weekend free-for-all – January 14-15, 2017

Lucy Olive sleepingThis 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.)

Recommendation of the week –  Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders, by Joshua Foer. This is a super cool guide to strange and surprising places around the world.

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

{ 1,040 comments… read them below }

  1. Come On Eileen*

    I’m going on an Alaskan cruise this summer! The first three days are on land – in Denali – and then 8 days on the ship traveling south from Seward to Vancouver. I’m SO excited. Have any of you cruised Alaska and are there any excursions you’d recommend? We are on Holland America line at the beginning of July.

    1. Nancie*

      Lucky! I’ve been to Alaska once, and I loved it. It wasn’t a cruise, but we did spend a couple days in Juneau, doing a few of the excursions cruises often offer. Two I particularly loved were a helicopter trip to a nearby snow field / glacier for a dog-sled ride, and a small-boat excursion to Tracy Arm Fjord to see glaciers calving.

      The cruise to, from and in Tracy Arm was full of fantastic scenery. Waterfalls, glaciers (of course) and seals. I could have taken a billion photos.

      The helicopter/dog sled trip included a little sight-seeing from the helicopter, and a lot of fun meeting some of the friendlier dogs, then ‘driving’ the sled for a ride. The dogs seemed to adore the work, they were all nuts waiting for the sleds to be un-hitched.

      The cruise was a pretty chilly outing, even in the midst of an unusual heat-wave for the area. The best views were from the deck and the boat moved pretty fast. A good wind-breaker was essential. The dog-sled trip was surprisingly not as cold, even though we were standing on a glacier. Warm boots were provided for that one.

    2. CAA*

      Yes! We did a fantastic trip with a week on land then a week on the ship. We were actually at Prudhoe Bay on the summer solstice. So amazing to see the sun all night. This entire trip was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had, and I am going back someday.

      In Denali, you definitely want to do the Tundra Wilderness Tour. If your trip includes the Denali Natural History Tour instead, get it upgraded. You will see so much more wildlife if you go further into the park. I’m sure the cultural presentations on the natural history tour are wonderful, but we got a lot of those at other locations, and there weren’t other chances to see wolves, lynx, etc. We did see plenty of moose and bears elsewhere, but Denali is really unique for the variety and abundance of wildlife.

      In Seward, if you have time, take a whale watching tour in Kenai Fjords National Park. Again, there was just an amazing variety of sea life. I have a photo of orcas chasing salmon. Plus, puffins!

      Bring layers. A rain shell is a must. Long underwear is nice. Carry a day pack because you will be adding and removing clothes and need some way to carry them.

      If you go to Skagway, the White Pass & Yukon railroad is great. You may be able to get tickets cheaper from an outside tour company. The cruise lines try to lock down all the providers so they have a monopoly on excursions and can charge more, and they warn that they won’t wait for you unless you’re on a ship’s excursion; but in Alaska, it’s very safe and usually cheaper to do your own thing. And if you’re on a train, it’s the same one the ship’s excursion is on, so it’s not like the ship can leave before you get back.

    3. Drew*

      In Skagway, there’s a train line that will take you into the mountains and JUST across the border into Canada – you don’t disembark, so you don’t need your passport, and it’s a lovely ride up and back with tons of scenery.

      In Ketchikan, there’s a rain forest tour that I quite enjoyed. It has a bit of walking but the novelty of seeing a rain forest that isn’t a jungle was cool. Plus, we saw several bears (from a safe distance) and bald eagles (considerably closer).

      You’re going to have SO much fun!

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        We did both of those! The White Pass and Yukon Route train from Skagway was so beautiful, and in Ketchikan I remember seeing salmon jumping out of the water like rain on the water, and spotting a bald eagle just sitting on a telephone pole.

        The other thing I’d recommend is spending a few hours in Glacier Bay if you’re anywhere in the area.

      1. Come On Eileen*

        You actually recommended a book several months ago in an open thread that I decided to pick up (based on your recommendation) and I loved it! It was called the Fireman. I’m now reading another book by Joe Hill called NOS4A2 that’s super captivating. So thank you for the recommendations!

    4. Mike C.*

      I did a similar trip on the same cruise line about ten years ago. I really liked the hikes though the rainforest. Very easy, guides were knowledgeable and they were very quiet.
      One thing that really surprised me is that we learned from those guides is that a lot of the stores you will come across are seasonal and have ties back to the cruise lines. So if you’re looking for a more authentic experience, keep that in mind.

      Overall, my family had a great time.

    5. urban teacher*

      I did not like my Alaskan cruise because I couldn’t spend a lot of time away from the ports. Most of the time we had 6 hours and couldn’t really see anything except for one excursion for the day.
      The ports all looked the same with the same non-Alaskan goods.
      We did kayak trip around Ketchikan which was great. And the White train was good.
      A land cruise would be nice.

    6. MT*

      Seward is one of my favorite places I have ever been to; I spent a summer working in a small nearby town and fell in love with the place. I definitely second the advice to go on the Kenai tour, or do a hike of Mount Marathon (depending on how long you have there) – Mt. Marathon is just breathtakingly beautiful in so many ways. The town it self is also awesome, with excellent local cafes and shops and very cool people. There is a transient community of people who live elsewhere throughout the year and come to work in the various local shops/businesses during summer tourist season, so there is this special vibe of camaraderie throughout the town. The Ranting Raven is a must for cafes, the bakery is wonderful, there is a gelato and fudge/sweets shop you shouldn’t miss… oh, just typing this is making me miss it. Explore as much of it as you can!

    7. schnapps*

      Go snorkeling. Seriously. The Pacific Coast has some of the best snorkeling in the world. There is so much life and the water is clear (not a lot of plankton because of the colder temps).

    8. FMLW*

      If you go to Icy Strait Point, spend the money to go on the Ziprider! It’s a 45-minute bus ride up the mountain, followed by a two-minute (or so) ride on a zipline straight back down. Fantastic! You can see some videos of people doing the ziprider on youtube.

      If you take the Train up in Skagway, make sure you get a seat on the left side of the car going up, the right side is mostly cliff face. Obviously, right side going down for the same reason.

      In Juneau, if you have time, go to the state building (it may have been the county building, just ask someone) and go up to the restaurant level. There’s an outdoor terrace there from which you get a nice view of the whole city and bay.

      Check out the Holland America forum at cruisecritic.com and you’ll probably be able to find an answer to just about any question you might have.

  2. Not sure I want my name here this time*

    Ugh. I don’t know whether I’m a wrong not-really-a-customer in this story, or if I have every reason to be slightly creeped out and very annoyed.

    At a mall I’m often in around opening time, there’s a fancy coffee shop that has seating in the open area in front of it and a few neighboring shops. Several weeks back, shortly after a new mens’ wear store opened catty-corner to the coffee shop, I noticed a guy who’s always standing at the door of the new store for several minutes before it opens. I also noticed that he seemed slightly creepy — always staring at the people (usually women) seated in front of the coffee shop, and also at the “mommy and me” exercise group that used an adjoining open space for part of their circuit.

    Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought he seemed a little creepy. Any women seated in front of the coffee shop usually clear out when the guy shows up, and the exercise group has changed up their circuit to skip that area. Yesterday when I saw yet another group of women clear out, I decided I needed to say something to the guy’s manager. Not to get him in trouble, but to see if they could encourage him to wait almost anywhere else for the store to open. Maybe they’ve got an interior back door? Or maybe they’d decide to give him a key, since he seems to be the only person who opens that store who doesn’t have one? Whatever — I just had the idea that they’d want to know their guy is having a negative affect on mall regulars and figure something out.

    I broached the subject with the manager, and he immediately got defensive. First he asked if I want the employee to have to stand outside, then he immediately followed with “it’s a free country”. I could see where it was headed (nowhere useful), said as much, and left.

    An hour later I wished I’d thought to snap back, “just tell him to stare at his phone instead of strangers, like a regular person”. Instead I’m just annoyed.

    1. Eh, I can see both sides*

      You didn’t share how you began the conversation, so I can’t really tell if he was rightfully defensive. As a manager, if someone approached me and said, “hey, your employee is a creep” and told me how to fix what I didn’t see as a problem, I’d probably get defensive too.

      On the other hand, if someone approached me and gently explained the facts (standing outside, seems to stare at women, exercise group has changed their course because of it), then I’d be more likely to want the impressions of that person. Name-calling and “you need to”s will almost always make managers defensive – at least the good ones.So without knowing exactly what you said, it’s hard to tell who’s “right” here.

      1. Not sure I want my name here this time*

        I went in thinking “don’t throw the guy under the bus” but I’m not sure how well I got that across.

        I know I meant to start with “I’m absolutely not saying your employee did anything wrong, I’d just like you to mention something to him that he probably hasn’t noticed. I’m sure he has no idea that it might look to women like he’s staring at them while he’s waiting for the store to open.” (I rehearsed it and pretty much typed it out on my phone during the last 10 minutes of my mall walk.)

        But the manager was interrupting me before I finished that much, so who knows.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        A woman customer telling a manager that they need to fix their creepy employee should *not* put a good manager on defensive. It should not make the manager immediately take the customer’s side. But creepy men being creepy to women is a real thing, and a manager should take accusations seriously enough to get more information with an open mind. You might see someone calling a person “creepy” as name-calling, but it’s a term that, in this day and age, has a specific connotation. It’s not just name-calling.

    2. No, please*

      Wow. That is creepy. It sounds like the manager had heard it beforeand is not open to suggestions. I’ve worked retail in malls and most stores won’t give just any employee a key so I understand why he’s waiting. But he should take a hint and bring a book to stare at, not just use the women around him for his entertainment.

    3. Temperance*

      Men very often minimize women when we point out that a creepy dude is acting like a creepy dude. By any chance, is the store a national franchise, or is it a small local place? Sometimes, complaining to corporate is the only way to get anything done. FWIW, I would complain about the manager, too.

      Anyone who uses “it’s a free country” to defend crap behavior is a crap person. Thank you for at least trying to get something done.

      1. C Average*

        I’ve been rereading some of Deborah Tannen’s sociolinguistics work (which I’ve always loved), and this reminds me of something she often notes. People communicate a lot through nonverbal communication and subtext of verbal communication. Part of the reason they do this is so that they’ll have plausible deniability when they’re called on their behavior. “You didn’t really perceive what you think you perceived, because I didn’t do __________ or didn’t say _________.” This is what Manager is doing for Creepy Dude (and what Creepy Dude would very likely do himself).

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Well, you gave the manager a shot at it and he blew it. Or maybe he will talk to the guy and never let you know he did. Some bosses work this way.

      If this continues to happen then I would try asking mail security to watch and see what they think. Or you could tell the manager of the coffee shop, but he might be glad to see that customers are not lingering. You might not gain traction there for that reason.

        1. Temperance*

          Yep. The whole point of getting coffee is so I can relax at a place. If a creepy starer means that I no longer feel comfortable, I’m finding a new coffee place.

      1. Sabine the Very Mean*

        “Hey, bro!? *hands extended out palms up quizzically* We need you to stop creeping out the regulars!”

        Or have the manager of coffee shop do dirty work. It’s her business lost.

    5. Snow Flurries*

      If this is in an indoor shopping mall, can you take it up with the mall’s management? They usually have a reception desk/area or even security.

      1. MaddieB*

        They can possibly review footage to see if he is acting inappropriately. Standing outside for a few minutes at his place of employ and people watching does not meet that threshold.

    6. Lizabeth*

      I would say something to the mall management/security and you will probably find someone else has too.

      1. Lizabeth*

        Have you mention it to the coffee shop manager? I’m sure they would like to know about it especially if people are leaving because of it.

    7. Father Ribs*

      You could be right that the person is “a creep”, and I don’t doubt that they give you “the creeps”, but just because a man is standing in front of their place of employment before the gate opens, while the mall is just opening, is to me the sign of an employee that is punctual and possibly standing at the door because hourly employees get punished by employers for something as silly as being 30 seconds late (the amounts of time it takes to walk across a hallway).

      Maybe the employee doesn’t have a phone to look at, or doesn’t want to. Maybe the employee is looking at things near them because when you have to stand in one place for a period of time, you look at things near you.

      I don’t mean to belittle your feelings and yes, there are jerks who are males out there, but this almost sounds to me like you are asking a person to stare at their shoes in the presence of women because they make you uncomfortable, when they in fact have a very valid reason for being where they are, when they are. I can’t imagine what the manager thought when you asked them to tell their employee to go hide somewhere so he doesn’t creep out the women (probably not what you said, but am I mistaken in the paraphrase?), but I know my initial reaction was not going to be supportive of your request without more valid persuasion.

      1. Temperance*

        Are you a woman or man? I’m assuming that you’re a man, so you haven’t had the experience of living as a woman.

        At my former gym, there used to be a crowd of creepy men who would leer at our exercise class. When the instructor confronted them and asked them to move, they would claim to just be waiting for their wives/girlfriends, etc. They were clearly standing in front of the window, clearly watching us. Enough of us complained to the gym management that they put a curtain on that window and a privacy screen in the room, too. It took a long time for anyone to believe us or do anything.

        1. Opal Glow*

          But this isn’t a gym. It’s outside a mall. It’s funny because people are often told “don’t stare at your phone. Pay attention to the world around you.” Someone is doing just that and his viewed negatively. Has people watching become defacto creepy? How sad.

          1. Trix*

            There’s a difference between staring and people watching though. And the OP made it pretty clear that it’s not just people watching.

            And while it’s not a gym, there was a group of women who used to exercise right there, until they changed up their circuit to skip that area.

            1. Opal Glow*

              It was a mommy and me group and OP described the coffee customers as “usually women.” So, watching children having fun and looking at groups of people which happen to be predominantly women. OP hasn’t talked to either the group of the women or the mothers. He hasn’t approached anyone. Other than the OP’s peception what objectively did this man do wrong?

              1. Observer*

                So, you are saying that ALL of the women who have actually moved away from the coffee shop and the mommy and me group are such delicate flowers that they can’t tell the difference between general people watching and staring.

                This is how people get in trouble – all this bending backwards to find the unlikely but faintly possible explanation for something, rather than taking the most likely explanation seriously.

              2. MaddieB*

                I agree. She is presuming to know other people’s thoughts and she has no concrete evidence. I abhor creepers as much as the next person but so far this guy is guilty of waiting for his door to open and looking in the direction of where women may be.

          2. Artemesia*

            It is inside the mall and he is staring at women. And women are moving because of it. Let’s not pretend it is about phones or not anything because we can’t empathize with how women being oogled are feeling.

            1. MaddieB*

              We have no evidence that anyone else is affected by it. She doesn’t know why the moms changed their circuit or if it’s affecting the coffee patrons. She’s making suppositions about a man standing outside his place of employ, waiting for the door to open, for a matter of minutes, possibly looking at groups of people, and then going about his job.

          3. Temperance*

            There was an exercise class, though, that apparently changed their routine, likely to get away from him.

            That saying is not intended to encourage creepy staring, though. It’s to encourage people to engage with other people …. and staring is not that.

            People watching *is* creepy, if we’re talking about a man staring at a bunch of women.

            1. F*

              “People watching *is* creepy, if we’re talking about a man staring at a bunch of women.”

              Would it still be creepy if he stared at a bunch of men?

          1. Temperance*

            Not really. A group fitness class changed their routine.

            How is it relevant that you used to model?

            1. MaddieB*

              What evidence is there they changed their routine due to this guy? OP has not spoken to anyone. She’s presuming.

        2. Father Ribs*

          Sorry for incoming wall of text:

          Your experience should not have happened, and I’m glad it was resolved Temperance.

          I reiterate that I am not saying that there are not many men who act like pigs, and I am not saying that a person made uncomfortable is having fake feelings. OP did literally ask for opinions, not just support, and I wanted to present an alternative view, that of the sort of person who by virtue of their gender has to constantly be aware that a significant portion of a different gender will always look at them as creeps and aggressors because “all men are pigs”.

          Imagine when you go to watch your daughter play rugby because you love her and support her and are proud of her performance. I imagine if you were a female sitting on the sidelines, noone would look at you twice. On the other hand, imagine being a man. Constant open stares from her female teammates, sidelong glances from the grouped mothers. The loud whispers. That’s my constant experience, and it’s painful. There’s no reason for that, except for characteristics people assign to my gender.

          Imagine being in a deli with your SO standing next to you, and you take a photograph for a project you’re working on (it was a sign on a cash register). Just as you’re putting the camera away, a female employee walks behind the counter. She was nowhere near the register but instantly puts on the “creep found” face. All the employees gather together in the back of the prep area and I hear one of them loudly offer to spit in my food as they provide emotional support for whatever thing I was accused of.

          Perhaps these are valid creep alerts, but I assure you, I am not a lecherous cretin. I try my best to be a decent human being, to respect others, to do things to diffuse potential accusations. I spend a lot of time looking at my shoes if only women are in the room, to head off just this kind of thing. I don’t want to invalidate OP’s feelings, but I do want to say that these sort of reactions can have serious effects; I respect that the OP comes asking and not assuming validation of her assumptions.

          “Joe, someone just came in here and said you were looking at women…making them uncomfortable, making them go someplace else. We don’t want creepy staring guy people working in our shop. I’m letting you go.”
          “Joe, you make the women who come into the mall before our shop opens uncomfortable. I suggest you put your face in a phone instead of looking at people, like a decent person. Or go hide where noone can see your face.”
          “Joe, someone has been watching you from the coffee shop for days, ever since you started working here. They also keep an eye on all the other people walking around the mall. They thing you are making people uncomfortable by looking at them. They don’t see the irony of the situation.”

          What’s the intended endgame to the conversation OP thought they would get?

          1. Observer*

            I don’t know you and – unlike you – I’m not going to deny your experiences. On the other hand, what you describe is in no way relevant or similar to what the OP described or asked. (And therefore I’m not even going to try to address what you say happened.)

            Let’s start with the sexists claim that most women will automatically suspect a man of all sort of nefarious things when doing perfectly normal thing because women think “all men are pigs.” That’s not the issue here. Not only is it NOT true that this is what women think, the OP is pretty clear that that’s not what she thinks – even about this particular person.

            To be honest, for all the disclaimers, I don’t think you were coming in with an honest desire to be enlightened or to provide perspective, but to bash. Simply because none of your “end game” conversations is what one would expect the manager to say. The fact that you couldn’t come up with ONE reasonable possible rejoined that the OP might have been expecting says more about your attitude than the OPs.

            1. Father Ribs*


              I’m not here to be hostile. I didn’t say anyone had fake or invalid feelings, and I didn’t intend to imply that. I’m not saying Not Sure, or you, or any other posters are wrong or wrong-headed, and I am not some person who thinks wasting time annoying strangers is a hobby for adults. I am too old and too tired for that kind of nonsense, and if anyone assumes that is my goal, then my message is not getting across.

              Not Sure asked for opinions, so while experience with men acting in a creepish manner is a real thing and there are plenty of voices coming from that angle, I wanted to offer my experience for what happens if you use negative life experiences and automatically assume the worst, that there’s a human being who could quite possibly be innocent and indeed oblivious to the drama being caused.

              This is why I thought a more discreet approach like That Retail Girl suggested would be a better idea. As for the “end game” comments, they were all ridiculous intentionally. Partly it was because I was at work and didn’t have enough time to polish what I was saying, so I beg pardon.

              The last question was serious though; what is the intended endgame? It is an honest request for what solutions can be provided for a person waiting a few minutes before the gates open in a retail shop that don’t involve making them act like a Victorian era house servant.

              1. Observer*

                Some real world possibilities:

                1. That person should be conscious of how focused he seems to be on a group or person.

                2. That person can find something to do while he waits – walk around, read a paper, do a crossword puzzle, or look at his smart phone if he has one.

                3. The store can find him a place to wait, or insure that he does NOT get penalized if he shows up 2 minutes after opening time.

                This is not exhaustive, of course, but just some things that come to mind – and would be useful even if the issue were not creepiness but discretion. Say, for instance, the place that the guy was looking towards were a mental health clinic – LOTS of people would be very unhappy if someone looked like he (or she!) where looking at who is going in and out, regardless of that person’s intentions.

                1. MaddieB*

                  If he’s not approaching anyone or talking to anyone and simply waiting for a door to open very shortly why does he have to busy himself with a task? You cannot control society to that extent. OP has zero evidence anyone thinks he’s a creep. She may be misjudging and overreacting. She may be the one obsessing on him not the opposite bc she has misinterpreted the situation. Going to his supervisor when he has not approached anyone, spoken to anyone, and has a legitimate reason to be where he is is very aggressive.

                2. ThursdaysGeek*

                  I’m a bit late, but I’m going to agree with Father Ribs. My spouse often zones out and it looks like he is staring. He is not seeing what his eyes are pointing at. But if he were waiting for a store to open and let himself zone out, someone else might consider that creepy. He does try to be conscious of where he is and what things look like, but you know, when you zone out, you lose that consciousness. If he starts doing something else, he will probably forget why he’s waiting at the door. (This behavior is frustrating for me, but it frustrates him sometimes too. It’s also how we met, but that’s a different story.) If he knew it was bothering people, he would be offended and he would try to change so it wouldn’t bother people.

                  So, the guy may be a creep. He may have a perfectly innocent reason for the apparent staring. The other group may have changed their routine because they think he’s a creep. They may have changed their routine because someone in the group had something come up and they changed for that person. We don’t know why he’s behaving that way any more than we know why the women’s groups are behaving the way they do.

        3. Alex*

          “Are you a woman or man?”

          There in lies the problem. If the poster is a man, does this make his post less valid? What if the poster was a woman, now does it suddenly become more valid. Where exactly are you going with that question? I feel like this is a part of an unsettling larger trend on the comments here to first figure out the gender of the poster then post a response on the basis of his gender and less on the content of their post.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s relevant in the sense that men often don’t have the same set of experiences as women in this regard.

            That said, I’m going to ask that we drop this here because it’s becoming argumentative (not directed at you in particular, Alex). Thanks.

          2. Opal Glow*

            As the mother of a bi-racial son this is the type of thing I worry about. He will be judged not on what he actually did, but the perception. My brothers have talked about their feelings when this happens. Add being a PoC and it is magnified.

      2. Observer*

        No, what Not Sure is describing does NOT sound like the behavior of someone who is just trying not to get punished for being 30 seconds late. You generally don’t have to be consistently EARLY by “several minutes” to avoid problems. And you don’t need a phone to keep from creeping people out, either. There are abut half a dozen things he could do, other than watching the women at the coffee shop and the mommy and me group.

        The fact that it’s not just the OP that has noticed this also speaks volumes.

        1. Thomas E*

          I am often twenty minutes early to work because I, like many shop workers, am reliant on public transport which doesn’t run when it’s convenient to me.

          1. Observer*

            And you stand in front of the door all of that time? Doing nothing but looking at people?

            It’s not JUST that he’s early every day – it’s that he’s there early every day, but doesn’t seem to have anything else to do with himself that’s odd. And combined with the fact that others are reacting as well, and it’s hard to really take this explanation too seriously.

          1. MaddieB*

            If he has no ill intent and is not approaching anyone and is standing outside the door waiting for it to open, why does he have to be looking at a book or his phone or the ground? You cannot control people to that extent. Standing outside your job waiting for a door to open a few minutes before you start is not an unusual thing.

    8. That Retail Girl*

      I’m, hmm.

      Right, so I’m pretty sure I work at the department store right across from that fancy coffee shop. I mean, I know men’s store that just opened ed right down the way, we have a fancy coffee shop right across from us AND we have a Mommy and Me that meets right in front of our gate.

      Just in case, I’ll put the word out to our security dudes, who are lovely and discreet and excellent at not starting witch hunts!

    9. MaddieB*

      I don’t think in person to the management was the best move. An unsigned mailed letter addressing your perceptions would have been better.

      He may just be waiting for the doors to open as he works there and is entitled to. It seems this is happening only a few minutes per day.

      Also unless you talked to the Moms there is no way to know they changed it up because of him. Same with the coffee customers.

      1. Anonz*

        Yeah I agree with this. He may be a creeper or he may just be socially awkward and people watching. It sounds like there is just a predominance of women in that area so what else is there to look at. People think I stare sometimes and it’s not intentional. (I’m a woman). I’m not trying to downplay your feelings or his behavior, but sometimes we develop mental narratives that might not be based on the truth. You don’t know for a fact why the class time changed, if it was because of one man wouldn’t it make more sense for someone from the class to speak to this man or involve security instead of making a schedule change? On the other hand you could be completely right about it all, but I think talking to the mananger before you know for sure was coming on too strong. Maybe try to broach this subject with some of the other customers or with the teacher from the class to see if something is actually going on here.

        1. Anonz*

          Sorry my 2nd sentence makes it sound like I’m excusing someone to stare at women because they’re women but I meant if you’re people watching in general and the people around you just happen to mostly be women, it’s not necessarily creepy. Just wanted to clear that up.

      2. GraceW*

        Anonymous letters are creepy by themselves. I think this is way over-blown. Maybe he’s staring, maybe he’s writing his poetry in his head, maybe he’s lonely. Instead of getting indignant, maybe some brave woman could speak to him and point out that his staring was making her feel uncomfortable.

    10. Sparky*

      Did the mommy and me group just change their routine, or did they complain to the store manager, mall security, etc.? The manager and security need to be hearing from multiple people. People need to let the cafe manager know what’s happening, and that it could be affecting their business. They should be able to complain to the company that leases space at the mall.

    11. GirlwithaPearl*

      Wow, the comments in this thread.

      People are going out of their way to discount women’s experiences feeling threatened by a man.

      Rape culture at work.

  3. Aurora Leigh*

    I have set two big goals for myself in 2017 — buy a house and adopt a dog (hopefully a German Shepherd mix).

    I’ve got a good steady job (finally), I’ve saved up for a down payment, and 2017 is going to be the year I work on building the future I want for myself. I always thought I’d meet a guy first, but this year I want to focus on things I can actually do something about.

    What are your goals for 2017? Is there anything you wish you’d know before you set out achieve goals similar to mine?

    1. Kj*

      I bought a house a year and a half ago. Depending where you are buying, it could be tough to find a house you like and that is in your budget. Don’t be too hasty, but also remember what can and can’t be easily changed in a house. Paint is easy. Changing a bathroom size isn’t. Not having a yard isn’t something you can do anything about either.

      Come up with three lists. One is requirements for the house, the second is things that are nice to have and the last is your house deal breakers. Follow that list! It is easy to get distracted by details when house shopping but those lists help remind you what you already decided you want, like and hate and give you a more objective way to evaluate the house.

      1. Wrench Turner*

        We bought out first house 4 years ago in one of the few affordable pockets of the DC-area. It’s tiny, it’s old, it’s an occasional money pit but it’s very much home. Totally, totally worth it. It’s home. If you’re just looking at the financial investment reason, our property gained (ballpark) 100k since we bought it; I understand markets go up and down, especially urban bubbles like DC, but the long term trend is definitely up.

        This year our plans include doing the research for starting our own business while Mrs. Turner kicks off her freelance art career (so jealous, but I’m next). I’m working on getting the first of many HVAC certifications to make myself more marketable and independent; I intend to buy an investment property and start getting some residual income from fixing it up and renting it out.

    2. SophieChotek*

      Those are wonderful goals. I wish you the best.

      I’ve never purchased a house either….but KJ has some good advice.
      I don’t want to scare you and I am sure there are many here more experienced in owning houses, but I would just add, take the time to find out how to look for the not so obvious issues in a house. Good retailers and sellers know how to stage a house well, to bring out all the attractive points of a house and hide any flaws. Maybe some of them are just small fixes you can ask to be to be fixed before closing.

      Not having a yard — especially if you have a pet (dog), can be a big deal.

      I agree a lot of cosmetic issues can be changed — and good staging/interior designers can work with what you have. Dealing with bad plumbing, awful toilets and sinks, problems with appliances or wishing you had gas vs. electric…not as easily changed, and sometimes when you get an electrician/carpenter in to fix one thing….you discover tons of other things too.

      Good luck with the hunt. Sounds like you’ve got great goals! keep us updated.

      1. Kj*

        Yeah, we toured a couple of homes that were “flips”- someone had come in, done the cosmetic stuff but left a whole lot of real problems. One thing we did is bring a laser level to check if the floors are level. One house was very un-level but the cosmetics of it was beautiful. We later saw it went for 50,000 more than asking-someone got taken for a ride on that one.

        If you have friends who are experienced in home repair/carpentry/other home stuff, see if one of them will go with you. My FIL was a carpenter, so my husband was our person for that, but we’ve offered to go with friends when neither of them had any experience in that stuff.

        You will get a home inspection- make sure you are the one paying for it so it is accurate.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      This is exciting stuff. Don’t rush. Take your time and look at a few houses. Fore thought and planning can save you a lot of heartache later.

      When we bought this house here, I could see the house was going to be a good place to have a dog. All my dogs have been about knee high and 50-60 pounds. It’s not fair to put a larger dog in a tiny house. Here the dogs are not constantly bumping into furniture and there are enough rooms for them to wander around a bit. The one thing that got me excited was the back door was off the kitchen and in line with the back of the garage. I saw the ease of use in this layout. This meant it would be really easy to put up a dog run. We ran a line between the house and the garage for the dog to use. With the dog’s run right near the kitchen/laundry area I could put him outside and keep an ear on him while I cooked my meals or did my laundry.
      Another thing that appealed to me is that this house is on one floor. That means when the dog gets older there are no big flights of stairs to deal with. I did not have to get an elderly dog up and down stairs to go to bed every night. Being on one level also helped me as I would come home from work pretty tired, the house is user-friendly and easy to deal with stuff.
      Lastly, keep your choices modest. You don’t want to be a position where your choices are either pay the mortgage or get the dog the veterinary care it needs. That is a nasty spot to be in.

      1. Kj*

        Yes, do think about aging in place! I intend to die in our house, so I made sure it would be usable even if I had mobility challenges. We have a basement, but the only thing I need down there is laundry and by that point, I’d likely be paying someone to help me clean so they could do the laundry.

        I agree about looking for a house under your budget if possible. We are in a pricey city and have watched peers get into bidding wars (before they got an inspection, ugh) and overpay for homes. They then can’t remodel or even at times buy furniture. Our house was under our budget and we had set our budget to be comfortable. We are paying the same in mortgage that we paid for a rental now.

        Also, look in corners of your city that aren’t popular. Everyone wants to live in the north end of our city. Part of that is the residual effects of redlining- south was where minorities were and many people assume it isn’t as safe (Our city had less murders last year than my home county had in 1 month). Not that they are being racist, but that the legacy of relining makes young white professionals want to buy in the north- most don’t even know why and when they come to the south end of the city, they start to wonder why they’d never thought of buying in the south. Housing prices are lower, neighborhoods are more integrated, great food from all over the world- what is not to like? So don’t assume anything about a neighborhood, make sure it is really unsafe by checking crime maps if people tell you it is unsafe. People have strange ideas at times. Paying an extra 100,000 for a house just so it is in a perceived- not actual- better area is silly IMO.

        1. Aurora Leigh*

          Thanks for all the tips guys!

          I’m lucky to live in a low COL area (population of my town is about 20k) so I’m looking for houses in the 50k-60k range. It will be a bit more expensive that my current rent, but the apt I’m currently renting is sort of dump!
          And renting a non dumpy place would be more expensive than buying.

          I think I’m looking for more of a starter home than a forever home. I’m in my mid twenties and I’m thinking I want a two bedroom house where I can live with my pets.

          I think I’ll start making those 3 lists today! I have some ideas, but it will be good to put them on paper!

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Me, too. 25 years for me. I watch my friends struggle with their larger properties and I am so grateful to be here. I wanted a home not a ball and chain. BUT. Other people have different skill sets, different tolerances, and different goals. It’s good to think about these things in relationship to the property we buy.

    4. Temperance*

      Congrats – those are awesome goals!

      It took us about 8 months to find a house that worked for us, which, hilariously, was the 2nd house we saw with a tremendous price drop, making the necessary remodel financially workable. I would advise you to not compromise on neighborhood, but find the ugliest/cheapest home on the best block.

      I set a few concrete goals (read 100 books), and a few general ones, like take care of myself better. I’m still figuring out what I want to do this year. My last year goal was to get fit, and instead, I ended up in the ICU and spending most of the year recovering, so I’m a LITTLE hesitant to try that again. ;)

    5. Drew*

      Fistbump of housebuying solidarity! I started the wheels turning on my own quest yesterday (although I’ve been looking around and thinking about it for quite some time).

      I love the house I’m renting, but it’s way too far from work and has some foundation issues that can’t really be repaired while I’m living here.

      Hoping I’ll be in my new place by June!

    6. Marillenbaum*

      That is awesome! I really respect your decision to just go for it.

      For 2017, my goals are to go to a museum at least once a month (I live in DC, so tons to choose from), and to actually furnish my apartment. For a long time, I thought my roommate and I would choose furniture together, but every conversation around “We should buy some furniture!” never went anywhere, and otherwise we would have literally nothing in our living room. So, now I have a couch, a rug, and a coffee table. Bookcase arrives next week, and then I hope to have a dining table and chairs within the next couple of months. It isn’t a ton, and it won’t be mad fancy, but it is mine, which feels good.

      1. AshK434*

        Buying furniture should be a goal for me too. I move around frequently so I usually just get cheap Ikea furniture (like a bed and *maybe* a desk) because I don’t like being burdened with stuff. Now that I have some stability maybe I’ll spring for some real furniture.

    7. all aboard the anon train*

      2017 is the year I’m giving up on buying a house in my area since I’ll never be able to afford it even with a 3% down payment (thanks, Greater Boston real estate!), so I’m just focusing on saving more money for whatever I decide to do with it in the future. I know that I’ll never have enough to pay a downpayment + closing costs + any house emergencies that come up, so I figure I should just store that money away for the medical problems I know I’ll have to pay an obscene amount of money for in the future (yay health problems).

      I did the 52 week savings challenge last year, which worked out well, so my goal is to do that again and use the end of year money for a vacation or something.

      Other than that, my goals are to write more and be better about going to bed earlier. And to join some classes or clubs to meet new people now that most of my friends are having babies or moving to areas I can’t get to by public transit.

    8. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Hopefully the year we get our kitties back and move into a flat (rental for sure) where we can set up camp for a few years and settle in until we decide if we want to stay here, move on, or have been kicked out. We also have some big savings and investment goals and getting healthy goals (which are actually sticking this time and we are starting to see some results). I also want to make this the year I learn something new outside of my normal sphere of interest/work.

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        Oh – one other goal – to challenge assumptions. We had assumed for almost the last two years that we couldn’t use a grocery delivery service due to the location of our flat/door/street confusion. I challenged that last week and lo and behold they found us just fine, saving me two hours of grocery hassle and now I can use that time to prep food or other more enjoyable activities than going to the giant mega mart once a week (or foregoing that and instead just getting take out or making up a meal during the week) and schlepping groceries home.

    9. Lissa*

      My saving goals are to save enough money that I don’t have to panic during summer, when my work (contractor) is light, and enough to be able to travel to the UK! I’m super excited for the second one, it’s been almost a decade since I’ve travelled further than the city nearby.

      I go back and forth on whether or not I ever want to buy property. Right now housing prices here are insane enough to get articles written about them regularly, and I have no desire to spend *that* much money.

    10. AshK434*

      In 2016 I moved to Baltimore for a new job. It turns out I hate both the new job and the city so my goal for 2017 was to change my situation and move! So far 2017 is looking fantastic because I have two job offers (one for a remote position, and one for an awesome company in NYC) so I will definitely be out of Baltimore by the month’s end!! Mission accomplished. Now my next goal is to adopt a kitten. It’s been so long since I’ve had a cat and I miss them.

    11. Lola*

      Great goals! I hope you plan to find a good Realtor to act as your Buyers Agent – it usually doesn’t cost you a dime and they have so much insight! (Full disclosure – I am a Realtor!). Shop around & find someone you like & who will work with you throughout the process. I love it when clients come to me early – sometimes even a year or so before they buy. Good Luck :)

      1. Artemesia*

        Ultimately the realtor’s interests and the buyer’s interest are not the same. Most realtors are actually working for the seller even the buyer’s realtor — they benefit when you buy whether it is a good idea or not and if the price is higher rather than lower. Most buyers are in experienced — we buy few houses in a lifetime — and realtors are experienced and no how to quiet rational concerns and get people into houses that may not be a good deal. Been there done that, going to be taking a loss eventually.

        1. bunniferous*

          Well, if you have a decent buyers agent that is not the case. Because a lot of their business is referrals and repeat business. The ones who do not take their time and make sure their buyers are protected and that buying is a good idea? Yeah, that does not work too well in the long run.

          I am in the business but I pretty much only sell foreclosed houses for the VA. However my husband has been in the business for decades, and I do watch what goes on around me. It really is in your best interest to have a buyers agent who can show you ANY house on the market. If you just pick the seller agent for convenience, you are giving up the right to have someone represent YOUR interests and your interests alone. There are many scenarios where having someone looking out for YOU not the property owner is very very important. If you are in NC we are required to go over a brochure with you explaining buyer agency and it is to your benefit to read and understand it and not just let your eyes glaze over.

          Also, unless you are an experienced home purchaser, I recommend you use someone who has at least five years experience in the business. Real estate school does not teach us a lot of what we need to know, and five years is about enough time to have enough experience to do an excellent job. Now of course there are exceptions and I do not want to throw folks under the bus, but in general, you will be much better off doing that.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          With or without a buyer’s realtor, I think it is really important to bring a second set of eyes with you. This should be a trusted friend/family member who genuinely has your best interests at heart. You want someone who can leave the rose-colored glasses at home and yet not negate everything, a person with a realistic perspective.

          We brought a contractor friend to a two family house we were considering. I was in LOVE with the place. Two living rooms; a winter kitchen AND a summer kitchen; the basement was so clean you could live in the basement without worries and it was love at first sight.
          Our friend went through and showed us where the concerns were. I assigned a random dollar value to each concern. I know for a fact that my estimates were wrong. Using these poor estimates, I came up with $95K in repairs. I realized that we HAD to have a tenant in order to JUST pay the mortgage, never mind do these repairs. Our friend helped us to see the odds were stacked against us. He never once said “do not buy this place” he just went line item by line item telling us what we were facing. He saved our butts.

          The value of bringing a detached, grounded person with you is immeasurable.

      2. Alice*

        I would love to hear from many people, realtors or not, about finding a realtor you’re comfortable with and communicating with them.
        I know that recommendations are important, and I have recs from friends, but I feel like my friends’ experiences might sort out the awful ones, but do my friends really know enough to tell an ok realtor from a good one from a great one?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          When I ask friends for recommendations I also ask them why they recommend the person. I find hearing the reason why is helpful in sorting out which recommendations are the strongest and which person is most likely to be a good fit for me. For example, I would pay more attention to someone who had several reasons for recommending their person than a friend who just had one reason for their recommendation.

          I would recommend the realtor that sold me this house. My reasons are: I am totally impressed with her ethics [insert examples here]. She is a hard working person [more examples]. She told us the things we needed to hear in a polite, informative manner and she was not concerned about “buttering us up” or “hiding things”.

    12. Colette*

      My 2017 goal is to break my routine once a week, and to take pictures while doing so (starring toy dinosaurs, because that amuses me).

    13. The Sugar Plum Fairy*

      I was in your position last year, and I ended up buying my first house and adopting the world’s sweetest dog. :)

      The house thing – I ended up buying in the next county over from Current City because the school district was “better.” However, we don’t yet have kids but we are planning to in the next couple of years. While I really like our house and it’s very affordable on our income, it’s not close to anything and we are constantly driving into the city for groceries, errands, and so on. So we are currently saving money for a bigger down payment and that coupled with the equity we have (i.e. we put down a big down payment and have been paying extra on the principle), we should be able to get into a better house in the city by the end of this year, so that’s my Goal for 2017.

      My advice about house hunting is to figure out your “must haves” and dealbreakers and stick to it. You have to be realistic and if what you really want isn’t out there, I would really encourage you to continue saving money until you have a good down payment and strong emergency fund for the home you want. Don’t settle. I wish we had held out and rented for another year and got into a house that had a better location for us.

      Find a realtor that’s not just out for a commission and really interested in helping you to find what you want. I hate to sound negative, but there are so many crappy realtors out there that are lazy and won’t work for you. Don’t hire a friend or acquaintance to represent you – interview at least three realtors who have been working in the business for several years. The people who almost bought our home were working with a realtor who was part-time and worked with the woman at a high school. Since they were co-workers, they couldn’t fire her even though they wanted to because she wasn’t serving them at all and they were having to do all the work.

      Best of luck! Sounds like it’s going to be an awesome year for you.

    14. copy run start*

      My goal is to get my car paid off. Approximately $8,000 to go… but I’m getting a $10,000 raise soon so it’s within reach as long as I don’t succumb to lifestyle creep this year.

      My secondary goal is to avoid lifestyle creep, because I’ll have to start on my student loans once the car is taken care of, and that will take a number of years. I have enough money now to breathe comfortably, get debt free and have healthy savings and investments for the future. I don’t want to look back and realize I squandered that on stupid stuff like a sports car or piles of video games I never have time to play.

      Congrats on deciding to get a home! I don’t really plan on purchasing anytime soon, but the advice I’ve always heard to is to make sure you have some money left after closing to deal with any needed repairs and unexpected expenses for a while. Also, don’t be afraid to walk away from the “dream home” if the deal is bad.

    15. Elizabeth West*

      I wish I’d known how expensive it is to own a house, even and maybe especially a crappy one like mine. Maintenance, repairs, yard care when I became unable to do it (equipment malfunction, a shoulder injury), pest control. Be sure to factor those costs in–it’s not just how much you pay a month for the mortgage. If you do some of it yourself to save money, you’ll have to spend time instead.

      As to dog ownership, I haven’t had dogs in years so I have no recommendations except if you’re getting a big dog, it will be nice for it to have a good-sized yard, preferably fenced. That’s one thing my crap house has–a nice big backyard.

      My goals–to publish this damn book and to leave the place where I live. I can work on these; the other things I want may require a bit more cooperation from the universe. :)

    16. Kristen*

      I really want a German shepherd mix too. I’ll be looking for a lab/shepherd mix specifically. My house/dog goal would be great for 2017, but probably won’t happen this year, sadly.

      My main goal for this year is to pass the CPA exam. I passed my first section in November 2016 and if all goes well, my goal is to take the last section in July. If I conquer this and nothing else happens, I will still be happy :-)

      I’d like to get in shape and eat healthier. I hope to take up trail running this summer. I’ve never been a runner, but I hope to do one run each weekend this summer (more once I’m done with my exams). Mostly, because of the test I’m not going to be too unrealistic with my workout goals.

      I’m also into the outdoors and hope to get more camping and backpacking in this summer. Lastly, I’m planning a trip to NYC for late summer. I love where I live (Minnesota), but loathe the short summers. It’s difficult to squeeze in all of my adventures into our 2 minute summers.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        I grew up with a Lab/Shepherd! She was the best dog in the world! She’s been gone almost 3 years now and it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve felt ready to love another dog.

        Last year someone on here (Lawcat, I think) mentioned inflatable kayaks. I got one and it is such a great summer activity!

    17. Anono-me*


      I hope that you have a wonderful 2017.

      House lessons, (some that I learned the hard way*). Remember that a house is a financial investment not just a home.

      Even if it is a starter house, be sure that you can live there longer if you need to. *

      Foundation and water problems are some of the most expensive things to fix.

      Paint color, flooring and light fixtures are some of the cheapest.

      If you live in the USA, I was very glad to have both a professional home inspection and a year of a home owners warranty (kind of like an extended warranty on a car).

      If you live by your self, consider looking for a smaller GSD mix rescue, one you can pick up and put in the car yourself in an emergency.*

      Happy searching.

    18. Katie the Fed*

      I know it’s so unoriginal, but I’m really trying to lose weight this year. It’s been creeping up for a while and I gained a fair bit more after an accident two years ago that made it hard to walk for about 7 months. I’m now at the point where I would have had trouble fitting into a 17-inch seat on a plane yesterday if my skinny husband hadn’t been next to me. I’m horrified. He loves me regardless but I’m just so miserable and ashamed and I have got to get a handle on this.

    19. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      Congrats on saving enough of a down payment for a house!
      We’re trying to pay off our mortgage in around 12 years total. Each year, we try to get it down under the next lowest $10,000 (not sure if that made sense, but 2016 for example, we wanted to get below 90k. This year, we want to get it below 80k).

      I’m also back in school to complete my Bachelor’s degree and want to stick with that. I’ve been trying for YEARS but have never been able to take more than a class or two at a time so it was very slow moving.

  4. planners*

    I generally like to buy my planners in January since they’re cheaper after the new year starts. I bought a nice planner in Staples for about $25 and when I went to checkout, the girl at the register started gushing about the planner and asking me which bloggers I like and what etsy shops I buy from and what my planner aesthetic was like and I was just…..completely dumbfounded.

    Turns out the planner I got was one of those Erin Condren ones and after looking it up online, there’s a pretty intense cult following. Most of it seems to be teenagers, college kids, and stay at home moms, but the thing that baffles me is that their whole thing is planner decoration. Covering it in stickers and craft tape and the like.

    Which I have nothing against and a lot of them look very pretty, but I guess I don’t understand the point of using a planner if you’re going to fill most of the pages with stickers instead of to-do lists and appointments. Especially since all the Etsy stickers my cashier had talked about are expensive! These planners go for $55 each normally and some of these people say on their blogs that they spend up to $50+ a month on decorations! I like paper planners because I’m pretty busy and it lets me schedule my freelance work, grad school, work, and errands/social life, but this lifestyle seems more about the art of it than the planning.

    I had no idea planners were such a lifestyle hobby. I’m in a pretty trendy city and I follow a lot of social media accounts that talk about the next big trend, but I’ve never heard of this trend, so I don’t know if it’s just not a city thing or just a different lifestyle type of thing.

    I’m kind of blown away by the whole thing. Is anyone here is into the planner lifestyle and can tell me what the appeal is? I’m genuinely curious.

    1. Bunny*

      I just googled it…..never heard of this before. I just use Google Calendar for everything so this as an idea is overwhelming. But I guess for people into scrapbooking this is a natural progression?

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        Really, it’s just another form of scrapbooking.

        They probably all keep track of their actual schedule in Google Calendar, too.

        1. bkanon*

          THAT’S what was tweaking me about the planner trend! I couldn’t figure out why it was nudging my brain so much. It’s the younger, urbanite version of scrapbooking. :)

    2. Nicole*

      There’s one girl whose YouTube videos I like to watch and she’s really into the planner decorating as well. I think it’s cute, but I could never bring myself to spend the money on it, especially because as you pointed out it’s not practical. Nothing against anyone who does it, though, if it makes them happy, then good for them, but it’s just not for me.

      1. planners*

        Yeah, I have nothing against it, but I can’t really fathom spending $6 + $3 shipping on 1 sheet of 30 stickers or $50/month on decorations. I can understand spending that for scrapbooking because you can look back on those, but does anyone really look back on their monthly to-do lists purely for nostalgia?

        1. Marillenbaum*

          Sort of. As someone who doesn’t keep a regular journal (I just straight up lack the discipline), this is the way I can look back at the ordinary, everyday stuff of my life, which brings back all sorts of memories. Like, “Oh, that was the time Penny found us that really good Chinese restaurant!”, or “That was the time I met the DMV lady who went to high school with my mom!”

          1. planners*

            That makes sense. I suppose I do the same with instagram and twitter (and did with livejournal, back in the day), so it’s just a different medium.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          My favorite thing about this getting popular is that you can get stickers, washi tape, and decorations for cheap on Amazon with free shipping now.

          I don’t really have the patience or motivation to do much decoration on my bullet journal (which I primarily use to track job search and mental health stuff, so I’m not about to blog it or anything) but I do slap a little washi tape in there when I need to mark off a new section or differentiate a page somehow. It looks nice and takes like 10 seconds, and I honestly bought the washi tape because it was $8 and I was like $6 from free same-day delivery. :P

      2. SophieChotek*

        People have different hobbies, but this one I don’t get either as much.
        Scrapbooking around photos, etc. makes more sense.
        But if they find joy — that’s what matters.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        As a person who has difficulty making myself use a planner regularly, I wonder if this is how people are getting themselves to work with a planner. If you decorate it up it makes you feel like using it more?

        I did have a binder here to keep my paid bills in. I ended up covering it with cute stickers that people gave me with the idea in mind that looking at cute pen quins would help to take the drudgery out of filing my paid bills. It helped, a little.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, exactly. It’s funny, because I’m not crafty, but this craft makes perfect sense to me in a way some don’t. I guess my version is choosing colorways for my Excel workbooks.

        2. Ren*

          Yep, pretty much this. I have a terrible memory and often forget to update my planner without a set schedule (new week, washi tape time) plus I can only highlight so many things to make my brain absorb them so colourful tape/stickers works better.

          A plain as-is planner page with plain black hardwriting goes into my brain as a blank page. I find undecorated planner pages useless *shrug*

    3. Temperance*

      I have a Plum Planner and a Plum fitness planner. I honestly bought it because I couldn’t find a nice, quality customizable planner elsewhere.

      It’s mostly a SAHM hobby/on mommy blogs, which might be why you haven’t seen it. I found it while I was researching what planner I wanted to buy. Some people do really cute stuff with their planners, but I bought one because I don’t manage my time well, TBH, so picking that up as a hobby wouldn’t work for me.

      1. planners*

        Ah, that probably makes sense. I tend to avoid those sites like the plague (some of them are so intense). I never would have known about them if the cashier at Staples hadn’t mentioned it.

        Tbh I like a physical planner because it lets me plan out freelance article research or grad school research/edits. I have my work gmail calendar for my 9-5 job, my normal google calendar for my personal life/appointments/social events, so it’s nice to have a separate calendar where I can sketch out the articles I’m writing and track hours spent or when to submit invoices, or to mark down the articles I need to read for my grad school research. I used to use post-its, but I had a habit of losing those, and it’s easier to quickly outline something in a paper paper than on my phone or email.

        1. Temperance*

          Yeah they are super not relevant to my life whatsoever, so I always feel like I’m observing another culture when I stumble upon one, lol.

          I really like your schedule breakdown. I use Outlook at work, and the paper planner for the rest of my life. I’ve tried using Google Calendar but it just doesn’t work for me.

          1. planners*

            I mostly like Google Calendar because I can set pop-up or email reminders for appointments. I’m not going to remember to leave on-time for an appointment or brunch date if it’s in a paper calendar, but if it shows up in my email or phone, I’ll remember it.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              For me the act of writing something tends to cement it in my memory. Also I find writing the little x through something incredibly satisfying in a way that marking it complete in my Google Calendar tasks never is!

              I do use the heck out of google calendar reminders for recurring tasks, like giving my dog his flea medicine and watering my (sad, neglected) plant.

    4. Tala*

      I’m amazed by it too (given that I have a special place in my heart for cute planners anyway) but it is BIG business – some of the accessories I see people using on YouTube are so expensive. It reminds me a bit of school where I wanted to have the cutest notebook etc etc.

      I use a Moleskine 18-month one because it’s the only one I’ve found that isn’t enormous but also has room to write notes etc. beyond appointments and meeting times.

      1. planners*

        I admire the people who make serious money off this lifestyle since they clearly know there’s a market willing to pay a lot of money for it.

        I was just surprised because when I bought it, the cashier was talking to me about stickers and the like and my first reaction was, “I’m a 30 year old woman, why would I need cutesy stickers and artsy tape for a planner???”. Nothing against those who do like that, because again, some of the art people make from it is really cute, but I’m just baffled by the frenzy some people get over it.

    5. Marillenbaum*

      I am, somewhat. I’m a grad student, and even before I went back for my MA I preferred paper planners. I use the Bullet Journal method, which works with any kind of notebook (in fact, my journal for my research position is just a garden-variety Mead), but my preference is for a Leuchtturm1917, which costs between $20-30. Occasionally, I’ll buy some washi tape that I think is cute, but that’s maybe $3-5 for a roll.
      I like to spend some time each week on planning out the next week’s spreads (reading assignment, schedules, etc.) even though I know it isn’t necessary to make them pretty, because I enjoy getting to be low-key artistic in something functional.

      1. Mela*

        I’m the same. I spend money on the book itself and different pens, but no stickers or tape. But I think the sticky stuff is kind of a replacement for people who want to draw but can’t. A lot of bullet journalers draw sketches and symbols and stuff, mostly to get the creative juices flowing and because it’s pretty. So I think the stickers are sort of like a way of expression for those who can’t draw?

    6. FDCA In Canada*

      I have an Erin Condren planner! I paid full price (because it’s personalized with the layout I wanted and has my name on the cover), and I’m definitely not a teen, college kid, or mom of any variety. It came with some stickers, which honestly I don’t see myself using (okay, I did put birthday stickers on my birthday and my husband’s birthday, because it was fun), and I definitely don’t think I’d spend any additional amount of money on decorating it, but the appeal is that it’s very, very enticing to see your own life planned out meticulously and looking exciting and fun on the page. You can note all of your appointments and stuff in a Dayrunner and be just as organized, but it’s appealing to make it look pretty–it’s viscerally satisfying, and it really makes you feel like you have your life together. It’s aspirational, of course, but decorating all of your boring daily appointments with stickers and tape can make it seem more attractive and more appealing than it is. “Saturday work 3-10, Sunday lunch w/parents” is boring, but if you have a special tape you use to decorate your work day blocks and a little sticker for “lunch” or “family” or whatever, it makes it look more fun.

      I don’t know if I’m explaining it well, but it’s fun to see your own life looking more exciting than it is. I mean, my own planner has dinner plans and workout schedules and doctor’s appointments and stuff, but I can see how it would look way more fun if I dressed it up.

      1. RavensandOwls*

        … I’m literally tied to my outlook calendar, but this is making a paper planner look so tempting omg

    7. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I learned about this when I worked with a woman who is obsessed with planners. No joke. She can recite details about all the different designers, their lines, what the differences are… She even went to a convention for planner-lovers. It’s not my jam. I did, at one point, decide I needed a new planner, and I asked her to come with me to a stationery store because she’s SO INTO THEM, but when she pointed her favorites out to me, they just didn’t fit. Too much affirmation, glitter, and pink for my tastes. I wanted a weekly planner like my old Dayrunner. The one that had Far Side cartoons, that was cool. But… nah. Her hobby, not mine.

      Irony: we worked for a company whose CEO hated and despised any form of paper organization. I once “got in trouble” for printing out an Excel doc with deadlines and key dates. She still works there.

      1. planners*

        Yes, that’s generally my biggest issue with planners. A lot are way too motivational/pink/glittery and my style is more minimalistic. The one I picked out had a minimal black and white geometric design and I liked the size of the pages and how it was set up, but there’s a lot of motivational quotes inside and those….make me uncomfortable. I don’t know what it is about them, but I always find motivational quotes in planners or calendar sound a bit hollow. I don’t need my planner to tell me to love myself or to have a good weekend.

        1. Grey*

          I have the same issues with motivational quotes. They feel so fake, and really, most of them don’t apply to me.

      2. Artemesia*

        I like paper planners too and had one when I was working; I had this beautiful cover with marbled paper I bought on a trip and would reload it each year with planner inserts; these days I get one of the calendars the homeless sell at year’s end and write all our stuff on that — works great.

        1. Tala*

          When I quit my job this year, part way into my 18 month planner, NOTHING gave me more joy than chopping out the pages I’d used for work appointments up to that point. Of course I had to do it with a blade and a cutting mat seeing as my planner is a bound one instead of ring pull but it felt SO good.

    8. Sophie Winston*

      It’s kind of fascinating. I get making the outside pretty – you’re going to carry the thing around every day for months you might as well like how it looks. And if it’s your journal as well, some sketching or pictures taped in or whatnot along with your appointments makes sense. More than that, I don’t really grock.

      But then again, I’m an accountant, and we’re not known for our artsy side.

    9. Oryx*

      I have a Passion Planner and just yesterday in fact spent a ridiculous amount of money on stickers, on top of the monthly Etsy stickers I tend to buy.

      For me, it’s another place to express some creativity. It’s not just about schedules and appointments — which I do, too — but the Passion Planner in particular takes a big picture view of goal setting and having a place to “play” while goal setting keeps me motivated. I’m also a very visual person so, again, having those stickers and such helps in that way, too

      1. an anon is an anon*

        Do you have any Esty shop recs? There’s so many on there that I’ve been overwhelmed at where to start looking, and the ones I found on Amazon seem to be geared more towards children than adults.

        1. Oryx*

          My favorites (that I have purchased from) are Pumpkin Paper Co., Lyrainzstickerznstuff, and Star City Designs. I follow a bunch more on IG although haven’t bought anything from yet.

    10. Bad Candidate*

      I am into it a little bit. I buy more practical stickers and occasional decorative ones. There’s also plenty of free ones out there you can download and print. Some people do use them as a scrapbook or journal. That’s kind of what I do, I like to be able to look back and see what happened when and remind myself of stuff. There’s also a simple ECLP Facebook group for people who do minimal decoration.

    11. Damn it Hardison!*

      I do very light decorating of my planner – mainly washi tape, sticky flags, cute paper clips. For me it’s just fun, but I don’t spend that much time on it and not a lot of money. Most of what I have in terms of tape flags/sticky notes I picked up at Target – this time last year they carried a lot of cutesy stuff for planners in the seasonal/small stuff section that’s usually by the entrance in the store.

    12. Panda Bandit*

      From what I’ve seen the stickers aren’t just for decoration. They still represent various appointments and to-do list entries. I guess some people like a different kind of visual reminder?

      I’m not into the planner lifestyle myself. I have a simple $10 planner and that is all I need. I wouldn’t buy those $55 ones but I’m rather impressed at the industry they’ve built around it.

      1. planners*

        There are stickers that cover up an entire box or the monthly calendar view with art. I can understand the stickers for appointments, but I guess I don’t understand spending a lot of money on a sticker where the sole purpose is to cover an empty box or empty space.

        I am impressed by the industry they’ve built around it, but I’m usually impressed by people who know how to make money of a niche market.

    13. Bonky*

      I do it! (40 year old C-suite exec – so not necessarily the stereotypical scrapbooker.) I have a VERY busy diary and many to-do lists. I use a Midori Travelers Notebook – I’ve had it for about five years. Calligraphy is another one of my hobbies, and I collect and restore old fountain pens.

      It doesn’t cost me very much at all, just glue and a scalpel and cutting mat. I get a weekly current affairs and arts magazine which is full of pictures from art exhibitions, beautiful archive photography and the like: those illustrations are cut out in a session at the weekend, and I collect them to glue in. Business cards from restaurants I’ve liked, leaves and flowers from cool places I’ve visited, tickets from shows I’ve enjoyed: it all goes in there and there’s still plenty of room for appointments, lists and the like.

      I visit Japan a lot for work, and that’s somewhere where I *do* buy stickers. I don’t spend much on them, though.

      Each diary insert (the way I have it set up) lasts around three months. When they’re done they come out and I file them, so I’ve got a nice record of what I’ve been doing, with illustrations. There are some pictures of my notebook at http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/255106-my-heavily-personalised-midori-travelers-notebook-pics/ – I don’t think there’s enough information there to identify me! (I chose pages from periods when I was on vacation so there’s no work information in there.)

  5. Ruth (UK)*

    Running! I took up running uh… literally 8 days ago. It started cause a friend of mine was saying how his training for a half marathon is not going well and how he’d probably come last. I said “at least you’d beat me” which led to a bit of an odd bet (ie. we each bet we’d lose against the other). So now I’ve signed up for a half marathon in April (and whoever comes first out of us buys the other a pint).

    It’s not quite as rash as it sounds – though I am new to running, I am not new to endurance sports (mostly cycling) and I currently cycle 70-90 miles per week (depending) just in commuting to work / other things, and do other sports – so I’m going into this as a non-runner, but a reasonably fit and active person.

    Anyway, I did a parkrun today (many parks in the UK run a timed 5k run every Saturday and there are 2 parks within 5 miles of me that do it). I got 30mins and 7 seconds which I have decided is ok for my first run. Someone commented that they found it interesting I choose to do the run in corduroy trousers (but it’s January in England so I’m hardly gonna overheat! so I just wore my normal trousers).

    My half-marathon training plan is a bit loose at the moment as I don’t really know what I’m doing. I don’t have a goal time, I just would like to finish and preferably not have to walk any/much of the course, or do as little walking as possible.

    I’ll go ahead and guess this is a huge hobby cause I see runners everywhere (including over 500 at the parkrun today), so… anyone else got running goals, or training for any particular event at the moment?

    (ps. oddly, I suppose if I want to win my bet, my goal should actually to be to do badly, since it’s whoever comes first who loses the bet and owes the beer. That said, if I’m gonna run 13.1 miles, I would like to do my best at it…)

    1. emmylou*

      I think the comment about the oddness of the corduroy trousers is the possibility of CHAFING ;-).

      Signed, a long time runner and cyclist who is quite committed to wicking workout gear ;-)

      Yay you!

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        Ah yes. I don’t think chafing is an issue on this distance though (especially when wearing the clothes I normally wear for other things). My main hobby is actually morris dancing and I’m in a few different groups who wear outfits ranging from the traditional Cotswold kit of button up white collared shirt with breeches, bellpads and baldrics, to a Northwest group where we dance in blouses, skirts, and frilly bloomers (and of course wooden soled leather buckle up clogs for NW dancing), and one group where we have rag coats and top hats… So I’m pretty used to doing what is basically exercise in clothes that are completely inappropriate for aerobic activity…

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Chafing is NO JOKE! I once did a 10 miler in a new pair of shorts and had a bloody line all around my waist at the end. I never did a race in new clothing ever again after that.

          1. Ruth (UK)*

            I know someone who got a pair of those toe-shoes… you know, those sort of glove-like shoes where your toes go individually into toe-compartments? (I don’t know how to describe these but hopefully you know what I mean). Anyway, she wore them for the first time…. for the London marathon! She was (and is) a keen runner and probably should have known better (this was not her first marathon). She had not trained in them at all and had only gone on a short trial jog and found them comfortable. Anyway, around halfway she took them off and continued barefoot.

            So maybe long runs is just not the best time to try out new pieces of kit!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Chafing, interesting, I did not think of that.
        I was thinking the corduroy is a rough surface and might slow a runner down, as the rough surface has some resistance to it, although the amount of impact is probably tiny-tiny.
        I know when my husband did cycling he got into looking at every. single. aspect of riding the bike. Clothing was one aspect.

        1. Ruth (UK)*

          I’m not overly concerned about the difference wind resistance is going to make in my running (plus it affects cyclists more, and there’s the weight of the bike to account for!). In fact, I’ve sort of been considering the idea of a fancy dress. I didn’t want to do anything over the top though. I was thinking of writing “what was I thinking?” on the back of my t-shirt…

    2. Cath in Canada*

      I’m super impressed that you’ve already done a 5k! I tried to get into running a few years ago, also as a non-runner but reasonably fit and active person who cycles >60km a week just by commuting, and it took weeks to be able to run that kind of distance or time. (My ironman triathlete friend had me on an interval training app where you build up from 1 minute run / 1 minute walk to 10 minute run / 1 minute walk). Keep up the good work!

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        Thanks :D are you still running at all? I assume you were training towards a certain event at the time of your friend helping you, though you might not have been(?)

        1. Cath in Canada*

          No, it wasn’t for me. I kept it up for two years, running 5km three times a week, and waiting for that moment that all my running friends kept telling me about – that moment when you realise that you absolutely love running and can’t live without it. Instead, I was slogging along in the rain and the dark one morning before work and had a moment when I realised that I’d hated every single minute of every single run for two years, and should find something else to do instead. I didn’t even run home; I walked, in the pouring rain. I swim and go to the gym instead now. But lots of people genuinely do start loving it, so don’t let my experience deter you!

          1. Ruth (UK)*

            I guess some things suit some people and some don’t. At the moment I feel like I neither enjoy nor dislike running. I don’t exactly look forward to it, but I also feel no unhappiness or dread over the exercise as I know some people do. I feel quite good afterwards though, and I enjoyed the slightly social aspect of the park run – I saw a few people I know (not well, but well enough to chat with them when running [har har] into them before or after the 5k.

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        I don’t really have a goal time. I had to put one on the sign up form and I wrote 2 hours 45 mins but I only picked it because the slowest time you were allowed to put was 3 hours 15 mins (if you don’t finish it in that time you have to stop cause roads are closed for the event) and I had absolutely no idea how long a half marathon would take, so I kinda just… guessed. Since it’s my first one, I think I’m gonna just try and pace it as evenly as I can without burning out and find out what my time is :D

        1. regina phalange*

          Good luck! If you train properly, you should have no problem hitting that time. I ran two half marathons in 2011 (can’t believe that is now SIX years ago) and my goal time for my very first one was to finish in under two and a half hours, which I did (I think I came in around 2hrs 20 min). You will surprise yourself, I suspect. I ran one in 2012 that I barely trained for because it was too hot that summer to run and came in at 2:45 for that one.

          1. Ruth (UK)*

            Thanks :D I fluctuate in my feelings towards this, ranging from “ah, I bet I can easily get like 2 and a half hours” to “I am not even sure I can travel this distance on foot in one go at all..”

            1. Sophie Winston*

              I think the key is keeping your training to mostly easy* miles. Even though you’re fit, running abuses muscles and joints in a different way than cycling, or any other exercise, and you need to build up mileage slowly over your first few months to avoid injury. Stick to easy miles and building distance, and I bet you’ll have no trouble completing the half at the 10 minute pace you did the 5K. Add speed workouts before you’ve built that base for a few months and you’re much more likely to have an injury.

              Good luck!

              *Easy means the speed where you’re able to reasonably carry on a conversation with a friend.

    3. Sick And Grumpy*

      Aw, half marathon is the most fun distance to train for! The crowds are great and the distance is manageable if you prepare and the long runs don’t cut into your life.
      Can I suggest you look up the Seawheeze training plan? (the one Lulu puts out for their half marathon every year, it’s on their Seawheeze website, just change the dates) It has strength training program and a recovery yoga video that work really well (I PR’ed using the plan and didn’t injure myself training). I never tried the meditation practice because that’s a bit too out there for me.
      Hansons has a nice plan too.
      Have fun!

  6. Kj*

    Anyone planning their garden? I’m trying to see if my soil is good for huckleberries and I want to add blueberries to a side yard. I also might get my first crop of figs this year from a fig tree I planted. I’m considering using vermipods to add worms to my garden- anyone else do that? Oh and this winter, I made a big compost bin for all the leaves, goat poop, chicken poop and dropped hay. I hope it is ready for spring!

    1. Me2*

      Our fig tree took about three years to get started, the first year we got fruit our crop was about 7 figs. The next year about 30, this past year about 250 and they all ripen on the exact same day or that’s what it seemed like. Have a good recipe for fig jam handy. Now I need to go have some fig jam on toast.

      1. Kj*

        I’d settle for 7 this year. I planted peach and apple trees too. I can’t wait to have to make jam with the excess!

    2. Non runner*

      I’m in an apartment, so I’m stuck with what can work in a container. But yes, I am already dreaming a bit and wondering if there’s a way to make green beans work. To complicate matters, I’m probably moving in June, so…

    3. Not So NewReader*

      If you need worms in your soil you can add greensand to your soil. Greensand has minerals, and minerals stimulate microbes. Once you have microbes you start seeing lots of worms. I have used greensand here on my clay soil and been amazed with the results.

      1. Kj*

        Oh, thanks for that tip! I know some of my soil is pretty bad. I sent it for testing. I’m also trying to find SOMETHING to grow under my red cedar trees- the area is dry, shaded and nutrient-poor, thanks to the cedars. Even during a rainstorm, you can stand under the cedars and stay dry, so growing stuff is a problem there.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          Hostas- if you water them. We have a giant scarlet maple in our front yard that shades all but one corner (where I have a rose bush and spring bulbs planted) We planted some Hosta in front of the house that thrive as long as I remember to water them. Drip systems on a timer are the best, but even a $5 manual timer that you can turn to water for 15 minutes is a real help.

          1. Kj*

            Sadly, hostas are out, as they are poisonous to goats. The goats try everything, so I’d rather be safe. Thanks for the idea though.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          In deep shade like that, it can be super hard to get anything to grow. And one can spend a lot of money trying to find something that will grow there.

          It sounds like this could be a large area so my suggestion may not be wise financially. I was thinking of getting colorful pebbles to cover the area with. Lowes/Home Depot sell them in bags. You might be able to find a local nursery that would deliver a truck load (13 sq yds?) for a better price. You’ll need to measure the area and figure covering it 3-4 inches deep to calculate how many square yards you need. (The sales people can do this for you, if you prefer, just bring in the measurements for the size of the area.)
          Then, find some lawn art. This could be a statue from a local place. Or it could be a piece of metal sculpture by an artist in the area. You could go with antique farm tools such as a Planet Junior or an old wagon. This stuff does not need to be watered and it does not need to be replaced annually. OTH, you might like to put benches under the trees so you can sit and watch the rain storm.

          I am a big fan of going with the flow of things rather than trying to make the spot do more than it can really do.

    4. Jessesgirl72*

      We didn’t try vermipods, but we did get live worms and set them up in one of those plastic containers to grow more, and pretty much failed at it.

      Our yard now is crazy full of worms, so not necessary to introduce more. I’m normally starting to order seeds around now, but I think our gardening is going to be reduced this year to pretty much just tomatoes.

      We have apple trees and 2 blueberry bushes- used to be 3, but the rabbits got to the one, around the fence.

    1. Caledonia*

      Best: I like my job and when I can use quiet time, I get so much done without the radio being on, one of my colleagues sometimes singing, emails and phonecalls.

      Worst: Last night I was struck by the 2am feeling that I may have messed up something at work and I’m not back until Monday, which is an entirety to an anxious person like me. I keep telling myself it is fixable if I’ve done it wrong. Bah. Also, work is horrendously busy (pre-deadline day week and this coming week will be post deadline week).

    2. Mimmy*

      Best: My activities finally picking up again after the downtime of the holidays.

      Worst: Had my regular followup with my PCP (watching my blood sugar/A1C) and my weight went up AGAIN! And it’s all in my midsection too. I know it’s from too much sitting, which my husband is also guilty of.

    3. Red*

      Best: I got married! And it was great!

      Worst: I am taking my husband’s last name, and I seriously underestimated how much of a monumental undertaking that is. Literally everywhere I have my old name on file, I have to change it to my new one because that’s not me anymore. Ugh.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Congratulations on getting married! That’s awesome. I didn’t realize that the name change thing would be such a pain. Here’s hoping it gets done soon.

      2. J. F.*

        Congratulations! You survived your MIL!

        My fave was the part where you have to MAIL OFF your social security card and hope they mail you a new one eventually. Yep. (Also, don’t stop halfway; you probably know but depending where you stop it can turn into a federal fraud case, yes, I know someone who did this and fortunately their parent is a lawyer.)

        1. Red*

          Thank you, she was actually oddly reserved during the wedding itself, given how she was all up in our beeswax beforehand, but she ended up getting along famously with my grandma, so it was nice to see her happy and preoccupied :)

          I didn’t have to mail off my social security card, yikes! I just went down to the social security office with my marriage certificate and they’re going to be mailing me the new one. Not that I was planning on stopping halfway, but… at what point does this turn into a federal fraud case? That’s absolutely frightening! I hope everything turned out alright in the end for your acquaintance!

        2. name changed*

          Or you can go in person! I did that because I didn’t trust mailing it off. So I got to keep mine until I got the one in the mail. It did take a bit of time out of my day to go to the office, but I always had one at some point…

      3. LadyKelvin*

        I hear you on the name change. It has been 3.5 years and there are still places that refuse to change my name (namely, my cell phone bill). I have even changed carriers and the refused to change my name, even with all my new documentation and my marriage certificate because “my number is registered to that name”. So my bills are mailed to Lady Kelvin but the official name on the account is Lady Celsius. All of the official stuff was actually the easiest I think, just annoying. Everyone else was either “we need 20 different documents to prove this was the case” or “ok, we’ll change it now” with no proof. It was weird. I’m not sorry I did it, but I’m not sure I’ll ever change my name again.

        1. LadyKelvin*

          Oh and I forgot to mention, If you fly at all, start changing all your frequent flyer accounts ASAP. Because they take forever, and are the difficult ones to change. And you might not get credit for any flights you take until you do. Lesson learned the hard way.

    4. Marillenbaum*

      BEST: girls’ lunch and coffee with my friend Bee once I got back to town after visiting my folks.

      WORST: realizing the guy I’ve been seeing is way more serious about this relationship than I am, and that I probably need to break up with him soon. He’s lovely, and I quite like him, but it’s just A Lot.

      1. Kristen*

        Is it possible to tell the guy to chill, because you like him, but aren’t quite where he is yet? Or do you believe there’s no future there so you need to end it now? Sorry, I’m just curious because I never dated much and have had one serious, long-term relationship (current).

    5. Victoria, Please*

      Worst: two hour commute that was only 50 miles, listening to NPR’s nonstop coverage of the “transition”. I was crying by the time I parked.

      Best: I only have to make that drive once every few months, usually my commute is 8 miles and about 20 mins.

    6. Raia*

      Best: monthly finance meeting with some friends was so much fun! We talked about how resolutions for the new year and accomplishments from last year. I don’t know why I love this finance group so much but I do. Maybe because I use YNAB so I feel good about what my money is accomplishing for me. Thank you to all who posted about YNAB – I found out about it here!

      Worst: I keep realizing I don’t like my job. There’s no opportunity for advancement, no benchmarks of what doing a good job looks like, nobody has had a performance review, etc. And yet I want to make it to the year mark before I talk to my manager about making my best contribution somewhere else in the company. I’m afraid that my intention to give a heads up before I send out even one application will blow up in my face if they decide to fire me in that moment. Ugh.

    7. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Best: I had coffee with a friend on Thursday who I hadn’t seen since the end of October. I’ve had to stop drinking because of the medication for my back injury and the last two weeks we have significantly changed up our eating habits at home and are eating “clean” a good 80% of the time. Friend asked if I had lost weight, which was nice to hear :) (we don’t have a scale so I don’t know but it seems like it!)

      Worst: Between the train strikes and the wet sloppy weather this was one exhausting week of commuting. While my line isnt affected, it means everyone else piles on, and if the weather hits then the trains start to cancel etc (not to mention my shoes fill up with water). And it seems like I am always 30 seconds late for my train and end up waiting 10 minutes, always 10 minutes, on a cold platform for the next one. Also- at BEC stage with coworker next to me. I havent even been at my new job that long!

    8. Aurora Leigh*

      BEST: The heat in my apartment works again!!!! It has been 55-60 indoors for weeks (still better than the 30 it was outside, I know) but the furnace finally have out all together yesterday, forcing the landlord to repair it. Now it’s 68 inside! I’m so happy! :)

      WORST: Nothing really this week.

    9. Loopy*

      BEST: I paid off my student loans this week! I’m going to be 29 in June so I’m a bit ahead of schedule and it feels nice. Now the only thing I owe on is my car (and it’s a very reasonable/not scary amount). I don’t carry any other debt so I feel very light and free.

      WORST: Had a very panicky/anxious day on Friday. I struggle with anxiety on and off and was not happy to see it make an appearance again- especially at work :(

      1. Seren*

        Congrats on paying off your student loans! I’m also hoping to pay mine off before 30 (25 now) and you give me hope that I can do it too!

    10. Miss Mia*

      WORST: a kid gave me a concussion by throwing a basketball point blank at the back of my head full force. I’m out of work for maybe two weeks now. Freaking out at loss of income from both jobs. This “no screen time” is working out real well for me obviously, but as a single female who has no family around, it sucks more. The doctor I saw said I can do have some screen time and do light activities as well, I need to.

      BEST: I get that vacation I was talking about needing. :-)

      1. Artemesia*

        Wow. How did that happen? Sounds like an assault for which the parents should be responsible for the damage.

        I had a broken arm years ago when a kid at a skating rink barreled into me from behind; he was skating fast and not paying attention. Yeah, I didn’t do anything about that either except scream in pain and go to the ER. My husband was out of town and I had my kids plus another family’s kids. The other family came and got all the kids and a friend drove me to the ER while his daughter drove my car home.

        Hope you are better soon —

        1. Miss Mia*

          It happened at my job, I’m a para-educator so they are taking care of the claim… but the compensation if it is approved may take a bit, which doesn’t pay my rent for this month or my bills. Not sure the kid got more than a talking to, but I think my being out is driving home the point.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            When you finally get a settlement, I hope it includes a percentage of lost wages. I know I had to ask for my lost wages the one time I received compensation for an accident. And you’re right. It took a while to see that check.

            1. Miss Mia*

              I’m still trying to figure out how the heck I’m supposed to pay my rent while they wait and do that stuff. I’m so frustrated at this point… I can’t afford food. I got auto witdrawals coming out of my accounts that keep me out of court for financial issues.

              The good thing is that a coworker at my second job is kind of really upset that none of my friends are helping me out. Not even my roommates. So. I’m being taken to her place for the night and maybe a few more nights this week.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I have no clue if this would work, would a credit union give you a small loan based on a pending settlement?

    11. Random Citizen*

      WORST: Day 5 of this rotten cold. It’s not really the flu I don’t think- really low fever between 99-100- but I’ve had the fever for FIVE DAYS which just sucks.

      BEST: Finally home from work today and curled up in bed a.l.l.l. day long, which is lovely. Here’s hoping I can ditch the fever at least before Monday!

    12. Bad Candidate*

      Best: I had one phone interview this week and have another in person interview scheduled for next week.

      Worst: I got the permanent crown put on a tooth on Wednesday and found out I need another one.

    13. HannahS*

      I have the flu! The actual flu. It’s awful. I’m starting to get better now, on day six, but I’ve completely lost my voice, can’t sleep for coughing, and holy moly the stuff I cough up is disgusting.

      After an unhappy trip with the family, being sick has given me the chance to catch up on my reading! Thanks to whoever suggested the Rannoch/Fraser mysteries last week–I breezed through all the ones my library has.

    14. TeaLady*

      Best: three major projects delivered to the printers on time which meant I could have a day off to go to a craft lesson

      Worst: breaking another tooth.

    15. Lore*

      Best: found a pair of sale shoes for exactly the amount on my gift card to a store I can never afford to shop at

      Worst: I did something crappy to my SO last night out of tiredness and thoughtlessness and it messed up something nice he was trying to do and he’s really hurt and that’s making him angry about a social obligation this week with my friends that he didn’t want to do anyway.

      1. Lore*

        New worst: arrived home with three big bags of groceries and desperately needing to pee to find the lock on my apartment door jammed. One emergency locksmith and almost $600 later, all was resolved, but it was a stressful couple of hours, especially since I had theater tickets so I had to leave again at a certain time. (And fortunately my neighbor let me use her bathroom and her freezer while I was waiting.) PSA: when your lock starts acting up, call locksmith immediately rather than ceasing to use deadbolt and putting it off for months. The assembly replacement would have cost $300-ish regardless (it’s a particular kind of doorknob/deadbolt combo required by my building), but the extra $250+ for emergency weekend callout and drilling out cylinder was 100% penalty for my laziness.

    16. Wendy Darling*

      BEST: Saw a nutria while walking my dog. IT WAS HUGE. It was almost as big as my dog (who is small but not that small — he’s 23 pounds, I’d say the nutria was 15+). Also best: I’m recovered from my illness enough to walk the dog!

      WORST: Got rejected for a job I think would have been a great fit. They said they liked me a lot but had another candidate who was just a slightly better fit. :/ No prizes for second in job applications.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        Just looked up a nutria and WOW! That is super cool! I love seeing animals like that randomly. :)

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I thought it was a beaver until we got up close, and then realized the tail was all wrong. The tail looked like it belonged on a 15-pound rat.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I had to google this. They do look like rats, kind of. The one you saw was pretty big. I guess they can be a real problem in some areas. Interesting, I never heard of these critters before.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              They’re apparently a problematic invasive species in my area — I wound up reporting that I’d seen it to the Dept of Fish and Wildlife. I’m not sure if they care, but no harm done (except possibly to the nutria I guess).

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Glad you reported it. Yeah, the government will do whatever. My friend reported a fox hanging out on his front porch. After that exactly NOTHING happened.
                I am not sure how he got rid of it or even if he figured out if it was rabid or not.

    17. Anonyby*

      Best: Got a FT job offer! Whoo!

      Worst: It’s not within the office I would have preferred, and there’s a few yellow flags going in. I still feel this is the best choice for me at this time.

    18. Talvi*

      Best: I got new-to-me skates! They’re Risport RF4s, and they’re a massive upgrade from my previous skates (which I got secondhand when I was about 12) – I’ve needed a much stiffer boot for some years now, as I can now do a couple of jumps (and recreational skates don’t provide remotely enough ankle support).

      Worst: Getting used to new skates is never much fun :( I had to get new laces, too – for whatever reason, lacing in a herringbone pattern uses more lace and the ones they came with weren’t quite long enough!

    19. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Worst: My depression has decided to rear its ugly head again. It may well be that I’m coming down with something or I have a mild virus, because on top of feeling emotionally unwell I am also coughing and a bit headachey. But it’s been a rough, rough week with the self-hatred and general feeling that I don’t fit in anywhere.

      Best: My job is still going well, and I was asked to join two days of management meetings, including an awesome dinner at one of my favorite local restaurants. Where I ate really awesome sweetbreads and impressed a bunch of middle-aged men with my very specific cocktail order.

    20. Ann Furthermore*

      Best: Really liking my new job, and working from home 3 days a week is absolutely heavenly.

      Worst: Found out that a cousin who was diagnosed with a brain tumor late last year is not responding well to chemo, and she has chosen to go into hospice care. :(

      1. Jean who seeks to be Ingenious*

        Oh, I’m sorry to hear this. I hope you and she have supportive people in your lives.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          Thank you. She is actually closer to my mom’s age than mine, but her son (my 2nd cousin) and I were close growing up. But she is a really good, decent person. She came to my wedding, and then dropped everything to come to my dad’s funeral in 2006, and then my brother’s in 2014.

          My favorite story about her is when she and her dad (my uncle) stopped by my house for brunch one Sunday morning when they were in town, and heading south about an hour to visit some family on his side. I asked her how my 2nd cousin was doing, and she said he was great, and that his wife was pregnant with their 6th child. (!) I said something like, “Oh, my gooodness!” and she kind of shook her head and said, “Well, when they told me, Jane [wife] said, “I just don’t know how this happened!” And my cousin said she replied with, “I imagine it was in the usual way.” She has an extremely wry, bone-dry sense of humor.

    21. Lady Julian*

      BEST: I started teaching again (freshmen writing & lit at a small faith-based college).

      WORST: I started teaching again, haha. I love my students, but man, those winter breaks are *not* long enough.

    22. GT*

      Best: Sun is finally out
      Worst: Apartment flooded during the never-ending rains. Cleaning up/drying out this weekend.

    23. Carmen Sandiego JD*

      Best: SO’s mom offered to help us pay a down payment on our future house. I barely have enough, but if she contributes, we can comfortably afford a nice wedding and kids. Because we like kids :)

      Worst: Everything’s expensive, and my mom’s coming home tomorrow (after a full month of her traveling to her rich friends’ houses in exotic locales envying all they have ugh). I really loved this one on one dad time, I’m really going to miss it, and she’s really annoying/racist on top of everything else, and gets me in BEC mode (which is better than terror mode), but I really and truly wish she could stay with those rich friends she envies, and never come home..as awful as that sounds.

    24. Elizabeth West*

      BEST: Nothing really. Except the ice storm we were supposed to get wasn’t as bad as feared. The power flickered and I was like, “OH NO YOU DON’T,” but it stopped raining just as I began to hear tree limbs cracking. Now we’re just getting lots of rain. I can deal with that–my car needed a bath anyway. :)

      WORST: Still no job or any prospect of one. Also, I have something on my ear that may possibly be of concern and I have no health insurance, of course. My doctor’s office used to have a program where if you have no money, office visits and anything they can do in there is only $10. I emailed my doc about it. Hoping they still have it and I can get on it for the time being. They make you go to a couple of wellness meetings, but it’s not that big a deal. They might be able to remove it in the office.

      The last desperate death throes of 2016, I suppose–like a horror movie where the heroes walk by the villain’s body and he lunges at them one last time before finally expiring!

    25. Liane*

      Best: We got a new(er) vehicle finally! It’s an older Passat wagon, but fit the budget we had. It runs very well and has the heated front seats! Plus more than enough room for 4 adults and 50lb dog. It will be great when we go to a con the end of March.

      Worst: Am still job hunting.

    26. Ruffingit*

      BEST: Three day weekend. I really need it.

      WORST: Found out today my dog needs two surgeries totaling $2600.

    27. Elkay*

      Best: I bought the Twin Peaks book. It’s such a fantastic looking book I want to take a day off work to read it.

      Worst: This week has been a no good very bad week. Work was rough. I’m lonely and unhappy. My volunteering is a waste of time despite my best efforts (made worse by family members saying as much). My body seems to be broken in lots of minor ways that are getting me down (aches and pains). I don’t know how to be happy.

      1. Jean who seeks to be Ingenious*

        Sympathies. We can be lonely and unhappy together in cyberspace this weekend. My situation is that the acute part of my bronchitis is over, but my energy level is still recovering. My spouse is still recovering. I’m stuck at home, none of my friends have free time that coincides with mine, and our housekeeping–which we had finally improved from horrible to hospitable–slid right back went to h*ll. Since we have nice weather, I’ll take a walk and hopefully get less grouchy…and have some extra energy after the walk to address at least some of the clutter.

        1. Ruffingit*

          With you on the bronchitis thing. The acute phase is over for me too, but the lack of energy continues. Here’s hoping we’re both well soon.

    28. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      Best: I had a job interview a few months ago that ended up resulting in a couple projects (they weren’t really ready to hire yet). But, just this week, I started working for them. It’s only 20 hours a week, salaried, 100% remote, can do whatever hours I want. I’m back in school finishing my degree so it’s really perfect timing!

      Worst: I have Celiac and other stomach issues and this week it has been AWFUL and I don’t know what’s causing it.

  7. Weekend Warrior*

    Holiday cards – any nifty ideas for crafts or other recycling? It just feels so wrong to toss them in the recycling. :)

    1. SophieChotek*

      Well recycling is better than throwing them in the trash so that’s good – although I think due to glitter/fold foil, some of them can’t be recycled?

      1. Some people like to make new cards out of old cards. (The obvious one.) Cut out the fun shapes, etc. and create entirely new cards.
      2. Some people have said they like to save their card and then write to 1 person (family) a week throughout the year. (Reread the card, then write/email, etc that person). [Christians/other religious have written how they like to pray for that person — similar idea – or maybe they write to that person and pray.]
      3. St. Jude’s makes cards; they used to accept the “front” of the cards. (You pay postage). I don’t know if they still do. Other charities might have a similar scrapbooking collection.
      4. in addition to making old cards, if you have one of those laminator things, you might be able to cut out fun shapes and make bookmarks or ornaments; could include in gifts/cards next year

      …sorry…that’s all I can think off right now…

    2. Cath in Canada*

      I use the fronts of some cards as Christmas gift tags. This only works for some designs, and if the person who sent the card didn’t write on both pages inside, of course.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        That is what I do also. I got scissors that cut sculpted edges and I can pick different edgings for different cards. It does not take long to do it and I never have to buy gift tags.

    3. Marillenbaum*

      I am probably utterly callous, but I do toss mine. During the holiday season, I use them as decor: all cards get taped to the inside of my front door, so I see them every day. After Jan. 6, all holiday stuff comes down, and that includes cards.

      1. Artemesia*

        I put the ones with family photos on the refrigerator for awhile and immediately throw out all the others.

    4. Kms1025*

      I do the gift tag thing, but also read about a cute idea I may try. Cut out the parts you like, pictures and verses. Arrange as you see fit and laminate for cute and personalized holiday placemats.

    5. Weekend Warrior*

      Thanks! These are some great ideas and I’d be glad to hear more. I’ve also heard that daycares or schools might like them for crafts but haven’t checked into that.

      I think timing might be important here – for me if not daycares, etc. We’re still in an unusual cold snap here (west coast of Canada) but the daffodils will be up in February (we gotta believe). Winter crafts are less appealing than looking ahead to spring. I’ve saved cards before for fall/winter crafts but then forgot about them! New plan – put a reminder in my calendar for next October/November to dig the cards out and consider if I’m in the mood for seasonal crafting with them. If not – recycle!

      On a slightly different note – the cards are a big part of my December decor and the place looks duller without them. Time to think of other seasonal decorations for the mantel before the fresh tulips and daffodils are available.

    6. Jessesgirl72*

      You can turn them into Christmas tree ornaments pretty easily- I had some vintage cards I put into small clear fronted ornament frames (intended for needlework, really) I got a lot of the frames for cheap off Ebay.

      But really, there are only so many ornaments you need too. Don’t feel bad about recycling them.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I’ve had good luck finding used picture frames for cheap in thrift stores. Around here small ones are only 25 and 50 cents each.

    7. Anonyby*

      I only get a small number, what what I’ve started doing is creating a binder where I can put them. That way I can look back and get the warm-fuzzies rereading what others wrote. This probably won’t work if you get a ton though, or don’t care about keeping the messages!

    8. jack of all hobbies*

      I turn mine into postcards. Cut along the fold, draw a line down the middle of the blank side, and you have a postcard. As with Cath in Canada’s gift tag idea, this only works if they didn’t write on the left side. Frame the side with the message if it’s sentimental; if not, make sure the sender’s on your holiday card list for next year and toss with a free conscience.

  8. Cruising Newbie*

    Anyone gone on a Norwegian Cruise? What did you wear for it? I like the idea of Freestyle cruising with no formal nights, but now I have no idea of what to pack, and how much is too much. How many outfits do you bring for a week long cruise? Most of my wardrobe is mix-and-match smart casual, and I have a hefty collection of cardigans and costume jewelry. Do I just stick with that, some sandals and flats, and call it good? What about toiletries?

    Background: This is my first cruise on my own, and yes, I am a single person cruising (I got one of the tiny Studio rooms that NCL does for single travelers). I’ve been on a cruise with family, but I was MUCH younger (under 21, though I don’t drink anyway, so it doesn’t make much difference) and I was sick for some of it. It’s a cruise out of NY and down to the Bahamas, so a couple of days at sea. No physically demanding excursions; one is for a museum and one is for a historical walking tour. I’ve got two bathing suits that are two-piece mix and matches as well, because I’ve heard they don’t always dry that quickly hanging in the cabin.

    1. BettyD*

      I have been eyeballing those NCL studio cabins for solo cruising, probably from Miami through the Eastern Caribbean. Please report back afterwards because I am really interested in hearing about it.

    2. CAA*

      It’s been many years since I was on an NCL cruise (before they had freestyle), but your existing wardrobe sounds fine. You’ll want a sweater or two because it can be chilly on deck, and they always overdo the air-conditioning indoors. Otherwise just wear the same casual pants, skirts, tops, bathing suits you’d wear at home and you’ll fit right in. There will be some people wearing jeans, but I usually don’t bring them on a cruise to a warm location as they take too much space in my luggage and they’re not that comfortable in hot weather.

      For toiletries, it’s like a hotel. They provide soap, shampoo, conditioner, hair dryer. If you’re particular about something, bring your own.

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      I really want to do a 4 day cruise with my BFF from high school this year to celebrate our 50th birthdays. I think it would be a blast.

    4. Buffy*

      Norwegian was pretty casual. So much so I went on on a Holland America cruise and was really annoyed at the dress code – my husband wasn’t allowed into the (only place that served) dinner because he was wearing jeans and a button up shirt.

    5. Genebec*

      I went on one! I stayed in a studio, though I was traveling with a big group. They really don’t care much about what you wear, though there are one or two “formal” optional nights. Definitely bring layers, the AC can be really overpowering at times.

      The studio was actually really cute, once I got over the weirdness of the shower being in the room part. My family all thought my studio was nicer than their rooms.

    6. chrisa*

      I did a one-week on the Breakaway from NY to Florida & the Bahamas a little more than a year ago in a studio and I loved it! I’m female in my early 60s (but look and feel, except for arthritic knees, a bit younger) and was traveling solo. I had a blast! My recommendation is to seek out the solo traveler’s group the first night – I ended up hanging out most evenings with some new friends from at least 5 different countries, ranging in age from twenties (amazingly, there were 3 – 27 year old guys in the group) to sixties. I splurged for a pass to the Thermal Spa, which has an amazing large hot pool with waterfalls, saunas, steam rooms, loungers and a spectacular view since it is a deck directly above the bridge.
      You can dress as casually or formally as you like, but most people are in shorts & tees during the day and a bit more dressy (but still mostly casual) at night. I particularly recommend checking out Howl at the Moon, the bar with the dueling pianos, and also Shaker’s bar. There is lots to do, and no need to spend a lot out of pocket if you don’t want to.

  9. emmylou*

    I just wanted to say out loud that I am a big advice column reader (and a management consultant), and I only discovered Alison’s blog about a month ago when I was traveling and roaming around the internet when I couldn’t sleep because of time zones. I have read tons of the archives now, including the comments, and I’m so impressed with the wisdom and kindness of this community — really a rarity in online comments. Thanks for providing hours of thoughtful reading all ;-)

    1. Mallows*

      Yes. I read the comments on the initial post by the heroin user who is now clean, and I teared up many times. I am reminded that, really, most people care about others. And I need that reminder these days. Thanks to the kind commenters and to Alison, who makes the space.

    2. MaddieB*

      It’s awesome! Are you at Arcamax? If not come join us. I’m ChargerBug there and we have a funny little comment community. Carolyn Hax, Dear Abby, The Annie’s, the New Annie and Ask Amy.

  10. SophieChotek*

    It has become a time vampire and cash vampire for me lately.
    I am resolving (with one small under $50 item) to not buy anything more until April.
    Really. Just the worst (in an awful/fun way).
    It all started when I saw something I’ve wanted for year, and added up my “fun budget” and realized I’d saved a bit more than I realized…and then I went a little nuts. It wasn’t actually that many items, but they all were rather on the more expensive side. (Not $50 or under.)
    Does anyone else get sucked down the eBay (or Amazon, or ETSY, or OfferUp, or similar site) hole and spend too much?

    1. Soupspoon McGee*

      Yes! I’m particularly bad with eBay, because once I get a great deal, I look for just one more thing . . . . And once I buy just one thing, I keep looking and buying. I do not do moderation well.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      Kinda. I’m buying furniture for my apartment, so I’m going slowly, but then I always end up spending more than I meant to. On the other hand, it still isn’t that much money, and then I end up with something that feels right so I don’t end up spending more money replacing it later.

    3. Loopy*

      I never had before but I got a sizable Amazon gift card for xmas and now it’s hard to get out of the habit of going and buying things there (gift card has been spent :P).

      I was buying a lot of books my library doesn’t have and now I have to stop myself from just buying every single book I want. It’s sad.

    4. Stylish Entrepreneur*

      I’m that way at the thrift store.. but I also go to find things to flip on an app called Poshmark, so that’s always my justification. In March I’m planning a “no buy march” where you buy only the things you absolutely need (food, toilet paper) and nothing frivolous. I’m hoping it will at least teach me moderation when I do return to my normal ways.

    5. Pennalynn Lott*

      I do that with the JTV (Jewelry Television) site. *Especially* when they have sales. Which means I end up buying several hundred dollars worth of jewelry, then regretting most of it and sending it back. So I end up spending $12-$30 in shipping just to look at a bunch of rings / earrings / pendants in person for a day or two. :-)

    6. Jessesgirl72*

      Etsy. Oh so much Etsy. It’s the home of most of my “fun” money lately.

      I don’t really count Amazon, even though I buy from there 2-3 times a week, since I’m normally just getting household stuff from Amazon. Although, now that we have One Day Prime, it gets to be sooo easy to just order whatever I might want. I ordered a new duvet cover last night at around midnight last night (microfiber holds on to cat hair entirely too well, setting off allergies, and I’d had enough!) and it arrived before I got up at 9AM.

      And my Amazon Rewards Visa now gets 5% on Amazon purchases, instead of 3%… Which I always turn around and use the rewards $ on more Amazon stuff! LOL

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        I have an Amazon Visa too! My mom have me the tip to never use the points for an Amazon purchase at the checkout, because then you don’t earn points for the new purchases. Charge them to the card, then have the points applied to the balance of your card! Genius :)

    7. Anonyby*

      Sometimes I’ll get that way with the big shopping sites, but generally it’s more hobby-linked to me. I’ll be into one hobby and need to get ALL THE THINGS for it, or at least the stuff for the PROJECT IDEAS I have… And then a few months later something in life will happen and that hobby is more time-suck than fun and so I switch to something else… At least I usually do come back to said hobbies, and when I do those project ideas are mostly still appealing. :) And it means I have less to buy when I do come back to them! (Storing them is another story…)

      It’s at least better than my Dad who goes through the same cycles, but doesn’t really go back to past hobbies and so his stuff sits unused for decades.

    8. MissDisplaced*

      Yes! I’m eBay obsessed with silk blouses. I can never seem to find 100% real silk blouses in my size in stores, so I comb through eBay. I bought quite a few, most of them in the $10-$15 range, but a few new ones that were a little higher priced. Most of the time I luck out on some great finds that make my work outfits look richer and classier than what I paid.

    9. Intern*

      I’m on OfferUp a lot! My husband and I just bought a dresser and nightstands from there for $80! Then we fixed them up with new paint and hardware and now they look like we spent a lot more than that!

      1. SophieChotek*

        I’m not surprised that’s your thing – books. Mine too. (But I had so many, I finally had to purge about 1,000). But now trying to buy more ephemera and collectibles instead of books…
        ABebooks is the worst for those are book.

    10. chickabiddy*

      I got a wax warmer for Christmas and I have probably already acquired a year’s worth of cubes.

  11. FosterFoster*

    I’m fostering a pup for a bit while he goes through heart worm treatment. He’s the cutest but he absolutely stinks. He can’t have a bath for another week due to surgery and after 2 days my whole house stinks and I’m pretty sure I do too from cuddling him. I tried a no-water shampoo but now everything just smells like coconut and stink. I’m desperate for any suggestions for him and my house (which is unfortunately carpeted).

    1. Dear Liza dear liza*

      Try wiping him down with unscented baby wipes, or dryer sheets.

      For your house, set out bowls of fresh baking soda to absorb smell

      Thank you for fostering!

    2. Ketchikan9*

      I have 5 dogs in a 900 sf house (and a husband … LOL). Arm & Hammer Pet Orders Baking Soda for carpets and Earthbath Wipes for puppies.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Baking soda– for him and the carpets. Sprinkle some baking soda on him, let it sit for a minute, brush it off. If he licks a little, that’s ok, just don’t let him consume too much. Then sprinkle the baking soda generously on your carpets, wait about 15 minutes, vacuum up. Keep dog away while the soda is sitting.

      My dog is kinda stinky (he’s yeasty), and we keep odors at bay by regularly washing all of his bedding. In fact, he’s super pissed at me right now because his blankies are in the washer.

      Good luck with your pooch! My dog’s foster mama is one of my favorite people, and we have never met.

    4. Wendy Darling*

      My mom once tried dry shampoo on my dog and he smelled like blueberry magic marker + stinky dog, and then I turned out to be allergic to the dry shampoo. It was a bad deal all around.

      Can you sponge bath the non-surgery parts of him? Also check out his ears and clean them if they’re gross. Dirty ears smell AWFUL. I also second the baking soda suggestion.

      You might also consider investing in some super cheap machine-washable blankets to put over where the dog hangs out, since that will protect your couch/carpet in a way you can clean easily. If you can get to Ikea without much trouble they sell fleece blankets for $2-5, and those are my favorites, but you can also get similar stuff on Amazon for $6. I have a ton of them and I use them for dog bedding, sofa cover, car seat cover, crate cover…

      1. Sibley*

        for blankets – go to the fabric store and buy fleece. Whatever pattern you want, but regular fleece. Use a coupon if you can. Washable, cheap, soft.

    5. MaddieB*

      He can probably have a diluted baby shampoo bath on all areas except his incisions. Just make sure he dries completely. Thanks for caring for our furry friends.

  12. Jackie*

    I’m looking for an idea for a high school graduation gift for a relative who I don’t know well as in their likes and dislikes. I am giving a check but want to include a thoughtful gift as well. Any ideas ?

    1. Stylish Entrepreneur*

      When my cousin graduated, I took baby pictures of him, and a few with us and decorated a tissue box with the photos. It was sort of a time line of his life, and I even had the graduation photo to add. I then took a bunch of $1 bills, taped them together and then had them coming out of the opening, so it was like a personalized money dispenser. He found it amusing. Maybe not practical after the fact, unless it’s sitting on his desk in his old bedroom at home, but it’s nice in the moment.

    2. Me2*

      Best gift my son received was from a friend who is a high school science teacher. She got him a portable file drawer (like a plastic container) with file folders, some pens, sticky note pads, etc. He used it in college to keep track of his important papers, now uses it for all his home paperwork like bills and insurance info. Perfect for someone who moved every year to different dorm/apartment/internship situations, all the paperwork was in one grab and go location. It’s been seven years since he graduated from high school and we still talk about what a thoughtful and well used gift it was.

      1. Elle*

        That is such a great idea! My son is graduating from high school, I can do this for him & his friends!

      1. JKP*

        2nd the tools. I got a small basic tool kit as a high school grad gift. Although I wasn’t excited about it when I got it, when I got to school, it turned out to be the best gift of all. I met so many other students who needed to borrow a hammer or screwdriver or something on move-in day or that first week, I was the most popular girl on the floor that first day.

        1. Sophie Winston*

          I did this for both of my younger siblings when they went to college. I got one of those tool bags they have now, and in addition to the basic tools, added duck tape, stick on hooks and a little sewing kit. Both let me know how popular it made them move in weekend.

    3. JHS*

      I know I’m an “old” now and graduated college over ten years ago, but I remember a friend getting a grilled sandwich maker at a high school graduation party and being super jealous. Something like this:


      Also, all of my friends used a hotpot in our dorms to make ramen, which would have been a good gift. Again, I don’t know how much has changed since I went to college so all of this might be not cool or might not be allowed anymore.

    4. Anonymish*

      Is this person going off to college? If so, maybe something from their new college – a sweatshirt with the school name, etc.

    5. Stephanie*

      Luggage. Not at all a sexy gift, but somethibg practical he probably wouldn’t buy on his own.

    6. Natalie*

      An electric kettle is great for college – you can make tea, coffee, instant noodles, soups, etc. and they’re light, portable, and cheap.

  13. Shabu Shabu*

    Do any of you send money “back home to the old country”? Why or why not?

    My close relatives (uncle, first cousins) live in a country where the average monthly salary is in the $300s. A person in that country could live decently on that salary in that country, but probably needs closer to $400-500 because of inflation. Long story short, my mom sends her brother money every month. He cannot get a job so I’m thinking that she sends about $300. She also pays for my cousins private university (which in this country thankfully is only like $200 per semester). It’s her money so she can do what she wants with it.

    IDK how it came up, but this week she commented that I didn’t even give her $5 to send home for Christmas…what?! Excuse?!

    I’m not going lie, I felt bad. I am conflicted. I am borderline frugal and in the past 6 years I have gone from having $200 in my savings to a healthy 5 figures (not for a down payment in CA though, slowly working my way there =P). I have sent money in the past to some of my cousins (I have no siblings) for birthdays but it’s not a regular thing. My mom followed up by saying, “good, that’s why you’ve saved so much money.” I can tell she was conflicted too. She’s proud of me for saving but also probably thinks I’m stingy for not sending some money to my less fortunate close relatives.

    My mother is the “rich aunt” and by extension I am the “rich cousin”. Is it true? By their standards, yes. In the US I’m solid middle class. Last night I thought, damn it! Every dollar I make, I earn. I have worked 40 hours for that paycheck. It’s not like I won the lottery and am hording all this money. And at the same time I feel bad. I have money I could send back to certain relatives, but I don’t want them to depend on it or expect anything from me.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      That is tough. And in the end you have to decide what you feel is best. I can see good arguments both ways.
      If it eats at you, I think your mom has offered a solution. Give her the five bucks every year.
      If you donate to charities on a regular basis maybe you could take something out of your charity budget and send it to family.
      I don’t think once a year will cause them to become dependent on you.

      But don’t do it if you are going to worry about how they spend the money or if you are going to question what happens to the money. Only do it if you can truly let go. Family and money is a strange dynamic and regular rules about money don’t always help.

      Conversely, you could tell your mom that you are going to try it for a while and then later decide if you can continue sending money.

      It sounds like I am in favor of sending the money. Actually I am on the fence. If it were my family I think I would need more background than what you can show here before I would decide formally. Brings me back to where I started, you have to go with what you think is best.

      1. Shabu Shabu*

        :) I kept talking myself in circles last night.

        True story, anything I were to give would be for them to spend as they please. I’ve decided that if and when I give money it won’t be more than $100.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      Not “the old country”, but my mother also sends money to her siblings back in North Carolina who are struggling. I sometimes feel guilty about not doing the same, but in my case my mother isn’t asking me to; it’s more my own guilt at being (comparatively) successful while still not being particularly well-off.

    3. Temperance*

      Not “the old country”, but my in-laws have “asked” us to start contributing $500/month for bills and caregiving to my husband’s grandparents. We have declined and will continue to decline. (They haven’t made any requests of their adult son and his adult children, all of whom live in the same small town as the grandparents.) We have student loan debt and home repairs to pay for.

      We don’t feel guilty, though, FWIW. They don’t treat my husband well and they don’t like me, so it’s an easy decline for us.

    4. Kms1025*

      Probably not very helpful, but in my experience, every time someone make me feel like I SHOULD do something, I don’t. It just brings out the rebel in me I guess. My immediate thought is “says who?”. If you want to send money because of your own heart’s desire, do it. If you don’t, don’t. You shouldn’t be guilted into anything.

    5. Colette*

      What’s you’re relationship with them? Do you see them regularly? Do they email or write you, or does your relationship consist of you making the effort or no one making an effort at all?

      I think it’s fine for you to give them money if you want, and it’s also fine not to.

      1. Shabu Shabu*

        That’s a good question!
        If I were to send money, of the 8 close family members that I have there, I’d only send some to 4 of them (one uncle and 3 cousins who are close in age to me). These 4 talk regularly with my mom, but other than sending their hellos through her we don’t talk much and that’s fine with me.

        I’ve made a decision! I’ll reply below.

    6. BBBizAnalyst*

      I’m from a family and culture that does this. I don’t. for me, it felt like everything was becoming dependent on my take home pay and my potential for future income. It got to a point where I couldn’t even share good news about promotions or pay raises without it turning into “so how much more can you give?”

      I’m based in the US so it may be different from your situation. My parents are financially irresponsible and their siblings do nothing to change. I am not their retirement plan.

      1. Temperance*

        I can really relate to this. My husband has been referred to as his mother’s “retirement plan”. Not cute.

    7. Miss Anne Thrope*

      Yes, I send money for meds for my grandmother in a Southeast Asian country, with a little bit extra, and I’m a grad student in the US.

      1. Shabu Shabu*

        Nice! My grandma is in her own special category :) If she ever went back to live in Old Country, I would without question send her money or whatever she wanted/needed monthly. Same with my mom or dad if they ever need anything in the future. My gma lives with my mom now, so between the two of us she is taken care of.

    8. Shabu Shabu*

      Thank you all for your comments and thoughtful feedback!

      I’ve decided that I’ll send money for birthdays and limited special occasions (two cousins are graduating from college, one this year and the other in 2018) to the 4 relatives I listed in a reply above. Nothing too crazy, $50-100 max or whatever I feel comfortable with. And, just like any other gift, the recipient can do what they wish it! I’m happy with this solution, yay!!!

    9. Anonz*

      That does sound tough. Your mom is helping them quite a bit it sounds which is very kind, but it doesn’t mean you have to give money just because she expects you to. But I do agree that maybe giving a small sum to add to her yearly Christmas give would keep the peace and keep most of your money in your own pocket.

      My mom and husband both give money to relatives in same country. My mom helped her cousins son buy a laptop for college, and she was sending $200/ month to her elderly uncle before he passed away, which was enough money for he and his wife to live on.

      My husband on the other hand sends anywhere from $50-$150 dollars to his parents and siblings. It bothers me though because a lot of times they lie about why they need money and blow it on nonessential stuff. When we first got together he and his brother were sending them well over $200/month and they kept asking for more when w were struggling ourselves. I finally had to say something, since they were clearly getting more than enough to live on while we could barely pay our bills. Now he only sends them money occasionally, mainly to help out with his niece.

    10. Candy*

      I send about $200/month to my husband’s family in Egypt. That’s more money than they make a month, and it’s not going to break me, so why wouldn’t I want to use it to help my family instead of buying a new pair of pants or something?

      If I had never been to Egypt and saw for myself what living there is like, I could maybe dismiss it thinking, it’s not my problem, I work hard for my money, I’m only middle class, etc.

      But the fact of the matter is, they work hard too. But just by some shitty stroke of luck they were born in a country where working hard doesn’t get you anything.

      To me the crux of it is: they’re my family. Their problems are my problems too. I simply couldn’t live with myself if I had the ability to help them but didn’t because of some sort of every-man-for-himself attitude.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      He’s so weird that he’s adorable.
      Okay this makes two critters all in one open post. I am learning here!

  14. The Other Dawn*

    How does one stop being socially awkward?

    All my life, it’s been tough for me to make friends. I was the really tall, overweight girl who didn’t have the brand name clothes and had lots of acne all through school. I was made fun of constantly, typically by the boys. It got a little better in high school, but still not great. As a result, I really didn’t have many friends. I mean, I’ve had friends through the years, but I found elementary school friends weren’t lasting friends. I was kind of the tag-along. (Although, I’m still friends with two of them to this day.) Same for high school friends.

    Since I didn’t have a ton of socialization growing up, I feel pretty awkward socially as an adult. And being an introvert, social interaction is sometimes draining. Unless it’s a movie night or something like that. And of course there’s the whole “I want friends but I don’t want friends. Maybe I just like the idea of friends.” Reminds me of my cats–they want to go outside until I open the door, and then they don’t.

    I’ve noticed through the years that people always seems to gravitate towards whomever I’m with. I’m Facebook friends with a few people that I see at concerts, and although we’re friendly and get along well while together, it seems superficial. These people always seem to gravitate towards my sister for the more in-depth conversations. If I’m with my best friend and we’re both meeting new people, they gravitate to her even though she’s pretty shy until she starts drinking. (I often wonder if I need to become a drinker or something in order to get people to want to hang with me. That sounds ridiculous, but I do think that sometimes.)

    I was thinking about it today, and I think part of it is that I sometimes come out with something awkward that maybe the other person takes the wrong way or thinks, “Jeez she’s weird.” I joke around a lot once I’m comfortable with someone and I think sometimes my mouth gets ahead of my brain and I go one step too far. I don’t mean that I’m intentionally mean or anything like that. Just…weird I guess. I don’t think before I speak. I think that’s part of my issue.

    So, I know we kick around the issue of making friends as adults, and I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but I’d love to hear how someone has overcome this.

    1. Ceiswyn*

      If you don’t know what to say, try listening. People LOVE someone who will just listen to them talk, and make appropriate noises/gestures at appropriate points.

      And when you’re feeling a bit more comfortable in company, and have experienced a lot more of how people interact and what subjects are good, you can start adding in your own interjections.

      I might also add that boardgames are the best for relaxed evenings; there’s something there ready-made for you all to talk about.

      1. nep*

        Such a good point — most people really get a good feeling when someone is genuinely listening to them, laughing at their jokes, showing interest in their situation, etc. I agree that focusing on that can help ease things for you.
        I am quite a loner so social interaction is not my strong suit at all. I have found it helps to be a good listener.

        1. Hellanon*

          Yes, this is the secret to my reputation for being a scintillating conversationalist – I am *excellent* at getting getting other people to talk about themselves & their interests.

    2. Justteaformethanks*

      I have no tips on how to make friends as an adult, as I am facing the same issue. I could have written your post! I would love to hear from people how to make friends as an adult too.

    3. Myrin*

      With the saying weird stuff issue, I’ve actually had great success by naming and acknowledging the awkwardness. Like, you immediately follow up the weird thing with “oh shit, I just realised that that sounds super strange; I sometimes say the weirdest things out loud, I’m so sorry!” or something like that. (Although I need to mention that that’s simply the type of person I am; I know that a lot of people wouldn’t feel comfortable taking that route at all but it’s worked very well for me.)

      1. Kj*

        This. People like others who can be self-aware. If you make a joke of it too, it helps. I’m socially awkward at times, but I’ve made it a joke. I also focus on just a few people and don’t try to be friends with everyone.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        I’m actually good at this usually; however, I never thought to apply it in these situations. I usually do it when there’s something awkward about my appearance. Like, “Hey, I have a big ass hole in my pantyhose. Look at that! It’s like the Grand Canyon!” I’ll have to try it out when I say something weird. Which is often….

    4. Mimmy*

      Sorry, no advice, just commiseration. I am interested to see the other replies you get.

      I didn’t get a whole lot of socialization opportunities either when I was younger. Most of my close friends growing up and during college had disabilities that impacted their social functioning (I had similar challenges), so I never really learned all the proper ins-and-outs of developing and maintaining friendships / relationships. I feel so blessed that my husband accepted me for all my quirks.

      I love your cat analogy because it is SO true for me! I can also relate to the mouth getting ahead of the brain – happens all the time.

    5. Lissa*

      I was similar — due to bullying etc I had no friends at all until high school, and most of those were fairly casual/didn’t last after school. Honestly the only thing that worked for me was finding a group of people as weird as I am. I did it through geeky activities in my early 20s. The ones I’m in tend to be quite forgiving of various social strangeness as compared to say, people I meet in a club.

      I found the more I felt comfortable in having a few “solid” people in my corner, the less I worried about making new friends and needing to have everyone like me, which of course meant I did better socially then than when I really wanted/needed friends (sigh . . ).

    6. Stylish Entrepreneur*

      I’m not sure if it would work for you, but I was painfully shy until I joined theatre in 6th grade. When I quit because of time constraints, I went back to my old ways a bit. I was then forced to speak in front of about 1,000 members of my school district and community for a Veterans Day assembly, two years in a row. For me, there was something about knowing that I could make it through a speech or a performance, though my brain was telling me to abort mission, and still have people tell me how great I did. I suppose it was an issue of self confidence, but after all of that I feel I’m far less awkward. When someone speaks to me I can now form a coherent sentence without turning the shade of a tomato.

      I also understand the joking issue. I’m by nature very self deprecating, and sarcastic. I’ve found that there comes a point when people just accept that I’m in my sassy pants 24/7, and they enjoy my company. For most people I start out friendly/polite as a sort of gauge if I can “be myself” around them, or need to switch into the underused positive and friendly pants I also possess.

      Hopefully that wasn’t just a bunch of words that missed the mark and did you no good at all!

    7. Tax Accountant*

      I joined junior league. I find organizations like that, where one of the main points is to be social are very helpful in making friends. Because that’s why everyone is there, so even if I feel kind of awkward, I can tell myself that everyone else feels awkward but we just need to be friendly and things will happen. I’ve found that friendships have naturally developed when I am on committees. Then I see a particular group of women over and over over the course of a several month period while we work on some kind of community service together. We have a built in thing to talk about at first– the project. Then once the ice is broken, we kind of branch out and start talking about our lives. And all my main friends from my first year in the league have made new friends on their committees too, and they introduce them to me, and then my friends of friends become friends too.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I kind of hope you chuckle here. I have been told that I am not normal. (What is normal?)
      I am told my friends are weird. (They are just being their normal selves!)

      It took me a while to sort this stuff and I decided that *I* like people who hear their own drummer. I like people who have the backbone to do their own thing* regardless of what others think. (*Their own thing, within reason- like is it legal or ethical?) I don’t need to agree with people, but I do have a need to understand why they think the way they do. And that is basically in the hopes of sorting out some of my own thoughts on things.

      I definitely need my down time. Family and friends who are closest to me usually understand because they need their down time, also. So I can go get that nap, read, whatever and come back in a bit.

      It sounds kind of hokey but when I started viewing every interaction, every relationship as a gift, things changed for me. It is a gift because no one HAS to do anything. No one has to talk to me or invite me to join a group, etc. If they do, then lucky me. My focus shifted from how I feel to how the other person feels. I grew up in an odd environment so it’s been a learning curve for me.

      Confusingly, I think each decade of life changes things too. I think that 20s and on into 40s is a tough time to add new people to our lives because everyone else is building their lives too. But I think it gets easier as the decades go by.

      I try to spend less time thinking about this stuff and more time doing. That has helped, also. And I watch how I spend my time. I don’t like empty activities. These are activities that when you are done you have nothing to show for it. I’ve tried to make more of an effort to do meaningful things. That seems to be unrelated but it gives you material for conversation. And it helps to build common ground with people you have just met.

    9. Colette*

      When it comes right down to it, etiquette is about making other people comfortable. I’m not saying you’re rude, but can you go into social situations with that focus in mind?

      I have a bit of an odd sense of humour, which can be off-putting, so that’s a focus that helps me.

    10. Aurora Leigh*

      At risk of sounding like my mother, real friends like you the way you are. My friends don’t care that I’m socially akward, or incredibly shy until I got to know them, and we enjoy geeking out about similar things. We’re all weird!

      Before college, I never had friends I could just be myself around. I always worried about projecting the right image. And I think worrying about that image made me more akward.

      My new co-workers think I’m weird/boring/quiet, so it’s not that I’ve changed much. I think making friends is mostly about finding your “tribe” whoever they may be.

    11. JHS*

      I say this without the least bit of condescension, but you may simply be overthinking things. I also do this and tend to micro-analyze every interaction. I used to do it a LOT more and I felt very miserable. I too didn’t have friends in school, especially in high school. It wasn’t until I got to college that I started having friends. Even now, I have very few friends, but the friends I have tend to be close to me. I am not really great at the whole acquaintance or loose friend thing and I hate group interactions for the most part. However, to my previous point, there are people out there that literally just don’t care whether someone was a little off with them or maybe liked their friend better. My husband is one of those people. Someone can be weird to him and he’s just like “whatever, that person is weird.” I, on the other hand, would be like “THEY DON’T LIKE ME! WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?” and he will say “there’s nothing wrong with you–that person is acting weird!” I think a lot of it is reframing how you view your interactions with others. I also think that, in and of itself, will make you relax more in social situations, which will have a positive impact on your interactions with others. This has helped me a lot in overcoming my social anxiety. (I still have it, just not as much.)

    12. Lady Julian*

      I feel you! I don’t enjoy the things that the people around me do (sports, large cookouts, Chick-fil-A), and I *hate* small talk and feeling awkward, so I haven’t made a bunch of friends. I *have* found that it’s helpful to go to activities where I can be with people without having to talk to them, like my weekly yoga class; I have friends without having to navigate a conversation or hang about awkwardly on the edges of a group.

      This next part isn’t advice, just a random note. Alcohol actually is a social lubricant. Most of my friends don’t drink, and I never do the bar scene, so if I drink, I generally drink privately. On rare occasions when I do drink with a friend, they’ve told me that I become more agreeable and seem to enjoy socializing more. It really is a social lubricant, and I miss it every time I have to participate in an appetizers hour or banquet where the only drink on offer is fruit juice.

      1. Lady Julian*

        I just noticed I repeated one of my sentences. This is what happens when I fail to proofread. Ugh.

    13. The Other Dawn*

      Everyone has made some really good points and I see myself in some of you. I’ve always felt the way I described above; however, I think I feel it more acutely now because I’m not overly thrilled with my best friend anymore and haven’t been for awhile now. She’s newly divorced, is actively pursuing new relationships, loves the bar/nightclub/lots of drinking scene, and collects a ton of casual friends. Any potential romantic relationship that doesn’t turn into something is a new friend relationship–as an introvert and loner, that one is so hard for me to wrap my mind around. I feel like I’m an afterthought to her sometimes, or that she’s just too busy with whatever she’s doing to really put much effort into the friends that have been there for years. Also, even after being at my job for two+ years, I still feel like I’m the outsider. Add to that the fact that I moved to a new part of the state a couple years ago, so I’m farther away from family.

      Yes, I definitely overthink things and agonize over my interactions with others. I’m always thinking, “What did I do wrong? How can I get her to like me?”

      Up until now, I’ve never thought of friendships and relationships as a gift. I guess I tend to think of it as a one-way street, and that street leads right to my front door. More so in the last three or so years, really. I attempted several friendships where the person seemed interested, but then once I pursued it, they ghosted me.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        You are doing everything correctly. We are supposed to pause every so often and examine what we think and what we are doing. It’s probably a good idea to expect other times in your life will provoke a similar reaction. Notice I am not saying that this is without pain. It isn’t painless. But you can come out the other side and you can find that you like yourself better than ever before. I know. I said, “I don’t think I can like me that much”, too. But I do like me better now.

        Your friend moved, you stayed put. This is FINE! Nothing wrong for either one of you. Divorce, death, new jobs and other things tend to be triggers for people to change whole parts of their lives. It can cause old friendships to fade and new ones to start.

        Her “movement” (this is, her changing what she is doing) reminded you that you might have all your eggs in one basket. And she is took the basket with her. ugh, ugh. Actually, you have many baskets but you just need to look around a bit. Friends for a reason, a season or a life time. I have gotten so much out of that saying and it has really helped me to put things in a peaceful place. Not every new friend will be a close confidant. They don’t need to be. Some friends just need to sit with us while we do that book club/sewing class/other thing. I can honestly say that I don’t have a single friend who is a comprehensive package. I have a neighbor friend who adds to my life in one way and friends from volunteer work who add to my life another way and my boss/friend who adds in yet a different way.

        Keep chugging along. Give yourself permission to have times where you do NOT think about this stuff. Then when you do think about it, tell yourself that it is a sorting process and you can and will respect your own sorting process. I believe that we sort these larger questions until our dying day. I found it helpful to tell myself that wondering about life and relationships is an on-going thing. I like reading about what others are doing/thinking. It helps me get outside of my own head and getting outside of our own heads is always a good idea.
        Last, it sounds like your friendship is fading. It’s okay to grieve that loss. Maybe she will come back in years to come or maybe not. No way to know. Right now she is setting out on her own journey. But you, too, will continue your journey onward.

  15. Going Anon for this*

    This question concerns me in regards to both my personal and professional life, so if this is too much related to work, please feel free to delete and I’ll post it next Friday. I am a regular commenter but I don’t want my name to associated with this because y’all will think I’m nuts after reading this. lol.

    I’m beginning to notice that I tend to just blurt out things. Don’t worry, I don’t curse or anything – it’s not like that. I may say something, then add a comment that I probably should be kept to myself. Right away I’m thinking “why did I say that??” I can’t think of any non-work/volunteer examples at the moment, but I’d probably characterize those comments as more or less self-deprecating, rather than anything that might offend someone else.

    Also, I’m finding that I’m constantly wanting to blurt out my random thoughts about things that happened a long time ago, be it months or years. Luckily this has not happened in front of others. I have always talked to myself to help process my thoughts, but this is weird. Perhaps it’s a late-blooming self-awareness? Regret at how odd I was when I was younger?

    I do see a therapist about once a month and may bring this up to her next time I see her. I was starting to wonder if something more serious, either medically or psychiatrically, was going on, but writing this out, I wonder if it’s more due some isolation (I can’t drive and am sometimes a bit averse to going to certain events without my husband or meeting where I don’t know many people).

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Isolation can do that. But so can boredom. You finally get with people and you get excited and just start blurting things out.

      Since this seems relatively new, try to figure a plan for it. I can be shy in groups so I ask myself, “Does this fit with what is being said?”, before I speak sometimes.

      Can you go out for walks? It’s amazing how walks can help a mind to sort and deal with things.

    2. dr_silverware*

      I think it’s a really good call to talk with your therapist about it, especially if you remember to write down the situation when it happens–like, sending yourself a quick text with a summary of the conversation and what you said. I’m also someone with a really bad filter, and I think having the situations written down will help you and your therapist figure out if you’re worrying too much or need strategies.

  16. Amadeo*

    So, I need to be pointed in the direction of some resources. It seems most of the folks here are urbanites, living in less rural areas than I. I finally have a job where I can save copious amounts in a reasonably short period of time so I can now more seriously entertain leaving my parents’ home once more.

    I’d be looking to buy a home or manufactured/mobile home (the ‘rents have a lot round the corner I could put the latter on). What resources are out there for a first time home buyer, or a good guide for manufactured homes and the costs associated with getting them installed (moving, septic system, etc). Any home would probably be purchased in Missouri, but the manufactured would be in IL, or transported from MO to IL. I have NO IDEA how to do this, where to look or who to ask, or more appropriately, what the right questions to ask are. Anyone here have thoughts?

    1. Aurora Leigh*

      Hi! *waves from rural downstate IL*

      I don’t know much about trailers, my cousin lives in one but they own the trailer and the lot, so hookup and everything was already done.

      My parents recently retired to MO (because property taxes) and when they were house hunting they looked at a lot of manufactured homes. It definitely seems to be a common thing in rural MO.

      Amazon carries a book called Grissim’s Guide to Buying A Manufactured Home . . . it’s well reviewed and seems to cover a lot of topics. Hit up your library for a copy. Librarians might also have ideas for local people you could talk to who have done what your thinking about. If your small town is anything like mine, sombody’s niece’s second cousin will have the scoop! :)

      Sorry I can’t offer any first person advice, I’m looking to buy my first home this year as well.

      1. Amadeo*

        Hello! I don’t often run into folks from the vicinity in which I live (south of the ‘dale, within spitting distance of the rivers). Honestly my cousin could probably help me out some, I’d just have to pin him down to ask him how much it cost to get his home set up. He made noise about selling it when they moved across the river for their boys’ school, but I don’t think he was that serious about it since I still see them using it, LOL.

        I’ll have to see if the only library I can access for free has that book, or something similar.

    2. fposte*

      I see a few guides online but I don’t know how good or reputable they are; however, Consumers Union is definitely reputable, and it looks like they have a couple of guides. The links I found are old, so I’d suggest a site search for “manufactured homes” and “mobile homes” on consumersunion dot org.

      Additionally, there may be some guidance at the county level, since that’s usually who will govern the mechanicals and installation in rural areas. If you can’t find anything online, I’d try the county clerk and the library for directions. As you probably know, financing can be a different animal on this kind of project, so I’d stick to local banks at least for the beginning of the conversation.

      You didn’t mention federal loan programs, but make sure you check them out. I know that mobile homes can be eligible for FHA loans and for USDA Rural Development loans, for instance, and there may be more.

      It sounds like you’re being really smart about planning this; I hope it goes well!

    3. Temperance*

      My neighbors bought a manufactured home and had it put on a foundation. I would recommend that route if you choose not to buy a house. Trailers lose their value pretty quickly in comparison.

      I grew up in a trailer and can answer questions about that experience, if you have any.

    4. I Might Be a Redneck*

      Admittedly I don’t know a lot about this subject. When I was in college I rented a 12′ x 45′ 2 bedroom mobile home in a trailer park and I really liked it. Several other students did the same thing and lived in the park. It was the same size as many apartments and the rent was comparable. The way it was designed it had a surprising amount of storage and closet space. I also didn’t have to put up with noise from the neighbors next door coming through the walls like I did when I lived in apartments. Where I live now, it is common for people to buy good-sized trailer houses, set them up more or less permanently on blocks and then to rent them out as rental income property.

      I’ve heard a few horror stories about people who own their own trailers, but not the land their trailer sits on. Then the landlord jacks up the rent, and these people are screwed because it is really expensive to move the trailer if you can find someplace to move it to.

      I’ve also heard a lot of stories about many manufactured and mobile homes being constructed with fiber board and plywood that contained formaldehyde, which would then offgas into the house and make the people who lived there sick, so if I buying a new one I’d want to specifically look for and avoid that.

    5. Jean who seeks to be Ingenious*

      Are there any online communities or blogs focused on manufactured/mobile homes?
      Conversely, might the tiny house movement be of interest?
      Not to be discouraging, but how could you protect yourself against tornadoes? I’m asking as someone who grew up in Eastern Missouri. The funnel clouds would avoid the denser urban areas but could wreak havoc in less dense areas (e.g. rearranging trailer parks).

      1. Amadeo*

        Well, if I went the manufactured house on parents’ property route, I would be less than a minute from their house by car since it’s right around the corner and they have a basement. We do occasionally get tornadoes around here, but the really nasty ones aren’t frequent visitors.

        I would really rather do the house across the river in MO, but you know, weighing options.

    6. Opal Glow*

      I live in a manufactured home in my county. We own the property (an acre which is great for 3 kids) and added the home. It’s has better features than my brother’s traditional ranch. The weatherizing (?) is very good. I have a jacuzzi and separate shower I the master bath. Big closets. We have added front and back porches. I’m very happy.

  17. Myrin*

    Wonderful (final?) update to my tale of the delinquent youths who talked about having stolen and vandalised vehicles while sitting across from me on the train!

    Two articles came out in the local paper in the span of the last few days:

    1. They found the later offenders who had caused a lot more damage than my two guys. I mean, I knew that already because I was actually asked about them when I was at the police station to give my huge statement, but now it’s official and everything. They weren’t my train guys but one of them was the ringleader those spoke about. Only fifteen-freaking-years old, what the hell?!

    2. The vehicles were stolen from a club made up of volunteers who were understandably devastated by the loss of their vehicles and the damage done to both them and their storage. But because of the thrilling tale the paper posted a while ago about the car chase the two would-be criminals had with the police and whatnot, a lot of people donated (with the local car dealer who grew up being part of the club leading the way) and now they got more money than what they’d lost!

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      I’m glad they caught the ringleader. There are a rash of car thefts in Milwaukee, and they are all teenagers- who get let back out on the street, only to steal more cars. It’s a “street cred” thing, I guess.

    2. Chaordic One*

      I’m glad that there were people in the community willing to step up and make donations to the club so that they could buy new vehicles. It speaks well of the community that they were willing to do so.

  18. The Other Dawn*

    Two things:

    What’s the deal with these bullet journals? I somehow stumbled across the website and read through it. And I just don’t understand the concept. It seems like a lot of work. Anyone use one and can explain?

    Also, I realized today I have a ridiculous amount of meat and other items in my freezers. When I went through the whole Tenant from Hell Eviction thing in 2015 I got into the habit of buying meat at discount grocery stores (Price Rite, Aldi) and the marked down meat at the regular grocery store (I had to). I’ve still continued that habit, but with only two of us in the house, I’ve stockpiled quite a lot in the freezers and haven’t used all that much. (I don’t mean I have stuff in there from two years ago. We’ve since done some cleaning out and have cooked a lot of it.) We have absolutely zero excuse not to cook and no reason to grocery shop except for the fresh stuff and the occasional staples, but I can’t seem to stop buying. Every time I hit the store, I’m prowling the markdowns.

    1. Sparkly Librarian*

      I do a pantry challenge month a couple times a year where I focus on using up what’s in the freezer and pantry cupboards. You can set aside a small amount for milk, fresh veggies, etc., but most of the meals come from what you already have. Save the difference in your grocery budget! (And if you have nothing more pressing to use the cash for, apply it to your next freezer stockup.) I also try (although I forget!) to keep an actual list of Really Good Prices for items I regularly buy — store, brand, sale price per unit, regular price. As a rule of thumb, I don’t stock up until it hits that price again (or goes lower). Also, grocery sales come in cycles. If you know that you’ll be able to get X at Y price again in 2 months, maybe you don’t need to buy X now.

    2. Loopy*

      I don’t have one, but I follow a friend on instagram that does and she posts a lot- hers are the more elaborate ones. I can see why she loves it because she’s artistic and going to school to be an art teacher. So it gives her a chance to be artsy and practice lettering and design while doing something practical.

      I guess if you like art, it’s as much an artistic hobby. But I’ve seen people who do just the plain format and that I don’t get.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          I’m new to bullet journaling and one of the first tips I heard was to avoid Instagram/Pinterest until you’ve figured out what works for you so that you’re not overwhelmed. But i did join a minimalist bullet journaling group on FB and I love it.

        2. hermit crab*

          Me too. I recently learned about bullet journaling and realized that I’ve been doing my own (VERY simple, zero budget) version for a while at work. I do it on a weekly basis and use the blank sides of unclaimed sheets from the office printer instead of anything fancy (I divide the sheets up into spaces for different projects or topics). However, it’s the same core idea – briefly writing down events, tasks, and important things to keep in mind, and then saving what you did to refer back to later. I’m sure I’m not the only one; I assume people have been doing this kind of thing for ages but nobody bothered to talk about it until it recently became popular.

    3. TL -*

      Maybe it’ll help to actively think if you’re spending money on a good deal, you’re still spending money?
      So if you see a pound of meat for $3, don’t think “I’m saving 50%” or, “I’m saving $3!” Think: “I’m spending $3 that I don’t need to spend, and that’s over $150/year that I could use instead to do X.”

    4. Not So NewReader*

      My father was a depression kid. Grocery stores were a bfd to him until his dying day.

      I cleaned out his house and gave away seven 30 gallon trash bags of paper goods. The paper goods I kept lasted me over 6 months. It took me 15 years to use up all the scotch tape he had. And I still have not used up all the WD-40 he had. He has been gone 24 years.

      Shopping can be a compulsion. People feel it fills a void somehow.
      Shopping can be a reassurance. Yes, the great depression is over and I do not have to worry about food.
      Shopping can fill up empty time.
      Shopping can be mindless, that is, done without forethought/ planning.

      I used to get really mad at my father’s buying habits. Food and staples are overhead costs. no different than overhead costs in a business. If I spend $50 on paper towels then I no longer have that $50 to do other things with. What if I need something else later and do not have money for it because I bought too many flippin’ towels??

      Because I had no one to teach me what to buy and in what quantities I stumbled for quite a while. What I settled on was assigning a period of time to each item. Paper towels need to be checked weekly, plastic wrap needs to be checked monthly and so on. I sit down on Sunday and start my list. I can add to it as the week goes on. I grocery shop one day a week and I take my list. If it’s not on the list I can’t buy it. So I get to the store and see turkey on sale, well I have meat on the list so I am okay. My next step is to consider my time limits. I let myself buy up to two weeks worth of sale meat. So I can get one turkey for this week and one for next week. Period, that’s it. You can set your time frames differently, of course. And the overall idea is know WHY you are buying something. If you don’t have a reason to buy four turkeys, then get less.

      I have to stay out of the grocery store. I cannot go in and get just one thing. I stop by the clearance table and pick up six more things. This is me. So I limit the numbers of times per week that I can shop. If I have to run into get coffee, I don’t pick up a cart or even a basket. Knowing that I have to hand carry something through the store makes me think rather than just grab. I also set a dollar amount constraint, a food budget. It’s just another way of keeping myself in check. There are places like Price Rite that cause me to load up on things, so I only go to Price Rite twice a month. BJs is another place where I limit my visits.
      You can see I am using more than one tool here to keep a handle on it all. I really hate throwing food out from freezer burn so this is another tool to motivate me to be more careful.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        I have this problem too, but in a different way. My mom was born in 1930, and when she was 3 weeks old, my grandfather got his hand caught in a piece of farm equipment and he lost it, and was no longer able to work. They were really, really poor for a few years while they weathered the Great Depression. My grandparents’ house was right by a set of train tracks, and guys who were riding the rails would come knock on their door asking for something to eat. It did not matter how little my grandparents had; what they had, they shared.

        After growing up in that environment, my mom would always look for the bargains and buy things on sale, so there was always stuff stockpiled in our house. When I was about 10, we moved to Saudi Arabia, and going to the grocery store there was always an adventure. You really never knew what you were going to find — or not find. So my mom got into the habit of buying in bulk, because who knew when you’d see something in the store again? Hey, there’s Cheerios! Buy all 10 boxes! And so on.

        These 2 characteristics have manifested themselves in me by my always wanting to buy 2 of everything at the grocery store. One to use, one to have on hand. It drives my husband insane. I’ve really tried to break this habit, and I will now check the fridge and pantry before going to the store, so I don’t end up with duplicates of everything. But man, it’s hard to just put one bottle of soy sauce (or whatever) into my cart!

      2. The Other Dawn*

        I have the same problem at the grocery store. It’s very rare that I actually get just the one thing I went in there for. I try hard not to grab a basket, but I don’t always succeed.

    5. fposte*

      On the second–can you define what “enough” is for meat storage? That’s been a really helpful concept for me to get out of the habit of buying something just because I use it and it’s at a decent price. Maybe figure out what kind of meat you guys eat and how much you would generally eat in a month or two, and Then that’s what you buy; you can give yourself one wild card, maybe, to throw in an extra sale item. If it helps, tally what you have or take a picture of it so you are aware of sufficiency when you’re shopping; you shouldn’t be in a position where you’re buying hamburger because you don’t know if you have any or not. Keep in mind that freezers aren’t magic and that meat loses moisture and tenderness there, so you’re getting less bang for your buck, especially after a couple of months; are you willing to pay that sale price for somewhat dried and tougher meat? You said you ate a lot of it–did you throw any away? Do you know how much paid for what you threw away?

      Additionally, change your shopping behavior. Shop with a list and a budget and don’t go down the meat aisle and counter. Maybe skip the cut-rate stores for a while and shop where meat is pricey; you’ll save enough money from not buying meat to cover the occasionally higher cost of bananas :-).

    6. all aboard the anon train*

      I do this. My freezer is packed with frozen meat or produce/herbs I bought and then froze. I live by myself, so the amount of food in the freezer looks ridiculous for just one person. I think my habit is borne from my parents, who both grew up poor, which is a habit they got from their parents (my mum’s parents grew up in the Depression and my dad’s parents grew up in rural Poland and then lived through the German occupation/the camps/the resistance movement) so stockpiling food is just an ingrained habit, I think. I know I stockpile whenever I start to panic about losing my job or something happening where I wouldn’t have the money for food.

      I found it helpful to keep a list on my phone so I can reference it when I shop. Then, I decide that if I’m buying something new to freeze, I can only do it if I eat something from the freezer. It’s worked out quite well for me.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t journal, really. I tried in the past, but it just ends up reminding me that things aren’t where I want them to be. Like I literally bought a very nice journal to use during my first year of marriage, and I still have it and it’s still blank. >:( What I do if I feel like writing something now is just put it in a Notepad document, just to get it out of my system. I can delete it later if I want to.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I’ve bought journals and such in the past, and I never used them. I kept a diary when I was a teen, but that was back when we didn’t have computers to write with. Nowadays if I want to write I use MS Word or something. Writing with a pen and paper just seems like way too much work these days! And the whole bullet journaling thing is too much to remember (as far as how to use it) and seems like it would take more time to maintain than actually doing what’s on the list.

  19. Myrin*

    You guys remember how I became ill the day before New Year’s? Well, although I’ve been up and about in the normal-for-me time period, I kind of continued dragging little remainders of that illness with me, if that makes sense? Like, my nose wouldn’t quite heal or I’d sleep weirdly, stuff like that, all just a couple of days but definitely carried over from the illness.

    Well, the two most annoying things were 1. my left ear. During work last Sunday, I suddenly started hearing a weird noise whenever I moved my head. Thought it’s from the heater I sat down next to but it continued. No pain or anything, just that noise like when squeaky door is slowly opened, and felt like tremors ripped through my whole upper body every time. And 2. my throat. A slimy mucous feeling all around, what even.

    So I went to the ENT yesterday and thankfully my ear trouble is basically gone by now because he said he couldn’t find anything wrong with it either and that I’d probably just have to wait it out. But yeah, turns out I have a massive viral infection in my throat which caused all the mucous to gather. Ugh. Now I have to take bright red tablets which are absolutely disgusting but I have to admit I can already feel them working. Starting off the year with a bang, I can tell you!

  20. Cristina in England*

    Ok has anyone heard of this? Google was no help. Two people have now, years apart, told me that I make them sleepy. The first person used to say I gave off sleep pheromones. They were not saying I was boring, they meant it literally. Both people close to me and spent a lot of time with me. Has anyone ever had this experience?

    1. Myrin*

      Something about your voice, maybe? Are you talking in a somewhat monotone manner or maybe have a deep or slow(-seeming) voice? I’ve met people like that but know none of them in a more intimate manner so I don’t know if my reaction to them was just a one-off or if I’d always feel that way around them.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Oh wow, I hadn’t thought of that, I will ask! I would love to have a nice soothing voice that put people to sleep. There’s this guy who does most of the Zencast podcasts, and he does that to me.

      2. Cruciatus*

        This is just what I was thinking. I looked up the term and it’s a mouthful, autonomous sensory meridian response. Maybe your friend(s) is/are just susceptible to your voice. They talk about euphoria and spine tingling in articles about it but surely there are various levels. I know I’ve known people where I was just fascinated by them talking. It doesn’t happen to me often and I can’t even tell you what it is. Their actual voice? Their enunciation? The way their lips move? The timbre of their voice? I have no idea but I like it when they talk (but I don’t get tingly).

        1. Myrin*

          ASMR is specifically just the tingles, though, sleepiness is just a side effect that even people who don’t experience ASMR can get when, for example, watching a video to induce it.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          ASMR!!! I use those videos at night to relax myself before bed. I don’t usually get the tingles they talk about, though I have done with certain sound triggers; mine is more of a melty feeling. It’s not sleepiness–it’s a specific thing, and I’ve had it all my life. Only some people’s voices do it to me, and it’s pretty arbitrary.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I have wondered about this myself.
      Are you tired a lot? Do you have a high energy level?

      1. Cristina in England*

        Interesting questions. Probably at the times when it has been said to me, I have been tired/low energy. The first person used to say it to me during downtimes between our jobs, not when we were actually working, which was in a high-energy job. The second person said it to me most recently while we were hanging out in the living room, like “I felt fine until you came in a few minutes ago, now I want to go to sleep”. I wonder if I am giving off a tired vibe.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This makes sense to me. If we are standing next to a high energy person we pick up their energy. So why wouldn’t we pick up each others’ fatigue, too?

          I know that clothes hang differently on a tired person than they do on a higher energy person. It takes energy to hold our bodies upright. Tired people can end up with more wrinkles in the clothes at the end of the day than less tired people.

          It would make sense to start to tackle this by getting more rest/good food/proper hydration. But I am wondering if we can just fake having more energy and will that resolve the vibe we are giving off?

    3. Nicole*

      Could it be a product you use, like your detergent, and these people have a sensitivity of which they are unaware? I bring this up because whenever my stepson would come over for the weekend I would feel sleepier than usual even when he was older and I wasn’t spending any extra energy entertaining him. His mother users very strongly scented fabric softener and detergent and I think it was bothering me.

      1. Cristina in England*

        Wow, how interesting! I know one of the people does react strongly to smells like tea tree oil, sesame oil, etc.

    4. Mrs. Fenris*

      I have never heard of this. But my gut reaction, as a person who has suffered from sleep maintenance insomnia for my entire life (it’s controllable if I take more meds than I would like), that I would pay you to hang out with me around 2 AM every single night. :-)

    1. It happens*

      I cannot figure out what makes my convection oven different from any other oven. I get that keeping air circulating is supposed to lead to more even heating, but I haven’t noticed any big difference. I think they are supposed to be much better for baking and you are supposed to reduce the recipe temp by 25 degrees. My oven has five different convection settings – true/speed/bake/broil/roast and then seven other settings. Even the instruction manual gave no indication of how they differ, nonetheless, if I’m baking I set it to conv bake, roasting to conv roast, since it can’t really hurt…It cooks! I do recommend putting an oven thermometer inside to monitor how true to setting the heat is. Have fun cooking in a clean oven.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      My convection oven automatically lowers the temperature 25º- but I’ve found that convection does best if you lower the cook time AND the temperature maybe down only 10º instead of 25.

      Also, it really only is worthwhile if you’re cooking things in a shallow pan- so cookies on a cookie sheet, and not a casserole.

      The weirdest thing to get used to is things don’t brown at much on convection.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I have a very, very old convection oven here. I am guessing about 30 years or so.

      It’s a stand-alone unit, it only does convection and it has a drip pan in the bottom. This is important because the way I use it there is the potential for a mess.
      I use my convection oven to cook larger pieces of meat and I use the oven when the meat absolutely MUST come out good.

      I put the meat in an oven bag. There are different sizes so you can get really large ones for turkeys. Typically, the meat is done in 2/3 of the time it would take in a regular oven. It browns because of the oven bag, I think.
      So the meat is in a bag sitting on a rack type shelf. The drip pan is in the very bottom of the oven. The air is forced to circulate around the meat, hence “convection”. This makes it cook faster. I use my regular cooking temp and check the meat temp earlier than usual.
      I am confused by the modern convection ovens because they tell people to use pans or corning ware type items, which defeats the convection. It does not make sense to me.

      I would love to replace my convection oven but I am not convinced the current ones would do as well as my old one does. Unfortunately, my old one looks like heck and does not inspire confidence. I get remarks like, “You aren’t actually going to use that thing are you?” It runs perfect, but the exterior is kind of beat. I like to use when I have an expensive cut of meat that I don’t want to ruin or when I have a type of meat that I have not cooked in a while and I am not sure what I used to do with it. Recently, a friend brought over some meat for us to have dinner. When he saw me head for the convection oven, I thought he was going to cry. “Are you really sure you should use that???” It came out perfect.

    4. Mrs. Fenris*

      Just turn the temperature down 25 degrees and be prepared for everything to take a little less time than the recipe calls for. I love my convection oven. I will never go back.

    5. LCL*

      No advice, just laughing because your autocorrect changed convection to convention, based on your previous posts.

    6. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I find that things cook faster using the convection setting than the regular oven. For most recipes, especially baked goods, things are finished on the low end of the time range. For example, if the recipe says to bake for 10-12 minutes, it will be done by 10 minutes. With my regular oven it’s the opposite. Things seem to brown just as well on either setting. Do check your user’s manual to see if you need to adjust the temperature of a recipe before setting it or if your model automatically adjusts for the convection setting (it seems like most new models do.)

  21. Myrin*

    We had a thread like this a few weeks back and I loved it so I thought I’d start another one – what are some things that you love/like that seem to be universally hated, or vice versa? I’ll start:

    I absolutely love grocery shopping. I think it’s so fun and interesting and relaxing. Haven’t ever met anyone but my grandfather who feels the same way.

    1. Temperance*

      I love couponing. LOVE IT. Spending hours shopping and planning my list is honestly the most fun part of my whole week. This is not sarcasm.

      1. Myrin*

        OH MY GOD COUPONING. Not only have you hit a nerve there – I love it so much as well, yay! – but it also reminded me of that other topic I’ve wanted to write about on here but couldn’t for the life of me remember. BRB, I have another comment to write!

    2. fignewt*

      Laundry and washing dishes! I find them both super meditative. I’ll do other people’s dishes for them just because.

      1. periwinkle*

        There’s something so satisfying about washing dishes by hand. So much of what I do professionally has no tangible output. When washing dishes by hand, at the end I have a rack full of clean plates and glasses glinting in the sunshine (well, it’s Seattle, so this bit is not guaranteed). It’s also mindless enough that I can think about other stuff… or just zone out and enjoy the soapy bubbles.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I feel that way about lawn mowing. It looks good when it is done and I can think about the task or let my mind wander on to other things while I mow.

          1. Liane*

            I’m the same way. Evens a teen. I helped my dad mow (push mower) out lot which was roughly an acre. In hot weather he had to watch me and insist on taking his turns, because if he didn’t I’d get dehydrated or everheated.

      2. Talvi*

        +1 washing dishes! I too am the roommate who will wash your dishes for you because they’re there and I’m doing mine.

        1. Liz in a Library*

          I’m the exact opposite. I find folding clothes so oddly soothing, but hate the sorting/washing/drying part.

        1. J*

          Yes! This led to my main volunteer causes. I love talking about money and budgeting and helping others get a hold of their budget.

    3. Stylish Entrepreneur*

      The Kardashians! I know everyone loves to hate them, but I can’t hate on someone who made an empire for her entire family from a sex tape. In some ways it’s also like driving by a car wreck – you know you probably shouldn’t look, but it’s so fascinating (poor word choice, I know) that you can’t help but watch.

      1. TL -*

        Oh I love the Kardashians! I guess there’s the way most of the culture looks at them, but I think of them like this: they grew up in a society where women were told all of their value was in their looks and sex appeal and always looking perfect and then punished because none of that has any “real” value, especially in the business world. And they took those expectations and met them, capitalised on them, and turned them into a multimillion dollar business empire. And now the country hates them because women aren’t supposed to turn their looks and sexiness into actual worth; they’re supposed to understand that the prettier they are, the more they have no intrinsic value and need to depend on men for everything.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          All true, but they got that message primarily from their mother. Lovely. And then people validate that by continuing to watch. OK. I need to not say anything more. :)

          1. TL -*

            Well, their mother gets it from the culture.

            Their enormous worth is in their looks (and their incredible business acumen and dedication, but that’s downplayed, especially by the cultural narrative surrounding them, because pretty women aren’t supposed to be smart). I don’t actually have a problem with that – I don’t think we should be telling anyone their only value is in their worth but I don’t think it’s fair to do the opposite and tell women that being pretty or interested in beauty and fashion has no worth or value, especially since it has been clearly proven to have a huge amount of value.

            If you really think about it – they spend a great deal of time investing in their looks and that investment more than pays off. Looking that good is not an easy thing – I know the narrative is that it’s an easy and shallow pursuit, but it’s actually a huge undertaking. And the show doesn’t strive to be anything more than entertainment, but they do focus a lot on being with family, forgiving and talking through things, and being supportive of each other. It’s no worse than a lot of sitcoms out there.

      2. Cristina in England*

        My mom really hates them. “They take money from stupid people!” she says, which really makes me laugh, as if they’re an organized crime syndicate or something.

      3. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

        I ironically love that family. They really care about one another and about their kids. And I love how when you watch kuwtk the men are just peripheral. Every scene passes the bedschel test, which is something you can’t say for much tv.

        Also, I resent that in American culture generally, traditionally masculine leisure interests are considered serious but traditionally feminine ones like beauty and fashion are frivolous and unworthy.

        1. Cristina in England*

          Yes to all of this! Will keep this in my pocket for when my mother goes off on them next time.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        I could not care less about them, but I ended up defending Kim on social media after the robbery because damn, nobody deserves to go through that. That was some scary sh!t.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          I take any and all news items about them with a brick (not grain) of salt. My first thought was that the whole thing was staged. Based on recent news stories, it sounds like it actually wasn’t, but I’m still reserving judgement. Probably makes me a horrible person, but that’s the result of choosing to make your entire life a publicity stunt.

    4. Hattie McDoogal*

      I like grocery shopping, too. When I was a teenager my mom would occasionally give me money and a list and ask me to do the shopping for her. It was the best!

      I like pigeons. I think they’re pretty and their cooing is soothing to listen to.

      Oh, and I love black licorice.

    5. nep*

      An unexpectedly long-ish wait at the doctor or dentist office. I do some of my best thinking and reading in that setting.

    6. EmmaLou*

      Love grocery shopping. We consider it a date in our house. Ironing and dusting. I also love to iron and dust. I enjoy doing things that make a visible difference.

    7. HannahS*

      Polishing silver. A lot of Jewish ritual objects are often made of silver, so I was introduced to the pleasure of scrubbing tarnish with a toothbrush fairly young. Oh, and ironing! Bliss.

    8. Melody Pond*

      I LOVE budgeting! I love making spreadsheets and analyzing and planning exactly how I’d like for things to go, and how to save up for the things I want.

      In fact, Mr. Pond and I wound up getting on the subject of budgeting with some married friends who struggle with it (well, it’s really a communication thing for them), and we introduced them to Mvelopes. It was so fun, and probably my favorite day in the past month.

    9. katamia*

      I love grocery shopping, too, especially when I’m in a new area and get to explore and see what different sorts of foods they have. Plus it’s (minimal) exercise because you’re normally walking around.

      Most people seem to hate broccoli and brussels sprouts, but they’re the two vegetables (other than potatoes, which I don’t really count) that I like most, especially brussels sprouts.

    10. Tim*

      I love bad weather. Any form of it, but especially snowstorms. (And I work in an industry where everything turns into a giant mess in bad weather and I’m still supposed to show up if at all possible, so it’s not like I’m getting off lightly.) Extreme weather is just cool and worth all the inconveniences.

    11. Stephanie*

      Oh, my friend and I went to a new grocery store opening.

      I don’t really like avocado. I think it’s bland.

      1. C Average*

        Avocados are both bland and slimy. Yuck. (I wish I liked them. I know they are supposed to be good for you.)

        1. Stephanie*

          Plenty of other more delicious things have potassium.

          There are four of us! My best friend also dislikes avocados. When he said that, it just strengthened our friendship that much more. But yeah, I was in our student desk space and literally five other people thought I was nuts for disliking avocados.

    12. periwinkle*

      I love grocery shopping but not for the shopping bit. One of my hobbies is reading up on the history of product packaging and advertising. The history is quite fascinating, or at least to me! I’m also amused by retail strategy, things like what’s shelved where and how the store is designed to slow you down at certain points.

    13. Lady Julian*

      Myrin, I’m with you. I love grocery shopping & will spend way too much time/money in the local stores if I’m not careful.

      I love black licorice jelly beans!

    14. Questionable Musical Aesthete*

      I like sad, depressing songs. I love Morrissey and the Smiths. I also have a thing for the Carpenters and Karen Carpenter.

    15. Mrs. Fenris*

      I love grocery shopping too. Really. It’s so interesting and calming. And we have Publix, the most excellent grocery stores on earth.

      1. Mrs. Fenris*

        Oh, and I love to paint. Walls, I mean, not pictures. We never hire painters…I look forward to it.

    16. .*

      Wine. Do not enjoy, do not get the appeal. Especially red wine – all tannins and nothing else, to my palate.

      Also I love beer but can’t stand IPA and similar. Too much hops, often only to mask other problems in the brewing.

      1. Hattie McDoogal*

        IPAs are the worst! I like to buy single bottles of beer from the liquor store (as opposed to six packs) but it’s always like 90% IPAs. WHY. SO EARWAX-Y.

      2. Stephanie*

        I did find an IPA that wasn’t bad–the Grapefruit Sculpin from Ballast Point. But I agree…I’ve had way too many IPAs that taste like they were brewed on dare. (“Oh, I bet I can put even more hops in my beer than yours!”)

    17. Elizabeth West*

      Thing I love that other people hate: Marmite. :)

      Thing I hate that everybody loves: Everybody loves Chick-fil-A. I think it’s gross. If I’m going to eat a fast food chicken sammich, give me Wendy’s Spicy Chicken. I love Wendy’s. And Arby’s. Damn, I love me a beef and cheddar with Arby’s sauce.

      1. Damn it, Hardison!*

        Oh, I love a beef and cheddar too – even though I worked at Arby’s in high school and summers in college and know too much about them! I have one about once a year as there aren’t any near me (it’s my favorite part of a road trip). I am unreasonably excited that they come in multiple sizes, which is new since I worked there 20+ years ago. I will admit getting a large one once.

    18. Lissa*

      I seem to like every food that gets brought up as “gross food”, like blue cheese, Brussel sprouts etc. Give it all to me!

      Also my music taste always tends to be the stuff that “music buffs” make fun of, which has made me really kind of sensitive towards any type of music snobbery at all, because people I really like and respect will toss out stuff I like as examples of things that are dumb/dumb people like, and it makes me sad. :( I like easy listening, sorry!

    19. C Average*

      I love mindless menial labor. I find it very zen. My manager will often announce, “I have a C Average task!” and it will turn out to be something really mindless and repetitive. No one else at my work digs this stuff, so they’re all very pleased that I do.

    20. Emilia Bedelia*

      I also love grocery shopping (well, all kinds of shopping, really…)!!! I go at least once a week, just for fun. This works out for me because I don’t like to spend money, so the longer I shop, the less I buy- if I think about buying something long enough, eventually I talk myself out of it. I also shop often enough that I know what a good price is for something, so I know when it’d be a better idea to wait for a sale.

      I enjoy listening to the radio on scan.

    21. Eden*

      I love washing dishes, especially now that I have a kitchen window to look out of. We even got rid of our dishwasher when we remodeled the kitchen because (1) we never used it*, (2) our kitchen is weirdly laid out and doesn’t have a lot of room for cabinetry even though it’s a normal size, and (3) we plan on being in this house essentially forever so resale value doesn’t enter the equation very strongly. I like having a finite task with a satisfying pile of clean at the end of it, as others have said!

      *My husband once gave me a largish gift and I was like “where on earth was this, how did you hide this from me?” and turns out he hid it in the dishwasher for the couple of months between buying and birthday.

    22. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      I love budgeting, planning, and calling cell phone (etc.) providers to negotiate prices. I also just love helping people with solutions to their problems: need a restraining order? Here, i’ll help you! Want me to polish up your resume? Okay! You are having trouble making ends meet? Let me show you how to sign up for SNAP.

  22. No name for this*

    Does anyone here work with seniors in a social services role? I have a step-daughter from my first marriage. She’s now early twenties and is dealing with some troubling family circumstances. Her uncle (birth mom’s brother) has put the grandmother into a nursing home without consulting other family members. All my daughter knows is that it’s costing the grandmother $5,000 per month and he refuses to let others know where he put her. He has a history of taking advantage of the grandmother’s expendable income. Is a call to APS in order, or does he have the right, as executor of the estate, to do this?

    1. Temperance*

      I don’t do social services work, but I have some familiarity with elder law. This is not legal advice, but a point of clarification: the executor of the estate has no rights/duties until the estate owner dies. He might be power of attorney, which is a separate thing. If he has POA, he has the right to make these choices.

      Even if he IS POA, you can call APS and let them know that you suspect financial abuse or other abuse. As POA, he has a duty to act in her best interest, not his.

      1. Melody Pond*

        I’m not in the legal field at all, but I believe 1) you’re exactly right, and 2) I believe the lawyer-ese term for the duty you mentioned is “fiduciary duty” which, as I understand it, is one of the highest standards for the “duty of care” one person can owe to another.

    2. Allypopx*

      If there’s a general icky feeling amongst the family about it, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask them to investigate. The court may even appoint an advocate to look out for the grandmother’s interests while the investigation happens. I think cutting off contact and refusing to say where she is would be enough of an abuse red flag to get someone to look into it.

      1. Allypopx*

        I realize “general icky feeling” isn’t a technical term but I do have some experience working in senior care, though I am not a social services worker. I would recommend making a call, at least.

      2. No name for this*

        Thanks for this, Temperance and Allypopx. If my daughter is too afraid that the uncle will blame her, would it be weird for me to call? I don’t know her grandmother well, but she has always been a big part of my daughter’s and I want to help. At the same time I don’t want to over-step or possibly make it worse. I guess that last part is for her to decide. Mostly, I worry that her mother, a serious alcoholic, will just give up. Then my kid is left wondering what she could have done and if her grandmother is alive or dead, sick or healthy, happy or scared.

        1. Allypopx*

          If there’s any chance of getting the family to band together, that would be the most effective thing. Make sure they know APS is getting involved so they are prepared to contribute to the investigation. If there’s someone who is a leading force in the family and can be the one to spear head it, they should make the call.

          But I acknowledge that’s best case scenario. You can call, I believe you can make it anonymous, or say that you’re calling on your daughter’s behalf because she’s scared of repercussions from the uncle, whatever makes the most sense.

          You can even just call, describe the situation and ask them the best way to go about getting it looked into, they should be able to advise on that.

          1. No, please*

            That would be ideal. Maybe she can get her other siblings to call or send a letter that they have all signed. I think I’ll call if she doesn’t feel safe doing so.

            1. Temperance*

              I think you should make the call rather than try and get a whole bunch of people to sign and agree to a letter.

    3. Kms1025*

      Absolutely call Protective Services. At the least, she has a right to communicate and/or visit with her other family members. At the worst, he is guilty of isolating her from her family and friends and he is not allowed to do that.

      1. No, please*

        From what I’ve been told the grandmother didn’t want to be in a nursing home. Maybe assisted living would have sufficed. But for that much money she could probably have 24 hour care in her own home.

        1. Observer*

          it really depends on the circumstances. But the fact that he won’t say where she is, is a huge red flag. Much more so than the cost, although it does seem high.

          A call to protective services would make sense.

          And Temperance is correct about the legal terms.

          I would point out that if there IS a POA, and it was signed recently, it might be worth an investigation to see if Grandma was competent to sign, and if there may have been duress.

          1. LCL*

            Cost is normal for out here, left coast US.
            Call APS, that’s their job. Don’t go through the monkey motion of getting a unanimous letter, that is wasted time.
            Nobody has to know you called. Sometimes one has to lie to family to protect the most vulnerable members.

            1. Observer*

              I agree that the unanimous letter is wasted time. Protective services doesn’t need it to get moving.

  23. name goes here*

    I need gift help! I’ve been casually dating this guy for a little more than a month and his birthday is in a couple weeks. I’m thinking of getting him a small, fun gift but I need some ideas! He’s pretty into video games, Pokémon go, etc. so I thought this might be funny: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1520193319/ref=ox_sc_act_image_2?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&psc=1

    He’s also a runner but that really doesn’t lend itself to fun gifts (plus I know I’m super picky about my own workout gear)

    1. Stylish Entrepreneur*

      Instead of a gift, you could always turn it into a fun date about them/their interests. Pokémon Go and a picnic in the park? You could give him something small in addition, maybe a nice shirt, or even a Pokémon key chain/shirt if he’s the type that would enjoy that? It’s my theory that even if the gift is somewhat of a flop, they’ll still enjoy the thoughtful date you planned for them!

    2. No, please*

      My husband is a gamer. I usually get him an Xbox or Microsoft(PS3-4) gift card. He can buy games or DLC for his current gaming interests. But what you linked to is pretty interesting!

    3. JHS*

      I always like to get someone tickets to a fun event that you can go to together. Does he have a favorite band or is there a show you guys have been talking about or a favorite comedian?

      1. name goes here*

        I knew I forgot something :) he is in grad school a couple hours away or I would totally go the event tickets route – that’s one of my go to gifts!

    4. Melody Pond*

      Do you have a solid idea of what “love languages” are most meaningful to him? That could work into some decent guidance for what to do for his birthday.

      For instance, Mr. Pond finds quality time and acts of service most meaningful, and he’s deeply uncomfortable with gift giving. So when I want to do something nice for him (for a birthday or whatever) I either plan fun activities for us to do together, or I take on some extra household chores or something that are normally under his purview.

    5. Lady Julian*

      Running totally lends itself to fun gifts. What about a pair of brightly coloured running socks, same brand as he already uses? Somebody got me a slap-wrist bracelet which lights up with red LED lights for Christmas; it’s meant to keep me safe if I’m running in dim light outside. It’s awesome.

    6. chickabiddy*

      For small, fun gifts for people I don’t know super-well, I prefer to go with consumables like a fancy hot sauce, interesting liquor if he drinks (I don’t, but I sometimes have fun seeing what’s new and different), exotic coffee, or high-end candy (lots of stuff out there now since it’s near Valentine’s Day). I love to give gifts but I worry that I will pick something that is not quite right and will have to be used/displayed out of obligation, so I try to find something that can be used up or even regifted discreetly if necessary.

  24. Allypopx*

    I wanted to thank everyone who commented on my exercise-and-anxiety post last week. I got a lot of good feedback and encouragement, and most importantly learned this is normal and other people experience it! Not knowing if it’s a normal thing can be super daunting when something weird is happening with your body.

    I’m still trying to exercise every other day, and I’m mixing up the exercises I do based on how my brain is feeling on that day. I’m also trying to listen to my body and what it needs. Am I craving potato chips because I’m low on sodium? Am I tired because I didn’t have enough protein? Am I cranky because I’m dehydrated? (that one happens to me a lot). I had been trying to moderate my calorie intake before I started exercising but now I’m less sure that was working for me, so I’m trying to just eat healthier while still working to make sure my body gets the sustenance it needs.

    The panic attacks continue, and I start my full time work/full time school schedule back up next week, so I doubt they’ll subside fully, but I feel like continuing to exercise will help me feel more balanced and productive, so I’m going to keep working at it!

    And don’t worry, I will also speak to my doctor next time I see him.

    1. No, please*

      I used exercise to help me through my divorce. I had regular panic attacks so being able to exhaust myself after work helped. For me, going to the gym was very hard. But I made myself go and tried not to think about everyone around me. I hope it gets easier and easier for you! Good luck at school and work!

  25. Stylish Entrepreneur*

    Is anyone else becoming increasingly annoyed by how easy technology is making it to be rude? (I feel like that’s worded awkwardly, but I’m sure you get the idea.)

    I was out to dinner with my mother last night, and while I do keep my phone on the table, I think I used it for less than 2 minutes (checking the time, and responding to one text) in a 45 minute-hour period.

    My mother sat down with hers, checked a few messages/browsed, which was annoying but she kept the conversation flowing decently, so I let it go. She then took a 10 minute phone call, at the table. While I do get that she primarily took it because my dad was traveling, I think a simple “I am safe, have not died on the road” 2-3 minute conversation would have been sufficient. Instead they chatted about what had been paid for, why the lady at the hotel needed his debit card if he paid cash, who was currently asleep, and other random tidbits that weren’t really pertinent in the moment at all. This was also the second call she had taken from him in a 2 hour period. She was also on the phone as our server brought our food, and the lady came back and said “I didn’t want to interrupt your phone call, can I get you anything else?” I was mortified.

    Perhaps I’m just perturbed because after sitting awkwardly and listening to her conversation for 10 minutes, the conversation between us was over.

    Or am I just overreacting?

    1. Allypopx*

      Nope, you’re not overreacting. It’s super obnoxious.

      I call people out on this, personally. Having your phone attached to your hand is such an integrated part of our culture that I’m not sure everyone realizes they’re being rude in situations like this.

      If I’m in a casual setting or getting drinks with some friends I usually let it go, unless it gets really obnoxious and then I’ll do a gentle jokey “you’re checking your phone every 10 seconds! hot date?” or something to get the point across, but I won’t push it.

      But with my boyfriend, or a lunch with a family member or something, I’ll directly ask to limit our phone use or complain if it’s getting distracting or annoying. It’s reasonable to demand attention when you’re spending time with people close to you, and they should know if they’re doing something bothersome.

      1. TL -*

        You’re a lot nicer than I am! I just tell people to put their phones up pretty bluntly. (Close friends get their phones taken away – and immediately returned – if I’m particularly annoyed.)
        Family is, thankfully, not attached to their phone.

    2. all aboard the anon train*

      You’re not overreacting.

      I’m totally fine with stopping to instagram something or taking pictures, because I like to instagram interesting meals or places, but I put my phone away after that if I’m with someone. I sometimes find even people who have it on the table and whose eyes drift towards it when they get a new notification is rude because unless you’re waiting for an important call or text, I don’t see the need to have it in your line of vision. I get annoyed when people check their social media or text in the middle of a conversation.

      Though, on the other hand, I have noticed a lot of men who assume women will be on their phone 24/7. One of the things I’ve noticed most on dating apps in the past year or so is the line, “puts her phone away/doesn’t bring her phone to a date” or saying something about no phones at the date. I’ve never encountered this when I date women, only men, and I don’t like the assumption that phone addiction is only a problem women have since I know quite a few men who have the same addiction.

      1. TL -*

        I flip my phone over if it’s in the table so I can’t see the notification light. (I don’t carry a purse so phone is usually on the table.)

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I’m not leaving my phone home on a date. I won’t use it if I’m talking to him unless I’m looking up something funny to show him, but I want it with me in case he’s a freaking maniac. If it rings, too bad–I’ll call you back.

    3. notanoro*

      I think part of the problem is that we all have different thresholds for rudeness. I’m admittedly hard-core anti-phone. Be with the person you’re with, and be there 100%. So for me, your 2 minutes, including a text message, would be annoying. Your mom’s behavior would drive me around the bend. When my mom starts fiddling with her phone, I immediately say,”OMG, put the phone away!” She sticks her tongue out at me and then puts the phone away, though.

      1. Stylish Entrepreneur*

        Typically if I’m with anyone other than my parents (ironically the two biggest offenders) it’s in my bag. I guess I figure if they’re going to be in theirs, I may as well at least spend 2 minutes on mine. The others I share meals with are typically more considerate. It’s almost as if it’s an “older” person thing – maybe because they never had the “get off your phone, you’re being rude” lectures when technology first came out? That’s my theory at least.

    4. nep*

      In my book, you’re not overreacting. A relative of mine regularly looks at her phone when someone’s talking to her. It’s rude as hell.

    5. Aurora Leigh*

      I make a point of not checking mine when I’m with friends and family (unless I’m going to show them a picture or something). But I will take a call — mostly because I have older relatives in bad health and my mother jumps very quickly from “didn’t answer the phone” to “dead in a ditch somewhere” so it makes things easier. I try to keep calls short though.

      What you described totally sounds like something my parents would though! They’re very attached to each other.

    6. Opal Glow*

      No, not over reacting. I get irritated by complaints about teens and phones. I’ve purposely been observing groups at restaurants. Granted this isn’t scientific. I see groups of teenage girls with their phones and they share pictures, texts, music, and laugh and talk about it. I see groups of middle-age women all sitting around a table and each one is on their phone not talking to each other.

    7. MsChanandlerBong*

      Nope, not overreacting. I once went on a 40-minute ride with a friend who talked on her phone the WHOLE time. I finally told her if she didn’t hang up, I was going to throw her phone out the car window. SO RUDE.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        That would feel so rude and weird to me. The first time I used Uber, it was to go to the airport. I really, really needed to talk to my brother about some estate business we were working through with my mom. He was heading out of town too, so the only time I had to call him was on the way to the airport. He was standing in line waiting to board his plane. I asked the driver if he minded if I made a call, and he said it was fine, but it still felt kind of rude. Not that I would have chit-chatted with him all the way to the airport, but still.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I don’t think using a phone in a taxi or Uber is rude. The person is giving you a ride but you’re paying for it; you’re not obligated to speak to them other than to make the transaction.

    8. BBBizAnalyst*

      Another vote for not overreacting. Be in the moment. I have a rule that no phones are allowed at the dinner table when I’m at a restaurant. I’m here to have dinner and good convo. Not watch you check your social media feeds or text other people.

      I also get annoyed when people are at concerts taking video instead of actually enjoying the songs. It’s good to disconnect and enjoy the now. I always tell people the moment STILL exists even if it’s not on social media.

      1. Sophie Winston*

        Oh this. Sure, take some photos or a 15 second video during the first song. Maybe selfie with your friends. But then put it away. Recording the entire show on your iPad is so inconsiderate of everyone around you.

  26. TheLazyB*

    So…. apparently I have codependent tendencies.

    I bought ‘Codependent No More’ on kindle on a bit of a whim and OH MY GOD EVERYONE, my life now makes sense. And also my mother. And kind of my whole extended family. Srsly i was reading once going ‘oh my god that is my mum to a T’ then going back through everything and thinking ‘yeah…. me too’. I’m not as bad as my mum but that’s because I’ve done a ton of work on myself, albeit without being able to attach a label to it. But fwiw labels help me :-/

    Anyone else?!? Any advice?

    1. No, please*

      I can only second the “labels help” feeling. When I was diagnosed (not that you needed/received psychiatric help like me) and started reading up on my stuff, it was like a choir in my head. It still blows my mind.

      1. C Average*

        Same experience when I learned I was on the autism spectrum and started reading up. It all made So Much Sense.

    2. Codependent*

      Meeeeeee. I actually wrote about reading it a few weeks back, and how I had the same sense of “it all makes sense now!”

      Most of my codependent issues revolve around my husband. I struggled a lot at first because I suddenly felt like I couldn’t trust my feelings/reactions/instincts, but it pushed me to connect with some friends who I could bounce things off of and say “is this normal or is this me being codependent? Is this a healthy boundary or am I overcorrecting?” and that has helped a LOT. It also nudged me to get serious about finding a therapist, because I know that I can’t rely too heavily on my friends in that role.

      Full disclosure, it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. My new sense of self and boundaries rocked the boat of my marriage pretty hard, and DH is actually not living at home right now (there’s a lot more to the story, but it was a factor). I’m pretty sure we’ll get back together eventually, but it’s actually turning into a good exercise for me (and hopefully for him).

    3. GT*

      I took Claritin-D and then Zyrtec-D for over 10 years (daily). It did make my pulse quicken quite a bit (doctors commented on it). I take Zyrtec without the D and it’s much better.

  27. AnotherAnony*

    When I wake up from sleeping, sometimes my heart races. I had to go to the ER during the week because my BP was high- my heart was really racing. The Dr. said it might be from taking Zyrtec D. I also changed my birth control pills. I felt my heart rate speed up slightly after taking the bc, so I thought it was from that. They couldn’t find anything and now I might have to wear one of those holter monitors. Has anyone ever had anything like this before?

    1. Jackie*

      Yes, I wore a monitor once for a racing heart and had other tests. Ended up in ER too. All they found was a premature atrial contraction which is paused heart beats. They are not a problem until they become a problem. Most people have it. Caffeine, alcohol, stress, and fatigue may cause symptoms to occur more frequently. Now I no longer have caffeine. And gave up dark chocolate as I am sensitive to the effects of dark chocolate. No problems since saying goodbye to my favorites………tea, coffee and dark chocolate. And I cut down on salt too. I hope you have good luck figuring out why your heart races too.

    2. Colette*

      Are you sure it’s your heart? I had a similar feeling when waking up, and it turned out to be asthma-related. I upped my asthma meds and it’s gone.

    3. Jessesgirl72*

      Yes, I have had this annoying cold that WILL NOT GO AWAY and I have to be careful of what OTC meds I take, or my heart will race.

      And honestly, it could be your BC. High blood pressure and strokes are an actual known side effect of hormonal birth control. I’d contact your GYN and tell her. You might want to consider a hormonal IUD instead- the dosage is lower and targeted, so the stroke side effect essentially disappears.

    4. Chaordic One*

      If it was the Zyrtec D, it was probably the decongestant (the D) in the medicine that caused it. This is a fairly common side effect from taking OTC medicines containing decongestants containing pseudoephedrine. You might try taking plain Zyrtec instead of Zyrtec D, or a similar medicine with a different decongestant.

      This was one of the side effects that led me to getting allergy testing and desensitization shots to deal with my allergies. The shots really helped me.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I had to wear a monitor about 11 or 12 years ago. It was no fun, and my primary care doc couldn’t determine why I was having these “racing” episodes. The monitor didn’t even capture them as anything out of the ordinary. Then I went to see my parents’ cardiologist, and I was diagnosed with inappropriate sinus tachycardia as a result of GERD. In plain English: my reflux gives me heart palpitations. Still happens, and if it gets to be too much, that means it’s time for a course of Prilosec.

      I had really uncomfortable heart palpitations one night a few years ago. It felt so strange that I refused to go to bed and made my boyfriend stay up with me. Then I did some quick Internet searching and realized that the new calcium supplement I was taking could potentially cause an irregular heartbeat. Are you taking any new supplements?

    6. MaybeTomorrow*

      Are you overweight? How is your sleep? Sleep apnea can cause issues with bounding pulse.
      Overweight people tend to have sleep apnea.

    7. MaddieB*

      Super common. Do the Holter monitor and if it’s ok don’t worry about it. Are you feeling anxious at all? Chest pain and near fainting are usually more serious indicators of heart issues than palpitations. Good luck.

    8. GirlwithaPearl*

      I had this from birth control about ten years ago (Yaz–also a host of other awful side effects) AND cold medicine often does this to me(I hardly take anything now).

      Good luck getting it sorted!

  28. Sparkly Librarian*

    I’ve been getting into long-term food storage, emergency kits, and a few other prepper-lite things (trying not to go overboard! it seems easy to do) in the past couple months. Anyone else here do that? We got a pressure cooker for Xmas, and I’m looking forward to trying out the canning function — did a small batch of slow cooker applesauce to use up fruit and got 5 pints out of it. Poached pears this weekend. Aside from the staples (rice, beans, oil, sugar, salt, etc.), what are your favorite items I should know about? One perhaps unexpected item we got was emergency contraception — you can get it OTC, the packs don’t expire for four years, and I think it’s a handy thing to have around.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t prep per se, but since I’m in tornado country I do have some stuff stashed in the basement. What do you use for water storage? I found out the hard way that the cheap water gallons from the grocery store are in flimsy plastic that is not suitable for long-term storage.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        I haven’t figured out long-term water storage yet. For short-term, we have 3 gallons per human and 1 gallon per cat for 3 days (in the grocery store plastic). In the emergency kit there are 2 LifeStraws (1 per adult), but I expect when our family expands that we will eventually want to have a hanging bag filter.

        1. Sparkly Librarian*

          Oh! And I got a box of emergency water pouches that are packaged for long-term storage. They’re something like a cup and a half each, but the good thing is that they are more portable and you can split them up over several locations.

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        Yeah, when we lived in California, we used to talk about it, and could never decide on what to do for water storage. You need so much water for even a short emergency (JUST to stay alive- not even washing!) that it’s really impractical for most people. I’m glad that I now live someplace where it rains often enough, that rain barrels and water purification kits are a practical solution.

      3. The RO-Cat*

        Traditional wisdom (maybe there ought to be quote marks here, I don’t know) around here says water will keep fresh if you put some silver object in it. Many churches do that, as I understand, since silver ions do have antibacterial activity.

        On a more scientific note, food-grade stainless steel containers always kept my in-laws’ home-made wine and moonshine in pristine condition (wine doesn’t age, even). Maybe that would help?

        1. fposte*

          It wasn’t the water, it was the container–the plastic started leaking within a couple of months. (According to WHO, silver can disinfect water, but they’re talking about silver ionization processes, not just dropping a spoon in–I suspect the problem with the latter is reliable exposure, but it might be better than nothing.)

          I’ll look at the steel–I’d probably be storing water in bigger amounts, though, so I’d need to keep an eye on the weight.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Water containers. I have to have some here because we can go on “boil water” notice all of the sudden. The ones I had from decades ago finally failed in a spectacular manner and I had to get new. I picked one up at a garage sale and I found the other one at Walmart. I ended up with the 5 gallon size which is a little hard for me to lift/pour. So my plan is to fill them part way rather than all the way to the top.
        I think Igloo still makes those little half gallon or one gallon containers. I really liked those. I know I have seen a lot of them at tag sales. hmmm.

      5. Kyrielle*

        Opaque (this is important!) water containers in middle sizes (5-8 gallons) with a square or rectangular shape for stacking. Ideally you want a big enough opening to confirm they’re clean and not growing anything when you swap water out, just in case. Treat the water (basic bleach, or get specifically drops for treating the water – Google it). Much, much better than the grocery-store cheap plastic gallons.

        Make sure they have either a spigot or an external spigot you can attach, and that you have one – life gets so simple then. :)

        Some people swear by water barrels – but I’m in an area that *could* get a bad earthquake, tho quakes are rare. If I have to evacuate because the house isn’t sound, I cannot put a water barrel in my trunk even if the roads are still passable. I -can- put smaller containers in.

        Also, if you might have to evacuate on foot (see earthquake scenario), consider water treatment tablets or water filter straws or both.

    2. Opal Glow*

      I have. I even attended a survivalist expo in order to look for quality freeze dried food. With the tornadoes around here I don’t want to be stuck without food for my family. I did buy an emergency kit with wind-up/solar/battery lantern/radio.

      The Red Cross had a workshop and had a good suggestion of a brand new garbage can to hold things. Use bungee cords to keep the lid on.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Oh, good one – the kind with wheels on would make moving it around easier. I went with Mountain Home on the recommendation of an experienced friend who has Opinions about MREs. Said they reconstitute with acceptable texture and taste the most like “real food”, and our palates seem to overlap for flavors on offer. (Some people like chicken with pimientos, I guess. If I’m already stressed out by power outage, natural disaster, sociopolitical unrest… I want lasagna!)

        1. Opal Glow*

          Thanks for the recommendation! Having a child on the spectrum food can be An Issue. Lasagne is a favorite.

    3. Cristina in England*

      Something to do. In our car emergency kit I have crayons and mini notebooks for the kids. If my lifestyle and geographic location demanded it even a little I would get a solar USB power bank to charge my phone in an emergency, and yes there are earbuds in my car emergency kit already!

      Obviously it depends on the type of emergency you’re preparing for, but what about printouts of any two-factor authentication backup passwords? Photocopies of ID in a fireproof/waterproof bag?

      And don’t forget toilet paper and feminine products. My mom gave me Charmin To Go travel toilet paper about 15 years ago and I have never used them but they are in my car emergency kit just in case I need them.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Travel toilet paper! Today I have learned something.

        Thanks for the reminder on passwords. I have to go stand in line at the DMV and GET new ID (and then use it to get my passport), but then I’ll make copies.

        1. Anono-me*

          Not sure how preppery it is, but as a general useful tip, keep the old driver’s license if you can. It usually is better as ID than a photocopy.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve been meaning to do this just in case. For now, I have a Sterno stove and some cans of the Sterno stuff, and an oil lamp (like Little House on the Prairie) and lamp oil in case the power goes out. Keeping those helped me during the 2007 ice storm–I was stuck in my house for three days before the freezing rain stopped. I had water, but no light or heat. I could cook food on the Sterno stove, and I have a camp coffee pot so I could have coffee and heat water for cocoa.

      Not sure about water or MREs. I found a website about how to buy them. Since I don’t have any money right now, I can’t stock up on anything except maybe cans of beans or whatever. That will have to wait. When I lived in earthquake country, I kept a bug-out bag in my room at home so I could grab it if we had to evacuate.

    5. Kyrielle*

      Spices. Small things if need be, but you may well want spices.

      If you’re anywhere near a nuclear plant, iodide tablets in case they tell you to take them.

      If you’re near train tracks or anything else that might lead to a shelter-in-place order (volcanoes, for example, as I side-eye Mt. St. Helens from my childhood), plastic sheeting and duct tape. (Actually, duct tape is almost always useful.) A good first-aid kit.

      If you have any form of cold weather, those little hand-warmer packs can come in handy at times.

      Treats in your food. Seriously, something that will make you feel like you got a treat is awesome. (Chocolate is compact, has plenty of calories, and lasts a while, assuming it’s okay on your diet and that you do not have to deal with it potentially melting in whatever locale you are storing things in.)

      Notebooks and pencils, because you may need to write things down. Hygiene supplies that can’t mess up the rest of your pack – so bar shampoo, not liquid – soap, toothpaste powder ideally or toothpaste if you must, floss, critical papers including copies of insurance info and doctor/dentist numbers and suchlike. Extra Ziploc bags, they’re amazingly handy.

      Flash light (either have batteries ready – but not in – and keep ’em fresh, or have a wind-up type or both). Weather radio (some can charge with wind-up or solar or both, and some can provide power out to devices by a USB port).

      Mylar emergency blankets if there’s any chance you’d be evacuating, and in a car emergency kit definitely. Those suckers can be handy and they are really compact until opened and used.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I think you can get trail bars made of chocolate that’s formulated to not melt. They’re weird but not too bad. We had them years ago when I went to camp–we took them with us on our big rappelling hike in Arkansas.

  29. Myrin*

    My god, you guys.

    Temperance above unknowingly reminded of the email I wanted to tell you about as soon as I got it earlier this weeks.

    So. This probably exists in other countries as well but I certainly don’t have the right words to describe it. It’s a coupon system, maybe? Certain supermarkets are affiliated with different coupon companies, for a lack of a better word, and you can become a member through them and then you get a card – looks like a bank card – and whenever you purchase something, you have them scan your card as well and you get points for your purchase. And when you have a certain amount of points, you can cash them in and I love these things so much because they’re voluntary and you don’t have to do anything but buy the stuff you’d buy anyway and we’ve already saved so much by using this system and yeah.

    Anyway. I started getting emails by one of these coupon companies which were addressed to a person with another name. Now turns out I actually have a “Myrin” email! I didn’t know that! I mean, I must have created it once but I have absolutely no memory of this whatsoever! Well, the other person must have made a typo with their own email address – leaving it to be my “Myrin” one – and the newsletters kept piling on and not stopping! I never get that many emails by these guys!

    Well, it took my writing the company twice for them to finally unsubscribe that email address but it finally happened. And they did, but while confirming it, they sent the most… awkward… weird… cringey… I don’t even know… email to let me (or rather, that other woman who never once got one of their mails anyway) know I’d successfully unsubscribed. Left them, more like. Because that’s how they wrote it. Like I’d just broken up with them, stilted phrases and all.

    So here follows the email they sent me verbatim. I’ll leave the German version first for those of you who are so inclined and then I’ll put a translation afterwards. Strap yourselves in. It’s gonna be wild.

    Schön war’s.
    Liebe Frau [Name],
    aber wohl nur für mich. Mit wem teile ich denn jetzt meine vielen tollen Einkaufstipps, Rabatt-Aktionen und Coupons?
    Hiermit bestätige ich also, dass Sie mit Ihrer Abmeldung erfolgreich mit mir Schluss gemacht haben und nichts mehr von mir hören werden.
    Die Abmeldung wird binnen einer Woche wirksam. Ich hatte nämlich schon weitere tolle Coupon-Angebote für Sie vorbereitet.
    Bis ich allerdings darüber hinweg komme, wird es noch eine Weile dauern.
    Wenn Sie doch zu mir zurück wollen:
    Unter [URL].de/vorteile warte ich sehnsüchtig darauf, dass wir unsere Leidenschaft fürs Shoppen wieder gemeinsam ausleben.
    Bis dahin sage ich leise Servus.
    Ihre [Firmenname] Coupon-Mail.


    Well, it was nice.
    Dear Ms. [name],
    but apparently only for me. Who will I be sharing my many awesome shopping tips, discount campaigns, and coupons with now?
    This is to confirm that by unsubscribing you’ve successfully broken up with me and won’t hear from me ever again.
    Your unsubscribing will take effect within one week. Because I had already prepared so many other cool coupon offers for you.
    Until I’ll be over it, it will take a while, though.
    In case you do want to get back with me after all:
    At [URL].com/perks I’ll be longingly waiting for us to once again live out our passion for shopping together.
    Until then I quietly say Goodby. [This is a reference to a song by the late famous Austrian singer and comedian Peter Alexander. I happen to be from the area of Germany where “servus” is a common greeting/farewell, but it must sound incredibly weird to people from elsewhere, reference or not.]
    Your [Company name] Coupon-Mail.

    Delightful, isn’t it?

    1. TL -*

      Oh my god. That’s hilarious! It’s like someone who feels the need to formally break up with you after a first date!

    2. The RO-Cat*

      Somehow off-topic, but now *I* am shocked. “Servus” is *the* salutation where I live (Romania); funny to see it in Germany, too!

      1. Myrin*

        I didn’t know that, how cool! (Although, I mean, it makes more sense to have a Latin word in a country with a Romance language than in one with a Germanic language, but I had never even thought about this particular one.) It’s common in Bavaria (South-East Germany) and Austria and seen as somewhat typical for the area and, although it’s actually part of the local dialect, even used by people who only visit here (for bonding purposes, I suppose?).

    3. Mela*

      I haven’t seen one so elaborate as this, but it’s a trend I’ve been noticing. They try to make it jokey or funny in an effort to lure you back or at least leave warm fuzzy feelings with you.

  30. Lucy*

    So a week ago I got into grad school. It’s something I’ve been working toward for a very long time and it’s a very competitive program so I’m beyond excited. However, I’m getting pretty stressed out about housing.

    It’s not an option for us financially for my husband to leave his job – it pays well and will cover my tuition so I can graduate debt-free, which is a huge deal. However, the campus is far from my husband’s work, so we’re going to be moving to an area where my commute will be about 50 minutes and his will be about 1.5 hours (one way). We both fully realize it’s going to suck for a few years until I graduate. Fortunately his schedule is flexible enough that he can avoid rush-hour traffic and can work from home at least one day per week. He’s 100% supportive and ready to take this on despite the fact that he’s getting the worse end of the bargain.

    However, I recently joined a Facebook group for my incoming class that allows us to ask questions of upperclassmen. It came up in a thread about commuting that I’m probably going to be living 50 minutes from campus and it turned into a bit of a pile-on of upperclassmen telling me it’s a terrible idea to live further than 10 minutes from campus because the program is demanding, and that my husband should (essentially) suck it up and accept a longer commute so we can live closer to campus.

    I’ll admit that my first reaction was defensive. The majority of students in this program come straight out of college, whereas I’m nearly 30 and in a different stage of life (husband, career, etc.). If I was 21 and unattached then of course I’d go live right next to campus with a couple roommates. But I’m not, and it’s not realistic for my husband to commute 4 hours round trip every day. It’s also not realistic for my husband to quit his job or get a lower-paid one closer to campus without us taking on a lot of debt and majorly derailing his career. It’s also not possible for us to live apart for reasons I’d rather not get into. I guess I’m just bristling at people who don’t know our situation acting as if they know what’s best for our family.

    But at the same time, it’s possible I’m just annoyed because they’re right and I just don’t want to hear it. Maybe I am putting myself at a huge disadvantage from the start. But there’s literally no other way for me to attend this program. It’s really stressing me out feeling as though we’re making a bad decision – when before hearing from all these students we were solidly in the camp of, “It’s going to be really hard, but it’s doable and we’re willing to make this sacrifice for a few years.”

    Ugh. Ugh ugh. I guess I’m more venting than looking for a solution, but any feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading.

    1. Allypopx*

      It’s going to be really hard, maybe harder than you anticipated, but it is doable, and you’ll figure it out.

      I would be bristling too.

      1. Allypopx*

        FWIW, my boyfriend and I are both in school right now. He’s doing a grad program and I’m belatedly getting my undergrad. We’re both working. Neither of us have the capacity or flexibility we’d like to. Neither of us can give our jobs, relationship, and school 100%. We both have to make a lot of compromises.

        It’s really hard. But we also agreed that we could handle a few years of hard for a long term benefit. We get pressure from all sides to give more energy to something or other. We’re figuring out our own arrangement. You’re the only one who knows what it looks like from where you’re standing. It’ll be rocky but you’ll figure it out as you go. Congratulations on being accepted into the program!

    2. regina phalange*

      Oh I feel your annoyance. Sure it is easy for them to say you should only live ten minutes from campus, but your husband is already making enough of a sacrifice and to your point, he can’t have a daily four hour commute. Also, one other thing I just thought of because I’m 35 and no longer in my party phase – wouldn’t living that close to campus be LOUD and crowded with 18-21 year olds who constantly want to live it up and party? I would find living that close would be depressing and a tad overwhelming and like I didn’t fit in. I am sorry I can’t offer actual feedback as I don’t plan on attending grad school and also am not married. But did just come to say I understand your frustration/need to vent.

    3. Aurora Leigh*

      Everybody has different thresholds for commuting. To me (I commuted 30 mins for undergrad) it was was time to disengage my brain and just listen to music (and watch the road obviously). It was nice to have that just me time.

      1. Talvi*

        This. I had an hour-long commute in undergrad. When I was doing my MA, my commute was only about 15 minutes. I found myself really missing that time to decompress and re-centre myself to be able to focus properly on assignments and readings.

    4. this*

      Unfortunately, these days it seems that more and more people assume/believe that everyone is like they are. If they haven’t experienced something they just have no ability to understand. Even with a demanding program if none of these students are actually in the program all they can base their opinions on is the undergraduate experience. And they can/will be very different. They are so used to breaks through out the day and spending their nights studying. Most graduate programs don’t have as many classes but more outside work and you can spend more time during the day getting work done than you usually do as an undergrad. And I suspect that they are thinking more about how do you go back and forth all day if you’re an hour away without realizing that you would/could stay on campus all day instead..

    5. Myrin*

      I’m coming down solidly on your side here.

      I think I’m in my country’s equivalent to grad school? I don’t know, I have a master’s and am working on my doctorate at the moment, is that comparable? However that may be, I never quite understand how US/UK grad schools work because it seems much different from anything we do here so I could be totally off-base with regards to how demanding it will be or how much you have to be physically present but I’ve had a commute of more than one hour (one way) for all my academic life and while being a bit closer would have been nice it has always been doable and even when I had a lot of classes and work there really was no need to uproot my entire home life for it.

      And maybe it’s because I’m from a place where studying at a university seems to be having a much different value from the US, but absent any extraordinary circumstances, it seems plain ridiculous to place studying above an actual, (well!-)paying job (especially since your husband’s job allows you to do this whole thing debt-free in the first place) and these Facebook people seem pretty out-of-touch and unrealistic, if you ask me.

    6. It happens*

      Congratulations on your acceptance. The students’ tone sucks, but I have to believe that the sentiment was sincere. You’ve already made your decision on where to live, so maybe now you need more information from current students on how the program works on a day-to-day basis. For example, my grad program had LOTS of team work and no classes on Fridays so we could have team meetings and employer recruiting activities. We also had guest speakers, practitioner classes and recruiter presentations on weeknights; I could have classes one day from 8-11 then be ‘free’ until a 6-9 meeting. If you’re driving every day you need to be careful about exhaustion (falling asleep at the wheel is scary and dangerous.) You probably want to find places on campus that you can do work between classes/meetings, figure out meal options and maybe backup plans to sleep closer to campus at peak/exam periods. You’ve definitely chosen a more difficult path than the students who have made comments to you, but you’ll make it work. Good luck in your program!

    7. Bex*

      I think that this is one of those situations where weirdly, everyone is probably right even though they disagree. The uperclassmen are probably correct that it’s better to live near campus, and that a long commute will make your life and your studies more difficult. Grad school doesn’t always operate like work schedules, in neat linear time blocks. So there may be days where you have to be there early in the morning for class, then have long blocks of time in the afternoon, but you have to be there in the evening for a guest lecture. So living close to campus allows you to go back and forth easily and maximize your time.

      That said, if your options are either deal with the 50 minute commute OR not go to school at all, then obviously the commute wins…. it seems like the two options you have are less than ideal, so you’re picking the better of the two. That’s okay. Sometimes there are just no good options, and you are making to best of it.

      1. TL -*

        Yeah, what kind of program are you in – that’s the big question, I think. If you’re doing lab work, the commute is impractical, but doable. If it’s worth you can do from home, it’s more practical, but probably at the expense of bonding with the cohort and missing some lectures/events.

      2. Kj*

        As a grad school student who went to school with quite a few “non-traditional” students (i.e. older, had kids, had had careers prior), it was clear that different age groups had different priorities. I suspect it is possible to live further from campus- you just might find your days are longer since you can’t go home between classes/study groups/whatnot. You’ll be fine- maybe you’ll drink more coffee so you can work in coffeeshops. Maybe you’ll learn how to nap in the library. Maybe you’ll work out in the gym in between classes. Most younger students will make school their life and their social lives will revolve around school. You likely will not- you are already married, have an established friend group . The only thing to be wary of is SOME older students alienated themselves from younger students by being condescending (and some younger students were jerks to the older students, goes both ways). Also, it is OK to be an expert on what you know, but don’t think that age always gives you a leg up. As a slightly older student (not really non-traditional, but no a 22 year old either), I had to learn that.

    8. BRR*

      I’d be shocked if that commuting time difference was a make or break for a university program. While grad school is not easy I have found grad students that I know really inflate things. Nobody wants to say their program is a breeze. In my own program I still can’t figure out how someone in all the same classes as me had to “spend hours on homework” when we literally had non assigned to us.

      You know what will work for you. This might be a situation where others will take their cues from you. If you act like it’s no big deal (and while I don’t think it’s ideal, i think it’s doable as someone who commutes almost two hours each way for work and preciously commutes an hour each way for grad school) hopefully they’ll follow suit.

      1. hermit crab*

        >> In my own program I still can’t figure out how someone in all the same classes as me had to “spend hours on homework” when we literally had non assigned to us.

        I encountered the exact same thing when I was getting my masters. I was working full-time-ish (around 30-35 hrs/week) while taking a full-time course load. While it certainly required some solid time management, the program was specifically designed to accommodate people with day jobs. In my cohort, there was a group of students right out of undergrad who were full-time students with limited outside commitments, and I think some of them really struggled because they felt they had to be studying all the time but didn’t yet know how to deal with their suddenly-unstructured days.

      2. Overeducated*

        Yes, this. Grad students can get into competitions over how hard they have it, but I had more autonomy and flexibility for my entire PhD program than I do working 40 hours a week now even though sometimes I did work longer hours. One of my most successful friends and colleagues commuted 1.5-2 hours each way on public transit, she simply did all her work on the train and had an actual social life at home. And she got an incredibly elite job. Commuting means you might have some long days, and your social life won’t revolve around campus, but I bet your years of experience mean that you will be beer at time management and work life balance than the 21 year olds straight our of college.

    9. Jessesgirl72*

      Yes, they are in a different life stage than you are, and have unrealistic views for what that means.

      But here’s the thing- this isn’t a permanent thing. Even if they are 100% right, it’s not like you can’t try to make adjustments if you get into the program and find the arrangement isn’t working for you. If something ends up not working, fix it! If the fix doesn’t work, try something else. :) And that’s assuming that you can’t make it work. If you put your mind to it, most people can make situations work that aren’t ideal. Sheltered 20-somethings just coming from Undergrad haven’t experienced that yet. It probably won’t be the most fun thing ever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Congratulations and good luck!

    10. alex*

      Congrats on your acceptance!

      Honestly I think the FB group’s reaction is dumb. I went to a demanding grad school in NYC, and everybody lives 40+ mins away from campus. You just… do work on the commute, or if you can’t (like, if you drive), you just… factor in commuting time to your schedule. It’s just absurd to suggest that you’d “have” to live 10 mins away (and honestly– would that be some crappy college town scene, anyway?). Tons of people with families make grad school work, sacrificing family time for school, without distance being any issue at all.

      Again– congrats, and just do it!!!!

    11. Temperance*

      Here’s my .02: I went to law school at 28. I live in the suburbs of a major city, and didn’t want to live in the city because we lived somewhat convenient to my husband’s job. I got some crap from it, too.

      I wold also probably take the longer commute if I wasn’t working, but obviously you and your husb made a choice.

    12. Stephanie*

      Hmm, why don’t you try it out first semester and see?

      I can see both sides of the argument. Depending on your program, that long of a commute might not be practical. If a lot of lab work or group work is involved, that might not work (or you’ll be on campus all day). It’ll help you if you make it like a job, but grad school doesn’t always follow a 9-to-5 schedule.

      I also did a 45- to 50-minute highway commute for about a year. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it. I didn’t hit too much traffic, but driving that much was exhausting and it put a lot of miles on my car (and I’m starting to see little maintenance issues pop up as a result).

    13. Sparkly Librarian*

      I got mad when someone questioned whether the grad school program I was accepted into was well-thought-of because it was an online program. (Answer: yes, especially by people in my area where I want to stay. But I hadn’t really thought it out before applying.) And when people would recommend being a full-time student instead of working full-time (and taking a full class load). But that was the only way I could’ve done it! The choice was either work and take classes online and be done in 2-3 years, or not get the degree at all. Relocating wasn’t an option. Quitting my job wasn’t an option. Taking 6 years to complete the program was… undesirable. So I didn’t. You are making the best choice for you, your career, and your family out of limited options. Crush it!

    14. Pennalynn Lott*

      Meh. I’m 30-60 minutes away from my school, depending on traffic. I’m an undergrad, but taking graduate courses on a “fast track” program. My school loves it some group work, and I’ve had to do massive group projects and group study sessions in every single one of my undergrad classes except for math (the only nice thing about calculus and linear algebra).

      Based on my experience, the main thing a 10 minute commute would give you is the ability to drop everything for an “emergency” team meeting. . . which would mean that your team sucks, at least in respect to time management and adhering to deadlines.

      But otherwise, you just may end up spending a few extra hours on campus a handful of days out of the week, depending on your team members’ schedules and guest lectures and the like. But all of those things should be known *at least* a day or two in advance, so you can easily plan for them.

      If you’re diligently studying and participating in your program, spending two hours a day in your car isn’t going to derail you. It’s no different than people with full-time jobs who pursue challenging MBA programs. Heck, *they* are spending 8-12 hours a day NOT doing grad work, and still manage to make it through. You’ll do fine.

      And congratulations! :-)

    15. Not So NewReader*

      Not the same as you, but when I did my bachelors I had a 25 mile commute. My advisers said to consider the commute time as “one class” so I did four classes a semester and then did classes over the summer.
      This worked. There were days where I drove well over 100 miles in a day but I did it. I had a set-in-stone bedtime. No matter what I was in bed at 11 pm (I think it was 11) I was not good with emergency team meetings, but I told the teams that upfront. I was diligent about answering email and doing my share of the work plus anticipating problems or quandaries with possible solutions. I don’t think the teams objected that much.
      I know a couple of students laughed. I was on time for an 8 am class and a person living in a dorm NEXT to the classroom building was never on time.
      Those 8 am classes were a killer. I did not get that much out of them and finally I just avoided them. Maybe if I took courses at 8 am that were more inline with my natural abilities I would have made out okay.
      In one case, I was able to convince the prof to let me do an independent study. This gave me a little more at home time to study.

    16. Observer*

      These upper class men sound like idiots. They also sound like they are going to have a real culture shock when they leave school. I also wonder how they do at relationships. I mean, if your description of their reaction is accurate, then they are basically saying that only YOUR challenges matter, not your husband’s. Yuck.

      Look, I get that a 50 minute commute is tough, but it’s tough when you are in a demanding job too. If these guys think that an academic program – even a demanding one – is NECESSARILY so much more demanding than ANY demanding job that you could have then their world view is seriously skewed, and I wouldn’t take their advice too seriously.

      If you are worried about the potential effects of the commute, here’s what I would think about to decide how much of a problem it might be.

      What is your commute likely to be, outside of the length (eg a smooth car trip, decent public transportation or horrendous public transportation.)
      Have you had a challenging job before? What things made the most difference in managing that?
      Have you dealt with a longish commute before? What things made the most difference to you?

    17. Lady Bug*

      I went to law school 3 to 4 nights a week an hour and 15 minutes from home. I promise you will be fine!!!!!

      If most of these students have only gone to school they are used to focusing all of their attention on school and haven’t experienced having to balance family, work and school. And they definitely won’t understand why school is priority #3, not #1, because they’ve been told their whole lives it must be #1. My first week of law school I made a comment about paying the mortgage. One of the younger students said “WOW you have a mortgage!!!!” I think that pretty much summed it up.

      Don’t worry, you didn’t make a mistake. You have experienced more life and have different priorities and that’s ok.

    18. AcademiaNut*

      A ten minute commute seems a pretty unusual standard for me. When I was in grad school, I had a 30 minute walk into campus which I quite liked, for the exercise. Some people lived close, others lived further out into the suburbs, where they could afford a nicer place or live with family.

      It’s going to depend a lot on the details of the program. In mine, we all had an office to work in, with a computer, desk, shelves, etc. So we came in for the day, and spent the time not in classes or other scheduled stuff working at our desks. We also occasionally had evening or night work, due to the nature of our program, and during classes things like evening study groups were common.

      If you don’t have office space, you might end up with long days, and a lot of time spent hanging out in coffee shops and the library, and carting your stuff around with you, rather than, say, being able to go home, work for three or four hours, and come back in for a class or meeting. This could get tiring after a while.

      What *is* likely to happen if you’re a commuter and most of the other students are local, is that you’ll be less connected to the unofficial quasi-social side of the program – study groups, pub nights and other social gatherings, that sort of thing. You might not miss that at all, or you might find that it has an impact, depending on your personality and the type of program.

      Your husband’s three-hour daily commute, though, is a bit worrying. From previous discussions on this forum over commute times, that’s at a level where a lot of people think that it sounds manageable before they start, but find it soul-suckingly bad once it’s a daily reality. So it might be worth discussing what you’d do if it turns out that he can’t handle it as well as he expects.

    19. Stellaaaaa*

      I can only speak from my own experience: after my first year, I didn’t actually go to the campus all that often. It depends on what your program is and whether they’ll have you working/teaching, but if it’s strictly a research program you don’t need 24/7 access to the physical school buildings. I logged into the journal database from home and I mostly interacted with my advisors through email.

    20. Alice*

      I did a masters degree, in a program with lots of people straight out of college, when I was in my thirties and working full time. Some of the younger students struggled, and very few of the more mature ones did. Now, it may be a more intense program than mine (which was quite easy), but the less experienced students may not have figured out time management, prioritization, goal-setting, etc. to the extent that they will later in their careers.

    21. MaddieB*

      You don’t have to explain your decisions to anyone. I’ve commuted up to 90 minutes each way to school. You cannot ask your husband to do more. Just live your life confidently and do what’s best for your family. These other people don’t matter.

    22. Jessica*

      Don’t worry about the other students.

      I have a 33-mile commute (each way), which is about 40 minutes without traffic, and 60-75 minutes during rush hour. (All bets are off if it’s snowing.) I highly recommend acquiring a collection of audiobooks and/or relaxing-yet-focusing music to turn commute time into “me” time. I also have lately begun avoiding the news or any aggravating material that’s likely to get me riled up, since there’s enough of that going around these days and, with as much free time as such a long commute eats up, there’s no point spending it getting angry over things you can’t change. You’ll be under enough stress and pressure to accomplish everything without making your commute into Yell at the News Hour.

      I’d also recommend planning your store trips ahead of time so that one or the other of you can get groceries or run other errands during your commute. When you’re spending 10-15 hours a week just driving to and from work, the last thing you’re going to want to do on the weekends is drive more just to get cat food or whatever. It also saves quite a bit on mileage and gas. It’s also important to maintain your cars on a timely basis, since a major repair or a car going wheels-up is going to throw a big wrench in your well-oiled machine. Don’t put those things off if you can help it.

      Revisit in a year and see how things are. If one or the other of you is finding that life really sucks for you with all the commuting and whatnot, then go back to the drawing board and take a look at your options. Things are more tolerable when you know you HAVE the option to make a change if you really have to.

      Finally, this time is going to go by a lot faster than you think. I recently graduated after going back to school for 3 years for my bachelors. It was a lot of work, but it went by really quickly. Every class I took chipped away at the amount of work left to do, and before I knew it, I was finishing my last class and then my capstone.

  31. Huh*

    My friend’s mother is dying. It is expected to happen some time in the next couple of weeks.

    She lives in another country. What support can I offer her? For those of you who unfortunately experienced a loss of a parent, what helped you get through it?

    1. Colette*

      Food. Can you send restaurant gift cards or arrange to have food delivered? I have no idea what we would have eaten when my dad died if people hadn’t brought food.

      And, of course, listen if she wants to talk.

    2. fposte*

      The friend, not just the mother, is in a different country than you, and you won’t be going there? I would say offer messages of love and support, send a food gift if appropriate to the country of household, and accept your friend might not talk directly to you for a while, because she will have a lot going on.

      Where you might really be able to support your friend is after the first wave has ebbed. Call a few weeks after her mother died to see how she’s doing. If she’s in a country where mother’s day is a thing, contact her then to talk about your memories of her mother, or of what she enjoyed with her mother. Check in with her on the anniversary of the death, when people often feel the loss very keenly.

      And don’t worry about saying the right thing–there really isn’t a right thing, since nothing you say will make her mother well again. Unoriginal wording is fine; what’s important is that she knows you care for her and understand that this is a sad, hard thing.

      1. Natalie*

        Yes, keeping in contact after the initial wave is so important. One of my best friends lost her dad a few years ago and we talked regularly for months afterwards.

        Additionally, be willing to talk about things other than her mom. Sometimes a person wants to talk about their loved one, but sometimes they want to talk about other things and that’s okay too.

    3. Stylish Entrepreneur*

      Normalcy. Everything was a living hell until everyone was back at work/school. Sometimes when it first happens you don’t want to jump right in and dwell on it. People would hug me and I would burst into tears. I needed to get through it, and wait until things were semi normal so I could process it.

      But you also have to consider that literally everyone grieves in a different way, and if you’re attuned to them, you’ll typically know when to offer a Kleenex and when to send a picture of a cute puppy.

    4. brightstar*

      My Mom died on New Year’s Day. The thing that has meant the most has been friends reaching out to check on me, whether it was by text, instant message, or phone call.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Two years ago, the youngest brother of one of my best friends passed away after a short and very serious illness. My friend and I had the type of relationship where we DID things for each other. Like, I was the only person she trusted to water her plants. We were living in different cities and my work schedule didn’t allow me time off to be with her, but I also knew that I couldn’t be useful to her if I had been physically there. So I did the only thing I knew how to do– I emailed and texted her weekly, just to say hi and that I was thinking of her. I even told her that I didn’t want a response. I would text her when I heard her favorite song somewhere, when I went to a concert she would have loved, when I saw someone wearing something ridiculous on the street. When she emerged from the horrible cocoon of grief that were the first few months after his death, she called me– first to thank me for just being there, then to ask advice about her jackass of a boyfriend. Basically, she knew that I cared about her and loved her, but also that she could talk to me about mundane things and it was ok to vent. So, I guess my advice is just be there– even though being there isn’t physical.

  32. babblemouth*

    I read in the news that 60% of Americans have less then $500 in savings. I was really surprised. Obviously, there is a lot of poverty even in the US still, but that also seems to apply to people who have comfortable jobs. Saving up to $1000 was my first priority when I got my first job out of university. It went ahead of all small comforts, and I thought getting there was a priority for most other people.
    So, question time: do you have at least $500 in savings? If so, how long did it take you to get there? If not, why not?
    (to be clear: I’m not judging anyone. Just curious)

    1. Allypopx*

      I do, but not much over $1000. I also have no dependents and a not-insignificant-but-manageable amount of debt. I doubt my mother ever had more than $500 in savings when I was growing up.

    2. fposte*

      It gets a little muddied because “savings” can mean “savings outside of retirement accounts” or “savings for retirement,” with different implications depending on which you mean. There’s one survey, for instance, that focuses simply on bank savings accounts and seems to ignore how peripheral a savings account is to finances when you’re really gunning for retirement.

      However, whatever you’re looking at, it seems clear that a lot of America doesn’t have much of a cushion. The averages also tend to be misleading, because the higher savers skew the figures–the median is much more revealing. (There are also age differences, of course, plus gender differences–women are likelier to have no savings than men.) I think a lot of people working in HCOL areas aren’t going to be able to retire there.

      1. Melody Pond*

        The averages also tend to be misleading, because the higher savers skew the figures–the median is much more revealing.

        I love that you mentioned this, because it brings me right back to my college statistics class, and I’m having a delightfully nerdy moment about this. Averages/means and standard deviations are really only useful for symmetrical data, and generally that which adheres to the “normal” model. If the data is uneven and asymmetrical, then the median and the interquartile range are going to be the most useful! :)

          1. Melody Pond*

            Sure! Interquartile range is meant to give you an idea of the “spread” between the data and how far it ranges, in either direction.

            With means/averages, the standard deviation does the same thing. Whenever I got a grade back on a test in class, if the instructor told us what the class average was, I always wanted to know the standard deviation.

            Because of this:

    3. Trix*

      Yes, I do.

      It’s tough to say how long it took to get there, because I’ve had part of my direct deposit set to go directly into savings each paycheck, but I still always seem to have somewhere between $500 and $1000 in savings. I try not to touch it, but it still never seems to grow any more than that.

    4. Aurora Leigh*

      I have 19k in savings. I only have this because I was able to live at home while working part-time during college and for about a year after. I had few expenses and was kind of paranoid about saving. Then I spent a year renting my own place while being very underemployed. I was barely making ends meet but not touching the savings was a priority for me. I finally got a full time job a few months ago (so basically double money!!) but I still try to live on about the same expenses, which has allowed me to need up the savings for a down payment. I don’t have any retirement savings yet (I’m 25) but I plan to start next year ( when I can begin contributing to the work 401k).

      Most people I know don’t save like this, my parents and childhood experiences really drilled into me that you never know what could happen.

    5. katamia*

      I do. My parents started a savings account for me when I was a young child and always emphasized the importance of saving–as a kid I got checks from relatives on birthdays and holidays, and my parents always made me put half in savings. I’m living with relatives right now who don’t make me pay rent, so most of my paycheck (which I can’t support myself on here in my HCOL area but probably could in a much cheaper area) goes into savings, too. I don’t have any specific retirement accounts, though, because I’m planning to move overseas and have doubts about being able to access money in a US retirement account several decades from now. Most of it’s in CDs right now, and the rest is in a checking account with interest.

    6. copy run start*

      $5,500 in savings right now, plus I follow YNAB’s rule #4, so I am sitting on February’s money as well. $8,000 in total if you count that. Another $10,000 in retirement funds, but I don’t count that. Overall I have been very fortunate not to be caught with my pants down when my savings was low.

      I had $500 left when I finally got a job after graduating college. I was woefully underemployed and Not Making It, but I managed to get a new job in the nick of time. I then had about $1,000 saved for the next 3 years, until I paid off my credit card debt, and then I started increasing my savings again until now (3 years later). I’ve had setbacks during that time, but nothing devastating.

      My parents are terrible with money. My mom’s income was the only reason we were never homeless. I remember the water company coming to dig us up at the street multiple times, my mom paying $40,000 in back taxes they wouldn’t have owed if my father had actually filed, and pretty much every home I lived in was lost to foreclosure*. They are relying entirely on social security to retire. I refuse to live that kind of life, so I have developed that emergency fund and am working aggressively on eliminating my student loans.

      *Pro tip: If you plan on losing every home you and your SO purchase, make sure only one person’s name is on the mortgage. Then you can get the next home using the other’s credit while the first one rebuilds theirs–wash, rinse, repeat.

    7. Rob Lowe can't read*

      Yes, I have savings slightly over 10k in an accessible savings account, which is my household’s emergency fund. We do dip into it slightly when we have larger essential-but-not-strictly-emergency needs, like car maintenance. I’ve been working fairly consistently since I was 16 (I’m in my early 30s), and even when my income was much lower, I’ve always been a fairly aggressive saver. I’d say it’s been a 5-6 year joint effort (2 working adults) to get to this point, during which time our household income has quadrupled. I’ll definitely continue to save, but with this cushion in place I’m prioritizing paying down my student loans (which are about 12k right now, but with a good portion eligible for cancellation in the next year).

    8. all aboard the anon train*

      I read a similar article and the one I read (I can’t remember where it was), talked about savings in a general term, while noting that people had rainy day funds for emergencies, but not savings for life goals – or vice versa.

      I have a rainy day fund of about 4 months of bills/rent and it took me about 8 years to get there. I live in a HCOL area, have student loan debt, and medical debt. I couldn’t find a job for awhile after college and when I did, it was very, very low pay compared to my city’s COL, so I was living paycheck to paycheck without room to save. When I got a better job, I started saving what I could, but that savings was wiped out quickly when I had to get surgery and then when I had to move (moving is also very expensive in my area – first, last, security, realtor’s fee, and moving expenses which can total a couple thousand depending on what time of year you move). I’d move somewhere cheaper in order to save money, but again, it’d completely wipe out my savings or I wouldn’t have enough, so I’m stuck in a pickle.

      My savings now is my emergency fund in case I have other medical issues or lose my job. I could split what goes in there and do 50 emergency/50 “savings” for a house/vacation/etc., but I want to get it up to at least 6 months rainy day in case of job loss (which would bring me to the end of 2017 if all goes well).

      Tl;DR: I have savings, but it’s been a struggle to keep it because of life events, and I worry about my future since HCOL and stagnant pay means it’s harder for me to save a significant amount.

    9. Loopy*

      I have 6-9 months salary in savings minimum- always. IT’s finally getting closer to one year of salary. I’m the exception usually but I was taught that in 11th grade and I took it to heart from day one of being employed.

      What I did was get my first job in a very very low COL area, rent a small room in a house, and begin a transfer to savings at the beginning of every month so I never saw my full paycheck. I’ve never ever deviated from this system. With each raise the extra money goes into that transfer so while I’m making more now, I’m still living on only a little above the salary of my first job. I’ve never had my own apartment.

      This is in addition to modest 401k and a health savings account.

      But this probably won’t be forever. I started at 23 and I’m 28 now. I’m doing this until I have a family and can’t afford to be so frugal. Or, if I chose not to get married/have kids, I’ll be able to buy a house for myself when that decision time comes. I know I have a huge amount of flexibility now and I’m going to use it to help future-me not hate past-me.

    10. Tris Prior*

      I’ve got the equivalent of about 7 1/2 months’ rent in savings and that doesn’t feel like enough to me; to be honest; I’d feel more comfortable with a year’s rent but that would mean cutting back on retirement savings and I’m not really OK with that either.

      I’m paranoid about saving because I work in an unstable industry with frequent layoffs. Most of this was saved two jobs ago when I was making a high salary; I lived very frugally and just kept dumping money into savings in case of job loss (which did end up happening).

    11. Blackout*

      I have around $4,000 in a savings account, plus another $500 in a separate savings account that I opened strictly to save up travel funds (I want to take a trip to Europe in the next few years). I’ve set it up so that money gets automatically deposited into both accounts each week. I really should have more than this saved up, but I didn’t get serious about my budget planning until a couple of years ago, and so I spent several years after college not saving nearly as much as I could have.

    12. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m one of those people who thinks I don’t have any savings, but I really do. I have an investment portfolio that was started by my parents after my Bat Mitzvah (over 20 years ago), and as a result, I have about $11k in immediately available funds. I also have a healthy 401(k) that I wish was in the six figures at this point, but it ain’t. I also have a pension fund from an old job that would yield, after taxes, several thousand dollars if I ever decided to cash it in.

      However, I don’t touch any of that and I don’t consider it among my savings. Which is kind of odd, but I keep things very compartmentalized and I’ve been lucky that I haven’t had to touch any of those funds. I have a savings account that I started after I got a big bonus at work in 2010, and at its peak I had about $5000 in there. Until I was unemployed for 4 months, I kept about $800 in that account (I used it for two moves’ worth of moving expenses), but it’s all gone now. I’m working again and my first priority is paying down my large credit card bills, so real saving will have to wait a bit. I do put every non-work-expense reimbursement check I get into my savings account, so even though I pay my bills out of checking, every time I get cash back from my credit card or a check from my pet insurance, that money goes into my savings account.

    13. brightstar*

      I’m trying to save and have a little under $500 in a “savings” account, not including retirement, etc. I want to boost it but things keep coming up. This paycheck it was my starter going out in my car and having to buy a new one. Even though my brother did the work, the part itself was $200 and I paid him for his time. Hopefully I can do better in the near future.

    14. Red*

      I have a month’s buffer between money coming in and money leaving (to make budgeting easier – if I’m working with money I already have, I know EXACTLY how much I have for that month), about $650 in a savings account, and about $4500 in my 403b. I’ve been working on saving for about a year and a half, with some setbacks. Aside from the 403b, I contribute at least $100 per month into my savings account. Sometimes I wish I could do more, but that’s just not going to work right now.

    15. MsChanandlerBong*

      You asked this question at a good time. I am proud to report that I now have $575 in my savings account. I would have had to say “no” if you asked me last month, though.

      Why? Because I have chronic health problems and have had many occasions when I had to spend my last dime on a prescription or a doctor copay. Then there was the time I couldn’t work for a month (acute kidney failure made me feel like I was slogging through quicksand; I couldn’t stay awake let alone work), so I ended up racking up a bunch of debt just to buy groceries and pay for electricity). Since then, I found Dave Ramsey. I hate his political views, but his money advice is good. I have $575 in savings and have paid off $15,000 or so in debt (I am not following the steps exactly as written; I had to pay some debts before completing my baby emergency fund to avoid being sued).

    16. Dan*

      No, I don’t. I’ve got jack in my checking/savings account but over $100k in my 401k account, to which I contribute $1700/mo. I have a non-trivial amount of debt in the form of credit cards and student loans. I have a $100k line of credit, and if I need “cash” in a hurry, it costs me $40 per $1k borrowed, and I have 18 months to pay it off.

      I’m so used to carrying debt that as long as it’s cheap enough, I don’t prioritize paying it off.

      I guess the answer to “why not” is my situation is somewhat complicated, and that mathematically, it doesn’t make sense to have sitting around doing nothing at the moment.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I have access to both a 403b and a 457, and I’ve got age and catch-up boosts to the max on both, so I’m drawing down taxable savings in order to use more tax-deferred space. If you judged just by my taxable savings things would look grim, but overall I’m doing okay.

        1. Dan*

          That’s why I hate what I call “sound bite” personal finance advice. You know the type — advice that can be crammed in to 30 seconds. Maybe I over complicate things, but I don’t think personal finance advice can be given in less than 30 seconds.

          That said, I do believe the bits that claim that the average American is 3 paychecks away from bankruptcy.

    17. Temperance*

      We have around 12k in savings. We’re working on sorting out finances … we sort of ended up with an extra 30k/year this year, and don’t want taxes to eat a lot of it up.

    18. Seren*

      I’ve got $1,000.20 in savings because I read some Dave Ramsey book a year ago which gave be clarity about how close to the financial edge I was. At that point I had some leftover grad school loan money in the bank, so I transferred the $1,000 over to savings and paid back what I could from the rest. Almost had to dip into it for car repair, accident, and etc. but have not had to yet.

      The 20 cents is a full year’s interest on the $1,000. Get a retirement account, people!

    19. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Yes, several thousand in savings (separate from retirement)It took approx 3 years to build it up. It was mostly due to a significant job change (which included yearly bonuses, stock options and a promotion with a salary bump) and large tax returns. The last is an easy way for me to “save” and with interest rates on savings accounts so low it’s not like I’m losing out on any earned interest. However, I’ll admit that we haven’t been saving much over the last couple years primarily due to a bunch of house stuff. This year there’s only 1 project in the works this year (fairly small) so I’m hoping to end the year with a few more saved up.

    20. Unhappily Unemployed*

      I’m single and have low living expenses. Not counting my retirement accounts, I have approximately $12,000 left in savings and $1,000 in my checking account.

      14 months ago, before I became unemployed, I had $20,000 between the 2 accounts and it had taken me 5 years to save that much. I actually was able to live off of my unemployment insurance for the 6 months I received it (although I wasn’t able to save very much). Since then I’ve cut way back and have been living off of my savings with means that I’ve spent $7,000 in the last 8 months.

    21. Me2*

      Way more than that but I’m an ant, not a grasshopper, referencing the Aesop fable where the ant toils all summer and the grasshopper plays. I have a six month cushion in an immediate savings account, money in separate savings accounts for vacations and holidays and property taxes which are huge in my state, retirement accounts which I max out every year as soon as possible, and a brokerage account where the majority resides. I’m probably a lot older than most people answering this question (55) and am very concerned about retirement. FWIW I’m a firm believer in “pay yourself first” and have always tried to put away as much of my paycheck as possible, even when making minimum wage and having to go through the couch cushions looking for change for the bus. I do also think life is to be enjoyed so it’s not like I’m eating cat food while cutting coupons, I just like seeing my bank accounts go up and not having debt. I’m also super worried about having to support family members who are grasshoppers.

    22. Dr. KMnO4*

      If we’re talking about a savings account with money in it? I don’t even have one.
      If we’re talking about a retirement account? I have some money in a 401(k). A few grand.
      None of my jobs have offered me enough money to have a cushion. And any cushion I did have was wiped out by my surgery when I was in grad school. Yes, I had health insurance, but it doesn’t cover everything. Now I’m a faculty member making not a lot of money and student loans from undergrad have come due. So it’s not likely that I’ll start a savings account any time soon.

    23. Elizabeth West*

      All I have right now is what I transferred out of my 401k, a few thousand dollars. I had to use a bit of it to pay off the hospital bills after I lost my job. I’m not planning on touching it again, and it’s actually difficult to because I have to physically go to the bank and sign a transfer form to have it put into my checking. I’m planning on adding to it when I get a job (I’ll shuttle money into the account automatically, depending on what I can afford), because I will never be able to retire, and so it will be my escape money.

    24. Alinea*

      I was talking about this topic with my husband the other day. When we first started dating I guess I had logged into my bank account and left it open. I only had $200? $300? checking and savings total. Insert my then-boyfriend’s shocked emoji face here. I was just finishing grad school; it was 2010.

      Since then I estimate I have saved $40-50,000 cash. Over the last few years I used $7000 for my wedding, gave $5000 to my mom, gone on vacation abroad yearly and made other large purchases with my savings. Now I have a little over $30k in my savings account.

      Pretax I contribute 10% to my 403b and 9% to my pension. I don’t have much in my 403b, maybe $20k. Post tax I auto transfer 20% of every paycheck to savings. Auto transferring that money is what took me from $0 to what I have today. Once it moves over to savings it does not go back to checking unless it is for a predetermined purpose that is large purchase (like paying my wedding venue). If something “unexpected” comes up that costs less than 1k then I always pay for it with what I have in my checking.

      In checking I have at least one month’s pretax salary (rounding down, 5k). Over time I’ll hit 10k in my checking account and then I’ll transfer 5k into savings.

      Right now I’m just saving, saving, saving! Ideally for a down payment, but in CA who knows if that’ll ever happen (LOL/cry). I currently have no children and no debt. I paid off my student loans 3-4 years ago and whatever I charge on my CC I pay off in full every month. I hope to keep saving like this for as long as I can!

      Saving is and can be very difficult. I really had to sit down and commit to it. Again, auto transfer made all the difference for me. I don’t see it, I don’t spend it.

    25. Stellaaaaa*

      I have about $1500 in savings. It’s the deposit check I got back after wrapping up my last lease – I just dumped that in my savings account and never touched it. Right now my focus is on paying off my student loans. I’d rather make an extra payment and cut down that interest than put the money in savings and make basically no interest on it.

    26. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      My parents were hard savers and budgeters so I learned a LOT about optimizing household efficiency, budgeting, and saving from them, as well as investment from my aunt and uncle. We also moved frequently and my mother is huge on purging, so I also got in the habit of really thinking if I needed something when I was buying it, although now I go shopping once every few months in some sort of release and end up storing the purchases away, never to be used and only found when I am rummaging again for something in a closet. Gotta work on that!

      I have always insisted on 6 (preferably 9) months household expenses in accessible cash in bank account – that took 3 months to save here. It was excellent when I was between jobs and injured to know we had that cushion. I think we have almost $100K saved in various retirement accounts, pensions, investments, and bank accounts (across three countries). We also have a very small amount of school loan debt we are letting ride because of interest rates being so low (the largest will be discharged at 60 whether it is paid in full or not – thank you Sweden!). I am also carrying some credit card debt that I would really like to get rid of this year.

      Note: this is a two person household in an extremely high COL area, but we also dont live in a fancy apartment, spend a ton going out, have figures to wear high end fashion, or crazy expensive tastes (bar the odd good bottle of whisky). I worry intensely that I am near 40 and that I am not anywhere near where I need to be for retirement savings, other half doesn’t have a pension at his job right now, we aren’t in a position to buy in this market for at least two more years and at that point well… it may not even make sense monetarily to live here.

      Essentially, wherever you are at in life, it helps to set up a systems to both save the money and make the money work for you in your circumstances, with enough flexibility to work with your living and employment situation.

    27. Overeducated*

      I am curious about the specifics of that study (which Americans, what kind of savings).

      I am fortunate enough to say yes and honestly a lot of that is due to help from my parents – not just teaching me to save, even though they did that too. I was able to graduate college without debt thanks to generous financial aid but also their help, they opened my Roth IRA as a graduation gift and i have contributed at least something every year since, and they have offered me hand me downs and moving help multiple times since. So that’s thousands I was able to save because I didn’t have to spend it. Also, my whole family has been pretty healthy so far, so that’s major good fortune too.

      My retirement isn’t where it should be, since I am in my 30s and have never been eligible for a 401k through an employer, and even with savings I don’t have the smallest chance of being able to afford a down payment in my HCOL city (a townhouse costs five times our comboned income, ouch). But at least if my husband and I both lost our jobs, we could scrape by for six months before moving into a tent in someone’s backyard.

    28. waffles*

      yes – i had this more or less immediately after college because my spouse went to medical school, which required a lot of loans, and so we got very good advice to put the money in a savings account that would gain interest. Since then we’ve had good luck so far in life and have had no medical emergencies, haven’t needed to support anyone but ourselves, have always been employed, etc. though we’ve also made some personal sacrifices to further our careers to get them where they are. I do think wealth is longitudinal, that people aren’t often supported to make unconventional or tough choices that may give them better job prospects down the line, and that for people my age, what’s ‘normal’ around spending, income, savings, retirement, etc was shaped by the recession and often not the same as other generations. People my age I’ve noticed are really used to living with no financial safety net, retirement savings, with jobs that don’t give good benefits, etc.

    29. chickabiddy*

      Right now, I have barely that. But I am currently in the middle of a messy divorce in which my soon-to-be-ex cleared out all of the accounts, and I expect that I will receive a settlement that will put my savings at a more comfortable level (which to me is a large insurance deductible plus approximately six months’ of living expenses).

    30. The Cosmic Avenger*

      My wife and I are both savers, both frugal, but not ridiculously so. We had $500 in savings when we met back in college, because we had both worked and saved before that. Now we’re in our mid-forties and I’m kind of still not fully able to comprehend that we could retire now and live frugally for the rest of our lives if we wanted to. (We will keep working, because we like to travel, and we do like nice things now that we can afford them and also keep saving.)

      I think that while there is true poverty of course, as you say some middle-class people have no savings because they want more than they have, and they see it as normal to use credit to satisfy their impulses. The way people act in these situations often depends on what kinds of examples they had growing up, and how they learn about the concepts of need, want, deprivation, and excess as a young child, which form strong emotional patterns that are very hard to break.

    31. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      I do and think I always have (knock on wood because I’m strangely superstitious for an otherwise logical person). I don’t think it took me too long to get there but I really don’t remember.

  33. Stylish Entrepreneur*

    I have $25, solely because my bank gave all of its customers a $25 bonus dividend. I’m just not in a place where I can put extra cash in savings. I have a few places where I’ve stashed a few random bills and bowls of change, but I would say I have less than $150 that I can say is actual savings.

  34. Bye Academia*

    Does anyone have any advice for learning how to cook good food from scratch?

    I grew up in a foodie household, which means I grew up eating at a lot of good restaurants, watching cooking shows, and eating excellent homecooked meals. But because my parents loved cooking so much, they would just do it and I never really learned how. I can make a few basic things like stir fries, fried eggs, etc. But I’m kind of afraid to cook with meat in fear that I’ll give myself food poisoning by doing it wrong. Plus I’m really slow – it can take me up to an hour just to make a simple stir fry just because it takes forever to cut up all the vegetables. I live somewhere where the delivery options are good so I usually end up getting frustrated and/or lazy and just doing that.

    But I’d really like to start cooking more. I have more time/energy than I used to since I started a new job, and I’d like to be able to make myself a better variety of healthy and well-rounded meals. I’ve watched enough cooking shows in my life that I’m aware of a lot of techniques and what they are, but I have trouble actually executing them in practice.

    Anyone else taught themselves to cook as an adult? How’d you get comfortable with the basic techniques? I’d be open to spending money on a cooking class that teaches knife skills, meat preparation, etc. but there are so many options in my area I’m overwhelmed with choice. And most of them seem to teach one complicated dish rather than a range of basic skills.

    1. Allypopx*

      Like with learning most skills, start with the basics and work your way up. Also like with most skills, I strongly recommend Youtube as a resource.

      Get frozen/canned vegetables if cutting them up is daunting for you, learn to make pasta sauces, start by cooking meat in a slow cooker because you just get to throw it in and ignore it for awhile and as you get more comfortable then worry about baking or pan frying meat. Cook a lot of chicken because it’s easy and cheap and healthy and if you dry it out it takes sauce really well. Learn to mash potatoes and make rice. Basic stuff you can make a foundation and build on.

      Also when I was teaching myself how to cook I did a lot of vegetarian meals because I was terrified of cooking meat, so maybe ease your way into meat. As long as you aren’t cutting a finger off I think knife technique can probably wait.

      Think of what you’d like to eat and look up recipes, and pick ones with the word “easy” in the title. Sites like allrecipes have a great variety of simple recipes.

      I also advocate taking shortcuts like store bought biscuits and boxed mixes for pastas or rice pilaf or stuffing. Especially if you’re looking to focus on the meat, make the sides easy for yourself.

      It’s daunting but if you ease yourself into it it’s a lot of fun, and a big money saver.

      1. LadyKelvin*

        I agree. Take things slowly when learning to cook from scratch, if you dive in head first you’ll get overwhelmed and quit.

        Start with meat since those usually are the easiest to cook, with a thermometer, and the hardest to take shortcuts with.

        Buy frozen pre-cut veggies, they are cheaper, faster, and usually fresher than fresh ones. Use bisquick and rice-a-roni for your sides or baking needs.

        Then as you become more comfortable with cooking meats add something else to make from scratch, whether it is roasting an artichoke or butternut squash, or making couscous, take things one at a time and ease yourself into it. That is how I learned how to cook. Now I’ve started making my own pasta and bread, starting with basic white bread and spaghetti, and the results were definitely inedible the first few times. But I keep trying, keep making new things, and I’m a pretty good cook now.

        Also, recipes are your friend. Don’t think that you are cheating. I always make a recipe as it calls for the first time and then as I’m eating it, decide if and what I would change the next time (and write it next to the recipe!). Since I know that butternut squash and sweet potato have similar roles in a meal I know that I might be able to use sweet potatoes instead of squash next time I make that. Don’t be discouraged when you screw up, because you will. Learn from it, and don’t make the same mistake again.

      2. Puffle*

        +1 on shortcuts. Focus on learning the basics. Once you’ve done that, then you can start working on making your own stuffing etc (if you want to)

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      It’s really, really hard to get food poisoning under normal circumstances from meat. Even the ones that aren’t treated with antibiotics to prevent it. Get yourself a meat thermometer (even a cheap one!) and make sure you’re cooking meat to the right temperature, and that’s it.

      Also, I think you’re thinking about this too much. Not every meal has to be some complicated gourmet meal. Most days, we’re eating meat from the grill or broiler- seasoned with a premade (homemade or bought) spice mix and steamed veggies- again, just spiced up. It’s simple and healthy and takes about 20 minutes. It’s also a lot more affordable than take out!

      1. phil*

        Your last paragraph describes dinner for me 6 nights a week. Easy, healthy and pretty cheap. Add an apple or banana for desert.

      2. Alice*

        I agree with our second paragaph completely, but I wanted to respond to your mention of antibiotics. Industrial meat producers use sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics for growth promotion, not to prevent food poisoning.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          The reason they started giving antibiotics- especially to chickens was for salmonellla. The USDA even required it!

          That it had other “benefits” (at least to the rancher) is why it continues.

    3. fposte*

      I’m wondering if part of the problem here is that you don’t have a sense of what you *don’t* need to know.
      I learned to cook as an adult, and while I’m an omnivore my meat range is pretty limited–and that’s absolutely fine. You can happily live your whole life and never learn how to cook lamb shanks. For that matter, ditto to julienning vegetables, making bechamel, etc. So it might help to be more specific about what you might like to eat at the end of all that prep.

      I absolutely second the suggestion for a cheap meat thermometer if meat makes you nervous–no more guessing about whether the juices are running clear or if a leg is wiggling in the joint, just read the display. And if you work slowly (I work *really* slowly), look for recipes that ID steps that you can make ahead.

      I personally am not a fan of stir-fry when cooking for one–it is too much prep, much of it fiddly, for the output. There are a lot of good cookbooks that focus more on putting a few simple things together–I like Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express, for instance–and those might suit you. Another possibility is focusing on things like soups and stews, where you can cook for several meals and where there’s a lot more latitude in how big your veggie chunks are or the shapes of your noodles. It’s also a really easy genre to master the basics in so that you’re not learning a whole new conceptual thing every time.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Maybe that is what OP needs to focus on, cooking for one (or two) and meals that are not time consuming.
        Supposedly I can cook. (lol) I hate recipes with lots of steps and lots of ingredients. It’s just too time consuming. I like to double up make one thing and eat it for dinner for two nights. When I make lunches for work, I make two days at a time. It just feels easier and quicker to me.

    4. FDCA In Canada*

      Cooking is one of those things where a class can be nice when you’re further down the road to teach you specific techniques, but isn’t at all necessary at the beginning.

      Youtube will be your friend, and cooking blogs, and I would get one or two trusted basic cookbooks–I think I started with the Betty Crocker cookbook. Don’t start with anything too fancy, just get a nice tried-and-true book to cover the basics of food prep–especially meat. Don’t be put off by the zillions of cookbooks at the library or at the bookstore! Search for some basic tutorials on youtube for things like “basic knife skills” or “how to chop veggies” and let them walk you through it. And then–practice. I promise you no one was born knowing how to dice an onion quickly and efficiently! Everyone who can do it had a learning curve (and stories about things you ruined cooking are great at parties or when getting to know people). I got comfortable with the basics of cooking as a teenager with my mom’s help, but I didn’t really start cooking regularly and constantly until I was out of graduate school and living with my then-boyfriend, now-husband. Practice, practice, practice. I cook 7-9 times a week, every week, and oh, the things I have wrecked in my day. I’ve ruined pancakes I’ve made thirty times and turned out beautiful, complicated dishes on the first try. Practice!

      For meat specifically, would it alleviate your worry to invest in an instant-read meat thermometer? Then you can cook your meat with abandon, check to see if it’s in the safe zone, and eat without fear. You may also want to master the basics of cooking veggies and stuff first and then add in meat, or try dishes that are low on meat so you won’t have to worry as much. Try to look for cooking blogs that have lots of pictures so you can see what the food should look like at every stage, or videos where they walk you through every step instead of just blazing through the process and chatting about other things. Be patient with yourself. It’s OK if something is ruined, or if you just don’t like it. Start small and practice and work your way up!

    5. Opal Glow*

      You might want to start with rustic foods. The ones that aren’t so dependent on fancy technique. If the French country cookbook is published by Saveur avoid it. They fancied it up. One of my favorites was a website published book called Get Fresh: Italian Cooking. The recipes are broken into baby steps. I know it’s available from Amazon.

    6. Reba*

      I learned from two cookbooks: Mollie Katzen’s “Get Cooking” (my mother gave me this as a graduation gift) and Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” (there are also “regular”/omnivore and “fast” editions of this cookbook). I used to watch Bittman’s videos when he was at the NY Times for techniques and ideas too. What I like about both these cookbooks is that they are what I think of as “Basic +”. They are not precious. Especially Bittman helps you understand how a dish or ingredient works, and suggests numerous variations so that you can mess with it and customize it, which really builds confidence.

      It took a long time before I was making real meals, i.e. became capable of executing more than one dish at a time! Getting a knife sharpener was also eye opening. :)

      My parents did not cook much when we were growing up, outside of big holiday meals and occasional brunches with company. It was mostly prepared food or easy-to-prepare convenience type foods. But they’ve gotten more into cooking in the past few years, as have I! It’s been fun to (remotely) share the journey with them.

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        These are both awesome cookbook suggestions – can recommend the How to Cook Everything Vegetarian for sure! And its not just vegetables in there, he also has cooking grains and other starches as well.

      2. Artemesia*

        my husband is entirely self taught and he learned by following recipes when he was in the army and then has continued that. My mother was a great cook and thus I never learned to cook. She was a master of the undermine/ let me do that over approach to child rearing, so I don’t sew and I don’t cook. I had to learn on my own and have also done so mostly from books.

        Cooking is really not rocket science. My husband is an excellent cook and I am adequate. And with the internet you can actually see people do more complicated recipes. One note — internet recipes are not tested and lots of them are terrible so if you find a recipe on the internet and don’t know how to estimate whether it is a good one then be sure to at least read the comments where people note the changes they made to make it work.

        We often sous vide a big piece of pot roast and have meals from it for 3 days or last night I stewed a chicken and had stock and meat for chicken and dumplings for my daughter’s family and us and have tons of chicken meat and some broth left over for another meal or two. In the last two weeks we have made a big pot of pea soup with ham from the New Year’s ham bone and a big pot of lentils and sausage. both of those provided several low cost low effort meals. I just made corn bread to go along with them which you can do from a mix if you wish and had fruit salad to accompany. Planning to crock pot or otherwise cook something that will then make for easy meals for several days really works for us. The other thing is having some basics on hand so we can whip up something when we have little time or haven’t been shopping. e.g. something as simple as having goat cheese and eggs and tomatoes on hand can mean a really yummy omelette for no effort when the time is short or the cupboard is bare.

    7. Gala apple*

      Just start is my main piece of advice. Also read (and make!) recipes from cookbooks. Eventually you’ll learn how things go together. Good luck!

    8. Temperance*

      I taught myself how to cook because my mother is legit terrible at it. She’s the kind of “cook” who will not put olive oil in with pasta or even stir it, so there’s the gross chunk in the spaghetti.

      What I did was read a lot of cookbooks, and watch Rachel Ray. I use a crockpot very often as a time saver, and a rice cooker. I also do a lot of food prep on the weekend, so I’m not cming home and spending an hour on something.

      It seems like you might have a little anxiety about cooking, which is why you’re so hard on yourself. There are websites like Cooking for Engineers that might help?

      1. Kj*

        Crock-Pots for the win! Crock-Pot recipies are fast, pretty easy and hard to mess up. Crock-Pot, grill and instant pot make up about 90% of dinner at our house. We make a meat dish on the grill or in the Crock-Pot, rice in the instant pot and steam veggies in the microwave. Leftovers last is another 1 to 2 meals.

    9. Talvi*

      Also, those “cooking for students”-type cookbooks are quite helpful. They assume you don’t know much, so they break it all down, and they’re frequently designed with “cooking for one” in mind. (That said, if you can handle eating the same thing several days in a row, cooking enough for four and eating leftovers the next three days is a great timesaver.) I can’t recommend any specific ones, though – the ones I own are in French.

      1. Kate in Scotland*

        I was also coming to recommend student cookbooks. I taught myself to cook from one 20 years ago, and I still use some of the recipes.

    10. Blue_eyes*

      This free online class is great for learning knife skills:

      I did it a few years ago and it definitely improved my knife skills and comfort with cutting a variety of produce quickly, efficiently, and neatly.

      I would start with recipes that look good to you and then practice them, make them a few times. You’ll get faster the more you cook. I particularly like Smitten Kitchen and Budget Bytes websites for recipes. Budget Bytes has great step by step photos with all the recipes and she’s pretty conscious about not making things overly complicated.

    11. Kristen*

      A few pieces of advice:
      1.) Purchase a digital, instant read meat thermometer and learn how to use it (i.e., thickest part of meat, not touching bone).
      2.) Watch YouTube videos. You really probably don’t need classes, unless you feel like you need hands on teaching. However, if you know someone who can help that may be enough. YouTube can help with learning knife skills. Just take your time to learn proper technique. Keep your knives sharp. Sharper knives are safer. (I guess that’s tip 2.5)
      3.) Practice. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Practice is the only way you’ll learn. Find recipes online. I don’t think I’ve failed yet with an Alton Brown recipe btw. Browse the bookstore for cookbooks that realistically meet your current ability if you want a cookbook.

      I could offer more advice, but truly the best advice is to practice.

      1. Natalie*

        Practice is what I wanted to mention. It takes you 30 minutes to chop veggies now, but if you keep practicing that time will decrease. So maybe on weeknights or whenever you’re pressed for time, use frozen or pre-cut veggies, but when you have more time cut stuff yourself. It will get easier!

    12. Dan*

      Practice. I learned on my own as an adult.

      Avoid cookbooks from celebrity chefs. If they haven’t adapted them for the home cook, you’re going to be in over your head and frustrated. They also tend to use some exotic ingredients that are hard to find.

      Start by focusing on one style of cooking. Building up you kitchen isn’t cheap, and if you focus on one style, you’ll find that most recipes have a lot of overlap in terms of ingredients. This is a good thing. A bad thing is a cookbook that has ingredients specific to one recipe and never reused again.

      If you live on your own, plan for left overs. That way you don’t have to cook every single night. Also, scaling back recipes doesn’t work as well as one wants to think. If a recipe for four calls for one onion, and you scale it back to one, you still bought one onion, now you’re just throwing out the other 3/4, which is a.waste of onion. The protein will typically scale if you cut it back, but the others don’t.

    13. animaniactoo*

      I learned to cook as a kid, but I then turned around and *taught* my kids how to cook. Including things I didn’t know how to make myself. With one kid a perfectionist who was afraid to do stuff because it might come out wrong and he knew if I did it, it would probably come out right.

      From that experience, this is what I would advise:

      1) Pick simple recipes with no more than 4 or 5 ingredients to start. Make most of them *familiar* ingredients that you have a general idea of how to deal with them/what they should look/taste like to start with. Focus more on ones that have you finish one step before you begin another, rather than ones that tell you to “do this while that is happening”.

      2) Whatever the prep time says it should be for any particular dish, double it. More if it involves a lot of knife work. As you practice, you’ll get better and the prep time will move more towards the advertised prep time, but truth – you may never get quite there. You’ll learn to adjust the time in your head for how long *you* know it will take you to do X, Y, and Z.

      3) Work on mastering one or two techniques at a time. Expect that you’re going to get it wrong the first two or three times and have a backup dish planned. (There were nights my kids served us breakfast cereal. It happens.) Shoot for “acceptable” rather than “great” right out of the gate.

      Wash, rinse, repeat, build on what you’ve already learned and feel comfortable doing.

    14. Lady Julian*

      Three thoughts:
      1. When I moved out on my own, I borrowed a bunch of old Cooking Light magazines from the common room in the workplace; the magazines would often features a technique, skill, or tip. For instance, instead of just giving you a soup recipe & calling it good, they’d give 4-5 steps to building flavor and making a creamy soup, steps I could use to make my own recipes. All these little how-to guides gave me a better feel for the steps necessary to pull together a simple meal. Maybe subscribe to a magazine? Bon Appetit has been running a series of scaled-down recipes meant to teach you how to cook. You can find a soup recipe here: http://www.bonappetit.com/story/healthyish-chickpea-soup-sausage

      2. I joined a FB group for making bread last year; the online support was a great was to get specific questions answered. Perhaps something similar exists for cooking?

      3. Honestly, just do a lot of it! Your skills will get smoother the more you practice, and you’ll get a feel for what you like to cook & how. These days, I use almost no recipes; I make stuff I know I like using techniques that work for me. I’m single, so I usually make stuff that only makes 1-2 servings, like a hashed sweet potato topped with a fried egg or a pot of lentils.

    15. Damn it, Hardison!*

      So much of this is practice. No one was born knowing how to cook; you have to practice to get better and faster with prep and cookin. It doesn’t happen immediately but it you cook for yourself regularly you’ll see the results. And don’t expect perfection. I’m a good cook and baker (at least that’s what I’m told) but I still have failures. Sometimes it’s me (like when I mismeaured the flour for cookies a couple of weeks ago) and sometimes it’s the recipe. I also recommend looking for cookbooks that are about basic techniques – Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101 and American’s Test Kitchen Cooking School are both good for that, in addition to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.

    16. Mrs. Fenris*

      Get the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, the one with the red plaid cover. That’s the one I used to teach myself to cook. It doesn’t assume you know anything. I wasn’t taught to cook either. My mom was a great cook, but I had zero interest…when I was in high school, animals and music were the only things that mattered.

      1. Little Missy*

        +1 My husband already had this cookbook when I married him–my cookbook collection was mostly from the churches where I had grown up in Kentucky, which had good food but I already knew some of the basics on how to use utensils and pots and pans. So when our daughter moved to an apartment for her junior year of college, I bought her the spiral version. She is working her way through it now and loves it.

    17. Observer*

      If you are spending an hour cutting up vegetables for a stir fry for one person, you are doing it wrong. The foodies would gasp, but it’s true. The best way to get around this is to buy some vegetables pre-cut and to get a food processor and / or small food chopper.

      Also, it’s not as easy as it sounds to give yourself food poisoning with meat. You do need to make sure that raw meat stays refrigerated. If you need to defrost outside of the fridge for whatever reason, make sure to cook the meat as soon as possible – you don’t want it sitting for long stretches already defrosted. If meat is well cooked, it can stay out of the fridge for a fair amount of time. But, over all, you are best off keeping meat (cooked or raw) either HOT or COLD when it’s not being served and eaten. Lastly, cleanliness. Always wash your hands after you’ve handled raw meat, and do the same for any utensils you use in meat prep. And, avoid wooden cutting board for meat, as the meat can get stuck in the cracks.

      1. Observer*

        By the way, when I said “you’re doing it wrong” I didn’t meant that there is a specific “RIGHT WAY” to chop vegetables, just that it shouldn’t be necessary. You can get a very good stir fry without perfectly and totally uniformly cut vegetables.

        Which brings me to another point, which others have addressed. Foodies often get hung up on perfection and the “best” or “right” way to prepare something. (That’s probably a large part of the reason why your parents didn’t let you into the kitchen…) But, really you can cook very good food without perfection, and it is very rare that there is one “right” or “best” way to do things. And, even when there is a “best” way, generally other ways are quite good, too. So, don’t worry too much about getting it right.

    18. Ann Furthermore*

      I didn’t get married until I was 37, and never really cooked before that. I tried teaching myself to cook by reading cookbooks, but that just didn’t take for me. I need to see something being made to get an idea of whether or not I want to try it. So I started watching Food Network shows. These days FN is pretty lame because all they show are stupid cupcake competitions and reality shows (although I do like Chopped). But back then, I watched a lot of Rachel Ray, Ina Garten, and Giada.

      I think the person I learned the most from was Rachel Ray, but Ina and Giada were great too. She took a lot of mystery out of cooking for me. Plus she’s got a pretty casual approach and even though I’m still not a “little of this, little of that” kind of cook and prefer to measure everything, and I learned a lot from her too. Like onions and garlic are the base for just about everything. Don’t put garlic in a skillet by itself since it’s rather delicate and will burn easily. And so on. I’m sure you could find episodes of her shows online somewhere. People bust on her for her dopey expressions (“EVOO” instead of “olive oil” and so on) and for making huge portions, but I like her.

      Since you live alone, be sure you only buy what you need at the grocery store. Make your list before you shop. For things like onions, you can buy them frozen and already chopped up, which is a huge time saver on weeknights, plus you’re only using what you need. Buy smaller cans of stuff — like most recipes I make with tomato sauce call for amounts in increments of 8 ounces, so I buy 8 ounce cans, even though the bigger ones are a little cheaper. I figure I save money in the long run because I can use the whole thing, instead of using half of a can, putting the rest in a plastic container in the fridge, where it gets pushed to the back and forgotten about until it resurfaces as a science project when you clean out the fridge.

      And, I always buy the low-salt variety of stuff. There is so much salt in food, and a lot of times you won’t even taste it. If you buy the low-sodium stuff, you can hugely reduce the amount of salt in what you’re cooking, and add what you want for taste. You’ll still come out way ahead.

    19. HannahS*

      In terms of building up speed, do you take enough shortcuts? I know some foodie families disdain bottled dressing and taco kits, but they’re great when you want to just get comfortable browning meat and chopping an onion and some peppers. Or, you might buy a main dish prepared one night and make a side dish, then next time buy a side dish and make a main?

    20. AcademiaNut*

      What I’d suggest is picking a couple of basic, standard dishes that you enjoy eating, and make them over and over again. When you’re comfortable with the basic dish without a recipe, start varying it. It sounds like a lot of what you need is practice, more than lessons.

      So, for example, learn how to make a basic spaghetti meat sauce, with onions, canned tomatoes, mushrooms and ground meat. It will be slow the first couple of times, but will get faster as you know what you’re doing, and don’t need to look at a recipe. Then start varying it – add some carrots and celery to the onions for a chunky sauce, use chicken instead of ground beef, add some beans and chili powder to end up with chile instead of pasta sauce, or add some wine to vary the flavour. Use chunks of beef, add chickpeas, and change the spices to get a Morrocan style stew.

      Spend your energy on one dish to start. So make the pasta sauce, boil some pasta, and maybe have a bagged salad along side it, rather than trying to make multiple dishes.

      For meat safety, the danger is not so much the meat itself, as cross contamination (ie, meat juice gets on your lettuce, which isn’t cooked). Use a separate cutting board for meat, and wash it and the knife thoroughly after you finish with it (and your hands!).

    21. Stellaaaaa*

      I think most people have a handful of recipes that they make all the time. They’ll swap out meats and sauces, or they’ll try out a new vegetable side but realistically we’re all working from a small bag of tricks. Personally, I learned how to eyeball my seasonings with canned soups. Those things are always bland so I’d experiment with adding salt and other spices to see how the combinations worked out. Soups are good for beginners because you can keep adjusting them even after they’re done cooking.

    22. KR*

      I got the book “Where’s Mom Now That I Need Her?” and I really like it. 10/10. It has a bunch of basics including what cooking terminology means, how to tell if certain fruits and vegetables are ripe, what sort of basic ingredients you should have in your kitchen, and lots of really simple and easy recipes that are meant for young adults who just moved out on their own and maybe can’t afford an elaborate meal or just want to know how to make a bare bones meatloaf without 40 different spices. I like to take those recipes and build on them with other recipes or my own favorite flavors. There’s also a lot of information about cleaning, first aid, and food safety. Be prepared though because it takes advantage of traditional gender roles and there’s another book in the series called “Where’s Dad Now That I Need Him?” with handyman advice -_- (the first edition was published years ago).
      I did not get that one but I highly recommend the “Where’s Mom…” book. I love getting the basic, oh here is how I make a casserole on the cheap. And then I can add stuff I like to it or find a more elaborate recipe if I like it.

    23. Bye Academia*

      Thank you all so much! These comments are really helpful. Some of the specific cookbooks sound like they’re exactly what I’m looking for, and I will also look up some basics on youtube.

      Also everyone who said I sound anxious totally nailed it…I do have anxiety (which I am working on with professionals, etc.) and sometimes it affects parts of my life I don’t even realize. I think I am definitely expecting too much of myself – I will try to start smaller and forgive myself if it doesn’t turn out quite right at first.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        If you eat it after you cooked it then you won. The first person you have to please is you. Everyone else is secondary.

    24. Kyrielle*

      Me! Honestly, I read, I try, and I followed recipes religiously until I started to get a sense for them.

      Baked meats are harder to give yourself food poisoning with, but easier to cook dry. Steak can be tricky.

      Unless you can afford to add a sous vide immersion cooker and a vacuum sealer for foods. I _adore_ my Anova. Finally I can cook steak. (Why? The sous vide – which is super basic to use, but ideally you do want to be able to vacuum seal, otherwise you’re using ziplocs which I found worried me about how they handled heat – heats the meat to an appropriate temperature and holds it there, making sure it’s hot enough for long enough. Then you just sear it for the outer crust, not very long at all and no worries the middle won’t be cooked enough because it already is.)

      IMO, crockpot, sous vide, and oven are easier than pan cooking for large cuts of meat. (For small chunks like stir fry, pan is no worse – but then you have all the prep headache.)

      Some grocery stores sell pre-chopped veggies, which is too expensive for long-term use but might be good at first so you can focus on other parts of the process than chopping? And a lot of slow cooker and oven-bake recipes can start from frozen vegetables anyway.

    25. Puffle*

      I’m not sure how well-known she is outside the UK, but Delia Smith’s Cooking Course is pretty useful if you’re just starting out. She goes right from the basics, how to boil eggs, etc, whereas I find that a lot of other cookery writers seem to assume that you already know how to do about a dozen things and don’t need any explanation.

    26. EmmaLou*

      The basic Betty Crocker cookbook. Lots of pictures and clear: Do this next. Now this. Instructions. It has some “fancier” dishes but it will get you the basics. It will tell you which fish will work in which kind of recipe. A lot of recipes online tell you to use only certain ingredients. Well, depending on where you live and the time of year, halibut can cost as much as saffron. Do use the internet for finding substitutions though. Just Friday, we ran out of cream of tartar. Found out we can sub baking powder because it has cream of tarter (and soda). Best wishes! Enjoy your cooking adventure knowing we all fail badly sometimes.

    27. chickabiddy*

      If you can afford to pay a little extra to start out with, you can buy meat and veggies pre-cut (one of the grocery stores in my area has a “Pick and Prep” service where they will peel/cut/whatever any produce that you choose). Once you get more comfortable turning raw ingredients into meals, you will realize that there is more tolerance for variation than you seem to be concerned about, and you will feel more comfortable experimenting once you have the basics down. I also second the recommendation of a digital meat thermometer.

    28. SH*

      If it’s in your budget to start with, I highly recommend one of the food prep delivery services (I used Home Chef, but have heard good things about Blue Apron, too). You pick the meals and they send you prepped ingredients and a step by step recipe and all you have to do is assemble it. It usually only takes about 30 minutes and is mostly simple steps.

      I was married to someone who did all the cooking in our house for a long time, and when we divorced, I had to learn how to manage on my own, so I used Home Chef for a few months. These services are a little overpriced for someone who knows how to cook, but they do (almost) all the chopping for you and have good instructions that really gave me a lot of kitchen confidence and it’s way cheaper than eating out every meal. I was shocked to discover recently that I was able to look in my fridge, pull out what felt like random ingredients, and create delicious food that I actually wanted to eat all on my own with no recipe.

  35. Trix*

    I’ve recently taken up cross stitching, and I am really enjoying it so far.

    There are so many great free patterns out there, I’m trying to avoid looking at all of the amazing ones that cost money, because I know I could quickly go down a rabbit hole. (Although I’ve got several designs from Subversive Stitch bookmarked, as well as a handful of Etsy stores, for the future!)

    Anyone else here cross-stitch? Any experience with creating your own patterns? What do you use to store everything? Would it be super weird if I cross stitched in a bar?

    1. babblemouth*

      I do!
      It’s such a great way to pass the time. My favourite: put on a good podcast, sit in my comfy chair and just zone out.
      I don’t use free patterns, mostly because I like to get kits that have everything – the fabric, thread and pattern. That being said, you could check out your local library’s crafts section. They probably have tons of pattern books.
      Cross stitching in a bar – I guess it depends on the lighting :) As to what people will think of you, I stopped giving a damn a while back, but if you’re a bit self conscious, go to the bar with a book first. If people seem cool with that, they’ll probably be cool with cross stitching too!

      1. Trix*

        Excellent point about the lighting! I’m going to wait a bit to see if this sticks, or if it’s something I’ll get super into for a month, then never touch it again, but if it seems like something I’ll continue, a better lamp will be top priority.

        I’m more than happy in a bar with a book, I was mostly concerned with the idea that I’d just need to have so much stuff with me.

        I’ll check out the library, that’s a great idea!

    2. BRR*

      My husband does. He got a container from Joanne fabrics I think to store his thread. He uses a lot of free patterns but did buy a big one that he’s worked on for months. A lot of bang for his buck.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      Yes, I used to do it all the time, but I haven’t done it in years. I have quite a few kits that I need to do. I’m thinking when I have surgery next month I’ll pull out that one I started 10+ years ago. I just store my stuff in a canvas bag big enough for one kit.

    4. Aurora Leigh*

      I do!

      I store everything in a sewing box, they have lots lots of cute patterns and there is a pincushion attached to the lid. If you don’t have a magnet board, I really recommend one of you’re going to use complicated charts.

      I’ve never actually created my own pattern, but I’ve spelled out words and saying using one of those charts that shows how to do the individual letters. Its pretty easy.

      Also thrift stores and yard sales are good places to find books!

    5. Crafty*

      How did you get started? I really want to add it to my usual crafting. (And if I saw someone cross-stitch in a bar, I would think it was cool! But I knit in bars. Also, FYI it invites conversation from well-meaning folks, so if you hate small talk beware)

    6. FDCA In Canada*

      I used to cross-stitch but haven’t in years, mostly because my big problem was that I can’t read AND cross-stitch at the same time. (Audiobooks!) I stored everything in a big Rubbermaid box, or small projects in large manila envelopes (the fabric and pattern and scissors and needle cubby went inside when I wasn’t working on it, the thread was sorted and taped to the outside of the envelope so I just snipped off a piece when I needed it.

      My only qualm with stitching in a bar was that depending on your fabric, I needed quite a bit of light to see and focus on and count stitches, which is usually not a big thing in bars. And I need a lot of space as well–I like to lay out the pattern in front of me to be able to count, and then mark off the finished pieces with pen or highlighters. And I’m hyper obsessive about my work getting dirty–I wash my hands before I work on it, I’m very careful not to touch it with greasy or dirty hands, and I wouldn’t want it to be in a bar where things could spill or rub. But if you have a different technique, rock on!

      For patterns, you can hit up your local library or used bookstores, or library book sales and see if they have old cross-stitch magazines. They’re full of patterns and almost literally a dime a dozen.

    7. Yoyoyo*

      There are small plastic cases, usually in the jewelry section of the craft stores, that perfectly fit the plastic bobbins that can be found next to the DMC section. I recommend plastic over paper for the bobbins. I do not recommend the DMC labels, as they start falling off after a few years. If you are doing freestyle instead of kits, you’ll find that each time you start a new project, you will check the materials list against your holdings so that you don’t buy floss you already have. So, when I start a large new project, I generally have to spend a couple days figuring out what I actually need to buy new, transferring new floss buys onto a bobbin, and organizing my plastic case. My current project only requires one case, and all my other floss fits into two cases kept in my closet. If you’re just starting, it will take you a while to get to that point. Also, I’m doing large scale, fully covered projects, so your floss needs may be quite lower. I strongly recommend Scarlet Quince, an online site. (I have no connection other than as a buyer.) They meet my standards for anality: they let you print out the floss needs ahead of time, they have scaling calculators so you can come up with the floss/fabric needs if you use a fabric size that is not originally specified, you can order hard or soft copies of the pattern, and you can order labels (which I put on the plastic bobbins noted above).

    8. Red Reader*

      In your etsy search, check out Watty’s Wall designs (I think). I work in a hospital, my undergrad degree is in public health and epidemiology is one of my research interests, and I’m doing a walk hanging from a dozen of her stitched germ patterns. (And my downstairs powder room has a sampler with stitched versions of E. coli, c. diff, and salmonella, and the admonishment “Wash your hands.”)

    9. Me2*

      Needlepoint, cross stitch, crochet, if it’s thread, my hands are all over it. If you want a good light, try an Ott. I concur with bar lighting being too hard to see but I take mine on airplanes, to social events like book club or wine tastings (I don’t drink, I’m always the driver so it gives me something to do while others taste), anywhere I don’t have to have 100% attention on the other thing I’m doing. Needlepoint is more portable than cross stitch because you don’t have the chart but needlepoint canvases are a lot more money than aida cloth, especially if they’re preprinted or painted.

    10. Ann Furthermore*

      I love cross-stitching, but I have a hard time finding time to do it. A couple years ago I made Christmas stockings for my daughters, which came out super cute. I’ve been looking and looking for a pattern for a Christmas tree skirt, but the only ones I’ve found that I like are ones that your tree actually sits on. I want one with a slit in it so you can wrap it around the bottom of your tree.

      I’ve found lots of cute designs on The Silver Needle website, but there’s also a lot of Grandma-ish stuff on that site too to wade through. There is one brand though, SamSarah Designs, that has lots of fun, more modern designs.

    11. PM-NYC*

      I love cross stitch, it’s so soothing in it’s repetition. There’s a free site called pic2pat that converts any image into a cross-stitch pattern, & you can play around with sizes to get it to look right before printing out a pattern to work off of. Not every image works well, some are too intricate to translate to cross stitch, but I love it as a way to get customized patterns of anything you want.

    12. Manderley*

      My dad cross stitches while he watches old shows on TV. He buys the whole kit for each project; not sure about storage. He does beautiful work.

    13. Rahera*

      By the way, re lighting. When I am knitting fine lace and need maximum visibility, I wear one of those camping headlights that go on a band round your head. No, I would never do it in public and yes I quite often pretend I am turning into a dalek as I switch it on. :D

  36. Jubilance*

    Hi all! Just wanted to share that I’m a mama! I had my baby girl, Josephine, on 1/6 and she’s an absolute joy. She arrived a week late but she and I are both doing great. I’m enjoying motherhood so far :-)

    1. Jillociraptor*

      Congratulations Jubilance and welcome Josephine! So wonderful to hear you are doing great and enjoying your little one!

    2. fposte*

      Oh, many congratulations–I’ve been looking forward to hearing about Baby Pi, and I’m very happy for you!

    3. alex*

      Aww congratulations! LOVE her name! She was born on “Twelfth Night” so maybe she’ll be a Shakespeare buff. :) Enjoy!

  37. LibbyG*

    Intermittent fasting! I tried the 5:2 diet for four weeks last summer, and it was OK. I dropped 6 pounds, and the low-cal days weren’t that hard to deal with. The hard part, for me, was planning 350 calorie dinners for my fasting days, dinners that work for me and spouse and two small kids. Three weeks ago I started the eight-hour eating plan instead. I don’t have breakfast and do all my eating between noon and 8 pm. The 16 hours without eating is supposed to have a lot of health benefits. So far I really like it! The holiday-season pounds have come off, and I’m sleeping better, always going to bed on an empty stomach. I hope another 8-10 pounds come off. Anyone else doing this?

    1. katamia*

      I don’t do this formally, but I naturally seem to feel better when I fast for most of the day and only eat between certain times, although I’m not always great at sticking to it because my schedule is weird. I hadn’t heard of the 5:2 diet, but a food writer in my local paper (Joe Yonan in the Washington Post, if you want to look him up) is trying out a book called Buddha’s Diet with a similar theme this month, and I’m really interested in seeing what happens with that.

    2. Hattie McDoogal*

      Not yet but I’m thinking about it. My dad and my uncle both do and rave about it. I like the idea of it essentially forcing me to quit late night snacking, as I’ll know it’s not in the window of allowed eating time.

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      I used to ALWAYS do an eight-hour eating plan in college, totally without thinking about it. I should really get back into it, because now I do eat three meals a day and I think it’s not great for my digestion. My boyfriend and I tend to snack a lot in the evening which isn’t good.

      The tough thing is that I often don’t get home until late due to work or school, so I wouldn’t be able to do it consistently.

    4. Haru*

      The first three weeks I tried the 8 hour diet, I would wake up at a few minutes before my alarm (7am) and not feel tired in the morning even when I went to sleep at 1am. I usually sleep 9-10 hours if I don’t use an alarm. I’m not sure how much weight I lost, but I went from 28.5 inch waist to 26 inches in 3 weeks.

      After the first 3 weeks, I went back to my normal sleeping habit of hitting snooze 3 times and oversleeping, but my waist size stayed at 26 inches. 10 weeks later, no changes from 3rd week.

    5. Amadeo*

      I am in fact fasting off and on. Sometimes I’ll do the 16:8 and sometimes I’ll do a couple 24 hour fasts a week. The pounds are steadily coming off and there’s definitely been a subtle shift in the way I feel!

    6. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Ive tried it a few times and it never worked for me – probably because I was just too darn hungry, so I would get home and stuff my face until the 8 pm cut off. I don’t think he meant for folks to eat a ton of junk before 8 pm! I also had problems waking up hungry in the middle of the night and ugly headaches during the day.

      Interestingly, I switched to this Joe Wicks (non UK readers can look him up) plan but modified to be sort of South Beach lite (no beans/legumes, no cheese), but requiring me to eat breakfast (wasnt a big fan before), a lot of veg at lunch and dinner with a lean protein (you know, how we are all supposed to eat!). Because I am so sated by 7 pm when we eat dinner, probably because of the added fat in the recipes, I don’t feel the need to snack at night anymore, so I actually do get about 14 hours of fasting in.

      So far I’m feeling leaner and clothes seem to be fitting better, but the best is that this is something we can actually stick to doing long term (we have one cheat dinner on Saturday with one soda or one beer – last night I wasn’t even that interested in finishing the pizza I had been craving earlier in the week)

    7. Lissa*

      Huh. I might try the 8 hour eating plan. It’s pretty close to when I’m naturally hungry, I often feel slightly ill in mornings and force myself to have breakfast because I know I should, but unless I have coffee an hour before I eat I am never hungry until about 12. I’ve been looking for something I can actually follow with my weird work hours.

    8. nonprofit manager*

      Not doing any kind of plan, but have noticed I sleep much better when my last meal is 3-4 hours before I go to bed. Guess if my body is not working to digest food, I sleep better.

  38. Jillociraptor*

    Advice on supporting a sibling who is a caregiver?

    I’m the older sister. My brother, in his late 20s, lives in my hometown (nearby all extended family) and I live many states away. My parents also live elsewhere during the winter. This means that my brother often ends up caring for my grandmother (who’s 94) whenever she’s ill or in the hospital. I wish there were more I could do to support him and her for that matter, from afar. I try to make sure to be in contact with him and check in on how he’s doing, and also make sure that when I am home I’m spending time with my grandma and helping with whatever she needs.

    I’m especially anxious about it because my father is also the younger sibling whose older brother moved away and isn’t always particularly helpful when it comes to my grandma’s health issues. I know it puts a huge burden on my dad and I really don’t want to repeat history here.

    Any others out there who are the “nearby” family member with advice for what your faraway siblings/family members do that is helpful and supportive, or what you wish they would do differently?

    1. Aurora Leigh*

      I think just keeping communication open and asking what you can do are the biggest things.

      My mom and her sibling are going through this with their mom . . . they both feel put upon and complain a lot, but there is blame for both sides. Their relationship was always strained though.

      I think it sounds like you’re doing this right!

    2. Jerry Vandesic*

      The folks who aren’t local (apparently anyone other that your brother in certain months) needs to pitch in financially to hire appropriate resources as necessary.

    3. Blue_eyes*

      Could you help your brother or grandmother financially? Are there things you could arrange and pay for from afar that would make their lives more convenient? House cleaner? Snow removal?

      Are there other family members nearby who could help relieve the burden on your brother? If he’s the kind of person who doesn’t like to ask for help, it might be easier for you to be the one to call up an aunt or cousin on his behalf and ask them to cook him a meal or visit grandma.

      Lastly, are there things you can do remotely? Speak with her doctors to coordinate her care? Call the insurance company when necessary?

      Good for you for trying to make sure you’re helping support your brother/grandmother, even from afar. My mom was in the same position you are when her parents were aging, and I know it wasn’t easy. One of her brothers lived near her parents and helped a lot. Her other siblings lived father away and didn’t try to help.

    4. Seren*

      Just my two cents from when I in my twenties was dealing with parents who were hospitalized while 6 years older brother was going on about life several states over:

      Communication is huge. Reach out more often than you think you need… maybe even once a week. Brother would wonder why I hadn’t updated on Parents conditions, while I was wondering if Brother was concerned for their conditions at all. I’d daydream about what it would be like to be the faraway sibling and have the luxury of being away from the chaos. I’m seriously not trying to guilt-trip you, just my general feeling. The fact that when you do come home you do spend time with her probably alleviates this.

      I’d also specifically ask how your brother is doing, feeling, thinking…. sometimes all people ask about are the injured parties and not about the caregiver. Maybe occasionally send money/giftcards to use only at his favorite restaurant to remind him that its okay to step away and treat himself. I would have appreciated all this if I were in your brother’s shoes.

      Also, do not ask for money, like my brother asked me. -_-

    5. animaniactoo*

      • Research. You can do research and make phone calls and setup appointments from far away. So whatever you can do in that vein that would be useful, offer it up and make it clear that you really really want to do it and are not just saying you’ll do it if they want. Also, when you do some of it, sometimes, you’re not making the choice because you’re in the situation, so what you’re doing is summarizing what’s available. If you are making the choice, be clear about why you think it’s the best choice and be open to hearing that it’s not.

      • Don’t criticize what they’re doing. Ever. Seriously, I mean EVER. You can say “I think this may not be working well, talk to me about what’s going on, let’s see if I have any ideas that might help.” or “Grandma seems pretty stressed by X, has she been clear about that to you? Do you think there’s anything that can be done to make that better for her?”

      • When you are there, don’t make it sound like what you are there to do is better for them than what else is being done for them (see: My visiting aunt and uncle telling my grandparents that they wanted to take them for a meal and get them out of “that place” the assisted living which was the best compromise for my grandparents’ care and where they were visited regularly and had availability to get out themselves via various methods).

      • Do your best to also be in contact with her during those times so that she has more than your brother to talk to.

      • Make sure that conversations with your brother are not always about grandma/her care. Work to keep some normalcy that is just you and him in the relationship

      • Possible to take your brother out/treat him to something when you’re in town as “stress relief/acknowledgment” for him?

    6. Jen Erik*

      I think what I appreciate most is the being in contact and checking how I’m doing. Also, the coming home and spending time is good.
      Also my sister is good about staying in touch with my mum – not just phone calls, but postcards, photos, an occasional I-just-saw-this-and-thought-of-you gift – which remind my mum that she has a wider support network than just me.
      And I really value the certainty that if I was swamped for some reason, my sister would make every effort to get here and help. (If it was possible, and it’s not in our case, I’d like to be able to book time off: take a weekend to go and visit one of the kids, with another family member taking over.)
      Apart from that: advice is a double-edged sword – sometimes it’s properly useful, but sometimes it feels like kindly criticism. “Have you thought…” .

    7. Rahera*

      I think your awareness and sensitivity about this are the biggest things. You’re keeping an eye on your brother and checking in with him, and that’s great. :)

    8. Jillociraptor*

      Thanks, you all. I really appreciate the advice! We are in a very good situation in which finances are not an issue and my grandma’s care is very good (and she likes it too, so very little conflict). Much easier than it could be for a lot of folks. What I’m taking away is to make sure to continue to keep lines of communication open about everything, check in with him personally, and offer my time and perspective (not advice!) as often as possible. I’m going to just ensure that I’m always listening for ways I can take things off his plate.

      Really appreciate everyone’s stories and perspectives!

  39. Bomb Yogi*

    Any knitters out there? Learning to knit is one of my goals for this year. Is it difficult to learn? Is it an expensive hobby? Any other tips/advice for a novice knitter?

    1. Trix*

      No tips on knitting (tried to teach myself a few years back, got annoyed pretty quickly) but I did just start cross stitching! (I actually started a thread a little bit up from here about it.)

    2. Ceiswyn*

      Knitting is pretty easy to learn. I suggest looking out for a decent book that comes with some starter patterns, and then looking at videos a lot to understand the 3D nature of the stitches and sort out anything that confuses you.

      You’ll need a pair of needles to start with; they come in lots of sizes, but for your first few projects you’re likely to be best with something between size 8 and 11. Not so small as to be fiddly, not so big as to disrupt your technique.

      Eventually most knitters end up with a whole set of different needles for different things, but the main expense is yarn. Mostly because I have yet to encounter a knitter who doesn’t have a weakness for buying pretty yarn :) But you can get some really quite spectacular yarns quite cheap. But you don’t need to buy loads of stuff to start: just a pair of needles and some yarn is all you need to knit a few simple projects, and then if you find you like it you can add other things as you need them.

    3. LisaLee*

      Knitting is not hard to learn, especially now that there are so many great tutorials on YouTube. Start with a pattern and pick a yarn and needle to match, not the other way around.

      Take a look at Ravelry–that’s the main site for knitting and you can find all sorts of patterns and really helpful forums. The design team Tin Can Knits has put out a free “Simple Collection” for beginning knitters, and I’d start with one of their patterns (preferably the hat. That’s a super achievable project for someone new). They have a really involved and nice Ravelry group that can help you if you get stuck.

      As for cost–it really depends on what you want to spend. You can buy super expensive, hand-dyed, cashmere yarn for $30 a skein or acrylic for $1.50. I’d skip the craft store (Michaels and JoAnns often have more expensive and worse quality stuff than you can find on the internet, imo) and head to KnitPicks instead. Their yarn is inexpensive, there’s a wide range of colors and fibers, and it’s reasonably good quality. I also like their needles for starting, though I’ve now upgraded to HiyaHiyas.

      1. HannahS*

        I second Tin Can Knits! I wish I could go back to when I was learning how to knit and use their patterns.

      2. Dr. KMnO4*

        I second your recommendation to KnitPicks, except in the case of cotton yarn for dishcloths. You can get that at craft stores for pretty cheap. But I LOVE KnitPicks, especially their kits.

    4. Jubilance*

      Knitting is not hard to learn at all, but depending on the type of learner you are, I suggest taking a class versus using books or YouTube to learn. You can find classes through community education, or lots of yarn shops hold classes as well.

      It’s not expensive at all – you can find supplies like needles and yarn at all price points. I suggest learning to knit with inexpensive stuff from craft stores before you move on to the fancier stuff.

      I took a class to learn to knit 7yrs ago and I got hooked. I find it very soothing especially when I’m just sitting in front of the TV, or when I’m traveling.

    5. Aurora Leigh*

      Personally, I think crocheting is easier, but that may be because I learned it first. I can’t seem to make both hands work together!

      1. Blue_eyes*

        I learned to knit first, but I agree that crocheting is easier. Having only one “live” loop at a time makes for fewer possible errors. I also find crochet more forgiving when you do make mistakes.

    6. Cristina in England*

      Go for it! When I was learning I loved the videos on knittinghelp.com. They have videos for both the continental and English methods of knitting (holding the yarn in your left hand versus right hand). If you’re new to it, I recommend starting in continental (holding yarn in left hand). You can eventually knit a lot faster than English that way, although if you’re in a knitting group and you want people to be able to help you, they may get a bit confused unless they’re also knitting with the yarn in that hand.

      You could start with this video:

      Yes definitely Ravelry as a resource for patterns and support. Completely essential.

      Good luck!

    7. Talvi*

      Also, pick your style (English or Continental) early, and stick with it. Trying to switch gets really confusing.

      Something I wish I’d known in the first year or so of knitting: if you go with Continental (which is what I use, and I find is quicker than English), learn the Norwegian purl as soon as you can. I HATED purling until I learned the Norwegian purl.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        Had to look up Norwegian purl. I agree about Continental knitting though – I learned it a few years after I started knitting and it’s so much faster! I also taught myself to hold yarns in both my right and left hands simultaneously and I do that when I’m knitting color work so I don’t have to keep dropping and picking up the different yarns.

        1. Talvi*

          Do you do a combination of Continental and English, then, when you’re doing colourwork?

          Norwegian purl will muck with your tension when you first start doing it, but ribbing is a much faster, smoother process because you no longer have to stop and move the yarn from front-to-back-to-front all the time. I feel like it might be a bit of a tricky technique for a beginner, but I spent so much time avoiding purling when I first started that I also think it’s worth it to learn early.

          1. Blue_eyes*

            Yes, I essentially do both Continental and English at the same time for color work. For just two colors, it’s so much faster and easier if you can get the hang of it. I put the color that’s being used less in my right hand so that I can do the majority of stitches in the Continental style.

    8. Red*

      I literally only know how to make rectangles, but it’s not expensive to learn – I bought a pair of needles and a thing of clearance-priced yarn and watched some youtube videos until I got it figured out. Now I just like knitting while I listen to music or a TV show I don’t much care about seeing with my eyes. It’s a nice way to keep my hands busy.

    9. HannahS*

      Like any hobby, knitting can be very cheap or very expensive! On the cheap side, buying a set of needles from China on Amazon was something like 15$CAD, and had probably 15 sizes. You can buy cheap-but-decent yarn at craft stores or Walmart. That said, my favourite needles are the my beloved Addi Turbos, one single set costing about 20$. And a skein of fancy yarn can easily cost 30-40$. It’s important to consider both the amount of time you’re going to spend, and how long you want the thing to last (and how it’ll be washed, etc.). I don’t want to spend 12$ for an itchy garment that took me tens of hours to make, but I don’t have unlimited money either!

      To give you an idea (and this is estimates in Canadian money, so the American numbers would be lower):
      A hat can be made out of really nice acrylic for 8$, or wool for 10$. Same for a pair of mittens, gloves, or socks. A scarf would be maybe double that, because they take more yarn.
      A medium-sized women’s sweater could be made out of cheap acrylic for for 12$, nice acrylic for about 30$, cheap wool for 40$ (really cheap wool for maybe 25$), and nice wool (or wool/cotton) would be more like 50-100$.
      Blankets are shockingly expensive. A nice acrylic afghan could set you back 60$ in yarn.

      My favourite acrylic is called Red Heart Soft Touch. I think it’s a nice yarn for beginners–it’s worsted weight (a medium weight; lots of patterns use it) and it’s really durable–doesn’t pill (though I haven’t used it for things that get regularly washed).

      1. Talvi*

        My favourite acrylic is called Red Heart Soft Touch. I think it’s a nice yarn for beginners–it’s worsted weight (a medium weight; lots of patterns use it) and it’s really durable–doesn’t pill (though I haven’t used it for things that get regularly washed).

        I’ve used it on a blanket which sees a fair amount of use, with almost no pilling whatsoever.