weekend free-for-all – January 27-28, 2018

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: Tepper Isn’t Going Out, by Calvin Trillin. You wouldn’t think a novel about parking would hold your interest, but it’s Calvin Trillin and so you would be wrong.

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

{ 1,619 comments… read them below }

  1. Kristie*

    Hello! 2 questions about food:
    1.My husband and I are trying to save money by cooking more at home. What are your favorite dishes to make that are simple but delicious? I am also interested in hearing about meals that can be good for reheating later (bringing leftovers for lunch, etc).
    2.Breakfasts that keep you satisfied for a while…it’s go go go for me at work and I need something in the morning that will keep me full for a while. PS I already know about hard boiled eggs and I eat them a lot.

    1. paul*

      Chili. It gets fun when you branch out into stuff other than standard chili meat. We used leftover green chili pulled pork to make a batch this week and it turned out really neat. Got some heat to it which is a plus.

    2. nep*

      Do you eat quinoa? There are recipes for oats and quinoa together — it’s more filling than oats alone. And you get some morning protein.

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      Cook pasta, add red or green pasta and tuna fish, sprinkle on grated cheese – surprisingly filling.

      Frittata can be good – I don’t have a foolproof recipe but my one tip is to par boil or sauté anything you’re putting in as it won’t cook if it goes in the oven raw.

      1. OperaArt*

        For breakfast, I like overnight oats. There are Many recipes online.

        My version-the night before, layer in a small canning jar, add 1/2 cup steel cut oats, 1/2 cup almond milk, a handful of nuts (almond, walnuts, cashews…), some fruit (blueberries, raspberrie…), and something sweet (honey, brown sugar, real maple syrup…). Put the cover on, place the jar in the refrigerator, and eat the next morning. Yes, it’s eaten cold.

        Very portable, and nice to have waiting for me in the morning.
        Easy to adapt the measurements to metric.

        1. Raine*

          Seconding the overnight oats. I’m on a tight budget so I make mine with a 1/2 cup of rolled oats, 1 tablespoon of honey, a scoop of protein powder (bought from amazon, it’s something Delight and it say it’s chai flavored but it’s more like a french vanilla), a fruit cup worth of canned peaches or one chopped fresh peach, 1/4 cup yogurt (usually soy based), and then however much milk or nut milk it takes to saturate the oats. Close the jar, shake it up, and boom, peaches and cream oats in the morning that come with me to class all day.

    4. heckofabecca*

      If you like fish, pineapple maple-glazed salmon! It’s just salmon (or steelhead trout, or any substitute you prefer) with a very simple topping of crushed pineapple and maple syrup with minced garlic, mustard, and soy sauce. It’s VERY yummy—full recipe is online. I wouldn’t recommend heating it up in the office though ^^;

      Stir fry is also relatively easy, but a good-sized batch requires a large wok and quite a bit of time (between the chopping and the stirring). We’ll often make it Sunday night and it lasts for a good part of the week. A big batch of rice cooking simultaneously works wonders.

    5. Wrench Turner*

      Slow cooker just about anything. If you don’t have one, they’re not expensive and really make cooking easier. One thing my family does is take 1 gallon freezer bags and we’ll prep 7 or 8 different things, one meal in each. Then the night before we’ll defrost and dump in the cooker. For an afternoon’s prep you can eat for a month if you want. Chilis and stews are good, pork shoulder or chicken – and then just make rice or pasta when you get home. It’s really great.

      Another cheap option is homemade pizza. If you have a stand mixer (another must-have for my kitchen) you can make from-scratch pizza in about 30 minutes for a cost of $5 if you’re being fancy. The dough is super easy.

        1. All Hail Queen Sally*

          I would DIE without my slow cooker. I use it constantly–and I live alone. Great for making soups.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        My favorite slow cooker tip is that you can make baked potatoes in it! Clean the potatoes and stab them a few times with a fork, wrap them in foil, and stick them in the slow cooker on low for 8-10 hours.

        1. Fiennes*

          It’s also great for roasting a whole chicken with some veggies. The leftovers make an amazing soup the next day.

    6. Yetanotherjennifer*

      We like a simple Americanized Curry.
      1 lb chicken cut into bite sized pieces
      1 can coconut milk (we use full fat)
      1.5-2 bags frozen stir fry veggies
      1-2 Tbsp Thai Red Curry Paste
      1/4-1/2 tsp Better Than Bullion Chicken base (optional but adds depth)
      1-2 tsp curry powder
      salt & pepper

      Saute the chicken until cooked, add coconut milk, chicken base, curry paste and curry powder and mix. Add in veggies, cover and cook until done. You could add in some corn starch to thicken the broth if you’d like. Throw in some pineapple or mango…maybe some white or sweet potatoes…The amounts of curry paste and powder suit my family’s mild-medium taste buds. Serve with rice.

      1. Old Biddy*

        We do a variation on this. My husband loves cabbage so there’s usually cabbage, carrots, some frozen green beans and a potato or two.

    7. ExcelJedi*

      I get sick of leftovers pretty easily, so I go for elements I can mix & match during the week.
      For example, roasted veggies is always a good option. Cut them into pretty even sizes, toss them in olive oil & spiced (like premixed Italian spices with salt & pepper), then put them in the oven at 400*F for an hour while you relax. They reheat well and can go with multiple meats (marinated grilled chicken is easy).
      I also tend to get a London broil whenever it’s on sale and make that. Even though it’s just the 2 of us, my husband and I can go through 3-4 lbs by eating it multiple ways (on its own w/veggies, chopped in sandwiches with cheese, in salads, etc.).

    8. D.W.*

      I second chili. I make chili every Sunday and we love it! Also good are pualo rice dishes. I made some last night and threw in broccoli, peas, carrots, potatoes with spices and voila! It’s a great meal, filling, and you can eat with any type of protein of your choosing.

      Lentils (any color) are also wonderful. I saute aromatics, add sweet potatoes (opt.) cover with water/stock and simmer. Finish with spinach or kale, and cilantro.

      Make a batch of black bean burgers and freeze them. Suuper handy! They freeze wonderfully and you can do a quick cook in a pan with a small amount of oil.

    9. Joie De Vivre*

      Foodnetwork has a recipe for salsa verde tacos. Really easy slow cooker recipe. And, the meat freezes well. But probably too messy for a work lunch.

    10. HannahS*

      Oh, the breakfast dilemma! For a long time, I had a late start in the morning and access to a dishwasher, so I had scrambled eggs and toast, and sometimes fruit, too. That would hold me well past lunchtime. Now I have an earlier start, no dishwasher, and a roach problem (so I don’t want to leave dishes, but I also don’t want to wash much early in the morning), so I broke down and bought plain, unflavoured whey protein powder (I got mine at Bulk Barn, if you happen to live in Canada). Now my breakfasts are toast and a smoothie. A smoothie alone barely gets me to noon, but with buttered toast I find I’m good until about 1 or 2.
      Other things: toast with cottage cheese, avocado toast–when I eat those, I tend to save my protein smoothie until about 10 or 11, and that’s also great.

      1. Nines*

        Good ideas! I need more cottage cheese in my life. I always really like it when I have it but never think to buy it. It’s going on the list!

    11. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Here’s another family favorite. Its an old recipe from my husband’s side of the family and is very adaptable to your tastes and what you have available. I don’t have a recipe so I’m guessing on the amounts.:

      Hamburger Gravy
      Saute 1 small chopped onion in oil. Add 1 lb ground beef to brown and sprinkle over about 1/4-1/3 cup flour when it’s almost done. Mix in and add some fat if necessary to make a roux. The ground beef we get is at most 85% lean so I usually don’t need to. Cook until beef is fully browned and roux is cooked. Slowly add 2 cups water or beef stock while stirring. If you’re using something like Better Than Bullion, I use a little less than the full amount. Cook until thickened. I like to season with Worchester sauce and some spices like sage and thyme, garlic if I have some. Add more water if you prefer a thinner gravy. Add milk or cream if you’d like. Serve over potatoes.

      Use same concept for chicken gravy. It’s a great way to use up that last little bit of a rotisserie chicken. Serve over potatoes, egg noodles or waffles.

      1. Anion*

        I do this!

        I also do a variation of it that I got from an old “Scottish Recipes” cookbook, which is basically what you have but without the roux and with steel-cut oatmeal (the oatmeal soaks up the beef stock) and some minced onion browned with the beef. It sounds weird but it’s really good. (It’s about 4oz oatmeal to every 1 1/3 cup stock.)

        (I also do basically what you’ve described above, slop it over some soft thick bread, serve it with fries, and call it “lazy hamburgers.” :-))

        And I just remembered I was supposed to post my beef barley soup recipe–I had the flu the weekend after Christmas and it totally slipped my mind, ugh! Next weekend. I’m sorry!

    12. Thlayli*

      We cook large meals and freeze and reheat. Some of or favourites are: spaghetti bolognese, fish pie, all sorts of stir fry in sauce, stews/casseroles etc. Basically anything in a sauce you can freeze if the meat/potatoes are cut up small enough. You can also freeze masked potato.

    13. Almost Violet Miller*

      1. Fast and delicious: I like salads made with lentils or chickpeas. I just fry some onions, bacon/smoked ham and carrots and add the chickpeas from a can. Makes a great dinner and can reheat it at work for lunch the next day. Also works cold.

    14. Flying Fish*

      I like Alton Brown’s Red Beans And rice. Easy to make in a batch, cheap, warms up well in the office.

    15. kittymommy*

      Chili, taco soup, white beans with ham and chorizo. I make batches and freeze them to reheat at work or home.
      For breakfast I like baked oatmeal and different types of egg casseroles (sausage, bacon, chorizo, cheese, etc).

    16. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Last one. The name comes from how I feel when I make it: because it’s made up of those little bits that are too small for anything else, it always feels like I’m getting a free meal.

      Free Soup
      Find a single-batch-sized freezer-safe container and store it in the freezer. I use a 4 cup container and it feeds 2 adults and a teenager well. Collect all the tiny leftovers that are too small to be served again. There’s the obvious like cooked veggies, bits of meat, rice, pasta etc, but I’m pretty liberal about what I save and I don’t worry too much about sauces and seasonings. It usually turns out OK. Since you’re storing it all in the freezer, it will wait until you’ve got enough to make soup. When the container is full, put the contents in a pot and add stock. I use 3 cups. I determine my stock flavor and other seasonings based on what seems most predominant in this batch. Most meats will go either way, or you could always stick with a vegetable stock to be safe. Sometimes I add tomato paste. I also like to save the water from drained tomatoes in a separate container to use as broth. I use a soup/stew seasoning blend for spices. This is all reheating so once it boils it’s done. Serve with bread.

    17. Belle*

      We like to make meatloaf, chicken and rice casserole, pot roast and other dump and go meals. Some can be done in the slow cooker or just throw in the oven and let it go. I tend to go for simple but reheatable since it is just two of us.

      1. Die Forelle (The Trout)*

        I was also going to recommend Budget Bytes! Just this week I had the Soy Marinated Tofu Bowls with Spicy Peanut Sauce and Italian Sausage and White Bean Skillet for dinners. Both served two with at least one meal’s worth of leftovers.

      2. BeautifulVoid*

        Yes, I love Budget Bytes! This week I made the chicken with artichokes and tomatoes, and we had it leftover one night (probably could have stretched it out to two if we really wanted). I think the original recipe was done in a skillet on the stove, but then she added an oven version which I prefer because I’m more comfortable with sticking a casserole dish in the oven and going off to do other things as opposed to babysitting a skillet over open flame.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I somehow thought it was just a cookbook and am so glad youve all alerted me to it also being a blog!

    18. Parenthetically*

      Breakfast: omelette muffins or just a fritatta cut into portions, with whatever meat, cheese, veggies, etc. you like — make it on Sunday night, eat throughout the week. Two omelette muffins with a pumpkin almond butter muffin is super high in protein and good fats, which are critical for high performance all morning, IMO.

      https://detoxinista.com/pumpkin-spice-muffins-grain-free/

      Simple dinners that reheat well: basic ingredients (meat, veg, starch), goosed up with potent flavor boosters, like harissa (rub chicken with harissa and roast with veggies of your choice, serve with pita), curry paste (beef, red curry paste, coconut milk, and veggies simmered until done and served with rice), green salsa or chili verde (simmer pork with sauce, shred up some cabbage, serve with corn tortillas and taco fixins), grilling spice mixes or sauces (spread on meat and broil or grill, serve with quinoa salad). Mix and match. This type of cooking is the simplest, IMO, for folks without a lot of experience cooking! Building blocks put together in different ways.

      http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/quinoa-salad-recipe0-1946649

    19. Middle School Teacher*

      I also like budget bytes, and I would add the damn delicious blog for good ideas too. They’re usually pretty economical and don’t call for weird ingredients you might not be able to find easily.

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        I’m also a big fan of smoothies for breakfast. It’s my resolution to have more fruit this year, but I find I don’t eat it fast enough, so I make smoothie packs in ziplocks and store them in the freezer. Then I just pull one out and blitz it with some almond milk or orange juice. (Plus I just discovered frozen avocado, and it’s so good in smoothies!) I put them in 500ml mason jars, which makes them really portable.

    20. Emma*

      Not all of these are necessarily SUPER easy to make. But if you want to put a tiny bit of effort into food that reheats well these are my go-to choices that I’ve built up over years of trying to not eat out/save more money:

      https://minimalistbaker.com/1-pot-chickpea-shakshuka/
      https://www.budgetbytes.com/2013/05/italian-wonderpot/
      https://ohmyveggies.com/one-pot-pasta-primavera/
      http://www.closetcooking.com/2009/06/thai-pineapple-fried-rice.html
      https://cooknourishbliss.com/2014/03/07/vegetarian-farro-sloppy-joes/
      http://www.closetcooking.com/2010/03/moroccan-roasted-carrot-and-chickpea.html
      http://www.closetcooking.com/2014/10/pesto-zucchini-and-corn-quinoa-salad.html
      https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/roasted-cauliflower-orzo-salad/

      Budget Bytes and Closet Cooking are two of my favorite places to go for recipes– Budget Bytes recently started a meal prep series, too! The recipes I shared are basically all vegetarian just because I happen to be mostly vegetarian. But… when it comes to dishes that don’t have meat I don’t mind them being in the fridge as leftovers for a couple more days, which is part of my strategy for not getting burnt out on the same meal over and over again.

    21. Liz*

      Fruit porridge is great for breakfast. Bowl, oats, milk and blueberries (or kiwis or apples or….), put in the microwave for ~1:00 and enjoy! If you don’t mind prep, 1/4 grapefruit is remarkably nice, but it needs peeling and slicing so I can’t in good faith recommend it.

      For a dinner, Cheat’s Vegetable Pie. Buy a sheet of puff pastry, cut in half. (1/2 sheet will make one pie). Add defrosted frozen veg, sunflower seeds and cheese in a pile in the middle. Roll the pastry over the pile and seal, skewer with a fork and bake on a low heat for about 45 minutes.

      Final tip: metal kebab skewers make baked potatoes cook faster and more evenly!

    22. Grace Carrow*

      For breakfast, I batch cook pancakes and freeze them. you can make them with or without blueberries, diced apple (+cinnamon), banana slices.
      Recipe is equal volumes of:Cottage cheese, egg (or egg whites), oat flakes. plus 1tsp baking powder.
      Blend it all together until smooth.
      Pour a big spoonful into each pan you are using (I cook 5 at a time on all my burners) spread with back of spoon and cook on medium heat until all the bubbles have popped, then flip over and cook other side briefly.
      From frozen they take about 1 minute in the microwave.

      The other thing I do is batch cook a kind of fritata but using paper muffin cups inside a muffin tin. Basic recipe is 1 part cottage cheese to 2 parts egg (by volume). beat the eggs then stir in the cottage cheese so the curds are still distinct, then stir in 1 part grated cheese and 2 parts cooked vegetable of your choice (spinach, mushroom, halved cherry tomatoes(raw), asparagus etc etc) fill the muffin cups with this mix and bake on a medium heat until risen and puffy. They keep well in the fridge, if you freeze them they taste fine but will probably split when thawed and drip a watery “juice”.

      I use the cottage cheese tub to measure the other ingredients

    23. Lily Evans*

      I made this recipe: http://alexandracooks.com/2016/01/22/two-lentil-dal/ to bring in for lunch this week, accompanied by rice, and it’s great. It reheats well and is filling.

      Soup is also one of my go-to choices. I love anything tomato and bean based, like ribollita. Split pea soup is also great because making a giant batch is cheap and peas have a lot of protein (plus you can add ham if you’re not vegetarian).

      My last easy go-to is to buy pre-made Indian curry simmer sauce and cook it with tofu (can be swapped for chicken) and peas, served over rice.

    24. Aealias*

      Breakfast: I like to make muffins using mostly ground nuts instead of flour. Grind up a couple of different kinds of nuts in the food processor. Use fruit juice for moisture, an egg to bind , dried fruit and maybe sesame seeds and oats for texture. Don’t skimp on baking powder and baking soda. Lots of nuts are oily, so I don’t add more than a tablespoon or so of margarine. Bake in big batches, and freeze!

      The protein of the nuts is long-term filling, and my body accepts the oats as mandatory-breakfast-grain. Also, no refined sugar, so I call it healthy!

    25. Shoe*

      Here’s one of my standards that is extremely cheap, easy, healthy, vegan, gluten-free, reheatable, freezable, and filling:

      1 onion, chopped
      3 cloves garlic, minced
      oil for sauteeing
      2 teaspoons curry powder (or to taste)
      2 teaspoons garam masala (or to taste)
      1 teaspoon ground ginger
      1 teaspoon cumin
      1 teaspoon salt
      1 pound cubed butternut squash (I buy frozen for convenience–but you could use a small fresh one)
      1 large can diced tomatoes
      2 15 ounce cans chickpeas
      1 can light coconut milk

      In a large-ish pot, saute the onion and garlic in oil until soft. Stir in the spices for 20-30 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook about 20 minutes or until everything is soft (especially if you are using fresh squash). Serve over cooked rice, or just eat plain if you are watching your carbs/calories.

    26. Irene Adler*

      If you have a freezer you can prepare chicken recipes (like thighs or breasts) and then divide into single serve portions using freezer ziploc bags or single serve tupperware. Be sure to use freezer bags and double bag. Might write what they are on the outside of the bag.
      I also bake casseroles which can be divided into single serve tupperware and frozen.

      Then freeze all.
      Draw single bag and thaw for meal. The tupperware can be brought to work for lunch.

      I usually wait for chicken or beef to go on sale and purchase a whole bunch. Then I spend a day cooking four or five different recipes and freezing all away for my meals. I can have a different meal each day of the week.

    27. Turtlewings*

      Breakfast: I get the Belvita breakfast biscuits. They’re super quick, easy, non-messy (I usually eat breakfast in the car) and tasy (lots of flavors). The box promises 4 hours hunger-free and that really is just about right.

      My super-easy dinner favorite is Mexicorn Casserole.

      1 can of mexicorn (regular corn will really take the oomph out of the dish, do not recommend)
      1 can cream-of-chicken soup
      1 package of yellow rice
      1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese

      Cook the rice (the hardest part imo). Mix with soup and corn. Put in casserole dish. Put layer of cheese on top. Bake. (I can’t remember the specifics of that, probably something like 30 minutes on 350?) Simple enough for EVEN ME to cook, and I could eat it all day!

    28. Grad Student*

      2. I’m impatient in the morning, but either of these work well for me:
      – quick oats + dollop of peanut butter (+ raisins, maple syrup or other sugar, maybe cinnamon, flaxseed meal, other fruit or nuts if you have them–but it’s the oats + PB that make it really filling)
      – avocado toast (put bread in toaster; while that’s going open your avocado in half and squeeze lime juice and salt on each half. Optionally, put the half with pit in a tupperware in the fridge to use tomorrow. Use a fork to mash the avocado+lime juice+salt around in the avocado skin, then turn it out onto the toast when it’s done and spread it around. Delicious and definitely not the reason this millenial hasn’t bought real estate).

      1. Another Grad Student*

        I make avocado toast, too! I reccommend buying the minced garlic in a jar, and adding a little of the juice to the avocado mix.

    29. Erin*

      Whole chicken it takes approx 1 hour in the oven, but add potatoes, carrots and onions some bread and another side and it’s a great meal with easy prep. And you can use the left over chicken in pasta or another dish. It’s

    30. Kathenus*

      Shepherd’s pie – brown ground beef, and put in a glass casserole dish. Add a jar of brown gravy and a can of mixed vegetables (or use frozen) – I also add a bit of Worcestershire sauce. Take one of the heat and eat containers of mashed potatoes and heat it in it’s container. Use a spatula to spread the mashed potatoes on top of the meat/gravy/vegetables, sprinkle on a bit of shredded cheese on top if you’d like – this can also give it a bit of a crispy top. Bake uncovered at 300-350 until hot. Can also use chicken and chicken gravy – it’s a good option for that leftover rotisserie chicken meat.

    31. A Non E. Mouse*

      Soups in the crock pot are great, especially since I can throw everything in on a Sunday morning, then Sunday evening dish up into lunch-sized portions for the week. They are also great for freezing, so you could set aside one or two portions each week in the freezer to give yourself variety later in the month.

      Another super easy lunch are homemade Chipotle-type bowls. Make the rice, beans and other protein of your choice, portion out into lunch containers, slap on lids. I usually reheat and then sprinkle on some cheese when I get to my desk (we have a fridge I literally keep shredded cheese in at work, but you could also just take a portion-sized amount with you each day).

      Baked potatoes with taco meat on them are DELICIOUS and you could make a pound of taco meat, freeze into portions, then just nuke a potato to take into work and reheat.

      Breakfast my favorite thing to do is make breakfast burrito filling, then just decide day-of if it’s going to be a burrito or just a bowl of breakfast goodness. Crumble and brown a roll of breakfast sausage (we like the hot flavored kind!), set aside. Then in the same pan cook a bag of breakfast potatoes. I usually then portion out the potatoes into containers, and when the pan is clear, scramble/cook 6 eggs in there. Then portion out the eggs, and the sausage, on top of the potatoes. Reheat, add some cheese and/or salsa, I’ve had people follow me to my desk from the microwave to find out what I’m eating because it smells SO good. Clean up is just one pan. Woohoo! This is usually 4 or 5 portions, depending on if I’m eating them or my husband is without a wrap – if you are using a wrap you can eek out 6 portions. I’m sure it’s supposed to be like 8 or something but dang it’s too good for that!

      The best part about the burrito-mix is that I can also add veggies – an additional green pepper and half a white onion thrown in with the potatoes while they are cooking adds a ton of flavor and bonus! More veggies! Jalapenos are good too but they can REALLY vary the heat from day to day, so only if you actually really truly like them.

    32. Slartibartfast*

      Batch cooking is my friend. When I make lasagna, instead of one large cake pan, I make 2 small ones. Bake one, freeze the other. Slow cooker, 3-4 lbs pork loin when it goes on sale, cut up in 3 inch cubes and a large bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce makes several nights worth of heat and eat pulled pork, I serve usually with cole slaw. A good barbecue fix when it’s cold outside. Chicken breast with your favorite salsa, or I use some broth and a can of chipotles en adobo, makes batches of shredded chicken for tacos, enchiladas, burritos. You can layer ingredients for things like enchiladas or cabbage rolls and bake them lasagna style for the same taste with less work. Any sort of dried beans cook up nicely in the slow cooker on low without having to presoak them. I also do a lot of half homemade stuff, those packages of dry soup make great starters. Add fresh broccoli to a cheddar potato, for example. Or add lentils to minestrone. Frozen bread, I set a loaf up to defrost and the hubs throws it in the oven when I leave work, since it’s often unpredictable when I’ll actually get to leave. Root vegetables roast nicely in the crock pot, you don’t have to limit it to soups and stews. I usually use a roasting bag for those, otherwise clean up can be a pain.

    33. 14 years*

      Rice. You can make a bunch at a time, it lasts a while, it’s cheap and you can add it to anything as a filler

      1. IT Squirrel*

        I would urge caution with this – rice can make you very very sick if not stored correctly once cooked, and not reheated thoroughly. Cool it quickly, get it in the fridge, and if you can’t eat it with 24 hours, get the leftovers into the freezer as soon as possible.

        1. Peggy*

          Wait really? I make rice then eat the leftovers for a straight week. I’m close to 40 and never knew that could make you sick!

          1. dragonzflame*

            Yup, really. It’s why pregnant women are advised not to eat sushi – everyone thinks it’s the fish, but it’s actually the rice. All that moisture and starch is a great breeding ground for pathogens. That said, if you cool it fast, store it in the fridge and heat it really well you should be ok.

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          I thought this was the case too. People keep telling me otherwise but I don’t trust them.

        3. Parenthetically*

          It freezes SO well. Put it in one-cup portions in ziplock bags, press flat and seal. Then reheat in the microwave. I read in some foodie magazine interview years ago that Masaharu Morimoto freezes rice to use later and I figure if it’s good enough for an Iron Chef it’s good enough for me.

    34. Stormy*

      I have completely quit morning carbs, and it is the only thing that has fixed my roller-coaster morning hangries. I also quit insisting on designated “breakfast foods” and found meal planning to be much easier. Now I might have an egg-white omelette with spinach and tomato, or I may reheat some leftover pork chops.

      1. anonagain*

        “I also quit insisting on designated “breakfast foods” and found meal planning to be much easier.”

        When I used to cook, I also found this very helpful. I often ate leftovers for breakfast, which helped me use up what I cooked and still have enough variety in my menu to avoid boredom. It also saved time in the morning.

        Dinner food is quite filling, which might help in this case. I really like leftover lasagna for breakfast. I know that weirds some people out though!

    35. buttercup*

      My first advice is to cut the meat. I’m not vegetarian, but I rarely buy/cook meat – the few times I do, I notice how much higher my grocery bill is.

      I like making a lot of vegetable soups – red bean chili with vegetables, minestrone with pasta, split pea soup with roast potatoes are all very filling.

    36. Triple Anon*

      Baked burritos! Fill tortillas with rice, cheese – anything you want, wrap them, drip some oil on them, and bake them in the oven. Then you have premade nutritious meals that are easy to reheat.

    37. Keener*

      My favourite for hearty, easy morning of breakfasts is baked oatmeal. I tend to make 3 trays at a time cut into individual servings, wrap and freeze. Each morning I I just grab one from the freezer and microwave at work.

      Ingredients
      · 2 1/2 cups milk
      · 2 1/4 cups old fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)
      · 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
      · 1 teaspoon baking powder
      · 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans (optional). I often use non toasted walnuts
      · 1/3 cup maple syrup.
      · 2 large eggs
      · 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      · *frozen berries or chopped fruit (optional)
      · *Cinnamon (optional)

      Instructions
      1. Heat your oven to 350F and butter a 9X13″ (or similarly sized) baking dish.
      2. In bowl combine the oats, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and pecans (if using). Whisk in the eggs, maple syrup, vanilla and milk. Scrape into the prepared baking dish. Add frozen berries/chopped fruit. Bake until golden and set, about 40-45 minutes.

    38. AnonEMoose*

      My husband and I often volunteer at our local Renaissance Festival during its run. Which means some horribly early mornings and a need for a filling breakfast to keep us going for those first few hours. What I often do is make up breakfast wraps in advance. There’s a bunch of different ways you could vary it, but here’s what I do:

      Scramble 6-8 eggs (plan basically 1 egg per wrap). I add diced ham, but you could use cooked and crumbled sausage, cooked and crumbled bacon, or pretty much whatever else. You could also add veggies of your choice (mushrooms, broccoli, bell peppers, hot peppers…whatever you like). I get the thin-sliced cheese and put one slice on each tortilla.

      Then I add the cooked and mostly-cooled egg mixture down the center of each tortilla (make sure the tortillas will wrap). I put plastic wrap around each one to make sure it stays wrapped. Put as many as you want into freezer bags and freeze. I put a bag in the fridge to thaw the night before, unwrap and heat for about a minute each in the microwave, and eat. Nicely filling, and easy to eat in the car.

      I also do a chicken and rice casserole (you can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts; chicken thighs (bones are fine, but remove the skin); pork chops (boneless or not); even the turkey breast tenderloins work will.

      Take a roasting pan with a cover, spray with cooking spray of choice. Add the meat in the bottom – amount can vary with number of people and size of pan. I use 8 chicken thighs, or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, or 4 pork chops. Chop one onion and spread over meat. Add minced garlic to taste.

      I add 1 can of drained sliced mushrooms and 1 can of green beans (drained). But you could as easily use broccoli (fresh or frozen), or pretty much whatever.

      I add 3 cups rice and 1/2 cup wild rice (again, this can vary with the number of people and size of pan – the important thing is to get the liquid to grain ratio right. Twice as much liquid as regular rice, 3 times as much liquid as wild rice. So for this size batch, you want 7 1/2 cups of liquid.)

      Then I add 1 can cream of mushroom soup (cream of chicken or cream of celery would also work). Some chopped celery would also add some nice flavor. I add a generous sprinkle of seasoned salt, a generous portion of poultry seasoning, and some Italian herb blend.

      Then add the liquids. I like to use a combination of chicken broth and milk (about 4 cups chicken broth and 3 1/2 cups milk – again, this depends on the amount of rice being used). Bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, or until the meat is cooked and the rice has absorbed the liquid.

      Reheats well, and if you run out of meat, the rice is tasty; some cheese on the top makes for a nice lunch.

    39. The Other Dawn*

      Baked oatmeal. Very filling and great for breakfast, can be frozen and makes a lot usually. And there are lots of options. Try going to the Budget Bytes website and searching baked oatmeal.

    40. MommaCat*

      My husband will periodically make a big soup pot of really meaty spaghetti sauce, then we’ll divide it into 2 or 3 serving size portions and freeze it all. Then you have homemade spaghetti sauce all year long! The initial cost can be a bit steep, though.

    41. DanaScully*

      We tend to cook meals intended for four people and we take the leftovers to work for lunch the next day. One of our favourites is a chicken and chorizo jambalaya. It is delicious, and so easy:
      https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1167651/chicken-and-chorizo-jambalaya

      For breakfast, what about overnight oats? We do oats in a small glass jar, a splash of milk, a small yoghurt and frozen mixed berries. Shake to mix and leave in the fridge overnight. Best eaten chilled.

    42. Peggy*

      here’s something I have been enjoying lately:
      sweet apple chicken sausage (I pull it out of the casing to crumble and cook with olive oil, sautéed onion shallot and garlic, toasted pecans, and dried cranberries, salt pepper and some red pepper flakes.) There are a lot of ways to serve it. Last time I tossed the sausage mixture with roasted Brussels sprouts and roasted butternut squash and brown rice, then served over arugula that was just dressed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.

      There are lots of flavors of the chicken sausage at my grocery store so I’ve been experimenting with other combinations of sausage and veggies and spices. This is so good for meal prep because it tastes good for a few days and you can bulk up 2-4 sausages with veggies and rice and stretch it for a while.

    43. Lindsay J*

      For #2: I made a giant pancake in my Instapot a couple days ago and it was several meals worth of food.

      It can be made in a regular rice cooker as well.

      2 C flour
      1/2 C Ricotta
      1 C water, plus a little more
      2 eggs
      3 tbsp sugar
      3 tsp baking powder
      1 tsp salt
      1 tbsp vanilla flavoring (optional and to taste)
      1 tbsp cinnamon (optional and to taste)
      Cooking oil, Crisco, etc

      1. Mix all ingredients together in large mixing bowl until smooth. If batter seems dry or lumps persist, slowly add a little bit of water at a time until it becomes smooth and shiny.

      2. Grease the bottom of the pot with Crisco or whatever you have.

      3. Pour batter into pot.

      4. Put lid on pot. Put into rice-cooker mode and choose multi-grain option (Should show 40 minutes cook time). Set pressure to low.

      5. Let cook.

      6. Carefully extract from pot.

      7. Serve with butter, maple syrup, fruit, confectionery sugar, or whatever you fancy.

      When you go to take it out, the top is going to look pale and not that appealing, but it should be spongy. The bottom (which will be the top when you take it out) should be golden brown.

      I adapted this from several Instapot giant pancake recipes online, including one from Delish. Mostly because I didn’t have any milk but did have ricotta I wanted to try and use in this, and because it sounded/tasted really bland without additional sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.

  2. Ramona Flowers*

    What the fork will I do without my weekly fix of The Good Place? There’s only one episode left in this series!

    (Nobody spoil this week for people who haven’t seen it or I’ll have to show you my moral quandary grimace.)

    1. heckofabecca*

      Oh no! :c I just watched the latest episode… Definitely going to miss it!!

      Relatedly, I just started a philosophy course, and when the professor started talking about Aristotle and Plato, I couldn’t help but giggle. “Who died and left Aristotle in charge of ethics??” // “Plato!”

      1. Claire (Scotland)*

        :D I teach philosophy to high school students and I’ve got most of my current class watching The Good Place. They love getting to count Netflix as homework!

    2. Undine*

      Ah! This is a question I wanted to ask. I tried he first episode or two o the Good Place & didn’t like it at all. Does it get better? What happens that makes it so funny — I don’t mean plotise, but how does it change in tone?

      1. Vicky Austin*

        I loved it from episode 1 and I don’t think there were any drastic changes that would turn someone who hated it into someone who liked it. I suspect it just isn’t for you.

      2. Delphine*

        Yeah, if it’s not something you immediately found intriguing, I don’t think you’ll change your mind. The tone really doesn’t shift.

      3. teclatrans*

        Oh, my experience was very different. I was pretty skeptical the first couple of episodes. I am pretty sure it took me to 3 or 4 before I was hooked. At two episodes in, you can’t know this, but there is so much depth. At first, I though the snarky, manipulative, mean Eleanor was the voice of the show, and felt like Selfie had done it better.
        But then the plot twists start piling up (and they pay off, unlike in Lost where they just stay piled up), and you discover amazing depths. And this show has so much heart, and is so thoughtful.

      4. PieInTheBlueSky*

        From what I can remember, my impression of the show after the first episode or two was that the humor sometimes felt contrived, like they were trying too hard to be quirky or whimsical. I did like it enough to keep watching, and I’m glad I did. I don’t know if it’s the tone that’s changed, or me, or if the show has just settled in to its plot, but it doesn’t feel contrived anymore. It’s one of the few shows on TV I watch now.

    3. kittymommy*

      Wait, what?? The series is over, not just the season??? Noooooooo…….

      I am not prepared for this information, I’m going back to bed.

        1. Someone else*

          I believe Ramona Flowers is in the UK where “series”= US “season”. IE one ep left in series/season 2. (hence “this series” not “the series”)

        2. Lady Jay*

          Oh, whew. I’ve loved The Good Place and was very bummed to read “series finale”! But of course, I also love Firefly, so I’m used to loving shows that don’t produce nearly enough episodes. :)

    4. ContentWrangler*

      Have you done Brooklyn 99 yet? The same creator as The Good Place works on Brooklyn 99. Obviously not similar plots or even themes but I feel like Michael Schur’s humor and amazing character development are recognizable in both.

      When my boyfriend and I finished The Good Place we moved on to binging Brooklyn 99. Now we’re caught up on both as it’s terrible waiting!

      1. chocolate tort*

        Agreed, I think they all have a similar vibe somehow. Both of them crack me up at least once per episode, and overall they’re optimistic (even The Good Place, considering!). Brooklyn 99 does a great job of having different characters interact with each other, which creates a lot of cool dynamics. And they both have awesome, diverse, talented casts!

        1. Nicole*

          I recommend giving it a second chance simply because I was very underwhelmed by the show at first as well and almost stopped watching altogether. Even now when I watch the first couple of episodes I don’t enjoy them nearly as much as I do the later ones. It has grown into one of my favorite shows, though!

          1. teclatrans*

            Agreed! The first couple of episodes I just kept watching because of my love for Kristin Bell and Ted Danson, but then it becomes so much more.

            And FWIW, my husband and I have both tried to love Brooklyn 99, and we have both failed. (I am still trying!) I don’t think they are anything alike. I think I am just An Old and don’t get humor based on making the viewer uncomfortable.

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          I love The Good Place. I kinda liked B99 for a bit. Don’t let it put you off The Good Place as it’s SO much better!

    5. Cristina in England*

      I’m right there with you. I hate waiting! I love Ted Danson. And D’Arcy Carden (Janet). And everyone.

    6. ThatGirl*

      I love The Good Place so much, and so does my husband, who is eternally grateful I made him watch it. I don’t know how the fork this season will end.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Aaaugh, I hate when I finish a series and have to wait. I did get caught up on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, so I was able to watch last night’s episode in real time.

      1. Someone else*

        All the seasons of The Good Place have been 13 episodes (and were planned as such). This season the first two aired back to back on the same night, and some websites incorrectly labeled that whole hour as episode 1 (instead of 1+2), and thus all subsequent numbering on said sites was off by one. So that may be why you thought there were two to go.

  3. First time buyer*

    I’m looking to buy my first house (in the UK, that makes a difference) has anyone got any advice or things they wish they’d knew when buying a place? I’ve looked at a few places but I’m feeling really unsure about the whole thing, a mortgage seems like such a big commitment and I’m freaked out by it!

    1. Wrench Turner*

      Flush every toilet, turn on every sink, flip every switch. If you have a small thing you can plug quick and easy in like a cellphone charger, test every outlet. Every. Single. One.

      1. Todd Chrisley Knows Best*

        Also, if it’s an older home, I might bring something that pulls a little more than a cell phone charger, if possible. I only learned about my faulty wiring with a space heater and phone charger plugged into one outlet. Oh, and test the hot water heater.

      2. Cristina in England*

        Don’t do that on your first or even second visit. Save it for after you’ve had an offer accepted (you can make a conditional offer that says you’ll only buy after everything such as electrical services have been tested). I mean, how are you going to test every outlet if their toaster and kettle are plugged in? Bedside lights? Wiring in the UK is nowhere near as dodgy as in the US (said as an American in the U.K.). There are much tighter regulations here.

        1. Wrench Turner*

          When we bought our house we only had 1 visit before we made the offer – which triggered the official inspection as part of the paperwork process. Where I live the market is too hot for houses to get multiple visits before they go and my budget was too tight to wait. Cheers to dodgy American wiring. Commercial real estate isn’t much better!

    2. Merci Dee*

      If it makes you feel better, I understand that combination of excitement and disquiet around home ownership. Once I signed the closing papers, I spent several days swinging between the two extremes. I’d grin wildly like I’d just won the lottery: “I bought a house!”. Then, immediately, the implications of a 30-year mortgage would hit me, along with a little nausea: “Oh, sh*t… I bought a freaking house.”

    3. Todd Chrisley Knows Best*

      A solid real estate agent goes a long way. Mine was utter crap and I have so many regrets. Also, choose your own inspector, not one your realtor recommends. Mine was also utter crap. Good luck!!

      1. Marzipan*

        I don’t completely understand what a realtor is but I think UK homebuying is a bit different. Here, a property is listed with an estate agent (occasionally more than one) and you contact whichever agent it’s on with to view/make offers, but the agent is basically working for and paid by the vendor, not the purchaser.

        1. ThatGirl*

          In the US both the buyer and seller have their own agents who work together to hammer out details and do the arranging of things.

          1. IT Squirrel*

            I think this is where our solicitors come in. The Estate Agent advises on pricing, lists the house, matches buyers with properties, conducts viewings etc – and in my case as I’m selling a house I don’t live in, holds a key and lets tradesmen in to do surveys etc so I don’t have to be there.
            Once we’ve agreed a sale the Estate Agent pretty much takes a back seat, each party gets a solicitor and they hammer out the details and paperwork.

            1. Scattol*

              In Canada as a buyer you can get an agent. His main contribution is guiding you to suitable area aND properties and helps you pricing your offer. He is you negotiator.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      My partner and I realized this from the beginning, but I’ve seen lots of people who learned it the hard way: prioritize saving over improving the house, including furniture. We still have some of our college furniture 20 years later, although it’s mostly in storage areas now, as we’ve replaced it in the main living areas with nicer stuff very gradually. And we didn’t make any big improvements until we had saved the money to pay for them, or when rates were really low, until we knew we had the income to comfortably pay them off in a few years. In the early years we did a lot of the work ourselves, too, learning as we went.

      So make sure to save enough to replace a furnace or fix a major leak and all the water damage that comes from it, or consider paying for good insurance/home warranty. We now have paid off our mortgage early and have done a bunch of projects, too, and have no debt except one 0% loan we chose to take instead of paying cash. This means we’re much less at risk for having one huge repair or breakdown cause us financial hardship, and to me that’s the kind of security that takes priority over taking nice vacations or having nicer things.

      I’m not saying you should agree, but you should consider now how safe you want to play it, or if you’re OK gambling on not having any big financial setbacks.

    5. tab*

      The thing that surprised me about buying my first house was how much money I spent afterwards just to maintain and furnish it. Make sure that the purchase doesn’t eat up all your available cash. You’ll likely want furniture, cleaning equipment, window treatments, paint, etc. If you’ll have a yard you’ll spend money on garden tools and a lawn mower. It’s still worth it, but make sure you have the money, or generous family and friends.

      1. Lindsay J*

        This. And even if you aren’t planning on purchasing furniture or painting, the small things you didn’t realize you needed or wanted add up quick.

        We brought with us pretty much all the furniture we needed from our apartments, etc. But there were a bunch of small things here or there that added up immensely. Towel racks. A shelf here. A shelf there. A hook here. A hook there. A paper towel holder. New hardware on this cabinet. Something to store stuff in the bathroom as there wasn’t any under sink space. Curtains. Blinds.

        And repairs. We didn’t even have any huge ones. (No roof issues, nothing structural, not the heat, A/C, hot water heater, wiring, piping). But it adds up quickly when you’re used to just calling up the landlord and having them take care of it for free.

    6. AnnaleighUK*

      As you’re in the UK make sure you check and double check and then check again the rules and conditions of freehold/leasehold. You could get caught out in a bad, bad way.

      1. First time buyer*

        I saw an article on Facebook recently about someone who’s house was leasehold I was shocked as I’d never heard of houses nor being freehold.

        The terms of the lease meant the ground rent doubled every 10 years, meaning by the end of the lease it would be over £40,000 (that’s not a typo !!!) someone made an offer to buy it but the banks wouldn’t approve the mortgage.

        1. AnnaleighUK*

          Yeah I saw that too! We’ve just bought a flat with a cafe underneath it and we own the whole lot, but we were worried for a while because the rest of the buildings on the parade were leasehold so I think we lucked out there!

      2. LPUK*

        If you are in the UK you usually have the right to buy the leasehold. My house was leasehold from new, but when I bought it from the builder I was able to pay 10 times the annual lease cost and obtain the freehold. As i’ve been here 17 years now, it’s been a pretty good deal for me

    7. Caledonia*

      I used a mortgage broker for the first time and this really helped me as they do all the sums for you. (Although they also upsell you stuff so watch that)
      Things I wish I knew- urban foxes exist, bin collections, parking, where the gas/electric meters are, is the seller leaving any appliances.

      Also, in Scotland anyway, once your offer has been accepted you can’t see it again until completion

        1. caledonia*

          I don’t know but that’s the way it is…maybe something to do with the legal part of it all?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Can you make a copy before handing it over?

        Probably they don’t let you see it again so you can’t alter it.

        1. IT Squirrel*

          I assumed Caledonia meant you can’t see the house again until completion! An offer is often made verbally and confirmed in writing by the estate agent after so there’s nothing to ‘hand over’ as such.

    8. Akcipitrokulo*

      Get full survey. I know it’s expensive, but worth it.

      Get the electrics checked out. Found out precious owner liked to think of himself as a handyman when leak from upstairs didn’t blow fuse and kitchen wall was literally sparking…

      1. only acting normal*

        +a billion
        A FULL survey, not just a homebuyers report (definitely on anything older than maybe 20yrs).

    9. Lcsa99*

      You’re gonna end up spending about 4x more than you think for closing costs, furniture and fixing stuff up after you close, so add that to your budget and make sure you can still have wiggle room so you’re not too stressed about your budget when its all said and done.

      (This one was true here in ny, not sure about there) It’s gonna take at least twice (if not 3x) as long as you think to find a place you like that is still acceptable after the inspection, so keep that in mind if you have to factor in your current lease or selling your current home.

    10. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Oops, my first comment was a bit more philosophical than immediately helpful, wasn’t it? :)

      DO NOT skip the home inspection no matter how badly you want the house! I don’t know if it’s the same over there, but in the US, in hot real estate markets where buyers have to compete with each other, some buyers will try to waive the home inspection to speed up the closing and entice the seller into accepting their offer. However, by doing that they are potentially putting themselves on the hook for unexpected repairs in the 5 or even 6-digit range!

      Sorry for all the exclamation points, but it is a bit like my other comment — don’t drive without a seat belt. Just because you’re very likely to be OK doesn’t mean you should put yourself at such a substantial risk.

      1. Liz in a Library*

        After spending the price of my hone over again in major repairs within less than a decade (stuff that should have been caught in inspection), I now recommend friends pay for two separate inspections from different companies.

    11. Lcsa99*

      Also, don’t let anyone push you, including your own attorney or real estate agent, and be prepared for some really scary people. We still talk about “Grandma Shark,” a real estate agent we ran into.

      Don’t let yourself become too discouraged when things get frustrating.

      And take your time. Don’t settle, cause the right place WILL come along.

    12. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      Don’t buy a house that you’re not fundamentally happy with. All these tv shows of people buying with the intent to redesign the inside – they bought the wrong house. Make sure you get a good home inspector to look for problems – may not change your mind, but you want to know going in. Don’t fall into the trap of you don’t like the wall color, furniture, etc – those don’t matter right now. You’re worried about layout, size, condition, location, etc. Make sure you have a healthy savings buffer to cover initial costs and ongoing maintenance.

    13. misspiggy*

      Expect estate agents to be lying; verify everything in person, in legal documents or by survey.

      Chase and chase your solicitors to exchange contracts, they often drag their feet at this stage. Be wary of solicitors offering a low fixed fee – they are more likely to be slow and sloppy, and to push you to take out stupid indemnity policies, and can insist to your mortgage company that they’re needed.

    14. Jules the First*

      Stamp duty. It sucks and the bill will be bigger than you expect it to be (unless you’re lucky enough to land somewhere that falls below the threshold).

      Also, get a good mortgage broker – mine found me great options at banks I never would have thought to check, including the option I picked, and she charged a mere £200. Simply having her to listen while I waffled through all the options was worth every penny.

      If this is your first house, don’t rule out help to buy or shared ownership, but look at the terms carefully – they often ding you if you take longer than the minimum term to pay back the help.

      In house hunting specifically, open and close doors and windows and cabinets, turn lights on and off, flush toilets, ask when the boiler was last done, ask about the neighbours, ask about the bills. Look at how much natural light you get; check walls for damp (put your hand on the wall about six inches up and see how cold/clammy it feels); ask about rising damp and flooding (if ground floor or detached); ask about building management and service charges if it’s a block of flats or semi-detached.

      1. First time buyer*

        I’m lucky not to have to worry about stamp duty, first time buyers are exempt for properties up to £300,000 and my budgets is about a third of that.

        I’m not liking the idea of shared ownership, but haven’t heard of help to buy, I’ll check that out.

    15. London Calling*

      Open every cupboard and built in wardrobe to see how big they are. Also, +1 to turning on taps and checking water pressure. Check how old the central heating boiler is. Those babies are not cheap to replace, ask me how I know that.

      If it’s a new build house check whether or not it’s freehold or leasehold, and if the latter, I’d advise that you don’t touch it with a bargepole.

      If you see a property you like check it out a different times of day. Is there a pub nearby that could become noisy at chucking out time? is your road used as a rat-run by commuter traffic? what’s the parking like? what will you commute be like and how long?

      Use checkmystreet.co.uk for local knowledge.

      Remember that the estate agent is working for the vendor, not you.

      1. Bagpuss*

        The estate agent working for the seller is important to remember.
        Don’t use a mortgage advisor at/tied to the agents. See an independent adviser and get your agreement in principle first. The agents can, quite properly, ask for prof that you are proceedable, but you can then get your mortgage lender to write a letter to confirm that you have an agreement in principle for [amount you are offering]. If you use one tied to the agent they will then know what your max. price is,which makes it harder to negotiate.
        Similarly, be cautious about using the conveyancers recommended by the agents, especially if they are pushy about it. Some solicitors / conveyancers pay referral fees to the agents, so the agents may have a financial interest in pushing you one way. (ask. Not all solicitors pay referral fees and agents may make recommendations because they know that a particular firm or individual is good, but shop around and get the solicitor who is best for you.)
        Be wary of ‘free conveyancing’ offers through your mortgage lender. These schemes pay rock bottom amounts so normally the companies which sign up will be of the ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ variety. (My firm was approached to sign up. At the time the mortgage companies would pay conveyancers about £125 to do the work they were offering their customers as ‘free’ conveyancing. The only way any firm can afford that is f they are having the work done by unqualified, low paid employees with high case loads. It’s worth paying for a proper service.

        Don’t trust the agents. They work for the seller and they don’t have a lot of accountability. If the agent or the seller promises you anything, get it confirmed via your solicitor (things like anything they are leaving taking / including in the sale etc)

        If you are moving from rented accommodation, don’ give notice until you have exchanged contracts – nothing is certain until then and you cannot be sure of your moving date until you complete. This may mean that you have a short overlap when you have both mortgage and rent, but that’s better than being homeless because you’ve given notice on your tenancy and the purchase falls through or the dates change. Plus if you do have an overlap it can be useful – you can get any immediate work you need done, do any painting etc and move stuff in gradually, much less stressful than doing it all on one day.

        When you find a place you want to make an offer on, consider getting a friend or family member to do a second viewing with you, ideally someone who has owned a house. Ask that person to specifically look for, and tell you about, any issues they see. It can be really useful to have someone who isn’t as excited as you are and a second pair of eyes is always handy.

        Redecorating is easy, so try not to be too influences by liking / not liking the colour schemes etc. Look out for houses where there are small areas / one room only with fresh paint – it could be covering up damp or another problem. And if the house is advertised as recently refurbished its worth looking on zoopla and rightmove to see whether it was bought recently, and if so, what for and what has been changed – check you aren’t paying over the odds for cosmetic work someone has done to ‘flip’ the property; you may be better off buying at a lower price and doing/ paying for any work yourself, so you aren’t paying for someone else to make a profit. (plus you get to decorate to your taste, not someone else’s)

        If you are using a LISA or Help to Buy ISA make sure that you (and your conveyancers) fully understand the rules about how and when you can claim the government bonuses.

        Good luck.

    16. First time buyer*

      I also had a another question, when I’ve spoken to a couple of mortgage brokers they want three months bank statements along with payslips.

      I can understand needing to prove my income but I think having to hand over my bank statements is incredibly invasive, there’s nothing much to see on them but I don’t like the idea at all. Does anyone else have any thoughts about it?

      1. Natalie*

        I guess I didn’t really think much of it, but I had to do the same thing. I’m not totally sure what they’re looking for, but in the US at least a lot of this stuff is regulated and they may not have a choice in what they ask for. It’s presumably regulated in the UK as well.

        1. First time buyer*

          From what I’m told after the crash in 2008 lenders have been forced to look at the affordability of the loan which means looking deeper into people’s finances I can understand the reasoning but still don’t like it.

          There looking to get a picture of what your out goings are like and what other financial commitments are.

      2. caledonia*

        Suck it up and do it.

        Like, I get it, it’s not very fun to have someone look at you spend ££ on holidays, takeaways and whatever else but they want to get a sense of what you can realistically afford. How else are they going to do that without your bank statements…?

        Related tip – either PDF your statements or have paper ones to hand.

        1. First time buyer*

          I’ll hand them over but I’m not happy about it. I get the banks need to assess affordability but my wage slips should be enough to show how much of my wages will be left after marking the mortgage payment and that will be plenty to live on.

          I’ve saved a decent deposit and the loan is secured against the house so the banks can’t lose money even if I don’t pay them back, I just irritated by the envision of my privacy, but it is what it is.

          1. Natalie*

            I get what you’re saying but it’s not necessarily true that someone’s wage slips show you they have enough money – what if they spend ridiculously or overdraw constantly? I suspect they are also looking for evidence of other issues, such as gambling, unexplained/potentially dodgy revenue sources*, unreported debt, and so forth.

            It’s pretty typical to have your finances combed through anytime you are attempting to borrow a significant amount of money. I’m not sure one can argue it’s an invasion of privacy when it’s both voluntary (no one has to purchase real property, after all) and directly related to the matter of the loan.

            *Again not sure if this is true in the UK, but in the US I had to substantiate where all of my down payment was coming from partially to prove that I wasn’t laundering money or concealing a loan from a relative. It’s common here for parents to give their children no-interest loans for a downpayment, but if you don’t report that on your mortgage paperwork it’s actually a felony.

            1. AnnaleighUK*

              Basically this – it doesn’t matter how much you earn, your monthly outgoings are more important. For instance I’ve got car insurance, car finance, pet insurance, health insurance, mobile phone, house utilities etc, so the bank needed to see what I was spending before they okayed the mortgage for our place. They did the same with R’s finances too. It’s a standard thing – even if you are buying something on finance, they need to check you can actually afford what the new outgoing is. I had the same checks done when I bought my car. It’s pretty standard.

          2. Bagpuss*

            There are also issues relating to anti money-laundering and proceeds of crime laws. Since the laws are written so that professionals such as lawyers and mortgage advisers can face criminal charges if something turns out to have been dodgy and they failed to make reasonable checks and report anything suspicious, they will err on the side of caution.
            When you get that far, your solicitor / conveyancer will also ask you for proof by way of bank statements etc to show where your deposit is from.

          3. Hildegard Vonbingen*

            Income minus mortgage payment is not the whole story. They’re looking for your fixed debt, first of all. Things like student loan debt payments, credit card payments, child support payments, car payments, insurance payments, phone bills, and other debt that you’re pretty much stuck with (who these days can get by without a phone?). That varies a lot by individual.

            They’re also looking for your spending habits, and whether they’re funded by cash flow or debt. If you’re someone with a growing pile of credit card debt on which you make the minimum payment, that’s not a good thing. If you’re someone who doesn’t save a dime and goes on one or more expensive vacations each year, depleting your funds almost completely, that doesn’t look good either.

            They want to know if you’re likely to default on the mortgage loan and whether they’ll have to foreclose, a process that costs them money. All of the above issues are a factor in making that determination. OK, maybe YOU know that you have little or no outstanding debt, spend within your means, and save money. Not everyone’s in that boat. So it’s standard practice to check these things out. And I don’t blame lenders one bit for this. In fact, I’m glad they do it. Foreclosures are bad news for all involved.

            1. First time buyer*

              But a credit report would show my other monthly credit commitments without needing so much detail.

              1. NeverNicky*

                But it isn’t just credit commitments – some commitments (eg insurance, child support, gym memberships, PAYG/contract free phone) won’t show on a credit report.

      3. Mirth & Merry*

        I don’t know how applicable this is for the UK vs US, but one reason is to see where your down payment/closing costs are coming from. Oh you’ve been saving for years, great! hmmm, a random 5K deposit from out of nowhere, is that a “loan” from a friend/family member you are trying to hide. And it isn’t necessarily a problem to receive cash, the giver just usually has to sign something saying, this is truly a gift, not a loan and they aren’t paying me back.

      4. Merci Dee*

        The mortgage broker is typically looking for a pattern in your spending; basically, they want to make sure you’re not overdrawing your account every other week. They don’t care if you’re eating every meal at restaurants or buying cases of condoms from the local sex store. They just want to ensure that you’re handling your account responsibly over time and that you’re not going to default on your loan in six months. It costs much, much more to take the property back from you than it costs to initially sell it to you.

    17. Grace Carrow*

      Use your own surveyor, not the mortgage company’s. Their surveyor works for them and really only is looking to see that the loan size is appropriate for the property and that there are no glaringly obvious price-affecting issues. Your surveyor works for you and can do a fuller inspection. If you upgrade the lender’s survey then the surveyor’s duty is to tell the lender everything they find. Which can mean that problems you can fix or live with get brought to the lender’s attention and may reduce the amount they are willing to lend, or they put a condition on the mortgage that the faults have to be put right within say 6 months.

      Windows! ask me how I know this. Metal 1920s windows look really cool on the outside of a building but they are likely to not quite close, especially if painted over several times. They are draughty, and rattley, and the 1920s glass is thinner so they lose more heat. They do look pretty cool though. I pretend I’m in a Poirot episode.

      Wooden sash windows – google what dry rot fruiting bodies look like and if you see any of them growing out of the wood, run, (don’t walk) away. 2 other ways to spot it are that the wood cracks across the grain, and it has a weird distinctive smell – a bit like how corked wine smells if you take away the alcohol fumes. Don’t touch a property where it is present.

      On a related matter, if you have any chemical sensitivities, beware of properties that were treated for damp or rot in the 1980s. The chemicals they used then are now banned and their toxicity is frightening. If the property has been treated in the past, the paperwork should be with the seller and you should ask for it. Google Lindane to see if you would be happy living with it.

      Beware of surveyors lying to you. In our first house the hall had its original wooden floor boards, the 2 layers of 1930s and 1950s linoleum, then some 1970s newspaper, then a carpet nailed down every 4 inches round the edge. Our survey told us they had discovered wet and dry rot in the hall floorboards, even though the carpet fixings had not been disturbed, and offered us a discounted price to get it treated by their sister company. The floorboards were fine.

    18. Irene Adler*

      Do you know how to care for a house? Might take a class or find literature on-line on how to do this. Not suggesting that you have to DO the maintenance, but you should know what’s involved and have go-to vendors like plumber, HVAC, electrician, landscaper to call on when needed.
      DO you have someone who can evaluate the condition of the place you wish to buy? It’s one thing to check outlets and toilet function, but another to find out the condition of the house itself. Talking about a professional inspection by a contractor who has the knowledge of house construction.

      Is the siding in good shape? No rot or in need of a paint job?
      Is the roof is in need of minor repair or complete replacement? Can you add another roof on or will you be saddled with the extra expense of removing the old roof?

      How old is the electrical? Can it handle modern appliances? More than one on a circuit? Are you able to bear the cost of upgrading?

      IS there a basement? IS it watertight?
      Any mold issues?
      If the prior owners performed upgrades, were they done to code or to best practices? You don’t want to struggle with someone else’s mistakes. Are all the building permits in order?

      What is the age/condition of water heater, furnace, A/C , water pipes, septic system, etc? Will these be items you will need to fix/replace soon?
      Is the foundation solid and level? If there are cracks in the walls, or near doors & windows, might look into this aspect thoroughly. Any big trees located up against the house with roots that could damage the foundation? Are the carpets hiding anything?

      How well insulated is the house? Might ask to see a year’s worth of utility bills to get an idea of what costs are involved with that.

      Look into the history of the house. When was it built? Who built it? See, sometimes you learn that houses built in certain areas were put up hastily or on poor foundation because there was a huge demand. In San Diego there are houses built on sand during WWII that aren’t in good shape now. They also used substandard materials because that was all that was available. Have such things been remedied in the place you plan to purchase?

      Are there any now banned substances (like asbestos or lead paint) in the house? Will this cause you huge headaches when you want to paint the walls or replace the flooring or remove the ceiling finish (“popcorn” ceiling texture) ? You don’t want to have a home improvement project end up with the hazmat guys in your home scraping off the ceiling texture.

    19. Merci Dee*

      One other thing ….

      You’re going to find a house that’s absolutely wonderful, and that you totally love. Do… not…. be afraid to walk away from that house.

      I adored the house I found, and it was perfect in every way. But the home inspection identified a couple of issues with the pigtail for the power connection from the lines to the house. We informed the seller and requested that they repair it. Several days later, I got word from my agent that the problem had been resolved. I stopped by the property to check out the connection… and I was absolutely livid. Their idea of “resolving” the issue was to move the metal clips away from the power connection and paint the cable with black rubberized paint. And then, when they tried to replace the clips, they cut down through the sheathing and completely exposed the copper wires. Oh, hell no. My agent came out to view the damage, and she got on the phone with the seller’s agent and gave him hell for it. And I told her during her phone conversation (so the other agent could hear) that I would be walking away from the deal if it wasn’t repaired the week before closing. This was a major safety issue, and there was no way I was going to move my daughter into a house that could go up in flames like that. Thankfully, the situation was resolved, for real.

      Sure, it would mean starting from scratch to find a new house, make an offer, etc. But do what’s best for you, even if it means walking away. There will be another place out there you’ll love just as much.

      1. Natalie*

        Yes, this is so true. I did this twice before I bought the house I live in now, and nearly walked away from the house I did buy because the sellers tried to screw around with the repairs they had agreed to. Wouldn’t change a thing.

      2. Irene Adler*

        Excellent call on your part.
        It amazes me how sloppy and unsafe some people’s idea of repair can be. Good for you that you inspected the situation yourself and stood your ground.
        You are right; never fall in love with your choices. Be ready to walk away if need be. Don’t be a patsy.

    20. A Non E. Mouse*

      I think you are supposed to set aside 3 to 5% of your home’s value each year for maintenance – that is the average amount of yearly spend on maintenance, from what I remember.

      At any rate, I’d aim for being able to afford the mortgage, utilities, etc. *plus that 5%* as the total monthly you can afford.

      Some years we spend less than that, some years we spend a LOT more (the year of new windows, doors and siding was….stressful). But there is a near constant spend either urgently needed or on our radar. We set money aside each month for this purpose, and we’ve used every penny usually unplanned and in a hurry.

      An appliance gives out, a “simple” repair reveals something else that needs to be remedied, season-to-season landscape and yard maintenance needs that are never truly super expensive but a couple of hundred dollars makes a huge difference in the appearance of the place. My sister moved into her place a few years ago and within days a freak gust of wind caught her screen door, banged it against the house and shattered the glass! Anything can and will happen. You will need to have cash and credit on hand to deal with it.

      Aside from the money, owning a house is a lot of work. you’ll spend some time each month (if not week) doing something – tightening a screw, fixing a leaking toilet, etc.

    21. Florida*

      Do all the repairs before you move in. For example, if you want to paint the house, renovate anything, redo the floors, etc. Do all of that stuff before you move in. It is so much easier to do it when no one is living there. And renovations suck once you are living there.

    22. Stormy*

      Think about the property in all seasons. The beautiful snow-covered slopes we admired when buying in January turned into treacherous mowing hazards come July. I only have about ten more years before I will medically need to hire out lawn and snow maintenance.

    23. Marzipan*

      I guess a broad category of thing to think about is how much ability/tolerance you have for doing some level of renovation. You’ll definitely come across properties that offer great space and are temptingly bigger/better located/otherwise superior to the usual ones in your price range, but that need some level of work doing to them. It’s a good idea to have an honest think about whether you’re up for that.

      Personally, I can do any amount of painting of walls; and other decorative things like floor coverings and tiling fall within the ‘I can live with this for now and the work involved in sorting it when I’m ready can be done reasonably quickly’. But things that would involve weeks and weeks of having builders there make me stressed. (As does anything with scaffolding). Think about where you stand on that front before starting to seriously look at places.

      The other thing that will help you is to make a list of exactly what you need/want, and a second list of stuff you actually aren’t bothered about but other people might be. So, my must-have list was: two bedrooms, room for my books, room for a dining table, bathroom with a bath, walking distance or easy public transport from work, and preferably a kitchen that was separate from the living room. My ‘don’t care’ list included parking (don’t have a car), and central heating (my old flat didn’t have it so I knew I could get on quite happily without, but people mostly don’t think they can so properties without it tend to be significantly cheaper – meaning there’s the potential to add value later). The flat I ended up buying matched both lists, and was so cheap that people literally didn’t believe me when I told them how much I paid!

      Also – floorplans are great! Look at the floorplans! It’s always amazing to me how my colleagues don’t bother to look at them, but I think they’re such a useful source of information and can help you to see whether a property is a viable option for you. I often look at them and either see things that put me off, or things that pique my interest.

      Hope your search goes well!

    24. Bagpuss*

      Once you find a property, get a proper survey and gas & electrical inspections.
      I’d suggest you use a local solicitor, not a cheap online convyancing factory (they are basically call centres – they have rigid systems and while they are ok if the transaction is completely straightforward, they’re not good at all if there is anything even slightly non-standard.) Ask friends/family for recommendations.
      If you aren’t already a member, sign up on the Martin Lewis money saving website forums – there is a whole section about buying & selling houses and while of course there are some trolls, there are also a lot of really helpful and knowledgeable people.

    25. Anon Male Engineer*

      I know it is touched on in other comments, and my last experience was before 2008 when affordability assessments started, but I found that mortgage companies were always willing to lend FAR more than I could comfortably pay back. Make sure you have your budgeting done with plenty of slack for nasty shocks and surprises.

      1. Natalie*

        No, they still do. I got approved for a mortgage amount that would have been 50% of my takehome income, and it’s not like I was making a ton of money were someone could have easily lived on the remaining 50%. I was under the median income for my area.

    26. LPUK*

      Check the number of electric sockets and placement in each room. In older properties it’s not uncommon to have only a couple in bedrooms etc, and with the amount of electrical equipment and chargers the average household has, you end up using a LOT of extension sockets, which are not as safe. When I had my living room remodelled last year , I had a total of 14 sockets put in, and it’s still not really enough – two are behind a large piece of furniture so i’ve still got extension sockets!

    27. Lindsay J*

      Make sure you’re realistic about what you can, want to, and are going to do.

      We brought our house with a huge ugly deck in the backyard that we intended to renovate, ugly landscaping that I intended to redo, some places we wanted to paint, a fence that needed to be repaired, etc.

      We moved out a year later having done zero of those things. (Well, when we listed it we paid a contractor to redo the fence because we thought the old one was going to hinder the chance of a sale.)

      We just didn’t have time to tackle those projects. And when we did have time, we didn’t want to be sweating our asses off tearing apart a deck when we could be relaxing or doing literally anything else.

      I always thought I would like a fixer upper. I like doing hands-on stuff. But I found really I want my home to be pretty move-in ready. I don’t want to have to put in a ton of work to make it that way, and I also don’t want to have to be dealing with contractors and having my place torn up when I’m tired from working. My house is my sanctuary where I can retreat from having to deal with the rest of the world and do stuff and having a ton of to-dos right off the bat takes away from that feeling.

  4. TL -*

    I am really loving Australia but man, does Australia hate me. I’m covered in bug bites, gotten one nasty sunburn (with sunscreen! apparently I’ve forgotten how to apply it properly) and now I have an amazingly stubborn kidney infection.

    And I’m really grumpy because I want to be out enjoying things but I’m exhausted after going to the bathroom and wiped completely by walking half a block.

    Tell me your terrible travel tales, people! I need to know I’m not the only one irrationally hated by a country.

    1. Crylo Ren*

      When I was a teenager my mom was gifted the use of a beautiful, fully stocked and furnished 2-story mountainside cabin in Lake Tahoe for a week, so up we went. Everything was gorgeous and I wish I could have enjoyed it but I suffered from the worst headaches/nausea the entire time we were in the cabin. It was possibly a combo of the altitude plus the constant overpowering smell of the cedar cabin and surrounding pine trees, which I normally find pleasant but it was just so strong. I immediately felt better when we went down the mountain and I got fresh air – and then got sick again as soon as I spent an hour in the cabin. Trying to sleep was hell.

      To this day I’m still annoyed at my body for not letting me enjoy what should have been an amazing trip!

    2. KR*

      My husband did a deployment to Australia/South Pacific islands and he also burned so much, except he flat out didn’t put on sunscreen much to my annoyance.

    3. Red Reader*

      When I went to Versailles, I got body-checked by a Chinese tour group hard enough to pop the buckle on my belt, then shoved down and literally trampled over by 40 of them. None of the counter staff batted an eyelash or made any attempts to help me, and a lovely Australian woman finally started wading into them hitting them with her purse and yelling at them to try to get them to let me get up. I had footprint bruises all up and down my legs for a week.

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        I believe it. My last trip to Europe with students, we kept running into the same
        Chinese tour group. They were horrible: loud, aggressive, and violent. My kids complained a lot about how violent they were. They just shoved and threw elbows and the only thing that got them to back off was when we started shoving back.

    4. Natalie*

      Mine is also Versailles related. I went with a boyfriend about a decade ago when we were doing a summer work abroad in Ireland. For various reasons (program being less than promised + ludricrous Celtic Tiger housing costs + terrible US/Euro exchange rate), we were flat broke the entire time. But we got to take one weekend trip to Paris thanks to a gift from a kind relative.

      Versailles was our splurge, but we did not realize that they did not have any water available anywhere except the one bathroom (with the huge line). Oh, and it was July. After tromping around the grounds all day and walking from the main palace to the Gran and Petit Trianons (shuttles cost extra) we were ridiculously dehydrated. Like, I really can’t describe what peeing was like later except that we probably needed medical attention.

      At some point we did pay what we felt was a ludicrous 7 euro for 2 cups of orange juice squeezed from the oranges in the garden. As far as I’m concerned it was the best orange juice that has ever existed on earth.

      1. Lily Evans*

        I had the worst time at Versailles too! It started out with me taking the wrong train almost half an hour out of Paris, then waiting 20 minutes to backtrack and feeling like an idiot when I realized that not only do the trains to Versailles say Versailles, they’re also decorated like the palace inside (and full of other tourists). So it had started badly, then half the palace was apparently closed for renovation because it was the off season, so I’d paid full price for like 10 overly crowded rooms. I got lost for the first time walking down the wrong side of the canal for the Grand and Petit Trianon and realized after walking for a good 15 minutes, then had to double back. The woman in front of me at the onsite cafe ordered the last two vegetarian sandwiches, so I was stuck with the worst piece of pizza I’ve ever had in my life. Then I hiked over to where the Trianons actually were, figuring I could catch the shuttle back after. Only to realize that the shuttles were cash only and I had no euros left. And I had to use the bathroom the whole walk back, because the one at the Petit Trianon was out of order. I got lost for the second time, thinking a path I was on led back to the main gardens, only to end up at a trench and having to double back again before finally finding my way back to the palace and to the train station, where I almost started crying when the train was so full I didn’t get a seat. Fortunately an older woman took pity on me and moved her bag to offer me a seat, which I was so thankful for because my legs were shot.

    5. Cookie D'oh*

      I went to Spain with my parents and it was with a tour group. On person came down with a stomach bug. My mom got sick too. After the first leg of the flight back to the States I started to feel off. I just figured it was jet lag. I started to feel extremely nauseous while we were waiting on the last flight home. I thought I would be okay, but then during takeoff I lost it. That was the first and hopefully last time I’ll need to use one of those barf bags in the seat pocket. Luckily I was in the very last row of the plane. I was so embarrassed and felt awful for my fellow passengers. When I got home, my husband caught the same bug. Even worse we both came down with the regular flu shortly after the the stomach bug went away. Spain, I love you, but I’ll always remember that awful last flight home.

    6. Simone R*

      On a trip to England with a friend, she was so allergic to something in the country that he was totally miserable the entire time. Itchy eyes, couldn’t breathe through her nose. Allergy meds took it from the worst reaction I’ve ever seen to a moderate one but didn’t make it go away.

    7. JaffaButter*

      I spent a week in NYC and about a week before I flew there I had a bad bout of sciatica – I could barely walk and moving anything hurt. Undeterred I managed to get to NYC, forgetting that it is a city characterised by walking and subway stairs, and secretly thinking I’d make some kind of magical recovery while I was there. I could barely stand, let alone walk, and it’s safe to say it was the most miserable trip I’ve had in years. I ended up in the ER when my legs swelled on New Year’s Eve and it was the most comfortable few hours I had the entire trip :)

    8. Jules the First*

      My family jokes that spiders have a global vendetta against me – on three of my last four expensive vacations, I’ve been bitten by a spider early in the trip and ended up on steroids and an antibiotic drip for the resulting infection for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

      Lest you think trip number four proves we’re overreacting about the vendetta, I’ll point out that it’s very difficult to get a spider bite in Iceland in December…

    9. DrWombat*

      I was on vacation in Australia, and something I ate right before my flight back must’ve disagreed with me, because I spent most of the flight back to the US running to and from the bathroom once every hr, hr and a half or so (which when it’s a 17 hr flight, you have a window seat, and you don’t have any stomach meds….not so good). I admit to being on the short and stocky side, much like my online namesake. I was also wearing a dress and leggings for maximum travel comfort but it wasn’t maybe the most flattering for my figure.

      On one such run, I am waiting in line for the lavatory, trying desperately to calm my gut, and the woman seated nearest the bathroom looks pointedly at my stomach and tries to comfort me regarding how terrible morning sickness is and oh isn’t being pregnant terrible etc etc. Being very much not pregnant and rather mortified someone would assume I was (I was only 23 and so not ready for kids) I tried several times to interrupt her, to no avail until finally I said (a bit louder than anticipated, while trying to keep stomach under control). “Not. Pregnant. Overweight and I have food poisoning. Please. Stop.” I was so mortified I wanted to sink through the floor. She didn’t make any more comments after that.

      That flight was also fun because on the way back I got pulled over at customs when the drug sniffing dog alerted on the licorice in my carryon, and the 6 hr layover turned into 12 hrs due to flight delays. But the woman loudly assuming she could commiserate regarding what she thought was going on with me was the worst bit. I laugh about the fact that the licorice alerted the sniffer dog, but that woman’s comments had me mortified for ages after.

      1. Lindsay J*

        My boyfriend got sick just prior to takeoff on our trip from the US to New Zealand. He said he was feeling so ill he contemplated having them return to the gate and deboard him before take-off, but he decided he didn’t want to lose all the non-refundable stuff on the trip he had already paid for.

        He was going back and forth to the bathroom the whole trip, and barely got any sleep. It was awful for him.

        You have my sympathy.

    10. Earthwalker*

      There’s a lovely and remarkably reasonable hotel tucked away among jungle trees a block from the beach in Cairns, where a terrific hotel manager fixed us up with an excellent snorkeling trip to Great Barrier Reef. The only problem was the flying foxes. Oh, cool, we thought, we can see real flying foxes! But the excitement wore out when all night long they chittered and bickered remarkably loudly over the fruit in the trees above our room. As soon as one of us would finally drop off – BAM! – they dropped some sizeable fruit that hit the hotel’s metal roof with the sound of a gun going off. My husband turned on the air conditioner hoping the white noise hum would help but neither it nor earplugs could make a dent in all the ruckus. We still had a great time but we’ve never forgotten those two nights.

    11. This Daydreamer*

      When my sister was a broke college student, a friend of hers offered to pay for a flight out to San Francisco, where he would show her the sights. Cool, free trip!

      Everything went well until it was time to come home. You see, we had a huge snow storm here in Virginia, which rarely happens. She ended up stranded in Dallas for three days with a maxed out credit card. The hotel at the airport wouldn’t take Dad’s card by phone unless he faxed over some stuff. Well, there was a three foot snowfall in between him and any fax machine. Yay for four-star accommodations on a linoleum floor and a purse for a pillow. Meanwhile, Mom had driven up to Washington to meet her flight and was stranded up there, with my sister’s luggage. Funny how the suitcases made it when the passenger didn’t.

      Mom finally left when the roads were clear. She didn’t see any point in staying any longer because it had started snowing again and all of the flights on the board were cancelled. Almost all of the flights. About half an hour after she called to say she was coming home, my sister called to say she finally had a flight home. This was before cell phones so there was no way to tell Mom. I called Dad and he drove up to Dulles to meet her flight. He was completely baffled when I insisted on going with him – hey, it had been me, three cats, a snow shovel, and The Weather Channel for three days. I would have been up for a trip to the dentist.

      We got to Dulles just a few minutes before the flight landed at midnight. There were people sleeping everywhere and mountains of luggage. All that was missing was a Red Cross tent to complete the disaster look. My sister was overjoyed at the concept of a bed and a change of clothes.

      TL,DR: Beware free vacations, even when they come from friends.

    12. Athena*

      Aussie here. Don’t worry, it’s nothing personal. Our country has it out for locals, too. I’m also presently covered in mosquito bites and some mysterious scratches, and I spent last night battling huntsman spiders who came into my room (read: “screaming for someone else to deal with them while I panicked”). No kidney infection, though. Sending good vibes your way for a swift recovery there.

    13. Elizabeth West*

      Not a country, but this one time, a serious boyfriend and I went to see my parents for Thanksgiving. We stayed in a motel and had dinner at my brother’s in-laws’ house. Something I ate beforehand, or a germ of some kind, I know not from where, had infested me. I was fine during dinner, but not too long afterward, I began to feel ill. We went back to the motel and I spent the entire night throwing up. My poor bf got NO sleep. Nobody else got sick.

      The next day, we went to my mum’s and I spent the whole day lying on the sofa alternately watching Space Jam and sleeping. I managed to keep some soda down on the way home the following day (and saw a very cute kitty riding with its owner in a pickup truck at the gas station, aww). But it wasn’t until we got home that I was able to eat and felt anything like normal again. It was the worst road trip I’ve ever taken.

    14. TL -*

      Thanks everybody! Y’all made me laugh and feel a lot better. (some of that is probably the new antibiotics but I feel much less awful about wasting time being sick….there’s so much to do!)

    15. Marzipan*

      I once came down with the flu *on the way to Paris*. Literally on the Eurostar. I was fine when we left, I started to feel rough on the train, by the time we got to the hotel all I could do was lie in bed. For the entire long weekend we were there, all I could do was go from one park bench to the next. I couldn’t go indoors, I felt too hot and horrible. By the time I got home I had such bad earache I was literally lying on the sofa in tears for days and both my eardrums burst. It was really unpleasant!

      1. Lujessmin*

        On a flight home from Buffalo (Sis and I went to Niagara Falls), the same Chinese tour group was on our flight. As soon as the flight was called, they rushed the gate (but the gate agents made them sit down until it was their turn). Once on the plane, they screamed at each other all over the plane. One screamed right in my ear until I screamed right back at him.

        Coming home from Ireland, I had a severe case of the Irish Plague. My head was so stuffy I couldn’t breathe and my ears popped almost continuously. I’m still surprised my sister didn’t end up sick as well.

    16. Jo*

      I’m apparently allergic to Dubai. Every time I spend more than a 12 hour layover there I break out in hives on a random part of my body. The time I was evacuated there for a week the hives appeared a day after I arrived and covered half my face. Only half, mind you, so half my face was red and puffy and the other was fine. Because that totally makes sense as something that would happen…

    17. Rachel Paterson*

      I went on a cruise over Christmas 2016. It was lovely! Apart from running out of sunscreen on an island with no shops, and getting sunstroke and 2nd degree sunburn on my legs in New Caledonia. At a beach that nobody informed us was swarming with bluebottle jellyfish. Luckily, I wasn’t stung, but people around us were screaming and wailing in pain. Then we got back to the ship, put on as much aftersun as we could and took a nap, started to head to dinner but I felt queasy on the way down, then all but collapsed in the dining room, crying about how horribly bad I felt. They wheeled me to the sickbay, gave me a saline and painkiller IV, and I thanked my lucky stars for travel insurance. Went out the next day wrapped in beach towels. I was not missing the turtles, no matter how burned I was! So, not a disaster, but a definite damper!

    18. Lindsay J*

      Back from New Zealand this week. I got a terrible sunburn while I was there as well. A bunch of people made comments about the sun being harsher there.

      I went to Montreal a couple years ago while I had a terrible sinus infection. I sniffed and sneezed and coughed the whole time, had searing pain in my ears on the plane, and threw up in the parking lot of La Ronde, and again in my hotel. We ate our meals at Subway and fast food places because I couldn’t taste anything anyway (and I hate Subway even when I’m in the US).

      I’ve also had several trips derailed by migraines. Nothing like being excited to be on vacation, only to find yourself unable to open your eyes or be around anything that vaguely has a scent without intense pain and the need to vomit.

    19. Lindsay J*

      Oh, also, I went to Germany a couple years ago.

      My last day, I had a flight out of Amsterdam (the taxes on that flight were much less than if I departed from Germany), and so was going to take a train from Cologne to Amsterdam the night before.

      My train was at like 2AM. I’m not sure if this was because it was the only train, or because the ticket was cheaper, or what – I just don’t remember anymore.

      But in my infinite wisdom I was like, “Oh, well I’ll just save on costs by not having a hotel that night. It doesn’t make sense to pay for something I’ll only use for like half the night. I’ll just hang out in the train station until it’s time to go.”

      This was a poor idea.

      I figured I would hang out in a fast food place or coffee shop or similar until closer to my time to leave, but they all closed way earlier than they do in the USA.

      I was thinking the train station would be like an airport. Lots of people around. Plenty of seating. Rest rooms. Heat. Etc.

      Nope.

      There were restrooms, but you had to pay a couple euros to access them.

      There wasn’t heat. It was cold. I was bundled up to walk around all day and was fine then, but sitting still for a long time makes you way colder than if you were active. I was cold.

      There was not plenty of seating. I decided to sit on the ground with my back up against the wall or a sign or something like that. I got yelled at by a cop and so had to stand and wait for seating to open up once more trains had left.

      I eventually found a seat eventually, where I was surrounded by homeless people. They were nice enough. I shared my giant bottle of soda I was toting around with them. When one of the woman began negotiating the sexual favors she was willing to perform for a different types/amounts of alcohol, I became uncomfortable and left.

      I walked around for awhile and eventually found some other seating. Sat down.

      A guy, maybe my age, maybe younger, comes up to me. He looked to be a backpacker that had been staying in hostels. I’m guarded, but willing to make conversation.

      He hits on me and makes sexual comments. Almost immediately.

      I tell him I’m not interested and he needs to leave me alone.

      He does not.

      I tell him again to leave me alone.

      He does not.

      I tell him to fuck off.

      He does not.

      I raise my voice and tell him to fuck off again, hoping that if I make a scene one of the couple dozen people in the immediate area will intervene and tell him to leave me alone, or that he will be ashamed enough to do so.

      Nobody intervenes. He smirks at me and goes, “Why are you yelling? I just want to talk to you and get to know you?”

      I tell him I do not want to get to know him.

      I get up and walk away. I look for the cops that yelled at me for sitting on the ground before. They are nowhere to be found. I go back to sitting by the homeless people. I see backpacker dude pass by a couple times. I don’t think he notices me. If he does he doesn’t react.

      A couple hours later I see a female cop and tell her what happened. She pretty much just gives me a “what do you want me to do about it,” attitude.

      Also, a lot of the areas smelled like piss. I’m guessing because some people could not afford the couple Euro cost, but still needed to pee.

      Overall it was an unpleasant experience and I know next time I will just get a hotel, or at least research more before deciding that just hanging out in the train station for hours on end will be just fine.

    20. Mbarr*

      Oh man, I looooove travel horror stories – mainly because they’re hilarious after the fact! Here we go:
      – I had to travel from Montreal to Toronto by plane for a business conference. That day I came down with a virus or food poisoning, I couldn’t keep anything in my system, but I had no choice, the conference couldn’t happen without me. On the plane, I suddenly realized I was going to barf or pass out. I started walking to the washroom, but the room was getting dark, and I was grabbing the backs of seats to keep my balance. Suddenly I woke up on the floor – I had passed out. (I realize after the fact, I was probably grabbing people’s heads and not the backs of the seats.) I had to assure the staff that it was just a bit of food poisoning and no, I didn’t need an ambulance.
      – During a solo backpacking trip to Eastern Europe, I picked up a bug or food poisoning on my last day in Budapest. I spent the night vomiting all over the hostel’s washroom. Then, the next day I had an 8 hour train ride to Prague. I managed to puke on the train (in between cars – some lady beat me to the washroom and I couldn’t aim into the garbage can properly). In my defense, I tried finding a staff member to clean up, but gave up. I spent 4 days in Prague doing nothing but eating crackers and bananas. Luckily this was during the Iceland volcano eruption, so I didn’t have to share my hostel room with anyone else.
      – Most recently I was in the Philippines for a business trip. Despite taking lots of care, I managed to get food poisoning (we think it was from some ice cubes in some lemonade). I puked before leaving for the office, but it made me feel better, so I thought I was good to go. Alas no. 20 minutes of being in the office, I got sick again, puked all over the washroom (I also had diarrhea, and felt one mess would be easier for the cleaning staff to deal with than the other). My coworkers called for a private car to take me back to the hotel, but the trip from the 36th floor down to the car park was the longest of my life. I was caught between wanting to puke and wanting to pass out the entire trip. I had to stop at the Security desk and ask for a chair, cause I didn’t think I’d make it. I spent 15 minutes giving myself a peptalk, “C’mon, it’s only 40 feet to the car. You can do it!” I spent the rest of the weekend recuperating. My coworkers also got sick. Luckily I recuperated enough to try the Filipino delicacy, balut, before I left (Google it, I dare you :D).
      – Also… Squatting toilets in China. I have many stories. But I’ll just leave you with this one… I once misaimed when going #2. I tried scooping things into the hole, but gave up and left the scene of the crime…

    21. ThursdaysGeek*

      This happened to my mother-in-law and brother-in-law. They were going from Washington state to a funeral for a cousin fairly far north in Alberta. They called us from a town not very far into Alberta. They were stuck. The car had quit working, and it was a weekend, so they had to wait until Monday before something opened up and they could get it fixed. Which was ok, because the road ahead was closed with snow and they wouldn’t be able to get through anyway. And even if the car worked, they wouldn’t be able to come home, because a landslide had closed the road behind them. They’d had a several hour detour while still in WA because of a dust storm. And all that wouldn’t be so bad, but there was a power outage in the town and they’d checked into a cold motel room with a candle and no TV, and had futilely walked around the cold town looking for a place to buy a cup of hot coffee or some food.

      But hey, they didn’t get sick!

  5. The Commoner*

    I wish for a better way to tell people to not criticize me for being down lately.

    We had to put our oldest dog to sleep yesterday. She had been sick for a long time……and we are heartbroken. This with having a parent ail and pass within the last year, along with a college friend and an online friend.

    Is it impolite to answer people truthfully when they ask how I’m doing? I’m grieving. Death and suffering is a constant reminder. I’d rather hear about their experiences, pleasant or goofy.

    1. Wrench Turner*

      I’m so sorry about your family, furry or otherwise. It’s never easy. Ever. It’s okay to say “Going through a rough spell, but I’d rather not talk about it. How are you? How’s your family?”

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      Depends. In a previous aam “How are you?” casually was translated as “I akcnowledge you, Fellow Human!”

      If it’s that level, then “Oh, yiu know… how’s things with you?” is fine.

      If it’s more personal, go with how you read situation at time and how much you want to get into it.

    3. Natalie*

      To a certain extent, it depends on who you’re talking to. The grocery cashier is basically saying hello, so probably say “I’m okay” at worst to them. But your friends and family and neighbors that actually know and care about you likely do want to know how you’re actually doing! So go ahead and say your not doing great.

      1. Grad Student*

        This is basically what I do! For strangers/relative strangers who I don’t think want a real answer, my response varies between “good” (or “well”) and “okay”–no further to either extreme. For people I have more of a relationship with, I don’t think about politeness as much as I think about “this person cares about me, and I am sad, so I will say so.”

        And like Wrench Turner said, you don’t have to get into it–could be “honestly, not well; I’m grieving some losses and at this point talking about it more doesn’t help. But what’s going on with you?”

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          A Lush sales assistant once asked me how I was in an excessively peppy voice when I was having a terrible day. I burst into tears. A couple of them gave me a free hand massage and told me a made up story about ninjas who throw rotten face masks at people. It was awesome.

          The Commoner, I’m sorry for your losses and your grief.

      2. Lindsay J*

        My go-to with sales associates etc, where I know they don’t actually care or want to hear about my problems, is, something along the lines of, “Eh, I’m alive and that’s what counts, right?” So I’m not pretending that I’m fine, but I’m also not dumping on them. Then I pretty quickly ask them how they’re doing or change the topic.

    4. Alpha Bravo*

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It’s part of life, but losing friends and family (human or otherwise) just sucks. I lost my BIL and spouse last year, and a beloved uncle the year before. It’s been just over 3 months since my husband passed. I normally answer “How are you doing?” with “Okay.” That’s the truth, and about as much of it as I generally want to get into. People *usually* don’t push. When they do, I totally get the inclination to blurt out the full unvarnished truth. I honestly see nothing awful in your script above. The question I hate with a fiery hatred of hate is “What can I do for you?” Particularly when asked over and over again, and asker has been told repeatedly there is nothing I need or that anyone can do other than keep me in their prayers. I mean, I get that they want to DO SOMETHING. But there is nothing they can do, and I simply do not have the energy right now to wrack my brain thinking of something they can do to help them feel better. Sometimes I want to scream “Unless you have the power to bring back the dead there is absolutely nothing you can do for me so PLEASE STFU!” I wouldn’t advise actually saying this though. Your script is much better.

      1. The Commoner*

        Gosh I’m sorry. That sounds really hard and my thoughts are with you.

        Thank you for your insight. I agree on the script – It’s a challenge to get some people to back down at times without screaming. :)

    5. AnonEMoose*

      I’m sorry for your losses. I think something like “it’s been a tough year, but you are you doing?” is an entirely reasonable response. It’s an acknowledgement that you’re not doing so great, but is also a hint that you don’t want to talk about it right then.

    6. Gaia*

      I’m really sorry for your loss. I had to put down my dog last May and yesterday would have been the 10th anniversary of his rescue date. Honestly? The pain is less now but it is still there. Sometimes I’ll see a cute dog on the street and my heart will yearn to be walking with my friend. I can’t watch vet shows on TV because all I think of is that last visit to the vet’s office and holding my dog as he fell asleep the last time.

      Most days are fine now in a way I didn’t think they would ever be fine again. But it still hurts and I’m sorry you’re feeling this pain. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

    7. LilySparrow*

      I’m sorry for your losses. Ive had years like that – just coming off one now, as a matter of fact. It’s awful.
      It’s not impolite to be truthful about how you’re doing, but you do need to judge what kind of conversation you really want to have at that moment.
      Is this a person, time & place where getting it off your chest will make you feel better? Or are you going to wind up being dismissed, criticized, told what you “really ought to” do, or worst of all, reassuring *them?*

      If you’re with a safe and thoughtful person, go ahead and say, “Yeah, having a tough time.” Or “Not so great,” and follow up with, “But I’d rather hear about what’s going on with you.” Or “I could use a smile right now- have any good news?”

      If it’s not a helpful person, or the context really isn’t conducive to explaining what you’re dealing with, it’s okay to just be, “Fine, and you?”

      It’s not being dishonest. It’s just being selective about who you invite in.

      It’s really an obligation of basic decency that when someone tells us they’re not okay, we should ask what’s wrong. So if you don’t want to open up a whole conversation about what’s wrong and deal with their hamfisted attempts to “help,” then it’s easier to leave that door politely shut.

    8. LilySparrow*

      I also had a teacher once who, when asked how she was, invariably answered, “Fair to partly.”
      I have no idea what she meant by it exactly, but it was pleasant yet off-kilter enough that it let her steer the conversation wherever she wanted to go.

    9. Slartibartfast*

      When my pain levels are high and I can’t manage to say I’m fine when I’m not, I answer “How are you doing?” “Oh, I’m doing. How about you?” Or maybe “Same as always”, “The usual”, and redirect, “You?” Because even with friends and family, I don’t want to bitch all the time, or explain today’s a 4 or a 7 on the pain scale, there isn’t anything they can do about it so I don’t want to dwell on it.

    10. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. I think it’s fine to answer friends truthfully, as they will want to support you. Let them know what you want – to talk about how you are really feeling, or if you want to hear their latest escapade to take your mind off of your grief.

    11. This Daydreamer*

      I am so sorry for everything you’re going through. If anyone tells you to smile, I’ll give you an alibi for whatever actions you have to take.

    12. Former Employee*

      I’m so sorry for all that you’ve been through recently.

      I agree with others who said that your response should be based on the person who is asking how you are and your relationship (or lack thereof) with them.

    13. Sled Dog Mama*

      As others have said if the interaction is essentially “I acknowledge you fellow human” it’s perfectly ok to simply respond with “How are you?” And not actually answer the question. When I studied Russian in college I learned that a common response to how are you is to essentially say “Nothing” there’s no good equivalent in English but I will often respond with “meh” when I’m having a bad day and don’t want to get into it.
      If the interaction is with someone who I know genuinely cares then I have no problem saying how I actually feel. Sometimes it surprises people but people who genuinely care will understand that grief is part of life and when you are grieving a big loss that grief becomes a part of you.
      As an aside, my mother would often begin conversations with the superficial how are you, and after we’d been talking for a bit ask “how’s your heart” which was her way of specificity asking about how I was coping , I always have appreciated that she asked specifically about grief

  6. Out of bandwidth*

    I’m feeling so overwhelmed. Yesterday, we said goodbye to our beloved 13 year old dog. I know we made the right decision, but we’re heartbroken. Meanwhile, movers arrive early next week for our long-distance move, and we’re finishing up getting our house ready for the market. So… new jobs, new house, loss of a pet— too much change. I feel raw and sick and wish I could cancel all the moving plans so we could just grieve.

    1. The Commoner*

      I’m so sorry. We too had to say goodbye to our dog yesterday. Hoping for a better day for you soon.

    2. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I’m so sorry for your loss, and that you have to deal with this all at the same time. I hope you regain your footing soon.

  7. ECHM*

    I am an avid reader and periodic poster who had a sweet AAM moment the other day. I was talking with my husband about something I had read here and I found myself saying “and some of my friends at Ask a Manager” …

      1. Loopy*

        I swear I am not trying to take credit Alison! It has a different connotation to me when I say it (i.e the website I am always glued to/browsing/referring to) but when I wrote it out just now it sounded like I’m saying the website I run/own/started. Oops! Definitely never sounded that way in context!

          1. Loopy*

            I can see you getting an email now “Dear Alison, my coworker is delusional and keeps claiming credit for websites she very clearly doesn’t run. How to I gently explain that Ask A Manager is not her website? I’m concerned she may start believing she’s the CEO of our company if this goes unchecked!”

            Time to add “favorite” in that phrase, lol!

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        My whole family knows about AAM because I’m always dropping “Ask a Manager says …” , “Alison says …”, or folks at “Ask a Manager say …” into our conversations. Also when they ask what I’m doing, I say, “Reading my blog”, and they know it’s AAM.

    1. D.W.*

      This has become something my dad and I talk about on my walk home from work. I call him and he says, “So what was the best story on AAM today?” If we haven’ talked for a few days the question changes to, “You haven’t sent me any stories from AAM!” in a whiny voice.

  8. The RO-Cat*

    I’m sorry Simona Halep lost the Australian Open final, but boy, what a match! I can think of no one worthier right now of no. 1 spot than Caroline Wozniacki. Well done, Caro, keep on, Simo!

    1. Caledonia*

      Yes, match of the women’s was Halep vs Kerber. Hopefully Halep can win one soon. Glad Wozniacki finally won a slam, she had been around for ages (She is only 27!)

  9. Table For One Please*

    I’m going to bring up that which we don’t mention on the weekends – WORK – but I swear my concern is for my life outside of work.

    I’m one of those people who loves to spend time with my friends and family, but I need to recharge from those meet ups with some alone time. In my old job, I was very isolated in my position, rarely talking with anyone. That was great for my weekends and time off because it meant I was really eager to spend time with my loved ones and do things with them.

    However, I have gotten a new job that requires a lot more interaction and chit-chat with my coworkers. I don’t have the long stretches of no-contact that i did at my last job. It’s nice because I’m certainly more engaged and enjoying myself more than I did before but my social life is now taking a hit. After being engaged with other people so often at work, I’ve been needing more quiet alone time than I did before. I’m passing on more friend/family interactions on the evenings and weekends because I need the relaxing alone time. Last night, I deliberately took myself to a solo dinner because I knew my roommate was having friends over and I wanted to shorten my time at home with other people around. I have plans with a friend this weekend that I’m not terribly looking forward to because I want the quiet.

    So how do I balance my new more engaging job with still wanting to spend time with my loved ones when work is taking more of my ‘human interaction’ energy than before?

    1. OperaArt*

      I don’t have a good answer, but I understand how you feel.
      I treat my “people interacting-energy” like I treat my money—there’s a set amount to “spend” and it must be done thoughtfully. Sort of an energy budget, if you will.

    2. Old Biddy*

      I’m in a similar situation. Ten years ago I had a job with less interaction and I was single (I had a boyfriend but we didn’t live together). I was usually up to go out and do stuff with friends. Now I have a lot more interaction and interruptions at work, and I’m married to a super talkative extrovert. I need more decompression time than before and I really hate talking on the phone now. Anyway, I find it helps to have some rituals (exercise, a bath, baking) where I can decompress, and show up later/leave slightly earlier from parties, etc.
      It also helps to be aware what types of events are more draining for you and either skip or make an early exit. I like seeing bands and meeting up with individuals or small groups of people. Larger groups are also ok if I am either good friends with most of them or it’s not too loud.

      1. The Curator*

        I try not to do anything social on school nights and Saturday mornings are me time. Gives me decompression time. Large gatherings-go late, leave early. No one notices.

    3. Jules the First*

      I’m struggling with this one too. Is there an option for you to work from home a couple days a month to give yourself a break? I also find that zoning out into a good podcast on my way home can provide a much-needed decompression/island of privacy even on public transport.

      I had such interesting plans for this weekend and woke up this morning knowing that I needed a hunker-down day, so I cancelled my plans and have spent the day on the sofa binging on netflix. I just checked and realised this is only the second day since December 17th where I’ve not had to be sociable…no wonder I needed a day off!

    4. Natalie*

      It’s not clear to me if the extra chit chat is a core part of your job or just an expected part of your office. If it’s the latter, I’d recommend building in some break spaces at work. Eat your lunch alone. If you can do flex time, come in early or stay late and get some work done when the office is empty. Put on headphones for an hour a day to do a focus task.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      We narrowed it down to Saturday. Nights were totally out. Sunday was our prep day for the up coming week and that left Saturday.
      I did do phone calls and later emails.
      It’s hard to find that extra time.

  10. Thlayli*

    Is orherkin a religion? Someone posted about otherkin on the work board yesterday and I told him (think it was a him based on name) to post here. But I dunno if he will. He referred to otherkin as a religion but I difnt think it was generally regarded as a religion, by otherkin themselves or by humans. Does anyone know what the definition of a religion is and whether otherkin meets that definition?

    For those who don’t know otherkin are people who identify as non-human or partly human and partly other.

    1. ainomiaka*

      I remember that. I think that was meant to be facetious, like “what are the definitions of a religion, do we have to let everyone count?” I have never heard anyone call otherkin a religion, more like an identity. But I am not involved in the community and don’t have anything like a random sampling.

      1. Thlayli*

        Yeah I thought it was a identity thing too. I thought otherkin see their other identity as so much a part of themselves that calling it a religion would be offensive to them, like calling someone’s gender or sexual orientation their “religion”.

        At least some otherkin must feel differently about this though, because this guy referred to himself as otherkin and referred to being otherkin as his religion. So now I’m confused coz I thought I knew what it meant but I must be wrong.

        1. fposte*

          I think people have different takes on what “religion” means, but I think you make a really interesting point about its seeming like it might be insulting. Hadn’t thought of that.

        2. paul*

          I will probably catch flack, but if he’s claiming his identiy is a different species (including possibly one that doesn’t even exist) I’m going to have a hard time taking any claim relating to it seriously.

        3. Elizabeth H.*

          Regardless of whichever commenter posted about it recently, I did go back and look at the comments about it on an open thread in December, and even though I’m not personally someone who relates to the other kin identity I did think the comments were hurtful and went to pretty good lengths to make jokes about it. Clearly, it’s not a mainstream or common identity or set of interests to have, but it’s always seemed to me like something the people who identify with it take seriously and now that I’ve read the comments they do seem like mean spirited jokes.

    2. fposte*

      Are you talking about philosophically or legally? Legally it’s going to depend where you are and what context.

      To me, philosophically, the iterations I’ve heard aren’t a religion because they’re not a belief system; it’s just, as ainomiaka says, an identity. I can believe all kinds of things about who I am that don’t act as religions.

      1. Thlayli*

        Philosophically I suppose. I don’t think it’s a legally recognised religion anywhere (though I could be wrong).

    3. Temperance*

      It’s not a religion. What I think he was getting at was that people generally don’t poke fun at religious beliefs, even if they are seen as wacky, but his core identity as someone who is half-unicorn or whatever is up for mockery.

      I get where he’s coming from, although I don’t really see otherkin as an identity akin to being part of the LGBT community.

        1. fposte*

          Do you mean that personally, or do you mean that that seems to be how the media operates? I don’t personally see any reason why Scientology should operate under any different rules, but I agree it often gets a different treatment in the media.

                1. fposte*

                  Yes, I know. But faith isn’t inherently about a single founder, and its validity doesn’t correlate to an external truth. Otherwise, as Temperance and I are saying downthread, most of them fall on the Scientology side of the line.

                2. Torrance*

                  At least he was honest about it? I mean, there are numerous scripture passages about tithing in the Bible, for instance, and another popular mainstream religion was founded by a purported con artist who frequently fled prosecution on fraud-related charges.

                  L Ron Hubbard was absolutely no saint but there are few religions, especially in their modern incarnations, that have clean hands and pure hearts.

                3. INTP*

                  The upper echelons of the Catholic Church have made some pretty blatantly political decisions in its history that clearly weren’t related to any sort of message from the heavens. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to mock people for thinking that the pope is legit.

                  Actually, I’m fine with people mocking religious institutions that behave in ways that are toxic or try to influence the lives of people that are not willingly and without duress participating in that religion (being involved in politics, systematic methods of punishing people for leaving the religion), which is most large religious institutions. But mocking the institution is different from mocking individuals for believing in it. Most of us hold our religious beliefs or lack thereof due to a combination of life circumstances and not because we were smart enough to figure out which religion is the objectively correct one.

            1. anonagain*

              I agree that it’s exploitative and abusive. I disagree with mocking it, because I think it’s a dangerous scam.

              I think its adherents are vulnerable people who have been targeted and taken advantage of and I’m certainly not going to poke fun of anyone for that.

              I don’t think jokes do anything to reduce the influence of the scammers themselves, who can just point to mockery as evidence of the hostility of the outside world and the importance of cutting off contact with the rest of us.

              I also want people in any kind of situation of abuse to know that I don’t think they are stupid. And I don’t. I don’t want to contribute to their shame and make it harder for them to ask for help.

        2. Nacho*

          I feel like religions only gets a pass on their more wacky beliefs because, at their core, most religions have good intentions. I’m fine with you believing in a guy who can walk on water and create bread and fish out of thin air if that’s what it takes to teach you about being a good person.

          Scientology doesn’t have those same good intentions, so it’s open season on mocking them.

          1. Temperance*

            Meh, I think it’s kind of unfair to slam Scientologists for not having “good intentions” and write off all other religions as fine. I mean, some have a huge pull on the government, some have a decades-long child sex abuse conspiracy, almost all subjugate women …..

            1. fposte*

              Yup. They almost all have some component of good intentions, and they almost all have a generous component of bad acts as well as, well, bad faith.

              I also find myself more put off by faith approaches that emphasize an us and a them: the saved and the unsaved, the priestable and the unpriestable, the otherkin and the non-otherkin. So far I haven’t met anybody with a committed belief in otherkin as a central notion for all humans, or that it’s happened to some humans but *not* themselves. Rather than faith approaches that position believers at the center of the matrix, I like the ones that talk about ways to be a good person/being in the world.

              1. Elf*

                I think this is a core for me as an atheist: There’s nothing but this and no one is going to save us, which means that it is the responsibility of people to help other people and to make the world a better place.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Well the ‘which means’ part is how I was brought up as a Catholic, but quite a few folks who subscribe to Christianity seem to have gone totally off the rails on that point.

            2. Jean (just Jean)*

              >almost all subjugate women …..

              A gender-equity-supportive onlooker will see this in the more traditional expressions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, but all three faiths also have followers who are deliberately working to change this: ordaining women, changing the liturgy, expanding the body of literature and historical knowledge, adjusting the religious school curriculum, modifying the community dress code… Yes, it’s time measured in decades, not centuries, but it’s a start.

              I’m not saying that everyone Must Be Religious–I just wanted to call attention to the liberal side of the religious spectrum.

              1. Temperance*

                Okay, honest question: do you really think that I, and others, am not aware that there are liberal religious folks? Whenever I make a comment that points out anything even remotely negative about religion, someone will step up to #notallChristians. Why is this? What is the end goal?

                1. Alice*

                  Maybe the people who do this feel erased by popular culture’s representation of megachurches and the prosperity gospel as Christianity. Maybe they themselves did not know, growing up in conservative or areligious families, that liberal religious organizations existed.
                  You are well-informed – great. But lots of people who read these exchanges won’t have heard about “open and affirming” congregations, or know what that jargon means.

                2. Temperance*

                  As a non-religious person, getting “educated” about #notallChristians is offensive to me. It’s a form of proseltyzing, and it assumes that I am an atheist just because I dislike many of the things that mainstream religions are doing, and that if I had all of the information, I’d believe again. I’m a non-believer because I’m a non-believer, but I also do believe that these organization have too much power and hurt too many people.

                  The fact of the matter is that megachurches and their ilk do have a ton of societal power and pull, and that if someone were so inclined and looking for Jesus, they could quite easily find a church that meets their needs. No need to correct anyone who expresses an opinion or states a fact that is less than supportive of the church.

                3. Jean (just Jean)*

                  I apologize if I offended you. I think that Alice said it very well in her second paragraph:
                  You are well-informed – great. But lots of people who read these exchanges won’t have heard about “open and affirming” congregations, or know what that jargon means.

                  When I wrote “I’m not saying that everyone Must Be Religious–I just wanted to call attention to the liberal side of the religious spectrum.” I meant exactly that:
                  a) it is totally okay to be nonreligious, atheistic, agnostic and/or any combination
                  b) it is also a fact that not all Religious Folk agree with the strictest dictates and/or most restrictive interpretations available within their particular faith

                  I personally derive great personal benefits from belonging to my congregation. The feeling of membership is something I would love to share with other people–but NOT at the price of rolling over other people’s questions, skepticism, doubts, or passionate disagreements.

                  There are many badly behaved religious organizations. Over time and space we’ve seen some megachurches, the Inquisition, some branches of Judaism, some offshoots of Islam and a ton of individuals from all traditions act with deliberate cruelty. But we’ve also seen a lot of well-behaved organizations and individuals: Holocaust resisters, including folks who hid people to keep them safe from persecution and death; all sorts of social organizers; people who fought against slavery, child labor, sweatshop workplace conditions, apartheid…

                  Can’t stay online now–have to go meet someone in the real world. I hope this was helpful. I’m truly not part of Conversions R Us.

                4. Temperance*

                  @Jean:

                  Honestly, I still think it’s disrespectful and proselytzing to chime in with #notallChristians. I’m not alone in that – you can google the hashtag and learn a lot.

                  If you do want to proseltyze about liberal Christians, instead of negging and responding when someone else is critical, you could try speaking out not in response to an atheist, but to a hateful Christian. That would give you more credibility.

                5. Alice*

                  Negging? I know what that means in the context of pick up artists, but I’m not seeing what you mean.

              2. Jean (just Jean)*

                Temperance, I was talking about all religions, not just Christianity. Speaking personally, I can’t say anything too extensive about any aspect of Christianity because I’m Jewish. (I promise to go educate myself about #notallChristians.) I did not self-identify earlier in this thread because it didn’t seem germane.

                As for whether or not I’ve spoken with evangelical Christians…? Yes, a few times, with varying degrees of self-restraint and varying levels of effective communication on both sides of the conversation.

                What’s my end game? Only to point out to anyone who might want to be religious–but has only been exposed or hurt by the conservative / literalist / orthodox / rigid end of the spectrum–that there are also liberal choices. I’m not insisting that people MUST be religiously affiliated and active.

                If people don’t have religion in their lives, I may be a bit puzzled; but any sports fan would look at me with amazement that I live an essentially sports-free life. Hey, it’s usually not my thing to care which of two teams wins a game with a ball or a hockey puck or a mountain and several pairs of skis. Some people are not wired for spiritual life. Some people don’t like to join organizations. As long as nobody is actively forcibly signing up other people and/or harming those who decline, it’s all good.

                1. all aboard the anon train*

                  Sports and religion are really not comparable. People don’t get continually ostracized from communities, abused, harassed, or physically harmed for not liking sports the way they do for their religious – or lack of religious – beliefs.

                  Someone is not going to lose their job because they like the wrong sports team or don’t enjoy sports. Someone may lose their job because of their religion or lack of religious affiliation (whether it’s legal or not, it’s still happens).

    4. LilySparrow*

      Well, I think you’d have to subscribe to a rather particular set of beliefs about the nature of reality and consciousness to think it was possible to be non-human in a human body, or to be more than one species at the same time.
      So in that respect, it could be part of a whole construct of beliefs that might be similar to a religion.
      But a religion encompasses a lot more than one’s own identity.

      1. JamieS*

        I’m not too familiar with this having just heard of otherkin about 2 minutes ago but logically speaking if they believe they’re nonhuman then wouldn’t they believe their body isn’t a human body but something else?

        1. TassieTiger*

          There is an aspect to otherkin called “astral” or “phantom” —some people say they have “astral wings” for instance, if they are dragon kin—meaning they can physically feel wings on their body. Hope this helps!

    5. Eric*

      I posted the exact same thing I posted in the thread yesterday based on your advice. I had also emailed Alison about how I felt about the comments but she made the decision to let them stand. My post in this thread (the exact same one as yesterday) was removed. I am not able to post it again as it goes to moderation.

      Based on the comments here as well as Alison’s response to my email and deleting of my post I will no longer be visiting here. I’m sorry my identity is a joke to everyone. I didn’t use profanity or get angry. I didn’t insult anyone. Yet I was insulted. I’m sorry i am viewed as “crazy” and less than. This community is not as inclusive as it pretends.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It wasn’t removed; it was never released from moderation. You’ve been banned from commenting here because of previous rude and hostile comments to other commenters, as well as sock puppetry, which I’ve explained to you in the past. Please respect that.

  11. Anonymous Ampersand*

    This is the poster formerly known as Purple Snowdrop.

    Just wanted to drop in and say I’m getting MUCH better than I did last Saturday, and thank you all for a) the support last week and b) helping me recalibrate my idea of what people actually get done on a Saturday!

    I’m still having a bloody awful time – job under threat, still dealing with the aftermath of, well, my entire life, getting divorced, trying to get my mortgage through before the threat to my job is official, moderate anxiety and depression that’s nudging into severe, helping Small Child through his emotions, dealing with some educational issues he’s having, oh and I had a sore throat for three bloody weeks that ended up needing medication. Oh and minor surgery a few weeks ago too. And a return to work after two months off sick. But I’m being as realistic as I can about what to expect of myself and trying to allow myself time to recover and eat better and things.

    1. caledonia*

      Hello!
      I like &’s :)

      Anyway, it sounds like you have had a lot on your plate but hopefully this is the universes way of getting rid of all the c*ap and giving you a fresh start.

      One foot in front of the other.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      You are doing great. Hey, this is your Mt. Everest, right? You got this far, you will get through it. And once you come out the other side of this the rest of the mountains in life will appear smaller and much more doable. You will go quite a while before something is this hard again, if ever. Fingers cross and good vibes, on the mortgage, the job, SC and your health.

    3. Anonymous Ampersand*

      Thanks all.

      I tell you what. I haven’t told my parents that my job is under threat and I’m so glad I made that call. If they knew I’d be managing my mum’s emotions about it and fending off offers of help that I don’t really want. My sisters know and I’m talking to my friends about it but giving myself that break was a really good call. If the threat becomes official fair enough that will be the time to tell them.

    4. I Am Still Furious!!*

      Really rooting for you! It’s a lot to handle all at one time. I keep this in mind, if it helps. One of my Dad’s friends, an old car guy, told me, “you can’t go in reverse. You can’t stay in neutral, you gotta drop it in drive and go forward.” I think about that often. Sending a hug your way!

  12. Merci Dee*

    Good grief, I’m turning into a homebody.

    Kiddo went to a friend’s birthday slumber party last night, so I had a night to myself. What did I do? I ran out for dinner at my favorite Mexican place (since she whines every time we go there, but, my gah, I can’t leave their queso flameado alone), and then I came right back home. Started thinking about laundry I need to do this morning before I collapsed into bed early.

    I used to go out and have fun. Back in the days when I had energy. I suspect my kid is siphoning off all my pep and taking it for her own. It’s the only explanation that makes sense.

      1. Amadeo*

        Yes, me too. My friends can’t spring ‘lets meet!’ on me with no advance warning. I like to see them, but I also need to mentally prep to go be social somewhere that’s not home (and also at least a half hour drive).

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Same here. Yesterday I basically made my boyfriend go out so I could have a much-needed night to myself, eating food he hates and watching Grace and Frankie. I also ended up with a raging headache. But damn, I needed that.

        I have become much more of a homebody since moving out of NYC. When I had a small apartment and I used public transportation, it was so easy to pop out and see friends. Now I have to drive to see people, and it takes more mental energy than I often want to use. Our wonderful friends within walking distance moved away last summer and I miss them, because with them I hit the jackpot– people I felt totally comfortable hanging with and we could just drop in on each other? Rare.

      3. banana&tanger*

        Accepting my homebody-ness is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I love being at home alone. I usually prefer it to going out with friends or even on my own. And that’s ok. Just because our culture says it is weird doesn’t mean it is. I’m a better me when I’ve had a lot of quiet time. Embrace the time you get away from kids and ignore the voice telling you that the cool people would be out and about. Enjoy what makes you feel relaxed and happy.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      No kid here. I love being home. There are too many days I have to go racing out the door. I thought I was off the hook today but nooooo. I needed to do a dump run and the coffee pot quit. Out the door I went. Maybe tomorrow.

    2. Former Employee*

      Of course that makes sense. After all, look how much they take when they’re still in the womb!

      Being a long time homebody myself, I welcome you to the club.

  13. PlantLady*

    Husband and I have a neighborhood potluck scheduled for this afternoon. It’s being held at someone else’s home. We sent our RSVP a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday, we were reminded just how introverted we both are when our conversation about what dish to bring morphed very quickly into an extraction plan. When your plan for socializing includes the phrase, “What’s our ‘Abort’ code?”, you know you’re an introvert.

    (It’s ‘Koala’, BTW.)

      1. Totally Minnie*

        Neighbor: “Have I shown you all the pictures from our recent trip to the cow museum?”

        OP: “KOALA!!!!!!!!!!”

    1. anon24*

      I love this! I need an abort code. I just don’t go out with my husband because I can’t take being stuck with people. Getting our one cat was the best ever because he doesn’t like other people and gets overwhelmed very quickly. When we travel to visit my in-laws we’re expected to spend the entire time talking to them and watching dumb TV shows with them so it’s wonderful when the cat is with us and I can be like “oh he’s getting worked up now so I’m going to take him somewhere quiet and get him calmed down.”

    2. nep*

      Abort code — love it.
      I hear you. On the very rare occasion I go anywhere, I’m in and out…out very early.
      Same question as paul — do you have to work the word into conversation or just randomly say it?

      1. paul*

        I want to imagine them having to steer the conversation slowly to zoos, or Australia, so they have a subtle way to say koala.

        My mind is weird, but I find it funny

        1. anon24*

          Or ask someone how their dog is doing then awkwardly blurt out “Speaking of animals, I think koalas are so cute!”

          1. Natalie*

            Be a big fan of Mitch Hedberg and just quote his bits randomly. On the plus side they are all short:

            “My apartment is infested with koala bears… it’s the cutest infestation ever. Much better that cockroaches.”

            1. nep*

              Love it.

              “What’s the top item on your bucket list? Mine’s to see a koala in its natural habitat.”

        2. Jo*

          What would be funny and maybe liven up social events is to have a weirder and weirder abort code each time and set yourself the challenge of steering the conversation around to it. Like ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ or ‘goblin’ or ‘haemorrhoids’. It would make for some interesting conversations!

    3. Loopy*

      My abort code is usually some reference to needing to get back and let the dog out. Not quite as succinct or subtle of a code but it works to get us moving towards the door.

    4. PlantLady*

      Sorry for the delay, I had to run a couple of pre-potluck errands. “Koala” could be expressed any old way and we’d make it work…finessing it into the conversation, texting it to one another, texting a koala emoji to one another, blurting out the word randomly, etc.

      And since the thing starts in 12 minutes and I just came downstairs to find Himself on the couch watching YouTube videos in his underwear (!) I suspect The Koala Maneuver is destined to be deployed.

    5. Lady Kelvin*

      Ours is (somewhat unofficially) “I wonder how the dog is doing?” It is nice to have an excuse to go home because, we’ll the dog needs to go out

    6. Totally Minnie*

      On a somewhat related note, does anyone else here do the thing at parties where you tell the person you’re talking to that you’re going to use the restroom, and then just go home?

    7. Fiennes*

      Our abort code is: “Weren’t you going to Skype your dad/sister/whoever is plausible?” Simple, believable, has never yet offended a host.

  14. nep*

    Anyone here use a RumbleRoller? I’m interested to hear what results people have had with it, especially compared with standard foam rollers. (Also just interested in people’s experience with foam rolling generally.)
    I’ve got a RumbleRoller and it has really helped ease some pain on a couple of occasions. Sometimes I like to just stand on it and ‘massage’ my feet.

    1. fposte*

      I love seeing what cool stuff you find, nep.

      I haven’t used that, but I use foam rollers. I use the red density (I have a black one that I keep forgetting about) in a shorter length. I actually use it more for upper torso stuff because pelvic and hip area are tennis-ball only and I don’t have that much problem with the legs. As I’m trying to strengthen my shoulders I’m prone to getting some overtightening around the ribcage and the foam roller really helps with that.

      I have no clue about any increased benefits of a knobbly surface. However, I will say that the Foot Log, which is super-knobbly, was *magic* for my plantar fasciitis. Interestingly, that’s not really a big pressure thing the way foam rolling is, since you just roll your feet across it with no extra pressure. My guess is that it actually works neurologically, in fact, and that PF is maybe a neurological thing for those of us who respond to the Foot Log.

    2. Dr. KMnO4*

      When I was in physical therapy for a problem with my shoulder the PT recommended I get a foam roller for my back. It was like magic. It was quick, simple, and it made me feel a lot better. I also got a lot of use out of it after I had a muscle spasm in my upper back/neck. The combo of muscle relaxants and gentle stretching with the foam roller was awesome. I still use it occasionally and it feels great.

    3. Totally Minnie*

      I use a foam roller from time to time and I’ve found it really helpful. I haven’t tried the Rumble Roller, but I really want to.

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      Can’t live without mine. I feel like standard foam rollers just don’t provide anything like enough pressure when I’m rolling my back out, and the bumps are like thumbs pressing into all the right places.

    5. Aurion*

      I have a black RumbleRoller purchased back in…2011? And it still works amazingly. So one vote to the durability of this bad boy.

      Also, like AdAgencyChick, regular foam rollers (even in the black density) does almost nothing for me anymore. They can be workable on more sensitive spots like the IT band, but for 95% of my body the flat surface does very little. Once you get used to the knobs digging into the sore spots of the calves and back everything else seems inferior in comparison.

      I do have a Theracane and a small bouncy ball I use to pinpoint specific sore spots, but for general use and efficiency nothing beats my RumbleRoller.

  15. Laura H*

    So glad my walker parts will arrive today and that I’m only at that which is not mentioned on weekends for 4 hrs today with this not quite cooperating rear wheel. Here’s to me stayin upright today.

    Posted on this two weeks ago, much to my relief, they were open MLK Day and were able to set up so I could get the order placed!!

    Also ordered a new laptop battery yesterday so WOO.

    On plate for this week is sorting tax info and such (which basically amounts to me asking how an anomaly in my income will be handled- took some mutual fund money to pay off my loans last July- anybody know this offhand?)

    1. fposte*

      Congrats on all your tech coming together, and I hope you will be free of wheel stick!

      If you liquidated mutual funds that were in a taxable account (not an IRA or 401k), what’s important to know is the realized gains–which is to say the difference between what you paid for them and what you sold them at. (It also matters whether they were long-term or short-term, but I’ll let that go for the moment.) That’s the amount that will be subject to taxation and will be relevant to calculating your bracket. The new tax law has complicated things in that the capital gains tax brackets didn’t change to fit the new income brackets, but if your tax bracket was from 0-15% in the old bracket, you paid no taxes on those gains, and if it was from 15%-35%, you paid 15%.

      Wherever you held the mutual funds should send you a 1099-B that will probably break it down for you. I In the end, however, you are the one responsible for reporting the correct cost basis, which means how much you paid for the mutual funds when you first got them, so if the brokerage doesn’t have that, scramble around for the paperwork from when you first opened the accounts.

  16. HannahS*

    I need help staying awake! About twice a month, I fall asleep in public despite really, really not wanting to. It’s usually when I’m a bit sleep deprived, and often during a class where the lights are partly off. I can’t seem to help it; I struggle to stay awake, I dig my nails into my ears, I smack myself on the face, but it just feels like these heavy waves pulling me under. It’s mortifying! I don’t want to drink coffee or take caffeine pills–I’m quite sensitive to caffeine and only drink 2-3 cups of caffeinated tea a day before 2pm, and that’s enough that I go into caffeine withdrawal without it. I know the best answer is probably to not be sleep deprived, but I’m in medical school and being well-rested is not always an option. Please give me suggestions!

    1. nep*

      Water and deep breathing help me when I have a tough time staying awake.
      Sorry your situation’s keeping you sleep-deprived — that’s the worst.

      1. HannahS*

        Thanks! I knew what I was getting into, so I’m fine with being tired and having my chronic health issues get worse in general, but this drifting off in class is like a “oh nononono, this needs to stop ASAP.”

      1. HannahS*

        Hmm, yes, I am pretty much always dehydrated (especially in the winter) so I’ll start carrying around water more consistently.

        1. gala apple*

          I bought a really nice water bottle, and it has helped me drink more water! Helps that it holds 40 oz too; less refilling (the thermoflask). Good luck!

    2. KR*

      During class, standing quietly in the back of the room is an option too! You could bring a clip board or a box to make your desk into a standing desk. That’s what my coworkers (who are doing manual labor a lot and will quickly fall asleep without anything physical to do) do in our long term meetings.

      Good luck!

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I still sometimes jiggle my leg — I keep my toes and the ball of my foot on the floor and my heel off the floor, and bounce my lower leg really fast, like 3-5 times a second. Kind of like drumming your fingers, but if you’re at a desk, it’s less obvious. It’s all in the foot and calf. For some reason the movement keeps me more alert.

      I also used to splash a dab of cold water on my eyes when pulling an all-nighter, but obviously you could only do that before class, and it may only help for 10-20 minutes.

      1. HannahS*

        Yeah, moving helps me too. I hadn’t thought of trying to get moving discreetly while seated though! Good tip.

    4. Peanut*

      I have to nibble on food to stay awake – little crunchy things covered in dark chocolate work best for me!

    5. Simone R*

      Can you adjust the timing of your tea? I used to get super groggy after lunch and always trying to have a cup of coffee then really helped with that. If there’s a particular time of day that is bad, shifting the tea drinking ahead of time might help.

    6. Enough*

      For me when I was working and taking classes that I notice my eyes getting tired first. I found that basic visions eye drops helped make the feeling go away and I was more alert in class.

        1. Alston*

          Try getting the drops that lubricate the eye. Not just regular visine. Visine gets the red out, but if your eyes are tires and dry they actually make things worse. My eye doctor recommended the ones in little individual droppers.

    7. Ktelzbeth*

      I have a few perspectives on this, as someone with the same tendency:
      As a former medical student: the more notes I took, the more likely I was to stay awake. I sometimes had far more copious and detailed notes than I would ever have any need for, just because writing was the only thing that was keeping me awake. That helps in class.
      As a doctor and someone with a couple issues: make sure there is no medical reason you are having trouble staying awake. Any meds with possible side effects? One of mine wasn’t supposed to be making me fatigued, but it was terrible! Any chance of sleep apnea or its cousins? Despite being slender and not snoring, I was diagnosed with upper airway resistance syndrome. You don’t generally stop breathing like in sleep apnea, but the resistance gets so high that it is a lot of work. Other medical issues–thyroid, depression, narcolepsy, and many others?
      You don’t comment on whether you’ve looked for a cause beyond the challenges of medical school, so maybe you’ve thought of these things. I let myself go for too long because I figured medical school and then residency was just hard and I was supposed to be tired and falling asleep.

      1. HannahS*

        Thanks Kletzbeth :) I actually do have some meds and issues that are making my energy levels low (fibromyalgia, managed with pregabalin) but I had a sleep study about seven years ago that came back clear. Haven’t had bloodwork done recently, but maybe I’ll raise it with my doc the next time I see her. Taking notes is a great idea. Often, I find I speak up more in an effort to stay awake, but that’s not always an option.

        1. Ktelzbeth*

          You’re welcome! On the nuvigil topic below, I did use methylphenidate on an as needed basis for a while before I got things sorted out. I had a PCP who offered it for idiopathic hypersomnolence in the period between the sleep study leading to CPAP, which we were hoping would fix everything, and figuring out the medicine side effect issue. I felt like I was cheating because I should be TOUGH ENOUGH to take care of this myself, but it was a lifesaver (possibly literally).

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        You know…. Those of us who need modafinil for medical conditions have a harder time getting it thanks to recreational users. Also, FYI it stops birth control pills from working.

        1. BatteryB*

          Thanks for the info. I didn’t know that about modafinil. I ‘m past the birth control pills phase luckily. I take that and Adderall for my narcolepsy.

      2. Peanut*

        I have mild sleep apnea, and though I use a CPAP, I am still exhausted every day. My doctor said some people just have to fatigue, and prescribed nuvigil/provigil for me.

        On the one hand, the meds kept me from falling asleep during the day. On the other hand, it wasn’t like I suddenly had energy – it was more that I was able to get through each day. But I also became very focused on getting through each day, and found it harder to have long-term motivation for anything, so I stopped them after several months and now I’m just tired all the time. ;(

    8. Earthwalker*

      Don’t put an open cup of any liquid anywhere near you. I speak from experience. I jerked as I nodded off once and woke to find my fellow students and professor glaring at me so silently that I could hear the coffee that was supposed to keep me awake dripping off the desk into my shoes. Seriously, I sympathize but am not qualified to offer advice.

    9. LilySparrow*

      Having dealt with 4 years of sleepless babies that then turned into obstructive sleep apnea, I think you are going to have to make some structural changes/choices.

      If you are falling asleep involuntary in public, you are past the point where you can overcome this with tips and willpower. Your body is switching off whether you want it to or not. In order to keep your brain alive. That’s kinda not something you want to override, ya know?

      The next stage is falling asleep in truly dangerous situations, like at stoplights. Or while the car’s moving.

      Do you have any sort of student assistance program? I’ve been hearing a lot lately that medical school were moving away from the torture/boot camp model in the realization that “survival of the fittest” doesn’t really help identify the best doctors.

      1. Book Lover*

        The first two years of medical school are typically classes only, so there usually isn’t sleep deprivation. Perhaps her medical school does things differently? The second two years are clinical rotations and that can include needing to shift schedules. There are hour limits, but you still have to deal with being tired at times. I didn’t love getting up at 4am for surgery and getting home at 7pm….
        Residency has an 80 hour per week restriction, but again it is expected that you can work long hours without falling asleep. I don’t think that is a torture/boot camp model but pretty much reflective of actual practice. I suppose it depends on your specialty, but practicing medicine doesn’t suddenly get less tiring after medical school and residency, so it is great she is working on ways to figure this out, as it will be a long term issue.

    10. Melissa*

      When you sleep, do you know you are sleeping well? If you are getting 2-3 hours/night, then of course not but if you are sleeping 5-6 and still having trouble, perhaps look at a sleep study.

      If you know it’s qualty sleep when you get it, then power nap. You can also duck out of a lecture for a quick walk around the building and a drink of water if you feel yourself dozing. Sip water throughout class. Take notes even if you don’t need to- it’ll keep your body busy.

    11. Dara*

      One thing a bunch of us used to do in college was use Burt’s Bees peppermint lip balm…on our eyelids. The oddness of the peppermint tingle in that spot helped us keep our eyes open. Of course, disclaimer of ‘should only use things in the manner intended’ applies. You don’t want to end up with it IN your eyes, and it would probably mess up any eye makeup if that’s a thing you wear. (I usually did this in my morning philosophy class after I had a midnight-4am shift at the front desk and didn’t bother with makeup in favour of getting what sleep I could).

    12. Clumsy Ninja*

      I agree with those who suggest water. I find that when I’m sleepy and trying to stay awake, I end up REALLY well-hydrated. I just keep reaching for my water bottle and taking sips.

      I also focus and stay awake better with something to do with my hands. Taking notes didn’t help me as much, but crocheting has been a godsend. I take a project with mindless repeats along to church and never doze off during the sermon now. I’ll also do this at continuing ed meetings – keep the notepad or printed notes in front of me and occasionally put the crochet hook down and pick up the pen long enough to make a few notes. BUT I totally get it if a) you’re not a crocheter or knitter, or b) you think it would be frowned upon in class. I never crocheted during vet or grad school classes – I’ve only been brave enough since then.

    13. Fiennes*

      Personally, I cannot fall asleep while chewing gum. Cinnamon or mint are especially, uh, wakeful?

  17. Almost Violet Miller*

    Mindfulness update!

    Some of you might remember that I started a MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) course a couple of weeks ago. Here’s might first update.

    Our instructor reminds us every week that we will only feel the results and can only figure out if mindfulness works for us if we practice every day for at least 8 weeks if not more. We have been doing various exercises and meditations (from 3min to 30min, from lying on the floor to walking outside) and here are my highlights:
    – I am often able to use my breath as an anchor in stressful situations (not only able to but actually remember to!)
    – during my commute, I have successfully meditated/not let my mind wander to places it should not go to and obsess over negative thoughts (not every day but still better than before)
    – I have noticed some small improvement in my concentration
    – after meditation, I feel like I am more able to say goodbye to thoughts I do not want to have than on days I don’t practice
    – I am more aware of my body’s reactions to stress (I have to log stressful situations this week, I am looking forward to the next session where we are going to work with these experiences)

    We have weekly sessions that last 2-3 hours and a ton of home work so at least 30 minutes/day are needed for the exercises.

    I am really at the beginning of this journey and don’t quite know how much of the above is placebo effect and how much of it is going to stick around. But I feel like it’s the start of a transformation so I’m quite looking forward to what the rest of the sessions will bring.

    1. Thlayli*

      Wow this post just convinced me to try mindfulness more than any other discussion on the subject I’ve ever seen. You go!

    2. The RO-Cat*

      Congrats! For me, mindfulness was a life saver. Much of what you say matches my experience. My no 1 benefit is a decrease in emotional reactivity. My life is much calmer now (in spite of not-so-calm life circumstances). And I think somehow this seeped to those around me. Cheers to increased life quality!

    3. Elizabeth West*

      *dances around* I’ve been sayyyyyyyyyin!

      I started mindfulness meditation with a weekly Buddhist dharma group last March. It’s helped me with my anxiety soooo much. I tried to do it every day but have pulled back a little. We’re doing a 30/30 challenge this month, 30 days of meditation and/or for 30 minutes. I like it.

    4. Almost Violet Miller*

      I’m so happy to hear that it’s been helping other people and my post might be motivating Thlayli to try mindfulness! Really raised my spirits:)

      Enjoy the rest of your Sundays y’all!

  18. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Good lord, what a week. Finally kicked that God awful cold on Tuesday. Mom just got out of the hospital yesterday (she went in Sunday night). The huge management shake up at work.

    If anyone needs me, I’ll be hunkered down with some cookies and a cozy blanket for the foreseeable future.

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      With the week you had, add some cocoa to your list! I hope the coming week is an improvement,

  19. Name changed to protect the innocent*

    My husband and I were both virgins when we married. On our wedding night, I discovered he had a condition I didn’t previously know existed … and thinking “where is it?” was not a good feeling. Now, more than a year later, for all practical purposes I’m still a virgin. I have asked that we go see a doctor or a counselor but he seems to think trying different positions will fix the issue. It hasn’t. He also (despite being a brilliant man) makes comments about me not being able to get pregnant at a certain time because of my ovulation cycle. (Um, no, first let’s figure out how to get you inside of me.) Aside from this, he is super sweet, thoughtful and considerate and a wonderful husband so I don’t want to keep bringing it up. But something inside me has died knowing that I may be a virgin the remainder of my life. He is an extremely private person so I don’t know that there’s anyone in his family/friend circle he’d be willing to talk with about it. He already has some health issues so I’m not sure if surgery (which probably could fix the problem) would be an option, plus that would be an awful lot to ask him go through so I can enjoy this benefit of being married.

    1. Thlayli*

      I’m confused. It seems like you’re saying your husband doesn’t have a penis, but can’t understand why you aren’t getting pregnant. But I must be misreading that.

      Whatever the actual circumstance is, it seems like he doesn’t understand it, so I think the first step is explaining to him what the actual problem is.

      1. Name changed to protect the innocent*

        He has “buried penis syndrome” so it is there, just takes time and coaxing to come out and when it does, it’s just for a short period of time. Not enough time to get it inside of me.

        And I am just baffled as to how he who is so smart about so many other things apparently doesn’t seem to realize (or perhaps just acknowledge) that this is the main reason I can’t get pregnant.

        1. Megan*

          I think he’s got to go talk to a medical professional and find out what the options are. It’s totally reasonable for you to ask him for this even if it’s hard for him. You of course want to be supportive and kind about it, but you also matter – your sexual satisfaction matters.

          Also, I didn’t know this until my husband and I started trying to get me pregnant, but it’s totally normal even for a fertile couple to take a year to conceive. I had the impression from health class as a teen that you had like a 50-50 shot at getting pregnant any time you had unprotected sex.

          1. Thlayli*

            It’s 25%. A normal healthy couple with no fertility issues have a 25% chance of getting pregnant in any month they have unprotected sex. So it’s still pretty high.

            A year is the upper end of the normal range – if you haven’t got pregnant within a year of having unprotected sex it’s recommended you see a doctor.

            1. Changing my name for this*

              Minor quibble-it’s 25% if you get the timing right. There are days of the month where it’s pretty much zero. As someone going through fertility treatment I get why health teachers say it only takes once, but that is frequently not true.

              1. Elf*

                Those statistics are really misleading, because it includes data from people who have infertility issues. It’s much more meaningful to look at the statistics about how many people get pregnant in the first month of trying vs. second, third, etc. Something like 60% of people will get pregnant in the first month of active trying, so that is a more meaningful statistic. Now, you do have to have sex at the right time, but once you get the sperm and egg together, your odds are pretty good. It also varies wildly by couple. Some couples will conceive pretty much any time the sperm and egg are in the same spot.

                1. Savannnah*

                  60% on the first month seems incredibly high- I’ve read more like 60% of couples in the first 3 months and 95% of couples within a year.

                2. Starryemma*

                  Yeah, I’d like a citation for the 60% stat. If a woman is ovulating, she just ovulates one day. Sperm can live for a few days, but even if there’s sperm inside a woman on day of ovulation, there’s no guarantee of pregnancy.

            2. Thlayli*

              Pretty sure the 25% stat is for people who are actually trying to get pregnant – so presumably they would be doing it around the fertile time. I think it works out as 60% in 3 months (0.75 x 0.75 x 0.75 = 0.42 i.e. 42% of healthy fertile couples would not get pregnant in 3 months of trying.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I agree with this–he needs to get some medical attention for this. Not just because of you, Name changed to protect the innocent, but because it can cause even more health problems for him.

        2. Thlayli*

          Ok so I googled that and it seems there’s two main causes – either the penis doesn’t develop properly for some reason and a baby is born with it, or it can be acquired when someone gets very overweight and it basically gets hidden in folds of fat.

          Either way, it can be dangerous as it can lead to infection if urine pools in there. So there is medical justification for treating it, which means treatment may be covered by insurance.

          There is an actual treatment. If it’s congenital there is basically an implant procedure, if it’s caused by obesity the treatment is basically to lose weight, though sometimes it may be necessary to have surgery to remove excess skin after losing weight.

          I’m sure you already know all this, but does he know? Is he aware this is an actual medical condition with an actual treatment? Men are often really weird and in denial about their penis problems. I once dated a guy wise foreskin was too small and tight and prevented him from getting an erection. He was obviously embarrassed that he kept getting hard and then soft again and I gently told him that this is a thing it happens to like one in a thousand baby boys and it can be easily treated by circumcision. He genuinely had never realised this and he got a circumcision a week later.

        3. paul*

          He’s *got* to know that getting semen to eggs is involved in getting pregnant, unless he’s been raised in a box until marriage. I’m…really skeptical of his attempts to deflect difficulties getting pregnant onto your ovulation.

        1. Name changed to protect the innocent*

          It’s not that he doesn’t have one at all. It’s just that it’s covered by skin and you can’t see it when you first look at him.

          1. Savannnah*

            ah ok- these are related conditions sometimes. My main concern would beyond sexual function would be hygiene and infection- so he should see someone for all these issues if he hasn’t.

          2. ohhecknonotusingrealnameforthis*

            If this is what I think it is my husband has the same thing but did not have what sounds to me like an issue with partial impotence. Not everyone has a visible part when flaccid but in our case when it was time to perform it was MORE than adequate if you get my drift.

            At this point you just need to be blunt and tell him it is time to see the doctor. Issues with erections can sometimes be a marker for heart disease or diabetes, at the least. You deserve a sex life and so does he. And he needs to understand this is not just his decision since this has a major impact on YOUR life too!

    2. neverjaunty*

      Given that he didn’t inform you of this until after you got married, I think you’re entirely reasonable in expecting him to try and deal with it appropriately. Which means, at a minimum, seeing medical professionals. It’s not okay for him to put his being an “intensely private person” over you having a sex life, which you were led to expect would be a thing.

      1. Name changed to protect the innocent*

        He did tell me “there’s not much there” but I just thought that meant it was short …

        1. neverjaunty*

          Then no, he didn’t tell you. And maybe he didn’t quite understand what the implications were – but he can sure as heck talk to a doctor NOW.

          1. Triplestep*

            I agree. There may be a lot about his condition (or the basic mechanics of sex and baby-making) that he does not understand, but he understood he had a condition that had an actual name (which is more than “there’s not much down there”) and he chose to withhold that information from the woman he was planning to marry. I don’t care how private a person he is, that is not OK. I agree that it’s entirely reasonable for you to expect that he pursue treatment for this.

            1. WellRed*

              Yeah, I don’t consider him kind or considerate for not being more forthright, and then refusing to deal with the problem by whatever means possible. Good luck letter writer. You’ve gotten some great advice here.

            2. Delphine*

              Yep, skirting around that information instead of disclosing it clearly and then implying that his partner is at fault for their inability to get pregnant? Not a good look.

    3. Undine*

      Can you find a sex therapist in your area? I don’t know how satisfying the rest of your sex life is, but not being able to talk honestly about sex can corrode a relationship over time. He may have some really deep shame about this that is blocking his ability to see it clearly, so getting a third party in to work with this is helpful.

      1. Undine*

        I mean couple’s counseling, and it doesn’t have to be a sex therapist, but sex-positive therapist would obviously make a huge difference.

        1. Kj*

          I think they should be a sex therapist- they clearly need help talking about sex and a sex therapist (who is likely also good at couple’s work, the two often go together) would be a great referral. Sex therapists know the medical side of things much better than a regular couples or marriage therapist.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      So first, I want to say that the notion of losing your virginity equating to heterosexual intercourse is problematic, so you should try to reframe your thoughts on that front. There are plenty of ways that your husband can give you pleasure without penetration, like orally. And if you really want penetration, there are always toys. You shouldn’t feel bad about communicating your wishes for a healthy sex life.

      That being said, the pregnancy issue is likely something you will need to discuss with a doctor. Surgery might be the only fix for that or possibly looking into IVF or something. I understand that he’s private and unlikely to talk to anyone in his personal life about this, but he needs to talk to you and you need to be open and honest with him no matter how difficult it is.

      1. Thlayli*

        i don’t think it’s very healthy to tell OP how she “should” think or feel about her sex life or her virginity.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes. I understand the intent is that there are lots of ways to have sex besides one act – but the OP clearly isn’t happy about missing out on it, and she has a husband who wasn’t forthright and now seems to be content to do nothing. This is a communications problem, not a “but other things are sex too” problem.

        2. all aboard the anon train*

          Agreed. Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes losing their virginity, and I think it’s problematic to say that someone who wants traditional hetero PIV sex is problematic for viewing virginity that way. It’d be different if the OP was going around saying the only way for anyone to lose their virginity would be to have PIV sex, but the OP isn’t doing that. She’s talking about virginity in relation to her own sexuality, body, and needs. There’s nothing wrong or problematic with that.

          Not to mention, a lot of people don’t get sexual satisfaction from oral sex or toys.

      2. LilySparrow*

        If the LW is not happy with the intimacy in her relationship (which actually seems to go beyond the issue of penetration), belittling her totally legitimate desires is beyond unhelpful.
        “If you really want penetration, there are toys?”
        I assure you, it’s Not The Same Experience At All.

      3. No thanks*

        It’s problematic to YOU. But if it works for communicating what is important to this woman and her husband who are you to insert yourself into her relationship and police her concepts in this way? You are prioritizing some agenda of your own over helping this woman in her own life. Other than that ridiculous level of control I agree with your advice.

      4. Courageous cat*

        There’s nothing problematic about equating it to heterosexual intercourse for oneself and one’s own experiences. It’s when you equate it for society as a whole. I don’t like to see people mix these kinds of things up, as it’s harmful in and of itself to devalue someone’s experience by saying things like this.

    5. Kj*

      You need to insist he see a medical doctor and both of you need to see a competent sex therapist together. I’m going to guess your husband is not good at openly talk about sex, so I suspect talking about sex with a professional will be hard. But you need a kind and understanding sex therapist who will have, I can assure you, have seen this sort of thing before. It might be even good to talk to the sex therapist BEFORE you talk to the MD, as sex therapists might be able to refer you to a competent MD who has a good bedside manner. Your sex therapist can also explain to your husband why you aren’t pregnant- he may not understand the mechanics well. Sex education in this country is terrible, so it makes sense that he might not ‘get’ it.
      If you need a book to read, I suggest “Intimacy and Desire” by Dr. Schnarch, it talk about mis-matches in sex drives in partners.
      To find a good sex therapist, I will post a link below to the association for certified sex therapists.

    6. FD*

      I think it might be helpful for you to figure out what is bothering you most when you say, “I may be a virgin the remainder of my life.”

      Is it the social expectation that married people have PiV sex and you feel like your sex isn’t real sex if that doesn’t happen?

      Is it that you very much want to get pregnant and you can’t due to this issue?

      Is it that you were looking forward to the feel of PiV sex and it’s disappointing not to get to experience it?

      Maybe something else?

      It’s reasonable to be upset and confused over this, and I don’t want to minimize it or say that you have to do all the emotional labor when he didn’t tell you about this. But if you understand what you fundamentally want (and why), it’s easier to have a conversation about it.

      1. JenM*

        She wants to have sex. Penetrative PIV sex with her husband. I’m not sure she needs anymore reason than that?

        1. Hrovitnir*

          “But if you understand what you fundamentally want (and why), it’s easier to have a conversation about it.”

          Not everything suggesting further analysis of your needs is questioning the validity of those needs. It can really help to have a clear understanding of where you’re coming from, to help advocate for yourself and figure out what compromises would help you (and what you may not be able to live happily without.)

          1. FD*

            Exactly! And sometimes understanding those needs may actually lead you to realize something is a dealbreaker for you.

        2. FD*

          Sure, and she can want that for any reason she wants. However, the reasoning will guide the conversation.

          Example: Person feels more aroused by the idea of penetrative sex and wants to have that aspect included in the marriage. While surgery may or may not be an option (the person states that it may not be viable due to health issues), if this is the most important aspect, then the conversation might also include a discussion of using sex toys to bring that part more in.

          If other reasons are more at the forefront (e.g. pregnancy, not feeling it’s intimate enough, etc.), then the conversation might include different things.

          Mind you, the person here can decide that this is a dealbreaker and she doesn’t want the relationship at all unless they are able to have this sort of sex, and that’s fair enough! But I get the sense that the person here is trying to find viable solutions that don’t involve ending the marriage or having to just give up on her desires. And to find a ‘third option’, it’s helpful to understand what, fundamentally, is most important to her.

      2. Not Alison*

        It’s one thing to suggest something other than vaginal penetration for sexual satisfaction if a woman has already had very enjoyable vaginal penetration, but if she hasn’t had that experience, then she doesn’t really know what she is missing and is entitled to have that really exhilarating experience.

        I second the recommendations to require your husband to seek medical and therapeutic help (and, hopefully, for him to be OK with you being a part of those discussions).

        1. FD*

          /shrug I don’t disagree. I am saying that it might be most helpful to her in this case to understand what’s most important to her. It might be that experience, and that’s OK! I think it’s just more helpful to come to a conversation that’s going to be difficult with a clear understanding of what your goals are.

    7. HannahS*

      So, while, yes, it’s his body, and you can’t demand that he go through surgery, if he’s not taking this seriously, he’s the problem, not you. Like neverjaunty says, it’s not right for him to put being private over both of you having a sex life, especially since he allowed you to enter marriage assuming that you *would* have a sex life. It sounds like you’re trying to spare his feelings as much as you can, but where is his consideration for your feelings? It stinks that you’re having such a large problem so early in marriage, but…well, working through this is important, and while it may wind up being one of the worse-er times, it’s ultimately for the better. I don’t know how to do it kindly, but he needs to know that you’re not satisfied with your sex life. If he loves you, don’t you think he’d want to know that something inside you has died? Wouldn’t you want to know if he felt that way? This is about sex, but it’s also about your marriage as a whole. He shouldn’t want to be in a marriage where, when you’re deeply unhappy, you tuck it away inside yourself and bear it in silence forever to avoid hurting his feelings. The truth is, you don’t need his permission to talk to other people about it. Not the whole world, but you can talk to your own doctor or your own therapist about what’s going on, what potential solutions might be, how to raise it with him as kindly as possible. Give him the option of coming with you, but go yourself for your own well-being.
      Here’s my amateur script: Darling, I love you very much, I love the life we have, but our sex life isn’t working for me. I love [thing that you do together], but I also want to love [penetrative sex?] and it’s frustrating me that it’s not working for us. It’s been a year, and I want to talk to a doctor about it. I’m going to book an appointment with Dr. ____, and I’d like us to go together.
      Other useful phrases: “I know it hurts your feelings, but I’m doing this because I love you and I love our marriage, and having a strong intimate life is an important part of marriage.” “This is an issue for both of us to work through together.” “I know it’s hard to talk about, but I see this as a time for us to become closer, and an investment in our future.” “I want to be in a marriage where we talk honestly about our life together. I know neither of us is used to that, and it’ll be hard, and we’ll probably hurt each other’s feelings a lot, but I think it’s important.”

      Also, google micropenises, and see if that helps.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Excellent scripts. And adding, “Sex causes a release of chemicals in the body that makes the couple bond to each other more.” So there you go, OP. You wanna bond even MORE.

    8. Akcipitrokulo*

      I can see at least three separate issues… worried about being a virgin, not being satisfied with sex life and pregnancy issues.

      Pregnancy can be achieved with a “turkey baster” option, but I think that would be dodging the question unless you both see that as the only main issue, and are content with the rest.

      “Being a virgin” doesn’t have to be an issue in and of itself if it’s the idea/label. Not having a good sex life and being frustrated is an issue… having the label or not doesn’t have to be.

      If you want to have penetration (or any other sexual activity) and it’s not happening, the only way to fix it is to talk. If, like here, it’s due to a medical condition, then at least one talk should include a medical professional.

      (If both of you are truly happy with a non-penetritive sex life, then that really is fine! but only if it actually is true or there will be deeper issues if either of you pretend to yourselves you don’t mind.)

      It may be that there is a simple solution that a dr may suggest which will fix things. But you won’t know unless you ask.

      In general thougb, this is someone you live and want to be with for a long time. Intimacy starts with trust and communication. Talking to him honestly is a good place to start.

    9. Name changed to protect the innocent*

      Thank you all so much for listening and for your insightful comments! Hope you have a great weekend!

    10. No name for this*

      I’m sorry you are having this trouble. I’m going to tell you my story and how it came out. A lot is different, but maybe it will help.

      My (now ex for different reasons) husband and I were both virgins when we got married. I didn’t even know how to “take care of myself.” I was still a virgin after a very painful and frustrating wedding night. I had no idea vaginismus existed and even less that I would have it. Maybe I should have guessed because I couldn’t use tampons, but I didn’t. We kept trying and nothing got better. He was willing to try oral sex for something, but insisted I shower and wash very well first, which made me feel like he thought I was dirty. I didn’t feel comfortable talking to him, but I started seeing a sex therapist for talk only. I’ve heard rumors that there are ones who also help with the act, but I still don’t know if it’s true. She was able to first help me figure out how to give myself pleasure and confirm vaginismus, which by then I’d looked up enough on the internet to suspect was my problem. We divorced over other issues before our sex life got going, but I continued with the sex therapist. I can’t remember exactly how long I worked with her, but I moved out of state fairly shortly, so it wasn’t all that long. When the next right man came into my life, I remembered the exercises she taught me and started working hard on them. We had successful and satisfying sex. I also learned that I do not orgasm from PiV sex, but only from good clit stimulation (usually requiring a device rather than a human partner, no matter how willing), so it’s been important to have an understanding partner with whom I can communicate.

      You’ll probably need more buy in from your partner earlier than I did and that will require finding a way to talk to him and someone else (therapist, doctor, or both). I agree with FD that it will help if you know what you want most out of the conversation. Acknowledgement of your feelings and struggles? PiV sex? Penetration by some other means? Orgasm whatever way it works? Pregnancy? This is a tough situation and I wish you the best.

    11. Amtelope*

      So, OK. I suggest a counselor first, to talk about what you’d like to be different about your sex lives and how you’d like to achieve that. Seeing a doctor about the problem is one good option (and may be advisable if there are potential medical complications of his condition), but there may be other things you’d find satisfying if he isn’t willing to get treatment, or if there isn’t effective treatment — penetration with toys/a strap-on/etc., for one thing.

      For pregnancy, there are both medical and simple interventions you can try (I say, as a lesbian who’s really familiar with ways to get pregnant without intercourse). Easiest/simplest: turkey baster method, have him ejaculate into a jar and then insert it with a medicine syringe, or into a condom and then invert the condom inside you. If that doesn’t work, a doctor can perform artificial insemination with his sperm.

    12. Dan*

      Sorry you have to deal with this. The thing with marriage is, if you’re not getting your emotional needs met, it just gets worse. (I’m not separating out sex here, they’re intertwined.) Sucking it up and not dealing with it just creates more and more resentment. And then you get to the point where you can’t stand to look at your husband and all you want is out. And you’re miserable.

      What I’m saying is that for your long term mental health, you shouldn’t feel ashamed/sad/guilty/some-other-negative-emotion because you need/want something difficult from another person, particularly one that you have made a legal commitment to. (That commitment cuts both ways.)

      What I’m also saying is that if he really won’t see a doc or go to counseling with you, you have every right to get out of the marriage.

      1. RestlessRenegade*

        I agree. OP, this sounds really hard and sad, and I’m sorry you have to deal with it. I do think it’s important that our needs are met, whether that means medical help, or sex therapy, or figuring out if you just don’t want to deal with this anymore. I hope things get better for you.

    13. Melody Pond*

      I have so many thoughts and opinions about this – mainly about your husband and his behavior, and how it seems incredibly misogynistic of him, given his medical condition, to blame you for the lack of getting pregnant so far. (!!!)

      But I’m going to stick to practical ideas for solutions here.

      1) If you’re seeking penetrative coitus as part of your sex life, your husband can still provide this for you, with the help of strap-ons and dildos and other toys. Hopefully he’s not enough of a jerk and not insecure enough about himself to refuse that.

      2) At the very least, it seems like pregnancy isn’t likely to happen through penetrative sex (even without outside medical intervention). Can he ejaculate through masturbation? If so, one easy DIY-at-home idea might be for you to purchase a menstrual cup, sterilize it, have him ejaculate into it, and then insert the cup carefully, and push it as close against your cervix as you can. (it’d probably be ideal to choose a relatively shallow cup, but one that still has a long stem available, so you can push it up closer to your cervix than its normal use would require, but still reach the stem to remove it. Maybe the Meluna Shorty menstrual cup with a stem?) Menstrual cups can be left in for up to 12 hours, so I’d bet you could safely leave it in and just go about your day for several hours.

      1. Melody Pond*

        Re-reading my post, I can see that I was more candid and harsh with displaying my gut reaction than was warranted – I didn’t mean to be insensitive or unkind, I think I’m just really horrified at the situation your husband has put you in. My apologies for not handling that well.

    14. Thlayli*

      A lot of people have pointed out other ways to get pregnant. I just want to suggest that you first figure out a way to get to being happy with your sex life before trying to get pregnant by alternate means. Sorry to sound harsh, but feeling like you’re dying inside is not a good indicator that this will be a long and happy marriage, and you probably need to figure out if you can stay with him long term, and be happy, before you figure out if you want to have kids with him.

      I know you’re thinking of course I will stay with him, I married him, but if something doesn’t change and you continue to feel like you’re dying inside, you may well end up separating in a few years, or raising a child in a miserable atmosphere. So I think the marital problems should be reaolved before the babymaking commences.

      Again, sorry to sound harsh. But having kids is a pretty irreversible decision.

    15. LilySparrow*

      LW, you are married. Emotional honesty is far more crucial to long-term intimacy than anything you do in bed.

      You deserve to be heard, and for him to take your needs seriously.
      He deserves to know that his refusal to prioritize your needs is making you feel like you’re dead inside.

      It’s also concerning that you hear him making ludicrously misinformed statements about the basics of how bodies work, and apparently you don’t feel comfortable correcting him? You both decided you want children, but you can’t talk about the fundamental mechanics of how that happens?

      That kind of gulf puts relationships in jeapordy.
      All the toys and positions in the world – indeed, all the PIV or orgasms in the world – can’t create a satisfactory sex life if you feel like asking for him to have open discussions with you is an imposition.

      Your needs are not a burden. Your truth is not an insult to him. If he won’t go to counseling, go without him. And tell him why. You can’t fight for a happy marriage in secret.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        This. So much this. All of this.

        I will admit that I am feeling angry with your husband on your behalf. Breaking this down a bit:

        I can understand his condition being very difficult to talk about, and feeling very shameful to him. Thus making it even more difficult to talk about. On the other hand, in my view, he owed you honesty before you made a commitment to him. And telling you “there’s not much there” isn’t even close to the actual situation. Essentially, in a way, it could be said that he married you under false pretenses.

        I could be wrong (because not Catholic and so not totally up on canon law – not saying you’re Catholic, either, OP, but using it as an example), but I think that a marriage entered into in which one partner deceived the other on a fundamental issue would be a valid grounds for annulment in the Catholic church. I say this not because I think you should end your marriage, but as an illustration that yes, this is a big issue. And you are not wrong to be upset about it.

        That he is now trying to blame you because you’re not getting pregnant is so ludicrous that it would be funny if it weren’t so frustrating. I appreciate that you love him, and you want to spare his feelings. But I would suggest that you think about this: How would you feel if the situation were the same in 5 years? Or 10?

        Please take care of yourself, OP. And don’t, please don’t, deny your own feelings and needs out of wanting to make things easier for him. He’s certainly not trying to make it easier for you right now. He may be a kind, considerate person in most things…I doubt you would have fallen in love with him otherwise. But on this, he is acting in ways that are irrational and selfish, and what he is apparently expecting of you is not reasonable or kind. You matter. Your needs and your wants matter. Please don’t let him convince you that you are being in any way selfish or unreasonable – you are not.

        1. Thlayli*

          If LW has not had penetrative vaginal sex that by itself is grounds for annulment in the catholic religion. A catholic marriage isn’t considered valid if it’s unconsummated.

        2. nonegiven*

          I think legally and/or in the Catholic church, not consummating the marriage could be grounds for an annulment.

    16. No thanks*

      Surgery is NOT too much to ask so you can enjoy the benefits of being married. Do not allow him, yourself, your culture or anything else to downplay the seriousness of this situation. Some religions would consider it a valid reason for annulment. Insist on therapy and a medical consult. You need to consider whether adoption and non penetrative sex will satisfy you. He needs to face reality and not blame the situation on you.

  20. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    Fiancé and I are more that midway thru wedding planning, on a classy but small/reasonable budget. One q: champagne toasts. He states all weddings he’s been to had them, and it’s not a wedding reception without one. Me: I’m not a drinker, it would cost $140 additional, and I’ve been to dry weddings without one. We’re not having a cake due to his allergies so a toast is important to him. Me: I’m on the fence, but I promised I’d research pros/cons then see.

    Your take on champagne toasts?
    What do guests pay attention to at weddings/reception?
    Also, thoughts on fruit centerpieces like plums in glass bowls?

      1. Red*

        I don’t drink either, and I feel sort of weird about being at events with champagne toasts. Like, am I expected to participate? Is it weird if I don’t? Will anyone even notice? Then again, I’m more anxious than most. I’d say, if your husband is really set on it, I’d probably go for it but also have sparkling cider/grape juice available. I had a really good non-alcoholic sparking juice once from Trader Joes.

        As far as fruit centerpieces, I honestly love the idea! I wish I had done that at my anniversary party instead of candles!

        1. Thlayli*

          If you are at an event with a champagne toast or free drink, just ask the server for a non-alcoholic drink when everyone else is getting their alcoholic ones. You don’t need to explain why, and they will almost certainly supply it without question. Lots of people don’t drink because they are driving, or on antibiotics, or pregnant, or feeling a little ill. People aren’t going to make terrible assumptions if you ask for a non-alcoholic alternative.

          1. ThatGirl*

            We had sparkling grape juice available at my wedding and my lone regret, 10 years later, is that my religious relatives didn’t know and didn’t get any (there was a whole minor thing with my grandma).

      2. bunniferous*

        What is important is the toast, not what is in the toast glass. I have toasted plenty of times with punch!

    1. ECHM*

      Could you have a non-alcoholic drink (e.g. sparkling grape juice) available for yourself and others who might not drink to put in their champagne glasses? I assume what he’s interested in is the spirit of the toast (that you have a toast) rather than that everyone have champagne in their glasses when it happens.

    2. Savannnah*

      We did not do it and nobody cared. I felt it was an unnecessary expense and my fiancé was neutral. If its important to him, ask him where else in the budget he would like to cut- weddings are about priorities so if this is one of his, what else does he think is less important? Wedding guests want to be fed on time and have options if they have allergies- and if its culturally an expectation, they want alcohol at some point. Remember though, that everything is optional and just because x,y,z has happened at all the weddings he’s ever been to, doesn’t mean its mandatory. Nothing is mandatory for a wedding beyond the legal aspects.

    3. Flying Fish*

      We skipped the champagne toast at our wedding and no one seemed to miss it.

      There’s a website called A Practical Wedding that is great for this sort of thing. There’s lots of commentary on what actually matters, alternatives to traditions you don’t car for, etc.

      1. Reba*

        Seconding A Practical Wedding! I love the site and I also got the book.

        We did no champagne (we had beer, wine, and fancy sodas made by our caterers–lots of non drinkers) and pie instead of cake.

    4. Thlayli*

      We had half champagne/half beer at our wedding. I hate champagne, think it tastes like gone-off cider, and can’t understand why people like it. But I recognise other people like it so why not.

      This may be regional, but expect at least one free drink at a wedding where I live, not necessarily champagne though, usually wine with your meal is free.

      Where I live the venue does all this stuff so you choose your venue, then you choose your package, then you can make some substitutions/customisations. The package we took at our venue was a set price per person and included half a bottle of wine and a glass of champagne / beer for each person.

      The best advice I ever heard about wedding was pick what is important to you and spend your money on that, and scrimp on the rest. For us the party was the important thing so we got an awesome band, great venue and free drink, and I wore a dress from a charity shop, and the bridesmaid dresses were bought on sale. For someone else the dress and photos might be the most important thing so that’s where they would put their money. For others a champagne toast might be important, and it sounds like that’s something your husband thinks.

    5. neverjaunty*

      I’m more raising eyebrows at his insistence that it’s “not a wedding” without a champagne toast. That’s really the hill he wants to die on? Why?

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I also find the wording troublesome. Not to nitpick phrasing, but just from that part it seems he wants to insist on it without having to convince the person he’s marrying. Ideally, he would be able to articulate how, at all the wedding receptions he’s been to, family members and close friends have said the most touching, wonderful things that really stuck with him for decades. (That’s just my best guess as to why it might matter so much, although there’s no guarantee he has thought it through enough to articulate it, he may just be incredibly moved when he thinks about the toasts.) If you can talk that part out, then you would be able to make a more informed, joint decision. And if that’s the reason why, then you may want to consider that his family may well have things they expect to say. You could try to find another way for them to make toasts if you want to save the money, but I would be tempted to just give it to him if it matters that much to him.

        1. Reba*

          Great insight, TCA. I don’t really *remember* the toasts from my wedding, but I do remember the feelings from them.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Yeah, I’m also wedding planning right now and this is my thought too. There’s so very many details you guys have to figure out, and you need to be on the same team or you’ll go insane :)
        Offer a non-alcoholic option (sparkling grape juice, maybe?) that you and anyone else who wants can have instead.

    6. Tedious Cat*

      Do the toast. It’s not really about drinking, it’s about the stories your loved ones will share. The toast my best friend gave, that I later echoed in my toast to her at her own wedding, is one of my fondest memories. And how many chances in life do you get to just sit there and listen to people saying nice things about you? I don’t know, maybe that makes you uncomfortable, but it’s important to your fiance. When you’re doing a small wedding without all the trimmings it’s important to figure out what you absolutely must have to make it feel like a wedding, and it sounds like this is it for him. $140 isn’t bad for wedding stuff. Skip the favors instead. I promise I have never met anyone who cares about wedding favors.

      1. what's my name again?*

        Hear! Hear!
        Our best man’s toast to us was short, sweet, and so us:
        Here’s to love and laughter, and happy ever after.

      2. neverjaunty*

        There’s nothing wrong with wanting a toast for those reasons, but shouldn’t he say that, instead of “it’s not a wedding without _____”? One is explaining why a particular thing is important to him.The other is trying to cast personal preferences and emotions as Objective Fact, which is far more concerning.

        1. Thlayli*

          I think it’s just a figure of speech. You might not be familiar with it but lots of people say it for various things. I’ve said “it’s not a movie without popcorn”, for example. I don’t mean that literally, obviously, and I don’t mean that everyone must eat popcorn with a movie, I just mean for me to enjoy a movie, I must have popcorn. If he feels as strongly about the toast as I feel about popcorn, I think he should be allowed to have it. it’s his Wedding too after all.

          1. neverjaunty*

            If you were going to a movie with someone who didn’t like popcorn and didn’t personally want any, and you declared “It’s not a movie without popcorn!”, that would in fact be a figure of speech in which you’re also insisting that things must be done a certain way because it is the Right Way.

            The issue, again, isn’t that the guy is right or wrong or that he does or doesn’t get a say; the issue is that these two people aren’t communicating, and instead of talking about priorities and ‘I really want this at my wedding’, it’s turning into an argument about the Right Way to wedding.

            1. Thlayli*

              Um… I have been to a movie loads of times with people who don’t want popcorn and said “it’s not a movie without popcorn”, and guess what. They understood that this is a figure of speech and i was referring to my experience of the movie, not theirs, and they understood that i was in no way forcing or advising them to get popcorn for themselves. Because this is a really common figure of speech that many many people understand.

              1. Someone else*

                This analogy isn’t great here, given that your personal moviegoing experience (even when attending with others) isn’t generally considered inherently connected to theirs in quite the same way a wedding is. OK you get popcorn and your friends don’t and no one cares or minds your turn of phrase. But in a wedding scenario it’s their wedding, so I agree with others above that the groom’s choice of words is fairly aggressive in this context. It’s not about advising or forcing someone to do something themselves. It’s implicitly saying “I consider your not doing it a lesser experience”, and when it’s their wedding to each other, they can’t have it both ways. Either there’s a toast at that wedding or there isn’t. It’s not the same as you get popcorn and they don’t because a wedding is specifically about both the betrothed together.

                Ultimately, I think they just need to discuss it with each other more thoughtfully, but I don’t think it’s gotten off on a right foot so far.

                1. Thlayli*

                  Well I still think it’s a perfectly acceptable turn of phrase to use. He is telling her clearly that to him it won’t feel like a real wedding unless they have a champagne toast. And it’s his wedding too, so his experience of the wedding is pretty important. Some might even think that his experience of the wedding is just as important as the bride’s! Shocking idea I know.

                  But let’s just agree to disagree. I don’t think we’re going to convince each other given that I’m familiar with the phrase and you guys don’t appear to be.

                2. TL -*

                  I’m agreeing with Thlayli here – I’ve used that phrase all the time, and I’ve used it in this context – “Hey, do you want some popcorn?”
                  “Nah, I’m good.”
                  “Okay, I’m going to get some – it’s not a movie without popcorn!”

                  But it just means that your experience doesn’t feel complete without fulfilling a particular (usually) tradition. And the groom’s feelings matter! If he doesn’t feel like it’ll be a proper wedding without a champagne toast, but he’s willing to forgo a cake, than the toast probably has emotional and traditional significance to him and they should do it.

                3. neverjaunty*

                  It really is possible for people to be familiar with a turn of phrase while still disagreeing with your interpretation. I don’t especially care if you agree with me, but assuming anyone who sees it differently is just plain ignorant seems… overly invested?

                4. Fiennes*

                  Maybe assuming the fiancé is bullying his wife because of one often-innocuous phrase is also over-investing?

    7. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’ve been to weddings with and without them. I think they’re nice, but not necessary.

      However, if it’s really important to him, you should try to fit it in your budget. There are sparkling juice options you can include for yourself and other non-drinkers.

    8. Belle*

      Perhaps compromise and do a sparkling non alcoholic drink/toast? You are compromising with no cake – so perhaps he can compromise with no champagne.

    9. Kj*

      We did a toast with cider- we both don’t like champagne. The cider was one of the ‘regular’ options for drinks for our guests. A guest got us fancy glasses as a wedding present with our name and anniveresy on them, so it felt special to us. The guests didn’t care there wasn’t champagne- well, maybe one of my aunts cared, but she was a terrible guest and judged us for everything, so I don’t care what she thinks!’

      Plums in glass bowls sound lovely. I handmade paper flowers for my wedding and put them in IKEA vases. Cost less than $50, but looked really good.

    10. paul*

      We had a dry wedding, with sparkling cider for toast. I was *not* mixing alcohol and high emotions, not with some of my family.

    11. HannahS*

      I don’t drink, so I’m eh on toasts. As a guest, it’s cheesy, but what matters is who I’m with. Something I really appreciate is having a quiet-er place to sit and talk. As a guest, I don’t like it when the whole hall has very loud music for the entire reception, including dinner, because it makes it really hard to have a conversation. Love the idea of fruit centerpieces!

    12. Natalie*

      We didn’t have a dry wedding, but we skipped the champagne toast and no one cared, or at least no one commented on it.

      I can’t tell if he actually feels really strongly about having it (like it’s one of his top-5 things) or if he’s just unwilling to think outside the box a bit. If it’s the former, go ahead and have it – we all have stuff that “makes” a wedding for us, and they’re not exactly rational. I skipped the wedding dress, DJ, florist, cake, and various other traditions but I really wanted a traditional bouquet. It was the single most expensive thing in the wedding (more than my dress and ring combined!) but I wanted it so I got it.

      If it’s the latter, I recommend the “top X” technique – you each get to pick a certain amount of dealbreakers. Anything else gets cut or reduced if it won’t fit in your budget, even if its traditional.

    13. Valancy Snaith*

      If it’s important to him, include it. You’re saving money by not having a cake, and it’s his wedding too.

      I’ve never met anyone who cared about favours. 75% of them go in the trash on the way out the door, especially if they’re something non-edible. (Yes, that includes the flower seeds in the little pots, or the little matchsticks, or whatever.) Or they get left behind on the tables. Guests also won’t notice/recall the decor other than “it looked pretty.” People will pay attention to 1) the food, 2) that it’s timely and they’re not left starving for hours during photos, 3) the entertainment (if you have a lousy DJ or band, believe me, everyone will remember it forever. “Remember when we went to that wedding and the DJ played the chicken dance and the electric slide and the macarena all in a row and we had to go stand outside to get away from it for a while?), and 4) that the toasts and speeches aren’t too long. If they go on forever, people will be checking their phones, chatting away, going to the bar, whatever.

      Fruit centerpieces are fine. At my wedding instead of flowers I had Edible Arrangements vases, which ended up being cheaper than flowers and people could eat them, so they didn’t go to waste like flowers. If you have plums or something else in bowls, I’d be sure to let people know they’re edible so they won’t go to waste.

      1. Natalie*

        4) that the toasts and speeches aren’t too long.

        OMG yes. When I was a maid of honor and researching wedding toasts, the stupid Knot (may they all get little bits of hair stuck in their bras) suggested “don’t make it too long, no more than 10 minutes”. Lady, no one wants to hear you toast for 10 minutes! Two minutes or less, and then sit down.

        1. Thlayli*

          Absolutely. And please please don’t do the speeches before the dinner! I was at a wedding recently and no kidding there was an HOUR of speeches before the dinner. People will remember one thing from that wedding – the sheer hunger!

          1. heckofabecca*

            Oh my god, that sounds like a nightmare!!! I recommend toasts DURING the meal (assuming there’s a meal)—folks can eat while the others give a speech! Let them eat!

      2. LilySparrow*

        Yes! Favors should be consumable, if you have them at all.
        Nobody but you wants to be dusting mementos of your wedding in years to come. Maybe your parents, if they are particularly sentimental.

        1. Natalie*

          There’s a weird local chain thats sort of hardware and sort of junk shop. The best thing I ever saw there was shelves and shelves of single wedding favor tumblers and wine glasses. I had half a mind to buy them all for my glassware.

    14. Grad Student*

      As a wedding guest, I really like the toasts! The speeches, even when very short, are delightful, and I think it’s fun to have the everyone in attendance all sort of participating in a thing.

      However, the toast need not involve champagne–heck, water would do (though maybe a sparkling cider would be nice). I do drink, and enjoy an open bar at wedding when there is one, but have had an equally wonderful time at dry weddings.

      (All that said, of course you don’t *have* to have a toast! This is just my personal feelings about them.)

    15. Ainomiaka*

      I can’t speak for your fiancee, but to me it’s more about making the event feel celebratory and generous to your guests. A champange toast is absolutely not the only way to accomplish this, but what is the way you are going to accomplish it? Ask what he wants guests to feel and work on that rather than a specific thing maybe.

    16. Overeducated*

      Thirding not having a champagne toast and nobody cared…but if he actually says it’s important to him, and the cost is $140, I would likely give on this one.

    17. Kuododi*

      DH and I had a completely dry reception/no toasts of any kind. 24years later our marriage is still going strong and the Universe is still intact. ;) We have both officiated weddings where there was alcohol as well as where the strongest thing served was bakery cupcakes. DH has officiated weddings at hospital bedsides. Needless to say the last thing those couples were worried about was a champagne toast. I can’t begin to guess why your fellow is digging his heels in on this issue but it’s important to remember the wedding is one afternoon of one day….the question becomes how y’all let it set the tone for the marriage as a whole. Best wishes and Mazel Tov!!!

    18. Ktelzbeth*

      I can’t remember if we had a champagne toast. I was going to say we didn’t, but I know our best friend offered a toast. I just don’t remember what anyone toasted with. I can’t even remember if we had wine at the wedding. That perhaps shows you how important it was to me. I don’t know what resources are available in your area and what his allergies are, but our wedding cake was gluten and dairy free for allergy reasons. It was also tasty. I realize the cake bit was unsolicited advice, so take it with a grain of salt if it isn’t helpful.

      1. Thlayli*

        I had a cupcake tower at my wedding and some of the cupcakes were gluten and dairy free, for specific guests. The cupcakes doubled as favours. It was more expensive than a cake, but everyone loved them! There were 4 different flavours/colours as well as the gluten/fairy free ones.

      2. Ktelzbeth*

        Something had been nagging at me and I finally put my finger on it. He has allergies, so they’re is no cake. I don’t know how important cake is to you, but I’ve made cake without a wide variety of allergens, so it seems like there could be a way around his allergies. He wants a champagne toast and it sounds like you’re under some pressure to agree. I only see a tiny snippet of the planning and of your relationship but I wonder if and hope that things go the other way sometimes. Again, I know very little and may be completely overreacting, but it did make me think.

    19. Jules the First*

      A nice compromise might be a toast but with something bubbly and non-alcoholic. Or perhaps a friend (or the venue/caterer) can design you a fun mocktail that you can serve in champagne glasses (flutes or coupes) that would be festive for toasting?

      Fruit centerpieces can be gorgeous, but are not neccessarily a cheaper option than flowers (it can take a lot of fruit to look generous!). Other inexpensive options include vases or baskets with just greenery (think a sprig of fern in a glass bottle); a single stem of something pretty in a plain glass vase; those paper pom poms (please don’t combine them with candles!); a paper lantern with flower petals scattered around it; live herbs in pretty bags or pots (or even fresh cut ones in mason jars, depending on how formal your day is); a cluster of glasses filled with candies; feathers…options are out there!

      If you do go fruit for your centerpieces, you can sometimes save a little money by padding the container (if it’s opaque) so you don’t need quite so much fruit.

      1. HannahS*

        I’ve seen centrepieces that were potted plants. I think they were little $5 pots of violets ordered from the grocery store. It certainly didn’t read as formal, but they served the purpose of being something pretty in the middle of the table, and some of them lived in our bathroom for a while afterwards.

    20. Katie the Fed*

      The only thing guests really remember from weddings is that the couple was relaxed and enjoying themselves. That’s it. When I think back to all the weddings I’ve been to, I can’t remember a thing about the food, the music, the favors, the flowers, any of it. I remember that the couple seemed happy and gracious.

      1. Ali*

        I agree with all of the above, just wanted to say that I do remember the wedding favour which was a token saying “in lieu if wedding favours a donation has been made to *cancer charity* in memory of *family member*”

    21. heckofabecca*

      First of all, congrats!

      Considering how important the toast is to him and that you’re forgoing the cake, I’d say go for it! We all have weird wedding hangups; $140 for champagne is way better than it could be, assuming it still fits in your budget! And as many others have said, a non-alcoholic option (one that people know is there) would be kind for those who don’t partake. And as someone who can’t drink alcohol OR bubbly beverages, I recommend also having a non-bubbly option (a white grape juice is easy and passes well).

      A few speeches (no more than 4 or 5.. and no more than 3ish minutes each) do very well, as long as they’re not right on top of each other. Many attendees at a wedding only know one person; well-assigned toasts can offer a better picture of you as a couple to your guests.

      Fruit centerpieces sound very nice!! Fruit are nice in general :) I’d just plan ahead about what will happen to the fruit when the wedding is over—don’t count on getting your guests to take them all! My brother donated his (floral) centerpieces to the local hospital, if that gives any ideas. Again, congrats and may the rest of your process go smoothly!

    22. Astra*

      It’s ok to not have a toast. It’s ok to not do “traditional” wedding things you’re not interested in doing. Just make sure you both come to an agreement. And yes yes yes to echo previous commenter: read A Practical Wedding if you haven’t already.

      My table centerpieces were baskets full of apples so yes to fruits! Let guests know if they’re ok to eat or take afterward. We had so many apples leftover, which meant apple goodies for weeks later (hindsight, that was awesome. At the time it was another thing to deal with post-wedding)

    23. Not Alison*

      For the wedding toast, everyone used whatever beverage they had at their table, the wedding party was offered champagne and my husband and I had champagne in the Waterford crystal flutes from our registry. Very memorable first use of our new flutes.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I would recommend having a conversation with your fiancé about why a champagne toast is this important to him. If it’s because he wants to give the people closest to you a chance to share their feelings and participate in your celebration, then you can do that with or without champagne. In my own experience, I’ve been to a lot of weddings (with and without alcohol) where people said lovely things about the happy couple and we all raised a glass of something to celebrate. If it’s actually about the champagne itself, it’s worth having a conversation about why.

        The best wedding toast advice I have is this: avoid open-mic toasts at all costs.

        As far as centerpieces go, fruit can be gorgeous and classy. It can be nearly as expensive as flowers to get that much, but at least you’re paying for things people can eat afterward instead of dead flowers. :)

    24. Stellaaaaa*

      Have the option of champagne or sparkling cider. I didn’t have an opinion on this until the part where you wrote that he can’t eat cake. He’s already missing out on one of the traditional ceremonial parts of a wedding, so I say let him have a toast if it’s really this important to him. It’s his wedding too.

      1. Thlayli*

        Also, if you actually want cake you can have it, even if he can’t eat it. Just like he can have the champagne toast even if you do it with non-alcoholic drink.

        The important thing is to figure out what’s really important to each of you, and have that. Everything else can be reduced to meet budget.

    25. LilySparrow*

      Champagne toasts are nice but optional. In my area, dry weddings are common. If you are alcohol-free for religious or personal reasons, a sparkling cider toast is a fine alternative. If it’s a budget issue, better to just skip it. But if your fiance truly feels strongly that “it’s not a wedding without one,” that should trump anybody else’s opinion. Ask him what else should be cut to pay for it. That has a wonderful way of clarifying priorities.

      Guests pay attention to whether there is enough to eat for the time of day, whether there is enough space and seating for everyone to be comfortable, whether the party flows naturally without long awkward delays (like standing around counting ceiling tiles waiting for the happy couple to get photos taken), if the music strikes a good balance in style & volume so that talking & dancing are both possible (if dancing is included). How the other guests behave and treat each other (visible tension/conflict, drunken boorishness, etc), and how such things are handled by the hosts.

      I think a bowl full of plums would make a lovely centerpiece. But how many plums are you going to end up with?
      We had an afternoon buffet instead of a seated dinner, and had the florist put vases on the table for the bridesmaid’s bouquets. It was so simple and nice.
      I’ve also seen bowls of the guest favors used as centerpieces (like the rice bags or packets of Jordan almonds). That’s nice because most of it gets taken away.

    26. Ten*

      I am a dedicated teetotaler and at our wedding we toasted with sparkling cider. No one griped about it (at least not to me!). I think it’s the ritual that matters more than the beverage used.
      And I think a fruit centerpiece would be lovely. =)

  21. Savannnah*

    I’m prepping for our big move out west as I mentioned in the open thread yesterday. I’ve never had professional packer/movers before and advice online for prepping your stuff is all over the place. They are coming on the 8th to pack and the 9th to move and my husband is flying back from Portland to supervise but its on me to get our apt ‘ready’. My plan is for this weekend to identify and throw out/donate all of the things that are not coming with us and then next weekend to organize, clean and put smaller things into gallon ziplock bags. My dad and I are doing a 3 weeks road trip out west so I’m packing all of the stuff I’m going to want with me in my car on the 7th. I’m also pulling all the art off the walls. What else should I be doing? What do I need to think about that I’m not?

    1. DMLT*

      Make sure you know what things the moving company absolutely will not take. When my sister moved, she had already left town when the movers came. There were things they were not allowed to take that I got stuck dealing with. (Mainly food – she thought they would take nonperishables, they wouldn’t – and money. She had a big water jug full of coins she had thought they would move. They would not touch it. Had to have a friend come with a dolly and move it to my car, take it to the bank, and mail her the check! (It was over $450 *after* the coin counting fees…)
      So just make sure you’re not leaving anything behind that the movers won’t take.

      1. Going Where It's Weird*

        How strange. That’s our pack and move dates… AND destination. Too!

        It’s our second time around with this. Your contact with the company should have given you a very detailed packet as well as be open to contact.

        Ours does not move IKEA beds and will $$$ to disassemble. And all our anchored furniture MUST be unanchored.

        We will make a list an do a video of high value items and ones that are easily pocketed off a truck.

        We will pack very little because they won’t insure things that break because they can’t verify they were packed well.

        I will be going around with painters tape and marking things not to be packed. If I had the space I’d consolidate it, but it’s not possible today.

        Some will give a discount if you come well under the estimated weight so don’t pack things you “probably” don’t want at the new place.

        Otherwise we’ve had an easy time before and that included getting reimbursed for a few damages. I’ve moved 20+ times and no matter how something gets damaged.

        Good luck!

      2. Lindsay J*

        Those were things our movers specifically noted as well.

        No household chemicals.

        No money.

        No food.

        I had to pack all that and transport it in my car.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      We had professional movers when we moved a few months ago, so I have a recent experience I can tell you about. They will pack everything. As in, if there is trash in your trash cans, they will pack those up with trash in them. You don’t need to take things off the walls unless they specifically tell you to, but it won’t hurt to do it anyway. You honestly don’t need to do anything except the stuff you *want* to do — like if there’s stuff that you’re nervous about them packing because it’s breakable or valuable, you might choose to take care of that yourself, but really you could do absolutely no prep and they’ll walk in and do it it all.

      My advice is to do a thorough walk-through of the house before they leave — look in closets, cabinets, and drawers just to make sure they got everything. I found one cabinet and one coat closet they forgot to do.

      1. KR*

        Seconding taking care of the valuable (in general and to you) things yourself. Also, make some sort of inventory for yourself of furniture as far as condition and parts. Finally, don’t be scared to communicate with them – you’re not bothering them. I told them about x chest that had a leg prone to breaking, or how my kitchen table came apart even though I wasn’t up to taking it apart myself, or that blank thing was really important to me so I would appreciate extra care with it.

      2. Elizabeth H.*

        The packing trash cans with trash in them is so classic! Every single person I’ve known who has used professional packers/movers has reported exactly this. So funny.

      3. Slartibartfast*

        This was my experience as well. I asked them not to pack the litter box, and they didn’t… but they DID pack the scoop, the anti tracking mat, and the extra litter. They also packed my non perishable food, and the bread, and the hot dog buns. That was interesting when we unpacked cross country a month later. So my advice is be VERY specific, get a list of what they will and won’t take since it seems to vary, and putting DO NOT MOVE on items with painter’s tape sounds brilliant. You’ll be amazed how fast they move.

      4. Lindsay J*

        Haha yes.

        When we had movers come this was one thing my boyfriend warned me about specifically. Apparently when he moved as a kid the movers packed trash from the trash cans as well as coffee cans filled with used coffee grinds and bacon fat from cooking.

    3. paul*

      I might allow more time. We’re moving in May and I’m already sorting through stuff…not packing much up yet but doing the “keep/sale/donate/trash” type of sorting.

      Some of it depends on how much you have though.

    4. awb*

      In addition to the excellent tip that they will pack everything!! I would also note that they will not pack everything to the same level of protectiveness that you may pack. And that even if you kept the boxes or bags and packaging for appliances, furniture and others, they won’t necessarily pack those items in there. Pack yourself or wrap what’s valuable to you, including china. I recommend taking all jewelry with you.

      Delicate furniture, I would ask them to add additional padding. The base is often not enough. Make sure you empty your fridge so Tupperware etc is not left behind.

      Most moving services won’t take any food, including spices (we had to leave our whole collection last time) and anything aerosol, including rubbing alcohol, etc. and some won’t take batteries. Take all batteries out of small electronics.

      Shoes are tough since they don’t wrap individually and box. They get wrapped in paper than tossed into a larger box so delicate shoes or ones that could be damaged should be first boxed. Same with books as they’re placed directly into the box and stacked without a ton of organization so sometimes can end up creased and folded.

      It’ll be easier on you to unpack if you sort like by like so you can find and direct the unpacking easily when you get to your final destination. Bucket stuff in a room. Strip the bed. Empty the nightstands. Otherwise they will tape down and keep all items in drawers then wrap.

      Two international moves and countless personal small moves later, with all the missing and broken items from both, I still consider movers essential.

    5. ..Kat..*

      If you are donating a large quantity of stuff, some places (like Goodwill and Saint Vincent’s Society) will come pick up the stuff.

  22. Persephone Mulberry*

    Where are my YNAB (You Need A Budget) fans at? I’ve been at it for three weeks and while I love it, I also know that for myself, weeks 3-5 of any new habit are when the novelty starts to wear off so I backslide and then fall right off the wagon. (I can feel it happening already!) Any good tips or stories to help me stay motivated to stick with it?

    1. Natalie*

      Getting into a routine with it is really helpful. I update our budget every morning while I’m having coffee. Since I do it every day, it doesn’t take long, and it’s a good moment to also check for any wonky transactions and check where different balances are. For what it’s worth, direct import lags by over a day most times (for me at least) so even though I have that turned on I’m usually ahead of it anyway. As they have more history it’s also easier because stuff autofills based on the vendor name.

    2. Emma*

      I’ve been using YNAB for a year now! I used to be really great about inputting receipts as soon as I charged a card, but yeah, over time the novelty wore off a little bit. Now I have a calendar reminder set for a once-a-week budgeting session: I input any receipts I haven’t had a chance to (usually small charges) and reconcile all the accounts so I know everything is totally accurate before things get out of hand.

      The categories helped me feel better about spending money on an emotional level… and I don’t think I’d ever go back to another method because of it. This might have been an issue only I had prior to YNAB, but I would buy gifts out of a big “fun money” category. I started a gift category on YNAB’s recommendation and this past holiday season felt SO different. I enjoyed buying gifts in a way I didn’t before. It’s a little annoying to have more categories than I used to on a practical level, but on an emotional level I feel way less guilt about spending money on things that used to bother me.

      Also– just my personal preference but I don’t buffer. I have an emergency fund category and I prefer seeing my EF money that way, as opposed to in future months. I also have an FSA debit card through my work for health expenses… I don’t track that as an account at all in YNAB and there are purists that would probably be horrified by that, ha. So I will say there are certain aspects of the software you can just ignore if they don’t suit you and that helps you stick with it!

      1. Natalie*

        Definitely use it how you want! I use credit cards up the wazoo for rewards points so I ignore all of their little “be debt free!” stuff.

        1. DDJ*

          I think the important thing with credit cards is to use them more like debit – not carrying a balance means you’re not in debt. I do the same thing, I pay for everything on credit cards, but I also pay off the cards every month so I never get interest charges. That’s how you win at credit cards! That’s what I learned in a finance course many, many years ago, anyway.

    3. YNAB4ever*

      Start with the habit, stay for the results. Dunno if this is motivating, but I’ve been doing it for 3 years. In that time, I have never paid an NSF fee, only one late fee (serious health crisis prevented me from paying a bill). My net worth has gone up by $100k, I’ve bought a new car, and gone to Europe.

      It’s the daily routine that’s harder. I play games with it. How many no spend days can I do this month? Can I spend less on groceries than my mom used to? How can I set aside enough for Christmas?

      It really does work, and after a year if you skip a week, it feels odd.

    4. Libervermis*

      I adore YNAB. Things to help it transition from novelty to habit:

      1. Make your goals visible/tangible. Even if you’re not saving up for anything in particular (and I recommend you do), some kind of image or phrase or something about how nice it will feel to just be able to pay [utilities, car registration, whatever] without thinking about it.

      2. Save up for something specific. 3-5 weeks is the tough time for you, so fund a category for a special something you can do somewhere in the 6-10 week range. Doesn’t have to be big.

      3. Check in with someone regularly. I find that accountability is the best thing for helping me form habits.

      4. Don’t worry if it takes a few false starts. YNAB’s philosophy especially is designed to be flexible. Let your budget serve you rather than you serving your budget.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        See, this is where I think of Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies. I’m not into accountability and doing no 3 would make me self sabotage and give up on the whole thing.

    5. Katie the Fed*

      If you have a specific goal, really focus on that.

      We’re ok financially – have paid off all our debt but our mortgage. So it’s hard to get motivated to save. But we really want to put an addition on the house in the next 5 years and I don’t want to go into debt for it, so I try to think about it ALL THE TIME so it’s fresh in my mind when I’m forgoing little purchases, eating out, etc.

    6. Ramona Flowers*

      I only used it for a free trial and it completely transformed the way I manage money.

      In the past 17 months I’ve paid off almost a quarter of the debts I was previously having a breakdown over. If you take my income after taking off my share of the rent and household bills and my train pass, I have saved one third of it to put towards my debts. I could not have done that without YNAB! And once I pay it off I’ll be great at saving!

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        How do you track/budget outside of the software? Spreadsheet? On paper? I’m completely hooked on the method, I’m just debating whether the software is worth the monthly cost (It’s currently at $7/mo). I’ve heard that they give out extensions to the trial pretty freely, so I’m going to give that a try before I decide.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I heard they often give them away if you do the classes.

          I now use a spreadsheet. The main thing YNAB did was just curb my spending and stop me only counting money after I didn’t have it any more. I would have continued using it had it not been for the considerably reduced functionality on the iPhone app which is how I wanted to use it.

          1. nonegiven*

            They used to give away activation keys for the old version at the live classes. Idk what they do with the online only version.

    7. LilySparrow*

      I really like the software. I am not great about complying with the method over the long-term, but it’s still a wonderful tool for recordkeeping, reconciliation, and planning.
      The more you use the method, the more you’ll benefit, but you haven’t wasted time or money on it even if you “fall off the wagon” from time to time.

    8. Aealias*

      Well, spouse does the poking at the program and reconciling bank accounts and software, so I can’t speak to everything.

      What works for me is to log transactions when they happen. I don’t work off receipts so much as I log purchases standing at the end of the counter before I leave the store, or sitting in the car before I drive away. I find that waiting any longer than that, I can let receipts slide for days. Then my budget lines are LIES, I am angry with them for BETRAYING me, and I fall off the wagon.

      Also, I regularly annoy spouse by logging income through the app and directly to a budget line. “Oh, made an extra fifty bucks off this side gig? Kidstuff->Income. There, now there’s money in that budget line to pay for babysitting during that side gig.” He likes all the money’s entering the system to be in a general income slush pool, and distributed from there, but that’s not how I think of “extra” money and insurance reimbursements and stuff. So, I figure you pick the approach that works for you, there.

      1. nonegiven*

        Now that makes sense to me. Maybe a side gig main category with side gig income and side gig baby sitting as sub categories.

  23. Mom's getting paranoid*

    All the talk of helicopter parents this week has coincided with an incident that has got me thinking. I’m consciously trying to not meddle with my adult kids, and I think I do pretty well with it….but my second oldest son is making it hard lately! He’s having mysterious heart problems, lives alone in a secured building 30 minutes away, has twice called me to take him to the ER in the last six weeks, and the other day texted me at 2 am that he wasn’t feeling well, might need to go to the hospital again, and then went silent for FOUR HOURS.
    Is it helicoptery that I want a fob to his building? He has already given me a key to the apartment itself, and the last couple times he was in trouble it was during the day/evening and I was able to follow someone in or walk through the office. But at 2 am, the building isn’t staffed and it’s unlikely anyone else will be going in or out.
    I don’t want to be that parent who insists on access to their kid’s life, but dangit if he’s passed out I want to be able to get in the building without calling 911, which I almost did! So as long as he’s living alone and having issues like this, I’d like to be able to have access in case of emergency. But then I feel like THAT MOM, so I haven’t even mentioned it.
    (He’s okay, BTW. Just fell back asleep and dropped his phone under the bed so he didn’t hear it vibrate.)
    (And yes, he’s getting lots of testing done to try and figure it out…)

    1. neverjaunty*

      Helicoptering would be fussing about his furniture choices or getting his laundry done. Wanting to be backup when he is undergoing a health crisis is not helicoptering (unless he has told you to back off).

    2. Thlayli*

      I think it is ridiculous at this point that he hasn’t given you access. If ever there was a situation in which access is important, this is it. Hell im perfectly healthy (touch wood) and my mother has a key to my house!

      1. Mom's getting paranoid*

        He has given me a key to the apartment (even before all this started happening) but I haven’t yet talked to him about a fob. He’d have to go ask management for a second fob.

    3. Red*

      Maybe try bringing it up in an “It’s totally okay if you say no, but I wanted to ask about X because Reasons” way? Try to take the pressure out of it while still asking for what you need. Honestly, I think it’s a reasonable request, so long as it’s very clear that it will only be used in case of emergencies.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      It’s perfectly reasonable for you to have access in case of emergency. You would only be THAT MOM if you take advantage and pop in unexpectedly whenever you feel like.

    5. fposte*

      Your son is asking for a heightened level of involvement. It’s reasonable to ask for a heightened level of access.

      It’s more involvement than I would have had with a parent in his situation, but there’s no reason for me to be the yardstick; he’s also free to say no, he’s not comfortable with that.

      “Helicopter parent” is to some extent a caricature concept; in reality parents and offspring have all kinds of different arrangements that can work fine for them, and that’s all the arrangements have to do.

      1. Mom's getting paranoid*

        Thanks, your first sentence is how I feel about it. You want to call mom for stuff like this? Then give me what I need to help.
        I just don’t want *him* to think I’m helicoptering. To hell with what anyone else thinks. I guess that’s my personal definition of helicopter parent: when the child thinks the parent needs to back off.

        1. LilySparrow*

          If he’s calling you for help in the middle of the night but hasn’t given you a way to actually get in, then he may well think you are helicoptering.

          But that whole setup is irrational and you can’t magically figure out how to do the right thing from the perspective of a person who’s being irrational.

          Hopefully he isn’t actually unreasonable and just hasn’t thought it through.

    6. Temperance*

      I think he’s being super irresponsible here! He lives 30 minutes away from you … he should be calling an Uber/Lyft/taxi at that point if an ambulance is not a feasible choice.

      You should have access to the building if he keeps relying on you for this.

    7. dr_silverware*

      I think it’s reasonable! Especially if you define the boundaries of using it with him. For instance:

      -in non emergency situations you still have to buzz up and warn him

      -use it only if he’s told you about a medical problem and then is incommunicado

      -if he misses a regular checkin by x hours

      That kind of thing—a way to build trust and allow you to not feel helicoptery or like you’re about to invade his space.

      1. Mom's getting paranoid*

        We don’t do “regular check ins” as part of our relationship, but otherwise that’s exactly how I would use it.

    8. Akcipitrokulo*

      If he’s given you a key, and is ok with that, gettig a fob is just a practicality that was missed, not a privacy issue. He’s ok with your getting into his place!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, my read on this is that it’s an oversight on his part.
        OP, if he has a key to your place, you could probably use that to help the conversation along. “You do have a key to my place and I expect that you would use it in cases of emergency. I would treat the fob in the same manner, it’s for emergency usage.”
        I do have to land on what another poster said. He called YOU. This means your help is wanted. You are not helicoptering or micromanaging or anything.

        I am also curious as to how emergency rescue gets into that building.

    9. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      From your son’s perspective – ask politely w/ the reasons why, then DO NOT under any circumstance ever, ever, ever abuse it. No surprise parties in his apt. Only use if it he specifically asks you to, or if there’s a real concern about his health and you need access to him. If he’s got a girl over, don’t go over there. Call the police and ask them to check on him instead if you think it’s urgent.

      Also, once his health issue is identified and treated, offer to return the fob.

      1. Triplestep*

        I’m scratching my head over the tone and content of this response. Even by the time it was posted, the OP had indicated on many levels that she had legit reasons for concern coupled with a desire to keep appropriate boundaries. (Her entire reason for writing was to maintain appropriate boundaries!) The “DO NOT … ever, ever, ever” finger wagging is really unwarranted, as is the reminder for her to “ask politely”. Not even sure what to say about the “got a girl over” part. That is just completely out of left field.

        OP, I have an adult son and I’ve also tried to impress upon him that it’s important for anyone who lives alone to have emergency resources set up. It’s equally important for him as it is for my 86 year old mother, but of course the dynamics are different with one’s offspring. You’ve gotten some great advice and feedback here, and I hope you’re able to have some peace of mind with your son’s situation going forward.

    10. Jules the First*

      Does he have a neighbour who would be happy to buzz you in? I’m single and my lovely neighbours (on my floor in our secure building) were more than happy to take a key to my apartment and buzz family in if it was an emergency.

    11. Ali*

      The fact that you are asking the question indicates you are not an overbearing parent. It’s likely he just hasn’t thought of it. If you ask “son thanks for giving me a key but without fob access I can’t get to you if you are incapacitated, can we do that?”

    12. LilySparrow*

      That is not helicoptering.

      Anyone who is having serious health issues needs an emergency contact who can get to them in an emergency.

      Controlling/helicoptering would be if he had chosen someone else as his emergency contact, and you insisted he give you a fob instead of them.

      If he’s going to call you for help at 2am, then he needs to make sure you can actually do the helping.

    13. LCL*

      I don’t think you are being a helicopter mom at all, he is asking you for help. But I’m not sure giving you increased access is the best way to go here. Ask him if he would consider a life alert or equivalent, they aren’t just for old people. I guarantee the fire department has a way to get into his building. How would you feel if you missed his call because you have a life of your own, and something bad happens? Can you remain calm enough to drive him to the ER if he has a health crisis? I know I’m catastrophising, and I hope his tests show him to be perfectly healthy and he’s just drinking too much Red Bull.

      1. LilySparrow*

        If he wants the fire department to access his home in an emergency, then he should call 911 instead of his mom.
        Right now, the plan is, call Mom, who has to drive 30 minutes to get there. If he’s unresponsive by the time she arrives, she then has to call 911 to get the FD to break into his building.

        That is a stupid plan.

    14. Triple Anon*

      I don’t see how this could be helicoptering. I think it’s pretty common to give a relative or close friend access to the place where you live. More so if you live alone. More so if you have health concerns or a similar type of situation.

      Helicoptering refers to more intrusive stuff that over rides the helicopteree’s individual identity to some extent. Like sharing a Facebook account, writing a cover letter for them, perusing online dating sites and sending them links to profiles that you think would be a good match, helping them with papers for grad school. That kind of stuff. You’re just being a normal helpful parent.

  24. The Cosmic Avenger*

    Who is interested in home automation?

    I installed a Kwikset 910 deadbolt last week, and I’m loving it! I picked up a Samsung SmartThings hub cheap, so I can use my phone to program new codes, open or close the lock, check the battery level, and even get push notifications when it’s used! SO much better than the first generation August Smart Lock I had before it, even with the August Connect module to allow for access via the app. And the Kwikset works with the Amazon Echo, which is nice.

    I also have an earlier Honeywell internet-enabled thermostat, the Total Comfort Connect one. I am very reluctant to trade it out because I love the large color screen that shows temp and humidity both inside and out. A lot of the newer ones try to simplify and lose some of that information.

    And for our home theater system, I have a Logitech Harmony One remote. It’s the third one we’ve had, and while I’ve been upset that the last two have had buttons fail, it makes sense because we used them all the time, and this one we use the touch screen a lot more, so I’m hoping it lasts longer. I love being able to customize any button or add any function to the touchscreen.

    What are you using? Do you have questions about any of these? Let me know!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Next you should check out Hue lights! You can control them from your phone, turn them different colors, put them on timers, etc. My husband is a big AV buff and uses some as a sort of theater lighting, and he’ll set the color to match the mood of the movie we’re watching, which sounds silly but is actually cool. (Like red for the Martian, or so forth.)

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Cool! I’ve been looking at those, although the biggest drawback is that we don’t have many table lamps. We like to use compact fluorescent torchiere lamps, because the light diffuses more, there’s less glare. The ceiling fixtures we have mostly have frosted glass bowls underneath, so I will probably try a Hue in one of those.

        I had beta tested a couple of home automation outlet controls to control the torchiere lamps, that worked well, but I had the typical home automation problem of not being sure which technology I wanted to go with, as they all had their significant pros and cons.

        1. Natalie*

          For your non-table lamps, they have plain white ones that have all the neat timer and dimming features, but are like 25% of the cost because they have no colors. We have a bunch of them, and my favorite thing is all the lights going on at 6 am when I get up, so I don’t have to stumble groggily through the darkness.

      2. Just a Concerned Third Party*

        If you haven’t already, please make sure to secure these devices as well as you’re able to, especially if you’re accessing them from the internet! (Preferably behind a well-configured firewall and a VPN.) So many manufacturers of these IoT devices take a very “security never” approach to them, so these things keep getting hacked and added to the dozens of absolutely massive IoT botnets currently warring with each other for control of the internet, then used to DDoS websites or other services, or as staging points to attack computers inside the network they’re connected to. It’s such a huge problem these days and yet I swear I never hear about it except from niche tech news sites and security blogs.

        1. Natalie*

          Do you have any specific recommendations for where to read more about this? I’ve been meaning to secure our smart home stuff a bit more once I understood that it was more than just someone taking control of your thermostat and messing with it.

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Oh yes, of course! The Arlo Netgear camera (which I forgot to mention) has a random 30-character password (2FA isn’t available for it), the Kwikset lock has a master password that is required to add passcodes, and my phone is always locked when I’m not using it. Oh, I think the Honeywell site limited passwords to 15 characters, but it’s also random. And I always use letters, numbers, and special characters when generating a password. And I do check for router firmware updates regularly.

    2. Ree*

      Oh I like the idea of the Kwikset deadbolt!
      We have a Nest Thermostat and love it! It does tell us the humidity indoors and the outdoor temp and we can obviously operate it from our phones – which is SO SO nice when we have the thermostat turned down while we’re away, we can turn it up when an hour or two away from home and walk into a warm home! Or cool, in summer :)
      My husband and I are thinking about purchasing the new Nest Secure – it doesn’t require home monitoring like an ADT system or that sort of thing, it will send alerts to your phone and it has key fobs to unarm it and it can be used in conjunction with a Nest camera outside.
      I’ve also been looking into someway to automate our outdoor lights, but then I think I might be overcomplicating things, since I could just get a daylight sensing bulb!

    3. Elizabeth H.*

      My boyfriend does hobby electronics and has his room lit up by different types of lights he controls with Alexa. He has colored Xmas string lights, white string lights, 2 cool floor lamps and a desk lamp he built himself, but the best part is this amazing set of what we call ping-pong lights. They are made with a circular circuit board driving an individually programmable LED, and a ping-pong ball cut in half glued over it to diffuse the LED. He controls them with a local area network and their default pattern is to all drift between colors and brightness completely randomly. It’s hard to describe how cool they look. He has 5 strands of 10 lights stuck to his ceiling in different places (he has a sloped ceiling so it looks really amazing) and they are all different colors and shades of brightness or dimness.

      He also has a multi-color tower signal light where one of the colors gets lit when the bottom door to his room is open, when the hallway door to his room is open, when the microwave is running, and when the fridge door has been left open for longer than a few seconds. That one starts flashing alternately blue and green when the fridge has open for even longer.

      I never thought I’d be into the home automation stuff but when I’m in my room I definitely miss being able to tell Alexa to turn the lights on and off from bed!

    4. Al Lo*

      Our landlord put in ceiling fans, but didn’t wire the lights separately, which is annoying. So, we got IKEA smart bulbs for those 3 light fixtures that were controlled by their switches.

      At Christmas, we got an Echo Plus with the home hub capability, and got a few extra light bulbs, so now almost all of the lights in the apartment are voice activated. For lamps, I got a couple of smart plugs. Our place is small enough and the mics on the Echo are good enough that we can control it from anywhere in the apartment except through a closed door.

      Ikea has a good range of bulbs in different sizes, with colour temperature changes or not, and they’re about half the price of most other smart bulbs out there.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Oooh! Thanks for the tip about IKEA. Even though we are pretty secure, I have trouble with the concept of paying $40 or $50 for a light bulb, especially since I already have LED bulbs in all conventional sockets, although I’ll probably try at least one color-changing one. (Although I might have to try two, the ceiling fixture in the same room as the home theater takes two bulbs.)

    5. Dead Quote Olympics*

      I’ve got hue lights on four levels and use Alexa (and Siri) to turn them on and off without having to go up and down stairs. Some of them are color, so I can change the mood (did red and green in the kitchen for late night Xmas). I have some routines set up, e.g. bring the bedroom lights up gradually for 5 minutes before the alarm goes – usually I now wake up before the alarm, and more gradually therefore less groggy. Certain lights turn on automatically after sunset based on the location of my phone, so that when I enter the house the lights are already on.

      I was thinking of things that I really find useful about voice commands, and they are actions that I either want to happen at a distance so the desired state is in place when I get there, things I want to happen at a distance or when my hands are full. Next thing I want is a smart shower — “Alexa, turn in the shower” so the water is hot by the time I roll out of bed and walk to the bathroom.

    6. Mike C.*

      Make sure you aren’t putting a crazy expensive lock on you’re door when it’s mounted on an inexpensive frame. Weakest links and all that.

    7. Observer*

      If / when you decide to change out, look at the ecobee. The screen is great – nice and large and very straightforward. And, the multiple sensors are really nice.

      I have some Hue bulbs, but I realized that they are of very limited use to me. The colored lighting isn’t going to happen, and I can’t find any compatible bulbs with more than 800 lumens, which isn’t really great as primary lighting in a nice sized room.

      I have a SwitchMate smart switch, which is great in theory, but annoying in practice because it’s a bit finicky. I’d really like a smart switch that takes the place of a regualr switch but all of the ones I have seen require a neutral wire, which none of the switches in my house have.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Thanks, I’ll keep ecobee in mind. People rave about Nest, but their selling point seems to be that it is simple and predictive, and as you’ve probably guessed, I *like* tweakable/hackable/complicated technology…as long as it works!

        The (dumb) LED bulbs I wound up going with for interior lighting are 60W equivalent but 800 lumens and 27000K, which is fine for overhead fixtures that take 2-3 bulbs. Most 60W equivalents are 650-700 lumens. I’m not sure how that works, but it’s the color temp that’s critical, as another household member vetoed the first bulbs I bought as being too “harsh” (blue, >3000K). Luckily, after one blew, they refunded the whole price and told me to keep them rather than exchanging them.

        I’ll look at the Nest, but we have one CO detector in the furnace room that’s connected to our alarm system, plus one standalone on the main level that we had to add to pass an inspection. But I’d be happy to replace the latter eventually.

        I think the next thing I will be adding is a Ring (video doorbell). Well, maybe after the smart bulbs, because they’re cheaper and simpler to add.

        1. Observer*

          If your bulbs are 60w / 700 lumens, then you’ll be fine with the Hue and Hue compatible lights. And there are a lot of them available. Temperature shouldn’t be an issue.

    8. Observer*

      I also have a Nest carbon monoxide / smoke detector. It’s easy to set up and it just works. And the siren on that thing is LOUD, as with any decent detector. So, if you are in the house and don’t have your phone with you, you’ll hear it anyway.

  25. Overeducated*

    My mother in law was recently diagnosed with cancer. It was caught pretty early but it’s a type she had about 10 years ago, so there’s major surgery being scheduled in the near future. I’m hoping and praying for the best while trying not to think about the worst, and hearing most of what I know through the large family grapevine.

    What I’m wondering is what is the best way to be supportive and helpful without being imposing. We live about 1.5 hours away, so we could bring meals or send cards and books she’d like, but I assume actual visits could be a bit much with an active child. Fortunately she has a lot of more local suppoet as well. What are the thoughtful things I’m not thinking of that have been helpful to others?

      1. Overeducated*

        Thank you for this idea. I think my in laws would not be comfortable with a cleaning service for various reasons but cleaning and laundry is something concrete we could offer to do while one of ua takes the kid (and maybe FIL) to a nearby museum or something.

        1. Natalie*

          Yard work and/or snow removal (depending on where they live) would be another great option, if they don’t already outsource it.

    1. Emma*

      I’m a young adult cancer survivor and was fortunate enough to be able to move in with my parents after I was diagnosed. But… heck, even WITH my healthy parents in the house we had a hard time keeping up with cleaning, so that is an EXCELLENT idea from Amy as far as I’m concerned. (Caregivers often go through bouts of depression while their loved ones are in treatment so I don’t blame my parents but yeah, it would have been nice to have a slightly cleaner room while I was in treatment!)

      In terms of other things: Bringing meals is great– but definitely ask about taste changes before you make anything if she’s getting chemo. Also… sometimes all I wanted was a fresh, homemade salad… and I never got that because people tend to get really stuck on the idea of making food that can be frozen easily (casseroles, etc).

      I got a LOT of blankets that I did not need, ha. What I would have liked was having someone shop with me for (or gift me) the not-very-fun stuff that you need when you go through hair loss (might not apply here, hopefully it doesn’t!)– the scarves and caps and wigs. I highly recommend Headcovers Unlimited online if you have trouble finding things locally. Their packaging is SO NICE and really brightened my day when I ordered my own caps.

      Even if she’s not going through hair loss– she may need new clothing post-surgery (or, new clothing might just be a nice pick-me-up). I needed a different style underwear post-surgery to stay comfortable, for instance. And also lounge clothing without elastic wasitbands. That will vary based on the surgery. I also had a port and needed warm winter clothes where I could still have my post accessed, I had to buy some button up sweaters for that purpose.

      Might also be helpful to make sure she’s set up with tray tables or backrest/wedge pillows for her bed, couches, and even car seats. A wedge pillow for my bed would have been THE BEST. I got sick of rearranging my pillows all the time.

      1. Kuododi*

        Resounding second on checking food tastes as well as sensitivities etc. When I was recovering from my cancer treatment I swear my food brigade only knew how to make chicken broccoli rice casserole. Not bad once and awhile but dear God…a steady diet of that for eight weeks was just mind numbing. There was one family that was notorious for their lack of skills in the kitchen…they brought over a jumbo bucket of KFC and I was so thankful!!! ;)

      2. Starley*

        Just seconding the wedge pillow. My husband was sick and largely bound to the bed or couch for about a year and a half, and that wedge pillow was an absolute godsend. It was much more comfortable than fighting with a stack of pillows and when he was finally able to get up by himself it was easier than starting from laying flat.

    2. Ree*

      A cleaning service would be great, especially if she goes through chemo and/or radiation and her immune system is down afterwards – a clean house might help alleviate concerns about germs or getting sick.

    3. Grace Carrow*

      If she is a reader, then audio books for when even the lightest Kobo is too heavy to hold.

      +100 to checking about taste changes during chemo. And ask about any restricted foods. Grapefruit and pomelo can interfere with medication. If she has intestinal issues then she may need to avoid all fibre.

      Skincare, especially foot care. Some good quality, unperfumed , lotions and creams. E45 lotion with the red top really saved my skin from dryness during chemo and I even used it instead of the recommended aqueous cream during radiotherapy. Kiehls make a good heavier lotion that is perfect for dry feet.

      Doing some cleaning or paying for a cleaning service +100.

      Be sensitive to her energy levels, so you know when to leave, and don’t take it personally if she just wants to sleep.

    4. Cheshire Cat*

      +1000 to the suggestions for help with cleaning and yardwork.

      Also, just listening may help. Your in-laws are probably both terrified, and may need to talk about their fears (and your FIL will most likely to be comfortable doing so out of your MIL’s hearing).

    5. Triplestep*

      Check out “Lotsa Helping Hands: Care Calendar Website”. It’s a free internet tool that will allow you apply some organization to all the local help she’s got. With a bit of information from her about her treatment schedule and food preferences, people can sign up to bring meals, send take-out, or provide rides at specific times. This way the help people already want to give is spread out and given when needed, not all at once at the start of treatment. People really do want to help, and this just helps organizes their best intentions.

      I had a local friend who was diagnosed with cancer (a single mother of two school-aged boys) and I could not effectively help because of my demanding job and commute. I kind of strong-armed her into letting me set this up for her (I was her site admin) and it turned into something she really appreciated. She later thanked me “for being pushy”. All it took from me was some time online reminding her community when treatments were and letting them know when there were open slots for meals and rides. The communication tools are all part of the site … and it’s free!

      1. Triplestep*

        I should mention that you can use LotsaHelpingHands to schedule anything – not just meals and rides. You can schedule cleaning, yard work, visitors, etc. (My friend only wanted meals and rides, so that’s what we used it for.)

    6. Adele*

      When my friend had cancer one of the best things someone did for her was to hire an in-home mani-pedi. My friend loved it. Never would have occurred to me.

  26. The Other Dawn*

    Has anyone with bulging lumbar discs and/or an annular tear used a chiropractor? If so, did it help? What was your experience?

    I went to a chiropractor on and off for many years starting as a young teenager. When this disc problem popped up last August I went the medical route: PT and cortisone shots. I went for my second round of shots a couple weeks ago and it doesn’t seem to have given any further relief. They want me to wait six weeks and then see how I feel. I can then have another round of shots. If that doesn’t help, the next option is some sort of decompression procedure where they remove the center of the affected discs, which should then stop them from bulging. I can’t remember the name of it. (It began with a “P” and had decompression in the name.) It’s outpatient, but I’m not too sure about having something like that done–it’s my spine after all.

    In the meantime, I’m thinking of going back to a chiropractor since it helped a lot throughout the years. There’s going to be a “lunch and learn” next week at work, and a chiropractor is coming in to speak. I plan to attend so I can hear what he has to say and then make a decision.

    1. Colleen*

      Chiropractors can be very different — it is not a “one size its all” situation. A chiropractor should be able to help, but you may have to move from one to another if you find you are not getting the relief you need/expect. Try to find someone who speaks about helping you to get better, stretching muscles and tendons, and weaning you from needing regular chiropractic intervention. I hope you find relief.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Thanks! Yes, I want to be able to go for a few weeks, months, whatever and be done. Rinse and repeat when necessary. I don’t want to go for months on end. And, yes, I hope I find relief, too!