounts. Doing it that way only makes sense if: you’re on an indemnity plan, or the dentist isn’t part of your insurance plan’s network, or the dentist is diligent about paying you back for the insurance discount amount.

    4. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

      Yikes, sorry you’re dealing with this. My dentist’s office sucks at billing so I had to write a whole post about how to make sure not to be overbilled but I don’t know if it’s state specific. I would at the least get the insurance involved on what they will cover, including the past amount that you panic-paid, to see if they would have covered it and see if you can get reimbursed. As a general rule, wherever possible, I direct the office to bill insurance directly first and then I’d pay my remaining responsibility because sometimes they were billing for procedures they weren’t allowed to bill for more than once in two years and they then had to discount those items.

    5. ..Kat..*

      You definitely need your Explanation of Benefits from your insurance company. Since the dental receptionist is such a mess, call your insurance company and ask for it. If they don’t have it, verify whether insurance was ever billed. If they weren’t billed, send them the bill and proof of payment. Then insurance should reimburse you for the amount they usually pay. If they write you back telling you submitted it too late, I would go back to your dentist (not the receptionist) and tell him that the receptionist ‘s incompetence cost you money and ask for a refund.

      In the future, only pay health care bills AFTER you receive an EOB. They give you a bill, you tell them to bill your insurance company.

    6. Sunflower*

      Thanks for all this information!!! I will definitely directly call the insurance company(s) directly

    1. Ruffingit*

      WORST: Feeling really tired.

      BEST: Spending some quiet time at Panera Bread with my sweet husband.

    2. Aurora Leigh*

      BEST: My kitty and my new kitty don’t hate each other!

      WORST: My neighbor across the hall is practicing the drums . . .

    3. Al Lo*

      BEST: 4-day long weekend! Monday is Thanksgiving, and my office closed at noon yesterday.

      WORST: It snowed yesterday. NOT COOL, Mother Nature.

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        Happy Thanksgiving! Judging by the snow I’m going to guess you’re in Saskatchewan or the Hudson Bay area.

        1. Al Lo*

          Calgary. It won’t stick long, but it’s the first little skiff of the year. Super foggy today, too!

          1. Snazzy Hat*

            I know the feeling. I’m close to Niagara Falls, stateside, and we get unexpected snow a few times a year, in addition to substantial amounts. This year it snowed on April 2nd — I sent photos with the caption “Happy Spring! April Fool’s!” — but ten years ago (Oct 12th, I believe) we had a huge crippling blizzard dubbed the “October Surprise” on account of how many leaves were still on the trees.

    4. Caledonia*

      Best: lots of lovely times with my friends.

      Best/worst: lots of travelling coming up because I’m moving on Monday and urgh, unpacking and no internet until it gets installed. & taking my cat on a train.

      1. bassclefchick*

        BEST: Tonight we’re going to see Metropolis! Yes, the 1927 sci fi film. Our local arts center puts on a series of silent movies every year complete with vaudeville acts before the show and a live organist! No vaudeville tonight because Metropolis is a special showing, but we love seeing silent films.

        WORST: I had to learn the hard way that my digestive system does NOT care for the “coffee” provided at my new job. And that’s all I’m going to say about THAT. After a week of not being able to figure out what was wrong, I’m finally starting to feel better, though.

    5. Shayland (ActualName)*

      I’m going to do this in to-do list form:

      [x] Dramatic room cleaning, including bathroom
      [x] Dishes. ALL the dishes
      [x] Training with Storm
      [x] Dog Training Paperwork
      [x] Cooked rice
      [x] Made bread
      [x] Tidied up phone

      [ ] researched and wrote about 2 artists
      [ ] caught up on artists research for last week
      [ ] 1o large sketches
      [ ] 1 three hour long drawing
      [ ] sculpture glass hand project

      And also my dog peed on my freshly mopped floor.

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        Hell yeah, dramatic cleaning and ALL the dishes! {high-five}

        At least the dog didn’t pee on your freshly shampooed carpet?

    6. Mimmy*

      WORST: Poison ivy breakout from hell! (see below separate post)

      BEST: All the birthday wishes I got on Facebook for my birthday yesterday. I am 43! Yipes!

    7. Jen RO*

      Best: I took a day off on Friday to do nothing in particular but NOT work. I ended up running errands and cooking for most of the day, but the NOT WORK part was very relaxing.

      Good: Found out Boss is planning a big raise for a very competent coworker, and he let me tell her (I was very worried she would leave). Also, a bad coworker just gave notice!

      Worst: Nothing much, it’s been a pretty good week.

    8. LifeOrDeath*

      Best: got a kiss on the cheek from a lovely customer for helping her by typing for her – she has special needs and is oh so sweet.
      Worst: attended the funeral of a single mother (IVF baby donor father) who was an an only child herself. Her parents are caring for her child now but they are 70+ so tough decisions will probably need to be made in the near future. Life can be really cruel.

      1. Jean*

        Oy. You are right about life being really cruel sometimes. May the child find a loving & nurturing permanent home with a family supportive of an ongoing grandparents/grandchild relationship. (But if the grandparents are somehow toxic, may the family take the child’s side!)

        1. LifeOrDeath*

          The grandparents are wonderful people – I feel for them deeply – I can not fathom their grief

          1. Jean*

            I’m so sorry that they have this heartache. It’s absolutely terrible when parents have to bury their children. May they be granted many years to love their grandchild even if they cannot raise her themselves.

    9. Overeducated*

      Best: long weekend! We spent the day running errands and hanging out at home, and we STILL have two more days to have fun.

      Worst: still a bit sick this week, tired, and at a bit of a loss at work because my boss has been too busy to move along any of our projects. I have lots of ideas for how to fill my time thanks to this coming up a lot on AAM, but I had very little motivation to work on things that are only potentially useful in my head.

    10. QualityControlFreak*

      Best: Spouse’s cancer has not spread, surgery is next week, outlook very good for a complete cure.

      Worst: Recovery will not be fun. But all things considered? We’re good.

    11. Elkay*

      Best: Went out for dinner on Friday which always make the weekend seem longer. I also found a slow cooker meal I’m excited to try (mongolian beef).
      Worst: Super busy week at work. Had another baking disaster at home.

      1. caledonia*

        @ elkay I meant to comment last week about your baking but was too late. I am someone who likes to make and generally I am good at it. The times when I am bad at it is when I’m stressed, rushing, or trying too hard. Are any of those things possibly happening to you?

        Anyway, sorry to hear that your baking wasn’t successful.

        1. Elkay*

          No, that’s the weird thing! I’ve finally got time to bake, which is why I commented about the action being enjoyable. I’m using a new recipe book and I wonder about their testing because quantities for some stuff seems way out. I’ll keep going because the stuff isn’t inedible it’s just not quite right so disaster may be over-stating it slightly but the culmination of all the previous not-quite-rights I’m frustrated.

    12. Snazzy Hat*

      Best: Tied up a lot of loose ends around the house and in my personal life & job search. I’m recycling a bunch of old textbooks & throwing out a buttload of polystyrene (to be picked up monday). I have yard plans. Insect traps are in the basement & working effectively. I cleaned the glass & plastic parts of my car’s interior.

      Worst: I had to leave a workout halfway through because I felt like I was going to collapse. On my way to pick up my s.o. from work, my vision was so badly doubled (I hope because of the nap I had just awoken from) I was driving with one eye closed for ten miles on a highway. I missed a big cultural event today & missed out on spending time with one of my best friends who was working at the event. For supper this evening, s.o. & I baked a frozen pizza on pizza stones; we ruined the bottom of the pizza, possibly ruined the stones, & set off the smoke detector before even placing the frozen pizza on those stones.

    13. Jo*

      WORST: My job just ended my contract at the end of the probationary period with only a week’s notice; my employers have not yet told me whether they’ll leave my visa active for me to stay longer (currently living in another country) to line up another position; tomorrow is my last day and I still don’t know if I can stay or for how long or if they will expect me to be packed up and on a plane tomorrow.

      BEST: See above. No best.

    14. chickabiddy*

      Best: I think I have successfully installed CatBlock adblock on my computer, so ads are replaced with cats.
      Worst: I have had to buy new clothes in a new size, so now I am broke(ish) as well as fat.

      1. Ange*

        Worst: washing machine has finally died on me so now I have to replace it.
        Best: now I can get one where I don’t need to lean on the door to make it start!

    15. Windchime*

      Best: New job. :) After months of suffering from extreme anxiety and fear from my stressful work environment, I’ve found a new job on a great team. I gave my notice on Friday. I’m excited about the chance to buy new business-casual clothes and oddly enough, riding the bus into the Big City. It just seems so urban.

      Worst: I’ve been suffering from back and hip pain for several months and it’s getting old. I hope the doc can tell me what’s wrong when I go in this week.

    16. LizB*

      Best: Had a super fun girls’ night with a friend last night. We made dinner, drank wine, watched movies, and stayed up talking until 2am. It’s so nice to have friends I can open up to nearby, since all my close college friends moved elsewhere. I’m lucky I found her.

      Worst: I have that kinda-icky feeling that sometimes turns into a full-fledged cold and sometimes just peters out with no further symptoms. I really can’t afford to have it turn into a full-fledged cold right now… I have too much to do!

    17. Carmen Sandiego JD*

      Best: Autumn fun (e.g., fruit-picking, pumpkin harvesting, spice cider-drinking)

      Worst: Cousin’s extended stay in the hospital; cousin’s pain level is very high, and is young-ish with cancer and went through a lot up till now.

      Need happy vibes. And/or ideas for where to find artsy photos, pictures of kittens to send. Cousin texts but can’t move from the hospital bed :/

    18. C Average*

      BEST: Older stepdaughter had a great time at the homecoming dance last night and wanted to tell me all about it. After all she’s been through, it’s awesome to see her enjoying normal kid stuff so much.

      WORST: Realized that my planned trip to see my very conservative parents coincides with the final presidential debate. This should be interesting.

  11. Aurora Leigh*

    I’m starting to seriously think about buying my first house. I’m tired of renting, buying makes more financial sense in this area, and my new job means I can afford it.

    Today I drove by a really cute house with a yard that I’d love. Seriously, almost everything about this house is perfect, except you have to drive through a rough neighborhood to get there. There are no roads between this house and my job that don’t take you through the least desirable part of my town.

    It’s not drive by shooting bad . . . but in my low crime town, this is where crime happens.

    I’m a young single woman, and I’d be coming home from work after dark. I don’t want to be paranoid, but I do want to pragmatic.

    Why isn’t teleporting a thing yet???

    1. BobcatBrah*

      Driving through the rough part of town isn’t too much of an issue, so long as your neighborhood is safer.

      Of course there’s always the option to get a dog and a pistol.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        Wanting to have a big dog is one of the reasons I want a house! And a gun is a good idea too :)

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Here’s the thing about that–you never want to be the best house on the block. A rough neighborhood is probably not going to get better with time, and a house is much harder to get out of than a lease. Especially if you can’t sell it because it’s in/near a rough neighborhood.

      I understand, because I saw a cute-as-hell house when I was looking that I really really wanted to see. But there was a junkyard right down the street and that put me off. I knew if I ever wanted to sell it that potential buyers would probably react the same way I did.

      Keep looking.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        I should probably clarify . . . the actual neighborhood seems quite nice. There is one dumpy house, but the others seems well cared for. There’s just no good way to get from there to work and the grocery store.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      There are lots of things you can do to secure your home, such as lights on timers and/or motion detectors. Keep shrubbery away from the house, especially the doors, and so on.

      I can’t tell if the ride through the rough neighborhood bothers you or if getting out of the car once you are home bothers you more or it could be the grocery store, not sure.
      I suggest you make it a point to drive through the rough neighborhood during commute hours to see how you feel. If the grocery store bothers you, stop there and check it out. Ask the manager how often people ask to be escorted to their cars. (We have a store that has a sign up telling customers to ask for an escort if they are concerned.) Bring a friend or family member whose opinion you respect with you. It might entail losing a day or afternoon from work but it might be helpful in deciding.

      I have one more suggestion. If this is the first or almost first house you have looked at then wait. I found it helpful that we looked at about 5-6 houses and that firmed up in my mind what I wanted that was within my price range.

      I live in one of the safest places I have ever lived in my life. That does not mean it is without problems here and there. But I can tell you first hand there were nights when I got out of work at 11 or midnight and I was a little on edge going from the car to the house. I did finally train my brain that I was probably okay. However, I learned that if I am tired/worried/stressed that fear can come right back up again.

      It is only in your best interest that you put yourself where you feel reasonably sure you are safe. You will find many cute houses, each one so very different and no house has everything you want. Put safety at the top of your list.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        It is the drive there that bugs me. I have lived in or near this town most of my life, so I know my way to and from the stores and such.

        My mother can be a somewhat paranoid person and her fear of this particular part of town is something I grew up with. Logically, I know my cars doors lock and the liklihood of breaking down in the middle of the street and something unsavory happening is super slim . . .

        But the house and neighborhood itself seems safer than where I currently live in the “good” part of town.

        Plus, it’s on the edge of town with a large lot on a dead end street, all the major repairs have been done and it’s just so darn cute!

        I think I will hit up my most unbiased friend to come look at it with me and get her thoughts. Thanks!

    4. nonprofit manager*

      I live in a similar circumstance. I feel like my neighborhood is generally safe and it’s quiet. I have no concerns parking my car in the driveway and walking to the house or leaving house windows open, even overnight. And I sometimes get up in pre-dawn hours to walk around the neighborhood. Sometimes I walk in the evenings, but I am more of a morning exerciser.

      But I drive through various levels of yuck to get home. Depending on the direction I am coming from, it ranges from not so bad to a little more nerve-wracking. I won’t lie: I am less comfortable at certain times than others. Late at night, I am worried about people loitering around and drunk drivers in one particular area, especially because there seem to always be horrific car crashes in that area. And I tend to run after-work errands closer to work, which is a nicer part of town. The grocery store nearest to home is actually quite nice, but a lot of creeps loiter in the evenings (daytime hours are fine). Once or twice when driving from the really yucky direction, I felt uncomfortable and drove to the police station instead of my house.

      I agree with Not So New Reader. You should keep looking. Also drive in and out of that neighborhood at times you normally would to get a feel for it. Safety (perceived and actual) is really, really important.

    5. Sami*

      Even though I live in a very safe town and neighborhood, as a single woman living alone I do occasionally get the heebie-jeebies. (Probably I read too many mysteries:))
      Anyway I have a dog- she wouldn’t attack anyone but she’d alert me. I have an attached garage which I close before I get out of my car. I have a huge light (almost the size of a streetlight) on one corner of my house that’s on all night. Over my garage door (opposite side of the house from the other light) are motion detector lights. Backyard also has m. d. lights. Plus a 6ft. privacy fence with a locked gate. And I keep a golf club next to each door and my bed.

      1. ..Kat..*

        You sound very sensible and aware. Just remember, after you have any work people in your house (repair people, delivery people, etc), check all your windows and doors and make sure none of them “became ” unlocked. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you not to let strangers in your home – not even nuns collecting for orphans who just need a bathroom or a glass of water !

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Repair people. You might be able to lessen some of the concerns there by hiring people who have worked for friends. The deeper the roots in the community go, the more motivated a person is to be ethical and do business honestly. Tap the power of relationships.

          I tell people about my friend who helped me with my house. My friend does not want me mad at him. I don’t want to have problems with the people I referred him to. This leads to everyone speaking clearly with each other and setting expectations so that a working relationship can be in place for years to come. Being up front has been super helpful. And I end up hiring people who are not really strangers, as they are connected to my friends, too.

    6. smokey*

      If you go for it the most dangerous time is probably at red lights. This is a serious suggestion: time the lights, try not to stop, and if you do try to be in the lane not beside the sidewalk. I recognize that sounds paranoid but that is just what people DO in that situation. And of course maintain your car. And honestly, even bad neighborhoods aren’t usually as bad as they look, but of course idk where you live. I’m from a really high-crime area so my suggestion might actually be too much.

    7. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      You should always be safe and take precautions, but having spent my formative years in a small rural city, and then moving to Washington, DC as an adult, I feel like people way overblow the idea of “rough” neighborhoods. Especially since so often it’s just a shorthand for racism (not to say that’s the case with you or anyone else on here! It is just *often* the case). I’ve spent a lot of time consciously training myself out of biases that led me to think I was unsafe in my “rough” neighborhood, but one you’ve lived there a bit, people “loitering” just become your neighbors who like to, you know, hang out and live their lives. Most people don’t want to hurt most people. Absolutely don’t make yourself an easy target for people seeking to do bad, but do try to allow for the idea that most of the people you see in your “rough” neighborhood are just people trying to live their lives.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        Thanks, this is the issue I was struggling with.

        I used to work in a “rough” area in a public facing role, and got to know the regulars that lived in less desirable areas. Lots of them were just decent people down on their luck. Some of them would be more likely to help a stranger in need, because they’ve been there themselves. Others turned to violence or threats of violence to solve their problems.

        Ultimately I don’t think I’ll be going with this particular house, for other unrelated reasons, but it did make me consider my own underlying biases.

  12. 100% anon for this!*

    I’m really not sure who else to ask this question, it’s super embarrassing… say you have an adult “personal massager” that you no longer want. How do you dispose of it? My city (and me) is super into recycling everything properly, but I’m not sure it would be received well at the electronics recycling depot. It’s also barely been used, but cost about $100… so I guess I could sell it, but that seems really unhygienic. I don’t want to toss it in the garbage, as that seems like a waste (lol that was an accidental pun). Any ideas?

    1. Minta*

      Hm. Could you safely disassemble it and recycle the less obvious parts? Toss the others? Bury it in the back yard? I imagine this is the sort of thing many people just end up keeping packed away in some box because they don’t know what to do with it (or, like in my case with mobile phones, they’re just kinda lazy about it).

      Could you put it in someone else’s recycling and let them take the fall for it? LOL! I’m kidding (sort of).

      Would someone truly know the source if you just put it in recycling?

      I’ll be curious to see others’ advice.

      1. 100% anon for this*

        I love your ideas! I live in an apartment otherwise I would totally bury it in my backyard :p

      2. manderw*

        As an archaeologist I find the “bury it in the backyard” solution hilarious. It would really liven up a boring excavation to find the Victorian equivalent of a Rampant Rabbit…

    2. LCL*

      Take the batteries out and dispose of them in the approved drop off place, and throw the rest of the thing in the trash. No doubt you could list it on Craig’s list and someone will want it, but you won’t want to take those calls!

    3. Anonymous too*

      I had one that quit working, and I threw it in the garbage. Nobody wants to handle that! Make sure you remove the batteries and toss it with a clear conscience.

    4. the gold digger*

      I know Primo drove around town until he found a dumpster behind a grocery store where he could toss his parents’ boxes of porn books. I have to ask him what he did with the equipment!

      (He shredded the photos of naked Sly and Doris using the equipment.)

      (No child – even an adult child – should ever have to find photos of his parents naked and using equipment.)

      1. Clever Name*

        My uncle’s condo had a garbage chute, so I got rid of his literature and personal items that way before my mom came across them. That was fun. :/

      2. Jean*

        I have interesting mental images of the Quest for Disposal Privacy. How horrible to be driving around with a car full of this sludge!

        To anyone else facing this problem, if it happens in September, arrange for a “what NOT to do” book burning in conjunction with Banned Books Week. Minor problem (pun not intended, ha ha): How to conceal the illustrations until they’re consumed by flames?

        * Brought to you by the ALA (American Library Association).

      3. 100% anon for this!*

        My parents are super conservative… I’m already worried about what I’m going to find that they’ve hidden their whole lives…

    5. Pershing48*

      Ehh, I wouldn’t sweat it. We’re talking about maybe 2 pounds of plastic that’s very compact, won’t leach harmful chemicals and won’t harm wildlife? After the batteries are removed, of course.

      I’ve grown to take a much more…relaxed attitude toward recycling ever since I started working in a chemical factory. For liquid sampling we use 8oz glass jars that are strictly one time use, they have to be thrown away when we’re done using the liquid. I personally use maybe 15 of these daily. One test I run a few times a day requires to me to cool down the apparatus by leaving a faucet constantly running for an hour. I remember when we had a leak in one of our tanks we had to fill and drain a 250,000 gal tank full of city water multiple times to make sure our welds would hold.

      I don’t mean to discourage you, but it’s just something I’ve seen. Same thing was true with food when I worked in a grocery store, every day we had to throw >50 lbs of chicken away from the hot bar.

        1. Pershing48*

          We use those for recirulating cooling water for some reactor vessels, but I was referring to a small bench distiller, probably not practical to get a chiller for such a small size.

      1. 100% anon for this!*

        Yeah, I try to do the right thing for the environment but I’ve also worked places where it just seems like all my efforts are pointless. SO MUCH food waste in the hospitality industry. We would throw out buckets of food each night… but were forced to pay for our dinners?! I always felt really angry about being forced to pay for food that was going to be thrown out anyway….

        Then, on the flip side, I worked as a housekeeper for a while at a national hotel chain and learned that they only washed the comforters and flannel blankets …. once a quarter …. maybe all the water saved from not washing makes up for some of the other terrible things?!

    6. Girasol*

      You could garage sale it. (Kidding!) When I was just beyond teenager-dom I reached into a box at a flea market to identify some odd item I couldn’t quite see and pulled out a huge and quite anatomically correct dildo. I’d never seen one before. After a moment of gaping at it I jammed it back in, red faced, and hoped no one was looking.

  13. AnotherAnon*

    I’ll be traveling cross-country for business on and off between mid-October and mid-December. My trips will range from as short as 2-3 days to as long as 7-8 days gone at a time. This is new for me; any pro travelers have any helpful hints or website suggestions?

    1. BRR*

      From people I know who travel a lot the two recommendations that come to mind are good luggage and good headphones.

      1. Cristina in England*

        And backup pairs of headphones stashed in different places! I have a couple pairs of the Panasonics mentioned in here (the $14 budget pick): thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-headphones-under-40/

        1. BRR*

          I have the same ones and love those. I have a super long commute via train and they’re lifesaving.

    2. Cristina in England*

      With lots of trips planned I would aim to minimise the packing and unpacking of essential items so as to lessen the chance of forgetting something. Get an extra set of phone chargers and keep them in your suitcase. Ditto for essential toiletries. Instead of packing my electric toothbrush and charger I bought an Oral B electric toothbrush that takes AA batteries.

      I have been thinking of getting a portable clothes line for travel, since if I have to wash something in a hotel sink I never have a good place to hang it up. You can get ones with two twisted lines that you don’t need pegs for.

      1. zora.dee*

        Yes to doubling everything. I got a bunch of small travel toiletries, emptied some of them out, and refilled everything from the containers I use every day. For small things (facial moisturizer) I just bought a second, toothbrush, same. So, I never had to actually pack bathroom stuff, I had a bag ready to go with everything I needed, just had to throw into my suitcase.

        Also do stuff on the road to make your life easier, if you need to spend extra for dinner close to the hotel, just do it. The extra hour of sleep is totally worth it.

    3. nep*

      Driving or flying, or some of each?
      A few things that immediately come to mind: Ziplock bags are a traveler’s best friend. Drink lots of water before and during travel. Have some flax seed bars or some such on hand as travel can sometimes cause irregularity. (Or whatever helps you in that regard.) If you exercise regularly, have a toolbox of moves you can do at your hotel; nothing like staying and feeling fit to help you stay on top of your game at work.

    4. ChemMoose*

      1. Packing Cubes! They will organize your packing and make it easier to “live out of your suitcase” should you need to.

      2. Good carry-on bag. I’d suggest a roller since they aren’t as bad on your back.

    5. smokey*

      Bring silverware and a Tupperware if there’s a chance of eating leftovers in the hotel some nights (you can pack in the Tupperware so it doesn’t take up as much room in your suitcase). Those giant styrofoam boxes of leftovers never fit in the minifridge. Bring scissors and tape. You will need scissors and tape. I am a fan of taping the curtains closed because they never come together right, no matter what tier of hotel you’re at.

      1. smokey*

        Oh, and EARPLUGS. Especially if you work weekends.

        Sorry if that’s basic advice but it’s the kind of stuff most people don’t think about until they’re living a hotel on someone else’s schedule. For a long time.

    6. Thinking out loud*

      Pick one hotel brand and one airline group and try to get ask your travel booked with them if possible.

      Buy an extra toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and deodorant. If you wear contacts, get an extra case and (<3 oz) solution. Pack these in a cosmetics bag so you don't ever forget them. Also buy an extra phone charger that can live in your suitcase.

  14. MissGirl*

    I have a few questions that I think are going to come up more with a recent career change. I am currently getting my MBA so my cohorts are all in their twenties and thirties, which means any get-together we have include a good amount of alcohol. I don’t drink for religious purposes, but I’m fine with being around people who are. I just sip a water. I’ve noticed that the class has become a bit segregated and that I’m left off a lot of invites to parties or happy-hours. I’m not sure if this is just because of my personality or if there’s an assumption that I don’t want to come because I won’t drink. It’s been a bit frustrating feeling like everyone in my class is forming friendships without me. The women have especially bonded because there’s so few of us, but I’m not included in their activities. How do I address this or gain a more closeness?

    I considered having my own party but have my doubts people will come (I live a little farther out). And though I’m fine with being at someone’s house with alcohol, I wouldn’t be comfortable with it being served at mine. Would people be disappointed in being invited to a party where there wouldn’t be alcohol? I’ve tried inviting people to things that are not party related like going hiking (we are a very strong outdoor community) but haven’t gotten a lot of attendance.

    1. BRR*

      My husband doesn’t drink and just made it known and earned the reputation during grad school that while he doesn’t drink it’s just his preference and doesn’t care if others drink. I think it took others a bit to not feel weird about it because it can sometimes feel weird to drink around others who don’t (it took me a little while). Do you care if others drink and if no is that coming off clearly? There’s also a sort of randomness in terms of how people form friendships. A sort of “he’s just not that into you” thing but with friends.

      From the sounds of things I wouldn’t throw a party both for distance and it sounds like your classmates would prefer alcohol.

    2. Tex*

      I was in the same position as you (non-drinker) in my program. My friends loved me going out with them because they had a default designated driver. Some people use the MBA program as a last gasp at undergrad behavior and other people just go along with it because they have no other plans. But if the bar scene/staying out late isn’t your thing…maybe you could throw a couple of intimate, grown-up dinner parties for a few people (6-8) at a time. The right people would love it. Also, I found the married couples to be more mature acting than the singles.

      1. ..Kat..*

        I will no longer drive my own car as a designated driver. I am tired of cleaning vomit out of it (and you know the drunks won’t help). You just can’t get the smell out. You want me to be a designated driver, I will drive your car. Then you can clean your car the next day.

    3. MissGirl*

      Thanks for the comments. I was at an event last week with a few other students who mentioned all these activities they were doing that I had no idea about. Hard to be the odd man out. While it might be a difference in lifestyle, it might also be that everyone is coupled and so they’re socializing as a a couple. It’s so easy to include only those who you have lots of commonalities without realizing you’re excluding others. I’ll have to remember that if ever I’m the one organizing things. The few things I’ve tried to do didn’t get much steam without having those friendships.

    4. Lily Evans*

      Instead of having a party when you live out of the way, could you invite a group of people to do something social that doesn’t involve alcohol? Like going out for coffee, or a group meal? Or if you don’t mind going to bars even though you don’t drink, you could suggest an activity at a bar that doesn’t automatically include drinking (like trivia), to show that you’re open to going to places that serve alcohol even though you won’t be drinking.

      1. Carrie...*

        Organize a brunch. Your place, or go out. Even young drinkers don’t usually drink at brunch…. especially when they are hung over from the night before.

        And who doesn’t love brunch?

    5. LCL*

      We are not all drinkers in the US, even though it may seem so. I drink, and I would appreciate being told there won’t be alcohol at your party, because I always bring a bottle as a hostess gift. I would bring you flowers or good coffee instead. (I assumed US because of the MBA and the way you use English, apologies if I’m wrong.)

    6. MissGirl*

      Thanks for all the suggestions. I’m such an awkward person socially to begin with, making connections is always more difficult.

    7. ..Kat..*

      Would you be okay throwing a get together at your place that is BYOB? Let them know you’ll provide ice, mixers, soft drinks, plastic cups. Since you’re not buying booze, tell them you’ll splurge on good munchies!

  15. Anonymous Poster*

    To those on the US East Coast- there’s a night rocket launch from Wallops that should vee visible from North Carolina up to Boston. It’s at 9:13pm on Thursday, and should be visible on a clear night. It’s quite a sight if you’ve never seen a launch before!

    Look from where you are to the southern tip of Maryland and Delaware, you should be able to see the rocket plume clearly.

    1. Cristina in England*

      Wow, I had no idea that you could see stuff like this from that far away, I will tell my family to look out for it. Thanks!

  16. A Large Cantelope*

    (Regular going anon): My husband and I decided we’re not participating in gift giving with my side of the family anymore (we live on opposite sides of the country). The final straw was when 8 of my family members came to a significant event for us empty-handed (and it wasn’t the first time). The expense of flying out and staying in a hotel doesn’t even mitigate it because one person paid for everyone else (all adults who could reasonably be expected to pay their own way), and we would’ve been fine with just a card of well-wishes. There’s been a pattern of non-reciprocity that’s led to hurt feelings, and to top it off, they are super-judgmental about other people’s gift-giving–they make snide remarks about other family members being “moochers who just show up to eat” and react with disdain to the idea that everything on a “wishlist” shouldn’t be $100+.

    My family is super-into Christmas (mountain of presents under the tree, spending thousands of dollars, etc.), and as we’ve gotten older my husband and I have come to gradually started pulling back (we tried to suggest Secret Santa, taking a group vacation instead of presents, etc.), and we ultimately realized the easiest thing is to just opt-out. There are underlying family dynamics and unspoken expectations that we’ve been playing into, and at over 9+ months pregnant, I am completely out of f*cks to give and don’t care if people think we’re being petty.

    I’m really not looking for advice (see: 9+ months pregnant), but if you have want to commiserate about dysfunctional families or holiday craziness (why is it starting already?), have at it.

    1. BRR*

      It sounds like you’re taking the advice I would have given. Just opting out seems to make the most sense.

      1. A Large Cantelope*

        Yeah, this is a very reasonable group of commenters; I just wanted to ward off (surely well-intentioned) advice because 1) pregnancy hormones and 2) there’s a lot I left out to avoid doxxing.

    2. Stellaaaaa*

      Family dynamics surrounding holidays can be nightmares to navigate. I’m a big proponent of recognizing when it’s time to step away and form your own traditions.

      1. A Large Cantelope*

        That’s what we’re excited to do, especially since we are an interfaith, yet very secular couple–having a baby on the way (who we’re not planning to raise in the dominant religion) makes this a good time to do our own thing and not feel guilty about it.

    3. Dee*

      I sympathize! I went through a similar process myself and it was awful. For what it’s worth once I got used to giving no f-s it was pretty exhilarating because in my family at least the agro was the same, but I saved all the energy I used to spent caring and doing which gave me free time and money to spend on exactly what I wanted when I wanted. And once I was rested (it took 5 years, so hang in there) eventually I began enjoying opting out and telling people what I really think. Good luck with your process, I hope it’s no worse than it’s been :)

      1. A Large Cantelope*

        So glad to hear a success story! That’s exactly what I want–to spend money out from under the sense of obligation or “but faaaamily!” (credit to Captain Awkward). I came to a realization (and shared it with my sister, who’s been having a similar family challenge) that we’re expected to tolerate a lot of treatment we wouldn’t put up with from strangers, and I just don’t want to anymore.

        1. Dee*

          If it helps, my new favourite motto is that I don’t worry about being rude to rude people – not that I’m actively super rude just that if I’m being pressured or guilted into something I point it out while also saying no. Something I just plain say no, or “I’m not going to do that,” turns out thier anger from that is the same or less annoying than their pressure to do what they want me to do. Hang in thier! You’ll find your way

    4. Fiona the Lurker*

      My Other Half’s family ended up setting a limit, which means they actually only give each other ‘token presents’ / something to open; the limit hasn’t kept pace with the cost of living so effectively it’s a modest bottle of wine/ box of chocolates/pair of socks or something similar each year. This is because they’re all adults, though – the rules for children are a bit different; again we have a set amount and stay as close to it as possible, but it’s a higher limit! Basically everybody knows ‘how much’ to expect but not precisely ‘what’, and it’s all about as drama-free as you could wish.

      NB: the dramas in our family centre around who is going where and to visit whom, and who is doing the cooking. As we recently moved some distance from our family we’ll be doing the travelling this year – but staying independent by sleeping in our motorhome.

      1. A Large Cantelope*

        We tried suggesting that (along with saving money spent on gifts and going on a family vacation instead), but got shot down. All of the people involved are adults (I’m the first in my family to have a kid), but I think since several of them have their gift-giving bankrolled by someone else (my mom literally buys gifts and puts my siblings’ names on them), they don’t really feel the impact of trying to meaningfully buy for 10+ people. The only people they are expected to spend money on are themselves.

        1. Ouch*

          Wow. The first thing we did was have our mother stop giving the adult children presents. She only gave to the grandchildren. The adults did the presents in the middle and you pick/steal. And as the grandchildren got older they did their own.

          1. Al Lo*

            We do an exchange on my dad’s side extended family — with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. It started about 15 years ago, and every year is about a $40 limit. Pretty reasonable, both for finding something to put on a wish list, and for what we have to spend. It was always understood that each set of aunts and uncles got the kids presents until they graduated from high school, and then they joined the gift exchange. Interestingly, my youngest cousin opted into the exchange early, since he felt weird being the only one to still get more “kid gifts” from the aunts/uncles (which really only amounted to 2 or 3 gifts, rather than 1 exchange gift).

    5. EmmaLou*

      It IS really hard to opt out of family expectations. We decided to just stop buying gifts a few years ago, none for nieces and nephews, and not being a part of the adult name draw and exchange. Money was tight and we noticed that really, the kids got a TON of gifts–think 40 people at Christmas and all Aunts, Uncles and grown cousins bought gifts for every person under 18 so each kid would get at least eight presents each Christmas from that one gathering. Then at the end of the gathering each kid would walk around to say goodbye and thank you but have no idea who gave them what or at that point really, what they’d unwrapped. We thought “Surely there are kids somewhere who would really love the gifts we buy who don’t get so much.” So we let the word out that we were not buying gifts any longer. It was shocking and stressful, especially as I love, love, love to buy gifts, but such a relief now. I do desperately miss getting to wrap our gifts as places that want gifts want them unwrapped for obvious reasons, but we like to think that some kids are having a bit better holiday. So, good for you! Happy, happy wishes for the new little human in your lives!

      1. A Large Cantelope*

        Thanks! In my case, the “kids” in your story are now in their early twenties and have yet to experience not being able to have something because they can’t afford it. I used to get so judgy when my mom would complain to me about their spending habits (and then bankroll them anyway); now I’ve decided to just spend my own money how I see fit and keep my mouth shut.

    6. It happens*

      Would you feel better if you listened to the dear prudence podcast? An episode recently had a letter from a woman in her 50s who was adopted and then her parents had three biological children. Whole childhood and family life seemed fine and normal and loving. Then she saw her parents will. They left everything (not a lot) to their natural children; nothing to her. She wrote the family about how hurtful it was. No response. First contact from family- so have you started to make the plans to host the 50 of us for Thanksgiving?
      So, hey, it could be a lot worse. And soon you and your husband will have lots more important things to deal with rather than adults being greedy at Christmas.
      Sounds like you have a good support system and you’ll get through it.

    7. Ruffingit*

      Good for you! To hell with the obligatory gift giving especially when dealing with toxic relatives who will never be happy with what is given anyway. Use the money for your baby and move along. These people aren’t worth it.

    8. Mazzy*

      I don’t really have a bad family dynamics, but presents are down close to zero at this points, and modest for kids. We tend to buy what we want when we need it. We also had a few hoarders in the family so our relationship to stuff has changed since the last one died and we had dumpsters full of their stuff.

      Then there is the whole so many things are cheaper and more accessible these days, which just makes people go out and buy there own stuff, and then there is nothing left to give at Christmas. Remember before the internet when it was a fun hunt to hunt down some obscure book or movie or album or toy or whatever? Now, not only can you find it in a bunch of places online, but you can participate in auctions and negotiate and find things at steep discounts.

      So great for business, but there went the magic of Christmas presents.

      1. A Large Cantelope*

        Such a good point! We have Amazon Prime, so waiting a month for something we could have delivered (for free!) in 2 days seems pretty silly.

    9. Beezus*

      My family switched to Secret Santa a decade ago, and I think we might finally make the switch to kids-only this year. I love it!

      My in-laws, on the other hand, still do gifts for everyone. There’s no stated amount, it’s just whatever your budget allows. I hate it – I am getting mad just thinking about it. I brought up doing secret santa a couple of years ago, and my eldest sister-in-law threw a fit and said she wanted us all to keep buying for everyone because faaaaaaamily and tradition and CHRISTMAS. There are FOURTEEN of us, and only 5/14 are children. Half of the adults can’t well afford to buy that many gifts, and they struggle to buy token gifts for everyone. I’m hard to buy for, apparently, and I wind up with a lap full of token presents that I don’t even want, meanwhile knowing that the givers struggled to be afford them. It’s not a good feeling.

      It’s probably too late to change anything this year, but I’m going to speak up again and lobby to switch to buying for kids only next year. I know I can put my foot down and say that’s all my husband and I will be doing, and I know he’ll back me up on that, but it would be me pushing for it, and it feels wrong to be the one driving change to a family tradition on his side, so I’d take a softer approach.

    10. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

      I quit doing presents for my family years ago (it didn’t make sense since I was supporting them, they felt bad that they didn’t have money to reciprocate, etc). Now I’m hoping we can gradually quit being so presents-focused in the other family because it’s just not fun at all and a lot of last minute work before we travel.

      1. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

        Oops, hit send before I finished. There’s been a lot of poor family dynamic with regard to gift giving and where the money comes from (we aren’t bankrolled and that’s all I can say about that), and we aren’t even Christian so the whole thing is silly. The sooner we can stop wasting time and money on buying gifts that we can very well get for ourselves, the sooner I can enjoy the holidays again. Until that happens, I’m going to be silently protesting by making up wishlists of totally practical things like scotch tape and staples. Signed, the Grinch.

        Also, happy welcome to your baby when ze arrives!

    11. MsChanandlerBong*

      My husband and I solved our holiday woes by moving 2,000 miles away. We “attend” our friends’ Secret Santa party via Skype and video chat with my mom and dad on Christmas. His family? We send Christmas cards, but that’s it.

      The last straw for me was when I bought gifts for all the kids in the family and then received a call telling me, “If you bring gifts, don’t give them out until everyone is leaving. Just keep them in your trunk and hand them out as people are walking out of the house. Teapot Terror gets jealous and throws a fit if she sees other people opening presents.” Teapot Terror can throw a fit all she wants. Hiding the fact that other kids are getting gifts is not going to teach her how to deal with her feelings. (And she gets TONS of gifts; she could get 50 gifts and then start bawling because her brother got one).

    12. ..Kat..*

      I think you’re smart. Just tell everyone that you and hubby are going to focus on the spiritual meaning of Christmas- you won’t be giving material gifts, and of course you don’t want anyone giving you any. Send a religious holiday card to all. Then stick to your guns. There likely will be wailing, protesting, gnashing of teeth. Just say that’s what you and hubby decided and change the subject. Don’t argue,just change the subject. And if they still want to debate or complain, say you have to go. Hang up the phone or leave the premises. If you are foolish enough to have invited them to your house, get their coats and escort them to the door. It makes it easier to be firm and not cave when you realize you only have to do this for about 5 minutes maximum. After that, they have stopped their whining, or you have hung up/left their home/escorted them our of your home and locked the door. Repeat as necessary.

      The Captain Awkward blog has some helpful ideas, scripts, etc. Good luck and hold fast. You are also setting important boundaries for after the baby is born.

      1. ..Kat..*

        Oops, sorry. You did not want advice. Consider my advice to mean “…information about my dysfunctional family (they took the “fun” out of dysfunctional)…nothing new, just same old crap…stick to your guns…) :)

        1. A Large Cantelope*

          It’s OK. We are very secular and live over 2000 miles away, so no awkward in-person encounters to plan for. :-)

    13. C Average*

      I’m having a hard time with gifts this year, too.

      I grew up in a family that really valued gift-giving. We didn’t give a LOT of gifts or necessarily really expensive gifts, but we’d each pay a lot of attention to one another’s likes and dislikes, and we’d really strive to find the right gift. We all, to this day, take a lot of delight in giving and receiving gifts for holidays, birthdays, and no particular occasion.

      I married into a family that’s lackadaisical at best about gifts, and my stepkids haven’t been socialized to think about giving gifts or to express gratitude for them. I’ve done my utmost to set an example here. I used to take them shopping for gifts for their mom and dad for birthdays, the holidays, and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but the result was incessant whining and me picking out something without much or any input from them. They’re 11 and 14 now, and I don’t even try anymore.

      The older one and I have a somewhat fraught relationship. She’s been through a lot (eating disorder, self-harm, trauma, alienation from her mom by her choice) and is very emotionally guarded. She has never expressed gratitude for anything I’ve given her, and makes a point to leave gifts from me lying around where I can see that they’re neither appreciated nor used. I feel like she’d prefer that I not get her gifts.

      The younger one LOVES getting gifts from me. She always thanks me, and seems to really value the things I get for her.

      Obviously the solution isn’t to quit giving gifts to the older one and continue giving them to the younger one. I can’t imagine that would go over well. That’s advice column fodder: “My wicked stepmother buys my sister gifts but gets nothing for me.”

      I’ve actually reached out to the older one’s therapist for insights on how to deal with this, because every single year it really stresses me out. Still waiting to hear back. I hope she has some good ideas, because I am fresh out.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Would it be easier on you to just give her something like an iTunes gift card or something else you know she’ll use? I hate giving gift cards, but I make an exception for teenagers because they can be so tricky.

        1. C Average*

          I’ve done that before, but she has never used any of them. They’re all still in a stack in the kitchen junk drawer. I could probably give her the same one every year and she wouldn’t know the difference.

          Hmmmm . . . :/ That’s not a bad idea.

          (Actually, this year I think I will get her a 23andme kit, because every time the commercial comes on she talks about how interesting she thinks it would be to see her results. It’s kind of a weird gift, but based on her comments, I think she’d actually find it interesting.)

          1. Carrie...*

            Actually, that sounds like a good gift, and shows you are really paying attention.

            FYI – this isn’t about you. The poor girl…. estranged from her mother at 14? Sounds like she is in a terrible place. Honestly, the last thing you should be worrying about is gifts. That isn’t what she needs. She needs stability, constancy from adults in her life. Just listen.

            1. C Average*

              This is a good reminder of the proper priorities. Thank you. She sleeps well at night. She eats well and takes pleasure in food, something I feared she’d never do again. She went to her first high school dance last night and looked beautiful and had a great time with her friends. She has stopped wearing bracelets because she’s no longer cutting her wrists. She wants to attend a Broadway musical on our next trip to the east coast. She’s come so far. I should stop being a nitwit about her lack of enthusiasm over whatever thing I’ve procured for her. There are so many other reasons to be encouraged and to keep trying.

              1. Jenn*

                For what it’s worth, I’m a (now adult, mid-30s) daughter who doesn’t care about gifts when my younger sister does. I think it’s partly temperament and partly different life experiences – I’ve had some series physical and mental health issues (including bulimia) and honestly stuff just doesn’t matter to me. It’s hard to take it seriously when my entire life all that has mattered is life itself :) I really appreciated my parents support and all the coaches and art and music teachers in my life – they helped me develop skills to be proud of and resiliency that matters so much more to me than stuff. My sister, however, is a collector and has always had a much more private inner life and loves her stuff and having stuff and arranging stuff. I think it’s just different interests, but it’s also possible it’s related to our personal health journeys and relationships with our parents (I don’t think my sister understand how lucky she is, for instance, and think she focuses on the wrong things, but my parents love and support her and her interests just the same as mine.

                1. C Average*

                  This is really interesting and helpful! I hope you don’t mind me asking a few follow-up questions, because there are so many parallels between your experience and my stepkids’ that I really want to know more.

                  How old were you when you realized this about yourself? Did you share your insights with your family? How would you have felt about them tapering off on gifts for you and continuing to give material gifts to your sister?

                  I really do feel like the things I buy for the older girl are not wanted and are even burdensome to her, which is very much not my intent. The things I buy for her–and they’re things that tie in with her interests, not just arbitrarily chosen tchotchkes–sit around and collect dust. She leaves them around the house in a way that feels downright passive-aggressive, as if to say, “Look how little I care about the crap you buy for me.” (And I often mentally append, “and look how little I care about you,” which may or may not be accurate.)

                  The younger one quite clearly loves getting stuff.

                  I typically buy winter holiday gifts and birthday gifts, and if I travel somewhere interesting I try to bring home a small souvenir for everyone.

                  It does not seem like an option to give one of them gifts and not the other. That just feels gross.

                  When you were growing up, is there a way the adults in your life could have handled gift-giving occasions that would have reassured you that you hadn’t been forgotten and were very much loved, but wouldn’t leave you with stuff you didn’t want and that didn’t feel like the giver understood your needs?

                  I have tried giving experiential gifts like classes and outings instead, but I can’t tell whether she actually enjoys those or is just going along. And if I ask her if she wants anything, she shrugs and says, “Not really.”

                2. Jenn*

                  I apologize for replying to myself, looks like we can’t nest further. I’d be happy to answer what I can – I realized sometime in my early 20s – definetly by 23-24, and actively tried to get presents to stop. Birthdays and Easter were no problem, and Christmas turned purely functional because I was at the age and income where upgrading stuff was helpful if a bit weird :) we also tried stuff like stockings which made me feel nuts because of all the garbage and clutter, I honestly just started receiving gratefully, eating and using it while visiting and throwing it in the dumpster on the way home. My mom also tried stuff like Christmas decorations and other semi-functional items but eventually I had another (unrelated, don’t worry!) health crisis and I started gratefully taking money/gifts of upgraded health services (massage etc) so I guess it’s swung back around. I was pretty clear with them from as soon as I realized it, but honestly it was pretty easy because I totally trust and appreciate them which was the whole point :) so, maybe try reframing it in your head as being grateful that your gift to her is your total unwavering support (which builds self esteem and resiliency and adaptability) and ask her how she’d like to be appreciated. You can be honest about the budget if you want (that’s how my parents managed to give me one big gift as a teen and my sister many little ones, by explaining budgets and then trying to give me something I’d like, which I did, I was just also very annoyed by it) and offer her the control? I’ll go back and check your questions and respond again…

                3. Jenn*

                  A couple more thoughts – it’s possible she’s testing your patience and financial boundaries as well if she’s used to being house inf insecure and with a mentally ill parent. If she’s a concenitious kid, who’s trying to do well, and it sounds like she is! She might be aware of the limits that mental illness places on some relationships (emotional energy) and the financial limits of the family (cost of western medicine as well as complimentary and alternative therapies are an added expense that really separates people’s health on economic lines) so I suppose if that’s the case the therapist can help. If it’s really the case she doesn’t want gifts I’d totally roll with it and just be honest about how different people express love in different ways. In my case it was easy to accept the gifts I was given because I knew it mattered and they really did try, but I was also from a more stable family and friend group with lots of money so I’m not sure how that compares. Happy to answer more!

                4. Jenn*

                  One more thought! In regards to how to make her feel included it’s probably all stuff you already do – include the kids in whatever they are interested in that fits the equation – sewing decorations for holidays, planning menus (well, depending on how the eating disorder is going I suppose), planning entertainment, planning scheduling, picking games or movies or whatever you’re going to do when not opening gifts. My folks often would give me the “family gift” to open which was stuff like a movie or game or toy for the day which makes me realize that they realized this about me way earlier than I did, ha

              2. Cam*

                I don’t know if you are looking for advice, so I apologize if you aren’t. But could you do more event type gifts? You said she is excited about seeing a Broadway play next trip, what if the Christmas gift is that you are actually taking her to two shows instead? Or if there is a movie coming out you know she wants to see, getting a set of movie passes for the family to see it together. (I think doing the event together as a family will mean the gift will actually get used instead of thrown in a drawer). Otherwise, honestly, I’d get her things that the whole family could enjoy so even if she doesn’t use it, someone else can, like a magazine subscription or Netflix or Spotify account.

      2. A Large Cantelope*

        That’s rough, but sweet of you to try. My father and stepmom live by their own set of unspoken, crazy rules about gift-giving and how much it indicates you love the person, so I would’ve been grateful to have a stepmom like you as a teen.

    14. AdAgencyChick*


      I am someone who loves to pick out a cool gift for someone who appreciates it. The problem is, a) almost no one reciprocates, and b) especially on my side of the family, often the recipient doesn’t even appreciate the gift!

      Example: Hubs and I went on a trip to Japan earlier this year, and I brought back a beautiful lacquered platter for my sister-in-law’s birthday gift. She at least appreciated it, but when it came time for my birthday, I got the same Target gift card she and my brother always get me.
      Example: I can’t tell you how many times my dad has pointed to a specific item he wanted for his birthday or Christmas (without my asking him); then, if I decided I wanted to spend time finding something different that would be a special gift *from me*, he would open it, grunt, “oh,” and then ask me why I didn’t just buy him the thing he asked for. Um, because I hate the idea of handing someone else your shopping list?

      It’s taken me a while, but I realize I just have to spend less thought and energy shopping for them. (If I don’t give them a list of what *I* want, I’ll get gift cards or cash, and sometimes that’s what they do even if I do give them a list!)

      1. C Average*

        People like this make me so sad! I feel like they’re missing out on the whole surprise-and-delight aspect of gifts. There’s nothing in the world quite as wonderful as getting or giving something unexpected and utterly perfect. And there’s nothing quite as disappointing as getting, as you say, someone’s shopping list. The holidays shouldn’t be the equivalent of a trip to Costco, but that’s how it feels when you’re just buying stuff off a list.

      2. Nicole*

        I can completely relate to this so much! All I want is someone other than my husband to actually put some thought into a gift for me (no gift cards!) and/or appreciate the thought I put into theirs. I absolutely love giving gifts but nothing hurts more than lack of appreciation (or reciprocation). I’m really not that hard to buy for either, nor do I expect extravagance. The holidays are nothing like they used to be – I feel like I end up more disappointed than anything else. Honestly I’d be ok just skipping Christmas altogether.

      3. A Large Cantelope*

        Yes! It’s especially weird when my family demands my list and I’m like, “This $30 crockpot would be a nice splurge,” then I get a list from a younger sibling that includes designer purses, expensive jewelry, and a “Starbucks gift card–but keep in mind my drink is $4.” I kid you not.

    15. Sarah G*

      Reading all these comments, I’ve never been so grateful to have been raised Jewish, with most of this gift-giving nonsense avoided! Chanukah gifts are modest and have never been a focus. My aunts sent us $10 checks which stopped once we went away to college. Grandkids get modest gifts but there’s no drama. As siblings, we exchange gifts haphazardly when we see something the other would like — it’s not an expectation. Phew! I was disappointed when I was 11 and my mom divorced my Catholic stepdad, and suddenly there Christmas disappeared, but I survived. :)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Boy, do I hear ya. I got so tired and disillusioned by all the gift giving. What matters to me is how people treat me thought out the year. One of the coolest relationships I have had was with my aunt. We decided no gifts. This freed us up to think about how we could actually be a gift in each others lives. Support and kind words were the priority.

        We did make one minor concession. If we spotted something at a tag sale for a buck or two that the we knew the other person needed, we would grab it. Am chuckling, I think we probably gave each other more than if we had bought Christmas gifts because we found things that the other one actually needed and at the time the person needed it. This was so much better than the Big Gift Dump at Christmas.

    16. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      Awesome on the baby and congrats!

      I went cold turkey a few years after college on the gift giving. “FYI–working on finances and loan repayment, so I’m opting out of gift exchanges. We’re all adults and can buy what we want, anyway.”

      The only person who cared enough to comment was my mom, and she’s the only one not on the “no gift” list, anyway. :)

    17. Lanter*

      Growing up we always did an exchange with my dad’s family. The family gets together at my grandmothers on Christmas Eve and anyone who isn’t able to come (we’re scattered all over at this point) gets theirs mailed or delivered by nearby family who were there. On my mom’s side, there were fewer cousins so each aunt and uncle bought for all of their nieces and nephews. When most of the cousins were post college, several were married, etc. we felt weird that our moms were still buying the gifts but we weren’t. We instituted an exchange for ourselves. We knew our high school age cousins wouldn’t be funding the gifts but we figured it was easier for her to do two each year than 7.
      The only wrinkle came when one aunt realized she wasn’t supposed to be buying gifts for the nieces and nephews under the exchange system. She declared dramatically that we couldn’t “steal her Christmas joy and she’d buy gifts for whoever she wanted.” The problem is she’s a terrible gift giver, which she readily acknowledges. After a few hit and miss years, she started buying a kitchen item for each niece and filling it with a treat for our husband. It’s a sweet tradition now. When babies started arriving, all bets were off for them. Anyone who wants to buy a gift for the next generation does so.
      So one family does an exchange across all extended family. The other 1. does an exchange for “grown” cousins. 2. Receives but doesn’t reciprocate gifts from one aunt. 3. Buys any baby or child a gift if they want.

  17. BRR*

    So this is a money/etiquette question but it takes a little bit to get there. So about a month ago I went to a funeral that was originally supposed to visit my best friend’s mother who was terminally ill. The mother was also a close friend of mine and really I’ve always been treated like a member of their family. I had planned to be down Sat-Thurs and the mother passed the day before I was supposed to arrive. A few days before that my friend called and asked me to book a hotel room since her mother had declined significantly and she would pay for it since I wasn’t planning on paying for a hotel room for 6 nights (a third friend was also coming and shared the room, this comes back later).

    Well I didn’t get paid for it but I’m wondering if I should even ask for it. My friend and her husband make at least twice what myself and my husband make. My friend and I usually just roughly alternate who picks up bills when we’re together and both have agreed that it all works out as long as one of use aren’t skipping out on bills and we don’t want to nickle and dime each other. I would say she’s probably paid for more than I have. All of my meals were covered by my friend, her father, or her aunt so I didn’t have food expenses for a week (I had to extend my trip for the funeral). I can absorb the cost (a month later I really can’t even see an impact on my finances from the trip) but when I originally scheduled this trip I was planning on being at their house for the time.

    I know for sure she’s just forgotten about it and isn’t trying to not pay for the room but part of me just feels I should just pay for it. I would have paid to attend the funeral anyways. But circling back to the third friend, I don’t want to cover her for the hotel and she wouldn’t pay for any of it anyways. Should I just pay for it or ask her for part of the money and how do I phrase it if I should ask?

    1. self employed*

      Don’t ask your friend whose mom died. But I don’t see why you can’t say to 3rd friend, “hey the hotel bill was $x, would you mind kicking in?” Unless you know she’s a total deadbeat it’s worth a try.

      1. BRR*

        Thank you for your response. I definitely feel awkward saying more or less “hey I know your mom just died suddenly and young but remember how you offered to pay for the hotel?” For multiple reasons there’s no way the third friend would cough up a penny.

        1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

          Then consider it a gift to a grieving friend, I think.

          Funerals and all that go along with them are expensive, regardless of how much you make. While the hotel room was likely a hit to your budget, it sounds as though you’ve been able to absorb it without resorting to endless ramen.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Yeah, I’d consider it a gift at this point. Maybe the friend will remember in 6 months or a year, but at this point they have more important things to worry about (since you said it won’t cause you any hardship). The worst part of planning my father’s memorial service was trying to reserve the hotel rooms and trains. Frustrating as f***, and just when I didn’t need any added stress. Luckily, my friends wanted me to stay with them as much as possible, but I needed a room for my family and I immediately after the service, and we needed to get there and back, of course.

            I would be thinking about it by now if I were your friend, but the best gift you can give them is to not add to their stress right now, even with little stuff.

    2. Caledonia*

      Your friend whose mum died mostly likely and understandably has a lot of stuff going on, so I wouldn’t ask her. It’s entirely possible in a few months time she might remember herself but I wouldn’t ask for the money. Plus, it sounds as if much of your expenses were covered, so why would you want to be *that* friend who asks money from someone whilst they are going through a tough loss?

      Do ask the third friend though, the one who also stayed in your room if she can help cover the cost unless you already know she can’t cover it for whatever reason.

    3. Dee*

      If you usually trade expenses, and you can afford it, I’d let it go mentally because odds are someday you’ll have a bad time and forget – then it will be your turn again :)

      1. Bibliovore*

        I would let it go. If your basic expenses can be met without her contribution think of it as a gift to the family. Also a death in the family even for families with means churn up numerous unexpected expenses and you will have no idea what other financial stresses as well as grieving your friend is dealing with.

    4. Ruffingit*

      Don’t ask for it. Your friend is going through a rough, rough time with so much to do and sort out. Were I in her shoes and someone asked me for the money, it would forever alter my feelings about that friend because it’s just so insensitive. As for the third friend though, there’s no reason you need to cover her part of the hotel so it’s acceptable to ask her for it.

    5. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

      Agree with everyone here. This is a gift to your grieving friend and if the third friend wouldn’t cough up anything than just ignore them in this equation. It’s not the money that matters here, right? I’ve never forgiven the completely inconsiderate relatives who insisted on having dinner out the night of my mother’s viewing and that didn’t even involve money, that was just such a case of being completely self-absorbed at a time that was devastating for me. You’re obviously not that person but you also don’t want to accidentally come off as that person.

  18. nep*

    Went to Mother Earth’s Storehouse while in Kingston, NY. What a lovely store. Would love to have one nearby. Anyone shop there? Apparently locations in Kingston, Poughkeepsie, and Saugerties.

  19. Mimmy*

    TL;DR – Poison ivy is no joke!!

    Long rant ahead –

    So I’m dealing with widespread rashes from some sort of poisonous plants that are mixed in with our hedge. It’s so weird – every time this happens to me (every few years), it is about a week before the rashes even begin to appear. Our neighbor has had a similar experience. This can be very frustrating because from everything I’ve read, reactions from poison ivy/oak/sumac appear up to 2-3 days after exposure. With my reactions not showing for a week, who knows how much cross contamination occurred.

    The worse of it is on my stomach and left leg, but I have smaller patches in several other areas. Ugh.

    I was desperate for relief by Thursday but I couldn’t see my doctor due to an all-day obligation, so I called her to see if she could prescribe something, which she did–I think it’s a generic of Prednisone. The written instructions said to follow those on the package, which had a spread-out dosing schedule.

    I went to see her the next day, Friday, to have everything checked out. She added a prescription cream to my regimen. Then, she tells me to take the pills all at once each day, not space them out, saying they’re more effective that way. I was thinking, “Gee, you coulda told me that YESTERDAY!!”

    So I’m still a bit uncomfortable today, but it’s more bearable. Plus, I think the spread of the rash may’ve finally stopped or slowed *knock on wood* and some of the smaller spots are beginning to fade. I just don’t get it – my reactions are just so different from what’s described online. And yes, I am always sure to check reputable sources. I am crossing my fingers that I am much better by the 17th as that’s when we leave for a weeklong trip. I was dealing with this the last time we took this trip 3 years ago.

    Would love some tips / commiseration / suggestions. I’d really like to never have this happen again. For real this time :/

    1. Photoshop Til I Drop*

      My husband is so sensitive to poison that he’s been hospitalized for a bad case. His tips:

      Buy junky clothes from the thrift store to do yardwork. Cover yourself completely: long pants, long sleeves, gloves, hair tied back, scarf around neck and chin. Do everything in one shot. Do not take breaks and go inside, do not stop to use the toilet. Any shuffling the clothing against your body or against household items can spread the oils.

      Once finished, strip to the skin in your garage/mudroom/other room with hard floors. Have a garbage bag ready and throw away the outfit. Take off the gloves last, of course, so you aren’t touching any other pieces of clothing.

      There are several brands of soap that remove the urushiol from your skin. Use one in the shower immediately after stripping. Throw out the soap when you’re done.

      This method is a bit wasteful, unfortunately, but it has kept him poison-free for two years now. His doctor also said that repeated exposure can worsen, just like food allergies do, so it’s important to avoid exposure as much as possible.

      1. Mimmy*

        Oh my goodness, I can’t imagine having to be hospitalized for this! I’m glad he’s been rash-free for two years. Thanks for the suggestions – yeah, it does sound wasteful, but if that’s what I have to do, then so be it.

        I also wonder if the rash truly is not contagious, either on your own body or to another person. From what I’ve read, it seems that this is a misconception – that the rash itself does not contain the oils and cannot be spread if you touch it. I try not to touch them anyway, but it’s almost unavoidable. It’s just so annoying to continually see new patches of rash every day. I’m like “why isn’t it all at once??”

      2. Sarah G*

        As someone mentioned, repeated exposure gets worse each time! In fact, young children almost never get a poison ivy/poison oak rash because the first exposure cannot cause a reaction, as your body hasn’t built up the histamines for urushiol yet.
        Is there any way to identify what exactly the plant is in your yard and what it looks like so that you can better avoid it? Since it only happens once every few years, there must be something specific that you manage to avoid for the most part!

    2. smokey*

      It’s not contagious. The oils can stick around on objects for months so if you feel like you’re getting new patches everyday without touching the plant there is likely oil on something you’re touching. In addition to the long sleeves, there is a product called Ivy Block which works well. You can’t rub it in and make it disappear, you will just be covered in white but it works. Also wash whatever clothes you wear in Technu in addition to yourself. It can go in the washer and will get rid of the oils that would otherwise just stay on the clothes.

      1. Mimmy*

        Which is what is making me so flipping paranoid!! I almost feel like I need to scrub down my entire house because I have no idea what I could’ve gotten the oils on in the week between exposure and first rashes.

        So far I haven’t seen any real new spots in the last day or two, but I get suspicious of every little itch or red spot. Even on my existing rashes, I worry about spreading if they start to get particularly itchy again.

        I go through this every time this happens, and it probably don’t help the healing. Very anxiety-provoking :(

    3. MsChanandlerBong*

      Don’t feel bad. I’ve been on Prednisone multiple times for my lupus, but no one ever told me to take all four pills at once. I thought you had to take them every four hours or so. Turns out you can actually sleep and not spend the night shaking if you take them all at once!

    4. Mimmy*

      Thanks everyone!

      I’ve heard oatmeal-based baths can help – is that to speed up the healing, or just to relieve the itch and any inflammation? How about any other creams – I’m sure the skin where my larger rashes are will get hella dry between the natural healing process and the corticosteroid cream I’m using.

      Side note: This brings to mind an episode of Naked and Afraid from this or last season where one survivalist got a widespread rash that was eventually relieved by going into the very salty water near the campsite. I think the person’s rashes disappeared quickly soon after.

    5. ThursdaysGeek*

      I’m late, so you probably won’t see this, but I suspect that it sometimes takes a week or two for me to develop a rash from poison ivy. Because sometimes, the last time I could have been exposed was that long back. I use OTC anti-itch cream. It works way better than the completely useless calamine lotion of my youth.

      And now a funny story. I grew up with poison oak and know it well. I moved to the dry side of WA state and someone found a suspicious plant and asked me if it was poison oak. I very confidently said no, and touched it. And it wasn’t poison oak. But now, I can clearly identify poison ivy too.

  20. Persephone Mulberry*

    A couple of weeks ago I posted that we were going to try and switch our cats from a traditional litterbox to the Tidy Cats Breeze box. TMI/cat bathroom habits ahoy.

    I didn’t post an update last week because it wasn’t looking very promising at that point, but as of Wednesday of this past week, we have successfully switched over! The transition instructions said to set up the old and new boxes next to each other, stop cleaning the old box (gross) and then take it away after “a few days.” By day 5, they were still using the old, dirty box and the new box was untouched and I was getting ready to throw in the towel. Finally on day 6 there was evidence that someone had peed in the new box! After that they started peeing consistently in the new box but still not pooping (pretty common from what I read in the reviews before I purchased), so I bit the bullet and decided to get rid of the old one and just be extra vigilant for outside-the-box evidence. And that’s all it took! We had poo in the new box within 24 hours, and no “accidents.”

    So – worth it? Overall, I say yes. There is definitely no pee smell – the last time I changed the pad, I couldn’t believe how soaked it was and there was still almost no odor. If you can change a wet diaper without gagging, this will be a cakewalk. There is a little bit of a stinky poo issue right after they go because they can’t bury it the way the do with a traditional box, but once it dries out a bit it’s no big (it’s also easier to sift the pellets if you resist the urge to scoop right away). My one cat who tends to bolt out of the box still manages to drag a fair amount of the pellets with him, but nowhere near the amount of traditional litter, and it’s much easier to sweep up. I do wish it came with/you could get a full cover, and now that we’re using it full time, we’ll see how quickly we actually go through the pellets and pads, but even if it is slightly more expensive to maintain, I’m pretty pleased.

    1. Photoshop Til I Drop*

      A vet and an animal behavorist both told me to transition litter by mixing them together and gradually lessening the old kind. I’ve never heard of playing chicken with an unscooped box instead. I’d be highly skeptical of those instructions, but I’m glad it seems to be working for you.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        Yeah, I’m with you – I kind of side-eyed those instructions. Interestingly, the instructions on the Tidy Cats website suggests what you did – first mixing some of the new kind of litter into the old box and letting them get used to that for a few days before even introducing the new box, and I was very surprised that the instructions that came with the starter kit didn’t say anything about that – just to move a clump or two from the old box to the new to help them get the idea. Did they think people would have already bought just a bag of the pellets before buying the whole kit? It would be MUCH better to include a second bag of pellets in the kit.

  21. Tara R.*

    Happy almost-Thanksgiving fellow Canadians! I’m home for the weekend and it is pouring rain. Any exciting holiday plans (I gather it’s also an American holiday this weekend?) I have two midterms next Friday so it’s not much of a vacation on my end. :(

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Happy Thanksgiving! :)

      Most people aren’t off for Columbus Day in the US; it’s a federal holiday, so only non-essential government offices, our post offices, and some banks are closed. I work for a company that services the financial industry and we’re open Monday. There’s some controversy about the day because Columbus was kind of an asshole, anyway. Mostly, retailers are using it as a sale day.

      My nerd group went to a con this morning, but I skipped it because it’s not free, and it’s mostly gaming stuff (cards and such) and I’m not interested in that. Today is Lying Around Doing Nothing Day. Tomorrow will be Beginning of Fall Cleaning Day! Woo! :D

    2. Talvi*

      Apparently I’m doing Thanksgiving dinner for me and two of my roommates (the third is local and went home for the weekend). Which is kind of exciting because I wasn’t planning to, it just sort worked out that way! I was originally planning on doing stuffing (with homemade bread!) and a pie and that just spiralled into cranberry sauce and a chicken and yams and….

      (Meanwhile, trying not to think about the fact that I’ve got things due over the next two weeks for every single class I’m taking this term.)

    3. Colette*

      Happy Thanksgiving! I’m pulling out the garden and making props for the community association’s haunted house, and my cousin is coming over for turkey on Monday.

    4. Cath in Canada*

      Happy Thanksgiving!

      We’re up at my mother-in-law’s place, getting ready to prepare a massive turkey for the three of us because she assumed my brother-in-law and his family were coming and bought a massive amount of food without checking with him first. Oh well, I’ll very happily eat leftovers all week! My MIL lives a ferry ride out of the city, and it’s always really nice seeing everyone eating their turkey sandwiches on the boat home at the end of the long weekend :)

  22. AnotherAnon*

    My brother-in-law screamed at my mom today because she brought up the topic of him and my sister moving to a townhouse or house. They had their rooms painted in their apartment and my mom talked about the possibility of them moving since they have 2 small kids. For whatever reason, this set my brother-in-law off and he started screaming at my mom. He threatened that she wouldn’t see her grandkids ever again if she brings the topic up and told her not to mention it to my sister. (They need my mom to help them out with babysitting, so I don’t think he could ever keep the kids away even if he wanted to!)
    This isn’t the first time that he’s screamed at her- he also yelled at her on mother’s day about something related to dinner and him having to help cook. He is usually pretty laid back, but has definitely been more moody since having kids. He also has fights with his own family, but has only recently started yelling at my mom. When my mom tells my sister about his behavior, my sister seems to brush it off and not want to deal with the situation.
    My mom has been through a lot in life and is an incredibly strong person- it takes a lot for her to get upset. I feel bad because I don’t know how to help or what to do in this situation. Any advice?

    1. Myrin*

      What’s your relationship with your sister like? Can you tell her about the incidents if she is less likely to brush you off? FWIW, I would be completely furious if my partner treated my mother this way and would want to know immediately.

      (I’m unclear if you actually observed these screaming fits or if they were relayed to you by a third party. If you haven’t actually witnessed anything but were told by your mum, be prepared for you sister not taking you seriously either/saying your mum is exaggerating [which I’m guessing is not the case?].)

      1. AnotherAnon*

        I thought about talking to her, but I worry that it would make the situation worse and turn into a BIL/Sister vs. Mom/Sis situation. My sis also has a temper so I don’t want her to scream at me either.
        I was downstairs with my nephews and could hear my brother-in-law screaming.

    2. ArtK*

      The “don’t talk to sister” bit is very worrysome. I wonder if there’s some contention between the two of them on the topic (like, she wants to move, he doesn’t) and that’s triggering the angry outburst.

    3. Trix*

      If this happens when you’re around, I’d start with “Dude. Please do not yell at my mom.” with an expression that says you’re very confused and a little annoyed that it was necessary to even say that.

      If it continues, “Welp, I’m not going to listen to you scream. Mom, want to go Somewhere Else with me?” And then walk away.

      (Oh and the fact that your sister is brushing it off, seeming like she doesn’t want to deal? Sounds like she knows there’s a problem, even if she doesn’t realize she knows. Find a way to talk to her, she could probably use it.)

      1. TheLazyB*

        I’d actually do a variation on this- if you hear screaming at your mum, go to where they are, start a totally unrelated calm conversation with her, totally ignore the screaming, and walk somewhere else with her. Similar to the what to see if you see abuse while out and about. Of course if you think he might actually get violent this probably not a good idea :(

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Is there some reason why you mother is so invested on where they live? Does your mother own the apartment they live in?

      Unless your mother has a stake in their apartment, she needs to leave them alone and let them live their lives. If she does have a stake/ownership in the apartment then she needs to clearly state, “I want my apartment back because of x reason” instead of telling them where they should live. That is way too much involvement in their lives.

      I would be furious if my parents told my husband where we should live or how we should live. I would have put my foot down with my parents, “You are over the line.”

      Your BIL sounds like he has pressure coming in from all sides.

      1. Rob Lowe can't read*

        It sounds like the brother-in-law’s reaction was inappropriate for the situation, but I actually had this exact same thought. My in-laws are generally pretty great, but they have some Opinions about aspects of their children’s lives that they don’t really need to have and definitely don’t need to share. (Why do we buy this brand of olive oil and not that brand? Why do we live here and not elsewhere? Why don’t we take the train instead of driving? Answer to all: Because we are self-sufficient adults, and these are the choices we have chosen based on our needs/wants.) It can be frustrating. So I’m definitely not saying BIL responded in an acceptable way, but I can imagine where his response might have come from.

      2. Natalie*

        Indeed. I cringed a bit reading this because I could totally see myself screaming at my MIL someday, especially during a stressful time like early parenthood.

        If you talk to your sister, is there any way you could have a more open ended conversation about your mother and BIL’s relationship? There may be a dynamic there you’re not seeing, either because you’re not subjected to it or you’ve just gotten used to it.

      3. AnotherAnon*

        My mom does overstep her bounds sometimes, but she said that she was talking to him about moving in the future when my nephew reaches a certain age and so on. She wasn’t telling him that they need to start looking at places right now or anything. She was just talking about future plans. They are adults and don’t need to be told what to do/how to live their life, but his reaction of screaming and storming out of the house was uncalled for.

        1. Temperance*

          He sounds jerky, but it sounds like your mom is a classic overstepper. Does she do this with other things, like “advice” about raising the kids, how they live, etc.? I would have been really angry and annoyed if someone felt the need to keep haranguing me about moving to a larger home, for example … I ended up snapping at my own MIL after she decided that she needed to manage one of our moves, and she moved stuff around in my kitchen.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            My MIL wanted to set up my kitchen with me. I said no. She was totally surprised that I could handle it myself, she could not understand that really.
            My husband said that I could have brown nosed a bit and said yes. And I told him no, also. He thought that was very funny.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Screaming is not a good answer. I agree. You were told your mother’s side of the story. Have you listened to your BIL’s side? You might be surprised what he has to say. If yelling is the only answer your mother can hear then what other recourse does your BIL have? How does he get her to stop butting into their lives?

          It’s really none of her business when or if they plan to move. You say she oversteps sometimes. If she oversteps three times a year that is three times too many. She has to stop. Seriously. Not saying your BIL is faultless here, honest.

          A thing that is bothering me here is why is she even dragging you into this? She should talk to the daughter who is married to the guy. My MIL used to tell little stories like this to each of her kids. The kids all ended up not talking to each other. Meanwhile, for whatever reason, MIL did not get the stories right so each kid had a total misunderstanding of what went on. If you go to your sis or BIL and ask why is BIL yelling at mom, you could end up with a real hot mess.

          As far as the kids, I really think you nailed the answer there. They can’t be without your mother’s help so they will come back around on that one.

    5. Rob Lowe can't read*

      It sounds like talking to the sister might not be the best option in this particular situation, based on the OP’s comment above, and if that’s the case then it seems like supporting Mom and helping to set the tone for reactions to outbursts like this is the best you can do. My experience with people flipping out about seemingly innocuous things is pretty much limited to 8-12 year olds, but I think it would hold true for an adult as well that responding calmly is an important first step. You (or your mom) might choose to respond by saying “Please don’t speak to me/Mom that way,” or “Let’s change the subject,” or something else (some days I feel like I need a t-shirt that says “Try that again without yelling”), but I know that even when an interaction with a screaming child ends with that child throwing furniture around the room, I’ll feel better afterwords knowing that I kept my cool. Obviously your BIL is not an 8-12 year old child, and it sounds like your mom didn’t engage him by screaming back, but I think being willing and able to respond calmly is a good first step. (And one that doesn’t require buy in from your sister.)

    6. LCL*

      You need to talk to your sister ASAP. Find out what is going on with BIL. The yelling then progressing immediately to emotional blackmail spooks me. You mentioned a change in behavior, which makes me think ‘drug use.’ I realize I am being negative and suspicious, but that’s where my mind went based on the information. Your mom isn’t the one closest to him, you should be more concerned with your sis and the kids because they live with this every day.

  23. Pug Lover*

    My husband and I thinking about buying a house that needs a lot of updating. The kitchen needs new appliances, the roof and furnace need to be completely replaced, and it also needs new carpet/flooring in certain rooms. Because the house is so out of date and not well-maintained in general, the house is listed for about $30-40K less than others in the neighborhood.

    Its a great neighborhood. We like a lot of things about the house but im super nervous because it hasnt been well-maintained ( per the current owners). Does anyone have any experience with a situation like this?

    1. Fiona the Lurker*

      Can you get a builder or other contractor to walk through it and give you an estimate of the amount of work it’ll need, and what needs to be done at once and what can wait? In general if the structure is sound – the roof in particular – and there’s no damp or subsidence, the satisfaction you get out of doing up a battered old house (even if it takes years ) outweighs all the mess and stress you have to put up with while you’re doing it; take that from a serial renovator!

    2. Sibley*

      I’d make sure to separate cosmetic from repairs/maintenance items. Cosmetic come second. Repairs/maintenance items you do first, but you may be able to stagger them depending. Get a good home inspection.

      You can also try to reduce costs. Pull out old carpet/padding yourself if it’ll reduce labor fees. A lot of flooring options are DIY possible. Get used or scratch/dent appliances. Sometimes you’ll see appliances that are almost new on places like craigslist because they’re “out dated”. Painting, etc is often good for DIY.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Get a contractor to give you an estimate as Fiona said. Take his number and double it. Use that larger number as your basis for deciding.

      Roof. Can you go over the roof that is there or does it have to be removed? Water damage in the attic? Any mold in the house?

      Furnace. I just did this. I have a small house. The furnace was 4800. I had to put in a new chimney liner or I could not get the furnace and that was 1500. Then I figured out the oil tank needed to be replaced, that was 1500. Good thing I replaced the hot water maker a few years back that was a grand. So 8800 dollars total.

      Carpet/flooring. Do the floors move when you walk on them? If yes, then this you may also need to have the floors reinforced or strengthened in some manner. You can wait on the rugs and other flooring for a clearance sale or look for an outlet type place, if you wish.

      Can you do some of the work yourselves? Are there building supply outlets near you where you can get things cheaper?

      Appliances. If they don’t work then you have to do something. However if they work and they are just ugly then you might decide to change them later. My old ugly appliances seemed to last longer than my friends’ pretty, shiny new appliances. The appliances were old when we bought the house and they lasted just over 14 more years. Except the stove, I still have that in my life, it’s been with me for 26 years and shows no sign of quitting.

      I would be tempted to take a chance on it if the contractor gives a green light. All houses are money pits. If you like the neighborhood and basically like the house, you might be okay. You would do well to have a “house fund” where you stash money for emergencies and/or save for doing repairs on a regular basis. This is what happened to the previous owners they failed to keep up with regular repairs, probably because of retirement income.

      I hope you chuckle. My friend who helped me with my house said that in some cases the owners not doing the repairs actually saved me money. That is because the wisdom of that era said do X or Y , which we now know is a very bad idea. I did not have to clean up asbestos shingles for example.

      1. the gold digger*

        Get a contractor to give you an estimate as Fiona said. Take his number and double it.

        I am laughing because I was about to write the same thing!

        Also – plan for it to take two to three times as long as estimated.

    4. OhBehave*

      Before you buy a house you MUST get a home inspection. You can accompany the inspector through his search for issues. My husband followed ours before we bought our home. A home listed for that much less than the mean for the neighborhood raises tons of questions. There are obvious fixes that need addressed such as a roof or windows, but what about electrical or plumbing? Foundation issues?

      I would advise against using an inspector recommended by the seller’s agent. Conflict of interest may come into play with this kind of advice. Angie’s List should have recommendations.

      1. Pug Lover*

        The owners keep reducing the price because its been on the market for over 3 months. They also recently divorced and are still living together in the house and made it clear they are desparate to sell and move on with their lives. I feel awful for them.

        Luckily, we had a fantastic home inspector for our last house and plan to use him again.

        The current owners put three children through a very expensive private school in our city (its more than tuition was at my very well- regarded state school) and thats why they never had money to update the house. The house was built in 1989 and still has a lot of the original stuff. I dont mind updating ugly – i just want things to be functional for now.

        1. Chaordic one*

          The inspection is a very good idea. You’ve already mentioned that you’re going to have to replace the furnace and the roof and those kind of things take priority over the ugly carpet and paint and outdated kitchen appliances. Make sure that you won’t have to replace anything else or spend money on plumbing, electric, or any structural problems.

          Make sure the house has good bones.

      2. Yetanotherjennifer*

        Yes, attending the inspection is a good idea. You’ll probably get a lot of info and advice that isn’t normally included in the inspection report. Be sure to ask questions and take notes. I’d also recommend a separate inspection for the furnace. It’s more of a thing in areas with cold winters but we had one when we bought our house in KY and the inspector found a big crack. So the sellers paid for a new furnace. Also look into having an energy inspection. Your electric or fuel utility company may offer the service and there are independent contractors as well. A poorly maintained youse probably has old window caulk that lets a lot of cold air through. Ask the inspector to rate any fixes according to their return on investment.

    5. Natalie*

      Possibly something you’re planning for already, but it’s better if you have cash available for the repairs, rather than getting a HELOC or construction loan. Those are a PITA, especially right after the mortgage.

  24. salad fingers*

    Ok, so I have a little bit of a rant and a little bit of a question.

    I seem to have become the go-to person for friends and family to ask to watch their dogs, cats and occasionally small humans when they’re out of town or have plans. I’m starting to resent it. I think I get asked a lot because I a. genuinely like my friends’/family’s animals and children, b. don’t go out of town a lot, am usually fairly available, and c. I’m very reliable.

    On the other hand, I don’t have a car and none of these people are my next door neighbors, so in the case of the animals, walking them twice a day means several bus rides or (weather permitting) bike rides to their place. There are other people in their lives with cars, or who live (marginally) closer, who could potentially help with these things. I want to be helpful – I want to be in relationships generally where people can ask for help – but I can’t tell what is reasonable to be asked to do.

    Lastly, there is a tendency for the worst offenders to ask me very last minute while they’re already out of town or busy for the whole evening, expecting that I’ll swoop in and care for their animal. I care about animals so more often than not they guilt me into doing it. I know this part is complete BS when it happens and I’ll typically walk/feed the animal and then say no the next few times I’m asked. It’s hard not to feel like the loser homebody whose time isn’t worth much.

    Anyway, how do you guys feel about this sort of thing? How much is okay to ask of people, what should you just buckle down and pay professionals/semi-professionals to do? I think I’ve been made to feel like a really selfish person if I don’t help people in ways that don’t *entirely* put me out. Looking for some perspective on that.

    1. ginger ale for all*

      I am in a similar situation. My ex texted me last Saturday to ask me to feed and walk his pets for him because he and his new girlfriend were on a romantic weekend trip. He never took me on romantic weekend despite my pleas. I left work early and lost hours to feed them and I feel like such a schmuck. I just thought of the pets first but gosh I see your dilemma. No advice, just commiseration.

      1. brightstar*

        Your ex has an extreme amount of nerve to ask you that. Have you thought about telling him that you won’t be available in the future and he’ll have to find other accommodations for his pets?

      2. salad fingers*

        That is nuts. It’s nice that you seem to have a good relationship with your ex, but that is pushing boundaries for sure. Definitely thoughtless of him to ask you for something like that. Thank you for your commiseration and I am shooting some sympathy right back atcha. Here’s to both of us saying no more!

    2. Pearly Girl*

      I think I’ve been made to feel like a really selfish person if I don’t help people in ways that don’t *entirely* put me out.
      You need to stop thinking this! Right now! Get yourself a script for saying “no.” Practice it regularly. Just because they asked/you agreed previously does NOT mean you need to be the permanent caregiver.

      Seriously, “Sorry, I can’t — hope you have a great time” is all you need to say. Repeat as necessary.

      1. Pearly Girl*

        Oh, and those that ask you while they’re already out of town should NOT get special treatment. Believe me, they will find some other way to deal and they will learn that you are not their personal messiah.

        1. salad fingers*

          Thank you for the pep talk :-) I actually said no to the worst offender last night, but I’m feeling anxious about whether her cat is okay/has enough water/is suffering, to the extent that I had an anxiety dream about him last night. Some of that is my friend’s irresponsibility and some of that is just my own anxiety, so I think managing the things I can control is in order here.

    3. Sue Wilson*

      A) Start saying no.

      B) If you’re usually genuinely happy to do it and people don’t know your feelings have changed, then they have no reason to believe you’re still not genuinely happy to do it.

      C) Regardless of your feelings, these people, especially the last-minute people, should be treating you to something for your trouble. Period. I know they’re your friends, but they really should be treating to dinner, or some nice wine or SOMETHING that indicates that they’re grateful. If they’re not or haven’t even offered, then they’re being inconsiderate. This honestly sounds like why you’re getting resentful. You’re doing a favor, and the people who you are doing the favor for haven’t indicated to you that they understand that it costs something.

      D) Just because you stay home doesn’t mean you don’t have something to do.

      E) If you know the last-minute people are out of town, what happens if you just don’t answer their calls until they’ve probably found something else. As a corallary, if you’re having trouble saying no, what if you give a time frame that makes it clear you can’t without saying no. I.e. “I won’t be able to get there until two days from now, sorry.”

      F) Assess these relationships. You want to be in the type of relationship where people help each other. Okay, how much are these people willing to help you? Can you ever ask the last-minute people last minute things? Do you even think these people are people you would trust to be effective in helping you?

      G) If it’s getting to be a habitual thing with some friends, formalize it. Move it from the “I’m just doing you a favor” category into the “I’m the person who watches your cats/toddlers/plants” with ALL the boundaries and compensation (even if it’s a bottle of wine or a trade of something habitual they can do for you) that entails.

      1. salad fingers*

        This comment rings very true with me, Sue.

        Regarding a gift, that happens sometimes. My brother got me a really nice bottle of bourbon from Kentucky after a weekend trip there during which I watched his dog, insists I bring home his precious home brewed beers, offers to help with my bike, etc. My best friend, who happens to be the worst offender, pretty consistently finds something cool while travelling and brings it back. We gift each other frequently and we have the kind of relationship where we alternate picking up the tab, getting tickets, the cab, etc. Usually this works because in most ways, I think we’re pretty considerate.

        I think I’m pretty independent and generally don’t ask for much help outside of my relationship with my live-in boyfriend (and that’s a reciprocal relationship for sure). I do think that some of the people I’m talking about wouldn’t help because they’re busy, not so much because they are inconsiderate. My best friend is not a “drop what I’m doing to help” sort of person, but she’s definitely someone who is happy to help you paint your house, set up for a party, etc. It’s something I love about her, actually. None of us make gobs of money (or do okay, but have tooons of school debt), so I think we’re on the same page in terms of DIYing stuff, which is nice.

        I think after some reflection, I’m just starting to feel like the scales are tipping and I’m taking on more than I’m getting back. And for whatever reason, this is happening in several of my relationships at once. I’m definitely going to step back from doing so much of the pet sitting in particular.

    4. edj3*

      Do they pay you for doing this??

      Regardless, if you don’t want to do this then practice saying “I’m sorry but I won’t be able to help out this time.” Full stop, no extra details.

      FWIW I would never ask someone to pet sit for free. Never.

      1. Sandy*

        +1 to this. We “even” (I use the term VERY loosely) pay the neighbour’s ten year old to come in every two days to make sure the cat isn’t dead when we’re on vacation, no litter box cleaning required.

        I can’t imagine asking someone to petsit, ESPECIALLY if they have to shlep over, without offering payment. Admittedly sometimes that payment consists of taking care of their pet when they are away.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          And especially if the trip is extended. My elderly neighbor would gladly feed Pig when I was gone for a day or two, but there was no way I would ask him to do it for the three weeks I spent abroad. I found a pet sitter. They have insurance. They do this for a living. And they took good care of her (though she was mad at me and a little clingy for a while when I got back).

      2. the gold digger*

        Me, neither! It wouldn’t occur to me to ask someone to do it “as a favor.” We pay our high school senior neighbor $5 a day to feed our cats and clean the box when we are on vacation (and we are dreading his leaving for college because we don’t want to lose our catsitter but also because he is such a nice, nice kid).

        The very few times we have had to ask the next-door adult neighbors, we have brought them very nice treats from wherever we have gone and also given them a bottle of wine. In addition, if we are out before they are in the winter, we will shovel their sidewalk. We like them and we want to be on good terms with them in case there is a Cat Emergency.

        But nope. I would never ever expect it for free, especially if it’s not just five minutes total for them to do the chore, including their travel time.

      3. Nicole*

        Agreed. We have a couple we know watch our pets and we always ask them a month or more ahead of time, treat them to dinner beforehand, and give them a nice gift card afterward as a thank you. Even then I STILL feel guilty asking them even though it’s only once a year, but I trust them more than a pet sitter since they are coming into our home.

      4. salad fingers*

        They don’t pay me, but I don’t pay them for help fixing a bike problem or a ride to a party. I don’t know – I can’t decide what rises to the level of needing to be compensated, but I’m hearing from a lot of people that pet sitting is one of those things. And I’m starting to feel that way myself, I see.

        Thanks for your input!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      You gave away too much of yourself. That is why the feeling of being a loser homebody whose time is not worth much.

      Read a boundaries book or two.
      Insist on something in return, bus fair money for example. Or ask for trades, “I will watch your animal/kid if you will help me do x.”
      Decide that you no longer can accommodate last minute requests. And you can get around this one by saying that you have so many people asking you must calendarize the requests. So you need x weeks notice.

      Don’t mistake doing favors as “having a relationship”.
      You think you are showing your love by doing these favors but they don’t see that. You are giving what you value and hope for in return but they are unable to grasp this concept. So you feel used. Either tell them what you want in return or stop giving your labor away for free.

      And this one grabbed me:
      “I think I’ve been made to feel like a really selfish person if I don’t help people in ways that don’t *entirely* put me out. Looking for some perspective on that.”


      The nuns used to say “if giving doesn’t hurt then it is not true giving”.

      Okay so why am I the only person in pain here?
      Enter my wise friend. You CANNOT give until it hurts because then other people have to stop what they are doing and take care of an injured YOU.
      My wise friend said there is a pecking order for giving care. First you take care of you, so you do not become a basket case that others have to take care of.

      Second priority, you take care of the beings who live with you, this can be your SO or your dog.

      Next you take care of the building that shelters you. Okay so let’s say you rent. In this case you make darn sure your rent is paid on time each month. This goes for other day-to-day expenses. If you are not making ends meet then you need to allot time for a second job to help pay the bills.

      Now let’s say you actually have time to do other things. The next priority of care goes to the relatives who do not live with you.

      Okay let’s really pretend you have a lot of time on your hands, the last priority of care is for society/friends.

      I LOVED this and have held on to it. Especially the part about not allowing yourself to become a basket case that others have to take care of. To me this means don’t let people wear you down, insist that they add to your life as much as you add to theirs.

      Now let’s apply this to a real life example. It’s the day before work and you need time to get your clothes and lunches ready for the week. You friend/family calls you to watch their kid/dog. According to this pecking order, you can’t go if you lose so much time that you won’t be ready for your work week. Because priorities 1, 2 and 3 are you, those who live with you and your home. Your job pays for those three priorities. So you can say, “Gee, if you called me Friday or Saturday, I would have been able to plan for time to do this. But I now have other plans that I must do.”

      1. TheLazyB*

        If I give you my mum’s email address please will you send this to her?!?!

        I am about to print it and put it somewhere prominent.

        1. TheLazyB*

          In fact I just linked and shared your comment on my Facebook, saying that you’re one of my favourite commenters here. Thank you NSNR.

      2. salad fingers*

        Thank you for this, NSNR (to echo everyone above, I appreciate that you always leave such supportive and wise comments here). I was, in fact, raised by Catholics (grandparents) and former Catholics (parents). My extended family is comprised mostly of over-educated, under-employed and constantly volunteering do-gooders :-). I love that about them, but being raised by them does make saying no to helping people feel unnatural.

    6. mousemom*

      Are you being compensated in any fashion for your services? Considering that the rates for pet sitters/babysitters are fairly steep, they are taking advantage of you if you aren’t being paid. Also, since you don’t have transportation, you are actually out-of-pocket since you have to pay bus fare. And waiting until the last minute to ask you to help out is just plain rude.

      You might want to consider setting up a fee schedule — for instance, $8/hour for babysitting for 1 child, plus $2 each for additional children; $10 for walking/feeding dog(s) once a day, $15 for twice a day; 50% additional charge if not given at least 24 hours’ notice; addition of bus fare if used. These people would have to pay someone to do these jobs if you didn’t, so you should not feel guilty or selfish for placing a value on your time. What these people are doing is taking advantage of your good nature and availability. This sort of behavior has the ugly potential to keep escalating until they feel like they can simply snap their fingers and you’ll drop everything for them.

      Good luck in standing up for yourself.

      1. salad fingers*

        The out of pocket cost part is something I hadn’t really considered and is now annoying me just a little bit more. The cost is really marginal and it’s my time that I care more about, but it’s still kind of irritating that they’re saving money at the expense of both my time and actual money. Oy.

    7. OhBehave*

      Put this on repeat. “I’m sorry, I cannot help you out this time.” Give no reasons why because they just might counter with a change in their plans to accommodate you!

      It’s great of you to do these tasks for your family and friends. It’s gotten to the point where you are being taken advantage of in a huge way. It would be one thing if they were in the same neighborhood and it was an easy task for you. But to have several bus rides in order to make their lives easier? Nope. I get the impression that you’re not being paid for this ‘service’. We don’t either when we watch my sister’s pup. Pup comes to us with her go bag. Can animals come to you?

      Do not allow these people to let you feel that you are a selfish person. People cannot take advantage of you without your permission. This doesn’t mean that you can’t say yes. Just don’t make it something you do out of guilt.

      1. salad fingers*

        Actually, the animals (dogs, at least) used to come to me, and that was actually no burden at all. I dog-sat for my brother for a month and half during a very hectic time in his life, travel and just general scheduling wise. My boyfriend and I love love love his dog and she was great company, I definitely would never have asked for compensation.

        Unfortunately, my terrible landlord decided one day that dogs weren’t allowed in just my apartment. He actually told me to take my brother’s dog to a kennel the same night he decided she couldn’t be there (he knew I had been dog-sitting for several weeks and had said nothing, acknowledged that she was a great dog, etc). Again, if this were the set-up, there would be no problem.

    8. Ruffingit*

      Don’t enable the people who call you when they’re already out of town. You’ve taught them that you will swoop in and handle things for them. Time for a new lesson. When they call you, say “So sorry, I’m actually out of town myself” (doesn’t have to actually be true) or “I’ve already got plans this evening/weekend/whatever and I simply can’t do it.” As someone else mentioned, they will find a way to handle it. You are not the answer to every request.

      1. salad fingers*

        Yes. Annoyingly, it’s the last minute ones that I take the most issue with, but that I feel the most compelled to help with for the sake of the animals. I did say no to Worst Offender last night and as I mentioned above, I’ve been kind of fixating on whether her cat is okay

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          What about telling people now that they shouldn’t rely on you being available in the future, especially the last-minute people? You could say something now like, “Hey, I want to give you a heads-up that I’m not as likely to be available in the future for pet sitting because of (reasons). I know sometimes you’ll contact me at the last minute, so I wanted you to know in advance so you can plan something else.”

          1. salad fingers*

            Alison, I like that this advice mirrors advice re: expectations changing at work (“Yes, I know you used to be able to “x” but moving forward you’ll need to do “y”. Now you know so I don’t expect it to be a problem in the future.) :-).

            I was already planning to tell people that, unless they are my next door neighbors, I can’t help them as it gets colder outside. Bike rides in the summer are kind of pleasant for me if I’m not too busy, but I really draw the line at schlepping through Chicago winters to take care of other people’s responsibilities, especially last minute. I think I should just be clearer that generally, this arrangement isn’t going to work for me in the future. Thanks!

    9. Pug Lover*

      We have a dog and I refuse to ask my friends to watch her. I would rather pay to board her at her vet’s. Like you, people used to ask me all the time to watch their pets. I didnt mind for awhile but I had a friend who really took advantage of me one too many times and I just stopped.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I board our buddy too– I’ve offered to take in a friend’s dog a few times, but I have never asked for the favor to be returned because I think it’s such an imposition. We used to leave him with a neighbor who practically begged us to do it, and he lived in the building (so no schlepping) and our dogs shared a regular walker.

        I know it’s hard, but really, it is absolutely ok to say no. Really! It is! And if they have a major problem with that, then you know where you stand. You don’t necessarily need to be compensated, I get that, but you should feel appreciated more than you do. I mean, shoot, I used to water my friend’s plants and she always brought me a present from her travels.

        1. salad fingers*

          Thank you guys. Pug Lover, I suspect when I get my own dog I will be in the same boat re: asking friends to watch them.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      I used to be in a similar situation–I had a friend who asked me to care for her animals because she knew I was trustworthy. But I quit doing it when that became the ONLY interaction we had. I started to feel used. So the next time she popped up out of the blue, I said sorry, I had plans that weekend and couldn’t do it. She didn’t ask again.

      If they’re trying to guilt you, that makes it even worse. They’re taking advantage of you. You’re not selfish for saying no, especially if it’s a hardship traveling to and from the residence. You could try asking them for transport money in exchange, or offer to help them find a reliable pet sitter closer to them.

      It’s okay to say no to people, really.

      1. salad fingers*

        Ouch, nothing like only getting a call when a friend needs something. Usually a good sign that they aren’t a great friend, and that you’re probably a pretty nice person. Good for you for saying no.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, we had had a falling out and after that, I didn’t hear from her for a long time. We’ve since reconnected on Facebook, though we have little in common anymore so we don’t spend any time together IRL. Which is sad, really.

    11. Anon and alone*

      I feel you @salad fingers, I have the same situation with regards to my brother. Three buses there (and back) to house/dog sit while they go on vacation and the text I get is “I’ve already made the reservations, you’ll do it right?” My brother is also known as a cheapskate, but he does give me something. Feel free to start saying “No”. It is, after all, a complete sentence.

    12. dog owner*

      Yeah, I would definitely say something. I ask my friends to walk the dog sometimes if I’ll be gone for weekends (or sometimes I am gone on very long day trips and so the poor dog would like to get taken out while I am out of the house for 20 hours). I try to alternate between friends (none of my friends have dogs so I can’t do a trade, and I do trade pet-watching with my cat-owning friends, but it is so much less work to check in on a cat (although to try and make up for it, I make sure to play with the kitty for at least 20 minutes) so I’m not asking anyone too much and I board the dog if we are leaving for more than a weekend.
      I personally have also offered to pay my friends (usually less than boarding/a professional would cost but still a decent amount) but they usually refuse the money–so I try to get them a gift if I am going somewhere I can do that. I also have friends who have either told me they would prefer to not watch the dog–or that they no longer want to, and it is totally fine. I am still friends with them and I’m glad they told me. I would want my friends to tell me that walking the dog is stressing them out and they would prefer if I made other arrangements (or paid them or asked further in advance). *Also my friends all live within a mile of me, usually less so there isn’t too much transit time involved luckily.

  25. Myrin*

    Ack, nothing like watching a funny video where the importance of learning and educating yourself is stressed several times and then having the first comment be like “So [famously racist, sexist, and all other kinds of -ist person who was very tangentially mentioned in the video for 1.5 seconds] is a sexist and racist? Prove it!”. Dude, you just have to google their name and really any kind of keyword and you will find dozens of videos and tweets by that very person behaving in a racist and sexist manner. The irony was delicious but also horrifying.

  26. Leatherwings*

    Anyone have creative exercise routines? I used to run, but hurt my ankle badly and my doctor suggested I lay off that for a few months. I’ve tried biking and lifting weights recently and I just can’t get into it.

    Any other suggestions? I’m mostly just looking to be active, not focusing on any specific long-term goal at this point. Also, currently unemployed so cheaper options are better.

    1. JoniKat*

      Hmm, do you have access to a pool? You could try swimming, or coming up with a cardio workout routine in the shallow or deep end. There are a lot of suggestions available online for free. You can get cheap weights and items like beach balls for variety as well.

      1. Cookie*

        I was also going to recommend swimming. That’s probably the best exercise to avoid putting weight on your ankle.

    2. nep*

      A lot of my favourite exercises are on knees or in half-kneel — Are you OK kneeling or on one knee? With a weighted ball or dumbbell or just any object with some weight to it, ‘hay bales’ in half-kneel; bounce a ball side to side, twisting; elbow to opposite knee ‘crunch’…
      Sit-throughs are a great exercise. Planks are always a good go-to.

    3. Colette*

      Boxing? Belly dancing? Fencing? Aquafit? Going to a playground and playing?

      What motivates you? Personally, I like feeling strong, so I like weights and boxing.

      1. Annby*

        I’m a fencer (started as an adult). I absolutely love it, but wouldn’t recommend fencing for someone who’s having ankle issues.

    4. Turanga Leela*

      I have been pleasantly surprised by at-home Crossfit-style combinations of calisthenics. Setting myself a goal of doing 5 rounds of 20 sit-ups and 10 push-ups, as fast as I can, is way more fun than just thinking that I should do sit-ups more often. I think you can buy decks of cards with suggested home workouts, and many Crossfit gyms post their daily workouts online; you can use them as inspiration and then sub out any movements that hurt your ankle or that you can’t do at home.

      My friends have really gotten into yoga and circus sports, but those might be harder on your ankle and budget.

    5. Phoenix Feather*

      Balance balls are heaven and really hard work. You can get a great workout from them.

      What about an activity that protects and supports your ankle like rollerblading?

  27. The Other Dawn*

    Any Walking Dead fans here? Anxiously awaiting season 7 premiere!

    I waited until last weekend to watch the last four episodes of season 6 and now I’m dying to know who Negan killed. Based on where he was standing, the order of the lineup, and the fact that he pointed to Rick and then to Carl when he made the comments about Rick’s possible reaction and Carl’s eye, I’m convinced it’s Sasha, Aaron or Eugene. Any thoughts?

    1. alex*

      Present and excited. And, oooh interesting re: your theory; my thinking has been that it’s pretty much anybody but those three! My bet’s on Maggie, sadly, but I think Abraham and Daryl are big possibilities, too.
      I am wary that the premiere will follow Carol and Morgan and not address the Negan victims, which would be… maddening.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I don’t think the show would survive another premiere like the one they did after the Glenn cliffhanger. Fans were PISSED about that.

        I’m just going by what the lineup looked like (I even studied the picture on the website!) and Negan pointing to Rick, commenting on Carl’s eye and pointing to him, and then picking someone in the middle of the two of them. If that’s true, then it wouldn’t be Eugene because he was to Carl’s left. I can see thinking it’s Maggie, though, considering how sick she is and how heart-breaking it would be. Luckily the wait isn’t much longer!

        1. alex*

          Oh, good point re: the Glenn thing. Cliffhangers that then require you to wait too long for resolutions are LAME, and everybody knows it. Perhaps, then, they’ll answer The Negan Question immediately.

          I have read super in-depth fandom theories of the lineup that analyzed lighting and the eenie-meenie order, but they’ve not left me convinced. Basically I think it’s gonna be somebody close to the audience, and I wonder if the creators even knew who it would be before they aired the last season. Fans will be pissed if it’s a minor character, after this build-up, but pissed also if it’s a beloved character. The show writers are in a very precarious position!

          It’s nice to have a distraction from the election…

    2. Manderley*

      I think it’s going to be someone unexpected. They’ll change the angle or something to make it plausible. I hope it’s not Maggie.

      We live in Georgia and my brother ran into “Daryl” and “Negan” at a gas station last month. He was almost speechless with excitement when he called me.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I’m very afraid that the Negan season will be frustrating the way the Governor season was. I don’t want them to drag it out.
      We get it; he’s bad. NOW KILL HIM.

    4. Jen RO*

      I think it’s Glenn, based on the Reddit speculation I’ve seen. (And I never cared much for Glenn, so I wouldn’t lose a favorite character.)

  28. Marcela*

    Friends, these past week I’ve felt overwhelmed trying to deal with the selfishness of people, and I need to vent or to see I’m not exaggerating. You see, I bought and electric car around 10 days ago, to help me with my bad commute in the SF bay area. My commute is so long that apart from a Tesla, I can’t make a round trip to my work without charging. But my office has chargers for the people working in the different companies using the same building, so I thought I could use them.

    This past week has been a nightmare. I arrive to work at 10, so by that time all the chargers are used. No big deal, I need less than 3 hours of charge to be able to go back. And since I leave at 6, well, I can start charging after 3. But you know what? People do. Not. Move. Their. Cars when they are done. The only time when I’m 100% sure I can get a charger is after 5:00. There is a whataspp group supposedly to organize the charging, but how can I expect to have to ask every f****** day, “hey guys, can you please move your cars to the other parking spaces, so I have a chance to get to my home every night”?

    I can’t deal very well with selfish people. I have a difficult time understanding the closed vision where you can only see your belly button. Perhaps because my mom is unbelievably selfish. Perhaps because it’s important to me to be as kind and considered with the people sharing the world with me. Perhaps because I feel so lucky and blessed by all gods, having a great life. So this week I’ve even had bad dreams about the car thing. And I’ve been told to talk to the admin of the building, so he can send an email asking the people to move their cars, but I feel like a toddler asking the teacher to tell my classmates to be nice and share the toys.

    I’m sure I’ll get used to this and I’ll learn to cope. But this week has been very, very hard. I just can’t believe or don’t want to, that people would be so f***** selfish. Lucky people, for all people in my building are in scientific startups, being paid at least twice as much as people in academia, doing probably something we love and we believe in. What is wrong with them?!

    1. Adele*

      My boss bought an electric car and experienced the same thing. We work at a large university hospital so he called Parking enforcement to ask what can be done. I guess a few $50 tickets for those parking longer than the allowed 4 hours solved the problem. This is a problem you should take to administration.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. Half of life seems to be about asking for things that seem obvious to us.
        For your health, don’t let this wear on you. Go to the administration and ask what can be done.

        I met a lawyer one time who said, “The bulk of my job is explaining to other people how to do THEIR own jobs.” So glad I did not become a lawyer, I probably would have strangled someone by now. Don’t dwell on this, it does you no good. Go directly to seeking solutions.

    2. DaBlonde*

      Don’t be shy about using the whatsapp group or asking the building admin to send a reminder email. Having charging spaces is a fairly new phenomenon and people aren’t used to having to move their car part way through the day.
      On a more practical note, is there another E-driver that goes out for lunch? You could have her spot when she leaves for lunch.

    3. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

      It’s not tattling to ask admin to deal with people acting like unreasonable inconsiderate jerks so other people can use the otherwise available facilities. That’s their job. This isn’t a family where you either have to work t out with the offending parties or live with it. And even then, once you can move out of the same house, you’re not obliged to remain captives of their bad behavior either.

    4. Elkay*

      Honestly, these people don’t sound selfish to me. If they’re refusing to move their cars when you ask, that’s selfish. This is a new thing and people aren’t used to having to move their cars in the middle of the day. It’s also fairly typical group behaviour, because any one person of the group could do the action no individual takes responsibility to do it.

      1. misspiggy*

        Yes. It’s frequently lack of imagination that causes these issues rather than deliberate, knowing selfishness. My husband sees both kinds of selfishness as equally bad, but I’m often in the first category without realising it….

      2. C Average*

        This. What’s the line about never assuming malice when cluelessness is just as likely an explanation? Keep asking them until the habit’s been formed. It’s not rude of you to keep asking, and it’s not rude of them to stay parked unless they know someone else wants the space.

      3. Marcela*

        Well, that is the thing: when last week I asked in whatsapp if any of them was done, only one of the 9 parked there answered. And when he moved the car to make space for mine, somebody else had already taken the charger he was using. The others just didn’t care when I said a moment later that I still needed a charger, and nobody moved or said anything. I had to wait until 5 to get charge.

        You see, I can’t see “lack of imagination” as something different from selfishness. Unless, for example, somebody is parking in the EV spots because there is no handicapped spot in the building, not realizing the “battle of the chargers”, I absolutely cannot see how you can’t imagine other people in the exact situation you are, in this case, needing to charge the car. For me, that is selfishness. Perhaps there is no intentional and deliberate “it’s all about me”, but the end result it is the same.

        On the other side, the admin has already sent emails in several occasions, my coworkers told me, telling people they need to move their cars when they are done. It cannot be lack of imagination then, for they have been told more than once about the situation you are generously suggesting they can’t imagine.

        1. Nicole*

          Then it’s time to start issuing penalties for non-compliance. If being a considerate person isn’t motivation enough, paying a fine should be. I would suggest to the admin that they institute ticketing, and if at all possible, some type of reminder. I’ve never dealt with these machines but it would be great if they could be programmed to send an email or text when the car has been fully charged and a grace period of x number of minutes/hours after the fact to remove the vehicle before a fine is imposed. That way there’s no excuse that they forgot. Just some thoughts after reading your dilemma. I hope you get it figured out as I can imagine how incredibly frustrating it would be to see all those cars taking up the charges they no longer need. If something isn’t done to mitigate the issue it’s going to discourage people from buying electric vehicles.

          1. Marcela*

            As the other commenters said, electric cars are so new that there is no standard system to know when they are charged, and I guess that’s part of the problem. I’ve been told, for example, that most cars have phone apps where you can get a notification when it’s charged. Mine doesn’t have something like that, but some kind of remote control where a screen tells you the charge. I have to be close for it to work, though. I had to know the car, take trips and see how long it takes to discharge and charge, to be able to predict charging times. And as it happens with any battery, probably the charging efficiency is getting worse and worse with use, so the car charges less and needs to be plugged more time.

            Truth is, I don’t think we are ready yet to go full on electric cars. I didn’t know it before getting my car, for even if I knew cars needs to be charged overnight at home, well, I thought most building and commercial charges would have the fastest chargers, capables of charging cars in an hour or so (if the car can use the fast chargers. I know the cute Fiat doesn’t have them). And since that is not true, for example I can’t sell my normal car, so being a 2 persons family, we have 3 cars. How is that better? Or how is it environmentally better if someday I can’t get charge, so I can’t go home and my husband has to go to pick me up, adding a 2 hours trip from a gas car? In my case it’s better thinking I can use HOV lanes, but if I can’t deal with the frustration, I’ll go back to my gas car, where I don’t have to deal with anybody’s lack of imagination :(

            But you know, what’s driving me crazy is not really the car, but the people’s behavior. It is like I’m opening a door and seeing people not caring about anybody else, and that terrifies me. It’s like this feeling of being invisible, or something that happens in science fiction movies, where somebody is on the street asking people for help and nobody does anything.

    5. Office Plant*

      There’s nothing wrong with asking for things you need. In this case, there are probably other people in the same situation as you. Think of it as standing up for everyone affected by it.

    6. LCL*

      OK, I want to point out a little bit of modern day classism, and how this is making your problem worse. You and the other users are dealing with a relatively new circumstance. Instead of working consistently with the person nominally in charge to fix it, you are expecting it to magically work out because everyone is working for a start up and making good money. So they are smarter and more considerate because they are in a modern profession?

      People are people. Their problems when trying to work in groups are the same in nature, different in details. You all need some kind of system for sharing the chargers. Work with the admin to figure it out and start enforcing it.

    7. Sophie Winston*

      Actual charging time needed is a bad way to manage this. Too variable for people at work with meetings they can’t run out of to move their car. Someone in facilities management needs to set up a reservation system, with maximum time blocks based on what’s reasonable given number of charging stations and users. Sounds like 4 hours would create sufficient turnover from what you’ve said, and would largely allow switches to happen on lunch breaks. That’s what I think you should be advocating for. Good luck.

  29. KatieKate*

    I just signed up for my first 5K- a turkey trot! I’m trying that couch to 5k method, and while I’m not a runner I manged ~almost~ a non-stop mile today, which was great for not being a runner. My goal is to do the 5K without stopping, so hopefully I will be able to pull it off. Any tips for a newbie runner?

    1. Otter box*

      I did couch to 5k! I don’t know if this counts as advice, but I was always very surprised each week when I “leveled up” to longer and longer runs, and each time, even if it was a stretch, I was always able to finish. Even the dreaded W5D3! Just take it easy with your pace – don’t push yourself to run too quickly. I bet that by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, you’ll be able to finish your 5K!

      Good luck!

    2. BobcatBrah*

      The best tip you can possibly get for any workout routine is to be consistent.

      If you don’t stick to it every time you’re supposed to go, if you start skipping workouts here or there, then it’s doomed to failure.

      Stay consistent, and you’ll get there.

    3. self employed*

      I know your goal is “not stopping” but consinder a run-walk plan. It’s significantly easier and results in you being able to go farther, faster, though that may seem counterintuitive to non-runners. My recommendation is that your goal should be to finish! Anything else is gravy. :)

  30. Applesauced*

    Pacific Northwesterners! My boyfriend and I are going to Seattle and Portland in a few weeks, and I’m looking for a jacket.(I asked on a previous OT for stuff recommendations, but I’m open to more) I need a light rain jacket in general, and this trip seems like a good catalyst. I’m hoping to spend less that $150, don’t need warm, but want something to keep me dry in PNW misty/rainy weather, and hopefully something cute enough to wear outside of hiking – kind of tailored, or at least with some kind of structure. I’m currently look at some options from Marmot (most durable/heavy duty, but not attractive), Columbia, and Athleta (cutest, but maybe not the most durable). Thoughts? Suggestions? General annoyance that things marketeted as “rain jackets” aren’t necessarily waterproof?

    1. Aurora Leigh*

      I like Lands End! I have a lightweight rain jacket from them that folds up into its pocket.

    2. It happens*

      I have a pocketable fold up rain jacket with hood from uniqlo. It’s not super-fashionable – it’s a roll up rain jacket – but it costs less than $40 which gives you plenty of budget to get a nice looking jacket that you only need to cover up while it’s raining…

    3. mousemom*

      My son works at REI. He suggests that you look at their Talusphere rain jacket or the Marmot Minimalist. Both of those are in your price range. There is also the Mammut Tatoosh, which is on clearance at REI; you can get it for around $100, as opposed to its normal $200 price tag. The REI Motility rain jacket is also nice because it’s a little bit stretchy but still waterproof; look for it on clearance. If you order online, you could probably have the jacket within 3-5 business days.

    4. skyline*

      I live in the PNW and love my Eddie Bauer Mackenzie trench. It doesn’t look like hiking gear, but has a hood, lots of pockets, a two way zipper, and good waterproofing. I’m one of those people who never carries an umbrella, and this keeps me quite dry.

      Also comes as a shorter jacket, and lots of size options.

      1. LCL*

        Eddie Bauer stuff works very well. If you are buying just a rain jacket bring a fleece to wear underneath or you will freeze. A fleece vest won’t be too bulky, if you get a full sleeve jacket get one with a full front zipper not a pullover. When people from out of the area, especially colder parts of the world, look at the winter temps here they think they will be warm. But the high humidity when it rains is bone chilling. 35 degrees and constant humidity is much colder than 28 degrees and snow. A few weeks from now is the coldest time of the year.

        My go to for that time of year is an LL Bean down parka in a men’s tall size. But I run cold.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I love my Eddie Bauer Girl on the Go raincoat. It has a button-in lining with full sleeves, a flap over the zipper, and it’s waterproof. I bought it for the UK (it was on sale) and it rolls up very small without the liner. I wore it all last winter with the liner and it blocked the wind so well I didn’t even need to get my parka out of the closet!

    5. I Heart Oregon*

      PNW here! If you are coming in a few weeks it most likely won’t be cold but very good chance of rain. The problem with waterproof rain jackets is they don’t breathe very well and it’s pretty humid here (especially today). Reid will definetly have something for you. We usually get by with a fleece, a hoodie or a rain jacket, depending on the day.

    6. ..Kat..*

      Portland Oregon here! Go to the Columbia store (on-line, or in Portland and Seattle). Their “Mountain Hard Wear ” line has light weight, breathable rain jackets. Buy it a little big an you can layer a light-weight fleece jacket (a Pacific Northwest must have) or a fleece vest (another Pacific Northwest must have) underneath the jacket for warmth. You won’t need an umbrella, just put up the hood! Practice carrying a reusable, to-go coffee mug in one hand and you will blend right in.

      Enjoy your trip, this is a fun part of the US.

    7. Aardvark*

      If you are a lady-type person, you might check out something like the REI La Selva. I’ve got an older jacket (6-ish years) in a similar style/same brand, and it’s great.
      It’s a little over your budget at $169, but it might be worth a look.

    8. Experiment 626*

      [from Seattle, lived in Portland for years, now in rainy Durham] I have the REI Kyoto and I love it. I bought mine a bit big so that I can layer for seasonal shifts, I can wear a hoodie, sweater, down vest or packable-puffy under it just fine. I’ve worn it by itself in warmer weather but with layers I’ve managed winters in Chicago and NYC. I’m a tall person, finding coats that fit me well is tricky, I like that this coat is a bit longer in the back, (I’m a daily bicycle commuter), and that it has longer arms. The hood is adjustable and has a bill, as a glasses wearer this is especially great, I can get the hood snugged down well enough that it won’t blow off in a wind, and my glasses stay shielded enough that I’m not walking around with wet glasses. This coat gets an A+ from me.

  31. Pennalynn Lott*

    First Initial dot Last Name: THANK YOU for your recommendation last week of the FurStatic Pet Hair Broom! I bought something similar (a rubber finger-like rake) and it works wonders on the carpet and the bathroom rugs. Based on the amount of stuff it pulled up out of the carpet, I’ll be cleaning off the round brushes on my Dyson a whole lot less often now. (And that cleaning involved scissors and sturdy tweezers, so I’m really looking forward to not doing it quite so much!)

  32. Aurion*

    I just realized today that I’ve been weightlifting for about three months now. I go to the gym 2-3 times a week, save for a two week span when my knee was irritating me. I still hate my 7 am Saturday alarm, but there’s something really satisfying about muscles screaming every time I sit down in a chair. XD

    I’m pretty proud of myself for being this consistent, since I don’t have a trainer or a class. I’m doing entirely free weights and compound lifts, and I’ve made pretty good progress! There is a bit of a bicep now when I flex my arms :)

    I wish there were more women lifting in the gym. I’m attending a women’s only weightlifting meetup next weekend and I’m super excited about it.

    1. nep*

      Nice. Good for you. Are you doing powerlifting or the Olympic lifts? Meetup sounds great — let us know how it goes.
      It does indeed feel great to lift.
      Enjoy and congratulations on your progress.

      1. Aurion*

        I do modified versions of the powerlifting lifts (goblet squats instead of barbell squats, Romanian deadlift with fixed bars instead of conventional with barbells), some core work (right now it’s plank pulldowns/side plank rows with a cable machine), and some auxiliary stuff (TRX pushups/inverted rows, bench presses, split squats, etc). I don’t trust my coordination to handle explosive lifts :)

        I can’t handle an oly barbell yet except for the Romanian deadlifts, but it’s easier to use fixed bars than deal with putting on tiny weights onto a proper barbell. (Although now I think about it, the fixed bars I use are those E-Z curly bars because the straight fixed bars aren’t heavy enough, so my grip is probably not entirely pronated. I have to check next time I’m there. Maybe I should load a conventional barbell for the Romanian deadlifts anyway.) Eventually the program I’m on will have me do conventional deadlifts and front/back squats with the bar, so once I get stronger I’ll likely hire a trainer to coach me through those forms.

        1. nep*

          Sounds great. I love how those Romanian deadlifts make the glutes and hamstrings feel the following couple days.

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            My coach programmed those for me while I was recovering from an injury because he wanted me deadlifting, but not so much weight that I over-stressed the injured joint. HOLY HELL, my hammies let me know how they felt about it for at least two days afterward!

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Good for you! I’m always stoked to hear about more gals lifting heavy sh!t. I know what you mean about wishing there were more when you go to the gym. I’m very fortunate to be a member of a CrossFit gym with many, many strong women (I can deadlift 305 and that doesn’t put me even CLOSE to the top three leaders’ list!), but when I travel and visit another gym, that is often not the case, even visiting other CrossFit locations. (When I drop by the LA Fitness that my brother belongs to, I feel like a zoo animal — “hey, everyone stare at the woman in the weight room!”)

      Powerlifting is the bomb.

      1. Aurion*

        My gym has a women’s only area with a much more limited selection of weights. Honestly, some of those women are stronger than me (judging by the fact that they can squat a 55 lb fixed barbell, which I can’t do). But they don’t go over to the co-ed area even if they’ve totally mastered 55 lbs. Whenever I go to the co-ed area, I’m usually the only woman there by the weights/barbells.

        The men in my gym have completely ignored me whenever I cross over. They don’t stare, they don’t comment, they just continue their lifting or conversations or whatever they were doing before. But I workout in old t-shirts and gym shorts so there probably isn’t anything interesting to look at anyway :P

        Deadlifting 305 sounds amazing. How long have you been lifting? I’m hoping to deadlift my bodyweight and squat 80 lbs after about the first year (I know newbie gains are a thing, but I’m starting out way behind the strength baseline of the average woman. Or at least it seems that way).

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          5 years, switching back and forth between CrossFit and powerlifting-only programs. But always coached — I wouldn’t have known what to do on my own.

          Mark Rippetoe’s book “Starting Strength” is a great place to start.

        2. rPM*

          I know I’m super late to this thread but it’s exciting to see how many other women here are doing heavy lifting / powerlifting! Based on my 2-ish yrs experience I think your goals are great, it sounds like they’re enough of a stretch to be challenging but are also realistic and doable. Plus, props for braving the co-ed free weight area! I used to frequently be the only women in the free weights at my gym but there are so many more lately. I think heavier lifting is gaining popularity among women, and also think seeing a woman in the co-ed space encourages more to join, so maybe you’ll get some company soon (you could even ask someone who looks strong and friendly to come spot you in the co-ed area and see if she sticks around).

    3. Nervous Accountant*

      That is awesome! I’ve been working out off and on since June (more like off than on sadly) but I started getting consistent last month. I finally reached thepoint of where I could see SOME progress and having that excited feeling about 2 weeks ago.

      I failed to go this week because of an aching ankle and cold/IBS flare up but I’m excited to go back tomorrow!

      I absolutely HATE cardio, i hate it with a passion, so I’ve been focusing solely on weights/compound movements and HIIT. That muscle sorenesss is the best feeling ever.
      I have to say, at first I was intimidated by being in the weight room mostly because there’salways only men there, rarely any women. But I got over that pretty quickly.

      Do you follow any fitness pages on social media?

      1. Aurion*

        I follow the program in a book called Strong, which is the latest book by the authors of New Rules of Lifting for Women (I actually looked into NRoLFW because of a recommendation on AAM, and then selected the newest book based on reviews that Strong scales better to beginners). There are Facebook groups for people doing the New Rules workouts (any version), so I follow those to ask questions.

        There is also a women’s only weightlifting group for my area on Meetup, where the organizer is a personal trainer who occasionally runs super cheap workshops ($10 per member! That probably just covers the gym studio rental). The Meetup group also has their own private Facebook group where people ask questions. I’m a bit bummed that I only just discovered this; I missed a deadlifting workshop last month that I would’ve loved to go to.

        And yeah, I hate cardio too. I don’t mind the stair mill, but I hate, hate, hate the elliptical and treadmill, and I’ve a programmed wariness about HIIT. So I much prefer powerlighting and the controlled movements there XD

  33. Ann Furthermore*

    So here’s a question that’s tangentially work related, but more personal.

    I’ve been job searching, and I’m expecting to get at least one offer pretty soon. This will be a great career move.

    My one hesitation about leaving (and this may sound silly) is that one of the few cool things my company still does is to have Santa come for an afternoon in December. Employees and retirees can bring their kids and grandkids to get their picture taken, people bring in treats for the kids, and then someone organizes some kind of holiday crafty thing for them to do.

    My daughter is 7, and I’ve brought her to see Santa every year since she was born. I take the afternoon off, and it’s a fun thing we always do together. She looks forward to it every year.

    If I get another job, obviously we won’t be able to do it this year. I’m wondering what I should tell her. We’ve probably got one or maybe 2 more years before she figures out the deal with Santa, but I don’t want to rush it. I think all kids should figure it out on their own.

    Any ideas for how we should handle this? I know some people aren’t really fans of the whole Santa thing, but we enjoy doing it. Other than her birthday, it’s the only time of year that she gets a bunch of new toys and other things.

    And I do try to tie in giving to others by having her clean out her toy room after Thanksgiving and deciding what she’s ready to donate. Then we make sure everything is in good shape, that all the games and puzzles have all their pieces, dolls have all their clothes and hair brushed, and so on. I stress to her that we’re quite fortunate, and that she has very nice toys that another kid will enjoy if she’s done with them, and that you don’t donate anything that’s beat up, broken, or missing pieces.

    Any ideas on how to tell her that we won’t be able to see Santa at Mom’s office this year that won’t leave her too disappointed?

    1. Pearly Girl*

      It sounds like a good teaching moment: life changes, priorities shift, and Mom is doing something that will make life better for the family, which means no more Santa at the old office. But this year, we’re going to start a new tradition… (insert here).

      Isn’t it true that kids need to learn to adapt to changes and disappointments?

      1. Yetanotherjennifer*

        Yes, I wouldn’t work too hard to compensate for this. Help her deal with the disappointment, but this really is a great life lesson in a benign package, and it’s coming early enough that a hug and understanding go a long way to fixing it. And I like the idea of tracking down some of this Santa’s other destinations. But also, you have this gap in your holiday traditions; how does she want to fill it?

    2. Graciosa*

      I think you’re worrying about this more than you need to. If you act just as excited to see Santa somewhere else, I doubt your daughter will regard this as a tragedy.

      Figure out the best, most exciting *new* place to visit Santa in your area, and let her know that you need to visit Santa in his new location. If there’s something else special about his new spot – near a place you can enjoy hot chocolate, or look at holiday window displays, for example – you will have the opportunity to add to the ritual you share.

      This is also an opportunity to reinforce the lesson that the important part of the ritual is the fact that the two of you are sharing the time together. Enjoy it.

    3. KR*

      Maybe find a mall Santa or a community event or Christmas village type attraction? You could tell her Santa is busy that weekend at an elf insurance conference and so you have to see him at a different place?

    4. Jean*

      Can you take her to see Santa somewhere else? (Or would having a _different_ Santa be another problem?)
      Santa doesn’t come to our house so you may want another opinion on this.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        Do you know who this Santa is? I bet he goes multiple places around town. If he’s a really great Santa find another place to meet him. Lots of places have activities and things other than just lining up at the mall. Enjoy a new twist on tradition!

      2. Ann Furthermore*

        I think the different Santa is what’s worrying me. It’s the same guy every year, and he really does look like the true, genuine Santa. He does a great job, and he’s got some helpers who play elves and Mrs Claus.

        A few years ago, I ran into the woman who organizes the event. It was late November, and I hadn’t seen any emails yet. She told me she’d run into the CEO one day a few months back, and he was grumbling about it and said he didn’t want to do it. Then about six weeks later, he asked her how the Santa plans were coming along. She reminded him of their previous conversation, and he didn’t remember it. He said, “OMG, I must have been in a really bad mood that day. Santa has to come!” So she was scrambling around at the last minute to put it together.

        She told me she’d called the guy who plays Santa, and told him the event wouldn’t be happening. He called back and left her a message really reading her the riot act about how cancelling was such a crappy thing to do to the employees and the kids. I said, “Are you telling me that you got an irate voice mail from Santa Claus??” We laughed and laughed.

    5. Stellaaaaa*

      I’m not Christian so YMMV, but when do kids outgrow the Santa thing? 7 sounds about right for that natural transition anyway. I’d just wait until she asks about it. If she does, take her to the mall.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        I think I was 8 when I figured it out. I came home from school early one day, and my mom wasn’t expecting me. There was a bunch of stuff sitting on the dining room table. Coincidentally, my Santa haul looked very much like the stuff I’d seen in the dining room a week or two earlier. Lightbulb. Lol.

      2. Aurion*

        I was five or six. My parents had no poker face whatsoever. They totally flubbed the Santa story the next day when I questioned them point-blank (this is the only Christmas memory I remember, so I have no idea how much I believed prior to that).

        It was fine! It just meant that I could go to Dad to fix the toys I broke instead of wishing really hard at Santa :)

      3. catsAreCool*

        I was afraid of Santa, so my parents told me when I was pretty young. I loved knowing – made me feel important to know a secret.

      4. EmmaLou*

        I believed a long time. Still do when I can! ;) Even if she maybe has doubts or full on doesn’t really believe, she may want to continue the tradition if she’s a tradition kind of kid and lots of kids tend to be that. “We have to have blueberry pancakes camping! We always have them!” “Of course we have to hang the dalek on the tree! We always hang him on the tree!” So, I think it’s good to start a new tradition and talk about how fun those can be. Santa train? Santa breakfast? Santa at the mall and new earrings? (to transition to just a Christmas visit to the mall with mom to get new earrings every Christmas season)

        1. Yetanotherjennifer*

          My daughter made it to 12. Although, there was that one time at age 7 in the car when she asked and I said, “do you really want to know?” So there may have been a lot of willful believing after that.

      5. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

        I never believed that I can remember because even when I was five, it didn’t seem plausible that Santa’s handwriting looked exactly like Mom or Dad’s. But we all enjoyed pretending, knowing we were pretending.

        1. C Average*

          Santa never passed the sniff test for me, either. Too many practical objections. I wasn’t allowed to converse with strangers or answer the door by myself, and yet my parents were claiming to be cool with some rando entering the house in the middle of the night to leave stuff for us? And besides that, we often had a fire in the fireplace, because we lived in Montana then and it got COLD in December.

          My parents read to me a lot and had always emphasized the difference between true stories and made-up stories. I always just assumed Santa was a made-up story and that they’d just forgotten to mention the made-up part.

      6. matcha123*

        I was about 4, maybe 5. My mom was friends with a very Christian family that didn’t do Santa and their kids told me. After my sister was born, I was enlisted to help with Santa. I think she was between 8 and 10 when she figured it out. Both of us still get presents from Santa on Christmas, however :)

      7. aeldest*

        I thought the presents would stop if I let on that I knew, so I pretended to still believe in Santa till I was 10 or so–but I had my doubts starting around 5.

        My younger brothers found out at the same time when they were around 6 and 8 respectively.

        My little sister still whole-heartedly believed when she was 11, but we told her the truth after that Christmas because we didn’t want her heading into middle school still believing.

        My parents never outright lied to us about Santa, instead relying on phases like “Do YOU think Santa’s real?” and “If you think about it, isn’t Santa the spirit of giving? And that’s in all of us.” etc

    6. Office Plant*

      I would find a way to continue the tradition. Could you ask your new company about having a Santa Day? They might be open to it. It sounds like something that would be popular. If they didn’t want to pay for it, you could have interested co-workers contribute to a fund.

      If that doesn’t work, I agree with the suggestion to see Santa somewhere else. There are ways to explain it. You could say that Santa sees kids in many places and you’re meeting him somewhere else this year.

      If it’s been the same Santa for 7 years, could you ask around before leaving and find out if he’s “Santa” in other places too? He might have other gigs in places that are open to the public.

      Or, just throwing this out there, could you and your daughter come back for a visit to Old Company on Santa Day? Sometimes it’s just a matter of staying in touch with a co-worker and having them bring you in as a guest.

    7. Snapplelidfacts*

      The Santa that my company uses is a professional Santa. He makes appearances thought the holiday season at various public, and private events. Perhaps your Santa appears at a local mall or another public venue?

  34. periwinkle*

    Around here, Patagonia and Columbia are popular. I’ve worn Lands End for years but their quality recently has been disappointing. I wound up buying an L.L. Bean fleece water-resistant jacket, not commonly seen around here but I’m an East Coast native!

    FYI, if you wear glasses, a brimmed hat is even more useful than a rain jacket. I’ve always got a baseball cap handy. We do not get a lot of real rain here, despite the reputation. It’s a perpetual mist & light drizzle in the mornings but can be quite sunny in the afternoons.

  35. Sorgatani*

    I am now very glad I chose the physiotherapist linked to my GP – turns out that my distal radius is not quite healed enough for him to authorize exercises beyond squeezing a tennis ball, making a fist and, yes, flexing my fingers.
    Thankfully I don’t need another cast, but he did tell me to take it easy for another 3 weeks.
    Still get what housework I can done, but stop when the arm gets tired. He does not want to risk forcing the still-healing bone out of alignment by starting intense exercises early.
    GP extended my certificate.

    This week is looking to be a full one – I’m heading off to Melbourne to see Lacuna Coil with a friend on Thursday, staying overnight and coming home Friday. Then on Saturday I’m heading back up to Melbourne for a convention.
    I might post a pic or two of my costume next week – assuming there will be ones I’m happy with.
    I ordered my costume from CostumeBox, a place I hadn’t tried before, and was really impressed with the results – they advertised next day delivery (within Australia) and it really was next day – ordered on Thursday, arrived Friday. I don’t typically trust those claims; I’m in regional Victoria, which sometimes adds to the delivery time. Plus, y’know, weekend. I assumed it’d arrive during this week. It helps that my item was in stock and I ordered before the 4pm cut-off. Realistically I should have had my costume organized ages ago, but my original plan fell through – so I had to take a gamble. I’m glad it paid off!
    If I’m in need in the future, I now have another option, which is always helpful.

  36. Dating Question*

    I don’t have kids, but I have dated people who do. I think it’s great. In theory, I could become a step-parent or just long term SO of a parent and get to be a bit parental. (I would like to have kids but can’t.) However, I’ve noticed that it comes with a whole set of dynamics that I would like to be better prepared for. It’s more complicated and confusing than I had expected.

    Single parents, what advice do you have for childless people who are new to dating single parents? What are the rules? How can we be good at this?

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      I’m a singleton with no kids who has had to navigate this and I wouldn’t do it again unless the kid was old enough to be somewhat independent. It’s ok to set boundaries with this stuff. Are you okay with dating someone who talks to their ex more than you talk to any of yours? Are you okay with having your weekends scheduled around the care and entertainment of a child that isn’t yours? Long term, do you want to have to budget for a house with extra bedrooms for these kids? Financially, would it bother you that your partner’s income had to go toward their children from another partner than wholly toward building a life with you?

      All of these things can be navigated, but please don’t beat yourself up if you decide that you don’t want someone else’s custody issues (or whatever) to be a presence in your relationship.

      1. Dating Question*

        So far, I’ve only dated people with adult kids. I’m sure that’s easier in a lot of ways. The thing that’s awkward about it is knowing that you and the kid might have been friends or co-workers had circumstances been different, especially when you actually have friends who are the same age or younger than the kid . . . It’s probably even more awkward from the kid’s perspective, and then you feel responsible for putting them in an awkward situation. I kept imagining that I was making out with a friend’s parent and feeling guilty about it. Feeling like I owed them an apology. Even though I’m fine with it all in theory. Is that weird?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I have had a couple coworkers want to introduce me to their dad. It can go any number of directions, there are good paths, too.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m not a parent and my boyfriend doesn’t have kids, but I’m a stepkid and I have several friends who have dated or married men with kids (it’s all men, for some reason, but that’s just the way things have played out among my circle, I guess). Anyway, my biggest piece of advice is to be flexible. Sometimes very flexible. The kids always have to come first, and sometimes that means plans get changed at the last minute, or your SO can’t go to an event on a particular weekend, or that time frees up unexpectedly. Now, granted, don’t let your SO take advantage of your flexibility, but I’ve seen that become a big source of frustration among people who are planners and not so comfortable going with the flow.

      My bf’s father and his current stepmother broke up once because she was upset that he loved his kids more than he loved her. Well, yeah. Duh, lady. That’s the way it’s supposed to go. Obviously, they ended up getting married, but that kind of crap sticks and stings. She actively discourages father-son time, and I think she sucks for it, even though my bf is an adult. So I’d recommend being conscientious of one-on-one parent-kid time and encouraging it.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        I’ll probably get reprimanded (lol) for this, but I find that men (who usually are not the custodial parents) have no qualms about wanting to pursue women who don’t have kids. Women who have kids (and who are the primary custodians) are pretty realistic about mostly needing to date men who already have kids. You’ll very rarely see a woman who has kids out at a bar on Saturday night trying to meet single guys who don’t already have their own kids.

      2. Dating Question*

        Yeah, it’s a weird thing, but there were one or two moments when I felt a pang of jealousy, or even said (once), “Hey, I thought we had plans!” I know that sucks. It was just because I was new to the whole thing. I get that people love their kids more than anyone else. That’s how it should be. I tried to take things really slowly and mentally put the kid first so that I would handle things the right way.

        It’s weird, but I always end up caring about the kid as much as the parent even if I’ve barely met them. More in some ways, though obviously in a different way. I think that’s natural? But the whole thing was still challenging for me at times. There were moments when I felt jealous of the kid because my parents hadn’t been as nice to me, or when I thought the parent wasn’t being a good parent and felt angry and judgmental (though I didn’t say anything). Not having kids myself, it’s all a huge adjustment. But I think I’m starting from a good place – taking note of these things and trying to do better. I don’t want to be in a serious relationship with someone who has kids until I’m ready for it and feel like I wouldn’t somehow harm the kid by not handling everything well.

        1. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

          I don’t know that I’d find it weird to have those feelings. Parents usually have the advantage of a) knowing this is their kid, and b) easing into the whole parenthood thing. Some don’t, some are surprised by it, but if they were together before and after the kid came to be, then there is a gradual transition from not-parent to parent. As someone dating the parent, it’s got to be at least a little weird to go from not-parent to maybe-potential-stepparent.

          1. Dating Question*

            Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m dealing with. I believe that kids should always come first and I understand everything in theory, but it’s a challenge to get used to the situation in practice. I was overwhelmed by it. I handled the confusion by backing off (as someone suggested). Being as uninvolved as possible in the parent-child relationship except to be generally supportive. But I felt like I was learning a new skill and taking on a delicate situation without fully understanding it.

            1. C Average*

              Where this can get klutzy is when you have actual responsibility for the kids, which at some point you will if you’re in a shared custody situation. All the advice books talk a good game about leaving all disciplinary matters to the biological parents, not presenting yourself as an authority figure, staying in the background, etc. But at some point, if you’re feeding kids or driving kids around or supervising kids while the parent is running an errand or whatever, you’re going to have to physically pull apart two squabbling siblings, or inform a teenager that she may not dye her hair blue on your watch until after she’s had a conversation with her father, or enforce a reasonable bedtime.

              Knowing this eventuality will occur, have a conversation with the parent about it. Say something like this: “At some point, I’m going to have to make a judgment call with regard to your kids’ behavior in your absence. First off, are there any basic ground rules we need to agree on? And secondly, once those ground rules are agreed upon, do you agree to have my back?”

              A few times I’ve had to be the enforcer, and the child tried to appeal to her dad after the fact and to paint me as being unfair. If we hadn’t communicated effectively about this stuff, she could have easily divided us and played us against each other.

              You also need the parent’s full faith and confidence in the event of emergency. I’ve needed that, twice now. I hope you won’t. But it’s a whole lot better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      My stepdaughter was almost 6 when my husband and I started dating. He was very clear with me that he didn’t want to introduce us until he knew that things between us were getting serious. He didn’t want her getting attached to someone who might not be around a few weeks or months later. I completely understood.

      When things did get serious, I knew that she came first. Wednesday nights were always out because that was his night to pick her up and take her to dinner. On weekends when she stayed with him, I would come over, but not stay the night. I was fine with all of this. She was his priority when she was with him. Her mother is a basket case, so it was very important to him to make sure she knew she had one stable parent who she could depend on.

      My friends with step kids all told me the same thing: the 2 most important words about being a step parent, or dating a guy with kids, are “back off.” Don’t swoop in and try to take over. Let the kids come to you when they’re ready. Find out what they like and go from there. With my stepdaughter, I took her with me to get a mani pedi a few times when she came for the weekend. Her mom is not into that stuff at all, so it was a special treat when we did it.

      When we got married, I would kind of fade into the background when she came over. I didn’t want her to feel like she wasn’t going to get that one on one time with her dad just because he’d gotten married. For a long time I went out of my way to introduce her to people as my stepdaughter, not because I didn’t think of her as my own kid, but because I didn’t want her to get the idea in her head that I was trying to take her mom’s place. Kids that age can get crazy notions about things. Fast forward 13 years, and today we have a very close relationship.

      Just remember that you are the new person being added to the mix. You are the one who has changed the dynamic. Keep that in mind and you’ll be fine.

    4. Dynamic Beige*

      Speaking as someone who was the kid who got step-parents…

      Kids don’t need to know who their parent is casually dating. There is nothing to be gained by taking the kids with you on a date or planning “family friendly” dates, except a whole lot of awkward. Once it gets serious and there looks to be some sort of a future, then you should be meeting the kids. If you and your date/future SO can’t make it as a couple without the kids, adding the kids isn’t going to “fix” it. Kind of like introducing a new cat into a house full of cats, you have to do it in increments so that everyone gets used to you.

      Don’t try to win the kids over with gifts. Kids are not stupid and they can see when an adult is being fake. At least, I could with my father’s various girlfriends. Your intended’s children may not like you, they may resent you/the time you spend with their parent. Why? Because they’re kids and they don’t understand adult relationships, all they see is that their parent not having their back. If your feelings are hurt by that, then you should not be dating someone who has kids. If you cannot stand the thought that your intended would rush off to the hospital if their child was injured instead of making you soup when you have a cold — date childless people. The kids should* come first. Not always 100% percent of the time, but maybe 99%. They are children and they need their parent. If you have a problem with that, don’t date someone with kids.

      You are not the parent, you don’t get to dictate the punishments. Beware any parent of children who expects you to suddenly be the Mom/Dad/caretaker. I can only speak to what I have experienced or been told by female friends, so when I say that there are some men out there who are not interested or capable of taking care of their own children, who are looking for someone to relieve them of that burden, believe me. Not all, but it happens more often than you might think.

      If you’re dating someone with kids, take a serious look at how they speak about their ex and how they deal with their responsibilities towards their children. A man who tells you that his ex is “crazy” or who doesn’t pay his child support or rarely spends time with his children — even when they are over — this guy is not going to turn into SuperDad & WonderHusband when you get the ring on it and decide to have kids together.

      I’m not saying it can’t be done. Or that it should never be done. I have known people who had great relationships with their step-kids (or thought they had) until the brown stuff hit the fan and suddenly found themselves on the outside looking in on the decision making — even though they were affected, too. Because they were not the parent and they had forgotten with all the love and care that grew for the children, they were not the parent and don’t automatically get a vote. And that hurt them, very deeply.

      * when I say should I mean within reasonable circumstances. There are going to be times when your date/SO will choose the children over yourself. It may not be for your anniversary or your birthday, but it may be if there’s an emergency or if it’s their year to have the kids for Xmas. If you simply must have your partner’s undivided attention and love, then don’t date anyone who has kids.

      1. C Average*

        “I have known people who had great relationships with their step-kids (or thought they had) until the brown stuff hit the fan and suddenly found themselves on the outside looking in on the decision making — even though they were affected, too. Because they were not the parent and they had forgotten with all the love and care that grew for the children, they were not the parent and don’t automatically get a vote. And that hurt them, very deeply.”

        THIS. A thousand times this.

    5. chickabiddy*

      I’ve been the kid whose parents were dating, and I’m currently a single parent (not currently dating) watching my daughter deal with her father’s dating. From both perspectives, I would say just go slow. You’ve probably heard about the kids from your boyfriend so you probably feel like you know them a little, but they don’t know you. Let them get to know you, and express interest in getting to know them. Treat them like people, which is probably painfully obvious, but sometimes new partners act like the kids are trophies to be won over, and that doesn’t usually work.

    6. C Average*

      Don’t do it. Do not do it. DO NOT DO IT.

      I’m a stepmom. My marriage is good now and things are relatively harmonious; I’m writing this from about as positive a place as I’ve ever been in with regard to the stepparenting gig, and my advice is still utterly unequivocal. Do not do it.

      When I entered this scenario, we had the kids half the time. Their mom lived a couple miles away. I liked their mom. I liked the kids. Everyone liked me. We co-parented relatively harmoniously. I thought, “hey, this isn’t as hard as all the stepparenting books say.”

      I was naive as all hell when I had that thought.

      My husband’s ex-wife’s house burned down and we wound up with the kids full-time. The kids were understandably traumatized and had many problems as a result, which strained my relationship with my husband. You name it, we dealt with it. Eating disorders. Anxiety. Panic attacks. Self-harm.

      The kids’ mom, who is bipolar, had a very scary episode while the kids were in her care. They decided they didn’t want her in their lives. More than a year later, they’re willing to spend short periods of time with her, but they live with us full-time and likely will until they go to college.

      I have given everything I can to trying to be an effective parental figure to them, but I still fall short. It’s really hard. No one notices the things I do for them. No one thanks me or appreciates me. No one gives me a card for Mother’s Day. I know I sound all martyred here–I don’t admit this stuff to anyone else, but it’s how I feel.

      My husband is the best person I’ve ever met, and he is almost worth it. Almost. I will stay and we will keep making it work, but it is way, way harder than anything I thought I was signing up to do.

      1. self employed*

        Wow. Thanks for sharing this. It goes unsaid too much. If I were in that situation of the op, I would take your advice! I have seen a story play out that is similar to yours and it is terrible. I am very impressed with your commitment and character.

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        C Average, I know from your posts that you are one of the good ones. It won’t help now, but when those kids are older they will (or should, unless they are total monsters) be able to show you the appreciation they do not now.

        First of all, they are kids and naturally self-centered. They don’t really think about their wants or needs as being an imposition on others. They will grow out of it (unless they are total monsters). Once they are older, they will have a better understanding of what it means to be an adult. It may not be until they have kids of their own, but it will be one day (unless they are total monsters).

        Second, it’s hard to be caught in the middle. Their mother, despite all her faults, is still their mother. Depending on what kind of person she is, she may have implied that if they dare to love you (or anyone) or think of you as a mother, it will be the biggest betrayal ever. Or they may feel that way just because they’re young and haven’t learned the lesson that the more people you love, the more love you have. They aren’t really capable of the nuanced understanding that comes with age and wisdom. Yes, it’s going to suck really hard when (or if) they get married and all the “who is the mother of the groom/bride?” stuff comes out. Because parents who never behaved (or were capable of behaving) like parents suddenly get all possessive about their “rights”, even if they were never interested before.

        But in the end, the one who stays and puts in the work is the one who is appreciated. Their mother, through no true fault of her own because of her condition, will never have the same day-to-day impact on those kids’ lives that you will. She knows it, somewhere deep inside, and I’m sure she’s tormented and conflicted by it. One day, she may even surprise you by thanking you for being there when she couldn’t be.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I have to say, C Average, that you are A plus in my books.

        I had a family member (she has since passed away) who would say things very similar to what C Average is saying here. It’s a thankless job and you are not considered a parent by anyone even though you have a lot of parenting type responsibilities.

        The one glimmer of hope I have ever found came from my very smart boss. Her context was a little different that step-parenting so bear with me a minute here. My boss said that parents who are consistently kind/fair/polite to everyone around them end up with nice kids EVEN if the parent was not much on insisting on discipline. My boss felt that it takes a long time to play out -ohh…. 20-30 years, let’s say– but eventually the adult kids sort things out and they remember the kindnesses their parents showed them and others. I think that this could probably be applied to step-parenting also. A step-parent may not have much say in what is going on at the moment but the child does absorb and remember the step-parent’s kind acts and thoughtful statements. And these subtle teachings can and DO shape the child’s personality in adult life. It just takes a very long time to come back around.

        1. Dating Question*

          Yeah, I think kids learn by example more than by the rules that are set. Parents, adults, and older children are role models. If an adult makes rules and doesn’t live by them, kids see straight through it.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Bingo. And the adults that end up respected are people like C Average who put tons of thinking into how they handle things. These are the adults who kids seek out later in life.

      4. Jean*

        C Average, you are a good, good person.Your solid character shines through in all of your postings. Your efforts go unthanked now, but you are working to give the world two (? three?) sturdy, self-reliant adults. Every day you provide an example of living gracefully in the face of enormous challenges. Please add me to the list of people wishing that at some future point your stepkids will acknowledge and appreciate everything that you are now doing.”

      1. self employed*

        Yes because you aren’t “parenting” them. However, I would be sure there is a pretty healthy adult child/parent relationship. If it’s toxic or manipulative, or if there is ongoing drama with the ex, I’d move on. The kids are always in the equation even if they are adults — say you want to go on a Christmas trip but your bf/spouse wants to stay for the three hours he gets to spend with his adult kids. Maybe that’s fine, maybe it’s not. There’s just an additional layer or five to negotiate.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          This exact scenario came up for us two Christmases ago. My bf and I had just moved to the state where his father and stepmother live, and we were looking forward to an easy family Christmas without major travel and the stress that brings. We found out over Thanksgiving that dad and stepmom had decided to go away for Christmas– which is certainly their right, but she insisted on it AND they didn’t give my bf a heads-up (I was the one who figured it out). When my bf expressed some disappointment, his stepmother’s response was, “Too bad.” No acknowledgment of his feelings. The relationship is a little more complicated than that (uh, see above re: “you love your kids more”), but it hurt my bf terribly and certainly damaged his relationship with his dad.

          My relationship with my stepfather is very difficult, but it’s different– he’s been in my life since I was 3 years old. I know he loves me in his strange way, and I certainly love him, even though I absolutely cannot stand him and his Fox News views, but whatever. My boyfriend’s stepmother, however, came around when he was in his 20s. He never expected to love her or be close with her, but we all certainly wish she was less insecure and more understanding of the relationship my bf has with his dad. As I alluded to above, she actively discourages her husband from spending one-on-one time with his son or his daughter, and I find that so appalling. So don’t do that. :)

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            twe all certainly wish she was less insecure and more understanding of the relationship my bf has with his dad

            My father’s third wife — the one who “won” (although not really) because they remained married until he died — was like this. First when they were dating, she just couldn’t understand why we didn’t just instantly take to her and love her like a mother. Uh… ’cause you’re a stranger, my father has had numerous girlfriends before you including ones that hated me and I don’t think you’re going to be around next time I see him? Years later, when they had kids of their own and I was 30, she would still get upset at just the mention of his past. There I am, standing in front of her, proof positive that he had had a relationship with another woman and had kids with her but it was like she thought of me as a niece or a cousin or something. It was truly bizarre. Maybe it was OK because my mother had died and it wasn’t like she was competition any more? Someone who might come back from the past and take him away? I don’t know. The amount of times I listened to her complain to me about my father’s drinking, that he never lifted a finger to help with their kids/she did it all herself. I just sat there. What did you expect from a man who didn’t pay child support because he couldn’t afford to (and frankly, didn’t want to), barely saw his own children and when he did, was more comfortable having you around to deal with them for him? SMH.

        2. C Average*

          My husband and I often take our vacations separately for this exact reason. There are just too many moving parts going in too many directions, and I don’t ever want that to be a source of drama.

          Once a year he and the kids visit his folks without me; once a year, I come, too. (I love his folks. I won the in-law lottery big time.) Once a year, I take each of the kids individually to see my parents. They can bring a friend if they choose to. Once a year, we all go together.

          When the whole fam-damily travels together, it just feels like too much pressure to Make Memories and experience Quality Time and so forth. A little of that is good, but a little goes a really long way! When we break off into smaller groups, we can focus on doing things only some of us enjoy, rather than searching for a common denominator.

          I really want them to experience time with their dad without me around. I belong to a couple of clubs and pursue a few hobbies that take me out of the house on a regular basis. I love coming home to find them playing Rock Band or putting doll clothes on the dog. I hope they never, ever think of me as the woman who butted into their relationship with their dad.

          As for their stuff, sometimes they want me there and sometimes they don’t. If I’m invited to a concert or a game, I always try to go, but sometimes they don’t mention it, and that’s cool with me. I’ve sat in plenty of overheated high school gyms listening to bad trombones or counting air balls. Sometimes a night home alone with the cat and “Law & Order” reruns sounds way more fun!

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            I hope they never, ever think of me as the woman who butted into their relationship with their dad.

            And that is why I say I know you’re one of the good ones. I wish my first stepmother had been half as decent. Hell, even a quarter as decent.

        3. Dating Question*

          I definitely thought about how healthy the relationships with the kid and the ex seemed. It can be hard to get a sense of, though. I kept taking things really slowly and hoping to eventually figure it out.

          And yeah, adult kids come before everything else. It’s a bit of an adjustment, though, if you’re new to being in that situation.

    7. Pug Lover*

      A good friend of mine is a single parent by choice ( she adopted two kids). The kids are still really young and she finds it incredibly hard to date at this time. She has dated men who have children and there werent a ton of differences between men with vs. without kids.

      As others have mentioned, you have to be very flexible and understand and accept that the kids will always come first. My friends’ kids are really young and she has worked hard to get them on a good schedule. If they go off schedule, its hell (according to my friend). She needs someone who can be really okay with the kids dictating everything for awhile. She also is very…um, structured and typically wants her way too, and she finds it really hard to meet guys, let alone date them. It gets interesting.

  37. Felix*

    I’m trying to figure out how to handle Facebook friend requests from folks I see regularly but don’t want active on my social media. This goes for casual friends, relatives and colleagues…

    If you sent someone a friend request, would you be more offended if they just never responded, or added you but had you restricted from most of their profile? I can’t decide which is the least offensive option?

    1. Blue_eyes*

      Since these are people you see regularly, the limited profile approach is probably the least likely to cause awkwardness. If you add them but have them pretty restricted on your profile, they may just think you’re not very active on Facebook. That seems better than just not responding or refusing their friend request. Some people will notice if they friend you and you never respond.

    2. Ismis*

      I would say just delete the request and act like you never saw it. And maybe restrict your profile anyway – that way they can’t tell if you aren’t often on FB, or if you’re on 20 times a day and are just ignoring them.

    3. Office Plant*

      Honestly, I don’t know if it’s possible to do Facebook without offending people. It has a way of highlighting the worst in all of us. I would take things on a case by case basis, but don’t be afraid to delete requests. A lot of Facebook activity is public. All your Friends can see what events you’re going to and what public posts you “like”. If you don’t want the person seeing that stuff, just ignore the request and pretend you didn’t see it.

      1. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

        This is my feeling as well. Since I rarely want to interact with many of my offline friends or relatives online, I avoid Facebook entirely because “I don’t do FB” is better than “I didn’t friend you or show you that info because I don’t trust you.” Which isn’t helpful to OP but just agreeing with you.

    4. Turanga Leela*

      I think this is fine either way. If you don’t respond, most people will assume that you don’t check it that often. If they ask, you can always say you don’t want to be on social media with coworkers/family/whatever applies. But most people won’t ask or give it that much thought.

      People also won’t be offended if your profile is locked down. You can also limit the audience for your posts without making your profile look very restricted. My default is that posts are visible to “Friends; not Acquaintances” and I put people I don’t know well on the acquaintances list.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I do this with colleagues. No coworkers on FB unless one or both of us are out of that job.

        I’ve had to be careful about friend requests from acquaintances, too–I recently accepted one from a friend’s adult kid but then unfriended a day later because their feed was full of really objectionable stuff, and I didn’t want that on my wall.

    5. DragoCucina*

      I accept the request but immediately categorize them as acquaintances. Most posts are friends and acquaintances, but some are close friends only. Very few personal posts are public posts. I also hide their feed so I don’t have to wade through everything.

    6. Natalie*

      FWIW, there’s no way they’d be able to tell the difference between you putting them on a restriced setting, you just not being on Facebook much, or Facebook’s algorithm being weird. I can’t imagine anyone would ever ask, but if they do you don’t need to admit you restricted them

  38. CherylBlossom*

    Someone asked me recently what song would be the soundtrack to my life-story movie trailer. (It was really thought provoking!).

    What would yours be?!

    1. Tennessee*

      Israel “Iz” Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’Ole medley of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World”

    2. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Oh Fortuna! from Carmena Burana, full Carl Orff music blasting.

      Segue into “Back to the Land” from the fantastic album The Gifted Ones with Count Basie (piano), Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Ray Brown (bass), and Mickey Roker (drums). No lyrics, but the music is where I aim my life.

    3. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      “Give Me Strength” by Moises Nieto . It’s a nice piano tune that always makes me think of a RPG right when you get started (after the plot is established). Nothing too horrible has happened yet, and the mysteries are unfolding.

      Of course, since you made me think about it, that’s an interesting perspective on my life. Hm.

    4. C Average*

      “Long Way” by Antje Duvekot. Or maybe an a capella version of the hymn “Take My Life.”

  39. Amber Rose*

    Happy Thanksgiving fellow Canada dwellers! We did ours early and I ate waaaaay too much turkey.

  40. Lilian*

    Question to those that don’t have extensive families: How do you cope with holidays? It is just my mom and me (father died from cancer 4 years ago) and it is difficult particularly since Christmas season is coming up and that is when my father died. I do suffer from depression and holidays seem to aggravate it. So, any tips on how not to fall apart during the upcoming season?

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      Is there a way for you to mentally separate your feelings about family from the holidays? I’m sure so much depends on location/local culture and comparing your current family network to what you had in the past, but it’s totally natural to decide to change your traditions or to scale things back and acknowledge that things can’t be like they were before. “Jewish Christmas” has become quite a thing in recent years. Go to the movies and find a Chinese restaurant. It takes up a good chunk of the day and it doesn’t require a lot of planning or money.

    2. Ruffingit*

      Planning a vacation might be helpful if you’re able. Go on a Christmas cruise where there will be others around who will be festive with you. Sure, they’re strangers, but you form bonds with people you meet in different locales and it might be fun.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        Or you just get away from the daily life for a bit. Never underestimate a change of scenery. If you live in a northern climate with cold and snow, some sun in the middle of all that can work wonders (and vitamin D).

        Both of my grandparents passed before Xmas (several years apart) and it was never the same after the first passing.

        It’s not healthy, but I deal with Xmas by ignoring it. I usually have lots of work over the holidays (because freelance) and so I do that. Although the mention of going to the movies is kind of appealing, I may have to look into that this year. A few years ago, I got to celebrate the season by not having any electricity for 4 1/2 days over the holidays. Good times.

        If you and your Mom can’t afford to get away this year, then you’re going to have to make some new traditions for yourselves that are fun. Slumping about, thinking about how Xmas used to be so much better when Dad was here, other people don’t know how lucky they are to have such big/close/extended/whatever families — unlike us. You’re only going to drive yourself into deeper depression. You could volunteer at something for the needy (soup kitchen, toy drive, there was some charity a few years ago that did up shoe boxes for women in shelters). Bake your favourite cookies. Decide to open presents on Xmas eve and just get hammered on Xmas. There is no one “right” way to celebrate the holidays, you don’t even have to celebrate at all if you don’t want to. You could book spa days and get the works done, including a trip to a tanning bed, so it was like you took a vacation.

        oh, and ProTip: do not have a Six Feet Under marathon during the holidays. Silly me, wanting to see what all the fuss was about that show and picked the absolute worst time of year to do it.

    3. Carrie...*

      Get a happy light. Sit next to eat while you eat breakfast/drink your morning coffee, or keep it on your desk at work and keep it on in the morning.

      Plan something different/new to start a new tradition over the holidays. Maybe it is binge watching a show you guys both like while eating donuts. Maybe it is going on a short trip somewhere/doing something you guys never did in the past.

      Maybe it is just being together, being nostalgic, and doing something that was important to your father because it’s also wonderful to be remembering him and even ok to be a little sad too.

    4. Chaordic one*

      When I lived by myself and didn’t have any family in the area and all my friends were off with their own families, I rather enjoyed spending the day by myself. I decorated my apartment for the holiday with a tree and before the holiday I went to holiday parties and on Christmas Eve I attended a Christmas service at church.

      I planned ahead and bought things for a special meal on Christmas day, even though it was going to be only me. Before I knew I was allergic to tomatoes and dairy (as in cheese) I would buy a frozen ravioli or a pizza, because it was something that I normally wouldn’t do and they tasted good. One year the local McDonald’s was open, so I ordered a couple of Quarter Pounders with Cheese, fries and a chocolate shake and took them home. (Of course I had diarrhea the next day.) And some kind of Christmas cookies. And I listened to my favorite Christmas albums at the time (The Carpenters and John Denver.) Later in the day I spoke with my parents and sister on the phone and we wished each other “Merry Christmas.”

      I also went through the newspaper sale sheets and planned for the day after Christmas sales the next day. I used to collect Hallmark ornaments and was one of the crazy people who would get up early to go to the 50% off sale. (Where I live now we don’t even have Hallmark store.)

      I guess I have pretty low expectations for a good time, but it was O.K. As an adult, I kind of think that you shouldn’t have too high of expectations. It’s really just another day.

    5. Turanga Leela*

      Some small ideas:
      1) Plan a holiday party or celebration with friends, and don’t host it on the official holiday. My friends do Friendsgiving the weekend before Thanksgiving, which works well; people haven’t left yet to visit family. Spending time with your chosen family can be really heartening.
      2) Do something that feels special even if it’s just you or just you and your mom. Go on a hike, or go to a movie you’ve both been wanting to see, or have your holiday meal at a really nice restaurant. (My mom and I briefly had a holiday tradition of going to a swanky restaurant and getting the tasting menu and cocktails.)
      3) If you have unstructured time on holidays and nothing “festive” to do, don’t feel like you need to make the day feel special. Go work out, or get some work done, or clean out the garage, or watch Netflix, or whatever you would normally do with a day off.

    6. Amber Rose*

      It’s just me and dad after losing mom. And dad is very far away. I do as much as I can with friends and then make my own traditions like baking or volunteering or little city events.

    7. Temperance*

      I have a large family, but it’s not quite the Hallmark one. I’ve started celebrating with my chosen family instead. It’s much better for me.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      It’s far from ideal but I have managed to find things that are helpful.

      It’s a good idea to build a plan so you know what you will be doing. If your plan is to borrow a movie from the library and watch it, then that IS a plan. Plans do not have to be hard but they have to be doable.

      Definitely a happy light and some vitamin d, fortify, fortify.

      Look around, maybe you can find a place to volunteer on holidays. Some place that you and your mom could agree on and both of you could go. This would give you an automatic thing each year so you wouldn’t have to plan each individual year. Not having to plan every. single. year can be a relief by itself.

      My current thing is to start a small project that will take several weeks. When the lulls hit, because we know the lulls will hit, I can just turn and work on my project. At the end of the holidays my small project is probably finished also which gives me a sense of accomplishment that sometimes surprises me by how large that sense of accomplishment can be.

      The last few years, I have reeeally been paying attention to what other people say about their holidays. I would guess that at least 75% of the people I talk with are absolutely upset over something that happened. Oddly, I catch myself thinking, “I’m good here, I did not have THAT happen to me.” Try not to tell yourself things that you are not able to prove, such as “other people are having a better time than me”. That is simply not true in all cases.

      I have often thought that it would be pretty cool to put together a bunch of people who did not have a lot of family for a holiday dinner. I might want to have it set up so that people could come and go as they wished. I just don’t like cooking.

      Last thought. When we lose people out of our lives then our holidays are forever changed. No one teaches us this stuff, I am not sure why. Practice just simple acceptance. “I accept the fact that my holidays are forever changed.” You know if you go the opposite way, where we lose someone and nothing in our holidays/lives changes then that is kind of an insult to the person we lost. It means that they did not make a contribution or touch our lives in any manner. So yes, some people make a difference in our lives and we notice their absence.

      I lost my immediate family and if anyone had told me that I would have holidays that were some of the best I have had in my life I would have told them it was NOT possible. And yet, I have a had a couple of holidays where I was so happy I almost cried tears of joy. It can happen when we least expect it.

  41. HannahS*

    How do I tell one of my friends that she her constant appropriation of Judaism is insanely disrespectful? Here are the facts:
    -she’s not Jewish and has no interest in becoming so; she’s a devout member of a different religion and firmly believes that all Jews are condemned to hell
    -she hosts Jewish holiday celebrations, including Shabbat (with ceremonies, so she’s performing religious rituals, not just eating), which she invites me to
    -she posts “inspirational” quotes from explicitly Jewish sources, re-contextualized for her religion (not just Torah, but, like, re-interpreting the words of Jewish theologians to support her own beliefs)

    *relevant fact: Judaism is the religion practiced by Jews; if you’re born Jewish or choose to become Jewish, you’re entitled to practice Judaism to any degree you like. If you’re Jewish by birth or choice, we won’t proseletyze to you, but you’re not entitled to practice Judaism.

    Honestly, I’m so used to “please, leave us and our rituals in peace” being applied to people being aggressively anti-semitic, so this “well, Jews are wrong and should cease to be Jewish because of eternal damnation, but ooh your rituals are so foreign and exotic and ~meaningfullll~” is a weird twist I don’t know how to deal with. Even if it ruins the friendship (which frankly, it might, because I can’t take it anymore), I feel I need to say something, but I don’t know what.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I think just coming out and saying it bluntly is fine. “Hey Friend, your appropriation of Jewish traditions and rituals is insanely disrespectful given your belief that Jewish people are damned to hell.” You don’t even really need to say more because that just speaks for itself. I had a similar conversation once with a (now ex) friend who talked about wanting to send her children to Catholic school because it’s a good education, but she was very much against the church’s teachings on birth control, divorce, homosexuality, etc. I am against their teachings on that too, but I told her it was pretty disrespectful to be totally against the basics of the religion while taking advantage of their excellent education.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I wish I could tell you what to say, because… no. No no no no no. This would drive me absolutely batshit insane. I love it when my non-Jewish friends come and celebrate with me or when they ask me questions or wish me a Happy New Year, but what your friend is doing? No. I had a former co-worker who used to say, “I wish I was Jewish!” and even that used to piss me off, because she thought it was all about brisket and neurotic mothers.

      Anyway. You have my permission to give this friend a piece of your mind and to drop her completely.

    3. EmmaLou*

      If she is a Christian, most believe that Jewish traditions are the beginning of their traditions as well as their faith started in Judaism which can of course be offensive to practicing Jews. Some celebrate those traditions with their own added. Rather like eggs and trees and such and paganism, etc. You can absolutely tell her that you find her faith offensive, you probably won’t get her to stop though. Perhaps you can get her to stop telling you about it.

    4. Office Plant*

      If it were me, I would start by asking questions. “I got your invitation to the ceremony. Thank you. So, do you still believe all Jews are condemned to hell? How does this fit with that? Or have your beliefs changed?” If you don’t feel comfortable asking, though, it would be completely understandable, and I think discontinuing the friendship would be ok. It’s a big world with a lot of people in it; you don’t have to tolerate this kind of stuff.

    5. Turanga Leela*

      I’d say it once, very clearly: “I know you like to host Shabbat, but I do not want to be invited to this. You’re not Jewish, and frankly, it offends me as a Jew that you’re engaging in Jewish ceremonies. This really bothers me. Leave me out of it.”

      I wouldn’t get into a discussion of theology or of cultural appropriation, and I wouldn’t expect her to change her mind in that moment. But you can tell her that this offends you personally, and that’s powerful; it strips away her ability to say, “This is fine because I have Jewish friends and they don’t mind.” Unfollow or mute her on social media (you don’t have to unfriend, you just don’t need to see her posts), see if she stops inviting you, and then see how much of the friendship you want to keep after that.

      1. HannahS*

        Thanks, that’s a phrasing that I think I can say. It’s straightforward but doesn’t encourage her to “explain things.” Because yeah, I don’t want to hear about her theology, and I doubt she’d be willing to listen to deeper reasons.

    6. self employed*

      You’re in the right to create boundaries here. Even if she doesn’t realize how offensive it is, it’s pretty unloving to do what she is. Being upfront may at least help her to see another perspective here.

    7. Temperance*

      Eeew. She sounds like a Messianic Jew.

      I would probably stop being friends with her, because she sounds like a dbag.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      “Friend how do your reconcile words that go one way and actions that go the opposite way? You condemn people who practice the Jewish religion, yet you practice it yourself. Does that mean you condemn yourself? Your walk does not match your talk and it is confusing to those around you.

      Please take me off your invite list for Jewish services. I am going to have to limit FB contact too because your posts are confusing to me. I am not sure where you are at and I cannot sort all this for you.

      I think of you as my friend but I would like us to talk about other things and do things that are not based on religion.”

  42. Ruffingit*

    I’m sad tonight. I took a needed stand on Facebook and asked that anyone who supported or would vote for Trump to unfriend me. I just can’t abide having people in my life who would support that kind of evil. A few unfriended, which was fine. But one of them is someone I care deeply about and that was hard. Worth it as I need to be able to sleep at night and live my convictions, but still hard.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I realized something today. I am a very, very strong believer in diversity of thought… but not in my Facebook world. When I go out with my friends and we disagree, we are respectful of each other. However, I– like many people– choose to hang out with generally like-minded friends. Facebook is no different for me. I have been extremely fortunate in my Facebook friends and what they post– there’s only one Trump supporter among them, and I kind of hate-follow her, which I know is terrible– and I fully support your choice to keep your friends list tailored to discourse that doesn’t upset or offend you.

      1. A Large Cantelope*

        I don’t really post about the election on Facebook, but one thing I did post was that I can’t associate with Trump supporters (or Hillary bashers) for whom the consequences of this election are hypothetical. I am about to have a kid who will be a minority in at least 3 ways (race, gender, religion), so the threats to my family’s safety if Trump is elected are real, not opportunities to score points online.

    2. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

      I’m sorry :( it may be for the best in the long run but it still stings now. I had to canvas my diehard Republican friends to make sure and to my intense relief none of them can stand the thought of DT, but I was shocked to find that some family (whom I don’t speak to anyway) would support him. I guess thank goodness we’re in CA where their vote will hardly matter, I hope?

    3. C Average*

      I feel ya on this one.

      Yesterday a Facebook friend of mine (nice lady, friend of my parents when I was a kid, very conservative) posted something about her worries that Obama would institute martial law. Very typical alt-right fearmongering stuff.

      I know better than to engage with this stuff, but I’m tired of seeing it go unanswered. So I posted a reply asking where she gets this stuff, and noted that I have read plenty of history and follow the news pretty assiduously, and I didn’t see any rational basis for such fears.

      I am frankly hoping she will de-friend me.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I actually like diversity of thought, but I put supporting Trump on par with holocaust or climate change denial. There are not, in fact, two legitimate sides to every story.

    5. Mimmy*

      People can support and vote for whomever they wish – I have no problem with that. I do hear what you’re saying though because DT is just so…..out there. I’d be sad too in your shoes.

      Facebook can definitely be rife with vile discussion on controversial topics. I try to be careful about which posted articles I read and am careful to not engage in these types of conversations unless I know it will be a respectful exchange, and even then, I keep my comments fairly general. Sadly, in many cases, people are firm in their opinions, which are sometimes based on erroneous information.

      Absolutely, I too support you surrounding yourself with people you feel comfortable with. Believe me, I’ve unfollowed people who get overly aggressive or post too much negative political content.

    6. Pennalynn Lott*

      I had to unfollow a friend yesterday. Not because of *her* stand on Trump, but because of all the comments from her FB friends when she posts something about yet another abhorrent thing he has said or done. I just can’t take it.

      A friend-of-my-friend’s, a woman, said that what Trump did wasn’t “sexual assault” because none of the women he “grabbed by the p@ssy” yelled “No!” or slapped him or immediately called the cops. In fact, she said, the women liked the attention because they all wanted something from him (money, a job, power-by-proxy). [Yes, even women who just happened to be at the same event that he was.] And, of course, *all* men talk like that. [Eew, no they don’t.] The woman who said all this claimed to have been sexually assaulted herself! I’m left shaking my head about how strong and ingrained (and scary!) rape culture is.

      And that doesn’t even include the other people my friend is friends with, the ones who posted multi-paragraph anti-Hillary word salads about “Sharia law” and “all LGBT will be killed under HRC” and “lawful gun owners will be put in prison”.

      I like my friend. But I do not like who she chooses to be associated with. [She is on disability and almost never leaves her house, so I think she is terrified of being alone if she starts cutting people out of her life, even if it’s only on FB.]

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I hear you. It sucks, but you can’t change someone’s mind if they won’t listen to reason. I’m still friends with a couple of people, but I hid their posts not because they’re pro-Trump but because they’re so anti-Hillary it’s plain they’ve bought into a load of propaganda.

      It’s hard, but I’ve been trying to limit my own political posts. And when I comment on others, I try not to resort to ad hominem attacks, though sometimes I just want to smack them with a clue-by-four.

    8. NicoleK*

      I hear you….SIL and her family are hard core Republicans. Normally, not an issue with me if someone is of a different political leaning. However, the majority of her FB postings are Anti Obama bashing. I’m not sure she could name a single Obama policy that she disagreed with which leads me to assume it’s because of his race. SIL also considers herself to be very knowledgable and well read and will rattle off her reading materials to anyone that will listen. So I guess being so, so hateful is a personal choice. I unfriended her a long time on FB and have no regrets. I can only imagine her favorable postings of Trump.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I think FB accelerates things that would have happened at some point anyway.

      I remember decades ago when I quit going to bars, some friends just dropped away. These were people that I really cared about. I remember a time someone confided in my parents that her husband was beating their kid. My parents dropped the whole family like a hot potato (it was the 60s).

      It surprised me how often this happens in life, where people just find a reason and poof! they are gone from our lives in a heartbeat.

      My wise friend said, “Whenever we take a stand, it comes at a price. Expect a price.” FWIW, I think your stand was well-chosen and this is what we are supposed to do: take those well-chosen stands. You are still you, you can still care deeply even though you may not be interacting with your friend. Sometimes the best we get is recognizing the sincerity in our own hearts.

      I am sorry about your friend.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Because I don’t know who they all are. Not everyone posted about their political leanings and neither did I until my post asking them to unfriend me. I just needed people to know I can’t have someone in my life who agrees in any way, shape, or form with Trump.

  43. Where to live?*

    I’m thinking about leaving my blazing hot and huge US city for something that offers a better QOL and more opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. Water+mountains is my happy place. The Pacific NW seems to tick all the important boxes for me with regard to vibe and lifestyle, and I’ve loved Seattle and Portland as a tourist. Both, however, are so expensive and I’m wondering what other cities (or medium-sized towns) in that part of the country might be more affordable options. Or a different state altogether??? My lifestyle has evolved to something really simple, and I have very few things, so I’d be super thrilled with a tiny house or small 1bdrm apartment or studio. I love films, music, books and art, so having some artsy element would be nice. Any thoughts or ideas? Thanks in advance!!!

    1. Ruffingit*

      Possibly Eugene, Oregon. I went to college there and it was relatively affordable and is close enough to Portland (2 hour drive) that you could go there for events and artsy stuff.

      1. catsAreCool*

        If you live near Portland, OR, you need to be prepared for it to rain a lot. It’s usually not heavy rain, but it happens a lot except in the summer.

      1. Indy*

        No no no no not Salt Lake City unless you can handle 100 degrees in the summertime and snow and cold in the winter.

        I live there.

          1. Searching*

            But I still love living here because I can ride my bike into the mountains from my house, and drive to 5 national parks in 4 hours. And get to ballet, symphony, and opera in less than 30 min (sports too, if you’re into that). And great indie film scene with Sundance Film Festival every year, and Salt Lake Film Society and Utah Film Center. And the best snow on earth in the mountains (and usually when it snows in the valley, the roads are cleared quickly). And our liquor laws, while still wacky, have improved quite a bit over the many years that I’ve lived here.

    2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I’ll toss out Reno/Lake Tahoe area – not quite PNW, but a ton of outdoor lifestyle activities, mountains, some water (up by the lake). Can get hot in the summer, but not Vegas level hot, and there is more sun than PNW. They have tried over the last 10-15 years to really beef up the downtown area with the kayak park and the art walk etc. The hills can get pretty brown by the end of summer, but there are certainly trees around town. It is also not too far of a drive, or a quick flight, to the Bay Area or Seattle/Vancouver areas or a closer drive to some more remote but gorgeous areas (Feather River area, etc) It is very reasonably priced with lots of cute older style apartments in some very nice neighborhoods or newer build if that is your thing.

      Juneau I would not recommend – we moved there for a week when I was a kid and then left because my mom couldnt take the rain + isolation. Its better than it was for connectivity, but there are still no roads directly to Juneau and you can’t change geography!

    3. Turanga Leela*

      Some non-Western options: Asheville, NC; Ithaca, NY.

      If you didn’t specifically ask for water, I’d steer you toward New Mexico, which is unbelievably beautiful, has lovely mountains, and is very affordable.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        I was going to suggest New Mexico. If OP needs OCEAN water, then it’s not doable. But we have some beautiful lakes, along with a diving hole.

    4. Californian*

      Check out the more affordable cities in Northern California. Santa Cruz, Sacramento and that area, anywhere north of there. There are some really affordable areas in the mountains near Sacramento, and you’re still only a two hour drive from the (insanely expensive) Bay Area with everything it has to offer.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Santa Cruz is not very affordable, sadly. I looked at moving back there, and rents have TRIPLED from when I lived in the city. A three-bedroom house I’d bay $200K for here went for $800K there. I don’t make enough money to afford it and I don’t want to live in one room again. Otherwise, I’d move back in a heartbeat.

        I still dream about SC sometimes…. :(

        1. Annby*

          I recently moved away from Santa Cruz. The median house price (in the COUNTY — the city’s got to be higher) is over $700K. I know people who were renting rooms in shared houses for what I pay to rent a whole house in a nice neighborhood here ($1200/month). It’s really getting absurd.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I know. I really really wish I’d stayed there instead of leaving and gone back to school there and bought a house then. Think what it would be worth now!!

            I guess I would only be able to live somewhere cool if I were rich. All the affordable places suck. :( You see those lists–“20 Most Affordable Places to Live in the US”–and you have to read between the lines:

            #13–Sassafras, IA. This bucolic town has a nostalgic main square. = Tiny.
            Winter sports abound. = Motha-f*cking cold.
            Friendly neighborhoods. = Nosy neighbors.
            Close to [Larger City] for concerts, festivals, and theater. = A two-hour drive through masses of corn with no cell coverage. If you get stuck, it’s like a Stephen King story.

            1. Californian*

              It’s affordable compared to the Bay Area. And considering that you could work near San Jose and make a Bay Area salary.

    5. shorty*

      You might like Asheville, NC. Don’t let NC’s reputation scare you off. Asheville has a totally different feel to it.

      1. AliCat*

        I second Asheville. Its a cool little town full of microbreweries and the mountains are right there. But I may be biased as I’m making the 1000 mile trek up there in a few weeks for vacation :)

    6. Blue_eyes*

      Washington: Tacoma, Olympia, Everett, Bellingham, Vancouver (it’s near Portland, OR).
      Oregon: Salem, Eugene, Medford/Ashland
      California: Chico, Sacramento, Eureka

      The fact that you are open to a tiny house or small apartment will make finding reasonably-priced accommodations much easier. Don’t forget to look on the outskirts of the larger cities as well, the rents do drop off as you get further from the main part of the city (and as long as you don’t need to commute to the downtown, it shouldn’t be a huge issue). In Washington and Oregon, look for cities west of the Cascade mountains. Eastern Washington and Oregon have their own charms, but both get very hot in the summer which you said you’re trying to escape.

      1. Windchime*

        Be aware that Everett, WA is in the convergence zone and it rains more here than Seattle. I didn’t really understand that when I moved to a nearby town. I’m accustomed to it now, but it was pretty tough to get used to the gloomy weather for the first couple of years.

    7. LisaLee*

      Ann Arbor! It’s not on a coast, but it’s a great sized city, the housing market is still pretty reasonable, the art and food scene is good, and you get the advantages of a major university while the students mostly stay in their own part of town

    8. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      I’m stoked you posted this because I was going to post something similar! Yay!

    9. Natalie*

      We have no mountains, but the Twin Cities has all four seasons, lots of outdoor activities year round, a good economy, same state government, and tons of theater, arts, etc. Winters are long, it’s true, but they’re totally manageable if you get the right gear and try out some winter sports. A downside if you like to travel is that we’re far away from everybody.

  44. Buttons*

    I have a question about talking to my doctor. I generally like and respect her very much but on this issue I’m not sure how to proceed. I have arthritis and fibromyalgia and and am experiencing a lot of pain. I mentioned it briefly and quietly to her at my last appointment and I’m not sure if she didn’t hear me or what but she never responded. I want to ask for pain medication, which I know doctors don’t always want to prescribe. But I’m in real agony. And I need help, especially when I’m trying to do anything around the house or to sleep.
    I need some direct AAM-style wording to get my point across.

    1. LawCat*

      I think you have already expressed what you need to say in your post. “The arthritis and fibromyalgia are leaving me in a lot of pain. It’s especially bad when I’m trying to do things around the house and when I sleep. I’m in agony and need help with the pain. What are my options?”

      I always go with my questions for my doctor written down in advance. I get nervous at the doctor even though I’ve been seeing her for years and the nerves make me forgetful and hesitant. The written questions help keep me focused and I will cross off questions that I ask and make notes if I need to. Having your questions and what you need help with written down may be a useful tool for you too so you make sure you are being clear at your appointment.

    2. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

      OMG this is my third try at posting this. The mobile browser keeps refreshing and deleting my post! But for you, I’ll keep trying.

      Wording I’ve used: my arthritis and fibro pain have increased to the point of severity that it’s interfering with my ability to perform daily tasks of living. “My (joint / muscle /both) pain is in these areas and prevent me from (brushing teeth, holding a pen, driving) and I haven’t gotten a full night of rest in X months. We need to discuss medication options to address this.”

      Also ask if there is a chronic pain department or group or anything provided by your medical care facilities. That was absolutely gamechanging for me in terms of getting good treatment options and not having doctors wonder if I was a drug-seeking addict. Plus the class they held which welcomed family members taught us coping strategies, effective medication strategies, physical therapies, additional ways to understand what we’re going through and how to make life still liveable. If it’s an option for you, I highly recommend trying it.

    3. MsChanandlerBong*

      I can empathize. I have awful joint pain that starts out of nowhere and is bad enough to keep me up all night on occasion. I can’t take NSAIDs due to my kidney issues, so I had to ask for something else. What I said was, “I understand your concern about addiction, but for me, these medications make the difference between being a productive member of society and sitting in a chair doing nothing.” Tell the doctor your quality of life is severely reduced and you deserve to have some kind of pain control.

    4. ..Kat..*

      Okay. You need to be firm. Tell her you are in a lot of pain. Describe the pain to her (severity on a zero to ten scale, how long it lasts, does anything make it better, does anything make it worse, does it ever go away (if not, what is your minimum pain score), does it prevent you from falling asleep, does it wake you from sleep, does it interfere with daily activities (if so, what does it interfere with and how), and anything else you can think of to describe the pain. You might need to google ‘pain score ‘ and ‘how to describe pain ‘.
      Write this down before your doctor visit so that you don’t forget anything. Have someone write it for you if it hurts to much to write. Using bullet points is good. You can check them off as you go.

      Also, write down all your questions. When you are in pain and are a quiet person, it can be easy to forget your questions if they are not written down.

      Next, do you have an assertive friend who can go with you and sit in on your appointment? NOT someone who sits in the waiting room, but someone who comes into the treatment room with you and advocates for you. Someone who will take notes, and insist on answers if you find your energy or assertiveness flagging. I recommend a friend who is a nurse and assertive if you have one.

      What you ask for is a referral to a pain specialist, a pain treatment clinic, or a pain center. I am going to sound obnoxious here, but you don’t want “prescription pain pills “. What you really want is less pain. Ideally, you want no pain. I’m sorry, but no pain won’t be possible. But a diminishing of pain to where you can participate in life and enjoy it are possible. Pain specialists have more than strong drugs in their arsenal against pain. Strong drugs alone won’t do it and soon diminish in effectiveness and become addicting. (Yes, strong drugs are part of their arsenal.) Your pain is too great for a general practitioner. Pain specialist. These are more available in mid-size to large cities. You may have to travel.

      I hope I am not writing back to late for you to see this. My heart goes out to you. I will check back later if you have any follow up questions. I’m on the west coast and work Sunday from 7 am to 7:30 pm, so I won’t answer right away.

      For the record, I am a nurse. I have worked with pain specialists, and they are true miracle workers. Dealing with constant, severe pain is one of the worst things ever.

    5. Carrie...*

      It is hard to know how to respond here, because it depends upon what KIND of doctor this is, how long they have been seeing you (so how well they know the ups/downs of your medical problems) and what treatments you are on and have tried in the past?

      Because a primary care doctor should not be treating you for this pain. That is not the appropriate doctor, without the necessary training to treat those two medical problems, and not appropriate for prescribing opiods (if that is what you are asking for?) for these problems.

      You should be seeing a rheumatologist with expertise in fibromyalgia, or possibly a physiatrist if you have one that knows you well.

      And I do agree that you need to ask directly for what you want.

      I would start keeping a pain diary, including what makes the pain better or worse, what you do that day for your pain etc… what have you been unable to do because of pain (eg. days off work).

      And make sure you are doing all the things that have been recommended so far. Take the medications prescribed so far, keep up with the exercise type/therapy recommended, continue with heat/cold/message/topical creams, treat your mood (this is essential, and is often neglected).

    6. Californian*

      I would just ask for a referral to a specialist without saying much. Maybe more than one specialist. Sadly, pain and fibromyalgia are both controversial in the medical world. Not all doctors take these things seriously. Shop around until you find a specialist who listens and recommends treatments that make sense.

    7. Buttons*

      Oh wow- thank you all for your words and your compassion.
      I’ve got a few weeks before my next appointment so I have time to write everything down and get ready.

      1. ..Kat..*

        Please update us in a weekend free for all when you can. We hope your situation improves. Of course, if you don’t want to, we’ll respect your privacy.

  45. Turanga Leela*

    I loved Everything I Never Told You. Just so good.

    Side note: I had a rough week at work. I won’t go into it here because this is the non-work thread, but if people could send good vibes my way, I would appreciate it.

    1. Elizabeth West*


      There ya go. They multiply, so you can’t ever use them up. :)

  46. Gene*

    Rough day. Today is the anniversary of my first marriage, she died in 96. I was in a vile mood all day yesterday; better today, but depressed.

    I’ll be better over the next couple of days, it was just worse this year.

    1. Today's anon*

      It sounds like you need to let yourself grieve. I am always surprised how there is no rhyme or reason with grief, sometimes it just hits you hard, even when it was easier at other times. Sending you love and hugs.

    2. Liane*

      I am so sorry. Yeah, this can happen for years after–and some years it hits harder than others. Internet hugs and take care of yourself.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Maybe invest in a punching bag to dissipate some of that anger/energy?

      Anger and depression are two costumes that grief often wears.

      I been dealing with some anger stuff here. My husband had this stereo system that only a super geek could ever understand. I tried to dismantle it to do some repairs in the room. I was in hour number FIVE of removing the plugs and labeling when I decided that I no longer had a fuse on my patience. I took wire cutters and just started cutting my way through the web of remaining wires. It took me an hour and a half working with wire cutters to finally get everything separated.

      I hated this stereo system with all it’s complexity. I just want to turn the stereo on, listen to some tunes then turn it off. I don’t want to flip 10 switches and adjust 5 dials just to listen to a few tunes. So you know what happened next. I came in from my tag sale today almost in tears (angry tears) because most of the components did not sell. It’s too old, of course. He put big bucks (for us) into the system. I don’t begrudge the money he spent that part is fine. I am upset about how much it is taking to get rid of it. Six and a half hours to disconnect it. Then there was packing it up, figuring out the wires, pricing it and so on. My patience is gone but the stereo is still here. Good thing the dump is not open or it would have gone there today.

      So this set off the angry-sad cycle. And this is grief. This is what it does. It manifests in different ways at different times and it can seem unpredictable and at times unwieldy.
      We both did the same thing here, we got really angry then really down. My wise friend used to say when you go high that means get ready to go low, that is usually the pattern.
      So I was, oh, about 10 suns angry, so, of course, the tears and sadness followed. We never finish grieving, because we never stop loving them.

      I hope tomorrow is a slightly better day for you. Maybe you can go for a walk. Walks are good. In a few days I will have time to figure out what I will do with this stereo but I think a few days of not dealing would be good for me.

  47. DragoCucina*

    I have a serious handbag collection. They aren’t all designer or expensive. For example I had bought a couple of Disaster Design bags I had shipped from the UK. Modcloth now carries them. Anyway, my newest handbag love is Obag. I bought one in Rome in May. I was crazy happy to stumble across an Obag store in Nashville. I was able to buy the parts to take my bag from summer to fall. I like that I can change the handles, lining, etc., and give it a fresh look.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I love good bags but I can’t afford them. However, if I go to the department store remainder shop we have here, I can sometimes find a nicer purse for less–but you have to be careful because they also sell irregular or damaged goods. I got a Lily Bloom bag that came with a notebook sleeve for $16. It was missing the cross-body strap, but it fits nicely over my shoulder. They’re a line made from recycled bottles in very colorful patterns. I love it. While I was looking at it, a woman came up carrying the same bag, and she said, “Oh that’s my purse, see, but I paid a LOT more than that for it!”

      Sometimes I find bags like Nine West, etc. at the flea market. And I have a thing for those cheap Chinese zippered totes with the attached coin purse. They come in tons of patterns. I like them because they roll up for traveling and are also cheap at the flea market. By the time I’m sick of it, it’s fallen apart anyway, haha. :)

      1. DragoCucina*

        Oh, I like that. I’ll have to look at Lily Bloom. Two of my best finds were both Michael Kors bags. One was on a Dillard’s clearance table for less than $20. The other was at Tuesday Morning and was a beautiful burnt orange basket weave. It was a case where the stitching was done in “the wrong color”. I have random people come up and compliment me on my bag.

  48. Bleu*

    Can one still manage to learn good parent if one is shy, extremely introvert, and inept at communication?

    I shared many of these traits and when I wondered about the types of challenges that they could cause if I were to decide to be a parent one day. And I am currently finding these personal traits hard to change and they are affecting my work and social life.

    I observed parents through my siblings and other relatives and found that one needs a certain high level of assertiveness and strategy in order to teach and discipline children. For example, reason with the children by using a loud and dominating tone of voice so the children know that you are serious in what you are asking them to do; knowing when to hurt the child’s feelings when it is necessary to get them to do the right thing after normal reasoning won’t work,etc.

    Whenever I tried to tell my siblings’ children to stop doing something, they usually ignored me until they get a yelling lecture from their parents or grandparents. Then they will listen and do as they are told.

    It seems that one needs to be a very strong person to be a parent. And I am not sure how can one handle raising children if one is too shy to yell out loud or is not assertive/articulate enough to reason with children in case they end up being unruly and defiant.

    1. chickabiddy*

      Hi, I’m shy and awkward, and I think that I’m not doing too bad a job at this parenting thing. You don’t need to be loud, and you definitely don’t need to deliberately hurt a child’s feelings to make him or her listen to you. If your nieces and nephews learned that parents only “meant it” when they yelled, then they learned to respond only to yells. If that’s not how you want to parent, don’t. There are lots of ways to discipline and teach that don’t involve yelling or deliberate cruelty. And my own kid is not an easy kid by any means, so it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with unruliness and defiance. There’s a book called (I may be mangling the title; it’s actually quite a bit past my bedtime) “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk” that I found very helpful.

      1. chickabiddy*

        I’m going to be obnoxious and respond to myself, but on the topic of hurting a child’s feelings to get him or her to behave — when my daughter feels hurt, she is actually much *less* likely to be reasonable, and I don’t think she’s alone in that. I certainly don’t know your family and don’t want to make judgements, but an atmosphere of yelling and deliberately hurting feelings seems like it might be chaotic, and it’s hard for kids to learn to do the right things under those conditions.

        You don’t need to be loud or a Toastmaster (as you can probably tell by my responses, I’m not all that articulate myself, which is funny because I proofread other people’s stuff all day) to help a child think things out and make good decisions.

        1. Bleu*

          Regarding “hurting a child’s feelings when necessary,” I have experienced that when I was a child in the past. I got it through a school peer–not a parent though. I did end up improving parts of my behavior that can be upsetting to people. I am not sure if other interventions might have helped me improve or if “hurting my feelings” the only way to make me improve my ways.

          Now my behavior and demeanor still does not win me a whole lot of friends, but I can still work and collaborate with people in order to get the job done. Much better than when I was a kid. Now that I think about it….I did not grow up too well myself.

          But I do wish I had what it takes to bring up well behaved kids when there’s a time I need to put a stop to unnecessary defiant or mean behavior.

          1. Colette*

            Sometimes children’s feelings get hurt because they don’t like a message they need to hear. They’re a lot like adults that way. And sometimes the parent needs to be the one to deliver the message.

            But that doesn’t mean the parents’ goal should ever be to hurt the child’s feelings. If it is, that’s a sign that parent classes are critical.

          2. catsAreCool*

            Instead of having your feelings hurt, would it have been better if someone had sat down with you and just explained why something you were doing was upsetting to people? And that the person knew you weren’t trying to upset people and that this is something you need to learn?

            That’s what I’d start with.

            1. Bleu*

              My teacher did try that with me. But as a stubborn kid at the time, I ignored her because I was mad at her for assigning me too much homework that I find difficult. So as a kid, I did bring it onto myself for having to have my feelings hurt in order to learn….

              So for me as a kid, I did have to get my feelings hurt in order to learn something. However, it did make me feel less self-worth as I feel that I cannot be forgiven by the people that had disliked me because of how I acted.

              I understand that there is no easy solutions for parenting, and I do hope my future children will not need to get feelings hurt in order to learn things.

      2. Cristina in England*

        Yes yes to all of this. I recommend Parenting Without Power Struggles and lots of books on Positive Discipline and positive parenting. No one wins in a power struggle. Trust me, I get into them all the time with my kids! My older one is not an easy kid either.
        In my view parenting is not about asserting your dominance (kids aren’t pack animals!). Being a parent means you have the authority, parenting is about using it responsibly and not abusing your power over small vulnerable people.

      3. Blue_eyes*

        You got the title exactly right! That is one of my favorite books about dealing with kids. I’m not a parent, but I’ve used the suggestions in that book as a teacher and a babysitter.

    2. misspiggy*

      Yes to everyone else’s comments. Not a parent, but the most effective among my friends who are just quietly and kindly stand their ground. They know in advance fairly well which behaviour they’ll tolerate and which they will step in to manage. Which is a very useful skillset to develop in life, and will probably be helped by reading this blog

    3. AcidMeFlux*

      Forgive me if I cross the line by saying this, but perhaps the reason you’re self-described “shy, extremely introvert, and inept at communication” has something to do with the fact that shouting and hurting feelings is considered a normal way of dealing with problems in your family. You can be gentle and assertive at the same time. The suggestions offered by the other commenters are sound. Good luck.

      1. Bleu*

        I just never see gentle talk work on my nieces and nephews. Every misbehavior they have always ends with their parents yelling at them.

        I can’t image how I would parent if my kids acted like my nieces and nephews.

        1. Lady Kelvin*

          It doesn’t work with you nieces and nephews because the were raised to believe that they were only in trouble when their parents yelled so they will keep doing something until someone yells because they are allowed to. Neither my mom nor dad yelled (OK mom did sometimes, but very rarely) but even my friends respected my parents authority, and some of them thought my parents were scary. If you raise your children to understand that when you say something you mean it, you don’t need to yell constantly. You can’t compare you siblings kids to your own future kids because future has much more of a role in how kids react to authority than nature.

    4. C Average*

      I’ve actually thought about this a lot, and I think the answer is yes, with some qualifiers.

      My dad was not a very good parent when I was a kid. He was often disengaged, working long hours or hiding behind his newspaper. He left much of the heavy lifting to my mom, who was far more assertive and extroverted than him. My mom was a terrific parent: involved, assertive, organized, and seemingly inexhaustible.

      Somewhere around college, they flipped in terms of effectiveness. Everything that had made my dad a crappy parent to a small child made him a WONDERFUL parent to an adult. When I was in college, he’d come have breakfast with me and talk to me about school, my life, my goals, etc. He gave me his undivided attention and he listened well. He told me stories of his own college years and provided wise advice. I’d have made many more mistakes without my dad’s wisdom and support. My mom, meanwhile, began to strike me as gossipy and shallow, and her bossiness and faux-cheerfulness grated on me. Her advice felt intrusive and naive.

      I’m in my forties now and identify strongly with both of them in various ways. Now that I’m a stepparent myself, I cut them a lot more slack and see a lot more clearly that they both did their best pretty consistently. But a really key takeaway for me is that various parental strengths and weaknesses can serve different purposes over the life of a child. I’m grateful that my mom was such an effective parent to small children and that my dad was such an effective parent to young adults. I owe so much to both of them.

    5. Overeducated*

      Assorted random thoughts here….

      You won’t be shy with your own kid. You will know them from birth or adoption, get their bodily fluids all over you, and be a person they depend on totally. There won’t be room for shyness. (It is different if you become a parent to an older kid, but lots of things are different then.)

      Yelling isn’t great. Yeling shows that we’ve lost patience and are expressing our own frustrations, not communicating with the kid. My spouse and I do it sometimes, because we are not perfect parents, but it doesn’t help, unless it’s just to get the kid’s attention if there is danger.

      Hurting a kid’s feelings isn’T helpful either, but are you sure that’s what you’re seeing? My kid cries when I don’t let him have whatever he wants whenever he wants it. I hate making him cry, and sometimes I give in when I shouldn’t, but being firm about rules or safety is not the same as hurting feelings. Life is disappointing for everyone sometimes, parents have to be the messengers of that, but hurting feelings is personal. You have to do the first, not the second.

    6. Sibley*

      “For example, reason with the children by using a loud and dominating tone of voice so the children know that you are serious in what you are asking them to do” – um, not necessary. When my mom got quiet, we were in major trouble. Tone of voice does matter, but volume not so much.

      “knowing when to hurt the child’s feelings when it is necessary to get them to do the right thing after normal reasoning won’t work” – um, not necessary. A flat edict followed by I don’t care if you don’t want to is perfectly fine, and doesn’t hurt a child’s feelings. And hurting a child’s feelings on purpose isn’t an example of good parenting in my book.

      “Whenever I tried to tell my siblings’ children to stop doing something, they usually ignored me until they get a yelling lecture from their parents or grandparents. Then they will listen and do as they are told.” – well, duh! you’re not their parent, they don’t have to obey you (in their heads at least).

      “It seems that one needs to be a very strong person to be a parent.” – you’re equating domineering with strong. that’s not the only way to be strong, and an argument can be made that domineering isn’t strong.

      “And I am not sure how can one handle raising children if one is too shy to yell out loud” – you don’t need to yell. And if you’re calling a child from a distance and it MATTERS, then yes you will yell louder than you ever thought you could. and you won’t think twice about it.

      “or is not assertive/articulate enough to reason with children in case they end up being unruly and defiant.” – I don’t believe that reasoning with a child is an appropriate response in many cases. Or even most cases. Bribing a child to get them to obey is not going to work in the long run.

      There are many different styles of parenting, and one style does not fit all. If it did, my mom would have treated my sister and I exactly the same. And my uncle wouldn’t annoy the hell out of me about 15 minutes on a good day (he simply doesn’t know how to cope with my, his sister’s, and his daughter’s personality type, and it shows).

    7. HannahS*

      So, you can definitely be a good parent if you’re shy and introverted, because as someone else said, you won’t feel shy with your own kid. Now, “inept at communication” is a problem–you do need to be able to communicate effectively with your own kids. But that might not look like the way your siblings communicate with their kids! You might be totally inept at that kind of communication (I know I am) but really good at communicating with other quiet, introverted adults, and will be able to communicate clearly with children without being stern or raising your voice. Communication (like most things, including parenting) has a lot to do with skill, and it can be learned. So don’t despair! Even if you feel you’re terrible at communicating in general, it’s learn-able. Stick around this site, read Dear Prudence and Captain Awkward, and start seeing examples of effective vs. ineffective communication. I’m sure there are similar advice columns for parents, if you’re particularly interested in learning how to communicate with kids.

    8. catsAreCool*

      “For example, reason with the children by using a loud and dominating tone of voice so the children know that you are serious in what you are asking them to do; knowing when to hurt the child’s feelings when it is necessary to get them to do the right thing after normal reasoning won’t work,etc.”

      Please don’t do this. You may need to raise your voice from time to time, and sometimes what you’ll tell a kid might hurt their feelings, but please don’t hurt their feelings on purpose.

      Kids deal well with consistent, basic rules (and not too many of them) and consistent consequences (time outs or no TV/dessert for certain things).

  49. chickabiddy*

    Well, there’s already one catbox thread here, and there’s never too much cat talk. So, I am becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the clumping litter I use. I don’t know if the formula has changed or what, but it is just not clumping. I want to try something new, but in the past (my cats are almost one year old now, but I have lived with many other cats) when I have tried to change up litter, they have boycotted the box. I am not up for that! What is the best way to switch litters? Mix them together?

    1. Allison Mary*

      What I’ve done in the past (based on searching the hivemind), is to put a small layer of the new litter at the very bottom, and then cover it up with a good layer of the old litter. Let the cat(s) “uncover” the new litter as they dig around in it. And then the next time, you gradually change the proportions, so there’s less of the old layer on top, and more of the new layer underneath. You do this until you’ve eventually switched over completely to the new litter.

      I hear you on the fussy cats thing. Jackson Galaxy has said something to the effect of, if a cat is flipping out or boycotting something new, that’s probably a sign that you’re not moving slowly enough in introducing the change.

    2. Rebecca*

      I like Tidy Cat litter, but it can be pricey here. I have a friend with a Sam’s Club membership, and she picks up the 42 lb buckets of Member’s Mark for me (I have 3 cats inside full time, and 1 cat that spends just nights inside). It’s a good clumping litter, and doesn’t seem to get tracked all over the place, and the dust level is much lower than others I’ve tried.

      I agree with the previous poster – make a layer of the new litter, old litter on top, then keep increasing the new vs old, and hopefully they’ll adapt.

    3. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      We always swore by the generic clumping litter you could get at Pet Smart where it was the scoop yourself into your own (reusable) bucket. Clumped great and kept odor down, although we feed a pretty high quality dry food (they still like the junky wet though). I cant remember the price since we’ve moved and they are now outdoor kitties (for the time being), but having cat sit for other friends here, I MISS that litter!

  50. Allison Mary*

    Another cat thread!

    So… okay, maybe I was a little hasty after my sweet elderly cat Louise died… but I brought home a new cat this week. His name is Oliver, and he’s a 12 year old sweetheart – and I cannot, for the life of me, get him to eat a full meal of anything!!

    I’m not sure if it’s just because he’s nervous about the change in surroundings, and slowly being exposed to our other 8 year old cat at home… but it’s really stressing me out! He does seem somewhat skittish and nervous about his new surroundings, but it’s been several days now, and he still has yet to eat a full meal within a reasonable time period (I don’t do free feeding – I eventually hope to get him transitioned over to a raw food diet that I make at home myself).

    I have tried several different types of grain-free canned food (and one grain-free, high quality dry kibble), and today I even resorted to a non-grain-free can of Fancy Feast – which he was interested in for a few nibbles, but nothing near enough of a full meal. I’ve also tried baby food, bits of cooked chicken, and homemade bone broth. I can’t get this cat to eat more than like an ounce in a day! And he’s already so skinny, and I’m worried he’s going to get really unhealthy and weak, really fast!

    Thoughts/advice/ideas/perspective? :-/

    1. Rebecca*

      I’m a long time cat owner, but I’ve never adopted an older cat. I can tell you that cats like what they’re used to eating, whether it’s what we want them to eat or not. I had an older cat, about 10, who developed diabetes requiring insulin shots, and she loved Purina canned foods, and she was a free feeder. I tried better food for her, but to no avail. She lived another 5 1/2 years, which is pretty good for an insulin dependent cat.

      I know you want him to eat high quality, no grain items, but if he’s used to eating normal cat kibble and free feeding, you may need to let him do this at this age. I remember reading somewhere that cats don’t do well with lack of food, so if he’s willing to eat other things, maybe you could start mixing in a bit of the new food with the old, letting him free feed, and slowly over the course of the next few months making the transition to the new food? I’ve owned many cats over the years, and not one of them was great with a kibble change.

      I hope this helps – good luck!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, feed him whatever he’s been used to. Also, if you’re worried about him not eating enough, act quickly — not eating can get dangerous for cats very quickly.

        There’s a gel called Nutri-Cal (Suppli-Cal is another one) that’s both high in nutrients and an appetite stimulant — you might try that. (It got Olive to eat when nothing else would, when she was a tiny kitten.)

        1. Today's anon*

          Yes, good idea, some of these have a very strong fishy smell that also helps generate interest but you could also try something that smells strong like sardines or anchovies and put it with the food.