New Year’s free-for-all – January 1, 2019

It’s the New Year’s open thread free-for-all!

The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything that you want to talk about — work-related, not work-related, doesn’t matter.

Tomorrow I’ll be back to my normal posting schedule.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue.

{ 709 comments… read them below }

  1. hurtmarketer*

    Happy new year! What’s one thing that can be changed in your office/industry/field this year? I think (and pray) for open plan offices to fade away…

    1. LibbyG*

      Happy 2019! I’m in higher ed. I hope this is the year that we all stop acting as if the normal student is 18-22, enrolls in one four year college with a defined career goal, and graduates exactly 8 months later. We could do so much better in serving our current and future students.

      1. PB*

        I’m also in higher ed, and I’m going to co-sign this. This is such a succinct summary of the viewpoint that’s holding us back, while also doing a disservice to our students. As a society, we need to stop acting like new high school grads should have their whole lives figured out. It’s unfair, and unreasonable.

      2. AnonyMouse*

        Agreed! My current institution (I’m desperately trying to leave in 2019 for numerous reasons) is pushing this mindset so hard. They’re marketing the 15 credit/semester as the magic formula for 4 year degree completion (which is a nightmare to have to contradict in a program with a more rigid, inflexible curriculum). Now they’re implementing block tuition, which I’ll admit has it’s benefits, but the biggest drawback is that it’s making tuition more expensive for anyone taking between 12-14 credits, is about the same for anyone taking 15 credits, and is cheaper for those taking 16-18. I personally don’t understand this insane push for students to exceed 15 credits, and to be honest if I’m working with a student who only needs 11 credits and is trying to find a 1 credit class to bring themselves up to full time status, I’m probably going to tell them to just be part time in that semester (part time students still pay a per credit rate).

        As much as I disagree with a lot of the predatory behavior that for profit institutions use to recruit students, I do feel like the one thing they do right is marketing their flexibility to attract a more diverse student body.

        1. shooby doo be doo*

          No doubt you know this, but be careful advising students to take 11 hours (or anything less than full time) — part time status can affect eligibility for campus housing, financial aid (scholarships, grants, loans), access to/cost of accessing student health and counseling center, health insurance, car insurance, eligibility for GI benefits, eligibility for academic honors, etc. And even more so for international students — all of the above, plus visa requirements. We have our students complete a check-off that lists all the things that can be affected — they have to read and initial each one, sign and date it. Sometimes it’s worth them paying the $ to be full time. It never hurts to take a pass/fail one hour p.e. class!

          1. AnonyMouse*

            I always have my students check with housing/financial aid/any other special program/etc that may be affected by full time status. Of course if I have a student who needs to be full time I’m going to tell them to add that 1-3 credit elective. However, I actually have a lot of students in my program who opt to be part time if they can be, even on our per credit model. I advise in a limited enrollment major that has a sequential curriculum that can’t be adjusted (so all of the major specific courses have to be taken in a certain order based on when the student was admitted, but things like gen ed/foundation courses are flexible), so I have students who will be ahead on their gen ed courses (i.e. from transfer credits or something like that) who are really only required to take 8-10 credits in their first couple of semesters. So yes, in my example above I would of course ask the screening questions and have them double check to make sure they can be on PT status, and if they can be IMO it makes more sense to be PT then to pay the block rate.

        2. SavannahMiranda*

          Aren’t schools under significant pressure to graduate their students within four years? I remember a few years back when colleges were coming under heavy criticism for seeming to let students lollygag around on mom and dad’s dollar (or the taxpayer or bank’s dollar) taking five or six years to finish what was billed as a four year degree. Which of course could have at one time been completed in four years by their parent’s generation.

          Never mind the fact degree programs have continued to add requirements so that a four year degree now requires 15-18 credit hours per semester if not more. It sounds like the solution wasn’t to reexamine those degree programs and trim them back to reasonable levels, it was to unreasonably pressure students into carrying painful classloads. No doubt contributing to lower GPAs, stress, burnout, and higher utilization of campus support and psychology offices.

          I’m so glad I graduated just as this criticism was hitting schools, before it became de rigeur to push these kinds of hours. I graduated with a four year degree in five years and worked my tush off the whole time. There was no lollygagging or taking for granted anyone’s money or time. My advisors understood the degree structure and never gave me crap for my classloads. Wwhich were high every semester. If they had been trying to harass me to graduate in four years rather than five, I very likely would not have graduated at all.

          1. AnonyMouse*

            Agreed! This is part of the reason I don’t agree with some of the things my current institution is doing. I basically went to school year round (no breaks in the summer), because I was more successful taking 12-14 credits than attempting 15-16 (tried it once the year I was an RA in a building notorious for problems. Almost had an emotional breakdown during the first couple of weeks. Dropped to only 12 credits and it was the best decision!). I just made up for it in the summer semester so that I would still hit an average of 30 credits by the start of the next year.

            The thing I disagree with most is where my institution set the block rate. I know the short answer is that they’re trying to make more money, but the way the change was marketed to us was that they wanted to encourage students to be hitting at least 15 credits. They said they noticed a trend of students only taking 12-14 to save money, but still maintain full time status. But the rate they’ve proposed doesn’t give any cost savings to students in the 12-15 credit range. The only students who will save are those who take 18 credits. I NEVER recommend this much to my students due to how rigorous the curriculum for my program is.

            The point of this thread (at least from my interpretation) is that we need to stop assuming everyone we serve is a traditional student and follows that “ideal” formula. Sure, all of my institution’s policies are great for students who enroll fresh out of HS. Heck some will probably graduate early when they bring in AP/Dual Enrollment credit! But that isn’t 100% of our student population.

      3. WellRed*

        As a former adult student (at the ripe old age of 25 then) I applaud this. I couldn’t git required classes around work schedule. Others in my major had to threaten to sue because 1 required class was taught only once per semester by one prof.

    2. LJ*

      My industry is in theory paperless and has been at least 75% paperless for a decade. This means that it’s very flexible and suitable for remote working.

      But every so often we have to provide an actual physical paper copy of something, and it feels like something out of the stone age.

      And then in the last couple of months I’ve been dealing with an issue where the official digital library appears to have got corrupted but the authority is shrugging its shoulders and telling us to go back to paper methods. It’s absolutely infuriating and costs a fortune compared to digital methods – all of which additional cost we have to swallow because it’s the authority’s fault and not the client’s.

      So my wish for 2019 is that the paperless stays genuinely paperless and the technology catches up properly!!

    3. Social Worker*

      It is my on-going wish that people quit using CPS to settle personal disputes or landlord/tenant issues so we can focus on the kids and families that really need our help.
      And, if you had no idea about this, it is A THING.

      For instance, let’s say Sally and Kelly are BFFs. Sally starts seeing Kelly’s ex. Kelly will call CPS and open a case claiming Sally isn’t feeding her kids or something. Once the case is open, we have to investigate. Meanwhile, we have families in crisis that aren’t getting our full attention because Kelly and Sally are fighting and using us as a pawn.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Ugh, this is awful. A friend of mine takes photos of her full fridge and cabinets every week, and keeps every grocery receipt in a binder, all because her ex’s mother called CPS on her and said she doesn’t feed her kids. Not only does this woman feed her kids, but everything she feeds them is organic/non-GMO. She even has her own website where she does recipe makeovers to make them more nutritious, lower in sugar, etc.

    4. KayEss*

      Technically not my industry, but one I’m close to: I hope the media and public attention to working conditions in the video game industry in the latter half of 2018 (finally) lead to real change, including unionization.

    5. AdAgencyChick*

      God, I would love for open offices to die, but that’s not going to happen. Our corporate overlords are saving way too much money in rent to care what it does to productivity, especially since we bill our clients by the hour.

      1. Triplestep*

        I design and build the places where people work, including offices. I would like the Corporate Overlords to start listening to designers when we tell them that open offices require more spaces to collaborate behind closed doors (at least one meeting room seat per desk seat) and more spaces to flexibly work in private. I would like them to listen when we tell them that part of the change to open space is about providing good technology and change management around flexible work – not just the design.

        The majority of my open space projects start out with Corporate Overlords listening to this advice, but more often than not, by the end the design has succumbed to “Well, we are getting a lot of push back, so take that (meeting room, focus room, phone room, collaboration room) and make it into an office.” And “Well, if Bobbie has an office, I’ll never hear the end of it if Susie doesn’t get one, so take away one more (meeting room, focus room, phone room, collaboration room) and make it into an office. By the end, you have offices for a few, and the rest get open space plus no place to work or meet in private from the original plan. Pair that with old technology and no flexibility as to where people work, and now you know the answer to “what were they thinking?” when it’s asked about open space. Even though that’s asked rhetorically all the time, rarely would the answer from the designers ever be “We planned it this way; isn’t it great?”

        1. Possibly Enough Detail to be Identified?*

          Seconding the wish for more flexibility. I keep being told, every time I complain about being interrupted in the middle of a project, that I should just book a small conference room and work there for a few hours. While it would be hilarious to watch me drag my desktop PC and monitor, keyboard and mouse down to one of these rooms, it’s just not practical – something routinely overlooked by these well meaning advice givers who are all sufficiently further up the heirarchy than me to warrant personal laptops instead…

      2. willow*

        I see so many perimeter (i.e., with doors and windows) offices vacant when the open office cubicles are full. The higher-ups are working from home, or at conferences, or on marketing trips. But heaven forbid we cubies try to homestead. Instead, we are stuck out in loud-land.

        Also, yes, the open office design does facilitate collaboration (maybe). But did anyone ever ask me or my other scientist colleagues whether collaboration is a big part of our jobs? (Answer: it is not.)

        1. The New Wanderer*

          We have the situation where most of the work is independent but sometimes collaboration is necessary between two or three people. Our desks are arranged so that the people with the most collaboration sit next to each other. And then everyone else is forced to listen to their conversation because there is no place for them to go meet because hey, the desks are already together. And sometimes it goes on for hours because of the nature of the work. I’ve been on both sides of that problem and nobody wins. Also this year we’re planning to triple the number of people in the space (we’re way under capacity for our space, just staffing up). So yeah, noise levels are going to be rough.

          I would really like some cube walls. :-(

          1. Triplestep*

            Believe it or not, cube walls often make noise worse. They do not absorb sound, and studies have shown that people tend to modulate their voices better when they can see their co-workers.

    6. Animal worker*

      I’m in the zoo field, and I think that we need to do a better job at calling out zoos or animal facilities that don’t meet high welfare standards. I think so many industries resist calling out the poor performers in their own field, for fear that they’ll also be painted with that brush by activists on the other side. But I think everyone will get more respect if they are willing to stand up and hold themselves and others to high standards. I feel the same would hold true in many, if not all, fields – including things like law enforcement and politics. Circling the wagons to protect those who aren’t doing the right thing hurts everyone in the long run. Off soapbox now.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        There’s lots of circling the wagons going in different arenas out there. I hope that we begin to understand circled wagons stop traffic flow, they eventually undermine the very thing they are trying to protect.

    7. Ginger Sheep*

      Lots and lots of things I’d like to change, sigh. But I’ll start with the one that’s bugging me right now : please, please move the year’s major deadline from January 5 to literally any other time of the year (well, except January 1st, I guess). I am so over working like crazy over the holidays Every Year for No Good Reason. Honestly, that deadline isn’t dependent on anything in particular and could happen anytime in the year. Grrr.

    8. Windchime*

      I would like for my office to officially sanction more telecommuting days. They currently only allow one day per week (which is better than nothing). I have very few meetings, and those I do have are with offsite internal customers, which means we meet by telephone or Zoom. So why is it that I need to drive into the city in order to sit in my work chair so I can call my customer? It will be even worse in a few months when my coworkers are temporarily relocated to a different building for a project — then I’ll be getting up at 4:30 AM to drive into the city so I can sit in an empty office. Good times.

    9. MyDevon*

      I know its not likely to happen, but I would love for higher ups to stop publically calling out people in person/text and email. There are constructive ways to address poor performance in a way that is beneficial for the whole group to learn, but the look how naughty so and so is does nothing to motivate me besides encourage me to fly further below the radar than i already do.

      1. Kat in VA*

        I’m working on this with my boss right now. Publicly shaming/humiliating/embarrassing a subordinate in a open meeting does not but breed resentment and fear!

    10. Junior Dev*

      Agree on the open offices. I work in software and I’ve never worked anywhere that didn’t have open offices. It’s especially frustrating at my current workplace because everyone else will go camp out in conference rooms or other spots to avoid noise, leaving their expensive monitors unusued, so it doesn’t even make sense to say it saves money.

    11. Aggretsuko*

      I’d like it if we could fix everything (or just, I dunno, ANYTHING) that is broken, but that will literally never, ever ever ever ever happen in a billion years, and have been told that.

    12. Clever Name*

      I’d like for my company to stop printing timesheets and expense reports just so we can sign them. The accounting group says its “for backup”. For the love of god, do they not realize that electronic copies can be “backup” too??? It drives me insane, especially since it’s not unusual for the person who collects timesheets to misplace at least one every week, prompting an email from her to you and your boss and HR about your “missing” timesheet.

      1. SavannahMiranda*

        Look up the chain up to the CFO. That has been my experience anyway with arcane and nonsensical rules in finance, accounting, and HR land.

        I’d put my money on one of two things: you have an older, stick in the mud CFO who isn’t interested in hearing that it is no longer a necessity to create duplicate records in paper – or – a hands off style CFO who is not taking responsibility for one of their key reports, a VP or a Director, promulgating old timey policies to the detriment of the smooth functioning of the finance, accounting, and HR domains. If you’re particularly accursed, you have both.

        In any case, track up the chain to the CFO and see if this sort of thing is typical of them. If so, you have your answer. And the reason why it seems to be an intractable position.

    13. Katerina*

      I’m a librarian. I wish our field was more transparent about the job market, and that library schools did more to mentor students- especially online students. It feels like the schools are in it just for tuition dollars, and the students aren’t warned they may have to move to get a job.

      1. LaurenB*

        I wish they would be more intellectually honest about the “information” job market. They went on and on about how there are so many jobs not in traditional libraries, and any company that manages information wants librarians. Well, no, most of them are looking for people with an IT or other technical backgrounds, and you don’t need a master’s degree to be a filing clerk.

    14. thankful for AAM.*

      Spouse is faculty in a specialized engineering program that requires more credits than most degrees, but that is hurting the 4 year degree stats so they have to change the program . . . but with the specialty, you really need the classes so. . . .

    15. Gatomon*

      I’m in telecom: The higher-ups are pushing towards whitebox this-and-that to avoid vendor lock-in and building new interfaces for our existing (outdated and ill-suited) business applications to make them marginally less painful to use (“you’ll be able to see more on one screen!”). All of this seems like it’s missing our biggest inefficiencies. We end up sending tons of emails trying to work around our poor, disjointed software suite. We have different programs for pre-sales, billing, installation and records/trouble tickets and only a few of those even talk to each other in only the barest possible way. I must waste 10 minutes every day logging into different systems to do my job. And if I want info on a project, I have to look in about 3 different places to make sure I’m not missing an update, because despite having project managers for everything, they struggle with actually updating anyone about the status of the project!

      I also hope that there is some decision made on whether to build a new building instead of this “we don’t like this setup with multiple buildings, the culture is divided” “we want a more collaborative design” PowerPoint pie-in-the-sky they’ve been spouting for the past year. Either show me some building plans and a firm timeline or stop yakking! Honestly I smell open-office on the horizon and it’s got me worried. I’ve expressed my opinion but I am just one voice out of hundreds. If they did implement an open office I’d have to either negotiate 1/2 WFH time or just find a new job. The older I get, the less I can tolerate noisy, disruptive environments.

    16. Leela*

      I’m working as a teacher for a specialized school that gets sent to schools across the country . These schools never communicate to me what they need from me. These aren’t my students, I don’t know what level they are, I don’t know what software they’ll be using (I teach industry software). I have NO IDEA how to make a lesson plan for that. I need to know where they are and what they know. It’s also difficult for me to get how much time I have to teach them. Sometimes I have two full days, sometimes I’m there for two days but teaching an hour each day, and I’d never make the same lesson plan that would work for both of those timeframes, so why not share that information with me early, instead of at the end meaning I can’t really start until a week before hand and then I have to cram? Also, while I do know the software and use it professionally, it doesn’t mean I walk around with everything you could ever do with it in my head, I need to know what my teaching/question-answering goals are so I can prep those things and not make the students wait while I have to run to the documentation with my projector-connected computer in front of them. Please, please, please TELL ME THESE THINGS! Especially since I’ve sent several e-mails asking you to, only to not get a response at all, or to get a response to part of my questions, or to be told that I’ll be contacted by the person who knows later and that just never happens.

      I don’t know if this is common for teachers who don’t teach in-house, or if this is just a weird thing I’m running into, but it’s making my job very hard ATM!

    17. Nervous Accountant*

      I would really like my office to allow cash out of PTO. I feel like this would solve so many issues we have….

    18. Kyrielle*

      *tired* Our Facilities group happily rolled out an experimental open/flex office space with hot-desking to show how flexible and awesome it is. (For themselves, so far, fortunately.)

      I’m hoping 2019 brings the last gasp of that effort.

    19. CatMintCat*

      I’m a teacher (K-6). I want people who have never been in a primary school classroom since they walked out of one at age 12 to BUTT RIGHT OUT of education and trust the university-education professionals (it says “Education” right there on my degree) to do their jobs!

    20. Audiophile*

      I agree with you on open office plans. I LOVE my cube, please don’t take my 3 half walls away from me! Every place I interview lately seems to be riding this bandwagon of open office plans. It’s really made me look more carefully at companies/jobs.

    21. Anonnno*

      Yes. Could we have, maybe, little enclosed pods instead? So we could have privacy while also saving space and keeping the floorplan flexible?

    22. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      My field is ridiculously underpaid considering the level of education and specialised skills we have. It would be great if normal people could make enough money to meet, say, the required threshold for bringing your non-EU spouse to live with you.

    23. Corporate Anon*

      I would like my office to move to an 9/80 schedule — working 9 hours a day and getting every other Friday off. Many other offices in my company have this schedule, but mine doesn’t for some reason. Let’s be real, we typically work 9 or more hours anyway… why not formalize it? We also get very few vacation days.

  2. Office Gumby*

    Happy new year, y’all.
    I took the opportunity to clean my house of unneeded things. I hope this unburdens my soul and clears the way for me career-wise. I’ve got plans, and clarity helps.

    1. Lena Clare*

      I absolutely agree that having a physical clear-out clears the mind!

      I have usually put away all of my Christmas decorations before New Year so that I can start the year afresh, but I put my tree up late this time and I wanted to spend a bit longer enjoying it.

      I appreciate the fresh energy that a new year brings but I also think that one can make a fresh start at any time of the year :)

      All the best to you in your job search!

    2. ElspethGC*

      We’re in the process of that. There’s a *lot* of stuff that needs to go.

      I think it helps that there’s pressure to get it done, now – I need to clear out a lot of stuff from my bedroom, mostly childhood stuff, and I’ve been procrastinating it for literal years. I need to get it done soon because my grandma is redecorating her bedroom and getting rid of a lovely solid wood set of drawers, so to make room for them in my bedroom, I need to get ruthless and chuck stuff out!

      1. Artemesia*

        My daughter had tons of her childhood stuff stored at our place and we had the room and then we sold the house and moved. What she did is photograph her old memorabilia and then discard it. We donated the stuff e.g. old kitchen stuff she wouldn’t use again, clothing etc, but the memorabilia that has no value to anyone else was documented and thrown out.

        We just moved again and I need to get ruthless about throwing away all that stuff that hasn’t been used in years but is ‘too good’ to get rid of. I should have done it before packing to move and didn’t — so now that I am unpacking I am taking another stab at it.

    3. Carbovore*

      That was my plan as well this long winter break (I work in higher ed and so have been off since the 21st of December) but my unexplained health conditions flared up and have kept me pretty unable to do much of anything. I managed to have enough energy to take apart and clean the Dyson vacuum cleaner which was way overdue. I’d like to change the air filter today, clean the bathrooms, and tackle the stack of papers on the kitchen table that need filing but we’ll see….! Currently on the couch with a hot water bottle on my stomach….

      (I’ve seen every kind of doctor you can think of and had almost every test… my bets are on endometriosis now. Seeing my gyno for a follow-up this week and am going to bring it up.) -___-

      1. Jaid_Diah*

        I had endo and didn’t even know about it. My doctor only found out about it when he went in to remove the uterus for fibroids. That was a pretty nasty surprise.

        I hope your condition is something easily resolved!

        1. Carbovore*

          Yeah, I’ve already had ultrasounds and nothing can be seen on those–no cysts or fibroids. Which is good? But has lent itself to doctors going, “Well, your tests/scans are clean!” and then pretty much not knowing what to do with me.

          I’m going to ask this week about a laparoscopy to diagnose if possible because I’m just at a loss.

          1. Jaid_Diah*

            Well, the endo is embedded in the flesh, so yeah, a laparoscopy is pretty much the only way to see it.

            Mine was pretty bad and I ended up on the table for 11 hours for the uterus removal and then scraping off the endo. :-(

            Again, here’s hoping it’s something far more easily resolved.

          2. Maggie*

            I just had surgery for endo and the entire reason was lack of fibroids and cysts. Are you going to a gyno?

            I had to try mirena/hormones first but those only helped for about five months. Had surgery last Friday and they found two endo clusters and scar tissue :)

        1. Carbovore*

          :( Sorry to hear. I only started having these complications this year, sporadically, and doctors are quick to tell me they don’t physically see anything wrong with me and/or will just refer me elsewhere based on my varied symptoms that, on the outside, don’t seem to be related!

          (Terrible lower back pain, pain in my lower abdomen similar to menstrual cramps, spotting for days on end, awful GI problems and bowel movements, pelvic pain and pain during sex, etc. I’ve spent most of my winter break in bed, on the couch, or in a hot bath. Or on the toilet, quite frankly.)

          I’ve seen my general doctor, a GI doctor, several gynos, I’ve had CAT scans, x-rays, urine tests, vaginal cultures, ultrasounds… all come back clear and doctors always seem to be at a loss. I plan to bring up endo at my appt. this week and see if I can basically demand a laparoscopy…!

          1. Ada*

            I used to have a lot of those symptoms. Everything except the lower back pain, I think (though in lieu of that, I got a wonderful knife-stabby sensation in my left side). The cramps were particularly bad, to the point where I’d have to stop in my tracks and sit on the ground wherever I was until they passed. I never got a real diagnosis, but I did find that my symptoms went away almost entirely once I went on a strong hormonal birth control like Ortho Evra or Nuvaring. The only symptom that really remained after that was the pain during sex, which was attributed to something I was actually diagnosed with (vaginismus). Not sure if birth control is something you tried yet or not, but figured I’d throw it out there in case it helps. Hope you find an answer soon!

        2. Carbovore*

          How long did it take you to get diagnosed, if you don’t mind my asking? Or how you came to figure it out?

          As I’ve done my own internet research, I was horrified to learn that most women with endo, on average, don’t get an official diagnosis for at least SEVEN YEARS. I can’t even imagine.

    4. Tidy hoarder*

      Just got back in from placing items on a table at the end of my driveway with a sign FREE . I
      I seriously could open an eBay store…… wait

      1. Thinking Out Loud*

        If you’re on Facebook, check to see if there’s a Buy Nothing group near you (by searching for “But Nothing [your city or neighborhood]”. Give your stuff away to people in your community – and maybe get free stuff that you want/need too.

    5. willow*

      I did that out of necessity because of the divorce. I still can’t get this dang dining room table / desk / paper stacker under control, but the rest of the place is good, and Goodwill is happy.

    6. Office Gumby*

      My Discard Rules
      1. Do I have an actual, planned use for this item? (NOT “is this item useful”.) If not, out it goes. No good hanging onto ‘maybe someday’.
      2. Is that scheduled use within 6 months (or a year if seasonal)? If no, then go.
      3. a. Would someone pay money for this? Sell.
      b. If not sellable, still useful? Give away or freecycle.
      c. Nobody else wants? Recycle bin or trash.

      1. Lucy*

        Ooh that’s brutal but brilliant. I’m a sucker for “Oh but it will be useful someday” and you’re totally right that I’m only kidding myself.

        We use what we’ve heard called the “twenty twenty” rule, which is if you’re wondering whether to keep something, you assess whether you could replace it in twenty minutes (ie easily) or twenty pounds/dollars (ie cheaply) – if so, it isn’t worth storing it in your home.

        For example, I have a jar of reclaimed buttons in a cupboard. It would take £££ to replace with new, or years to find another jar. I use odd buttons all the time for mending or crafting so it earns its keep.

  3. Jemima Bond*

    Happy New Year!
    When I get back to work on Thursday I will be managing two people for the first time. A villainous former senior manager of mine is rumoured to be returning after a 6-month career break.
    So all in all it’s a bit nerve racking!

      1. Jemima Bond*

        Well at one one point she had four members of staff signed off sick with stress because of her. At least one grievance has been filed against her with HR. She’s basically mean. If she does come back into the role of my new manager I shall be very much on my guard, and taking a careful note of any egregious behaviour. She better not take me on!

        1. Observer*

          One thing that can be REALLY useful is documenting everything. It helps you make your case if you need to, but it also helps you to have clarity about what’s really going on.

  4. Positivity in a toxic environment*

    I hope everyone had a happy holidays and happy new year. I have been feeling anxious about returning to my toxic job and would really love some tips on how to stay positive as I look for another position. I am trying to stay above water right now and would really love some tips.

    I also just had a health scare and a family emergency before a preapproved vacation only to find out on the last day before my flight that toxic manager took my absence and twisted it to HR and made it look like I am a flaky person. HR called me late evening and right off the bat she had an attitude making me believe she got a completely different story. The silver lining is that I keep all emails and texts and was able to forward HR all that information as well as my doctor’s note to excuse my absence. I know I need to leave this job, and even though I need health insurance, I have been almost having panic attacks 4 days ago about returning to work. I am also scared of being fired and although I know it is not the end all be all, I have never been fired and realized that I have internalized a lot of the toxicity. So how do I stay positive in this environment? How do I face toxic manager?

    I also made a promise to myself to quit before the end of this month even if it means I have nothing lined up.

    1. user21474*

      I feel for you. I was in the same situation for about a year and just quit now.

      In my case, it only worked after I changed my career goals. I was looking in industry A, which didn’t want me. Sexism definitely played a role given the feedback I received. After months of fighting for a job, I changed my career goals to B and hope it to work. The good news is I will have a higher position than the one I would have in A.

      Applying in different locations is also an option.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      What bits are good? If you can find something positive you can remind yourself of it, especially if it’s also something you can speak to at a future interview as an achievement.

      I found sometimes the idea of seeing it as if you’re an observer for some kind of anthropological project can help :) Haven’t needed it for work recently, but very useful for some family members…

    3. Happy New Year*

      Oh I feel for you so much. Please don’t let your health suffer!

      About 10 years ago I had a nervous breakdown because of work. I stayed in a really toxic environment where I was bullied mercilessly. I ended up very, very sick physically and mentally and felt like I was forced to leave. I was unemployed and scared, I jumped into the first job I was offered. It was good at first to have some financial stability after that period of uncertainty, but I hadn’t learned enough about what made it a toxic environment for me and unfortunately I was bullied by my boss at the new place. The Buddhists say, until you’ve dealt with an issue you’ll keep in meeting it again and again.

      Looking back on it now (although this is obviously easy to say with hindsight) I think the best course of action would have been to leave my previous job before my health got so bad. It has taken me a long time to get well, and my career had suffered for it. I’m 44 and not where I thought I’d be career-wise.

      In terms of how to face it – I think it sounds like you’re doing everything you can: looking actively for another job and thinking of what’s good about your job right now (I mean if nothing else, it pays your bills?).
      I would maybe try to reduce stress and keep in the moment (because this is not a permanent situation) by doing some mindfulness meditation which you can search for on YouTube.

      And look after your health in other ways too, eat healthily, don’t drink too much alcohol, get some fresh air and exercise etc.

      The main thing though, is to just be aware of the fact that if you’re internalising the toxicity don’t let it blind you to a job offer when it comes up in case that job offer isn’t the right one for you.

      1. Equestrian Attorney*

        Co-sign. I took me about a year to leave my terrible job and it was a really hard year. I just got in a rhythm of applying to 2-3 jobs a week with a good resume and cover letter template. I went on a lot of interviews, most of which didn’t work out but were great learning experiences and led me to eventually land a really great job where I’m much happier.
        In the meantime, I dealt with my crazy manager by just doing my best and repeating to myself “this is no longer my life. I will be out of here soon. This job does not define me.” Also, tell the people around you – friends, spouse, family, anyone you trust – how bad it is. I made the mistake of not doing this and some people were upset that I was leaving my “perfectly good job for no reason” which caused a lot of unnecessary pain and stress. I should have been more open about needing help and support, and once I told people how miserable it had been, a lot of people said they would have helped in any way they could, including reaching out to various contacts for me. I was embarrassed and missed out on what could have been some good opportunities.
        Hugs to you. I promise something better is out there.

        1. Triplestep*

          I could have written this; it’s what I am doing now. I try to stick to as much of a routine as possible in terms of when I arrive and leave at work. Not everyone can do this, but I am an empty-nester so I get there very early so I can spend time in the office sans-boss, and leave earlier than she does. Two or three days a week I stop at a Starbucks on my way home and apply for jobs – it allows the traffic to die down, and I’m still in my productive mode. I have had many interviews, and was told I’d be getting an offer right before Christmas. (Trying to be patient as everyone has been on holiday mode ever since.)

          When I get home from Starbucks, I just get ready to start the whole thing again the next day. That means using the weekends to plan and make meals to take for lunch and eat for dinner, and making sure work laundry is done. My husband fends for himself in those areas. He knows that if I am not at home when he gets home from work, I am probably at “my” Starbucks, and he’ll see me when he sees me.

          I tell myself this is temporary, and I try to remind myself about the things I do like about this job; for example, I am grateful for my closest co-worker whom I adore.

          For difficult bosses (when you’re hoping to leave and not advance) the best coping skill I’ve learned is to figure out how they want to be seen by others, then try to make them believe you see them that way. For my current boss (who is both insecure and self-important) I validate that her petty problems are huge. I respond to her exaggerations as if they are real. I once had a boss who used upspeak, and she liked me a whole let better when I started to use it with her and/or with others in her presence. I am pretty sure she was not conscious that I was imitating her!

          Good luck – you can do this! Ramp this up for the final three days this week, use this weekend to prep food and clothes, and you’ll be in your groove by next week.

    4. Artemesia*

      The notion that you CAN quit is very freeing. Can you distance yourself using the ‘anthropologist’ trick and convince your inner panicked self that you have the option of walking away at any time but that you choose to keep working for the insurance and income — but you CAN walk away nevertheless. Knowing that you have the power to do this might make it bearable until you have another offer. But to do that you have to be able to make the situation not personal by mentally distancing.

    5. EndOfMyRope*

      I also have a toxic manager that is tearing my team apart. She’s new to the company (July) and refuses to do anything to learn what we do. She just makes demands and orders people around. Our director is new as well so we’re basically on our own because nobody will do anything. I’m trying to protect my team from her but it’s taking a toll on me. I’ve lost all desire to go to work, been having horrendous tension headaches for months and just hate my job because of her presence. Unfortunately, I don’t have any real specialty so I’m not sure I’m going to be able to go anywhere. I’m the sole provider for my son & granddaughter, just found out there’s another due in June and I’m about to lose my mind. If something doesn’t change soon I’m seriously thinking about going off, flipping some tables and then committing myself to the psych ward. :)

      1. Observer*

        You don’t need a specialty to find another job. Figure out what you have been doing, and which of those things you do well. Then, start looking for jobs that require those kinds of skill or things similar.

    6. Disposable Name*

      I actually came here to post this EXACT question, so know that you are not alone. My situation is a little different in that it’s less overtly abusive, but just toxic enough that it greatly affected my work performance in 2018. The micromanaging, disrespect, and distrust has caused me to just feel stressed and frustrated going to work everyday. Plus the only coworker I got along with left in August. This sounds cliché, but a little part of me dies every time I walk into the building. It’s also affected my sleep patterns and unfortunately I’ve developed a chronic tardiness problem that I’m not proud of (the only good thing about my manager is that they don’t really care when we arrive everyday, as long as everyone is getting their work done. Our positions are also flexible enough to where we really don’t need to be sitting at our desk at exactly 8 am every day). I’ve also posted before about the weird relationship between my boss and one of my newer coworkers that has become a little disturbing (it’s bordered on flirtatious a few too many times, even though both are married), and it’s gotten to a point where it’s just adding to the toxicity that I’m experiencing.

      Of course I’m following this thread for additional suggestions, but tonight I’m going to do my best to go to sleep at a reasonable time so that I’m rested enough to get to work no later than 8:15 am tomorrow. I’m also going to try to take my full hour lunch break as well and leaving my office for it (sometimes I just drive to the nearby mall and walk around). My mantra for the year is “choose your battles.” I’m also focusing on becoming a better employee for my next employer. Like you, I’ve also unofficially picked a “quit by” date. I’m thinking if I don’t have something by May then I’m going to leave, even if it means temping. I’m also worried about losing my benefits, so I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that. My industry’s peak hiring season is in the spring, so hopefully I’ll have something full time before then!

    7. Still Standing (yeah yeah yeah)*

      I learned something from my therapist this year–I may have also seen it mention ed in the comments here. Basically, look at your office from the standpoint of an anthropologist. They can’t bother you because you’re just observing human behavior.

      I know it’s two completely different disciplines, but I like to pretend I’m Steve Irwin. If nothing else, it makes me laugh!

    8. MyDevon*

      I have this situation right now and gave myself a goal to stay one more year. I figured out the parts that made me anxious and found a positive spin. I was worried about getting fired and while ive never been fired it stemmed from my ex husband not being able to hold a job.

      I have a worst case scenerio plan, keep focused on saving money. I have a friend who offered me a place to stay if necessary.

      The most important thing is taking things one day at a time, it may not sound like a big deal but I just focus on making it through each day and building my resume. Best of luck.

    9. SpringsSuccotash*

      I feel for you. Six months ago, I was in your position, and to be honest, it did get worse before it got better. I actually was fired by my toxic manager. That was a tremendous blow to my ego and my sense of self. However! When things finally got better, they got so much better than I had ever hoped for back when I felt trapped in my terrible job. After months of unemployment and funemployment, I landed a new job with an old supervisor from a previous position. I already know she’s great to work with, and I’m excited to return to a functional office.
      Some tips…
      1. Reconnect with your professional network. I found my job through a LinkedIn post of someone I met during a internship in grad school. All your connections matter!
      2. De-link your self-worth from your job. You are not what you do or where you work.
      3. Set goals outside of work and achieve them! I picked some fitness goals and felt really accomplished when I was finally able to do twenty push ups.
      4. Seek clarity. Toxic work environments warp your thinking. Get another perspective to mentally re-set. I felt awful about being fired, but reading Alison’s thoughts on my manager (verbatim: your manager sucks) helped me move on from blaming myself.
      5. Consider jobs outside your field, not for the longterm, but for the sake of the job hunt and your sanity. I took an easy retail job related to a sport I enjoy, and while I suffered a significant decline in income, I felt productive, wasn’t able to dwell quite as much on the past, and had more mental bandwidth to devote to my job hunt. I wish instead of being fired I had quit sooner!
      Best of luck.

  5. Grand Mouse*

    Hello everyone! I am looking forward to visiting my boyfriend soon this year. I have never gotten plane tickets for myself. Does anyone have suggestions? I’m in the US and flying mostway across the country. I don’t have much money to spare (barely any), but my bf has suggested upgrading to premium economy. It is a lot for sure. The reason I’m considering it is that I am just now recovering from a bad bout of lower back pain. It left me barely unable to walk for weeks. The pain is greatly reduced now so I’m hoping a regular flight would be ok?

    So basically I’m asking about tips for getting good plane tickets and ways to minimize back pain while flying.

    1. Bizhiki*

      I don’t have much to offer in the way of suggestions for your back, but for buying tickets I do!

      Always use privacy mode when checking prices on airline or travel website, because if you allow cookies and they see that you’re checking frequently, they can assume you are more than window shopping and will jack prices up accordingly. Similarly, try not to shop from a mac computer or iPhone, because people using pricier devices get charged more too. This may even extend to IP addresses now, I don’t know. Some airlines have particular days of the week for sales, it’s worth checking around to see if your preferred airlines does.

      1. coffee cup*

        Did not know that about privacy mode! I’ll do that from now on (I use a MacBook so can’t avoid that part unfortunately). Currently browsing some flights.

      2. WellRed*

        I call BS on most of this, especially the part about shopping on Mac driving prices higher. What’s your source?

        1. Red Reader*

          Yeah, that seems kind of nonsense. I can’t think of a single time that my husband (looking at work on a windows computer once) and I (looking at home on a variety of Apple devices, multiple times) haven’t found the same prices on the same flights.

          1. Kittymommy*

            I’ve had it happen to me. I book tickets for my office a lot. I’ll look in my work computer and also look, same time, in my tablet. I’ve gotten different prices. Nothing particularly huge, mostly around $50 or so difference, but it has happened.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I’ve heard of shopping on Mac meaning the “How about booking a hotel, too?” links go to fancier/pricier chains. Basically it’s an algorithm trying to determine what sort of hotel you are most likely to click on, thereby generating revenue. Like “You live in a neighborhood with a Whole Foods, ergo education levels are higher, ergo you might have these other shopping patterns associated with education level.” I’ve never heard of price changes for computer or incognito and I think that part is an urban legend.

          (I’ve always found the hotel suggestions weird in the sense that if I’m buying tickets to Detroit, then my criterion for a hotel is probably not simply “somewhere around Detroit” and so the suggestions are going nowhere. But I assume it must work often enough to be worthwhile for the companies advertising this way.)

        3. KayEss*

          I’ve heard these kinds of stories before, but I don’t buy plane tickets often enough to have made my own observations. I can tell you that all of that is absolutely possible from a web technology standpoint–travel sites in particular use visitor data and purchasing research EXTENSIVELY to tailor the user experience–and using that to massage prices is definitely the kind of thing a slightly-less-than-scrupulous marketing industry would implement. It’s also possible that the practice was in place but ended because customers caught on, and it’s not exactly a great look for the companies.

          Either way, using a private/incognito window doesn’t cost anything, so why not?

          1. Artemesia*

            I don’t know about address or Mac — hope now as I live in a pricey address and use a Mac, but I have observed the bit about cookies and frequent searches. I always search a lot and have noticed that clearing cookies helps bring back the lower ticket prices I may have noticed early in the search.

            Economy plus is just normal economy from 10 years ago; airlines have squeezed regular economy so it is a joke and then used this misery to force purchase of more expensive seats if you want to be modestly comfortable.

            1. Conspiracy Theorist*

              Another way to work around this, in addition to clearing out the cookies or using 2 different devices, is to use a second browser. For example, after making initial inquiries in Firefox, if I have to go back I’ll use Edge, Chrome or Opera.

              I also do this every so often when I want to look at a news story on a site (such as the New York Times) where they only let you look at 5 free stories before they kick you out unless you sign up for a paid subscription.

          2. curly sue*

            I can confirm that at least airlines do this. Source is my mother, who worked on a project for an airline, designing some of the computer systems that do it. (They also fluctuate pricing depending on how many tickets have already been bought for a particular flight, and other triggers.)

            She books airline tickets across two different devices now, browsing on one through a VPN and booking on another in privacy mode. I don’t know about the Mac thing, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.

            1. KayEss*

              I would definitely expect it from full-service travel sites like Expedia or Travelocity, but I’m not surprised that airlines do it themselves.

              I think people expect the supply/demand and time-based price fluctuations, but don’t realize that websites like that are perfectly capable of tracking every move an individual makes on the site across multiple visits, even if you don’t volunteer any identifying info. You don’t even need special homegrown systems for it now, there’s large-scale commercial software that companies specializing in high-stakes sales (*cough*travel*cough*) can just buy to do that tracking. I certainly didn’t know that was possible until I encountered people trying to sell it to my industry.

        4. Venus*

          Variable pricing isn’t BS, although Bizhiki is wrong that Privacy Mode always provides a better deal. If you want the best deal then it’s worthwhile to check all your options, as some places want to target you for better pricing.
          Source (these folks do their research):

          I have signed up for customer programs for some travel companies. They don’t ask for personal details, they only send me emails. I used to roll my eyes at these, but a local airline offers 25% discounts so it works out well for me.

      3. willow*

        Expedia is my go-to for comparing rates. Either Expedia or the airline sites themselves (esp. Southwest, I think) may have a “cheap flight calendar” if your travel dates are flexible.

        Also, Southwest seems to fly to the smaller airports and cities cheaper than the major airlines, so going to Midway in Chicago is cheaper on SW than on United, say.

        Southwest also has the gotta get away rates that are super cheap, but not refundable, so watch out for that, but I grab those cheapies when I can. And Frontier always has the $29 sales, but maybe not to cities you want, plus their luggage fees are somewhat horrifying.

        1. Somewhat frequent flyer*

          Southwest’s lowest fares aren’t refundable BUT they are one of the few airlines that lets you cancel or rebook your flight and get a credit that you can apply to a new/future one, at no fee (you pay the difference if the new option is more expensive but if the flight gets cheaper, you can rebook and get credit toward a future flight). They also don’t assign seating, which I really like (you board based on the order you check in, unless you pay more to get to the front of the line).

        2. pancakes*

          You can use google fights to compare prices on a calendar if your dates are a bit flexible. You can also set up an email alert if you want to be notified if the ticket drops to a certain price, etc.

      4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        I’ve never heard that about Macs, but I have noticed that effect myself with browser cookies. On a few occasions I’d been doing a lot of comparison shopping and being indecisive about dates, and the prices kept going up and up to more than double. I happened to use a different browser one day and magically the price was down below what I originally saw quoted!

    2. misspiggy*

      On the back pain, it depends what sets you off. If you’re tall or need to move around a lot to avoid pain, and if it’s a long flight, premium economy will be a good idea, as you get more seat width and leg room.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I agree with this. It all depends what aggravates your pain and how much leg room you need.

        I’m tall and have chronic lower back pain from bulging discs. Sitting is what aggravates me most, so a six hour plane ride across the country (I’m on the East coast) is my idea of torture pretty much. I make sure I get up out of my seat at least a few times, although I’d be walking the aisle every 15 minutes if I could. Perhaps a small lumbar pillow to support your back would help. Also, you might try asking the doctor for some prescription pain killers, like prescription ibuprofen, if the pain is that bad (depends what typically works for you). I always ask for Percocet before I take a long road trip or plane ride, because I know I’m going to need it that night.

        And being tall makes it worse for me, because the airlines really pack you in. You may want to try Jet Blue rather than a premium seat. I find their seats and leg room to be the best. You can also pay a little more for a “most leg room” seat.

        1. willow*

          Yes to the lumbar pillow. The camping stores (REI, Dick’s, etc.) have ones that are meant for backpacking so they shush down into small volume and are inflatable so you can tailor the amount of support (how much they stick out from the seat) to what is most comfortable. Caveat: double check your seat before you walk off the plane, I have nearly left mine behind a number of times.

        2. willow*

          I always pop a half a Vicodin before I get onto the airplane and another when I get off. Prophylactic pain management is key.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        I’ve found the following helps for lower back pain:
        • absolutely use a lumbar support, even if it is a rolled up jacket
        • talk to your Dr about pain meds ahead of time
        • you may want to take two shorter flights instead of one long one. That will help you stretch your legs
        • recline your seat slightly (and inch or two). This moves the center of gravity from your lower back to your upper back
        • get an aisle seat so you can stretch your bad leg into the aisle
        • you have a disability that qualifies under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACCA) if you are flying on US equipment. They have to accommodate you. That means giving you an aisle seat at a regular price. If there are no aisle seats when you book then call up the airline and ask them to move you. They have to do it. (They don’t have to give you premium economy because it is a different class). WARNING: seats in front of exit rows do not recline.
        • do stretches

        As far as shopping goes I usually look at Google Flights, Hopper, or Hipmunk. I always book directly with the airline. Expedia and other OTCs just get in the way. Sign up with the airline for text alerts, give them your cell phone number. If possible, select a seat ahead of time.

    3. only acting normal*

      If it will help you to get up and move around try to book an aisle seat, maybe one in the front row of a section. (Possibly not an emergency exit seat as you need to be able to operate the door mechanism – not sure how much your back is limiting you.)

    4. kilika*

      Does the position of your legs affect your back? I get really uncomfortable on flights, so I bring something to put under my feet to prop them up higher, and it helps me a lot, but I don’t know if it would be of any benefit to you.

        1. willow*

          ditto, and yes to the aisle seat, you can stretch your legs out, or at least change position, and also get up and roam the aisle without that awkward climbing over other people or making them get out of their seats, so you will get up more frequently.

      1. Grand Mouse*

        Yes, the leg position is the worst trigger for when im sitting. I need my feet resting on something and I can’t have my knees squashed together- I discovered this when I was crammed between two strangers on a bus and I couldn’t spread my legs to their natural position (I assume most people keep their knees in line with their hips or a little wider).

        I haven’t got this back condition officially diagnosed but I have had sciatica before and it feels like that.

    5. BRR*

      I’d only consider premium economy if you’re really tall. I’m 6’3 with back pain and fly cross country in regular economy due to price and while it’s not pleasant, it’s doable.

    6. SigneL*

      I have to get up and walk once an hour due to a medical issue – I always try to get an aisle seat and I tell the flight attendants that I need to get up and walk (usually just for. few minutes), just so they know. Also, if you can tolerate ibuprofen, taking some before you start hurting will help you a lot (Ibu is an anti-inflammatory; it helps to prevent inflammation). You could also ask your doctor for any tips. Oh, yes, if you can do a little mild stretching mid-flight, that might help.

      In my experience there isn’t much difference between coach and first class seats (in terms of comfort) – but it might be just enough for you not to have pain. I hope you can fly without having pain!

    7. Thrown into the fire new manager*

      You dont mention why you have pain. Make sure you are stretching the backs of your thighs. They can get tight and pull on everything.
      For the flight, bringing something to sit on can help. Some airplane seats have negative lumbar support so an extra cushion can either raise you up or be placed behind you. I sometimes use a neck support pillow for that

    8. Hannah*

      I have aggravated-by-sitting backpain, and honestly I don’t find that Premium Economy is much different from regular in that regard. You’re still sitting–it’s not like you can really stretch out all that much more. It’s slightly less squished than regular, but for me at least, it’s not so different that the sitting experience reduces pain. (For size reference, I’m 5’6″, have my height in my legs, and also have a bit extra in my hips ;))

      As for flight shopping, I usually just use Google Flights to shop around. Remember that sometimes changing your flight by a day or so makes a big difference in price, so if you’re flexible on dates, try shopping using the calendar grid, which will show you what days are the cheapest. Also, before booking, make sure you are taking into account any extra fees the airline tacks on–for example, some airlines now sell tickets with no overhead compartment access, so you’ll want to know about that if you were planning on just taking a carryon. Other airlines have different fees for checked bags, so make sure you know what those are and that you are taking that into consideration when buying your ticket. JetBlue has an option to upgrade to a ticket level that includes a checked bag, and doing that is usually cheaper than paying for the checked bag on the lower ticket price, for example.

    9. The Cosmic Avenger*

      For price, I’d suggest checking Google Flights. You can do a graph of, say, 5-day trips showing the lowest price every day for a month, or a grid showing the days of the week and the lowest price for leaving/returning on different days. It’s got a lot of options, so do a little exploring.

      For comfort, I always get pain in my tailbone from sitting straight up in those thinly padded seats, so I have a wedge cushion that has a cutout at the tailbone. I just Googled “wedge cushion”, and about half of them had the tailbone cutout, which you might not even need depending on the nature of your back issues.

    10. Falling Diphthong*

      Have you flown much with tickets other people bought? I’m short, and while “leg room” was a non-consideration for years, age-related flexibility problems and the shrinking of airline seats mean that even I have gotten to the “oh come on” level. Seconding the advice for an aisle seat so you can get up and move at intervals.

      Seats vary by airline–economy on Jet Blue will have more room than economy on several once-‘nicer’ airlines. I found Plus made a difference on a long Delta flight. First class doesn’t have any amenities I would pay extra for, but my one experience in Jet Blue Mint (business class, seat folds down to a bed, only available on long-haul flights like coast-to-coast) had me wondering if we could just plan all our long trips based on where Mint flew, because holy cow. It’s like staying home (in terms of assuming a variety of positions seated and laying down, interspersed with getting up and stretching in limited yoga poses) plus snacks.

      Outside of that–this is something that varies so much by what airlines are available on your route, and how expensive they are, which varies wildly. You can have a nice routine set up with Southwest A to B, and then bam, you need to fly from C to D instead and none of your learned shortcuts for flying A to B apply.

    11. FaintlyMacabre*

      I live in an area with a small airport and rarely if ever can get a direct flight across country. Which, even though it takes longer, I prefer, because changing flights and walking around an airport is nice for stretching, at least for me.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      Premium economy depends on the airline. I’ve only tried it on two–Delta and British Airways–and BA’s was vastly superior. And it’s not even as good as some of the Asian airlines, or so I’ve heard. With Delta, all I got was four extra inches in front; my neighbor was still practically on my lap. It was at the front of the economy section, so noisy and crowded. Oh yeah, we got a hot towel too. Whoop-dee-doo. :P

      BA, on the other hand, has a separate section for their PE. Not only are the seats bigger and more cushy, but there was a footrest built in (I did not have to blow up my inflatable one), the food was from business class with metal cutlery, we got juice upon boarding and a newspaper (okay, it was the Daily Fail, but still LOL), the hot towel, and it was much quieter. The only bad part was we had to use the economy loo.

      Check websites like The Points Guy and google premium economy reviews to see if it’s worth it for your chosen airline. As to back pain, a lumbar pillow helps me, or putting the airline pillow behind my back since I don’t want that thing near my face, LOL.

    13. Jaid_Diah*

      Does it have to be an airplane? Can you take a sleeper train? Longer yes, but freedom of movement, too.

    14. CrazyPlantLady*

      I recommend using both Google Flights and Hipmunk to search. One feature in Hipmunk I especially like is the ability to add a +1 or +2 to each of the dates so it will give you a sense of price differences going a day earlier or later than you had originally planned. This is super helpful when you have a bit of flexibility so you don’t have to do twenty different searches for every combination.

      I haven’t found any price differences based on type of device I’m using to search, especially when using the two sites I mentioned above. From what I’ve read, flights are generally cheapest o buy on Tuesdays, but this is with the major caveat that it depends on the route and the timing. If you’re trying to fly between two major cities on a holiday weekend, prices will only go up, not down, regardless of when you search or what computer you search from.

      Regarding premium economy, on US airlines flying within the US, the only difference is leg room. If you’re tall, then yes, it might be worth it. I’m tall and fly a lot so appreciate the extra space, but never enough that I’ve paid extra for it when purchasing tickets on my own (when work’s paying that’s a whole different story). I second everyone’s recommendations of taking ibuprofen prior to and during the flight if your doc gives the okay. Also consider bringing a hot water bottle that can be filled up on the plane. That was helpful for me when I needed to go on a super long flight with back pain.

      1. Mean Something*

        For those who have pain on long flights, you might consider trying Aspercreme 4% lidocaine patches, now avavailable OTC in the US. They have made such a difference for me (sciatica).

    15. Owler*

      I just flew yesterday, and I am in bed today, having triggered my lower back pain issues. Of course, it was probably triggered by visiting my 2yo niece and carrying her/ walking at her level since Christmas. :) However! Here are my comments:
      – Develop your routine of back stretches and core-strengthening exercises now and do them daily through your trip. Honestly, I probably need to do them for the rest of my life, but I have totally not been doing them.
      – Figure out your pain triggers while sitting and see if you can lessen them with certain tricks or gear (elevating your feet with your carry-on, lumbar pillow behind your back, getting up and walking more). Some people have mentioned bringing a lumbar pillow, but I like to bring a sweater or fleece that I can roll up for different positions behind my back or actually wear if I am cold.
      – Pack lightly, both for the sake of carrying bags through airport and to avoid surprise baggage fees.
      – Bring pain relievers (Tylenol or the like), and consider those back pain stickers like IcyHot or Salonpas if they help. Or a heating pad.

      Buying a ticket: don’t be so afraid of making a mistake that you get timid and don’t go! I like using Kayak (dot com) to compare flight prices, and you can always book your tickets directly with the airline they link to. Know that some airlines are starting to charge fees for separate services (SunCountry charges for checked bags, AND overhead bin bags AND choosing a seat, which is required for online check in, etc; Spirit charges more for extra weight checked bags at 40 pounds when everyone else is 50.), but the major airlines are still pretty similar in their fee structure, even if the tickets cost a little more.

    16. Mallows*

      Hopper is a good app to put in dates/destinations; it’ll watch prices and predict ups and downs. It doesn’t include Southwest, though (most aggregating sites like Expedia don’t).

    17. SF area*

      Depending on your departure and arrival cities, skiplagged (google it) can sometimes save you a significant amount money if you can manage with only a carry-on. It uses hidden city tickets, but that’s only an option if your destination is at least somewhat of a hub airport where connecting flights tend to originate. You cannot check luggage though if you book a hidden city ticket.

  6. Book Lover*

    Hey, Pokemon friend that I made a couple of weeks ago on AAM.

    Thank you for the munchlax and mantyke :)

    I hope the event has been good for you.

      1. Book Lover*

        Hah, it was a surprise! Now if only I could get adorable baby chimecho or a shiny baby…. I am feeling greedy.

    1. Ey-not-Cy*

      Oh! I hope that was me! I got a shiny elekid from a Pokemon friend I “met” here. I didn’t even realize it was a shiny until I was looking at my recents. It evolves from a yellow to orangish red electabuzz.

      1. Book Lover*

        They both came from Irish stops :)

        Does anyone else want to share codes? It is nice to get distance with the eggs, with trading if not keeping the hatch.

        1. Sadie Catie*

          It would be fun to have an AAM Pokemon friend!

          If any of you all would like to add me, my code is:

          5162 6233 8115

        2. lurker bee*

          Would love some long-distance friends. The post cards are almost as much fun as the mystery eggs. 1730 8753 4940

  7. user21474*

    Have a great 2019!

    I still need to work in my toxic job till the end of this week and I know my boss will do everything to show me I won’t be missed and how much he hates me. I get anxious even thinking about it.

    Then I’m off, starting a new position. I really hope it to be better.

    1. coffee cup*

      Good luck! You can do it. Just think this time next week it’ll be over and you will be away from him (I do this sometimes when I feel anxious).

    2. SigneL*

      You can count down in your head – only four more days….only 3 more days….whatever. You can also feel sorry for your poor, misguided boss.

    3. Dr. Anonymous*

      Imagine smiling at him, no matter what he does, because you get to leave that hellhole and he gets to bring his own personal hell with him, wherever he is.

      1. SigneL*

        Yes, and if you treat boss pleasantly, it will drive him/her NUTS. A kind of calm, serene detachment will benefit you – and for a long time after, boss will wonder…..

    4. Artemesia*

      Work on the fantasy of how much your boss is going to be in deep yogurt when you are gone and he doesn’t know how to do X or Y or needs you to complete Z.

    5. Observer*

      Make like the Mona Lisa while you think about how MUTUAL the feeling is. He certainly won’t be missed, will he.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Use his bad behavior to as a measuring device. One bad example, he will definitely miss you. Two bad examples, oh boy he will really miss you. Three bad examples, well, that’s obvious he is really, really, really going to miss you. And so on, turn it into a counting game of how many times he shows you how much he will miss you.

      If this does not make you feel any lighter, you may actually need to just leave. I’d hate to underestimate how bad something is. Don’t let him verbally batter you and most certainly, if you think you are in physical danger just leave.

  8. Chocolate Teapot*

    Prosit Neujahr!

    As is traditional, I am listening to the New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna, and wondering whether this will be the year when I finally get lucky in the draw for a ticket for 2020.

    1. Jen RO*

      My friend’s ex is in the Vienna Philharmonic and it was very weird to watch the concert one year and see the face of the guy I had beer with a few months before,

  9. HannahS*

    Does anyone have any free (or very cheap) handwriting resources to recommend? I’d like to have more legible and attractive handwriting in both printing and cursive. My current printing is legible but unattractive and slow, and my cursive is fast but legible only to me and not without effort. I’ve started journaling and I’d really like for my future self and offspring to be able to read it without struggling. Part of the problem is that my hands are often stiff and sore, but I also think that if I have neater writing to start with, my “bad” writing will still be better than it is now. I could also use (cheap, basic) pen recommendations. I’ve found omni-ball pens easy to grip and write with but too inky, but staedler felt-tips to be a bit too hard.
    Thanks, and happy 2019!

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      I’ve always liked the Nelson handwriting scheme – pissed off when my kids’ school switched to a more complex one!

      Making sure you have a good grip is also key. If you can get triangular pens/pencils that can help make sure you have your main three fingers on different sides of it.

      1. HannahS*

        Ah, see, my grip is odd–maybe that’s part of the problem. I hold a pen the way most people hold a fork, with my fingers kind of bunched up, instead of having the pen rest on my middle finger.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Ah, grip can be an issue – I’m trying to get my 6 year old to get a good grip at the moment.

    2. Indie*

      I like gel pens personally. As a literacy tutor, I have a room full of resources but I have found the best method to be a combination of drilling and focusing on downstrokes. I’ve been amazed at how many children, who are high school age, who are writing their lines upwards which slows you down and increases illegibility a lot. So any straight lines should involve a strong downward movement. If it is not your ‘sticks’ then it may be your roundings or circles. Theres a table on this page which outlines the common shapes:

      However since your current printing is legible, I think you may be rather past that and in simple need of drilling. Look at your cursive and focus on which letters you struggle to join or make legible. It may be something as simple as learning the cursive ‘r’ or it may be that your ‘a’ doesnt have a downstroke and so you struggle to swoop it upwards to join certain pairings.

      Google the pairing or letter you want to practice or ask a friend with good writing to write an example of the key letters. You could also ask her to pencil some arrows as to her pen direction (which strokes go up and which down). Then repeat the shape in the fashion of Bart Simpson lines until you feel confident it is flowing naturally for you. I would suggest drilling a particular joining or set of letters for 15 mins a day. Learning a motor skill can’t be a occasional thing.

      I also found that learning T line shorthand did wonders for my mad professor handwriting, even before I built up any speed (because it is all drilling and a minute focus on shapes). I also have a friend who says the same thing about calligraphy!

    3. chi chan*

      I changed my writing in middle school because I admired another student’s handwriting and wanted to write like her. So find an example you like and then change one letter at a time. Focus on one letter for a few days, then another and so on. Also experiment with different grips on the pen so you find one that is comfortable for you.

      1. CJM*

        I did that too! I so admired a fellow student’s neat and elegant style that I was motivated to practice until I reached her level of expertise. Thanks, Dawn, wherever you are!

    4. The Other Dawn*

      I like Pentel EnerGel pens, which you can get at any Staples or probably Walmart, etc. I don’t know if they’d be too inky or not. I like them because I find writing by hand to be exhausting these days and I tend to want to press down too hard, which makes my hand hurt. I find that the Pentels allow me to minimize the amount of pressure I use, which saves my hand from getting tired. The pen pretty much just glides. You can get different thicknesses. I like 0.7 mm. They’re refillable, too.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Look up Palmer Method. It’s old fashioned but maybe you’ll like it. It was designed for business writing — legible, quick, and comfortable to do for long stretches of time.
      It’s also old enough that it’s in the public domain so it’s all online.

      1. HannahS*

        Yes, looking at it, I think that the Palmer Method is the cursive I was taught in school and still use–I’m just not good at it. Like, the letters are inconsistent in proportion and size. But I’m glad to know its name! I’d rather stick with it than start trying to fit in the with calligraphy crowd. Right now, I’m going for legible, not gorgeous.

        1. I write the #/^&* manual*

          My mom was a huge fan, and I am amazed she never criticized my chicken-scratches….
          The letter shapes are only part of it, apparently – the manual talks about holding and moving the pen in a way not to stress your hands.
          Good luck!

    6. IntoTheSarchasm*

      Several people in a fountain pen community I belong to switched to fountain pens as they require minimal force to write and are helpful to those with arthritis or other hand mobility/strength issues. The force you to think about your writing a bit more and are helpful in learning a new hand. Both heavy and lightweight pens are available depending on preference or hand issues. It isn’t for everyone but can be very enjoyable!

      1. Banana Pancakes*

        I switched to fountain pens a couple of years ago after my carpal tunnel became more severe and I really can’t recommend it enough. I used to have bad flare-ups every few weeks and they’d last upwards of five days. Since switching, I’m averaging two flare-ups a year and they’re usually less severe.

        My favorite fountain pen, and the one I’d recommend to anyone looking to try them out, is the Pilot Metropolitan. It’s about $10, cartridge compatible, and a super smooth writer, making it a really newbie-friendly pen.

    7. Madge*

      Check out resources for kids with disgraphia. I remember an exercise with giant paper and drawing figure eights in between forming the letters. It’s very relaxing which helps with neatness and flow. And look for other fine motor drawing activities like zentangles, sketching, or adult coloring books to complement your handwriting practice. The Waldorf schools have kids work on line drawing before they learn the letters. I couldn’t find any books online when I needed them but they may be available now. And Handwriting Without Tears is an excellent program. The workbooks are available on Amazon. They also have you practice at a larger scale. Try filling a baking tray with sand or flour and draw the letters with your finger.

      For me, it helps to break up the words so I’m only connecting a few letters. I’ve developed my own style that avoids or simplifies the motions I have trouble with.

    8. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      If you want to leave something more physical and with the “feel” of journaling, have you thought about getting a typewriter?

    9. Fluff*

      Check out the Barbara Getty and Inga Dubai book called Write Now The Getty Dubai Program for Handwriting Success. I make copies of the work pages and do the exercises regularly and they help. This will teach italic print and italic cursive. And a section on writing with a flat nib pen (I am a pen freak, fountain, rollerball, felt, anything). You can get that book on Amazon.

      Then, check out online. You can get a pdf of The Barchowsky Report on Handwriting for additional exercises (free I think). This is more old school and advanced, but helps as well.

      I also bought a few journals that are french ruled for practice (Seyes ruled). This helps you when you are writing “big” to work on your strokes, the branching line (when your curved line breaks away). I know, who knew there was so much to writing. You will surprise yourself though – do 10 minutes a day and your writing will get better. I though I was making no progress and someone looked at my notes and “OMG you have the best writing.” It can be done!

    10. Old Mountain Lady*

      Dr. Grip pens aren’t very expensive, and it’s the only kind I’ve found comfortable for my arthritic hands.

    11. M.Griza*

      Cheap and effective: Handwriting Without Tears. Designed as a comprehensive pre-k through 5th grade curriculum, teaches print and cursive both. The cursive is a simplified method with fewer loops and flairs.

      And I second the recommendations for a fountain pen. I have a very basic one and love it.

    12. dawbs*

      I failed penmanship for…well, until they quit grading for it in middle school. And my current ‘writing’, when I’m taking notes or writing for myself or jotting something down is still atrocious chicken scratch that nobody can read.
      But I’m one of the people they request to fill out envelopes at work and to make hand-made signage when we have to do that on the fly. Because at some point (actually , I know the point–when I had to learn calligraphy for a HS art class), I managed to make a distinction in my brain between ‘writing’ and ‘lettering’. I wish I could say how to magically do that, but I will say, that’s why I can write neat (and my chicken scratch is a *little* better all around, I think). I get annoyed and devolve into a tremendously grumpy person doing calligraphy as chicken scratch if I try to ‘write’ in my calligraphy/lettring (that and it’s slow. I’ll confess that I can *not* letter fast, no matter what. I can write fast, but not ‘letter’ fast) for to long–the concentration is to high and the hand cramping is worse and the flow is ‘wrong’ for writing for me.

      Lots of good pen recommendations here may help–things you don’t have to ‘hold right’ or press right help. personally go for fountain pens, but if I really need to reset, I actually go a step farther and have some nice pens that, yes, I really do dip into ink bottles (the glass ones are works of art, which makes me appreciate them all the more). It makes you pause every few words and that makes your eyes naturally glance over how your words look so far and either emulate or improve on that. And it slows you down (especially to keep your hand from smudging it all over).
      Switching mediums helps me too–fountain pens, dip pens, chalboard, white board. YOU are doing the same thing, but it makes it somethig you ‘do’ on all those mediums, instead of just one–and makes it more 2nd nature to me.
      (my favorite for just ‘everyday’ pen that’s nice enough to use and cheap enough to not mind if I loose/gets stolen is the platinum preppy. Lots of colors.
      But the tombow felt brush tips are awesome too)

      Good practice paper also helps. Not so much the stuff they make you use in elem school (although that has it’s place) but if you google ‘lettering practice paper’ you’ll find stuff w/ dots, which lets you imagine your own lines. I still like doing some of mine w/ no lines at all.

  10. Paperdill*

    Happy New Year, everyone!
    I hope this year brings exciting new prospects to you guys!

    I need some advice.
    I’m a nurse, so I’ve not really had any experience with people managing like many others, here, have.
    I have been fortunate enough to have a cleaner to clean my home, fortnightly, for the last 2 years. She’s a lovely lady, recommended by a friend, has 3 boys like I have (only hers are adult now and mine are still teensy) so has been a good one for parenting advice. She’s been personal, punctual and trustworthy and even brings my boys Christmas presents. She gets paid cash in hand, and just works for herself (no agency or anything).
    However, we’re not really happy with the job she’s doing, anymore. She’s been struggling with some physical ailments of late, and my boys are probably getting messier as they grow. My husband got a raise and wants (what he calls) a “proper cleaner”, now.
    I’m sad about this, but, yeah, I think he’s right.
    But I have no idea how to end things with this cleaner. No idea. I feel so horrible letting her go because she’s been so lovely. I just don’t know how do it gently. Not having had any work, previously, managing people, I’ve had no experience with this sort of thing.
    Has anyone got any words of wisdom, scripts, advice? Anything at all?
    Thank you so much

    1. Julia*

      This doesn’t answer your question directly, but have you talked to her about the things you’re not satisfied with? If your boys are getting messier, can she still complete her work in the time allocated to her?

      1. FalafalBella*

        Good thought. If your preference is to keep your current cleaner….check to see if you are paying your present cleaner less per hour than you will have to pay a “proper cleaner.” Perhaps one thought is to see if she can do the job well if given an additional amount of time (with additional pay, of course) in which to complete the tasks. Alternatively, with three young boys, perhaps you need her to come once a week, rather than once every two weeks.
        However, if you are certain that it is her skill level at cleaning that is the problem (rather than an insufficient amount of time to complete her tasks), then you could say you intend to use a professional cleaning service where they have heavy-duty equipment for deep cleaning rugs, etc. when needed.
        I am not sure there is a way to do this easily or without discomfort. I would give her two weeks severance pay when you have the conversation.

      2. Paperdill*

        That does sound like the logical thing, I know, to talk to her, but it’s not really going to amount to anything.
        Firstly, her physical ailments are the kind that are just going to keep slowing her down more (think, arthritis type things). But also, my husband wants to employ and agency so we can have a bit more of a contract and specific things to be done etc., make things a bit more businesslike and less personal, so that doesn’t have to be a problem in the future (which, I think is a pretty valid point).

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      In addition to talking to her about it – there may be other ways to do things (and the boys should be responsible for some of their mess :) ) …

      If you can afford it, how would you feel about getting another fortnightly cleaner, on alternate weeks, to do the more physically difficult bits? If the cleaning tasks could be split between what your current one can and can’t easily do, then that could help solve it?

    3. Indie*

      My friend has just been on the opposing side of this in that her ‘lovely cleaner’ ditched her! Said cleaner was getting older, but still doing a great job when she decided to retire back to her own country and spend some time with her grandchildren. My friend has really struggled since then to find someone who is both trustworthy and good, but of course that is not the cleaner’s problem!

      The reason I mention this is because, however well you get on, it was a cash in hand business arrangement that either side can and will terminate whenever their own interests supercede the arrangement. It is totally valid, as your family grows, to want a different type of service and you have no idea if she has hesitated to leave herself and take a break because of the closeness that has grown between you and the feeling she might be ‘leaving you in the lurch’.

      Speak to her the way you would want her to tell you if she felt the arrangement should end. You probably wouldnt pry for any details other than notice period and a fond farewell. If you feel your friendship is getting in the way of saying something businesslike to her about that, then maybe let your husband have the conversation with her?

      1. Artemesia*

        After a long arrangement like this I would give very substantial severance. A couple of months rather than a couple of weeks. The arrangement you have is probably illegal i.e. are you paying social security, taxes etc etc? and so she doesn’t have the benefits that come with a regularized contract. (just assuming because you said ‘cash in hand’ which is the hallmark of illegal employment) FWIW we always had better luck with the quality of work of individuals over companies which charge a lot but pay their workers very little; we found it expensive and also less responsive and less thorough than the individuals we hired and paid.

        1. fposte*

          I agree on the severance. Whether it’s dodging tax or not depends on whether it hits the threshold–for 2018 it was $2100. Over that you were required to do withholding but not under that

          1. Book Lover*

            I don’t think that is true?

            It is true for a nanny, and I withhold social security and Medicare and do unemployment insurance and also workers comp for my nanny but generally cleaners are considered contractors and would be responsible for their own taxes. If this is someone who comes in weekly to clean and isn’t a full time employee, why would you withhold? I have never withheld for my gardener, pool people, etc.

            1. fposte*

              “Any individual whom you employ to provide services in your home whom you pay directly AND whose total payments in the calendar year meets the IRS household employment threshold ,$2100 currently (2018), must receive a W-2 from the employer (family) and the household employer must pay the payroll taxes.”

              It’s one of those things that a lot of people on both sides of the equation don’t know about and/or don’t want to get into, but yes, it’s likely that the IRS considers you responsible for withholding taxes on your cleaner if you’re paying above the threshold.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      We had a cleaning lady years ago that I’d started using when I was still single. She also just worked for herself. I just loved her.

      Then we got into a bind where we needed to scrape together a substantial amount of money in a very short period of time. We cut all unnecessary spending and that was the first thing to go. She was very understanding about it, and it wasn’t awkward at all because it had nothing to do with her or the job she was doing.

      Perhaps this would be a good time to tell a white lie and tell her that you need to end things financial reasons.

    5. Observer*

      So, a few things that overlap what others have said.

      Don’t assume that an agency or company is necessarily going to be better – it might or might not. You need to do your due diligence either way.

      Make sure you’re allocating enough hours for the work you want done. If you can’t afford that many hours, then you need to cut back on what needs to be done. If you’re looking at cleaning the messes of toddlers, fortnightly cleaning is not going to work – fewer hours, more often makes more sense.

      Start getting your children to pitch in. Even toddlers can help keep the mess under control, and the sooner a child starts doing things the better for everyone – including the child! Obviously, it needs to be age appropriate, but even a 2 year old can actually do genuinely useful stuff if you’ve set stuff up appropriately (eg toy in places that they can reach.)

      On the other hand, there is almost certainly going to be a period where the needs for cleaning are going to go up faster than the kids could make up for it even in a perfect world where they don’t have school, etc. eg. The need to laundry is probably going to go up for a while, before they are capable of handling it. (Although eve a 6 year old can fold and put a way a fair amount of laundry.)

      Set yourself up so that it’s easy (or easier) to do tasks. To continue with the laundry example – I’ve used separate hampers for years. I started it when my children were little, so they could handle laundry and to make the division easier. But, I’ve kept it in place because it saves me time because it means that I can see right away what needs to be washed and I don’t ever have to spend time sorting stuff.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I love how you can see your husband’s talking points here.
      The two of you sound like very kind people.

      Why not section off a part of the work that would be hers and the new cleaner gets the rest? Deliberately put her on tasks that are easier for her. So I am betting she does a poor job on cleaning the bathroom, then the bathroom cleaning could go to the new cleaner. But perhaps she does an okay job helping with laundry/ironing/cleaning the fridge/other specific tasks. Maybe you can group the tasks so she comes once a month or twice a month to do them.

      The way I would say it is, “Jane, we love having you here. But we can see with the boys growing like weeds the work is just piling up. Our needs here are increasing, not decreasing. We want to shift some of the workload off of you, but have you come (once/twice) per month to handle these tasks a, b and c.”

    7. Expectations Aren’t Reality*

      However you communicate with her that you are switching services, keep in mind that if your new service doesn’t work out (it’s common to try 2-3 new cleaning services to find one that’s a fit for you; if you’re happy the first time then count yourself lucky!!) you might want to have her back in the interim.

      The best transition I’ve seen for this was keeping the regular cleaner on the same schedule and “testing” new companies on the alternate weeks until finding the right one. And THEN giving notice to the cleaner with severance equivalent of 2-3 cleaning appointments as a “thank you”.

      Because as has been mentioned, services charge more and pay their rotating employees less so most likely you will have different people come each time. It’s hard work for a small amount of pay and there is often A LOT of turnover which means you may or may not get the “same” results each time.

      (I’ve cleaned houses both independently and worked for services in the past and now I’ve hired cleaners for my house.)

    8. Holly*

      OP you can also have her come less frequently to do dusting, cleaning surfaces, vacuuming, etc and have someone else come to do heavy picking up

    9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Agencies are such a headache, I cannot imagine choosing them over an independent contractor! The only thing you’ll be getting that’s extra is if someone up and quits, which is likely given their high turnover rate, they are quick to place someone else. Who then you have to introduce them to your home and routine, etc.

      That aside, if she’s declining, it’s important to note things early on when you see things happening. And you should let her know that given your increased needs, you need to find someone else to do the job. I would give her ample notice. You’ll have to sign a contract with an agency an in our set up, you give 30 days written notice to break it. I know you don’t have one with her but as a rule of thumb, I’d say a month’s notice is most fair for someone in this setup.

    10. Be the Change*

      I am feeling a bit cranky about things as a result of reading Gemma Hartley’s “Fed Up” which is about emotional labor, so I’m thinking if your husband wants to make this change, he needs to take on some of the work — like finding the new cleaners, working out what would make him happy as a transition, etc. This should not be your sole problem. But like I say, I’m cranky, so take this comment fwiw.

      1. Clever Name*

        I totally agree with you on this point. OP, your husband has noticed a problem and wants a change, so why is it up to you to do the dirty work of firing the current cleaner and finding a new one? I noticed a similar dynamic developing with my ex-husband. He wanted the sprinkler guy to do very specific things with regards to replacing a small piece of sod, adjusting a particular sprinkler head, etc. He would tell me in great detail exactly what to convey to the sprinkler guy. Problem is, I just didn’t care that much about small brown patches on our lawn, while my ex cared greatly. I put up with this for a few years until I finally said, “Honey, I feel like I can’t adequately convey to the sprinkler guy every detail of what you want. Why don’t you work from home and meet him when he gets here so you can tell him exactly what you need.” I’m sure he was annoyed to have to do that himself, but I was no longer in the position of being the communicator/translator. And if the fix didn’t work, he couldn’t blame me for telling the sprinkler guy “wrong”, so win/win for me.

    11. SS Express*

      I’ve had a fair few cleaners and the “proper” ones are no better in my experience. The worst experience I ever had was with cleaners from a very well known professional chain!

      I’ve found that every cleaner I’ve had seemed to get a bit worse over time, so the best thing for us is just to keep on their case a little bit. If they stop doing a certain task or start missing something, I’ll just ask them to do it or leave a note. If they still don’t do it, I’ll check whether there’s a problem preventing them from doing it: maybe they misunderstood what I wanted, don’t have the necessary products and equipment, or can’t get it done in the time I’m paying for.

      Maybe you or your husband could make a list of all the things you need done and talk to your cleaner about whether she can do them all (to the desired standard). It’s probably easier to pay her for an extra hour or buy a special cleaning product than to look for a new cleaner who may not be any better. If it does turn out that she can’t do all the things you need anymore, that’ll make it much easier to have a conversation about letting her go or about splitting the duties somehow: maybe she does the everyday stuff and once a month you get a professional service to handle the bigger tasks.

    12. Paperdill*

      Thanks everyone for your thoughtful replies!
      Things just got a lot more complicated: I just got a message that my cleaner’s father passed away and she’ll be overseas for a month sorting things out with his estate . I’m very, very sad for her.
      A few points I wanted to address though:
      – the kids are still quite young and I get them (as much as I humanly can) to help with the house, but the simple fact that increased foot traffic (now that they all walk) and usage (all need daily washing) is that it comes with increased cleaning.
      – we used a fabulous agency in the past, before we had kids, who would be my first stop for a new cleaner (I had plenty of dodgy ones).
      – I’m not in the US (laws are not the same)
      – When my cleaner started, we didn’t set a time, just the tasks (she can take as long as she needs). The tasks, however, are just being done with gradually less thoroughness as they once were.
      – My husband’s not being bossy or horrible about it, but due to the nature of his work he is rarely home during waking hours but does his own bit for the household (this very moment he’s currently doing some banking stuff I have been shirking for days).

      1. SS Express*

        Oh gosh that’s so sad and such difficult timing.

        Since you don’t have an agreed time, is the arrangement that she will do XYZ cleaning tasks and you will pay her $ABC each time? If it now takes longer to do the same tasks due to her physical limitations and the increased level of mess/dirt, she’ll either need to work extra time for no extra money to get it all done (theoretically leaving her with less time to earn money at other cleaning jobs) or half-arse it to finish in the same amount of time. So even though you aren’t paying her for her time as such, it may be that increasing her payment to reflect the increased time involved in completing those tasks would solve the problem.

        But if you think an agency will work out better for you and it’s not worthwhile trying to lift this cleaner’s game, you can just skip ahead to letting her go. You could get the service in while she’s away then explain when she returns that with the kids getting bigger you decided it makes sense to switch to an agency permanently. Orrrr you can do what I once did and lie that you lost your job and need to save money so you’ll be cleaning your own house from now on.

        P.S. I had a feeling you might be outside the US – in my country you would almost definitely not be doing anything wrong. I always find it strange when people jump in to say “this is illegal, these are the rules” without having any idea what jurisdiction you’re in.

  11. Julia*

    Happy New Year!
    I’m back in my home country for a week due to the long new year’s vacation in Japan (fifteen hour flights twice within eight days, woohoo -.-) and my grandma being in the hospital. When I called her last week, before I flew, things sounded extremely dire, but now it seems like she’s feeling a little better after finally receiving good care. She will still be in the hospital when I have to fly back, though…
    I’m spending most of this week alone with my parents (my husband couldn’t come because he lost his passport and forgot to get a new one -.-) and they’re definitely hard to live with sometimes. My father is apparently losing his hearing (or the will to listen to women talking) and then gets mad when you repeat something louder for the third time because you’re “yelling” at him. My mother still snipes at me when my brother (who left yesterday) does something that annoys her. Oh well, time to get out the old video games console and play a game I never finished, as I need to rest a little, too, I’ll get back to Tokyo on Sunday and work early on Monday in a pretty new job that I’m not sure I like a lot. I really hope 2019 will be a better year…

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Ouch. Hope it is a lot better for you!

      (On upside, your grandma’s on the mend, and the flights will be hard but you will be back home on Sunday. Family can be tough.)

      1. Julia*

        Thank you! While my grandma is on the mend, she is 96, they treated her pulmonary embolism just in time before it killed her, and I hate leaving her here. My life in Japan isn’t bad (although I hate how crowded it is and how even in a huge international company, my Japanese co-workers still consider me an outsider), I have friends there and my husband is great most of the time (although he works too much to have time for me these days), but I wish I lived closer so I could see everyone more often and then leave before we annoy each other, instead of these rare but longer trips…

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Yeah, longer trips can be more stressful – and they’re more high stake as well which doesn’t help. I hope she keeps well.

    2. Artemesia*

      Feel for you on the hearing situation. My husband is getting deaf and the hardest thing has been the loneliness of not having the mindless trivial chat that makes up part of a relationship. And if he doesn’t acknowledge what I say then I don’t know if he didn’t hear and so I should repeat or if he did and just didn’t acknowledge. We have lots of ‘but I TOLD you this’ when he didn’t hear it. It really helps to have some ground rules about acknowledging communication so you don’t needlessly repeat or they don’t miss out. Harder with a stubborn grump of a father than with a spouse of course. ‘Dad, this is the third time I said this; you have to let me know you heard me or I repeat it louder.’ Good luck on that.

      1. Julia*

        Thank you, and I’m sorry about your situation.
        My father is someone who gets mad at you for something he did wrong, so I’ll try to ignore it as much as I can. He never acknowledges any wrongdoings, and never ever apologizes (no one in my family really does). He told my mother to “shut UP” when she repeated something…
        I do love my family, but boy can they be tough to be around, and it’s sad every time I visit home expecting a nice time.

      2. willow*

        My dad’s hearing is abominably bad even with his hearing aids in. I (a woman) do four things that help a lot when I am talking to him: (1) speak slowly and enunciate, (2) make sure he can see my face, he lip-reads some without realizing it, (3) use a lower pitch (tenor, not alto, definitely not soprano), and (4) speak from my diaphragm, not just my throat. It helps a lot, and I find myself doing these things more in my everyday speaking.

        Also, I used to play a wind instrument, so I had to change pitch without changing my embouchure, so I can speak without moving my lips very much, like a ventriloquist. With my dad, I have to enunciate not just with my word but also with my mouth and lips.

        1. Julia*

          Thank you! He usually looks at the TV, not us, so moving lips won’t help. I’m also a soprano, though I use my diaphrapgm well, and we have a lot history of him telling me off for my high-pitched voice (while he was yelling at me), so now I refuse to change it because it’s what I was born with. Plus, my mother has a deep voice and he listens to her even less. “Sound like a dude” cannot be the solution here. I think he just doesn’t WANT to listen.

            1. Julia*

              It’s okay, but thank you. My grandma is without a functioning hearing aid right now and SHE could hear me when I visited (thank you, voice lessons and teacher training :D), so I’m not sure how much responsibility I want to take here. I’m a little sad my father is like this when I’m only here for a week, but I guess he’s always been grumpy and he is growing older, so…

    3. Owler*

      If it helps, my mother-in-law also has problems hearing female voices. Since she is definitely not anti-women, we figured out she just doesn’t hear the upper range of voice tones. As Willow mentioned: speaking low, slow and with eye contact is the way we have to make sure she hears us.

      1. Julia*

        Thank you. As I mentioned above, my father usually looks at the TV instead of us, and then complains about women “yapping”, so I don’t think any effort I make will be worth it.

        1. willow*

          Then don’t bother! You’re off the hook! Just chat with all the other people that the “us” includes!

    4. The Rat-Catcher*

      That sounds rough – I’m sorry! Family time can be rough enough, but without a partner you’d expected to be able to come along? Oy. I hope the rest of your trip is relatively peaceful!

      1. Julia*

        Thank you! I guess if I were single, I’d have to go alone anyway, but I am a little disappointed that he didn’t consider maybe needing a new passport in case my family has an emergency or, God beware, someone dies suddenly and I’d want him to come to the funeral with me.

  12. Akcipitrokulo*

    Bonan novan jaron!

    So workwise this year I have a new line manager who is lovely but on a different continent. And have to get used to new relationship – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but is a stressful thing. I do like newBoss though!

    Homewise I’m going home. About 500 miles away, so quite a shift! Looking at houses & flats and feeling postive about that.

    Hope everyone else is going to have a good time!

            1. Akcipitrokulo*


              I think this year is when I’m going to try to get to something approaching fluency :)

            2. M.Griza*

              Jes :-)

              I want to start a conversation group in my community and need to work on my fluency to be a good host

              1. Akcipitrokulo*

                I’m better online than in person when I can stop and think (and check if necessary) but I really want to get fluent.

                Got my kids doing it on duolingo now :) so we may have conversations!

  13. coffee cup*

    Happy new year!

    I need 2019 to be the year I find a great new job. My job is not terrible by any means, but I am totally and utterly bored by it. It’ll be 7 years there soon and while everyone is lovely and the conditions are good, I don’t feel challenged and I don’t see any opportunities for career development soon. I am not fussed about doing exactly what I’m doing now… but I am stuck. I don’t know what to look for or how to transfer my skills, or even how to do my CV. Because, last time I did all those things, I had a lot less to write about or think about! Perversely, having more experience has made me less confident about how to put that across. I feel I have too much to say now and no way to know how to condense it all into a CV. And knowing what to look for next… I feel everything I see is either too junior or way too senior for me. In many ways, my job has decreased my confidence, and I see that now as I try to think how to ‘sell myself’ again after such a long time. I don’t know where to start, and I feel quite stuck in a kind of limbo, and it’s stopping me from actually moving forward.

    Any advice at all would be appreciated!

    1. pugs for all*

      Hi coffee cup – my post is right below yours, and I will say that one thing that may help is to figure out where you want to be in your career vs just trying to get away from something (I feel like that was part of the mistake I made – just trying to get out without a clear thought as to the direction.) In other words, make a plan for TO rather than AWAY. That can help the overwhelming seem more manageable and the path more clear.

      And if you are looking to change careers, I know lots of books have been mentioned on here – the good old What Color is your Parachute comes to mind.

      1. coffee cup*

        Hi! Ah yes, I just read yours. I’m sorry you’re feeling that way about your job and that it isn’t what you’d hoped. I think I’ve gone too far the other way – I’m terrified of changing and ending up in something I hate, to the point where I’ve stagnated in my current job instead. I’m not a risk taker anyway, but I’ve definitely got worse with this. I think you’re very brave to have taken the leap, and it’s not your fault this is how it’s gone. I hope you find another job soon!

        1. pugs for all*

          yes, I can see it would be hard to change jobs when things are not terrible. But it does sound like you know what you want, it’s just matter of figuring out how to get there.

          You want growth and room for advancement – there must be a job out there that is senior enough but not too senior! Maybe start just saving the jobs that look interesting and seeing if these is a common thread through them. Or look in a certain sector (switch from private to public), or type of company (big multinational, small family run, etc).

    2. foolofgrace*

      no way to know how to condense it all into a CV

      It sounds like you’re trying to edit it in your mind before you get anything on paper. Instead, just put it all down on paper even if you know it’s going to be too long. Then you can edit it down once you see what you have to work with. And the general advice is to put your achievements in measurable terms (increased sales by 20%), but it’s okay if you can’t do that. My former jobs don’t lend themselves to that format and I still get plenty of bites at my resume. Best of luck.

    3. Mimmy*

      I mentioned in my post further down that I can relate to what you’re going through. My job isn’t toxic but it is dysfunctional and can be boring. I know what I’m interested in and what I can possibly see myself doing down the road…and it’s not what I’m doing now.

      I wish I had some helpful ideas but all I can offer is commiseration.

    4. Amerdale*

      I can relate so much. I’m in a very similar situation. Great team, but not so great pay, no challenging work and no room for professional development. And well, the company isn’t doing so great in the last months, so there’s a bit of job insecurity there as well. But still, I am always putting of updating and polishing my CV and really looking for offers.
      No advice, but you are not alone.

  14. pugs for all*

    Happy New Year, all!

    I want to thank Alison for this site – it has been such a wonderful source of insight – and entertainment! – to me over the years.

    I am gearing up for another job search, feeling a bit demoralized as I took the wrong job about a year ago. It has been a terrible mismatch for me, and even though I can do the work, I hate it. I’m trying not to beat myself up about taking it, but it’s hard sometimes. I had been anxious to get out of my previous job but should have looked longer for a better fit before taking this role. Though some of the mismatch was not evident until I was in the job – the role has a bunch of duties outside of what was advertised. In any case, lesson learned and I will be sure to be more careful when I move on from this job.

    1. Also-job-searching anon*

      I am in a similar situation, right down to the beating myself up for taking the job. My job is not at all the right fit for me, I don’t have enough work to do, and my team doesn’t value my potential or actual contributions. I hate how negative I’ve gotten about the job/my broader situation, and I need to start my search in earnest.

      All of this to say, good luck to you and you’re not alone. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel very alone in my situation, and reading this open thread has already reminded me that I’m not.

      1. pugs for all*

        it does help to not feel so alone, doesn’t it? even though I wish neither one of us was in this situation, it feels good to commiserate.

        Here’s to both of us getting into new and better situations this year! good luck!

    2. The Original K.*

      Don’t beat yourself up! I took a job in 2016 that turned out to be the second worst professional decision I’ve ever made, and it’s been hard to recover from. I often beat myself up about it. My therapist pointed out that at the end of the day, I made what I thought was the best decision for me based on the information I was given, and I was sold a false bill of goods about the job. There’s stuff that went down that I just couldn’t have known. And even if I HAD made the decision knowingly, that shouldn’t preclude me from ever having a good job again! The same is true for you.

      1. pugs for all*

        Thank you The Original K – that is really great advice and I will remind myself that I made the best decision that I could at that time.

        I hope you are in a better job now!

  15. MuttIsMyCopilot*

    Does anyone have tips for understanding and dealing with complicated thyroid dysfunction?

    Long story short, my entire family is hypothyroid and I always assumed I would be too someday, but it seemed easy enough to handle. Take Synthroid. Regular blood tests. Adjust dose. Easy peasy. Well, my first wonky lab test has come back and it indicates hyperthyroidism. Which is apparently much more complicated. I go back for a retest in a couple of weeks, but I picked up some books in the meantime and it all seems very overwhelming. I might be looking at Grave’s or Hashimoto’s? I have to give up gluten? I haven’t been able to sleep past 3AM in years because I have brain damage that’s killing my adrenal glands? There’s so much information to take in and so many (contradictory!) recommendations that I don’t even know where to begin.

    I’d love any advice at all on how to take on something like this and not just get overwhelmed and give up. I’m looking for a relevant online forum or something like that, but no luck yet.

    1. Julia*

      Hashimoto’t can manifest as hyper symptoms at first when the thyroid releases hormones while self-destroying, but usually causes hypo later in life, which may fit with your family history. (Some people say that most hypothyroidism is caused by Hashimoto’s, but I can’t verify that as I’m neither a doctor not a researcher.)
      What is super important with thyroid stuff is to find a doctor who treats you and your symptoms, not your lab results. If your lab results are within range (and the range is fairly big), you may still have symptoms because different people have different levels that feel good to them (which is why there is a range and not just “healthy people have a TSH of 1) and you don’t want the doctor to be like, “you’re in range, shut up” – I’ve had some like that.

      1. Amelia Pond*

        I’ve only found mythical endo who will treat my symptoms and not my blood tests, but he’s halfway across the country so I can’t see him anymore. The ridiculous thing is, due to what happened to make me hypothyroid, my thyroid tests cannot be read as normal tests- but finding a doctor that believes that? Impossible. Synthroid doesn’t, and hasn’t, had any impact on my symptoms in the 12 years I’ve been taking it. I’ve been fruitlessly searching for a doctor that will allow me to try desiccated thyroid, but the pharmaceutical industry has successfully convinced most doctors to not prescribe it. (That’s not a conspiracy theory. Because desiccated thyroid is a natural compound, the pharmaceutical industry couldn’t patent it. Synthroid may work for the majority of people but for those of who it doesn’t, we deserve to allowed to try something else.)

        1. Julia*

          I’m so sorry. Thyroid disorders are so common (especially in women) that most doctors apparently don’t think about cases that are not run-off-the-mill prescription and done. It really sucks.

        2. Lilysparrow*

          I am not sure where you live. I am in the US and have never had a problem getting a prescription for desiccated thyroid. I just told my doc I wanted to try it and why, and handed over a printout of the dose conversion chart.

          There is no pharma conspiracy. Only doctors who listen and doctors who suck.

          If your doctor won’t listen, get a new one if you can. Thyroid treatment is so cheap, and there is zero risk to trying NDT. You will either feel noticeably better in a month or you won’t. If your numbers go wonky, you can always switch back.

          Hypothyroid is a long game, and there’s plenty of wiggle room to try stuff before health risks come into play.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I asked my endo and she said she’d be happy to prescribe Armour (the natural desiccated hormone) if I wanted it. Maybe there’s a particular health system that’s really focused on specific endo protocols?

    2. Lucy*

      Hey! I have also had a hyperactive thyroid but you’ll be interested in the past tense…

      In my case I have autoimmune thyroid disorder, which means sometimes my immune system batters my thyroid which responds by overloading my body with thyroxine.

      When you have a blood test (TFTs) they should be testing TSH, T3 and T4 – if your T3/T4 are high but your TSH is low then it shows the rest of your body has noticed you’re hyper and that’s (relatively) good news.

      I saw my endo monthly while we were investigating, and my TFTs stabilised all on their own – I now have annual tests to see if it will go nuts again. But the main treatment for chronic hyperthyroidism is to knock the thyroid out permanently and then follow the hypothyroid protocol you’re already familiar with. My endo prefers to do this with radioactive iodine but there are also surgical options.

      I felt GREAT when I was hyper as I always had bags of energy and could eat whatever the heck I liked without putting on an ounce. I asked the doctor why it needed treating and he sarcastically asked if I wanted heart failure. The best analogy I’ve found is that it’s like constantly redlining your engine – yes you’ll go fast but sooner or later something important will go bang and the whole engine will be a write off.

      Best of luck figuring things out. A good endocrinologist is step one.

    3. Rebecca*

      I think the best thing to do is talk to your doctor once the other labs are done, and find out what they suggest to treat the issue. There is so much information available to us, but it might be better to see what the doctor suggests and then go from there.

    4. Book Lover*

      Just wait for your tests to come back. When the thyroid is damaged by autoimmune disease or a virus, it can spill thyroid hormone. It is not just Graves that can make you hyperthyroid. The management depends on the problem. It generally is not that complicated, though yes, Graves takes a bit more work than hypothyroid, if that is the issue.

    5. Ranon*

      My advice would be to take it as it comes. I had tests come back hyper that showed normal by the time they did the radioactive iodine imaging and which have been hypo since. They’ve checked for antibodies a few times to see if it’s autoimmune and I’ve always come back negative. The testing and treating for thyroid stuff doesn’t tend to move terribly quickly as it takes a while for the results of a treatment to show up on the tests. My official diagnosis for my hyper results was “thyroidosis” which is basically medical for “yep, your thyroid did something abnormal there, it sure did” and my hypo is basically “hypo, might be hashimotos, wouldn’t be surprised, but no antibodies to say one way or another”

      For now, I’d gently suggest getting off the internet, putting down the books, and waiting for the additional test results to give you a better picture of what’s going on. Sometimes thyroids just do stuff and it doesn’t turn out to be a long term anything! Or it might be something, but you don’t know that yet. The waiting is no fun, but it more than likely means there’s not a big deal thing to worry about just yet.

      1. M&M fix lots of Problems*

        I want to second giving it time for more results to come back and working as a team with your doctor. Can I also add bringing your spouse/partner if you have one or someone else in your life that you trust and is around you a lot to these doctor appointments. My dad has had a different life long management condition (blood pressure issues that took a long time to respond to treatment), and mom has always gone with him. At times she was aware of changes that he had missed, because he was living it and missed some trends in symptoms because he was just too concerned with managing his condition to mention the symptoms to the drs.
        But most of all – be comfortable with your Dr – they are a part of your team to get you being you again. Internet research is fine – but you can scare yourself silly at times with what you find out there.

    6. Amelia Pond*

      My mom may have some recommendations, as she’s more familiar with Hashimoto’s than I am, so I’ll ask her later today and check back in. I know how hard this is (and I’m not just saying that. I have a rare genetic disease that does rather nasty things to my endocrine system) and I know how overwhelming it can be. I know it may see counter-intuitive, but don’t spend every waking hour on this. Take a little time to de-stress, in whatever way works for you, spend time with people you love. It will help keep you from getting too overwhelmed. You may get overwhelmed at times, but that’s ok! It doesn’t mean you’ve given up. I’m aware it’s not an option for everyone but I know there are therapists that deal specifically in patients with chronic illness who can help you through this and suggest other ways to cope. And always remember you aren’t alone.

      I’ll check back in when I have more info.

    7. fposte*

      I have Graves. The giving up gluten thing is pure woo and you can feel free to ignore it. If you have a gluten sensitivity (or a wheat sensitivity that our culture insists is gluten even though it’s more likely to be inulin), feel free to deal appropriately, but there is no automatic need to do so because of your thyroid. Honestly, sounds like you may have grabbed some misleading books.

      You haven’t been able to sleep because you have hyperthyroidism. I don’t know about Hashimoto’s, but with Graves they may see if they can knock the thyroid back into compliance with pills such as tapazole or PTU. If that doesn’t work, the practice is then to take the thyroid out of the picture, either by radioactive ablation (taking a pill) or by surgery, and then you go on Synthroid. While it’s not perfect, it works fine for most people, and you may enjoy sleeping through the night again.

    8. Observer*

      Hashimotos is fairly straightforward to manage – in fact, you manage it much the same way you manage hypothyroidism, and it often feels like much more so that hyper thyroidism. Take synthroid, and monitor T3, T4 and TSH levels. Tweak dosage as needed.

      It’s an autoimmune disease, and it tends to run in families. In fact, I would not be surprised if most of your family has either Graves or Hashimotos, even though it’s not diagnosed that way.

      The whole “give up gluten” thing is baloney. Don’t get me wrong – Celiac is a real thing, and it seems fairly clear that there are people with what is called “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” (ie it acts like celiac, but some of the antibodies don’t show up in testing.) But, for the vast, vast majority of people (even those who actually have an allergy to wheat) gluten is not a villain. And, it absolutely does not overlap with Hashimotos or Thyroid problems any more than it does with any other autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases do tend to cluster a bit, so you are more likely to have something else (including allergies) than someone who doesn’t have any other autoimmune disease, but it’s still a fairly low penetration, unless something like that also runs in your family.

    9. Jane of All Trades*

      Hey! I have both Hashimoto and Graves. The information can be overwhelming, as can the diagnosis in itself. For me personally, this has meant taking a tablet to get my thyroid to function properly for about 3 years. And monitoring but no medication since then, because although the disease will always exist it’s not flaring up right now (I have no knowledge of medical terms, sorry).
      My doctor said that some people notice that going gluten free helps them, but she presented it more sort of a thing to try if I wanted to.
      The only time this impacted my life (and quite significantly then) is when I first got it. I gained a fair bit of weight and had zero energy – I couldn’t even get up to take my exams at school. The medication helped me get the energy levels back, and I ended up losing the weight naturally, and have been able to function at a very high level since.
      So my advice to you is, take in the information there is, but you don’t need all the answers right away.
      It’s ok to take it slow, see what works for you, and hopefully it won’t be as bad as it seems right now. Also, make sure you have a doctor you feel comfortable talking to. Best wishes and best of luck!

    10. nonegiven*

      Having one autoimmune disease means you are more likely to develop another. Celiac is autoimmune, as is RA, Hashimoto’s, type 1 diabetes, MS, lupus, and many lesser known diseases. Getting celiac is probably why some people feel better when they avoid gluten. Celiac is hard to confirm the diagnosis, so a trial of gluten free may be as good a test as any other, then at least you know if you need to avoid it or not.

      1. Observer*

        While this is true, it’s important to realize that “more likely” is not really “likely”. In other words, yes, keep an eye out for autoimmune diseases in general, but don’t jump on the anti-gluten (or any other) bandwagon unless you have some symptoms that match Celiac once you’ve gotten a better handle on the thyroid issues.

        1. fposte*

          It also seems like there are some autoimmune responses that cluster and others that don’t. Going “gluten-free” can be a bit confounding, too, since mostly people do it by avoiding foods that also contain inulin. I wouldn’t do a gluten-free trial without checking out low FODMAP too and understanding which I was testing.

      2. Lilysparrow*

        I tried going gluten-free for 6-9 months. At first I thought it was magic. Then as I tried different foods, I realized it wasn’t about the gluten.

        Trying to be GF had forced me to eliminate a lot of processed foods and do all my cooking from scratch. That’s what made the difference for me. GF processed foods make me feel just as crappy as conventiinal onea. And simple, whole, minimally processed foods make me feel better, even with all.teh.glutens.

        It’s the excess salt, sugar, hydrogenated oils, frying, preservatives, colors, etc that seem to trigger my inflammation.

      3. one boring hapa*

        Getting a Celiac diagnosis is actually very easy — it’s just a blood test that any doc can order and endoscopy if blood test if positive. Gluten free trials run afoul of getting diagnosed, though, because it’s autoimmune and there needs to be a reaction to show up on the blood tests.

    11. Wondering One*

      It can take awhile to find a correct treatment for Thyroid disorders. I rarely move into hyperthyroidism though so don’t know how helpful my response will be. Please know that it all sounds treatable and manageable – even if it feels far from it currently.

      Managing stress and treating the adrenals sounds like a must in your case. Often, thyroid glands and adrenal gland regulation need to be treated at the same time. Have you done the 24 hour cortisol test? Also a sleep study might help you and your doctor to get a well rounded idea of what is going on and come up with a treatment plan.

      If you have the Hashimotos high autoimmune antibodies then I strongly recommend going gluten free. I did and it took awhile but my autoimmune antibody test now shows nearly non-existent. Still, high, prolonged stressful situations can trigger a flood of autoimmune antibodies, I have learned, so I work fast to move myself into calmer waters as soon as I can.

      I alluded to treating Hypothyroidism and not Hyper. My current thyroid medications include both a synthetic in the form of Levothyroxine and two armour thyroid doses to get the correct dose to manage it effectively.

  16. anon today?*

    I’m at work today. Not fun, but the office is technically closed so I’m alone and in my pajamas.

    Anyway, our salespeople work straight commission but still adhere to our pitiful PTO policy. One week paid vacation and six sick days annually. We are a family owned business with no FMLA. That said, our boss has always been fairly lenient about time off as well as understanding. He’s rarely in the office, often remote, but also hunting, going to (lots) of sporting events and trips. A lot. One salesman is just out of the office any day he wants and never fills out the required forms, the second has a sick wife and takes off a week at a time when needed, and the third, a woman, follows the rules fairly well, but she did take off more than a week last year. Well, she asked off for three days this week because she was gifted a trip at Christmas, and the time off was denied. She’s already requested 9 days later this year for a trip to Israel and our boss told her someone has complained. We are an office of 8, so naturally, everyone is pointing fingers(I have a suspicion). She is beyond furious. Only three of us were in the office yesterday and she was screaming at the top of her longs, jumping up and down and dropping F-bombs all over (very out of character). It was a meltdown to top all meltdowns. I think she might quit.

    1. Rebecca*

      I wouldn’t blame her for quitting. One week paid vacation, 5 days?? Plus 6 sick days per year? No FMLA, and a boss who naturally sees no problem with this because he’s rarely in the office? I don’t think your coworker’s requests are out of line, at all. I suspect the meltdown is a result of the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. It sounds like your boss isn’t great on enforcing the rules except when it suits him. Would love to see an update on this!

    2. WellRed*

      I hope she does quit. The time off is ridiculous for everyone. Let alone those on straight commission. The policy now has led to people anonymously complaining (why complain? Ask for time off if you’re jealous), finger pointing and a meltdown.

      1. Artemesia*

        And having a boss who works short but thinks his employees should not be allowed time off is galling. I hope she quits and takes her clients with her to her new job.

    3. Not anon just a non*

      I hope for her sake she does quit, and finds somewhere more reasonable to work. I’d be furious too if my boss felt the need to tell me “someone” complained about my vacation request. That’s terrible management – boss needs to start making decisions on a professional basis and not pass on anonymous gossip, holy crap!

      On top of bad working conditions (ONE WEEK OF VACATION!), I would be out of there so fast.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, it seems the two men in her position have no trouble taking time off whenever they want it. She has every right to be furious.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I hope she does quit, how asinine that she’s held to higher standards than the others! And straight commission with a nonsense PTO schedule, no thanks.

  17. The Other Dawn*

    Happy New Year!

    Well, it’s 2019 and now it’s time to get serious about a job search. When the announcement was made in June that my bank was being acquired, it seemed like we had to wait forever to hear the fate of our jobs, which was actually September but still felt like a lifetime. I was told my last day is towards the end of February and it felt like I had many months before I needed to start thinking about a job search. Now here it is, January 1, and I have less than two months. Where did the time do?

    I’m hoping I find something I’ll be happy with. I definitely don’t want a repeat of the awful job I had in 2014. I’m torn between holding out and being picky so I find just the right job, but I also fear a very long job search since I only get two months’ severance. (Although I get a really nice “stay” bonus for staying until my last day, but I have that earmarked for something else–dumping my old house so I no longer have to be a landlord.) I feel trapped by my current salary. All the jobs that would pay what I’m making now are likely going to be what I’m doing now. That’s not a terrible thing, but I was hoping to work at a bank processing or consulting vendor rather than at a bank again. And all the really interesting jobs that excite me aren’t going to pay what I’m making now. I don’t think I can afford a big pay cut at the moment.

    1. Loopy*

      I sympathize. I just got a job making more money than I ever have and I worry about it being inevitable that I will take a pay cut when I leave. My fiance is in the same boat. I wish I had some solution but all I can do is offer my sympathies. Taking a pay cut is a bit consideration to be faced with when it’s optional, and can be unnerving when it’s unavoidable! Hopefully you can find something that has a lot of pros to outweigh that (great commute, good PTO, great benefits, etc.)

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Thanks! When I got my current job I was thrilled to be making that much and have come to realize the bank pays really well compared to others in my state. (I always shook my head at a couple of my team members when they said they were “making peanuts.” Um, no. You’re making WAY more than you would at most other banks in this state!) It was great when I didn’t need to look for a new job, but not so much now.

      2. Venus*

        Loopy – since you are starting this job, my suggestion would be to set aside some of the extra money in savings or something similar. I got the advice when I had a one-year contract with really nice pay – before I started, someone who had the same deal told me that they set aside the extra pay. I ended up setting up an emergency fund. Setting aside the ‘extra’ pay may not be ideal if you don’t know how long this will last (are you willing to stay in this job forever?), and if you’re going to be in the job for a long time then maybe you will feel comfortable spending some of the extra pay on fun things…
        I’m inclined to be a saver, as I have also had the advice that if I get a raise then half of it should go toward savings (in my case I usually put it toward my mortgage) so that I enjoy some of it, but I don’t change my lifestyle too much over the years.

        Sorry if you weren’t looking for specific advice. I mostly want to say that there are options which allow you to benefit from the added money yet not be dependent. I know that I am well paid right now, yet with the money set aside I know that I could switch to a lower-paying job if needed. Each year that I am in the higher-paying job helps to lower my minimum required salary. If I continue to enjoy my current job and not be laid off then I may even retire a bit early!

    2. T. Boone Pickens*

      Is it worth it to do a cost benefit analysis on holding out for a better job and not using your “stay” bonus to dump your old house?

      I’d also talk to any 3rd party recruiters that work in the space that you’re in. There might be some additional opportunities out there that you’re not aware of/don’t have access to.

      Good luck!

      1. The Other Dawn*

        We probably won’t need to use the bonus, but it’s likely that we probably won’t break even with the sale of that house. It was underwater for a long time, but I’ve used part of my annual bonus for the last several years to pay down the mortgage enough that we would *maybe* break even, or at least not have to pay out tens of thousands to dump it. We need to talk to a realtor before I can make a determination, though.

        I’ve had a couple recruiters reach out to me, but at that time it was way too early. Now it’s just around the corner!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      A friend became aware her bank was being acquired. She hunted around. One of her quandaries was to stay and get the severance money or just go. By some luck she managed to get the severance and get a new job that she is happy about. It was a little tense but she kept interviewing and kept looking around.

      I am hoping your situation turns around and goes in a similar manner for you.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        The reason why I didn’t start seriously looking earlier is that the stay bonus, not the severance, is enough that I really wouldn’t want to forfeit it if I got a job offer right away. But I’m now less than two months away, so it’s likely any new company would probably hold the job for me.

    4. Notthemomma*

      You are familiar with the systems current bank use, no? Look at the sites for all the software vendors for your institution. I work in the industry and know there are positions out there for consulting, training, support, conversions, audits. Leverage what you do currently as somewhere another bank is converting TO that system. Good luck!

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yes, I’ve been looking at our vendors, as well as a vendor my previous two banks used. There isn’t much at the moment. The problem I have is I don’t think those jobs are going to pay what I’m making now. Also, I really don’t even know what those jobs pay. I saw an audit position at a firm my bank was using, but the Glassdoor reviews are not good as it pertains to upper management and ownership of the company. That’s making me hesitate to apply, and I don’t actually know anyone that works there since my particular department used a different internal audit firm. I did reach out to my department’s audit firm since I know they’ve been hounding another department looking for people, so I’m hoping something shows up in my inbox in the next week or two.

  18. Ealuations*

    Evaluation question – I have to do work evaluations for my staff but the whole process is so unsatisfactory. First, the evaluation measures on things that are not relevant to their job (how well they file, or answer the phone for example, which are not part of their job). There is no incentive for a good evaluation, no salary or advancement or other benefit (I guess if one does poorly, there might be consequences, but we’ve kept some pretty low performers around so I’m not even sure about that). These are clerical type positions. My staff is great and works great, but I find this exercise so frustrating and useless as it is. Any suggestions?

    1. Looking*

      Can you make up your own evaluation? For example pick a task they do and let them know how they are doing. Also make sure you are clear that you appreciate what they do and if you can get them something on your own. It does not have to be big or expensive but something to show how much you appreciate them.

    2. 24601*

      Who is requiring those evaluations? And why? Have they explained the reasoning behind the process?

      Can you push back on them at all? Could you ask to design a new, suitable evaluation that works for these positions? Could you adapt the current process to work better?

    3. LGC*

      Honestly, what I’ve done is pick the field that has some relation to what I need to critique and write my thoughts in the description. For example, one of our fields is “reliability.” Usually, I’ll just rate them on whether I can trust them to do their jobs without too much babysitting.

    4. LadyCop*

      Depends on the specifics of your company…but I imagine you’re not the only one this applies to. At a minimum, it seems like your staff can benefit from you having a conversation about their performance.

  19. Rebecca*

    Happy New Year! Back to work tomorrow after 12 whole days off in a row, the most time off from work at once since I was on maternity leave 33 years ago this month. This morning I got up at 6:15 AM, after sleeping to between 7-8 AM for the past 11 days!! Is it bad that I’m glad it’s a 3 day work week? Not looking forward to deleting 1000+ emails tomorrow :(

    This morning I’m going on a New Year’s Day hike organized by my state’s natural resources department. One of my neighbors likes to hike and do outdoors things, and she suggested it. I’m really looking forward to it, although it is quite windy here in central PA, at least it’s warm-ish!

    Apparently the partial government shutdown hasn’t affected my passport processing, as I got an email update that it’s in the mail and I should have it next week. Hope to get my driver’s license photo taken on Saturday as well, so my ID will be all in order.

    I should probably take time to think about work goals, but realistically, most of my time is just spent trying to play whack a mole with a foam hammer, so my goal for this year is to stay calm, think of it as a long dental appointment that will eventually be over, and plan things for non work time. I could really use some help but not all that hopeful I’ll get it. We lost another team member right before the Christmas break in another office, but of course, work is being “absorbed”. This can only go on so long, guys.

    1. Mimmy*

      Is it bad that I’m glad it’s a 3 day work week?

      Not at all. Actually, I only have to work tomorrow and Thursday (normally I work Monday, Wednesday and Thursday), but then it’s full swing next week. I am grateful for the chance to ease back into things although getting up 1.5 – 2 hours earlier than I’ve been getting up is going to suuuuuuuuck :(

    2. t.i.a.s.p.*

      Ha – I’ve heard there’s a potential teachers strike in our division and I’m totally hoping for a two week strike that starts on Monday!!!

  20. Kate Daniels*

    I am going to try to work harder on developing a daily writing habit. My writing fell to the wayside last year because I moved across the country and was adjusting to a new city and job, but I feel settled and ready now to return to focusing time on my writing.

    All of you writers out there: do you have a specific routine to help you get in the writing zone? Do you write best at a certain time of day or in a particular location? And do you prefer to type, dictate, or write by hand?

    1. Julia*

      I want to write more as well. Still getting used to a new job with early mornings, so night writing is out, but I also can’t get up much earlier than I already do because my poor husband works pretty late and I hate waking him up.
      I definitely prefer typing, although sometimes I scribble notes into a notebook when I have an idea on the go or during a boring meeting.

    2. Lena Clare*

      I don’t really like getting up early in the morning but that tends to be the time when I write best before I have to go to work because when I get back home I’m too tired to do anything else!

    3. Aerin*

      Early last year, I realized that I was having trouble just sitting down to write, and I couldn’t really figure out why. The only way I was making any progress was when I came across one of those Tumblr posts that says, “Hey, stop what you’re doing and add three sentences to your WIP right now.” Because doing that was easy, but I’d somehow gotten it into my mind that it didn’t count as a *real* writing session. A real writing session was 500-1000 words, and if I wasn’t going to be able to manage that, I might as well just not try at all, right?

      So I had to change my mindset about that. Now my daily minimum for myself is three sentences. They don’t have to be good, I can delete them tomorrow, it just has to be three complete sentences. It doesn’t matter how busy or blah or uninspired I am, I can manage that. (I think my favorite “gotta get my writing in” moment was when I pulled out my Chromebook while waiting for the fireworks at Disneyland.) Most days I wrote more than the minimum, sometimes a lot more. But on days that I could only do those three sentences, I didn’t have to feel bad about myself or like a failure.

      In 2017 I wrote 5600 words total. In 2018 I wrote over 60,000 words, and finally finished a draft of a novel I’ve been working on for four years. And I haven’t missed a writing day since I started last January. (I’m currently tinkering with a throwaway story while I let the novel simmer before starting revisions.)

      Now, I understand that writing every single day isn’t feasible for some people, even if we’re talking about 100 words or less. But the biggest thing was not beating myself up for not having the kind of output that some of my friends (who are full-time writers anyway) do, and instead figuring out how to give myself credit for what I *was* accomplishing. I’d gotten too precious about what counted as writing time, and it was holding me back.

      1. ElspethGC*

        Yes! It’s like those cleaning posts that are “Stop right now and tidy one thing away” or “Clean for five minutes”. Everything looks more manageable in small chunks, and then it’s easier than you’d think to go past that and do more.

    4. foolofgrace*

      To get into the writing zone: When you finish writing for the day, stop in the middle of a sentence. Then you can pick it up already being in the flow.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I love NaNoWriMo because it keeps me accountable. The hard part is carrying that through after it ends, especially when I’m sitting here writing into the void, so to speak (no deadlines, no demand for what I’m doing). This year, I did pretty well. I wrote hard after November and even on Christmas break while traveling, and actually finished my book. I’m letting it settle before I look at it again and doing some detail research so the revision will go more smoothly. (Ugh, physics; I may need some help with this, haha.)

      My usual writing time is in the evening, after work. Not working hasn’t really altered that. I keep thinking “Oh, I can get up a little earlier and write in the morning,” but then I don’t, probably because I know once I’m working again I’ll have to write at night. When I was at OldExjob, I also wrote on my lunch hour.

      I HAVE to have music, on headphones, and it can’t be vocal. Mostly soundtracks, either by album or a playlist. I don’t write in coffee shops, at the library, etc. It’s too distracting and I can’t listen to someone else’s music. I can manage someplace other than home if it’s quiet, like a hotel room or my mother’s basement (quiet but freezing).

      Definitely typing on the computer. I can’t sustain my handwriting for long because of dyspraxia, so it starts out careful and neat and gets worse as I go. I can write much faster when typing, so when things are going well and it’s just falling out of me, I can keep up. :)

    6. Akcipitrokulo*

      Going yo be doing the same!

      I love the writing about writing blog at … there are many useful articles in archives!

    7. Office Gumby*

      As an author with deadlines, I can’t afford not to write.
      I have scheduled writing times. I sit down and I start writing–good, bad or ugly.
      The biggest block to many apprentice authors is the mistaken belief that you can’t write down a word unless it’s the best one. That’s bull. Just get words down to get the flow going. You can always edit out the unwanted ones later. You can’t edit a blank page.

  21. Where's the reset button*

    So disappointed with a newish friend, I thought we might become closer friends, but he’s cancelled twice the morning of and that might be more laid-backeness that I can take – also cancelling something planned on a weekend which I find much more disruptive than cancelling say, a dinner after work. It makes me feel really out of sorts. Also, I’m not the most social person so I often try to plan social activities and when they fall through, of course I can do stuff on my own, but then I’ll have spent the whole weekend on my own, which is not the best for me (I can enjoy them but I usually plan them and around them). Then yesterday he texted in the evening telling me he was going to check out this restaurant and was on his way if I wanted to join him…and I was like, no. The place was not far, but I was not sure how I could join him in a timely fashion, I’d have to at least change, but also take a shower, and then go, and anyway, when he texted me, I was already cooking dinner and I guess I was still internally sore about his last cancellation. Maybe I am rigid, that is something I struggle with. But I just feel hurt and angry this morning, and feel I need to have a bit more distance from this person, or perhaps assume he’ll cancel in the future.

    1. Julia*

      I definitely feel you, and would think the same. Spending an entire weekend alone isn’t on my list of favorite things to do, and I’d be pretty miffed if someone cancelled on me on the same without a good reason. (I had to cancel on the morning of plans because I woke up sick, but I apologized to my friends.) I’m not sure there’s a lot you can do in this situation, though. Some people are really spontaneous and you and I won’t gel with them.

      1. valentine*

        You’re not on the same page. It’s worth discussing. Only invite him to group stuff where you’ve invited enough people at least one will show (on time).

        1. valentine*

          If you’re willing to be more flexible: Make a list of everything about the impromptu restaurant invite and look carefully at what is fact and what you assume or can live with/out. Next time, what if you shower when you get back (or skip a day), change as little as possible (Were you in unambiguous jammies?), and set your cooking aside or ask to meet your friend at a later time? Are you responding as though he has the same idea/ls and frames of reference as you do? Maybe he just wants to have a good time at any time and the details don’t matter. If so, you’re only hurting yourself by sticking to rules you made up that are defeating your main purpose of spending time with someone.

    2. Washi*

      Ahh you sound so much like me! My natural tendency is to be extremely committed and punctual when I make plans, make just enough so that I have the perfect balance of social time, and then be very disappointed if anything falls through, not just because I don’t get to see my friend, but because that’s not what is “supposed” to happen. As a result of this, I had a few very very close friends who met that bar, and then a few friendly acquaintances I would see regularly at parties. And that worked for me for a while, but then I started to feel like I wanted to widen my social circle and have more friends. And when I looked at my most popular friends I noticed:

      1. They have a lower bar for who they will call a friend and have a variety of different types of friend
      2. They say yes to a lot of things – they don’t have to be thrilled about both the activity and the person, just the person
      3. They put themselves out there, not just to make plans, but by texting a funny thing or saying “I’m having a great time” or “I’m so glad we’re friends” or saying something personal about themselves

      And when I started pretending to be like my more popular friends, I gradually found after a couple years (it definitely took time for me) that I had more friends! Not everyone became a super close friend, but a few did, and I had what I wanted, a wider social circle.

      The other thing that helped me feel better about my friendships was understanding my anxiety a little better. For me, when I start saying things to myself like “If he really cared about me and our friendship, he would have…kept the commitment/reached out to me/made a better alternative plan” then I know my thinking is headed in an anxious and non-productive direction. Instead, I just try to name the feeling I’m having and move on – “I’m disappointed that Friend cancelled. I have more time alone this weekend than I wanted.” And because I have more friends now, it’s easier for me to figure that maybe Friend is going to be my spontaneous plans person. Or my texting about our favorite movies but not a lot of IRL plans friend. I’m more willing now to let the friendship fall into its own particular rhythm. And if you don’t like what that is, of course you can pull back! I’m just saying that I’ve gotten better results from waiting things out a little more, and making my decisions from a place of security about my own wants and needs, rather than a place of defensive hurt and wanting to fade the other person before they can fade me.

      1. CJM*

        So well said! I really resonate with this part: “My natural tendency is to be extremely committed and punctual when I make plans, make just enough so that I have the perfect balance of social time, and then be very disappointed if anything falls through, not just because I don’t get to see my friend, but because that’s not what is ‘supposed’ to happen.”

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I agree that this is so well said.

        So, OP, it looks like this new friend is one of these spur of the moment people. Don’t toss the friend to one side. This might be a friend who is very amenable to last minute ideas and this could still be workable.

        I have a male friend who seems for the most part that he would never do anything hurtful if he knew it was hurtful. But the guy has very little sense of time frame. Eight AM can mean ten thirty. Sometimes it goes the other way and ten thirty can mean eight AM. One time he arrived at my house 45 minutes early, he said he went home because I was not there. Right. I had told him that I would be home at a time that was 45 minutes later than when he was at my house. The point here, is that the road goes both ways. They have to get used to be around a punctual person and actually remember the agreed time. The kicker is that my friend does not always remember the agreed upon time. (I reacted in a low key manner, such as “oh, well.” We have not had another recurrence since.)

        What I do with my very relaxed friend is call him the night before and remind him. “We are still doing X at Y time tomorrow, right?” This seems to work.
        It also seems to work if I lay it on thick, “I am so excited about going to Z. I have looked forward to it all week.” This lets them know it’s a big deal to you.

        Selfishly, if there is something I really want to do, I try to pick friends who have a strong track record of following through. Some friends enjoy X more than other friends, so if I want to do X I pick someone who I know actually enjoys that activity. That also raises the chances of completing the goal of going to X.

        It takes time to build this. Which is okay, it takes time to find good people. Once you have them in your life you don’t need to keep “re-finding” them. And they will lead you to more good people.

    3. Wishing You Well*

      The advice to see him only in groups is a great thought. If he’s a no-show, the event still happens.
      It doesn’t matter why your friend cancels so often; it’s causing you problems. Figure out what you can control and go from there. It might take a couple of different techniques before you find the right solution.
      Hoping your 2019 is better.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Ick, I don’t blame you! This is why my partner and I take care to only commit to social obligations when we’re certain it won’t fall through. So if he’s even remotely unsure, he will say he’ll give an answer by X date, usually a few days prior to the event. Then the only time there’s a cancellation if there’s an emergency kind of situation.

      People like this are typically a bit scattered and the poster child for “means well” but are selfish AF in reality.

  22. Happy*

    I am looking for advice about how to answer the dreaded question is why are you looking for a new job. I have read a lot of advice but nothing seems to fit. Usually I land up staying something about looking for more opportunity as I work in a small office. I am really wondering if that is enough. I really don’t want to get into the bad that is going in my office which has propelled this search which started over 2 years ago. Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Also-job-searching anon*

      It’s hard to give advice to fit your situation without knowing what’s prompting you to leave, but one thing that sometimes helps me is to frame it less in terms of your current job and more in terms of what you like about the opportunity in front of you. So you can say something like, “I am looking for a role that gives me more opportunities to grow, and I think this position really lends itself to that/is a good fit because of x, y, and z.”

      1. Happy*

        My boss is an ok one but the place is totally disorganize. One person who has been in the place forever complains about thing that are not issues and I have caught her outright lying to make herself look good. Couple that with non payment of snow days and expecting things that most people pay higher salaries for I am looking for a better position that will appreciate my talent. At the review we just had my boss said I need to be profession, the thing is she has been told by multiple clients how professional I handle very sticky situations so it is obvious she has no idea what is going on, I just want to be appreciated for what I do.

        1. irene adler*

          Definitely don’t make comment about the issues at your current job. No one wants to hire a whiner- even if your issues are entirely legit. And from what you wrote, you have legit issues. But it’s hard to tell at a first interview, if you are a whiner or accurately sizing up your current situation.

          As mentioned above (Also -job-searching, anon), talk about what attracted you to the job you applied for. Also might say something like “I’m interested in opportunities to utilize skills x, y and z which is something I was delighted to read in the job description.”

        2. Not So NewReader*

          “I am interested in growing professionally.”

          Or sidestep the question by saying something to the effect of, “I glance around from time to time to see what else is going on out there. I noticed your ad and I have always liked your company. Happily, I seem to have [some/most] of the requirements you are looking for. I was delighted to apply.”

        3. Akcipitrokulo*

          If you’ve been there 2+ years and it’s a small company, talk about the positives there, but frame it as personal development “While I’ve really enioyed X at my current job, I have been there for (time), and feel it’s time to move on in my career. For example, I noticed this role offers…”

    2. Formerly Arlington*

      Your answer should make it clear that you’d be a great fit for the new culture. (Without being untrue.) you’re looking for more….challenges? You’re eager to contribute to a company whose goals are more aligned with your personal ethics? You are looking for a role where you expand your digital expertise. Something that isn’t necessarily bashing what you do now but also suggests the new job is going to be a great opportunity for you and a great fit for them.

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      In general, talking about what you want to go towards rather than what you want to leavr behind tends to be more effective. There are times when a simple matter of fact answer can be enough… like I had one where “the office was moving to central London” for why I left last job was universally greeted with an understanding “fair enough… next question” attitude.

      But without a specific reason like that… keep to the positives and try to alugn thembwith what this job is offering.

  23. Foreign Octopus*

    Feliz Ano!

    I’m quite excited about the year ahead as I’m moving countries in October and I will, fingers crossed, be in a position to put a deposit down on a house, which will be my first one. I’m a little nervous about it because of everything that’s happening with Brexit and I’m trying not to make too many concrete plans because I have no idea what will happen after March but I’m trying to look forward with positivity.

    The plan is to move to Republic of Ireland and I would love suggestions on really beautiful, rural areas to live in. I don’t want to be near big cities but just somewhere peaceful and quiet. Work doesn’t matter as I work from home for myself and I can do that anywhere, but I want lots of green surroundings, maybe a coast, so I’m open for suggestions.

    1. Sammie*

      I cannot tell you how excited I am to write this response! Full disclosure: I am a West of Ireland woman living in the US who is now about to live my retirement fantasies through you. Also, this is going to be LONG. I furthermore have a bias towards living by the coast so I apologise in advance that this will influence some of my information to you. Finally, my sympathies about Brexit and the chaotic uncertainty that it’s causing. I would love to move to the UK before eventually moving back to Ireland but that dream looks like it’s not going to happen now.

      So – practical stuff. You mention working from home. Check out the local broadband services in any area you are considering because my understanding is that getting reliable internet service can be an issue in a lot of rural areas. Ask around about it in any place you are considering moving to. Irish people will happily complain about their locality’s failings as long as you (as a foreigner/blow-in – more about that in a bit) don’t join in the complaint and are just asking an honest question. We also like to complain online so you can probably Google it.

      Also, check out what it’s like to get a mortgage in the area you want. If you are getting a mortgage from a bank in Ireland, they can be really fussy about lending to people who have just moved to the country. Also, sad to say, but there seems to be some areas that can have issue selling property to people who are not born and bred in the locality. Ask real estate agents for advice on this perhaps.

      I’m not sure of your personal definition of peace and quiet but I recommend buying a place that has some neighbouring houses nearby. Rural crime is a growing issue in Ireland and home invaders prey on the very isolated and the elderly. But, more importantly, having neighbours will help you fit into the community much quicker.

      Speaking of the community, there are still plenty of places in rural Ireland that treat those from another town, never mind another country, as ‘blow-ins’. People will almost always be nice but it could take, literally, decades, for you to ‘belong’ if that’s important to you. My mother’s American and lived in the West of Ireland for nearly 50 years – I speak from experience. If you’re okay with being ‘different’ and standing out and having this innocently pointed out to you again and again, then most people will take your lead and the curiosity will die down quicker. Another tip: it’s said that it takes a year to make a real friend out of an Irish person but then you have a friend for life. We really are exceptionally friendly as a general rule and this can confuse people into thinking they are initially closer to an Irish person than they actually are at first. Also, don’t take it personally if someone you don’t know all that well invites you to something and then you never hear from them again. We have a lot of social niceties that can take some time to see beyond – I’m sure a lot of them are similar to what is done in the UK.

      Okay, now for the fun stuff. The West of Ireland is stunning. I am absolutely biased but it is just, to me, the best coastline. Have some fun with this. Take a drive. Or ten.(You will need a car in rural Ireland). Check out the nearby amenities. Listen to what makes your heart sing. You are about to live the DREAM. You can start with Counties Galway, Mayo, and Sligo. Sligo has some beautiful stretches where houses face the ocean and small mountains rise up right behind them. Just be aware that Sligo has quite a few surfing villages and so the surrounding areas can get busy during peak seasons. Also, the weather in the west of Ireland can be a bit wild and the landscape, while beautiful, has something of a desolate quality about it. It’s maybe not quite for everyone. Finally, there are still some areas that speak primarily Irish day-to-day and these are concentrated along the West. I would personally love to live in a Gaeltacht region but it definitely would not suit everyone.

      Consider going further south into Counties Clare, Kerry, and a bit more inland into Tipperary. Kerry and Clare have a lot of tourist destinations, which you may or may not want to avoid, but they have so many stunning villages and surrounding countryside. I am beyond jealous that you get to entertain the possibilities of living in any one of these places.

      If you do want a bit better weather, head towards the very south (County Cork) and then towards the east, into Counties Waterford and Wexford. Property here, I believe, may be a bit more expensive, especially as you start creeping up the east coast towards Dublin.

      I’m sure I am missing out on some truly wondrous inland regions. My main point is this: you have the freedom to potentially live anywhere in Ireland, save for the couple of caveats I listed above. Take full advantage of this. Maybe get yourself a short-term let somewhere that makes for an easy base and go exploring. Moving there near winter time is great because you will really see what you are getting, weather wise, and how easy it is to get around the roads in different regions when the elements are less than pleasant. One final recommendation: when buying a house, pick one that is on paved roads. The little roads with grass up the middle look really nice but are an absolute nightmare in the winter months and the local authorities cannot always be depended upon to keep them maintained.

      Feel free to ask me any questions. I’ll check back in on this thread later just in case.

      1. Sammie*

        I just realized that I assumed you were moving from the UK. If not and your concern is that there may be issues moving to Ireland after Brexit, I believe it will be fine, especially in the coastal regions I mentioned. There are legitimate concerns about the border regions at the moment but, even during the Troubles, rural areas further south in the Republic were pretty much free of the instability and chaos. At least that is my recollection.

      2. Foreign Octopus*

        Wow, this is above and beyond what I hoped for when I wrote my comment. Thank you so much!

        I’m happy for you to live your retirement dreams through me :)

        I think you’ve pretty much got me covered. I love the slightly desolate atmosphere of a countryside (I grew up near both Bodmin moor and Dartmoor so I’m familiar with that landscape) and I do love coastal regions because of the smell: I’m also okay with tourists during peak seasons as it breaks life up a little bit, and I quite like tourists.

        You were right in assuming I’m British and I am a little worried about attitudes post-Brexit but also in general because of the history between Britain and Ireland but I’m hoping that it’s all been built up in my head.

        I LOVE the sound of County Sligo. The idea of living with the ocean in front of me and mountains behind me is really, really attractive, and I wouldn’t mind learning how to surf. I’m definitely going to research all the places you recommend, and I’m not too worried about living surrounded by a foreign language as I currently live in Spain and am accustomed to it.

        Thank you so, so much for all your advice (and your excitement). It’s actually helped wash away some nervous fears I’ve been having.

        1. Sammie*

          Sligo is quite spectacular and it’s very accessible. House prices in the rural areas are still very good I believe. Check out Strandhill and the surrounding areas. One of my favourite spots on the planet. The border with Mayo is lovely too. Enniscrone beach is beautiful.

          Anti-British sentiment exists. It always has in Ireland. However, there is a certain sympathy for what British people are going through who wish Brexit hadn’t happened or hadn’t happened this way. And culturally we are all so similar. Talk occasionally about how much you like the place you end up settling in and you’ll be just fine. We love to complain about where we live but we love when other people compliment it, even if we’ll never admit to it.

          I am so excited for you. I hope one day to follow suit.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      If you’re currently in UK… things will be a lot more stable for you in RoI! My partner is half Danish, born in Copenhagen, and I’m thinging of looking into Danish passports for the kids if they don’t cancel A50 and Scotland doesn’t leave rUK (moving to Glasgow next year is plan at moment).

      If in rest of EU… Brexit shouldn’t affect RoI too badly, and if troubles start up it’ll mostly be NI & mainland Britain that’ll be taegets I reckon :(

      ‘Scuse me while I go stick pins in my Boris Johnson et alia dolls…

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Come on in :)

          Assuming Brexit doesn’t mess things up too much…. do Irish citizens get to stay in UK as part of GFA?

          (Seriously hoping Scotland stays in EU with or without rUK though!)

          1. Foreign Octopus*

            Yes, they do!

            It’s one of the things I checked before deciding on Ireland. There’s this thing called the Common Travel Agreement (CTA), which allows people to cross from England into Scotland and vice versa without any border checks. This includes Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland (the latter to a certain degree as you’ll still need a passport by no visa to enter or work in the country).

            The CTA predates the UK entering the European Union and so it won’t be affected by Brexit, which means that Irish citizens living in the UK won’t be affected by Brexit and UK citizens can still move to ROI even after Britain leaves the Union because it’s a whole different agreement.

            1. Sammie*

              Yes! Oh my god, I’m so excited! My wife and I are just maybe not quite ready to head back to Ireland when we ultimately leave the US. We think we have another adventure in us but I’d really like it to be close to home so I can be near aging family members.

              This whole thread has made my entire year.

              1. Akcipitrokulo*

                If you are anywhere near Glasgow can show you some great places including the best tea shop ever :D

                1. Sammie*

                  I was in Glasgow 15 years ago visiting an adorable college fling. Always meant to make Scotland a regular jaunt but as it was practically in my backyard I figured there would be time enough for that and never got round to it before I moved thousands of miles away. Ah, the charming arrogance of youth…

                  This whole conversation has made me determined to put Scotland back on the list, top billing, regardless of whether relocating there ends up being the right move for us. The tea shop has me sold!

                2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                  If Scotland becomes independent after brexit I think I’ll be moving to Glasgow. I have only visited a few times but it is my favourite Scottish city so far. Only trouble would be the rain… I think it’s much wetter than Newcastle!

                3. Akcipitrokulo*

                  A little wetter, but milder I believe!

         is the tea shop I mentioned – they do regular traditional storytelling nights and lots of live music :)

                  I’m moving back this year – hopefully in time to vote in indyref#2! (I’m 90%+ sure it’s going to happen. What the result will be – little less confident but hopeful!)

  24. Sorgatani*

    A new year. I decided on a few goals, because I don’t remember setting any for 2018.

    1. Increase wrist strength, with a view to proper pull-ups. Ideally by August, but we’ll see.
    By August because in mid-August, it will be 3 years since I broke my wrist, and it still feels awkward for certain movements. So I want to increase my wrist and grip strength, and work towards being able to do pull ups.

    2. Work through Mt TBR, possibly write.
    I have so many books that I’ve been recommended, given and/or lent. So I intend to make a dent in that list over the course of this year. I can’t decide if I should blog, facebook or whatever for writing, maybe just GoodReads reviewing. I’ve lost the habit of reading and writing of late, though my other half tells me my humorous deflection, puns and sarcasm are as en pointe as ever.

    3. Nullus Anxietas VII. Make some awesome memories.
    This one, from the outside, seems almost like a given – I’ve definitely gotta work on my new (improved? more garish?) headgear before then (It’s in mid-April) and because I’ve actually got things to do this time around, it’s a bit more variable than it looks.

    Outside of those goals/guidelines/generalities, I’m still trying to find paid work.

    I’m also considering stepping down from volunteering (op-shop sorter/cashier for a non-profit org), or at least refocusing elsewhere – leadership is retiring, restructuring and making changes, and I’m starting to feel compromised and uncomfortable for reasons I can’t quite explain, even to myself. I still believe in the work, and I like my co-volunteers, so we’ll see.

      1. bunniferous*


        In other news, the instant pot gem multicooker I got for Christmas (the one that does NOT have a pressure cooker ) is full of blackeyed peas with some bacon and cooked all night since it could not go into the fridge. The fridge itself is working intermittently but my husband took most of our perishables to a friends house last night (yep after midnight.) At least we have power and no hurricane, so there is that.

    1. KayEss*

      Well, now that it’s not running, you shouldn’t have any trouble catching it!

      … I’ll just show myself out.

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        “Not running” maybe, but how about “walking rapidly?”
        …Right behind you en route to the exit. (Sorry folks–I could not resist.)

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Nothing quite like mechanical malfunction on a holiday when you can’t get anyone and there’s nothing you can do about it!

    3. C*

      My first email of the new year was from my credit company telling me my card had been compromised with a list of charges they suspected (correctly) were fraudulent.

      Hope our new year’s gets better!

  25. AvonLady Barksdale*

    No matter how old I get, I seem to always struggle with illness guilt. We were invited to a New Year’s brunch today, and when I replied I told my friend that I have a wretched cold so I’ll have to see. They have a 10-month-old. She told me they’ve all had colds and if I’m past the first couple of days, but I should just come, which is very kind, but part of me feels guilty at the idea of showing up someplace with a cold. Then there’s the fact that I feel pretty miserable, but I do think spending time with friends will cheer me up. Some days I wish I had a fairy who could descend from on high and make my decisions for me. An adulting fairy!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      *fwoosh fwoosh fwoosh*

      If you feel like your health is up to it – that is, if you don’t legitimately feel too yucky to go – then since you acknowledge that visiting your friends would make you feel better AND said friends told you they were okay with you coming over despite the cold, pop some cold medicine and hie you hence!

      *fwoosh fwoosh fwoosh*

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Happy to help, I adult for an entire houseful of the indecisive on a regular basis! :)

      1. WellRed*

        I agree. Pop some meds, don’t hug or kiss anyone and cover your mouth when needed. Give yourself permission to leave when you need to. Have fun!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed with this. I was invited to someone’s house. Bring your dog they said. Days before I was to go over I noticed the dog had fleas. I called. Bring the fleas they said.
        I brought the dog and fleas. No one complained.

        Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we are talking to fellow adults. If they say it’s okay then it is okay.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        We did go and had a lovely time. No hugs and no baby holding (other friends were there with their 3-month-old). I faded after a few hours, but it did us good.

    2. Loopy*

      I had this dilemma on Thanksgiving but without the baby. I wasn’t feeling like I needed to be bed/couch ridden so I ended up going and making sure I had hot tea for any sore throat/coughing and being super glad I went. If that helps!

    3. Ranon*

      If the kiddo is in daycare they’re probably on their millionth cold of the year and definitely meant it when they told you to come over- once mine started daycare I stopped worrying about anything besides flu, strep, and stomach bugs- we were constantly exposed to head colds as it was. If you’re up to it and have no reason to think she’s not being sincere, go! Or stay home on your couch if that sounds nicer, that is also an understandable choice!

    4. wittyrepartee*

      Okay, this takes some self confidence- but have you considered wearing a disposable mask? When you see people in East Asia wearing masks, it’s often not because they’re afraid of getting germs, it’s because they’re afraid of spreading them (or allergies). It’s very kind, given that their excellent public transit systems can get quite crowded.

      So, if you’re feeling self confident- slap on a disposable mask, wash your hands, and go have a good time!

  26. Loopy*

    I ended 2018 on a very low note last night with severe anxiety that made me act pretty petty and not think things through. Right now, I am generally at low note mentally, so it’s been hard to see all the positivity about how great 2018 was and what people are looking forward to in 2019. I’m just not feeling any of that positive energy and it’s kind of made it worse to see everyone’s posts on social media (even though I know very well how accurate social media is!). I can’t even set goals or think about 2019. I’m in day-to-day mode.

    Right now I’m just surviving, feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and am not feelin’ 2019. Fiance’s dad was just put in the ICU and is on a ventilator and I’m feeling helpless and worried he wont make it. I’m trying to be supportive, in part by taking on all the wedding things so he can rightfully focus on that but I’m also facing looming deadlines at work. Oof. I dont know what I’m really asking for, but I definitely needed a space to get all this out amidst the “YAY 2019” going on today.

    1. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

      Sounds like a tough time :/ But some advice, probably one of the best things I’ve ever done from my mental health was to delete all social media! I have a friend who has terrible self esteem and is on Instagram constantly, and she shows me the posts that make her feel like crap – and when I look at those posts, I can’t blame her! I would also feel terrible if all I was exposed to was everyone else’s “perfect life”.

      1. Aerin*

        I’ve stepped away from Twitter almost entirely. I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I’ll occasionally dip a toe in, but it’s no longer a matter of keeping Tweetdeck open all the time. And I haven’t logged into Facebook in years, which feels amazing. Every so often one of my friends will bring up Facebook, and it’s always in the context of something horrible they saw or got dragged into. You don’t realize how bad that stuff is for you until you get some space from it.

      2. Loopy*

        Thanks. I have been off Facebook (just keep an account and don’t use it) and it was INstagram that got me last night. But ironically it was for my baking account. I’ve made one and follow *only* baking accounts to get ideas for new recipes and tips. I follow based on if they bake things that look like I could actually achieve them and I’d like to eat.

        Weirdly all these women somehow come through as super slim, happy moms who also bake insanely perfect recipes and running baking businesses, teach baking classes, etc. so… that was an unexpected aspect of a baking instagram! I dont want to give it up because I love having a dedicated space for my baking progress and that how I get a lot of ideas! Just holy wow, these women are good at portraying a perfect life somehow…on accounts that ARE 95% baking!

        1. T. Boone Pickens*

          Sorry to hear you’re going through a rough spot. I equate all social media with funhouse mirrors so perhaps it would help if when you start to feel yourself getting triggered by other baking accounts to picture the person with piles and piles of burnt/inedible goods trying to find one decent one to instagram? That would make me laugh quite a bit.

        2. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

          Asdfghjkl sorry, this is so funny. Like, even the *baking* side of Instagram is toxic to a degree!

        3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          This is why I hate cooking blogs, actually. Or one of the reasons. Like, I don’t want to read all about your perfect amazing kids and the adorable dog and how this recipe brings back your husband’s memories of his great grandma or whatever. I just want to read your recipe and maybe any comments you have on how you chose the ingredients, variations you tried, things to watch out for, etc. I just don’t care about that other stuff and it annoys me that even cooking is a field for portraying this perfect life and food morality crap.

          I would rather have a blog written by a badly dressed, overweight retired lady with bad hair, because her recipes are probably better and don’t have a lot of subtle shaming about whether the thing you are cooking is healthy, “clean”, etc.

          Geez I guess I had a few things to say about that…

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. That is where I am at also, I am glad 2018 is over.

        As far as being excited happy about the new year, you don’t have to if you don’t want to or if you are just not feeling it. The new year sort of happens whether we are on board or not.

        My mother did have a good point about thinking at night. Nothing ever looks good at night, it’s usually pretty bleak. The solution is to tell yourself, “I will think about it in the morning” and allow your brain to take a time out. Play a mindless game, read a trashy novel, whatever it takes to clear your head. Things can look differently in the light of day. Or at least we can feel a tad mentally stronger during daylight hours. My favorite thing to tell myself was “well what am I going to do about Thing right now at 9:30 pm???” The answer was always “Nothing. There is nothing I can do at 9:30 pm.” Allow yourself to let it go for the evening.

      2. The Original K.*

        Real talk: 2018 was one of the worst years I’ve ever had and it got worse as the months went on; January was OK but I was in crisis in December. I’m glad it’s over and if I’m being totally honest, I’m scared 2019 will be just as bad. I hope it won’t but I don’t discount the possibility that it will.

    2. Not A Manager*

      You know, these date changes are just artificial social constructs. I can’t imagine why you would be full of happy happy joy joy when a loved one is seriously ill, your partner might suffer a great loss, you have to pick up the slack on a (happy but sometimes huge and overwhelming) life event, AND you face pressure at work.

      Your responses aren’t unusual or out of line. I hope that you can accept the “YAY 2019!” stuff for what it is – white noise that people emit to put a punctuation mark on the December holidays.

      Best wishes to you and your family.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      I’m not feeling too positive either knowing what horrible work changes I am going to have starting the first full week of the year. All I can hope for is that I don’t get fired. This job insists on making me do my weaknesses instead of strengths and then wonders why I suck.

      So I feel you there. I don’t think 2019 is going to be a not-awful year for me.

    4. The Rat-Catcher*

      I had a great 2018, as I thought I would, but my 2019 vibes are very much “proceed with caution.” I have a feeling that there are challenges ahead and that I need to do some heavy duty work on my mental health or Bad Things Will Happen. Can’t really explain it, just wanted to let you know that you aren’t the only one who isn’t feeling the new year.

  27. Aerin*

    Happy New Year!

    Yesterday at work, I discovered that they’d moved someone into the empty cube two down from mine. Cool, no problem. Until he started listening to music without headphones. Mind you, this is a call center.

    Now, I have discovered that I can focus on two, and exactly two, things at once. No more, no less. And music always occupies one of those spots if it’s present. So if I was trying to cross-stitch and read (which is what I frequently do between calls, especially when it’s dead), I would only be able to focus on one of those things because of the music.

    In the past, I would have just sat there stewing for my entire shift, or praying for him to get a call so he’d have to turn it off. But I had the distinct thought of, “No, Alison would want me to say something.” So I finally went over there and said, “Hey, would you mind using headphones? The sound kind of carries.” He said sure and turned it off. Bliss! Another AAM victory!

    Today I’m working from home, hoping for a very quiet day. It would normally be my Friday, but I picked up overtime for the next two days. Because tomorrow all our users start coming back from their vacations. And not a single one of them will remember their passwords, which means the relaxation I’ve enjoyed for the past five weeks or so will be officially over. So I’m really savoring every last bit of calm that’s left.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Yay for someone actually politely doing that!

      Enjoy the quiet while you can. I know that feeling. All the pent-up upset starts tomorrow.

  28. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

    Ya’ll, I applied for a job a few days ago but it turned out they were at the end of their timeline and had just hired someone else. Not great, but the hiring manager emailed me back saying that I had possibly the best cover letter she had ever read, and that I should reach out to her if I’m ever in her state so we could talk about future opportunities at the organization. Never felt so good after a rejection! Hopefully this new year will bring me a full time job.

  29. Aerin*

    Separate thought to the above: Anyone here play Kingdom Hearts? I’ve been working my way through the series trying to prepare for when the final game comes out next month. I even put in for a couple of days off work around the launch where my husband will be home, since we’ve been sort of playing it together (I play, he watches).

    Right now I’m working on Dream Drop Distance. I got spanked by the boss fights in the final world, so now I’m running around looking for special portals and trying to pick up some key abilities I don’t have yet. I should theoretically be way overleveled, but I got instakilled by Xemnas sooo…

    1. BeanCat*

      I backseat play Kingdom Hearts. My partner plays and I watch. I ended up falling off of DDD because I was so underleveled that it wasn’t fun anymore and I was struggling to get where I needed to be. Good luck in your fight against Xemnas!

    2. Amber Rose*

      We bought the package download. All games, plus 3 when it releases, and we’ve been playing through them in order.

      Or at least that was the plan, but Chain of Memories is incredible bullshit, and I got burned out on lengthy cut scenes pretty fast. So we’re kind of skipping around. We’re trading off back and forth on games.

    3. Nessun*

      Theoretically I play, but it’s been a while since I picked them up. I have beaten the two major games, and want to relay before the third one, but I never got into the handheld ones (CoM in particular was a huge pain in the butt). Thanks for reminding me I want to get back into console gaming! …and to KH specifically.

      1. Aerin*

        Dream Drop Distance actually has recaps of nearly all the games before it, so it’s a good one to play if you need a refresher. And Birth by Sleep seems like it’s gonna be pretty critical to the finale.

        (Also, your handle is awesome.)

        1. Nessun*

          Thank you! :) And, good to know. I have 1.5 and 2.5 – now I’ll have to decide if I want the 3DS or 2.8 to get DDD. Hooray for first world gamer problems, eh?

  30. Teapot Translator*

    Book recommendations thread?
    I just finished Aunty Lee’s Chilled Revenge by Ovidia Yu. Nothing extraordinary, but it was fun.

    I switched to ebooks some time ago to save space, but I’ve realized that it means that I can’t leave my books to my nieces when I die. Strange thought, I know. They may not care about my books. But it’s still an issue with digital possessions (music, books, etc.); you can’t give them to someone else.

    1. Aerin*

      I love Aunty Lee! I’ve only read the first one, but it was great. I should see about getting the next one from the library.

      The last book I read was A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi. Quite literally took my breath away, devoured it in one sitting. Now I’m debating whether I should re-read Vicious by V.E. Schwab before I start on the sequel.

    2. Jen RO*

      I have a book anti-recommendation! I read The Circle by Dave Eggers over the holidays and I have never been happier to have *borrowed* a book. The premise is a kinda Facebook/Google type company taking over all privacy, which should be an interesting concept, but the writing was boring, the characters were cutouts and the plot itself was incredibly stupid (the vast majority of the *planet* simply accepts all the privacy invasions and never questions them). Oh, and some truly badly written and useless sex scenes. Ughhh. Ok, got it out of my system.

      Luckily, I’m also on volume 3 of Michael Palin’s diaries and, even though I started them for the Python stuff (which was in volume 1), I liked his writing more than I expected, so I kept going. It’s very relaxing reading.

    3. FlipperFlapHappyDap*

      The first four books of the Poldark series, amazing!

      Also, A Little Life was amazing but it’s a hell of a read. You will feel everything the character goes through.

      1. Wulfgar*

        Flipper, have you ever watched the original Poldark? It was very true to the books if I remember correctly. It ended abruptly though, PBS/British show; I think it lost funding.

    4. Jersey's mom*

      If you have a kindle, you might be able to give them your password (via your will), so they could purchase kindles under your account and download your content to their (your) new kindles. I’ve been thinking about the same thing. I will leave my physical library to my local library to sell/use as they see fit.

      It infuriates me that my electronic library could vanish, when I spend just as much money on it as I would on a physical book.

    5. Tort-ally HareBrained*

      I read William Kent Kruger’s The Devil’s Bed in one sitting this weekend. I really enjoyed his Cork O’Connor series but this was also really good. Great suspense without horror which is definitely my preferred genre.

    6. Luisa*

      If anyone is looking for a middle grades recommendation, I just finished Celia Perez’s First Rule of Punk, which was really fun and sweet.

    7. Monty and Millie's Mom*

      I just finished Greg Rucka’s “Bravo”, which is second in his Jad Bell series. I very much enjoyed his Atticus Kodiak series several years ago, too, so am glad I came across these. This series is kind of military thriller, while the Atricus Kodiak was similar, but with private security, not military. Honestly, not my usual thing, but very well-done!

  31. Formerly Arlington*

    Does anyone have tips for transitioning from corporate culture to a small business? I went from a company with 600k employees to one with 14 because the stress of yet another reorganization was too much for me and I thought I’d do better somewhere low key. It’s beenthree months and I feel like I inadvertently joined someone’s family. I don’t really mean that in a good way. Wondering if this is a bad fit or if it’s my approach?

    1. AnonJ*

      I’ve worked for small businesses for my entire career. I think there are good things (flexibility, opportunity to see the big picture) and bad things (owners being all up in your personal business and not willing to manage performance issues). What in particular is bothering you?

    2. Luna123*

      No, that can definitely be an issue with some small businesses, especially if the owner is also hiring their family members.

  32. NGL*

    I had a bunch of PTO to burn at the end of the year, so including weekends and holidays this is Day 14 of vacation. Spent it at home with my husband and nine month old baby. The baby had progressed SO MUCH in these two weeks, he’s like a different little person! Two weeks ago he could barely army crawl, and now he’s a speed demon on all fours, and is cruising along the couch. AND hid first two teeth came in! I’m so glad I was at home for all these milestones and absolutely DREADING going back to the office tomorrow. Not only will I miss this guy, but I will miss the afternoon naps I’ve been taking while he’s down

    1. WellRed*

      I’ve been off 10 days and also dreading returning to work tomorrow. The first coworker that says, “oh, it’s so nice to get back to normal” may get a big eyeroll from me. Yay, 5-day work weeks!

  33. catsaway*

    Address book recommendations? I got married over the summer and with writing thank you notes I realized that I need to keep track of addresses myself and not keep asking my parents. I’m open to physical or digital, but I want an address book my husband and I can access equally well, since I do not want to become the record keeper/social coordinator for both families.

      1. BRR*

        To clarify, we each have our own emails and then a shared one for whatever we might both need access to.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Honestly a physical book might be best! I’ve had one for almost 20 years we still pull out every year for cards.

    2. Observer*

      A shared Google account should work (in addition to your personal ones, I would say.) What’s nice about it is that Google has a few other products in it’s suit that you could also share, like the shopping list and Keep for household notes.

      If you don’t want to use Google, you can do the same thing with other services. Good email services do well with address books, so that’s where I would start with that. Just decide who you trust, more or less.

      I like something that lets me have the list on my phone, computer and makes it easy to print as well as needed.

    3. Kathenus*

      I prefer a physical one for addresses, because I just find it easier when doing something like Christmas cards to just pull it out versus having to get out the laptop. I like the ones with looseleaf pages versus bound, so it’s easier to add/change when needed. Mine is from a Hallmark store, I’ve had several Hallmark ones. No idea if they still make them but they’re a perfect size for me so I really like it.

      1. Arjay*

        My address book is spiral bound, but it came with a bunch of blank stickers in the back that you can use to overlay an existing listing with new info. I love that so much!

    4. LCL*

      I’m not joking about my suggestion, this is what we do for our personal address book. We both have multiple email accounts, but no shared email.
      We use a thin 3 ring binder, filled with notebook paper. It doesn’t need separate index tabs, just use one of the sheets of paper. It’s cheap, infinitely expandable, has room for notes on each page so making updates are easy, very forgiving of mistakes, and not fancy so you won’t feel guilty when you have to throw a page away. And, if you get a card and aren’t ready to update the book right this second, put the envelope in the binder and it will be ready when you are. If you get a binder that has a clear sleeve over the cover you can personalize it. This is a great improvement over our old method of bits and scraps of paper everywhere and calling the relatives to ask for other relatives’ addresses.

      1. catsaway*

        Thank-you for this suggestion, I like it a lot. We might have to go with this one, it’s certainly the most budget friendly : )

    5. Wishing You Well*

      Some relatives move so often, I use 3×5 cards and a bulldog clip for their addresses.

    6. willow*

      I had a physical book, and when I left I took photos of the pages so I have all the info, it’s always on my phone, and there is no stress deadline where I have to figure out a final plan.

    7. Harvey P. Carr*

      Another idea: Keep a list in a word processing document. Print it out each time you make a change. That way you have a physical list, in a format that makes it easy to make corrections.

    8. SS Express*

      Where did you write everyone’s address when you were sending your wedding invitations out?

      We listed names and addresses in an Excel spreadsheet on our shared PC at home, then tracked RSVP status and also notes on gifts in the same document. When we wrote the thank yous we just referred to the spreadsheet, and since then we’ve continued to use it as our family address book – two years and going strong! Easy peasy.

  34. Left Tax Season Behind*

    Happy New Year! This is the first time in 10 years that I won’t be in public accounting working 60-70 hours a week for tax season.

    I work just 40 hours now plus a 45 minute commute and am happy. How would you spend the new free time?

    1. Daisy*

      Congratulations on the found time! Not in that field myself, but sister in law is so I know how terrible tax season can be. Is there anything you always wished you had time for? A new hobby, or just something that interests you? I think that’s where I would start. Have fun!

      1. Left Tax Season Behind*

        Thanks! I’m excited already. I used to craft all the time and before would see things happening in the evenings or weekends and would be disappointed from not being able to go. I’ll have to watch the newspapers and maybe check out Facebook where people are going or doing.

    2. Sammie*

      This is really interesting to me because I just realised that I am not very good at relaxing. I have to be ‘doing’ something, even if it’s something I’d rather not be doing. So basically I like the idea of having a lot of free time but I don’t actually know what to do with it. I have a pretty good worklife balance now, which I struggled to allow myself to have; but I’m not really sure what to do with it. I find my work reasonably meaningful and I guess I am looking for something similar in my downtime, but which isn’t as exhausting as my work or my volunteering. I want meaningful relaxation I suppose. Sounds like a deceptively tall order.

      1. Left Tax Season Behind*

        I’m returning to the gym in February after the January rush is over. Seriously you won’t be able to find a parking place unless you walk a long distance from across the big plaza. I think some new hobbies would be good. Just need to think of some more!

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’d be working in a swim session… lack of time to exercise is one reason I’m starting a job search. TC used to give me time to *Do*Something* two or three days a week, but no more TC. Corporate changed policy to only allow TC when hell is freezing over.

    4. Ltrim Press Club*

      Welcome to the club.
      Enjoy every Saturday morning. Make yourself a new happiness ritual.

  35. Carbovore*

    I work in fundraising for a higher ed. unit and January is usually a “slow” period for the fundraisers but absolute hair-on-fire for us stewardship folks. (After all, all those end-of-year donors need to be thanked!) Every January (and every summer for that matter), the fundraisers stroll around the office with their coffee mugs and whine about this or that, clearly oblivious to me and my supervisor who are like omg, can you please get away from us while we write a billion impact reports and acknowledge hundreds of donors? Holy crap. (I don’t really have much sympathy for the fundraisers–the truth is that there’s no shortage of work for them to do year-round, they just don’t have the impetus to bother or be proactive about it.)

    As such, January is always such a loopy month for me for that reason and a few others: My dept. head (“Miranda,” for those of you who remember my post here) has her birthday this week as well, is traveling abroad at the end of the month, and supposedly was attempting to buy a new house this month as well? This all hopefully adds up to her being barely around which, these days, is preferable.

    I know I am going to have to get through the fake loopiness with her though. (Eyeroll.) Her pendulum has swung back to fake manic perkiness and since I’ve been more irritable lately due to ongoing health issues, I’m not sure I’ll be able to hide my disdain. (I already have a pretty bad poker face lol!) Most eyeroll-worthy–a coworker we inherited in a reorg over a year ago is leaving on the 3rd. This coworker has never been collegial, has actually been quite snotty, and from what I can tell–barely does any work and makes more money than several of us in the office. She was also granted immediate telework privileges that were denied to longstanding employees with records of good work. Miranda has never liked her either but is a complete chicken about disciplining or firing certain people so she’s always been more concerned with this employee liking her instead of respecting the office. (Miranda once called this employee a “fucking nobody” to me and said, “Who cares what she thinks anyway?”) Now… Miranda wants to throw a goodbye party for her! It’s all just too much for me. Miranda hasn’t officially announced this, she apparently mentioned it to one coworker… I might try and make myself unavailable during it and claim being unaware! lol

    Any situations you guys aren’t looking forward to upon your return to the office? How are you going to deal with it?

    1. RunnerGirl*

      I’m not looking forward to adulting tomorrow on our first day back at work, and you have my sympathy. My dearest friend has been with the foundation of our large, state research university for 25 years and could have written your post. Word for word (though I’m 100% sure you’re not her, given that I’d have heard about the f*ing nobody comment, etc if you were her), the characters remain the same, though the drama might be slightly different. You’re not alone, for what it’s worth.

    2. Bluebell*

      My sympathies. I’ve always worked in a small enough development shop where the fundraising team is also doing the stewardship! Things will slow down later in January though.

  36. DaffyDuck*

    The day of the week can make a difference on the price of plane tickets. Compare midweek fares to Monday/Friday/Saturday if you have some flexibility.
    Airlines/airports will provide assistance to those who need it by providing a wheelchair and attendant to push you or a cart to drive you to the boarding gate. Call and ask your airline how to sign up, this has been a free service IME. It was super for my elderly parents who wouldn’t otherwise be able to walk to the far end of the airport, plus no worries about getting lost!

    1. NotInOzAnymore*

      My in-laws (upper 70s, walking issues) have started asking for wheelchairs, at least for transfers between flights. The big benefit is once they have requested a wheelchair, the airline has always held their connecting flight, presumably because the wheelchair request makes them concerned about ADA accommodation issues.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        Yes, this is a great point. I once travelled with my aunt who has trouble walking but is quite stubborn about admitting this and refused to book assistance in advance. She was able to flag down one of those little electric cars to take us to the next gate but we nearly missed the next flight and the guy driving it was like “why didn’t you request this when you bought your flight?”. Holding the connection for a few minutes wouldn’t have been necessary if they had known she needed it!

  37. ThatGirl*

    My work goal for this year is to decide if my job is fixable.

    I have been at it for about 18 months, and I was excited to take it. It was a new position, and it was supposed to be CSR-adjacent, but due to a number of changes I’ve found myself doing more CSR work that wasn’t supposed to be part of the job. It’s not where my talents and interests lie, and not what I want to do long term. I need to have a long talk with my manager about whether it’s fixable, and if it’s not, I may need to start looking again.

  38. FaintlyMacabre*

    I was an hour into the New Year when a relative decided to come and sleep at my house, rather than sleep at the home where they attended a NYE party. I am beyond annoyed. I had planned to get a good night’s sleep and do some other stuff today. It’s been snowing hard enough that it may not be safe for them to leave… So basically they scared the wits out of me when they came in (they have their own key), I slept poorly because I was angry at them for just showing up, I may not be able to kick them out, and we need to have a conversation about boundaries and assumptions. This is not how I wanted to start the year.

      1. irene adler*

        Or change the lock.

        But yes, you need to say something. Boundaries are a good thing. Get some. Stick to ’em.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      +1 to WellRed. In fact, my first thought on reading your post was “Change the locks.”

      It’s not at all unreasonable for you to point out that their behavior caused you fright, inconvenience, and lost sleep; plus they had the key for Reasons other than being able to use your place for unannounced visits. I hear you on the anger, though. Grrrrr.

      If you’re stuck with them as a “guest” can they help by shoveling snow, baking, or telling charming stories? Or can you park them out of your way on the couch with a good book or (quiet) TV show?

    2. FlipperFlapHappyDap*

      Oh boy, this would get my goat to.i would be furious with the relative. I know it’s easier said than done but maybe talk to them about how you weren’t thrilled with their arrival, or ask for your key back. If you don’t want to do that, change the locks when you can and tell them that you’ve been worried about security and wanted to improve your locks.

      Sorry that this is happening. You have my sympathies.

    3. FaintlyMacabre*

      Thankfully, roads are clear enough that they could leave. We had a conversation -I don’t think they totally got why I was so pissed, but they did get the message that I am indeed mad and I think they’ll be on better behaviour in the future. I’m leaving them with the key for now, but if this sort of thing continues, I will get it back.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Well done for having the talk. And no need to worry if they understand reasoning for anger or not… that’s up to them… important point is that they know it upset you and what not to do in future!

  39. Anxious Gal*

    Happy New Year, everyone!

    So one of my resolutions this year is to try to improve my social life a bit. I have two acquaintances that I’m interested in pursuing friendships with. One is a co-worker in another department – I feel fairly confidant about asking her if she’d like to do something, as we’ve had plenty of casual conversations and we’re known each other for a couple of years. The other person, however, is a friend of a friend and I’ve only met her once at a party; however, we did seem to have quite a bit in common and we had a nice conversation that nice. Would it be appropriate to reach out to this second potential friend and ask her out for coffee sometime, or would it come across as needy and desperate, seeing as how we’ve only met once?

    1. Kathenus*

      I struggle with this just like you, but look at it from this point of view. If second potential friend contacted YOU to ask to go for coffee or something, how would you feel? If it was me, if we had seemed to hit it off, I’d be thrilled that they reached out (and relieved that I didn’t have to…). I think it’s completely appropriate, and it will probably be very much appreciated. Good luck!

    2. Felicia*

      I’ve done this before with someone I met once at a party and now we’re best friends. I’ve done it a second time and the person put it off a few times until I realized she wasn’t interested. The worst they can say is no. I have similar goals for the new year but its mostly not letting fear of rejection control my life as much as i think it currently does

    3. Reba*

      I think it would be great! But if that feels too forward or whatever to you, another option would be to invite this person to an event or meetup of some kind that relates to one of your common interests.

      Let us know how it goes!

    4. The Person from the Resume*

      Totally appropriate.

      I am becoming casual friends with someone who honestly said that she needed to make new friends because most of hers had moved away. I admire her williness to be vulnerable.

    5. Hannah*

      Solidarity with the struggle with this.

      The only way you’re going to be friends with this person is if you actively try. I find it helps if you propose a topic of conversation, like “Hi Roberta, I really enjoyed meeting you at the Llama Rodeo. Would you be interested in getting a coffee with me next weekend? I’d love to hear about your cactus jelly recipe.” That way you have something to talk about right away if the conversation has trouble getting off the ground.

      I really struggle with this as well, but was really proud of myself this year for managing to get a few “Friend dates” with someone I really like. And I basically had to say “HEY I WANT TO BE YOUR FRIEND” and it made me feel like a dork, but now we’re friends, and it turns out she also struggles with this and wanted to be my friend.

    6. Jane of All Trades*

      Not weird at all. In fact I think people don’t do it often enough! I’ve reached out to people I met through friends and made great experiences. Not everybody turned out to be a lifelong friend but I never encountered a negative reaction for reaching out or taking the first step.
      If easier, could you ask your friend to hang out together? You, your friend, and the potential new friend, for brunch or a walk in the park or similar?

  40. PhillyRedhead*

    Happy New Year! I’d love to see another post of Alison’s “Job Rejections and Vitriol” posts — it’s been too long! Or, if Alison doesn’t have enough, open it up to reader submissions! The second-hand embarrassment is hilarious.

  41. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    Happy New Year everybody! I started it with a drunken woman that believed I was their grandchild and tried to drag me from my parents. XDDD It took a while but in the end I freed from her claws. Still have her fingernails marked in my arm though.

    It’s not a resolution, but I really wish I could get a new job. My boss and the owners are friendly, but they’re so cheap it’s infuriating. Last week I learnt that new hires get top medical insurance while older hires like me are still with the most basic package they could get to avoid legal action, which is so slow that if you want to set up a non-critical appointment you need to call four months in advance, smh. I applied to two postings on December, but so far no news.

    1. Jersey's mom*

      Holy crap! Have you or any of the “old” hires discused this amongst yourselves, or considered whether there was a way to bring this up to the owners?

      I’d think that the owners would like to keep the “old” hires for their knowledge and business continuity. What would happen to the business if many of you left within a moth or two?

      Good luck with your job search!

    1. Jen RO*

      Because lots of people celebrate at midnight and they need sleep the next day. (In Romania the 2nd is also a holiday! I guess the government knows we like to eat and drink, so we need 2 full days to recover?)

    2. Sorcha*

      Where I live, it’s the big holiday – Christmas isn’t as important (and wasn’t even a public holiday until the 60s). We don’t have Thanksgiving here. New Year is the big celebration, with lots of partying, drinking, traditions and rituals to observe. Big family dinners on the 1st. It’s a lot more important and more meaningful to many of us than any other holiday.

    3. Carbovore*

      I always assumed it was because people stay up late and/or possibly get wasted celebrating so it was sort of a stretch to get anyone to come into work on the 1st. :X LOL

      Frankly, I’ve never really given a hoot about New Year’s so when I worked retail, I was always happy to work it and get the time and a half holiday pay. And now in my state higher ed job, I’m even more happy to have the day off paid.

    4. Aggretsuko*

      A lot of people would call out sick with hangovers anyway, might as well make it easy for everyone.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Link in username…

      Because we’ve celebrated the coming of a new year for centuries, granted on different days depending on the calendar observed. It’s one of the holidays that is embraced by just about all cultures in every country, in some way, so why not?

  42. Mimmy*

    Happy New Year everyone!!

    I am back to work tomorrow after 12 glorious days off, and I need to find a way to break out of the negative cycle I’ve gotten myself into. For a while, we had a great group of students who were really motivated and focused on making the most out of our program. If they had issues, they expressed themselves professionally. That made the job more tolerable for me because I could somewhat ignore the negativity and just enjoy instructing and interacting with them. But lately, the negativity has gotten more noticeable…at least to me. I’m not sure if it’s coming from the students, staff, or what.

    Come to think of it, I think it started when one of the supervisors went on medical leave. The manager pretty much took over everything during those couple of months. The supervisor just came back right before the holidays, so I’m hoping things will improve. It sometimes seems like she’s talking down to people and she can be scattered, but she does brighten up the room. She certainly has been a big help in keeping me calm, even if I don’t agree with her 100%.

    I still need to look for a new job in earnest, but similar to “coffee cup” upthread, I don’t really know what to look for. I know what I ultimately want to do, but I need to find the logical “next step”. But in the meantime, I have to think about what I can do to stay positive while I’m in my current job so that I don’t end up burned out or bitter. I want to end this job on a high note.

  43. M.Griza*

    Nursing grouchy feelings against my school district today. We transitioned to a four day school week this year and the school board sold it on the promise of no “broken” weeks. End result: We had TEN days off at Thanksgiving and are on day 12 of 15 days off for winter holidays. You know breaks are too long when your kids are the ones asking when they can go back to school and that started two days ago.

    The “broken” week issue originally came up because in past years, we might get one “as scheduled” week out of every month. There was always a random Monday off for minor calendar observance or Friday off for teacher development or this thing or that thing . . . the four day week was supposed to be more consistent for everyone. But we seriously could have gone to school two days at the beginning of Thanksgiving week and pick up Wed/Thurs this week without putting a serious dent in anyone’s holiday plans.

    1. Book Lover*

      Wow, that is a lot of days off. Are they on a year round schedule? Otherwise how do they get enough days of school per year?

      1. M.Griza*

        We meet our calendar requirements by starting in the third week of August and running into June. Also, by having a minimal snow days budget. Our climate is such that while we get snow, it’s usually not enough at one time to require closing school

    2. Middle School Teacher*

      Oh my gosh, YES. We have so many pd days, I hate it. Our last staff meeting of the year included a presentation on the potential new calendar and it turned into a huge thing. With all the pd days, thanksgiving, labour day etc we never have more than two full weeks of school in a row and I haaaaaate it. The kids always seem to think short weeks are a holiday and behaviours suffers, parents often take their holidays then (it’s a short week, right? We won’t miss much!!), and then long weeks are harder because we’re not used to them. It’s also hard to keep classes even. I hate it so much.

    3. Luisa*

      That’s insane. We got 1.5 weeks for winter break (I go back Thursday), and as much as I love break, I cannot imagine it lasting 3 actual weeks.

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        I also get three weeks off for Christmas, but we go back around Aug 20 as well. A lot of our kids have family in other countries and when they go, they go for a while (think China for six weeks) so having a longer break means (in theory) they miss less school.

        It’s kind of nice to have the longer break.

  44. Amber Rose*

    I need to rant.

    So, Christmas was AWFUL. My dad, who I’m realizing I don’t like and don’t wanna spend time with (which makes me feel just great about myself as a person :/) came down. He brought with him… a stranger. He never asked if he could one way or another but I was under the impression he was bringing someone he knew, not a person from another country he’d only talked to online. The last time this happened the woman was a horrible person. Just wretched.

    This one was nice enough actually but is more disabled than my dad, who can no longer walk upright or without a walker. And I own a small car and a house full of stairs.

    So, at an airport lined up way down the street, I managed to get into the pickup line because they could not make it across street to parking, and we couldn’t get her in the car because her legs wouldn’t bend. It took an hour, and husband had to cab home because of all their bags and walkers. It’s not her fault, but if dad had friggin TOLD me she was disabled I could have arranged a handi-van or something. He never tells me anything because he only thinks about himself. I’m not equipped to care for two disabled people! Their walkers barely fit in my tiny house.

    Then he wanted to go out for dinner without husband, and spent a ton of time complaining about how much I had to work and interrupting conversations to make random comments about nothing and being kind of “racist grandpa.” I felt like a babysitter.

    Now he wants to come down during the Stampede in summer, which is a fair with tens of thousands of people under a burning sun and nothing but stairs. With the last. So we’d be moving snail place through packed crowds, and would not be able to go on rides or see shows.

    Look. I don’t wanna shame anyone for disability. But the reality is, it makes logistics complicated. It makes it worse when the disabled person (ie, dad) is a self centered jerk who refuses to understand that he can’t do stuff he used to do, that I need information, and that I’m poor and struggle to accommodate him and the internet strangers he makes me host in my home.

    I can’t do it. I can’t spend another week on him. It’s so much work, its exhausting and he’s not a nice person to be around. But I will get the guilt trip. It’s how I got suckered into this shitty Christmas.

    I’m so bad at saying no. I’m all he’s got, which is a lot of pressure.

    1. WellRed*

      You are not shaming the disabled. You are rightly ticked off at dad because he’s self centered. Say no to this…stampede thing. I am a bit confused about the houseguest. If he says he’s bringing someone, say no. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, at least next time you’ll know to ask if there us anything you should know. This is ALL on him. Even the most wonderful parent can fry our last nerve. And he sounds a challenge.

      1. valentine*

        I’m a massive fan of chosen family, John Brown-level resistance to white supremacy, and a room of your own and a key to lock it and not answering the door, even if you feel like your heart will fly out of your chest. Decide you’re not hosting him anymore and stick to it, regardless of what you need to say or do to make that happen. Wait out the guilt trip. Block his number, email, etc. Let your husband be the bad guy, if that’s an option, as you build your confidence. You’re not obliged to suffer a racist. You can learn to disengage and resist and free yourself from his programming. Emotional Blackmail and Toxic Parents are good places to start (downside: Susan Forward has no racial analysis and is obsessed with the gender binary).

    2. Kathenus*

      Another internet stranger that says this has nothing to do with being disabled, it has to do with being rude, entitled, and self-centered. So either get more comfortable with saying no, or you’ll have to continue to deal with this.

      If he wants to come you can always send him a link to an accessible boarding house/hotel and tell him that your house isn’t appropriate or safe for them based on the Christmas experience. You are under no obligation letting someone stay with you, family or no.

    3. Jersey's mom*

      Your dad is being a jerk. You are ok as other responses have already noted.

      Two separate things to deal with. First, about the future visit. Tell him you can’t host him at your home. Full stop. Or, you will be out of town. Or, you already have friends staying. But there is no room at your home. If he wants to visit, he needs to make his own arrangements for a hotel and travel. He’s an adult. You are not his servant.

      Second, eventually you’ll need to talk to him about his casual disregard for you and your feelings. Captain Awkward blog has a lot of scripts on how to handle this kind of family situation.

      Third, you and husband should read CA’s blog and decide together how you want to handle this in the future. You have a potentially great “Team You” with your husband. You can decide how you want to handle this together as a team. It doesn’t have to be you alone dealing with this.

      Good luck!! It’s a new year and make it work for you!!

      Ps, I hope my remarks don’t seem too sharp, I don’t mean it that way. Freaking out about surgery tomorrow.

      1. Heckofabecca*

        This is spot-on. Seconding the Captain Awkward recommendation. She’s got many great scripts for dealing with both discussions Jersey’s Mom mentioned.

        You are not a bad person for recognizing where your boundaries lie. You have the right to choose who comes into your space. Good luck.

      2. Amber Rose*

        This is late but as much as I love the captain, I got pretty badly burned by the responses to the one letter I sent in about my dad and ended up feeling worse about myself overall.

        I know she has a wealth of other info but I just feel like it doesn’t apply to me as much. Husband tried once but that just backfired horribly and I don’t feel like it’s worth it.

        1. $!$!*

          I hope I’m not breaking your anonymonity but if your letter was the letter that I’m thinking of, it was answered by a guest poster and that answer was…not great. even CA had to post something later about defending her guest posters “advice”. I get pissed just thinking about the advice you got. I’m rooting for you and please don’t feel badly.

          1. Jessa*

            Very late response but I have to agree here. If you’re the letter writer we’re both thinking of, the answer was total nonsense and really made me angry.

    4. Laura H.*

      Saying this as a disabled person who uses a walker, no you’re not disability shaming.

      Most of the logistics SHOULD be your father’s job- he’s the disabled one, and (presumably) has enough faculties to ensure needs are met as easily as possible. But you can assist- I don’t always recall that oh… I’ll need extra time (in some cases) so mon helpfully reminds me.

      1. MsM*

        Exactly! You are not all he’s got. He’s got himself. If he can’t figure out how to find and pay for hotel accommodations that will meet his needs this year, then he skips it and saves up for next year. He’s allowed to be disappointed if that’s how it works out, but he doesn’t get to demand you spend your time and energy and money on his non-essential desires, especially if he’s not willing to do anything to make that easier on you.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      “Dad, it will not be possible for us to do Event because I cannot ensure your safety. So we will not be going.”

      This is a special type of “NO”. I had to tell a family member NO for safety reasons and I felt like I found parts of myself. Actually I found a new boundary and I had words to describe it. Someone who is vulnerable gets into a vehicle with me, I become responsible for them. This is not like having two active adults in the vehicle where if something happens my friend would be able to participate in finding solutions. Rather this is a setting that if something goes wrong, ALL responsibility falls to me.

      If someone is going to relinquish all/most responsibility onto me, then *I* get to decide the big decisions.

      Your father is relinquishing responsibility when he does not tell you what his needs or his friends needs are so you can be prepared. He does not allow you to properly prepare for what you are trying to do. He uses very poor judgement. Additionally, his limitations further complicate the story. I transported my husband all over the place with eight broken vertebra in his back. I could do that because he used good judgement. He was clear about his needs and willing to work with ideas.

      Going the opposite way, I had a Family Member (FM) who was prone to meltdowns. I mean tear off their clothes, screaming in public meltdowns. (Yes, there were medical reasons for this behavior, but that’s a different story.) Because FM was not acting responsible for their choices I refused to transport them anywhere. I could just see FM becoming irate over some small issue and grabbing the steering wheel from me as we drove down the road. Nope-nope-nope. Family thought I was heartless, until I explained that FM was not safe to transport. This is a stark contrast to my husband whose medical condition made doctors fearful but he was totally safe to take anywhere he said he wanted to go.

      To do activities with other people we have to participate in the activity all along. This means speaking up about our own needs and making responsible decisions so as not to put others in a place where they are totally responsible for us. You have every right to say no here. Not only does your dad and friend have limitations, they are not able to clearly tell you what they need. Heck, you, yourself, could get injured in the process of assisting them. And then what would Dad and Friend do if you were injured and could not take care of them??

      This isn’t about not wanting to do this. This is a pure safety issue. It’s not safe. Period.

      1. Lilysparrow*

        Yes. This.

        I was staying with my parents when my mom had to have emergency open-heart surgery. Mom insisted on being discharged home instead of to a rehab facility.

        Without telling me.

        Apparently they both assumed I (absolutely no medical knowledge or training) would know how to safely assist a non-ambulatory patient who outweighed me by 30 pounds and had her chest cracked open.

        The hospital actually offered a caregiver training class for family members. But they were just too deep in the denial story to even consider telling me about it. Because everything is fine and normal, and she didn’t need any help.

        Thank goodness the paramedics were close by, because as soon as my dad muscled her out of the car and into the house, she fell on top of me. I felt horrible, because I couldn’t extricate myself without hurting her. But that might have been what convinced her that it would be best to recuperate with people who knew what they were doing (and had a bed lift).

    6. Bagpuss*

      I agree, you are not shaming disabled people, or even your dad and his friend for their disabilities You are reasonably and appropriately annoyed at his selfish and thoughtless behaviour.

      If you think he will come in the summer then start planning for that now – remind yourself that it is OK not to host him or to give up all your time off to run round after him. Discuss with your husband what you feel you *can* do, and ask him (if it would be helpful to you ) to remind you / back you up when the time comes to speak to your dad.

      Consider whether there is anything you want to say to your dad now – maybe a letter or email now, saying something on the lines of ‘it was lovely to see you and friend but made me realise that given your mobility, our house isn’t really suitable for you. I’ll do some research, so we can identify a suitable hotel / B&B for you for next time you visit’
      (You can also start to think about what else you’d be comfortable doing. For example, If you’d feel better about not hosting him at your home, if you were providing him with alternative accommodation, then perhaps if you were able to start planning that, and setting aside a bit each month toward the costs, you might find it easier and/ or feel more comfortable about having him stay elsewhere, if you were also able to offer to pay at least part of the cost. )

      Try not to beat yourself up over it. It’s absolutely reasonable for you to set boundaries taking into account your, and your husband’s needs and what you can and cannot reasonably do.

    7. Wishing You Well*

      I agree that you can and should say no to another visit. There are many good ideas above.
      Another way you can soften your NO is to tell your dad you can’t safely have him in your house anymore due to stairs, but here’s the name and number of a nearby hotel that is disability-friendly (no stairs, etc.). I doubt he’d like this alternative, but if he does, be clear you can’t pay for the hotel. Don’t book the hotel for him.
      You can honestly say you wish things were different, but you just can’t do what he wants.
      Practice your NO speech with someone. Can you go text-only with your dad? Send him a preemptive NO message before he asks again so you don’t have to live in dread of his next contact with you.
      Best Of Luck.

    8. nonegiven*

      Just say you won’t be able to accommodate him.

      You might give him a list of hotels and the handi-van number. So sorry you won’t be able to join him/them.

    9. dawbs*

      Im sorry.
      You can love someone and be sure to treat them well and not always like them.

      Teaching people their limits, mostly by teaching them YOUR limits ob what you will do fir them is a hard process. And it’s easyto feel like a jerk while doing it

  45. Kimmybear*

    Happy New Year!

    Need a reality check. I work for a large company that does performance reviews twice a year but raises and promotions are completely separate and have no formal process. Is this normal? I’m questioning because my last job only gave performance assessments and raises when management felt like it or you nagged enough.

    1. LadyCop*

      I think it’s totally normal. Maybe not as common as reviews tied to raises, or nagging/begging/making a case for a raise…but there are plenty of places where automatic raises happen to match cost of living and/or as retention.

    2. Someone Else*

      In my experience promotions are not necessarily directly tied to reviews. They sometimes can be, if it’s a matter of: before you were a Blah and now you’re a Senior Blah, etc. where it reflects additional skill or responsibilities you naturally took on and reflecting your own growth in the position, so you’re getting a title bump and a raise because of what you’re already doing at a higher level than what you were hired. But other times, a promotion has to be an actual separate, open position you apply for and then maybe get. Certainly your review might factor into it, but that type of promotion, timing-wise, is not directly related to reviews. In that context also, the raise would be tied to the promotion, not the review. But then again not all raises must be tied to promotions. It depends on if the company structure is super rigid about salary bands and whatnot, but in most industries, most of the time I’d say it should be possible to do a kickass job, have your review reflect that, and thus your boss gets approval for a raise because of it. That’s not the ONLY way to get a raise. It’s normal for there to be other non-directly-connected ways to get a raise, but that should be one possible method of getting one.
      If they have no formal review process at all, that’s a separate issue from the above and I’d say probably a red flag. Reviews are often an easy thing to let slide in times of chaos and management might say “well we’ve got higher priorities right now” etc but I think usually that’s a bad sign because accountability drops, standards become inconsistent, etc. If there is no structure for reviews or there used to be but it fell away, it’s a sign of bigger problems.

  46. Pipe Organ Guy*

    Back to my regular schedule tomorrow, after Christmas. The week before Christmas was consumed with churning out reams of service booklets for Sunday, two different services on Christmas Eve, and a Christmas Day service. (They’re pretty big because each one has all the prayers and readings plus all the hymns and their tunes.) Add in a couple of choir rehearsals plus my own practice, and it adds up. Then I had to play the services: a Sunday service of Advent lessons and carols, a family Christmas Eve service with a children’s Christmas pageant, a choral Christmas Eve service that ended close to midnight on Christmas Eve, and after a few hours sleep, come back to play the Christmas Day service. Then I had the rest of Christmas Day and Dec. 26 off, so my spouse and I went to visit his family. Came back on Thursday to get the Sunday service booklet done and make sure my substitute had everything she needed so that I didn’t have to play on the 30th. Finally, went to work on the 31st to get a good start on the booklet for Jan. 6.

    Such is the life of a church organist who also does the service booklets. Definitely not a typical job these days!

    1. M.Griza*

      My father was the Music Director/organist/choir director of a large ELCA church when I was growing up. December is no joke for professional church musicians!

  47. Ann Furthermore*

    Thanks to everyone who posted advice a little while back about my daughter moving to another state with her boyfriend.

    My husband talked to her about it on Christmas Eve while I was out with our youngest looking at Christmas lights. He said she seems pretty level headed and rational about it, and appears to have thought things through pretty well. He gave her his two cents, which was mostly telling her to wait a couple months and see how much she misses him, which will tell her quite a bit.

    I realized that part of what had me a little freaked out was my own tendency to over-worry about everything, and just the timing. A few days prior to finding out about this, I learned that an acquaintance from high school passed away, due to liver failure brought on by alcoholism. It was so sad and she was much too young. I’d been thinking about her, and also another girl that she was very good friends with. The other girl was really sweet, but pretty wild…. drinking, drugs, some pretty promiscuous behavior. That continued after high school and she got mixed up with a pretty rough crowd. She was killed by her boyfriend in some kind of domestic dispute. I never did get all the details. She was only 23. So when my 21 year old started talking about moving away with her boyfriend, that’s where my mind immediaely jumped.

    Anyway, it seems like my daughter has and is continuing to think things through pretty clearly, so I think she’ll be just fine. Thanks again to all.

  48. Jaid_Diah*

    Happy New Year!

    Here’s hoping that with the new Congress in session, a bill will finally pass that will let me and thousands of others go back to work.

    I don’t mind the time off, but now my sleep schedule is messed up. I can’t justify waking up at 4 am if I’m not actually going into work…

    1. M.Griza*

      Supposedly my husband’s agency is fully funded but I do not trust a check to show up tomorrow. We’ve been through too many shut downs where his agency was not funded for me to believe it this time.

  49. Elizabeth West*

    Happy New Year!

    —A JOB
    —Publication, damn it
    —Would like to get the hell out of this town
    —A better fitness routine than the current one, both to shed some annoying extra weight and also so I’m not one of those people who can’t get up
    —More dedication to my meditation practice

    All doable. Plus I did some woo; hey you never know, LOL.

    1. anonagain*

      LOL! Can you do some woo for me too, or is that not how it works?

      I hope this is a really great year for you!

        1. anonagain*

          So basically the same as job applications then. No guarantees that they’ll actually do anything, but maybe!

  50. Mimmy*

    Just a quick note to thank everyone for their bag suggestions some time ago. At least one person (if not more) suggested Baggelini. I found one I liked because it can either be a tote bag OR a backpack. It’s roomy, so that’ll be helpful when I go to Orlando at the end of the month for a conference.

    However, also a PSA: Read the customer reviews before deciding!!! I was fixated on this bag because of the functionality. However, I didn’t notice until today that the straps are NOT adjustable. I’m only 5 feet tall, so when it’s in backpack mode, it hangs really low. I’ll still make it work, but…d’oh!

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Whaaaa? A backpack with non adjustable straps? That seems completely bizarre. Any chance of replacing the strap with something that can be adjusted?

  51. Jean (just Jean)*

    Happy New Year? (and Happy Secular New Year to anyone else who also lives on the Jewish calendar. :-) )

    That question mark was my subconscious registering its skepticism due to my personal circumstances (People facing health/life challenges, Self facing work & life challenges). BUT I want to thank the good-hearted AAM community for being here, ready and resourceful with ideas and a bit of occasional comedy. May it be a good year for everyone.

  52. Jersey's mom*

    Looking for advice from anyone whose had ACL surgery.

    Tomorrow I will have surgery to repair a completely torn ACL. I’ve never had surgery before. I’m confident about the actual surgery itself, but am very nervous about the recovery and PT.

    People who have had ACL surgery have given me encouragement with a lot of stories about pain. Lots of pain. But not any specifics.

    Anyone out there, do you have specific advice and slightly clearer definitions of “pain”? I can deal with this much better if I know what’s coming, it’s the unknown that creates anxiety.

    Thanks for any help!

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      It’s laparoscopic surgery – the pain during recovery is typically mild. Think ice and Tylenol.

    2. Fluff*

      I am now several months out ACL repair.

      The first week you are going to be in a straight leg brace. Walking around like an awkward giraffe hoping not to be eaten by lions. Pretend you are Skywalker on Dagobah learning from Yoda.
      What helped me:
      1. Ibuprofen is the good part of the force. Or Mobic. Or what your doc says. Ibuprofen timed when the doc said I could. The local block to the knee will wear off – when you feel the twinges, take the med if you can. If you can, avoid the stronger pain meds like the opiates – to the dark side they lead – at least for your colon anyway. You don’t want to get um…plugged up (see #4). I did not take those.
      2. Inflammation you must avoid. Icing, icing, icing. I ordered one of these Ossur cold rush devices with the knee add on. Wore it at night (always have some sort of barrier protection on your knee like a light wrap or cut off legging- you don’t want icing or cool stuff directly on your skin. I cannot say enough about icing and cold. It really helps the inflammation. If you can’t borrow one of those, fill up the freezer with various cooling thingies (any drug store has cooling wraps for the knee). Half my freezer was full of icing devices which I wrapped around my knee with various ace wraps. To save on ice for the cold rush pump I used frozen water bottles (the regular water bottles) with ice.
      3. Wiggle your foot. Set an alarm on your phone every 15 min while awake and Netflix binging: do those calf pumps and quad tightenings (wiggle your quad muscle).
      4. This is not the potty you are looking for. When you just think you have to go potty, start the process. Don’t WAIT until you have to go. You are not going to want to do ANY hurrying and plopping down on the toilet (that leg is straight and when it is out of the brace, not very bendable – the quick sitting or “falling” down on the john is not going to be an option for you for a few months. Plan to answer the call calmly). If you take opiates (percocet, lortab) you may be a while. Have a little leg support in the bathroom for the peg leg. Orthos forget to tell you about this part. For the next 3 months, do not be in a hurry to hit the butt to the porcelain. Your knee does not have the range of motion for a speedy pee.
      5. Have them show you how to use crutches. It is not intuitive and you want to protect your arms. “Bad leg goes to hXll, good leg to heaven” was the trick. Bad leg led going down. Good leg led going up.
      6. Some everyday things – don’t try and squash bugs / spiders. Get someone else to do that. It’s hard to judge the squashing (and you might jar the leg – no injury just hurts). Wear an apron with pockets or a tool belt (I did the tool belt) – great place for phones, remote controls, snacks, packing in stuff when you finally peg leg to the kitchen.

      You will recover faster than you think. Your ACL goes through ligamentization (when the graft is being replaced by your body). Months 3-6 your graft is weaker than the original ACL and yet you will feel great. Rushing is the dark side. Patience young Jedi. And a stronger ACL and legs you will have.

    3. Fluff*

      Dang – forgot about the pain. I did not find it that bad. If I were to tear my other ACL I would totally have the surgery again. Worth it a million times so far (only 6 months out).

      Yes, it hurts, you have had surgery. The drain site hurt and massage helped there. Nothing that some timed ibuprofen and icing could not help. Expect some pain and discomfort, more so at night because no distractions. Every day gets better. And really, icing is the best! Me and some ibuprofen with alternating Tylenol did fine. I did go a bit bonkers with not being able to hop up and get stuff because I am a fidgeter – I have to wiggle and “get” something when watching the telly.

      I’m considered older for surgery (40s). My knee went really unstable after I shredded that ACL.

    4. Sarah*

      Get a cryo-cuff. I don’t remember my husband being in too much pain, maybe the first couple days, but it got better fast. Cryo-cuff is the best thing ever, I think he would have married it if he could.

    5. Knapplepi*

      My son had ACL surgery last year. He had to rent a special machine that wouldn’t exercise his knee for 5 different times a day (total time was probably 4-5 hours daily). The process was painful but he had a shorter, easier rehab.

      My daughter had ACL surgery about 6 years ago. Her knee was in an immobilizer for the first 2 or 3 weeks and then she started physical therapy. She experienced significantly less pain after the surgery but the rehab was longer and more painful.

      In both cases, the kids had complete recoveries! Best wishes!

    6. lurker bee*

      Icing. Continuous Passive Motion machine (if possible, rent and pay out of pocket if insurance won’t cover one; you may only need it for about 3 weeks). Stay ahead of the pain.

    7. MissGirl*

      Hope I’m not too late. Ironically I was teaching skiing today, which is the reason I know this answer.

      I blew out my ACL and had surgery and the pain for me was definitely not mild. I did do pain killers but was very careful with them and went off after one week except for one at night and then went off completely by week two. Also do the block. I came out of surgery crying, “It hurts, it hurts” before I was fully awake. I also threw up everything the first day because I was super sensitive to anesthesia (might be why I came out in more pain). Get an ice machine if you can.

      Start PT right away and be religious about it and your stretches. I grow scar tissue hard and fast. Get a stationary bike and use it! I bought a stand for my road bike and that worked well. I had my surgery in April and was back on skis in December, but I was restricted to groomed runs and nothing steeper than a blue the first season :(.

      I’m four years out and it can still get sore now and then. I just finished a full seven days on skis (I didn’t have students higher than intermediate) and I have to use Ibuprofen. If I do a lot of moguls then I’m more sore.

      I did the hamstring and sometimes my hamstring really tightens up. I keep stretching and working it, but it is what it is.

    8. Fluff*

      Wanted to add good news – note how folks are back to doing their full sports. The skier (teaching and moguls!), the sporty kids, etc. You will, with time and physical therapy, learn better ways to run and jump to protect your knee and ACL. You can get back to your sports and here is the good part – you will be better than before. Because you will learn better ways to jump and land, jog, run, and protect your knees. As much as I was frustrated, this ACL tear was a good thing for me because my jump technique and landing were so not-good-for-ACLs-joints.


  53. Ruffingit*

    BEST AND WORST OF THE YEAR! What was the best thing of 2018 for you and the worst thing of 2018 for you?

    1. Be the Change*

      Best — vacations and time with my sister, plus a trip to Quebec in July when it’s at its most magical.

      Worst — my father and my uncle died within a day or two of each other.

    2. NicoleK*

      Best- Visiting Skellig Michael Island
      Worst-My father passed away last year and dealing with incompetent BEC coworker

    3. Nessun*

      Best – unexpected promotion with 20% raise and new title/responsibilities. Not sure how I’m going to do it, but I have faith I can (just very nebulous with no predecessor to learn from as it’s a new position).

      Worst – total mental shock/breakdown in the summer brought on by a week of losses, leading to a weekend of complete numbness. Never been in shock before, though I did eventually figure it out. And the good news is, it was a catalyst for finally calling a therapist. Sooo, maybe hopefully it turns into a good thing?

    4. Clever Name*

      Best: Met my boyfriend
      Worst: ex husband (with whom I share a kid) is going off the deep end :/

    5. LNLN*

      Best- I retired!

      Worst- My recovery after a knee replacement surgery has been slower than I hoped.

    6. Trixie*

      Best: New job with same organization with a small but strong team I like. Also, additional certification completed and now working on classes to finish degree.

      Worst: The stress during first half of 2018 with former position. The moment I received the offer over the phone, I felt that immense wave of relief.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Best, I settled into a fabulous job and got my work/life balance back in track during the recovery period from the previous years drama.

      Worst, losing my beloved boss after his battle with dementia finally came to an end.

    8. Alpha Bravo*

      Bests: New roof, new barn, property cleared and ready for fencing. Nice shot of schadenfreude when director who laid me off a week before Christmas for grieving too long after my spouse died tried to hire me back in January.

      Worst: First year without spouse.

      1. Pipe Organ Guy*

        Very sorry that you lost your spouse! That’s truly a major life-altering event. That director has rocks where a brain should be.

    9. The Person from the Resume*

      Worst: I was hit by a bout of depression the first half of the year. I started in 2017 and I finally noticed the problem in February 2018 and things started improving in April / May.

      Best: I came out of by the fall and I had a really good, really busy October through December. Now I can barely remember how I felt at the start of the year.

      Also I started an early morning fitness class on a whim in September and I’ve kept it going and plan to keep it going next year.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      BEST: My sangha, and my nerd friends on and offline. Plus NaNoWriMo

      WORST: That nothing changed, no matter what I did. But maybe the results will show up this year (please!).

    11. Aerin*

      Best: Tie between finishing my novel and going to Europe for the first time
      Worst: We’re having serious foundation issues that *should* be covered by the insurance since we have an earthquake rider. But apparently they messed up getting the rider added. Meanwhile all the cracks we got repaired in February have begun to reappear, but worse this time…

    12. Mrs. Carmen Sandiego JD*

      Best: 1st new year married; moving to a nicer and less expensive apt

      Worst: career limbo 100% due to federal shutdown

    13. Pipe Organ Guy*

      Best: becoming organist at my Episcopal church. It’s hard work, but I feel like I have been preparing for it on some level for most of my adult life.
      Worst: having to handle announcing that promotion very carefully, because of how it had come about (budget issues; the organist position and the bulletin production position could be combined, with some responsibilities reassigned to others, and acceptable pay for the organist duties). The ousted organist felt deeply hurt and betrayed (most understandably) by the rector of the parish because she was ousted immediately upon the decision being made, and there was every possibility that I could be caught in crossfire. There was the strong possibility of an enormous amount of drama. Fortunately, not too much materialized, and her path and mine have crossed minimally.

  54. Persephone Mulberry*

    Where is the line between gumption and Gumption?

    This past week I spotted a job ad for a “senior events manager” (5+ years large scale events management experience). I have zero events experience, but 15 years of administrative and project support experience, and I really, really loved the way they wrote about their company and the soft skills they’re looking for. I kind of want to contact them anyway and see what happens.

    How would you frame this in a cover letter? My goal would be for them to say “okay, she’s not right for This Job, but wow, how else could we use her?”

    1. LadyCop*

      gumption is applying because you have nothing to lose and who knows? Gumption is using gimmicks or appearing desperate because your perception is far gone from reality…

      Which is to say apply using all of Alison’s awesome, super helpful advice, but also be real about expectations.

    2. Kathenus*

      So I can only speak for myself in my experience as a hiring manager. If you applied for a job you weren’t qualified for, likely not matter how good your other skills or letter were, I wouldn’t respond ‘how else could we use her’. I’d likely just see someone who obviously wasn’t qualified for the job and you’d just move to the no pile.

      BUT, if you wrote a letter specifically saying that while you may not be a candidate for this position, that the description of the company really appealed to (and why) and you would be interested in learning about future opportunities that might benefit from your experience and skill set, I might be intrigued. If you take this approach I’d also suggest either sending a copy to HR as well since this hiring manager may have nothing to do with areas where you might be a fit, or asking the person to pass it on to HR and/or other hiring managers if appropriate.

      Whether or not this might work is probably a total crap shoot based on the person who you send it to and/or the culture of the organization, but it couldn’t hurt. Personally, though, as a hiring manager I am annoyed with people who apply for jobs that they are not qualified for unless they openly and clearly note that they don’t meet the qualifications listed but think that they have xx and yy skills/background that they believe would still make them a good candidate. If they don’t do that, I figure they didn’t take the time to read the job description/requirements and I accordingly don’t usually take much time considering them as a candidate unless there’s truly something extraordinary about them that I see in their application materials.

      1. foolofgrace*

        This only works if you have the option to add a cover letter. Many online jobs only offer a resume as an upload choice. This annoys me, And many times the name of the company is not listed, so you can’t troll their website for the name of the hiring manager,

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Always apply for a job that you’d like and customize a thoughtful cover letter so they know why you’re applying for a job you aren’t necessarily qualified for.

      You never know what their applicant pool will actually look like. So you may stand out if the pool is underwhelming. I wouldn’t bank on it but I wouldn’t count it out.

      Gumption is hounding them and resorting to steamrollering, whereas throwing your hat in the ring regardless of the odds is just a tactic that works sometimes depending on all the variables that are in play for hiring.

  55. The Other Dawn*

    Any advice for cleaning the grates on my new stove? They’re cast iron and they’re rough, not smooth like my last stove. It’s one of the things that is really making me want to sell this stove and get a different one. I knew the grates were rough, but didn’t realize how much of a PITA it would be to clean them. Everything I use leaves lint or it tears. The manual recommends a plastic scrubber, but that tears too.

    Another thing I hate? Both power burners are in the front and the regular burner is in the back, which makes absolutely no sense to me. So if I want to make an omelet or something else that requires just standard heat, I have to use the back burner, which is really awkward. I could use the power burner on the lowest setting, but I use LP and it burns much hotter than natural gas, which means things boil hard even on the lowest setting. I didn’t realize both these burners were in the front when I bought the stove.

    Normally I check out appliances in the store and then buy, but in my area there are very, very few gas stoves on display in stores so I had to buy online. All the displays are electric. There were like 15 different electric stoves and maybe two gas stoves on display, no matter which store I went to. I asked the sales people and they said there isn’t a lot of demand for gas stoves, so they don’t display them.

    I haven’t bought a stove in 15 years and I’m just so annoyed by the grates and the power burners that I’m starting to hate it.

    1. it happens*

      No advice for cleaning, but a warning- do not put washed-but-wet dishes/pots on the burners to air dry, the grates will rust. Who knew?
      Ok, an untested grate cleaning suggestion- put them in a preheated 200 degree oven with a small bowl of ammonia and a larger bowl of boiling water. Turn off the oven,close the door and let the liquids duke it out with the dirt. (This is how I’ve clean my oven and other things with stuck on gunk.)
      Also agree with the design fail.

    2. Ali G*

      I have similar sounding grates and I use the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. It does leave lint behind, but I clean them in the sink, so I just rinse it off. When I have to do a big clean of stuff stuck on, I use oven cleaner.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        From what you said and from what I’ve read online, it sounds like I’m going to need to actually take them off and rinse them if I want it to be lint-free.

    3. Madge*

      I’d think a chain mail scrubbie designed for cast iron pans would probably work. They’re about $12 on Amazon. You could also try to find coated grates that fit your stove. Although, the burner arrangement might be enough for me that I’d just sell it and try again.

    4. Puppies*

      I have the same problem! My last stove was some cheap brand that isn’t even made anymore, and then I upgraded and am perplexed that my cheap no name stove had much better grates. Smooth and easy to clean. This one is rough, not sure if I ever truly get all the oil off, and have pretty much given up on getting it back to the original condition.
      I have tried orange cleaner, bar keeper’s friend, dish detergent and a lot of scrubbing with the tooth brush. Who wants to spend literally hours cleaning this grates in a day? ughh

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Isn’t is so disappointing to think you’re upgrading and the new one seems cheaper than your old, cheap stove?! I’ve been looking online to see what else is out there now, and almost all the grates are rough. The only smooth grates I’m seeing are the bare bones models. If my grates were gray I wouldn’t mind so much, but they’re black so they show all the lint/debris from whatever scrubbing pad I use.

        1. Puppies*

          Yes, very disappointing. I’d like to ask the genius who came up with that idea and solution, if they every cook and clean their own kitchen. I’ve even found dog hair on mine, because everything seems to get caught in that darn texture. Good luck on your search.

    5. sam*

      I have a regular stove so can’t really comment on how effective this will be on yours, but check out coconut scrubbers. We ditched our standard scourers and switched to coconut fibre and it works brilliantly on our pots and pans and stove burners. Google ‘ecoconut’ and you’ll see the things I mean. I was skeptical but they’re great, and very gentle (and no lint or fibres left behind).

    1. fposte*

      I live in a neighborhood full of fastigiate junipers and arborvitaes, so it looks normal to me!

    2. Reba*

      Eh, it’s the kind my grandparents always had, so to me it looks right! I like how it’s framed by the windows but doesn’t block them. Plus, I imagine it’s quite tall.

      My Nan did a monochrome decorating scheme on her skinny tree–all her ornaments were glass/crystal and the garlands were silver. When I was a kid I thought it was the height of elegance!

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ha, we normally have a huge one, but with a kitten in the house this year, we knew it would be a disaster so we went with a pencil tree in the hopes they’d be less interested in climbing it — and it’s worked! They have left it completely alone.

      (When Eve was a kitten a few years ago, we bought something called a “tree defender,” which you attach to your tree a few feet up and it promised your cats would not be able to get past it. The next morning, I came downstairs and found her sleeping on top of the tree defender like it was a shelf put there for her comfort.)

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Mine is sort of like that, but it’s a little wider at the bottom. It was on sale at Lowe’s one year and I grabbed it because my old flared one had broken and I live in a tiny house.

      If I had a bigger space, I’d have a bigger tree, or more than one (if I had a front room and a family room, for example).

  56. Faith*

    Hi! One of my goals for the new year is to get a family picture done by a professional. Any and all advice is welcomed!

    1. Reba*

      We just got some with my in-laws that turned out really well! What my MIL did (I think with the photographer’s advice) was ask us to all dress according to a color scheme, but not all the same color. That way we look good together but not aggressively matchy. She found a color palette graphic (on Pinterest?) and sent it to us. It looks much better than a family portrait from years ago with another side of the family where we all wore different shades of green… which just is a bit weird. The photographer was great, and has a studio with different backdrops/sets: greenery wall, antique sofa, rustic wood, etc. so I’d recommend a place with different options so you will find something that works well for your group. I hope you get something you love!

      1. BRR*

        Ooh I like the color palette idea. I find it so hard to strike that fine line between matching and not all wearing the same thing (that my personal preference at least).

        1. CS Rep by Day, Writer by Night*

          This was one of our photographer’s suggestions – to pick 2 or 3 colors and build our wardrobes around that. We picked black, burgundy and tan, so we look coordinated but not matchy.

    2. CS Rep by Day, Writer by Night*

      My husband, daughter and I had our first family portraits done this fall as a gift for my mother. We’ve been married for 24 years and our daughter is 21, so needless to say it was a long time coming.

      My recommendation is to do a lot of research and find a photographer who really tries to capture the essence of your family. In our case, we didn’t want anything too outdoorsy or country-like because that is NOT who we are. We wound up with an indoor shoot where we wore jeans and t-shirts of the band my husband is in, and then an outdoor shoot at this really cool place that with an urban mural. They really show the fun and intimacy of our weird little family, and even though I dreaded it at first I’m so thrilled with the results. I cried when I saw the pictures, even though I’m not sentimental at all by nature.

      My only caveat is that if you take this approach (as opposed to going to a chain retail portrait studio), it is going to be EXPENSIVE. Our sitting fee alone was over $200 before we bought a single photo. We got a mid-range package that gave us a lot of items and digital rights to four photos, and with the sitting fee it was around $1500. But really, our photographer’s experience, professionalism and artistic eye had such a special result, I’m not complaining at all.

    3. ElspethGC*

      Something I noticed today which might be useful – you know those experience gifts? Like a gift voucher for two nights in a cottage or skydiving or afternoon tea, where the recipient can choose where and when they do it? There are a few companies that do them, just google ‘experience gift’. Well, I’ve seen a bunch that are massively reduced in the January sales, and some of them are for professional photography sessions. Might be worth seeing if you can buy it at a discount now and use it later in the year.

  57. Crystal Smith*

    I came back from an 8-day trip to discover the door to my freezer had been slightly ajar the entire time, I guess. Everything in the fridge was super cold, and somehow the contents of the freezer were still frozen (but covered in a thick layer of frost.) Ironically, that was something I’d been irrationally worried about before I left, and had checked at least 4 times before I left for the airport. No idea how it popped open, but I hate that my brain now has another example of something I was irrationally worried about that turned out to be real!

    1. anon24*

      I’m a renter. For some reason landlords around here don’t like freezers with shelves, so everything has to be stacked and then leans against the door. My door has opened several times. When I go on vacation I duct tape it shut for peace of mind. Works great.

    2. Chaordic One*

      I’ve heard of people who put bungee cords around their freezers for the same reason (to keep the door closed).

    3. Half-Caf Latte*

      far too late for now, but in our vacation house growing up, my dad would do a small container filled with water, and let it freeze. Before leaving, you would put a penny on top of the ice in the container.

      When you came back, if the penny was still on top of the ice, you knew the freezer remained sufficiently cold the whole time. if it was embedded in the ice or at the bottom of the container, the freezer had lost power long enough to warm and the food was therefore unsafe.

  58. Nervous Accountant*

    Woke up almost crying. Had the most clear dream ever about my dad last night/this morning, in which I texted him “COME BACK I MISS YOU” and hugged him. I could feel it so clearly. Next week it’ll be exactly 1 year. My husband pointed out that now that it’ll be 1 year, that gap will be there now. Instead of “This day last year we were/dad was/etc” it’ll be that…he’s gone. The sad thing is that I never really showed much emotion except annoyance. and now I think about him every day and the regret is there. and I don’t want to make the same mistakes with my mother, but I did exactly that with her this year. Great start to the new year.

    1. Reba*

      Sorry you are hurting, NA. But I want to say thanks to you for sharing here about your loss and grief and stuff. As someone watching a friend go through a similar loss, and anticipating some losses myself, it has helped me to read about your experience. And while not exactly cheerful, reading about your dream I thought how wonderful it is that you were close with your dad and in some way, you still are, even though he is gone. Best wishes for 2019.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        Thank you. The best thing I could say would be to be there for your friends. Check in, listen, actively reach out.. not just wait for them to approach you.

        I can’t say I was super close to him.. but we loved each other very much. He wanted me to be closer and spend more time with them but I kept myself closed off and didn’t want to spend time w them. I regret that now n

        1. valentine*

          It’s okay for you to treat your mother differently than you would/did your dad, especially since your mother didn’t mistreats you. You’re being really hard on yourself and using her/their perspective, not one that centers or is kind to you, when you call yourself closed off. That’s a natural reaction to attack and abuse. Anyone who cares about you won’t ask you to enter the lion’s den.

          1. Nervous Accountant*

            My dad didn’t mistreat me. I had resentments, yes, but I tried to work my way through them. At the end of the day, I just miss him.

    2. Zona the Great*

      That sounds like a visitation dream and I would bet that it really did happen on the spiritual plane. I had many when my beloved Zona died. So vivid and so emotional. I consider myself lucky when I’ve had them. I recommend journaling the experience.

  59. Aggretsuko*

    I need advice on an issue: the toilet in my apartment has been terrible for years and I’ve been calling periodically with complaints about it that are getting ignored. (The on-site manager is literally doing NOTHING any more, won’t even answer or turn on the phone.) I only get any results if I happen to be out of work and am physically there during the day if they need to do maintenance.

    But it’s at the point of constantly running about all the time. It flushes itself, it only stops running for maybe 15-20 seconds at a time before it starts up again. I got the handle replaced but they didn’t have a handle that fit that toilet so that has issues, the chain is not the right length but they can’t find one that is so it’s jerry-rigged, and the flapper has been replaced. Before the break I had convinced the service manager in person to get me a new toilet because of the constant running (which it was doing while we were both there), but I came home on the 21st when I was supposed to get the new toilet and …nope, same old toilet doing the same old running all the time. It was dirtier so it looked like someone tried something, but… I knew I should have called out of work to babysit the situation, but I had a meeting that morning and could not bail from it.

    And when I called the service manager he kept claiming he couldn’t hear me and it has been fixed and the flapper has been repaired, what am I talking about? What noise? There isn’t any noise! I was not expecting straight up GASLIGHTING but that just happened. It is still doing the same thing. This was a Friday night before I was going to leave on vacation so I just gave up arguing because what good was it going to do anyway.

    I have recordings on my phone of this toilet noise. It is a lot quieter when it hasn’t been used frequently (it phantom flushes itself every few minutes rather than seconds, this was what it was doing when I came home after a week, but after I had to use it, it went back to its usual), so maybe they thought it was fine at the time, but there’s no difference. I get the feeling that only a new one will fix it and they have no idea what to do otherwise. But…

    I get it: they don’t want to get a new toilet. The overall manager is cheap. I don’t exactly want to make them either, but they pay the water bill and I’ve had two floods in this complex before (different apartment had 2 freak accidents) and wouldn’t the head management be concerned about any of that?

    I don’t know what to do any more. At this point they already think I am the crazy naggy bitch (I was having a very hard time holding it together on the last call and I don’t think I sounded sane), I have most of a year left to go on the lease and I’m not decided as to whether or not to renew the lease. For all the issues I’m having here, the location to my work is extremely good, though management has gone downhill in the last 2 years, and apartment management isn’t great in this area whereever you go so I don’t have hopes of finding better if I move. I don’t want this to get antagonistic or for me to have to go above their heads legally and get myself thrown out. I don’t want to have to get crazy or unreasonable or anything. At this point it seems like just “put up with it” is my best option if I’m not willing to go nuclear and they aren’t being reasonable on their end.

    Any advice?

    1. Zona the Great*

      Yes. Are you in the US? Either way, look up your area’s housing legal forms and begin issuing all communication using a repair notice and send through certified mail (or whatever equivalent you may have that requires a signature for receipt). Send one everyday you’re ignored if you must. Also find out if after a certain number of attempts ignored means you can just hire out the service and deduct your rent. Many states in the US also allow rent abatement just for repairs being ignored. Look up your state and housing laws and look for actual government websites, not private websites if you can help it.

      1. WellRed*

        But would this really rise to that level? It’s frustrating but it works. It’s not the same as no heat/water/working stove. It would be so much cheaper to replace the toilet than pay that water bill but people are shortsighted.

        1. fposte*

          Whether it will or not will depend on the local laws. (In Arkansas, for instance, there’s no warranty of habitability–the landlord is not required to rent a place that’s actually habitable. Nice.)

    2. I’m tired*

      In my experience, the only way to fix a leaky toilet is to replace it! I think some toilets are just”lemons” and no matter what you do to fix it, the toilet will never function properly.

    3. LCL*

      Your local water company may have a brochure on water consumption and the average water/money lost from a leaking toilet. Get a copy of that and send it to them. Heck, the water company may even have a program to help replace old fixtures with more modern ones, for conservation. In the meantime, if you are going out of town, call the maintenance office and ask if, because the toilet is constantly running, they should shut off the water to it while you are gone. Don’t touch the valve yourself; they are notorious for sticking and failing.

      If you were the homeowner there is a lot of information out there on how to refurb or replace a toilet, but that shouldn’t be your job.

    4. fposte*

      Agree with the notion of sending legally approved repair requests and finding out if repair and deduct is within the law of your state or municipality.

      Another test you can do is the food coloring in the toilet tank. Put it in when you leave for the day, so the toilet will be unused for hours. There shouldn’t be any color in the bowl later. If there is, there’s a leak. So that’s an additional thing to document. If this is a standard tank that you can take the lid off of, I’d do that and video what’s happening in the tank, too, rather than focusing on the sound.

      My random guess is that it’s an old toilet with a non-standard flapper and they put a generic flapper on that doesn’t seal properly, but it could be all manner of things.

    5. AnonJ*

      I don’t like this solution, but search youtube for fixing constantly running toilets and try to tackle it yourself. You probably can. You shouldn’t have to. But there’s a screw on the top of the tube that you can adjust that will often help with this issue.

      But really, this just burns me. Not only is it the haunted toilet disturbing you, it’s an enormous waste of water. The right to quiet enjoyment and/or implied warranty of habitability are likely recognized by your state or municipality landlord-tenant laws, regardless of whether or not those clauses are in your lease. Google those terms along with your state to find out how they apply. (There is probably a legal aid organization in your state that explains these terms and your rights specifically, you can even just google ‘your state tenants rights’) Once you have a good grasp on those laws, send a certified letter to your landlord that explains that under the applicable law you have repeatedly requested the necessary repairs to your toilet that meet the terms of their commitment to you as a tenant under the associated law. As such, if the issue is not resolved within 30 days, you will find your own plumber to fix the problem however it needs fixing and then do it and deduct the cost from your rent (again, you need to research the laws that allow this but it will likely be similar in your state, so just substitute the correct info you find). And thank them very much for their attention to finally solving this problem. And then, move forward with what the law allows you to do and if they try to throw you out, you have the documentation. Just keep paying your rent on time and only do the repair deduction after you’ve researched your state/city laws and provided proper notice.

    6. Wishing You Well*

      You can hire a repair person and pay for it yourself. Deducting it off the rent is a separate matter.
      Sounds like the guts of the toilet need adjusting or replacing. Do you know someone who can look at it for free or for trade? I just replaced the flapper on one toilet and adjusted another one for running too long – and I’ve never done that before. Check out Youtube videos on toilet repair. Replacing a toilet is the most expensive option, but sometimes that’s what is needed.
      I hope you find a solution!

    7. BRR*

      I wouldn’t worry about nagging. I’d make myself a nuisance at this point. I might even tell them, “you know I’ll go away once this is finally fixed.” Look in your lease about this as well.

    8. Ranon*

      If it’s the seal between the flapper and the rest of the insides causing the issue, you could likely fix it yourself with about ten dollars in parts and an hour of time including all necessary research for finding the right flapper and learning how to do the whole thing, toilets are incredibly simple contraptions for the most part. If the seal between the tank and the bowl is the issue that’s a bigger pain but not terrible. Ideally you get your landlord to fix it, of course.

      In the meantime if the noise is really getting to you you can always turn the water to the toilet off- there’s usually an oval shutoff knob near the wall below the tank where the water comes into the tank. You’d need to turn the water back on to refill after a flush (or fill for a flush if the leak is as bad as it sounds) but at least you won’t be listening to the water all the time.

  60. Overeducated*

    Posted a couple weeks ago asking about low cost ways to make my apartment look more adult. (My mom gave me towels that matched my shower curtain for Christmas, i don’t even THINK of things like that.) One of the things I decided I needed was a coffee table, so I have had my eye out on Nextdoor, Craigslist, and my complex’s back curb area for either a cheap table I liked, or a chest that would do double duty as storage and table. After turning up nothing for about a month, I bought a used cedar chest while visiting my family, who live in a small town where everything is much cheaper. I returned home today to find that a neighbor moving out left behind just the size of coffee table that would fit my living room. Aaargh, what timing! I’m considering bringing it in too and finding a new place for the chest, since I can still use the storage and it looks way better than my large Tupperwares, but i guess that’s a lesson on impatience.

    Shutdown projects, if my furlough continues long enough that kid goes back before I do, will include changing up pictures on the walls; taking out the Christmas tree and rearranging furniture; and decluttering and reorganizing shelves and closets. Living room curtains, the last step toward my best impression of adult domesticity, will be advanced class and must wait until paychecks are guaranteed.

    Anybody else have “new house for the New Year” type projects?

    1. LNLN*

      I am redecorating our living room this year. We have craftsman-style furniture in a mid-century modern house. I’m replacing the furniture with modern pieces and adding color to the room.

      1. Overeducated*

        I aspire to be a person whose furniture even has a unified style someday! Mine is Ikea mixed with “left behind by previous residents.” I love modern couches though. Enjoy!

    2. FaintlyMacabre*

      I would definitely bring in the coffee table and re-purpose the chest! As long as you have room, chests can be side tables, at the end of your bed, in the closet for linen storage… and on and on!

      I’m slowly doing some reorganization of my house and last night moved a bookshelf and a plant. It’s amazing what even small changes can do!

      1. WellRed*

        I have several chests tucked into various areas serving various purposes. Bring on the coffee table!

        1. Overeducated*

          I did check it out! But it had some very noticeable moving damage on the side not visible from the curb, so chest as coffee table it is for now.

    3. TechWorker*

      We’re doing a bunch of building work so the joke was that we want to have carpet by next Christmas (we’ve had floorboards, and not pretty ones for 6 months already). Even that might be ambitious tbh :p

    4. Trixie*

      Yes! I am clearing out unused space for home workout area. Also, using New Year as excuse to finally decorate my office and selecting simple, inexpensive pieces for walls. Will be much more inviting work space to spend time in.

    5. Indie*

      I think chests look awesome at the foot of the bed with scatter cushions on top. It’s somewhere to sit and put shoes on or dress, it is a convenient place to store spare blankets for those nights you wake up needing something warmer/cooler and most importantly it keeps pretty scatter cushions off the bed, where they only get in the way…

    6. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I bought a bunch of frames with the plan of making little art projects and didn’t manage to do any of them. So I plan to actually do that. I also need to start doing the actual ground work for getting a new bathtub and maybe new flooring in the kitchen. If I manage to stay employed all year then I can actually afford these things!

  61. Violet*

    I was just wondering if any of you have advice for someone re-entering the workforce after being unemployed. I couldn’t find work for the past two years and one of my Christmas presents this year is that I got hired for a job right before the holiday break. I’m excited but super nervous and want to be able to complete the contract (it’s a year long). Does anyone have any advice on how to adjust (outside of the tips Alison has provided re: starting a new job)?

    1. Indie*

      My fiance was out of work for about that long around the time I met him. Five years on and it is ancient history. He has always been the highest performer in every room since, I think because when youve been that bored/busy job hunting it is easy to bring extra energy to doing real work. I think he mentioned feeling a bit rusty initially but I don’t think anyone noticed it as anything more significant than being a bit ‘new’. The most important thing is to give yourself a big congratulations! You might get a kick out of reading Erica Buist’s “How to be jobless” columns especially the bit where, like you, she emerges victorious.

  62. CS Rep by Day, Writer by Night*

    As I mentioned in last Friday’s open thread, I have an interview this week for a job at a major health provider in my area. It’s a Data Analyst position, which is exactly where I’m trying to go with my career; my current job is 50/50 Data Analytics and Customer Service, and its become clear after the last 3 years that the data is my true passion and what I’m best at.

    At the same time, my old boss (OB)just left and my new boss (NB)is a former peer from my group. As much as I loved my old boss, she did have a couple of blind spots about things that cause me to start casually job searching again. I had my first 1-on-1 with (NB) and she started right off with some changes she wanted to make to address OB’s blind spots. Since she was just another co-worker on our team for 3 years, she saw firsthand some of the dysfunction and frustrating lack of opportunities, and really wants to try and make our team stronger and better.

    Now of course there’s no guarantee I’ll be offered the position I’m interviewing for, but my skills are definitely a strong match and they have a rigorous reference process that I’ve completed successfully. But if I am offered the position at the salary I’ve requested, it would be hard to turn down. The thought of leaving at this point is setting off my guilt-o-meter though, because NB is really counting on us CS Reps to keep our accounts running smoothly while she learns the intricacies of them, and because it feels like I won’t be giving NB a chance to fix the things that made me unhappy. My husband says I’m in a great win-win situation where I’ll either get the new job with better pay and duties, or go back to my old job but with a real opportunity for things to improve, but I’m finding it hard to be cheerful about it.

    1. leukothea*

      NB is in a business relationship with you, not a friend relationship. In business, people leave jobs and move to new ones; that is normal! Sticking around too long, against your open interests, because NB _might_ need your expertise, is not a normal business thing to do.

      You can absolve yourself of any guilt. Business relationships are not like friends or family. You don’t need to give people a chance, or stick around and work on the relationship. If you find something better, it’s normal to just leave. NB will figure things out with or without you.

    2. MsM*

      It’s okay. NB will understand that you started this search before you knew there was a chance things might get better, and that you can’t turn down an opportunity to advance your own career just so she gets a little extra support while she’s settling in (which doesn’t sound like it’s going to take all that long anyway). There’s almost always some reason it’s not a good time to leave when you get a new offer, and you just have to trust everyone to carry on without you.

  63. Yvette*

    I meant to do this yesterday, thank you for all the updates, I always used to read advice columns and wonder what happened after. It is fun and interesting to find out.

    Thank you!!

  64. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’m recovering from staying out too late and then having a cat who demands attention at 6am, no excuses. I have a new hire starting tomorrow and I’m just trying to push through so I can go back to adult-mode by that time. Happy New Year, I hope that everyone who struggled in 2018 finds their happiness this year.

    1. Tris Prior*

      Right?? I even fed our 2 little monsters right before we went to bed at around 3:30 a.m., in hopes that would buy me some sleep. To be fair, Little Girl waited until 6, instead of her usual 5, to jump right onto my bladder….

  65. Liane*

    I vaguely recall an open thread (I don’t recall the exact topic) where someone wrote their mother never washed on New Year’s Day because it was bad luck or something. Last night Daughter got home from work and told me–I do all the laundry around here*–that she’d just heard from a friend you shouldn’t do laundry on New Year’s Day because it would mean extra laundry all year long. So I am abstaining today. Good thing Son is off tomorrow because he cannot remember to ask how to get a second uniform shirt. (He’a actually on top of just about everything else so I am content to let this be his problem.)

    *I don’t mind it. There’s very few household chores that allow a cycle of 5-10 minutes hands-on/30+ minutes Fun Stuff/repeat as needed

    1. WellRed*

      Haven’t heard about laundry specifically but my roommate believes how you spend the holiday is how you will spend the year.

  66. Liane*

    I vaguely recall an open thread (I don’t recall the exact topic) where someone wrote their mother never washed on New Year’s Day because it was bad luck or something. Last night Daughter got home from work and told me–I do all the laundry around here*–that she’d just heard from a friend you shouldn’t do laundry on New Year’s Day because it would mean extra laundry all year long. So I am abstaining today. Good thing Son is off tomorrow because he cannot remember to ask how to get a second uniform shirt. (He’s actually on top of just about everything else.)

    *I don’t mind it. There’s very few household chores that allow a cycle of 5-10 minutes hands-on/30+ minutes Fun Stuff/repeat as needed

    1. Even Steven*

      Grand advice! Thank you for the reminder of that discussion, Liane! I feel the same about laundry on New Year’s Day. And vacuuming. And bedmaking. And dishes. Who am I to tempt fate? If the luck gods want me to sit right still and watch this Twilight Zone marathon, who am I to argue?

      Happy New Year, and enjoy your day away from the washer!

    2. Wishing You Well*

      I like doing something on New Year’s Day that I want to do more of in the new year. It’s like a lucky charm.
      Give it a try!

    3. Liane*

      How did this post twice?! Oh, yeah, computers were involved…

      Another NYD tradition:

      I cooked black eyed peas with ham (left from Christmas), the Southern US New Year’s Day menu for good luck in the coming year. My dad taught me that tradition–he said it was supposed to be black eyed peas & hog jowls, but he always used ham hocks. (And I use whatever leftover ham or pork we have.) Dad claimed the origin of that tradition was, “By January, peas & hog jowls were about all folks had left to eat!” Considering Dad was a World War II vet who grew up in the rural South during the Great Depression, this could well be true.

  67. Lady Jay*

    All of a sudden I am so tired of being single. I’m in my 30s, been (mostly) single my whole life, and been largely happy. I am pretty introverted anyway, and love the independence! But within the last 12 months, one close family member has gotten married, and two more have started dating, which leaves me one of the very few single people in my family. My parents are getting older, I’m not close to my (married) younger sibling, I live pretty far from family, and I don’t have the time or money for online dating.

    So I’m feeling very maiden aunt, arranging presents for my prettier relations.

    /End pity party. I’ve just been feeling a bit down, especially as the holidays come to a close, and wanted to get this out there. Thanks for listening.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I didn’t date until I got wasted on my 30th birthday and made an online profile. Then I was super picky and responded sparsely because of my comfort levels required. It worked out perfectly for me, within a year I had found my soulmate, still going strong almost 5 years later. You’re never too old in this day and age of dating, just keep that in mind. Even if you hit 40 and you’re single, who knows what will happen.

    2. annakarina1*

      That makes sense. I felt a little inferior around my recently married sister around the holidays last week, even though I don’t want to marry or have the suburban life she has, I just wanted the partnership. I dated a lot this past year, and didn’t get into a relationship like I wanted to, but I still feel successful for dating more often. It’s been years since my last relationship, so I feel you on how much it can suck to be single around the holidays.

      1. jolene*

        Stop buying presents. Spend the money on dating. It doesn’t cost much at all. And if you don’t have the time for dating, you don’t have it for a relationship either.

  68. TechWorker*

    I’ve had 2 and a half weeks off work over Christmas (I had some holiday left), and I’m dreading going back tomorrow. I used to love my job but for the last few months I’ve had more responsibility and a really new team who I can’t delegate much to and feel like I don’t have time to train properly. The project standard isn’t where it should be and I’m not looking forwards to going back into the endless nearly missing deadlines and fire fighting of problems caused by poor decisions made before I was around (plus taking nearly all the experienced people off the team and replacing them with people who are ok but barely a net positive in terms of how much help they need and how quickly they can do the work). Additionally there’s been some contract changes due to a takeover and my new title doesn’t actually reflect any of this work I’m doing.

    I’m *really* hoping things will improve (I get more used to the project management, the newbies get less new, etc) but I’m expecting there to be a good few more rubbish months first. Haven’t ruled out quitting but would have a much worse commute if I worked basically anywhere else. Any advice on how to stay positive welcome. (I have told my manager I’m struggling but haven’t really got any useful advice yet tbh).

    1. WellRed*

      I trust your point of view of your issues. However, when I hear “can’t delegate, no time to train,” well…

      1. TechWorker*

        Oh no, I’m well aware that I have to *make* time to train and this is my priority, but there are also some bits of work that aren’t reasonable to give to someone with <1 year experience and that’s 2/3 of the team… I could just do with having another body in the middle who I could give tasks to without having to also give very very specific instructions on exactly how to do it. (There is one person in this category and I can and do give him work, but there’s just more work than people and it’s depressing).

          1. MsM*

            Are there external training resources you could take advantage of (especially if you’ve got the budget to provide financial support)?

            1. TechWorker*

              Most of the stuff they need to learn is specific enough such that there *aren’t* really any external resources, but probably not all of it so I’ll have a think thanks! They took ~4 experienced people off the team who still know the project so possibly I can ask for some of their time for training (which we’ve done a bit when the more experienced people are out) & I’ll look out for more opportunities to do so. (I also found some time over Christmas to try to write down more some process-y stuff that usually you’d learn by having some watch over your shoulder & point things out, but that’s less practical when we’re trying to train 4 people at once). Cheers!

  69. The Other Dawn*

    How long do you typically leave up your Christmas tree?

    Normally my family has Christmas in January, and usually it’s the first weekend so I leave my tree up. This year, however, we have to have it on the 19th. I want to leave the tree up so we can still feel like it’s Christmas; however, it’s a real tree and although it’s still drinking water, I don’t know that it will last that long. If it does, I’m sure it will be well on it’s way to being petrified. Also, I’m not sure I can stand to look at Christmas decorations for another 19 days!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m a strong believer in getting it out off house by January 1st personally. I took down all the decorations on December 26th.

    2. hope is hopeful*

      Mine is coming down and everything being packed away tomorrow.
      Could you source a cheap, small fake tree for the late Christmas? Or take down the decorations in the meantime and put them back up before your family come round?

      1. valentine*

        Take down the tree and put up blue/white lights and snowflakes and stuff. Maybe a fake white tree, if ones to be had.

    3. LGC*

      My family gets their tree late, so it usually lasts well into January. You SHOULD be fine for at least the 4th I think.

    4. ThatGirl*

      Normally I give it a few days in January. I feel like the 6th is kind of a deadline. We did take ours down today though, because we won’t be in town this weekend.

      1. Laura H.*

        The 6th is the end of the liturgical season of Christmas for Roman Catholics. So that’s a good bet.

        1. ThatGirl*

          It’s Epihany/three kings day and the 12th day of Christmas. I was raised Mennonite but they still like the liturgical calendar :)

    5. WellRed*

      One thing to consider: how do you get rid of Xmas trees in your area? The city picks them up here but within a window.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yup, they do it within the first two weeks of January. If we miss that window, then we have to take them down to recycle center ourselves. That’s no big deal, though, since we can throw them in the pickup truck.

    6. The Other Dawn*

      I’m thinking I will take the trees down this coming weekend, but leave up the decorations. I can tolerate that since there aren’t as many this year. I normally don’t mind having the trees up, but this year I’m just tired of them. I think it’s a combo of being sick this week and having a different setup in the family room where the main tree is. We put down a laminate floor recently and it’s dark, which means everything shows. It seems like no matter how many times we sweep or vacuum, it always looks dusty. And then add in the multiple paw prints from the cats drinking from the tree stand, dipping their paws in the water and then tracking it around. Plus we got rid of the sectional and put in a regular couch and my special recliner, so it feels really crowded now with the tree there (which is weird because the sectional took up more space).

    7. FaintlyMacabre*

      I know I’m a complete outlier, but I love having my tree up- even when it’s dehydrated! I leave mine up well into February, because having the lights and decorations around is so cheerful. It makes a long winter evening less bleak. But I also cut mine up for firewood and don’t have to worry about it being picked up by garbage collectors.

    8. ElspethGC*

      We stick with the Twelfth Night tradition. All decorations come down before Twelfth Night (aka Epiphany, aka 6th January) otherwise it’s bad luck, but equally, you have to leave up at least one decoration until that point, usually a door wreath. No, we’re not really Christian, it’s just a cultural tradition, and usually works out as being around the time the decorations and tree are looking a bit tired and shabby anyway.

      We normally put up the decorations a week or so before Christmas, or often the middle weekend; my dad’s mum, why *was* Christian stuck much more strictly to the Twelfth Night tradition and kept decorations up only throughout the period, putting them all up on Christmas Eve (the first night) and taking them down twelve days later.

    9. The Person from the Resume*

      My small fake tree is about to become a Marci Gras tree and will remain up until the first week of March.

    10. Lcsa99*

      It’s always been my family’s tradition to leave everything up until the first, then it’s all put away that day. It’s ridiculous how long it seems to get everything looking right before Christmas, but it all goes away so fast.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      Normally it goes up Thanksgiving weekend and I take it down on New Year’s Day, but since it’s Tuesday and I usually clean on Sundays (and my tree is very sparkly this year), I think I’ll leave it up until the weekend. Then I can vacuum up the ensuing glitter when I do the regular housework. My tree is artificial, btw.

      When I was growing up, we left everything up until Epiphany (Jan. 6). I did not put up our old nativity scene, though I have it. Next year, I think I’ll do it but add something hilarious to it.

      1. WellRed*

        I had a roommate who had a nativity scene made of, if not legos, similar, like playskool or some such. It was awesome.

    12. FD*

      Usually my parents take it down about the time Lent starts…

      In all seriousness, they tend to put it up late–often not that much before Christmas, and leave it up for a while to bring some cheer to the otherwise miserable Minnesota January and February months.

      I haven’t decided when I want to take my lights down in my apartment, but definitely not yet.

    13. SS Express*

      I leave my decorations up as long as my husband will tolerate them! Well into January for sure.

      Full disclosure my tree is plastic

    14. Lizabeth*

      The ornaments come off tonight but it’s a small tree with lots of white lights that I keep up year round because I like turning it on at night during the winter.

  70. Wondering One*

    Years ago someone here recommended “the life-changing magic of tidying up”. I read the book as well as listened to the recorded version. Thank you to those of you and Alison for that recommendation.

    Today I found out Marie Kondo has Netflix series! That’s how I’m spending my New Year’s Day . Watching and starting again. (Actually yesterday started on clothes)

    Before I could complete the process several years ago, (it was takes awhile) I found myself in a messy divorce, forced into full-time work faster than my doctors recommended, (disabled and off work for a few years). I was already exhausted when I found I’d needed to move. That process sucked the life out of me for it’s brutal when you don’t have a partner to work with.

    I’ve been in my current apartment with my college age child for three years. I still have boxes that were never unpacked. Many have been moved to storage. It’s very difficult to work full-time while dealing with various medical and disability issues. Work is going great though and I absolutely love my job and co-workers. So this year, on a personal level, my hope is to make it through the full “Kondo Method” AND shift my lifestyle towards minimalism.

    Just thought I’d post about the Netflix series and I’ll check in on New Year’s Day 2020 to let you know how I did!

    1. Not A Manager*

      I also had to sort through a huge amount of stuff, some of it at my home and some of it in storage. It was a tough job, and I didn’t have some of the challenges that you list.

      I wish you the very best of luck. I have some thoughts and advice from my own experience, if you’d like it. :) Lmk on here if you would.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I finished shredding ALL THE THINGS a couple of months ago. What a great feeling that was. I probably shredded something I need, but I got on a roll, haha.

      1. Wondering One*

        Yes, anything you would like to share is welcome!

        I am thinking of getting did of things that meant a lot to me like my Letterman jacket. It has the letters I earned in girls volleyball , basketball, track and field as well as my concert band letter and metals. My children are not interested in them and they also claim to never planning on having children themselves so there doesn’t seem to be a legitimate reason to hold on to that part of my past.

        Anything you got rid of that you regret?

        1. Not A Manager*

          I just posted an embarrassingly long reply about dealing with my storage/boxes situation, and I seem to have started my own thread. Sorry! Hope your project goes well.

    2. Be the Change*

      Thank you so much for posting that Marie Kondo has a Netflix series! Oh goodness, this makes my day! I am laughing with delight! It’s just so completely charming! She is utterly adorable. I hope you enjoy yourself thoroughly and find new energy and pleasure in an orderly home haven.

      1. Wondering One*

        Thank you and welcome! She really is delightful to watch. I feel like I’m picking up some of the Japanese language while watching.

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      My goal this year is to tackle my clothes closet. The stumbling block for me is I gained about 30 lbs over the last couple of years due to some medical issues which I am in the process of losing. So a lot of my clothes don’t fit well but I don’t want to buy a bunch of larger sizes or get rid of stuff that may fit again. Sigh. Plus trying on the old clothes just makes me feel all kinds of bad and body shame-y.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        I can identify. I went through a bunch of clothes and kept a few things that I would still want if I manage to lose weight, but I put them in an old suitcase under the bed. It’s very helpful not to have to look at them all the time.

    4. Nana*

      One of the best things to do with things you hate to part with, but know no one wants: take a picture! You could even take a picture and then frame it with a note about why it is/was special to you.

  71. Harvey P. Carr*

    Technical question about changing the color on an image.

    I have a caricature of myself that I’d like to make into a t-shirt. It’s a simple black-and-white line sketch. The background is white, but I’d like to change it into a different color.

    The finished product I’m envisioning would be the black line art (caricature) on a color background, with the main shirt a different color. Something like the Batman costume from the 1960s TV show – the main costume is gray, with a black bat on an oval yellow background. Except for the fact that the Batman logo is a large solid black freeform design (shape of a bat) and my caricature is simple linework, it’s the same concept.

    How can I change the background on my sketch from white to something else?

    1. Lizabeth*

      Ask around among your friends to see if someone has and knows Photoshop; this will be easy to do in that program.

    2. Llellayena*

      This depends heavily on what computer program you’re using to edit the image (I’m assuming it’s a digital file like a jpeg). In photoshop I would recommend “select by color range” select the BLACK color with the eye dropper, hit “select inverse”, then use the paint tool (large brush size) to paint the background whatever color you’re looking for. My initial instruction on selecting the black and not the white is because if this is a scanned image (or even if it isn’t) sometimes a “white” background is actually several shades and the color range tool doesn’t necessarily pick up all of them. The black is a bit more consistent and usually the worst that will happen is that the lines will end up a pixel thinner because it left off the “grey” edge of the line. Not sure how the instructions would change if you’re not using photoshop though.

    3. Harvey P. Carr*

      The image is a jpeg.

      I don’t have Photoshop and don’t know how to use it. Is there any way to do it in Paint?

      1. Llellayena*

        I’m not familiar with Paint. From the little I know about it, if there is a selection tool you can try selecting the white and painting it. There might also be a paint bucket tool that will fill areas with one click (though that can have a spillover effect sometimes and might obscure some of the linework). Or you can hope you have a very steady hand with the paintbrush. Good luck.

      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        You could also download a free program, such as GIMP. It is more or less an open source equivalent to photoshop and it works very well. It might be a bit of overkill if you don’t do much photo manipulation though.

  72. BRR*

    I can’t remember if I have asked this before but I get really bad anxiety when I work from home, which is multiple days every week. Has anybody experienced this or has any tips to offer?

    I’m on meds and in therapy but this has been going on so long I might have just normalized anxiety into my daily ritual (another question there is how to break that). I go to the gym regularly and have tried medidation but neither seem to help. I’d just go into the office but I share my desk and have a super long commute so that’s not really an option. Thanks!

    1. valentine*

      What’s the source or what are you worried about? What comforts of home can you add to your workspace (swaddling yourself, for example).

      1. BRR*

        That’s the frustrating part, I have no idea what the source is. While I hated my job it’s sort of tolerable now. And my home set up is good with a great chair, big desk, and two monitors.

        1. Indie*

          I despise working from home to the point I have changed fields. After a year, I was a wreck. For me, it was like the work infected my home space and there was no clear place, or cue, to switch off. It was surprising because I never felt that way as a student. If this is it for you, some things that help are: keeping to a firm start and finish time with some kind of audible or visual ‘It’s home time’ cue, like alarms or timed lights. I also used coloured lights to change the look of my environment when it was ‘relax’ time. I also found that talking a walk and walking ‘home’ helped massively, as did keeping my work space and home space strictly segregated.

        2. fposte*

          Have you found anything that moves the needle one way or another? Some things to think about might be starting later or starting earlier, or doing a check-in email with your manager or a co-worker–not that they’ll necessarily make things better, but that thinking about them might get you a reaction that helps to guide you more.

          1. BRR*

            Those are some good suggestions (as always!). I’ll need to play with some variables again to see if anything might help. I know starting earlier helps a bit.

    2. WellRed*

      Are you afraid you’re missing out on something happening in the office? Or that they won’t see you as a good worker? Not trying to minimize the anxiety piece of this, but those are two things that would make some people worry in general.

      1. BRR*

        I think part of it is an out of sight out of mind thing. My position is pretty autonomous and my manager doesn’t thoroughly understand what I do so the feeling of isolation happens when I’m in the office.

        1. WellRed*

          Would more frequent check-in help? I assume more office time is not an option. Of course, the root problem is you don’t like the job and that doesn’t change with location, right? Same job, done from home.

          1. MsM*

            Also, what kind of remote systems do they have? My old job had a lousy chat client that no one really used, while the new one has enough remote employees that they’ve invested in decent videoconferencing software (and expect everyone to use it).

            1. BRR*

              Thank you all for the kind and helpful responses! We use Skype quite heavily even in the office, which is nice for when I’m working from home. I think one factor might be the autonomy, which is amplified when working from home, makes me concerned about a lack of my work’s visibility.

  73. Wrench Turner*

    Just want to wish you all a happy new year. I hope the coming months are full of delicious things and wonderful people to share them with. I’ve been steady turning wrenches at the day job and painting and drawing things at the night job and just trying to survive the crazy times. I read almost every day and look forward to many of your familiar faces, as it were. Be safe out there, y’all.

    1. fposte*

      Hey, I was just thinking about you! Glad to hear your creative juices continue to flow, and I hope you have a good 2019.

  74. Not A Manager*

    Here’s my advice, then. Kondo is big on getting all the stuff together that’s the same category, like “books” or “sweaters,” and that really works great when you can do it. But when you have limited time and energy, and things are in different locations, sometimes that’s not possible.

    I would try to set a realistic goal for a certain number of hours per week that you’re going to work on this, and tackle a few things at a time. I would also start with the big, easy things that will make an immediate impact on your storage and/or home space. You mention some high school memorabilia, but first of all, some of it sounds like it doesn’t take up much space, and secondly, it’s pretty emotionally fraught. Save that for last, and do things like paperwork first. If those boxes of papers are clearly labeled and easily accessible, even better.

    Cull all the stuff that is obvious first. If you’re going through boxes of records that are more than seven years old, chances are you don’t need to save any of that stuff. (An exception would be records of capital improvements that you made to your residence, if that will impact your taxes when you sell.) So find that stuff and get it out of there right away. I hope you can enlist your college age kid to do things like take some boxes to be shredded.

    If you come across things that are more personal or more difficult to decide about, collect them in a few boxes, label them “to be sorted later,” and move on. I feel the same way about your high school memorabilia, etc. Unless that’s taking up a ton of room, or unless your goal is to close down your storage completely, you’ll get much better bang for your buck if you tackle the bulky stuff and/or obvious stuff first.

    I would also put the boxes that are still in your house very high up on the list. You’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment if you unpack them and either get rid of the stuff, or start using it. A big issue for me was “perfectly good things that I might want sometime” but that don’t “bring me joy,” like kitchenware or bed linens. For things that don’t have sentimental value, it’s better to be ruthless. Sure, there will be one or two things that, come Thanksgiving, you’ll think “didn’t I used to have a custom turkey widget?” But those times will be outweighed by the fact that your kitchen is stream-lined and well-organized, and your turkey widget isn’t hiding in some box in your house or in storage, where you probably couldn’t access it anyway.

    When I was dealing with long-lost things in boxes, my question to myself was always, “how have I survived without this for so long?” If the answer is, “I didn’t even miss it,” then no matter how useful it might be, I let it go. And the few things that I was like “oh cool I love this,” I put into my kitchen rotation and I really do love them.

    Kondo’s best message, for me, was that I can cherish my happy memories without holding on to the actual items. I had an awful lot of things that once had been meaningful to me, or to a parent or relative, that were just a burden at this point. I got rid of some but not all of them. Now I really do cherish the few keepsakes that I saved, and the others I remember fondly as ways of remembering the experiences themselves. I remind myself that it’s the experiences and people that I treasure, not the objects.

    Some people like to take photos of some keepsakes before they let them go. That doesn’t work for me, but it might for you.

    1. Be the Change*

      I forget what I was reading, maybe something else by MK? Whoever it was, pointed out that “sparking joy” doesn’t necessarily mean “Yippee, joy!” because gee, a screwdriver? A pot holder? The, uh, toilet brush? They don’t make you bounce, but you *need* them. Sparking joy can mean “This is a useful, well-made item that makes my life better because it admirably serves its humble purpose, so I feel grateful that I have it.”

      I also resonate with her direction to thank items that you are not keeping. For me it helps me to think carefully about what I bring into the house, because I don’t want to “waste” something’s value by not appreciating it after all. …I have a love/hate relationship with thrift stores, I love shopping at them but I hate that we are so disrespectful and wasteful that we have them!

      1. SS Express*

        This is how I see it too. My Kitchenaid sparks joy because it’s beautiful and pink and mixes batter so quickly and my husband gave it to me. My serrated knife sparks joy because it allows me to cut bread for sandwiches.

      2. Earthwalker*

        Thanks, I was wondering about that! I look at my field work jeans with the seams gone all to tatters and think, “It doesn’t spark joy but I can’t go out naked or wear a dress in the field.” Now I know I can keep them and not be ineligible for membership among the tidy.

    2. Wondering One*

      Thank you for your response. I had a reply written out on an another device but the page froze.

      Yes, boxes need to be one of my first priorities.

      Pacing myself is the only way to make it work. I wish I had the energy to tackle big projects like piling all of my clothing on my bed to start.

      1. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

        this might be too late to help. I have an overwhelming amount to deal with, too. But have found that my decision making skills and energy level are the highest first thing in the morning. So I have been trying, literally, to do just one box a morning, first thing.

        My approach is simple. Grab box, sort it, and do one of the following:
        * Keeping a bag for donation (in the corner of the closet – put the item on the donation list taped above it, stuff the bag full, a full bag goes into the car trunk and is dropped off the next time I drive by Goodwill, donation list stapled to the receipt for that run, repeat process for the next round),
        * brown paper shopping bags (one for e-waste, onekitchen gift for “x”, etc… each has a labeled bag in the laundry room).
        * If I actually know I will use the item in the near future or truly want to keep it, put it away!(oohh… 100 new colored file folders? on the office supply shelf).
        * If I believe it has actual value (and I’ve learned to check! I’ve been so wrong at times)… I take a quick set of pictures and post it right then….(craigslist account if over $50, for me, Facebook local yard sale type group if over $20; grouping items to reach that if possible… I don’t bother for less than $20 because everyone negotiates… YMMV. Super rare, hard to sell items, eBAY…. the service manual for my old harley was a surprise, for example… but the shipping on books is cheap. I got burned on trying to sell a hard-to-ship item because I miscalculated on the postage.) And I’ve had to be patient on some things. That super-ugly over-the-sofa signed oil painting with the harvest gold burlap mat? Took a couple months.
        * almost anything will go on Craigslist “Free” – but you might have to deal with flakes that don’t show up, so hopefully you have a porch or somewhere to stash it where they can pick it up, and if not, move right on to the next one. I also keep the name and contact number of the good ones in various categories (broken but cool quartersawn oak antique items? Nice guy who is out of work and repairs and sells to support himself… I just text him the next time I find a project piece… saves time)

        Because I was able to go through all the boxes high level before I shoved them into storage this round, I have them color coded (with dots) as to what “area” they belong in… so office, collectable/family, sewing/craft room, etc. I haven’t touched the collectable. They will be last. So I haven’t had to defer making decisions.

        I am doing a similar thing with my existing, already unpacked kitchen and closets, though. I don’t have time/energy to do the Marie Komodo thing at the moment… but if I pull something out or move it out of the way, and think…”Why do I still have this” kind of thoughts… it goes into the donation bag. Literally, trying to leave every drawer or closet a better place when I close it.

        But doing it early enough in the morning that my brain “can” make a decision, is the key. It is worth setting my alarm for. The joy of having one less box each day is worth it. (you can do MORE… for some reason, Saturdays in my jammies, it doesn’t seem so hard and I can fly through a few extra… but that one box minimum is a big help.).

  75. The Person from the Resume*

    Some friends and I attended an great performance by a sex-positive, feminist rapper for NYE. We did the countdown and toast towards the end of the show. I am now a fan, but still I kind of missed fireworks for New Year’s Eve. It felt like we had a nice night out instead of a NYE celebration.

  76. AvonLady Barksdale*

    The day seems to have closed on a positive note. My partner, who is on the PhD job market (which SUCKS SO HARD), just got another interview request. He feels more optimistic than he did this morning, and this one is for a job that I think sounds super interesting and is in a location I can handle. (It’s a major city that I generally dislike because I went to college there, but I desperately want to go back to a big city so I will TAKE IT. It has all of the cultural touchpoints I need, plus job options for me, so yay.) This is a big boost for both of us, one we badly need. Cross your fingers for us!

    1. BRR*

      Congrats! My spouse was on the academic market for a bit and it was so tough to even find an opening in a city that I liked and had job prospects. I hope this works out, best of luck!

  77. MsChanandlerBong*

    I attended a special event the other night. The event itself was nice, but whoever planned the dinner gave zero thought to food allergies and preferences. When I bought the tickets, it said there would be a special holiday menu, but they didn’t specify what it entailed. I thought it meant they would add some special options, such as a shrimp dish or something, to the normal menu. No, what it meant was that they would serve everyone the exact same meal. There were no options at all! Everyone got the same food. The appetizer plate had two kinds of seafood, soft cheeses, and figs. I ate one fig. My husband is lactose-intolerant and can’t eat soft cheese. The salad came with nuts and feta cheese in it. You couldn’t ask for a salad sans nuts or cheese because they made everything ahead of time, so the nut-allergic and the lactose-intolerant were SOL. The main dish was a duet of beef and salmon. I ate the beef, which tasted okay, but I spent yesterday sick as a dog because the sauce was made with red wine. I don’t know if I am allergic to something in red wine, but it causes me great GI distress. I could have skipped it, but I’d already skipped the appetizer plate and only eaten a few walnuts from my salad, and the tickets were $120 for two people, so I felt like I had to eat something.

    Would I be a jerk if I emailed the event organizer and suggested that they take allergies and preferences into account next time? I know you can’t please everyone all the time, but not even giving people the option to leave out ingredients that make them sick isn’t a great way to get people to come back. I feel bad for any vegetarians or vegans who came. Every course except dessert had some kind of seafood, meat, or cheese in it.

    1. Hope is hopeful*

      I say do it. Being a veggie is very common these days and veganism is gaining traction (I know from what you have said this isn’t you but these 2 are particularly common food options) . There should always be options or modifications to even set menu stuff.

    2. SS Express*

      Definitely contact them! “Special holiday menu” usually does mean everyone gets the same set menu or chooses from a very small selection with no modifications, but if that’s the case they should tell you what the menu is up-front and, at the very least, have some meat-free, dairy-free and alcohol-free options and/or let people request special meals ahead of time.

    3. M.Griza*

      Yes, definitely email them.

      For future reference, you can be proactive and contact the event organizer ahead of time about the menu and provisions for allergies although that doesn’t guarnatee the caterer will get the message. I once attended a dinner that promised a vegetarian option . . . . and then the caterer **forgot** the vegetarian option. Those of us not interested in eating the pork entree made do with cesaer salads and under seasoned pasta.

    4. Llellayena*

      Definitely contact them. Feel free to be blunt and tell them that their lack of options could have sent someone to the hospital with anaphylaxis. Nuts and seafood are big ones for that and cross contamination based on the menu you described would mean that people with those allergies wouldn’t be able to eat anything safely. And an ambulance arriving at their event would be a big turn off for the other patrons.

    5. theguvnah*

      Special holiday menus do usually mean pre-set courses, especially on NYE, so if you have food allergies or sensitivities it is on you to be proactive about it. That said, they should have been able to help at least somewhat once you were there (depending on the size of the event), so an email is probably worth it.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      You could suggest that barest minimum they announce what will be served ahead of time so people who can’t eat certain things will decide not to go. I’d give that as a baseline to do at any rate.

      I went to a restaurant for a special dinner with a group. The lighting was so low that we could not find empty seats across the room. We had to walk through the place looking for seats. Once we got our food, we could not see our food. I ate nuts on something that I thought was a salad. Indeed it tasted like a salad but there was no way I could see the nuts on it until it was too late, I was chewing by then.
      To this day I regret not sending the restaurant an email regarding their poor lighting.

    7. willow*

      Oh yeah, you need to let them know that as professional food providers, they stink. Little old me had a housewarming party and had meaty, veggie, gluten-free food available, and basic drinks. I just asked people to bring their own special drinks if they wanted. And I am not a professional caterer! Come on, it’s 2019, vegetarians and vegans and people with food allergies have been around forever, time the caterer stepped up their game.

      1. jolene*

        We also had a set “holiday” menu with wine pairings for NYE. I asked for the menu in advance and informed them of my allergy. I don’t quite understand why anyone wouldn’t do this if they’re not enthusiastic omnivores with not a single allergy or intolerance.

  78. HNY - You’re Unemployed*

    Surprise – my spouse was laid off today. No need to report to work tomorrow.
    The work that they do is of a nature that could easily be done by contract, so they are making a list of contacts to start calling in the morning, to try to find some work. I’ve also encouraged them to reach out to an accountant and a lawyer to determine whether we’ll be better off with them acting as an independent contractor or creating an LLC.
    I’m already regretting that I signed up for the PPO insurance instead of the high-deductible plan, and that I elected to fund an HRA/HSA. I would have preferred the cash in hand if I had known that this was going to happen.
    Ugh. So the answer to the question recently posed is “tell employees that layoffs are coming, even if it puts a damper on Christmas.” Otherwise, they’ve set up year-long financial commitments that can’t be undone, besides the holiday meals and gift purchases that are now on the credit card.

    1. dawbs*

      I’m sorry.
      You might talk to HR about the insurance though–a spouse’s employment status changing = qualifying event to change your benefits selection in most places. Is in my current and previous places of employment.

      (But I” still sorry, and it still sucks)

  79. Alex*

    I’m reflecting over my 2018, and I have had a pretty good year at work….and I think it is mostly because I have this big stupid crush on a coworker! But I want to impress her, take on extra projects with her, etc., because…well, I have a big crush on her, and it lead me to a promotion and a big raise! Lol. Hooray for work crushes!

    I have had this crush for a year and a half now, though, and I’m kind of ready to be over it…how do you get over a crush on someone you have to see and talk to every day? Probably not my current method of trying to hang out with her more…. : /

    1. MsM*

      Yeah, kinda the exact opposite of that. You need to stick to talking to her about urgent work stuff, and find other ways to keep yourself occupied. Or ask her out already, but I’m guessing there’s a reason you haven’t done that.

  80. Rainy*

    I got married this weekend and it was amazing.

    And I don’t remember who it was in comments here some months ago who was kind of snide about me drinking champagne at my wedding, but I drank champagne all damn day, looked great, didn’t “embarrass myself”, and my wedding was amazing.

    (As it happens, I’m 43 years old and I have some practice at holding my champagne.)

    1. Notthemomma*

      Well congrats!!! I hope you had a wonderfully splendid day, a lifetime of making wonderfully glorious memories, and that years from now, you and your spouse can look back and laugh at the ups and downs you will go through.

      …and at my wedding, I had a wonderfully decadent drink.

      1. Rainy*

        Thank you! It really was everything I wanted it to be, somehow, despite planning it being the most grueling experience of my life haha. My dress was *amazing* and my husband looked so handsome I almost couldn’t believe it. :)

    2. Tabby Baltimore*

      Congratulations and best wishes on your nuptials! I hope you and your spouse have a long and happy life together.

    3. SS Express*


      I started on the champagnes at 10am when I got married. Wedding was great, marriage is even better. No regrets!

      1. Rainy*

        Thank you! Yeah, I pretty much drank it all day and then switched to water for the after party. :)

    4. Jean (just Jean)*

      Mazel tov! Much happiness and health to both of you for many, many years together!
      Nice to read good news.

      1. Rainy*

        Thank you! Yeah, it was pretty much the best last weekend of the year present I’ve ever gotten :)

  81. Nervous Accountant*

    I’ve pretty much spent 2 days in bed. Yesterday I came home from work and lay around for 3 hours til it was time to sleep. Ran a few quick errands this AM and same feeling.. stayed in bed. Nothing I had planned got done. Not sure if this is depression or just decompressing? Idk

    1. Julia*

      Keep an eye on it. It may be depression, but it may also just be your body needing time to rest, or maybe fighting off a cold in this weather. How is your mood, other than your lack of energy?

  82. Mrs. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    Moving this week, finishing job this week. If shutdown ends before next week, I have a new job starting. If not, it’ll be a job delayed by a week. Or longer. I gave 2 weeks notice on the promise the new company could help me out and now they’re backtracking wanting me to start a week later.

    Plus getting over a cold and unable to go to a friend’s NYE party.

    Of course I’m not anxious or pulling my hair at night.

    …of course not…

  83. Joe Btfsplk*

    So I started a new federal job in December and it has a few problems. The hours are less than ideal (swing-shift) and the H.R. department is awful. Because of their incompetence I’m still waiting for a new I.D. and I can’t access the computer system which is a major PITA.

    But the pay is very good. I had planned on putting out a post about coping with working odd swing-shift hours. I find it hard to get much done (like grocery shopping) before work and after work almost everything is closed. It also complicates dating. But there is always the weekend.

    I had originally been told that we’d have to work on Christmas Eve, but then the president issued an executive order giving it off as a paid holiday. Before that happened, though, I was at work on Friday, the 19th and at a few minutes after 10:00 pm (which was midnight on the east coast) we all got an email telling us to go home. (I don’t have computer access, so I didn’t get to see the email, but most of my coworkers did.)

    At first I thought it was kind of nice not having to go back to work right away after Christmas. But now, the uncertainty of the situation is starting to bother me and make me feel anxious. It’s not like I’m going to miss a couple of paychecks, but I am having to watch my money. I had planned to buy some new clothes for work, but now those plans are now on hold.

    1. LCL*

      I can’t address the situation with your boss. But I wanted to tell you the swingshift lifestyle can be glorious. It will take you a few weeks, but eventually you will embrace being able to shop in the late mornings, when things are much less crowded. And going to the gym, and restaurants, and parks and museums and any other amenity you can think of. You can read after work. And still get enough sleep. And somehow the dating thing works out-you are always up for late Fridays, and leisurely mornings, and mid-day whatever. You will have to advocate for yourself in terms of getting services from HR and other departments that keep bankers’ hours. We just had someone’s security permissions approved, and I did my part of the process in early December, and he has been with us for a week already. Have fun with it. Post on a Friday open question about swing and other shift work and you will get some feedback, there are shiftworkers and former shiftworkers that post here.

      1. Jaid_Diah*

        +1 I used to call it the night shift, but yeah, that’s what I used to work. I miss it occasionally, because I could sleep in and do so much stuff before work. I understand the dating thing though, but LCL has it right. It’ll work out.

  84. totally anon*

    Praying to the heavens that I get a new job this year ASAP that is marginally closer to the job function and subject area I want to end up in, and pays more, and has slightly (if not completely) better management.

  85. Kali*

    I spent all of Christmas playing phone games, and one of them is Liar, a cross between a dating game and a detective game. I’m playing the office story right now, and it’s so insane. :D Chapter 1, find out which member of your team is running a gossip page, chapter 2 find out who’s trying to sabotage you, chapter 3, find out who had sex on your desk. It just gets more and more OTT, it’s amazing.

  86. Wrk2005*

    Hallo! I start a new job soon. It’s a newly created role, where I will be placed above the existing manager and one other staff member in order to create new strategies that aren’t in place. What’s the best advice when coming in over someone to make changes without making them feel I’m stepping on their toes or causing any resentment. I feel it will be a delicate balance here. Cheers.

  87. Seeking Second Childhood*

    No one will see this but I have to say… I may have to have a direct conversation.
    I’d been worried that my group would be the noisy new neighbors as we moved our cubicles in late December, because we have a lot of conference calls.
    I’m not so worried about that anymore…in fact the opposite. Someone just walked in calling hellos to the people who sit near them like she was getting home after a long absence and letting everyone know she was home. She didn’t actually say “Honey I’m home!” but the volume was there. I cringed.
    And now I’m half-hearing her conversations from SIX cubicles away.
    Wish me luck.

  88. Princess Scrivener*

    I’m probably too late on this question, but has anyone noticed recently that more and more people wish “Happy New Years” vs. just the singular brand new year? And why am I so annoyed by this?!?! And Happy 2019 to all.

    1. Rainy*

      I think it’s by attraction to the proximate holiday, New Year’s Eve. Mentally people are dropping the genitive nature of the “Year’s” and turning it into “Years” (“New Years Eve”) and then backforming the name of the following holiday to “New Years”.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      I always thought that was just shorthand for ‘Happy New Year’s Day’. So possessive, not plural. Although, to be honest, I’m not sure why the Year possesses a Day.

      1. Princess Scrivener*

        that sounds logical, TG. I’ve seen it a bunch in print (social media), and I think it’s the incorrect punctuation that’s irking me (Happy New Year’s… would be correct, by your accounting).

    3. Julia*

      I noticed that, too, so thank you for asking! What the other two commenters said makes sense to me.

  89. Loux*

    Just came back from visiting my family for the holidays on Sunday. But I’ve had trouble sleeping the past few days, so both Monday and today (yesterday was a holiday) have been pretty much write-offs in terms of work. Granted, it’s only 10:18 AM and I’m here until 3…

    At the start of last month, some new neighbours moved in who played loud music a lot (for reference – I was sitting on my couch, my couch was vibrating, and I could hear their music over my TV and basically make out the words), and also have a dog (pretty sure it’s a pitbull, also illegal in Ontario). But over the last month they have considerably quieted down. I am keeping a log though of noises, so that I know if it starts up again. I had the landlord talk to them at some point, but I don’t think I am the only one because my friend who was petsitting while I was gone told me that other neighbours were shouting at their door when the neighbours left and their dog was barking (I think it has separation anxiety because whenever they go anywhere, it barks. And I NEVER see them walk it, so it’s probably bored too. I have heard it slam its full body weight against the apartment door before, and it rattled the building). Anyway, so I was stressed out about returning home from my parents’ house where it is generally nice and quiet, but the last few days have been relatively peaceful so I think things are looking up! Fingers crossed! I am also trying to be mindful of my own noise levels, so that no one can lodge a complaint against me. I hate to complain against a fellow pet owner, but myself and another neighbour own cats and we literally hear nothing from each other at all (the neighbours don’t even see mine – their cat goes outside, but mine are indoor because I foster cats sometimes).


    1. BRR*

      When this has happened to me I’ve always approached the people out of concern (on the outside at least, on the inside it’s annoyance). Say you’ve heard sounds like it might be slamming itself against the door and were worried about it and wanted to let them know since they obviously can’t know what their pet is up to while they’re out.

  90. Kathleen*

    What to do when your employer sets goals that you don’t have the ability to achieve.

    I am a Marketing Manager for a healthcare company. My 2019 KPI’s have been handed to me to prove revenue for each dollar in marketing spend. Yet we do not have systems in place to be able to track this and I do not have control over putting the pieces into place to do this. My employer acknowledges this, yet has not adjusted my KPI’s or given me something to work for that I have control over. This stresses me out and makes me feel like a failure. How would you recommend handling this situation?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Get a new job? I hate making that a go-to answer but a place this ridiculous does not deserve to have an employee like you.
      I guess for the moment, I would send my boss an email. “Boss, as per our discussion the other day: I cannot prove revenue for each dollar spent because we do not have systems in place to track this. I will keep following up with you as I am concerned about being fairly evaluated for my work. As it stands now, there is no way to collect the data to evaluate my work. I would like to suggest that we use several points to evaluate my efforts so if the data is not collected for this one point, we can still use the other points to gain a fair assessment of my efforts this [year/quarter/term].”
      Save AND also print out your email. If he answers you print out his answer also.

  91. S.P.*

    I’ve got a question for any later thread readers:
    I was fired from my job because my boss refused to replace the front door after it had been broken by a burglar and then blamed me when the broken door failed to lock correctly. (I have eyewitnesses to me locking the door.) How do I explain that to interviewers? Obviously I can’t say exactly that, but I don’t want to lose opportunities thanks to someone else blaming me for their own negligence.
    (He also refused to let me take the breaks which I’m legally entitled to (including food breaks), underhired to the point where I couldn’t call in sick, gave me conflicting instructions, and took all of my extra work for granted, but that’s neither here nor there.)

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      You might want to repost this to the Friday work thread, I only saw it because I have a bad habit of leaving so many windows open…

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