weekend free-for-all – July 28-29, 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: I’ve read a string of books lately that I haven’t loved, so I have no recommendation this week. If you have one for me, please tell me below! (Current preference: literary fiction about mildly dysfunctional families.)

{ 1,399 comments… read them below }

  1. London Calling*

    Alleluia, alleluia, the very hot weather has broken with thunderstorms and rain and in London this morning we have clear fresh air, a lovely cool breeze and the temp in my sitting room has dropped five degrees. I swear the entire country breathed a sigh of relief.

      1. London Calling*

        Prolonged hot and dry weather has still not stopped weather forecasters simpering about ‘threatened’ rain. The price of animal feed is through the roof leading to increased prices later, there are fires and threatened hosepipe bans, but these nitwits still call the prospect of rain a ‘threat.’

        1. Snark*

          Same in my very different neck of the woods – we’re in the jaws of a very severe drought, I’ve been worrying about some nitwit ashing a cigarette in the canyon west of our house and burning half the city down, and the weather guy is like, oh, the monsoon rains will be kicking up, hope it doesn’t interfere with your cookout plans this weekend!1!!.

          1. OyVey*

            I remain convinced we’re internet neighbors by way of your use of the severe drought/monsoon combo. We cancelled a state park day trip today because of the forecast but it’s sunny and only about 80 right now. Perfect park weather, in other words.

    1. Tau*

      Sitting over here in Germany I am SO jealous. Thunderstorms forecast but not on the horizon yet and I am getting very very sick of 35 degree weather!!

      1. Myrin*

        It’s literally on the horizon here right now! It just became all grey and suspiciously windy ten minutes ago – will keep you updated!

        1. Tau*

          Still super-sunny up here in the northeast, although looking at the weather radar I do see a lot of thunderstorms in other areas (and Chemnitz and Hameln both look like they’re being hit by the wrath of Zeus). Here’s hoping some of that rain makes it our way!

          1. Myrin*

            False alarm, now it’s sunny again.
            Granted, the alps literally start in my hometown and I feel like they shelter us from a lot of extreme weather from all over the scale – it hasn’t actually been that hot here at all (never reached 30 degrees) and we’ve had a steady (literal, ha!) stream of rain almost every day lately (last Sunday was SO RAINY, for example, while everyone else sweltered away).

            1. Tau*

              OK, jealousy! We’ve been having real problems with drought over here, the trees are starting to go yellow, and it’s been hot. :(

              However, I’ve been tracking a line of thunderstorms advancing eastward most of the day and I’ve finally heard the first thunder. I’m basically standing ready to open all windows ASAP as the temperature drops, haha.

                1. Tau*

                  It rained all last night here too (which I knew about because I seem to have developed insomnia this summer, sigh). Temperature is currently a balmy 23 C and it is glorious, although apparently it’s supposed to go over 30 again this afternoon.

            2. Snark*

              Can sympathize – we’re in a weird little crook in the mountain range where most storms come down one valley or around the south end of a mountain chain, and whichever way they go, they usually divert just north of us, or keep going southeast and never even think about heading through our area. That is, when the weather at the foot of a 4200m mountain is predictable at all, which is to say essentially never….

      2. Julia*

        Careful what you wish for. This German in Japan has been wishing for some relief because 35 (or 39 O_O) degrees in Tokyo feel like 44 (the weather app literally says “felt temperate 44°C”, and now we’re having a nice typhoon, storm and tsunami warnings etc. It’s still oppressively hot, though. I used to complain about 35°C in Germany, but now that feels really tame. Granted, at least Japan has air conditioning.

      1. London Calling*

        I was hanging out of the sitting room window a 11 last night after our rain. ‘Cold air! COLD AIR!’

        1. Glowcat*

          When I was back from Spain a two weeks ago I got off the plane in shorts and tank top in a Norwegian rainy night and refused to get changed because I *wanted* to be cold… now it’s 31 degree here too, again, and we are all worried.

    2. Thlayli*

      Weather finally broke here too! Never thought I’d be happy to see rain. Hope the hosepipe ban ends soon – there are 18 spiders around my front door, many of whom have laid egg sacs and I would much prefer if my husband could hose them away rather than one of us having to go out with a duster or something – eergh!

      1. Stacy*

        Peppermint or lemon essential oil will help get rid of them. They hate it, so won’t cross the threshold, just spray/apply with a cotton ball around your door frame, including the bottom. Peppermint oil is the sole reason I am able to sleep with my window open these days!

    3. Foreign Octopus*

      Honestly, I feel like the only person not affected by the heat this summer.

      It’s been so wet in the North of Spain. In the last week, it’s been raining, grey, and drizzling every day. Not that I’m complaining. I’d prefer that than the heat that I’m seeing my parents suffering in the UK. Hope everyone’s doing their best to staying cool and keeping an eye out for dogs in cars.

      1. Jen RO*

        It’s been rainy and cool (for July) in Romania as well. We’ve barely had a couple of days above 30 C.

      1. A bit of a saga*

        And in Brussels! I’ve had enough of this weather now, we’re not equipped to deal with it!

    4. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Its like you can function and think again!

      I did a bunch of cleaning this morning I had been putting off because it was too hot to move without pouring in sweat, and the cats actually have some pep again. Got some decent sleep too for the first time in weeks too!

      Unfortunately with the strong winds, next door has left for the weekend and has a wardrobe door or bedroom door slamming shut every few minute depending on the vacuum effect and its a little annoying.

      Its supposed to warm up again by next Friday but not nearly as hot and its only for a day or two and then back down to more tolerable amounts.

    5. Bacon Pancakes*

      107(F) today and tomorrow. By Monday we are suposed to be down to 103(F). Last Thursday was 111(F) with the heat index. I am ready for it to end.

      1. Former Employee*

        I’m in one of the valleys in the Los Angeles area where it’s finally down to the low 90’s. A couple of weeks ago it was 113 degrees here and it stayed 100 for about a week. We expect to see temps like that in Las Vegas, not in SoCal! Of course, we could use some rain, but it almost never rains here in the summer.

        1. Bacon Pancakes*

          Yup, I am in the north Sacramento Valley so right there with ya. Do you have many fires right now? The Care fire is terrible up here!

    6. StellaBella*

      I am so mixed on the weather! I live in North Wales and we had nearly 8 weeks with no rain – maybe twice in that time. I LOVED it as it was warm too. However, could not see the eclipse Friday night because of massive storms we had from 4pm to 6pm, then again last night and today. So disappointed. But the good thing of the rain is not having to water the garden and also the neighbour cats stay more indoors and the rain washes away all of their smells too so my cat (indoor only kitty) is happier as the interlopers cannot be seen, heard, or smelled. So … mixed on the rain.

    7. Jules the First*

      Except it’s now too windy or wet in my neighbourhood to open any of the windows in the living room (I get a heckuva crosswind six storeys up), so my flat is actually more unpleasantly hot now than it’s been all week. Plus humid….eugh.

      I’m trying hard not to complain because man do we need the rain, but Thursday was perfection and I miss it already.

  2. Daria Grace*

    I highly recommend Anna Spargo-Ryan’s book The Paper House. It’s an amazing magic realism influenced literary fiction book about a family trying to find their way in life after facing a miscarriage and mental illness. It sounds like it would be really depressing but it’s oddly hopeful. The writing is really beautiful. I’m not sure if it’s been released in print in America but its worth the effort to track down a copy

    1. PhyllisB*

      I just finished two books this last week. The first one was The Clock Dance by Anne Tyler. It was all right (I gave it three stars) but nothing special. If Anne Tyler is your favorite author, forgive me, but I just don’t get all the excitement about her books. This is the third one I’ve read over the years, and I felt the same about the others. One I haven’t read but heard lots of praise for is The Accidental Tourist. Has anyone here read it? Did you like it? I might try that one, and if I don’t care for it, I’m going to move on from her. One I DID read, and really loved was A Day with a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory. This is a Christian book, so if reading about having a relationship With Jesus Christ does not interest you, I would pass on this one. If this does interest/intrigue you (it’s not preachy at all) you need to read Dinner with a Perfect Stranger first.

  3. Ginger Sheep*

    Long-time reader, new commenter. I picked up a new hobby six months ago, and am really into it. However, if the hobby is apparently relatively common in the United States, Japan, and some other countries, it is completely unknown in my home country. My friends and family agree I am really good at it, but are at best uninterested, at worse make fun of me for it (it is a very girly, stay-at-home-mommyish sort of thing, which is totally not my type) or are critical of the time waste (as a single mother with a full-time job, I am really pressed for time). I would like to connect with other persons around this hobby, but don’t know how to proceed. I am not at all on social media, but created an account on Instagram shortly after starting my hobby to showcase my work. The issue is, not being on social media before, I do not have anyone to friend, and am apparently not good at hashtags – I have very few followers after almost six months of consistent posting, and get very few likes. There is also a website/forum for this hobby, on which I post my work and who organises bi-monthly challenges (very fun, I always participate!), but on which people do not appear to comment or discuss much.
    I have found by Instagram/Google stalking exactly three persons in my country who appear to have this hobby. Should I contact them? What other steps can I take?

    1. Little bean*

      If your primary goal is to increase your social media network, I would remind following everyone you can find who seems to have similar interests. Some will follow you back.

        1. Gaia*

          This! Follow everyone whose work on this hobby you like. Use their hashtags. Make sure your profile is public and comment on other posts!

    2. PolicyChick*

      Facebook has dedicated groups you can connect with – for example, I’m part of two FB groups (bird photography and travel photography). You can join FB and not get all carried away and post personal stuff (if that’s why you are reluctant). I have a friend who is an artist (large format oils) and her FB page is just about her art – nothing personal on it at all. I don’t even think she has where she lives listed.

      Since you didn’t specify the hobby, this may not apply but…Is this something you can do in a social setting (like knitting?) you may be able to find a local group. Like knitting, shops where you get your supplies often promote local knitting circles.

      Are there high-profile people that do this hobby semi-professionally? Or that sell their work (either on their own sites or like Etsy)? I think they would be more open to you reaching out to them, than to a private person. You can ask how they got started, how did they grow their hobby-network, etc.

      Good luck and enjoy your hobby! Also disregard any pooh-poohing from friends or relatives! If you are having fun that’s all that counts.

      1. Ginger Sheep*

        Thanks PolicyChick!
        So for full disclosure, my hobby is cookie art!
        I’ve never had a Facebook account, both out of privacy concerns and because I am wary of the time sink it can become (I already have Ask a Manager for taking up way to much of my time!), and with recent revelations on the data Facebook gathers, am not very hot on the idea. But I also find it increasingly difficult to do a number of things without a Facebook account, so have nevertheless been recently considering it…
        As for your other suggestions, my issue is that actually, no one in my country appears to share my hobby, so no local groups, no shops (I have to import all my supplies from abroad), etc. I am very shy about contacting high-profile, professionnal cookie artists (of which there are actually quite a lot! but none here!) because I feel they must be fielding questions from amateurs All The Time, and don’t want to be a pain.
        I am really just trying to find people with a similar interest to share and discuss our hobby, techniques, tools, and to commiserate on difficulties, but really don’t know how to proceed.
        I wonder if my best bet wouldn’t be to contact local artist groups, to discuss with painters? Painters of Ask a Manager, do you think we might have similar concerns?

        1. MissDisplaced*

          I think Instagram and Pinterest would best the best social channels for this so you can share photos if your art. Also consider related hobbies like cake/cupcake decorating or general baking groups. And yes, this hobby is quite popular here, but I really thought you were going to say scrapbooking!

          1. Rosemary7391*

            Definitely this! I’m primarily a cake decorator, but I pick up some interesting ideas from cookie blogs and tend to do a batch once a year or so :) techniques can be similar too.

        2. Nye*

          You might join the r/Baking subreddit – I see gorgeous cookie art posted there regularly. I know Reddit had kind of a mixed reputation, but it has some really lovely and supportive communities related to various hobbies. Since it’s anonymous, not the greatest way to connect in person with other hobbyists, but it could be a great way to get internet feedback and support.

        3. Nicole76*

          I would love to follow your Instagram if you’re willing to share the link. I’m not into cookie decorating myself (I lack the patience) but I love admiring other people’s work.

          1. Ginger Sheep*

            Thanks Nicole! Come have a look if you want to! My Instagram handle is @le_bois_mesle

            1. Woodswoman*

              Wow, you are an incredible artist. These cookies are beautiful! If you lived in the US, you would win prizes for these at county fairs.

            2. insta*

              You’re only following about 250 people. Follow 5000 people – artists, bakers, makers, cake decorators, cookie artists, farmers markets, art markets, artist collectives, etc. If there aren’t many in your country, follow people in other countries! Engage with them. Like their pics, leave comments. People will follow you, you’re talented and your photos are pretty well composed. Post instastories of time lapse videos of you decorating cookies. And hashtag every single photo and story. Follow hashtags to find new people to follow. It takes work but you can build yourself a really great community through Instagram. I run 4 accounts myself, one private/personal and 3 special interest. I’m not doing anything too out of the ordinary but have about 11k followers. I ALWAYS have people to talk to about my interests, it’s my favorite platform!

            3. Traveling Teacher*

              I looked up your Insta–stunning art! I’ve noticed that a lot of popular instagrammers post a follow-up question to engage followers after the blurb about the inspiration. Like: “What wildlife animal should I make next?” or “Which do you want to eat first?”

              Also, doing Stories showing some of your processes could be a great way to engage followers, too. Like: the best technique you’ve found for X, and so on.

              For family: meh, family approval is overrated, especially for a hobby. I hope you get so popular that they have to eat their words ;)

            4. Cookie Eater*

              They are beautiful!! Do you have farmer’s markets where you are? I’m in upstate NY and we have markets that are for local producers of all kinds of items. It’s a great way to meet people in similar ways.
              Also you could sell to local shops and restaurants. Check out sanitary requirements though. Making some money might quiet the time waste comments.

            5. Nines*

              Those are exquisitely beautiful! Has your family actually SEEN your cookies?! I can’t imagine being snarky about something so well done! Not that it would be cool of them if you weren’t as good at it…

        4. Mallory Janis Ian*

          So your family is making fun of your cookie art hobby? Aren’t they afraid you might not give them any cookies? Seems like a big risk to me! :-)

        5. TL -*

          Ask questions! Some of them may not want to answer, and they won’t, but a lot of people who do this kind of stuff – even the high profile ones – are just like you and they just want to talk about their hobby. So make comments and ask questions, especially if they’re questions like “Your lines are so sharp! What do you use to pipe so cleanly?”

        6. Inspector Gadget*

          Professional artists were once hobbyists – and people love giving advice about things they’re passionate about. Reach out and ask what they did to find a community when they were first getting started, and what helped them when they were first starting out.

        7. neverjaunty*

          As an aside, your friends and family are extremely shortsighted. What fool wants to piss off someone who could be making them delicious cookies?

        8. All Hail Queen Sally*

          Your cookies are beautiful!! I especially love the yellow roses and lace as I am a lacemaker. I will tell my lace guild about them. Were they difficult to make?

      2. Bacon Pancakes*

        +1 for PolicyChick’s advice. I have severl friends who have a FB page for their art so that their friends don’t get bombarded with art photos unless they sign up for it.

    3. Lazy Cat*

      With the huge caveat that I am also trying to make internet friends for my hobby and it’s slow going, I think one key on Instagram is to comment on things other people are doing, so your “name” becomes familiar.

    4. Thlayli*

      I’m not an Instagram user myself but I get the impression that it’s not a very comment-y media form. I think Twitter and Facebook might be better if you want to chat with other people about your hobby more.

      1. Tam*

        Tumblr might also be a good one. I did a quick google search, and there seem to be a couple of specialised cookie art Tumblr blogs.

      2. LilySparrow*

        I don’t see a lot of long-form or substantive comments on IG, but popular posts often have an extensive string of quick remarks or short questions. I have certainly become familiar with some names who frequently comment on the people I follow. There’s also a private message function.

    5. Miso*

      Reddit has a subreddit called cookiedecorating, I assume that’s the same?
      I don’t know how much they actually discuss there, but I’d definitely check it out at least.

    6. Miss Fisher*

      I don’t know if your country would have it, but there is a site here called meetup.com where you can go find or start a group for people with a certain interest in your city. They post dates and activities and you sign up to go to it.

    7. wingmaster*

      Are there any retreats or workshops that you can go to in your country (or even outside)? It’s a great way to network in person. I did that for weaving last October, and I’ve met many weavers of all skill levels from all over the world. To this day, I’ve kept in touch with 5-7 weavers on a group chat. We’ll share our IG post links on our chat, and everyone will comment on this to create more traffic on our posts.

      I’m in the US, we have CookieCon that’s happening this September. If you’re down to do some traveling.

      Also, I checked out your IG. Love your work! Followed you to see more in the future!

    8. ThatGirl*

      Follow @wiltoncakes on Instagram, despite being called cakes they do a lot of cookie art and feature cookie artists, will give you some hashtags to use and possibly more people to follow.

    9. Courageous cat*

      I’m not sure if you don’t already, but post more hash tags in English! That’s the best way to reach a wide following, though it does take some time. I would look at what hash tags other similar artists use in their posts.

    10. Ginger Sheep*

      First of all, thank you all SO MUCH for all your encouragement and support! This is wonderful, I’ve never had so many people see my cookies and comment on them, and this is so encouraging – I really take your compliments to heart, they mean a lot to me. Since I’ve posted this, message, I have more than 50 new followers on my Instagram – wow! (Now I’m afraid to let you all down! ;)
      Secondly, thanks for all your collective advice. I’ve been liking a lot of posts on Instagram, but never commenting, and the people who said I should comment to get my name known and to increase my chances of beeing followed by other Instagram cookiers are certainly right! I will start doing this at once. I’m still on the fence about creating a Facebook account, but am thinking about it.
      Several people have also commented I should get in touch with cake decorators – good idea, I don’t know why I hadn’t considered it. Though the hobby is more confidential in France than in the US, it is increasingly popular, and it is much easier to find cake decorators than cookie decorators! I will try that as well!
      And thanks also for the reddit suggestion – I will have a look in the two forums that have been suggested, because if they are indeed friendly, they sound like a great venue for having actual discussions with other decorators!
      Again, thank you all so much! <3

    11. Quickbeam*

      You didn’t specify the hobby but if it is yarn related I highly recommend Ravelry. It’s the mother lode of yarn crafts. I’ve made friends all over the world.

    12. PhyllisB*

      Ginger Sheep, have not read responses, but just what IS your hobby? It’s hard to give advice without knowing what it is.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Ah!! Cookies!! How wonderful!! I used to do cake decorating (nothing fancy, but my kids loved it when they were young.) I don’t do instagram of Twitter or Pinterest so I won’t be able to see your beautiful creations. (When I have time to “waste”, I would rather read AAM. :-) Have no advice, but it looks like others have given you some great ideas. Just wanted to encourage you to have fun and hope you find a group you can engage with.

        I can relate to having a hobby no one else “gets.” I am an avid reader, and I love to write reviews on the Goodreads site. I have one friend who understands why I enjoy this so, and I have actually had a few people start to follow my reviews. I appreciate it, but I do it more for me than anything else.

  4. Caledonia*

    It’s not about dysfunctional families but it was heartwarming: Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce is a lovely and funny book about teo young women Keeping Calm and Carrying On in WW2 London.

  5. Lizabeth*

    Just got done with The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley. An interesting take on Beowulf fron Grendal and his mother’s point of view set in modern times. Was a very fast read too. Also reading Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, which is a vast improvement over the version in Norton’s Anthology from college. What started this? Watching the animated movie that had Angelia Jolie voicing Grendal’s mother. Which wasn’t bad but…want to reread the real deal.

    1. Another Lauren*

      The Seamus Heaney is the best! If you haven’t read any of his poetry, I highly, highly recommend it.

    2. BeenThere*

      I am shocked (now) that I had to read Beowulf in 6th grade. Most people read it in college. I realize now why I didn’t enjoy it ( and I am an avid reader )… it was way over my head!

    3. Gloucesterina*

      I’ll have to check out the Headley. I enjoyed John Gardner’s short novel Grendel!

    4. Thursday Next*

      Seamus Heaney’s translation is beautiful, and Grendal the novel is superb.

      The movie with Angelina Jolie’s was interesting, but…it wasn’t Beowulf, per se.

  6. Former Computer Professional*

    Have you read William Sleator’s “Oddballs”? Technically it’s a children’s book, but as one of my English teachers used to say, “A good children’s book should be a good book for everyone.” (Look at the Harry Potter books!) It’s semi-autobiographical tales from the author’s childhood. To say this is a weird family would be an understatement.

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      I am an English teacher and I say that, too! It’s really true and why the best children’s books hold up over time.

    2. Casca*

      If you are up for children’s books, then Anne Fine is always a good read. Goggle Eyes, Step by Wicked Step, Mrs Doubtfire

      1. Effie, who gets to be herself*

        I loved Goggle Eyes! My public library doesn’t have it anymore :(

        1. Casca*

          I love it too. Hope you run across a 2ndhand copy one day. They also made a miniseries in the 90s (?) that I liked

    3. NiceOrc*

      Hilary McKay has written a lovely family that functions very well, and it’s only after a bit that you realise that there is actually a lot going on! The Casson Family series, starts with Saffy’s Angel. Another I reread every Christmas is Margaret Mahy’s The Tricksters. A large family and friends going to the beach house for the holidays, then some unexpected guests turn up.

  7. A bit of a saga*

    RaIn, glorious rain! The insane temperatures here have made it difficult to find motivation to run these past weeks but this morning I went out for some interval training. I’m now signed up for a flat 10 km in August to really get going on my half marathon training for October. How are the rest of you doing? P.s. I did manage to run not just in Central Park but also across Midtown. Also rented a bike and cycled all over Manhattan

    1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

      The thought of a half marathon in cool(er) October weather sounds wonderful right now. I am three weeks into marathon training. First two weeks, there were enough cool mornings to plan my runs strategically… this week, every morning has been like soup and it’s been a real drag to get through. But that’s summer in NYC for you. Your adventures sound very cool!

      1. A bit of a saga*

        They probably sound cooler than they are but NYC was great despite the heat! Good luck with your training, I do need to start being a bit more organised about mine again, too.

    2. Rosemary7391*

      I attempted to run on Tuesday but apparently my ankle injury (ceilidh-inflicted…) had not fully healed and I ended up hopping down the stairs at church afterwards :( so I’m back to the sofa for the next few weeks… I miss it so much!

    3. LGC*

      Good luck!

      This weather has not been great, and to be honest my training has not been great so far. (I had to bail on a 50 minute tempo run Thursday 35 minutes in. To be fair, I was doing it at 7 PM, just as the temperature was coming back down. And I probably went too fast for the weather.)

      Wednesday was actually nice, I thought. (I don’t mind getting caught in a downpour if it’s 75 degrees out and I’m running.)

    4. missc*

      Late to the party but – for the first time in weeks – I really enjoyed my weekend’s running! Cooler temperatures in London and absolutely gorgeous rain yesterday morning. Did parkrun on Saturday morning (I always run parkrun whenever I can, I love it) and then yesterday I ran a gloriously wet and soggy 8 miles with friends along the river. For the first time in ages I actually felt comfortable running, I could breathe, I wasn’t sweating buckets and I could hold a decent pace! It felt great.

  8. Radical Edward*

    I am savouring a Connie Willis short story collection (only reading them on the weekends) and loving how varied they are in scope, setting, and subject matter. She’s technically a science fiction author but I have successfully hooked several friends who aren’t sci-fi readers and will continue to recommend her to everyone I meet! (Currently reading ‘Impossible Things’ but she has another more recent anthology too.) If it’s family dysfunction you enjoy then you must start with ‘Even the Queen’. It’s hilarious and timeless.

    1. Liz in a Library*

      Connie Willis is wonderful! My husband and I are midway through a reread (for me, first for him) if To Say Nothing of the Dog. It is not short, but it is an utter delight!

      1. No Tribble At All*

        To Say Nothing of the Dog is one of my favorite books ever!! I love re-reading it because you can really see how everything fits together

      2. Julianne (also a teacher)*

        I love this book so much! Pretty sure I’ve owned at least 5 copies of it; I keep giving it away because I want everyone else to get to enjoy it, too! Bellwether is probably my second favorite of her books, but I do like the other “Oxford time-traveling historian” universe stories/novels, too.

      3. AnonForThisPost*

        To Say Nothing of the Dog and The Doomsday are two of my all-time favorites! I also love Blackout and All Clear. I really, really wish Connie Willis would write some more time travel books with Mr. Dunworthy and the other historians.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Even the Queen, Epiphany, and To Say Nothing of the Dog are right up there for my favorite short story, novella, and novel. I also treasure Newsletter, in which we discern an alien invasion is happening because people start being extremely reasonable. At the holidays.

      Willis has compared her sci-fi writing to attending tupperware parties–if you can solemnly engage in bizarre rituals party games to win a small plastic egg slicer, you can write about the eyestalk-bonding ceremony.

    3. LCL*

      I like Connie Willis. Some of her things I love. Some of her stories, where everything is interpersonal and internal, are hard for me to follow. Passages is an awesome novel. She has a collection of Christmas stories out, that I keep in my ski bag. She speaks at conventions, occasionally and is warm and funny.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      The moon blues…

      That story has stuck with me for 30ish years now. Available in _The Winds of Marble Arch_, maybe in others.

    5. GibbsRule#18*

      Just sent “To Say Nothing of the Dog” to my Kindle. Sounds right up my alley! I love discovering a “new to me” author!!! Thanks!

  9. Bumble of nerves*

    Update on my Bumbling adventures (okay further venting, whatever): since last week, I’ve had one guy ask to meet for a drink and then cancel about 3 hours beforehand, and another one who asked to meet but kept changing the time/day. I’m already tired.

    1. Waiting for the Sun*

      Online dating is wearying. The profiles blur together after awhile – ooh, another guy who likes the outdoors and cuddling on the couch!
      Sometimes more stressful than a job search, when you factor in the bots and ghosts.
      On that cheery note, I’m supposed to meet a man from POF today. I’m thinking of it as just meeting another acquaintance, as if he were a new member at church, or at a Meetup. We’ll see.

        1. many bells down*

          I’m not looking for dates, but I am using a social app to meet people and I get these a lot. Yesterday I had two of them; one guy’s profile said “I also like the [Music].” Just like that. In brackets. He also worked in the “Industry business.” The other guy had “I play the instrument” and his profile cut off mid-sentence because it was copy-pasted from somewhere else.

          Usually I get obvious Nigerian scammers (when I call them out, they’ll swear at me in Yoruba) but I guess the app’s been cracking down on those because I haven’t had one all week.

      1. Bumble of nerves*

        And much like job searches, it feels like no one wants to hire anyone who’s unemployed. And that feeling like you need to justify ‘gaps’ in your ’employment history’.
        I mean to be fair being single isn’t the same as being unemployed (unless being in a relationship is how you make a living…) but still…

      2. Waiting for the Sun*

        Update: Meeting went fine. Don’t know that any sparks flew, but hewas a pleasant, reasonable person to talk to. Hopefully, the more meetings, the less awkward they become.

    2. annakarina1*

      Ugh, I’m sorry you’re dealing with flakes. On one of my past rounds of online dating, I got fed up and quit because guys kept canceling on me or not committing to a time or date, and I got sick of it.

    3. Triplestep*

      I was recently told (so I have nothing to back this up) that something like 40% of first meetings arranged via apps get cancelled. That seems to be true in my house, where my 22 year old daughter often says she has plans and then suddenly she doesn’t. (I know of two cases where she cancelled on guys who would not agree to meet her in a place she felt was public enough.)

        1. All Hail Queen Sally*

          You can’t be too careful! There was just a story on the news today about a man using dating apps to find women to rape and murder. I am so glad my dating was done pre-computer age.

      1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

        And one should not assume that they’re cancelling because they’re suddenly no longer interested.

        They might be, but I find a lot of people just chicken out at the last minute.

        1. Clever Name*

          I’ve gone on a fair number of first dates, and 2 of them stood me up. Honestly, I don’t care why they flaked, but I figure they did me a favor because I don’t want to be with a person who lacks integrity. I’ve been on a few dates with a guy who said he almost cancelled our first date because he was really hungover. It definitely not ideal that he was hungover on our first date, but I know he made a big effort to be there, and that has to count for something.

    4. Anonymosity*

      I finally gave up on online dating. There really wasn’t anyone. Plus the sites sort you by age and I like younger guys and I was either getting married dudes, weirdos, or really old men looking for someone to take care of them. I think it’s just a dearth of single people here where I am–everyone gets married really young and tends to stay that way because Jesus.

    5. Aurora Leigh*

      Re: cancelling — my now bf was worried sick before our first date that he would get mandated overtime. He works in a place where his phone has to be kept locked in his car, so if he had been mandated, he wouldnt even be able to text me and let me know what happened.

      And my great grandma died between our first and second date, and I was worried I might have to cancel to attend services.

      Luckily, that didn’t happen! But I would probably give a guy second chance on cancelling. Stuff happens.

  10. Akcipitrokulo*

    My friend’s play is on at the Camden Fringe :D

    “How I Became a Dominatrix Using Damned Lies and Statistics” … should be fun!

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        It certainly looks it :) She wrote and is producing it and is a bit stressed at the moment… if you google it you can see more details, and the artwork is amazing!

  11. LiL*

    This topic comes up somewhat frequently here, so sorry if I’m repeating things, but lately I’ve been feeling so very lonely. I don’t know if it’s a thing to have a friendship ‘dry spell’, but it feels like that at the moment.

    Two friends I used to hang out with semi-regularly have just moved overseas, and two others are in new relationships which seem to take up most of their time/attention these days. I just found out a friend from back home (I moved here from overseas about two years ago) was on holidays here and didn’t even bother to contact me. I made plans with someone for an event a month in advance and she just ghosted me. Another friend who was going to visit (also from overseas) just cancelled because of stuff she has to deal with back home.

    Of course, people don’t have to hang out with people they don’t want to hang out with, which makes me question what I’m doing wrong that I seem to constantly be on my own. I don’t know who to ask because…well how can you do that without it turning awkward? Alternatively, there could be legitimate reasons for all of these things and it may not have anything to do with me…but then it feels like the universe is trying to tell me I’d destined to be lonely.

    People here sometimes mention finding group activities or events like MeetUp etc, but I’m just feeling so discouraged because if even long-term friendships could fizzle and disappear so easily, what’s the point of trying to forge new ones? Is it even possible to build those kind of connections with people you don’t see every day the way it was back in school or university?

    1. Anonymous Ampersand*

      I have no answers, but I feel this right down to my core. The only thing I can offer is, it’s not just you.

    2. Margery*

      I don’t really have any advice but I feel for you. I found once my mother and father passed away our family fragmented (we’re still talking to one another but don’t really see one another now).

      I sometimes dread the weekends but where I work I’ve started asking some of the girls I work with to go for coffee at the weekend and it’s really helped – just having SOMETHING to look forward to.

      Also I think as you get older it’s much more difficult.

      1. Sally Forth*

        It’s hard to put yourself out there, isn’t it? Fortunately I find that most people I ask for coffee are excited someone took the initiative. I moved back to my hometown after 40 years away and find the Facebook group of my grad class helps. At least we have something to talk about for a while until we find more up to date common ground.

        Last spring I organized coffee for all my female cousins from one side of my family (9 plus their daughters) and only 1 showed up! We had a great time.

        I realized last year, after a lot of effort, that my sisters are no longer my friends. That was really sad and may affect where I live after my mom dies.

        1. seewhatimean*

          Coming to this with my brother. His reactions and interactions have been increasingly based on some story about me that I don’t know, and some slights I haven’t done, and it’s at the point where I doubt I will see my niece and nephew enough for them to know me. Sadly I think some of the damage has been done by one of my parents who reacts extremely oddly to me re my brother, and may be feeding the story brother is creating.

          Sad, because as you mention, it affects things about my parents’ estate in the not-distant future, and we used to be close.

    3. Waiting for the Sun*

      Yes, friendships can fade, and it is painful. I can tell you, though, that new ones can arise. Sometimes they are even deeper than the old ones. I’m one of the least Pollyanna-ish people possible, but I’ve learned this truth over time.
      Find a variety of Meetups, some based on an interest, and some more general, such as a dining Meetup. Good luck. <3

    4. Thlayli*

      It’s hard making friends as an adult, but not impossible. You have to be a bit blatant and be willlinf to risk rejection. I moved to a different country for work and was there for a few years. It took about a year but after that I had a pretty decent circle of friends and never had to stay home alone for lack of people to go out with. For context I was in my late twenties when I moved. I’ve since moved back home to my home country and am still in touch with a couple of people from the other country, at least one of whom I would consider a good Friend still. Things that worked for me were:
      1 Making friends through work. This seems to be really frowned upon on this site, but it worked for me well. Though that was probably because most of the people on my team were about my age and also from overseas / other parts of the country. So if just made sense for us to hang out. We used to do all sorts – to to movies, gigs, did come dine with me etc. I was the one who organised it all and not everyone came to everything and some people didn’t come to anything (mostly the ones from the local area who had their own families and friends around). Don’t take rejection personally is the key and definitely don’t date in work.
      2 living with people. I was earning a decent wage but I chose to live in a shared house with 6 people total. This was great for saving money, but quite stressful for eg housework and making sure bills got paid, but the main reason I did it was for the company. I always had someone to watch a movie with or just hang out I highly recommend it. It all went to disaster after a year and there was all this stressful crap with deposits and unpaid bills and stuff but in the end it definitely helped me get to know not just my flat mates but a bunch of other people around the area through them.
      3 go out wherever you would go if you had someone to go with. The first weekend in my new place when I was still living in the temp accommodation my work organised I was stirring there watching TV and I thought “well I can either stay in every night hoping to make friends by osmosis or I can get out there”. So I went out. I was really nervous so I dressed like a lesbian and tried to give off butch vibes – I figured straight guys would leave me alone (they did), straight girls wouldn’t see me as a threat (which is an actual thing), and actual lesbians and gay men would have good gaydar and would realise I wasn’t actually gay and be either confused or offended and leave me alone.

      I dunno how much of this plan worked, but I didn’t get anyone trying to talk to me directly, and I found a lot of people of different genders totally receptive to chatting with me when I approached them (not like a weirdo, just starting a conversation when we were beside each other at the bar for example). So it worked. I also got to know the different areas and suss out where was probably safe to go and next time I went out I didn’t feel the need to be in disguise.
      4 in addition to going out clubbing, I also went and did other things I would do normally like going shopping or to th movies or out for dinner. I dunno where this weird stigma people have about going out for dinner alone came from – it’s awesome. Bring a book. Sometimes you meet people, sometimes you don’t.
      5 I tried joining sports clubs and while it gave me something to do, people tend to just go and do the sports and then go home so its not really a social thing outside of class, but it is social in class (I do Martial arts but I’d say team sports are probably better for social stuff).
      6 last but not least – date! I’d pretty much go on a date with anyone who asked. I had a lot of first dates, but very few second dates. I met some people through guys I was on dates with and when I had actual relationships I met all their friends too. None of it led to deep meaningful friendships or relationships but it was a lot of fun.

      Hope some of this helps.

      1. anon for this*

        Can I just kindly and gently say that if you’re not actually queer, saying things like dressed like a lesbian and tried to give off butch vibes is offensive and perpetuates the idea that all lesbians look, act, and sound alike. It’s really harmful and makes the struggle for those of us who don’t fit the mainstream idea of queer that much harder. It’s not cool to try and appropriate someone’s identity as a disguise for your own means.

        1. Waiting for the Sun*

          Thanks. I was puzzled why the writer felt the need to dress that particular way – not judging, honestly puzzled.

          1. Thlayli*

            I literally explained it in the post – I didn’t have a clue where was safe to go, id been in the city only a few days. I wanted to be left alone.

            It worked too, so I couldn’t give a flying crap what any of you lot think.

            1. Thlayli*

              And before you start getting offended again, by “you lot” I mean the type of people who judge a woman and think you can criticise the way she chooses to dress.

              One of my closest friends before I moved was gay and I also had other gay and lesbian friends. I’d spent quite a bit of time in gay bars in the couple of years before moving and I knew the fashions in the gay scene at the time. I got a pretty good approximation of a sterotypical butch lesbian at the time. Good enough to fool straight guys at least and keep them away.

              I really don’t see why you find this offensive. You should me more offended by the fact that I felt too scared to dress like either a straight woman or a femme lesbian and I felt the only way I could safely go out in a strange city was to look butch.

              1. butch*

                I’m sorry but as a masculine woman I used to be harassed pretty regularly (I’ve since transitioned). Being butch has never stopped straight guys from deciding that either they needed to protect their “women-folk” from me, tell me I was going to hell (in the subway or bus no less) or they would be the one to “convert” me. Men and women also pretty regularly objected to my bathroom choices. So I think you were just lucky, it was not necessarily how you chose to dress – just like in most cases of harassment/rape, it has nothing to do with how the woman is dressed at all but on how some entitled man decides he is going to exert his power.

        2. Thlayli*

          Guess I should have gone out dressed like a straight girl and put up with guys pawing me all night coz I had no idea where was safe to go.

          God forbid someone might be offended by the way I choose to dress, better make sure I don’t look unavailable to guys!


              1. anon bi girl*

                Do you honestly think that no straight girls dress the way you dressed (unless it’s part of a genius plan to trick people)?

              2. Queer As In FU*

                Wow. Do you really not see how incredibly offensive this entire line of reasoning is? Can you really be that ignorant?

                You are a straight woman. Thus you were dressed like a straight woman. Deciding that you know how lesbians all dress is stereotyping people based on their sexuality which is harmful and ignorant.

                1. Ron McDon*

                  The nesting won’t allow me to post under Queer As In FU’s other post below, but I completely agree – I am incredibly surprised and disappointed to read Thlayli’s comments above, as their other comments on this site have been so intelligent and reasoned.

          1. anon for this*

            It’s not offense over your dress, but that you think being a lesbian is a “disguise”. Those of us who are queer don’t get to shrug on or off our queerness whenever we like or use it as a disguise.

            It’s offensive to try and appropriate someone’s identity for your own gain. You don’t get to pretend to be queer because it suits you, because that gives into the very prevalent idea that “queerness” is something people can choose. And it gives bigots more credence that women use queerness to attract or not attract men.

            But sure, miss my point and get defensive over me calling you out for borderline bigoted behavior. I don’t care how you dress. I care when you try and say you wanted to pretend to look or act like a lesbian so straight dudes leave you alone. Just think – you would never use another race as a disguise, so don’t do it with sexuality.

            1. disgruntled anon*

              100% agreed.

              This isn’t a thing that’s okay to do, and Thayli’s defensiveness means that on some level she’s probably aware of that. It’s unkind to try to ‘dress up’ as something we are all the time, and even more unkind to not listen to the response of members of the actual community she was playacting as.

        3. Anon Gay*

          THANK YOU for writing that – as a gay woman I was offended by the original comment from Thayhli (not that that appeared to be a concern for her – she even cheerfully wrote that it may have offended ‘actual lesbians’ which is good so they would leave her alone!)

          1. Thlayli*

            Yeah – I didn’t want anyone to approach me because I was scared! I was all alone in a foreign country on my own.

            If a lesbian was writing in saying she was afraid to go out dressed like herself in case she got attacked so she chose to dress like a sterotypical straight woman and tried to give off straight vibes you’d all be sympathising with her that she felt she had to do that to be safe.

            1. Thlayli*

              Are you offended by LGBT people trying to pass as straight to feel safer? If not then being offended by straight people trying to pass as gay is just plain hypocritical and bigoted.

              1. anon bi girl*

                I don’t get it. Men harass women because they’re *women* — the woman’s (actual or perceived orientation) doesn’t come into it. Straight men harassing lesbians is a thing that happens all the time, so “pretending to be a lesbian will protect me from straight men” is some wild backwards-ass logic and proves you don’t understand the concept of “LGBT people trying to pass as straight to feel safer”.

                Harassment isn’t about sex, much less how people are dressed — it’s a power thing. If you didn’t get harassed by men, lucky you, but this is not an airtight causal link by any means.

              2. anon for this*

                That is not even the same thing. You appropriated an identity which is bigoted and wrong.

            2. seewhatimean*

              wow, you should probably stop. Your antiquated ideas about stereotypes are offensive, outdated and naive, and your defense of them is cringeworthy.

              I’m going to put forth that your belief that how you have dressed is what made people treat you as they did is akin to Dumbo’s feather, or any similar talisman that relies on superstition over fact. You believe strongly that straight women are more likely to be approached than lesbians, for some reason I don’t fathom, but you believe it. And somehow you believe that dressing “like a lesbian” is a real thing and that it makes you less vulnerable somehow. My guess is that you may never understand why this is all in your head, and why you are offending people all the way across the spectrum of sexuality/gender.

              This comment “I didn’t get anyone trying to talk to me directly, and I found a lot of people of different genders totally receptive to chatting with me when I approached them” is extremely interesting and I feel like what it tells me is that what you _actually_ dislike is people approaching you, and not being in control of the interaction by being the person doing the approaching. Therefore I would gently suggest that you go out with the intention of approaching people, not assuming that anyone that approaches you is predatory. Stop defending your dress-up beliefs, and just sit with some of the comments here for a while with an open heart and mind. These are real people, who are truly upset or shocked or angered by your stated beliefs, and who see straight through the denials and delusion.

        4. Maya Elena*

          I didn’t read anything offensive in that; she said nothing derogatory. It seems implicit that she dressed like a “typical” butch lesbian, which is an existing image many lesbians embody, and conveys a specific image, without in any way denigrating it. She’s making no universal statements (“all lesbians fall into the categories of butch or femme”) and certainly no normative statements – (“all lesbians MUST fall into butch or femme categories”).

      2. Glowcat*

        This is all good advice. I’m in the same situation of having just moved to another country and colleagues are the ones I go out with; but in my case also the work environment is pretty international. Coffee shops are also good places, as it is quite easy to start chatting with people but at the same time it doesn’t feel too strange to be there alone. Then of course clubs and gym: if there is a hobby/sport you’d always been thinking about doing and never did, this may be the right moment.
        But the most important thing is just doing the things you’d like: doing them alone is still better than not doing them, and adding regret or envy to the solitude.
        I wish you good luck.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      No, it’s not just you. Our society has just become very disconnected.
      I recently visited with an old friend. It felt so good, and I realized just how isolated I’ve become over the last 6-7 years. I am married, but I mean FRIENDS whom I used to hang with a lot.
      It’s hard to pinpoint a reason other than I work a lot, and weekends mean catching up with chores, etc., plus I’m just tired! Not to mention commuting here is horrible, so I tend to keep close to home after driving to work all week.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I do stay in touch with friends online, but of course that’s quite different from being/doing things with them.

      2. LiL*

        Yeah the isolation thing can be quite jarring when you think about how much easier it used to be. After being ghosted by my friend I still had the tickets to the event we were meant to go watch, and I realised I couldn’t find anyone to take her place (maybe this was a slightly more difficult case, since it was very last-minute, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and waited until the day of the event before writing it off).

        It’s difficult also because I prefer small gatherings or even one-to-ones to large social events, but that tends to mean smaller social circles and more disjointed connections in general. I wish I could be a social butterfly who’s happy to go to MeetUp events in bars etc, but they’re just not enjoyable for me, besides which the type of people I meet there usually /are/ the more social types, and I just want something low-key. Maybe that’s my problem, the things I enjoy are just too boring.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          I’ve become used to doing a lot on my own, even though I’m married. My husband and I have really different preferences: he likes going to the bar w/the guys and car racing type things, I like shopping, horses, history and museums. I also love the beach, and he burns like crazy, so I’ve even taken weekend trips to beach by myself. It would be more fun with girlfriends, and sometimes I do ask them to go, but they always have money/time issues, so I’ve learned to just go it alone sometimes.

      3. Mazzy*

        I agree. I used to shoot the breeze with random people in the 90s and now I look around and everyone is staring at their phone. People don’t only become disconnected because the times have changed. Personally, my 30s disconnected me from a lot of people because of both geography and lifestyle. One of my former friends let herself go to such a point that she literally can’t keep up with my physically anymore. Her long term boyfriend suggested they come on a hike with me the last time I ran into them. I said sure, but I know she isn’t going to get her knee issues looked into or cut back on smoking and she just isn’t going to be able to do any of the trails I do. Various career paths and levels of success also have their toll. I’d never drop a friend for not being rich or successful, but I’ve definitely had less successful (in terms of career) friends ditch me as our attitudes about work, money, and long term goals shifted to the point that I couldn’t talk to them about the things most important to me. I’d have broke friends living paycheck to paycheck begging me to join them on an expensive trip, and they thought my declining so I could save for retirement and a house was an excuse or that I didn’t like them, not that I was sticking to my goals. In their minds, I bet, I was hoarding cash and being miserly, but in my head, I’m really scared for some of them for the future because they just don’t plan or save. So if we did hang out, what would we even talk about? Gossip the way we did in our 20s? I’m not into that anymore.

    6. Penguin*

      Jedi hugs to you, Lil, if wanted! Do you read Captain Awkward’s blog? (captainawkward DOT com) If not, definitely give it a look; there’s a fair bit of advice around this issue.

      I have some “bigger” suggestions below, but it sounds like you could use some “team me” (see Captain Awkward’s blog) encouragement first, so:
      Friendships lessening and ending sucks, that’s for sure. Your feelings are 100% valid, and giving yourself time and space to feel them is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
      If you don’t have one, try making a list of things that make you feel better when you’re feeling sad/disheartened/anxious/etc. (favorite foods/drinks, pleasant scents, soft blankets, songs that make you feel happy… sensual/hedonistic stuff. Step back from thinking for a bit and focus on feeling.); this is useful for all sorts of low times.
      Give yourself permission and time to grieve ended/changed social relationships. They were important to you, and the feeling of loss is real. Let it be real, let yourself feel it and process it, and eventually it will pass.
      Be patient with yourself. This stuff takes time!
      Forget comparing yourself to others; they’re not you, you don’t know or have their circumstances, so you won’t achieve their results- you will achieve your own.

      I have heard one particular piece of advice for this challenge so often it’s almost a cliché, but as a fellow how-on-earth-do-I-make-friends-as-an-adult, I offer it to you in hopes that it helps: aim to see and enjoy yourself as a whole person outside of other people.
      As far as I can tell, that really means a bunch of things:
      –accept that some, even many, of your overtures to others will be rejected or rebuffed, but (and this is important) that is not a reflection of your worth
      –accept that finding friends can be a long-term effort, and resolve to continue reaching out to other people anyway (some of us are quirky enough that finding kindred spirits is hard! but it’s worth it when we do)
      –work to minimize your expectations around others’ responding to you (life is busy and everyone has their own priorities, but they’re not doing their things AT you)
      –don’t emotionally invest yourself in any individual effort or person (thinking “I have to find someone to hang out with right now, I have to convince this person to do [thing] with me!” puts heavy demands on the other person and that can be pretty off-putting)
      –similar to the last two: keep everything light and unimportant, as if there’s always another time to try again (because if you treat each effort as if the world is depending on it, that’ll come through and work against you)

      Finally (!) an actionable thought:
      Think about/make a list of the things about you that others have enjoyed. Are there hobbies or topics of interest that you’ve shared with others? Are you still interested in them? Try encouraging yourself to spend time on them! Look for places you can share your enthusiasm for them with others, and let others share their enthusiasm with you. Friendship will come, but it needs something to build on first.

    7. Anon for this*

      I’ve recently come to realise just how few people I know that I could call to do stuff with so I entirely understand your situation! I also work in a hugely unsociable office where it wouldn’t occur to anyone to go out for lunch, let alone a drink or similar. The sense of being lonely puts me in such a funk I don’t even want to do things I would normally enjoy if the only company is myself. What I try to do is get out anyway! Ask people – also some I am not that close to – to have a drink. Join a free sports session in the park. And also hang out in coffee shops/bookshops. At least there I am alone but amongst people. I think it is really difficult to make friends when you’re older, especially if there’s no friend-potential at work. So, I think the answer is to work on friendships through the avenues available but also to work on being more comfortable doing stuff on my own. I think it’s hard, but I’m trying!

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      Making friends as an adult is tough. It was a topic at Hax this week, and one thing people recommended was a routine where you’re out and about–that you’re always at the dog park between 8 and 9, at the library film group Tuesdays–so people get accustomed to you through repetition and you can gradually build a friendship from there.

    9. Anonymous Educator*

      Is it even possible to build those kind of connections with people you don’t see every day the way it was back in school or university?

      It is, but you have to find people who are willing to make the effort. It wasn’t until after university that I found out there are a lot of people who are amazing to hang around with and actually amazing to you… as long as you live close to them. Once you move away or they move away, you realize they were “out of sight, out of mind” friends.

      Unfortunately, it gets worse as you get older. At first, you have a core group of friends you can rely on (even if they’re out of sight), but then people get married and start having kids. Once the kids happen, if you’re single without kids or even married without kids, your kid-having friends tend to get caught up with kid stuff, and the adults they most identify with and want to hang out with are other adults who have kids. There are rare exceptions, of course.

      I’ve come to the point where I just accept where people are with me. If people I used to be extremely close with are now more like acquaintances, then so be it. And the few people who really make the effort and return my efforts… I cherish those people dearly.

    10. Muriel Heslop*

      I really recommend volunteering as a way to meet people AND fill your weekends. My colleague started volunteering at our animal shelter and she has made new friends, kept herself active and busy, and unsurprisingly has two new kittens. She is walking dogs twice a week and says she feels better with exercise. Another colleagues volunteers at an elementary school teaching kids to ride bikes and she also raises money to build bikes for the program. She met her current boyfriend this way and says she is happier than ever.

      (These are both introverted and divorced women in their 50s, for context. They both confided in me that they were lonely and are much happier feeling needed and getting out of themselves.)

    11. matcha123*

      I feel the same. The best advice I can give is to continue trying to be visible to friends on facebook or through other means (texting, etc.). Don’t try to put too much on one person, and get used to finding your own activities and being alone. Honestly, I just cried in the shower because I feel so frustrated and have no one I feel comfortable talking to. But maybe it might be OK to just try to call up someone and talk…

    12. Jessi*

      I have moved a ton during the last 5 years (think this is country number 6?)

      If you don’t like drinking don’t join a drinking meetup group! My best luck in my local area has been a coffee morning meetup – very low steaks as the coffee group just meets for coffee every other saturday, and a ladies happy hour meet up. Both of which are smaller groups where its easier to talk to people!

      I think you have to lose this idea that friendship has to be forever to be meaningful – sometimes people are just what you need in a time and a place

    13. Kendra*

      I think having a friendship “dry spell” is very much a normal thing – friendships don’t have contracts so the flow of it would very much be like contract work or anything like that. I’m guilty of being like your friends who moved – I can handle planning activities with local friends and keeping in touch that way, but I moved enough growing up that I can’t handle long-distance friendships with more contact than “let’s have lunch when you’re in town!”

      Related thing – I went to a festival yesterday that I had gotten tickets for months ago, and I had to ask 13 people about it before I finally found someone who could come. Almost all of those people were good friends that I care about and they care about me, but timing/circumstances/etc just didn’t work out. Sometimes you just have to be persistent.

    14. Bethany D*

      Being in a lonely season sucks. And making friends as an adult takes a lot more intentional effort than back when we could just scope out our classmates. But one of my life mottos is “Be the change you want to see in the world.” So if most of the Meetups in your area are aimed at drinking/sportsball/extroverts – maybe you could plan an Introverts At the Library evening! Or a Quiet Coffee & Crafts morning. It will probably take a while to figure out how & where are the best places to advertise to get many/any people, so don’t get discouraged if nothing much happens right away, but at least it’s something proactive to get started with.

    15. AnonForThisPost*

      Another lonely person here so you’re in good company. I really need to work on doing things by myself- I can do some things alone just fine, like taking walks or going to the movies. But there are lots of things that i’ve talked myself out of doing and then I end up staying at home on the couch with the cat. Which makes for a happy cat but a boring life for me lol. It just seems like everyone I know is so busy, and making plans is hard at this point.

    16. gecko*

      The point, tbh, is to build up enough of a network that one or two friends moving doesn’t destroy your network.

      It hurts so much when friendships end, and friendships can change so easily, but having more—and knowing you can make more—can buffer you against that.

      Good luck and treat yourself well. This is a hard life event that we don’t have cultural scripts for, and it’s ok to be really sad.

    17. CoffeeOnMyMind*

      I completely understand where you’re coming from. I moved to Big City a few years ago, and it’s been very difficult making new friends. My friends from Old City and I have a podcast that we use to talk about nerdy stuff, buts it’s also a way to keep in touch.

      Like others who’ve posted, I also take time to do social stuff, like hanging out at coffee shops, going to the park, etc. If your city has an events calendar, check it out to see what’s going on near you. Or if you have a hobby or something that you’re interested in, search online to see if there are groups or events in your area that do the same thing. It can be a good way to meet people with similar interests. Good luck!

    18. PhyllisB*

      I feel you. I’ve posted this before, but even us “old ladies” (67) like to have a pal to hang with. Most people my age are super-involved with their grand-children (nothing wrong with that, but I have other interests in life, too.) Or they don’t like to socialize without their husbands. My husband doesn’t like to go out, but he doesn’t care if I do. I just want a friend to go to the movies with, have a glass of wine with or just go out for coffee and a chat. I am slowly making some new friends at church, but it’s taking a while.

      1. All Hail Queen Sally*

        Yes. I’m 61, unmarried, and childless (therefore grandchildless) and it is very frustrating to try make plans with others that actually go through. Lots of last minute cancellations due to extended family stuff. I do have lots of friends in different hobbies and groups (a few single and childless like me) and connect with extended family on Facebook (they all live many states away), but there are some times I can’t find someone to hang out with. Although I am an introvert and love being by myself, I do at times get lonely. However, this thread has got me thinking and I will be spending the next couple of weeks contacting old friends to connect and to let them know I am thinking about them.

  12. nep*

    Another reason to love thredUP…Anyone see their open letter to Burberry about the burning of tens of millions of dollars worth of products?
    (Not loving that thredUP has started charging a $1.99 restocking fee. Returns used to be completely free and that was one of the best parts about shopping there. They say it’s in part to help them continue to offer such great prices. It’s not enough to make me stop going to thredUP, but I’m still on the fence about it.)

    1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

      I can’t comment on the letter, but with the new stocking fee, plus the way the prices have creeped up, and the slow deliveries in multiple boxes, I’m ready to give them up entirely. Not to mention the ridiculous prices for the clothes they buy. Oh, and they don’t seem to check pockets well. I’ve received clothes with used tissues and crumbly debris (dog biscuits, maybe) in the pockets, which is very unpleasant.

      1. nep*

        That sounds awful. I’ve had only good experiences with thredUP; perhaps I’m an isolated case.

    2. Reba*

      I’m not against restocking fees in general, but with thredUP it’s frustrating because they post so little info about the garments themselves (such as the fit of trousers for brands that have more than one fit). If i’m going to take a little risk here I need to be able to return!

      I am fascinated by retail generally but only more lately learning about resale. I read all the news last year about rhe ban on used clothing announced by several east African countries, and I’m very interested to see what the effects will be. (Recommended academic and semi-academic reading: ‘Salaula’ by Karen Tranberg Hansen, ‘Clothign Poverty’ by Adam brooks, ‘Overdressed’ by Elizabeth Cline)

      Not sure why the Burberry thing has bubbled up into the news just now. Not that they shouldn’t be criticized! Just that the practice is super common so I’m curious what has made this one newsworthy–maybe the especially high amount of “value” (presuming the numbers used are retail prices, not burberry’s cost to make). I liked thredUP’s statement–thanks for drawing my attention to it–but their business and burberry’s are like on different planets. I don’t think Burbs and their peers are likely to listen.

      1. nep*

        Right–the articles note that it’s been a common practice for a long time.
        Agree the Burbs of the world won’t care about thredUP’s note–I don’t really think that’s the purpose of an open letter like that. Just stating their point and putting it out there.

    3. neverjaunty*

      I’ve had some pretty annoying experiences with thredUP (their business model seems to be built on the float) but good for them.

    4. Triplestep*

      I always suggest doing a search for reviews and read the recent ones. (Not the early ones from before they grew too big too fast.) Buyers definitely do better than consignors, who seem to be making pennies on the clothes they send in. Many of these reviews end with something like “I wish I had just donated them locally”; I think most people would rather have the satisfaction of knowing they’d helped someone than knowing a company had made money on the items for which they were not fairly compensated.

      Once when I made the same suggestion (read reviews) to someone I worked with, she said something like “Well, I just get rid of my clothes – I would not send them to Thred-up and expect to make money.” If you’re on the same page, then Thred-up is probably a good bet for you as a buyer. If you are concerned that you might be getting great deals at the expense of someone who sent clothes to Thred-up expecting a fair pay out, you may want to do more research.

      1. nep*

        I have always read/heard that thredUP is good for buyers but not for sellers. I’ve never sold them anything; got the ‘cleanup bag’ a couple times but never did it. Just not interested and not looking to make anything off my stuff. I know that this is one of the big negatives for some people–bad experience when wanting to sell them items.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think the best way to look at selling to thredUP isn’t “this is a way to make money” but rather “this is a way to clean out my closet and get some bonus cash in exchange.” The prices they pay to sellers *are* low — I think they have to be in order to make their business model sustainable — and you just have to go in knowing/expecting that. (Disclaimer: thredUP is a sometimes sponsor of this site.)

    5. BeenThere*

      I got my first Goody box recently and it was great. So I got another with a different type of clothing and what a huge disappointment. I have noticed their prices are creeping up. I can do as well on the clearance rack at major dept stores for new stufff.

    6. LizB*

      I just got what will likely be my last order from thredUP to clear out my saved-up credit. I get why they might want to charge the new restocking fee, but $2 per item is out of my budget. Fortunately all the items I got in this order actually fit nicely, so I don’t need to send any back for restocking! I’ll just stick with my local thrift stores from now on.

  13. caledonia*

    Another book rec, which definitely fits the bill: Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

    “They were the Amazing Telemachus Family, who in the mid-1970s achieved widespread fame for their magic and mind reading act. That is, until the magic decided to disappear one night, live on national television.”

    1. Princess of Pure Reason*

      I just read this as my “staycation” book and it was wonderful, quite funny.

    2. Glowcat*

      I’ve always found funny how all those “mediums” would only use their superpowers to bend spoons and keys and stop watches. Guess not everyone has the guts to be an Avenger… ;)

    3. neverjaunty*

      I keep meaning to read this! I really liked his book/novella We Are All Completely Fine.

  14. Anonymous Ampersand*

    AlligatorSky I’ve been hoping you’re ok all week. Would love an update if poss x

  15. Jamie*

    I really liked Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion recently. Literary, and though the friendship aspect is bigger than the family, the family is for sure dysfunctional. Also, what are friends but the family that you choose?

    1. Julianne (also a teacher)*

      Did you read The Interestings? I liked that one a lot, and I’ve been meaning to pick up The Female Persuasion.

    2. Finn*

      I also enjoyed this book a lot although I’m still not sure what to think about one part (sorry this is vague, I’m loathe to even approach anything resembling a spoiler)

  16. Tau*

    People from hot countries, I need survival tips. It’s been hitting 30-35C on a regular basis recently with full sunshine and no sign of cooling down. I know this still qualifies as cool in many places, but these are not normal German summer temperatures and we aren’t really set up to deal with them. My flat heats up tremendously for some reason (I think it’s because I get direct sunlight in the morning, and then it’s really well-insulated so once the heat is there it doesn’t go away easy). I have a fan, which is probably the only reason I am managing to sleep at night, but there is still a lot of suffering involved. I’m longingly looking at ice cream machines online, which is probably a bad sign. Any and all tips are appreciated.

    1. Sled dog mama*

      Blackout or insulating curtains are a huge help for me when getting too much sun was a problem in my old house. They really block a lot of heat from coming in.

      1. nep*

        Yes–I was thinking of this. When it’s hot here, it makes a huge difference to keep all the shades down. I can imagine that blackout curtains would be very effective.
        Keep little cold packs in the freezer–the kind that have a sort of mesh or cloth side (mine look like round little cushions) that can be applied to skin. Holding this on the inside of wrists, neck, inside of elbows, back of knees can really help, especially as you’re trying to fall asleep.

        1. Tau*

          This is a great tip, thanks! Sleep has been a real problem recently – the fan is nice but noisy.

          1. Ron McDon*

            You can buy cooling mats which you either put on top of or inside your pillowcase, to help cool you down at night.

        2. MissDisplaced*

          I’ve read that air conditioning is not common in parts of Europe because it’s seldom needed? If you have a fan, you could try making something called a “homemade swamp cooler” which can cool better than the fan alone.
          Otherwise, kerp your body core cool with cold showers, swimming, cool packs, etc. I love hot weather, but it can be hard to acclimate yourself to it.

          1. Book Lover*

            I was just going to suggest this. It was how people coped in Arizona before air conditioning. And definitely blackout curtains and just not moving about much.

          2. Natalie*

            Keep in mind that evaporative cooling only works in dry heat. No idea if it’s also humid in Germany

      2. Tau*

        That probably explains a lot. I moved into a flat that consists almost solely of windows and have only slowly been arranging for suitable coverings; the windows that get morning sun are still painted with buttermilk as an interim solution. Time to really look into fixing that, it looks like!

        (Thankfully, I do have blackout curtains in my bedroom, which has one giant massive window front looking south. I have the sneaking suspicion temperatures there would be completely unbearable otherwise.)

        1. Chameleon*

          Painted with buttermilk? Like, real actual dairy product? (Google only brings up regular paint in “Buttermilk” color.)

          1. Tau*

            Actual buttermilk. I got this tip from my brother’s flatmate when I was panicking about moving into what’s effectively a terrarium. It works amazingly well! You just take buttermilk, a paint roller and go. It doesn’t go bad or anything once it’s dried, although I would be careful to keep moisture off those windows (aka: probably not great in the bathroom.) Although mine’s still meant to be temporary, I’ve considered getting window stencils and making some designs once a more permanent solution exists.

        2. AliceBD*

          Thick dark towels work well as temporary blackout curtains — I had to use them for a few weeks as a kid when we repainted my room and then the dry cleaners messed up my curtains so we had to go find new curtains.

        3. LCL*

          Whoah, I learned something today, thank you! I was going to post asking about buttermilk on windows, I was sure it was a mistranslation. But I googled it, and it is an artistic thing and very interesting.

      3. Chaordic One*

        These same blackout or insulating curtains are also great at helping to keep warmth inside your house in the winter time.

      4. Kendra*

        I did my windows with tinfoil – I made big window-size sheets with cute wrapping paper and tinfoil on the back and they block light really well, so they might help with heat and be less expensive than buying curtains!

    2. Radical Edward*

      The fan is crucial! An oscillating one if at all possible. I grew up with no ac and the rooms that get the most sun, depending on the window situation, should be either left wide open for air circulation or closed up as soon as temps rise and draw the curtains to block as much radiant heat as possible. I take cold showers only this time of year even though I do have ac here. Cool bath with baking soda helps if you’re experiencing heat rash or swollen feet, etc.

      And the biggest game changer for me has been Uniqlo Dry Tech undershirts- if you can get them online, stock up! They wick away sweat and keep your clothing dry and comfortable (and stain-free). I couldn’t survive without them, I would be changing outfits three times a day!

      If it gets over 30c indoors, try taking a coldpack from the freezer and holding it against your neck or under your arm. Other than that, sit in front of the fan and keep drinking cool liquids with minerals to supplement what you lose through sweating.

      Don’t walk fast or do anything strenuous, it’s way too easy to become ill that way if you’re not used to the heat. If you have to go out in the sun, take an umbrella to protect yourself from the heat and intensity of direct sunlight.

      For an un-air conditioned apartment, the best advice I have is to keep the air circulating and if it’s still dangerously hot during the day, do your very best to find another place to be.

      I hope some of that is helpful. Take care!

    3. Lcsa99*

      I agree with the others. Keep the blinds/ curtains and windows closed at all times unless its cooler outside than in, then you open the windows to let the air circulate until it heats up again and you close everything. I’ve also heard that you can put a bowl of ice in front of a fan to help cool the air its blowing (I personally didn’t notice a difference in my hot basement dungeon apartment years ago. But its worth trying!)

      1. Jaid_Diah*

        My concern with keeping windows closed is that one might inadvertently turn their home into a giant convection oven. People die from that.

        Air cooler made from a styrofoam cooler, a couple of duct pieces from a hardware store, and a desktop sized fan

        I also use the Chillow, a pillow inset that is filled with water and absorbs heat from your head as you sleep. There’s cooling mattress pads on Amazon.

        Mostly, stay hydrated, keep air circulating, wear loose clothing. I wish you all the best!

    4. Thlayli*

      Similar here – it’s been the hottest summer of my life (literally – 1976 was last time it got this hot). During the really hot days we basically went into full lockdown from 11:00 to 14:00 and closed all curtains on the south side of the house and stayed indoors.

    5. BRR*

      I’ve found a cold shower really helps. A window fan also helped tremendously. Blow hot air out and cool air in at night.

      1. Bacon Pancakes*

        Agree with this. If the windows can open, put a box fan on the sill to blow hot air out.

      2. Snark*

        Yep. It’s been this hot in Colorado all summer, and fans, a portable AC unit, and cold showers are how we’re coping. Never needed any of that in the ’80s.

    6. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      I’m in the SE US where we get a glorious combination of sweltering heat and consistently high humidity all summer long. Echoing what others have suggested, blackout curtains and fans are a huge help. Avoid running lights and appliances that give off heat during the day if you can. Cool showers right before bed are great, especially if you’re still damp when you lay down and have a fan going. Crisp percale sheets feel cooler than the softer weaves. Rotating ice packs helps, too. I like to take the rectangular kind (8″ x 4″ maybe?), wrap one in a long tea towel, and tie it around my head Rosie the Riveter style.
      If it’s in your budget, consider a standing or window air conditioner. I have central air, but it’s very inefficient due to drafty single pane windows. I rent, so I can’t do anything about the windows, but a window unit in the living room has made a huge impact on my comfort and electric bill. I can run it during the day to cool just the front room that I’m in, and save a ton of money keeping the thermostat setting higher for the rest of the house. If you’re gone most of the day a window unit in the bedroom may be a better option for you.

    7. Pol*

      Once it gets cooler in the evening, open as many windows as possible (and draw any curtains- you need the airflow). Leave them open during mornings as well- the air should still be cooler then (when are the coolest hours depends on humidity- I’m lucky to live near a desert, in that: an hour after nightfall it’s 10 degC down…). Make sure you drink, any liquid is good (caffeine and alcohol less so), fruits are good too, but make sure you’re inputting enough salt and such (electrolytes lower when you sweat), and make sure you eat (did this mistake our first heat wave this year. oops).

      As others said: showers, especially cool ones; wet your arms, head, and neck/back if it’s dry/if you have wind (or a fan), especially coming in from outside- it helps if you got slight heat stroke. Same areas are good with cool packs. Putting a slightly wet sheet near a fan works well if it’s dry. If you’re nauseated, cool yourself down, get water, salt, sugar and call for help if it’s not getting better within minutes.

      When outside, wear light colors and loose clothing, stick to the shade, wear a hat but take it off in the shade (to let the wind cool your head, especially if your hair is long or thick), and try not to be outside when the sun is higher than 30 degrees from the horizon. If there’s a library with air-conditioning, or some other cool building (old things build of stone are pretty good at this, until the stone heats up)

    8. LilySparrow*

      These are all great tips – as far as blowing a fan across a bowl of ice, it won’t cool a room but can give a small cool breeze directly on you.

      One of the best things I discovered for quick relief is a peppermint compress. We have peppermint Castile soap that is very strong – put a squirt of that in some water. (I suppose you could use peppermint tea).

      Soak and wring out some face cloths, and you can put them on your forehead or the back of your neck – it’s really refreshing and lasts longer than you might think.

      They’re good with cool tap water, but if you make several and keep them in the refrigerator they are even better. You can just keep swapping out fresh ones.

    9. Chameleon*

      I don’t know how common A/C is for businesses there–I live in a place where almost no one has it in their house but businesses often will have it. If you find somewhere like a coffee shop or movie theater, they are great refuges when you just CANNOT. TAKE. IT. ANYMORE.

      One thing I’ve discovered is that if you have a window that is sunny, it often is worse to keep it open and uncovered for the air circulation. Blocking the air circulation is worth it if it blocks the sunlight. If you buy blackout curtains, try to go for light-colored but thick ones. Black absorbs heat and will act as a radiator. Worst case scenario, get one of those silvered insulation blankets. Those will reflect the sun away.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        For a cheap and fast method (a few dollars and 20 minutes) to block the sunlight, make a set of curtains out of mylar emergency blankets, which are basically a very light sheet of reflective material. You can duct tape them onto the back of your existing curtains (or the window frames). They’ll reflect back the sunlight beautifully. The bonus of using curtains during the heat of the day is that you can skip clothing inside, which helps a lot.

        When I was a broke grad student I lived in an apartment with no A/C and western facing balcony windows, and this is how we stayed cool.

        With fans, once it cools down a bit outside (or during a thunderstorm), we use the fans to pull the cool air through the apartment.

        Other tricks – a spray bottle of water and a fan. Spritz yourself, stand in the breeze to cool off (works best when minimally clothed). Drink lots of water and other unsweetened drinks. I heartily recommend UV umbrellas in the sun – it makes an amazing difference when walking outside.

    10. Khlovia*

      If you are at home, either alone or with someone who will appreciate the scenery: wet tee-shirt, small fan. Even the slightest movement of air will do wonders.

      If available, get two of those intake/exhaust fans that let you change the blade spin direction, one for a north window and one for a south window. Keep an eye on outside temp vs inside temp. When it’s hotter out than in, push air out. Keeps the hotter air from coming in and creates a bit of a breeze through the house. When it’s hotter in than out, pull cool air in from the north and push it out on the south. Better breeze, and of course cooler air indoors. It’s all about managing air mass.

    11. Not a Mere Device*

      Keep ice packs in the freezer, and apply them to your body when you’re really cold–just rest it against your thigh or chest until you feel a bit cooler.

      For going outside, especially during the day:

      Carry a bottle of cold water (or cold tea or anything else you like drinking ocld): not only is it good to stay hydrated, you can put the bottle next to your skin for a bit of cooling. I did this the other day, when I found myself on an un-air-conditioned bus when the outside air temperature was in the low 30s (around 90F).

      You may know these, but in case you don’t:

      Don’t underestimate the value of shade: it can be unpleasantly hot on a sunny sidewalk, and comfortable under an awning, or in the shade of a tree or building. One of the standard tips around here is to wear light-weight, light-colored clothing, preferably slightly loose, because you want to benefit from random breezes.

    12. LilySparrow*

      Did anyone mention cross-breeze? If you can open windows on opposite sides, even just a little, it’s better than having them wide open on only one side.

      This might be a way to compromise if you need to keep the sunny window covered. Open it just a few inches, but have the shady-side windows open and use the fan. The cross breeze gives much better circulation.

      That is one thing I noticed visiting Germany – there are a lot more interior doors kept closed, while we tend toward open floor plans and only close interior doors if we specifically need privacy. It makes sense if your usual concern is keeping heat in. It’s opposite time now – Keep those interior doors open!

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I have water face mists I carry around with me. (L’Occitane or any of the French mineral water brands) I was sceptical at first, but it does seem to work at cooling down in this hot weather.

      2. Tau*

        Thanks, this is a very good tip! As you rightly surmised I’ve been doing the German thing of keeping all interior doors closed. (Why? I live alone! It just feels untidy to have them open somehow.)

        1. LilySparrow*

          LOL! I’m afraid I drove my friends crazy leaving doors ajar until I realized and adjusted. It just seemed unnatural to have them all shut!

    13. Susan K*

      My air conditioner was just out for two months, and I could not have survived without my Frogg Toggs chilly pad. It is a cooling towel that you wet with water, and as the water evaporates, it cools you off. Using a fan accelerates the evaporation and makes it even cooler. I have an extra large one that I can drape over myself like a blanket.

    14. Woodswoman*

      I used to drive long distances in the heat in a car with no air conditioning. I would soak my shirt with a spray bottle filled with water, and that made a huge difference. I’ve since done that on occasional hot day at home, and it works. If you’re just hanging out at home and not planning to go anywhere, that may help you cool off.

      1. Whatsinaname*

        I second the spray bottle suggestion. I used to keep one next to my bed and sprayed myself throughout the day and before going to sleep. I also moved into another room that didn’t get direct sunlight for sleeping. But we lived in a house. It doesn’t sound like your place is big enough. I definitely sympathize as we just moved from Germany this past winter and the summers there can be brutal without a/c. If your windows have Rolladen you should use them and definitely the blackout curtains that everyone is suggesting. We also had several fans blowing. We’re currently living in Korea and it’s hotter than Hades at the moment. Luckily the Koreans are fans of air conditiong because I wouldn’t be able to survive 106 with 85 to 100 percent humidity. Stay cool.

    15. GreyNerdShark*

      During the day, cover all windows. My west facing window has a shadecloth blind, a blackout blind and blackout curtains and is finally not a massive furnace in the afternoons. Before all that it just had venetian blinds, I found putting a white sheet between them and the glass made a huge difference.
      Once the sun goes down, open it all up and try and get a cross breeze going. Replace the day air with the slightly cooler night air.
      Camp in the living room at night. Bedrooms are smaller than main rooms and so your body heat heats them faster. My pre-aircon sequence was bedroom, living room, balcony, and then one horrible night flat on the tiles in the bathroom as the only relief!

    16. SarahKay*

      I’m stuck in a very warm flat too, (although in the UK rather than Germany) and I’ve been putting my dress under the cold tap, wringing it out, and then putting it on. So long as there’s any air movement it’s incredibly effective at cooling me down – I even managed to do some ironing, which is a warm task at the best of times.

      Also, I second the comments on keeping windows shut as soon as it’s warmer outside than in, and covered with the best insulator you can get (the buttermilk trick sounds fascinating!) then when it’s cooling outside open all the windows you can, plus all your interior doors so that you get airflow.

      1. SarahKay*

        Oh, another thought – can you get hold of an airbed (the sort you’d use when camping)? That can make a huge difference in staying cool at night, because instead of all your body heat building up in a mattress it just flows into the air in the airbed.

    17. Aphrodite*

      Tape aluminum foil to your windows, especially those that get full sun. You can tape it–dull side out for good neighborly relations–to the glass or frame but be sure to get it snuggled up to the glass. The idea is to block not just the light but the heat. It won’t cool your place off but it makes a noticeable difference in temperature rises during the day. Then close the window coverings and if possible considering keeping the room dark until it gets cool again. Very few people I have told this to have done it but it works very, very well. My bedroom is dark for 3-4 months of the year. (And if you don’t want to tape the foil directly to the windows, you can get large pieces of cardboard, like shipping boxes and mattress boxes, and cut those to fit your various windows and tape foil to those.)

      In addition to floor and table fans, I have the bed fan ( http://www.bfan.world/ ) and this works so well!

      No cooking at all after breakfast. A lot of sandwiches or other cold stuff for dinner.

    18. Bethany D*

      You’ve already got a lot of great tips here, so I’ll just add that it helps to switch most of your cooking and cleaning to the late evening or early morning. Because every time your stove is turned on, the shower is flowing, or an appliance is running (yes even a fan!) it adds heat &/or humidity to your inside air. So in summer I do one burst of activity as soon as I get up; then as soon as it is warmer outside than inside, I stop working, shut all the windows, and draw the curtains. Lunch and dinner we try to eat cold food, use the microwave, or grill outside. Then in the evening as soon as the air temp is about the same inside as out, I open everything up, get back to work on chores, and cook-ahead meals to store in the fridge.

      1. PhyllisB*

        This how we did it in the South before AC became A THING. I well remember my aunts and grand-mothers going out to the garden at like 5-6 A.M. picking the day’s vegetables, and starting cooking breakfast, and immediately after breakfast start in cooking lunch. (In those days, mid-day was called dinner and night meal was supper.) after dinner was eaten, a white sheet or tablecloth covered the left-overs and they were consumed for supper. During canning season, you got a hot breakfast and whatever you could scratch up the rest of the day because you have never seen hot like it is when you have canners full of boiling hot water on all burners. Sorry for this trip down memory lane, I was just saying that there are ways to cope with the heat that help.

    19. Aealias*

      Keep a tub full of cold water in the bathroom – it makes a good heat sink to keep one room bearable.

      I used to keep underwear and a top sheet in the freezer. Pull the sheet out st bedtime for a cool sleep. Cold underwear either in the morning or coming home from work is a blessing.

      Sit in that cold tub with clothes on, and drip-dry while you make supper. It’s like assisted sweating.

      Some of this might be overkill, it’s tricks from when my city hit 40-45’ for two weeks. The cold-water stuff is less effective in high humidity, but the freezer tricks are still nice.

      1. Traveling Teacher*

        Oh, didn’t see your comment! I’ve been putting top sheets in the freezer, but the underwear is GENIUS. We are creeping towards the mid-upper 30s this week… Just put a couple pairs in now! Thank you!

    20. Nita*

      I’ve been living without AC until yesterday and I’ve broken out every trick in my book, and a few things my great-grandma used to do. Nice thick curtains and closed windows at daytime, and on the worst day I washed all the floors so the evaporation can cool everything a bit. And in the evening all the windows open, if it’s not hot out, and I put on a fan to try and kick out some of the hot air.

      Also, keeping a big bottle of cold water in the fridge to add to all the drinks, and a steady supply of ice cream. It’s a pain to go to the store for it in the heat, but a big carton lasts a week or two, so it’s worth it.

      And of course, if possible, spending some time in places with AC, or outside after dark.

    21. Katy*

      A tip no one has mentioned yet: Instead of buying ice packs, you can simply take several cloths or towels, put them in cold water and wring them out so they are wet but not dripping, then stick them in your refrigerator or freezer if you have one. Throughout the day, pull one out and hold it against your face, chest, or stomach until it warms up, then rinse it under cold water again and stick it back in the freezer. I grew up in the Southeastern USA, and this is a trick we used to use for soothing a sunburn, but it works for cooling off on a hot day too. The frozen cloths don’t hurt your skin the same way ice does, but they’re still very effective at drawing heat out of your body.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Katy, Southeast US here!! I have done the cold rag trick. Our central unit went on the fritz last month, and we were using all our tricks from the old days. Then last week my mother’s went out while she had a house full of company and I had a house full of company. Needless to say we had a DOUBLE houseful of company. My mother, the coward, got a room at a motel.

      2. All Hail Queen Sally*

        THANKS! I just read your comment and now I have several wet washcloths in my freezer! I can’t believe I forgot about that trick! (I grew up in the humid Midwest with no AC.)

    22. Traveling Teacher*

      Same problems here! (France) I’ve been opening all windows and shutters once the sun sets and leaving them open through the night. I get up at 6 every morning and shut all windows and shutters right when the temps begin to rise (I tested this method with my indoor instant-read thermometer, and it keeps things between 3-6 degrees C cooler if done right away.)

      If you’re in an older building especially, make sure to run a dehumidifier to decrease humidity over long periods of humid heat–this was a gamechanger for us last summer when we had to limit open windows due to a chainsmoking neighbor (even at midnight!). Bonus: it dries your clothes so quickly in the winter…and prevents awful mold.

      I like to make my own popsicles, which are mostly water and a bit of mashed fruit for flavoring. Also, frozen grapes! Much healthier than ice cream, so you can eat lots more, :)

      Drape a cool, wet washcloth around your neck or even right on top of your head. I put clean top sheets in the freezer and take them out just before bed.

      To block light, you could use some flattened moving boxes to put over your windows that receive the direct light if you don’t have shutters. Your buttermilk solution is genius, though!

    23. seewhatimean*

      cold foot baths – chuck in a few icecubes! And close your blinds so they curve outwards towards the street, or put up tinfoil/aluminium/notsureoftheGermanterm to reflect the sunlight out of your window (you can put it over cardboard that fits your window so that you can put it up and then remove it after the sun moves on). Turn the shower to cool/cold before you turn it off, and spray down the walls of the shower, to reduce the amount of steam you release into the flat (it will tend to condense more quickly on the cool walls).

  17. Loopy*

    I’ve started exercising after a long bout (4.5 years) of nothing very minimal activity. Four days in, it’s hard to stay motivated because my body is obviously showing the consequences of my inactivity. Just 35 minutes on the elliptical has been tough. I’m trying to work my stamina up to be able to get through a whole group class and it’s going slower than I expected. So, it’s been hard to also tackle the food side of things. I’ve tried good ol’ Google but it feels exhausting and weirdly difficult.

    So I am here, with you wonderful people hoping for recommendations for easy vegetarian low carb, high protein / filling snacks and meals. So far the internet is just like, eggs, eat eggs in all the forms. Or gives me convoluted, difficult recipes I haven’t the time or skill for.

    Am I looking for a unicorn??

      1. Loopy*

        I adore this idea and I adore oatmeal! I’ve actually been living on overnight oats for years and yes, it’s so filling! My problem is with even 3/4-1 cup each morning, Myfitness pal gripes at me about the carbs :( But maybe if I make these I can see if two cookies at a time would do the trick!

    1. nep*

      No specific suggestions re snacks or meals as things that come to mind aren’t really low carb–but just a note re the exercise: 35 min on the elliptical is tough–all the more for someone who’s been relatively inactive. Please don’t beat yourself up for the fact that it takes time. Little by little you will build stamina. Adding strength training is always a good thing.

      1. The Original K.*

        I second the advice to add strength training – it’s very good for the health, particularly as we age and lose bone density. You’ll also find it helps with whatever cardio you’re doing. Good for you for getting active again!

      2. Loopy*

        Thanks so much. It’s hard when I had a very easy time exercising when I was younger. I was absolutely blind to how privileged and lucky I was. But also, it’s making now harder because I remember it being *so* easy in college and right after!

    2. nep*

      (One thing that comes to mind for snacks–I make my own bars with a really old but quality food processor I bought years ago at a garage sale. This way you control the ingredients and ratio of carbs to protein…Some good things to include: flax seeds, hemp powder, almonds or almond butter…It’s fun to experiment with combinations, what fruits to use for moisture. I always add a bit of sea salt–makes a world of difference.)

      1. Applesauced*

        I’ve been doing this to have healthy (well… healthier) snacks around the house.
        2 parts dates
        1 part dried fruit
        1 part nuts/seeds
        +cocoa powder

        Food process the whole mix, then roll small balls in toasted coconut

        1. nep*

          Ooh that sounds good. I forgot–I will sometimes make them extra moist then toss them around in cacao powder as a nice coating. Dates are great for binding ingredients.

          1. nep*

            (And hemp powder good for some protein as well as iron–and the taste is quite mild. It’s great in bars and smoothies.)

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I know Smitten Kitchen has some recipes specifically geared to a reasonably healthy breakfast bar.

        For high protein low carb, have heard good things about the doability of Nom Nom Paleo.

        1. Loopy*

          I will look those up! Most high protein / low carb diets have meat recipes so I’ve had trouble online. But just a few veggie ones is all I need!

      3. Loopy*

        I tried bars once- I used a black bean based recipe and they were SO awful I haven’t tried again! But I really should- all the pre-made bars are too high in processed sugar.

    3. Overeducated*

      If you want something more than plain nuts, you can make vegan date nut chocolate bars in a blender without baking, I haven’t done it in a few years since I’m not a big snacker, but there are a lot of variations online.

      When I first started running, my favorite snack was a cold glass of milk, sometimes with an ice cube in it. My husband likes milk with a dash of maple syrup.

      No meal ideas though…I eat mostly vegetarian but not low carb. It’s a harder combination than with meat. Good luck!

      1. Loopy*

        I’ll have to try those bars! I adore milk but developed lactose intolerance this year and it makes this all the harder!

    4. Applesauced*

      Great vegetarian protein sources – yogurt (Greek or Icelandic), nuts, beans, protein powder if you’re short on time

      1. Loopy*

        Yogurt used to be such a staple until I became lactose intolerant! I know there are lactose free versions, but man they are pricey! I got some nuts and protein powder- flavored almonds have been such a joy.

        1. Belle di Vedremo*

          You might try making your own kefit; the organisms purportedly consume all the lactose before you consume it. It won’t cover all issues with dairy, but it can be a delicious option. I make mine thick, from whole milk. Leave it overnight, either with a flavoring agent overnight or adding something in the morning. Lately I’ve been adding cinnamon, which is proving delicious.

        2. PhyllisB*

          Loopy, have you tried using Lact-aid? My first grand-child was fussy (doctor said colic) her mother was breast-feeding, so I suggested she use Lact-aid before consuming dairy products. Made all the difference in the world. The doctor couldn’t believe it when I shared this with him. My point is, if it’s effective second-hand, it would surely help you. As I told my daughter, we can try it, and if it doesn’t help, we’ll be no worse off and it’s not like it’s something harmful.

        3. research assistant*

          I’m fairly certain this is a thing – I’m lactose intolerant but can eat greek (not regular) yogurt. a bit pricy but causes no issues at all.

    5. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      The Bitten Word (food blog) has a really good recipe for fava bean crostini. If fava beans are difficult to find (likely), I personally use frozen edamame. It’s a couple of ingredients and you make it in a food processor. Keeps for a couple days in the fridge – good snack with toasts, crackers or veggie dippers and healthy too. It’s also seems posh – I have made the toasts for baby showers.

      1. Loopy*

        Thank you SO much for the suggestion and substitution – I doubt I could find fava beans! I will add that to my list :) It would be great to move away from hummus every day!

    6. Marzipan*

      You can get low-carb, high-protein pasta – most types taste frankly quite weird, but with a fairly strongly-flavoured pesto or a tomato/chili sauce, they’re OK.
      Otherwise, my go to building blocks are Quorn and Skyr, basically.

      1. nep*

        I absolutely love Trader Joe’s black bean rotini. Not low carb, but with the protein and high fiber, a good combination.

      2. Loopy*

        I’ve never heard of this pasta! I adore pasta so as long as the texture was mostly right, I’d be willing to try!

    7. Namast'ay in Bed*

      I feel your pain! I’m a vegetarian and I totally sympathize with the “why-is-everything-high-protein-also-high-carb-or-just-plain-eggs” frustration. Quest bars are awesome, they’re really good and super filling, and their protein to carbs and fat content are really good. (I follow the 40-30-30 rule, which I’ve found works really well for me for staying full but also losing weight. I know you didn’t ask for diet advice so I’ll just leave it at that, but I’m happy to elaborate more if you’re interested!) I’ve also found that fake deli meat is also really high protein and low carb, especially since most vegetarian meat substitutes are really high carb. The gardein line of fake meat products isn’t too bad in the carb department though, my favorite is the mandarin orange crispy chick’n nuggets.

      A thing that has been helpful in getting my protein up is a collagen peptides supplement. It’s a tasteless powder that is pure protein, you can add it into any beverage or stir it into a meal while prepping it, and it’s a great way to add protein without carbs or fat or a chalky taste. I’ll add a link below, you can find it at some grocery stores too though.

      1. Loopy*

        I’m open to diet advice :) I just don’t do well with strict diets that involve calorie counting/ strict macros. Something about the counting makes me insane, I’m always feeling like I need to beat my own score like it’s a GPS and I can get my arrival time just two minutes lower. Which isn’t healthy. I spent a few months in grad school on a 1200 calorie diet I was very strict about and it was miserable.

        So general guidelines seems more right for me from what I can tell!

        I don’t know that I’ve seen fake deli meat- but I have mild texture issues so I’m very picky about fake meat. I’ll definitely check out that link though!

    8. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      String cheese? Roasted chickpeas or nuts? Chia pudding? Increasing fiber and fat helps make things more filling without extra carbs. Maybe something like hummus or “tuna” salad (made with smashed chickpeas or white beans) on sliced cucumbers/squash/seed crackers? Replacing most of the mayo with avocado is super tasty.

      1. The Original K.*

        Semi-related: I can’t get chia pudding right to save my life. I use the seeds in smoothies but whenever I try recipes for chia pudding, it doesn’t gel. What am I missing?

        1. LemonLyman*

          It’s not going to be smooth…it will be a little bit liquidy. I like using vanilla almond milk but since it’s not very thick it will never be “pudding like”. Don’t have vanilla milk? Use whatever but milk you have and add a touch of vanilla extract (or pass on vanilla all together). Toss in some chunks of strawberries or blueberries and you have a nice breakfast or snack!

        2. MuttIsMyCopilot*

          The biggest mistake I made starting out was trying to use a liquid that was already too creamy. The chia couldn’t absorb enough liquid and it just didn’t work. I get the best results with low fat coconut milk, or regular milk plus mashed soft fruit like banana or mango. It’s still not super smooth obviously, but more like tapioca pudding instead of just liquid with chia seeds in it.

        3. Melody Pond*

          I love chia pudding! The two possible causes (that I can think of) of the pudding failing to gel, are:

          1) not enough chia seeds relative to the amount of whatever milk you’re using (I like almond milk)
          2) you might need to stand there and stir the mixture for several minutes

          Also, this particular recipe is not all that healthy (with the extra sugar) but DAMN is it good and very filling:

          3 tablespoon carob powder or cocoa powder
          1⁄4 cup sugar or coconut sugar
          1 (13oz) can full fat coconut milk
          1 cup unsweetened almond milk
          6 ounce dairy free chocolate chips (I get the fanciest chocolate chips available at the store)
          1 teaspoon vanilla extract
          1⁄4 teaspoon salt
          1/3 cup chia seeds

          In a medium saucepan, whisk together carob powder and sugar. Pour in the coconut and almond milk and whisk to combine. Bring to a bubble over medium heat, stirring regularly. The mixture will slowly thicken as it comes to a low boil. Whisk it for about 2 minutes after it starts bubbling. You’ll feel it thicken.

          Remove from the heat and stir in chocolate chips, vanilla, and salt. Stir until smooth. Stir in chia seeds (to act as a thickener and add some nutritional value) until evenly distributed.

          Refrigerate until completely chilled. (Pudding will continue to thicken as it cools).

          If the pudding ends up thicker than you prefer, you can thin it out with a tiny drizzle of additional almond or coconut milk.

      2. Loopy*

        I had forgotten about a great chick pea salad (substitute for tuna salad) recipe I used years ago! THANK YOU for the reminder! That will have to go in rotation.

    9. Triple Anon*

      No, you have lots of options! Tofu with peanut butter wrapped in a collard or lettuce leaf. Hummus, chick peas in general, nuts, tempheh fried in a skillet, baked tofu, all kinds of beans . . . That’s just the beginning.

      1. Ali G*

        Not to hijack – do you make a lot of tofu? I’d really like to sub out meat once a week, but hubs is firmly in the meat corner. I want to try tofu as a compromise, but I know if I mess it up, I will never have the chance to try it again. I have to get it right the first time or I will forever ruin tofu for hubs (he is weird about food).
        Any tips on getting started successfully for a tofu-based dinner?

        1. Almost Academic*

          No the AP, but as someone who eats tofu all the time hopefully you don’t mind me chiming in!

          The key to tofu is taking your time to prep it (which most recipes leave out, unfortunately). Make sure you’re getting the right type of tofu, first of all – extra firm is great for stir fries, silken is really only for smoothies. Also, local asian markets often have better quality tofu at cheaper prices than the supermarket.

          Step 1 in any recipe should be to press / drain the tofu (although many recipes leave this out). Sandwich it between two plates and place heavy things on top of the top plate, let it press out water for at least 30 minutes (adding more weight every 10 minutes or so). If you get into tofu, I recommend getting a proper tofu press for ease.

          Once the tofu is drained, it can be marinaded similarly to most meats and that imparts a ton of extra flavor to it. Different recipes will have suggestions for this, and I really recommend not skipping this step!

          Also, if you’re frying tofu – try to coat the tofu with some corn starch, it really helps it to puff up beautifully and gives it an amazing texture.

          1. Loopy*

            Where have you been all my life? I like tofu in my pad thai when I eat out and had a terrible failure replicating that. I haven’t tried to make it at home in years because of texture issues. Maybe some day I will be brave and try again!

          2. Thursday Next*

            A small addition to the great pressing instructions—I wrap the tofu in several paper towels, then change the towels about 15 minutes in and flip the tofu over.

            After this, you can marinate tofu in the marinade of your choice for an hour or so if you want. Pressing water out first means the tofu absorbs the marinade better.

        2. Middle School Teacher*

          I’m not Triple Anon but I’ll chime in. I have tofu maybe 1-2 a month. I like to either pan fry it, or bake it in the oven. Either way: use firm or extra-firm, press all the liquid out (takes about 30 min), then cut into cubes about 1”, dredge in some cornstarch with some salt & pepper, put on one layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes or until crispy, turning once; for pan-frying, fry in a neutral oil on medium-high about 5-7 minutes per side (I like it super crispy so I fry it for longer). It’s great in salads, or then you can add it to stir fry or whatever. Budget Bytes has a great recipe for tofu with mango in a lime-honey sauce over coconut rice. It’s my go-to tofu recipe.

          I also put the dessert tofu (silken tofu) in smoothies, but I find it I don’t have my whole smoothie pretty quickly, it turns a weird colour, which is a bit off-putting. But it’s tasty, especially the banana tofu.

            1. Triple Anon*

              I think everyone has said what I would have said (and more!). I’ve actually never pressed tofu or added cornstarch. I just fry or sauteed it in olive oil, sometimes by itself, but usually as part of a stir fry. You can also get baked flavored tofu at most grocery stores. That stuff is incredible. And probably easy to replicate at home by marinating and baking it. If you want something with a lot of protein, try tofu with peanut sauce or any other kind of nuts or nut-based sauce.

        3. Bethany D*

          Tofu blends with flavors beautifully, so it is awesome for Asian dishes that are really all about the sauce. I like to toss it with cornstarch and pan-fry it in coconut oil for the first layer of flavor. Then I serve it over rice with a variant of this Sweet Orange Chili Sauce. My version: I mix it in a small sauce pan substituting 2 Tbs OJ concentrate for the juice, simmer it on medium, then mix 1-2 Tbs of cornstarch into 6 Tbs cold water and add that in too, then boil it for 1 minute. (And I usually leave out the chilis cuz the kiddos complain). http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/orange-chili-dipping-sauce-84731?ftab=reviews

          1. ronda*

            I have not made it, but I have had a dish at a restaurant with dried tofu. I enjoyed the texture of that better than some other tofu dishes I have had. It is cut more in strips than in bricks in the dish I get.

            your milage may vary depending on what you are looking for in tofu texture.

    10. LilySparrow*

      Good old peanut butter or almond butter in celery and hummus on carrots can be very filling, as is peanut butter on an apple.

      I’m working on blood pressure control, so it’s a different set of concerns, but one recommendation was cream cheese on celery sprinkled with walnuts. I thought it seemed way too insubstantial, but was very surprised how filling it was – I couldn’t finish the recommended portion!

      1. Loopy*

        I do love pb on an apple! I wish I could try that cream cheese rec- but I’m lactose intolerant and often forget the little lactaid pills.

        1. Thursday Next*

          If you can find them, Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese, or KIte Hill’s almond milk “cream cheese” are good. I prefer Kite Hill these days.

    11. HannahS*

      I used to make these a lot, and the recipe can be scaled up and down easily based on how many bananas you have.

      1 very ripe banana, mashed
      1 c. oatmeal (any type that’s not steel-cut oatmeal works, but quick-cooking nets the best results)
      1.5 tbsp water
      optionally, up to 1/4c of add-ins; chopped nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc.
      optionally, add 1 egg and 1/4 tsp baking powder for best results
      optionally, add things like a pinch of salt, a spoon or two of sugar, or half a spoon of cinnamon

      Stir it all together. Put in a 8×8 square baking dish (or a cake pan or muffin tin) and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. If you’re using a muffin tin, I think this makes six, and they should cook in 15 minutes. Cool on a rack or cutting board, or it’ll get quite soggy on the bottom.

      1. Loopy*

        Thanks! I mentioned I like oatmeal but seemed o be having too big of a portion. These recipes seem to help spread that out so I’m excited to try them!

    12. Glowcat*

      As someone with insulin sensitivity, I suggest you try wholegrain baked products: they do contain carbs, but the fibers slow down their absorption so that they keep you fed longer and your body is less likely to try to store the carbs. Just be careful that they tend to… uhm, stimulate your bowel; and avoid wholegrain sweets because they typically contain more sugar to cover the taste of the peels. If you like to bake you can simply pick any recipe and switch the white flour for wholegrain one, it will do a lot of difference!

      1. Loopy*

        Thanks! I’m not sure if I’ve seen these around or just never noticed- I mean aside from bread!

    13. Triplestep*

      I use Quest Protein Powder (high in protein, low in carbs.) I mix a little up the night before and in the morning it is much thicker and more satisfying.

      I think jumping in to four days a week and doing whole group classes and 35 minutes on the elliptical is too much after four years of inactivity. I think you should be focusing on building routines now – when do you get the gym, how long are you there, what do you bring with you, etc. Work on fitting it in with the rest of your life, and once you have a gym/life routine, build up your workout routine slowly. (35 minutes on the elliptical too much? Build up to it – start with 20. Also, consider downloading a HIIT timer for your phone. You’ll get more out of less time doing HIIT; my heart rate monitor does not lie!)

      When I created my gym/life routine, it included things like getting the stuff out of my gym bag the moment I walked in the door to my house (not even putting it down) and then putting the new things in it before I went to bed. These are the things that will help build a 4-day a week gym habit. Good luck!

      1. Loopy*

        Right now I’m JUST doing the 35 minutes on the elliptical- trying both would be WAY too much. This is great advice because I tend to be very impatient for results. I’ll ease into the classes as a substitute for the elliptical very gradually. I think I might try this week’s Zumba class and that’s it.

        I also think protein powder is a great idea- I bought a new brad thats no carb and unflavored- can’t remember the name already! Reviews said it could be added even to coffee with almost no weirdness. We will see!

    14. Muriel Heslop*

      Add strength training and also yoga/stretching of some kind. Good luck! It’s so hard to get back into working out!

      1. Loopy*

        I absolute need people to push me into strength training. I used to go to a very small gym and the owner was amazing at easing people into the strength training classes. he got me doing two/week. But man, i never would have if he wasn’t freaking brilliant and somehow got me to go.

    15. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      These are the vegetarian recipes we make a lot. We don’t track carbs so they probably aren’t as low-carb as you want, but they’re all Paleo or Paleo-like (or easily adapted) and use whole foods.

      This, with tofu instead of chicken: https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/20-minute-thai-basil-chicken/

      Involves an egg but you could leave it off if you’re tired of them: http://www.girlversusdough.com/2015/04/27/spiced-lentils-with-poached-eggs/

      I make this to have around for lunches or last-minute dinners: http://www.eatyourselfskinny.com/sweet-potato-black-bean-quinoa-bake/

      Ugggggh this is so delicious I want to eat it all day: https://www.budgetbytes.com/roasted-sweet-potato-rainbow-salad-lime-crema/

    16. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Oh, and I love protein muffins to have around for a hit of sweetness, and I have a smoothie for breakfast nearly every day.

      I rotate between these smoothies:

      Smoothie #1
      1 cup of milk (cow, nut, or coconut)
      1 handful baby spinach
      1 frozen banana
      1 spoonful peanut butter
      1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use EarthFed Muscle)
      1 scoop collagen peptides
      A bunch of cinnamon

      Smoothie #2
      1 cup milk
      1 handful baby spinach
      3 oz frozen strawberries
      1 scoop chocolate protein powder
      1 scoop collagen peptides

      Best-ever protein muffins: https://bitesofwellness.com/qunioa-coconut-banana-muffins/

    17. Amey*

      I’ve started exercising as well recently and am really loving it. I only have time for about half an hour a day so I’m rotating between lots of different things – a run on the treadmill, pilates, weights, yoga, cardio workout video. I just pick what I feel like doing on a particular day (making sure that I’m getting a good balance over the course of the week). I’m a few weeks in and with a bit of diet modification as well, I’ve lost weight and I’m feeling so much fitter. Small and consistent and variety is better than burning yourself out quickly, I think.

      1. Loopy*

        Thanks so much! I’ve heard that 2 weeks of something helps make it a habit so I’m being really strict with myself these first few weeks in terms of keeping a regular gym going schedule. I’m pretty awful with variety but I’m hoping getting into group classes help that- they usually have the variety built right in!

        Honestly, I thought 35 minutes on the elliptical was starting small, and working my way up to classes was the way of easing in. I think I just didn’t have a realistic starting point because I used to be able to do elliptical so easily!

    18. Rookie Biz Chick*

      You will find the unicorn that works for you! Here are a few things that have worked recently for me after being in a similar situation of being kind of sedentary, including setting small goals. If it’s something you should do or want to do, keep going smaller until it’s something you CAN do. Baby steps keep the habits.

      Yoga with Adrienne may be a great place to visit – 10-15 minute yoga videos if you’re into stretching. I set a small goal of 10 minutes a day, three days a week. Funny how that small commitment gave me more energy eventually to go 20, 30, 60 minutes more often. Next up for me is 10 minutes of running, two times a week – starts today!

      You mentioned you like chickpeas – falafel is one of my favs. If you have a food processor, it’s so easy to make. Kind of carby, but good carbs and fiber.

      Even though you’re watching the fat intake, good, healthy fats help with energy and keeping hunger in check. Avocados, for sure (I eat by themselves sometimes with just a dash of salt) , and/or a drizzle of quality olive oil in a smoothie or shake.

      Hope that’s not too preachy, but I soooo feel you on wanting to make a massive change and feeling discouraged in the process. Sending awesome thoughts your way!

      1. Loopy*

        I wish I had the patience for things like yoga and barre workouts! I tend to get jittery and want to move more!

        I’m awful with incorporating healthy fats when I’m using something like MyFitness Pal. It tends to remind me when I’ve gone over my daily fat allotment and then I feel like I’ve failed so I tend to have trouble kicking the Fat-Is-Bad mentality. I’m honestly not 100% using a tracker is right for me.

    19. ronda*

      and about attitude toward exercise.
      I am kind of the opposite of you… always hated exercise but finally found something I like.

      And it is Yoga.
      The thing I really like about it is most of the instructors are giving you options and very encouraging about you do what you are able and what is possible for you. And that changes over time as you do it. and I can feel that yoga has helped me feel better (the treadmill never really gave any signs that it was helping)

      I also started water aerobics and in this class also, do what you can, options given to make it harder or easier for people at different levels.

      You dont have to keep up for the whole class, just take a break when you need to and re-join when you are ready. In power yoga, they move way to fast for me, so I would skip a few moves in the flow to be at a reasonable pace for me, other attendees were nice about it. Personally I find a class more motivating because I am lazy and will wimp out on individual machines.

    20. Cedrus Libani*

      I am super lazy when it comes to food, so I love Keto Chow. It’s a low-carb meal replacement drink, along the lines of Soylent – it’s got protein powder, fiber, and nutrients, and you mix it up with water and heavy cream in whatever ratio fits your calorie needs. (I usually add a cup of heavy cream per serving, because I need the calories, but it tastes fine when made with mostly water.)

  18. Kate Daniels*

    Any recommendations of good places to donate old electronics that still work where they go to people who actually need them? I have various old Kindles, a laptop, an iPad, and a couple of iPods. Relatedly, I am now vowing to stop always “upgrading” my electronics every year or two and only replace when they stop working!

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Is there an electrical goods store which would take them? (Perhaps as a charity drive one weekend?)

      2. Reba*

        I was going to suggest library (they may have ideas even if they don’t want them), school, or after school care program. I have donated old cameras and gear to the latter type of place.

    1. Julianne (also a teacher)*

      If you are connected to any teachers, they may be useful in the classroom! I got rid of the clunky old CD player that we used to use for audiobooks in my classroom and replaced it with 3 donated iPods/iPhones. (Many schools do have computers and iPads, but those are often shared among classrooms, and it can be nice to have some technology that’s exclusively for a single classroom.)

    2. OhBehave*

      We have a local electronics repair shop that takes old laptops, etc and wipes the hard drives, refurbishes them. They then send them to impoverished areas for them to use. Right now they are sending them to Africa with missions.

    3. Glowcat*

      My Linux User Group collects old PCs and gives them to schools and libraries. You can look if there is some association/club/charity doing the same in your area.

    4. Corporate Cynic*

      Yes! I’ve donated three laptops to this charity: InterConnection.org
      They’ll pay for shipping, wipe the hard drive clean, and give you a tax deduction receipt.

      For iPods/iPads, I’ve donated to Music and Memory, which facilitates music therapy for seniors.

    1. Ali G*

      Is that a tiny couch just for the kitty? I wonder if they have those for small dogs…goes down a google hole…

    2. Kuododi*

      She has this wonderful blisssed out expression that says “I woke up in the land of unlimited tuna and catnip!”

  19. Lazy Cat*

    To everyone who was kind to me a few weeks ago about being too hard on myself after a car accident, thank you. I cried every time I read the thread. In case it wasn’t clear the first time, everyone was fine.

    I will be moving forward with the therapy plan once I can; I had a seizure on vacation and that follow up is taking up all of my medical time and mental energy right now. I don’t want to go into further identifying details, but for [reasons] I don’t believe the two incidents are related in any underlying way (though I will of course tell my doctor!). It does mean I can’t legally drive for 6 months, which I also think will give me mental space from the accident, so I’m not thinking about how terrible I am as a person every time I get in a car.

    It’s been a ridiculous summer. I just opened a moldy yogurt for breakfast. Who knew a yogurt cup could go moldy??

      1. Lazy Cat*

        Oh my gosh I can’t even imagine that, and I think I’m glad for that lack of imagination…

    1. Former Employee*

      I didn’t see your comment about your accident. I hope things are improving with regard to that situation.

      I’m sorry you had a seizure, but it’s good you are doing all necessary medical follow ups.

      Best of luck to you in your medical journeys.

    2. Kuododi*

      Blessings to you my dear one as you make this difficult journey into healing. You are never alone.

  20. A-non-y-nony*

    Does anyone happen to know about copyright laws for images? Specifically, I want to use an album cover for, let’s say something like gym bag for a gift. I wouldn’t be making a profit off it and it’s essentially for personal use. While I can find plenty of bags, backpacks, etc., I can’t find any band that has one that is good to use as gym bag, so I wouldn’t be able to get one somewhere else.

    Everywhere I have looked online gives me mixed messages. Some say that as long as it’s for personal use and I won’t profit off it in any way, and that I can’t buy one similar at another source, that it would be fine. Others say any use at all whatsoever is a no-go without getting permission, which seems like such a hassle for a simple gift. Any insight anyone can give would be appreciated!

    1. Thlayli*

      I think most copyright laws are about the profit. So it wouldn’t be illegal for you to use the image since you are not making money, but it would be illegal for a professional printing place to print it for you since they are making money. If you can print it at home it’s fine, and if you find somewhere that’s willing to print it they are the ones breaking the law not you.

      1. TootsNYC*

        it would be illegal, whether you’re profiting or not.

        But the band wouldn’t be likely to come after you if you’re only making one.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        As someone whose copyright is regularly violated: It’s not just about profit. You can violate copyright even if you’re making no profit. There’s a good explanation from Nynaeve below.

      3. ArtK*

        If you read the copyright laws, there’s very, very little about profit. It’s about distribution, not sales.
        Bottom line: If you don’t have a license from the creator/copyright owner, you can’t use it. Period.

        1. Triple Anon*

          That’s not entirely true either. You can use an excerpt from a work as part of another work, although the law is kind of vague about the size of the excerpt and how it’s incorporated into the larger work. That’s one kind of “fair use”. Those kinds of uses are regularly litigated when profit is a factor (sampled music for example – because other laws come into play). Generally, if it’s a visual work and there is no significant profit or media coverage involved, you’ll be fine.

    2. Lady Jay*

      What you’re describing sounds like what teachers would call “fair use”: that we could use copyrighted material as long as 1) we weren’t using the whole thing, 2) we weren’t making a profit off the thing, and 3) we weren’t negatively impacting sales of the thing. So copying a short book and distributing it to students would have been a no-go, but what you’re describing sounds fine.

      1. TootsNYC*

        using it for educational purposes would insulate you. Making a tote bag for a friend doesn’t.

      2. Snark*

        “Fair use” means nonprofit educational purposes – say, if you were teaching a music history course. It does not cover the use of a copyrighted image for a gift.

    3. FD*

      It’s probably legal or at minimum unlikely to be worth the bother to enforce, but that said, a lot of places won’t print anything that seems like a copyrighted image.

    4. Triple Anon*

      It is technically against the law, but if it’s just one item for personal use, you could probably get away with it.

      If you want to be 100% legal, make a collage using parts of album covers.

    5. neverjaunty*

      (Note: not legal advice, I’m not an intellectual property lawyer, highly recommend going over to eff.org or nolo.com to look at their information about copyright)

      “Fair use” is a set of criteria used to determine whether something infringes copyright. You can make some broad generalizations – if you’re selling it without permission chances of it being fair use are near zero – but ultimately the way you find out it, there’s a lawsuit and a judge says it is or isn’t.

      On a practical level, it’s very unlikely that you will get sued for printing one copy for your own use (though you may be violating the terms of use of whatever site you use to print the tote bag).

      BUT, why not see if you can figure out who the artist is? Sometimes they will sell their own T-shirts or bags. Sometimes you can just get permission to use their art the way you wanted to; I’ve had many artists give me their blessing to use an image for my own no-money one-time purposes as long as they are credited.

    6. Nynaeve*

      Okay, so long answer ahead. Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, and if you want legal advice you should contact a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property law in your area. I am a librarian who deals a lot with copyright issues, so I have a better than average familiarity with US copyright law. (And if you’re outside the US, that is completely outside my area of expertise–my familiarity with non-US copyright law is basically, “something something moral rights, something something Berne Convention.”)

      So! Basically, in order to encourage artistic and technological development, US copyright law gives creators certain exclusive rights for a limited period of time: the right to make and distribute copies, the right to display works publicly, the right to perform works publicly, and the right to make derivative works (so anything based on their work, including merchandising, sequels, etc.). But it also provides for a “fair use” exception because ideas build on other ideas, and with a total monopoly on those rights, innovation and education would grind to a halt.

      Let’s talk fair use. To consider whether a use is “fair,” you have to weigh four factors:
      1. The purpose of your use (commercial, educational, commentary, etc.)
      2. The amount of the copyrighted work you’d be using (less is better)
      3. The nature of the work (a factual work is more likely to be favored for fair use than a highly creative work)
      4. The effect of your use on the market for the work
      No one factor is a deciding factor either way–you have to consider it as a whole.

      For your proposed use, factors 2 and 3 weigh against fair use (you’re using a highly creative work and presumably the whole thing). Purpose is iffy, because you’re not really doing something new with the work–you can make this factor lean more toward fair use if you transform the image in some way, for example, by making a parody or “remixing” the work with something else. Factor 4 favors fair use because the effect on the market is minimal (as you have not been able to find a gym bag of the kind you want and it’s not going to stop anyone from buying the album).

      So you’d weigh all that together and decide if you’d be comfortable making a fair use defense if it came to a court of law. (Which is unlikely, but always possible, no matter how fair your use is–it’s all about how comfortable you are with the level of risk.) As a practical matter, you would also want to consider how sue-happy the band seems to be; for instance, Prince was notoriously protective of his intellectual property, but the Grateful Dead were just kind of like, “Right on, man” with regard to fan-made works.

      Finally, if you decided you wanted to ask permission, start with the band’s label, not the band itself. Usually, musical artists have to transfer the copyright to the production company, so the label will actually own the rights, not the artists themselves.

      Hope that helps!

    7. A-non-y-nony*

      Thanks everyone. This all gives me a lot to think about. Leaning towards doing some sort of collage now but, again, have a lot to think about. I think trying to make fair use work in my favor is my best bet.

    8. Loopy*

      So I learned this trick in library school in a copyright class- if you go to Google image advanced search you can search specifically for images based on usage rights! Some images have a creative common license- meaning the artist has given permissions for the reuse of the image. Some even allow modification to the image. This seems the easiest way to avoid the grey areas of fair use and I used it a lot!

    9. PB*

      As other have pointed out, not legal. It doesn’t matter than you’re not making a profit. The image is under copyright, and you can’t reprint it without getting permission from the copyright holder. It’s not uncommon for a commercial printer to turn down jobs to print images under copyright.

  21. Regular anon, anxious*

    Help. My husband is considering a job that would require us to move to the opposite side of our metro area just to each have an hour-ish commute. (Posting here instead of on yesterday’s thread because it’s much more about the where to live question than the job, hope that’s ok.)

    I’m obsessively looking at Craigslist and Zillow to figure out where we can hope to afford rent not too far out, but haven’t even driven around most of these areas much. I don’t even know where to start to look into day cares and public schools, especially since most of the areas we are considering are places people write off as “bad schools” but I am not sure where they are actually bad or where it is a rich white people code. How do you tell?

    Any advice on figuring out schools, how heavily to weigh the psychological aspect of moving a small child (can’t guarantee it won’t happen again in a few years), and specific recommendations near the red or orange lines in and north of DC are much appreciated.

    1. Maryland Grad*

      In MD, try to stay in Montgomery County instead of Prince George’s. At the end of the Red Line is Shady Grove, Gaithersburg, Germantown, which are all good areas that are cheaper than Bethesda. Rockville is also nice and is a little closer to the Beltway. PG county will be cheaper, but with good reason (worse schools). Granted, I don’t have kids, so I haven’t looked at the schools in detail, but MoCo is much better funded than PG county.

      Source: grew up in Montgomery County, went to UMD

      1. Iza*

        To note, the other end of the red line (takoma/silver spring) is also in MoCo and cheaper than Bethesda/Rockville but closer to DC, unlike Shady Grove. My coworker lives in Silver Spring near the metro station and sends her kids to public school there.

        1. Regular anon, anxious*

          Haha I think of Union Station as the other end of the red line and SS/Takoma as still north because i live well south of all of those now – sorry for the ambiguity! Those areas do sound worth checking out further.

      2. Regular anon, anxious*

        Thanks. I don’t want to get too specific about work locations, but I’m afraid it looks like anywhere north of downtown Silver Spring turns into an unreasonable commute for me and doesn’t help my partner either. It does sound like Silver Spring comes highly recommended by lots of people for lots of reasons, and is convenient to much of the metro area in case one of us changes jobs again. The challenge there is finding something within our budget. (Neither of us makes six figures, which makes rent here tough.)

        Close in parts of PG County are much better in terms of cost and partner’s commute, NE DC would be better for the commutes and free pre-K but has very expensive parts and parts where people have recently been murdered at the metro station, so one of the things I am hoping to do is get a more fine grained sense of neighborhoods and schools instead of writing the whole huge area off.

        1. Fish girl*

          PG native here from birth to high school. PG and the Green line are not as scary as everyone makes it out to be. All of the suburbs run together, so it’s a little silly to separate them out, but here’s my take on them (take with a grain of salt, though, since my data is a bit out of date).

          Greenbelt is an amazing little town to live in with great schools. Good sense of community, local co-op, very walkable, little festivals throughout the year. However, it’s so beloved, it can be hard to get a footing in the housing there.

          Beltsville is dull, but relatively safe. About 15 min from the Greenbelt metro station. Cheaper housing, ok schools, depending on which one you go to. High school isn’t great, but the elementary and middle schools are fine. Close to any stores you might ever want. (You might see people talking about Calverton. Calverton isn’t a real place, just a part of Beltsville that bleeds over into Montgomery county too. Calverton is fine to live in as well).

          College Park/ University Park gets way too much bad press for dangerous. It’s seems dangerous to a bunch of out-of-state students from small towns and the midwest, but it’s perfectly fine. Lots of college kids, but it, unfortunately, isn’t a fun college town like you might picture (no fun vintage shops or trendy food places. Pretty identical to the rest of the suburbs around it). There will be an uptick in crime, but mostly drunk kid crime, petty thief, unruly behavior, and lighting couches on fire during sports seasons). This sounds like I wouldn’t recommend it, but really it’s fine. I wouldn’t hesitate to live there if you found a good place.

          Adelphi: not much to say, since I don’t think it’s officially an incorporated town. Safe, family-friendly neighborhoods.

          Hyattsville: lots of cool historic-ish houses and buildings. Pretty walkable. Good hole-in-the wall-ethnic restaurants. PG plaza metro stop has more of a reputation for crime. Don’t know how accurate it is, though.

          Takoma Park: Actually in Montgomery county, not PG, but often looped with us (in the sense that Bethesda yuppies think it’s dangerous and “tainted” by being too close to PG). It’s a great place though. Very family friendly, on the red line, lots of trees and parks, good ethnic restaurants, good schools (I think).

          Places to avoid: generally places south and east of Hyattsville (Bladensburg, Mt Rainer, Fort Lincoln, areas around Fedex field and Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens) although I have no real reasons why, other than the vague warnings and prejudices of adults when I was growing up.

      3. frystavirki*

        Montgomery County buddies!!! I went to most of high school in Gaithersburg. Still miss it a lot. RAA, I hope you find somewhere that works out for your family!

    2. Been there*

      If you want info about schools, I would highly recommend visiting parks in your neighborhoods of interest and talk to parents. Most of the time, people are happy to share what they know.

      1. Regular anon, anxious*

        Whoa, I can’t imagine doing that! I feel like people can get super defensive about schools around here because lots of people go private or enter lotteries, people who stay in public schools feel judged by the private school parents and vice versa, and it’s just very loaded with race and class issues. Talking to parents is a great idea though. People in my org commute from all over the place, I think I will start asking them if they know any parents in those areas who would be willing to talk.

        1. Been there*

          YMMV in the past, I have asked, “We are thinking about moving here. What can you tell me about the schools?” After asking a number of parents, you can get a pretty good picture of the overall situation.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I have young, hipster-ish friends who really like Hyattsville. However, they are also childless, so there’s still the issue of the school system, but while PG suffers in comparison to MoCo, it’s still not too bad, and the gentrification in Hyattsville *might* be raising the county average, although I’m just spitballing now. It is pretty close in, though, which might help.

      Personally, I love the upcounty area of MoCo, but then it’s only a 30-minute commute for me and less for my partner, and where we are is about equidistant from Glenmont and Shady Grove, which is convenient. I can also tell you that Rockville has some affordable apartments, particularly in the area of Montgomery College, as one of my friends lives there.

    4. Natalie*

      I don’t know about where random people get their information, but Zillow and Trulia specifically use a ranking tool that derives its data entirely from test scores. Test scores are an abysmal way to actually determine the quality of a school, as they are mainly a function of socioeconomic status. That is, high SES kids test well even when they attend a “bad”school, and low SES kids test lower even when they attend a “good” school.

    5. OhBehave*

      Google School Report Card for the school districts. This will give you demographics, averages, etc. It will be a good way to tell if the schools are at risk.
      If you are on Facebook, try to find a page related to happenings in that area/city. Sometimes it’s a local news happening page, etc. This will give you a great idea of what’s good and bad as you can also ask questions.
      In my town, people who have major issues with our school district have had the complete opposite experience than ours. We love our district and it’s been a great school for us. I think a lot has to do with parent involvement, so just weigh critiques with a grain of salt. EVERY school has issues; private/public. They each have bullying problems, etc. I say that with experience.

      1. Teach*

        Seconding the school report card idea! Also look at school district websites and social media. One local district that is reputed to be “rough” by the private school set is actually a thriving and diverse IB program with national recognition for implementing trauma-informed teaching practices and staffs people who are leaders in their fields.

    6. Muriel Heslop*

      My son is 7 and starting his 3rd school in 4 years. He’s fine. It’s exciting to make new friends! Plus, frozen yogurt.

    7. Muriel Heslop*

      I’m a teacher and when people ask me about whether or not a school is “good” I reply with, “define good”. What’s your priority? Test scores? Diversity? Funding? Reputation? If schools are your top priority and you know you want to go public, then I recommend finding the schools you would like and reverse engineering your house hunt from that.

      Visit the schools whenever possible. My school is a socioeconomically and racially diverse high school and people call for tours a lot. They don’t always get one but when it can be accommodated we do it.

      1. Dan*

        My bar for “bad” is actually pretty low. I grew up in the rural Midwest before moving to DC, and we didn’t have much in terms of public school choice. We just had “school”. Was my school bad? No idea, because I don’t know what that term means.

        What does matter is whether the school is a safe place to learn, and whether the student body comes ready to get an education. Do the schools have gang problems? Do you have a choice between going to a school with metal detectors, and those that don’t have them? I’d probably choose to send my kids to the school without, with the assumption that there was a demonstrated need for the school to have put them in.

        1. Regular anon, anxious*

          This is exactly my issue – I also went to school in the rural Midwest where there weren’t options, so I can’t tell how much of the concern i hear about schools is overachieving DC parents wanting their kids to go to Harvard, how much is tied to demographics, and how much is actual safety issues. Not sure how to tease those out quickly.

          1. Dan*

            Depends on where you are. Fairfax County, Arlington, Alexandria, and Montgomery County? It’s overachieving parents. DC Proper, and Prince George’s county? Now I think you have to take a closer look. PG County schools keep making the news in ways that other school systems don’t. (Now that I think about it, the number of scandal headlines that each school system gets in the Washington Post is probably indicative of something.)

            I did some tutoring in DC Public Schools through America Reads when I was an undergrad. My take was that many kids in the program were there because they were dicking around on their standardized tests. The time I spent with my fifth grade student was a waste — maybe he was reading one grade below his level, but I’m not sure, because they made every student regardless start at the kindergarten level of the reading curriculum and complete all the steps. He breezed through everything, but there was so much of it that we never got to spend any time on the things he truly struggled with.

            The school I tutored in was in the Shaw neighborhood of DC (this was over 15 years ago, the neighborhood has changed a bit since then). I didn’t feel unsafe (then again, I’m a big dude, so there’s that) but you could definitely tell that you were in an inner city public school.

            How can you tell what’s a true safety issue vs demographic apprehension (for lack of a better phrase)? I donno, some things have a lot of correlation, and it may be impossible to unpack everything and get the straight scoop. Neighborhood crime statistics would be a first step. But so much of a child’s education quality *is* tied to the socio-economic demographics of his classmates. When you’ve got lots of single mothers working multiple jobs to pay the rent and keep the lights on, they’re going to have a different level of involvement than a married couple with a stay at home mom. That will show in many ways, and yes, some of that will have an effect on the quality of classroom instruction.

            I might be going over board a bit, but one thing that counts against DC in many ways is the political structure of the city. In the city, you have the ANC, City Council, Mayor’s Office, School Board, Chancellor’s office, and that’s about it. Never mind that the US Congress can stick its mits in city business whenever it wants. At one point, the schools were performing so poorly that the Congress took over oversight of the school system. And since city parents don’t have voting representation at the federal level, you’ve got nowhere to complain if you don’t like the federal oversight.

            Outside the city, you’ve got many other levels of oversight through the state where you or any other parent can go get redress if you need it.

            I bring up all of that not to start a political rant, but to talk about options that may exist if issues arise that can’t get resolved at the local level. I once reported my high school principal to the state department of public instruction, got my state senator involved, and got what I wanted from that complaint. I learned at a young age how to advocate for myself, so I pay attention to these kinds of things more so than most might. The fact that these options for redress really aren’t available in the city gives me pause.

            What would I do if I had kids? I’d do what anybody else who can afford it does — haul my butt out to MoCo or somewhere in Virginia. For better or for worse, snobbery or no snobbery, many parents want their kids to get the best education they can, and I can’t hold that against them. Your kid probably has the best chance of success when he is in school with students whose parents are actively involved in their lives.

    8. Triplestep*

      I don’t live in your area (I’m in New England) but I do live in a city where the schools are “bad” and plenty of rich white people send their kids to private school.

      I am White and middle class, and my kids went to public school. The schools in this city ARE bad according to test scores and stats about money spent on the facilities, class size, etc. The trick is to find the schools with the most parental involvement under “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” philosophy. These schools have more programming in general, and sometimes have special programs for “academically talented” kids. My own anecdotal evidence is that these schools are not predominantly rich white people, but they are often have a higher percentage of kids whose parents are educated, which is what allows those parents to have jobs or stay-at-home lives that facilitate the school involvement. There were plenty of kids whose parents would have loved to have been more involved, but worked in a service industry that did not allow the flexibility.

      Our city also has a test-in high school where my kids both went; it consistently ranks highest in the state, yet is in the lowest-performing school district. (i.e. people move to the ‘burbs for better schools, and this school ranks better and sends 99% of the grads to college.) Often schools like this will accept kids in the same demographic percentages that they have in the larger school district, so you do get a pretty diverse group of kids and families, and it is not just rich white people who sent their kids to private school until 9th grade.

    9. LilySparrow*

      IME, moving is not a big deal for preschool and elementary school kids, as long as the family relationships are stable. They might cry or be upset for a little while, but they adjust smoothly.

      Changing schools is more upsetting for middle school and teenagers, because they are more deeply invested in their friend groups and they have a personal support network outside the immediate family.

      They’ll still be fine in the long run, but it’s a rougher road. It can prompt a questioning of their social role or persona – which can be healthy as a “fresh start” or risky if they struggle to find positive connections.

    10. Dan*

      People seem to give you a lot of tips on the Maryland side, but the Virginia side would serve you just as well. Anywhere in Arlington or Fairfax would be fine.Prince William can get a little sketchy, but that’s a bit beyond the metro service area, although plenty of people drive to Vienna and park.

      Things to watch: The major commuting arteries suck during rush hour. 270 is going to be a drag, 66 can as well, and whatever you do, don’t have a commute that involves the beltway.

      1. Regular anon, anxious*

        Thanks but I already live on the VA side! Spouse’s offer is in MD, so I love where we live but the commute would be a nightmare. Getting home from the interview on the early side of rush hour took 2 hours.

    11. Fellow Traveler*

      I live in the Forest Glen/ Wheaton area, and we really like it here. As for schools, I’ve discovered in Montgomery County Public Schools, there are so many magnet programs that unless you are committed to sending your kids to the school you are zoned for, location might not matter. My daughter is in a language immersion program in Rockville. I’ve met a lot of parents whose kids do not go to their home school.
      Anyhow- Forest Glen/ Wheaton is pretty affordable, though I’m not sure for how much longer. There is a lot of development in Wheaton right now.
      In PG County, I have a good friend in Cheverly and it also seems like a great affordable community.

    12. currently in NE DC*

      Hoping you see this!

      Try near Potomac Ave and Stadium Armory (SOB lines) or Rhode Island (red line) neighborhoods. I live in a small three bedroom row house with a yard and parking for $2200/month. I know of others with similar rent. I can’t speak to schools, though. I found my place through craigslist and have used Yarmouth previously.

  22. Myrin*

    Alison and other fellow redheads: what colour are your eyelashes and eyebrows?

    I was very surprised to be told last week that apparently it’s very uncommon for redheads to also have red lashes and brows – they’re apparently usually blond or brown.

    Well. With the exception of a blond-grey-ish streak right at the base of my skull, literally all my body hair is red. I asked everyone in my family who’s still alive who also had red hair about it (we only ever get one ginger per generation, so they’re all grey by now) and they were the same as me, so this was completely surprising to me. What about you, fellow AAM gingersnaps?

    (Completely unexpected, kinda-funny-yet-also-bizarre side effect of this: when I talked about this at another forum, people immediately started trying to ‘splain my haircolour to me. Like. Yes. Yes I am indeed sure that the hair on my arms is red. I’m literally looking at it right now, dear internet stranger. Could you maybe not be like this? >:|)

    1. Thlayli*

      Haha that’s funny about people telling you you don’t know your own colour!

      I know a lot of redheads and am related to quite a few. In my experience only bright ginger people have the “full” redhead experience – red body hair and loads of freckles. People with different shades of red usually don’t have red body hair and tend to have fewer freckles.

      1. Myrin*

        Aha, that makes sense – I am indeed a “bright” redhead!
        Also, my whole face is actually full of freckles but weirdly, you only ever see that in photos! It’s super hard to spot even for me when I’m looking in a mirror but it’s clear as day in any digital medium; so weird!

        1. AliceBD*

          I’m not a redhead but I have lots of freckles, and they barely show up at all in photos or indoors! But they are abundantly obvious in natural light, and people comment on them all the time.

    2. CAA*

      My dark-haired DH has two red-headed brothers and a read-headed sister. (He is affectionately known as the black sheep.) All of them have dark brown eyes and from looking at a family photo just now, I’d say the red heads have light brown eyebrows. They don’t have that milky freckled skin that burns easily either.

    3. Penguin*

      I have red hair, eyebrows, lashes, everything. Echoing Thlayli, I and the other “bright” redheads I know are the ones with the full, er, decoration. The folks I know who have red(dish) hair and blond or brown eyebrows/eyelashes are all either lighter (strawberry blond) or darker (auburn) than the coppery color that springs to mind for many when hearing the word “redhead.”

    4. blackcat*

      Every hair on my body is red during the winter. Arm hair sunbleaches blond during other seasons (it takes very little sun to do so). I seem particularly susceptible to sunbleaching, so maybe that’s what other people think? When I lived in California and wasn’t wearing hats (I now live in hats for sunprotection), the entire top layer of my hair was blond, despite the relatively deep red color of the rest of it, and so were my eyebrows. But everything definitely grows red.

    5. Ella X*

      My kids are redheads. Their eyelashes etc are red, not overtly bright red like their hair though so I could see people who aren’t paying attention not noticing.

    6. NewtoSoCal*

      Darker redhead here- with all the freckles and pale skin despite not being a “bright ginger.” Everything is red but my arm and leg hair (which are thankfully blonde.)

    7. Muriel Heslop*

      I was maroon-headed as a baby but it’s darkened to auburn. I’m covered with light brown freckles, blue eyes, blond body hair, light brown eyelashes with red tips, and eyebrows are a mix of blond/brown/auburn (and the carpet matches the drapes so to speak.)

      I’m the only redhead in my family so I have no comparison.

    8. CBE*

      I’m a bright redhead, everything but my eyelashes is red.
      My three kids are all redheads, some brighter than others, some with all red, some with brown body hair.
      I have a relative with dark brown head hair but a BRIGHT red beard. Which he wears big, long and bushy.

      1. Myrin*

        I feel like bright red beards aren’t uncommon, even among men who don’t have any red hair anywhere else on their body.

    9. Turtlewings*

      My brother and sister are strawberry blonde (with lots of strawberry) and they both have the same shade of hair pretty much everywhere. If anything, their body hair is redder than their head hair. Except my sister’s eyelashes, which are so blonde you can’t tell she HAS any unless she puts on mascara.

    10. Whatsinaname*

      My arm and leg hair is blonde. All my other hair is red. I had to double check my eyelashes because they’re always covered in mascara.

    11. Courageous cat*

      Red lashes, red brows. Much to my dismay. I dye them both – I use Just For Men on my eyebrows (super easy, takes 5 minutes every couple of weeks) and spend $15 a month to get the lashes dyed.

      People tend to not believe redheads exist on the internet, so I feel you. I get this also with my green eyes because apparently it’s a rare color to have.

    12. SemiRetired*

      Not (much) of a redhead myself but your post inspired me to google pictures of famous ones to see. (My experience is the reverse, that sometimes blonde people have reddish facial or body hair…the red coming out more in the short and curlies than in the hair on their head.) anyway, it appears that most actual redheads tend toward Red hair elsewhere, but that hair that stays (doesn’t get shaved often or ever) will tend to bleach out. So Ginger Harry has red mustache but light eyebrows, for instance. Some of the supposed redheads are probably bottle reds and that probably leads to the assumption that redheads have different colored body hair. (I think maybe half of redheads come by it naturally…my guess about blonde women is that the great majority of them aren’t really.)
      Check out Willie Nelson back in the day…my favorite red. And lots of it.
      As for me…it seems as my hair greys the lightness it gives is bringing out a red tint I didn’t know I had. So maybe I’ve got a few years as an almost-red before the grey wins out.

    13. Ginger Sheep*

      Copper hair (muted, not bright ginger), same colour eyebrows, armpit and bikini hair, browner eyelashes, blond arm and leg hair. Seems like I have a bit of everything! :)

    14. Jules the First*

      I’m red everywhere except my eyebrows, which are blond. (Well, and my head, which is not-so-gracefully going grey these days). I do have individual eyebrow hairs that are pure copper, but I pull those as they’re also about seven feet long and stick straight out…

      On a related rant, can I just say how frustrating it is to be going grey and not be believed? A decade ago I was true red and these days I’m more strawberry-ginger with white streaks and yet people from random strangers to my hairstylist insist that I’m blonde not grey. No, people. This is what happens to redheads when we go grey and it’s every bit as traumatic as you find going grey!!!

  23. No Tribble At All*

    Book recommendation: North of Beautiful, by Justina Chen. Introspective (but not slow!) YA lit about a girl finding her family by choice, helping her fractured family by birth, and learning to accept herself. Has a 4/5 on goodreads

    1. Kate Daniels*

      I think I read that book several years ago! It has geo-caching in it, right? That was the first time I had ever heard of that.

  24. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

    I’m really happy that July is about over. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the worst month of the year:

    –The stifling weather (in NYC, and this year seemingly everywhere) kind of makes me hate the world and everything in it. (August in NYC often is worse than July, but at least there’s a light at the end of the tunnel)
    –“Christmas in July” is spreading like a virus. I don’t think I’ve recovered yet from Christmas in December.
    –The All-Star Break means no baseball for a week.
    –The pointlessness that is Shark Week. I know that makes me a grinch, but I just find sharks…very uninteresting creatures.
    –It’s the start of the fiscal year at the place that’s verboten on weekends, which means it’s time to set goals for the coming year, and my mind just turns to mold every time the topic comes up.
    –There’s other stuff, too, but just typing out the sentence about goals turned my mind to mold. Happy almost-August, everyone!

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      It has been very hot here. I dripped home to discover my local coach tour company had delivered its winter catalogue. As if I want to think about Gluhwein and Christmas markets at a time like this!

      1. A bit of a saga*

        It’s been a tough July this year! Another good thing about August is that it means it’s my turn to go on holiday so while I’d like the temperatures to drop to more bearable levels I’ll be really upset if I get to vacation in the rain after having had to stomach this weather for months on end while working.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        Sign me up for that 60 degree weather! Something tells me this is going to be one of those summers where the 80-something, muggy weather holds on into late October. I hope I’m wrong.

    2. Mimmy*

      Ugh, I hear you on the stifling weather – I’m in New Jersey and am so OVER the muggy, intermittently stormy weather! Tomorrow is supposed to be less humid but still very warm.

    3. Middle School Teacher*

      I gotta say, as someone who lives where it gets SO COLD in the winter (last winter we had a few days where it was colder here than on Mars, the news channels thought it was hilarious), I wish we were getting that heat. We’ll get maybe 3-5 days of 28C or hotter, than like three days of rain, then 5 days of around 23C and cloudy, then more rain. I’m on holidays, I was looking forward to lying in the backyard and reading and drinking g&t!

      1. Thursday Next*

        No no! NYC summers can be brutal. Soooo humid, and miserable to wait underground for the subway. I dealt with heat in Tennessee and Texas so much better because I basically walked to my air conditioned car in the driveway and drove to the parking lot at my air-conditioned destination.

        Here I walk a third of the mile to the subway, get sweaty, get into the station, get sweatier, then cool off in the blissfully cool subway car until getting out and repeating the sweaty station-sweaty walk process.

        I feel like I can never look presentable in summer in the city. It was like this when I worked in Tokyo too.

        /rant over

  25. Foreign Octopus*

    Book Thread!

    What are you all reading this week? (And recommendations for Alison as well)

    I’ve just finished The Sellout by Paul Beatty and it was really a interesting take on racial segregation but I didn’t love it, love it. I think that might be because it was written about the black experience and I am very much white (seriously, I think I blinded a student last week when the sun reflected off my pale, pale skin), I was missing some of the context about it.

    I’ve just started Artemis by Andy Weir. I loved The Martian so much. It’s the one book I read every year and so I have high hopes for his second novel.

    As for Alison – I recommend anything by Donna Tartt. I really loved The Goldfinch and that’s definitely got a dysfunctional family involved. It was so good; it was one of those books that just stayed with me for ages afterwards.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      I looooovvve The Martian. I’m an aerospace engineer, and I cried laughing so many times. It’s just so accurate!! (Asked the engineers about the number one threat to the crew cabin: fire. What would happen? Death by fire). I haven’t gotten around to Artemis yet.

      I really like the Mortal Engines series by Phillip Reeve (Mortal Engines, Predator’s Gold, Infernal Devices, A Darkling Plain). They’re definitely more scifi– they’re set in a post apocalyptic world where all cities are motorized and drive around trying to eat each other. They have one of the most morally ambiguous protagonists, and she’s tough, angry, and unlikeable to those around her. I find it really refreshing, and the worldbuilding is amazing.

      1. Glowcat*

        You have convinced me, fellow aerospace worker (I’m on the physicists’ side, though). I added the Mortal Engines series to my as-infinite-as-the-universe list of books I want to read.

        1. No Tribble At All*

          Aerospace and cats!! Are you alternate-universe me?

          Curious what you mean about physicists side– orbital mechanics? Fluids? I also know some engineers-turned-physicists who design instrumentation. If we’re allowed to talk about this on Saturday, of course ;)

          1. Glowcat*

            Sorry, didn’t check the thread yesterday! I mean that I am in the aerospace sector but in research, I work with satellite missions in the data analysis part; I’m doing research in high-atmosphere stuff.
            And, yes, cats rule! :D

    2. Julianne (also a teacher)*

      I recently finished Bui Thi’s graphic memoir “The Best We Could Do” and Cristina Henriquez’s “The World in Half,” which we’re both great. I didn’t like “The World in Half” quite as much as her more recent “The Book Of Unknown Americans,” which I read a few years ago, but it was still really compelling. (And there is some family dysfunction, so.) Almost done with Roxane Gay’s “Difficult Women,” and then I’ll move on to “Inside Out and Back Again” by Thanhha Lai (because after the Bui Thi book, I want to read more about Vietnam War experiences).

      Recent notable nonfiction I’ve enjoyed: John Carreyrou’s “Bad Blood” and Hamilton and Armstrong’s “Paying for the Party,” which is a sociological study about class and college experiences/outcomes. I picked it up after seeing it recommended by a researcher I follow on Twitter (Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottam), and now I want more things like it. (Incidentally, Dr. McMillan Cottam’s book “Lower Ed,” which I read earlier this year was also fascinating, and given discussions about for-profit colleges on this site, I’d imagine it would be of interest to other readers here, too.)

      1. Muriel Heslop*

        Paying for the Party is on my list as is Bad Blood – thanks for the review. Lower Ed sounds interesting too!

    3. Lady Jay*

      Just finished an audiobook of Scott Jurek’s North, about his FKT (fastest-known time) running the Appalachian Trail. I enjoy outdoors adventure sports myself (hiking/climbing and distance running), so I really enjoyed hearing about his experiences, and those of the friends and family who supported him.

      Now I’m starting Nothing to Envy, by Barbara Demick; it’s about life in North Korea, especially during the 1990s. She focuses less on the documented, egregious hardships such as the work camps and more on the families, love affairs, and work experiences of regular, law-abiding citizens at the time. It’s shaping up to be good.

      1. Julianne (also a teacher)*

        Nothing to Envy was really good. I was on a North Korea kick a few years ago and read a couple of books about escapees and about life in North Korea, and Demick’s was my favorite.

      2. Miss Fisher*

        I am just finishing up Jena Miscavage Hills book on growing up in Scientology under her uncle. It’s really an interesting look into it from a kid’s perspective. Mike Rinder from Leah Remini show is also featured, so you learn more about his story.

        1. Miss Fisher*

          Sorry, meant to add this to the main thread. This was better written than some of the books on Scientology that I have seen. It seems like most of them don’t have a ton of education, so the books can be hard to get through.

          1. Former Employee*

            I really enjoyed “Troublemaker”, especially as I read it after seeing some of her shows on Scientology.

            1. Miss Fisher*

              I liked that one as well. The one I really didn’t care for was Mark Headley’s book. It was so terribly written. His experience was definitely a sad one though.

    4. Llellayena*

      Some awesome books from my library:

      Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card. Science fiction and alternative historical fiction wrapped into one.

      The Firebird Trilogy by Kathy Tyers. An adventure story with a strong Jewish-based religious theme.

      Song in the Silence by Elizabeth Kerner. Probably the best portrayal of dragons I have ever come across.

      If you can’t tell, the bulk of my reading is sci-fi/fantasy! But they all have a much deeper storyline than just that aspect. Good reading!

    5. CAA*

      I’m reading “The Possible World” by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz. I’m not very far into it yet, but the writing is just beautiful. I picked it up mainly because Jodi Picoult said she wished she’d written it, and so far so good.

    6. Julia*

      I’m re-reading Protector of the Small, because I need more courage and badass girls/women in my life at the moment. It’s young adult, but really good, and while it’s also medieval fantasy, it tackles some really current issues like misogyny, bullying, and a refugee crisis.

      1. No Tribble At All*


        Kel is such a champ. I swear I learned so much about leadership from her.

      2. Llellayena*

        Oh I love those books! I like the Trickster series a little better but all of Tamora Pierce’s books are worth several re-reads.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I love that series! I think it’s the most realistic “woman in a man’s world” story I’ve ever read. And Kel is really an inspiration in terms of focus, hard work, fairness, etc.

        My daughter and I re-read it now and then.

        My daughter took her beaten-up copy of “Page” to a book signing by Tamora Pierce.

      4. AdAgencyChick*

        I had to re-buy all of the Lioness Quartet books a few years ago because I’d destroyed my original copies from re-reading!

        1. Julia*

          I still consider Lioness Rampant my favorite, but objectively, Protector of the Small is probably Tammy’s best-written series without any problematic topics (SotL had the guys being a bit too pushy, The Immortals had that weird age gap, Trickster’s Duo has the white girl leading PoC) and although it has the smallest amount of magic and OMG factor, it’s just so, so good.

    7. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Oooh, thanks for mentioning Artemis, Foreign Octopus! I hadn’t heard about it, but now I have a hold on the ebook! I’ve got 5 ebooks on hold now with my library, and our system allows us to suspend the holds, which means you stay in “line”, but once you get to first, they keep you there and let the next person have it while your hold is suspended. So I’m going to try to get them all when we go to the family cabin near the end of August…five books might actually last me 3-4 days there! :D

    8. PieInTheBlueSky*

      My kids told me to read “Forget Me Not” by Ellie Terry. It was very good. The book is about a teenage girl with Tourette’s syndrome. She is frequently forced to a new town because of her mother, so the plot is mostly about the girl adjusting to a new school. The author has Tourette’s as well, so the depiction of Tourette’s feels very true.

    9. AdAgencyChick*

      An Ant Among Elephants by Sujatha Gidla. I like it very much so far. It’s about life as an untouchable in India. I know next to nothing about the caste system, and it’s proving to be both an eye-opening and enjoyable read.

    10. Chameleon*

      Also just re-read The Martian! Such a good book.

      My current favorite is The Girl On The Train, which is a mystery/horror book. It’s multi-POV (all female characters) but mostly from the first-person view of a very interesting protagonist.

      Also reading the Perry Mason books, which are not high art but I love them anyway.

      1. Tuna Casserole*

        I love the Perry Mason books. And all of the classic hardboiled mysteries, like those by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

    11. Middle School Teacher*

      The Year of Living Danishly. It’s cute! It’s making me want to move back to Europe and go back to Denmark.

    12. Glowcat*

      I just finished Bird Brains by Nathan Emory, an essay on birds’ intelligence and behaviour. I really enjoyed it, it gives a complete view of all the different types of intelligence, which are always amazing to see in animals; especially in birds, which tend to have expressionless faces and seem so different from us.
      I also started The Pillars of Earth by Ken Follett right today; meeting expectations so far, but I’m really just at the beginning.

    13. Tuna Casserole*

      Summertime is for quick reads, so I’m on a mystery book binge. These are the ones I’ve just finished:
      The Red Heron by Karen Dudley 4/5
      Death In Cold Type by C. C. Benison 4/5
      Long Upon the Land by Margaret Maron 4/5
      Shadow of a Butterfly by J. A. Menzies 4/5

    14. fort hiss*

      I’ve been reading The Cipher by Kathe Koja. Absolutely riveting (and nauseating) novel recommended by a list of great horror novels by women. It’s hard to compare to anything else I’ve read, but if you like unrelenting horror, it’s a gem.

    15. Bluebell*

      Just finished Sunburn by Laura Lippman. Great twisty noir. And also Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard- loved the real archival photos that were included.

    16. Maya Elena*

      I read two books by Donna Tartt of her three. Proceed with caution. No heroes there, just “whyyyyyyyy did you make those terrible decisions, seriouslyyyy”. Very well-written. But difficult subject matter to read about.

  26. Laura H.*

    My birthday is on Monday.

    I feel like I’m not where I should be at 28- and while I’m coming to grips that some of that is because of my Cerebral Palsy- it’s still hard.

    But all in all 27 has been kind to me for the most part with a few notable firsts.

    Now to figure out where I wanna have the birthday meal and figure out what I want to do for the parents’ anniversary on Thursday. They may get on my nerves and I on them, but they are a great example of what marriage looks like!

    1. OhBehave*

      Happy Birthday! Have your birthday meal at your very favorite place :).
      It sounds like, as you look back on the year, it wasn’t so bad. You made some progress with firsts. That’s awesome!

      It’s totally normal for parents to get on your nerves. I look back at my 20’s and realize I was stretching my wings and finding my independence. Staying in my old room at that time was horrible! I couldn’t wait to get back to my own little efficiency apt! Later, it was so much better.

    2. Dan*

      Do you actually want to be in that place where you aren’t? It seems like we have a checklist in the USA where we’re supposed to go to college, graduate, get a job, get married, and buy a house.

      I checked off a few things on that list. — college and job. I did get married, but since got divorced. No kids. I’m seriously looking for a long term partner at the moment. I rent an apartment, home ownership for me in this HCOL area isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

      And you know what? I’m a-ok with the things I’ve done on “the list” and a-ok with the things I haven’t. The thing is, where I live, if you have a wife and kid and want to buy a house and make the county median income (I live in a large county, but the median household income is $110k/year give or take a few grand), then you’re pushed further out in the county away from the city, and get what’s mostly a hellish commute. I look at that, and realize it’s not for me. Many people I know work 8-10 hours a day, and have at least a one hour commute each way (that’s on the low side). I look at that, and while that could be in my future some day, I sure as hell am not envious of the life those folks have. Me? I rent an apartment not that far from work. My stress levels are much lower, and I have the time and money to enjoy things that I want to do.

    1. annakarina1*

      I’ve been feeling frustrated at my stagnation in losing weight. I weigh 160 lbs at 5’4, and it’s a lot for me. My arms and legs are slimmer, most of my weight is in my chest, back, and abs. I had weighed this amount ten years ago, and wore a size 14 then. I lost thirty pounds over a year, and have worn a size 8 since then. But I’ve been at my current weight for a year and a half now, as I slowly gained back thirty pounds over the course of four years, and feel as if I can’t drop fat and weight. My face feels fuller, and I feel the weight on my neck more.

      I work out with yoga, weights, and Muay Thai a lot, and try to cut down on starches and dairy, as both bloat me up a lot. I cook eggs and chicken and turkey at home, try to eat more servings of vegetables and fruit, I drink water and tea, and rarely drink soda or sugary drinks.

      I tried being a vegan, but I just felt bloated and ill, and it felt wrong for me. I read about intermittent fasting, but I was worried that I would feel too obsessed over food and hunger. I could likely cut out dinner, or just eat a very small dinner, but I didn’t feel like the fasting plan would work for me.

      I get frustrated that I feel like I am stuck at my size, when I know I would look and feel better being twenty-thirty pounds lighter. I just don’t know if I need to do some new workout or have to change my diet more.

      1. Ali G*

        If you can, try to remind yourself that you are still doing healthy things for yourself, even if you aren’t losing weight. That’s a big deal and you should be proud of the positive changes you are making.
        Have you been to the doc lately? It might be worth talking to them or a resource they suggest to help you figure out what is stalling you. It could be your thyroid, or age related metabolism slowing, or something else. Then you might be able to figure out how to switch up your exercise or diet to compensate.

        1. annakarina1*

          I saw a doctor last year, and my vitals all checked out as healthy. I just need to adjust my diet pattern or do some more challenging workouts.

      2. Kattykit*

        Don’t discount intermittent fasting without giving it an honest effort! Many people find it easiest to skip breakfast rather than dinner. When you wake up you’ve already fasted about 8 hours and you just need a few hours more.

        Have you considered keto? If you don’t feed your body carbs it will switch from burning carbs to burning fat. Also try a macro tracking app like cronometer. You can do it!

        1. Kattykit*

          Forget to add that it can take some time for your body to adjust to keto, intermittent fasting, etc

          1. Rookie Biz Chick*

            Seconding the keto idea. It’s truly a mindset consideration for most in the beginning – eating fat to burn fat, whaaaatttt?! It’s so much more, though.

        2. annakarina1*

          Skipping breakfast would likely be fine for me, I can just drink tea or coffee and eat later.

          I also have a habit of eating granola bars daily at work, and can cut that out to cut down a little on calories.

      3. Pliant Platypus*

        I wonder if maybe you have plateaued. I don’t know how long you have been working out with the yoga, weights and Muay Thai. Perhaps adjusting your work out routine, swapping the weights for pilates or something aerobic. Obviously the Muay Thai is aerobic, but maybe change it up a little. Have you thought about seeing a nutritionist or dietician to help with your dietary needs? I don’t know how much they cost or if insurance would help at all, but it might be worth a shot.

      4. matcha123*

        I’m at a similar place, but different weight and about 2 inches shorter.
        Everyone talks about sleep, I know my sleep is sh*t, how about you? Are you getting restful sleep? Does your bed feel comfortable? Your pillow?
        If those things are fine, what about stress?

        I feel pretty bloated with a number of different foods. Many sites say to cut carbs, especially rice and breads…which I love. My compromise has been to eat my carbs with dinner, and a smaller amount with my breakfast. What other types of exercise have you tried? I felt best when I could do zumba, but haven’t been able to get to a class in over a year due to my schedule. You might find a dance class or wall climbing more suited to your needs.

        1. annakarina1*

          I used to take dance classes a lot when I was younger (like ages 25-early thirties, I’m 34 now), being really into jazz, modern, ballet, and hip-hop. It was good for staying fit since the routines were unpredictable and difficult. I stopped due to cost and not having much time, since I had to pay $14-$20 per class and my kickboxing classes are for a monthly rate of unlimited classes. I do miss it, but also don’t like to watch myself dancing in the mirror, I feel more self-conscious when watching myself. So it’s something to consider, I just have to get past my insecurity of feeling “old” and bigger than other younger dancers.

      5. Forking great username*

        I just read the obesity code – not that you’re obese, of course! But I am, and it was a super interesting read that did a very good job explaining the science behind why certain diets aren’t usually effective in the long term, why it’s much more complicated than just calories in and calories out, and gives some solid advice. I’m just starting to try out the intermittent fasting myself. The book suggests not cutting out dinner – instead eat dinner, but then don’t eat again until dinner the next day. And you can have water, tea, coffee, and bone broth while fasting. Plus you have days of regular eating between fasting days, so it’s not as grueling. I’m still having a hard time with it because I’m addicted to pop, which is obviously on the list of things to avoid. But I found it to be a very good read!

      6. Traveling Teacher*

        I think you sound like you’re doing an amazing job already! It sounds like it could be worth a consultation or two with a dietitian/nutritionist. Depending on your body, your habits, your needs, and your personal likes and dislikes, they could possibly give you some real insight into things to try. They can also help you sift through received knowledge that you might have about certain foods or habits and help you get to the root of your seeming plateau. Even if its not covered by insurance (which would suck), it could save you a lot of time and frustration in the long run if it fits in to your budget.

        One thing that has really helped me personally with my personal issues around food/eating was a perspective shift: viewing food as just food instead of “good” or “bad.” There’s a wonderful Dear Sugar podcast on that, actually, with an interview with two food scientists. I personally found it very lovely to listen to.

      1. annakarina1*

        Sorry, I was just feeling upset. I can’t delete this post, so I apologize for my griping.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          You don’t need to apologize. It was very kind of you to warn before your post since weight/diet talk can be difficult for a lot of people.

          The only advice I have to offer would be to suggest reading some Health At Every Size resources and see if you can make peace with your body the way it is.

      2. RemingtonTypeType*

        It’s a heads up for people who avoid/are triggered by weight discussions so they can collapse the thread or scroll on by.

      3. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Really, “Really?” annakarina1 was sharing, as most of us do, she doesn’t need to have a point. Are you a regular here too ashamed to shame her publicly, or just dropping by to harass the regulars?

        annakarina1, don’t mind them. I’ve been plateauing recently, and I’ve been trying not to get too frustrated about it, too. I actually lost about 70 lbs, then gained back 20 which I had trouble losing for 3-4 years, and now I’m finally back down to my previous low weight only to be stuck on a plateau for a few weeks.

      4. nep*


        Sorry you’re struggling, annakarina1. It can really feel awful when you feel as if you’re doing everything ‘right’ and still the weight doesn’t seem to budge. It can certainly be more difficult as we age. (Do you know if your thyroid is functioning normally?)
        How did you lose the weight last time? What helped?
        I can only suggest (and you know all this): Be sure you’re in a calorie deficit (but not severely restricting! that’s unhealthy and unsustainable), move your body, drink plenty of water, and cut out processed foods to the extent possible. I have felt a lot leaner simply eating a smaller dinner and eating less upon getting up in the morning. Not intermittent fasting, but just seeing that I’m fine with less; I was eating more just out of habit. I’ve had experienced extreme hunger at all.
        No one wants to hear it but consistency and patience are the two primary requirements.
        Wishing you all the best.

        1. nep*

          (My ‘Uh…’ was in response to Really? I didn’t get that at all–but I guess maybe Really? posted that before seeing annakarina1’s full post.)

        2. annakarina1*

          I initially lost the weight by doing a lot of heavy weight training, going to the gym and doing dance and fitness classes about 5 times a week, and cut down on starches. That worked well when I was 25, but I’m 34 now and have been doing those kind of workouts for years, so it doesn’t have as much effect on me now. I really think it’s more just needing to skip breakfast and cut out some of my daily snacking on granola bars at work, to just cut a few hundred calories so I don’t eat more than I realize. I find that when I eat lightly and stay busy and active, I do feel better physically and lose a little weight.

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            SOLIDARITY, SISTER. I’m also in a place where doing what worked for me once to get my weight down is having little to no effect. It’s really frustrating. I wish our bodies would tell us how they change and what they need us to do differently as we age. :/

  27. Violet Strange*

    I find sharks very interesting, but Shark Week has devolved into a sad and pathetic exercise. Especially this year, where the theme seems to be “D list celebrity meets shark.”

    1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

      I agree. One thing is worse than the next and the hype is endless. (I watch too much TV and need to get out more.)

      But my main question is…why sharks, every single year? Why not Lion Week or Zebra Week or Ferret Week or even Cat Week and Dog Week?

      1. Bacon Pancakes*

        I feel like there are enough interesting animals out there to devote a week to anything! Goose week? I’m there! Turtle week? Heck yeah!

        1. BahahaBlackSheep*

          Turtle week, yes please! Especially lots of vids of them eating berries–pure unadulterated turtle joy!

          I would have to pass on Goose week–i have to imagine there would be lots of vids and pics of violent goose attacks (some of those mofos are MEAN). One of them pulled down my pants and diaper when I was at a petting zoo as a toddler and I have never trusted another goose again!

          1. Bacon Pancakes*

            My mom thought it would be cute to get geese on our mini-“farm” when i was a kid. That SOB knocked me down and beat me when I was like 10 and I refuse to get one. But wild geese that don’t crap all over soccer fields are cool.

      2. Glowcat*

        Maybe because a lot of sharks are endangered? Not that they are the only ones, but they are the “bad guys” in people’s minds…
        But yeah, I agree: there’s plenty of other animals to choose.

    2. Former Employee*

      Regardless of short comings of Shark Week, I have come to love and admire sharks because they inspire such fear and hatred in the current occupant of the White House.

    3. Snark*

      Time to up the ante: feed D list celebrities, or maybe a former reality TV host who’s been making a nuisance his damnself, to sharks. I’d watch that shit forever.

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        I admire Michael Phelps for his athleticism, and I knew it wouldn’t happen this way, but I was SO DISAPPOINTED last year when he didn’t actually race a shark.

      2. Anonymosity*

        Heh. Me too.
        I’m reminded of Mason Verger in Thomas Harris’ book Hannibal and his plan to feed Dr. Lecter to the specially bred pigs. Are you sure you’re not secretly a reclusive, disfigured, respirator-dependent billionaire? ;)

  28. alex*

    Book recommendation in the dysfunctional-family genre: The Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavits

    My query for the masses: What Chromebook should I get, and from where should I buy it? I have determined that a Chromebook is the right next laptop for me, but which one?!
    — I can sync multiple google accounts to this computer and easily trasition between them
    — Connecting a wireless mouse, tablet, and kindle won’t be a hassle
    — I can use Dropbox, the google cloud, and the iphone cloud easily.
    — I can use legal/subscription video streaming sites easily.
    — The screen is at least 12 inches diagonally across (preferably longer).
    — Price all-in including 2-3yr warranty (and I want the liquid-spill protection included; I’m clumsy) is under $1000 total.
    — portability/weight/slimness: My current laptop hasn’t left my desk more than a few times in years; I have a computer at my work office and an iphone and a tablet
    — battery life (see above)
    — appearance
    — gaming/fancy graphic capability
    — a stylus/pen
    — bigger screen (13″+)
    — touch screen
    — flex/folding ability (’cause I’m always scared of breaking my current laptop by pushing the screen back too far)

    Ones I’m considering:
    Samsung Chromebook Plus https://www.google.com/chromebook/device/samsung-chromebook-plus/
    Acer Chromebook 15 CB515-1HT https://www.google.com/chromebook/device/acer-chromebook-15-cb515-1ht/
    Asus Chromebook Flip C101PA

    Any experiences with those or opinions or recommendations?

    1. Kendra*

      I don’t have personal experience with any of those Chromebooks, but I would recommend making sure you can get a really, really good look at the keyboard layout of those before you buy one, or try in person. My job involves using the touchpad and keyboard of a lot of different people’s personal laptops, and some of them have do some really weird things with the arrow keys that make it super annoying to use.

      As for buying it, just go for anything reputable with a return policy that lets you get it for cheap.

    2. Someone else*

      I know this sort of sidesteps your question, but your list has me slightly confused how you narrowed your search down to “Chromebook”, given this:

      — portability/weight/slimness: My current laptop hasn’t left my desk more than a few times in years; I have a computer at my work office and an iphone and a tablet
      — battery life (see above)

      The above are very often major reasons folks tend to go Chromebook over inexpensive traditional laptop. Especially given the budget you mentioned and the things you don’t care about…and the desire for the bigger screen, you may be unnecessarily limiting your choices. Most of the larger screened Chromebooks I’ve looked at are more expensive than traditional laptops or come with very poor reviews. So that’s something to consider.
      As for the ease of using dropbox/streaming services, that’s really a question more about “do you find Chrome OS/Chrome apps intuitive” than something I’d expect to be specific to the model you choose.

      All that said, I’ve heard very good things about pretty much all Samsung Chromebooks. The Asus can be hit or miss, and Asus in general is kind of notorious for having power supply issues…not just in their Chromebooks, but their laptops in general. The keyboard layout on that Acer would bother me, but if you’ve tried it in a store display and it doesn’t bug your wrists that may be a non-issue.

      1. alex*

        Thanks; these replies suggest I need to check the keyboard, so I will do that before buying. I realized there was some difference (no caps lock) but will look into it more.

        My reasoning for a Chromebook is that I dislike Windows, I don’t want to pay for another Macbook (as much as I love them), and I do everything in the google cloud (for work I deal with hundreds of things at a time in google docs, sheets, and forms). The Samsungs do seem to have the best reviews.

    3. Observer*

      See if you can get a Pixelbook on sale. It’s gotten excellent reviews, and it does have a stylus, but that’s an extra cost, which would put it over your budget.

      HP also has some ChromeBooks. I haven’t had experience with them, but my experience with their (business line) laptops has been excellent. Check the keyboards though – some of their keyboards are great others…. Not so much flimsy as the design being less comfortable.

  29. Veruca*

    This week I’m going to visit my family for the first time in nearly two years. In that time, my genetic and degenerative illness has really had an effect, and I have a lot of limitations that they aren’t used to. I’m on a very specific though easily accommodated diet to help manage my illness.

    I’m a bit panicked. My parents don’t behave in a supportive or kind way. (Mom has some significant mental issues; Dad’s main priority is that No One Upset Mom.) My parents expect me to pass as able-bodied (which I have been able to up to this point), and my extended family (that I’ll be seeing as well) doesn’t know that anything is wrong. (Because this would Upset Mom)

    Anyone else with invisible-but-becoming-visible-illness have wisdom to offer?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Do you have a relative you trust that you can talk to ahead of time and ask to be there for support?

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Is there someone who is NOT mom and dad who would play a supportive roll for you if they knew your setting?

      I think that your folks are so invested in their own stuff that they may never be able to meet you in your reality. It’s overload for them. Perhaps you can find one or two people who will be supportive to you.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I don’t have a serious illness, but in terms of extended family, I can say that I’ve observed that sometimes THEY are more supportive than people closer to you. In my extended family, it’s the aunts and cousins who get fierce about “there has to be something gluten-free for Toots” or “Let’s take this conversation inside out of the heat so Kimmy, who is frail and has to stay in the A/C, doesn’t feel left out.”

      You deserve to have their support–so loop them in.

      Also–this is YOUR illness, and this illness is ABOUT YOU. So I think it’s time for you to take charge of your life and your relationships with the extended family. They are your cousins, your aunts & uncles, your grandparents, etc. And you get to prioritize this fact over the concept that they are your mom’s nieces and nephews, etc., etc. It is time to put yourself first here.

      My suggestion would be for you to reach out to all the extended family and say, “I wanted to let you know that I’ve been coping with Illness, and the effects are becoming more visible, so you’ll notice them on my upcoming trip. You haven’t heard before because my mom finds it upsetting to talk about, so I would ask you to be discreet and considerate to her. I’m looking forward to seeing you!”

      Then they’re not blind-sided when they find out, and the idea of it being a secret won’t be the focus of uproar.

      I wish you peace and some detached self-focus–by which I mean: Treat yourself like a beloved toddler. Determine what you need, and then be firm and calm in insisting that you get it. “Mom, this conversation isn’t helpful to me. I’m going to go for a walk.” “I’ll take charge of food, so I can be sure I’m eating right. It doesn’t matter to me that you think its too much fuss.”

      You may not have the focus to respond in the best way, right in the moment, so build in some alone time every day (similar to a toddler’s nap, which no loving caretaker would skip!), which will give you a respite and allow you some strategizing time. Just set up a schedule, much the way parents do for their little kids, and protect it the way they would.

      “Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping” is how Jordan Peterson puts it.

      1. Mazzy*

        On a tangent, I think it’s funny you reference Jordan Peterson. I had a much younger colleague ask me if I knew who he was, and he made it sound like JP offers so much groundbreaking advice and information. Then I listened to him and it was loads of common sense. It wasn’t bad, but I was laughing to myself, thinking that someone needed to hunt down a podcast to get told basic things about adult life.

    4. Temperance*

      With your mom, the goalposts are always moving because you don’t know what will set her off. You’ve gotten used to walking on eggshells around her, and your dad has never cared that she treats people badly so long as she directs it elsewhere and not at him.

      In this specific situation, I might just go over their heads and reach out to another relative (aunt maybe?) and say that you’re excited to see them, but want to let them know that you’ve been dealing with X.

      So, I’m not sure if you’re a redditor, but you might get some good, specific advice on your situation from BPDLovedOnes or RaisedByBPD. I’m not dxing your mom, but my family has a similar vibe to yours, and I can relate to a lot of what you’ve posted, and these have helped me.

      1. Veruca*

        YES. THIS.

        I would love to reach out to another relative, but really tried to keep their distance from her. And me, just by proxy. I wish that as an adult I had been better about building those bridges. I guess now is the time to start, and it’s never too late?

        1. OhBehave*

          It is absolutely never too late!

          Maybe your mom is stronger than dad thinks? Anyhoo – you must be true to yourself and do what’s best for YOU, not everyone else. This is your reality that you must manage the best way you see fit. Please stick up for yourself in all things. I would also add that if someone asks what’s wrong you fess up and let them know in the simplest of terms. Now, if they ask how you’ve been, I wouldn’t blurt out the illness but speak in general terms about your life. Is this illness hereditary? If so, it may be a good thing to share with your family in case they could have it.
          All the best – the visit is not forever – it just may seem like it!

        2. Observer*

          It’s never too late.

          Start building those bridges and make it clear that this has nothing to do with Mom.

          You’re at a point where it’s soon going to be impossible to hide your illness, even if it’s still possible. So “do not upset Mom” goes from unreasonable to impossible. Which means you need to find a way to do your thing with the least trouble for you. If you can reduce your mother’s involvement, so much the better.

          But, do practice some responses to the things you know she’s likely to say.

    5. Penguin*

      Captain Awkward (in post #1126) offers a list of script responses for use when having to have the “this is my new normal” conversation with people. I can’t speak for anyone else, but as a possessor of several mental illnesses I found it SUPER helpful, even just as a place to start.

    6. LilySparrow*

      Can you “recruit” your dad to help you prepare Mom for the necessary changes you’ll need?

      Dad, I have to talk to you about something – I don’t want Mom to be surprised when she sees me, so I want to prepare her for how my disease has progressed, but I don’t know how to talk to her about it without upsetting her. Can you help?

      These things have changed, permanently, and I can’t pretend that there are no problems, because it’s physically impossible. I know it would Upset her if it comes out of the blue, and I don’t want that. How can we lay the groundwork, do you think?”

      Maybe if you reassure your dad that you’re on the same team, he can see that accommodating your needs and Not Upsetting Mom are aligned, not opposing, goals.

    7. StrikingFalcon*

      Do you have options for other places to stay other than your parents’ place? Having somewhere to go at the end of the night other than under their roof will likely be a big sense of relief.

      If you need to cut the visit short for your own health, or find other arrangements part way through, give yourself permission to do so. You don’t need to lay yourself up for weeks in order to not upset your mother. Hold firm on what you need, whatever it is. Remember that your goal here isn’t “I get what I need and Mom has no bad feelings about it” it’s “I get what I need and also see some family.” Try not to take on the emotional labor of managing other people’s feelings about your illness. Just take care of yourself and enjoy the good moments.

      Wishing you best of luck, this stuff is hard.

    8. Kuododi*

      I’m very sympathetic…I actually have a bunch of chronic health problems which combined have made for a mess of life issues. What I would encourage you to do if at all possible is to get a hotel, AirBnB, stay with friends in the area… something to give you an escape hatch from the family drama llama. If that’s not a viable option for whatever reason, I second and third the very good suggestions already on this thread… particularly about walking away from family when conversation about health is overwhelming. I had to pull that one on family I was visiting last weekend. All they seemed to want to talk about was how awful this and that was about things regarding my physical issues. I just turned and SD…”My physical health is a very boring subject…let’s find something else to talk about!!!”. Worked like a charm!!! Best wishes and a safe journey!!!

  30. WannaKnowMore*

    So, I’m hoping for some advice from all the kind commenters on Thursday’s ask the readers thread.

    I think I might be interested in trying some kink. It’s come up on some fiction I read and now I’m having some fantasies. But were do I go from here?

    Can anyone point me to some resources or tell me how to find people who might be interested in this?

    I already know to talk about what you’re going to do and what safe words you use before you start, but that is where my knowledge ends.

    1. Bacon Pancakes*

      The Han and Matt know it all blog may have pointers on how to engage with others and their interests. They recently fielded a letter from someone who couldn’t figure out to meet people interested in polyamourous relationships. I doubt they will have SPECIFIC advice, but general “here is how you go out and meet the people you want to” advice.

    2. Penguin*

      ThePageist DOT com is a (recently ended) podcast website about all sorts of kink, including book reviews and interviews with a whole bunch of folks involved in all sorts of aspects of the kink community. Some of the guests talk about getting involved in the scene, as does the host on at least one episode.

    3. neverjaunty*

      Check out Tristan Taormino’s books – she has a lot of stuff on “getting introduced to this new thing 101”.

    4. Melody Pond*

      So I was heavily involved in the local kink scene in Portland, OR for a while. (Side note: Portland was named the kinkiest city in the US a while back, by Kink University!) That’s actually how I met my now-husband, Mr. Pond, at a BDSM party.

      When I was first getting interested in kink, I picked up and read a book called Different Loving by William & Gloria Brame. It really suited my style of reading, almost like an academic textbook, exploring real stories of real people who were into various different kinks. Also, I’m the type of person who likes to research things thoroughly before jumping into them. I found it informative and helpful, and helped me think about the different kinks I might be interested in. It also reads like it’s a documentary – at the end of each chapter is an in-depth look at real-life people who are into the kink explored in that chapter.

      Are you interested in meeting fellow kinksters by getting involved in a local scene? If so, finding a regular munch (original term was “burger munch”; it refers to a gathering of kinky people in a purely vanilla social setting, like a bar or restaurant; nothing kinky actually goes on there) would be a good place to start. There’s a social networking site called FetLife that is a good resource for (A) finding local events near you, and (B) informative discussion groups. Also, FetLife is full of NSFW pictures and video, if you just want to look around at what other people do. (Although as FetLife has gotten bigger and bigger, it’s easiest to find the high-production-value stuff that professional photographers and models are posting, and that’s not necessarily representative of what your average Joe kinkster is up to.)

      Another side note – I think for a while there, FetLife required an invitation from an existing member to be able to join, but I *believe* that’s not the case anymore. I think anyone can sign up again.

      As you touched on, good negotiating skills are a MUST. Honestly, I waited a long time before actually jumping in and playing with people. I hung out at munches and got to know people casually first. And even when I started going to kink parties, I intentionally waited and just watched other people play for a long time, before I ever participated in a scene with someone. I’d generally recommend that same general approach to newbies.

      1. Workerbee*

        +1 for William & Gloria Brame. Unless my memory has completely failed me, it was due to someone leaving up their Different Loving website on a library computer in college that opened my eyes to the fact that there were other people like me. I haven’t thought of this in years, but now I want to check out that book!

    5. Also Anon for This*

      For books, I recommend “screw the roses,send me the thorns,” for some basics, and “the ethical slut” -both a bit dated but I think they will hold up. I second the suggestions of munches and fetlife. I also suggest dipping a toe in by trying out some light play yourself or with a friend. For example, back in my purely fantasizing days, I thought I might spanking as it featured prominently in stories I liked. Turns out, physically I am not a masochist, ie, what can transport some people to a place of ecstasy is, for me, simply painful and boring. So try little bites of reality before getting into anything heavy.
      Also, if you think you might be on the submissive side, when you start getting out socially, beware of doms/tops who prey on the inexperienced. Being “submissive” doesn’t mean following the orders of any random person who issues them. Some will try telling you to do stuff (ex: go get me a drink) think you’re manipulable if you do, and that “you’re not a real submissive” if you don’t. In my experience, most people in the bdsm scene value consent highly, much more so than mainstream vanillas. However like anywhere else there are a few bad apples. I recommend asking for references from other play partners before playing with someone new, and take advantage of added safety of public scening (at a monitored dungeon or party) rather than going off with someone alone.

    6. WannaKnowMore*

      Thanks everyone for your book recommendations and especially for the real life meeting and safety tips.

    7. Not putting my name*

      Thirding the look at fetlife for munches. Meet people with all clothes on in public. I also actually reccomend trying things for the first time at a public party/event with people I trust. That can up the discomfort factor for some people and may not work for you. The whole point of public parties is that they generally have staff set up to intervene if things go really wrong. I’ve found that helpful.

  31. nep*

    I’m having great results–just generally feeling leaner and a lot better–from two things (I’m thinking it’s due to these, as they are the only changes I’ve made recently, and it just makes sense): Eating just a little something first thing in the morning, instead of getting full. What I used to eat was healthy but just too much. And for no reason–it was just a habit. Secondly, stopped eating store-bought energy or protein bars. (Let’s face it most of them are glorified candy bars. I would buy mostly just Larabar or Rx, which aren’t full of preservatives and the ingredients are OK–still that sugar and those calories add up!) When I was in the habit of getting these bars, I’d have two sometimes three a day–sometimes in the car after the store. Again, just a habit. That’s 400 to 800 calories–for nothing, really. It feels really good not to be buying them anymore. (Saving money too.) They are OK if you’re in a position where you need something simple while going for a long time w/o food, but I was having them like mindless snacks.
    It’s all reminding me of something I once read online: Bad habits don’t just go away–It’s an undo-it-yourself project.

    1. WellRed*

      Yes to your point about eating healthy but too much food. And too much “healthy” food as well. I once watched a friend eat a whole bag of those…dehydrated veggie sticks(I think that’s what they were) she didn’t even like them that much and it was several hundred calories of nothing, really.

      1. nep*

        Right. Portion control is huge. I’m talking about completely non-processed foods, including fruits. It is possible to get too much. It’s sugar and calories and it adds up.
        (I don’t consider any of those ‘healthy’ snack foods healthy in any case. But I reckon less bad than some things.)

    2. The Other Dawn*

      That’s why I stay away from protein bars as much as I can. I ate them for awhile after my gastric bypass since I needed the extra protein, but I’ve since stopped because I found myself treating them as candy bars/snacks and not the meal replacement they’re meant to be. The only time I have them now is when I’m tired of the same old food, or I know I won’t be eating for awhile. And when I have them, I stick to Quest bars since they have only a gram or two of sugar and they’re usually under 200 calories. I sometimes have the ON protein cake bites or a Power Crunch bar, but I try not to buy those.

      1. nep*

        Yeah–I was really treating them like snacks. Pretty much a candy bar one can rationalise–oh, it’s ‘healthy’. I’m so much better off when I just don’t look at them at the store. (It has really driven home how often I used to get them and mindlessly put away a couple a day.)

    3. KL*

      I was in the aisle with “healthy snacks” the other day, thinking I might find something else for my mid-day snack…. Nope. I just stood there marveling at how anyone could think any of it was healthy. It’s just candy bars and cookies and sugar for days, and the granola is just cereal with nuts. It may be labeled a “snack bar”, but I know a brownie when I see it.

  32. Cultural phenomenon*

    I’m excited for this week: I live in a small town in southwest Missouri, fewer than 15k people, but once a year at least 50k (some estimates top 110k—whoa!) Vietnamese Catholics come to town for a massive festival held in roughly 4-6 square blocks. These pilgrims are celebrating their escape from Vietnam in the 70s, 80s, and 90s and memorializing the many loved ones lost on the harrowing journey. They set up giant tent restaurants on the grounds where various cchurch groups from around the country serve food to raise money for their youth programs. They welcome everyone so I eat as many meals as I can there for those few days. :)

    Our city is overwhelmingly welcoming to the pilgrims and the city departments are amazing behind the scenes. Every year I am overwhelmed by what folks endured to get here. It’s my most favorite event of the year!

    1. WellRed*

      THat sounds awesome. What is it that draws them to your town, specifically? Is it where many originally settled?

      1. Cultural phenomenon*

        As best I know, there was a Catholic seminary building in town that was mostly inactive at that time. I’m not sure if there was anyone living there anymore at that point even. Cardinal Bernard Law became aware of a group of religious refugees and knew of the unused property and buildings in our little town so he connected them. Turned out it was a group of priests or brothers (the details are a little unclear to me) and they set it up for religious studies and then to host a gathering for anyone who wanted to get together. It was just a few hundred that first year they say…but for many years it grew exponentially and now pilgrims drive and fly in from most every state. (And of course now we all know of Law for terrible reasons, but I’m grateful for his positive impact on this.)

    2. Bacon Pancakes*

      Hmong festivals are the best! There is a large community where I am in Northern California.

      1. Cultural phenomenon*

        Very neat! I hope you get to enjoy some wonderful food now and again. :) I wish we had more of a presence here. The folks in the religious order are somewhat sequestered on purpose, and not many families have settled here so we just get to interact one time a year.

      2. OyVey*

        My midwest hometown was a major resettlement area for Hmong families in the 80’s/early 90’s. It’s taken a lot of work over the last three decades but they’re firmly part of the fabric of the community now. The community college prints most of it’s materials in Hmong as well as English and festivals that started in a community room at the library have grown into massive street festivals every year. It’s really quite lovely to see how a homogenous insular part of the upper midwest has embraced the culture and encorporated it.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      You made me think of Operation Babylift. That made a huge impression on me then. Those folks are now in their 40s. Mind-bending.

      1. All Hail Queen Sally*

        Several years ago, I was in a class with a young man who stated he was one of those babies brought out on Operation Babylift.

    4. Anonymosity*

      I know exactly where you are and what this is. I’ve never been to it, but I always thought it sounded pretty cool. *waves from an hour away*

  33. Down and Out Anon*

    I’m feeling very withdrawn lately. The last month and a half has been very difficult. Between work problems, worry about family medical issues, friend drama, and a few sudden deaths of old friends/coworkers, I have been run ragged. It seems to finally be slowing down and things getting back to normal, but I am having a hard time getting my social life back to normal.

    These last few weeks, any rare spare moment I had, I took to rest and take care of myself. Now that my free time is coming back to normal amounts, I’m having a hard time motivating myself to be social. I thought I had plans with friends already set up for this weekend but my calendar was actually empty. My first thought was ‘Oh I should make some plans because I haven’t seen anyone for anything fun in a while’. That thought was quickly thrown out and I started to think ‘With a free weekend, I can catch up laundry and clean my house, or even do something quiet and fun like read a book, craft, or work on a puzzle’. There’s nothing stopping me from seeing friends other than me.

    I’m a little worried about cutting myself a break now and I’ll fall into a pattern of withdrawing after a difficult time. How should I motivate myself to do something with friends and family?

    1. TootsNYC*

      set up a reward?

      “If I message Kathy about going to the museum, I can do 12 puzzle pieces.”

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Keep it simple. Instead of doing something that takes an entire morning or afternoon, pick stuff that is shorter like an hour or two. Your friends are probably feeling a time crunch with their own stuff.

      It’s not so much that you do a lot of social stuff, it’s that you do social stuff every so often. It might be helpful to have baseline chores that must be done and everything else can slide for a short bit. My baseline was laundry and cleaning the bathroom and kitchen. It was too hard to catch up if I skipped those things or let them slide.

    3. Nita*

      Maybe it’s just too early. This sounds like a lot to recover from. If you don’t feel like being social, give yourself more time, or limit yourself to meeting with a few close friends who know you’ve been through the wringer. I hope things getting better for you.

  34. Queenie*

    How much money to do you guys spend on fun stuff/treats/entertainment/splurging?

    I’m unemployed right now, so the only fun thing in my budget is Netflix. (And I’m selling some books on Amazon–I use the profit to get more books.)

    When I’m employed again, I’d like to devote a little bit of each pay check to put into a fun stuff fund, but I’m not sure how much. $10? $15 $20?

    1. Bacon Pancakes*

      I think that since “entertainment” money covers soooo many things, it will be tough to gauge. But I think I budget around $50 a month for ‘normal’ entertainment (Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime) and it still covers an occasional movie. But if you like large concerts, it probably won’t be enough.

      1. Dan*

        Yeah. I gave up trying to do line-time budgeting because there’s so much cross over. I’m a bit of a foodie, so I have a healthy grocery budget. But if I go out to eat, is that entertainment? But I didn’t consume groceries that night, so is it fair to allocate all of the dining out expense to entertainment?

        The happy middle ground that I worked out is that I put some real thought into how much money I can spend every week, and came up with a monthly total. With this method, all I have to do is log into my credit card account and check my balance. If it’s too high, i know I need to adjust downward for the next couple of weeks. If it’s on the low side, I don’t have to do anything. No pushing numbers around a spreadsheet.

        1. Bacon Pancakes*

          I specifically have a dine-out budget seperate from my grocery budget. It blew my mind when I tracked my expenses for six months to see where my overspending habits are!!

          1. Anonymosity*

            Ugh, I just figured out I probably spend about $10 a week on a regular coffee shop visit with my dharma group. That’s $40 a month!
            I can still go to the coffee shop but I can get drip coffee instead of a latte, or nothing.

            1. Anonymosity*

              And I have been spending money on movies, but not working makes me feel trapped in the house. It feels like prison.

    2. Temperance*

      I think it depends on your overall budget, and what you would put into that fund. My household shares a subscription to Netflix and one to Amazon Prime.

      For me, my personal entertainment fund is about $50/month, but that is just stuff I want, like Kindle Unlimited, Comixology Unlimited, video rentals, books, and comic books. I usually don’t spend all of it because I use Overdrive and Hoopla.

      1. Kate Daniels*

        Hoopla has an incredible selection of audiobooks! I just wish they would improve the app to lead to a better listening experience.

    3. wingmaster*

      For me, I set aside $200/month for entertainment/going out/splurging. I’m able to have a decent budget for this because my commute to work by car is really short (5 minute drive). I don’t drive a lot either, so I do not have to buy a lot of gas (SUV driver too). With that, along with monthly expenses and savings, I still have a good amount of money leftover.

      Most of my money in entertainment/going out/splurging my is spent on food…because I love food…and margaritas.

      1. Dan*

        You bring up a good point about commuting expenses — they seem to get overlooked when people talk about where to live and how much house they can afford to buy. I put 7000 miles a year on my car. I drive a 2010 model year car that has 56,000 miles on it. I get one oil change a year, and fill up the gas about every three weeks or so.

        Every once in awhile, I house sit for friends that live further out from where I live. My commuting expenses go up like crazy.

    4. Chaordic One*

      When I’m unemployed I spend around $50 or so a month. The two big things I buy are magazines and treating myself to Starbucks. I spend anywhere between $100 to $200 a month when I’m working on silly, but fun, things. Concerts, movies, books that I can’t get at the library, dinner out once a week or so.

    5. Dan*

      It depends on where you live, what your expenses are, what your long term financial outlook is, and what you want to do. I live in an HCOL area, and $30 represents one hour of take home pay for me. (That tends to be how most people “normalize” the cost of something — how hard do you have to work to pay for something?) So my fun budget is way higher than that.

      When I budget, I do two things — I work from “now” forward, itemizing my required monthly expenses. Then, I work backward from the future — i make some estimates about how much money I need to save for retirement, and work that in. From there, *then* I decide about optional things. How much car can I afford? What’s left over for “fun”.

      So the answer to your question really doesn’t lie with what others do, it’s all about what makes sense for your own situation.

    6. Kate Daniels*

      I spend approximately $6/month on Kindle Unlimited (I got a two-year subscription as part of a Black Friday deal for 40% off) and $9.99/month on Spotify. Those are the only subscriptions I have, though I am considering getting a YouTube premium subscription because I love watching travel vlogs for fun, and it would be great to use my iPad for other things while minimizing the app and to skip the adds. I usually spend between $15-30/month on e-books.

      My library has a decent selection of audiobooks, so I was able to cancel a subscription I had to Audible. I also listen to podcasts as a form of free entertainment. I do have cable TV, which is part of a bundle with my Internet that is a little over $100/month. I also have a membership to my city’s art museum, which is roughly $100/year.

    7. Traveling Teacher*

      I think it’s really smart of you to have an entertainment budget. Even if it’s really small, it can help so much after truly shoestring times to have a little bit of mad money, even if it’s only 5 bucks! I do 40 euros/month for anything that isn’t strictly a “necessity” and it usually involves things that contribute to my definition of fun things/entertainment (as below).

      tl;dr: After some budget tracking, I decided to cut out lots of previously “necessary” expenses and file them all under “fun.” This is based entirely around my own habits and savings goals, but reading stuff like this helped me determine my own budget guidelines around fun, so if you’re interested:

      40 euros/month includes any purchases for my hobbies (crafting), books, coffees out, movies, magazines, games, “extra” treats/books/toys I buy for my kid, random stuff I want (I once bought a lemon/lime squeezer with my budget, for example, as well as a fancy glass kettle with temperature settings even though we had a perfectly adequate basic kettle).

      This also includes “extra” clothes in the 40 euros/month (We usually have a one-out, one-in policy, like when my beloved boots could no longer be repaired, I bought myself a new pair, using our “broken” line-item, which we also use for paid repairs. If I bought an extra pair of boots, however, that would come from the budget. Or, if an outfit to complete work-wear was unrepairable or truly ruined, then I would replace it, but if I suddenly bought a new shirt just because, that’s the budget).

      After the first 3-4 years of our marriage, my husband and I began tracking all expenses to see where all of our money was going. There were a couple of things we did not believe until we had tracked for 2-3 months, then we made radical changes! Some people I know think that the amount is too small, but it has forced me to become very creative in repairing things and really think about purchases I make and to think of most expenses as a “splurge.” I started getting magazines and newspapers from the library/library e-reader, and we completely stopped going to the movies (now, we’re always three years behind on films (France doesn’t let networks stream until 3 years after release), but there are so many things to watch that it honestly does not matter)

      There are some things that I just stopped doing after we implemented the budget because I decided that I didn’t want to blow my personal budget on them (shopping with friends–always ended up buying something I didn’t need, and I wasn’t having much fun anyway–the only people I trust to give me clothing advice are my sister and my mom! Everyone else is just too nice.) Plus, spending out on coffee and cakes. I can make a cake at home with ingredients I always have on hand and watch a movie on Netflix or play a board game with as many friends as I want to have over. I also watched leboncoin like a hawk and eventually invested in a very-used-but-great fancy coffee machine. Saves me oodles of cash, and I just make a cappucino before I go out in my travel mug so that I’m not tempted.

      Netflix is its own line-item because the household shares that, though. (That’s also paid and then some through not having to pay the TV tax in our country because we don’t own a TV, and we don’t watch any provided public channels online). We’ve been thinking of cutting it out entirely, though, to push ourselves to use our free time more wisely. We’re not ready to do that just yet, though!

    8. Hannah*

      There isn’t any line item in my budget called “Fun.” I think grocery shopping is fun, soooo….where does that leave me?!

      How I make my budget is I figure out how much money I bring in via paycheck each month, and then divide up that money so that every dollar has a purpose. What categories make sense for you might be different from mine, but for me, I have: Auto and transportation, clothing, dining, groceries, fitness, rent, natural gas, electricity, netflix, cable internet, cell phone, vacation, miscellaneous, and savings. Each category has an assigned amount, and every dollar I spend gets assigned to one of these categories. If I overspend in a category, the next month I either assign less to that category, or take from a category that still has funds available to top it up. For example, if I went $20 over my grocery budget, but didn’t spend all my dining budget, I could count some of that dining budget towards groceries. I reconcile all of this once per month. (My bank’s budgeting software that tracks all my transactions, be they CC or cash or debit or check, helps me with this.) If I overspent overall, I try to make up for it the next month, or I may make the decision that those expenses were important enough for me to cover the amount with what I have in savings, and I move that amount from my savings to my checking. Conversely, some categories, like clothing and travel, I assume will be used in big chunks, and so I try to accumulate money that is assigned to those groups. So for example, if I had $20 left in my clothing budget for a month, the next month would be the regular number +$20.

      With this method, I’ve been able to amass over half a year’s salary over the past six years, and that includes needing to take some out to move and a couple other major expenses. I’m pretty proud of this, given that I know people who make much more than I do who live paycheck-to-paycheck.

    9. LizB*

      I gave myself $40/month of fun money when I was in AmeriCorps. That covered everything from drinks at happy hour to movie tickets to just-because treats for myself. Now that I’m making an actual living wage I have several budget categories for that area (Books, Entertainment, and Dining Out being the big ones), and I tend to put about $50 a month into some combination of those categories depending on what I think I’m going to be doing in the following two weeks. When I get gifts of money or some other unexpected windfall, I try to boost up those categories a bit too.

  35. Detective Amy Santiago*

    It’s not about a slightly dysfunctional family, but I greatly enjoyed Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer.

    Some others I’ve read recently:
    The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie
    The Sometimes Sisters by Carolyn Brown

    And an old favorite is Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah

  36. Shay the Fae*

    I just had a super rough morning and now I’m going to go cry.
    It all started with a really difficult night, I’ve been finding sleeping more and more upsetting and unpleasant. And the things I do to combat that (meditation, story telling, bribing my dog to snuggle with me) haven’t been helping. So I didn’t get to bed itself until 1:23 am when I’m normally asleep by 10:00 pm. Thought spirals, nightmares, seizures, wasn’t fun.
    And I woke up to one of my dog’s having an accident, so I rushed them both outside. I couldn’t find my usually set of keys so I grabbed a spare.
    Once outside they wouldn’t do their thing right away, so I walked them barefoot around the block. It was slow going, it hurt a lot.
    One of my dogs did his thing and then before I could stop him kicked a BUNCH of dirt and dead leaves on my other dog. And I just bathed her yesterday (or was it the day before?)
    I had to field some questions from strangers who live near by about the dogs (yuck, talking to people).
    Then when I got home my spare keys didn’t work. I’m not even 100% sure why. It’s clear it’s missing the front door key…
    Anyway, I had to knock on the window of the man who’s apartment was right next to the front door. I hate bothering him, he works nights. He let me in. He’s in his PJs, I’m in my PJs, it’s a little party. He loves me dogs, he says hi to them, hi to me, asks me about a dog I was training to be a service dog but who failed. I lied and said my program rehomed him out in the suburbs because he struggled with city life, and explained that most failed dogs continue to live with their trainers or someone in the program.
    My dogs saw a cat, they almost pulled me over trying to go outside again. There was a lot of barking. I was very flustered.
    Nice old man I gave him bread a while back because he has to let me inside more than I would like.
    It was just really trying and exhausting and I don’t even really know why. He’s nice. Why was the chat so upsetting?

    1. WellRed*

      The chat upset you? Maybe this morning you are just overly tired which makes us more sensitive/fragile feeling? And if the sleep issues are ongoing, is that leading you to make less than stellar choices? I mean, you didn’t have to go out without shoes (which hurt), you grabbed keys that don’t even open the door (and it sounds like the front door key isn’t even on them?). And why does the neighbor keep having to let you in? How can you solve that particular problem? Meanwhile, brush the dirt and leaves off the dog.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I am thinking it’s not so much the chat as the whole story of things not going right.
        Not resting well can really mess with our world-view such that everything becomes stressful or more weighted than we think it should be. You were aware that the man meant no harm by inquiring about your other dog but he did touch a sore point. That would leave most people feeling conflicted, nice of the person to ask but it was an unsettling question and they had no way to know that. So your whole story starts off with difficulties and, yeah, more difficulties are not going to make it easier or better.

        My theory is we can only handle so many things going wrong in a row, then after that something HAS to go right. I would and have done what WellRed says here. I take the parts of the story I can fix and I fix those parts. I go toward the low cost/no cost ideas. Perhaps you have a pair of old sneaks that you can keep by the door just for walking the dogs. Keys are pretty cheap maybe you can fix that key situation, I’d get a couple if that is doable. That way when you come up with ideas you have a couple of keys to implement the ideas with.

        The key story resonates with me. I have put a lot of time into managing my keys here. I build Plans A and B. Then I found that it was annoying trying to find my house key on my key ring with too any keys. So I had a special key made that is different from all the others and I can find it at a glance. This all sounds too mundane or simple yet it worked into something that has been very helpful for me and lowered my frustration with my keys.

        I am sorry about your health concerns. I hope the docs get a handle on that very soon.

  37. Miss Fisher*

    Someone asked me to post about small bible colleges and how they work. I grew up Baptist which is its own kind of animal. I went to a small baptist elementary where you had chapel on fridays, bible classes and typically went to church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. As far as the college, besides just going to learn more about your religion, which I am assuming is a requirement there, it’s sll about controlling your life as well. You sign pledges saying you can’t dance, watch tv, listen to secular music, go to movies, etc. I think it’s really about just making sure you stay pure to their way of thoughts honestly. I am sure there is more to it, but unless you are going into the ministry, I don’t see how going to one of these schools would be very helpful to your career. Everyone I knew who went to this school is a pastor, youth pastor, works in the church or Christian schools only, or married to the pastor etc.

    1. Critter*

      Oh, yeah, the college I went to wasn’t *just* a Bible college, but it may as well have been. We had those same pledges, too. They had a system set up where students who did all the things they were “supposed” to do and didn’t get in much trouble would be set up as “Prayer Captains” or “Assistant Prayer Captains,” and basically granted low-level authority over their other roommates. Oh, yeah, students weren’t allowed to choose roommates, either. And the thing about going in order to train as some kind of pastor or pastor’s wife? 100% true. The joke around campus was that most/all of the women were just there to get their “M-R-S degree.” (Eg, to get married and become a Mrs.)

    2. OyVey*

      Oooooo! I have a story! A lot of stories really but the “Mrs. Degree” comment above is relevant to my particular story.
      The school I went to had a high school division and a college division. At the time I went, the college was not accredited, though that has changed since I graduated. Anyway, we had a piano teacher who taught private piano lessons for high school credit (because you can do that sort of thing in a private school that doesn’t receive government funds) and because I took piano pretty seriously at the time, I took lessons diligiently and practiced a ridiculous number of hours a week. Until my Senior hear, that is. The summer leading into my senior year, I’d gone to State piano competition and done much better than I’d expected. Practiced hard, had big ambitions for my last year of high school eligibility.
      Walked into my first lesson of the year with the books I’d been using for a year or two years at that point. My teacher looked at me, frowned, and said “oh, you won’t need any of that this year.”
      I won’t?
      “You just need to bring your hymnal. You’ll be learning hymns and scales this year so next year [assuming I would move up to the college division] you’ll be ready to take organ lessons with Mr. X”
      But I wasn’t planning to take organ with Mr. X next year. I haven’t even decided if I’m coming back next year!
      “Oh, Mr X wants you as a student. You need to know all your scales though and learn at least 2 hymns a week.”
      But, I don’t want to play organ!
      “But don’t you want to be able to play organ in your husband’s church in a few years?”

      Let that sink in a moment.

      Dear Reader, 10 minutes into my first lesson of the year, I walked out and told the front office to take me off the piano lessons list. I did not marry into that school or church and in fact converted to a different faith before our five year reunion rolled around.

      1. MysteryFan*

        Too True! I went to a Southern Baptist small college (accredited at least) and dated a pre-ministerial major (we called them “preacher boys”)He was a very sweet, smart guy, but I recall so clearly, that when we started talking hesitantly around the future plans stage of the relationship, he said that it would be a problem for me to be a Minister’s wife, because I didn’t play the piano!

    3. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

      I went to a similar school, but non-denominational, for my first two years of college. I could mention the most famous alum, who recently died….

    4. Traveling Teacher*

      I contemplated going to a non-denomination Christian college. It was mega-expensive, for one, though, even with the massive scholarship they offered me (15k scholarship based on test scores, with the potential to get a lot more if I confirmed I was going there, but the sheer total cost unnerved me. What if I lost that scholarship???) They were actually pretty laid-back, in spite of the codes you had to commit to–those were lifestyle commitments, but they were pretty basic, not a giant list of dos and don’ts. No real restrictions on movies, music, etc. Many people going there were going with the express desire to become missionaries/go in to mission work, but the place is accredited and has plenty of degree options. Obligatory chapel multiple times per week, of course, plus community volunteering.

      The thing that rubbed me the wrong way, though, were some of the other people on the visit! (I stayed there overnight and participated in the campus life). Seemed to me that a lot of parents/potential students were there out of fear–fear of what a “hotbed of sin” secular college was, rather than going for the community/mission aspect. Plus, I felt uncomfortable with the fact that some of the students were getting shipped there by parents who would “only allow them to go to a Christian school.” Hmmm…

      I’m sure plenty of people enjoy that atmosphere for its own sake, but I decided that I didn’t want to lock myself away in a bubble (that’s what it felt like to me, personally, though it was a perfectly nice bubble). I wanted to live out my faith in the midst of everything, just as I always had during all my prior school years. And, there were plenty of other people who did the same on the campus I chose, of all different faiths, too.

      On a related note, I almost got school-switched to the “non-denominational” Christian school in my area when I was in middle school. It was during the homeschool mania/panic that was gaining ground in the 90s. Thankfully, when my parents and I went to visit, my mom saw their total crap science labs and “curriculum” and said, “No way.” Should be noted here: my parents are both Creationists, but they also believe in real education, thankfully.

      1. Miss Fisher*

        I started out at a small baptist school like I said above. All my friends also went to same church, so it was a small community. I ended up getting moved to a public school in 8th grade due to some money issues. I had been so sheltered, wasn’t allowed to watch tv etc, it was all a huge shock. I had never heard cursing, seen kids smoking, talking about sex etc. I am afraid I was somewhat of a mean person back then telling people they were going to hell etc, but really it’s all I had known at that time. I stayed pretty sheltered until I got to college and I even then in a Christian group realized I was told all kinds of things in church that weren’t necessarily true to even th bible, but what th church wanted you to believe. I actually stopped going to church for a long time until I found a non denominational one that really stresses religion is pant so great it’s your relationship with god to focus on. I wouldn’t have even had th opportunity to really grow and shape my own opinion if I had gone to that small bible school my dad is still disappointed I did not attend. He was so bad about my growth that at the time he had to ask his pastor what was wrong with my new church so he could get me to come back to his church. He was convinced it was some awful cult because they didn’t use the King James Version of the Bible.

  38. Bacon Pancakes*

    I am in Northern California and the Carr Fire is awful. I am about two hours south of Redding so in no danger (although this smoke is doing it’s best) and it is just terrible to see what is happening. If anyone is familiar with the Tubbs Fire last fall in Santa Rosa, Redding has almost been hit that bad.

    1. CAA*

      I’m so sorry for everyone in that area. My nephew, my brother’s ex-wife, and her family live in Redding. Everyone has been evacuated and they’re all safe, but SIL’s sister’s family lost their house and the others are still threatened.

      1. Bacon Pancakes*

        My friend’s sister lost everything.
        The photo of Mercy Hospital with the fire behind it is terrifying.

    2. KR*

      So sorry. I’m about 80 miles away from the Cranston fire and the desert sky is filled with smoke and ash wheras there normally isn’t a cloud to be seen all summer. It’s scary and depressing.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I keep praying you guys get the rain we are getting here in NY. CA needs it much more than we do.

      1. MamaCat*

        Sadly, in July it probably isn’t happening. We’re supposed to cool down to the mid-90s this week, so hopefully that helps things up north. South Sacramento here with lots of smoke filtering the air.

      2. Bacon Pancakes*

        Sadly, in this area if we get rain in July it is in the form of thundershowers which brings a lot of dry strikes and little moisture. Bad news.

    4. neverjaunty*

      It’s probably going to be nearly as bad as The Tubbs Fire by the time it’s done. They’re cutting a firebreak today, so hopefully that will help contain it.

      1. Friday*

        Yeah it’s definitely looking as bad. Hopefully people heed the evac warnings and get out of danger. It’s so smokey here in Sonoma county right now.

    5. Free Meerkats*

      I’ve been watching the fires and CALTrans site. In two weeks in making the drive down I5 and the alternate routes really add time. Here’s hoping things get better.

    6. Woodswoman*

      It feels like our whole freaking state is lighting up and it’s horrendous, with new fires announced today. While I’m personally safe in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is heartbreaking for so many, a tragedy for all who have lost loved ones and their homes.

  39. Marthooh*

    Book recommendation: Mary B. by Katherine J. Chen. Literary fiction, mildly dysfunctional family, cringe-out-loud funny. Pride and Prejudice as retold by Mary Bennet. I think it may have been recommended to me by someone here.

  40. George*

    Anyone have any tips for spending extended period of time with one’s in-laws? I’m fine for two to three hours but struggle with all day events and vacations.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I don’t typically spend that much time with my in-laws since they’re in-state, so if we get together it’s usually dinner out or something like that. But when I visit other people for a longer period of time I plan alone time for myself. I’m an introvert and need time to recharge. I’ll just take a walk, or go lay down in another room for a half hour and use that time to read (I read on my phone). You could volunteer to go to the store if anyone needs anything, or say YOU need something at the store and will be right back. If it’s a vacation, plan longer periods of time for yourself. When vacationing with my cousin last year, I would grab some tea and go out for a walk around the hotel property in the morning and afternoon just so I could be by myself for a bit.

    2. the gold digger*

      I took a handful of xanax with me the last time I had to stay with Primo’s mom and dad.

      I also tried to pretend I was an anthropologist in the field observing an alien species. I took a lot of notes.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      When we got together people took turns disappearing into books or taking naps.

      You know, though, I have done similar with family that I get along very well with. We’d watch tv together or find an movie we all agreed on. Sometimes getting out of the house and moving around lightens things up, so we’d go for ice cream or play mini-golf.

    4. epi*

      Make sure you even have to.

      There’s nothing wrong with splitting off for a walk or an errand or a separate day trip. Often in big groups like this, someone else will be relieved you suggested it even if they weren’t going to bring it up themselves. If you need a break, just take one. It would be deeply weird for people not to get it.

      Get your own space if you can, also. Get a hotel room and commit to going back to it in time to read in bed or something for a little bit and just enjoy being alone. Have your own transportation.

      Hopefully it goes without saying but if there is something specific about your in-laws that stresses you out, maybe your spouse shouldn’t expect you to go. Step down the involvement gradually until the visits feel good to you (whether it’s personal or just needing more space in general).

    5. Beatrice*

      Bring a book. Bring several, on a vacation.

      Have someone who is not your spouse who you can touch base with at least once a day – at a minimum, it lets you have a conversation with someone who is not an in-law. If your in-laws are banana crackers, it gives you someone who vent to about the crazy thing that just happened, so you can keep it together in front of your in-laws. In my experience, it’s easier on your marriage if this person is not your spouse. I have two friends and a sister – if my sister in law says something outrageous, I can usually raise one of them for an impromptu “omgggg” conversation.

      Do your own thing sometimes. For me, this looks like developing a reputation with my in-laws for just quietly slipping out for a walk by myself sometimes. I do it even when I don’t desperately need to, just to continue to establish it as a routine and unremarkable thing, so it passes without notice when I do desperately need it.

      Have strategies ready for taking breaks and getting out of conversations. I get up and help clear the table, go help with the dishes, leave things in my car that I might need to leave the house to retrieve, suddenly develop a need to take a completely unnecessary bathroom break, or just hear someone calling my name from another room.

      Make friends with another in-law, if you can. I have a brother-in-law who has not drunk the family kool-aid and occasionally looks absolutely miserable at family functions. Sometimes I snag him for a conversation. Sometimes I give him conspiratorial “WTF” looks over the dinner table when something dysfunctional happens that passes for normal in this family. We bail each other out if one of us gets cornered by the weird uncle.

      If you drink, and you’re a happy drunk, have a few. I save this one for get-togethers where nothing else is working.

    6. StudentAffairsProfessional*

      Ohhh, I can help with this. I have been living with my father in law for the past two months. He can be difficult to get along with and we have wildly different political views. And over the past year we have seen a LOT of my husband’s family due to a relative being sick then passing away so I had lots of practice with long family gatherings as well. Here are my tactics:

      1) Have a neutral and non-committal response for bizarre suggestions about your life. Ex “That’s interesting” “That’s a new way to look at it” “I’ll keep that in mind” “I hadn’t thought of that before” “Thanks for thinking of us” “Thanks for the suggestion” “That’s one way to think about it” etc.

      2) Have fresh and neutral conversation topics or questions at the ready for when things take a turn south and might be getting heated. The weather, a local event that is coming up, a new movie that is coming out that you are looking forward to seeing, a cute story about your dog, etc. I literally will just start a new conversation if things are getting weird and say something out of left field like “Peaches are just the best this time of year! My mom always made a great peach cobbler. Do you have any good peach recipes?” I also like to ask “Does anyone have any travel plans for (next season)?” and “What holiday are you looking forward to most?”

      3) Find a job or some way to busy yourself during down time when you otherwise are all just sitting around talking. I tend to do this in the kitchen. If I’m at a relative’s house I will offer to help with setting the table, dishes, cooking, sweep up, etc.

      4) Bring a game, puzzle or cards. This is what we did on Thanksgiving Day to pass the time while we waited for all the food to be ready at my husband’s Aunt’s house. You don’t have to be making personal conversation during a lot of these activities. We all played some sort of a family game like Telestrations or something after dinner that was pleasant enough and passed the time.

      5) If you’re on a vacation, take time for yourself every day. Each afternoon go take a walk or a nap by yourself to recharge. Drive to a Starbucks or offer to run an errand to the grocery store or something.

      6) Have a code word or emergency signal with partner when you are getting overwhelmed and let them help you escape. You could tug on your ear or something and then they can help you gracefully exit to take a break.

      7) Graceful conversation exiting: “My drink needs refreshing, excuse me.” “I’m need to excuse myself to the restroom” “I’m going to see if Aunt Miriam needs help in the kitchen” “I need to make a phone call for work”

      8) Have some stories that you’ve already got in the back of your head that you can share when you are asked “what’s new with you”. Something funny that your dog did, a house project you’re working on, something on the horizon at work, whatever. If you’ve thought of a few stories in advance you won’t feel panicked when you are put on the spot.

      9) Think of it as a gift you’re giving your partner. I am giving my partner the gift of being a lovely, pleasant and easy-to-get-along-with guest during this family gathering. I may not enjoy time with my partner’s family, but I love my partner and want to give him this gift.

  41. Indie*

    Calling those with serious food allergies! Or if your loved ones suffer. Your advice would be gratefully received.

    I keep seeing, in this space amongst others, a message along the lines of ‘I hate it when people have faddy food preferences about gluten/sea food/common allergen’ People have started to claim it is affecting how seriously people in the service industry take life-threatening allergies.

    So….I don’t eat wheat and I want to avoid being one of these people. I don’t have a formal diagnosis (just medical guidance) and it’s not life threatening. I have an intolerance that ranges from mild to severe depending upon how many meals/days I eat wheat. One meal does not have much effect, but I avoid eating it anyway as even just one burger bun can make for uncomfortable digestion. If I eat wheat for a few days I get a skin reaction. If I eat it full time I’m in great pain most of the time.

    So…I am a confusing customer. I don’t have to worry about cross contamination. I might want a starter from the non GF menu. I might want fries that have been cooked next to breaded things. If a sauce has a small amount of flour and ordering something has so far proved impossible I might sigh and say ‘fine’. I’m extremely lucky that it’s mild and I don’t want to forget the severely affected.

    So far I have made a point of saying ‘I am not severely allergic like SOME PEOPLE ARE’ but is this enough?

    1. Ali G*

      Are you pretty good at discerning what you can and can’t eat? I have a similar situation with lactose. I can’t eat cream sauce, but pizza or a cheeseburger won’t bother me. I can typically read a menu and know what I can’t eat, and if I need to I just ask questions to make sure.
      I guess what I am trying to say is, do you have to disclose your issue at all if you can pretty much manage it on your own?

      1. Indie*

        Yeah, I can totally do that sometimes; like if I’m going to a slightly nicer restaurant I’ll probably order a risotto, tomato based dish, stir fry or a slab of protein with veggies on the side. Even something like an Indian restaurant is easy; I just skip the naan.

        I think the problem comes in because I actually live a distance away from ‘nice places in the city’ and my partner and I are fond of grabbing a quick burger or pizza from Soulless Chain Place. If you’re going to order such items you have to order the GF bun (without a bun, it is not a burger) or pizza base. But they don’t seem to consider that GF people will want starters, or fries, or desserts and they get scared about cross contamination if you ask them. But those are all things I can get by with eating.

        1. Ali G*

          Oh I get it. Ordering the GF option opens the can of worms! I agree with Toots below on the phrasing. I think that would be helpful and put their minds at ease a bit, and make it easier on you too.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Yes, I think it’s enough. Honestly, though, I think you’re worrying too much.

      As someone who has celiac sprue, I find those criticisms of supposedly “faddish” food preferences infuriating. I mean, jeez, my MIL gets indigestion when she eats peppers, and nobody insists that she’s an awful person for trying to avoid them!

      Why do other people care so much about what other people don’t want to eat?

      I would say your phrasing is fine, or you could say, “Too much wheat doesn’t agree with me, so I really try to avoid it. Can you answer this question for me about this food?” (“doesn’t agree with me” is my MIL’s phrase of choice)

      Frankly, I think people like you actually RAISE awareness about people like me, so if you want to keep mentioning those of us w/ serious, hair-trigger reactions, that’s OK too.

      1. Indie*

        This makes me feel loads better! I like the ‘doesnt agree with me’ phrasing.

        I rolled my eyes the first time I heard it; but it’s been so persistent a complaint and it IS a serious matter.

        I think I’m extra sensitive because I started off with an ultra-faddy exclude-everything ‘clean’ diet until I found out what the culprit was by reintroducing foods. I was desperate and I didn’t even think diet could help, but it was months before my NHS appointment. Now, my doctor s thrilled that it’s being managed by something as side effect free as diet but before I saw him I felt like a bit of a desperado, especially with all the sneering you see about such diets.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Also, most of those criticisms are really less about the food issues themselves than about how many people handling them. Being polite but firm about whether something has wheat is waaaay different than loudly grilling the waitstaff and explaining to everyone in earshot why X food is sooo unhealthy and everyone should give it up.

        1. Hellanon*

          Yep. I generally just explain to people that “I love Food X but it doesn’t love me back” & remain firm. But my issues are not life-threatening; if they were, as a friend’s are, I certainly wouldn’t trust restaurants or party hosts to see to my need to avoid a deadly allergen.

      3. Observer*

        I agree. And in my experience, it’s just not true. Sure, you do get the occasional person who uses the “fad” as a “proof” that any given person is “just making it up” or the like. But when you dig deeper you inevitably find that it’s really someone who is using this “evidence” to bolster the idea they already have.

        People who “don’t believe in” allergies, food sensitivities etc. are not new. And they have always posed a risk to people with severe reactions.

    3. Chameleon*

      I think that ordering from the GF menu and mentioning to the waitstaff that it is mild and cross-contamination is not a concern wouldn’t cause a raised eyebrow. I think what mostly bothers waitstaff is when someone grills them on what does or does not have an allergen, then turns around and orders something full of that allergen despite being told that it contains that allergen. (e.g. taking 10 minutes to make sure that there aren’t any peppers in the sauce, then ordering the jalapeno nachos).

      I learned my lesson about telling waitstaff that I didn’t care about cross-contamination when I ordered a veggie burger at a counter-type grill once. My friends all got their food and had finished eating before mine was ready. When I asked why it took so long, they replied that they had to start up the other grill and it took a long time to heat, to avoid contaminating my burger with meat. Reader, I am not a vegetarian, I just wanted a veggie burger because they are tasty.

      1. Indie*

        Egads, the clean grill thing! Exactly the thing I want to avoid; scolding them for being considerate.

      2. Chameleon*

        I tried not to scold them, but I am sure the frustration in my voice seeped through when I told them I wasn’t vegetarian. I didn’t blame them but I wish they would have asked or at least let me know about the delay.

    4. many bells down*

      It’s not that weird, really. My whole family has celiac (it missed me, somehow!), as does my husband and son. My dad couldn’t handle any cross-contamination, and nor can the older of my brothers, but my sister can occasionally eat something with flour in it (like soy sauce) and be ok. My husband gets a skin reaction as well; dermatitis herpetiformis, but that will happe