weekend free-for-all – September 9-10, 2017

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school.)

Book recommendation of the week: The Misfortune of Marion Palm, by Emily Culliton. A Brooklyn mom goes on the run after embezzling from her kids’ school.

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

{ 1,388 comments… read them below }

    1. KR*

      Thought I’d share, Lillian, my black cat, likes to go in the shower when it’s not running and chase her own tail and generally act all crazy. I think it’s the shadows.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        My cat loved playing in empty bathtubs. Then one day I went to get a clean towel while running a bath and he followed me ack in and SPLASH. Very cross cat. His fur went super nice and soft though!

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Not the same thing, but my kitten fell in the toilet this morning. She’s about 5 to 6 months, so not tiny. She climbed out and proceeded to walk through the house, shaking alternating paws as she walked. Then she had to stop and take a full body bath.

          1. Amadeo*

            I think this is what endeared my tabby room mate to my dad (she’s now Dad’s cat, for sure). She also fell in the toilet while in the bathroom with him.

            He came out trying to look cross and annoyed about it, but failed miserably at hiding his extreme amusement and goes “Damn cat fell in the toilet!” like it was the stupidest thing he’d ever seen, but not actually being able to hide a laugh. She sits on the arm of his chair with him now. Peas in a pod.

          2. Elder Dog*

            The sun would come in the window and make prism patterns in the toilet bowl in my old house. I had just gotten a kitten and he was just tall enough to stand up and see them over the rim. One day I heard a ka-bloop and knew what it was without even turning around. Had learnt to jump! He did the shaking alternate paws thing too, and the other cat helped with the full body bath.

        2. Stella's Mom*

          My cat has done this too! Quite a shock to the kitty I must say, stayed out of the bathroom for a year after that.

      2. Pomona Sprout*

        My Loga likes to go in the shower after I get out and lick up any tiny puddles of water he can find, crazy critter that he is

    2. fposte*

      When I looked quickly at the picture this morning, just as I was waking up, I thought it was a sink and not a bathtub and got *very* confused.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Likewise here. I was trying to figure out how the cats got so tiny, then drrrr, it’s not a sink, it’s a tub. ha!

        1. Myrin*

          Alison, if you remember at all (which you probably won’t because why would you), I need to know where Sam was when that picture was taken – did he sit in front of the tub looking sternly at the youngsters and not understanding their bathroom shenanigans?

    3. Communication skills Anon*

      My cat always looks preturbed when I fill up the bathtub. She never wants to get in though…

      1. Belle di Vedremo*

        Mine doesn’t like for me to bathe alone. She sits on the lid of the toilet seat and supervises. Doesn’t do it for anyone else. When we first started living together, she figured out how to get the bathroom door open to be able to join me. She doesn’t need to watch, apparently, just to ensure I’m not alone.

        1. Merci Dee*

          One of my former cats (may she rest in kitty peace) loved to jump on the edge of the tub when I took a shower. I’ve always had 2 curtains – a decorative one on the outside and a clear liner on the inside – and she would climb between them to sit on the edge. I would aim the shower head to send a stream of hot water down the liner where she would sit, and she’d lean in against the plastic to get more of the warmth. She loved it, and would be upset when I’d finally turn off the water.

          This was the same cat who knew I was pregnant before I did. I miss my Baby Girl.

        2. Catherine from Canada*

          My daughter S – who lived alone at the time after escaping an abusive relationship – slipped and fell in the bathtub while taking a shower and knocked herself out. Her cat Mayo jumped (!) into the still running shower and woke her up by batting at her face and and scratching her shoulders. Ever after, whenever S took a shower, Mayo would sit on the bathtub edge and meowl at her loudly, swiping at her if she got too close. Obviously, that damn bathtub was dangerous and the cat was determined to protect her from it.

  1. You're Not My Supervisor*

    I am having a personal conundrum and I would love some feedback from this group of level headed people. My sister in law was in a bind in terms of a place to live and we let her move into our basement on a temporary basis. She pays rent, but not a lot, barely enough to cover the cost of upgrades we have made to the house to make her living here a possibility (new basement door, soundproofing, etc). My SIL has a strong personality and can be… difficult. But we felt like helping her out in her time of need was the right thing to do.

    The other day, she was having car issues and she told my husband (her brother) she would need his car. My husband, who also needed the car, said no. She said she would use mine then, but I wasn’t really comfortable with that since she’s not insured to drive my car and I haven’t disclosed her living here to my insurance company. So I also said no.

    So, she threw a fit. It’s now been 2 weeks and she won’t speak to us, is generally frosty, has an attitude, slams doors. We share one bathroom with this person… to say things are unfomfortable for us now is an undestatement. We basically hide in our room now. My husband says that, knowing his sister, this could go on for months.

    What can I do about this? I have anxiety in general and I just hate being in my own house now. It’s hell.

    1. Christy*

      You absolutely must give her a timeframe to move out. Give her one month or two months notice first. You have already been exceedingly kind by letting her live with you for what I’m assuming is below-market rent, and now she will be able to spend a month finding somewhere to live and move out–she is no longer in that bind.

        1. Hellanon*

          No, you are being reasonable – she, however, is obviously used to getting her way with threats & manipulation, and probably panics at the first sign of opposition and doubles down. Hammers, nails, all of that…

          1. Strawberry*

            This is spot on in my experience and actually reading someone else point this out is reassuring for my own personal situation. Some people lash out, bully, abuse, etc when they are in the most need of help. And in saying that I’m NOT suggesting you continue to help. I’m seeing a family member’s behavior become more horrible the worse their predicament gets and they refuse to turn things around and behave in a manner in which someone else would actually want to help them out.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Holy crud, no! Your sister in law is 100% the unreasonable one. Amd it seems like your husband has a very skewed view on her behavior. It’s rude and unacceptable and she should take her “I’m an overgrown 13-year-old” routine elsewhere.

        3. nep*

          Based on what you’ve explained, you are not being the least bit unreasonable. Agree with the idea of giving her a deadline for moving out. From what you write she’s being utterly disrespectful. The fact that your very home is now uncomfortable and stressful for you — that is just too too much. One’s home must be one’s refuge. It’s one thing to sacrifice for a loved one or relative who’s gracious and grateful and making the best of it for all, but that’s not the case here.
          All the best. Keep us posted.

        4. OhBehave*

          You are not being unreasonable. In fact, the complete opposite applies here. You made upgrades in order to provide a place for her to stay. This was very kind of both of you. So glad you both discussed it and decided together. She demanded one of you just hand over the keys to your cars. That tells me she is not grateful at all for your help. I hope her car is usable now.
          You absolutely need to draw a line in the sand with her. She’s working and not paying much to you in the way of rent. She should be saving whatever she can in order to find her own place. She will continue to use and abuse you if you don’t give her a timeline. For Pete’s sake, you are uncomfortable in your own home! No one is allowed to make you feel that way.
          I would love to see an update in the upcoming weeks. Good luck!

      1. Paul*

        She’s *probably* established tenancy if she’s been there for a month or more. You need to check tenancy laws and actually properly file an eviction notice, with whatever notice is required in your area.

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          Exactly. She is a tenant and you need to follow the law. Find out what the minimum notice period in your state (probably 30 or 60 days), and give her a proper notice. If she isn’t out by end of the notice period, you will need to formally file for eviction (you might need a lawyer to do this). DO NOT “kick her out” (put her stuff out on the porch, change the locks) or otherwise illegally evict her as a tenant. You need to follow the law, even with family members.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      How old is she? I would maybe give a 19-year-old a pass here, but not only is she being childish, she’s being ridiculous. I’m assuming she has a job? She can move out. She may need to find roommates, but she can move. Heck, if I were you, I’d even help her with the deposit or the moving expenses just to get her out. There are rules in your house, like respect, and if she can’t abide by them and be a pleasant roommate, then she can go. I have no time for this kind of nonsense.

      1. You're Not My Supervisor*

        She’s 33 -_- my husband is the younger sibling but you wouldn’t know it based on behavior

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      What on earth? One of you — ideally your husband, but you if he won’t do it — should sit down with her and say, “We were happy to let you move in here when you were in a bind. But you cannot act this way while sharing our space. If you’re living here, you need to be polite and pleasant, not hostile or frosty. If that doesn’t feel possible for you, let’s talk about setting a date for you to move out in the next month.”

      1. You're Not My Supervisor*

        Thanks Alison. I was leaning towards this approach but wanted to get some sane outside perspectives first. I have been getting a lot of “never turn your back on family” feedback and I wasn’t sure if maybe I was the a-hole for not lending my car

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          No, you are not an a-hole for not lending your car. Your SIL is an a-hole for assuming she had the right to either your vehicle or your husband’s. The more appropriate course of action would have been for her to say to both of you “hey, I need to get my car fixed and I have to be at work. is there any way I can use one of your vehicles or can you drop me off?” and then if the answer was “no, sorry” she can use uber/lyft/whatever.

        2. Mabel*

          The people telling you to not turn your back on family can lend her their cars! I’m glad you wrote in to get a sanity check. You do not deserve to be treated this way, period (but especially in your own home after you have done her a huge favor).

        3. Mabel*

          Also, I know from my own experience how hard it can be to have, and enforce, boundaries. It helps to get validation from people I trust when I’m not sure if a boundary is reasonable (not to say that we’re not allowed to have unreasonable boundaries sometimes). I hope you are finding support from us (commenters) to require/expect that you and your husband are treated with respect.

        4. Triplestep*

          But you *didn’t* turn your back on family! You were there for her when she was in a bind. Helping her to become independent again by setting a time frame for her moving out also comes under the heading of “not turning your back on family.”

          Letting her stay and continue to play out her childhood family sibling rivalry dynamic does not help her. I know you know this, but this is what I would say to the nay-sayers.

        5. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Whenever someone says you have to put up with poor behaviour because they are ‘family’, ask them why you’re not considered family too.

        6. neverjaunty*

          Your SIL sure doesn’t seem to give two hoots about caring for family.

          And you didn’t turn your back on her, not at all. You RENOVATED YOUR HOUSE to give her a place to live!

        7. Courtney*

          Honestly, screw anyone who uses “but they’re familyyyyyy” as a guilt trip. It’s pretty much always just their way of saying that you need to ignore behavior anywhere from rude to abusive because that person’s feelings are more important. And it generallly goes hand in hand with “that’s just the way they are,” as if you have no choice but to enable the bad behavior.

        8. Anon Accountant*

          My best friend would say “you don’t have to set your belongings on fire to keep someone else warm”. You’ve been very kind to her and haven’t turned your back on her. But you don’t have to be a doormat either. If someone has a problem with you not lending her your car, then they can offer up their car to her.

          (I’ve gotten a lot of the “but faaaaammmily!” thrown at me in my day over similar stuff. It gets resolved fast when you set boundaries, get your husband on board, and stick to them. Stick to your boundaries and hold to it. Keep us posted please.

        9. Observer*

          No, you were not. But that’s not the issue. Even if it you had done something obnoxious, her response is not in any way reasonable or acceptable. When a temper tantrum goes on for weeks, you can rest assured that the person having the tantrum is the one with a problem.

        10. OhBehave*

          Let us know when one of the “never turn your back on family” people let her move in with them! Stay strong!

    4. Florida*

      Adult temper tantrums are just like child temper tantrums. If you give into them, they child realizes it is effective and continues them. Same with adults. So I deal with it by ignoring it.
      I’m not going to hide in my room because you are throwing a tantrum. I’m going to go about my life. When you decide that you want to deal with this as a reasonable person, I will be glad to discuss it with you. Basically I’m not going to allow your temper tantrum to control me. (I say You meaning your SIL, not you the OP. You probably figured that out.)
      I don’t know if that is helpful. It is very difficult to do and takes a lot of discipline, but it gets easier with practice.

      1. You're Not My Supervisor*

        I agree with you in theory. But in practice, when life is already stressful enough, the last thing I want to do at the end of a long day is sit in my living room and deal with her attitude. I also feel like kicking her out makes ME the a-hole

        1. fposte*

          No, it doesn’t. For one thing, you can have a situation where people stop living with each other where *nobody’s* the a-hole–this doesn’t have to mean somebody’s doing a crappy thing, just that the arrangement didn’t work out.

          Do you feel like you can never say no to family? Because that can lead to even more badness than this, so I hope you’ll examine that. In the meantime, say no to your SIL, say “We’re glad we could help during a bad time but this isn’t working long-term” and give her notice. It wouldn’t hurt to check your local laws on tenancy, either; federally, it sounds like you guys would be exempt from the FHA but you don’t want to run afoul of state or local laws.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Also, bear in mind that your idea of not saying no to family involves a whole lot of her saying no to you. No to being reasonable, no to accepting she can’t use your car. It doesn’t have to mean always giving in because if you are family so is she and what is she giving in to? It doesn’t always have to be you who gives in.

        2. Florida*

          I understand that sometimes it’s easier to hide than to deal with her. (I don’t mean that in a judge-y way. Sometimes it IS easier to not deal with her.) I also get the part about how kicking you out makes you the jerk.
          Maybe you can do it sometimes, in combination with the other suggestions here. Kind of like with kids… there are times when you give in to their tantrums, even though you know you shouldn’t. And times where you don’t.
          One of my favorite quote is this: “If you are willing to look at another person’s behavior toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time, cease to react at all. – Yogi Bhajan
          One of the things I was trying to get at was the “over a period of time, cease to react at all” part. It’s hard at first, but after a while, it doesn’t take as much effort.
          I know if a crappy situation without a lot of easy solutions, so I hope you can figure out something that works.

        3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Kicking her out with 30 min notice would make you an a-hole. Giving her a reasonable amount of time to find her own place is not.

          And if people are giving you grief for asking her to move out, then they can let her stay at their place. As you said, life if stressful enough and you have a right to be comfortable in your own home.

        4. Muriel Heslop*

          Drawing a healthy boundary makes you the grown-up not the bad guy. Don’t let her lack of boundaries and immaturity deter you. You can do this!

        5. Sylvan*

          Kicking her out wouldn’t make you an asshole, but so what if it did? You’d be an asshole with a peaceful, relaxing home. And some new free space.

        6. Aphrodite*

          It does not. Absolutely not.

          I have a sister who is crazy. Literally. She has lived her life believing she can act any way she wants because she has never had to experience repercussions. Well, now that she has included me in her circle of family to abuse, that changed. She did it once. I explained to her that those behaviors were abuse and unacceptable and that I required a sincere apology plus a promise to never do them again.

          No surprise; she pulled them again and I have cut her off. She has been blocked and while it still distresses me that she is making such bad life choices I am firm in my commitment to have and keep her cut off. I don’t need it in my life; I don’t want it in my life. My other brothers and sister haven’t done that yet, but they will as soon as our mother dies and the estate is distributed. But I am now done. And life feels better.

        7. Managing to get by*

          Then ask her to go downstairs to her space.

          Have a talk with her about what it is that she does that makes you uncomfortable in your own home, and when she does that behavior/says those things etc., ask her to leave the shared space.

          Also, raise her rent to market rate so that she has less incentive to stay.

          And don’t let her borrow your car or anything else.

    5. Red*

      It’s time to have a talk. She can either get her act together or leave. There is no reason you need to live like that in your own house.

      1. Red*

        Oh, and just to point this out – this is coming from the perspective of someone who couch surfed for almost 2 years. It’s not at all unreasonable to expect better of her.

    6. Emma*

      Yeah, like Allison I’d talk to her. I’d explain that you’re sorry she’s upset about the car, but that’s just a condition of living here. I’d tell her if she can return to normalcy (no slamming doors, no attitude), she can stay here, but otherwise she’ll need to find a new place to live (by Oct 1?).

      But months of hiding in your room is not sustainable, nor reasonable.

      1. Zip Zap*

        And what’s the deal with the attitude? Is she dealing with a mental health issue, substance abuse issue, did something awful recently happen to her, is it related to other family issues, or is it more like an immaturity / anger management sort of thing? Regardless of the answer, you don’t deserve this and you should ask her to move out. But guessing at the root of it might inform your approach. I mean, does she need treatment for something? Or does she just need to learn to be more independent and assume less entitlement?

        If it’s the latter, I’d just hold her accountable for her actions and ask her to move out asap. You’d be doing her a favor in the long run, not to mention that you obviously have no obligation to put up with any of this. But if there’s something else going on, you could also refer her to some resources… I don’t mean to sound too forgiving. It just sounds like a complex situation, from what you described.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      This is what happens when we give too much and expect too little in return, people can start to feel entitled.

      Two weeks of slamming doors and not speaking to her hosts is so beyond the palethat I have no words. My family uses the silent treatment also. My response to it is “my life goes on, do as you wish”. You and your husband should not be hiding in your room, you own the house. Go about your day and go about your life.
      She needs to leave, asap.
      Counter-intuitively, I would give her a list of how she must participate in the household. This list would include a few modest daily chores, and increase in “rent” and she must seek solid employment. It probably would not be a bad idea for her to get counseling on anger management, too. Because not speaking for weeks is not normal, nor is it the behavior of a healthy person. And I would say that out loud.

      A family member came to my house in psychosis*. I did not understand what was going on with her, I was pretty naïve in those days. She said she needed help and I agreed to help. In the end, she trashed my house, lost my dog in an ice storm and would not even speak to me except to order me around. I got the dog back, the ice storm ended and I showed her the door. Then I cleaned up my house. She will never be visiting in my house again.
      [*This is not to infer that your SIL is in psychosis. It’s just part of the story of what happened in my home.]

      While your SIL may not be a physical danger to you, she definitely a detriment to your household. This is not a person you can help and it seems that she does not want help. You can tell her that you thought you were helping her, but you have now learned that you guys are not helping her. She needs to make different living arrangements.

      1. You're Not My Supervisor*

        Wow, that sounds awful! I’m sorry you went through that.

        Just to provide a few more details since I have seen a few posts indicating she should find employment: she is a full time nursing school student, has clinicals at the hospital and also works at a bar. So she is by no means a lazy person who just wants a free ride. It’s also not that she couldn’t afford to live anywhere/would be homeless if we didn’t help her, but she doesn’t make much at that bar job and has a huge amount of student debt. So it’s a big help for her to be able to live in our basement for a couple hundred bucks a month. In her last living arrangement, one roommate left and she was going to be locked into another year at a rate she could not afford to split between her and the remaining roommate. So she moved in here until after graduation when she can get a full time job as a nurse (she already has that job lined up) and will make a nice wage. She graduates this year, so she will be out by April/May.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t know where you live, but I suspect it’s overstating things to say “she would be homeless.” She could find another roommating situation, she could probably find room and board in exchange for home health assistance, she could couchsurf elsewhere, etc.

          I also don’t think that’s a reason to put up with a tantrum (geez, the idea of this person as a nurse isn’t really comforting); May is a long way away. “Sister, I understand you’re frustrated that you couldn’t use the car, but that’s not the condition of your stay here; while we’re happy to help you out through May if you’re cooperative member of the household, if you can’t–if you’d rather slam doors and give the silent treatment–you should make other arrangements by the end of October and we’ll plan for your room to be empty then.”

          I mean, why should you care more than she does about whether she gets to stay with you?

        2. neverjaunty*

          That’s way too long to have to tolerate this nonsense.

          It sounds like your husband doesn’t understand that his big sister has to be a decent person to him AND TO HIS WIFE when she is, you know, living in their home. Since she isn’t going to be homeless, you can explain to her this isn’t working and show her the door.

        3. InternWrangler*

          This information changes the picture for me a little. I know how stressed I’ve been attending school and working and doing an internship. I felt like I was spinning plates and one thing could tip the balance and bring everything crashing down. That does not mean that I got to take that out on other people. It does not in any way excuse her behavior.
          I understand why you wanted to support her and help her out in this way. I really like Alison’s script for how to talk with her about it. And I also think after she decides if she wants to stay or wants to move, then you could have a conversation about the cars and work with her to figure out a back up plan that does not involve using your car or your husband’s.

        4. Gloucesterina*

          Just because your sister-in-law would theoretically move out in nine or ten months doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve a better life now.

          I guess I’m having trouble understanding why she couldn’t find herself another roommate situation, particularly since she will soon be a well-paid professional in her field.

    8. Tess*

      You and your husband need to have a talk with her! It is not your responsibility to take of an adult nor are you obligated to provide her transportation. I’d let her know this living arrangement was never intended to be long term and set a hard date that she must be out by. A house guest should be pleasant and tidy, and mostly out of the way. You shouldn’t be hiding in your own home!

    9. The Other Dawn*

      So, basically she’s holding you hostage in your own house.

      Did you put a time limit on how long she can stay? I’ve twice had someone live with me. The first time I didn’t state a time limit, but luckily he knew when to go more or less. The second time I stated that she had to be out in six months and she was. (In the meantime, though, she basically set up my living room as her base camp with her baby, which made me feel like I was a hostage in my own home.)

      Your husband needs to step up and say something to her. Give her a hard deadline to leave, regardless of whether things start going well or not. You guys were gracious enough to let her live there for low rent (and presumably no money towards utilities or anything else, and no help with the housework?) AND you did some upgrades for her that you wouldn’t have otherwise done if she didn’t move in. She needs to be an adult and realize that not everything is up for the taking. Just like mom and dad always said, “Our house, our rules.” Just because she’s family doesn’t mean she lives at your house like family, if that makes sense.

    10. Just Tea For Me, Thanks*

      You were generous to your SIL and she is ungrateful that you won’t give more(!) This is not your fault. Someone, and I think it should indeed be your husband, needs to talk to her. I hope that when she moved in you already agreed on an end date. If not, do make one (whether that be this month or march next year) when you/husband sits her down to talk about this. Her behaviour is not OK. Best of luck and let us know how it went!

    11. You're Not My Supervisor*

      Thank you to everyone for the feedback. I am having trouble commenting on the mobile version of the site at the moment, so I am posting a few replies on my desktop computer now, but won’t have time to respond to everything. I am reading all the comments though and really appreciate it!

    12. Blueberry*

      Please don’t let her continue to keep you and your husband hostage in your room. This is your home. I imagine she did this a lot (temper tantrum)growing up if your husband is not phased by it.

      Feel empowered to take control. I have anxiety in confronting people. I had to learn to learn to confront people for my job, if I didn’t people’s lives were at stake. I’m much better standing up for myself.

      1. You're Not My Supervisor*

        She did do this her/my husband’s whole life. Which is why he is kind of resigned to it. He also didn’t want her to move in and I talked him into it, which I regret now of course…

        1. neverjaunty*

          He’s not a little brother stuck under their parents’ roof anymore, and he needs to internalize that. It is HIS house (and yours) and SHE is a guest.

        2. Elder Dog*

          If you persuaded your husband against his better judgement (and knowledge of his sister) then you need to be the one to tell her her behavior is unacceptable and give her a deadline to move out by the end of next month. It would help if he were in the same room at the same time. Usually each spouse deals with his or her family, but this is not the usual case.

          She’s already furious at you, so you can’t make it worse. Don’t put up with this till May next year. Don’t reward her behavior by sitting in your bedroom either. Anyone saying “but faaamily” is welcome to let her move in with them, and I agree with a previous commentor, the right answer to that is how come you don’t think we count as much as she does?

        3. Ramona Flowers*

          Unfortunately you have been given a hard lesson in trusting people’s knowledge of their own relatives. Maybe apologise to your husband for not trusting his judgement – and in future you really should.

    13. MsChanandlerBong*

      Tell her she has to be out within 30 days. I went through this for 7 months, albeit with a non-relative. Nothing will change. In my case, I told the person she didn’t have to pay rent as long as she saved money toward moving out. Two months later, she had nothing saved, but she had money for cigarettes and daily coffees from the coffee shop down the street. The bills increased, so I said she’d have to pay $275 per month to cover food, water, sewer, gas, electric, and Internet. She was late the first month and didn’t pay the second month. She felt entitled to stay for free, so we had to ask her to leave.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This very thing happened to a former friend of mine (former because we had an unrelated disagreement and now aren’t friends anymore). But a buddy of her husband’s moved into their basement, and he was a lazy, disrespectful slob. It took them AGES to dislodge this guy, mainly because her husband felt bad about kicking his buddy out. Well, the guy had plenty of options; he just didn’t want to make use of any of them and preferred to sponge off his best friend.

      2. Random Observation*

        “Two months later, she had nothing saved, but she had money for cigarettes and daily coffees from the coffee shop down the street. ”

        I don’t think shaming someone for having coffee is productive here. Coffee is not exactly an extravagance. This smacks of avocado toast-ism to me.

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          Cigarettes and daily visits to the coffee shop ARE extravagances. I’d be annoyed and start questioning someone’s spending habits when they’re telling me they can’t afford rent.

        2. Temperance*

          I disagree. The person was financially struggling and couldn’t afford to pay for housing, and wasn’t chipping in towards bills for the people kind enough to take her in, yet had $10+ to blow each day on nonsense.

        3. Book Lover*

          I think a lot of people would think going out for coffee is an extravagance? I think it is cheaper to make it at home?

    14. Temperance*

      Your husband needs to intervene here. I mean, FFS, you’re helping HER out, and she’s acting like this?

    15. Kristen*

      Yup, just echoing what everyone else is saying. If you want to be generous start with a conversation: “fix your attitude (and whatever else might be wrong) or you have a month.” Hopefully, it won’t be difficult to get your husband on board, because this should probably come from him or both of you.

      BTW, you did the right thing by not loaning her your car.

  2. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I know it doesn’t do much at this point, but thinking of everyone in Irma’s path! My parents live in Southwest Florida but by coincidence had already planned to spend a few weeks on the Jersey Shore, so they’re out. But many of their friends are staying. I have heard so many stories of people refusing to evacuate and it makes my head spin. I had a conversation yesterday with a total stranger about her parents in Boca and how they refused to leave a few days ago and now they’re concerned and she’s furious. We had a long commiseration about the difference between “can’t” and “won’t”.

    As for us… we’re expecting strong storms with high winds and a lot of rain, but nothing close to what the coast will get (though naturally there is no more water at our local Costco). This is scary, scary stuff.

    1. Zip Silver*

      Unless you live on a barrier island, or next to the intercoastal, there’s no need to evacuate from Boca, even if it were to take a direct hit. In truth, the only panicky people are transplants. There has been so much traffic and gas shortages because people who don’t need to evacuate are evacuating.

      If your parents are in Ft Myers or Naples though, then that is a place that should leave because of storm surge.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        That’s exactly where they are (Naples). And none of their friends have evacuated. The woman in Boca told me her parents were told to evacuate and chose not to. I don’t blame her for being angry!

        1. SeekingBetter*

          If I were in their shoes, I would evacuate Naples because of the storm surge. I’m hoping the people who decided to stay are safe!

      2. Florida*

        “The only panicky people are transplants.”

        I’m a third generation native Floridian. I’ve lived my whole life here. I’m not panicky, but if the government issued an evacuation order for my area, I’d be out of here. That’s not panicky – that’s just smart. Something like 20 counties statewide have evacuation orders (including parts of Palm Beach County, where Boca is). If the government issues an evacuation order and you don’t leave, you are screwed. There will be no one there to help you.

        1. kittymommy*

          Yeah, I’m in North central Florida, since the late 70’s. A member of my family has been pretty much every hurricane in the states since Camille. This is the first that has me nervous. And the first I’m leaving my house for. While I’m sure there are people panicking, I think is rather have that then most not taking it seriously.

          1. SophieChotek*

            Yes I have friends in North Florida (Tallahasse?) who decided to drive to Atlanta and then fly to the Midwest (where they can stay with family.)

      3. Really*

        Daughter left Fort Meyers Thursday evening. Got to my house in PA last night. I told her she had to get out and that was before we knew how bad Irma had shifted to the west. I figure there’s at least a 50/50 chance she has now moved home. Of course hubby and and aren’t home now. Younger daughter has college soccer game and we’re in VA.

      4. Random Observation*

        “In truth, the only panicky people are transplants”

        That cavalier attitude got people killed in Houston. Reconsider your position.

      5. AW*

        people who don’t need to evacuate are evacuating

        There’s a multitude of reasons why being without power, water, and/or the ability to leave for days/weeks would be undoable. You can’t assume that just because the storm itself wouldn’t be directly fatal to them that the people leaving don’t have to leave.

    2. Florida*

      I live in Orlando. We don’t need to evacuate yet. However, there are people here in trailer parks who don’t go to the shelters. Seriously, once Disney World closes for two days, you know it’s real. But these people are going to stay in their trailers instead of going to a shelter for a few nights. It makes no sense to me. Didn’t they ever watch the house spinning scene on the Wizard of Oz? ;)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          The old one liner- trailer parks attract tornados. But dang, every time there is a tornado they show you a trailer park.

          1. Florida*

            I think part of it is that the news reporters go to the trailer park and find the few idiots who aren’t leaving their homes, and put them on camera. It makes good television. Their job is to report the news, but they also have to sell ads.
            I also think part of it is that people in trailer parks don’t want to leave their homes anymore than people in concrete block homes, so the ratio of leavers vs. stayers is probably about the same. It’s just that the repercussions are so much worse for the trailer park people.

      1. Lilo*

        You can tell if Disney is closed, it’s bad. I used to work there 9-10 years ago and once had to work when a Tropical Storm hit Orlando. I also didn’t have my rain gear that day and I was oddly one of the few people tall enough to close and open carts (I’m only 5’8”), so I got completely soaked that day.

    3. Emily*

      I understand frustration with people who won’t evacuate, but I also understand that it can be really hard for people – especially working class folks, people with pets, etc. – to pick up and leave in time. Especially in Florida, which takes a really long time to drive out of even without gas shortages and gridlock.

      Glad that your parents got out! This is really frightening and I’m worried about all the people I know who are in Irma’s path.

      1. Emily*

        (Not necessarily saying that her parents are in any of those categories, just that I’m sympathetic towards people who have trouble evacuating for various reasons.)

          1. Christy*

            I read that! It really gave me a new perspective on the situation. And I *know* that your friend is correct but it’s still so hard to see my Central FL friends hunkering down.

            1. SophieChotek*

              Yes I read something on NPR that a lot of lower income folks literally do not have the money to evacuate — some don’t even have the money to stock up on necessities.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        Yeah. I can’t I imagine how I would feel, but I’m pretty sure I’d be resistant too. You’re not just moving location but walking away from regular life.

      3. Mimmy*

        Not to mention people who don’t have access to transportation. Also, people with disabilities and medical needs (including the elderly) have difficulty for a variety of reasons, including logistics of moving medical equipment (e.g. wheelchairs, ventilators) and whether shelters are accessible. I used to be involved in an advisory group on emergency preparedness for people with disabilities, and it’s a real issue that I hope is being considered by officials of municipalities in the evacuation zones.

      4. Anxa*

        I think another thing that gets overlooked with evacuation is that when you evacuate, you can’t see what happens to your house while it’s happening. And in hurricanes it can be really useful to know how the water came up. Not just for insurance purposes, but also to help you assess the risks associated with continuing to live there. There is a pretty significant chunk of people that live near water that have valuable properties but also don’t really have much liquidity or a high income to absorb selling prematurely after a disaster or to move or to otherwise move. And when it seems like there’s a significant risk to your property but not to life, and your property is so, so critical to continuing to live in any sort of comfort, then I can see why people don’t want to leave. Plus, once you leave, you may not be able to get back to your home for weeks.

        Plus, it can be tough to assess where the safest place to be is. My mom lives near river off an estuary. She evacuated to a friend’s house more inland and more elevated. A tree fell through her friend’s roof. Was that really safer? It was still probably a good idea because she was closer to the main grids of residential area, whereas she has a tiny house nestled between a bunch of large mansion areas off of narrow lanes.

      5. bunanza*

        Yes, absolutely. This morning my mom was being really judgey about a woman refusing to evacuate without her livestock. I asked how she expected that woman to transport her herd of cows, and she got indignant and insisted that she should “just walk them on the side of the road, then.” Just out-walk a hurricane, it’s chill!

        I understand the frustration too, especially since I believe it’s (at least partly) an outlet for this sense of helplessness and concern about destruction that we can’t prevent. But it doesn’t help anybody to point fingers during a natural disaster, imo.

        1. Random Observation*

          She’s be “judgy” because the cowhand (and her cows) could DIE if the hurricane hits in the wrong place. And first responders will have to risk their lives to save this woman because she cared more about cows than people. This is not OK.

          1. KR*

            Well, now you’re the one being judgy. I’m not sure about you but I care about my pets lives more thsn my own.

      6. Random Observation*

        Working class folks, maybe. People with pets? Gimme a break. Invest in a crate before storms happen.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          You think they’re going to just put their beloved family members in a crate and leave them to die of starvation?

        2. Observer*

          A crate isn’t really a solution for situation where you could be looking at an extended absence. And, if you are looking at serious flooding, that could actually kill the animal.

          I’m not a pet person, and I do think that human life needs to come first. But I *do* get why people don’t just walk away from their pets. I think, in fact, that if you (generic you) can do that without second thought, you probably shouldn’t own a pet. You should still probably leave, but it shouldn’t ever be “Oh, NB”.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I have friends who are saying the news media is over playing this one. ugh. Meanwhile, I see headlines that basically say we are going down to having 49 states. This is not good.

      If you are in Florida and you are reading, please stay sharp. Get with a group of friends and stay with your group.

      1. Blueberry*

        I remember back in 1992 when hurricane Andrew was downplayed. Wasn’t supposed to hit land they said. Luckily my mom listened to the one weather caster that said stock up. I was 12 and we had to hunker down in South Miami.

          1. SpiderLadyCEO*

            I am cracking up at “that b*tch Irma”. Irma doesn’t care what you think of her, she’s going to eff you right up.

            Related, but have you been seeing the joke Facebook pages people have been making about Irma?

    5. Drowning-in-paper-Anna*

      There is another thing, too. Where in the county you live (low lying or not low lying) and how is your house rated.

      I have 2 aunts in the Boca area and a SIL about an hour’s drive west of Tampa. All 3 stayed and really didn’t even consider evacuating.

      None live in flood zones or near large bodies of water.

      The aunts live in a complex that is rated for Category 3 through out the complex, has a large, on site, shelter rated for category 5, and between their personal planning and the complex’s planning are good to shelter in place for at least 3 weeks. The only thing they are worried about is their cars since the garage is only covered, not secured.

      The SIL designed and built her house to withstand a hurricane. She has a safe room in the center of her already hurricane ready home. She will lose landscaping and the screened porch. Even her garage is hurricane ready.

      In cases like these, they are more at risk from evacuating than staying.

      1. DArcy*

        I would point out that Irma is only a Cat 5 because there is no Cat 6 classification. There are reliable reports of her tearing apart Cat 5 rated shelters, she is far more powerful than baseline Cat 5.

        1. Observer*

          That’s a non-issue, whether it’s true or not. She’s down to 3, although there is a good chance that it will go back up to 4. And Florida actually has a good track record with building hurricane resistant buildings. They learned A LOT from Andrew, and implemented it.

    6. CatCat*

      My young teen step-son was displaced by Harvey. Went to stay with mom’s relatives in Florida. Now they’re evacuating because of Irma :-(

    7. copy run start*

      My parents are down in the Port Charlotte area… I’m really pissed off that they didn’t evacuate because it looks like they’re going to take a direct hit, and they don’t have any pets and are mostly retired. I offered to buy them flights up to visit me, but they refused. No real reason they couldn’t have left days ago. They’re close to the water and say they’ll go to a shelter if they’re told to or feel unsafe, but otherwise are planning on staying put. Their house has hurricane clips and hurricane windows, so hopefully they’ll be okay. But I’m worried that there will be catastrophic damage around them and they’ll be without running water, communications and electricity for weeks.

      I have some more relatives on the Manatee River… they have all flown out/evacuated. Their area floods even with minor hurricanes, so I’m glad they left.

    8. Shannon*

      You also have to keep in mind that hurricanes path are hard to predict, and evacuating could potentially put you in a less safe position depending on the trajectory. I live in Boca as well (not in an evacuation zone) and am staying put, but I’ve seen multiple acquaintances on Facebook who evacuated to Clearwater or Tampa, then had to evacuate again today with minimal notice and no place to go.

      I just saw a status from someone Fort Lauderdale who evacuated to Clearwater, and then left Clearwater tonight at 7pm (!!) with five people, three dogs, and nowhere to go. The road is the absolute LAST place you want to be during a hurricane, and the weather channel is reporting that gas is completely gone.

      Meanwhile, I’m sitting cozily watching TV in my townhouse in Boca, with two weeks worth of food and water on hand. I understand the impulse of wanting to take action and do something, but it’s not always the safest or best decision.

    9. Observer*

      I’m going to point out something abut evacuations. When Irene hit a lot of people evacuated, and the we weren’t hit so hard. Then Sandy came along and a LOT of people didn’t want to leave because they remembered how over-hyped Irene was in our area. AND because a lot of people came back to losses that were caused by humans (ie breaks ins and the like). And also because the conditions where they went were very difficult.

      At least NYC learned a few lessons that some of the FL municipalities don’t seem to have gotten. There were shelters specifically for people who have pets, preparations were made for older people, people with all sorts of disabilities and people with a wide variety of illnesses. They talked these preparations up all over the place. They reached out to community organizations to brief us on the preparations and explained what we could tell the people of our communities and where to send them for more information. Some of this was not Sandy specific, but it really made a difference.

      Then there was the Sheriff who threatened arrests at the shelters. You don’t have to be someone with an outstanding warrant to be in that kind of scene.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Honestly, the thought of going to one of those shelters and leaving my pet behind would have me staying put. We are all different and what’s logical to one person is madness to another.

      2. Bored IT Guy*

        I’m in Orlando, and the TV was mentioning which shelters were Pet Friendly, and which ones were designated for folks with special needs.

        Luckily, we came out of this OK. Our house wasn’t damaged, we still have power and running water.

        We prepared, but didn’t evacuate. Historically, Central Florida has been one of the safest parts of the state during a hurricane. Our house was built in 2016, and meets all the latest hurricane-related building codes. That being said, we took the appropriate precautions – stocked up on water and food, slept downstairs as far away from windows as possible, moved all our patio furniture (and some of our neighbors that they didn’t move before they left), charged all our devices, and even moved our bicycles from the garage into the living room, so that if we couldn’t get the garage door open for the cars, we still had a transportation option.

    10. SpiderLadyCEO*

      I moved out of state two weeks ago, but everyone I know and love (and most of what I own) is left behind in Florida, and no one evacuated. (They are in NEFL) I’m spending most of each day checking in with my parents and two besties. My entire FB feed is just Irma.

      It’s honestly MORE terrifying not being there and wondering if I will lose contact then it was being there for previous hurricanes.

  3. Emily*

    To anyone who is impacted by the hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, and other disasters – I am sorry and am sending wishes of safety and security your way.

  4. AnotherName*

    Quick etiquette/culture/something else question… My mother-in-law likes to insist that my wife and I call people in her hometown that knew my wife as a child as Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. X. Her reasoning is something along the lines of generational gaps don’t stop existing just because everyone has gotten older, and it’s important to give respect to people who have earned it by their profession (my wife’s old neighborhood is a suburb popular with lawyers and businesspeople in her town).

    That said, I think this is patently ridiculous (I did not even grow up here, so I never even knew these people as Ms. X as a child); we’re both in our 30s and none of them call me Dr. X even though I’ve got a Ph.D. and am a professor. Am I actually being disrespectful by calling these people by their first names (they usually introduce themselves as First-Last)? I grew up with a very different attitude towards naming (by the end of high school, most “adults” in my community expected me to use their given name or family name without prefix). My wife’s neighborhood is in the Midwest, if that matters.

    1. Merci Dee*

      At this point, everyone is an adult. I think you should all be able to refer to each other that way, with just first names.

    2. Tess*

      It’s always nice to show respect but his mother’s insistence sounds weird and a little out of touch. I’m 30 and refer to my mother’s neighbor as Ms. (Name) but I don’t do that with every adult I’ve known since childhood and would find it weird to.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I would go by the preferences of the person I am speaking with.

      This is a tough question to answer because it’s an opinion. Your MIL’s opinion is that yes, you are disrespectful. Other people would answer differently. I am in my mid 50s. People introduce me to their underage children as Mrs. NSNR. If I don’t see the kids that much, I don’t worry about it. But, if I interact with the kids daily, I tell them to call me First Name. I don’t care for the formality. I believe that people can show respect without having to rely on titles as a show of respect.

      Overall, I agree your MIL is not in touch with how times have changed. In terms of keeping the peace, you can copy what your spouse does OR you can ask the person how they wish to be addressed. When MIL says something you can say, “Dr. Smith said he preferred to be addressed as ‘Jim’.”

    4. Florida*

      I don’t think the MIL should have any say in this. You call people the name THEY want to be called, not the name that other people (in this case, MIL) want them to be called.
      I don’t think it’s rude to call a neighbor or businessperson by the first name. Also, if you are meeting a doctor/professor/elected official socially, you can call them by their first name. You might use last name in a professional setting (for example, Judge Smith or Prof. Jones) but you can use first name when you run into them at the grocery store.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Agreed with this entire comment. It’s not your MIL’s decision how you refer to people.

        1. Triplestep*

          I do, too.

          Now with children, it’s different. I prefer NOT to be called Ms. Step, and Mrs. Step is my mother. So kids may always call me by my first name *unless* their parents prefer they use some kind of title (Miss Triple, Ms. Step, whatever.) Parents wishes trump mine in this case.

          This stems from the fact that my children always called people my age by their first names until a friend I had known for 15 years said “You know your kids should really be calling me ‘Miss Firstname’.” (She was raised in the south.) That’s when I realized I had done my kids a disservice by letting them think it was OK to call every adult my age by his or her first name. I checked in with my kids who were teens by then; turns out they avoided having to figure out the preferences of their friends parents by just getting their attention and starting to speak. Regardless, this is what made me start deferring to whatever way parents would like their kids to address me. They get to determine what they think shows respect with their young children. I think they should probably err on the side of caution and be more formal, which is not what I had done with my own kids.

          Sounds like the OP’s mother-in-law agrees, but doesn’t lift this rule for adults!

        2. Chocolate Teapot*

          I once called an elderly relative of some family friends by her first name since that’s what the rest of my family was using, and got some comments from them about it that I shouldn’t have done. Fair enough, but I had no idea what her surname was! Everyone called her by her first name.

      2. HannahS*

        People introduce themselves by the name they’d like to be called. My grandmother likes to be “Mrs. Abramson” in some contexts and “Abigail” in others, so she introduces herself accordingly. It sounds like the people you’re meeting are introducing themselves by first name, so that’s what you and your wife should call them. Like Triplestep says in this thread, I think it’s different for children–I call myself “Hannah” to children, but a friend who lives in a more traditional culture wants her kid to call me “Miss Hannah,” so I respect that. But your MIL has no place in the conversation of what one adult-who-isn’t-her wants another adult-who-isn’t-her should be called!

    5. Tau*

      Coming from a different culture here so not sure how accurate this is to your situation, but:

      To me, either first- or last-name basis between adults is fine (and my country tends to last names more than the US), however it has to be symmetric. If I call you Ms Smith, you call me Ms Tausurname. Same with PhDs – I’ll respect yours if you respect mine. Absent another hierarchy (such as work), the older person decides which to use. In your situation, I’d be pretty upset if someone were calling me by my first name but I was still expected to use titles.

    6. Stellaaaaa*

      That attitude is really old-fashioned and classist. What does anyone’s profession have to do with the level of basic human respect they receive? Does a lawyer get a “Mr” but a cashier doesn’t? Does a bartender with a master’s degree get treated with less courtesy than a paralegal with an associate’s? Your MIL is pushing a manner of judging people and not treating them equally, based on initial impressions of their incomes and ages. That’s crappy.

      1. Close Bracket*

        By MIL’s rules, if any of those people were adults who knew the OP’s wife as a child, and who she called Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms, she would continue to call them Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms. None of them would warrant a title as none of those professions come with a title.

  5. Emmie*

    I’d like to extend a few work trips by flying into NYC. What’s the best way to get around? I might fly southwest. How best to get from the airport to the downtown hotels?

    1. TeacherNerd*

      You could take the Airtrain to Jamaica Station, then take the LIRR into Penn Station, or the subway downtown. There are probably busses as well (although I was never quite a bus person when I was living in the area). And then there are cabs; it’s been awhile so this may be outdated, but I seem to remember cabs having a flat rate when it came to getting passengers from JFK to downtown.

    2. It happens*

      I think southwest flies to Newark and Laguardia.
      From LGA – there’s a bus to subway – $2.75, should be less than an hour… there’s also blue van or something like that with a flat fee to Manhattan and another private bus service that goes to grand central and penn station that costs $20 or so. Or taxis, etc.
      From Newark, there’s an AirTrain to NJ transit to Penn Station, about an hour and $15 or $20. Essentially, lots of options at different price points.
      Once you’re in Manhattan, you can walk everywhere if you pick a few neighborhoods to explore, or buy a metro card and put some money on it ($2.75 per ride, free transfer between bus and subway- and google maps does a very good job with transit directions.)
      If you’re doing multiple trips then you may want to find hotels in different neighborhoods each time and just have a weekend like a local in each. Or do the full-on tourist thing in midtown if that’s your thing – it’s all available. Enjoy!

    3. Emmie*

      Thank you! What are your favorite non touristy things to do / places to go? I want to see the 9/11 memorial, but I am open beyond that.

      1. Applesauced*

        R/AskNYC has a good sidebar with tourist suggestions and frequent “critique my itinerary” posts

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Make sure you get tickets for the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. I highly recommend the guided museum tour, during which they’ll tell you a lot about the exhibits and the history. Around holidays and on weekends they may sell out.

        If you want to go to Ellis Island and/or Liberty Island, those sell out much further in advance, especially to go up to the crown of the statue. I prefer the history of Ellis Island, but that’s me. It’s a nice ferry ride out there, too, with a nice view of the city.

        We also liked walking around Chinatown, Little Italy, and Times Square and just wander between shops and restaurants, looking at everything.

        You can do most of this by subway, or if you can walk for an hour or two without discomfort, you can walk between most of these and see more of the city.

        Oh, The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is also interesting, as is the Central Park Zoo. A lot of nice architecture around Central Park. Be sure to have lunch at a food cart a few times; they’re very heavily regulated and much safer than most tourists would think. :)

      3. GuitarLady*

        Just get out of the TimesSquare/RockCenter/ColumbusCircle tourist swirl. Whatever you are into, there is something cool in NYC for it. Go running around the reservoir in Central Park. Go to Flushing and have dumplings. Visit the Apollo on 125th and have some chicken and waffles at a nearby restaurant. Check out Coney Island. The West and East Villages are full of comedy clubs, some free, some expensive but with top tier talent. And if you want to see a Broadway show, check out lotteries/rushes, if you aren’t picky about what you see chances are you can win tickets to something for under $40. And if you can’t get in to Hamilton, you can see his house on 141st st! Have fun!!

    4. Dragonsnap*

      Download Via! I love the subway but especially on the weekends there can be track work, sometimes you’re far from a stop or don’t want to deal with a bunch of transfers, etc. Via is a ride share app sort of like Uber pool but cheaper and I’ve had far better experiences with it. Everyone I know here uses it. It’s usually $5 a ride in the city and getting from JFK I’ve paid about $30-$35 (in comparison to the $60 flat fare + tip for cabs). There are usually new user specials, too, so it might be even cheaper for you. I know I sound like an ad but I’m not affiliated, just a happy customer.

    5. Blue_eyes*

      JFK: Honestly, take a cab. The Airtrain to subway or commuter rail transfer can take a long time.
      Newark: Take the AirTrain to the New Jersey Transit rail station and take NJ Transit train to Penn Station. You can transfer to a bunch of subway lines from Penn Station.
      LaGuardia: Take the M60 bus to Manhattan and connect to the 4/5/6 or 1/2/3 subway lines depending on where in Manhattan you want to go.
      Google maps is pretty good with transit directions, but always add at least 25% more time that it says. You can always check mta [dot] info for information on delays and track work from the MTA.

      The subway works well, or you can always get Lyft/Uber/Via/Juno, just about any app-based car service or a good old NYC taxi. But during rush hour a car will take forever so consider taking the subway, which will also be packed. Or just walk.

      Favorite places/things to do:
      Central Park (try taking the subway to the northern half of the park – just as pretty and much less crowded than the southern part).

      Staten Island Ferry – it’s free and you get great views of the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island/the city skyline. Just avoid during rush hour because you’ll get in the way of commuters.

      Walk around Soho/Little Italy/Chinatown (these neighborhoods are all in close proximity and have lots of fun, small shops and great food, so great for wandering).

      The Cloisters – it’s an outpost of the Met museum that’s at the northern tip of Manhattan and houses the medieval Europe collection. They’ve brought over from Europe and reconstructed parts of various abbeys and chapels and such so it feels like you’re in a European castle in the middle of NYC! Your entrance fee (pay-what-you-want) to the Cloisters also gets you same-week entry to the main Met and the new Met Breuer (modern collection).

      The Roosevelt Island Tram – the tram costs one subway fare and takes you on a spectacular ride over the east river to Roosevelt Island. There are paths along the length of the island and park at one end. Bring a lunch with you and have picnic.

      Before you come, look online for events, there are always street fairs, cultural events, etc happening every week.

      Are there particular kinds of food that you like that you can’t get where you live? NYC has almost everything.

  6. Go away Irma!*

    Prepped for evacuation and/or being stuck at home sans utilities. Everyone here is being crazy & we aren’t even in the direct path (at the moment) or the peninsula for that matter! No gas & stores are stripped. Evacuees have been arriving since Thursday. Went to Alabama yesterday to do some shopping & errands. Other than that weather here is beautiful, cool & sunny. I wanted to give the non-Floridians an idea of how it looks on the ground, so to speak.

  7. Zip Silver*

    Shutters are put up, important documents are in an elevated spot, generator and gas is squared away, and I’ve got plenty of food and water. My only issue now is that I have to find an open liquor store before Irma rolls in.

    Good luck to everybody else prepping this weekend.

    1. Augusta Sugarbean*

      We aren’t in an area with yearly disasters like tornadoes or hurricanes. Irregular forest fires and earthquakes are more what we have to look out for. (Yellowstone I’m looking at you.) I’m a minor-league prepper and usually do an inventory/rotation/update of supplies a couple of times a year. I’ve been slack about it this summer and my stocks have gotten a little low. All the chaos in the news over the last month has prompted me to step it up though. Costco and grocery store runs yesterday and a few more stops today. I may or may not have internalized my mom’s mantra: It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

      Stay safe everyone!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        With climate issues becoming more obvious, I’m looking at doing a light version of the prep thing myself. Of course, that will have to wait until I get a FREAKING JOB.

        1. gingerblue*

          I feel you. I’d really like to have more emergency prep myself, but I’ve been moving once a year for the last seven years for work and it’s not conducive to this sort of supply stockpiling. I need to think about this harder. Thankfully, I haven’t been in any areas really prone to natural disasters beyond a bad snowstorm yet.

      2. Zip Silver*

        Exactly. I’m a year-round pretty, because you never know. There are those crazies that think the government is going to collapse, but I’m more concerned and bring without public services or grocery stores for weeks on end. Been there, done that, and I keep a month’s worth of food and water stored.

    1. Zip Silver*

      I very nearly married an Australian girl while drunk in Vegas. Luckily I had a more sober buddy to put a stop to it.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I think sometimes I’d like to cash my husband in and get the chips instead. Not all the time. Just when he decides to start a project and not finish it, then go on to something else.

  8. AvonLady Barksdale*

    On another, different note… my grandmother had emergency surgery a couple of weeks ago and was in intensive care. She is now well enough to go home on Monday (she’s been in a rehab– a very nice one, I might add– for the last week). Unfortunately, the next steps are probably going to be extremely frustrating and difficult. She is the world’s worst patient. And by that, I mean that she absolutely refuses to do anything that might improve her situation. In rehab she’s been getting PT and OT, and there is a plan for her to get the same once she gets home, but the chances of her following through are pretty slim. They are hiring round-the-clock help for the first few days, but knowing my grandparents, they will dismiss the help as soon as possible. My grandfather wants her to be “back where she was before the surgery.”

    Here’s the problem with that: before the surgery, my grandfather was the one in charge of helping my grandmother get out of bed, get into the bathroom, and get into the shower. He’s been doing this for years, since she broke her pelvis and refused the PT she needed to be able to walk without assistance. He is 91. In the last 6 months, he has really started to deteriorate physically, to the point where he has trouble walking and complains of pain in his legs. Yet my grandmother refuses to have anyone else help her, and worse, he refuses to insist that he can’t do it. And she won’t do anything to help herself. So he helps her and then he grumbles and complains to me, but because it’s what she insists on, he does it. They have been like this for 70 years; she will demand something and he will do it, regardless of his own comfort or even her own good. (This is partly how she ended up so sick– she was vomiting and having chest pains but didn’t want to go to the hospital, so he didn’t insist and they waited two hours, and boom, emergency surgery.) He told me yesterday, “Oh, of course, I can’t lift her, I know that, we’ll get someone,” but I know he’s blowing smoke. So I feel like just throwing up my hands. We’re going to be right back here in the next few months, and it’s not going to be pretty.

    1. fposte*

      Ugh. I have friends in a not dissimilar situation, and the “Dear God you are making the wrong decision” impulse is very, very strong. Sorry, it’s no fun.

      Is there any possibility of you arranging a rental or purchase of a Hoyer Lift for them? That would at least help with the getting out of bed, and it’s not a strange person in the house but a thing. Aside from that, though, I think you’re right that this is going down the road you think it’s going down. At least with your grandparents it’s not that unreasonable for them to say, basically, “Look, we don’t have a lot of time left; we’d rather live it the way we choose than change our ways.”

      1. neverjaunty*

        Great suggestion on the lift.

        I know, as a fellow Fixer, that it’s almost physically painful to watch people do willfully stupid things, but prying people out of their dysfunctional comfort zones rarely works. They’ve been like this for 70 years. Your grandma would, apparently, rather die than change. You can’t make them act different short of force (and it doesn’t sound like their mental capacity warrants formal intervention).

    2. Sibley*

      Call adult protective services. talk to the rehab place. Talk to doctors, social workers, anyone you can. Tell them all of this. If they can’t prevent the coming disaster, be prepared to do it all over again in a month when the SHTF. Except then you’ll have solid evidence.

      Also, and I hate to say this, but start trying to get everything in order and do a rough plan for funerals. The odds of needing it is climbing quickly. :(

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Heh, trust me, I’m on that. I had a long discussion with my grandfather about funeral and burial arrangements, and I texted my boyfriend with the details so I could have some kind of record and a witness. My mother, you see, is just as stubborn as her mother, and very inclined to do what she wants instead of following their wishes. Being an adult grandchild can be a giant clusterfuck, especially when I’m the only non-estranged child of an only child.

    3. Triplestep*

      I don’t have any advice about your grandparents stubborn personalities, but I do want to offer something from my own experience with my mother: Even people who want very badly to go home sometimes have a hard time being there after rehab.

      My mother could not wait to get out of rehab – begged me to get her out of there. Then suddenly one day they decided she was ready to leave and neither of us was prepared. She went home with a schedule of visiting nurses and helpers, but she was so diminished physically from how she’d been before her illness that she fell into a deep depression. This turns out to be so common, I could not believe that no one warned me. So this is my PSA to you – not that you need more to worry about. But it’s really likely that some of what you see at home is the disappointment that things are not the same as they were before, even though that was not great. :-( I’m sorry.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Thank you… anxiety is another layer of this. After her first stint in rehab, the anxiety went untreated for a long time because Grandmom refused to take anything for it. I once suggested my grandfather crush some Lexapro and put it in her tea, and I was only half joking. Now she’s on Celexa and I’m just praying she stays on it and that they send a physical therapist who doesn’t take her crap.

    4. Anono-me*

      A friend of mine’s grandmother did not want a home health aide, even though her health had deteriorated to the point she needed one. My friend was in a very very very good place financially and was able to afford private home care for her. My friend asked her grandmother to please assist in helping out a someone who is going through a hard time, but was very proud.

      So my friend’s grandmother has a home health professional, but doesn’t have to admit to really needing the assistance; instead the grandmother is helping out someone who is hardworking and needs a job.

      Also please remember that sometimes a family member or close friend can become a paid home health care professional to a loved one. If there is someone in your family who would be a good fit, this might be more palatable to your grandparents. Many states have programs set up specifically to facilitate this.

      Additionally, can you or someone in the family get the house professionally evaluated for safety and universal design? Yes, putting a walk in shower might be outside the budget. But switching some of the door handles from knob to lever, adding a couple grab bars and removing a rug that’s a tripping hazard, should not be too expensive and might make a huge difference.

      Good luck.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Luckily, we have no worries about the state of their home. It’s a condo they’ve lived in for about 7 years, and it’s in a 55-and-older community specifically designed for these things. Grab bars in both bathrooms, wide doorways, easily walk-in shower, etc.

        I don’t want anyone in the family to have to handle her care. It’s too much for one person, emotionally more than anything (and my grandmother hasn’t made a lot of selfless fans in her life, you might say). They can easily afford outside help.

    5. Drowning-in-paper-Anna*

      I can tell you from past experience that after surgery (and “emergency” surgery tends to be more invasive than planned) intensive care, and rehab she is nowhere near where she was before. And, you probably know this.

      When it was my parents, I camped on the first day they went into the hospitals and asked the nurses’ station to have the discharge planner talk to me. I was point blank blunt with her about me being a single mom with 5 school aged children, a nasty and ongoing divorce, a temperamental back, and I lived 3 counties away. I also ratted them out about what they could and couldn’t do before the hospitalization. Basically, I took “Drowning will do that” off the table on day 1, and with the nurses, so they couldn’t go all sunshine and flowers on the medical staff.

      Did Mom give me 50 kinds of cr*p for making her out to be an invalid – oh, yeah. She was vicious. But, she did sorta listen to the medical staff. Having the folks in the white coats have those conversations with her went over much better than if I had had them.

      You know who had the biggest impact on Mom and got her to accept the help she needed? The Fire Department. Remember where I said I lived 3 counties away? Every time she fell because she was too stubborn to use the walker, EMS got called. They roll the fire department on medical calls here. The embarrassment of having the fire truck show up every other few days is what finally convinced her that she needed round the clock care. That and the EMS guys giving her the safety lecture every time they came.

      Unless you are planning to take decision making capability from them, there isn’t a lot you can do. Figure out what you can and more importantly cannot do, then stick to that. It will break your heart. It did for me. But, the only way you will convince them is if they have to face the consequences and you aren’t there to magically make it better.

      I saw a comment about a hoyer lift somewhere in the thread. Yes, that will make it easier to move her, but they can be complicated to operate and may require a lot more strength and coordination that a 91-year-old man has. Hoyers are very dangerous if not used correctly.

      Good luck from someone who has been there and done that.

      1. fposte*

        Thanks for the info on the Hoyer lift–that’s relevant to the situation I’m looking at, too. My problem is that the husband equivalent in my case is actually not that old or in that bad health–she’s just overconfident about what she can take on, to the detriment of the patient and her herself. So not to hijack, but any thoughts about how a Fixer might be able to Fix in that situation would be gratefully received.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Checking the simple stuff first. Can the patient lift himself upward? If so, then raising the bed might be a workable solution. If the bed is high enough, they swing their legs over and by the time the feet are touching the floor they are in the standing position. You can get bed risers in a lot of different places now.
          Again this depends on how much mobility the patient has.
          Our bed is custom made and it’s unusually high. My husband could get in and out of bed with six broken ribs and a broken collar bone. Decades later he was still able to the use the bed with 8 broken vertebrae. My husband kept his walker next to the bed so once he was standing his walker was right beside him.

          The other nice thing about risers, is that the patient is higher and easier for the caregiver to tend to. It’s easier to make the bed. Annnd, it’s a tad warmer at this higher level, this could mean less blankets.

          1. fposte*

            Wow, they might actually do that, and I know the patient has long been more comfortable with higher edges. Thanks for the suggestion.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              There are also rails that let patients pull themselves up. Google “bed assist rail” and look at the image results, or “bed swivel assist rail”. Once they’re sitting up, these also help them pull themselves to a standing position. These are much simpler than a Hoyer lift, and there’s much less of a risk of them being used improperly.

        2. Drowning-in-paper-Anna*

          In my mother’s facility, moving someone with a hoyer requires 2 aides. I am sure you can find you tube videos that show how to work one. They are really helpful, but if just one strap isn’t hooked right, the patient can tumble onto the floor from a height of 4 feet, then have the lift fall right on top of them. So, I would want to make sure that whoever is using one had training.

          We had a lift recliner for Mom. It was electric and went from laid all the way back to “dump you on your butt”. If the walker is right in fromt of her when she starts, she can use the chair to stand herself up so she can grab the walker. If you have a hospital bed, you can lift the head of the bed to a sitting position then swing your legs over the edge and just kinda roll to a fully seated position where you can grab the walker and stand or someone can help you stand. PT/OT can teach them how to do this. It’s called transferring.

          But, unfortunately, when you are dealing with overconfidence or stubronness, all you can do is stand by and pick up the pieces after a disaster.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I hear you on the last, and I think that’s what’s going to happen. It’s just frustrating to see decisions being made that can unnecessarily limit somebody for decades.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        OMG, if she would listen to the medical staff and/or a fire department, I would be so, so thrilled. She will not. She knows they have to keep coming, so she would probably just make them come. Doctors? Forget it– her daughter is a doctor, so according to Grandmom, they don’t know what they’re talking about.

        I wish I could have been there during the discharge conversation, because I would have done what you did. I am several states away and my mother was there– my mother is… difficult. When I was with them, I was able to coordinate care and get ahead of things to make sure everyone knew what they were dealing with. Mom makes it very clinical and about her own depth of knowledge.

        I’m supposed to go back in a couple of weeks, but I told my mother I’m going to see what happens with the home care. On a practical level, there isn’t enough room for me to stay there if they have home care (and I can’t really swing the flight and the hotel at this stage), but on an emotional level, I am reluctant to put myself through this storm when there’s really nothing I can do. (I also get criticized quite often when I visit, by both grandparents, and I am so not up for that.)

        1. Drowning-in-paper-Anna*

          It’s still fairly early on Saturday. You can call the rehab place yourself and see if you can talk to the D/C planner. She can’t tell you anything unless you are on the HIPAA form, but you can tell her your concerns and she can listen and go from there.

          You are at the point where you have to let them sink or swim on their own, then pick up the pieces after they sink.

          This is somewhat devious and definitely going to piss off you Mom, but if the GP’s give you POA, you can counter when Mom is being stupid and do what is best. There are reasons to do this, and reasons not to, and the SWHTF when Mom finds out. But, you may want to consider this.

          You said your Mom was a doc. Ok, this is going to be sexist/racist as all get out, and I know it, but, have you tried finding a 50ish white male doc with some or a lot of grey hair to make the home health argument with them? Someone who fits their stereotypical image of a wise doctor? Someone who is completely different from your mom? My mom’s oncologist was a godsend when I was having the driving debate with her. She was complaning to him that I was being bossy, and he turned it around to it was because she raised me to be such a good daughter. She quit driving because he phrased it that way.

          1. Drowning-in-paper-Anna*

            One other thing. Since you live far away, lookup the non-emergency number for the police in the GP’s area. Call them and tell them that you are the grandaughter and you live [wherever] and you need to know what number you should call if you are at home and need to call 911 on the GP’s behalf. Ie, you are on the phone with them and grandpa is slurring his words badly enough that you think he has had a stroke and you want to send EMS over there. You can’t dial 911 from where you are at becasue they are 3 hours away and totally uselesss to your GP’s. Store that number everywhere.

    6. Girasol*

      A friend of mine whose mom has Parkinson’s moved in with her mom, then got a lift for her, and at last got nearly round-the-clock caregivers to assist herself and her mom. Mom needed 24 hour care and it’s not something one person, however loving and healthy, can do all day and all night. Can you arrange for in-home caregivers for your grandfather or maybe have the doctor order such post-surgery care? Or is grandma more in need of dementia care? My stepmom wouldn’t do her post-hip-fracture exercises either. The docs determined that it was because she lacked the mental focus to remember them or to maintain will power to keep going when it hurt, though she was masking it by acting as though she just didn’t want to exercise. Dad (he’s 89) was going to bring her home anyway. The medical team convinced him that since she kept forgetting she was hurt and getting out of bed without help only to crash onto the floor again, she must be in 24 hour dementia care. Does your grandmother have a medical team that might talk to your grandfather about such realistic options? He may be (as my dad was) more likely to believe the professionals than family members. It was a good thing they talked Dad into dementia care. My stepmom no sooner got there than Dad fell and broke his hip. He’s mentally capable to participate in his own rehab, so he’s out of wheelchair and walker and not even using a trekking pole now except for light trail hiking. She remained wheelchair-bound but continued to get up now and again just long enough to keel over and bang her head on the floor if the caregivers were inattentive for even a moment. (They were watchful and wonderfully kind but only human, after all.) To imagine that a loving spouse with an aging body can handle that kind of 24×7 caregiving is just denial.

    7. Temperance*

      We’ve been going through this with my husband’s grandparents. They refuse any sort of non-family care, which means that my poor MIL is pretty much stuck being their full-time caregiver in addition to working full-time. We live 2.5 hours away, and they keep “asking” us to spend weekends giving her respite, but refuse to ask their son and his 4 adult children, two of whom have nursing educations, to step up, even though they live in the same town.

      As of right now, we’re doing nothing because any suggestions have been met with a lot of annoyance and anger, like when I suggested using the visiting nurse service that Medicare will provide, free of charge.

        1. Temperance*

          We actually can’t. My MIL doesn’t want to “ask her brother for anything”, and her sexist parents think that caregiving is a woman’s duty to her parents, so our hands are tied. We’re just maintaining our boundary of not spending 5-hours round-trip in a car to caregive for them.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      The rehab center we used for family, had someone come to the house to assess the appropriateness of the setting given the patient’s givens.

      The fact that grandma lives with elderly man, grandpa, should slow down her release date until she is more self-sufficient. Living with another elderly person is just a step below living alone. Once the rehab place realized that family member lived alone, it was decided that she needed to stay in rehab longer.

      You may want to see if there is an in-home assessment required before release and if yes, then talk to that assessor person.

      I know with my own mother all I could do was damage control. There was not much I could do to prevent problems from happening. I ended up waiting for the problem to happen and then cleaning up.

      Some people are a guidebook of what NOT to do when we get old ourselves.

    9. pandq*

      Oh, I’m sorry your family is going through this. We went through this with my mom and dad. My dad was my mom’s caregiver – wouldn’t get help, even with housework. Mom was not getting the help she needed and when she fell and was hospitalized we put our foot down and said Mom’s going to go into assisted living, she’s not going home. We acted as if we were in charge even though he of course has always resisted. He kept saying it was his job but we kept pointing out it wasn’t. She was finally able to get the help she needed.
      I hope you can insist on the help they both need, even if they get angry at you for doing so.

    10. SeekingBetter*

      Wow, your grandfather doesn’t seem like he has any concept of boundaries especially when he’s trying to help your grandmother out and isn’t really capable of doing so. Your story reminds me of the time when my grandmother was still alive and her husband, my grandfather, were literally joined hip-to-hip. My grandpa ALWAYS listened to my grandma and never thought for himself. Things got way worse when my grandma was diagnosed with the end stages of cancer and she demanded only my grandpa can help her (change clothes, feeding her, etc.) while he struggled. My grandpa was in and is still in very poor health and tried his best to help my grandma even when everyone else can see that she really needed others to help, not just him alone.

      I hope things will turn around for your grandparents and they will get the help they need!

  9. Gandalf the Nude*

    Dungeons and Dragons players of AaM, lend me your best tips as I prepare to Dungeon Master my first game!

    Also, anyone played in the Adventurer’s League? I’m considering.

    1. Torrance*

      Do you watch any of Geek & Sundry’s videos? Matt Mercer has a whole series on DM/GM tips. (Google ‘matt mercer dm tips’ and they’re easy to find.) He’s absolutely brilliant so I highly recommend them.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        I have listened to some of Geek and Sundry’s DM tips, both Matt and Satine! They’re wonderful. I could stand to watch them when I’m not working on a spreadsheet, though, and can really absorb what’s being said.

    2. AnonEMoose*

      I’ve GM’d under the following systems: D&D 3.0, D&D 3.5, Pathfinder, Victoriana, and the “Buffy: the Vampire Slayer” RPG. Congratulations on taking the plunge into being a GM – it’s scary and fun at the same time. So, that said, here’s what I generally tell people new to being a GM:
      1. Don’t feel like you have to know every rule. Books exist for a reason, and it’s no sin to stop and look something up.
      2. Do have a grasp on the basic mechanics of the game, just because it will help you feel more comfortable and speed things up.
      3. If a rule isn’t clear, or you can’t find it in a reasonable period of time, don’t be afraid to make a call and move on. And make a note to look it up later.
      4. The players will do stuff you don’t expect. Sometimes those moments turn out to be the most fun. (My husband and I call it “Situation 11.” Which is that, if you think of 10 ways the players could resolve something – they’ll use #11.)
      5. You will make mistakes. That’s ok. You’ll learn from them, and so will your players.
      6. If you’ve played the game before (sounds like you have), spend some time thinking about the GM(s) you’ve encountered. What did you like about how they did things? What didn’t you like? What can you adapt or use?
      7. Generally speaking, I like to reward my players for being imaginative. Sometimes that means XP bonuses. Sometimes that means letting them get away with something that just might be stretching the rules a bit.
      8. Remember, it’s not “GM vs. the players.” Some people like that approach – I don’t. I read an article awhile back that basically said “remember, you’re actually on their side – ideally, you want the players to succeed.” Keep that in mind, remember that it’s more fun if they’re challenged, and you won’t go far wrong.
      9. Always remember – this is supposed to be FUN. For you, as well as for the players.

      Let us know how it goes!

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        Thank you! Those are all great! Now that you mention it, though, one of my bigger concerns is actually the inverse of your 8th point. I’m about the collaborative storytelling, but there’s one guy I’m worried is gonna play it as players vs GM anyway (he’s done a bit of this in the game we both currently play in). I know it’ll come down to effectively telling him to knock it off, but I imagine it’ll be difficult to avoid it being tense/awkward in the moment, especially for the other players.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Definitely take him aside and talk with him about it if it becomes a thing – don’t let one person ruin the fun for everyone. Also “in game” consequences for poor behavior are one tool the GM has at their disposal.

          He mouths off to a local guard? Guess what, dude – you’re spending the night in jail.

          He barges into that room in the dungeon? Too bad you didn’t wait for the rogue to check for traps…you know have rocks falling on your head – enjoy that 8d6 in damage! (Adjust according to level…or not…it’s up to you!)

          He puts his hands on the barmaid when she said no? Too bad the bouncer is a high level retired adventurer who is Not. Impressed. Try not to “punish” the rest of the party for the stuff he does…but feel free to make things difficult for him if he’s behaving like a jerk.

        2. AnonEMoose*

          Oh, and few things send a jolt of fear down players’ spines like a GM saying, perfectly deadpan “To the best of your ability, you find no traps.” Idly playing with a few dice in one hand while you say it is optional ;-).

    3. NoMoreMrFixit*

      Don’t let the dice rule you. It’s all about telling/playing a story. If the players do something stupid, then yes they should suffer. But don’t be afraid to fudge rolls if they are doing a great job of roleplaying their characters. I’ve given good players a pass on some truly abysmal rolls in the past but have also done the Total Party Kill when they’ve been foolish.

      Everything and everyone should be in place for a reason. Is that beggar at the end of the block really a beggar? Maybe a lookout for the local gangs. Or even for the town watch.

      Make the rewards fit the challenges. For example, don’t give the party a sword that is especially effective against giants if they’re never going to face any. That makes them feel cheated out of using their new ubertoy.

      Above all, have fun.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Not letting the dice rule you is excellent advice. I’ve been known to fudge rolls (a GM screen exists for a reason), especially when the party is lower level and more vulnerable to the results of a bad roll. I don’t do it a lot, but on occasion, it’s a reasonable call to make.

    4. annamouse*

      Don’t let your players railroad you, but if they have a better/more interesting idea than you planned, roll with it. Have fun!

    5. neverjaunty*

      Best thing to keep in mind is that your players have different things they want out of the game, which don’t always line up – Wakeen likes to be the cool stealthy ninja, Jane wants to be super powerful and kick bad-guy butt, Fergus is there to roleplay his character’s extensive backstory, etc. Make sure you have a little spotlight for everyone.

    6. Lightly-chewed Jimmy*

      It’s been a while, but AD&D 2e, GURPS, and Vampire: Dark Ages here :)
      – there’s nothing wrong with ‘you meet in a tavern’ and ‘you meet at the Jobs board’. They’re sensible places for people to meet! (*ahem* AAM)
      – plan, Plan, PLAN and expect you missed things :) Players will do what you don’t expect, but good players give first-timers a break.
      – if you make house rules remember them and use them consistently
      – if big things happen to characters take that into account when planning later parts of the adventure (characters are probably uneasy about dealing with avoidable things that seriously injured them/they acquired phobias to/that killed their best friend/etc)
      – not sure if you use miniatures generally, but if not they’re very useful for marching order and combat. You don’t need the official ones or gridded maps if you don’t want them, but it’s handy to have a general idea of where you are and they are.
      – speaking of combat: keep an eye on how long it’s taking, and have absolutely no compunction about removing hit points from baddies if needed to keep it moving…or adding them if you misjudged the other way. Basically, keep the story going.
      – have an idea for each session where would be a good stopping point and revisit that 30-60 min before your planned end time. It’s better to end a bit early if it’s a logical or satisfying point, or if it might need an extra 5-10 mins to get to the best stopping point you can broach that with people then.
      – try to keep your player and character likes & motivations in mind. Don’t twist yourself or the game around to serve them, but if you know Jon likes logic puzzles, Beth likes combat, and Pat likes roleplaying, while Raknart the Fearsome wants to avenge his Dog, Inhiarha MightySmart wants to become the greatest basket-fighter the world has ever seen, and Freddie D. Dude is just along because it seemed like fun then you can throw occasional neat bits in for them :)
      – sometimes a session goes badly – maybe all the rolls are failing orthere’s a cold going around or it’s a full moon or who knows. It just happens. Pick up and move on next time :)

    7. LizB*

      From the perspective of a very new player: make sure everyone in the party gets a chance to roleplay and get in on conversations! I’m still learning how to get words in edgewise around my (lovely but more experienced and very chatty) co-players, and I kind of wish our DM would be more proactive about asking me what my character is doing or saying sometimes.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        I love this reminder because I have two parties I play in right now, one of 3 people and one of up to 15! It’s easy to see which is us met in the theater and which joined from elsewhere because the theater folk are way not shy about participating, and the others tend more toward drinking beer until we roll initiative. I’ll be DMing 5-7 players, so I’ll make sure to watch for that dynamic.

    8. Ann O.*

      If a player has high charisma or other trait that should effect interpersonal relationships, don’t try to force the players to be affected by that but do remember to have the NPCs affected by it.

    9. Liz*

      Congrats on DMing your first game! It can feel like a big hurdle, but once you get into it, it’s a whole different kind of fun from playing in an RPG.

      DM Tip: Don’t worry about getting every single rule right every single time. As long as you’re consistent with your calls, most players won’t have any issues if it’s not exactly what the books say, especially if it helps keep the game moving.

      You might be tempted to jump in with hints and information that the players might find useful, but try to give them the time and space to figure it out. Obviously, if they’re really stuck, give them some hints or new information. It might be a little easier to adapt what you had planned based on what the players have focused on rather than redirecting back to exactly what you had planned.

      As for Adventurer’s League, my spouse and I tried it once and….didn’t have a great time. We played in a game that really didn’t suit our style – all combat and mechanics, very little roleplaying and character interaction. I don’t think this is true for every AL game, but feel free to find a different game if the one you’re playing in isn’t a good fit for you. Also, make note of the format and the restrictions that it places on AL games: they have to adapt to the players at every session, which might change from game to game, so expect less long-term campaigning and more short one-shots. (I’m actually playing a game of D&D in about 15 minutes! Saturday night fun!) Good luck, and have fun!

    10. Liane*

      Good luck!
      Star Wars GM here, who’s gone from newb to more or less intermediate GMing/DMing skills. I also play D&D, & just about anything else my gaming pals and family suggest.
      My biggest mistake when I started–and I still do this sometimes–was to worry too much about how awful I must be compared to my friends who were more experienced at running games. Speaking of having experienced DMs at the table, IF you use them as a resource, keep most of that for planning and between sessions. During a game (unless this is a co-DM set up which it doesn’t sound like), don’t ask them for advice unless it’s a real quick rules question, like, “Desdemona, what skill covers swinging on a rope?”
      The blog I write and edit for has DM/GM advice too. There’s my “Ask A Gamer: The Apprentice GM,” on my new GMing advice, both solo and co-GMing. “The GM Awakens” series by one of the other writers has some articles useful for a variety of systems, although it is aimed at Star Wars GMs–I will give links to these in a reply.

      1. Liane*

        Hope these help, even if they are mainly for another system.

        Apprentice GM by me: http://www.d20radio.com/main/ask-a-gamer-apprentice-gm/

        GM Awakens articles: http://www.d20radio.com/main/the-gm-awakens-more-roleplaying-in-your-roleplaying-games/

        Here’s hoping this handles the links correctly. I don’t usually do links

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          Oh, I will definitely give these a read! All but maybe 1 of my players is new to D&D, but that 1 guy… we’ll see how well he lets it roll!

    11. StrikingFalcon*

      My DM had us each come up with a connection to at least one other player’s character, which helped a lot in establishing a natural party dynamic. She also does a really good job of making player backstories relevant, which I appreciate. We have a group that is as likely to try to talk their way out of a situation as fight their way out, and we get equal experience points for doing so (if not always equal loot), which has encouraged more inventive (and sometimes more entertaining) approaches to problems.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        The party connection is one of my favorite things Seasons of Skyrend did in their first few episodes. It made the characters seem so much fuller because they had to put more thought into what they were doing before the adventure.

    12. MoodyMoody*

      This is something I did when I ran a GURPS Discworld game: I made very long lists of both men’s and women’s names and printed them out to use for NPCs. When I used one, I wrote a short note of what kind of person it was. It was great for an adventure centered in Ankh-Morpork.

      You can’t anticipate everything players will do, but you can plan the setting pretty well.

      And remember that you are telling a cooperative story. Improv is a plus!

      (I am literally writing this during a Pathfinder game.)

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        Oh, I really like the NPC tip but maybe for the opposite reason than you intended it! I’ve got an awful tendency to overdevelop unimportant characters (from my old fanfiction days), and I’m sure I’d be well-served to focus on keeping those notes succinct instead!

    13. Ursula*

      I think of any given session in terms of activity types: most adventures can be classified as combat, roleplaying, exploration, or puzzle solving (or some combination of those). Try to make each session focused on a different one. I also prefer much shorter sessions that most people seem to; 4 hours is a good limit in terms of allowing people to keep attention on the game. Other have mentioned this, but making sure to engage with players who aren’t getting as much focus time is important. Varying the type of activity will help with this.

      And as far as that adversarial player goes, talking to him about it is good, but keep in mind that if he won’t go along with things, you are literally god. Smack him down. Also, if he’s truly incompatible with the group in playing style you might have to eject him from the game, possibly via killing his character. It’s harsh, but better than him ruining it for everyone else. Your players will thank you.

      Also, while planning is great, eventually you may reach the point where you don’t really need to plan much anymore. I’ve been playing so long I write a story outline and pick monsters and occasionally map a dungeon, but that’s it. It helps if you have an established universe already, either the ones that are professionally made or making your own. Once you’ve played a long time you’ll already have information on things like who lives in various towns around the area and what the terrain is. It’s always entertaining to run across references to previous campaigns or characters! Also, your players can help with this part, as their characters might, say, retire and create a combat school that you can have show up in later adventures.

  10. Paris Geller*

    I just wanted to say thank-you to everyone’s kind comments on my post in last week’s open thread about anxiety. They really helped a lot. As it turns out, despite for the most part I do feel I have my life together, this past week has been the worst my anxiety has ever been. Ever, for a couple of reasons. I had a post on the work open thread yesterday asking for advice, and the stuff that’s been going on at work is a big part of it, but there were other things too.

    Even though living through the anxiety week from hell was. . . well, hell, now that I feel a bit better I think it really made me see that I am at the point where I *did* need to ask for help. I meant to talk to my therapist this week about medication, had a plan and everything, but then I got into her office and just kind of. . . broke. It did come up eventually, though, and she gave me a referral to the student health center. Apparently they do work with depression and anxiety, but generally mostly by referral, which is why I was under the impression they couldn’t help me since it’s not widely-publicized.

    I also realized a lot of my fear about seeing a doctor for anxiety is apparently the very deep-seated belief they won’t take me seriously. I hadn’t consciously known that, but once it came up I just sobbed and sobbed in my therapist’s office. I’ve had a horrible experience with not being taken seriously as a teenager and made to feel like I was just seeking attention, so it’s based on the past. We talked through it. I think having a referral to the health center is making me more confident about it, because I know that at least one person believes me, and I have an appointment with a physician this week.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I’m really glad you found the comments helpful and that you’ve been able to discuss this with supportive professionals. More than one person believes you – you can count me in that list.

      Internet hugs if at all welcome.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Unfortunately, it happens when we are at our worst that we have to be our own biggest advocates. It’s been a big lesson over and over again in my life to keep going until someone listens. Try to remember the hardest part is being bold enough to keep going. Once you find that listening person, things will get better. Keep believing that someone will listen and it’s just a matter of finding that person. This applies to many things in life not just our health and well-being.

    3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Glad you’re feeling better and good luck with the appointment.

      Re: not being taken seriously – I understand this very, very well. If you can, take someone with you as support. They are not there to talk over you or talk to the doctor for you. They would be there to back you up, to intervene if the doctor talks over you or dismisses your concerns. You can even plan out beforehand what you want to say and give them a copy of your notes (I always write down what I want to tell doctors).

      1. Paris Geller*

        I don’t have anyone I’m close enough right now at school for this, but this is a really good idea I’m going to save for the future.

        1. Julia*

          Im sorry you don’t have anyone close, but I would like to suggest that people may surprise you.
          When my husband was a grad student, we lived in student housing and a girl in the year below his sometimes came to ask for advice. (They’re both Japanese and senior-junior relations are pretty important in Japan.)

          She started feeling unwell and asked if I could go to the doctor’s office with her, so I did. I didn’t know her too well back then, but I consider her a friend now. They do say that to make friends, you sometimes have to know when to ask for favours.

          But of course, this is just a suggestion and if you feel like it doesn’t apply to your situation, I’m sorry for bringing it up.
          Anxiety sucks; I hope you’ll feel better soon.

    4. Mischa*

      Paris, I’m in very similar shoes as you. I didn’t want to go to therapy or even consider medication in the past because I was (and still am, to an extent) afraid of not being believed. I can put on a good face, but internally, everything is a disaster. And I just started law school, so I really, really am afraid that things will get out of control. So, I made an appointment with the law school’s student counsellor, and she immediately believed me. It was amazing. I felt so vindicated. I am currently waiting to get in with my school’s psychologist (psychiatrist?) to discuss formal diagnosis and medication, if necessary.

      Be kind to yourself and take care! If you ever need to talk I lurk here on the weekend threads.

      1. Paris Geller*

        Yes, hearing the therapist I’ve been talking to after months say “I believe you” felt so incredibly validating.

  11. Myrin*

    Alison, I’m dying to learn how the whole kudzu situation turned out! Are you rolling around in unimaginable anger at the contractor you used or was there a positive outcome in the end?

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      And if all else fails, can you hire some goats to eat the contractor? (Or, based on THAT condo story on the Friday open thread, some cats?!)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The kudzu is almost gone!

      Last weekend, I wrote about how I was in a panic because on their first day they only worked four hours and got hardly any done, and I had agreed to pay a very high daily rate for three days — and that definitely was not one-third of the job. But when I talked to the head guy the next day, he said they would come back as long as it took to get the whole job done and wouldn’t charge us for more than three days. And then they ended up getting it all done in three days anyway. However, once they cleared it all out, we discovered there was more that we hadn’t been able to see (because the kudzu had blocked our view of it), so we’re bringing them back for one more day tomorrow to do an additional chunk of the property. And then it will be done! I am so relieved.

      I can’t remember if I mentioned that there’s no easy way to get down there, and they had to go down using climbing gear, like ropes and harnesses. They were really good sports about it. They were also really good sports about apparently running into a bunch of copperhead snakes.

      But it looks great now! We can see so much of the forest now that it looks like we’re in the Shendandoahs or something. And I saw a fox wandering through there yesterday (which I wouldn’t have been able to see before because the kudzu was so thick), so that was exciting.

      It’s also taught me a good lesson about asking what a “day” entails before agreeing to a daily rate in the future! And also, that it might be better to ask for a flat project rate rather than a daily rate in the future, although it worked out this time.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        That’s great news! Congratulations.

        It sounds really idyllic your new place. I’m quite jealous.

      2. CAA*

        That’s excellent! And I like that because this guy gave you a fair shake and did a good job he gets another day’s work out of it. I’m guessing you’ll have to do a smaller version of this every few years in order to keep it from taking over again, so it’s good that you found someone reliable.

      3. Mimmy*

        Yay! I was worried you were going to get screwed over – IMHO, it can be hard to find honest contractors.

        Also, congrats on the offer for your old house!

      4. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yay for the offer!

        Did they paint or spray anything on the kudzu stumps after they cut it down? I can’t remember if you mentioned that in your original comment about it. I usually just cut the bamboo down, but I really should take the time to paint it with the herbicide I have. Maybe in a few weeks, when it’s cooler outside and more conducive to outdoor labor. :)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          They sprayed it with Roundup, but I talked to a county ecologist yesterday who specializes in invasive plants, and she gave me the name of a different herbicide to use, so they’re bringing that tomorrow.

  12. Fake old Converse shoes*

    I think I was on a date last week.
    My workmates decided to have lunch at a small Japanese restaurant, hidden in the abandoned area of our town, and this time decided to invite the rest of the team. But, when it was time to go, everyone excused himself, and I ended having lunch with the same person who unashamedly agreed with the guy from Googlegate. The lunch was delicious and cheap for the area, he admitted he’s not happy with the current state of the project, and then we had a long rant regarding untrained HR people and recruiters who make ridiculous requests during the hiring process. I didn’t think there could be second intentions until I was back at the office.
    Now the same person suggested we should try gourmet hamburgers, and I don’t know whether I should go too or decline.

    On the other hand, my crush has started getting physically closer when we’re talking, sometimes touching my arms and shoulders whenever we’re talking. He almost hugged me once. It’s super confusing.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, I *love* “the hamburglar.” However, I’m with Evelyn that you should ask crush out, which should help clarify the confusion as he’ll either say yes or no; don’t go out with the hamburglar.

    1. Morning Glory*

      I think the fact that your workmate agreed with the guy from Google about gender was clearly important enough to you to mention in your post. Not everyone has the same dealbreakers, of course, but I know would make him a firm no in my book – would you be comfortable and happy being with a man who feels that way?

      Independent of that, what you wrote about your crush seems promising!

      1. Fake old Converse shoes*

        I was so angry with myself when I realized it could have been a date, because no even free food is enough to salvage my opinion of him. The only thing I’d accept is a formal apology in front of the rest of my coworkers.

    2. Fake old Converse shoes*

      The thing is, my crush is in a relationship! It’s so weird he’s doing what sounds like flirting to me, when he previously mentioned a girlfriend. What’s more, I’ve never been in a relationship, and I suck reading advance body language. I can’t understand why is he doing this, and it’s really confusing.

      1. fposte*

        Is he doing it just to you or to lots of people? If the latter, he’s Mr. Tactile and it doesn’t mean anything; if just to you, he likes flirting while he’s in a relationship. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing but if you’re unsure of signals and already stuck on the guy, I wouldn’t want to play the game–it’s too easy for you to believe the game is meaningful. I’d back off instead.

      2. Fake old Converse shoes*

        I really wish it’s just a misunderstanding, because it would be so disheartening if the first person who pays me attention in my whole life is a… well, I don’t want to say cheater, but you get the idea.

    3. Temperance*

      I wouldn’t go on a date with a guy who thought that women are inferior/less suited to the tech industry, and I’m a lawyer. As a tech professional, I would probably triply not want to go.

      Make a move on the guy you actually like. Unless he is also a misogynist. Then don’t. ;)

  13. Merci Dee*

    So, we’re not in the path of Irma, but we’re about 200 miles north of the coast in central Alabama, so people who have evacuated are coming here in droves. The mayor announced on Thursday that every hotel room in town is booked, and the same for surrounding communities. The local colleges, churches, and public schools are all standing by to act as shelters, if necessary. Locals are doing what they can to pitch in. It’s nice to know I live in a place that does everything possible to help those in need. Praying for those who are effected by the coming storm, and that those who stayed behind will be safe during the storm and it’s aftermath.

    Also, praying that Jose gets tired of following in its big brother and sister’s footsteps, and just dissipates before it causes any destruction.

    1. fposte*

      Just a note that there’s apparently incorrect information being forwarded about hotels being required to take evacuees’ pets even if they’re not regularly pet-friendly hotels. This isn’t true–hotels retain the ability to turn pets away, so if you’re planning to evacuate with pets please make sure your destination accepts them.

    2. Merci Dee*

      Got a phone message today from the local school district. City schools have been cancelled tomorrow, and they’ll call tomorrow to let us know about plans for Tuesday.

      Meanwhile, I still have to go to work. Glad my folks got back from their Great Western Odyssey yesterday, and that they’re happy to let the kiddo visit for a night or two.

  14. Ramona Flowers*

    Who is watching the Great British Bake Off? I’d never watched it in the past and somehow thought it would be like Masterchef, which I hate. It’s not. It’s brilliant. I love it and am newly hooked.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Some may find it a welcome distraction. I think we are all pretty concerned and the waiting is awful.

      2. Jean (just Jean)*

        Sometimes frivolity is a public service!
        If people don’t want a bit of relief they can always keep scrolling or switch to a news site. No shortage of heartache and worry, unfortunately.

        1. periwinkle*

          I enjoy hate-watching Chopped. Each contestant has a single talking point and we have to listen to their “story” multiple times. Arrrgh, can we ditch that bit and focus on the fun of making chefs making a dessert out of strawberries, cauliflower, and the rear passenger door of a 1991 Corolla?

          1. hermit crab*

            If you get fed up with Chopped, try Cutthroat Kitchen! It’s like they kept all the good parts of Chopped but replaced the annoying parts with stuff that’s more fun. It’s hilarious and awesome.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Masterchef makes me feel stupid as they never seem to explain what they’re doing.

        Bake Off is great however.

    1. Elkay*

      I’ve been watching but not as intensely as previous series, I prefer it when they get to fewer people. I wish they’d got rid of Paul Hollywood in the move to Channel 4.

    2. Morning Glory*

      I loooovee Great British Bake Off! Everyone is so nice and lovely. It’s a great contrast to the cooking reality shows where producers engineer/emphasize gratuitous drama.

    3. CatCat*

      We have gotten totally hooked on it in the past couple of weeks. LOVE IT! It feels like how competition should be. I admire the bakers so much. It feels like a reality show based on actual reality.

    4. Annie Mouse*

      I like it, I’m not so much a fan of Prue in this (like her in the Great British Menu though) and wasn’t sure about Sandi to begin with although she’s growing on me. I’m enjoying the Extra Slice show again as well.

        1. Annie Mouse*

          See I didn’t particularly like this week’s disappearee but I loved the episode of Extra Slice, there’s so much more than just the bit with the departee. In fact this week I just disliked them more after their segment. But there were gems like the audience member who brought in orange and ginger biscuits with salmon paste filling……

    5. Augusta Sugarbean*

      GBBO is the best! Everyone is so nice to each other. None of this fight to the death BS. I’m so sad that they broke up the band. I’ll watch the new season but I’m not sure how it will be. I don’t know Prue Leith or Sandi Toksvig and I’ve only ever seen Noel Fielding on The IT Crowd. I’d watch Paul Hollywood do just about anything though.

      The only downside to watching it is that I start baking again and our low-ish carb diets go out the window.

    6. Roseberriesmaybe*

      I’m watching it! There was the big drama with the move, but I think the new presenters are doing well, they all just need to relax into the roles a little bit. Ramona, I gathered you’re in the UK, so I recommend Rhik Samadder’s GBBO liveblog in the Guardian on Tuesday. It is hilarious

      1. Elkay*

        I’d totally forgotten about the Guardian live blog, I love Rhik Sammadder’s writing, my Wednesday lunchtime reading is Inspect-a-Gadget.

        1. Roseberriesmaybe*

          I read it when I’m nearly falling asleep in work, the puns wake me up :) The comments are gas as well, never thought raunchy haikus and cult kitchen reviews would go together, but there you are

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        I am indeed in the UK! I forgot that of course the Graun would have a liveblog. Can’t read in real time though as I like to watch GBBO on the train the next morning.

    7. Cristina in England*

      Are you watching the new one or the original? If you can, watch the original. I love Noel and Sandy but I can’t bring myself to watch the new one yet because I am so attached to Mary, Mel and Sue.

      1. Lilo*

        I will say I don’t think Prue has quite developed the personality of Mary just yet, but I think that’s probably a good thing rather than trying to force it on. I knew Noel and Sandi already from their other things, and they generally seem pretty kind. I’m finding I miss Mary most of all, but the show still has the same fundamental elements that I love.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, I always felt Mary was the gently steely alpha with the final word; it seems a bit unmoored without her. That being said, the transition also made it clear to me that the contestants are a huge part of the joy, and that remains unchanged.

    8. Someone else*

      Are you watching the current channel 4 season (with Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding) or one of the previous BBC seasons (via Netflix etc)? I love it and am in the US and have watched all the seasons that have been available here. So, just in case, since you’re new to it, if you didn’t know, there’s a LOT of it you can catch up on. :)

    9. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t like competition shows as a rule, though I did watch one Mary episode and it wasn’t too bad. I like Noel Fielding, so I might end up finding a way to watch at least some of them. He’s cute in a well-this-is-unusual-what-might-happen-here kind of way, LOL.

    10. Lilo*

      I love GBBO. Everyone is kind and helps each other, there’s no yelling. It’s a very cozy show that makes you feel good about humanity.

    11. bluesboy*

      No, but I’m watching Bake Off Italia! Not as good as the British one though. The ‘mean’ judge has a tendency to judge harshly on the creative bake by telling the contestant that it’s not creative enough, but then if they actually get creative he tells them it isn’t authentic enough. I still enjoy it though!

      My problem is that I basically can’t follow any British new sites between now and the series ending because I don’t want to risk finding out who won until GBBO gets shown over here (probably in Spring).

      My little boy (8 years old) has decided he wants to be on Bake Off when he grows up, so we spent this morning making focaccia together!

    12. KarenK*

      Love this show. There’s never any drama between the contestants. They’re very supportive of each other.

  15. Sugar of lead*

    I’m thinking of getting a gym membership and really all I’m looking for are some basic weights and treadmills, nothing fancy. As I am on a budget, I’d probably be going with the cheapest option, so what have people’s experiences been like with Planet Fitness?

    1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I belong and I like it. It’s cheap and has what I want. Elliptical machines and treadmills. I like the 24 hours because it takes away my excuses of not having time.

    2. kc89*

      the one near me is great, big and airy and plenty of cardio machines. less strength training options but doesn’t sound like would be a deal breaker for you, they deff have basic weights.

    3. Annie Moose*

      It’s fine, honestly. I’ve unfortunately run into a couple of super gym-type people who got snobby about it, but c’mon. They have weights. They have treadmills. They have ellipticals. It’s fine.

      What I liked about it, when I used to have a PF membership, was that most people there were just ordinary people like me. I was pretty self-conscious to begin with, but I realized there was no reason to be. Nobody there was Olympic athletes or whatever, they were just ordinary people going there on their lunch break, while the kids are in school, after class, etc., both young and old.

      If all you’re going to be doing is basic exercise, I think PF is a great low-cost option. Every once in awhile they have a discount going for new members, you might want to check if they currently have one.

    4. Lynn*

      I decided to join a gym last year, and there was a planet fitness near my house that I was planning to join. When I went, it was kind of unkempt, like they were understaffed. There also spent way too much time focusing on “benefits” like pizza and donuts, which isn’t really what I wanted in a gym. Plus, the day I went on a trial pass, I saw them send a woman home for wearing a tank top and yoga pants, essentially because she might make other members feel bad for not being in shape. I ended up joining the ymca. So YMMV.

    5. Kristen*

      I like my Planet Fitness. I was very unsure of it at first because it is so cheap, I was afraid I’d be getting what I paid for, basically a dumpy, over-crowded gym. Although I think there might be times when it is crowded (weekday evenings from what I’ve seen when I’ve driven by and seen a full parking lot), the weekend mornings when I have gone have been pretty good. It’s also been clean when I’ve been there. Of course, a lot of this can vary by location, but I think it’s worth trying out for only $10/month. I wanted to join a different 24 hour gym, but didn’t want to sign a contract, so I also like that about Planet Fitness. I think they do require 30-60 days notice in writing when quitting though. But again, it’s so cheap compared to every where else, I don’t really sweat (haha no pun intended) that.

    6. Selenejmr*

      I’ve been with Planet Fitness for 3 years and I like it. Everybody keeps to themselves, plenty of machines and I can go before work.

    7. Stellaaaaa*

      A chain like Planet Fitness is good if you travel a lot. Your membership gets you into the gym in any location.

    8. Lilo*

      I have to say that I am the kind of person that needs classes. I am not particularly good at self motivation, so having Zumba or similar with a set schedule is really good for me. So the key to my gym is having classes I like a lot.

    1. Just Tea For Me, Thanks*

      Of course not! It’s a good thing! Not getting any older would be a problem. Enjoy your bday!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I think the best years of life are from 40 up to maybe 85 or so? I hope you can find a happy thought in thinking that the best years are still ahead.

    3. fposte*

      It is too old to become an Olympic gymnast. It is barely old enough to be president. It’s all in the perspective.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        It isn’t even too old to be an Olympic gymnast if you are Oksana Chusovitina, who competed in Rio at age 41 and in so doing became my spirit animal.

        1. fposte*

          I knew there had been a fortysomething so I chose “become” rather than “be.” If you haven’t started yet, though,it’s not going to happen.

    4. Hellanon*

      I had this dreadful sense of time passing when I was 35, and ended up moving to Europe for a few years at 37. I have to say, that was 20 years ago, and I feel like I have done interesting & useful things in the 15 years since I got back than I could have imagined in the years leading up to the decision to go in the first place. Maybe if 37 feels old, you need to set your sights on something big….

    5. NoMoreMrFixit*

      I started pursuing a degree part time at 37. On hold for now due to being unemployed. But at that age is when I started to truly enjoy my life. You never get over the hill, you merely find higher mountains to climb as you get older.

      Enjoy it!

    6. Patsy Stone*

      Not even close! When I turned 37, I got my dream job I’d been pursuing for a few years, as an overland tour leader in Africa. Did that for a few years, and loved loved loved it. At 43, I decided I needed a massive career change, and went back to school for nursing. Now, at 46, with a college diploma in hand, and working as an RPN since last year, I’ve just started university to upgrade to my Bachelor of Science in Nursing and become an RN. I’ll be 49 by the time I’m done, and then the really interesting part begins! So…no…at 37, life is just getting interesting :D

    7. SAHM*

      Only if you feel old! Age is super relative, I’ve never really understood the whole “I’m getting old!” Phenomena. Maybe because I’m a middle child?

    8. BCHgal*

      Eleven days ago I turned 58 but I still feel like 37. :)
      You’re just getting started!
      (Happy Birthday!)

      1. lcsa99*

        I just hit that two weeks ago (and my husband will do the same in three weeks). It definitely feels more substantial than other birthdays but it’s really not.
        Happy birthday!

    9. OperaArt*

      Too old for what? I’m 59. I’m a software engineer, a professional actor (since I turned 50), a ballroom dancer (since I was 56), I’ve sung in the chorus of 40 operas (all after I was 45)…

  16. Just Tea For Me, Thanks*

    Hi all!

    I could use some advise/different perspective on the following: An old friend/acquantance I used to hang out with occasionally during college contacted me out of the blue through Linkedin and I’m not sure how to respond.

    She contacted me saying she just moved to . I used to live in that city years ago, but it is nowhere near where I live now (from my LinkedIn profile she should be able to see that). We weren’t the best of friends: I felt like a backup friend to her. The only reason why I would meet up is because I don’t have many friends and maybe it would be silly to ignore someone who initiates contact. On the other hand, I can’t shake the feeling that she wants something from me and I don’t want to be the back-up once again. Also: why would she want to meet up if we live so far apart? She didn’t ask me how I was, just that she moved and wanted to meet up.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I would just say “Sorry, I don’t live there anymore!” and then see how she responds.

    2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Trust your feeling. She saw you in Linkedin but didn’t look close enough to see that you are not where she thinks you are. Respond with your real location and if you never hear from her again you have your answer.

    3. Just Tea For Me, Thanks*

      Thank you for your advice! I really appreciate it!

      I have send her a message saying I didn’t live there and let me know if you are around here. She replied almost immediately that she new that I did not live in her new city but was often visiting my city and she would love to meet up. I did not respond.

      I realised that I do not want her as my friend. I was in a bad place for a while, but things are moving up and I am seeing things more positive. I do not need baggage from the past to weigh me down again and will focus on making new friends.

  17. Not So NewReader*

    Alison, did you start the open forum early because of the storm? It’s good to hear how people are doing and what is going on from where they are watching.

  18. The Other Dawn*

    I just did something stupid: I trimmed my own hair. I really wish I didn’t do that, because now I’ll have to run to a Super Cuts or something and explain why my hair is so uneven and have them fix it. I haven’t done this in at least 10 years and I don’t know why I did it now. I mean, I know why, but I don’t know why I actually went through with it.

    I got my hair cut by an acquaintance a couple weeks ago. She did a good job, but didn’t take enough off. That’s not her fault, though. It’s mine. I have very curly, full hair and it’s hard to tell at the salon how much is enough. I got home and could tell I should have has more taken off the sides. But she’s about an hour from me and I really didn’t want to arrange my schedule again to go back and have to pay again. I was thinking about trimming it myself for a few days and then abandoning the idea. Then this morning something just clicked and I did it. Grabbed the scissors and brush and went for it. I can tell that one side is longer than the other, and it doesn’t fall right.

    I feel really embarrassed to have to go somewhere tomorrow and get it fixed. I don’t even know what to say. It’s either admit and look like an idiot, or blame it on someone else. I know, I know. I have to admit it. I just hope it doesn’t have to be chopped so much that it’s really short for a long time.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Just tell them the truth with a small grin on your face.
      I got a really bad cut one time. Well, maybe the cut was fine but I could not style it. She left some of my hair about 8 inches long and some of it 2 inches long, randomly all over my head. She said she would fix it but I did not want to go there again.
      I found another shop. I walked in wearing an obviously bad cut and said, “help?”. They did. They were very professional about it. Like you are saying, I was super embarrassed. Once I got there it wasn’t a big deal for them. I kept apologizing that they had to clean up the mess and they kept saying, don’t worry about it.

      You might be able to change the side your hair is parted on and the shorter side could be closer to the part. This might mean losing less hair over all. I am sure there are other little tricks.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I bit the bullet and went over to Super Cuts. I admitted my stupidity and the stylist wasn’t phased. She said “everyone does it.” She said she did it herself even while she was in hairdressing school thinking that since she’s going to school, it would be a breeze. She said it was terrible and had to have someone fix it for her. I’m home now and it looks SO much better! And it only cost me 20.00.

      As an aside, why are women’s haircuts so expensive? (I don’t mean the 20.00 I just paid. And I’m not asking to be snarky. Just curious.) My former stylist charged me 55.00 for wash and cut only, and that was the “friend of the family” rate. No blow dry, no color or anything. Her replacement charged me 65.00. The person I’ve seen recently charges me 45.00, which isn’t bad compared to what I was paying before.

      1. hermit crab*

        The cost of haircuts is ridiculous around here too. I hate how it costs the same regardless of how long or complicated your hairstyle is. I have very short hair — it’s often shorter than my husband’s! — but I haven’t been able to find a local barber that makes it look good, and actual salons are $$$. Plus if you have super short hair you have to get it cut all. the. time. so it’s not like it’s only a couple times a year. Luckily there is a person I like at the neighborhood Hair Cuttery and haircuts with her only cost $24 (including tip). If she ever leaves, I’m giving up and learning how to give myself a buzzcut!

        1. Really*

          And not all barbers will deal with women. Took my son to barber and then asked if he would trim his sister’s bangs. I think he was actually afraid.

      2. Saturnalia*

        Yay, I’m glad you got it fixed up! I actually do this all the time because I have a hard time explaining what I want, or finding pictures of it ( I really prefer to have unusual hairdos). I do as much on my own as I can, then show up at great clips for a $12 touch-up. I basically say, “can you see what I was trying to do here?” And they say which parts they’ll even up and which parts get additional trimming and it is great. However, I also like the process of trimming off bits of my own hair to find a new look, and I have little worry about looking foolish fir a day (if it’s truly bad I just wear a hat lol).

    3. LizB*

      I think everyone tries trimming their own hair at some point! The how-much-is-enough problem is why I <3 <3 <3 my salon that cuts my very curly hair while it's dry. It means the stylist and I can actually see the length & shape while the cut is happening, instead of just estimating and hoping for the best. Plus they do free curl adjustments for I think a week after a cut, in case one curl decides to go renegade and be a different length than it was during the cut. Definitely expensive, but so worth it for me.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, I used to trim my own bangs, but I have a cowlick and of course it always went awry at the sides a bit. I got so sick of fighting with it that I grew them out and even though I have a fivehead, I would go back to bangs only under duress!

        1. Kit*

          I have a long forehead also and fought with bangs for way too long. Then I looked around and realized I never looked at anyone else’s long forehead and thought “eek! Cover that up!!!” So much nicer to twist my whole head of hair into a nice bun or braid for work.

    4. Red*

      Some advice for next time – I have curly hair also, and it works a lot better when the stylist cuts it while dry. You can get a better idea of how it will turn out that way, and it’s infinitely easier to get an idea of length. If you have different curl patterns on different areas, it will help immensely with that as well, because you don’t have to guess at what it will look like.

      1. KR*

        My favorite thing to do lately has been to show up while my curly poofy hair is dry, say “This is how my hair dries, this is how I normally wear it” then let them have at it. Because I don’t wash my hair often, nor do I brush it more than once a week.

        1. Julia*

          This isn’t any of my business, and maybe you know this already, but maybe your hair is poofy because you brush it. Curly hair is only supposed to be combed gently, I have learned. Mine looks much better now.

    5. The Other Dawn*

      Thanks. Liz B and Red! I went to Super Cuts last year and the woman cut my hair while dry and I remember thinking how weird it was, especially because she had curly hair just like mine. Apparently that seems like the better way to go. Who knew?

  19. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    Is it just me but does the standard take/store 72 hours worth of food and water seem not enough anymore? I don’t live in the hurricane areas but we do get natural disasters and the 72 hours seems to be standardeverywhere. Frankly, I don’t think that these days it’s close to being enough. My friend maintains a 6 month supply, dried foods, water purifier, batteries etc and he maintains that 3 months should be the minimum that people have on hand. Does anyone else keep a cache?

    1. fposte*

      For the kind of natural disasters I would encounter, 72 hours would be just fine. 3 months seems like a lot of money down the drain as you refresh supplies over and over for a need that doesn’t come.

      I think it could make sense to have more if you were in an area where you’d be likely to be confined to the house for more than three days before help arrives, but I don’t think there are many, if any, US areas where three months has been a demonstrated need. Some people are big on stashes (I almost wrote staches–there are people who like those too), and it’s certainly recommended in some cultures and faiths, but I don’t think several months is a necessary practical preparation in most U.S. places.

    2. Book Lover*

      If you need more than a month of supplies, you likely need years of supplies, would be my feeling. Does that make sense? I am in a suburb, and if it took six months to get aid, it would mean the US no longer existed and I would likely have bigger problems than whether I had canned foods to eat.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        At that point, we’d be better off to stock up on garden tools and fruit trees because growing our own would be the only thing left to do.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      The longest I have been house bound and without power here is three days. I do know people who keep a lot of supplies on hand. And I know people who are stock piling prescription drugs because “it’s end times”.

      1. fposte*

        Weirdly, prescription drugs are one of the things I *do* like a bit of a store of–not three months, but I’m guessing it’ll take longer to get prescriptions up and running than food aid in the aftermath of a Joplin-type tornado, which is my disaster marker. So I keep a bottle of older Synthroid from before I changed dosages in my emergency box in case I need to be tided over; it may not retain full potency, but it won’t hurt.

    4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I think a week of supplies is good if you have to shelter in place. But most disasters in my area require evacuating so unless you can take it with you, it won’t be much use.

    5. dr_silverware*

      That three days is really the time until emergency relief can reach you, or until infrastructure is up enough to resume normal life. I’m in a US city, in a middle-class neighborhood, so I don’t really cache a ton of stuff. And I figure that if it takes longer than the expected three days, we’re in a reallllly serious situation that I don’t care to have anxiety about.

    6. Overeducated*

      I was without power for a week after Sandy, but the outages didn’t cover my whole town that long so I could get to places to buy food, even though I couldn’t get gas or public transportation to leave the area. (A rare reminder that Long Island IS an island.) I remember buying a large cheese pizza and eating it for dinner for three days…cold canned food gets old fast. I think if things were so bad that I couldn’t buy or cook food for three months, my home would probably be uninhabitable and I would be needing to leave ASAP.

      Also there is the issue of storage space, in that lots of apartment dwellers couldn’t possibly store that much food.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I have a Sterno stove and plenty of fuel–it was a godsend after the ice storm. With that and a small camp coffeepot (the kind you put grounds in), I was able to have coffee, make soup and chili, heat water for cocoa, etc. I have an oil lamp for light. If I had a damn fireplace, I could have stayed in here the entire time, because my water heater is gas and the hot water never went out. But after three days, I had to leave, because it was just too cold to cope.

        1. Overeducated*

          Good point. I do have a camp stove, fuel, and non-electric coffee pot now, so at least it wouldn’t be cold food. At the time being able to get a hot takeout pizza, with no power at home and gas shortages, felt funny and surreal and luxurious though….

    7. Aphrodite*

      I live in earthquake country and have a minimum of one week’s worth. In fact, I have duplicates: one in the house and one in the car’s trunk. In addition to water, food, a hand can opener and first aids stuff, I also include clothes (underwear, bras, socks, shoes, shorts, tee shirts, jeans, sweatshirts), toilet paper, paper towels, vinegar, spray bottles, baby wipes, soap, paper plates, plastic silverware, new cat litter box, litter, food both dry and wet, cat leashes and carriers, extra water and bowls, several boxes of disposable gloves, a couple pairs of dishwashing gloves plus a pair of heavy duty ones, lots of LED candles and lanterns with extra batteries, and anything else that would help. It would be bad enough to be displaced but having to wear the same dirty clothes and underwear is just a bit too unbearable. Not to mention the fear that having no lights brings up in me.

    8. Kj*

      2 weeks seem smart to me, but I live on the Cascadia fault. I tend to think that if you are in an area with major natural disasters, 2 weeks is smart. 2 weeks also allows you to help neighbors and such. I’ve survived a few hurricanes, so I have a lot of history with natural disasters.

    9. JKP*

      We stock 3 months of food/water. Part our reasoning is that if we only have 72 hours of supplies for ourselves and then neighbors need help, we wouldn’t have enough. When I think of some of the houses in Houston where they were the only ones in their neighborhood not flooded and hosting 20 or 30 people from the surrounding area, I would feel better with more stocked in case we were that house. A 3 month supply for 2 people seems like a lot, but then that’s only 1 week of supplies for 24 people.

  20. Oh so anonymous*

    Has anyone ever had a healthy, long-tem relationship that straddled the boundaries of friendship and romantic/sexual partnership and didn’t end up like a bad soap opera?

    So here’s the situation: My partner and I broke up when I moved away for graduate/professional school two months ago. We were together for about a year, and long-distance for about 6 months of that. We decided to break up because the odds of us ever living in the same place are very low—there are significant barriers related to citizenship/work permits, niche job markets, and professional licensing that would make it almost impossible, and we have both invested a lot into our respective fields and wouldn’t start new careers from scratch.
    However, we’re still emotionally close. We text most days and Skype about once a week. I think this could be fine if the conversations were platonic, but they keep straying into romantic/sexual territory. I try to avoid the temptation, or steer to other topics, but often I can’t resist. Because of our history of long-distance dating, this feels reasonably comfortable to me, but also wrong because we are no longer “together.” Obviously this would be a problem if one of us started seriously seeing someone else, but I don’t think that’s likely to happen soon for a number of reasons.
    I feel like the conventional romantic advice here is that I should stop talking to them completely so we can each move on, but that seems like a huge loss for no real gain. It probably sounds cliché, but we’re compatible on a fundamental level and I would do anything to keep them in my life in whatever way possible. We’re both going through big life transitions, and not having their support, even at a distance, would be really painful, and I think they would say the same.
    We talk about this but just keep going around in circles, and I’m not sure what to do. Has anyone been in similar situations before? Is there anything wrong with sticking with this status quo for a long time (possibly years), besides it being unconventional? Should I try harder to enforce a “platonic” boundary, even if it means coming off as a killjoy and missing out on warm fuzzy feelings? Any advice appreciated!

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      What a difficult situation. It’s hard to know if you truly can’t cope or if you’re just doing what you’ve always done.

      Could you try going ‘cold turkey’ for a month and then talk together about what you both truly want?

    2. TL -*

      I think that the longer you wait until you take your break, the harder it will be. And the more you keep them in your life, the less room there will be for someone else, so if it’s a goal of yours to be in a relationship, I’d take 6 months apart now and rebuild a friendship after.

      Otherwise you’re just going to remain in this space where enough of your needs are being met to keep you from looking but not enough to keep you happy.

      If you don’t think you’ll want more than what you have now, though, there’s no reason to change.

    3. Inspector Spacetime*

      If you’re happy with the way things are now then don’t worry about what your relationship “should” look like, or what’s “normal.” If you’re happy, then there’s no need to change, and who knows, maybe someday your circumstances will change so you can be geographically close again.

      If you do want things to change, however, like if you want to find a relationship with somebody else, or you’re not happy, then that’s a different matter. Cold turkey or strict boundaries would be the way to do this.

    4. neverjaunty*

      Any situation where you’re ‘straying’, where you ‘can’t resist’ temptation to bring things up against your better judgment, etc., is one that isn’t going to end well. ANY situation where you’re doing things you don’t want to do, or where you won’t admit to yourself that you are really doing things that you want to be doing, is a train wreck.

      Either decide you don’t want to move on and enjoy the LDR, or break it off, but the Skype Chats of Plausible Deniability are a bad and useless middle.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I agree, and at some point, one of you may decide you want to pursue something with another person. That would force the issue. I think it would be far more painful then, because the new person might feel strange about you keeping a tie to a former lover when it’s not strictly platonic.

        1. Effie, moving forward without self judgement*


          I think it would be kind for both of you to take some space apart.

    5. Stellaaaaa*

      I’ve never had something like that work out. The problem was that it’s hard to “stay friends” when you haven’t actually been friends. I don’t to romance and sex things with my friends. My advice depends on what you want. If you want a relationship with someone you can see every day, you need to end your current situation. If you want THIS PERSON and no one else, stick with what you’re doing. Unfortunately, you have to choose between the person you want and the relationship-type you want, and then you have to factor in whether he meets someone else.

    6. Managing to get by*

      Do you want to find an available partner and develop a full relationship? Does this relationship keep you from making progress on that?
      How will you feel if he starts fading out once he starts dating or meets someone where he lives?
      How will you feel if he doesn’t fade out, and continues the text/skype flirting while starting to date or after he meets someone? Imagine the flirting has continued, and you are going to be in his city or near him, and when you ask to get together, he says “oh, I don’t think my girlfriend would like that” or “great, I’d love for you to meet Veronica!”.
      How will you handle this if you meet someone? Will you continue the flirting? At what point will you set boundaries with him?
      Is this relationship keeping you from moving on by filling some, but not all, of your relationship needs?

      If you are not interested in finding a full, local relationship, and won’t be hurt if he moves on before you, then continue. It meets some of your needs. But if this is blocking you from moving on, or if you are using it as a convenient way to avoid moving on, consider setting clearer boundaries.

  21. Fake old Converse shoes*

    Since my feed is still flooded with “back to school” posts, I ask here. Why U.S. universities are not free of charge? My parents went to public and free universities, and so do I now. Yes, the system has its downsides (crowded classrooms, admission courses and exams so diffucult that make national news, just to name a few) but even then it’s worth even trying.

    1. fposte*

      A bunch of reasons, but in general the U.S. is much more focused on private payment models than on government supported institutions than most European countries, and that goes for everything from health care to tax preparation to the university system. I’m rather impressed, now that I think about it, that we managed to make public school free for children in this culture.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        But even with public school “free,” many public schools receive far less funding than other public schools…

        1. fposte*

          No argument (same for any public institution, in fact), but the expense for the student is still covered.

      2. Fake old Converse shoes*

        The government here gives you financial aid, but they require top marks and proof you are struggling to make ends meet. Even if you meet the requirements, not everyone gets it, and sadly it’s less than minimum wage. However top universities have privately funded (usually important companies for tax reasons and the occasional graduate who wants to give back something to the institution) work and study programs and study materials aid which are usually easier to get.

      3. blackcat*

        Free public school for children is basically the result of child labor laws (so kids needed somewhere to be once they were booted from the mines) and xenophobia. They proliferated at a time of rapid mass emigration and were designed to teach kids to be “american” (eg instill patriotism and teach american english).

    2. the real olivia benson*

      I live in Scotland where if you are a Scottish resident, university tuition is paid for and due to a loophole, EU students also receive this funding. UK (those from Ireland, Wales, England) and international students (those outwith the EU) pay money. However, the downside is that those who have their tuition paid for are held to a higher standard – they need higher grades than those who pay. You can look at admissions statistics which I’m sure you can find on most universities. You can definitely find them for the one I work for (which is why I’m anon).

      1. Dot*

        Really?? I had no idea there were different standards for paying and non-paying students at the Scottish university I attended (as an EU national, i.e. non-paying). That’s truly wild!

        I never had to send any documentation of my grades to the SAAS and the grade requirements were clearly stated beforehand and lined up with all the conditional offers I got, but I suppose they may have only made those offers to non-paying students whose predicted grades etc. were significantly above the stated requirements, it’s not like we’d actually know!

        This really changes my view of my cohort — was that why the majority of my classmates were from England?? Wow.

        1. bluesboy*

          I believe the original intention was to make Scottish Universities free just for Scots. But EU law, while it has no problem with member states discriminating within their own borders, doesn’t let you discriminate against other EU citizens.

          So all EU citizens from outside the UK HAVE to be treated in the same way as the Scots. But other UK (not Scottish) citizens can be (and are) discriminated against. Meaning a Greek (for example) can have free university education in the UK, but an English person can’t.

          Not sure that was exactly the original intention, but that’s how it worked out…

          1. Dot*

            Oh, that wasn’t what I was reacting to. I personally think the system is fair for anyone except those who end up having to pay the fees — Scots and any other EU students (including people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland) can study for free in my country so why not? In my opinion tuition fees are horrible for so many reasons, but then a lot of people here choose UK and US universities and end up in 3-4 times as much debt as they would have had if they’d gone for a comparable degree in this country. (I completely understand the value of going abroad, but I could never have justified choosing a fee-based degree when there were other good options. Had I been offered a place at Oxford it might have been different but fortunately I didn’t get in so I didn’t have to make that choice.)

            My surprise was at holding different students to different standards when they’re going for the same degrees. That’s really shocking to me.

            1. the real olivia benson*

              It’s shocking but also necessary because the govt can only fund x amount each year, therefore 1 way to limit this is to, for example say that Scottish students need 4/5 A’s at Higher (our equivalent to A Levels) whereas an English student may only need ABB at A Level for the same degree. It is what it is.

        2. the real olivia benson*

          If you’d already achieved your results – Int Bac, French Bac, Arbitur, whatever then your offer would be without conditions. Where I work the requirements are clearly stated for Scottish students (those taking highers), A Levels and IB. The differences can be seen.

    3. Stellaaaaa*

      Because under the free-college models, fewer students get to attend. Because Americans keep a larger percentage of their paycheck than people in socialist countries, which is something that is often overlooked. We pay less in taxes than people in, say, Denmark, where the tax rate maxes out at 60% according to CNN. In Austria and the UK taxes can be 50%. Americans pay about 40% max, with a lot of us paying closer to 25-30%. We can’t get more stuff from the government without paying higher taxes, and Americans aren’t prepared for that.

      1. misspiggy*

        50% tax affects a very small number of people in the UK, and everyone except Scotland pays for university. It’s been a political choice in the UK to tax companies very low and minimise public funding of services.

  22. EA*

    Wanted to let everyone in Boston know that the boden sample sale is next Saturday at hynes convention center.

    I was looking for work clothes and Alison recommended boden. I went to the sample sale last February. It is overwhelming and you need to get there early, but I got good stuff for good prices. Check Facebook for the price list . I recommend it for anyone looking for work clothes.

  23. CatCat*

    I shall continue last week’s candle project this weekend. My first paraffin candle looks like it will turn out. It had some sinking around the wick and I poked some holes at the base to relieve any air pockets. I expected this might happen and saved some of the wax so I could do a second pour in this situation.

    My soy candles turned into a DISASTER. The wax separated from the fragrance and it just looks a mess. I don’t think I added too much fragrance as I followed the specs for the wax so I think the problem was the temperature I used. I’m going to have to melt them all down and try re-heating, re-stirring, and re-pouring them. Oy.

    I’ll share pics when this project actually turns out :-)

    1. Amadeo*

      I have thought about trying to make candles too. They sound, on the whole, just about as complicated as soap, really, but at least a chandler’s version of ‘rebatching’ is a lot less of a pain than a cold process soaper’s. Can’t wait to see your pictures!

      1. CatCat*

        They’re really fun to make and I’ve been enjoying learning about the science behind how candles work. There are super helpful facebook groups.

  24. Chocolate Teapot*

    In an attempt to shift some weight, I have taken up Zumba. A local gym offers classes on a block of 10 sessions basis if you don’t want to sign up for a monthly contract, which suits me fine. Some weeks I may have concerts or practices to attend, and I would be loathe to pay for something I could not use.

    Anyway, I have no idea if it’s working, but I would like to think I feel thinner.

    1. matcha123*

      I love Zumba! I don’t know if it helped with my weight. But as a suggestion, when I went to my first class years ago, I was beat. I thought I’d never go again. The second class was sooo much easier! And the subsequent classes after that have been hard (depending on the instructor), but not as hard as that first one.
      Don’t push yourself too hard. Check out some videos online. Hopefully your instructor has a good mix and fun steps.

    2. Lilo*

      I love Zumba, but I will say my experience varies from teacher to teacher.

      The benefits I noticed when I started working/dance classes were much more flexibility and confidence in movement and cardio endurance than weight loss right away. But after six months or so, I definitely developed a lot more muscle tone/core strength. Zumba’s biggest weakness is probably a lack of upper body strengthening, at least, the classes I’ve been to.

    3. BeautifulVoid*

      I also decided I need to get up and moving more, so I signed up for a Zumba class for the first time. I start next week!

  25. Anons on a Plane*

    So, I live in Florida, but my husband and I have been overseas to try IVF. Timing never being on my side, my last appointment wasn’t until this morning. Husband was able to leave a few days ago to prep the house and check on my parents, which was the right decision but meant the embryo transfer took place without him. I’m typing this on the plane back to the States, but of course can’t get home, really, with all the airports shut. Not being able to get to my family is really bothering me, although I know they’re well-prepared. Can’t help but worry from a distance though, you know? Also, I used all my PTO to make this trip happen so I’m bonus-anxious about making it to work by Tuesday. I know these are small problems in the grand scheme of things but my anxiety likes to really ramp up in situations like this (also, most other situations, if I’m being honest). Anyway, just wanted to put all that out to the universe … I hope everyone rides out the storm ok.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I know it’s impossible, but try not to stress too much for the sake of the embryos! Take care of yourself and good luck with everything.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      Please take care of yourself as best you can! I know that is easier said than done, but try to do what you can to ease your anxiety. Best wishes to your loved ones as they ride out the storm.

    3. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

      As someone who has undergone multiple rounds of IVf and FETs, I’ll be thinking of you, hoping for sticky dust, and praying your timing works well. I know it’s stressful worrying about your home and your family’s safety, but think of this as an awesome adventure story you can tell your kid. You wouldn’t want to share the anxiety; you’d want to share the cool stuff you got to do.

  26. matcha123*

    A few years ago I found out that I had an unread message on facebook. If you didn’t know, facebook sends messages from people that are not friends into a different, somewhat hidden folder.
    The message was from someone I knew in high school. I didn’t read it, but I have spent a long, perhaps too long time thinking about the sender. See, this girl and another “friend” and I spent a good amount of time together in high school. Both of them came from wealthy families with relatives that lived overseas. They were both bilingual and grew up spending time in other countries. I came from a very poor family and worked through school.
    I’m certain this girl has fond memories of our high school time, but all I remember is how badly I feel I was treated. The two girls had me spend my money on renting videos and buying pizza because I had a part-time job, despite me explaining that I also needed to pay for groceries and other things. They would ignore me when the three of us were together, and this particular girl suggested I take a cab to the movie theater because they wouldn’t go to a later time (for me to take the bus) and they didn’t want to swing by my house to pick me up.
    Now, I wonder if it’s better to leave this or to let her know why exactly I haven’t replied to her message. This girl is from a rich family and I don’t think she could understand that I was poor. Probably her image of poverty was one of tattered clothing and starvation. I really want to write back, but I also don’t want to sound like a weirdo.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think there’s much point in telling her that several years ago you were unhappy with her. I’d delete the message and move on. (Is it possible you’re also unhappy with yourself for being unwilling to say no to cab rides and pizzas or to let go of friends who insisted that was the price of membership? If so, I’d forgive yourself and move on there too.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. Most of us have allowed friends to get away with stuff we shouldn’t have. And some of us have found that people who we thought were friends actually were not. This sounds like where you are at.

        Promise yourself that you will never make yourself go through something like this again and delete her message without answering.

        1. matcha123*

          Because of things that happened in high school, I vowed to never contact people from high school on facebook. I did break that vow, but for people I felt happy being around. Another friend from that time friended me soon after I got facebook and she must have asked that girl about me a few years ago.
          I wish I could say that stuff that happened in 2000 has no meaning to me, but my reactions to simple things seem to have their roots in this stuff.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Do what you gotta do to keep yourself on an even keel. I have had to make some of the choices about a couple people over recent years and while it was hard to walk away, it was the exact right thing in the long run.

      2. matcha123*

        I guess the friendship with her and another girl kind of had a huge impact on how I deal with people now. With the cab, she had called me up to invite me to a movie, knowing that my family didn’t have a car, but said that stopping by my place would have been too much trouble. I didn’t go because it would have taken over 2 hours to get there by bus.
        Another time she had her mom drive her over to my house to take money that I promised, and she agreed to, take a few days later when I got my paycheck. She called from outside of my house saying she was there for the money (about $15 in total).
        I guess since we hung out frequently, in my case more with her and another girl than any other friends, I wonder if I should open up.

          1. matcha123*

            I don’t expect any reply from her. But, I feel like it would make me feel better if I “manned up” and told her that when she did A, B, and C, those times had a lasting impact on me in a negative way and that’s why I didn’t jump at the opportunity to reconnect.
            Not looking for an apology. Not really looking for an explanation. I would prefer someone know why I am not trying to reach out after they’ve contacted me, rather than leave it unanswered.

            1. Courtney*

              Honestly, I think it would be pretty strange to basically shame someone for being a self-centered teenage girl many years ago. It doesn’t sound like she was behaving maliciously – she just didn’t get it. Adding onto that are the facts that she sent this message years ago and you never read it. So you already have left it unanswered. It happens. People do that. I don’t think she needs an explanation why. It seems like this is more about how deeply this has affected you and apparently still is – have you ever considered talking to a therapist about that? I don’t mean that as an insult, I’ve done therapy and will actually be starting it again next week. It just sounds like a disproportionate response your mind is having here, particularly given that you’re dwelling on this years later and saying it affects the way you handle things in your life to this day. That’s pretty heavy for some teenage girls who were thoughtless and not great friends. Perhaps it’s more about the way you grew up – your finances and extra responsibilities that most teens don’t have to deal with?

    2. Temperance*

      I honestly don’t think there’s a real benefit to you telling her this now. You aren’t going to feel better if you do.

      I don’t think that your friends were necessarily mean, they were teenage girls who couldn’t imagine that another teen was forced to pay bills for whatever reason. I mean, I grew up in a poor family with a lot of issues at home, and honestly, only two of my friends from that time even know now.

      As a teen, you were probably trying to hide being poor. It’s okay! It’s what most of us do.

      1. matcha123*

        I don’t think they were trying to be mean, at least this girl wasn’t. She was just horribly clueless and it was hurtful. I mean, making a joke about Americans being monolingual and not having passports might be cute if my family was vacationing at ski resorts and taking trips to Hawaii, but we didn’t even have a car.
        I think I did peek at her facebook page around that time, and saw writings about people needing to be compassionate to those in need and just felt really angry.

        Yes, I also poured a huge amount of energy into not looking outwardly poor and not talking about my family situation. I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes at wealthy classmates who complained that their parents weren’t buying them the brand of car they wanted or that they had to take Kaplan classes that cost thousands of dollars…

    3. AnonAndOn*

      I had a “friend” like this from middle school to early high school. The school I attended ran from middle school through the end of high school. She was much better off financially than I was too. She was a toxic friend. She’d tell people my secrets, encourage me to ask out boys who had no interest in me (then say “I told you not to ask him out!” even though the opposite was true), and lie all the damn time. It was as if she got a thrill from being “better than” poor, pathetic me. I was bullied in school and abused at home and was so broken down by life, and very naive at the time. I believed her and her lies. She transferred to a different school in early high school. The last time I saw her in person was in early college when I was out in public.

      Years later she’d try to reach out to me on social media. I’d reject and ignore all her requests. Even my sister said, “Mary Jones (clearly not her real name) has been trying to get in touch with you.” I said I had no interest in reaching out. Mary finally got the hint and stopped trying to request me.

      At times I wanted to find out why she was unkind to me but realized I didn’t need to. There was no point. Her opinion no longer mattered to me. While I’m still trying to piece a lot of my life back together and build my esteem, I am at a better point where I no longer need toxic friends.

      It’s your choice as to whether or not you respond to your former friend, but I would suggest thinking about what you expect to gain from her first.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I would not reply to her on Facebook. But I would write her a letter in a separate document. Say all the things you wish you could say to her face. Really let it all out. Then leave the letter in your document folder and later, you can delete it.

    5. Zip Zap*

      You could read the letter before deciding what to do. If you don’t want to read it, it’s definitely not worth worrying about. But it could be something that would have an impact on the way you’re thinking about this.

      Also, I sympathize. I went to school with kids who had a lot more money than I did. I went through similar stuff. It really sucked.

  27. Aargh*

    Just got a letter from the council telling me I need to replace the front door of my flat with a fire door within 28 days. That’s £2500 I don’t have.

    Anyone know any decent companies that install doors in London UK?

      1. Aargh*

        Nope – there is nothing wrong with the existing doors, they’re just not fire doors. Plus my phone line currently runs through the door frame, so I’m guessing that will be a problem.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Check with friends/neighbors to see if they know a good handyman who knows doors well.
      Then check clearance areas at building supply stores or perhaps you can find an entire store that is all clearance stuff. I have never been, but here we have a Habitat for Humanity store. Not sure if you would have a similar thing. And I am not sure if the pricing would be a good deal.

      I found an interior fire door at a clearance store for a couple hundred dollars. My contractor/friend billed me his hourly rate to install it. My friend is unusually good at dealing with doors and the project went fairly quick.

    2. caledonia*

      Have you called your council at all? I couldn’t magic up that amount of money either – are you in a council owned place or a shared housing community or something? Do they have funds for you to access?

      1. Aargh*

        It’s a leasehold flat in a council-owned building which means no, they won’t help. If I was a council tenant they’d pay for it but as an owner-occupier it’s my responsibility.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          If it’s leasehold, who’s the management company – the council? A contractor? – and are you sure it isn’t their job?

          1. Aargh*

            No, according to my lease I am responsible for the front door of the flat. It’s possible they will do the work (the letter isn’t totally clear about that) but I definitely have to pay.

            1. misspiggy*

              The council usually does the work themselves in situations like this, hence the high cost. Best thing would be to call and say you didn’t understand the letter. If they do the work, ask for a payment plan. If they don’t, ask for recommended tradespeople.

  28. Amadeo*

    Today, I science! I want to make an attempt at an in-shower lotion bar (the sort where you get it wet and it becomes lotion you can rub on just prior to turning the shower off and toweling off, more or less). I’ve already made actual lotion, from scratch, so I’ve got what I need there. Also plan to try to make a milk soap (with oatmeal, and an oatmeal, milk and honey scent…Breakfast at the Burrow?) that I *don’t* have to rush to the freezer to keep it from overheating.

    It’s quite nice to have a good way to scratch the Mad Scientist itch.

    1. Amadeo*

      Sciencing went well, I think. I suspect I may have another partial gel in the milk soap, but at least I didn’t have to take it to the freezer. The in-shower lotion bar I kind of really like. I am weird in that I don’t particularly like having to stop to put lotion or body butter on post-shower, so it was kind of really nice to have a bar I could just kind of, make lotion with, right in the shower, rub it on, rinse a little bit and step out already feeling like I’d moisturized. The next step is seeing how well the preservatives hold it up while it lives on a nice, well drained dish in the shower.

  29. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Did you all see the horrible letter Dear Prudence got from the mom who suggested her daughter’s best friend would “ruin the aesthetic” of her wedding because she limps?

    1. Courtney*

      Yes! When your own words make it that clear that you are the bad guy in the story…yeah. I don’t know how people like that re-dead what they wrote and don’t have a “OMG what am
      I doing?!” moment.

      1. nep*

        But if it’s the kind of person who would even have that thought to begin with — that this young woman would somehow spoil her daughter’s wedding because of a limp — it’s really no surprise that re-reading it wouldn’t trigger any big realization. Even the question at the end — ‘Is it wrong to have her friend sit out?’ — doesn’t even really register any real remorse about her stance here…really just feels like she’s wondering why daughter or anyone would make a big fuss about her reservations.
        Just. So. Ugly.

        1. fposte*

          I always wonder about how isolated people like that have to be. Not so much that she *has* these ugly impulses but that she genuinely hasn’t gotten the memo that the world thinks this approach sucks.

            1. fposte*

              Oh, that’s true, I suppose. So she wrote in assuming that the advice columnist would commiserate with her terrible problem. Ugh.

          1. FD*

            In my experience, people like this have filtered it out because any time someone has a negative reaction to something they say and do–why, it’s the other person’s fault, of course!

            I mean, we all do that to some extent–if you accidentally cut someone off in traffic, everyone makes mistakes, but if someone cuts you off, they’re an idiot and a bad driver. But some people realllly take that talent to the next level.

          2. Zip Zap*

            Sadly not everyone thinks it sucks. She might be isolated, or she might just surround herself with other people who think the same way.

    2. nep*

      I nearly got out of breath reading this letter. Dumbfounded. Sickened.
      There’s a special place in hell for letter writer.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        It’s kind of amazing she raised a daughter who is aware enough to cut her off for making a comment like that.

    3. Foreign Octopus*

      I have now!

      Oh my god, what a woman.

      I like that she put in brackets that she and her daughter were never that close. It really explains a lot.

    4. Annie Moose*

      Here’s hoping it’ll show up on Bad Advice, my favorite advice column on the internet! (for the uninitiated, a link will be in the reply)

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Aww. Mallory was too nice. She should have told the woman to stay home from her daughter’s wedding because the mother’s mere presence would ruin the aesthetic.

    6. Mimmy*

      OMG, what a terrible mother. I agree with Mallory – very ableist.

      When I was married in 1999, one of my bridesmaids was visibly disabled from a near-fatal brain infection a few years prior, and if my parents acted like that, I’d feel deeply ashamed. In fact, we did the entrance procession a little differently as a result to accommodate her (her balance was significantly impaired), though in hindsight, I wonder if it might’ve been a bit ableist, if unintentionally so.

      1. Amazed*

        Redoing the procession to accomodate the disabled sounds like the total opposite of ableist! Good on you.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        If my parents did something like that, I would tell them that Friend WILL be in my wedding and if they say ONE DAMN WORD the entire time, including at the reception, I will have them removed. Forcibly, if necessary. (Mine wouldn’t, thank goodness.)

        I don’t think that’s ableist at ALL. In fact, I think it’s awesome.

    7. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      That first off-hand remark about it being a birth defect instead of a medical condition…like if she had a limp because of cancer, that would be totally ok, but a birth defect is what makes it unacceptable. Wow.

  30. Dinosaur*

    We adopted a kitten this week! The rescue that we worked with was phenomenal and kitty is getting settled. I haven’t had a kitten in 20 years so I’m a bit rusty about cat stuff. Everything is going well but I’d love some advice and recommendations!

    1. Scratching–how do we get her to scratch the scratching post and cardboard mat? We’ve been redirecting her when she scratches the couch or carpet by picking her up and moving her to the appropriate scratching areas, we play with her on the scratching pad and post to encourage her, and we’ve sprayed the furniture with an anti-scratching spray (eucalyptus and lemon oil are the main ingredients). Is there anything else we should do?

    2. Litter recommendations–what brands do you like? We bought a thing of So Phresh at Petco but I don’t like it. The litter is big and sticks to our kitten’s paws and therefore gets spread everywhere and it’s not so great at odor control. What litters do y’all like?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Pearl*

      Do you have any catnip or catnip spray? This is the only way I’ve gotten my cat to acknowledge the scratch post. She doesn’t like the cardboard ones because they move too easily when she scratches them though.

      For litter I use World’s Best, which is a non-clay litter. It does track some but I put down a mat in front of the box and it helps. We used to use a pine brand but I moved and the pet store by my new house didn’t stock it.

      1. Dinosaur*

        I sprinkled a bunch of catnip on both scratch places when we first got them but she didn’t seem to react. I’ll look into a spray, though! I’ve heard that litter is good. I have a mat but it’s still tracking farther than that so I definitely need a new litter. Thanks for the recs!

        1. Is It Performance Art*

          If she doesn’t respond to catnip, she’ll probably respond to silver vine. Some cats will just roll around in it, but some will scratch it.

    2. periwinkle*

      1. Agreeing with Pearl – catnip spray and powdered catnip may attract the kitten to the appropriate scratching site. As she gets bigger, upgrade her scratching post to something tall so she can scratch at full streeeeeeeeeeetch. I have a SmartCat post (from Amazon) that’s 32″ tall and has a flat wood cap on top. Some cats love to scratch it, others like to sit on top of it. It may help to have some variety, and you can even hack your own scratching post by wrapping a table leg in sisal rope.

      Caveat: Not all cats respond to catnip. You could also try mint. FYI, menthol may have the same effect, and I’ve had to stop using Icy Hot because one of my cats treats me like a large catnip toy when I put the stuff on. Weird. Cats are weird.

      2. We use Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Ultra multi-cat litter – it’s a clumping litter and less expensive than the EverClean we used to use. Our 8 cats approve. We use it in standard boxes and our two Litter Robots. Definitely use a mat. I saw one at Petsmart that I need to try – it’s a dual-layer one with holes on the top layer so the litter debris will fall through. Might be a pain to clean but I’ll probably try it out.

      Happy Kittening!

      1. Dinosaur*

        We’ve got a 6ft tall cat tree with multiple scratching posts coming next week so hopefully that will be tall enough, haha! Good to know about mint–I can only imagine how you felt becoming the human scratching post after the Icy Hot. Dr. Elsey’s was a brand I was looking into so it’s good to know that it has your 8(!) kitties’ approval!

      2. The Other Dawn*

        Yes! I love Precious Cat! We have 11 cats and I buy about four bags every three weeks (with two kittens, we go through a lot of litter because they’re dirty little buggers!).

        I second trying some catnip on the scratching post and cardboard.

        And congratulations!!

    3. Clever Name*

      Agree with the others on scratching. Also keep in mind that some cays prefer the vertical posts and others prefer the horizontal ones. I have both kinds since each cat likes a different type. Be found the plain carpet ones less appealing to cats than the ones covered in rope.

      I use feline pine litter. It’s not clumping at all, but I find it really helps to reduce the pee odor.

      1. periwinkle*

        Adding onto that… those corrugated cardboard scratchers are popular amongst our clowder. Right now we have a standard rectangle (all scratched out, really, but the cats like to sleep on it) and some which are S-shaped or arched or otherwise not a flat rectangle.

        HomeGoods/Marshalls have pet product and I’ve bought several of the cardboard scratchers there at a discount. I always check out the pet supply section when I visit HomeGoods – it’s a good source for cat beds and tunnels, and recently the nearby one has been carrying full-sized cat trees as well.

    4. Allie Oops*

      We use Ever Clean Extra Strength Unscented, due to a picky cat who wouldn’t accept anything else. I’ve never found any clumping litter that’s great with tracking, so we just keep a little Shop Vac in the linen closet and stay vigilant with it. Crystal, corn, and newspaper litters are better with tracking, but I’ve never gotten Miss Priss to accept any of those, and I know that have their own issues.

      Also, not to sound like an ad, but a coworker got me into ordering litter from Chewy, and I am a new-found fanatic. Free 1-2 shipping over $49, so I order two bags of litter and UPS brings it within 36 hours. Not having to fight to get heavy bags into and out of my trunk anymore makes me giddy.

    5. Ellie*

      Kittens don’t react to catnip- they need to get closer to adulthood to feel its effects, so trying to get her interested in the scratching posts using catnip now won’t work if she truly is a kitten.

      And litter? Swheat Scoop- flushable, controls odor, biodegradable!

      1. C*

        Don’t buy Swheat if you have any family members with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity though! Especially if your cat goes on your kitchen counters.

    6. Snargulfuss*

      Don’t buy Tidy Cat litter! I bought a big bucket of it upon a recommendation and it’s horrible at covering smells. Even brand new it has a funny litter box smell. I had a bucket of SoFresh before this and it was much better, both in terms of smell and clumping.

    7. Simon and Sophie mom*

      Check out Pretty Litter. The litter isn’t dusty, it warns you if kitty is sick and you only change it once a month.

    8. KR*

      I had luck putting the scratching posts and cardboard scratchy things where she was scratching. Also, worlds best cat litter (name of brand) is great.

  31. JuniperJones*

    So I’m a big girl and I’m dating online….or trying to. My profile pictures are current and accurate yet on a couple of dates guys have said ‘you’re bigger in person’. I guess most of us are larger than a 4×6 photograph in person but for bigger women it’s a frustrating thing to hear. I changed tack a little and now bring up the ‘big girl thing’ during our emails, not in a dramatic way or a negative one just as a point of clarity so I don’t get gussied up for the bar for no reason. I find a lot of guys come back with ‘oh I’m no oil painting either’ and I’m at home thinking….I didn’t say I was hideous or ugly!

    I know lots of larger ladies have great partners and relationships but I actually find it really tough to meet people. I list my body type as big in my profile, have plenty of accurate photos and yet still….nada. Are there any other plus size gals with tips to share?

    1. BT*

      It sounds like you are just being upfront about your appearance and people are interpreting it as you disclosing a negative feature. Perhaps you could try adding a bit in your profile that you love yourself and your appearance, that you have uploaded accurate pictures, and if someone has a problem with how you look in those pictures, they shouldn’t bother getting in touch with you. Such a statement would be hard to misinterpret as you saying something negative about yourself – and if it is misinterpreted as that, then you can easily filter that person out of your pool of potential dates.
      For what it’s worth, I met my partner on a dating website 3 years ago (and married him earlier this year). In my profile, I chose not to say anything under “body type”, because I feel those labels are very subjective and sometimes upsetting. I just uploaded a bunch of recent pictures, some of which were head-to-toe shots.

    2. NaoNao*

      I am cusp-sized, and tall (5’10” in bare feet and about a 16 or so). Because I’m both tall and curvy, I tend to come off as a bit bigger than perhaps someone who was either “just” tall or “just” curvy/plus. So, when I was online dating I did two things:

      I compared my body type to a similar TV character so that men would have a clear idea of what I looked like
      I used full body photos that, while flattering, were accurate and recent

      I also read profiles *very* carefully and I stayed away from the “swipe right” type apps in general. I read the OKC questions; and if a guy answered the ones about weight or body type *regardless of how he answered* it was a pass. I didn’t want that to be forefront of my potential guy’s mind.

      For men that I felt might not be okay with a curvy/plus woman, I came right out and said it “Hey, I’m both tall and pretty curvy, is that okay with you?” Most said yes, but sometimes guys are swiping right and not really focused/or paying attention. Then when they message you or vice versa, only the *thumbnail* appears, and that’s usually your face. So they’re not focused on the full-body pics.

      If a guy uses the following phrases on his profile, he’s *likely* looking for a conventionally slender woman:

      “Takes care of herself”
      “Fit, healthy”
      “Works out”
      “Height/weight proportional”
      “Into fitness”
      “I prefer petite” (they mean very slender, small women, not short women)

      I also noticed that men who didn’t mention sports, working out, fitness or “health” in their profile (even if they were healthy!) were more likely to be easy going about body type.

      One thing you might also consider is being open about your healthy lifestyle, if that’s something you’re pursuing. Perhaps something like “I walk to work daily, and love to swim at the YMCA. I play a mean game of table tennis and Friday nights find me preparing my Whole30 treat meals!” Or whatever!! Just note the positive steps you’re taking to stay healthy, as there’s an unfortunate stereotype that heavier people are not healthy. That may at least head off concern trolls at the pass.

      Honestly, online dating might not be the best bet for plus sized women. I’ve had a lot more luck in person; my ex and my now-guy I both met at work, and was friends with both first. I feel that both seeing me in person, where my style, personality, and “aura” are in play, and being friends helped these guys see me as a whole person, not just a body type.

      1. Lady Jay*

        Can I just say that as a woman who is in fact quite slender and legitimately into fitness (I ran eight miles this morning!), and who is currently trying online dating, these comments from men rub me completely the wrong way! Guys who put physical specs for their ideal spouse in their profile come off sounding pretty entitled and superficial, especially when they follow it up with some comment wondering why no woman has been attracted to them yet. I think that online dating, great as it can be (I have close friends who met their SO online), reinforces unhealthy relationship patterns and a consumerist approach to love.

    3. SandrineSmiles (France)*

      Here’s how I did it back then:
      – main pic is a face as smile-y as possible
      – in the other pics, at least one full body goofy pic
      – one “look at me, I know I’m sexy” pic (with a tasteful selfie type pic with a teeny tiny bit of cleavage)

      I put my first name in the beginning of my profile paragraph. This way, I could filter out men who asked my name. Or who had photos of them in what I call the “Look at my CAR” pose (for some reason, I never met any interesting guy who had his car in his profile pic. A random selfie, okay, fine, but some people are weird about that) .

      Guess what: people will be assholes no matter what. If you’re plus size, they’ll insult that. If you’re slender, they’ll insult something else. So I just dealt with it the same way I deal with anyone now: you’re an asshole, I rule you out.

      Just because you’re plus size doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to enjoy this part of the world of dating.

      I wish you the best!

    4. SeekingBetter*

      I’m about 20 pounds overweight at the moment. And even though I’m not or ever have tried online dating, I still found it hard to attract men when I was meeting them organically at work, school, exercise classes, bars, etc. When I was at my heaviest (60 pounds overweight) in high school, I’m pretty sure most of the boys back then didn’t ever approach me or ask me on a date because of my weight. And I was one of the 10 obese girls back then in my school.

      I think a lot of guys might have it in their heads that they’d like to go out with a size-2 supermodel. I mean, not all guys are like this, but I think it might be harder to attract a guy who desires a girl for who you are and not only base their attraction off of looks alone. It’s kinda a bad societal standard we put up with. Anyway, no advice other than just be you and hope that a guy comes along who doesn’t make the “you’re bigger in person” comment when he meets you in person.

      1. Zip Zap*

        I think a lot of guys are thinking of what other people will think of them. There’s a really wide range in what people actually find attractive, but what’s considered desirable by society as a whole is narrower. Fortunately, not everyone cares! I don’t know how helpful this is, but I think that openly liking who you like tends to go hand in hand with being ready for a relationship. People who are superficial or worried about what their friends will think are best weeded out.

  32. Trie*

    I’m an immigrant (in the U.S.) with very limited knowledge of the American homeownership process and options. I’d really appreciate some financial advice from more knowledgeable folks. My spouse and I are planning to buy a house next year as first-time home buyers. Spouse is self-employed with a credit score of approximately 740. I am salaried with a credit score of approximately 770. Our budget maxes out at $130,000. We can put down around 5% of that. Our internet research hasn’t really confirmed whether a FHA loan or a conventional loan would be better for us, since our credit scores are very good but our down payment would be low. Any thoughts on which option would work out better (in terms of monthly payments and total loan amount)? Please let me know if you need any more information before you can weigh in. Thanks!

    1. fposte*

      This is the kind of thing a lender or broker might be able to give you some guidance on without costing you anything, and there’s sometimes regional/state variation on real estate law and convention so it’s worth getting some advice locally.

      However, FHA vs. conventional is a pretty common comparison–if you Google “FHA vs. conventional loan” you’ll get a bunch of pages breaking down the difference. But generally, if you can’t put down 20% to avoid having to pay PMI (insurance), the FHA loan tends to come out ahead.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Just one note about FHA loans: they are really picky about the condition of the house. Just putting that out there since my husband and I tried to get one to do a refi and they wanted us to put a brand new roof on our BARN. Because the barn was considered part of the house and property, it was collateral and as a result had to be in good condition also. Never mind that it’s nearly 300 years old and still standing. Since putting a new roof on the barn would have negated any savings, we passed.

      1. fposte*

        Heh. I’m in one of those LCOL areas where that would be a fine and reasonable price, so I didn’t think twice about it; good question.

      2. Red*

        Good question, I didn’t even think twice about that! Where I live, $60k will buy you a pretty decent house, $130k will buy you a fantastic one. Definitely pay attention to what is reasonable for your area.

        1. Sparkly Librarian*

          One of the stories I got this weekend was about my mom’s first house in Santa Barbara – a 2/1 bungalow with a bonus sunroom and mature fruit trees, for which she paid $37,500 in the early 1970s. I think my wife cried a little. (We bought a couple years ago in the Bay Area.)

          1. Chaordic One*

            This made me think of the small 3-bedroom/1-bath house my grandmother bought for $12,000 in a small mid-western town back in 1967 when I was growing up. I just looked it up on Zillow and it supposedly now has a value of $123,000. (although they turned the attached single-car garage into a room and built a new double garage in back). There are definitely some Low COL areas out there, but you’d probably have a very hard time finding a job there.

            1. MsChanandlerBong*

              In 1978, my parents paid $5,000 for three acres of land. They took out a mortgage for $17,000 to build their house. Prices have shot up in their neighborhood, so you can’t even buy ONE acre for less than $25K these days. Unfortunately, they don’t understand that you can’t buy a livable house and three acres of land for $22,000, so they can’t figure out why my husband and I are still renting.

      3. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Having grown up in NYC and then moved to the DC suburbs, I wondered the same thing. Around here, you would be lucky to get a garden shed for that (if it came on its own tiny plot of land)!

        The upside is that if you retire with your house paid off or even close to it, you have enough equity to buy almost anywhere else in the country.

      1. Sam Foster*

        This times 1000. Several local organizations by me have First Time Buyer courses and the one I went to is fantastic!

    2. Awkward Interviewee*

      A good mortgage broker should be able to walk you through your options. Husband and I are in the first time house buying process right now, and our mortgage person gave us detailed estimates (monthly payment, closing costs, etc) for 4 different scenarios (different %s down for conventional and VA).

    3. Snargulfuss*

      If you can qualify for a conventional fixed-rate loan, choose that option. I believe hat if you have an FHA loan you have to pay PMI for the entire duration of the loan. With a conventional loan you can have your equity reevaluated after a certain number of years and if you’ve paid 20% of the value, the PMI will come off your payment. Also, FHA loans are stricter about the condition of the house and sellers tend to be more friendly to conventional loan buyers.

      I say all this not as a mortgage broker but as a recent first-time home buyer who did a TON of research about every aspect of the process. FHA loans are useful for people who don’t qualify for a conventional loan, but numerous people told me to avoid FHA if possible.

    4. FD*

      I’m involved with real estate, so here’s what I can share.

      First, three important caveats.

      Are you sure that buying makes more sense than renting? People often buy before they’re really ready. A good rule of thumb is that renting needs to be about 25% more expensive than your monthly payment–including your mortgage payment, taxes, and insurance. Why? Because you will have maintenance issues that are now your responsibility and not a landlord’s, and a good rule of thumb is to set aside about 25% to a savings account for those issues.

      Second, have you factored in that you need in closing costs? You’ll really need at least 5% down to keep your interest rate reasonable, and then there’s going to be at least a few thousand in closing costs. Do you have enough to cover 5% + closing expenses? What about moving? New furniture for the new location? Equipment like lawn mower, etc?

      Third, are you going to be able to stay in this home for at least five years? Remember that every time you move, you pay closing costs again–and when you sell, you’re likely going to pay a commission as well on the cost of the house. If you plan to move for work/have kids/sell everything and become a sheep herder in New Zealand within five years, you probably shouldn’t buy.

      OK, with those caveats out of the way.

      A bank ideally wants the highest down payment possible. If you can put 20% down, you’re a lower risk to the bank than if you can only put 5% down. The bank will manage this risk by either refusing to take loans with low down payments or by putting higher interest rates on them.

      An FHA loan is essentially a loan insured by the federal government. Because the loan is insured not just by any old insurer but by the federal government, the bank will accept a lower down payment without increasing your interest rate as much as they would without FHA insurance. In order to take advantage of this, you must qualify and do certain things.

      In the majority of cases, you will be better off with FHA insurance than with a conventional loan if you don’t have a large down payment. However, as others have said, there are programs you should take to learn more about it. Most states have a first-time homeowner program–I strongly, strongly advise taking one. Take one before taking a bank-based one. Remember, banks/credit unions want to make money off you borrowing from them! Many are good classes anyway but you should always take them with a grain of salt.

      1. FD*

        That said, Snargulfuss commented about the mortgage insurance (PMI) coming off your costs once you qualify–that’s generally true. In the specific area I live in and cases I’ve seen, the higher interest rate generally offset that potential savings (though in theory, you could get a lower rate by refinancing). So take that into consideration too.

    5. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

      PMI is such an unsightly cost. If you don’t have the 20% to put down, I don’t think you are ready to make the purchase. You have to be very careful with PMI: many mortgage companies and some FHA loans require PMI for the life of the mortgage rather than just until you hit the 20% equity mark. And even then, it’s up to you to pay for an inspection and get the mortgage company to agree that you’ve hit the 20% equity mark to stop PMI. when you factor in the additional costs of maintenance, property taxes. etc., only having 5% to put down really won’t cut it.

      But you are so smart to start thinking about this process now! As other commentators said, there are credit unions and banks and realtors that offer classes on first-time home buying. You can get prequalified with a mortgage before you go looking, but you’ll want to have that 20% down. You will have time to educate yourself on the process while you save.

  33. Evie*

    I have struggled over the last 10-ish years to keep up a friendship with a woman about 75 miles away. She and her husband moved away for work, implying that it was temporary and that their goal was to move back, but it’s obviously permanent.

    Over the years we have tried to get together several times a year, usually once in spring and once in fall, but it seems like she’s pulling away and I’m not sure why. Their family still lives in my town, so I know they come back for birthdays and holidays, and she sees another local friend quite often. My husband thinks it’s because we don’t use social media (we can’t, due to safety issues involving his work), and people prefer to connect and plan social events that way.

    They’ve made some major life changes over the past couple of years–international travel, building a gigantic new home, planning an adoption–and I heard about all of it second-hand. I write e-mails to catch up and ask to get together, and get polite platitutes in return. I’d blame the distance, but they come to town at least every few months to see family. I’ve said that we would be glad to drive out to them, but I can’t invite myself into their home.

    The reason this came up is because I just saw a photo of her in my local paper, volunteering at a charity event in town. I had no idea she was here.

    I wish I could just straight-out ask if she’s sick of me and wants to be left alone, but I don’t have the nerve. I drive myself crazy wondering what I’ve done. Is it because I forgot to send a birthday card two years ago? Is it because my husband is a gutter mouth, and they’re too polite to ask him not to curse? Is it because they’re both fast-tracked executives now, and we’ve stayed firmly blue collar? I thought this high school nonsense was supposed to be over by the time you hit your forties.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, it’s always hard when it feels like your friendship isn’t reciprocated; I’m sorry. But what you’re describing doesn’t sound to me like high school nonsense; it just sounds like one person is more invested in having a friendship than the other. That doesn’t have to be due to anything you did wrong, and usually it isn’t; it’s just friend drift. And yes, some people like to keep in touch via social media and therefore tend to lose touch with those who don’t use that method. It’s their right to use the method they want and keep the friends they want.

      Ultimately, this person is not going to be the friend you want her to be, and that doesn’t make either of you bad people. So what do you want to do with the current situation? Do you want to reach out to her occasionally just in case, or do you want to move on and use that space in your life for something more rewarding?

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I’m sorry but it does sound like she doesn’t want to continue the friendship. Don’t torture yourself trying to figure out why – sometimes it just happens and it’s nobody’s fault but you can’t force it.

    3. HannahS*

      I’m with fposte, I’m afraid. It sounds like your lives aren’t very similar anymore, and she no longer wants to put in the effort to be friends. Whatever the reason–and I doubt it’s anything specific–the outcome is the same, right? I’ve seen my parents ghosted by friends, and have had it happen myself. It sucks, but I don’t think there’s anything you can or should do, except invest to spend your energy on other friends.

    4. Lady Jay*

      I have a friend exactly like this! We were very close shortly after college, and then she moved on professionally, and got a bunch of new friends. Now we’re not as close anymore. It stings! I feel for you.

      I’ve resisted (so far) the temptation to formally “break up” with her, because while I think that would provide closure, I’m not a fan of blowing things up dramatically. But I did make a conscious decision to stop investing in the relationship; I’m not going to be the one calling her, emailing her, writing her. I’m not going to spend energy on someone who doesn’t care.

  34. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    I’m at a cat adoption event. How true is the saying “the cat chooses you?”

    I finally feel I’m in a place to care for a furry creature, I work within walking distance of home. I’m considering adopting a super chill 2 or 3 year old cat perhaps, and I have ample room for a cat tree. What other cat essentials should I get? (Open versus closed litter box? How much cans of cat food per day? What’s the best/affordable cat food brand out there?)

    What do you wish you knew before adopting a cat?

    Also, is it super different adopting a cat with
    a long term boyfriend, or cohabitation get fiancé, or husband (after wedding when stuff settles down?) At this point, SO is moving boxes to my place, we have a wedding planner and date set (we did this so nmom can’t cause crazy), and he’s proposing before December.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      In terms of the cat choosing you – it varies. A friend of ours, years ago, was at the shelter in the room to meet the cats. And suddenly, there was this weight on his shoulder and a “mrow?” in his ear. She was his cat – or he was her human – from that day on. Very sweet cat, too, but it was very much that there was him and there was everyone else. My husband was renting some space from this guy when we met, and the cat got to the point that she would approach me for pets if her person was working a lot or something.

      With the litter box, I’d suggest asking the folks at the rescue what the cat is used to. Just make sure you get one that’s big enough for the cat to use comfortably.

      On the food, make sure you find out what they’re currently feeding the cat. It’s fine if you want to make a change, but do it gradually if so – an abrupt change in food can upset a cat’s stomach.

      A brush is good – cats do groom, but getting loose hair out with regular brushing can help cut down on hairballs.

      And toys – especially ones that are interactive (by which I mean. you play with them with the cat). It’s a great way to develop a bond.

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      In my experience, the cat does choose you.

      Bones chose me. I was set on another cat but I went to visit another room and she was the only one that didn’t approach me because she was so shy and nervous but after about 10 minutes, she came over, sniffed my hand and that was that.

      As for essentials, I have an open litter box but I wish I’d gotten a closed because of the amount of mess Bones makes when she kicks the litter over the side.

      Food varies depending on the cat. I give mine 100g of wet food in the morning, a bowl full of dried throughout the day that she can pick at when she’s hungry, the occasional treats (think Dreamies or Catisfactions), and rarely, as a special treat, half a small tin of small tuna. As for brand, Purina is good, so is Whiskers, but I use the stuff from the shelter at first so that the shock to her system isn’t too much.

      Can’t answer to the difficulties of adopting with someone else as I adopted Bones alone.

      As for what I wish I knew, I wish I knew that I would have to be relaxed about everything. I worried constantly. She didn’t eat for the first two days and I was worried something was wrong. Then she wouldn’t leave her hidey-hole. Was she okay sleeping in the living room alone? (Spoiler: she was).

      Practicalities though – find a good vet now. Talk to them. Make sure that the cat is neutered and that it has all of its injections. Treat it for fleas as well. A good shelter will have taken care of most of that but it’s best to double check.

      I wish I knew how much hard work it would be as well. I’ve just passed the two month mark of adoption and things are settling down but she still occasionally gets skittish. She trusts me but she does have abandonment issues (as I discovered this week). Patience and kindness is the way to go.

      It might be a good idea to take the first few days off of work (or work from home) just so that she can get used to you. I already work from home and I feel like that was a benefit in the early days.

      So, don’t feel rushed to have her settled in. She’ll settle at her own pace. Adopting an older cat is a good idea as well. Mine is 5/6 (I’m not 100% sure) and she’s much more mellow at her age than a kitten would be.

      And lastly, good luck! It’s a great thing to adopt an animal and please let us know how it goes!

    3. periwinkle*

      Cats might choose you, or you might choose the cat. Cats are weird that way! None of our cats chose us. Some have been purchased from breeders and others adopted from shelters; some were very young kittens and others were senior cats. We’d only seen photos of MollyCat (a breed rescue) but she turned out to be super affectionate and cuddly. Bondi Blue hid because she was timid and a bit freaked out being in a shelter; now she steals my pillow at bedtime and won’t move until she gets sufficient petting. As long as you accept that cats are controlled by benevolent but mischievous aliens, and behave accordingly, it’ll be fine.

      Some cats dislike closed litter boxes because it lacks an escape route. Even though you’ll want to hide the box out of sight, that’s not what cats prefer unfortunately. Check out Jackson Galaxy on YouTube for good info on cat behavior.

    4. caledonia*

      it is no different adopting a cat with a boyfriend, spouse or when you’re engaged. why do you think it would be? and do you both have the time to take care of a kitten?

    5. Allie Oops*

      All my cats have been local strays that needed medical intervention and ended up not leaving. So, I guess technically they all did choose us by way of picking our house to nearly die next to!

      You sound insanely busy. I would wait. It’s one thing to move with cats you already know, like Alison did, but when you get a new cat you haven’t learned her personality yet. When you have your SO’s boxes all over and constant chaos, you won’t know that she’s prone to chewing on string and can’t be trusted around your knitting, or that she’s high-strung and will lunge for the door anytime you have an unexpected visitor, or that she’s not acting her usual self because she got into your plants and has a blockage. A new cat should come into a calm home with a consistent schedule.

    6. Ramona Flowers*

      Our cat chose us. Went to see a group of kittens who were being fostered. I rolled a ball over, his siblings ran off and he rolled it right back and sat there looking at us as if to say: how about it then?

    7. Red*

      My cat definitely chose my husband and didn’t care one way or another about me, and she loves us both now, so I come down on the side of “sometimes it works” for this.

    8. Belle di Vedremo*

      The biggest difference with adopting with a partner who will be moving in is making sure that the partner is on board with pet care. So your SO should be happy with feeding, changing litter box, cuddling, entertaining, and vet care or you should wait until such a time as s/he is. It’s not fair to the pet, to the SO, or to yourself otherwise. You should also be on the same page about what constitutes good care, and appropriate behavior. Eg, most cats want to sleep on your bed. some people think that’s gross. One thing you might use as a resource is the adoption forms on the tinykittens dot com website. They have a lot of good questions to think about for people looking to add kittens or cats to their lives, and you two could talk through them together.

      Pets often do choose their humans. With guide/seeing eye dogs one often hears that the dog knows the first day, but it takes the week of intro/training for the human to figure it out. So both of you should go look at cats, and see which one/s take/s to the two of you.

      I’d agree with waiting until you’re settled together to choose a pet or two, if you already have boxes coming in and are expecting to get engaged before the end of the year.

    9. Bryce*

      My cat was chosen for me. A litter was abandoned in front of a PetSmart, they wound up with a friend of mine and she had to find places for them before her landlord found out. Wanted me to take the one I did because he was bullying the runt that she’d decided to keep. We wound up really taking to each other, what had been agression in the pack grew into an active playfulness that stayed up until he died 13 years later.

      Cat trees are nice, gives the cat some space that’s decidedly theirs. For a litterbox make sure you get one that’s big enough for them and if they’re young account for growth. Other tips are really going to depend on the cat; mine loved little hard-shelled toy mice (we would play fetch with them) and places to perch/explore, others are gonna feel differently.

      If you’ve got a spouse-to-be, make sure they’re part of the process. Some people just aren’t cat people, and that’s not a great thing to spring on someone particularly if they wind up having allergies.

    10. Lilo*

      My cat was basically picked out for me by the shelter. I came in saying I was willing to adopt an older cat, and the staff said “Let’s put you in a room with this guy”, and he basically flirted with us (demanding to be petted), so we decided to take him home.

      First: a lot of cats struggle with transitions. As I described – my cat was friendly at the shelter, but then hid for a whole week when we first got him home. He also had some serious litter box compliance issues at the beginning and peed on a lot of things – it was really really tough. We even talked about how we felt like we couldn’t deal with him. We stuck it out and I’m glad we did, but the first couple months can be really tough. He’s not perfect now by any means, but it’s a lot better. He’s gotten a lot friendly over the years, he wouldn’t lap sit for the first year we had him, but he does now.

      I might wait until fiance moves in all the way to get a cat, actually because of the transition issues. Cats can get really upset when something in their environment changes, so if the cat has to deal with fiance moving in as well, it can be tougher. Cat may bond with SO more if here’s there initially instead if cat sees fiance as someone who came in.

  35. katamia*

    Is it really that weird to not want to communicate by phone? Is this a US/UK difference? When I first started viewing apartments (my flight is in under 10 days, I have a hotel for 1 night, and then I have nowhere to live yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiikes) in London, I just put in zeroes for my phone number because with the time difference and everything else I have to do, I’m just not answering random calls or even looking at my phone much right now. Plus, when it comes to housing (actually, when it comes to most things), I’m pro-getting everything in writing.

    But I’ve only gotten one response from property management companies (I’m trying other places too, but most of what I’m finding that suits my needs is on property management company websites rather than Gumtree and similar sites), and that response…was to ask for a phone number. *headdesk*

    Because I’m so desperate, I’m giving my phone number now and BEGGING them in the notes field to email rather than call me, but can anyone explain what the heck is up with this apparent email aversion? I know phone conversations are instantaneous in a way that email isn’t, but is playing phone tag actually better than email?

    1. Elkay*

      It’s because they don’t have time to wait for emails back and forth unless you’ve actually got to the paperwork stage.

      1. katamia*

        But if we’re already going to be playing phone tag, it’s going to take the same amount of time (or possibly even longer because it’s clearer to hash this sort of thing out in writing).

          1. fposte*

            I think they’re not interested in your situation; they’re interested in letting the flat. If they can let the flat by telephone, that’ll have priority over somebody who requires a different kind of communication.

            1. katamia*

              That does make sense. I just think it’s incredibly unprofessional to not even give a brief response by email, and I still think it’s a little bizarre that apparently many property management companies all have the telephone preference, which is what’s making me wonder whether there’s a larger cultural factor at play here. (Especially since, to an unethical company as a few of the ones I contacted seem to be because that’s how desperate I am, international students seem to be easy marks because everyone seems to assume we’re massively wealthy–they could unload a crappy overpriced place off on us.)

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I think there are some people who still just do business by phone and who think it’s weird to expect not to. I’ve been contacting various contractor-types on Yelp a lot lately (tree guys, plumbers, etc.) and I’ve noticed some of them are fine responding via Yelp’s system or email and others want to get on the phone immediately. I think some people just are used to doing business on the phone and that’s what they’re comfortable with. I can imagine with landlords in particular, they might feel like they want to talk to you because it’s easier to get a quick sanity impression on the phone than it is in writing.

                1. katamia*

                  In my initial contact, though, I’ve been asking to do a Skype viewing of the apartment. They could talk to me then. Which wouldn’t solve their issue if they were also uncomfortable with Skype, but it’s not like I’m trying to rent an apartment without ever talking to anyone. I just would need it to be scheduled, and to schedule something we’d have to communicate another way first.

                  I know this is a much bigger deal for me than it is for them because I’m under such a time crunch and I think I used up all my patience on the uncertainty of whether or not my visa would come through, but the consistent lack of response is just really getting to me.

                2. fposte*

                  Oh, good comparison. Around here, it’s really rare for construction/home repair type people to operate on anything other than the phone. Sometimes they’ll text, but they won’t email (in my experience, even people who offer an email address don’t want to do business over it). If I didn’t want to use the phone, I’d have a long hunt to find somebody to work on my house.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I can almost guarantee you that people who don’t want to conduct business via email aren’t going to want to do it over Skype either — that’s a higher level of tech savviness than email is.

                4. the gold digger*

                  it’s really rare for construction/home repair type people to operate on anything other than the phone.

                  Because unless they have someone who manages the business for them, they cannot be on email during the day – they are on the jobsite. And it’s a lot easier to talk on the phone than to email on the phone.

              2. caledonia*

                your expectations aren’t quite correct I’m afraid. It is very, very normal to be contacted by phone for the reasons fposte and elkay say – they want to rent the flat asap and by doing this over the phone it’s quicker. the alternative is to book somewhere cheap like a hotel and go and view the places/sort the paperwork when you are actually in the country?

                And, can you actually obtain a place without seeing it!? Because in Scotland you can’t do this (England/Wales is different) and I’d be incredibly wary of renting somewhere without seeing it myself.

                1. katamia*

                  I’ve done it in the US without problems in the past. When I was moving across the country (East Coast to West Coast), it wasn’t feasible for me to actually fly over there just to look at apartments. It looks like you can do it in England too–I’ve had a couple replies (from sketchier people, unfortunately, through Gumtree) from people who are willing to do Skype viewings.

                  I have health issues and very low energy to begin with, and I’m just not going to be able to look at apartments after my grad program actually starts. And, because of how long it took to get my visa, the flight I picked is already a lot later than I’m comfortable with already for settling in/dealing with jet lag/doing all the other things I need to do before classes actually start.

                2. katamia*

                  The university’s provided a lot of information (which I’ve used), but I don’t know what they could actually do for me at this point. They can’t magically make an apartment appear. I’ll probably email them this weekend anyway to tell them I still don’t have housing, but I’m not hopeful there.

                3. caledonia*

                  Personally I wouldn’t rent from gumtree – what you don’t want to do is find yourself in a complete dump/dive/horrible flat/room. I didn’t know about the health issues and how that impacts on you and you are coming across completely stressed and I get that but that also makes your brain go a bit wonky. Are you making the best decisions for yourself? Is there anyone you know where you’re going, any US connections you can use…anything at all?

                4. katamia*

                  Nope. Nobody I know there. And, yep, I’m incredibly stressed right now (and have family members who handle stress way worse than I do in my ear probably isn’t helping either). I was all Zen when I was waiting to hear whether I got my visa, but I didn’t realize how ridiculously difficult it was going to be to even schedule a viewing–I was hoping to do four last week (all within my price/distance range, and tbh I would have taken any of them if they’d seemed okay from the viewing) and haven’t seen a single place yet.

                  My standards aren’t particularly high–I’ve lived in apartments with roaches, apartments without kitchens (way worse than having roaches, lol), apartments with roommates who blared the same playlist at top volume day in and day out, and other horrors. I don’t mind something that’s dingy or ugly or anything because I don’t pay that much attention to my surroundings to begin with (and that’s not the stress talking–you could write an entire Sh*t My Dad Says-type book called Sh*t Katamia Didn’t Notice).

                  And that last paragraph probably didn’t make me seem saner, lol. But, really, I just need A Place To Live at this point. I guess I didn’t realize that viewing an apartment from afar was apparently as unusual as it is because I’ve done it, I have friends who have done it, and it seems like a completely normal thing to ask to do when you can’t see a place in person (and ditto with “Obviously because of the time difference we can’t do the phone, so email would clearly be simpler,” which is…also apparently not universal). I postponed the apartment hunt because I didn’t know if my visa was going to come through and didn’t want to potentially have to spend 6 months to a year’s worth of rent on a place I wasn’t going to be able to live in, which was clearly the wrong thing to do, I see now.

              3. fposte*

                @katamia–the thing is, the Skype viewing request could go either way. If that’s not something they usually do, the combination of that outlier query and the “don’t phone me” request isn’t great for them and makes them wonder if your expectations will be in line with the conventions.

                I’d go with cheerfully offering my phone number and including a note about the time difference and an email option if *they* desire; if they call, they can always leave a message and you can call them back. Unfortunately in most student areas, it’s the landlords who can afford to be choosy, not the tenants.

                1. caledonia*

                  @katamia – it’s different where I am because you must see the property in person. So the skyping thing, viewing from afar thing isn’t what happens in Scotland.
                  So when I was looking to move 2.30 hrs from where I was to where I am, I was on rightmove and zoopla first thing, calling up and trying to arrange viewings asap and coming down the next day to view them.

                  There is also spareroom(dot)co(dot)uk, roombuddies, easyroomate that you can look at and put your own ad on so people contact you as well as you contacting them.

              4. mreasy*

                All brokers & landlords I have dealt with in NYC have exclusively used the phone. I do find that in general, Brits tend to phone calls for business, but it seems like it’s probably the industry.

              5. Not So NewReader*

                I see the part about the four apartments you were interested in. Perhaps if you start using the phone you will get the responses you are looking for.

                It’s fine to think whatever over people’s lack of email use, but what we think won’t make them use their emails. They will do as they wish.

                There are many professions who do not use email. I have had quite a few contractors work here over the last few years. Not a single one of them used email. Why. After a 14-16 hour work day you just don’t go home and look at email. It won’t happen. And no, there is no office worker to tend the email for them. Even if there was s/he would have no control over how the contractor responded to the email. One contractor here wired his phone into his truck’s horn and lights. (yes, the unattended truck would blow the horn and blink the lights.)You know, he still did not always hear the phone. Phones can be difficult but email is impossible.

                And in some arenas decisions move very fast. Legal, medical and real estate are a few I can think of. Email is just too slow for how these transactions happen. It’s only good as a back up or a means to provide extra information, if that much. People who use phones are perceived as interactive and willing to move ahead. Not so much with email.

    2. Anono-me*

      Not giving your phone number or giving your phone number but including very strong requests that the phone number
      not be used is unusual. I think we all understand why you are doing it and the reasonableness of your actions. However the unknown landlord may be looking at this and going “That’s a little weird. What other weird things am I going to have to deal with if I rent to this person?”

      I would suggest giving your phone number. But in the comments saying something more neutral like ” You may find it easier to reach me by email at ____, as currently due to the move, I am not always able to take phone calls right away.”

      The landlords may also be concerned about scams. Having a phone conversation is no guarantee against scams, but it at least can feel like it helps to talk to the person.

      1. katamia*

        I’ll give the more neutral wording a shot next time I try to contact one of them. Although regarding scams, some places want 6 months to a year’s worth of rent at once from international students without a UK guarantor (i.e., me), so I’m not sure why THEY’D be so worried about scams. (I kid, I kid. Sort of.)

    3. Mephyle*

      Email is invariably time-lagged, but a phone call doesn’t invariably end in phone tag – it may establish immediate communication.
      If they email you, they have to wait until you see it and reply. If they phone, and don’t get to talk to you they can just keep going down the list until they get someone who they can talk to right away.

    4. Ramona Flowers*

      Properties go FAST here. If you go to a viewing, you take a cheque book to pay a holding deposit if you want the place. Email just isn’t on a timescale that’s going to work, sorry.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Just to be clear: they will be on a faster timescale than you.

        I would never email a letting agent. You have to phone them. I’m amazed you’re even getting responses as those contact forms often just go into a void.

        1. katamia*

          Only one response, lol. And that one did ask for a phone number. All the others might as well have gone into a void.

          But that’s good to know about the checkbook/properties going so quickly thing–I’ve gotten a couple emails from Gumtree about viewings, so I’ll be ready to say yes/no on the spot (and pay via credit card) if they actually come through. Thanks!

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            I would absolutely NOT rent through Gumtree without physically seeing the place. It is fraught with scams. I also would always expect to make first contact about a property by phone and not email. I have been renting for years and moved a lot and email just isn’t how it’s done, sorry. I appreciate how frustrating this must be.

            You mentioned health issues. I can’t remember if uni accommodation was an issue but have you checked with them as to whether your health entitles you to more support e.g. help with finding housing?

            If all else fails I would stay in a YMCA (they are cheap) and look once you are there.

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              Also please ensure you do not rent from anyone who fails to provide a proper contract with info on how your deposit is held. The Shelter website has more on this.

            2. caledonia*

              I got scammed on gumtree – not flat – but with something else and would never use it. I h=gave some sites above in a comment ^

            3. katamia*

              I signed up for a dorm, but I was so far down on the waiting list that I didn’t get a spot. And I highly doubt that my health issues would entitle me to any extra support from them regarding finding accommodation.

              I guess what I’m struggling with is that people say (on here and on other places) that Craigslist (because we don’t have Gumtree) is incredibly sketchy and no one should ever look there for anything, but I’ve found two apartments and multiple jobs through there without major problems. So there’s a part of me going, “Well, is it really that bad?” because I just don’t have the right information to calibrate. (Similar to how growing up in one of the murder capitals of the US in the 90s meant it took me awhile and a lot of Internet research, when I was figuring out what areas of London to look for housing in, to figure out that the vast majority of London was totally fine safety-wise, whereas someone who grew up in a safe small town might feel the opposite.)

              1. Ramona Flowers*

                “And I highly doubt that my health issues would entitle me to any extra support from them regarding finding accommodation.”

                They might do. It is really worth asking.

                1. katamia*

                  I’ll consider it, but I really doubt it will qualify–it’s basically a bunch of very minor health stuff that’s just annoying on its own but that make certain things difficult depending on how they interact. I’m also not sure how much of my health issues I want to disclose to them. But I will consider it.

              2. Ramona Flowers*

                As to Gumtree, it has some perfectly okay stuff but from a distance you just can’t tell. The caveat with Gumtree is to go see the thing and not part with cash over the internet.

                1. katamia*

                  Which is basically the opposite of what I want/need to do, lol. Does it help at all if I’m replying to ads posted by property management companies rather than just randos?

                2. Ramona Flowers*

                  I would check out the company and if they are legit then contact them on the number on their site just to make sure you are actually talking to them.

      2. caledonia*

        a cheque book!? :p but yes, you need to have the money ready to go. I’m in a small town out of Edinburgh and was the first one to view the flat I’m renting and I had to go right then and there to secure it before someone else viewed it.

          1. caledonia*

            I mean, I have a cheque book (somehwere, I think) but I just transferred money over to secure the deposit.

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              I don’t know if I have a current cheque book! But I meant it more figuratively. I think the process is annoyingly hard to figure out – you couldn’t possibly know that Rightmove adverts are often out of date or that emails sent through it often fall into a void or that letting agents are people you have to phone. The whole thing is a chuffing nightmare.

              We are now lucky enough to live in a village with a very good family owned property management company. They are really nice and well known locally so can’t get away with being bad. And they’re not – they even came out personally to fix a leak on Christmas Day one time. They are also excellent at wrangling our landlord, who I quite seriously suspect is becoming senile.

    5. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Is there any way you can arrange an air bnb for a a week or two to give yourself the space in order to view and move into a flat? Even if you find a place to live on your first day it may not be available to you right then. I would strongly suggest getting yourself some peace of mind by sorting out something like that.

      There are a ton of other things you will need to sort out as well, possibly before even being able to put money on a place to live. Bank accounts are a notorious hitching point but if you are a student you should be able to open one ok and rather quickly near your school. A UK phone number too – no letting agent will call you back either without it.

      Second, too, the checking on roommate websites for something shared. Agencies here will charge you every fee under the sun (stay away from Foxtons, they are generally considered the worst of the worst). If you find a shared situation you avoid a lot of startup costs and having to buy things like frying pans and kettles. Check out spare room – and you can use that messaging function to at least start to set up viewings for rooms and look for fits in the areas you want to live. If you are really determined to live alone, see if there is anything on open rent, which takes out the agents all together and you deal direct with the landlords.

      For what its worth, many years ago I had a friend in a similar situation (and she had British citizenship through her mom) who was stuck waititng for funding to be released or some such thing. She came over with her dad and I think they found a place but in the end it just didn’t work out for the timing and situation.

      Good luck!

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        Oh and one other point, as an expat here, trust me, it really is two countries divided by a common language. Do not transfer expectations of “what you did in the US so obviously it must work somewhere else” to here because a LOT of things don’t work like that here. It will make no sense, it will be infuriating at times, but How Things Are Done is How Things Are Done. Its part of the adventure.

        The London reddit page is usually pretty helpful for new students and expats as well and can help you find cheap places to get food etc.

        We actually DID find our second place on Gumtree, and had an excellent excellent landlady so its not all scams, but we were in the neighborhood and could meet her, see the place, etc. Otherwise its been spareroom and my hairdresser.

        1. katamia*

          Yep. I’ve done the expat thing before, working in Asia. In a country where I didn’t speak the language. And it was still so much easier than this, honestly. This entire move preparation experience has been so awful I haven’t even had a chance to celebrate getting into grad school to begin with.

          1. Jessi*

            Katamia – have you looked on spareroom? spareroom dot co dot uk.

            Places go so fast in London! could you top up your skype account and use it to call the agents directly?

          2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

            Ill probably take some heat for this, but in a lot of ways this is a second-world country masquerading as a first. Wait till you experience the plumbing! :D

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        Omg, Foxtons. They auto dialled me repeatedly until I threatened to report them to the police for harassment.

      3. katamia*

        Welp. I won’t have a UK phone number until after I get there (my phone’s pretty old, and buying a new one was one of the first things I was planning to do once I was there), so maybe I shouldn’t even bother putting in my phone number? LOL.

        All the Airbnbs I’ve seen that didn’t look super sketchy/have some other dealbreaker (I don’t have a lot, but I do have a couple) are prohibitively expensive, unfortunately.

        People talk about Gumtree as being full of scams, but the only scam I’ve come across so far (that I can confirm) was on SpareRoom, actually–I messaged someone I didn’t have great feelings about but figured it was worth a shot, and then I got a message from SpareRoom saying they were a scam account.

        Foxtons is consistently touted across the Internet as the worst of the worst, but they’re actually the only ones who responded to me at all, lol. Although given what Ramona says, sounds like it’s good I didn’t give them my phone number.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I will reiterate my suggestion to try the YMCA – their hostels can be really cheap. It was about eight years ago now but I once stayed in one for £17 a night while working in Bath for a couple of weeks.

          1. katamia*

            Looks like the ones that are a reasonable distance from the university are all full for at least one night (assuming a 1-2 week stay). :( If I’d known it was going to be this ridiculously hard to find a place earlier, though, it looks like they would have been a good option.

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              What are you considering to be a reasonable distance from your uni? Could you look further out?

              1. katamia*

                30-40 minutes by public transportation according to Google Maps (because I’m assuming there’ll often be problems and it’ll take longer a lot of the time, especially when the weather’s bad). Much more than that on a daily basis and I’d lose my mind.

                1. misspiggy*

                  I think what I’d do in your shoes is find a hostel like the YMCA for a couple of weeks, and search in person when you get there. You’ll get a better sense for how transport works, and rentals move so fast it’s better to build a relationship with a slightly less awful agent (not Foxtons, never Foxtons) in person.

                  Go to their office, see a couple of dreadful places just to go along with the game; politely make it clear that what you require is not this but x and y, and here are all your ducks in a row; and ask them to call you as soon as something decent comes along. A lot of the better places go before the agents put them online, so in person is the way to go.

                  Conversely, also use Rightmove and similar – individual landlords often advertise directly online, rather than relying on estate agents’ sites.

                2. Ramona Flowers*

                  Honestly I wouldn’t commit to a property long term until you get there and see how you find the transport. For example I don’t mind the tube – I actually change to the Central Line from Oxford Circus in rush hour which is supposedly a huge no no but isn’t that bad – but I used to live in the Greenwich/ Lewisham area and would seriously lose my sh*t if I had to travel from there again for various reasons that wouldn’t bother someone else.

                3. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

                  A lot of these websites will let you search by commute time too.

                  West Hampstead had a lot of student type rentals and was well connected – if the tube went on strike then I took the Thameslink and if that blew up then I took the tube, or the bus, or the overground or something.

                  I walk to work now but Friday had to take the tube to something the OH MY GOD i forgot how horrible it could be. The transit at Bank to the Northern Line was god awful. But other half takes the Central most days and hes fine with it. And the Bank Shuffle (5 minutes of shuffling with everyone else to go DLR to Central)

                  Ramona – we used to live down near Lewisham too and sure while you could take mainline train in somewhere it just seemed like the end of beyond. Shame — I really like Blackheath but Im not willing to put my sanity in the hands of Southeastern.

                4. Ramona Flowers*

                  Yep, Southeastern was the problem! I lived in North Greenwich for a while and used to get the overground train from Westcombe Park or bus to the O2 and get the Jubilee. Then lived in the bit where Blackheath meets Lewisham for a couple of years and oh my goodness that train company drove me round the bend. And the ticket machines were down so often I learned every last loophole about how the unpaid fare fines work. On a few occasions they tried to make me pay one and I’d quote their own regulations at them until they left me alone.

          2. Solo*

            I would recommend the London Hostel Association my brother lived there when he first moved to London, it’s a bit like student flats, but for anyone moving to London and really flexible so you can search for a place from there. I agree with the others about not taking on a tenacy without seeing the place in person
            Good Luck!

    6. Chaordic One*

      I really think a lot of this is generational. Personally I find it easier to talk over the phone than to text. (All that typing on a teeny-weeny keyboard and having to think about your spelling and grammar.) But then I’m getting old and crabby.

    7. Minerva*

      I’ve done this twice – moved to the UK (two different cities – neither of them were London, though) from a different country and was looking for a “furnished room in shared house” kind of thing.

      Each time, I booked a hostel for a couple of nights, started calling landlords/agencies once I was there and viewed 3-5 places over two days (it was easy to arrange viewings for the same day or next day). Both times, I found a place by day 2 that I could move into right away – so assuming you’re arriving at least a day or two before your classes start (you are, right?) I’d really strongly recommend doing it this way. I don’t think you have to plan for one or two weeks’ stay in a hotel – a couple of days should be enough.

      That said, friends of mine have been able to find flats in London from abroad, without ever viewing them (and the flats are perfectly fine) – all of those were rented directly from the landlord, rather than through an agency, so I’d maybe aim for those while you’re searching from abroad.

    8. Jules the First*

      You will really struggle to find somewhere that will rent to you unless you see it in person. As a student, your best bet is going to be a flat-share (affordable and easier to get a spot), but again you will need a phone and a way to meet people in person before they will sign a contract.

      All that said, should you find yourself in need of a place to crash, I’m in Zone 2 and have a (very comfy) sofa bed in an accessible building.

  36. Sunflower*

    I am clueless about cats and need help from you cat whisperers out there. This cat’s name is ‘Gary’ and his owner is Sam. Gary is also quite overweight and has had some health issues in the past.

    I recently moved into a house with 2 other friends, one of which has a cat that is about 10 years old. Sam isn’t home a ton- she usually works 9-6 but will often leave Gary home for the weekend alone with plenty of food or not come home until 9pm and feed him them. Gary eats at 9am, when Sam wakes up, and then again at 7pm everyday. He gets one scoop of food at each feeding.

    I’ve always been told cats are quite self sufficient but Gary seems very needy. He will claw at the couch and meow at me all day, even after he’s been fed. If I’m home during the day, he will claw at the couch wanting me to feed him. He’s also batted at us before begging for food. Sam wakes up later than both of us and Gary will claw at our bedroom doors until we come out and then beg for food. I don’t think he is looking for attention since when I am home, he keeps to himself and won’t ever really cuddle up next to me. When Sam gets home, Gary will cuddle up next to her sometimes but it isn’t as if Sam is waiting and anticipating for someone to get home all day.

    Quite frankly, this is pretty annoying and doesn’t seem normal. I’m not sure if there is a way to change these habits? Would getting an automatic feeder help? From my few other friends who have cats, I don’t know of anyone else’s doing stuff like this. My parents have a dog who is quite needy but he has never begged for food the way Gary does. I’m also not sure if Sam knows that this isn’t normal? Sam is also going away for a week and a half and leaving Gary’s care with us. She’s left vague descriptions but I’m a little nervous.

    Does anyone have any advice?

    1. fposte*

      Sounds like poor Gary isn’t very happy for one reason or another. Certainly not all cats are self-sufficient, so I wouldn’t assume that this is automatically a sign of something wrong rather than a sign of cat hoping for a little social inclusion. How are you distinguishing between begging for food and begging for attention/diversion? Does Gary have a lot of sitting places throughout the house at various heights, scratching posts and boards, and does Sam play with him at least several times per week? Has the vet said anything about this behavior or about Gary’s weight (I was wondering if Sam had put him on a diet, for instance, and if that was part of why he might be frustrated)? Is this a change for him or has he been a lifelong chowhound?

      It sounds like your question is a mixture of “Should I be worried?” and “Can I make this stop?” I would say that the vet is key to the first but I don’t think this is hugely worrying behavior on its own; the second may be tougher, but while you’re Gary-sitting I would consider trying to play Gary out before mealtimes so he’s more inclined to sack out after eating. Wand toys are generally pretty popular with cats, and you can figure out what kind of play he likes best with trial and error.

    2. Sylvan*

      A lot of cats are very social animals. I wonder if some of his attention-seeking behavior might look like or be mistaken for begging?

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      Cats aren’t self-sufficient and they aren’t just like plants you water and then leave. They need play, social interaction, attention and warmth. He sounds depressed, miserable and possibly underfed from what you’ve said.

    4. copy run start*

      My cat is an ex-fatty and he is a relentless pesterer when he is hungry. He has similar behavior, probably because it was very effective on his previous owners. Someone, somewhere taught Gary that this is effective. Gary’s world revolves around his stomach now and you won’t be able to change that. However you can manage it.

      While you have him, put him on a set feeding schedule. 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. on the dot, every day. No free feeding, I assume he probably blows through what’s left out as fast as his stomach will take it. You might consider 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. or 9/9 too; that way he’s not getting as hungry in the morning. I have not bothered with an automatic feeder for my cat because his diet cat food is wet. A feeder might help him redirect, but I personally wouldn’t spend the money on someone else’s cat.

      When Gary starts to bother you, you can try hissing at Gary when he harasses you to give him a warning in his language. You can also try holding him by the scruff and the butt for a few seconds (if he doesn’t heed your warning). If he really just doesn’t get it, “time out” is very effective on cats. Move him to a quiet, dark room, shut the door and walk away until he calms down. If he needs to be in there for more than 10 – 20 minutes, make sure there’s a litter box and water available. I put my cat in my bedroom. Now when he goes to far begging (signaled by me giving him a warning hiss), he marches himself to the bedroom on his own and does his own time outs.

      1. Turtlewings*

        I agree. It may well be that Gary is feeling lonely, so you should definitely try offering attention and play. But also some animals are just obsessively food-oriented, and if that’s Gary, then the ONLY way you’re going to get him to stop pestering you is make it completely non-rewarding for him. Don’t EVER cave; cats are even worse than dogs about learning a new rule. They’re too smart for their own good in that sense; if there is ever a single exception to the rule, they will never again believe in it. Feed him at a consistent time of day, and never at any other time.

        This is assuming he’s getting enough food. Consult the instructions on his bag of food for how much he should be getting. (This may involve weighing him, for which you can just step on a scale with and without him.) It’s possible your roommate is trying to slim him down by not feeding him as much, but outright starvation is not the way to do that. He shouldn’t be getting much less than is recommended for a cat of his current weight.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I disagree. A lot of what you describe here is downright cruel. You don’t need to hiss or put him in time out. He needs an owner that actually gives a crap.

          1. Turtlewings*

            I hardly think that (a) talking to the cat in the language cats use with each other, (b) putting the cat in another, perfectly safe room, or (c) feeding him on a schedule, like most domesticated animals are, can be considered cruel. Nor can we reasonably say the owner doesn’t care just because she’s away a lot. Maybe she needs to give him more attention or feed him differently — maybe not! Even so, I don’t think there’s any evidence that she “doesn’t give a crap” about him.

              1. NaoNao*

                I think it depends on how it’s done. I have two cats whose playful tussling can switch to true, scary fighting in a split second, and my BF and I will separate them (in a room with door shut) for a few hours on the rare occasion that a quick squirt from a water bottle or a hand clap doesn’t separate them. I think it gives them a chance to relax without being worried about the other one stalking and pouncing on them, and lets them “reset”. Both our bedrooms have food and water and light/windows so they aren’t deprived.

                If the cat is the only animal in the house, that may be a different story. I don’t think animals understand “time outs” the way humans do, so “punishment” isn’t effective. We can only teach them “if you scratch the couch, you get moved away or you get a squirt from a water bottle.”

                I would recommend trying to solve it in a positive way first; what others have said. Cat trees, toys, etc. Also these plug in’s called Feliway that mist out relaxing hormones. I’ve never had success with the collars, but the plug in’s might work.

    5. LCL*

      From dog person not a cat person…Gary sounds typical of cats I have known. I get that he’s annoying, but he sounds pretty normal. That said, the first problem is the intermittent feeding. You talk about strict feeding times, then shifted feeding times, then free feeding sometimes. So kitty is getting intermittently rewarded for his begging. Intermittent rewarding is often stronger than regular rewards in creating behaviors, that’s why humans get addicted to gambling.
      Second, it’s time for a vet check if he hasn’t been in awhile. The fatness combined with hunger and past problems is worth a look by a vet. Even if he is fed the most expensive prescription food, bodies change and his diet might not be working for him now.
      Cats wanting people around but not wanting to cuddle is really the essence of cat. Cats gonna cat. Yes, there are cuddle bug cats out there, but many prefer not to be handled.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Also the hunger may not be due to how much food he’s given but something else, like worms.

        Interestingly (or not!) my cat is fed completely freely/ad libitum. The deal is that he always has dry food/kibble available (we know how much to leave from experience to ensure he doesn’t run out) and he gets wet food on demand in the morning and evening.

        This started because he would sometimes eat whatever you put in front of him, too fast, sometimes to the point of making himself sick, possibly due to being a rescue/shelter cat and used to not having enough food – and if he didn’t eat it all right away, he would then turn his nose up at anything that had been out for more than about 30 seconds.

        So the vet initially advised us to just feed him little bit by little bit. And then we found he self-regulated absolutely perfectly – whenever he goes to the vet they say his weight is completely perfect, so we just kept feeding him on demand, and he has always been fine with how unpredictable it is as he knows we will show up and feed him at some point. When I get home, if he’s hungry he wraps himself round my neck like a scarf and purrs in my ear. If he’s still hungry later he will sit in specific places and stare at me. He’s somehow established ways of signalling that he’s hungry that his humans understand.

        I’m sure it’s textbook how not to do it, as he doesn’t really have a routine, but we are all happy and his weight is perfect so whatever, if it ain’t broke…

    6. Lilo*

      That actually doesn’t sound atypical at all. My cat is fine when I’m gone at work, but when I work at home he wants to be with me at all times – cats often want to know what the people around them are doing.

      Re: food – it might make sense for Gary’s feedings to be spread out a little more. Sometimes cats rush their food and get gastric distress. If he’s a fat cat on a diet, also, he’s not going to understand he’s on a diet, he’s just going to know he’s fed less and feel deprived. So the begging may make sense. I would also double check his water when he begs.

    7. Sunflower*

      Thanks for the advice. To elaborate, he is on some special cat food that I think the vet recommended. I think we are going to ask Sam to buy an automatic feeder because both I and my other roommate do not have consistent schedules and are often gone for days at a time too.

      It sounds like the main issue is here Gary isn’t happy and Sam doesn’t think there is anything wrong with him. She’s said he probably has anxiety and has mentioned putting him on some sort of cat ‘xanax’. Is that something that exists/might be good for him? She has hired a cat sitter for him once in the past- would it be helpful to have her hire someone to come in more consistently and play with him? This isn’t a deal-breaking situation and while I don’t mind Gary being around, I’m not going to play with him. At the very least, I think I need to ask Sam to talk to the vet about this

  37. Junior Dev*

    Mental health thread! How are you doing? What are you struggling with? What are you proud of?

    I’m proud I got through a rough week and successfully made social plans for the weekend. I also set some personal weight lifting records (I am still firmly in the “newb gains” camp but it’s pretty satisfying to bench over 100lb).

    I am struggling with work, as always. I’m also in an area that had a lot of wildfire smoke and that was awful. I used to smoke in college and it’s a very similar feeling for my lungs, plus having difficulty breathing is a huge anxiety trigger for me.

    I’ve been having trouble waking up and getting to work in time. That’s going to be my goal for the next week.

    1. Shrunken Hippo*

      Yay for making social plans!

      I hear you on the smoke part. It’s finally clearing up in my area, but it was getting bad for a while there. Then again after having the air quality rating be 49 (on a scale from 1-10+ with anything above a seven being horrible) any day I can see across the street is a good day! I have asthma so the smoke has really been making it hard for me to breathe and get a good night’s sleep. Thankfully there are supposed to be a few small rain storms over the next week so that should help.

      I’m proud that I’ve been able to look at job postings without immediately thinking that getting hired for them is impossible. I even got up the courage to apply for a job at a jewelry store in a local mall. It’s the first time in weeks that I’ve been excited about a possible job and not fallen into a self-hate fueled depression. I think that learning new art stuff and playing around with it has really helped. Thankfully my mum has tons of art supplies I’m allowed to use so I can play to my hearts content.

      I’ve still been struggling with feelings of hopelessness, most of which stems from me having a degree in a profession I can never work in (due to a health issue I developed during my final semester at school) and my lack of a job right now. It hurts to have the goal you aim for for 6 years be completely removed from you by something you can’t control. For the coming week I’m going to try and find something positive about my degree. I think that if I can do that some of my negative feelings would be lessened. Of course getting a job would help as well, but that might take a bit longer.

      I hope everyone affected by floods, fires, droughts, hurricanes, and everything else nature has thrown at us lately stays safe!

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I’m sorry to hear about the work situation – it sounds like there’s a grieving process involved.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’m proud of myself for buying more healthy food at the grocery store this week than junk food.

      Do you have any specific strategies in mind for getting up so you’re on time for work?

      1. Junior Dev*

        Getting to sleep earlier will help. And sleeping better. I think that will improve as the smoke is going away.

        But honestly I’m not sure. Someone suggested making appointments before work, which sounds good in theory but who does appointments at 7:30 AM? The one thing I can think of is the personal trainer at the gym, but I think I don’t like her training style so maybe I’ll see if the other trainer there does morning appointments.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          If you’re a coffee drinker, you could get one of those coffee pots with a timer and set it up at night before so that your coffee is ready to go when your alarm goes off. That might help.

    3. Aurion*

      I wrote 31k words of fiction in a month and a half, which I’m quite proud of.

      My lifting, however, is pretty terrible. I took several months off after breaking my finger and I still haven’t quite gotten back into the swing of things. I’m struggling with weights I used to warm up with, haha. It’s making me not want to go back to the gym, which will not improve the situation.

      This weekend is for catching up to sleep/chores and see if I can reset for next week.

      1. Junior Dev*

        Dang, that’s a lot of words!

        The blessing and the curse of lifting weights is that there are hard numbers attached… blessing because you see progress in real time, curse because when you take time off for it’s so easy to get frustrated. You’ll get it back!

    4. JaneB*

      I took my elderly cat to the vet hoping for reassurance that I was worrying over nothing but now find she MIGHT have a terminal illness, the vet talked about exploratory surgery and “just letting her slip away” if she had the nasty thing instead of the benign alternative, but also pointed out that anaesthesia has risks for older pets. As her quality of life is currently fine (she’s hungry and eating well, playing and rushing around occasionally, interested in things, not hiding away) he suggested I just keep an eye on her. And now I’m a total mess… especially as I have to go away for work in early October and she’ll be in a cattery. Basically I’m catastrophising and trying to talk myself down, whilst the cause of it all is obliviously upside down and fast asleep in my favourite chair. Stoopid brain…

    5. Ramona Flowers*

      Well done on getting through a tough week and sorry to hear about the smoke – it sounds awful.

      Is waking up a new problem or an old one that’s resurfaced?

      I’m struggling a bit with beating myself up over tiny things eg I bought a diary that was meant to come with stickers, the stickers are missing and I keep wanting to berate and bully myself for being so stupid as to have not checked before I bought it, and feeling really upset that they’re missing. When I’m upset over something really small it’s generally a sign that I’ve ignored something bigger that’s going on and I haven’t quite figured it out yet.

      On the upside I seem to be doing better with my OCD. I have got 11 pages into a work notebook without having to rip any out which is huge as this is an issue for me.

      1. Junior Dev*

        Congratulations on the work notebook!

        I hear you on the beating yourself up thing. It’s gotten better as I’ve improved my mental health generally, but when I’m I’m in a bad place my brain likes to take the smallest mistakes or problems and extrapolate how I’m the worst person and will never succeed at anything.

    6. bassclefchick*

      I’m proud that I’m 1/3 of the way through the new job and everything is going well! The self doubt is slowly turning into confidence every day. Didn’t think I would get back to a place where I felt competent.

      I’m also proud that I signed up for the Fellow Flowers virtual run/walk series. There will be 13 races over the next three years, with special swag if you finish all of them. My depression/anxiety got the better of me this past year and I stopped taking care of my health. I’m looking forward to finishing 13 races. Scary, but I can do it!

      I’m still having trouble believing in myself. I just don’t feel like I’ve done anything great with my life and feel like a failure most days. I want to change that mindset.

    7. Red*

      You can do it, Dev! You’re making a lot of progress!

      I’m still stuck in the same depressive episode, despite my best efforts. It sucks balls. Wednesday will be two weeks from the day of my urgent psychiatrist appointment and the medication adjustment, so I’m just trying to make it to that point with the hope that I’ll wake up and feel better. If that doesn’t happen, idk. I’ll probably just make another urgent appointment and hope for the best again, but ugh. This is just not ok.

      I’m extra concerned because I’m working full time and starting college courses on Monday so I simply do not have the time and energy to feel like shit *and* get things done. What was I thinking??

      If anyone has any advice or helpful coping mechanism suggestions, I’m all ears!

      1. Junior Dev*

        Hugs. I find it helps to parents down my commitments to 1) stuff that NEEDS to get done and 2) stuff that reliably makes me feel better. So for me, going to work, seeing friends, exercise. It’s ok if I don’t grocery shop and eat take out. It’s ok if I don’t do laundry and have to dig in my closet and wear something kind of strange. I don’t know if that helps.

        1. Red*

          Thank you. I’ve been thinking about it and I think I’m going to go an easier route with school. This is not my first bout of depression and won’t be the last, so I need to pick something I don’t have to be functioning at 100% to do.

    8. Mimmy*

      After a rough few weeks during the summer, I am back to baseline. Let’s hope it lasts – I was really beginning to think my job was going to lead to a mental breakdown.

      I’m proud that I was able to take a compliment from the director at work without being all self-deprecating.

    9. Courtney*

      I finally found a therapist who takes my insurance and will be going for an appointment on Monday. I really think I’d benefit more from a psychiatrist, as I’ve done extensive therapy in the past and am employing all those strategies and at the point where I’m pretty sure I need to just go back on Zoloft. But my doctor stopped taking my insurance, my new doctor can’t see me for a month, and the psychiatrist won’t see me until I’ve had three recent therapy sessions. So that’s what I’m doing.

      Good luck with the getting up early thing – that’s tough for me too. I don’t have a choice nowadays because my two year old will pull on my hand telling me to get up over and over until I give in. I like the idea of waking up even earlier so I can workout before everyone else in the house is awake, but I haven’t been able to make that happen.

    10. LizB*

      I’m taking some time this weekend to try and get myself back on track, in terms of taking care of my emails, budget, bills, etc. I’ve been doing the bare minimum and avoiding the rest, but I feel better when I’m actually on top of things.

      Also going to try and clean up my dresser so I can actually find and use my pill organizer. I take my meds much more regularly when they’re all set out for me.

      1. Red*

        Good luck! I find my pill organizer immensely valuable, to the point where I got a fancy one where the daytime and nighttime meds are separated and the individual days can be separated in case of travel. There’s no way I could keep track of everything without it.

        1. LizB*

          See, I feel super silly that I’m so bad at taking my meds without my organizer, because really it’s just one med. Singular. I also take an over-the-counter allergy pill and some vitamins, but the only actually important thing is one pill in the morning. I should be able to take that consistently without needing a labeled box for it, right? And yet, not so much. Ah, my brain. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          1. Junior Dev*

            I have a hard time with taking my one singular med, don’t feel bad. I also added some vitamins to my pill organizer, so it feels a little better than taking a single pill with it.

    11. Bryce*

      The smoke here in Portland has been difficult for me. My hometown was hit by a “controlled” burn that wasn’t (they call them prescribed burns now) 17 years ago and everything came flooding back. On the day they sounded the evac for the places around there, I came across a photo of one of the dams/towns with the hills aflame behind it and the stress just boiled over. Spent the whole day with sobbing fits until I could work my way through it, and I really feel for the people now wondering if they’ll have any home to go back to when it’s all over. I don’t have money, supplies or space to offer but I’ve got hands and time so I’m keeping my ears open for any shelters or other places that need volunteers. Haven’t been many of those that didn’t immediately fill up, partially because disasters bring out the best (and worst) in people, and partially because what the professionals really need right now is for people to get out of their way.

    12. Mischa*

      I finally admitted to myself and someone else, that yes, I think I’m struggling with depression, and have been for years. Waiting to hear back from my university’s psychiatrist to schedule an evaluation. I’m really proud that I’m finally starting to take care of myself, even if it’s just one little step.

      I’ve been having horrible sleep problems, and I don’t think the stress of grad school/depression (or whatever it is) are helping, but that’s what the appointment with the doctor is for. This is oddly liberating. Is that a normal feeling?

    13. Elizabeth West*

      Frustration, mostly. It’s a huge anxiety trigger for me, and it’s been mounting more and more as I keep up this (seemingly futile) job search. Seriously, it’s been ten months. If I had gotten pregnant ten months ago, I would have a baby now, LOL. Plus, I want out of here so badly I can’t even stand it. And not having a tangible reason to get up in the morning means I go to bed at midnight, then wake up at seven and lie around for another half hour. This will not do if I get a job! I feel like the universe has stalled, but I don’t know why or what to do, and it’s driving me NUTSO.

      1. Fake old Converse shoes*

        I know how it feels. It took me almost a year to get my first job in my field after six painful months in a call center. Hang in there.

    14. Sylvan*

      Social anxiety is being a pain in the ass right now.

      I’m working on it. I also have a good therapist and psychiatrist, medication that works, and a social anxiety workbook that is less dumb than the average mental health workbook.

      If I haven’t gotten out of my comfort zone and done something social by this time next week, somebody reach through the internet and shake me.

    15. Stella's Mom*

      Thanks for having this thread. My comment may not get seen but might be ok just to write it out.
      I am waiting on forms and some bureaucracy stuff to get sorted and my university course starts Monday 18th. I have only Mon 11 and Tues 12 to sort out this stuff as 9/13-9/15 (and maybe 18th) the location I am staying is having major work done on it, and I have to be here. I have to go a long distance to deal with the government bureaucracy and I am majorly stressing out over something that cost an extra $200 (fast five day service turnaround) is now at 13 business days and they have nothing to tell me but to wait. I am so stressed my gall bladder removal surgery area is hurting – and I need to attend to this but will have to wait at least 2 weeks due to timing and insurance coverage stuff. I am trying to do some self care and just had a visitor stay an tour with me for 3 days which was nice but …. dang, I am freaking out. Can’t have any wine, makes the gall area hurt more. So maybe a hot bath and a drive in the rain? My cat is a bit of comfort.

    16. hard week*

      I’m really struggling with self-loathing and hopelessness this week. I struggle a lot with old patterns of behavior that I learned from my mother but that are so not helpful to me. And I know, I really do, that I have made immense progress – like, I went on a few dates! I have plans to meet a newish friend! – so now I am not rejecting people when they are still miles away, but it seems that even when closer to people, I still turn to ways of thinking and acting that alienate people. I keep telling myself that it’s normal to struggle and it’s a sign of progress that I now struggle with being in a much more open place, but this week I’m feeling really shitty about it, and wonder if I’ll ever get “there” (I know there is no “there” to get to). I’m middle age and wonder if I have enough time to unpack it all or if I’m too far gone and too old and I should just pack it in. But what is the alternative? I will just keep getting older right, whether I do anything or not. And my life is so immensely better, but it’s taken so much work and so many years to get here.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        You sound really insightful. Which is great, but it can get so exhausting having to be, can’t it?

        I am thinking of everyone on this thread and grateful to Junior Dev for posting it.

  38. Foreign Octopus*

    I went out for dinner on Thursday night for about 3 hours. Nothing huge.

    I did not expect my cat to think that I’d abandoned her. When I got home, she would not let go of me. I went straight to bed and she was right there, tucked under my arm, and squidged up against my breasts all night. If I even shifted slightly in my sleep, she snuggled closer.

    It took 24 hours for her to ease up on me but she’s still following me into every room of the house.

    I’m dreading her reaction when I go out for drinks next week.

    1. fposte*

      Can you set her up with something fun while you’re gone? Puzzle feeder, hunt-for-teeny-treats game, kibble in a water bottle, etc.?

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        That might be a good idea. I’ll have a Google later. Thanks for the suggestion.

        Also, this seems to be a cat heavy open thread this week. I love it!

        1. JaneB*

          It will get better as she gets to learn that you come back… mine went from total cling to actually beat no confidemt enough to punishment-ignore me for a few hours (she follows me round the house in order to make a point of annoying me, it’s hilarious) after an outing…

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      Is it the first time you’ve left her? It will get easier!

      Mine yells at me when I get home. Husband gets cuddles. I get tellings off.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I’ve popped out for work before but that was only about two hours. She seemed fine. It might have been because the evening is the time that we get to snuggle down in front of the TV together and it was strange not to do that.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Oh yes, you’ve DISRUPTED THE SCHEDULE, and that just isn’t done. :D

          That said, if this is new and it doesn’t return to normal, I would check that she isn’t experiencing some discomfort. Some cats get clingy when they’re not feeling well (although I think the majority will avoid others, it really depends). Like with our cats, I will pat/very gently squeeze most parts to see if they get unusually upset, but I have had a little clinical training and our cats are (mostly) OK with me doing that. (For example, I am the Designated Nail Clipper in the house.)

          1. Foreign Octopus*

            God, I could use you in my house!

            She won’t let me get close to her nails unless they are sinking into my bare skin. Fancy a holiday to Spain to clip a cat’s nails?

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Spain is on my list! But you might be able to do it yourself eventually, without paying for a round-trip business class ticket! (What, you thought I was cheap? ;) ) For the difficult cats, it started with me putting them upside down on my lap, then giving them a treat. Then I’d also clip one claw, and then giving them a treat. Then, after they got comfortable with that, two or three claws, etc.

              Well, there was the one cat who would sit there for all his claws from the start, but he’d also purr any time you picked him up, even if you slung him over your shoulder or around your neck. :D

  39. Dodged a bullet*

    There seems to be a lot of people here recently taking steps to leave bad relationships. I hope everything goes well, and it continues to improve for you all, you’re doing the best thing for yourselves and your lives. And I hope everyone else out there in an abusive/draining/unsupportive/million other adjectives relationships and can’t leave at the moment, that things change for you as well and you can take care of yourself. And for those in bad relationships who don’t realise it yet…when I started feeling scared to read texts because I didn’t know if it would be an innocuous response or an unpredictable, angry one, I knew the relationship was not good, and thankfully I was able to leave it quickly. And I hope you can realise that as well and things improve for you too

    1. Purple snowdrop*

      I’m one. Thank you.
      Started at a support group for people in/who’ve left abusive relationships this week. It was helpful (and I admit this is a horrible thing to say but I was scared the rest of the group would be awful and they weren’t, they were lovely) but nearly everyone else has left already and it was pretty weird to be the only one that’s still there. There are Reasons, but still. I want to be out three months ago.

      Still. I’m getting closer.

      Thank you for thinking of me and the others in similar situations.

  40. CatCat*

    OMG, I am at my hairdresser’s little place. She just has two chairs and I’m usually the only client here when my hair gets done. There’s another client here just mega oversharing about her IUD, uterus, and cervix. So much TMI and fascinating medical drama. I’m enthralled. But also… TMI, total stranger, T.M.I.

    1. katamia*

      I do. I’m on hormonal birth control (pills because I’m terrified of IUDs, although I missed a month so I’m not taking anything right now). I’m also preemptively trying to cut back on sugar/carbs because of the increased insulin resistance and because diabetes runs in my family anyway.

      I don’t know how well I’m really managing it, tbh, but I have an advantage over some because I have no interest in ever getting pregnant so the possible fertility issues aren’t a factor for me.

    2. Christy*

      I’ve been on metformin for years now. I also lost about 40 lbs from my max weight–I’m still right near the line between obese and overweight, but 40 lbs helped. I used to be on birth control and spironolactone but I felt like the hormones messed me up. (Plus iirc they are only treating symptoms anyway.) Since I’m a lesbian I don’t need the BC so I went off hormones entirely. I am WAY happier being off the hormones. I feel like my cycle is much more regular now, actually.

      My period is pretty regular now and while I have a heavy Day 2 it’s pretty manageable. My gynecologist says I shouldn’t have any particular issue conceiving.

      Oh, and I exercise almost daily and eat a relatively healthy diet.

    3. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

      I was diagnosed in 2005 when I was 24 after years of trying to get answers for this massive and sudden weight gain in 18 months. I went from 120lbs in Spring 2002 to 210 lbs by Fall 2013. My regular doctor told me I was depressed so I was gaining weight. I said no, I’m gaining weight at an incredibly unsafe rate and something is clearly wrong so I’m depressed. A second doctor threw the pill at me which made everything worse. In 2005 I got a new job and my own health insurance, walked into a new OBGYN, and she said I was textbook PCOS and should never have been put on the pill because it just makes it worse as far as fertility and my husband and I were wanting to start a family.

      Two years of Metformin allowed me to stabilize my weight and insulin resistance. I stopped the metformin in 2007 in order to try to conceive. In 2009 we tried Clomid and I conceived my son. I gained up to 240lbs while pregnant but lost so much weight after I had him – down to an even 200lbs. Unfortunately my body has decided it prefers “pregnancy” weight and sticks me at 244lbs no matter what. I had a tonsillectomy a few months ago and lost 12 lbs – even with restrictive eating, I gained it all back within two weeks. My doctor had me try Metformin again and wouldn’t you know, I was one of the less than 1% that develops mild liver toxicity from it.

      In the 7 years since I’ve had my son, I’ve had countless surgeries and procedures including two rounds of stimulated IVF and three FETs. I’m actually doing a FET cycle right now and should transfer next week or so.

      Right now I focus very tightly on managing insulin resistance as a big part of my PCOS. I drink approximately 150 oz of water a day at a minimum and watch my carbs and sugar as much as possible. It allows stability. I’ve got to go in to my RE again and see what other options are available since metformin wasn’t an option. He wanted me to look into a medical weight loss program but all the ones in my area are more for surgery which I do not want.

      Please feel free to shoot me an email if you want to talk off-site. I’m happy to share.

  41. The most uncomfortable anon*

    Can we talk about something awkward? So… I think I have an external hemorrhoid?!! If you’ve dealt with one please tell me how to relieve this misery!

    I’ll be going to a clinic to talk to doctor, but would really appreciate any advice and sympathy.

    Ya’ll, I’ve had THE WORST two weeks, now this… :(

    1. Anoa*

      Tuck’s wipes are great. They’re soaked in witch hazel & they have a cooling feeling & seem to help with swelling.

      1. Courtney*

        Yes, I second this advice! Also, stool softeners if it’s painful to use the bathroom. So sorry you’re experiencing this, and with such bad timing! I had external and internal after my second c-section and remember very long crying bathroom visits. Not fun.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Organic apple juice not from concentrate can be very helpful in easing bowel movements. You can cut it with half water if you wish. And you do not need a ton of it, a bottle of juice can last over a week if you have one glass a day and cut it with water.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Preparation H, man. If that’s not enough, the doctor can give you a prescription for some stronger stuff.

      Drink lots of water and make sure you’re eating enough fiber to make you nice and regular. Most of the time, hemmies come from straining when constipated, so if you’ve been doing any of that, mitigating it will help and keep them from coming back.

      1. Chaordic One*

        Back in the day Preparation H had a disturbingly distinctive odor that made it obvious what your problem was if you used it. Thank goodness they reformulated it and it is now close to being unscented.

        If you can’t get the Tucks wipes, plain witch hazel works well applied with a cotton ball.

    3. Peanut*

      Hot water. Really! I never take baths – except for the one time i got a hemorrhoid, and I soaked in the tub for a few nights in a row.

    4. The most uncomfortable anon*

      Thank you all for your advice! Picked up Tucks wipes and prep H and Epsom salts. Had a nice soak with salts and used prep H. Things are feeling better. I already eat a high fibre diet, have a healthy BMI and drink tons of water. I don’t strain much if at all… this seems to have come from nowhere!

      So, what happens next? Will it just fade away and everything return to normal? It’s already smaller than when it emerged. Will it come back? Tell me what I have to look forward to/prepare myself for. Also is it normal to have a new stretch mark near/linked to it? Or is that just a happy coincidence? I feel like I’m wayyy to young for this :( Although I read that 3/4 adults will get one so… maybe if I’m lucky this is it and I won’t get another?!

      1. also anon*

        Ungh. Hemorrhoids are terrible.

        I got my first one about 10 years ago. My doc said it would come back now and then and sadly, he was right. (When the hemorrhoid “goes away” it’s simply retreating back inside because it’s no longer filled with blood/pus, but the underlying structure is still there and it can fill back up and come out again.)

        Fortunately it seems to happen only about once every couple of years. When that happens I use Prep H about four times a day, plus Tucks wipes, and it usually takes about two weeks for the sucker to go back where it came from.

        My sympathies.

        1. The most uncomfortable anon*

          Thanks- this is kinda what I figured but good to hear from experience. I wish ppl were more open about bodies- I’ve had so much weird sh*t happen since I hit my late 20s … I wish I had known what to expect in adulthood!

    1. katamia*

      Yep. I’m even angrier because I got an email from one of my credit cards last month (i.e., after the hack was stopped but long before they announced it) that my score had gone down, but I thought it was because I was carrying a large credit card balance because I had to pay grad school tuition. I haven’t gone to the website because I haven’t had time (see above re various moving crises, lol) and because of the talk of waiving your right to sue, but I’d bet a lot of money that the decreased credit score is from someone using my info. Now I’m leaving in under two weeks and I’ll have to fix the probable identity theft/fraud damage from overseas because I won’t even get the credit report in the mail before I leave.

        1. katamia*

          Nope, I’ve tried that. TransUnion and Experian told me they couldn’t give me my report online, and Equifax just broke the website (not sure I’d trust their credit report right now anyway). I ordered one over the phone yesterday, and they claim it’ll take 2-3 weeks to get to me (though I wouldn’t be surprised if it took longer given how many people are probably ordering scores now, and by which time I’ll be gone, but it’s going to a family address with family I trust not to abuse the information, so they’ll scan it and email it to me when it comes).

          1. copy run start*

            You can try Credit Karma to see what’s being reported. Their goal is to sell you credit cards and stuff and the score isn’t super accurate, but if you’re comfortable with it you could at least see if you have something to worry about. I believe it’s a soft pull, so it won’t hurt your score more.

      1. Dan*

        Hm… Why do you want to assume that your score decrease is a result of the hack? I’d bet that your first instinct is correct. Your credit utilization is about the second most important part of your score calculation. Unless you have very large credit lines, certainly charging tuition will have a significant impact on your score.

        For the breach to have any significant impact, people would have had to open up credit accounts with significant lines of credit, max them out, and then stop paying. It takes several months for that to happen, and I don’t think enough time has passed for that to happen.

        Yes, they could have opened up a bunch of accounts, but that has only a marginal impact.

        1. katamia*

          Fair point, but there have also been a couple of other instances of fraud or possible fraud on accounts related to me (actually one of my parents’ credit cards, but I’m an authorized user, and that credit card company claimed that they had gotten a copy of my card rather than one of my parents’, although I’m not sure how they could tell), and while it’s possible someone could have gotten the info from a skimmer, I still don’t like the timing, especially since I don’t really use that card. It was also a much larger score drop than I was expecting–I was expecting a drop of maybe 20 or 30 points for the tuition, not 70 points.

          1. Dan*

            It’s not unusual to see the drop you’ve seen just by charging tuition. Of course, that all depends on a number of factors, so that same charge amount can affect people differently.

            But while the other activity you describe may be related to the data breach, I’m almost positive it has nothing to do with your score drop. The most likely impacts to your score are going to come from new account opening, but even that is minor. The major impacts are going to come from people maxing out those cards, not paying the bills, and letting them default. That behavior will kill your score. But not enough time has really passed for that to have happened.

            Simple fraudulent charges as you’ve described will have a negligible, if any impact on your score.

    2. neverjaunty*

      DO NOT sign up for their TrustedID, which means waiving your right to participate in any lawsuit against them (and yes, I know they claim that doesn’t apply to the data breach, but I assure you their lawyers will argue otherwise in court).

      Link to the FTC’s advice on protecting your credit file is in my username.

      1. fposte*

        Thanks. I’m finding it pretty enraging how cagey they’re being about who isn’t and isn’t compromised (I’m in the vast middle group that didn’t get a clear answer but got told to sign up anyway), and apparently a couple of EOs dumped stock after the information was known in the company, which I hope gets some scrutiny.

        1. neverjaunty*

          I don’t think you can actually sign up yet? They just have that totally fake tool (which you can enter any information at all into) to see if you were affected and which directs you to sign up in a week or so.

      2. Cruciatus*

        Actually, everything I’m reading says that the “arbitration clause and class action waiver included in the Equifax and TrustedID Premier terms of use does not apply to this cybersecurity incident.” They received such a bad response about that that they took it out. I’m signed up…to be enrolled. WTF? I don’t even get to actually enroll until Wednesday. They have botched their response on this (not to mention the whole thing happening in the first place!). And I’m trying to buy a house… and this stupid thing is bad enough to potentially affect people their entire rest of their lives because of unchanging social security numbers. Just mind boggling.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes, that’s what Equifax is saying on their FAQ page…. which is not part of the Terms of Service, and which is not legally binding. And their lawyers will sure as heck argue in court that the TrustedID service arbitration extends to the breach. (You see, the TrustedID was supposed to protect against the breach, but you say you suffered damages, so your harm is really the result of both things… meaning you agreed to arbitration, QED!)

          Wells Fargo did this when they were caught opening fraudulent accounts using customers’ data. Even though the customers had never agreed to those accounts, WF claimed that the arbitration clause for the accounts they HAD agreed to extended to the fraud.

          It’s notable that there is no opt-out provision for TrustedID’s arbitration, even though there is one for the Equifax website’s use.

          1. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

            My business law is discussing the Wells Fargo situation. California is processing a new senate bill that would prevent the waiver of class action/trial court in favor of mandatory arbitration because that is how Wells Fargo got away with this issue for so long – the initial victims were required to participate in arbitration where WF slapped an NDA on the settlement. That also prevents the trial court from accessing the records to see what WF actually admitted to and what those victims were awarded.

    3. AnonAndOn*

      It’s a complete mess. I got the impression that they knew about this for over a month and are just now announcing the breach.

      I can’t believe Equifax is still considered one of the three systems to get a free credit report from. I don’t trust it. I tried to get a report from Experian online but it wouldn’t let me. I have to request one via mail.

      I checked my credit score at Credit.com (it’s free) and my credit score is listed as average.

    4. Cristina in England*

      I signed up with Credit Journey with Chase for free, which gives me my score anytime I like (I am already a Chase customer but I don’t know if that matters).

      I found this NYT article useful:

      Loads of people in the comments said Experian and Transunion knocked them back for an online credit freeze (me too). Experian seems to routinely be asking people to MAIL copies of ID and address. I just… how can this be allowed?

    5. Cristina in England*

      In that Reddit link there is something about chexsystems. Is this legit? There is irony in handing over a ton of personal details to a company you’ve never heard of to protect yourself from thieves using your personal details.

        1. Cristina in England*

          Thanks! I googled them but I got a lot of hits where people were complaining about them.

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            I’ve learned to take consumer complaints with a grain of salt. Ripoff Report is filled with outraged complaints from people who apparently don’t know how credit cards work. Ex: “I made a late payment, and this bank had the audacity to charge me a late fee! How dare they charge me $25!” Sure, the fees are excessive, but they’re spelled out in the card agreement.

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              Reminds me of all the complaints from people who signed up for a free Amazon Prime trial, forgot to cancel and claimed they didn’t know they’d be charged.

    6. Managing to get by*

      The website is shifty. You can put in nonsense information and it wills say your info was compromised. I read an article stating that, and then just tried it with a random word for last name and random numbers for the SSN.

      The credit monitoring service that it will enroll you in is owned by Equifax.

      I’m reaching out to my state attorney general’s office about it.

  42. Rogue*

    I’m currently up in PA. I’d like to take a couple different trips; one to Lancaster, another to Philadelphia, and another to Baltimore, MD. Any must sees? Great places to eat? Hints and tips? Thanks, everyone!

    1. hermit crab*

      Lititz (in Lancaster County) is a great place to walk around and do some small-town sightseeing. I grew up nearby and going to Lititz was always our favorite day out. You can visit a historic pretzel factory and learn how to make a pretzel. There is also a candy museum (this is Central PA; we are all about our snacks).

      If you are in Lancaster City, check out the Central Market (the nation’s oldest farmers market!) and Gallery Row. Also, if it’s nice out and you like dogs, you should absolutely go to the dog park near the F&M campus. It’s fabulous and there are so many nice dogs. You can sit in an adirondack chair and just watch the dogs frolic.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Hershey isn’t too far from Lancaster and that’s a fun place. My BFF and I went there on our vacation and did some fun stuff.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      My cousin lives in Lancaster. Every time I visit I go to Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse. There are various shops you can go into for clothing, food, etc. One has tons of jams, jellies, etc. and they always have lots and lots of samples out. Probably my favorite store there. LOL Also, there’s a little stand that makes fresh kettle corn and it’s really the best I’ve ever had. It’s not that neon candy coated crap you get at carnivals. They pop it right there and bag it while it’s still hot. Delicious!! kitchenkettle dot com. 3529 Old Philadelphia Pike in Intercourse. Open 9-5.

    4. Just visiting*

      The Helmand in Baltimore is one of the best restaurants I have ever been to. There is also a good aquarium, tall ships, and the Walters art museum if you like any of that stuff. If you go at Christmastime there is an area with famously over the top light displays, don’t remember the name but I am sure it’s Googleable or someone here will know.

      I am also just leaving a work trip to Philadelphia, and I didn’t have time to do too much fun stuff, but I was impressed by the number of museums and beautiful parks along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, I have heard good things about the maritime museum, and there is a national historical park in town too. I want to come back and do touristy stuff with my family!

      1. C*

        34th Street for the Christmas light (think Miracle on 34th Street movies & it makes it easy to remember – I realize the movie was not set in Baltimore but it is why 34th Street goes over the top).

    5. Iza*

      If you’re into speakeasy-esque bars, you HAVE to go to WC Harlan. Clavel Mezcaleria is also close by, and while I have only been for brunch, their chilaquiles were amazing. Also highly recommend the American Visionary Arts Museum – super fun!

  43. Elise*

    I’m starting to wonder if I have some sort of warped body image issues. I think I started being insecure about body image in high school (as I suspect a lot of people do) and it’s something I hoped I’d grow out of but in the decade or so since that hasn’t yet happened.

    The other day I was in a mall and saw someone walking towards me who was wearing a very similar outfit, and I was thinking how it looked so much better on them…and then realised I was walking towards a glass door and it my own reflection I was looking at. So apparently I don’t have a problem with the actual way I /look/ so long as I don’t know it’s /me/…because once I realised that I didn’t think the outfit looked so good after all.

    At this point I’m wondering if it’s all psychological and maybe I shouldn’t be pursuing the diet/lifestyle/exercise articles and talk to a therapist or something…but it seems like such a silly thing to be seeking therapy for, not to mention that it feels like something only the extremely vain would do.

    I don’t know, sometimes I wish I could get out of my own headspace for a while.

    1. Dr. KMnO4*

      I don’t think it’s a silly thing to get therapy for at all. You’ve discovered that you struggle with body image, and that part of the problem is psychological. I think it makes sense to see someone, because problems with body image tend to be linked to eating disorders. So seeing a therapist might help prevent future problems. It’s not vain to want to take care of yourself.

    2. fposte*

      This sounds like a great reason to go to therapy; wherever you go, there you are, so you might as well be glad to see you.

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      It’s not silly, or vain, to want to talk to a therapist about something that’s affecting you and causing you to have feelings you don’t want to have. I think exploring therapy sounds like a really good idea.

    4. Paul*

      my standard boilerplate: if you’re debating therapy, and you can afford it, it’s probably worth at least trying out. Regardless of what it’s for.

    5. Bryce*

      It took me a long time to learn how to look in the mirror without flinching. There are things about me I’d like to improve, but now when I look in it I see me looking back, not a bunch of flaws. It’s a skill some of us need to learn that seems to come naturally to others.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Are you super critical of other aspects of your life? Do you make a lot of negative judgements about yourself?

      I will say this. For whatever reason, I never had many full length mirrors in my life. This meant I never nailed down a mental image of how I looked. In public I would see myself in a window reflection and be surprised in a good way or bad way, it varied. And when I finally finished losing weight, my mind really boggled.

      I do agree that permanent dissatisfaction with one’s looks can actually be a disguise for a different problem. I would keep reading articles on living healthy while considering therapy. I don’t think it’s an either/or situation. Self care does have a physical component as well as a mental well-being component.

      You know. I STILL don’t have a full length mirror in my house. sigh.

    7. Paris Geller*

      That doesn’t sound silly to me at all, or vain. I was very reluctant to therapy for a very long time, but it’s helped me a lot in the past few months, and I recommend talking to someone.

    8. Junior Dev*

      Are you reading a lot of articles on diet or fashion? Maybe take a break for a month and see how you feel.

  44. Myrin*

    My gosh, I finally finished cleaning out/thinning out/reorganising my part of the garage!

    We use the garage as storage and it’s just full of stuff! So many boxes! Everywhere! Most of it is due to stuff being uncleverly distributed – I managed to get rid of half of my boxes just by putting things together by “theme”, so to speak (like, let’s say I have books, artwork, and things for decoration, and somehow every box had like three objects of decoration, two artworks, and five books in it, instead of having one box for just decoration! What the heck, past!My??).

    I threw away a lot but also found a lot. There’re also two things I didn’t find which have to be somewhere, I reckon they ended up in someone else’s box.

    I’m so happy this is finally done! I’ll now be able to redo some stuff in my room and also put it in the garage so that I can finally get rid of my invisible corners, as UFYH calls them. So I’m not technically done completely yet but the biggest challenge is over and man, I’m so glad about it!

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I am about to begin getting stuff out of the garage and then out of the house and into the garage in preparation for a sale. I gave myself some accountability by telling my neighbor about it, and she said maybe she’d throw a few things in it too. That would be nice; then we can spell each other if one of us has to go pee, LOL. Prior to this, I’ve done it with one other friend and on my own.

      In this neighborhood, I mostly get old people with handfuls of change, but I mostly want to get RID of stuff. Yes I need money but also space. And to clear stuff out in case I get to move.

  45. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    Phew, what a week!

    Apartment visits are going on every week… we did one today (we reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallly NEED to move) and turns out that while the place is bigger, the living room is about half of what we have now… ouch. So I’ll be sending a nice “nah, thanks but no thanks” email later today.

    Also, finally got my Note 4 back from Samsung repairs… I had been sent a piece of paper to say I needed to pay 47 euros to repair “the cable” and I thought it meant that they had found nothing wrong with the phone (when the phone was the issue) … turns out they DID replace the screen, the motherboard and maybe something else, the only “out of warranty” thing was the cable. I refused that bit, so yay almost brand new phone and didn’t pay a cent :D ! Wheeeeeeeeeeee!

  46. Melody Pond*

    I’ve read through Paris Geller’s comment thread on this open thread, as well as last weekend’s open thread. It’s resonating with me.

    TL;DR – For anyone in states where recreational marijuana is legal, have you used it to combat anxiety or social paranoia? What were the results?

    A semi-friend who works in mental health recently told me that behavior (of mine) I was describing was “significant clinical anxiety” and that I should seek help. But… I don’t know, I still don’t feel like what I experience qualifies as clinical anxiety.

    I don’t ever experience physical symptoms (knots in stomach, breathlessness, etc.), but over the last few years I’ve avoided social situations more and more, due to what I’d consider a bit of social paranoia, and now I don’t feel like I have any close friends. Mr. Pond is my primary social exposure – so I rely on him too much, and it puts pressure on our relationship. When Mr. Pond and I fight, I’m completely consumed by my fear of abandonment, to the point that I’m barely recognizable as a human being – I can’t deal with it if he needs space, and I can’t function at all until it’s resolved. Going to work in the middle of a bad fight is almost unbearable, and the second I’m free from work, all I can do is curl up under blankets with my cat and stuffed animals (my semi-friend had suggested that I go do something else out of the house, and I’d replied that there was no way that was an option for me, that I didn’t feel anywhere near safe or secure enough to not be in the house, until I felt like Mr. Pond liked me again – this was what the semi-friend considered “significant clinical anxiety”).

    Things I’ve tried/done in the past
    I’ve been to counselors many times over the years – but I just wind up venting and getting a bit of validation about the things I need, and nothing ultimately changes. (I talk a lot, and I’m pretty introspective, so it’s not like they’re typically helping me figure things out about myself or providing insight that I didn’t already have about myself)

    I asked a doctor one time about getting medication for an upcoming school presentation situation that WAS giving me significant physical-symptom anxiety, and was basically told no, it wasn’t possible in the timeframe I needed it.

    How to move forward?
    After talking to my semi-friend, and hearing her describe what “help” might look like, I’ve realized that I don’t believe anything is going to change without some type of medication to somewhat dull the effects of my panic-level fear about abandonment and isolation – so that I can try to deal with it in a more rational manner. But, at the same time, I’m really doubtful that any doctor is going to be comfortable with prescribing medication if I go in asking for it. So I’m not super motivated to try, because I don’t think I could deal with the disappointment of being told “no”.

    The only thing I can come up with, that I feel somewhat confident about, is that recreational marijuana is legal in my state, and I could go and get it on my own. I’m not a huge marijuana user, I’ve only used it a couple times to help with insomnia – but I think people using it for anxiety is a thing that happens. I’ve done some brief googling and found that there are some low-THC, high-CBD strains that are supposed to be good for calming and uplifting one’s mood.

    Has anyone (in states where recreational marijuana is legal) ever tried this with any success?

    1. Red*

      Any chance your primary care doctor would be willing to start you on an SSRI? They are commonly used for depression, but also fantastic at treating anxiety, and they aren’t controlled substances so doctors aren’t as weird about it. Sadly, I’m not in a state where recreational marijuana is legal, so I can’t comment on that, but I wanted to stop by with some advice anyway. I hope everything works out well for you!

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      Your friend was wrong to name a diagnosis when you are not their patient. It does sound like you may need some help, but the first step is to get properly assessed and figure out what’s going on. There are a number of things this could be – it’s not necessarily anxiety. Your friend is right to encourage you to seek help though, as this sounds really hard. Medication may not be the answer – it may be that something like CBT or DBT will help.

    3. Stellaaaaa*

      My brother self-medicates with weed and while it seems to help his mental/emotional issues, it triggers new problems to replace the old ones. As with all medications, marijuana has side effects. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not bad for your lungs – you’re setting something on fire and inhaling the smoke, presumably for the rest of your life or at least very long term. Studies are also starting to show that it definitely affects the neuron pathways in children so you absolutely cannot smoke weed if you have kids or ever plan to – babies and children can’t live in a house with a daily weed user. It may have a similar affect on adult brains, though data is less conclusive on that point. Anecdotally, my brother is acting in ways that point in that direction. You may feel that all of these things are worth it if your anxiety is reduced. Many people who use it recreationally accept that weed isn’t awesome for you, just as many fun things aren’t awesome for you. More power to anyone who simply enjoys weed without trying to convince me that it’s perfect and wonderful and healthy for all situations, because it’s not.

      If you’re asking for opinions, my personal thoughts are that you should exhaust other options first. Additionally, if you have real trauma concerning abandonment and isolation, it’s very bad for your friend to advise you to mask that with weed instead of working with a therapist to actually solve the problem.

      1. Natalie*

        For whatever it’s worth, lots of people who use medical cannabis don’t smoke it at all. There are a number of edible and topical forms.

    4. TL -*

      You should definitely try a counselor first – look for one that listens to your explicit goals and works towards them. Counseling is about building strategies to deal with your problems, not just about figuring out what they are.

    5. Junior Dev*

      Hi, I have anxiety, I live in a place where pot is legal, and sometimes I use it to deal with anxiety. The difference is it’s one of many tools in my toolbox. I take antidepressants, I have a prescription for Ativan, I see a therapist every other week, and I exercise regularly.

      I don’t think it’s terrible to have marijuana be something you use when you’re in an exceptionally bad place, but if you find yourself using it that way more than a couple times a month it’s time to look into more sustainable options.

      I don’t think it’s morally bad to smoke pot. I do think it’s a bad idea to rely on it every day for more than a very short period of time. (the exception would be for chronic pain, and in that case you should look into edibles. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what is going on with you.)

    6. isolucy*

      I have what my most recent doctor called ‘general anxiety disorder’. I’m not sure if that’s a clinical diagnosis or just what she told me so that I would understand.

      Be very careful with thc. It can help some people, but for others it makes anxiety way worse, and I’ve had some of the worst nights of my life after friends claimed they had the best weed ever and it would like totally help. So, I wouldn’t recommend it until you have a better grip on things.

      If you go to a doctor and ask for medication, it’s unlikely they’ll say no. most will want you to also do some sort of therapy, but that’s supposed to be concurrent. Make sure you’re seeing a psychiatrist, not a generalist, and preferably it is someone who specializes in anxiety. If they say no, make it clear the understand the is no magic bullet and you’re not looking for Valium. If they still say no, they’re incompetent, find someone else.

      The doctor you saw who previously said the timeframe wouldn’t work was right. some meds take months to taper up, and then maybe that won’t be the right one for you after all, so you taper down and then taper something new up. It’s an iterative process, unfortunately, but stick with it!

      1. Junior Dev*

        There’s nothing wrong with looking for Valium. It’s not the best for everyone and it’s true that some doctors will label you “drug seeking” if you explicitly ask for benzos, but Ativan has done a lot to open up my options in life and I don’t think it’s good to stigmatize people looking for short term anxiety relief.

        1. isolucy*

          I was responding to op’s fear that they would be denied drugs just for asking. in that case, I was trying to reassure them not to worry as long as they’re not asking for a name drug that might send up flags.

          I’m sure that Valium is the right choice for some people.

    7. Julia*

      I’m not sure if you’re still reading this, but I wanted to say that I can really identify with what you’re saying. I also suffer from fear of abandonment and my husband and family are my primary sources for social contact, which makes me anxious because, well, they’re not immortal. I do have some friends, but as we grow older, they’re all busy with their own lives or live far away etc. I realize I’m lucky to even have family and a husband (I know people who would love to have those things – one of my closest friends was more or less abandoned by her mother and doesn’t have romantic or social relationships other than me), but having things makes me anxious about losing them. I used to be okay being alone before, but after a really bad depressive bout, I’ve become afraid of myself when I’m alone, and I’m currently in grad school so I spend a lot of time on my own, plus my family is on another continent and my husband works all the time.

      I am on an anti-depressant for sleep, I take lavender and passionfruit with vitamin B suppliments, magnesium, and I’ve just started tryptophan to see if it works. But the only thing that actually makes me feel calmer is a) finding things I enjoy doing on my own and b) cultivating relationships with friends so I know I have some other people to rely on. Unfortunately, option a is difficult due to grad school being a lot of work (and I already tend to procrastinate) and option b isn’t easy either as I’ve mentioned above. But I’m trying to work on them, I’ve bought a self-help book called ‘Healing Your Aloneness’, I downloaded a mediation app (Calm) and I’m seeing a therapist when I can.

      I hope you don’t find me intrusive or dismissive, but I could relate so well I thought I should comment.

  47. periwinkle*

    So we are finally getting something done about our small but awful yard. The property is shaped like a wedge (we’re on a cul-de-sac) so we’ve got a narrowish triangle for a front yard and a wide isosceles trapezoid of a back yard. Only the half of the back yard closer to the house is usable space; the rest is behind a low retaining wall and planted with mostly mature evergreens. The retaining wall is made of railroad ties, which are (1) unpleasant to sit on, (2) not that attractive, and (3) splendid habitat for carpenter ants. The fence is a wood unpainted picket fence that has pretty much collapsed all the way around. The front yard is dominated by a tree stump surrounded by rocks, with the tip of the triangle supporting a messy pine of some variety. So…

    We had the landscaper do the estimate yesterday. He’s going to rip out all the crap, install proper low retaining walls, remove the tree that’s too close to the house, change the front triangle into a simple combination of bark, decorative boulders, and some plants, and trim all the trees. He also promised that the horrible messy pine would look vastly better when trimmed properly, and noted that it’s in fantastic condition otherwise.

    All that work pushes into a 5-figure bill, and then we’ll need to get the fence replaced. I’m now hoping that our range will keep functioning a while longer, since we’ve already had to replace every other kitchen appliance since moving in (they were all original appliances installed when the house was built in 1981). Home ownership is expensive…

  48. Allie Oops*

    Last night Mr. Oops called to check on an Aunt and Uncle (not really, but lifelong family friends) in Florida, to see whether they’d evacuated to their grandkids’ home or what. They are stuck. Aunt’s heart decided that Thursday night was a good time to take a crap, and Friday morning she had two stents put in. She needs more surgery and is hospital-bound for at least a few more days. Family is scrambling to figure out if she can be moved, and logistics thereof. :(

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Oh, how frightening/frustrating. Your friends and others in similar situations are in my thoughts.

  49. Runner*

    One of my friends from college is in the direct line of Irma and is not evacuating, though the area — one expected to be close to first landfall — is under evacuation orders. There is something fatalistic? suicidal? about the Facebook updates. It’s a deliberate decision. I don’t know what I’m asking here, I’m just very confused and concerned.

    1. Paul*

      It shifted kind of last minute, at least on the NOAA model, from east to west coast of Florida. I’m honestly not sure if I’d risk riding it out, or risk trying to evacuate and getting stuck on the road when it hits at this point.

      I’ve got more than a few acquaintances on the west coast of Florida that are behaving similarly; they’d elected to stay in place given the initial projection, but feel like it’s too late to leave now. Lots and lots of sardonic fatalistic post–maybe a coping mechanism? Also a lot of photos of tons of water and alcohol and mixers they’ve stockpiled.

      1. Alicat*

        I live in Key West, as does the entire side of my mother’s family. I evacuated before they even ordered mandatory resident evacuation because I’ve got two dogs and their safety is paramount to me. Most of my family stayed. Now I’m seeing that they’re saying the storm surge is “not survivable” and I’m just…very emotional. A lot of friends and coworkers also stayed and there is some sort of local bravado that is in play for sure, and I’m fairly positive that no one thought it would hit the island, but here we are. Granted I’ve only evacuated to my parents in Miami and for the split second when it was forecasted to hit here instead of the keys my parents were absolutely refusing to leave so….it may just be an old Florida thing. We all went through Andrew and I think most people think things can’t get worse than that and I seriously hope they’re right.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Am shaking my head.
      Some people are all about, “sha, nah, nah, live for today and don’t worry about tomorrow”.

      For me, I have made “worry about tomorrow” a profession. So I am not going to understand folks who are more casual, just as they are not going to understand me.
      The best explanation I have heard is that both worriers and non-worriers have found their choices in life rewarded on a repeated basis. “See? I worried about the coffee pot not being unplugged and when I went back to check I found you had left the bath tub water running.” I feel rewarded for my worry, in my mind it paid off.

      The non-worriers seem to have luck that I do not have. Using your example, I would have to evacuate because no one is going to happen by in a row boat and save me. I just do not have that kind of luck. I think non-worriers have a level of creative problem solving that I might be lacking? Not sure.

      But going even farther some people just don’t act in a manner to preserve their own life. They are high risk takers and that is who they are. Again, not anything I understand for my own life.

      Just my opinion but maybe stop reading the FB posts. And just hope for the best.

    3. Stellaaaaa*

      Some people legitimately have nowhere else to go, unless they want to leave their pets behind and drive to another state and stay in an expensive hotel. Hell, I have a very wide social network but most of my friends live in the same county as me. I happen to have a very small and local family. I have no idea where I would evacuate to if I had to.

  50. AvonLady Barksdale*

    There is a U-Haul in front of my terrible neighbors’ house. A U-HAUL. I do not dare to believe they are actually leaving permanently today, but this is such a great sign!!! And from what I understand, the house will be torn down after they leave, so if that is indeed true, I won’t have to deal with crappy neighbors on that side for a verrrrrry long time.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      OMG the relief when terrible neighbors leave. My horrible neighbors have cream gone for about ten years. The tree we planted in front of our dining room window to keep us from having to look at them is now screening out the sight of our lovely “new” neighbors. The old neighbor boys had a boxer dog that, one time, was all hunched up in their front yard while one of them stood in the open front door yelling, for all the neighborhood to hear, ” HOOOOOOCH!! Hurry up and SHIIIIIIIIT!!”

    2. Elkay*

      The relief when they go is immense. Ours were next door for maybe 3 years, couldn’t tell you who lives there now, it’s bliss.

    3. nep*

      Our neighbours from hell are across the street. One night around 10:30 there was a U-Haul out front. That hour was not odd for this house — we see the owner every once in a blue moon if we happen to get up at 2 or 3 a.m. and see the lights of his SUV in the driveway. The issue here is the house is basically uninhabited and we all think the owners are dealing drugs out of it. It looks like an abandoned house; it’s a horrible eye sore in an otherwise pleasant neighbourhood where people care about keeping up their grounds and houses. Anyway turns out they were putting things from the U-Haul *into* the garage. Ugh. I really got my hopes up when I saw that truck.
      Hope things work out well for you there, AvonLady. What a relief to be rid of bad neighbours.

  51. Sparkly Librarian*

    My grandfather’s recent death has stirred up a flurry on genealogical interest in me. I’d thought that I only cared about the last few generations (people I’ve known, and their parents), but there’s so much interconnected documentation available that I’ve gotten back to about 1780 in one line. I also got a load of stories from my parents that either I’d never heard before or hadn’t had enough life context to appreciate, so that was cool and helped me expand the family tree width-wise (partners and exes of my parents’ generation). Found a fun connection through Facebook, personal websites, and public records: my father’s first wife’s grandson just married a cousin of the wife of a guy who knew me in high school.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      That is cool stuff. It really can make ya more aware of how interconnected we are. I find genealogy fascinating.

  52. Mallory Janis Ian*

    What is that website where people post pictures and an overview of cats that they met out and about? My child met a cat and they want to add it to the website.

  53. Apollo Warbucks*

    I’m drunk, on s boat in the med And I don’t go back to work until mid October.

    Life’s pretty good

    1. Paul*

      I’m more jealous than I can express.

      I wanna be…really any two of those would be wonderful right now.

  54. The Other Dawn*

    I just made my very first batch of homemade salsa, and I’m having trouble determining what I might need to add or add more of. The recipe I found online called for garden or roma tomatoes (I used garden), garlic, onion, jalapeno, salt, cilantro and lime juice. I just pulsed it in the food processor and voila. It tastes good, and the heat is building as it sits, but I feel like it needs a little something. The salt, onion and cilantro really stand out. I’m thinking it might need a little sugar, but I’m not sure what that will do to it. Any suggestions?

    (BTW, it’s very satisfying to make a recipe using veggies–tomatoes and jalapenos–I grew all by myself!)