weekend free-for-all – December 16-17, 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: A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick. I don’t know how to feel about this book, but it did totally engross me and was alternately beautiful and deeply disturbing.

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

{ 1,345 comments… read them below }

    1. selina kyle*

      Oh god my heart grew ten sizes with that episode. Rosa actually calling herself bisexual? The squad being there for her? Machete is her dad? All of it. So amazing. I love B99 always, but these last few have just really really hit home for me and I love Stephanie Beatriz for pushing for this arc.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yes! As usual, they can be uplifting, touching, and funny all at the same time. I’m loving it, especially her standing up for her identity. It doesn’t matter who you date or what (or who) you do, you get to decide what labels you identify with!

        1. selina kyle*

          Yes! The scene with Holt at the beginning had me in near tears, as well as everyone showing up and UGH – just one of the best shows on TV right now. I don’t know if you’ve seen the interview but Stephanie Beatriz talked about how she heard Melissa Fumero was cast, so she assumed she wouldn’t get a role since she’d never really seen a show with two Latina leads, but then she got the call that she had a part! It makes me so happy.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Oh!! I missed that the actress pushed for this, that’s so awesome! And I forgot to mention that I heard almost verbatim a lot of the crap she took from her parents. It was very well-written, very real.

        1. selina kyle*

          The pictionary scene felt far too real from when I was dating a woman (you can…legitimately call someone your girlfriend and people STILL think it’s platonic, it’s wild) but yes, if you look up her Twitter she talks about how the label really gave her something to identify with and how important it was to her. It’s so cool that the show respected that/her.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Stephanie said in an interview a year or so ago that she was playing Rosa as bisexual so I was really glad that they incorporated it into the show.

          Also, how amazing of a friend is Jake?

    2. Nervous Accountant*

      I haven’t watched since last season, when they finally got out of witness protection. Really love the show though, just waiting for when I can binge. It’s like that delicious piece of cake that I’m trying to save for last

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Oh man, there were some really awesome episodes last season and this season has also been excellent.

    3. Lily Evans*

      I’ve been freaking out about it since they released the episode stills a couple weeks ago! I just love that show so much and I really appreciate how they’re talking about bisexuality in a way I’ve never seen another tv show do.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        They handle these things so well. I thought Game Night was on par with Moo Moo in that regard.

    4. MsChanandlerBong*

      I just discovered B99, and I am hooked! I binge-watched the entire series in about three days, so now I’m just waiting for new episodes. I love it!

        1. Jillociraptor*

          It’s our go-to plane TV. We buy the season pass on iTunes every season (which lets you download the episodes as they air), and have probably watched the whole series a dozen or more times during our travels.

    5. Mine Own Telemachus*

      I caught up with it last night and cried and cried. As a bisexual woman, I saw so much of my life there! Especially with the part where Rosa’s dad says that her mom is going to take awhile to come around—that was my life, and it’s just so amazing to see it portrayed so well on screen. And then Holt speaking to her as a fellow queer person, letting her know that it’s tough and affirming that coming out was the right decision for her? I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

  1. Myrin*

    “Lucy on thing” might be the best caption yet. I was actually gonna ask what you call that thing but it is indeed just Thing.

    1. Lady Jay*

      How come I can never see the captions? I mouse over the pics, click on the pics, nothing happens. I’m on Chrome on a Mac if that makes a difference?

      1. anon24*

        I’m on Chrome on Windows and I was just wondering the same thing. But when I clicked on the picture it loaded it in a new window and the caption was in the URL

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s just in the URL of the page for the photo. If you hover over the photo, you’ll see the caption at the bottom of your browser or wherever you preview URLs. And if you click on it, it opens the photo in a separate window, and then you’ll see it in the URL of that page.

    2. Victoria, Please*

      That should totally become an oil painting in a museum somewhere. Look at the tail echoing the curves of The Thing. Classiest lady-in-a-portrait I’ve seen ever.

      1. Myrin*

        OH MY, I didn’t even pay attention to that! Alison, was it your husband again who took this picture? Because if I remember correctly, he’s quite particular about his photography, isn’t he? So if he did take that photo, show him this comment here – museum-worthy!

    3. nonegiven*

      I forget what the label called it. Cat scratcher or something, probably. Some of mine really love those things. We’ve had to throw out two because they had pieces being torn off, but we replaced it. They get on it and scratch, roll around the floor kicking it, sit on top, sit like Lucy is, and use the hump to prop up to reach those hard to lick places.

  2. Just Moved In*

    NYC apartment dwellers: What is an appropriate year end tip for a superintendent and a porter in an apartment building in NYC? The suggestions I’ve found on real estate blogs and by Google have ranged from nothing (they’re just doing their job) to $200. We are kind of tapped out after overspending on our move, and we definitely don’t want to give our super $200 when we’ve done homemade gifts and cookie tins (probably worth about $20 each) for our friends and family. At the same time, we don’t want the super to shrug us off if we need repairs in the future (and so far we’ve needed a fair amount in the first six weeks here)! The super”s work has been less than exemplary, but he is responsive and has been quite helpful throughout the move in process. So we don’t quite know what the right thing is to do here — definitely something, but how much?

    1. Wrench Turner*

      Maybe a combination of the two? Maybe 50 and a tin full of treats. I would be delighted if multiple customers gave me “only” that.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Depends on where you live. When I was in Queens, I gave $50 to the super, $30 to the porter, and $20 each to our doormen. In Manhattan it was almost double that and soooo many more doormen!

      One year I was broke and gave cookies (Queens). They knew I was young and broke, though.

      Some buildings do a big collection and I think that’s ideal. So much less pressure! Holiday tipping can get so political; you have my sympathies.

      One thing: if someone went above and beyond for you, don’t feel bad about giving extra, like you’re being unfair. One of our doormen gave our dog regular treats out of his own pocket, so I gave him Visa cards for Christmas and when we moved.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      A universal caution on cookie tins: These can be really charming if you get 1 or 2, less so if you get 50. I think cash is always appropriate to employees–cash plush cookies maybe, but if you would rather your employer give you a bonus check than a plate of cookies, that might be a general sentiment.

      Burned into my brain is going along to help my mom with something at the home of two elderly people (my mom helped care for the wife), and the entire large kitchen was awash in plates of homemade cookies covering every surface. Because that was the default gift exchange among their friends. (The couple were giving poinsettias.) But for two people who didn’t entertain any more (wife’s health precluded) and didn’t have kids, it went from a nice sentiment to way too much.

    4. Artemesia*

      Year end tips are part of their expected compensation and cookies don’t substitute. I can’t advise on NY and hope others can. We just finished the doorman, super, manager, and garage tips for our condo in another big northern city and it runs us over $1000 a year.

    5. Call me St. Vincent*

      If you just moved in a few months ago, I would say you could probably do $125 for Super and $75 each for porters. Next year, I would up that for a full year of service to $200 for the Super and $100-125 each for the porters. Tipping for Supers and doormen in NYC is literally part of their compensation. Giving cookies is like going to an expensive restaurant and saying “oh sorry this is an expensive restaurant, I can’t afford to tip the waitress.”

    6. MLiz*

      Can I just say that I am fascinated that you have all these different jobs around the building? I don’t live in the US (nor have I ever) and I honestly was not aware that doorman and porter are still jobs around apartment buildings. I thought this was exclusively limited to hotels and really high end living situations.

      Thank you for teaching me something new!

      1. EmilyAnn*

        That is a NYC and maybe a few other big cities and I’m pretty sure not all buildings. I live in a pretty nice apartment in a major city and we just have a front desk, no porter or doorman.

      2. Artemesia*

        I live in a big northern city and high rise apartments all have doormen. Smaller condo buildings e.g. with fewer than a dozen units don’t but the high rise buildings with dozens of apartments/condos all have doormen, supers etc. It is lovely. Packages are received and you don’t run the risk of loss and delivered to the apartment. If you leave to travel for a few months, your mail is handled, your plumbing monitored (someone will come in and flush every week and make sure there are not issues), you have security, someone does routine repairs. It is expensive to pay for this kind of staff though and the monthly fee is like paying rent. We own ours so it is like rent; but if you are paying off a mortgage it makes it really steep.

      3. WillyNilly*

        I think sometimes non-New Yorkers forget or don’t know just how packed in we are.
        I live in a medium/small NYC coop. Its two physical buildings on one lot, each with two lobbies and elevators, and a total of 192 apartments. We aren’t a doorman building, but we definitely need our porters! We have one senior Super, one assistant Super and two porters. The Supers do the heavy lifting stuff – maintain the heat and hot water systems, repairs in apartments and around the property, and deal with vendors, plus manage the porters, etc. The porters do the daily and weekly grunt work – take the recycling down daily, run the trash compactors, sweep the lobbies, clean the windows and mirrors in the lobby, vacuum the hallways, wipe down the laundry room, change hallway lightbulbs and clean doorknobs, pick up trash that might get dropped in front of our buildings, etc. With approximately 600 residents coming and going and just living here daily, plus just being on a busy city street, these tasks need to be done constantly just to keep up. Add in snow removal, and holiday decorations, etc in the winter.
        And as I said, these are comparatively medium/small buildings for NYC.

    7. nyc doormen*

      I usually give $20 to doormen and porters (we have many of each) and typically $50 to the super, one year, he was super helpful about something and I gave him $100.

      1. nyc doormen*

        I wanted to add, it probably also depends on where you live, I’d expect people who have apartments in certain expensive real estate areas to give more.

    8. Liza*

      Long time NYC coop dweller here. I’d skip the cookies. Brick Underground has helpful articles and guides: https://www.brickunderground.com/blog/2013/11/brickundergrounds_2013_holiday_tipping_guide (updated for 2017). I think $200 is high for a year’s tip, unless he’s exceptional. If you’ve been in the building for less than a year, pick a number, pro-rate it for the amount of time you’ve been there, and, unless you tipped him at the time, add extra as it sounds like he was pretty helpful. Same for any other employees, e.g., doorman, handyman and porter.

    9. Todd Chrisley Knows Best*

      In addition to cash, and in lieu of cookie tins, could you put together a small gift basket of small, useful items? I always put one together for the ladies at my rural post office because I see them so frequently; I include hand sanitizer, lotion, chapstick, gum, etc. You could also throw in candy or other small snacks, mittens/gloves, or anything else you think they may find useful/fun. Mine is usually filled with Dollar Tree goodies, which may help alleviate the potential budget issue, but still look like a more expensive, thoughtful gift!

      1. Marthooh*

        @ Just Moved In — Keep in mind, it’s a year-end bonus. It’s not comparable to what you’re giving your family. Please don’t include treats and tchotchkes to make it “look like a more expensive, thoughtful gift!” Your superintendent and porter will know better.

        @Todd Chrisley Knows Best — I don’t think this is the same situation, unless you and other postal customers are _expected_ to give a year-end tip. (If you are, please consider giving cash instead!)

        1. C*

          US Postal employees are not allowed to accept cash gifts, Marthooh. They can accept items & gift cards worth $20 or less.

        2. Todd Chrisley Knows Best*

          I know it isn’t exactly the same; it was more of a suggestion to go with the cash OP felt comofrorable giving, in lieu of cookies that they may already have too many of or disdain/be allergic to. Something practical that they may have more use for just seemed like a good compromise in the situation, especially after reading the comment above re: the elderly people with an abundance of cookies. :-)

          As for giving the cash to the postal clerks; it’s true there’s a limit on that, but also I don’t always have the cash, and since tipping isn’t required, I went the more practical route since they frequently deal with customers and packages and money, so who wouldn’t want hand saniztizer and Lysol wipes at the ready? (Admittedly there’s probably a few!) And to be fair, the ladies I gave it too talked about it for the next few months, so I believe they did enjoy it at least to some extent. But I think I’m probably just rambling at this point. :-)

    10. Just Moved In*

      Belated thanks to everyone for the feedback! To clarify: We never intended to give our super *just* a cookie tin for Christmas. I’m sorry that I typed my post in a hurry and wasn’t clear! He will definitely get a monetary gift.

  3. Ramona Flowers*

    Hey everyone! What are you reading right now? Alison’s books round-up reminded me I’d meant to try more Matt Haig after loving The Humans. I’ve checked The Radleys out on Amazon Prime reading and am liking.

    1. selina kyle*

      I just finished “Darkness Mine” by Mindy McGinnis. I liked her other book but this one just disappointed me. It had unlikeable characters, which normally I’m a fan of. However, the book seemed to think she was a kind/good/nice girl? Like several other characters said she was, even though we were given no evidence of that. Blah. Plus the ending was just not what I wanted.
      I’m about to head to the library to pick up “There’s Someone Inside Your House” by Stephanie Perkins. It sounds very fun and cheesy horror movie-esqe so I’m keeping my fingers crossed it lives up to my hopes!

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Just finished Jenifer Lewis’s memoir in two days, now I’m on that Deborah Cadbury book about Queen Victoria’s matchmaking. LOVING IT. We go to the beach for a week starting next Saturday, and I have a massive pile: Wharton, Ozick, Bill Bryson…

    3. Foreign Octopus*

      I’ve just started Watership Down. It was a book that seemed to pass me by as a child so I thought I’d give it a go now.

      Two books that have really been at the top of my list this year though are:

      Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

      Homegoing by Yaa Gysai

      Both are really, really amazing and I cannot recommend them heavily enough.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Watership Down is one of my most favourite books ever. I’m now wildly curious to know what it’s like to come to it as an adult.

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          I’m only 100 pages in so I’ll be able to let you know next week what it’s like.

          What were your impressions of it as a child?

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            I think I adored the complexity of the mythology and the fact it didn’t shy away from brutal storytelling. I was about seven and liked proper stories to dig into.

        2. Thlayli*

          Mine too (as if you couldn’t tell from my username haha). I honestly think it’s one of the best books about leadership I’ve ever read. And I love the characters. I still cry every time I read it, but I don’t want to say when in case I spoil it for you!

      2. Middle School Teacher*

        I LOVED Burial Rites! I almost bought a plane ticket to Iceland after I finished it, i was so so into the descriptions of the landscape.

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          I totally agree! It’s one of the few books that actually pulled me into the landscape with the characters. The description of the house was amazing and I remember one piece of description early on that made me fall deeper into the book and it was:

          “I feel drunk with summer and sunlight. I want to seize fistfuls of sky and eat them.”

          There’s just something about Kent’s descriptions that are magical.

      3. MilkMoon (UK)*

        Burial Rites is amazing; it’s the only book that’s made me literally cry. I had to keep stopping because I couldn’t see past the tears!

        1. KatTheRussian (France)*

          Can confirm, it is, indeed, Watership Down with cats. I loved it both as a child and as an adult, for wildly different reasons.

    4. Don't turn this name into a hyperlink*

      Almost through Volume 2 of Alan Moore’s “Providence.” It’s a very interesting, very novel deconstruction of Lovecraftian horror. Moore substitutes modern-day anxieties with Lovecraft’s (by-and-large obscenely racist) own.

      The story’s going into the “protagonist wonders about his sanity” phase, and I think that this particular aspect of the narrative is handled really well. And he pretty damn well captures New England.

      I think he’s a bit pedantic about some stuff he slips in, though. And one of the “new” themes he slips in is sexual abuse, which he substitutes in for Lovecraft’s own horrors.

    5. Middle School Teacher*

      Spineless: Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone. I’m enjoying it, it’s non-fiction by a woman who has a PhD in ocean science, and mostly spent her career writing science textbooks until she learned how cool jellyfish are, from a scientific perspective. It’s also got a (not heavy-handed) call to action about people and the environment.

      It’s pretty good; she does keep encountering one jellyfish scientist who keeps dismissing her as “just a journalist”. I keep wanting to smack him and yell “she has a PhD like you do, you clot!!”

    6. Lady Jay*

      Absolutely loving Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Dispossessed. Authentic, compelling characters, creative world-building, and weighty themes (which happen to be relevant to this political era). LeGuin has a lot to say about how best to order our society and relate to other people.

      I read Left Hand of Darkness earlier this year as my first LeGuin (besides Catwings in childhood) and am now a LeGuin fan.

      1. cleo*

        She’s so great. Four Ways to Forgiveness is my favorite of her later work.

        I also love her essay collections. I just bought the latest one to give as a gift.

      2. ZucchiniBikini*

        I love most of LeGuin’s canon, but The Dispossessed is especially wonderful. The only one I like better is The Telling, which is in my top five books of all time.

    7. Lcsa99*

      I’m reading Moira’s Crossing by Christina Shea, about two Irish sisters born in the 20s and emigrating to America. It’s gone from their childhood, to getting married and raising children so far and it’s been am interesting read. I don’t usually read stuff like this but it’s very well written.

    8. MilkMoon (UK)*

      I’m currently reading Another Little Christmas Murder by Lorna Nicholl Morgan – I just fancied a little Agatha Christie-style cosy mystery with a festive setting and it’s hitting the spot.

      I always recommend Susan Fletcher’s novels if anyone asks, and a poet friend was most grateful for the rec earlier this year.

      1. Artemesia*

        I have started to shun mysteries labeled ‘cozy’ since there are so many just dreadfully written ones. I am always looking for a new author. Is Morgan a really good writer? I have abandoned dozens of books that end up with ghosts, or revolve around tea shops and amateur ‘girl’ sleuths or book stores and adorable couples that have writing more annoying than a Hallmark movie. I’d love to find a new author of the caliber of James, Perry, Charles Todd, J.A. Jance, the Kellermans. So any suggestions here much appreciated.

        1. Footiepjs*

          I know what you mean, but when I think cozy mystery, my first thought goes to Lillian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who… series, which I do not find overly cloying. But since she’s such a big name, you’re probably already familiar with that series.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Since you recommend Grass, I’m going to assume you already have A.J. Orde/ B.J. Oliphant, Tepper’s mystery pen names?

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              There are some used ones on Amazon, if you want to check them out without too much investment–we used Amazon’s used book dealers to fill out gaps in a childhood series. The Orde series is about an antiques dealer in Denver, and Oliphant about a rancher outside Denver. I really liked both; they’re one of the series I held onto for the occasional reread.

        3. MeM*

          Sue Grafton, Martha Grimes, and Elizabeth George are very good. They have all been writing for awhile, so if you find you like them, you’ll have many enjoyable hours to come. Sue Grafton’s main character is a female detective living on the California coast. Both Martha Grimes and Elizabeth George books feature detectives in England – Ms Grimes’ books are more lighthearted than Ms Georges, but both series are well written with compelling characters and interesting mysteries.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        Ohh, I loved Eve Green by Fletcher more than I know how to express.

        That mystery sounds fabulous!

    9. Kali*

      I’m reading The Incarnations by Susan Barker. I got it because Sue Barker works at my university, as one of the writers in residence and she really helped me out with my lab report. It’s not really my thing, since it’s a bit too dark and gritty, but I’m really into it anyway. It reminds me a lot of Lisa See’s work, possibly because they’re both of mixed Chinese heritage. It starts with a man receiving letters from someone who claims to have known him for a thousand years of past lives who has now come to remind him of his true self and claim him as her soulmate. It’s a bit disturbing – lots of talk of rape and abortion, someone’s been castrated, someone else is a prostitute, and I presume footbinding will come up purely because of the time and place discussed – but I’m loving the descriptions of various eras of Chinese history, and the creepy feeling.

      I’m also reading War and Peace. I’m blogging it as I go, primarily to help me keep track of the characters, but it’s a lot more fun than I thought it would be! I’m up to chapter 24 and feeling really sorry for poor Pierre. He’s a big kitty, alone in a sea of piranhas. :(

    10. bassclefchick*

      Honestly? I’m rereading My Sweet Audrina by VC Andrews. The MFM podcast suggested it as a “book club” read. Haven’t read it in at least 30 years. Man, it is messed up. Can NOT believe my mom let me read that when I was young!

      Next up is The Devil’s Cut by JR Ward. It’s the last book in a trilogy about a family who makes bourbon. Southern family dynasty type thing, really good. It’s so different from her Black Dagger Brotherhood series and I love it.

      1. Lcsa99*

        I can’t think of very many of her books that aren’t messed up! But the Flowers in the Attic series got me hooked on her writing in High School. I actually remember sharing them with my Humanities teacher.

      2. Kali*

        Oh my god, I read that in my early teens and it was so disturbing. I liked Heaven – despite finding it equally disturbing – so I read loads of hers then.

    11. Nervous Accountant*

      I’m reading “When you disappeared” by John Marrs. It’s about a man who disappears and then shows up at his wife’sdoorstep 25 years later. It’s really intresting so far. I’m 1/3 of the way through and having a rough time mustering up sympathy but I’m waiting to see what happens next.

      The last book I read was “Every Last Lie” by Mary Kubica. I loved her first book, but I hated this one so much.

    12. Sparkly Librarian*

      I’m just starting The Indigo Girl, a novel loosely based on a historical family from the 1700s with the eldest daughter growing indigo as a cash crop. Not 100% invested yet.

      I read recently and REALLY LOVED Forever, or a Long, Long Time, but it’s for a niche audience. It’s juvenile fiction (ages 10-14) about a sibling pair who were adopted from foster care and still have a lot of trauma to process. They, along with their mom, stepdad, stepsister, are navigating what family means now and learning about the two kids’ early life in care. The books covers big topics like sensory processing disorders, food hoarding, and selective mutism at a reading level and emotional level suitable for sensitive middle grade readers, and I bet some adults with ties to foster care or social work would appreciate it like I did.

    13. Falling Diphthong*

      “Dust” by Phil Pullman, the first of three prequels to the Dark Materials series. If you liked that series, this is in the same vein.

      “Behave” by Robert Sapolsky, which is on brain science. Lots of “Oh, oh–THAT’s what’s going on” moments. For example, dopamine spikes. Train a rat that when the light goes on, they can go push the button, and in 5 minutes there will be a reward. Soon, dopamine will do a big spike when the light comes on, and a small spike when the food arrives. Now change it so that the food only arrives half the time–it’s no longer a sure thing, but a coin flip. Now there is a spike when the light comes on, a BIG spike when waiting to see if there would be food, and a small spike when there is food. This was my Australian Shepherd when he thought he might have done something that would result in a dog treat.

    14. Uncivil Engineer*

      I just finished Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It came highly recommended by several people in my book club. I found it to be only so-so.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I’m sorry to hear that. I personally adored it but I often find I dislike books everyone else loves so I’ve been there!

      2. Ellen Ripley*

        I found it disappointing also. I like her work in general, I just thought that one was a so-so post apocalyptic tale I felt like I’d read before. I think it went over better with those who don’t really read sci-fi.

    15. Falling Diphthong*

      Older recommendations:

      “Animal Earth” by Ross Piper. For science nerds, gorgeous photography (the focus) mixed with insightful prose so you learn something beyond “Oooh, so pretty.” The neat thing is that it gives similar weight to each order in the animal kingdom. So humans, along with the other mammals, are all lumped in with Craniata, while the nematodes and comb jellies get their own sections.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        And Connie Willis’s “Miracle and Other Christmas Stories”, which includes my very favorite short story, “Epiphany,” and a bunch of charming seasonal stories. (A humorous highlight is “Newsletter” in which the heroine realizes there has been an alien invasion when everyone starts being very, very reasonable.)

        1. Artemesia*

          Connie Willis is amazing and her stuff is so varied. Passage is one of the most powerful and haunting books I have read. Bellweather is a totally hilarious take on academia. She is a wonderful author.

        2. LCL*

          I just bought the updated edition of this, in trade paperback. I loved it way back when. I love all of her work set in modern times. When she goes Victorian the action gets too hidden in the language for me and reading becomes a job.

          She does conventions sometimes. She is a great speaker.

        3. What's my name again?*

          I love Connie Willis! I reread her Christmas stories every year. I like all her stuff except her newest book, Crosstalk. That one really disappointed me.

    16. HannahS*

      I read “Uprooted” by Naomi Novik, in my quest to read more not-a-Tolkein-reproduction fantasy. It’s a YA book, about a girl who winds up fighting against a deeply malevolent forest, which manages to infect people and objects and turn them to its purpose. It’s a nice change from human/sentient antagonists. It reminded me a bit of “Enchanted” by Orson Scott Card, which makes sense as they’re both inspired by Polish folk tales (Baba Yaga features in both) but I found “Enchanted” regressive and sexist, and a poor writing of female characters. So I liked this a lot better.

      1. Lcsa99*

        That one was recommended and I have it on my list to buy, but keep pushing it back. Will have to move it up the list.

      2. Book Lover*

        This one is so amazing. I still think of it often. Finished it and immediately started rereading.

        I am just starting Enchanted, Inc, which I think I found through Smart Bitches? Interesting so far.

        1. Kate in Scotland*

          Oh, I was coming here to thank whoever recommended Enchanted, Inc here! I’m really enjoying it so far.

      3. Thursday Next*

        I second Uprooted. I saw this in a review of it, but it was one book where I wish there was more bloat. I think there was enough plot to expand and make the book into a 2 or 3 book series.

    17. David S. Pumpkins (formerly katamia)*

      I started Daniel Ellsberg’s Secrets, but I’m really not in the mood for something that heavy right now, so I’m kind of aimlessly wandering around on Overdrive looking for things and not really finding them. :( Gonna keep an eye on this thread over the next couple of days and hope something jumps out at me.

    18. Free Meerkats*

      Right now:

      Digger Omnibus Edition by Ursula Vernon next to my living room chair.

      The Protector’s War by S. M. Stirling at work.

      The Waking Land by Callie Bates while in the bath.

      Heaven’s Reach by David Brin audiobook while commuting.

      The Forge of God by Greg Bear audiobook while exercising.

      Magazine du jour at night before going to sleep.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Omg, you’re the first other person I’ve met whose reading materials are separated by location. I always have the book I’m reading in the kitchen while I cook; the one on my nightstand that I read before sleep; one in the bathroom; one in the car on CD; and, used to be, one that I was reading to the kids for bedtime. Now that I read on my phone I have fewer books going at once. Now I have the Libby app and download one audio book that I listen to while I drive and one ebook that I read everywhere else.

        We usually read the old fanfic “My Immortal” aloud over Christmas break, but this year I’m going to do a reading of the Tiger Mike letters and the holiday party letter from the booze cruise that was in this year’s office holiday scandals post. I think those will be a real hit with my family.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          And I’m the second! Though not to such an extent. But I have books by my bed, books in the living room, books in my work bag and the bag I use on weekends, and kindle books I am either reading on my commute or before bed.

      1. Book Lover*

        I finished her new Toby Day recently, really enjoyed it :). Not really a horror fan but having been thinking about trying her other books.

    19. Merci Dee*

      I just finished the newest entry in The Wonder Cats series by Harper Lin, Fur-miliar Felines. The series is about a family of witches living in the town of Wonder Falls, and battling evil with their feline familiars. It’s been a fun series.

      Now I’m in the middle of a book by Michael Nethercott, called The Seance Society. It’s the first book in the O’Nelligan and Plunckett mystery series. I’d found some short stories featuring this duo in a couple of anthologies, and they’re marvelous. Plunkett has inherited his dad’s detective agency, but doesn’t have the same aptitude for catching criminals… until his fiancee introduces him to her retired neighbor, Mr. O’Nelligan, who turns out to have a talent for solving crime. The books are set in the mid-50s, and they’re absolutely delightful. Mr. O’Nelligan is the kind of gentleman everyone longs for in a neighbor.

      1. Book Lover*

        Sounds great! I think I will try it :). The detective story, that is! Though after rereading your note I think maybe both….

    20. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I just finished Skeletons on the Zahara by Dean King – a nonfiction book about a US trading vessel that was shipwrecked off the Sahara coast in 1815 and the trials of the survivors. Very well written and edited (I had just given up on Ice Ghosts on the Franklin expedition because I got fed up with meandering storytelling) and fascinating about cultural norms of the tribes and how they lived, how the status of the US at that time played in, etc.

    21. cleo*

      I just finished Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho and it was so much fun. It’s a Regency set novel with magic and dragons! Lots of familiar tropes, especially for Georgette Heyer fans – from a less usual perspective and with some unusual twists. It’s similar in tone to Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia Wrede and Carolyn Stevemeyer, but with a very nuanced portrayal of race and colonialism.

    22. Emily*

      Right now, I’m reading The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. It’s set in historical Malaysia and seems to have elements of fantasy (specifically, Chinese/Malaysian folklore), romance, and mystery. I’m not far enough in yet to judge it as a whole, but the beginning seems promising!

    23. Lady Jay*

      Shoutout to whomever recommended Eifelheim in one of these reading threads! Read it this summer and enjoyed it; aliens in medieval Germany was a lot of fun. :) And the book provided some good food for thought as well.

    24. Aeon*

      I’m currently reading “Fragile Things: Short Fictions & Wonders” by Neil Gaiman, and so far I like it :-)

    25. Athena*

      I’ve been on a fluffy romance bender of late and can I just say how much I loved The Hating Game? It was the author’s (Sally Thorpe) debut and it was just amazing. Very keen to see what else she brings out. It wasn’t Mills and Boonsy in the slightest, which has been happening with most of my other fluffy romances. It was pure delight.

    26. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

      I just finished ‘A Study in Scarlet Women’ by Sherry Thomas. Excellent book! And I am currently reading the 7 book in the ‘Throne of Glass’ series, by Sarah Maas. I’m enjoying it every much.

      1. CorruptedbyCoffee*

        I know, I was really pleasantly surprised by a study in scarlet women! There have been so many Sherlock Holmes stories lately, I saw it and kind of rolled my eyes, but I did enjoy it.

    27. Aurion*

      Just reread Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire; going to start the second story in the series, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, later this week.

      Also, a ton of books on writing craft.

    28. Overeducated*

      Just finished Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild. I am glad I read it, I think it gives me a more empathetic lens on people who disagree with me, though it doesn’t and can’t actually offer solutions for healing the rift.

      About to start Provenance by Ann Leckie. Excited that it’s the time of year for best book lists since I need some fresh ideas.

    29. Librarian from Space*

      I just finished Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and it DESTROYED me. I was so happy to see it on Goodreads Best of 2017! I loved her first book and was afraid of the dreaded “sophomore slump”, but it was fantastic.

    30. OlympiasEpiriot*

      How To Write a Business Plan (from Nolo). I’m breaking the first rule in the first chapter of the book…thinking about a business that I don’t know well already. Know a bunch of things that are part of it, but am also trying to learn about it.
      Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley. Every few years, I live with his characters for a while. I like them, feel like I’ve met lots of them.
      Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America by Emily Dufton Complicated history, yet another person trying to make sense of it and point to how what seems inevitable now might be slapped back again.

      Recently read Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado. If you aren’t familiar with her, I recommend at the minimum following her on Twitter. This book is fantastic.

    31. Liane*

      I just finished Brotherband Chronicles 7: The Caldera by John Flanagan. It’s a fantastic YA adventure series. In spite of the series name, Brotherband, starting in Book 2,q features a smart, strong young woman as one of the main characters, plus a couple strong female supporting characters. (His Ranger’s Apprentice series is equally good.)
      I am rereading C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, partly because my Sunday School class is studying Advent in Narnia by Heidi Haverkamp. But also because I love it.

  4. CatCat*

    Has anyone here done preserved lemons before? Any particular tips? I found a recipe that on the NY Times site and am planning to use quart jars.

    I’ve never done it, but I’ve wanted to and now is an opportune time since a neighbor on Nextdoor has lemons available. I’m giving her one of the jars of preserved lemons if they turn out!

    1. Peggy*

      I just made some for the first time with Meyer lemons a family member sent us from her tree in a California. I did 6 or 7 large mason jars and followed a very simple process for washing, partially quartering (but leaving them connected at the stem), stuffing with salt, and covering with water. Kept them on the counter for 3 days and shook them a few times a day, then fridge for 3-4 weeks before trying one. (Pulled a piece out, discarded the pulp, rinsed the preserved peel.)

      So far we’ve used them chopped up and mixed in with roasted veggies, in salads, and I added some to a Channa Masala I made. Amazing. Easy and totally worth the wait.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I always have a jar in my fridge. So easy! My only tip is to turn the jar over every day or so– that way the juice gets well distributed. I leave mine for two weeks before using. I use kosher salt, but I did iodized once and it was fine. Happy pickling!

    3. Gingerblue*

      I’ve done them before and they’re pretty hard to go wrong with! Peggy’s process is pretty much what I do, although I might juice one lemon and use that instead of water to wet the salt down at the end. I’ve always used non-iodized table salt. S

    4. Rainy*

      Oh I have–I did lemon makbouss some years ago and it was great. I did them in slices (my recipe said that was fine) and used them cut up in various recipes once they’d matured. The lemon oil was also amazing for things that needed a touch of lemon.

  5. Grownnerdlady*

    Has any one seen the new Star Wars movie? I’m standing in the front of the line to see it! I am so nerding it right now. Lol what did you think of the movie? Please no spoilers ;)

    1. Marzipan*

      Yes, and I essentially liked it although it’s not perfect. It’s quite funny, and it subverts a lot of expectations. Enjoy!

    2. Amadeo*

      I don’t people very well at all, especially in huge crowds, so I’m planning to go with my brother, brother in law and perhaps sister if BIL makes her come sometimes after Christmas and before New Year’s.

      1. Horizon*

        Yes! I thought about a third of it was weak, a third of it was really good, and a third was okay. A tighter storyline and strong edit would’ve been beneficial.

      2. Anonymouse for this*

        Not just me then – thought they could easily cut an hour off the movie. It was good and watched it in imax so the effects were fun but I would have been tempted to walk out if I hadn’t been with friends.

        1. Thlayli*

          Not just you. My husband was less impressed than me – he’s a bigger fan of the originals than I am

    3. CS Rep by Day, Writer by Night*

      We saw it yesterdays and really enjoyed it! It was a bit of a roller-coaster ride with more than one surprise, but the performances were great (especially Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver) and it fit every well into the SW universe.

    4. many bells down*

      SO GOOD
      Okay, a couple sequences went on too long, and I have a quibble with part of the end. But I spent most of it either gasping or sitting with my mouth hanging open.

    5. Mischa*

      Yes! I enjoyed it. There was a lot I didn’t expect, but it did drag in a few parts. Not quite as good as Empire or Rogue One, but I still had a good time. I definitely need to see it again.

    6. periwinkle*

      My SO went to see it opening night. He is still occasionally squealing “Porg!”, especially when he sees our youngest girl-kitty with her big porg-like eyes. That’s pretty much all I know about the movie.

    7. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      I’ve seen it twice. Love it! If you’re like me, don’t plan anything for after you see the movie – it was completely unexpected and left me in shock afterwards.

      It’s long, so plan your fluid intake/bathroom breaks so you don’t have to get up.

    8. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      It was oddly paced, but overall enjoyable. It definitely got me hyped for episode 9!

    9. Sorgatani*

      Caught the midnight release at my local cinema.
      The crowd seemed to enjoy it, and I did as well over all, though I will admit to wondering when it was going to end at one point (turned out to be another half hour).

    10. Courtney*

      I was disappointed with it. It had some amazing moments, but I thought there was a lot of wasted potential. Granted, I’ve always been kind of “meh” on Star Wars – that is, until The Force Awakens, which I LOVED. But I felt like Force Awakens set up some amazing plot lines and mysteries that this movie just did nothing with. Just my opinion, obviously – I know many are baffled by my loving The Force Awakens more than any of the originals. I loved the Rey and Kylo stuff, thought all that was really well written. But everything with Luke except for that one part (you know what I mean if you saw it!) left me pretty unsatisfied.

    11. Aeon*

      I really liked it. It has a nice balance ( :P ) between all the sub-plots and it all comes together nicely.

    12. Kuododi*

      We just got home from seeing the movie…few little nit picky issues but not enough to take away from an overall delightful experience!!! DH actually saw the movie twice today but he is a hard core Star Wars nerd. This morning DH and some of his other co-workers from pediatric oncology threw a big Star Wars viewing party for the kids from their unit who were well enough for the day trip out from hospital. Complete with Stormtrooper and an R2D2… very cool!!!

    13. CAA*

      Saw it at El Capitan in Hollywood last night with the same group of friends with whom we’ve seen every new Star Wars film since “Return of the Jedi”. We like to see these at special theaters, and El Cap delivered. They have a live organ music concert before the movie, a laser light show, and an exhibit of costumes and photos from the film. Very cool.

      I enjoyed it, though I am usually not a fan of part 2 in any sort of trilogy. It was funnier than I expected and definitely had some surprises. The editing could have been tighter. It really didn’t need to be that long.

      The crowd was totally engaged from the very beginning with lots of cheering. They even cheered for all three of the previews — first time I’ve ever seen that. I really want to see “A Wrinkle in Time” now though.

    14. Awkward Interviewee*

      Wow, interesting that so many commenters here loved it. I was very disappointed in it. The acting and dialogue were good and there were some amazing visuals, but there were so may plot holes, and subplots that did nothing for the story (except make the movie too long). And certain character developments and events seem to sort of cheapen a lot of the original trilogy. They could have done so many things plot-wise with episode 8, I’m disappointed with what they chose to do.

      1. Courtney*

        Yep, I’m with you.
        Especially with the character development and subplot issues. Like really, the movie could have been a half hour shorter and potentially had much fewer casualties if they had parked correctly at the casino.

    15. Liz2*

      Hated it, dumpster fire. The cinematography, Luke/Rey/Kylo parts were decent, acting very good. But the plot was ridiculous, non sensical, inconsistent, wasted characters. I think most people just felt the nostalgia and cool fight scenes and were good to go.

  6. Marzipan*

    This week I learned of the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod, or ‘Christmas Book Flood’, where people give one another books on Christmas Eve and then go to bed and read the books and eat chocolate. This is entirely splendid and I’m plotting how I can instigate it with my family in spite of not being even slightly Icelandic.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      This is the best festive idea I’ve ever heard! Although I like to fall into bed after midnight communion so might try it as a Boxing Day thing instead.

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      I love this tradition!

      Icelanders love, love, love their books. Apparently they have, per capita, one of the biggest book publishing industries around, although most of their books are published in the winter months in preparation of Jolabokaflod.

      If anyone is interested, http://www.readitforward.com/ has really interesting articles on Jolabokaflod (plus some great book recommendations as well).

    3. Bright Between*

      I’m doing a version of it for a party on the 23rd. It’s a combination Jolabokaflod and a program we usually do in the library for Valentine’s Day called Blind Date With a Book. I’m going to wrap them and put a brief summary on each one without revealing the title or author. Without being able to see the cover, you might end up with something you’d never choose otherwise, but hopefully will like! This is not a library party, so they’re books I bought and will be favors for the guests.

    4. neverjaunty*

      You know, the Vikings really got around back in the day. I think you can declare that it’s more likely than not you have enough Icelandic heritage to follow the tradition. ;)

    5. Loopy*

      This sounds AMAZING!!! I would love this but having a bf who is not a big reader means I likely won’t be able to implement it D:

      I definitely have to go read up on how widespread it is… There must be people who don’t care for reading!? I’m so curious now! And so jealous.

    6. Canadian Natasha*

      And here I thought I was French/Scottish/Metis/Czech (and various etc). Little did I know I was directly descended from Icelandic bookworms! ;)

  7. WellRed*

    One of my roommates, Monica, at BEC with my other roommate Rachel (who has been here about 4 months) because Rachel hasn’t really pitched in with housekeeping, etc. I agree it’s annoyimg, but Monica has basically decided she doesn’t like or trust Rachel and will move oit end of January if things don’t improve. So now I am all stressed out, it’s the worst and most expensive time of year to find someone, I have no $ cushion and I am waaay too old to be living like this.

    1. selina kyle*

      Ooooof seems stressful especially this time of year. Maybe pitch to Monica that she needs to have a sublease lined up if she’s gonna move?
      :( hope it improves

      1. WellRed*

        Yes, we are having a house meeting tomorrow. Part of the problem has been it’s very hard to pin Rachel down for a time. She’s in and out like a fast breeze.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          If she wants the financial benefit of having roommates then she will have to slow down and do her share. Not many people are going to be able to hack a roommate who does not contribute to the household workload.

          Good luck! I hope it goes well.

          1. Artemesia*

            Suggest to Rachel that she needs to either pitch in or hire a house cleaner once a month for a basic clean as well as keep up her dishes and keep her junk out of the common spaces. ONly way it will work is to have a designated house cleaning storm at a particular time. Lazy users may do their share on the big stuff if everyone is working at the same time. Otherwise a monthly deep clean might be a trade off you can live with. (would suggest biweekly but the price probably is unreasonable)

            1. Natalie*

              Alternatively, if you’re comfortable doing more cleaning than her (and seriously, only if that) is having her pay a higher rent percentage.

    2. ampg*

      It sounds like Rachel may not be pitching in so much because she is never there. Does she cook at home a lot? I’d be less annoyed about it if she wasn’t really using the space / leaving a mess.

      Also may I ask what BEC is?

  8. selina kyle*

    I’ve been dating a guy since ~September and it’s going really well. All my other relationships have been trashfires or I’ve lost interest quickly so this is strange for me. There is one thing – when is it kosher to start leaving things (like some sweat pants, a pair of socks, toothbrush, etc) at his place?
    I stay over at least once or twice a week (usually more) but I usually just pack a bag. I don’t want it to be some ~big talk~ with him but I would really love some advice from you lovely folks on the norms here.

    1. KR*

      Next time you’re over, I would just bring it up super casually like, “Hey Guy, is it okay if I leave a toothbrush here? It’s okay to say no – I understand it might be too soon for you!”

      1. selina kyle*

        You’re right – I’m probably overthinking this! He’s the first guy I’ve dated who is like…a sweetheart and nice so I have to remind myself not to worry so much as I have with exes.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I think this really depends on the two of you and what you’re comfortable with. If it would make your life easier then why not?

      1. selina kyle*

        You’re right – like I said above, I just overthink :). Thank you – I think an outside perspective helps a lot.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, anything from “You’ve stayed over twice, you should leave some stuff” to “It’s only been a year! Too soon! What does the toothbrush mean?” seem possible for different people.

    3. Too Witches*

      I would advise talking to him about it, it doesn’t need to be a big talk, just “I’m over here a lot, mind if I leave a toothbrush and some other stuff so I don’t have to drag it around?”. If you think leaving your stuff in the open might feel too intimate or like a big thing, get yourself a small, cheap toiletry bag a few things will fit in and see if he’ll be ok if you stow it somewhere in the bathroom. If he’s a cool dude and likes having you around, that really shouldn’t be a big deal at all since it makes staying over much easier for you.

      Or do what I did and “forget” your toothbrush in the holder one time, and then go “whoops, yeah, I noticed when I got home and then bought a new one, I’ll just leave this one here, ok?”. My dude was quite amused, thankfully. We were maybe around two months in? I had also routinely been over up to 3 times a week, sometimes a little spontaneously (I was freelancing so my schedule was flexible enough that I could easily do the walk of shame home before work), and while I did legitimately forget a few items of clothing, the toothbrush was a deliberate plant. After that it was sort of fair game and we started keeping an outfit and some toiletries at each other’s places until we moved in together.

      1. selina kyle*

        Thank you! The other thing is he has roommates (they’re all masters students sharing a house) so I don’t feel totally kosher leaving something in the bathroom he shares with one of the guys. I do like the toiletry bag idea a lot though. (I’ve already accidentally left a charger and a litany of hair ties haha)
        Your situation sounds a lot like ours re: timeline so that helps a lot :) thank you

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          If he has roommates I would perhaps leave your stuff in his room so it doesn’t go awol.

          Why yes, I am indeed speaking from experience…

    4. JD*

      Heck I already would have done it. I don’t even think you need to ask about a toothbrush, it isn’t something you have to get back if you break up. Other stuff… I don’t know it has to be too big of a talk. When you take the sweats off next time maybe just say “I think Ill just leave these here so I have them for next time”. If he is sweet like you say I doubt he’d be fazed in any negative way.

    5. Artemesia*

      When you are regularly sleeping with someone you should know them well enough to ask if there is a place for you to stow a small bag or have a shelf somewhere.

      1. TL -*

        That’s a little judgemental. Some people think keeping stuff at someone’s place is a big step …. and I have slept regularly with people that I wouldn’t actually have that conversation with or know well enough to know how they feel about toothbrushes. Nothing wrong with it.

      2. Kat*

        Not necessarily about knowing them. There’s a lot of ‘society’ stuff around pushing too much (especially pushing men too much) on certain things that might not be a big deal in an ideal world. So even if logically you think, hey I should be able to ask, it isn’t always that straightforward, especially if past relationships haven’t been that way inclined.

  9. nep*

    Shoveling snow — yay or nay. Do you like it? Do you hire someone to clear the snow?
    I love the physical exertion — feels good. But when it’s super cold I’m nervous about the old ticker. No history of heart problems but you know there’s always that wintertime news story of healthy, fit person dropping dead shoveling snow. I am not afraid of dying but I’d rather not go that way. (Also — no matter what kind of gloves I’ve worn or how many pair, my hands are freezing and painful after just a while; what have you found that effectively keeps hands warm in snow and cold?)
    –Just in from shoveling the walk and driveway.

    1. KR*

      I love shoveling snow – good exercise and you can see your progress really clearly. Would it help to have a heart health screening next time you’re at the doctor’s? That might put your worries to rest. Also, remember to take breaks (as opposed to just “powering through and getting it all done”) and hydrate!

      1. nep*

        Yes — I have been really good last couple years about taking breaks and having a bottle of water on hand the whole time. You’re right — not great to just power through.

    2. fposte*

      I did until the back stuff came on; now I outsource.

      I think the issue is where it fits into the rest of your activity level. I’m in a really unconditioned state at the moment, so my highly active seventysomething neighbors are in far better shape than I am for it. Are you in fine cardio shape as well as lifting your weights? Or have both fallen by the wayside for a while? How much snow are we talking about, how wet, and how much walk and driveway? It’s one thing to basically push an inch of dry snow down ten feet of driveway and another to fling two feet of wet snow shovelful by shovelful over a rising snowbank.

      1. nep*

        My cardio fitness is not what it used to be, but it’s not bad. (Working on getting it back up.) In any case I exercise at least five days/week — intensity varies.
        I certainly push the snow to the extent possible, and when it’s time to lift I bend the knees and squat it up. No question that when it comes to hauling wet, heavy snow to a big snowbank, more breaks are in order.

    3. Kellyes*

      I’m with you, nep. I love to shovel! It reminds me a bit of the feeling you have after skiing, but on a weekday morning : ) I have a pair of snowboarding mittens from Costco that work a treat. Mittens work much better than gloves for me.

      1. nep*

        I think I should try mittens. I often find myself pulling my fingers in from the gloves and making a fist to warm my hands and that helps.
        By the way — snow pants are my best friend.

        1. Lizabeth*

          Ski mittens plus the hand warmers they also sell in the ski shops if the mittens aren’t enough. But I find that the mittens are much, much warmer than gloves – especially skiing.

          Plus if your hands get cold take a break inside and warm up, there’s no rules saying you have to stay outside until it’s done.

          1. nep*

            Thanks for the suggestion.
            Indeed I won’t stay out there when my hands are feeling it too much. The hands issue probably makes for good timing for regular breaks I should be taking anyway; though I would like to protect my hands better. I’ll try the ski mittens plus hand warmers.

    4. paul*

      Grew up doing it and hating it. Getting up an hour early to shovel a long drive way in the bitter cold was *no one’s* idea of fun. Dad and my brother and I all had to help (mom’s got a bum knee and shoulder, courtesy of a drunk driver years ago).

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I am not so sure that the person was healthy or fit before they keeled over. It’s very possible that they had an undiagnosed heart condition. A 41 y/o family member was rushed to the hospital suddenly. They found 5 main arteries that were 75% clogged. She did not make it. How the situation progressed undetected I will never know.

      I don’t mind a little shoveling. Shoveling plus roof raking plus plowing does me in. I can be out there for hours depending on the snowfall and depending on how much help I get. (I have a shared driveway so there is help there. And I have an earthly guardian angel of a friend who materializes from time to time. But there are still times when I am on my own with 200 feet of driveway plus paths.)

      Around here there is a huge need for help with snow removal. People are backing away from that work because they cannot make money at it. The machinery costs way too much to buy/maintain for the amount of income it generates. I have an OLD tractor. I just bought a new auger for the snow thrower attachment and the auger alone was $800, plus tax and shipping. Shipping a four foot auger is not cheap. This is my work-around. I decided to provide/maintain my own equipment in the hopes that someone would be willing to help me if they do not have to provide equipment themselves. So far this has worked out well for me.

      My nightmare is wet heavy snow followed by a hard freeze.

      1. Artemesia*

        there is no easy way to detect heart blockage until it is too late. None of the routine tests do it; you have to have a reason to do much more expensive scans or even those tests using dye in the arteries. It is pretty common for a first heart attack to be the last.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Her parent died at the same age, for the same reason. (sorry did not include enough info there)
          My heart fell to my shoes on that one.

      2. nonegiven*

        An aunt had just passed a stress test and was at the desk to pay when she collapsed and ended up with a triple bypass.

    6. Anono-me*

      Check out a dakota plow for clearing the driveway and ice fishing gloves for keeping your hands warm.

      We do our own and have a snow thrower for the heavy stuff.

      1. Genevieve Shockley*

        I am in Texas, and we don’t get ice/snow often but when we do, we feel every degree.

        I have no idea what ice fishing gloves are (but I will look to check them out) or whether I could find them here. But I do have some a couple of

        I go to the restaurant supply store and get disposable food service gloves to wear under my knitted gloves. They protect from the wind that seems to seep through knitted/cloth gloves. They even keep me warmer than leather type gloves.

        I also go to hair care aisle at Walmart or such, and get the thin clear plastic covers used when getting a perm or dyeing hair. It is thin but when worn under your knitted had, it doesn’t bulk up and also keeps the heat from leaving your head.

    7. anon24*

      I don’t mind shoveling snow if it’s for me. But as a blue collar worker, guess who always ends up shoveling the parking lot at work? No matter what job I work, I always end up spending hours shoveling every time it snows. I’d be content to never see another snowflake again. I’m unemployed atm (went back to school) and in the past week it’s snowed twice and I sat inside wrapped in a blanket and reading my textbook and was filled with joy because I didn’t have to shovel once.

    8. oldbiddy*

      I have a long steep driveway so I hire someone to plow that. My husband and I do touchups as needed (in between plows, the walkway, the areas where the plow can’t reach, etc) I enjoy it – it’s very zen like to me. Sometimes I clear the back deck just for fun. My husband hates it, though.

    9. HannahS*

      The only way to keep your hands warmer is to keep your core warmer. Even if your core doesn’t feel that cold, the blood in your hands is fleeing to protect your vital organs, so adding more layers to your hands won’t help after a certain point. Wear insulated gloves, of course, but try bundling up the rest of you more and your hands shouldn’t get as cold.

    10. Yetanotherjennifer*

      I think the heart risk in shoveling snow is greater when it’s a significantly higher level of exertion than what someone normally does. Back when I was studying to lead aerobics classes, we were advised not to go all out when teaching. A good rule of thumb is that teaching a class should be about 75-80% of a normal workout. If you apply that to shoveling you should both adjust your regular workouts and your shoveling pace to get to the right level of exertion. The thing is, you’re shoveling in cold weather so your body is already working out keep warm and you’re wanting to be done and get inside so you tend to rush the job. You have to really be conscious of adjusting your pace and the amount you lift. Take lots of breaks and stay well hydrated. Maybe hire someone to do part of the job or only shovel what you absolutely have to. This topic reminds me I need to keep an eye on my husband for this. He loves to shovel but he’s been too busy to do any other regular workouts. He’s not as fit as he thinks he is.

      Also, while bundling up more to keep your hands warm isn’t a bad idea, you don’t want to be so warm you sweat. Your wet clothes will make you even colder. This is more important when exercising away from home and can’t easily step inside to get warm.

    11. Free Meerkats*

      I shovel mine and I have a relatively large drive (>1500 square feet, it took 30 yards of concrete.) But since I live near Seattle, we usually don’t get a lot.

      I like that is something I can look at and think, “I accomplished something tangible.”

      I agree, to keep the fingers warm, keep the core warm and wear mittens.

    12. He*

      We have an obscenely long driveway with two curb cuts to a main road. We outsourced the first year we lived here- and laid almost $2k in a year with not all that much snow (for our region).

      Then DH bought an old pickup and a plow (totoal $2500 plus he’s put about $500 in parts into it, and we pay ~$400 in taxes/registration/etc each year). Now he plows gleefully through the 2-4’ ice banks that form at the end of our driveway from the heated comfort of his truck. He or I do right in front of the garage and the walkways, which a medium amount of space- but nothing compared to our 500+ foot drive!

    13. Elf*

      A key thing for safety is to remember to breathe. Exhale on the exertion. People often hold their breath unthinkingly to exert greater force, but it can spike your blood pressure, which is the proximate cause of the heart attack.

    14. Zathras*

      I enjoy it. I like both the workout and the really measurable progress. I’m a fan of winter and being outside and being outside in the winter. BUT – I don’t drive to work, so I’m hardly ever in a situation where I’m shoveling because there’s somewhere I need to be, or in the dark.

      I did start to get a teeny bit sick of it by the end of the winter of 2015 (I live in Boston). When you have to move your snow pile to make room for more snow, it gets old pretty quick.

    15. Tap Tap Jazz*

      HATE IT. Our snowblower is broken, the part is discontinued, and my husband is recovering from a back injury. Our driveway is insanely steep, and I’m constantly battling not to fall and break my face. I want to hire a plow service but because of the steepness, nobody will do it. File this under “home buying lessons to tell my younger self”.

      As far as keeping your hands warm, I find the amount of insulation matters less than waterproofing. If you have gloves that resist the damp, you can layer them over fluffier ones. I also have gloves that have a kangaroo pocket on the palm, which is meant to hold those hand warming gel packs.

  10. Kali*

    I’m really confused by the scheduling of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. There were a few episodes, then a two-week break, and now there won’t be any until January? What’s that about? For context, I’m British, and our shows are normally 6-8 episodes per season. Plus, it’s been a while since I’ve actually watched a series in real time, as opposed to when the full season is already out.

    1. Lily Evans*

      It’s not at all unusual for US shows to take a break during the holiday season. Actually, most shows have a fall mid-season finale around November/December and then come back for the spring season in mid-late January. I think it’s part because the tv seasons here have more episodes than British shows, and also people in the US watch less new tv during the holidays. Holiday specials on tv are a really big thing, and people are just busier, so ratings would drop for new episodes that are airing.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I really, really hate mid-season breaks. It always seems like a cheap ploy to raise the ratings. I miss the good ol’ days when a season would just run through to completion.

        (I’m not going to go and yell at kids to get off my lawn, because I feel super old saying the good ol’ days.)

        1. Lily Evans*

          I kind of wonder it the mid-season break will die out due to the changes in viewing habits since most people stream things or record them rather than watching live. It made sense to take a break when people would miss things around the holidays because of travelling and other commitments, but now that people can watch things at any time it matters less. Plus I think people are less patient waiting for weeks when we’re all so used to binge watching now!

        2. Chaordic One*

          I agree. They replace the shows that I like and really want to watch with decidedly unspecial “holiday specials” that tend to be “meh” at best, and garbage more often than not. (Sort of like how PBS or NPR handle fundraising.)

          It’s a good time to watch DVDs or download Netflix, though.

        3. Footiepjs*

          Not sure when you’re calling the good old days because twenty years ago there were November sweeps and then reruns until the next year.

      2. Kali*

        Thank you! I think we do that in the UK too, for longer running shows. Was the break at the end of November for Thanksgiving then? Is it normal for shows not to release new episodes then, or might it have been because of the day it’s shown? The new episodes are released on Netflix on Saturday, but I don’t know if that’s actually when they’re shown over there.

        1. Lily Evans*

          Yes, the November break was around Thanksgiving, most shows either end before it or do at least a couple more episodes in December, so it was a bit unusual for there to only be one December episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but the CW is an extra weird channel in general as far as regularity of episodes. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airs on Fridays here, but a lot of shows take the week of Thanksgiving off, regardless of their air day, even thought it’s a Thursday holiday.

    2. JD*

      Ugh I can’t manage to watch the new season. I don’t get the CW and the app only has the last three episodes and I need the whole season. Getting so frustrated. I even went to my SO’s who has CW hoping it might be on demand or something but nada.

      1. Jujubes*

        The last I checked it’s on Netflix, so once the season is done you’ll be able to watch every episode. I know it’s a long time from now, but that’s my current plan for all the CW shows I watch (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane the Virgin, and iZombie)

        1. JD*

          Ya I watched initially on Netflix so now just waiting until it shows up. I might have known it had new episodes coming if I even knew it was on the CW. Since I don’t have that channel I never see the lists or commercials advertising the show. I didn’t even realize I didn’t have the CW until I went to find the show.

    3. AnonAndOn*

      They did that with “Jane the Virgin” too. They should’ve just aired those mid-season finale episodes the week after Thanksgiving instead of having that two-week gap.

  11. Rosie M. Banks*

    Do you “hear” a voice or voices in your head when you read? I was talking to a friend who mentioned that when she read the Harry Potter books, she heard the words in her head in an English accent, but when she reads books set in the US, the characters have American accents. I was floored, since I’ve never heard anything at all in my head when I read — the words are just absorbed into my mind without accompanying mental sounds. (I don’t know if this matters, but I read very fast — much faster than anyone could speak.) We are now wondering what happens inside other people’s heads when they read.

    1. KR*

      I also read very fast and while sometimes a line will strike me and I will imagine the line being said right then and there (and sometimes I like to read the dialogue of my favorite books out loud) but mostly I just absorb and continue reading.

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      I suppose it depends on the book for me.

      Normally, I hear nothing but I have to confess that when I read To Kill a Mockingbird, I hear the accent then, but I don’t know if that’s because I saw the movie before I read the book and Gregory Peck is just cemented in my mind as Atticus.

    3. Rookie Manager*

      I have never ever thought about this but as I was reading your comment it gradually dawned on me that I was hearing the words in my head. It’s now really annoying! I’m also hearing these words as I type them and it’s frustrating that my fingers can’t keep up.

      Up until this point the only time I have been aware of this is when I’ve read books in non standard English (Trainspotting, Sunset Song etc). In those cases in order to understand the words I need to imagine them read to me in the appropriate accent.

    4. Thlayli*

      I hear my own internal monologue reading the words. I think in words all the time. I’m always surprised when people say they think in colours and pictures. I think it’s fascinating the way different people experience their minds so differently.

        1. Thlayli*

          I have vivid colour dreams with sound, picture and feelings both of the emotional and (imagined) physical variety.
          I love my dreams

            1. Middle School Teacher*

              I also dream in pictures, sound, the whole thing. Last night I dreamed I was wearing shoes that were two sizes too small and my feet were killing me.

              Dreaming in pictures is not all it’s cracked up to be. It makes bad dreams REALLY bad.

              1. Jules the First*

                Obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but my dreams have no pictures. Sound and emotion, yes – a bit like a radio play, maybe, except I’m usually in it. Very occasionally, with a really intense dream, I’ll get flashes of colour too. But maybe that’s just me – I don’t have a mental eye either (so guided meditations that begin with “picture a tropical beach” always baffled me until someone explained it)

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Me too–especially the feelings, which can get pretty intense. I had to train myself to wake up out of a very emotional dream after a bad breakup, where I kept dreaming about the guy and it hurt intensely. Now if I have a disturbingly emotional dream, I automatically nope right on out of it.

          2. Tau*

            Obligatory jealousy. I have the most utterly boring dreams (there’s nothing like dreaming that you were a little late leaving the house because it took you a bit to find your shoes and you had to take the 7:35 instead of the 7:25 train as a result) and they also tend to be not particularly intense in other ways. I’ve never quite been able to make sense of the question “do you dream in colour or black and white?” because they really don’t feel that visual, for instance.

              1. Epsilon Delta*

                When I was in college and couldn’t figure out how to finish a math proof or solve a particularly tricky coding assignment, I would put it away and go to bed for the night. Most of the time I would dream the answer (and yes it was right). Super weird experience the first few times. The power of the unconscious mind is pretty astounding.

                1. Epsilon Delta*

                  Oh and since we are discussing the “texture” of our dreams, the proofs and code were all dreamed in written text.
                  My “regular” dreams include sound, picture, feelings – not drastically different than the waking world, except it’s usually seen from a third person point of view.

                2. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  Wow, it’s cool that you dreamed of the actual solution. My dream solutions like that tend to feel viable while I’m in the dream, but when I wake up, I’m bitterly disappointed to realize that soaking a pair of Pygmy goat pajamas in coffee and putting them on the cat doesn’t really solve my Word formatting problem, after all.

            1. Amadeo*

              Man, vivid, realistic dreams with color and sound aren’t all that cracked up to be. I have WEIRD dreams sometimes, and also some downright terrifying ones (demons, monster creatures chasing and falling apart as they come, but not enough to ever stop chasing). Whenever I waked up from one of those I’d just as soon not dream at all, yeesh.

              1. Tau*

                That’s fair! An advantage of mine is that I don’t really get nightmares. I still remember the time I dreamed I got fired, and in retrospect it was kind of hilarious because it felt as if the dream was trying to be a nightmare but couldn’t detach from reality enough to actually bring up any make it frightening. As I remember, the main change in the dream was that I got to sleep in in the mornings.

      1. Red Reader*

        I think in words, but always my own voice :) I’m incapable of visualizing, in the literal sense.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        “I think in words all the time. I’m always surprised when people say they think in colours and pictures.”

        I think some things in words, but other things are stored non-verbally as colors or pictures or spatial relationships. Ex. Someone asked me the combination to the computer lab door, and I couldn’t tell him. I had to draw the five buttons, push them on the paper I’d drawn them on, and then translate that to numbers. The combination was stored as a spatial pattern for me, and I had no idea what the numbers were.

    5. Middle School Teacher*

      I do. I think I words all the time, and I always hear the voices when I read. I wonder if it’s because I have a singing background and I learn music by ear?

    6. fposte*

      For me they exist in some weird third form; not a voice exactly, but not a visual text. It’s deeply influenced by font and formatting, and for online comments, by people’s names.

      1. Footiepjs*

        Font, yes. Sometimes my mind gets caught on the way words look, even blocking the meaning of the word or its context in a sentence temporarily. Like, “ha, soap is a funny looking word”.

      2. Tau*

        I think this is about how it goes for me – some sense of layered impressions that sort of hint at sound and image without *really* being either. (I often get a sense of position in space, as well, but I suspect I have an odd synesthesia going on with spatial direction that probably influences that.) Not so sure about font and formatting, but I’ve found spelling and grammar can seriously influence the way I perceive a text.

    7. JKP*

      For me, it’s like watching a movie. I see everything that’s described, imagine the characters and their expressions and the setting they’re in. I hear the voices of the dialogue with the different male/female, age, pitch, accent voices for the characters. But I don’t hear a voice for the non-dialogue as if it was an audiobook.

      1. RL*

        I do this too, books play out like a movie in my head and there’s no narration. The dialogue tends to be my own internal monologue voice unless I’m really thinking about it though.

    8. Parenthetically*

      Depends entirely on the book and how I’m reading it. If I’m reading quickly or the writing/dialogue doesn’t strike me particularly, I don’t. But if I’m taking my time and the story/dialogue are compelling, yes, I absolutely hear the characters’ voices as I read.

      1. I Didn’t Kill Kenny*

        I read Gone With The Wind about every 5 years. There is no way to read that without hearing the actors’ voices. Lol.

    9. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      I was part of a huge discussion once on another page about this. Turns out that there’s a subset of people who don’t visualize or hear things in their mind, but most people do. One way to describe this is if you close your eyes and think of a person, do you see a picture of them? Some do, some don’t.

      It’s something to do with how our brains are wired. We couldn’t figure out a up or down side, so you’re probably fine either way. :)

      1. Yetanotherjennifer*

        Wait… so you mean when some people imagine a square in their mind, they actually see the square? As in close your eyes, picture a square, and see it. Really see it? My mind is blown! I’ve always thought that was a figure of speech. I hear things in my mind. I can hear my words as I type this. And I dream in pictures, but I’ve never been able to see things in my mind.

        1. Red Reader*

          Solidarity. I read an article about aphantasia like two years ago now, and went out into the living room to ask my housemates, “When you picture a beach, do you like …. literally picture a beach?” and they were like “…. yes?” I had to sit down, haha. And then they were like “… you don’t?!?!” and they had to sit down. Everyone’s minds were blown. But all my life — and I’m turning 37 today — I thought the phrase “mental image” was a metaphor.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I see a square in my mind. Anything I think about is a picture in my mind. I see words spelled out in white on a black background; if I think about a person, I see a picture of them in my mind. It’s funny, I never thought that anyone didn’t see pictures of anything they imagined.

    10. Mimmy*

      Normally I don’t, but there’s one book called “Good Kings, Bad Kings”, which is written from the perspective of multiple characters. I distinctly remember “hearing” each of their voices as they told their story.

      On message boards, I have sometimes been able to “hear” particular posters, especially ones who have been around a long time or if there is something distinct about their writing or their username.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        The only time I really “hear” a character is if the dialogue and vernacular ring especially true to my location in the South. If the characters say things that I could realistically imagine my grandparents, aunts, or townspeople saying, then I’ll overlay the familiar inflections, postures, and attitudes and the characters’ voices will come alive in my mind. Otherwise, I just read the dialogue in my own head voice without hearing anything in my “mind’s ear”.

    11. Elf*

      It’s really fascinating how differently people’s brains work. I don’t hear voices. I also don’t have any visual in my head whatsoever ( I cannot picture my mother’s face, I cannot picture a square).

      I get very annoyed my all the educational theorists (and others) who group visual and spatial together, because while I am completely nonvisual, I am very spatial (I can rearrange furniture in my head and know it will fit, I excelled at the volumes of solids in calculus when I had to create 3d models using rotations in my head, etc.) I don’t model that visually; it’s all proprioceptive. I know what shape something is the same way I know where my hands and feet are. (It’s actually pretty cool, with the furniture measuring I generally feel it across the front of my body, as though I am measuring it with my arms, whereas for the 3d modeling and rotations I feel it up behind my shoulderblades where my wings ought to be.

      Someone mentioned dreams; everyone dreams visually because it’s REM is an activation of the visual cortex. However, not everyone will remember that. Someone once asked me if I had visual in my dreams, and I said no, believing that to be the truth. A few days later, because the question was fresh in my mind, I ended up in that state where you realize you’re dreaming but haven’t woken up yet and I was able to look around and describe it to myself verbally (which description I was able to retain). I dream very vivid images, I just have absolutely zero visual memory, so I didn’t know it.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Yeah, visual and spatial are separate for me, too, but oppositely from you. I visualize everything and store many ideas or concepts nonverbally as pictures in my mind, but I’m terrible at knowing whether a certain volume of food will fit in a certain size container, or how an architectural plan or section will look in real life. I asked my architect boss once if he’s ever surprised by how an interior space looks in real life as opposed to the plan, and he was taken aback, “No! That’s what the education does for you!” Plus I guess some people are naturally able to think that way.

    12. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I do! Although in the Potter case Snape has ALWAYS sounded like Alan Rickman. Sometimes I wonder if JK Rowling had that voice in mind when she was writing the books.

    13. Akcipitrokulo*

      I also read too fast to hear accents! Also i don’t think i’d be able to imagine one anyway. If it’s a character I know (ie novelisations of tv show) AND the writer is skilled, then sometimes. Peter David novels are most likely… I hear most of the dialogue in Q-in-Law from canon characters but none from the originals.

    14. Red Reader*

      I hear and visualize nothing and also read way faster than anyone I’ve ever met. My husband hears and visualizes, like, everything.

    15. Torrance*

      Wow, this is a fascinating discussion. Assigning a character a voice is such an intrinsic part of how I consume written media that I would have assumed everyone did it. It’s kind of a mindfudge to think about– for me, not ‘hearing’ a character’s voice in a book would be like being colourblind and looking at a painting.

      1. Red Reader*

        I explained aphantasia to a colorblind friend once. At the end, he was quiet for a minute, then said “you can keep purple.”

        1. Jules the First*

          Do you find it an issue? I don’t really notice it much – admittedly there was an incredibly steep learning curve when I started working with architects, who are so visual they often can’t talk without sketching….

          Aaand I was about to say that I don’t really run into tasks I can’t do and then realised that might be because I’ve specifically created my job so that there are visual tasks that are not my responsibility, like drawing org charts…

          1. Red Reader*

            Mostly where it’s fiddly for me is that my husband and most of the people I know are incredibly visual, so they’re providing all these effusive descriptions and I’m going “Okay, but what HAPPENED.” I’m also terrible with faces, which I’ve attributed to a lack of visual memory. I can totally deal with people who want to sketch while they talk – visual aids are WAY better than trying to describe stuff to me. If I’m in a situation where I need to map something out, writing it down or (poorly) sketching it out is my first go-to rather than just trying to describe it. Oh, I’m a Pathfinder player (D&D-esque), I’ve been our game-master for the last three years, and I’m sure my poor players would like better descriptions than I am able to give them too, hah.

            The unexpected connections we made, once we figured out that I have no visuals and that’s unusual rather than everyone else’s “mental image” reference being metaphorical (and that blew my mind; I’ve been using the phrase as a metaphor literally my entire life and had no idea that most everyone else was being literal about actually having images in their mind), are mostly about minor habits I have that probably developed as coping mechanisms for lack of visuals or that can otherwise be connected.

            When I go to a big shopping center or mall, I always park in the same area of the parking lot, even if the part of the mall I’m going to is on the opposite end, because that way I don’t have to remember a new location when I leave. (If I DO end up parking somewhere else, I’ll invariably find myself going out the wrong door at least twice before I get back to the car.) I very rarely take pictures for me – I take pictures to send to other people to show them things, because I’m not very good at describing them. I have zero art appreciation, probably because out of sight, out of mind. Also, organizationally, I’m very out of sight, out of mind, so I tend toward cluttered open shelves rather than drawers or boxes for storage, and if I have drawers or boxes, they have labels on the outside. And like someone upthread said earlier, I’m pretty sure that at least in part, my reading speed is partially attributed to the fact that I don’t spend any time on visuals, haha. I mean, I’m sure a lot of people who do have visuals have these types of habits too, and there may not actually be any connection at all, but it makes sense in a non-scientficially tested way to me :)

            1. Jules the First*

              I have a feeling it’s not just you…I also do just about everything you have described!

              A work colleague recently asked if I had any art on my walls and I confessed that all the art I own was a gift…and it’s mostly sitting in storage. I have an intellectual appreciation for art thanks to two degrees in art history (before, I’ll note, I realised it was not normal to have no visuals) but I prefer abstract art to realist stuff. Wonder if that’s related…

              1. Red Reader*

                haha, I have art around my home, but I prefer word art to picture art — in fact, it just clicked with me that like 75% of my jewelry and 6 of my tattoos all have words on them — and I don’t like abstract art at all because I can never see anything in it, while realist art shows me exactly what it expects me to see :)

  12. Onnellinen*

    Any suggestions for an appropriate year-end/holiday gift for a massage therapist? Mine has been very accommodating of some scheduling quirks I had this year. I was thinking a card and cash, but is $20 too little? A tin of baked goods? I don’t know her well enough to know her interests and hobbies, so needs to be somewhat generic.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      What about a nice card, $20, and maybe some baked goods?

      Although baked goods are always hard because she might be allergic to something. Maybe a nice plant?

      Someone I didn’t know very well once got me a soft blanket. It was obviously generic, probably £10-£20, but I was really grateful and I’ve used it daily since I got it five years ago.

    2. MsChanandlerBong*

      I gave mine $50 and a couple of scratch-off lottery tickets in a card this year. Fifty dollars is by no means required, but she basically saved me from a year of back spasms and urgent-care visits, so I wanted to be extra nice to her.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I just ordered my standard massage gift certificate for my mom (a physical certificate sent through physical mail from the spa), and the person on the phone said “Oh, Small Diphthong? I know exactly who you mean! She’s great!” which was nice.

    4. Call me St. Vincent*

      I did a nice box of gourmet chocolates for my manicurist who I see probably every two-three weeks. She liked it because she could put it out when she had company over. Chocolates also don’t go stale as quickly so maybe a better option?

  13. AvonLady Barksdale*

    We’ve had dry, cold weather with some barometric pressure changes, so this is day 3 of a headache. Blech. Flonase helps a ton, but the headaches wake me up, so I have been a zombie. Anyone else experiencing all of winter’s glory in their bodies?

    1. KR*

      Oh yes, me. It is so, so dry in my house specifically on the second floor. I have a humidifier running at night and I don’t turn the heat on even though it’s getting cold, but I still wake up with a dry mouth, cracked lips, and a cough in my throat. My dog wakes up coughing and gagging and has to drink tons of water every morning because it’s so dry up here.

      1. Artemesia*

        I finally broke down and bought a big humidifier. I have a small condo and the choices for one that puts out 6 gallons a day are a think that looks like a giant quisenart and one that looks like clunky 1950s TV or radio cabinet. Since I have no place to hide the appliance looking one, I got the 50s furniture and just put a plant on it and live with it during the winter. It makes such a huge difference in my skin and breathing. I augment with a steaming penguin in the bedroom and I no longer wake up with the dry cracking throat.

    2. Overeducated*

      I am really feeling it. My child and,I have had congestion, runny noses, and a cough for a couple weeks at this point, without being otherwise sick. It’s a drag.

    3. mreasy*

      I hate to be “that guy,” but my winter sinuses have improved so much since I started using a neti pot.

      1. Parenthetically*

        I switched to one of those sinus irrigator bottles and I really prefer it to the neti pot — easier to use, IMO, plus it’s WAY faster.

      2. Relly*

        I tried using one once. Apparently my nose is so clogged that all the liquid ran in one side …. And then never came out again. O.o

      3. Tap Tap Jazz*

        My dad swears by a neti pot (or the generic equivalent) and he got me to try it. OH MY GOD it feels like drowning. I did it twice, basically gave myself a panic attack, and haven’t touched it since. I just can’t.

    4. Chaordic One*

      We had a weird temperature inversion thing where a low pressure thing (clouds) moved in against the moutains and trapped a whole bunch of air pollution for most of the week. At the same time I came down with a cold with a nasty dry cough. I’m sort of wondering if maybe I might have a mild form of asthma.

    5. Mimmy*

      Ugh yes! My nose and lips tend to get very dry starting in about mid to late fall as the air gets dryer and colder. Also, I hit my head HARD a couple of months ago – since then, I think certain changes makes the area extra tender.

    6. JD*

      Uh i feel you. Barometric pressure changes are the number one cause of headaches for me. Can be a miserable few days. I am just hoping it stays cool through xmas. I cannot handle another 90 degree xmas. Thanksgiving was the highest ever on record for the holiday. Ruins the mood for me. Plus I just HATE heat, anything over 70 and I am cranky.

  14. Bibliovore*

    Better living through chemistry. On the road from recovery from what a friend calls the crud. Deciding whether to read the new Phillip Pullman today or save it for when I have more brains.
    Any recommendations for Netflix or Hulu?
    Nothing too dark.
    I loved The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
    Jessica Jones.

    1. selina kyle*

      The Good Place, if you haven’t already seen it. Happy Endings is on Hulu and was amazingly funny but cancelled too soon. Runaways is cute/fun (teenagers find out their parents are…maybe evil? and there’s superpowers!) on Hulu as well.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I am really excited to watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I voted for it during Amazon’s pilot season.

      Have you ever watched Scandal? I’ve been mainlining it for the past week or so and it’s pretty good.

    3. Foreign Octopus*

      Oh, I really want to see The Marvelous Mrs Maisel! It’s not available on Netflix Spain yet though and I’m gutted!

      You could always try The Christmas Prince. Apparently it’s so bad that it’s good.

      Archer’s really funny.

      But so is the IT Crowd (don’t know if you’re nationality but the humour is very British i.e. hilarious).

      Sample quote: “I came here to drink milk and kick ass. And I’ve just finished my milk.”

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Do they put Amazon originals on Netflix in Spain? That surprises me. I wouldn’t expect it to show up on US Netflix.

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          We do, occasionally, get the Amazon originals but much, much later. It depends on their popularity. The less popular ones are dropped off at Netflix but the more popular (i.e. Westworld) tend to stay with Amazon because they’re the big drawers, but they can still make money off the other ones.

    4. SpiderLadyCEO*

      I am love, love, loving, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. It’s weird science fiction, involving a weird (and messy) murder, time travel, a strange semi-psychic detective, a strange semi-psychic assassin, and a whole ton of weirdness.
      The characters are all really great, and the whole first season is on Hulu!

      1. fposte*

        I love Dirk Gently *so much*. It is all what you said and yet nothing like you’d think that would be. Worth mentioning also that it’s really funny, the casting is brilliant, and the female characters kick serious ass. (I’m slightly less enamored of the second season but still enjoying it.)

        1. SpiderLadyCEO*

          Yes! It’s so hard to describe to people. I really like the second season because I like how their friendships are developing, and how open they are with each other. This also makes it hard to mainline like I did S1 though – it’s sooo much emotion.

          Also, I like that s2 has given us canonically queer characters including one person outright saying that they are bi. As a bi woman myself, it is so nice to hear those words said on a television show! A rare joy.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I loved the Pullman book, and would read it if under the weather but not so sick I couldn’t follow a new plot and characters.

    6. Relly*

      Netflix: I am love, love, loving the Crown, the series about Queen Elizabeth II in the early years of her reign. Claire Foy is great at conveying a pile of emotions just with how tightly she stiffens her neck. Husband and I have been binging it.

    7. Loopy*

      My go to when I need something to relax me is the Great British Baking show if youre at all willing to watch something like that.

    8. Coywolf*

      Netflix recommendation: LONGMIRE :))) i used to watch it when it was on TV and then it was cancelled but Netflix picked it up. The final season is on now and it’s GREAT!

    9. Late to the party*

      Re: the Pullman book – the audiobook is amazing. Michael Sheen is the reader, and I will be surprised if he doesn’t get an Audie award.

  15. Rezia*

    Any recommendations for where to buy curtains? Now that I’ve finally stopped moving around every few years, I’d like to upgrade a bit from my horrible cheap Amazon-ordered curtains.
    Also interested in recommendations for good interior design blogs. I have no idea how to arrange pictures on walls and would love some inspiration.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Apartment Therapy is a great blog that features a bit of everything – for example I like the fact that they include tips for people in tiny rentals.

    2. Windchime*

      I have always had good luck with JC Penney for curtains and drapes. They have an amazing selection and many of their stores have a pretty big area when you can see the window treatments on display.

      I bought my family room curtains at Pottery Barn. I loved them so much but was kind of reluctant to pay so much for simple panels, but I’m glad I did. I love them every time I look at them.

      1. Rezia*

        Thanks! If you don’t mind me asking, what makes you love the Pottery Barn curtains? (As opposed to if you had gotten panels from somewhere cheaper)

    3. fposte*

      It depends what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for budget and simple cottony stuff (rather than linen, velvet, etc.), Ikea has a really nice range of stuff (all my curtains are Ikea just because I like simple white curtains), as does Cost Plus World Market. Anthropologie has some really cool stuff at a higher price point if you’re looking for more detail.

      In addition to Apartment Therapy, have a look at Houzz dot com. I don’t think you have to sign up to search or browse. Also, I find it can be worth just Googling for a topic like that–it’s specific enough that you may find blog posts. (I suppose the same is true of Pinterest but I have a really low rate of luck in getting to the actual posts via Pinterest.)

      1. Kellyes*

        I was just going to suggest Pinterest. I’m a really visual person and I like being able to see a lot of different options. It helps me to narrow down what I like and what I don’t.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      One thing I have done with pictures is to lay them out on the floor or table in the same pattern I would use on the wall. It seems to help me figure out what would look good together.

      1. fposte*

        Command strips can be a real boon; a friend of mine who used to stick photocopies of art to the walls to decide where to hang stuff now just uses command strips.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Just make sure you follow the directions! I once posted on Facebook asking if they work. All the people who said no admitted they didn’t follow the instructions properly!

    5. Call me St. Vincent*

      I love the Laurel Bern Interiors blog. She really helped me a LOT with paint colors and she does a lot of neat posts. I’m sure she has something helpful.

    6. Chaordic One*

      I know this sounds incredibly tacky, and it might not be much better than what bought online, but I bought some thermal insulated curtains pretty cheaply at Family Dollar.

    7. Clever Name*

      I love the textiles at Cost Plus World Market. It’s not super cheap, bit I think the quality is decent.

  16. The Cosmic Avenger*

    Anyone else investing in cryptocurrencies? I started looking into it earlier this year, and finally pulled the trigger earlier this month. I’m finding that the smaller ones are probably the best gambles; my Bitcoin has gone up a bit, but my Ethereum has gone up more than 50%, and my Litecoin has tripled. I’ve opened a Kraken account so I can put a few dollars (~$100) into a bunch of smaller ones, and see if they take off like Bitcoin did.

    Yes, I realize it’s a gamble, I’m only doing it with money that I can spare. I have taken some of my stock gains and used that money to try it out. It’s not a significant percentage of our retirement money (about 0.3% so far).

    A couple of friends who know a lot more than I do about it (and I’ve done some research) are divided over whether to use Trezor or Legend. It sounds like they’re pretty similar, though. Thoughts?

    And if you’re not following this at all, questions? I can answer some basic ones, or point to resources.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I got a bit of ethereum earlier this year. It’s more than doubled, which is awesome. I’m not going to cash out yet though – would rather wait until the 1-year mark so I can only pay long-term capital gains taxes. That said, if it shoots up like Bitcoin Ill probably sell before the bubble pops.

      Also going to get some Ripple but that’s more of a pain to buy – I have to convert a few different things to get it since I can’t just buy from dollars.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Also – I don’t consider these investments at all. I consider them straight up gambling. I only put money in that I was ok with losing.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Right on both, but there are “investments” like penny stocks that are big gambles, too, where you certainly could lose everything. I see these in the same vein as those, and I use that comparison because I think people who are afraid of cryptocurrencies don’t make that equivalence simply because they don’t understand blockchains.

        I’m in the same position, wondering whether I can hold out for a year to reduce my taxes, but worried that there will be a bubble that I’ll miss out on. Either way, it’s kind of fun.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Ha! My wife is also amused. (Since I handle the finances, I make sure to explain everything I do so that 1) we’re on the same page, and 2) she won’t be completely lost if she ever has to take over in an emergency.)

        1. Jules the Third*

          Penny stocks are gambling too.

          The main take-away I got from my MBA class is that the stock market is gambling, you just can’t afford to not play. You get the best odds on a diversified portfolio – eg, cheap index funds. Bonds are an actual investment, but the returns are too low to live on. Split your retirement according to your tolerance of risk – good rule of thumb is stocks should be 50% + # years to retirement, the rest in bonds.

          Cryptocurrencies – meh. For fun if you want, but I actually need my money.

      3. Student*

        You might want to rethink keeping a crypto-currency as if it was a long-term investment. While you’re right about how the tax law works, it’s meant to promote long-term investing in assets that have long-term value.

        These crypto-currencies are more of a speculative investment than a long-term investment. You could easily lose much more money by not getting out fast when you hit your personal price point than you will in the difference between the short and long term tax rates.

        Waiting for long-term rates is great for things that will be around for years and steadily increase in value over the long-term. Crypto-currencies don’t scale well, so they aren’t going to steadily increase in value – they will peter out as they hit their capacity limits, deflate as supply gets lost faster than new ones are made. They’re probably in a battle for market supremacy right now. Eventually, a couple of them will win; the others will die.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I’m not thinking of it as a long-term investment. But I want to limit my tax liability. Right now I just have to make it six more months for the lower rate.

    2. fposte*

      I will never, ever do this but I just love the names, and I suspect that some people engaging in this like feeling like they’re science fiction characters.

    3. Meag L*

      I’d like to gamble a small amount of cash an see what takes off. Is there a site I can buy on? I’m not sure on how that works… I’m in Canada.

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        Check out coinbase or kraken. There are a lot of KYC controls so it can take a few days to get up and running as you have to prove identity etc.

    4. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      We’ve been watching this since 2011, but didn’t buy until September of this year. Ugh… trying not to think about it…

      Actually it was the best souvenir of our vacation as Other Half sorted out an account and bought BTC at $4K one night at one stop without telling me when I was doing something dumb like watching Airplane! or something like that. He added to the stash at $8K. He picked up some Ethereum and Litecoin this week, and just opened a Kraken account tonight to get some Ripple.

      We are up £1000 on all this, which is incredible to think given how little we chucked at it (funny money really, what we have after other investments, bills, etc. and feel like risking). But finding it great fun and so very interesting to follow the market evolving. Bloomberg has now added ETH BTC and XRP to their terminals.

  17. Windchime*

    Has anyone here ever hired a home organizer? My house needs to be spruced up and I’d like to hire a cleaner, but the main problem is clutter. I think I just need some help with getting rid of clutter. There are several people in my area who advertise themselves as home organizers, but how does one really know how good these people are and if it’s worth the expense?

    I’m not a hoarder; I just need help getting rid of items I no longer use, organizing cupboards, etc.

    1. KR*

      My aunt does some home organization! There is a difference between home organizers that work with hoarders (they usually need some psychological or therapy training) and organizers that just organize. A lot of it is them helping you let go of items and throw things away that you might have been holding on to for whatever reason, and then they can look at your home from an outside perspective and help find a more efficient way of organizing things. No advice for finding one, unfortunately, but references are a huge thing for most home services.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I have a friend in the DC area who does this! I wish he lived closer because I would definitely hire him.

    3. Middle School Teacher*

      I won a session with one! She tackled my basement and did a great job. She had a lot of great ideas and we talked a lot about working with hoarders (she doesn’t — the people in her company who do have a psychology background) but she was super nice. I was worried she would push me into just tossing stuff but she didn’t. She even offered to help me pack the books in my office and move them into the basement so I could turn the office back into a bedroom!

      I was lucky because she was free, but maybe for you, ask if they offer a free trial or a free session?

    4. Lady Kelvin*

      Also, check out the life changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo. I don’t agree with a lot of her techniques but it was useful for me to change the way I thought about stuff. I grew up poor where you never threw away anything that was broken or could be fixed because if you needed it again you couldn’t just buy a new one. So now that I can afford to replace something if I decided I didn’t need it and got rid of it, it has always felt wasteful. Also I keep moving long distances and calculating how much it would cost me to move it really put things into perspective.

      1. Turtlewings*

        Agreed, Marie Kondo really helped me change my entire approach to Stuff. She would still find my house appalling, but she should have seen it before!

      2. Temperance*

        Yes! I highly recommend reading “Spark Joy” as well. It’s a much more practical take on her first book, and she absolutely helped me change my approach to certain things. I grew up poor, too, and would hold onto things that weren’t “me” or in good shape or whatever and would be afraid to use things I loved because they would be wasted.

        Her take on gifts, no joke, changed my house so much, because it made it okay to donate all the home decor items that are not us that were sent by my MIL.

    5. Parenthetically*

      Yes! A friend of mine was looking into becoming a professional organizer and came and helped me revamp my desk/classroom organization and it was brilliant. Ask for references, look at their qualifications, ask about their style/temperament.

    6. cleo*

      I hired one to reorganize two closets and it was incredibly helpful. I got a recommendation from a friend. She asked that we empty the entire closets out before she arrived and then had us move things into piles – keep, give away and throw out and then helped us come up with systems for organizing. In theory we could have done it ourselves, but you know, we really needed to have someone walk us through it. And she had tons of useful tips about how to figure out which things should be easy to get to and which things could be less accessible on the higher shelves. And after we did the two closets with her, I did one more on my own, using what I learned from her. It was really worth it for me.

      I think the main thing to ask is how they work – I think that some will organize things for you and some will walk you through organizing it yourself. For me (and my control issues) having someone walk me through the process was perfect. I made all of the decisions (so now I can find everything) but she kept me on task and kept me from losing heart and she also had a lot of practical tips for using space well. And she had one of those label gun thingys.

    7. Anon accountant*

      Also take a look at flylady.net. She divides the house into different “zones” that you focus on week by week.

  18. Katie the Fed*

    We got ourselves a Roomba in the The Fed household, and it’s AMAZING. I love it so much. We’re really lazy people, have two cats and a dog, and with the baby’s imminent arrival we needed some way to help keep up with the cleaning. We run it 3-4 times a week and are amazed by the amount of crud it sucks up. I know it’s not good enough for some people’s exacting standards, but since we previously vacuumed approximately…um…rarely, it’s HUGE improvement.

    1. KR*

      We recently got a Roomba too! It’s one of the cheapo iLife ones which we got on Black Friday sale on Amazon and I love it! It’s actually on my list today that I need to take him apart and clean it (which is SUPER easy, I’m sure you know) and run him this weekend – not sweep my floor but just run him! And yes, while he doesn’t have a name (yet) he’s a him.
      It felt so… excessive? at first to get a Roomba, but both my husband and I hate sweeping and with a dog and a cat and living in the desert (we don’t have a very good seal on our windows so sand and dirt just gets in everywhere) we needed a better solution to keep our floors clean.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Mehhhh. I have a cold that just won’t quit and have been having contractions for a week that aren’t REAL contractions. Soon, hopefully!

    2. copy run start*

      I adore my Eufy! My favorite thing is to watch it clean the litter mats for me, though there are a few pieces of furniture it tends to get stuck under. Definitely well worth it. I think I’ve vacuumed properly once since I brought it home a few months ago, and barely picked up anything.

    3. Serious Sam*

      I have to advise caution: There are some very unpleasant accounts of the mess that can result if baby/dog/cat#1/cat#2 has an “accident” and the Roomba finds it before you do.

    4. Call me St. Vincent*

      Do you find it scratches your wood floors? We had one and it really tore ours up so we ended up giving it away. It was so sad because otherwise I thought it was awesome :(

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Our wood floors are pretty crappy anyway, and we have a dog that scratches them plenty, so no I haven’t noticed :)

    5. Helpful*

      What specific Roomba or the like is good? There are so many brands and models, I don’t know where to start for a basic model (half carpets and half tile/laminate in my house).

      1. Katie the Fed*

        We got the 805 at Costco (on sale for the holidays), but I’m not really smart enough on them to recommend any specific ones

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I have one and I liked it a lot, but it needs a new battery. The batteries are EXPENSIVE. Also, if you have a lot of chair legs, it gets stuck often. It has those things you can put across doorways so it won’t go into certain rooms, but my house is so small I never really needed them. Poor thing is in the garage until I either decide to get a battery or chuck it.

    7. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      In Sweden they have Yard Roombas to cut the grass. Scared the crap out of me the first time I saw one trundling along! Our friends have one (even got it a little license plate) and it just meanders around and around their large backyard, avoiding the apple trees, kids toys, and the shed, cutting grass all day long. Their lawn looks fantastic by the way.

      Husqvarna makes them, not sure why they haven’t been introduced in the US!

      1. C*

        Robin was a company on Shark Tank this year trying to introduce rentals of the yard roombas. (They did not get get a deal).

      2. Chaordic One*

        Husqvarna? My parents have a gas-powered Husqvarna garden tractor that they like and that seems to run just fine.

    8. Brunch with Sylvia*

      Katie & other Roomba-users: Does it do a decent job along baseboards and furniture edges?

      1. Katie the Fed*

        It does a good enough job by my admittedly low standards :)

        Seriously – it picks up an obscene amount of crud.

  19. Al-anon?*

    My best friend has a sibling with a drinking problem. Should he try Al-Anon for support? What is it like? Please share your experiences and what Friend can stand to gain from attending. Any other tips (book, etc.) would be helpful as he is just starting to learn about alcoholism, and has not yet approached Sibling about Sibling’s drinking. Thanks!

    1. fposte*

      Al-Anon would seem to be one of the easier entry points; it’s free, in many places it’s pretty easy to get to, and you don’t ever have to go back if you don’t want to. A sibling went; individual therapy ended up being more valuable, but Al-Anon was really helpful as well in just laying bare some of the enabling thought patterns because they were coming out of other people’s mouths.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Not from personal experience, but my impression is that a lot of people find it really helpful just because you realize that you are part of a larger pattern, that other people have gone through this, that here are things they found to help or not help. Coming to terms with the whole “You cannot mind control them into behaving differently; you can control your actions but not theirs.”

    3. Al-Alon Anon*

      I go.
      Each group is different, so if they don’t click with one, try another. For me, the best so far is learning to detach from the behaviors of the alcoholic. People with addiction don’t just have a broken ‘stop’ switch with their drinking/drug use/other addiction, they truly have a different way of thinking. https://al-anon.org/ Will help them find some local resources.
      And a word on two myths- 1, that you have to be Relgious with a capital ‘R’. Nope, I have many friends who do not follow a specific religion or creed and others that are Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and many more whom I don’t know their beliefs. 2, that you will see people you know and be judged. Again, nope (on the judges part, the other depends on size of your town). I have been to meetings with nationally known people as well as local professionals, halfway house people, but mostly regular people who just know that everyone is there for the same reason.

      And ya know, it never hurts to have people help us along whatever path our life takes; after all, isn’t that why we are here? Good luck!

    4. Dan*

      I hated Al anon. I’m not the type to just sit and listen (or talk for that matter). I like a little engagement. Al Anon rules are “no crosstalk”. It’s so weird for me to talk and not have people ask questions. And vv. Also, I thought a lot of people there were weird.

      On that subject, my ex and I went on behalf of her mom. We split years ago, and I recently found out that she died last year at 62, presumably from complications related to alcoholism. that woman was mean and nasty when she drank. When I first met my ex, it took three different visits to meet mom – she was drunk the first two times.

      When we got married, mil got too drunk to get on the plane to the wedding. She raised a ruckus, and the cops threw her in jail for the night.

    5. SC Anonibrarian*

      A friend of mine tried them for dealing with a parent, and was really turned off and disgusted by them; apparently the local chapters have a lot of leeway on how much they emphasize the whole ‘helpless unless a higher power’ intervenes angle? And for this particular chapter the higher power was super christian. My friend is a hard atheist so it really was just a very unfortunate culture mismatch.

      1. Al-Alon Anon*

        Ugh that sucks. Sorry the locals turned it that way; for what it’s worth, even tho I am Christian, I woulda walked in that environment too

        1. Alanonist*

          It suggested to go to six meeting to see if the program is a good fit. I needed at least that. I for one appreciated the “no cross talk” rule. It meant that people could talk without fear of someone responding negatively, criticism, or advice. Saved my life.

    6. Student*

      Qualifications to give advice: two drunk parents.

      Al-anon is religious, and it’s not based on any kind of specific best practices. If you want to have people to talk to about it and support you, it might help. It might help if you’re spiritual. If you’re looking for actual advice on coping mechanisms, rather than a place to vent and get some affirmation, you might try a therapist. If you don’t really need affirmation or coping strategies, then just cut off Sibling and vent to understanding friends occasionally.

      Approaching Sibling about drinking is not likely to be successful. Unless you have much more serious leverage, like you provide Sibling with housing or substantial support of some sort, your relationship just doesn’t provide enough leverage to have a serious impact.

      The biggest lesson there is to know about dealing with an alcoholic is that you can’t fix them. Either they fix themselves, or they don’t. There’s no secret sauce, no cosmic justice, no special resources that suddenly turn them around. It’s out of your hands, full stop. All you can do it make sure you don’t get hurt by the alcoholic, by minimizing contact or putting up really big, firm boundaries. The sooner your friend learns that, the better off he’ll be. It’s not unusual to mourn over this once you come to terms with it; effectively, the person you knew is dead, replaced by the alcohol addiction. People get in trouble as they spiral to try to prop the alcoholic up, cover for them, take their abuse, while they wait for a recovery that is probably never happening.

    7. Nana*

      Highly recommend. I went to several different groups, to find a ‘good fit.’ Always took away at least one good / helpful tip or thought.

    8. Kuododi*

      Not on a personal level,however the clients I worked with who were facing struggles with addicted loved ones seemed to get positive benefits from the referral. They were able to get support and feedback regarding enabling patterns with their addicted loved one and ways to address the problem in a constructive fashion. I can’t speak for AlAnon as a whole…but the ones in my area seemed to be positive. (I work in SE-USA) I always recommend looking around until you find the group which is the best fit.

    9. waffles*

      i did not like al anon at all. i found it to be very prescriptive about what you should do and think and feel, and there was a lot of peer pressure if you dont conform. like others have said, you experience a lot of grief as you come to terms with the fact that you cannot help someone stop being an alcoholic. after dealing with that, you have to start setting boundaries that protect your feelings. what helped me was reading about or listening to others’ experiences. it made me feel less alone. the grief hasnt gone away.

  20. Welkikitty*

    If you don’t know what LOL Dolls are, consider yourself blessed. My daughter wants these things for Christmas and they are pure, overpriced, junk. I managed to buy a few before they became “the hot toy” everyone is selling on eBay, but ugh.

    1. LCL*

      I googled them. Adult me is appalled at the plastic junky consumerism of the whole thing. Kid me would have been thrilled by all the bits and pieces, even though I hated dolls.

      1. copy run start*

        I watched a video on them too — even the camera can’t hide how cheap this stuff is! And the price is highway robbery. It’s like a blown-up Polly Pocket set, only crappier.

    2. Linda*

      I’ve lost track of how many of these plastic ‘collect the whole set’ type toys there are out there these days -_-;;;

  21. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    I’m sure no one remembers but I asked a few weeks ago about how to prepare for potential financial ruin in the family due to a lawsuit.

    Well, the verdict came this week and WE WON!
    My parent was cleared on all counts, which means they don’t have to pay a share of $500 million in damages.

    It still feels slightly surreal. We’ve been in this lawsuit for almost 10 years and while we (family and friends) were certain of my parent’s innocence and their responsibility in the entire mess that caused the lawsuit, it’s often felt like living in a Kafka-novel.

    I’m exhausted and barely believe it still. But we won. We actually won. Justice.

    1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      Sorry for the awkwardness of my English, I’m so tired I start losing all my languages.

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      I remember!

      That’s fantastic news!! Congratulations!

      I bet you feel so much better now, like a weight is gone. I didn’t know that the financial ruin would be in the millions. I can’t imagine that. I’m so glad that everything’s worked out, and just in time for the holidays as well!

      1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        I can’t imagine it either.

        I mean, for us it wouldn’t have made a difference if my parent had been forced to pay $500 million, $50 million, $5 million or even $500k because it’s such astronomical sums it just… my parents would have had to declare bankruptcy and pay most of their income for the rest of their lives towards a fantasy sum.

        But it sure felt awful even thinking about it.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      WOW! I had no idea it was such a huge lawsuit…even Pants Guy (as former judge Pearson should henceforth always be known) sued the dry cleaners for $67M, and later reduced it to $54M! (He lost, and had to pay court costs.)

      Sorry, I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m trivializing it, I hope you and your family will be able to regain your sense of normalcy quickly. I know it’s probably disrupted your lives immeasurably.

      1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        Oh no, I quite agree. Some days it was all we could do from giggling manically/crying desperately because what is even 500 million dollars? Like… what does it buy? What does it… do?

      1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        Very rare ones.
        It is quite literally the only one in the history of my country (and was considered a landmark case because had we lost (well, “our” side) it would have opened the door for a much more Americansized liability culture.

        (Before anyone gets any ideas, my parent was tiny part of the entire lawsuit and like I said, it’s been a decade of Kafka. But when we’re talking about sums like these, it doesn’t really matter how insignificant one is. It adds up quickly.)

          1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

            Also very much.

            Home insurance in my country usually includes a provision for legal fees. There was also a firm insurance that covered my parent.
            But both of those ran out a few years back.

            I don’t know the exact sums and what *we’ve* actually paid but I think the total legal fees JUST for my parent is around 2-3 million dollars….

            I jokingly calculated what a day in court cost last year (with about 15 lawyers, journalists, lost income and what have you) and came up with around $10k.
            One day.

    4. Book Lover*

      I remember and had wondered several times how you were. I am so happy for you and your parents :)

  22. Foreign Octopus*

    I’ve just spent the entire afternoon at an animal shelter playing with cats. It was great fun, although I always end up wanting to take all of them home with me (this is how I got my cat six months ago).

    Although I didn’t adopt any, my friend did decide on the two that she wants. Well, I say decide. It really was a case of them choosing her. It was adorable to watch. There’s a tabby cat that went straight for her, and then the most gorgeous black cat that just fell in love with her. Normally I attract the cats and she attracts the dogs but these cats just went straight for her. It was as though they recognised their new mum and it was amazing.

    I’m was a little bit jealous watching! I feel better now though. I’ve got my cat on me and although she can smell the other animals on me, she doesn’t seem to mind too much :)

    1. Trixie*

      Maybe you/hour friend can share a picture, I’d love to see them in their new home! I love the idea of the cats deciding on her. (“I think I’ll go home with you.)

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I’ll definitely do that.

        She’s not able to get them until the New Year but there will be plenty of pictures when they do come!

    2. anon24*

      I love animal shelters! When we got our girl we went to see her but were told most people don’t pick the cat they actually went to see. We walked into the room where they kept her and her brothers and she instantly charged me and ran up my body to sit on my shoulders. I knew instantly she was mine but we still played with her brothers for an hour, because 8 week old kittens. Loved it so much we now volunteer every week for the bigger rescue that shelter is affiliated with.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        It would just be rude to ignore 8 week old kittens, so I get you.

        I love that you volunteer every week for the shelter. That’s such a great thing to do.

    3. Lcsa99*

      We had that happen with both of our cats when we adopted them (months apart) at the shelter. The first was marked as difficult and needing special handling, but he came right to me and snuggled in. The second was hiding in the back of his cage but didn’t hesitate to come forward and plant himself on my lap and purr his little head off. Both definitely picked us!

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I always thought it was just something people said but the animals really do choose you.

        In my family, we’d always get, as a family pet, whichever animal grabbed hold of my dad’s beard. When they did that, we knew they were the one for us.

        And when dad met my cat, one of the first things she did was reach up for his beard :)

    4. Relly*

      I was picked by a cat once, while visiting a relative whose rescue had just had kittens. I told myself we were just going to cuddle the furballs and go home. Then, while I’m kneeling next to the bed the kittens are on, one of them saunters up to me and headbutts my chin. I giggle and lift it up — at which point he crawls under my chin, flops down against my neck, and takes a nap.

      Me: … Okay yeah he’s mine now.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        That sounds about right.

        It’s exactly how the black cat picked my friend. Mine was a little more timid at first. She was the last cat to come out and she was so tiny (despite being anywhere from 4-8) but she was so brave coming towards me that I couldn’t resist her.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        It really, really was.

        It was horrible and wet in my part of Spain yesterday and it was nice to sit with the cats and catch up with my friends. So much more interesting than just gong for a coffee (although I do enjoy that too).

    5. Jean (just Jean)*

      Speaking as a cat-lover who never has and never will live with a kitty because of serious allergies…
      1. Oh, enjoy your cat companion!
      2. People who adopt cats from a shelter are doing a good deed.
      3. I am secretly green with jealousy…
      4….but not for long because hey, acceptance…
      5. Again, enjoy!
      P.S. One of these years I will stop procrastinating re donating to a cat shelter. There are ways other than adoption to support a cat or cats.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        No! I’m so sorry you can’t get cats. That’s really sad.

        Bones (my cat) and I enjoy each other’s company. She spent four years in the shelter and I think she’s just happy to have a human to snuggle with now. I know I’m happy to have a cat sprawled across me. I honestly don’t think I could ever buy an animal now that I’ve adopted. There are just so many animals in this one shelter I visit that I just couldn’t do it, not when I could go and adopt one. Plus, these animals all come neutered, vaccinated, and pet passported so it’s fantastic.

        I was also a little green with jealousy yesterday. I really wanted the cats to love on me but I’m really glad they went to my friend.

        If anyone’s interested, the link to the shelter is here http://www.albergueoviedo.es/

        It’s in Spanish but they do have pictures of all the animals up so you can browse and go awwww.

      1. Foreign Octopus*


        My friend is pretty darn happy right now. She actually moved flats so that she could get the cats as her previous place didn’t allow animals.

  23. Kj*

    Anyone here write or illustrate kid’s books? I’m trying to find a publisher for two books and am writing a third. I really love the process of writing them and illustrating is fun too. I would love to be published in the next two years. Any advice?
    One of the book is about the woman who founded a nature sanctuary in the city I grew up in. It is a “quiet” book with lots of pictures of animals and a nice message about conservation. The other is a board-book for young kids about goats. If you write books, what do you write about?

    1. fposte*

      I’ll append a link in followup, but see if you can find a local SCBWI; they’re usually filled with good advice and experience. Also look at Harold Underdown’s The Purple Crayon. At this point, if you’re looking for publishing outside of self-publishing, an agent is really the way to go for an unsolicited submission, even in children’s lit where the slush piles often get read. Look into university-associated programs like the ones at the University of Vermont or Hollins; they will help you immensely with professional standards and often have good contacts. Understand that author/illustration can be a particular challenge–they may want somebody else to do the art if they like the story, or vice versa.

      My apologies if any of this is telling you what you already know.

        1. Kj*

          Thank you both! I was wondering if going straight to the publisher meant my book ended up in the circular file. Sounds like that is likely. I have a lead on an agent. I had some interest in one of my books from a publisher, but it fell through. I’m grateful though, because it pushed me artistically.

          I do have a degree in art and am a child therapist, so I have reason to think I know kids and have the artistic chops to carry off a book! I know it isn’t easy though.

          1. fposte*

            It’s not just the carrying it off–it’s creating something that’s more likely to be profitable than their other hundreds to thousands of possibilities if you’re talking the Big Five or publishers at that level like Scholastic; in that respect it’s rather like applying for a job. Smaller publishers with a particular focus or with a different regional bent are still competitive but a slightly different game, without the same publicity engine and, sometimes design standards, and they are often a good place to consider when you’re first trying to break into the field.

            1. Kj*

              Oh, I know it is hard to get published- I mean more I can write, illustrate and use computer software in such a way to make considering submission feasible and know enough about kids to make it interesting. I have no illusions I’ll be published by Scholastic or similar- I’ve sent my manuscripts to smaller presses and am continuing to do so.

              1. Bibliovore*

                Also Hamline University in MN has a low residency program like Vermont.
                Look at your favorite picture books- who are they published by? Who edited them? Second SCBWI. Also an old blog but still has useful information about agents and queries is Editorial Anonymous. I will post an addendum with the link.

      1. Kj*

        Thank you! The first one I wrote in almost a dream, but then I knew the story really, really well. And illustrations were fun because I did cut-paper illustrations. I put a link to one in my username here.

          1. Kj*

            Thank you! I added a different one in this link. The first one is an orb weaver spider, this one is a yellow-crowned night heron.

    2. Natalie Starfish*

      Yes, I am a children’s book author. You can find me on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and even Walmart.com. That’s where my publisher sells their books. My name is Natalie Starfish. My publisher is Mirror Publishing. Their website is http://www.pagesofwonder.com On the left side of the main page is a link on how to submit. It takes about 3-6 weeks to find out if they want to publish your book. I always suggest to people who submit to distract yourself while waiting. The waiting is really tough. You CAN do it. I have helped a half a dozen people get their children’s book published. Mirror publishing children’s books are 8 inches Square paperback. And they are CPISA standard. Which means a kid can eat the entire book, ink, paper, binding, binding glue, and cover AND not get sick. They make SAFE books. This is really important to me.
      I believe in you. You CAN do this. Step by step towards this, is the secret. Keep stepping.
      In Gratitude, Natalie Starfish

      1. Kj*

        Thank you! This is helpful. I’m going to submit my my goat book there as it is the right size and such. Thank you for the encouragement and the ideas!

  24. Nervous Accountant*

    Guys, any tips on cooking bacon so that it doesnt’ splatter ??? I just found halal bacon (mae of beef or chicken) and while I love the taste, I hate the splatter.

    1. Victoria, Please*

      Get a splatter screen! It’s like a round piece of window screen with a handle. Just google splatter screen.

    2. Kellyes*

      I like to bake it in the oven! Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil (for easy clean up) bake at 400F until it’s done enough for you. Thin cut usually takes 10-15 minutes, thick cut is around 20 minutes.

      1. tab*

        I do that too, but I put a rack in the foil covered pan. No splatter, and it’s especially good if you’re cooking it for a crowd.

      2. Parenthetically*

        Another vote for oven. I use parchment rather than foil. Cooking bacon on the stovetop now makes me irrationally angry.

    3. Gingerblue*

      Microwaving it can work—you sandwich the bacon between layers of paper towels on a plate and microwave for a minute, and the towels soak up the grease. Otherwise, I agree on baking.

  25. Victoria, Please*

    Do we have any entomologists in the house? I have such an ant problem and I’m tired of buying expensive little traps. I’m considering getting a pack of cheap cigarettes and soaking them in water to extract the nicotine, and putting in some Karo syrup. Think that’ll work? No kids or pets to be worried about.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I would just buy some Terro. It’s cheap, and it works like a charm for us. We get sugar ants (tiny black ones) every year, and they always stop for a while when we put down Terro in their path.

      Please note, you will get MORE of them for a while after they discover the bait, but then that colony will be wiped out soon after, and then you won’t be bothered by them (at least, that colony) any longer.

      1. Lily Evans*

        I second the Terro recommendation. I had so many ant problems a couple years ago and it’s the one thing that solved the problem, and I’d tried a lot of other store-bought and DIY solutions before it.

      2. ValaMalDoran*

        +1 on the Terro. Awesome stuff. Also, if you need to put poison in places the traps won’t fit, you can put drops on tiny pieces of aluminum foil, if you buy the bottle of liquid. (Not if you have animals or small children, of course.)

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      When this is a problem for us (every spring/summer), people often recommend cotton balls soaked in a solution of borax and sugar. Your cigarette idea sounds interesting and cheap enough to be worth a try! I used ground cinnamon around my sink and it worked, but it got messy.

      The big thing is to try to figure out where they’re coming from. Ours were mostly refugees and didn’t come in a straight line, and that stinks. But the ones that did enter in a line… my boyfriend attacked them with some very potent poison (I wish I knew what kind) and that did the best job.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Borax and sugar will help. Borax is in the detergent aisle.

      Figure out what is drawing them and remove or seal up those items. Oddly, I had a peony bush outside my kitchen window. I got rid of the peonies and the ant problem went away.

      I read somewhere that ants leave a scent trail. That is how other ants know where to go. Watch their paths and wipe with vinegar or other scent killing cleaner.

      1. Enough*

        Peony bushes are ant magnets. The flowers were always covered. Good thing they were not near the house. Maybe that’s why the prior owners planted them. To attract the ants away from the house.

    4. fposte*

      Borax and sugar is basically homemade Terro. Borax and corn syrup would probably be even closer.

      In my experience, it can be especially helpful to put the stuff *outside* the house at the entry point.

    5. anon24*

      My mom always used the Borax and sugar, but after a few years the ants stopped going for it, so she started mixing it with Gatorade or kool aid and it worked even better

      1. AAM fan*

        Corn meal. Takes a while to work but cheap, easy, non-toxic. Worked for me with ants nesting by the front door and coming into the house.

    6. Sylvan*

      Black Flag. Look for a can that comes with a tiny straw like you see on canned air products.

      Last summer, I tried repellent (several types, I don’t like killing insects), bait, traps, everything except straight-up “spray this on a bug and it’ll die” poison. The ants kept coming back. After enough of this I sprayed their whole line with Black Flag and sprayed the areas I thought they came from. They never came back.

    7. Student*

      Diatomaceous earth is your friend!

      Cheap as dirt, comes in a huge bag at the local garden/home repair store. Really simple premise: if ants walk over it, they die very soon after. It’s a physical effect instead of a poison – it scratches through their exoskeletons with tiny, sharp edges, and then they rapidly dehydrate and die. Spread it on any ants you see, across any paths they put down, along the edges of your impacted rooms, in hard-to-reach cracks, under baseboards. Reapply as necessary if it gets blown away/washed away/etc. – should last a long time inside a home.

      Can put a little ring of it around food sources, and the ants can’t cross it if their lives depended on it. Can put a little ring of it around known ant nests.

      I used it this summer to kill an ant infestation in a potted plant. First application got most of them in a week. Second application, to cover a couple spots I missed the first time that they routed around, killed them off within a couple days. Brushed up the extra after I was sure they had died off, and the ants haven’t tried to move back in.

      You don’t want to breath it in, but I found it pretty easy to use. It doesn’t hurt humans to touch with your bare hands – the sharp edges are all bug-sized. Works on most crawling bugs.

  26. Laura*

    Finishing up my bagel and getting my shoes on to go to that which must not be named on weekends.Hoping that y’all have a great day and if y’all are finishing up your shopping, please be patient at the stores- those guys are working hard- me included. It’s my favorite time of year, I love helping people pick gifts out!!

    Thank y’all for being a source of joy on my weekends.

    1. Kuododi*

      Oh bless you!!! I’ve walked in your shoes at many different times during my life. Personally I’m of the opinion that the ninth circle of hell was when I worked at a national toy store during Christmas season. Something about toy stores and Christmas trappings turns parents into rage filled howler monkeys. Gack!!!

  27. Linda*

    I moved to the UK this year after living most of my life in Australia, and finally having Christmas in winter is something of a novelty for me. While I miss the outdoor stuff like the beach and picnics and being able to wear sandals, it’s kind of nice to partake in the more ‘typical’ things like wearing Christmas jumpers, drinking hot drinks (though I’m not sure how much I care for mulled wine really) and getting some snow! (It’s also a lot less jarring listening to songs with lyrics like ‘let it snow’ when it isn’t 38 degrees Centigrade outside LOL).

    1. SpiderLadyCEO*

      I feel you! I moved from Florida to the Distant North this summer, and while it’s still “winter” in FL during Christmastime, winter in FL is still in the mid-70s(F) (23-24C) so we do things like swim, try and wear Christmas sweaters and then melt, try and drink hot chocolate – and then melt…and now in the frigid north snow exists, and you can go outside with out sweating! It’s amazing.

    2. Rookie Manager*

      The year I spent Christmas in Australia I found the heat so strange and the carols I’d sung all my life just seemed wrong.

      The folowing Christmas one of my Aussie friends had just moved to the UK so spent the week with my family. Watching her experience a cold Christmas for the first time was delightful!

    3. Parenthetically*

      A couple of my Aussie friends are in London for work at the moment and they are BLISSFUL about the cold and snow and festiveness. I spent Christmas in Oz a few years ago, and was slightly dreading the weirdness of a summer Christmas, but shoot, I woke up the first morning and it was like someone had flipped a switch on my seasonal depression, so I didn’t miss the wintery festive northern Christmas things at ALL.

  28. Sparkly Librarian*

    As requested, a reminder: I will be appearing on Jeopardy! this coming Wednesday (12/20)! Watch if you can, and hear Alex Trebek ask me about my Little Free Library.

    1. fposte*

      Yay! Did you see American Libraries just had a thing about librarians on Jeopardy? I’ll paste in a screenshot of your appearance :-).

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Yes! It came out after I taped, but before I was ready to announce to, say, my workplace. I joked that the library PR person who puts out the weekly newsletter with these tidbits got scooped!

  29. paul*

    any had any luck teaching toddlers basic card/board games? I want to start trying now that my youngest is three. Something we can all do together as a family during crappy weather or when one or mor eof us is under the weather and outdoors stuff isn’t an option (like today).

    Also, any good woman or POC fantasy/sci fi recommendations? I like Octavia Butlers books and have been pretty meh about Ursula le Guin if that helps to inform choices?

    1. Lily Evans*

      I think the best way to introduce toddlers to board games is to begin with ones that are quick and repetitive. So something that doesn’t take too much patience and keeps the same rules/patterns throughout (Candy Land is a classic that all the kids I babysat/had at daycare enjoyed). It’s also an exercise in futility to try to explain all of the rules upfront, if you just start playing and narrate what the other players are doing and explain what steps they need to follow they’ll probably pick things up pretty quickly! It’s also a good low-key way to get some practice in with numbers and counting.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        +1 to just getting on with playing and narrating as you go. I learned Knockout Wist that way from my grandpa when I was a kid (and now can’t make head or tail of it).

    2. Paper tiger*

      A lot of 3-year olds can handle Uno, especially if they have an older partner helping. Codenames Pictures might work depending on how verbal they are. Hiss the card game. Incan Gold is great if the kids can handle a little disappointment when things don’t go right.

      There are lots of board games for kids (Don’t Break the Ice and Sneaky Snacky Squirrel were popular at that age in our household). But if you’re trying to transition them to family games/stuff adults don’t hate, we did it with Uno first.

    3. Libervermis*

      N.K. Jemisin’s books are fantastic – she has three different series in three different worlds. I loved her Dreamblood series The Shadowed Sun and The Killing Moon, and enjoyed her Broken Earth and Inheritance trilogies. Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death was also good, if less “can’t put it down!” than Jemisin’s work for me.

      1. Thursday Next*

        Yes, I love all of N.K. Jemisin’s books, and felt the same way about Who Fear’s Death compared to Jemisin’s work.

        Kameron Hurley’s The Stars are Legion is an interesting sci fy novel. Not my favorite book ever but a cool world and concept, it’s kinda violent though.

    4. David S. Pumpkins (formerly katamia)*

      Liu Cixin’s Three Body Problem trilogy (especially the first book–I was less enthralled with the other two, although YMMV) takes place largely in China/with Chinese characters. The female characters kinda suck, though, so it’s a mixed bag. (Suck in the sense that there are few of them; most of them get very little character development; and other than one particular female character, much of the character development they get is very…cliched female character development, I guess I’d call it?)

      I also liked Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring and The Chaos.

    5. NoMoreMrFixit*

      Take a look at the Schooled in Magic series by Christopher Nuttall. The focus is on a lady yanked from an unhappy life in our world into a magical world and becomes a magician.

      No ideas on board games – for some reason my family has no interest in them.

    6. Rainy*

      I primarily read women authors, my favourite sff writer is Lois McMaster Bujold. Tanya Huff writes amazing space opera and decent urbanish fantasy. Sharon Shinn writes great fantasy, very concerned with political power and expediency. Elizabeth Moon’s sf is great though I find her fantasy intolerable to read. If you like epic fantasy, Katharine Kerr’s Deverry books are fun. Mostly the Bujold though. ;)

    7. Kj*

      Duck, Duck, Bruce is great for littles.

      For fantasy/sci-fi, have you tried Atwood? But I love Le Guin, so we may not agree on that…. I in fact just finished re-reading her short story and her novella anthologies and loved them so much.

    8. Parenthetically*

      We are big card/game players and the way we “trained” the littles to be able to participate is to have “teams” — so we’re playing Uno, and Kidlet #1 is on Mom’s team, Kidlet #2 is on Auntie Brackets’s team, and Kidlet #3 is on Grandpa’s team. Then they’d get more and more independent until they could play by themselves. Uno is a favorite, but really, I’ve been amazed at how quickly they pick up on more complex card games. Ooh! Grab a few of those kid card holder things to help them while their hands are still tiny.

      1. Enough*

        My brother could play 3 handed Spades by the time he was eight and would win most of the time. My mother taught him Mille Borne when he was 4 yrs old.

    9. Thlayli*

      I think snakes and ladders is probably as advanced as it can be at that age. Or matching pairs with cards. Or you can get actual toddler games like farmyard bingo and stuff like that.

      1. Artemesia*

        My granddaughter loves Sequence. They have a children’s version with animals rather than spots or card faces and although it is marketed for 3-6, she still loves it at 7. The games go quickly and unlike the execrable Candyland and Shutes and Ladders, there is a bit of strategy involved as well as luck. It is played with little colored disks on a board and she thinks it is Sequins and the disks are the sequins.

        An individual puzzle game that she loves since about age 6 is Penquins on Ice.

        We are going to try the adult Sequence game and Clue this Christmas. I give games like this to my husband and then they are at our place when she visits every week. (don’t want to give her a gift and expect her to leave it with us)

    10. Ermintrude Mulholland*

      Orchard Games do lovely games for that age and all slightly educational.
      Expect your child to cheat and decide how many times you are going to make it an Issue

      1. Ron McDon*

        My (now-18 year old) and I used to play lots of matching pairs games (turning a select number of playing cards face down, then turning two over a time to try to find ones where the numbers matched), but we also loved lots of the games by Orchard Games; they make games that are bright and appealing, with easy to follow rules.

    11. Detective Amy Santiago*

      If you like urban fantasy, I’m a big fan of Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series.

    12. Jules the First*

      Almost anything by Ravensburger is worth playing. Their Gruffalo journey game is ages 3+; we’ve also played Labyrinth with a toddler (junior version might be easier with a 3 year old). Penguin pile up is another good choice, but only if your toddler has steady hands or is good at accepting help. You might also try Enchanted Forest if your kid is good at memory games – it’s technically 4+, but if you play collaboratively rather than competitively, you should be ok. This is where I admit that we buy the Ravensburger games “for the kids” and the adults often end up playing them with a glass of wine after the kids have gone to bed. They’re that fun.

      I’ve also successfully played Qwirkle Cubes with a toddler. Oh and dominoes, if your toddler is good with matching.

      Go fish and UNO work well with small people for card games. Also snap, but that’s strictly two player.

    13. Yetanotherjennifer*

      At that age, don’t think of it so much as playing a game as ‘time with a board and pieces’. Candy land is a good starter but I think the concepts of rules, taking turns, and fairness are a ways off right now. I think concentration and othe matching games would also be good for that age.

    14. Jules the Third*

      We liked Sorry, Candy Land and Exploding Kittens. EK’s supposed to be 7+, but we started around 3 or 4.

    15. heckofabecca*

      My niece is now 5 and LOVES board games! (Her 2-year old brother is mostly still about stealing and sucking on the dice, but he also set the tablecloth on fire the other day, so he’s a bit of a rascal.) All aboard the game train! Some recommendations from watching my BIL & SIL:

      – have the kids play on a team with you, explain what’s happening as you go, etc etc
      – don’t get too attached to the rules, at least at first, so the kids can get in the gaming groove
      – some games that my niece liked when she was a bit younger—Candy Land, Sorry, Count the Chickens, Busy Town (also a counting game)… She’s loved One Night Ultimate Werewolf for years, though she still prefers to be a regular villager every time.
      – re being a villager in Werewolf: once they understand the concepts, experiment with some of your more adult games to see if there are ways to include the kids without making them a full-on player… when you have guests, the kids will be happy to be included!

      Definitely Bujold, as others have said!! And if you haven’t read The Golem and the Jinni, check that out too! Good luck and have fun!!

      1. a volunteer firefighter*

        Wow. A two year old who was able to access things to start a fire and was left unsupervised long enough to do so, is not a funny story where he is a rascal. That is a huge safety issue. Fortunately he didn’t burn himself, or burn the house down and cause the death of himself or others. Children should never be left alone around fires or items that can start fires, such as matches. I am amazed you are so non-nonchalant about this. Instead of telling a lighthearted story where he is ‘rascal’, you may want to tell whoever is in charge of your nephew to 1) brush up on their safety knowledge and 2) supervise him better so he can’t start fires. So many tragedies happen in the blink of an eye. Next time your nephew might not be so lucky. A child starting a fire is not funny or lighthearted at all. I seriously question anyone who thinks this is lighthearted and he is a rascal.

        1. NaoNao*

          I read this as more something along the lines of “My nephew created a series of events that resulted in a small, controllable fire”–like he knocked something into something that knocked a candle over and the tablecloth caught on fire for a couple seconds. Or something!
          I don’t read it as he deliberately or intentionally started a fire.

          1. a volunteer firefighter*

            I wasn’t at all implying that a two year old intentionally started a fire. But whether a fire is deliberate or accidental, the results are all the same. Small, controllable fires don’t stay that way for very long. A child should never have been in any position to create a series of events that start a fire. That’s basic fire safety 101. Either there was a flame within reach of a child, or an item (like a lighter) which allowed him to start one. These items should not have been within his reach and/or someone should have been keeping a better eye on him or the items. As I said, it is fortunate for everyone present he didn’t burn himself or cause serious damage or death.

        2. tigerStripes*

          That worried me too. Maybe at this point they’ve picked up and put away anything that can start a fire. I hope so.

          1. Thlayli*

            Most likely it happened at a house other than his own. Most people are pretty good at babyproofing and keeping dangerous stuff away from kids in their own homes, but tend to let their guard down when visiting. Most kids injured in household accidents are visiting another house (granny/auntie/friend).

            Also I’d like to mention how important tv and furniture straps are – a child dies every two weeks in the US from a tv or chest of drawers falling on them. Off topic I know but kind of relevant.

          1. Helena*

            My mind screamed “choking hazard” when I read that. Between the dice in the mouth and starting the fire it sounds like he needs better supervision. I don’t find either story cute or remotely funny at all.

      2. Cristina in England*

        Lay off @heckofabecca. Pretty sure she knows that kids setting fires isn’t a great idea and that neither is sucking on dice. Also, they aren’t her kids.

        1. a volunteer firefighter*

          Fire safety is everyone’s responsibility. And she calls him a rascal and shared the story in a lighthearted way as if it is meant to be cute. If she knew it was a great idea she would not be doing that, whether he is her child or not.

          1. Amtelope*

            It’s possible both to be 100% aware that fires are dangerous and that someone could have been seriously hurt and to find the whole thing funny. If I didn’t have a sense of humor about various dreadful things that might have (but didn’t) happen to my kids, I’d have gone even grayer by now. Not everyone reacts to scary things the same way.

    16. Emily*

      Women or POC fantasy/sci fi…
      Shelter by Susan Palwick (though I could see this one being polarizing – one of the main characters is not a great person)
      Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (conceptually interesting, did take me a little while to get into)
      The Steerswoman + sequels by Rosemary Kirstein (as you get further into the books, your understanding of the world shifts in a neat way)
      The Family Tree by Sheri Tepper (the environmentalism messages come on a little strong, but I thought it was overall funny and clever)
      – If you don’t mind books aimed at a slightly younger audience, most things I’ve read by Diana Wynne Jones are delightful. (She has a few adult-oriented offerings, too, but I don’t think you necessarily need to start with those.)

      Also, there’s bound to be some good stuff on this massive twitter thread (people asked to recommend POC-written speculative fiction):

      I’ve started reading The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo and am not far enough in to recommend it, but am enjoying it so far!

    17. Temperance*

      My biggest niece plays Hoot Owl Hoot and LOVES it. It’s a cooperative game made for little kids, but the mechanics are kind of like Candy Land. She started at 4.

      I bought my nephew Chutes and Ladders (he’s 3) and my niece Candy Land (she’s 5).

    18. Thlayli*

      Charles de Lint has a lot of interesting female characters. He writes urban fantasy. I’ve read one of his stories where the protagonist is a Native American man where the fact he’s Native American is important to the plot. There are probably other POC in the stories but I don’t really visualise characters when I’m reading (see discussion above) so I don’t tend to remember what characters look like unless an aspect of their appearance is relevant to the plot. If the author mentioned a characters skin colour when they are introduced I would probably remember while reading the book (though not always) but I usually wouldn’t remember after the book finished. so I can’t really say whether he has many POC characters or not.

    19. Elf*

      Ravensburger has a bunch of quality games for younger kids. My not quite 3 year old has really gotten into some of them. We have a First Games collection which is four games in one box, one of which is essentially Candyland, and there are a bunch of other options too. Anything in their 3-6 age range should be ok. They have nice color coded dice so your kid doesn’t have to be super numerate yet. I am particularly hopeful that my son and his kindergarten aged cousin will be able to play them without adult intervention this summer.

      Our plan is that once our son starts to outgrow them, we’ll introduce Parcheesi.

    20. LazyGirl*

      You might try looking for cooperative games. The one we always went back to was Ogres and Elves. Also Connect Four was very popular in my house and is definitely something a three year old can grasp (and win when Mama is distracted by another child lol). Believe it or not I played tiles up team Scrabble with one of my kids at this age. We just layed out all the tiles facing up, made words on the board, and then tallied up the score. He LOVED this game. If you’re relaxed/creative with the rules, lots of games will work for little kids. Have fun!

      Now I’m off to write down all these good book recommendations :)

  30. WellRed*

    A Reliable Wife was a “make book” at Borders, meaning they really wanted us to push it. We pretty much all hated the book (and the make program. Fortunately, it died a relatively quick death).

  31. Update on he wants a baby*

    We sold the house yesterday! and each left with a check for half the proceeds after the loan was paid off. The divorce process is almost over. Once final utility bills come in and perhaps some refund of money in escrow, we will have to divide those appropriately and then this chapter of my life can close. It is good. My lawyer has been great and very responsive, which is particularly important because his has not. I’m not sure we would have been able to close on the house if my lawyer hadn’t stepped up and done both their work on an error in the closing documents this week. It was a little hard to take the last stuff out of the house Thursday night and lock the door for the last time and I’m tearing up a little typing, but I would never go back. It’s going to be a good Christmas.

      1. Update on he wants a baby*

        He’s been really slow and unresponsive all along, but never with a particular date. I never did figure out if he was being unresponsive intentionally out of malice or this was just more of the same inability to get anything done that was part of the problem with the marriage.

        1. Effie, who is worth it*

          Not your problem anymore :) Congrats! I’m sure you will enjoy your newfound freedom when it comes!

    1. Clever Name*

      Woo hoo! This gives me hope. I’m less than a week away from my final whatever date for my divorce, and my nearly-ex decided 2 days ago to hire a lawyer. :/ I wish he hadn’t waited until the last minute.

      1. Update on he wants a baby*

        How frustrating. In my jurisdiction, the divorce goes through by default if the other party hasn’t responded to the filing in 30 days. My ex responded on day 28. Hang in there. You will get there.

  32. Lady Kelvin*

    We found a place to live! Weve been looking for a new place close to the beach as our current apartment has several problems, bad landlord, neighbors on whom we’ve had to call the cops on regularly do due domestic violence, bug problems, drug problems in the area, etc. So we finally found a place that doesn’t cost a fortune, is 3/4 mile from the beach, has a back yard and the landlord genuinely cares about keeping a nice rental. So we think this is our forever home. We can probably never buy because homes that are falling apart stat at a million (Hawaii for the win) so we’ve accepted that we will probably end until/if we move back to the mainland. Now we need to start packing…

  33. Charlatan*

    Why did I buy a house again?

    I heard noises from the attic the other day and it turns out I have a raccoon family living up there. The estimate is almost $3,000 for removal, clean up and repair. I am having a mild anxiety attack about this. It has to get done but I wasn’t expecting that large a price tag.

    I have another company coming out to quote the job on Monday and I’m really hoping it’ll be cheaper.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If you can, check with neighbors. They may have already had a similar experience and know where to go for the best pricing.

    2. Todd Chrisley Knows Best*

      I don’t have a ton of experience in this area, but could your local game warden remove and relocate them? Not sure if it’s something they do (my only experience with them is a friend prepping for their academy – who is ironically enamored by raccoons) but seems like it would maybe fall under their jurisdiction, and I know at least a few in our area that would probably do it anyways. Perhaps that would cut down on the cost, if so? Good luck!

      1. LCL*

        Fish and wildlife, or animal control, won’t touch them here. The recommendation here is live trapping. Once you have trapped them, you’re on your own.

        After this is all done, cut back any trees that touch the house. Remove any fruit trees next to the house. Pick up deadfall fruit every day. And get a dog.

    3. Call me St. Vincent*

      Wow that is a LOT! Can you get a second (or third) estimate just to make sure you can’t get a better deal? That seems like SO much to me!

    4. Enough*

      Depending on how much damage they’ve done that actually doesn’t sound too bad. I am not looking forward to the next time I have to replace my roof.

    5. Belle*

      That is actually in line with what we had to pay when we had raccoons in the attic. We also had babies and the more they had to trap, the higher the cost. Plus their urine and feces can cause damage to the structure, so that could be part of the expense too. Getting other quotes are always a good idea – but it could be high for all of them depending on the number of animals and damage.

    6. Jen*

      Good luck. We paid $1800 to excise bats and flying squirrels (and stop them from coming back). Our house is about 3000sq ft and filled with eaves and nooks so it was about 30% more. We didn’t have them deal with the droppings/damage in the attic tho/ for us it was just droppings and nut shells and we swept them out.

      If the animals are in your chimney and/or have big compounds up there cleanup might be $$$.

  34. Augusta Sugarbean*

    Anyone here play games on Xbox One? I want to get my husband a game for Christmas and I want to make sure I’m doing it right. I googled it but I’m not a gamer at all so I’m not clear.

    I went to Microsoft’s site and that took me to xbox dot com and I can give the game as a gift. I think it said they’d email him a code to use. So he can sign in on the Xbox console and download the game from there I assume? Does it have to be the same email address because he might use a different one on the console.

    Thank you for any help y’all can offer!

    1. Rookie Manager*

      My partner is in camp Playstation but I think it is basically the same idea.

      If you aren’t sure you’d probably be best buying a physical game rather than purchasing it online because a) it can be exchanged if you have bought the wrong thing and b) it can be resold after he’s played it through a couple of times/won all the trophies/killed all the baddies. My partner only gets the downloads when its something like a party game or a taster or extension pack. Hope that helps a bit.

    2. Dan*

      Downloadable games are a thing, and you pretty much got it right. You probably want to use his console address, but TBH, I don’t buy games this way.

      May I suggest a physical copy? Two reasons: 1) it’s something to wrap and put under the tree. 2) You can’t sell/trade in digital copies. You still pay full price (usually) for the digital copy, and you’re stuck with it.

    3. SC Anonibrarian*

      I bought my husband a ps4 game and i don’t know his account info or anything so i just bought a ‘digital download’ from Amazon, used my own email address to receive it. I used photoshop stuff to make a faked ‘game card’ with the official game artwork and ps4 logo stuff and put the code on there, and printed it out on cardstock and wrapped that.

      I’m pretty sure all he has to do is type the code into his game store on the console and it will download. At least – that’s what i’m hoping because there aren’t physical copies of the game I got for him!

    4. copy run start*

      I’m also a PlayStation gamer, but they work about the same I believe. Personally I’d go with a disk version. There will still be a patch to download but it’ll go much faster if he can install off a disk (unless you have gig Internet or something — a lot of games these days are 40GB – 50GB plus patches). Plus, if he’s got a lot of games he might run out of storage space on the internal drive and have to delete it and redownload if he wants to play again later. Unless of course he already buys most of his games via download, in which case, go for it!

      You don’t usually have to purchase via Xbox either; Amazon likely sells the game code too if you don’t want him to get the notification. You’d order it like a normal purchase I believe. He’ll just have to type it in.

    5. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Thanks everyone! I was looking to buy a digital version because I can’t find it in stores and I don’t have anywhere for them to deliver it to safely in time for Christmas (won’t ship to PO Boxes and don’t want to use our rural mailbox since there have been recent mail thefts in our area). And he hasn’t traded any games in the whole time I’ve known him so buying for good is fine.

      Thanks again for helping a non-gamer sister out!

      1. Anion*

        Ahh. Then you could, I believe, just get a gift card for the XBox store? The notification will be emailed to him, and then he can handle the whole transaction.

      2. Todd Chrisley Knows Best*

        I live in a rural area as well, expect the rural kind where the post office insists my address does not exist, so I have a PO Box too, and only recently discovered the “can’t ship to PO Box” workaround. If you go to your post office, you should be able to ask them for the form that will allow them to sign for mail on your behalf/allow you to use the street address. So instead of entering “PO Box 123” you would enter 4567 Post Office Street Unit # 123” — and suddenly UPS and FedEx deliver to PO Boxes. :-)

    6. Anion*

      Yeah, just buy the physical game, it’s much easier.

      If you’re looking for recommendations, let me know what kinds of games he likes/which games he plays and I’m happy to give you some ideas.

  35. Not So NewReader*

    I can’t explain in detail why I am asking but to say I am asking for a friend of a friend. So here goes.

    If someone needed a LOT of facial reconstruction and could not pay for it, where would they go to find assistance? How does one find grants, free help, etc for profound facial damage? This is a case where extensive work has already been done to salvage the situation. But salvaging was all that was accomplished. This person could use more help, a lot more help. Suffice it to say that it is a quality of life issue.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t know how far this will get you, but I was pretty sure there are organizations devoted to facial disfigurement (some are probably limited to congenital and some to acquired); some of those may offer funding or at least tips on funding. I Googled “facial disfigurement organization” and got quite a few useful looking results, and Let’s Face It Together appears to arrange treatment for people who couldn’t otherwise afford it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Thank you, thank you. I can’t explain all this, so I will just say thank you one more time. Thank you.

      2. SC Anonibrarian*

        With no knowledge of the specifics this might not help, but if it’s something that could be used as a ‘teaching’ scenario in any way, or as a representative example of certain types of surgery, then a plastic surgery teaching hospital or a newly established plastic surgery or reconstruction center might be interested in their case for teaching purposes, and willing to do the work for free because of it.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I don’t know the specifics of how to get this kind of help. But in terms of financial assistance it can be worth looking for any organisations that help people of her profession or anyone she’s related to (eg there are organisations that help people who’ve been printers, or worked as dentists, and so on).

    3. Jean (just Jean)*

      +1 on the idea of finding a teaching hospital
      Maybe some professional organization of plastic or cosmetic surgeons can offer you guidance in finding such a program in your area.
      Some religious communities offer interest-free loans to people in difficult circumstances. This may not pan out for your friend’s friend (why may not be not religious, or belongs to religion X but the only local lender serves religion Y) but it’s worth a minute of consideration.
      There are websites where people post requests for funding (GoFundMe, etc). I don’t know how your friend’s friend would feel about being that public about the circumstances.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Ramona and Jean, thank you very much. I am walking a very fine line here with the givens of the situation so I will take general ideas and toss them out there. If nothing sticks, then so be it. But maybe Friends will think about it and do something later, that is a possibility. Or maybe because one random person gave a crap that will trigger something. I dunno. We will see. Our paths are such that I may never know what happens. But sometimes we see stuff and we just can’t sit there like a lump on a log, you know what I mean.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I’m sure I don’t just speak for myself when I say it’s no hardship to offer advice without understanding the situation.

        2. Jean (just Jean)*

          >sometimes we see stuff and we just can’t sit there like a lump on a log…
          Yes indeedy. The older I get the more I want to speak out as directly as possible. (Not always possible, not enough time & energy, but it beats stewing in silence.)

          1. Jean (just Jean)*

            Oh, foot in mouth! I forgot to say “you’re welcome” and no offense taken if friend’s friend doesn’t leap like a gazelle to follow every last pearl of my wisdom. ;-)

    4. Book Lover*

      We have grants for people who can’t pay for their care, and I suspect that is true in most places. I think all of the above are great recommendations, and I would also look into which plastic surgeons in your area do this kind of work. Many consider this the reason they went into plastic surgery and do work ‘pro bono’ with cosmetic surgery covering the bills. There are still costs from the operating room, anesthesia, etc, but that is where charity care comes in. Calling plastic surgeons who do reconstructive work might be a good way to find out where to start.

      1. Anion*

        Seconding this. PLEASE speak to some cosmetic surgeons. You might find some who are actually looking to do some pro bono work; you might find someone fairly new and trying to make a name for him/herself by taking on something like this. If they aren’t they’ll probably have suggestions for you.

        Contrary to stereotype, lots of surgeons/doctors and other medical professionals did actually get into that line of work because they *want* to help people. Someone will want to help your friend, even if it’s only by offering a steep discount or charging for one procedure but not another, or whatever.

        Also, you don’t say what happened–which is of course fine and understandable–but I suspect this is a more recent issues (as in, your friend was not born needing this reconstruction)? If I’m correct, your friend might want to consider reaching out to groups which advocate for victims of whatever happened, if one exists. They might have some ideas, too.

    5. Chaordic One*

      Depending on the circumstances surrounding what caused this need, your friend may be eligible for financial assistance from victim’s funds that are set up in most states. Then again, maybe not.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        There are often all kinds of sources of help out there if you know where to look. The problem is that it’s hard to know.

        I discovered a local charity in my village that awards grants to people in the area. I needed a dental implant and couldn’t get it on the NHS and they paid £400 towards it.

  36. Rookie Manager*

    Happy Weekend! Since it’s update month I just wanted to give you a mini update on my post last week as some of you were both kind and helpful…

    I wasn’t feeling Christmas last week, I’m still not entirely there but after watching a stack of Christmas films and having an easy weekend I felt much better. My partner also pointed out that I felt exactly the same for a bit last year (I was upset my family wouldn’t be here for Christmas, only his) but snapped back out of it. He also has pushed to put up a small tree and I’ve internally decided it can go up when he takes an active part in making it happen.

    Long story short, presents are all wrapped, cards are bought but not written, baking will happen over the next few days and decorations are minimal. I’ve been watching films, listing to Christmas radio and practicing my rusty music skills to go carolling on Christmas Eve. I think I was exhausted and overwheled last weekend. This weekend I’m just exhausted.

    1. Clever Name*

      Aw, you’re doing great. I know from experience how awful it is for someone else to want something to happen but expect you to do all the work to make it happen. Not cool. You’ve got the right idea.

  37. Amber Rose*

    I’m hungover as hell. Just. Ugh. I don’t drink often enough to drink as heavily as I did last night. But it was the only way to get through the company Christmas party. On the plus side, my boss expensed breakfast.

    Anyways, I ended up with a massive number of these cute little ornaments (my table mates did not want theirs), do you think it would be OK to re-gift a few of them?

    1. Theodoric of York*

      Just make sure that your regift recipient has no direct connection to any of your co-workers. (Obvious, I know.)

    2. Alice*

      My goodness – did your boss expense breakfast because the party lasted through the night into the morning?! You have stamina!

  38. Trixie*

    Seeking advice on the car buying process.

    I have already been pre-approved by my credit union and also applied at a second local credit union. Based on research and reviews, I have narrowed it down to a few models in my area and plan on test drives. I love the dealers who now include CarFax history report with the listing, saves so much time.

    1. Purchase CarFax for any car I am considering if not offered up front, correct? I wish all dealers did this.
    2. Since I plan on buying from local dealer, is a buyer’s inspection from my mechanic still required? I’m not sure how the logistics work.
    3. What to do with my current 99 Subaru. At 230K miles plus needing repairs, I wouldn’t get much on trade-in but would not know where to begin selling on my own. I’m sure there’s a market for it in other areas/states not much here.

    What else?

    1. fposte*

      1. Yes. Not perfect, but an additional protection.
      2. I wouldn’t buy a used car from the Archangel Gabriel without a buyer’s inspection.
      3. Check Craigslist, local online classifieds, etc.; look into donation if you can itemize; be sure to calculate the hassle factor, not just the money, when deciding what route to go.

      1. Trixie*

        And the dealer will work with me to take to my mechanic for the day? I did this before but it was a private seller so we had flexibility plus he knew me.

        1. Nacho*

          If he doesn’t, walk away. No matter what they’re offering, it’s not worth it if they don’t let you take it to a mechanic first.

            1. Middle School Teacher*

              Hahahahaha I’m reading this while in line and I just laughed out loud. People are looking at me now!!

      2. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Ditto. I’d also check on what Consumer Reports has to say. They have ratings on used cars, too, in a general way — people’s long term experience with brands/models and long term maintenance reputation.

    2. Dan*

      What’s the blue book on your Subaru? I had a car at that vintage, and it was worth like $500. I bit the bullet and traded it in – most dealers offered me $300 for it. It wasn’t worth $200 of my time and the hassle of trying to get to the dealer without a ride.

      1. Trixie*

        I’m expecting KBB of about $500. Needs new gasket heads, shocks/struts, and the EGR valve has constantly keep the CEL on. I know some folks will pay to keep it up and running but it’s beyond my budget.

      2. Free Meerkats*

        Either donation or trade in if you don’t want to deal with the hassle. You’ll lose some money, but it might be worth the loss.

        I’m assuming it’s drivable, even though it needs some work. Almost anything drivable is worth at least $500. See what the book value is, deduct the estimated cost of the needed repair, and put it in Craigslist for that. Just hold firm on the price.

      3. copy run start*

        Wow, you couldn’t get a ’95 Subaru out here for less than $2k. In good condition you’d have to hire bodyguards for it.

        1. Trixie*

          That’s my thought but again this 99 needs a lot of work to be happy again. Both dealers today said I would be better off selling independently because there wouldn’t be much value for trade in at that mileage.

          1. Lizabeth*

            Consider donating to NPR, especially since the car needs a lot of work. You get the blue book value for tax write-off and they come pick it up etc… I did it though the Car Talk guys with my 89 Chevy Cavalier
            two years ago when the repairs got to high (my threshold was $2,000 a year to keep it going).

          2. copy run start*

            Yeah, I would go private party too. Someone out there has been looking for a Subaru that needs some TLC for sure.

            1. Ktelzbeth*

              Lots of someones wanted mine a few years ago. It was a similar situation. Because of time consuming repairs needed, trade in value was very low, but for someone with the right knowledge and equipment at home, it was fixable for investment of minimal money and a lot of time. I guessed at the price to advertise and ended up thinking I went low because of how popular it turned out to be.

    3. Trixie*

      Also, has anyone purchased from CarLotz? Consignment store for used cars. Local branch gets great reviews but it’s far enough away I would have to drive back/forth from my mechanic.

    4. Belle di Vedremo*

      1. Carfax, absolutely. Also, ask them to lift the hood. Look for pooled paint or differences in paint color, both are signs of a front end accident. (Also look around the outside to see if anything looks a bit out of line in how the pieces fit together, being slightly off can be another indicator of an accident as can slight differences in paint color.) Make sure those are on the carfax report; if not, something didn’t get reported. This tip bought me entirely unrealistic cred with car salesmen.

      2. Absolutely, and if they won’t make it easy for you walk away. This is standard in purchasing used cars.

      3. Another donation option is to look for a vo-tech school with an auto mechanic program. They need cars in a variety of conditions to learn how to repair them.

      4, Test driving: you didn’t ask, but be sure to go at least 20 minutes in each car, and preferably at both street and highway speeds. That will tell you more about comfort, fit, and visibility than a quick turn around the neighborhood. And if you’re buying used, it can be very informative to notice what changes once you’ve been driving more than a few minutes.

      Good luck

      1. Ally*

        And floor it on the highway. You want to make sure it has enough umph for passing, but also some shakes and vibrations may occur when doing that that would indicate other problems.

  39. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Yet another house question. Who knows something about house foundation repair? There are a few cracks in the foundation of our house (outside, not inside). After they were mentioned in the inspection report, we had a structural engineer come out to take a look at them before we bought the house this summer. His feeling was that they were probably old and due to normal settling, but that it was impossible to say for sure without keeping an eye on them over time. He did not seem terribly alarmed.

    Separate from that, we’ve had a brick mason out to do some repair to our front stoop, and between the time he first came out to do an estimate (August) and the time we brought him back to do the work (December), he said he’s worried the foundation cracks have gotten bigger. I really don’t think they have (and that’s a really short amount of time for that to have happened), but I figured we might want to have them repaired at some point anyway, so I asked him for an estimate. He wants to excavate around the area where the cracks are and install new concrete and rebar for the underpinning.

    They have excellent reviews on Yelp and he doesn’t seem like he’s trying to scam me … but the more I think about him saying the cracks have grown in four months, the more I think that either (a) he’s just remembering it wrong because that’s such a short time or (b) wow, we are in immediate danger and must do the work right away.

    Does anyone know anything about this that might help me evaluate how we should be proceeding? I understand very little about foundations and how this stuff is supposed to work.

    1. Call me St. Vincent*

      The one thing I will say is that the opinion of the inspector is not worth much. Our inspector said that our furnace was fine (it died like a week after we closed), didn’t catch the mold in our basement, and missed so many other things. The worst thing is he is apparently the most reputable inspector around our area!

      On the crack issue, I would definitely get a second opinion. Many homes have cracks in the basements/inside/outside and it’s normal. Sometimes obviously it isn’t, but before you go excavating I would definitely get at least one additional opinion. The other thing is take a wait and see approach. You can take dated pictures of the crack and check again in a couple of months to see if they actually did get bigger. You can also try to take measurements to verify. Then you can reassess with all of the relevant info.

    2. Starryemma*

      If it’s not prohibitively expensive, I’d have the engineer look again. Because, like you say, it may be worse in the brick guy’s opinion but still not something to worry about.

      I don’t know anything about foundations, but my husband’s a structural engineer, and from what I’ve seen with him, it’s fairly common that non engineers, even when well meaning, don’t always know what stuff is relevant when looking at a situation (thinking some stuff is bad when it’s not & vice versa).

      If it’s something you’re really worried about over time, maybe you could even do some kind of contract with the engineer, where they come out for a visit once a year or something, and monitor it.

      But if the engineer’s not worried, I wouldn’t be.

    3. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      Put marks on the wall on either side of the crack and measure the distance. Come back in a few months and remeasure. If it changed, you’ve got a problem.

      If the foundation has issues, you should see it elsewhere in the house. Are doors not working properly? Cracks in the walls/ceilings? Particularly new ones. Floors that were level out of level?

      1. Enough*

        This. We’re a family of civil engineers and this will work. But really if you haven’t had any changes inside then you are probably okay. Also look for leaks in the basement and bowing of the walls.
        Also what kind of foundation do you have? If it’s cinder block it makes a difference if the cracks follow the blocks or cross them. Also almost all concrete will have some type of crack that’s cosmetic not structural.

    4. SC Anonibrarian*

      I second the dated photos idea. That’s really the only way to be sure that things are moving around. I’d also contact an actual structural engineer rather than trust either the inspector (often busy or miss things or really invested in getting houses sold off) or the brick guy (who may be great with bricks but does he do foundation and support work too?)

    5. Free Meerkats*

      Here’s the best way to see if the cracks are unstable, install a few of these and keep a log. https://www.humboldtmfg.com/concrete-crack-monitor-crack-gauge.html

      I had some new foundation cracks after an earthquake and put a couple in. The new cracks were moving, so I had the work done. Excavated under the foundation, jacked back to level (the house made some really alarming noises,) and poured new footings under it. I don’t remember what it cost, it was covered by earthquake insurance, but my deductible payment was ~$4000 in 1996.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Not the answer anyone likes but backing this up a little bit, is there any drainage issues on your property? Do you see water puddling up close to the house? I mean big puddles, not just drip line stuff. If there is a water problem it’s best to fix that first or you could be wasting money on fixing the foundation.

      For your immediate question, I would ask the rebar guy why he thinks this is necessary. He should be able to explain his rationale in a way that makes sense to you. For your personal clarity, look at the lines of your house. Look at the front and back walls, look at the sides. Do you see anything that looks like it could be bowed or cupped? This bowing or cupping would help in deciding how urgent the situation is. (To look at the front wall, you will want to stand by one of the corners and look straight down the wall.) You can eye ball the foundation in the same manner.Next look at your roof, do you see any dips anywhere? This would also indicate that the structure is moving somehow.

      Houses settle. It’s pretty normal to have to patch this or sure up that. Cracks in the foundation can occur because of moisture build up, clay soils, earthquakes and even because of cutting down very large trees. I can’t really tell if the cracks are a serious concern. I do think it is wise not to let them go too long, like for years. I had a problem with my foundation here because it was field stone, I mean rocks taken out of a field over 150 years ago. The cement stuff in between went away. Rodents were able to push some of the smaller rocks out of their way and take up residence. Bare bones, you might want to fill in the cracks just to keep pests out for the time being. It’s amazing how small a space they can fit through.

      One consolation. I had a many issues here and I asked my contractor friend how to prioritize. How do I figure out where to start with all this. He said the first thing was to drain the lot. The next thing is to fix the foundation before doing any other work. He said there was no point to doing any other repairs on a house if the foundation needed help. Most certainly, he said, you cannot ask a roofer to repair the roof if you know the foundation is not right. This made so much sense to me.
      Take pictures before, during and after the work. Keep them with your house records. It does not take long, five years later it’s hard to remember what exactly got fixed in any given project.

    7. C*

      Does the original inspection report have pictures of the cracks that you can compare to the current cracks? (You could figure out the exact length by comparing another fixed object in the photo, etc.) Most home inspection reports have pretty detailed pictures of problem areas.

    8. Anon78*

      I noted cracks in my foundation in August 2015. I had two structural engineers out and then got several estimates for the work, which I believe was about $25k. These types of issues are fairly common in my area of the country and thus it took until January 2016 to get on the work done. I am planning to sell my house soon and am so glad I had this done rather than finding out about it on an inspection report down the road.

    9. Book Lover*

      Perhaps I am not understanding, but it sounds like you had an engineer come out, but that it is a brick mason having concerns? The engineer would typically take notes and measurements and photos – I would call him back to recheck.
      It is definitely possible for things to progress rapidly, especially if you have problems with grading/moisture, but I wouldn’t worry unless the engineer tells you to.

    10. Update on he wants a baby*

      We had to have two foundation cracks sealed in the runup to selling our house (see update above). They were visible inside. I’m not sure about out because no excavation was done. The final total was under $500. The description of work was “chip out cracks and repair with hydraulic cement.” This was a poured concrete foundation. I have no idea how our cracks compare to yours. The one solid piece of advice I would offer is to get a good foundation person to evaluate and do the work. One of our cracks had been fixed just before we moved in about a year prior by the sellers. The inspector and our foundation guy both said it had been done poorly and needed to be redone already. I decided to believe them and it did look a lot better to me (with my VAST experience) when they were done.

    11. Someone else*

      Any foundation repair contractor worth his salt should refuse to give an estimate for repair without a report from a structural engineer that specifies the nature of the repair required. I know you just moved in so you’re probably not too concerned about resale currently, but unless this is your forever-home, if foundation repair work is not certified by an engineer after it’s done (by a contractor), you’ll probably have a harder time selling. I don’t know if in your state you’re required to disclose everything, but ethically you should disclose. Basically without an engineer saying “yes the foundation needs repair and here’s how to do that properly” and then “yes this was repaired properly” in an official report afterward, you might scare off a lot of buyers who won’t necessarily believe it was repaired properly.

      Sorry that was long, short version: get that engineer to look at it again. Or if you want a second opinion, get two.

      1. Someone else*

        Sorry, I should clarify: I phrased that poorly at the end. “Believing” isn’t the main problem. If someone is buying and financing, some banks won’t give a loan for a house with structural problems. So you’d also potentially be in the situation where either: you’re limited to cash buyers or, if you’re not legally obligated to disclose the issue, you’d need to choose not to and hope the buyers don’t know enough and their inspector doesn’t know enough to have their own engineer evaluate it later. Once it’s disclosed some financing goes off the table.

    12. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is all very helpful, thank you! I’m realizing that I shouldn’t just take this guy’s word for it and will start measuring and monitoring these cracks. Getting the structural engineer back out is a good idea too. Thank you for all these suggestions — seriously, this is super useful (and I love that I can come here with random questions and get such good advice).

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Get a Geotechnical Foundations Engineer. Not every structural engineer does foundations. There is the interaction between structure and Mother Earth that is different for that specialty.

    13. OlympiasEpiriot*

      This is right up my alley!! E-mail me for more info.

      First: Easiest thing on the cracks is to monitor them yourself. Buy a crack gauge, or 2 or 3 if you’re worried about more than one crack, and a tube of plumbers’ epoxy — the clay-like stuff. The brand of crack gauge I use is Avongard, “Standard Tell-Tale”. They are made in the UK, sold widely in US. One supplier is the Gilson Company, Inc. 3w’s globalgilson dot com, I think their item # is HM-637. E-mail me, I’ll give you my phone number and give you a quick rundown on how to install, read and interpret.

      Second: UNDERPINNING????!!! Very, very unlikely. Don’t let him do it. Possibly grouting. But, if the cracks don’t go all the way through and there is no settling, your wall is likely perfectly structurally sound. [No, really, don’t jump to underpinning. It is actually one of the more annoying yet higher risk things I do, in a pure numbers sense. Not to be undertaken lightly and you aren’t mentioning any distortion in the superstructure of your home…nor adjacent excavation work…no, really, please e-mail me. I always include it in the sign-in.]

      Is your basement leaking? Are the cracks letting water in?
      What did the inspection engineer explain about “normal settlement”? (There really isn’t any “normal” settlement. There is short-term and long-term, both can be designed for, but there isn’t a “normal”.)

  40. Call me St. Vincent*

    So I’m 14 weeks pregnant and I am feeling really low in terms of my self-esteem. Non-pregnant this isn’t something that has affected me in a really long time. It’s my second baby so I know how this goes and I actually lost all of my pregnancy weight last time around (thank you, Weight Watchers!). I just feel so huge. Most of my friends who have been pregnant were in normal clothes until around 16 weeks. I have been in maternity stuff since maybe 8 weeks! I have a definite baby bump, which is apparently super early and I’m just feeling bad about myself.

    The other thing that hasn’t helped is SO MANY people have made rude comments to me! When I announced, someone at work said “oh yeah I noticed you’d been eating like a linebacker the past few weeks!” Another person was like “oh yeah you definitely look really pregnant.” These comments have made me feel SO bad that I’ve cried. My husband is extremely supportive and tells me I look beautiful, but I am really so affected this time around. Anyway, I guess I just wanted to get all of this off my chest. Thanks for listening.

    1. Don't Blame Me*

      It’s totally normal for each subsequent pregnancy to be visible earlier. Each pregnancy is different. It means nothing about how much you’ve been eating or whatever. Your body’s just more ready for this pregnancy thing since it’s already been through it once.

      Your coworkers sound really rude and thoughtless, and I would make liberal use of giving them a dead-eyed stare after they say something accompanied by a flat, “Wow.” Or even, “Wow, that was really rude.”

      1. Call me St. Vincent*

        I think the hard part was that the guy who said the linebacker thing is like one of those people who says stupid things a lot but has 0% malice. The other comment was from someone I barely know so I was just like, “umm okay.” The worst thing is that she literally just had twins, so I’m sure people said rude things to her, and I was like how could you turn around and do that to me? But oh well. Thank you so much for your advice.

        1. TL -*

          Well, not everything thinks “you’ve looked pregnant for a while” is an insult, especially to someone who is pregnant. A lot of people think pregnancy bellies are really cute or glowing or representative of the miracle of life and look good. So I wouldn’t take that as meanly intended; she could very well have meant that really kindly.

          Also, seconding the subsequent pregnancies show quicker – my friend had her first baby and didn’t have a noticeable bump until close to 16 weeks but her second she was showing and in her maternity clothes in the first trimester.

    2. Roseberriesmaybe*

      That is incredibly rude of them! I’m sorry you have to deal with their unhelpful comments

    3. anon24*

      Wtf is wrong with people? People have different bodies. It’s no one’s business how you look pregnant. It’s also no one’s business how much you choose to eat, pregnant or no. Listen to your husband and ignore the ignorant people.

      I went to visit my husband’s family once right after we finally bought the SUV my husband had been wanting for years. I spent the whole day outside doing stuff while my MIL sat inside watching QVC all day. Come dinnertime I had been on my feet all day and also hadnt eaten all day. I started raiding the pantry because I was starving and my MIL looks at me and goes “wow, you’re eating an awful lot. And you just bought an SUV. You got something to share?” Wow, thanks for making non pregnant slightly overweight me feel awful about myself.

      1. Call me St. Vincent*

        Aww I’m so sorry. That is awful. There is nothing wrong with women eating (or men eating for that matter)! I wish people would just stop commenting on what other people eat and how they look. It makes me crazy. I have a daughter and I’m so terrified for the craziness to come with people judging her for looks and weight and all the social media stuff. It’s downright scary.

    4. JKP*

      It’s really, really normal to show earlier after you’ve been pregnant once. That doesn’t mean you’ll be any bigger at the end of the pregnancy, it just shows up sooner.

    5. Yetanotherjennifer*

      It’s really best not to make those comparisons at all, but are you comparing your second pregnancy to your friends second pregnancies? I’ve only had the one, but I’ve heard the body remembers and tends to gain back the weight and shape faster. At any rate, these people are being thoughtless and probably don’t mean to make you feel bad. I had work friends who said out loud that they were looking forward to watching me get fat and start to waddle. It makes me wonder if seeing someone pregnant gives everyone else foot in mouth disease. Your body is working hard making a baby from scratch and will do what it needs to do, which will be different from what someone else’s body does. Try to ignore anything bad anyone says and believe everyone who tells you you look fabulous, because you really do.

      1. Call me St. Vincent*

        Thanks so much. Yes I definitely think people are not being malicious at all. I just don’t know what happens to some people’s brains when they see a pregnant woman. It’s like they completely forget that the pregnant woman is a person with feelings. As a guy friend of mine has told me, “the only thing appropriate to say to a pregnant woman is you look wonderful!”

    6. SC Anonibrarian*

      I don’t know if it helps you to consider, but you might also be more sensitive to stupid thoughtless morons (and they absolutely ARE, people are so stupid sometimes) because of the hormonal changes you are dealing with. I am depressed and anxious (yay) and for me it actually really helps to be able to think ‘ok. this sucks, but i’m mostly sobbing in my car because my brain chemicals are useless pieces of crap.’ Somehow it makes me feel… less pathetic for being so very impacted by something that I might normally shrug off? I’m sorry people are so insensitive and congratulations and good luck!

      1. Call me St. Vincent*

        Oh for sure. I think normally I would be able to brush off stupid comments, especially because they’re just so dumb. The linebacker one is absolutely not even true–I’ve been eating really well and the person who said that has literally no knowledge of my eating patterns whatsoever. Rationally, I know all of that, but I’m definitely feeling extra sensitive.

    7. Katie the Fed*

      Call those people out! People are so f**king rude to pregnant women. I have a neighbor who keeps commenting on how huge I’ve gotten – I finally told her to stop commenting on my body.

      I’m sure you look beautiful :)

      1. Call me St. Vincent*

        Thanks, lady! You as well! With the first comment, I think I said like “wow, okay” and the conversation just sort of fizzled. So I think the person sort of got that it wasn’t a nice comment. The other one was in front of other people and one of the other people jumped in and was like “oh I totally showed really early with my second.” I could tell she was like “wtf, why would you say that” and just saved the conversation.

    8. Hills to Die on*

      I always looked pregnant right away and showed obviously at like 11 weeks. My butt blew up and then my stomach, and I was waaay bigger the 2nd time around. You aren’t alone.

      Be gentle with yourself. You are carrying a child—that is a beautiful, incredible thing.

      1. Call me St. Vincent*

        Thank you so much! I really appreciate it. It’s nice to know that I am not alone here. I think it’s one of those things where you just get in your head and think “everyone else is tiny and I’m so huge” but it really isn’t true. One because I think I have some slight body dysmorphia about it but also because everyone is different in how they progress in pregnancy.

    9. Elf*

      I’m right behind you – I’m 11 weeks, second pregnancy, and while I’m not getting the body image stuff so bad, I’ve got to say I just feel gross. I have zero energy and my whole digestive system is just not working right. In any case, I offer thorough commisseration, and I will share my plan for future unwanted belly touches, which is to touch their belly back.

      1. Call me St. Vincent*

        If it makes you feel better, I just started at 14 weeks to feel better. With my first it was like 15-16 weeks. Hang in there! We will have to chat in another weekend thread about dealing with #2. My daughter is 2, so I’m figuring out how I’m going to navigate that with her. (Big girl bed ordered today….)

    10. another Liz*

      My second pregnancy, I was in maternity pants at 6 weeks. As in, before my first doctor’s appointment. I have a lot of curvature in my lower spine, and he was sitting high. It happens. And yes, the “You look ready to pop” from five months on got really old really fast. Also “you sure that’s not twins?”. Never did come up with a better strategy than one word yup or nope answers with minimal eye contact. You think people would know better…. So no advice, just wanted you to know you’re not alone. And as long as it isn’t junk food, eat! You’re growing a human being here. That’s harder work than pro football.

      1. Call me St. Vincent*

        Thank you so much for sharing this. Believe it or not, it made me feel better to hear I’m not the only one! The funniest thing is that I’m eating MUCH healthier this pregnancy than last time because I was a lot more nauseous with my daughter so I ate nothing but carbs for the entire first trimester. This time I have been more exhausted all the time, but not nearly as nauseous, so I’ve been able to eat greens and fruit.

        I am normally quite petite and I think people just think the comments won’t bother me because I could never be self-conscious, but I was very overweight growing up and it just all comes flooding back. Not that it would normally be okay for people to make comments–still messed up–but I think it triggers some bad body image stuff for me. Anyway, thanks so much for your comment.

    11. Fishing Rick*

      People can be so terrible with their comments/ what makes people forget that pregnant women are still actually people ?

      With both my sons I was a total house despite actually losing weight during each pregnancy (I am overweight and eat much better when pregnant). I found that throwing the awful awkwardness back at people helped.

  41. Lily Evans*

    Why do networks insist on spoiling their own shows so often? I just went to catch up on Top Chef on the Bravo website and on the same page as the link for this week’s episode is a screenshot link for Last Chance Kitchen (where eliminated chefs compete to return to the show) with this week’s eliminated contestant featured.

    1. AnonAndOn*

      I don’t like that either. I’ll watch something on The CW’s site, like “The Flash,” and halfway through the show an ad for the next episode will appear. It’s annoying!

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I still haven’t forgiven the BBC for spoiling a Doctor Who two-parter with a badly timed magazine cover.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I never watch the “next week on…” segment that they usually air over the credits, because for me it’s a spoiler. I don’t want to start thinking about that plotline, because I’ll probably start musing and mulling about it, and then the real one will be a little disappointing when it’s not what I imagined. Or if I was too on the nose, that will be disappointing, too. Basically, I only need teasers/trailers when I have never seen a show or read a synopsis of it, and want to see if I might like it.

      1. DDJ*

        I don’t usually bother with the “next week on” segments at the end of shows, but the Hell’s Kitchen ones are an endless source of entertainment. Pro tip: the answer to every single question that’s asked by the voiceover dude is “No.”

        “Will a major kitchen crisis change everything these chef’s know about Hell’s kitchen?” No.
        “Will a medical emergency jeopardize one chef’s chance of continuing in the competition?” No.
        “Will Chef A and Chef B finally have it out, and will someone end up paying for it?” (Cue a shot of an ambulance speeding down the road.) No. There will be a minor scuffle involving some yelling and finger-pointing.
        “Will a fully grown African elephant disagree with Chef Ramsay’s special menu choice and trample the remaining contestants?” No.
        “Will Chef Ramsay force the remaining contestants to battle it out, Hunger Games style, until only one Chef is left standing?” I mean, not that I can’t see him doing something like that, but I can’t really see Fox broadcasting it.

  42. Wendy Darling*

    Hey Epiphyta, I get my hair cut at Bang in Seattle. They have no wine but they do have tea and do a good job with my curly hair. Sorry if you live on the other end of the state.

    1. Epiphyta*

      Hey, Wendy, I’m on the other side of the Sound, on Bainbridge – ferry ride’s not a big deal for a good cut! Thanks so much.

  43. Drama Mama*

    Dear drama teacher: If you really are not every going to cast my kid in a big role, then STOP TELLING HER that you will cast her in a bigger role “next time” – or at least frame it as a “**maybe** next time, why don’t you work on X, Y and Z in the meantime.” (After all, you are her teacher and have been for three years now. You know her abilities and weaknesses by now, no doubt. And as a teacher, encouraging her to work on her weaknesses is totally appropriate.) But this saying with certainty that you WILL cast her when you don’t follow through, ENOUGH.
    I know you’re trying to soften *this* blow. I get that. But when you say that, she believes you. And then when you call her back for 2 major parts in this play, not smaller ones, she gets excited.
    And then she’s crushed to be put in the ensemble again. And then you say it AGAIN. “Next time, you’ll get a bigger role”
    Please, just stop saying it. 6 plays in a row now…
    This kind of thing is the hardest part of being a drama mama.

    1. Tris Prior*

      Oh, I feel for her so much. I had similar experiences in high school. The mind games were just horrible. Our theater teacher once told me that he’d be giving me a certain role in the next play. I auditioned, he decided to double-cast the play to give more kids an opportunity – and not only did I not get THAT role, I was not cast at all. I asked him why, and he just shrugged and said, “next time.”

      What saved me was deciding to opt out of all the high school theater BS and going into community theater. Not sure if you have that in your area, or if it’s open to kids her age, but maybe it’s worth looking into. Sometimes just getting away from the director who’s behaving problematically can really help. For me, it taught me that I wasn’t the problem, as I got cast more easily in shows outside of my school.

    2. AnonAndOn*

      I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not a parent. I hear you that it’s hard that she keeps being rejected and that the teacher is giving her false hopes. In the same token, while rejection can hurt, it may work out for her in the long run because she’ll become more inured to it. There are kids who may continue to get cast in the lead who barely put in the effort and are used to having it easy, but when they become adults and face their first rejection it may come as a rude awakening to them. Trying to find the positive in the negative, I think it’s better for your daughter in the long run to face rejection than to get the roles handed to her easily. It may encourage her to keep striving for bigger things. I was in my high school’s drama club and got bit parts. The teacher didn’t think I was good enough – that was her opinion. I faced rejection outside of school as well. However, I didn’t give up and there were local performances that I got to be involved in in substantial ways. This one teacher rejecting her doesn’t mean all drama teachers will.

      I don’t agree with the drama teacher trying to soften the blow though. It’s like jobs who are passive aggressive when it comes to rejecting people, like giving radio silence or not giving a rejection unless prompted to.

    3. Coconut Water*

      Are you in a city where you can put her somewhere else — community theatre, acting classes, an agent? If she loves drama, maybe it’d be worth looking into other opportunities that aren’t led by the *one* drama teacher. Maybe this is the beginning of a great opportunity for her.

    4. many bells down*

      I used to BE a drama teacher and I will tell you, so many of them are terrible. Frustrated actors taking it out on the kids. Even my high school drama teacher was awful – maybe I became one just to offset how mad she made me!
      In high school I got the maid role every single time. Which was mostly fine, because I am very much a character actor and less a romantic lead. But then she decided to do Thornton Wilder’s “Skin of Our Teeth”, so I read for the maid, Sabina. I was the only person to memorize her opening monologue, which was the audition requirement. Figured I’d nailed it.

      Nope, she told me “Well I’d cast you as Sabina, but she’s supposed to be SEXY.” Yeah, that’s what a socially awkward 16-year-old needs to hear, that I couldn’t be “sexy” if I tried.

      To add insult to injury, she later forgot she hadn’t given me the part and yelled at me a couple of times for missing Sabina’s cue.

      1. AnonAndOn*

        Ugh! That drama teacher sounds like a nasty piece of work.

        I’ve dealt with jerks in drama in school and outside of school. I’ve never understood their rude attitudes.

      2. DoctorateStrange*

        Ugh, I’ve had my own issues with drama teachers. What’s worse is that I never even took a single drama class throughout middle school or high school!

        My friend and my sister did, however.

        Back in HS, we only had two drama teachers and they were a married couple, Mr. and Ms. A. Now where I lived if you attended a certain middle school, you would attend a particular high school, so my high school classmates were mostly people I knew since I was twelve essentially.

        Mr. and Mrs. A played favorites. For the best roles, they would only cast people that took drama in middle school because they didn’t want to teach drama. They were drama teachers and they did not want to teach drama to the students.

        Unfortunately, my sister did not take drama as an elective for middle school. She attended every rehearsal in HS, she always helped behind-the-scenes for plays, she always auditioned and always stressed that she would take on any role. My sister did this for four whole years and yet, only twice, did she get a speaking role and it was background characters.

        It is not fun seeing your little sister get mistreated that way. We were a grade apart in High School, so I had to see firsthand how my sister put in all this hard work and passion for barely anything. And all because her teachers were lazy glass bowls.

        As for how Mr. and Ms. A screwed over my friend. Well, my friend was taking both choir and drama. She did acting and wrote plays but she was also an assistant to the choir director. My friend was a great writer, actor, and had a killer voice.

        So, she did well with these teachers at first. At least until Mr. and Mrs. A were offended by whatever the choir director did (they collaborated sometimes.) Because Mr. and Mrs. A had a vendetta with the director (who, I should stress, had no clue whatsoever that they were angry at him and he was a mild man, so I’m guessing it was something rather petty) they decided to take it out on my friend.

        They refused to cast her in any good roles during senior year. This really hurt her. Worse, the oblivious director told her that he needed her assistance so much that he would not be able to let her have any big roles in choir either.

        My friend originally was going to graduate early but decided to stick through senior year because she loved her friends and her classes. So, yeah, you can imagine how she felt when two teachers wanted to take out their anger on her.

        I have no respect whatsoever for teachers that act like teenagers, none whatsoever. And I hated how these two thought they were so great that they would not teach certain kids and take their anger out on the ones that had nothing to do with their anger.

        1. DoctorateStrange*

          They also avoided casting the plus-sized women for leading roles, despite the ones in their classes being the best actors. Which, you know, they can kiss my fat ass over so…

      3. MsChanandlerBong*

        Ugh, what a jerk. Reminds me of my high-school band director. She wasn’t as bad to me as many of the other students (I played the same instrument that she played, so I was one of the “golden children”), but she definitely was a piece of work. I know at least three people who never picked up their instruments again because she ruined the joy of music for them.

        In a way, she got her comeuppance, though. Our school didn’t really support the band program, so we had to practice at a municipal field and use the roof of her car as a drum major podium. One time, she was up on top of the car screaming at us, and she managed to fall into the sunroof. Every time I get together with old band friends, somebody always mentions the sunroof incident.

    5. tigerStripes*

      I hate it when teachers or other authority figures say something like this and don’t follow through. I remember in school, my teacher said I was good enough in a singing class to get into a more advanced class next semester. The next semester, she changed her mind and said I should be in the not as advanced class. I decided not to take singing any more.

      Would it be worthwhile to talk to the teacher and just ask her to say “maybe”?

    6. Elf*

      This is making me sad, so here is a story of a teacher who totally followed through!
      When I was in middle school, I tried out for jazz choir. I totally bombed the audition, largely because I was born with a nice voice and no ear at all. My choral teacher stayed after school once a week for a YEAR teaching me to match pitch, and the next year, after I’d learned, he let me in to the jazz choir. I will be grateful forever.

  44. Todd Chrisley Knows Best*

    How do you organically meet people to date in the age of dating apps? I can say I’ve never truly dated anyone, and I’d like to. I’m reasonably happy with the other aspects of my life, but I’m admittedly more of a homebody who doesn’t drink/go out/have a ton of hobbies, so meeting people has never been my specialty. I also have mild social anxiety. And strike three, I’m horribly uncomfortable eating around others, (nothing eating disorder related – I’m just very picky and always (probably irrationally) worried about being judged), so I think that adds to my hesitation to put myself out there.

    1. Turtlewings*

      Every single bit of this applies to me. I wish I had advice, but I have nothing. Eager to see what others say, though.

      1. Todd Chrisley Knows Best*

        I’m glad I’m not alone! Especially re: the eating thing. It can feel really isolating when eating seems to be a social requirement all the time! Welcome to the club! A few more folks and we can all get t-shirts! :-)

    2. Helpful*

      Bookstore, coffee shops, places you can just browse around. Have an ice breaker or two in your pocket— oh, what are you reading? THat coffee looks good, etc. — if you see someone who looks cute. Do it a few times just to practice; heck, do it in another city. You’ll gain confidence and realize you can strike up random convos that could lead to a spark. It’s worked for me!

      1. HannahS*

        Whoa, this is not good advice for Todd. A person drinking coffee in public is not there for you to practice on. A person browsing a bookstore does not need an unknown person coming up to them in the stacks and trying to hit on them. It can be anything from intrusive and annoying to threatening, and it’s NOT good behaviour. It’s like saying, “Well, *I* tell explicit jokes at work and everyone thinks it hilarious!” Like, ok, well, maybe it’s working for you but it’s not a good standard of behaviour and should not be widespread.

        1. Rainy*

          I agree–this is kinda like telling someone to hit on people on transit. (FTR: DON’T HIT ON PEOPLE ON TRANSIT. WE ARE JUST TRYING TO GET TO WORK/THE BANK/THE DENTIST.)

        2. Helpful*

          I meant to suggest that you can practice meeting people by being friendly in public places. I certainly don’t mean to creep on people or be pushy. Pleasant society is full of small opportunities to practice being friendly, which can lead to opportunities of friendship or dating. Or it can simply help one to develop one’s social skills. I didn’t mean to imply become a pickup artist or something.

      1. Todd Chrisley Knows Best*

        I think I’m pretty darn hilarious on the Twitter, so I guess I just need to wait on mine to crawl out of the woodworks. ;-)

        1. Rainy*

          It worked for us! It took several years though. ;)

          Seriously, though, a lot of it I think is just being open to the possibilities. I was dating online the whole time as well, but he turned out to be the right one for me. My bff on the other hand met her husband on OKCupid.

          If you decide that IRL is the way to go, here’s the best strategy, though: do stuff that lets you make new friends, like meetup groups, game nights, pub quiz, rec league sports, crafting nights, social orgs, whatever–and just make new friends. You don’t want to date the people you play flag football with. What you want to do is be put in touch with their social networks, and then aim to date people in those. This preserves the friendship in your activity so that the activity isn’t compromised when dates don’t work out. Remember that not all first dates will or should turn into second dates. If you are going on second dates with more than about 10% of your first dates, you are either being way too cautious about your first dates or way too liberal with your second dates.

    3. Kj*

      Meet-Ups, like Meet-Up.com kind of things for what interests you.
      Volunteer work.
      Fun classes you want to take, preferably some that have a fair number of the gender of people you are interested in.
      Lot of areas have single groups for singles to do an activity together.

      My real advice is do real stuff with real, live people on a regular basis. That will help you feel less socially anxious and you will have chances to meet others. If you make friends at an activity, tell them you are trying to date. They might have a friend to set you up with.

      True story- I didn’t date until my mid-20s. I am 31 and married very happily. We did meet online though. But I have friends who met spouses through classes, through groups and through work (but be careful about that)

      1. AnonAndOn*

        “Fun classes you want to take, preferably some that have a fair number of the gender of people you are interested in.”

        On this note, join those groups because you want to participate in those groups, not because you’re solely looking for dates. If you join a dance club, for example, not because you like dancing but only because you’re looking for dates, it’ll be obvious to those who are there to dance and have fun.

        It’ll be better to join something for the fun of it and let any relationships that may develop happen organically.

        1. Kj*

          I don’t think it is bad to stretch and bit and try something you aren’t sure if you’ll like. Yes you should want to do the activity. But it doesn’t have to be your only love or something you dream about doing. I do think it is ok to try something with the hope of meeting someone to date, but don’t be a jerk about it. Make sure you participate in the class fully and treat everyone with respect.

          1. AnonAndOn*

            Yep, I hear you. There’s a big difference between trying something new because of genuine interest and trying something new for the sake of finding dates.

            Years ago a relative suggested I do things that are sporty and outdoorsy to meet men since most of my activities and interests attracted more women than men. I am not into sporty and outdoorsy activities and wasn’t going to join those groups and feign interest for a chance to meet men. It wouldn’t have been fair to me or those men. But if there’s an activity that’s something more my speed I’d join it in a heartbeat.

      2. Artemesia*

        And even if meet ups aren’t producing potential dates THEY are a place to practice social skills because people are there to meet up after all.

      3. Todd Chrisley Knows Best*

        I really like the advice about actually doing things – I know it seems so simple to most but I’ve always forgotten that socializing is a skill I can’t improve if I don’t work on it. So, thank you!

        1. Kj*

          No problem! As someone who struggled with making friends for a long time, attending meet up groups was a good way to ease into socializing. After a year or so, I didn’t attend as much because the people I liked in the groups were friends and we got together often outside of the Meetup. This can work. It is really easy to get ‘stuck’ on the virtual world and not go out. Going out takes practice and the more you do it, the easier it is. Good luck!

    4. Thlayli*

      I’ve only had one or two relationships sinc dating apps were invented. But I have had a lot of first dates. Mostly guys I met in bars. (I married one of them). But also I’ve met guys on planes, through friends, through relatives, clubs etc. Not sure how many of them were after dating apps were invented.

    5. HannahS*

      From people I know (since I’ve not had success myself), school, work, hobby groups (martial arts, choirs), religious communities. Blind dates (set up by people, rather than an app).

      1. Todd Chrisley Knows Best*

        I’ve always wanted one of my friends to set me up or something, but I feel weird reaching out to them about it. I’ve tried to put out more of an open vibe towards it, but I’d probably do better if I just used my words. :-)

        1. Rainy*

          Ask! Many (most?) of us have had such shitty experiences with setups that we don’t want people to set us up.

        2. HannahS*

          Straight up ask!! I’ve said and reminded many people in my life that I want to be set up. I just say, “Hey, if you ever meet someone and think I might like to meet them, please feel free to set us up, I’m definitely open to it.” By and large, when set up by people who don’t know me well, it’s been disastrous (“you’re Jewish, he’s Jewish, what more do you want?”), but one of my aunts has great taste and knows how to articulate to her network what kind of person is a good match for me.

    6. Stellaaaaa*

      I truly feel that if you don’t meet someone in school or through friends, you mostly just have to hope that you’re really lucky. Maybe the random who hits on you at a bar will be your soulmate? Or (gulp) a coworker? I know that’s SO ill-advised, but that never stopped anyone, and it would be a shame to miss out on a chance at love.

      1. Todd Chrisley Knows Best*

        This is a really good point, I think. Not my favorite pill to swallow, but isn’t the point of medicine that they make you feel better in the end, even if it takes a bit? :-) I’m fairly unlucky, so I guess I need to amp up the blind dates from friends, haha.

      2. Thlayli*

        I respectfully disagree. I think you have to put yourself out there. If you just sit around waiting for people to randomly hit on you you’re probably not going to meet anyone, at least not anyone nice.

        I read a book about flirting once and it talked about how (in western culture) women are the choosers and men are the approaches. In a singles bar for example women will make eye contact with a guy they like and give him signals with body language to come over. But the onus is on him to come over and ask. This is of course culture dependent but it certainly seems to work that way in my experience. Most nice guys will wait until they get a signal from you before they approach. Guys who randomly come over to chat you up when you haven’t given any signals tend to be pushy jerks.

        How to do it? It’s all in the eyes mostly. I literally met my husband like that, I caught his eye across a crowded bar and we flirted across the room without saying anything for a few mins, then he walked over and kissed me. My sisters (who I was with) were pretty taken aback. It wasn’t random, there was definitely an invite there (I beckoned him over with a couple of head tilts).

        Next time you’re out try people watching and see if you can figure out if it’s the same in your culture or what the body language rules are where you live. There are loads of books on body language and some books on flirting, but the best way to figure it out is to people watch.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          Saying you have to be lucky doesn’t mean that you’re not engaging in the world. It just means that once you’re out of school and are old enough to start culling your social circle, it becomes harder and harder to meet new people who are relationship material. There’s nothing to disagree with there. The fact that this is a thread about the difficulties of meeting date-worthy people proves my point.

        2. Todd Chrisley Knows Best*

          Flirting is my nightmare. I make it my mission in life to avoid any kind of eye contact with people I don’t share DNA with. But I certainly see your point about a more open body language! I’ve been meaning to work on the whole RBF thing, anyways! My friends have always said I’m really intimidating because of it, and so that’s definitely something I can work on. And to your point about culture, you’re right, for me anyways, I definitely rely more on the men to approach.

  45. Loopy*

    Does anyone suffer from disproportionate guilt? I don’t know if it’s a side effect of anxiety or there are other ways to manage it.

    Backstory: I broke a gate somewhere I volunteer. Honest mistake. But it’s a hefty and important gate (must be locked) and while they found a immediate work around, I still felt awful. Everyone was very nice about it. Genuinely so. However, I know this will cause them more work. So I stayed late to try and fix the gate and we couldn’t. So more people will have to be involved in fixing said gate and I felt worse.

    No one as remotely mad, but I had an awful feeling leaving them to deal with it on top of their regular workloads.

    1. Nicole*

      I feel guilty about a lot of things I shouldn’t and even when I should, I feel it for a long longer than I think is normal, so I can relate.

      Today, in fact, I’m feeling guilty because I took my dog to Petsmart to get a photo with Santa and she peed on him. :(

    2. nep*

      I’m sure a lot of us can relate.
      Bottom line — exactly nobody goes through life not making some mistakes here and there. Stuff happens. Think about how you’d be feeling if a fellow volunteer broke the gate. You’d be nice to the person, and it would be genuine. I know it’s easier said than done…but I hope the sense of guilt will ease. You need your energy for other things.

    3. Parenthetically*

      Oh man, yep. I’m dealing with it something fierce (about a pretty major life choice I feel TERRIBLE about — like I ruined my husband’s life with it, basically) and have booked in an appointment with my counselor to talk about it. I think anything that’s messing with your head a disproportionate percentage of your day/life, or any pattern you’re spinning your wheels about is worth talking with a professional about if you can swing it. I don’t think counseling always has to be a long-term commitment — I think many people would benefit from having a neutral outsider perspective from a seasoned pro on a short-term basis.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I broke a door lock. My boss and I were on a job site. We were leaving. I volunteered to lock the door. Somehow I pulled the cylinder right out of the lock. It took an hour for someone to come and help. I felt like a real klutz. My boss was basically okay with it but he was tense about the customer being annoyed. We got through it.

      Crap happens. You did everything humanly possible. You reported it and apologized. You tried to help. Ask yourself what more could you have done short of going back in time and unbreaking the gate. We learn how to forgive others by forgiving ourselves and visa versa. Decide to learn how to forgive yourself. Look in the mirror and tell you that you are forgiving you. This sounds silly. Try anyway. It counts even if you do it in a half-hearted, half-baked manner.

      Where appropriate, I have gone as far as making a plan so I do not make the same mistake twice. But if you think about, if we all beat ourselves up for each mistake we have made none of us would live long enough to see age 30.

    5. Ramona Flowers*

      Yep. Totally. I’ve found it helps to imagine my funeral (bear with me here) and to try to imagine them saying: oh well it’s a good thing Ramona’s dead, after all she broke that door that time so we’re well shot of her.

      People make mistakes. I bet you’d feel more kindly towards someone other than you, right? Can you try to show yourself the same compassion you would a friend?

      I broke a glass door at my workplace completely by accident. Bet you don’t think I’m a terrible person.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I missed out the key thing about the funeral visualisation; it helps to realise that nobody would say that!

    6. Loopy*

      Thanks to everyone. Perspective helps. Instead of visualizing the ridiculousness of people hating me for breaking a gate, I was visualizing the main person coming in the next day (she was off when i broke the gate) and getting briefed on what she missed and having to figure out what to do with a broken gate on top of a few bigger problems.

      I think I honestly just like the people there so much that I really take my volunteering seriously- I want to make their lives easier- I know how hard they work and how much they need the help. So when I add work, I feel extra awful.

      These responses really, really helped! Hopefully by next week the gate is fixed and I can put it in even more perspective. Now if the gate is still broken… oy.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        If the gate is still broken, then this is just like at home. Things break around the house and how long does it take to get them repaired? Forever. Sometimes I just end up tossing the smaller items.

  46. anon24*

    It’s the holidays, and people are traveling, so share your funny traveling with your pet stories!

    1. When we got my first cat as a kitten, we had a collapsible carrier that opened in the top with 2 zippers and then velcro to seal the zippers. My cat is way too smart to be a cat, and at 3 months old he figured out how to unzip both zippers from the inside, and then open the velcro. While we were driving down the interstate. We’re cruising along and hear him meowing and I turn around and see just his head peeking out of the top. What followed was like a game of wack-a-kitty at 70 mph as I’m leaning into the back seat pushing him back in so I can zip it up and every time I push him down he popped back up somewhere else and would meow (for safety clarification – I was not driving). I couldn’t breathe I was laughing so hard. After pulling over 3 different times so we one of us could hold him in while the other one zipped it up we gave up and I wrapped him in a blanket and he slept on my lap the rest of the drive. The next day we got a solid carrier.

    2. Last spring I decided I wanted to go to the Outer Banks for my birthday. Rather than leave my cats home for 2 nights, we took them to stay with my parents. My mom decided to put them in the guest room overnight with food, water, and their toys. My little boy decided he was not having it and spent half the night banging on the door to be let out. So my mom decided to let him out so he could roam around and she could get some sleep. He then proceeded to go around jumping on my family members as they slept and knocked their things off their nightstands. He got put back in the room. My brother heard him banging to be let out the next morning so he opened the door and my cat was sitting there on his hind legs with both paws curled into fists and in mid bang.

    3. The next night it stormed early in the morning (around 2 am). My cats LOVE storms. They become little energy balls. My mom and my little sister sat up and played with them until 4 in the morning because they were so out of control. My poor mother had to go to work at 5 am that morning. Astonishingly they still beg to cat sit for me, and love my guys so much they went out and adopted their own.

    1. LCL*

      Picking up Mr Pointer from the humane society the day we got him. He was off in outer space, because pointers can get loopy with confinement. We were concerned because he was skinny, even though we know better. (Stressed dogs won’t eat, often.) we were talking about his skinniness as we were driving home. He got carsick and threw up a massive amount of dog food all over the back of the car. So we were able to deduce that yes, the Humane Society did feed him often!

    2. Free Meerkats*

      Not mine, but a friend’s. They were moving from Boston to Tucson with a cat named Beans, nicknamed Beaner. Got stopped at the agricultural/immigration checkpoint entering Arizona. In response to the, “Any fruit or vegetables?” question, she replied, “Just the Beaner in the back.”, referring to the cat in the back seat. They ended up with a full search of the car and trailer.

      1. Rainy*

        Was the checkpoint officer Latinx? Because…uh…probably not a great idea to refer to your cat by a common racial slur when moving to an area with a high Latinx population. D:

          1. Zathras*

            I can relate to your friends – I am from Boston and I had never heard of this particular racial slur until super recently. I think someone mentioned it on this blog, actually. I can imagine this happening to me and finding out later and being totally mortified.

            I wonder if it’s less common here because the city is nicknamed Beantown? (Or it’s entirely possible it’s used here but I’ve never heard it because I’m white, I don’t want to pretend that’s not a thing.)

    3. Nicole*

      Awww such cute stories! Your kitties sound mischievous but adorable. I can see why your mom still enjoys cat-sitting for you.

      I don’t know if this is cute or funny, because I find it a bit embarrassing, but just today I took my dog to Petsmart to get a photo with Santa and she peed on him!

      1. Starryemma*

        I feel like that’s an occupational hazard of being PetSmart santa! That’s a pretty amazing story. As times goes on I hope it gets increasingly hilarious to you too :).

        1. anon24*

          Yes I wander if they keep tally of how many pets pee on them. I can see it becoming an odd competition :)

      2. anon24*

        Believe it or not, we have my cats super well trained, but my little boy has an attitude and doesn’t see why he has to listen to anyone other than us. He also hissed at my mom every time she told him to stop eating her plants. So she started to hiss back and said it worked :) He is super unsociable and when he is there without us he climbs into their sofa from the bottom so everyone leaves him alone. They have to be really careful sitting down. My mom sat down and forgot to check it first and he started hitting her from the inside of the sofa because she was crushing him. I have pictures she took of him peeking out the backing with just his eyes and nose visible.

        That is so funny! I love it! Poor Santa!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      My old dog when with us when we went to see family.
      Going down the highway he was in the back seat, watching out the windshield. Suddenly, he dipped his head right down. WTH? It was an upcoming overpass. He saw the bridge and ducked. We did this a few times then he figured out it was not a problem.

    5. HigherEd on Toast*

      My parrot is Never Happy when he sees his small travel cage because he knows that he’s going either for a long-ish car trip or to the boarding kennel or vet. He hisses and screams at me and makes growling noises while I put him in the cage, and then sulks until he’s either dropped off or it’s at least an hour into the trip.

      Last year I moved across the country, and so he rode in the car for five days. He was mostly okay because I was there, but one morning, when I uncovered his cage in the pet-friendly hotel to feed him, I said, “Good morning!” and he retorted sulkily, “Shut up.”

    6. Merci Dee*

      When our cat Billy chose us at the shelter, we got one if those cheap cardboard carriers to put him in until we could get to the store and find something more sturdy. My daughter was 7, and was in her booster seat in the back, so I strapped the cardboard carrier into the front seat next to me. We pull out of the shelter’s parking lot, and I hear a few scratching noises – not unexpected. I glance over …. and see a kitty jaw poking out of one of the air holes. I ease him free and keep driving. Then I hear a massive RIIIIIPPPPP! He’s got his bottom jaw back through the hole, and is ripping his way out of the box. Within 3 minutes, he’s torn a hole big enough to crawl out of, and he climbed over the console to lay stretched across my lap for the remainder of the drive to the vet’s office. He’s been a mama’s boy ever since.

      1. many bells down*

        My cat would happily walk on a harness and sit nicely in the car wearing it. But then he’d do The Howl. A few minutes into any drive, he’d start softly meowing. Each mew would get slightly louder and deeper. Until finally he was like the kitty version of James Earl Jones with a deep bass WOOOOWWWWwooooWWOOOWWW.

    7. Turtlewings*

      My mom’s chihuahua is essentially litterbox trained, except that it’s a disposable Pee Pad. First time we traveled with the little dude, it was an all-day drive, and when we would stop to walk him and let him go potty… he wouldn’t go. What, did we expect him to just pee on the ground like an animal?! He really could not wrap his mind around the idea of peeing outside. We actually had to unpack one of his Pee Pads and lay it on the grass for him to pee on.

    8. anon24*

      Just remembered another good one.

      Last year we went to visit my in-laws for the holidays. Little boy cat was 5 months and little girl was 4. My in-laws don’t have an extra bedroom, so we slept in their finished basement. It’s basically one big room the size of the house with carpeted poles holding up the support beams. We took kitties down and little boy spent the first hour trotting around with the most content look on his face. So much space! I looked at the poles and realized they looked just like scratching posts, but my husband was sure it wouldn’t be a problem.

      Turned off the lights, we’re settling in to go to sleep. I keep hearing an odd noise I can’t place. My husband turns on his tablet as as flashlight and there are kitties, up at the top of one of the poles, both hanging on for dear life with one front paw while swatting at each other with the other one. I don’t think they slept at all that night. They were in kitty heaven.

    9. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Maybe not a funny story of travel with our two kitties (and we did plenty of years of loading them, their toys, their scratching post, and their litter in the car for a trip to moms 5 hours away), but when we moved overseas the little tuxy girl was so charming to the airline check-in staff that uh, they forgot to charge us for flying the cats (in the hold)! Saved us quite a bit of money :)

    10. Elizabeth*

      We don’t take the kitty with us, as he considers riding in a vehicle to be a form of torture that should be outlawed. This last summer, when DH had been gone for a week traveling, then I met him in Denver & we were gone for another week, he apparently nearly had a nervous breakdown and managed to yell himself hoarse. It took a week of us being home before his voice was back to normal.

    11. MsChanandlerBong*

      Two years ago, we made a cross-country move with five cats. We got rid of almost everything we owned and took only what we could fit in our Hyundai Sonata. We have four boys and a girl, and the girl thinks that she is just the queen of the world, so we used a small carrier for her and then put the four boys in a huge collapsible dog crate (they get along fine, so it was no problem). The issue was that we had to unload them and carry them into a hotel every night. We couldn’t carry the dog crate, though, as it was too big and heavy, so we had to carry the girl cat inside, take the empty cage back to the car, load up two of the boys, take the empty cage back to the car, and finally load up the remaining two cats–a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong. When we were in Little Rock, one of the boys managed to escape as we were making the transfer. My husband caught him, but the cat was so scared that he started kicking his his back legs (not scratching maliciously) and ended up shredding my husband’s arm. People were standing outside the hotel laughing their butts off at us.

      Otherwise, the trip went much better than expected. We only had one in-car accident, and it happened while we were still in our home state. We threw away the cat bed (the stench made it impossible for us to keep it in the car and clean it later) and went on our merry way. The only other hitch was that our big fat ginger boy got too hot (it was 95 degrees when we went through Oklahoma City), even with the A/C on full blast, so I had to take him out of the dog crate and let him sit up front with me. He curled up at my feet and went right to sleep.

  47. Jules the First*

    Oh god. I booked my first fertility clinic today (visit is not until January) and totally got sucked down the rabbit hole of sperm donors and specialists and testimonials. Someone please tell me how to get my mind of the subject of adorable little noses and toeses…I’ve still got at least six months of tests and drug trials before I can even start trying.

    1. Book Lover*

      Are you doing the SMBC thing? I obviously am delighted with my kids, and honestly wouldn’t change the donor if I could go back, but if I had done a bit more research perhaps I would have found out how popular my donor was…. I don’t like the politics behind the donor sibling registry, but suggest you check it out when choosing a donor. We have a private Facebook group for the parents of kids by my donor.
      I am not sure how your clinic does things, but most of the time you will choose the donor yourself and have vials sent to the clinic. For me, I think I just had to get std testing and a visit with a psychologist and then started doing OPKs, got pregnant second month with basic IUI. It sounds like things may be more complicated for you, unfortunately? Best of luck.

      1. Jules the First*

        Yep, SMBC. A little terrified, but figuring I’ll regret it more if I never even try. Good to hear from someone who’s done it and has no regrets!

        I’m in the UK, so there are fairly strict rules about how many babies can be born from a single donor, but one of the clinics I’m looking at is in Denmark (my god it’s hard to find a red-headed donor in the UK!) so I will make sure to look into that too.

    2. Anon for This*

      So I’m going down this route too, though in the U.S., not the U.K. I’m planning on starting to try in March and it’s been a whirlwind of tests and appointments up to now, and now a break while I wait for everything to come together. It is an all absorbing process – I’m having trouble thinking of anything else!

  48. Beware Gross*

    So this is gross (pet bodily functions) but I need some cleaning advice.

    I’m putting it in the comments if you want to skip.

    1. Beware Gross*

      My cat has been sick lately but on the mend. He is eating a new food per the vet and threw up everywhere the other day while I was at work. Mostly on a faux leather chair and hardwood floor. It smelled like poop but definitely just food.

      I can’t get the smell out. I don’t know if it’s the chair, floor or just general lingering. My husband and mother both say they can’t smell it anymore but I can’t be in the room.

      Any suggestions? He’s fine and hasn’t done it again but I’m freaking out.

      1. Poor kitty*

        Try one of the pet cleaners that has enzymes that are supposed to remove odours.

        If no one else can smell it… try something to make the room smell nice? A few drops of oil in some baking soda, or an essential oil diffuser? After a while, stop using it and see if you can still smell it?

        Glad your cat is feeling better.

      2. I'm A Little TeaPot*

        If other people aren’t smelling it, then it’s probably your brain playing tricks on you unless their sense of smell isn’t great. Clean it really well one more time with something like lysol/Mr clean, wipe it down with plain water after if appropriate.

        I’ve had it happen that I’ll keep smelling something and no one else can. I just avoid that room for a day or so
        and my brain resets. Or it airs out. Whichever.

      3. another Liz*

        Soft surfaces like carpet, soak with plain white vinegar, cover with a towel overnight, then clean it in the morning. I usually use the carpet shampooer for this. Hard surfaces, half baking soda, half peroxide with just a little blue Dawn dish soap. You can use this on fabrics too, but spot test because peroxide can bleach delicate fabric. Second recipe is the best skunk smell remover known to man, better than the commercial stuff.

        1. another Liz*

          Also general FYI, Lysol is not good for cats. They belong to a class of disinfectants called quats or quaternary ammonium compounds.

  49. Sad and embarrassed :(*

    Does anyone have any tips on how to forgive yourself? I was raised in a household where abusive behavior was normal and even laughed at, and I was pretty much a jerk up til my early 20s. Maybe if I was younger it would’ve been easier for me to forgive myself, but right now I just can’t believe how insensitive and obnoxious I was, especially for someone who was supposedly “the smart one.”

    1. fposte*

      Another possibility is not to think of it as forgiveness. I have plenty of young screwups that I don’t particularly deserve forgiveness for but also don’t need to be blighted for life by. Nobody I hurt would be helped by my beating myself up; a much better thing for me to do is to be better to the world rather than to be worse to me.

      I don’t know if you struggle with anxiety, but one thing that seems to come with it sometimes is an enhanced discomfort with uncertainty or ambiguity. I think that the more you can make your peace with uncertainty and ambiguity, the more peaceful life you’ll have. So I’d say maybe look less to resolution about the past and more to acceptance that that won’t happen and that what you have in your control is the present and the future.

    2. anon24*

      Hello me.

      I saw this quote last year: “don’t look back. You’re not going that way.” I was not a nice person until my late teens (although thankfully I don’t think I was a bully, just nasty and rude). I lived a sheltered life so I have been able to accept the fact that while I *should* have known I was being a jerk I didn’t until I started entering the real world and people started gently pointing out that I have issues. I was just living the way I had been raised. It’s hard, but the past is the past, and I am not that person anymore so I don’t need to keep dwelling in it. Do I feel stupid for getting to be that old and being oblivious of how to treat other human beings? Yes, and deeply ashamed. But that’s over. I am not that person anymore. I need to move on and focus on the new me so I don’t sink back into self hatred, which I tend to express outwards. I still have days where I decide I hate the entire human race and I know that’s unacceptable and I keep my mouth shut and limit my contact with the outside world until I’m ready to be a compassionate person again. I also try to go out of my way to be kind and caring and anything that will keep me from being that person again.

      Good luck. It sucks when you realize you’re an ass but if you never realize it you never have the opportunity to change.

      1. tigerStripes*

        There are plenty of people who never learned how to treat other people properly, and it’s tougher to change that type of thing once you’re an adult, so I think you and sad & embarrassed should congratulate on changing!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Vow to learn from your mistakes.
      Vow to not absorb everything that goes wrong as being your mistake. Actually figure out what parts you are responsible for.

      See by learning from our mistakes AND not perceiving everything around us as something we have done wrong we can begin to sort things out. By committing to this as a life-long habit it helps us to gain a sense of proportion over time. Toxic families can give us a warp out sense of how big a deal some things are and totally ignore other things that are a big deal.

    4. Coconut Water*

      What’s the goal? As in, what would you do if you forgave yourself that you think you can’t do now?

      Do that.

    5. Ramona Flowers*

      Therapy can be really helpful if that’s an option. I also heartily recommend the book Home Coming by John Bradshaw for overcoming the aftermath of abuse.

      Also, I hope you can acknowledge that it’s really fantastic that you’re able to reflect on this and ask this question. It’s really hard to acknowledge that the coping mechanisms you’ve learned to use have actually not been helpful and that you don’t feel happy about the ways in which you’ve survived in the past and want to change them. That takes strength.

      Forgiving yourself is partly about showing compassion and kindness to yourself. Don’t underestimate the importance of self care. Be nice to yourself. Sometimes actions have to come before feelings. Self-care can make a difference and you are worth it.

    6. Hills to Die on*

      I have some experience there. You just have to keep remembering you are human. You can’t go back in time but you can just do your best to be kind going forward.

  50. Pet sitter*

    I know we don’t talk about You-Know-What on the weekends, but my work is not work-like.

    Today a very old dog was surprised to see me. He didn’t expect me because I usually walk him while his owners are at work, Monday through Friday, and he knows he doesn’t see me on the weekend. He woofed a little, wagged his tail, and jumped for me! After our walk he let me give him a hug, then he curled up and relaxed with his head on my lap.

      1. Pet sitter*

        I think he knows his humans’ work schedules!

        He’s always surprised to see me on weekends. And when one of his people stays home on a weekday so I don’t come, I get the Special Barking Jumping Greeting the next day. His family gets it every day. Just special occasions for me.

    1. Jillociraptor*

      I’m not even really an animal person but there is little else as validating as a dog or cat that is genuinely excited to see you.

  51. AnonAndOn*

    This came to mind. I’ve noticed that some people preface their posts with, “It’s late and no one will read it,” “It’s too long and I doubt anyone will read it,” “I don’t know if anyone will care if I post this,” and so on. It’s heartbreaking that people downplay their posts like that.

    I don’t know people’s genders here but this tends to be that minimizing of thoughts that we women are socialized to do. We’re told to not be big and bold in our statements and to soften what we say to avoid stepping on toes.

    I can’t speak for others but I’ll speak for myself. Disabusing myself of that habit was hard and still is. While I no longer add minimizing prefaces to what I post online, I’m still working on not minimizing or putting down what I say in person. I’m working hard to not apologize for speaking, to not apologize for having a voice, to not apologize for existing. I realize that not everyone will agree with what I say or care about what I say, but that’s on them. It’s not on me to shoulder that burden.

    1. Weekend Warrior*

      It can be very ingrained, for sure. We used humour in our workplace to disallow any apologizing before presentations or reports. That is, we agreed to lightly call each other out if we caught anyone pre-apologizing. It wasn’t just women who were being too diffident, either.

      On the home front, definitely mostly a woman thing to apologize about the dinner and list everything that went wrong, usually starting with “the turkey got over cooked and will be too dry”. !!

      It’s hard to break this habit but just noticing how often we use advance apologies is a good start.

      And pro tip – if we didn’t call attention to supposed faults, no one would even have thought about them.

      1. AnonAndOn*

        “And pro tip – if we didn’t call attention to supposed faults, no one would even have thought about them.”

        So true.

        I grew up being bullied and abused, and I found that I’d put myself down before someone else did. I felt I was beating the bullies and abusers to the punch, but all I was doing was bullying and abusing myself. I internalized all the negative things about me. We tend to be our own worst critics and it is a tough habit to break. Tough doesn’t mean impossible though.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      All good points but personally when I say I know I’m late and might not get replies I mean exactly that and it’s not intended as an apology or minimising.

      I also think people use this as shorthand for “I feel vulnerable”. Which isn’t exactly the same thing.

      1. Elkay*

        On the vulnerability thing it’s almost a way of telling yourself “The reason no-one responds is because I’m late not because I’m not interesting”

    3. What's my name again?*

      Not quite them same, but I’ve been trying to get rid of phrases like “I think” and “It seems to me” when I’m writing emails. I don’t even notice as I put them in, then when I go back and read it, I take them out. It makes my statements stronger. (Oh, how I want to add an “I think” to that sentence!)

      1. Weekend Warrior*

        Haha! Softening words have their place and strategic uses but it’s good to work at being more direct. It feels more empowered! I think of it as being more like my Aussie cousins than my Canadian self. :)

      2. AnonAndOn*

        That’s interesting. I’ve heard that using phrases like “I think” and “I feel” give a sense of ownership to one’s words as opposed to speaking in a general sense (saying “you” when a person means “I,” for instance).

        1. What's my name again?*

          Hmm, interesting. I guess it depends on context. My most recent emails where I did this were to my son’s school, where I was trying to get 1. information on transit rebates and 2. get his teachers to give him the accommodations that are on his learning plan. In those situations, saying “it seems like” and “I think” softened what I was saying more that strengthened it. And it worked – I got what we needed in both instances.

          I don’t like confronting people, so I tend to soften my messages a lot, then people don’t get that I’m being polite, they just see it as weak. This happens to me at work.

    4. NDQ*

      I cringe when a contrary point of view is prefaced with, “I’m just playing devil’s advocate.” It’s actually ok to bring up issues. Men seem to know this. Women use the above line as an apology for not falling into agreement.


      1. AnonAndOn*

        “I’m just saying” and “Just my opinion” also fall into that category. Anything with “just” in it like that is a way of downplaying one’s words.

    5. Mobuy*

      Yes! I also hate it when my students start their answers with, “This is probably wrong, but….” I think people want a reason that they are wrong/not answered/ignored other than that they are dumb/worthless. Sad.

      1. AnonAndOn*

        It is sad. Those who do that feel it’ll lessen the flack they think they’ll receive if they end up being wrong, but it undermines them when they end up being right. Wrong or right, people should state their answers with confidence.

  52. nep*

    Did anyone read the short story “Cat Person” in the New Yorker? Just saw an article about it in The Economist; apparently the story has gotten a good bit of attention.
    If you read it, or any of the commentary on it, what do you think?

    1. Half-Caf Latte*

      I read it and I didn’t relate to it AT ALL, after reading 485959483 posts about OMGthisismylife.

      But I’m an atypical millennial, so there’s that.

      1. nep*

        I really don’t have much feeling for or patience with anything that tries to typify an entire generation; I reckon there are a good many ‘atypical millennials’. (In which case what does the category — or any other — really mean after all.)

    2. Don't Blame Me*

      I read it finally after seeing a bunch of thinkpieces referencing it. I don’t know what I think of it. It was well-written but it wasn’t earth-shattering to me.

      1. nep*

        About the same. I guess I’m a bit surprised at all the attention it got. Just read another piece about it The Village Voice. Anyway, some decent food for thought here and there.

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      I haven’t read it. But I almost replied to a thread on Reddit asking about it with a story about actual cats…

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          It was an anecdote! The thread asked for your experience of cat people and I just assumed from the title that they meant people who had lots of cats or loved cats. I was going to tell the story of when my friends were house hunting and in this one house it was full of cat themed decorations and there were these blind cats whose heads kept swivelling to ‘look’ at them.

    4. Loopy*

      I read it after seeing someone mention the attention it’s gotten but didn’t react enough myself to understand why it’s blowing up.

      I’ll have to go read some of what people are saying. I can see why many people can relate but I’m also a little surprised at the level of references to it that I’ve seen. Maybe it’ll make more sense after I actually ready what people are saying about it!

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, that’s where I am. If it’s striking that much of a chord it’s interesting to me, even if it doesn’t resonate with me that much.

        1. nep*

          I must be really out of touch or something because I still don’t get why it’s striking such a chord. But as I said, that’s part of the food for thought.

          1. Ann O.*

            I think it’s striking such a chord because it is rare to find a story in a high status publication that centers a young woman’s POV about a bad date–especially in such a non-judgmental way–even though it’s a very common experience. This is also a cultural moment where we’re really talking about the ways men fail to see women as people with interior lives that are worth knowing and respecting.

            I think that’s also part of why somen men are reacting so poorly to it.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I just now read it and it made my skin crawl. I have been Margot. But pre-cell phone, so ghosting was easy. Not that I would do that now, because I’m older and I feel more confident in saying “I don’t think we quite mesh.”

      Also, I was cheered to see someone who writes like I do, with a very unpretentious style, get a story in the New Yorker. If they can do it, I can do it.

      1. Rainy*

        I saw some of those “men react…” tweets and as with anything of this type–if you are a dude and super mad about Cat Person, you have some thinking to do about you act around your dates, and I’m not going to stroke your fucking ego and tell you you could never be a Robert, because you probably have been and you need to reckon with it and fix yourself.

    6. WinterWinds*

      I read it and did not like it. The writing style was not my taste at all, and I did not relate to anything about it. It felt pretentious and phoney.

      1. Thlayli*

        Same. It was gross and creepy. She was an idiot. He was an idiot. The roommate was the only character I related to.

        1. Thlayli*

          I also don’t get why people are saying it was well written, but it certainly made me feel better about my own writing!

        2. nep*

          This was sort of my reaction to both too — both idiots. But she more than he. Till his last series of texts to her. Both idiots, anyway.

          1. Overeducated*

            Yes, for most of the story I felt a bit bad for both of them in a very relatable way, but I felt like the last set of texts took the story out of the realistic realm of my experience where people are flawed into a good guy/ bad guy realm that spoiled the whole story for me a bit. But I did all of my bad dating before everyone had smartphones, people tended to think more before shooting off emails. Maybe young women really do face much worse behavior from men now….

          1. Thlayli*

            I don’t think I would do it in real life but if I had a whiny idiot of a flat mate who willing slept with a guy despite not even fancying him, and then spent days or weeks obsessing out loud to me over how to tell him she didn’t actually like him, I would sure as hell be tempted to do it!

    7. NaoNao*

      I read it and all the “Men React to ‘Cat Person'” tweets and here’s my take:
      It’s a well written and closely observed short story. It’s realistic and I felt myself uncomfortably relating to it on many levels.
      It’s for a certain audience. My guess would be women not far out of their early 20’s but far enough that they can look back with self awareness about their mistakes and fears and mess-ups and laugh knowingly but also realize they’re not that person anymore.
      It’s…not literary, at least not in the way I recognize literary works to be. It’s very stripped down, simple, clear prose that reads almost like a blog post. There’s…not much style to it, which I think set people off almost as much as the topic/plot.
      Both characters are, in my opinion, a bit under-characterized. They come off a specific yet generic “types”. That’s part of the universal appeal of this. We’ve all been Nameless Narrator, we’ve all known our Ronalds (or whatever that sad sack’s name was.) We’ve all had regrettable, cringe-worthy encounters that we went along with for unclear reasons (it seemed nice, half into it and hoped it would get better, not wanting to make a scene, unsure of your own desires and boundaries, etc etc).
      The *topic* was sharp and the particular observations were well done. The writing on a technical level was merely competent.

    8. Lily Evans*

      My former roommate (who I frequently commiserated with about crappy dating experiences) sent it to me last week and it was way too accurate. Not really to me personally, because I see things like that coming better than a lot of women seem to, but it fits so many stories I’ve heard. The writing style wasn’t my favorite, though.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I just tried to read it and got bored. I don’t get the fuss. It even has a Wikipedia page now.

        1. Lily Evans*

          It took me to the very end to see exactly where it was going, and not in a clever plot-twist way. I finished it to see what the fuss was, but the whole time reading I was like “What is the point? This is so ramble-y?” And then at the end it was like, okay I see what they were trying to do here and I get it, but it wasn’t executed that well.

          1. Thlayli*

            That’s what I got from it too. It’s not even a huge shocker of an ending. Person a sleeps with person b and then dumps them unceremoniously. Person b gets drunk and sends person A a horrible message. I’ve seen this in almost every sitcom ever. Usually the genders are the other way round and you see if from the dumpees perspective though.

        2. nep*

          I really can’t believe the ink that’s been spent on this piece. Google it and a thousand publications have pieces along the lines of ‘Why “Cat Person” went viral.’ I must be missing something. I mean I get it…OK…a kind of social commentary on a timely issue. But — really?

          1. nep*

            Just looking at a USA Today piece. (Now I really want to understand why the storm over this story.)
            One woman tweeted: “Maybe if you can’t relate to ‘Cat Person’ it’s because you are not a woman who has ever been on a date with a man.”

            1. nep*

              Another tweet quoted in the piece (then I’ll stop) —
              “For me ‘Cat Person’ shows how anemic our concept of consent truly is. It conveys a passive inevitability that shouldn’t be.”
              Does it now?
              Hmmmm. I don’t think so.

        3. AnonAndOn*

          I just looked up the Wikipedia page. It has a link to the author but it redirects to the “Cat Person” entry. I saw that it’s being categorized as horror too. Nothing about that story gave me horror vibes.

    9. AnonAndOn*

      I got around to reading it yesterday. Had to think about it. I don’t know why this specific story hit a chord with so many people. I could not relate to either character and found neither of them sympathetic. It has nothing to do with me not being in my 20s (like Margot) or me not being a man (like Robert). I’ve read many things where I have nothing in common with the characters but I can still relate to them in some way. This wasn’t one of those pieces. I feel that this writing came off as inauthentic and trendy. It felt more like pandering to a specific audience than writing because the author felt she had a story to tell.

      And I can’t believe that so many people thought this was non-fiction and a personal essay. Shaking my head at that.

    10. Lore*

      I think it hit a nerve in a few ways. One, I think she’s playing in an interesting way with the expectations of “New Yorker fiction”–which is often this kind of close third-person, intimate narrative in which not much happens plot-wise, and it’s all about the observations and the prose. Here, you’re going along that way, except the prose is flatter and even more neutral than normal–and then it punches you into a different kind/tone of story right at the end. But more interestingly, to me anyway, the story interacted with a lot of the complex feelings I have about this “Me Too” moment. I’m a really slow processor of emotions, and a lot of times I need a considerable amount of distance from an event before I can really crystallize or even realize how unhappy or angry it made me; at the moment, I’m just focused on getting through it. So I hadn’t really grappled with, or even thought back on, a lot of incidents (minor, mostly) that in the clear light of this cultural moment do translate to harassment or coercion or even border on assault. So I think there is some of that feeling in the story, that ambiguity-but-wrongness that I never know what to make of in real life, but the story tacks a definitive resolution to it that’s weirdly satisfying precisely because it punctuates a situation that in real life is rarely punctuated.

    11. Cantankerous*

      I did not like it.

      I can relate to bits of it. However, the story as a whole felt more like it was sewn up from bits of different stories – the bits make sense apart, but they do not go together at all for me. I can’t relate to the characters because it feels like their actions, taken together as the story progresses, do not make sense to me.

      For example, I can relate to consenting to having sex that I don’t actually, actively, personally want or expect to enjoy. I’ve done that. I can’t relate to the motives in the story for doing it, though – that it’d require an awkward conversation. Awkward sex is WAY more awkward than an awkward excuse to suddenly not have sex – those things are 3.7 miles apart on the Independent Awkwardness Index.

      I had awkward, unwanted sex for the sake of my sexual partner. I do it because I care for my partner, occasionally at my own expense – whereas the story character does it because… she doesn’t care?

      If there was conversation avoidance or bad communication lessons to be learned, in my real life it wasn’t about “how to say no when you don’t wanna” like the story, it was about things like, “how to tell your partner he’s bad in bed so that he’ll want to try to improve, instead of want to weep in a corner” or “maybe it’s okay to take one for the team occasionally, but I don’t want to constantly be taking one for the team – how much awkward sex is acceptable in a relationship, and how much is too much?” or even “would he feel bad about this sex if he knew how much it hurts me? should I tell him because he wouldn’t want this if he knew? if our positions were reversed, would I want him to tell me or not? do I ever unknowingly hurt him during sex?”.

      I also just don’t like stories that are this dark. Nothing gets resolved. There is no moral to the story. The whole thing felt gross and stomach-churning, from her weird negging-flirting about red vines at the beginning to his nasty text at the end. Both the characters are unpleasant with unclear objectives and motivations. None of the story gets spent on the endearing parts of early dating, so there’s no reader buy-in to their supposed mutual chemistry over texts and no obvious explanation for why they’d really want to go as far as they did – all their date experiences sound miserable, awkward, mismatched, and distant; real people would’ve nope’d out of this relationship promptly without any real foundation.

  53. HigherEd on Toast*

    I’m wondering if anyone has ideas for non-toy gifts for a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old. My family only does Christmas gifts for my nieces now, and other years I’ve bought them toys, but they literally play with them for five minutes and then leave them at my parents’ house, and…that’s it. The garage is full of Christmas gifts they never played with except on Christmas Day. My sister keeps insisting that they don’t want anything but toys and that they have to be expensive toys, to boot, but I’m sick of doing this.

    My 7-year-old niece likes books, but my sister doesn’t want her to get books for Christmas (for…some reason), and clothes are also out because my sister insists on buying everything for them in exact matching patterns and colors, identical except for the size, because she wants them to be “twins.” She doesn’t want us to get them candy because they always eat so much they get sick. I’m out of ideas as to what I can do.

    1. fposte*

      Are you close or at a distance? If you’re close, that opens up experience possibilities–tickets to a children’s theater show, especially as an outing with you, or a museum membership; if you’re distant, that’s harder, and I suspect magazine subscriptions would fall into the same category as books.

      It sounds like your sister isn’t making this easier, but it also sounds like maybe she’s trying to limit the amount of crap rolling into her house, which is something I sympathize with and know a lot of parents struggle with. Maybe an experience gift would help on that front, too.

      1. HigherEd on Toast*

        Yeah, I’m at a distance, although flying in for the holidays. I definitely wouldn’t mind taking them to an experience, and I’m sympathetic to the idea of crap rolling into the house, but she insists that the crap stay at our parents’ house “just in case” the kids ever decide they want to play with it again, so now our poor prarents have lots of toys for, say, 2-year-olds that my sister won’t let them throw away. (My sister makes me roll my eyes frequently).

        I’m wondering if a gift card to a place would work. I know you can get them for the local zoo.

        1. HannahS*

          Another similar thing would be activity kits, and they have the bonus of being indoors. I loved receiving those as gifts when I was little (make a plaster cast of your hand! make a mosaic trivet! colour your own tote bag!) and now I realize that they were a lot of work and mess for my mom. So maybe an activity that the three of you can do together on a quiet afternoon during your trip. Klutz used to make great ones.

          1. HannahS*

            Oh, also, little-kid magazine subscriptions are SUPER fun for littles, because they get their very own mail once a month.

          2. HigherEd on Toast*

            Ha, my sister would most definitely not be a fan of the mess! I’ll look into the quieter ones.

            1. Amadeo*

              Right? I think if either my brother or my sister were this pretentious about what I got their kids for Christmas, glitter would start being a main feature pretty rapidly.

              1. Cruciatus*

                Yes. And I would start mailing the gifts to their house so there’s nothing to leave behind at grandma’s…

          3. Colette*

            There are less messy ones. My nephew is getting a “make your own kalidascope” kit. I’ve given bracelet kits, wooden models, or just bags of beads, feathers, etc. There’s also colouring books and crayons/markers.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          I feel for your parents, but their house is their own and if they don’t want to store a thousand toys that the kids will never miss, they should feel free to donate (starting with the youngest-aimed toys). It sounds like your sister is the type to have an internal catalog of All The Toys, so she might notice but the kids will not.

          I also second easy craft kits (even a bundle of new markers, cool stickers, and interesting paper) and magazine subscriptions – my kids love those. Puzzles can be good, too. Fuzzy socks/slippers/robes unless that breaks the “no clothes” rule?

    2. Intel Analyst Shell*

      Do you live nearby or close enough you could get them for a day? My grandma never did physical gifts, only experiences. She’d gift us with a trip to the zoo, museum, movies, road trip (think like a small town an hour away), etc and on a weekend that worked for everyone she’d come pick us up and we’d spend the day with her.

      1. HigherEd on Toast*

        Distant, but I’ll be in town for a couple of weeks. If I can’t get them for a day, then maybe a gift card to one of those places would work. I know they like to go to both the zoo and the movies.

    3. Jules the First*

      I’m not sure why your sister gets a vote on what you give your nieces as long as the kids like them. I give books, almost exclusively, because I think it’s sad that no one buys my nephews anything but toys (and they are always super excited to see which books they get this year).

      But, that said….you could do an outing with the kids or something like little passports or Spangler science club where they get a one-use package once a month (lest that sound expensive, Spangler does a $6/month option).

      1. HigherEd on Toast*

        Because it hurts her feelings whenever someone does something for the kids she doesn’t want. She takes it as a critique of her ability to parent. I absolutely don’t mean it that way, and I don’t think most other people do, either, but she got upset about the fact that a preschool teacher made my younger niece use utensils in school. A family member is going to be worse.

        The science club sounds like a good idea, thank you!

          1. HigherEd on Toast*

            No, I didn’t take it as rude at all! I find my sister to be the exasperating one. It gets hard to tiptoe around her feelings when I never know what will set her off; when one niece was a few months old, I stepped in a dirty diaper she’d left on the floor and said, “Ew” and went to watch my foot, and my mother later told me that my sister’s feelings were hurt because she’d decided I must think she was “not a good housekeeper.” It led up to this big orchestrated apology I had to give and my sister dragging on and on for an hour about how it was so hard to tie up the little bag that was supposed to go around the diaper so she’d just dropped it on the floor instead and she WORKED and she SLAVED and this was the thanks she got…

            I like my nieces, but it’s probably a good idea for all concerned that my sister and I don’t live near each other.

            1. I'm A Little TeaPot*

              Honestly, aside from the gifts thing, it sounds like your sister is a bit of a missing stair. She’s being oversensitive and unreasonable, and sounds like she really needs to grow up a bit.

              And if she insists on dressing the 2 identically, that is eventually going to backfire on her. Even if they were twins, they’re different people. Your sister has a world of hurt headed her way one of these days, all of it self inflected.

            2. Rainy*

              So, I blush to point out the obvious, but if your sister is routinely leaving dirty diapers on the floor for long enough that someone can step in them…she’s a bad housekeeper. That’s nasty.

            3. Clever Name*

              You realize that your sister is the unreasonable one, right? I mean, making a sound of disgust when one steps in excrement is normal, and leaving poopy diapers on the floor IS bad housekeeping.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        I give book tokens to kids that can read as I like giving them the ability to go pick out their own books.

      3. tigerStripes*

        I try to give gifts to my nephews and nieces that their parents will be OK with, but their parents are reasonable people, so that makes things easier. I like the subscription to a kid magazine idea.

    4. SC Anonibrarian*

      Are you close enough to ever babysit or spend time with just the kids? They’re starting to be old enough to get ‘experience’ gifts like you taking them to a fun spa day (nails and toes and scalp massages) or an local-ish amusement park or a fun store in the mall (i’m thinking like a LEGO store or an American Doll store where the visit itself is supposed to be an experience). If those aren’t close enough or are too pricey, even Claire’s or a candy store could be a fun trip. You can wrap up a letter or a card or a picture-full brochure or information/advertisement about the place and then it’s a fun trip with you and if you buy a knickknack or a toy and they don’t keep it, at least they might still remember and have fun on the trip itself?

      1. HigherEd on Toast*

        Not most of the year as a regular option. A one-time trip would be a good idea, though! There’s an American Doll store in town that might make a good visit, and I would find it easier to stand firm against the idea that I actually buy a doll for them if my sister wasn’t there.

    5. Kj*

      What about a board or card game you could play with them? Sleeping Queens, There’s a Moose In the House, and Sushi Go are fun games for that age.

      1. HigherEd on Toast*

        Ooh, also a good idea! That also wouldn’t take up a lot of room if it does get left behind. Thank you!

    6. JD*

      I get my cousins activity gifts. Easier for the girl as she loves crafts. As she is 12 now I found her this nail art kit and hair chalk kit for crazy hair day. There are a lot of activity type kits, science kits, make a this and that. I like them a lot better than toys as we get to play with them together on xmas.

    7. Artemesia*

      If you are not close enough to take them places then send books and ignore your sister. Since when does the parent get to insist on ‘expensive toys’ or whatever. It is a gift, you get to decide (they get to censor inappropriate things) FWIW my grandchild at that age loved Magnetiles; it is the toy with the best play value we have had. Another thing that has had legs is Children’s Sequence. A sequence board game with animals instead of playing cards. But I’d find a couple cool books for them or perhaps art supplies and call it a day.

    8. Gingerblue*

      How about toy-ish gifts which can age up with them? I’m thinking of stuff like lego sets or other building toys, kids binoculars or microscope, a kid’s toolset or crafty things like knitting needles and yarn, a kid-appropriate cookbook and small kitchen tools, etc.

      Alternatively, how about giving them something small to play with on Christmas itself and something nice that will be meaningful to them later in life (like giving each of them a nice Christmas ornament for their own collection when they grow up)?

      How would your sister take it if you had a frank conversation with her about the problem? She sounds kind of exhausting.

    9. Temperance*

      No books?! WTF?

      Okay, the clothes thing is also obnoxious. My mother used to make my sister and I matching outfits, and it was damn embarrassing.

      Not knowing your budget, or area, what about something like zoo tickets, or children’s theater tickets? I’m one of Those People and I generally stick to wooden toys, board games, clothes, and books for children.

    10. Pat Benetardis*

      I just got my niece and nephew winter hats that look like animals. They were adorable. I also have gotten little luggage, fun backpacks , etc

  54. fposte*

    Anybody moved from down to fiberfill? I have a down comforter and a down-filled mattress pad, plus a few down pillows. I don’t care about the pillows and am not sure about the mattress pad, but I *love* my comforter. But I am sick and tired of cleaning up the half-a-goose’s worth of stuff that seems to collect under the bed and in the corners and am wondering if I can love a fiberfill comforter and forgo rooting out the gosling family on a regular basis. Can anybody shed some light?

    Ironically, though I have year-round allergies they don’t seem to be to down or dust mites.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I got rid of my feather pillows for allergy reasons. I got some inexpensive pillows from JC Penney that I am VERY happy with. I think I kept the other pillows too long anyway.

    2. Jules the First*

      I think you need a better (or a new) down comforter. Mine doesn’t shed at all.

      However, my guest quilt is a bamboo filling which is meant to approximate the experience of sleeping with down for those (like most of my house guests) who have down allergies and I sometimes use it when I’m ill because it’s easier to clean than down. I got mine from Ikea, but ymmv.

      1. fposte*

        Huh, that’s interesting. It never occurred to me that you can have non-shedding down. I might try some isolation experiments to see if I can pin it down (ha!) to the comforter, pillows, or mattress top.

        The bamboo sounds really nice, too; I’ll look into that.