{ 842 comments… read them below }

    1. Recovering Journalist...*

      That’s the trouble. I don’t know: I’ve done healthcare, which is okay. I’ve done retail and fast food years ago which are not for me.
      I suppose clerical is my best bet. I’m thinking of temping mainly as an opportunity to see what’s available.

      BTW, apologies if this thread would have been more available for a Friday post. It didn’t occur to me until this minute.

      1. Adele*

        Your background might make you suited to legal clerical: attention to detail, good with deadlines, precise with wording, etc. Many big firms will take people at entry level then accelerate them into higher positions once their subject-specific knowledge catches up with their general skills.

        Good luck with your search!

  1. Lena Clare*

    Hey all

    How are you doing? And what have you got planned this weekend?

    I’m going to a friend’s for tea and then we’re going to see that classic stalwart Christmas movie Aquaman >.<

    Tomorrow I'll be going and cleaning all day.

    1. WellRed*

      Cleaning, packing. Drop an actual gift off to wayward brother who’s had a craptastic year (of his own making). Headed to the Cape tommorrow. No work till Jan. 2!

    2. StellaBella*

      Doing good, enjoy the movie! I am cleaning and baking today. Today I was supposed to go on a short girls’ road trip with a friend but have yet to hear from her so will likely go tomorrow. Just a day out for lunch and a walk, as she is moving home to her native NZ next week sadly. I will miss her.

      Question for everyone: who else considers Die Hard a Christmas movie to watch on 24th December? I have been doing this since the late-90s when a college friend insisted … and now it is a tradition. Anyone else?

      Have a good weekend everyone! I hope the holidays go well for everyone, if you celebrate or if you don’t. I am going snow shoeing on my own as most friends are gone and I live far away from family – am in EU and they are in USA. I hope it’s a good last few days of 2018 and each of us goes in to 2019 ready to slay.

      1. Weekend Visit*

        I watch Die Hard while I wrap presents, that is my Christmas tradition. Die Hard is the best Christmas movie ever!

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Lol… Iron Man 3 has all sorts of Christmas references. ..and I’m only at the start.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Verdict: Iron Man 3 is TOTALLY a Christmas movie. Right down to inappropriate presents. :)

      2. Windchime*

        Uh, yeah, it’s definitely a Christmas movie. I’ll probably watch it with my son again this year. (Last night was “Love Actually”. Not sure what I’ll watch tonight).

        We had our annual family party a few weeks ago so the holiday will be quiet this year. I’m taking all of next week off. My (adult) kids are coming over tomorrow for an afternoon of snacks and music and supper, and that will pretty much wrap up (ha, ha) the holidays for me!

      3. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        We watch it after opening gifts and with desert chocolates on Christmas Day (we open at night). Started that 4 years ago when we were in an interesting Christmas situation and since we don’t travel to family, it works out great for us.

    3. Vendelle*

      I am all dressed and ready to go and sing my first concert with my new choir. I’m pretty nervous, but determined to enjoy it. :)

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      We are getting last minute things together to drive to the beach, where we will enjoy a week of doing basically nothing. Well, my partner will write a lot, and I will take an hour to do some volunteer work, and his dad will come for Christmas, but there will be lots of reading and napping and walks on a cold beach. We did this last year and it was heaven.

      The poor dog is freaking out. He doesn’t like it when I pack up the car. I remind him that he’s coming with us, but for some reason, he just doesn’t get it. :) Silly pooch.

    5. Jane of All Trades*

      Oh fun! I just got to the hotel where we are planning on having a stress free Christmas. Currently relaxing at the pool, just finished having tea. Hoping to make this a new Christmas tradition! Country side, spa hotel, no mandatory visits with whoever.

    6. Jaid_Diah*

      Was gonna do laundry today, but I can’t reload the card for the building’s machines until Monday. I figure I’ll be a bum today, then tomorrow and Monday, go to some flea markets.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      Work was all tucked away by late Wednesday afternoon, after a frantic week finishing two late (from other people to me) projects that finally showed up at the same time. While erranding and dog-walking Thursday it crawled back out of its grave as my boss tried to find some people who could rescue another project. (I think a new freelancer told him “uh, yeah, I haven’t started the thing due today. Is that a problem?”) So I am doing That Friday Thread Thing.

    8. Justme, The OG*

      I saw Mary Poppins Returns yesterday (loved it) and today I read a book and am volunteering with a local church (not mine) to prep a holiday meal for people experiencing homelessness.

    9. ThatGirl*

      We’re being Christmasy and packing, we fly to Florida tomorrow. Please send good thoughts that our dog will behave in the airport and on the plane. (He’s a very good dog but we’ve never flown with him before)

    10. Snow Drift*

      I had a mile-long list of last-minute Christmas chores to do this weekend. Instead I just got home from a funeral for a friend in his forties who had a freak brain aneurysm, so I’m angry and listless and wasting time online.

      Fuck 2018. I can’t wait for this year of endless misery to be over.

    11. I work on a Hellmouth*

      Dude, I saw an advanced screening and Aquaman is GREAT! It really leans into the weird and the goofy inherent in Aquaman. If you’re a comics fan, it’s probably the best DC movie in a while (and if you’re not a comics fan, it’s still super fun and SUPER pretty).

      1. Red Reader*

        I thought it was a hoot. First of the DC movies I’ve actually enjoyed. I saw a negative review that pointed out that the best parts of the movie were Dolph Lundgren with pink hair riding a seahorse and an octopus playing the bongos, I didn’t agree with most of the review, but those two bits were definitely entertaining.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      Traveling a bit so I’ll wait until I get back to clean, unless I decide to do it tomorrow morning. I actually want to write tonight. I just finished wrapping the last presents.

    13. thankful for AAM.*

      Working Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Plans are to do nothing after work! I do need to cook a bit.

    14. The Other Dawn*

      Trying to get up the ambition to bake, although that’s not going well at the moment.

      I’ll be headed to the store in a few minutes to get bread for a french toast casserole I’m making for Tuesday morning. Rather than doing a big dinner this year, my sister is making a Christmas breakfast. Totally dreading a run to the store; however, it’s early here so the store shouldn’t be crowded yet.

      Then I do a little batch cooking while I catch up on Christmas movies. (Where does the time go??)

    15. Bluebell*

      Waiting for a vacation foster puppy! Very exciting. Last night husband and I watched Pooka on Hulu. Much better than I expected. If you liked Colossal, this is the same director.

    16. Phoenix Programmer*

      If you haven’t you have to see Spiderman into the spider verse. It is hands down the best super hero movie ever.

    17. Just about had it*

      Not sure. Have spent the night having some kind of anxiety attack. At my elderly mother’s house and her mental acuity seems to be going right downhill. Haven’t slept in 24 hours, so mine is too. So frightened and sad and jetlagged, feeling unsupported by husband (who has never liked her). He’s at least at a hotel with the kids, asleep. Feeling like I’ll be stuck here trying to sort out her situation past Christmas. There’s no money for her to go into a home. Wish I was back in (country with national health care), where we live but mom lives in the states. I have an autistic son and a transgender child – I would like to catch a break from the worrying for a while! When does life get better? Is there a time when the worry and stress decreases? Can anyone offer any hope?

      1. I work for a non profit*

        I’m so sorry you’re going through a bad time at the moment.
        I don’t know what to say to make it feel better, but I hear you and I’m sending you peace and best wishes for some respite soon.

  2. WellRed*

    Last night I told friends I need to get my act together financially since I will be 50 next December. That includes a new * but also wrangling credit card and student loan debt (I am in a precarious situation). I figured naming it will help me stay more accountable to myself. Question: they all seem to think student loans can be re-fied, but I think that’s not true. ( graduated in 2000, owe about 10k). Any one know?

    1. MindoverMoneyChick*

      It can sometimes be consolidated and refied. If you have good credit check on SoFi to see if you can get a better rate than what you have. But unless you are really getting a better rate there isn’t usually a good reason to do it. Don’t let it extend the tome to repay as that will cost you more in the long run.

      I’ve seen clients do that with other types of debt and it’s slmost always a mistake.

      1. Dan*

        If OP is in a “precarious” financial state as indicated, something could be said for extending the repayment period, even if the rate doesn’t change. Yes, OP will pay more in total interest, but if the choice is between not being able to pay all of the bills every month and paying more in total interest, the later is likely the better option.

        Specifically with regard to SoFi — about a year or so ago, I tried to refi my student loans through them, and they didn’t even pull my credit report when offering me a refi plan. I called them to double check, and they said that’s the way they do things.

        SoFi wanted to refi my loans at a rate 2% points higher than I was already paying. Nope!

        BTW, those teaser rates they advertise are just that… teasers. It’s not clear to me who actually qualifies for the really low ones.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Without knowing too many details, I say get yourself to a credit union. Talk to them. I know my CU has signs up advertising help with student loans. They helped me refi my house at a bad time in my life. I reduced my mortgage payment by 55% and I am still in the house years later. They saved my butt all these years. I am a big fan of talking with professionals and in person. I read stuff online or in ads and I tend to think I won’t qualify. Talk to a live professional is my best thought here.

      1. WellRed*

        Hmm. I did a credit card loan consolidation through my credit union. They didn’t suggest anything with the student loan.

    3. fposte*

      I believe most can be refinanced–what you can’t do is discharge them in bankruptcy (I bet that’s what you were thinking of).

      It took me a while to figure out the *; that was pretty funny :-).

      1. The Redshirt*

        In Canada, student loans can be discharged in a bankruptcy (or consumer proposal or Orderly Payment of Debt). Provided that the loan is more than seven years old. Though I’m not sure about debt repayment options in America.
        We also have something called the Repayment Assistance Plan (RAP) to help students out of precarious situations.

          1. Phoenix Programmer*

            Same with medical debt. The two things that Americans are most likely to be bankrupted over.

    4. Damn it, Hardison!*

      One thing to be aware of if you refinance through a bank or credit union is that you might lose the ability to defer the payments on the loan or have multiple payment plans, which can come in handy if you lose you job or have other financial issues. I refinanced my husband’s student loans through our credit union and got the interest rate cut from 7.4% to 4.35%. I was comfortable doing it because we only have 3 years left to pay (we’ve been doubling the payments) and if one of us loses our job, we have savings we can use to pay it each month.

      So, basically it can be a good deal with respect to interest rate, but be aware you may be giving up some options.

    5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Assuming you’re American, have you looked into income based repayment plans? I don’t know all the details of them but it helped me a lot. My payments have been zero for a few years but I am still in repayment status.

    6. LuchaLibra*

      Please do yourself a favor and check into the financial peace methods advocated by Dave Ramsey. Three years ago, I got serious about my financial life and by using his teachings I was able to pay off ALL my debt, including my mortgage and two cars. I now live debt free and am able to save like crazy. I am now 51, so I can tell you it’s not too late to get your act together. It does require you to be disciplined and organized, but it is SOOO worth it

    7. Harriet M. Welsch*

      I refied my student loan two years ago through Earnest and it has been a good experience thus far. Lowered my interest rate by 1.5% and shortened my repayment period. IIRC, I will save approx $20k over the remaining life of the loan. Customer service has been helpful, when needed.

    8. Phoenix Programmer*

      For credit card debt – look into 0 APR introductory rates on new cards. Hubby and I have been transferring between three cards now the past 3 years and got our debt down 33% that way. We couldn’t beat the 3% one time fee with refis and best of all we were still free to not do a debt pay down in one off months. This Christmas is a great example. Between medical issues and presents we didn’t have the extra $$$ we throw at CC pay down. It’s nice to have that flexibility as long as you can be diligent most of the time.

  3. Jessen*

    Ok, my problem with holiday wrapping?

    I am utterly incapable of keeping track of scissors, tape, ribbon, and tags and all that for more than 5 minutes. ARGH!

    1. StellaBella*

      I can keep track of all of those things but can’t wrap worth a dang. It ALWAYS looks like it was done by an 18-month old who just stuck tape to crinkled paper, all crooked, all over.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Hi, are you me? When I wrap a gift it looks like it was done by an elephant.
        Starting to get the hang of rectangular/cubic presents, though.

          1. Natalie*

            Team gift bags. Most of our wrapping paper was ruined in a small basement flood a few years ago and I’ve replaced none of it. I hate wrapping.

      2. MsChanandlerBong*

        I’m a terrible wrapper. My solution is to only buy square/rectangular gifts. If I have to buy something oddly shaped, it goes in a gift bag!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Use a tray? As you are finished with each item put it back on the tray. I have also gone with wrapping on the bed and using the nearby dresser for tools and supplies.

    3. Lcsa99*

      Keep multiple sets in multiple places so you always have at least one set you can find. Also helps if they are all contained so maybe put it all in a big ziplock if it fits.

      If you are just losing stuff while you’re wrapping … well all you can do is make sure stuff you aren’t wrapping is out of the way. So if you are doing it on the dining room table make sure there are no placemats, center pieces, piles of old mail, or whatever. So you have one gift, the one specific roll of paper, tape, tag and a pen. When that one gift is done you put it out of sight and put the next gift on the table.

      Good luck! I actually love wrapping gifts. The only problem this year is that all of our paper is very glittery and leaves glitter everywhere! (Which is also kinda awesome)

      1. Jessen*

        Ah yeah, small apartment. So I honestly can’t think of a place in here that’s “out of the way” – the only flat surface other than the floor is my combined eating/computer desk. I’m not exactly what you’d call organized to begin with. I’m working on it but it’s a pain and it seems like it’s almost impossible to actually remember the things you’re supposed to do to keep track of things.

        1. Lcsa99*

          The floor works! Or you can put everything on the desk on to the floor under the desk until you’re done.

          1. GhostWriter*

            I use the floor. I just make sure to vacuum it first (otherwise I end up getting hair or fuzzies trapped under tape on the presents at some point).

            I have one of those vertical wrapping paper storage containers to keep my stuff organized. It has an extra compartment on the top to store scissors, gifts tags, tape, etc.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I get out a mixing bowl and make that THE place where the tools get put down. I used to use a box, and then a box almost ended up in the trash can.

      1. Cathy*

        I have one of these and whizzed through the first part of the wrapping. Then the tape roll ran out, and when I went to replace it I realised the rolls I had bought are the tiniest fraction of an inch the wrong size so don’t fit.

    4. strangebuttrue*

      I can wrap just about anywhere. A sturdy cardboard box can work as a wrapping surface while sitting on the bed. I just did mine using an UGG’s box. I always misplace things. The scissors and tape get buried under paper, pillows, my legs. Just finished making a pillow and lost the scissors. I found them in the pillow cover. Now if I can just find the seam ripper. And when my mother passed I took most of her scissors. Wish I had taken them all. Even with about 10 scissors I am always looking for a pair. Getting a little better as I have found a spot (that I don’t need for anything else) that most fit in. It only took 30+ years.

      1. Llellayena*

        My problem is that I have multiple pairs of sewing scissors but only one pair I use on paper. Remembering where I put that set is really frustrating when i’m staring at the other three pairs that I can’t use!

    5. Sorcha*

      I swear by my wrist-mounted tape dispenser for wrapping – not having to wrestle with Sellotape is so much better! I also wrap everything in paper first then do ribbons and bows and toppers once the paper is out of the way, to avoid having to juggle too many moving parts at once.

      1. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

        I wrap on the bed. I have a big cutting board and a box for tape, scissors, ect. It’s much more comfy to do than the floor.
        Also, it forces me to clean up, so I can sleep!

      2. only acting normal*

        My mother likes to do that, but she’ll forget which present is which so putting the labels on (and unwrapping later) is a bit pot-luck. :)

        1. Red Reader*

          Haha, last year I had a present I forgot to label at the time of wrapping. It ended up labeled “to either Husband or Housemate A,” because I had wrapped it while watching movies with Housemate B, but it turned out that I had in fact wrapped one of B’s presents while he was in the room trusting him to not notice.

          1. Aurora Leigh*

            My mom once labeled a present twice! One end was marked mor my sister and one end for me. Luckily we were out of high school by the point so we just thought it was funny and still give her a hard time about it.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Mine, too! They love to get into the supply box and play with the bows. I have one that likes to tunnel under things, so he’s all into the tissue paper.

        Related to wrapping with cats–it was great fun trying to wrap a big gift for my husband last night with the cats around. I got him one of those really big, premium coolers for camping and the thing is not only huge, but heavy. There was no way I was lugging it from the car, up to the spare bedroom for wrapping and then back down under the tree. I wrapped it in the room where I have the tree. That thing was like a magnet for one of the cats, Bailey. Every time I turned around for just a second, he climbed back up onto the box. I’d put him on the couch, turn around to grab the tape, boom–he was back on the box. I eventually got it done, but I must have moved him at least 10 times.

        1. Not a cat*

          This is going to sound mean but the only way I can get my clever meezer, Derby to leave me alone is to put a piece of masking tape (which has been made less sticky than normal) on his paw.

    6. Aphrodite*

      Get out a large cooking pot, place it on the table you are using to wrap gifts and put the scissors, tape, tags, ribbon, etc. in there. If you take the tape out to use it, put it back immediately. This will take more time and movements but you won’t get frustrated, wondering where that dang *$^$^%&*()_! went.

    7. Aurora Leigh*

      Me too!! I bought a 3 pack of tape and ended up with all of them open at one point.

      I love wrapping, and I’m decently good at it. Told my boyfriend to wrap my presents while I was at work the other day and he texted me that he did it but it looked like they were wrapped by “a drunk 5 year old who was taught how by a heroin addicted ape” lol.

    1. MsChanandlerBong*

      Exciting! It’s coming to my city in June, and I got a ticket as part of my Broadway in [City] subscription package. I was thinking about skipping it, but if you think it was really good, maybe I will go! (For the Broadway package, if you want to subscribe and have first pick of seats, you have to subscribe to the whole series, not just a few shows. I really only wanted to see The Sound of Music, Cats, and Kinky Boots, but it was cheaper to get tickets for all six shows as a subscriber than to buy individual tickets for the three shows I wanted.)

  4. Loopy*

    Going to a Lindsey Stirling concert today (!!!!) And crazy excited.

    The venue has a clear bag policy and I don’t have a clear bag. Any tips for securing necessities to my person? I have a dress with pockets but would love any advice on my making sure things don’t fall out.

    1. fposte*

      Are you opposed to getting a clear bag? One-gallon ZipLocs are popular at our football games, and then you have 14 more (or whatever) for use in the kitchen.

      1. Loopy*

        I don’t really want to be holding on to a ziplock bag the whole time, more opposed to the lack of strap with that option!

        1. Lcsa99*

          Make one! Use packing tape. Just do two strips of tape, one longer than the other. the shorter one can go on the back of the longer one so you have two ends to stick to the bag.

          It makes sense in my head but I am pretty sure I didnt make sense here. Hope you get the picture anyway!

          1. fposte*

            I used to do that to haul boxes onto public transportation–with strapping tape, you can manage to carry 40-50 pound boxes around. It is really hard to describe but very simple to do.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I am now imagining the possibilities of DIYing a handle and reinforced border out of duct tape.

          2. Loopy*

            That would have been a great idea/option but I didn’t have the time. I posted, intending to take a quick look while rushing around yesterday and barely had time for that! But in the future I’ll try and remember it :)

      2. chi chan*

        Look around because you might have clear plastic toiletries bags that can be used. Mesh bags you can see through are also an option.

    2. gecko*

      ID, cash, and a credit card inside your phone case—like take out your phone, put that stuff in the back, and put your phone back in—it warps the case but one night probably won’t kill it. Or cash in your bra if it’s too bulky for your phone. Necessary keys looped onto a hair tie that can go either in your pocket or on your wrist.

      Also I’ve found most dress pockets to be pretty secure, more so than the shallow pockets on “girl” jeans; but it’s true that if you’re planning on bopping around a lot, stuff might get shaken out. Have fun!!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This key trick intrigues me. I’m such a bumbling yeti of a girl that I just put my keys in a sock and drop them in my bra. Then do the same with my phone. Until I just gave up and got a runners belt. It’s basically a fanny pack with only enough space for phone and keys.

        1. gecko*

          It’s a good trick! I only really use it for like one night at a time since it can otherwise get kinda uncomfortable on my wrist. It’s nice to have it right on my wrist so I know it’s not lost though :)

          Basically you thread a hair tie through the hole on a key so it looks like an 8 with the key in the middle. Thread loop A through loop B and pull on loop A, so loop B ends up small & tight against the key and you can put your wrist through loop A.

    3. AliceBD*

      I got an offer for $20 off tickets to a concert of hers in my town last week but it was still too much for a last-minute (3 days before) purchase the week before Christmas. I’m jealous! Have fun!

    4. AnonyNurse*

      Bring a rain coat or other jacket with zipper pockets. Put everything you need in them. Zip them up. If internal pockets don’t zip, use safety pins or paper clips. Ziplock bags can also be great. But I usually bring a jacket anyway and those pockets hold a lot more than the size bags that are allowed.

    5. Loopy*

      Thanks everyone! I posted with the intention of having more time than I did to implement suggestions, oops! Turns out I ended up having a jacket I wasn’t planning on wearing with zippered pockets and sat more than I expected too, so it all worked out.

      The show was phenomenal, I can’t say enough about her live show. Ticket prices are steep (my ticket was an xmas gift, I originally passed them up due to cost) but it’s truly a complex production and the cost reflects the level of what you get for sure. I was BLOWN away and went from being a fan of her work to really truly admiring and respecting her dedication and creativity on the next level. The whole experience was phenomenal and she has amazing fans. She was noticeably sick and had to cancel pre-show VIP events to go to a doctor and the VIP ticket holder fans (I was one) took it so well, even when it was really terribly mismanaged. People had paid anywhere form 200-400 dollars per ticket for the special tickets but everyone kept their spirits and excitement up and she gave 200% during the show despite her noticeable cough/hoarse throat.

      However, tour management people- don’t leave us standing outside in the cold for hours when we planned on access to bathrooms at the very least! Still no idea why they kept us locked out of the building when VIP activities (even though they were cancelled) should have had us in the building. I could go on about they many ways they really failed to treat us decently in the situation but I would hate for that to take away from what a great show it was!

  5. Paquita*

    Just found out our neighbor died. :( She went on vacation with family, had a heart attack and died in her sleep. We were getting her mail and paper, and keeping an eye on the house. She never married or had kids. Not a good family Christmas vacation!

    1. fposte*

      While that’s a bummer for those around her, I can think of worse ways to go than in my sleep on vacation with family.

      1. Paquita*

        True. She was starting to have (more) health issues and had fallen several times recently. DH and I had been discussing calling the nephew because we didn’t think she should be living alone any more. No more worries about that! Her mom and my grandmother were good friends. (We now live in grandparents house. After they died all my siblings lived here at some point.)

        1. fposte*

          It sounds like she was lucky to have you guys looking out for her; it probably enabled her family to be more peaceful about her staying in her home, too.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m sorry for your loss! At least she was with her loved ones while hopefully having a lovely time. Much better than alone in her home IMHO.

  6. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

    Hey!

    I think I saw someone on here (I can’t find the user) that was interested in making games. Anyone interested in collaborating on something simple? I’m working in Unity and some Renpy, but I’m willing to learn other engines. Mostly a fantasy/sci-fi/romance type gamer, definitely a programmer and not an artist. :)

    I’m hoping teammate(s) will help with the “getting it out the door” part. There’s a lot more to learn/do when you work alone than when you work in a team. Initial setup, great! Finishing at 80%–harder!

  7. Teapot Translator*

    I still need to buy a Christmas gift for a gift exchange. I think it’s called white elephant gift exchange? To avoid waste, my family decided that each adult in the family would buy only one gift. It has to be gender-neutral because we don’t know who our recipient is. I’d like to have an idea of what I want to buy before I go out, though. I don’t want to buy a gift card because I don’t like receiving gift cards.

    1. WellRed*

      A white elephant is usually something not so great from around y our house. Are you sure that’s what you are participating in?

    2. Reba*

      If it is a White elephant, do you know if the gifts are supposed to be serious/nice or silly? It sounds like “nice,” but people have different ideas about this!

      In white elephants I’ve done lately, the things that got the most attention were a potted plant (arrangement of succulents, easy houseplant) and nice scented candles.

      If it’s for family members so you are aware of any potential food issues, I think treats or something like a local honey or jam are always good.

      1. Teapot Translator*

        I think I had the wrong term! It’s a serious gift exchange, but we just don’t know who the recipient is in advance.

        I hadn’t thought of a plant. That could be a good idea. Thank you!

              1. fposte*

                I like that! Plus people could do piratespeak, which is the sort of cheesy annoyance that is perfect for holidays.

      2. LizEnFrance*

        My sister was just the recipient of a really cheap and tasteless “white elephant”-type gift at what was supposed to be a Secret Santa gift exchange, and it kind of ruined her already terrible day, so yeah, definitely don’t mix those two things up! (Toilet Golf. Great white elephant gift. Not so great otherwise.)

    3. Rhymes with Mitochondria*

      Is there a price limit?
      Could you do passes to a play, museum or some other experience?
      A book?
      I feel for you! Trying to buy a gift that will really be appreciated (as opposed to a joke gift) is near impossible when you don’t know who it’s for!

      1. Teapot Translator*

        We have a $50 price limit (Canadian dollars). I’ll check the museums’ websites. I hadn’t thought of that, thank you.

        Yeah, I want to give a thoughtful gift that will either be appreciated by the recipient or their spouse (the advantage of couples).

        1. Jen in Oregon*

          Oooohh!! Iwould get a bottle of Empress 1908 gin! It’s bright blue, almost purple because it’s made with pea flower. When you mix it with anything citrus, it turns a dreamy pink. It sounds gimmick-y, but it’s actually a really balanced London dry gin. I’m going to be begging people to get bottles for me every time I hear someone is going to Canada, at least until I can buy it at home.

    4. Sally*

      Budget?

      White elephant is meant to be a bit of a game I think, so I would aim for something very safe but luxury (expensive spirits? sofa blanket?) or something very silly but festive (turkey hat? Santa suit?) – then if you see something unique while you’re shopping you can choose that instead.

      1. Teapot Translator*

        I did think of alcohol because it can be easily re-gifted. That’s another part of my strategy : if the person doesn’t like their gift, can they easily re-gift it?
        I’d love to get a sofa blanket.
        Thanks for the ideas. I’ll keep them in mind.

    5. Newbie*

      For our family gift exchange, I purchased a phone battery charger and some phone cleaning wipes. Last year’s gift was a yeti cup and a Starbucks gift card.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        A power brick (external battery) is universal to any phone or e-reader. Just change cables.

      2. LJay*

        Phone battery charger and Yeti cup are both things I’ve seen in white elephant exchanges that were well received.

        Also, a waterproof bluetooth speaker.

    6. Llellayena*

      If you’ve got a $50 limit you might be able to get a good handcrafted item. A handcrafted wood bowl or other *useful craft item usually has good appeal. Depending on your area you might still be able to find a craft fair before Christmas. Also, small town local shops often have locally made items.

      1. Teapot Translator*

        There’s a Christmas market about a 10-minute walk from my house. I just need to convince myself that I want to get out of the house. :-D And there’s a flower shop on the way, which might have local products. The plan is to go to those places first; if I don’t find anything, ask myself how much energy I have, then choose the next destination.

    7. SignalLost*

      Know your family. We do a white elephant in my family that is deadly serious and not a joke at all. One person has been sitting out for several years because she can’t cope with the thought that not every gift is exactly to her taste and for her. Every year, someone does “stuff from around the house” and it is not well received. I generally do food, but we say we have a ten-dollar budget when in practice it’s more like twenty five.

    8. Madge*

      At our family exchange one year a small day pack was the most coveted item by men and women. My husband also has an awesome inflatable camping pillow that doubles as a travel pillow. You could also get a set of compact, cloth shopping bags.

      1. Windchime*

        We had one of those swap-type exchanges one year and the gift I gave was a Vera Bradley tote bag. For those who don’t know, Vera Bradley bags are quilted fabric, usually in bold floral prints. I got a more subdued print, but it was still definitely more feminine. My oldest son stole it from someone and was planning to use it as an ammo bag for when he goes to the gun range.

    9. Aphrodite*

      How about a Pizza Help Kit. Gather as many of the following ingredients as you like (or add any you think are missing) and nestle into a basket with a bottle of Chianti.

      Pizza rounds (Trader Joe’s has great ones)
      Pasta sauce, pesto, peanut sauce, tapenade, roasted red pepper spread, gremolata, barbecue sauce, etc.
      Sun-dried tomatoes
      Fresh garlic
      Olives, ideally pitted ones
      Olive oil
      A jar of sliced jalapenos, pepperoncinis or banana peppers
      Red pepper flakes
      Mozzarella and/or parmesan, goat, gorgonzola cheese(s)
      Red onion
      Basil
      Frozen meatballs
      Applewood bacon
      Salami
      Smoked ham
      Italian sausage
      Artichoke hearts (bottled)
      Mushrooms and/or seasonal vegetables

    10. Lena Clare*

      Like a secret Santa thing?

      A Christmas mug with different flavours of hot chocolate in it.
      Themed gifts, like miniature bottle of gin and candle and chocolate (Can be enjoyed by all in the bath :D)
      Something for the kitchen, e.g crock pot slows cooler, or spiralizer.
      A day out anywhere.
      A ‘voucher’ from you to the recipient fiir work in the house (could be chores or gardening or going to the tip or DIY whatever)

    11. Windchime*

      Yeti insulated cups are always popular. They’re a step above other insulated cups, in my opinion. And you can get them anywhere, like at your local hardware or sporting goods store.

    12. Bazinga*

      How about a bottle of wine or two and nice wine glasses? With a blanket, sort of like a night in gift basket? Or coffee, mugs and a blanket? Toss some snacks in too?

      1. Pear*

        How about a shadow box – like a framed box you put memories of a good trip – concert ticket stubs, play programs, sports memorabilia?

        I also love the sofa blanket idea.

  8. Reba*

    Lucky foods — We are having a get together on NYE and I want to serve foods that are eaten for good luck around the world. I’ve got black-eyed peas and long noodles on the menu. I heard something about round foods…?

    Anyone have any ideas, or a neat culinary new year tradition of your own?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      When I was in Spain on NYE, there was something about eating 12 grapes as the clock struck midnight. Make sure they’re seedless.

    2. ElspethGC*

      Not *inherently* a food that is eaten for good luck, but my family has always stuck with the old Christmas pudding tradition where there’s a silver coin somewhere in it (traditionally a sixpence, now a 5p or 10p) and getting the coin means good luck for the following year.

      1. ElspethGC*

        Just noticed the New Year’s element – well, it’s for Christmas (or, traditionally, pagan midwinter – yay for co-opted traditions?) but what’s a week between friends?

        1. Reba*

          Ha. Yes, I do like the idea of a prize in the pudding. I’ve never done that but was thinking about cake, so this could be fun!

    3. Mrs. Fenris*

      Collard greens are traditional in the South. Except my dad hated collard greens so we never had them, so in turn I never make them either.

    4. Sled dog mama*

      My family always did ham, collard greens, black-eyed peas and fried cornbread for New Years dinner. Each element represents success in an area of your life in the coming year, the only one I remember is collard greens represented money.b

      1. PhyllisB*

        We always have black-eyed peas for New Year’s. Tradition holds that for every pea you eat, is a dollar you will earn in the new year. I think this needs to be adjusted for inflation. :-) I also do a big dish of mac n cheese, cornbread, coleslaw and greens. I get it ready by 11:00 and folks can eat at will all day long.

    5. Earthwalker*

      Pickled herring. It’s supposed to bring good luck in the New Year but I always feel lucky if I have pickled herring.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Lunar New Year dumplings.
      And my mom took the Christmas tree pickle tradition to be an excuse to splurge on the good pickles to eat. :)

    7. LGC*

      Not suggesting this, but you just reminded me of my own childhood.

      My mom and grandmother used to make chitlins on New Year’s for good luck. (I’ll let you Google what they are if you’re not in the know, but basically…pig tripe.) We’d end up going to some random butcher in Newark to get them (my mom would sometimes take me along for the ride).

      Then she would cook them. The smell was…not great! We lived in a duplex when I was growing up and I would run upstairs and shut my bedroom door when she started cooking. My mom was kind of offended by this, IIRC. (For my part, this is about 25 years on and I still vividly remember this.)

      Eventually, I think she worked on a way to reduce the odor (more lemon juice, I think) and I got less…sensitive. I still don’t think I could eat them, though – like even other tripe dishes are a no-go for me because of that.

    8. Susan Ryan*

      Be sure to put a dime in the black eyed peas. This is a tradition from the 20’s in Van Leer Tennessee that brings prosperity.

    9. Lemon Whirl*

      My mom’s family was from Slovenia. My grandmother’s superstition about NYE and NY Day food was that it had to be pork – no chicken or turkey, the idea being that if you ate poultry, you’d be scratching in the dirt for sustenance all year. (My grandmother also had this thing where the first person in her door on NY Day had to be a man. So my dad always had to go over there because she took it super-seriously.)

      On NYE, we always had pork, sauerkraut, and spaetzel. On NY Day, we had the leftovers :)

    10. Maggie*

      From our German roots we always eat cabbage on New Years. You usually eat sauer kraut with a coin in it, and whoever finds the coin gets good luck. Kids usually get cole slaw.

  9. gecko*

    Does anyone here weave? I’d like to learn how, and I’m considering a two-day class to start out. I’m curious what the start up costs / material costs are like, if you’ve tried it and found it too tedious or whatever, if it’s your favorite thing, if it’s super hard to learn on your own…etc :)

    Or if you have some fiber arts project you’re working on that’s totally unrelated to weaving use this as an opportunity to talk about how that’s going, I’d love to hear about it!

    1. Penguin*

      I’m a novice weaver! Beginning materials are pretty cheap (although that will vary by location- I’m in the Northeast US). You can teach yourself the process on basic knitting yarn that’s $1-2 per hundred yards. Tools are a bit more varied, and it depends on the size/style of weaving. A basic hand weaving frame is pretty cheap- probably under a $100, although that might only be online. A tabletop loom is more- anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a thousand, although if you wanted to refurbish an old/used one you can find them on places like Ebay for $100 or less. A floor loom will cost you at least $1,000 new, but if you can find someone unloading one on Craigslist you can get a perfectly serviceable one for the cost of a tabletop loom.

      Teaching yourself is pretty doable with an instruction book, but learning from an instructor might be easier since you can ask questions. The website Craftsy has at least one intro weaving video course that I’ve found really helpful (and apparently it’s on sale for $20 now!).

      My suggestion (feel free to disregard it!) would be to sign up for a one- or two-day class with a local in-person instructor who provides the equipment needed, and see whether you like it. Hopefully they’d be able to put you in touch with the local weaving community and/or give you a good idea of local costs.

      1. gecko*

        Thank you! That’s all really helpful. I think I’ll probably sign up for a class to start—there’s a decently priced one that’s close enough to me, and it looks like they lend you a hand loom for the duration.

    2. Llellayena*

      Ooo! I’ve been wanting to learn to weave but I don’t think I should pick up another expensive hobby, I’m already up to my ears with quilting. Though I did just finish binding the quilt for my great aunt that I’ve talked about here before (it’s gorgeous!). I’ve got one more quilt (baby sized) to bind before Christmas. Here’s to the last minute crafting rush! Yay deadlines!

      1. gecko*

        Haha I know that feeling! I’ve definitely gotten way invested in a hobby before and then been like…whoops, well I’m not going to put any more time into this :)

    3. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

      I started weaving with round looms a few years ago. It’s fun and relaxing! They were suggested as a good way to start out. I found some very good ‘how too’ videos on YouTube. I’m a very visual learner, and I just LOVE YouTube!

    4. Narcoleptic Juliet*

      You should look into rigid heddle weaving. The looms are much more affordable than table and floor looms, and they are much easier to warp up. You don’t have as many options for patterened weaves as on a multi-shaft loom, but many of them can be approximated with double heddles and pickup sticks.

      1. gecko*

        Thank you! That’s a good call. I should probably see how much I like it before getting super ambitious about patterns and tapestries and so forth.

    5. Can’t eat sandwiches*

      My mom is a weaver/spinner/knitter/dyer/sewer/embroiderer/quilter/everything-er and lately she has been really into inkle weaving. It’s for narrow stuff (tapes, ribbons, bands) but she really likes the patterns you can play around with and it’s pretty cheap/portable. Just throwing that out there in case that might be of interest!

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Tablet weaving is an inexpensive way to dabble without a big investment. I played with it a bit in a medeival history club…for a while my husband got really into the programming feel of weaving words. (There’s a link between weaving patterns and the difference engine, but it’s far too late on a migraine night for me to explain clearly.)

    7. blah*

      I do tablet weaving and all you need for that is some cardboard cute into squares with a hole near each corner, a belt or string you can tie around yourself, and an anchor which could be a bedpost or a chair. It can make bands really well and the basics you pick up from it help in other weaving as well. Inkle weaving is also a style of band weaving that requires a simple inkle loom. See if you can take classes in different types of weaving and see which you really like.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I just found out two nieces are expecting so I broke my self-imposed rule and bought some fleecy yarn to experiment with blankets.. knitting vs crochet. I’ve never worked with fat stuff like this …wish me luck!

  10. DrowningInToys*

    This year is the kid’s first Christmas. The grandparents, who all live in big suburban homes, have sent us A MOUNTAIN of presents for the kid. We live in a small urban apartment. No way they stuck to the lists we gave them.

    I do not want a repeat when the kid turns 1 in a few months, for many reasons. Short of trying to return stuff/donate everything, what do I do? We told them before that we didn’t have room for tons of stuff and clearly they didn’t listen.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Why leave returning/donating off the table? If you don’t have room and this is stuff you didn’t ask for, why keep it?

      1. DrowningInToys*

        That’s what I intend to do this year, but it’s a PITA. My partner and I both work 50+ hours/week, and returning stuff and donating it takes more time than we have right now. Frankly, I’d rather give $$$ to worth orgs than physical donations, because I’ve worked in that world and totally understand how plenty of people want to give kids toys and few want to give $$$ to keep the lights on.
        So going forward, I would like to avoid the stuff showing up in the first place.

        1. Observer*

          Depending on where they got the stuff from, the returns might be easier than you expect – and if this is good quality stuff you might even get enough money that it would make a start for a savings account for the kid.

    2. Agent J*

      Could you save some of the gifts for the birthday and ask them not to send anything else? Or ask them to give you money towards a savings account/future college tuition instead?

      1. Ginger ale for all*

        I love the idea of asking if they would give to a college fund instead.

        You can also have them make a video of themselves reading a book and showing the pages on the video for the baby. Then have that book available for the baby and play the video when you are with the baby and the book. This way, they can start associating reading with love and cuddles and family.

      1. Llellayena*

        I second this. Just say “oh kid loves your gift! But since we don’t have room, why don’t you keep it at your house so kid can play with it when we’re there?” Then reinforce that at kid’s birthday, “remember we didn’t have room for all the presents at Christmas. Please just get kid one thing. Any more than that and we’ll have to donate what we don’t have room for.” By telling them ahead of time that excess will be donated it might limit what they give. Then if you do need to donate you can say you’re teaching kid about being nice to people who don’t have a lot.

      2. DrowningInToys*

        They live across the country and, for many reasons (including pets I view as dangerous to small kids), I am not comfortable visiting in their home.

    3. DCS*

      Ask for some e peri eve gifts (memberships to local museums/zoos, classes for the little, etc.). 1 is a little young, but am sure there are some of those type things in your city. I’ll then also suggest that they get the needed items for the activity/something that goes along with it (swimsuit for swimming lessons, dance outfit for dance lessons, stuffed animal for zoo membership), so they feel like they are giving a “real” gift

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Lessons with equipment is brilliant… if you have an over-enthusiastic gift buyer in the family like I do, you could even ask for duplicates “because kids lose things” or next size up because kids grow…and share the excess with friends in class.

        I didn’t have much luck getting my MIL to cut down until I asked her over for a holiday weekend a couple of months before my then-8 yo’s birthday. And I asked her to help the grandchild reorganize her room “because it’s easier for a kid to gear it from someone who isn’t their parents”… She helped pull out things for donation and was taken aback at finding unopened & unused clothes & toys.
        She got the message — there was physically not enough space in the bedroom. And the next birthday there was less STUFF.

    4. GhostWriter*

      Could you tell them that you’re doing no gifts holidays and ask them for money to toward a 529 college savings plan in place of gifts?

      If you’re comfortable with it, you could warn them that if they try to give any gifts you’re not going to accept them, and then if they try to give gifts either refuse to take them, or put them in a trash bag by the door with a “donation” label on it. I had a problem with my mom a while ago where she kept buying me candy even though I kept telling her not to. When I told her I would not be eating any future candy she got me and would throw it out if she didn’t want it she stopped buying it.

      1. GhostWriter*

        Sorry–I reread your post and it said they “sent” them. I was imagining them coming to your house. Just write “return to sender” on the packages if they send them after you tell them not to. :)

          1. valentine*

            Why should they get to trample DrowningInToys’s boundary and assign her the task of dealing with the extra items? They won’t be less hurt when they find out the items aren’t at the house and the kid never heard of them.

          2. GhostWriter*

            Ignoring the OP’s requests about not getting a ton of presents is hurtful. If they do it again then being “hurtful” might be the only way to get the message through to them that the OP is serious about not having room for a ton of new stuff. Seems unfair to put the burden of donating on the OP.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          That’s such a nuclear option.

          Boundaries are important but unless your family is toxic, being rude is absurd. Just donate the stuff if you don’t want it.

          Boohoo too many gifts. What a rich people problem to have. There are women’s shelters and programs who would be relieved to have these things.

          1. fposte*

            I agree that marking return to sender is unnecessarily rude, but Drowning’s problem is still legit; it doesn’t have to be malaria to count.

            And places are often very particular about what toys they accept, especially places like women’s shelters that have limited storage room. We like to think that there’s someone there who desperately wants all of our discarded crap, but in reality our production rates have gotten so inflated that it’s often not true.

          2. DrowningInToys*

            You know, I’d be really, really happy if my parents sent toys to women’s shelters instead of me! They need it more! And, in fact, I have a list of such programs I’m going to donate stuff to!

            That doesn’t mean that donating stuff isn’t a big hassle. Not all programs take all sorts of toys. And, having worked in non-profits that serve children, I know that $$$ is often much more useful to them than physical stuff. Toys are great, paying staff to deliver important services is arguably more so. So if I’m going to give to shelters, I’d rather hand them the cold, hard cash than a bunch of toys.

            1. TL -*

              But this isn’t coming out of your charity budget; it’s from the grandparents. You can still give cash at whatever level you were intending to donate before you donated the presents.

              1. DrowningInToys*

                My point is that “just donate” isn’t a great option. I’d rather be able to return the toys and donate the $$. And I just checked–nothing has receipts, so that’s not an option.

                1. Observer*

                  Do you know where the stuff came from? Many places will let you return with just a gift receipt, and some even without if you have some information.

                  Also, there are some charities that actually really need / want toys and gifts, especially at this time of year as long as they are in unopened packages.

                  I get that it’s a hassle, but if this is the only areas in which they are pushing the boundaries, going nuclear is just not a good idea.

                2. Natalie*

                  You don’t need to optimize here. I would keep my eye on the target actually under my control, which is less stuff in your house.

          3. New Bee*

            Add schools to that list. I work at a Title I school (~98% FRL), and there are inevitably families that need even more help this time of year. We end up doing staff donations to buy toys and gift cards; we’d love to take the kind of stuff OP has off of her hands.

      2. Gerald*

        I have a family member who regularly buys crap that no one needs. I emailed a bunch of family (so not focused on one person) and said that I did not have room for more ‘stuff’ so any non-consumable gifts (not food or drinks or donatoons) would be given away. It caused a really grumpy response from that one person that one year, but now I don’t get anything from them and I am happy! I used to donate the items anyway, but telling them helped solve the gift sending. With grandparents I hope they would be more open to suggestions like events (museum memberships?) or the education funds.

    5. ICU_RN*

      Your local foster care office could provably use some new gifts to share. Maybe in the future ask for college money or memberships/swim lessons etc

      For my kids first birthdays I had a diaper/hygiene drive- we collected diapers/wipes/formula to drop off at a local shelter. It really helped cut down on how much stuff kids tend to accumulate.

    6. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      My mom used to be really bad at buying mountains of stuff, but now that my sister has three kids under 10 to look after she’s finally started trying to rein it in. She has this little thing of “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read” that she’s been trying to stick to. Perhaps you can suggest something like that and emphasize that they can focus on one or two “big” gifts that way without spending more than they did this year.

    7. Madge*

      What if you were to assume they were just getting this whole first Christmas thing out of their system and of course they’re going to reign it in for future years? I don’t know how you’d phrase that, but it could be worth a try. You could also encourage themed gifts, like holiday pjs, or wacky gifts, like a hot dog cooker or a Costco sized container of a treat. Those repeated year after year will be much more memorable.

    8. Ranon*

      This is the passive aggressive option, but there’s always “oh, you sent so much stuff we assumed some of it was for (kiddo’s) birthday, since we know you know we’re super limited on space.” If they’ve followed typical gifting patterns for small children 2/3 of it is too advanced for your kiddo right now anyways.

      We’ve had some luck with experience gifts and talking about how we just can’t find any toys that aren’t more fun than playing outside with sticks. And a complete moratorium on stuffed animals.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      You could try appealing to their good judgement. “We don’t want kiddo learning that grandma and grandpa are just good for getting gifts from, people have more value than just the amount of gifts they buy us.”

      But. It sounds like the relationship could be strained to begin with? If that is the case you may just want to have a donation bag ready and pile things in as they come in the mail.

      Everyone in my story is an adult. We told the adult family members to go easy on the gifts, we just don’t have the space. We said this again. And Again. AND AGAIN. I thought I was not specific enough. So I said, “We do not need more tree ornaments nor coffee mugs.” Yep, you guess it, I got 11 tree ornaments and 9 coffee mugs. This brought us up to over 50 coffee mugs and enough ornaments for three trees. After about 15 years of this it started feeling a bit disrespectful, as in “I am not going to listen to you”.
      We changed what we were doing. We opened gifts with a 30 gallon garbage bag for donations. We decided while we opened the gifts which we would use and which we would not use. When we finished opening the presents, I would tie off the bag and put it in my car. The next donation box I drove past became my donation point.
      Punchline: Try to get across to them that it is too much. But at some point they do cross a line, recognize when that line has been crossed and go with your own solution.

      As an aside, some of the gifts were really nice. Like an LL Bean item one size too small. The nicer stuff I gave to good friends who I knew would appreciate. I did not pretend I was giving them a gift. I was truthful, “I can’t use this item, it’s too small. If you don’t want it then I will be donating it. I’d rather give it to you if you would actually get use out of it.” Sometimes friends took it and sometimes they did not take it. I figured they were honestly answering me about if they would use it or not.

    10. Middle School Teacher*

      Then I would call some pre-schools (especially in low-income areas) or kids’s hospitals and talk to them. Or a Santa’s anonymous in your area? Some will pick stuff up for free, then you can just leave it on the porch for them.

    11. Aussie Teacher*

      I second the idea of an experience gift. Ask specifically for what you want e.g. zoo membership for the whole family, music lessons, ballet lessons (ok maybe a few years down the track!), a musical instrument, swimming lessons & some swimming gear etc., concert tickets (they have some wonderful concerts for little kids here in Australia)… you get the idea. We specifically told our rellies a few years ago that we had too much stuff (two sets of grandparents and 10+ aunts and uncles = mountains of toys) and asked them all to pitch in for experience gifts. It’s been a huge success and we prepared the kids in advance so they wouldn’t expect tons of presents on Christmas any more.

    12. it happens*

      I’ve seen this show. It’s hard to change. I think “so half of these are birthday gifts” is a very good start. And then next year you send the list, a link to the 529 and say that there is a (3) gift limit. Period. Especially if this is the first child in a generation, people just get so excited. All the other scripts can also be useful, gifts aren’t love, etc. Everyone wants to feel like Santa making child’s wish come true, when honestly, the Amazon box is probably the favorite toy;) sorry, good luck

    13. Thursday Next*

      I’m going to come at this from a slightly different angle: first child/first grandchild is an occasion for the (re)negotiation of lots of boundaries. It’s also a time when there can be conflict between two sets of values—I remember feeling very strongly about plastic toys, for instance, but those are exactly the kind of toys that read as toys to my parents and ILs, who were parents in a different era.

      Over the years, my parents and I have refined our kid-gifting practices. At a certain point, they started asking me what the kids would want, and I had the chance to tell them what I thought would be most welcome. Maybe this was around the time kid #1 was 4, and kid #2was 1? I know that seems like a long wait, BUT in our case it works really well now. They just give each kid one birthday gift, and one in December, and the gifts are well chosen. Kid #2still plays with stuff my parents gave her 6 years ago.

      We’re lucky in that my parents are also on board with contributing to accounts for the kids, so they do that, too.

      Right now I have a huge box in my bedroom of unopened toys and games people other than my parents have given my kids over the years, which I don’t think they’ll ever use. None of,these things came with gift receipts. What I’d like to find is some sort of “birthday gift bank” for foster kids or kids living in shelters—there are lots of Christmas toy drives, but I’m trying to find an organization that distributes gifts year round.

  11. Need Scripts*

    I’m meeting with a family friend this week who is really a friend of my parents’. This is someone who has known me since I was born, but sees me very infrequently. As far as I know they also see my parents very infrequently in the past decade or so. We don’t live anywhere near each other. I am hoping to avoid discussing my parents with them during the visit, but without seeming like I’m avoiding it. I realize to a certain extent asking about them is basic small talk and probably unavoidable, but what I’m trying to do is deflect/prevent it becoming a Topic Of Actual Conversation. Can anyone give me polite, reasonable ways to do this that won’t inherently sound either evasive or likely to make the person dig in further? I realize some of this is dependent on the personality so I might be screwed no matter what I say. But I don’t know them well enough to know if they’re the type of person who will double-down and dig in at any sign of deflection or other unreasonableness. I’m hoping for suggestions of the “usually will work with most people” variety. Thanks in advance.

    1. I don’t post often*

      I would give perfunctory answers. “How are your mom and dad?” “They are fine- same as always. Oh did you see there is a new blah blah (store, mall, car dealership, church, golf course, subdivision) in their area?” Or “did you know their next door neighbor/ other mutual friend is ….”. If you don’t want to say they are fine, you could just say “same as always”.

      1. Wishing You Well*

        Great advice above. Keep asking the family friend questions to deflect from answering theirs. Most people love answering a question.

      2. Need Scripts*

        I’m less concerned about the “how are they” type questions. That’s the small talk I was expecting and I’m not actually capable of giving other than perfunctory answers anyway. I’m more concerned they’re going to just want to talk about them. In general. Not asking me anything (they’re in touch, they don’t need to ask me). But more like…I donno…Friend having Opinions about whatever about Parents and wanting me to weigh in, or side with them, or that sort of thing. And I don’t want any part of it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          If they want you to take sides then they are not much of a friend to your parents. Keep this in mind.

          So worst case scenario they say an ugly thing about your parents then you can say something like:
          “Ugh, let’s not go there.”
          Or longer version: “I am not going to talk about my folks behind their backs. But I bet we can agree that we are all human, right? None of us are perfect, but all of us have our good points. Let’s just let it go at that.” Then shift into a subject change.

          If they say something reeeally ugly, don’t be afraid to say, “Hmmm. My parents consider you guys good friends. I don’t think it’s fair of us to be talking this way about my parents. Let’s find other things to talk about.”

          Depending on your personality, the setting and so on, I might be tempted to say, “I hope you didn’t suggest we get together just to run down my parents behind their backs.” If I had to pull this one out, I think I might be on the verge of asking them to leave anyway.

          Good luck. Let them talk about themselves and then they will think you are very charming and very intelligent. And it might save you some bs.

      3. Girl friday*

        Or, “oh, you know Mom and Dad… “, “about what you would think,” “never thought about it,” “same as last year,” “haven’t changed much,” “can’t say as I recall,”etc.. I have a million of them. Anything to avoid the dreaded game of Telephone. Or practice on your pets, having conversations that are interesting without talking about other people. It is possible, even with the most determined person.

    2. anonagain*

      “That’s a thought.” or “You’d have to ask them about that.” + change subject back to them. You might even be able to just change the subject back to them like you didn’t hear the question.

      Do you have any reason to believe they will want to gossip about your parents? If so, is there any reason for you to meet with them at all?

    3. Lilysparrow*

      Just pretend they are talking about the 17-hour History of Rain they watched on the Weather Channel, or the new Left Half-crimped Doodleflange they bought (or any completely uninteresting topic). How do you normally steer a bore into a more engaging topic?

      The main factor in avoiding prying/insistence/doubling-down is to take the emotion out of it.

    4. Not A Manager*

      I’m getting the feeling that Need Scripts maybe isn’t in close touch with their parents and doesn’t want to be.

      It sounds like you’re willing to answer “how are they doing questions” in a general way but don’t want to get into conversations about how much the friend likes your parents, or how great they are and whatnot. I think Captain Awkward has a lot of good scripts for that if you want to check her out.

      I would suggest low-key agreement with simple statements, if you can stomach it. You’ve chosen to interact with this friend, and you don’t want to get into any kind of deep conversation about your folks, so if you’re able to reply to “Hubert has such a great sense of humor,” with “yep he sure does” and then move on, that might be your path of least resistance.

      If you don’t want to go along at all, or if the conversation gets more specific, responses like “oh yes, many people think that,” or “they’re complicated folks, but then so are we all” might feel more authentic to you. That does risk signaling that you don’t completely agree with the initial statement, but again you can deflect the conversation as much as possible to avoid a lot of follow-up.

      It is possible that you’ll need to keep a conversation ender in your back pocket. “Actually, we’re not in very close contact so I can’t say much about them. But I do want to know about YOU and YOUR family. Please tell me about Emily.”

      Good luck with the meeting. I hope the experience is what you want it to be.

  12. Mrs. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    I ate some frozen strawberries for dessert last night and ended up in bloated stomach pain and took an antacid.

    I had 1/2 slice of bread with pb. Anything else I can do to calm my stomach down?

    On an unrelated note, getting ready to pack boxes for moving apts. do you turn on music or tv while packing? I’ve been procrastinating…

    1. StellaBella*

      A gentle food is boiled white rice, in a bit of chicken or veggie broth – not soup, by with liquids.

    2. anonagain*

      I don’t know if I’m getting you mixed up with someone else, but I think I remember you posting about GI issues not too long ago.

      If that is you, the answer might be that it’s time to get offline and go see a doctor.

    3. Someone Else*

      The antacid you took, was that a pill and thus it’ll be several hours before you could take another? Or was it something like Tums? I believe you can take Tums something like every 30 minutes-hour up to a pretty high limit. It might be worth taking those consistently for a couple of hours and see if it makes a dent.

    4. Llellayena*

      Sorry about the stomach issues. On your other question; I usually put on music when I need to do something active. If I put the tv on it’s way too likely that I’ll stop to watch. I use cheerful bouncy music that makes me want to dance and sing along, that keeps me moving.

    5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Weirdly, sometimes when I have indigestion that won’t go away I have a tablespoon or so of vinegar (cider or wine) in a bit of water, chased with a small glass of water. Completely counter intuitive but sometimes it works where antacids don’t.

    6. Wishing You Well*

      I’d try Alka Seltzer for an upset stomach. You could try foods on the elimination/allergy diet.
      Strawberries might be something you just can’t eat. A food allergy test is a good idea, if you’ve had other stomach problems.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Where are you? Both Canada & Europe had frozen strawberry recalls earlier this year. One was norovirus so it’s worth looking up if your symptoms don’t improve.

    8. Girl friday*

      You might be allergic? Take Benadryl if it doesn’t get better. Try some baking soda now, dissolved in water, with saltines. Add the baking soda very slowly to the water, stirring it as you go, until it’s saturated. Stay away from anything carbonated or acidic. You might also try bananas and flat sparkling water for a home remedy.

  13. GhostWriter*

    Has anyone gotten a subsidy through the healthcare marketplace and then lost it? I was wondering what happens.

    I’m going to lose my subsidy (which covered my entire premium for January) after the February 19th deadline for proof of income (I have no income). I wanted reassurance that all that happens when you lose your subsidy is that your premium goes back to the full amount and you might have to pay the subsidy back at the end of the year–your health insurance doesn’t get canceled or anything. (I called my health insurance company about it, but they didn’t want to give an answer since I enrolled through the marketplace. The healthcare marketplace said they won’t cancel my health insurance, but, if past experience is any indication, their answers aren’t reliable so I’m still worried I’m going to lose my health insurance somehow.)

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yes. You just pay back the amount of the subsidiary at year end! They don’t cancel or even refigure your costs mid-term. It’ll come when you file taxes for 2019.

    2. louise*

      Happened to me and there was no risk of cancelation of plan or anything. They did, however, readjust our premium mid-year (When I called to notify them of an increase in our income) and the increase was enough that they determined the previous months should also not have been subsidized and that part, like Lynch says, we had to pay with our taxes. It was so discouraging because I did the math and IIRC the net amount of our income increase ended up being under $100 after the premium increase and subsidy payback. Didn’t feel like much of a raise in the end.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It was exhausting to pay it back. I over estimated my income by less than $500 and it wiped out the entire subsidy. I had to do a payment installment to give back the few hundred dollars they chipped in originally.

        I’m so blessed to have fully funded coverage through work now.

        1. GhostWriter*

          Sorry that happened. Such a kick in the face to make *less* than you expected and then be told you have to pay *more* than expected.

      2. GhostWriter*

        I feel you on the not-much-of-a-raise-after-health-insurance-is-paid thing. Anytime I’ve gotten a small bonus or small raise, I always think, “Well, that will help cover however much my premium and deductible increased this year.” Definitely discouraging!

    3. Pear*

      I am on the marketplace and I had an income change mid year last year. I just had to pay back the subsidy when I filed my taxes this January.

      They won’t drop you and leave you without coverage – but you will have to pay back whatever subsidy they gave you when you file your taxes.

      1. GhostWriter*

        Luckily I’ll only have the subsidy for two or three months, so it won’t be a huge repayment at the end of the year.

    4. blaise zamboni*

      Hmmm. The other cases are about mid-year changes, which doesn’t sound like what you’re going through, though if they ring true please ignore this. NB: I’m in California which has (I guess?) a robust state Medicaid program, and I can’t speak to how true that is for other states. When I enrolled in the marketplace, I had to hit a minimum income to qualify for our non-Medicaid plans, and a few months into my coverage I had to submit proof of income to ensure I was hitting that minimum. My understanding was that my commercial insurance would terminate and I’d be switched to Medicaid if my income didn’t hit the minimum. That may be a totally different scenario in your state though.

      Also, I’m not sure if you’re planning to pay a smaller amount of the premium per month, or if you’re planning to not pay at all — if your subsidy is canceled and you aren’t making payments, my understanding is that your plan will terminate (because nobody is paying for it). You typically have a grace period, somewhere between 30 and 90 days depending on your plan, to catch up on premiums, but if you’re not making any payments then I would assume the plan will go inactive. I wish that wasn’t the case, but I don’t want you to be surprised by a suddenly dropped insurance. However, if you’re able to make some payments, and can realistically shoulder the difference when you file your taxes, I think you’ll be fine.

      This sounds like a rough thing to grapple with either way. I’m sending you good vibes and hope that things will get sorted out in your favor.

      1. GhostWriter*

        My situation was that a health insurance agent insisted that if I submitted documents showing my income for this year I could get a subsidy for next year even though I’m unemployed and don’t know when I’ll be working again. So I applied for the subsidy and got it, but my income documents weren’t accepted. The health insurance agent was shady (said I didn’t have to report if I got a job that offered health insurance, which disqualifies you for subsidies) and tried to convince me to get supplemental insurance and an insurance plan that was double the cost of the plan I usually have, so I shouldn’t have listened to her. So glad I didn’t go for the $600+ plan she wanted me to get since I’ll be paying full price again this year!

        I definitely plan to pay for my insurance once they adjust my premium back to the full amount. I’m just worried they’ll cancel it instead of letting me pay for it since that’s the worse case scenario and I seem to have bad luck.

  14. Agent J*

    I’m not looking forward to going home for Christmas. It’s been a stressful few months for me and I don’t have great relationships with my parents right now. I’m going home to see some extended family I only see a couple times a year but otherwise, I’m just not feeling the Christmas spirit this year.

    I am looking forward to good food and buying gifts for myself since I’ve finished holiday shopping :)

    1. valentine*

      Cancel and see them at a less loaded time. Maybe switch up when you see them and never at major hols, so otherwise ordinary times can be your time together.

      1. ..Kat..*

        I second this is you are staying in your parents’ home. If you are staying in a hotel or with someone else (with whom you have a good relationship), you can just leave a visit with your parents when you have had enough. You are tired from travel and need to lie down, need to go to the shop for something (make sure the something is not available at your parents’ house), etc.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      This is the first year I’m not spending an extended length of time at my motherinlaw’s. She’s been…unkind at times and that’s hard enough to deal with that I have new sympathy for all those with more serious issues.

    3. sharkBite*

      I too have decided not to participate due to very unkind statements received at our dear relative’s funeral.
      They will be shocked/hurt by my absence while conveniently sidestepping ownership of those very sh!tty words uttered during that time of mourning.

      Oh well.

  15. matcha123*

    I am a huge holiday fan. From fall through the new year, my favorite holidays are all lined up: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. When I was growing up, I was in envy of the people who could decorate their homes, get the cool costumes, etc.
    Now that I’m living abroad in a country that doesn’t have those holidays and does new year’s pretty differently, I am so lonely! I should be used to it now since I’ve lived here over a decade, but I haven’t. I miss the homes decorated for Halloween from mid-September, pumpkin patches, apple cider. I miss turkey and stuffing. I miss the general buzz in the air before Christmas. The idea that we should be helping each other out, buying gifts for friends to say ‘thanks’, the whole “ugly Christmas sweater” thing that happened after I left the US.

    I get that a lot of people here are pretty anti-big celebrations, but I love them! Maybe because I couldn’t fully participate when I was home. Big thanks to internet radio. Listening to the Jackson 5, “Happy Holidays,” etc.

      1. matcha123*

        I can sometimes, but the cost of flights home is pretty steep. Usually over 1kusd round-trip and a 12 – 14 hour flight. Since work from home is not an option at my office, I can’t take anything with me. Which sucks, because I totally would!

    1. Aurora Leigh*

      I love the holidays too! I’m sorry you’re missing out. Do you have any friends who would be willing to try out some of your traditions. Hadmade ugly sweater party maybe?

      1. matcha123*

        There are a lot of Meetup holiday events in my city. But the few I’ve gone to have been dominated by locals looking for English-language partners and guys hitting on anything that breathes. I’d love to have friends over, but my place is only large enough to host at most 2 other people and we’d have to sit on the floor. Maybe I can aim for V-day and see if I can pull some friends over!

        1. Girl friday*

          Maybe you can have an OctoturkeyXmas party? Have a progressive supper and introduce them to everything at once, but choose things that go together? Or throw a holiday desserts and champagne party for New Year’s Eve, with pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, and cheesecake?

    2. Thursday Next*

      I love the holidays, too! I like writing thank you notes and giving gifts to all of the many, many people who makes our lives easier year-round. One of my children has 10 (!) therapists in addition to her teachers, and they’re all awesome. I feel like the holidays are a time when I put “thanking people” on my calendar.

      We started celebrating the Icelandic “Jolbokaflod” (apologies for spelling)—“Christmas book flood”—as a family last year. Christmas Eve I give everyone books and chocolate, and we spend the day reading in our pajamas. (Matching pajamas, actually!) I feel like this could be a tradition that transplants to other places well: having a low-key get-together with book-gifting (or even swapping).

      We had our family Thanksgiving dinner today, since we spent Thanksgiving weekend last month traveling to grandparents. It was definitely more relaxed than anything we did Thanksgiving weekend. Especially since I started drinking wine as I was cooking. ;)

      I like not having to wake my kids up at 6 for school, or make sure kid #1 is doing his homework. Honestly, their winter break is a break for me.

      I have declared that my daughter and I are not traveling to visit family, which alleviates my stress level, and hers, too. I know family tensions and expectations affect many people’s relationship to the holidays. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m willing to take some hits—Thanksgiving weekend was tough—but also make some unilateral decisions.

      We’ve been making our own traditions, which started with New Year’s Eve Fondue Night. I’m feeling unusually good right now.

  16. Ann Furthermore*

    My oldest daughter (21) has been dating her boyfriend for about 6 months. We’ve met him and he seems like a very nice guy. The other day she told me that he’s moving to another state sometime in the new year, and she’s seriously considering going with him.

    This is quite a bombshell, but she’s grown woman who can make her own decisions. I told her to visit a few times and see if it’s someplace she’d like to live, and to not move up there without scoping out the job situation. And I told her that whatever she does, to make sure it’s what SHE wants, not what anyone else wants her to do or thinks she should do. And finally I told her to have a plan B and an emergency fund so if things don’t work out the way she thinks they will, she won’t be stuck without any options. Beyond that, I don’t know what else to tell her.

    My husband is going to talk with her too, and tell her to give it some time and see if their relationship can survive the distance or things fizzle out. And then decide what she wants to do.

    1. Triplestep*

      I think this is all really good advice. One thing I would add is that she should get her own place (or a place with roommates) in the new city if she does decide to go.

      I would also tell her that she can always come home and live with you, no questions asked. Yes, she is a grown woman (my daughter is just a year older) and she can make her own decisions, but she still does not have a lot of life experience. Sometime when big life decisions don’t work out, it’s good to know Mom and Dad will help you pick up the pieces without fear of hearing “we tried to tell you!”

    2. Lcsa99*

      I think you’ve given her all the info she needs. At that age it’s so hard to imagine things not working out. As long as she knows you have her back and that you’ll support her, whatever decision she makes, I think she’ll be ok.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Tell her she can always come home. (If that’s the case, that is.) Absolutely the Plan B, absolutely the emergency fund, but let her know that if it gets really bad or if she gets really homesick, she can come back. That might be something that goes without saying, but I never felt that was the case with my mother and it would have meant the world to me. For me, knowing that I have an option somewhere is very freeing and removes that stress.

    4. Reba*

      Everything you’ve told her is great advice. If I were your daughter’s friend (maybe not parent, IDK) I would ask her to consider whether she thinks her boyfriend would do the same for her. SO many times I’ve seen brilliant young women do so much more of the committing and the sacrificing…. she deserves someone who would move across the country for her!

      I can share my perspective, which is that at barely-22, I moved across the country and moved in with my boyfriend. We’d been dating for two years, half of it already long distance. It was one of the most expensive cities in the country, so it felt like moving in together was the only option, and at that point it was move in or break up. It would have been more sensible to move in with a roommate! But, I didn’t. So anyway, I went. My parents were supportive, paying to ship my car, visiting (that was most significant in retrospect), sending me money when I needed it–it was important to me to be a fair contributor to the rent, but it wasn’t always possible! I also made plans and pursued my own interests, taking a work assignment overseas for a few months, doing cool odd jobs, so I made sure that my life didn’t just get collapsed into the life bf had started there before me.

      Anyway, that was a decade ago and we’ve been married for five years, and lived in six other cities since that first big move. So it’s a risk, but it can pay off.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I moved after a similar period of time to follow my boyfriend. Granted I was a decade older than your daughter.

      1. It depends on the person but I didn’t test drive a long distance relationship. That’s more difficult than it seems in the long run.

      2. I didn’t need to test the city out. I had never lived outside of my hometown area. I’ve since lived in 3 cities as we’ve moved around. Each one was fine…but I know that others are often less adaptable than I am.

      3. You’re doing the right thing in discussing it with her. I’m not sure if they’re moving in together or shes getting a job first. But my way was to get a job first and live separate. Living together or depending on someone financially for even a little bit that early on is a big commitment.

    6. AnonyNurse*

      At 21, I wanted to move back to my home state cause I was still technically a resident and could get in-state tuition. Boyfriend of a few months moved with me. We broke up a few years later. He still lives there, has a family and a career. I’ve moved a few more times and am happy in my situation. Don’t define success as “they stay together forever in this new town.” Success is “they learn about themselves and each other and it is another step of a fulfilling life.”

      1. Washi*

        This is a really great perspective. When all is said and done, I think what your daughter will remember most is how you treated this decision overall – being supportive, asking questions vs. telling her what to do, and no I-told-you-sos whatever happens. (Not that it sounds like you’re not doing that, but just because I think it’s worth emphasizing!)

      2. Arts Akimbo*

        Yes! 21 is a great age to move to a different city, just to try something new! I think it’s cool that your then-boyfriend found it to be a city he loved!

        At 21 I moved to a new state and moved in with my boyfriend. (Definitely not how I’d recommend doing things!) Turns out I didn’t like the new place, but I’m glad I tried it! After 7 months, I ended up moving to the state I went to college in, to a different city, and my experience with the first move made the second seem lower in stakes, because I had done it before– I knew if I didn’t like the place, it wasn’t the end of the world.

  17. Triplestep*

    Is there a way to ask if a wedding gift was received that is NOT awkward and won’t make a couple (or their parents) feel bad and/or defensive?

    We ordered a wedding gift off a registry the first week in August, attended the wedding in mid-September, and once in a while I think of it and realize we never got a thank-you note. We are friends of the parents (although my husband has been close with them since before the kids were born; he literally watched the bride grow up.) I thought of it today because we have plans to see all of them. My aim is to find out if the gift actually arrived. I kind of forgot about it after I ordered it, and now there is no shipping information at the retail site; only a tracking number which is no longer in Fed-Ex’s system.

    I am mildly annoyed that writing thank-you notes does not seem to be a thing anymore, but I’m willing to conceded this may be generational. But is it then also a thing now not to send a gift? Because I’m kind of afraid that’s what we’ve done, and I can’t think of a way to find out that won’t cause bad feelings.

    1. Someone Else*

      Etiquette-wise my understanding is they have a year from the wedding to send the notes. I understand if your concern is they may not have actually received it due to lack of tracking info, but if your beef is just the note, it’s actually a bit soon to assume they’re not sending one.

      1. fposte*

        The etiquette is that guests have up to a year after the wedding to *give* the gifts. There’s no year-long window for the thank you notes.

        1. Christy*

          I think you’re right, but I also think many many people have the understanding of Someone Else—that you have a year.

          1. fposte*

            All those people are the ones who really don’t want to get around to doing their thank-you letters :-).

            1. Triplestep*

              Agreed. It makes no sense – is there anything else in life for which it would be OK to wait a year to show appreciation?

              1. The Other Dawn*

                It drives me nuts when people don’t send thank you notes. I realize it seems to be dying off, but I still think people should express appreciation for a gift given to them. Even if it’s an email or text. I went to a baby shower for a friend’s daughter last year. The kid is turning one year old next month and never got a thank you at all. Not even a Facebook message.

                1. MsChanandlerBong*

                  I sent $50 to my friend’s new baby and never heard a word about it. So I’m wondering…did the $50 get to their house? Did someone steal it out of the mail? I don’t really care about getting a thank-you note; I just want to know if they got the card and money!

    2. Llellayena*

      You can call and say “I never got notice from fedex that the package I sent for your wedding arrived and I want to make sure it didn’t get lost in shipping.” Should be mild enough not to be too awkward. As someone who is seriously bad at remembering to write thank you notes they might actually appreciate the reminder (ha!).

      1. Triplestep*

        That could work. I doubt they’d appreciate the reminder, though. I remember the feeling of thank-you notes hanging over my head, and it’s reminder enough!

    3. GhostWriter*

      Is the gift something where it would be easy to ask if they’ve used it yet? Like, “Is Marcy getting a lot of use out of the mixer now that it’s cookie baking season?”

      1. Triplestep*

        Ooh, this gives me a really good idea … the gift was knives. There is an old superstition that giving someone a knife or knives will sever the friendship. So there’s a tradition to give a coin along with the gift so the recipient can give you back the coin and make the “gift” into a “sale”. Sale of knife? No problem. Gift of knife? It’s like saying you don’t value the friendship.

        I’d actually intended to bring a card with a coin to the wedding as someone had done for me, but I forgot. I will simply take the bride aside and give her a coin to give back to us, explaining the superstition. If she looks perplexed, then she didn’t get our gift!

        1. ..Kat..*

          Umm, I would be perplexed because I don’t understand your last paragraph. I vote for just asking – “I wanted to make sure that you received the gift that I sent since I hadn’t heard back.” If you are worried that this will make a get together awkward, ask at the end.

          1. Triplestep*

            My second paragraph was intended to describe how a guest at my wedding gave me a knife, and included a coin in her card so I could “buy” the knife gift from her, thereby saving the friendship from being severed.

            I could not give the couple in question here the knife gift and coin at the same (which is typical with this superstition/tradition) because I purchased off their registry and the gift was delivered (I think!) I intended to bring a coin in a card where I would have explained the whole thing, but forgot.

        2. GhostWriter*

          I’ve never heard of that superstition, but it’s interesting. Would be a fun way to check on the gift status. :)

          And knives are such a great gift! My mom gifted my brother chef knives and dinner knives like 15 years ago, and he still uses them.

          1. Triplestep*

            I don’t know if Jewish custom (I am Jewish) but I don’t think so because I have seen non-Jews do it and I can’t find any online references that indicate it is Jewish in origin. I have been to weddings where I’ve seen long flat packages that look like they might contain knives and they have a coin taped to them.

            We also have knives we got as wedding gifts 15 years ago that we use all the time! (And yes, we got coins with them – no severed friendships. :-) )

    4. Ginger ale for all*

      Ugh, I have been there as well, just hanging there wondering if the store, mail system, or whatever messed up and lost the order or did they get it and hate it or do they not like me or did they forget to write the thank you note or make a thank you phone call, etc. Your mind just makes a long run on sentence with all the worry and possibilities.

    5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I kind of wish whoever gave us the really cool glass vase would do this. The card got separated and we never found out who it was from. We sent out thank you notes but probably whoever it was thinks we didn’t like it because we didn’t mention it in the card!

        1. Triplestep*

          I’m laughing imagining an e-mail blind cc’d to everyone who did not send a gift. “Is this from you? We noticed you did not gift us, and we can’t figure out who this came from …”

          I’m kidding of course. But I once did attend a wedding of someone at work who came in after her honeymoon and told me there had not been a check from me in the giant bird cage they’d set up at the reception to collect cards. I think my mouth fell open, but I managed to sputter out that I’d ordered something off her (shower) registry that should have arrived at the house. She explained she was only telling me because sometimes these checks get stolen. How kind of her – it was highly likely that only my check got stolen from the bird cage, which was impossible to stick a hand into!

        2. The Other Dawn*

          I once had to send a mass email to people who attended a picnic I had at my house a few years ago. It was a combination ‘college graduation (went to college late in life)/family reunion/yay! we finished all the home renovations’ picnic. Some people brought gifts even though it wasn’t billed as a graduation party; only family and a couple friends knew about graduation. Well, turns out my niece on my husband’s side stole several of my gifts off the table. I had no idea it had happened until my friend asked before she left if I liked the gift card she got me, which was for a local clothing store. There was no gift card on the table. Then it came to light that a bottle of Jose Cuervo my brother bought for me was missing, as well as a couple other items. I had no idea who else may have brought gifts and I didn’t really want to ask people if they bought me something since it would maybe sound like a gift grab, but I ended up sending a BCC email to everyone. I asked them to let me know if they’d left a gift for me and what it was, because it came to light that some were stolen and I wanted to make sure nothing else was stolen. It was awkward, but people answered me. Ultimately I got the Cuervo back because my MIL found the bottle in my niece’s things when she moved back into MIL’s house. That’s how I knew who it was. MIL stole it back from her and gave it back to me. Needless to say, we don’t encourage visits from this niece (she’s in her late 20s, so not a little kid) and when she does come over with the in-laws, things are locked up. Oh, and she also stole 50.00 from my cousin another time.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        A grade-school relative very helpfully gathered up all the cards for us…removing all of them from the boxes too.
        Ever since, I’ve put an additional “name tag” inside the wrapping. Including at her wedding. :)

        1. Triplestep*

          Great idea!

          I have found it worthwhile to designate a “card holder” at receptions. My mother filled this role at my wedding and both my kids Bar/Bat Mitzvah. (It was my second marriage, held after said B’nai Mitzvah!) I gave her a gift bag, and told the kids “when someone tries to hand you a card, politely ask the giver to find your grandmother.” Worked like a charm and allowed my mom to be extra-involved as she got to talk to a lot of people she might not have otherwise.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Call Fedex. It’s not online but it is in their internal system! They can send you a confirmation it was delivered.

      I’ve had to do that for business purposes a few times over the years.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Every once in awhile an AP department will sit on a bill and then by 90 days I’m like “DUDE?!” and they go “lol lol lol we don’t have a POD.” Fed Ex has always been easy to work with. Limited phone time but during this hectic season, you may want to plan for a bit of a wait or to get a seasonal temp who isn’t necessarily up to speed. They have to keep PODs for awhile, much longer than their online system purges them. They just reuse tracking, so you give them date of shipment or ballpark plus the to and from addresses.

    7. Erika22*

      When I got married, it took us like five months to finally send thank you notes. Part of it was waiting for our wedding photos so we could make custom cards (a month an a half for our photos plus a few weeks to design, order and receive the cards). Then we spent some time putting off the cards because frankly it was a daunting task! Writing a unique and sincere thank you to each guest can take time.

      Maybe the couple are just inconsiderate and have no intention of sending thank you notes. You can definitely follow up on whether they received the gift! I’d still give them the benefit of the doubt regarding the thank you notes, at least for a bit longer.

      1. Triplestep*

        You didn’t ask, but I have some thank-you note tips for you the next time you have a bunch to write (I don’t know, maybe you’re planning a family and will have a shower.)

        You can follow the Miss Manners guidelines which I outlined in a comment below. I have found that following this formula makes writing thank-you notes easier than starting from scratch.

        When my kids became Bar/Mat Mitzvah, they had a lot of notes to write. Since they are “digital natives” I had them type the text of their thank-you notes first, then write them out on the cards. Seems like more work, but this allowed them to go back and see what they’d written to other people, and recycle the non-personal elements of the note. Add personal details (like the actual gift mention) and you’re done! I got SO many compliments on their notes, and now they are both thank-you note writers as adults. (20-somethings.)

        Lastly, your picture cards sound lovely, but I feel confident speaking for my age range (I’m 55) when I say we prefer a timelier note over a photo card. Many of us are starting to shed belongings ahead of downsizing or upon becoming empty-nesters, and we would not know what to do with that card. It would just be another THING we have to decide about. Keep? Store? If so, where to store? Store then run across again down the road and have the same internal dialog?

        I know this is probably hard to consider after you waited for your photos, chose just the right one, and personally designed the note cards. But if you had anyone my age on your guest list who was not a close relative, I feel confident that they would have preferred the peace of mind knowing their gift had arrived over the card whose disposition they then needed to decide. What to do with THINGS is a common topic of conversation among people 50+.

    8. Wishing You Well*

      You can mention to the parents that you sent a gift. Given porch pirates and wedding thieves, it’s prudent to say you did send a gift. The one year span is for giving wedding gifts. Thank you notes should be written PROMPTLY after the gift is received.
      You can stop giving non-thankers gifts, if you like. I know some young people who are no-thanking themselves right out of relatives’ wills because charities always send thank you notes. ;)

      1. Triplestep*

        It was suggested below that I contact the couple in a lighthearted way, which I think can be accomplished via e-mail. If I don’t get a satisfactory result from Fed-ex, I will probably do that.

        I can’t see myself asking the parents. If this turned out to be generational and I am out of touch by expecting a thank-you note, I would be disappointed but I’d accept it. But I would still be mortified if my own kids (same age range as this couple) did not acknowledge gifts, or felt they had a year to do so. I don’t want to do that to the parents since I think there’s a good chance they feel the same way.

    9. PhyllisB*

      It’s very possible the gift was never delivered. When my nephew married I called the store she was registered at in her hometown and not only ordered the gift, but told them what paper I wanted. Everything was set and I didn’t think of it anymore. The wedding was in November, and about January I realized I had not gotten a thank you note. I wouldn’t have thought much of it, but this girl has such beautiful gracious manners that Emily Post would look churlish next to her. Everyone else in the family had gotten their notes. In fact she had sent me one after the wedding thanking me for attending and how much she was looking forward to being a part of our family. So in February I finally bit the bullet and asked her if the gift had ever arrived. It…had not. I immediately called the store and after some discussion and me describing the wrap (thank goodness I remembered what I requested!!) it was still sitting on the counter where they wrapped gifts. After much abject apology, they arranged for immediate delivery. So, make sure. I know it feels awkward to ask, but do ask.

      1. Triplestep*

        Oh my gosh, that is quite a story!

        There’s a story in my family about a time when wrapping paper saved the day: We were driving to a family wedding in Canada from the US, and my mother actually convinced a customs agent not to open an ornately wrapped gift she had brought. There was definitely pleading and maybe some tears involved. This was in the late sixties – would not happen today!

    10. Girl friday*

      Just ask. Miss Manners says that you have a year to write thank you notes after wedding, and believe it or not, some people need that much time. I read this whole thread, not sure how we got from weddings to 8 yo, but I used to let my daughters pick out stationery and pens on December 1st when they were about 7 to graduation, and they used them to write thank you notes for Christmas, and thank you notes for birthdays. They were quite impressed with the tradition for a long time!

      1. Triplestep*

        There was some discussion above about how long a couple has to write thank-you notes, and apparently there is some internet lore suggesting it is a year. It is not.

        I can accept that someone may have gotten the year window for *gift-giving* mixed up with the time it should take to acknowledge a gift, but I guarantee this information did not come from Miss Manners.

        Miss Manners has some very strict rules about thank-you notes which are easily found with a quick ‘net search. It is not possible that the etiquette guru who insists on the following rules would also allow a full year to execute them!

        – Must be on paper, written by your own hand
        – The words “thank you” are not printed on said paper
        – “Thank you” should not be the opening words, because that would suggest you were writing by rote
        – Start with a statement of emotion — that you were delighted that they came to your party, or thrilled when you opened their present
        – Must include specific mention of the present (except that money is referred to as “your generous gift”)
        – Friendly line about the donors (such as that you remember something they told you, or that you hope to see them soon)

        I don’t expect everyone to follow these rules, but they have served me (and my children) well. I have actually found it’s easier to write a thank-you note when this formula is followed, rather than starting from scratch.

        1. Girl friday*

          The easiest thing to do is, of course, to send the package return receipt requested or registered mail. 1 can be generous, or be offended, but it’s difficult to do both.

          1. Triplestep*

            I wonder what Miss Manners would think of your characterizing me as “ungenerous” for worrying that a gift I had sent via third party might have been stolen off the recipient’s porch, or gotten lost bey Fed-ex? And all because I questioned the source of your information on the thank-you note writing window!

    11. Call me St. Vincent*

      Just ask without expressing disappointment about the lack of thank you. Just a “hey we sent a gift in August of X, just wanted to make sure you received it! Congratulations again! We loved celebrating with you. The wedding was beautiful!”

      1. Triplestep*

        I think I am going to start with Fed-ex, and then if it turns out it was delivered w/out being signed for, I’ll have to ask them in case of porch pirates. I’d like to avoid asking, but you’re right – this can be done by e-mail with your suggested language and no one should feel defensive on reading that.

        1. Girl friday*

          Porch Pirates! That’s a great reason to have to actually ask people. How sad that even registered mail doesn’t cover that.

    1. Merci Dee*

      I wonder – was Olive laying on the couch to read while waiting for laundry to wash and dry, and she fell asleep reading her latest book? Because, if so, she and I were soul sisters last night.

      Sweet dreams, pretty kitty! xoxo

  18. Kuododi*

    I have chronic problems with nausea and vomiting. (To the point I have a standing perscription for anti nausea meds) My GI and family MD both advised to stay on a low-fiber eating habits. Very counter-intuitive however I have found in the long run that the changes have helped manage the problem. I also religiously avoid high acid foods such as tomatoes, onions, citrus fruit etc.

    When all else fails I have resorted to old fashioned baking soda and water. (Grandma’s home remedy but I have found it helpful.).

    Best wishes and hope you find relief soon.

    1. Kuododi*

      Drat!!! New phone and getting adjusted to the features is a pain. This was actually supposed to be under the thread for Mrs Carmen Sandiego JD. Fooey!

      1. Mrs. Carmen Sandiego JD*

        Thanks, have read :)

        That helps—I should stop using tomato paste in my dinner recipes. Gotta start looking for tomato paste alternatives….hmmm

  19. PhyllisB*

    I shared with y’all last week about my fractured ribs. Well, I’m not going dancing anytime soon, but doing much better. As long as I don’t bend over too far (my grabber is my best friend!!) or try to lift anything heavy I’m okay. I take Tylenol or ibuprofen during the day for pain and Tramadol at night to sleep and I’m doing okay.
    The good thing in all this is I’ve realized I have to quit drinking. I was thinking of doing this anyway, but just couldn’t make the final decision. I don’t get drunk; three glasses of wine was my limit, but obviously three glasses is just too much for me. I guess we can find positives wherever we look for them. Thank all of you for expressing concern and giving advice.

  20. Mimmy*

    We are FINALLY getting to see Hamilton tonight! Sooooo excited!! It was a surprise early Christmas gift from my sister.

    Here’s my question: I know I will absolutely love the music. However, I am TERRIBLE at following the story of musicals. Not sure why exactly–they just seem more abstract than purely spoken stories. Usually I’m okay with just enjoying the music and dancing though I’ll admit to sometimes just zoning out. However, I’d really like to appreciate the story this time. My sister also got us a book about the play, but it’s not really a synopsis; it’s more about the development of the musical (Lin-Manuel Miranda originally planned on it being a concept album) and some inside thoughts about each of the musical numbers. It’s long too.

    Any suggestions?

    1. Someone Else*

      Have you heard the soundtrack already? This musical is almost entirely sung through. There is a little bit of book, but if I recall correctly the whole show is maybe 10 minutes longer than the soundtrack, if that. So if you’ve heard the soundtrack and could follow the story well enough JUST hearing the songs, you know the show.

      Given the issue you described, even if you haven’t heard the soundtrack already, I think you may have an easier time following this one than others. The songs really are the whole show. Although certain bits might be tricky if you have trouble following very fast rap.

      1. Harriet J.*

        I’ve seen it three times – the program does not have a good summary and you really need to know it before you go.
        Unless you really remember your US History I suggest you head to Wikipedia . . .
        Enjoy – its an amazing show, music, staging, etc.
        If you are going to the NYC show, an additional suggestion – if you need to go to the bathroom during intermission, head downstairs IMMEDIATELY. Those old Broadway theaters do not have large bathrooms.

    2. Its all good*

      You are going to love it. I didn’t know much before we went. But you better believe I was all Hamilton as soon as we got home!

    3. Mimmy*

      Well unfortunately I didn’t give myself any time to go through all of your suggestions, but they were much appreciated all the same! I will still check them out.

      The show was last night. Yeah I had a hard time following the story. My brother-in-law gave a short synopsis during dinner of the actual history. I did skim through the book my sister gave us as did my husband, but we felt it’d make more sense after seeing the show. Our seats were not as good as I’d hoped. I don’t see well so I had a hard time telling the characters apart.

      The show was beautifully done though; I can see why it’s so popular.

  21. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    We just moved and my cat is so stressed out. It’s giving me anxiety. He’s digging a hole to China in his box as we speak. Poor dude.

    1. StellaBella*

      Do you have a place or online to buy a spray called Pet Remedy – got it in the UK tho so not sure where you are if it exists? My vet gave it to me for my cat for our recent move. Spray it or dab it on things like scratching posts and bedding and he will love it, it is calming. Also try Zylkene powder too over a period of two weeks or so…ask your vet but this helps a lot, it is made with milk colostrom and is also calming. And play with him chasing a lot of feather or string toys to get him tired.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’ll go hunt at the pet store to see if they have something similar. I’m in the US.

        I’m stuck in that hell of the weekend and holiday where only the ER is open vet-wise. So I’m trying to play and comfort him until I can get a vet involved. He’s less than 2 yrs and always has been high strung. Just the 5 mile relocating in a kennel caused him to pee on himself.

      2. Gerald*

        Feliway may be the name in the US. If a cat is normally relaxed but in a stressful situation (recent move is a good example) then I have seen it work really well.

    2. Asenath*

      Poor thing. He’ll settle down. Just make sure he can’t get outside for a while – even (or especially) if he’s normally an outdoor cat, he might try to get back to Old Home, and get lost. Buttering their paws is supposed to help show them this is now home, but I’ve got my doubts. Many cats like butter, so the cat might like that idea anyway! Make sure he has some quiet corner or box or closet he can hide in when it all gets a bit much for him.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Thankfully he’s 100% inside and it’s very little in and out since it’s just the two of us usually. So I’m careful to not let him out. My apartment has doors to inside hallways, so barring disaster of him slipping out to the patio, which in winter is never an issue because burrrr.

        I’m giving him space but he’s actually more cuddly than usual. He slept with me the first night, he usually prefers his underbed drawer.

        Thank you for the reassurance. I feel like a parent who’s kid is upset and can’t just fix it for them.

    3. Extra vitamins*

      Feliway worked for my cats when we moved. Also catnip, which sounds counterintuitive, but also worked. Maybe it distracted them from their stress.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        He hates catnip, it makes him an angry beaver! It’s hard because they lace even hairball meds with that, he was angry awhile back when I had to smear some on him.

        Currently, he’s grooming beside me. I set up his stuff before unboxing any of mine so he has his scents available and some sense of comfort.

        Thank you for the help, it’s much appreciated!

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I googled and its (probably) in stock at my local store! I’m in the metro area so worse case I drive to another one if necessary. I’m going to try this.

            He’s naturally anxious, he’s a huge chatter talker regardless. So I’m happy to give him comfort any way possible. I’m also relieved our new apartment has much better ventilation, he’s probably confused he’s not smelling the nasty stank from the previous upstairs neighbor…who apparently chain smoked inside right above the bathroom. Ewwwww

    4. anon24*

      It took my cat a week or so to calm down, and he didn’t really relax until we were completely unpacked. The first night in our new place he howled all night long.

      One thing that helped was making sure his stuff was in every room, including blankets that smelled like him. And as we settled in we bought him new toys (he gets very excited about new cat toys) and that really seemed to help him make this his new home. Like, ooh these fun toys were not at my last home!

      Hoping your boy calms down soon. It’s hard to see them upset.

  22. Rebecca*

    Adventures with Mother, or “Lessons in What I Don’t Want to be Like if I Live to be 83”

    I turned on the lights on the ceramic Christmas tree to get a photo. Mom walked by, and said “I don’t want the lights on that thing now. I won’t be home.” She was getting ready to walk to the post office. I said, OK, I’m just taking a picture of it. So I took the picture, then turned off the lights. I said, see, the lights are off. “Good” she growled, and stomped away. Just yesterday she told me the lights didn’t work and the switch was broken. Ummm, no, you just have zero mechanical or linear thinking abilities so you were probably turning it backward. I plugged it in, turned the little wheel in the switch, and it lit right up.

    Then she was complaining that my cousin called her and delayed her from going to the post office this morning. The same cousin she complained about yesterday because she hadn’t called Mom and didn’t send a greeting card. I tried to say, you can go to the post office another time, so talk to my cousin for a few minutes, you just said yesterday that you weren’t happy she didn’t call, and she cut me off: “No! The post office is only open until 11:30”. OK then.

    And she now has a 3rd UTI in 2 months. She took Cipro the last two times, reported nearly every side effect on the list, said she called the doctor’s office to report this, so now we have bladder infection #3, and what did they prescribe? Cipro again. She took two pills, then the doctor’s office sent a script for another antibiotic, so she picked that up, and is taking it. I’m trying to persuade her to see a urologist, but not having any luck. As I suspected, the “mesh” surgery she had 8 years ago failed soon after it was done, and she refused to have it redone or even bring it up with the doctors. There was a lot of news at the time because the mesh used was faulty, and yes, at the time, I begged her to go back to see what could be done, but she wouldn’t. Now, she has problems with both her bladder and bowels due to everything being out of place, and her doctor says it’s too late for more surgery. So, so she has chosen to be miserable, which is fine, except everyone in her sphere gets to be miserable too. Ugh.

    I bought a vacuum cleaner last weekend. I’ve been waiting for months for her to make a decision or do something about the central vac (it doesn’t work right, she complains about dragging the huge hose from floor to floor, not enough suction). She has a little upright vac that’s specifically for quick cleanups, not whole house cleaning, so she’s been complaining that “she spent money on this thing and it doesn’t work right”. Trying to explain that it’s for quick cleanups and not vacuuming an entire 2 story plus basement house gets me nowhere. So, I bought a Bissell pet eraser or some such thing, and am using it upstairs where I’m staying. It has a hose with attachments, can be adjusted for carpet height, and is easy to empty. The first vacuuming filled its canister half way with cat hair and just dust and stuff. Yesterday I moved furniture and vacuumed thoroughly. I didn’t even tell her it’s here. And I’m not going to until she asks.

    My mother is a surly, nasty, horrible person. She complains about things if they do happen, if they don’t happen, I don’t even. I know for a fact I’m not going to a holiday meal today because she told the person “I don’t know what Rebecca’s schedule is”, when she really means, “I don’t want to go because I cannot control all the food choices and there will be too much [insert thing here, fat, sugar, things that actually taste like food]”, whatever. I nearly didn’t get to see my Aunt for Christmas due to one of these stunts. I’ve been telling people (as I find out she’s been invited and turned things down) to make sure they reach out to me, too. I suspect there are a lot of people who think that I can’t be arsed to take her anywhere or do anything for her, when the opposite is true.

    I called our local office of the aging yesterday to see what I need to do to get her signed up for services. I’m going to start with transportation services in case I’m not able to take off work for appointments. She already doesn’t drive at night, and I can see the time where she shouldn’t be driving at all coming sooner rather than later. Already she called because her car wouldn’t go into gear after she started it. She didn’t have her foot on the brake. That’s not a good sign. And already not looking forward to taking here there to sign up. But, it has to be done. Honestly, I’m doing the best I can.

    And Dad, I can hear your voice so clearly “someday, if I go before your mother, you’re going to have your hands full”. I’d say “yes, I know, Dad” or “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it Dad”. Now, I’m like “seriously, Dad??” OMG!!

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      All I can say is that I HEAR YOU. My grandmother is like this. It makes things incredibly difficult; every single everyday thing is marred by her attitude and her expectation that everyone cater to her. I enjoy my extended family and don’t get to see them often, but Grandmom will insist on either leaving very early or skipping things altogether because “they’re loud” or “I don’t like what they served” or “they don’t keep a nice enough house.” My cousins have said to me in the past that they assumed for a long time I was like my grandmother and my mother, and they’re pleased to realize I’m not.

      You are doing the best you can. Take care of yourself. Make sure you take time with your friends and with people who make you feel appreciated and good.

      1. valentine*

        I’m not going to a holiday meal today
        Call them and say the wires were crossed and you’d love to go. If you know they’d love to see you and they are “Always room for one more” types, just show up and give them that thrill.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          This. Call them and see if you can drop by. It’s the holidays, I’m sure they’d love to have you. Don’t tell your mom about it beforehand, just go.

          1. Rebecca*

            I opted not to go – I found out after everyone had gathered and the meal was in full swing, so I said we’d catch up later (and I will) and for future, to make sure I’m notified of any invites. Not that I would automatically inject my presence, but so she can’t do the “oh, I don’t know what Rebecca is doing” routine. She needs to take ownership of why she doesn’t want to do things. This is a common thing with her, any time she doesn’t want to be social, or feels uncomfortable, she’s learned that she can tell people I have plans, or might have plans, etc. and can’t take her.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Omg. I’m relieved yet another time in life that my mom is the kindest soul ever. I want to clone her to be everyone’s mother.

      My grandma wasn’t terrible but she was temperamental. A spitfire in her youth because she was born before the depression, had a tough childhood and was a widow in her 40s. Never to remarry or even date (my mom just confirmed that to me).

      My mom was the only one of 6 who was local and able/willing to care for her as she aged. It took a toll on my mom but thank God, she’s like me, stress makes her think of ways to avoid it later not just internalizing it and becoming difficult herself.

      *hugs* You’re a good daughter. I chuckled at your last part about your dad’s words. I’m glad you can find tumor in the weeds xoxo

    3. blackcat*

      You just described my 90 year old grandmother. Except she voluntarily stopped driving a couple years back and it was not an issue.
      She constantly complains her family doesn’t visit her enough.
      One of her kids or adult grandkids has a meal with her EVERY DAY.
      Increasingly, in the last few years, it really does seem like she’s making a choice to be miserable. She won’t follow any suggestions. Efforts to help her don’t yield any changes. She’s just as miserable alone as with members of the family.
      Let me know if you figure out what to do. It’s exhausting for everyone. We want to be compassionate, but man, it’s hard to show up for an hour a week just to get criticized the entire time.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      People who have kidney/bowel problems can get nasty. If she was already nasty, then she probably got nastier.
      She’s on a slippery slope. We have to get rid of, you know, the garbage inside us. If we don’t get rid of it then we have other physical problems developing. It interferes with our thinking and our ability to step through stuff logically.
      This is all to say, decide where your lines are and have some idea of what options you have. Just because a person is old/sickly does not mean they don’t have to be nice any more. Just because a person is old/sickly does not mean they are off the hook for helping themselves, no free passes here. Annnnd, just because a person took part in creating/raising us does not mean we are their indentured servant.
      I had one parent say to me, “The reason we have children is to get them to do our work for us.” You should have seen the look of SHOCK when I said, “No. That is not how that works.”
      I don’t want to be too scary here, but get a plan soon. Your mother is choosing a road where she will need a number of people helping her and a number of people trying to keep her safe. Keep adding people to this situation. You just extracted yourself from one bad situation, don’t let your guard go down just yet. Stay sharp, be deliberate in your actions and planning just as you have been doing.

    5. Wishing You Well*

      I am sorry you’re dealing with this.
      Your mother might or might not be in control of her moods and actions. Chronic pain and bladder infections can have severe effects on people. Tell everyone to contact you and to not expect your mother to relay messages.
      My grandmother was very difficult due to her anxiety. Once she was in a nursing home, she was on meds to help her cope. Sometimes the meds were found under her bed, though. She was difficult with the staff, so her behavior wasn’t just reserved for family.
      In-home help for your mother – of any kind, for even small amounts of time – could be a godsend. It would help you, too.
      Really wishing you the best on this.

      1. Rebecca*

        Thanks for this – she’s a retired RN, so giving her one med and lying and saying it’s for one thing and it’s really for something else is not an option. She has actually gone to the library and pulled a PDR to read up on things. She has anti anxiety meds, will not take them, has meds to help her sleep, again, will not take them, so she doesn’t sleep much and that makes her cranky too. My goal right now is to get her into some sort of housing that suits her needs. I want to leave PA at some point, and she will just have to deal with that.

        1. Snow Drift*

          It really, really sucks that you’re in PA. My extended family found out the hard way that PA is one of the most strict states for filial responsibility laws. Seeing an estate/elder care lawyer would be a really good idea. It’s entirely possible that if you get to the point where you’re fed up and want to wash your hands of the situation, you may have already set a precedent of being her caregiver. Please find out what your rights and responsibilities are ASAP.

          1. Rebecca*

            I know – went through things with my mother in law about 10 years ago, she had dementia, was basically indigent, had a small social security check and that was all. Not fun, and of course my EXH was of no help whatsoever. Mom and Dad already did everything with an estate/elder law attorney years ago, updated everything 2 years ago this month, so that’s all set.

            At this point, her indecision will be her downfall, because instead of being able to choose a new housing option now, that suits her, something will probably happen that will force the issue, like a fall. She has rather bad osteoperosis and has already fallen once since I moved in, no fractures, but she was lucky. She has fallen in the past, resulting in a shattered wrist once, broken ribs, collar bone, and stitches in her head about 15 years or so ago, etc. That’s going to be hell for her, as she won’t be able to completely control her food choices like she does now. She reads every label, measures everything, and has very restrictive food choices. That’s not something that will happen in a care facility.

        2. Woodswoman*

          I’m glad to hear you’re looking into getting help for your mother. I echo others’ comments that you should tell those who invite her to things to reach out to you directly or you may not get the messages otherwise. And it’s also a good idea to look into getting occasional caregiving from someone else so you can get a break from that and have more of a life of your own.

          Your mom is lucky to have you, and I can only imagine how draining it must be to have to deal with so much negativity.

          1. Rebecca*

            :) thankfully it’s a big house. She can sit in her chair in the living room, stew, and watch cable news or home shopping or televangelists…that’s about all she watches, maybe a Hallmark movie tossed in once in a while. I do things, I go for walks, read, watch TV in the family room in the basement, or go to my room and listen to music. So I don’t have to interact with her all the time. When she complains, I offer a solution, and when she says “I need to think about it or decide”, then fine. I walk away.

    6. Ktelzbeth*

      I’m sorry you are having such a tough time. If your mother keeps having trouble with bladder infections, make sure they are doing a urine culture to figure out what bacteria are growing and which antibiotic will work best. Repeated infections in a short time can be due to inadequate treatment and they’ve just given your mother the same antibiotic three times in a row, though it looks like they have her changed now. I would stay away from the Cipro if you can, especially since your mother has had trouble. That class (fluoroquinolones) is easy to give, but the side/adverse effects are getting better recognized for how bad they can be.

      1. Woodswoman*

        Yes to this. I kept getting the same antibiotic for a recurring infection and it wasn’t until a culture was done in the lab that they figured out which different antibiotic was the correct one.

        1. Rebecca*

          I’m hoping it’s the case this time. She was prescribed Cipro, then 1 day in, switched to something else. She won’t tell me all the details, and won’t let me go to appointments with her (I’ve already called the office to tell them things that I’m seeing and for them to bring up, but I don’t think they’re such a great staff). She said something about a culture and sensitivity test, so that’s probably what they did. And this goes on a lot, not just now, but it’s been a problem for years.

    7. Champagne_Dreams*

      There is a link between dementia in older women and UTI’s. If she’s prone to recurrent UTI’s, and especially if the antibiotics aren’t really taking care of it real well, you should explore this link thoroughly. Her UTI situation might be making the mental situation exponentially worse.

  23. PhyllisB*

    Another update, and this one is not positive. Some of you may remember me mentioning my grand-son who kept running away. Well, since I mentioned him, he’s been released/run away/stolen vehicles three more times. This last time he was released on house arrest (no ankle bracelet.) getting ready to send him to a youth boot camp. Left in less than 48 hours. This time he stole two different vehicles and three guns. Was missing nearly two weeks before he was found. He was right down the street from where he lived. Well, this time they had a full-blown trial and certified him. He went to the county jail yesterday and they have posted his bond at $500,000.00. Nothing is more heart-breaking than to see your 16 year old grandson in a mug shot on the county web page. I know he’s wrong, but these people forget this is someone’s relative and we love him even though he did these things.
    They are going to try to get it moved back to youth court, but that won’t happen until Spring. Meanwhile he’s sitting there with all these adult offenders.

    1. StellaBella*

      I am so sorry that people are cruel to him and am also sorry he is in an adult jail population, that sounds terrible for him. Also – I have looked at that page and OMG that is horrible. I know things like arrests are usually public but dang, wow. That is a page it seems to make fun of people, it is just heartbreaking and yes cruel. Also – his Assault on a LEO (law enforcement officer) is not good news either – it sounds as if he will not get any breaks especially in MS – and especially because some of the comments are from people who worked (work?) in the juvenile detention centre! This is another side of FB that is just horrible. At least most of the horrible cruel people commenting can be reported? I do hope for your grandson’s sake and the sake of the family that soon he can get some rehab and skills and be able to some day function well in society and learn from all this. :( Sorry too this is at the holidays. Peace to you and your family.

      1. PhyllisB*

        That’s the thing; he didn’t participate in the assault of the officer. He admitted that he helped create the distraction (fake fight) and helped with the escape, but when the guard came he did not lay a hand on him. When the attorney questioned them under oath they all admitted that he was not on tape as involved in the assault. That’s why we don’t understand why they charged him that charge. I mean they had enough to charge him with as is. And if you saw his picture, the reason his eye looks like that is the officer slammed his head into a wall when they arrested him. It did damage to his eye.

    2. Roseberriesmaybe*

      That’s so tough to deal with PhyllisB, I’m sorry you and your family are going through this pain

    3. Be the Change*

      Oh PhyllisB…. hugs from an internet stranger.

      There is no excuse for people to be gratuitously nasty. I’m so sorry you have that piled on.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hi Phyllis,

      I deleted the part of your comment that tells people how to see your grandson’s inmate page, because he hasn’t agreed to have his name connected to his story here and I don’t think we should do that without his consent. I hope that makes sense. I’m so sorry your family is going through this.

      Alison

      1. PhyllisB*

        Thank you, Alison. You’re right, I should not have included that. I was just so upset and not thinking clearly. Thank you for looking out for me.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m so sorry that your family is going through this.

      I’m sad that he’s so young and self destructing. I truly pray and hope that there is some help somewhere for him. The system is broken and ugly but some do get treatment and are able to recover, I hope that you can hold out hope that he is able to become a better person in the end after all this.

      Having family who understands he’s done wrong but still loves him is powerful. Hang in there *hugs*

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Too little too late for your family, but NYS is looking at keeping stuff confidential for anyone under the age of 18.
      I think this is in part because professionals are beginning to see that publishing info about underage offenders does NOTHING. In other words, TPTB are seeing the light and agreeing with you.
      I remember decades ago we had a big story here involving an underage. It was BIG. The news paper blasted out headlines daily regarding the case. I was surprised and lightened to find that most people reacted with, “Let the kid alone. Leave the family alone. Let them deal with it quietly.” People were disgusted with the media, the police and the courts for turning it into a circus.

      There is a larger number of people agreeing with you, Phyllis, than you may realize.
      I pray the Judge on this case has the wisdom and tools to lock things down and let things be worked on quietly. We don’t show people a kinder way of living by being unkind and unfair ourselves. People do not learn from that.

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        Wow, this is shocking to me. In Canada it is illegal to publish the names or info (such as parents’ names) of young offenders (except in very specific circumstances, and they are hardly ever met).

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, here if they are charged as an adult the names can be published. Some folks are taking a second look at that practice with a critical eye. I have often wondered about it, because we have so many legal protections for our youth, this does not fit with the other things we try to do.

    7. ..Kat..*

      PhyllisB, I am sorry that you and your family are going through this. But it may be best for your grandson to be in jail – he is out of control, and non-jail options are not working. Also, as much as I sympathize, this is a young man making poor decisions who has gotten his hands on GUNS. I sympathize for the innocent citizens who are near him while he is making poor decisions with guns.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Thank you, Kat. You are exactly right about him making poor decisions. The thing is, I really believe there is an underlying mental cause that needs to be addressed and some sort of treatment advised. I agree he doesn’t need to be be free, but just locking him up is not the answer. It doesn’t help that his father doesn’t think medical assistance is needed, that he just needs to have better self-control. He was diagnosed ADD in the first grade; went to live with his dad in the fourth grade. He refused to give him meds. Even after he got into so much trouble and was in juvenile, he wouldn’t take his medicine to him. I don’t know what’s going to happen from here. One thing that concerns me is, with this charge of assaulting an officer, I’m afraid the guards will be harsher to him. Not that this really matters, but the guns was incidental; they were in the vehicle that he stole, but instead of leaving them alone, he gave them to his friends.

        1. Thursday Next*

          This is a late reply, so I’m not sure if you’ll see it, Phyllis. It’s absolutely heartbreaking that his father refused treatment for him when he was so young. Who knows what else a medical professional would have recommended treatment for, if he’d been under one’s care? I get upset when adults make these huge decisions on behalf of their children, that are really about the adults’ preferences and prejudices rather than the kids’ needs.

          I hope through this process that your son will have access to a psychiatrist who can evaluate and treat him if necessary. For whatever he’s done, he’s still a child at 16.

  24. Definitely Anon For This*

    Here’s a family question.

    One of my cousins has recently become engaged, and brought his fiancée to our first (we generally have two) big family dinner. She seemed alright for the first half of it, but as conversation slipped towards politics and social issues it came out that she is, well… very homophobic. She never said outright that she was, but you can easily recognize specific turns of phrase (especially about gay marriage and “keeping it in the bedroom”). The worst part is that she merrily assumed everybody agreed with her.

    Which … she isn’t entirely wrong — that part of my family is fairly socially conservative. She could easily look at my aunt and uncle and my grandma and assume they, too, didn’t like “those people”. She certainly didn’t think anyone around the table was queer.

    But I am. So is my brother. Only our parents know, and while they looked uncomfortable, they didn’t say a word, mostly because they have had their share of screaming family arguments and are tired of them — which I totally get, and neither my brother nor I wanted to make waves either.

    But. If she becomes part of the family, it’s pretty much certain that those homophobic diatribes will keep happening, and at some point I will end up snapping and chewing her out. So: what could be the best way to shut down that particular topic of discussion as soon as it comes out? Without, if possible, making it into a huge drama that we might be accused of causing? On the one hand, I don’t want to drag the entire family reunion into a huge debate on LGBT matters. On the other, those remarks of hers are hurtful and only contribute to our feeling unwelcome the longer she talks and no one objects.

    Thoughts?

    1. valentine*

      Cut off the homophobic family, including the cousin who brought her. Your parents should have led by example for you.

      1. Definitely Anon For This*

        Unfortunately, that’s not easily done! I can take or leave my aunt and uncle’s family, but I do love my grandma and great-aunt, who — while they are conservative — have never said a homophobic word. They would be deeply hurt if we stopped coming, as it is essentially the only time of the year when we get to see them in person.

        I can’t blame my parents. They were taken by surprise, as were we.

        1. fposte*

          If you’re trying to thread the needle that is shutting down her homophobia without getting a rise out of the homophobic branch of the family and outing yourself, I unfortunately think that’s a tall order. There’s not much you can say to her that isn’t likely to elicit defense of her.

          One possibility is, if you can manage it, to buttonhole her privately. “My family is conservative, it’s true, but there are gay and lesbian family members who are very dear to us; I hope you’ll keep that in mind in future” might be just noncommittal enough to warn her without naming names.

          1. Definitely Anon For This*

            That’s a good idea! Our second family dinner is just before New Year’s, I might try to talk to her privately then. Preferably before her comments anger me so much I snap in front of everyone else.

            1. fposte*

              If you can pull off the strong hint that this isn’t insider bonding about outsiders but stuff that is going to be read very personally, that might be enough; if she changes based on that, that would also bode well for her learning curve.

    2. Bells and giggles*

      Keep in mind that people have the right to hold different opinions and it’s not automatically homophobic to not be in favor of gay marriage for example. So just think of her the same way you think of the rest of your family that have differing views on this matter.

      Why don’t you take a part of what she is saying and use to go on a tangent and change the topic?

      1. Definitely Anon For This*

        … I’m sorry, but no. I can’t think of a single reason to disapprove of gay marriage that isn’t homophobic, and her opinions against LGBT folks weren’t limited to that particular issue. I can’t, and won’t, assume that well-intentioned stance of “well, she thinks I’m the scum of the earth and shouldn’t be allowed the same rights as straight people, but that’s just her opinion, so I shouldn’t hold it against her, right?”

        No. I may or may not vocally disagree with her in the future, but I will not respect her right to be homophobic.

      2. anon today and tomorrow*

        It is homophobic to not be in favor of gay marriage. Trying to say that it isn’t and just a “difference of opinion” perpetuates the idea that it’s okay to deny the LGBTQA+ community basic rights that straight people don’t need to fight for.

        It’s like trying to say it’s not racist if you don’t agree with interracial marriage.

        1. Bells and giggles*

          I have nothing against gay marriage but it’s dishonest to compare it to interracial marriage. Race is a social construct, not a scientific one. Sex for the most part is very well a clear scientific concept (there are exceptions, such as intersex people) and same sex marriage is a very new concept. It’s normal for it not to make sense to many people. Also, marriage is a privilege, not a right even for straight people

          1. anon today and tomorrow*

            Wow.

            This is so bigoted and ridiculous I don’t even know where to begin. I’m taking my queer self out of such a discussion because my blood pressure can’t handle being told my wishes for equality don’t make sense to many people.

          2. Definitely Anon For This*

            There are so many things wrong about this comment.

            – gender is also a social construct.
            – whether someone’s sexuality or skin colour is a social or scientific construct doesn’t have anything to do with marriage. Nothing.
            – same sex unions, as a concept, are historically as ancient as opposite sex unions.
            – the only people who would find it “normal” for gay marriage not to make sense (how does a marriage make sense anyway? Either it isn’t or it doesn’t) are homophobic. Them’s the breaks.
            – how is marriage a privilege for straight people?
            – even if it was, why shouldn’t everyone benefit from that privilege?

              1. Definitely Anon For This*

                And? No, really. What the hell is your argument here?

                (Also! That’s not quite true. You ~kindly noted that intersex people exist in your earlier comment, but the truth is more complicated than “biological male”, “biological women”, and “intersex people”. Sex is often arbitrarily decided at birth depending on the overall look of the genitals, even without a defined penis or vagina/clit. Chromosomes and physical elements don’t always match. Testosterone levels can be very high in AFAB women. The list goes on. Sex is a spectrum, just like gender.)

              2. TL -*

                In common parlance, gender and sex are interchangeable. There are times where it makes sense to differentiate between the two but those are almost always (always?) academic or medical discussions where genetic and hormonal makeup are relevant to the issue at hand.

                For a discussion on AAM and pretty much every social conversation, it’s best and kindest to use gender and sex interchangeably; you’ll never need to know whether someone* is a woman, and has XX chromosomes and has developed in a hormonally congruent way.
                *Exception for committed, long-term, romantic relationships, particularly if you’re trying to procreate with somebody. Then it may become relevant.

          3. Someone Else*

            If you google “common homophobic tropes” you will find significant overlap between those results and everything you just said. This is like…a How To say defensively homophobic things that people constantly claim are not homophobic.

          4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Lmfao. You’re homophobia is also bigotry when you start throwing around “privilege” vs right.

            Also people cloak hate of religion, race and nationality in the same mask as “it’s new, people don’t like change!!!”

            Tacky. And gross.

      3. Sammie*

        To suggest that people should maybe not have the same access to the rights that others have is definitely bigoted. And if someone is not okay with gay people getting married but is okay with straight people getting married, this is textbook homophobia. To suggest this could be simply a difference of opinion, especially to a queer person, seems wrong-footed at best.

        1. Bells and giggles*

          I have nothing against gay marriage and while I think it’s OK to redefine marriage, you could argue that gay people have the right to marry a person of the opposite sex if you define marriage this way. Not everyone agrees that being able to marry anyone you want is a right. Someone having a different opinion is not automatically bigoted.

          1. Chiffon And Lace*

            No, but when that opinion is bigoted, that person is a bigot.

            And this is a bigot, make no mistake. Who you are bending over backwards to defend, notably.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            MARRIAGE IS DEFINED AS A UNION BETWEEN TWO PEOPLE. END SCENE. THERE’S NO RE-DEFINING NECESSARY.

            People who tried to drill it down to “one man, one woman” are not the ones who get to decide it turns out.

            You’re such a “progressive” in your desire to dodge accepting your own homophobic tendencies. At least you’re willing to “redefine” something after all.

              1. Girl friday*

                Trolling is continuing a discussion long after a point has been made. Even if people disagree with you, it doesn’t mean that you need to restate your point. That’s not against you, it happens here sometimes.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This site doesn’t consider it a matter of debate that gay people are entitled to the same rights as anyone else, and I’m not up for hosting any arguments to the contrary (just as I wouldn’t host a debate about whether rights should be assigned by race or sex).

        1. QueerReader*

          I can’t begin to explain how much that means to me, that there’s places where that just isn’t even entertained. Thanks Alison!

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Omg…

      I’m lucky that we already cut off our bigoted family long before I knew I was LGBTQ.

      They were gross and unloving anyways. I came out to my brother by drunkenly saying “dad’s family suckssss, I bet it’s cuz they could smell the queer on me as a kid.”

      I would steer conversions away from politics if possible. I’m spinning wheels in my head over how anyone brings up gay marriage organically unless they’re gay or an absolute dbag with a homophobic agenda. She sounds gross.

    4. LGC*

      Like…I think this is something that you or your brother might not be able to handle directly without potentially outing yourselves. I feel like your parents were pretty bad allies in this case, though. They could have deflected to a different topic or something without saying anything “incriminating” of you – like that it’s settled law since Obergefell five years ago. (You could have said it yourself, but that might have shone a spotlight on you.)

      And it sucks! Like, in a perfect world, you could just do what valentine suggested because that is abhorrent and a rejection of a fundamental part of you. Or you could actually dispute her without your family thinking you might be one of (gasp) TEH GHEYS.

      The good news is that at least on that particular issue, it seems like general consensus is that even if you don’t like same-sex marriage, it’s a thing that’s happening and society hasn’t collapsed yet (although Alabama did elect a Democratic civil rights lawyer to Congress last year, so I don’t know). After grumbling about it shortly, most of the opponents of same-sex marriage have moved on to…other anti-LGBTQ measures. What I’m saying is that I think that most opponents are at least tolerant of it, and being, “Well, yes, Becky, you might think it’s a terrible thing that a man can marry the person of his choice that he loves, but what do you think of Aunt Carolyn’s green bean casserole?” might not go that poorly.

      But I have a question: how did everyone react to her? Were they vocally agreeing? Were they quietly agreeing?

      That leads into another question: Would you be able to suggest a ground rule that political issues are not to be discussed at the reunion? I feel like if they weren’t hooting and hollering during Opposite Marriage Becky’s rant, they might be more okay with cutting out the politics talk. And it already sounds like it’s been a problem before for your family, since your parents don’t want to have any more screaming matches.

    5. Wishing You Well*

      Back to suggestions…you can speak up, tell her “that’s enough on that” or “We get it. You’re a homophobe.” and change the subject. Or you can ask that certain topics are banned at the dinner table. You’re allowed to say,”That’s offensive” in response to any statement. Or, before the next dinner, pull your cousin aside and ask him to tell his fiance to keep her offensive comments to herself.
      But, above all, protect yourself. See the people you want to see at a time that works for you. Limit your exposure to nasty people. Arrive late, leave early, go every other dinner, set up a different dinner – whatever works for you.
      If you really want to keep the peace, you might have to get up and leave. ( The cost of offending you is your absence. That’s the idea.)
      I am sorry you’re going through this. My grandparents were racist bigots. There’s a type of grief/sorrow when you realize people you love are not the loving people you thought they were and you realize they are never going to change. It’s hard.
      Best of Luck.

      1. Observer*

        Definitely Anon wants to keep this low key. Saying “you’re a homophobe” is a perfect way to make that impossible.

    6. TL -*

      You can always pull the “my friend” card. As in, “One of my best friends is gay/a lesbian and I’m really not up for this discussion.”

      In find that pretty effective without needing to go into details; if you imply that you love someone dearly people tend to figure out where your allegiance lies without you needing to say it. It might not work with close family but with an in-law it should be sufficient.

    7. chi chan*

      You can push back by bringing up a famous person or philanthropist who is LGBT and saying you admire them and that everyone should have the same basic rights. I think this person is actually just highlighting a divide that is already there in your family. So it has come up before and will keep coming up in different ways. Surround yourself with support. Text a friend ” Ugh family!”. Focus on the relatives you enjoy and are supportive.

  25. Persephone Mulberry*

    We said goodbye to one of our kitties this week. We are sad but not devastated (he was loved and spoiled for 15 years, and after his health crisis last year we knew it was a matter of time), and I am starting to look around for our next family member because it doesn’t feel right not being a two-cat household.

  26. Bells and giggles*

    Does anyone else find Christmas songs annoying? I love Christmas but I can’t stand most Christmas songs, they’re just not fun. I liked “All I want for Christmas is you” and “Last Christmas I gave you my heart” the first 5000 times I heard them but I’m sick of them being played on repeat to oblivion every year for a month.

    1. valentine*

      They are so annoying and it’s like my brain has set a limit on how many I can acknowledge. New ones feel so odd, it’s like they’re from a parallel timeline.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They drive me up the wall. Especially how retail establishments have a loop of all Christmas songs starting in November sometimes.

      I appreciate that my favorite radio station plays a song an hour if that. So between the regular tracks they’ll drop in a Christmas song that I can actually enjoy!

    3. LGC*

      (Randomly: I’m participating in Whamageddon – basically, where you try to avoid Wham’s “Last Christmas” between December 1 and Christmas – and now I’m trying to not hum “Last Christmas” to myself.)

      (Not-so-randomly and bringing in the place we don’t talk about on weekends: one day last month (or hell, it might have even been October) I walked into the scanning room at TPWDTAOW and one of the employees was literally playing “Last Christmas.” Before Thanksgiving. I had LOTS OF THOUGHTS about that.)

      In general, I like Christmas songs in moderation. I can imagine working in a place where they’re played constantly – like retail – and very quickly getting sick of them, though! Plus, there are very few good ones – which I think might partially be cultural.

      For what it’s worth, I much prefer “All I Want For Christmas Is You” to “Last Christmas.” A huge part of that is that I’m a huge Mariah Carey fan in general, and while I like George Michael, I prefer his solo work to when he was in Wham!. (This is not a sentence I’d ever thought I’d type when I grew up, but here we are.) But I think another – and probably more major part – of it is that “AIWFCIY” (which…is even more awkward to type out abbreviated) is done in a Motown style (even though the song was released in 1993), while “Last Christmas” is…very much a product of its time (I believe 1985). Much like the band that released it. So I think that I (at least) and a lot of people associate “good Christmas music” with “50’s/early 60’s music.” (“Merry Christmas” actually is the exception that proves the rule – you could release the album in 1963 and it wouldn’t be out of place.)

      Plus, to be honest…most Christmas songs are really derivative. I’m actually listening to Mariah’s first Christmas album right now (technically there are others, but that’s the only one I personally acknowledge the existence of), and you can split the majority of the tracks into two categories:
      – Gospel (actually the majority – 8 of 12)
      – Mimi singing about how she wants her lover to come back to her (AIWFCIY, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, “Miss You Most At Christmas Time”)
      – The one exception is Mariah covering “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town.”

      There’s just not that much to write about Christmas that feels “Christmas-y,” so it gets repetitive really fast. There’s only so much you can hear about presents, sex (or the lack thereof) around the solstice (winter or summer depending on where you are), and the young wife of a carpenter giving birth in a barn in Israel about 2000 years ago before you’ve covered all the bases.

      So basically: this is me doing a very bootleg Switched on Pop impersonation, but no, you’re not the only one, and most Christmas music does in fact suck to begin with, and especially after you play it nonstop for months on end in an effort to get people in the mood to conspicuously consume.

      (And yes, I know it’s a little over the top, but that’s just how festive I am.)

      Finally: how do you properly punctuate a sentence that ends with “Wham!”? I would think that since the exclamation point is part of the proper noun (although I’ve seen it without, I think it’s properly “Wham!”), you have to put another punctuation mark afterwards. But that looks weird because you’re using double punctuation marks, and what if the sentence itself is an exclamation? And if you’re asking a question, does it become a reverse interrobang?!

      1. LGC*

        …and yes, I am properly ashamed of myself for writing a 1000-word monologue on the merits of Mariah Carey’s first Christmas album and the proper punctuation of Wham!.

        (As for “Last Christmas” – it’s more of a pure exception! I think where it succeeds is because of the lyrics – George Michael is singing about how screw you for breaking his heart last Christmas, he’s going to find someone who actually loves him this year. Much like Die Hard, although it’s set around Christmas, it’s not about Christmas. Plus, it’s a stereotypical 80’s pop song in its instrumentation. Unlike Mariah, you could only release that song in 1985.)

    4. Cambridge Comma*

      You’re not alone. This year I’ve been surprised to find myself enjoying Jazz Christmas playlists, though. Somehow they are novel enough and familiar enough at the same time.

    5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I haaaaate them now so much! It makes me sad because I used to like our family tradition of driving around to look at Christmas lights while listening to the special local radio Christmas show, but it has been ruined for me by hearing the same 10 or so songs over and over for months. I swear that every store and cafe in my town has just one CD of the most annoyingly over-played songs that they play over and over, and conspire among themselves to start it at different times so that you hear the same song again and again while you shop.

      I had lunch out, then went into two shops and the grocery store today. I heard “All I Want for Christmas” at least 8 times, always followed by Last Christmas, then Fairy Tale of NY, then Merry Christmas Everybody… Etc etc. I was holding my hands over my ears at one point because it was so tiresome.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I used to get super sick of them because we started picking music for the Christmas ice show sometime around Halloween. By the time Christmas rolled around, I’d heard them six hundred bazillion times, including whatever I was skating to, LOL.

    7. Aphrodite*

      Well, I suppose where you hear them and how often and who the songs are sung by. (And if you work retail all my sympathy to you!)

      I love them but I am very particular. I have a passion for the following:

      London Symphony Orchestra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SlwnNKsidw
      Every year of Christmas in Vienna: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=christmas+in+vienna
      I adore the Piano Guys version of Angels We Have Heard on High: https://thepianoguys.com/pages/angels-we-have-heard-on-high-the-piano-guys
      Jingle Bells (on cash registers): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcH6GBmwoxc

      1. Bells and giggles*

        I don’t work retail, but between grocery shopping, going out to eat, just walking around and Christmas lunches at work I’m pretty fed up.

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

      I’m in the same boat as you. I like most of the classical stuff but if I hear the Mariah Carey song or “Winter Wonderland” one more time, I might scream.

      BUT! I realized today that I’ve somehow gone the entire Christmas season so far without hearing “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” Or the hideous Bruce Springsteen version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” I love Bruce, I think pretty much everyone does, but that was far and away the lowest point of his career.

      On the other hand, I’ve heard the Jackson 5 version several times. If you play young Michael Jackson pre-voice change back to back with Elmo from Sesame Street, you’ll discover they’re almost exactly the same voice. Shudder.

    9. char*

      There are some Christmas songs I adore and never get tired of (I’m a sucker for basically any arrangement of “Carol of the Bells”), and there are other Christmas songs where if I have to hear them even once, it’s too much (don’t even get me started on the baffling mixed metaphors of “Last Christmas”). In general, I prefer traditional Christmas carols over more pop-y Christmas music.

      Also, it turns out that the key to not getting sick of Christmas music is to not watch TV and spend as little time in stores as possible. I’ve actually managed to get into a state where I’m hyped to hear a little Christmas music because I’ve heard so little of it so far this holiday season.

      1. Angela*

        I flit between The Piano Guys and the Tabernacle Choir for Carol of the Bells so I know what you mean about “any version” :-D

        During my time in seasonal retail I got pretty good at running out the background noise, but we did have a few different CDs to cycle through including Christmas-adjacent options such as the Nutcracker, so it was rare to hear any single track more than twice in a shift.

    10. Windchime*

      Twice now this year I have heard “Santa Baby” by Madonna and it makes me want to throw up. The combination of her singing those stupid lyrics in a baby voice is just so irritating! And Michael Buble’– please just stop. If I want to hear Frank Sinatra, I’ll listen to actual Frank Sinatra.

    11. Anonymous Educator*

      Some underplayed Christmas songs I’d recommend:

      “Cuddle Up” by Catey Shaw

      “Christmastime” by Kayjez

      “Christmas After All” by Maria Taylor

      “Christmas without You” by Tommy Page

    12. Penguin*

      Yup, sure do. The solution that I’ve found is to make an effort to find Christmas-topical songs that are different- irreverent, parodies, funny, or simply outré- and listen to those while avoiding the month(s) of overplayed classic tunes that leads up to the holiday in my area. YouTube is a goldmine for that!

  27. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread!
    How’s everyone’s writing going?
    Personally I didn’t do a lot this week, I got very busy with holiday stuff. Hoping to get back to my normal fifteen-minutes-a-day routine after the 25th though.

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      I actually just got back around to writing a little more of a story I’ve had in my head for a few months – hopefully I’ll stick with it. I figure this new tumblr policy is gonna significantly reduce that site and since that’s my latest timewaster, I’m cautiously optimistic.

  28. Sparkly Librarian*

    Know why Solstice is the longest night? Because when you plan to host a cookie decorating party the next day, and you go to the store to get 6 dozen plain undecorated sugar cookies (same store you got them from last year), and they are ALL SOLD OUT, you stay up late cutting out and baking the damn things yourself. (And it ended up being 7 dozen.)

    1. fposte*

      Ugh. I did a crack of dawn supermarket run this morning because my regular had been out of some key ingredients and the alternative store was going to be an absolute madhouse today. And I’d still rather that than staying up to bake 7 dozen rolled cookies. (I love baking, but rolling out anything is my baking kryptonite.)

      1. Dear liza dear liza*

        I stick to drop cookies as much as possible. I don’t like having to make dough balls or roll out dough.

      2. MsChanandlerBong*

        I have to run to the store later because the store I usually buy from does not carry peppermint extract. I can’t even imagine why a grocery store would not stock peppermint extract, especially at Christmas! I found a recipe for mint chocolate chip pie that I want to try, so now I have to go get the extract somewhere else (I already bought all of the other ingredients).

    2. Windchime*

      I’m going to make my sugar cookie dough tonight so I can bake them in the morning. I love, love, love homemade sugar cookies.

    3. LibbyG*

      Seven dozen! I imagine you had to put dough scraps back in the fridge to re-chill. How tedious! I hope the decorating party was fun!

  29. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Gather round, my fellow commenters, for ’tis time for a tale of Christmas woe…Let me tell you the story of The Day The Electronic Payment System Went Down…
    23rd of December, 2013. Last minute holiday shopping and picking stuff up for Christmas Eve/Day dinner is in full swing…When DISASTER strikes. Debit and credit card readers all over the country start failing, throwing the stores into chaos as they frantically try to get everyone out with their shopping. One store activates a sort of “emergency plan” so that people can still pay with cards and have their information saved for later processing, another sends their customers home with the bill and bank transfer information. And still, massive amounts of people were stuck at the store, unable to pay as they don’t have cash (or not an adequate amount) on them. The problems lasted for a few hours, after which normal operations resumed.
    The company responsible for electronic payment apologised and, as compensation for the stores, decided to make electronic payments free for a day about a year later, on the 20th of December 2014.
    You can guess what happened again.

    1. chi chan*

      So were you the customer or the poor person working on the perfidious electronic payment system in this story?

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Neither, luckily. I was safely on my sofa at home watching this train wreck go down on the news and social media.
        It is, however, the reason I always have some cash on me.

  30. Myrin*

    My goodness, I seriously cannot with our landlady. (As quick background: we’ve been living in this flat for ten years and four months now and finally found a wonderful new flat where we’ll be moving to at the end of February.)

    Our neighbour came over this morning, very distressed, and told us that apparently, landlady is telling her still-friends (I can assure you they won’t be friends for long once landlady moves here in June, but I digress), i. e. the other flat-owners in this house that we legally need to stay in the flat for the entirety of the nine months long notice period she gave us. This is complete BS – as long as we gave proper notice ourselves (three months, which we did), we are completely free to move out before her notice period is up. Because, I mean, why wouldn’t we? That would basically render these long notice periods useless because you’d have to time it just so that you can only ever move out at the end of them. She apparently thinks we’re a bunch of idiots who don’t know their rights and are incapable of looking up the legal texts regarding this matter.

    And along with that, she’s also telling everyone that she won’t do anything about it regardless because she’s so generous and kind (which is laughable; just as one of many examples, she very generously made us buy our own faucet when the old one died even though it’s part of the house and she’s actually required to buy stuff like that for the flat, but I digress again). Which is also weirdly telling because, I mean, if she thought she was in the right she’s totally the kind of person who would drag us to court to force us to pay rent for the four months the flat will be vacant; the fact that she’s not doing so but is magnanimously letting the peasants leave shows that she knows damn well that she doesn’t have any kind of law or right on her side in this.

    And apparently our other dumb-ass neighbours don’t have anything better to do than to gullibly gobble up everything she has to say and then pester our friendly neighbour – the one who came over and told us all this – to inform us of landlady’s generosity. This woman really is something special, I can tell you that, and I’m very much looking forward to the day we won’t have anything to do with her anymore.

    1. fposte*

      I bet those gullible neighbors are going to be kicking themselves down the line. And you’ll be out a lot sooner than they will, so you win!

    2. Marthooh*

      If there’s an agency or government website or some such that tells tenants what their rights are, you might want to point your friendly neighbor at it as a going-away present.

    3. MsChanandlerBong*

      Ugh, that is so annoying. When our lease was up with our last landlady, she sent us a new one, but she tried to sneak in new terms. We have five cats, which she gave us permission to have, and that was written into the first lease. The new lease said something like “Three cats permitted. City of [My City] law is that a resident can have a maximum of three.” Like, does she think I can’t go on the city website and look up the pet laws? The rule is that you can have a maximum of six pets per household, and up to four of them can be dogs. There’s no ordinance limiting it to three cats or three pets in general. Do they think we’re dumb and can’t read?

    4. Nana*

      Oh, please, please…go to the hardware store and buy the cheapest and ugliest faucet you can find. Replace the one you bought. And do that with anything else you’ve had to buy that was her responsibility.

  31. Sled dog mama*

    I am so looking forward to January getting here, i look forward to Christmas every year and for some reason I think every year that my sister in law is going to restrain herself on gifts for kiddo and every year when she doesn’t I complain to hubby that it bothers me and he tells me that in his family you spent the same amount on each cousin (I don’t think they went down the “here’s the $0.50 I didn’t spend on you that I spent on your brother” rabbit hole but there are days when I wonder) instead of in my family where you got one gift from each aunt/uncle pair and didn’t get to request and (heaven help us all) would have been throttled for declaring “that’s not what I wanted” as my 8 year old nephew did a few years ago (i was sorely tempted to take his gift back and tell him he didn’t get a gift from me if he was going to behave like that).
    Once again this year gifts arrived from hubby’s brother and his wife, two packages, six items. I told hubby I thought it was excessive and he told me that she’s just trying to spend and equal amount as we spent on her kids. This is also irritating because kiddo didn’t ask for much, she asked for them to get her a set of vegetables for her play kitchen, but they can’t just get her what she asked for! And if he would simply not tell her what we spend on her kids this wouldn’t be an issue!
    My parents always emphasized that someone choosing to give you a gift says more about them than about you, I can’t help but feeing that what my sister in law is saying is that since I refuse to spoil my child she has to do it.

    1. fposte*

      When I read this, this sounds more like a clash of traditions between your husband’s family and yours than an issue with your BIL and his wife. They’re giving according to a tradition your husband recognizes and maybe even likes just fine (I’m not hearing anything in your post about his being on the same page as you). That’s not a statement about your kids; it’s just participation in a tradition. They’re not going to change their tradition out of the blue for no reason, so if you really want to change it, somebody’s going to have to send a clear message. And I’d recommend that “somebody” be your husband, since things generally go better if the partner deals with their own family.

      But I really don’t think it’s personal; this is just the gift-giving version of which way you hang the toilet paper.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        Ugh, gotta love when you get worked up about something and forget to put the actual question in!
        How do I
        A) help myself realign my expectations
        B) explain to hubby (in a way he follows and understands) that when he defends his brothers wife it hurts me
        Sister in law used to be a terrible boundary stomper with gifts, a few years ago she asked about purchasing a play kitchen for our daughter and after being told we had already purchased one to give her for Christmas she got the kitchen anyway, we are greatly improved from that point but I worry that I tend to cast her as coming from the same place that came from.

        1. fposte*

          Heh on the question thing. I know how that goes.

          Maybe this is worth a general discussion with your husband about the holiday practices and how he sees them as well. It sounds a little bit like you feel like sides are being drawn and he’s on theirs and not yours–I definitely understand that feeling, but I can also see him coming from a POV that says “Sled just doesn’t understand *why,* so I’ll explain why and that will fix things!” And given that some of your resentment is about what you perceive as the “why,” he might even be enticed in by that as bait :-).

          Also decide what your targets are:

          Husband to say “Yeah, there they go again!” instead of explaining to you?
          Donating excess presents?
          Making your own holiday traditions more prominent in your nuclear family and known to your husband’s family?
          Stopping big presents from coming?
          Stopping caring that big presents come?

          While this may not be a big deal in the scope of things, there are a lot of years of holidays coming, so I think there’s value in sorting some of this out before they send your kid a ticket to Europe when you’ve sent theirs a phone charger.

        2. Traffic_Spiral*

          For A.) just let your greedy side out a bit. They like to give expensive presents – ok, enjoy them. It’s their choice, you didn’t ask for it, but if they’re gonna give you stuff, just ignore any real or imagined slights to it and be like “sweet, free stuff! Thanks, SiL.”

          It could be worse. They could be the sort of people that constantly borrow stuff (and get really pushy about it) but don’t return it or return it late and/or damaged. Just remind yourself that everyone has something dickish and annoying about them, if your SiL’s thing is giving gifts, well… it really could be worse.

    2. WellRed*

      I really don’t think this is a comment on you. This is how they do Christmas. It’s not or wrong it’s just not how you do Christmas.

      1. WellRed*

        I posted this while you were posting additional info. Uh, that does change things a bit. You and hubby need to get aligned somehow. Ugh.

    3. Seattleite*

      You appear to not like your sister-in-law. If someone you actually liked were doing the same things, would it bother you so much? Do you see the contradiction in your complaint about your nephew announcing that received gifts aren’t what he asked for, and then complaining that your SIL didn’t give what your child asked for?
      Let go of any expectations of gifts. Someone loves your kid enough to spend time and money selecting presents for them. They may not be just right, but isn’t that better than ignoring the kid? People are imperfect, and some are better at choosing gifts than others.
      It’s hard to tell who is creating the sense of competition, but it’s not a competition if only one is playing.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        You are correct, I do dislike my sister in law, for many reasons that have to do with her disrespecting my boundaries and health issues. I’m trying to put that aside for the sake of hubby’s relationship with his brother. I have trouble thinking about the perspective of if this was someone I did like but I do see your point that I must approach the situation as neutrally as possible.
        I’m sorry that my statement about gifts was a bit unclear, we purchase a gift from the nephews wishlist, my sister in law will purchase half the wishlist plus 3 things not on wishlist. So we give the nephews one, typically higher value gift (hubby typically handles gifts for nephews) they give daughter 4-6 gifts rather than just the item she askes for, as if what she asks for isn’t enough.

        1. Slartibartfast*

          My mom lives for Christmas. Seriously, she shops all year and keeps a spreadsheet to make sure all the grands get an equal number of gifts and dollars spent. She’s also quite good at getting a deal-like full outfits of nice clothes for $3. The only way to keep her from buying everything on my kids’ wish list is to not tell her the whole list. I decide what I want to get for them and don’t tell her what I’m getting. She gets an edited version of the rest.

          She did cut back this year to 12 gifts per child. There is hope!

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is an interesting perspective.

      As a child, Christmas was ruined for me by having to watch unequal treatment of cousins. So the fact they’re so hard nosed on equality and that it rubs you wrong is a mind twister to say the least.

      If you spend a lot of money on your nephews, it’s startling that you want the minimum for your child. The answer is to stop spending so much on your end and they’ll then change how much they spend in kind!

      I was raised to ask for nothing. And that turned into getting nothing. Whereas my cousins were given all the fancy things they asked for. It really damaged me as an adult.

      I understand my parents and agree with not asking and no Christmas lists etc. But the difference is you’re giving more to the cousins than your kid is supposed to be getting. It’s a huge mixed signal.

      I lucky, my issue manifested in hating my greedy cousins and thoughtless grandmother who catered to them. But if my parents had spoiled them too…while expecting me to be a minimalist who appreciates thought over monetary value, it would have created a whole knew mental road block for me.

      It literally took me 20 years to like Christmas after my grandparents died and I never had to spend another Christmas with extended family. All because of having Veruca Salt as my cousin.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        Thank you for your perspective. I too witnessed unequal treatment of cousins by grandparents (on one side) what I recall (and my child is 4) is cousins getting different numbers of gifts and that as a young child I didn’t understand the monetary value of gifts.
        I realize my original post was unclear, I don’t believe that we spend a lot on the nephews but as they are 6-8 years older than my daughter their desires are typically more expensive.
        We get one gift for each nephew and aunt/uncle get multiple gifts for daughter rather than just one gift.
        I should have also stated that the wishlist is provided at their request for ideas, it can sometimes feel that they ask for ideas and treat the ideas as a shopping list. Just writing that out has made me realize that I should give them fewer ideas in the future.

        1. Elf of Equality*

          First of all, 8 year old boys are preteen jerks. Holidays are as (or more so) stressful for them as they are for adults. Kids have expectations for the holidays, just like adults do. But kids? They have no control over what is going on around them, nor do they do have the maturity or life experience to manage their emotions when disappointed. He gets a pass.

          You however, are an adult, so you gotta work at this a little harder. Your reaction to a normal childhood behavior is telling. Wanting to take back a gift because he was upset/disappointed is extremely immature. I know you didn’t actually take it back, but the “you hurt my feelings so I’m going to hurt yours” reaction is very strange for an adult.

          It does not sound like you like your SIL or her kids very much, never mind love and accept them for who they are.

          Really, this sounds like you need to adjust your attitude and expectations.

          Spending equally is the way they display love, is a tradition in their family, and probably helps them budget.

          Why is this abhorrent to you?

          1. Sled dog mama*

            Your response comes across as very hostile but I will attempt to take it into consideration.
            I do not accept that 8 year old children are not capable of saying “thank you for X” my 4 year old knows to say thank you for every gift and does. Part of growing up is learning manners. Yes I may have had an immature intial reaction but I also have feelings and when I choose a gift (that the child’s parent suggested as something he desired) I am allowed to have an initial hurt reaction that I don’t act on.
            Having interacted with other posters I am finding that my issue is the emphasis on equal spending.

            1. Elf of Contrition*

              Yikes. I did get weirdly hostile. That was not my intention, and I apologise.

              I’ll see if I can rephrase, without the witchy tone.

              I know 8 yos can manage their disappointments say thank you, but realistically, they will not. Not consistently, by any stretch not the imagination. If he’s a jerk otherwise, well that’s a different issue.

              As for their emphasis on equal spending- if only every family did this. Too often there’s a disparity or favorites. Whiiiich is probably why this bugs me so much, and why I went hostile.

              So that’s on me, not on you.

              But this is what they do. Its their tradition and they consider it fair. So long as no one is overspending, it’s a decent policy. And based on their ages, it won’t last forever. Soon the older kids will want more expensive items, or cash, or will hit 18 and you won’t need to get them presents at all.

              If it really bugs you, lie about how much you’ve spent. Or don’t tell your husband. Or send the presents after Christmas. Or take it all in stride, and realize it could be much worse.

              1. valentine*

                I reject blanket statements like 8 year old boys are preteen jerks

                Sled dog mama, I’m proud of your nephew for being honest. I’ve always seen a Christmas list as a shopping list because it’s saying, “Here’s a list of things I want and am guaranteed to enjoy.” It’s annoying if people go off-list and then expect a performance of gratitude. It’s possible the nephews are kneejerk jealous if someone else has more presents to unwrap. Without hubs on board, you can chip away, at least, and compare gifting by age level, as that determines how far the money stretches.

                The kindest interpretation is that, while money is not your unit of measure, your in-laws think it’s a useful measure of caring. If so, I can see how that’s a higher hurdle to get over. To them, you’re asking them to care less or, if they’re superficial, to be seen to care less. (New tradition: before shopping season, they repeatedly watch the original, unparalleled, Grinch. Maybe they’ll come around.) Your SIL is a problem, but your in-laws are the root. Maybe she agrees with the money deal; maybe your BIL insists on it. You shouldn’t have to get rid of extra gifts, but you can. You can work with hubs to insist they do things your way for your daughter. But. Does your daughter want the gifts? Do you loathe the excess, per se, or do you want to conserve space? Do you want 1:1 gifting or a maximum number of gifts?

                1. Sled dog mama*

                  Thank you for your framing. I believe you hit it, money is their unit of caring where mine is simply the presence of a gift. This helps me so much to calibrate my expectations and reaction.

              2. Anna*

                Why not let these two brothers handle all the work and emotional labor around the gifts for their children instead of letting their wives becoming hostile towards eachother?

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          A shorter wish list can definitely help! My brother-in-law once asked me for ideas, and I did some brainstorming and came up with about ten things, expecting that he’d pick one or maybe two of the things that were in his price range (and I told him this explicitly!). Well, he bought every single thing on the list! I was baffled and mortified to think that he might have thought I was being that demanding. Now I only tell him one or two things.

    5. Girl friday*

      Kids who are full of love and intrinsic r e w a r d s can watch others, even kids their own age, open presents without anything but happiness for them and without any feeling of ownership. They should be able to do that after age four or so. If you need to reframe it, you can tell them that this is their holiday celebration. They will remember the different traditions equally and honor them.

  32. Rebecca*

    Second post, positive things! My passport application is in the works (I checked the state department website and signed up for email alerts), I got my camera card for my PA license in the mail yesterday, a month before it expires, which is awesome. The last time we may have been past the expiration date a bit before we had our photo taken **coughcoughbusycoughcough**

    And my paycheck went up by over $100 biweekly since I’m not paying for employee/spouse insurance, and I got a small raise at “w”! Looking forward to having a bit more breathing room next year.

    **Handmaid’s Tale (possible spoilers) I watched all the episodes on Hulu, and see that it’s been renewed for a 3rd season. Glad that a certain aunt got some comeuppance. And again, not surprised but still disgusted by the way the people in charge are so sanctimonious and harsh with those under them, while they themselves break all sorts of their own rules with abandon.

    **Fargo on Hulu – binge watching this as well, my goodness, the bodies have piled up in season 2!!

  33. Nacho*

    I made the mistake of looking at my finances today. Last I checked, I had about 50k in stocks, and that’s dropped to a little over 30 now. I know I’ve still got another few decades before I have to retire, and it’s not like I’ll need the money until then, but it’s still a pretty major gut punch to see my net worth drop so much right in time for the holidays.

    1. fposte*

      That’s why “don’t peek” is the axiom of a lot of investors. As you say, you’ve got a long timeframe, so this is going to be pretty meaningless to your investments in the long term. This is also a time to consider your asset allocation–if this drop keeps you from sleeping well at night, you may wish to consider a higher bond allocation. I also like the Vanguard asset allocation chart that notes how many years a particular allocation would have been at a loss for the year–it’s a reminder that loss years are normal and expectable, even if not predictable.

      1. GhostWriter*

        My retirement account is all stock funds right now, so I’m scared to look.

        I had a bond fund for a while, but then my brother convinced me to move that money to a stock fund. This was around the end of last year, and of course there was a big drop in stocks the next day. -_- I want to go back to having some money in the bond fund again. It would be better to wait until the stocks go back up, right? Because the stocks will go back up eventually, but if I move the money to bonds now it’ll stay about the same forever instead of recovering?

        1. fposte*

          Nope–that’s what’s known as “market timing,” and it’s really not a great idea. What do you mean when stocks “go up”? If the S&P is up 5 points next week? If it’s back to what it was at the beginning of 2018? If it’s what it was at the beginning of December? What will you do if it doesn’t get to those for years or drops further?

          Assuming you’re talking in a tax-advantaged account so taxes don’t have to be factored in, figure out what stock to bond allocation works for you in good times and bad, move to that, and don’t look back. (Or move to a target date fund that does it for you.) And don’t listen to your brother, who already had you buy more stocks when they were at their most expensive.

          1. GhostWriter*

            I have a roth account if that matters.

            I was thinking if I had $40k in stocks that dropped to $30k, then eventually it should get back up to $40k if I leave it alone. As far as I understand it, bond funds don’t increase much, so if I trade to get $5k in a bond fund now, then that $5k will stay around $5k while the stocks will increase back to their previous value. But my overall total won’t go back to $40k because I missed the growth on the $5k in the bond fund. I have a few decades before I can retire, so it seems like I should just leave it alone until it gets better instead of panicking and making changes. I don’t know if that all makes sense? I suck at this stuff (as indicated by the way I stupidly followed my brother’s advice).

            1. fposte*

              It might get up to $40k. It might go down further. No guarantees in the stock market.

              100% stocks, assuming that you’re in total market index funds and not something more random, is a perfectly valid portfolio. But people who have that as their portfolio have it knowing and accepting that it can drop 50% in value; 100% stocks isn’t for people with loss aversion. Maybe that’s you, or could be you, but right now you’re talking like an emotional investor–you’re anchoring on a random portfolio value as the “right” one and believing that even if the market soars you’ll willingly pull money out of the stock side of your portfolio and accept making less money just because your assets hit that number.

              In the long run, putting the money in matters much more than all of this, and if what you’ve got is analysis paralysis that means you never ever touch your money, that’ll probably be a good thing for you. But if you can identify a long-term plan for your asset allocation and then follow it, that’s really useful when your emotional brain wants to take over.

              (BTW, are you not putting new money in? If you just put new money in bonds, you haven’t sold any of the shares that suffered the drop but are achieving a more balanced portfolio.)

    2. Tris Prior*

      I hear you. I have scrimped and done without in order to max my 401k this year like I’m supposed to. I checked my 401k balance the other day and I am down $18k for the year, which is basically what I put in. So I feel like I’ve just flushed all that money down the toilet, and endured tiny paychecks for a year for no good reason.

      1. it happens*

        As long as you’ve been buying consistently then you’ve also been buying more at the lower rate. In the long term it’s the best thing to do. Really

      2. msroboto*

        But keep doing the 401k. The market being down now you will benefit in the long run. This is the basis of what they used to call dollar cost averaging. You just keep buying so you buy when it’s low and when it’s on it’s way up and yes when it’s topped out but on AVERAGE it ought to work out.

      3. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        Its dollar-cost averaging really – keep shovelling the money into the account NOW while the market is going down and you bet more bang for your buck. Remember 2008 when everything went into the hole? Lot of people who kept investing at that time rode the rocket and tripled their money to date. They may have lost initially on their prior investments when the market went down, but bought many more stocks at the bottom which averaged out, in the longer term, with the ones bought at the peak.

        As someone said above – your future self will thank you for the sacrifices made today! :)

    3. Farm Girl*

      I hear you, I’ve peeked at my numbers, too, and it is gruesome. Especially since I’m four years out from retirement!
      I agree with the dollar cost averaging, but I also should be more in bonds given my timeline. I’ll leave what I have, but increase my future purchase allocation a little more conservatively.
      Finally, my future self knows this is a still a good problem to have. I’ve spent the last 15 years trying aggressively to catch up instead of starting early. Especially at this time of the year I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to save, not everyone has that luxury.

    4. Free Meerkats*

      Up until last month, I was 100% stocks, and pretty aggressive funds at that. Then at a meeting with the fund company rep I decided it was time to start pulling back on the risk (I retire in ~4 years.) So at that time I was about 40% stocks (less aggressive), 50% bonds, and 10% foreign stocks. With the current drops, I imagine my stock percentage is down, but I’m not going to look. Stock prices are down, that means I get more shares with every paycheck deposit.

  34. many bells down*

    Hi everyone! I survived my open-heart surgery and am home and recovering nicely. Still pretty dependent on pain meds so a bit loopy but otherwise doing pretty great. I am allowed to do almost nothing (can’t lift more than 10 pounds or raise my arms above my head) so I’m getting a ton of rest.

    I can feel the difference in my new pulmonary valve already. I used to get short of breath just walking up the stairs in my house and now I don’t.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, that is wonderful news! And stairs ain’t nothing, especially if you can breathe your way up them now.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am glad you are seeing some benefit already. I wish you speedy recovery. Keep us posted on how it’s going for you.

    3. Mimmy*

      Must’ve missed you mentioning this the first time around. Nonetheless, I’m glad everything went well and that you are already feeling the difference. Best wishes for continued good recovery.

  35. Pennalynn Lott*

    My next-door neighbor and her family host a “Dirty Santa” party every year. The “Dirty Santa” part is that we play the gift-stealing game. For several years, Neighbor got it into her mind that she should bring a gag gift, even though literally no one else did this. One year she wrapped her deceased father’s yellowed Rolodex. Another year she wrapped a piece of rubber from a blown tire that she found on the side of the road. Whee. Such fun. Her family members sat her down and explained that the reason the big holiday party includes Dirty Santa is because the group of family and friends has gotten too big for us to be able to afford to give individual gifts, so she needs to bring a gift that is something she would actually like to receive.

    Last year her brother and his wife moved in with her, and a few months ago their 30-year old son (Nephew) moved in. He was excited to participate in the Dirty Santa game since he used to live out of state. He wrapped up a big bottle of Listerine and a travel-size can of shaving cream. I had picked his gift and, no surprise, no one stole it from me. He, though, ended up stealing the gift I had brought, a $40 LED bonsai tree.

    I know going into the game that I’m highly likely to get something I don’t like, but I always appreciate it in terms of it being something the other person would have bought for themselves. And sometimes the gifts are just plain silly fun (other things people brought last night were a Rock-Em-Sock-Em Robots game, several movies, puzzles, a Bluetooth speaker, color-changing LED strip lights, a pretty fleece blanket, a Deadpool figurine, and a set of card games). That Nephew just grabbed a couple of things from underneath the bathroom sink is. . . galling.

    I guess I’m just whining. Every year my dad sends me crap from the sale table at The Dollar Store or random Costco bulk items. My mom gives me cat-themed crap from China (“Look, it’s a purse in the shape of a cat face with an actual picture of a cat’s face for the fabric!”) that I end up throwing or giving away. [Yes, I’m grateful that she at least takes my likes into consideration, but she’s on a fixed income and should just save her money.] My boyfriend, despite having lived with me for 15 years, always tells me he has no idea what to get me and just hands me $50 in cash. Whee.

    I’m tired of putting a ton of thought into gifts for other people and getting crap in return. I used to love birthdays and holidays, and now I just dread them.

    P.S. Guess who got the Rolodex and the chunk of tire?

    1. Marthooh*

      If your crap-giving neighbor is the host, then she decides what kind of presents should be given. Follow her lead from now on. Do you still have the Rolodex and the tire chunk?

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I’ve never understood the “random garbage” version of gag gift. To me it should actually be funny in some way. I fail to see what’s funny about giving someone a bit of literal trash.

      But I think you should keep this in mind for next year. These people are not playing at the same level you are, and expecting them to change will only lead to more disappointment.

      1. valentine*

        I bet neighbor cries if she gets trash, especially her own.

        Pennalynn Lott, you can disengage and stop giving these people gifts. Save your thoughtfulness for people who gift your way. With your boyfriend, how important is this to you? What if you give him a gift list? (I think Captain Awkward has other strategies for getting someone like this closer to where you are.)

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Argh I’ve been lucky to have people either try like your mom or just give up and go with nothing. I would bow out of the exchange at this rate. You’re wasting your money and sanity playing along.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      They played this at one of the many luncheons we had at work and the gifts were generally really nice – alcohol, lottery tickets, gift cards, chocolates, blankets, etc.

      My boss got a toilet paper roll holder that talks. That you can record a message on. I felt really bad.

    5. LibbyG*

      That sounds so deflating. Like, if your partner or parents came through, then you could just roll your eyes at the people failing to do their part of the gift-swap. Or if the gift-swap was reliably fun, your boyfriend’s fail wouldn’t sting so much.

      I wish someone who has the standing and budget in the gift swap group could bring one or two extra wrapped gifts, so that when someone gets a non-gift, they could immediately march over with the replacement with a cheerful “This is for you!” and cart the non-gift briskly to the garbage can making steady eye contact with the non-gift-giver.

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        Thanks, LibbyG. That’s exactly what it is: a pile-up of disappointment.

        In the group that comes for the Dirty Santa party, I’m the one with the budget that could handle the extra gifts. It’s a tad deflating to give myself something, but I know others have been disappointed in the past with what they got. It might be fun to bring a couple of bonus gifts. However, I don’t have the standing to get up and grab my own gift replacement when I open the next box filled with junk.

        Maybe I could just put them on a side table and when the game is over I can say, “If anyone isn’t 100% satisfied with your gift, feel free to take your chances and swap it with one of these unopened ones.”

    6. Common Welsh Green*

      My sister-in-law has the best ever solution for this (Hi, Vera!). At Thanksgiving, everyone decides a dollar value for the Christmas gifts. Then each person researches local charities and donates that amount to the charity of their choice. Then, at Christmas dinner, they go around the table and each person tells why they picked their charity. No muss, no fuss, no hard feelings – pass the eggnog!

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        Sadly, that wouldn’t work for this group of gift swappers. Two of them participate because the only gift they get for the holidays comes from the game (no family / no money / isolated). So, for them, the Dirty Santa game is a chance to “trade up” from, say, a candle bought at the dollar store to a Costco-sized box of Tupperware, or a blanket, or a set of drinking glasses, or tools. Other people would miss the fun of watching gifts get stolen.

        Also, political and social views of the group vary from one extreme to another. I could see heated conversations breaking out when the person who donated to a [secular / liberal / civil rights] charity is seated next to the person who donated to a [hyper-religious / conservative / gun rights] charity, and each is explaining why they chose their charity.

  36. CatCat*

    My spouse and I went to see a charming play last night called “Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberly.” Perfect for “Pride and Prejudice” fans! It is set 3 years after the events of “Pride and Prejudice.” Elizabeth, Jane, Lydia, and Mary plus Bingley, Darcy, a new character named Arthur de Bourgh, and Anne de Bourgh are all at Pemberly at Christmas. The focus of the story is really on Mary and Arthur, who it turns out have a great deal in common. But of course there are misunderstandings and twists along the way. It was sweet, festive, and witty. I had a great time :-)

    1. Seattleite*

      I so wanted to see this! I haven’t seen any Christmas plays or concerts this year and it’s left a big hole. I hope the theater brings it back soon.

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        Arthur is Anne’s cousin and the one set to inherit Rosings when Lady Catherine dies. Kitty is mentioned but not in the play. Lydia, however, is in the play, and so delightfully self-centred you just want to throttle her. (Same with Anne de Bourgh.)

    2. Middle School Teacher*

      I saw it too! It’s adorable and charming and I just loved it. Especially because the last play we saw at that theatre was awwwwwwwful.

  37. jess r*

    So there’s this boy.

    I met him through swing dancing, I think he’s delightful, fun to talk to, so sweet and tender, etc, etc. I saw him at the local social dance last night and was thiiiiiis close to asking him out, but I didn’t because I panicked last-minute. I have no idea if he also has (the first flush of) romantic feelings for me as I do for him.

    All this to say, what’s the general consensus on asking him out via text? On the one hand, it’s not quite as personal. On the other hand, it allows me to actually do the asking out before my crush feelings grow so much that the stakes are uncomfortably high.

    Romance is hard, y’all.

    1. KR*

      Text is fine! Just say something like, “I had a lot of fun at (event) with you. Do you want to get coffee/dinner/go for a walk/ect this weekend?”

      1. Effie, who gets to be herself*

        Text is fine! If you feel like KR’s wording is too forward, you could say something like “I had a great time at XYZ event with you. I’m going to [something else you’d want to do/go to alone anyway], would you like to join me?”

    2. Perpetua*

      Yup, text is completely okay! I would think people would actually prefer it (both to do and receive), since it gives both parties some breathing space to react (regardless of the outcome)?

      KR’s wording seems like all you need.

      Good luck!

  38. anon today and tomorrow*

    I posted a few weeks ago about getting a puppy, and how I was probably going to do my research and find a good breeder since I haven’t had luck with shelters and rescues.

    A few people suggested looking at rescues that bring dogs from the south to the north. I found some and put in an application. Didn’t hear back from a lot (or if I did, they tried to get me to take dogs that clearly had a lot of medical or behavioral issues instead of the ones I applied for). One finally accepted my application, and all was going well and there were plans for me to pick up the dog once they transported it across state lines.

    And then they said they wanted to communicate via facebook. I don’t really use facebook, but I agreed because they said it was the easiest method for all their volunteers to contact me since they go through several stages of people who help transport and care for the dogs.

    Well. I got a rejection earlier this week saying they didn’t think someone with my “lifestyle” is the right person to adopt a dog. My facebook is pretty empty. The last thing I posted was two years ago, and it was a post about LGBTQA+ rights where I mentioned that I was bisexual.

    So. I’ve been denied a dog because I’m queer. This is honestly the last straw with me trying to adopt a dog from a rescue. I’m just going to stick with finding a good breeder so I can get my dog. Hoping it happens in early 2019!

    1. fposte*

      That is appalling and also just super-weird. Even if they’re homophobic, we’re talking about a dog. It can’t go morally astray.

    2. blackcat*

      Ugh. I’m so sorry. I bet they actually use facebook for that purpose–to screen out “undesirable” potential owners.

      I wish you luck in finding a good breeder.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Damn.

      FWIW, if I could pack a puppy in my car and drive it to you right now, I would.
      Very sorry you are going through this.

      What state are you in? Perhaps someone here is in your state and can help you find a pup.

    4. Reba*

      Oh my effing GLOB at&t, I am wishing you the best, fluffiest (or whatever your preference) new friend in 2019.

      Another friend recently got a pup from a breeder — one of those situations where everything kind of fell into place once the thought was voiced, and ultimately the dog was just in the next town over. May it go so smoothly for you!

    5. Ktelzbeth*

      That is ridiculous! Regardless of the morality of your “lifestyle” (which I think is just fine), a dog IS NOT GOING TO CARE! You have gone above and beyond the call of duty to try to adopt a rescue. Go out and get your dog however you can.

    6. LGC*

      …I’d be angrier if I wasn’t boggled. Like, the dog isn’t going to care if you’re LGBT (or even know what the hell that is)!

      I’m really sorry that happened to you, and I’m wishing you the best of luck! (I can’t provide any assistance.)

    7. Anon in CA*

      If you’re in the southeast CA area or even AZ check out Animal Authority Rescue Team. Run by a wonderful lady who doesn’t give a rats behind who you are as long as you’re kind and ready to give a dog a loving forever home. I got a beautiful senior German shepherd from her and she has a few younger dogs ready to adopt (with free training) and relationships with lots of other shelters and rescues. So sorry you had a bad experience.

    8. The Other Dawn*

      I remember reading your post and I’m absolutely baffled and astounded at the hoops you’re having to jump through to get a dog. Absolutely ridiculous.

      I volunteer with a cat rescue. We do screen applicants and our applications have all the usual questions; however, we’re not as rigid as most of the others out there. Our main goal, and typically the main goal of any rescue, is (and should be!) to match the right person with the right pet so there’s much less chance of the pet being returned. I fail to see how LBGTQA status factors into that. It’s just ridiculous. We just want these animals adopted to a home that will love them and care for them for the rest of the pet’s life.

      UGH. Good luck! I hope you get your doggy soon.

    9. Observer*

      This is so bizarre, that I’m wondering if this is not a mistake. Is it possible to ask them what they mean by “lifestyle”?

    10. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Man, your story just steams me up. I don’t have pets and although I wouldn’t mind I’m not going to get one, because of my current actual *lifestyle* (meaning I travel between two cities frequently and do not have a fenced yard where a dog could hang out during the day, not what happens in my bedroom). The absolute arrogance of anyone refusing to let you adopt a dog because of their prejudice and petulant insistence on trying to force other people to conform to their narrow little views infuriates me.

      I guess I’ve just had it with rigid, sanctimonious bulls**t, from all facets of the political and cultural spectrum lately. Gaaah! I’m so irritated on your behalf!

    11. Pennalynn Lott*

      I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST ME!!

      Boyfriend and I were weirdly discouraged from adopting any cats at a local pet store that was hosting a cat rescue-and-rehome charity. It was advertised as a clear-the-shelters type thing (i.e., we have more cats than cages, so please help us make room for more rescues). They even had a cat with a medical problem I am 100% familiar with and know how to treat (and therefore knew the extra expense involved and was totally OK with it). But the volunteers kept hemming and hawing, and tending to other adopters and doing their best to ignore me and Boyfriend. After over an hour of getting the cold shoulder, we left.

      A year or so later, after having adopted a couple of cats from the local SPCA, I was talking to the head of a different cat rescue group and brought up my weird experience with the other group. The woman said, “Ohhhh, yeah. They don’t like to put cats in home with couples who aren’t married.” I was like, “Whaaa—????? How the hell would the cat know if we’d signed a piece of paper or not??” So weird. So bigoted.

  39. anon for this comment*

    Does anyone have good suggestions or scripts for getting their significant other to relationship counseling? Also, for finding/evaluating whether a counselor seems like a good fit.

    This may be an ultimatum, although I don’t want it to be. There’s no issue of wrongdoing, abuse, or anything like that. It’s simply a very basic issue of a long-term relationship that’s had some very stereotypical gender issues around emotional labor. Things have gotten better and worse over the years, but I had a painful realization last night that the trend line has been to get much, much worse. I had to admit to myself that I don’t want to spend the rest of my future with the relationship as it is now or worse. I don’t want to end it either, though!

    Therapy has come up before, so I know my partner is really resistant to the concept. Shockingly so to me. I’m guessing there’s some underlying cultural issues there (my partner is a child of immigrants). But I do think the relationship is fixable. I just think we need some outside help and accountability.

    1. foolofgrace*

      It’s not enough that you feel the relationship is fixable; they have to also. Sounds like they don’t think there’s a problem. Captain Awkward suggests (I think she calls it the Sheelzebub principle) asking yourself how long you want to endure the situation. Next month? Labor Day? Two years? Ten years? I know you asked about ways to get your partner into therapy but you have to be ready in case they just don’t want to go. I hope it work out.

    2. Wishing You Well*

      If your SO won’t go, go yourself. Therapy can be very helpful for a relationship, even if just one of you is going.
      There are bad therapists out there, though. Try to get a name from a source you trust.

      1. anon for this comment*

        I’m open to going myself if my SO won’t go, but I have even less of a sense of how to evaluate a therapist in that instance! I don’t have any sources I consider trusted advisers of therapist quality. :) I know to look out for faith-based language because that will be very inappropriate for us (or me on my own). I’m not sure what else to look for, though.

    3. LGC*

      So – this might be an unpopular opinion (apparently this is the weekend I weigh in on everything), but I think he’s allowed to decide that counseling isn’t for him, regardless of what his reasons are. That said, maybe he’d be more receptive to a faith-based counselor (if that would work for both of you and you can find one that would be supportive of you).

      (And there might be different reasons why he’s against it – is psychological help stigmatized in his parents’ native country? Does he think that he might be a failure if he seeks that kind of help? Is the cost scaring him off?)

      But I think the bigger issue is that…you danced around this, but if I’m reading this correctly, he’s insensitive towards you but he expects you to be emotionally available for him. And he either doesn’t know that this is a major problem, or doesn’t seem to really care. That’s huge. And I don’t know if the answer is to dump him, but he needs to first acknowledge there’s a problem. And if he can’t…well, yeah, the Sheelzebub Principle comes into play, as foolofgrace mentioned.

      I’m sorry your SO (from what I know about him) is a jerk. Hopefully he can change.

      1. anon for this comment*

        My SO isn’t a jerk, and that’s just not helpful. I almost didn’t use the phrase “emotional labor” because I hate the way it’s been twisted from Hochschild’s original usage, but it seemed like the quickest way to communicate the type of issues in the relationship.

        Of course, he’s allowed to decide counseling isn’t for him. But I think our relationship is very fixable with a good counselor’s help. So all I’m looking for is help with phrasing to maximize the odds of him being willing to go.

        1. LGC*

          Okay, I didn’t mean to cause offense – and I hope you’ll read this! But…to put it more nicely, the way I read your post was that your SO was not giving you what you needed emotionally, and that was the more pressing issue (rather than him not wanting to go to couples counseling to fix the issue).

          For what it’s worth, I don’t think he’s the worst person in the world, or even necessarily a bad person. (Maybe I shouldn’t have used “jerk” on this site, because it’s so often used as a stand-in for harsher language here!) And I don’t necessarily think you should dump him and get on with your life. But I guess the questions I’d ask relating to counseling would be…why is he so opposed to counseling to begin with? Does he think that nothing is wrong? Is it really stigmatized in his culture? Is it something else? I think that determines how you approach it.

          And I think that other people have suggested really good things, such as going to a counselor by yourself first.

    4. Washi*

      I guess I don’t see what would be wrong with this type of ultimatum. An ultimatum about “you do X or I will break up with you” is really damaging if it’s thrown out there with the purpose of manipulating the other person, and if you regularly hold the “or we’ll break up” over the other person’s head.

      But I think laying out what you think is wrong and what you would need in order to even have a chance of continuing the relationship is not wrong. I think you can say that the relationship isn’t working for you and that the only way you can even imagine rebuilding is through counseling. You just have to be prepared that your partner might choose to break up, but if you don’t think your relationship can survive without counseling, that would happen anyway.

      Good luck! This is so hard and I hope you get what you need.

      1. Reba*

        I’m with Washi! I know the “ultimatum” is like, something we are never supposed to do, but you’re at the point where it is “work on changing this or the relationship is done,” right? So to express this to your partner is to be honest about where you are. It’s not manipulative, it’s true, and may be the thing that shakes your person into taking this seriously. I mean, from your SO’s point of view, there may not really be a problem: he’s in a relationship, and you do a lot for him, what a great deal! So a little shock might not be a bad thing. But he has to want genuinely to fix it in order to make the relationship work, because he doesn’t want you to suffer — not to just try to hang on to his status quo. A lot of people see a little change and then backslide, once everyone’s feeling secure again.

        Wrt to the counselor, I’d look for folks on psychology today or the people’s personal websites, and if you can get a quick call with them, ask what experience they have with issues like yours. Good luck!

      2. anon for this comment*

        I don’t think talking in the form of an ultimatum is the most productive way to approach the issue. I am positive it will trigger unhelpful defense mechanism’s in my partner, and I’d like to avoid that as much as possible.

        But I like your phrasing of “the only way you can even imagine rebuilding is through counseling.” Because that is both true and feels like a more helpful way to bring up the concept than “we need to do this or it’s over”. (especially because I’m not 100% sure it’s true. I don’t know. I’m dealing with two opposing pulls. I think it’s true over the long term but probably not in the immediate)

      1. valentine*

        And of you do go to couple’s later, go to a different counselor, because your individual therapist is looking out for you, but the couple’s therapist is meant to preserve the relationship.

        If you’re in the US, there’s plenty of sexism to be had among USians. Don’t let him use being the child of immigrants as an excuse and watch out for him calling his sexism culture. If you don’t know the culture, don’t assume everything about him is representative of it. It also doesn’t matter. Even if his culture demands he do xyz you don’t want done, you can dump him. You don’t have to stay hurt to “respect his culture”.

        Captain Awkward has several letters about this. The most common ones are chore division and men who insist their female SOs be their only sounding boards. Recent ones were a man with no friends who didn’t want his wife to go out and one who was so controlling, he insisted his female SO walk beside him and not so much as stop to look at a poster, in case he wanted to look at it, too.

        1. zaracat*

          I disagree that a couples therapist’s goal is or should be to “preserve the relationship” – I think a healthier goal is for them to be committed to helping you work on the relationship in a way that acknowledges both partners’ needs, which includes accepting that sometimes the best option might be ending the relationship.

          I felt incredibly angry at the manipulation involved when my (now ex-)husband admitted in our second round of marriage counselling that the counsellor he’d suggested we see a few years previously was chosen by him on the SOLE basis that they were employed by a faith-based service which he believed would prioritise us staying marrried over any other consideration. Individual counselling and a perceptive but firmly neutral marriage counsellor that second time around allowed me to see very clearly that my husband wasn’t at all interested in compromising or changing anything about himself – what he really wanted was for me to be more accepting of his controlling behaviour. I think the second counsellor was a little shocked actually at just how inflexible my husband was.

          I’d definitely recommend individual counselling if you can’t convince your partner to do couples work with you. It can help you a lot with working out your priorities, and with changing what you can and accepting what you cannot.

    5. nnn*

      The correct time for an ultimatum is when it’s true. If it really, truly, genuinely is a question of counselling or breakup, then it’s perfectly reasonable to issue that ultimatum. (And, in fact, might be unkind not to.) But if that’s not where you are emotionally, then it’s not the right time for an ultimatum.

      (No suggestions or scripts, sorry. Just a lot of strong feelings about ultimatums)

    6. Natalie*

      I agree that there’s a difference between an ultimatum and some version of “this is critical for me to be able to stay in this relationship.” Largely it’s a matter of intent, but IMO this is an area where your intentions matter quite a bit.

      You might find it a bit easier for your partner if you see a counselor who is culturally competent in first-generation-[Country]ans and/or his family’s culture of origin. Depending on how immersed they are, this can even help with language barrier issues.

    7. Maya Elena*

      I really like Dr.Psych Mom’s blog and her reasoning for things. Perhaps she’s good as an actual therapist too.

    8. Thursday Next*

      I’m a child of immigrants with a deep cultural aversion to therapy, and I’m married to a partner with his own issues around going to therapy, i.e., he has refused to go under circumstances that would cause most people to seek help.

      I got him to go to couples’ counseling.

      Let me back up a step: I’ve been in individual therapy for quite some time, and my partner has been supportive of that, emotionally as well as financially. So the first question I’d ask you is whether your partner is resistant to the idea of therapy across the board, or merely for himself?

      Regardless of the answer to that question, would it be feasible for you to seek individual counseling, perhaps with someone who has experience counseling people who are immigrants or children of immigrants, of your husband’s culture? One of the things that therapy is so, so helpful for is figuring out what you need and how to frame conversations around that. Talking through this with a counselor could help you figure out if there are some specific strategies that might be more successful in persuading your husband.

      My successful pitch to my husband involved my emphasizing that this was collaborative, not adversarial; that I didn’t think anything was “wrong” with him or needed “fixing”; and that sometimes having a trained third-party to sit down with could help us with conversations that otherwise kept going in circles—to break us out of our rut.

      Best of luck to you—I hope you succeed in convincing him!

      1. anon for this comment*

        Thank you! This is so helpful! I do not think my partner would have any issues at all with me seeking individual therapy if I thought that would help. I’ve been unconvinced that individual therapy would help since there are some clear issues in the relationship dynamic itself, but the general responses here have me thinking that it’s worth trying if I can’t get him on board with couples counseling.

        “sometimes having a trained third-party to sit down with could help us with conversations that otherwise kept going in circles—to break us out of our rut.” — This is exactly what I’m hoping counseling can accomplish.

        1. Kuododi*

          Actually, individual therapy has the ability to be a help in addressing issues/concerns from the perspective of the individual client and what that person is bringing to the relationship. For example, I might have a client come to me individually bc they have been struggling with difficulty in articulating their needs, staying in the moment, in context of resolving interpersonal conflict. This difficulty (again, hypothetically) might have been an ongoing issue for sometime. This has impacted the clients relationship with the partner as shown in a historical difficulty with withdrawing from emotional connection to their significant other. The therapist and client would work together on problem solving, stress management etc with the goal of the client having the best resources at their disposal to bring to the table within the context of his/her committed relationship.

          I hope that helped, I am still battling bronchitis and I have “cough syrup brain.” Please forgive any rambling which took place. ;).

          Oh almost forgot. AAMFT dot org, (governing body for my particular counseling license) has a link on their website called Therapist Finder. They list their therapist geographically and they are all prescreened with at least a minimum of a Master’s in a counseling discipline and LMFT.

          Best regards and a peaceful Holiday Season.

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          Maybe you can frame it as more of a neutral negotiator? Perhaps he’s stuck on “counseling” as being a means to fix things that are wrong, specifically wrong with him. What you really want, I presume, is someone neutral to help you keep the conversation on track as you discuss what you are unhappy about and what you want to change, and vice versa. He might be thinking of it as “this is all the stuff you do wrong and you need to fix it”.

  40. LGC*

    I haven’t posted really for the past couple of weeks, but…yeah, I’m still running. (Hope you guys are too!)

    The past couple of weeks have been simultaneously busy and not – although yesterday evening was really nice! (I like random days in December when I can run in shorts and a T-shirt.) Trying to get geared up for next year, since I have a lot of big things planned. Thankfully, this year is a lot better weather-wise than last December in my area (last year we had a two-week cold snap around Christmas where the temperatures didn’t break the freezing mark, and got down to single digits around New Year’s).

    So, while I’m here: what are your tips for winter running? I’ll double-glove a lot (especially in freezing and below temps), although I’m now enamored of the convertible mittens I just got. Still trying to work out how to not kill myself in colder weather – generally, if I’m wearing a face mask, my glasses fog up.

    Finally, I’m more flexible in the winter with sticking to schedule. It’s largely because I have that luxury – for most races I wouldn’t need to start training seriously until mid-January – so I can shift things around somewhat. (Sometimes this doesn’t work too well – I ended up running a tempo workout last night and a long run ~13 hours later – that was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be!)

    1. Ktelzbeth*

      I’m getting a lot of promotional emails about a new local half marathon in April. I’ve never had any particular ambition to run that far, but the advertising is doing its job and starting to wear me down. As you all may remember, I’m primarily a swimmer and biker, running just far enough to finish the 5k that concludes my triathlons. I did do my first 10k last fall and it was a hilly trail run/walk. Thoughts, comments, advice?

      1. Ktelzbeth*

        If it makes any difference, because of the average winter temperature and cold induced asthma, most of my training would be indoors.

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

          LGC nailed it. Whether you run inside or out, make sure you build up your mileage slowly. Good luck– I hope you go for it!

      2. LGC*

        Partly the usual – don’t expect too much, definitely consider signing up for it, don’t feel bad if you can’t run through, so on and so forth.

        If you do commit, you probably want to start training in January (~12 weeks out). On one hand you run already (because you do triathlons), but on the other hand it sounds like running isn’t your strongest event from what you’ve said. You might want to plan to get outside at some points (and your peak mileage should be in March or thereabouts, where it might be easier to get out) – your longest long run should be 10-16 miles (or…16-25 km if you’re using metric). Unlike a full marathon, there’s less downside to going up to or over race distance.

        I don’t have cold-triggered asthma (or at least I haven’t been diagnosed), but when I’ve had issues with breathing it’s mostly been when it’s well below freezing – like in the 20s or teens – and when I’m exerting myself hard. (Long runs are fine for me, but I’ll go slightly slower.) So…you know yourself better than I do, but I wouldn’t be afraid of going outside for less intense running.

        Outside of that, what I’d suggest depends on your goals – do you just want to finish the race? Do you have a time goal that you want to finish in? Don’t get me wrong, I love speed workouts…but I know a lot of people find them intimidating. (You’re a triathlete, so I’m assuming you’d be less scared of the track.) It’s why I don’t say they’re mandatory – I mean, I know quite a few people who just run and don’t do structured workouts – but they can be really useful.

        I will say that learning what your intended race pace should be is important (if you have a goal time) – so yes, you should do at least some of your mileage at your goal pace. Like…let’s say you’re aiming to run 2:00 – this would be ~9:10/mi, or ~5:40/km. In your long runs, toss in a couple of miles (near the end) at that pace on some of them.

        Finally, I’m biasing a bit towards road, since I’m primarily a road runner – but if this is a trail half, definitely get some practice outside! It sounds like you at least have some idea of how to navigate trails (you DID do a trail 10k), but if I were you I’d definitely want to be more confident in trail running.

        1. Ktelzbeth*

          Thank you! It’s a road and paved bike trail race, though the exact course is still in permitting. I’m comfortable on trails, though, running a local state park with a group every Thursday night late spring through early fall. I do speed track workouts and never stopped to think about whether they should intimidate me. Coach said do it and I did. I have a great tri training group. <3

          My first goal is to finish, preferably not last. Beyond that, I don't even know how to choose a realistic goal time. Using my last 5k (which was on the end of a triathlon) and an online calculator, I'd get 2:30 for the marathon.

          As far as your question, I have nothing for glasses fogging. I can't figure it out myself and it drives me crazy, though more on my bike than running because of the higher speeds involved.

          1. LGC*

            …you know, I totally forgot you did trail! (I recognized your username from previous threads, but didn’t quite make the connection.) Plus, I was a bit on the fence because I didn’t know your overall experience level with running (so I wrote a little bit towards the beginner end of things), and I’m a little less familiar with incorporating triathlon training into a race plan. But you should be fine, I think.

            (You’ll probably need to up your running time, but…I think you could probably get away with 20 miles a week if you’re also swimming and biking. I’m really spitballing, and I’m 1) not a coach, 2) definitely not a triathlon coach, and 3) the kind of guy that runs a lot as a baseline.)

            As for time: set a goal that you feel like would be reasonable, if you do at all. From what I’ve seen, a lot of races have a 3+ hour time limit, so if you think you can do a 2:30, you’re definitely going to not be last (or even near last).

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

      I don’t have any specific advice or tips, but I generally don’t run when it’s below 20 degrees. I don’t really see a benefit — when I run when it’s super cold, I tend to get sick, and then I can’t run for a week vs. just skipping the cold day. I’m curious to try the double glove trick though, because my hands get cold!

      I’m happy to say my knee is much better now. Not quite perfect, but today I ran 6.5 miles pain free. I think my big break was, ironically, getting sick earlier this month and shutting down for a week.

    3. Dr. Anonymous*

      Good luck with your winter training! I wore contacts (they only have to be good enough to see the road, so don’t worry if you have a little astigmatism and can’t use them for anything else but running) and a fleece/neoprene balaclava for cold weather biking or running when I lived in the Midwest. If the balaclava fits over your nose tightly enough you can mostly get away with it with glasses. Layers that unzip, of course. Wicking layer against the skin (not cotton, which holds the damp and makes you feel colder). My hands get painfully cold, so I wore ATV mittens for really cold weather. Ice and snow are just tricky. I’ve known of people who use YaxTrax on their shoes to run on snowy/icy ground, but I don’t think it would work if there’s also clear asphalt or concrete and I’ve never tried it myself. I just slowed down and watched my footing really carefully.

    4. runner*

      I’ve been very excited because I seemingly can run again! This year I’ve been sidelined with an achilles injury (where even walking was painful). But for the last month or so I’ve been running very, very slowly (dang lost fitness) for 30 min a couple of times a week and I seem to be holding up. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed it. I can tell I’m excited about it because I want to sign up for a race! I’m running about 2 miles, so I can do a 5k soon-ish right? Not as a full-on race perhaps but just to be out there. There’s a 5k in Washington Heights (NYC) in March, but that is a very hilly race and I’m not sure if that’s the best for my achilles and at this point my main goal is to not get injured again.

  41. Saturday crafter*

    If you are a maker of things, I wanted to share this in case you would find it fun, as well. I like to knit, sew, bake, and generally make stuff. I’m blessed to be able to buy nice “ingredients” – super wash wool yarn, etc, for my hobbies. This year I decided to get the odds-and-ends used up and to make a bunch of projects I’ve been admiring but didn’t have a purpose for. I knit all kinds, shapes, and colors of hats. I made felted soaps out of handmade soaps that had been accumulating in a box in the closet. I baked my family biscotti recipe. I knitted mug sweaters for plain mugs from Target. And quite a few other small things I knitted or sewed out of things I had on hand. I had my friend-group Christmas party last week, and I tied everything up with ribbons and tags with ingredients or yarn type and washing directions, and then had a basket to send around for everyone to choose their own gift. It was really fun! I had all the fun of making things I liked to make and none of the stress of worrying about fit or color or style. My friends who liked things could choose a thing for themselves (or to re-gift – I made sure that was totally fine with me!) or eat or use up. Totally doing this again, maybe with some sugar scrubs and homemade marshmallows and quilted “mug rugs.”

    1. LibbyG*

      [Google image search “mug sweater”] Sooo cuuute!!! That sounds like a wonderful experience of making and giving and celebrating!

    2. Dr. Anonymous*

      Whoa, mug rugs are an entire genre of quilt pattern! I don’t actually have quilt scraps right now, but if I ever do, this will be my new go to for recovering a busted sewjo (sewing mojo). Thank you!

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      That’s a really cool idea, and one I might actually try suggesting to some friends next year.

    4. Lilysparrow*

      A stash busting gift I learned about recently is the “Avocado Sock.”

      Apparently, the best way to quickly ripen avocados is in the toe of a woolen sick. So somebody has started producing these twee little pouches just the right size.

      If you can knit in the round, you can follow a pattern for newborn baby mitts, and just do them in worsted or DK on larger needles. Comes out just right.

  42. pally*

    How do you deal with getting on with your life when a family member is incarcerated? I’m having a very hard time with the emotions over this.

    Suggestions welcome.

    And, do you know of any resources for assisting older children (teenagers) with a parent who is incarcerated? I know about Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

    Thank you.

    1. fposte*

      I’m sorry. As noted in another thread above, that’s really hard.

      Counseling if you have access; forums might also be useful (I know about prisontalk dot com and I bet there are others–probably a subreddit?). I don’t know about resources but it’s possible somebody on one of the forums has more specific info; additionally, you might try calling 211 (I’d say search their website but it looks like the search is broken).

      My best wishes to you and your family.

    2. blackcat*

      It takes a lot of time. Or at least, it did for me.

      I think it matters what they’re there for. My family member is guilty of a really terrible crime. He’s definitely guilty. For me, it was harder making the adjustment that he wasn’t the person I grew up with anymore. I’ve focused on his ex and her family (one of her kiddos is a biological relative of mine, but I treat them all as nieces/nephews). It’s been a decade, and I still can’t bring myself to have a relationship with my family member. What he did was to horrible. But I adjusted to having him basically gone from my life, and tried to look at the blessing of gaining other family in the process.

      I know that’s very different from your situation, but I just wanted chime in and say it is hard and you are very far from alone.

    3. TL -*

      My dad served time (long before I was born) and he is a far from perfect person or dad, but on the whole he’s made a lot better choices with his life after prison than before. And he’s pretty decent, all things considered.

      My friend’s dad served time for white-collar crime when she was in high school and he also moved on and made different choices in his life afterwards.

      Your family member is paying off their debt to society; hopefully when they get out they’ll continue to grow and change. You can think of this as a reset time – I don’t know what they did, of course and some things I would have a really hard time letting go – but if it’s not a life sentence (or effectively a life sentence) they will have a whole life after prison.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      I think it depends on several factors. How close are you to this person? Is it someone you grew up with and/or spent a lot of time with? What are they in prison for? How long will they be there? Are they remorseful?

      My experience is likely to be quite different than most here, since my brother was in for most of my life (I’m now 44). On top of that, there was an 18 year age difference. So, I really didn’t know him the way my sisters and other family members did. I don’t think I remember him ever being out other than when he was released from state prison after five years (he was in for drugs and theft) and came home to stay with us, and then was re-arrested and sent to federal prison within two weeks (assaulted a drug dealer, drugs and weapons possession). He was then in federal prison for roughly 25 years (had time added on for bad behavior) and got out about 13 years ago. He was 47 at that point. He then got a steady job, met a woman, got married, got a couple cats, a truck payment, and a nice mobile home in the country. In 2016 he was diagnosed with cancer and died last year. He was 60 and had had only 12 years on the street.

      Since I didn’t grow up with him due to the age difference and didn’t see him hardly at all outside of the prison, he was more of a warm acquaintance. We were brother and sister, but we didn’t have a traditional brother-sister connection really. Because of that I found that I often forgot I had a brother and honestly didn’t really have much emotion about it. I missed him, but I was so used to him not being around that I thought of him as that out of state uncle you see once a year. My interactions with him were monthly visits at the state prison, a visit every few years at the federal prisons out of state, letters and collect calls. And once he got out, it really wasn’t too much different, which I really regret now. He wasn’t one to talk on the phone and neither am I. We saw each other when he came down here for family events a few times a year or I went up there to visit him and my parents, but not much else. We didn’t know each other much better by the time he died.

      I have conflicting emotions these days. Now that he’s gone I find I’m emotional about the fact that so much of his life was wasted sitting in prison. Obviously that’s his own fault, and I used to get mad that he did things that took him away for his family for most of his life. But now I mostly just think about how much of a giant kick in the balls it was that he made a life for himself (it’s rare for that to happen after 30 years in prison) and only got 12 years on the street because he got cancer and died. It just seems so unfair for someone to turn their life around like that and then get struck down by cancer. And then I think how he probably wouldn’t have gotten cancer if he hadn’t been such a heavy smoker his whole life (it was esophageal cancer) and get mad about that. But ultimately he was my brother and I loved him. I spent many, many years waiting for him to come home, and I’m glad I at least got 12 years.

      Sorry that was so long. Guess I’ve got feelings about it.

    5. Anona*

      I had a family member who was incarcerated about a year. It was so hard. I felt very numb. It helped confiding in a few good friends, and getting counseling. I wrote them everyday.

      I don’t know about resources but maybe you can assist the kids writing to their family member occasionally. Like buying fun colored paper. My family member said it was so nice receiving bright colors, and obviously the letter parts were good too. If they’re able/willing to visit, maybe offer to go with them or just to drive them. In my case the numbers of visits allotted were limited so I didn’t really want to share them but it helped to have company on the way there. You are not alone.

  43. Sam Sepiol*

    Do friend-crushes exist? Like when you really want to be friends with someone but don’t really know them and you might not have anything in common?

    There’s a guy in work who I really like platonically. I think I’m a bit fixated because since leaving my ex I don’t really have any male friends. I don’t think I want to do anything about it, but I suppose it’s making me realise that there’s a lack in my life. But I don’t know how to make male friends without the risk of someone thinking I’m interested, which, I’m REALLY not.

    Argh.

    1. fposte*

      Friend crushes absolutely exist; I don’t know if they’re always predictive of the best friends, but, as you say, it may be useful in making you realize there’s a lack in your life. I think making friends in adulthood is often challenging. You’re spelling like somebody in a pub culture–can you see if PossibleFriend wants to grab an after-work drink sometime? You could say right out that you’ve realized you want to make some more friends, and if he’s got other buddies, invite them along–that might obviate the pressure to explain that this isn’t a date.

      1. Sam Sepiol*

        I am so impressed with the “spelling like someone in a pub culture” comment. No idea what gave it away but yes. Thank you! I will give it a try.

    2. Penguin*

      Definitely they exist! Brains are weird and wacky things. Sometimes it can help to take actions that show your brain which “kind” of interest you have- if you’re interested in the guy platonically, take pains to make your first interaction(s) low-key so your brain can “remember” that this isn’t a “big [romantic] deal” (since so often we equate “romantic” with “important” it can help to calm the brain by making it “not important” so therefore it can’t be romantic). “Hey you seem cool, I’m going to a thing (holiday light display? movie? catch Pokemon?) wanna come?” Or set up a thing with another friend or two and invite him along, if you’re worried about date-like appearances.

      Sometimes it just takes a few interactions with someone before our brains settle down and shift from “OMG OMG PERSON!!!!!” to “Hey, I get to hang out with you, woo!” Scifi author John Scalzi talked about that bit on his blog at one point, for whatever it’s worth:
      https://whatever DOT scalzi DOT com/2012/08/10/a-tangential-personal-note-on-creepers-and-me/

  44. Perpetua*

    I’d like to thank everyone for sharing their experience in answer to my question about sore breasts for half a month, especially those who mentioned the possible caffeine link! I completely stopped drinking caffeine right away to see if it would make a difference – and it did!

    It’s been almost two months and during my last cycle, the soreness/pain was almost completely gone for most of the month. I did feel some tenderness for 3-5 days before my period, but that was nowhere near my previous experience. This is a very welcome improvement in my quality of life, and while I do miss drinking coffee (more for the comfort of a nice cappuccino and the social factor of sitting down for a coffee, which is big in my country), the tradeoff is worth it to me.

    I love this place, thank you once again!

  45. AwkwardTurtle*

    I just enrolled into a retirement plan 8 months after I was actually eligible to start. Whoops, but better late than never! That being said, what’s going on with the stock market? I Googled my plan’s specific investment and it’s value has gone down in the past month. I also read that there are four different scenarios for the next year: 1) Growth is normal, and earnings are fine, 2) Earnings have a minor slowdown like in 2015-16, 3) We have a normal recession like in the early 2000s, or 4) We have a bad recession like in 2008-09.

    I really hope it’s not a repeat of 2008!

    1. fposte*

      There are a million different scenarios for the stock market’s next year, and nobody, especially nobody with a media platform, knows what scenario will play out; anybody who says they do is lying to get money.

      A diversified, low-cost portfolio is your best bet for retirement, but even at a 60/40 stock-bond ratio you would historically have been down at the end of 1 out of every four years in the past 80. The US market’s overall tendency has always been up, but its annual tendency varies. Gotta expect that as part of the game.

    2. msroboto*

      The stock market has taken a hit the last few months. I’m sure you know that. Good news for you. You will be buying low.

    3. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Re: stock market – we are at the end of a really long (as in historically long) bull market, Fed raised interest rates which makes debt more expensive for people to service (among other things), Trump’s goosing of the economy with some tax “cuts” are winding down, risk in different countries (depending on your portfolio), trade issues which impact prices of raw materials => impact on future company profits or increased prices, etc etc etc. Lot of international risk around, but HEY oil is cheap! :D

      Recession be coming – probably in the next year is the general consensus among a lot of economists/financial types. Will it be as bad as 08? Maybe. Best is to start battening down the hatches – pay off debt, ensure you have savings, and make sure you are in a well-diversified, low cost funds. We are going to take some time over the holidays to do a self-audit of our investment portfolio and financial picture and decide our investment/saving strategy for the next 12 months. Its a good time of year to take stock – some free time to think, lay out the year, track towards our long term goals, and adjust where needed.

  46. Aurora Leigh*

    I was really excited to finish my Christmas shopping early this year!

    Then my boyfriend’s father asked me to buy something for his wife (boyfriend’s mother) and gave me $100 and suggested jewelery.

    So I’m off to do that in a couple hours! Boyfriend is working so can’t. At least his (out of state) sister gave me some ideas about what their mom likes. But I’m dreading the stores!

    1. I work on a Hellmouth*

      Yuuuuuuck! Any smaller local shops that you could hit that would keep you away from mall-type areas? Where I’m at there are a few cool small antique stores, some boutiques that have a lot of local jewelry artists stocked, and a pretty rad vintage store. If you have anything similar local to you maybe you could avoid the worst of the crowds, find something unique, and support a local small business at the same time.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        I may try that next year! This year I’m just going to JCPenney . . . the sister sent me some links of things with the mom’s birthstone so that will make it simpler.

        We’be been together almost 2 years, but I dont feel like I know his mom well enough to choose jewelery, and Penney’s will make returns fairly easy if need be.

        I already picked one nice thoughtful gift for us to give her! *grumble grumble*

    2. Reba*

      That’s bizarre to me.

      But to the point, good luck at the mall. I’m heading to Target soon (thoughts and prayers welcome).

    3. ..Kat..*

      Ugh. I would have declined to do someone else’s Christmas shopping for them – especially at the last minute. You are kind to do this.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        Aw thanks!

        His dad has a lot of issues with anxiety and doesn’t handle Christmas well, so I was glad to help . . . I just wished he’d asked sooner!

          1. Runaway Shinobi*

            Or get your boyfriend to do it for his dad or at least show his dad how internet shopping works. This is not your job.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              She’s not complaining. You’re all rude AF telling her to pushback on something and saying it’s “not her job.” Tacky.

  47. Foreign Octopus*

    It’s been drama-rama in my family recently.

    My younger brother broke up with his girlfriend of two and a half years a few weeks ago and my parents are devastated about it. It’s like there’s been a death in the family: I’m honestly surprised they haven’t gone into full morning. I really liked Jane; I think she’s a brilliant person and was great for my brother, but I feel that my parents have gone a bit OTT in their response.

    They’ve told me they no longer want to meet any partners of mine or my siblings until the wedding day because they’re only disappointed when the relationship ends. Honestly, I’d love that because it’s easier on my end but I’m pretty sure that was said in the heat of the moment.

    Does anyone have any stories of their own parents/siblings being thoroughly disappointed when a relationship of yours ended?

    1. I work on a Hellmouth*

      Wow, that’s a pretty big reaction. I don’t think my family has ever been that upset—mostly they’re upset if *I’m* upset, you know? I also know for a fact that there have been low key celebrations regarding some breakups of mine and also of my brothers.

    2. Reba*

      Wow, your parents really really want you guys to get married, huh. I wonder if it would be worth having a chat about all-or-nothing thinking sometime later, when the intensity has hopefully worn off? (I.e. viewing relationships as “failed” that don’t lead to forever marriage is really damaging! Things can be good for you and run their course; that doesn’t retroactively make them failures!)

      I don’t have direct experience with this, but I do have one “crazy uncle” who called all of my sister’s boyfriends over the years Jon — the name of the first serious boyfriend she had at age 15. Sorry, Jons.

    3. Overeducated*

      Geez. My parents made it a policy to never express an opinion of someone I dated until after I got married. I thought that was a little extreme but your parents are on the other end of the spectrum.

    4. Windchime*

      Not my parents, but when my son was in his late teens/early 20’s he had a girlfriend that I just loved. She was cute and sweet and they seemed so right together. But they broke up and he was less upset than I was! I finally thought I was OK until I bumped into her while out shopping one day. We had a nice chat, and then I went to my car and cried because I missed her so much. Fast forward a few years, and now he is married to a lovely woman who really is a perfect match for him, and I can’t imagine him with anyone else.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Are your parents aware that 50% of marriages end in divorce?

      I mean… just pointing out that meeting an SO on your wedding day doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be together forever.

    6. Girl friday*

      Yes, I would be devastated. I would mourn the loss as if it were my own child. It’s not really about hopes for the future, or any kind of social thing. It’s a real love, like you just got gifted another child, one that loves your child as much as you do. You love their gifts and their challenges, of this new person. If you think about it, if your parents had felt any other way during the relationship, you probably would have been pretty offended by it. Being detached is good too, it’s just not my way.

      1. Washi*

        Huh. Thinking about it from the girlfriend’s perspective, that sounds pretty intense, especially before they’re even married. My in-laws seem to feel similarly, and honestly, it can be a little smothering. Which to be fair, is partly my own personality coming into play – I tend to react pretty negatively to people trying really really hard to make me like them, and with my in-laws, I feel a bit like a cat being chased around the room by people who are trying to pet it. (Girl friday, I’m not saying that you necessarily are getting the same reaction – my in-laws live 15 minutes away from us and contact us almost every day, so that’s a big part of it.)

        Anyway, Foreign Octopus, their reaction sounds extreme to me and ultimately not super helpful!

      2. Amelie*

        That’s a really intense and over-the-top way to feel about someone who is just dating your kid, and if I was your kid’s girlfriend I’d find that super offputting and scary. Which may be what you want, I guess, so maybe that works for you.

        I just hope it works for your poor kids too. :/

    7. Call me St. Vincent*

      I had an ex’s parents write me a long letter expressing devastation after the ex broke up with me. We were together for four years and I was very fond of them. I think everyone thought we were on the road to marriage.

    8. LibbyG*

      I think my folks grieved the end of my first marriage, because they really identified with my ex. I grew up working class and went off to college and then grad school and into a professional career pretty remote from their everyday lives. My first spouse was in the building trades, and I think they felt I kind of returned to them when I married him. My current spouse is in my same career field. And they like him well enough, but I think they miss the sense of connection they had with my ex. It eased, I think, when current spouse and I had kids. Now parenting is the shared experience we bond over.

    9. ExTexan*

      Oh yes! When I broke off my engagement to my college boyfriend, my family was very upset because they loved him.

      Then I took a new boyfriend home and my parents really liked him.

      When I broke up with new boyfriend, my mom said – I am pretty sure she was serious – that she didn’t want to meet anyone else unless I was really going to marry him because she couldn’t take getting to know these guys and then never seeing them again.

  48. I work on a Hellmouth*

    Okay, I just want to take a moment to say Spider-Man:Into the Spider-Verse is totally freaking awesome. Guys. It is SO GOOD. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it will become a part of you.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Yes, I loved it! I rarely see movies in the theater more than once per movie, but I’m highly tempted to see it a second time.

      1. I work on a Hellmouth*

        Totally worth seeing it a second time—especially if you haven’t seen it in IMAX or 3D. (I very rarely see anything in 3D as it’s usually just a lame cash grab, but it totally adds to the experience in this movie!)

    1. StellaBella*

      What’s happening on Thursday for you? For me, I will say goodbye to a good friend leaving for New Zealand back home, I will be sad.

  49. Annoyed and frustrated sibling*

    I don’t understand why I have to ignore my sibling’s obnoxious behavior just to spare their feelings. For crying out loud – doing obnoxious shit should be called out and they should stop it. We’re both over 30 at this point. There’s no reason for that BS. But my mother acts like I’m hurting his poor feelings and I should just ignore it because he’s a guy and some guys just act like it and there’s nothing to be done about it. That is such BS.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      Oh boy, I hate this.

      I grew up in a family of boys and I was expected to manage their feelings. Now, as an adult, I have a viscerally negative reaction whenever someone expects me to manage the feelings of another person. They’re adults, they should be have like it.

      I’d say refuse to do it and call your brother out but you know your family dynamics better, but now that I’m with you in solidarity.

    2. TL -*

      Make it more difficult for your mother to deal with your reaction than your brother’s behavior. Right now she knows she can get you to behave in a way that gets her goals (peace) met, but not your brother. Change that.
      Or just end any conversation about your brother with “Mom, we’ve got to work our relationship out on our own.” And change the subject or end the conversation.
      Your mom is going down the path of least resistance here; right now it happens to be lecturing you but it does not have to stay that way.

      1. Annoyed and frustrated sibling*

        I think you’re right about her taking the path of least resistance – I’m the “good child” who tends to do what I’m told so it’s easier to tell me to shut up than it is to get him to behave…. which sucks and as childish as it probably actually is I’m at a point where I’m tired of being the good child and catering to her wishes.

    3. DrowningInToys*

      Does your sibling also expect you to manage your mom’s feelings, in a great circle of everyone’s feelings should be managed by you?
      I have a one word answer as to why: patriarchy.
      I have no advice though. Only solidarity.

      1. Annoyed and frustrated sibling*

        He just thinks everything his hilarious and I’m being far too serious. I mean he’s just “fooling around” right? so what’s the big deal? Whatever.

        1. Annoyed with my sibling too*

          Oh man, he sounds just like my brother! It’s a joke when he’s saying it, but if you throw it right back at him suddenly he’s all butt-hurt over it. Don’t dish it if you can’t take it. And what TL wrote above makes so much sense – it made me realize I’m in the same position as you are where my brother gets away with being a jerk because my mom knows I’ll take it in order to keep the peace whereas he’ll double down and turn it into a full out war. It happened once when I refused to back down and neither of them talked to me for over 6 months and then my mom expected me to apologize to him (which I refused to do) when he’s the one who started everything. Ugh! I feel you. I now try not to let either of them faze me because it’s clear neither are willing to change. I’ve tried to have heart to heart conversations but they are not willing to see their part in things so it’s no longer worth my time to try. Some days it’s harder than others to not let it bother me, of course. Sorry you’re dealing with the same bullcrap.

    4. Thursday Next*

      It sounds more like it’s your mother’s feelings that are being hurt, and maybe it’s easier for her to talk about your brother’s hurt feelings than her own.

      I’ve thought a lot about how invested (some) parents can be in their children’s relationships with each other. It’s quite natural, I think, for parents to want their children to get along, and it can be hurtful to them to see that that’s not the case.

      Also, is it possible that your mother takes your brother’s obnoxious behavior personally—that if you called him out on it, she would feel reproached herself? Sometimes parents want to believe in an alternate truth.

      None of this is to say that you should manage your brother’s feelings, or your mother’s. But do you think it could be productive to talk to her about it? To say, “Mom, he’s an adult doing X, and as his adult sibling, I feel I should call him out on it. Does it bother *you* when I do that? Why?”

      Idk if you’d get traction with it, but it seems like turning the focus away from your brother’s feelings, and to your interaction with your mother, might be helpful.

      1. Annoyed and frustrated sibling*

        I think you’re right about it actually hurting her instead of him – or at least more her than him…. I try to ignore him during most of the visits but there’s always that moment where I get so frustrated I end up calling him a jacka** and that’s when she get’s on my cause for being mean.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Would it be possible for you to say something sooner, before you get so frustrated? Maybe a ‘why would you say ‘x’, it’s pretty hurtful’ or ‘ please stop saying/ doing’x’, it’s not funny’ so you are calling out his behaviour but not in a way which comes over as yelling at him or name calling?

          1. Annoyed and frustrated sibling*

            I have and he rolls his eyes at me like I’m being ridiculous – and since my mom clearly doesn’t agree or doesn’t bother to call him on anything he sees it as proof he’s not doing anything wrong.

    5. StellaBella*

      Dang I wanted to write something about the names of two really obnoxious men in the USA that showed this behaviour this year (one’s first name rhymes with Jet, other with Ronald) but don’t want to be political.

      Men need to be held to a higher standard for their behaviours, in this case of your family, seems you could say something like, “Boys being boys is a problem and adults need to have a sense of decorum/manners/behaviour standards in a civil society. If maturity is an issue maybe we can get him some coaching to improve his behaviours, as I will not abide this bs” or something? Good luck and as others here replied, I thin we all have had enough of coddling people for bad behaviours recently.

      1. Annoyed and frustrated sibling*

        I could try that but I’m sure I’d get some song and dance about taking things to seriously and overreacting and whatever then the emotional guilt trip of “BUT HE’S YOUR BROTHER! And you’re being mean!!”

        … I don’t know maybe I can rephrase what I’m saying but it’s pretty clear my mother isn’t going to back me up so I’m just the annoying older sibling who takes things to seriously – the opposite of my brother who thinks everything is worth joking and being obnoxious about…

    6. Traffic_Spiral*

      Well, after 30 years of this, I wouldn’t have much hope of your mom changing, so I’d just tell her to stay out of it.

      “Mom, we’re adults now. My relationship with [bro] is my business.” and just refuse to discuss it with her. If you must, maybe a few good lines about “I know you think I should put up with his bad behavior. I disagree. Anyways, this is between me and bro, so I don’t feel like discussing it with you.”

      Also, see if you can plan your visits with your mom in ways that avoid bro.

      1. Annoyed and frustrated sibling*

        Yeah that’s pretty much where I’m at – I did have it out with her after my brother left but she was still pretty much “okay whatever but he’s still your brother and it’s chrisms so don’t be so mean” ….. ………. BLAH

        This visit was actually our Christmas gathering because my brother and his family are going to the in-laws for Christmas.

    7. LibbyG*

      Ugh! It sounds like maybe it’s become a game to Bro to see how far he can push you until you react. So obnoxious. I hope he mellows out or that you can find some satisfying way to deal, knowing that this crappy dynamic is there.

      1. Annoyed and frustrated sibling*

        I’m sure that’s exactly what it is … I can’t win. Either I say something sooner and he rolls his eyes at me like I’m bing the ridiculous or I keep my mouth shut until I finally blow up…

        It’s not really just about jokes and things it’s about seeing what he’s doing that could cause more problems – for example things like fooling around hard enough to possibly cause injury to his son – I don’t want to see him doing it AT ALL because i think ANY fooling around has potential to cause injury … but I admit my “THIS COULD BE DANGEROUS!” line is way more strict than it needs to be so I have to figure out when to say something or when not to…

        Or things like when we were getting out of the car and he kept locking the door on my sister in law so she couldn’t get out. It may have been funny the first two or three times he clicked the lock on the key fob but by the tenth time I thought he was being an abusive jerk and wanted him to stop. Also it was loud and probably bothering everyone in the apartment complex! But I’m sure he thought he was just fooling around and while my mom probably thought it was annoying she probably didn’t think it was “abusive” or wrong.

    8. Lilysparrow*

      You’re “oversensitive?” You “take things too seriously?” Own it.

      “Yes, I am sensitive about this highly offensive behavior. Since you obviously know that, why do you keep doing it?”

      “Yes, I do take (this issue) (my bodily autonomy) (whatever) very seriously. It’s important to me. That is not going to change, so why do you keep doing it?”

      The nuclear option is to ask your mom why his feelings matter more to her than yours do. That’s not going to end well in the moment, but if it’s worth it to you, there is a chance it could alter her perspective in the long-term.

      1. Annoyed and frustrated sibling*

        She would deny that his feelings matter more than mine and then just start telling me I’m over reacting and being ridiculous and whatever and it would be more of a mess than it’s worth. It’s pretty clear she thinks I’m the one that needs to change and stop taking things so seriously and overreacting to everything my brother does.

  50. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

    My period has gone wild.
    I’ve been regular for the last fifteen years – PMS with painful cramps that need special painkillers to stop, then three days of bleeding, then nothing for the next twenty-nine days. However, for the last two months I bled for a week up to ten days(!) with minimum to no warning. Yesterday I had to rush to change my underwear. I’m so scared that I took the first gynecologist appointment I could.

    1. Rhymes with Mitochondria*

      Mine did that as I got older, and around the time my daughter got her period. And worse when my younger daughter got hers, too.
      Another simpler possibility is thyroid issues.

    2. Reba*

      Hope the appointment is helpful, Fake old Converse. Here in the US, I know several women who have had to see several doctors in order to ultimately get a good diagnosis for endo. Please take care of yourself, and listen to and trust yourself. Best wishes.

    3. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      I’ve always had super heavy, irregular periods. It’s no fun at all. I don’t have any advice on the medical side, but I have found a way to stop ruining all my underwear and pants if you’d like a recommendation to mitigate that while you’re sorting out the root of the issue.
      I wear Thinx underwear almost all of the time, and use a Diva cup any time I’m actually bleeding. Thinx are kind of pricey, but they’re comfortable and they last a long time. I’m still using some I bought a few years ago and they’re in great shape. That really helps take the emergency out of surprise bleeding. I use a Diva cup especially on my heavier days when I don’t have time to visit a restroom every single hour, and it’s comfortable enough to wear “just in case” when I’m not sure if I really need it or not.
      It’s great that you’re checking in with your gynecologist, but if it turns out to be “normal” age-related changes or takes a while to solve, there are definitely things you can to do minimize the inconvenience.

    4. Business Librarian*

      I don’t know your age, but this was my main symptom of peri-menopause. I didn’t get much in the way of hot flashes or other problems, just my body trying to bleed out. If that turns out to be what you’re dealing with, I can’t recommend endometrial ablation enough. I was at the point of not having a period for one week out of the month rather than the other way around and the ablation saved me. I just wish I’d gotten it sooner which is why I’m telling you about it now. If this just started, you probably don’t want to go to so drastic a remedy, but don’t wait like I did until I was anemic.

  51. Nitpicky*

    Ok y’all. I watched the cousins for two nights (surprise sleepover!) Because my sister forgot there was no school in her new district. It was great for my littlest kiddo, who at four, usually gets left out of couch-campouts and whatnot. Then this morning, after I ran them all through the shower, I found lice in my neice’s hair! Noooooooooooooo!

    Everyone was treated and reshowered, but noooooooooooooo!!!

    1. Rhymes with Mitochondria*

      I am so sorry. Wash all your linens. Treat all hairbrushes. And check yourself.
      Lice are the worst.
      But at least your user name fits the situation?

      1. Thursday Next*

        Lice FEEL like the worst when you’re trying to deal with them, but there are more dreaded infestations!

        My 2 cents: to really get rid of them, make sure that anything that can’t be laundered is sealed in plastic bags and placed in the freezer if possible; if not, bagged for a minimum of three weeks. This means stuffed animals, throw pillows, etc.

        Wash what you can in warm or hot water, and dry on high heat. Put pillows in the dryer on high heat.

        Finally—and this is probably most important—lice can be resistant to shampoos. The most effective way of getting rid of them is to do comb-outs with a metal lice comb. Plaster dry hair with conditioner (Pantene is great) and then comb through. Combing gets lice and nits. If you’re doing it yourself, you may have to do it a few days in a row. It’s tough with protesting kiddos, especially ones with longer hair, and time intensive, but it works. So say all the Orthodox women who have made a business out of lice eradication in Brooklyn. They’re so good at and confident about it, they will certify you lice free after one visit to them.

        Good luck!

        1. chi chan*

          I second this. Combing is really the only way to make absolutely sure. Also eggs are stuck to a hair shaft. So put on a plastic throwaway glove and run hair with eggs you can see between finger and thumbnail to remove.
          I got lice once and by a week my sister and I were like those monkeys who are always grooming each others fur.

        2. Mrs. Fenris*

          That’s what we had to do…just cover their hair in conditioner and comb it very carefully. I was really thankful we never got them when the kids were young…surprise, they are a huge problem with teenagers! My daughter AND my son both have long, thick, curly hair. It was a huge pain but we got through it. (There is a rumor in my field that Frontline, the topical flea medication for pets, is an easy fix, but I didn’t have any luck with it.)

    2. Lilysparrow*

      Get one of those metal nit combs. Mechanical removal is best, all the chemicals do is slow them down so they can’t dodge.

      They are annoying and time-consuming but not usually that hard to get rid of. Bag up the stuffed animals for a couple of days,just to be sure.

    3. Its all good*

      What worked for us was dosing hair in Listerine, the Gold version. One daughter got it then passes it to the other. We hug all the time and I got them too! It took me 5 hours to comb out my oldest she has thick long hair. I bagged everything in room and put in garage for a month. Did not take any chances.

  52. MuttIsMyCopilot*

    What’s everybody cooking?

    A friend of mine who lives out of state is visiting for the holiday, and I’ve been batch cooking things I can freeze and send back home with them. I made a giant batch of oxtail vegetable soup in my Instant Pot, four sausage and veggie lasagnas, and a big pot of super spicy three bean, barley, and bison chili. I’m all out of freezer space for now, so I’m prepping a cheddar and chorizo strata for brunch tomorrow. I don’t have plans for a big holiday meal, but I’d love to hear about everyone else’s feasts!

    1. fposte*

      Usually I’m all over the batch-and-freeze approach, but I’m pretty full up, and having a few days off means that I can enjoy the luxury of cooking stuff that isn’t obliged to feed me for weeks. Today it’s pork chops, which I almost never cook; I tend to like them when I cook them and not when I have them out, so I forget that I like them. I’m going to do a Cornish hen on Christmas. But I’m also going to do some baking–several different pancake recipes are in the pipeline and I think mini-cupcakes to be frozen individually. And maybe a soufflé–I really like soufflés and haven’t made one in ages.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, and my most delightful new toy is the Casara Milk Frother, a little induction frother that makes beautiful hot chocolate in a perfect single serving. My old Bialetti finally died and they don’t seem to make them anymore, so I had to find something new, and I just love this wee little wonder.

      2. MuttIsMyCopilot*

        I’m so with you on the pork chops! Restaurants always seem to way overcook them for me, but I love grilling or frying them at home. I might just have to put those on the menu for next week.

    2. Tris Prior*

      I learned this week that apparently January at That Place Which Shall Not Be Named on Weekends is going to be horrific with loads of (unpaid) OT…. so I decided to do a ton of batch cooking/freezing this weekend and next so I have healthy stuff ready to go and do not faceplant in takeout or frozen pizza every night. Today I made cream of mushroom and potato soup in the Instant Pot. Next up is black bean/mushroom/tomatillo chili, green curry tofu, and probably some chana masala. Maybe some tomato soup too, as I’ve got tons of garden tomatoes still in my freezer and I don’t feel like canning them.

    3. Bluebell*

      I’ve been eating out at restaurants all week so tonight I made a simple red lentil soup with ras al hanout spice mix. So comforting.

    4. Llellayena*

      I failed at my first ever attempt at fudge. I found an easy recipe online. Unfortunately, said recipe assumed you knew generally how to make fudge. So instructions on using a heavy bottomed pot and what temp to cook things to before the next step were missing. Taffy is good, but it’s not what I was trying to make…

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        I’m sorry! I did that too, once. It’s taffy because it overcooked. And this year my chocolate chips didn’t fully melt (but the tiny chunks were actually quite toothsome). Now you have a better idea of what you want to do, I hope? (See https://www.thespruceeats.com/fix-overcooked-undercooked-fudge-520861 for tips.)

        This is the recipe I use, which my granddad pulled from a women’s magazine in the 1970s and made all the while I was growing up. I didn’t try it myself until I was grown, so I didn’t appreciate how much easier it was than older recipes. No candy thermometer or frantic whisking needed!

        MRS. SOMEBODY’S FUDGE

        INGREDIENTS:
        3 CUPS SUGAR
        1/4 LB (1 STICK) BUTTER OR MARGARINE
        1/2 LB (8 OZ.) MARSHMALLOWS
        1 CUP EVAPORATED MILK
        1 TSP. VANILLA
        12 OZ. PKG SEMI-SWEET CHOCOLATE BITS
        1/2 TO 1 CUP ALMONDS, CHOPPED

        Combine the first 4 items (sugar, butter, marshmallows, and milk) in a heavy cooking
        pot. Cook over slow heat, stirring constantly, until the four ingredients are dissolved,
        and homogenous, not allowing it to boil.
        Increase the heat a little to cause mixture to boil. Start to monitor cooking time as
        boiling starts. Allow mixture to boil slowly for 5 to 6 minutes, while still stirring
        constantly. Note that the color has changed from the buttery (or margarine)
        yellow to a light tan, and that the mixture has lost its fluffy consistency and is now
        more dense.
        Remove from heat and stir in chocolate bits and vanilla. Chocolate bits must be
        completely dissolved, and the mixture a smooth dark texture. Stir in nuts and, as
        the candy starts to harden, pour it into a buttered dish or pan. (I line a jelly roll pan
        with parchment paper to get the thickness I like.)
        Score the surface of the candy before it becomes hard in order to facilitate
        cutting it later on. Keep the finished candy covered so that it doesn’t dry out, but
        remains smooth and creamy.

        HINTS: A heavy pan is best because it will minimize burning of the mixture. A
        few brown specks of burned mixture (caramel) may appear during cooking but
        they will eventually dissolve with no adverse effects. Stir the mixture constantly
        while cooking.

        TIPS:
        Use SEMI-SWEET chocolate, NOT milk chocolate.
        Use 1 CUP of evaporated milk, NOT 1 can of milk.
        Use 1/4 LB (1 STICK) of butter, NOT 1/4 cup.

        1. Llellayena*

          Thanks, my version was a Kaluah fudge, so no chocolate (I’m not a fan). I got a whole lot of burned crud on the bottom (didn’t know about the heavy bottomed pot). The instructions started with sweetened condensed milk, mix in sugar over heat until dissolved. The stuff is so thick, how do you tell the sugar has dissolved! Anyway, if I try again some time I’ll do a bit more reading first.

      2. Lcsa99*

        It’s probably cheating but I’ve used a no bake fudge recipe for years. It’s funny, cause I make everything else from scratch (last year marshmallows, this year nougat!) But I have zero desire to change this recipe.

      3. Pippa*

        If you want to try something in the general neighbourhood of fudge but not fudge, the Smitten Kitchen recipe for apple cider caramels is not difficult and makes amazingly delicious caramels! I’ve tried it twice now and it’s turned out perfectly both times, even though I’ve never made caramels before. It’s helpful to have a candy thermometer but you can work around it if you don’t have one. Definitely recommend!

    5. Sparkly Librarian*

      I’m actually trying to EMPTY the freezer (my habit is to buy in bulk), but it’s that time of year where we eat out a lot, so it’s slow going. Here’s a beefy vegetable soup I pulled together that had my wife dissolving in compliments.

      We had some bbq beef ribs left over from a bday celebration (enormous dino bones the restaurant billed as BBQ short ribs). I diced those up and added diced tomatoes, tomato paste, a little beef broth, 3 times as much water as broth, carrots, corn, lima beans, peas, and pepper & garlic & herbs (no additional salt). The bbq made it very smoky. No potatoes or barley — plenty of protein and starch from the legumes. Yum!

      1. ExTexan*

        Marido and I have been swearing that we are going to use inventory – the 100 lbs of meat we bought this summer at the butcher shop in my mom and dad’s hometown, but we had a big Saturday night last night at Aldi, where we discovered things like cheese-stuffed ravioli marked down to 50 cents.

        What can I say? We love a bargain.

    6. TL -*

      I made some aloo gobi today (it’s mediocre at best, sigh) and got a whole chicken I’m going to break down and make butter chicken with.

    7. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I’m having a lazy Christmas so I haven’t made any cookies or stuff like that. However, I will be making green bean casserole from scratch and a pumpkin pie.

      My freezer is overstuffed as well, so I have been either making stuff that uses up what’s already in it or in some cases just throwing it away. Last night’s dinner was a chicken breast of uncertain age, stuffing from two years ago, and some bacon. I simmered the chicken and wrapped the stuffing in the bacon, then put them all in the oven to crisp up a bit. Was actually pretty good and I haven’t died of food poisoning, so must have been OK!

    8. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Not cooking, but I’ve been on a baking spree lately after probably over a year of not wanting to bake anything. In the last three weeks I have made:

      1) Cranberry white chocolate oatmeal cookies
      2) Rainforest crisp crackers
      3) Banana bundt cake with salted toffee icing and smoked salt sprinkles (that won the charity bake at work last week)
      4) Double-glazed citrus poppy seed tea cake (for a dinner party last night, but it made enough for a small cake just for us)
      5) Smitten Kitchen’s Cranberry-Orange Breakfast Buns for Christmas Day (overnight second rise in the fridge IS your friend!!)
      6) Beef Wellington for Christmas Day

      Our freezer is currently stuffed with meat from my last trip to the butcher, so we don’t have much space right now, however I was just sitting here considering how we make eating healthy easy and less wasteful in January by batch cooking chicken, vegetables, a soup, and breakfast stuff on Sundays.

    9. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Because we are in a house where I can cook meat (we don’t at home), I am making a brisket for the first time in something like 9 years. I am SO EXCITED. I ordered from Whole Foods and went to pick it up yesterday, and it was the strangest feeling, yet I am delighted. I’m not even worried about getting it wrong, because I grew up with this recipe and it’s basically foolproof. (HA, famous last words!)

      We are in this house because we are at the beach for a week (it’s beautiful and the sun is shining so hard on the beach I had to take off my jacket during my morning walk). I know a lot of people who prefer to go out on vacation, but I cook and don’t mind (we stayed in the same house last year and it’s very well appointed). Last night we just did a quick pasta and pesto. My partner’s dad arrives tomorrow for Christmas, and I will serve tacos (with MEAT!) for Christmas Eve dinner. I’ll make a spinach and ricotta strata for Christmas Day breakfast (with homemade challah that’s been frozen, so it’s perfect for strata).

      Christmas will be The Brisket. My partner will make collard greens and his really delicious mac and cheese. I will make mashed potatoes from a recipe by 2 Chainz (yes, the rapper, they’re really good) and some roasted radishes and turnips, maybe carrots. Dessert will be homemade Baltimore Berger cookies, gingerbread cake*, and ice cream.

      *That cake stuck so completely to the pan (I think my non-stick bundt pan is sticky now) that the cake is basically a pile of crumbs. But it’s GOOD, and covered with ice cream, who’s going to care?

      At some point, I will make potato latkes. My partner’s dad likes them for breakfast on Boxing Day, so we might do them then. I bought some frozen shredded potatoes because I knew this house didn’t have a food processor. We’ll see how that goes.

    10. Red Reader*

      I baked 22 dozen cookies Friday night (moderation is for suckers!) and while we’re ordering Chinese food for Christmas Eve, I will probably make some variant of mac and cheese for Christmas Day. My usual options are taco or pizza mac, or I may experiment with a chicken-bacon-spinach-artichoke version.

    11. LCL*

      I’m going to fiddle with a cooked eggnog recipe. I have been using a mashup of two Alton Brown recipes, but it’s a tedious process. This time I will try just bringing the eggs up to 160F, let them cool, then mix with the cream and milk and spice and booze. Instead of heating the dairy ingredients, tempering the egg with the heated dairy, then slowly mixing the egg into the dairy and heating again.

      I’m also going to try the bourbon ball recipe from The NY Times that uses ginger snaps. And for Christmas dinner, there is a standing rib roast from the butcher waiting in the fridge.

    12. MsChanandlerBong*

      I am being lazy this year since I am still recovering from my health calamities. I’m doing chicken thighs coated in a mixture of Ritz crackers, salt, pepper, and garlic powder; mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and stuffing (cornbread and sausage, as per my mother’s recipe, which is the best). For dessert, I am trying a recipe for no-bake mint chocolate pie (somebody posted it on Facebook, and it looked good). In case I don’t like it, I’m also making a plain cheesecake.

      For Christmas Eve, we’re not having any company, so I’m just cutting up some summer sausage and cheddar cheese and serving it with raw veggies/dill dip, crackers, Christmas candy, etc.

  53. nnn*

    Question for any parents out there (or people who remember being a child with more nuance than I do):

    At what age do kids become old enough to appreciate a gift of money?

    For example, a gift of cash would be meaningless to a 1-year-old, but would almost certainly be appreciated by a 10-year-old.

    But at what age does that transition from meaningless to appreciated occur?

    (Context: Just finished wrapping all the gifts for all the children in my extended family, and discovered that they’re kind of bulky and heavy when I try to carry them all at once, which is an issue because I’m travelling by train. So I’m thinking cash would be lighter. #FirstWorldProblems)

    1. Max Kitty*

      My 5-year-old nephew is quite aware that cash can be used to purchase things. He’s not quite there on how much he needs to get something in particular, but he definitely appreciates cash as a concept.

    2. Book Lover*

      My four year old would be happy with cash and know she could buy stuff she wanted with it. I think if there were an option, she would rather the immediate gratification of a toy though.

    3. Wicked Witch of the West*

      I never had children, and had no concept of age appropriate gifts. Up until age five I made my SIL buy something and put my name on it. Starting with age five, they each got a one dollar bill for each year of age. That continued till they were 21, then the gravy train stopped.

    4. Llellayena*

      If you’ve already bought everything, does the stuff fit in a rolling suitcase? They’re pretty easy to lug on trains. No clue on the money/age thing though.

    5. HarriedMum*

      I have 10, 7, 5. They’d all be thrilled to be given cash but I am sure 5 would prefer a physical unwrappable gift and I think 7 probably as well. 10 would definitely prefer cash over almost anything he hasn’t specifically asked for.

      So it depends whether you’re really asking “Is cash ok?” or “Is cash best?”

      I would say from my experience of my own children and their friends that any school-age child will understand that money can be exchanged for goods and services, and from about 7-8 ish they have the mathematical and emotional ability to save money for specific goals.

    6. MsChanandlerBong*

      I think my best friend’s kids appreciated money from a pretty early age (4?). I send them a few bucks each for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Easter. I used to send them Christmas gifts, but last year I spent $110 or so on gifts, and then it cost me $112 to mail them! So this year, I said forget it, and I gave them each $80 cash in a card. My friend sent me videos of them opening the cards, and they were both thrilled. They are so different in how they approach money, too. Her daughter spends every cent she can get her hands on, almost as fast as she can spend it, and her son is saving his money to buy a professional baseball team someday. :D

  54. Elizabeth West*

    TWO MORE CHAPTERS AND THEN BOOK 2 IS DONE!

    I thought I’d be done today (hoping I will, if I stay up late), but last night, I discovered I’d just half-assed a chapter and it wasn’t actually finished. Sooooo I finished that. God, I hope I can sell Book 1, because otherwise I am just wasting my time. I did a little something something on the Solstice so hopefully my wishes will go into the new year. I think I might just half-ass the last two, since I really wanted to finish before I went to Mum’s for the holiday. I need to clean the house, but I can’t do both so f*ck it.

    Spent way too much on Christmas presents. :P

    1. StudentA*

      What are you going to do with your manuscript? Try to sell it through traditional publishing channels?

    2. Sadie Catie*

      This is wonderful to hear!
      I too am attempting to clean my whole house after some well intended overspending (ugh).
      So happy you are making progress !

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      “otherwise I am just wasting my time. ”

      time spent writing is never wasted. It’s not only fun, but every line written is practice that helps you get better for the next line.

  55. Cursed Purse*

    ~10 they stop playing with toys. Girls might like makeup and girly crap still at that age, but most 8&9 year olds start appreciating gift cards to their favorite video game store, or visa gift cards to buy vbucks for fortnite online or whatever. Even smaller kids like getting a little money. A few dollar bills to buy candy or stick in their piggy bank.

    Here’s the ultimate gift though: Visa card AND a one-on-one shopping trip to spend the thing. Kid gets special time, picks out what they want, and mom doesn’t have the gift card floating around her purse forever.

    1. TL -*

      My cousins are 8-10 years old and they spend almost no time with screens (by choice) and still appreciate physical gifts (I generally give books.)

      I got them a science kit this year to grow your own bacteria and I have a feeling it’s going to be a big hit. It’s super dependent on the kiddo.

    2. Book Lover*

      I think this is pretty individual? My 11 year old does play some games but for gifts he usually likes books and still asks for soft toys (was disappointed he didn’t get a specific one he asked for). He is perfectly happy to get cash – which he spends on books, but likes seeing that people know what he likes when he gets physical objects.

    3. Rhymes with Mitochondria*

      I do some volunteer work with a group of 9 year old girls, and when I asked them what they hoped to get for Christmas, not a one of them mentioned gift cards or video games. Out of 17 of them.
      They mentioned things like art supplies, headphones, books, clothes and “an iPhone but my mom says I’m too young and have to wait until I’m 12.”

  56. Merci Dee*

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year….

    So, I was off work on Monday and Tuesday because I had more vacation time than I could get paid for at the end of the year – use it or lose it. I was, fortunately, able to get a dentist appointment for that Monday to do my regular cleaning and to check out a tooth that was giving me problems.

    Decades ago I’d gotten a massive filling in the tooth, and it lately became increasingly sensitive to hot, cold, and pressure. Sure signs the tooth is getting ready to give up the ghost. The dentist confirmed they’d had the tooth marked for years as needing a crown when it became a bother to me. Fine – I figured I’d look into it around mid-February so that I could get past end of year stuff at work.

    I go back to work on Wednesday, and I’m nibbling a candy cane from a generous coworker, when =snap=…. and a piece of tooth comes out in my hand. I figured the problem tooth gave way before I expected it to.

    Nope.

    It was the Next. Tooth. Over. Not even the one I asked about.

    Thankfully, that tooth also had a massive filling, so there hasn’t been any pain (other than where my tongue sometimes rubs the sharp edges because the tooth broke on the back side). But now I’m going back to the dentist on the 26th and getting prepped for 2 crowns because it makes no sense to fix the broken one and leave the one giving me problems in the first place.

    Thank goodness we got our Christmas bonuses this year. Didn’t want to spend ~$700 of it on dental work, but I’m glad it’s happening now when I have the money to cover it.

    So, yay for 2 more silver alloy crowns. Cheaper than gold and sturdier than porcelain. I’m lucky that all my crowns have been on molars so far.

    Merry Christmas to me!

    1. Anonforthistale*

      Congrats I’m guessing you have dental insurance. You are doing a great job on being proactive about your teeth.

      2019 is my year I will try to get two molar implants. I am at risk of choking on my food if I dont. I also have 6 fillings to go and will need a crown. I have never been to a dentist in my life.

      1. Merci Dee*

        I hope everything goes well with your procedures next year! Will definitely be keeping you in my thoughts.

        I am thankful that I have dental insurance, yes, because I know it gives me options that others might not have. And I’m grateful that the insurance will cover half the cost for my treatment. But dental care, like any other health care, can be outrageously expensive even with insurance decreasing out of pocket costs. If these 2 teeth had to kick up their heels and give me problems, I’m glad it was now when I had the extra money to cover it. My decisions might have been different if this happened in September or October.

    2. Llellayena*

      $700 for 2 crowns? I want your dentist. My crowns were about $1000 each, sigh. And I’m overdue for another visit (guilty look).

      1. Merci Dee*

        I had this exact situation happen to me last year where a filled tooth broke and I had to get a crown. Again, no issues with pain, so it was just a matter of drilling down the tooth and getting a temporary cap until the permanent one arrived. Since I didn’t go with any precious metals, my portion of the cost was about $350. My insurance pays half the cost for the actual crown, so I’m sure it would have been closer to $1000 if I’d gone with gold or porcelain. But I know several people who broke porcelain crowns and had to get new ones – no thanks. And gold just ain’t my color (not to mention it’s an extra $450 each).

  57. Hates Car Shopping*

    So, I absolutely need to get a car. I’ve been driving a borrowed one since I crashed mine early this year and beyond it being borrowed from my Dad (I’m on his insurance to0, so no issues there), it just DOES NOT fit my lifestyle.

    Even the thought of going and looking at cars sends my anxiety through the roof, just from dealing with the salespersons and having to make so many CHOICES. I have enough in my savings that I can pay cash for the cars I’m looking at. I’m looking at the same make/model as my last car, but within the last couple of years and under a certain mileage. My BFF linked me me to an article about how to buy a car without ever talking to a person, but that was predicated on the car being new/cpo in order to avoid getting a lemon. There are no CPOs of the make/model I want in my area.

    I hate haggling, I have no mechanic to take a car to during a test drive… everything about this process seems designed to make me freak out. That’s a large part of why I haven’t bought a car yet.

    Any actual-can-put-into-affect tips for the car-buying phobic here?

    1. Someone Else*

      I feel you. I was there a year ago. Here’s the thing:
      Is price critical to you? You can absolutely buy a car no haggle, and with a warranty, but you will pay a premium for doing so. If that’s cool with you; if the extra cash is worth it to your anxiety, buy from a no-haggle chain like CarMax or AutoCity or Carvana (who will deliver it to you and let you drive it a week and take it for an inspection on your own time). You can buy an extended warranty from CarMax if you want and it will bring you comfort. Or you can just buy a car with very high reliability scores. Then you’re not worrying about a lemon per se, ie not this one specific car is bad, but rather banking on the general reliability of the model you go with. Like if you buy a used Corolla or Camry those very rarely have major issues. So there’s less risk there. Also ask for the maintenance records of the car if they’re available. Have the seller provide a carfax, all non-scammy dealers should in this day and age. But also be aware not everything ends up on the carfax. There may be unreported stuff, but minimum if something sketchy IS on the carfax, you know to avoid that car. Do you have any friends and family who can recommend a mechanic? or check yelp reviews for someone who seems OK? The best way to not get scammed is to do a pre-purchase inspection, but if doing that will worsen the anxiety then a car with a warranty already, or buying the warranty as an add-on should chill any fears that the engine will blow up a week later.
      I hope that helps.

      1. Someone Else*

        Oh also, depending on your price range, you can also use a car buying service. That has a cost as well, and most have a minimum price car they’ll do it for, but you basically pay someone a flat fee, tell them I want this with that, and they’ll locate one and do all the negotiating for you, possibly even including arranging the prepurchase inspection. So that may be an option also. My credit union offers this service to members. Tom McParland is also well-regarded and has a business called, I think, Automatch Consulting? Same type of service. So that may be an option as well.

      2. Hates Car Shopping*

        My price range is pretty low for what I’m looking at (used but only 1 previous owner, low mileage, recent model year). I can’t even find reliability scores on the sites I’m looking at (that don’t require you to sign up), but I had the 2008 of the car I’m looking at and it was good to me for as long as I had it.

        All of my friends drive such different cars that we don’t share mechanics. And for my previous car, I took it to the nearby dealership to get everything done on it, which is pretty much a no-go for test driving a car.

        But my budget really is tight. I’m severely underpaid at work, living in a ridiculously high COL area. I also know I have something expensive coming up next year that I need to keep money aside for, so I can’t really go much higher. I had originally wanted to switch to a hybrid vehicle, but the ones in my price range are all older & with much higher mileage, and no factory warranty. (The one that’s an update on my previous car would come with a limited factory warranty because of single previous owner/low mileage.)

        1. fposte*

          I’m not a big haggler myself, and I honestly think there’s too much emphasis on it in the popular discussion. Offer what you think is fair in response to the price, don’t get sucked into extras, and be happy to get out without spending your life there. There are more important things than being the customer who beat them down the most that day.

        2. TL -*

          For a look-over, a good mechanic should be able to easily glance over any type of car. Usually mechanics who specialize do so because of part types (ie, always have Japanese-model parts in stock but not German) not because a Toyota engine works in a completely different way from a Ford or an Audi.

          If one of your friends drives a high end luxury car and one an electric and one a tractor and they all see incredibly specialized mechanics, then maybe their mechanic wouldn’t be a good choice. But if you’re talking an American pickup truck versus Japanese hatchback versus German SUV, then I’d take the recommendations from your friends and give the mechanics a call.

    2. Snow Drift*

      USAA insurance will haggle for you, if you have that. Some credit unions do it too. You give them specs, price range, dealbreakers, and they do all the legwork.

      Also, Tom McParland from Jalopnik does custom searching. Might be worthwhile for a specific want–people have said that his haggling skills make up for his fee and then some.

    3. Extra vitamins*

      If you are at a credit union, they usually have some help with car finding. Even if you don’t finance.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      My spouse and I bought our (lightly used) car through our credit union. We told them what kind of car we wanted and that we wanted it used. They set the loan and all the paperwork with the dealership and just delivered it to us. No haggling. No fuss.

    5. Traffic_Spiral*

      I guess spend some time on jalopnik or whatever the good car subreddit is and learn a bit about them? that’s what I do when I have to buy something I need but don’t want to shop for (like phones).

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I hate haggling also.

      I tell the person my price range, they are usually shocked when they find out I actually meant that range. But they figure it out after a bit. They show me what they have on the lot. I explain, “Tell me what the price is and I will tell you if I want it. I don’t argue. If I don’t like the price we have to look for something else. I will not stand and argue over price.”
      I think this is pretty straightforward as I tell them the range. If it’s over by even a few hundred dollars I tell them NO! and NEXT! They get the idea that we are going to look at every car in the lot until they settle down and just keep in my price range.
      In recent years I have knocked a $1000 off the high end of the price range. By the time I pay the insurance, register the car and so on, I have blown through several hundred dollars. So I set the upper end a little lower than what I can afford to spend.

      If you can find something that was once used by your state you might find a hidden gem. I bought one vehicle low mileage and low price that was a state use vehicle. I loved it. Even a friend mourned when I finally let go of it. Our state does maintain their vehicles better than some people.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Same here. It’s not worth my emotional or mental energy to haggle. I see it like getting into a fistfight for a black friday sale – it’s unpleasant, degrading, and I will not participate in it. If I want the thing I will pay the stated price – if it’s not worth that price, I’ll go without until I can afford it better or there’s a more reasonable sale. I will not fight a 50-year-old soccer mom or spend an hour playing “who can whine about the cost best” with a salesman.

    7. Llellayena*

      Can’t help with the haggling, I think I’m pretty good at it myself. But in the research to make sure you get a good model/year, look at Consumer Reports April issue (libraries should have it). They list used cars by make/model/year and tell you satisfaction ratings and which systems are likely to have problems. If there’s a year that has more problems/dissatisfaction, you can avoid that year when you buy.

    8. blackcat*

      Both in my own car buying experience and helping friends, there has been minimal haggling. We have all bought from dealerships, looked at prices online, verified through some google searches that the price was reasonable, and then gone and requested a specific car. I know enough about cars to do some basic inspecting myself (which is why friends brought me).

      In my case, the specific car I wanted was sold to someone else that morning before I got there. All they had was the fancier model for more $$. Another nearby dealership had the base model, so I said, “I’d really rather buy from you (they had serviced my old car well for years), but I want to spend X, not Y. I will drive 40 miles to do that if I have to.” They dropped the price down to what I said. And that was that.

    9. Teeth grinder*

      1. Even if you don’t actually have a mechanic you trust to do an inspection, tell the salesperson that you want to get it inspected. Watch their face when you say this. An honest dealer will have no objection to an inspection. If they try to talk you out of getting one, walk out: they know there’s something wrong with the car, and they don’t want you to find out until it’s too late.
      2. Also, you’ll probably get a better price if they think you will finance through them. Don’t mention the “all cash” idea until you have a firm price agreement. Dealers make money on financing (by steering clients to a particular finance company or bank).
      3. Remember that buying outside the county or even city where you reside may mean you will have to pay the difference in local sales tax separately. Here in Illinois, that can amount to three percent or more, which really makes a difference in how good a deal you think you’re getting. ASK, and make sure you get the necessary paperwork.

  58. Still (in love)*

    Thanks to those of you who wrote such supportive and thoughtful replies the last few weekends about my relationship breakup. It’s been a tough couple of weeks. To be honest, I still feel like a ghost of myself. I thought it would be getting easier by now, but it’s only seemed to get a lot harder.

    I’ve got a pretty great group of friends, not sure what I’d do without them. It feels like this heartache will never end though, and I feel so ridiculous- like I’m a poor tragic character in a romantic comedy that I used to make fun of. Seriously, I’ve been crying into my cereal, having trouble sleeping, feel distraught-all-the-time levels of breakup sadness… I’m mid-30s and have been through breakups before (from long term relationships that should have affected me more) and yeah it was sad and hard, but this is quite literally the most gut wrenching, heart breaking experience I’ve ever had.

    For those of you that have gotten over a devastating breakup (and maybe gone on to find love again?), please share any stories/tips/encouragement.

    1. Ktelzbeth*

      It hasn’t been that long, so my first piece of advice is to give it more time. In the meantime, distraction, journaling (sometimes that helps even if you’re not a regular), talking to friends, talking to a counselor. If you celebrate Christmas, it’s also a particularly hard time. I’m sorry you’re doing so poorly.

      1. valentine*

        Treat this time as a romcom or a Victorian romance Choose Your Own Adventure. You are in half mourning (greys, lavender) and indulging yourself with…what? And what is something that defines you that you can be sure to do more often for a while, like art/writing/sport?

    2. Rahera*

      I’m so sorry. For those nights when you just can’t sleep and just lie there replaying memories, a great distraction is the Sleep With Me podcast.

      This is my go to when I’ve had a shit day and I don’t know how I’m going to switch my brain off. I hope it helps a little. Link in a nested post to follow, but I’m sure it’s googleable.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Everything you describe here is what grief looks like. You are definitely in grief. And it is a loss.

      Instead of telling yourself to stop crying or stop being sad, simply acknowledge your emotion. Yes, I am crying. Yes, I am sad beyond words. Typically, we tell ourselves NO and STOP. But this is not helpful as it makes grief go longer and it makes grief harder. The way to break the power of these emotions is to acknowledge them. This sounds too simple to work, and yet it is so hard to do and so helpful to do it. And yes, we have to acknowledge over and over until the emotion no longer has a strangle-hold on us. But you will see the emotional charge going down as you do this.

      It’s good to acknowledge also that you are reweaving your life. You are starting a new chapter. We build our lives around our person. When they are go (by what ever mechanism, they leave by choice or they pass away) we have a hole in our lives. Unfortunately, we have to deliberately plan what we will do. This is annoying/upsetting because crying gets in the way. So what to do is take baby steps. Take tiny steps forward each day.

      Walking can be therapeutic especially if you walk regularly. I bet you can find a friend who would take walks with you.
      Think about what you would like to do next. This is hard and finding that first thing is super hard. So let’s say you decide that you would like English muffins for breakfast. Go get the English muffins, have them for breakfast and think about what the next thing is you would like. Keep going like this with one thing at a time. And this is how we reweave our lives, with a bunch of these little decisions. Gradually, we start making bigger decisions. That comes in time. Use the little decisions to get you started.

      It’s really important to hang on to the thought that not only is your life forever changed because Person left but it is ALSO forever changed because Person was there in your life. This person changed you, made you aware of new and different things, you gained appreciation for stuff that you never noticed before. You are forever different because of your time with this person. You get to keep those parts, you won’t lose them. So you will miss this person for maybe the rest of your life. But the way you miss them will change. It won’t be so raw and so crippling. It becomes part of your life’s story but not the sum total of your life’s story. And we get there by taking baby steps each day.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Every breakup is different. If you were in a long-term relationship and had sort of checked out of it or it was starting to lose steam, then a breakup could be sad but easier to navigate. A breakup you didn’t see coming, or one where you’re more invested than the other person, can be way more painful.

      Either way, it will pass. You WILL feel better in time. The only way out is through. I’ve been through some shit breakups, made worse by my anxiety. Nothing is permanent–and that includes bad things.

      Give yourself some time each day to wallow–not a lot. I know it’s hard, but try to stay busy the rest of the time. Do something you wanted to do but couldn’t while you were in the relationship, even if it’s a small thing. When a long-term BF and I broke up, something I did was burn incense. He hated it and I couldn’t use it while we lived together, but afterward, I went out and bought some patchouli and was like, “HA ON YOU I’M ENJOYING THIS LALALALALAAAA” I know it sounds silly, but it really did help!

      And *HUGS*

      1. Red Reader*

        I did that. My first husband wouldn’t allow me (I know, I was 18) to get my bellybutton pierced, so the ween after I moved out, shazam. (I don’t know that I even really wanted it done; I did it purely because he told me I couldn’t. I still have it, but out of inertia.) My second husband threw tantrums if I even mentioned dyeing my hair, so the week after he told me we were done, green and purple and blue it was, and has been so ever since pretty much. (Third and final husband doesn’t attempt to be the boss of me. :-P )

    5. Lulubell*

      This isn’t breakup-specific, but it’s something I do whenever I’m feeling particularly down, which for me, usually revolves around a breakup. I make a gratitude list. BUT. I don’t just make a list. I write down the letters of the alphabet, A-Z, along the left side of the page, then force myself to write one thing I’m grateful for starting with each letter. Some of it is easy, at some point, I have to start getting creative. The combination of getting creative plus seeing the funny things I come up with for x, z, other random letters makes me laugh and gets me out of my while head. While also showing me that I have at least 26 things to be grateful for right in front of me. It’s great for those horrible nights when I am crying and spiraling; it’s never not drastically improved my mood.

    1. Red*

      Worst: My grandma isn’t doing Christmas dinner this year because she’s depressed about Papa being in a nursing home. We all are, honestly. It’s kind of a sad Christmas this year.

      Best: The days will finally start getting longer now

    2. L.*

      Best: Tied between (1) lots of OT hopefully coming cuz of two work trips this week and (2) my sisters’ Christmas gifts coming this week. They are difficult, but fun to shop for. And this year I think I nailed it. I’m so excited for them to receive their gifts.

      Worst: Having to travel and pack twice this week for one day work trips. Three cities in three days. The first city is driving there and back… in a car with a leaky tire. I’ve been monitoring it and know as long as I fill it before I leave I should be fine. I meant to replace it, but just flat out ran out of time.

    3. StellaBella*

      Best: Finished my move (last box arrived this week). Got my full deposit back, paid off all the bills of the rental (electric, etc). Stood up for myself and spoke to some folks in a government office about services and their ridiculous requests, so that may work in my favour and I will know next week. Also sleeping better and longer hours finally now that I am getting settled. Solstice and longer days coming. Baking and cooking this week was fun. And kicking butt on a lot of w**k applications.

      Worst: my clothes from the move all smelled like mildew from living in a damp country for 18 months and having to do like 6 loads of vinegar-added laundry. Still have to unpack and wash sheets and blankets. Ugh. Gross. Glad to be bad to a drier country.

    4. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Best: Some really great nights out this week – dinner with old friends, lunch+pub crawl with new friends in celebration of another, a mid-project milestone celebratory blowout at a pricy winebar with lovely project people, meetups planned with other friends for after Christmas

      Worst: The hangovers and intestinal distress, not to mention not being able to sleep properly! Other Half just did two nights back-to-back of getting in at 3 am, so he is rather happy its the “end of the w**k party holiday season” at this point.

      Im off to the pool and to hit the sauna and steam room to try and recover – worked yesterday post Friday’s excesses!

    5. misspiggy*

      Best: I’ve been able to do plenty of Christmas socialising and shopping this year, due to scaling back on work and continued physiotherapy.
      Worst: Although I can do more when I’m active, normal activity still forces me into catatonic pain flares for hours every few days. Even with heavy duty pain meds it just hurts so much.

    6. Lady Kelvin*

      My best is also my worst, I think. I’m now 32 weeks pregnant and am relatively happy at how well I have maintained my weight without swinging too far either way (I’ve had an eating disorder in the past and still don’t have a great relationship with food. Gaining weight on purpose has been a huge struggle for me). I’m excited to meet this kiddo in less than 2 months and I’m so happy that this has been a relatively easy pregnancy. However, I am exhausted from only sleeping a couple of hours a night, I’m uncomfortable, and I hate the way my body looks, so I’m not looking forward to the next two months.

  59. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I saw the new Mary Poppins movie today. It was incredible. I’ll admit that I was skeptical about it for a variety of reasons, but I really enjoyed it.

  60. Woodswoman*

    If any technology-minded folks are reading this weekend, this neophyte to online videos could use advice. I started taking videos recently of migratory birds on my Sony point and shoot camera. They look great when I view them onmy laptop screen, but when I try to upload them to YouTube to post on my blog, the resolution is terrible.

    I’ve spent tons of time online searching for programs to fix that, and downloaded a free program to compress my video files, but the image quality is still lousy. I know zilch about online videos and programming, so any help is welcome.

    1. TL -*

      Check your YouTube settings to make sure that you’re uploading the videos in “full quality.” (It’ll be Profile Picture–>Settings–>Uploads–>Upload Quality.) Also check that your viewing settings are set to high quality or highest number available.

      Are you exporting the videos before uploading them or just uploading them unedited? If the latter, the above should definitely fix it. If the former, check your export settings and make sure it’s a high resolution export.

      1. Woodswoman*

        Hmm. I clicked on Profile Picture->Settings, but my next screen doesn’t have a prompt for Uploads in the 8 options listed on the left side of the screen.

  61. Anonforthistale*

    Have you ever been in a situation where you have had to warn/discuss your spouses siblings poor financial choices because you were concerned that they might ask your spouse for loans?
    Did your spouse get upset that you would bring up these details with them or were they understanding?

    My spouses sibling (older than us) had came to me for a loan for rent and I had obliged only to find her spending on all sorts of stuff. I eventually got paid back but it left me with a bitter taste. Now I have my suspicions and shes very vocal of whenever her family is going through a hardship (because of bad financial choices). I feel as if shes throwing hints with those personal details. Have any of you ever went through this?

    1. chi chan*

      I think you are overthinking this. If you discussed with your spouse before giving the money to the sibling, the topic has been brought up already. So first think what you want to do. Not what you feel pressured to do because older person and spouse’s family. Next tell your spouse and make a plan. Maybe they want to check with their sibling if everything is alright. Maybe together you can offer non monetary assistance. Babysitting or hand me downs. Ignore all hints and make them spell out requests directly.

      1. valentine*

        Maybe your sister-in-law asked you because your spouse knows she’s irresponsible and would’ve said no. I prefer to give to strangers and I only do it if I can not judge their spending choices. In fact, I hope they receive an excess they can use for fun or savings. Sit down with your spouse and decide how to treat SIL’s money requests (hopefully a hard and perpetual no), then stick to it.

    2. blackcat*

      I have a moocher sibling, but I know it and no when in hell would I ever loan/give him money. My husband and I have talked about it, and I am not at all defensive. In fact, I take a harder line than him.

      You may find your spouse is more reasonable than you think on this.

    3. Red Reader*

      My husband has a brother who occasionally borrows money from him. We keep separate finances, so the agreement is that I won’t loan him money to loan to his brother and I won’t cover him on things if he’s short because of loaning money to his brother. I don’t even hear about it anymore. (And I haven’t had to cover him on anything for a good long while anyway.)

    4. Lilysparrow*

      Does your spouse know you made the loan?

      My spouse and I have joint finances, and we consult each other on any significant or unusual expense. So nobody would be giving anyone a loan without discussing it first. We sometimes get frustrated about our finances, but not with each other for discussing it.

      If your spouse has no intention of giving a loan, or doesn’t know about your prior loan, then it could come across strangely if you keep analyzing the sibling’s finances in detail.

      Your spouse may feel that you’re just being nosy or critical.

  62. Junior Dev*

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

    I slept in really late because I couldn’t sleep last night and I spent all day driving to my parents’ house so I just now have time to write this.

    Sleep has been messed up. I would sleep better if I exercised more I think, but I’ve had no energy and I’m having back and foot pain. So my physical therapist is recommending I try to do cardio twice a week, less and I won’t gain endurance, more and I will exhaust and potentially injute myself.

    I am trying to get a referral to the sleep clinic but the first I can even get an appointment with my PCP is in late January. Who knows when I will be able to get an appointment with a specialist, in my experience it’s often multiple months after a referral.

    I’m proud of making social plans and of figuring out plans for the holidays that balance friends and family pretty well. I’m struggling with procrastinating on things due to depression and not wanting to feel my feelings and admit when I have doubts on something.

    How are you doing?

    1. StellaBella*

      Enjoy the holiday break and I hope your sleep and exercise routines get sorted out soon. Exercise and fresh air do help loads, as do clean sheets and a good pillow.

      Am feeling good – taking this next week off to do nice things for my friend with whom I am staying – cleaning out and sorting out all of the kitchen, fridge/freezer, bath, etc. And I plan to snow shoe on 25th Dec and will see friends this week a bit too. I don’t really do Christmas as I live nowhere near family, but will be good to see friends and be outside a bit.

    2. 653-CXK*

      Didn’t get out that much this week – I had a phone interview Wednesday (which yielded a 1:1 interview Dec 27) and a video interview Thursday. The latter was through an employment agency for a well known company, but there is an opportunity for it to become full time…the only problem was the interview questions were tough. Perhaps I will hear from them (either the agency or the company or both) next week; they’re looking to start training in the first full week of January. The former is full time, much better money, and I’m familar with the procedures. We shall see.

      Yesterday our family had our Christmas celebration. My three brothers live further away than I do, and they had to coordinate their schedules to be together. We gave our mother two $100 Amazon cards; my nieces and nephews got toys and clothes. We had sweet and sour meatballs, sausage soup, an antipasto platter, cheeses, cookies, and lemon lush. For Christmas Day, my mother, brother and SIL will be going to a Chinese restaurant for lunch.

      I’m looking forward to the end of Christmas hype on December 26, when radio stations are forced to go back to regular programming. It’s nice to hear some of the traditional Christmas songs (Bing Crosby), and some modern ones (Paul McCartney, John Lennon) but the others make me yearn for Gilbert Gottfried to read the Declaration of Independence. That’s what makes Christmas (to me) these days so irritating – and it’s all for the retailer’s benefit. “Let’s toss in some diminshed chords to make more money!” Ah, no…that’s not how music theory is supposed to work, you dunderheads.

      2018 wasn’t a bad year. It was a year of necessary change, introspection, and refreshment. 2019 should be a lot better.

  63. Tired in Thailand*

    Sawasdee kha from Krabi, Thailand! We are on the third leg of our tour here: Three nights in Bangkok, six nights in Phuket and four nights in Krabi. I decided in February last year that I had been so stressed during Christmas (including a brand new flare up of Pompholyx which was awful) that I didn’t want to be at home for Christmas this year.

    I’m having the most wonderful time, but finding it difficult to be here with chronic illnesses. I also caught a cold here which makes things more difficult and saps what little energy I do have.

    My partner is healthy and has infinite energy and wants to do ALL THE THINGS, ALL THE TIME. I’m trying to keep up but it’s really hard. The associated guilt is also really difficult to deal with. My partner tries not to be disappointed by my limitations but I can see that she is.

    Personally I’m happy just to *exist* here and sit with a beer overlooking the ocean, absorbing things and people watching. It’s not that we want different things, it’s just that I have to acknowledge the limitations my body has to avoid a PEM crash. My partner sometimes seems to interpret this as me being boring which is hard to take.

    Can any spoonies here relate? It’s so difficult for your life to be governed by your illness, but I guess it’s something we don’t have a choice on. Thanks for listening if you got this far and I hope all of you are having a great weekend.

      1. valentine*

        Yes, don’t think you have to spend as much time as possible together, especially alone. And find stuff to do on your own, even if it’s just enjoying some patio time, so no one can harsh your mellow. I wouldn’t be with someone who called me boring. Your partner needs to read up and otherwise learn (on her own, not adding this to your burdens) about your condition(s). Is there a simple chart you can make about your spoon availability, as a starting off point, so she knows that if you hike, you can’t also go dancing and bowling and swimming in the same month, much less day?

        1. Tired in Thailand*

          Sorry, just to confirm that my partner has never called me boring. In my OP I meant that I worry that she interprets my symptoms as me being boring or not wanting to engage in activities when really I just don’t have the spoons available.

          I was feeling cranky earlier and have probably put her in a bad light – she is honestly really supportive and understanding of my illnesses and has taken the time to read up and learn. She regularly takes over chores I’m doing and tells me to “relax and save my spoons” which is very sweet.

          I think the issue is more around us both being in this beautiful new place and wanting to explore but at totally different paces. I’m worried I’m holding her back and she’s worried she’s going too fast! It’s trying to find that happy medium that is difficult, but I’m sure things still work out if we keep trying. Thanks for your reply.

      2. Tired in Thailand*

        Thank you. Yes, I continually suggest that she can embark on whatever adventure she wishes and that it’s *OK* for me to not want to do the same thing, and vice versa.

        I’m sure there’s guilt on both sides – she often says that she doesn’t want to “leave me out” or “go off without me” but I’m trying to teach her that this is fine and that most of the time I welcome just being able to get some R&R. Communication is key in all of this, I think.

    1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Ah- we were just in Krabi a month ago! To be frank we weren’t real keen on it, but we stayed in Ao Nang and it just wasn’t our scene. Also, we had just come down from Khao Lak which was MUCH more our vibe and quieter, and it was also cloudier in Krabi unfortunately.

      We dont have chronic illnesses but have learned from prior trips that IT IS OK to just BE somewhere and not run here there and everywhere or to overplan things. If just be-ing for you means having a drink looking at the ocean, that doesn’t make you boring it makes you content and NOT cranky/tired/ill which ruins the trip for both of you.

      There can be benefit too in doing things apart too. For us I went snorkelling on a day tour while partner sat by the beach listening to podcasts. It was nice to have the day apart and to have our own time/adventures and talk about them over a nice dinner somewhere.

      1. Tired in Thailand*

        Wow! We are actually in Ao Nang now. We quite like it here but we really disliked Phuket and its tourists. Khao Lak looks beautiful, maybe that’s somewhere we can add to our list for a future trip.

        The fact you said that you “learnt from prior trips” is interesting. This is our first long haul holiday, so I’m sure we’re bound to experience some teething problems like this.

        I’m sure in years to come we’ll be like a well oiled machine and we’ll have established a speed at which to explore. This is my partner’s first time outside Europe so I think she is awestruck and wants to take in everything she can! Thanks for your reply.

        1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

          Oh cool! We were at the end of our two week portion of the vacation having also seen Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, so we may have just been done with Asia at that point (and heading into another week of traveling and family stuff in Northern Europe).

          We went to Tubkaek Beach one day for something to do and it was ok – take a tuktuk or cab north about 20 minutes and its MUCH quieter, fabulous views of the islands dotted around, and plenty of longtails if you want to see them from that area and not the tourist mass in Ao Nang, although dont go at low tide as its a really low tide. Lots of sand crabs too but not on the beach. We also spent a few hours getting massaged at the Massage Corner in Ao Nang. Its, uh, its maybe not as polished as a nicer spa we went to at one of the resorts we stayed at, but you can get a lot done for not much :) Its a little hard to find but there were plenty of signs up.

          If you are flying home from Krabi just be aware that the airport departure hall is essentially like a giant shed, there is nowhere to sit, and its not air conditioned.

          We’ve been traveling together for years including multiple road trips in the US and you are right, there are just tricks you pick up and understanding of each persons limitations. We definitely are a well oiled machine at this point :), and actually it was difficult to integrate other people into our traveling when we had my parents because I had to stop and explain timelines and what/when/how we were doing something when its almost unspoken with me and partner. Also? we got older :) and frankly we went to bed at 9pm every night on our three week vacation because we had been so stressed at work beforehand.

    2. Lilysparrow*

      Yes, but I’m in a different stage of life, settled down with kids. If I keep on routine, I have enough spoons to do everything we need and some things we like.

      But it’s never enough for *all* the things. Certainly not all the things the super-elementary-school-Pinterest Mommies do.

      If I get knocked off routine, which happens fairly regularly because: life, kids, aging parents, just wanting to be like everyone else, etc, then sometimes I don’t even have enough spoons for baseline functions. Travel is one of the big routine-disruptors, so a lot of my in-laws and extended family never see me at what I consider “normal” in my regular life.

      And I feel a lot of guilt about that. A lot. Particularly when the extended relatives are perky, ambitious, super-attractive fitness buffs. I start feeling very defensive about the things *I* think they’re thinking. Even though nobody has ever said or implied anything critical.

      It’s a mental struggle, for sure.

    3. Owler*

      I’m a spoonie with an active spouse, and the key thing I can do is to speak up and tell him when I’m tired or conserving energy for another time. I am not an introspective person by nature, so I have to be purposeful by examining how I’m feeling and then say it out loud. But it really helps him if I do this.

      Often, we have a schedule of a busy day followed by a recovery day (for me) where he is on his own. Or we get up and do something in the morning, and I return after lunch for a nap while he rallies for more. What works for us is me speaking up about how I’m feeling and his accepting it and doing more as he sees fit.

  64. Seeking Second Childhood*

    I think I’m getting a bait-and-switch from a tree service. Unfortunately this is a neighbor AND friend of a friend. It started as a really small job–take out 3 trees threatening the power lines on our wooded lot. Right at the driveway, just get them down to ground safely and chip the small stuff into our woods. $600. Somehow yesterday it grew into a lot more trees, stacking the logs in the back, and $1800. And a no no I quoted you $700 this summer. That’s the part where I got aggravated. I’m about to go out now and see how many they marked. I suspect I’ll go back to the original 3 trees, maybe 4, and just suck up the difference between 600&700 as a lesson to get it in text before waiting on someone 4 months.

    I dont mind trees falling where they only hit trees. We have 2 chainsaws and have taken trees down…but it’s best to have experts do the ones near power lines and plate glass windows.

    Any suggestions from the commentariat?

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      Can you cancel the whole thing and get someone else to do it? Or at least say it’s on hold for now while you shop for some more offers and see if this guy is reasonable or blowing smoke?

    2. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      Disregard the fact that this is a friend of a friend. This is a business transaction and should be treated as such. I’d politely call out the quote discrepancy and then decline to have the work done anyway, because I’m incredibly over people acting like they’re doing me a favor when I’m paying them to do a job. “I’m certain that you quoted me $600 and that’s what I’ve budgeted for this. We don’t seem to be on the same page here, so I’m going to get a few other estimates before moving forward.”

      It’s worth getting a few other estimates of what actually needs to be done and how much it’ll be. I live in a tree-heavy area, and there are plenty of honest tree services who will be upfront about about this and won’t take months to get back to you.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Btw the 3 tree quote is reasonable for my area even at 700…what bugs me is the push to do more.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Well, is he actually pushing you aggressively? Or is it more like he’s saying that these other trees should be done and here’s the price? I can see being upset that it’s 700 instead of the 600 originally quoted, but if he’s not aggressively pushing more tree work on you I don’t really see being upset about that part. It might be that he took a look and is telling you “hey it would be a good idea to do these trees, too, while I’m here, but it’s up to you.” That’s what a tree company did when they came out to look at the two trees I wanted pruned back. They told me that the huge pine tree behind them really should come out because it’s diseased and may fall (which I don’t doubt because it hadn’t been looking very good for a couple years).

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If I can get him to do 4 trees for 800 I’ll do it, those are the only ones we really shouldn’t do ourselves….and I will go to someone else for the others. He can do this before new year, and with this week’s windstorm the time frame is important.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      So I am taking it that the work is not done yet. In other words he did not do the work and say, “you owe me 1800.”

      I have had a lot of work done on my house, so I have some basis for my thoughts here. Numbers are estimates. ALWAYS. Time of year makes a difference, sometimes. If it were me, I would be questioning if I am getting ripped off. Well the extent of the rip off is $100 that is the difference in the two quotes. It’s not that much of a rip off, if it is a rip off at all.
      Three trees that reach up as high as power lines for $700 sounds like a bargain to me. It sounds like you have a time frame/deadline. That can also increase a price.

      If you add in a fourth tree, I would expect the price to go up some more. If you add in splitting the wood for your fireplace, I would expect the price to go up yet again.

      I think 7 trees for 1800 is a good price also. I had one tree here that was $2000. One tree. My second tree probably was closer to 3500. My friend was looking for winter work, so he gave me a lower price for the second tree. I knew I was in deep doo with that tree, so I took his offer. (The power company was outside my house watching this tree dance on a wire going to my house AT 2 AM on morning because the neighbors called and reported sparks.) This tree was so big it took us four days working 8-10 hours a day to clean it up.

      I am not clear on why you are so upset. Maybe because of the $1800? Here’s something that has been helpful to me. I have to make sure I absolutely understand the reason WHY something needs to be done a certain way.
      Why did the price go to 1800 and do those other trees need to go also? Perhaps they are in the way of taking down the 3 you actually want. He may need to get equipment in and can’t unless he removes these other extra trees.

      Bottomline if you don’t trust the guy then don’t hire him, period. Trees gone wrong can be very bad.

      As you are aware their work is fn dangerous. It takes experience to know how and where to cut out that watermelon wedge. You have to know which way it will fall and you have to be right. My friend is accurate to within 6 inches and this is on trees 40 feet or higher(greater than a two story house). If I was silly enough to keep standing in that particular spot, I would have become very flat.

      I assure you that the person who does the work will be working their tails off. I worked along with my friend as we dropped two trees at my house. Then we dropped a couple over at his house (part of the deal for the good price on my tree). I can honestly say, I am done dropping trees. It’s too nerve wracking for me to watch/help and I am too exhausted at the end of the day.

      Again, if your gut says no-no-no, then pay attention. I am not there, I don’t see what you see.

    5. Someone Else*

      It may vary by state but where I live, any kind of agreement for work over $500 needs to be in writing. Even if it’s just a simple Letter of Agreement and not a full on contract. I know it’s a bit late in this situation, but when discussing with future vendors, be they tree service, or a handyman or contractor doing some other basic repairs, if they’re only willing to give you a verbal quote and don’t even suggest writing it up and you both signing something before the work starts and the amount is greater than $500, they may be shady. Not definitely. But even if you don’t have the same law in your area, reasonable vendors will not blink at writing up an agreement and will have standard processes for doing so. Even if your job seems smaller than usual, since they need to do it for bigger ones, this should be fine. Best is that they bring up writing it up first as a given before you have to ask, but definitely if when you ask the answer isn’t “of course”, I’d not do business with that person.
      It might seem too late with this person, but I’d go back to them and say “when we talked in the summer, we discussed only the three tress. I want a written quote for just those three trees before you start the work.” Then if they balk, cancel the job and get someone else. If they give you a quote and it’s more than $700, cancel the job and go with someone else. If they give you a quote and it’s even more, or doesn’t explicitly specify the scope of the work, cancel and go with someone else. I know might seem awkward since it’s a neighbor-friend, but if you’re all business and not angry or argumentative, if they’re reasonable it should be OK. Just be in the “I’m not comfortable moving forward with the project without XYZ”. Plainly, calmly. If they try to pull some sorta “come on, we’re friends here”, again “I’m not comfortable moving forward without…” etc. Treat it as if it’s the most normal thing in the world, because it is.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Text agreement to do 4 trees next to the power lines to the house.

      (Don’t think standard telephone pole height– we’re in a weird 1950s house on a wooded hill, and the power lines are only 15-20 ft up at that point. It’s also a flat section immediately adjacent to the driveway.)

      So this price seems fair per what he quoted in August — but now he’s tried to change from “can do that Wed or Thursday” to “sometime between Christmas and New Year. ” I told him that if he can’t do it W/Th I’d cancestor the work and go with someone else.
      What a PITA.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Also, my husband & I went out and dropped 7 dead hemlocks earlier today, so that’s less chance of add-on confusion .

  65. I'm A Little Teapot*

    Hoping for suggestions from people on a cat issue.

    My 19 year old kitty has been functionally deaf for most of the year (she’s getting some sounds, but not me, and is now down to only exceptionally loud sounds in certain frequencies). Well, she’s now functionally blind as well. Pretty sure that she’s seeing a bit of motion, but that’s all. The blindness is very recent and sudden – I’ll be taking her to the vet just in case. But I’m now struggling with how to cope with a cat who can’t see or hear me. She’s getting up on things ok, but is having a hard time getting down. Also not sure how to cope with letting her know about mealtimes/where food is. I typically put things in the same places, but timing can vary.

    Any tips, tricks, experiences you could share is appreciated. Right now, we’re just fumbling to get by.

    1. valentine*

      Train her with something she can feel. If stomping or rolling a ball against her doesn’t scare her, you can do that to announce mealtime. Changing to specific times or an autofeeder is best.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, it seems to me that I knew someone who was stomping on the floor to call their pet and that did work. Animals can tell time I swear so if you can put her on a time schedule she will learn to follow it.

        1. I'm A Little Teapot*

          I’ve had a scheduled auto feeder for years, but it’s for dry food. She’s almost exclusively eating wet food now, which depends on me. I try to keep it fairly consistent.

          She is picking up vibrations – she’s been doing that for a while due to the hearing loss. Problem is that right now, the vibration without seeing what it is seems to be scaring her more than anything. So I’m trying to be careful with it. She’s not a brave cat by nature, and her fearful side is being enhanced by the situation.

          1. RunnerGirl*

            I’ve had several dogs over the years whose vision failed in old age. It started as wide angle, and doorways presented the biggest challenge. What worked for us was to be sure the light was on in the room they needed to enter *before* asking them to enter. As their vision failed even more, we’d use “spotlights” (ie a really bright clamp-on shop light). My guys never got 100% blind… they could always see a bit of light/dark. I’d try setting up a clamp-on light with a bright bulb over her feeder. If she can see light/dark and tends to move toward light, that may help. It’s worked for my oldies.

            1. Shoes on My Cat*

              This!! Plus maybe just the ‘shave & a haircut’ knock gently on the floor when you put down the food. That’s a distinctive vibration-especially combined with turning on the dpotlight over her food. Wet food has a strong odor so even the old ones should smell it on the air currents. Then use the “lighthouse effect” to zero in on the target food.

    2. Max Kitty*

      Since it’s wet food and you’re there, can you bring the plate to her and let her smell it, then have her follow you to where she eats?

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        That’s what I’ve been doing. Luckily, she’s pretty well trained with where it goes, so it’s mostly letting her know that there is food.

  66. New Girl*

    I kinda of let my mental health slip at the back end of 2018. This year was overall, stressful. I bought a house which means my life is supposedly moving in the right direction but it’s overwhelming. Lots of work.

    Anyway, it’s currently almost noon and I’ve been laying in bed since 10PM last night. I haven’t had motivation to do anything I should do to be a functioning member of society. I basically go to work, come home and watch tv. I want to get my act together for 2019. Sometimes I think I set my expectation for myself too high. Plus when I commit to something, I commit. I just don’t feel like myself.

    All of this to ask internet strangers what they do when they start feeling themselves lose interest in daily activities? How do you find motivation to be productive?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Not a popular answer but here goes. If I am so tired all I can do is watch tv, then I need to skip the tv and go to bed. Television can suck up our last drops of energy in ways we don’t notice. My thinking was that time has to come from somewhere. Giving up work was not optional, by default the tv had to go. It’s funny, I have an old tv here that I have not plugged in again since we worked on that room three years ago. I think I should try to get it working then I think to myself when will I have time to look at it.

      Moves are exhausting, even good moves to new homes are exhausting. Any time we do anything like that we need to factor in for “catch-up” rest. And now it’s the holidays, just in case you weren’t tired enough already. Go to bed one hour earlier and see where that puts you.
      Another tool I like to use is to do a half hour or so of chores before work. You know the expression “pay yourself first”, it’s used in talking about budgeting and putting money in savings. I decided to “work for me first” and do a few extra things before flying out the door to work.

      1. Thursday Next*

        I’m seconding this answer—screen time seems relaxing, but it actually gets in the way of getting the brain ready for sleep. Couple that with the fact that you’re already tired, and you could be making yourself more tired by watching TV.

        Plan to go to bed an hour earlier, and cut off your screen time an hour before that. See how you feel after a week of this. I know it’s hard; I like to settle in with my ipad before bed, but I notice a big difference in the timing and quality of my rest when I turn it off by 8:30.

        I love the idea of “paying yourself first” by doing something necessary for yourself before work, NSNR. I’ll implement that myself!

    2. foolofgrace*

      Wow, I can’t do what Not So New Reader does but I *do* have another unpopular answer.

      I haven’t had motivation to do anything I should do to be a functioning member of society.

      This sounds so much like me when my depression is acting up. Heck, I pretty much go to work, come home, eat something, and go to bed watching TV but I do get up at 4:45 a.m. to go to work. I take meds for my depression and it’s a lot better — you should have seen me without meds! Anyway, you might want to talk to your doctor. Or this might just be a phase.

      1. Thursday Next*

        My second seconding on this post—since you describe yourself as having let your mental health go, do you have a doctor or therapist already working with you, with whom you can check in?

        Any big change, even a positive one, can elicit that “letdown” after the exertion needed to get through it. So maybe this exhaustion is nothing to worry about, but maybe it could be depression. I have a definite bias toward checking in with a mental health professional if possible.

        Also, I like to make a list of things I’m looking forward to. Not necessarily big things—but a book I want to read, or a dish I want to make, a friend I want to call, etc. Even a video I want to watch, since if it’s something I had to think about enough to put on a list, watching it is a deliberate rather than a default choice. (On my list right now: watch Harvey with my 11-y.o.) My therapist will sometimes ask me what I’m looking forward to, when I’m more depressed, so I’ve adopted it as a more proactive exercise.

    3. Washi*

      If I understand your question right, it sounds like you’re feeling burned out and that your attempts to relax don’t really recharge you? I think foolofgrace has some good points to consider re:depression, but if you feel like it’s not a mental health thing and you’re just in a funk, I would say that what has helped me is taking my relaxation really seriously and committing to maximize it the way I would commit to other projects.

      For me, this looks like:
      1. Make the apartment presentable (not squeaky clean, but surfaces are cleared, bed is made, dishes are done)
      2. Get out of bed and put on comfy clothes rather than staying in pjs – bonus points for fuzzy socks
      3. Light candles, make tea, put on some favorite music
      4. Have a variety of activities available for myself – TV, books, knitting, journal, coloring, etc

      And I’ll try to also take a more mindful approach to my week as well. For example, I know that my weeks feel best when I prep my lunches on Sunday, when I’ve left myself at least 2 weeknights with absolutely no plans, when I see at least one close friend, and when I exercise at least 3 times. When I do those things, I try not to think “ugh, just have to get through this” but “This is exactly what I need. I’m going to feel great after this.”

      Hope this helps!

    4. Madge*

      I get that way too sometimes. The first thing is to not beat yourself up about it. Your to do list is probably both too big and too small. To big in that it probably encompasses everything you want to do to the house and too small in that each thing on your list is probably at topic level. Try picking the easiest, showiest thing on your list…the one that will feel really good when you accomplish it and that you’ll see your progress. Then break that thing down to the smallest tasks you can. Have you hung any pictures? That’s an easy one and makes a place feel like home. You could also pick just a few things you’ll get done in 2019 and safe the rest for following years.

      If you’re watching tv or surfing the internet then you’re getting a bunch of visual and audio stimulation and it’s easy to get stuck. When that happens to me I put on a podcast. It gives me audio stimulation but frees me up to move.

  67. Girl friday*

    Does anyone else but me love the Pixar short about the birds? I watch it a lot around Christmas, it makes me happy. There’s actually a lot in it about people.

    1. Thursday Next*

      I love For the Birds. My whole family does. I think it’s one of the first videos that both my kids clicked with.

  68. The Other Dawn*

    Not sure who here lives in the Northeast and has a Stew Leonard’s around. If you do, do not go there today. Holy Batman!!! It was absolutely packed at 10:45 am! I usually know enough not to go to that store around a holiday, but I needed to pick up a fruit platter and theirs are really good. (Had I known I needed the platter last night I would have been there the minute they opened today.) Thankfully I didn’t need to use a carriage so I was able to navigate the store better. I went against the traffic flow, used the shortcuts and called into use my ‘former grocery store worker’ people dodging skills to get through it without too much issue. I made it out alive!

    1. Lilysparrow*

      I went to a Stew Leonard’s once, and it was like all my personal circles of Hell in one place. I’m still scarred, over a decade later.

      I can’t even imagine what it would be like this week. **Shudder**

  69. Anonforthisone*

    Family issues….please advise… My brother just moved to MyCity from elsewhere. I was pregnant at the time and he was very excited to be an uncle (we are the only kids). He lived with us for a while, then moved out before I gave birth. He recently started dating a woman. She is very nice, but also seems to have some struggles with anxiety and her family, as in, she wants to travel to see them very often. I like her, I really do.

    However, since my brother started dating her, I have given birth and my brother has seen the baby twice in three months. He has spent about every other weekend with her family (not with just her, with her family as well). I am a little hurt by this, mostly because of the change in his attitude. I have reached out in a number of ways (she was sick and I offered to bring over some food, I offered to have them over for dinner, I offered to drive them to the airport when they were leaving on a trip). I don’t hear back at all.

    I’m sad because I want a relationship with my brother and his girlfriend and I want my brother to have a chance to have a relationship with my child. He was so excited about being an uncle. I get they need to build their relationship, but I’m a little hurt he can spend every other weekend with her and her family and not call me at all. Am I being a jerk? Are my expectations too high?

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think your expectations are too high, but I also don’t think they’re going to be met; you’re not going to change your brother’s behavior. So what do you want to do in that case?

      I think that this is a hard transition for both of you, and yeah, I’d be sad to see him less if I were in your position. But this is the brother you have. And maybe he’ll see you more when the newness disappears from their relationship, or maybe part of the sadness is that his being in the same city isn’t going to turn out to mean that you see him that much after all, and that’s just the way it goes.

      And you know, relatives often matter different amounts at different times to kids. Maybe he’ll be the uncle kiddo desperately needs as a preteen, or the wise advisor to a teenager. It’s not all or nothing right now. So I can see being sad that the sibling involvement you’d hoped for isn’t there, but that doesn’t mean the end of the story, either.

      1. Anonforthisone*

        Thank you! This is very helpful and I appreciate the kind words. What I’d like to do is continue to reach out to him and his girlfriend. However, I am worried about being annoying. Would reaching out monthly be too much? For the record,v that was about how often we communicated when he loved elsewhere.

        1. Washi*

          I agree with everything fposte said! And for frequency of reaching out, I think it might help to frame it as “Knowing that my brother is not likely to respond right now, what and how often would I like to communicate? What do I want him to know?” Maybe that means inviting him to something monthly. Maybe that means just sending a funny meme or something that made you think of him once a week. Maybe that means only reaching out when something really big has happened. It’s about figuring out what will make you feel like you’re doing the right thing for you, no matter how he responds.

          For the record, I don’t think you’re wrong to be upset, but as fposte said, you can’t change your brother.

    2. Theodoric of York*

      You’re definitely not a jerk. You were led by your brother’s attitude to expect much more frequent contact, and you’re disappointed. That’s okay.
      What happened is that your brother’s situation has changed. He’s in a new relationship, with all that new relationship energy, and he’s on his best behavior with his girlfriend and her family. This will abate with time. His desire to be an uncle to your child has not disappeared, it has been submerged and will reemerge. If the girlfriend objects to your brother visiting you, then they have a compatibility issue and he has a choice to make.

      Just let him know that he (and his girlfriend) are always welcome.

    3. Martha Marcy May Marlene*

      I am sorry you are feeling sad.

      I would like to offer another perspective. It could be that he is still excited but that your baby is too young/small. I have nothing against babies, but let’s be honest, they don’t do much besides eat, sleep and poop. He might start spending time once your child is a little older and has started to develop a personality. Kids are lots of fun once they get a bit older.

      Now I don’t know your brother. He could be being a jerk and it could be all because of his girlfriend. I just wanted to offer another possible explanation.

      Congratulations on your baby :)

      1. Anonforthisone*

        I don’t think he’s a jerk. Really, I I’ve him and I like the new girlfriend and I actually hope they get married, although her health issues complicate somethings a lot. It is true some people aren’t baby people. I’m enjoying my baby, but to be honest, I’m looking forward to when he can walk and talk and do more, you know? Thanks for the reminder that my brother might feel the same.