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


Please observe the size differential. These are both full-grown cats.

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

Book recommendation of the week: Domestic Violets, by Matthew Norman. Hilarious family dysfunction and workplace snark — what more could you want? It’s seriously very, very funny.

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

{ 940 comments… read them below }

  1. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

    I am hooked on kickboxing! I can’t remember who, but someone here recommended some Pop Sugar kickboxing videos on Youtube and I LOVED them. I just recently signed up for some kickboxing classes where I get to punch more than just the air and I seriously cannot get enough of it. So thank you, whoever recommended it!

    Have any other Youtube fitness videos to recommend? I love the Yoga with Adriene videos. She has a ton of classes, so I never get bored.

    1. Emily*

      That’s great that you’ve found a new activity that you enjoy so much!

      I’m curious about kickboxing, but don’t have a very good concept of what it is – is it mostly just a sequence of punches and kicks, or are there other moves/components as well? What parts of your body does it work out (or is it more of a general cardio thing)?

      1. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

        All the classes I’ve taken have a significant warm-up component which is kind of like a cardio boot-camp. Then – yes, a lot of it is punches and kicks and agility, but it works your core, arms and legs. And it’s definitely good cardio! But it’s super fun being able to punch things and not go to jail ;)

    2. nep*

      Good for you. That’s terrific.
      Whenever I take a kickboxing class I feel like a total badass all day long.

    3. Anxa*

      I wish I did! I just started that this week and found some videos for apartment friendly workouts.

      My only problem is that I cannot follow the motions. I wish there was a video that went over the movements a few times breaking it down, but not laboriously slow. I can’t handle the choreography. I watched some by Sarah Fit and Millionaire Hoy, but I just can’t follow.

    4. Central Perk Regular*

      Im hooked on Yoga with Adriene too! I love her approach. Her stuff has helped me tremendously.

  2. LawCat*

    I’m usually pretty even keel, but there are certain family members that really know how to push my buttons. Like one family member in particular (parent!), when stressed out, will sometimes make really passive aggressive statements that both rile me up and guilt trip me. I find that I react and get emotional really quickly. Are there strategies I can use to keep my frustration under control?

    The reaction happens so fast in me that I’m not sure how to mentally step back. Thanks for any suggestions!

    1. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      CBT focuses a lot on thoughts/feelings/behaviors. Hopefully I’m remembering this correctly, but they say you first have a thought about what’s happening, then a specific feeling, which makes you react a certain way. Part of fixing this is figuring out what about the person’s behavior specifically is triggering you, what thought occurs, and then what feelings prompt the behavior. From there, you can come up with more rational or alternative thoughts that hopefully calm the behaviors.

      For example, I used to get extremely agitated and have an attitude problem toward people at work. I had to really try to figure out exactly what happened that even caused it and eventually figured out that it was other people whispering that triggered it. I would immediately think they were whispering about me. It would make me feel rejected, stupid, worthless. In turn, it would make me act aggressively and rudely toward other people. In this example, I would try to re-write my original thought and come up with other plausible thoughts. Maybe they’re whispering because they’re discussing confidential business, maybe they’re whispering because they don’t want to interrupt people, maybe they’re whispering because they’re talking about details of their personal life, etc.

      Hopefully I explained that in a way that makes sense!

    2. Temperance*

      My mother is mentally ill and difficult, and likes to attack others. I took a step back from dealing with her, because she loves to attack others and make them feel shitty.

      It might help you deal with your parent better if you allow yourself a break.

    3. nep*

      You’re on the right track the way you’re thinking about ‘mentally stepping back’.
      Two thoughts can’t happen absolutely simultaneously, so there is that space between them — between incident and reaction. It really can help to think about that space and work on broadening it.
      Also, getting at the heart of exactly why the things push your buttons like that — getting at the root of that can be helpful.

    4. Stellaaaaa*

      Over Thanksgiving, I had the revelation that my Gramps really just likes to argue. He’ll go in for a debate and it’s never logical but I figured out that I can say pretty much anything back in a snappy tone and it’ll eventually shut him up. Is that relevant to you? If you can, stop attaching meaning to the content of the conversation and just snap back confidently and eventually that person will go fight with someone else.

    5. AnonyInMN*

      I found “The Dance of Anger” by Harriet Lerner invaluable in several situations. Whatever tactic you decide on, it takes repetition to make it a habit. Good luck!

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I try to avoid reacting by playing anthropologist in my head, in a Marlon Perkins type documentary voice. “The male of the species tries to protect its territory and bolster its fragile ego by puffing up to anyone who approaches.” It’s much easier to let go and yet to listen and be present when you can not take it seriously.

    7. EmmaLou*

      I’ve heard that some people go into family celebrations with Bingo cards. (mental ones or actual ones if more can play along) Things like “Mentioned wallabies taking over the world. Check. Complained about her sister. Check. Brought up my lack of [Partner, child, respectable job, “decent” car] (What does in indecent car look like?!) Check. and Bingo! I’d be so tempted to just say “Bingo!” aloud, but well, often my mouth runs ahead of my brain. If you do have more that can play along, imagine the fun, “Quick, if you don’t have the ailment one, Aunt Judy’s in the dining room and just started in on Medicare and how it’s too …”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Bingo cards. I like bingo cards for this purpose.

        We must know some of the same people.

        Crappy boss, crappy job, rotten car dealership, lawn mowing, broken appliance, BINGO!

    8. Pennalynn Lott*

      There’s a technique called “going Gray Rock” that was originally recommended for dealing with narcissistic psychopaths, but it works for passive-aggressive folks to. It basically boils down to making sure you don’t give them a reaction of any kind. Be boring. Be neutral. Make it very much Not Fun for them to try and push your buttons. They eventually stop because they quit getting any kind of payback from you. I won’t lie, it takes a LOT of discipline to pull it off, but the rewards are wonderful and worth it.

      “Gray Rock is primarily a way of encouraging a psychopath, a stalker or other emotionally unbalanced person, to lose interest in you. It differs from No Contact in that you don’t overtly try to avoid contact with these emotional vampires. Instead, you allow contact but only give boring, monotonous responses so that the parasite must go elsewhere for his supply of drama. When contact with you is consistently unsatisfying for the psychopath, his mind is re-trained to expect boredom rather than drama. Psychopaths are addicted to drama and they can’t stand to be bored. With time, he will find a new person to provide drama and he will find himself drawn to you less and less often. Eventually, they just slither away to greener pastures. Gray Rock is a way of training the psychopath to view you as an unsatisfying pursuit — you bore him and he can’t stand boredom.”

      P.S. For me, it took joining an online support group for partners of people with ADHD and saying there all the things I *wanted* to say to my ADHD boyfriend whenever he would try and bait me into a fight, in order for me to learn how to keep my emotions and reactions in check. And not giving a button-pusher the reaction they’re after has helped me in many, many other areas of my life as well. It’s a valuable skill that I think everyone should cultivate.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      With a parent it can be harder to detach because of our relationship- child/parent.

      I would suggest reading on parent-child relationships. There is lots of good stuff out there, you don’t necessarily have to do what the books advise but do read through people’s stories of what they have experienced.
      When you understand the pattern of manipulation is easier to react with a yawn rather than increased blood pressure. Some of it also involves changing your expectations, this person is not capable of being a parent to anyone. Once in a while they may seem like they are starting to fill the role, but they can not sustain the effort.

    10. Artemesia*

      Can you go to the event as an anthropologist? Think about the odd behaviors of the primates you will be observing; predict what kind of outrage will be inflicted; cooly think about how to observe and note without having to engage.

      Nothing irritates this kind of jerk more than a quiet inner smile from the target or a laugh or amused smile perhaps accompanied by ‘that is exactly the sort of thing I expect to hear from you.’ Condescend. They are beneath you.

      You could also occasionally mutter ‘bingo’ and if queried note that you just got 5 across. Artists of the passive aggressive will know exactly what you mean and not be pleased that you are so pleased about it.

  3. Windchime*

    Is that Sam lying there with Eve? They really are very different in size! It’s cute how they are laying together, though. It must be nice to have them all get along so well.

    My mother used to have a little calico named Chelsea, and she was tiny at 4 1/2 pounds when she was full grown. I had a kitten who was Chelsea’s niece, and she grew up to be a hefty 12 pounder. So strange!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, that is Sam, who is now down to a svelte 19 pounds (from his original 25); he is a very large cat. Eve weighs 7. I am weirdly entertained by the difference in their sizes.

      Four and a half pounds is tiny for a cat!

      1. Meagain*

        I had a 32 pounder. We got home down to 24 with the science diet metabolic. My vet literally wanted him to be the poster child for the product.

        1. copy run start*

          I have a 20 pounder who’s down to 11 now thanks to Hill’s Science Diet m/d. He actually looks a lot like the cat on the m/d cans!

      2. silverquill*

        A friend of mine owns a small family of Maine Coons, the biggest one is 26 (11-12 kg) and she’s perfectly fit and probably the best looking cat I’ve ever met! I had never seen such big cats… mine is just 8 pounds (3,5 kg) and looks like a dwarf compared to them. I’m always weirded out when I visit my friend and I have issues picking up her huge cats :)

        1. Windchime*

          My son recently adopted a kitten. Mom took one look at her and said, “She looks like a Maine Coon cat.” I said, no, I don’t think so. But the vet said the same thing and she is 5.5 pounds at 4 months old. She is going to be a big cat.

        1. Windchime*

          I visit for the posts, but love the cat pictures. I always wonder if it makes Alison feel weird that we know all about her cats — their names and habits, etc. I was just wondering the other day if Olive still plays fetch.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Olive was just fetching yesterday (hair elastics).

            I kind of enjoy that so many people know the cats. I tell them that they are famous (they seem unmoved), and I think they are good ambassadors for cat adoption!

            1. Sas*

              “I tell them that they are famous (they seem unmoved), ” Of course. Expectation- They are famous at your house, treated like kings. Reality- They are famous on blog also.

      3. Cheryl*

        I thought at least part of the visual size difference was due to perspective in the photo; Sam seems closer, so he is bigger. But I can see from your description, that he is indeed a lot bigger!
        I love how most animals don’t seem to see size differences. I have a huge dog (St. Bernard), but when she sees other breeds I think she just sees, oh, goody, another dog!

      4. MsChanandlerBong*

        Our ginger cat was the runt of his litter. The vet even asked if we were sure that he was 8 weeks old when we got him (because he was the size of a 6-week-old kitten). The poor thing always acted like he was starving! He got his name (Bandit) from the fact that he used to stick his paws in the toaster and try to take bagels out of it…while they were toasting. He also used to climb in the refrigerator and try to get at the lunch meat. No one would mistake him for a runt now; he’s a hefty 18 pounds.

        About two years ago, we took in a terribly skinny cat with a cauliflower ear (so it looks like he only has one ear in some pictures). He was 9.6 pounds when we took him in; he’s now close to 16 pounds. He’s still skinny, though; the vet said his frame indicates he should be about 18 pounds, but once they lose weight, it’s hard to make it up. There is only a two-pound difference between them, but Bandit looks like he ate another cat, and one-ear (Chewbacca) looks like he’s half-starving.

        1. Lady Blerd*

          Bottomless appetite seem to be a thing with gingers. My tabby has food anxiety, he was an abandoned that I literally found on my doorstep and he was skin and bones. I have to feed my cats separately because he seems to fear that my other cat will steal his food. Interestingly, both cats get fed the exact amount of food, 1/2 cup of dry food a day, hardly any snacks, I don’t have food lying around the house and yet the ginger seems to have 4-5 pounds over his roomie.

      5. Pennalynn Lott*

        I’ve got a 20-lb black cat and a 6.5-lb brown and black tabby. And four other cats of varying sizes in between. It’s really, really funny to see the big black cat (Bubba Boudreaux) wrestle with the tiny cat (Violet). Violet has some awesome, ninja-like moves, but when Bubba has had enough, he just sits on her. :-D

        1. Blackout*

          I have a 20-lb black cat also! (Male, named Boris). And a 9 pound gray cat (Female, Lilly). The 9-lb one bosses the 20-lb one around and he just puts up with it.

          My vet wants Boris to lose a few pounds (understandably) but every time I try to reduce the amount of food he gets, he gets mad and starts peeing in inappropriate places. And I can’t spend my whole life scrubbing cat urine off of my things. So unfortunately he’s got me pretty well trained to give in to his food demands.

      6. neverjaunty*

        Any tips on how you got his weight down? We have a very, uh, Taft-ian cat and putting him on diet wet food isn’t helping as much as we’d like. (Wet food is less caloric than kibble, apparently.)

        1. Misc*

          With my cats, switching to pure meat made aaaaall the difference. The went from pudgy to lean pure muscle.

        2. Anon for this*

          Less food and more playing. And if your cat’s too fat to jump, you can move the other cats’ food to a counter or table so he can’t eat theirs.

      7. Ktlezbeth*

        They remind me of my kitties, who are also a larger orange and white and a smaller dilute tortoiseshell. They are only three or four pounds different, though.

  4. Anonymous Educator*

    When 13th came out, I had a few friends recommend it. I watched a bit of it, but it was uncomfortable to watch, so I took a break. Came back to it weeks later and finished it. That movie was amazing! It had me in tears (I rarely cry over movies), and I learned a lot. It is not a light or fun viewing. It is not entertaining in the least. But it is a very important film. I hope those of you who have Netflix take the time to watch it, especially if you live in the U.S.

    1. New Bee*

      I agree; it was really good. I used to teach Ethnic Studies, and it’s definitely a film I would’ve wanted to show to my students.

    2. Windchime*

      Thanks for the recommendation — I’ll be traveling for work next week and this will be something I’ll watch while I’m away.

    3. JuniperGreen*

      It is an excellent film – I agree that it is hard to watch but I found the information so eloquently and thoughtfully presented that I couldn’t stop watching. DuVernay has such tremendous talent. The touching family snapshots during the credits, for example, were so sweet and hopeful, and made me smile after a lot of very heavy and difficult content.

  5. Clammy Clue*

    I have a question for parents, one which I truly don’t mean to be disrespectful but has been on my mind: does the ‘you break it, you buy it’ rule not apply to kids?

    I was at the Post Office this week to mail out some Christmas packages. A mother and her young son were at the only open counter and I was next in line with a few others behind me. The son was sitting on the ground ‘coloring’ a sheet of paper with a sharpie marker. He suddenly grew tired of his paper and reached over to the shelf of padded envelopes available for purchase. With the sharpie marker, he started scribbling on the envelopes. Before myself or any other customer could make a comment to the mom, she noticed and pulled her son away. Her transaction at the counter complete, she picked up her kid and walked away scolding him for going rogue on the envelopes.

    When I stepped up for my mailings, I could see the envelopes he’d scribbled on. Two or three of them with giant markings obscuring the center where a mailing address would go. There’s no way the Post Office could sell these, they would have to be thrown out, yet the mom made no offer to pay for the damaged merchandise.

    It made me think of working in retail for a craft store that ended two years ago and that I couldn’t think of a single time a parent offered to pay for damaged merchandise. Even when I witnessed children pulling flowers out of our $50+ floral arraignments and occasionally had to tell kids to stop myself, no offers. I had to intercept a kid running wild with a cart from crashing into a $150 custom framing display, and the parent just glared at me rather than saying anything about how I saved their kid from a concussion and them having to pay the broken frame. And I’ve found plenty of items obviously damaged by kids: stickers pulled off, crayons snapped in boxes, the like. But really truly, I’ve never seen a parent pay for things damaged by their kids. Not as an employee, not as a customer shopping about, never.

    Is that just not a thing anymore? Is it not expected by parents? I know my parents covered the costs by my siblings and I back in the day but I have never seen it since. I’m genuinely curious about this.

    1. Allypopx*

      We usually have parents offer. We tell them they don’t have to but sometimes they want to use it as a teaching moment so they do anyway.

    2. Myrin*

      My sister, who works at a supermarket, recently told me that the “you buy it, you break it” rule isn’t really in effect anymore other than in people’s minds because the store has insurance for that kind of thing. Where she works is a national chain, though, so it might be different for smaller business.

      1. Artemesia*

        I doubt very much they have ‘insurance’ except self insurance i.e. factor in the inventory shrinkage. What insurance company will reimburse for crushed bananas or opened cereal boxes?

    3. SophieChotek*

      Sometimes I think it depends on the store — signs up if “You break it, you pay for it”. I work for a coffee shop and we have lots of ceramic mugs, etc. Several get broken, especially around the holiday seasons — mostly by adults who don’t watch where they are going or their purse is big and swipe the display as they go buy. I don’t think they’ve ever offered to pay for it (maybe once) and we never were told to ask. My manager just “wastes it out” in her inventory. I guess a certain amount of breakage is expected–as is theft in stores — and in the end gets passed along to the customer anyway?

      1. the gold digger*

        I took a corner too fast and knocked over and broke a bottle of wine at my grocery store. (Swinging purse.) I was mortified that someone else had to clean up my mess. I took an unbroken bottle of wine to the checkout and tried to convince the cashier to scan it and put it on my bill, but she refused. It was my fault. I broke it. I should have paid for it.

        1. Soupspoon McGee*

          I was with my sister in the wine section of a store I like. I was flirting with one of the employees, who’d just told me he’d never had a wine spill while he was on duty. I dropped something, and as I bent to pick it up, my sister yelled, “Your butt!” My butt caused this guy’s first wine incident. He did not take me up on my offer to pay for it, so we fled. Only one of us was laughing.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I did the same thing in Big Lots–I put a jar of stuff in my cart and it slipped out and crashed to the floor. I apologized like a mad person and offered to pay for it, but they said no biggie, happens all the time. I was so embarrassed, though–clumsy ox!

    4. Stellaaaaa*

      Stuff at the post office gets tricky…depending on the envelope, you’re paying for the service of mailing it, not necessarily for the envelope itself. As for craft displays, a lot of those items can’t be taken down and sold to customers anyway so it’s not lost merchandise sales. I’m pretty enmeshed in the cosmetics world (where generous return policies are the norm) so I tend to view minor damages as a cost of doing business.

      1. Clammy Clue*

        The envelopes were nice padded and Christmas-y ones, definitely ones you pay for in addition to the service. The frame on display at the craft store was for sale. So all of these were definitely available merchandise damaged so that paying customers couldn’t purchase them.

    5. Me2*

      Owner of home decor store for five years, I would say most parents offer but I would never let them, it’s a cost of doing business. I also had a small playroom in my store, we tried to keep the busy little hands corralled in there. I did have a funny thing happen once, a mom was explaining the “you break it, you buy it” rule to a little boy about four years old. Not five minutes later, my employee dropped a ceramic vase onto a concrete floor with a huge crash. The little boy’s eyes grew enormous and he whispered to the employee, “Does that mean you have to buy it?”

    6. all aboard the anon train*

      I remember taking stickers off of things or opening things at the grocery store when I was young out of pure curiosity. It was always when I wandered off or no one was looking, so in those cases, the adult with me really didn’t know. Later, when my brothers worked part-time in supermarkets they said the stores had policies that accounted for that type of thing. When I worked in retail, a large portion of the inventory and budget was put aside for stolen or damaged goods (though admittedly, in high school a lot of the employees at the pharmacy I worked at would “tear” a bag of candy and “put a candy bowl out for customers” – aka, mostly for us – and mark it as “damaged”).

      But I know when my parents caught me or my brothers breaking something, whether on purpose or accidentally, they would offer to pay for it. To be honest, it was a pretty good lesson on how not to disrespect something that doesn’t belong to us. I’ve rarely accidentally broken something as an adult, but I always offer to pay for it if I do. Mostly it has been in supermarkets when things are packed in so tight together or when I’m trying to reach for something high up or all the way back on the shelf and other things fall or break as I’m trying to reach what I get. Even when I offer to pay for what I damaged, the store has never taken me up on it.

      The only time I’ve seen it really go into effect was in non-chain stores or for items that were fragile or expensive.

    7. Jessesgirl72*

      Even if the store refused payment, the parent, as part of just being a decent human, should have cleaned up the mess, instead of leaving it there for someone else to dispose of. Not in the case of a bottle of something, where the adult doesn’t have the cleaning supplies, but for something like padded envelopes, the least the parent literally could have done would be to hand the envelopes to the clerk to throw away.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Depending on the store. Some stores have strict policies about not allowing the customer to clean up. I guess it’s because of insurance.

    8. chickabiddy*

      When my kid was that age and things like that happened despite my best efforts (which wasn’t all that often), I always tried to pay. A few times, managers would not let me. I always felt badly.

    9. Ann Furthermore*

      I would absolutely offer to pay if my daughter broke something in a store. Things aren’t free, and she needs to understand that.

      She takes taekwondo, and when she made it to green belt level we had to pay about $200 for sparring gear (elbow pads, shin guards, head gear, footpads, etc). I told her that it was her responsibility to keep that stuff put away, in her bag. If something gets lost because she didn’t keep track of it, or if she leaves something out and the dog chews it to bits, she is expected to not only pay to replace it with her own money, she will have to go down to the taekwondo studio and explain to hear teacher why she won’t be able to spar in class for awhile. Let me tell you, that stuff stays in her bag.

      1. Amadeo*

        Bwahaha. I’m also taking taekwondo and I laugh because I know. It wouldn’t be the monetary loss for me if something happened to any gear I had to have for class, it would be trying to explain to the school master why I didn’t have it. I would shed about 30 years and turn back into a 6 year old and stare at the floor while I mumbled to him.

    10. Sled dog mama*

      I have not encountered this (yet) as a parent but absolutely I would teach my daughter that if she damages something that is not hers she needs to at least offer to pay for it. I would apply that not only to merchandise but to items at a friend’s house as well.

    11. Anxa*

      I think the culture of retail in general has changed a lot with the rise in larger chains and the proliferation of discount retailers. It’s so common to find broken merchandise on the shelves these days. Return policies tend to be more generous. In fact, a lot of companies have replaced quality control with more generous replacement policies.

      As for the kid exemption, I knew that some parents just stopped caring the day I had to clean up urine as a waitress without so much as a thank you, an apology, a genuine acknowledgment of the inconvenience, or a decent tip. I don’t think it was even %15 and I know I did a good job with that table. Then I had to tell the hosts to stop seating me (lost revenue) and hold off on proper service for my other tables, because you can’t just run food with urine hands. You just don’t do it. Ugh.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        There’s a whole industry out there dealing with broken, returned merchandise. You can buy the stuff by the truckload and resell it “as is”.

    12. Pennalynn Lott*

      A local high-end pizzeria opened a location in my neighborhood. In the past half decade or so, property values in this area have quadrupled as young couples bought the old houses, tore them down, and built McMansions in their place. When the pizzeria opened, they were thrilled and treated it like a cross between Chuck-E-Cheese and a wine bar. The patio had a fabulous fire-and-water display, sculpted out of concrete, that ran about 40 feet long before ending in a breath-taking fire-and-water fountain. The parents were all too happy to have their toddlers climb INTO the fountain (with fire just a foot or so above their heads!) and lose their diapers, thus clogging the filtration system. Older children took turns picking up handfuls of the crushed granite that was the floor of the outdoor seating area and throwing it into the display and the fountain (when they weren’t throwing it at fellow diners — ask me how I know that).

      The owners had to pay $15,000 to have the display and fountain dismantled and some greenery planted in the concrete sculpture instead. And then the kids started ripping the plants out. When parents were confronted (via a neighborhood FB page) they said they’d sue the pizzeria owner if he so much as hinted that their children couldn’t rip up his landscaping.

      So, in my neck of the woods, “You break it, you buy it,” is something that will get retail store owners sued.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Obviously, not all parents are like this, but I have noticed a trend of parents ignoring bad behavior and then getting absolutely incensed if an employee has to tell a kid to stop doing something. Last time I went to the Metropolitan Museum, a little kid was climbing on one of the 3,000-year-old Egyptian artifacts (I think it might have been a sarcophagus, but I can’t remember). The kid’s mom just let him do it. Finally, the docent had to speak up and tell him to stop it. A) It’s an expensive artifact. B) It probably weighed several hundred, if not 1,000 pounds. If it fell over and hurt the kid, the parents would be suing the place. The kid’s mom got SO MAD at the docent and started yelling at her for daring to tell her kid to stop doing something he wasn’t supposed to do. I honestly thought the docent was going to have to call the police.

        1. Anxa*

          I’m sympathetic to harried parents and kids being hard to control, but when someone else needs to talk to your kid to get them to stop, how can you get mad at that person?

          I was yelled at by a women on a plane for speaking to her kid. Her kid kept kicking my seat. The parent had every opportunity to tell him to stop; he didn’t. So I asked him to. I politely but firmly asked the kid if he could please stop kicking the seat because it was was bothering me. She was outraged that I would speak to her son, but I told her that if she had perhaps taught him some manners, people wouldn’t have to address her son’s behavior. Probably rude of me, but at that point I didn’t care.

            1. Artemesia*

              I have done the same thing when a kid was kicking the seat of my 12 year old daughter and 11 year old foster daughter. She whined ‘you don’t understand what its like to travel with small children’ — I just pointed to my two girls and said they were not born this age.

              No excuse for letting your kid rhythmically kick someone’s seat for hours on end. I am pretty laid back with the occasional bump or cry — but that was ridiculous.

          1. OhBehave*

            I often do not hesitate to correct a kid if the parent is being irresponsible. Most of the time it’s in a restaurant. I remember a few times I told a kid to stop running in circles around tables. I told the special snowflakes to go sit down. Of course he ran (!) off to tell his mom and the whole large table. They glared at me but I stared right back. Another time the mother or grandma really laid into me. I told her that if her darling caused a server to dump a tray of drinks or hot food on the child, she would complain that the server was in the wrong.

            A restaurant is not a playground for your children!

            If you don’t want to parent your children and make them behave then you can bet that I will do the job for you. BE THE PARENT!!!

          2. AdAgencyChick*

            OMG seriously. I once refused to give up my window seat so that a kid could have it. Mom sat kid in the middle seat and let him kick me. I asked him to stop and she said “you can’t be mad at him, he’s just a kid.”

            I sure can be mad at YOU, lady!

      2. catsAreCool*

        That’s terrible. It sends such a bad message to kids when they think they can get away with destroying other people’s property. Sooner or later, they have to learn not to, and usually sooner is easier – there’s less to unlearn. I mean, babies will destroy things, but at some point… At the least, it seems like the parents would take the thing away and say sweetly “No, no, don’t do that. Here’s one of your own toys to play with.” even when the little ones are very young.

    13. neverjaunty*

      There have always been selfish, thoughtless people, and there have always been selfish, thoughtless people having kids.

    14. OlympiasEpiriot*

      I hold by the ‘you break it you buy it’ rule as a customer. However, I’ve rarely had a store accept it. So, I’ve picked up something of comparable price and bought it even though it wasn’t on my list when they don’t let me pay for the broken item. Fortunately, it was rare that my kid got into things. I was lucky. When I as little, I remember dropping a large jar of instant coffee at a supermarket and everyone being more worried about the broken glass than my parents paying.

    15. A Good Jess*

      When I was a kid, I accidentally broke an ornament at a Christmas store. My mom took it over to the register to explain and pay for it. It turned out that their policy was, “Thanks for being honest and telling us, you only have to pay 50%.” Looking back, I think that was a good compromise– this was a small business as opposed to a large chain with insurance.

    16. Retail Gal*

      See user name, I obviously work in retail, in a typical department store. Breakage and damage are a part of doing business. If something is breakable, one of them is going to break before it leaves the store. In fact, I broke a mug two weeks ago in receiving while taking it out of the box it was shipped in. (Klutzy me) Not to mention the boxes of stuff we take off the truck already broken.

      I have seen where we’ll get an opened toy package sent back to receiving as damaged. I see that as a (hopefully) younger child that wanted to play with the Matchbox car or doll, and mom or dad had no intention of buying it (or may not have the money to buy it). Stuff like can happen to the best of parents. Let’s talk about, though, the package of underwear left behind with just one pair taken out. That gets me a bit heated.

      And just to get a peek behind the curtain…stuff that is damaged (open packaging, floor model, stained or missing button, etc.) gets shipped back to our distribution center, and then sent to three or four clearance centers located in the area our stores cover. Stuff that is not usable at all (see broken mug above, broken ornaments, candles) we mark out of stock in our store by scanning it at our registers, and then throw it away.

    17. OhBehave*

      As a parent of 22 and 17 year kids, I would definitely pay for any damaged/broken items. If they were older, they knew that any birthday/Christmas money went to repay us.

    18. NoNameBrand*

      I am not a parent, but I work in retail. I’ve been wondering the same thing, because this seems like an area of social interaction for which there really aren’t any set norms.

      My job is in a pharmacy, so we get a lot exhausted/distracted parents with young children, and we sell a lot of products that are enticing to young children. Not shockingly, lots of things get broken, opened, eaten, or are otherwise ruined by children. (Incidentally, and more shockingly: adults are more likely than children to do these things).

      About half the parents offer to pay; about half don’t. I honestly can’t see any pattern beyond that: it’s just as likely to happen with parents in their teens and in their forties, with parents from any language/culture background, with parents from different economic classes, etc. I’ve seen couples and families argue about whether or not they had a responsibility to pay. So it really doesn’t seem like a settled question, or one where norms are evolving in a particular direction.

      We only ask parents to pay if they want to take the item out of the store. This mostly happens with small things like candy. Honestly, if we wanted to keep merchandise safe from small, sticky hands, we would set the store up differently. We chose to leave things accessible because it’s otherwise beneficial (it makes the store more inviting, it requires less work on the part of merchandising employees). We can’t punish families for that.

  6. Corporate Cynic*

    I got engaged a few months ago, and my fiance and I are having a wedding on the opposite coast (where I grew up) this summer. For various practical reasons including health insurance, we’re having a city hall ceremony where we live at the end of January (no guests – a photographer will be our witness). Anyone else do something similar? And if so:

    – When did you celebrate your anniversary – on the “legal” date or the wedding date? We’re thinking wedding date, especially since that’s the only date of which most others will be aware. And speaking of…
    – How/how much did you share the news of your “pre-wedding”? Our families obviously know, along with a handful of close friends. While I don’t see the need to advertise it broadly, I don’t want any summer wedding guests to feel ‘duped’ if they somehow find out on their own/later on. In their shoes I personally wouldn’t care at all, but still…
    – Did you then introduce your SO as your fiance(e) or spouse? For strangers/people we’re unlikely to see again, I think spouse is fine, but I’m thinking fiance for the rest

    1. Temperance*

      1.) We don’t even really acknowledge the date we signed the license.
      2.) Only 4 people know, besides anonymous internet contacts. Our two friends who signed the license, their baby, and the HR person at Booth’s former place of employment.
      3.) Fiance. We didn’t consider ourselves married until we had our friends to witness it. It’s also confusing for YOU to refer to your spouse as such … you will slip, guaranteed.

      I don’t think you should tell extended family and people who might get weird about it. One of my cousins and her now-ex went to the courthouse because he’s military and she needed his benefits before he deployed, and my family acted like she murdered a kitten. They told my cousin that they would boycott any attempt at a “wedding” since the “wedding” had already happened. I have an exceptionally terrible family, but still, you don’t need to risk it.

      1. bunniferous*

        I live in a military town and it is incredibly common for people to do the justice of the peace legal wedding first and then the wedding ceremony later. There are solid reasons for this-one being that the Army does not give a flip about scheduled wedding days when it comes to deployments and such, another being what you stated, the need to get benefits, etc. squared away.

        I used to feel funny about it but after actually thinking about it for half a second-there is absolutely nothing wrong with being practical and having your party too, and those relatives ought to be ashamed of themselves.

        1. Temperance*

          Now that she’s divorced, they claim it’s because she excluded family from her real wedding and was ashamed of her relationship.

          1. bunniferous*

            I am sure you can hear the sound of my eyes rolling all the way over here. I am guessing it was not the relationship she was ashamed of….

          1. Temperance*

            It’s totally smart. I mean, with marriage, they receive extra money, he receives combat pay, and she’s protected in case anything happens.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I got married by a magistrate about four days before my wedding because we wanted to have my father-in-law officiate at the ceremony and Virginia doesn’t let you have unordained people do that. It’s a much smaller timeframe, obviously, but we celebrate our wedding date as our anniversary and see the earlier one as just paperwork. (It’s not really just paperwork, obviously, given the significance of the legal bond you’re creating, but that’s how we’ve ended up looking at it.)

      Four days is short though. With a period of months like you’re talking about, I think we would have just gone with the courthouse ceremony and been done with it (but then I didn’t want a wedding anyway).

      Will you feel married after the courthouse thing, or will it feel like it was just paperwork to you and you’re not truly married until you do it in front of family and friends? For me, that’s what it would come down to.

      And totally agree with Temperance that referring to your spouse as your spouse will be weird and confusing regardless. Three years later, I still feel weird about hearing myself referred to as someone’s wife.

      1. Artemesia*

        In Europe it is routine to have a legal wedding at the courthouse and then if you wish the religious ceremony. Some people just do the courthouse wedding and then a big reception or dinner. I think if the two come fairly close together it is just ‘the wedding’ and take your pick on the anniversary. If it is going to be a long time, I’d be inclined to keep the legal marriage secret if you want to go ahead with a fancy wedding later.

    3. Red Reader*

      We thought we might end up being in the same position — our wedding is booked and planned for September, but depending on what goes on with my fiance’s job, we may have needed to get married earlier to get him on my health insurance so he didn’t have to decide between paying his bills and sticking with his therapist. It’s looking like that won’t be necessary for us after all, but if we had, we wouldn’t have told anyone except possibly our housemates (including parents and other family/friends), we would have celebrated on the September date when we made promises in front of our family and friends, and basically we wouldn’t have acknowledged that we’d already made it legal unless we absolutely had to, including me holding off on my legal name change until September.

    4. Kate*

      There is about a five month gap between our legal wedding date and our ceremony date.

      People always ask us which one we celebrate, and I happily announce BOTH!

      Our thinking is that we can always use an occasion to celebrate. We usually have a nice dinner on the first one and exchange small gifts for the second one.

      1. Artemesia*

        We were married on a Friday 13 (eloped) We have always celebrated every single Friday 13 — more cake — as well as the actual date. Of course, it is just the two of us, we aren’t throwing parties until 50 of the actual date – which is coming up in a handful of years.
        It is fun to announce our 72cd anniversary though in reference to 72 Friday the 13ths.

    5. Snorlax*

      I’d celebrate my anniversary based on the date I was actually married, i.e. the date of the courthouse wedding. And I would also be upfront with people that the later ceremony is a celebration of the marriage, not the actual wedding. I don’t see any reason to hide the truth.

        1. KS girl at heartq*

          We got legally married 3 weeks before our destination wedding. My family knew about the legal ceremony but 11 years later I’m not sure the in laws do. We tell people the day of the ceremony with friends and family is our anniversary and the other date is just for us to remember.

        2. Snorlax*

          That’s why I’d rather let people know upfront what they’re coming to celebrate. I’ve been to those “secretly we were married a few months ago” celebrations and only found out after the fact that the couple had already been married for a while. That left me feeling like my friends were deceitful or sneaky, whereas if they’d made it clear for the get-go that I was coming to a vow renewal/celebration I would have attended happily and not ended up thinking my friends were liars. Maybe that makes me a shitty person, but the thing I hate most in life is feeling like someone is trying to fool me so it left a bad taste in my mouth.

          1. Gaia*

            Why did it leave you feeling you were deceived? You were always going to a celebration of their union and that didn’t change – only the date that the union officially began changed. No one is trying to “fool” anyone, it is just a matter of when the license is signed. It could have been the day of, two days before, a year before or days after.

            1. Stellaaaaa*

              I think she means it’s weird to find out that your friends had been married for a few months and didn’t tell anyone.

            2. Snorlax*

              I felt deceived because they invited me to their wedding, but it turned out it wasn’t their wedding. It was a vow renewal. So they were dishonest and I dislike dishonesty. (Under no circumstances do I think they were obliged to invite me to the actual private ceremony that took place months prior. I do think they should not have hidden the fact that the second ceremony wasn’t the actual wedding).

              1. Temperance*

                Why do you feel like they were dishonest, though?

                I personally didn’t tell most people because of the anger and dishonesty accusations that would have been levied at me. We had to sign the license early because I needed health insurance. We still wanted to celebrate our union publicly. Calling our wedding a “vow renewal” cheapens the moment.

                1. Snorlax*

                  I feel like they were dishonest because the invitation asked me to come to their wedding, but it wasn’t their wedding. The wedding happened when they got married months earlier. Hence they were not honest about the event to which I was invited. If they had invited me to a celebration of their marriage, then there would have been no dishonesty.

                2. Temperance*

                  So that’s *exactly* why most people don’t tell, and why I didn’t. People act like you’ve committed treason against them because you had to do something for boring legal reasons. I didn’t want to have to sign a marriage license early, but had no choice. There were no vows. We seriously signed the license and mailed it in, and that was that.

                  Signing the license wasn’t my wedding. My wedding was when we said our vows. Calling it a “vow renewal” or “celebration of marriage” cheapens it.

                3. Elizabeth West*

                  Wait wait wait wait wait.

                  How is that dishonest? Did they have two weddings? Two dresses? Two cakes? I’m confused here. Or did they just get legally married at the courthouse or whatever and then have the wedding later?

                  The wedding part isn’t the legal marriage part; it’s the party/ritual part. Are you mad because you missed the legal part?

                4. DragoCucina*

                  +1 Temperance. One is a legal contract the other is the wedding.

                  My husband and I were married in Belgium. We were required to have a civil ceremony first. Then was our church wedding. The first was required by the state. The second was the beginning of our marriage.

              2. Mela*

                This is interesting, because a friend of mine is having a wedding in December, but they’ve been legally married for years, for immigration purposes. They did the paperwork so they could stay in the same country, but didn’t feel emotionally ready for marriage at the time. I have no idea how many people know they’re already married, but would it change the situation for you if you knew they didn’t think of the legal date as being married at all?

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Some friends of mine did this and then had a wedding later, but it was because one of them had to move to a different country to marry the other. They did the legal part first and then the wedding.

                2. Snorlax*

                  Mela, if people want to have the big wedding ceremony after they are already married, I say go for it. My only issue is with people pretending they aren’t married, not with people getting married for legal reasons before they do the big hoopla.

                  To summarize, my opinion is that getting married for legal reasons and pretending you aren’t already married when you have the big ceremony is dishonest. Getting married for legal reasons and acknowledging you are already married, but still having a big public ceremony and reception is not dishonest.

                  Elizabeth West, I’m unable to reply directly to you, but no, I’m not mad that I missed the legal part. As I said earlier, I don’t feel they were under any obligation to invite me to that. I just wish they hadn’t pretended the legal part hadn’t already happened, because to me that is dishonest. It seems silly to me to keep that a secret, because there’s nothing wrong with getting married early for legal reasons so why hide it?

                3. Artemesia*

                  Obviously people suit themselves with this sort of thing, but I think the significant day is when you commit legally. Wanting to have a big party and lots of presents seems kind of shallow i.e. I will get married at my convenience but I don’t want to forego stuff, so I will pretend to have a wedding later to harvest stuff. It leaves a bad taste and I think is disrespectful of the sanctity of marriage.

                  But obviously lots of people don’t agree and I feel a bit differently about people being deployed who have to postpone the reception — but I would not redo the vows — I’d have a frank reception acknowledging the legal vows were earlier and would invite people at the time of the wedding — that the reception will follow at X time — sort of a save the date thing.

              3. Gaia*

                See this response? This is why most people don’t tell. They invited you to a wedding ceremony. Which is exactly what they had. They filled out government paperwork months before. But that isn’t what they consider their *wedding.*

                1. Neruda*

                  I went to a wedding which turned out to be the one year anniversary of the couples legal marriage. Like others have said, it was for military reasons. Both sets of parents were at the first, legal, wedding. They told no one- not even siblings it had happened until the second ceremony exactly one year later (the groom announced it as his bride finished walking down the aisle).

                  It seems like many here would disagree with me but I thought it was odd. Just call it what it is. Tell people you’re already married but this is your ceremony. Celebrate whatever date you want (for this couple it was the same date, just a year apart).

                  I guess for me, I had a ‘traditional’ wedding, 100 guests, sit down reception blah blah but my favourite part of the day was signing the papers and being officially married. Many people view the paperwork as the binding, ‘marriage’, rather than the ceremony/occasion, which is why you will always have different views on this, and why some people, rightly or wrongly, will feel lied to if they are not witness to the legal part of the ceremony.

                2. Temperance*

                  I couldn’t afford a nice wedding at the time that I had to get married to get on Booth’s insurance. It wasn’t a choice to fill out the paperwork.

                  I wouldn’t have made the announcement like the groom did, because, as predicted, people were offended, felt excluded, etc. It’s not ever about that.

                3. Artemesia*

                  The wedding is when you got married, when you committed legally to each other. The rest is a big fancy party.

                4. Temperance*

                  I disagree, Artemesia. My wedding was when we publicly declared our commitment for each other. Not when we signed a piece of paper and mailed it in.

    6. Stellaaaaa*

      I know a lot of people who’ve had small or destination ceremonies and then threw a reception for friends and family later on. There are a lot of legit ways to frame your scenario: that it’s important to your that your family see the ceremony but realistically you need to handle the legal stuff in your own state and in a time frame that makes sense for your life, that you’re legally married but won’t be spiritually married until the ceremony (which sounds like would be the truth for you). No one who ever planned a wedding would be put off by the logistics of yours.

      1. Marzipan*

        Yeah, my cousin did this. I thought it was a bit weird beforehand but it was actually really great – because they’d already done the ‘getting married’ bit they weren’t stressed out or tired at all on the day they had the reception (a few months later) and it meant the whole thing had a lovely vibe.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          It’s an easy way to avoid religion fights too. Get the ceremony and legal stuff taken care of on your own time and then just have the party. I do think it’s important to have some kind of reception (even if you just go to a nice wine bar and cover everyone’s tab), since people will want to celebrate with you. It’s also good faith to host a reception if other people have invited you to their weddings. PLUS PLUS PLUS after going to other weddings, it’s inevitable that you might want to host your own reception to show off your own tastes and to stake a claim on your own special day.

          1. Temperance*

            I will say that this is sort of true – family members who are hardcore in their religion are still going to be butts.

    7. Alston*

      Tangent question, people who were in relationships for a long time before getting married–did you stop celebrating your dating anniversary (if you celebrated) and start over with the wedding anniversaries? Celebrate both?

      For their wedding anniversary my Dad has always gotten my Mom 1 rose for each year they were married, +1 to grow on. Worked well for their first anniversary when they were poor students and she got 2 roses. And now 45+ years later my Mom gets an ENORMOUS thing of flowers every year. I do something similar for my boyfriend, I get him 1 sunflower per year we’ve been dating, +1 to grow on. Not sure what I’ll do when we get married eventually, start over? Keep celebrating the dating anniversary with sunflowers?

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        As long as you don’t go overboard, I think it’s lovely to celebrate both anniversaries. Nothing wrong with having two nice dinners or weekend trips a year!

        1. Artemesia*

          I remember our first date (he took me to an Ike and Tina Turner concert) but it has never crossed my mind to celebrate it as an anniversary.

      2. Mela*

        I honestly forget how long I’ve been married because I only keep track of how long we’ve been dating, but I looked it up, and we’ve been dating for almost 7 years and have been married for 3.

        We got legally married the December prior to our July wedding (we got $5k+ extra back in taxes!). I genuinely don’t know the December date off the top of my head, and probably never will. The wedding date I only remember because I looked at that date so many times I couldn’t forget even if I wanted to hah. Some years we remember the December/July dates if I happen to look at the date that day and it clicks. In that case we might go out to dinner or something but it’s iffy. Our dating anniversary? Always a huge deal. Usually we plan a blow-out 1-2 week vacation to celebrate, minimum a weekend trip.

        The way I see it is we’re making the choice to be together every day, that celebration is celebrated every day. Our dating anniversary (which is our first date, and the first time we met) is us celebrating finding each other, and counting the years is celebrating that we’ve made it for X long. We “felt” married, as in committed for life, about a year into dating. The wedding was just waiting for a more socially acceptable time to declare it.

    8. Sparkly Librarian*

      Many same-sex couples have gone through similar circumstances because of the changing laws on marriage equality. My wife and I registered our domestic partnership the summer before our long-planned wedding, because she needed health insurance, and it wasn’t secret but we didn’t make a big deal of it. We had our wedding in October, and it happens that the following June the Supreme Court overturned the decision on Prop 8, allowing us to be legally married on the anniversary of our domestic partnership. We acknowledge both dates (it’s politically significant and also fun to celebrate more!), but tend to focus more on the October date. Also, the term “partner” came in handy a lot during that year.

    9. Meeeeeeeeeeee*

      Our wedding was already scheduled (save the dates sent out, most things booked, etc) when due to circumstances we realized it would make sense to do the paperwork earlier (5 months). We had a very small gathering for that (just witnesses), and most people don’t know. I keep forgetting what the date is. The wedding is the date that matters to me. I referred to my partner as my fiancé, didn’t wear my ring, we celebrate the big wedding as our anniversary, etc. But it was a very last minute thing for us, I think it was two weeks from ‘wait, is this going to be an issue?’ to signing the paperwork.

    10. Amy*

      We did the legal ceremony on our own, about 6 months before the wedding, to get me on my husband’s health insurance plan. We were also having our wedding in a different state so it seemed easier to just do all the paperwork ahead of time rather than trying to deal with it over a long weekend out-of-state. We’ve never told anyone – not even our families – because we didn’t want people to feel left out or upset. We just found someone online who was able to marry us and did it at his house. His wife was the witness. I wore a nice dress I already owned. I did legally change my name at that point, but I continued to refer to myself by my maiden name and we called each other “fiance” until the big wedding. Honestly, I don’t even remember the date, though it’s on our marriage certificate. We celebrate our wedding date as our anniversary.

      The legal ceremony was sweet, but it felt like a formality. We didn’t really feel married until our wedding.

      I think this scenario is actually fairly common these days for a variety of reasons. In fact, we have friends who had three weddings: a legal ceremony where the bride wore a white dress, a much larger traditional religious ceremony (they are the children of immigrants and this ceremony was from that culture) the next day, and, a year later, another large religious wedding overseas for family and friends in that country. It did seem a bit strange to me to have another whole big wedding – including bachelor party, big reception, etc. etc. – after they had already been married a year, but it was a lot of fun.

    11. Anono-me*

      Congratulations on your engagement.

      Short version.
      Tell everyone or if you feel you must keep it secret only tell the insurance company. People are bad at keeping secrets. Secrets lead to unpleasant drama.

      Long answer.
      When we got married, we found The Weddingbee to be a useful site. It has a blog where people (mostly women) talk 95% about getting married and 5% about other stuff. Think Friday’s here only about wedding and newlywed stuff with a little bit of the weekend stuff on the side. There are moderators but I don’t think any of them are Alison :( .

      There were a number of posts about people who had a legal, and then a big wedding; Lots of different opinions and lots of emotional posts. I would suggest reading some of those to get a better idea of how some of your guests might react. I think the sample group of AMA is skewed towards the ‘try not to make other people’s lives more difficult for no good reason’ crowd. Normally this is a good thing, but it does mean they are not the best sample group for wider world predictions of possible difficult reactions.

      My suggestion is to do this as an all or nothing information disclosure. Either, don’t tell anyone other than the insurance people or tell everyone.

      If you tell some people, but not others the secret will eventually come out and then you will have hurt feelings about the secret wedding and about the secret that Kris was told, but Pat was not. And some people will feel lied to.*

      If you decide to share with with everyone that you did a legal wedding in January but are having the ceremonial/religious wedding in June; it will probably be more difficult up front, but easier down the road. If you tell everyone, tell them after the first one, but well before the second one. That way you don’t get wedding crashers at the first one and people upset about the two weddings can be gently reminded that they do not have to attend. (Suggestion – We understand that you are upset with our choice, but we hope you will still come and celebrate with us.)

      If you are religious or your families and friends are; it may be easier to treat the first wedding as a legal hurdle and the second one as the religious=real wedding. (Unless the faith is one with rules about two weddings.)

      *If I found out after the fact that I had attended a ceremonial/religious wedding for a couple that been secretly legally married months before, I would probably be mildly irritated with the unnecessary drama that always seems to accompany secrets.

      Good luck with whatever you two decide.

    12. FDCA In Canada*

      We had a paperwork thing at city hall in order to get the ball rolling on my immigration process and get cracking on healthcare/benefits. It was about six months before our religious friends-and-family wedding. We didn’t bother telling anyone but our parents because it is incredibly irrelevant to anyone else–our family and friends were traveling in support of our marriage and everything it entailed: family blending, faith communities, you name it. Between the two I referred to my now-husband as my fiance, because to us the paperwork was just the legal hurdle to get over.

      Were people upset? I don’t know. I don’t care. Really. We count our ceremony as our wedding, because to us that was the one that mattered. If someone is upset because we signed some papers so I could not be deported and access doctors, and so if my husband was suddenly deployed I’d have some rights rather than being SOL, and they didn’t get to witness it? That’s on them. People will complain about every aspect of a wedding if you give them a chance. You can absolutely never please everyone, so please yourselves first.

    13. Trix*

      My husband and I did almost the same exact thing, and for us, it was perfect.
      1. We are about two weeks away from our 2 year “legal” anniversary, and two months past our 1 year “wedding” anniversary, so this is still new for us. People always ask, and at the moment, the answer is “both!”
      I’m not sure if we’ll always celebrate both, but I do notice that if someone asks how long I’ve been married, I tend to answer with the time frame from the City Hall wedding.
      2. We told our parents, siblings, very close friends, and most of the people at my work (December isn’t a time we take off, so I needed a pretty damn good reason to be gone for two days). We didn’t tell extended family, we didn’t put it on social media. But we also didn’t ask anyone to keep it a secret.
      My mom threw us a shower/get together thing with a bunch of family (who all live near each other, but a thousand miles from us) right after City Hall, but before the wedding, and I made the very conscious decision to continue to wear my wedding ring. An aunt ended up noticing, it was a big deal and kind of awkward for a few minutes, then everyone got over it, and had a great time at the wedding a few months later.
      3. I think I just said “Oh, this is NAME.” And then if it came up, I’d say “Yeah, we’re planning a wedding that’s coming up in a few months.” Then, if it came up even more “We actually ran off to City Hall to make it official a few months ago, but I can’t wait to get everyone we love together to celebrate.” I tended to not make a big deal of it, and people usually followed suit.

    14. Corporate Cynic*

      Thank you all for your perspectives! I think it does make the most sense to keep the legal ceremony on the DL – aside from not wanting to confuse/off-put anyone, I do think committing to each other in the presence of family & friends will make us feel “truly married.”

      The actual wedding will be a traditional Hindu ceremony – Mr. Cynic and I aren’t religious, but the cultural aspects of the ceremony are meaningful to me, and definitely to my family. But since it’ll involve a lot of hoopla (as anyone who’s attended an Indian wedding knows!) practical reasons aside, having our own calm, private ceremony first will be a nice bonus.

      On another note, unbelievable that relatives of military couples would be offended by their tying the knot in advance for benefits. “Support the Troops” much?

      1. Temperance*

        Oh, my family sucks in general. My parents are evangelical Christians, and only church weddings “count”.

    15. Sled dog mama*

      I guess I’m in a different boat than most. We celebrate the anniversary of our first date and the day we agreed to get married, partly because scheduling our wedding was a nightmare, we ended up with a date that had zero significance beyond the fact that the church was available and our parents couldn’t think of any objections to the date (mine objected to the marriage but that’s another story). Our biggest reason for celebrating the dating and engagement anniversaries instead of the day of our wedding is that it feels more organic to our relationship than an arbitrary date that was picked because it was a Saturday and parents didn’t object. We’re at 11 years of dating, 10 years since we got engaged and 8.5 since we got married.
      I also don’t want to give up the dating anniversary because the best piece of marriage advice I ever got was that just because you get married doesn’t mean you stop dating each other.

      1. Mela*

        I think I’m in your boat! We had picked a season, and then realized a Saturday in July was exactly 4 years, 4 months, and 4 days after we started dating, so we put a hold on that date at our venue. And then the owner let someone else book it ahead of us and it bummed me out, so that other July date never seemed all that special?

        One anniversary that I wish I could celebrated more was our moving in anniversary. That’s when it felt real. But unfortunately it was super dramatic and shitty (because of the situation where I used to live) and I hate thinking about it. Oh hey! We *decided* to move in together 6 years ago today, neat =)

      2. the gold digger*

        our parents couldn’t think of any objections to the date (mine objected to the marriage but that’s another story).

        Primo’s mom and dad, when he told them our wedding date
        1. We don’t know if we can find someone to feed the cats (three months in advance)
        2. She’s marrying you for your money (Primo is an ordinary engineer who was paying a ton of alimony to his ex-wife and gave her way more than half of their assets – if I am a golddigger, I am a very bad one)

        Two weeks before the wedding
        1. Don’t marry her because (reasons revealed over the years – Bad Bacon Eater, Bad Cabbage User, Drying Clothes on the Line for Economy and Not for The Environment, Uses Cloth Napkins Instead of Paper and That’s Gross, Doesn’t Address Letter Properly, Doesn’t Eat Enough Onion Rings, Didn’t Ask About the Gardening Catalog on the Coffee Table, etc, etc)
        2. We are boycotting the wedding and you are a bad, bad son

        1. Artemesia*

          My in laws didn’t attend my daughter’s wedding (first wedding of the grandchildren) or one of their own daughter’s second weddings because ‘no one to walk the dog.’ But then they were awful.

        2. Temperance*

          My sister did the JOP thing, and my mother fought her on the date because my other sister might have had a doctor’s appointment that day and because she wasn’t consulted.

          My sister held her ground. My mother whined but got over it. She was also pissed that my dad didn’t get to properly “give my sister away” because COURTROOM.

    16. AliceBD*

      A friend of mine got paperwork-married a couple of months ago for insurance purposes. No ceremony or anything, just signing documents. The wedding was already scheduled for next summer. They haven’t told their families or most of their friends, and still refer to each other as fiancee around everyone. I was told, and some other friends, but even in subsequent communications with us she just calls him her fiance. Besides our select friend group only the HR/insurance people know.

    17. Anxa*

      This is so contentious and I think you’re right to feel concerned of people feeling. I’ve been on websites were the follow-up wedding is deemed a PPD (pretty princess day) for people who want to have their cake and eat it, too.

      There was a lot of criticism on having a second ceremony and how it was fake, but I stand on the side that it’s just not easy to get a group of people together on the date you want to get married. I also feel absolutely no sense of obligation to the state. In my eyes, a state marriage is very cold and official and has very little to do with a social contract. It’s a legal thing. I feel no sense of social pressure to remain married based on my license.

      However, I wouldn’t really feel ‘married’ in the social sense unless I had my family there. And it can take up to a year to book a space to have a wedding (nothing against courthouse and private weddings, but for me having a significant portion of my social network present is an important part of the ceremony).

      That said, for other people, the wedding is the certificate. Lots of people would feel duped. I personally have no qualms about having my cake and eating it too (marrying my partner on a practical date and having a ceremony at the soonest available time), but I would feel uncomfortable with people feeling duped. I think you can get away without telling people, but I would err on the said of transparency. Because I feel I could stand by my non-traditional wedding choice more easily than covering the truth. A white lie in your case may be the right thing to do, though. You know your friends and family best.

      I think a lot of the controversy occurs because people have different working definitions of what a “wedding” or “marriage” is. Also, some people feel like they have “no choice” but to do it a certain way. But they often do. Only those choices are bad and almost anyone that would come to the wedding wouldn’t want you to have to make those hard choices to avoid a double ceremony.

      1. BPT*

        I don’t particularly have strong feelings either way, but I think one of the criticisms is also that people cheapen the signing the papers as meaningless, when so many people have been denied that until recently. Everyone has always been able to have a ceremony, but to say that the government acknowledgement of signing papers as “meaningless” or “just a formality” is really insulting to people (interracial couples for a long time, and more recently the LGBTQ community) who have fought for that right and died without actually being able to be married to the person they love. It’s not without meaning – legally being married is a big deal.

        So yeah, I’d say that the day you were actually married is your anniversary, since it technically is. You can celebrate more than one, or do whatever you want of course. You can have 200 anniversaries a year if you want that celebrate your first date, kiss, etc. But you are legally married on the day you sign those papers.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          There was a post on Etiquette Hell some years ago (I haven’t been on the website for ages) about someone who was part of a group of girlfriends putting in a lot of time and effort to help with another friend’s wedding. When it got to the reception, the newlyweds broadcast a video of their wedding in Las Vegas.

          Several months previously. If memory serves, the poster felt let down that she had been preparing for her friend’s dream wedding, when all along the friend had been happily married.

          In many European countries, the legally binding wedding involves taking paperwork to the town hall, then a (religious) ceremony follows later. I have seen brides and grooms come out of my local town hall then go straight to church. There was one local sports personality who got married in a private family ceremony on New Year’s Eve, then had a big church wedding during the summer.

        2. Anxa*

          Well, of course it’s not meaningless.

          What I’m saying, though, is that for me, personally, I don’t care what the state thinks about my marriage, so long as my and my compatriots’ marriage rights are being recognized. I don’t think it’s the state’s business how in love I am or how we interact or how well we complement each other or what our goals for the future are so long as we are two adults choosing to marry. However, I DO care about what my family and friends think about my relationship. I would think twice about divorce or separation or even just letting the quality of the marriage slip after having made vows in front of the most important people to me. And again, I don’t expect other couples to have the same feelings on the role a wedding plays in beginning a marriage.

  7. Myrin*

    [I posted this and the next comment in last week’s thread but it was already pretty late on Sunday; I know quite a few of you followed both of the stories I talked about there so I hope it’s okay to repost so that those who are interested can see it.]

    In a surprising and completely unexpected twist regarding last week’s comment about reconnecting with two old friends, my sister met Friend 2 at a party yesterday. In addition to what I’ve told her about him, she only knows him through a picture I showed her not too long ago and sneakily got him to introduce himself in such a manner that it was completely natural for her to actually guess that he’s my friend from the gym and segue into a conversation of our friendship. And it turns out that he’s been feeling basically the same as I did, that he’s been thinking about re-initiating contact as well, and that he was exactly as unsure about it as I was. I never would have guessed how happy these news would make me but it just made me feel so awesome and I’m all bouncy now! :D

    And to update: I still haven’t contacted him because I’m a horrible failure. Well, not really. But the last two weeks were the only ones in the entire year of my boring day-to-day life where I was just super busy. I’ll get to it on Monday, probably.

  8. Myrin*

    And in another (maybe?) twist to another thing I’ve talked about in the open threads, my tale of two youthful delinquents talking about stealing a vehicle while sitting across from me on the train, there was now an actual car chase in the same small town the guys were from with, again, two stolen vehicles of the same type as in the case I witnessed. I’m very honestly not at all surprised that they managed to escape the police but I’m now of course wondering if these were the same young men and if this will lead to the police contacting me again. I’ll keep you guys updated!

    (The article about this second incident was so beyond hilarious, I can’t even tell you. One would think we live in some kind of Gangs of New York and Fast & Furious mashup world.)

      1. Myrin*

        Nope, I’m from Germany and this happened on some little byroads two towns over from my hometown. Not exactly the most exciting place but hilarious to think about.

    1. Anono-me*

      Someone recently shared with me an Australian story about a teenage joyride involving refueling. I did wonder last weekend, if it was the same group as in your posts.
      Thanks for clarifying that I was guessing the wrong hemisphere.

  9. KatieKate*

    Anyone have any suggestions on how to set short term goals? I was able to pull together training for my first 5K because I paid for it and then told everyone about it. And now I’ve gotten a lot more lax about fitness since I don’t have a goal other then “get healthy.”

    Is there a NaNoWriMo for push ups? Or a good fitness tracker where I can set goals and reminders?

    1. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      Are there any other fitness activities that interest you? It is hard to reach goals when they’re not really measurable. How do you define healthy? What activities will help you get there? How often would you need to do those activities? I use MyFitnessPal and MapMyWalk. I like MapMyWalk because you can create challenges and invite friends to do them – like who can take the most steps in a week, who can burn the most calories, exercise the most, etc.

      1. KatieKate*

        I’m looking to go from notfit to fit, basically. Strengthen my core, do push ups, etc. I just joined a gym and am going to classes, but I find it’s harder for me because I’m not training for something. I did couch to 5k which was great because I had assignments and could tell that I was getting better. The classes aren’t doing that for me just yet.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Same. Skating kind of motivated me to work out more, but since I quit I’ve been lax (letting injuries heal didn’t help). Now my motivation is looking in the mirror. :P

    2. Junior Dev*

      I like apps like CoolRunnings Couch to 5k or Zombies, Run! (The CoolRunnings people put out a bundle that also includes 5 to 10k if you’re already able to run a 5k.)

      I use Habitica to hold myself accountable to daily or weekly habits–it’s a motivation app styled after RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, but you advance in the “game” by checking off your tasks. I’m in a Party right now which means my score affects others as well.

      If you want a longer term goal to motivate you, you could try signing up for a charity run or a race.

      1. KatieKate*

        Maybe Habitica! I tried that a while back but couldn’t keep up the effort. Maybe I should give it another shot.

    3. Kay*

      There is a NaNoWriMo for pushups! It’s an app called 50 pushups. There’s also one called 100 situps. It basically gives you daily instructions to get you on a program.

      I don’t know about fitness trackers with reminders, though, I’ll keep an eye here because I’d like to know as well.

    4. setsuko*

      Could you try lifting free weights, rather than going to gym classes? You get the same sense of progression (lifting heavier things) that you get with progressing towards running a 5K. Try Strong Lifts 5×5, or Starting Strength.

    5. CopperPenny*

      I use a fitness based social media website called fitocracy. You can track your workouts which I do, but I mostly love it for the community and not having to use my real name. :)

  10. SophieChotek*

    Anyone have any suggestions about what to do about lower-back pain?
    I woke up about 3-4 weeks ago and my lower back hurt a lot. I truly am not exaggerating when I say I could barely move…I shuffled around, it would take 5 minutes to get up a short flight of stairs, and bending (even just to sit down or stand up) was extremely painful, and even lifting a gallon of milk out of the fridge was too heavy–or that might have been more having to bend slightly to get it on the lower shelf. (And I had not lifted anything heavy or anything like that the day before.) This lasted about 2-3 days, then the next 3 days were less bad, but not great.
    Since then, it’s just resided to a dull constant ache that I only notice if I’ve been sitting (on my comfy sofa, actually) or if I think about it. I’ve read online there is usually little to be done about lower back pain and x-rays, etc. won’t show anything. Is it worth trying to get a referral from my doctor (whenever I next go) about going to to the OT or PT to see about getting some exercises to strengthen back muscles/core muscles?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Massage. I used to have episodes with my back that sound a lot like this once or twice a year. It hasn’t happened to me in years, though, and the only thing I’ve changed is that I get fairly regular massages.

      I’m sure your idea about strengthening your back/core muscles is good too, but if you want the lazy (and relaxing) way out, try massage.

      1. Jersey's Mom*

        I’d also suggest trying a couple of different massage therapists. They can vary in the types of massage techniques used and hand strength. Just like any other business, one may provide a service that works for you better than another one.

      2. Jen*

        Honestly, I go to see a chiropractor and get a lot of relief. I get lower back pain on the left side, typically. He always tells me to ice the area, which really helps me as well.

      3. catsAreCool*

        Any recommendations about types of massages? The one time I got a chair massage, it was uncomfortable, and it kept feeling like it was going to hurt any second now, although it didn’t actually hurt. I want to avoid that.

      4. SophieChotek*

        Thank you all for your excellent suggestions.
        I admit, before this back issue, I’ve never been a fan of massages — you know the type where your friend kneads your shoulders — I never liked that…which in turn has never made me want to go to a professional. My mom loves them, though, and a lot of people do. Current situation is certainly making me re-think my aversion.

    2. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      I had similar pain a couple years ago and making an appointment for OT/PT was IMPOSSIBLE (at least through my insurance/doctor) so while waiting, I just started getting massages. It helped so much. I was going once a week at that time, which is admittedly expensive, but so worth it! It probably would be wise to rule out any serious injuries or issues first, though.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Yes, that is my concern too — that it will take months to get into a good OT/PT. But for above/below reasons I am concerned about getting massages, etc. without ensuring I am making things worse.

    3. KatieKate*

      Yoga stretches Cat/Cow to stretch the back, and for light core strengthening, get on your hands and knees and alternate your left leg/right arm straight out and balance. Hold for a few second and then switch arms/legs.

      Also, make sure you’re not sitting too much. Sitting puts pressure on the lower back.

    4. Junior Dev*

      I had horrific back pain earlier this year and it is now almost entirely gone. I will try to pass on my various accumulated knowledge about it.

      -go to a sports medicine doctor, not a GP. I had a much better experience there. And get a referral to a physical therapist who will give you actual exercises to do, not just tell you to “try and take it easy” and “stretch more.”

      -core exercises are key. Do NOT do crunches or sit-ups as they can actually do more damage to your spine if that’s the cause of the problem. I had a whole range of exercises given to me by my PT but currently I do a mix of planks and back bridges (NOT back bends, they are different–you want the yoga stretch that involves lying on your back and pushing up your pelvis, not the acrobatic move where you start from standing and bend over backward). Look up a few different articles on how to do these and try to get the form right, and try to do a small amount of them (e.g. 20 seconds 3 times for each exercise) every day.

      – take a hot bath or visit a hot tub to relax your muscles

      – make sure your sitting setup, both at home and at work, is ergonomic. You can find diagrams online of what the angles of your body should be relative to your chair and keyboard.

      – use a lumbar support when sitting–it doesn’t have to be complicated, you can put a pillow or rolled up towel behind the curve of your back.

      – don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself at the doctor or PT’s office. If they don’t take you seriously or give you really generic advice (“take ibuprofen and stretch more” but no advice on what type of stretch, for example) don’t be afraid to look for a different doctor.

      – if the problem persists for several months to the point that you need strong painkillers to function, and if you live in a place where medical marijuana is legal, that may be a good idea to look into instead of opioid painkillers. Hopefully you won’t need either, but many doctors are understandably reluctant to prescribe opioids and sometimes they aren’t the best solution for chronic pain.

      None of this is medical advice. I am not a doctor, just a person who’s spent a lot of time navigating the medical system for a similar problem.

      I hope you feel better, and let me know if you have questions on any of this.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Thanks —
        I definitely agree with the sports PT — my mom goes to one that the professional football players in my state use, so I would definitely want to try to get in with one of them if I could.

        I know I probably don’t sit as correctly as I should — I’ve never had great posture, so I am sure that is aggravating the problem. =(

        I definitely like your advice to advocate — that is part of the reason why I want to go to a doctor/PT, but on the other hand am concerned — I want to ensure I’ve done what I can…I mean, if I really am going to be told “stretch more” and take ibuprofen (or whatever) and basically suffer (in a vague way) for the next 40 years of my life, I’d like to know I truly ruled out any effort – i.e. PT, exercises, new mattress, etc…

        1. Junior Dev*

          Don’t beat yourself up about bad posture! Most of us have been squeezed into ill-fitting chairs most of our lives. I found doing core exercises to be the best thing for my posture since I actually had the muscle strength to stand up properly.

    5. FD*

      If you sit a lot, a coccyx cushion can be an absolute lifesaver in helping with lower back pain. It’s best for prevention rather than treatment, but it might help you. I absolutely swear by the Xtreme Comforts one you can get on Amazon–I actually bought one for home and one for the office.

    6. Stellaaaaa*

      Don’t underestimate the impact of a lousy mattress. I dealt with lower back pain for YEARS. It wasn’t terrible but I figured it was just my lot in life to have an ache there. Until I moved and mattresses got swapped around and suddenly my back feels better. I felt like such a dope!

      1. Jersey's Mom*

        Yes! An excellent website to get insider information about mattresses is oldbedguy.com A lot of information about different types of mattresses. I never quite realized how important and varied they are.

      2. SophieChotek*

        Thanks – this pain is new to me – last few months or so, and I don’t have a new mattress from this time, but it’s good to find out more…if it’s wrong firmness, etc. worth looking into.

        1. Misc*

          Check your sleeping posture as well. Whenever mine changes even slightly I have back or neck pain for days u til I figure it out – I generally have to stick a pillow l ngthwise down to my hips for proper support.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            My chiro said for me to STOP sleeping on my stomach because of lower back pain.
            This has been helpful. I have gotten reacquainted with sleeping on my back and I have been sleeping deeper/better.

    7. Sawcebox*

      Husband recently dealt with pretty awful lower back pain, and to quote him, “they should build a statue to physiotherapists”. His physiotherapist was able to tell him the cause of the problem, some exercises and stretches to do (and not to do), and gave him treatment (I understand it was basically a very specialised massage and some westernised form of acupuncture — the PT didn’t call it that, but it was some needles in the muscles). Anyway, the pain was relieved almost entirely on the day, and thanks to the stretches and exercises and a follow-up visit, he hasn’t experienced more than a twinge since. Fingers crossed.

      I’m sure it depends a lot on what kind of lower back pain it is, though (his was sciatica). Good luck. I hope you can find some relief!

    8. Soupspoon McGee*

      I work in a medical office, and this is what we tell people with low back pain:
      -Alternate ice and heat. If one feels better, stick with that. Do this every day, 2-3 times a day.
      -Take ibuprofen or naproxen daily to control inflammation, even if you’re not hurting at the moment.
      -If you have a muscle relaxer, take that for a few days. Sometimes your back is spasming, and you need to get those muscles to just stop.
      -When you’re lying in bed, put a pillow between your knees when you’re on your side, and under your knees when on your back.
      -There are some good youtube videos about dealing with low back pain, and some good gentle stretches and exercises you can do. But PT/OT is certainly a good idea to teach you proper body mechanics so you don’t reinjure yourself.

      If you do all that with no relief, go see your doc.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Thanks — will try pillow thing.
        — That is what I am afraid of–reinjruing myself, or causing new injury, but doing exercises I just pick randomly off the internet — which is why I think (maybe) a good PT/OT would be good…if they correctly identified the source/which muscles (okay, probably all of them, I never work out much)…

        1. Saucy Minx*

          1. rocking chair, 2 -3 times a day for 15 minutes or more
          2. yoga or exercise class tailored for bad back relief
          3. physical therapy

    9. Alston*

      Go to the Chiropracter! Every once in a while I sleep on my neck weird/pull something, and he’s able to set me right every time. One session isn’t usually enough to fix me 100%, but even that will help with pain. They accept insurance, and usually you won’t need a referral. They can also give you exercises to help strengthen the muscles.

      1. Kay*

        Chiro is what works for me as well! Massage has never done anything, but for me a good chiropractor is key to managing a chronic injury in my lower back. (Thanks, horses!)

        Important think to remember, as said above, that one visit will not be a fix. Unless you feel active discomfort – in which case, definitely don’t go back! – try and stick with it for a few weeks.

      2. Elle*

        I will third this suggestion. I was a huge skeptic of chiropractors until I went to one. The treatment I’m getting works wonders for my back and hip pain, and I’m back to being able to do some of the things I had to stop doing. I like the fact that he is fixing the problem right there, and I’ve had to rely much less on medication.

    10. Newish Reader*

      My advice would be to check with your doctor first to rule out anything medical. Then look into the various other options suggested here (massage, exercise, etc.) if it’s not. Years ago I ignored lower back pain thinking that it was just one of those things most of us have to deal with. Turns out if actually was a serious medical issue that required neurosurgery. I’m sure that’s not the case in most situations of back pain, but any new, severe pain should be checked with a medical professional.

      1. LSP*

        Yes! My results were the opposite. Hopefully you can get an appt but I have had consistent back pain for 2 years. I finally told the doctor and she ordered an X-ray. Turns out it was nothing.

        I’m now going to PT and she gave me core exercises and a massage. Sleeping with a pillow between/under my legs has helped too (as others have commented above)

    11. Gaia*

      One thing I have found is that when my lower back hurts it is often due to knots or tightness in the glute muscles. Having a massage just on my lower back isn’t as helpful as having someone work out the glute muscles. Not everyone will be as comfortable with that but if you are, give it a try.

      You might consider looking for a massage therapist that works out of a chiropractors office – they tend to be really great (at least in my area).

      1. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

        Yes, agreed 100%. I have them spend most of their time on my glutes. It helps immensely.

      2. Aurion*

        I agree! Back when I exercised less I would have tight glutes that radiated pain up my lower back and down to my calves (!). I have a spiky foam roller (Rumble Roller is the brand, I got the black extra firm version), a Theracane, a tennis ball, and one of those dense rubber bouncy balls you get a dollar stores (a lacross ball is good too). Between the four of those, I can conquer just about any muscle knot in my body and I can stretch out my massage appointments.

        SophieChotek, if you have access to even a tennis ball or lacross ball, you can try loosening up your glutes and/or legs after the initial inflammation ceases (for me, inflammation pain is very different than general tension/knots in muscles pain). That might help a lot, and is pretty cheap to try.

    12. BRR*

      I’m going to be on the more paranoid side of things. I have two herniated discs in my lower back. My gp sent me to physical therapy, which without imagining had me do exercises that activated my back. I then went to see an orthopedist where I had an X-ray and then an MRI which showed the two herniated discs and then pt was able to help me. So I would start with a doctor appt.

      1. NJ Anon*

        I agree. I wouldn’t be doing any excersize unless recommended by a health professional. Get an mri. The wrong excersize could make it worse. I know, I had back surgery this past summer.

      2. SophieChotek*

        Thank you — I doubt my issue is as serious — but I agree, I want to ensure it’s nothing serious before embarking on the wrong exercises.

    13. Lucina*

      Not a doctor here, but I have found the exercises in Gary Kraftsow’s Viniyoga therapy DVD very useful. I was surprised that such easy, gentle movements could make a difference.

    14. FiveWheels*

      If possible get a diagnosis BEFORE any treatment. Depending what the underlying problem is, massage, yoga, and other things that will be okay for most people could really damage a bad back. I’m banned from yoga for life, basically, because stretching is bad for most of my joints

    15. SophieChotek*

      Wow — didn’t expect such a great set of response and suggestions. I know I did not respond to everyone, but I think you all for your ideas and suggestions.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        One more, and this sounds a bit weird: Increase your water intake and keep it at a consistent level each day.
        Good hydration can reduce so many different types of pain.

        I have also had good luck with peppermint oil for back pain.

        Just a couple ideas that you can start now while you search for your main solution.

    16. Tala*

      I used to suffer terribly with it for years until I had a few sessions with a sports physiotherapist. She taught me exercises to strengthen the area and to be more intuitive about when I feel it starting to twinge every few months…..so I can get in there with some early intervention. I haven’t had any long bouts of bed rest or immobilisation since the few visits with her and also haven’t had to see her since.

    17. Artemesia*

      My husband has had chronic back problems and got advise on exercises to help 30 plus years ago. He works out every day and has done the back exercises and also sleeps with a pillow strategically supporting his upper leg so he can sprawl in a position good for back strain. He has had almost no back issues since then. He used to have periods when he would sort of walk sideways like a crab, his back was so seized up. The exercise regime really fixed him up. He originally hurt his back while working at a cement pipe factory as a teen.

    18. Windchime*

      I’ll read this thread with interest. My back has been hurting terribly for three months and a physiatrist has decided that it’s sacroiliitis. I’m going in for injections tomorrow. I basically feel disabled at this point; I’m sitting with a heating pad on my lower back at this very moment.

    19. super anon*

      Definitely go to a PT. I found out that my lower back pain/upper back pain/tense shoulders/tension headaches/hip soreness issues/an insane amount of issues were caused by years and years of horrible posture. We’ve done an increasing amount of exercises and other strategies such as taping to get me to stand and sit up straight, and now we are doing IMS needle therapy to help my lower back pain. Also, for this kind of issue my PT recommended a lot of visits in a short period, as that way she can best monitor how I am doing the exercises and my progress for maximum results. She said for posture issues like mine, she wouldn’t recommended one a week visits as it isn’t as effective.

      Also, I wouldn’t suggest going to an OT for this, unless you’ve been diagnosed with something that would mean the pain is permanent (ex: not a muscle strain injury). An OT will help you live with the pain, by teaching you new ways to do everyday tasks, a PT will treat the root cause of the pain to make it better.

  11. anon for this*

    What, if anything, will happen to me if my doc finds out I’ve been taking someone else’s prescription? Specifically, my doc and my friend’s doc independently prescribed us the exact same thing, and I was broke, and the friend ended up having extra and shared. Can/will my doc report me if I let this slip? It’s not addictive or a controlled substance, AFAIK.

    1. Red Reader*

      As long as it’s not controlled, they’re not likely to do more than finger-wag at you and tell you to talk to them about samples or other ways to get your own meds aboveboard. (I work with medical records and I pretty regularly see patients who “tried such-and-such from their husband’s prescription and had success, requested a prescription for same, issued.”) If it’s controlled, then your friend sharing it is illegal, you accepting it is illegal, and you’d both be in technical violation of most narcotics contracts, if either of you had signed one of those. (Though the “illegal” parts aren’t likely to be significant if you both had a script for the same dosage/substance, it’s mostly a technicality there. But narcotics contracts generally specify that you cannot share your meds with anyone else or get them from anyone else, and violating that is cause for the provider to cease seeing you as a patient, and getting “fired” from one pain clinic makes it difficult to get picked up at a different one.)

      If you find yourself in such a situation again, call your doc and ask about samples, google the medication and see if the company has low-cost programs, or check out Blink Health (a prescription discount program accepted by a lot of US pharmacies, including CVS and Walgreens – you pay online, then take your payment card to the pharmacy and they use it as your “payer”).

    2. Allypopx*

      It depends on your doctor. Most likely nothing – it’s important that there’s trust in the doctor/patient relationship because it can be dangerous if you aren’t honest with your doctor about some things. You won’t get reported. You might get a lecture. If you explain “I was broke and…” they tend to be understanding because medicine is expensive and they know that. There’s also a possibility they’ll trust you less and be hesitant to prescribe controlled substances or such if you need them for something because you’ve shown comfort sharing medication with friends.

      My doctor made me sign a contract that I wouldn’t sell drugs to a friend, but I am on an addictive substance. Other than that I’ve told him if I’ve taken something from someone else, but only if it’s in the context of “this helped me a lot I should be on it.” Otherwise I wouldn’t mention it.

      1. Gaia*

        I have a standing prescription for a highly addictive medication and I’ve never had a doctor have me sign a contract. In fact, I’d be pretty irritated if they asked me to do so. I wonder if this is a more regionalized thing?

        1. Allypopx*

          It might be. This is the first doctor that asked me to do that. I didn’t really mind. It was a little condescending but he gave me the medication I needed so I’m not too bothered.

          I was bothered when he went on paternity leave and his NP wasn’t “comfortable” refilling my prescription, but that was a different problem.

        2. Red Reader*

          It’s most common for opiates, and for most people it’s a formality. But it covers the doc’s butt when a prescription bottle with their name on it ends up in the wrong place, and it gives the clinic options to have a formal process in place for dealing with non-compliant or drug-seeking behavior — and it’s the kind of thing that if you have some patients fill it out, you have to have them all do it, because you never know who’s going to be a problem down the road.

          But it’s more common in specifically pain clinics than when a GP issues a controlled/addictive medication, and it’s a responsibility agreement on both sides.

          1. chickabiddy*

            “and it’s the kind of thing that if you have some patients fill it out, you have to have them all do it, because you never know who’s going to be a problem down the road”

            Plus, it can be pretty rotten to assume that a patient of a certain demographic is likely to be an abuser or a dealer while another (white, UMC, etc.) is not.

    3. Gaia*

      If it is a controlled substance, technically it would be illegal and so technically your doctor could report it to the police who could investigate and charge your friend with dealing a controlled substance and you with taking a controlled substance not prescribed to you.

      None of that is likely to ever happen unless you are talking about a really significant amount of medication – particularly since you had been prescribed this same medication and dosage.

      If it isn’t a controlled substance, you’ll likely get a bit of a look and a lecture (the same likely outcome even if it is a controlled substance, honestly) about not taking medication that isn’t prescribed to you.

      But really, you will be fine. As much as they shouldn’t, people do this all the time.

    4. Anon for reply*

      Don’t let it slip. It puts your doctor in an impossible position and trust me, they would much rather not know.

      1. Gaia*

        I don’t think this is true at all. In fact, if your doctor thinks you haven’t been taking it because your Rx ran out and you have it could put you in a dangerous situation if medical decisions are made on that assumption.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Your doctor would rather not have a clear understanding of things that would affect your health? Why?

    5. Sophie Winston*

      Your Dr needs to know whether you’ve been taking the drug, they don’t need to know where you got the pills from. Even if you didn’t have a prescription from that Dr, they are unlikely to notice or care. It shouldn’t be difficult to avoid slipping, as the topic of where you got the pills is extremely unlikely to come up. And it’s very important your Dr knows what you’ve been taking.

      (All this assumes you are correct it’s not a controlled substance. Google should be able to confirm that for you)

    6. Pennalynn Lott*

      He prescribed X for you. You took X. I can’t see that there’s anything for him to report, other than possible insurance fraud (if your friend’s insurance paid for their prescription). And, even then, what’s in it for him? He has a lot more to lose (you, as a customer, for one thing; the headache of dealing with the reporting and follow-through, for another) than to gain by reporting something very minor and very, very, very common.

      If your friend paid cash for their prescription, then just look at it as if they’d given you money to buy yours. Either way, I wouldn’t worry about it one bit.

    7. Anon MD*

      I’d rather know, at least as far as the money situation. Then I can try to figure out if something cheaper will help. Don’t let your doctor think you weren’t taking the medicine when you were. She needs to know what doses you’ve actually been using to guide future decisions. If she thinks you’re taking one amount and you’re taking another, it’s a set-up for over- or underdose, depending on the direction of the misunderstanding.

      1. the gold digger*

        Rules for life:

        1. Never lie to the IRS
        2. Never lie to your doctor

        (My husband was with his dad talking to the surgeon prior to Sly’s surgery. Doc asked how much Sly drinks.

        “About one drink a day,” Sly answers.

        Primo almost falls out of his chair and wonders if he should tell the doc later that the “one drink” consists of an eight-ounce tumbler filled with bourbon.)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          A savvy doc can tell if a person is a drinker or not. Their body gives them away. The doc probably wrote down “not only does patient drink a lot, but he also is willing to lie about it.”

    8. Artemesia*

      I doubt a doctor would care; if you tell him you have taken X he will probably assume someone else prescribed it. I also doubt he would report it, but I sure as heck wouldn’t tell him and certainly would not mention your friend’s name if you did.

  12. nep*

    Pretty sure I’ll be doing the buzzcut again soon — it’s been very much on my mind and I think I’m pretty close.
    Such fun.
    Any other female-buzzcut fans out there?

    1. hermit crab*

      I’ve seriously considered it a few times, but didn’t go through with it. My go-to short haircut is honestly not that far off from a buzzcut, but it’s longer on the top and sides so I have some bangs and can spike it up a little to make it look like it has some volume. Then I let it grow out for months and months because I’m lazy, and then start over. :)

      My main concern is that my hair is EXTREMELY thin. Like, I’m 30 and my 90-year-old grandma has thicker hair than I do, and the last time my hair was long enough to make a ponytail said ponytail was about the diameter of a pencil. So, I’m worried that such a short haircut will just make me look bald. My brother (we look very similar) buzzes his own hair and he always looks very sharp, but his hair’s a lot thicker than mine.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq*

        Is your hair *thin*, or is it just *fine*? I have fine hair, so the strands are not thick but I have a normal number of hair strands, and have done just fine with a buzzcut. It also grew out nicely, even tho my hair grows slowly.

    2. Blue_eyes*

      I had a full undercut (both sides and the back shaved) for a couple years and I LOVED it. But my new job is kind of conservative in terms of the way I dress, so I was parting my hair to cover the shaved parts. And then worrying that I would forget and flip my hair at work. So now I’m growing it out to more of a short bob.

    3. Lady Blerd*

      I have had the afro-textured version called a teeny weeny afro for a year now but this is my third time wearing my hair this short although, I used to wear it with the clipper set to 3 at it’s longest. I now wear my hair a couple of inches at the top (that coils down to half an inch) and shorter at the sides and back. I love the convenience.

    4. nep*

      Thanks for the comments.
      I got a buzz cut about eight years back and absolutely loved it. The only thing holding me back at the moment is the thought of how high-maintenance short hair can be should I choose to grow it back. Long-ish hair / high or low knot is soooooo easy. But so old and just blah.
      We’ll see.

    5. AcademiaNut*

      Not quite buzzcut, but I do get my hair cut very short – about 2 cm on top, and shorter in the sides and back. Then I can go about 4 months between haircuts. It’s easy to care for, cool in summer, and looks better on me than longer hair.

    6. Finny*

      I get my hair buzzed with a zero, so as short as it possibly can be. I’ve done so for years, as it’s most comfortable and looks best on me.

    7. Windchime*

      Not me, but my daughter-in-law recently buzzed off her chin-length hair. She had part of her hair buzzed underneath on one side, and decided that it would be too hard to grow out. So she talked her husband/my son into buzzing it all off. It looks really cute on her.

  13. Gene*

    Snow in the forecast tomorrow night, so today I get to put on the snow tires. They’re in the shed, mounted and aired up, the impact wrench battery is on the charger, and the floor jack is out. I changed ties and wheels so often while autocrossing that I can do it in a half hour if I push.

    My normal tires are All-Season, but 10″ wide tires don’t do well in snow, even though they have 2+ tons on them. Plus I live near the highest point in the city and work at the lowest point.

    1. periwinkle*

      Ah, snow. I thought the DC region was inept at handling snowfall. And then I moved to the Seattle area. We’ve got possible snow coming twice next week, whee, plus temperatures consistently near freezing. This is going to be interesting.

      1. Gene*

        Yeah, when my wife moved up here from San Diego in 96, I told her it hardly snows around here. That was the year we were trapped at home for a week by a foot and a half just after Thanksgiving. The problem is that we don’t get enough to justify making the investment in snow removal equipment for the once in 10 year dump.

        And yeah, when it snows here in Western Washington, people leave their brains in their other pants when they hit the roads.

        1. Windchime*

          Yeah, I’m pretty much not excited about the snow since I have to get down to SeaTac on Tuesday. I’m praying that I have a window to get down there.

    2. Gene*

      All finished. Impact wrench charger failed, so had to use hand tools. Also replaced a couple of suspension bushings that were worn out while I had the car in the air. No more worries about getting pulled over for DUI because the car wanders.

      Now I’ve jinxed it and it won’t snow.

  14. Rebecca*

    I really hate having “butImightneeditsomeday-itis”.

    I really need to declutter and simplify my life. I just have so much stuff that I don’t use, the cellar is cluttered, everything is just cluttered, and I seem to be unable to throw things away. I know, deep down, that if I died today, that many of my “things” would just go to the landfill anyway. So, I’m making a plan to get rid of things that I’m not using. Here’s an example. I have my first Roku box, along with a gadget that plugged into my old CRT TV, because it had only one input, that allowed me to feed a cable box, Roku box, DVD player, etc. into the TV and press a button to switch between them. Hello, the early 00’s called and they want their technology back :( It just feels so wasteful to dump it at electronics recycling, but I know it’s the right thing to do. I have RCA cables, coax cable, etc. and I have zero use for it, but I can’t seem to get rid of them either.

    I hate that I am this way. I am organized in so many aspects of my life, like my job, bill paying, being on time, medical appointments, and on and on, but for the life of me I just cannot seem to let things go. Maybe it’s because my grandparents lived during the depression (they were 30 years old in 1933) and they really took keeping and saving to heart, and my parents are much the same way. I don’t know. I just know that I need to change this.

    1. Allypopx*

      I am so right there with you. I’m actively trying to rewire my brain but it’s hard. I think it comes from growing up really poor. My mother wasn’t *quite* a hoarder but we never really de-cluttered because getting rid of stuff we “might need eventually” seemed wasteful.

      I’m trying to start with “have I used this in the last two years” and going from there. Two years is a significant enough period of time that I can talk myself into feeling a little silly for keeping it.

      Also donating vs. trashing where you can helps. Someone else might need it so it still serves a purpose.

      1. Rebecca*

        Maybe for all the electronics stuff, cables, etc. I could put them in a box, and put a message on my local Freecycle for “curb pickup” and put them outside with a free sign on a clear, sunny day. I also have a bunch of old paperwork to shred, like EOB’s from my medical insurance from 10 years ago. Gaa!

            1. i want a pony*

              I work in a library and we have one for patron use. Your local library might have one for you to use.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Oh no no no, there is like an ENTIRE BOX of stuff at least. They wouldn’t let me do that and I don’t want to haul it! I’ll just wait. The box is in the garage, so it’s out of the way at least.

        1. CMT*

          People probably don’t want your old electronics. Please don’t do this. I hate when people put their old junk out like this assuming other people will take care of it for them. If you don’t want it, it’s likely nobody else will either.

    2. Temperance*

      What helped *me* to get over this was realizing that I could pretty much replace or upgrade many of the items, and they were just collecting dust in my house. I’m not so poor that I can’t afford to replace outdated technology. It’s so not wasteful to recycle things you don’t use, but if you feel that way, why not donate to Goodwill? Alternatively, if the old Roku is the one thing holding you back …. set it aside and get moving on other, less emotionally charged stuff.

      I read both of Marie Kondo’s books. I got much, much more out of “Spark Joy” than “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, but I think you really need to read the first book to get much out of the second. Because of her, I was able to fill the back of my SUV up with clothing, purses, and shoes, and throw out a bunch of destroyed clothing and damaged shoes.

      You will feel happier and more relaxed at home with less stuff. You 100% will. Everyone does.

    3. Red Reader*

      If stuff like the Roku box and the old DVD player is still actually functional, maybe see if there’s any agencies in your area that do resettlement for people escaping DV or refugees? The homes they help set up tend to be pretty minimal (think “one plate and set of flatware per person, no extras” level of minimal), and having some sort of entertainment option, even if it’s fairly bare bones, might make the difference for a family in need.

      1. SophieChotek*

        I agree. Goodwill, savers, and many local organizations might take things like this.

        Or Best Buy will recycle a lot of stuff for free. better to be recycled than into a landfill.

    4. Stellaaaaa*

      Technology forces your hand sometimes. If you ever did need a Roku box someday, you’d still need to get the newer upgraded one anyway.

      It’s a tough balancing act for sure though. Marie Kondo would have you toss all of your plain black dresses for not bringing you joy, only to send you scrambling to a dress shop the next time there’s a funeral to attend.

      Is any of your stuff valuable? You might feel satisfaction in selling some things to people who actively want them.

      1. Rebecca*

        I’m sure there’s no real value to any of it, and I don’t have tons of spare time to have a yard sale either. You make a good point about getting a newer upgraded one. That’s why I have the old one sitting about.

      2. Emilia Bedelia*

        Well, Marie Kondo also says that you should recognize the utility and functionality of things also, not just things that bring you joy- like, paper towels or washcloths or whatever don’t necessarily bring you joy, but you can recognize that they are helpful and improve your life in a variety of ways.
        So, even if a plain black dress doesn’t spark joy in your heart, you can recognize its part in your wardrobe and how it’s necessary.

    5. the gold digger*

      I know, deep down, that if I died today, that many of my “things” would just go to the landfill anyway. So, I’m making a plan to get rid of things that I’m not using. Here’s an example. I have my first Roku box, along with

      What’s even worse is that someone you love will be stuck with dealing with all of this. (Speaking from experience.)(Get rid of the naked photos of yourself and your partner now so your kids don’t have to find them. Or arrange for a trusted friend to ditch them when you die.)

      1. Rebecca*

        Maybe I need to look at it this way: not as my house, per se, but as a house I have to clean up or clean out because someone died. Is this thing useful to someone, yes or no? If it is useful, it goes to Goodwill or another thrift shop, if not, it goes to the landfill.

        1. Blue_eyes*

          This is how my dad cleaned out his basement. “Will blue_eyes have to trash this after I die?” And if the answer was yes, he put it in the trash(/donation pile). But he and my mom are generally pretty good at purging stuff, so I don’t think it was especially hard for him.

    6. Sparkly Librarian*

      It’s similar in my house. I won’t go into detail, but you have my sincere empathy.

    7. LadyKelvin*

      I have the same problem. Today I took a load of stuff to Goodwill in aniticpation of our possible move to Hawaii in the new year. I grew up fairly poor so we didn’t throw things away that weren’t broken because if we needed it down the road we couldn’t “just go buy a new one”. Some months in the winter it was either pay the heating bill or buy groceries for dinner. Now I am much better off (thank you education and marrying a well-educated guy from the upper-middle class with no debt!) and move a lot so I have majorly cut down on the stuff I have but it is SO HARD to get rid of things that still work but I’m just not currently using. Plus it feels so wasteful to just say, well if I want this in the future I can just buy another. Case in point, I had a fish tank gifted to me to keep fish in college. It went with me (and my fish) to TX and then when I moved to Miami I kept the fish tank but didn’t have any fish. It moved around Miami a few times, and then came with me to DC. I haven’t used it in several years because I currently travel too much to keep the kinds of fish I like, but I want to get fish when I finally settle down. But I sent it to Goodwill because it was an inexpensive aquarium and realistically it’ll probably break before I ever put fish in it. But it is hard. What I usually do is since I move on average once per year, every time I move I identify the things I can get rid of and get rid of them. I identify things that I should get rid of but am not ready to yet and put them in a box. Then the next time I go through the box I go back over the things I kept and decide if I’m ready to get rid of them yet. If not, I allow myself to keep them and I don’t feel bad about it. Then everything either gets recycled (electronics) or sent to Goodwill if its in good condition. That way someone who needs it more than I can get it cheaply, and Goodwill does a lot of good helping mentally disabled people join the workforce and live fairly independently. Win for all.

    8. SusanPNW*

      One thing that helps me is to think of the cost of storage for all this stuff. Yes, I might be able to use it. But what I save in not storing it (either in actual cost of a larger place, or energy dealing with it – I charge by the hour), will easily pay for a replacement I may need to purchase in the future.

      1. KR*

        I’m having similar thoughts to help me purge. I am moving cross country so if I pack it I have to pay for it and find a place for it in my new house.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        oh god. My father had stuff in storage for 8 years, at $170 per month. He could have bought all new things and had money left over. (head shaking….)

        1. Artemesia*

          We pay about $1500 a year to store stuff not worth half that — but inertia — it is a big hassle to get rid of it — and the fact that several of the things are of high sentimental value but we don’t have room for eg. the hand made chest my grandfather made for my mother — all lead us to keep sliding. This year I think we will at least commit to getting rid of most of it. and figuring out how to store the things we can’t let go at cheaper prices. We live in a tiny condo in the big city and our storage locker just holds our Christmas tree, luggage, and things like our fans and humidifiers in their off seasons. I don’t want to give my daughter the chest until all her kids are well past the toddler stage since old chests have lids that are lethal to little kids. She also doesn’t really have space for it.

    9. Jean*

      Not only do I have the same problem but I decided that this weekend was my last-ditch effort to get rid of a vast tangle of paperwork. So far no action, but that is going to change.

      Does anyone want to have an AAM Decluttering Challenge? I’ll post the request below to start a new thread.

    10. Seal*

      My father had this, as did at least one of his sisters. He grew up poor, so he had an aversion to throwing anything away. He was also cheap, so he would buy things he didn’t need at garage sales and Goodwill. When he died 10 years ago, my mother spent a couple of years going through and getting rid of his stuff. The running joke in our family is that if my mother had gone before him, my dad would have been living in a trash house within a year.

      I’ve lived in apartments most of my adult life, but still managed to accumulate a ridiculous amount of stuff. When I moved halfway across the country almost 10 years ago I got rid of a bunch of stuff, but in retrospect not really. Worse, my condo is larger and has more storage space than any of my apartments ever did, so I didn’t feel as much pressure to get rid of stuff since I had space to stash things.

      Earlier this year I ramped up my job search and realized that I really need to do some severe downsizing if I planned to move to another part of the country. So I started chipping away at things and have made slow but steady progress. I’ve discovered that the more stuff I get rid of the more ruthless I become in deciding what stays and what goes. It’s both disheartening and amazing to find things thought were important enough to move that I’ve not used since I got here. Everything I’ve gotten rid of has either been donated to Goodwill or recycled, which helps. I find that I get an incredible feeling of satisfaction once I’ve cleared stuff out.

      Because I have a ton of vacation time banked, I am taking three weeks off around Christmas and plan to spend most of it sorting and tossing. My goal is to start the New Year with less stuff, so when my job search pays off I won’t be scrambling to downsize then. I’m actually really excited about how I plan to spend my winter vacation!

    11. Ermintrude Mulholland*

      I completely concur with this. In my case I am also finding it very hard to get rid of things from university times. Old stories I wrote, that sort of thing. Realistically I don’t need them but I can’t get completely comfortable with the idea of basically getting rid of all of the things that mattered to me when I was in my teens and early twenties…
      Has anyone else dealt with that?

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Sort of–I kept stuff from my childhood but recently got rid of it because even if I had kids, they probably wouldn’t want it or get any use out of it anyway.

        My biggest problem right now is the masses of craft stuff I DON’T want to get rid of!

    12. Emi.*

      I have always struggled with But I Might Need It Some Day, and one thing that helped me is realizing that having less stuff and having more space now are both alternate goods that I can balance against, and ultimately prioritize over, the good of having this shoebox full of ribbons later. I couldn’t convince myself that the shoebox full of ribbons wasn’t *a* good, but I realized it wasn’t the only good, or the best good.

    13. Anono-me*

      2 things that I have found helpful.

      1: We have a designated charity box. If we come across something that we no longer want/need, it goes in the charity box rather than being put back in the closet. When the charity box is full, it goes to charity.

      2. We have found it is easier to give things to specific people than it is to throw things out or to give things to a faceless charity. Even if we don’t know anyone, who needs what we have to share, often around the end of the year, the local news paper will run a series of articles about people in need.

    14. Elle*

      If you can swing it financially, consider hiring a professional organizer. My sister does this, and tells me how she helps people decide, in a very methodical way, how to decide what to keep and what to discard. She then helps them organize what’s left.

    15. Anxa*

      I struggle with this a lot, because “I may need this” has helped me in the past.

      I am a formerly middle class (LMC to UMC depending on when) young adult who had a good amount of things and didn’t want for much. My family gave me a lot of stuff when I moved. Stuff survived the recession, cash and the ability to find a job? Not so much.

      People will say you can always buy it again, but that wasn’t true for me. Random junk became super handy at unpredictable times.

      Thus, I couldn’t really follow a lot of traditional decluttering axioms that are aimed at the UMC and wealthy. I modified things a bit. I started to consider the cost of housing and storing and moving the objects. I consider the time lost* to stressing about my environment. And I consider what if I really do need this item again? Could that really be useful? If I could imagine a real scenario I would keep, if not I would toss.

      *this is tricky when you’re underemployed and your time isn’t really valuable. But I thought if I would get to that lucky job application just one day earlier by being more organized and less stressed, that’s more valuable than a lot of random objects.

    16. AcademiaNut*

      I got over this by moving a lot, particularly long distance moves, and by living in a small apartment with no built in storage space.

      One cleaning approach is to pick a room or storage space, remove *everything*, and stack it in the middle of a room. Then go through, and sort by usage first – “use regularly”, “use occasionally”, “haven’t used in more than a year”. The first pile gets neatly put away into the newly cleaned storage space. The third pile gets sorted again – anything that’s broken goes into the recycling/garbage pile. If it’s still functional, it gets sorted into “valuable enough to sell” and “Goodwill”. The second pile gets a closer look, and gets pitched or kept based on your storage space, utility, and value. So slightly scruffy Hallowe’en decorations might go, but my winter jacket I use when I travel stays. The key is to only put back stuff that you actually use, and is in functioning condition.

      Once you’ve done a purge, the second stage is to restrict the new stuff you buy. That’s what trips up a friend of mine – they go through and clean and get rid of stuff regularly, but keep buying new stuff they don’t need, so the place always looks like a junk heap.

      I find a one-in-one-out rule is effective. In other words, if you buy something new, you have to get rid of something old before you’re allowed to bring it home. So a new shirt means an old one goes to Goodwill. A new kitchen gadget means you get rid of the kitchen gadget you use the least. A new streamer means you ditch the previous version. It keeps the clutter from building up, and makes you really think about whether you actually need what you’re buying.

    17. Little Miss Cranky Pants*

      I help out friends and neighbors with de-cluttering, consigning, and yard sale-ing. One tip that might be helpful: yes, you have to do it, but you don’t have to do it all at once.

      From my experience, folks who have an emotional/psychological attachment to things don’t have an easy time letting them go. So, set a timer and work for one hour. One hour only. Stay focused for that hour and work on a small segment of the problem area: just two drawers of a dresser, one shelf in the garage, one rod in the closet. When the timer goes off, stop if you want. Go a little longer if you want, no more than another twenty minutes, but don’t work all day and wear yourself out emotionally by going all day.

      Using this method lets you handle the emotional aspect of letting go–the fears and the worry about needing things again–in small bits. If you try to do a big project all at once, you may get overwhelmed and just quit. In smaller chunks, it’s much more manageable.

      Good luck!

    18. neverjaunty*

      Maybe think of it this way: that could be useful to someone else – even just on the level of material that can be recycled – and by hanging on to it “just in case”, you’re withholding something of use to others but no use to you. Dog in a manger, so so speak.

      1. the gold digger*

        That’s how I was able to convince Primo, who still had his employee manual from when he worked at Apple in 1992, to donate a bunch of pots and pans and other nice cooking stuff to the church. A downtown church is starting a cooking school for low-income persons to teach them how to stretch their food stamps, a cause I heartily support. I told Primo that he clearly hated poor people if he wouldn’t donate the bread machine he brought into our marriage (I don’t need a machine to make bread and prefer not to use it), among other duplicate items we have had since we got married.

    19. HannahS*

      For me, I “price out” what I’ll get from tossing the object, versus how much it’ll cost to buy another one, if I need it. Spare pair of winter boots? Take up very little space at the bottom of my closet, don’t bother me, would easily cost $120 to buy good warm boots if mine give out partway through the season. Random pieces of stationary, papers, glue sticks, stickers…ugh take up an entire shelf in the linen closet, annoy me because they’re untidy, and would cost maybe $20 to replace the lot. Toss. The empty shelf is worth $20 to me, for sure.

    20. Not So NewReader*

      I was looking at my pile of electronics recycling today and thinking about how much the world has changed. Growing up we never, ever threw out a stereo or radio. Doesn’t work? Keep it anyway.

      My parents were depression kids. I did not learn much about managing money because they didn’t know- they never had any as kids. I learned on my own as an adult. Same deal with keeping stuff. My parents lived in a world where you bought ONE couch and that was YOUR couch for the REST of your LIFE! It made couch shopping sheer misery as you tried to predict if you would still like the couch fifty years from now. I don’t miss that type of decision making.
      So with this background, I sorted my parents’ estate after I lost my last parent. It was drudgery. The turning point came after I got rid of a few items that were hard for me to get rid of, we are talking “bereavement time” for these items. I felt horrid about getting rid of it and I felt even worse because I hated the darn thing to begin with.

      That layer upon layer of emotions will really get ya. I’d like to encourage you,OP, that there is a turning point in the process. You get rid of some of the stuff that is hated/broken/useless and you start feeling a little bit lighter. So you organize a thing or two that used to be here there and everywhere and you notice that you feel lighter yet again.
      After a bit you notice that decision making is easier. There is a reason for this, our clutter interferes with our decision making processes. It causes us to be more confused about what to keep and so we keep even MORE. ugh.

      If you look at each item as represented an UNmade decision, it starts to become apparent that decisions are necessary here. What is neat here is that once the decision is made we have brain space to make more decisions. It snowballs as you go.

      Don’t allow yourself to stay stuck. Let go of the making the Roku decision right now and go look at something else that seems a little easier for whatever reason. If you find yourself stuck again in a little bit, let that decision go and look at something else. Keep seeking the parts you CAN do.

      Yep, you could end up doing some self-examination before this is over. Why do I have 12 sets of dishes and five sets of silverware? My reasons were X, Y and Z. Once I laid those reasons out, I realized how silly that was. I kept one good set of dishes and a couple small antique sets and the rest went out the door.

      One fun thing I did was I sold some of the stuff and started a jar with the proceeds. I used the money from the sale of other things to fix or beef up stuff I had decided to keep. Chairs got redone, a wrought iron shelf got welded and so on. That was actually fun.

      Needs change, my guess is about every 7-10 years. If you kind of reconcile with the idea that you will have to sort periodically for the rest of your life that may help take the sting out of what is facing you today.

      1. the gold digger*

        My parents lived in a world where you bought ONE couch and that was YOUR couch for the REST of your LIFE!

        But isn’t it The Couch for Life? :) I have a couch. I have no intention of ever buying another couch because I am done couch shopping for life. I have to admit I become very puzzled at the idea of redecorating a house because it sounds like such a hassle! There are so many other things I would rather do with my time than choose new furniture.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Am laughing. Most of my furniture is either hand-me-downs or something bought at a yard sale/consignment shop. That is my rebuttal to the monumental decision of which couch/whatever I should buy. A friend is on her third new couch in the last ten years. This is so not me. Like you are saying it’s too much of a time sink for me. I get stuff as cheaply as possible and if I decide to replace it later, it’s just not a big deal. One parent had to have everything brand new. That looked pretty expensive to me and protecting the furniture became more important than the people using the furniture. That was where I realized there was a problem.

  15. AquaNet*

    Fun question: If you could travel any where in space or time (with out the chance of dying) where would you go or see?

    1. Myrin*

      I’m a medievalist and also very attached to my small hometown so I’d really love to see and experience the area I live in during the Middle Ages (which get a bad rep, and often for good reasons, but were also an extremely fascinating and interesting time period).

    2. all aboard the anon train*

      Elizabethan era so I could meet Shakespeare and talk about my grad research. Also so I could experience seeing those plays for the first time in their original environment.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Totally could see that. And find out how much he really collaborated…=)
        Did you really write X with Christopher Marlowe?
        And come on, tell me, who is your Dark Lady…we’re all dying to know!

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          Mostly I’d want to ask him if all the gay, lesbian, and bisexual hints were actually legit or if that really is just academics seeing what they want, especially in regards to Hermia/Helena, Celia/Rosalind, and everything in Twelfth Night. Also if the pregnant!Ophelia and teenage!Hamlet theories are true.

    3. Gaia*

      Americas pre-1400. I would love to experience the wildness before cities were built and the cultures of the tribes before the explorers came en mass.

    4. Lucina*

      When you say space, you mean really everywhere? If so I’d check if the potentially habitable exoplanets in Wikipedia’s list (no link to avoid moderation) are really habitable, or maybe inhabited!
      If time travel comes with back and forth, I confess I am a horrible person and I’d just try to find out the lotto numbers. We live in an amazing time to be rich.

      Alternatively I’d like to go to prehistoric Mongolia and see the dinosaurs.

    5. printrovert*

      Oooh good question. I studied the Restoration period in college, so Restoration England & the Enlightenment Era is on the list. I wouldn’t mind experiencing Ancient Ireland, Russia during Peter the Great’s rule, Precolonial America (to learn more about various Native American cultures), and 1920s America also.

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      Do I get to be a wealthy straight white cis male? Because most of the time periods I’d be interested in seeing would probably be pretty horrible for me otherwise. In terms of space, I think ideally I’d like to be able to “see” the birth of the universe (hopefully in time lapse and not real time) or at least our solar system. If it was a human time period, maybe the late 1960s—a tumultuous time but certainly interesting!

      1. SophieChotek*

        I agree. This is true for most of history–being a white cis male and preferably wealthy really is the only way to time-travel.

      2. all aboard the anon train*

        There was actually a good article about this recently (I unfortunately can’t remember where or who wrote it) regarding time travel TV shows and how they usually star straight white cis men. I think what spurred it is one of the new time travels shows this season (again, can’t remember the name of the show) has a female and black male character who mention time traveling doesn’t seem as fun because of the social and political implications of past time periods.

    7. SophieChotek*

      well, with the no chance of dying, and assuming I can be wealthy and not end up a servant (or slave)…

      1. Austria-Hungary in the fin-de-siecle (1900-1914). Opportunity to meet royalty, see Vienna in the last days, Klimt, Kokoschaka, etc.

      2. WWI Britain/Front Lines. I am sure it would be awful–but the historian in me wants to see life on the Home Front/War front first hand.

      3. Victorian England/Victorian America. But must be wealthy and happily married (or widowed). I love the clothes of the 1890s. I’d love to see Ibsen and Wilde and Pinero and Barrie when they were first performed.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        1. Well with a username like that, I did wonder! Vienna definitely, and it would be fun to attend a Mozart premiere, conducted by the man himself. I find myself visiting Recycledmoviecostumes.com on a regular basis and wondering which outfits would suit me best.

        Otherwise, early 18th Century Leipzig and church services where JS Bach has just knocked off a new cantata for that week.

        1. NoMoreMrFixit*

          Fascinating question! Here’s my top 3 choices
          1. I’d like to go back to Biblical times so I could hear firsthand what Jesus actually said and maybe even get to meet him.

          2. Spend an afternoon getting a music lesson from JS Bach

          3. Have lunch with Leonardo Da Vinci

        2. SophieChotek*

          1. ah ha you caught on! =) [One of my random obsessions in my spare time.]

          A friend of mine just did that (minus the time travel) just got back from Europe and did exactly that – went to the JS Bach in Leipzig to hear a cantata and then ran back to Berlin to hear some opera (Fidelio?)

  16. Trix*

    Hamilton Mixtape!

    The husband gave me an early Christmas present yesterday (work has been rough, so he stopped by in the middle of the day to drop it off, because he’s awesome).

    Anyone else have it yet? Any favorites?

    1. Kay*


      “Congratulations” is a perfect thing and now I want Renee Elise Goldberry to cover it as Angelica.

      “Wrote My Way Out” is my favorite total remix, but “Immigrants” is a close second.

      “You’ll Be Back” is just…Jimmy Fallon singing the song. Nothing struck me as particularly new or interesting about it.

      1. Lily Evans*

        I haven’t heard the mixtape yet, so I’m not sure it’s the exact same, but there’s an early version of Congratulations floating around the internet. It’s on tumblr here!

      2. Liz in a Library*

        You’ll Be Back was a big disappointment to me, because it’s such a funny song and had so much potential with him. But it’s just kind of boring.

    2. Marillenbaum*


      It is beautiful and brilliant and my favorite and my best. Big fan of “Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)” and Watsky’s “An Open Letter”, with a solid helping of Busta’s “My Shot”.

    3. Claire (Scotland)*

      I have it but I haven’t had a chance to listen to it all yet! Hopefully tomorrow. I loved all the ones we got early, so I’m really excited to hear the rest.

      I did watch the livestream of the special Mixtape launch Ham4Ham show at the Richard Rogers theatre though, that was pretty amazing!

    4. Liz in a Library*

      Favs: My Shot, Wrote My Way Out, Congratulations, Satisfied, the Chance the Rapper Dear Theodosia, and History Has Its Eyes on You.

      There are soooo many genius moments on that album; I’ve been pushing it on everyone I know like crazy!

  17. Allypopx*

    What are people’s favorite podcasts? I listen to Fresh Air, Hello Internet, Myths and Legends, and Beautiful Anonymous, but I really want to flesh out my list. I like history and comedy and shows with unique concepts. Normally I like political and current event comedy but that’s a little emotionally exhausting right now.

    1. hermit crab*

      I like the Freakonomics podcast. The Freakonomics guy also does a gameshow-style one called Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, which I’ve only heard little bits of but it seems cool too!

    2. Temperance*

      I like “My Favorite Murder” and “Generation Why”, but I almost exclusively listen to crime podcasts. I also like “Nerdist”.

      1. Drew*

        I’ve realized that perhaps between Undisclosed and Real Crime Podcast and Up And Vanished and… that I may have a problem.

      2. Kay*

        I like Nerdist but for me it’s so highly dependent on the guest. Anna Kendrick’s episode in early November was terrific.

      3. FDCA In Canada*

        I love My Favorite Murder–I’m picky and I much prefer listening to female-driven podcasts, but MFM is amazing and perfect and I laugh even when listening for the fourth time.

      4. Liz in a Library*

        Stay sexy and don’t get murdered! ;)

        I love MFM. I wasn’t expecting that a true crime comedy show would be anything positive, but they are both awesome!

    3. Trix*

      I’ve been going through Gilmore Guys, which I adore and highly recommend, but I’m caught up, and it’s just about over, so I’ll be keeping an eye on this!

      1. Allypopx*

        I saw them host a Gilmore Girls marathon on abcfamily once but never really looked into who they were! This is exciting.

    4. Lizabeth*

      Splendid Table
      America’s Test Kitchen
      Car Talk
      Wait wait don’t tell me
      Death, Sex and Money

    5. Caledonia*

      The only one I listen to at the moment is The West Wing Weekly. I’ve been slow in getting into podcasts. I will maybe try some other ones out during the Christmas break.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Same here–I tried listening to Brian Keene’s podcasts, but they’re very long and I lose patience with sitting through them. Short ones are preferable. Or I need to find a way to listen through my phone while cleaning.

    6. Stellaaaaa*

      Not strictly a podcast, but Little Steven’s Underground Garage is a weekly syndicated radio show that also gets uploaded to the show’s website.

    7. Drew*

      The Bright Sessions — starts off as a therapist advising people with weird abilities, gets deeper very quickly. Seriously one of the best scripted shows being made right now. The info box says “Start at Episode 1” and it’s not kidding.

      If you’re into music at all, I can also recommend Song Exploder: musicians talk about the backstory to one of their songs. Some of them want to talk about the nitty-gritty of production, others discuss what was going on in their lives that led them to write the song, and others just ramble for ten minutes. It’s really entertaining and I’ve found some new music as a result of this show. Each show is self-contained, so jump around a bit and sample it.

      1. Pearl*

        I was about to say The Bright Sessions. I just finished listening to it over the course of about three days and it was like riding a rollercoaster (in a good way). I got really sucked in and hadn’t expected to. In addition to the good story, all of the voice actors are great.

    8. Marillenbaum*

      2 Dope Queens and Another Round are both really great, and very funny. I also like Happier with Gretchen Rubin, Welcome to Night Vale, Modern Love, and Lore (which is a horror/storytelling podcast).

    9. Junior Dev*

      For comedy:

      – Two Dope Queens
      – Untitled Kondabolu Brothers Podcast (I think they stopped making these but there’s a couple years of archive)

      Other/general interest
      – How Stuff Works
      – This American Life

    10. LadyKelvin*

      I really enjoyed the History of Rome (now complete, but free) and by the same guy Revolutions. They are half-hour segments posted once a week and he is really good at making history interesting. I’ve learned so much. I’m currently in the middle of the French Revolution and it is so fascinating. Also Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History is really interesting, he did a whole series on the Mongols which I had never learned about. His are 4 hours long about various topics but he only posts about 4 times a year.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        Mike Duncan is my personal hero. THOR and Revolutions are some of the best podcasts ever produced EVER. Anyone interested in history should have a listen!

    11. LisaLee*

      Criminal is amazing–they do episodes on a lot of super unknown topics. Radiolab and Reply All are really popular. I also like Storyological, which is a podcast that discusses short stories, and Alice Isn’t Dead for creepy fiction.

    12. Riverosprite*

      Thinking Sideways, Generation Why, Stuff You Missed in History Class, and History Goes Bump are my top four (although it took a while to get into history goes bump). I just started listening to Radiolab podcast, and I am still deciding if I like it but I do like the variety of topics available.

      1. No Name Yet*

        Another vote for Stuff You Missed in History Class – interesting and well-researched (my historian wife was impressed at the ones she’s listened to that are in her area of expertise).

    13. Lady Julian*

      I haven’t read the other replies, so this might be a repeat, but I LOVE podcasts. Here’s a list of my favourites:
      * Criminal (probably my favourite podcast, and not nearly well-enough known)
      * This American Life (second favourite)
      * Welcome to Night Vale (but be sure to start with the very first episode & listen in order)
      * 99% Invisible / Planet Money (short and perfect for while I’m doing housework)
      * Radiolab Presents: More Perfect (about five great episodes, then they stopped producing this one.)
      * Spilled Milk (I like the early episodes better than the later ones but still a good podcast)
      * The Sporkful

      And of course, Serial Seasons 1-2 if you haven’t listened yet.

      Also, I was featured on a podcast back in October, speaking about science fiction & theology. The podcast is called The Sectarian Review (it has a contrarian vibe: it’s believers, addressing the flaws and problems in the way we Christians look at the world/culture). You can find my episode here: http://www.sectarianreviewpodcast.com/episodes-and-show-notes/episode-21-science-fiction-and-theology

      1. Allypopx*

        I listened to WTNV for a long time when it first came out and now I’m finding catching back up very daunting.

        I will check out your episode on Sectarian!

        1. Lady Julian*

          Oh, is that why it ended abruptly this summer, that it reached the end of a season? Didn’t realize that. I would love a second season of More Perfect. I listened to a bunch of them all at once while on a lengthy road trip this summer and it quickly became one of my favourite podcasts. I was so disappointed when no more were released.

      1. Allypopx*

        So I’ve heard CarTalk is still fun if you don’t know anything about cars but if you literally don’t own a car and never interact with cars?

          1. Elizabeth West*

            My ex used to listen to Car Talk and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. I always read the Car Talk guys’ column in the paper, too. Literally the only time I would listen was with him, though–talk radio is generally not my thing.

    14. Anonymous Educator*

      Stuff Mom Never Told You
      Why Oh Why
      Slate Represent
      Hidden Messages
      Ask Me Another

    15. Perse's Mom*

      The Dead Authors Podcast – this is both comedy and “history” – various comedians mostly adlibbing during in-character interviews. Interviewed by Paul F Tompkins as HG Wells, the interviewees include Dickens (he’s a vampire), Aesop (AESOP!), Ian Fleming (FLYming, don’t you know), Arthur Conan Doyle, and Confucius (among many others). I would say they’re not ALL great, but the ones that hit have actually made me laugh until I cried – and opinions vary, after all; my favorites do not all match a friend’s favorite episodes. The series is actually over now, though.

      In the same vein is Superego – comedy sketches with some recurring characters. Again, comedy is pretty subjective, so some hit and some miss.

      I like Intelligence Squared – it’s a topical debate series. I think the podcast episodes are gently edited for length but the full debate is usually available on their website and at least some of them are livestreamed. They bring in experts to debate Oxford-style. This may be more of the political/current event stuff you’re currently avoiding, and it’s certainly not part of the comedy genre, but I find it very educational and sometimes downright fascinating.

      If you like scary stories, I cannot recommend any podcast more highly than the NoSleep Podcast. The first season takes a bit to find its footing in terms of formatting and audio quality from what I remember, but the stories are always pretty great (and in later seasons, in a very nice touch, they turn even their sponsor bits into mini scary stories).

    16. printrovert*

      Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, Sex Nerd Sandra, and The Rachel Maddow Show (when I miss her on tv). Morning Edition when I can’t listen to the program before work.

      Malcolm Gladwell has one that I have been meaning to check out.

      1. Allypopx*

        Ahh I didn’t know Rachel Maddow was available via podcast!!!! I no longer get MSNBC on cable this is amazing thank you.

        1. printrovert*

          You’re welcome! I can’t stream MSNBC online anymore for some reason, so I was happy to find out about the podcast.

    17. Sarah*

      My Dad Wrote a Porno!

      Son finds out his dad has written erotic literature and he and 2 friends read it and slam it. It is the worst written porn ever, and they are the funniest team ever.

    18. Meredith*

      I really like many of the Podcasts already mentioned, but will throw in a recommendation for History of the Crusades, done by Sharyn Eastaugh. She’s from Tasmania, and does a really lovely podcast on this topic (it’s still running) that’s informative and delivered in a soothing Australian accent.

    19. Natalie*

      I have a long list, but for history specifically:

      99% Invisible
      the memory palace
      Stuff You Missed In History Class
      Radiolab Presents: More Perfect (history of SCOTUS)

    20. Blue_eyes*

      This American Life
      Lexicon Valley
      Back Story
      Gilmore Guys
      History Chicks
      America’s Test Kitchen

    21. Anon for this*

      The Mortified Podcast! People read the diary entries (or poetry or fanfiction) they wrote as kids and teenagers.

    22. Windchime*

      I kind of gave up on Beautiful Anonymous, but it was fun while I was listening to it. I also recently started listening to How I Made This and How to be Amazing.

    23. Kimberlee, Esq*

      I’ve found I’m very picky about podcasts; I just have a hard time getting into them. So I only listen to a small handful:

      1) My Brother, My Brother, and Me: Super funny. Just great goofs. You can jump in any time; there’s no continuity. They recently put out a couple clip-show style episodes since two of the three bros just had children, called Bros Better, Bros Best, that you could sample.

      2) Chapo Trap House: Political and comedic and better at doing both of those things than most any other political or comedy podcast. I’d recommend starting with the most recent ones to try, and then jumping into the backlog to get more of the vocab.

      3) Adventure Zone: the same 3 bros from MBMBaM and their dad, and they play Dungeons & Dragons and it’s really funny. Start from episode 1.

      4) Cool Games Inc: a Polygon podcast that’s pretty funny, where two dudes take listener suggestions and create video game concepts. I mostly use this one to fill in when I am caught up on the other 3 but I want to listen to stuff on my daily commute.

    24. printrovert*

      I forgot that The Smithsonian just launched a podcast. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, but I know it mostly centers around art, history, and science.

    25. thehighercommonsense*

      Backstory radio! Fabulous history podcast (topics in American History, 17th, 18th, 19th centuries). I got hooked on it about a year ago and it’s AMAZING.

      Also, I really like Marketplace’s series on welfare reform: The Uncertain Hour. Hugely educational, and also well produced.

      Invisibilia is also pretty great, it’s mostly about how our minds work, which is fascinating.

      If you’re in MD, I’d recommend Out of the Blocks, a series on contemporary Baltimore neighborhoods. Fascinating stuff.

  18. Mirilla*

    I finally found jeans that fit! I always have trouble with jeans. I have a long torso and a small behind. Womens jeans just end up looking like a baggy mess. The answer – men’s Levi 510 jeans. Yup I’m wearing men’s jeans and they fit like a glove, except they are too long. How weird is that?

    1. Allypopx*

      Congrats! I have the opposite problems where I have a small waist and a comparatively large behind/hip span. Old Navy’s curvy fit jeans were a godsend when they came out.

      Clothes are really difficult. Finding the perfect fit is such a victory.

      1. Emi.*

        Would you recommend Old Navy curvy jeans if my waist is significantly smaller than my hips, but my hips/behind are absolutely nothing to write home about?

        1. copy run start*

          I have a tiny waist, big hips and big butt. The curvy jeans are a disaster for me (too much at the waist and thigh if they fit in the butt, and if I size down they’re 2 inches too short because I have long legs). But your best bet is to go try them on, because Allypopx and I sound like we have the same behind!

          I actually had great luck recently with the Levi’s Target is stocking. $30 bucks and they fit great, stretch comfortably and have held up nicely through washings.

    2. Puppers rock*

      I’m short and chunky with thin legs and literally the only jeans that fit me properly are Arizona jeans from JCPenney. I feel your excitement for sure!

      1. OhBehave*

        You might want to stock up! JCP and Sears aren’t looking too good at the moment. One or both may be on the way out in the next few years.

      2. Blue_eyes*

        Me too! I love Kut from the Kloth jeans. I have two pairs of jeans and two pairs of cords because they are big enough around the waist, but not baggy in my legs. They are a little long, but I just roll them or let them crumple at the bottom (or I could get them hemmed since that’s an easy thing to tailor).

    3. No, please*

      Are you vertically challenged like me? I have short legs and a high belly button. My c-section scar hates modern, low rise jeans. I’ve been considering men’s Levi’s.

    4. periwinkle*

      Once you find what works… Unfortunately, the absolute best jeans for me (short and apple-shaped) are Talbots Flawless Five-Pocket straight leg. They’re $99 list price (and then another $15 to get them hemmed locally). Thank goodness Talbots has a lot of sales, but a cheaper option is still on my wish list.

      1. Anono-me*

        Talbots does have outlet stores. If there isn’t one nearby, maybe next time you travel you could stock up.

      2. Anxa*

        I find it really difficult to find a straight leg. I’m neither curvy nor slim, and I find most skinny jeans extremely painful (I have knobby knees).

    5. Anono-me*

      Congratulations! Jeans that fit correctly are so great.

      I still miss the Fashionbug Tall jeans.

      1. Lizabeth*

        What inseam do you wear? I’ve had good luck online with Cabella’s jeans and getting a true 34 inch inseam. They have sales a lot online.

    6. LCL*

      Not weird at all. I have been buying mostly men’s jeans since I got out of high school. I’m tall with a large frame (think the early pictures of Julia Child.). If, like me, your waist is straight instead of curving, men’s jeans will fit better.

      1. Saro*

        All these years and it never occurred to me to try men’s jeans!!! Off to the store tmw – I’m excited!

  19. jammers*

    Removed because this is the non-work open thread. Please post this in Friday’s open thread, which is the work one!

  20. Soupspoon McGee*

    Thank you to everyone who offered advice and sympathy about getting around on crutches after breaking my foot! It’s getting easier, but I still struggle to get up steps. I end up crawling up my front steps because they’re so damn tall and uneven.

    I’ve been in a cast for 1.5 weeks, and it seems like my foot hurts more, not less. Foot fracture people, is this normal? The bone broke 3 weeks ago. I’ve also been on prednisone for more than 15 years, so I’m worried about slow healing and thinning bones.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Normal. For the first month or so with my broken foot, I had periods where it really hurt (more often at night, for some reason). That is why they give you painkillers! (Or should have.)

    2. Rovannen*

      Speaking from a non-prednisone point of view, I found the pain directly correlated with how long I didn’t have it raised. There is a period of time when I felt trapped in a cycle: having my foot raised made my foot hurt less but my body wanted movement….which made my foot hurt more. That being said, it took 10 months for the bone to begin to knit, it ended in a race with the dissolvable pin; dr was discussing plan “b”, if I had a “non-Union”.

      I only bring that up to say that while prednisone is hard on the bones, there might be other factors that will help/hinder healing. I took calcium w/vitamin D, vitamin B complex and magnesium.

      1. Rubyrose*

        I took a product called Boneup, which you can find at any health food store. It has all the various minerals and vitamins needed for bone growth. By doing this, I was able to get off crutches about a month earlier than expected.

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      I saw something last month that you might want to take a look at, turns out it’s called a knee walker crutch alternative. This man had broken his foot/ankle (not sure) but he was resting it on a small bench which had wheels. It seemed a much better way to keep your foot elevated/weight off and get around, though it wouldn’t be much help with your front steps!

      1. Windchime*

        I used one of these when I was non weight bearing for six weeks after reconstruction on my Achille’s tendon. I wasn’t in a cast but I had to wear a boot 24 hours a day. The knee scooter was a god send; I was terrible with crutches and never could get the hang of them. The knee scooter was awesome.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      For when you get a little stronger:
      Stairs are up with the good, down with the bad. You won’t get mixed up, just think of good goes up to heaven, bad goes down to hell.

      To go up a flight of stairs start with your good foot. Put your good foot on the first step. Bring the bad foot up beside it and then put your good foot on the next step up. This is up with the good. (Good goes up to heaven.)

      To go down a flight of stairs you start with the bad foot. Lower the bad foot down, place the good foot beside it and proceed to the next step. Put your bad foot down on the next step. Down with the bad. (Bad goes down to hell.)

      Be patient with yourself, stairs are hard. My friend was going up them just fine with this method, but to go back down stairs she sat on her butt. Hey, whatever works.

      1. Soupspoon McGee*

        I’ve been crawling up and scooting down on my booty.

        I have a knee scooter for work, and I managed to borrow a second one for them main floor of my house. The dog is no longer afraid of the scooter, so I have to make “beep beep” noises to get her to move.

        1. Windchime*

          My house has everything on the main floor except for the bedrooms and shower. So I rented two knee scooters; I would park one at the bottom of the stairs, crawl up, and then get on my second scooter that was parked at the top of the stairs. My cat learned not to be afraid of the scooter and I was always afraid I would run over his long, fluffy tail.

    1. Caledonia*

      Best: first full pay since February! It’s nice to have some money coming in at long last. Also, tomorrow I get to see my best friend for the first time in almost a month!

      Worst: the reception desk at work. Basically, the area I work in is more niche than the general one and I’ve only been there for 6/7 weeks. I didn’t know how to answer anything and when I tried to transfer the calls all the phones were on v/m. Turned out that everyone was busy putting up the Christmas decs. Grrrrr. I was relieved at 3pm (2 hrs early) which made me feel both happy and more incompetent :/

      1. SophieChotek*

        Hope you have a good time with your best friend. (Is this the one where you stayed in the hotel…er…I think you mentioned this a few months ago? Details fuzzy…)

    2. Marillenbaum*

      Best: went to see “Loving” last night, cried all the tears.
      Worst: Realized I let the registration on my car lapse, which means I have to take it to get inspected first (but I’m out of state for school, which makes it double-plus fun).

      1. Searching*

        That was such a great movie! If you haven’t done so already (and if you have access to HBO), the documentary “The Loving Story” on which the movie was based is also very worthwhile. Lots of original film footage of the Loving family.

      2. Anono-me*

        If it is a metro area smog inspection, you might be able to get an inspection waiver. (Eons ago it was possible where I then lived.)

        1. Anono-me*

          Sorry missing a line. “… might be able to get a waiver since the car is physically domiciled outside of the designated metro smog area.

    3. LadyKelvin*

      Best: We leave for vacation on Saturday! A few days at my parent’s in Pittsburgh, then Italy (with a stop in Venice) to ski with the in-laws, then back to Germany to spend Christmas with them, then back to Pittsburgh to celebrate Christmas with my family. We haven’t celebrated Christmas with my in-laws in 6 years, so I think my hubby is excited too. Plus I really like his parents. His mom and I get along great, although that might be partly due to the fact we live on different continents (kidding! his mom is just like mine in many ways, she’s awesome).

      Worst: We had plans this weekend to go to see Fantasitic Beasts this morning and dinner out tonight, but the hubby is very ill and can’t leave bed. It sucks that he’s sick and it sucks that this was our chance to see the movie. :(

      1. SophieChotek*

        Sounds wonderful (vacation and places you’ll go).

        Sorry about Fantastic Beasts – always dissappointing to have plans like that–and not be able to go.

    4. Jersey's Mom*

      Best: Finally went on a diet in August and have so far lost 27 pounds!! I am about 1/3 of the way to my goal weight!
      Worst: Christmas is coming, I will be going to the coast to visit with family for 10 days, and they are very food-centric (and it’s not healthy food they’re -centric about).

    5. bassclefchick*

      Best – All my Christmas shopping is DONE!!!

      Worst – found out the funeral arrangements for the friend who died the day before Thanksging. That is going to be one horrible day. He was very much loved by all of his friends and is dearly missed.

    6. LizB*

      Best: I’m really enjoying the book I’m reading, and I actually remembered to bring it to work a couple days this week to read on my lunch break!

      Worst: Got a really bad flat tire on Tuesday (absolutely shredded — no chance of patching it), and ended up replacing all four tires because they were all on their last legs. I had been thinking about going in to get them replaced for a while, but I guess the universe decided I needed to stop procrastinating. I’ve decided the moral of the story is I can either choose a convenient time to be without a functional car, or I can wait too long and have circumstances force me to be without a functional car at an inconvenient time. Oh well.

    7. copy run start*

      Best: Passed a much-dread test for school this morning — I honestly don’t even know how I did it butwhocaresI’mdone! And now there will be much gaming!

      Worst: Stress about this test kinda wrecked the last of the week. And I don’t get the Christmas bonus because I haven’t hit a year yet. :(

    8. Elkay*

      Best: Really good Christmas party for work. Lovely theme, unlimited food and drink and good company.
      Worst: Car trouble, the car has been with the mechanic for over a week and no word on when we get it back.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      BEST: I have an interview next week; they said multi-step (for an admin at a realtor; really? What in hell could THAT be? I hope not clerical testing because at my level it’s stupid to test me.) I guess that’s best since I am still waiting for any kind of UI and rapidly running out of money.

      WORST: I AM SO FAT I WANT TO JUMP OFF A CLIFF AND SPLAT MYSELF THIN. But fortunately, my stomach decided that a normal-sized meal is too much for it to handle, so I shall have to cut back. Maybe that will help. Along with some getting-off-the-butt. I’ve been braver about walking when it’s colder. And that Pilates DVD is coming back out–my core needs HELP!

      1. Violetta*

        If you get bored with the dvd, there’s a ton of good Pilates videos on YouTube. Blogilates is good if you can handle her super perkiness. FitnessBlender is more chill.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Cool, thanks for the recommendation. When I don’t do it for a while, it gets harder–but then of course, it’s the same workout every time. There’s another one on the DVD I never tried yet, but now I can mix it up a bit. :)

    10. Tala*

      Best: First full week of me-time since quitting a lousy job. Finally de-stressing, albeit slowly ;)

      Worst: Mom’s cancer is progressing the wrong way.

      Funny Worst: Took my nephew to see Santa yesterday and they had people dressed as reindeer, snowmen etc. for the kids to hug and have photos with. Nephew walked up to the reindeer, took one look and said ‘ew, that’s a person in a suit!’. He’s 4.

    11. Jo*

      Best: A month in at my new job and it’s going well so far.
      Worst: Broke up my with boyfriend of seven months (also my first boyfriend/breakup ever, but that’s another story) this week.

    12. Rabunzel*

      Best: I had my last lab of the semester this week! It started badly but ended up being fun, and it turns out I’m not too shabby at titration. And I’m done!! Woo!

      Worst: There’s something weird going on with the electricity in my house, which is not great in itself, but most pressingly it means I can’t run the loads of laundry that needed cleaning a week ago. I might just have to head to the laundromat tomorrow but, ughhhhh, efforttttt

      Best/worst: After growing it for ~5 years, I cut off a pretty substantial length of hair yesterday. I was thrilled at first but now I’m yoyoing between happiness and regret/grief. It feels so silly and I know I’ll get over it, but wow, the emotional whiplash.

      I hope the season is bringing lots of good things to everyone! :)

      1. LCL*

        What’s up with the electricity? Bright/dim, flickers, intermittent outage? Lights work but stove/dryer not working? It’s worth far more than it costs, which is usually nothing, to have the power company check your service. If the neutral was open somewhere that can cause power quality issues and can be hazardous.

    13. AvonLady Barksdale*

      BEST: We went to an awesome show by an awesome comedian last night, and it was part 1 of my Chanukah present, apparently.

      WORST: After I was offered my full-time job, I decided not to pursue a second retail job or more hours at my current retail job, and I decided not to cash in an account I have that I was planning to use as an emergency fund (big penalties if I do). Full-time job starts tomorrow, and until I get paid, it’s going to be a lean, credit-card-using couple of weeks. This will balance itself out– and I’m very lucky that it will with an end in sight, because a lot of people don’t have my options– but damn, it’s stressful.

  21. Lizabeth*

    Fitness gadget recommendations please…
    Backstory: had an iHealth one that could be worn as a watch(bulky) or clip it to your waistband. Plus side it was only $50. But it jumped off my waistband walking on the street and is gone forever. Seeing commercials for the Fitbit 2 and am liking the slim profile to wear on the wrist but is it worth $99? And how do you like the app for it? TIA

    1. Franzia Spritzer*

      Totally worth $99. I like the fitness tracking well enough but I used the flex mostly for sleep tracking and the silent alarms. I “upgraded” to a tracker with a hear rate monitor so that I could better understand my stupid menopausal heart rate spikes and hot flashes, as well as the additional fitness tracking. I have a physically intense job and it’s fun for me to justify putting my feet up after seeing exactly how hard I worked that day. Anyway… I stayed with the fitbit brand because I was already years into data with their app and I was looking to compare. If I weren’t into the app and if I didn’t rely on the silent alarms I’d have gotten a vivofit (on sale on amazon for $40 right now, the vivofit 2 is $65).

    2. Tala*

      I have the vivofit 2 and it does what I need it to (I have the pack with the heart rate monitor) but…you can’t see the display in the dark, it’s quite bulky and I have an allergy to the material of the wristband. There’s just so many to choose from these days it’s a bit of a minefield. I had a fitbit before and the vivofit is much better from my experience, but the lack of display in the dark is a big issue for me (as where I live it’s dark a lot of the time!). Love the Garmin app too.

    3. Yetanotherjennifer*

      The new Fitbit models aren’t selling as well as they had hoped so it’s not likely you’ll pay $99. I just got the Alta on Cyber Monday for $84 on Amazon. It retails for $130 on the Fitbit site. I suspect they’ll be even cheaper closer to Christmas but I’m happy with the price I paid. You could use a site like camel camel camel to alert you to price drops. I’m pretty happy with the Alta so far. I used to use the original Flex. I upgraded to get something a little more stylish with a watch and reminders. It’s a little less comfortable to sleep in but I don’t really trust the sleep info anyway so I’ll probably stop wearing it at night. I also like the longer battery life. The app is pretty good. I mostly use the step counter but I plan to give the calorie tracking a try soon. One fun thing to do is to not wear your tracker for a day and see what your base calorie expenditure is. Basically, how many calories you’d burn if you stayed in bed all day. It only works if you’ve entered your weight into the system but it’s good info to have.

  22. Cruciatus*

    So my poor 16.5 year old cat has lymphoma–I think in the intestines. Obviously something was wrong as she lost weight and was a 12 pounder most of her life to about 6 or less now, but we’re not likely to go to extreme measures. I’m sure the chemo won’t be cheap, and the vet said she’d need to have some sort of therapy the rest of her life. It’s especially hard because her personality is the same as ever, just on a thinner frame. I know we don’t have to make a decision this second, but I think it would be easier if she was showing more signs of illness. Well, she does throw up a lot, but beyond that she’s just as mouthy and playful as always. She’ll get her stitches out from the biopsies on Monday so we will learn more there about possible treatments or just ways to make her comfortable until the end. It’s just sad and I try not to wonder every time I look at her how many more times there will be…

    It’s been a shitty few weeks! Had some sort of skin reaction to…I have no idea. After 3 weeks I’ve only just finally stopped wanting to scratch off the skin on my upper arms and upper thighs, I got rejected for 2 jobs at work, and the news about my cat. Blergh.

    1. Hellanon*

      I’m so sorry.

      I lost a cat to intestinal lymphoma this spring, and really, all we did was maintain her on steroids until the end. The steroids made her comfortable & stopped the vomiting, but my vet said there wasn’t really a treatment… and I wouldn’t have put her on anything unpleasant anyways. Getting the meds down her everyday was hard on both of us, but they really helped…

    2. Mimmy*

      Sorry to hear about your cat :( Yeah, cancer treatments for pets can be very expensive. One of our cats was diagnosed with cancer after having a growth on her lip biopsied. We decided to forgo treatment and she did well for a couple of years until she stopped eating and deteriorated from there for about a week or so, though she did throw up a lot. Good luck on Monday.

      I can also commiserate on the skin reaction. I sometimes get that problem too, where I want to scratch my skin off for 2-3 weeks, and not have a clue as to what caused it, though it usually begins about a week after doing yard work.

    3. Kitty*

      I’m sorry to hear what you’re going through. My cat also had intestinal lymphoma and it was so hard to see him go from a strong, healthy and vibrant cat to one who was thin, tired and sore. The steroids held him for a bit but he got to a point where he couldn’t eat much at all and wasn’t enjoying any sort of quality of life, and we had to let him go. It’s been over a year now and I miss him every day.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      I’m so sorry to hear that. :(

      My personal opinion is that you should just keep her comfortable until the end. She’s of an advanced age and having to go through chemo and all that entails will be really tough on her, which will diminish her quality of life. But, obviously, it’s not my decision to make. You should do whatever you feel is best.

      Again, I’m so sorry.

    5. Clumsy Ninja*

      So sorry for this news. My kitty has nasal lymphoma, so I’m travelling a similar road. One thing that I highly recommend if it’s available to you – go see a veterinary oncologist to get all your options, along with pros/cons/costs. You may end up deciding to do nothing, or you may go farther than you think now. But the consultation can give you a lot more information and more peace of mind over your decisions. I’d also recommend making a list of all the questions you can think of that you want to ask, because when you’re in the room, it’s easy to forget some of them.

    6. catsAreCool*

      I’m so sorry about your kitty. I agree that keeping her comfortable sounds like the right thing to do for her.

    7. Liz in a Library*

      Cruciatus, we are going through literally the same thing right now (alimentary lymphoma in a 16 year old cat). I’m so sorry!

      One thing that helped me a great deal was having the vet talk me through what to look for as far as discomfort in our guy. Lymphoma itself doesn’t necessarily cause pain in cats in early stages, and our guy sounds a lot like yours (active and happy, even though very underweight). That activity helped me feel good about the fact that he’s still living a good life now, even if we aren’t sure what to do next. <3 to your girl!

    8. LawCat*

      We have gone through lymphoma in the intestines with our cat!

      He responded extremely well to chemotherapy! Steroids and anti-nausea pills have also helped him. The chemo drugs became prohibitively expensive in January 2016 because of a company buying up the patent and almost doubling the price (drug was Chlorambucil, brand name Leukeran). Our vet oncologist discussed the situation with her colleagues and they identified a reputable compounding pharmacy in Arizona called Diamondback Drugs. Much less expensive! We had no issues with quality of the compounded medication. I *highly* recommend not getting the drug in a liquid form. They could not do Chlorambucil as a tablet because the tablet form was tied up with the patent on Leukeran, but they could do capsules. The first time they sent it, it was liquid though and that was a disaster.

  23. ShippingGuru*

    Here are some tips for those shipping things this holiday season!
    1. Please ship your gifts early enough to allow plenty of time for your gifts to arrive. Weather delays are common in all parts of the US this time of year, and your package might be routed through an area with weather delays, so ship early!
    1.a. Corollary to 1- unless the package is food, it probably is okay if it arrives late. Please don’t take out your frustration on the employees who took in your package- once it leaves their hands they can’t do anything about when it arrives.
    2. Choose a service with a tracking number. Tracking is standard for UPS and FedEx services but not always for USPS services.
    3. Don’t complain overlong, or blame the employee, for the price of shipping. They have no control over prices. If you want your item to cost less you should pack it in as small of a box as you can (with reasonable packing). Many carriers add rural surcharges to deliver to out-of-the way places so keep that in mind as well.
    4. If you are shipping something that is super fragile, delicate, and/or valuable, consider having the employees at a pack-and-ship store (e.g. UPS Store) pack it for you. They have the expertise and supplies that you may not. If your item were to get damaged claims are more likely to be paid when trained employees do the packing (for example, UPS Stores have the Pack and Ship Promise, which can help expedite claims).
    5. Shoeboxes are NOT approved shipping containers. They are far too flimsy and will get crushed by the automated systems the shipping companies use. Boxes that have been reused multiple times are also not great, as the corrugated cardboard loses integrity over time.
    6. Do NOT wrap your packages in paper or string. In ye olde days, before conveyor belts and automated systems, this was fine. Now it’s a hazard. If the outer paper is torn off the label goes with it and your package becomes stuck in limbo.

    1. Tris Prior*


      I would like to add: If you’re ordering something handmade online and the artist tells you that you’re past the cutoff for Christmas delivery and it won’t get there in time, BELIEVE HER. Do not get angry or whine or beg or accuse her of lying or laziness. Those deadlines are there for a reason. Either I know from experience that USPS will not deliver your Shiny Thing that quickly, or I’m full up on custom orders and know that I don’t have the time or materials to make another Shiny Thing.

      This goes double if you’re ordering internationally. No matter how many exclamation points you put on your message-to-seller, I cannot bend space and time and make your Shiny Thing arrive in 3 days when I’m in the US and you’re in Australia. (unless you pay for overnight which of course NO ONE does because it’s bloody expensive!)

      Also, I see the same tracking information that you do, when I look up your tracking number. I do not have some secret “in” with the post office that allows me to see WHY your package just inexplicably sat in the Chicago mailing hub for a week. We do not take some perverse pleasure in instructing USPS to delay your package or send it to some random state that it doesn’t belong in.

      Signed, your friendly neighborhood Etsy seller who, after 7 years, is reeeeeeally tired of being blamed for USPS errors.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Re deadlines: I’d like to point out that many people are fine with getting a gift that arrives after Christmas because it makes Christmas last longer. *me* \_0

        Just saying! :)

        1. Tris Prior*

          Absolutely! I feel the same way. But people get REALLY worked up about their Thing not arriving before Christmas. I’ve actually been told that I ruined Christmas, when a package got lost. Um, OK then!

          1. EmmaLou*

            Wow. You have a LOT of power. You control your shipping, some shipping company AND its employees, the weather, the roads AND the plans, or lack thereof and emotions of complete strangers. Impressive. You need some kind of badge.

            1. Tris Prior*

              I know, right? We handmade sellers are the All Powerful Gods of Shipping. Tremble before us! ;)

    2. AcademiaNut*

      Also – if you want to send stuff overseas via surface mail, you need to mail it in early October to guarantee that it will reach its destination by Christmas.

      And be clear and simple in customs declarations, and read the list of what is prohibited in the destination country, and the maximum value of what you can ship before customs fees apply, before you ship it off. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like having to pay fees to get your gift.

    3. DragoCucina*

      I would add the caveat that you can ask reasonable questions. We have a local chain shipping store that defaults to saying everything needs a pallet built. Sorry, that bubble envelope with 3 sheets of paper doesn’t need a pallet.

  24. Ask a Manager* Post author

    As a Jew married to someone raised nominally Christian, I am new to the world of holiday wreaths and need some advice. We have a live wreath on our front door that’s made from eucalyptus and fir. Despite being on the outside of the door, the smell of eucalyptus has taken over the house. I can smell it on all three levels. I do not enjoy it. Is this a normal thing with wreaths — that the smell takes over the house? Do people LIKE this smell? Is it something that will quickly fade or is it here for the duration? I’m considering getting rid of this wreath if the former.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      Eucalyptus is for me what cilantro is for other people. It smells terrible and soapy and bug spray-ish to my nose and sticks around probably precisely because it annoys me so much. So um. I have FEELINGS about annoying smells but I guess I’d say that if you don’t like the smell now, there’s no getting used to it.

    2. Sparkly Librarian*

      Eucalyptus is pretty tenacious. (I enjoy it in nature, but in a domestic environment the cat-pee similarity is pronounced.) I’d say remove the wreath, and perhaps replace with a fir-only or artificial version. They also make mixed-media live versions with things like moss and dried flowers or holly that may be less offensive to your nose.

    3. Gene*

      Yeah, eucalyptus has a distinct, pervasive smell. It took two days to get it out of the rental car after a day of driving through a forest of it in Australia.

      The only thing I can think of besides getting rid of the wreath, would be to paint it with clear spray paint. I haven’t tried that with eucalyptus, but it might seal in the odor.

    4. Kay*

      It’s not the wreath, it’s the materials in the wreath – eucalyptus has a strong smell. It’s not my favorite, but it doesn’t turn my stomach, either. Balsam fir doesn’t pervade the entire house to that extent. I suspect it will fade once you get rid of the wreath, but I can’t say for certain.

      1. Emi.*

        Could you replace it with a plain fir wreath? That gives you a mild Christmas-y smell that doesn’t stay past the wreath and isn’t detectable from more than a few feet away.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        Yeah, is eucalpytus a standard “ingredient” in wreaths? Most wreaths I’ve had or seen have been primarily some kind of fir or pine, I think.

        That said, I love the smell of eucalpytus… not on wreaths but in general.

    5. LCL*

      It’s a normal thing with eucalyptus…
      If I get flowers that have eucalyptus in the arrangement I throw away the eucalyptus.

    6. kc89*

      Most people enjoy the smell of a fir wreath, that’s that nice “Christmas tree” smell.

      But of course that could just be nostalgia for a lot of people, you might not like it if you’re not used to it.

    7. Anxa*

      Echoing that it’s the eucalyptus. My mom loves eucalyptous soap and I had to buy my own because it would linger and give me a headache and destroy my skin. I find plain wreathes to be subtle and delightful (but that may be because I associate it was Christmas and winter holiday season).

    8. neverjaunty*

      No. Get rid of it. (Who the heck makes wreaths out of eucalyptus? That seems like a horrible prank.)

      1. Clever Name*

        Yeah, I’ve never seen one made with eucalyptus. You can always get an artificial one. We have a fake tree, and I know my mother is scandalized. I was tired of having a month long allergy attack.

        1. Ann*

          My family orders from here, the wreaths last so long that my grandparents used to update the bow/pincones with Easter colours in the spring

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Maybe you can take the eucalyptus out and put something else in so you don’t have to throw the wreath away. It may not even need to have something else added, it might be okay without the eucalyptus.

      The smell does fade after a while, which does not help you now, of course. Scents are no where near that strong. A Christmas tree might have a scent in one or two rooms- but the tree is INSIDE the house. So that eucalyptus is verrrry strong.

      1. Windchime*

        I usually buy pine/fir wreathes from Costco. I think they’re less than 20 bucks and they smell good. I personally like the smell of eucalyptus in small doses, but it can definitely be overpowering.

  25. Christmas Around the Corner*

    Anyone have roommate horror stories to share? I’ve been having some roommate troubles lately that I know are pretty minor on the grand scheme of things so I was hoping to get the flip side for a little perspective.

    1. Drew*

      All of my roommate stories are petty, not horrible, so I’ll share one that might make you smile:

      In my first actual apartment, my parents and grandparents came to visit. (And after that visit, I got a check to use to buy “a couch, a couple of chairs, or SOMETHING for your guests to sit on other than the floor.”) While we were sitting there, my roommate’s girlfriend walked out wearing his boxers, a towel draped over her neck to BARELY cover her bosom, and not her glasses. She took two steps out of their bedroom, squinted at us, realized that there were several people there whom she could not see but who were clearly Not Drew, and bolted back into the bedroom.

      There was a bit of silence, and then my grandmother said, “Well, she seems nice.” And we decided to go out for brunch.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      My former roommate did not take the trash out. Ever. I once left the country for two weeks on a business trip, and the only reason the trash went out was because our landlady could smell it from her apartment on the property and got rid of it for us. I was furious.

    3. Vee*

      We had a housemate hide smoked kippers (fish) down the back of the refrigerator in retaliation for us asking him not to keep everyone’s kitchenware in his room. He also threw all the kitchenware out of the third floor window, broken mugs everywhere

    4. Junior Dev*

      I had a roommate who would get extremely drunk every day and decided that peeing out the window — with the screen still in–was a better alternative to going 20 feet down the hall to the bathroom. He also smoked in his room despite it being forbidden by the lease, and at one point was injured somehow and got blood on the carpet.

      It was actually a very sad situation, and also hard for me to deal with as I grew up with an addict in the house.

      I had to clean his room after he left. I have a lot of respect for people who work in the medical field, or any field where you have to deal with bodily fluids regularly. Because that was awful.

    5. Allypopx*

      Loud, loud, loud sex. I’m not a prude but I don’t need to hear every slap and tickle.

      My boyfriend’s old roommate literally flipped the kitchen table and threatened violence if I kept staying over (my boyfriend and my best friend lived together so I was there a lot, and this was their third roommate, so his annoyance was perhaps understandable, but he did not handle it like an adult.)

      My one roommate threatened to call the police on my friend for abuse because her child cried when we put him to bed in my apartment, which was not familiar to him. She also told me my boyfriend or any other white cis male friends I might have were not allowed to have opinions in our apartment.

      Roommates are the best.

    6. Gaia*

      Do you mean stories like my roommate who spilled an entire carton of egg nog on the carpet the morning before leaving to go home for Christmas but didn’t clean it properly or tell anyone but definitely left the heat on in her bedroom for a week?

      Or my roommate who kept her cat locked in her bedroom so we wouldn’t discover she had a pet, but neglected to get a littler box?

      Or my roommate who, seriously, in 3 months of living together never bathed once?

      Or my roommate in the dorms that liked to have sex on my bed? And then never once even offered to clean my sheets.

      I don’t have roommates anymore. Screw it. I’ll pay my own rent.

      1. Gaia*

        Oh I have more, wait

        I had another dorm roommate who told me she was uncomfortable with having any males in our room. Ever. Including my family.

        And my final dorm roommate accused me of stealing her Q tips because she “found” hers in my drawer. I don’t know how she thought she could distinguish between Q tips but she was sure they were hers and not mine that I had bought.

    7. FDCA In Canada*

      Had a roommate in university who was the filthiest human I’ve ever had the pleasure of living close to. He declared he “wasn’t going to do anything he didn’t want to do” in regards to cleaning, then called his mom to complain when I told him to clean up his shit like a grown man. He was 21. Mommy told him I was being mean and he didn’t have to clean if he didn’t want to. (Really.) He regularly left the toilet unflushed, left bloody band-aids and cotton swabs festooning the bathroom sink, kept a collection of dishes in his bedroom, smoked weed and cigarettes in bed and then covered it up with copious doses of Axe and Febreeze, and washed his sheets a grand total of once in the nine months we lived together. (He was having a date over.) On that occasion, he bagged up the trash in his room and stuck it in his closet, too lazy to take it to the trash chute down the hall.

      When the lease was up, I notified the landlord in writing of everything he’d done and said I was glad to take over the lease and had a different roommate lined up. Then proceeded to tell the existing roommate he needed to get out because he was a filth monster and that the landlord was going to back me up on this. He called his mom again, cried on the phone, but moved out a month later. I got a much better roommate.

    8. Gaia*

      A friend of mine just cleaned out the bedroom of a former roommate who left suddenly. He found mason jars with chicken bones and steak bones. Dozens of jars. That is serial killer stuff.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That reminds me of the time I worked at the apartment complex I lived in at college. This guy was a DJ for a local station and he bailed on his lease and we had to send maintenance in to check out his apartment.

        They came back into the office and said, “You are not going to believe this.” So we followed them to the place. The entire thing was covered with fast food garbage, tissues, etc. all over the floor. Worst of all, the fridge had been turned off, and the entire freezer was full of meat.

        Yes, warm, spoiled meat.

        I have never in my life smelled anything so awful. It was like a dead animal corpse blood smell. URP.

    9. Hellanon*

      I had a great run of roommates but the two that were bad were awful. One seemed to be auditioning for Hoarders – she disappeared one day while I was at work, taking all her stuff with her, and the very first thing I did was call my locksmith when I got home that day. Another one started what was effectively a bedbug farm, which necessitated multiple visits from the exterminator and the replacement of the bed and its linens, pillows, etc… ugh. It’s not getting them that was the problem – she had skeevy friends – it was the not noticing until it reached horror movie proportions.

      But I had probably 6 great housemates in there (mostly grad students/exchange students, not friends) and really appreciated the help with the cats… but no, after the last one, never again.

    10. Temperance*

      Yes. My first roommate in college wrote poems about how much she hated me in her poetry journal … which she encouraged me to read, lol.

      She was also disgusting, leaving used tissues and dirty underwear everywhere.

    11. katamia*

      i shared a room with a girl who spoke to me maybe five times in the four months we lived together (post-college, but still young). She would play songs by the same singer (who I won’t name to preserve my anonymity; I doubt she reads this blog, but other people we know might) every day–the same songs in the same order. She would turn off the lights on me if she decided it was time to go to bed. She did something (our other roommates and I never figured out what) that led to us having some sort of fruit fly larval infestation in our shower even though that room was nowhere near the kitchen.

      Oddly enough, though, I didn’t mind that much. I had nothing to say to her either (I don’t mean this meanly; I’m just not much of a talker), I actually did and do like that singer even though I’m still kind of sick of her, and if I was in our room I was either sleeping or on my computer, and I could be on my computer with the lights off. The bugs sucked, though.

    12. Rob Lowe can't read*

      Not a horror story, but definitely a WTF moment. One of my roommates in college, “Lucinda,” didn’t know that you needed to put a stamp on an envelope if you wanted to mail it. She kept complaining that our outgoing mail, which included a check to cover some shared bill (electricity, maybe? This pre-dated widespread availability of online bill pay), wasn’t getting picked up, our mail carrier must be an idiot, could I drop it in the mail at work? Sure, fine, whatever – but Lucinda, can you put a stamp on it, I don’t have any. A what? A stamp. Those sticky things that go in the upper right corner. Huh? No, no, you don’t need those. Yes. Yes you do.

      I guess, to be fair, this was her first time living independently off-campus (no need to mail electricity bills in the dorms), but I still feel like it’s probably something that should have come up previously in her life.

      1. Observer*

        How does a person reach the age of college without knowing that you need a stamp?! ESPECIALLY before the days of (near) ubiquitous internet. That is SCARY.

        1. Blue_eyes*

          Right?! Had she really never mailed nor received not one birthday card or anything? I didn’t send a ton of mail as a kid, but I certainly knew how to use a stamp.

      2. Is it Performance Art*

        My freshman roommate did not know how to write a check. She also thought that if you wanted to change your name, you just wrote a different name on your passport application and then it was official.

    13. Mazzy*

      I had a roommate that I got into a fight with because they wanted to split all utilities and bills half way even though I didn’t use some of them, as in, I didn’t use the internet at all, and they wanted me to pay for half because I technically could, but this was before internet was viewed as a necessity.

      They also wanted my schedule. They liked to work out in the shared space and did not want anyone coming in or interrupting for that hour every night. So they’d want to know when I was going to be there so they could adjust their exercise schedule, as in, if I was home early, then I’d have to close myself up in my room.

      They chastised me for coming back from shopping “early” in the middle of the routine. I walked straight through and didn’t look at them, I was used to not having privacy at that point being young in a large city and broke, not sure why they were so paranoid about being seen working out.

    14. Chaordic One*

      After leaving my dorm to spend the weekend with my parents, my roommate did the same later that day and she left the window open. It snowed that weekend and when I came back the room was a winter wonderland.

      I also had a very annoying roommate who was a music major and played classical flamenco guitar into the the wee hours of the night. She was an exchange student from another country and seemed to have some odd cultural ideas that made it difficult for her to fit in. I finally got my pillow and went to one of the lounges and slept on the couch there.

    15. LizB*

      One of my roommates in college was lovely, but all her classes started earlier than mine, so she had to get up before I did, and she had the most obnoxious wake-up routine. Her alarm would start going off almost an hour before she would actually get up (and about 2 hours before I had to get up), and snooze 4-5 times. The alarm clock she used played a very loud, very shrill, ever-so-slightly off-key rendition of “It’s A Small World.” It was miserable.

    16. Lady Blerd*

      I once got a phone call from a check cashing clerk asking if I had written a check to my roommate. They had a policy not to cash checks when the recipient has the same address as the check writer, presumably to prevent fraud. And no I didn’t write any checks. I then found out that she’d done this to me a couple of times previously, except I never noticed since the amounts were small.

      1. Lady Blerd*

        Sadly nothing as it was a family member and my mom didn’t want me to make a fuss. I’ve gotten over it but I’m still mad about it years later.

    17. Pennalynn Lott*

      On moving day with this one particular roommate, I dropped off a load of boxes and some furniture in our new apartment and then drove back to my dad’s house to get the rest of my things. It took a while to get everything loaded, so it was 3-4 hours later when I’d finally made it back to the apartment. Where a party was in full swing. And where ALL of my boxes had been opened and pawed through, looking for whatever my new roommate and her friends thought they needed for a party. As in, my stuff was strewn throughout the apartment: clothing, glasses, dishware, bathroom items, linens, you name it.

      My dad helped me bring the rest of my stuff in from the rented trailer, plus helped me round up most of my other belongings, all the while navigating drunk and clumsy party guests.

      About a dozen people spent the night in the apartment that first night, and they all got up and left early in the morning (including my roommate) on some group jaunt or another. . . leaving me to wake up a couple hours later to a bathroom floor, a tub, a sink, and a kitchen floor covered in puke.

      It only got worse from there. Longest one-year lease of my life.

    18. SophieChotek*

      When I was in grad school I had two rather helpless roommates — one who LITERALLY could not change a light-bulb (literally anytime I light-bulb burned out, even if it was in her room, I had to get out the ladder and climb up and change it) and also who did know how the thermostat worked. Every winter I would have to show her how to push the up/down arrows and then push “hold”…

      But I guess the roommate I had (who despite these things, I really liked) had an AWFUL roommate after I moved out. This awful roommate accused her of stealing things — from bread and food to other things, to the point of calling the police on my (former) room-mate. My former room-mate told me the police believed her (not the room-mate who thought she was stealing)…

    19. copy run start*

      Had a roommate who would steal my personal stuff (think tissues, deodorant, etc.) and cash. She had a super-greasy boyfriend (think Snape hair) who would just come sit with her in the room and they would not talk while I was in there, was super creepy. He would give her bunches of roses and she’d just keep them forever. I threw a fit at one point because they stunk (she didn’t try to dry them, just left them in a vase and never once changed the water), so she hid them in the back of her closet until I got her kicked out for stealing from me. Took a week to air the smell out.

      No bad roommates, but imagine 6 people in one room with one bathroom and one 6-drawer dresser in the middle of nowhere. It was ugly towards the end.

      Was working part-time minimum wage and my awesome roommate was moving, so I took a room from a guy who was going to jail for 6 months. His roommate wanted the cable package and got laid off the second day I lived there, so he never paid the bill for it, or for the electricity or heat. This dude regularly hot-boxed in his bedroom and would get drunk off his ass every night. There were two rugs kept at the base of the toilet which basically caught his drunk pisses every night. (He did wash them.) He never once cleaned any piece of this apartment. It was already filthy when I moved in, so I never invested effort in cleaning the shower either to be honest. It was gray with grime and mold. One night I came home late from work and found he’d made steak, took it out of the oven and left the broil on. It was 90 degrees in the unit and he was passed out in his room. Instead of a trash can, these guys put a black garbage bag in a milk crate under the counter and things regularly missed or fell out. I refused to pick up the rotting ribs off the cabinet floor. As far as I know they are still there. Jail-dude left his insane bird behind and it would squawk for hours, didn’t leave any money for birdseed. Jail-dude had also traded his parking space with the family below who had just had a child. She constantly complained about noise from our unit to the landlord but never said anything to us directly. She never once paid me for that space (as was the arrangement with jail dude). Luckily I got a better job a few months after I moved in and was able to move out as soon as Jail-dude said he was coming back.

      …And I have lived happily alone ever since!

    20. Bex*

      I had a roommate for a year who was a complete sociopath. Among other things, she decided to befriend my very recent ex, who was my first love and broke my heart. He lived a couple hours away but had friends in the college town. So the next time he was around (maybe a month after we broke up), she invited him to stay at our house. I wasn’t thrilled. I was WAY less thrilled when I came home and he was sleeping in my roommates twin bed, next to her. Since we shared a bedroom (woohoo college!) this was approximately 3 feet from my bed. I grabbed my shit, without saying anything, and left to go sleep at a friend’s house.

      The next morning when I came home, my roommate was absolutely furious with me. Apparently my ex freaked out when I left because he assumed I went to a guys house, and my roommate was really mad that “I had upset him like that” and didn’t “consider his feelings.”

      It was a long fricking year.

    21. Natalie*

      So, some years ago (almost 10, yikes!) my then-boyfriend (TBF) and I moved into a house of many other adult roommates. The system for utilities was set when we moved in – one roommate, K, managed all the bills and we gave him money. He had a weird work schedule so he was almost always home when the mail came and we never saw the bills.

      One day, TBF and another roomie, C, happened to be home when the mail came and one envelope had WATER SHUTOFF NOTICE on it in inch-high letters. They opened it to discover our water bill was 3 months overdue. This discovery triggered some semi-devious sleuthing on my part, only to learn that all of our bills was overdue. The heat bill was over $2k.

      So C, who had been living there for a long time and knew K well, confronts him about it. I don’t remember the exact details, but the gist was that he didn’t take responsibility or participate in the whole “let’s keep the water turned on” discussion. At one point he actually drunkenly sequestered himself in his room for so long we wondered if he had died. A few days later he got some money from his parents to pay all the overdue bills and quietly moved out.

      I took over bill paying and would tack each bill to our household cork board every month for transparency purposes. We had later wrinkles with a housemate that always forgot to write checks for her share, but she was just forgetful and not around much. One time TBF ran into her in a bar and she wrote out blank checks for the next three months of bills, and just wanted me to fill in the amounts.

    22. Seal*

      One of my college roommates from the 80s was a rude, inconsiderate slob. You’d never know it by looking at her, but living with her was a nightmare. Some of the highlights include:
      – destroying my cookware by using repeatedly metal on non-stick surfaces and never offering to replace any of it,
      – destroying my turntable by repeatedly picking up the tone arm by hand and dropping it on records. (it was the 80s, people!),
      – going into my room and borrowing clothes from my dresser and closet without asking (I discovered this when I found a shirt that wasn’t folded the way the rest of the shirts were and I ALWAYS folded my clothes),
      – borrowing my car without asking while I was in class, thinking I wouldn’t notice (I discovered this when I found her grocery shopping list on the front seat; I NEVER took her shopping),
      – offering to let a friend leave their cats with us while he went out of town for a month without having checking to see if our lease allowed pets, then not bothering to clean their litter boxes to the point the cats refused to use them,
      – blowing up a pressure cooker and spraying the kitchen with food because she forgot she turned it on, then refusing to clean it up,
      – repeatedly using every piece of cookware in the kitchen to cook elaborate meals for her boyfriend, then insisting she wasn’t the one who made the mess and refusing to clean up after herself,
      – insisting that she had cleaned the apartment when we moved out so we wouldn’t lose our security deposit; when I went back to check, I discovered she had left a ton of stuff behind, along with big puddles of water in the kitchen in what was apparently an attempt to wash the floor.

      On top of all that, she was a music major who didn’t like practicing in the school’s soundproof practice rooms, so she practiced her brass instrument for hours at home without a practice mute of any kind. This was way before noise-cancelling headphones were a thing, so I spent a lot of time in the library that year (not sure why the neighbors never complained). Even better: for a time she and I shared a room and she talked in her sleep. Not just mumbling, but full conversations that she would wake me up in the middle of the night to have, then the next morning deny they ever happened. She finally owned up to that one when she fell asleep in a giant lecture hall during class one day and started taking to the people around her; apparently they were not amused.

      I lived with a few other people after her, including one psychopath, but this woman was by far the most self-centered and inconsiderate. At least the psychopath cleaned up after herself.

    23. Yetanotherjennifer*

      I had a lot of roommates when I was young but most were pretty good. The only bad one wasn’t able to pay her share of the bills but didn’t say so, she just covered up the bouncing checks by making sure she got to the mail first and kept all the bills (even though they were in my name.) I didn’t find out until our phone was turned off for non-payment. After that I switched the mail to come to where I worked and collected the money from her for the bills. She moved out soon after.

  26. Drew*

    I scheduled my LASIK appointment for a couple weeks from now! They tried really hard to sell me on monovision (one eye corrected fully for distance, one eye partially corrected for distance and also for close-up vision), but the demo they did with the fancy wheelie-lens gadget gave me an insta-headache, so I’ll keep using my reading glasses.

    But no more contacts!

  27. Regular reader delurking*

    Just venting (and looking for advice if anyone has it).

    A couple of weeks ago I was let go from my job. I was on a PIP so it wasn’t completely unexpected. I do admit to not having the best attitude all the time but at the same time I wasn’t trained for the work and had a hard time keeping up the work. It’s the second time in my life this happened to me.

    I still have a huge amount of student loans to pay and about six figures of debt almost. I live in a small apartment by myself and can’t afford to move at the moment, although I really want to, to find a better job and/or be closer to family. I turned 50 this year and I’m single and don’t have any kids although I would really like to be in a relationship and have a mother.

    2016 has been a rough year and I don’t see an end in sight. I’m hoping this get better soon or that 2017 is an improvement. I do admit to having insecurities (but I’m not feeling hopeless or suicidal, I haven’t thought about that). I just feel stuck if you know what I mean.

    Thanks for reading (listening)

    1. Jersey's Mom*

      Oof. I’m sorry about the job.

      What has helped me is setting small goals that I am in control of. Cleaning out a closet. Reading one book a week. Organizing my boxes of paperwork (and then shredding all the junk I need to get rid of). I’ve actually make a list for the month and it gives me a sense of accomplishment when I complete a task. I include both tasks that ought to get done, and some fun ones to keep some enjoyment in my life (will color in one page of adult coloring book this week).

    2. Gaia*

      2016 was a beast of a year. Seriously, I think the world fell apart when Bowie left us.

      The first thing I would say is if you have not done so already, call and ask to defer your student loans until you are working again. I know what it is like to have a lot of student loans. I’m staring down the barrel of $83k. I will literally never be able to pay this off and my payments mean I cannot buy a home. It is tough. You are not alone.

      When you say you have six figures of debt, how much of that is your student loans? If that is in addition to your loans…have you considered that bankruptcy might be your best choice? It isn’t ideal (nor easy) to make that choice but you need to be able to live.

      Keep reaching out. 2017 is coming soon and it is a chance for a better year.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Depends on who holds the loan whether bankruptcy is possible.

        But with six figures, you should be able to get an income-based-repayment plan (IBR) that will be a manageable monthly payment.

        1. Gaia*

          Bankruptcy is almost never possible with student loans. But if the majority of that debt is non-student loans, it should be considered. And even if it isn’t, there are options for helping on payments for student loans (although they can still be high, even when income based).

    3. Whichsister*

      I lost my job after being on a pip last year. I am 43 and had never been fired before. I too didn’t have the best attitude but some of that was because I am a new boss on a power trip. I was being written up for not doing things his way but he refused to tell me how he wanted it done because it was my job not his. At the same time my father had recently passed away, I was battling my ex for child support, and my daughter was ill. It was a long 5 months looking for a job. Things still aren’t great. but I am employed. During that time I focused on decluttering , applying for so many quality jobs a week . I also hit up all my former workmates for references on LinkedIn and updated it all. It was a difficult time. It isn’t easy. But know that it passes. (Btw my student loans are also outrageous)

    4. SC Anonibrarian*

      Hugs if you want them, all that sounds so rough.

      Some thoughts in no particular order:

      I know they’re expensive, but with that much debt and currently unemployed, having someone knowledgeable to give you realistic options regarding bankruptcy or debt consolidation might be really really good for you long-term. It always sounds so dramatic and scary (and maybe embarrassing?) but an uncle of mine actually did it and he went from being crushed financially and emotionally to building up a solid nest egg again in about 8 years.

      Regarding moving: if you’re wanting to move to be near family, are they the sort of family to provide any help with that? Help could be anything from: my daughter is in college and they need someone to share rent on their apt, to: want to crash in my spare room for a month or so? to: can someone help you search apartment ads online to find good roommates in your family’s hometown? If they’re usually helpful and close family, then it doesn’t hurt to ask for specific help that they might be able to provide.

      I can’t think of a good way to phrase this, so I’ll just be direct: you don’t have to be in a relationship to be a mother, if being a mother is something that you feel is important to your life. Single people can be foster or adoptive parents, or even ‘godparents’ to kids of all ages who are dealing with parental or systemic neglect. Now, if you want an adult relationship also, then sometimes those things go together – but sometimes they don’t, and again, there’s no shame and nothing wrong with setting your sights on your own personal goals individually. That way you’re not waiting around hoping to find a family: you’re actively making it happen in your life to the best of your own abilities.

      Good luck next year!

    5. Chaordic One*

      It’s rough I know. What you can do, since you do have some extra time because you’re not working, when you’re not going on interviews and looking for work or doing job search related stuff, is get your house in order.

      Do stuff like go through your closet and get rid of what doesn’t fit anymore and what you aren’t going to wear ever again. If there are clothes that need fixing, like they need a button sewn on or something like that, then do it. Do the same with the rest of your belongings. If you do move you’ll be ready.

      Get exercise. Go for walks or bicycle rides by yourself (or with a friend). Eat well. Get enough sleep, but don’t spend all day in bed either.

      Be good to yourself and take care of yourself.

    6. SophieChotek*

      Virtual hugs also. I hear you about student loans and desiring more/improved relationships.

      I like what Jersey’s Mom said about small goals — they might help.

    7. New Bee*

      Sending you a virtual hug. You always have positive encouragement for others, so you’re due for good karma in 2017! And I know several people, including my sister and my husband’s mother, who married and had kids “late”, so it’s possible.

      My only advice would be to not be afraid to say what you want (re: marriage and kids) and to be explicit with your social circle about what kind of support you need. In my sister’s case, she felt pressure to not “scare guys off” and stay casual, but she actually got much better results being upfront about what she was looking for (and telling our meddling relatives to butt out).

    8. Elizabeth West*

      Are you me? Seriously? I could have written this post too! All the advice I see below is great. These folks are the best, really. And you can probably get an unemployment deferment on your loans.

      2016 IS going to end. Hopefully 2017 will be miles better for both of us.

  28. Aurion*

    When I first started weightlifting at the end of June, I made a goal to back squat 80 lbs and deadlift my body weight by the end of a year (as a reference, I started with a goblet squat of 12 lbs, and I didn’t know what a deadlift was).

    I grossly underestimated newbie gains. It’s been just over five months. As of this morning I squatted 75 lbs and deadlifted 95. My revised goal was supposed to be 80 lbs squat/135 lbs deadlift by Christmas, but I don’t think I’ll make the latter due to skipping too many gym sessions as of late (work, real life, etc.) But I’m damn proud of myself for keeping this up. Sadly, the aesthetics didn’t improve as much as the strength part, but oh well, I’m in it for the strength anyway. :)

    I know we have a lot of female liftersr on this site (AdAgencyChick comes to mind…your 300+ lb deadlift is awe-inspring!). Thanks for being awesome and giving me something to aspire to :D

      1. nep*

        Funny — That was the response I had written for Jersey’s Mom above ( in relation to the weight loss) …. Through some error it ended up here. Fits anyway, though. Was going to say well done. It’s a great feeling, getting stronger. Keep up the great work.

    1. Franzia Spritzer*


      Understand your goals, do you want to be strong or lean, sprint or distance, how you achieve these are different. I think when you begin, focusing on strength goals (like you’ve stated) is key, once you have your form dialed in and have enough strength to have all of your joints supported you’ll make more gains…. and then push, really push yourself (safely).

      Do you have a coach who can keep you on point with form so you can add weight with confidence? A good coach makes a HUGE difference, they see your potential, they will correct and direct you through big movements. Getting another 5 on that squat by Christmas will be easy-peasy, and 40 on your deadlift is entirely possible as well. What are your weaknesses in that DL?

      1. Aurion*

        Oh, I’m pretty sure I’ll hit that last 5 lb on the squat by Monday or Tuesday. :)

        The problem with deadlifts isn’t so much form (I did get my form checked by a trainer twice and got very minor corrections, but I don’t have an ongoing coach), but time–I am currently doing Stronglifts 5×5, except I increase the DL by 5 lbs every deadlift workout instead of the prescribed 10 lbs. I used to work out three times a week, but lately it’s dropped to twice or even once a week because my body is still too sore, I have work events, had to meet my parents for a thing at the bank, etc. If I had continued with three workouts a week throughout all of November and December I would’ve just hit 135 by Christmas (assuming no injuries, and with 5 lb increases every DL workout), but as it is I’ll probably hit maybe 115 or 120. I don’t have any real reason to want 135 other than it means I can stop elevating my deadlifts with blocks :)

        I’m hoping January wouldn’t be too busy, but January is a gym rush kind of time. Oh well, I’ll be in good company!

  29. Lady Julian*

    Can I ask about adult friendships? I’m curious how you make friends, how many (close) friends you have, and how much time you spend with them / what you do with them?

    I’m a 31 year old single woman, and I’ve suddenly realized that I interact way less with people than when I was in college, or even in the first few years of the job I have now. But lately, I’ve noticed that I don’t get together with people very frequently. Often when I suggest an activity (e.g. yoga or the farmers’ market) to one of my friends, they’re busy with other things and can’t come. I get really sick of *always* being the one asking (feels too much like begging), so I go do stuff on my own. (Plus, doing things like going to the movies or exercising on your own is underrated; I love the feeling of just going out and doing the thing I want to do. Very empowering.)

    I’m strongly introverted, so I’m not discontented, just confused. I don’t get how people seem to make/keep adult friendships so naturally. Is there a secret I’m missing?

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      The nasty little secret is that people are just co-opting their partner’s friends. This is kinda lousy advice for a 31-year-old woman (I’m one as well) but is it possible for you to shift your focus to dating? It’s my experience that in our age group, people simply aren’t interested in making new friends. But if you’re looking for someone to have basic conversations with and to make plans with, a lot of your peers already have their partners as outlets for that particular energy.

      1. Allypopx*

        My boyfriend and I have super separate friend groups, even after a couple years. Couple friendships are such a strange world I don’t understand.

      2. Aurion*

        I unfortunately have to co-sign this. My social circle got cut by about 70% after my last breakup. No hard feelings or anything, I just didn’t have a reason to go out with them anymore without my ex. We still talk on Facebook and chat if we run into each other, but I don’t run into them much.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          Yep, and it totally sucks to advise a woman to seek out a relationship as a solution to any problem, but the reality is that, at our age, a relationship is more likely to fill the gap that she’s trying to fill.

      3. Lady Julian*

        Oddly, the friends that I used to hang out with, that are now doing other things, are also still single. But one’s busy now with some online schooling, and the other has gotten really into some church activities (She goes to a different church than I do.) It’s not like I have no responsibilities (I have a FT teaching job, a PT online teaching job, I took an online class, and I’ve got a few professional development things going), but I try to make time for fun stuff . . . and then can’t ever coax anyone to do it with me.

        Dating is a good idea. I’ve been toying with checking out some online sites (since that seems like the only way to meet someone.) It totally does not help that I live in a small, family-centric town.

      4. all aboard the anon train*

        I have to disagree. I don’t think someone should focus on dating to find friends, nor should they expect to co-opt their partner’s friends. And really, a friend who doesn’t want to listen to you rant about something bothering you or talk about something good that happened because they have outlets in their partners isn’t a good friend. And on the flip side, sometimes it’s nice to talk about a specific thing with a friend rather than a partner. I’ve always had separate friend groups from my partners. I think you should get along with your partner’s friends, but I don’t really understand the need to make them your friends (if it happens, great, but it shouldn’t be expected imo).

        Aside from that, I’m 30 and I still find a lot of people are looking for friends, but they don’t know how to go about it since it’s harder as an adult than a teenager or someone who is college aged. I’ve met some great people through meetup groups or adult education classes or other hobbies. People of all ages are always looking for friends and there are plenty of ways to make new friends, though they may require more time and energy. It’s easier to maintain friendships if you have something in common outside of the friends/partners you both know.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          I’m not necessarily posting my thoughts as directives. More like, “This is what I’ve noticed people doing, and if you want to be friends with them, you need to also do what they’re doing.” Friendship is like dating in the sense that you can’t make friends with people who don’t want more friends, and you also can’t make friends with people who aren’t interested in your “format” for friendship. It’s easy to have pure ideals about what constitutes valid friendship but the reality is that looking for a relationship can feel more productive (or at least feel more NEW) than trying to get your friend to meet you for dinner or to come to a movie with you when you’re pretty sure they’re not up for it.

    2. Allypopx*

      It’s hard. Friendships require work and maintenance just like any other relationship and adult lives are so busy it’s really hard.

      TBH most of my friends I made from work and the ones I don’t work with anymore it can be really hard to find time to hang out with. Facebook helps – if there are events we’re all into sometimes we’ll go together.

      I have a couple friends who work nearby that I go out with once a week or so. I definitely spend more time at home than out with people. Me and my co-manager are regular drinking buddies but we see each other constantly so that’s easy to coordinate. I have one friend who recently moved who I talk to regularly. Otherwise it’s more friendly acquaintances.

      1. Lady Julian*

        Yeah, sadly I’m not really close friends with anybody at work. They’re nice people, but just like to talk about different things than I’m interested it. So that’s out.

    3. Anono-me*

      Most of my friends started out as friends of friends.

      A couple of thoughts.

      The community I live in has a reputation for nice people who are not friend seeking. The joke about it is ‘A –n will give you directions to anywhere, but their own home.’. When I first moved here, making friends was slow going. Much much much slower than anywhere else I have lived. It just took absolutely forever. Could it be the same for you?

      It could be the activities. I loathe shopping and prefer to work out independently. If you suggested either to me, I would be busy. However if you suggested a hike or a art gallery I would try to make the time. Especially at first, it may be helpful to try to tailor the activity to the person. (Maybe suggest a new yoga class to someone you click with at your current yoga studio? Ect.)

    4. AcademiaNut*

      I think this is actually a pretty common problem in your 30s and beyond.

      When you’re in university, there are a ton of people around you who are also looking for friends, and are amenable to going out to the pub or farmer’s market, or playing D&D, or watching movies, or whatever you’re keen on. And people at this age tend to have fewer outside commitments or relationships.

      Once you get older, I find there are a few things at play. One is that people are more likely to be partnered up. That means that you’ve got a built in person to do things with, plus might have your partner’s friends and family and their events, which takes up time, leaving less time for other activities. Kids eat up a lot of time and tend to kill spontaneity (and parents tend to socialize with other parents). And a lot of people have an established social circle and aren’t looking to make new friends. Or are settled into a routine, and aren’t actively looking for new activities.

    5. overeducated*

      I am married and don’t see friends all that much anymore either, including friends my spouse and I met through each other, so it’s not just an issue of being single.

      I think that as we get older we don’t have quite as much energy for the late nights that used to be prime social time, and settling into work and home routines makes time pass faster so you forget you haven’t seen so-and-so for three months. Also I am the same age and it seems like people are hunkering down with set friends groups, making new ones is much harder and if you move around a lot like I do you are at a strong disadvantage.

      Anyway, I also am the person initiating the vast majority of the get togethers, and I’ve just come to accept that as the price of friendship. The redeeming factor is that most of the time, my friends do tell me that they appreciate it a lot.

      1. SOMA*

        Totally agree with that last paragraph. I’m the big coordinator of my friend group and they tell me every time they appreciate it because they know they’re bad with organizing this stuff and we would see each other nearly as much. I don’t mind it because I love organizing things to do.

  30. Aurion*

    Talk to me about interesting volunteering opportunities you have! I am contemplating maybe taking up a medium volunteering position (a few months to a year) in the new year. I have an admin-ish job (not admin, but paperwork and emails and the occasional spreadsheet), so I don’t have any hard skills like graphic design or programming. Not good with kids or seniors, so teaching/tutoring is out. So I’m crowdsourcing things I can look into.

    I know volunteer jobs aren’t often glamourous but still needs to be done, so I’m not expecting super excitement–more things I can look into.

    1. Newish Reader*

      I like dogs but don’t have time to have one, so I volunteer at the local humane society. I started out just walking dogs and now assist with the training courses they offer to the public. I help with paperwork and have learned some basic training skills so I can help the trainer during courses. There are also opportunities to work with the cats and other small animals for volunteers with an interest there.

      My local library seeks volunteers to help with sorting and pricing books for their fundraiser book sales. I started doing that recently and it’s a lot of fun.

    2. hermit crab*

      One of the most interesting volunteer jobs I’ve had was being a “reader” for Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic). They record textbooks for students with vision/print disabilities — when I volunteered for them, I actually read and recorded the latest edition of one of my college science textbooks. (Screen readers are getting pretty good, but they often still have a rough time with specialized vocabulary!) If they don’t have a studio in your area, LA and similar organizations also have remote volunteering opportunities.

      1. Mimmy*

        Wow, that does sound really neat. How does that work – do you just read the textbook aloud straight through?

        1. hermit crab*

          In this case, it was me and this other guy reading it — I have a degree in geology and he was a chemist, so we both got matched up with this geochemistry textbook. We’d each go into the studio once a week or so and read a chapter or part of a chapter. Once each segment was finished, the file would go off to production, so I don’t think the students had to wait for us to do the whole book (which is good, because it was an extremely dense book with lots of super-technical diagrams and it took us about a year to record the whole thing).

          Another job that volunteers do at LA is marking the books, so that the reader knows when to stop reading the text and describe a figure or read a footnote, for example. This can get really complex for textbooks that have multiple columns on each page along with call-out boxes, figures, tables, etc.!

    3. SeekingBetter*

      I volunteer my graphic design skills for a nonprofit that helps people with business loans and small business assistance. :)

    4. chickabiddy*

      I was a certified child passenger safety technician for many years. My certification has lapsed and I’ve been crazy busy but I hope to be able to renew soon. I worked with parents to help them learn to install and use car seats correctly, and when I did an event with SafeKids, we had seats to give to parents who could not afford to purchase them. I liked providing education, I liked working with families, and I often enjoyed the physical challenges of getting three seats in a small sedan or getting a particularly tricky install rock-solid.

    5. Little Miss Cranky Pants*

      I’d vote for volunteering either for a cause you feel deeply about or doing something quite outside your regular job. For me, that works out to working with a therapeutic riding program for adults, which serves to rehab both the humans and the horses. One, I love horses; and two, it gets me off my chair and into the barn.

      Poke around and see what interests you, and thanks for volunteering!

    6. HannahS*

      During university, I volunteered at a local museum as a person in Victorian costume discussing 19th Century medicine with visitors. It was a nice intersection of my interests, but involved a lot more crowd control than I liked on busy days.

    7. LizB*

      I’ve always wanted to volunteer as a clinic escort for Planned Parenthood or a similar women’s health clinic. As far as I understand it, you walk patients up to the door, making small talk to distract them from any protestors that may be around. I haven’t been able to find time in my schedule for it so far, but someday…

    8. Natalie*

      I don’t do these currently, but some volunteer gigs I’ve had in the past that were interesting/fulfilling:

      – providing childcare for a poverty-services org that offered classes for adults with built in child care. No real experience was necessary, and if you like kids (which I do) it’s awesome to get some kid time

      – community gardens. I was a volunteer and then a chair for a local garden org

      – crisis lines. Answered a DV shelter line for a while. The only reason I left was scheduling.

    9. overeducated*

      What are you interested in? There have been group cooking and food distribution volunteer opportunities everywhere I’ve lived, and those tend to be fairly social. In museums and national parks volunteers often get to geek out talking to the public or helping with things like cataloging or trail maintenance behind the scenes. And if you want something to do from home there are tons of “crowdsourced” transcription projects for digitizing and tagging historic documents.

    10. AutumnLeaves*


      You can volunteer in the National Park Sevice or US Fish & Wildlife for example. There are various types of positions for which you can give the skills you already have or use it as a chance to gain experience in other areas.

  31. Jean aka the Recovering Packrat*

    Does anyone want to have an AAM Decluttering Challenge?
    This developed as a response to Rebecca, above. Her statement “I really hate having “butImightneeditsomeday-itis” made my Inner Tidy Person (who is usually pretty shy, ha ha) say “Hell yes, me too!”
    I’m going to attack a horrible pile of papers this weekend and will post results along the way. All other recovering packrats are welcome to join in this virtual decluttering!


    1. Allypopx*

      I’ve been decluttering my desk as I read this thread! My home space is a bigger challenge but my work space is somewhat manageable. My snack drawer is super tidy and I got rid of papers that are past my keep-for-three-months standard.

      1. Hellanon*

        That’s been the task here today too – desk first, now the dresser drawers. (Note to self: nobody who lives in my house needs any more t-shirts. Ever.)

    2. Aussie Teacher*

      Great idea! I’m pretty decluttered already but would love to encourage others along this journey. I joined a minimalist FB group and having people post before and after pics is very inspiring.
      I feel so much lighter with the clutter gone – it really does make a difference!

      1. Rebecca*

        Oh yes, please give some direction on the FB group – I am very cautious on FB and don’t want to get mixed up with the wrong group.

    3. Me2*

      I’ve been decluttering the holiday decorations today and just came up to take a break and read AAM. Very timely, thanks. I put all the fall stuff away and got rid of about half of it that was tattered or old or too childish now that I have no children in the house. I’m weeding out the Christmas stuff as I pull it out and hope to get it down by half. I’m downsizing in the summer of 2017 by about 1500 square feet so I’m trying to be proactive and not have to spend the entire month of June having garage sales. But the garage sale I do have is going to be killer!!

    4. The Other Dawn*

      I didn’t set out to declutter today, but it happened. My husband spilled my homemade iced mocha latter all over the inside of the fridge, so he ended up cleaning the whole thing. As a result, I started cleaning out my cabinets to rearrange and get rid of old stuff. We have a tiny kitchen in a very old house, so the kitchen cabinets tend to have stuff stacked and shoved in, which means we lose track of what’s in there. Found several items that were expired by almost two years. Dumped most of my sugar free Torani syrups that had expired. Since I don’t need protein shakes anymore (gastric bypass), I don’t use the syrup. That freed up a lot of space. I went out and got some of those expanding wire shelves so I can stack stuff easier.

      As for my husband spilling my homemade iced mocha latte….not happy. LOL

    5. Aussie academic*

      This is such good timing for me!

      Today I plan to go though my makeup (I really only wear powder and lipstick, but have eye shadows, etc, from years ago) and shoes (I no longer wear heels of any real height, and probably only wear 4-5 pairs of the 20-something pairs I own).

      It was really helpful to me to read the comment above about balancing the ‘what if I need it someday’ against the priority to have space. I’m also just realising that if I really need it one day, I can buy it then, and that’s okay (I think my grandparents’ depression-era behaviours have influenced me a lot more than I previously realised).

    6. Buggy Crispino*

      I’m a month ahead of you, but I just went through all my clothes and donated 172 items to charity. Close to 150 of them were some sort of shirt/sweater/fleece-top item. There were maybe a dozen items that were many many years old, but the bulk of them were purchased within the last 5 years.

      It totally opened my eyes to the problem I have buying clothes. I don’t shop compulsively like that for anything else, and I can typically let go of most things I don’t want anymore. (But I do have that box of dozens of power adapters, USB cables, patch cords, etc., that I think millions of us tech junkies think we have to keep!)

    7. copy run start*

      I have a couple piles of things I need to get out to donate or store*, and I really need to go through my closet and storage unit instead of buying more totes. And then there’s the basket of papers to shred, patiently waiting next to the shredder for… something?

      I’m game!

      1. copy run start*

        *I don’t know if these items are even worth storing but see: can’t bear to get rid of something that might be functional/useful later.

    8. Rebecca*

      I just want to let you all know I am starting. I just posted an item for sale on a local sell and swap site! I had already gotten together 3 bags of clothes for Goodwill or the Salvation Army in town, plus some kitchen items, and I’m going to add to that. I put the back seats down in my SUV and I’m going to fill it up, make a trip to the donation drop off, and let it go.

      As far as the paperwork, I have a small shredder, but it’s very time consuming and slow. I think it’s meant for a few pieces of paper at a time. I have some brush that needs to be burned, so I may use it as kindling to get my brush pile started.

      1. Buggy Crispino*

        Twice a year here they have a “great shredder event” where they bring in industrial shredders and have electronics recycling. It’s great if you have years of built up shredding you need to take care of. They let you watch your stuff getting shredded so there’s no concern about your stuff getting in the wrong hands and not shredded. You might check to see if there’s anything like that around you.

    9. SAHM*

      This is inspiring! I’ve been meaning to tackle my garage, I’m going to start first thing tomorrow!

  32. Sparkly Librarian*

    I usually love holiday decorating – we celebrate several winter holidays, it’s family tradition, plus I am in charge of the work decorations – but I made the decision last night not to get an Xmas tree this year. First off, our budget is tight and I could really use the extra cash (I’d like to donate it, but I think I may have to pay bills). The tree is always our biggest single expense. Second, the political climate (and that’s all I’ll say about that) has taken a lot of joy out of the season for me. Third, I’d really hoped my wife and I would be parents this year, and it doesn’t look like it’s in the stars. No news on the adoption front. On top of all that, our house is in a bit of a shambles (have had some medical complications recently, plus the usual busy work schedules, plus tendencies to hang onto things just in case). That comes and goes, and is usually under control, but the amount of cleanup and rearranging necessary to place and decorate a tree in the living room is daunting. More like: without a tree, it will be livable by the end of the weekend, and fit for company in 3 weeks (we usually have a casual open house for the solstice).

    Alison’s post above reminded me that I do have a wreath to play with – maybe I’ll just transfer the planned theme to a smaller scale. Did that one year in a tiny apartment with no room for even a table-topper tree. We’ll change over the entryway altar to Winterfest/Yuletide. And I’ll clear a space for a wrapping station (have several small gifts although we’re scaling back this year). And if we’re both feeling up to it, I’ll help my wife hang a few outdoor lights.

    What are you doing to prepare for the holidays you celebrate? Care to suggest some other festive holiday activities that don’t require money and don’t take up much space?

    1. Red*

      The only decoration I have is a tree. We use the same one every year because it’s fake, so it costs nothing, but it’s the perfect compromise. My guy dislikes Christmas, so I just put up my favorite decoration :) other than that, we have a Christmas party. It’s a potluck and BYOB because our friends are also broke so they get it, but it’s great fun.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Live trees are the thing for me, but I appreciate the convenience of an artificial one. The one at work is the kind with umbrella-like collapsible branches, so you don’t have to hook each one in separately. I set that sucker up and decorated it in less than 15 minutes yesterday!

    2. Anono-me*

      I love it when people decorate chandeliers like Christmas trees.

      I also like to see all of the holiday cards displayed.

      Happy holidays and best wishes for 2017!

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        I’m trying to imagine a CHANDELIER in our living room. ROFL. Thought about decorating an A-frame ladder…

        Holiday card displays are great! I’ll put them on the mantel instead of the ceramic village (no joy in that this year either, so I’m leaving it packed in the garage).

        1. Ismis*

          If you have a mantel, you can decorate that with holly and hang some stockings and candy canes? I have a tiny tree and have just used the area around the fireplace to put that and stack some wrapped gifts – if you’re scared of everything going up in flames, then maybe stick with the ladder :)

    3. printrovert*

      Before book trees became vogue, I would build a small one using the books I had on my book shelves. It sat on a small side table, and I would put the few presents I had for people underneath it. I think one year I wrapped small white lights around it.

      My current roommate and I are not big decorators. We have a fake wreath on the door. I think the only other thing I would do is hang some greenery from the fireplace. I have a friend who collects nativity scenes, and quite a few are pop culture ones. If there is a particular fandom you and your wife have, maybe that could be a small item to set up somewhere in the house.

    4. Jen Erik*

      Space-wise you can make very flat trees if you feel like it – we’ve taken part in a Christmas tree festival the last couple of years, and it turns out your brain is happy to read any triangular, conical or tall pyramid shaped thing as a festive tree – we made one that was three bits of left over timber nailed into a tall triangular shape, with string zig-zagging across it – then hung photos from the string. Another was just string – we fastened it from a central pole (broken standard lamp) into a cone shape, but you could do it as a flat triangle. And someone else tied branches of increasing size, one below the other, to make a tree-shaped wall-hanging.
      (This would be my idea of a fun festive activity, but ymmv.)

      I hope 2017 is kind to you both.

    5. Sandy*

      If you’re in the mood for a tree-like item, Apartment Therapy has some great ideas for small space trees. My favourite is the washi tape tree on the wall. Literally all you need is tape.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        That is perhaps doable! The space where a tree would normally sit is in front of a wall of windows (so hard to hang anything) but I might be able to tape a tree outline either on the glass or on the wall opposite, above/behind the couch.

        1. Ismis*

          I saw some trees today and thought of this post! It was basically a zig zag piece of green tinsel, and a smaller gold piece of tinsel in the shape of a star. Easy to tape onto a window and it looked great!

    6. Small Town Texan*

      I don’t recall where but I once saw a post that used a wall cling/paper Christmas tree taped to the wall in lieu of the real deal. Perhaps you could come up with something similar? Also, life around in your knick-knacks and see what’s vaguely Christmas-y. DIY it up to your hearts content!

    7. Emilia Bedelia*

      This is my first year having a place of my own, so I’ve been working on festive-ing it up here also! I’ve been making tons of paper snowflakes – I spray painted some small ones gold to make a garland, and I hung larger ones in my windows. These are my favorite decoration because they’re free!
      I also found some inexpensive fake fir garlands at Five Below and hung some of my favorite Christmas ornaments on those – maybe that would be a good alternative to a tree for you?

    8. Elizabeth West*

      I put up a tree and a few decorations, but not much. My family alternates between Turkey Day and Christmas for get-togethers and this year it was Turkey Day because of my dad’s 80th birthday. So I’ll be on my own again. I plan to just have a pajama day and watch movies. Hopefully I’ll have a job before then.

      This better be the last Christmas I’m single, or else.

    9. Girasol*

      I’ve occasionally skipped the tree in favor of a road trip into the hills to get greenery to deck the halls. Around here that means a walk in snowy pine woods, which seems kind of celebratory in itself, and the fresh greens make the house smell nice.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Oh, that sounds lovely. No snow around here, but I might see if one of the big boxes that sells live trees has leftover greenery. I love the smell!

    10. Seal*

      Before I moved to the Deep South I used to buy a real tree every year, which was lovely. But now that I go back home for the holidays for a week or so every year, having a real tree isn’t practical. When I first got here I bought an artificial tree on clearance and put it up for a few years, but now I have 4 young kitties who would probably love the tree and all its trimmings to death. So now I put lights and tinsel garland around the windows, put out holiday-themed pillows and stuffed animals, and display my Christmas ceramics in a large cabinet with glass doors so they’re safe from the cats. My place looks quite festive yet cat-safe.

    11. Jessesgirl72*

      I just saw a cool meme on Facebook. A “wingardium leviosa” Christmas tree, that’s just ornaments on monofilament, coming down from a wire circle at various heights in a Christmas Tree shape. If you have the ornaments already, it would cost less than $5. If you didn’t and bought cheap ball ornaments, it would cost $10.

      I feel that when the outside world is ugly, I need the Christmas decorations even more!

    12. Artemesia*

      Once when we had a small sublet we just got a small potted rosemary trimmed as a tree and put gold ribbon on it and a star — and then all winter we had fresh rosemary for cooking. We will put up a large artificial tree again this year, but we still usually get a rosemary tree just so we have the fresh rosemary.

      The rosemary and some small tea lights really gave our place a holiday feel that year.

  33. Rachel Greene*

    I wrote about drifting from my core group on the Thanksgiving open thread. Thanks to everyone who replied – y’all pretty much confirmed what I already subsconsciously knew.

    One of the friends in the core group (Jane) had a big party last night. Her family has this party every year. My spouse and I didnt attend and I felt good about it. Another friend (Sally) is having her annual party next weekend and we arent planning to attend that either. Ive told my husband about my feelings about this group and how I intentionally want to back away. He seemed to understand.

    However, one of the other couples in the group (Wendy and Bob) are having a dinner tomorrow night to celebrate their birthdays. Wendy and Bob are great and have always been awesomely non-judgemental. My husband wants to go. Im on the fence about going, because I really like Wendy and Bob but again, trying to phase myself out.

    1. Anono-me*

      I say go and try to have fun. Try to get to know people outside of the core group. If it doesn’t work, leave early and don’t do it again.

      It is difficult to make good friends. I get wanting to distance yourself from the group, but if Wendy and Bob are good people whom you and your husband like, please try to keep them in your life. That means 99% socializing as the 4 of you (or fewer) and 1% to doing stuff that is slightly less pleasant than doing housework, but is important to the other couple.

      Also, your husband wants to go. This is a big reason to consider going all on its own. (Maybe think of it like a boring his work thing).

      My apologies,if I am misremembering your earlier post and people in the core were being actively mean. In that case please ignore the above and do something fun instead.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      I think it’s totally fine to back off from the group as a whole, and still attend the events for the people you actually like.

    3. BPT*

      I think “phasing” yourself out of the group is something that happens slowly – i.e. you go to less and less events over time.

      Stopping the group cold turkey is a different thing altogether.

      So going to one out of three events would meet the criteria for phasing yourself out. Going to no events anymore is different. Either is completely fine, but if you’re saying you want to phase yourself out, I’d go to the event of the people you actually like.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Can you make plans with Wendy and Bob to do something as a foursome on a different day?

      That is not as unusual as it sounds. Within groups there are subgroups, people who just really click and they spend more time together. Maybe you can drift from the group but keep Wendy and Bob?

  34. Central Perk Regular*

    It has come to my attention that I really, really need to get a handle on my stress level. Any ideas for helping with this? Ive been a big ball of stress for the last 15 years and something needs to change.

    1. Wrench Turner*

      It took 30 years but I finally started seeing a therapist. It’s scary. I don’t like it. It’s also very, very necessary. One coping strategy was just doing less – not being completely antisocial or uninvolved but making sure I took time out for me, first. You’d be amazed how you start to feel better when you start to say no.

    2. Mindful anon*

      Therapy. Therapy, therapy, therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy with someone you like. Many of them specialize in men, women, career, family, stage-of-life, or other sub groups. Seriously, after 5 months I feel like a different person and my stress-related health issues are getting better.

    3. Franzia Spritzer*

      Meditation. Of course that’s easier said than done. There’s a great app called Headspace that is a fantastic way to start meditating.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        It is easier said than done… that said, it’s also a lot easier done than most people intimidated by it might think. Even 2-3 minutes of meditation per day can do wonders for relieving stress.

    4. Christian Troy*

      I find consistent exercise useful in managing stress. I also find eating and spending the time on cooking well helps too. I consider myself someone who has to work at being easy going, but I’ve gotten better. I think some therapists are good, but I’ve also had really good success with reading different books on the topic.

    5. Jen*

      I recommend medication and therapy. I had uncontrolled anxiety disorder and didn’t realize how bad it was until I got on medication. It’s like night and day. My disorder also made me see things much more pessimistically. Hope you feel better soon!

    6. Panda Bandit*

      Therapy and exercise. Therapy has actually reduced my blood pressure. Running clears my mind.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      My wise friend was in favor of looking around our particular setting. Stress is exacerbated by many things such as money issues, clutter, unhealthy relationships, over commitments, too much junk food and other things.

      I agree with the therapy plan, totally. And I also recommend looking around at your life and seeing what stressful things can be removed or fixed. Anything is fair game. When my stress runs high I usually start by controlling money issues because I need money to pay for more salads less junk, counseling of some type or to fix stuff that needs fixing. Next I look at relationships, how are they going? And I start focusing on getting the same hours of rest each night. What do I need to do to get my goal of eight hours of rest.

      The good news is that there is lots you can to help yourself. And once you start you will find even more opportunities to cut your stress levels.

  35. The Other Dawn*

    I posted a couple weekends ago about my frustration at not being able to get back on track with eating and exercise. (https://www.askamanager.org/2016/11/weekend-free-for-all-november-19-20-2016.html#comment-12705910) I want to thank Mallory Janis Ian for the book recommendation, Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before. I’m borrowed it from the library and am reading it now. I’ve read about 25% of the book and I’ve realized that exercise actually HAS become a habit for me: I make it a point to get into the gym at work everyday at 4 pm and push myself to get there even if I’m in the midst of a crunch time. Yes, there are some times when I just can’t, but I really make the effort. The issue is doing my prescribed workout. That’s what I need to work on, is getting my mind around that.

    As far as eating, I’ve really worked on not snacking and it’s helping my weight to drop. I dropped 2.5 this week. :) I’m still grabbing some pretzels from my team members’ area, but I’m not making a habit of it.

    I read NerdFitness.com a lot and a recently read a post about creating habits. One suggestion was to do 20 squats and 10 pushups right after getting out of bed in the morning. Since I have a sucky back, I’m too stiff to do that right away, so I’ve been doing it after my morning shower. At the very least, I got a little exercise and loosened my muscles up.

    Something else that’s helped me get my mind back in the game is that I found out my brother has cancer in his esophagus, and the CAT scan revealed he has a couple spots on the liver and stomach. I’m trying to stay positive, that the team of doctors will come up with a good treatment plan that might work. I’m not Googling anything about cancer, because I just don’t want to dwell on it. Strangely this whole thing seems to have helped me focus more on getting my mind where it needs to be and doing what I have to do. I think because I feel like if I fail to lose the last of the weight and have to delay my surgery because of it, I’ve somehow let him down. Although, really, I’d be letting myself down.

    I have less than three months until my tummy tuck/panniculectomy, so I HAVE to do this.

    1. Mimmy*

      Best of luck in getting back on track with your exercise and eating routines. Also sending good wishes to your brother.

  36. New Girl*

    I just found out a girl I went to high school has stage 4 ovarian cancer. She’ll be 25 this month. I wasn’t close with her, but was friends with her husband. I feel absolutely awful and paranoid about my own health life now

    . She was perfectly healthy until a few months ago she started not feeling well. She had been going to the doctors and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

    I don’t know what it is but I can’t shake this feeling I’ve had all day since I’ve found out.

    1. nep*

      That is so tough.
      Things like this are a hell of a wake up call. We quite often act as if we have forever. Live and squeeze all you can out of every moment.
      Best to you and your friends.

    2. i want a pony*

      My sister in law has been battling stage 4 cancer for a while now. She started at stage three about five years ago, was in remission and it came back to stage four. I think she will beat it. I had been doing their 5k charity walks before she was diagnosed and they make me more hopeful now that I know she has it. Even though I am not personally doing the research, seeing the survivors and how much money is being raised gives me optimism.

    3. OhBehave*

      The best thing you can do is to have regular exams by your doctor – including a regular physical and an Ob/Gyn. It’s the best defense against medical issues. My Ob caught my cancer with a regular pap smear. We caught it super early.

    4. Artemesia*

      What a sad thing. I have a nephew who is only 35 and ‘perfectly healthy’ and a young father who has stage 4 colon cancer — so unexpected and awful. And we have a friend who had a breast lump at 28 that was dismissed by her doctor without follow up until it had metastisized a year later and the subsequent treatment means she won’t be able to have kids. Life can and often is utterly unfair. It does remind us to carpe all the diem we can get as there are no guarantees. So sorry about your friend and like you it really makes me take stock when that happens with people we know and since I am old, it is happening constantly these days. But at 70 it isn’t ‘unfair’ it is just life — at 25, what a tragedy.

  37. Wendy Darling*

    I had to move my dog’s bed to make room for the Christmas tree and he’s having a hissyfit. He would like you all to know that this is completely unacceptable.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      We didn’t even move her bed (because that is totally unacceptable) but had to move the CHAIR she prefers over by an entire 2 feet.

      She grumbled about it and huffed around for about 3 days.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        Yeah, my dog’s bed had to move 18 inches from its normal spot, so he’s incredibly sulky and peevish and keeps flopping into it and heaving large sighs.

        His bed is actually in the spot where it was originally, but I moved it 18 inches closer to the wall after getting rid of another piece of furniture and he spent a few days sullenly laying where his bed USED to be.

    2. Anono-me*

      And why did you move his bed instead of yours? (Especially for a stupid tree that he is not able to ‘water’.)

    3. OhBehave*

      Too funny! Our tree will take up our pup’s ‘sun spot’ and blocks one of the windows she looks out of. She usually sniffs around and grumbles a bit. For a big dog she’s such a baby. I can’t even imagine if we moved ‘her’ chair! Love that furball!

  38. Wrench Turner*

    Does anyone else not like egg nog? At its very best I’m “meh” about it and really don’t want more than one small cup of it a year; I offended a coworker because he surprised me with an eggnog milkshake and I just couldn’t have more than a sip or two. “The Holidays” -which seems to now run from Labor Day to Easter- is overrun with the stuff. HO HO HO.

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        It’s a tad on the sweet side for me, too. That is, until I add bourbon which cuts the sweetness perfectly. ;-)

    1. Allypopx*

      Can’t stand it. Every year I try it to see if I’ll start to like it, and nope. My boyfriend wants to make it this year from scratch and I’m apprehensive.

    2. bassclefchick*

      I absolutely LOVE egg nog. I totally get why people don’t like it, though. For some it’s the consistency, for others it’s the flavor. I think your coworker is kind of a jerk, really. Offended that you don’t like something you didn’t ask for? Disappointed, sure. However, I would never surprise anyone with an egg nog flavored anything unless I was a million percent sure they LIKE egg nog. LOL

      On the other hand, I am (so far) the only person I know who absolutely HATES pumpkin spice flavored ANYTHING. Blech. If my coworker surprised me with a pumpkin spice latte, it would take all of my years of reading AAM to come up with the politest way of saying “thanks for thinking of me, but there is no way in hell I would ever drink that”. Ha ha

      Just goes to show that we all like and dislike different things – thank goodness!

      1. Liane*

        You are not alone! I have never cared for pumpkin pie, so despise pumpkin spice anything. (I do love eggnog, also)
        I actually posted on my FB page, back around September, that I was going to “Hide” EVERY pumpkin spice related post that showed on my timeline. And I have done so.

        At last, someone who understands me.

      2. Wrench Turner*

        I love pumpkin pie with chunks of real pumpkin. That’s it. “Pumpkin spice” anything else is garbage.
        There. I said it.

    3. Temperance*

      I like homemade egg nog, but the gross, alcohol free kind is too much for me. Honestly, I also pretty much just drink eggno-colored bourbon, so …

      1. Artemesia*

        My nephews made the homemade kind with whipped egg whites a few years ago and it was absolutely fantastic. As a kid we had it all the time (back when raw eggs were not contaminated with salmonella so it was a minor risk); my mom made it for us when we were sick (back when we all had measles, mumps, chicken pox etc etc and some of those particularly measles were a two week ordeal. The commercial time is too strong and sweet — when we get it we dilute it with milk.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As a child, I made my own and drank it year-round. The old Joy of Cooking had a non-alcoholic version of it (I think it was basically putting milk, an egg, vanilla, and nutmeg in a blender?) and I made it constantly and loved it. I have always had a violent dislike of drinking milk, but I adored that eggnog. I was a strange child.

      1. Random Citizen*

        Your recipe sounds like a milkier version of french toast batter (like the liquid you dip the toast in) – is that basically what it is?

      2. Manderley*

        I love both milk and eggnog. Somehow, it never occurred to me to make my own eggnog and drink it year round. I have my first New Years Resolution.

      3. Cristina in England*

        That sounds delicious to me but I would heat it and then it is like a thin custard. I can’t say I want it cold/raw.

      4. Liane*

        It sounds like how my parents made homemade milkshakes. 70s, so again well before salmonella was an issue.

    5. chickabiddy*

      I am meh on eggnog but — dum dum dum — I really do not like pumpkin spice. Everything has been pumpkin spice for the past few months. I’m not crazy about peppermint or gingerbread either and those are coming up next. I actually like fall and winter better than summer but the treats, not so much.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I love it; whenever it’s available I keep some in the fridge and use it as coffee creamer!

      1. Jen in Oregon*

        THIS! I couldn’t drink a shake but I would’ve put the shake in the fridge, taken it home and it would have lasted me a week, maybe two, and I would have enjoyed it!

    7. LadyKelvin*

      I hate egg-nog, part of it is the flavor, and part of it is the idea of eating raw eggs in my drink. I can’t even eat eggs with runny yolks, they have to be fully cooked.

    8. Jessesgirl72*

      As I type this, my husband is making an eggnog flavored bundt cake, as a trial run before Christmas. And I love egg nog shakes from the local custard place. I used to like the ones from McDonald’s, but now they taste too artificial for me. I am spoiled.

      I also am picky about my brand of egg nog. One day, I do intend to make my own from scratch. And then you need the alcohol to kill the potential bacteria. ;)

      We never do make it all the way through a quart of egg nog itself, though, – since it’s a lot of sweet and calories- so sometime around New Years, I end up using up the last of the lot in eggnog french toast.

    9. Emilia Bedelia*

      Agreed. It’s too thick and creamy and sweet for me to drink by itself- that makes it perfect in coffee though, which I highly recommend.

      1. Emilia Bedelia*

        Update: I was inspired by this post to try making homemade eggnog (with rum, naturally)
        I’m now a convert. This stuff is amazing.

    10. SophieChotek*

      I don’t like it. A small sip (like in an egg nog latte) is good enough for me for the whole year.
      I had egg nog ice cream (possibly with alcohol) in its once at a party..that was good…but there was clearly other stuff in it. And I was underage and shouldn’t have had, but no one told me ’til after I drank the hole thing and was rather red in the face.

      1. Nina*

        That’s pretty much how I am with it. Eggnog coffee and ice cream are great, but I can’t drink an actual glass of it. It’s just too thick. I’ll just pour a bit in a small glass (or even a shot glass) and sip it that way, and that’s enough for me.

    11. Elizabeth West*


      I’m like Timmy’s dad in The Fairly Oddparents with my nog.

      We had these Childcraft books that belonged to my mum and one of them is kids’ party, games, cooking stuff. There is a recipe in it for a glass of eggnog and I used to make it a lot. I think I’ll make a larger batch (no booze). It’s much better than the stuff in the carton, though I like that too.

    12. Dr. KMnO4*

      You are not alone! I just can’t handle egg nog. That also goes for pumpkin anything…pumpkin spice, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cider…thanks but no thanks. I’ll stick with peppermint, anise cookies, and caramel apple cider.

      1. Liane*

        And now the storebought kind–which my family likes–is offered in pumpkin spice! Ew-gross! There oughtta be a law!

    13. Gene*

      I’m sipping a glass of Alton Brown’s aged eggnog while I’m reading this. It’s been aging in the fridge for about 3 weeks and this is my first drink. I tasted it when I made it, it was rough. Now it’s much more mellow.

      Since the recipe makes almost a gallon, and my wife doesn’t drink, it’s probably going to last through Christmas. We’ll see how it tastes as it gets older. Alton says it can keep for up to a year.

  39. Lady Julian*

    Anybody see The Lobster?

    It’s been on my to-watch list for months now. I finally buckled and saw it last night.

    That was . . . a really strange movie. Unexpected violent, very emotionally chilly, unresolved plot points in spades. But worth watching for me, for all that. I really enjoyed that it was not predictable Hollywood, and it raised important questions: On what basis does genuine love and commitment depend? Why do we think love & commitment are worthwhile? Why are they actually worthwhile?

    A few observations (possible spoilers):

    I was struck by the fact that both the “marriage hotel” and the community of Loners in the woods were run by domineering, chilly women: totally in control, committed to enforcing their point of view on the participants in the community; after the hotel I expected the Loners to be the heroes, but they weren’t. I think this said something about the dangers of buying into a single, often extreme worldview; to see the world through a single lens is to miss a lot of the beauty, compassion, and goodness in it, and often to scrub out some of its best parts.

    The Loner Leader in particular seemed prone to a kind of “chaos theory”, often interfering in people’s lives seemingly for the sake of causing havoc. I thought that was interesting, that while the movie clearly does not hold marriage (shown to be arbitrary and often unromantic) up as an ideal, singleness, deliberate lonerhood, was also chaotic, destructive. It reminded me of a darker, more sadistic version of Welcome to Nightvale, actually: the idea that things happen for no apparent reason and we all just kind of deal with them. There’s a pervasive nihilism in both stories.

    Nobody had names, everyone was labeled by characteristic (Nosebleed woman, Nosebleed woman’s friend, etc). It’s as though in a world where real friendship & romance don’t exist, names, personality, *being* don’t matter anymore. To see people purely as potential partners is to strip them of their personhood.

    I’d like to think that the screen went dark at the end because Farrell’s character succeeded in blinding himself, that he would up with Weisz’s character in the end. Their romance was by the end truly a bright spot in a dark film.

    Oh, and the hotel/Loners both reminded me strongly of cults: with a single, central leader, arbitrary and strange rules that need to be followed exactly and not questioned, and deeply painful punishments for questioning or disobedience.

  40. The Other Dawn*

    Any suggestions for getting a cat to stop peeing on the couch?

    I have multiple cats. The one I adopted last year came from the rescue I volunteer with so she’s used to lots of cats. I adopted another one last month and for whatever reason she does not like him. They started out fine but the last few weeks I’ve noticed she basically lives on the couch. She comes down to eat but I don’t see her grazing at the dry food and water bowls anymore. And now I’m finding pee on the couch almost everyday. It’s possible it’s another cat, as she’s hanging out on the couch a lot to. Today I bought one of those wireless cameras so I can catch the culprit.

    I’ve tried Feliway comfort zone plug-ins as well as their new multi cat plug-in. Not seeing much of a difference yet and it’s been about a week and a half. Also using the anti-marking spray on the couch and a few other surfaces. And I’m using a water additive in their water bowl to reduce stress.

    Any more suggestions? I’ve cleaned the couch many times in the last few weeks and it’s getting to where the cleaner isn’t working as well. I’m pretty sure it’s soaking down through to the frame.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      Have you tried adding another litter box? I never have had to really go the # of cats +1 model, but I have had a female cat who wouldn’t use the same box as a male cat, and ones that want a different box for each thing.

      Also, have her checked for a bladder infection or UTI.

      After that… well, once a cat has started, not every cat can be broken of the habit.

    2. Nao Nao*

      Watch “My cat from hell” and try a few of the suggestions there, if you can!
      Some suggestions:
      Make sure you have one litter box for each cat, and one additional one (so, if you have 4 cats, you need 5 boxes).
      Sometimes the Cat Whisperer dude will have the owner put a litter box ON the spot that is getting peed on, for a few days/weeks.
      You may have to get rid of the couch because the scent can linger even if you do clean it, and once it’s there, it’s like a target for kitties.
      Use those little compressed air cans to keep kitty off the couch or away from the couch.

      When I first got a kitty I fostered, he stayed in a room by himself with a litter box, food, and a blankie and some toys for a few days. And at night when I went to bed, he went to bed in that room. It worked pretty well–he didn’t have much choice to be marking around to keep other kitties away because there *were* no other kitties.

      Sometimes you can follow the “play, eat, groom, sleep” ritual to create positive moments with kitties and lower their stress. Kitties need playing with much more than many owners realize—like 30 minutes a day! So if you’re playing with Kitty A, and Kitty B comes in, give Kitty B and treat and play with both. Might work.

      But I still *highly* recommend ‘My Cat from Hell’–it’s on Hulu.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      Thanks for the suggestions.

      Yes, I’ve watched My Cat From Hell many times, but it’s been awhile so I’ll have to check out the archives. And yes, I have one box for every cat +1.

      This is just so incredibly frustrating. One would think that someone who volunteers with a cat rescue would be able to fix this, but I haven’t yet. And I feel bad for the one who has started peeing, Leia, because I know she’s doing it to protect what she now deems as her territory. The male that came in last month, Marty, is also good with having lots of cats being around, but I think he’s reacting to Leia’s diva-ness. He’s a total sweetheart marshmallow, but when he sees Leia he antagonizes her a bit. And they’re both orange which can be part of the issue; for some reason, orange cats tends to be a little aggressive sometimes.

      I was going to write that I know Leia doesn’t have a UTI because she just got back from the vet a few weeks ago after major dental (13 teeth pulled!) and had blood work and all that. But I just thought of something. Hmmm. She started the peeing after she came home. I wonder if something changed between her and Marty that’s causing this? Cats can be very weird like that sometimes; cats that were once totally bonded can turn on each other after a short separation, a move, etc. I mean, they weren’t bonded, but they were fine with each other existing in the house.

      And this assumes it’s Leia and not Louise. Could be her. Well, I bought a camera today so we’ll see what that captures.

    4. TootsNYC*

      A visit to the vet is in order.

      Don’t assume it’s all behavioral until you’ve ruled out medical things (pain, discomfort, etc.)

    5. Pennalynn Lott*

      I’m with Toots. Starting out OK but then living in basically one spot is a classic sign of an underlying physical problem and of physical discomfort. Please take her to the vet. Poor kitty. :-(

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        Just realized my post could seem judgmental. Sorry about that! I was writing from the experience of having two kitties who went from “integrating pretty darned good” to “I have one safe space and I’m not leaving it.” In both cases, they had underlying problems. Cat #1 had a trichomoniasis infection, and Cat #2 had both stomatitis and mycoplasmosis. The different treatments were intense for both cats, but they came out the other side like shiny brand-new kitties: happy, bouncy, social, great appetites, and back to proper litter box usage.

        So that’s why I’m recommending you take your cat to the vet for a thorough checkup before trying any behavioral or environmental changes.

    6. LadyKelvin*

      +1 the trip to the vet. Make sure it’s not a UTI or something like that. In the meantime, my friends cat started to pee on their couch and they got an electrified mat that they put on it so it gives the cat a little shock when it gets on the couch. Nothing that could possibly hurt, of course, just enough to surprise it. After a while they didn’t even need to turn it on, the cat knew not to get on the couch if the mat was on it.

    7. Lady Bug*

      Have you tried the enzyme cleaners? You can get them at most pet stores. Regular cleaning gets the smell out for us, but unless you destroy the enzymes the cats will still smell it.

      1. Artemesia*

        Regular cleaning doesn’t get the smell out, I bet you are just getting used to it. People tend not to notice smells in their own homes. It took us months of enzyme treatment to rescue a new couch our cat peed on . Ask a friend how good the cleaner is when they first walk in the door. I don’t there are too many things on earth harder to get rid of than cat pee smells in a home. We know people who had to replace the wood floor as well as the rugs.

  41. Ann Furthermore*

    Question about Christmas goodies…

    My daughter plays flag football in the spring and fall. There are 3 boys on the team, let’s call them Randy, Billy, and Cody. Randy’s dad and Billy’s dad are both football coaches. Cody’s dad put together a basketball team, and my daughter is doing that as well. All 3 boys are also on the team, and Billy’s dad and Cody’s dad are the basketball coaches.

    These 3 dads are really nice guys, and they volunteer a huge amount of their time to be coaches. They are all great with the kids, and teach them about sports, how to be better athletes, and how to work together as a team. My daughter is a real little super-jock, and she loves playing all kinds of sports and being a part of these teams. We are so fortunate to have lucked into getting her involved with this group of kids and parents. Everyone is pretty cool and laid back, and for the most part we haven’t encountered any of those horrible sports parents you hear about (one or 2 here and there, but they are outliers). Billy’s mom also took the football team pictures last fall, and made really nice plaques commemorating the season for all the kids on the team.

    Would it be too weird or too forward if I included these coaches’ families in my Christmas goodie baking? I do it every year, and make stuff for neighbors, a few friends, the ladies who clean our house, and my daughter’s teachers. I found a recipe for pumpkin pie truffles a couple years ago, and people went crazy over them. They’re great for this kind of thing because one batch of 30 makes 3 nice little packages of 10 each.

    1. OhBehave*

      Definitely a good plan! They sound like great guys. What a time commitment that is to coach all of those teams. A gift card to a sports store may also be nice.

  42. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    A high school friend who had to ultimatum her boyfriend of several years into marrying her, said I was getting ahead of myself when I said I was planning to buy a house with SO late next year (she doesn’t know SO plans to propose around then). She then patted me on the shoulder saying she had to wait several years, you will too. I’ve been with the SO a few years and we’re light years more mature than said friend/fiance. She has yet to plan her wedding, and they’re in loads of debt.

    Plus, exhausted from work. How do you deal with condescending remarks, ie. “you can’t possibly understand because you’re not engaged” or “if you two were really as close with plans as good as you say then you’d already be engaged but you’re not”? I know I really shouldn’t let it get to me, but it’s literally coming from everywhere and it’s really annoying. Anyone with similar stories?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      How do you deal with condescending remarks

      I’ve generally dealt with them by ignoring them and/or changing the subject. People like that can’t really be reasoned with—they’re so tied into their own worldview of “I’m on this track, and everyone else is on this track, too, so if they’re not on my part of the track, they must be behind.”

      It sucks.

      I don’t have an exactly similar story, but I find a similar condescending from married-with-kids types (usually couples I’ve just met who barely know me) offering me condescending unsolicited advice about “when” we have kids (we are not ever planning to have kids). And saying you don’t want kids just leads to even more condescension like “Oh, we thought that too, but now we have Janie and Johnny and couldn’t be happier….”

    2. TootsNYC*

      I think you also stop sharing stuff with certain people.

      And there’s always that great go-to phrase: “Nevertheless.”

      And yes, they can’t be reasoned with. And their comments have actually NOTHING to do with you, and EVERYTHING to do with them. They are revealing their own anxieties, etc.

    3. neverjaunty*

      “Wow, Friend, that was pretty condescending.”

      That said, I’m not sure why you would want to remain friends in a situation where both of you look down on one another – her by thinking you are ‘getting ahead of yourself’, you by thinking that you’re ‘light years more mature’ than she is, and neither of you having an honest conversation about it?

    4. Lady Bug*

      If you want to go down to her level, you can always go with “Oh we don’t need a piece of paper to validate our relationship.” Even if you don’t mean it.

    5. Artemesia*

      I would ignore the remarks but I sure wouldn’t buy a house with someone until I was married; I know several people who had a hell of a time untangling those kind of financial arrangements. Just smile that secret ‘I know something you don’t’ smile and say ‘you may be right’ and change the subject. And then enjoy things going well later on and if they don’t you have pre-empted the ‘I told you so.’

    6. Anonymously*

      You’re unhappy about condescending remarks, while making condescending remarks about your friend. I think waiting to plan a wedding until they resolve some debt is really smart- and that’s what my fiancé and I are doing. We want a small, low budget wedding, but I’m a recent college grad and he technically hasn’t graduated yet because he owes the school a small-but-big-enough-to-be-difficult amount of money before they’ll give him his diploma. So we’re working on paying that off first before we even think about spending money we don’t have on a wedding. I’m not sure what’s immature about that.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      This person is not that much of a friend. Seriously.

      She is viewing your life through her lenses. My response would be, “Maybe you are right. We’ll see.” And end the convo there.

      She doesn’t have to know that your plan will work, it’s not her life. It does not matter what she believes. As long as you know your plan will work that is all that matters.

      I have had a few times in my life when people said the opposite of what I was saying. “I want to do X” and they were right on me saying, “Oh you can’t and here is why….” It did not matter what they thought, as long as I had a plan and the determination to see it through that was all that mattered.

      Ask yourself why you feel you have to covert these heathens. It’s a waste of energy, honest. You are better off putting that energy into planning your life goals and focusing on that.

      “you can’t possibly understand because you are not engaged”???? I laughed right out loud. Because being engaged causes you to become a financial wizard and suddenly you know all about real estate and finances??? nope, nope, nope.
      When this woman has a kid she is going to be unbearable if she keeps this attitude.

      This woman is no friend to you.

  43. FiveWheels*

    So a friend of mine is trying to cut calories, and wants to break the habit of eating chocolate at work. Any ideas for alternative, lower calorie treats? Preferably something in a packet that has a long shelf life?

    (I’m no use, I’m one of those people who eats chocolate all day long and doesn’t gain a kilo)

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      100 calorie Packs of almonds.

      But they don’t really have fewer calories than 3-4 hershey kisses. They do keep you satisfied longer, and have protein, though.

    2. Nao Nao*

      Maybe low cal hot cocoa? Or chocolate flavored tea? Perhaps she can step down to smaller amounts, and then instead of a chocolate bar, she has a small cup of cocoa, then steps down to tea, then instead of tea, switches to a low-call other snack, such as nuts, fruit, or veggies with hummus.

    3. Temperance*

      Packaged snacks are generally not going to be super healthy or satisfying. I do eat nuts, but I mostly stick to fruit now. Then again, I have a terrible metabolism and pretty much get fat looking at carbs.

      Alternatively, could she just choose better quality chocolate, and eat way less of it? Like choc covered espresso beans, for example.

      1. FiveWheels*

        Hmm, fancy/better choc, but less, could work… Gah, or even fun size bars for that matter.

        I find it hard to be supportive, even though I want to, because I’m usually eating a massive greasy take out and a) want to share if my buddy wants some but b) don’t want to make it easier for her to sabotage her goals

    4. The Other Dawn*

      Maybe try high protein hot chocolate? I’m a gastric bypass patient and for a long time I drank Bariwise hot chocolate. It’s about 80 calories and has a ton of protein, plus it’s low in sugar. It’s pricey at 12.95 for 7 packets, but it’s really delicious. The cinnamon hot chocolate is my favorite. I bought it at dietdirect(dot)com.

    5. Pennalynn Lott*

      Stash Tea has a decaf Chocolate Hazelnut tea that I drink whenever I’m craving chocolate and cutting calories. I sweeten it with stevia and add a bit of unsweetened almond milk.

    6. Emilia Bedelia*

      I drink an absolutely crazy amount of tea at work to avoid eating treats. Right now there’s a ton of seasonal teas out, which are kind of “dessert-y” and sometimes hit that craving for chocolate/sweetness. It’s probably not a great alternative, but I also sometimes drink a diet soda when I really want something sweet.
      I like to keep really dark chocolate in my desk – I only eat 1 square at a time, because it’s so intense. Definitely seconding the suggestion to eat nicer/darker chocolate.

    7. Nina*

      If they’re looking for something sweet, what about dried fruit? I personally don’t care for it, but I know a lot of people that do.

      Are they cutting all chocolate? Otherwise I would suggest dark chocolate if they’re just craving the taste. It’s higher in antioxidants, and if paired with something like almonds, they could get a bit of protein out of it.

    8. katamia*

      It might help to phase it out slowly. Maybe she could make her own trail mix (buy bags of nuts she likes, although unfortunately nuts aren’t cheap, and then separate them into ziploc bags for the week) and include a little bit of chocolate (chocolate-covered nuts or raisins or something), then gradually lower the amount as time goes by and she gets used to having less chocolate on a daily basis.

      1. FiveWheels*

        Thanks for the suggestions guys… For Reasons anything drinkable won’t work, but I’ll look into trail mix of some sort!

    9. Jen*

      Chocolate chips. I get them and make little snack bags of chocolate chips and almonds. Way better than a Reese’s or whatever’s in the candy bowl (calorie-for-nutrient wise).

      Sugar free hot chocolate and chocolate flavored tootsie roll pops.

  44. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    So, yesterday I was supposed to go out. Sick, sad all day, then the you got the job call came in at 7pm and I was a ball of energy.

    So I thought heyyyy that means I can go out on Saturday! Planned for an art exhibition w/ friends, and then drinks with another group of friends.

    I was mistaken with the first group… got there an hour early… they were an hour late… waited for two hours in the cold and then took off for the second friend group.

    Guess who sounded like a chipmunk for a few hours afterwards…

    Then I get to Mom’s, learn that the new kitten likes to steal underwear (mine? of course) and Mom decides that she’s going to force the cough syrup in my throat if she needs to.

    So that’s the start of my weekend. This is going to be fun ^^;;;;;;;; .

    1. Artemesia*

      Kudos on the job and why didn’t you just go into the art exhibit — at least yo uwould have seen it and been warm whether they showed or not.

      1. SeekingBetter*

        Thanks! I didn’t change my calorie intake (about 1,400 calories a day) and I also made sure to do three days of weight lifting a week since then. Before, I was only doing two days of weight lifting. I’m still exercising five to six times a week.

  45. anon for this*

    This is a really dumb question that I’m embarrassed to ask, but for those of you who live in the city and have a dog, what do you do with the bags of dog poop? I’ve been hoping to get a dog (in fact, I’ve spent the past two years trying to adopt with no luck because dog shelters are stupidly picky, which is disheartening), but my neighborhood has no trash cans on its streets, partially because the sidewalks are so narrow that they’d take up too much room and partially because of the rat problem.

    If I walk my hypothetical future dog in the nearby public park, there are trash cans (and doggie poop bags) there, but for morning or nighttime walks, do I just keep it in my household trash? We have no dumpster for my apartment and you keep your trash in your apartment until trash day. There’s a hefty fine for putting trash out early. I’m worried about the smell since we only have trash day once a week and there’s nowhere else to put the trash. I never really noticed the lack of public trashcans until I thought about getting a dog.

    So, what do you do if you have no neighborhood trashcans? I grew up in the suburbs surrounded by the woods, so this was never a problem with dogs my family had in my childhood.

    1. Newish Reader*

      I’m in The country so this was never an issue when I had dogs, but a few thougts are either flush it when you get home (without flushing the bag) or use a diaper pail for storage until trash day?

      1. anon for this*

        I thought about flushing, but I figure there’s still going to be poop residue on the bag that goes into the trash. The diaper pail is a good idea, though.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m not sure on this, because every city I’ve lived in has had public trash cans, sometimes even ones designated specifically for dog poop…. and definitely apartment building trash cans. Maybe get a diaper genie to hold them until right before trash pickup day?

      1. anon for this*

        My city has trash cans, just not in my neighborhood. They had them in the last neighborhood I lived in, but this one doesn’t, probably because it’s “historic” and the sidewalks barely fit lamppost, let alone a giant trashcan.
        There’s a trashcan on the outskirts of the neighborhood, and I was thinking of just collecting the poop and doing a daily trip to the trashcan, but I still don’t know where I’d keep it until the poop disposal trip. The diaper genie is a good idea.

        None of the apartments I’ve ever been in – and I’ve had quite a few – have had apartment building trash cans. Probably because there’s never been anyone aside from the tenants who would be responsible for taking it out on trash day.

        1. Meag L*

          I use a product called a “pad locker” for putting those disposal puppy pee pads in to keep my bags of poop in. I’ve also seen “litter lockers” for cat litter. I found these (and the bag refills) are normally cheaper than diaper specific ones. I don’t smell the poop at all :)

    3. Owly*

      I keep a small step lid trashcan outside for the poop bags. Do you have a stoop or balcony to put one on? A very small one lasts me about a week with two large dogs (but we do also have public trashcans around I use).

      1. anon for this*

        No stoop or balcony, and we’re fined for keeping trashcans outside, since they take up most of the narrow sidewalk. Or, as has happened when people try to put anything on their stoops, it’s stolen.

    4. TootsNYC*

      The people I know pick it up in a ]plastic bag and tie it shut. They they toss it in the garbage at home. It’s tied inside a plastic bag, so it doesn’t smell much.

      And since everyone I know lives in an apartment, they sometimes come into the building through the basement and toss the tied-up baggie into the garbage can down there.

      1. anon for this*

        There’s no basement in my apartment. Or at least not one for storage or garbage. It’s only the generator and fuse box down there, so there’s no apartment building garbage can to use. But I suppose when the time comes, I figure I can try just tying and it and putting it in my garbage. I’m just worried that a week of dog poop in my trash is going to stink up the area.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          The summer is the worst. When I first got a dog here, I threw the stuff in the kitchen garbage without thinking.
          Then after a bit I started using a waste can (covered) in the laundry room. This is not a main living area.
          Still not satisfied, I got some Good Sense scented small garbage bags. I lined the can with one of them and used grocery bags to put the poop/pee/puke in. I tied off the grocery bag and put it in the Good Sense lined garbage can. That worked with double bagging.

          One trick I added after a bit was a mop. Instead of wiping up pee with paper towels that I had to figure out where to store, I got a mop and bucket to clean up the pee. I would estimate that adding a mop to the mix reduced my garbage from clean ups by about 60%. It takes a lot of paper to clean up pee and, man, pups can pee.

    5. Anono-me*

      Would it be possible to take yesterday’s full bags with you to the dog park?

      Also, try to encourage your future dog to poo before you leave the park or pass the last public trash bin on your walk. It is not 100%, but you can teach a dog that one area is a better poo area than any other or a verbal command word. (Lots of extra praise and petting rewards each time. ) The voice of experience says; Just be sure to pick a word that you are comfortable saying loudly in front of everyone.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Friends who train guide dogs use the expression “get busy”.

        With my own dog, I tell him “go poopy”.

    6. AvonLady Barksdale*

      How far is the park? Personally, I would do all of our walks there if it was close enough. Even in a poop bag, dog poop can be smelly.

      We moved from NYC, with trash cans everywhere, to the outskirts of a small city where public trash cans are few and far between. I have walked miles swinging a full poop bag! But I have the option of chucking them in our outdoor bin at home.

    7. OhBehave*

      I have found that the little poop bags that pet stores, etc sell keep the smell away. The one we have even hooks onto our pup’s collar. You can also double bag it if you want.

    8. cataloger*

      This probably isn’t helpful, but I was wondering this recently too; a neighbor walking their dog must have put a bag of dog poop into our outdoor trash can on trash day (after pickup), and we didn’t notice until after we brought it back into the garage. Actually, we noticed a day later when the whole garage smelled like dog poop. Thanks a lot, neighbor!

  46. Anxa*

    So I know there’s Reddit and CityData and all that, but I know there’s a good amount of D.C. area Americans on this thread, so here it goes:

    Maryland car excise tax. Holy moly. I knew it was going to bad, but man! My boyfriend owns a 2003 Civic purchased in 2009 (over 7 years ago). From what I understand from the MVA website, it’s actually more expensive to transfer an older car than a newer car. He paid about 10k for it at the time, and the website says:

    For vehicles less than 7 years old (Non-Residents):

    Vehicle(s) titled in a state with a tax rate equal to or higher than Maryland’s 6% tax rate will cost $100.
    If the vehicle is registered in a state that imposes no tax, the tax will be assessed at 6% of the value of the vehicle.
    Vehicles from a state with a lower tax rate than Maryland’s 6% will be taxed at the rate of the difference between the two states. Example: MD 6%, VA 4%, the difference is a 2% tax rate. Minimum tax – $100. When the value of the vehicle is less than $2,000, the 6% rate will apply. Click here for the State Tax Rate Chart.

    For a vehicle over 7 years old:

    Tax is based on the greater of the purchase price or the minimum of $640. The MVA may require you to submit additional documentation to substantiate the purchase price.

    Do I understand this correctly that we need to pay 6% on the 10,000? So we need to pay $600 to move it? I know a lot of taxes are designed to punish frugality, but this seems excessively cruel. I guess the credit for previously paid sales tax has ‘expired’ and we’ll have to pay sales tax twice on the same vehicle?

    Can anyone tell me if selling the vehicle (if I bought it from my boyfriend) for a lower price (either it’s current FMV or something like $100) would help in this case?

    We JUST declared our MD residency, but the car still is registered out of state. Is it too late?

    1. Anxa*

      FWIW, part of the concerns about such a high tax is that we probably will only be living here for 1-2 years. He has a work contract for 2 years, but it may be reduced to a 1 year contract for funding issues.

      1. Sophie Winston*

        I’m no expert and live in New England, but my understanding is that excise taxes are for when you live in one state and buy a car in another state, not when you move and bring a car with you. So if you live in Mass and go over the border to tax free NH to buy a car (“titled in NH”), you’ll pay the excise tax equivalent to Mass sales tax when you return to your Mass home and register the car. If you move from NH to Mass and bring the car you’ve owned for years with you, you just pay a regular registration fee.

        Maryland may be different, but I’d double check that this even applies to your situation.

        1. Artemesia*

          In our state if you can prove you paid sales tax in the state you bought it in i.e. you bought from a dealer, you don’t have to pay that. Of course the annual licensing fee is pricey. But if you bought the car from an indvidual you have to pay the sales tax when you register it in the state.

    2. Owly*

      I moved to MD in April and I did not pay an excise tax. I paid a registration fee (and maybe a small property tax?). It was like 1-200 dollars and then maybe 100 bucks for the license. I have a 2005 Honda Element.

      1. Owly*

        Oh but the real money suck is the state safety inspection. They go through EVERYTHING on your car and make you fix it if they deem in ‘unsafe’ and you can’t register it. Granted I should have made some of those repairs earlier, but they were not critical and it was like $600 I wasn’t planning for. Make sure your car is in good shape (like no windshield dings, good wipers, etc) before moving.

        1. Gene*

          And tell the inspection shop you’ll be getting the repairs done by a friend who’s a mechanic, but not authorised to do inspections, assuming they require authorised inspection stations. That way they won’t find things that need “fixing” so they can make you spend money with them. Not that any mechanic would do that.

        2. MsChanandlerBong*

          Annual safety inspections are a complete money grab. I am so glad we now live in a state that doesn’t require them. (Yes, I think it’s important for people to keep their vehicles maintained properly, but it’s totally ridiculous to buy a brand-new vehicle and have to pay $60 to have it inspected 10 or 11 months later depending on when the inspection expires.)

          1. chickabiddy*

            I think some states only require safety inspections on cars that are three(?) years old or older. I’m okay with that, but I otherwise agree with Dan. I am not thrilled about the cost or the hassle, but I do prefer sharing the road with other vehicles that have functional brakes, tires, and lights.

        3. Dan*

          I’m ok with the safety inspection. While I hate paying the money, I’m happy that other drivers are forced to keep their brakes in good working order.

    3. LadyKelvin*

      The excise tax is just for car purchased recently if you move it to Maryland, from the goverment page:

      “If the vehicle has been recently purchased, the 6% excise tax is based on the greater of the total purchase price verified by a notarized MVA Bill of Sale (form VR-181), signed by both the buyer(s) and the seller(s) in which the actual price paid for the vehicle is stated or $640. In other cases, the total purchase price or the valuation shown in a national publication of used car values adopted for use by the Administration will be used to establish the tax. There is an addition or subtraction for high or low mileage. On vehicles seven years old and older, the tax is based on the greater of the purchase price or the minimum book value of $640.”


      Usually recently purchased is 6 months to a year ago. Since your boyfriend bought the car 7 years ago, you won’t have to pay it. If you were to buy the car from him while titled out-of-state then try to title it in state, then you would pay the excise tax. So no, don’t buy it from him. All you will have to pay is titling and registration fees. And inspection fees.

  47. Anonahouse*

    I will be selling my home this spring. Short version: too many bad financial decisions that stemmed from it being too much of a financial burden on my own on top of all of my expenses. Looking at a cousin’s pictures of her current trip overseas reminded me that I have too good a salary to continue living from paycheck to paycheck so I have finally faced reality and made the decision to sell. Once I made that decision I knew I had to start telling people around me ASAP, that way I would be committed to doing it. If I had been had been honest with people about my situation, most likely I would have sold a long time ago because it’s the logical thing to do. I’m already thinking of the new area I will live in (cross my fingers), it will cut down my commute to a fraction and I can financially breath again.

    1. Oh what, oh what, oh what*

      Congratulations. It can be tough when you “buck the crowd”. Had friends who decided to sell their house and move into a mobile home when their children were little. They were spending all their free time and money on the house and felt they were neglecting their children.

    2. Damn it Hardison!*

      Good for you! That must have been a hard decision to come to, but the peace of mind you will have is going to be worth it.

    3. Alice*

      That sounds like a big decision – but also a decision that you have really thought through.
      I bet that you will be rewarded with a higher quality of life just from the shorter commute, separate from the money issues. So if/when you start to feel down about this move, remind yourself of the commute change, and also that you don’t have to shovel snow for now! Good luck.

    4. Anonahouse*

      Thanks. It was a hard decision but as soon as I made it I knew it was the right one. The shortened commute is a bonus obviously, the financial aspect is key here. I will be able to live again and be able to put money away.

  48. Mela*

    Any one else into Bullet Journaling? I’m just getting into it and it’s been super helpful, esp. since I need to micro-plan my days in spurts and then go weeks without needing it. I’m trying to add more fun pages, but so far, it’s been pretty functional. I have a habit tracker and a couple of Christmas pages. Any other ideas?

    1. Saro*

      I have a page of fun activities I would like to do for the season. Fall, for example, had go to a Halloween parade, the zoo and farm on the list.

    2. Talvi*

      I once saw someone draw a bookshelf on a page, and they colour in a book on that page each time they finish reading a book.

  49. AnotherAnony*

    I need a more active social life, but I’m scared. I end up being a target for toxic people- friends who only call when they need something, they’re upset, or have no one else to hang out with. The friendship starts out fine, but then I become their punching bag for when they are upset and they take out their problems on me- things that have absolutely nothing to do with me. It’s draining and tiring. I’m not perfect either- I tolerate this crap when I should set up stronger boundaries and/or just walk away.

    How do I stop being a doormat? How can I develop healthy, more meaningful friendships?

    1. SeekingBetter*

      Where were you making these types of friends? Sometimes where you meet people matters too because people who are negative or clingy or toxic have certain places where they like to hang out. Now, some good friends I have come from the exercise classes I attend.

      I used to be a doormat for a couple of ex-friends until I made the decision to cut them off from my life.

    2. NicoleK*

      How do you stop being a doormat? For starters, stop selecting toxic friends. Toxic people tend to share some key characteristics: lots of drama, need for attention, arrogance, selfishness, narcissism, lack of empathy and compassion for others, and etc. Think back to your toxic friendships, what characteristics do you observe? Make a list of them and the next time you begin forming a new friendship, if said friend starts exhibiting these characteristics, drop them.

      If you’re not comfortable confronting them about their toxicity, you can always resort to a slow fade (don’t return their calls, don’t invite them out, respond infrequently to their calls and texts, decline their invitations, and etc).

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Friends should enrich our lives. There is a reciprocity to friendship, a back and a forth. Teach yourself to expect more from people, expect them to put into the friendship also.

      I think reading some boundaries books would be a good supportive activity for your endeavors. The ones I read had concrete examples, I found that helpful.

      Keep in mind the rule of three. When you see a behavior three times you probably have a pattern. What the rule of three does is empower you to decide earlier to move on, don’t wait, just move on. I think most of us have made mistakes in picking friends, my wise friend used to say the real problem is not moving on at the first recognition of a problem.

    4. Malibu Stacey*

      When you start dating someone, most people are on the lookout for red flags. Do the same thing when you make a new friend. Does she seem to have boundaries that you are comfortable with – does she overshare or contact you very late or early? Does she ask you questions that feel too personal? Does she tell you private things about her other friends, family members or coworkers that you wouldn’t want to be shared if it was about you? Is she always the victim (she’s underpaid at work, unappreciated by everyone and in general hard done by everyone in her life)?

  50. Gene*

    Last of the Thanksgiving turkey (it was frozen last weekend) for dinner tonight. Southern-style turkey and dumplings with cream dumplings. The dumplings are drying right now, they’ll hit the broth in about 15 minutes.

    I made the broth earlier today while working on the car.

    1. Sparkly Librarian*

      Yum! We made pavo en mole and turkey barley soup, and are working through the last of it tonight.

  51. Kitty problem*

    Calling all cat experts! My 11 year old cat has been pooping under my bed, every single day. She is also pooping & peeing in her box though, so I don’t think it’s the box. The vet gave her a clean bill of health. So I’m thinking it’s a behavioral issue, but I haven’t been able to identify anything that might be bothering her. Any ideas/suggestions/things I may not have thought of?

    1. Jean aka the Recovering Packrat*

      Can you put deter your cat by putting under the bed something she will find repulsive (maybe a rag soaked in a fragrance she dislkies) and do the opposite with her box (another rag with catnip)?

      Warning: I am _not_ a cat owner (allergies). I defer to people who actually live with cats and/or are feline-treating veterinarians.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Not really an expert, but I wouldn’t necessarily take her pooping and peeing in her box as a definite sign that she isn’t also protesting the box by pooping under your bed. Our previous cat was an expert at laying the protest poop (usually after we were gone for a really long time), and that didn’t preclude him also pooping properly in his litter box. The protest poop (in the middle of the living room, not under our bed) was specifically to lodge a complaint, so it was separate from the other poop that actually made the litter box.

    3. Today's anon*

      Some suggestions based on my older cat. I don’t remember the order in which these happened but they all did.
      – maybe she’s gotten pickier about the cleanliness of her box so whatever amount of cleaning up you do is no longer enough. I’d get another box and place it near the one you have and see if she uses both.
      – depending on the box, maybe it’s getting harder to climb in and out, so maybe trying a box that is not as hard to climb in and out of. Same if you have an enclosed cat box, maybe it’s becoming too much work (even if she’s in good health, maybe her joints are stiffer for example).
      -maybe she’s started to dislike the brand of litter so she avoids it at least part of the time. This would be the most complicated to change so I would try the other things first.

      Good luck!

    4. Rebecca*

      Perhaps try 2 boxes? My parent’s cat poops in one box, and pees in the other one. And make sure the box isn’t too high for her to step into. Let us know what happens!

    5. Seal*

      Is the litter box itself older? If so, consider replacing it. Over time plastic litter boxes get scratched up and start to retain odors that only the cat can smell. Also, as others have mentioned try getting a second litter box so she has more options.

  52. Aurora Leigh*

    Neighbor Christmas gifts?

    I don’t know most of my neighbors, but there is a retired guy who lives next door. He has a very friendly dog and he helped me look for my car when she got out. I love to give Christmas gifts, so I was thinking of baking some cookies and buying a rawhide for the dog.

    What do all think? How do I give it to him? We just wave at each other, and I pet his dog. I don’t even know his name, just the dog’s.

    1. Sparkly Librarian*

      Put YOUR name on the gift tag, and you’ll have a good chance of getting his in return. :)

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I would leave it at his door with a note. Address it to the dog and his owner– like, “For: Baxter and Baxter’s dad.” Sign it from the cat and you (cat’s mom). As far as I’m concerned, gifts for the dog are always, always welcome. You can even frame it as a thank you for helping you find your cat.

      For what it’s worth, because you’ve exchanged pleasantries and you know the dog’s name, this is far less weird (FAR LESS) than the random gift bag we got last year from our rude neighbors. A nice gesture, but not at all personalized (which is fine, it was just odd), and I threw out the homemade parts of the gift. I ate the wrapped chocolate, though!

    3. Artemesia*

      Decide if you want a much more engaged friendship with the guy. Does he have the potential to get the ‘wrong idea’ or to assume that this is an invitation to drop by for coffee 3 times a week or whatever? There is some wisdom at having a cordial but distant relationship with a close neighbor — so you can count on them for minor things but not have them part of your social circle. Because if you decide it isn’t what you want, there they are monitoring your every move and guest.

  53. Mela*

    I hope this isn’t considered too political, but I really do want to stick to the historical aspect of it. I wasn’t alive during the Rosenberg scandal/trial/execution, but would love to hear from folks who have either personal or second hand memories of the time. What was it like? What did average folks say about the issue at, say, a dinner party? Everything I’ve read said people were “captivated” by them, but what was it? Any book recommendations about the topic will do as well, I’ll have some reading time over Christmas break!


    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I wasn’t alive during that time. Everything I’ve heard has definitely been second or third hand. I will say that when I was in college, I was able to attend an event in which Susan Sarandon and Mandy Patinkin read the Rosenbergs’ letters to each other. It was quite amazing and sad.

          1. Artemesia*

            Only evidence that satisfies their children. There is lots of evidence that they were involved in espionage that facilitated delivery of nuclear secrets to the USSR. some think Ethel was framed but at the time, she was viewed as the driving force in the couple. I was a little kid and so my views were colored by my parents horror at all this, and so totally unreliable. Everything I have read about them sense convinces me that they were guilty.

            1. Observer*

              They may have been involved in espionage, but there is hard evidence that her brother lied about her – under pressure from government officials who were more interested in convictions than what actually happened. (They got him to lie by threatening him and his wife.)

          2. Maya Elena*

            They were quite confirmed – Julius at any rate. Note that the pardon seems to be asked only for Ethel, for whom thr evidence is thinner.

            I believe there was some prettu extensive work done trying to posthumously exonerate them, only to find the opposite. A lot of the evidence, IIRC, are messages from a large chunk of Soviet communications decoded from 1920s to 1950s (the project was called ‘Venona’) and declassified in 1995. You can go find the full book that looks at these decoded messages (a small percent of intercepted telegraph traffic from the USSR) – and also see just how extensive Soviet espionage was in the US, even while we were still “allies”.

      1. Mela*

        Was it that they were in love? Or passionate about something? Why were people so enraptured with them?!

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          At the time, it wasn’t 100% clear that they were guilty, and, yeah, they were in love and concerned about each other and about their children.

    2. DragoCucina*

      I remember the TV drama decades ago that implied they were innocent. Then after the fall of the USSR one of the first things confirmed by archives that weren’t destroyed (contrary to orders–go archivists!) was that Ethel’s brother was a spy. Other documents have since confirmed the Rosenberg’s participation.

      1. Mela*

        Yea, I think the consensus is that they were definitely spies, but their trial was a frame job, which no one minded because Communism. That the really bad charges that warranted (!!) execution weren’t true/provable, and they should have gotten 10-20 years like a lot of their counterparts. And that her brother definitely framed her to protect his own wife. Which, wow.

        1. nep*

          I use it all the time. I’ve always got a jar in the bathroom and a jar in the kitchen.
          It can get expensive. (This is reminding me that I’ve got to check out the coconut oil at one of the warehouse clubs — far less expensive, if decent quality.)

          1. chickabiddy*

            I buy my coconut oil at Costco. I am not a connoisseur but it’s organic virgin and seems equal in quality to the Trader Joe’s and Fresh Market (upscale-ish chain) store brands that I have used. It was $17.99 for 84 ounces. I need to repackage it because the jar dominates my rather small bathroom counter space.

        2. Cristina in England*

          Can’t answer for nep but… because it’s expensive for a cooking oil (cheap if you consider it a moisturiser though) and it is delicious.

    1. Pennalynn Lott*

      Cinnamon flavored dental floss that’s thicker than regular floss but thinner than dental “tape”. That stuff is *really* hard to find.

    2. Oh what, oh what, oh what*

      Probably kleenex. We all have allergies. I have had as many as 18 open boxes at one time. Every room, every car, and the garage. And my pockets are full.

      1. Manderley*

        Same. And no matter how much I search my pockets, I always end up with shredded washed tissues in my laundry.

    3. Owly*

      Ice coffee. I spend so much on it every day and it is so cheap to make at home (but of course I don’t).

    4. Dr. KMnO4*

      Gluten-free flour tortillas. They taste so much better than corn tortillas and the texture is better too.

    5. Rahera*

      Really good unlined cotton rag writing/drawing paper. I would go through stacks of it given half a chance. :)

    6. Cristina in England*

      DCT lip balm, which isn’t typically sold here. It is the only lip balm I love and I have tried hundreds over the years.

    7. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Salsa. I have been known to pour salsa into a bowl and eat it with a spoon. During my unemployment we cut back on a lot– but never the salsa.

    8. esra (also a Canadian)*

      One lifetime supply of money, please.

      Barring that: delicious, fresh-delivered daily baguettes/

    9. Lady Blerd*

      Toilet paper. I kid you not, nothing I loathe more then running out of it, I buy the 24-packs or whatever superbulky roll that is equivalent.

  54. chickabiddy*

    I just need to share that my cat is spoiled. I now have a new and rather unattractive chair in my family room/office because she cries when she can’t sit in the desk chairs because we are sitting in them and I knew she would love this chair (she did, she jumped in and immediately commenced napping).

    1. Melody Pond*

      Aw, yay for spoiled kitties!

      I just bought an $80+ very nice looking cat condo type thing, so that Mr. Pond’s cat can have an easier time jumping up to the top of the Ikea cube shelf thing that she loves so much (from there, she can jump up to the top of our Murphy bed, which is very, very high up – I can’t even reach it). Previously, Mr. Pond’s cat was jumping quite a distance from just a stepping stool that we typically stored next to the Ikea cube shelving unit. She’s still in good shape, but she’s getting to be middle-aged (creeping up on 9 years old), so I wanted to get her something that would require less intense jumping. Now she’s got three in-between steps, between the floor and the top of the Ikea cube thing.

    2. Damn it Hardison!*

      I have 5 sets of cats stairs in my small house so that Her Majesty can sit in all her favorite places. She’s 20 years (and 4 months) and has can’t jump like she used to.

  55. Shabu Shabu*

    Favorite useful or legit stocking stuffers?

    My grad school friends and I have a party every year. Each person gets one person to gift by we always get a little stocking stuffer for everyone else.

    I want to give something useful. I was thinking of giving everyone a cutely wrapped Scrub Daddy sponge, but I don’t want it to be weird. I also saw jar openers at The Container Store. I’m aiming for $5 or less.

    1. LizB*

      One year my boyfriend’s parents gave me a pair of mini silicone spatulas in my stocking. They’re super useful for getting the last bit of whatever out of the jar, loosening muffins from tins, mixing small amounts of things, or even icing cupcakes.

      1. chickabiddy*

        I love my little spatulas too! And around me, you can get a set of two for $1 at Dollar Tree stores. I wasn’t sure that they’d be any good at that price but I risked my dollar and they have held up well (I even put them in the dishwasher) for a few years now. Also in my kitchen via the dollar store are large bag clips for chips and the like.

      2. Elkay*

        Yes, mini spatulas are awesome, we were given some a few years ago and they come in handy all the time.

    2. Chaordic One*

      The jar opener sounds like a dumb gift, but I got one and I use it at least a couple of times a month. In addition to spatulas, silicone pot holders and oven mitts are great for anyone who cooks or bakes.

    3. Temperance*

      I think useful should be fun, too, FWIW. I would advise against the sponge, but what about something like mini bottles of wine or a good holiday beer for everyone? Or hot tea, or coffee?

      One of my other fave gifts